On Lasers

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On Lasers

Postby Lavaflow » Mon May 08, 2017 9:32 am

So the mention of the infinite range lasers bug in the las (2nd last?) update got me thinking about laser weapon implementation, in particular range. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine in many games that lasers have a specific range, and at that point they kind of just... stop. There's the solid beam of light, and then nothing.
I started thinking on a (slightly) more realistic implementation to avoid that. Since the primary control of range on lasers is focusing, the way they behave in game should reflect that- but at they same time they still need to be easily understandable and programmable for the game. Given that my programming experience is effectively limited to modifying already existing XML files and my knowledge is only slightly beyond that, it's going to be pretty vague.

The laser beam itself would be made up of 2 parts: The Primary and the Secondary. The Primary is the section of the laser that is 'within range', so to speak: within this range, the laser deals it's stated maximum damage, and is graphically justs a solid beam of light. The Secondary is the remaining beam after it get's to it's "maximum range". At this point, the damage starts to fall off to nothing- I'm not sure if it would be linear of exponential, my knowledge of optics and energy transfer isn't that good. Graphically, it would transition from a cylinder to something akin to a cone, albeit a very shallow one. It would also start fading to nothing from the full color, so that the overall effect is a cone that fades out as you approach the "base" of it.

This is certainly not critical, and would probably be implemented in the polishing-near-release stage of the game, but it would be cool to see.
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Re: On Lasers

Postby 0111narwhalz » Mon May 08, 2017 11:07 am

Lasers don't lose power with distance. Instead, they lose power density. Power density varies with the inverse square law (as do so many other things), which makes lasers really nasty when point blank but absolute garbage only a little further out. Below a certain density, the armor can radiate faster than the laser can deposit without melting. This range would be your maximum, because you actually cannot do any damage. Good laser armor, therefore, has a high melting point and specularity so it can radiate very quickly. Thermal conductivity is also important, so that the entire hull can radiate.
Antilaser ships will have glowing hulls and possibly open-cycle cooling. Their weapons will be those which do not produce much heat (like coilguns and missiles, not like lasers). They might be anisotropic, pointing their angular nose towards the laser and hiding their delicate radiators. Because much of their power will be directed towards rejecting heat, their drives must be relatively self-contained.
Laser ships will have large radiators (most lasers make more waste heat than they project upon their target). They will probably have very strong power grids, which will afford them more interesting drive choices. Power allocation will become a much larger priority.
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Re: On Lasers

Postby Cornflakes_91 » Mon May 08, 2017 11:18 am

Realistically speaking a lasers damage profile is always 1/r²

Because the diffraction limit dictates that the focused spot diameter rises linearily with distance.
And the areal power density (~damage) goes down with the area of the spot = spot size squared.

Maximum damage is limited by how far the zoom objective of the laser can adapt the spot at close range.
Any closer and damage decreases again because you are on the inside of the focus cone.

a simple distance = damage would also be easier to understand than some discrete, stepped, mechanism.

and mostly what narwhalz said, with a few caveats.
High melting point doesnt mean much, high specific heat is more important.
If the stuff only melts at 5000 kelvin doesnt matter if you can heat it that far with a few joule per kg.
as with everything in life a balance is important.

And specularity doesnt matter much because after the first micrometer of the material being damaged its roughened up anyway.
besides the effort of making and keeping the thing reflective in the first place probably (literally) outweighs a bit of extra armor with better thermal capacity and bad specularity.
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Re: On Lasers

Postby Flatfingers » Mon May 08, 2017 12:40 pm

I'd like to propose a notional "catastrophic decoherence."

This means that laser beams do simply stop at a certain range because subatomic particle interference decoheres the photon excitation matrix in which the beam is encoded at its origin. At that moment, the beam can no longer maintain coherence and dissipates almost instantly.

Which is another way of saying that I, just speaking for myself, tend to avoid realism as a reason for implementing something in a game that has a fantasy or science fictional setting. I'd also strongly prefer that Josh was spending his time right now in roughing out the big-picture features of Limit Theory, and that he defers polishing for later.

I wouldn't complain if, at some point, Josh adds a quick graphical flourish to beam endpoints to make them look nice. I just would prefer it not be done now, and that it not be done because of realism.

As always, that's just one random person's opinion. It isn't intended to try to stop the discussion of how lasers work in the real world or how to implement beam lasers in a cool way in Limit Theory.
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