The Oolite NPC ecosystem (and other questions)

General discussion for players of Oolite.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by another_commander » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:35 pm

I think I like Commander McLane's idea; it seems to work quite nice actually. The already established canon that GalCop does not have jurisdiction over the planetary authorities fits very conveniently here, as it explains how these pirates would be able to return to the planet after having done their deed. Once marked as fugitive, planetary authorities would normally shoot them down instantly upon attempting re-entry, but since GalCop does not have control on the planet, as far as local authorities are concerned, they are perfectly fine gentlemen, as long as they do not anything wrong in front of them. They are still clean as far as the planet police can tell.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by ZygoUgo » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:59 pm

Tis the Mexican border!
I look forward to seeing the odd chase into the atmosphere 8)

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Smivs » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:03 pm

My 2cr worth.
Firstly, as McLane says they are everywhere, and I actually question whether this is 'realistic' as a concept. I would prefer there to be more of a distinction between 'safe' and 'unsafe' systems, so a high TL corporate system would contain very few pirates whereas anarchy, feudal and multi-govs would be expected to be much more dangerous places to visit.
I don't favour pirate bases particularly, certainly not as a general solution to the problem. As has been pointed out these would be found and eliminated. Neither do I favour special pirate witchpoints. This suggests an infrastructure which I find a little unbelievable - pirates are generally not well organised or likely to co-operate even with each other.
Another factor that nobody has yet metioned is that many pirates use non-jump-capable ships, mambas and sidewinders etc, so will not be jumping in and out of systems at all.
The 'problem' in a sense is that the pirates are often eliminated from a system but not replaced. Now to me this suggests that they are not doing the job right. Perhaps a better approach would be to tweak the AI to rebalance the 'odds' element. In other words stop them from (suicidally) attacking overly-strong adversaries. How many times have you seen a couple of pirates take on an Anaconda with its six Cobby 1 escorts? This is just plain daft! Pirates (in real life) will only attack a soft target, as this maximises their chance of both success and survival. There might also be a case for enhancing the FLEE state of the AI as well, so instead of fighting to the death they do what a real pirate would do if they find they are getting hammered - run away and hope for an easier victim next time.
In a nutshell what I am suggesting is that instead of replacing them we should look to them to survive better so they are still there when the player comes along.
Finally (taking a cue from my ToughGuys OXP) there may be a case in the core game to differentiate pirates, hunters and traders more in terms of their levels of equipment and pilot skill, all of which can now be controlled in a much more flexible manner than was previously possible. For example a pirate might be expected to be a much more accomplished combat pilot than a trader, but may not have such a well equipped ship due to lack of access to station facilities etc. Thoughful tweaks in these areas could ensure more pirates survive, and make them more entertaining adversaries at the same time.
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by ZygoUgo » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:54 pm

I should think that the nomadic existence from system to system would be a way of life for some pirate groups, like gypsies (not to say that gypsies are pirates of course). I always liked the ominous feeling of reaching the system star knowing it would likely be dangerous with pirates.
A combination will always be the most immersive, as people think differently and lead different lives.
An Anarchy system is most likely to have some kind of settled base the overwhelmed and corrupt system officials ignore, and a corporate system is most likely to have pirates hide out at the sun as a temporary 'camp', where the pickings are good too, and witch out when full or in trouble.
Planetary raiders operate out of back yards and are where the non-jump capable vessels return to.

I see Smivs point with less pirates being destroyed before you get to them, it would make more sense for only larger groups of pirates to attack escorted vessels, but it also means less atmospheric space battles in the background as small groups and individual pirates have less opportunities to attack.
It could also mean the player being overwhelmed with more pirates after single ships, and the player has no hope of escorts there and could quickly find him/her/itself under group attack by individuals looking for easy meat, altering the difficulty level.
I'm sure there's no shortage of play-testers :wink:

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Wyvern Mommy » Fri Jul 26, 2013 7:25 pm

another thought:

not all pirates would be full-timers. a lot of them would be traders like you and me, jumping on an opportunity every so often.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by cim » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:27 pm

Firstly: a general thanks for the suggestions so far.
Commander McLane wrote:It's the planet.
Well, I'm certainly all in favour of a solution that doesn't require adding more things to the system, and this certainly seems more practical than solving the various problems pirate bases have. It also allows the pirates to reach the action relatively quickly after launching, which reduces the number of them we need to simulate in the first place.
Smivs wrote:they are everywhere, and I actually question whether this is 'realistic' as a concept.
One of the things I want to do with the (re)populator is consider neighbouring systems - so somewhere like Zaaxte (G1) which is a Corporate State surrounded by safe systems would be an extremely unlikely place to meet pirates (or bounty hunters), while Xevera (G5) has 7 neighbours, 5 of which are anarchies, and so would have more pirates near the witchpoint than many nominally more dangerous systems (but still rarely any near the planet).

We only have eight government types, but we also have these really rich topologies that the galactic maps give us, and it seems a shame not to be making more use of them.
Smivs wrote:Another factor that nobody has yet metioned is that many pirates use non-jump-capable ships, mambas and sidewinders etc, so will not be jumping in and out of systems at all.
We just need to ensure that pirate groups entering that way are led by a ship with a witchdrive.
Smivs wrote:The 'problem' in a sense is that the pirates are often eliminated from a system but not replaced. Now to me this suggests that they are not doing the job right.
The new AIs I'm working on will include a better odds calculation than the current one, and have a tendency to actively avoid bounty hunters and police ships. I don't expect this to do more than just slow down the rate of attrition, though - they'll still need replacing a bit (if nothing else, eventually they'll run out of hold space) - and I don't want to make the odds calculation too "realistic" or most of the pirates won't attack anyone at all.
ZygoUgo wrote:It could also mean the player being overwhelmed with more pirates after single ships
Agreed, it's a risk. Things I'm looking to counteract that with in the short term are:
1) More coordination between pirates over cargo dumping. You will be able to get them all to stop chasing you at once (even the Asps, who at the moment do not give up...)
2) Pirates won't fire first on a ship with no cargo, so if it goes badly wrong you might still survive.
Wyvern Mommy wrote:not all pirates would be full-timers. a lot of them would be traders like you and me, jumping on an opportunity every so often
Now that could definitely liven things up.
Disembodied wrote:Maybe Q-bombs should cost a lot more
The thing is, they basically have no use in the core game even at that price. Pirates can't use them without destroying the loot. Even at their seemingly low price, there's no way a bounty hunter will come close to a profit on them. Traders don't tend to have injectors, and even if they did you could fill an Anaconda with hardheads for the same price as a single Q-mine, and that wouldn't kill your own escorts. Any semi-fast ship can probably evade the blast anyway, since from 1.77 they start running as soon as the mine is dropped, rather than ignoring the expanding sphere entirely. Thargoids will run tactically reposition to avoid the blast and sometimes shoot the mine down. The player can use it to get out of trouble because it makes an excellent distraction - but unless they're flying a freighter or carrying enough precious metals that they're spilling into the hold, it's cheaper to use an escape pod and write off the cargo, and for that matter there are very few core game fights which fuel injectors won't get you out of safely.

OXPs do add some hard targets which you might want to use a Q-bomb on, but I can only think of one OXP target you're actually supposed to hit with one ... and tens where you're either penalised for using one or actually prevented from using one.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Disembodied » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:00 am

Commander McLane's suggestion for planets as the source of most pirates does seem the best and most sensible one to me (and explains the pirates' fondness for Morays!). It does raise one question, though: if pirate ships can sneak down to the planet and back up again, why can't the player? Would this mean bringing some variant of the [wiki]Planetfall OXP[/wiki] into the core game? (With the default option being, you land, are arrested for landing without permission, fined some hefty amount and/or given a criminal rating, and booted back into space - leaving open various possibilities for the player to acquire some sort of official or unofficial capability to land on a planet or group of planets.) I think it could open up all sorts of possibilities, not least making smuggling a more viable and credible option, but it's a large game-change, to say the least. Although it's one that can easily be restricted to experienced players.
Commander McLane wrote:I guarantee that not ten minutes after releasing 1.79 an OXP will exist that gives beacons to all of the new pirate stations. Scripting-wise that's a piece of cake. And the inherent illogicality of an OXP has never prevented it from being made and being used.
I don't see this as something that the devs should worry about. Whether or not pirate bases or anything else can be upended by an OXP isn't something they should consider. This isn't to argue for the presence of pirate bases - planetside is a better place for them! - but a general point.
cim wrote:
Disembodied wrote:Maybe Q-bombs should cost a lot more
The thing is, they basically have no use in the core game even at that price.
They do have one use, as a weapon of mass destruction. If all you want to do is to destroy lots of ships, then they're ideal. Their existence and easy availability in the game is problematic, certainly. They're a great "plot device", and make an excellent finale to a big mission, or a massive threat to be avoided/outrun, but apart from that the only people who have any use for them are in-game terrorists, or players who want to massively increase their kill-count (assuming that ships killed by a Q-bomb count as kills?).

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Smivs » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:15 am

Disembodied wrote:Q-bombs...have one use, as a weapon of mass destruction...the only people who have any use for them are in-game terrorists, or players who want to massively increase their kill-count (assuming that ships killed by a Q-bomb count as kills?).
Hmmm, this made me think. Perhaps Q-bomb kills shouldn't count as kills, and the use of one should immediately earn the perpetrator a maximum bounty and Fugitive status. :evil:
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by metatheurgist » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:28 am

So...I throw a Q mine at the approaching Thargoid armada and when I cruise into the station, instead of a ticker-tape parade, I'm slapped in cuffs and thrown in jail? :!:

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Smivs » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:31 am

Well, maybe an exception could be made for Thargoids - Insecticide should not be a criminal offence :D
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Cody » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:47 am

cim wrote:... eight government types, but we also have these really rich topologies that the galactic maps give us, and it seems a shame not to be making more use of them.
<nods>
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Commander McLane » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:14 am

cim wrote:
Wyvern Mommy wrote:not all pirates would be full-timers. a lot of them would be traders like you and me, jumping on an opportunity every so often
Now that could definitely liven things up.
This is a very good and important point, and it leads to a related one which I also wanted to raise: bounties.

I've always been saying that only stupid pirates would have bounties. I'm doing a fair amount of pirating myself, but I very rarely catch a bounty. The same goes for those personalities who are acting like pirates. They also don't have bounties by default, and they won't usually attract a bounty by following a very simple guideline: they don't attack in presence of police or inside the aegis.

One would think that this is so simple a guideline that one has to wonder why apparently every single pirate in Oolite is incapable of following it. Are they so unlucky? Or so stupid?

Tampering with the bounty system would of course be a considerable deviation from Elite, where the world around the player followed the simple equations bounty = pirate = danger and no bounty = harmless = no danger. Giving bounties to all pirates makes it easy for the player to identify them as pirates, and we've got used to that.

Still, it may be worthwhile to think about decoupling bounties from roles. Not every pirate must have a bounty. And not every trader must be clean. This reasoning already led to [wiki]Offender traders OXP[/wiki], where the second part is dealt with. Similarly, an OXP-solution is possible which would delete the bounties of most pirates on exiting witchspace.

In my proposal of launching additional pirates from the planet I was already suggesting that those pirates should not get pirateAI before reaching their lurk position. Additionally, they should also be clean when launched, and thereby avoid any fights with police while they're still en route to their lurk position. By extension—and this would be a change to Oolite's current mechanics—also at least part of the pirates that are spawned in lurk positions when the player enters the system could be clean.

The change to Oolite's game play would be twofold: on the one hand, it would become more difficult to identify a pirate before he has attacked. However, some behavioural characteristics would still give him away, like the lurking as such. Nobody but pirates is lurking.

The second change is more interesting, and somehow deeper: when attacked by a clean pirate, the player gets a risk of becoming offender himself, if police enters into the vicinity at a bad moment (namely when the player lands a hit on the pirate). If this is unwanted, maybe the police AI can be given the power to determine who was the original attacker.

If on the other hand the attacking pirate is given a bounty by the police, we would get to see the bounty system at work, rather than only seeing that every pirate already has a bounty. (We already get to see it at work in the case of increasing bounties during a prolonged fight with multiple ships, but that is at least gradually different from watching a clean ship getting a bounty in the first place.)

And if the player was the attacking party, he would have deserved the offender status: attacking someone against whom there is no evidence of wrongdoing yet should rightfully be an offense.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by JensAyton » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:16 am

Disembodied wrote:They do have one use, as a weapon of mass destruction. If all you want to do is to destroy lots of ships, then they're ideal. Their existence and easy availability in the game is problematic, certainly.
A spaceship is a weapon of mass destruction in itself. If you can accelerate an object to an appreciable portion of the speed of light, what warhead you attach to it is basically irrelevant. As such, weapon controls are a non-issue in a society where private interstellar spacecraft are readily available.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Cody » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:25 am

Commander McLane wrote:The second change is more interesting, and somehow deeper: when attacked by a clean pirate, the player gets a risk of becoming offender himself, if police enters into the vicinity at a bad moment (namely when the player lands a hit on the pirate).
<nods again> This makes for interesting gameplay - as happens with the [EliteWiki] Green Gecko, which is clean when it attacks the player.
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Bugbear » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:27 am

Regarding the Q-mine (and apologies for contributing to going further off topic), I just did a test to confirm that the initial Q-mine blast kills do contribute to your kill count, but not any subsequent cascades.

So even the justification of using the Q-mine to build your kill count is dubious at best.

Bottom line, the Q-mine is not an offensive weapon, not unless you're in the military and you don't need the weapon to pay it's way.

It could be argued that it's a last-chance defensive weapon to be used in desparate situations (for that matter, which OXPs make it more likely for an NPC to deploy a Q-mine? I'm thinking particularly of a trader carrying precious, perhaps irreplaceable cargo, down to their last energy bank).

Getting back on topic - having pirates launch from the planet on the farside of the main station seems most plausible. It's also a good explanation for Deep Space Pirates, i.e. launch, get out of masslock from the planet (it's a pity that torus drive is unavailable to NPCs), travel outside the spacelane then dive into the spacelane to engage the next victim.

Hidden pirate bases (as opposed to pirate coves) that can't be found without special equipment (or by fluke) would be cool, and totally believable in Anarchic systems, but really, they don't need to be hidden at all. Look at it this way, in real life we have outlaw motorcycle gangs that are established in major capital cities in first world countries. The police know where their clubhouses are (and sometimes these 'clubhouses' are more like fortified bases). Legalities, and respect for human rights make it impossible to send in the army and level these structures to the ground, even though that could be considered an ideal solution. The presence of known pirate bases could simply be a case of pragmatism.
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