The Oolite NPC ecosystem (and other questions)

General discussion for players of Oolite.

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cim
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by cim » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:29 am

Disembodied wrote: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?
I don't think it's immediately necessary, and the OXP is there for now, but it would be something to consider longer-term. Getting it right would be difficult, though.
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.
Even then they're not that great. I did some experimentation now, spawning 12 pirates in a 5km sphere around my ship, and then dropping a Q-bomb and running. On average it only gets about half of them, and that's in considerably more favourable conditions than the core game usually generates. (Great distraction, though...)

(You'd probably have got all of them in 1.76, of course, because they wouldn't have thought to run away)
Disembodied wrote:assuming that ships killed by a Q-bomb count as kills?
Anything the initial sphere hits you get credited/blamed for. Anything a cascade sphere hits you don't. Because the cascade spheres always expand faster than their parent currently is, you're unlikely to get more than 5 kills even in ideal circumstances.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Commander McLane » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:54 am

cim wrote:
Disembodied wrote: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?
I don't think it's immediately necessary, and the OXP is there for now, but it would be something to consider longer-term. Getting it right would be difficult, though.
I also don't think it's necessary. Hence my comparing them to shuttles, who have been sneaking down to the planet and up again in vanilla Oolite forever.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Disembodied » Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:39 pm

JensAyton wrote: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.
Yes, but not in the game: in the game, the only single act the player can do to cause massive destruction is drop a Q-bomb. Although as Cim points out, with AI changes, it's not that massively destructive.
Commander McLane wrote: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.
While this adds more realism to the game, this also runs the risk of confusing the player, especially if pirates are commonly rated Clean when the player meets them. Police AIs would have to get things right: it would be intensely annoying to be attacked by a Clean pirate, and end up with a criminal record - and being attacked by a pirate AND a Viper - simply for defending oneself.

Is it perhaps worth considering dropping the requirement of crimes having to be witnessed by the police? After all, it should be possible for traders to signal details of their attacker: a transponder code, an engine energy signature, whatever, some mark that can identify the aggressor. It would make player piracy a lot more difficult, right enough, if any criminal activity resulted in a bounty being applied - but as it is, it's very easy to live the life of a wanton criminal and very seldom suffer the consequences.

Perhaps a middle path might be that it takes some unspecified and slightly random length of time for any merchant to send out a distress signal (which the player can see going out). That distress signal could start to include details of the attacker. There could be a certain window of opportunity for a player to attack and destroy a target before it is able to send out the distress signal, identifying the player's ship (if the ID was based on "engine signature", it would explain - a bit - how ejecting cleans your criminal record).

Of course, the easiest solution would be to leave the bounty status of NPC pirates unchanged. Perhaps it's not that these pirates are bad at hiding their activities: perhaps it is simply that everyone knows they're pirates, but due to cross-border jurisdiction problems, they're only regarded as criminals above the atmosphere.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Thargoid » Sat Jul 27, 2013 1:17 pm

Smivs wrote:Well, maybe an exception could be made for Thargoids - Insecticide should not be a criminal offence :D
Depending on the make-up of said Armada, we may well be able to deal with it anyway... :twisted:

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by cim » Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:01 pm

Commander McLane wrote: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?
The new pirate AI I'm working on does consider avoiding police and bounty hunters a higher priority than threatening traders.

My thinking is that by and large it's not that piracy causes you to get a bounty (though it will if you aren't careful) but that the bounty causes you to go into piracy. Once you've got Offender status - or worse, Fugitive - you're in serious trouble. You can't safely dock at the main stations, bounty hunters and police will attack you on the lane, trading between rock hermits is not particularly profitable, and you can't easily replace damaged equipment.

The most profitable path left is likely to be extorting cargo out of traders, and selling that somewhere less traceable - maybe a rock hermit, maybe somewhere planetside. Of course, if the traders fight back, you've a chance that the police will come along while you're in the middle of it, and you're right back up to Fugitive status again.
Commander McLane wrote: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).
I think we would have to avoid this. The Scanner Targeting Enhancement is the only way the player has to detect target legal status, and useful as it is there are several pieces of equipment players should be buying first. So Clean Jamesons would find that sometimes ships attacked them, and then when they fought back, the police also attacked them. The early game is difficult enough as it is without making Viper Interceptors (seemingly arbitrarily) hostile.
Commander McLane wrote:If this is unwanted, maybe the police AI can be given the power to determine who was the original attacker.
I can't think of a reliable way to do this which doesn't have odd side-effects. Say the player comes across a clean trader and a clean pirate fighting (the pirate shot first, but the player didn't see that), and joins in on one side or another. A Viper then comes along, and the first thing it sees is the player shooting one of the other two. I can't think of a rule for "original attacker" which means the player can safely assist the trader which doesn't also mean the player can safely assist the pirate.

Well, okay, I can think of one that works in that case, but extending it to more complex fights means it's basically equivalent to "firing on a Clean target gives you a 1 credit bounty even if no-one else sees you", and it would be a lot simpler just to do that...
Disembodied wrote:Is it perhaps worth considering dropping the requirement of crimes having to be witnessed by the police?
Ideally I think destroying a Clean target would give a bounty (the kill is recorded and bounties paid, so surely anything illegal can get detected too). Perhaps attacking them as well, for simplicity. Unfortunately, making that change would affect quite a few existing OXPs, especially mission OXPs. It feels to me too large a change to make, though that will depend on exactly how you interpret the "stable version promise" regarding OXP compatibility.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Disembodied » Sat Jul 27, 2013 4:02 pm

cim wrote:
Disembodied wrote:Is it perhaps worth considering dropping the requirement of crimes having to be witnessed by the police?
Ideally I think destroying a Clean target would give a bounty (the kill is recorded and bounties paid, so surely anything illegal can get detected too). Perhaps attacking them as well, for simplicity. Unfortunately, making that change would affect quite a few existing OXPs, especially mission OXPs. It feels to me too large a change to make, though that will depend on exactly how you interpret the "stable version promise" regarding OXP compatibility.
Hmm ... awarding the bounty on the kill, regardless of witnesses, is an interesting idea - although there would have to be other crimes that would require a police witness (firing on a Clean target should be a crime if witnessed by the police, for example). I can see how this might muck up some existing OXPs but would a possible workaround be to have a hidden "legitimate target" flag for mission ships, which could be destroyed with impunity? It would mean that some OXPs would have to be updated, of course.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Bugbear » Sun Jul 28, 2013 2:21 am

How about this for an explanation.

Pirates are known to Police, but aren't dealt with due to jurisdiction (i.e. planetside vs space).

So from an under-the-hood perspective, a clean pirate would have attribues of PirateAI and AttackingPlayer (or whatever that state is called).

So if you attack a vessel with those attributes in the presence of the police, there's a good chance you don't get penalised by the police. Basically, the cops give you the benefit of the doubt. (I wouldn't want to completely remove the possibility of the police making a wrong call...got to keep things interesting - perhaps make the possibility of a wrong call proportional to your current Elite ranking. A high Elite ranking indicates experience and the fact that you should have known better than to attack an innocent.)
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Ranthe » Sun Jul 28, 2013 6:44 am

"Where do pirates come from?"

"Well, when a mommy pirate and a daddy pirate love each other very much..."
:wink:

Sorry, couldn't resist. Anyway, back on topic...
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 ...
... or as "weapons of last resort" by traders who have been ambushed by an armada of raiders and are on the verge of having shields collapsing, with the only options being to eject or "press space".
Smivs wrote: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:
:shock: :shock: :shock:
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Wyvern Mommy » Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:57 am

Ranthe wrote:"Where do pirates come from?"

"Well, when a mommy pirate and a daddy pirate love each other very much..."
:wink:

Sorry, couldn't resist. Anyway, back on topic...
That's where Little Pirates come from. That would explain Asps and Sidewinders, but not those big Anacondas.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Disembodied » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:41 am

Wyvern Mommy wrote:That's where Little Pirates come from. That would explain Asps and Sidewinders, but not those big Anacondas.
Actually, that raises another issue: for 1.79, could pirates have a chance to use any of the core ships? E.g. the Adder, the Boa, the BCC and (rarely, with escorts, probably) the Anaconda? And could hunters occasionally use e.g. the Gecko? At the moment, if you see a Boa or a BCC, you know they're harmless, and if you see a Gecko, it's always a pirate.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by cim » Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:50 am

Disembodied wrote:Actually, that raises another issue: for 1.79, could pirates have a chance to use any of the core ships? E.g. the Adder, the Boa, the BCC and (rarely, with escorts, probably) the Anaconda? And could hunters occasionally use e.g. the Gecko? At the moment, if you see a Boa or a BCC, you know they're harmless, and if you see a Gecko, it's always a pirate.
With the shipdata reorganisation, there's room to change the roles around, yes.

I don't know how much use the bigger freighters would be to pirates, though - it's already incredibly rare that they'll find enough cargo to justify bringing a Python. Perhaps if it was possible for them to successfully intimidate a trader Boa into dropping a significant proportion of its cargo, but if they can do it, so can the player, and that's a lot of free cargo for not much risk.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Disembodied » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:49 am

cim wrote:With the shipdata reorganisation, there's room to change the roles around, yes.

I don't know how much use the bigger freighters would be to pirates, though - it's already incredibly rare that they'll find enough cargo to justify bringing a Python. Perhaps if it was possible for them to successfully intimidate a trader Boa into dropping a significant proportion of its cargo, but if they can do it, so can the player, and that's a lot of free cargo for not much risk.
I suppose it depends on how often a pirate is able to empty out its cargo hold: some of them, if operating in systems away from their home base, might fill up slowly over several days (are pirates generated with some random cargo in their hold already?). The Boa and the BCC are quite a bit harder than the Python as fighting ships, too, although I'd imagine they'd only be rarely used as pirate vessels. A pirate Anaconda might be stretching things, right enough!

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Cody » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:17 pm

<dons his pirate-boss sombrero> I'd operate from a Boa 2, with two Blackdog Pythons and eight/ten assorted fighters.
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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by cim » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:35 pm

Cody wrote:<dons his pirate-boss sombrero> I'd operate from a Boa 2, with two Blackdog Pythons and eight/ten assorted fighters.
Now there's a point. Maybe the key is to make sure that if a pirate freighter is generated, it gets enough of a fighter wing that it stands a chance of surviving to fill its hold - but make the sort of deadly pack that implies relatively rare outside of the roughest systems.

The less organised pirates can make do with whatever cargo capacity their fighters have, with the light multi-role ships having sufficient cargo hold for a couple of opportunistic raids and then retreat while they're still alive.

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Re: Where do pirates come from?

Post by Cody » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:48 pm

cim wrote:... but make the sort of deadly pack that implies relatively rare outside of the roughest systems.
Certainly relatively rare - like the aegis-raiders I once encountered (more than a dozen of them, all locked onto me).
Any such pirate squadron, if having lost a couple of fighters, should have the ability to 'enlist' a solo pirate or two.
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