Long post ahead...
Continuing my series of pompously titled oxps, I'm looking at lasers this time and I believe I can make them more fun.
The Beginner's Experience (the pulse laser):
- A beginner in a Cobra III is likely to face worse ships in greater numbers and some of those are likely to have greater weapons. Although escape is often possible it is a laborious affair with nearly half the scanner being out of anyone's range
- The beam laser is far superior to the pulse laser and can make short work of the player early game. Being longer range than the pulse laser a novice pilot is often better not engaging in the first place. Not fun when running at the first flash of yellow.
- Fast as it is, the Cobra III can't usually escape from Sidewinders or Asps (with the former being a fairly common assailant and a difficult target)
Summary: You need to run a lot which would be fine except that it takes so long to do so.
The Novice's Experience (the beam laser):
- Once you have the beam laser targets with a pulse laser become much easier opponents. You still can't expect to regularly win combats when outnumbered (which you frequently are). Although you can meet police or a combat in progress, you are not followed by escorts nor do you have pirate accomplices and so the role of 'player' remains one of the most vulnerable
- Whilst a rear mounted beam laser can be especially potent it's an unfortunate strategy to have to gain kills by running away (both counterintuitive and less exciting)
- It's an easy weapon to overheat (as it should be given it's other properties) but pirates rarely seem to make this mistake. The player has to learn to make it work (good design) but rarely has safe opportunity to do so (less good)
Summary: You have a much better weapon now but you don't get much chance to exploit it. You still need to run a lot due to the prevalence of pirate packs and likely due also to threat assessment mechanics
The Veteran's Experience (the military laser):
- Quoting cim (from an admittedly old post), The military laser is far too good to give to NPCs, but once the player has even one (on the aft mount, preferably) it becomes virtually impossible to lose most fights regardless of enemy numbers because of its extreme range it's not necessarily particularly fun to fight like that.
- Sniping is a popular tactic but at double the range of the beam laser it means that you can pick the toughest adversary and remove them from the fight fairly easily (and probably another of their allies) before they can close on you
- Large packs are required in order to present any kind of a challenge but almost always the player is the only one with a military laser. This both contradicts 'non player centric' design and makes the weapon seem underpriced and too commonly available
Summary: If you're cautious enough then combat becomes much easier. The jump from beam to military is enormous: double range AND double power. Arguably this is exactly the advantage that the player needs most of the time but the range advantage on a rear mounted laser is overpowered. Rear lasers encourage not only sniping but 'shooting gallery' sniping where most targets can't get near you unless you let them.
- The scanner is very large and determines both mass-lock (and therefore escape) and range, nearly half of it being exclusive to the military laser
- Pirate packs are near ubiqitous as a solution to every player having some kind of a challenge - but for those without a military laser almost nowhere is safe
- Rear shooting is a problem in that it rewards caution over skill and with a longer ranged weapon is potentially dull
That nearly half the scanner is only reachable by the military laser is extreme, especially given the time it can take ships to cross this distance. This 10km domain should not be exclusive IMHO and yet sniping is both popular and for some even fun (more so from the front than the back I would argue).
Canonicaly the military laser is twice the range and power of the beam laser and it's nice to stick with canon if we can so why not grant the extra range to the pulse laser?
Ingram Model 1919A4 Pulse Laser is recommended for all positional laser mountings, but is especially effective for rear-shooting.
The problem, as highlighted by another_commander in the rescaling thread, would be that the beginning player would be rewarded for rear mounting a pulse laser and picking off targets all too easily. The soultion could be a very simple one: only grant the beam laser to the faster ships. For example:
Now pulse lasers are actually quite useful, not overpowered and yet have a role to play in a pirate pack without challenging the superiority of either the military or beam lasers.
Note that the threshold value (RSS) of 0.35 exludes anything slower than a Mk III from using a beam laser (by default) and so that range exploit is unlikely. Bump it up to 0.36 and every ship with a beam laser can potentially gain on the starting player.
There is an issue with regards to auto_weapons (i.e. non-player weapon selection by role) and even to weapon choice amongst slower player vessels but I'll come to that later.
Rear sniping with the beam laser is not as attractive an option but this tactic remains exploitative for the military laser.
So a rear mounted weapon of any type is useful but not explotative unless you're flying a faster vessel and they tend to favour the high powered, shorter ranged weapons. True the military laser completely outclasses the beam laser but there's no way under normal circumstances that the player is starting with one (or that the non-player ships generally should be allowed one).
The beginning pilot would be more likely to give combat a try (or at least be able to practice shooting) and the miltary laser could still get some sniping in versus incoming pulse fire (more exciting too). However, there is perhaps too much range advantage for the pulse laser versus the beam.
Is there a way to challenge the military laser's dominance without compounding the problem?
How about this:
We now have six laser colours encompassing all of the primary (red, green, blue) and secondary (cyan, magenta, yellow) colours of the RGB colour model; all distinctive and clear to those without colour blindness.
So much for cosmetics, what do these new heavy pulse lasers add to gameplay? Imagine shots from larger, less mobile vessels, intermittently fired from great distance; trying to dodge incoming fire in the hope of closing in to where you can make your superior rate of fire pay off. Sounds cool but what about exploits, balance and the like?
Just as the range bonus to the pulse laser grants it some kind of a chance versus a beam laser the heavy pulse presents at least a minor challenge to the military laser.
The anaconda and the python are far too slow to mount a beam laser (and military lasers are too dangerous for most non player ships) but shouldn't these mighty vessels have something more powerful than a pulse laser at their disposal? Get their rate of fire right and the sniping player with a military laser now has a reason to head towards the target rather than away from it. Perhaps they should only be available to the largest player ships or imagine them on capital ships... We'd now have room for oxp behemoths to snipe at the player!
The beam laser is really a dogfighting weapon now but it's quite potent at that range and the mining laser is perhaps a passable weapon when pressed into service, as it was intended to be:
Kruger Model ARM64 Sp. Mining laser is highly recommended as both a trade and combat addition.
But what about player progression, upgrading your weapons?
Many ships aren't really suitable for a beam laser anymore and there weren't exactly a glut of weapons to chose from in the core game in the first place. Well, canonicaly there was more than one kind of pulse laser, so why not something like this?
You now have a reason for ships to favour different weapon types beyond pure economics. There's strategy too: beam laser on the front perhaps but are you sure you don't want a pulse on the rear? Want to upgrade your laser? There are now 3 varieties of each and you're more likely to choose a different type than before.
Note the potential use of an auto_weapons type system as well as simple posibilities around mining.
How would a standard non-player distribution of weapons look?
Perhaps something like this:
Traditionally the beam laser made the pulse laser obsolete and then the military laser did the same to the beam (by an even bigger margin). That suited the original elite much better than it does oolite IMHO and I think this might be a way to keep the flavour of the original weapons without some of the inherent problems.
There's almost certainly quite a bit of tweaking to do but I'm in the process of putting an oxp together for people to try. I'd be very interested to hear what anyone thinks either pre or post release.
[Edited to add OXZ to thread title]