Friday, May 2, 2008

Pure Energy

Wow, its been a month since I posted here. Well, I have not been inactive at all, I have been working on some big changes to the game. So without further delay, here is the list of updates:

The game now supports Directed Energy Weapons -- Lasers! This was a big development effort, but it is one step to ushering the later "eras" as energy weapons will feature prominently in later times. Though the interplanetary era isn't left out. A couple of new weapons have been added to the interplanetary era and...

A new ship class -- the Aegis Class Escort Frigate has been added. This ship carries a turreted laser cannon and an automated laser point defense system. It can shoot down incoming missiles automatically. Or, you can disengage the automated system and control it yourself.

This new ship class is relatively expensive because it will probably have a very significant impact on game tactics. It will be very hard to hit as the point defense system can hit up to two incoming projectiles per turn. Plus, the main cannon can also (manually) target incoming projectiles. Plus it also carries a decoy system. So only concentrated fire will have any effect on this ship and those that it protects. It is relatively useless for offensive combat however. The laser cannon has a very limited range and the damage it does drops off significantly with range. Other than that, it only has a single Hawk missile launcher for offense.

Other small enhancements:
1) There is a new tab in the game client called "fleet". This tab lists all of your ships. Clicking on one of the ships in this list will center the display on that ship and select it. The surrender button has been moved to this tab.

2) Hovering your mouse over a weapon on the "Fire Control" tab will show the firing arc of this weapon on the game screen. This will help you decide if it is a good time to fire that weapon or not. This can be disabled by unchecking the "Weapon Arcs" checkbox on the right side of the screen.

3) The Point Defense System (carried by the Aegis) shows up on the defenses tab. But it also shows up on the weapon tab. By default, the weapon will show "automatic mode" and there will be no buttons to control the weapon. If you go to the defenses tab, you can "Disengage" the automatic point defense system. Then go back to the weapons tab and you will now be able to control this weapon manually.

4) Beam weapons do not have a load button -- they charge continuously as long as you have reactor power. This means they can be fired almost any time -- but they can only fire using the amount of power that they have charged. You can opt to fire less than 100% power using a numeric spinner control. If you select 50% power, the laser will do 50% of the damage and have 50% of the range, but it will not discharge all the way, so you can fire it again next turn. The "firing arc" overlay will show you the range of the beam weapon.

5) Beams are only shown for an instant when the turn is updated. If you blinked and missed them, there is a "Re-show Beams" button on the right side of the screen. Click that, and it will re-draw the beams so you can see what was fired. If the button is disabled, then it means there were no beams fired that turn.

Bug fixes:

1) I made the controls on the left panel of the game client narrower, so they won't be cut off anymore.

2) The "Browse Players" on the site sorts by latest activity by default. So you can see right away who are the most active players. I also fixed the sort on Battle Stats -- clicking the column heading will sort properly by battle stats so you can see who the best players are.

3) There was a bug reported about not being able to delete messages in the game. I could not reproduce it, but I think I know what caused it. So I made a fix, but I don't know if it is actually fixed...

4) I found a math bug in my vector mathematics that would cause missiles to spontaneously loose lock in a very rare specific circumstance. This has been fixed.

5) The AI players didn't fire too often. This was because they were set to only fire their weapons within a certain range. But they were also programmed to turn slightly abeam of their opponent when approaching to help them avoid incoming missiles. This unfortunately turned them such that their target was out of the weapon's firing arc. So they rarely fired on approach. As a "quick fix", I removed this "turning abeam". So the AI will now fly right toward you and fill the sky with missiles. The AI needs an overhaul, but not right now...

Thats it! Not much really, when you think about it :)
Enjoy, and as always: let me know what you think in the forums.

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