Thursday, 22 March 2012 Written by 

Terrain and map objects are critical elements of a good strategy game. Thus it should come as no surprise that for the past few years, Fleet Operations has expanded its background coding in order to enable many concepts that were previously considered impossible. While the next patch is not focused on map goodies, because of all the work required for the introduction of the faction redoes, we are already planning toward a large scale environment redo somewhere down the road. We are looking for your input, ideas or thoughts about what we have in mind! Tell us what you think!

For our first discussion on map objects, we would like to bring up the idea of neutral buildings and certain miscellaneous terrain features. These are subjects that should be familiar topics of debate on the forums, and are much simpler to introduce than a non-playable faction or dynamic events which we can discuss at a later point.

Concept #1

Our first patient will be the simple, yet convenient “Abandoned Satellite”.

This craft – perhaps a relic of a forgotten border, or just a Romulan mistake in robotics – was equipped with advanced sensors. Yet for some reason its technology remains accessible to certain specialized craft of every faction, granting them the capability to boost their own field of view many times over.

Scouts and Support Vessels may thus park themselves close by to see great distances. If these craft leave the vicinity of the Abandoned Satellite, their much diminished line of sight will return. Craft must remain decloaked and at full power (no Grey Mode!) to allow this special piece of equipment to integrate successfully.

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Concept #2

The second is the inglorious “Encapsulated Tritanium / Dilithium Moon”. Embedded deep within this asteroid lies a treasure trove of mineral or metallic wealth, but you’ll first have to set disruptors to “kill” to get at it.

The second concept was designed to create temporarily inaccessible expansions. As you might anticipate, this creates strategic possibilities, whereby a player must send a number of military units to shoot some space rocks – thus creating the possibility that those warships won’t be out defending against a hostile force (use your scouts, people!). If you are harassing an opponent extensively, you might in fact prevent him or her from gaining access to a new lucrative expansion – or at the same time deny yourself the ability to expand due to your wanton military activity.

Consequently, this feature acts as a bottleneck on the rate at which a player’s map control expands, even without considering military tactics. Sending just a constructor out to a nearby very strategic expansion may no longer be possible depending on the map maker’s whims!

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Concept #3

In comes the startling Timed Blocker. This feature can be placed in discontinuities of a normal asteroid belt and used to create temporary openings (and closings).

The Timed Blocker acts as an asteroid which blocks passage in that region for a random amount of time, whereupon the asteroid ups and vanishes. Your long range sensors will receive a map message and ping, notifying you that the blocker has disappeared.

This allows a map maker to create long asteroid belts with the possibility for well-timed harassment. It can of course also be used to generate badlands, where blocking triggers might suddenly pop up, cutting off your escape, or dividing your fleet in two. Since you don’t know when the block will reappear, you must carefully consider the consequences of your possibly feckless actions.

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Concept #4

The last - and least developed - concept is that of a space hulk. This type of neutral structure contains old transceivers, military equipment, and generates some strange subspace fluctuations that may affect nearby vessels in predictable, yet unusual ways.

Note that due to the spatial fluctuations it is impossible to build in a wide radius around this structure – thus making it impossible to truly claim this structure for your own side.

The first ability of this station is to give any of your units the ability to reroute their sensors through the transceiver of the hulk and allow them to contact their native empire to dispatch a construction vessel. This vessel doesn’t come cheap (or often) however, and you can expect to pay handsomely for it. As a result it can be used as a last ditch attempt to rebuild your empire, when all you have left is a handful of units and all those unspent resources.

Additional effects that are being considered are based on a unit’s technology level as well as its profile:

For instance, a few offensive ships in the vicinity might gain a temporary boost in their top speed.

Likewise, several defensive units might gain an occasional shield boost. Support ships will regain some energy.

However, all these nifty bonuses require sacrifices too. The station’s machinery is badly damaged, and those subspace fluctuations we talked about have a tendency to cause issues with nearby vessels. Expect that you have to use supplies at a regular rate while staying in the vicinity of such a space hulk.

So these were a bunch of ideas we had which are - more or less - already possible in the next version. Do you have suggestions, ideas or comments on how to improve the environment in Fleet Operations further?