Sunday, 08 April 2012 Written by 

Last week we discussed some miscellaneous concepts relating to resources, neutral stations, and untraversable zones. However, one major thing we haven’t yet covered is terrain.

In Star Trek, terrain isn’t about the whole battlefield - you don’t have starships cowering behind a duranium wall, waiting till they can see the whites of the enemy’s sensors. However, that hasn’t stopped our famous captains and crewmen, women, and androids, from being very savvy about nearby nebulae, dangerous radiation fields, and asteroid belts.

So let’s talk about dynamic nebulae and unusual asteroid fields!

Terrain Concept #1

Let’s start with the classic Mutara Nebula.

It’s been centuries since Kirk’s battle with Khan and the Mutara-type nebula has been explored far more thoroughly. Thus it should be no surprise that it is finally possible to maintain shield strength within it. However, sensors are far more sophisticated electronics and it is still quite difficult for them to compensate for the extreme levels of static discharge. Ships within may filter the noise because it washes out any radiation and other anomalous EM from beyond the nebula’s boundaries, but vessels on the outside just cannot compensate for this variance.

The Mutara Nebula will thus hide vessels that fly within it and distort the sensors of craft on the outside. As a consequence, no known targeting computer can hit these craft from the outside. The Nebula’s fluctuations also prevent sophisticated equipment such as cloak from operating.

In gaming parlance, this allows the Mutara Nebula to operate as so-called “high-ground”. It’s possible to shell outside forces from within this nebula without warning, and to continue firing on them until being engaged within the nebula. Indirect fire still works against ships within this nebula, so units that were clumped to remain within its area may more easily be damaged/disabled in this manner.  It also provides an excellent location to place scouts, as well as a great way to get away from a superior pursuing opponent - if only for a few seconds.


Terrain Concept #2

Next, we move onto another oldie, the Fluid Nebula.

Similar to the Mutara nebula, some advances in the past few centuries - of course, it may only appear as if months have passed for some of you humans - has resulted in the ability to keep shields active while within the Fluid Nebula. Nonetheless, sensors and cloak are still non-functional within this nebula.

This nebula thus provides the opportunity to get lost within its confines, while still being seen from the outside. If you are quick, you can keep a single ship on the outside to track those vessels within, and thus still send your wolf pack inside to finish off the runner. With the decreased sight radii of short ranged vessels like the B’rel or Leahval, if you aren’t careful, you might just be sending these vessels into a trap - instead of through a shortcut!

Yet, you might have noticed that we have now banished shield-removal effects from both the Fluid and Mutara Nebula. Although this means that it’s no longer possible to set up perfect ambushes on one side of a nebula to destroy helpless, shieldless Federation vessels, it also means that if two factions are forced to fight it out in the nebula, the victory of one force will not be assured simply by the ratio of hull to shield hitpoints. One of the new paradigms is to try and make terrain and other map effects as consistent as possible between factions, that way we no longer have to balance factions as if they had access to certain map objects, and that way it is possible for every faction to play as smoothly as possible. It unfortunately removes some fun aspects - but at the same we will bring in many more to make the Fleet Ops experience as enjoyable as possible.


Terrain Concept #3

The Tetrion and Nucleon Nebulae are damaging nebulae in older patches, and this is no exception for the future. However, while at the moment there is very little functional relevance of these terrain types, we hope to change that with the following additions.

The Tetrion Nebula, with its plasma arcs and tremendous surges of radiation, homes in on similar EM fields. Defensive Vessels, with their numerous shield batteries, act like lightning rods on the tallest mountain. The dangerous energies of these nebulae strike true and hit these vessels without mercy. On the other hand, while Offensive Vessels are not equipped in this manner, their relatively less firm shields - and huge output for ECM devices - makes them just as likely to get hammered. Allround vessels and other configurations are either equipped to handle such surges or simply do not attract these energies, and so they are barely damaged.

Terrain Concept #4

The Nucleon Nebula bombards vessels within it with high energy particles and has a tendency to spontaneously emit gamma and cosmic ray bursts for reasons that are still not quite understood by even top Vulcan scientists. Furthermore, the larger the surface area and more emitters that the craft has, the more likely it receives high damage.

For this reason, navigators that dare to take their craft within this nebula are informed that while they might not get hit immediately, eventually, a whopping blast might just fry the shields and hull.

This nebula does damage proportional to the amount of hitpoints the craft has, such that when a blast hits and deals - let’s say - 10% damage, a vessel with 100 hitpoints only takes 10 damage, and one with 1000 hitpoints takes 100 damage. No species is safe from such a nasty and unpredictable piece of terrain.

However, some percent of particles may also be collected by the deflector dish of all space-faring craft, and thus vessels remaining in the nebula will continuously regenerate their energy reserves.

Terrain Concept #5

The Heavy-Metal Meteorite Field is composed of the burnt out remnants of ancient supernovae. Composed of some of the highest natural concentrations of higher order elements and compounds - featuring massive (but so far unmineable) deposits of uranium, lead, and even duranium and tritanium, craft are well advised to be wary when traversing such areas. Nonetheless, the concentrations of many radioactive and ionized compounds makes it difficult to detect exactly where and what metals are present, and consequently it is simply too wasteful to cut speed and scan every meter for impending collisions. Captains of fast vessels will testify that these types of nebulae can make short work of their inadequate defenses.

This Meteorite Field deals increased damage to vessels with a high top velocity and decreasing damage to progressively slower craft. Craft that are stationary also get hit infrequently.


Terrain Concept #6

The Dichromatic Nebula experiences intense gravimetric distortions, and as a result has a very interesting effect on ships traveling within it. Simply put, it can speed them up when appropriate measures are put into effect. However, in order to compensate and stabilize these effects, all available energy must be used. Craft thus have their special energy slowly drained while within the nebula.

These distortions also have the unfortunate effect of wreaking havoc on the sophisticated sensor systems carried by starships and thus sensors are completely disabled. Support Vessels, with their vast computing capabilities and exotic sensor technologies are completely immune to these sensor disabling effects.

These effects in essence allow this this nebula to behave similarly to a highway, albeit with certain risks. Ships that stay too long will have all their energy drained, so even if they arrive at their target location much quicker, they do so without the energy to burn down enemy vessels or aid their own. Likewise, being completely blind within the nebula means that opponent vessels can be scrambled to intercept these visually impaired adversaries upon exit from the nebula (or on their way).

Terrain Concept #7

In meanders the Crystalid Nebula, slow as can be.
You might recall this nebula for its incredibly powerful shield regenerative capabilities. Alongside the Mutara and Fluid Nebulae of yore, it represented one of the more annoying aspects of map making. How do you balance what is essentially a neutral yard for non-Borg factions, considering when some factions have 70% of their hitpoints in shields and others only 50% or 0%? Many map makers have endeavored to do so by placing such nebulae within the embrace of damaging nebulae, or surrounded by blocking triggers - but the effects of the Crystalid Nebula are so strong that it would require two to three damaging nebulae to equalize the regenerative capabilities, and blocking triggers are just too bulky to not cause frustration.

Consequently, the current thought is to have the Crystalid Nebula regenerate shields, but also disable lifesupport (due of course to dangerous radiation which ironically aids the shields). At the same time, subsystems can be repaired more quickly in such a nebula, due at least partly to fear of dying within it.


'Till next time!