Friday, October 12, 2007

Sensors and Star Trek Online +

After the massive infodump that was my Sensors and Star Trek Online essay, some interesting comments, questions and suggestions came up:

Originally Posted by Kinneas:
What do you feel are the very basic and absolutely essential sensors a ship needs to get out of space dock?
If we're talking sensors as specific devices, I'd guess probably several visual sensors plus an array of futuristic proximity sensors or LIDAR emitter/detectors. Basically you just need to know the positions and velocities of all parts of your ship relative to all parts of the thing you're docking/undocking with.

Realistically that could call for a bunch of sensors. (Actually, for a really big and expensive futuristic starship, I doubt there's any way you'd let a human do such maneuvering at all. But turning over helm control to the computer is apparently still frowned on even in the late 24th century, so no point in going there. Bad M5 unit -- bad!)

In terms of how docking/undocking might work as gameplay, honestly, I don't know that you'd need/want the full-up sensors for this kind of thing at all. My guess is that there'd be a specialized system (with display) for that sort of thing, much like the way the Space Shuttle docks with the International Space Station. You'd use the ship's thrusters to adjust your position, velocity, and orientation with respect to whatever you're trying to dock/undock with. In theory, the sensor system would feed the necessary data into the docking/undocking system, but that's it. The pilot would have a display showing a schematic of all pertinent objects, along with useful numeric readouts, and would make the proper adjustments based on this information.

Doesn't sound terribly exciting, does it? Darn simulationists! :)

Originally Posted by Kinneas:
As people advance they could start getting access to other sensor packages for their sensor platform.
I like the notion of exposing more of the features of sensor operation as a player gets more experienced... or should that be, as the character gets more experienced?

Originally Posted by Kinneas:
Thumbs up on anything to do with 'Electronic Warfare'
That's actually an area I didn't get into with this that I might have.

It's got the potential to support ECM/ECCM fights (if we add devices that can jam various frequencies or emit disruptive particles). But it's possible that a significant number of players might find this kind of thing boring, or even an unwelcome distraction from exciting phasers vs. shields gameplay.

So I'm curious to hear what you and others think about this. Is there any way this model of energies/particles/sensors could be used to implement an ECM/ECCM feature that would be fun for most of ST:O's likely subscribers?


It occurs to me that I should mention something important here: I'm pretty confident that the people who would play a Star Trek game in order to play with sensors will not be the same people who are interested in firing phasers as rapidly and as often as possible.

It seems very likely to me that the gamers who come to Star Trek Online because they're eager to explore the galaxy -- in other words, those who create Science characters and to a slightly lesser degree Engineering characters -- aren't the kind of gamers who'll be satisfied with a simple, shallow, hot-keyable system. They are IMO much more likely to be gamers who enjoy immersing themselves in a gameworld that's rich with content and ways to interact with that content... and that's even more likely to be true for an important sub-branch of Star Trek fan.

So while I agree immediately that a complex sensor system wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, I'm equally confident that there'll be players who would be very disappointed by a sensor system that doesn't let them detect and categorize the huge number of wild-sounding particles and energies found throughout the world of Star Trek. In fact, I'm betting that a lot more of the latter kind of player will gravitate toward the departments and specializations that allow them to play with sensors. For these gamers, a deep sensor system is exactly what they want.

This essay was written with these players in mind.

You know who you are.