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Pod Wars Development Plans
#1
So we released Pod Wars a couple months ago, but sans a few bug/balance changes in the first couple weeks, I haven't done much development related to it in the meantime. Frankly as of right now (09/12/2021) I'm not happy with the state it's in. It has quite a few large problems and I've got maybe just as many more unrelated features that I'd like to see added to it. But it was in a mostly "playable" state such that someone could play a round or two of it, plus I wanted to get feedback and a real test population. 

I bet that there's at least a couple people curious about the general plan I have for it so I thought I'd thought I'd try to lay it all out for everyone. Hopefully I'll have time to get to working on these or at least get some people interested in helping.


Addressing the Main Problems:
After gathering feedback from numerous rounds played and talking with players/admins/devs I've decided on a few critical problems that I think are really holding the game mode back from being what it was intended to be, which is a long haul battle that can fit multiple playstyles (combat, logistics, crafting, medicine, teamwork). Here I'll try to describe these problems and try to explain my attempts at solutions.

1. Combat Lacks Variety:
I'd say all the problems in this section are of nearly equal importance, but with this mode's core being based on combat, the quality of the combat might be the most important thing. I'm going to divide this into two sub problems: Pod Combat and all other combat.
Pod Combat:
  • Pod combat is rather lacking and this is something I knew before starting this project, and is partially why I decided to undertake it. In normal modes aside from perhaps Nuke Ops, pod combat is rare and as such there's not a lot of reason to improve it. It was my hope that making a mode that included pod combat as a core element that someone would eventually try to improve the quality of pod combat.
  • The pod combat format is mostly just flying around in circles trying to score a hit on another pod until they can activate their warp drive or they explode. That would probably be a gross simplification of any dogfighting game, but not here. Weapons and pods all feel the same, just having different amounts of speed, damage, health. I'm not going to clutter this thread with possible improvements on pods, but this is a known problem and one that absolutely will need to be addressed at some point.
Non-Pod Combat:
  • This amounts to all Mob based combat, where humans are shooting at other humans. The biggest issue here is the lack of variety of weapons and items, and those things are esentially the biggest factor in how combat plays out.
  • Right now, every player spawns in either as a "Pod Pilot" or "Commander" with the same weapons: a blaster and a machete. These weapons are meant to be part of a basic kit that can either be directly upgraded or specialized into other weapons via crafting/mining or a sort of points system that has yet to be devised. Alternatively we could make classes that players can select upon spawning that determine their loadout. Similar to pod combat, I'm not going to go in detail on possible changes here, but there definitely will be some that will lead to more combat variety.

2. The "Transportation Problem":
It can take a while to travel from one place to another if you are unable to warp there, as you can only warp to your home base unless your team has captured one of the control points. Not to mention, sometimes you just die, respawn, autofab a tiny pod and just travel back to the fight where you died. And if you're not warping, then you could end up spending more than a minute or two in transit if you, and the autofab pods can only hold one pilot which means it's kinda hard to play as like a troop carrier. 
Here's how I'd like to make transport less of a chore:
  • Buildable warp beacons that are only "warpable" by your teammates. They'll be destructible via projectiles or melee attacks, and they will take damage over time whenever someone makes a warp portle to it, after a certain point they can't be traveled to and will appear on sensors as being damaged. If not repaired then it will be destroyed after a while.
  • Cruisers, or if we can't get that running, flagship pods only 1 for each time at a time, if it is destroyed then you'd need to go through some hoops to build a new one. It would be a big and rather slow pod that will be like a sort of mobile command point. The cruiser will have a beacon that friendlies can warp to. (might have to adjust how this warping works so that it's not trivial for every friendly ship on the map would be able to get there the second it says it's under attack). And also have weapons/armor/shields. We'll probably have to do something cheesey to keep them from just sitting on a control point all game, or maybe add in a gameplay mechanic or two that will coax the ship into danger. Like a roaming Point of Interest that would require your Command Cruiser be nearby to claim.
  • Teleporter room on each base ship. The idea for this is a bit different from any current teleportation we have in-game right now. Basically it would work like this: Computer or two hooked up to a telepad sorta like the science teleporter; but instead of the UI being doing MATH and manually typing xyz coordinates, you'll have a GUI of the whole map (without showing all enemies and POI), but showing any friendlies. Teleporting will play a little animation/give warning before it actually teleports so that someone can be pulled out of a teleporter beam before it "activates" and can only grab one or two people, not make a portal that lasts for x amount of time. And you'll be able to lock onto some coordinates and try to scan around to find interesting things or locate enemies/pods. You'll have to scan an area and possibly spend some resources like power or mats like Telecrystals to teleport someone in or out. Each PDA will have an "Emergency Beam Me Out" button that will indicate to the teleport engineer on their UI that you want to be teleported out which will slightly improve the that a teleportation beam will be able to be generated for you.
  • Buildable secondary pod components that will let an extra one or two people fit inside of a pod.
Finding other people in space:
  • I know we have the Sensors, but they're pretty tedious to use, and they don't present the information to you in a visual way which severely limits how useful they are at a glance. You can track a target alright via clicking on em and having the hud dots pointing the way, but anything else, or something that left your search radious before you left? No dice.
  • The solution here was suggested by Sov. Create a minimap for the mode. Globally track every Mob, Vehicle, point of interest, and on a processing loop we send a segment of that info to each player so that they can have a small minimap in the corner of their screen that shows any mobs/vehicles/whatever within a 30 tile radius or something. And then they'll still have the rather cumbersome sensors on top of that for tracking further things (at least until we update sensors somehow).
  • This map data could also be used on each base ship, having like a screen or table map that showed every friendly mob and where they are on the map.

3. Building pods just isn't very fun:
Building pods sounds fun, until you actually do it and then you realize there's no nuance or decision making to it at all. And that's where you get the fun from when building things.
The best solution I heard that addresses this issue was to make constructing pods more like cyborg construction, have the pod frame be an item you can pick up and add components too, requiring each type of system you need to construct the pod (sensors, weapon, life support, engine, lights, coms) and when you have it how you want it, you just hit it with a wrench and start a progress bar to construct it in place. The second part of this is to leverage matsci into the pod construction directly (as in apart from needing mats to fabricate components) where you'd add materials to this list like metal for the frame, glass for the windshield, more Metals for the plating/armor for determining speed and health. Some conductive/insulative material for handling onboard power which could also affect how the pod reacts to certain types of hits.


New Features:
These features don't necessarily solve any of the above problems IMO, but these are a bunch of things I wanted to see added, but haven't done yet:


Medicine/Medbay on base ships:
  • The med bays on both the Lodbrok and Pytheas are pretty nice. And they do see quite a bit of use, but not really by dedicated doctors. Since unlike Medbay during normal round types, people aren't really brought to medbay frequently that you can stay there and be occupied. 
  • Pod secondary system. Emergency Medical Stasis hold. Lets you load in a teammate who is critically injured and they won't die while inside, giving you time to warp back to the home base so that doctors in the medbay can work on them there.
  • As earlier with the teleporter feature, this would probably give players like a pda button that's like "request emergency beam out" and they can beam em directly to medbay so as to hopefully save their life and points. I think I said before, but to re-iterate, this teleportation would work more like Star Trek type teleporting where there is the beam for several seconds and the person can be pulled or move out of a teleport lock to avoid teleportation.
Squad system, lieutenants:
  • Add a new job that players can spawn as for each team. NT Lieutenant and Syndicate Lieutenant. Chain of Command wise, all lieutenants are below the Commander and above the ordinary pilot.
  • The Commander and Lieutenants can make squads out of the current Pilots on their team.
  • Anyone in the same squad will have a special overlay (like the N/S antag overlays on mobs) that will indicate if they are part of your squad.
  • Squads get a radio channel dynamically added to their current radio. As well as the new one when they are cloned.
  • Max amount of players per squad, like 4-7 based on round pop.

Joining/Assigning squads:
  • Squad selection/joining is handled by an in-game computer on each ship. Possibly a PDA app for Lieutenants/Commanders.
  • The Commander and each Lieutenant starts the round with an empty squad, when they use the computer, they can add pilots that have no squad affiliation to their squad. Also let em name their squad if they like. Names are Logged and will appear on your ID job title possibly. ex: "NanoTrasen Pod Pilot (Squad: A BUNCH OF DADS JUST HANGING OUT AND HAVING FUN)". Except they will have a length cap much shorter than that I think.
  • The Commander can add/remove players from any squad on the team at their leisure. But cannot go around the squad size cap.
  • The Commander can promote/demote people from Lieutenant too, but a team can't have more than X amount of Lieutenants based on round pop.

Non-Combatants:
Have alternatives to playing on either the NT or Syndicate teams. Either as a completely neutral or a toned down/self interested faction. Examples:
  1. Asteroid Belt residents. Basically humans that live out in the asteroid belt doing whatever it is they do and are caught up in the current conflict by chance. Maybe the employees of Cheesey Chucks, or some asteroid miners hoping to strike it rich, or space frontiersmen/settlers. Either they're people who are free to do whatever they want, help either NT or Syndicate as they like, or maybe just try to remain neutral and avoid getting killed; probably leaning towards it being the latter, but I'm not sure.
  2. Kudzu asteroid. This mostly hinges on my future, kudzu development plans for it to be enjoyable to play. But basically there'll be a kudzu asteroid that will have kudzupeople who start there and can expand to other asteroids by making space bridges with kudzu vines. And expanding will give them more tools and things to build and do, as well as making the original asteroid more impressive and defensible. And that original asteroid should have some resource that is valuable to NT/SY, but I'm not sure what. They'll be vastly weaker than both NT and SY, but maybe hard to rush and just destroy, which could make diplomacy/trade a possibility. An unlikely one, but maybe.
  3. Genetecist Enclave. This speaks for itself I think. A small station/asteroid with genetecists/test subjects on board dedicated to the persuit of genetics. As neither NT or Syndicate has access to genetics (And I don't intent to add genetics to the ships), This would allow for people to play genetecist, sitting at a computer as conflict rages outside, selling off genes to the highest bidder. Or getting killed for doing business with the wrong side.
Abilities for Commanders:
This is to make Commanders not just a liability on the battlefield. Things that will make them beefy and more able to turn the tide of a skirmish over a command point. than a normal pilot might be able to. Here are 3 Commander Ability examples off the top of my head, these will definitely see more revision:
  1. Ability to buff friendly forces so they don't take as much movement slow from damage. Increase their stamina.
  2. Maybe like more video-gamey type things too where they can do a sort of "intimidate"/"(D&D style)Command" ability that can debuff the enemy.
  3. Let them be immovable like the the how old mag boots used to work or how current changer horror form does work such that they can't be pushed by people.

Small changes:
  • Show all antag overlays to all players. Now you'll not only be able to see your own team mates, but you can also see the enemys too. Do it for ghosts too.
  • Let ghosts see the score board.
  • For all pods, show the team affiliation of the current pilot by changing the colour of their windshield or lights or something like that.
  • add way for each base ship's manufacturers to internally share materials. Either use a version of the normal rockbox itself explicitly, (this might be unfeasable depending on whether or not it's coded with one global list), or just add a thing that links all of one base's manufacturers' resources together.
  • Track non-joke statistics.
  • Have all pods passively heal while in their home base hangar.
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#2
Don’t know if your taking suggestions or not, but for Non Combatants, you could also have War Correspondents who have a press badge, a microphone, and possibly the biggest scoop of their career.
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#3
Love the geneticist enclave idea, having them be able to pick a side to benefit would be good, like for example let the geneticists have a pod warp beacon and they can toggle who is able to go there + a gene booth on each base that the geneticists have who they send there genes too? Also some way for the teams to be able to help the geneticists would be good, like for example having the geneticists be able to break down corpses to get chromosomes and dna, so the teams can supply corpses as a form of diplomacy. Also maybe have geneticists have a harsher penalty for dying (5 minutes for respawn or something like that) that way you can effectively hold them hostage?
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#4
I would really love if we had pod guns that could be shot in any direction but which can only be used by co-pilots
This way you could have a pilot and gunner role, like in scifi and shit
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