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A little side-suggestion on balance and realism.

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On 3/20/2018 at 10:55 PM, endersblade said:

All I'm getting out of this thread as that a lot of people really don't understand how real lasers work.  Considering this thread is titled with 'realism' in it, I find that extremely baffling.

Correct, we do not currently have legitimate weaponized lasers (though some people have made some really powerful ones on Youtube) and so there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required to use them in a game.  But the technology is real and theoretically possible to make real weapons with them based on that tech.  Did you know that a common laser pointer has an effective blinding range of almost 50 feet, and can be SEEN up to 2.2 miles?  That's just a rinky-dink little keychain laser pointer.  A 500mw (half a watt) laser can do serious damage at over 500 feet, and can be seen up to 22 miles away.  That's HALF a watt. Imagine one powerful enough to be used as a weapon.  Something say around 5 watts.  That would probably be strong enough at 50 feet to punch a hole in solid steel with little effort.  Games seriously downplay the power of a laser weapon, mostly for balance purposes, but sometimes because they didn't bother doing any research on the subject.

My point is, a laser weapon strong enough to deal actual damage to something just be being hit with it is not going to lose any effectiveness on a map the size of the ones ingame.

If you want something that loses effective damage over range, look no further than plasma weapons.  Deadly up close, useless at range. 

The wattage of a laser is the maximum amount of energy it can deposit on the target. Five watts is nowhere near enough to 'punch a hole in solid steel'; you need to put enough energy on the target to either melt or sublimate the surface. For plate steel at roughly zero range, getting a clean cut requires kW-range lasers. Since a clean cut isn't needed, and aircraft don't have plate metal armor, similar power levels are useful against aircraft IF the targeting system can keep the laser pointed at the target long enough to melt a control surface.

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I've refrained from commenting on my views regarding weapons and ammunition in Xenonauts so far, but you want realism? Fine, here we go.

On 3/22/2018 at 2:52 AM, Rodmar18 said:

If a 500 mW laser deal "serious damage" at 500 feet (150 m), then why do all the special forces in the world wait for equipping themselves with combat lasers?

Primarily because the transmission from energy cell to laser to heat in the target object is WAY less efficient than from chemical propellant to kinetic energy in the projectile to physical deformation of the target object. To put it more clearly: if you want a laser which does roughly the same damage as a rifle, it will have the size and weight of a cannon, and then your commanding officer will ask why you didn't bring a cannon instead. If you want a real life example, look up the "Iron Beam" Israeli missile defence laser. Even only operating in the dozens of kilowatt range rarther than the hundreds of kilowatt range, it's the size of two trucks with the majority of that being fuel cells and cooling systems. This system is capable of shooting a drone or missile out of the air within "4-5 seconds" according to the manufacturer. Now imagine for the same size and weight you can get about two BM-21 Grad vehicles ... just think for a second about the difference of having your troops engaged by the Iron Beam for 4-5 seconds versus two BM-21 for the same time. Yes, their purpose is a very different one, but this example illustrates just how vast the difference in actual power output between chemical propelled projectiles versus lasers at our current level of technology is. The magical alien power cells would alleviate that some, but the more efficient option regarding pure physical damage would still be a rail weapon rather than a laser.

On 2/15/2018 at 7:17 PM, Ninothree said:

if we're considering realism, I'm fairly sure that a laser's cutting power is related to the duration for which it is focused as much particles which would dissipate the energy en route.

Actually, using weaponized lasers you run into a problem called "blooming". Once your laser delivers more than a megajoule of energy, the air it's going through turns to plasma, dissipating the beam and making it spread wildly. One of the most common countermeasures is to not fire a continuous beam but rather have it fire in short bursts, usually called a "pulse laser" ... which, surprise, leads back to the much maligned laser machinegun of xenonauts 1. Kind of funny how sci fi movies have made people critizise real technology as unrealistic.

On 2/8/2018 at 2:37 PM, buster said:

It just makes sense realistically(no bullet drop or travel time) and it could be a cool balance feature.

Ok, let's talk realism here then. A 5.56x45mm NATO rifle round within the first 100 meters travels at over 850 meters per second, meaning that at an engagement range of 50 meters or less (and we can't even see that far in xenonauts) it covers the distance within less than 0.06 seconds. The bullet drop within 50 meters is below 3 cm according to my ballistic charts. So, bottom line as far as accuracy goes bullet drop and travel time are neglegible in Xenonaut engagement ranges. Just to put ranges in perspective: an olympic level sprinter wearing nothing but a shirt and shoes and running 10m/s takes 5 seconds to move 50 meters. For a trained shooter that is EASILY enough time to take several aimed shots at the runner, meaning that 50 meters must be more than the range you can optimally cover moving two turns after having maxed out your TUs.

An argument can be made regarding recoil or even more interesting flinching, but bullet drop and travel time are neglegible at these distances.

 

On 3/5/2018 at 6:35 PM, Chris said:

In this example, given the player starts with projectile weapons already, I'm pretty sure 90% of players will stick with ballistic weapons.... because they're just as good as laser and plasma weapons, just different.

Someone else quoted scientific research proving that over 90% of Xenonaut players are minmaxers ... couldn't find the exact quote nor replicate the research, but it seems plausible to me. Basically the playerbase can be split into two groups: those who don't overanalyze and are just in it for the fun, and they will research the weapons simply because they are later in the tech tree and therefore they must be better, and those who are of the minmaxy type, who only need to see a rather small advantage to start considering the research.

On 3/5/2018 at 6:35 PM, Chris said:

If what you're suggesting is that projectile weapons are the MAG guns, so the player is given access to the research for Lasers / Plasmas / MAG weapons early in the game and they're essentially equal to each other - well, that's a better solution, but it still means that people will just pick their preferred type of advanced weapon and it's not worth them investing the research into getting any of the other types. Because they're all equally good, so why would a player spend three times the research points and resources getting all three when it's perfect viable to use just one of them?

Since the weapons have different strongpoints - accuracy, damage, range - if the player has information on which qualities are most beneficial to him in the mission he is engaging in he will also choose a different weapon. For that purpose, intel on whether the next missions area will be an urban sprawl with tight corners and only short line of sight or a few buildings and watchtowers in the arctic with virtually no cover to be found would need to be available to the player before he chooses what loadout he wants to bring. Being able to have additional information on what enemy you are facing - given you can then infer the amount of damage needed to take down one of them and the range at which they prefer to engage your troops - would also be useful.

 

If you actually want somewhat more realistic weapons, introducing a flat armor value for targets which reduces damage and an armor penetration value for weapons would make most sense. The normal 5.56x45mm ammunition issued to NATO foot soldiers is in fact not designed to kill. It is intended to wound the target, since a wounded soldier screaming in pain won't be a threat for a bit, while at the same time requiring a second soldier to give him medical attention and reducing the morale of his unit as he suffers near them. Compare that to the specially developed FN 5.7x28mm ammunition for the FN P90 submachine gun. This weapon was designed for use by special forces in close quarter combat - it's projectile velocity is far below the 5.56 round, and it is made to deform after penetrating the target, so that the maximum amount of kinetic energy is transmitted to the target and overpenetration is avoided. MAG-weaponry would in my opinion actually be counterproductive for use against "soft" human targets. The projectile will rip straight through, actually doing less damage than a slower projectile which starts to tumble and deform (and possibly even split) inside the target. If body armor is available which actually stops normal rifle ammunition from penetrating, mag weaponry suddenly becomes much more attractive. There's a fair chance it still wouldn't do more damage than a convential round if it penetrated, but the issue is that the not penetrating normal rifle round does effectively no damage at all.

 

Ultimately, introducing non-comparables to the different weapons would probably be the best way to go. Making lasers "blinding" which game wise would probably be best implemented by a negative accuracy modifier for the next turn only (for instance assuming that personel is equipped with automatically darkening lenses, which then however leave them in the dark for a few seconds), and giving all plasma weaponry aoe damage, making them the highest damage weapon in the game, which is however hard/hazardous to use because of it's very short range, might well be the most effective approach.

 

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On 2/8/2018 at 2:37 PM, buster said:

Make laser weapons such that their damage drops over distance instead of accuracy.

It just makes sense realistically(no bullet drop or travel time) and it could be a cool balance feature. Some players could prefer keeping ballistic weapons for their snipers to use them as long-range killers while some players may prefer laser snipers for a more recon-support role since they can't one-shot aliens from long distances...

 Also, it could be a nice change to make laser weapons fire effects look like half-life's tau cannon's beam instead of a star wars like laser bolts to visually aid this mechanic in the game.

 

 

I looked around a little bit to see if anyone else suggested something like this but couldn't find any... Sorry in advance if this idea was already suggested before...

In my opinion that is just nonsense. The combat distances you have in Xenonauts are so small that bullet drop does not affect you in any meaningful way. With the rifles of the last decade, you need to aim higher from around 300m onward. Additionally, a focused beam of light should have the same energy delivered over these distances. A laser system I am going to start working on soon has a beam that has a 0.5m diameter 850km away. If you extrapolate that on comabt distances, the effect is barely measurable.

That said I am all for different mechanical effects of the different weaponry. But if you want to start reasoning with real world physics, it should be done right.

I have also thought about smoke dispersing laser beams, but I think its effect on the beam's power is pretty small in the scenarios of Xenonauts. What would be cool though if you (or the aliens) had a specialized kind of "glitter grenade" with small reflective parts slowly sinking to the ground that really would reflect the beam (or parts of it) somewhere else, rendering it rather ineffective. You could also upgrade your smoke grenades to do both, maybe.

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1 hour ago, Dagar said:

A laser system I am going to start working on soon has a beam that has a 0.5m diameter 850km away. If you extrapolate that on comabt distances, the effect is barely measurable.

Out of interest, is that through air or in a vacuum?

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1 minute ago, Chris said:

Out of interest, is that through air or in a vacuum? 

Both :D I am going to work at the DLR (german center for avionics and astronautics). They have a laser here at an observatory in germany that can measure exact distances to objects in low earth orbit (200 - 2000km up).

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6 minutes ago, Dagar said:

Both :D I am going to work at the DLR (german center for avionics and astronautics). They have a laser here at an observatory in germany that can measure exact distances to objects in low earth orbit (200 - 2000km up).

Interesting. I would have thought that the dispersion would have been stronger as it traveled through the air ... but then I don't actually know anything about lasers so perhaps that's not surprising. Is it a fairly low-powered laser? Would it disperse more if it was more powerful?

Congrats on the job anyway :)

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14 minutes ago, Chris said:

Interesting. I would have thought that the dispersion would have been stronger as it traveled through the air ... but then I don't actually know anything about lasers so perhaps that's not surprising. Is it a fairly low-powered laser? Would it disperse more if it was more powerful? 

 Congrats on the job anyway :)

Really off-topic now, but hey :DTo be honest I don't know the specifics of the laser that is in use (yet), but I think that it is not some ultra-rare expensive powerful laser just for that case. I am not in astrophysics (or physics for that matter), but wikipedia says that that kind of measurement can be used for distances up to 5000km from earth to satellite (though these satellites do have special reflectors which we do not need). The atmosphere is not that strong in dispersing light, especially not of that strongly bundled kind. You can see its dispersing effect if you compare the apparent size of the sun to its apparent size during a total solar eclipse - and that light is not bundled in any way.

And thanks, I could not be happier :)

Edited by Dagar

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21 hours ago, Dagar said:

What would be cool though if you (or the aliens) had a specialized kind of "glitter grenade" with small reflective parts slowly sinking to the ground that really would reflect the beam (or parts of it) somewhere else, rendering it rather ineffective. You could also upgrade your smoke grenades to do both, maybe.

Wouldn't work in reality on a weaponized pulse laser, since the heat would sublimate the reflecting particles within the first couple of pulses (it already turns air into plasma). I also think the idea would be useful gameplay wise, and gameplay fun is ultimately more important than realism in game, if a choice has to be made; but i feel that the constant agreement to deviate from reality in games and movies has prompted more and more people to become completely convinced of ideas that are just factually wrong. Wouldn't it be interesting to get things right instead and in the process challenge some of the incorrect assumptions that seem to calcify in people's heads more and more?

 

21 hours ago, Dagar said:

But if you want to start reasoning with real world physics, it should be done right.

That's essentially what prompted my post. If as an engineer i read a thread starting with "realistically this should all be different" and continuing on to "All I'm getting out of this thread as that a lot of people really don't understand how real lasers work." and the posters get their physics wrong ALL over, then eventually i get twitchy and write a 1000+ word post.

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On 6/7/2018 at 11:40 AM, Chris said:

Interesting. I would have thought that the dispersion would have been stronger as it traveled through the air ... but then I don't actually know anything about lasers so perhaps that's not surprising. Is it a fairly low-powered laser? Would it disperse more if it was more powerful?

Congrats on the job anyway :)

My less-than-professional understanding is that through homogeneous air of constant temperature the dispersion is the same as in vacuum, since the entire beam is refracted equally, and actual air is pretty close to that. But finding a place where you can draw a line hundreds of kM long through air and ending on something interesting is nontrivial anyway.

 

4 hours ago, Drakon said:

Wouldn't work in reality on a weaponized pulse laser, since the heat would sublimate the reflecting particles within the first couple of pulses (it already turns air into plasma). I also think the idea would be useful gameplay wise, and gameplay fun is ultimately more important than realism in game, if a choice has to be made; but i feel that the constant agreement to deviate from reality in games and movies has prompted more and more people to become completely convinced of ideas that are just factually wrong. Wouldn't it be interesting to get things right instead and in the process challenge some of the incorrect assumptions that seem to calcify in people's heads more and more?

 

Reflected energy wouldn't add any heat to the reflectors, and it takes very little energy to ionize air. A smoke, dust or aerosol designed to impede a particular type of laser could plausibly be exactly as effective as gameplay needs it to be. Likewise, an armor piece that was designed to protect against thermal lasers would be some combination of reflective, ablative, and dissapative, in proportions that depend on the details of the weapons they were designed to counter and properties of the sci-fi materials used- maybe a gallium-unobtanium alloy exists that has a huge specific heat capacity and latent heat of fusion, and melts well above normal human body temperature but below the point where burns are a huge danger. Hit an armor plate of that with sustained laser fire, and it becomes uncomfortably warm, then melts. Hit it with a piece of lead containing a similar amount of energy, and it might turn a trivial amount of that energy into plastic deformation.

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On 6/7/2018 at 4:00 PM, Drakon said:

I've refrained from commenting on my views regarding weapons and ammunition in Xenonauts so far, but you want realism? Fine, here we go.

On 3/22/2018 at 2:52 AM, Rodmar18 said:

If a 500 mW laser deal "serious damage" at 500 feet (150 m), then why do all the special forces in the world wait for equipping themselves with combat lasers?

Primarily because the transmission from energy cell to laser to heat in the target object is WAY less efficient than from chemical propellant to kinetic energy in the projectile to physical deformation of the target object.

Did you read that I was answering Endersblade? 500 mW laser could largely fit hand weapons, save for the energy cells.

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On 6/9/2018 at 3:44 PM, Rodmar18 said:

500 mW laser could largely fit hand weapons, save for the energy cells.

500 mW (meaning 500 milliwatt) lasers are laser pointers, roughly strong enough to light a cigarette. Yes, those are easily handheld (found one weighing 56g), and useful for attempting to blind enemy personel, but do not expect to cause much physical damage (skin burns, yes, but no comparison to what a 9mm round will do to a body). If you are looking for an explicitely non-lethal way to take out enemy personel, those might be of interest (several military research agencies are looking into those right now, but the person blinded is probably still crippled for life, which is why options like sound cannons are actually considered more interesting by many - lasers are considered because they can damage mechanical optical sensors as well). Here's a website where you can buy some real life 5 watt laserpointers: https://www.c4lasers.com/

Actual laser cutters designed to "punch through steel" operate in the thousands of watts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_cutting#Process

The problems you run into with those is not only the weight of the laser itself (not even considering the power cell here), but also that at this rate of energy consumption you generally need cooling equipment as well.

Physically speaking, i can only reiterate: transforming chemical energy to kinetic energy to disruption of molecular cohesion has less energy loss than transforming electrical energy to light to disruption of molecular cohesion.

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On 6/8/2018 at 9:37 PM, Decius said:

Reflected energy wouldn't add any heat to the reflectors, and it takes very little energy to ionize air.

Correct, and if you show me particles that have a 100% reflection rate in real life practical conditions, i'll see if you can't get a nobel prize. Given how much energy is transmitted with a weaponized laser that can noticeably damage an andron which has an outer shell made of metal, even a 0.1% absorption rate would be enough to vaporize the snow-flake like material mean used in such a "smoke bomb". So let's say the first laser pulse is completely absorbed - problem is, the second pulse, coming only milliseconds after the first, will have a clear path to the target.

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if the laser generates a huge amount of heat, that can effect the accuracy by distracting the shooter. unless it's mounted as a turret or vehicle.

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On 2/14/2018 at 8:46 AM, Chris said:

Sorry, missed this before. So would you set the accuracy of the laser weapon to 100% then? You could definitely have the damage drop off over distance in a way that ballistic weapons do not, but I would have thought having a super-accurate weapon would be a little overpowered given it then doesn't require any skill on the part of the sniper to use.

My thoughts on this are that the accuracy of the sniper in question is translated into a percent which then that percent is used to determine a hit or a miss, making it so the gun itself is super accurate, but the sniper still needs a high accuracy to be super accurate.

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