FTL Inhibition

FTL Inhibition

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FlyingPhoenix

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It is commonly acknowledged on these forums that FTL Inhibition causes issues for the AI, particularly with its pathing. I think this is probably true. What if instead of blocking hyperlanes, FTL inhibitors instead increased hyperlane jump charge time by a factor of 10 or more?
 

Janx14

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would probably result in the AI b-lining to getting its ships trapped in sluggish FTL forever.
 
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-Marauder-

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And it would make it very hard for fleets to escape without taking out the inhibitor first.
Might be an intended effect, but factor 10 would give defenders probably too big of an advantage.
Not really. Right now they have to take out the station to move in any direction but the one they've come from. With this they could move in any direction, it would just be very slow without taking out the station.
 
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aroddo

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Not really. Right now they have to take out the station to move in any direction but the one they've come from. With this they could move in any direction, it would just be very slow without taking out the station.
If the fleet can take out the station then it doesn't really matter what the FTL inhibitor does (not counting planetary inhibitors).

But if you think about stuff like small raiding parties in the hinterlands, then the current system would completely shut that down, while the proposed system would allow it but make catching the small fleets potentially really easy.

You know, now that I think about it, that could be quite fun.
How about a mix of current and proposed:
  1. FTL inhibitors don't block but increase hyperlane jump charge time by a factor of 10 or more.
  2. FTL inhibitors don't work on the direction the attacker came from.
Not sure if that would solve the pathing issue, though. :)
 
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DrFranknfurter

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I've been playing an ongoing and very fun game from 1.9.1 this past week. The game used to have the following defensive station features in v1.9.1:

Platform tiers
The game once supported a tech-tree for platforms, with mid and end-game variants with much better stats and slots. These were deleted for some reason when Ion cannons were added in the Apocalypse DLC.
v1.9.1
+ Had Small (what we have now), Medium and Heavy platforms with far more health and damage output, heavy platforms had additional auras.
v2.7.2
- Medium and Heavy platform sizes deleted
- Small platforms made even weaker with aura deletion
+ Ion cannons added (Apocalypse DLC only) fits the niche heavy platforms once had, late-game only

Platforms Build anywhere
The game once allowed for starbases to be constructed in a location that wasn't directly over the star, namely around inhabited planets. Platforms could be built freely in any location within a system. It's easy to avoid fighting when the starbase and platforms is forced to be the maximum possible distance from the hyperlane positions, much harder to avoid a fight when the player can place them freely.
v1.9.1
+ Can place platforms at FTL connections so ships land on them/within their aura
- Limited build numbers, each creates a zone around them preventing additional platform construction making them spread out and hard-capped in number.
v2.7.2
- Always shackled to the center of the system.
+ Can now upgrade many with a single click
- upgrading them spams notifications than cannot be stopped

Snare traps
The precursor to FTL-inhibition. These were effectively 1-shot inhibitors, drawing the entire enemy fleet directly onto them on entering the system wasn't great for their longevity but it allowed for significant tactical play e.g. placing one far away from the starbase and forcing the enemy fleet to move through several minefields or conversely forcing the fleet into the centre of the system with long-range platforms encircling them.
v1.9.1
+ Forces any enemy fleet entering the system to arrive at this point
v2.7.2
- Snares deleted
+ FTL-inhibition added.
- FTL-inhibition breaks path-finding when selecting targets past the system
+ Ion cannons added (Apocalypse DLC only) forces enemy to engage the starbase, late-game only

Minefields
The precursor to Auras. Effects with a set range that hit a percentage of all targets in that range. Minefields had a lovely intimidating graphical effect with mines dotted around topped with bright glowing skull&crossbones markers.
v1.9.1
+ Does damage to ships in the area of effect, these attacks could be evaded but ignored shields.
v2.7.2
- Area of effect mechanics Deleted
+ Auras added, but now either fleet-wide or gravity-well.
- No visual indication for the 2 different scopes (I still don't know what auras are working, if they're working and what targets they apply to and regularly see people mistake modifiers that apply to a single ship/fleet for ones that apply to all ships thanks to tooltip confusion)
+ Titans and titan auras added (Apocalypse DLC only) now the only way to access previously free features

Those are some of the deleted features, most were deleted in v2.0 alongside the Apocalypse DLC release. Writing this up has made me realise that the result of cutting the features was to increase the relative value of the Apocalypse DLC as the newly missing features introduced problems that the DLC solved. Reducing the functionality of vanilla game platforms served to make the DLC features look more appealing, Ion cannons and Titans do not have to compete against Heavy Defensive platforms using their own auras, because there are no heavy platforms and no auras for platforms.

So Aura effects haven't been outright deleted in the same way as minefields but instead have been moved to titans with their art and effects repurposed and rebuilt using a different and frankly more confusing mechanic. I previously thought that the intention for the deletions was to improve performance, but the net impact of the other set of economy changes completely undermined that goal. This makes me question the motive for the changes. Whatever the reasons, Auras now affect a much larger number of enemy units or much smaller numbers of friendly units as it's not based on distance anymore. It was much clearer when the auras were shown as a circle in the UI, there were even little mines and skull&crossbones symbols for minefields to turn a relatively boring passive aura into an active, threatening visual display. Defensive platforms had 1-2 slots for any of the above, including the aforementioned repurposed titan modules - shield reduction, FTL charge-up time penalties, and area of effect healing. (It was more than a little galling to be re-sold features in the v2.0 Apocalypse expansion that had been removed from the v1.9.1 game).

Knowing that there's a lot of unused assets (that have already been coded and then deleted for some reason) and features that could be restored the broken FTL inhibitor mechanic could be replaced with any number of different mechanics . I would personally like the following:

Solution 1. Restore Snares. Force enemy ships to go where you want them.
+ The old FTL snare was perfect for this. Other solutions include:
+ Increasing engagement radius to the entire gravity well
+ Forcing Ships to enter and exit the system at 100 distance units so they're always in range of the default missile slot

Solution 2. Minefields. Tackle that doomstack with one big minefield.
We had area of effect weapons, they work and have been coded to work in the game engine. True only 1 was available but this idea should have been expanded and not obliterated.
+ Minefields (Restore them. Ignores shields but can be evaded, counters larger ships or low-evasion early game ships. Countered by high-evasion corvettes and high-range battleships)
+ Chain lightning (high tracking/accuracy, hits all ships in area of effect. Counters low-HP units like corvettes, countered by larger ship sizes)
+ EMP (massive shield damage, extremely low fire rate. Counters shield-heavy doomstacked fleets, countered by triggering with a decoy/sacrificial fleet/armour-heavy designs, good for snare traps due to high alpha-strike potential)
+ Whirlwind missiles (saturates enemy PD or does higher average damage if unopposed. Counters fleets lacking PD, complements missile/strike craft but is hard countered by PD)
+ Flack (Does very low-damage area of effect point-defense attacks, protecting a small area around the station. Hard counter to missile/strike-craft fleets (think Battlestar Galactica resisting waves of Cylon missiles), countered by torpedoes as well as all other weapon types.)
These could use the mechanic that already exists to do short/medium/long-range area of effect damage that scales with fleet size, targets enemy fleet designs like high-shield/low-PD/high-evasion/low-evasion.

Solution 3. Restore those medium and heavy platforms to their former glory.
The models and all that 3D art exists. The mechanic to place them away from the starbase has already been coded once. I don't understand why the functionality was removed. It was a brilliant feature.
+ Restore multiple platform size classes (so they don't all melt like butter at the first attack. Larger platforms can be significantly more durable and use some form of escape/repair mechanism as the disengagement mechanic to reduce the costs of rebuilding after combat was never applied to them.
+ Restore platform positioning (gravity wells have increased in size thanks to trinary star systems. For short range weapons to be useful they need to be positioned closer to the enemy, long range weapons could equally be placed further away to protect them from the initial attack. i.e. place the heavy platform with many small-slot weapons directly over the hyperlane to an enemy system, Ion cannons positioned at the opposite end of the system. The system is then vulnerable to being attacked from behind and movement matters.)
+ Restore Area of Effect abilities (These allowed starbases to inflict proportionally far more damage on doomstacking enemy fleets. Current low numbers of weapon slots quickly make most starbases trivial to fight in the mid-late game. (when medium and heavy platforms would have been used in 1.9.1).
+ If Ion Cannons/Titans are threatened by the changes, give them something else (I'd personally like less raw direct damage, allow it to be increased with repeatable technology, but add extra shield damage in a narrow cone-shaped area of effect.)

I really, really hope we don't get the previously free, cut-content and functionality reintroduced as a paid DLC. (See titan auras). But even if we did the game would be better with the cut-content restored.
 
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Pancakelord

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It is commonly acknowledged on these forums that FTL Inhibition causes issues for the AI, particularly with its pathing. I think this is probably true. What if instead of blocking hyperlanes, FTL inhibitors instead increased hyperlane jump charge time by a factor of 10 or more?
I'm not opposed to swapping back to slowing down FTL travel rather than blocking, but it really wont change much gameplay-wise.
  • If a fleet is big enough to get through a block, it's going through anyway,
  • if it's not big enough it'll die or emergency retreat.
  • it's quite rare to see an AI enter then spin around and leave a system - this only happens if your own fleet jumps in whilst they're in-system already but havent yet started combat.
However I'd support this for non-gameplay reasons.
Disabling FTL inhibitors may lead to better performance as taking enemy starbases forces recalculation throughout wars and Pathing is the heaviest AI thread after pops (its also the most mathematically intense and possibly the hardest process to parallelise). It'd also lead to lower memory-overheads I think (not really an issue these days but still a factor); this is because Inhibitors themselves don't cause issues for the AI. Rather, whenever pathing is broken and the AI is forced to re-calculate that it fails, this is likely because the game doesn't cache its orders in the way some other games handle this sort of thing.
  • From my limited tests ive found that adding nodes to the hyperlane network, taking them away or blocking them (But NOT unblocking them) all seem to force a re-calculation.
  • Unblocking nodes doesn't force a recalculation, they just get factored in on the next pathing update (imagine youve got 3 doors to go through A and B are open, C is closed, youre half way to A, suddenly C opens, you (the AI) dont change course till "some time" later).
  • From this I decided to just outright disable closed borders a few weeks ago on my games and AIs are able to move around a little more intelligently and players (namely me) cant cheese quite so hard by picking systems to block them off, leading to more wars of "border beautification", as I like to call them.
    • I imagine disabling FTL inhibitors would only further improve upon this
As an aside, its possible to add multiple auras to an entity. Currently interdictor auras are "hostile_auras = {}" but you can have friendly and "neutral_auras = {}" too, so you could actually rework both FTL inhibitors and border access all at once. Make closed/open borders itself not do anything, but anyone you've closed borders to would now be subject to your FTL snares, so you can pass through "closed border" space, but by god is it going to take ages.

Knowing that there's a lot of unused assets (that have already been coded and then deleted for some reason) and features that could be restored the broken FTL inhibitor mechanic could be replaced with any number of different mechanics .
They haven't even been deleted there's literally tonnes of stuff lying around in the files, all it takes is a few comments in some cases to get it going again. In other cases a larger re-write is needed.

I've said it for a long time, beyond the FTL/border system (which is what most people gravitate to) what little we gained in military complexity in 2.0 was offset or left worse in other ways thanks to pre2,0 mechanics(and more complex modifiers) being replaced with over-simplified modifiers and mechanics post2.0
  • For example (I assume in the name of performance as the 2.0 economy allows for huge fleets) auras were made to act only on a system-wide (or per fleet/per battle) basis, pre 2.0 they'd act on an Euclidian radial basis (i.e. within 30 units) - with the removal of this code you cant make minefields anymore (as they used to be) or other more interesting items like area-of-effect-blast weapons hitting multiple ships (which could be done with mods, though they were janky.
    • I made an event triggered aura ship once that would fly into an enemy fleet and "detonate" itself by triggering a 1-day aura dealing 5000 dmg to all ships in 30 units. Yes Space suicide-bombers were a thing you could mod for pre 2.0)
  • Anyway, if we wanted to get minefields back in in the current game, with what we can currently work with:
    • add a hostile starbase aura dealing ticking damage to all hostile ships in a system each tick/day/week whatever, or set it to reduce enemy evasion etc (so you could pick from a few diff starbase-unique minefield modules).
      • you can weight its chance based on ship properties but i have no idea what performance impact that'd have...maybe better to just weight its chance by ship_class instead (e.g. 0% chance to avoid mines for juggernaughts/titans/colossi, X% for BBs, Y% for CVs, Z% for CRs etc.
        • can add a second exclusion block that reduces that chance if they have a "mine nullifier" augment component fitted?
        • not sure on this bit you cant actually do as much as you'd think with aura_modifiers. There are a LOT of undocumented restrictions.
          • e.g. you can modify hostile evasion (which is an endemic "property" of a ship_entity... but you cannot also use an aura to change that ship's properties so "jumpdrive = yes" (if you could you'd.... be halfway to pre-2.0 wormholes. At the very least you'd be able to make "gate-casters" that can launch your ships one-way across the stars, before swapping to Hyperlanes or looking for another caster, which would be fun)
    • (its nowhere near as flavourful as pre 2.0, and PDX gutted the ability to render aura graphics over a volume of space, so no more minefield icons, but thats the best youve got now...)
Solution 1. Restore Snares. Force enemy ships to go where you want them.
+ The old FTL snare was perfect for this. Other solutions include:
+ Increasing engagement radius to the entire gravity well
+ Forcing Ships to enter and exit the system at 100 distance units so they're always in range of the default missile slot
I feel like this is half of the answer. there are exactly 3 defines exposed relating to hyperlanes (though PDX could always do whatever they like with code-access)
  • Wind-up (locks ships in place for X/10 days till drive has spooled up), vanilla = 150 (15 days spool up default)
  • Wind-down (locks ships in place for X/10 days till drive has spooled down), vanilla = 0 (unused feature right now)
    • idk right now if this stops guns from firing in combat, but if not, a modifier could be added which tells ships in wind_down to fully ignore combat, locking them in place, or fight with reduced efficiency and reduce evasion to 0% (like after dropping out from a jump drive) for the wind_down_duration.
  • interstellar-speed (reducing this will make ships take longer in transit between stars) and a relic of like pre v.1.2, it'll actually show you a little hyperspace icon at the egress point detailing how many inbound ships there are (this was swept under the rug when they added more galaxy map ship icons shortly after launch, for a time you could even scan FTL trails to learn where a fleet was headed),
    • Screenshot (3977).png
      Interstellar_speed set to 0.1 makes ships waaaay slower (takes multiple weeks to move down long hyperlanes, sometimes and was an exaggerated test of mine) but you also get to see that portal for weeks, which is nice I guess.
    • It might be cool if this added a stacking buff to starbases in the system "prepared defence" - starbase deals X% more damage to this incoming fleet for every week it takes to reach the system, stepping up to +100% for example.
That all said, If you want to bring back snares I think
  1. a constructor could 1 build a "system unique" snare-beacon (just so the game knows where to drop it) and
  2. then remove ship wind-up time and add back ship wind-down time,
    • with starbase "interdictor modules" adding to wind-down time of enemy fleets and
    • higher tier hyperdrives (even aux modules "hyperdrive capacitors" "hyperdrive rams" whatever), reducing wind-down times
So you get a dynamic, a push-pull between wind down times, the longer you can extend an enemy fleet's wind-down time, the longer they'll be sitting ducks, indirectly buffing a starbase's ability to fight back.
Will the AI be able to handle this? probably not. It'd be cool though.
Solution 3. Restore those medium and heavy platforms to their former glory.
The models and all that 3D art exists. The mechanic to place them away from the starbase has already been coded once. I don't understand why the functionality was removed. It was a brilliant feature.
This is almost certainly the easiest to do (I think some mods have done it too). I've thought about different ways it could be done, perhaps the easiest is to add a planetary decision to any colonised world or ring segment [not habitats, that'd be weird] :
  • "Build [energy/kinetic/missile] orbital defence station" costing alloys and time and
  • then have it spawn what was once called a heavy defence platformover the world, auto upgrading its slots to your highest tier for that weapon line.
    • An earlier/mid-game version could have it spawn mid-size defence stations instead (as there were tiers, with defence platforms being analogous to small stations)
  • If it gets destroyed add a modifier to the world "ruined orbital defences" which unlocks a second cheaper edict "repair orbital defences" that respawns the station and removes the ruined modifier.
  • [I say use edicts for this, as the AI is actually quite good at using edicts, if they've got well defined weights and conditions].
  • This is also a decent way of bringing back orbital instillations to planets.
  • And by midgame (when alloys are usually plentiful) it makes more sense for armies to not be able to land on worlds till their orbital installations have been knocked out too (i'd move the check from "starbase" to "orbital station", so you could land an army on a world w/o capturing the starbase, if no orbital defences are over it,... but I think that might be hard-coded not sure).
 
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