Shields

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Shields

Postby ConnorY71 » Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:28 pm

It doesn't look like anyone's made a topic on shields yet, so I decided to put out a few ideas.

First of all, if the game is going to go for a mostly hard sci-fi background (excluding ftl drives/gravity generators) I think the ship's shields should be as close to real tech as possible. I found this on wikipedia and it seems to fit the bill fairly nicely: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_window. The page mentions that it could be used to keep air inside an open hangar. However, the plasma exists at 15000 K so this can only be used in airlocks where things with their own shields can pass through.
The wikipedia article on "Force field (fiction)" (under the Scientific Research section, so the non-fiction part) features a shield that envelopes a craft and protects it from radiation (lasers, perhaps) and "some particles" (that could include bullets in the game). These two technologies are quite similar so they could be combined as one shield generator within the game.

This shield generator would have an opening to the outside of the ship where plasma is constantly recycled (any recombined electrons/atoms are ionized again). This opening could collect all of the plasma particles to turn off the shield, as well as regulate the temperature of the shields (hotter shields mean better defences).
The ship would have to be plated with magnets to hold the shields in place so both installing a shield system and operating one would cost more money/energy for a ship with larger surface area (seems fair).

Damage reduction from the shields can vary depending on the weapon used. Plasma is translucent so some radiation must be able to get through, thus shields are not fully effective (maybe 90%) against lasers. On the other hand, bullets that strike the shield will be fully vaporized, unless they are very big, fast or well insulated (opening up to a wide variety of weapons and tactics) but will use some of the shield's energy to be stopped.

As for upgradability, going with the noble gases as the shield medium works out very well. Helium would be the starter shield material, as it's the cheapest/most abundant, but it costs the most energy to operate the shields as its ionization energy is the highest of the noble gases. As you go down the group the gases get easier to ionize but more expensive, so the increase in efficiency is balanced by the cost of upgrading. Each noble gas has a different hue when ionized (helium-pinkish, neon-orange/red, argon-purple, krypton-white and xenon-blue, radon gets left out because it's unstable) so upgraded shields give an aesthetic difference along with better performance.

There are a few other uses to the above shield system (google plasma stealth and plasma drag reduction, features which could be used at reduced shield power in-atmosphere) which can be looked into later in game development, but for now I think the above information is more than enough of a basis for ship shields.

In short: Shields made of plasma protect the ship from radiation and particles (radiation penetrates slightly, particles weaken shield slightly) which can be upgraded for improved efficiency, at a cost.

Please leave suggestions for other shield designs/improvements on the above design. Thanks for reading.
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Re: Shields

Postby VladVP » Mon Dec 16, 2013 9:23 pm

That's pretty damn impressive! What you've just done usually takes numerous pages of discussion to conclude. I think that it's pretty much perfect for smaller ships... I don't know about armour for larger ships on the other hand. It would be a) extremely expensive and b) extremely impractical, as large ships are far easier targets than smaller ones which means that concentrating a lot of penetrating energy (in the form of perhaps concentrated free electrons, very strong lasers, or maybe even mere plasma (fighting fire with fire, eh?)) on one point against the large ship should penetrate the shield relatively easily.
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Re: Shields

Postby ConnorY71 » Mon Dec 16, 2013 9:52 pm

You just gave me a really cool idea with the "fighting fire with fire" plasma weapon. The attacking ship could spray a stream of plasma at the defending ship's shields. Adding more material to their shields dissipates the energy they originally had, like a heat sink, making their shields weaker. In reality this plasma stream does not have to be made of the same element(s) as the shield it is trying to weaken, but maybe some reason could be made up to nerf this weapon, that or having a counter measure.
edit: perhaps instead of having this draining device as a pre-built, obtainable weapon it could be only applied by the attacking ship reducing their shield temp and projecting their own shield "fuel" onto the defending ship, making their own ship vulnerable and this more of a risky tactic than a weapon, which cuts out a need for nerfing it in some way. Plus the "shield projection" might only be achieved through the use of the CPU, encouraging the use of the computer in alternative ways to just "fire weapon" and making "shield projection" something only players experienced with the computer can pull off.
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Re: Shields

Postby VladVP » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:33 am

But with the insane amounts af energy that we're going to be generating anyways, wouldn't it be much easier to just vaporise the plasma into quantum particles?
Also, wouldn't simple bombardement of electrons mess up the ionisation pretty badly?
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Re: Shields

Postby ConnorY71 » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:26 pm

I don't know about ships having enough power to split a nucleus with a laser, but a neutron beam would go straight through the shields, as well as having the chance to split a nucleus. At least neutron beams are harder to create than electron or proton beams. Depending on how strong the magnetic fields are that hold the shield plasma in place electrons might or might not be able to get through. Even a very powerful electron beam would probably be deflected, because the forces between electrons and electric/magnetic fields outweighs their momentum due to its tiny mass. However, having the hull intact is only one thing. The electrons added to the shield would change the charge of the shield from mostly neutral to negative (the severity depends on how many electrons you can deliver in your beam), which could (ideas, anyone?) have some drastic effect on something to do with the ship. Also, more electrons would probably increase the nucleus/electron recombination rate, so that would put pressure on your shield generator to regulate the plasma.

I was thinking that if shielded objects can pass through the barrier keeping the air inside a hangar, there could be shielded bullets to attack docked shuttles and crew members inside a hangar. This could go both ways, though, with cannons being fired from inside a hangar. These weapons would be stopped by the shield system anywhere outside the hangar due to the magnetic plates that cover the ship. The only place where the plates are replaced (in part) by another material is in the hangar, where air pressure plays a part in holding the plasma in place, making the hangar the only target to these types of bullets. Regarding hangar shields: I never mentioned explicitly that you would get vaporised if you tried to jump out of a shielded hangar, so I'm saying it now. Escaping in shielded vessels is fine, however.

Another thing - I realised that a shielded ship cannot attack (except with the shielded projectiles) because its shields would act two-ways. So to attack the ship can drop its shields only around the weapons, but it opens them up to attack. This two-way property also means you can't see out of the windows very well, so manual piloting might not be a good idea when on the defensive. Either sit still, set a fixed, maybe repeated course (to try and dodge attacks), or try to warp away. That or have an unshielded sensor unit on the outside of the ship, but I don't think that's a good idea.
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Re: Shields

Postby Zardoz » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:50 pm

ConnorY71 wrote:...making their shields weaker. In reality this plasma stream does not have to be made of the same element(s) as the shield it is trying to weaken, but maybe some reason could be made up to nerf this weapon, that or having a counter measure.
...

Short range as plasma losses thermal energy quickly plus dissipates quickly.
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Re: Shields

Postby thomas9459 » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:05 pm

I had made a casual proposal for an antimatter-based shield device a while ago in the Energy Production thread (on page 6 if you are looking for it), although I didn't explain it very well there. I think it has some merit, so I will try to explain it again here.

Upon activation, the shield generator would create a very thin layer of antimatter that surrounds the ship. This would be achieved by using a charged anti-particle, most likely positrons, and then charging the hull by removing electrons so that the antimatter is repealed by the hull, but because of the excess of negative charge beneath the hull, the antimatter would stay within a certain distance of the hull. This thin layer of antimatter would not protect very well by itself, but once the shield generator detects that part of the shield is being annihilated (by using gamma-ray detectors in the hull or a similar method), it release a burst of antimatter at that specific part of the shield in an attempt to destroy the object and/or push it away.

This shield system is a bit more complex than the other proposals, but I tried to make mine as realistic as possible and consistent with the laws of nature (or at least my understand of them). Also note that this system would not protect against lasers. It might also be possible to bypass the shield using charged projectiles. In other words, shield type offers a different set of attributes than the plasma shield, and thus players might need to tune their battle strategy depending on the type of shield (as well as other equipment) that their opponent possess. In other words, some weapons become more useful, whilst other weapons become useless. Having such a variety of shield types definitely adds more strategy to shipbuild as well, as players have to actually choose a shield type rather that just installing a generic-shield-with-no-explanation-of-why-it-works like in countless other games.

ConnorY71 wrote:As for upgradability, going with the noble gases as the shield medium works out very well. Helium would be the starter shield material, as it's the cheapest/most abundant, but it costs the most energy to operate the shields as its ionization energy is the highest of the noble gases. As you go down the group the gases get easier to ionize but more expensive, so the increase in efficiency is balanced by the cost of upgrading. Each noble gas has a different hue when ionized (helium-pinkish, neon-orange/red, argon-purple, krypton-white and xenon-blue, radon gets left out because it's unstable) so upgraded shields give an aesthetic difference along with better performance.

That is a absolutely beautiful idea! Very natural (tied to the real world properties of the elements), yet allows for an important game play mechanic (namely upgrades).
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Re: Shields

Postby ConnorY71 » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:24 pm

Zardoz: Yeah, that would make it more of a challenge, getting up-close to the enemy. You could risk getting boarded in a counter-attack. With regards to plasma losing energy quickly, the projected shields would work better when colder, as the objective of "shield projection" is to cool the other ship's shields. The colder shields have less energy to vaporise bullets and the ions are more likely to reform into whole atoms.

thomas9459: Your shield concept reminds me of this. I really like the idea of having different types of shield tech. It could tie in nicely with having multiple cultures of people having different technology. Your shields seem to have a few advantages over mine, namely they (I assume) could allow weapons to be fired by the shielded ship without having to drop the shields, as it's a "smart" system instead of passive like mine. Also in space, with no particles to interact with, your shield would be fully/almost invisible, allowing for manual piloting with shields activated. For open hangars, though, either ships equipped with active shields (I'm going to call your shields "active shields" and mine "passive shields" from now on) will have to have unpressurised hangars or use passive shields to keep the air in.
So ships might have a combination of both active and passive shielding. Since your shields require processing feedback from the antimatter field and deciding on a counter measure, perhaps active shields require a dedicated CPU to operate.

Thanks for the comments, guys (including you, VladVP). The feedback and suggestions are great.
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Re: Shields

Postby Zardoz » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:42 pm

You can spray a stream of cold plasma (ionized gas), but keeps the problem of dissipation as is being ionized, all atoms have some positive electric charge so they are repelled. In other words, it's worse that streaming gas in a coherent stream.
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Re: Shields

Postby ConnorY71 » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:45 pm

So going in close to where the shielded ship's magnets take over is the only way to execute this attack. That would be fair enough.
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