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Making heat interesting as a player resource

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#1 Ian Morrison   Members   -  Reputation: 177

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 11:02 PM

I'm working on a space dogfighting sim and right now heat is the primary player resource that needs management during gameplay. Weapons fire generates heat, and you can't fire if you've exceeded the limit. This has some interesting interactions; for instance, ships with larger weapon arrays aren't necessarily more powerful than ones with smaller weapon compliments, given the same ability to dissipate heat. Instead, the ship with more weapons is just capable of doing more burst damage (and thereby generating more heat). It also plays nicely with my damage model, in which damaging the radiators of a ship allows you to make the target run hotter and have to make more decisions about when and how to fire their weapons.

 

However, it's got some problems. The big one is that it just sucks to not be able to fire because you've overheated, and squeezing small bursts out of an overheated ship as you repeatedly dip out of the overheating threshold is frustrating. It also feels inelegant; heat doesn't matter until you've hit your limit, in which case you've hit a hard cap.

 

Looking at the Mechwarrior series, this is handled in their design by a couple of factors:

  • Harsh consequences for hitting the overheat limit. You'll shutdown until you've cooled off, which can be a death sentence as you sit there and take a beating. Push it even further by overriding the shutdown, and you can blow up your mech. You're very afraid of ever hitting your heat limit, so there's more of a psychological cost for running hot.
  • Actual gameplay has plenty of opportunities to break contact (block line of sight with terrain) and cool off; instead of being in constant contact, the pacing in Mechwarrior tends to be pretty spikey.

I'm not fond of shutdown, because losing control of your vessel isn't much fun and it's a pretty binary thing. I also have very limited opportunities for players to break contact due to high speeds and open environments, though this is perhaps a separate problem that needs to be addressed.

 

I've been toying with other ideas for making the heat mechanic more interesting without relying on binary caps to limit the player, but haven't settled on anything. Some ideas:

  • Defensive shields could be added that scale with heat, either being themselves expendable resources that recharge slower if the ship is hot, or maybe just making armour resist damage less if it's too hot. This way, a ship being reckless with heat generation is more vulnerable to attack.
  • Build in a complicated sensor model in which running hot makes you very visible
  • Do damage or permanently soften armour if you exceed safe heat limits
  • Reduce performance characteristics like maneuverability as heat rises. Possibly pretty frustrating.
  • Create weapons or environmental hazards that are more effective against hot ships, like heat seeking missiles
  • Scale weapon effectiveness based on heat, reducing damage or accuracy as the ship gets hotter

Anyone dealt with a similar issue, or know any good examples of rechargeable resource systems (mana, energy, heat, etc) that have been made into interesting constraints without just resorting to hard limitations and the associated opportunity cost?



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#2 Nyaanyaa   Members   -  Reputation: 1478

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Posted Yesterday, 12:50 AM

I'd look at Halo's Plasma Rifle. The firing rate increases as heat increases. The weapon heats up fast when you fire, and cools down fast when you let go off the trigger. But when you overheat the weapon, the cool down takes a long time and you can't shoot.



#3 gezegond   Members   -  Reputation: 414

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Posted Yesterday, 04:02 AM

Weapons fire generates heat, and you can't fire if you've exceeded the limit. This has some interesting interactions; for instance, ships with larger weapon arrays aren't necessarily more powerful than ones with smaller weapon compliments, given the same ability to dissipate heat.


I read this and I immediately thought "upgradeable radiators!". I think the players would want to be able to just make a better ship (If that's a feature of your game) so being stuck with two different ships that have similar performances isn't really fun. Just my two cents.

Unto the real problem:
 

it just sucks to not be able to fire because you've overheated, and squeezing small bursts out of an overheated ship as you repeatedly dip out of the overheating threshold is frustrating.


I'm thinking NFS:Underground. In there you had very very limited Nitrous on each car that would not replenish (unlike the newer games). So when you were getting behind the competition or felt like you need a boost, you would use the nitrous. However you had to be careful because the nitrous would not replenish and you might need it later on in the race. So there were times when in the midst of action you had to make a really strategic choice, and that was very fun and intense for me.

You could implement something similar here. Give them coolers that upon use instantly cool off the weapons, however the player can for instance use 3 coolers per mission. They have to manage their weapon's heat, however they can make choices that would make the game more fun. Like deciding to overheat the weapon on purpose and then cooling it off if there's an opportunity that they want to exploit as much they can. Or like in the NFS game, when their weapon's getting too hot, they have to decide between stopping or have the weapon overheat and then use the coolers.


Edited by gezegond, Yesterday, 04:03 AM.


#4 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 1194

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Posted Yesterday, 04:18 AM

Another possibility for shielding: if you overheat, no firing until you're completely cooled, but heat dissipates quickly if you drop shields. (As if the shields are the thing trapping heat, and dropping them lets the cold of space cool you down faster.)

So you're not disabled after hitting your heat cap, you just need to make a choice between a short period of no shields or a longer period of no weapons.

(I was thinking standard sci-fi energy shields but actually it'd look great to see a ship with physical shielding fan itself out for maximum surface contact with the cold. It'd be a clear visual sign of both cooling down and vulnerability.)

#5 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 1194

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Posted Yesterday, 04:24 AM

You could implement something similar here. Give them coolers that upon use instantly cool off the weapons, however the player can for instance use 3 coolers per mission. They have to manage their weapon's heat, however they can make choices that would make the game more fun. Like deciding to overheat the weapon on purpose and then cooling it off if there's an opportunity that they want to exploit as much they can. Or like in the NFS game, when their weapon's getting too hot, they have to decide between stopping or have the weapon overheat and then use the coolers.


I was thinking, one thing that might cool down an overheating ship more rapidly is venting atmosphere. But your atmosphere is a limited resource, so if you do it (say) four times your pilot suffocates.

#6 Nyaanyaa   Members   -  Reputation: 1478

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Posted Yesterday, 04:44 AM


As if the shields are the thing trapping heat, and dropping them lets the cold of space cool you down faster.

Just pointing out that Space Is Cold is a popular misconception. In real life, the vacuum (i.e., space) would actually trap the heat. Temperature is a property of matter. A vacuum is the absence of matter, so space cannot have a temperature. But Reality Is Unrealistic of course, so whether to follow reality or fiction is up to you. tongue.png

 

Edit: Since I was already on TV Tropes, the “Overheating” page lists many examples from video games.


Edited by Nyaanyaa, Yesterday, 04:49 AM.


#7 gezegond   Members   -  Reputation: 414

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Posted Yesterday, 04:58 AM

Just pointing out that Space Is Cold is a popular misconception. In real life, the vacuum (i.e., space) would actually trap the heat. Temperature is a property of matter. A vacuum is the absence of matter, so space cannot have a temperature.


That is true, but temperature can still fall due to thermal radiation, so vaccum does not completely trap heat, but yes it will take weapons much longer to cool down in sapce than if they had been in atmosphere. However OP said his ships have a radiator, so he has a system for cooling down the weapons. You just need to get rid of your radiator heat really fast through radiation one way or another. How to do that I'll leave it to OP as the Sci-Fi author to come up with something interesting. :)



#8 conquestor3   Members   -  Reputation: 403

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Posted Yesterday, 08:11 AM

A game with really neat heat mechanics was Ring Of Red for the PS2. I don't remember all the mechanics off the top of my head very well, but what I do remember was that doing damage could apply heat to the enemy (As well as moving/firing adding it). It was possible to overheat/lose total control if you moved/fired often, AND the enemy was using a fire-based weapon to try and overheat you. This meant you had to approach different battles different ways. For example, if you were up against a heat using enemy you'd want to keep your distance/aim your shots and make every shot count. If you were using heat yourself you'd want to engage close and keep spraying. Having heat would also do stuff like reduce your movement speed/decrease accuracy.



#9 DifferentName   Members   -  Reputation: 352

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Posted Yesterday, 08:48 AM

One way to let players continue firing is to include a low/no heat weapon, so when your heat is all spent, you've still got something you can do. This would be like Diablo 3, where your guns are like abilities that consume your resource, and you can keep an ability around that doesn't spend your resource, or that even recharges your resource. Maybe the gun barrels double as rail guns. Once they're hot, you fire them at your opponent, reducing your heat (but getting replacement barrels ready has a cooldown). 

 

You could have the consequences of heat come in stages. Maybe the first stage slowly damages your ship. It could be decent strategy to run hot in this stage, taking a small amount of damage to fire your guns when you need them. Maybe some weapons even improve in this stage, with a faster fire rate, more damage, or abilities being unlocked. At later stages of heat, your ship might take more damage, or at a certain point your ship might have random systems fail. A variety of ideas have come up for the consequences of too much heat. Some of those could be in this random wheel of consequences, like being unable to fire your guns, unable to pilot your ship, shields go down, an explosion that damages your ship more, or that causes you to lose ammo or fuel (if there's a second resource beyond heat). I think unpredictable consequences would fit well with the theme of overheating your ship.



#10 DanglinBob   Members   -  Reputation: 145

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Posted Yesterday, 12:20 PM

I'd first look at Mechwarrior... because... they did it first (as far as I know) for Heat as a primary limiting factor of firepower.

 

Just note that despite the fact heat limits the total damage output potential (more weapons doesnt mean more overall damage before overheat) - it does NOT limit the alpha strike potential - and a good alpha is worth a LOT (This has caused Mechwarrior Online all kinds of headaches and workarounds).



#11 Ian Morrison   Members   -  Reputation: 177

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Posted Yesterday, 02:01 PM

Another possibility for shielding: if you overheat, no firing until you're completely cooled, but heat dissipates quickly if you drop shields. (As if the shields are the thing trapping heat, and dropping them lets the cold of space cool you down faster.)

So you're not disabled after hitting your heat cap, you just need to make a choice between a short period of no shields or a longer period of no weapons.

(I was thinking standard sci-fi energy shields but actually it'd look great to see a ship with physical shielding fan itself out for maximum surface contact with the cold. It'd be a clear visual sign of both cooling down and vulnerability.)

 

An interesting variation on this that draws from some realistic depictions of space combat: radiators are fragile and high value targets in a fight. Withdrawing them behind your armour allows you to keep them safe, but if you really need to dump heat before you cook then you have to extend them and risk them getting shot off. That might be a neat thing to play with; keep the radiators on the ships tucked away and armoured, but you can press a key to dump heat at the risk of getting them shot. Using that or your shield idea both play with the idea of vulnerability for resource replenishment. Fanning out the radiators, as you say, is also a really interesting visual effect as well.

 

 

One way to let players continue firing is to include a low/no heat weapon, so when your heat is all spent, you've still got something you can do. This would be like Diablo 3, where your guns are like abilities that consume your resource, and you can keep an ability around that doesn't spend your resource, or that even recharges your resource. Maybe the gun barrels double as rail guns. Once they're hot, you fire them at your opponent, reducing your heat (but getting replacement barrels ready has a cooldown). 

 

You could have the consequences of heat come in stages. Maybe the first stage slowly damages your ship. It could be decent strategy to run hot in this stage, taking a small amount of damage to fire your guns when you need them. Maybe some weapons even improve in this stage, with a faster fire rate, more damage, or abilities being unlocked. At later stages of heat, your ship might take more damage, or at a certain point your ship might have random systems fail. A variety of ideas have come up for the consequences of too much heat. Some of those could be in this random wheel of consequences, like being unable to fire your guns, unable to pilot your ship, shields go down, an explosion that damages your ship more, or that causes you to lose ammo or fuel (if there's a second resource beyond heat). I think unpredictable consequences would fit well with the theme of overheating your ship.

 

Low heat weapons is something I recall Mechwarrior doing as a complement to the heat system; your ballistics were ammo constrained, needed target leading, and took up a ton of space on your mech, but wouldn't add much heat, allowing you to run with less heat sinks, or keep firing after your heat using weapons had built it up. I'm definitely going to want that. I haven't implemented missile weapons yet, but I'm sort of envisioning them in a similar role; small ammo reserves and with a ton of downsides like the missiles being targetable or ammo being vulnerable, but no heat generation.

 

Come to think of it, the "venting coolant" bit is also a mechwarrior-ism that was interesting; it's not a real systemic solution, though, more of a "get out of jail free" card that allows you to dodge the limit once or twice.

 

I don't like random failure, since this is fast-paced adversarial multiplayer where that randomness might not be appreciated. I do like the idea of maybe making some systems work better with a bit of heat, making your want to hit a "sweet spot" between completely clear and overheating, which both encourages moderation at low stages of heat AND makes you less likely to want to disengage and stop generating that heat. It's also even more interesting if that sweet spot conflicts with other things you might want, like a low sensor profile or something.

 

 

I'd first look at Mechwarrior... because... they did it first (as far as I know) for Heat as a primary limiting factor of firepower.

 

Just note that despite the fact heat limits the total damage output potential (more weapons doesnt mean more overall damage before overheat) - it does NOT limit the alpha strike potential - and a good alpha is worth a LOT (This has caused Mechwarrior Online all kinds of headaches and workarounds).

 

Absolutely. My game feels a lot like "Mechwarrior in space", so I've been drawing inspiration very liberally. One of the reasons that alpha strike power is so valuable in MWO is the ability to break contact and bleed off heat/avoid damage between shots; you can very easily round a corner, unleash hell, then retreat back around the corner to avoid return fire. Until you get into a brawling/end-of-match situation, MWO is dominated by peeking out of cover and taking potshots, where building for sustained damage just means that you're missing opportunities to build up heat and do damage. Those same alpha strike mechs, though, suffer greatly when their ability to break contact is disrupted (for instance, by someone coming at them from a direction they're badly exposed to). Those situations are rare, but they're where sustained damage builds are a little more viable.

 

My game, due to the open environment and high speeds, has more difficulty creating those situations where the alpha is almighty. There's certainly a bit of it--ideal firing range is often only available for a small window, and there's a lot to be said for concentrated damage or ending a fight quickly--but a problem with the current design is that it rapidly devolves into slugging matches, in which case heat dissipation reigns supreme. A strong alpha is a clear advantage, though.



#12 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 2807

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Posted Yesterday, 03:20 PM

It seems like you really need some sort of action a player can do to either directly lower their heat, or do while they lower their heat.

 

Are these ships capital ships, or nimble fighters?  I'd imagine it would be less of an issue with the latter, as they could just dodge a bunch, while a capital ship can try to maneuver, I guess.  In Star Fleet Battles, most of the big guns do not fire on 360 degree turret arcs, and cannot fire continuously, but take several seconds to charge, so a lot of maneuvering happens while salvos are being readied.  Maneuvering also happens in both SFB and MWO with respect to trying to spread out damage onto different armored/shielded sections.

 

As an active player action, one could have a separate weapon they fire that actually lowers their heat, but can only be fired when over a certain heat level, or an 'afterburner' like speed boost that reduces the handling of the craft, but also dramatically lowers the heat.  Or maybe venting water vapour, as a trail, which would make the player easier to track visually.  Or an action they can take to vent heat, but makes it hard for them to see out of the cockpit/cameras and screws up their radar/sensors.


Edited by ferrous, Yesterday, 03:27 PM.


#13 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 1194

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Posted Yesterday, 11:56 PM

 

An interesting variation on this that draws from some realistic depictions of space combat: radiators are fragile and high value targets in a fight. Withdrawing them behind your armour allows you to keep them safe, but if you really need to dump heat before you cook then you have to extend them and risk them getting shot off. That might be a neat thing to play with; keep the radiators on the ships tucked away and armoured, but you can press a key to dump heat at the risk of getting them shot.

 

Yeah, that's even better.

 

As a riff on DifferentName's idea... If I had an overheating plasma cannon or whatever, and it was dumping heat rapidly into my hull, one thing that would be nice to be able to do is jettison it, so that it's not using my ship with me inside as a heat sink, and so I'm no longer so bright a target for heat-seeking missiles.  Allow it to cool down on its own without endangering my ship, and maybe come around later to retrieve it if it's still around.

 

This could add some interesting strategies, like jettisoning hot weapons as targets to draw away heat-seeking missiles, including desperate possibilities like deliberately overheating a weapon then jettisoning it as a decoy.  It'd also be fun to scramble for those jettisoned weapons once they're cool enough to reattach.

 

Fun mission or mode: There's a superweapon floating in neutral space that both sides want, but which severely overheats after every use, so you have to grab it, use it once, and then jettison it before you cook from the heat.  







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