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gimp

Some Quasi-Science Needed...

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I''m creating a semi battlezone''ish kind of game set a few hundread years in the future. I usualy try to be scientifically accurate in the games I create(where it doesn''t interrupt with the game). I''ve read plenty of scifi, even a book called ''The science of start trek''. I''m stuck however on how to explain how my hovertanks...hover. Anyone like to take a stab at how science could actually pull this off? What I need in terms of science to fit the game mechanics is perhaps some kind of feild that allows the heavy tank to hover above the ground but not fly. If you run over the cliff your going to hit the ground hard. The movement dynamics will be similar to speed boat in that you''ll bank to corner, tighter cornering gives harsher banking. I''m not running missions in airless environments. The tank will have the ability to go hull down. Could vectored thrust ever give this kind of power without hovercraft skirts? How about some kind of sorta magnetic repulsion from dense matter? A (old chem memory) Van der Waal amplifiler? All my current game tech is based on current science research, even plasma shields are actually under development in Italy Nanotech self repair systems delivered via Nano blood. My weapons are a bit lame right now, being based on things like particle streams, lasers, gauss cannons, guided rockets.(No automated weapons allowed by conventions, the convention that says player must make their own kills ) Thoughs welcome! Also feel free to let me know about any other cool tech you think a modern hovertank should have Chris Brodie http:\\fourth.flipcode.com

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-Antimatter weaponry, could use positrons ( anti-electrons ) to de-stabilize the atomic structure of target matter, virtually annihilating it. Requires evolved version of the CERN TRAP project to contain and stabilize antimatter particles in a safe way. Direct hit to containment system would of course destroy the surrounding area.
Info on CERN:s antimatter research can be found here.

-Optical and Radar transparency, cloak. Evolved version of current radar-trancpareny systems combined with optical re-direction technlogy to achieve non-detectable craft.

Hope you got some ideas, this was just what I could think of right now, I''m sure there''s a lot more realistic/semi-realistic technolgy to use in games.

------------------
It''s me again!

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Here are some suggestions...

1. Vectored thrust...

Low tech - we can do this today. Look at the Harrier for example.

2. Electromagnetic Fields...

Very high tech. Create a giant field of electrons, similar to the electron shell that surrounds atoms, but on a much larger scale. This would act like a physical barrier that would block physical weapons as well as acting like a semi solid region which the tank floats on. Note that any people underneath one of these things is likely to get crushed...

3. Anti Gravity...

Very High tech - requires existence of Anti-graviton particles which as far as we know - dont exist. This device generates a field inside which gravity simply does not exist. Note that this would mean the these vehicles could fly relatively easily though.

4. Balloons...

Super low tech. Your tank has lots of balloons tied to it which make offset the majority of its weight, the rest of the work is done by little party fans. Propulsion is provided by spraying silly string out of the back of the tank. Enemy tanks can be shot down by taking out their balloons with Guided Party Popper missiles....

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Just something to think about:

Not to be anal here, but science fiction writers have a bad habit of ignoring practicality. If you're trying to go with a very realistic, hard sci-fi approach, then the tech that will be used will be the one that's cheapest and most effective. I remember someone like Ben Bova saying that we'll probably be using guns and bullets rather than laser pistols for some time to come, because it's just more energy efficient (though not as cool ).

So, how much juice would it take to power something that's running around with vectored thrust? Versus aircraft, which could move faster and would be more efficient, a flying rocket tank would prolly cost more and be more unweildy (aerodynamically speaking), not to mention a gas guzzler at any speed. Wouldn't wheels and a fast engine be just as good, if not as sexy? It's likely that the future tank looks like a VTOL A-10, anyway.

'Course, you can and prolly should say screw all that, anyway. But I think you shouldn't worry about being scientifically accurate, in that case. Just go with what looks cool, is self consistent, and is fun! Since it's an action game (right?) your audience isn't exactly going to call you to the carpet for being wrong.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

Edited by - Wavinator on June 25, 2001 7:39:54 PM

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Hovertanks... hmm. Well, the most obvious way would be vectored thrust, which can easily generate enough lift to carry a tank (assuming you have the fuel, but there are more interesting ways. You could try a super-high-current-carrying superconducting coil aligned such that its field opposes the electromagnetic field of the planet. Of course, this involves huge amounts of energy.
Another, perhaps more interesting, method is a spacetime warp. What you may want for this is another superconducting coil, this time carrying far higher currents. The photons in the focus of the coil will "coalesce" into a kind of super-massive particle. The mass of the particle bends space and creates a gravitational field of its own. If the field is directed upward, the gravitational force of the particle will lift the tank. Turning the current on and off quickly would prevent the tank from colliding with the particle above it.
This method isn''t scientifically proven, but theoretically (according to one theory, anyway) it should produce the effect you''re looking for. The theory is pretty simple, but the specifics get complicated, so there are a few holes in the method for which fixes are too complicated to discuss here, but it just might serve your purposes. Glad to be of assistance (assuming that this is useful, of course).

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Well, why don''t you guys take some time and reverse-engineer the motion behaviors you want the tank to have, and see if something similar exists in the world today. Every complex system that works evolved from a simple system that works (paraphrased quote).

Hovercraft in general get the majority of their control from the (surprise) control fans. The rest is skirt friction, which is what keeps the vehicle from being generally frinctionless and therefore almost impossible to control (Try writing a true zero-g sim where you can only ADD energy, and it escapes at a very low rate, and controlling your object).

The advantages of near-frictionless motion are things like slewing, circle-strafing, and near-instant moments of acceleration. The disadvantages are fine control, because you''re only pushing air against air, and air is not very solid, after all.

Do you want the vehicle to be able to stop or turn on a dime? How about switch from forward to reverse? Is the vehicle stationary when it goes hull down?

A lot of what you seek can probably be thought of as a jet-ski simulation, sluggish acceleration in any direction, but highly maneuverable once it gets going.

As far as the propulsion tech? There isn''t a realistic solution for the power/weight ratio I think we all generally expect from H-Tanks (like the ones the Robotech Fighters used during the Invid occupation). Personally I''m thinking that once we get controlled, sustained fusion, we''ll have mini-tokamaks in somethine like that. It can shut down clean and fast (and defensively!!) by dumping it''s containment field and venting all the plasma out the front, toward the enemy. Imagine having a couple kilos of nuclear furnace barfed at you at railgun velocities! That should solve a lot of your collateral damage from anti-matter drives, and give you a good fuel/power ratio. Once you solve the power problem, the sky is pretty much the limit, but my bet is vectored (airfan or plasma) thrust with a magnetic or reaction (rocket powered) cushion.

Oh yeah!! I just remembered that there''s a bunch of plasma-drive tech in use by NASA/JPL for some deep space propulsion systems. Essentially a b-field draws a charged particle out of it''s energizing shunt to strike or pass through the acceleration grid. Thrust results from the particle passing the pinch of the accel grid. Maybe I''m way off, but after fusion, the power available increases a lot.
---------------
-WarMage
...but again, how much would the SC-magnets for the hohlraum weigh? Anybody doing fusion chamber work?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Could it be as simple as some kind of force field, or a tractor beam that pushes rather than pulls, allowing the hovertank to hover when the field is engaged? I don''t know how scientfically feasible that is, but it would probably use less fuel than vectored thrust.

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I don''t know how scientifically plausible this is but it''s an idea. For a power supply there could be some sort of fission/fusion reactor. Fission would split the material and create energy. Once the energy is spent it would switch to fusion which would bond the newly formed elements together again creating more energy. Feul would last much longer. Not an endless supply mind you since some of the matter converts to energy but a lot of it would be reused. Like I said it probably isn''t scientifically accurate but hey, this is a game. And set in the future no less. Just a thought.

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About antigravity: In a Bose-Einstein condensate, all the particles are aligned on parallel axes. This can also be done in a single plane, with all the axes perpendicular to the plane. Then, using controlled laser bursts, each one of these particles can be made to spin in the same direction (much in the same way lasers are used to stop spin and reach near-absolute-zero temperatures nowadays). Each particle exerts a small gravitational force (towards or away from itself), but, given a large enough plane (and perhaps multiple layers), a significant gravitational field can be created that extends in the volume directly above or below the plane perpendicular to the plane into infinity (although it, like light, does have falloff).

A plane of this specifically manipulated Bose-Einstein condensate could be attached to the bottom of a tank, and would be able to lift the tank to an arbitrary height off the ground dependent on the speed at which the particles are spinning and the area of the plane of them.

Most importantly, I''m not making this up. It was in either Popular Mechanics or Popular Science a few months ago.

Woah.

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Wavinator

Excellent Post I''ve been trying to tell people this for ages. In any military, what they strive for is reliability, maintainability, durability. All of this eases the logisitcs of commanders. The prime example of this is that I''ve never understood the Battletech universe.

Here you have 30'' tall vehicles striding around a battlefield. First of all, that''s insane as it is. No military engineer would ever do this for a variety of factors. The whole point of making modern tanks so flat now is the ability to go Hull Down. Why expose yourself for miles on the battlefield? Secondly, not only are there mechs, but a gazillion versions of them. Look at military tank units today. Generally speaking, there are one or tw MBT''s, one or two IFV''s, and one or two AFV''s. Again, just having one type of tank greatly reduces the number of parts you need to order, and it also reduces the variety of skilled maintenance personnel that you need.

Some people will think that having just a few types of variety of units would make for boring play. I think however that people have become somewhat spoiled. Look at chess or checkers. The fun is in the skill....not the individual piece''s abilities.

From my discussions on badkarma.net''s forums, I also see that some people feel that once you have an intersteller Navy, ground forces will become obsolete. People have been saying ground forces are obsolete since the airplane was invented. The simple matter is, ground troops will always be needed to take control of a territory. Afterall, what if it''s a Civil War? Would a coountry bombard it''s own city''s from orbit?

So I agree with you wholeheartedly, I think many sci-fi designers don''t really think through many of the concepts. For Gimp''s suggestions, I think that if we had the technology for anti-gravity, we''d have evolved beyond tank-style warfare. However, it''s a common theme,and it is a neat idea so I can see why he would want them. Ditto with the concepts of giant mecha, armored battlesuits, and some other typical conventions of sci-fi warfare.

I guess I''m just a stickler for a more realistic setting. And unfortunately, from gauging on this forum what other people like, I think I''m in the minority.

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I think there is merit in keeping the number of unit types down. I mean, look at chess: just 6 unit types, and an 8 by 8 tilebased map! Yet, almost infinite possibilities, hundreds of books dedicated to strategy, and so on. I think that it would be a good idea to reduce the number of unit types, and instead put more thought into how tactics and strategies affect the game, instead of introducing a new unit for each approach, which complicates matters, makes balancing harder (see the ''What If...'' thread), and so on. This would make the game more realistic and perhaps more interesting in other ways too.

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Kylotan

I agree with you here too. I think that going overboard on unit types can actually distract from gameplay. Not only is it unrealistic from a logistics viewpoint, but is it necessary from a practical point of view or even from a "fun to play" point of view? As you said, Chess only has 6 pieces, but it''s the synergy of the pieces acting in concert that really make for gameplay.

And this brings to mind something else in terms of play balancing. This is something that has really bugged me in the wargame/miniatures scene for a long time. The concept of points armies or point values for units. When you really think about it, such a notion is VERY subjective and VERY abstract. As I mentioned in chess, it''s the synergy of the units that determines the effectiveness, not the innate abilities of the unit itself that determines it''s "point cost", "power level", etc etc.

The holistic efforts of your "army" can''t simply be determined by adding up the totals of your units. I.E, 2+2 doesn''t necessarily equal 4. Imagine for a second if you assigned "point values" to each piece in Chess. Arbitrarily, let''s give a Queen=20, a Pawn=2, a Rook=15, a Bishop=12, a Knight=9, and King=4 (for a total of 112points). As many games would have it, I could decide to pit a force of 2 queens, 2 Rooks, 2 Knights and 4 bishops (total of 112pts). But would you really be as effective? Maybe, maybe not. Or more extreme example would be 5 queens and a bishop (112 points) vs a "standard" setup.

So being able to balance units through point values is very arbitrary and somewhat fruitless. Personally, I think the best way to approach this is to have standardized "armies" rather than the create-your-own-army approach. Again, people may think this takes away from the flexibility and fun, but you can link pre-set unit organizations together to form "combined arms units". The difference is that, for example, a tank platoon is made up of 4 M1 Abrahms Tanks. I can''t make my own version of a platoon that''s two M2 bradley''s and 3 M1 Abrahms.

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Looks like I missed the last few posts...

Thanks guys for the idea''s. The game will be based around the hovertank, ala Battlezone, however, I''d love to add a good dose of realism to it.

As much as some people wouldn''t like the design( Kylotan) the design currently is to allow the user a certian amount of flexibility in configuring their unit. I was going to have a few base ''frames'' that could be built apon, that exibit various characteristics. From there the user can mount various weapon pods, much in the way an f-16 and have added fuel tanks , missiles, etc, etc.

Something I also wanted to capture that I havent often seen was the ability for the player to go to the metal as far a in game reconfiguration goes. What I''m trying to capture there is a sort of Star Trek feeling for a flexibly designed machine. (e.g. the player could re-route weapons energy through to sheilds for a bit of a sheild boost when maybe trying to run a blockade.

The variance in weapon loads and frames is basically there to be customised by players for their intended style of play. The goal is to have no particular weapons combo being better than any other.

One storyline problem I do have however is the airforce. I can''t explain why there is no airforce in the game.

(On the topic of battletech and point I once entered a points for army contest with some friends, based on tonnage of millitary hardware. I chose ~50 5 ton VTOL''s, the game was heavily unbalance so I can see the kind of ...hacks... you can use on gameplay.)

Another problem I have is in the concept of respawn or lives. I havent decided on weather a CS style death and your out (for realism) or TFC respawn style play would be mroe fun. Currently I lean more towards the CS style as people will value their lives more and more interesting gameplay would result. OTOH, defensive\offensive players work together better in respawn games.



Chris Brodie
http:\\fourth.flipcode.com

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quote:

One storyline problem I do have however is the airforce. I can't explain why there is no airforce in the game.



Maybe the upper atmosphere planet is wracked by magnetic storms that would be very dangerous to fly in - perhaps it is also the planets strong magnetic field that allows these hovertanks to be so efficient....

PS.

Wav /Dauntless/Kylotan - I completely agree with you guys, I have often thought about this sort of stuff. While I dont mind unrealistic settings, I would prefer something where the author actually considered the consequences and merits of different technologies. As for infantry, I consider them to be the most important part of any military force. You can blow lots of shit up with tanks, airplanes, orbital gun platforms etc. but thats about all they do. What infantry lack in the ability to blow shit up they make up for in their flexibility. As weapons get smaller and deadlier, what is the point in a tank if a foot soldier can carry a weapon so powerful that they can destroy a tank in one hit? If anything, as technology advances, mobile armour and heavy artillery become obsolete, and infantry become more powerful.


Edited by - Sandman on July 6, 2001 1:28:36 PM

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Sandman

I think it was Frederick the Great that said, "Artillery is the King of the battlefield, but infantry is the Queen" (in reference to chess pieces...not true royalty). In other words, Frederick felt that infantry was the most important asset in a commander''s arsenal (although there is a funny tale of Frederick thinking he had lost a battle because his cavalry had been routed and he was actually gathering his staff in prepartion to withdraw....while his Guard line infantry had actually taken the center of the field and won the battle).

Infantry is a very neglected force in most sci-fi game worlds. It may not be as cool or glamourous as tanks, artillery, VTOL, or aircraft, it is the most important. I think the most crucial thing that needs to be asked in a sci-fi setting is....who has Naval superiority?

If a side doesn''t have Naval superiority, it will have to fight a guerrila style warfare. Unless there was a way to hide an army''s position from a warship''s surveillance systems (incredibly unlikely), that warship will be able to blast them into smithereens. That assumes of course total Naval superiority. If it''s contested, then major battles can ensue.

This is how I think major conventional battles will be fought. The invading force will have to be rapid strike affairs against a target that the opposite force doesn''t want blown up (for example, a city or some sort of refinery). Planetside insertion must be absolutely as fast as possible to limit the chance of the defending planet''s fleet to counterattack while landing troops. Once units are engaged with the opposing force, Naval bombardment is pretty much not an option anymore unless it''s deadly precise (for fear of friendly fire).

I think once you really start extrapolating certain technologies, how war will be waged really falls into place. I think the reason that games tend to not model it is because....well, for lack of a better word....it''s just not as "cool".

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I think that one of the reasons that infantry are not so useful in RTS games is that these games generally revolve around 'blowing shit up'. In terms of raw 'blowing shit up' ability, infantry is pretty weak compared to your tanks, artillery, stealth bombers etc. so they are seldom used.

In reality, you dont always want to blow shit up. Sometimes it might be better to capture that oil refinery than to blow it up. Sometimes, the collateral damage & civilian casualties caused by shelling and bombing might be far too high (for example, fighting in a city) for these tactics to be acceptable. Hence the value of infantry. And take a look at veitnam - all the US of A's military technology, fighter planes, tanks, warships, etc. were pretty much useless - the war was fought by infantry.

Edited by - Sandman on July 9, 2001 5:46:07 AM

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