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Posts: 3,008
Reply with quote  #1 
This isn't a new issue. But there has been a lot of complaining and suggestions for the Science screen lately. The new game Empty Epsilon took a new look at the Science concept, splitting shipboard sensors and the sector map, which includes base sensors, between Science and Relay, which is the expanded Comms. Since Relay is a passive console, active scanning by Science can only take place within the ships' sensor range. In addition, nebulas block Science sensors and scans, further limiting the range of Science.

I have always been against preventing Science from seeing enemy ships in nebulas, because that is one of the unique abilities of Science, which gives Science its purpose. It is the responsibility of Science to keep an eye out for enemies in nebulas, and warn the other players, who would not be aware of its presence. I also felt that Science had to see ships in nebulas, since it is another of Sciences abilities to scan ships, and ships cannot be scanned if they cannot be seen. However, I had a stray thought after playing Empty Epsilon which made me question this position.

First, however, let me list the responsibilities of the Science station, both those shared with other consoles, and those that are Science's alone:

Science alone
 - Scan unidentified ships
 - Scan enemy ships a second time, to reveal shield frequencies and intelligence data
Science and Captain's Map
 - Locate enemy ships in nebulas
 - Locate anomalies
 - Identify enemy ships and capabilities
 - Report shield strengths and system damage
 - Report shield frequencies for Weapons
 - Report intelligence data for Comms
 - Report distance and bearing (possibly to arbitrary locations)
Science, Captain's Map and LRS
 - Prioritize targets and direct Helm
 - Locate ships (which are not in nebulas), bases and monsters
 - Locate hazards

As many people have noted, the biggest problem with this list is that so much is shared by Science and Captain's Map. If the top two items (at least) in the second section were moved into the first, there would be more unique about Science.

My thought was that if the Science scan function were restricted to the sensor range from the ship itself, the Science officer could not just finish all of the scanning and no longer have a purpose. The range of this scan could be marked on the Science map as a grey circle, similar to the range of Torps. As it stands, the Science station is able to scan enemies that are out of range of the player ship, but in range of a base -- or even another player ship. So restricting range would require that multiple Science officers divide up the task as well.

This really doesn't offer more to do, but spreads out the Science officer's task so it is continuous. Unlimited Sensors will not change anything, but very limited range means the ship will have to move into position to make scans.

In addition, I questioned my assumption that Science should be able to see a ship in a nebula, because otherwise it would be unable to scan such a ship. However, it would be in keeping with the concept of a nebula if Science could SEE such a ship, but couldn't SCAN it. Science knows the ship is there, because the TSN's more advanced sensors are able to penetrate a nebula, but there's too much noise for it to tell anything ABOUT the contact.

I didn't like this because there was the possibility that an enemy could never be scanned. You can be right on top of it, and it ambushes you, and you can't even scan it to find out its shield frequencies. My thought, however, is that you are still better off than if you didn't have Science, because then you would have been caught totally by surprise, and not seen the attack coming. Plus, if Science detects an enemy in a nebula nearby, the Captain can order the ship back to lure it out of the nebula, or Comms can taunt it.

Besides, it makes sense that the enemy would hide in a nebula not only to avoid detection, but to hide from being scanned.

So that's my suggestion. Scan range is limited to the sensor range around the ship, a range marked by a grey circle, and ships in nebulas cannot be scanned. Even if the Captain's Map keeps the ability to see the ship (and I would prefer if it couldn't) the Captain still needs the Science officer to scan that ship once it leaves the nebula. I don't think it needs to be implemented so that the area in the "shadow" of the nebula behind it can't be scanned, as with Empty Epsilon, but this is still a pretty complex implementation just as it is. So I don't expect it in 2.2. This is just a suggestion for a future direction.

I would still like to see more limits on sensors, for instance I have suggested cutting sensor range if half if either you or your target are in a nebula, and that would stack well with this. But removing bases and other player ships from scan range will reduce that range by a lot. And I think it makes sense, because what are you doing, asking the base to do a deep scan for you and then transmit that deep scan to your ship?
Xavier Wise

Posts: 1,141
Reply with quote  #2 
About your points on ships in a nebula. The only way to identify them would be though visual recognition if you were unable to scan the enemy. Another point to note is that ships can be identified without scanning aa long as a neutral or player ship is within a certain distance.

With this in mind, scouts could be used to identify ships hiding in a nebula. I think this would add an interesting dynamic to the game.

One thing someone suggested to me was to allow sensor range to be changed mid game through a command in a mission script. This could make fir another dynamic to be used for mission scripter and help make science more engaging.

There does seem to be significant overlap with the captain's map and science screen (to me they are duplicates of one another, with one having the ability to scan). Removing the ability to see anomalies from the captain's map could be an option. However, it would impact a captain's ability to effectively plan their movements around a sector.

To counter the point about science not having enough to do, there have been times when science has been over worked. In isolation, science has little to do, but in some of the games I have played they have had enough, maybe even too much to do. The element of how players interact, as well as the mission itself have a significant impact on this position therefore.

One other option could be to allow both science and captain's map to see scan information from the first scan, but only science allowed to see information from the second scan. My concern would be that it again impacts my ability to effectively plan as a captain. Science can tell me the elite abilities of a ship, but then thay means I have to hold that information in my head. At the moment, science tells me so I am aware and I don't need to read the information. However, if I forget (this could be because I am focusing on an immediate combat, rather than a closing Skaraan) I have the info available for quick reference, without having to make another request from science. Again, it comes down to the player interactions, and how they work together. Science just needs to scan, I can do the rest myself, but I need science because my attention shift from telling weapons and helm a target, getting comms to organise allies elsewhere, telling engineering which systems I need boosted, listening to damage reports, deciding on whether we can win the immediate fight, planning where to go next,and often talking with other ships about where they are. Science telling me an elite is closing with a tractor beam is essential. They really need to be on the ball and doing their job, otherwise they are just scanning enemies twice and nothing more.

Fleet Captain Xavier Wise - TSN Sabre
Link to TSN RP Community website

Posts: 3,008
Reply with quote  #3 

Well, you'll notice that my list above clearly delineates the difference between the Science and the Captain's map. Moving that delineation down a few steps would not significantly effect the Captain's ability to plan his strategy.

Does the inability to see anomalies or ships in nebulas significantly effect the Captain's strategy? If so, how? Shield frequencies and Taunt intel are not intended for the Captain, they are actually intended for Weapons and Comms. Does it benefit the Captain to be able to relay that information, instead of Science? What if Weapons or Comms decide to bring up their own Captain's Map? Are they doing their job more efficiently, or working around the cooperative nature of the game?

Remember also that the Captain's Map is optional. The Captain's job can be done adequately with nothing but the LRS display and the information Science provides. Yes, as you say, the Captain has to remember Elite abilities and which nebulas potentially hide enemies, but if that is absolutely necessary to the Captain then that console should be required, and Science should be given something completely different to do.

I think it is a mistake that the Captain's Map displays ships that the LRS doesn't. That's essentially what the Captain's Map is, an enhanced LRS that is available at all times and can be scrolled and zoomed. Strategic information is nice to have, but "Science without a Scan" gives the Captain's Map too much visibility and makes Science redundant. As far as I'm concerned, the question should be "what" to remove from the Captain's Map, not "whether" to remove something.

As for nebulas, you are correct that when you get close enough to a ship in a nebula, it will appear on Helm and Weapons. (But not on TAC or LRS) An enemy ship can be identified, and its shield strengths will be visible. However, you cannot make a SECOND scan if Science cannot see the ship, and so you will NEVER see shield frequencies, Taunt intel, or Elite abilities. As I said, you must "fight blind".

That's the way Science works. Short range vs Long range doesn't make any difference. (Unlike, say, Empty Epsilon) If Science can't see a ship, it can't see it even if it is in visual range and identified to every other console. I'm sure this is why "Invisible to Science" was dropped from Elite Abilities. (And it goes without saying that the Captain's Map would not be able to see them either)

Xavier Wise

Posts: 1,141
Reply with quote  #4 
I like your questions ryleyra, they are damned good questions. I answer them based upon my experiences of captaining a crew in online play. I confess, I have not played this game over LAN and with a set up in a single room. As a result, the captain's map provides me with the essential information that I lack from the ability to look over the science officers shoulder. I do feel that, on higher levels or in particular missions I have played (including a recent 'intel gathering' scenario in which two ships were deployed to effectively spy, without detection, on enemy bases) without the information available on the captain's map, as a crew we would have been significantly hindered.

I think, though I have the information available on my captain's map, I allow science to do their job to unburden me. Just as weapons would not have a science map to get the frequencies they require so that they may focus on selecting targets and manual fire and loading and firing ordnance, I don't do the job of science so I can focus solely on making decisions that impart our courses of action; the role I play as captain.

Does the inability to see anomalies or ships in nebulas significantly effect the Captain's strategy? If so, how?

I believe it does. I need to know where enemies are at a glance. I need to know that if I am making a quick move to reposition the ship, I will not be pounced upon by an enemy that I was unaware of. I do use my science officer extensively to track enemy movements and keep me informed. I can see the same image that science can see, but I interact with that image differently and see it differently. I recall planning a route through a nebula, clear of any enemies. But science informed me of a cloaked ship within that nebula and its approximate position. He had seen what I had not because my attention had been focused on other things (a current engagement) and had spotted the enemy before it cloaked. This is one example. Another was in our recent mission. I infact had to tell other officers to take science too as there was simply too much for science to do. We were hiding from enemies and tracking movements of several ships hunting us. I had the same information, and used it extensively, but needed my science officer to track so much that I could not track myself. I used the information to plan my immediate moves around a sector, and had to know precisely where enemies where to do so. At the same time though, I needed science to track thing because I could not simply focus on so much at once.

As for anomalies, I need to know where they are relative to my position at a glance. Though I could precisely find the nearest one, I do not have time to pinpoint them. For example, the ship enters a battle, and I know behind the fleet we are engaging there is an anomaly to pick up that allows me to combat a second enemy fleet. We go in and despatch the enemy, the I get science to pinpoint that nearest anomaly whilst I tell weapons what to prep and engineering what I need (shields online, beams repaired, something boosted etc). So you see, I have used the information provided to plan my actions quickly and effectively. Knowing that anomaly was there influenced my actions, yet science still locates and guides us to the anomaly. Potentially I can plan two, three, four or even more engagements in advance. I think this would be almost impossible without all the information readily available. A plan can formulate in seconds. Without being able to see anomalies, I'd end up having to ask science to locate them all first and I'd probably jot it down anyway, my crew waiting till we are done. Seeing them flicker, even slightly, enables me to be so much more effective in my planning.

Shield frequencies and Taunt intel are not intended for the Captain, they are actually intended for Weapons and Comms. Does it benefit the Captain to be able to relay that information, instead of Science?

I can see that information, science relays it. I have used it to help instruct a crewman. It does not benefit me, but yet I do not see it is a drawback either. Though I could give frequencies, I do not. The same with taunts. I am usually too busy in combat to look closely at that information. I do know that information is available though, and useful to the crew. If I can see it, I know we have it without having to ask science what we know, and I know we will use it to be more effective in combat. It is not specifics that I need, just a quick glance to tell me it is ready for use. In this way, it again impacts how I plan. Like thr point above, if I had to ask science to confirm we have the info or not, it would potentially slow us down. However, there have been times when I have asked science if a specific fleet has both scans complete because I am too tied up with other matters (that damned combat again!) to be able to look.

What if Weapons or Comms decide to bring up their own Captain's Map? Are they doing their job more efficiently, or working around the cooperative nature of the game?

This is a very interesing question. If weapons brings up a captain's map, I question how much focus they are giving to their own role. In games that I have played, things can happen in a split second. In combat, if weapons has their attention elsewhere (i.e. searching for a frequency, I have seen the lapse in focus on their job have significant consequences for the outcome of a specific battle.

On the otherhand, I always encourage comms to have a science map open, not for information about taunting enemies, but for positions of allies. With orders like 'turn 10* to port', they can very precisely move allied ships around a map. Even with the best science officer, I do not think they would be able to achieve this without the required information. By-passing the cooperative nature of the game is a drawback in my opinion. If you can get someone to do the job of reading frequencies for you, it means you don't have to and can pay closer attention to your own primary role.

Personally, if I had only LRS and the voice of my science officer, I believe the performance of both my ship and crew would be significantly impacted. I do not believe it is a matter of removing certain abilities from the captain's map to make one have to rely upon the science officer more. I believe it is more about how a captain and crew uses that person in a way that makes their own role more effective. I have seen ships run by as few as a single individual manage well enough. I hold a firm belief though, that a full crew cooperating and doing each of their own jobs well is massively more effective. I use the same map, but my job is different, so the way I use that information is different. It like the 'info' screen... I see flashing red dots showing damage, and can read for myself which systems are damaged, but I don't. I get the engineer to call it out, so I can look at something else and listen.

A lengthy reply, I know. I have found it hard to explain something that isn't quite tangible though. I hope it goes some way to explain what I believe is something quite complex - the different approaches to how information is used based upon the role you are fulfilling. I do not think the captain's map makes science redundent, as it is used in a different manner.

Fleet Captain Xavier Wise - TSN Sabre
Link to TSN RP Community website

Posts: 3,008
Reply with quote  #5 
What did you do before there was a Captain's Map?

You say you are against bypassing the co-operative nature of the game. Weapons should not be searching for shield frequencies, because you worry that they would not be watching their console for threats. Comms can use the Captain's Map to guide ships, but if they are using it to look up threat immunities, they might miss a surrender or a call for help. But if you provide this information as the Captain, aren't you bypassing the co-operative nature of the game?

You say that you don't use this information, but isn't the point of this discussion that you CAN? You say that you only use the ability to spot ships in nebulas, or track down anomalies, but isn't that using up time that you could spend on making a strategy or coordinating the interactions of other consoles? Science is already making an effort to track Elite enemies with Cloak, wouldn't "we're getting very near an enemy in a nebula" be the same thing?

Yeah, I get it, you don't have any problem monitoring that information as Captain, but shouldn't you offload it to Science if you can?

Note that I'm not saying that there is one right answer here. This isn't even relevant to my initial post. My initial post suggested that enemy ships in nebulas (and those outside of the Artemis's own sensor range) would remain unscanned, but still visible to both Science and the Captain. It is the fact that the Captain can't scan the enemy that gives the disadvantage relative to Science, since the Captain must still wait for Science to take action, even after the enemy clears the nebula.

If I were given the responsibility of implementing a solution, I would put a flag in the artemis.ini file that sets the "Level" of the Captain's Map, from showing what Science shows to showing what the LRS shows, to showing only the first scan, to not showing scans at all. I'd also go back to showing the TAC display or even the whole sector behind the Comms screen.

I'll also note that whatever Thom does to the Captain's Map, you always have the option to bring up another Science screen. You aren't limited to just one.

Posts: 3,008
Reply with quote  #6 
Here's another fun idea: Scanning frequencies! Just as with shield frequencies, Science has a selector for sensor frequencies. Each nebula in a sector has its own frequency, and when Science matches that frequency, any ships in that nebula appear. The same can go for anomalies, each has a frequency where it is visible, and all other frequencies render it invisible.

This solves both the problem of Science being able to see more than the LRS and that Science needs to be able to see to scan. You will always be able to see the ships in some nebulas, and some of the anomalies in the sector, but not all of them. The Captain's Map can still see those that Science has chosen to be visible, but can't see others without the cooperation of Science.

Thom could even add Elite ships that are invisible except to a certain frequencies, and certain types of anomalies could always be of the same frequencies. For instance, all energy anomalies could always be of frequencies A through C, so you will be able to filter those anomalies out. (I'm just using A through C as an example, you could have any number of frequencies, and indicate them by anything. I was thinking of color, as in "shift scans into the Red wavelength")

This idea evolved from my idea of a "sweep arm" where you would direct an intense scan into a nebula. This was how Science worked in very early Artemis. It was just short range, though, centered on the ship, so I was thinking for the sector map there needed to be some way to direct the sweep no matter where the ship is. So I thought of a dial that could be used to direct the sweep, and then I thought of the dial being a frequency selector instead.

Xavier Wise

Posts: 1,141
Reply with quote  #7 
Before the captain's map I used a science screen. Without it, I had limited situational awareness (consider too that this is from the perspective of online play). The issue with that though was that if I selected something on the science screen, it would deselect whatever science had selected. The captain's map no longer causes that conflict.

About the nebula. Imagine if the whole sector was covered (in some scripts it is, in others extensive parts may be)? This would massivly hinder the captain to give accurate headings and figure out how to combat an attacking force. Online, you'd be literally captaining the ship blind.

In terms of providing info to comms and weapons, a captain has that available for reference and to inform planning, but when it comes down to relaying that information, science does it. I see my job as giving instructions to the crew. Science relays key information. For example, I'll tell comms to taunt a nearby skaraan. Though that instuction goes to comms, science must also listen and act to get them the intel about the enemy for a successful taunt. I know we have it (hence why I asked for a taunt) but don't have to spend the time looking specifically at that information, or saying more to comms. Instead I can talk to the other three crew whilst comms and science carry out my order.

There isn't one right answer true, these are based on my own experience of playing artemis. This experience is specifically online too.

I am in agreement that comms needs to be able to see the sector and it should be part of their console. I think selecting a target on comms should then open the comms menu specifically for that ship (e.g. enemy menu if it is an enemy). Like you said though, this is a side track to your original points.

To try and help get back on track, is it that you want all enemies visible on the science screen, but science can only actually scan those within something like 16k range? I must admit, I was focusing on some of the other points you presented in my initial reply.

About this specific idea, the number or targets science will scan in a game wouldn't change, only the time it takes for them to scan all the targets. Would it not just mean that there will be periods through the mission where science has nothing to scan anyway? They'd just be spread through the whole mission, rather than a period at the end. At the moment, if and when science has finished scanning, they can be given other tasks to do in line with their role e.g. give headings and navigate the ship (I have told science to get us a course to a certain base, keeping to nebula so I can do other stuff like talk to engineering, weapons, comms or the GM - in character if course!). I also say 'if' because on level 10 and 11, science doesn't often finish scanning all enemies.

Also, if you limit the range to scan, the ship is likely going to approach the target fleet to engage in combat anyway (or get close enough to see it). Depending on the scan range, potentially an initial scan would be completed simply by being within range of the ships (as happens now. I believe it is about 5k out to get initial scans without the need to use science). This potentially means science only needs to conduct the second scan (and in some combats those scans are often not completed before the target is destroyed) limiting how much they need to do further.

Fleet Captain Xavier Wise - TSN Sabre
Link to TSN RP Community website

Posts: 3,008
Reply with quote  #8 
Originally Posted by Xavier Wise
To try and help get back on track, is it that you want all enemies visible on the science screen, but science can only actually scan those within something like 16k range?

Well, basically for Unlimited Sensors your scan range would be 50k, which is the value defined in artemis.ini. For 33k that would be the range, for 16k that would be the range, and for 11k or 8k that would be the range. You COULD make scan range Unlimited if that's the setting, but I'd like to make use of the .ini setting. (It's used to calculate 33/16/11/8, but that's it)

My main point, though, was that as things stand, you can scan ANYTHING in the sector that you can see, even if it is being scanned by an ally ship or a base. This greatly extends your scan range. You can have an 8k sensor range, but if an enemy is within 8k of a base, you can scan it, even if it is clear on the other side of the sector.

My idea is to limit scan range to what your ship can see directly. Ships you see because they are in range of bases can't be scanned. There will be a ring on the screen to indicate this maximum range. (Which would increase with Sensor power)

About this specific idea, the number or targets science will scan in a game wouldn't change, only the time it takes for them to scan all the targets. Would it not just mean that there will be periods through the mission where science has nothing to scan anyway? They'd just be spread through the whole mission, rather than a period at the end.

Oh, very much. This doesn't really give Science more to do, it forces Science to strategize its scanning, and work with the other crewmembers to get into position to scan. Ships will still be seen if they are in range of a base or ally (and identified if in short range) but the second scan is postponed.

I can see this lending itself to multiship games, since a ship can only scan enemies in its own scan range. A Scout can't fly up and reveal an enemy, for instance, and then the flagship scans it. It will be up to the Scout to scan it, since it is the only one present. 

This isn't really going to give more work for Science on a single ship to do, however. One thing that might is another idea I had, which is that if an enemy goes out of range (of the ship(s) or any bases) it becomes unidentified. A ship might also be able to go into a nebula to become unidentified somehow.

Another idea that would definitely give Science more to do is if shield frequencies reset every few minutes. This would require Science to scan the ship again.

I'm trying to think out of the box, though, and try and approach the issue from a new direction. For instance, how about if your ability to detect enemies in nebulas is based on Sensor power? At 150% they show up on Science, and at 175% they show up on Captain's Map? At 250% even the LRS could see hidden enemies and anomalies.

I'll also note I'm not sure why Science and Captain's Map don't flash when Sensors are damaged like LRS does. I think the reason is the same as with nebulas; a Science console that can't click on anything is useless. But I could see Science lose visibility and even sensor range as sensors take damage. (I think you would just have to make sure the cursor doesn't come untargeted)

Actually, that's another idea. What if whatever Science targets is visible no matter where it is? As if it's being tracked by an active beam? That could show up on the Captain's Map. Maybe Science could select a number of targets to "lock on". It's a similar idea to the "sweep arm".

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