So, I want to propose another significant rework, but this time to probably my all-time favourite aspect of Lusternia - aetherspace. Bear with me, I know this is a long read... and while these ideas rarely go anywhere, I think there is so much potential in aetherspace to make it something uniquely Lusternian, and incredibly engaging.
Feedback is always welcome!
1. Gnome aethercrew (NPCs) can now be hired to automate modules for a short time.
To address the problems with population preventing enough to form a crew at certain times of the day, add a new means of hiring a random gnome who is learning how to crew in the aetherways. This allows you to obtain simple functionality for one of your ship modules without requiring a player, albeit at a lesser efficiency.
- You can PORTAL SEARCH ROSTER to see what types of gnomes are available to be hired from any ship portal room while docked at a nation. This might be something like:
- An apprentice gnome empath - 5000 gold for six in-game days
- An apprentice gnome gunner - 3000 gold for six in-game days
- An apprentice gnome siphoner - 2000 gold for six in-game days
- You can then PORTAL RECRUIT [EMPATH|GUNNER|SIPHONER] STATION <module#>, which will change the description of your chosen module to reflect a gnome is there, and assign a randomized name (eg. '(Ship): Sporky McDuffin says "Glad to be aboard, Cap'n - I'm locked into a battle turret!"').
- Players can still lock into the module while the gnome has been recruited, the message just says something about the gnome standing down and then stepping back up again.
- While the module has a gnome flagged on it, the pilot can issue a few basic commands via ship chat as long as they use the gnome's first name. Note all of these will be on a slower balance and for less effect than even an unskilled player, for example:
- SHIPT <gnome name> HEAL <rest ignored>: if on an unlocked grid, the gnome will periodically try to heal the hull.
- SHIPT <gnome name> BOLSTER <rest ignored>: if on an unlocked grid, the gnome will periodically try to bolster any section of shield that is damaged.
- SHIPT <gnome name> REPAIR <rest ignored>: if on an unlocked grid, the gnome will periodically try to smart repair any damaged module.
- SHIPT <gnome name> TARGET <creature> <rest ignored>: if on an unlocked turret, the gnome will try to target the matching creature, then periodically fire at it using a basic attack until destroyed.
- SHIPT <gnome name> TARGET <quadrant> <rest ignored>: if on an unlocked turret, the gnome will try to target the matching directional quadrant (see below), then periodically fire at it using a basic attack until the ship moves.
- SHIPT <gnome name> SIPHON <rest ignored>: if on an unlocked energy collector, the gnome will try to siphon energy from a nexus periodically.
- SHIPT <gnome name> STOP <rest ignored>: on any module, will cause the gnome to stop doing what it was doing until given new orders.
- Every module with a gnome flagged against it will count as a player when dividing experience of any kills, so that there is no advantage to crewing with gnomes rather than players.
2. Aetherspace topography is updated so every room has directional zones
As a fundamental change to address the dizzying frustration of aetherhunting (move/move/shoot/move/move/move/shoot/move/move/move/etc), I'm suggesting that we add some complexity to a single 'room' on the aetherspace map, such that creatures, ships and swarmships (see below) in the same location can have simple relational positioning. Additionally, algontherine ships will now maintain a 'heading', a directional orientation in space (though simplified), which reflects towards which of the four zones they are currently facing.
- Every location in aetherspace will have five zones - four 'quadrants' (north, east, south and west), and one 'centre'. See the above diagram for what I mean.
- Large algontherine ships are always considered to be in the 'centre' of the location, and they can't change this.
- Creatures of aetherspace will be randomly flagged such that they exist in one of the four quadrants, and this can be changed via a number of means (swarmships can harry them into an adjacent quadrant, turrets can scatter all the creatures in one quadrant so they flee into one of the adjacent two, sometimes they can randomly move on their own accord).
- Swarmships (tiny one-player craft that can be launched from nations, god-realms or algontherine docking bays) are always flagged as being in one of the four quadrants, amongst the creatures.
- Algontherine ships will have an extra flag that appears on SHIP STATUS, indicating the current directional heading (orientation) they are facing (northwards, eastwards, southwards or westwards):
- When at rest, pilots will have a new PILOT HEADING <direction> command, that moves the ship to face the indicated direction. It takes twice as long to turn 180 degrees (west to east, for example), as it does to turn 90 degrees (north to west, for example).
- PILOT STEER and PILOT GLIDE will immediately turn the ship to face the nearest heading to the direction of movement, but will add extra balance cost after the first movement based on the number of 90 degree turns required. For diagonal movement, the ship will turn to face whichever of the four heading directions is alongside the diagonal, requiring the least number of turns (eg. currently facing north and steering southeast would immediately turn the ship to an eastward heading, and add balance cost to that movement based on 1 x 90 degree turn.
- Turrets can target creatures in any zone of your location, plus any within range in nearby locations, regardless of ship orientation.
- The primary impact of ship orientation aside from a slight movement penalty for lots of turning, is related to attacks received from aetherspace creatures, which will primarily strike the side of the ship facing that zone.
- While the ship is at rest, a new command will be available to all on board to be able to get a view of the current location, including count of creatures in each quadrant + any swarmships and where they are (eg. SHIP OBSERVE or something, that produces a simplified ascii picture)
- Gunners will have a new ability to TURRET TARGET <dir>, which will focus the gun on anything currently in the directional zone of the current location, potentially hitting everything but at a lower effect than if it was individually targetted.
3. Aethercreatures are now drawn to ships at rest, and aetherbashing is reworked.
I don't know if I'm the only one, but the way that ship movement is penalised by drawing out aggressive creatures, at the same time that staying still is penalised because mobs will track to you and disable your modules with a lucky hit, is a really frustrating experience in aetherspace. Even during the times where you want to draw lots of creatures for bashing, the mechanics of it are pretty obnoxious to sit through as a passenger or perform as the pilot. So, the next set of changes tie in with the previous change to hopefully introduce a different bashing experience:
- The chance of any aetherspace critter spawning due to ship movement is vastly reduced. When the silent running power is active, chance of critter spawns from movement is zero.
- Instead, creatures will now be drawn to ships that are stationary and not docked. This happens at a fairly low rate, but increases depending on plane type.
- Additionally, the quantity of creatures that appear on each tick will be increased, so that it is possible that anywhere from 1-4 creatures of the same type will appear in the location, each randomly assigned to one of the four quadrants.
- Creature spawns will be a little bit like vermin, in that too many kills in a location will decrease the amount of creatures that are available to spawn in the near vicinity for a short time afterwards.
- Pilots will have a new command to PILOT LURE, which can trigger a spontaneous spawn of creatures to be drawn into the location, anywhere between 1-6 in number. The higher planes will skew more towards higher numbers drawn at once.
- Additionally, whenever a creature is hit by an algontherine weapon (not a swarmship weapon), there is a chance it will cry out for an additional spawn to appear. This can be blocked by a turret attack (see below).
- Attacking & Shields:
- Shield modules will now provide four separate segments of shielding - Forward, Rear, Starboard and Port, each of which gains 25% of the total ship hull strength. Each segment of shielding will slowly regenerate over time, at a flat rate irrespective of total hull/shield strength.
- When struck by a creature that is in a quadrant zone facing that shield side, the impact is determined by how depleted that side of shield has become.
- Shield segment strength > 75% ("holding") will fully absorb the creature's attack, doing minimal hull damage. Module attacks are not possible at this strength.
- Shield segment strength < 75% but > 25% ("damaged") will absorb half of the creature's attack, with the rest going to the hull. Special attacks against a single module are possible at this strength.
- Shield segment strength < 25% ("down") will transmit all of the creature's attack to the hull. Special attacks against multiple modules are possible at this strength.
- The segment that each creature attacks is determined by the combination of the ship's current orientation (eg. facing westwards) and the quadrant zone that the creature is in (eg. north).
- When a creature attacks a ship from range (ie, not the same location), without a forcefield active the damage will be distributed equally across all shield segments.
- A creature still has 3 different types of attacks, but the shield level will determine which it can use against a ship. These include:
- a strong damage-only attack
- a weaker damage attack that can also damage a single module (because multiple modules plus hull plus shield would be obnoxious to heal through!); or
- a special attack that does no damage and depending on the creature type will EITHER damage 1-3 modules at once OR attempt to short out a manned module (dealing double module damage, unlocking the crewmember and throwing them out of the room).
- Crew Tactics:
- The captain is probably directing tactics for the rest of the team generally, but also has some encounter-level options.
- They can try to PILOT HEADING <dir> the ship to ensure that the largest concentration of creatures are facing the strongest shielding.
- They can also use PILOT LURE to bring new creatures into the location in random quadrants, spawning new targets for the crew.
- Potentially, they could also have some sort of extra detection abilities to help select the right areas for bashing, such as PILOT SWEEP which gives them a readout of how many potential creatures are left in the current vicinity, and PILOT LIGHTBEAM <dir>, which will shoot a bright energy beam towards the indicated zone, increasing the chance of creatures spawning in that zone and decreasing the chance they spawn in the opposing zone.
- The gunners have a few new options:
- They can TURRET TARGET CREATURE <type> [<optional direction>] to quickly burn down an individual. This can also target creatures in adjacent locations.
- Alternatively, they can TURRET TARGET <direction> to target an entire quadrant in the same location, to try to optimise damage across a clustered group. Note this only affects the current location and will disengage if the ship moves.
- TURRET FIRE will do damage as expected, either firing a high damage volley into a single enemy if targetting a creature, or a medium damage spread affecting all creatures in the targetted directional zone.
- TURRET SCATTERSHOT is a new ability for both types of targets, mixing crowd-control and damage. Against a single creature, this will cause medium damage but cause immense pain as it rips across the side of the entity, making it temporarily move away from your ship (instead of tracking towards) for a few steps. Against a zone quadrant, it will cause light damage to all creatures but cause them to, well, scatter... each one moving to an adjacent zone at random (so if there are three creatures in the western zone, two might move to the north and one to the south).
- TURRET NOVA is a new ability for both types of targets, primarily focusing on crowd control. Firing an exploding nova charge nearby a single creature will cause it to be stunned for a couple of seconds, but also take significantly more damage from all sources for a short time. Firing a nova charge into a zone quadrant will cause all creatures in that zone to be momentarily stunned for a second or so, but will also apply a debuff for a slightly longer time that prevents them from having any chance to draw additional creatures when they are attacked.
- The empath has a few things to keep track of:
- They can GRID BOLSTER [PORT|STARBOARD|FORWARD|REAR] [SHIELD] to deliver a surge to restore some depleted shield strength to that segment.
- They can GRID REDISTRIBUTE SHIELD FROM <segment> TO <segment> just like module power distribution to take 50% of a shield segment's strength and reallocate it to another one.
- They can GRID REPAIR HULL and GRID REPAIR MODULE as usual to keep everyone alive.
This means that the strategy in surviving a large swarm involves the pilot turning the ship to expose the strongest shielding (or fleeing if they are in trouble), the empath bolstering any damaged shields and repairing damaged hull or modules, and the gunners trying to damage down or crowd control the attacking swarm. Hopefully this gives everyone a part to play in an epic team battle, where everyone has options rather than optimally coding for the experience (though of course this is still going to be possible to some degree).
For an example of how to visualise the ship facing a direction, and having swarming aetherbeasts around:
4. Tiny one-person craft ('swarmships') can now be rented temporarily or purchased via artifacts
To address the problem of locking aetherspace behind team mechanics only, a new way of either renting for gold or purchasing via artifacts a tiny craft for exploring or travel will be added. These swarmships are not customisable, but will be flavoured based on either nation or god alignment.
- Swarmships can be rented from a nation portal or a godrealm portal, costing around 10,000 gold for an in-game year of use (with the nation able to add extra cost to cover the power drain).
- You can only have one swarmship at any one time, requesting a new one will destroy your old one.
- A swarmship has a single room, which contains a new module type (maybe a control harness?), which can only be locked by the person who requested it.
- The harness allows only a limited number of commands:
- Basic movement commands are allowed - PILOT STEER, PILOT GLIDE, PILOT FUSE, PILOT TRANSVERSE, PILOT DOCK, PILOT LURE (drawing only one creature at most).
- The swarmship is equipped with an integrated mini-turret, so some firing commands are allowed - TURRET TARGET CREATURE <creature>, TURRET TARGET HERE (since swarmships occupy a zone quadrant, they can only target the one they are currently in), TURRET FIRE.
- Even though the swarmship doesn't have sentience like an algontherine, it does have an animalistic mind, so limited empathic abilities can boost healing - GRID REPAIR HULL, GRID REPAIR MODULE.
- A swarmship-only ability is to PILOT HARRY <dir>, which is a way of weaving in and out of aethercreature schools in your current zone to harass them in a certain direction, moving all creatures in your current zone to the indicated zone in the same location.
- Another swarmship-only ability is to PILOT WING <dir>, which will shift your own ship to another of the four quadrants of your current location.
- A new aethergoop artifact will be available to convert a room in an algontherine ship into a docking bay, which will allow any swarmship to PILOT ENTER BAY <ship> if the swarmship's pilot has been added to the permissions list of the bay module. This functions like a portal room in the algontherine which only works for smaller swarmships, allowing them to be carried around and deployed in the midst of a space voyage.
- An algontherine empath will be able to GRID TETHERBOND <swarmship> if it is stored in the ship's bay. Each swarmship can only have one tetherbond, and it is only active when both the ship and swarmship are in space and on the same plane, but will allow the SHIPT channel to be shared across both vessels, and will also share experience with the swarmship pilot as if they were a crew member.
- A swarmship doesn't have it's own power reserve, and instead drains the pilot's own reserve over time. If the pilot's reserve runs out, the ship is destroyed.
- Swarmships are too tiny to attract aethercreatures themselves, and any existing creatures will ignore them unless they attack. They don't have any shields of their own, but are mobile enough that most attacks are significantly reduced in damage against them. There is a chance upon each attack that they will be thrown to a nearby location though, from the force of the energy absorbed.
Note: I am not proposing as any part of this that any of the PvP mechanics of ship to ship combat be changed. I don't know enough about it to know whether there are any problems, so for now it can stay unchanged!