Sensor Design

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Viech
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Sensor Design

Postby Viech » Sat Jan 25, 2014 7:18 pm UTC

I opened an assignment for a Sensor structure concept. The assignment can be found here. This thread is for gameplay related discussion, I'll feed results back to the concept thread.

This is the text of the concept assignment:
Viech wrote:So, the Sensor is something that was always in the back of my head and I'm sure I would have assigned it eventually.

Gameplay theory wise, the rough idea is that aliens have great mobility that allows them to maintain map control by patrole and reconnaissance and potentially spamming lots of small forward bases for short pathes back to battle in case they get defeated. Humans are much slower and most of the time the effort of maintaining more than a single (strong) forward base won't be worthwhile to them. (Ishq just pointed out that we shouldn't force them to do so either.) In order to balance map control given the human's general disadvantage in map coverage, there are mainly two things we can do: Allow humans to disrupt alien movement with area denial weapons and give them means of map awareness that doesn't require patrole. The sensor would do the latter.

Gameplay praxis wise, we didn't yet talk about a specific implementation but I'm certain that we'll find one, given the possible attributes (small/big range, detailed/rough intel, an actual buildable or a deployed item, per-player or per-team). Currently I image it to have a very small range, covering approximately the width of a standard corridor. When an alien passes, it would issue some kind of warning. Ideally we will at some point be able to display blips on the minimap instead (and pointers at its edge, given the target is outside the current excerpt). In thise case we can increase the range and make it like a watchtower in a standard RTS (except it doesn't shoot).

Getting to the appearance, the Sensor should be a rather small buildable that you can hide in corners. It has a spherical area of detection around its center, so it should reasonably look like it senses in all directions at once. The feet shouldn't extend too far (as opposed to many real world sensors) so that the bounding box can be a tall cuboid. Speaking of real world sensors, it seems they are called Unattended Ground Sensors in military jargon. This is potentially a good source of inspiration. Another thing that our sensor should have and that you wouldn't find on a realistic one is a small control lamp, visible from any angle, that will glow up whenever it detects something. This will tell alien players when they've been spotted (in case they see the sensor at all) and tell close humans that they should have a look at their minimap (or message list) to learn about the enemy that is very close to them.
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Re: Sensor Design

Postby Viech » Sat Jan 25, 2014 7:21 pm UTC

I moved this post over here from the assignment thread. Had to quote it since the forum doesn't allow reordering of posts.
Anomalous wrote:Why it should be a buildable: it can be damaged or destroyed, and it won't disappear when the player leaves the team. Also, we can properly make it buildable on any surface (call it magnetic or sticky or something).

Why it should be a deployable object: any player, not just builders, could deploy one.

∴ it should, I think, be a building. As for what it can sense – I'd say that the range should cover a wide corridor, possibly with some reliability issues related to the size and distance of the alien (so a moderately distant dretch has a high chance of not being picked up, but a tyrant at the same distance is likely to be noticed), but it wouldn't be able to sense all around it – just the plane of its base and above.

As for the design, I'm thinking along the lines of certain types of security camera – something like a black hemisphere on a disc (shape like that of a shallow, rounded dish). This thing needs to be small and simple in appearance.
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Re: Sensor Design

Postby Viech » Sat Jan 25, 2014 7:43 pm UTC

Anomalous wrote:it should, I think, be a building.

I also think it should be a building since it can be seen as a base defense item that profits the whole team (also we simply need more buildables to increase depth of building…). Builders will want to place them at base entrances, too.

Anomalous wrote:As for what it can sense – I'd say that the range should cover a wide corridor, possibly with some reliability issues related to the size and distance of the alien (so a moderately distant dretch has a high chance of not being picked up, but a tyrant at the same distance is likely to be noticed)

I think there shouldn't be reliability issues, otherwise the structure becomes partly useless since you still had to check back your base manually. If it covers the full range of a corridor and can't be killed from a distance, it should always issue a warning.

Anomalous wrote:it wouldn't be able to sense all around it – just the plane of its base and above.

I don't quite understand what you mean. Either way, I think the reliability aspect is important to make placing this structure worthwhile. A line of sight check is fine with me but an alien should under no circumstances be able to melee this without being reported. (The latter might be complicated given the technicalities of a line of sight check, but that's a different story.)

Anomalous wrote:As for the design, I'm thinking along the lines of certain types of security camera – something like a black hemisphere on a disc (shape like that of a shallow, rounded dish). This thing needs to be small and simple in appearance.

A dome camera has the added benefit that we can, in theory, allow players to see throught the eyes of the Sensor. Either by adding this option to a full-screen version of the minimap (or a 3D minimap) or by adding another structure: A simple flatscreen that is built on walls and cycles through the sensors. I could also think of an in-screen display of the Sensor's image whenever it detects something.
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Re: Sensor Design

Postby Anomalous » Sun Jan 26, 2014 3:54 pm UTC

Viech wrote:I think there shouldn't be reliability issues, otherwise the structure becomes partly useless since you still had to check back your base manually. If it covers the full range of a corridor and can't be killed from a distance, it should always issue a warning.

Apparent size is what I'm thinking of here. Basicailly, we set the useful range of the device; beyond that, dretches don't get picked up but larger aliens may (once their apparent size falls below that of a dretch at the limit of the useful range, they don't get picked up). Implementing this would mean that some calculations need to be done at load time, cached for later use.

The extreme range limit may well be too far, which means that we'll have to discard detection beyond a certain distance. But the point is to have some detection of larger aliens a little beyond the useful range.

Anomalous wrote:it wouldn't be able to sense all around it – just the plane of its base and above.

I don't quite understand what you mean. Either way, I think the reliability aspect is important to make placing this structure worthwhile. A line of sight check is fine with me but an alien should under no circumstances be able to melee this without being reported. (The latter might be complicated given the technicalities of a line of sight check, but that's a different story.)

Its range would be hemispherical. It wouldn't be able to sense below its base.

Anomalous wrote:As for the design, I'm thinking along the lines of certain types of security camera – something like a black hemisphere on a disc (shape like that of a shallow, rounded dish). This thing needs to be small and simple in appearance.

A dome camera has the added benefit that we can, in theory, allow players to see throught the eyes of the Sensor. Either by adding this option to a full-screen version of the minimap (or a 3D minimap) or by adding another structure: A simple flatscreen that is built on walls and cycles through the sensors. I could also think of an in-screen display of the Sensor's image whenever it detects something.

Yes. The screen idea seems useful – and open to abuse by aliens, which is good. If that's a buildable, I'd make it so that it's unique.
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Re: Sensor Design

Postby janev » Sun Jan 26, 2014 7:00 pm UTC

Some thoughts:

1. How does one access information from the sensors
You could either have it as an active or passive management system. An actively managed system would mean someone has to be watching the sensors all the time for them to be useful. While screens that you look at to see through the eyes of the sensors would be cool, they would be extremely frustrating to use in the long run. Someone has to sit with the screen and watch what is happening. This is also a pain with many sensors since you have to flip through them for them to be useful.

The other and better way in my opinion of accessing the information from sensors is some sort of passive overlay. It would work like the team overlay feeding human players information about threats. Whenever they are in range of a sensor they get put on the overlay. If not they are hidden. Another passive system would be to show threats on the minimap.

2. Another question to answers is what information is shown.
-This will depend on balancing needs.
-At the minimum you will show the general location of the target. At most you could also show class and precise location of the threat.
-Will alien buildables show up on sensors?

3. Who places sensors
- Sniper?
- Builder?
- Everyone? i.e. sensors are purchased instead of built.

How to deploy it?
-Building
-Ranged building? Gun deployment?

4. How easy is it to destroy and locate a sensor?
-Hidden sensors in hard to reach places could give humans a real boost
-Do sensors show up on alien radar?

5. What can destroy a sensor?
-Is it dretch killable?
-Do sensors require power to run?

6. How many build points does a sensor take and can sensors be built near the base? How many sensors are allowed per game?

6. Do sensors work in combination with other kinds of gear?
-Sensors and defensive structures. Idea: Sensors increase/accuracy of rocket pods.
-Sensors and the helmet radar. Idea: Helmet allows players to view sensor feeds.
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Re: Sensor Design

Postby Anomalous » Mon Jan 27, 2014 12:22 am UTC

Quick(ish) mockup. Colouring is just to show separate parts.

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Re: Sensor Design

Postby Viech » Mon Jan 27, 2014 2:06 am UTC

Just a dome seems a bit boring to me, I'd rather integrate it into a more complex design.
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Re: Sensor Design

Postby janev » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:46 pm UTC

Bump.

Do you build it on the floor or on the walls?

Being able to mount it on walls and such would make the sensor much more powerful. You wouldn't have every alien finding it and even if they did there is no guarantee they can reach it to kill it.
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Re: Sensor Design

Postby Viech » Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:09 pm UTC

janev wrote:Do you build it on the floor or on the walls?

Being able to mount it on walls and such would make the sensor much more powerful. You wouldn't have every alien finding it and even if they did there is no guarantee they can reach it to kill it.


From the Concept Thread:
Viech wrote:Let's build upon the current (tall, floor only) design for now. Maybe Alex feels like making a second rough sketch of a wall/ceiling mounted sensor with similiar features (dome camera and detection-indicator light) afterwards and we can assign both to the same modeler. After all the latter could really look like your average public surveillance system with a glowing stripe around its base.


I agree that wall and ceiling mounting has interesting use cases, but the design Alex came up with can't easily be transformed into that fits everywhere, so I'm feeling different models (but same entity) are the way to go here.

I was thinking of the Sensor as a regular buildable. The information it provides will depend on the state of gameplay, HUD and technical limitations. The camera will allow us to display a video feed somewhere (e.g. the HUD or a wall-mounted screen). As soon as we have a rich minimap (and potentially a full screen, interactive version of it) we could integrate the Sensor into it (similiar to how I envision the carried radar) by displaying blips to all humans when enemies are detected.

There are indeed many variables to the exact implementation, which is exactly why I assigned the concept before figuring out any specifics: I needed something to fill the gap in the asset pipeline (i.e. to not let Alex starve on concept jobs) that would definitely find some use. I wouldn't really implement the Sensor just yet though since the RTS part of our game is nearly nonexistent right now, especially with regards to map awareness and aided team coordination. We will need to do more ground work before a sensor really becomes useful (even in public games where you don't keep tabs on where Sensors were built and don't know all the room names…).
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