Oh, the possibilities
Having done some extensive diving into how space works, I've learned that space is hot. Kinda.
I'll spare you all the really boring details, but it's really hard to bleed off heat in a near-total vacuum, and even modern spacecrafts' maneuvering thrusters produce enough heat to necessitate powerful heat sinks. When you extrapolate to FTL travel, powerful engines powered by fusion or better, and weapon fire (kinetic, ballistic, or energy), you'd need something hugely powerful to keep the crew from literally cooking.
This realization prompted me to add coolant system, called MCRS (microdroplet coolant recapture system) in planning out my hypothetical TC. In said hypothetical TC, large ships will take far more than 3 days to make one jump (using hyperspace speed modification outfits). I'm thinking of using a crön based off of these outfits to consume a certain amount of coolant per jump. Every mission that can be accepted from the main spaceport will run a crön disabling coolant consumption for a day (whether or not it's accepted), and a low-weight mission will do the same if the player is not offered a mission. Furthermore, every hyperspace-capable ship will have an outfit that makes the acceptable hyperspace radius larger than the system. Even one unit of coolant will reduce this radius to 0, and the "too near system center" error will be replaced with an "insufficient coolant" message.
Now, the complicated part is coming up. There are two reasons I'm bringing this up; first, I want to know if it's too complicated and I should just forget about it. Second, I'm looking for suggestions on implementation.
Since weapons generate huge amounts of heat, nearly every weapon that does not require ammunition will drain coolant. Some large, slow weapons may consume energy instead since their coolant consumption rate would be negligible. Using burst-fire, coolant-consuming weapons will be tooled to use up one unit per certain number of shots. You will be able to check how much coolant you have in your "extras" tab. I considered a turreted secondary weapon with 360°s of bind spots that would be set to have coolant as an ammo so you could check without bringing up extras, but decided that would get in the way when people were frantically trying to bring up the right secondary. Also, any coolant-consuming secondary would display the same information.
A few of the most expensive, powerful, and technologically advanced ships will have large arrays of powerful radiators that bleed off the majority of their weapons' heat. These ships will have identical versions of all the weapons, which consume energy (to keep the radiators running) instead of coolant. Furthermore, they will not have the coolant-based hyperspace restrictions.
Every military will have several coolant storage systems, with the more advanced militaries using more efficient storage modules. The coolant itself will be weightless and universal to all factions; the only difference will be in the price, mass, and capacity of the storage. To get greater possible range and avoid the problems inherent in the "ModMax" system, each would be an invisible, null weapon with a variable MaxAmmo.
Most weapons that consume coolant (especially the larger ones) will also drain energy in two ways. First, turrets will consume energy at a flat, low, constant rate to keep the tracking online. This will only happen during combat readiness, which will be simulated by a mission that, when aborted, starts a second mission and removes an outfit that links to the ResID 128 wëap, which is null with a reload of 0 and exclusive fire. It will also grant an outfit, dependent on the number of turrets the player owns, that drains energy. Finally, it will start a recurring mission that consumes coolant at a rate again proportional to the mass of the ship. The second mission will reverse all behaviors.
The second energy drain method is similar to a trick Qaanol recently explained. Nearly every primary weapon, when bought, will actually grant two weapons with identical stats EXCEPT that one consumes coolant and one consumes energy. The öutfs available to ships with advanced radiation systems will instead grant two of the energy-consuming weapons. Further, some weapons may only use one or the other (or maybe neither), and all secondary weapons will only use one as this trick does not work with them.
I have a few, in fact. First, how do you think it would be best to go about applying this to AI ships, especially in regards to ships the player captures and uses? For those of you that don't know, AI ships ignore the "uses another weapon's ammo" flag. If you have, for example, an AI ship with a raven turret and raven launcher, both need to be given ammunition fields; if you give the turret an ammo of 5 and the launcher an ammo of 500, it will fire the turret 5 times and then only be able to use the launcher. Because of this, I'm leaning towards simply giving them two instances of the energy-consuming version of the weapons, 0 energy recharge, and an inflated energy capacity that is brought back to normal levels for the player (if he/she captures the ship) with an invisible outfit. If captured, cröns will check if the player has a particular captured ship (again, invisible outfit or contribute bit) and replace half of the weapons with their coolant-consuming versions. This would, of course, also require that every purchasable ship have a shipyard version and an AI version.
The second question is this: can anyone see any ways of modifying this system a bit to make it more useful/fun/intuitive or less resource intensive (or a pain in the ass) without sacrificing its unique nature? While I'd take a complicated, tough system that's interesting over a simple but bland one, any suggestions for improvement would be appreciated. In the same vein, are there any holes in my implementation that would keep it from working as intended (or at all)?
Finally, as I asked before, is that WAY too complicated? It's a lot to keep track of and a huge amount of programming, but Nova and the Escape Velocity equation are old. Wonderful, but old. Adding things like extra resource management, budget allocation missions, damage-over-time weapons, a planet that acts as a pay-per-view database etc. are my way of trying to reinvigorate the formula a bit. So the bottom line: will it result in a better experience for the player?
Thanks for taking the time to read all that. I hope I made it clear and at least marginally interesting.
Edit: Just realized one obvious oversight: if a ship runs out of coolant, its weapons that consume half-coolant half-energy will still be able to fire at half the rate since the energy component would still work. If cröns evaluated constantly, I could solve this, but as it is nothing comes to mind. Of course, it would still be incapable of entering hyperspace.
Actually I just thought of a solution; allow me to bounce it off you if I may.
All coolant-consuming weapons are submunitions. The supermunition has count 0, is invisible flak, and has 0 damage but some ionization depending on the amount of heat produced. Coolant-consuming weapons and their energy-consuming counterparts will be marked as unusable if the ship is ionized. Ships will have minuscule ionization tolerance, increased by their coolant system (this will be a buffer for ionization-inducing weapons they are hit by) and further by the amount of coolant they have on-board. Once the coolant count drops to 0, they will have very low ionization tolerance, and the ionization they built up from their own weapon fire will cause them to ionize and be incapable of firing back. This has the further benefit of making ships that have run out of coolant suffer penalties to maneuverability.
This post has been edited by Archon : 09 January 2010 - 12:41 AM