Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

How shields do (and will) work

Every space movie has deflector shields, and so does GSB. here is the current system:

You can optionally add shield generators to your ships. The more the merrier, and some provide more shield points than others. The total shield points get added together as the shield strength. This strength needs top be blasted to zero to knock out the shields. In this respect, all generators act as a linked unit.

3% of weapon hits somehow luckily get through the shields anyway (luke skywalker lucky shots)

Shields have strength, but also resistance, and weapons have shield damage, and shield penetration. If shield resistance > shield penetration, the weapon is totally ineffectual. Otherwise, shield damage is applied to shield strength

Shields recharge over time. You need to totally blast a ships shield strength to zero to stop it recharging.

Now for the new bit (working on it now…)

Shields will have ‘stability’ which indicates the integrity of the energy field. Special weapons (probably torpedoes) will be able to interfere with the stability. If the stability is reduced to zero, the shields will temporarily collapse, effectively turning them off and allowing weapons to penetrate. These shield disruptor weapons will ignore shield strength and resistance, working on totally different principles. The only defence against them will be point defence lasers and ECM beams to scramble the torpedoes.

This way I’m avoiding the possibility of just havign seriously ‘shielded-up’ ships that are effectively impossible for enemy ships to overcome. Another possibility I’m toying with is preventing shield generator modules from being 100% additive, but maybe on a sliding scale.

So 1 shield module = 100% of its strength, 2nd shield module adds 80% of its strength, etc etc.


15 thoughts on How shields do (and will) work

  1. What about shield frequencies, and aligning weapons to ignore them or get extra penetration? Which could lead to borg-esk “They’ve adapted!”. You could use this as a “the more times a ship with frequency-adaptable weapons fires at a shield, the more damage it does (on a sliding scale)”.

    I only mention these in case they spark an idea. They’re not very visual concepts, so it might be hard to add them to the game in practice.

    – Michael.

  2. What I’d like to see, as a sort of shield counter/counter-counter mechanic, would be something along the lines of a ‘low damage’ threshhold, below which all damage passes through the shield (or some variety of shield, if there’s more than one). This way one could pump up with large shields against heavy-hitting battleship weaons or whatnot, but the counter to that is to use smaller ships. (And the counter to _that_ is point defence weapons, which of course reduce the capacity of this ‘immune to giant weapons’ ship to trade blows with other huge ships.)

  3. ECM beams?

    …..what will they look like?

    slightly off topic, but how are you going to handle anti-fighter measures?

  4. Question: will fighters be able to negate shields by getting in close enough before firing?

  5. I like the comment by the first poster. Having “frequencies” of shields is realistic (inasmuch as shields can exist, as lasers have a frequency) and helps make the game more intense: The longer the battle, the better the weapons do, preventing stalemates where two ships can’t kill each other. As for visualizing it, that should be relatively simple: Make frequency coincide with color (wavelength of light and all that). A blue shield takes more damage from blue lasers. A red laser firing at it will eventually attune, changing from red to purple to blue. Heck, you could even have an item called an lasing chamber frequency shifter that makes it shift faster.

    As for stacking shields: My suggestion is to make the strongest type additive. If a cruiser has 3 XLMega Shields ™ and 2 TinyField Shields, why would the tiny shields in any way help the mega shields? I would say that it would be better to have Shields that provide diminishing returns, then have modules to modify. As you say, first is 100%, second is 80%, third is 60%, etc. Then you could add in shield hardeners to increase resistance to penetration, or an item that reduces the diminishing returns of extra shields (90% instead of 80, 80% instead of 60, etc. at the cost of being as power intensive as an extra shield module itself). More tweakability adds more playability, no?

  6. I always thought that the way the shields were meant to work, in a cancelled game known as UFS Vanguard, would make for an interesting mechanic. To quote from a retrospective look on the game:

    “…One of the more revolutionary features of Vanguard is the way shields operate. Instead of just pumping more energy to the shields to keep them at 100%, you’ll have to keep a close eye on the rate the shields absorb and dissipate energy. If the shields absorb too much energy, the ship will basically implode and you’ll be out of the game. If you allow the shields to fall, only a thin hull will separate your ship from enemy fire. Laser cannons, although otherwise weak weapons, can be used by your enemy to add to your shield energy. Large stars also can cause your shield rate to greatly increase. Needless to say, shield management is a very important aspect of starship combat…”

  7. I’m quite attracted to the idea of small fighters being able to just fly close enough that if they are physically inside the shields, they can do whatever damage they like (albeit miniscule). This is a good game mechanic, and I may try it out.

    I also really liked the approach in DUNE where weapons that moved slowly penetrated the shields. I can imagine slow moving missiles and bombs drifting through the shields and exploding, assuming enemy point defence systems had not targeted them first. Cloaked missiles? the possibilities are endless.

    It would be interesting to make the mechanics of a game like this scriptable by modders, but the problem with scripting is it’s just slooooooow, and my aim is to have complex, frantic looking battles, even on lowly machines.

  8. If you’re going to go with the slow-moving weapons thing… MINES! We MUST have space-mines! :D

  9. Not all scripting is slow… if you do it right, I don’t see it being a problem.

    I’d go with Lua – it’s pretty fast for a scripting language, and really engineered for embedding. Having a good scripting implementation can turn your game from great to legendary. ;-)

  10. So basically you have the substraction type mechanic (moo1 f.ex). This has the well known effect of low dmg weapons are useless to big ships, and high dmg weapons are close to unaffected.

    But instead of weapon damage – shields = damage done, here there is a special value independent of weapon damage used in the formula instead. So a small weapon could have a high penetration while large ones could have low penetration?

  11. I really like the shield concept of the I-War series. Its shield is pratically invulnerable, but it can only be active on a small space, for a very short time.

    The catch is that the shield can’t be twice at the same time, and it can’t be held up for long (and, once “fired”, it has to reload briefly – charge the capacitors, so to speak – before firing again). So, rapid-fire weapons can beat the shield (taking advantage of the fact that it only stays up for a short time, and getting hits between shield activations, while it recharges), and so can weapons that spread beyond the limited area covered by the shield itself (so, “shotgun”-like weapons could get some hits in, if the dispersion area is bigger than the effective shield area). I thought it to be actually more elegant (and arguably realistic) than the whole “the shield is now on 20%” Star Trek concept.

  12. I for one like the idea from William. What I was thinking (Before I even read his post) was that having a ton shields should have negative side effects. If you can swarm a ship with heavy shielding and bash it with a ton of damage over a short peroid of time the shields should over load and implode on you doing heavy damage to the ship.

    Or perchance having a lot of shields surrounding your ship could effect your ships view distance (messing when the sensors because the shield field is so strong) or making your own laser weapons less effective because they have to pass through such a heavy shield layer? Maybe heavily shielded ships shouldn’t be as fast because their massive shields cause a drag on subspace or make your energy weapons weaker because more power is directed towards keep them up. Like is stated above the posilbiites are endless .Could make having an unarmed ship with heavy shields that goes in front of your other ships to block incoming long range weapons an effective tactic in large fleet combat.

  13. I had an idea for a system where there were energy shields and mass shields. Energy shields were very capable of dissipating and repelling enemy lasers, while mass shields used a more magnetic field designed to repell and disrupt incoming physical objects like missiles and bullets.

    What made it even more interesting is that each weapons could be energy, mass or both. A railgun, for instance, fires a small pellet at very, very high speed; it would punch right through an energy shield, but a mass shield would just reflect it like it was a fly. Photon torpedoes wouldn’t be affected by a mass shield, but it would be greatly absorbed by an energy shield. Explosive shells however would be both, and both shields would need to be up to stop it. A mass shield would stop the shell in midflight, but the resulting explosive energy would have to be dissipated by an energy shield.

    There were also weapons that stripped shields but did no hull damage, as well as those that do a huge amount of hull damage, but are easily deflected by shields. I was also toying with the idea of some weapons having penetration, where some damage gets through no matter what.

    I like the idea that fighters can pass through shields without much of a problem.

    Also, if you have a strength vs penetration, don’t have shield strengths stack, but do have capacities add together. That way a ship is only as good as it’s weakest shield so to speak. As ships fire they would take away the lowest strength shield first, but then might struggle with the stronger shields. Of course, then you could have some shields with a high capacity, but a low strength, and some shields with a high strength with a low capacity. It would represent the ship’s need to balance the thickness of a shield vs it’s ability to withstand penetrating damage.

    As for scripting, it’s very hard to make scripting nice for the players without them finding a loop hole and exploiting it mercilessly. Customisable modules would be the way to go, with sliders of some kind. The other alternative is people can make their own modules, but the cost would be calculated in the engine. Sure, make that super power weapon, but no ship would be able to fit it.

  14. I remember reading the Lensmen books many many years ago which told of epic space battles. One of the ships described in the books was the “mauler”. A ship that had huge shields and a single tractor beam.

    The objective of this ship was to immobilise the enemy for the long range cruisers who pounded the stuffing out of it with their heavy weapons.

    The ultimate weapon in the book was a point blank cannon that combined a shield with a nuke. The shield was used to focus the explosion of the nuke against the hull of an immobilised ship. The explosion had no where to go but into the hull of the ship. The trade off for the weapon you had to get really close to the enemy and the target had to be stationary. (Since it took time to set up the weapon or something like that)

    I like the idea that the shields stack up with no penalty, however you have to find the right balance, even if you create a mauler class ship that is loaded to the gunnels with shields, A single torpedo bomber could get under those heavy shields and ruin your day.

    So maybe you escort your “mauler” with 2 corvettes loaded with anti fighter weapons. All good and well but your corvettes could get picked off by a frigate before the torpedo bombers start their run.

    So you keep your corvettes close in to your mauler whose shield would protect the corvettes from that nasty frigate. . that’s fine, but your mauler is slow and while your corvettes protect the mauler, the enemy sends its bombers to harass the rest of your fleet. . .

    and so on and so forth.

    For what it is worth, this is what I love about this game . . you have to create that winning combination for your fleet to take out the enemy. As stated on the website.

    “This is not a tactical game, it is a strategic one. These gratuitous space battles are not won by plucky heroes with perfect teeth, but by the geeky starship builders who know exactly what ratio of plasma-cannons to engines each ship in the fleet will need.”

    Quick question thou – will there be an option to ram the enemy ships ?
    It would be a spectacular way to go out if the battle is hopeless, overload the engines and the reactor core and see how may you can take with you . .
    “ Today is a good day to die ”

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