Freelancer porting of Wing Commander ships

L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
The image with the Durango class looks so good.
I know, right? Though the scene looks a bit derpy in-game because for some reason, I cannot properly control the docking/undocking paths, meaning the fighter starts in its hangar normally, then turn around and backs away to the front of the hangar (thus the Banshee pointing to the Durango even though the scene is a take-off one). And if I change things so that it takes off properly, then it's the landing sequence that has it docking backwards.
 

NextYearInKilrah

Petty Officer
Encountered a hard crash during mission 11 after the prison break. It happened when Walker was about to kamikaze the carriers at the gate

EDIT: nevermind...just got to that moment again and can get on with the mission.

EDIT2: ugh...CTD as soon as the kamikaze actually happened

EDIT3: ok...redid the kamikaze part again and no CTD this go around. apologies for these edits but it freaked me out
 
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L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
Encountered a hard crash during mission 11 after the prison break. It happened when Walker was about to kamikaze the carriers at the gate

EDIT: nevermind...just got to that moment again and can get on with the mission.

EDIT2: ugh...CTD as soon as the kamikaze actually happened

EDIT3: ok...redid the kamikaze part again and no CTD this go around. apologies for these edits but it freaked me out
XD

No problem. There IS an issue with battleships' collision meshes, but this scene and the one at the end of this mission before you land on the Intrepid should be the last ones where it can happen. I'll have a busy day today, so I won't be able to work on the collision meshes for a dozen hours, though.
 

NextYearInKilrah

Petty Officer
Got another CTD/hard crash: When traveling to hamburg using the lanes from the gate or westfalen, boom. When I go to hamburg the old fashion way, nothing happens
 

L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
Got another CTD/hard crash: When traveling to hamburg using the lanes from the gate or westfalen, boom. When I go to hamburg the old fashion way, nothing happens
Yay, gonna check that one too. X_X

EDIT: successfully reproduced the CTD.

EDIT 2: weird, I've actually had the CTD once, but I cannot reproduce it anymore. The hell? Can you try to reproduce the CTD yourself using the trade lanes? I do get some short freezes too, which doesn't surprise me that much, considering the textures being loaded.
 
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NextYearInKilrah

Petty Officer
Yay, gonna check that one too. X_X

EDIT: successfully reproduced the CTD.

EDIT 2: weird, I've actually had the CTD once, but I cannot reproduce it anymore. The hell? Can you try to reproduce the CTD yourself using the trade lanes? I do get some short freezes too, which doesn't surprise me that much, considering the textures being loaded.
OK so the bug went poof on my end too. Weird...could it be a random occurrence? also you should know I had hard crashes when colliding with ships in asteroid/debris fields, but no crashes in the open or nebulae. Is that a collision mesh problem? It sounds like it IMO
 

L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
OK so the bug went poof on my end too. Weird...could it be a random occurrence? also you should know I had hard crashes when colliding with ships in asteroid/debris fields, but no crashes in the open or nebulae. Is that a collision mesh problem? It sounds like it IMO
What ship were you using when you had that crash, and what ship did you collide with as well? I'm asking because I've had collisions too without CTD and need more information to try and reproduce it. Thanks! :)
 

NextYearInKilrah

Petty Officer
What ship were you using when you had that crash, and what ship did you collide with as well? I'm asking because I've had collisions too without CTD and need more information to try and reproduce it. Thanks! :)
I was in a Rapier fighting a hessian banshee somewhere in Rhineland (forgot where). But I have had this occur when flying in other ships too. For instance, in NY during the 1st mission fighting the rogues, a collision occurred when I was in the debris field close to pitt. I am not sure why these happen but they do for me. I am running this using 1 of the WinXP service packs (I think it is service pack 2). The troubleshooter recommended that
 

L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
I was in a Rapier fighting a hessian banshee somewhere in Rhineland (forgot where). But I have had this occur when flying in other ships too. For instance, in NY during the 1st mission fighting the rogues, a collision occurred when I was in the debris field close to pitt. I am not sure why these happen but they do for me. I am running this using 1 of the WinXP service packs (I think it is service pack 2). The troubleshooter recommended that
Have you tried running it with Windows 7 compatibility? That's the one I'm using here.
 

NextYearInKilrah

Petty Officer
Have you tried running it with Windows 7 compatibility? That's the one I'm using here.
I have but it refused to run off the disc. I have not tried it through the modded shortcut. I might give that a go...if that works and I don't crash maybe that was my problem. I somehow doubt that though

EDIT: forgot to post this. Found a funny glitch with the bloodfang's turret. Hard to miss :)
 

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L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
I have but it refused to run off the disc. I have not tried it through the modded shortcut. I might give that a go...if that works and I don't crash maybe that was my problem. I somehow doubt that though

EDIT: forgot to post this. Found a funny glitch with the bloodfang's turret. Hard to miss :)
I guess I'll try starting more fights in asteroid fields to try and see if it leads to CTD, while I'll work the Bloodfang's turret position. Check the files in the EXE folder as well, though, they should work with modern Windows versions.

EDIT: Bloodfang fixed.

EDIT 2: updated various collision meshes and fighters so that they break apart in several pieces upon destruction.
 
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L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
Bit of an update on the second phase of the modding. First of all, I'm looking more closely on the texture part, to integrate better effects on the ships (glow and that stuff). Second part is the start of the rebalance work, which is intended to eventually make most fighters decent choices for the player to use all over the game, and one of the big points, particularly to make the game more Privateer-like, is to set up power plants and engines customisation:

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This will require getting the newest edit of the .exe file I'll get in the mod, though the idea is the following:
* Fighters will have access to a lot more different weapons, making them relevant longer in the game;
* Energy management should be a thing, with power generation/capacity being distinct parameters to balance with consumption in game;
* Engines are going to be worked a bit to provide a whole new line of systems that can be set up, with different values of thrust and power consumption;
* The mass of fighters is going to matter, making thrust more or less speed-generating for the fighters;
* The big limitation between fighters will be in terms of volume taken by the powerplants;
* Each available powerplant will take different volume in your cargo hold, with the balance setting up large fighters to have more room for bulkier and more efficient plants capable of supporting powerful guns and engines but also will need more powerful engines just to achieve the same performances as a light fighter, which will have lower drag and smaller cargo holds.
* All enemies' loadouts will have to be reworked to fit the new setups. That will be painful for me, though, since the vanilla game has... 470 different enemy ships' loadouts.

What does it mean for you, trusty Freelancer?

You have to choose between an Arrow V light fighter or a Lance superheavy fighter. Let's say the Arrow has 2 cubic metres' worth of cargo bay and the Lance has 100. The Arrow is a nimble fighter with a drag factor of 1 while the Lance's drag is 15 (the fighters suffer from drag induced by ether, which propagates sound in space - it's all linked to dark matter and quantum foam, trust me on this).

The good old ship equipment emporium has several pieces of equipment it can provide you. For example, the Duracell powerplant, which amusingly looks like a AAA-battery pack with open wires and a power generation index of 5, taking 0.5 volume. Or the Scotty's Custom, a matter-antimatter quantum-o-mat disintegrator zero point generator with a power generation of 100 and 25 in volume.

It also offers the Mark I "Squirrel Fart" engine, using 2.5 power to provide 500 thrust and the Mark X "Samantha Carter's Special" engine, using 75 power to provide 5,000 of thrust.

Now, with this, your Arrow could use the Duracell and the Mark I, consuming 0.5 of its 10 volume to provide 5 of power. 2.5 of this power generation is used for the engine, which gives you Thrust/Drag = 500 m/s speed. Pretty fast! You also have 2.5 power left for guns and shields, and 1.5 volume left for cargo, weapons and the stuff. You look longingly at the Carter's Special engine, which would make you go at plaid speeds, but there's no way in hell you'll ever get a large enough powerplant to fit in your smallish cargo bay. Though you might try to use a smaller engine even to free more power generation for your shields and weaponry. It's not going to be a medium fighter, but you could get a heavier balance of equipment.

For your Lance, you MIGHT make the same equipment choice, Duracell and Mark I. You'd get 99.5 volume available for cargo and the stuff. Of course, you'd get a top speed of Thrust/Drag = 35 or so m/s, and still barely 2.5 power left for guns and shields. Your Lance is going to be an overweight whale good for transporting more cargo while you read War and Peace in front of your computer. Or you could go for the Scotty's Custom and the Carter's Special. Now 25 of your volume is taken, but you have 100 power generation, of which 75 is used to provide you Thrust/Drag = 330 m/s top speed. You're now cruising at a decent speed and have 25 power left to no-sell the guns and shields of the Arrow with your own.

Now, you could have powerplants dedicated to provide more power capacity than generation, making you capable of firing overpowered weapons at the cost of taking an unholy time to recharge them. Or maybe tons of generation and little power, meaning you could field more powerful shields and engines, but good luck having enough power to fire your big guns at all.

I think this way of balancing things would be a lot more comprehensive and could make various gameplay options valid, as well as keeping most fighters competitive all the way to the endgame. Of course, it also means some massive Excel spreadsheets on my way to plan the specifics of the balance, which is work that is going to take several weeks at the very least.

EDIT: here's below a sneak peek at the balancing process

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I've configured the spreadsheet to allow quick selection of powerplant and engine followed by display of max speed and remaining energy/volume as well as alert if there is an incompatibility. At this point, I'm going to have to define the powerplants and engines, then tinker the stats to make the stuff work. I've defined the relation between each parameters and set up a first series of engines and powerplants for light, medium and heavy fighters (as well as a special set for the Lance, which is a massive and bulky fighter), and variants for them, with more performance in terms of power or capacity, or maybe lower drag for higher energy consumption (think closed Bussard scoops), the reverse, more or less thrust, etc. It leads to pretty interesting outcomes considering the specific drag of fighters.

For example, the Morningstar, which is a heavy fighter with low drag and high available volume - an endgame fighter, definitely - can fit a medium fighter engine with a heavy fighter powerplant and get most benefits from the engine variant with the lowest drag to get better top speed than if it had the more powerful heavy fighter engine. The values in the file are still work in progress, but give an idea of what to expect enventually: a setup where all fighters have different speed and agility plus a much higher degree of customisation to facilitate specific roles such as couriers (I'll have to see whether I can loot the story mode missions for their time limit code and design random courier missions with a destination to reach within a limited time) or bulk cargo fighters. For example, an Avenger with the smallest powerplants and engines will move like a snail at 68 kps but will have 63 of its 70 internal volume available for transport, while dedicating all the power of its most powerful available powerplant can push it to 156 kps, more than twice the speed, at the cost of having only 22 of the 70 internal volume available. And, of course, even in its fastest configuration, the Avenger will be laughed at by a Razor zipping by at 412 kps... that is, until the Avenger one-shoots the Razor while shrugging all the Pirate fighter's weaponry.

Yes, I love Excel and coding. Does it show?
 

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L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
Current update: I'm working a bit more on the concept to use for balancing, and the idea is to have multiple balancing done on various scales:

* Type of equipment;
* Faction;
* Grade of equipment.

For example, let's consider guns. Any ship can mount any type of gun, as long as they can power them (which will be a balancing act from the player, considering their energy requirements for shields and engines, all of these within a ship's given volume), but not all guns will be made equal for each role.

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Your gunnery selection will pretty much determine your combat style, as you can guess here. The thing is, guns of each type will be available in every store, but they'll come in various quality grades. The civilian weapons, available to anyone who isn't actively hunted down by authorities, are following the above templates but have the lowest performance. Their military and black-ops equivalents are still following the pattern but are from a much, much better quality. And between these two extremes, you might get or be shot by various intermediate models, like pirate, military-industrial corporations, bounty hunters, police, etc.

What does it mean? That fighting pirates with civilian equipment isn't going to be easy or even fair, but you might get closer to peer capabilities by getting pals with the police forces and having access to their stuff. Of course, you could have things like police shields being to be better than pirate shields while their guns are worse than pirate guns, but the constant is that military equipment is going to better in all cases. Don't start a fight with those equipped to win wars.

Of course, getting friendly enough with the military to get their sweet loot should be a lot harder than it currently is. My work-in-progress idea is to simply lock the player from doing any mission for the military until they get a very high reputation for it by doing tons of jobs for the military's allies like the police forces (Freelancer's reputation system allows reputation gains to "bleed" to allies of the factions you are helping). You don't get to become an licenced privateer simply by knocking on the admiral's door unless you're already the space equivalent of Batman.

Good luck getting back in the pirate's good graces after that, by the way.

But why would you want to do so when you have access to military equipment, you might ask? Because there's also another element to equipment balancing: faction specialties. When you get a piece of equipment in their specialist manufacturer, it will be one grade above its foreign equivalent. Looking at the table above, a Rheinlander civilian tachyon cannon will be better than a Liberty civilian one, period. A Rheinlander military tachyon cannon? Oh boy, that's the most damaging gun in the game, bar none (though I hope you're bringing one hell of a powerplant along). I might add a weakness as well, so that each faction sucks at making one specific equipment variant.

There you go, this logic would apply to shield generators, powerplants and engines as well, with no equipment being better than the others in all roles. Sticking within one faction's territory will allow you to get better and better equipment, making you better tooled for taking the fight to the enemy, but also limiting you to a specific, specialized, configuration. If you want to widen your options, you'll have to move around and see more places, making new friends by killing your former ones.

EDIT:

Welp, writing down this outline helped me a lot. Here's below a rough version of what the entire gun line could look like. Each colour shows the weapon grade, with the darker shade showing the specialist model. You can see how combat can balance itself with these guns. Let's look at the uberweapons, the dark blue area, shall we?

The specialist military-grade tachyon cannons will leave absolutely everyone in the dust, with a DPS more than twice larger than the second contender's. The issue with this? Your range is the second shortest of all comparable weapons and your power consumption will also be off the charts, meaning that you will need to do serious compromises on your internal volume if you want to power these guns and still have enough engine speed to catch up to your target rather than be sniped from afar.

On the other hand, the specialist particle, photon and neutron cannons have a much more sustainable energy consumption rate, from 37 to 48 rather than 180, and they have slightly improved range as well. Their DPS is much lower, particularly for the photon cannon, because the two others... well, their projectiles are really slow, making them easier to miss. The photon cannon doesn't have this issue, but its reload time is quite higher, making for a more accurate but much less damaging gun. The high power laser could be a jack-of-all-trade choice here: superb range, good projectile speed, solid but manageable power consumption and a very good DPS. But to get it to work its magic, you need a lot of sustained hits as it has the lowest damage of its class, while the plasma gun is a more "in your face" tactic, with the shortest range and the highest projectile speed in the game combined with high individual damage.

Note how the game's best laser cannon would have similar DPS and sustained energy consumption values to the worst tachyon cannon. Of course, it involves a range that is massively superior, more than doubled.

On a more practical gameplay experience? Police guns deal roughly 50 percent more DPS than civilian ones and milspec guns are doing 30 to 50 percent more than police ones. Being a pirate is a dangerous life occupation. Being a pirate without access to the pirate bases and equipment is a dangerous and exceedingly short life occupation.

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EDIT: getting close to a first complete set of equipment stats, which looks decently balanced, allowing for sensible tuning in most parts of the game. Of course, the pain in my lovely and charming behind will be to get roughly 500 pieces of equipment ingame, then get the flavour texts and names ingame, then set up the shops to sell these. This will be painful unless I can get a MATLAB script to do most of it.

EDIT 2:

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I love MATLAB. :)

... though, I'll still have to input manually all the flavour texts, no way around this AFAIK.
 
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L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
Just out of curiosity...will a bugfix patch come out soon to fix the various issues in the mod?
Usually, as soon as I can reproduce a signaled bug, I fix it and publish the fixed version. The most annoying one is the capship-related collision weirdness, but other than that, the mod seemed to be pretty stable when I finished my campaign run.
 

L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
Got another question...will you post some youtube vids showing off these new mechanics?
I have no idea how to capture a video from a game, I have never uploaded a video online and I have no Youtube account nor any intent to get any - I'm not on any social media besides LinkedIn, which I do not use besides updating my resume anyway. And, TBH, there isn't much to show off in terms of new mechanics. What I'm working on is pretty much behind the scenes for the game, a LOT of coding to get tons of new equipment ingame and allow Privateer-level ship customisation. Right now, I'm coding the script to turn my Excel spreadsheet for shields into Freelancer code (the guns, powerplants and engines are already converted as I write this), so my next step will be to check with a base if I can get the goods to be sold.

After that? I'll have to set up all the shops to sell the updated goods. Then replace all NPC equipment with the new stuff. Then add all the flavour text for around 600 new items, AKA 1,200 entries that will have to be done manually and cannot be scripted. If it works as I intend it to, it should be straightforward for the player.

EDIT: and the shields are done. Gotta go to sleep and I'll do a quick test tomorrow to see if it holds or if I inserted some new form of CTD.

EDIT 2: the test was successful, though it showed that I need to add the flavour text first for everything before anything else now. X_X
 
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L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
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You can see above the successful implementation of the new equipments ingame. Right now, I've only finished the process for the engines, the guns, shields and powerplants still having to be added over the next few days. On this screenshot, I'm pondering whether to add an antimatter drive designed for medium fighters. It's a civilian, AKA pretty bad, one, but it's still an improved version over the standard antimatter drive (AKA one made by Rheinland, which is specialized in M/AM systems). Note on the left side, the yellow area in Cargo Space: the engine takes some room, and some are bulkier than others, so balancing needs and wants will be an important thing as well.

On that matter, I just realized that I made a mistake with the data display, and will have to do 180 data entries again.
 

NextYearInKilrah

Petty Officer
Found another bug...the Vaktoth model will disappear when closing the distance with it. You can only see engine glow and its guns. I think it occurs at around 500 meters but I could be wrong with that estimation

EDIT: Found out this bug appears randomly...not sure why. Currently fighting more Vaks and the ship does not disappear at any distance. Weird one
 

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L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
Found another bug...the Vaktoth model will disappear when closing the distance with it. You can only see engine glow and its guns. I think it occurs at around 500 meters but I could be wrong with that estimation

EDIT: Found out this bug appears randomly...not sure why. Currently fighting more Vaks and the ship does not disappear at any distance. Weird one
Interesting. Looks like it's restricted to the special Blood Dragons' Vaktoth (yes, they have a special one). I'll check on this issue, thanks for the report!

EDIT: can't see the cause of the issue, replaced the Dragons' Vaktoth with the normal Kusari one in the online file as a quickfix for whatever may be the issue.

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Text issue fixed (painfully, might I add). Now, the energy drain for each engine is properly displayed. Notice, BTW, the difference in volume taken by this engine compared to the previous picture's one.

EDIT 2: shields and guns are in now.

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In the above screenshot, you can see the gun store in New London. It's a civilian store, so it has the lowest grade of weapons available, of course, but since it's in Bretonia, its plasma guns are better than foreign equivalents, making it a good place to buy high power close combat weaponry.
 
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