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Devblog #53 - Scanning 2.0

Well fellow explorers, it has been a few very busy weeks for us at Zero Gravity, hence the absence of a devblog last week, we simply didn’t have enough time. Some of these features are still a work in progress and lack proper visuals, but we are getting there. As promised in our last post, this blog will cover changes coming to the scanning mechanics of Hellion.

Ever since the launch of Hellion’s early access, scanning factored into the gameplay in one way or the other. Some of our early supporters may remember orbits of planets and moons being crowded by various derelicts and modules, as well as mysterious purple “death clouds” that have been the bane of many an explorer. As the game evolved, scanning became less and less prominent, eventually turning obsolete with the introduction of junkyards and quest stations in the Rude Awakening update. While the gameplay became slightly more engaging a certain element of mystery was lost. After all it is hard to ask a question “what else could be there” if everything is already visible.

 

Needless to say we were not happy with this situation and had planned to address it sooner, but there were always other more pressing matters to consider. It also turned out to be rather challenging and far more complex than what we initially imagined. That is because scanning was a lot more than just a way for players to find other objects in space, it was a linchpin that would tie together all aspects of Hellion’s gameplay.

 

Scanning 2.0

 

The new scanning mechanic is supposed to bring mystery back into the world of Hellion by giving players a fun and engaging way to discover both distant and nearby locations based on a number of different parameters. It also provides players with a meaningful way to find each other in multiplayer. Now that the basic idea behind scanning is out of the way let’s break it apart and go over each of its components.

 

Signature

 

Signature is the basic determining factor of “how visible an object is” and is based on mass, volume and construction. Larger objects such as asteroids are more visible compared to smaller ones and the radar will be able to “spot” them from greater distance. Each ship/module has a specific signature value and the values of multiple docked objects will be added together making junkyards and large player owned stations much easier to spot, compared to single ships and modules.

 

Radar System

 

All ships and command modules now come equipped with a radar system that can be accessed from the NavMap. Radar is comprised of three subsystems, active radar, passive radar and warp detection. Each subsystem has a base “sensitivity” value that determines how effective it is. Higher sensitivity equals better detection. Sensitivity can further be modified by installed parts as well as certain locations and conditions you may find yourselves in.

 

  • Passive radar will automatically detect all nearby objects based on its sensitivity every time you access the NavMap. This system is autonomous and requires no special input from the player.
  • Active radar scans in a cone that can be directed and adjusted by players and is a lot more powerful compared to the passive radar. By adjusting the cone players can choose to scan a wide area or direct a more focused scan towards a specific zone by reducing the cones scanning angle.
  • Warp detection is handled by the ship’s passive radar and will automatically search for nearby warp signatures.

 

(placeholder art, new visuals are on the way)

Scan results

 

When scanning an area players can receive a few different outcomes based on signature and sensitivity. These are Visible, Unknown, Unidentified and Warp contacts.

 

  • Visible contacts are all ships, stations or asteroids within the range of you passive scanner. They are actively tracked on the map and their position and values will automatically update as they change. Player owned station (authorized vessels and cryopods are always visible on the map)
  • Unknown contacts are objects that have been identified by an active or passive radar but are currently outside your passive radar range. This means that their orbital parameters are known and you can warp to them, but they are not tracked in real time. In case they are destroyed or moved, you will not see these changes until you either move close enough for the passive radar, or actively scan for them to update the information.
  • Unidentified contacts show up as spheres on the NavMap and indicate that an object is currently present in that area, but it’s signature is to weak for your radar to detect. To reveal these objects and their orbital parameters you will have to move closer, or direct a focused scan towards the marked area. Note that these contacts slowly fade away after a certain period of time.
  • Warp contacts work similarly to unidentified contacts and will show a sphere of potential “exit points” for a ship in warp, if it happens to be close enough to detect. Warp signature is determined primarily by the combined mass of objects in warp. As before these contacts will slowly fade away after a certain amount of time.

 

(placeholder art, new visuals are on the way)

Radiation, planets and debris fields

 

As mentioned earlier there are several parameters that will affect both the signature of objects and sensitivity of the radar systems. High radiation values in an area will lower the sensitivity of all ships. Debris fields will reduce both signature and sensitivity of all objects inside them, turning them into potential “hiding” spots. Similar to the debris fields certain planets will feature “unique zones” that will make scanning harder or easier.

 

In order to counter these modifiers you can always find or craft better parts for the radar system that will improve it’s detection capabilities.

 

 

Epilogue

 

Finally it is worth mentioning that many of the issues in the current game, like the infamous “always visible after scanning” bug will be resolved with the new system. In addition all of the information for the NavMap is now persistent for a character and will not reset upon death or relog. Also expect to discover many new and “hidden” locations throughout the Hellion system.

 

Until next time, fly safe!

Posted by Zero Gravity team