Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ship changes in our latest update

Our update of ships to ICS 3.1 made some subtle and not so subtle changes. Below is a list of some of the more radical changes that were made.

Universal changes

- All ships and artillery now use the new splash and explosion effects. This applies to cannonball splashes, mortar explosions, spar torpedo explosions, and underwater explosions

-All ships now have their scripts recompiled back to LSL for improved performance

-All ships now use ICS 3.1 combat cores. ICS 3.1 has new minimum damage rules meaning if you do less than 1% damage to a ships core it rounds to zero doing no damage at all. This rule resulted in numerous ship changes and put some of them temporarily out of commission. These will be listed below

-All ships have had their speeds adjusted to be much more realistic. Calculations were done to convert SL m/s to knots more accurately, meaning all ships going at speed 5 will all be going roughly 5 knots and should not be able to pass each other. This change will make some ships slower and some faster as a result

-All surface ships now have the ability to do at least some damage while ramming, such as the monitor class ironclads (Note that ships not specially designed for ramming take massive risks in doing so). This does not apply to the CSS David, Goblin tank or the submarines

Tank changes

- Goblin tank had its HP increased to 350 and had it's medium cannon switched out for a heavy. The HP change was made so that the tank would not be as susceptible to small arms fire and the medium cannon was proven to be too weak during later field tests

Ironclad Ship changes

- CSS Atlanta's spar torpedo now has it's own arm/disarm button so you can raise/lower it while still keeping the guns out. Also, the spar torpedo is now a one use weapon with no reload. The scripts actually delete them selves when it is used, meaning you need to rerez the ship to use it again. This was done for balancing purposes (Note the CSS David and H.L Hunley spar torpedoes can still reload and be reused)

- MSS Fishkill's double gatlings were replaced with double medium cannons. This was done due to the new minimum damage rules that came with ICS 3.1 that would have made it unable to defend itself from medium to large ships

- INS Redemption's single gatling gun was replaced with a single medium cannon for the same reasons as above

- USS Essex's small cannons were upgraded to mediums and it's mediums were upgraded to heavies as a result of the minimum damage rule specified above

-USS Queen of the West's small cannons were upgraded to mediums as a result of the minimum damage rule specified above

-MSS Menkar can now ram using both Stern and Bow

Submarine changes

- MSS Holland had it's machine guns removed for two additional torpedo launchers, giving it four total now. Also ammo count was increased to 26 torpedoes. This was done due to the new minimum damage rule specified above

- MSS Fiskdale was finally released. A demolition type submarine equipped with two torpedo launchers and 8 explosive charges that can be detached from the hull to act as depth charges or floating mines. Explosive charges should work in all types of sim water levels now

- All subs have new torpedo and depth charge explosion effects

Steelhead ships

-Due to the fact that all the Steelhead ships we made rely heavily on gatling guns in one way or another, we will need to rework them so that they fit properly with the other ships in ICS 3.1. They will still work with ICS 3.1 ships at the moment, but the gatling guns will not work on ships above 250HP. After we finish our current submarine commission we will go back to the drawing board and give these ships a nice facelift.

And that about does it for the big changes. I apologize if I missed something, you can imagine how hard it can be to manage the 40+ items in our catalogue. If you notice any bugs in the new update please send Justinian Huszar or MrBunwah Murakami a notecard or IM.

SCSE Orca and MSS Kaitos submarines

We have just released a special type of exploration sub that does not need a HUD to control. It started off with a commission from the Steeltopian Empire for an exploration submarine for their Steeltopian Consortium of Scientific Endeavors or SCSE. When we took on this project we wanted to create an improved version of the Auriga with a very spacious interior, unlike most 32 prim subs that have you crammed in a small compartment. We also wanted to try a hudless control method with the ship, and seeing as the ship has no weapons controls this would be very doable. So, remembering that we could use llDetectedTouchUV we created a simple control panel for the new sub...

This sub has an engine on and an engine off button, as well as two buttons to control the hatches for letting people in and out of the sub. Also knot speed is displayed as hovertext, so you get all the information you need to control the sub while in mouselook. Using this technology, we may be able to make some of our ships hudless, most notably the submarines. In fact... with a combination of hovertext and audio clues, pilots would be able to receive all the information they need in terms of speed, depth, turning, fuel & ammo amount, hull damage etc etc etc. The only issue is that certain types of weapons systems such as turreted cannons will be very hard to operate as the pilot must essentially be in mouselook the whole time, but I have a feeling if the pilot house and control panel were designed correctly and were adapted to the ship properly then this control system could work quite well.

The advantages of such a system are pretty obvious. Without the need for the ship and HUD to talk to each other you reduce the amount of communication overhead, meaning the ship will be much more responsive (the new sub has already proved this). Another advantage is that you do not have a HUD cluttering up your screen space, which can be annoying to some people. And then of course there is an added sense of realism of actually sitting in front of a control panel as opposed to a floating one in the corner of your screen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Coal Torpedoes: Fun with Sabotage

This post will be one of several that introduce non-conventional weapons used during the Civil War that many of you may not have known about (and there was a lot of them!). This one will deal with Coal Torpedoes, which were an old-fashioned IED used by the Confederates.

From Wikipedia...

"The coal torpedo was a hollow iron casting filled with explosives and covered in coal dust, deployed by the Confederate Secret Service during the American Civil War, and intended for doing harm to Union steam transportation. When shoveled into the firebox amongst the coal, the resulting explosion would at the very least damage the boiler and render the engines inoperable, and at most cause a catastrophic boiler explosion that would kill crewmen and be likely to start a fire that would sink the vessel."

"The torpedoes were manufactured at the 7th Avenue Artillery shop (across the street from Tredegar Iron Works) in Richmond, Virginia, in January 1864. The manufacturing process was similar to that used for artillery shells, except that actual pieces of coal were used as patterns for iron castings. The walls of the coal shell were about 3/8 inch thick, creating a hollow space inside sufficient to hold 3–4 ounces of gunpowder. After filling, the shell was closed with a threaded plug, then dipped in melted beeswax and rolled in coal dust, creating the appearance of a lump of coal. Finished coal torpedoes were about 4 inches (10 cm) on a side and weighed 3–4 lb (1.5–2 kg). "

"The size and powder charge of the coal torpedo was similar to a 6 pound Shrapnel shell (a hollow, four-inch cannonball containing gunpowder and 24 musket balls as shrapnel) or the equivalent of three Civil War-era hand grenades. Even so, the explosion of a coal torpedo under a ship's boiler would not by itself be sufficient to sink the vessel. The purpose of the coal torpedo was to burst the pressurized steam boiler, which had the potential to cause a tremendous secondary explosion. Boiler explosions were not uncommon in the early years of steam transportation, and often resulted in the complete destruction of the vessel by fire. In action, the coal torpedo would leave little evidence that a boiler explosion was due to sabotage."

Due to the nature of such a weapon, it's hard to tell just how effective these really were. During the beginning of steam powered transportation, boiler explosions were common as the technology was just in it's infancy. Also, when a boiler exploded it usually resulted in a fire that completely destroyed the ship so evidence was hard to come by.