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Re: [OFFICIAL] Some FT background stuff (guidelines for writers) - LONG POST!

From: agoodall@s... (Allan Goodall)
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 1998 04:44:18 GMT
Subject: Re: [OFFICIAL] Some FT background stuff (guidelines for writers) - LONG POST!

<<Sorry, Jon, you're going to get this twice.>>

Just a couple of comments and a couple of questions.

On Sun, 8 Feb 1998 17:25:32 +0000, (Ground Zero
Games) wrote:

>Space is REALLY, REALLY BIG. And really empty. In fact, it is even
>(and emptier) than Canada...

But not by much...

>Standard timekeeping on warships follows Earth-standard 24 hour days,
>divided into six 4 - hour watches; First Watch is 0000-0400, Second
>0400-0800, then 0800-1200, 1200-1600, 1600-2000 and 2000-0000. Sixth
>is designated the "Evening" watch, and First and Second the "Night"
>watches. The day-night pattern is enhanced by lowered illumination in
>non-essential areas during the night watches, unless under combat

This isn't bad, though I'd personally a prefer a 25 hour clock with 5
watches of 5 hours. The reasoning is that the human biological clock
is 25 hours; most humans work better on a 25 hour clock. On a
starship, a clock is completely artificial. Unless the ship always
docks at Earth, chances are they will be docking at a planet that
doesn't have a 24 hour day. I could see a future where starships
change to a 25 hour day for efficiency sake. Just a thought.

>Much the same applies to the small "fighter" craft, which usually have
>crew of between one and three depending on type; experiments with
>unmanned "drone" fighters have proven that, although cost-effective in
>situations, they are no match for the instincts of a human pilot. 

Well, I still completely disagree with this. I can agree with humans
on starships, but there's no reason for humans on fighters. Yes,
humans have "instincts" but computers have much better reaction times
and can handle greater G loads. Without a need for a cockpit and a
life support system, the autonomous fighter should be smaller, and
more nimble, with a longer crusing distance. The USAF believes that it
will have a completely autonomous fighter by 2020, and that's an
atmospheric fighter (it should be harder to design an autonomous
atmospheric fighter as there are more variables). With that in mind,
an autonomous vacuum fighter about 200 years later should be a given.

That having been said, I have a way around this. Gravitic compensators
would have to be used on fighters; that's pretty much a given or your
pilot (or computer system) will be a smear against a fighter's hull.
So, even an autonomous fighter would need a gravitic compensator to
work properly. Here's the thing: gravitic compensators give off
interference that adversely affects computers. The computer cores on
larger ships are better shielded (let's call it "neutrino shielding"
or some such) and run with lower powered/no compensators in the core
area. The extra weight to shield a fighter actually pushes it back so
that human fighters have the advantage. Of course, scientists are
working on this problem and expect a workable autonomous fighter in X

There is another option. Training is considered another cost where
autonomous fighters excel. Creating an AI routine for a drone fighter
is expensive, but you only have to do it once (with the obligatory
patches, of course). Humans require a great deal of time and effort to
train and re-train. The background doesn't mention anything about
cyber ware or other man/machine interfaces. I've been a proponent of
"slots" or "chips" where by the human wetware can be augmented by
"cyberware". Pop in a slot and today you're a gunnery officer where
yesterday you were a navigator. This allows for a cheap supply of
untrained (uneducated?) pilots who--once they jack in--become a new
Chuck Yeager.

Of course, how is this cyberware affected by those gravitic

This isn't much use for the game, but it gives all sorts of story

>the high attrition rate of fighter crews in combat, there is never any
>shortage of willing recruits attracted by the "glamour" of being a

Except that it still takes a good couple of years to create a fighter
jock, unless computers are augmenting their training.

>Alert States on NAC vessels (to take a typical example- most navies use
>something very similar) are:

We need one more alert state. I recommend ORANGE, the alert state for
Jumps. All crew are at their combat stations in open suits and locked
into crash frames. Closed suits aren't much use, as the implications
of vomiting in a closed suit while the rest of the crew is
incapacitated are a greater risk than a hull breach just after jump.
In other words, you're not likely to survive anything that requires a
vac suit while the crew is still only partly conscious but the
military being the military they figure it wise if everyone suits
up--without gauntlets or helmets--anyway. All systems are off line as
the main computer is off line. Defensive systems are one of the first
systems brought up when the computer boots. Time from GREEN state to
ORANGE is about 15 minutes. Time from YELLOW ONE state to ORANGE is 7
minutes. Time from YELLOW TWO state to ORANGE is 3 minutes. Time from
RED state to ORANGE is instantaneous, as the crew is probably going to
risk jumping in a closed suit. Each of these times are modified by the
time it takes the Jump engines to get online and the navigation system
to plot a jump solution.

How long does it take the jump engines to "come on line"? You mention
a minimum turn around of 6 hours, but that's assuming that the engines
just fired. They need to be inspected and maintained. I'd assume a
minimum of around 6 hours from a "cold start." Can jump engines be
kept warm so that the ships can warp out at a moment's notice?

Will the turn around time have an affect on the game? We have ships
jumping into battle all the time. This would imply a turn of about 30
to 60 minutes as a ship that jumps onto the board is ready to go at
almost any time. And the rules don't prohibit jumping on the turn
immediately after jumping into a system, which seems to imply a game
turn of 6 hours. Should there be a prohibition of jumping off the
board so many turns after jumping onto the board? (See what happens
when you actually try to put a rationale behind the game. :-)	)

>When moving a fleet of ships together, the potential errors in the long
>mid-course jumps mean that it is highly unlikely that all the fleet
>remain together throughout the journey - in fact at most of the
>between-jump periods each ship will be completely isolated from the
rest by
>huge distances. 

I'll go one further. Potential errors, even when ships are jumping
fairly accurately from long distances, can put ships on top of each
other (or even inside each other) when they come out of jump. Minimum
ship distance would increase as the length of the jump increases, and
decrease as the jumps shorten. A fleet jumping to a distant system
would disperse further and further, until it hit the mid point when it
would start to coallesce closer and closer with each jump.

Question: how do interstellar communications work? Is there some form
of "subspace" radio, or are packet boats (ala Traveller) the way to
communicate over long distances? 

Lots more stuff in this note than I intended. There's a reason for it,
but I won't say what it is until I see if it will pan out...

Allan Goodall

"Once again, the half time score, 
 Alien Overlords: 142,000. Scotland: zip."
  - This Hour Has 22 Minutes

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