A very important message to all users of SPD compatible ships:
When I announced that I was developing a new ship combat system, it stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy. I am sending out this message to hopefully clear up some of the confusion and fears, to explain my reasoning behind the new system, and to explain what my plans are for the future of SPD ships. If you are seriously concerned about the SPD ship combat system and its future, please read the following in full (I know it's a lot, but there's a lot of controversy to cover). Until you have read it, it would not be fair for you to complain to me or others about the new system. Please read it before criticizing the new system, so that you can make a fully informed judgment. Please IM me if you have any concerns about the new system that are not addressed... I've tried to address every single complaint or concern I've heard so far.
1. Why a new system?
I decided to create a new ship combat system to bring our ship battles to the next level. In the system we currently use, which I will refer to as SPD II, there are a lot of built-in limitations. For instance, you can't hit sails, and even if you were to make the sails part of the physical ship, even if you hit them, the boat wouldn't recognize whether it was sail damage or hull damage. The way the ships 'sense' damage is too rudimentary. Any change to that would require a change to the scripts in all the ships... which is pretty much the definition of a 'new system'.
But I added a lot more than that, and you can see the 40 new features at the bottom of this note. I want to reiterate, that for a lot of the combat features, they don't work unless both ships involved are scripted that way... you can't damage a ship's sails if its sails aren't scripted to take damage. You can't grapple a ship if it's not scripted to be grappled... etc. That is why a new system... a new way of communicating damage and communicating between ships, was necessary.
The current system, SPD II, has been in use so long now that people have gotten used to a lot of its weaknesses, like the ease of cheating, and the lack of depth. But in the beta testing for the new system... it's basically a whole new game; I've literally been having so much fun with the prototype ship that it's been badly distracting me from completing the development of it.
2.(a) Will it work with TSS ships and SPD II ships?
YES. YES. Yes. Yes Yes Yes. You can switch it into 'compatibility mode', and in terms of damage, it will operate the same as the older ships. In terms of sailing, it will have no advantages over a TSS ship (more detail on that in section #20 below), and will have the same Armor, structure, and reload time as that particular ship type had back in SPD II.
Although it is completely backward compatible, obviously most of the new combat features, like grappling, capturing, and towing, don't work against the older ships for the reasons mentioned in part 1. One of the new things that does work in compatibility mode is the new camera controls, which make 80% accuracy at 100 meters a fairly simple task.
2.(b) Won't having 2 the option to switch combat modes mean the new ships can cheat against the older ones?
*There has been some concern expressed about the use of combat mode-switching to prevent damage from older ships. My reply to this is that:
1. How is this any different than a ship that can't be damaged because it doesn't have any combat system at all (e.g., Trudeaus, Takos, etc.)?
2. There is a 20 second timer for mode switching, so it cannot be done instantly, and they can't control the ship during those 20 seconds either.
3. If you can't damage them because of a different combat mode, then they can't damage you either.
4. It is obvious when someone changes modes (it shouts which mode they are switching to).
5. It is obvious which mode they are currently in (their floating Armor text display will look different)
6. Given that it is easy to see if someone illegally switches modes, it is easy to warn them or ban them if necessary.
7. TSS ships already have a locking mode that can be instantly entered when moored, where you cannot receive any damage.
8. How is switching modes to prevent a fight any different than someone getting up and deleting their ship to prevent the fight?
9. All of that aside, it's still less powerful than the common ways of cheating with the old system (such as putting the repair Depot script in your hat).
3. What is this new system you speak of?
You can see the features listed below, but here's a narrative to illustrate what the difference is. One way to sum it up is: more decisions, more fairness, more melee, more camaraderie, ship capturing!, less camera frustration, less frustration in general.
You're a pirate captain, minding your own business, on a 50 degree tack with the wind on your starboard, when you notice a Royal Navy ship coming up behind you, range: 250 meters. Water splashes up in two spouts just a few meters off your stern... yep, he's after YOU. Fight or flight? Seeing as how he's in a large Frigate with 24 guns and you're in a Xebec with 12... maybe you should run. It would be easy enough, all you have to do is tack 38 degrees into the wind and he can't even pursue you at all at that angle.
This is where the new system comes in and changes everything. You pull out your looking glass, point it in your pursuer's direction, and grin. It's just the captain and 2 marines... awfully small crew for such a big ship; you have 3 swashbucklers on your crowded little raider; the marines are already outnumbered. You've met a marine or two in your life whom you'd count as two or three in a melee... but neither of these green recruits are them. Also... he does make an awfully big target... especially his sails. That's one thing you like about your lateen rigging; it's not nearly as high, so it makes a much smaller target. Not to mention.... that Frigate of his would make an awfully nice ship upgrade for you once you captured it... maybe you won't run after all...
So, the question is, can you keep your cannons trained on him and keep your distance at the same time? If he manages to get close in before you've mangled his rigging, you'd probably find yourself at the bottom of the sea in just two or three broadsides. You order the crew to load Bar Shot, perfect for ripping apart sails, masts, and yardarms. You turn hard starboard, tacking through the wind, putting him in your starboard firing arc, and getting out of the firing arc of his bow chasers (unless he wants to turn directly upwind at you and trap himself in irons). To your surprise and pleasure, you watch as he edges to starboard, putting himself in irons for the sake of keeping his bow chaser's on you. A cannonball whistles by, too high, then another one rips through the center of the lateen just a few meters above your head. You order your gunners to fire with precision, elevating the cannons in smaller increments than usual, and you tell them to fire at will as you furl the sails.
They carefully aim and fire, one by one, the splashes gradually walking up on the Frigate's position. Finally, they're on target, although at 250 yards, and aiming at the smaller, head-on target profile, it's really only pot-shots. Still, with 5 cannons against the Frigate's 2 bow chasers, and the fact that he's obviously going for your small hull (whatever it was that went through your sail, it certainly wasn't an anti-rigging shot type) while you're aiming at his large sails, the odds of lucky shots are in your favor. After a nerve wracking 2 minutes, the laws of probability have indeed emerged victorious. You've taken only a smattering of minor hits to the sails, and enough hull hits that you wouldn't trust the armor on the right side of the ship anymore; but you've more or less removed his jibs and the square sails on his front mast probably aren't doing him much good anymore either.
Apparently he's starting to realize the folly of his position, since he's backing his sails and beginning to turn starboard, out of irons, to approach you on a port tack. You send a few more shots his way, then turn starboard and jive around in your more maneuverable ship. You exchange more shots as you pass his firing arc at 100 meter range, then as he starts to tack back toward you, you go in for the kill. You turn into his back quarter, where you can hit him but he can't hit you, and proceed to obliterate his sails as you spiral around behind him, closing the range and lining up to come up on his starboard side. He's stuck in the middle of his tacking maneuver, sails near useless.
You order the crew to load Grapeshot and swoop in for the kill. As you come up alongside, his 12 starboard cannons fire into your port armor -- your good side. Still, it's enough to go clean through the armor and you know if you take even half of another broadside you'll start springing leaks. You fire away with grapeshot, wounding one of the marines, then immediately attempt to foul his lines and grapple. The ships pull apart; your first attempt has failed, and now that he realizes what you are trying to do, he has loaded grapeshot too. The next volley nearly kills one of your crewmen... now it will be close to a fair fight. You and your crew successfully grapple the Frigate, binding it to your Xebec with grappling hooks and lines. Then you climb aboard the large warship.
A bloody swordfight ensues. One of the marines and panics, wasting time trying to cut the grappling lines even though the ship with its wasted rigging wouldn't be able to get away anyway. You cut him down yourself. Your wounded crew member is quickly dispatched, and you go after the remaining marine while your two remaining swashbucklers battle the Navy Captain. As you gleefully hack the marine to bits, the enemy captain manages to mortally wound one of your crew as he retreats to the hatch leading to the captain's quarters.
You chase after the bleeding captain, and with your with your fist mate, you finish him off in his own opulent quarters. It's been a gruesome fight, but you've emerged victorious, and gained control of a formidable vessel. You cede control of the captured Frigate to your first mate, who immediately begins repairs on the Frigate. It'll never be the glorious ship it once was, but it will be close. Meanwhile, you return to your Xebec and toss over a tow line, to tow your prize back to your hideout.
4. Why didn't you make SPD II like the new system to begin with?
I was learning scripting as I went along. When I started making combat ships in SL 4 years ago, I had only a little bit of programming background. I've been learning ever since then. The other reason is that before now, I never had enough time that I thought I would be able to finish a new system in a timely manner. Now that I'm done with college and the job market isn't looking so hot... I have a lot of time. Yeah, it's kinda depressing.
5. Will we all have to buy new ships?
Maybe I should have put this one first, because I know it's the first question on a lot of your minds. First of all, let me say that I am not trying to get any sim community to use only the new system. I suspect it will be a lot like it was back during last summer; those of you who were around then probably remember the controversy when I switched the ships to more realistic (and therefore more frustrating and slower) turning. For several months there were battles held with different rules; some using only the old-easy turning models, some using the newer more realistic models. There was a great deal of complaining that the new update made the ships too hard to sail, but I doubt if there's a person here today who would want to go back to the old sailing physics model, and I'm really proud of everyone for learning how to become better sailors, and for teaching the new people. Anyway, point is, there were different sets of battles for different kinds of ships, and that was OK. Even today, we have different battle rules within the same sims, for instance, battles in which Frigates or Gunboats aren't allowed, and battles which are all Frigates, battles with collisions on or off, no ramming or ramming allowed, mines allowed or mines illegal... etc.
These days, we tend to have a little more everyday ship traffic to attack, and a lot of people worry that having two systems could be a problem... that the person with an SPD III ship could just not change to compatibility mode and be invulnerable. I want to reiterate that while that is possible, it also means that SPD III ship can't hurt your SPD II ship either... and furthermore, what is the difference in that and coming across a ship with NO combat system, like a Trudeau or a Tako? Or, in Antiquity, coming across a ship with the "don't engage me I don't want to fight" flag up? Or, watching as someone sees you, stands up, and deletes their ship because they don't want you do have the pleasure of sinking their ship? Or a TSS ship that moors and goes in to 'locked mode'? The point is, this is SL. If someone doesn't WANT to fight you, they aren't going to fight you... end of story there, until one of the sims makes a rule that everything moving on the water has to be combat enabled and can't be deleted when someone attacks them.
So, do you have to buy new ships? Well, you certainly don't have to. Current SPD owners can look to the next paragraph for guidance concerning the free ships I will be giving out. Note that I did not call it an 'update', because it's not, it is indeed a new ship, with about twice the volume of scripting in it, an extra 150 prims worth of optional interior, and literally every script in the ship has been changed. All 140+ of them. As much scripting expertise has gone into the new system features alone as went into the entire original SPD II system.
To be more clear... if you already own an SPD ship larger than the Longboat (that's anything except the Longboat and Gunboat), you will receive, for free, the first new SPD III ship, which will probably be a Xebec class ship similar to the Corsair. For those who solely own TSS ships (which I've always been told were few... though I suspect that was just to calm me down and get me to not worry about the competition... but I'll still hold those informants to that, so this should be no big deal, right?) I do not have any plans, although perhaps TSS will be gracious enough to give you updates after I release the dev kit for the new system.
To sum up, no current SPD owner of a ship larger than the Longboat will need to buy a new ship in order to sail with the new combat mode. Also, as usual, absolutely NO ONE will need to pay a single cent to participate in the SPD III battles: SPD III places more emphasis on boarding than SPD II, so crew members are more valuable than ever and crewing is more fun than ever.
6. Can I successfully fight without crew in SPD III?
Yes. Definitely. SPD III is all about increasing options, not removing them. There are several completely different winning strategies or styles you can choose, and not having crew simply removes one of them (grappling to board and capture). You can still pursue the strategies of:
1. Gunning directly for the enemy's hull, for a quick kill, or
2. Gunning for sails from long range to slow them down, then moving in to close range at their quarters where they can't shoot you, for the kill.
3. I'm sure you'll come up with more dynamic ways. An expert SPD melee fighter can easily take down 2 or 3 novices, in part because when multiple people try to attack you simultaneously, half the time they are hitting each other instead of you.
If you know what you're doing and are paying attention, and are in a relatively maneuverable ship, it will be very difficult for someone to grapple you if you don't want them to. All you have to do is keep your speed up or keep 20 meters distance from the enemy ship. Only a mistake on your part, or them taking down your sails (in which case they would have probably beaten you in the first place) will allow them to grapple you.
Solo gunning is easier than it has ever been with the new SPD III camera controls; you can look out to port or starboard, 90 degrees, and your camera will stay there, relative to your ship, even if you turn. Also, the new gun HUD works about twice as fast as the old ones. The camera controls alone give you a significant advantage solo against all the ships currently on the market.
7. Do the new camera controls or cannon controls give you an unfair advantage over other ships?
Well... they certainly do give an advantage. However, it would be extremely difficult for even the most hardcore TSS fan to call it an unfair advantage, after all that I have heard said about the TSS cannon controls and camera improvements, in all three of the major pirate communities. The improved camera and cannon controls (along with super-easy sailing) are generally touted as the primary combat advantages for the TSS ships which account for their ubiquity. Early on when TSS ships first started becoming popular, I complained extensively that the new camera controls were, in essence, too good; they made solo fighting too easy, which was against what I wanted SPD combat to stand for: I wanted crew to be useful. I wanted a ship with 3 crew to have a definite advantage over a ship with no extra crew. That's why I intentionally scripted all 8 of the original Brigantine's cannons to each use its own individual set of aiming buttons. This was not because I -couldn't- link them all with one set of aiming buttons; in fact, that would have been easier to do, scripting-wise; but it was an intentional game design choice, to intentionally prevent a lone captain from being able to attain the full combat potential of the ship. I wanted crew to be valuable in part because I wanted people to be able to play the game for free (and not feel like useless impedances while they were doing it). I will admit that now with my own new camera controls, I often feel that way about newbie gunners, and sometimes wish they would stop touching the cannons and let me do it... and that... is precisely what I didn't want to happen. With the old Brigantine, even a newbie gunner would be welcome because I knew there was no way I was ever going to be able to aim all 8 of those cannons on my own, and if he wasn't there, some of the cannons just wouldn't get aimed at all. But oh well...
As you can see, that game concept failed utterly, and I have come to accept that. With SPD III, I have made crew valuable in other, less frustrating, and more flexible ways, and embraced the concept of a solo captain fully. That said, after all of my many complaints about ease of TSS cannon aiming have been completely and utterly ignored... usually with a sense of complete incredulity that I would even suggest it was a problem at all... I don't believe anyone could fairly say that my new controls are 'too good'. It was made evident when TSS was embraced that improvements to usability (sailing, cannon control, camera) were fair game, and did not count against a ship's power class (i.e., the Shebec would not be considered any more powerful at all than the old Corsair, even though it had better controls). Now... you, the communities, made that standard. It has been widely accepted for the better part of a year. If you back out of that now, it would represent an EXTREME and GROSS double standard. If usability is fair game... then it's fair game. I did not change the sailing characteristics significantly (they actually turn slightly slower now, especially at high speeds), nor the armor/structure amount, nor the hittable surface area, nor the cannon reload time, nor the number of cannons. These have been deemed to be the only things that 'matter' in terms of fairness, and I can live with that, and I know you can too because you've been living with it ever since the release of the TSS Brig.
Also, I would like to note, that the cannon controls actually aren't anything particularly new. I have merely allowed the user to switch between small increment aiming (like on my Frigate), or normal increment aiming (which is faster in practice, and is used on most of my other ships).
In fact, almost every time I have ever complained about the TSS controls making things too easy, the response from a TSS user has been "Well, if you want to sell more than her, just make yours even easier to use." That is exactly what I have done, and I did it WITHOUT compromising by making the sailing itself ridiculously easy <cough>, so I would expect to hear absolutely no complaining about the combat power of the ship in SPD II compatibility mode. Anything else would be grossly hypocritical after all that has been said and accepted in the past about the fairness of TSS.
8. Why won't you give away your new scripts and ideas to the makers of TSS?
This is what I actually hear when you ask me: "Why can't TSS be compatible too?" Normally, I would think that that would be enough said on that issue. But I have found lately that people often don't get that and need me to elaborate. So here is an elaboration:
Ultimately, compatibility will be up to TSS, which is a seperate brand which I have never endorsed or supported in any way. I will offer the dev kit on very reasonable terms, especially for ship copies that have already been sold.
For TSS to be compatible, I would have to, in some form or another, give the makers of TSS my scripts. Either that, or go rescript each TSS model myself, 100+ scripts, and give you those 100+ scripts to install on your TSS ship... I think it's safe to say that the percentage of customers who have both the patience and the know-how to install 100 separate scripts into different prims of a ship is somewhere around 15% or below. Hell, most people didn't even want to take the time to replace about 15 scripts in my older ships when I made the change to slow turning and cooler cannons. So I think we can forget about option B there... anyway... I would need to give my scripts... either for free or for sale, to the TSS makers for their ships to be compatible.
I will not give them the scripts for free because I have spent well over a month already working on these new scripts, full time (40+ hours a week). I will not give away my work to them for free, especially since it would mean more cannibalization from my own sales... a double whammy.
After I finish the 2nd SPD III ship however, I will be making a dev kit for commercial use. It will be heavily copy-protected, as I have learned to trust absolutely no one after a couple script leaks (no, those leaks are not related to TSS) and other information leaks in SL that have cost me huge sums. It will be priced either as a lump sum or on a per-ship-sold basis that will hopefully be almost but probably not quite as much as enough to compensate me for the sales it is cannibalizing from me. It's possible, if I feel I have a reason to trust them, that I may give the makers of TSS free scripts to re-script the Brig and Shebec, to use only for previously released copies. I would naturally expect licensing fees for any scripts used on ships sold -after- the SPD III release, however. You might be wondering how I could control that, and the answer is through some new server-based scripting.
If all that doesn't seem fair to you, ask yourself this next question:
9. Why hasn't anyone else made a system like this before?
Think about that. I certainly don't have a big enough ego to think I'm the only scripter capable of it; on the contrary, I know there are tons of better scripters in SL, many of whom are professional programmers in real life. So why didn't they ever make this, or something similarly advanced? I think the most obvious answer is because they didn't think it would ever be worth their time investment. Honestly, after I've seen the hostile reactions to any sort of 'change', I'm realizing that those other scripters were probably right, and it's probably not going to compensate me for the time I've spent on it already. But it most certainly wouldn't compensate me or anyone else if this tiny niche market were split in half... the better half taken by someone with a lower cost structure because they don't have to come up with most of the game balance or major concepts or features, they just have to reverse-engineer what's already out there and tweak it. When anything you can do can be easily copied... and you know you can expect it to be copied because whoever copies it can make a lot of money... and you also know that the market isn't going to grow from them enough to make it all even out for you... then economically there is no reason to make the thing at all. That is why I never bothered improving much on the old system after TSS became popular; because anything I did, TSS could have copied within a month and not only gotten rid of the advantage, but beat it with other things that I refused to EVER do (like how their sailing displays show the exact angle offset you need for perfect sheet).
Here's an illustration of how bad the sales cannibalization factor hurts: Let's say in the current market there are 1000 $L in sales per month, total, and no competitors. Then I make 1000 $L per month. Then, let's say a competitor enters the market, takes half the market, but increases the size of the overall market by a whole 40%. Market total is now 1400 $L, I am now making 700 $L, and they are now making 700 $L (although their costs were lower because they didn't have to participate in spreading the system originally or coming up with and testing the -core- game concepts and features). In order for this to economically make sense for me, they have to not only double the size of the market demand, but also that extra market demand has to be evenly distributed between brands, both of which are extremely unlikely (I would roughly estimate that the overall monthly market for ships has not grown by any more than 30-40% in the last year... and IF it has grown by 40%, then based on my own sales drop, TSS must have over 70% of the market right now... otherwise, it's grown less than that in a year.)
No one who has the skills wants to do this much work for little or no return. They've had a year to try. All we've seen so far is baby steps. And like I said, without a new system, you can never have most of these new combat features... no scripter can make things like separate sail damage, different shot damage, and grappling work without changing the core scripts in every participating ship.
A lot of people are acting really baffled that I wouldn't make the system open source or give the encryption codes to other shipmakers... there seems to be some strange sense of a complete disregard for intellectual property (IP) rights around here. It is perfectly normal practice to have software copyrights and not allow others to sell, modify, or make an emulating and interacting program. Though there are exceptions, the VAST majority of computer and video games do not allow, let alone encourage, commercial modification or the creation of things that will interact directly with the game mechanics and affect their current players. You're probably thinking of the Source engine right now; however, for commercial use, game developers must pay Valve licensing fees. This is very similar to what I plan do to with the SPD III dev. kit.
10. What about ship diversity?
When TSS first started rolling out ships, I was worried about the competition and possible game balance issues. One of the big things people told me was not to worry about it, that it would make SL combat even better by adding to the diversity of ship types in the battles. I've always been big on ship diversity; that's why I made so many even after my new models started cannibalizing sales from the old ones and not really making me much extra $L. So I thought that seemed like a valid enough reason to not worry. More than half a year later, I can see how wrong that was. Now, at battles, I'm often seeing 70% or even 100% (out of 6-8 ships sometimes) of ships consisting of either Brigs or Shebecs, when there are 9 other ship types out there. No, that's not always, but in general, I have seen less diversity on the seas, not more.
More importantly than that... in terms of ship -class- diversity, they're not even new ship types... we already had those kinds of ships... and that's part of what bothered me about TSS. Instead of making new classes (like an Indiaman, Large Galleon, smaller Ship of the Line, better schooner, cutter, turtle ship, mixed-rigging French Xebec, etc.), TSS just stuck with currently existing ones with, in theory, the same combat statistics and power... and based on that, there was never any diversity added in the first place, in terms of gameplay (other than undercutting me in easy-ness), only in terms of visuals. (No, I'm not counting the Schooner, as it accounts for only a negligible portion of TSS ships on the sea). Instead of 'creating their own market' with new ship types, expanding the market as a whole, they decided to go head-to-head with me, taking sales directly from some of my existing ship classes and making the whole thing a zero-sum game. I strongly doubt that any significant proportion of customers feel the need to purchase a Corsair after they've already purchased a Shebec, or to purchase a Brigantine (even if I were to bring it up to par) after purchasing a Brig. I know I wouldn't, personally. You may say, hey, that's just how competition works, it's cutthroat, get over it. But if you think that way, then you don't have much ground to stand on to complain about how cutthroat the way I'm competing now is.
Anyway, as for the future of ship diversity, I plan on releasing a commercial developer's kit so that others can build and sell compatible ships, and so that the leaders of the pirate sims and I can have control over the allowed ship classes and maintain some semblance of balance in the game. If all goes well, there will be an explosion of new ship types and models.
11. What about the advantages of competition?
One reason some people are worried about the new system is because they believe it will stifle competition in the market for combat ships. With the dev kit, there should be more competition than ever, but even ignoring that, I think most people are leaving something out when they think about the pros and cons of a perfectly competitive market in this situation.
Had I entered into a competitive war with TSS, with SPD II, one of three things would have ultimately been the result. Either:
1. We would have kept trying to one-up each other to the point where the ships would have had less than a foot above the water of hittable surface and all ships had cannons low to the water, and the sails would automatically adjust themselves to optimal without any input... etc.
2. Assuming people wouldn't put up with that, strict guidelines would have been put in place and we would have maxed out all our ships within the guidelines put in place, and our ships would have become essentially equal in every dimension of quality (combat effectiveness, usability, customization, aesthetics, etc.) and we would have thus split the market share 50-50.
3. One of us may have beaten the other out of the market completely, meaning no more competition anyway.
I'm going to assume #2 is the most likely scenario. The ships of all brands would have eventually reached their maximum potential within the limitations of the SPD core scripts and rules. Now, as things stood, half the market was not enough to make it financially worth the time it is taking to put this new system together (even at $5 an hour). But that's not where it ends, because you have other ship makers coming in too, splitting the market now 3, or 4 ways, although granted they'd only enter the market at that point if they didn't care about the profit at all. You can't make much progress like this, in an environment where anything can be copied or imitated and yet still gain from the network economies (large user-base) created by those who came before.
And the last year has proven that as long as your improvements can be copied, no one is going to invest the time to make any large improvements. In the last year, since the Frigate, what advances have we seen in SL combat ship technology as a result of competition?
1. Prettier ships
2. Camera settings set by a notecard
3. Easier cannon control placement
4. Color changing sailing text
5. Better particle effects
6. More fun crew animations
7. Locking feature
With the exception of the cannon controls, these are all minor tweaks, and represent 12 months of competitive progress. I've finished the 40 new features of SPD III in a month or two, doing huge new things that aren't even possible within the framework of SPD II, and some that are, but the only way I could have ever even begun to CONSIDER putting in that amount of time and work into it was if I would have some chance of being fairly compensated for that time. Obviously, under the way the market is currently working, no one thought it would be worth their time regardless.
11. What about your current ships on the market?
Like I said above, all current owners of an SPD ship larger than the Longboat will be eligible to receive the first SPD III ship for free. As for the ships currently on the market, I have some varying plans depending on ship model. This will sound complicated, but I think it's fair: For the first month or two after the release of SPD II, I will let you use half the cost of your second most expensive SPD II ship as credit toward buying a new ship (the most expensive one presumably being pledged against the free ship you will have already received). The exception to this will be the Frigate, because it was so much more expensive than anything else, and I'm a little embaassed about the bad lag and usability issues it has, so if you have a Frigate, you can use that full cost against a ship purchase.
This process is going to be an organizational nightmare, and I think I'm offering a lot more than most builders would. We're probably talking about at very least 180,000 $L in free ships, not including all the discounted ships.
If you happen to have bought ALL of my ships, that comes to about $48.50 USD in all, the normal cost of a new video game or computer game. Subtract the 1800 $L for the new free ship (more on that in the next section), and your 3500 $L credit from the Frigate, and you've 'lost' at very most $30 (that's if you consider all of your SPD II ships completely worthless now... on that note... IF you do consider them worthless after the upgrade, that having the current version is the only thing that gives them value, then what does that mean the -new- script must be worth if I were to let other builders use it with licensing fees?). As a gamer, that doesn't seem like a huge deal to me... I have plenty of $50 and $30 games in my closet that I know I will never touch again... some of which won't even run on my new computer, some of which were online games that died out, and some of which I squeezed maybe a month of fun out of at most. If it is a big deal to you, and you have the whole collection, talk to me about it and I'll see what I can do, especially for those who feel disgruntled because they just bought ships in the last month before the SPD III release.
Owners of both the TSS Shebec and Brig, if TSS does not update them, will lose $12.75 USD... the cost of a movie ticket in some cities these days. Let's just try to keep this in perspective please.
Because all the new ships will be backward compatible anyway, and because I don't want to directly reduce the incentive for using the new ships, and because I want to focus on finishing the 2nd ship for SPD III and then the dev kit (which will be a whole lot of work in and of itself) and the online killboard, I will probably be dropping support for the SPD II ships. At an average price of around $5 USD, how long can I be expected to keep making free updates? Except for the Discovery (which I've probably sold about 10 of... yeah), all of my ships are at least 11 months old now, and most of them are a year old or more.
12. What will your new prices be?
The new prices will probably be about 20% higher than they used to be for a comparable ship class. Compared to the extra time that has gone into scripting this and trying to get it accepted, and the raw awesomeness of all the new features, this is a tiny price increase. You are getting twice the ship for almost the same price. If you don't believe me, scroll down and look through all the new features. But even then, of course, you don't need to buy the ships to play (even ignoring the fact that the majority of the people who have bothered to read this far own SPD ships and will be getting a free one), you can be a member of a crew, aiming the cannons, helping with repairs, helping adjust the sails, helping towing the ship with the ship's boat, assisting in boarding actions as a musketeer or marine or swashbuckler, and taking full control of captured ships (once captured and assigned to you, you can use and pilot the ship as if you owned it).
13. You've been talking about money a lot. Is it all about the money to you?
This has been a fascinating journey. When I started out, I was only trying to make enough for a premium SL membership... mostly I just wanted to have the ships to play with. That was SPD I -- the ships all had 30 prims or less, and there was literally no reload time on the cannons :) But when I started using wearable parts, allowing me to expand the ship's potential, I saw that the system could be something more, and developed SPD II. That system then evolved over two or three years into what it is today, with an explosion of progress last summer, expanding the line from 2 ship types to 7, and another jump forward with the TSS ships later that year. After last summer, I largely dropped out from the scene because it was my last year of college and I was busier than ever before. I only dropped in occasionaly for customer support issues, and in retrospect, it probably looked like I didn't care about SPD anymore. That's far from the truth, but essentially I felt defeated and that attempts at improvement were futile because I didn't have enough free time to get into an 'arms-race' with TSS. My time was very scarce, so yes, I needed to look at efforts like updates in terms of expected return... and the expected return was ridiculously low... maybe 1 month of boosted sales, until any improvements got imitated and bested.
I wanted to make SPD III something that people could get really excited about, and have been really discouraged by the contention and in some rare cases sheer hatred that is facing me over this. I don't think anyone realizes this, but this wouldn't only make current TSS ships obsolete. It also makes MY current ships obsolete. Please consider that. I could have just left my ships as is, putting no extra work in at all, and chugged along selling them at my current levels for months without even logging into SL except to pay rent. Instead, what I am doing with SPD III is drastically lowering the capital value of my old ships... and there are 8 of them to TSS's 3... so for this to even pay off for me economically in the end, it will first have to surpass what would have sold otherwise, just for me to consider myself 'breaking even'. Point is, it hurts me like it hurts other shipbuilders. Because of the effect I just explained, I will have to sell several hundred ships just to break even (not including the value of my time) with what I would have likely made if I didn't touch anything. That could be fairly hard, considering that I'm pretty sure there aren't even that many active players in the pirate sims right now, and considering most of those players will be getting free ships anyway. I am already losing money on this.
So no, it isn't just about the money. It's as much about the concept of it as anything now, and I want to see this new system in action. But I would rather scuttle the whole thing than continue listening to people fret about how I'm some evil monopolist because I won't give away scripting for free, or because I want to take SL combat to the next level rather than let it languish in the same state indefinitely (To get more functionality, you have to change the system. If you don't change it now, then when? You'll only get even more invested in the current system and it will be that much harder to switch... so honestly, it's pretty much either now or never, unless you think someone is going to do this completely for free in the future).
To be perfectly honest, as of right now, I feel really stupid, and I feel like I've probably wasted a whoooole lot of time. The communities' general reaction to the idea of the new system has made me lose a lot of respect and confidence in the communities. The sense of outrage I keep hearing from people that I would want to make minimum wage doing something that no one else has even attempted (okay, Zik Cortes attempted it once, but gave up about 25% of the way through), in a manner that attempts to let everybody participate regardless of money...it makes me physically sick to my stomach. I had originally been planning on giving TSS owners free ships along with SPD owners, but after listening to the pettiness and hate from that sector, I decided against that on principle.
If you're still against the new system, I want you to think hard about why, in total honesty, and whether it is fair to me for you to try to spread that outrage based on your reasons. Is it because you're really good with SPD II and you don't want to have to learn new things to get good with SPD III? Is it because you spent $6 on a TSS ship that may or may not eventually be compatible? Is it because you're mad that I won't allow you to exploit the work I've done? If you don't like the new system, if you don't want to use the new system... fine... that doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me is this spreading of hatred, dissention, pettiness, entitlement, and hypocrisy all over the place.
I'm going to be losing revenue here. But this system is going to kick ass. Whether or not anyone decides to actually use it.
14. What about the next time someone comes along with a new, better system and we all have to buy new ships again?
It won't happen, not if this one is adopted anyway, unless Linden Labs adds some major new scripting functions. The only reason I bothered to put in the time to make SPD III was because it was a quantum leap over what we had been using, not just some small incremental improvements. From where SPD III stands, there is no room on top of that within the framework of SL for another quantum leap like that, at least not for ships that are sort of to scale and which you can stand on (it would be possible to make a more advanced system using ship miniatures that are remotely controlled... but that's a completely different thing, it would be a self-contained game, not a way of life in SL, and I doubt something like that would replace what we have).
When I set out to make this, my goal was to make the system that everyone had been asking me for over the last 4 years. My goal was to literally include EVERYTHING: every feature anyone had ever asked for which was 1. Possible and reasonable within the framework of SL, 2. Still required you to learn how to sail, 3. Semi-realistic, 4. Lag efficient, and 5. Didn't break the game balance. Looking over the features of SPD III, and playing it in beta testing, I feel that I have accomplished that goal. If you think I missed anything, please IM me with your suggestion soon so I'll have time to add it.
My point in this section is that although a better system is hypothetically possible, the gap will never be nearly as big as between SPD II and SPD III unless/until Linden Labs adds more scripting functionality to LSL. The smaller that gap between the current system and the next best hypothetical system is, the less likely that anyone will take the time to make it, and the less likely that the pirate communities will accept it (because of a smaller incremental advantage over what they are already using vs. the cost). As my experience with this process right now is proving, it's hard enough to get it accepted even with this quantum leap in every dimension of functionality.
15. What about cheating?
Because of the way the new cannon damage is encoded, it is extremely difficult to cheat the damage system or the repairing system. Although the ships will still be moddable, it will be, as far as I can see, impossible to add new cannons (I'd like to say it couldn't be done, but I've generally been proven wrong when I've said that in the past about these matters). I could explain why, but I'd rather let the cheaters waste a few weeks trying to find out for themselves. Things like cannon-ball gatling guns will also be impossible, and dropping invisible cannonballs on someone's deck won't do anything. The old 'repair depot script in your hat' trick won't work either because the way repairs are done is completely different.
The new ships will have better anti-grabbing controls, however grabbing and editing are two separate things (left click vs. right click), and currently there is no way to prevent the stopping of your ship by another avatar 'editing' it, if they're doing it on purpose. This is a limitation of SL, and the only way around it would be to make the ships movement non-physical/non-vehicle... which opens up a whole new can of worms, and has never been successfully done with a realistic sailing ship. I briefly considered putting a sort of 'touch shield' around the ship, consisting of invisible prims covering your hull, but this still could not prevent people from moving their camera inside the ship and 'edit' clicking it from there.
16. How are SPD Melee and SPD-J Melee related?
SPD Melee is a free sword and gun combat system I scripted mostly in early 2006, reverse-engineered from the original Safezone combat systems and the tournament systems used in the Gor sims. It is very rudimentary, outdated, and easy to cheat. Since 2007, I have openly advised against using it in official battles or as an official sim combat meter. People decided to stick with it anyway, and now there are so many weapons scripted for it, that the majority of the communities would rather continue to stay with it than move to a more advanced system.
SPD-J was created by Rya Eastkew, and is completely compatible with SPD Melee. She based it off of SPD Melee, but added anti-cheating measures and combined the Health Sensor and Weapon Sensor into one object. She also added additional features, including the ability for sim owners to set the configurations for all SPD-J sensors in their sim. She worked with me to integrate SPD-J with the SPD III ships, so currently, using SPD-J is the only way to get the full functionality of some of the capturing features (without it, your ship will always think you are 'dead' and will be able to be captured). SPD-J is free and does not require scripted swords.
17. Why aren't you using Migizi's super fast cannon HUD scripting?
I've heard that Migizi, as well as perhaps a few other people independently, scripted a cannon HUD that reacts much more quickly than our current HUDs do. First of all, I am not using this type of scripting, but I am using a method which is much more efficient than the previous ones, and has about half the lag-time. The reason I am not using Migizi's HUD style is because it uses listen scripts in every single cannon. That would be 12 extra listening on the Corsair. Listens are generally considered to be one of the most laggy types of script events, and it is considered good scripting practice to keep them at a minimum. I understand that that particular HUD type may operate faster for its user, but I fear that it may cause additional server-side lag for everyone else. Furthermore, I fear that even if it didn't cause more server side lag, my opponents would still use it as an excuse to blame any lag on my new ships.
18. Will the new ships cause more lag because they have more scripting?
No. Some of the old scripting was very inefficient, and fixing that has more than made up for the increased length of the scripts in terms of lag. The scripts are actually doing less per second than they used to be, so if anything, the lag load should be slightly lighter. The lag load from the sailing and cannon HUDs is certainly lower.
19. How is SPD III 'less frustrating'?
The most obvious way is the lag reduction and improved camera controls. I think spending less time fighting your camera is definitely a good thing. You will also have to worry far less about cheating than in the past.
I've tried to make the sailing more realistic AND less frustrating at the same time. It's certainly much smoother now. I've gotten rid of kedging and used backing instead to get out of irons, which is what real ships actually do; this simulates forcing the mainsails out while facing into the wind, in order to gain some backward speed to turn with. The ship can also turn very slowly without any speed now, so you'll never be truly 'stuck'; there's still an incentive to learn to sail well though because this no-speed turning speed is very slow; it would take 2 or 3 times as long as it used to to get of irons if you only used that turning (and not backing). Using backing, it will take you about the same amount of time to get out of irons as in SPD II (SPD ships, not TSS ships) with kedging, except it will be much smoother and more consistent.
20. Is this 'backing' and minimum turning speed an unfair advantage?
Here is a comparison on ship turning speeds using kedging vs. backing vs. SPD III's minimum turning (turning at a dead stop)
Time to go from -40 degree wind angle, through 0, to 40 degree wind angle, from a dead stop:
1. TSS Brig, using kedging: 40 seconds
2. SPD Brigantine II (original version), using kedging: 3:30 minutes, using backing: 1:20 minutes
3. SPD Galleon II, using kedging: 2:00 minutes
4. SPD Gunboat, using kedging: 4:00 minutes, using rowing: 20 seconds (only two ships have rowing, and both have 2 or less cannons and very little HP)
5. SPD Discovery, using kedging: 3:00 minutes, using backing: 1:25 minutes
6. SPD III Corsair: using backing: 55 seconds, using zero-speed minimum turning: 1:40 minutes
So, an 80 degree turn from a dead stop with no velocity takes:
---TSS Brig: 40 seconds kedging (works anywhere)
---SPD III Corsair: 55 seconds backing (only works in irons)
*NOT in Irons, dead stop
---TSS Brig: 40 seconds kedging (works anywhere)
---SPD III Corsair: 1:25 minutes minimum turning speed (works anywhere)
Also note that unlike kedging, which works anywhere and involves turning in place, backing only works if you are in irons AND have room to back up.
Another interesting note is that TSS kedging allowed the user to control the ship while kedging, therefore allowing the user to use normal turning in combination with kedging while sailing, giving an extra boost to normal turning (SPD ships shut down all controls for the 4 second duration of the kedge maneuver). Remember that no one seemed to have a problem with this advantage either.
This should definitively prove that the new turning is 100% fair in two ways.
1. Both backing and minimum turning are slower than TSS kedging already.
2. Even if you feel there's an advantage to being able to do it more smoothly, it has already been deemed perfectly acceptable by all of the pirate communities to be using a ship that can turn in place twice as fast as the other ship(s) in its class... (TSS Brig vs. SPD Brigantine... and that's comparing it to the Brigantine's backing which only works if it's pointed upwind and has room behind it)... in fact, twice as fast as any ship in the system that doesn't use oars. I hardly see how the smoothness of turning could possibly be more of an advantage than that was.
Maybe point #2 wasn't entirely clear: what I'm saying is, if a TSS Brig can turn in place 100% faster than an SPD Brigantine and that is considered fair, it's hard for you to argue that a MUCH smaller advantage than 100% (after all, the new turning is actually a lot slower than TSS kedging... -37%) isn't fair.
21. When does SPD III come out? What kind of timeframe are we looking at going forward?
That's a good question. I have already finished all of the core features, but now I have a ton of bugs to work through, small features to add, and textures to make. I'd say it will probably take around 3 weeks. However, maybe within a week or less I'll start doing an open beta for SPD users.
My next project will be scripting the 2nd ship for the system, which is currently being built, and that will probably come out a week later. Next will be the developers kit, which will hopefully be released one or two weeks after that. There will be two versions of the dev kit, one for resale, and one for personal use.
(very) Tentative Release Schedule:
July 22: 1st SPD III ship released
July 29: 2nd SPD III ship released
August 13: SPD III dev kit released
After that: crew training video, online killboard, tech support forums
*************************SPD III Ship Combat System Features**********************************
*The Sails and Hull have seperate hitpoints and are hit seperately, causing different secondary effects. All Hitpionts are now float (decimal) instead of integers.
----Sails: As Sail hitpoints are lowered, the ship becomes slower and the sails visually show damage. Sails only take half damage if furled.
--------Armor: The armor on the right and left side of the ship are recorded seperately. Armor hitpoints protect the Structure. Once either side's armor is at 0, the Structure can be hit from that side.
--------Structure: Once the Structure hitpoints are down to half, the hull will begin leaking, slowing losing more Structure hitpoints. At 0 Structure, the ship sinks.
*New ammunition types:
--Shot carries its own damage values internally. Each kind has two seperate damage values, depending on what it hits: Sail, and Hull
--Shot damage value is variable, meaning 'larger', more damaging shot is possible in the future
----Round Shot: equivalent of the old CannonBall, 1.00 Hull damage, 0.25 Sail damage
----Bar Shot: meant for destroying rigging, 0.25 Hull damage, 1.00 Sail damage
----Grape Shot: Damages avatars with the SPD or SPD-J melee system (is more reliable than the grapeshot from the SPD Cannon II, and can damage sitting avatars).
-------To prevent instant-crew kills on a non-grappled ship, grapeshot works differently against sitting crew, and is much less likely to hit them, but still likely to do some damage in one or two broadsides.
*New advanced grappling function
1. To attempt to grapple, ships must have a relative speed of under 2.5 m/s (this means they will be going slow and probably in the same direction), and be within 20 meters of each other.
2. Grappling attempt has 33% chance of success. If failed, attacker must wait 10 seconds to try again. If successful, step 3--
3. Target ship is stopped, attacking ship is pulled up alongside, stopped, all avatars on both ships are unseated, and both ships will not allow anyone to sit again until ungrappled. Cannons are turned off. Both ships will only recieve 1/2 damage from other ships firing at them while they are grappled.
4. To ungrapple, one of the rezzed grappling hooks must be destroyed by hitting it repeatedly with an SPD-J melee weapon.
5. If the captain of one of the ships is killed, see next section on Capturing.
*Ship Capture function
--If a ship captain is killed in a boarding party, that ship may be captured by another player, using a command. The ship can then be sailed and used by that player, but will have several de-bonuses to cannon damage (like -30%), speed, and max armor, of course, since the new captain is unfamiliar with the ship.
--After capturing a ship, you can either use it yourself, or take it as a prize (converting it into a plaque you can keep to commemorate the occasion).
*New Repairing function, no more Depots, no more repair cheating
--To repair, ship must be moored, with at least one avatar sitting. The more crew members are sitting, the faster the repairs will go, but there are decreasing returns for each extra crew member. Even with 4 crew members, repairs are still slower than they were with the old Depot system.
--Ship waits 20 seconds after the "repair" command before beginning repairs, and 20 seconds after stopping repairs before you can control the ship again.
--Cannons will not function while repairing.
--Every repair tick (every 10 seconds while repairing), you have a 5% chance of temporarily fixing the hull leak if there is one.
*Towing function: Ships can voluntarily allow themselves to be towed behind another ship, including incapacitated ships.
*Upgrade Slots function
--Allows functional ship customization, increasing selected performance slightly.
--3 upgrade slots: Armor, Cannons, and Sails. Only one upgrade can go in each, so the captain must make a choice. Available upgrades for each slot:
----Cannons: Damage Upgrade, or Range Upgrade, or Reload Upgrade
----Armor: Armor Upgrade, or Sail Durability Upgrade, or Grappling Upgrade (doubles chance of grappling success)
----Sails: Speed Upgrade, or Turning Upgrade, or Irons Angle Upgrade (allows you to sail slightly closer into the wind)
*Graphical hitpoint display
----All hitpoint values for the various parts of the ship are displayed visually with colors and sized bars on the Sailing HUD.
--New sound effects for sail hits, hull hits, hull leaking, and luffing
--New particle debris where a projectile hits your ship
*Backward Compatibility: The ships can be put in a special mode where they will do damage to and recieve damage from the older system ships.
*Damage Encryption: It will be extremly difficult to cause damage from any non-approved or hidden sources. CannonBall Gatling guns will be impossible because of the way the new damage is communicated, and rezzing invisilbe cannonballs on someone's deck will do nothing.
*Kedge Anchor function has been removed. Instead, you use backing, just like real ships. This means forcing the sails out so the ship gets blown backward, allowing turning. It takes about the same amount of time as before to get out of irons.
*Ship is capable of is capable of turning (albeit very slowly) even with 0 speed. You should still use backing to get out of irons, otherwise it will probably take 2-3 times longer than it used to to get out of irons.
----Has been made more realistic; if you try to moor without slowing down first, you will drift until the anchor chain becomes taut, then you will jerk back and rotate in a random direction. This will prevent unrealistic stopping of ships from high speeds in tactically advantageous positions.
----Drops physical anchor with particle chain. This goes away after 2 minutes, or when sails are raised, or when someone says "/1 cleanup"
*Improved Sailing HUD: Shows both wind and sail angle graphically, shows wind and sheet angle in text form, updates information faster, and causes less lag
*Ship has a particle wake and particle bow wave when moving at moderate to high speeds.
*Vastly impoved camera controls
----You can set your own camera angle on the fly, including ones that look out to the sides, and your camera will stay there
----You can hold down Alt+direction to rotate your camera angle
----You can click Shift+left or +right to look out left and right
----You can press Page Up for a far behind trailing view
----You can press Page Down to reset camera
*Mid-to-large size ships will include a spacious interior using some interesting new scripting methods :)
*Owner does not have to be sitting for the chat commands to work (except of course for the "raise" command)
*Cannon HUD reacts more than twice as fast as the old ones (it is instant if no other lag in the sim, but there is still some lag when there are nearby ships).
*Toggle between fast aiming and precise aiming (smaller cannon adjustments)
*No extra invisible sail prims in the way of clicks (now the sails actually move)
*When in locked mode, the sail/detail object will be temp-on-rez, with a repeating rezzer, meaning it doesn't count toward the land's prim limit. This allows you to display a 250 prim ship at a prim cost of only 28 prims.
*Buttons glow or blink when clicked, so you don't have to wonder if your click worked or not and keep mashing it
*New Sound Effects
--New sound effects for sail hits, hull hits, hull leaking, and luffing
*Locking feature: will protect a display ship from being damaged/sunk. Built in anti-cheating measures: to lock a ship, it must be moored, with no avatars sitting, and wait 20 seconds before damage protection begins. Cannons will not fire when locked. Ship shouts when locked. Must wait another 20 seconds to unlock ship.
*Sunken hulls will automatically delete after 2 minutes.
*Cannons can be hidden. Anti-cheating measures built in; cannons must reload after being made visible again, cannot fire while invisible
*Cannons have floating text when reloading
*Internal scripting has been made more efficient than previously was. Also, all scripts are Mono.
*Ship HP and incapacitation status resets when ship is re-rezzed
*Sails can be set to be partially transparent
*Pop-up menu dialogue box with commands
*Ships will come with an auto-updater, so we won't have to worry about update-distribution anymore.
==========Planned Future Features===========
*Dev Kit. Will be heavily copy-protected, but will allow commercial use (transferrable)
*Online Killboard: Proof that you sunk someone, and a running tally of your ship kills/losses/captures
*Online crew tutorial video: teach noobs how to become effective gunners for you
*Online tech-support forums.