Gameplay Design - Sensor Range and Heat Signatures
I've started experimenting with a change to how ships detect one another - currently, every ship knows the location of every other ship in the system at a given time, which can make it really tough to avoid combat if you want to, or to be any kind of sneaky in general. Since I want to support stuff like smuggling and blockade running, it made sense to me that I should find a way for you to do those things successfully.
The basic idea goes like this: Each ship has a sensor range, and a heat signature range, which varies by ship type and will be modifiable with ship equipment. If a ship's heat signature (depicted above in green) overlaps another ship's sensor range, you're detected. You can do things to reduce your signature actively - firing your main engine increases it, and firing weapons also increases it. I'm also considering letting you drop your shields to further reduce your detection range, but severely increasing your risk.
I'm also planning to add a sensor interference stat to star systems, that would globally reduce the sensor range of all ships in a given system (including you! ships you can't detect won't show on your radar!) But it would make some systems easier to sneak in and out of.
All this of course raises the question of whether I should visualize these ranges for the player, to aid in the sneakiness, and if I do visualize them, how to do that without it looking dumb or ugly.
I'd love to hear what you guys think about these ideas, so feel free to chime in!