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The current construction system as it exists on TG is functional, but is also too slow and clunky to really make for any good content. This proposal aims to make construction easier, particularly for engineers.
However, we have to balance this with the fact that being able to construct walls, windows and other items has significant grief and combat value, therefore, any such large scale construction system needs to handle this.
The easiest way to manage it, is to require a large bulky item that is impracticable to use in a combat situation (outside of unique scenarios where the payoff is worth it), and also make automated construction take time, but be faster in a bulk scenario.
This document intends to outline an approach that hopefully meets these goals, allowing significant large scale construction and repair, without turning the combat meta into a game of tower fortress where everyone duels with construction systems (although that does sound like an interesting gamemode someone look into that).
## The New Construction system
A new mobile vehicle (that operates kind of like a mulebot, but has good code) called the Rapid Assembly Tractor or RAT is added. This vehicle can be driven to a location (run speed), and has a slower auto follow mode (walk speed), where it tries to follow you around as you walk, this has a far larger inventory and is the right choice for long term building.
You cannot run over people with this machine, it has a safety device like the mulebot, if you hack it to be unsafe, the construction system suffers a 3x time penalty.
The primary construction module determines what the RAT can construct and different departments will start with different ones
Expected modules by default
Atmospherics - Pipes and Vents etc
Chemistry - Plumbing, Plumbing machinery
Cytology - Who even knows what this shit is for
Engineering - Structures etc
Departments will be assigned at least one, but maybe two, depending on their requirements, with the keys to these items spawning on the senior most ranked crewmember of that dept. It is expected that the head hand out these keys to the relevant staff in the dept.
The machines can also be constructed in robotics, with the frame/circuit parts ordered from cargo, or printed from the protolathe (if using advanced upgrade modules)
### What does senior ranked crewmember mean?
Starts with the head of staff, then any seconds in that dept (e.g warden), then goes to crewmembers of that dept sorting by those with the **most** playtime in that role
From the R.A.T the control item can be drawn and used much the same as the RPD, RCL and RCD all at once, within a few tiles range of the RAT.
It is envisioned to construct the following items
all types of machines (this is slower than basic structure construction, and you must have all the relevant items in the RAT )
fixtures like light fixtures
simple furniture such as tables and chairs, toilets etc
rwalls and rwindows (if the relevant materials are available)
wires, pipes and plumbing (these place pretty much instantly)
all the types of piping vents and pumps (slower construction, but not too slow - I think we can afford to be slower than current RPD)
transport piping systems
It is envisioned that Multiple users can use a control tool attached to an RAT, 2 by default, with an upgrade path for more.
When multiple control tools are used, there will be two queues for construction and the RAT will prioritise each equally
Construction with this gun will work differently to the RCD before, as it will be able to produce a much larger variety of structures, but they do it in a different format
Walls, R-Walls etc, you will place the ghost structures, and then over a period of a few minutes, the RAT's nanobots will construct the structures, several at a time, so you can do a lot of placing and then let things build out over time while you plan the next stage of construction.
Things like pipes and wires are fast, but, if there is a lot queued it may take the RAT some time to get to them, especially if you queue things that take a lot of time ahead of it.
If the building of a ghost structure is interrupted by someone hitting it, or blowing up the room etc, the building stage is interrupted immediately, the timer stops and you have to use the RAT control gun to requeue that item in the building order, a stopped build ghost degrades over a period of time and is visually clearly stopped (could change to red for example)
Ghost structures do not block anything, they are just a visual indicator, they don't even have to be a structure (obj/effect most likely target)
Deconstruction works in the exact same way, but in reverse, where the RAT slowly deconstructs the items selected for deconstruction by the RCD, this can be interrupted in the exact same way as construction and has basically identical mechanics.
The RAT will reclaim the deconstructed items materials into the resource pool
Resources to construct each item come from the RAT's resource pool, which must be refilled when it runs out.
When you park the RAT next to an autolathe or protolathe, they automatically deposite made items into it's inventory slots if it's set to autofill, so you can print items into the tractor and then take it out to construct.
It has a fairly generous space for machine parts, and circuitry boards and then the basic raw materials of building (metal, glass and wires not ores)
### Upgrade paths
The RAT can be upgraded to have multiple nanobot streams (allowing greater parallel building), but, the greater the number of streams, the slower the progression on each item (however, it should ultimately be faster than building each item one at a time, something like a 1.2 ratio should be sufficient)
They can also research larger resource containment tanks, but we don't want to get too crazy with this, rebuilding an entire dept from a single RAT is not the goal here, (More like one RAT and engineer per room)
A jetpack addition can be added to allow the RAT to follow you into no gravity areas, so you can build space forts
An extra control unit, to allow 3 or more people to use the RAT
The Rapid Light Dispenser bepis tech is instead an upgrade module for the RAT that allows you to place full lights, instead of light fixtures - you can also let it drop glowsticks or add a Glowstick cannon as a weapon
Floor tile exchanger that lets you bulk tear and replace areas of floortiles, or remove the existing floortiles
Place on top of temporary metal foam without having to remove first - patch breaches and then repair them in style
orange flashing construction light on your RAT
id card lock on your machine
reconstruction computer - when you go into a deconstructed room, click a button and place all the ghost shells to reconstruct that room to the original roundstart specification, replace decals and all!
## Explicitly banned
Linking the RAT to the ore silos via bluespace - managing the RAT inventory is part of the gameplay, they do however autoload from nearby autolathes if toggled to do so.
I am open to a discussion with an implementor about an end game tech that implements this, suitably gated and balanced by requiring unlocking an entire path on the tree + using a compressed anomaly core.
## Existing auto construction items
The Rapid Cable Layer(RCL), the Rapid Pipe Dispenser (RPD) and the Rapid Construction Device (RCD) e.tc will all be modified to work in the same way meet the goals of this overhaul of preventing combat construction/deconstruction, that is, they have the same place a construction shell/have it be auto created on a timer system.
However, the handheld items have much smaller inventory space so can't construct as much as the RAT
It is **expressly** not however, our intention to make the RPD and RCL unuseable as plumbing/atmos pipes are less used for combat purposes and construction does not need management in the same way. We do not anticipate requiring timers or construction ghosts for atmos pipes, plumbing and wires. (You may still wish to code them this way for cleanliness purposes, but just have them finish almost instantly)
Side note, the RPD will lose the ability to build transit pipes, they will be moved to the RAT.
Instead our goal is only to make the RCD/RPD/RCL the inferior choice to the RAT for large scale repair of destroyed areas, or for the building of large new areas.
These handheld devices will only be able to construct between 2-3 wall sized structures before they are out of material, and between 5-10 pipe sized items, they also cannot deconstruct things anymore (the tradeoff of their portability and handheld size).
To prevent overcoming this by simply stockpiling lots of basic materials in your storage, they can only be reloaded at an autolathe or protolathe with materials.