Safe Lanes

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This is a proposal for "safe", patrolled flight lanes within systems. It relies on and reinforces the proposal about improved targeting and navigation, and the detailed article about asteroids.

Discussion available on the forums.

Goals

  • Resolve jump point combat issues
  • Allow weaker ships to survive more reliably in faction protected systems
  • Generate opportunities for contraband and piracy related activities

Safe Lanes

A safe lane is a route within a system that is heavily patrolled by a law-enforcing organization (usually a faction). Ships traveling along these lanes will be protected from pirate attack, because there will always be friendly combat ships nearby. In addition, safe lanes are marked by turret emplacements at set intervals, so if a pirate force does attempt a raid on ships traveling along the lane, those ships can try to find shelter around the closest turret emplacement.

Safe lanes connect places of interest, notably jump points and planets, and will exist in any system that has a sufficient lawful presence. However, a place of interest needs not necessarily have a direct safe lane to another one, so it may be necessary to detour through the system to reach the destination via safe lanes.

Positive effects of safe lanes include:

  • Weaker ships can travel more outlying systems in relative safety
  • There is an opportunity for generated system patrol missions involving safe lanes
  • There is an opportunity for generated pirate activities involving safe lanes

Reasons why the player might NOT make use of safe lanes:

  • Safe lanes may not interconnect some places of interest, such as jump points leading to non-faction systems
  • Smuggling contraband through safe lanes is doomed to failure
  • Time-critical missions may require a direct route to a destination, while safe lanes would typically be suboptimal
  • The player would likely prefer dealing with pirates off the beaten track than with lanes swarming with enemy faction ships

Building Safe Lanes

There are two approaches to building safe lanes:

  • Manually

Lanes would be manually "painted" in the system, using the ingame editor. The advantage of this is that lanes can be built exactly as intended for that system, and can be adjusted as required. The downside is that it implies manual maintenance.

  • Automatically

An automatic generation of safe lanes constitutes a significant reduction in maintenance, but the results may not be desirable. Any automatic generation of safe lanes should try to satisfy the following:

  • Each safe lane connects one place of interest with one other. Places of interest include:
    • Jump points
    • Planets or stations owned by the faction patrolling the safe lane
    • Planets or stations owned by factions friendly to the faction patrolling the safe lane
    • Hypergates
  • A safe lane must have turret emplacements at regular distances.
  • A safe lane may need bends in order to path around obstacles such as asteroid fields.
  • The maximum number of safe lanes in a system should scale with faction presence, with diminishing returns.
  • Safe lanes should prioritize interconnecting planets with jump points leading to friendly systems.
  • Each safe lane must connect to at least one asset owned by the faction patrolling the safe lane (e.g. Empire doesn't patrol between a Dvaered station and a jump point).

Pirate Spawning

The primary purpose of safe lanes being a resolution to the rampant pirate issues, pirate spawning should be revised. Rather than letting pirates jump into a system like any other ships, they should be spawned directly in a system, away from the safe areas, coming out of nowhere. This seems unreasonable, and it is, but the current problems with jump point combat justify it. Additionally, a safe lane to a jump point would likely make it impossible for pirates to enter through the jump point and survive, which is undesirable.

A second consideration is that piracy should be more widespread. While currently the various factions have large, pirate free cores, safe lanes remove the need for these. After all, the core systems have a very high faction presence, and as such will have many safe lanes. Trading within these systems will remain as safe as it is now, while straying away from the safe lanes will become dangerous. This is important, because smuggling contraband would be too easy in core systems otherwise.