Getting things under LIDAR

A bit longer gameplay video, featuring precision ring maneuvers, enlarged asteroids, Doppler Effect LIDAR and a bit of Coherent Light CL-150 Mk3 mining laser action.

The big addition is the LIDAR. I found designing long-range imaging is a bit more involved than just dumping location data into a texture. Sure, I could do that, but I wanted to avoid “fly-by-minimap” effect. What is that? In every other sandbox game featuring a precise and responsive minimap, after a while I found myself playing purely using this minimap. I paid no attention to things happening on-screen. Great-looking sceneries flew past me, as I was walking or driving using simplified version, and that robbed me from part of fun.

I wanted to avoid this in ΔV. How?

How about you make a LIDAR the way a LIDAR actually works? You know, cast a ray of light from rotating, measure where it hits. And this approach worked out way better than expected!

  • There is a lag caused by the rotating ray. Sure, it sweeps full 360º four times per second, but it’s significant enough that you can’t really fly using it. It’s great to see what is in the distance, but close by you are far better off flying by reconnaissance drone video feed.
  • The raycast means that LIDAR is shadowed by large objects. And that is great! You can see some big rock floating at the limit of range, but you need to actually fly there and check for yourself.
  • Using real raycast means that LIDAR display shows exactly what is should – you can guess what it is showing by its shadow. You can definitely distinguish a ship from a rock without need of any artificial icons. I think it adds a lot to the “hard sci-fi realism” I’m aiming at.
  • The doppler effect works really well. You can tell by the color if something moves toward you (red) or away from you (blue).

Next stop: Ship damage model.

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