An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

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An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby Lomn on Tue 20 Jan 2015 20:11

So I'm bashing my head against P4 (practical communications) trying to decide if the gut instinct I've used in my solo games is actually more complicated than necessary / prudent, and I'd appreciate feedback on how other people handle it.

The situation, broadly, is one of survey results: a survey is due to complete at the very end of a month (an Xa-driven WP survey that collects 17 SP per StMP needs 12 StMP to reach 200 SP, and so the survey effectively resolves on Day 30 of Month 4). Is that data immediately available for the capital to act on the next month (P4.01, "the practical application is that messages arrive for implementation at the beginning of the month", absent combat-type considerations), or do the players need to account for the transmission lag of returning data to an (ICC)? My gut instinct says the latter, but I'm curious how other people have done this sort of thing.

(For this bit, leave aside things like post-survey calculation times in R -- I'm mostly concerned with data transmission at this point, which isn't necessarily going to be survey results -- that's just a good generic test case)
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby krenshala on Tue 20 Jan 2015 21:49

Light-speed communication happens at approximately 6 hours per StMP of distance (360 LM) as one StMP is considered to be 30 system hexes, which are 12LM in diameter. In most cases you won't have a light-speed link from the survey system, however, the communications time probably won't be much more than 6 hours per StMP since you are going to know when the survey will be completed and could have a (temporary) set of comms relay ships in place to speed the information along.

At worst, the news would travel back via the CFN, which travels (normally) at 4 StMP per month, or 48LM (4 sH) per day.

So, assuming the system being surveyed is 4 StMP away from the capital, it would take somewhere between 24 hours and 30 days to get reported in to central authority. Probably somewhere in the 2 to 5 day range as the information would be tight-beamed back when another ship was known to be ahead.

Of course, the exact timing usually isn't an issue, other than noting that in this case the government wouldn't get the info until after the first of the new month. When they would be able to dispatch units/new orders would all depend on how the Space Master (which may be you ;) ) would feel things would be handled by that race. The specific timing may matter in times of conflict, however.
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby procyon on Tue 20 Jan 2015 22:43

Lomn wrote:So I'm bashing my head against P4 (practical communications) trying to decide if the gut instinct I've used in my solo games is actually more complicated than necessary / prudent, and I'd appreciate feedback on how other people handle it.


It all really depends on what is going to happen with that information.
In most cases (in our games) the data's timing is not horribly crucial. The survey is complete, the data sent, and scouts sent though whatever WP's were uncovered. Then that data is sent back and the ICC/CAP makes the decision of what system will be surveyed next.

But our players still track everything down to the hour or minute - because I make them to preserve the secrecy of the game. Because if one of the scouts jumps into a system that is already occupied by a hostile race - well, the exact timing or messages and responses can be of vast importance in exactly what happens. But if I only check the exact timing on certain systems and not on others - they know something is up with those systems that I track the timing.

So we track all the messages, because that makes the players unsure if the next jump may be into a battle, or an empty system.

And the survey data will take 24 hours to transmit. Plus the time it takes for that message to get back to the CAP/ICC. We then use P7.02 that says it takes d10 hours to generate orders - but for all cases whether CAP or ICC. Then the message for what the ships in the newly surveyed system will do must be sent. So there is usually a fair delay between a completed survey and the next action.

That is just us though. We tend to be detail oriented. ;)
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby Elminster on Wed 21 Jan 2015 00:57

You could also use SOP to handle this. Create a SOP that says something along "Send the survey data to the nearest ICC/CAP, then proceed survey of newly discovered systems with the following priority: contains habitable planets; contains ...".

This would remove the message lag. If the ICC/CAP changes his mind, they can send an order the usual way.
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby Lomn on Wed 21 Jan 2015 14:35

For those who are interested, here's what I'm settling on: P4 is, I think, intended to apply to "how do I have two fleets in one system talk to each other?" -- the timing of tightbeam stops and acceptable movement efficiency losses and all that. P4.01 is specific to (ICC)-generated info: the general staff isn't formulating and sending orders on Day 1 of Month X; they're doing all that back in the middle of Month X-1.

But something like survey results or other unanticipateable information? Does not spring into existence until that certain point in time, and cannot be backdated (and I think this best fits with P8.03 -- the capital has to know before the player can act on it). So, survey completes on Day 30 of Month X? Player isn't going to be able to custom-fit a response on Month X+1 barring a short-distance lightspeed ICN.

The parallel bit to this is updating the progress of a survey (or any other on-the-frontier sort of event) -- I suppose a generic "here's what your capital projects should be true at this point in time" coupled with a "but your last verified contact was such-and-such at time so-and-so, so the projection may be amended" caveat is the way to go there.
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby PracticalM on Thu 22 Jan 2015 20:00

I definitely track when events happen but as for when a survey finishes up close to the end of a month it helps to enforce all players to have SOP orders that indicate where the survey fleet will go next. As people have mentioned until the empire gets really large it doesn't take too long to relay a message between systems. But then I put ships and then bases at every WP because I value the communications network and a notice when enemies might be in my systems.

Nothing more amusing than entering a system that another empire hasn't placed any bases and place your own base and making a solid claim. Often leads to war though.
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby Cralis on Thu 22 Jan 2015 23:52

Lomn wrote:For those who are interested, here's what I'm settling on: P4 is, I think, intended to apply to "how do I have two fleets in one system talk to each other?" -- the timing of tightbeam stops and acceptable movement efficiency losses and all that. P4.01 is specific to (ICC)-generated info: the general staff isn't formulating and sending orders on Day 1 of Month X; they're doing all that back in the middle of Month X-1.


It's all part of the same process. The same thing could be used for getting orders to/from a graded admiral from outlying patrols of a system, for example.

But something like survey results or other unanticipateable information? Does not spring into existence until that certain point in time, and cannot be backdated (and I think this best fits with P8.03 -- the capital has to know before the player can act on it). So, survey completes on Day 30 of Month X? Player isn't going to be able to custom-fit a response on Month X+1 barring a short-distance lightspeed ICN.


Is that not what P8, P8.01, and P8.02 cover?

The parallel bit to this is updating the progress of a survey (or any other on-the-frontier sort of event) -- I suppose a generic "here's what your capital projects should be true at this point in time" coupled with a "but your last verified contact was such-and-such at time so-and-so, so the projection may be amended" caveat is the way to go there.


Without an SOP, I often just let the units sit there until an order is given. In my personal games I try and have each race act according to their mentality, but it won't be far from that without a proper SOP.
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby Lomn on Fri 23 Jan 2015 11:22

Cralis wrote:
But something like survey results or other unanticipateable information? Does not spring into existence until that certain point in time, and cannot be backdated (and I think this best fits with P8.03 -- the capital has to know before the player can act on it). So, survey completes on Day 30 of Month X? Player isn't going to be able to custom-fit a response on Month X+1 barring a short-distance lightspeed ICN.


Is that not what P8, P8.01, and P8.02 cover?
Just working through the competing considerations of that vs P4's "abstract out the transmission times when it's not critical".
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby Cralis on Fri 23 Jan 2015 12:18

I have long considered writing a small paragraph on how to abstract comms by processing them in StMP increments. It would dovetail nicely with the 4 StMP rate of comms carried by the CFN and the much higher rate if comms carried by CD. Lightspeed comms would get 120 StMP and since an StMP is also a unit of time, we could easily abstract away any time needed for "making decisions"
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Re: An SM question: How do you handle comm lag?

Postby Lomn on Fri 23 Jan 2015 13:06

Yep, that's how I'm managing it. I'm using the movement pulse table in C rather than trying to track days when the speeds don't match up.
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