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So how should a Heat mechanic actually work in SE?

Discussion in 'General' started by SirConnery, May 14, 2019.

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  1. Ronin1973

    Ronin1973 Master Engineer

    I would love a very in depth heat mechanic. I'm not against it. But the reality is that it has to run on top of a game that already has intensive CPU needs.

    Heat as a function of energy usage... to me makes the most sense. That mechanic is already built into the game. At any instance in the game, a powered grid is calculating its energy consumption and needs. Heat as a function of energy usage means that no additional whole-grid calculations have to be done. The sum of power being consumed is already there. Converting the power usage to "heat" would be very simple by using a constant of some kind. Every second of energy usage should dump so many "heat-points" to the grid. Grids should have a natural rate of cooling... based on dry mass. This can be accelerated by active and passive cooling blocks. Conversely, heat-points are subtracted by these blocks every instance of calculation. Simply to say if you are generating more heat-points than you can diffuse or radiate away, you will start to overheat.

    The expensive part will be adding a variable to each block that makes each block non-functional once it passes its heat threshold and then enables the block when the grid levels fall under that threshold. This can be checked during the same routine that a block checks to see if it's receiving adequate power. .IsFunctional would return "false" if the block is overheated.

    There are plenty of schemes that would be great... in another game... but the reality of having a complex heat management system probably wouldn't make the cut since it's not integral to game play. I want this. But I want it in a way that doesn't impact the game by being overly complex. We were lucky enough to get pressurization and it was a feature already in the game.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. SirConnery

    SirConnery Apprentice Engineer

    I do like this. That does seem like a reasonable solution to minimal cpu usage while retaining some amount of complexity.

    Let's evaluate some of the potential gameplay influence this system you brought up would bring.

    1. Atmospheric large grid ships would take the hardest hit, since you already have to balance out the mass/thruster ratio. That means they usually have low mass with high energy usage. So ability to absorb heat is low, while heat produced is high.

    2. Assuming cooling blocks have moderate/high power usage themselves you would in essence be required to balance out the amount of energy a ship produces and the amount of cooling it has for most energy efficient results. I kinda like this.

    3. Having a stock of "emergency coolers" for times when you need to use those high energy consuming boosters for a long time.

    4. Making hydro thrusters more desirable since they use less power

    Add to this the ability to use liquid cooling and the system does in my opinion look like it would bring value to the game while not having a huge cpu overhead.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. captainbladej52

    captainbladej52 Apprentice Engineer

    There's a few issues I see here as well as easy enough solutions.

    1 Atmospheric large grid ships: Assuming the ship is designed purely to stay in the atmosphere as your name suggests, I don't see an issue here. A few well placed radiators to disperse heat, and perhaps a few internal coolers would do the trick. Since the ship would be moving through the air, it would be able to use that incoming air to absorb and disperse some of the heat, much like a car radiator does in real life. In addition to the radiators on the ship and potential internal coolers, the ships themselves would have a medium to disperse this heat that simply wouldn't be present in space. If anything I would see them as having a bit of an edge against objects in space. Objects in space would need to rely almost exclusively on internal coolers or some other type of means to eject that heat into space.

    2 Cooling block power usage: This is a block I would see as using only moderate amounts of power with very minimal heat generation. I would imagine that block would use some of the power it's consuming to keep itself cool, in addition to its other functions. If we assume the more power being consumed equates to more heat generation, then having it consume large amounts of power would mean it's generating quite a bit of heat in and of itself, which defeats the purpose of having the block in the first place in my book. Thus you're right back where you started save now you have extra blocks in the mix and nothing is gained. In real life I have an air conditioner for my room cause giant computer, and the amount of heat that the AC itself generates is minimal and is easily dispersed by the unit itself.

    3 Emergency coolers: Most folks and builds I've seen already do something like this now with the current systems we have and I don't see how this would be a bad thing with cooling. On virtually all of my ships I have a main set of reactors and typically one or two reserve reactors independent from the main conveyor network used to kickstart the power when needed. I also typically have a set of batteries that I cycle back and forth with the reserve reactors when I don't need the full power grid to be on. I would actually say anyone who doesn't have some type of contingencies built into their stuff, or contingency plans for emergencies, have actually shot themselves in the foot. Just because i put an extra reactor, or oxygen generator on my grid doesn't mean those blocks have to be running full time. In fact I would rather have a little bit too much cooling than to have not enough. Most likely what you will see worst case scenario for this, folks will total up the amount of heat that could be generated and assume the blocks will be generating full heat at all times, and then slap on enough coolers to take care of that heat. Even if they're not running at maximum full time they would be prepared then if they did need to run those blocks at full power for a longer period of time.

    4 Hydrogen thrusters more desireable: I don't exactly see a downside to this either. The downside I do see though is this would put even greater demands on the ice supply of the player(s) since anything hydrogen related pisses ice like Niagara Falls. I would hope the cooling blocks don't consume that much ice, or better yet hydrogen thrusters are made a ton more efficient and easier on ice. It would certainly cause folks to take another look at hydrogen but I don't think it's going to be as impactful as you're thinking in this instance.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. SirConnery

    SirConnery Apprentice Engineer

    Yes, I was assuming the heat generated by the cooler would be 0 even while using power.

    I would assume the regular coolers wouldn't use use ice in this hypothetical. For liquid cooling maybe have the Hydrogen Engine also produce large amounts of cooling.
  5. 3eepoint

    3eepoint Junior Engineer

    I would really like to see a heat mechanik in SE. I had the thermal management mod installed and loved the challenge it provided. I would also like to give some
    input on some concerns regarding the Game mechanics:


    Simple put, you would really try and avoid to use Ice, and therefore, Water as a coolant if it is not for power generation in a Power plant, a low power operation in the kWh range or you have an ocean or river at hand. We have niether here. We should think less about cooling but rather conversation and storage/dissapation.
    In high power solar thermal application, liquid salt is used for heat transportation from the collector focus point to an heat exchanger and overnight storage. That stuff can get up to 700-1500°C. That is a real live application I would like to orient such a system on and it would solve the Ice question. Would need a new material tho, but we are talking about a whole new game feature with new blocks and gameplay mechanic, so what is another material or two really?


    generally speakeing: cooling=heavy. You have to carry the coolant and the radiators and eventually heatexchangers and the like. Therefore this mechanic would be selfnerfing. High power ship that is thermally stable=slow, low range, pricy and an easy target. One would have to find the balance of how long the ship is thermally stable and what it is used for. A fast attack ship that uses hit and run befor cooling of, a dreadnought that is thermally stable but basically a defensive station?
    An engineering challange if I have ever seen one^^


    My Idea would currently be the following:

    two materials: Salt and Liquid Salt. Salt is mined naturally on planets/asteroids and stored aboard.

    Three new Blocks:
    Heat exchanger, Liquid Salt storage and Radiator. The Heat exchanger uses Salt, the Grid heat and some energy to produce liquid salt, which is stored in the storage, obviusly... . The radiator takes liquid salt, dissipates the heat and gives back salt. The Radiator works slower than the heat exchanger and therefore would introduce the need for a storage as thermal capacety.

    I honestly do not know if that would be computational efficient as production can tend to be taxing as far as I know. But I am almost sure that something lik this can be realised as a specialised game mechanic that does not rely on the normal production system it can be made computational accaptable.


    First of all, nuclear reactors do NOT go KABOOOM when they melt down. They get hot, increadibly so. But the stuff that is in them is not the same as in a nuclear bomb. So the damage should reflect that as more of an spherical AoE over time as an explosion. Damaging nearby blocks and overloading the eventually connected coolingsystem as the heat output increases dramatically. Other then that I would heat damage only computer and superconductor elements** if the overal system temperature goes above a critical point or a nearby meltdown is happening as these are heat sensetive parts. Internal Armor or Steeltubes do not care much unless a meltdown happens and that is a seperate reactor specific effect and has not to be checked every time and applys only when a reactor goes supernova. So it should be computationally manageable. Maybe a nice bright and shining particle effect to acommondate this?


    According to the mentioned things above. we would need:

    New Mechanics:
    ->Grid heat:
    Every block that uses or produces Power contributes to the grid heat with a certain efficency ot the power used/produced, asexample 0.05 for wind turbines and 0.50 for reactors. One would only have to count the nuber of these blocks, their output and use the multiplicator and has the heating that is happening.

    ->Grid capacety:
    Heat capacety based on the amount of armor the ship has, as this is the bulk of the ships mass. Heating of the mass can be prevented via cooling with radiators and the acommondating mechanics.
    ->Heat damage:
    If the grid heat exeeds certain temps computer and superconductive parts get damaged (or other, this is just a suggestion/opinion after all). if a reactor gets critically damaged it melts down and spawns an AoE that does damage to superstructure or things with steeltubes/plates in general.

    New Material:
    ->Salt:Base Material to store heat
    ->Liquid Salt: Salt that has been heated and store thermal energy until radiated and or otherwise disposed of.

    New Blocks:
    ->Heat exchanger:Takes Salt and grid heat and produces liquid Salt at high temps
    ->Liquid Salt storage:Stores the heated liquid salt
    ->Radiator:Takes liquid Salt, radiates the heat and gives back Salt, closing the circle.

    Overall, something like this would also statisfy my whish for more internal ship systems. A ship simply stuffed with containers, reactors and jumpdrives is limited fun for me as far as engineering goes and would really make some builds come to life. Otherwise, this would completely break every single ship in existence so far due to the need of retrofitting them. Therefore I do not see Keen implementing it at all...

    *and, that is an important point, does not expand much when heated. Water has to be pressurized above several atmospheres to be heated above 100°C... which is not important for us as it is "just a game" and would really take it to far. But just so you know...

    **As computers/electronics are the first thing that come to mind when I think about things damaged by heat in an technical enviroment. Also, Superconducters, even thosehigh temp ones we probably use in SE, do not like heat.
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  6. SirConnery

    SirConnery Apprentice Engineer

    Balancing heat against weight would work but it's kind of a redundant mechanic in my eyes. Same result could be achieved by just making every functional block heavier.
    And I've had enough salt to last a lifetime while playing Rocket League so I would be way overpowered.
  7. Stardriver907

    Stardriver907 Master Engineer

    it would help if we knew how reactors are currently cooled. Current real reactors are generally cooled by water. The hot water's thermal energy is transformed into kinetic energy when it is allowed to expand and condense into steam and turn a turbine. SE reactors don't run a turbine so power is generated some other way right in the reactor itself. They are obviously engineered so that you can't ask for enough power to make it get hot enough to melt down, and it contains enough coolant to manage a meltdown should it occur.

    It's kinda funny we're discussing this. I've been watching Chernobyl on HBO, and I recently heard on the news that the owners of the Three Mile Island facility want to keep it running although it was scheduled to be shut down this year :)

    The thing about coolant is that you don't want it to be something that has to be constantly replenished. Those of us that own automobiles know that coolant is something that you occasionally "top off". Some autos even have sealed coolant systems. Reactors use a closed system. They don't suck water from a river to cool the reactor and then dump the hot, possibly radioactive, water back into the river. A "coolant" block, therefore would contain the coolant and you wouldn't need to go find the stuff that needs to go in it. It could be water, salt, or liquid metal, or something else.

    I don't know that it's necessary to compute the heat generated by a grid. I don't expect my control consoles are going to overheat. My Programmable Blocks running 24/7 at full capacity are not going to threaten the structural integrity of my solid steel vessel. There are two types of blocks that can inherently produce dangerous heat levels: reactors and thrusters. These blocks are engineered to be hot under normal operation. Therefore, they are only dangerous if safe limits are exceeded. In the case of reactors, two ways to exceed safe limits is to demand more than the reactor can produce, or damage the reactor. Coolant blocks could allow for a higher power output, much like how you can make refineries more efficient with a plug-in. Heat output, then, could simply be tied to reactor output. Prolonged operation at 100% or above output could eventually result in a runaway reaction with obvious consequences. Coolant blocks raise the threshold but in any event reactor output will have to be managed by the player by making sure that they either keep an eye on reactor temperature or install enough reactors and/or coolant systems to safely handle expected demands. Even then a damaged reactor will have to be dealt with.

    In the standard game, your average player just wants their ship to run. Keen's early philosophy was to make shipbuilding easy and quick. Therefore you could generally put blocks together any way you wanted and the damn thing would still work. Thrusters inside the ship? Sure, why not. Wiring? That's early 20th century stuff. Doors? Who needs 'em. Just stay in your suit and keep your visor closed. I think it's safe to say that all the players that liked the game that easy have moved on. Pressurization and the need to make builds airtight pushed many away. Hydrogen thrusters and their need for fuel and a way to create, store and transport it was the last straw. Building things in SE now requires some system management, and it turns out players actually want some of that. So, if we had reactors that could go critical, players would respect them more and perhaps think about spamming them. You could still use a standard reactor the way it's used now, but you have to be aware of how hot it is and how long it's been hot. A coolant block will keep a reactor cool and get you more power, but if that reactor gets damaged some other way it could explode (non-nuclear) and take out any adjacent blocks (many more blocks if the reactor was running at max while being cooled). Yes, I'm describing a reactor mechanic. This is not a mechanic that decides how hot the grid is and then makes bad stuff happen. This is a mechanic that makes bad stuff happen if you don't pay attention to something that is otherwise supposed to get dangerously hot.

    It's not the heat we are after here. It's recognizing where the heat comes from and respecting it. Why calculate how hot the entire grid is when we can just calculate how hot the reactor is, which is what really determines what happens next?

    Maybe it would make you think twice about placing that reactor right behind your flight seat or cockpit. Just as air made us fuss about airlocks and vents.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. Thrak

    Thrak Junior Engineer

    I always presumed SE reactors were an advanced version the RTG power plants on things like Voyager space probes. Straight conversion of heat to electricity.
  9. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Senior Engineer

    A minor technicality, but RTGs are fueled using plutonium-238, not uranium. I'm just saying...

    Oh, and a side note...RTGs generate a huge amount of waste heat for relatively little power. They're wonderful devices, however, if you want that energizer bunny to keep running for a very long time.
  10. Lord Grey

    Lord Grey Apprentice Engineer

    RTGs can work with nearly any radioactive nukleotides. as long as the decay generates enought heat. The Problem with RTGs is that they loose efficiency over time, the faster, the shorter the half-life of the isotope is. And they don't burn thru Uran that fast as the big reactor.
  11. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Senior Engineer

    Well, technically it's possible that RTGs can use other radionuclides, but no others have the heat density of plutonium-238. All RTGs I've worked with used plutonium-238; that was the case for the three GPHS RTGs that were launched for the Cassini–Huygens space-research mission back in the '90s.

    (Edit: I should have also pointed out that Plutonium-238 is not only used because of its highly dense heat generation rate, but also because it generates very little in the way of damaging ionizing gamma radiation. Most of the gamma radiation generation occurs because of impurities, and then only from daughter products years down the line. Use of other heat generating radionuclides such as cobalt-60, cesium-137, and strontium-90 also generate some very nasty gammas that are quite damaging to flight vehicle structures. OK...'nuff said.)
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
  12. Stardriver907

    Stardriver907 Master Engineer

    How does a heat mechanic actually work in other games?
  13. SirConnery

    SirConnery Apprentice Engineer

    In Pharaoh your temples may start burning if you don't build enough wells. So there's that...
  14. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Senior Engineer

    Are they stone temples? Burning? Well, well...the plot thickens...
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