Ship Despawn: Dynamic Ship Graveyards, A Thinkpiece Suggestion on Creating Exploration Opportunities


Well-known member
Aug 24, 2019
Given that, in general, wrecks despawn within 1-7 days and some wrecks are said to not despawn if they're big enough, perhaps a mechanic could be devised that causes any surviving wreckage in an area (several dozen km) to slowly coalesce into a larger cloud of debris when players aren't around. So, let's say that after a week of isolation, ship/station debris that doesn't meet the criteria for automatic despawn begins looking for other wreckage, let's say a bubble 1km in radius, increasing in size by 1km per day 5km/week. Debris checks its surroundings once per week to keep server loads to a minimum and give everyone ample opportunity to find them between each detection tick or "Graveyard Tick". If debris finds another piece of wreckage inside its bubble, it moves 1km closer so long as no players are in render range, if both pieces of wreckage are within each other's detection radius they both move 1km closer to each other, if multiple pieces of wreckage are detected the detecting piece moves 1km closer to the imaginary centerpoint of those pieces (ED: after moving the detection bubble ceases growing as long as at least one other wreck is within range). Once they are within 1km a fast tick sequence kicks in, the debris only checks within a 1km bubble once per day and moves at a rate of 10 meters per day, all objects within ~50m are considered a single piece of wreckage according to this system and, after a week of having become a single graveyard-entity, begin the radius check anew from the starting 1km radius. To prevent these graveyards from obstructing regular player traffic, debris will avoid stations in an area equal to twice the size of its safezone.

This rough draft model gives us several benefits:
1) wreckage will move over time, so even if its original position is lost there's an increasing chance for players to find it as it moves around and potentially passes through transit zones
2) most wreckage will tend to accumulate in the center of activity zones, namely warzones where many wrecks will be created inside of a relatively small pocket of space; this has the added benefit of causing ships lost on the edges of populated space to tend to work their way into more populated areas
3) the one-week tick period, merge, and radius reset functions result really old graveyards will tend to grow in size and pull in other smaller wrecks without moving as much, so even if it isn't stripped bare once discovered, players can count on known graveyards to stay in roughly the same general area of space- ultimately meaning a surviving graveyard is a constantly renewable source of exploration opportunities
4) because graveyards will not perform a detection tick if they're inside of a player's render bubble, but other graveyards that detect it will still try to move closer to it, graveyards can be exploited by a fleet or station to create a "wreck vacuum"- alternately, being rendered can completely deflag a graveyard and require it be abandoned for a whole week to reenter the system as a "wreck" in the system's eyes to prevent this kind of exploit, whichever seems more thematic, however, in either case, establishing a presence near a graveyard does lock it down, allowing the resources to go from an exploration feature in the 4X strategy dynamic (i.e. eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) into an exploitation feature which itself encourages both expansion to lock down such discovered graveyards and extermination to defend or conquer claims on them, incidentally feeding new wrecks into the system to sustain the existence of graveyards as whole.

Credit of Inspiration goes to Fingle's post on the Exploration Problem

ED: a few timing errors corrected from switching the main detection period from days to weeks

A/N- On grouping wrecks within 50m of each other as a single graveyard-entity: this should create a nice cluster of wrecks that is visually pleasing and provides ample space for fighters to engage within and dissuades larger vessels from entering at high speed while also creating interesting navigation/search environments for infantry
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