Cloaking Mechanic

EDIT: Took in feedback and decided that cloaking in supercruise won’t work well, so in this suggestion it’s now restricted to normal space only.

The idea of having cloaking devices on ships has been suggested and discussed before. I'd like to put my own idea for its implementation forward for review.
I've also read from some forum members that Frontier have previously considered and rejected the idea of cloaking, but I don't consider that etched in stone, as player support for a feature can sometimes cause developers to reconsider, and having a good implementation can't hurt.

How it works
Cloaking technology works by refracting the light that bounces off a ship's hull, rendering the ship invisible. It also scrambles ship data, so other ships cannot get a reading on ship name, commander name, ship type, modules, cargo, bounty etc. As a result, the ship cannot be targeted while cloaked, and only appears as "Unknown Signal Source" under Contacts in the UI, and cannot be selected.

Cloaking technology however has no effect on the ship's heat signature, and so the ship's relative location will still be fully visible on the radar, though due to the scrambling effect, it won't be identifiable as a player ship, and so will not show up as hollow on the radar. Further to this, and as suggested by @Witcher 7, pilots won't be able to initiate docking requests or docking attempts while cloaked. This differentiates the use of cloaking from the use of silent running.

In game requirements
For a ship to gain the ability to cloak itself, it requires two items from outfitting.
1. Metamaterial Ship Hull / Armour, which has a low refractive index. Alternatively, the existing Mirrored Surface Composite could be used to negate the need for an additional type. The cloaking armour should weigh 1.5 times as much as the Military Grade Composite, to somewhat reduce manoeuvrability (as per suggestion by @J.States).​
2. A Cloak Generator module, the effectiveness of which varies per size and class, such that larger and higher grade modules will have a longer duration time, as well as variances in power draw, integrity, thermal load, etc. The cloaking module should have the same power draw as a Prismatic Shield Generator of the same size and class, which will limit the use of Shield Boosters and Shield Cell Banks on a Cloak build (as per suggestion by @J.States).​

Gameplay
The Cloak Generator requires charging time when being activated, and also has a cooldown timer. These can be improved via engineering.
Duration of time in a cloaked state will depend on the size and quality of the module, but eventually the cloaking will wear off, and cannot be activated again until the cooldown period has finished.
Cloaking cannot be activated whilst weapons are deployed.

Certain events will trigger the cloaking device to fail. These include:
1. Deploying any weapon.​
2. Colliding with any object.​
3. Being hit by any weapon, even if your shields are up.​
4. Engaging your FSD, so you will be visible as soon you begin charging the drive.​

Deliberately deactivating the cloaking or leaving it to finish its duration will result in less cooldown time than if it was deactivated by any of the above triggers.

Costs
Both the required Metamaterial hull armour and the Cloak Generator module should be considerably expensive.

Vulnerabilities
The vulnerabilities for this mechanic come in the form of the numerous events that can trigger its failure, as well as in the charging and cooldown times.
Any mistakes by the pilot can expose their cloaked ship, but more than that, because other pilots can still follow a cloaked ship by radar, shots can be fired in its general direction, and if any shot lands, the cloaking mechanism fails, revealing the ship. This places a skill requirement on the pilot for evasive tactics, and increases the importance of manoeuvrability of the cloaked ship. Also, being hit by any stray shots in a combat zone will have the same effect of revealing the cloaked ship.

As an additional vulnerability suggested by @CMDR Cosmic Spacehead, night vision will allow you to pick up artifacts or blur indicating the presence of a cloaked ship if you’re paying close attention. This is useful as it leverages an existing mechanic to act as a sort of cloaked ship detection device.

Advantages
Cloaking devices will make avoiding scans easier, which is beneficial for smuggling, and for escaping the attention of bounty hunters.

Even though the cloaked ship is still fully visible on radar, it cannot be locked as a target, so if there are a good number of other ships in the vicinity, it will be hard to single out and track the cloaked ship, particularly since it doesn't show up as a hollow icon indicating the presence of a human player.

Thoughts?
Do you think the built-in vulnerabilities are enough to balance out the advantage of temporary invisibility, or do you think they reduce the effectiveness and usability of cloaking too much, and should be scaled back?
 
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I had posted on Steam forums to bring back the cloaking device but got mixed support. I support your suggestions except if a cloaked ship cannot be targeted, then it ought not to be interdicted.
 
I had posted on Steam forums to bring back the cloaking device but got mixed support. I support your suggestions except if a cloaked ship cannot be targeted, then it ought not to be interdicted.
Yeah, that's a bit of a grey area. On the one hand, I wanted to create more of a challenge for interdictors, where they're effectively "flying blind". On the other hand, I think it would be easier to implement if cloaking only worked in normal space, as the only point of having it work in supercruise would be to make interdictions more difficult. If it made interdictions impossible, then I think it would be too cheap in my opinion.
 
You could also allow cloaking to be tied to a low heat setting where it auto turns off a lot of modules. When it fails it restarts those modules. Then you can lower heat as well for signature boosts.

One solution for supercruise and interdiction is to not allow it while in supercruise. If you go to supercruise it turns off temporarily and restarts upon exiting. Although this could take time and could be balanced in several ways. Although I don't know how you could use that in game practically outside pvp. I've only really done exploration a little so, I wouldn't know anyway. It would make it a little harder to deal with something after interdiction though. You would have to keep hitting them and they would try to avoid taking damage to get cloak back up.

Would be nice if we got stuff in a game that could ambush stuff. Maybe the could add new mission types with it. And you could maybe use it for smuggling and stuff potentially. Although you could use it or everything else like trading too.

Maybe if it has a mass limits like shields you could limit it to smaller dedicates ships. it is basically a shield. In fact you could make it shield type in place of shields. It could have no actualy shield MJ's or absolute minimum and take up your single shield slot. Then the only way to cloak is to be shield less. Might be useful for explorers in various ways too. Especially if it's light and has minimum mj for shielding abilities. I had a similar idea for 1/2 sized dampener shield for explorers with minimal weight and only deals with physical bumping damage basically. This could be done as a cloaking device instead.
 
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You could also allow cloaking to be tied to a low heat setting where it auto turns off a lot of modules. When it fails it restarts those modules. Then you can lower heat as well for signature boosts.

One solution for supercruise and interdiction is to not allow it while in supercruise. If you go to supercruise it turns off temporarily and restarts upon exiting. Although this could take time and could be balanced in several ways. Although I don't know how you could use that in game practically outside pvp. I've only really done exploration a little so, I wouldn't know anyway. It would make it a little harder to deal with something after interdiction though. You would have to keep hitting them and they would try to avoid taking damage to get cloak back up.

Would be nice if we got stuff in a game that could ambush stuff. Maybe the could add new mission types with it. And you could maybe use it for smuggling and stuff potentially. Although you could use it or everything else like trading too.

Maybe if it has a mass limits like shields you could limit it to smaller dedicates ships. it is basically a shield. In fact you could make it shield type in place of shields. It could have no actualy shield MJ's or absolute minimum and take up your single shield slot. Then the only way to cloak is to be shield less. Might be useful for explorers in various ways too. Especially if it's light and has minimum mj for shielding abilities. I had a similar idea for 1/2 sized dampener shield for explorers with minimal weight and only deals with physical bumping damage basically. This could be done as a cloaking device instead.
Yes I am leaning more heavily towards disallowing cloaking in supercruise. But I don’t want to tie the cloaking mechanic to heat generation, as I want silent runners and those who outfit and engineer their ships for low temperature to be able to do silent cloaked builds.

As for shields, they’re not technically visible unless hit, so I can’t justify disabling shields as a requirement for using a cloaking device. It would also make cloaking useless as an ambush device in combat.
 
There's a variant I'd prefer (which would work for SC)

Camouflaging as other ships (with module & energy costs, plus glitch reveals)

  • Camouflage module required. C3+ (with larger modules allowing more complex and more sustained signature alteration)
  • Module allows pilot to select an alternate ship signature. (The greater the difference in form the larger the power draw and the shorter the window of stable deployment)
  • The deception will lose fidelity during its operating window, displaying increasing glitches and oddities to observers.
Could be fun :)
 

Ozric

Moderator
I don't really understand what the point of this cloaking device is to be honest. At the moment you're suggesting that you can still be seen on Radar but not targeted, which seems to me to make it worse than Silent Running is currently. If you can be seen on radar then someone can home in on you easily, and get close enough to attack you without any worries. Needing to target someone if you're using fixed weapons isn't that big a deal. With Silent Running you are very hard to make out until they're right up close to you at which point they can target you, as long as they stay within range.

I do like the way you've put your proposal, but I'm afraid that cloaking in Elite holds as much interest for me as it ever has done. I don't believe that it has a place in the game. We have Silent Running, which is so easy to use now it's ridiculously overpowered. And Cloaking Devices would stop people from putting in the effort to make cold running ships. I have a Krait Mk. II that I have lightly engineered and runs at 12% heat generation when flying at full speed :D


BTW, someone said something about putting cloaking back. Was it in the game at one point?
No.
 
I like the idea. But I'd make it better, when combined with silent running, you're almost totally invisible to both radar and visual, except for the odd distortion would an eagle eyed CMDR might spot.

I'd make it so the cloak module also hides you from night vision, but, night vision can help you spot artifacts better.

I wouldn't allow it to work with shields though, too much power output would light you up like a Christmas tree. Lol
Maybe properly shutting down the cloak can also bring your shields back up fast, but having your cloak disabled from hits, doesn't. Risk reward then.
 
I don't really understand what the point of this cloaking device is to be honest. At the moment you're suggesting that you can still be seen on Radar but not targeted, which seems to me to make it worse than Silent Running is currently. If you can be seen on radar then someone can home in on you easily, and get close enough to attack you without any worries. Needing to target someone if you're using fixed weapons isn't that big a deal. With Silent Running you are very hard to make out until they're right up close to you at which point they can target you, as long as they stay within range.

I do like the way you've put your proposal, but I'm afraid that cloaking in Elite holds as much interest for me as it ever has done. I don't believe that it has a place in the game. We have Silent Running, which is so easy to use now it's ridiculously overpowered. And Cloaking Devices would stop people from putting in the effort to make cold running ships. I have a Krait Mk. II that I have lightly engineered and runs at 12% heat generation when flying at full speed :D



No.
I’d say it’s primarily for smuggling and avoiding being scanned for bounties or cargo. Though you can be seen on radar due to visual cloaking having nothing to do with your ship’s heat signature, often times commanders may not be closely monitoring their radar, and when there are a lot of ships around, an extra dot on the radar is not likely to be picked up.

This provides the possibility of sneaking past without being scanned for your bounties, or having your cargo hold scanned. It would also be possible to use this to get into a good starting position for a sneak attack for the early advantage.

With silent running or low temp running, you’re still visible so it’s more difficult to sneak up or sneak past, and fixed weapons can be trained on you easily enough.

Now, if you combine silent running with a cloaked ship...
 
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I like the idea. But I'd make it better, when combined with silent running, you're almost totally invisible to both radar and visual, except for the odd distortion would an eagle eyed CMDR might spot.

I'd make it so the cloak module also hides you from night vision, but, night vision can help you spot artifacts better.

I wouldn't allow it to work with shields though, too much power output would light you up like a Christmas tree. Lol
Maybe properly shutting down the cloak can also bring your shields back up fast, but having your cloak disabled from hits, doesn't. Risk reward then.
I don’t know, as I can’t think of a reason why shields would interfere with cloaking, because they only light up when you’re hit. Also, as soon as you deploy weapons the cloak is deactivated, so you only have that initial surprise instance if the commander wasn’t paying attention to their radar in that moment, or if there are too many ships around to notice an extra blip on the radar.

After that, you’re on an even keel even with shields, so I can’t see much justification in cloaking having any effect on shields, particularly since it would largely negate the sneak attack, and reduce incentive to run cloaked in the first place.

But night vision allowing you to spot artifacts or cloak blur would be a good addition.
 
There's a variant I'd prefer (which would work for SC)

Camouflaging as other ships (with module & energy costs, plus glitch reveals)

  • Camouflage module required. C3+ (with larger modules allowing more complex and more sustained signature alteration)
  • Module allows pilot to select an alternate ship signature. (The greater the difference in form the larger the power draw and the shorter the window of stable deployment)
  • The deception will lose fidelity during its operating window, displaying increasing glitches and oddities to observers.
Could be fun :)
I like this idea. It would make for some very interesting and sneaky gameplay. I would advocate it as it’s own separate mechanic though, as it’s quite a bit more significant than mere cloaking, and works differently with a distinct effect.
 

Ozric

Moderator
With silent running or low temp running, you’re still visible so it’s more difficult to sneak up or sneak past, and fixed weapons can be trained on you easily enough.
Picking out a small/medium ship by eye at a distance of more than a couple of Km is very hard (for me at least ;))

With Silent Running as it is, you can line up directly opposite the mailslot at a distance of 7Km, request docking clearance, engage silent running and make your way towards the station in the Blue Zone without even needing to worry about overheating. I'm still not a fan of cloaking I'm afraid, I never really liked it in EvE either. If the drop in point to stations was moved back out to more than 10Km and the security ships came out further than 5Km then there might be an argument for it, but I'm afraid I just can't see it.

Sneak attacks are the only thing that I could see the cloaking being used for, especially if you get to keep your shields up as you're suggesting. I'd suggest though that with weapons being as OP as they are, giving people the opportunity to get lined up enough to unleash 1 or 2 full salvos on an unaware ship with no chance of them evading or applying SCBs/Heatsinks etc, you could kill most people before they even know what happened. There's enough issues with Ganking as it is ;)
 
Aight, then disallow cloaking device when requesting docking in stations like SC for interdiction.

That leaves cloaking device for sneak attacks or sneaking into a system safely without being ambushed by others and escaping from an interdiction after submission.

I can also see it useful for explorers/scientists landing in Thargoid, Guardian, settlements or other POI sites safely for non hostile activities.
 
I would love to see a cloaking mechanic; frankly I am surprised that something like it doesn't exist already. Here are my thoughts:

- Shields interfere with cloaks, so engaging a cloaking takes the shield offline.

- A cloaked ship should still be partially visible; it should have a transparent texture with refraction, so if backlit by a sun or planet it is a bit more visible, and at close ranges it would be visible against a starfield backdrop also.

- The cloak would require a very heavy specialized armor plating that is weak to all weapon types. It's a highly specialized shell and therefore not suitable for sustaining heavy fire. The armor plating would be heavy enough to severely limit maneuvering and speed.

- Having weapons deployed while cloaking could work just fine, but the cloak should be so power hungry that hard points would actually have to be deactivated to compensate for an active cloak. A poorly set up power management configuration would result in a ship with neither a functional cloak nor functional weapons. I'd like to see the cloak able to be bound to a fire group.

- Duration would be short, with a fade in/ fade out. With extreme engineering, we're talking 2 minutes tops, with 30 seconds to a minute as baseline cloak durations depending on size and rating. Cloaking effectiveness should also be based on ship size, a smaller ship should cloak longer and more completely than a huge one.
 
I would love to see a cloaking mechanic; frankly I am surprised that something like it doesn't exist already. Here are my thoughts:

- Shields interfere with cloaks, so engaging a cloaking takes the shield offline.

- A cloaked ship should still be partially visible; it should have a transparent texture with refraction, so if backlit by a sun or planet it is a bit more visible, and at close ranges it would be visible against a starfield backdrop also.

- The cloak would require a very heavy specialized armor plating that is weak to all weapon types. It's a highly specialized shell and therefore not suitable for sustaining heavy fire. The armor plating would be heavy enough to severely limit maneuvering and speed.

- Having weapons deployed while cloaking could work just fine, but the cloak should be so power hungry that hard points would actually have to be deactivated to compensate for an active cloak. A poorly set up power management configuration would result in a ship with neither a functional cloak nor functional weapons. I'd like to see the cloak able to be bound to a fire group.

- Duration would be short, with a fade in/ fade out. With extreme engineering, we're talking 2 minutes tops, with 30 seconds to a minute as baseline cloak durations depending on size and rating. Cloaking effectiveness should also be based on ship size, a smaller ship should cloak longer and more completely than a huge one.
Could you think of a reason why cloaking would necessarily interfere with shields? From a visibility standpoint, shields don't light up unless you're hit, which would drop your cloak anyway, so having shields on doesn't seem as though it should give away your position.

Also, @CMDR Cosmic Spacehead suggested that having night vision on should reveal artifacts (or possibly a blur) that indicate the presence of a cloaked ship, making it thereby partially visible or detectable to the trained eye, and more so the closer it is. I think that would work better than having the cloaked ship partially visible all the time, as in a way that would somewhat defeat the purpose of cloaking to begin with, particularly considering that the cloaked ship still shows up on radar.

The Metamaterial Armour I suggested could be made significantly heavier as you suggested, and I think that would also be a good trade-off, but perhaps not to the point of severely limiting manoeuvrability, though it should take a noticeable hit due to the weight increase.

The reason I suggested that deploying weapons should deactivate the cloak is so that there's a slight delay between decloaking and firing on a ship, revealing the cloaked ship just before the first shot can be fired.

I think though that a large power draw for the cloaking module would be a good way to restrict overpowered stealth fighter builds that would otherwise have had a stack of Shield Boosters and Shield Cell Banks, so that would be a good way to limit shielding on these ships without actually having the cloaking interfere with the shields directly.

I will incorporate some of this feedback into the OP. Thanks.
 
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