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FTL Unification

on Tue Sep 15, 2015 9:00 pm
So I was thinking last night about FTL tech- specifically, Halo slipspace and SoaSE Phase Jump tech (I think?). After a bit, it struck me how similar a lot of these techs are- many involve traveling along predetermined lanes, and terms like “subspace” come up a lot. Razz Being me, I eventually decide it’s a great idea to finally explain this subspace thing and unify all the FTL tech; the idea is, this should help us in the future creating new FTL techs, or developing subspace-related WMD, or new FTL interdiction tech, or pretty much anything else that would include this sort of stuff. Razz

The central tenet of my assumptions are the existence of “Phasic nodes”- in layman’s terms, wormholes in subspace with no detectable presence in realspace. Under the current scientific theories [namely, the ones I invented last night to explain all this Razz], “subspace” is an array of tachyon fields held together by Higgs field vibrations. The Higgs field thus acts as a unifying force for the tachyon fields, which then naturally segregate themselves into energy levels which underlie the visible universe. However, the Higgs field itself is not entirely stable; occasionally, on patch will fall out of alignment with the rest. This misaligned section will often bring another patch of the field down with it, due to various quantum-entanglement effects-- birthing a new Phasic node.
The nature of these nodes varies, although there are several common types; the three most common are referred to as Λ, K, and Θ nodes*. All FTL techs exploit the same principle --these quirks in subspace-- to achieve apparent FTL travel; the difference lies only in how the quirks are exploited. These are detailed below.

 • Phase drives (SoaSE):
Phase Drive Explanation:
Phase drives employ Λ nodes, which are by far the most common type; there are often dozens in even smaller systems; this allows for relatively flexible movement compared to most other drives. Travel along individual phase nodes is very fast and relatively reliable. However, fluctuations require constant minute adjustments pre-jump. Furthermore, attempts to enter phase nodes are quite “loud” on sensors; the process requires opening a large hole in the local tachyon field, making stealthy entry impossible due to the large amounts of tachyon-field disruption. Finally, a significant energy requirement means that phase-jumping vessels must divert almost all power towards the jump as their drives power up, leaving the ship a sitting duck (and precluding mounting the drive on smaller vessels). As a result, any attempts to make a phase jump requires charging the drive for as long as a minute before the actual jump can be made, with jump itself being highly detectable at all points. Sneak attacks with phase drives, despite their speed, are virtually impossible.
Phase drives earn their name by the way they phase their target ship, slowing down perceived time as it shifts into the highest possible tachyon energy level. This rapid phasing is what gives phase drives their speed and allows them to avoid the dangers of switching levels- though it’s also the source of their massive energy consumption.

TL;DR: Phase drives are extremely fast, very reliable, without sacrificing much strategic maneuverability due to the abundance of Λ nodes. However, they must spend a relatively long amount of time as a sitting duck in one place charging their drives, all the while broadcasting their position to any ship with a sensor system. Ideal for civilian ships deep in friendly space.

 • Wave-Stream Hyperdrives (SW):
Wave-Stream Hyperdrive Explanation:
Wave-pattern hyperdrives employ K nodes, which have much longer comparable range than Λ nodes- but are simultaneously much less stable. Although technically completely unrestricted, WSHDs almost always follow predetermined routes in order to avoid collision with large objects or other unintended incidents. This constant travel along a set path is what creates K nodes, similar to how foot traffic over a patch of wilderness will eventually carve a trail. The more used a node is, the faster the travel; on the most used nodes, higher-quality wave-pattern hyperdrives are the fastest commonly-available FTL tech in known space. Off these routes, hyperdrives are significantly slower.
In order to achieve this, WSHDs work by causing waves in space-time while converting the matter into tachyonic particles. The space-time waves form relatively minor cavitations in the Higgs field, which in turn results in streams within the tachyon fields- streams which a properly-equipped vessel then “rides”. Note that the force exerted on the Higgs field is not strong; due to issues with thermodynamics, hyperdrives have only a maximal energy input, as represented by the drive rating. As a result, no hyperdrive yet made has been able to go FTL while in a significant gravity well; the space-time waves simply aren’t strong enough to overcome gravity and create the necessary cavitations.

TL;DR: Hyperdrives are extremely fast, but gravitational effects limit movement, prevent jumping in too close to a planet, and makes interdiction relatively simple.

 • Slipspace drives (Halo):
Slipspace Drive Explanation:
Within each tachyon field, there are naturally-occurring tachyon streams not unlike those produced by WSHDs; these streams, referred to as Θ nodes, are the second most common type of naturally-occurring nodes. The speed of the slipstream drive depends on the speed of the tachyon stream; the speed of the tachyon stream depends on the energy level of the tachyon field; thus, the speed of the slipstream drive is equivalent to the energy level it can enter (in practice, mass and entering velocity are also factors- albeit smaller ones). Larger, more powerful drive can access higher energy levels, and thus go faster.
Slipstream drives have a comparable number and spread of routes to Phase drives, giving them similar flexibility; at the same time, they can match or exceed hyperdrives on some less-used lanes. However, this is largely counteracted by the drop in reliability; slipspace drives are comparatively dangerous, especially in concern to transition between energy levels. Furthermore,  the time required to travel a certain distance isn’t absolute; slipstreams are believed to have ebbs and flows that affect travel time, though these are poorly understood. Notably, this does not apply equally to all ships; a ship could take as much as 20% longer to arrive at a location than an identical ship that jumped from the same place simultaneously. Compounding these problems are high maintenance and overall jump inaccuracy, making slipspace drives unpopular outside of select military designs.
However, the slipspace drive’s primary advantage over other propulsions (at least as far as military value is concerned) is stealth: an ill-plotted slipspace jump can be as visible as a charging phase jump, whereas a well-plotted one can be virtually undetectable -sans any form of cloak- with no sacrifice in speed whatsoever. Though such a jump requires a significant time investment and large computational power, the military and SpecOps applications are obvious.

TL;DR: They're fast and stealthy, but less than reliable.

 • Warp drives (ST):
Warp Drive Explanation:
Warp drives are the most common FTL drive in the galaxy, gracing everything from top-of-the-line military vessels to cheap civilian courier craft. The reason for this is simple: it is the only FTL tech that allows for truly unfettered movement, and the same warp cores behind the tech can (and almost always are) used to power the rest of the ship. Unlike many other FTL techs, ships at warp can still maneuver, communicate, and maintain power to other subsystems. It is also one of the oldest and most well-understood FTL propulsion, easing maintenance and repair concerns.
However, in order to achieve this, a vessel must be equipped with extensive warp systems- including nacelles, navigational deflectors, warp cores, bussard ramscoops and other equipment. Even the overall shape of the vessel must be designed to exacting specifications in order to maintain optimal warp geometry, or else suffer massive penalties to overall system efficiency. Easily the warp drive’s biggest weakness, however, is maximum velocity: even the most powerful, most efficient warp systems have a relatively low, insurmountable speed cap. As a result several power who have traditionally used warp drives exclusively now look towards alternative drive systems to compensate.
Interestingly, the speed of a warp drive is directly proportional to the amount of energy put in; in other words, additional warp nacelles don’t direct increase speed. Instead, they increase the overall efficiency of warp bubble generation and stabilization- in other words, make what energy is put in count for more. Due to odd technicalities in the related physics, odd numbers of warp nacelles are more efficient than even numbers- however, they are still generally avoided, as they present numerous engineering problems in terms of maintaining the H field.

TL;DR: Warp drives are slower than other drives and require significant structural integration, but are far more flexible and are understood much better.

 • Transwarp (ST):
Transwarp Explanation:
Transwarp drives were one of the first attempts to alleviate the warp drive’s sluggish pace. These drives work by employing standard warp drives to tap into Z nodes, an easily-created type of tachyon node. However, the node’s nature is essentially chaotic; this renders natural ones unusable, and internally-generated artificial ones too difficult to control. Externally generated nodes, however, could be controlled, especially if the control emanated from both ends. Thus, transwarp drives work by positioning two node-generators (usually stations or specially-designed buoys) at point A and b, and having each generate a node between the two. These artificial Z nodes, or Transwarp relays, vastly increase the speed of standard warp drives- assuming the warping vessel’s destination is itself transwarp station (the original destination does not have to be a transwarp station, although the ship would travel even faster if it was).
TL;DR: Transwarp drives allow vessels with standard warp drives to travel much faster, but only towards or between transwarp nodes.

 • Quantum slipstream (ST):
Quantum Slipstream Explanation:
Quantum slipstream devices employ a warping vessel’s navigation deflector to channel high-energy quantum particles into the ship’s warp bubble, forming an E node. E nodes are similar to naturally-occurring Θ nodes employed by vessels with slipspace drives, albeit with highly increased reliability- ships using a Quantum slipstream device travel at comparable speeds to higher-level slipstream vessels, but with the accuracy of a warp drive.
However, QSDs are not simple by any means; anything larger than a heavy fighter requires a shuttle-sized “pathfinder” craft to fly ahead of the mothership and relay back information on the state of the field; larger vessels are not capable of making the necessary adjustment quick enough (failure to make said adjustments can result in anything from the node collapsing, to fatal collision with a planet or other large object). Furthermore, QSDs require extended cooldown periods after use, on the order of days or weeks, relegating it to use only when necessary.
The devices themselves are leveled from 1 to 4, with 1 being only marginally faster than transwarp, and 4 being massively faster. Level 5 devices exist, but can only be equipped on vessels specially designed to employ them, precluding large-scale deployment.

TL;DR: They’re hyperdrive-level fast, but have massive cooldown and require the aid of special scout ships.

 • Plane-Sail Hyperdrive (HH):
Plane-Sail Hyperdrive Explanation:
If warp engines are the only true form of unhindered travel, Plane-Sail Hyperdrives are a close second. The PLHD works by entering slipspace, just like a slipspace drive; once the Θ node has been reached, however, it’s “rended” into a “Δ node”. Δ nodes are similar to the E nodes employed by a quantum slipstream device- except instead of being contained within a pocket of subspace, innovations with Higgs boson manipulation allow the vessel to navigate standard subspace itself without the use of a pathfinder vessel. Movement is not completely free --significant deviation from a Θ node will drastically reduce top speed-- but is vastly moreso than typical slipstream drives- and with much greater jump accuracy to boot. PLHD vessels can still enter most of the higher levels of slipspace, granting an overall high top speed- although they’re still slower than similar vessels with standard slipspace drives. Like Wave-Stream Hyperdrives, PLHDs are vulnerable to disruption from large gravitational fields.
More than any other drive type, PLHDs are vulnerable to the dangers of crossing subspace energy thresholds; the transition itself is highly dangerous for any ship not mounting a properly-tuned Warshawski sail, and even then there are mechanical and mental damage (especially after repeated transitions).

TL;DR: PLHDs work on a very similar pattern to standard slipstream drives; they are slower, but have much greater accuracy and freedom of movement.

 • Alcubierre drive (PXR):
Alcubierre Drive Explanation:
ICS vessels have been noted employing Γ nodes, to the surprise of military analysts everywhere.  Γ nodes were detected soon after space travel began, but remained unused because of stability issues. It is believed that these “Alcubierre drives”, named for a type of theorized pre-warp FTl propulsion that worked under similar principles, work by initiating special dilithium-induced quantum reaction. This reaction then creates negative mass- negative mass which is then shunted into subspace, stabilizing heretofore Γ nodes enough to allow even capital vessels. Γ nodes had been employed by other factions previously, but only by unmanned probes; a shielded, manned vessel would tow a specially-made negative mass generator into position, which would then go through a similar process to stabilize the node and allow the probe passage. Until this point, there has been no way to generate sufficient amounts of negative mass to move a proper ship into these nodes without dousing every ship within hundreds of klicks in fatal amounts of radiation.
Γ nodes are not significantly faster than warp drives- their advantage lies in stealth. Although it is possible to detect a vessel crossing a Γ node, it requires having a specially-equipped detector vessel on at least one end- and considering most Γ nodes are either poorly charted or not at all, having such equipment on-hand in the right location would be difficult, to make an understatement.
Outside of this, Alcubierre drives are quite similar to phase drives- minus the required vulnerable time while charging (and, as mentioned, speed advantage). Still, it must’ve been enough; it is now believed almost every ship in the ICS is equipped with this tech.

TL;DR: Ships using an Alcubierre drive are nearly impossible to detect with conventional means. Special equipment must be deployed on at least one side of the node- and most nodes are completely or partially uncharted. Otherwise, they are similar to phase drives without the vulnerability window, but aren’t much faster than warp.

 • Wave motion engine (SBY):
Wave Motion Engine Expolanation:
B nodes are an extremely rare phenomenon, believed to have something to do with black-hole collision. Regardless, these subspace distortions are at the heart of the wave-motion engine: a vessel employs brute-force Higgs boson control to push a jet of tachyons against on of the higher-energy subspace layers, temporarily granting a massive boost in speed. This reaction, however, consumes massive amounts of power- to the point where the using vessel is almost completely disabled for several minutes after use. Wave motion engines can also be used offensively, in the form of a wave motion cannon. This technology is highly classified, and has only been deployed on two vessels- the PCG Argo and PCG Arondite.

TL;DR: It’s really flipping fast.

 • Naglfar drive (Draugr):
Naglfar Drive Explanation:
No one quite understands the Draugr’s highly advanced FTL tech, deemed the Naglfar drive. It appears to open a hole directly to the highest subspace layer, and allows friendly vessels accompanying the equipped ship safe passage. If projections on the raider’s points of origin are correct, this is the fastest FTL drive in known space- capable of realistically crossing intergalactic within days, if not weeks. Capturing and reverse engineering any examples we come across should be a top priority.

TL;DR: It’s mind-numbingly fast. Seriously.

So that’s what I have so far. None of this is final; I’m far from an expert on any of this tech, so I’ll need your guy’s input to correct all the errors this doubtlessly contains. Razz That being said, some of this content is actually knowingly inaccurate- either to make it fit better overall (most notably with HH tech) or becuase i just couldn't be bothered. Razz Still, open to suggestions/corrections.

*Node types are classified as uppercase Greek letters, and go from Λ (Lambda- most common) to A (Alpha- least common).

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Meanwhile, on the chat....
Arik wrote:I'm ready to get back to worldbuilding now... Razz

Tetrahedron wrote:I'm not sure if we should interrupt Ant like this...
He might kill us with his cow bombs

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Re: FTL Unification

on Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:25 pm
Very nice summary! This should help a lot with balancing stories or roleplays.
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Re: FTL Unification

on Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:42 pm
S-H & Kojan: Thanks! Hopefully we'll remember to actually use those advantages. Razz

S-H: Those were the ideas, yeah; you pretty much nailed it. Razz It's actually easier than it seems, as most FTL tech uses similar terminologies in similar ways (although some of the finer details were kinda annoying Razz). Still, I think it turned out all right. Razz

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Meanwhile, on the chat....
Arik wrote:I'm ready to get back to worldbuilding now... Razz

Tetrahedron wrote:I'm not sure if we should interrupt Ant like this...
He might kill us with his cow bombs

Star-Hunter wrote:"He might kill us with his cow bombs."
I'll take phrases I never thought I'd hear in my lifetime for $500
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Re: FTL Unification

on Wed Sep 16, 2015 5:51 pm
*stands up and applauds Mighty, tears slightly ebbing from my eyes* bravo!  Well done very concise, yet well done explanations!

I would like to point out that only the Argo and not the Arondite has a WMG/WMD/WME as of right now, though there are two sister ships to the Argo one is assigned to each of the other two council members. (Dino and Scare)

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Re: FTL Unification

on Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:55 pm
I have to say that you did very well to get as far as you did with all of these, and yeah the HH tech was rather...stretched, but not to such a point that it'd be unusable in the same manner that it's used within the Honorverse. To be honest I'm surprised you included it at all and it's the only one I read the entire "article" on but I'll go back and read the others later.

Very well done, my friend.

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Re: FTL Unification

on Thu Sep 17, 2015 9:00 am
Looks good to me so far. Razz The SW hyperdrive tech, if nothing else, seems to come to the same result even if it's by different means, so I'm happy with it. Razz

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Re: FTL Unification

on Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:18 am
The main theory is quite nice, however, like Jace mentioned with the HH tech, the Slipspace drives of Halo seem a bit stretched. The ideas are similar, but implemented differently. I'll set aside, for a moment, all the canon moments where the use of a slipspace drive is anything but stealthy (when things that aren't Forerunner are being used and when the right sensors are in place. See the first act of Halo 2, where Cortana mentions "whispers near Io", and later on where a Covenant ship jumps to slipspace in-atmosphere over a city. Results: not pretty.).

Your initial concept of the streams, some of which move faster than others, is correct, but in Halo slipspace is composed of entire dimensions tangled with each other - sometimes compared to a crumpled piece of paper, which sits underneath the normal three dimensions of the universe.
Instead of some dimensions merely being faster than others, there are areas where the dimension doesn't exist - although another higher dimension there might (these higher dimensions are invisible to some lesser slipspace drives, which explains why Forerunner slipspace drives and Covenant slipspace drives are so much faster than UNSC/human slipspace drives most of the time - they can see which "shortcuts" through slipspace to take. Using a UNSC drive would be like driving a Prius - it can use maintained roads and some poorly maintained roads. Using a Forerunner or Covvie slipspace drive would be like using this beast - there aren't many boundaries to where you could go Razz The drives I use range from Covenant to high-end Covenant quality and speed). I guess it isn't something that's wrong so much as it is something to keep in mind.
The part where it gets weird, though, is entering slipspace (and why it isn't really ever stealthy). While a node or a portal could naturally occur or be formed, a more accurate version of the slipspace drive that would fit your theory would be one that skips the node altogether and simply tears a hole in normal space (in the case of human drives) to fit into slipspace or slips in like a surgical scalpel (in the case of Covvie and Forerunner drives). The ship then travels through the hole and into slipspace. This is the part of slipspace drives that you could easily weaponise (as has been done multiple times in Halo).

You do have the maintenance and danger issues spot-on. Slipspace drives were never really manually maintained after a certain date (they'd have robots do it because so many human engineers died of radiation or disappearing into slipspace). Special material or shielding is required to prevent radiation poisoning whilst in slipspace. Rupturing a slipspace drive can create "splinters" in normal space that eventually consume the drive and the entire ship the drive was on.

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Re: FTL Unification

on Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:03 pm
First off... you lost me by the second paragraph. You iz two smart fer meh. Razz  


I can't speak to the accuracy of most of these to their universes, but I can speak to the Trek ones. Razz 

Warp: Warp works by warping the fabric of space itself, so that the ships stays still, but space moves, sort of like moving a pencil on a bed-sheet by folding the sheet under the pencil. (I tried to find Flipz's EXCELLENT explanation posts for this, but I was unable to do so. So credit to him for the explanation, although his was much better.) 

Transwarp. You hit the nail right on the head for Borg transwarp, although Trek tends to name a bunch of assorted, different technologies for faster than warp "transwarp" without ever explaining how they work, or should work if they actually worked instead of glitching in-universe. Razz 

Quantum-Slipstream-Drive I believe you got it absolutely right in every way but one, and that is that purpose-built QSsD ships, built by designers who know enough about the tech, don't need a small craft or probe to go ahead of them. The only time we see the shuttle used for QSsD (and, as I recall, this made up 50% of QSsD's appearances in all of Trek Razz ) was when Voyager tried to use the tech, but they had to improvise. In the only other episode that comes to my mind that dealt with QSsD, we see the sole-survivor of an alien race assimilated by the Borg, who has a grudge against Voyager, who gives them a QSsD capable ship from his people, designed to look more Federation-ish, so that Voyager's crew will try to use it to get home faster, only to run into the Borg and be assimilated. This ship didn't need a probe or shuttle to go before it a relay information. 
I believe those are the only two appearances by QSsD in Trek canon, but in the Trek EU, we see normal Federation ships in Star Trek Online adapted to use QSsD, and either the Federation has advanced the tech enough to were a scout shuttle is no-longer needed, or the designers were lazy and neglected to include it. 
At any rate, modern ships don't need a relay small-craft to use QSsD. This concludes my long-winded post of the day. Razz

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Re: FTL Unification

on Thu Sep 17, 2015 1:50 pm
All: Thanks!

J-red: I though I mentioned that...? Yeah, I did. Razz

Niko/Jace/Dino: I know it isn't the best representations of the tech. Most of the variations from "canon" drives, though, (especially HH hyperdrives) were only half due to my lack of knowledge on the subject; I also intentionally modified the tech so it would have a more distinct role, and thus give people a reason to use it (otherwise, you might as well stick to warp + hyperdrive; it has the best combination of speed, flexibility and reliability). 

For Slipspace drives, the only reason I reported them to be so quiet is because Niko is the only one who uses them (ATM), and it seemed to fit his ships better (particularly the stealth ones).

For HH hyperdrives, I mainly made changes due to the fact that warp was basically the only free-form type drive system- PSHHs were supposed to be an alternative.

For the various warp techs... Blargh, that part's basically just an infodump based on my headcanon. Razz seems to work, though, so i'm running with it. Razz

In short, a lot of the deviations were intentional so that each drive type had it's place, instead of being slight variations on the same thing. It's not the most accurate integration possible, but it gives a good reason as to why different people use different propulsion methods. Razz

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Meanwhile, on the chat....
Arik wrote:I'm ready to get back to worldbuilding now... Razz

Tetrahedron wrote:I'm not sure if we should interrupt Ant like this...
He might kill us with his cow bombs

Star-Hunter wrote:"He might kill us with his cow bombs."
I'll take phrases I never thought I'd hear in my lifetime for $500
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Re: FTL Unification

on Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:00 pm
So honestly I'd say the whole thing is pretty good, even if it's not totally accurate to the original FTL drives. (Which may be fine. Originality is rarely a problem Razz)

Some other things though:

-What about FTL comms/sensors? Any thoughts on how that would work? I can't speak for everyone here, but I know that the MSI is almost as reliant on that for both naval combat and general communication between worlds as it is on its FTL drive technology. Maybe more so, even.

-Should we maybe put some slight handicaps on using multiple FTL technologies at once? For example I suspect something like, say, a combined ST Warp-style drive and a SW Hyperspace-style one on the same ship could be somewhat OP.

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Re: FTL Unification

on Fri Sep 18, 2015 11:09 am
@ Mighty - No, what you said is that both the Argo AND Arondite have WMT on them. Only the Argo does. Razz

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Re: FTL Unification

on Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:35 pm
J-red: Oooh, K. I'll get around to fixing that when I edit this next.

Arik: FTL comms... no idea, honestly. Razz I know ST uses a subspace radio or whatever, but no explanation for that is ever given to my knowledge.

As for combining FTL techs, I honestly think it's fine IMHO. I mean, if someone's using five or something, then yeah, that's an issue; but otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it.

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Meanwhile, on the chat....
Arik wrote:I'm ready to get back to worldbuilding now... Razz

Tetrahedron wrote:I'm not sure if we should interrupt Ant like this...
He might kill us with his cow bombs

Star-Hunter wrote:"He might kill us with his cow bombs."
I'll take phrases I never thought I'd hear in my lifetime for $500
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