[1.11] Multiple tractor beam issues

The tractor beam is kind of a black box. The only spec that seems to relate to how well it will perform is the “beam power”, with no explanation as to how that relates to slowing down an enemy ship.

A few questions that come up are:

  1. How long will it slow a ship?
  2. What is the firing interval?
  3. How much will it slow down a ship?
  4. How fast does it track, or is it even limited by tracking speed?

I made a simple challenge to test these. I took a ridiculously armored cruiser with 6 cruiser defense lasers and a single tractor beam (not the turbo-charged one, just the regular one). I put it up against a pack of rocket fighters with 3.24 speed who, because of an existing bug, wouldn’t be able to shoot my cruiser once they were in orbiting range. I then looked to see how often and for how long the tractor beam fired, how effective it was, and how the 6 lasers interacted with it.

The results are disappointing. The tractor beam held for up to 10 seconds, but it then had to cool down for about 27 seconds. During these periods, the icon in the ships status never showed anything in the recharge bar for the tractor beam; it was always empty and never filled. The tractor beam did manage to bring the ships screeching to a halt within a few seconds, which was good, but it pulled the ships directly to the turret, which would likely cause many weapons to not be able to hit the ship.

I also found that the defense lasers didn’t do any prioritization of the ship being held in the tractor beam. Probably about half of the time a ship would be caught, it would sit in the tractor beam and not be shot at and proceed to fly away – in 10 seconds, not one of the 6 defense lasers pitched a shot at it. I don’t think this was a range problem, because sometimes they were shot at, though the frequency of occurrence may be skewed by the position of the lasers w.r.t. the tractor beam.

I didn’t test this explicitly, but it’s been reported elsewhere that multiple tractor beams, even on the same ship, will tend to target the same enemy ship. Given what I saw here, overlapping tractor beams are completely unnecessary and merely result in a waste of that interval of the beam. Perhaps if the beam intervals were staggered, this might be useful to hold a ship longer or even indefinitely, but in the 10 second hold time, a ship should be easy to destroy.

So, lots of problems with tractor beams. I would write these up as several issues, but it will probably be easiest to tackle these all at once.

I tested this with 1.12 and, though it’s a bit better, it still needs a lot of help. The tractor beams were much smarter about choosing different targets. They would still sometimes gang up on the same target, even though there were plenty others to choose from, but that didn’t happen often, whereas it used to happen almost every time. Unfortunately, my lasers still weren’t targeting the ships that were stuck in the tractor beams.

Other than this, all other issues remain the same.

I think beam power is how long the beam stays on for. Beam weight is how much it slows the target by presumably by adding extra weight. When a fighter is being beamed very close to a ship it may be within the minimum firing range of the other turrets, usually I do see fighters taking several hits after being tractored. Tractor beams never miss. All in all they are much better than before, so much so that using defence lasers is not really necessary as slower guns deal more damage and still hit often.