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Different types of laser guide (2.4.4)

This is a very simple guide to the different roles for laser systems and the different design strategies that one can use for lasers.

First, I'll go over some laser basics and terminology.

Lasers work by using pumps to store power, then discharging that power from some weapon system: A combiner, LAMS node or a

A laser's initial damage is its damage dealt when fully charged. This is a function of only the amount of storage and numbers of Q switches and destabilizers - it has nothing to do with the number of pumps. Effective initial damage can also be increased by using more weapon systems, such as redundant LAMS nodes. In the current version, a laser's initial damage can be seen by allowing it to fully charge and looking at the "Damage of next shot" value when looking at a laser main block. Per second, this damage is equal to the laser's storage capacity * the laser's destabilizer multiplier factor * 0.2 (or 0.1 for continuous lasers). With no destabilizers, the destabilizer factor is 1, and for the Nth destabilizer added, the factor increases by 0.8^N.

A laser's sustained damage is its damage dealt when firing continuously: The power in exactly equals the power out. This damage is dependent almost entirely on the number of pumps on the laser - storage and destabilizers are only relevant to the point that enough energy is discharged per shot that storage is not completely filled before the next shot is taken, that is, that the initial damage is greater than or equal to the sustained damage. Under default conditions, a laser's damage will gradually reduce from its initial damage to its sustained damage. However, if a regulator is installed, the laser will fire with its initial damage regardless of how charged it is until it is empty, whereupon continued shots will be fired with exactly the sustained damage, turning the decay curve into a decay cliff. If there are multiple weapons systems, sustained damage is divided equally among them. This may be seen in the current build as "Sustained damage/sec" when looking at a laser main block - to get the sustained damage per shot, divide the given value by shots per second. Per second, this is equal to the effective number of pumps (counting a 3m pump as three pumps) that the laser has times 100 (50 for continuous lasers).

A pulsed laser system that has a sustained damage lower than its initial damage will suffer from an effect wherein the power draw will oscillate extremely quickly as the laser switches between full draw and no draw. This is very hard on engines and wastes fuel - deal with it by increasing the laser's initial damage by adding storage or destabilizers or decreasing the sustained damage by removing pumps. With a continuous laser, it's less important as the engine draw will be constant, but you should still avoid it as it's a waste of materials.

And now, on to the roles a laser can serve.

DPS Laser: This is a laser designed, simply, to deal damage over time, usually with quick shots and a high rate of fire.
This is the simplest and perhaps most common laser weapon design, and the cheapest in terms of material costs compared to its sustained damage. It is often used as a close defense against aircraft and light vehicles. However, because it fires constantly, it is predictable and can be deflected with smoke defense, and because its damage per shot is relatively low it is less effective against heavy armor. DPS lasers are best at dealing with large numbers of small, flying vehicles and can deal with huge swarms of enemy aircraft (or small boats, if fired from a high enough altitude to go through very little water) with relative ease.

The best design strategy for a DPS laser is simple: As many pumps as possible, with as little storage as possible. Ideally this sort of laser should use at least one Q switch, as this will double the damage output - the number of Q switches is less relevant, but ideally, the damage per shot at sustained damage levels should be enough to melt through at least one block on the target as you're unlikely to hit the same spot twice. You will usually need some storage, and you will need enough frequency doublers to give an AP equal to twice your target material's armor class - typically this will either be 30 for metal or 80 for heavy armor. Do not bother with a regulator as regulators have no effect on sustained damage.

Piercing Laser: This is a laser designed to have a lower rate of fire but a very high damage per shot, with the intention of piercing deep into an enemy vehicle's hull and damaging vital components in one shot. Because it fires less frequently, it is less effective against highly evasive or stealthy vehicles, but is harder to defend against as reactive smoke may fade by the time another shot is taken. Piercing lasers are best against large, heavily armored enemies that would take ages to pound into submission by conventional means.

This type of design requires a lower power input compared to the simple DPS laser but requires a large amount of storage - it should be optimized for extremely high initial damage regardless of sustained damage. This means fewer pumps and a lot of storage, a 1Q design, and a regulator - ideally the cavities should be completely full before a shot is taken and totally empty afterwards.

Standard LAMS: This is a defense system using the Laser Munition Defense to destroy incoming missiles and cannon shells. It is the only system which can directly hardkill cannon shells. The damage dealt by a Laser Munition Defense is a fraction of that dealt by a Laser Combiner. A standard LAMS must therefore have extremely high base damage to have any meaningful effect.

The need for high base damage means this must have either a truly extraordinary amount of power input if optimizing for sustained damage, or an optimization for initial damage. The disadvantage of optimizing for initial damage is that the LAMS will eventually run out of power ('burn out'), either losing power over time if not using a regulator, or losing power suddenly if it is. I don't think there's a way to measure the power stored in laser cavities with ACBs, but if there is, or if it is implemented after writing this, then one could turn the laser off when it burned out and turn it back on when it recharged - otherwise the laser will continue to fire ineffective shots at that point.

When optimizing for initial damage on a standard LAMS, favor storage capacity strongly over destabilizers. Storage capacity increases the amount of time that damage can be sustained for while destabilizers decrease it. Ideally, you want the pumps to be running at all times for this system, but unless you're fine tuning to a particular enemy design, they will likely have downtime. You also will probably want a 4Q design - 1Q-3Q are most useful against small salvos and can make a more compact system for defending against such, while Continuous may be more effective if an extremely large laser is available and large salvos consisting of many projectiles must be stopped.

A regulator is probably a good idea for this system as it ensures that lasers maintain full effectiveness for as long as possible. The disadvantage is that a regulator system has a harder time recovering if it is saturated and lesser amounts of enemy fire continue. If using a continuous LAMS, however, absolutely use a regulator - continuous mode already uses only as much energy as it requires to destroy projectiles.

Also, an LAMS should have at least 2 AP.

LCAMS (Laser Cannon Anti-Missile System): This is a defense system using the Laser Combiner controlled by an Anti-Missile Cannon Controller. I don't believe the anti-missile cannon controller can control fixed weapons yet, however. This sort of system requires a lot of deck space as the optics line must be extremely long. The effective range of such a system is equal to 1 divided by the tangent of the inaccuracy, or the cotangent of the inaccuracy - this is the range at which the deviation of the shot is at most 1 meter. Therefore, the range of such a weapon is typically much shorter than a standard LAMS, unless the vehicle is actually built around the LCAMS - either way, it's at least as big as a turret of some sort. It also has the disadvantage that the turret may need to turn if the missiles are outside its initial field of fire - up to 45 degrees. However, it offers unparalleled protection against missiles (and only missiles).

The internal design of an LCAMS should be similar to an LAMS. However, optimization for raw damage is less necessary as it is only targeting missiles, and the base damage is much higher due to using the more efficient Laser Combiner. 4Q can be used for high efficiency, but I recommend Continuous for its incredible ability to sweep away even the largest of missile salvos, almost comparable to flak anti-missile systems. Otherwise, most of the same notes that apply to standard LAMS apply to LCAMS. Bear in mind that when using Continuous, the "Acceptable Shots" setting should be set as high as possible as Continuous fires at least one effective shot per frame.

Laser Cutter: This is new and I haven't played with it as much, but it's a melee weapon version of the laser that can be employed as both a missile defense and as a ramming weapon. For most practical purposes, this requires that your vehicle be larger than your enemy's, in contrast to other ramming systems which favor smaller vehicles - there must be a bay of sorts on your vehicle into which the enemy is driven.

Because this is not a continuously firing laser but only discharges when something hits it, I recommend optimizing for storage capacity and initial damage as with a sniper laser, to destroy the enemy as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the sky's the limit. Laser cutters have very high damage efficiency compared to even laser combiners, so either Continuous or 4Q should work. I also recommend giving the cutter at least 80 AP to deal full damage to heavy armor.

These can also be used to destroy missiles, and indeed, as the cutter bay must be facing the enemy it is likely to inherently serve a dual-purpose role as front and center is the most common target on most vehicles. Due to the extremely close range at which this is done I'm frankly not sure how to make it work as such without risking taking nearly as much damage as a direct hit if the missile has frag or HE warheads, but it should be effective against impact or EMP missiles regardless. Try using a large bay with your decoys in the center and shields and thick armor around.

EDIT: Added some details on how to see or pre-calculate the initial damage and sustained damage for a laser.

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