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Radio Range
It's Too Damn Low

Since there may be some future Badlands content coming with freight expansions, this is probably as good a time as any to address communication methods outside the city: Namely that radios were released in an underpowered state that more or less smothered what could have been a cool feature.

I think every single radio should broadcast city-wide at a minimum, and installed radios (room, vehicle, cyberware) should broadcast to the Badlands or even to space in the bargain. The extreme level of stratification on these devices was really not necessary for the very limited utility they actually provide, especially considering now there is no other communication methods outside the city at all.

I don't disagree with the premise here. Howecer, It's not true that there are no methods of comms outside the city. Progias should work in San Marab for instance. If they aren't. Submit a bug.
I'm struggling to find a patch note about it, but I could have sworn phones were changed to stop working outside the city in January or something. I've been told at least that NPCs can't make calls from San Mara.

It's possible I dreamt this, I will test it.

Close, 0x1mm. You're thinking Aprol 2021.

https://www.sindome.org/bgbb/game-discussion/new-game-features/-apr--21--improvements-n-bug-fixes-420/

The post By Johnny at Apr 3, 2021 8:36 PM is a great one to review.

"PROGIA SIGNAL

Progias work thanks to the power of the grid. There isn't a whole lot of grid infrastructure outside the dome. So, Progias don't work well outside the dome anymore. They will still work in certain populated areas (or near those populated areas) and should work reliably in the dome, but they shouldn't work absolutely everywhere anymore. :)

But Johnny you say, My quickterm doesn't work, but my progia does! To that, I say that the Internet doesn't always work on my phone, but I can make calls still, network technologies are weird!"

Yes I suppose I must be thinking of that (I was only a year off), though I could have sworn NPCs could make calls from Mara at one point before that and they certainly don't now which makes it pretty hard to interact with them for puppeting purposes.

NPCs in the Badlands and space carrying radios tuned to a common frequency is pretty gamey but it did seem to me like radios was meant to take over for progias since the latter was curtailed when the former was introduced, which never really ended up happening.

While there's not exactly a lot of reason to be in the Badlands for protracted periods of time, it does somewhat notionally seem to be the 'vehicle combat is on without restrictions' zone, which makes it somewhat ironic that vehicles and radios intermix so poorly right now.

I really want radios to be cool, it just feels like the stars have to align for them to be useful. That said, perhaps the desired outcome is players avoiding space and the Badlands since it does take them out of the primary roleplaying arena, in which case I can see the argument for the comms to be bad... but I still think they all should broadcast city-wide by default even so.

The lack of radios with significant range results in them being very underwhelming and underutilized. In turn, this results for a complete lack thereof of radio content, and in a final extra salt on the wound - if you're banished you are in a communications blackout effectively.

Radios very much need love and the ramifications of this perceived minor change are substantial.

Bringing this thread back because I'd like to evaluate the state of radios in the game.

What are the current factors discouraging people from using radios today, and how can we get more people to use them? I feel like they have so much potential, but only if there's at least a good amount of people listening to the radio waves at one time. For me, the reason why I don't use radios that much is because you have to have them turned on all the time if you don't want to miss any impromptu radio conversations, and I don't want to waste the battery on them for no reason.

We need people and organizations methodically using radios. Mix/Badlands oriented radio content using a similar scripting scheduler as tv's would be a godsend. In addition, specific entities using encrypted radio chatter vs SIC would also help.

Sindome has a lot of amazing coded systems like radios, tracking beacons, vehicle combat, etc but unless plots and Staff are pushing these features to be used - they go largely ignored and undiscovered.

Should be mentioned that some radio-related equipment seems to be all but impossible to get into the game outside of staff. Not saying that there isn't design considerations to take into effect here with the various sets.

Also, in the heyday of radio usage you were able to get units at pretty aggressive prices second-hand. I don't know if these are all sitting around in a landfill or something somewhere, but the retail prices of radios could also be looked at. The crappiest model of radio seems to be many times more expensive than say, a progia, which arguably is much, much more useful than a radio is. Food for thought.

edit

(Edited by Slither at 3:08 pm on 1/21/2023)

I think one thing which might drive interest is right now low bands are completely unusable from even a sector away, which I get is by design.

But I think if the static was a little less and at least some words were able to come in, it might trigger interest in people trying to listen in from a distance away to find other means/find out information about what's being talked about.

I think many of the recent changes and updates address a lot of the feedback in this thread. Right now we have devices that work for different ranges, and we're working to improve the system in the future. Looking forward to any more feedback you all might have.
The problem is, in practice, no one can really talk to anyone else because the system still is so stratified and has so many restrictions and downsides.

I've probably had way more want for the idea of radios, on paper, than most players because I've had a real need at various times to talk to PCs and NPCs in the Badlands and in space, but there's not really any combination of equipment that makes that feasible the way things are structured.

Even if every radio could just talk to every other radio, at any range, they'd probably still be a niche tool because SIC is already a universal communication tool for 99% of situations.

This is what I think is necessary for radios to see regular (though still niche) use:

+ Radio chrome can receive and broadcast on any band, at any range, anywhere.

+ Low-band 1000 series handhelds consume no power, and low-band covers the entire of the inside of the dome.

+ 2500 series and above handhelds/helmets consume no power and can send and receive on low and mid bands.

+ Mid-band covers all terrestrial locations.

+ All radios can broadcast out of vehicles.

+ All install-required radios are triple band radios with unlimited range to everywhere.

Also just to add I think I have like six different radios of various at the moment, and I'm sure a ton of other characters have battery-less Freqqies stuffed in closets. So I don't think what is needed is so much new even fancier radios but rather low-band becoming a lot more useful, if the goal is to make it a common method of communication in game.

10 different radios split across 3 bands out of the gate was kind of like if Progia models could only call models of the same type, and also if Progia-7s had a 10 block range and drained batteries and had to be left on all the time to get calls.

The basic function of radio amounts to a lo-fi SIC network, something otherwise provided to every character automatically for free. The function that radio can provide just doesn't feel strong enough to me to necessitate it gets split up with various downsides and complications, no matter how many higher-band models get added.

I have very little IC experience with radios so what I am about to share are more general thoughts.

There seems to be a lot of potential for cool roleplay, plotting and scheming around the use of radios so I hesitate to offer specific examples.

If possible, I think there might be some value in working with power levels of radios and how those power levels affect the range at which they can SEND and RECEIVE.

For example a 2500 series might be able to SEND to all sectors within the dome. A 1000 series might be able to SEND to a single sector. A 1000 series could RECEIVE from a 2500 series in another sector (for example, 2500 on GOLD can SEND to 1000 on RED) but the 1000 on RED cannot respond to the 2500.

That would introduce some interesting dynamics around command and control. It would also make some of the lower power radios more interesting by themselves because they could be used to receive transmissions. Then paired with other similar powered radios, they can be used by small groups to communicate with each other.

I see radios being extremely useful in the Mix for what should be obvious reasons that we shouldn't talk about here on BgBB. Even the lowest powered, 1000 series radios.

In the future I would like to see rigging tied to radios and transmitting power. Not necessarily radios themselves, but using similar mechanics. Right now it seems like riggers do not have enough skin in the game. (My personal opinion here.) There's nothing to prevent a rigger from sitting in the safety of some corporate enclave and sending a drone or whatever down into a dangerous portion of the city. By using the idea of radio ranges, there would be situations where riggers might need to be closer to the areas they want to operate drones in.

To get really complex, there could be a system for jamming signals. For example, a 2500 series radio could have enough power to transmit over a 1000 series on the same frequency. This has already been somewhat coded into the game as far as I can tell via the mechanic to hold down the transmit button on radio base stations. There is even a compensating mechanic in there where the radio overheats, presumably to prevent this from being abused.

I agree with 0x1mm that there do seem to be too many different varieties of radios.

There should be one system for Earth to Space. UHF , VHF , whatever. This should be in place to limit the communication between the two sectors of the game.

There should be some sort of mid-band system to bridge the Badlands and the city. These should be somewhat restricted so that factions in the various different parts of the world can SEND messages out, but not maintain sustained back and forth, real time communications. (Basically the system I proposed above with different power levels of radio). Or perhaps the mid-band radios are in fixed locations where they are susceptible to eavesdropping, interruption, etc. I don't have enough experience with Badlands / City conflict and roleplay to understand what balance issues easy / free and unchecked communication might create.

Then there should be tactical radios that do away with the nonsense about vehicles being Faraday cages, etc. One type of radio that works within a single sector. A second type that works within the entire city (probably vehicle mounted or stationary in a building). Then that's it. Let the people who want to use the radios figure out how to secure them and not broadcast their business to anyone who wants to listen in on it.

The price point of radios versus Progia's seems well balanced.

Many characters and players bought into the IC and OOC push that was made when this stuff rolled out, setting up equipment, installing it permanently into their characters, distributing low-band gear, and putting up contest to try to kickstart a radio ecosystem.

That effort was let down by how crippled the system was at launch and long afterwards, and I think now leaving low-band behind as a lost cause and selling new mid-band gear in replacement does away with all the time and effort and chyen that went into that initial effort.

There's no reason to again put in the effort to replicate that again knowing it was a waste the first time, especially not now with equipment that's even more expensive and has more hurdles to access it. If starting a radio ecosystem means buying even more new equipment again, I don't think it's going to happen.

What equipment is present and invested in that can get this kind of system started, if it was improved, is all on the low-band. That is where, in my opinion, the improvements focus will have to be if it's going to become a big system with lots of player support and content.

@Hek: I think what you describe is kind of how it works! Let me know if you think otherwise. Check out HELP RADIO. Low band radios are meant for in-sector communications. Mid band radios are meant for longer range comms (Badlands for example, or intra sector). High band radios have a much higher range.

@0x1mm: I don't think mid-band radios are meant to replace low-band radios. Low-band radios are meant for short-range comms. For example, a team operating in the same sector. Mid-band radios are what would be used for longer range comms. High-band radios are a very expensive investment that works in even longer scales, such as Earth to space.

Not sure if that solves the doubts there?

I think low-band radios as is have their purpose, especially with the introduction of the improved and patched SecureTalk cards. These radios are very cheap in game of course -- and something that cheap isn't meant to be a replacement entirely for something like the SIC. All these systems should have trade offs I think so that you can avoid some of the hurdles of SIC that I believe Hek alludes to.

For example, there are high bands that work extremely well in massive ranges, but they're quite pricey.

I'm going to sound a little frustrated here, but it's not directed at you Neon. The problem is the original radio system very much appears like it was designed by someone separately from the game itself, without seemingly a lot of real experience in how the game is played and what characters do and what types of things will be useful to them.

This system as it was implemented is not good. I'm sure it's very tidy and organized on the drawing board with the different bands and segments, but the central provision itself is not strong enough to support that design.

It doesn't have real world advantages over SIC and gridphones. It's not cheap. It's not fun, or functional. The syntax to use them is awkward. They screw up in any mixture with vehicles. They lag enormously at random, or fail silently with no indication. Everyone's batteries are always dead.

The advantages that people posture about it, or the scenarios they come up with, are largely imaginary situations. The reality is we spent two or three years now trying to make it work and it never did, because there was always some better option or the radios just didn't work at all. The very rare situations it could've worked, it broke for some other reason or no one else had any equipment, because no one ever needed it.

I want radios to be good more than anyone probably, but I see the same mistakes here that were made on the initial launch, which are again saddling a feature with downsides and stipulations even before it has even a chance to take off. Even if there was a single cheap universal radio that did everything in one mobile package, I'm still not sure it would see common use.

If the staff feel like the tech is just too powerful not to have all these downsides, then fair enough. But if it's a question of what I would use and promote the use of, then I don't see myself trying to make this whole thing work again without changes to the fundamentals of the design.

Solution: REMOVE SIC COMMUNICATION MEAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!11