I was reading this post by Reddit user Jospehhh, and was inspired to write another post about space combat. This post, like the last one about combat, definitely strays from realism, assuming in this case, direct line of sight is the only means of detection.
First, the point of Camouflage is to either A) blend in to the background, or B) Mimic something innocuous. The problem is both break down at short range. This means that staying at arms reach is the best approach.
Space is big. Really, really big. There is plenty of room to stay further away and remain undetected, but this is a problem for close-combat ships like fighters. That, combined with their outstanding speed, leads me to conjecture that camouflage for fighters is aesthetic only. This also applies to medium frigates, but less so. The ships that would most benefit from camouflage would be large, slow, vulnerable ships that could sit a distance from battle. This, coupled with my essay on strategy, leads me to believe that carriers and lightly ( if at all ) armed transports would best be camouflaged.
While researching various types of camouflages, I came upon Dazzle Camouflage, a zebra-striped pattern of crazily contrasting lines,
designed to fool the observer by obfuscating the direction in which the craft is travelling. This would be most useful to fighters for several reasons. First, it would mislead the viewer trying to guess which way the fighter is going. Second, when used in groups, it would have the effect of a herd of zebras, where the design makes it hard to distinguish an individual from the group, confusing any human gunners. Admittedly, this would be only useful in very large numbers, and only against manually directed weapons.
A photo of the rare Striped Space-Horse
EDIT: After some tests with blender, I decided the Dazzle Camouflage does not, in fact, fool the viewer as to the velocity vector. However, it also reinforced my “flock effect” idea.
Here’s the Gif!
However, this style of camouflage would be detrimental to large ships. Due to their slow speeds, the velocity vector would be easier to see, and the high contrast would be very visible in the monochromatic space.
So, I think the best camouflage for a large ship would be a black-and-gray noise. Here’s a screenshot of space engineers’ skybox. This is most likely the background with which a ship would want to blend.
Here is the same image, color-reduced, to show you the several simple colors that make up the picture:
You can see that the reduced-color count is 4, and there is no true black, but a grayscale. The next image compares the generated colors to the paint colors in space engineers:
They’re close, and I suppose that’s because of the art director having a working palette.Either way, this works for our purpose. If you notice, the reduced-color image is mostly a single, solid color, either the medium or dark gray. There is little light gray (excepting asteroids). The best camouflage would be a mix of medium and dark grey, with a tiny bit of light-gray noise. I painted a 10×10 large ship. The next pictures are is at different distances. (The other stuff is just that: stuff. It’s not relevant)
Even further, it’s starting to fuzz away
Furthest. It’s become noisy!
So, the lessons learned from this quick demo: First, space is either dark gray or medium gray. Unfortunately, we can’t do both at once. At best, a ship with two different patterns on each of it’s side, but that requires knowledge of the enemies position to present the correct pattern. More likely, a generic blend of the two is a more passive camouflage. The pattern I used was random, but also black-heavy.The ratios:
50 % black
Using that, here’s a rendered random-noise pattern, trying to use those ratios (it’s a little black-heavy):
You must remember, this is a RANDOM example. It’s not quite perfect yet, but it’s getting there.
Here’s an example of strategic camouflage: It’s been pre-planned to look a certain way.
Here is it modified to fit the space engineers color palette:
Here it is scaled down and pixellated properly for use in the small-canvas world of space engineers.
Looks good! Let’s use this section, the black and gray heavy area:
Here it is in space engineers, from various distances. (I also started a new world so that other distracting stuff wouldn’t be there).
It’s above my crosshairs still, but it’s gone!
This brings up some other points, the engines and running lights make it extremely easy to spot. However, one could accelerate and then cut all engines, drifting silently.
That’s all I’ve got for now.
Thanks for Reading!