Old suggestion, still good (?) ... use classic hitboxes in general, until players are down to hull
Or here's another one I haven't heard yet, though close to one of my earlier suggestions for adding missing immersion to the game. Something less disruptive to the design manual. Have "close calls" (such as lasers passing over Wasp) do some minor damage within a certain range and make sizzling noises. Like 0.25 hp damage for each laser-1 bolt and 1 hp damage for each laser-4 bolt that passes through a round "sizzle box".
Double the "effect" of plasma by having the heat of plasma blob passes be extremely more punishing than laser passes. Maybe even increase plasma blob size and shine factor. Therefore the hitboxes primarily become relevant with lasers and ammo weapons.
Have plasma and fusion treat shields differently, a bit more classically. For plasma and fusion, make the shields round but make finishing players off use the shaped hitboxes? That way reducing players' shields 1v1 plays a bit more classically. (I think some players will only ever accept classic mode.)
It would also make the game generally more interactive and less "guessy" as it presently is.
It would also really distinguish weapons into definable categories that make sense to switch between.
- not super speedy
- lasers see very conservative ship hitboxes
- therefore lasers can shoot around players, though "close calls" cause directional sizzle which tell the target pilot where the lasers passed based on glow and audio cues
- sizzling shields does cosmetic burning and attrition damage and weakens laser bolts after passing through a shield (to prevent Fusion bolt effect which would be OP)
- make it even faster and do a bit more damage
- for balance reasons you could have slightly less accuracy at long range, though vulcan upgrades obviously hone the accuracy and speed
- vulcan rounds do not "sizzle" shields but they do provide key audio cues to make players move away from the rounds
- have an upgrade that explodes the rounds on impact (i.e.; gauss)
- extend or specify the "super damage" cone
- gotta make it bounce - have the flak bounce around corners to give it another function, though bounced rounds do less damage than point blank
- shotgun flak does not "sizzle" shields
- but the audio cues would be overwhelming enough that it causes audio confusion against the enemy, another use for the shotgun: overwhelm
- plasma hurts ship hitboxes very liberally, doesn't stick to "shape of ship", detects ship "aura" and sizzle passes are effective
- this is first major weapon in game (besides the spread of quad level 4 lasers trying to make up for laser's well balanced weakness of specific hitboxing) so its benefit is that it does something intense to ships.
- ships hear plasma zinging by, doing more than attrition damage, maybe "impacting" around ship effectively like a direct hit though maybe only 50-75% of the damage of a direct hit.
- plasma moves faster and glows bigger and hotter
- there should be some kind of plasma glow effect on the blobs that does not conform to the spherical design - some kind of shine or star aura making the blobs look dangerous and hot
- Fusion completely ignores conservative hitboxes. Everyone's hitboxes are round spheres where Fusion bolts are concerned
- This is the ultimate weapon. You do not want people to have this weapon. You want to destroy the ship with it and take it from them.
- Fusion could have a slight trailing effect
- Fusion could "flash" shields around ships/bots it passes through, causing the bots to glow hot white before fading to red and back to their neutral color, something really showing heavy damage
- Being hit by fusion should feel damaging, heavy -- not only do your shields flash and you hear electronic damage effects but perhaps at the right angle and you are in a still position it even pushes you a little as it pushes through you.
All these should be given a chance to see how players like it and implemented at the same time.
All of this will make weapons less "samey" and also improve on the concept of hitbox importance, since hitbox importance becomes specific to lower weapons and goes away at higher weapons in a curve.
This makes higher weapons feel better.
This gives quad lasers and higher lasers more noticeable impact as you upgrade.
This makes the game far more interactive and immersive.
This makes interactivity with weapons (the most frickin important aspect of the whole game until other functions like building blocks and mining actually have the power of combat, which they presently don't) much much better.
You could even improve the "radar" screen by having an in-game toggle (or maybe impact-triggered toggle) that helps players understand where they are being hit or sizzled.
Give it a try!
Since you're changing the rules of Descent by making non-round hitboxes, improve the rules, emphasize the rules and play with them. If nothing else, for fun! Otherwise, players are just guessing, getting frustrated and not learning much. I would imagine.