PULSAR: Lost Colony

PULSAR: Lost Colony

26 ratings
Stealth and detection mechanics (outdated)
By SirKnumskull
Can't find the deserted Carrier or the abandoned Intrepid? Find out why and how to boost your detection to finally find the ships you were looking for!
This guide will explain the basics mechanics behind the detection and stealth system in Pulsar: Lost Colony as of beta 15.1, the current version. Be advised that this may change the future.

At the end of the guide is a basic comparison between the starter ships and why some should be avoided in the beginning based solely on their ability to detect other ships since many players get stuck on missions that require you to find certain ships.
Detection 101
The range at which you can detect a hostile ship or drone depends on two factors:
1. Your ships current EM detection range
2. The targets EM emissions

The EM detection range is stated in kilometers, the EM emissions of the ship being scanned act as a multiplier to the detection range of the scanning ship.

Ship A has a detection range of 10.0 and EM emissions of 2.0
Ship B has a detection range of 20.0 and EM emissions of 3.0
Both ships are moving towards each other.
A will detect B at a range of 30.0 km (10.0 x 3.0 = 30)
B will detect A at a range of 40.0 km (20.0 x 2.0 = 40)

Sensor screens on a late game ship:

On the left hand screen (Computer) under the status tab you will find your own current detection range in the top left corner while you can find your own EM emissions in the top left corner on the right hand screen (Sensors).

Note: The locations of the screens might be different on other ships.
Boosting your own detection range
Your detection range is determined by the level of your sensors, the shield modulation setting and boni from either the ship itself or from the Captain's Chair.

Sensors come in different levels, higher level sensors have increased range. All starter ships have at least a level 2 sensor that offers a lowly 3.8 km range while other vessels come with level 3 and even level 4 sensors that have ranges of 9.0 km and 16.0 km respectively.

This range can be further boosted by the ship bonus of the Intrepid which offers a 30% EM detection range boost and by the Colonial Classic Captain's Chair which offers a 10% bonus.

Set up your ship for maximum detection range

To achieve the best possible EM detection range you have to make sure that the sensor is fully powered up and that your shield modulation is set to Static. It should look like this:

This allows you to get the maximum out of the hardware. And now we are going to boost your range tenfold.

By running an EM sensor sweep you boost your EM detection range by factor 10 for a duration of 10 seconds after the sweep has finished!

Be aware that the sensor sweep also boosts your EM emissions by factor 10.
EM emissions / stealth
With the detection formula being sensor range x EM signature the way to make yourself invisible to enemy eyes is through reduction of your own EM signature.

You can see your current EM signature on the Sensors panel:

Two modules influence your EM signature: The jump module and the reactor. Both have EM signature stats assigned to them but they only apply in certain situations.

The jump modules EM signature comes into play while you charge your jump drive. After it is charged it doesn't raise your EM signature any more, only during the process of charging.

Your main source of EM emissions will be your reactor. The reactors EM signature fluctuates with output - the more power your reactor needs to produce the higher its signature will be with the maximum being reached at maximum output.

The auxiliary power does not generate EM emissions and can be used to reduce the strain on the main reactor and reduce EM signature that way. This goes such a long way that you can even get a Roland in starting configuration down to an EM signature of 0.2 by reducing power output and turning off secondary systems to run the ship off of aux. power.

Note that the core temperature is not generating a signature, only the current power output is. When the needed output drops the signature also drops momentarily.
Nebulas reduce sensor ranges massively and make excessive sensor ranges useless through a hard cap that won't allow you to detect other ships at ranges of 16.5 km or more.

Even below the hard cap you are facing reduced sensor effectiveness that increases with distance from the target. At a distance of 6 km you are facing a 10 times reduction in effectiveness that increases to 20 times at a range of 12 km and increases further up to the hard cap at 16.5 km.
Starting ships and their EM ranges
Every faction has a at least one mission that requires you to find abandoned/inactive ships that have very low EM signatures. This makes ships with very bad sensor ranges tough starter ships that should be avoided unless you have the experience to work around it.

Comparison chart of starter ships effective EM detection ranges (setup for maximum range without EM sensor sweep active):

As you can see the Destroyer and the Carrier* both have abysmal sensor ranges that make finding abandoned ships a search for the needle in a haystack. Even with an EM sensor sweep active you need to be quite close to ships with EM signatures of 0.3 or 0.2 like the mission ships have. Without the EM sweep you will see them with your eyes on screen earlier than your sensors will pick them up.

* The Carrier received an upgraded EM sensor with update 14.7 and is now on par with the Roland.
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Snake Nov 23, 2019 @ 12:10pm 
put on your distress beacon, and have other ships get close and detect it by firing at civilians eh?
Victor Faust Dec 20, 2018 @ 7:47pm 
Does this work for the Derelict Ship Missions or do you just gotta eye ball it?
SirKnumskull  [author] Apr 21, 2018 @ 2:14am 
The mechanics were changed, this guide is outdated now.
Calico-Jack Apr 20, 2018 @ 9:17pm 
I have a question relating to getting your sensor range - how does the status reading (628.0 EM in the image you used) relate to range? I'm guestimating in game based on the sensor type usually installed by ship, but would prefer a more rpecise method.
CptSnuggles Dec 3, 2017 @ 1:47pm 
Enemies can detect EM, Quantum, and Radioactive signatures. All of those must be exactly zero if you're going to achieve true stealth. Quantum and Radioactive signatures can be dealt with by not charging your jump drive and removing any nukes you have installed. Now, as for EM:

-Ship EM signature = (percent power draw x reactor EM signature) + JD sig when charging

-That means that in order to have 0.0 EM sig, your jump drive cannot be charging and either your power draw or your reactor's EM signature must be zero.

-If you want to run any components whatsoever, your percent power draw will never be zero and therefore your EM signature will never be zero.

-However, you can have 0.0 EM sig by removing your reactor and relying entirely on your aux generator, allowing for true stealth combat! The best ships for this are the Grim Cutlass, the Outrider, and the Carrier.
Calladium Sep 14, 2017 @ 6:16pm 
A few things to add,

All of the science systems cause EM signature (EM and Other Sensors, Cyber Defense [not aux], and Processors).

I've also noticed that Quantum signature is extremely hard to hide when you are charging warp. Even with the most silent warp drives and reduced power to everything (including charging engine then doing calc so they didn't give off sig at the same time) it was impossible to stay hidden.

Finally, how do ships detect you when you have 0 EM signature. If the formula is Ship A's EM Sig x Ship B's EM Detection, a signature of 0 for ship A would mean Ship B can't see it even when they're right on top of eachother. I've found this is not the case, once a ship uses active scans, it becomes possible for them to find me even if my signature is 0.0

Thank you very much for writing this, it is very well put together and I appreciate the research it took to find this info.
Mr. n May 26, 2017 @ 9:13am 
Sweet! I always wondered how it worked and couldn't make out the numbers myself (after 207h in -game, lol).

Thanks for the guide!
NoahZ May 22, 2017 @ 5:37pm 
wow thanks!
Valka May 22, 2017 @ 10:09am 
A very decent and concise training note. Well worth reading for noobs like me! And probably others.