On the topic of ship balancing...

In GSB 1 the attributes and bonuses for ships were put together mostly on a whim. One race might have had more of a tilt towards armor bonuses and power penalties than others, but inter-ship bonuses and design were fairly random. This needs fixing for GSB2

So the way I see it the attributes to balance are:

  1. Physical size of ship.
    Affects how far ahead the front slots can be weapon-wise, not much else
  2. Power produced.
    ‘free’ power for the ship.
  3. Cost.
  4. Bonuses for the hull.
  5. Number of turret slots.
  6. Number of standard slots.

I’d be interested to know peoples opinions on how important they rank these. My gut feeling is that it’s pretty much all down to 4) and 5) ins GSB1. Obviously I want a more refined and balanced GSB2. So I was wondering about boosting the value of 2) and 3) quite a bit (at least 50% relative to GSB1). I was also considering making 5) and 6) more extreme. So some cruisers may have 12 turrets, some only 4, rather than the current setup.

I still like the general approach where bonuses are used partly to make the races distinct and give all their hulls a similar tendency towards a particular play style, but I’m happy to listen to suggestions. I’m wary of adjusting the hull sizes because I want it obvious from a distance that a ship is a cruiser not a dreadnought and a frigate not a cruiser (although frigate/destroyer may be very similar in size).

All comments very much welcome!

On topic of nothing but hull costs…

For Cruisers…
In GSB1 the cost of the hull was virtually nothing. Two standard items matched the cost of the hull, which meant for most 16-18 slot ships hull cost accounted for maybe 10% of the actual ship. This meant you never looked at the cost - just the size (smaller was better). The bonuses except for armour (aimed at a tank) rarely aided in anything in the grand scheme of things. So in battle after battle you started to notice the successful players only chose a couple specific hulls to use from each race.

So the reality was - in choosing the hull - it was (For Cruisers)
1 (Physical Size) because smaller it was harder it was to hit.
5 (Turret Slots) because thats where the hammer was.
6 (Standard Slots) thats where everything else went.
4,2,3 never looked at because 1-5-6 all superseded anything.

Often I never even bothered to fill out all slots either - as a cheaper Ship meant that I could field more of them.

Fighters on the other hand…
Because fighter design was so constrained, and fighters have to be specialized the power and bonuses where much more valuable. The cost of the hull is much more apparent since it at least 50% of the cost.

5 & 7 (Slots) To make sure there were enough slots for what you needed.
2 (Power) was a biggie because a power plant was a huge chunk of weight.
3 (Cost) fighters are disposable heroes - you don’t use gold to shingle your roof.
6 (Bonuses) Speed was a biggie - faster = life
1 (Size) - Err its a fighter - they’re all small.
Again - some designs ignored slots.

Frigates = for me was a weird way, depending on what they were used for. I don’t think I hated them as much as most people here.

Sometimes not having a weapon works wonders

Here’s my reaction, listing the various items from most important to least (as they stand now for ship design in GSB1):

Physical Size. This is most notably important as Berny referenced: smaller ship = lower chance to be hit. Assuming the to-hit mechanics will remain roughly the same in GSB2, this becomes a huge determining factor in what hull to use for what function - and all other things being equal, you’ll never see anything out there but the smallest hull of a given classification. Thus, this has to be balanced a bit against the other factors as well.

Number of Turret Slots/Number of Standard Slots. The number of slots wanted in a hull is directly related to the options for filling those slots. If you have a fairly powerful, accurate, and fast weapon available, then a ship with fewer turret slots may still have some appeal. If all your weapons are more low-powered and thus more effective en masse, you’ll likely want to avoid the hull with only four turrets. Similar reasoning can be applied to the various categories of standard-slot modules; the more effective they are, the fewer slots will appear acceptable.

Hull Bonuses. Here is where each hull can be nudged toward a ship archetype. Got a hull with a good speed bonus and no armor bonus? Might make for a good hit-and-run skirmisher. High armor and shield bonuses? Let’s build a defensive turtle in that one. And so on and so forth. I think having some standards applied to every hull of a given race (like the Tribe’s hull/armor/shield trio, or the Swarm’s standard cost/hull reduction) does help give that race its own characteristic feel. However, there’s nothing wrong with sprinkling some variety throughout as well (a few hulls with moderate armor bonuses in a fleet that typically boasts strictly average armor, for example).

Cost. Down toward the bottom of the priority list is cost. I don’t worry about it too much except to make sure I’m not using a hull with a significantly increased cost when a cheaper hull is available that could achieve the same ends.

Power Produced. And at the bottom is power produced. Frankly, I barely notice this one because there’s not a lot of variety - you could up the visibility a lot just by having a wider spread within a given class. The importance of a hull’s power generation is strongly related to the number of slots and the available modules as well. A race with a lot of low-power options might be drawn to hulls that provide enough intrinsic power to forgo the heavy power plant and the crew to maintain it. A race whose best options are all power-sinks, on the other hand, probably isn’t going to care how much power the hull gives you unless it’s a fairly staggering amount.

Don’t know how helpful my semi-coherent ramblings will be, but at its core is this - the importance of any/each of these factors on hull selection is heavily influenced by the available modules and the other factors as well. A speed bonus may be reduced to fluff if I can bypass a power generator or if I have a very efficient engine or a lot of lightweight modules. A low hull cost may go unnoticed on a hull that only fits half the modules of some other options. It’s all interconnected.

Also affects hit rates of weapons targeting the ship under the GSB1 model. Size matters little on fighters, as the speed multiplier to the hit rate typically dominates for them (except when stopped, or nearly stopped, by tractor beams), and at any rate even if you have a size-5 and a size-30 fighter hull there’s still no more than a 10% difference in the hit chance, and the hit chance for a moving fighter is likely down in the single-digits if it isn’t at the minimum hit chance (except against anti-fighter missiles and maybe cruiser defense lasers). For frigates and cruisers, it’s a bit more important. A size-160 cruiser has a passive rate of about 20% even if it isn’t moving, while a size-205 cruiser has a passive dodge rate of about 10% when not moving, and cruisers, and to a lesser extent frigates, generally cannot move rapidly enough for the speed side of the hit rate equation to dominate (with fighters, on the other hand, the speed side of the equation generally dominates). It’s a fairly big bonus to reduce the volume of incoming fire that your defenses have to absorb by 20% rather than 10% when you’re a slow-moving large target like a cruiser.

In short: size matters a lot for cruisers, a fair amount for frigates, and almost not at all for fighters.

Barely matters on cruisers unless you’re trying to make a universal tank or something similar, as it rarely changes the number or type of generators you need to install, and even if you can downgrade one generator because of the hull’s power it probably isn’t going to save you any significant amount of credits - saving 20 credits on the power generator, even on a 1000-credit cruiser, is still only a 2% cost saving, and on a more normal 2000-2500 credit cruiser it’s even less worth mentioning. On a frigate, this matters a bit more as it more frequently makes a difference between the number of generators you need to install. On a fighter, this can matter a lot or not at all; the difference between 2 installed power and 4 installed power on a fighter is considerable, but the difference between 2 installed power and 2.1 installed power isn’t. The 4.8 power of the Achilles versus the 4.0 power of the Icarus makes the Achilles the hull of choice for Rebel pulse laser fighters while the Icarus is the hull of choice for Rebel laser cannon fighters because the 4.8 power of the Achilles makes that hull slightly faster than the Icarus when using a pulse laser, despite having a lower speed bonus, and the reverse is true when using a laser cannon. Most of the rest of the time, it doesn’t matter much; for example, an Imperial Phalanx with an engine 1 and a rocket is cheaper and faster than an Imperial Javelin with an engine 2 and a rocket, and there’s not really any configurations for those two hulls where the installed power of the Javelin (or the installed power and power bonus of the Ballista) makes a difference.

Hull costs barely matter on cruisers, as it’s usually not a significant fraction of the total cost of the ship, and generally speaking changing the hull out for something cheaper is only going to save you maybe 50 credits; if we’re generous and call it 100 credits, we’ll save no more than 10% of the total cost of the cruiser, and probably more like 5%. It makes a slight difference, but not much. A similar argument applies for frigates.

With fighters, hull costs are fairly important as it’s a fairly significant fraction of the total cost of the fighter. However, the speed of the fighter generally outweighs the cost of the fighter, as in equal-cost scenarios the faster fighter will generally win (this is not always true; the Swarm’s fastest laser fighter can usually beat the Rebel’s fastest laser fighter at cost despite being slower, and with some combination of rockets and painters the total number of hits that can be survived is generally more important than speed, as painters largely negate speed advantages; I expect that cheaper would also be better in rocket vs rocket scenarios where no painters are involved, as the greater volume of fire and perhaps greater HP would outweigh the advantages of being faster since each side is presumably already at the minimum hit chance due to fighter speed being greater than the 2.0 tracking speed of a fighter rocket).

Hull bonuses are of variable but typically lower importance. For fighters, the only one that matters is usually the speed bonus, though the Tribe’s hull bonus is an incredible advantage (lower hull bonuses, however, are generally useless, as they’ll typically add only 1 or 2 HP to the fighter, which rarely makes a difference to its survivability) and the Swarm’s component discount is useful. Power, armor, and hull bonuses on fighters are otherwise negligible in most circumstances (especially power - fighters are not designed with enough power generation for a 10% or 20% power generation bonus to matter; armor bonuses are useful under certain special circumstances, but otherwise are not helpful as an armored fighter tends to lose more survivability due to being slower than it gains from the armor, and it also costs more than the unarmored fighter), and speed penalties tend to make a hull nearly unusable.

On cruisers and frigates, hull bonuses are useful but generally are not a particularly important factor in which hull to use. I’d tend to suggest that larger cruisers and frigates should generally get larger shield, hull, and armor bonuses to offset their increased vulnerability to enemy fire while smaller cruisers and frigates might be better suited to power bonuses (though as with the installed power of the hull, this generally will not matter much, as it will probably give you about as much of a bonus as the hull’s installed power, i.e. not usually enough to make the difference between 1 generator or 2, and given the cost of a frigate or especially a cruiser, saving 20 credits due to using a less powerful generator isn’t much cause for celebration). Frigates and cruisers with abnormally large numbers of module slots (both standard and hardpoint) might benefit from cost discounts so that, for example, a cruiser with 20 total slots is more like 15-20% more expensive than a cruiser with 15 total slots rather than ~30% more expensive.

Hardpoints are more important the standard slots under the GSB1 model because hardpoints can be filled with any type of module in the game. If this remains true in GSB2, you might want to consider making ships pay more for hardpoints than they do for standard slots, e.g. by giving the hull lower bonuses (or perhaps even giving it penalties), by making the hull more expensive, or by making it larger. The above is true mostly for cruisers and frigates. I will say that having fewer than 4 or 5 standard slots is more or less pointless under most circumstances, because for the majority of my designs I want at least one of each of the following: a shield generator, a crew module, a power generator, an engine, and probably an armor plate. As such, under normal circumstances a hull with less than 4 or 5 standard slots will be sacrificing at least one of its hardpoints to pick up whatever was missing.

For fighters, you generally want a hardpoint and two standard slots or two hardpoints and two standard slots; one hardpoint and three standard slots, and one hardpoint and one standard slot can also be useful fighter hulls (in the case of the two-slot hull, you need to have at least 1.2 power provided by the hull, as that is the minimum required power for a rocket fighter). More than four total slots is generally not useful except for screwing around, as most fighter designs will lose more utility through speed loss and increased cost than they gain from increased durability or firepower due to having more available slots to play with.

I’m hardly a min-maxer so my first notice on which hull to pick is how cool they look 8)

other than that though I’m looking at this:
5/6 (I like to stuff my ships, so many slots are better for me)
3 (generally not relevant enough for me to concern myself with, but it’s there)
the rest are completely irrelevant as far as I’m concerned

4 (I need speed boosts for frigates since fast attack is almost their only viable role, speaking of which are better range keeping orders on the way so missile frigs are viable in 2?)
1 (fast attack frigates also need to be hard to hit)
5/6 (generally not filled, but a few hulls have too little slots)
2/3 (for the most part irrelevant)

3 (cheap fighters are a must)
4 (speed bonus fighters are generally used for rocketeering, the rest are irrelevant)
everything else are for the most part irrelevant

agreed that hull costs should be upped quite a bit (perhaps to a point of being ~%50 of a complete cruiser). And yes, ships with significantly less slots should be introduced (so cheap, spammable ships are still an option)

personally though, I think whatever way you distinguish the ships, they need to be made a LOT more different. I was able to remain relatively competitive while only choosing ships based on looks (looking through my challenge history anyway). Unless relatively similar hulls distinguished mainly by modules is your intention, in which case that’s also fine by me

Thanks everyone, you confirm most of my hunches, and also remind me about the size vs targeting issue for ships which I’d stupidly forgotten. I think I’ll be ramping up both costs and power production quite a bit. I’m also copnsidering introducing a default ‘crew produced’ for the hulls. Fighter hulls already do this implicitly and there is no reason not to do it for other classes. It’s a bit boring to have 12 slots to fill when you KNOW 2 will be crew, 2 will be power…

After a bit of consideration, I rather like this idea, implying the base “skeleton crew” required just to run a ship of that type. I would caution that the amount of crew provided for an empty hull will need to be carefully balanced - in my opinion, a hull should never automatically provide more crew than its smallest available crew module (getting any more than that for free just seems out of whack to me), and my gut feeling is that it should typically be no more than 50-75% of that number. It should also take into account the modules available for that hull type, as the hull’s default crew/power should generally be sufficient to cover at least one engine and maybe one offensive turret as well.

One balance issue that occurs - eliminating the need for even a single crew module may add a bit of extra strength to armor tanks (depending on the hull and armor stats), as it eliminates one module from the non-armor portion of the ship. I’m not saying this is a game-wrecking issue, but should definitely be taken into account.

Note: I have found on a number of my ship designs that the crew module selection came down to needing 5 or 6 extra crew members, so I don’t think relatively low “skeleton crew” numbers will be a waste in any way. While they generally shouldn’t make crew modules entirely unnecessary for anything but a virtually-unmanned “decoy” ship, the default crew could easily free up one slot for a non-crew module on a carefully-designed ship.

On the topic of crew - and excess crew. As AcePalarum wrote - often we would end up with an extra whole crew module just because we were just shy with a component that we just could not leave out. Could GSB2 not utilize excess crew somehow? Crew in excess of the base amount could be assigned to doing actual repairs. A More complex idea would be crew dying and therefore extra crew could then replace them and those ships without enough crew could start to suffer penalties due to attrition. The great Men-O-War of the sail era often only had enough crew to man one side of the ships armaments.

HMS Trincomalee, Frigate, length @ Gundeck 150’, Crew 315
HMS Victory, First Rate, length @ Gundeck 186’. Crew 850

Speaking from my own experience, for cruiser-class ships I would make use of all of the cruiser hulls available for any given faction, and allocate to them different roles (usually, beam cruisers, missile cruisers, and support cruisers), based mainly on their hull bonuses, turret slots and standard slots.

The thing about most hull bonuses is that either they were faction-oriented, in which case, they varied too little from one hull type to the next for that class and faction, —or— they were generic and they felt rather random as well as weak. The “free power” for a cruiser-class ship was also, in my mind, a random factor, and if memory serves, I can count on one hand the number of times the free energy output of a ship actually impacted my ship design decisions.

Because weapon arcs were not in use for GSB1, the “forwardness” of weapon positions were not a factor, but with these coming into play, I see a need for turret-based ships vs. forward-facing “alpha strike” craft, and so those will be significant in future design consideration. With weapon arcs entering the strategic equation, I could see some of the Swarm ships becoming an instant game-changer, for example.

Back to the topic of free power and hull bonuses, I’d argue that these features played a much more significant role in my design of smaller-sized ships, in order optimize my use of fighters and frigates. One of the real issues in GSB1 was fighter size vs. raw and max capability vs. cost. For fighters, free power, hull bonuses and available slots constrained my decisions on fighter design and operational role. With the added factors of crew, shield limitation and weapon limitation, frigates were even more difficult than both fighters and cruisers to design effectively, for all the same reasons.

Boosting the free power available and hull-based bonuses for smaller-sized craft (fighters and frigates) will be a significant step towards making more design variances possible for these craft. It’s a simple matter of finding a level of increase-above-baseline which is significant enough to impact game-play mechanics in a meaningful but not overpowering way that’s also somewhat different for each faction.

With regards to turrets and standard slots for frigate hulls, I could see one of two major alternatives succeeding here—either to keep these small craft designed with the same smaller range of weapon and standard slots, but to allow them to be equipped with cruiser-level equipment, —or— to keep them allocated with their own range of equipment (as in GSB1) but to seriously increase the total number of both standard and weapon slots available for them, to raise these hulls’ effectiveness. Most frigates in GSB1 simply couldn’t be optimized usefully for any particular role, which made them a serious (negative) challenge to work with even though I wanted to like them.

As for the big cruiser- and dreadnought-sized ships, a wider range of variance will be great for both standard slots and weapon slots, but with one caveat that’s relevant to all weapon and slot decisions: what is the minimum number of slots a ship needs to be effective??? For example, reducing a cruiser-class ship to only four turrets, unless there are some very significant additional factors at play (for example, a super-heavy weapon requiring a substantial power-load and crew, an abnormal number of standard slots, or faction-specific features unique to that hull), I can’t imagine a cruiser with only four weapons being a common choice for deployment or a successful combatant on the field—four slots are too few to even be an effective support cruiser.