Thoughts on ship design

Now that I’ve moved on to the awesome looking Rebel ships and figured out how to consistently beat the computer with a line of cruisers guarding a massive double line of cheap (in both senses of the word) long range frigates, I’ve gone back and started to do some more interesting and satisfying designing. I’m working my way down the Federation list, making one ship for every hull. Here are all of my thoughts so far from that project.

Backspace works in the design name field (and thank you for that, by the way), but Delete does not.

The various armours use the British English spelling in the names, but the American English spelling in the descriptions and in the “Average Armor” readout at the bottom of the screen. And yes, my spell check just flagged one of the words in that last sentence as wrong.

Why list the hit points on armour? It’s always 0.00.

The Fighter Target Painter seems pretty useless. It’s as expensive, heavy and slow to reload as the Fighter Torpedo launcher, so you can either be painting a target, or hitting it with sixteen (or thirty-two!) lovely cap-killing explod-amatrons in the same amount of time. Either way, your fighter is painfully slow, even with two type III engines, so you only get one, maybe two passes most of the time.

The Fighter Pulse Laser is nice, and I love using it for its fighter-killing goodness, but it’s a real pain to fit in a fighter. The extra weight and power draw makes for a slower, dumpier fighter in two separate ways, meaning that a fighter armed with it can’t chase other fighters particularly well. Your general purpose anti-ship gun goes in the faster interceptors, and the specific anti-fighter gun goes in the slower fighters. It’s kind of backward. I’m not sure if the (very slightly) faster tracking speed and increased damage is really worth the extra cost, weight, power, decreased range, and significantly weaker penetration.

Also, the backwardness of the fighters continues with the rocket fighters being so much faster than the laser fighters. It’s easy to make a very fast (3.0 or faster) rocket fighter, but almost impossible to do with lasers. Rockets are not very effective against other fighters, so you have fast anti-ship bombers and slow dogfighters. That’s just not right.

The limited number of slots, the high power draw on most weapons, and the very basic module selection for fighters means that there just isn’t much variety in fighters. Unlike the larger ships, where customization is the order of the day, there are only maybe a half dozen or so viable fighter designs that you would actually want to spend you precious pilot allotment on to bring to battle.

There are five different flavours of fighter armour, and I don’t think I’ve used any of them but the Advanced Ablative Armour. It’s all just too heavy! And that’s assuming that there’s even a slot left for armour at all. I’d much rather have a second engine, even two smaller engines for the same power, rather than lose any of that precious speed.

The 12% power output bonus on the Federation Falcon is not applied to the base power of 3.0. If it were, you’d end up with 3.36 power, enough to run a type III engine and a rocket launcher “for free”, with two slots left over for some armour. I went with a generator and two type III engines instead, which did give me the bonus power I needed to run the rocket launcher, but it would be nice to have the bonus work in both cases equally.

Frigate crew modules are too small. A very thrifty design can be done with one type II, but pretty much everything else needs two separate crew modules. And there are not a lot of slots on those frigates! The crew should start at 58, with a second at 74 and a third at 98, for the same cost as now, but in one slot only. The micro is only good for padding out the primary crew module – it can only run one basic weapon and one type I engine on it’s own, which is not much of a frigate at all.

On the other hand, the frigate generators make too much power. You get enough to run a fighter for free, and the first generator triples that. I have a lot of frigates that run on around 20 power, with ten surplus…a third of the output wasted. I’d put in bigger engines or shields, but I’m usually right up on the limit of two full slots of crew already. If I take something out and put in another crew module, power use drops and I don’t need the extra crew any longer. Either way, one of the two resources is massively wasted.

It’s difficult to defend a frigate, in much the same way that it’s difficult to defend a fighter. You can usually defend them against annoying fighter fire, but anything more than that and they end up being very slow. Even the slowest cruiser weapons start at 0.60 tracking speed, and it’s difficult to get a frigate going that fast. I have one design that goes exactly that fast, but it’s down a third of it’s weapon hardpoints, has no shield and only just has enough armour to stop fighter laser beam fire. It costs as much as ten basic fighters. I’d rather have the fighters, honestly. At least I don’t have to worry about them taking a heavy plasma hit to the face.

No rocket love for frigates? Everyone else gets some. Some short range, fast firing, low power weapons would be exactly the right thing to load a frigate with, but you don’t get that option.

The Federation Gazelle hull looks unfinished. It is the only Federation hull of any size to not have the distinctive glowing engines or the little blue or orange glowing dots. Every time I see one in combat, I scream ‘how can your engines be crippled already!’ at it.

The Federation Fox is a pointless hull. For exactly the same price, you can get a Puma with an extra point of power and the same slots. All you get in exchange for lost power is ten extra metres of length and the second clunkiest looking Federation silhouette, behind the Eagle.

Federation frigates in general are pretty same-y. Compared to the other races, the range of slot loadouts and bonuses are very limited. The only difference between a Wolf and any other Federation frigate is plus or minus on point of power, one hardpoint, or five percent armour bonus. There is almost no reason to choose one hull over another, except for the aforementioned Fox thing.

More to follow when I make a Puma design (intentionally as different as possible from the Fox design I just finished) and move on cruisers.

Oh, and the “Main Menu” button on the deployment screen takes you to the level select screen, which itself has a (slightly longer) “Main Menu” button that actually does go to the main menu. …god, I sound like such a nitpicking Mac user.

All very good points
I think there should be fewer hull designs in general and just make them more varied

Also rockets and laser weapons on fighters should be switched around

I think the current number of hulls is fine, but the stats on each one should be distinct and yet still balanced. It’s so much easier to observe combat when each role has a distinct look to it, especially since the tooltips don’t tell you what class a ship is yet (hint hint). Also, I love the different designs…yes, even the ugly ones like the Fox and the Eagle. They have a certain charm to them. I wouldn’t want to lose any of the great art.

The other races are much better for variety. Look at the Rebels, for example. One teeny tiny little nimble frigate, one midsize one, and one big hulking beast of a frigate. And they are all, on average, smaller and cheaper and faster than the Federation frigates, giving them individual character and a nice overall racial character.

I agree about the rocket vs laser fighters completely - it just doesn’t seem to make sense that my anti-ship rocket fighters zoom around, whereas I can’t for the life of me create a speedy pulse laser equipped interceptor.

I completely agree about the problem with frigate crews, I’ve posted about it before: it’s a nightmare to make interesting, varied frigate designs. Simply adding a mk3 cabin would fix it, has anyone ever used the micro-cabin?

Regarding the fighters, I’ve generally found pulse fighter designs to be not too bad. Although this is only against the computer, so I’m not sure about effectiveness against more optimised designs. I did find that making sure the range was set at the optimum range was vital though. Strangely, I almost never use rocket fighters. Standard blaster (or whatever the larger fighter laser is) fighters rip through frigates and I’m often able to let them attack cruisers on their own, eventually whittling them down. I find that to get through cruiser shields rocket fighters need to be spammed in such large numbers it’s almost pointless. And don’t ask me about torpedo bombers, they’re just fighter bait.

I agree that I’ve certainly never bothered with armour. Although it might be interesting to make a really, really heavily armoured fighter. Just for laughs.

I’ve done that with the rebel bomber hull.

It’s amusing watching anti-frigate scale pulse guns and phasors zip out, HIT the fighter… and bounce off.

Edit: On the other hand, those bombers take an AGE to get anywhere. They’re slower than some frigates -_-

WONDERFUL! I like the idea of squadrons of bombers with beating frigates at their own game! Real underdog stuff :slight_smile:

I never said pulse fighters are bad. In fact, I said that I loved them. Two of my three most recent fighters carry them. If anything, I’d love for them to be a bit better. Aside from a suicide torpedo bomber (and those nutty target painter fighters), no fighter design is as slow as a pulse fighter. It takes a lot of effort to keep them going fast enough to not get torn apart in combat, and the pulse laser is the weapon that leaves you with the least amount of power for engines to offset the added weight.

I hate to double post, but this is kind of a big point to edit in at the end of a short aside about pulse fighters.

On several separate occasions, I’ve been drawn in by the siren call of EVE Online. It never lasts, because I hate other people and planning my real life day around being logged in to switch skill training and the feeling of having a second job that I pay for and playing the same game for more than three months at a time and all those other MMO things. It’s nothing personal against EVE (except the skill training thing), I have the same love-hate relationship with all the MMOs I try. WoW, WAR, Ryzom, Age of Conan, City of Villains, Guild Wars, ATitD…you name it, I’ve probably tried it, loved it briefly, burned out and moved on.

Anyway, not important. EVE has a special place in my heart among the MMOs I can’t stand any longer, right next to the works of Larry Niven and the second Aliens movie and 2001 (book and movie both).

The best part about EVE is how much character the world has. There are four races, and they are about as perfectly defined as the colour wheel of Magic: The Gathering. Their features are distinct, their ships are distinct, their stations are distinct, their names are distinct. You get deep enough in the world, you even start to understand the distinct cultures of each race. And the tensions between all four run deep enough that you even start to hate the other races just a little bit. I’m a little sad to admit I was even a fair bit racist in the game, despite being about the most decent and culturally relaxed Canadian you can imagine in real life. But I would rather fly to a different solar system than do anything that might benefit a Gallentean, because that’s just how it is sometimes.

Anyway, moving on. The four races each had a damage type that they dealt preferentially. They each had two different types of weapons that they preferred, too. (They also each had a distinct sensor tech, power tech, and various specific ship building materials, but that was more subtle.) Mechanically, it was all pretty much the same: weapons did a certain amount of damage over time. But in terms of flavour, it was so much more.

The Caldari do kinetic damage, and specialize in railguns and missiles. I was a Caldari missile specialist. I was ALLLL the way back there, killing things from a tasteful distance with fireworks. They have practical looking asymmetrical ships in gunmetals and greys and blacks, protected by the best shields possible to keep the paint looking nice.

The Gallenteans do thermal damage, and use blasters and drones (sort of like a missile, only they don’t blow up properly when they reach the target). They fly space hotrods, get uncomfortably close, and pour the hurt on. Their ships are gaudy and flashy, look more than a little bit melted, and tend towards garish iridescent blues and greens. Everything about them is tacky and terrible, and all right thinking people hate them.

The Matari do explosive damage, and use rather low-tech projectile weapons, namely rapid fire cannons and huge slow firing howitzers. Their ships look like flying scrapyards, yet somehow manage to be impressively fast, maybe due to all the missing bits. They aren’t so much painted as covered in tastefully coordinated rust. They don’t have much, but they have plenty of can-do attitude and space duct tape.

The Amarrians do electromagnetic damage, using the combination of lots of lasers and even more lasers. There ships are slow, but they have armour protecting their armour. They look like massive golden churches, only they fly and spit horrible searing death. They are not sneaky, or tasteless, or plucky like the other races (respectively). They are perfectly direct and straightforward (read belligerent and stubborn), and their fleets and tactics reflect that perfectly.

Here are all the ships, to scale: I bet you can figure out which are which from my descriptions.

There. I haven’t played for at least a couple of years, and I still can remember all that with only slight online fact-checking. EVE is the gold standard for personality in a computer game in my mind.

GSB already has some of that character (in a more lighthearted, HHGTTG kind of way). The ship designs are wonderful (I’m not so sure about the Empire look yet, but at least it is interesting and new). The four racial hull bonuses are nice. But once we have the basic balance figured out, a little bit more personality from the modules would be a wonderful addition. I’ve only unlocked two of the four races so far, and I haven’t seen half the hulls yet, but so far making a Federation ship is a lot like making a Rebel ship. A bit more difference between them would be nice.

EVE did it with different ratios of Power and CPU, different numbers of high, medium and low slots, and significant ship-specific bonuses. It was like building a specific colour of Magic deck – you know in advance what the general personality of the end result was going to be like. A Kestrel was always going to be a missile boat, but you could make it a bunch of different ways within that archetype.

So that’s my (extremely) long-winded case (plea?) for more character and more personality, backed by subtle gameplay hints and limitations and bonuses. I imagine a day when I notice a certain weakness in my fleet and say, “that’s a job for a Fox!” or I look at the fleet coming towards me and saw “oh no, Alliance…going to be a whole lot of X coming my way in a second!”

Great post.

More practically, you have a ton of art assets there, and the races look radically different from one another. The hard work’s done already. Why not give a racial characteristic to each race, to get the ball rolling? ‘Missle modules cost 20% less, and require 20% less crew and power’ for example.

Probably be hell to balance, but hey, we’re in beta.

That’s the spirit!

Also, it’s easy to balance things like that when each side gets a different yet equal advantage. For example, in EVE the Caldari shield tank, while the Amarr armour tank. Each one is balanced out by the way that Caldari ships that do lose their shields are not long for the world, and Amarrian ships lose their shields almost as foreplay.

Theres a ton of good stuff here. Now I’m getting a lot of niggles and crashes and UI stuff done, I can concentrate on the real meat and potatoes of the true game itself, which is exactly this kind of ship hull and module balancing and variety,

In light of my above post, I’m going to try a little thought experiment and see if I can come up with a good racial identity for the Federation.

“The Galactic Commerce Federation may not have the largest space fleet, but it remains the dominant economic force in the galaxy. Their free-market philosophy extends right up to individual spaceship captains, who are billed for every shot fired, and credited for every verified kill. Technically, the Commerce Federation has no navy, and it’s collection of armored spaceships merely form part of it’s 'Contract Enforcement Department.”

(I capitalized all the names, and spotted another American English spelling of armour.) From this and the vaguely Star Trek influences, I imagine them as being not very warlike. Their ships would be practical, able to do “useful” things like carry cargo or passengers, and certainly not massively expensive purpose-built war machines. From the grey understructure with big blue plates on top look, I imagine them as being decently (but somewhat inconsistantly) armoured. The racial hull bonus reinforces this. However, I’m sure they would also use shields, in keeping with the Star Trek feel and a general desire to keep repair costs down. I see them as having a fair amount less armour than the Alliance, but a bit more than the Rebels and a lot more than the Empire.

Also, this all plays nicely into the fact that they are the first race you can play as, so new players will start here. New players will tend toward basic, not very optimized designs, and will not have all the expensive and fancy toys unlocked yet. They would be not entirely unlike a race of lowest bidders building merchant marine ships, really.

In gameplay terms, I’d say stick with the hull bonus, but maybe beef it up even more (to make up for the fact that other races will be getting other racial bonuses later on). This also means that every design a new player makes has at least a little something holding it together, even if they don’t put much armour on it. Maybe even give different ships different amounts of default armour (at additional cost and weight and generally lower numbers of free slots), to further build on this idea.

On the offensive side, the idea of billing for each round fired is a great little bit of flavour. Any race that did that would end up with a lot of laser weapons, since they would be “free”. I’d also say add a racial bonus to aiming at the cost of firing rate, since everyone would be lining up their shots just a little bit more carefully. This also goes back to the Star Trek thing again, with their heavy use of phasers as primary weapons. See how it all ties together so neatly?

Of course, even a race of non-aggressive penny-pinching employees would see the need for some long range firepower (a la photon torpedoes), even if it did cost a little extra. So give them one flavour of big gun…plasma sounds perfect to me. Make it cost a little more than the other races’, with a bit of an accuracy bonus. Get rid of everything else, so you don’t overwhelm new players. But make up for it with a range of different beam weapons of different sizes, ranges, firing rates, etc. Keep the two penetration rates roughly balanced on all their weapons, for additional simplicity.

Federation fighters are pretty average. They have the second most varied bonuses, the most variety of slots, average length and power. They would probably use them more extensively since they are cheap and can turn any empty cargo ship into a carrier. Maybe you could have different squad sizes for each race, with ten each for the Federation to reflect this and allow new players to try out fighters in smaller numbers? They would probably not use heavy bombers, since the attrition is very high for them…so drop torpedo launchers from their list.

I’d say position them as a generalist beam-focused line-of-battle race. Give them heavily hinted hulls that steer new players to certain basic ship concepts. Make it so that most Federation ships end up being decent, without being able to end up as either a design mess or a finely tweaked monster. They would lose a bit of appeal in the eyes of advanced players, but would serve as an excellent introduction and baseline for the other races. They would also give an online challenge player the advantage of being ready for anything, so even advanced players would have a reason to play Federation. Not so many great bonuses, but fewer weaknesses too.

So, what does everyone think? Sound like a good overall picture of a race? Anyone interested in me doing something similar with the other three?

I like it. A great way of tying background into actual gameplay, and entertainingly written to boot. More please.

Design-wise, I’m not sure how I feel about removing options from races, in a game that is all about options. I do take the point about accessibility for newcomers (the level 1 hump), but I think that can be solved without narrowing scope. Giving different races incentives to focus on certain weapons I’m all for.

Suggestion: the Alliance should clearly be the fighter race. Insects swarm.

I was actually going to go with Rebels for that. The Rebels enjoy the best, most powerful, fastest and largest fighters with the current stats, plus a bonus fourth hull compared to all the other races. By comparison, the Alliance has decent but not great designs that get a bonus to armour, which most fighters don’t even use because of the slowing effect of all that weight.

I very much approve of your ideas, including limiting the gear available to different races. Though technically, it is very improbable that beam weapons would be the cheap ones.

I love this stuff! It would make it more of a style rather than a stat choice between the races.

Obviously the Empire focuses on sheilds, but what kind of weapons does their style imply? I’m thinking really long range stuff, to destroy their enemy before they can even touch their shields, much less armour.

I can see the Alliance going for lots of short-range weaponry, specifically energy weapons like their current lightning gun. I was also considering how to incorporate their organic look, and thought that either ALL their modules should give a touch of armor, or that any armor they get comes with a very limited repair built in, because their ships are pseudo-organic.
The Alliance’s racial character would be very fanatical, preferring to SEE the odd fleshy bags of organs explode rather than simply watch the holo-display of the battle. To this end they should prefer short but bloody close-range confrontations, with their chitinous armor protecting them in the short term.

My original thoughts for the races were roughly as follows:

The feds are the corporate, earth style dudes, who are flexible in pretty much all directions. They are the basic and generic guys
The alliance are into armour, as befits any species with an exoskeleton. They like exotic weaponry, like the lightning beam and similar stuff
The rebels are like the hotrod guys who bolt their ships together out of spares, and maybe rely on weight of numbers
The empire just fundamentally arent into armour, relying on super-heavy shields to protect their quite open and distributed hulls. They assume its all over once their shields are down.

The feds are corporate but not evil. The rebels are pseudo-communists, the empire are fascists and the alliance are just maniacs :smiley:

Perhaps a small tweak to the slot system might make for interesting fitting…

If the number of slot types was broadened to weapon, defence, support, general, and engine hardpoints, and allow any module to go in any slot, but have any module that is put in the “wrong” slot have a fitting penalty like +50% power and crew requirements unless it is a general slot. This would allow individual ships to have distinct roles but also allow some leeway for unusual setups if they’re willing to pay the price.

Or alternatively, players prefer bonuses to penalties, so perhaps modules in the “right” slots could get bonuses to effectiveness.

On a similar thought on changing the module design would be something like limit weapons to hex slots, and everything else to square slots. This prevents things like packing 15 armor/repair modules into a hull and one weapon. But to make it not two restrictive you could add a circle slot that can take anything thing. Then a cruiser hull that is now 7 hex and 10 square could be 5 hex, 10 square, 2 circle. You have some options, but can’t take it to the ridiculous extreme.

Of course once everything is balance out better that might not be required, and it just isn’t worth fielding cruisers that don’t have enough weapons.