For me, this is a game about strategic thought. It’s not a twitch reflex shooter for stimulating only the reptile part of my brain. While I think stat balances of some of the existing items will be helpful and good, I think that the game is much less about what you use than how you use it. A few new commands could go a long way in balancing the game, and would do a lot more to make the gameplay interesting than tweaking weapons’ DPS. Here’s what I think we could use:
Ignore order: I can’t tell you how many capital ship captains I’ve had court marshaled and flogged for pointlessly chasing around fighter-class targets simply because they were too lazy to engage the serious enemy assets just a few hundred pixels further out. Likewise, I’m tired of my torpedo fighters attracting unwanted attention and wasting precious reload time by shooting at fighters. I’m tired of laser-armed fighters shooting at anything bigger than ten meters long that isn’t smoking, and that brings me to my next order.
Engage only when shields/armor depleted: Fighters are wonderful for mopping up crippled frigates, but only crippled ones. There ought to be an order to prevent a unit from engaging a given enemy vessel class until it’s shields or armor are down. Conversely:
Engage until shields shields depleted: Some weapons are only good at knocking down shields. Some weapons only knock down shields. If there’s any armor underneath it’s pointless to keep shooting if that’s all you’ve got, and I’m all for orders that help tie together diverse fleets of specialized warships instead of monotonous waves of clones. Speaking of which…
Skirmish radius: There should be an order for a ship to retreat from enemies closing to within a certain distance. Admirals would have to be careful to make sure these sorts of orders are harmonious with the engagement distance orders, but that is why they go to officer training school, no? A skirmish radius would do a lot to keep frigates alive and would make faster ship designs more useful.
Slave fire control units: I would like to see an order where ships can be ordered to fire only on targets chosen by another ship. Load one ship down with target painters, load another down with missiles. Hope the enemy doesn’t shoot the painter. For balance this might be made incompatible with “cooperate” orders. Again, I’d love to see things that allow specialized ship designs working together.
Time on target volleys: This would probably be tricky, but it would be very useful. I would like to see an order whereby ships wait until all their weapons are cycled before firing them off in one, monolithic, shield-shattering volley instead of picking away with them one at a time. For extra points, different travel speed weapons should be fired based on range and time to target so that they impact simultaneously.