Another post on ship design

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.
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Space Krill
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Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:35 am

Another post on ship design

#1 Post by Ramihyn » Sat Mar 07, 2009 4:19 pm

I. Introduction

Hello everyone! I found the FreeOrion Project just a three days ago, so obviously I am a "bloody newbie" :wink: .

First I would like to apologise if I rivive a topic that had been discussed and dicided long ago. I looked up some parts of the forum and the V0.4 Design Pad and would like to address some points which might not be decided yet or are not totally clear to me. Since the Brainstorming section is labeled "Write down all your craziest ideas." it seems to be the best place to start posting. The focus of this post lies on design considerations, with a slight glance on the implementation, since it should be possible to implement suggested changes with am rather small amount of code work.

Hopefully I won't annoy anybody. Please don't be to harsh an my spelling or my grammar since english is no my native language. This is going to be a rather long post, so take your time.

II. Basic Thoughts

The matter of Ship Design and Combat Mechanics is a very large and complex one. The greatest problem is the balance between oversimplification on the one side and excessive micromanagement on the other side. Furthermore a ships design heavily influences its combat behaviour, so that it does seem to be necessariy to take a look at both parts together.

In the following I would like to outline a Design System which would allow highly customizable ships, which can be characterised by a set of 12 values per ship design. It should be possible to describe a ships status by four or five values per individual ship. I will try to stick as closly to the V0.4 Design Pad, suggesting rather small alterations where it seems useful.

III. Problems in the V0.4 Design Pad

There are two points in the Design Pad which seem to collide with each other. Here I will address them separately. I just want to point out the problems. The solutions to this problems I will adress in the parts IV and V.

III.1. Hull/Engine bonding

From the V0.4 Design Pad:
A hull is essentially build around an engine, so the engine is a part of the hull and is not separately selectable
Ship range and speed are separate values, and it should be possible to have combinations of either extreme of both, such as fast-long, fast-short, slow-long and slow-short range ships
To me it seems rather pointless to link the engine to the hull for the sake of simpicity. It severly limits the design process of a ship. Also to allow the mentionend combinations of range/speed some sort of workaround in the ship design would be needed. Finally you would have a huge variety of different Hulls with specific speeds and ranges.

In my oppinion, the design process is much more simple and transparent, if one can tailor a ship to his needs by choosing a combination of one Hull, one Speed and one Range out of a variety of maybe five different Hull/Speed/Range components, than searching the one Hull that fits ones needs most out of 50 hull designs.

In part IV I will lay out my "dream" of Ship Design in detail.

III.2 Internal/External sloting and combat damage

Again from V0.4 Design Pad:
Slots are either internal or external. External slots are more likely to be damaged by weapons fire hitting the ships. Some parts may be restricted to only internal or only external slots.
Ships have two meters that track damage: Health and Shield. [..] Damage th ship health reduces in battle ship properties [..]
Why separate the slots in external and internal when the ships status is linked to a single meter?

In part V I would like to explain a combat system that expands the V0.4 Design Pad with a third meter, increasing detail and complexity of the tactic combat while keeping the additional coding rather low and avoiding micromanagement and click-feasts during combat.

IV. Ship Design

The basics of Ship Designs are laid out in section 4 of the V0.4 Design Pad. I will suggest a few simple modifications, which will make ship design more flexible but still allow destict ship roles acording to the ships hullsize.

IV.1 Basic Design Considerations

The first step in ship design should be the selection of the hull. It defines the basic characteristic of the ship. Each Hull has a certain set of mandatory components defining the basic toughness (in the following refered as Hull Material), the speed (the Engine) and the range (the Reactor) of the final ship design.

Furthermore the Hull provides a certain number of internal and external slots. These will be used to hold any kind of components like shield generators, armor, weapon systems, hangars, sensor arrays, stealth equipment, mission equipment, etc. External and internal slots will be treated slightly different.

All numbers used in the following are chosen to represent the basic concept and incorperate no further thought on balancing.

IV.2 The Hull

The Hull Material defines the basic amount of Hit Points (HP) the later ship will have. Depending on the tech level of the material the buildtime, cost and HP of the ship will increase. So you have the option to use old Mk.1 tech if you want to quickyl build cheap ships like a scout, or go all in with the latest hightech for higher costs, longer buildtimes and sturdier ships. Maybe expensive and fragile materials for special purposes like stealth ships can be used.

The Engine defines the Speed of the later ship. Given the same tech level of the engine, larger ships are slower in combat than small ship. The speed on the galaxy map should be independet of the shipsize, to allow fleets to keep together. It is possible to select lower tech engines to build slower and cheaper ships. For exemple for ships used in system defense which don't travel far.

The Reactor defines the fuel amount and regeneration of a ship. There could be longer range reactors with a low recharge rate, for example six jumps out of player controled space, taking 20 turns to recharge jump when the fuel capacity is depleted. Or low range reactors with higher recharge rate, maybe two jumps range and 4 turns for one jump recharge.

IV.3 The Slots

I want to explain the amount and distribution of slots a bit more in detail. In the final Designscreen, a player should only see a certain number of slots of a specific size dependent on the chosen hull.

Hulls come in four different sizes, small, medium, large and huge. Slots come in three different sizes, small, medium and large. A small slot is worth one slotpoint, medium is worth two slotpoints and large is worth four slotpoints. Small hulls have a capacity of three slotpoints. Every further hullsize the amount of slotpoints doubles.

Slots are distributet between internal and external slots. Given a three dimensinal body of length X, the surface is proportinal to X², while the volume ist proportional to X³. So larger hull should have a higher portion of internal slots, while smaler hulls have a higher amount of external slots. I imagine the final destribution of slots somewhat like the following scheme:

Hullsize | small | medium | large | huge |
total Slotpoints | 3 | 6 | 12 | 24 |
internal:external slotpoints | 1:2 | 1:1 | 2:1 | 3:1 |
internal slots | S | M,S | L,M,M | L,L,L,M,M,M |
external slots | S,S | M,S | M,S,S | M,M,S,S |

Keep in mind, that the player would only see the amount and size of available slots dependend on the chosen Hull.

These slot can be filled with components, where certain components are linked to certain slots. For example sensor arrays, PD or LR Weapons could be limited to external slots, whereas shield generators, armor or hangars are limited to internal slots. So small to medium sized hulls would be preferable for spotters or PD ships, medium to large seize hulls for SR or LR ships and large to huge Hulls build a preferable base for carriers or battleships.

SR weapons could be treated as a special case. Normal SR equipment would be limited to external slot, whereas there could be a heavy SR which could be mounted on internal slots. These heavy SR could be very powerfull, but limited to firing on large/huge ships. Allowing tactics like crippling capital ships with LR and finishing them off with smaller Ships, after their SR defense has been taken out.

V. Combat Mechanics

The Basic point in seperation of slots is a higher degree of differentiation in the damage mechanisms. So instead of two Meters (Hitpoints/Shield) i would like to introduce a third meter (Shield/Internal Hitpoints/External Hitpoints) the details on the Meters are the followig. A third meter should enrich the tactic possibilities of ship design and combat while nor significantly increasing the difficulties to overlook a battle.

V.1. Shield Meter

Shield generators are build in Internals slots and provide an amount of Shield Points (SP) depending on the availablle tech and the basic Hullsize. If a ship ist hit, the damage reduces the amount of remaining SP, if the SP become zero, the shields fail. Any further incoming damage hits the Ship. This damage is distributed between the internal hitpoints (IHP) and the external hitpoints (EHP)

V.2 Internal Hitpoint Meter

The amount IHP ist determined by hullsize, hullmaterial and optional Armor. Armor can be build in internal slots only. It increases the total IHP of the Ship and it provides a certain amount of damage reduction for internal slots. As the Ships IHP are reduced, its internal components loose efficency. When the ships IHP reach zero, the ship is destroyed.

The exact mechanism of armor reduction is open to discussion. A plain reduction of X incoming damage would be a serious handycap for small ships with smaller weapons, while a plain reduction by X% is a disadvantage for capital ships with heavy hitting weapons. Personally I favor a hybrid model where incoming damage is reduced by X% until a total damage of Y is prevented. (Example: 30% reduction, total of 30 damage absorbed. Fighter hits for 10 --> 10+0.7 = 7 damage recieved. Battleship hits for 200 --> 200-30=170 damage recived)

V.3 External Hitpoint Meter

All components in external slots come with a certain amount of HP. These are added up and form the external hitpoints (EHP) of the ship. When a ships shield fail, parts of the incoming damage goes to the EHP and reduces the efficency of the components in external slots. So a ship can be crippled befor it is destroyed.

Due to the nature of the external components, crippling mainly means a loss in sensory and sealth capacity as well es offensive power. Engines as internal components are better protected and give the crippled ships a chance to retreat.

VI. Conclusion

Thank you for reading this rather long post. Hopefully it can be considered as a constructive input to the ship design discussion. I will be glad to answer any occuring questions.

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