I have reread the entire discussion, (tnx Zpock for telling me to do this!). Combined with a day full of walking, here is my bucketload of comments/ideas.
Section 1: My comments to other ppl ideas
I agree with Daveybaby/Manilla Moxy - it is very important to know the scale of the battles. Will the stacks be used? There is a giant gap between Stars!/MOO1 on one side, Full Thrust on the other, and MOO2/SE in the middle. And perhaps even more important is the question will the game be dedicated to few players/hotseat (with players in direct control of a turn based battle like in MOO2), or to a bigger multiplayer (with AI controlling the battle like in Stars!), or both allowed (like in SE4)?
MisterMerf, time for constructing project varies depending on this as well. For Stars!, with 1 turn per day and an average game lasting close to one year, I don't care how complicated a ship designing process is. For hotseat MOO2 on the other hand I want it easy and quick. Personally I hope FO will go for long, multiplayer games.
utilae, do you know what is very very wrong with 'It is very likely that we will show a laser beam be drawn from one ship to another, so why not calculate damage on the target ship at the same time' in 2k ship battle (without stacks!)? It will be completly illegible, boring and a horror to watch. Sth akin to big battles in MOO2/3 or SE4 - sometimes fun, bost mostly tedious and player wishing it could finally end. UI nightmare => player nightmare. If you want big battles (with hundreds of ships), the only way is stacks like in MOO or Stars!. IMHO, MOO2/3 and SE3/4 are failurse in that aspect - they show what happens when few hundred ships are in the battlefield with no stacks. As much as I like many aspects of SE games, loooong battles where sometimes REAL hour can pass before all ships are moved and start shooting is not what I want to see in FO.
If PowerCrazy estimates are correct - late game 50 capital ship is a VERY BIG fleet - then we dont need stacks, and coding internal systems damage for individual ships is useful. Still, we have to be mighty careful when balancing economy (ship cost/construction time/upkeep) - majority of the designed games failed this, and while Stars! and MOO simply stop it by maxing ship stack values (IIRC, 32k in both cases), mentioned MOO2/SE battles can sometimes result in UI nightmare. With that in mind, I'd like to suggest that we invent an easy to implement stack system for UI - just in case. What do I mean by that? For map movement, I would like fleet stack to be sortable into substacks - sth that is in Stars! but not in MOO2/SE3/4 - i.e. I want to be able to switch UI to show me fleet composition not as dozens/hundreds of indivudual ships, but as groups of same/similar ship types and classes. For battle, I want to be able to tell the UI to show me not individual ships, but task forces with similar orders (i.e. instead of 12 separate dreadgnouts or 30 destroyer escorts I want to be able to see a box thingy with the ship class symbol/name/number/average stack health).
As for Impaler's template design, this idea has some merit - actually lots more then I thought at first (I have rewrited this text 3 times - from 'so-so' to 'good' to 'excellent'
). It looks to me very similar to the HoI tech tree doctrine idea - but in our case, we design the doctrine itself as well. But I have a bit diffrent idea about what goes inside the ship. The stack/height/size seeems way 2 complicated to me though, and I dont think the graphical representation in the curren form is a good idea (see section 2 below).
Impaler, if I understand your 'Mass/Cumulative Engine Values = Acceleration/deacceleration' correctly, the bigger the ship the slower it would be given the same (relative to the hull size) size of the engine?
Zpock. About Stars! battleship. Setting aside tech levels, there are only 2 viable BS variants: beam or missile. Missile is no brainer. Beam have several subtypes (bascially if you want to trade firepower/speed/jammers for initative or not). That's all. I hope FO would have much more viable ship types then the dozen? two dozen? of Stars! (btw, I *love* Stars!, but it has its limitations).
Section 2: My idea for the ship design process, top 2 bottom
Based on mentioned PowerCrazy estimates and MisterMerf poll, this is my idea how to design a spaceship:
Step 1: select a Hull Size.
I always found that 'inventing' bigger hull size is a bit ridiculus. If you take a look at real life - or any good space opera, like Honor Harrngton - you will notice that what in year x might have been called a battleship, 200 hundered years later may be smaller then a destroyer. Therefore, I don't think that when a civilisation would build its first spaceships they would call them frigates or corvettes. Nor that it would have a choice between only 2, 4 or 40 hull sizes (granted, once it starts producing sth in a given size, it becames a standard - thus the Impaler template idea is making sence here). Hull size should not be limited by some technology saying 'frigate size ship is 100 (and exactly 100) points big'. At the very begining of the prototype construction, its size should be completly up to a player from the smallest functioning ship (scout type, engines, sensors, that's all) to a mobile dyson sphere that make take 10 game times to complete.
Rather, realistic ship size should be limited by space yard capablity. Let's say that early game space yard working at maximum capacity can process 200 space ship points per turn. I may then design small ships worth 50 points each, and build 4 of them per turn - or go for a 2000 point ship which is being build over 10 years. Later in the game, as tech increases, so should the yard processing capacity, so a ship that is giant in the early game is nothing impressive in the later game.
What is important here is that there would be no actual limits on how big a ship a player wants to build. Rahter, those limis should be intuitive - like, say, if you build a very big ship for MANY turns it should be possible that the when it is done it's technology is not very good (beacuse in the meantime you have invented new systems), or that you will be overrunn by a horde of smaller ships before your superdreadnought is even half complete. Remember this: we, the designers, can try to think of good strategies now, but it is always the players that invent the best - tested in combat - strategies, that designers have not dreamed of. Let's leave decisions like hull size entirely to the players - they will not be disappointed by that.
Also in this section I'd like to present my idea for upgrading ships
Simple: the bigger the refit, the less efficient it is. If you upgrade beam mark II to beam mark III, it is no big deal. But if you want to replace lasers with tachyon beams and plasma torpedo launchers, change the engine size and fit new shield generators...then this is a major refit, and the reconstructed designs should be less efficient then if you would build it from scratch. Basically, refits are cheaper and faster then building entirely new ship, but they should results in ships that are less efficient then new designs build for given task and weapon type from scratch. How to represent it in the game?
There are three types of refits:
a) when you replace component A with component A2 - for example, laser gun with improved laser gun. This should be fast and cheap.
b) when you replace component A with component B - similar, but not entirely. For example, laser gun is replaced with tachyon gun, or plasma torpedo launcher. Since the orginal design was not designed in mind with the new equipment (which likely was not researched/invented yet), it will not work perfectly. This should be represented both by a higher refit cost (compared to the new ship design using those parts) and more importantly, those new parts taking more space/mass points/whaterver on the refited ship. This represents bulky secondary instalations, patchwork, mixing old tech with new, and so on. For example, if a mentioned tachyon gun takes 3 space points on a new design, if retrofitted in place of another weapon part on older ship it would take 4 space points. Basically, I suggest a 25% cost/space incresse.
c) when you replace component A with component X - in place of a laser you want a shield generator, or expanded engine Very big and not recommend modification - 50% additional cost/space increase.
This refit variant would allow for ship upgrades, but as in real life (or good space operas) - the more you try to refit the old hulk, the worse results you get. Sooner or later, scrapyard is in order.
Back to the construtction process. I will try to illustrate the design process with example, so let's say we want to build a missile battlecruiser - i.e. a ship that is fast, yet packs a punch at long range. I imagine this design would be lightly armoured and quick, utilising a 'shoot biiiig salvo and run if anything is left in the debris' tactic. Imaginary size: 100
After the hull size is selected, we go to
Step 2: Impaler's template idea
I see this idea as making one's own HoI doctrines. In other words, after we have a hull size, we fill it with slots - which as I understand them basically determine if the hull will be a troop or supply freighter, slow energy gun battleship, quick missile ship, figheter carrier, etc. (in Stars! terms, a freighter hull would be full of mechanical slots, beamer would love weapon/mechanical ones, missile weapon/electrical, etc.). Then this 'doctrine' is researched for x turns and we spend normal science research points on it.
Remembering my missile BC idea, I will fill the ship with many weapon/missile slots. But I dont like the 2d map as a basis for our design, especially with hexes limiting what can point in which direction and such. After reading many of your comments I agree that it helps to visualise stuff - but I dont want to be limited by hexes. Stars! fans, plz remember that the slots in the varios design are not taken from any known grid - they are squares stichted together in various shapes.I would like to keep the exact size/shape to my imagination and graphical picture, and see the specs in a MOO1/2 or SE speadsheet way.The graphical representation - which would be nice ADDITION - I think would be best viewed in the Full Thrust mode:
(note how the beams (circles w/ numbers) have arcs represented; the boxes on the bottom represent hit points, stars are hit points with crew repair units. Here are links for the pages with more Full Thrust ship design schematics if you are interested in more info: Model pics and schematics
, Ship Creator software, maybe we can use it in FO?
, 5 designs - a fleet
) - it shows if systems are more or less inside or outside, it shows the weapons arcs, and if allows a player familar with UI a quick glance and realisation (oh, this is missile BC) but it does not allow to tell if the system is definetly above or below some other one. With given hull size, I think of slots as 'space points dedicted for given purpose) - for example, my BC with total 100 points would in this step have them divided into those missile/weapons ones, some mechanical and electrical, some shields, etc. And after I chose my components based on the slots I have, THEN and only then they would appear on the 'design schematics' - and I'd like to move them in any way I want, to create 'the feel' of how the ship looks like (if we go with weapon arcs then we may have some rules for the picture, but I dont want the picture to determine the main design process!). And btw, I love the idea that 'general purpose' slots should be available but very very expensive (they must be balanced so it is not worthy to develop one fit-them-all template). Perhaps a max x% of slots can be devoted to general purpose?
I think that this step - before the given template is researched - would be good for stuff like hull sections/integrity/hit points/basic armor. Why? Logically, templates represent the 'ship skeleton', and for me, that means majority of the stuff related to 'how good the projects based on that skeleton will be at withstanding damage'.
For this, I favour a model that is a combination of SE3 (not 4!) and Full Thrust idea. I will describe them here for those unfamilar.
In SE3, ship space points are divided into armor (10%), outer hull (70%) and inner hull (20%). For componens in inner hull to get damaged, at least one in outer hull must be destroyed. For outer hull to be damaged, armor must be damaged. The more components in given section are destroyed, the bigger chance then next damage sustained will pass to the inner section. In Full Thrust, player decides how many ship space points (remember, by space points I mean space for the stuff inside) go to the hull integrity (this is similar to MOO concept of armor). Basically, each 1 space point gives 1 hit point when spend on hull integrity. After each 25% hit points are gone, all systems inside the ship are checked for failure. Each time next 25% systems are gone, the failure chance increases, and if more then 50% hit points are lost in a single hit, the failure chance is bigger again. Also in FT, unused space points are traded for armor on 1 to 1 basic.Armor gets usually damaged before hit points.
I have alwyas loved both SE3 and FT hull layout concepts for their ideas - they seem to me the best way to represent the stuff like hull integrity. I think we can have the best of both worlds and use both in our game. First, player writes how many % of space will be devoted to hull integrity (hit points). The, when allocating slots on the template, they would go either to the armor, outer or inner hull, with the same idea as in SE3 (the more crucial the ship system, the deeper it is).
How would it work in battle? Remember first that some weapons may say that 'they always hit armour if any still remaining', other 'always deal half damage to armor, half to hit points', other are 'penetrating'. But this is for weapons disscussion, I just want to remind you of the options range. After each hit on given section, components in that section have a chance of malfunction equal to the hit points destroyed so far in the given section. Imagine that our battleship has 20 total hit points (2 in armour 14 in outer, 4 in inner), and 5 armour points from unspent space points or armour slots filled. Now, when a ship is damaged to armour points only, othing happens. When damage is dealt to hit points, armor section hit points are the first to go, and components located on slots in the armour section have a chance to be damaged/destroyed and the chance of next hit damaging outer hull increases. Note that the ship does not have to have any armour points, but still has the armour section components.In our battleship, if it receives 1 hit point damage, all armour components (I imagine sensors, special armour stuff, etc.) have 50% chance of being destroyed (since it has 2 armour hit points total), and chance for another hit to damage outer hull - or armor again - is 50/50. When a ship is damaged to outer hull, ordinary systems must be checked for failure, and chance for next hit damagin inner hull increases.
I'd also like to make a point about what is in the inner hull. As a veteran of SE3/4 and many other games, I think it is way boring to be forces to manually put stuff like bridge/reactor/life support/crew quaters on every ship. Let's skip that and say that they always go to the inner hull, and are incuded in the hull cost/size itself. In addition, the inner section has space to hold few very special items that you want to fail last - like missile magazines, fire control sysems, auto-repair units, shield (re)generators, etc. Now I am not saying that tech inventions like 'hardened life support' or 'auxiliary bridge' are not needed, and if implemented, they should take additional space. But let's forget about having to add bridge and stuff to every design manually, please?
I personally find this armor/outer/inner divison less complex then forwad/aft/port/starboard/internal (and don't forget...space is 3d, so you need top/bottom as well...7 sections? nah, overcomplicated). a/o/i is already 360 degrees.
And now few more tweaks from Full Thrust. When inner hull is damaged, bridge, life support, crew quaters and reactors should be checked for failure as well. When one of those parts is damaged, a random roll should tell us how badly (i.e. reactor shutdown or big bum, bridge repairable in 5 turns or gone, life support failure imminent or in 3 turns), and crew should get a chance to be able to repair it. Actually, crew should be able to repair any damaged system (but not armor or hit points!). The bigger crew compartment on the ship (sure, u can have addtional slots/techs for this), the more repair attempts you get per turn. The more hit points you lose, the more crew die and the less attempts you have. Mechanised technology would give you bonus space points (those humans need lots of useless stuff like corridors, life supports stuff, food, etc.) but you would have fewer of those 'repair attempts'.
The logic here is that armor is expendable. After outer hull is destroyed, ship wont be able to fight, but should be able to limp away under supporting screen. When inner hull is hit, things are bad. Ship is destroyed when hit points are gone (hull integrity = 0%, breaks apparts), or some of the key systems suffers a catastrophic failure (reactor meltdown, life support failure).
Also, for the same reasons engine question should be adressed here. I dont think we have discusses battle propuslsion in any detail here. The most important questions are:
a) does overall hull size influence maximum speed in any way (like ship weight in Stars!, size in SE3/4, or in Honorverse),
b) is there only one engine type per tech level possible, or can increasing its size/component number increase its performance (like in SE3/4 or Full Thrust)?
c) important - space drives are INSIDE the ship (like in FT) or outside (like in Star Trek or Babylon 5)? This would be important with outer hull/inner hull idea - how easy it is to damage the engine? Perhaps we can have both options somwehere along diffrent routes in the tech tree
For my fast battlecruiser idea, I would likely chose one of the best biggest engine possible - at least, it should be able to run away from bigger ships my opponent has. And I would go for rather small armor/hit points.
After it is done, we go to:
Step 3: Filling the slots
A reminder. This step happens when a template (with slots, hull integrity and engine size) is researched. Based on it, we can create many variants cheaply. Now we put stuff like shields, weapons, mechanical/electrical thingies, scanners, cloaks, toilets, captain's rooms, whaterver.
When new techs are researched, or you decide that new combination of existing is better, you design a new prototype based on existing template (of course, you can go to step 1 and research a new template altoghether). If we go with my refit rules, it would be impossible to refit an old ship to the new project, but you can always create a special 'refit' projet for refitted designs only.
Shields and weapon types require discussion threads of their owns, as the various miscellany equipment, but I think that is - bascially - how I'd see a ship designing process for - let me repeat it - a game where biiiiig battles would involve <100 ships, and early-middle ones would be <25 each.
Hopefully sb read to the end of this looong post and I made some sence