Starships in Star Governor
Sunday, 26th November 2017
I've almost settled on a ship design system for Star Governor. I say almost, as I have an alternative path I could go down. So I'll describe both systems. What both have in common is that a ship has a certain size, and that the available space in the ship is divided among certain functions to define the ship's abilities and performance.
The system I'm leaning towards is the simplest version of this idea that will work. There are just three areas into which a ship is divided: drives, weapons and hold.
Drives determine a ship's speed between star systems. Since ships can move anywhere within a system in the course of a turn, it doesn't make sense to have impulse engines as a feature that the player has to worry about and manipulate. So the percentage of your ship given over to drives acts as a percentage of a theoretical maximum speed that your ship can travel. It's possible to design a ship without these drives; such a ship would be restricted to the planetary system it was built in, and would be useful for orbital defence.
Weapons is very abstract, even more so since I haven't given any thought to the combat system. But the percentage of a ship given over to weapons affects its abilities in attack and defence.
The hold is flexible, and from one journey to another can be refitted for varying numbers of passengers, cargo or fuel.
As some examples of how this system would work, a standard fighting ship could have roughly equal engines, weapons and hold. A cargo/passenger/fleet tender ship would replace those weapons with hold space. A scout would replace most or all of the weapons with engines. An orbital platform could be 100% weapons.
The second system expands this. Firstly, it separates weapons into weapons and shields (or armour). It splits the hold into dedicated spaces for passengers, cargo and fuel. Another area is ship repair. This gives seven areas into which a ship can be split, and adds a great deal of variety.
The only extra area that needs explanation is ship repair. In the simpler model, ships may be repaired by putting in at a starport (i.e. any planet with ship construction ability). In the more advanced model, a ship with repair facilities can repair a certain amount of damage to itself or other ships in the fleet during the course of a turn.
This system gives a lot more flexibility in ship design. You can now design ships which are recognisably warships, scouts, colony ships, fleet tenders or cargo ships. It's possible to maximise the weaponry of modest sized fighting ships by reducing the fuel capacity, and allocating to the fleet a massive tender filled with fuel.
The only issue I have with using the more advanced system is getting the AI to make good use of it. Even if I presented the AI with a set of hard-coded designs, it would be more difficult than with the simpler system to have it choose its ships effectively. I might have to go with a heuristic approach ("Check #1: is there a fleet tender? If not, add one...") which would make computer-built fleets more predictable than I'd like.
In this post I've only touched on the mechanics of actual travel and the use of the hold. I've thought about them a lot though, and I'll discuss them in a later blog post.