When it comes to Space Games, Spaceships take the central stage. They are the backbone of any space faring civilization wordy of that name. Without space ships one civilization cannot expand, cannot explore, settle, trade or sustain itself from hostile civilizations. Basically it cannot evolve. Imagine you have several star systems in your empire but no effective way to communicate between them. First this is hard to believe in the first place since how could this be? To colonize other planets you need a huge technology background and not less huge colony ships that can transport thousands of settlers. You also need scout ships or drone ships with great sensor technology to explore the vicinities. Ultimately you need war ships to defend your people from hostile races.
Spaceships are expensive
If we think realistically spaceships are an enormous expense of resources, in terms of manpower: scientists, engineers; time and materials. When produced, spaceships are also a huge expense during its lifetime: fuel, staff, energy, coordination and constant maintenance and retrofit.
If we take the Earth case study, after 50 years since the space age has begun on Earth the world has seen only a small bunch of different spacecrafts with little or no significant evolution in terms of life support, propulsion systems, range or … reliability, not to mention warfare need which is nil. For god sake in 50 years of space monitoring we have not yet made contact with a single bacteria in another planet inside our solar system, not to mention outside! The bottom line is that the space traveling business is a slow, cumbersome, incident fill, hugely expensive and very thoughtful enterprise.
The number of Spaceships matter
Being playing space strategy games for more than 15 years now (see Space Strategy Games: What’s next? Article ) I’ve constantly got the same boring feeling after some time playing a game. Constructing, maintaining and retrofitting spaceships becomes so ridiculous easy and cheap that the game simply looses its interest. So Alien race “X” happens to have 24 fleets of 40 medium size war ships each in a specific sector in space. Ohh and watch out!, they have another 24 equally sized fleets in another sector, and another… I don’t think this is realistic at all, nor fun.
If you take as reference the top Sci Fi novels: StarWars, StarTrek and BattleStar Galactica, just to name the few most representative, you have to ask yourself how many space ships you usually see in the biggest of the fleets. 4 ships? 10? Maybe 30 big vessels and around 50 to 60 smaller units tops in the more striking epic battles, already taking both sides into account.
In space strategy games usually after you research warp drive, “space ships tech 1” or some other easy to come by technology you’re set to construct large colony ships, transports and even fighters and bombers. Not just you can build one, you’re invited to build tens of them fast since usually these ships are not considered expensive. As soon as you know you’re not only building larger ships but you are also building hosts of them. Now after building so much ships the only thing you can think of (since nothing more exciting to do is offered) is which alien civilization will you try on your new 200 corvettes with your new Plasma Cannon IX generation rifle. For me this does not feel realistic nor satisfying enough. More is needed.
Spaceship Epic Battles, StarWars, StarTrek, BattleStar Galactica: Some numbers
I think it’s no accident that the big sci-fi films always portray a reduced number of ships in their battles, exploration missions or transport convoys. A few facts and numbers on this:
In the Star Trek Universe
In StarTrek we never see more than a handful of starships in combat – maybe half a dozen Cruisers class vessels and a couple Galaxy class vessels tops. In the Voyager series you never see more than a couple of alien ships, but ok that’s primarily due to the series plot, since Voyager is the typical scout explorer that gets lost in space.
For some hard numbers, the Galaxy Class space ship (the biggest of the Star Trek Human universe if I’m not mistaken) has allegedly a crew complement of roughly 1,014 people! Among officers, enlisted crew and civilians. Imagine the amount of resources that big snake takes to build and maintain, not to mention the years and years of research needed to put it all together in the first place. Imagine the day where the first prototype was assembled in Space Dock. That would be a day to remember.
In StarWars the maximum number of ships you can count is probably on “Return of the Jedi” final sequence where maybe a couple dozen Star Destroyers (including a single Super Star Destroyer Mothership) storms the not so many Rebel Alliance starship perpetrators. The Rebel Alliance counts maybe a dozen corvette
class ships and probably around half a dozen Heavy Cruisers. Even the number of fighters is not so great. Maybe 5 to 6 rebel squadrons of 4 to 6 fighters each and some equal number of Galactic Empire fighters. In another one of the biggest epic starwars battles: the attack on the Death Star in the “New Hope”, you only count 3 squadrons of rebel fighters if I recall correctly: The Gold squadron with a handful of slow, but
punchy, Y-Wings (a total of 6 maybe), a Red squadron of a good handful of X-Wings (3-6 units), and another squadron of X-Wings (3-6 units) that I cannot recall right now. Approximately 18 fighter class vessels attacked the Death Star … ok plus the help of the Millenium Falcon, what a ship, what a personality, both ship and its captain.
Take the Victory I Class Star Destroyer for example in the Wookieepedia. For god sake, around 5.200 crew members of different specialties not to count with around 2000 troops. And what to say about the dimensions of this huge beast. Imagine the technology, the contracts needed to pull that off altogether. It would have taken the Sith Emperor a good decade or two just to come up with the plans for that not to talk about the amount of effort to put these boys into production.
Battlestar Galactica Toys
In BattleStar Galactica (the remake series, I don’t quite remember how it was in the original) in the Humans faction you see a convoy of a dozen corvette class vessels and … Galactica, a single Heavy Cruiser class vessel. Ok, the situation in Galactica is special since the Human fleet is just a collection of refugees that escaped an extinction event perpetrated by the Cylon Empire, however if you take the Cylon fleets for example you never see more than 3 to 4 Baseships in a single battle, and these are the biggest ships you can see in their arsenal (let me know if I’m wrong, I didn’t saw yet the final episodes).
The Battlestar Galactica Starship is the star of the series. It is said in the BattleStar Galactic wiki that eight other Battlestar class vessels were produced specifically: (Acropolis, Atlantia, Columbia, Pacifica, Pegasus, Rycon, Solaria, and Triton). Not 100!
Less Spaceships with more personality is more fun
In the future I think space strategy games should pay more attention to their spaceships design concept to take into account that players will enjoy more the games if they can experience the excitement of researching and planning their spaceships more carefully in order that building the first prototypes can be a much more rewarding experience. Spaceships need to have more personality, need to be much harder to create and maintain and should be thinked more carefully because due to amount of resources used in these construction campaigns the decisions made will affect the entire gameplay experience from that point forward.
As you can imagine when I talk about the need for a much slower and harder process to create the starships I do not mean just doubling or tripling the amount of “turns” required to create them, I mean a much more creative process in the making. Everything in the spaceship creation process should be much rich featured, for example:
- The amount of specialists required, or need to recruit elsewhere (engineers, scientists)
- The amount of raw-materials required
- The special materials (that could be rare to assemble or find)
- Key technologies that must be unlocked or bought (life support, engines, hull integrity, weapons, energy)
- Contracts that need to be established with specialized alien sub-contractors
- Approval from the Senate for a new construct project (basically approval from the people)
- The needed infrastructure (space dock, lab, technical expertise)
Another aspect of the spaceships making process is the choice of the right crew. The right crews with the right skills are not to be found easily. The spaceship crews also deserve special attention, examples of this are the recruitment of legendary leaders and experts in certain fields like pilots, navigators, engineers. Take the good example of Star Trek for instance, what makes the series great and engaging is the bond that the viewers establish with the crew and with the spaceship itself, I think something of this should be found in the next generation of space strategy games somehow, but the crew aspect of spaceships could be a subject for another time, now we need more fun creating our fleets.Subscribe RSS
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