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Project Space Sector Dev Diary #2: Ship Design

By on November 28th, 2016 10:27 am

Hi everyone!

This week we propose to discuss our Ship Design solution for Project Space Sector! :)

In case you missed the announcement, Space Sector is developing a turn-based space 4X strategy game, which will be a spiritual successor to Master of Orion 2. You can find all dev diaries and other news regarding the development here.

Motivation and Rationale

We believe ship design is one of the great and brilliant features of Master of Orion 2, so we saw no need in innovating much here. The basic concepts and mechanics were kept, now with just a few tweaks, twists and different looks.

Regarding the number of available designs to build, one could think of going down the "unlimited number of designs allowed" path but we favored a more constrained approach, because that fits better with our vision to give more importance, and more character to the ships in our game.

So, we're going with a "less but more important ships" strategy. There will be five designs available to build with no constraints regarding ship classes (you can have 5 frigate designs if you want), just like in MoO2, but we'll allow for an extra design slot to become available later on after researching a mid-late game tech. Five buildable designs +1 (unlocked by tech) is where we stand, but we're open to increase the number a little bit (more default design slots or more unlocks) if we see that could work better as the playtesting moves forward.

Therefore, we propose a similar solution for the ship design as the one found in MoO2, now with a different and more appealing UI.

The Ships

There are six types of ships, or ship classes. From smaller to bigger: Frigate, Destroyer, Cruiser, Battleship, Titan and a "Doom Star" class of ship.

Each ship class will have a base cost and allow for a certain amount of space to be filled up with various components. Some of these components will be automatically set according to the latest technology while others will be chosen by the player.

Five designs to choose from. They can be of any ship class (so you can have 2 frigates and 3 destroyers if you want).

The Components

Each component has a cost and occupies a specific amount of the available space.

1. Weapons
We have three types of weapons in the game: Kinetics, Beams and Missiles. Details about each type will be addressed in the Space Combat dev diary.
The player can go with up to eight different weapon systems. Each of these weapon systems can be comprised of several weapon units. The ship can fire all weapon systems at once or individually at a specific target, for which all weapons comprising that system will all fire, just like in MoO2. Then, there are several modifications available for each weapon system like the firing arc, auto-fire, heavy mount, point defense, the number of missiles, and others. On top of this, we're planning to make weapons more than just a better-weapons equals more-damage type of thing. So, new weapons may not be the most destructive necessarily, and they may have other ways to compensate for that with some special ability (ala MoO2's Neutron Blaster that kills marines). Feel free to suggest some more modifications and weapon special abilities you'd like to see in the game for each type of weapon, old or new :)

2. Engine
The ships' engine is always the most recent researched one in the empire. We thought of allowing the player to choose the engine, like in MoO1, for example, but we finally opted to always go with the latest engine for all ships for the sake of simplifying fleet movement in the starmap, which is also the MoO2 approach.

3. Shields
Shields are the first line of defense of a ship. The player can choose a particular shield from all the ones researched. The option of going with no shields is also available for a "less protection more fire power approach", if desired.
The player can decide to install a maximum of four shield facings for full 360º protection. Stats for shield strength, blocking points and recharge rate will be presented.

4. Armor
Armor is the second line of defense of the ship. As with the engine's case, the game automatically updates all designs with the latest armor, as in MoO2. Therefore, the armor in a design is always the latest and cannot be changed.
This is our starting point. However, we are still evaluating if allowing the player to choose the armor (as in MoO1) would be preferable, to cut costs and improve the weapons, for example. We think that has the potential to overpower a "less protection more fire power" approach even more if allied with a "no shields" or low shields choice as it could give the attacker too much firepower from the get go, compounded if it strikes first. We'll see. Let us know your thoughts on this one.

5. Special Systems
Special systems are optional choices that the player can install in the ships to give them special abilities, or modifiers. Preferably, special systems should unlock new functionalities, something that the ship is allowed to do extra on top of regular weapons, shields, armor and engines. As an example, there will be fighter and bomber bays. Feel free to suggest which kinds of special systems you would like to see in the game! :)

The View

The player can choose from three different ship visuals for each of the ship classes, for each race family of ship models. In the image below, you can see our initial effort for the different ships belonging to three different races, which is the amount we're currently testing in our game. So, these ships are the ones we're currently using for ship design and space combat purposes.

Three different ship visuals (or hulls) for each of the six ship classes, for each race family of ship models (3 races for now). Doom star not shown.

Yes, ships will be in 3D, but we're working hard to provide you the 2D gameplay feel of MoO2. And you may ask: "So, why didn't you made the combat entirely in 2D in the first place?". Along with the fact that 3D is more eye appealing (at least for us, of course), we have some wild ideas to take advantage of the 3D during combat, this without removing the original solution's feel. We will address this more in detail in the space combat dev diary.

Currently, we're placing 3D models of each weapon and special system on the ship in a semi-randomized way, according with the weapons and specials' configuration. We think this will give more character and uniqueness to each ship, especially regarding the "special 3D ideas for the combat system" concept referenced above, which is currently under evaluation.

These are internal "lego-made" models (doom star still not there..), so if you think they are ugly :confused: please support us with some of your knowledge regarding 3D modeling. If you'd like to work with us in this endeavor please contact us (you have the "Contact" link below in the footer to the right)!

Now please let us know your impressions on the official forum thread for this post (or here if you prefer), as for what your ideas and suggestions for improvement may be :D:D

Project Space Sector is a spiritual successor to Master of Orion 2, the turn-based space 4X strategy game from the 90's that we love so much. This will be a faithful successor, that is true in spirit to the series. We believe that by sticking to its fundamentals we will please the fans who want to feel the atmosphere and that “feeling” of Master of Orion 2, but also want to experience something new and fresh, with all the complexity and depth of a big and complex 4X game. You can join the discussions here.

Note on (the site)

The plan is for Project Space Sector (the game) to branch off onto its own website at some point, and, as it is, will be shut down (effectively stop being updated).

In the meantime, we suggest that you look for other sites that have been doing, and are doing a great job covering space & sci-fi strategy games, and 4X games, like, and for your news and reviews fix. You’ll be in good hands with these folks.

We are very happy with what (the site) managed to achieve over the years. However, we felt that we were ready for a new adventure, that we hope you want to share with us! :)

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  1. BTAxis says:

    Not gonna lie, I think going with limited ship designs is a bad idea. It doesn’t do anything for gameplay, it’s just a senseless UI limitation that forces the player to go into the design screen to swap out his designs, adding micromanagement where none needs exist.

    Stardrive 2 also took this approach in the name of cloning MOO2, and it doesn’t do that game any favors either.

  2. vmxa says:

    I am fine with the idea of staying true to Moo2 and having a limited number of designs. It was a feature that I was not fond of, but after all these years, learned to live with.

    The restriction of not allowing an all out offense, I dislike. I can accept it, if the reason is you are not wanting to deal with it for the AI. In a pvp, no need for that restriction.

    I suggest there is no need to worry about it making the AI too vulnerable either, in a player vs AI. If they want to take advantage and beat up the game, so what? If they do that and then complain about the AI, ignore them.

  3. Cris says:

    I don’t see the point why there has to be a design limit either. For an updated version of a Master of Orion 2 there don’t have to be the samee shortcomings. Maybe back then it was an UI decision or maybe they could not forsee how the game would evolve but nowadays it makes no sense. If i would like 1 ship with a specific arrangement I would have to delete a design, create that new ship and build it and then delete that design again to create the old one? I thought people would like to get rid of unnecessary micromanagement?

    I didn’t have enough time to read the new site yet and i am sorry if this topic was brought up before but i would really like to see an adjustable research point feature. At times technology was just a quick bridge to the research you really desired or the various armor possibilities were just so temporary that it didnt make sense to go for them. If research would progress very slowly (or adjustable)some choices would make more sense and you can really play like different technology centuries within one game if you get what i want to say…

  4. Adam Solo says:

    Thanks for the comments, they’re appreciated.

    As for the number of designs being too few I guess we’ll have to see. Right now the game allows for 5 +1 design slots (which is +1 on top of the MoO2 solution), but the number may grow if we think the game calls for it. The important thing is that whatever the final solution is, it helps give more importance and character to the ships you have and can build (which is a fundamental part of our vision for the game), while making the process of designing them the most clean and fun possible.

    As for the constraints (and worries) on allowing for “an all out offense” strategy (fewer armor and no shields for many more weapons), we’ll also have to see. As said above, we’ll be evaluating that during the development. We were not thinking of it in the context of possible AI limitations (making it harder for the AI), but more regarding balancing issues, who strikes first may become overpowered, that type of thing (of course, we’ll also have to solve or mitigate the problem, as well).

    As for an adjustable research speed, that’s tricky, because the tech progression pace must be tightly connected with the rest of the game. A possibility would be to have different game speeds (quick/normal/marathon) where tech progression will be faster/slower like everything else in the game. No plans for that at this point, but we never know :)

  5. NoldorElf says:

    A case could be made that what is needed is a compromise between the no ship customization and the customize all (ex: Star Ruler 2, Stardrive, etc).

    I’d echo the comments above about the limitations in too few designs and too little customization.

    Perhaps the best compromise may have been Sword of the Stars, which had a very large variety of weapons, and the ships were split into unique sections which allowed for specialization.

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