Spotlight: Fighters, Part 1

A wing of fighters moving into attack formation is quite possibly the most evocative visual in sci-fi. Examples proving this thesis abound – two of the Star Wars movies end with battles that have fighters playing a central role. Or, consider Battlestar Galactica – on the surface, it’s about what it means to be human, and isn’t a great example – but if you dig deeper, it becomes obvious that it’s really all about how cool the human-cylon dogfights are. Star Trek, on the other hand, does not use fighters often, but just imagine how much cooler it would be if it did! Well, we’re not going to make that mistake with Starfarer – rest assured that fighters will be featured prominently. Some lore on the subject:

In the years after the great war, fighters became commonly used throughout the sector. With the decline in industrial capacity, producing a capable military ship was a significant undertaking. Fighters, on the other hand, could be produced cheaply using a coded blueprint at an automated factory.

Now, some basics. Fighter wings are first-class citizens – they’re members of your fleet, like all your other ships. Early in development, fighters were launched from carriers (being weapons, in a sense), but it became clear this limited fighters to being used only in battles that directly involved carriers, and that just wouldn’t do.  We’d miss out on all this:

The only restriction on fighters is that a fleet must have enough hangar capacity to stow the fighters for travel between systems. Most ships contribute some hangar capacity to the fleet. Since fighters are cheap and effective, system patrols use a lot of them (no need to provide hangar capacity, since they don’t travel between systems). Inter-system task forces need more ships to stow the fighters. Some high-tech fighters are equipped with hyperdrive and don’t take up hangar space.

“But wait,” you say. “Where does that leave carriers? Carriers are cool, and I want them to be special!”

They are – carriers can repair, re-arm, and replace destroyed fighters mid-battle, if at least one fighter from a wing makes it back from a sortie to land on a carrier’s flight deck. To see just how useful this is, let’s take a look at the high tech, Dagger-class torpedo bomber. It’s armed with a torpedo (yes indeed, a torpedo bomber carries a torpedo) and a point defense laser. It’s also slow and fragile – a fact that is somewhat made up for by its frontal shields.

Torpedoes are powerful – two or three hits can take out a cruiser, and will cripple or even destroy a capital ship. An attack run can pay off big, but each Dagger only carries a single torpedo, which can miss, be shot down, or absorbed by shields. A run might well do no damage, and prove fatal for a few of the bombers in the bargain. With a carrier to fall back to, a single wing can be used again and again, instead of being a one-time gamble to score some heavy hits – carriers make sure you get the most out of your fighters in combat.

Another type of fighter is an interceptor. Interceptors are fast, and usually small and lightly armored, but well-armed. Their job is to take out enemy bombers before they can attack your capital ships, and chase down fleeing enemy fighters to make sure they don’t make it back to a carrier (and come back at full strength to bother you again). Being fast, they’re also good at moving about the map to capture objectives… but that’s another topic.

Let’s take a look at the Talon, a low-tech interceptor variant. The Talon is actually a bit unusual for an interceptor – it’s got heavy armor, and the firepower is limited to a single Vulcan cannon, but it is fast. Because it’s durable, it can escort friendly bombers and screen them from enemy point defense – for most other interceptors, that would be suicide. Its poor firepower is still enough to take out the more fragile bombers, if it can engage them far enough from the bombers’ target.

In part 2, we’ll take a look at the other fighter types and fighter-related tactics.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 13th, 2010 at 8:09 pm and is filed under Development, Lore. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

9 Comments:

  1. Sounds great. Hopefully there will be lot such battle in multiplayer. Micromanagement is great ;)

    by Evil-Devil
  2. Hah, glad you like what you see, but Starfarer is a decidedly single player game :)

    by Alex
  3. Oh, thought there will be a multiplayer part too. Maybe you should add that info to the faq or did I overread that statement?

    by Evil-Devil
  4. Looks like it’s in the first FAQ question. Had me worried for a minute ;)

    by Alex
  5. TT
    epic fail for me.

    by Evil-Devil
  6. While I understand the appeal and gameplay complexity space fighters bring to the table, my inner hard sci-fi nerd yearns for a day where we, the gaming public, may understand how woefully impractical they are! A fighter is basically a gun or missiles, except that its engines need to push around a useless bag of meat, support its pitiful life, and carry enough fuel to return and refuel. Practically speaking, you’d be better off with an enormous flying beam array, ala Honor Harrington, or hell, just a freaking missile.

    by Shipwright
  7. @Shipwright
    Actually the point in having fighters is that there’s a human pilot in it who can think on his own and doesn’t need new orders in every unforeseen event. Of course a sufficiently smart computer could do the same, and probably better, but they’re probably much more expensive. (this is of course irrelevant in a game, but , as you said, fighters are more fun).

    by Xeno
  8. I read some of this and found it intersting, particularly on making a world that is believable. I have recently tried playing swtor and i find they were terrible at this. player actions are fundamental to creating an “illusion” of a real place in a virtual world. anyways, since were kinda on topic, assuming you see the player as part of the “art piece” (assuming u consider videogames as having the potential to be art)I was wondering if the devs would be open in making the comunity/players help with creating the lore? or even more if the lore could be written being about player actions as the game evolves? nowadays i feel that my “story” in videogames is so linear and indifferent from other players that i find it hard to connect with your avatar. this is ofc more true for multiplayer games yet it would be great to see some love on regards. anyways bestiwishes and good luck

    by masobrancaleone
  9. I just read the whole fricken website o_0

    by Nathan