We’ve got a planned set of features for next release, but every so often I like to take a couple of days and work on some lower-priority features that just wouldn’t get any attention otherwise. Of course, the feature has to be cool enough to justify the time spent! It is my pleasure to now introduce one such feature – damageable ship modules. Now when you shoot a ship, you can gradually disable its weapons and engines – more on the details in a bit.
For those with a shorter attention span – or simply less time – here’s a video showing the end result in action. I’d suggest reading on about how it works to help it all make sense, though. By the way, if you haven’t kept up with the latest changes in the development build, this thread on our forum has the full patch notes for everything that’s been done since the last release.
Read on for the reasoning behind this mechanic and the details of how it works.
The idea of damageable ship components has potential – weapons are modular already, so you might expect them to get damaged individually simply based on how things look, and it’s just a fun concept. It’s the kind of detail that makes a ship feel a little more real, and the game a little more immersive. The problem is letting you disable weapons without running afoul of slippery slope. Briefly, “slippery slope” means is once a side starts winning, they’re likely to keep winning. Thus, the outcome can be decided by the first slight advantage gained, which then balloons over the course of a fight. This is bad – why make you play out a scenario where you know what the outcome is going to be well ahead of time?
Destructible weapons certainly introduce the potential for slippery slope. If a ship loses its main guns, it’s unlikely to be of much further use. Even losing a measly point defense turret can make a ship qualitatively more vulnerable against missiles – often, one turret is the difference between being able to shoot down incoming missiles in time and suffering repeated hits (which can knock out more weapons!). Losing engines is similar – a ship that can’t move, or is severely slowed, is not only disadvantaged – but worse, frustrating to fly.
So, destructible weapons and engines are out. But what if they’re simply disabled, and come back online after the crew spends some time repairing them? That’s better, since at least you’ll get restored to full capacity eventually – but what if the enemy keeps firing at the same spot over and over, keeping your guns or engines from coming back online while they keep doing damage? A small tweak will take care of this – making it so that ship modules don’t take further damage while disabled, and are guaranteed to come back online even under fire.
Now, let’s take a look at all the juicy details.
- Weapons take damage when the hull is hit near their location. Some weapons can’t be damaged due to being set very far from the edges – for example, some middle turrets of the Onslaught, but by far the most weapons can be.
- Disabled weapons (or engines) can’t be damaged further and come back online after ~10-20 seconds, depending on weapon size and relevant ship hull mods
- Hardpoint weapons are much more durable than turrets
- Flux-inducing weapons such as the Ion Cannon are particularly effective at disabling weapons and engines as the flux damage component ignores armor
- Engines are disabled individually, gradually reducing ship maneuverability and speed
- Disabling larger engines has a proportionally larger effect
- Disabling engines can also cause the ship’s facing to drift in one direction or another, depending on the location of the disabled engine
- When over half the engines are down, a complete “flameout” occurs and the ship loses all ability to maneuver for ~5-20 seconds, depending on size
- Several new hull mods that let you change various related properties – Insulated Engine Compartment, Armored Weapon Emplacements, Flux Breakers, Automated Repair Unit
- Fighters with disabled engines can crash into ships. Admiral Piett seemed indisposed and could not be reached for comment.
I want to stay away from adding any extra UI elements – for example, ones showing you the exact status of every weapon and engine. It’s just too much information to keep track of in the heat of combat. Instead, there are distinct animations and floating text to let you know what’s happening, right there on the combat screen. We’ll also have some specific sound cues for the various events (“weapon disabled”, “flameout”, “repairs in progress”, etc) to make it as clear as possible what’s happening.
The goal is to give you more varied situations to respond to (“Oh no! Forward battery is down – let me pull back out of range” or “Point-Defense on the port side is disabled, make sure to use shields there, or turn that side away”). The way to do that is provide all the information on the battlefield, right where you’re looking – and not in the form of some status bars tucked away in a corner.