So, what exactly is a ship system? The words themselves are overloaded, so for all you know from the title, I could be talking about the ship’s life support system. Or the system for refilling the bucket for the guy swabbing decks A1 though A4 on the ISS Unlikely to Survive. (Which seems like a waste of time – for obvious reasons – but I digress.)
In Starfarer a “ship system” is an active ability that a ship has. Each ship only has one of these (if at all), and it’s determined by the hull. It’s not something you can customize, but rather something to give each hull more flavor and uniqueness. Sure, the weapon slots available on each hull are important, but at the end of the day, those are just guns. A different active system goes much farther to make a ship play, well, differently – and feel more unique.
That’s not to say that every hull will have a unique system – some will, but lots of systems will be shared between hulls, often of a similar type. For example, you might expect the Enforcer, the Dominator, and the Onslaught – all ships in the same “bull right in and keep shooting until they drop” vein – to have a similar active system. Some examples of these systems are:
Flare Launcher: Fires off a number of flares to confuse the guidance systems of missiles.
Maneuvering Jets: Activates additional maneuvering thrusters on the ship and greatly improves its maneuverability for a time.
Burn Drive: Allows the temporary use of the travel drive unit in combat. The power required means the ship is unable to use shields, and the highly volatile state of the engines mean a risk of a flameout if the ship collides with anything sufficiently large to jar it.
Here’s a video of these three in action:
If you’ve done any modding – or played any mods - you might be wondering just how moddable ship systems are.
A critical part of each new system – and what’s taking most of the time as far as implementing them goes – is the AI. That’s not something mods have direct access to right now, so a radically new system is out of the question.
On the other hand, I’m building the current systems with a range of options and behaviors in mind. So, you could take a standard flare launcher, and change the number and type of flares, the cooldown, the chance for each flare to be effective, the range at which it’s effective, its behavior – to some extent – and so on. It’ll still be a flare launcher, but it can be one that looks, feels, and plays very differently than the stock one. The AI is built to be aware of at least some of these possibilities, so it should allow for a good range of new systems mods can add effectively.