Blueprints, Doctrine, and Production

How starships get produced has been heavily abstracted so far – there’s a colony, and it spawns fleets made up of faction-appropriate ships, and that’s about all there was to it. To be fair, that’s all that¬†needed to be there, since it was not something the player could interact with in more detail than attacking those fleets.

Now that the player can establish colonies and manage a faction of their own, we need more detail. Not so much that it’s a chore to manage, but enough to cover the things the player will naturally want to do.

If you’ve been keeping track of the backstory, most heavy manufacturing in the Sector is done using “blueprints” – precise specifications for building a ship or a weapon, that an automated factory can use to build the item. Copying these is difficult-to-impossible, and their dwindling supply contributes to the gradual decline of the Sector.¬†This is the base we’ll use to develop the manufacturing mechanics, making adjustments to cover the demands of gameplay, as needed. That is to say, if blueprints have to work a certain way for the gameplay to come together, then hands will be waved.

Blueprints
A “blueprint” is an item the player can find and right-click to “learn”. For example, they might acquire the blueprint for a Medusa-class destroyer or a Heavy Mauler, a ballistic weapon. This works similarly to how players learn new hull-mods. After a blueprint has been learned, the player’s heavy industry becomes capable of producing the items in question – there are lots of details here, and we’ll get to those in a bit, but that’s the basic system.

blueprints

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Fighter Redesign

Let’s begin by taking a look at how fighters started out, to see how they got to the point of needing a redesign.

The first playable release of the game only had combat missions, and the way fighters worked was heavily influenced by that. My understanding of how the campaign would work was at that point quite fuzzy, and so once the campaign did come about, fighters had to be adjusted to fit in. This led to some awkward mechanical interactions and obscure rules.

fighters_mora

For example, if you have any ships with flight decks in your fleet, then you can’t lose fighters permanently. However, you can still have fighters in your fleet if you don’t have any carriers, they just don’t get any replacements in combat, and if you lose all of them, you permanently lose the wing. And if you do have carriers deployed, and lose all the fighters in a wing in combat, they may get replacements or be lost for the duration of the battle, depending on whether any flight decks were available at the exact moment the last fighter was destroyed.

Very much a “good enough for now” state of affairs, and something that’s been gnawing at me for a while. It’s too much of a mess to continue ignoring indefinitely, but why clean it up now, seemingly when there’s exploration, salvage, and everything related to work on?

The answer is, of course, that fighters tie into those things. Can you recover fighters through salvage? Can automated defenders use fighters? What about the eventual/upcoming skill revamp? That certainly needs to include fighters. Despite being a relatively small part of combat, fighters are still a part of that foundation, and it’ll help moving forward to finally have it be solid.
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Fighter Update

Did I mention that combat readiness (“CR” – briefly, a measure of how good a shape the ship is in, 0 to 100%) has lots of tendrils into other areas of the design? I think I did. That’s not a bad thing; in fact that’s rather the point. It does, however, mean that I end up adjusting a number of mechanics in the name of everything fitting in better.

One such set of mechanics is just about everything surrounding fighters. In the current release, they’re a bit rough around the edges, especially in the campaign – a few things don’t quite make sense lore-wise, and a few things combine to make them weaker than I’d like them to be.

So, changes!

In Combat
The first big one is that fighter wings no longer go back to a carrier as a single unit. Instead, individual fighters peel off when they need to repair or rearm, while carriers launch replacements for every wing that needs them. This does a couple of things.

First of all, having more flight decks is actually useful. An Astral’s three decks can crank out replacements at an alarming rate, one that a more modest carrier will be unable to match. This is particularly important because with more decks, fighters can regain their numbers more quickly – instead of being massacred piecemeal as replacements trickle in. (As it stands in the current release, the three decks on the Astral are overkill; hardly any fleet can make use of all of them.)
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