Ship Lore, Variants

In a previous post, we took a look at some brewing weapon descriptions. Now, it’s time to do the same for ships!

Counting them now, we’ve got just a bit over 40 ships (including fighters, of which there are ~10) – it’s hard to believe it’s that many already, and there are still quite a few more to come. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Onslaught-class Battleship
Mass: 200 Mega tonnes
Propulsion: 245.5 Mega Newtons
FTL Drive: In-Hull
Crew Complement: 1800

A venerable design, the Onslaught-class battleships were first created to serve the Domain of Man eons ago, before the development of advanced modern strike weapons, fighter craft, energy weapons and shield systems. When first launched from orbital dock, they must have surely dwarfed any other ship in existence and intimidated entire systems. Some even say that they were built to combat non-humans in a long forgotten war, in which the Domain was triumphant. Much later, Domain engineers made modifications to the blueprints to include a shield system, upgrade the FTL drives and reduce the neccesary crew complement.

Even with other battleship blueprints available to the Sector, the Onslaught remains the easiest to manufacture due to the brutal simplicity of its systems. A ship designed without shields in mind, built to be able to withstand a heavy barrage of enemy fire and strike back while protecting its crew is much loved by its officers and men. And strike back it can. The Onslaught’s unmatched ballistic potential can devastate entire fleets in minutes, its only drawback a logistical dependency on ammunition.

Building an Onslaught-class hull and preparing it for combat is thought to be economically impossible for all but the Hegemony. The Onslaught proudly serves as the backbone of the Hegemony Defense Fleet.

Atlas-class Superfreighter
Mass: Varies based on cargo, usually > 90 Mega tonnes
Propulsion: 123.5 Mega Newtons
FTL Drive: In-Hull
Crew Complement: 180

The Atlas-class ships are large space born cargo platforms fitted with an in-hull FTL drive actuator and a few defensive systems. Hundreds of standard Fret-3 containers can be safely latched on to the hull and carried with ease by this behemoth. Typically used to efficiently resupply entire outposts, the Atlas is ill suited to the small and fast trade runs that are the mainstay of commerce in the sector. Their slow speed and large size always tempt uninvited guests, ranging from curious gawkers come to see the hulking colossus, to scavenging pirates aiming to disable a container’s magneto-gravitic fastener, to Cult madmen bent on destroying it all.

Nonetheless, the Hegemony makes wide use of them, especially to offload biomass from farming worlds on a seasonal basis. For the purpose, the Hegemony assembles large Atlas convoys; these are protected by military cruisers that ensure that the lifeline of Hegemony citizens is kept safe.

The captaincy of an Atlas is a rare punishment for the able, an uneven mixture of soul-numbing boredom and abject terror, being the results of normal trade runs and pirate attacks, respectively.

Dominator-class Cruiser
Mass: 110 Mega tonnes
Propulsion: 100 Mega Newtons
FTL Drive: In-Hull
Crew Complement: 850

Ponderous and menacing, the Dominator-class is one of the most widespread system defense cruisers in Hegemony space. Not the most technologically advanced hull, it relies on a plethora of ballistic hardpoints to accomplish its mission, which is more often than not defending stationary installations and vital system trade routes. A poor shield emitter which is difficult to manage and thus, rarely engaged, gives way to an almost impregnable interlocking armor belt system making the Dominator safe from most weapons. Even strike craft cannot overcome the hail of projectiles that can be launched to intercept their payloads, proving that tried and true military engineering is difficult to overcome by new ideas and technologies, especially when in the hands of tough determined crews and experienced officers.

Dependable, durable, and a constant presence in home space around civilized worlds and outposts, the Dominator is perhaps most hated and feared by pirates and law-breaking corporate agents.

From left to right – the Onslaught, the Atlas, and the Dominator

For weapons, we’d talked about primary role each is supposed to fill – for example, a light machine gun is primarily a point defense weapon – though it can still be useful in many other situations. Ships are a lot more versatile and don’t have specific roles, owing to the flexibility of their loadouts. The weapons fitted into the ship’s mount points determine its ideal place in battle as much as the innate characteristics of the hull. A particular fitting of weapons and hull modifications to a given hull is called a variant.

For example, the Dominator will never be a nimble attack ship – but it can be a monster assault ship, or an equally dangerous close support vessel, depending on the guns and missiles it’s fitted with. The one we’re looking at in the screenshot is an assault variant, with torpedo tubes and heavy guns in the front, and a large amount of dual light machine guns for point-defense to increase survivability.

A given variant might specialize a ship to a combat role (such as fire support), or it might create a balanced, all-around vessel. Specialized variants are better in large fleets, when they can count on support from other ships, while all-around variants are more useful in smaller fleets. Our example Dominator is a highly-specialized assault loadout that is best at short-range, and being a slower ship, needs long-range support – something it can count on if it’s part of a Hegemony patrol group.

A mercenary fitting a Dominator for lone-wolf missions would need to address its shortcomings instead of building on its strengths as the assault variant does. Some engine modifications and a healthy mix of the best support, assault, and point-defense weapons they could get their hands on would likely be in order.

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This entry was posted on Friday, August 12th, 2011 at 2:28 pm and is filed under Lore. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. “Typically used to efficiently resupply entire outposts, the Astral is ill suited to the small”

    I think you mean Atlas, not Astral.

    by Dark.Revenant
  2. This is the kind of stuff that I love to see about these games 🙂 SHIPS.

    Also, 100% inconsequential and me having done too much editing in the past week, but Atlas then Astral then Atlas again? 🙂

    by Interviglium
  3. About those seasonal harvests aboard those giant transports.

    -Are they going to be ingame? Because that sounds awesome. It’s like the earlier versions M&B where they had all these other parties working for the factions running around. Siege parties, scouting parties, whathave you. It just brought so much life to the game, and the devs taking them out later on really made the world feel empty for those of us who still remember the days when those parties were running around.

    Also, these variants, are the variants pertaining to the weapon loadouts or the sockets for the weapons themselves?

    by Horrigan
  4. Good catch, guys – thanks! Fixed.

    @Horrigan: That’s the plan. Can’t really get into the details as the implementation is a bit in the future, but I hear you about this kind of stuff bringing life to the game world.

    Variants are specific loadouts, not “sockets” (mounts/slots, as we’re calling them).

    by Alex
  5. How much customization will be available? If you have apx 30 large ships now will we need more if we can change the weapon load out? I am thinking of how in Battle Tech you could change the weapon load out completely and after a certain point the only thing you looked at was chassis size. In later editions you were restricted to energy missiles and ballistic only going in certain slots. This made you choice of chassis much more relevant to your play style.
    So in the case of a ship like the Onslaught will we be able to pull the ammo weapons and put in energy weapons or will only different types of ammo weapons be useable?

    by The Old Farmer
  6. Weapon mounts are restricted by type, like you mention, precisely to give each ship hull more personality and uniqueness – along with its other baked-in stats and systems.

    The idea is that each hull has something that makes it special and desireable. Certainly wouldn’t want a large set of faceless, interchangeable hulls – not much point to that.

    For example, of the three high-tech style frigates currently in the game (Tempest, Hyperion, and Wolf-class), one is extremely fast, one is heavily shielded and armed to the teeth, and one is more middle-of-the-road – but versatile and cheaper to field. When we add unique ship systems (afterburner, teleporter, ECM, etc), hulls will be even further differentiated.

    That’s all before you consider non-combat utility such as cargo space, travel speed, hangar capacity, fuel consumption, cost, etc. I think there’s plenty of room for quite a few more meaningfully different hulls. Heck, some combinations (such as high-tech battleship) aren’t represented at all… yet 🙂

    by Alex
  7. In the sandbox campaign, will the enemy ai dynamically choose the weapon loadout for it’s fleet’s ships, or will it rely on presets?
    I love the depth of the lore that’s going on here by the way 🙂

    by IMakeWeirdThings
  8. Very good to hear I was afraid for a moment that we would end up with many hulls but little to differentiate them from one another once we were able to start the customization process. It looks like you have this process well in hand and I look froward to future updates.

    by The Old Farmer
  9. @IMakeWeirdThings: The AI will pick from a pool of stock variants. Glad you’re liking the lore! Ivaylo is really taking the time to flesh it out.

    @The Old Farmer: Yep, I can definitely see how you’d get that impression.

    by Alex
  10. Alex, do you have a rough idea in your head at the moment of how quickly the scale will change in the sandbox campaign? As in, I mean, how quickly will your ship number/size/technology level etc ramp up?

    I ask because in this kind of game, I adore the idea of starting out small and struggling against a big bad universe, making my first upgrades to my first ship seem like great milestones – for instance, I could imagine myself hankering for some combat after sticking my first launcher on my ship, or a new salvage beam weapon etc.

    Will players be starting with just one ship, or with a fleet of sorts under their belt straight off the bat?

    I understand if you can’t really answer any of this, but I figured no harm in asking. 🙂

    by Interviglium
  11. It’s really hard to say, because on the one hand, I’m also a fan of starting out small and struggling to get by (or even starting out medium-size, and simply struggling to keep what you’ve got – making any kind of advance, or even maintaining the status quo, feel like an accomplishment). On the other hand, don’t want things to feel grindy. It’s the kind of thing we’ll have to play-test until it feels right.

    It also has to do with your character – an industrial specialist is more likely to have a pile of stuff sooner, while a top-notch combat captain is going to have to work harder for everything they get – but get more mileage out of it. Different character backgrounds affecting just how much you start with are a possibility, too.

    So, how’s that for a non-answer? 🙂

    by Alex
  12. So how exactly will ship customization be done?
    Will it be sort of like how they did it in Bubble Tanks? (assuming you have played it)
    Or will it be more complicated?
    I’ve been curious about this for a while now.

    by misterjscape
  13. Haven’t played that.

    Each ship has a set of weapon mounts of different sizes and types, and you have to outfit it while keeping within a certain number of “ordnance points”. Both weapons and hull mods cost OPs.

    by Alex
  14. I guess that makes sense. Thank you vary much for answering my question 🙂

    by misterjscape
  15. “Ordnance points”? Oh no!

    And here I was assuming that the limits would be our ability to supply or afford/maintain such ordnance.

    by Horrigan
  16. That’ll be there too. But then there’s being able to cram it all (weapons, mods, flux vents/capacitors, etc) onto a hull in a useful manner, which is the “ordnance points” limit.

    by Alex
  17. Can we buy these Ordnance points through a price that includes everything needed to maintain a ship? A poor economic situation would translate to budget cuts to the military offensive power, vice versa a group that has more resources can afford to field bigger guns on their ships.

    by Horrigan
  18. Ahh. They’re a hull property, not something you buy – a more combat-oriented hull will have more, a freighter will have less.

    Think of these as representing the overall capacity of the ship to be fitted with armaments – magazines spread throughout the ship, flux conduits, bulkheads built to withstand recoil.

    The limit isn’t set in stone, though – a good docking facility (or a high Engineering skill) might let you equip more stuff on a ship. You might also sacrifice cargo capacity to get more OPs, for example.

    by Alex
  19. So, does that mean we can capture an Atlas and make it into some kind of Q-ship or impromptu battlecruiser? 😀

    by InfinitySquared
  20. would it be possible to add a custom ship maker like a grid system or something cause then you don`t have someone make a ship for you.
    i have some ideas on it if your interested in hearing them
    thanks for reading-coms

    by comsiloz