Pirate Bases, Raids, and Objectives

A primary gameplay role  of player-built colonies is getting the player into trouble. Generally speaking, this trouble should be resolved through combat, since combat with context and real stakes is fun. And, after all, what would be the point of building a battlestation if your colonies never got attacked?

One natural source for this kind of trouble is, of course, pirates.


(I do want to say that some of the details here are up in the air – I’ve made good progress on making it all work so far, enough to feel pretty comfortable talking about it, but some stuff will undoubtedly change. Right, disclaimer done; moving on.)

Pirate Bases
There are a few pirate bases scattered throughout the Sector – outside the populated core systems, but generally close to it, for easier access. The player is unaware of these until they actually discover them.

A pirate base periodically picks a nearby populated star system to target. All colonies in that system get a “pirate activity” market condition, reducing their accessibility and – at higher levels of pirate base development – stability.

This may cause one of the affected factions to post a bounty for the destruction of the base; once that happens, the player is informed of the existence and location of the base, much like for other bounties. Destroying the base removes the “pirate activity” condition.


Pirate Base Defenses
Pirate bases have several tiers (currently, 5). The lowest tier is not combat-capable, while higher tiers feature an orbital station with an increasing number of combat modules. For example, a tier 2 station has one combat module (of the typical two or three on a regular orbital station), making it fairly weak, but also a good introduction to the basics of vs-station combat for the player. A higher-tier base is a significant challenge, being a fully-functional orbital station.

The base is also defended by a number of fleets, the number and quality of which depend on the tier of the base.

To recap, taking out a pirate base involves 1) finding it, and 2) defeating the station and its attendant fleets. But, it’d be nice if there were different strategic approaches, aside from “bring enough stuff, go in guns blazing, and maul it”. I’m also a fan of sneaking around with a smaller fleet, so something that can encourage that would be ideal.

A clear and simple way to make the station weaker is to fight it alone, without support from nearby pirate fleets. Thus: pirate fleets need to have a reason to be elsewhere in the system, instead of being glued to the base they’re defending.

To accomplish this, we can build on what’s already in the game – comm relays. Currently, their only function is giving the player access to intel, but conceptually, they’re an important piece of infrastructure that factions will strive to control. From there, it’s a short step to a broader concept of  “objectives” that provide direct bonuses to the controlling faction’s fleets and colonies. The full set includes comm relays, sensor arrays, and nav buoys.

But, you say, comm relays are Domain-era technology, and not something that can be built using the current tech available in the Sector! And to make the gameplay work out, we’d really need to be able to build these – not every system that a pirate base is going to end up in is going to have ready-made Domain-era objectives sitting around, so the pirates would have to build them.

Enter the concept of “makeshift” objectives – a pale imitation of the original Domain version, but functional enough to grant a reduced bonus. So, you either find existing Domain-era ones (which is great! it makes the system highly desirable since it’s a bonus you can’t get just anywhere), or you make your own, which aren’t as good. And, of course, so do the pirates.

But, you say, why not just build them next to the base, and have everything be defended at the same time? The tech involved only functions at a local minimum in the system’s hyperwave field, you see. These local minima are called “stable locations” and there is usually one to three of these in a star system, though a few luckless systems don’t have any. (Note: this is another parameter that affects the desirability of a system, as far as colonization goes. These mechanics very much do double duty, contributing both to exploration and to this specific instance of making pirate bases more interesting to deal with.)


So, what do these do?

Comm Relay
A comm relay provides intel access, as usual, regardless of which faction controls it. In addition, it provides a stability bonus to same-faction colonies in system – or, rather, it mitigates a stability penalty for *not* having a comm relay. The Domain-era version eliminates the penalty entirely; the makeshift one reduces it.

The player can install a comm sniffer at a relay, which makes intel access work as if the player was in-system – i.e., if you (say) install a sniffer at a comm relay in Askonia, you’ll find out about local missions even if you’re not in the system.

Having more than a couple of sniffers at various relays creates a chance that some will be found and eliminated by … the comm network’s maintenance protocols, let’s say. This means that 1) the player won’t get completely overwhelmed by incoming intel from installing these everywhere, and 2) where to install these is actually a choice, rather than “install everywhere and then regret it” being the optimal behavior.

A comm sniffer is not useful for dealing with pirates, and, in fact, a comm relay is not very useful to pirates. To reflect this, pirates will prefer to build the other objective types first, and will usually only build a relay in a 3-stable-location system.

Nav Buoy
Increases the maximum burn level of same-faction fleets in system. Once again, smaller bonus for makeshift.

Sensor Array
You’ve probably guessed it – it increases the sensor range of in-system fleets belonging to the same faction, with a smaller bonus for the makeshift version.

Alright, but what do these actually do, as far as giving the player a range of options for dealing with a pirate base? First off, the bonuses are significant enough that if left alone, it’ll make it hard to get a favorable engagement – the enemy fleets will most likely both be faster and see the player first. An overwhelming fleet can still do the job, though, since the pirate base isn’t exactly going to run away.


The objectives will occasionally be guarded by pirate lookouts, giving the player a chance to engage a smaller pirate force. If these are defeated, or if the player sneaks to an objective, they’ll have several options.

One, they can take control of the objective. This gives the player the objective’s bonus, and elicits a military response from the pirates, who will most likely send a sizeable force to investigate.

Two, they can destroy the objective, getting some salvage in return, and eliciting the same sort of military response.

And, finally, they can hack the objective, temporarily gaining the bonus from it – without taking it away from the pirates, and without provoking a response. This is a more stealth, “even the playing field” option.

You’re probably wondering, “but what does this have to do with player colonies and/or their defenses?” One part of it is that pirates will periodically establish bases near player colonies – being away from the core worlds, they’re more vulnerable – and the bases will need to be dealt with. (I’m still working through the details of how that’ll work; naturally a higher level of development will attract more piracy, but I haven’t nailed down the specifics quite yet.)

The other part is that pirate bases will occasionally launch raids. A raid takes some time to organize – depending on its strength, many fleets need to assemble in the same location first, before traveling to the target system. The player should generally find out about it ahead of time, so that there’s time to prepare a response.

A successful raid will reduce the colony’s stability for some time, though there may also be some more dire consequences in specific circumstances.


A raid can be disrupted with a spoiling attack while it’s still assembling, or handled once it reaches the system it’s targeting.  The latter can involve a defensive battle, where the player fights on the same side as their orbital stations and patrols. Strong-enough system defenses can also handle smaller raids without the player having to be involved. Presumably, the strength of the raid would be communicated to the player, so they know whether it’s something they have to deal with personally or not. Again, this is a bit where I’m still working through some details, and pirate bases and raids would ideally be one of several sources of trouble, and not the only one.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 at 4:46 pm and is filed under Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.