Ship’s Log of Salvage Dave’s Final Mission

Order received from command: Alex wants campaign testing, especially of new salvage mechanics, missions, and abilities. So I say, why don’t I turn some testing notes into a blog post? Command approved the initiative noting, however, that it was imperative that I – paraphrased – “use discretion when it comes to certain elements you may encounter”. Discretion is my middle name! There isn’t room for it on my Domain Ident Chip however, so you’ll have to take my good word for it.  

Cycle 206, March 03


Over the last cycle, I’ve been making my living as a smuggler. The ship under my command is a Wayfarer-class freighter, the Iota-Max II, with good cargo capacity and decent armament.

Recently I’ve filled my cargo holds with contraband – and legitimate goods to disguise it.  All in all, recent life in the Sector has been relatively … Normal.

That’s all about to change.

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Exploration & Salvage

Exploration is a bit awkward to write about – a large part of the fun is discovering stuff for yourself, and I don’t want to totally ruin it for you. On the other hand, I think it’s an interesting topic, so, a compromise: most of the blog post will be focused on the mechanics and systems in play, with less in the way of specific examples and screenshots.

If you’ve read the previous blog post about planetary surveys, you know that procedural generation is already in the dev build. In a literal sense, flying around new star systems every game and checking them out is exploration, but clearly that by itself wouldn’t really merit being called that, not as an official feature. Even if (if I do say so myself!) the procedural generation produces some pretty nice starscapes.


So, what makes exploration fun, and why do we want exploration in the first place?
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Fleet Encounter Mechanics, Part 1

In a previous post, I talked about combat readiness (“CR”) as a means of tying the campaign and combat layers closer together, but also as a means of cleaning up existing mechanics. The mechanics surrounding battle are a perfect candidate, both because they need cleaning up, and because they wouldn’t work well with CR as they now stand. Changes to these aren’t just a consequence of adding CR; rather, they’re part of that process.

First, a quick recap of how things work now. When the player encounters another fleet, they can choose to attack them or leave. If either side wants to attack, the fleets engage, and each side has three options: “attack”, “defend”, and “escape”. Without going into too much detail, there’s a rock-paper-scissors mechanic there where attack beats escape beats defend beats attack. (“Escape” beating “defend” simply means a clean getaway, with “beating” in general meaning having an advantage in the battle, not automatic victory.)

Playing rock-paper-scissors vs the computer isn’t fun. The computer is either predictable or random, but in either case you don’t get the mind games that make it interesting vs a human opponent. The “escape” mechanic also doesn’t work well. The escapee has to run their ships across the map and retreat them off the enemy side, which is much more difficult than “attacking” and then retreating ships off their side of the map – which they could do without seeing a single enemy. If they do that, their ships take some automatic, random post battle damage to simulate a chase after this retreat, but that’s a problem in itself.  Either it does enough damage so that retreat from a real lost battle is disastrous, or it doesn’t do enough damage to stop “attack to retreat” being viable.

Adding in CR, the current setup is also open to being gamed. For example, a single Hound-class frigate fighting against an Onslaught-class battleship – the Hound could engage, then immediately retreat, causing a CR loss for both ships for being deployed in battle. However, the Hound both costs less CR to deploy and recovers it faster. So, it could reliably beat an Onslaught without firing a single shot but wearing down its CR.
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Post-Combat Mechanics

Given that New Year’s is coming up, it’s only appropriate to talk about how you acquire shiny new stuff in Starfarer. Oh, wait… Christmas is the “presents” holiday, New Year’s is the “get drunk” one. Never mind! But just the same, that’s what I want to talk about. Shinies, not getting drunk.

… now that my feeble attempts at humor are over and done with, let’s continue.

Battles are a key way to progress through the game. They’re not the only way – you’ll be able to build up an economic power base, for example – but that’s not what this post is about. Battles offer an opportunity to get stuff for free, even if you don’t fancy yourself a pirate, but something slightly more honorable-sounding. The flip side is you can easily lose some hard-earned assets, too – ships, crews, even cargo if the outcome is bad enough.

What I’d like to do is outline the mechanics as they stand, talk a bit about the motivations for doing it this way, and sprinkle in a couple of screenshots. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume the player won the battle. If they lost, things happen slightly differently, but it’s more or less a mirror image.

Casualties, Boarding, and Repairs
If you’ve played the combat portion of the game, you already know that instead of simply blowing up when hull integrity reaches 0, ships become floating, disabled hulks. There’s a small chance for each of these to be repaired after battle (most likely, player skills will allow you to raise that chance).

So a friendly ship can emerge from battle in the following ways:

  • Completely unscathed or somewhat damaged
  • Disabled and subsequently repaired, with a minimal hull integrity and heavily damaged armor (non-fighters only)
  • Utterly destroyed (fighters and ships whose hulks are shot repeatedly until they blow up – unlikely for anything bigger than frigates)
  • Disabled and beyond repair, and subsequently scrapped for any supplies

The options for enemy ships are slightly different. Retreating ships have a chance to be captured after battle, and the player has a choice between boarding and scrapping these. Disabled ships that can potentially be repaired can also be boarded or scrapped, while ones beyond repair are scrapped automatically.

Also, if a ship takes hull (not armor) damage, then there’s a good chance that some crew will be killed, in rough proportion to how much damage the ship actually took. It’s possible to win a battle and end up losing enough crew that you can’t meet the skeleton crew requirements to deploy most of your ships – so it’s a good idea to carry enough extra crew for these kinds of emergencies. Outside of combat, it’s assumed that automated systems let you get by well enough to navigate the ships, so even extensive crew losses won’t stop you from being able to move around the Sector.

The Odyssey has taken some damage, but the pirate fleet has been eliminated as a combat threat

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