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Acharis

Spaceship design: space vs slots

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Acharis    5979
Typical 4x game where you design spaceships.

There are two options (if you ever encountered more, post):
- space (each hull has X points of space, you can install any components as long as within the total space limit) [Master of Orion 2]
- slots (each hull has several slots, usually of various types, you can (and usually should) install exactly one component on each slot) [Stars! and most of other 4x games IIRC]


I would like to hear your opinions on these and generally discuss the spaceship design part of such games.

I'm not sure if it is only my personal preference, but I feel all slot based spaceship design systems I encountered were broken and simply lame. You always put exactly one engine, one bridge, one life support system... To me the only real choice was about some secondary systems and the whole mechanic felt as a way to not allow me put weapons on all slots (which was always the best choice). On the other hand space system in MOO2, while allowing me to put 100% weapons, was very interesting and I always was ending up with plenty auxiliary systems. At a first glance the space based system seems like an obvious winner to me (althrough, I like the visual aspect of slots and it allows for higher variety of hulls). Edited by Acharis

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KenjiSenpai    231
I don't want to sound like an ass but its just a random comment on the words you use. If this is going into a game or a design document you might want to change the word weight for mass since when you're in space you have no weight. Just wanted to point it out in case you were going to write this down somewhere.

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Karnot    182
[quote]weight[/quote]
If we're talking space - its not weight anymore, its mass. And in space, mass is a rather pointless thing to worry about on a spaceship, realistically speaking.

[quote]I feel all slot based spaceship design systems I encountered were broken and simply lame.[/quote]
That is because they are almost never properly implemented. There are two things that must be done :
1) Have physical position be actual position. Meaning, putting armour plating on the front will protect you from the front. Putting things in front of other things will determine their destruction order.
and 2) Have weapons have angle arcs according to their actual position.

As far as i know no game ever did both, only one or the other. Most do none. I think Sword of the Stars 2 have both, but i cant say not having actually played it.

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KenjiSenpai    231
[quote name='Karnot' timestamp='1333895481' post='4929323']
If we're talking space - its not weight anymore, its mass. And in space, mass is a rather pointless thing to worry about on a spaceship, realistically speaking.

[/quote]

That is not true at all. its much harder to accelerate an object with a large mass to high speed than an object with a low mass. while its true that the word weight cant be used in space F=ma is still applicable and very important for space travel. (The greater the force you need to push the more energy you need the bigger the mass, the greater the force you need

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Acharis    5979
[quote name='KenjiSenpai' timestamp='1333895118' post='4929322']
I don't want to sound like an ass but its just a random comment on the words you use. If this is going into a game or a design document you might want to change the word weight for mass since when you're in space you have no weight. Just wanted to point it out in case you were going to write this down somewhere.
[/quote]Fixed [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

[quote name='Karnot' timestamp='1333895481' post='4929323']
[quote]I feel all slot based spaceship design systems I encountered were broken and simply lame.[/quote]
That is because they are almost never properly implemented. There are two things that must be done :
1) Have physical position be actual position. Meaning, putting armour plating on the front will protect you from the front. Putting things in front of other things will determine their destruction order.
[/quote]This has 2 problems. It relys on micromanegement and detailed ship manipulation during combat which is not usable in larger/mid scale battles (imagine positioning 20 destroyers so they all show their stronger side to the enemy and repeat it each turn). Also this still does not solve anything, ship design is still trivial (armour in the exterior, standard systems behind them and the critical systems in the very center).

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Karnot    182
[quote]F=ma is still applicable and very important for space travel.[/quote]
Well, that depends. Realistically it doesnt matter, since its unlikely that space exploration will ever go anywhere far enough with below-light-speed travel. And if you have an FTL drive - mass is irrelevant.

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KenjiSenpai    231
Good point. So basicaly, it would be important to look at the actual fiction of a game before even thinking about designing those parts of the game. its sorta interesting to do it that way since you usualy dont restrict gameplay designs to the fiction but the invert.

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Acharis    5979
LOL, it's really not impotant. Call it mass, space, weight, whatever, a player won't care [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] Just maximum X of something where X is a number. That's the first option. The second option is slots.

Which you like better and why?

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HNikolas    192
I think if looking at things realistically, you would need both slots and energy to run certain modules/extensions.

In my opinion, the best way to go would be to have well thought out and named slot types(armor, extensions, weapons, electronics and so on) and then give X amount of these slots on different ships. All of the fittables would have requirements for energy, volume and so on while keeping it realistic.

The above system looks both fun and easy to balance.

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hughinn    111
I think no one mentioned it, one of the best 4x games (at least that i heard of) is Aurora, whatever you do, terraforming, bulding spaceships, building defenses, bulding your race, gets an incredible detail, you can set the frequency of the laser you shoot so it can destroy different things more effectively, if you want to make a space-based 4x, i reccomend you look at it, or at least it's wiki, you could get a lot of ideas from it.

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1333897664' post='4929329']
This has 2 problems. It relys on micromanegement and detailed ship manipulation during combat which is not usable in larger/mid scale battles (imagine positioning 20 destroyers so they all show their stronger side to the enemy and repeat it each turn).
[/quote]Not a problem if the 20 destroyers are manipulated in one stack, like in the first Master of Orion where it was normal to fight with a thousand small ships in one battle.
If you have not played MOO, you really should. For one, it has a nice planet management UI approach - MOO2 was a step backward in that.

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Acharis    5979
First, an assumption, [u]the fun comes first, realism only if it does not interfere with fun and does not make the game too complex[/u]. I understand not everyone make games with this assumption in mind, but if possible I would prefer such assumption in this topic since that's the kind of game I want this information for (but if you can't, that's OK :)).

[quote name='HNikolas' timestamp='1333923643' post='4929405']
In my opinion, the best way to go would be to have well thought out and named slot types(armor, extensions, weapons, electronics and so on) and then give X amount of these slots on different ships. All of the fittables would have requirements for energy, volume and so on while keeping it realistic.
[/quote]I don't think slots and energy works well together. If you are making a slot based design, the imperative is to use all slots available (otherwise the designed ship is not optimal). For example if you are making a small ship with 6 slots (2x weapon slots, 1x engine slot, 1x reactor slot, 1x armour slot, 1x sensor/electronics slot) and you have 2 types of components per slot (early game) you are highly limited how you assign these if you need to track energy consumption. You might simply end up with only 1 reasonable combination of components since the energy consumption requirements dictated so.
I would say energy is not compatible with slots at all. It makes already heavily restricted slots (which are type restricted already) even more restricted.
On the other hand, if we use space/weight system the energy should fit fine (since we can simply add unlimited number of armour which does not use energy until we fill the whole hull space). In space/weight system additional restrictions (like energy/crew requirements) are much easier to deal with by the player since you can always mindlessly add a bunch of low tonnage components to fill the rest of the hull once all your main componets are there.

I would risk making a theory that slots works only if there are no additional requirements/limitations present...

Another interesting thing, I noticed in some games a fake slot system. Look here: http://www.dotemu.com/sites/default/files/starfury_1_0.jpg this ship has slots which are basicly empty, it also has tonnage. It seems that the bottleneck here is always the tonnage, not slots. What is the point of slots there then? It feels to me as if the slots there were purely decorative thing without any gameplay purpose...

[quote name='hughinn' timestamp='1333928576' post='4929415']
I think no one mentioned it, one of the best 4x games (at least that i heard of) is Aurora, whatever you do, terraforming, bulding spaceships, building defenses, bulding your race, gets an incredible detail, you can set the frequency of the laser you shoot so it can destroy different things more effectively, if you want to make a space-based 4x, i reccomend you look at it, or at least it's wiki, you could get a lot of ideas from it.
[/quote]Interesting one, thanks. But it took me 5 minute to find the download for this (not even on the first page of google) also I never heard of it even though I'm a hardcore 4x player. From a marketing point of view this game is a failure. I'm not sure if I should steal any ideas any from such unpopular game :)

[quote name='Stroppy Katamari' timestamp='1333930298' post='4929421']
[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1333897664' post='4929329']
This has 2 problems. It relys on micromanegement and detailed ship manipulation during combat which is not usable in larger/mid scale battles (imagine positioning 20 destroyers so they all show their stronger side to the enemy and repeat it each turn).
[/quote]Not a problem if the 20 destroyers are manipulated in one stack, like in the first Master of Orion where it was normal to fight with a thousand small ships in one battle.
If you have not played MOO, you really should. For one, it has a nice planet management UI approach - MOO2 was a step backward in that.
[/quote]Yes... Stacking would solve the problem of it being unmanagable. But it kind of defeats the purpose, the point was to make it so separate components on each ship can be damaged an destroyed so you have to carefully place armours and systems. But with stacking you can't make separate damage to each component, since it works as a stack (X units left, can't display a huge page with detailed list of all ships in a stack and the damage to all their components). Partial damage can't work with stacks and detailed ship manipulation works only if you have few ships/stacks to manage and you can have few ships to manage only if you have stacks :) So it's kinds of is a vicious cycle.
Plus, I'm not sure I would want to base my decision if I want stacks in a game just on ship design requirements... I would prefer a shipdesign system which works for both.

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HNikolas    192
I guess it really comes down to how complicated you want the fitting to be. I usually prefer complicated gameplay and thats why probably my suggestions are complicated. As for using all the slots or not: each module could also have a drawback, the main one could be added mass to ship and the secondary could be something related to the module itself(adding weapons means you need X amount of bigger crew and so on) so there actually is something to gain if you do not fit some module to the ship.

As for the energy, there could be different rails of energy available to module slot types. For example, big rails with a lot of energy to electronics and auxillary systems and little to none to armor.

I can brainstorm long walls of text on the topic, but not sure how well it all fits to 4X and the game you are designing.

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hughinn    111
I know Aurora is not known, but is basically the same case as Dwarf Fortress, a lone developer without much publicity making his game.

I'm not saying you have to make a clone of it, but check the features and the inmense detail the game gives, and then, if you like something, you can implement it in a simpler way.

Yes, the game is not well known, but that doesn't mean it isn't good.

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1333971545' post='4929516']
Yes... Stacking would solve the problem of it being unmanagable. But it kind of defeats the purpose, the point was to make it so separate components on each ship can be damaged an destroyed so you have to carefully place armours and systems. But with stacking you can't make separate damage to each component
[/quote]There are other reasons to carefully place armors and systems besides individual component damage. Armor/shields/ECM could prevent incoming damage only from specific parts of the ship and the player could choose to skimp on them for some parts, then maneuver to minimize exposure of those parts to the enemy. And some weapon systems could require the player to maneuver the ship to get line of sight between the weapon and enemy, while others such as missile launchers might work even while bolted on the opposite side of the ship from enemy direction.

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Acharis    5979
[quote name='HNikolas' timestamp='1333989253' post='4929597']I can brainstorm long walls of text on the topic, but not sure how well it all fits to 4X and the game you are designing.[/quote]While I prefer it to be more in the synch with the kind of game I'm making any feedback is better than none [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] As long as it is related to 4x spaceship design I would be delighted to read it.

[quote name='hughinn' timestamp='1333999156' post='4929639']
I'm not saying you have to make a clone of it, but check the features and the inmense detail the game gives, and then, if you like something, you can implement it in a simpler way.[/quote]Yup, I checked it already. Even if not for gamedesign reasons I would be unable to resist as a fan of 4x games [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] Unforutunatelly, their spaceship design system is very simple (only tonnage) so I can't steal much from it in this regard.



I was thinking, I approached the issue the wrong way. It's not about space vs slots. Actually, general slots and space system are identical (if you have 10 slots and each can hold 1 component and you can put any combination of these you could end up with 10 lasers; in case of tonnage system if your ship can hold 100 tonnes and each componet weight is 10 tonnes you could end up with 10 lasers). The whole purpose of slots is for them to be specific (like weapon slot, engine slot, etc). So, [u]it is all about restrictions[/u] (slots are a way of saying that 20% of your ship has to be weapons). And restrictions can be done other ways than slots (for example energy consumption system).

The key is to use a good combination of restriction systems (also that's why the energy system felt broken to me in combination with slots, these both are basicly restriction systems and were doing the same thing). I would also say, that for as restrictive system as slots we probaly should not use any additional restrictions; but if we use lighter restriction system (like tonnage) it is probably OK to add additional restrictions (like energy consumption, crew, etc).

What you think? Is my way of thinking correct here? Any examples of games that did it other way and were good?

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1334050405' post='4929837']
The key is to use a good combination of restriction systems (also that's why the energy system felt broken to me in combination with slots, these both are basicly restriction systems and were doing the same thing). I would also say, that for as restrictive system as slots we probaly should not use any additional restrictions; but if we use lighter restriction system (like tonnage) it is probably OK to add additional restrictions (like energy consumption, crew, etc).
[/quote]The MOO2 system which you quoted as a positive example has both restriction types. Drive and armor slots must be occupied, computer and shield slots are optional, but anything you put into them affects space which limits the total amount of weapons and other stuff you may put in.
One noteworthy thing about the system is that it is not always worth it to fill all the available space, because any stuff you put in also increases the build cost.

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TechnoGoth    2937
Personally I never liked slot based systems they always seemed either useless if you never filled them all or overly restrictive when they forced you down a certain path.

One of the advantages of the tonnage system is when it’s tied into the R&D so that you get miniaturization and increased hull space. So while you lasers start a size 10 they can eventually be reduced down to size 1. What might be interesting is if you’re R&D system was divided into applied and theoretical sciences so you could choose whether to invest heavily in a new kind of energy weapon or modifications your existing systems.

The fields you could study to improve a laser might be the following:
· Miniaturization - 10 levels – each reduces size by 10%
· Efficiency – 10 levels – each increases damage by 25%
· Power Consumption – 10 levels - each reduces power consumption by 10%
· Armor Penetration - 10 levels

A proto type laser might due 1 damage require 10 space and consume 10 energy per shot. While the maxed out laser would due 2.5 damage ignore 10 points of armor, take 1 space and consume 1 energy per shot. This would mean it does 25 damage for the same cost as the prototype laser. But after that you can’t do any better until you research fusion beams and start developing a new kind of energy weapon. This gives an interesting dynamic of getting the player choose between long term advantage or short term gains.

I do also like the module type system I’ve seen some where once where you fix the weapons and components to parts of the ship and it’s possible to destroy them in battle. That way if the enemy capital ship has their primary weapon mounted on top then it possible to concentrate fire there and destroy it.

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AoS    935
Well GSB has the best slot system. Aside from some slots not being weapon slots you can put anything anywhere and put non weapons in weapon slots.

GalCiv had the most customizable system ever, and an RD thing where you could do miniaturization and such. You could load all sorts of crazy designs and have like 50 engines or 50 black hole cannons and such.

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Leartes    177
I'd go another route and take a look at BattleMech-like games. I enjoyed Titans of Steel a lot some years ago. It has battle robot (equivalent to ships in space combat) that could be customized a lot. There were slots that take armor, weapons and auxiliary systems. All slots take individual damage and armor in that slots protects the body part. Also there is a maximum weight AND there is energy AND heat management.
It is a complex system but I think parts of it can be cut without losing too much. In this game projectile weapons required more slots and could run out of ammunition. In contrast to that energy weapons needed less slots, caused more heatup and needed energy to reload. Also a bigger engine produces more energy.

You could do something similar with slots, energy management and good auxiliary systems. For example armor is nice, but maybe you should add a shield that also costs more energy - maybe not. Add some booster that gives speed-boosts for energy, scanner systems, targetting etc. Also restrict space in the most central part so that you can not fit everything into one area of the ship AND protect this area best at the same time.

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Karnot    182
[quote][u]the fun comes first, realism only if it does not interfere with fun[/u][/quote]
Many people refer to this mystical "fun" in games, but not one has ever defined what this "fun" is. Until someone does - this sentence has little to no meaning.

[quote]GalCiv had the most customizable system ever,[/quote]
Too bad all this designing was of no importance at all in the actual game, huh ? Design for the sake of design is worthless, it has to be tied tightly to the basic gameplay.

[quote]you are highly limited how you assign these if you need to track energy consumption. I would say energy is not compatible with slots at all.[/quote]
I would disagree. Actually, it depends on what you mean by energy consumption. From your post i gathered that you meant energy as a kind of alternative weight, where every single component has to receive energy all the time. In that case yes, it may be not compatible, simply because it is exactly the same as weight/space under a different name. Many different restrictions is, in fact, a good thing, as long as they are exactly that - DIFFERENT. If, instead of constant energy supply, you could equip everything you wanted to, but you only had enough energy to activate just several systems at a time, and had to choose which ones you need at the moment - NOW its different and quite interesting.

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MatthewMorigeau    1672
Why not explore it visually first? If you can nail down an appealing look for a variety of ship chassis with cool add-ons or you have an easier time drawing appealing pieces of ships that fit together you'll be able to decide which route to take. Or sketch a few different ship design GUI ideas, exploring different GUI interactions might help you decide. You may even find there is another, more fun way to engage your player in building a ship. The game will be experienced visually so starting visually only makes sense. Number crunch after. Its the flexible part that can be altered to suit the visuals (example: if a ship looks bulky you can spec it to be a heavier/mass'ier/weight'ier ship). Work from concept, you can always alter concept easiest.

@Karnot Fun is the balance of a control system and gameplay that is easy to learn but impossible to master. Fun is a narrative progression to learning this control system and gameplay with a win condition properly placed at the climax of that education. Fun is pacing moments that a player feels accomplished and thus inspired to learn more, achieve more and create more. Fun is funny, sad, frustrating, shocking, feeling aroused or any other emotion you can stir in a player without overwhelming them. If you can aim and achieve any of these or any others that can be found in game design documents within your own design, you can achieve this elusive "fun". Realism is often visual elements or a mathmatical elements implemented to best render reality (example: a queen in chess looking like the queen of England). These are often a novel addition to a game but if more time is spent making the game look or feel real instead of exploring unique ways to teach players how to win a game the game will not be as fun.

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Bacterius    13165
If anyone ever played Starknights, they used a hybrid method with both mass and slots. Basically each ship has a given number of slots which can be used for anything (weapons, drives, shields, alien stuff), and each module has a given mass, and the total mass cannot exceed a certain, ship-specific value. It was possible to play around with it by using special miscellaneous items such as the anti-gravity pod (I know, I know, no gravity in space) which took up a slot but increased the available mass for the other slots.
It wasn't polished nor very advanced but it wasn't bad or horribly broken either. You should experiment with various combinations of slot/space methods and try to find a balance. Explore other possibilities, if you want to get advanced then you want to have the player think where to place each module, e.g. it's probably not a good idea to put the warp drive in the back of the ship because if your ship is hit there you will easily lose warp capability. Same with shields, you want the module to be deep in the center of the ship so that it never gets disabled unless the ship is destroyed, etc...

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Karnot    182
[quote]If you can aim and achieve any of these or any others that can be found in game design documents within your own design, you can achieve this elusive "fun".[/quote]
The problem with armchair game designers is that when they start talking about "fun" - what they mean is that the definition of it is something very specific and self-evident. And when you start to dig into it and ask questions - nobody knows what exactly they were talking about just a few seconds ago. So i'd rather stay socratic on the subject.

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MatthewMorigeau    1672
w/Karnot This isn't the thread for this debate, but by all means feel free to dig into it and ask questions. Name calling and disregarding the question doesn't make your opinion correct or worth mentioning (no one needs to hear that it’s not worth defining "what’s fun?" when designing games). If you're going to be Socratic then you should be eliminating contradicting views on the subject in the interest of encouraging critical thinking, not discouraging the topic all together because I disagreed with you.

If you disagree with my aim on building a fun game then by all means knockdown my points one by one. Show me how Chess isn't a game that's designed to be easy to learn and impossible to master, show me how learning League of Legends isn't a narrative process of learning control systems and game play elements that achieves a win condition at the climax of that process. Feel free to explain how Home World and Shadow of the Colossus visuals and music were not designed to move a player emotionally. And tell me these weren't fun for these reasons. If you're going to be Socratic on the subject then dig into this armchair game designer, show how I don’t know what I was talking about a few seconds ago/yesterday.

Everything in the post-mortem can be explored specificly and appear seemingly self-evident. It’s the challenge of the process and production, aiming and hitting the target of fun that’s ambiguous, but ambiguous isn't indefiniable, its just hard. Fun can't be had until the game is played. It can only be aimed at. If you don't believe in defining what a "fun game" is then what are you aiming to design? This probably seems like I'm trying to start a fight, but my interest is to have you risk your opinion Karnot instead of just having to ignore your "socratic" crits, is all. Being wrong isn't a flaw its a gift of being aloud to explore other perspectives.

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