Hello, i’m a programmer and amateur game designer, i study the subject of game design and balance with a professional interest. I’m also currently clocked in at 101 hours on sunless skies, and 403 on sunless sea. Not that such credentials necessarily mean anything, but i’d like to communicate that i care, and i’ve thought pretty hard about the following essay
I notice that sunless skies lacks an engine slot in our trains, and really lacks much way to influence the speed of your train. This is something many community members have raised as an issue, and i’m hoping that FBG has some plans to do something with it eventually. But i’m here to throw my hat in the ring
I’d like to put forth a complex, well thought out idea plan for adding Engines to sunless skies. Specifically six engines, divided into two tiers of sidegrades, creating a meaningful choice for the player, and each offering a substantial alteration to how the game plays.
To start with, add an engine slot. One (and only one) for every train. Add a default engine which goes there as a placeholder, which is neutral in all respects.
Now with thinking of engines for this game, one must first look at the variables we have to work with. I see the following things an engine could influence:
- Top speed: The maximum speed you can attain.[/li][li]Acceleration: How quickly you build up towards top speed. At normal acceleration, you should reach top speed in about 4-5 seconds[/li][li]Heat Capacity: The size of the heat bar. the total amount of heat that can be stored before bad things happen. This is mostly used for powering weapons[/li][li]Manoeuvring: The power of the frontside thrusters. Affects how well you can turn on the spot. This is very important for aiming your guns at the enemy[/li][li]Strafing: The amount of "strafing steam" available to the strafe function. More allows more strafing bursts before you have to recharge it. Very important for dodging gunfire and obstacles[/li][li]Fuel Efficiency: A divisor on fuel usage per second 200% fuel efficiency would halve fuel usage[/li][li]Power: How well the engine can cope with heavy trains.
Yes, i’d also add (really, restore) a mass variable. A measure of how heavy the train is, determined by a combination of its base type, how full the cargo hold is, and the weight of equipment in it. Large guns and armor plating would be the heaviest equipment pieces. The base train chassis would be the largest contributor to weight, being responsible for about 60% of it. But the other factors can be significant too
I’d implement this in such a way that, if the engine power is below the mass of the train, it suffers penalties to speed, acceleration and manouvreinging. If the power is greater or equal to the mass, then nothing happens (no gain from putting an overpowered engine into a small train).
This could be a simple tiered approach. light, medium, heavy, superheavy. Any train crossing a threshold behaves about the same as anything else in its weight class
By default, without any bonuses or penalties, an engine of normal power can capably run a fully equipped Medium weight train. Or a stripped down large train, (with no armor, light weapons, and <50% cargo hold)
With all of that in mind, we next ask, what kinds of trains are there, and what do they look for in an engine? I see three main archetypes:
A train focused on making money. Mostly by hauling large quantities of goods between ports, and maximising the use of the prospect/bargain system. A cargo train may try to ignore enemies and obstacles that would get in the way of making money, they want to get to the next port as fast and efficiently as possible, they will probably be travelling straight, pre-planned paths along known and well travelled routes. Cargo trains tend to be large and heavy.
- Top speed[/li][li] Fuel efficiency[/li][li] Power
- Manouvring[/li][li] Strafing[/li][li] Acceleration
A train focused on fighting sky beasts and other trains. Will fight as much as possible, and have quite a lot of mass from heavy armour and armaments. In a fight, they need to be manouvreable to bring their guns to bear on the enemy, have lots of heat capacity to outlast them, and have enough acceleration to quickly catch escaping foes. Combat ships are typically subpar in top speed, they rely on their superior acceleration to catch up and cut off fleeing enemies, either gunning them down or ramming them into asteroids before their speed can build.
Combat ships are expected to perform, not be cheap. No expense is spared to be the best, hence they have penalties to fuel efficiency
[ul][li] Power[/li][li] Acceleration[/li][li] Heat capacity[/li][li] Manouvring[/li][li]Strafing
- Top speed[/li][li] Fuel efficiency
An exploration train focuses on filling out the map, flitting around doing quests, and seeing the world. They will do lots of tight steering around ports and points of interest, dodging various obstacles. They don’t need to fight or carry much, and so will probably be fairly light.
- Acceleration[/li][li] Strafing[/li][li] Top speed
- Power[/li][li] Heat capacity
So with that in mind, the first tier of engines. All of these would be, overall, straight upgrades to the baseline engine, but sidegrades to each other. Choose your specialty. Any engine could be placed in any train, not limited to the archetype. All stats will be given relative to the baseline that we currently have. Names are of course just an example, and up for changing. As are numbers, just a rough outline of functionality
A lightweight engine for small scout and courier ships. Extremely nimble, well rounded and good in many ways. But it lacks power, and won’t work very well in a large train. Very good for exploring ports and ruins, flitting around tight spaces.
- Top speed: +30%[/li][li] Acceleration: +30%[/li][li] Strafing: +50%[/li][li] Manoeuvring: +20%[/li][li] Fuel efficiency: +20%[/li][li] Power: -20% (kinda weak, slightly struggles to run even a medium train)
A reliable workhorse of an engine, designed for long haul journeys under heavy load. Extremely slow to accelerate, may take 20-30 seconds to reach top speed, so it punishes stopping or getting distracted. But it can make the best time of all if you stay focused. Every possible corner is cut to make it run on minimal fuel and save pennies. A true engine for misers and merchants.
- Top speed: +60%[/li][li] Power: +100%[/li][li] Fuel efficiency: +40%[/li][li] Acceleration: -80% (Very slow speed buildup)[/li][li] Heat capacity: -30%[/li][li]Manouvring: -20%
A ferocious animal of an engine, designed for cruisers, destroyers, and similar mid-heavy combat ships. Military grade hardware throughout guarantees supreme performance, no expense is spared to ensure it outperforms the enemy. High acceleration allows it to make rapid forward "pouncing" movements, making it easy to chase down a fleeing foe before they can build up their speed. Powerful manouvring thrusters allow rapid turns in combat to aim the guns, and a high heat capacity ensures you’ll be the last to overheat.
[ul][li] Top Speed: +10% (only a small improvement over baseline)[/li][li] Acceleration: +100%[/li][li] Power: +60% [/li][li] Manoeuvring: +60%[/li][li] Heat Capacity: +80%[/li][li] Fuel efficiency: -30% (it’s expensive to maintain)[/li][/ul] -30% efficiency translates into using ~40% more fuel (1 / 0.7)
Now, not everyone’s playstyle fits neatly into one archetype. That’s why I’d also add the Second tier of engines. Another set of three, but instead of one specialty each, this time each engine takes TWO archetypes to specialise in, making it a hybrid that’s good at both. (but bad at the third)
This time the names are those of deities and mythological figures, to signify the increase in power.
Note that a lot of the things that would be negatives on these engines are simply left unchanged. Even in the parts they suck at, they’re ususally still at least as good as the baseline
The Atlas: (Cargo + Combat)
The biggest, mightiest engine around. Designed to drive tens of thousands of tons of metal through the cold wilderness. The atlas fits best on massive, heavily armoured ships with colossal cargo holds. A suitable engine to drive dreadnoughts and battleships, but also tankers and large scale haulers. Though it lacks manouvreability, the massive heat capacity allows it to serve as gun platform effectively, and the high speed allows it to cruise to ports and battles as needed. (It has no modifiers to Strafing and Manoeuvrability. At tier 2, simply being normal is a disadvantage, compared to the other engines which have bonuses to these attributes)
- Power: +300%, nothing is too heavy[/li][li] Fuel efficiency: +50%[/li][li] Top speed: +80%[/li][li] Heat Capacity: +120%[/li][li] Acceleration: -40% (still slow buildup, but better than turtle)
The Hermes: (Cargo + Exploration)
The fastest engine ever designed. Made for interstellar explorers, Racing trains, and VIP ships carrying light but precious cargo. A ship powered by this sort of engine is a ghost, turning, strafing and jetting away effortlessly. It combines the best parts of exploration and cargo engines, and is aimed at small to medium ships
[ul][li] Top Speed: +120% (highest top speed of any ship)[/li][li] Acceleration: -20% (May take a couple seconds to build up, but far faster than atlast or turtle)[/li][li] Manoeuvring: +50%[/li][li] Strafing: +50%[/li][li] Fuel efficiency: +50%[/li][/ul] This engine has no modifiers to power, it won’t be able to handle a ship above medium weight without penalties. That’s its main weakness
The Ares: (Exploration + Combat)
The most expensive engine designed,a highly classified heart for an engine of destruction. Intended for use in destroyers, battleships, fleet flagships, and VIP military transports. Everything about this engine is twisted towards a single goal of outperforming the enemy in combat. It is unmatched both at effecting, and preventing, quick getaways, as well as providing a reservoir for steam powered weaponry of all kinds. A train running on this engine becomes a graceful, but merciless, angel of death.
[ul][li] Top Speed: +50%[/li][li] Acceleration: +120% (Catch up to any ship attempting to flee)[/li][li] Strafing: +70%[/li][li] Manoeuvring: +70%[/li][li] Heat Capacity: +150%[/li][li] Power: +100%[/li][li] Fuel Efficiency: -50%[/li][/ul] -50% fuel efficiency equals double fuel usage. You will need to use a large part of your hold just on fuel
Isn’t there an issue with enemies outrunning the player? Wouldn’t lower top speed put them at a disadvantage?
Possibly, but i believe the solution to this isn’t in the engine. Instead, the preferable option would be to implement some kind of snaring weapon. A harpoon, a net launcher, a miniature black hole, etc. Some way to temporarily stop an enemy so a combat train can pounce on them and shred them
Aren’t you using engine/train/locomotive wrong? They mean a different thing!
This is a matter of debate, here’s a thread for that debate http://community.failbettergames.com/topic25689-on-the-subject-of-terminology.aspx?MessageID=216417#post216417
post your thoughts there!
Engines are an important part of a travel based game, but choices are an important part of a game, period. I’d like selection of engine to be a choice, something you regularly reconsider, and perhaps switch out to better suit your current needs. I’d really not like to see a repeat of the situation we had in sunless sea - where the Fulgent Impeller was the best engine by far, and the entire early game was just a race to grind it as fast as possible.
This design has no objective best, only a range of high quality choices that would significantly impact how you play.
edited by Nanako on 2/1/2018
edited by Nanako on 2/1/2018
edited by Nanako on 2/1/2018