Freighter v. Frigate: An Unchoice of Boats

[li]earlier, there was a discussion covering boats and whether it made sense to buy a frigate. [li]taken at face, there was no contest between them - the freighter was clearly a better deal. [li]yet i couldn’t help but wonder if there was something running underneath those numbers, some intangible that might not be evident to a casual review of stats and might explain the vast cost differential.

[li]so i decided to run a test…

[li]after hours of beating myself senseless on port-farming and (mostly fruitless) lifeberg haunts, i managed to rack up a cash store of 17,000. i double-saved the game and created three scenarios - a game with the freighter, a game with the frigate, and my original with the starting tramp-steamer as a control. using the classic (original) map, i took each vessel on the same stroll, from London Docks to Venderbight to Whither to Codex to The Chapel and finally to Mt. Palmerston, studiously avoiding confrontations and terror and doing my best to stay true to the same (and most efficient) routes between these destinations.

[li]at the outset, my bias was strongly in favor of the frigate. i was certain there HAD to be some fundamental justification driving the vast price differential that would prove-out the vessel’s worth. besides, frigates are cool.

[li]unfortunately, that’s about all they got.

[li]after completing the test run and after much further haphazard explorations in each, i could find nothing either compelling nor commendable about the frigate. even if it were repriced to, say, just 5,000 echoes i would still not find it worth the investment over the E7,000 freighter. as it says on the box … the freighter is cheaper, can take more hits, carry far more cargo, and doesn’t cost appreciably more to operate. all you get for the extra money is a few extra stat points, easily acquired through the usual means if you opt the freighter’s route. and while E14 grand only buys one frigate, that same amount of cash will buy the freighter, a judgment resonator, and one of the worst of nasties that Caminus Yards has to offer.

[li]i’m gonna have to call it a curb-stomp.

[li]if it matters, i now present: THE REZULTS OF ZEE TEST…

[li]so here it is -

[li]trip from London to Mt. P, northern (clockwise) route (classic map)
[li]Serpentine Engine

[li]Crew: 10
[li]Fuel: 20 - 11.9
[li]Food: 10 - 7.25
[li]Terror: 0 - 6

[li]Crew: 28
[li]Fuel: 27.9 - 18.5
[li]Food: 17 - 8
[li]Terror: 0 - 7

[li]Crew: 23
[li]Fuel: 27.9 - 19
[li]Food: 17 - 10
[li]Terror: 0 - 5

[li]the differences between the freighter and frigate are not statistically significant and probably represent course differences more than they do any variance in rates of base consumption. excepting, of course, the increased cost of supplies which scaled to the greater number of crewmen aboard the freighter.

[li]initially, my impression was that the frigate handled slightly better and &quotfelt&quot quicker on the water, and thought that might explain the greater terror gain in the freighter. but subsequent trips around the 'zee did not replicate this difference. in fact, i was able to pull 5-point terror runs with the freighter on this same route.

[li]more interesting was the fact that fuel and terror (a proxy for speed) rates were nearly identical across all three ships. meaning that the game measured each by the quality of its engine, and that engine’s performance was calculated wholly independently of the vessel being operated. much like an outboarder’s 75hp Evenrude motivating a bass fisherman’s Boston Whaler or the USS New Jersey to 20 knots of speed with equal alacrity.

[li]and as you might notice, being new to new boats (and fearing the worst), i banked heavily on anticipated fuel costs and greatly underestimated the impact of additional zailors on my rates of food consumption. i could have drastically cut fuel and definitely should have banked more supplies. on the frigate, this would have opened up much more interior room in the hold for plunder and other cargoes. as it was, i left port feeling a bit … ‘stuffed’ and keenly missing that additional space in the hold that comes free with the freighter, which seemed to absorb every fault and mistaken excuse i could throw and still have room left besides.[/li][li]
edited by Psst! on 8/11/2014

Phew, that’s a lot of work. Thanks for doing the research. Definitely going to just save up for the freighter then.

Thanks for testing things. It’s interesting to look at. I don’t suppose you recorded the numbers on later runs as well, did you?


[li]i’d say that if the current combat / engine dynamics remain unchanged, then the price of the vessel needs to seriously drop - to E4,000 or thereabout to make it practical.[li]
[li]in the earlier conversation, someone suggested adding more hard points / gun positions to the frigate. at first, i liked the idea. but anyone with 14K to float is probably already pretty stat-dangerous, and the game rates all guns on virtually the same level. it’s not the weapon that counts, just your stats total on iron and whether or not the gun allows for flensing attacks.

[li]if anything, i’d say strip all non-military and small attack vessels of their forward hardpoints and limit THEM to deckguns only. reserve the torpedoes and double-weapon points for the warships and drop the sales-price on something like the Maenad to somewhere near or below that of the freighter, forcing a clear distinction between those captains who wish to proceed on the wings of war, and those who intend to rely on … ‘subtler’ arts in their exploration of the 'zee.[/li][li]
edited by Psst! on 8/11/2014

eh, the initial run was mainly intended to test operational costs. if you take the basic stats at face value, there’s not much else open for possible interpretation. so without having something specific in mind, it would be very hard to test and quantify.

so after the first trials, i basically be-bopped around the 'zee and just got a general ‘feel’ for what they were like. the intangibles. for instance, the frigate just felt like it handled better at zee; corners felt sharper, tighter; maneuvering was easier … but that could just be a delusion of a biased mind. and even if it were true, it sure wouldn’t be worth 14K.

oh - something not delusioned - the dimensions. if you haven’t sailed a bigger ship, well, they really ARE bigger. some of the tighter port entrances were actually quite a bit tighter and less easily managed. oddly, the frigate’s profile was bigger and bulkier than the freighter’s.

i also felt ‘cramped’ inside the frigate, despite the extra room in the hold. 60 seems vast enough when you’re working with 40, but once you compensate for the added costs of crew, you find yourself back to ‘square one’ in terms of space pretty fast. but buck it up to 100 and that freighter … god, you can provide lavishly for operationals, run every single cargo mission in the 'zee, kill dozens for their loot, and STILL have room left over. so that contributed to the sense i had of the frigate being an ‘advanced steamer’ more than a true leap forward from the entry boat.

other than this, nothing really stood out between them.

I wonder if we can take the ships’ art as indicative of their future slotting? The beginning steamer has no visible guns, so perhaps not, but of the others… the merchantman has one gun; the cutter, corvette and frigate have two; the dreadnaught appears to be positively bristling with guns. If cannons/harpoons/torpedoes were rebalanced, and the steamer and merchantman could only choose one (while the dreadnaught could have all three)… well, that would go some way to boosting the appeal of the military ships!

[li]well, you know, speaking of ‘naval appeal’ … what would be compelling about any of the other boats in the list? all those little jobbers between the big boys don’t really have a place in the current set.

i mean, would you really pay more for the dubious honor of running a steam-pinnace with reduced points, less cargo space, and fewer crew than your tramp? and knowing all the while that your engine will continue to burn / perform at the same rate as it did before, further restricting your limited cargo capacity? why isn’t veils for a small boat like that insanely high? why isn’t it insanely frugal on gas, or super-fast with cheapo engines that wouldn’t budge a tramp? or are there areas of the zee only passable to boats of shallow draft?

it all dovetails, too, with the selection of weapons currently available - they don’t make sense. sure, there are dozens to choose from, but the differences between them are marginal at best and often overcome by just scoring a bump or two on stats. the game treats BB guns and bazookas as functionally the same, spread only by a couple iron points. it’s like the only point of ‘guns’ is to allow you to spend secrets / prayers on other skills.

in fact, when i first started scoring good routes and racking up bucks, i quickly realized that there wasn’t a point to the intermediaries - just go straight to the top. skip the garbage and buy Caminus. beyond food, fuel, and terror reductions, there isn’t much of a reason to spend money for anything in the game until you can afford the ultra-good stuff. so i ended up in this weird place where i had plenty of cash to cover expenses … but nuttin’ worth spending it on.

[li]all of this taken together is why i think &quotSteel&quot is going to be a revolutionary update to Sunless, maybe even a bigger game-changer (sorry) than map shuffling. there’s just too much imbalance and too many obvious ‘missing’ opportunities in the current build for it to be unintentional. almost as if the current combat and ship functionalities were inserted as placeholders just to entertain the players while they bopped from one locale to the next. we’re not looking at tweaks and rebalancing, but a major, major overhaul.

just my speculation.

and that’s why i’ve kept ahold of that one +1 cannons gun …

all of this taken together is why i think &quotSteel&quot is going to be a revolutionary update to Sunless, maybe even a bigger game-changer (sorry) than map shuffling. there’s just too much imbalance and too many obvious ‘missing’ opportunities in the current build for it to be unintentional. almost as if the current combat and ship functionalities were inserted as placeholders just to entertain the players while they bopped from one locale to the next. we’re not looking at tweaks and rebalancing, but a major, major overhaul.

just my speculation.

and that’s why i’ve kept ahold of that one +1 cannons gun …[/quote][li]

Well considering how much time they said would be dedicated to re balancing and improving the combat, that would have to include the ships themselves as well. Maybe they’ll also fix the engines in Steel which would be awesome. I am a bit worried however at how the &quotweight&quot of each ship is going to affect the gameplay once it is implemented. All ships will certainly be slower meaning generally higher terror,fuel cost, and supplies cost. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t easy to balance everything to work in perfect harmony but hopefully they’ll be able to pull it off sooner rather than later.

Steel is both excitng and kind of scary for me. It’s either going to make things better, or kill my interest in the game entirely.

I just hope they make the Frigate a bit more viable… and perhaps add a few more &quotwell-rounded&quot ships so we aren’t all choosing the same freighter as our &quotmain&quot or most commonly selected ship.

First off, BIG thanks to the OP for the thorough examination and testing. Super awesome.

Anyway… The ship/engine/weapons balance is one of those things I’ve figured was very much a work in progress, especially considering the state of available enemies. It’s hard to give much feedback without knowing what the end-vision, but I do hope there’s either a re-balance of the ship costs, or some intermediate ships which could be considered viable upgrades.

Also, I’d love to know where this kind of thing fits in on the progress map. Ships/engines/weapons could totally go under combat, but it could also go under sailing/trade/etc to a certain extent, being that they’re commodities. shrug Feedback might be easier to give if we had a better idea of the actual %, but it might also be a bit early to really even give feedback on it.

In general though it seems like the resell value of things coupled with the difficulty of attaining funds makes any intermediary upgrades a woefully inefficient prospect. I’m a total upgrade-nut (I love MMORPG’s largely because gear upgrading somehow fulfilling) so being able to make more incremental upgrades would be pretty sweet.

[li]the insanity in my head that daily overtakes says ‘you’re welcome’ and twitches madly.

&quotSteel&quot ought to be a revelation that ties this altogether, especially if combat goes to the main map as now envisioned. that would make engine power, ship weight, and build characteristics very important factors in battle. you could not really revamp the system without being forced to incorporate those in a meaningful way. and there’s evidence in the game right now that points to the dev’s intent for it to be just so. it would also open the door to a lot more possibilities, from weapon types to special gear or the balance between light and dark. all of that should make the existing upgrade set much more viable. in the current build, there’s just no point to the intermediaries.

how it ends up is still a mystery, but we can imagine - in broad strokes - that a frigate should be much faster, far more maneuverable, better geared for search & detection, and even specially ‘hardened’ against specific kinds of attack. maybe optioned with more slots for guns, telescopes, or etc.

on the other hand, the lumbering freighter is what it is: a mass carrier of goods and cargo, with an equally massive booty to boot. not meant for combat, but suitable in a pinch for the business of war in extremis and unparalleled in the cause for ramming attacks.

in any event, the price between the two either has to normalize to a common point or the frigate needs to gain some totally mad bennies to justify the cost difference.

It’s worth adding too that, only being able to own one ship at a time both hurts out abilities to test their differences and pushes out the smaller ships from usage. (I’d gladly use a smaller ship for a quick run to Venderblight than take my big honkin’ frigate.)

But I get there are complications with that. More UI work, menus, ect… how to handle cargo and crew differences ect…

Slightly off topic but…this is why we need a warehouse. Any excess crew or cargo would automatically be sent to your warehouse, and anything exceeding your capacity could use the cargo dump interface.

Back on topic, the ship costs and differences never really made sense to me, so I always assumed it was a rough, rough draft. In the end ships are really just giant containers for all the other game mechanics, which probably need their own tweaks before they make sense.

[li]i’ll second the bit about the warehouse. easy add, too. if you can buy mansions, why not a little storage space at Ye Ol PODS?

I was about to ask this the other day, but you kindly got there first. Finally bought my beautiful Frigate this morning. So, thank you so much for researching this.

What an improvement it is over the Steamer, but GRACIOUS ME it glugs the fuel, especially now I have The Serpentine installed. Woe betide any pirates who cross my path, I have become Hunter of the Unterzee purely because I need the damn oil!

Thanks again, Sir/Madame Psst! Your information was invaluable.
edited by Tarantella de Pangolin on 8/27/2014

[li]ah-ah-ah! … don’t blame the ship! it’s your engine that lies at the heart of things.

in the current (pre-Steel) build, ship size & class has no observable impact on consumables, as you can see in the figures produced by the test. (first value is the amount at the start of the trip, second number is the remainder on completion.) the rate of burn and speed observed was the same across all three vessels, each of whom was powered by the Serp. (minor differences in the balances were not statistically significant and can be ignored.)

of course, the existing paradigm is likely set to blow clear to hell when the impending Steel update is launched. then displacement and class might finally become a factor in ship performance.