Ship Balance Discussion

I wanted to jot down a few thoughts on ship balance, as I believe it’s one aspect of the game that could be reworked to give players more choice. Stop here if you don’t want to have high-tier content spelled out. Spoiler tags are used for story-content. Most of the ships I’ve played around with, but I’m using stats from the wiki for this discussion (just in case there are any inaccuracies there).
Firstly, I see a few different roles among the ships:

Explorers: lighter ships offering greater speed and reduced resource consumption
Traders: heavy ships with a large hold, for, uh, trading…
Warships: ships with thick hulls and increased combat options

Of course, not all ships will clearly fit a single category, but I believe that each ship should be justifiable by performance within these categories, as well as by having acceptable performance in the phase of the game where it becomes available (setting aside the Stymphalos [dining table] class, which appears to be a hardcore option).

The biggest problem I can see is that light ships are arguably slower than other ships due to an inability to equip the Avid Suppressor (Aft) which allows for safe turbos. Leaving their only advantage being resource economy, which may be relevant in the early game – but is harder to justify in the late game (or on captains with inheritance) where fuel and supplies are pretty easy to come by. Personally I would address this by either being more generous with which ships have an Aft slot; or by allowing high tier engines to mitigate explosion risk as well (or instead).

Moving on to individual ships, I think the Lampad-Class Cutter is a really interesting alternative to the starting ship for players who want a greater focus on exploration relative to trading and combat, however it is priced in such a way that it will possibly only become available at a time when it is no longer useful (+2000 echoes after trade in). I would really like to see this be cheap or free with a trade in.

The story vessel is similarly hard to justify. While difficult to attain, it’s key advantage over the Frigate (of the same weight) is cheapness, otherwise it makes a poor trade, gaining a small amount of stats (especially once the Moth is considered), at the cost of a lot of hull and a forward weapon. Personally I’d keep the low-hull but drop it down to 2000 weight and give it a forward weapon.

Currently, with the Frigate being ‘light enough’ and turbo-safe, once attainable there can be little justification for lighter vessels, with (in my opinion) the only plausible alternatives being the Cargo Ship, or the bulky Dreadnaught. Personally I’d really like to see light vessels remain strong the whole way through the game.

Some other lesser issues are that it might be nice for aspiring traders to have more than a single ship to upgrade to (although I know zubmarines are in the works), and it might also be nice if certain quests did not require high-cargo vessels to complete (allowing players to keep their light ship all game). Maybe this could be addressed by allowing players to purchase storage lockers at ports which would allow them to drop off materials over time, then hand them in all at once.

But I’ve spoken enough what do my fellow captains think? :)
edited by nauith on 4/22/2015

I have always wished for a cheaper alternative to the Merchant Cruiser or a weaker version of it, to help tidy up the retirements of some of my smaller captains. For example, I’ve noticed that there’s an alternative to the Frigate – the Corvette – which is cheaper than the Frigate but still capable of mounting a forward-cannon. If I’m planning to retire my current captain soon and would be loathe to spend so many echoes on a Frigate just for one or two boss fights prior to retiring, I can probably sink them with the Corvette instead.

 Likewise, if I have a captain I plan to retire, say by going to the Avid Horizon to go through the gates with the Merchant Venturer, I need more than 40 units of cargo space to accommodate the fuel and supplies.  A merchant cruiser would have that space, but would I really have to dole out the echoes for just that one trip?  Can't I get a cheaper version, perhaps with more cargo space but less hull and no aft weapon, just for a few quick voyages?  

And so on.
edited by SouthSea Rutherby on 4/23/2015

Frankly, the only reason I upgraded from my beloved corvette in my current game was to undertake a fascinating quest that required rather a lot of cargo space. That said, I do like the frigate and I did not take the hit to speed I was expecting. Plus, I can undertake longer voyages and generally bring in bigger profits, and I never have to dump anything, which is nice. The increase in hull was the only real increase in combat capability I noticed, since I ditched my tail-gun in favor of the Avid Suppressor. I could actually engage enemies better with the corvette’s marginally better speed (the only time I noticed the difference in speed was when, occasionally, a Lifeberg would manage to hit me in the frigate; they NEVER did in the corvette). However, the corvette’s inferior hull and the fact that one can only undertake (affordable) repairs in London make it again less suitable for those long and lovely voyages out to the see the Pentecost Apes (not that that I would EVER trade with them).

That said, an intermediate ship would be welcome, especially since the bloodthirsty captain has no incentive to take what is presently the only ship intermediate in price between the corvette and frigate. Since so many profitable ventures require so much cargo space, it can be tedious to raise funds and tempting to squander one’s inheritance. I suppose those inclined to trade could use something with more space and perhaps not even a Forward gun at a reasonable price, as a merchant’s corvette-analogue, as Fuel and Supplies take up so much of the space one would use for his wares, in the corvette and steamer.

That said, maybe it’s intentional and we’re only meant to have the frigate once we’ve gone out on a limb and explored the zee with our little corvette. I suppose all in all, I’m satisfied because the progression works well with the phases of my typical captain’s life, from Exuberant Young Explorer to Salty Agent of the Empire (to Dapper, Half-Gnawed Corpse).

Oh, and the reason the little Symphalos-class Steam Launch exists is for story events that cost you your ship, or other apocalyptic emergencies, like the Flea in Space Trader. Although with 1 hull it’s hard to see how it’s anything but a short delay in your captain’s demise.

The steam launch is one of the most truely powerful and amazing ships in the game if you know what you are doing. Full immunity to hunger -and- fear? Heck yes! It’s probably the most efficient ship in the game to use starting out for exploring since its maintenance is basically nothing and you can explore like half the map on 2 fuel with the starter engine.

Just be careful when sailing, it’s really not that hard to avoid taking any damage. And when you start to have decent stats like in the 60s or above you can start taking out zee monsters in it too. You can even kill Mt Nomad in a steam launch (spoilers video link) no problem as I demonstrated in my 4 hour steam launch only livestream (fighting nomad in the steam launch takes a good amount of veils and about 30 mins, but it is totally possible).
edited by NiteBrite on 4/24/2015

Also because the ship is so small and light it moves -fast-.
edited by NiteBrite on 4/25/2015

For those of you who don’t know, NiteBrite is a God Tier Failbetter player, owner of the only Heptagoat known to man or devil, and seeker so wise and depraved that even the bazaar fears her. So, I for one, am buying a steam launch on this advice alone.

Basically terror immunity means you almost never have to turn your prow light on except like for a split second the first time you discover an island so as to remove the darkness effect from it. This is a huge deal because the ship light uses up as much fuel per tick as the biggest ship engine by itself. So not having to use the light means you save a ton on fuel.

No hunger generation means you never have to buy expensive supplies. Just have a cargo of three to five fuel depending on destination and level of comfort in knowing where you can refuel. Recommend stats for a steam launch run are high veils (so like an urchin background works well with it). The ship itself gives a veils bonus making it excellent for a smuggler character. Which is nice since a lot of the smuggling quests such as red honey don’t take up physical hold space.

It takes a bit of getting used to but I do prefer sailing in it these days. It’s a bit thrilling to constantly dance so close to death. There’s even a thread on these very forums called &quotthe dining room table challenge&quot where several players got together to discuss strategy on how one would go about completing all the various ambitions (that existed at the time) with a steam launch. Stuff like Fathers Bones? Totally possible in the launch :)
edited by NiteBrite on 4/25/2015

I had no idea that the sailing table didn’t increase terror and hunger. That’s huge! I might pick it up when I switch from trading to quest hunting/smuggling.

I was actually terribly disappointed when I sat down and ran through all the ship options. Mainly because when I think of a ship upgrade, I don’t care about hull, that’s not an upgrade I can use because my strategy is to not get hit, ever. Cargo is the biggest upgrade, and I have to save up a whopping 7000 echoes to get an upgrade to that, and then I’ll never see an improvement in that area again. I understand the idea behind making it a tradeoff between power and capacity, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to have such limited options, and to make them so very inaccessible. Having put 40 hours into the game and having it still be out of reach as well, is something I have to call an imbalance.