So there’s been some concern that engine upgrades don’t make that much difference to travel time, and waste fuel. This doesn’t ruin the game for me as it apparently has for some people, but I do think there’s some truth to the complaint. Upgrading the engine in the starting ship does significantly increase fuel consumption and does make very little difference to travel time; conversely, I just had a captain make a farewell tour to the Avid Horizon (by way of the Chelonate, so clear across the map and back) in the merchant cruiser with the starting engine, and it didn’t seem like that ship was going significantly slower with that engine. And if you don’t know that and you upgrade the engine too early you really might be screwed.
However, implementing an engine that makes your ship dramatically faster, without any other changes, is going to break the game in another way: the Stories Await You timer is currently tuned such that, with rare exceptions, if you go from port A directly to the nearest port B, it will have recharged by the time you get there. If ships are allowed to be significantly faster, that won’t work anymore. This is also a concern for any change to the fuel-consumption mechanic: right now it seems like that’s intentionally tuned to cost 1 or 2 barrels of fuel to go the average distance between ports (in the starting ship, with the starting engine).
I think there’s a simple fix, though: change the SAY timer and the fuel consumption rate to be based on distance sailed rather than time elapsed. Make the fuel consumption rate depend on ship weight and fuel efficiency but not engine power, and make speed depend only on ship weight and engine power. Then make engine power have a larger effect on speed.
The gameplay consequences are: Most of the purchasable engine upgrades will offer a visible improvement to travel time, with no downside (neither in increased fuel consumption, nor in losing out on SAY events). Purchasing a bigger ship will initially slow you down and cost you more fuel; upgrading the engine will recover some of the speed but not the fuel, making fuel efficiency upgrades more worthwhile (and, similarly, making the tradeoff between Maybe’s Daughter and the Tireless Mechanic more interesting). Finally, fuel costs should be more predictable for any given chart.
TBD: Should the fuel cost of the bow light also depend on distance, or should it still depend on time? If it remains dependent on time, then increased ship speed translates directly to lower fuel cost with the light on, which could be good or bad.
Note: I have only ever zailed in the starting ship and the merchant cruiser, and I’ve only ever used the starting engine and the Boadicea; the latter only in the merchant cruiser. I’ve also been avoiding combat, so I don’t know what this would do to that.