Thoughts on shipping/ship building


#1

On shipping

I’m interested in exploring the possibilities for how shipping and vessel construction could be implemented in game. I’ll present a few points along the design spectrum, and hopefully someone else will be interested in joining in.

Ships as preset designs
The first method, perhaps on the extreme end of simplicity, would be to implement vessels as entirely developer designed. The developers create ships with predetermined stats, such as cargo size, fuel bay size, transit velocity, etc… and these vessels are then available for construction in a Shipyard.

The main advantage of this method is the simplicity of development. Of all methods listed here, this is perhaps the easiest to develop and test.

From the user perspective, this method is very rigid. Ships may not be customized when a preset configuration does not meet your needs.

I feel this method could be a useful stopgap, however, I do not feel that it lends itself to the overall design well enough. In other aspects of the game, there is a strong push towards efficiency, and customizing your setup.

Preset hulls, with modular compartments
Building on the first method, hulls are designed by the developers and specific functionality is determined by the user/constructor. Hulls are constructed, and filled with empty compartments. The user/constructor determines which compartments fulfill which role. A cargo ship could fit more cargo compartments; a scout vessel could fit more engines; a resource harvesting ship could fit more harvesters.

Engine types could be differentiated also. A combined type engine that is useful for atmospheric and vacuum flight; A vacuum engine, which is more efficient when flying in space; an atmospheric engine which is more efficient in an atmosphere.

Vessels could be designed to long haul between space stations, never having to enter atmosphere. Shuttles could run between the surface and the station.

This method decreases the overall rigidity of the first method, but is still somewhat limiting in terms of customization options.

No preset hull sizes, entirely custom
My personal favorite method, and perhaps the most fleshed out.

Ships are constructed as a collection of components. Once constructed, ship components likely cannot be as easily changed out as in the second method.

Ship components are manufactured in a type of “Ship Component Fabricator” which could come in a variety of flavors. A general fabricator could have access to a shortened list of components, with the benefit of being available at an earlier stage of the game or where there is no specialized component fabricator.

An Engine Component Fabricator could produce strictly engine components. Other specializations could exist to allow for greater variety to be produced and allow for increased design options.

Shipyards would also be available in a variety of flavors, with each flavor determining the maximum hull tonnage / size / component count.

When setting a production order for a ship, the manufacturer would choose from a list of components with which to manufacture the ship. A simple shuttle design could be:

  • 1x Sub-light engine - Tiny
  • 1x Crew Compartment - Tiny
  • 1x Cargo Compartment - Tiny
  • 1x Sub-light Navigation Unit
  • 1x Bridge - Tiny

Such a vessel would be limited to use in a single system, likely running between between a planetary surface and a space station.

Speeds are determined by the total mass of the vessel, and energy utilization of the engines. Thus a small, light shuttle would be more fuel efficient, particularly for short-haul tasks.

On the flip side, larger vessels could be designed for bulk-haul tasks, and inter-system transfers.

Ship components should be relatively generalist and not cover functionality already held by facilities. Rather, a generic component should be designed: Facility Space Component. This component would allow for construction space to be made available on a vessel. Facilities would draw their crew from the ships crew.

Using this method, ships could be designed to/for:

  • Travel to a system, harvest materials, and produce prefabs/materials for permanent colony construction
  • Manufacture smaller vessels
  • Harvest materials from planets not yet able to be colonized
  • Fast, long range exploration
  • Bulk transfer of goods between systems/stations
  • Fast transfer of low volume goods (emergency rations) between planets
  • Act as a stop gap in colony design - manufacture needed simple materials/consumables so colonies can focus on whats really needed.
  • In-transit manufacturing - Mine/pickup some ores, then smelt them on the journey home.

Conclusion
There are a large variety of methods by which shipping and vessel manufacture can be achieved. I’ve listed three, which I believe capture key points along the spectrum of design possibilities.


Suggestions and Ideas
#2

What are the dev plans around ships, anyway? There are a few sentences on the roadmap, but I haven’t seen anything sufficient to help me understand how to offer design suggestions or ideas.

How many ships is a player expected to have over time? Just the 2 starter ships? Or dozens/hundreds?

Is there an expected ratio of ships to bases?

In past tests, how have players been limited by the number of ships and their attributes? Do many/most players have large stockpiles of resources they’d like to transport but can’t due to cargo or fuel efficiency limitations? Are all ships in active use, and at 100% cargo capacity?

What kind of an investment is a new ship supposed to be? Something players can plan and budget for after a few weeks? months? years? Or is it such a big deal that the vast majority of longer-term players will never be able to afford one? Will it take a new ship days, weeks, months, years to start yielding a profit?

What’s the expected improvement for new ships over the starter ships? Are new ships expected to be not really better but just different/highly specialized? If new ships can be strictly better than starter ships, what’s the expected impact on new players joining a game where many/most existing ships are better?

How are ships constructed? If they’re built in player-owned facilities, that implies a whole lot more ability to trade, transfer goods, set up binding contracts, etc., than is present now (even if some of those things are already planned, they seem to be hard prerequisites for any shipbuilding system). If they’re built by NPCs (like facilities), is there infinite shipbuilding capacity on every world? If shipbuilding capacity is finite, what prevents effective monopolization of capacity by rich players? Is shipbuilding instantaneous (like facilities) or slow (like recipes)? If slow, what happens if a player stops playing the game before completion? (if a player has to log in/check on a shipyard/etc before the server marks it as complete, that means a malicious or absent player can wedge shared resources)

Are there planned roles for ships other than moving cargo between locations? If so, how do those relate to what can/can’t be done with a base? How are the new roles intended to affect other aspects of the economy? What resources (if any) do ships consume when undertaking roles other than moving cargo? There are significant UI and design implications if ships consume resources, as has been shown by the ongoing issues and questions around how base populations eat/drink/etc. Even in the simplest case of moving cargo, ship fuel consumption is already confusing and inconsistent, and exposing the necessary information to players so they can understand and manage more resources may not be straightforward.

What are the server implications (performance, data volume) of more/increased ships? If ships are too computationally/resource expensive, then their numbers must be limited regardless of other design goals.


#3

I split this off into its own topic since those long-form pieces don’t work too well in the “ideas collection thread”. From here on out, it probably makes more sense in general to start new threads for anything beyond a tiny usability improvement or bug report.

Concerning your post @Prdgi:

This is pretty much our mid- to long-term goal. But pushed back several times and for the moment (see our live stream the other day) our roadmap is geared towards different priorities. And if you have a look at @Kodos catalogue of questions, you’ll agree that this won’t be a feature added over night.

If and what kind of stopgap we add in before the proper implementation has yet to be decided and largely depends on whether we see the need for one (because other features require other ships etc.).


#4

@Kodos, thanks for your all your questions! Do you have a background in games? The questions are pretty spot on :slight_smile:

I cannot go into detail or answer all your questions, so here is a quick overview:

  • Ships should be produced by players for players
  • Ships will be built from blueprints that players create (similar to @Prdgi last suggestion). All sorts of ship modules can be combined to create specialized vessels
  • There is no upper limit to how many ships a single company can have
  • Ships will be a rather big investment, since a lot of technology is involved
  • Currently I think a first ship (new or used) should be reachable within a few months of playtime
  • I would love to see specialized components for transporting bulk freight, gasses, fuels, passengers and so on later in the game

We even made a prototype a while ago, but it has not been worked on in a long time
20170420%20-%20ship%20editor


#5

Definitely a good idea.

For sure. When dealing with a system as complex as PrUn, large scoped features can take a long time to implement correctly.

I feel that the main bottleneck, with the game in its current stage of development, is going to be cargo capacity. It’s definitely not a game killer, it merely limits effective interplanetary trade of raw and partially processed materials. Depending on your point of view, this can be a feature or a flaw. For me, and many others I presume, it’s just another parameter to take into account when planning our movements.

If a stop gap were required, it could be as simple as increasing the cargo and fuel capacities of one of the starting ships, whilst also lowering its travel speed.

That said, it really only addresses a single part of a complex issue.

It could be implemented via decreasing the layers of abstraction: spawn with different ships in packages; purchase ships from a commodity exchange market maker, unpack on purchase; players ships like facilities; players build components, then ships.

I apologise if I come across as trying to tell you how to do your job - that is in no way my intention. I get excited making plans, and discussing hypotheticals.


#6

Nice prototype!

With the mentioned blueprint system, would blueprints have a development time like other products?

Would the blueprints need to be created unique to each ship construction cycle? If no, could multiple vessels be created in parallel using the same blueprint?


#7

We haven’t decided that yet

No. If there is enough room in the shipyard, maybe :slight_smile: