Ship Design AAR (Full Version)

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cdbeck -> Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:01:03 AM)

Hello and welcome to my second pictorial AAR for Distant Worlds, the upcoming 4X space empire simulation from Matrix Games and Codeforce, to be released the very soon!

Now some of you may have looked at the tech and component list and gotten the mistaken impression that ship design would be a pretty limited or somewhat simplistic affair. What a first glance at the component improving tech tree will not show, however, is the sheer number of possible combinations that are available in ship creation, and just how much the design of ships is up to the player. Almost nothing is bounded by arbitrary limitations – like abstract “hulls” or weapons “slots.” Designing a ship in Distant Worlds actually FEELS like designing a real space ship – your only real limitations come from what is realistically needed on a ship, what your empire’s technology and infrastructure can support, and your own imagination!

Rather than having pre-determined “hulls” for different types of ships, Distant Worlds uses a general “ship role” and “size” system. You can design a ship of any role with any size, however, you can only build ships that are under the size allowed by your current construction yard technology. As this technology increases, so will the ship size your yards can support.

I am going to take you through the process of creating a ship. To do this I started up a new game and gave my race a medium level of technological advancement, so that I would have a bit more choice in tech for this AAR. The first thing I want to do is to check what size my construction yards can support, so that I can design a ship under that size. With a quick press of a hyperlink from the tech screen, I can see the details of my construction yard tech.


My construction yards can build ships up to size 330 and bases up to 990. This is a pretty middle of the road size, and will allow the creation of a decently formidable warship.

I then bring up the Ship Design tool. Note that ship design can be automated (the default is automated) and the computer will design your ships for you. When I opened the tool, a dialog box (not pictured) popped up to ask me if I wanted to keep this option automated or turn automation off. I chose to keep ship design automated, and the game will let me design the one ship and still continue to automatically design new ships as I get new technology, this is indispensible, particularly when you are just learning the game!


Here is a look at some of the different ship pictures allowed for the design. There are quite a few and they are really pretty cool, and with me only having the beta there might even be some I haven’t seen in the full release. If you get tired of the ones provided, or just want to spruce up or personalize your game, adding ship graphics is extremely easy – especially if you download and follow the customization guide! Anyway, I’ll pick one of these sleek blue ones. It would look different than the default designs that I started with, but I think it fits the sleek and aquatic Ackdarians a little better!


cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:05:05 AM)


So here we can see some of the different over-arching strategic directives that this particular design will follow. This part of the design tool really allows you to guide what tactics individual ship designs will use when faced with a variety of situations. This helps to streamline battle and avoids the need to micromanage every single ship across the galaxy. Further, it helps the player to really focus upon the roles they want their ships to play, and allows for a large amount of flexibility in this roles. Here you can see that my ship will be a mid-large sized Cruiser, and that it will maintain a standoff with stronger opponents, will bring all weapons to bear on weaker ones, will invade planets when clear to do so (if I put troop pods on the ship), and will flee when shields are at 20% (as you can see, you can chose how ships react to enemy fleets – you’ll probably have colony ships auto-flee upon sighting an enemy, while you might make your super-armored space tank never flee).

It has a size of 12, so it takes up a lot of space and too many reactors will drastically increase the construction capacity needed to build the ship. It provides a decent amount of energy and uses Hydrogen as a fuel. You can see how much it can store, how much it provides, and the conversion rate between fuel and energy. Obviously, greater advances will lead to better conversion rates and more energy produces per size of the reactor.   I’ll add a few of these to my ship, always keeping in mind that I can add more or remove them should I need to fine tune my energy levels.   The next main part of the ship is the hyper drive, the motor that allows ships to make jumps across systems (but not to travel within the system, that is a different sort of engine).


The Gerax HyperDrive ES, the state-of-the-art in long-distance ship propulsion. Ok, well, it is a pretty mid-range tech, but the Ackdarians have a special affinity for drives and ship maintenance, so I can expect to see great things in these areas. Again, the hyper drives, like the reactors, are pretty hefty and add 11 size to the ship. It looks like I can initiate a jump in 12 seconds, not too bad, but that is 12 seconds that might be the difference between getting hit with a torpedo and escaping in time. The speed is a wild 34000, but remember – this is only speed over long distances – once the jump is completed I have to rely on slower drives until the hyper drive spools back, or if I am travelling a short distance, I won’t use it at all.

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:08:50 AM)


Every ship needs some sort of bridge to keep all these components working and under control. In Distant Worlds, you ships require command centers. These command centers serve several purposes. First, they are a required part of most ship designs. However, increases in commander center technology can really have some pay-offs. The better the command center, the more efficiently it runs the ship – the higher the percentage of savings in ship maintenance!


My current command center gives me a 6% reduction in ship maintenance (and remember the Ackdarians get a ship maintenance reduction naturally as well). Not a bad reduction! This percentage is not cumulative, so having multiple command centers can’t lower your ship maintenance to 0 – meaning that this is a limited gain that can only increase through better technology.

This command center is going to need some crew, and all of these components require someone to run them! And all this crew is going to need someplace to live (I tried to get them to sleep and eat at their stations, but they threatened to riot… bums). Well, these hab centers should do the trick!  This particular hab center will support a ship at 115 in size.


Now that we have a place for these bums to live, if we want to keep them alive the ship is going to need life support systems. These components aren’t overly exciting, but they are a necessity and are rather small. Like the hab centers, one system can support a 115 sized ship. My construction yards can build ships of up to 330 in size so, if I intend to max out the size of my ship, I will need two life support systems and two hab centers.


Obviously, if my reactors are going to run and my ship going to move, I am going to need a place to store fuel. These fuel cells will do nicely. Again, not the most exciting of components, but a big necessity. Fuel cells can also be a big part of strategic planning. Each one of these cells will hold 70 units of fuel and increases my ship size by 6. The more fuel cells I add, the longer the striking range of my ship before it needs to refuel, however, the larger the size of the ship – meaning I will have to choose between fuel cells and other components to be under 330 size. Further, the larger the size, the slower the ship will be and the more engines will be needed to propel the ship at a desired speed. So this becomes a trade-off, you might want your long-ranged scouts to have large fuel supplies, but your warships might have to settle for more guns and a greater need to stop and restock.

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:13:07 AM)


Speaking of engines and engine speed, if this ship is going to be able to move outside of hyper space, it will need some thrusters. Now thrusters are used for forward momentum, and less so for turning the ship… but we will get into that later. These Turbo Thrusters are pretty good, providing a nice cruise thrust of 850 and a maximum thrust of 1380, while using pretty reasonable amounts of energy. The thrusters are large, however, adding 8 size, and if we want the ship to be pretty speedy, that is going to add up. I’ve decided that I want to design a fast strike ship, with decent laser weaponry but an emphasis on torpedoes. The ship will be fast, be able to reach torpedo range and then speed away from the enemy ships, keeping them at torpedo range and hopefully beyond the range of enemy lasers. To do this, I’m going to need several of these thrusters.


Well my ship can go forward pretty nicely, but it turns like a hog! Well, that is what vectoring engines are for! What is a vectoring engine, you say? What does that super-scientific term “vector” mean? Well, let’s just use the super easy hyperlink system to open a window to the galactopedia directly from the design screen.


Ah, now it’s clear! These vectoring engines increase the turn speed of the ship, allowing them to make nice tight turns – if you are willing to equip several of them on the ship. Because I want my ship to be speedy, and able to keep enemy ships in sight, but also be able to turn quickly if it needs to withdraw, I will also need several of these vectoring engines. Just how many thrusters and vectoring engines I’ll need isn’t exactly known, I’ll have to keep adding the required components, put some weapons on, and then go back and customize my engines to make sure the ship is capable of the speed I want.


Now that I’ve added a few components (one of each on this screen), let’s take a closer look at the larger design screen. I still can finish the design, because military ships need weaponry and I need to name it, but this is just a bare bones design at the moment anyway. Over to the upper right you can see that my energy production and use has now changed and I have a surplus of 80 energy units (the only things constantly drawing from my reactors are the hab centers and the life support). I only have a size of 44, and the purchase cost of this bare bones ship is 360 credits with a maintenance of 170. Obviously, to achieve my goal of having a fast strike craft, I’m going to need to put a few more components on the ship.

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:16:29 AM)


Now that I’ve added a few engines to the ship, here is a closer look at the ship speed panel. This is a really fun bit of information – it shows the four main speeds of the ship, the ship acceleration (currently 8.8) and the turn rate (27 degrees per second, not overly agile). I decide that my goal will be to get that acceleration up to around 10/sec so that the ship be able to reach a decent clip quickly, if it needs to change the distance between it and another ship). As you add components and engines, this graph will change, so you get a nice visual representation of how the size of your ship affects your ship’s speed.


There are quite a few “optional” ship components that can be researched and added to the ship, such as this targeting computer. It’s pretty small, doesn’t use too much energy, but it adds a nice 20% effectiveness to my ship’s weapons! Since I want to have a fast, long-range, decently-hitting, and fast strike craft, it seems like having one of these targeting computers is a no-brainer!


Another optional element for ship designs is the sensor array. This sensor provides a pretty decent range for spotting ships, but as you can see it adds 3 size and will require silicon and gold to produce. While that isn’t particularly a problem, as silicon and gold are moderately common, the less resources needed to build ship components the better – the cheaper the ship will be and the faster it will be finished. However, my ship is going to be a long-range craft, so it might be very useful to have some sensors onboard to that I can detect enemy ships before they detect me, and also be able to react to enemy ships that are coming to add their fellow brethren. This will certainly be something that I’ll have to think about while adding components.


I know… I know… all this time you have been reading and saying “Get to the weapons, already!” But sometimes you have to think butter BEFORE guns, to make sure your ship is properly supported and has can get to a target area and use those weapons. My latest beam weapon is the concussion beam, a nice size 4 weapon that uses 10 energy to fire and does 6 damage at a range of 350. It has a decent fire rate and a little bit of a damage loss rate for range. This beam uses emeralds, and most beam weapons will need some sort of focusing crystal to build. How does this new beam compare to the last-gen tech? Well luckily, using the bar to the left of this galactopedia entry, it is very simple to see.


The last tech was the Maxos Blaster. It does a little less damage, only 4, but it has a nice and quick firing rate nearly half that of the Concussion Beam. Unfortunately, the range for the Maxos Blaster is also nearly half, a pretty up-close-and-personal 190. It is also just a little bit bigger than the Concussion Beam, but uses a tad less energy. Now I could equip a few Maxos Blasters to have a bit faster fire rate at a smaller range, but since my strike craft is going to be long-range and use torpedoes, speed, and agility to its best advantage, the Maxos Blaster seems out of place.

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:18:59 AM)


Here is a closer picture of the lower part of the design screen, which gives a detailed analysis of the weapons I have added to the ship. I have a firepower of 24 and a range of 320. Those damage bars show that this is a single target beam weapon.


Ah, torpedoes, those massive flashes of flaming and exploding death. Like weed killer for pirates! Like the beam weapons, the torpedoes have damage ratings, ranges, speeds, energy use, damage loss rates, and fire rates. My Epsilon torpedoes are pretty sweet stuff, firing only slightly slower than the Concussion Beams, they do almost 4x the damage! They travel rather slowly, so it is possible that an agile ship might be able to evade them, but my ship’s agility should help make up for this (particularly if I give it a decent turning radius). Building these torpedoes costs a bit more resources, and they use a large amount of energy, but I think they will be worth it. Once great thing is that the Concussion Beams have a range of 320, not drastically different than my torpedoes 490. So it was definitely a good thing to choose them over the Maxos Blasters, the Concussion Beams will still be able to fire at a decent range with my torpedoes, and hopefully be able to outdistance the weaponry of my rivals.


Another type of optional component, that is particularly useful for battle, is a damage control module. Having added a few weapons and designated my ship as long-range fighting craft, it might not hurt to have one of these onboard. This particular system, the S1F2 Repair Bot, reduces the damage the ship will take a very decent 20% and provides a repair rate of 5 secs per damaged component. Because my ship will be fast, and hopefully be able to outrun enemy ships, it might be a good investment to have a repair bot, which will be able to refresh damaged systems while the strike craft outruns its pursuers.


Although self-repair, high-range, and maneuverability are all good defenses, they are not replacements for a decent shield. Shields are large systems, sometimes as big as reactors, but they provide the first line of defense against most weapons. Not having shield power is a recipe of quick destruction, and many ships base their “flee conditions” on the level of shield energy they have remaining. I’m going to add a few of these, that provide 115 shield energy per component, and hope I have enough size left to keep it under 330, but still be able to add a few more engines (all of this extra size has slowed down the ship considerably).

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:21:37 AM)


Now that I have added a few weapons and shields, my ship is now size 123 and beyond the support of the single life support and habitation module I added. Looks like I am going to have to max the ship out at 330, which will make it more expensive but more deadly. If you look at the weapon dialog box, you see that the torpedoes have a conical shape damage marker, indicating that the damage they do depends more on their range than the Concussion Beams. Also, you can see in the bottom right that my ship has a self-repair rating, a damage reduction, 360 shield power at a 0.8 regeneration, but no armor, counter-measures, or stealth visibility. My ship’s speed is up to a cruise of 20, but my acceleration has dropped to 7.9. Looks like it’s time to do a little tweaking to get this ship up to standard!


One thing I should probably add are a few troop transport pods. With my strike craft’s planned fast speed, it might be perfect to get into a fight, blast away, and then quickly land troops before reinforcements arrive.


Of course, adding some troop pods dropped my speed and acceleration further. I will definitely have to address this!


One of the more interesting weapon types in Distant Worlds are the Area Effect weapons. They come in two different flavors, but my favorites are the Hyper Deny weapons.


When an enemy ship is within the radius of one of these weapons, they will be unable to charge up and use their Hyper Drives, effectively cutting off their escape attempts. When I finally get the speed of my strike craft to where I want it, I imagine that this ship design would make the perfect raider – jumping in, pursuing, and blasting with long ranged lasers and torpedoes. The Hyper Deny has a range similar to the Concussion Beams, so that should mean that I’ll still be able to blast away at my enemies, keep them in range with m acceleration and speed, and prevent them from leaving the battle. Oh… this is going to be a wicked ship!

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:24:12 AM)


It is time to finally rectify the acceleration rate and speed of my Cruiser. I add several thrusters, and a few vector engines, until finally the speed rating is at a nice 35 cruise and 10 acceleration. Presumably, this means my ship can reach top cruise speed In 3.5 seconds. Not too shabby! The turn rate is at a 32 degree/second rate, so the ship should be able to make a full circle in 11.25 seconds, or turn a 180 radius in 5.62 seconds. That is a little slow, but we might just have to settle for this to avoid slowing down the ship’s forward thrust.


After adding some armor to my ship (which unfortunately reduced the acceleration down to 9/sec) it looks like I’ve got a pretty decent design. I kept the ship under 330 size, to lower the cost and reduce build time, even if this wastes some of the life support and hab capacity (looks like they will have nice luxurious rooms).


One final consideration is the addition of electronic counter-measures. Because my ship depends on range and torpedo banks, it might be a good idea to foil similar style ships with some ECM. The problem is, these systems use power and will add a little size to my balanced ship.


Speaking of power use, it looks like we have plenty of power to spare from our reactor. It might not hurt to have a little excess power for weapon fire and such, but this amount seems a bit excessive. If this were an actually game, rather than an AAR, I would probably go back and add more power using devices and balances them with more engines, but for ease of writing, I’ll leave it the way it is.

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:28:09 AM)


Feeling like my design is missing a little “oomph” I go back and add a few more weapons, just to give it more of a lethal edge. I balance this by adding more engines as well, to get that cruise speed up to 40 and return my acceleration to 10 (at the cost of turning speed). I decided to add those ECM and a few troop pods, and the ship has a nice firepower of 100. Looks like all I have left to do is give it a name. How about “The End of Days.” Sounds nice and fearsome! Should you be more of a practical designer, you could just name it “Long Range Raider” or something like that.


One of the neatest tools is the Construction Summary screen. With the press of a button on the design screen, you can quickly look at all of the components you chose to add to the design, and what type and how much resources will be used to construct these components. This is a great way to see a breakdown of what your ship is going to require, so that you can plan ahead and see if your economy can support building such a ship. If you are running low on, say, Emeros Crystal, then you can see, at a glance, how much the design will need and be able to alter it accordingly.


Time to build an End of Days so that we can see the design in action! I quickly queue one up and wait for the ship to finish.


It’s hard to deny that it is an attractive ship… but looks don’t destroy pirates! Let’s see how it does 1-on-1 against a pirate raider.


I might have been a bit impatient, I didn’t let the shields charge up before sending it into battle. However, this highlights something I forgot. I only added 2 shield generators to the ship. I had meant to add more, but forgot, so the End of Days is drastically under-shielded. Still, because of its speed, it is able to keep the pirate mostly at bay and pelt him with torpedoes. The little dots in the background are the ranged effect of the Hyper Deny weapon. While I’m not happy with the shield capacity and regeneration of the design (my fault entirely), the combat performance is pretty impressive!


Hard to argue with this result!


I decide to get a little silly and take on a pirate base, solo, with the End of Days. The underpowered shields make this a little more difficult, but my torpedo range is actually outside the range of the pirate base’s weapons. Unfortunately, this solo ship can’t inflict enough damage to prevent the pirate base’s shields from regenerating, unless I close the distance and use the Concussion Beams – which puts me in range of the base. Next time, I’ll be sure to add more shields and perhaps trade a Concussion Beam for another torpedo bank. All in all, however, the End of Days is a pretty neat ship and a proof of concept!

Thanks for reading this AAR! Soon, you will be able to be both Galactic Emperor and Ship Engineer when Distant Worlds releases!

Erik Rutins -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 1:29:56 PM)

Hi guys, hope you enjoy this new preview/AAR from Son of Montfort. [8D]

Hyfrydle -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 1:44:34 PM)

Fantastic AAR this wait is getting unbearable. Just one quick question how do you keep track of so many different resources?

mbar -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 1:55:19 PM)

Boy you folks know how to chum the waters!! The ship designing looks great! Being able to design ships is a nice surprise that I was not expecting and it looks very in depth!!

Erik you need to add a drooling smiley to the forum icons. Thanks. [:)]

Erik Rutins -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 2:00:42 PM)

This is another one of those areas where you can leave it entirely automated and the AI will take care of designing your ships and upgrading designs as new components become available, or you can dive in and do it yourself (either for each ship, or leave most designs automated and just add a few custom ships of your own).

Sarissofoi -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 2:05:49 PM)

Realese in next two days?

elmo3 -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 2:25:58 PM)

Nice writeup.  Thanks.

Hyfrydle -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 2:28:45 PM)

I think they enjoy making us wait and giving us snippets of information I think it's evil [:)]

Barthheart -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 2:58:36 PM)

Nice write-up SoM. Makes us drool even more for the game......[sm=bow.gif]

Darthcaboose -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 4:42:23 PM)

Oooh, so many details to play with. Looks fantastic!

I noticed on the energy screen summary in the top right that it displays the Energy Collection (I'm guessing from space itself)/ Produced and then shows the available power after the static consumption.

Based on all the numbers I've seen, it seems like the vast majority of all this excess energy (after static) would be spent on the weapons. Is there any way to see the total energy while everything's running at full capacity (so that you can easily tell if your ship has enough juice to keep on the offensive)?

cdbeck -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 4:46:33 PM)

Glad you guys like the write-up, thanks for the praise!

I really feel like the Ship Design really adds to the game. Like I said, some hardcore wargamers who like naval war sims might find some comparisons to games like NWS's Supremacy at Sea, while more casual 4x fans will see a great mix of Space Empires IV and Master of Orion. The most casual gaming bunch might just leave the ship design to the helper AI, and carry on about their business. It is really up to you! I very much enjoy the ship design, it is like a game within the game. I love the hull size considerations, speed, weaponry, and all the little tweaks and customizations you can make simply by adding different components. If you like Giant ships, slow and bristling with guns - you make it. If you want small and fast "PT boats, in SPAAAACE" - you can do that too. If you want balanced ships, feel free. Do you want designated scout ships, or warships with sensor arrays? Will you use space for ECM, or just add more armor and shields? Do you put backup components on the ship in case some components get damaged, or just hope that a single group will do fine?

So many choices...


EagleMountainDK -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 5:39:21 PM)

Thanks SOM [&o]

Gargantou -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 6:03:14 PM)

Thanks for the great AAR Son_Of_Montfort.

Once I've become more comfortable with the rest of the game mechanics I'll definitely slowly start trying to design my own ships, but I hope I will be able to learn by inspecting the AI designs to see what's effective etc.

frugaldude -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 6:14:11 PM)

Excellent post S of M.  

Joram -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 6:24:14 PM)

I really like the philosophy of role and size determining what kind of ship.  However, can you explain what difference there is between Escorts, Frigates, Destroyers etc...
Are their different options in how you use a ship based on that role?
Are there more ways to control fleeing behaviour besides the few shown?  For example, what if I didn't want shields to save on energy but had a large amount of armor.  Could I tell it to flee if my armor reached a certain level of damage?

Wade1000 -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 6:31:09 PM)


Are there more ways to control fleeing behaviour besides the few shown? For example, what if I didn't want shields to save on energy but had a large amount of armor. Could I tell it to flee if my armor reached a certain level of damage?

That would be a good element.

ASHBERY76 -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 7:10:14 PM)

Now that is what I am talking about.This is the kind of marketing the game needed.The ship design looks very impressive to say the least.

jnpoint -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 7:11:43 PM)

oh, I was not aware that there were so many possibilities alone in Ship design.
But what is the difference between them? I mean, of course they're different, you can build them in many ways with many different weapons etc., but is the difference significant, so that you can see that they in fact are importent for the outcome of a war?

Webbco -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 7:31:12 PM)

There's a loophole in my knowledge of abbreviations..what does AAR stand for? [&:]

Barthheart -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 7:51:36 PM)



There's a loophole in my knowledge of abbreviations..what does AAR stand for? [&:]

After Action Report

Gargantou -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 7:57:53 PM)

And here I always thought it stood for Angry Armed Rabble![:D]

Webbco -> RE: Ship Design AAR (3/23/2010 8:35:49 PM)

Thank you Barthheart! 

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