It seems a lot of you has answered already, but I thought I'd add my opinion regardless.
1) What mistakes does the AI make in ship/base design?
Most importantly it tries to make every ship slightly useful at everything, instead of specializing for specific roles. It also places far too much stock in small ships, in this game large ships are usually MUCH stronger than their combined firepower when compared to larger amounts of small ships would suggest.
I have often seen an AI with similar technology to myself use only a few cruisers and capital ships together with vast amounts of easily destroyed escorts, frigates and destroyers. The worst thing is it seems to think combined firepower of all it's small ships is a good way to compare it's power level to a player, who will likely be using strike teams of cruisers/capital ships.
2) What do you always update on the AI designs because the AI design isn't how you would do it?
On civilian ships REMOVE WEAPONS, they are programmed to flee from anything anyway and they will never beat any ship that isn't hopelessly outdated anyway. I'll often add engines to improve efficiency so they don't take forever about everything. On all fuel bases, extra extractors and VASTLY expand cargo space, so that an entire fleet can potentially refuel. The lack of this is actually harmful to the galactic economy, the more bases I build the better the entire fuel economy is doing.
Also fuel bases should NOT have luxury extractors, way too situational and doesn't offer much even when appropriate.
The same thing applies to fuel ships, they should have higher cargo space, doesn't have to be too much though, and more extractors, with extra engines to get the fuel delivered faster. I've experienced too many infuriating global fuel crisis's to not make that a top priority.
On a similar note I usually make use of a heavily modified refuel ships in my home system to guarantee that I can always refuel an entire fleet (with 600+ fuel needed pr ship) when needed. Basically I make it maximum size with many extractors and ridiculous amounts of cargo space for the fuel and vast shields, speed is mostly irrelevant. These behemoths can often be parked in the middle of enemy space if a task force is left with it.
On all non-troop transports I remove troop module and med-bay, while it has some use it is far too situational and a pure luxury, which detracts from their ultimate performance in their primary role.
I then vastly expand fuel capacity (on ships I intend to control myself at least, but also a bit on other ships), though this is largely because I don't want my strike force wasting time refueling, the AI might handle this particular aspect better itself. I will then usually make a ship with large amount of decent ranged firearms and a big shield (often very big), when I can spare it decent engines too, but that's a luxury. I'll also expand the size of my ships so that eventually the smallest design is around size 300, with cruisers up to size 650 or less depending on my tech, sometimes around size 500 to maintain speed.
Early game, when I'm still technologically weak, I can usually beat a much more advanced AI with task groups of 12 cruisers, size 400, with semi-decent railguns and tons of shield, this works because the combined firepower of the group can take down targets and the shields keep the attrition low.
When constructing defense bases, size is unlimited, the real issue is how to maximize performance compared to maintenance cost. Any shot fired on one of these is essentially wasted, so it doesn't need to have more shield than a cruiser, and armor is too expensive, instead just fill it up with long-range weaponry and perhaps a few fighters, size is not too important as you can always just build more, the key thing is to add the full amount of weaponry its reactor can sustain.
3) What balance of weapons do you use? If you are using a race that has specialist weapons such as the Boskara torpedoes how does this change your designs?
I don't really use the race specific weapons, I think they are weak. The Boskara missiles are eventually surpassed and end up glorified bombard weapons while rail guns will allow me to destroy any colony I want with a bit of patience.
For early game I'll pick something accurate with long range (so speed is less of an issue), that means rail guns or missiles, later I'll start using phasers or torpedos (when they are advanced enough to have a little range at least).
4) Do you use certain ships for specialist roles? Such as keeping capital ships very long range while keeping destroyers as close up weapons?
Sometimes I do, though it is not really essential, what really matters is to use fleets with big ships.
I like a frigate design with super-high speed, one missile, one fighter hangar, with max-range policy it will potentially keep kiting an enemy indefinitely (due to long missile range, while the fighters attack), I've seen them hold their own against technically superior ships and they happen to be cheap.
Escorts are technically useless in their intended role, but I've taken to designing them as having huge firepower and little else, they'll destroy pirates and lone enemy ships which is all you can really expect.
Destroyers I'll make somewhat large (350-400), with good engines, decent shield, hyper-deny and ion gun plus torpedos (if I have them advanced enough), this will convincingly crush most single ships as they can't escape and if they drag the fight out more automatic ships will start to port in and swarm them.
If I do build carriers they will have just engines, shield/armor and hangars, nothing else. Likewise with troop carriers, only troop modules.
I'll usually design a "flagship" capital design that can carry the fleet components so the other ships don't have to, then add 1-2 of those to each fleet.
5) How close to the max size do you keep your ships and bases?
If I bother, the space stations should be redesigned so that the small stations are smaller without research/weapons, slightly buffed shield, armor removed in early game. Research is useless once you hit the cap, weapons won't make a difference in case of attack, the priority should be to survive until help arrives, if help doesn't arrive it's hopeless anyways.
If the economy can sustain it the big stations need to have vaaaast shields and armor with massive firepower (LONG RANGE, not those tiny short-range lasers the AI often puts on them). Considering the massive economy the AI often has, these stations ought to be fortresses. Once in a game where I was hard-pressed I redesigned my capital port to be 10 times the original power, despite superior tech the AI couldn't touch it.
Most ships should be as large as practically possible. The only time it makes sense to settle for smaller is when maintaining reasonable speed starts to consume too much fuel or require too many reactors. So less than size 400 for smaller than cruisers, less then 600 for cruisers and max-size capital ships.
6) Which ships/bases do you arm and not arm?
Anything civilian might as well be unarmed, a base might have sufficient guns to scare off pirates but anything more is inefficient and won't make any difference when it counts. High shields are much more effective as it gives help some time to arrive.
7) What designs do you put troops on? Or fighters? How many?
Ideally ONLY troop carriers get troop modules. Sometimes I'll add one module to each of my fleet cruisers so that they can claim undefended new colonies or colones I previously bombarded, this is for convenience, not because it's necessary. Fighters have no business being on proper battleships, it will distract from their ultimate power, if I want them I'll add 1-2 carriers pr fleet group.
8) How fast do you do your various ships?
If I'm pressed I'll keep them slow with long-range weaponry, once I get more advanced I'll try to make them faster than most enemy ships, this helps them work together better. If they have less than 40 speed I am somewhat unhappy.
9) What is the right amount of armour or shields?
Unless it's one of the last two armor tiers I don't like more than one component pr ship (perhaps 10 on a cruiser), shield regenerate better AND protect more AND are cheaper, MUCH cheaper. You can never have too much shield, once I have the essentials covered on my ships I usually dump the remaining space into shields unless I want to maintain speed. Usually the defining factor is a balancing act around how many reactors I'm willing give the ship (only 1 for escort/frigate, 1-2 for destroyer, as many as needed for cruisers/capitals).
The nice thing about shields is that they don't drain your power (perhaps they should though), so the main limiter on shields is how much speed you are willing to settle with.
10) How much do you use Ion weapons?
Aside from a few specialized designs, I don't. If I wanted to painstakingly micromanage the battles I might see some uses, but it wouldn't help the AI. Basically using large ships with powerful short range weapons and low speed, working together with small fast ships with ions to slow the other ships down. Not something the AI could manage, though.
11) What components do you never bother with?
Weapons on civilian vessels, regeneration-focused shields, hyper-drives that aren't the fastest one, med-bay on anything but troop-carriers/bases, short-range lasers, low-tech torpedos, Boskara/Wekkarus/Zenox racial techs.
< Message edited by Tehlongone -- 2/16/2013 4:56:27 AM >