- There's basically no way to balance new OXP equipment. Almost by definition it makes the game easier because it gives the player ship a capability which the NPCs can't have. There's nothing wrong with OXPs which make the game easier - but some people might want to write an equipment OXP which doesn't necessarily do that.
Cost is not a good balancing factor (except for single-use items and mostly not even then) because it doesn't take that long for players to have enough money to buy almost anything. It's useful to extend the early game out, but not beyond about Dangerous rank. Cargo space usage exists but isn't great either - make it big enough to be relevant to a Cobra III, and a Boa can fit it with ease, and an Asp can't use it at all.
- It's not very practical to make OXP equipment only available to some ships, so it all ends up marked "available_to_all". This tends to make all ships feel quite similar. You can from 1.77 also add a condition script to it, but they aren't quite the right solution for this.
- There's no reason not to install all the equipment, once you have the money. (Indeed, the more cheap junk you have the better, since it can take the hit for your Naval Energy Unit, but that's not the issue).
- Remove the "
optional_equipment" section from
equipment.plist. All equipment can be fitted to all ships (though the npc-only flag remains). Make use of condition scripts instead for the core equipment which is restricted (e.g. the Multi-Targeting System requires at least two missile pylons) so it is restricted based on ship properties instead. (Make 'chance' in shipyard,plist just be the chance of the ship appearing - use a different way of determining how much extra equipment to add)
- Make all equipment sellable, including a configurable sale price, at stations which have the TL to repair it. Pylon weapons continue to be sellable almost everywhere.
- Add the concept of 'equipment space'. This is distinct from hold space. Some equipment items take up quite a lot of space - ECM, Energy Units, Shield Boosters, Galactic Hyperdrive. Each ship gets a particular allocation of equipment space. Old equipment OXPs would take up a default amount of space.
- Remove the large cargo bay item. Instead, allow ships (NPCs included) to have a range of equipment space / hold space trade-offs (the Cobra III would get 20 and 35 TC hold spaces, as well as a 10 TC variant, I think. The 20 TC variant should fit all current core equipment; the 35 TC variant might not once you started getting the really big stuff). Old OXP ships would get one cargo bay size and a reasonable default equipment size, with a default reduction in the equipment size in proportion to their LCB size.
Note the tradeoffs between hold and equipment wouldn't be the same for every ship: the Asp has huge equipment space and no hold; you can give it a small 5TC hold but you lose a *lot* of equipment space to do so because it's a military fighter and fitting in a usable cargo bay is difficult. Conversely the freighters have a huge hold but relatively little equipment space. Converting the hold into equipment space is possible but again has a fairly poor exchange rate compared with an intentional all-rounder like a Cobra or Ferdy because the generators aren't really designed for high-energy applications, so you need to fit a whole bunch of extra capacitors, batteries, power cables and so on along with the equipment racks. Still, if you lose most of the hold you might have enough space for a decent mini-warship.
The range of equipment space availability would be quite a bit narrower than the range of cargo space availability.
- Allow some equipment items to have a "resting" energy drain which applies even when they're not obviously doing anything. The two shield boosters are the only core items I think would get this - mild for the normal booster, high enough for the military version that you need an EEU (and even that might not be enough in a ship with terrible base recharge rate), though perhaps a small hit for things like Target System Memory Expansion might also be interesting. If your ship doesn't have enough energy recharge to pay the resting energy drain of an item, it'll automatically shut it down. You can also choose to do this manually, with the cost that you first have to reactivate it before you can use it.
- The F3 screen will need a bit of a rewrite so that the implications of a purchase on your equipment space and energy recharge are clear.
Powerful OXP equipment could have a resting energy drain and take up a lot of space - so you can install it, but maybe you'll have to take some other items out. (Naturally some people will go for OXP ships with so much equipment space they can install everything, and that's fine)
In terms of compatibility with old OXPs I think it should mostly be practical by setting sensible defaults. Migrating save games across the change will also be possible, though there'll probably need to be an "amnesty" on over-filled ships (you won't be able to install any more equipment on them, of course) rather than randomly refunding equipment until the player is back below the limits. This would certainly be one where taking your save game back to 1.80 from 1.82 is going to be even more unsupported than normal, though.
These aren't really part of the proposal above, but are some extra possibilities that it could open up, or other equipment-related ideas which seem to fit here, which people have suggested before. I haven't thought them through in much detail yet, because I'd rather see what people think of the concepts first. They're mostly independent of each other.
These open up possibilities where the player might want to - or might have to - refit and optimise their ship in a particular way for a particular mission, or come across an NPC ship with an unusual set up, rather than just buying up items on a checklist. The Cobra III might be able to do everything, but it's perhaps a bit more interesting if it can't do it all at once, or if there's a reason to fly something else.
Or imagine a survey mission where the player has to carry a huge survey scanner and so doesn't have room for much else - or has to protect an Anaconda carrying the same which then has even less room for useful things?
- Adjust the install/repair/removal times for core equipment items to be more interesting and based - manually - on equipment space size as well ("enlarge cargo bay" should take ages despite being fairly cheap; conversely there's no good reason for a Q-Mine to take almost 100 times as long as a normal missile to put on a pylon (especially when the removal time is already the same!)
- Steal ideas from Capt. Murphy's old "breakable standard equipment" OXPs and add as pre-installed equipment the scanner/targeting system, primary shield generator, witchdrive and ship's energy banks and generators. Lower damage probabilities than normal apply to each of these items, which each take up a reasonable amount of equipment space. The shield generator and scanner have a resting energy cost (though not much of one in the scanner's case) which can be saved by turning them off.
Extra energy banks can be bought (if you have the equipment space for them), and the "extra energy unit" becomes just another installed "generator" - and yes, you can add multiple if you have space. The NEU then has the advantage over the EEU of providing a greater energy recharge rate boost for the same equipment space.
Yes, with this, you could remove the witchdrive (and its fuel tanks) from a ship to save space (or fit one to a ship which wouldn't ordinarily have one, at the cost of a lot of space - would it perhaps make sense to make the non-witchspace ships player buyable too?)
(I wouldn't want to make breakable anything absolutely essential to get back to a station - so the worst you can end up on is one energy bank - if you're unlucky enough to get all your energy banks shot out before they empty anyway, tough! - no recharge rate on that, and most of your equipment shut down)
- Increase the cloaking device's running energy drain considerably. To get more than brief use out of this, you need to have your ship fitted with NEUs, and turn off the shields to save energy - which means a painful delay to recharge them when you run out of power for the cloak - but also make it possible to fit out a ship with pretty much nothing but NEUs and the cloak for a real stealth ship.
- As suggested earlier, we could even include propulsion and turning rates in this - fit a bigger drive, at the cost of some of your limited equipment space, for better flight speed (or downgrade to get some equipment space back). Balancing it with the either/or of equipment space means that there's room for quite a bit more variation from upgrades. I'd probably make these unbreakable, or at least make damage reduce rather than remove their operation.
Ship's mass should affect the number of drive/thruster units you need for a given performance. Defining this through shipdata rather than letting the game auto-calculate it is probably sensible.
There probably also needs to be some sort of hard limit (per hull) on the number of these you can fit, so no racing Anacondas.
- Missile pylons as equipment items taking up rack space? I would like an Asp Bomber variant to be possible where you swap out some of the other kit for a bunch of pylons.
- Tired of your ECM system getting damaged in a fight? Why not install two? (apart from wanting that space to be used by something else). It wouldn't give any advantages over having one except that you could lose one and still keep going - but obviously it's usually wasted space.
While we're here
These are equipment-related suggestions which don't exactly fit with the theme of equipment/ship balance and customisation but which might be worth a look at while on the subject of equipment.
- Remove the Multi-Targeting System. The number of situations where it's useful at all is pretty small, and almost all of those go once you have the considerably better Target System Memory Expansion. I used it once to fire a spread of four hardheads in rapid succession at a target's four escorts. All the escorts had ECM, and the combination of four ECM bursts detonated at least one of the missiles - taking down the other three in the blast. I could have spaced the launches out a bit more to avoid that, but then the delay introduced by pressing '-' and '+' to cycle targets with the TSME wouldn't have mattered. (And if you can afford a spread of hardheads, you can certainly afford the TSME)
It also confuses people - there's a post from a while back where someone expresses frustration on losing target lock after firing a missile (because with the MTS the next missile is currently untargeted) - while they would prefer it to just keep the lock (which it would, if they didn't have it fitted)
- Currently equipment damage is per-hit: 10 pulse laser hits will do more equipment/cargo damage than a missile, despite being less damaging. Changing it so that equipment damage was proportional to the damage done - and a missile hit might knock out several systems at once - could be more interesting.
- Start introducing NPC uses for more equipment items, and making NPCs suffer equipment damage if hit. (Since NPCs don't have shields, it's probably easiest just to start causing damage when they're at <50% energy). This might make fleeing enemies the player doesn't have time to finish off actually stay gone, in some cases. The last couple of versions have certainly given NPCs a better chance in a fight - this would potentially bring it back the other way, especially now the AI monitors 'attrition' indicators on ship groups.
- Introduce a 'disrupted' state for some equipment - less serious than damaged, it just takes it out of action for a few seconds while it reboots or otherwise recovers. Some equipment (e.g. heat shielding) it wouldn't make sense to have this state for and it would default to off for OXP equipment. Equipment disruptions would be considerably more common than equipment damage is.
- As a graphics change, if the player's ship is hit by an ECM pulse, blur the scanner traces a bit (though it won't actually cause target loss)
- Should the Advanced Navigation Array have an effect other than letting you route-plan on the map? It seems quite expensive for an item that you essentially only need to use while docked, and which could be entirely replaced with an out-of-game solution. Something like taking a few seconds off the hyperspace spin time for a normal jump, perhaps, so you can run away more quickly in an emergency?