EDIT: A few edits to the original proposal based on discussion are highlighted
Mechanics for servicing
If we're making it possible to service early, there should be costs and benefits to doing that - and ideally in most situations it should be the wrong choice to do so.
- Extend the service level (SL) range to 0-100 (currently it runs 75-100)
- Double the chance of losing a point of SL - so it'll drop to 50% about as quickly as it currently drops to 75%. (There's rescaling elsewhere so this shouldn't have any gameplay effect - I just don't think there's enough bad stuff to fill in three times as much space as we currently use).
- Above 70% SL, the effects should be trivial, if at all noticeable. You're running on the normal servicing schedule for your ship, and normal redundancy, engineering tolerances, etc. should keep things going basically to spec.
- At 70% SL maintenance starts being offered as before. The first time you dock at or below 70% SL, you get an arrival report stating that servicing is now due. Unlike in 1.80, maintenance always restores you to 100% SL. If you ignore it, the effects of low SL will get more severe, but shouldn't be too bad until you get below about 60% SL.
- Above 70% but below 100% SL, you instead get offered a "tune up" (needs a better name). This also restores you to 100% SL but the description will make clear that it's for early servicing and only really necessary if you expect to be away from a decent shipyard for a while.
- As currently, the cost of maintenance/tune-up depends on the service level of your ship and the cost of your ship + equipment.
- The Tech Level quality of maintenance servicing, instead of changing what SL your ship gets set to, sets a hidden parameter which controls the servicing decay rate. Get serviced at a TL:15 system and you might be able to go a while without another even if you put your ship above recommended limits regularly ... get serviced at a TL:7 one, and you might need another one fairly soon even if you don't do anything exciting.
- New ships (and the player when they start a new game) get the minimum servicing decay rate.
- Getting a "tune up" will increase the servicing decay rate, especially if done at a low TL system. Eventually the decay rate gets so high that "tune up" stops being offered and you have to buy a full service. (Note that this means that tuning up too often can cost you a fair bit more in the long run)
- The TL at which servicing is available will no longer be fixed. Instead, you'll need to be at a system no more than 3(?) TL lower than the TL of your ship (i.e. almost anywhere can maintain a Python, but an Asp needs a proper shipyard). We might want to adjust the TLs slightly for this, too.
- A full service takes considerably more time than before. (A week, perhaps?). Tune-ups would continue to take the 6-12 hours a service currently does. This makes planning both around time-critical activities a bit more important, I think.
There's a few extras here to make it worth having SL at all. Anything else?
- The trade-in price of your ship is reduced by the cost of a service/tune-up (whichever applies), rather than it being a multiplying factor.
- Fuel cost changes exactly as before. It's trivial at any SL and not going to be worth tuning up regularly just to avoid it.
- Once you get below 60% SL, the chance of damage hitting cargo or equipment starts increasing significantly. Before that point it'll be mostly flat. The mechanism for increasing this will be made slightly more predictable than it currently is.
- Below 50% SL the laser cooling rate worsens.
- Below 75% SL the low SL starts to show up in the player's exhaust plumes as occasional flickering. This is entirely cosmetic. Also in cosmetic changes, the occasional odd noise (e.g. the alert siren going off at condition green) though OXPs which add engine sounds could do a lot more with this.
- If "equipment disruption" is included (see optional section below), equipment stays disrupted longer below 70% SL, and may spontaneously switch into a disrupted state below 50% SL (at really low SL it may be more accurate to say it may occasionally switch into a non-disrupted state)
- Misjump chances are reduced from the current ones above 70% SL (and impossible at 100% SL, as a quick fix to ensure that a new Jameson's first jump is not a misjump, though their second might be if they're really unlucky). Between 60% and 70% SL has roughly the current misjump chances, and below 60% the chances get significantly higher.
- Contracts, especially passenger contracts, will pay less or refuse to travel altogether as SL decreases.
- We could start draining max speed / turn rate / energy recharge rate once you get below 60%. I'm not convinced this is worth doing, though.
Things which cause unusual stress to your ship, here. Any others?
- As before, making witchspace jumps has a chance of reducing SL. A misjump (forced or random, but not from following someone else's wormhole) will always reduce SL.
- As before, combat damage has a chance of reducing SL if it doesn't damage equipment or cargo directly.
- Cabin temperatures in the critical zone have a chance of reducing SL (even more so if your ship is taking damage from the heat)
- Overheating lasers may reduce SL but only if you're already below 60% SL.
I've mentioned this idea before, but I think this is a better place for it, perhaps.
- Equipment gains a state between "normal" and "damaged" called "disrupted". Disrupted equipment can't be used but will automatically return to normal after a small delay (~5 seconds).
- Not all equipment can be disrupted (e.g. heat shielding can't) - for compatibility this would have to be allowed by an explicit property on the equipment.
- Lasers can be disrupted (but not damaged) - it sets the temperature to something really high rather than having the normal effect.
- If disrupted equipment is hit by a second disruption effect before it recovers, it gets damaged instead (assuming it can be damaged).
- Disruption would normally happen only when taking internal damage, but would be quite a bit more likely than equipment damage currently is.
- Maybe add some hidden non-damageable but disruptable equipment, which is tied to various HUD dials. So there's a chance if you get hit your scanner/compass/shield gauge/etc. blinks off for a few seconds.
- Get rid of Service Level entirely and make the current JS value always return 100% SL for compatibility. It's not a very effective money sink at the moment, and the penalty for ignoring it is negligible. So, an alternative to trying to make it interesting enough to add fun, we could just take it out and simplify the game a bit.