Ship Modification

Ladies and gents, my pride and joy. I think I was building up a lot of enthusiasm before I sat down on March 20th and hammered out this little essay. It describes the thing that separates this game from others the most, and the part of the game that I personally would find most appealing. If you're brave and decided to read this through, you may notice that I spend a lot of time talking about what the player sees, what the camera does, where the buttons are, etc. This may seem trivial, but for some reason I found it very important information to include. I suppose I wanted to reassure myself that, by considering the mundane, I was anchoring this outlandish (but by no means impossible) idea. Had a look? Anyway, on to multiplayer.

Ship Modification

One of the distinguishing elements of the game is the endless amount of customization of each Remnant vessel. From the first ten minutes of gameplay, each player’s ship will be unique in shape, function and style. Ship modification is a constant element of gameplay which can be accessed at any time.

Remnant ships are built from the inside out. Components, from the central AI core to the most periphery sensor array, are placed first in empty space. The arrangement of these components is entirely up to the player, so long as they do not intersect other components or overlap firing or burn cones, in the case of weapons and engines respectively. This constitutes the first step of ship modification.

The second step is the conduit phase, in which the player can ‘wire’ their ship however they please. The player must choose which components connect to which power core, perhaps deciding whether or not to expend maximum power yield in exchange for the safety of redundant circuitry. They will see the effects of their decisions during the first stage, as a weapon placed far away from power and munitions factory will be slower to fire than average. Though it is best, of course, that all components are adequately connected, it isn’t absolutely necessary. Having a ‘dummy’ sensor array not connected to power may have its benefits. There is also need occasionally for a player to transport a component they don’t have adequate facilities to use—this can be done by mounting it in the ship and leaving it disconnected. Once they are satisfied, the player can progress to the third stage: The hull.

The third stage resembles and operates like 3D modeling software. A ship’s gathered resources must be expended in order to create the mesh, the ‘flesh’ of the ship, with more and better resources required to make more advanced types of hull. As each hull material has different strengths and weaknesses, a Remnant ship will likely be made of more than one. Though every component needs to be within the hull mesh to some degree, leaving exposed components can be beneficial and, in the case of engine nozzles and turret-like weapons, necessary.

The player can move back and forth between stages of modification at will and, when satisfied, can order the modifications to be made. A timer showing how long the modifications are expected to take will be displayed and will begin counting down. While simple changes such as adding extra hull or moving a component can be done on the fly, any component in which a new connection must be made with a power core will shut that core down temporarily. Ship modifications, then, are best done in safety. While internal machines are the only thing necessary in order to make basic hull modifications, construction drones speed up the process significantly and are required for mounting external hardware.

Stage 1 : Component Placement

The GUI for ship modification begins with the camera moving to a location 45 degrees above the X, Y plane and looking down at the 0,0,0 point of the player’s ship, the AI core. The camera zooms appropriately so the ship takes up roughly half of the screen. From there, the hull of the ship is made almost entirely transparent (to the player only—other players will not see any changes at all until actual ship modification is set in motion), and each component is outlined in a color representing its type. If there are unclaimed components nearby, such as those previously belonging to recently destroyed ships, they will be shown or indicated by an ‘off-the-screen’ pointer. If there are previous connections between components, the player will see these as well.

The player can click on these components to see their information, highlighting them. Highlighted weapons will display their firing cones, while engines will display their burn cones. Highlighted components also display information about themselves, including their effectiveness in their current location. The player can move these highlighted components around by tapping W, A, S, and D to ‘nudge’ them a short distance in the X and Y directions, while the spacebar and CTRL keys control up and down on the Z axis. Holding a key causes the selected components to move quickly in that direction. The player can rotate any component by holding down the left mouse button for pitch/yaw, and the right for roll, and moving the mouse around. Note that the coordinates and rotations of a component are displayed while selected and can be input manually. This makes it easy for players to make perfectly symmetrical ships, to space weapons for maximum efficiency, et cetera.

Weapons Groups

Once placed, shift-clicking on multiple weapons will highlight each of them. If multiple weapons are selected and each of the firing cones of these weapons overlap, the option to bind them to a weapons group will appear. More information on weapons groups can be found in movement under ‘bring to bear’ and in combat.

Creating new components

If the player has the adequate means of producing new components, a factory for instance, they will see a list of their available resources and a list of components they know how to make. (This can be done by purchasing or otherwise acquiring blueprints, reverse-engineering captured components, or ‘inventing’ through research.) From here, the player can queue up as many components as they have resources for. Each queued component will appear partially transparent, but can otherwise be placed in space as any other component. Connections cannot be made between incomplete components. Once production of a component is finished, the player must re-open the ship modification menus and make the connections then.

Stage 2 : Connections

This phase is very similar to the first, except that highlighting a component does not allow it to be moved. Instead, other components with which it can be connected are also highlighted. Information about the highlighted component is displayed, including which connections it needs to function and what its minimum and ideal requirements are in terms of power, processing and proximity to other components. Each component has its own needs and limits. Some main considerations are:

Power Cores generate a set amount of power. If there are many power cores connected directly to each other, they share the total power output. Every component in a vessel requires a chunk of the ship’s power to operate. Critical components such as engines might be best connected to each and every power core to ensure that, should one core be destroyed, the engines remain operational.

Sensors benefit most from being far from power cores and physically outside of the hull of the ship. Some connection considerations are that sensors receive bonuses by being linked to each other. Three sensors linked to each other with only one linked back to the AI core work better than three individual sensors.

Weapons require a number of connections to work properly. Each weapons group must be connected to a targeting computer, which must be connected to the AI. Each weapon needs a connection with a munitions factory capable of creating its ammunition as well as power. It’s important to bear in mind that the more exclusively a weapon has access to power, targeting and ammo, the better it will function.

Actually creating a connection consumes both resources and a small chunk of the maximum yield of the ‘producer’ of the connection, as opposed to the ‘consumer.’ (e.g. the power core as opposed to the engine.) This penalty is small, but it adds up should a player desire to ‘spider-web’ their components, connecting everything to everything else. While redundant circuitry is a good safety measure, it does come at a cost.

Creating the right connections between components contributes greatly to the performance of the ship. While stitching together the bare necessities is technically all that is needed for a Remnant to function, a well-connected vessel facing off against a poorly-connected version of itself will always have the upper hand.

Stage 3 : The Hull

One the components are placed and connected, the player must physically tie them together into one ship. Each component has an area which must be within the hull of the ship, while some such as weapons and engines have areas which cannot be within the hull of the ship. A turret, for instance, will typically consist of three parts: The gun itself, which swivels about and creates the cone of fire, the foot which may not be fully submerged within the ship's hull, and the 'root' which must be entirely within the hull, as connections are made to the turret via the root. Likewise, engines need to be both partially inside the hull and partially outside.

Once the player moves on to the third stage, they will see their ship's components fade to transparency and change color: The parts of components to be inside the hull will be blue, the parts which must remain outside as well as firing and burn cones will be red. From here, the player can begin sculpting hulls. They may choose to sculpt any type of hull that they currently have researched and resources for. Some types of hull are better for different purposes. For example, cushioning hulls around sensitive components will reduce damage to those components in combat, while nonconductive armor hulls will deflect energy weapons efficiently. There are many hulls to choose from, each with its own specific look and purpose.

On the side of the screen, the player will see numbered tabs representing layers. Any tabs that appear contain the existing mesh of the player's ship. By selecting a tab, the player can edit the specific hull mesh on that layer. The player can also drag layers around to change their heirarchy. This determines, in the case of an overlap, which mesh is whole and which is cut. This can be useful if the player wants to create shielding armor within their ship. By assigning those pieces of shielding hull to a higher layer, or layers, than the majority of the hull, they will take precidence in the overlap. The player can create meshes-within-meshes without having to manually alter the lower layers to accomodate them. In other words, if a sphere made of cake is placed within a cube made of ice, and the cube is a higher layer than the cake, the result will be a cube of ice. If the cake is a higher layer, then it will cut a hole for itself an exist within the ice cube.

The player can choose to delete existing layers, reclaiming the resources of those hulls, as well as create new layers. Each layer consists of one mesh of one hull type. When a player creates a new layer, they will be given the opportity to choose a hull type, then will be presented with the option of the basic starting shape of the hull. They may choose such things as cubes or rectangles of customizable dimensions, or to start the mesh as a copy of an existing layer. Once chosen, the player will see their editable mesh, color-coded to its hull type and with hilighted vertices and edges. The player will be able to manipulate this mesh with many of the basic tools used in 3D modeling software today.

Available resources will change as the volumes of hulls are 'spent,' and, though the player can go into negatives while modeling, they can't finalize their ships until they are 'out of the red.' Prior to finalization, there is an additional subphase which adds a final flair to the player's newly modified vessel. In this 'Detail stage,' the player will be presented with a bin of pre-fabricated lights, hoses, grates and other spacey knick-knacks which they may affix to their outermost hull. The exact color of the lights can be chosen, as well as their intensity and pattern (how often they blink, fade, etc.). Once placed, the player is given a 'paintbucket' with which they may apply any color to each exposed layer. Once satisfied, the player can finalize their ship and will be returned to gameplay, where their construction drones will begin work and a timer will begin to count down the seconds until modification is complete.

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