Saturday, December 12, 2009

Capital Ship Maintenance Bays

[Editor's note: I'm back after a few days off, sorry about the lack of advance notice, RL happens.]


As previously mentioned in the entry about supercapitals overhaul, and in the Canned Heroes series, one of the limiting factors to the adoption and use of (super)capitals as ship-carriers is how unwieldy Ship Maintenance Bays (SMB) are. This is also true of POS-bound Ship Maintenance Arrays (SMA), which suffer from most of the same restrictions.

What I'd like to propose here is rather simple: treat SMB and SMA much like stations' ship hangars, and whenever applicable, make the same features and services available.

Here's what one could expect to find in a SMB/SMA:
  1. Ability to park one's ship as-is, with all cargo, and secure it: within the limits of the bay/array capacity.
  2. Ability to board/debark: while inside the bay/array.
  3. Ability to fit/unfit: likewise, from within the bay/array.
  4. Ability to load/unload ships: that's cargo, ammo, fuel, drones, whatever — without having to launch first.
  5. Ability to unpack/pack ships: seriously…


  1. Ability to park one's ship as-is: …and secure it.
Because there are no personal hangars in Capital ships and POSes, the ability to lockdown a parked ship for the benefit of its owner should be added. Ownership of a ship should be conserved after docking in a bay/array, and the owner of the ship and/or the installation should have the option to edit the boat ownership and lockdown status, thus restricting who is allowed to board and take/launch/repack this vessel (by right-click menu). [More on Ownership is avaialble in the Commandeering series.]

The other big-item issue is that all of a ship's cargo should be allowed to remain aboard while parking, within the limits of the bay/array capacity.
In order to prevent abuse of Carriers' ship maintenance bays and their exploitation as a jump freighter alternative, and possibly to reduce the stress on the server/client caused by nested containers, it is currently not possible to park a ship inside a SMB with anything but ammo and (I believe) a limited selection of goods types such as ice products, but certainly not while carrying cargo containers.
The fact is, cargo cans are critical to many ship types and roles, as a way to segregate cargo, stash more stuff, or make supplies available to other players by jettisoning or anchoring the cans in space.
The ability to keep ships at the ready, available to jump into action right after boarding is a defining quality of a military-grade carrier vessel, which is exactly what Carriers and Supercaps are meant to be — it should not be dispensed with lightly.
  • Solution A: Nerf cargo containers.
    …adjusting the capacity and external size of ships if needed.
    Cargo cans grant a 20% capacity bonus, except for giant cans that give a 30% extra carry hold: blanket-boost the cargo capacity (and unpacked size) of all ships whose capacity is currently less than 2000 cubics (with relevant skills at lvl4) by 20%, and all transports ships by 30%, while removing the capacity bonus on cargo cans (don't bother 'fixing' those presently in game and full, they can stay overfilled until stuff is taken out, this doesn't confer any significant lasting advantage).
    [Caveat: Pilots skills can greatly affect a ship capacity, especially a hauler or barge, potentially turning it into a Tardis — much bigger on the inside than outside. Hence solution B below should be preferred, barring technical showstoppers.]

  • Solution B: Compute the total volume taken by a ship inside a SMB/SMA based on its cargo load.
    …without changing the cargo containers capacity bonus: attach a new attribute to ships that sums up their total cargo load volume, including what's inside cans (but not the cans themselves) then subtract the cargo bay capacity. If the result is positive, add it to the ship's nominal unpacked volume to resolve how much space it will really take inside the bay/array when parked. [Note: For that purpose, using the ship's base cargo capacity and ignoring the pilot skills (but not rigs/expanders) is perfectly alright in my book.]
As for other cargo types, they should all be allowed to safely rest inside a ship's cargo bay while she's parked in a SMB/SMA. Using the Solution B proposed above would prevent any sort of abuse, as a ship inside a bay/array would never hold significantly more volume than is accounted for by its own size (plus any 'excess cargo').

  1. Ability to board/debark: while inside the bay/array.
Somewhat connected to the introduction of Cloning 2.0 and Walking in Stations features, it would certainly make sense to be able to crane your capsule in / out of a ship parked inside a SMB/SMA.
An obvious corollary is you should be able to swap ships without launching, while in the bay/array.

  1. Ability to fit/unfit: likewise, from within the bay/array.
As mentioned above, you should be able to board ships inside a SMB/SMA. Since those installations provide fitting services as a matter of course, fitting should be available from within, just as it is in a station (provided your privileges include use of the fitting service, ofc).
The one difference, since you won't have a personal hangar handy to fit your ship from, is you can only fit modules and ammo taken from your active ship cargo bay.

  1. Ability to load/unload: that's cargo, ammo, fuel, drones, whatever — without having to launch first.
Pretty much self-explanatory: a ship's various bays are containers, it should be possible to drag'n'drop contents in and out of them from and to other accessible storage arrays while in range of the ship maintenance bay/array (or while inside it).

  1. Ability to unpack/pack: seriously…
This one may seem minor, but the clutter buildup in Corporate Hangar Bays and SMB/SMA makes kudzu look like a fragile orchid.
Most objects are typically smaller or of equal size when packaged compared to their unpacked state, so it's fairly practical to prevent abuse: require a ship is empty of cargo, containers, fuel and drones before it can be repackaged (made easier by the new ability to load/unload a ship in situ, as mentioned above), and eject the fitted modules and ammo into a jet can on repackaging (a sub-capital can't possibly overflow a jet can just with its complement of modules and ammo).



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