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Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #1 
It has been known for some time that the Battleship, Missile Cruiser and Dreadnought have fewer nodes overall than the Light Cruiser and Scout on the Engineering display. Conversely to what the player might expect, this means that these ships are more fragile than the Light Cruiser; they will take less hull damage before being destroyed. The Battleship even has fewer system nodes in some cases, making those systems easier to destroy.

The reason the Light Cruiser and Scout are tougher is due to a side effect of the code used to generate nodes in the Ship Editor. The editor attempts to create a ship 5 decks high, 5 passages wide, and 10 passages long. The Light Cruiser and Scout are a very consistent height along their length, meaning their saucer is 5 decks high, but the Battleship and Missile Cruisers have huge engines sticking out above and below the ship. The editor generates decks for these engines, leaving only 3 decks in the saucer.

While helping Arrew develop floor plans for the Battleship, I came up with the idea that the Battleship has "hidden" decks, two decks between the three decks show on the Engineering display, but with no systems located on them. The rear decks in my floor plan were twice as tall as the decks in the saucer. This idea led to me to wonder if I could built an SNT file where there are 5 decks in the saucer, but the decks in the engine section are further apart.

Thus, I built these three SNT files. They increase the number of system nodes and passages in the Battleship, Missile Cruiser and Dreadnought to 112, 110 and 115 respectively. Since the Light Cruiser has 112 nodes, that means the Battleship is equally tough, the Missile Cruiser is a little more fragile, and the Dreadnought is a little tougher than the Battleship. All three ships also have more system nodes, better balancing out what I consider should be the number of system nodes given the power of those systems. In particular, the number of shield nodes and impulse nodes (to push around those huge ships) have been increased by a lot.

The Dreadnought is not taller than the Light Cruiser and Scout, but it is wider, so I made it wider in the back than in the front, so that again there can be more passages in the saucer. In addition, I made the decks closer together, which I think makes the Dreadnought look as massive as it supposed to be. This enabled me to put even more passages in the saucer, compensating for the fact that the Dreadnought's "saucer" isn't round.

To use this mod, simply download the attached file, rename your old SNT files, and copy the new files into place. Note that while I think this can help make the ships perform more like what a player would expect, the high resilience of the Light Cruiser and Scout help balance them against the other ships, even though this may not have been intended. Since these SNT files can effect the balance of the game, I would experiment with them, and not just throw away the old files. For multiplayer games it may be better to use the stock files.

You must also copy the files to every console that intends to use it. This is another reason you may want to keep the old files around, and these files may not be compatible with online play.

Attached Files
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Posts: 1,955
Reply with quote  #2 
Moving to off topic.
Note - this is in no way intended to be an official position of Thom or Artemis, as I am not an official representative of the creator or game.

Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #3 
Yep. Although these SNT files are for the stock ships, it's still a mod, and therefore use at your own risk.

I'd also like to add that since 2.4 came out, this mod may not be as consistent with the Ximni. The Ximni ships have much fewer nodes than the TSN Light Cruiser and Scout, and thus making the Battleship, Missile Cruiser and Dreadnought tougher may effect the balance between the races.

On the other hand, because of their broad, roughly rectangular shape, the TSN Carrier, Mine Layer and Juggernaut have the same high number of nodes as the Light Cruiser and Scout. So maybe these SNT file ARE more consistent. The Ximni Battleship does so much damage that making TSN Battleship much tougher might even things up between them.

Your mileage may vary. There should be no problem using these SNT files in 2.4.

Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #4 
Is there any reason these new SNT files wouldn't work in the current 2.7.5?

Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #5 
As far as I know, there should be no reason these SNT files won't work with any version of Artemis 2.x up to and including the latest. There have been no changes to the SNT files since they were introduced with the Engineering display in Artemis 1.5. New ships have been added, but they have all followed the same "rules" when it comes to the SNT files.

AFAIK, the only thing that could break these files is if a new version of Artemis introduces new node types to the game. In other words, a new ship's system would have to be introduced, in addition to Beams, Torps, Sensors, Engines, Impulse, Maneuver and Front and Rear Shields. There is space in the SNT files for two types, called "A" and "B", but they have never been used.

It's possible that Artemis 3.0 may redesign the Engineering interface, and SNT files could be altered or replaced with something else. If that happens, then these files will no longer work. But since they survived the transition from 1.x to 2.x, I suspect they'll still be used in 3.0, since Thom won't want to reinvent the wheel. His Engineering interface is really quite elaborate for games of this sort, and I'd hate to see it go.

I will repeat that you should make a backup of your original SNT files, and use these replacements temporarily and at your own risk. I think they improve the balance of the game, but the fact is they change Thom's original design. It could be argued that the fragility of the TSN warships balance out their overpowered nature, and give the Light Cruiser and Scout an advantage beyond just a longer range. In fact, I should probably create a complementary set of SNT files that similarly weaken the Ximni Battleship, Dreadnought and Missile Cruiser, as well as the Juggernaut. (Or strengthen the Ximni Scout/Cruiser) 

I have no access to a computer at this time, though, so that will have to be a task for later, or perhaps for one of our other ambitious modders who wants to try their hand at it. 😃 (For those who would like to know how I did it, I altered the model to make the engines flatter or narrower and ran it through Thom's Ship Editor. I then manually moved the nodes back inside the stock model's shape)

I'll also add a link to my SNT analyzer, since it's useful for discussion of this topic:

Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #6 
Thank you.  To my intuition as a simulation, bigger ships should have more hull so that Scout < Light Cruiser < Battleship, etc.  Then maybe we can decide a TSN Battleship has a more robust hull than a Ximni Battleship.  Maybe I'll dig into the SNT modding after I figure out what my ideal state is for ships' hulls.

To my mind, I don't want to balance a Scout and a Battleship (such that they can duel each other), other than to make sure they both have a niche in fleet tactics.  Scouts should be "cheaper to build" and more plentiful, but I'm also thinking of this more as a story simulation, rather than a cooperative arcade game.  YMMV.

Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #7 
Yeah, I agree that Scouts and Battleships should not be balanced tactically. That isn't their role. To my mind, balance should be based on the following:

1) Scouts and Light Cruisers have longer range than Battleships and Dreadnoughts. That is, they can stray further from the base stations and fight for longer without docking for fuel. A Dreadnought in particular has to stay close to its bases and be focused on protecting them from damage.

2) Scouts are faster than Light Cruisers and Battleships, and Dreadnoughts are slower. This gives the Scout a role in a team, because while all ships have the same sensor range, a Scout is more mobile and can position itself to provide sensor data to the other ships.

3) Scouts and Light Cruisers are more suitable for patrol missions, especially in multi-sector scenarios like the TSN Sandbox. There is no way to apply this to the game, but militarily a Cruiser is intended to travel to remote locations and patrol shipping lanes and other strategic areas. A Scout is particularly suited for this role due to its low fuel consumption, but the Light Cruiser really has only slightly more range than the Battleship. (As long as they aren't in combat) I would suggest that the Light Cruiser should have additional Energy, or a way to recover Energy when travelling through multiple sectors.

4) Scouts and Light Cruisers are "disposable", and cheaper to use and maintain. Again, there is no way to simulate this in-game, but technically you should choose a Scout or Light Cruiser more often than a Battleship because it would be more expensive to send the Battleship on a simple mission. In a multi-sector or war scenario you should probably have "Build Points" to spend on ships, with the Scout and Light Cruiser costing less. In scripts, usually the script is written with the Light Cruiser in mind, and you should choose a Scout or Battleship only if you want the mission to be harder or easier.

Anyway, none of that really refers to how tough or robust the Scout and Cruiser are compared to a Battleship. Militarily, a Battleship should be heavily armored, while a Cruiser would be more lightly armored, to cut down on weight. In space, though, a ship intended for long periods of time away from a base would probably be designed to be more robust, to protect it from radiation and collision, while a warship would just be as strong as it needs to be to support the weapons and shield systems. Shields, after all, allow you to have a ship which is much more resistant to damage, without adding any mass or weight to the ship. The Battleship's greater Shield strength covers its armor ranking.

In short, I can see the logic in either. Probably, ships should have about the same amount of hull. All enemy ships already do, meaning a massive Torgoth Battleship is as easy to destroy as a Kralien Scout once the Shields are down. You could base it on size, but all the player ships are about the same size anyway, and the SNT display only lets you have five decks no matter how big your ship is.

In short, Thom's way of generating the SNT files is pretty much random, and the Scout and Light Cruiser just ended up that way. I think it's more important to be consistent than to try and explain the differences logically. I could have just as easily reduced the number of nodes on the Scout and Light Cruiser to make them consistent, and probably should have, given the stats for the Ximni.

Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #8 
BTW, here is a link to a discussion relevant to this topic. On page 2 of the thread, I post an analysis of the range of a Scout and Light Cruiser.

Also, it's interesting to note that as originally designed, the Light Cruiser and Battleship had the exact same range. This only changed in Artemis 1.7, when efficiency was added to the game, and the Battleship was made less efficient than the Light Cruiser. Prior to that, the Battleship was way imbalanced, as I note in the thread. It took me a while to figure out that efficiency didn't just increase the amount of power the Battleship used in general, it also increased the energy cost for Warp Drive. (but not Jump Drive)

Artemis 2.4 introduced the two separate settings for warp efficiency and jump efficiency, which allowed the ships to have different efficiencies with different types of drives.

I'll also add that the different ship classes could also be viewed as a "handicap" setting, with the Scout requiring different tactics and a lot more skill to succeed, while the Battleship and Dreadnought are "easy mode". In those terms, the Scout and Light Cruiser being tougher than the other classes would make sense from a gameplay point of view, even if it is not realistic. Their tougher hull makes them more of a "risk versus reward" kind of option. Of course, since the Ximni Scout and Cruiser don't have this advantage, it gets back to random variation.

And all of this only applies if the shields go down anyway. Because of the way the damage system is designed, internal damage is taken as individual hits, not total damage, and so any player ship must take sustained damage from multiple enemies after the shields fall in order to be destroyed. If you become so crippled that you can't avoid this fate, it's unlikely that being in a Scout or Light Cruiser will make much difference.


Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #9 
At the risk of going beyond the original topic of this post, I'd also like to point out that the primary role for the Scout and Light Cruiser is to an extent ignored for the sake of gameplay. The Scout is able to pretty much operate with full energy throughout the game, but Thom has not given the Light Cruiser extra fuel, which I have suggested, because he wants the players to be focused on protecting their bases. If the Light Cruiser could operate in a sector without a base, as its role implies, you wouldn't need to protect them.

This might change if Thom implements a "victory point" type of scoring system where losing your bases would cost you points. In the meantime, I've suggested that the Light Cruiser should be able to move between sectors without losing fuel, or even gaining fuel. This would extend its range without changing the way it operates inside the sector.

Of course, you can't move between sectors in the game, but this is an idea I have had for the Simple Sandbox. Some missions would take place in an empty sector, and you would have to leave the sector and go back to the nearest base if you ran out of fuel. Obviously, this would give the Light Cruiser and Scout a BIG advantage in the script. This is something that could apply to the Deep Strike scenario as well.

Thom has also mentioned the idea of expanding the size of the sector to make it effectively infinite. If he does this, I would suggest adding a "cruising speed" mode where Engineering can shut down Weapons, Torps, and Shields, (or put them in a "deflector" state where they only sweep the path ahead for obstacles) with a single button press. This will then increase the efficiency of Warp travel, especially for the Light Cruiser, allowing you to travel between far away bases at the cost of having to take a moment to become "battle ready" at the end of the trip.

Jump can probably have a similar interface where if Engineering is in "cruising speed" mode, the distance covered by Jump increases dramatically, but the wind up time doubles or even triples.


Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #10 
Very cool, thanks for the additional feedback.  One of the things I did to make sense of things is to try to determine the size of different ships.  Based on that size, I could then use it to adjust other things like speed, efficiency, hull, etc.

The basic idea is that a ship have "size points" based on its features:
  • 1 Beam = 1 Size Point
  • 1 Torpedo Tube = 1 Size Point
  • 1 Fighter = 2 Size Points
  • 1 Shield Generator (50 shield points) = 1 Size Point (e.g. a carrier with 100/100 would have 4 shield generators or 4 size points)
The 2:1 ratio for fighter slots vs beam/torpedo slots roughly corresponds to standard DPS, so that feels comfortable.  I don't make a distinction between Juggernaut/Ximni Battleship high-power beams vs standard beams, just to keep things simple.  This set-up gives a range of 4 for the Scouts/Longbow to 26 for the Juggernaut.  I grouped them into four weight classes:
  • Light:  3-6 Size Points (Scout, Long Bow)
  • Medium:  7-11 Size Points (Light Cruiser, Missile Cruiser, Mine Layer, Strongbow)
  • Heavy:  14-20 Size Points (Battleship, Carrier, Dreadnaut, Brigantine)
  • Super Heavy:  21+ Size Points (Juggernaut)
If found it helped to place the pirates on a scale and I'll do the same for the enemy ships.

Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #11 
I might suggest "weight points" or "mass points" instead of "size points", since all of the player ships are approximately the same size. But I agree with your idea. While the Light Cruiser and the Battleship are the same size, the additional beams and shield generators add enough mass to almost double the weight of the ship. All that mass takes twice as much energy to move around, requiring an additional engine, and it burns twice the fuel, reducing the range. The lighter Scout and Light Cruiser are easier to afford and maintain.

When you say "50 shield points per size point", do you mean rounded up or rounded down? I would assume both, since you would round the Light Cruiser's 80 shield points up to 100, but the Missile Cruiser's 110 points are only just above 100.

So the mass points are as follows? (TSN and Ximni classes combined where possible)

Scout - 4
Light Cruiser - 8
Missile Cruiser - 8
Battleship - 14
TSN Dreadnought - 19 (15 before fighters were added)
Ximni Dreadnought - 17
Carrier - 17
Mine Layer - 11
Juggernaut - 26
Longbow - 4
Strongbow - 10
Brigantine - 20

This seems to overpower the Brigantine a little bit. Mind you, it has twice the fighters of a Dreadnought, but it lacks the direct firepower. So perhaps you are right, with a full complement of fighters it does deal more DPS than a Dreadnought. If you run it as a Dreadnought, though, with only a pair of fighters it will be quickly overpowered.

This is an issue for Carriers as well. A Carrier isn't nearly as powerful if you don't have a full complement of 10 players on the ship. I'll still agree with your "mass points" definition though, since fighters are likely to be extremely heavy and require a lot of maintenance.

I'm not as sure that the "beam cannons" should be counted the same as beams, though. This might balance out the Brigantine, and the Ximni Battleship is definitely more powerful than the TSN Battleship. Plus, I would expect those cannons to weigh more. Doubling their points would result in the following:

TSN Battleship - 14 (unchanged)
Ximni Battleship - 18
TSN Dreadnought - 20 (16 pre-fighters)
Ximni Dreadnought - 19
Juggernaut - 28

That seems to balance the Ximni Battleship against the TSN Battleship a bit better, and the two Dreadnoughts are a bit closer to equal. You could use these mass points as "Build Points" to determine how many points you might need to purchase a particular ship.

I would also say that I've noted the inconsistency in the Missile Cruiser being one of the largest ships in the game, with a whopping four engines, and yet it is as fast and maneuverable as the Light Cruiser. In terms of range, it matches the Light Cruiser, and outranges the Battleship by a good amount, as noted in my analysis. So I would suggest that those Impulse engines are to push around the huge stores of missiles and Nukes, (60 total, compared to 31 for a Dreadnought) but those inert munitions don't have any effect on Warp and Jump Drives, unlike Beams and Shield systems, which have a far greater effect on FTL range.

The Ximni Missile Cruiser is actually SMALLER than their Light Cruiser, which makes me think the Ximni have missiles that are smaller and more efficient than the TSN. They've had thousands of years to develop their systems, after all. Anyway, it makes sense that the torpedo tubes would be counted here, and not the torpedoes themselves. A Missile Cruiser is actually a very powerful warship that can compete with a Battleship, but that depends a lot on player skill. And it is a cruiser class.

Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #12 
Also note what happens when I divide these points by four:

Scout/Longbow - 1
Light/Missile Cruiser - 2
Strongbow/Mine Layer - 3
TSN Battleship/Carrier - 4
Dreadnought/Ximni Battleship/Brigantine - 5
Juggernaut - 7

The Strongbow and Ximni Battleship were right on the line between one level and the next, but I rounded them up because in both cases they seem significantly stronger than other ships of the same class. Plus I didn't want the Mine Layer in a category all by itself. Light is 1, Medium is 2-3, Heavy is 4-5 and Super Heavy is 6-7

I'll also note that if a Heavy Cruiser ever came out, I would expect it to be in the Strongbow/Mine Layer category. It would probably be more heavily armored with the same armament, or longer ranged weaponry.


Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #13 
Nice!  I agree that the heavy beams should count as two mass points.  So this gives us mass points of:
  • 1 Beam = 1 Mass Point
  • 1 Heavy Beam = 2 Mass Points (Xim Battleship/Dreadnought, TSN Dreadnought/Juggernaut)
  • 1 Torpedo Tube = 1 Mass Point (includes torpedo stores)
  • 1 Fighter = 2 Mass Points
  • 1 Shield Generator (50 shield points) = 1 Mass Point (e.g. a carrier with 100/100 would have 4 shield generators or 4 size points)
If we wanted to get fancy, we could delve into torpedo stores, whether they carry nukes or not, etc.  But I'm not sure that's very helpful.  Now I want to make a mod to re-look at top speed, efficiency, and turn radius with our new weight classes.

Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #14 
Here's the full display:

Total DPSTotal Mass PointsMass Rating
PirateLongbow Light441
TSNLight CruiserMedium772
TSNMissile CruiserMedium782
XimniMissile CruiserMedium782
XimniLight CruiserMedium982
TSNMine LayerMedium9113
TSNJuggernautSuper Heavy29287

You can see that Mass Points corresponds to DPS for the most part, until you get to carriers (including the Brigantine) which have low shields for their armament.  A good example of high-risk, high-effectiveness ship: low shields, it's much easier to lose a fighter than a beam or torp tube.  On the other hand, fighters can be tremendously powerful (TSN/Ximni carrier with full fighters can launch 16 torpedoes in a very short period.  That fighter torpedoes don't deduct from the ship's supply is a loophole, unfortunately -- I hope that gets fixed.


Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #15 
I agree that torpedo stores don't need to be counted. As I said, I consider them to affect a ship's sublight mass, but not their efficiency at Warp. Warp or Jump Drive appears to be more disrupted by a very large energy signature. This would be in keeping with ships needing to shut down their beams and shields for long range Warp travel.

Carriers tend to have low shields compared to Battleships, but their fighters can also engage the enemy away from the carrier, drawing fire away. The opposite is also true, the carrier can draw fire from the fighters, but they can also switch up, allowing the carrier to recharge its shields. And unlike the Missile Cruiser, which has to tank drones with its tough forward shield, the Carrier has beams to shoot down drones. (assuming the fighters don't take it out first)

As for fighters not drawing from the torpedo supply, I can understand why that is for the sake of simplicity of coding, but I agree that it's a problem. I've suggested some solutions; the one I'm most in favor of is spending Energy to re-arm a fighter when it is repaired. The Homing Torps on the carrier can then be turned into Energy and armed as Missiles on a fighter.

This is an issue that is going to have to be resolved before we have bombers that either drop Nukes or fire mini-Nuke missiles, as gameplay won't support an infinite supply of those. While a Carrier can currently fire Nukes, that's not the same thing as giving a squadron of fighters the ability to do area of effect damage.

The problem, of course, is that a fighter is recreated from scratch whenever it is launched, and destroyed when it docks. It can't currently be sent out without a full complement of missiles, and it discards any missiles that weren't launched which it was out. Thom would have to either redesign the system to retain the number of missiles (or perhaps allow you to launch either "full" or "empty") or prevent you from launching until you re-arm.

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