Emiricol wrote:I must say, I agree with everything gstano said here. Easier to customize advancement rate up or down, linear growth in vessel strength, and pick-and-choose to reflect new designs being rolled out instead of the "get everything at once" paradigm.
Yeah, you'd never want the empires to get everything at once. It's better to roll it out in waves. I'm still on the fence about if we need to have an "Interplanetary Era" before Era I that would be at a -10% like the universal list that has the really old / original units for the empire. That might make it easier for us to reasonably say that all empires start at Tech Era I but with nothing unlocked. You'd have six unique ships for your race at the lower level before moving into the "first" Era of the game.
That's the reason I think that the default first Era to be researched about has to be labeled Era I so that it's clear that this is where you're starting out. But I'm not sure how clear it really would be. For the sake of the new default rule assumptions, it is pretty clear that you're an empire that just discovered interstellar space travel and all that you would have is your interplanetary holdovers. Those units could be a +0% modifier, I guess, without it causing a lot of troubles.
If we go that route, then we would have Interplanetary (starter) and then Era I - IV, maybe? That would be a total of 36 units in total, compared to the 34 (?) that I think we have on each force list right now. So it would still be comparable. The derelicts and other "ancient" units could then be Era V (+50%) to make them still useful even to the end of the default tech tree. We could then release extended Eras later on to take the default empires out to Era X or something. Part of me thinks that going out that far would be a good idea, anyway, but I also have doubts if anyone would actually ever use them.
I have an additional idea to add to that. Have the classes in each subsequent era be basically refits on a class from the prior era. But, have 1-2 completely new ship classes in each era with some sort of bonus that makes it slightly superior to its contemporary refitted classes. Require a lesser Research-type EP investment to "activate" the new era's individual refits (but the entirely new classes are unlocked when the new era is unlocked). Players must activate X% of the era's ship list to qualify to advance to the next era.
I have a set of Variant rules in the Engineering Manual draft linked in the sticky thread that lets you get some extra life out of existing classes. I think straight class refits end up getting fairly boring. They could definitely work in some contexts, but the amount of graduation between classes isn't enough to differentiate between brand new classes and refits.
That all being said, let's talk about an optional class refit system that we could toss into Engineering Manual. The thesis is that we want to allow players to upgrade an existing unit class to use current tech, but at a resource cost to do so. The troublesome aspect of this is that you'd have to design the new upgrade by hand, because there is no clean "I gained a level, I get X points" option here. But let's say you calculate the new CP total and add the CP to the class (no moving other points around, you just add the new ones). The cost to develop the new class should be based on your tech advancement requirement, probably close to 1/2 or 1/4. So if you have 38 income then it would cost 10-19 economic points. The higher of those two costs sounds more reasonable, to stop with rampant proliferation. We can't use construction cost because, as with the 1E prototyping rules, it makes the cost to unlock new units way too low.
Now, that brings up another issue with allowing these class refits: it directly diminishes the importance of earning new tech advances because you can just effectively buy updated classes at your current tech year rather than having to wait and use a normal tech slot for that. This is a pretty significant problem in actual play, and we saw substantial abuse of the prototyping rules in some of our games to the point that players just create new unit classes on a whim and ignore research because they can completely redesign their empire's force list without any tech investment. I foresee some of the same potential abuse here.
That all being said, let's say we had an Era 0 (Interplanetary) destroyer (4 EP) that we want to upgrade to Era I. We could calculate that the upgrade would be 10% x 8 Base = +1 CP. I could then put this towards a stat and go my happy way. It would just cost me about 1/2 x System Income to do it. That would at least keep these upgrades to a minimum.
Or maybe the cost should be relative to the tech advancement gap between the units? So we could start with a base cost of 1/4 x System Income and then multiply by the Era jump. Going from Era 0 to Era II would then be 2/4 x System Income, jumping from Era 0 to Era III would be 3/4 System Income, etc. That isn't terribly intuitive, and I would welcome a better way of determining the cost to create the upgraded class. The trick is going to be to keep it cheap enough that it's still worth doing, but still expensive enough that there is an actual resource investment.
For example, you must unlock 5 of the 10 Early Years Era ships before being able to unlock the Middle Years Era. When the Middle Years Era is unlocked, then 2 entirely new classes are immediately unlocked, but 6 of tbe 12 Middle Years Era designs must have their Middle Years Refits unlocked before the player can unlock Advanced Era.
Does that make sense? Would it work?
It would in some settings, but I don't think it works as well for sample force lists simply because you'd end up doubling the number of units that would have to be created and populated on the force lists. For a sci-fi setting with a long history and lots of ship classes it makes lots of sense to keep it so that you only need to pick a few of them before advancing to the next era. But if we make the rules be "research 6 classes to unlock the next Era" then we would could build in via a CM note that you could add extra units to a force list in each era, but you'd still need 10 of them to advance to the next level.
The other option of course is to go whole hog and give more choices and then make it so you still only have to research 6 to advance. That would give us more room for niche units, like minesweepers and minelayers. I'm not opposed to that, but it does make the force lists more "cluttered" for lack of a better term. Feature rich, too, but still a bit dense on options
I know I'm a broken record, but tech has been one of the hardest aspect to balance in VBAM. You have to strike a balance between availability and advancement, and make sure that players actually want to invest in tech. It's too easy to end up with a system where there is no meaningful gains from tech investment so you don't do it, or there are other more effective avenues to unlock new unit classes. So far the best balance has been the 1E style "one unit per tech year" plan as that keeps new units appearing just often enough to keep things dynamic and interesting, but not so slow that you don't feel like you're going to get anything of value.
That's part of the reason I added the Variant rules that are over in the EM doc: it keeps players locked to a one-unit-per-advance model, but with the ability to deploy some extra variants to fill some of the mission gaps that their normal force list might have. They won't be as cost effective as purpose-designed ships, but they can get the job done.
I have had some fun games in the past where I could just prototype my own units, but those were in Starmada VBAM games where the research was just unlocking new abilities that I could use in my fleet. VBAM isn't that granular, and trying to handle research so that it unlocks special abilities doesn't work well at all. I know, I've tried that, and you end up having to manage huge long lists of what you have unlocked or not, and then it gets worse if you try to have levels in those abilities (ex: I have Scout Level 2, so I can now build ships with 2 Scout). It becomes a mess of bookkeeping that is tragically unfun.
In that regard, I think having an optional rule that you can just design your own ships rather than use a force list is probably going to fill that void better than anything else. That way you can design what you want, whether it's a completely new design or an upgrade for an existing class.
I guess to end this super long post, one other crazy optional rule: have a Starmada VBAM style macro/micro tech alternative where you have to use macro tech advances to increase your Tech Era but then micro tech advances to unlock new units at your current era. You could even have it work the same as those rules where with the micros you pick/design five different units and have to roll randomly to see what you get. I don't find that particularly appealing to me, but it is another option.
Okay, yet another option: have a fixed force list for each era that you pick units off of, then with the same rule that after you unlock X units at the current era you get to advance to the next era. That eliminates all uniqueness from the empires, but is a way to effectively deliver the much broader slate of units. I don't feel this is a very good option, but it's closer to what you see in many other 4X games where everyone is pretty cookie-cutter with only minor differences.