I'm trying to finalize how space combat works, and how ships should work in terms of design and functionality. I would like to hear your feedback on those ideas.
The goal is to have a turn-based combat, and yet have a fair combat. With that in mind, I'm thinking of changing how ships are designed.
First of all, I'm thinking of changing the system so it's components based. This means you can add more than one engine, for increased speed (there are two types of engines, interstellar and sublight engines), or layer on armor for a heavily armored ship designed for ramming other ships (yes, you can kamikaze your ships!)
I don't really like the idea of issuing commands, then having everyone move at the same time, for many reasons. I want the classic MoO 1/2 space combat feel where one ship move at a time. Now that the game is designed for fewer ships, I think I should go with that approach, instead of everybody moving at once. However, how to make it balanced, so the first player don't have too much of an advantage?
While thinking about that problem, I think I've hit on a solution. For those who've played X-Com, you may find this familiar. Each ship would be powered by reactors that provide power output. The more reactors you have, the more power you have available per turn. Each ship will have 100% power per turn, and each action will consume a certain amount of power, based on the power required, and the available power. Also, your ship will have time constraints. All ships will have the same amount of TU (Time Unit) unless you have technology that gives you more time.
For example, let's say a scout ship have a power reactor that provides 200 PU (power units), and an engine that will consume 20 PU per movement. It also have a laser cannon that consumes 50 PU. In combat, the player will see that moving a ship will cost 10% power per tile moved, and firing the laser cannon will cost 25% PU. So you can either move the ship 10 tiles (or less, depending on if it was diagonal or not), fire the laser cannon four times, or a combination of both.
Now if that same scout upgrades its reactor so it provides 400 PU. The scout now can fire the laser cannon 8 times, or move up to 20 tiles, based on its power output.
However, there will also be a time constraint. Firing a laser cannon (since it need to recharge and cool down) will take up maybe 30 TU? Then it can only fire three times per turn, regardless of the 200 or 400 PU reactors.
The engine moves at the same speed, let's say 20 TU, for either reactor. However, if the scout have a second engine component, the movement time cost will be halved to 10 TU, but has the twice PU requirement. So with 200 PU reactor, and two engines, it would cost 20 PU for each engine, but halve the TU to 10. However, the ship would still move up to 5 tiles, because the power will be exhausted, instead of time running out. If you replace the reactor with an upgraded one, providing 400 PU, then you can move up to 10 tiles in the same turn. Or you could move 5 tiles, leaving 200 PU and 50 TU for the laser to fire once.
The above numbers are an example only, and subject to balance. I really like this idea, because instead of cramming 30+ plasma cannons on a ship, and having all of them fire at once against the hapless victim, you have to balance the time/power usage. So if you have an ultra-powerful planet-destroying weapon that consumes say, 50,000 PU, and your ship only provides 10,000 PU per turn, you'll have to charge it up to 50,000 first, so every 5th turn you can fire it. Or you could move a bit, then charge it with the remaining power. You can pack a bunch of different weapons (no need for multiple weapons of the same type, unless you're guarding against component damage in combat) that have varying time/power consumption. So if you see a bunch of missiles, you can use your point-defense laser cannon with its low power/time usage to take them out. Or you can focus on using the big weapons against big ships.
Certain weapons will have ammo limits (particles and missiles), those weapons usually have very low power usage because they use ammo instead of power for the weapons. Shields can be recharged using PU, or left alone. Repairing using auto-repair will consume power as well. So you'll have to plan on how to allocate your PU and TU, or your ships are doomed.
There's also one other thing that you will need to consider. Each weapon have an accuracy stat and range limitations, so you'll have to consider those as well when firing. For example, a laser dissipates after 5 tiles, and have accuracy of 80%. You could fire it at any tile (similar to X-Com), but it won't be guaranteed that it will hit that tile. You may end up hitting your own or an ally's ship!
So with the above rules, the start of battle will mostly consist of ships getting into firing range, so the first player don't have too much of an advantage. I think this solution will be the best for my game. I welcome your feedback on this.