Talking about Airships back in 2012

Airships: Conquer the Skies
29 Sep 2015, 5:10 p.m.

Way back in 2012, I had a chat conversation with my friend David where we hashed out what was to become Airships: Conquer the Skies.

Zarkonnen Oh, I had a vaguely entertaining idea for a steampunk game.
David Oh?
Zarkonnen Basically, a side-view light strategy game wherein you build steam-driven antigravity ship out of components and then have them fight against others.

So it's your contraptions vs the contraptions of whatever random people you're fighting with. Tied together with a very simple resource-gathering type game.

So you start out with one location and can send your ships out to blow up others.

And along the way figure out good ways of configuring yours.

That's about it.

(Basically, FTL, but with no fine control over your men, a ship editor, and Not In Space.)
David It sounds interesting

So you'd basically travel around in your ship grafting new things on to it? What would be the goal?
Zarkonnen World Conquest?
David (I approve of the no fine crew management by the way. That was the bit I hated the most about FTL)
Zarkonnen Yeah.
David So you're building more than one ship?
Zarkonnen Yeah. You'd probably start out with having one ship, and then branch out.

The more places you conquer, the more manpower you have for your fleet, and the more options you get for putting things into your ships.

Not sure how much control you get over the actions of each ship.

I'm thinking you can possibly tell them to move to X or to concentrate fire on Y.

But the fights are also pretty slow-paced.

And one fun thing would be that the ships don't really do critical hit point failure. The closest that can happen is that they fall out of the sky eventually.

So you might even order your battleship to please go over there so when it crashes it crashes onto that defensive tower.

So if you fail horribly at least your ships make pretty fireworks!
David Heh

It sounds fun

Have you read any of the magic the gathering novelizations? There's a surprisingly good one called "The Brother's War", which is basically about a whole bunch of artificers building stuff and fighting each other. For some reason this sort of reminds me of it.
Zarkonnen That seems appropriate.
David one of the interesting things about it is that archaeology is an important feature of the modern military industrial complex :-)
Zarkonnen Now to be fair, incorporating dragons or sth would be awesome.
David Yeah

So what are you imagining would be the game play? You'd create designs for ships, you could set locations building those, those ships would wander around semi-directed and take new territory for you?
Zarkonnen So in the overworld you'd basically have a map of locations & travelling fleets. You can create ship designs and have them built at locations, then select whichever ships you want and send them to other locations.

Once a fleet arrives at a location it goes into combat mode.
David Ah, so it's explicitly fleet based.
Zarkonnen Yeah
David That's a good idea.

Oh. I've just realised there's a way more obvious analogous work of fiction than brother's war

Girl Genius :-)
Zarkonnen Yeah :D

But specifically with airships.

(Just to make the game doably scaled.)

It'd probably steal some pages from MOO 2 and put in a ship limit based on how much "administration points" you have.)

So you can't make 500 ships and drive yourself nuts.

(The in-world explanation for it all being airships is probably that antigravity tech is ubiquitous and powerful, so why not make your armies fly?)
David Hm

How about having trusted fleet commanders

So you need to assign a commander to a fleet

And you can only produce commanders at such a rate
Zarkonnen Yeah, that'd be reasonable too.
David (and how large a fleet a commander can handle is dependent on their experience maybe)
Zarkonnen (yeah)
David I like it as a concept.

what would the build mechanism be? Would you need specific resources or just build points?
Zarkonnen I think the primary resource would just be money.

Some locations would have shipyards that let you build X amount of ship per time. Some locations would enable you to build certain things.

Or give you other boni, like, crew that's extra-good at in-flight repairs.
David Hm. Having crew be a first class resource you need would be interesting
Zarkonnen Each location you hold gives you X money/time. Each ship or player-built structure you maintain costs X money/time.
David Because it would give you an incentive to retire old ships

And allows you to have crew of variable quality like that
Zarkonnen Yeah. I think it should track crew experience.

And actually that may be one/the way to get more commanders too.
David Yeah, but I was also thinking that e.g. you can't build ships faster than you can crew them, so you need to either train or repurpose crew from other ships

Yeah, that's a good idea
Zarkonnen (Purely as a single experience value that boosts their ability, mind you.)

I guess you could also have fun with different locations giving ships modifiers.

So eg one place could make these amazing gilt-encrusted beauties that motivate the crew but are bloody expensive.

And another could make cheap ships whose armour tends to fall off and the first mild bump. :P
David Yeah, I like that.

You'd probably also want to be able to hire mercenaries as a way of exchanging money for crew. Otherwise it sucks when your last commander dies

Of course mercenaries are not the most loyal of people :-)
Zarkonnen Yeah, absolutely.

Potentially also allow mechanically simple mercenary actions such as hiring assassins to kill enemy commanders, privateers to disrupt their income, saboteurs to disable their defences, or magicians to do all kinds of horrid stuff.

So if needed, you can wear down a place before attacking it.
David Yeah

I like this idea :-)
Zarkonnen (Oh NB, the airships would not be bloody zeppelins. :P)
David Heh

Ornithopters? :-)
Zarkonnen Just metal hulks held aloft by fictional tech.

So there has to be no calculating about whether the shape "makes sense".

It can just "make sense" tactically.

And yeah, the main types of things you can get are something like: guns, ammo depots, antigrav emitters, propellers, steam engines, coal depots, bridge(s), walkways, repair shops, sickbays, fire control systems.

All arranged in a fairly coarse grid, on top of which is a 2nd grid where you can say how much armour you want if any.
David So you can armour different areas of the ship differently?
Zarkonnen Yeah. It'll probably have a bunch of buttons where you can just slap on armour class X onto the whole thing.

But you can go in there and choose.

Like, you may want to uparmour the ammunition depot a bit. So it doesn't explode and take out the ship.

(Learning where to put the armour being part of the process of learning the game, of course.)

But all of the boring details about how power is routed and so on are abstracted.
David presumably there will be some lift number that's a function of what you install that determines the maximum weight?
Zarkonnen Yeah. The three things that must balance for the ship to work are: power from the engines, lift from the antigrav, and bridge crew to control the whole shebang.

Oh, and you'll probably want some way of forward propulsion. :P
David Yeah

And of course it's not just a matter of having forward propulsion > weight, as that still affects your maneuverbaility
Zarkonnen So I'm imagining the designer will have the ship in the center, three indicators of power/lift/bridge crew, a toolbox of modules on the left, and the armour controls in some corner.

You can have arbitrarily crap fwd propulsion as long as you don't mind 1. your fleets taking forever to move a -> b, 2. your ships being unable to reposition tactically, 3. being somewhat easier to hit.

But there'll probably be a fairly low speed limit, either naturally, or due to a hard constraint.

So you have the ships that slowly reposition, and the ships that can actually reposition around them. But nothing zips around. Really fast ships at best move at, I dunno, 250 px/sec?
David Hm. The relationship between forward propulsion and top speed isn't necessarily as obvious as all that

You can have comparatively crap maneuverability and still be high speed

It's all about the aerodynamics
Zarkonnen Yeah, tho I think they're all too slow to care about aerodynamics.

David I guess top speed is a function of your engine independently of acceleration?
Zarkonnen So you have horizontal speed (propellers), lift speed (antigrav surplus), sink speed (antigrav surplus, potentially with the option for some deeply hazardous "emergency bail").

Well, science says it's the square root of the engine power, I think.

As air resistance starts to cut in.

But yeah. It might be better to just ignore science a bit there. :D
David Well, square root of the engine thrust.. Which isn't the same as power.

Certainly you don't want to be doing detailed aerodynamics calculations :-p
Zarkonnen Yikes no.
David But it can't hurt to at least think about when bodging the numbers
Zarkonnen I guess it could do a very crap aerodynamicity calculation based on the degree of crenellation/flatness of the front.

Worth playing with.

The main potential for fun expanding I can think of is boarding actions, etc.

And what exactly happens when your ships hit the ground.

It would be very cool if you ended up with some grounded battleship still firing away at aerial targets, while it disgorges troops that try to murder the people who are manning the ground-based guns.
David And maybe interesting non combat ways of interacting with other ship wielding warlords
Zarkonnen Also "hilarious" consequences of having to first rebuild the town you just crashed the HMS Humungous onto before you can use its resources. :P
David Heh. Yes. Can towns revolt or do they just meekly accept your rule?
Zarkonnen Hm. No idea. Potentially, they revolt if you fail to station troops there and/or if you're seen as particularly horrible.

(New research project: Soul energy as alternate fuel source. Pursue? Y/N)
David (Y)

(mua. ha. ha)
Zarkonnen Tech-wise, I guess it's one of Flash, Unity and HTML5, in order of increasing trendiness. :)
David Depends how interactive you want to make it, really
Zarkonnen Well, you do want to have pretty battles in which you can give some general commands.
David Could do it as basically a story board

You could also do it multiplayer but not web based I guess
Zarkonnen Yeah
David Or you could totes do it as a Java applet

That's still cool, right?
Zarkonnen It worked for Notch?

David Did he use an applet? I thought it was stand alone
Zarkonnen At the beginning.

Like in the year dot. :P

But yeah.