Hello everyone and welcome to another Stellaris development diary. This is the second in a multi-part dev diary about the 'Heinlein' 1.3 patch that we are currently working on. This week's dev diary will be focusing on a series of changes made to ship design and fleets that we call the Fleet Combat Overhaul.
One frequent critique of the ship types in Stellaris is that they don't really have roles - besides corvettes being unable to mount large weapons, there is basically no difference in what type of weapons can be mounted on what type of hull, meaning that there is no actual reason to use a proper mix of ship types - often the best strategy is just to find a single effective design (such as all-corvette fleets on release version or the currently popular destroyer tachyon lance fleet.). To address this we sat down and thought about what the roles of each type of ship should be, and came out with the following:
Corvettes are fast, agile ships that excel in taking out capital ships at close range.
Destroyers are screens for your capital ships that excel in taking down corvettes and countering missiles and strike craft.
Cruisers are close-range capital ship brawlers that tank enemy fire and engage enemy destroyers and capital ships.
Battleships are artillery and carrier ships that provide long-range fire support.
Somewhat simplistically, you could say that corvettes are good against cruisers and battleships, destroyers are good against corvettes and strike craft, cruisers are good against destroyers/cruisers/battleships (depending on how they are designed) and battleships are good against cruisers, other battleships and fixed installations. This change should give each ship a clear purpose, while allowing for some flexibility within by purpose through the ship designer (for example, cruisers can either be tough battleship killers or fast attack ships that clear the way for your corvettes depending on design). It's worth noting that designs may not start with a dedicated role like this - at the very start, corvettes not have torpedoes and destroyers will lack the targeting that makes them such effective corvette killers. Their roles instead come fully into play as technology advances and capital ships enter the stage.
In order to make this specialization possible, we have made a few changes to ship design. First of all, we have added three new weapon slot types:
Torpedo slots mount Torpedo and Energy Torpedo weapons, which are short range extreme damage weapons meant to take down capital ships. They can only be used by corvettes and cruisers.
Point Defense slots mount point defense cannons, which is the primary defense against missiles, torpedoes and fighter craft. Destroyers can be designed to field large amounts of point defense weapons.
Extra Large slots mount massive long-range weapons that can only fire in a fixed arc ahead, such as Tachyon Lances, Arc Emitters and Mega Cannons. These can only be mounted on battleships and take up the whole bow section.
We've also tweaked ship modules and retired a couple of modules that we feel did not fit the new design, so that it is no longer possible to make a 'corvette killer' battleship with huge amounts of small weapons, for example. While there realistically is no reason you couldn't mount small weapons on a battleship, going with a realism angle would simply put us right back where we are now, so we chose to sacrifice some realism for what we feel is better gameplay.
Utility Slot Rework
Another area we felt sorely needed some attention is the utility slots - right now there is often little meaningful choice, with the best strategy usually being to stack either armor or shields depending on ship size, enemy weapons and tech level. Most of the special utilities, such as shield capacitors or regenerative hull, are either woefully underpowered or extremely overpowered. To address these issues, we've made the following changes:
The amount of damage reduction provided by armor now depends on the size of the ship, so a single piece of armor will do more for a corvette than for a battleship. This should make armor useful even for smaller ships.
The 'special' utilities (crystalline hull plating, shield capacitor, etc) will use their own slot type that is limited by hull size, and so will only have to be balanced against each other instead of having to also be balanced against shields and armor.
A new utility type, afterburners, provides additional combat speed, allowing you to design ships that can closely quickly with your opponents.
Misc Changes and Notes
As part of these changes we're looking over the balance of every weapon in the game, especially strike craft, point defense and creature weapons.
Combat computers will be changed from being universal to being based on ship type, so corvettes have specific corvette computers that focus on boosting evasion, while destroyers have computers that impove targeting, allowing them to keep up with corvette evasion better than other ship types.
We're changing emergency FTL so that it sets the fleet as MIA, meaning that fleets that successfully escape combat will always be able to flee to friendly space rather than getting stuck and ping-ponged to death. To compensate, we're making it so every ship (no matter how undamaged) has a chance to be lost when you use emergency FTL, so it's always a risky maneuver.
We're looking into creating a special class of flagships that are limited in number by your fleet size, and are the only ones able to use auras, instead of all-aura battleship fleets.
We're looking at balancing the different FTL types and making it less hard to catch enemy fleets. Some of our current ideas is having fleet speed depend on how far away you are from friendly space (and thus resupply) and boosting the speed of warp.
We're looking into fleet formations and some basic orders during combat (priority targeting, etc). At minimum the basic fleet formation will be changed to be more sensible (no more suicide corvette leading the charge).
Note that the changes listed in this DD are not fully done, so some of them may not show up in below screenshots.
That's all for this week! Next week we'll talking about yet more features and changes coming in Heinlein.