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Advanced Warship Tutorial
Designing an effective warship in Aurora is a tricky thing. There are many different components and weapons that can be combined to build anything from fast, nimble scout fighters to ponderous, near-invincible battleships. However the large number of effective designs is dwarfed by the enormous number of possible creations that are an ineffective waste of resources. The game itself does only the most rudimentary sanity checking, so it is up to you to make a sensible design. This article aims at helping to design any kind of warship, it is however by no means the only way.
No ship can be good at everything, thus you first have to decide what kind of missions your ship should handle. Is it designed as escort, as scout, as main combatant, carrier, or for light rear area protection? Does it operate close to its home base, or is it designed to project power? Does the ship operate alone, or in a task force, and if yes, with what other ships? Once you know what you want, look at any existing designs you might have, and check if any of them can already fulfill that mission, and if yes, if it is significantly outdated. Retooling and Component Research is not free, so you might be better with building additional ships of older designs.
Once you know the mission, you need to fix the tonnage of the ship. Fighters and FAC's have built in tonnage limits of 500t, 1kt respectively. 5-10kt are usual sizes for escorts or smaller ships. You can pick any size you like and have the yards and maintenance facilities for, but it is important that you set one. You can always make a ship larger, but this easily leads to a size creep as you cram in more and more. When you have your size fixed, decide on what type of weapons and sensors you want to mount to fulfill the intended mission. Keep the number of different systems low, each weapon has different strengths, if you select too many, you end up being mediocre everywhere.
Add a the armor thickness you want from the start. This is easy to forget, and it is annoying to have to redesign your already balanced ship because it still has paper thin armor. This is also the time to set the deployment time. A fighter only needs some days, a system defense craft some months, while a ship designed for missions in other systems should have a decent time it can stay on station. If your ship should incorporate shields, add them as well.
Knowing how heavy your ship will be, you can now decide on how fast your ship should get. If your ship will be operating alone or only with sister ships of the same class, you just need to balance the size of the engines with fuel consumption and the resulting speed, however a ship operating in a fleet is restricted to the slowest vessel. To not waste fuel and space, it is advisable to standardize your fleet to the same speed. This can be done by committing a certain percentage to engines with given power multiplier, for example 20% with 1.2 engine power, resulting in one 8HS engine per 2000t of ship size. If your ship should be jump capable, add the jump drive.
Sensors / Fire Controls
Add now the sensors and fire controls you want on your design. Larger ships will need some redundancy in fire control. To fire on a target, an active sensor contact is needed, it does not need to be on the same ship but, it is still a good idea to include some active capability on larger ships as backup. The active sensor you employ should have more range than your fire controls. Missile Fire Controls should match the range of your missiles, else you either waste fuel or HS for your FCs. Excess MFC range can be useful if you expect enemy ECM and/or improved, longer ranged missiles. Beam Fire Controls are more flexible in range, and lasers often cannot be matched by the range of the Beam Fire Control. However excess range means increased damage over the effective range. Beam Fire Control however should match the tracking speed of the weapon. The minimum of weapon tracking speed, and the rating of the Beam Fire Control is used, so they should be matched for optimal performance.
Engineering & Fuel
Add some more engineering spaces and fuel until the range and maintenance lifetime are higher than what you want in the end, they don't need to be balanced yet, this is simply to hold space free for them.
Now it is time to add weapons. Fill your ship up with weapons and appropriate power plants respectively magazines until you hit your set tonnage. Weapons are the fanciest and most exciting part, but there is a thing as 'too many guns'. Armor, Engineering Spaces, Engines and Fuel are dull, but as important for an effective fighting unit. Hangars can also be added here, they are the 'weapon' of a carrier. If you use hangers, you need to check the 'Keep excess Q' flag, and add additional spare berths for the crew of your parasites. Else the ship suffers from overcrowding, and life support will eventually fail, killing your crew.
Now it is time to balance your design. Your Maintenance lifetime should be larger than your deployment time, which should be larger than your days on max power. There is a value 'Max Repair Cost', which is the amount of MSP needed to fix the single most expensive component, your ship should be able to store more MSP than this value, if you want your ship to be able to repair itself. Also check you have enough power, and look if you are satisfied by the number of missiles you can load. In the ordnance tab (next one to design) you can add a default load out of missiles. Divide the number of missiles by the number of launchers to get your salvo number. Weight the number of Fire Controls against the number of weapon mounts. It is a good idea to check the percentage of space different components take up, to see if your ship is balanced. Try to hit your set goal exactly, you can always tweak a bit and shave off 1 HS or add one. If your ship is larger than a fighter, size is rounded to the next full HS. 'Exact Class Size' shows you the precise size, sometimes you can add some small fuel tanks for redundancy.
Last you can decide on the minimum rank required to command your ship, and set a list of ship names from which your ships will be named. The latter is a matter of convenience, you can also manually name all your ships. Officer rank is important especially in the beginning where you might not have enough senior officers to command your constructions, so you want to lower the rank requirement.
Notes Different Classes: While it sounds very cool to have Destroyers, Light and Heavy Cruisers, Frigates, Battleships, Battlecruisers, Carriers with Bombers and Fighters all together, don't try it. Their functionality will overlap, a few classes are enough.
Notes Fighter: Fighter design is a bit special, as you only have 10 HS to work with, and you might want to use even less, while a single 10cm beam weapon already takes up 3 HS. Together with the weight of the single layer of armor it can be impossible to design an effective fighter early in the game.
Notes Research: By the time the lead ship of the class leaves the yard, you probably will have researched some base tech that would allow some slightly improved version of some component. This is inevitable, don't try to include that, your ship is still okay without it. Wait until the improvements accumulate, and then make a new design, or refit.