Loose Lips Sink Ships!
In this update we are taking a detour to talk about the game economy, cargo and what makes cargo ships stand out. As a side-note we recently hit an important milestone: the art direction and art tests for the ship interiors has been finalized. More on this in update #42 which should be out in a couple of weeks so let's start with the game economy.
In The Mandate the primary focus is not to build a monopoly or become a successful business tycoon. While you may dabble in this, remember that you are a spaceship captain first and foremost. It naturally follows that your focus will be on expanding and supporting your own war efforts. To do this you must establish resource extraction and production centers and set up trade convoys between these. However, once set up by you, these trade convoys will run by themselves. They may require protection, either from enemy factions or pesky pirates.
There will be both short term (gain/loss of resources) and long term (faction strength, diplomatic relations, availability of goods) consequences depending on how well you defend your own trade convoys and intercept those of your enemies. Again, we are not aiming for a full economic simulation but something that gives a clear cause and effect. Your (in)action(s) will resonate throughout the game world/sandbox.
Specifically when it comes to trade convoys we are taking inspiration from World War 2 and the war in the Atlantic. The trade convoys will contain a number of cargo ships and also escort warships whose job it is to ensure the trade convoy arrives safely at its destination. If you decide to hoist the Jolly Roger yourself, you will probably be targeting trade convoys and we expect there to be a bit of "cat and mouse" gameplay where a pirate player will attempt to sneak up on the cargo ships while avoiding or distracting the escorts. Just like pirates in the 16th and 17th century would have done, you may force cargo ships to surrender or drop their cargo which you can then use/trade for your own benefit.
So what types of cargo exists and what can you use them for? We have not finalized the list of cargo/resource types, but they will be used for research as well as crafting and constructing ships, consoles and infantry weapons. Some resources may be needed to recruit personnel (manpower) and we are also discussing whether to have strategic resources (which you unlock by controlling a resource node similar to in Civilization). Below you can see a quick brainstorm of different cargo types that are mounted on pallets. Some of these (but not all) may make it into the game, but again it is just brainstorming for now.
How is cargo stored? Cargo can either be stored inside your cargo hold as pallets or a number of pallets can fit inside a dedicated cargo container. We actually spent quite a bit of time looking into euro-pallets, container sizes etc to work out a scale for containers that sorta make sense. The cargo hold will be a physical room inside your ship where boarding operations may also take place. Below you can see a brainstorming concept for the contents of the cargo hold. Keep in mind that the procedural ammo track as well as visual representation of captured ship weapons will not be visualized in the cargo hold but was more for brainstorming purposes.
Typically a warship would have only a limited cargo hold and carry pallets whereas a dedicated cargo freighter could carry additional cargo inside cargo containers. Below you can see a few examples of cargo containers. The names and decals are just for brainstorming and not part of official lore.
You may be wondering whether cargo freighters are distinct from warships and you would be correct. We have previously talked about how our ships used a three-part design philosophy, with a front, middle and aft section. This applies to warships but NOT to cargo freighters. But before we discuss cargo freighters in detail lets take a step back and talk about our goals with the cargo freighters.
In many sci-fi settings, a cargo ship may have a bulky shape to imply internal cargo holds but is otherwise difficult to distinguish from a ship that focuses on, say, exploration or combat. For The Mandate we decided to go with something that would make the cargo feel tactile and not just a stat in a GUI window. At the same time we wanted something that was familiar and recognizable.
It made sense to mimic present day shipping containers which employ a twist lock system to stack multiple containers vertically on top of each other for transport. The containers themselves have a universal size and we did quite a bit of research on the scale and dimensions.
We think this approach makes sense in space as well, as it would simplify the loading and offloading of cargo containers. From a gameplay perspective a nice bonus is that we can "release" these cargo containers into space if a cargo ship were to be threatened and/or blown up (and allow you to retrieve said cargo containers afterwards).
So what is a cargo freighter and how does it break with the rules for warships? Like warships the cargo ships must have a front and aft section, but unlike warships the cargo freighter can have more than one midsection. This allows us to chain multiple mid sections and create really long cargo freighters. These will feel both vulnerable and can carry a lot of valuables (which is both good and bad!).
All factions will make use of cargo freighters and sometimes trade between factions may also take place. There will be different types of star bases that focus on either military, trade, science or diplomacy. Can you guess what the star base below focuses on?
Hopefully this update has given you a better overview of how we are thinking in terms of the game economy, trade goods and cargo ships. We have not covered fleet auxiliary ships in this update but they are a separate class of ships which focus on troop transport, hospital facilities and tender/refueling tasks. Finally, keep in mind that while the in-game economy will allow you to more effectively focus on expanding and supporting your own war efforts with the trade of resources, The Mandate is not a trade sim or economic simulator.
Your friends at Perihelion Interactive