Post feature RSS Ship Design Series #13- Ship Scaling

This entry of our ship design series covers how we've scaled spaceships in Lord of Rigel.

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Ships and stations in Lord of Rigel will be scaled to tactical combat’s grid tiles; units will take up 1x1 up to 4x4 tiles; so frigates would take up 1x1 tiles, while bigger ships like Titans would for example take up 3x3 tiles.

However, even though a destroyer and a frigate would both take up a single tile, a destroyer is typically still more than twice the size of a frigate in reality; while frigates are usually around 100m long, destroyers come closer to 250m (of course, this varies depending on species). For this reason I felt it important that the ships still look their sizes; independent of tile sizes, a frigate still needs to look like a small scout ship, while a battleship still needs to look like a giant, impressive vessel of war.

The way to get the real feeling of scale is to make the detail sizes and counts on the ships themselves scaled consistently across all differently sized ship classes. An obvious, and important, scale-sensitive detail is always the ship’s windows; while a frigate might have a few really large windows, giving us the sense that it’s a small ship with only a few decks, a cruiser or a battleship will have rows and rows of tiny windows, giving us a proper sense of scale.

Another scale sensitive detail are escape pods; most species use them, and again, smaller ships will have a few larger looking ones, while on large ships we will have rows of small escape pods lining up the hull. They are actually often the same size, but just look smaller on a bigger ship relative to it’s massive hull proportions. Escape pods aren’t as good a size clue as windows, though, because escape pod sizes can vary more between classes than windows can; while a frigate might use 2 or 3 man escape pods (depending on race the ship belongs to), a battleship might have anything between 4 to 8 man escape pods. Crew complements also vary between races and size classes, and I determine the escape pod sizes and counts based on that.

I made sure that the scale differences between these kinds of details are consistent between ship classes in order to make the ships scales feel right. Some differences between small and large ships have more to do with the ship’s function; a small frigate may be designed to land on planets, and could, again depending on species, have visible landing gear hatches on the lower hull. Similarly, larger ships might have hangar bays, launch tubes or elevators designed to launch and retrieve fighters and auxiliary craft.

Finally, the engine sizes and count can also play a role in making the ship feel a certain size; all of these details come into play when designing ships for Lord of Rigel, so they feel either big or small in tactical combat – all depending on their role and class.

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