In one of our very first product brainstorming, we discussed what will be the first milestone for Starwards. We agreed that we want to have a fully working dogfight between two ships. This decision brought up a dilemma: are we going to have a “fighter” ship class in our game?
Why we want fighters
Fast and highly maneuverable single-seated fighters are probably the most iconic spacecraft. You can find them in almost any type of Sci-Fi representation.
Space fighters are a great way to introduce high paced and exciting combat – from classic dogfight combat to squadrons fight versus capital ships and up to reconnaissance missions.
From a LARP perspective, using fighters will easily allow us to add single-seat stations to our game, providing the ability to increase the number of players (and ships!) without the need to add more bridges.
Fighters can easily turn into unmanned “Drones” which is also a solution for different activities on the ship.
What is the issue with fighters
As you read and most certainly will read many times in this dev blog, Starwards is a low/hard Sci-Fi game. This means using practical technology and real, current physics. Within such a setting, there are some significant questions to be asked when considering the justification of human-operated space fighters. As we strive to create a world with coherent internal reasoning, justification is a big deal for us.
The human body requires particular conditions to operate, which is hard to come by in space: pressure, oxygen, temperature, and more. A human-operated spacecraft will need to be able to sustain its human pilot. This means that important space will need to be allocated for these systems, not to mention the area to house the pilot itself. Additionally, the pilot has limitations, such as reaction time, effects of g-force (e.g. G-LOC), mental and physical conditions, and more.
All the limitations mentioned above will be justified if the human-operated fighter is fulfilling a required role on the battlefield. But then we need to think about what this kind of fighter could achieve in an environment that has realistic weapon systems like we want to design.
In our plans, one of the main weapon systems for long-range engagement is the torpedo, a smart missile that can seek its target with high speed and maneuverability. Ships will have few ways to deal with this threat when using the ship’s close-range cannons (Chainguns) to intercept the missiles is one of them.
When comparing the fighter and the torpedo, we can find that they are pretty similar - both are depending on the small size and high speed and maneuverability to get close to thier target and damage it. However, the torpedo is not suffering from any of the limitations of the fighter. It can be smaller, fly faster, and conduct maneuvers that will cause a human pilot to lose consciousness.
Now, if ships can intercept the upcoming torpedos with the short-range weaponry, it puts the space fighters in a very problematic situation. What prevents the same system from shredding the slower and limited fighter when approaching its target?
The YouTube channel “First-Pass” addressed that subject perfectly in his explanation of why there are no space fighters in the world of the “Expanse” (one of our main influences):
This issue puts in question the space fighter’s role; yes, it might have a justification as an orbital defense force, but not necessarily in full-scale space warfare.
After giving it a deep thought, we have decided that even though we strive to deliver a “Hard Sci-Fi” experience, we need firstly to promote features that we believe will contribute to the LARP experience.
As the main reason for the inability of space fighters to perform in settings like the “Expanse” is the weapon systems, it means that we need to make sure that we design a combat environment that will justify the existence of space fighters. If we can do that without sacrificing too much of the realism, we could present a good compromise between fun, the needs for LARP, and the settings we are striving for.