Procgen Flag-Ship

By Paul Spooner Posted Tuesday Jul 23, 2019

Filed under: Programming 42 comments

You may have noticed that the same vessel has been showing up a lot in the past few articles. This isn’t because I’m lazy. Well, no, that’s not true. It isn’t entirely because I’m lazy. It’s also because I spent months developing this particular vessel some years backThe Fall of 2012, and it would be a waste to not use it to demonstrate some of the principles I’m talking about, and improve the design, all at the same time!

I’ve been calling it the “Tramp Destroyer” because, hmm, where to start.

Visual Inspiration

I saw a piece of barkfrom a pine tree, I think lying on the ground and thought to myself “that looks an awful lot like a spaceship.”I never properly captured the layers. I’ll have to try again some time
So I picked it up and took it home and did some sketches.

There! No more starfields! You happy Jeff?
There! No more starfields! You happy Jeff?

Well, not “sketches”. Just the one sketch. Look, I was eager to get started 3-d modeling! So that’s what I did.

3D Layout

I started with the projected views I had sketched out, and made a rough surface model.

Very rough. Very... surface?
Very rough. Very... surface?

And then modeled the armor plates over the top of the surface.
Perfect! It's done. Time to move to the next design.
Perfect! It's done. Time to move to the next design.

And then roughed out the internals.
Colors! Horay!
Colors! Horay!

You can see a few more of the work-in-progress renders here but what I’m going to be talking about here is the finished result.


Here's the full six-view layout that corresponds to the sketch.
Here's the full six-view layout that corresponds to the sketch.

Throughout the images, the color code is as follows:

Grey: Armor (light), drive (dark), and structural.
Orange: Coolant and heat management systems.
Yellow: Power
Green: Crew
Teal: Data and sensors
Blue: Immune (robots)
Purple: Storage and cargo
Red: Weaponry

This, right here, is exactly why we have a hull. No one wants to look at this mess!
This, right here, is exactly why we have a hull. No one wants to look at this mess!

Since we seem to have all day, I’m going to go through the systems, explaining what I had in mind when I was modeling the vessel, along with a manifest of the various systems. They are loosely based on vehicle systems, with a few inspirations taken from the human body (the immune system being the main one). I had always intended to go back and detail model all of the components, but as you can see, I haven’t really gotten around to it. Anyway, let’s begin with the most obvious of the systems.

Colors all gone. The spherical bits are reaction-mass storage tanks.
Colors all gone. The spherical bits are reaction-mass storage tanks.

Armor

I had intended this to be a multi-layer composite material, and the primary structural member. It is composed of highly reflective layers to deflect radiant energy, high density layers to absorb kinetic impact, high strength, rigidity, and toughness layers to distribute forces, sensor layers for damage feedback and strain analysis + distributed electromagnetic sensing, and active force layers. The last would draws power to hold the hull together during heavy maneuver or impact. It might also emit a weak “tractor beam” like effect to make the hull “sticky” for camouflage, (holding bits of local material to the hull), or for hauling large cargo. The hull also acts as thermal bulk, and is connected to the coolant system.

1 primary hull (5m thick)
1 secondary hull (3m thick)

Drive

The engines are, like with most “space ship” designs which attempt to make sense, where most of the magic ends up. These are “short range” bi-polar Anti-graviton emitters, basically a very powerful and precise tractor beam. They use reaction mass for extra thrust, or where ambient matter is scarse. Since they are connected to the reaction mass system, they can draw in environmental media to replenish reaction mass stores. They also function as “force ports” (see below).

21 Main drive ports
11 reaction mass storage tanks

Force Ports: Same as the drive ports, but not connected to the reaction-mass system Even so, they can use the interstellar medium for low-impulse drive situations.or large bodies, such as planets, for high-impulse kicks They also work to deflect projectiles into the armor, or away from the ship entirely. They can also be used to de-columate particle beam weapons. And of course they can manipulate material within the effector range, especially immune system units. A quirk of this “graviton drive” design is that the whole vessel can be effected uniformly for non-inertial acceleration. This allows kilo-gee manuvers without pulping the crew.

13 force ports

Hmm. Electricity is yellow, right?
Hmm. Electricity is yellow, right?

Power

The power system is a set of darkmatter reactors, that use magnetic coupling lines for power transmission.okay, I hid some magic in the power source too.

2 primary octant reactors
5 secondary tetrant reactors
15 darkmatter fuel tanks
96 nodes (junctions) power distribution net

Bang! Bang bang!
Bang! Bang bang!

Weapons

I wanted the weapon systems to be somewhat realistic,Unlike the power and drive apparently so I based it around a particle accelerator ring. It can fire antimatter streams, with the path pre-cleared of conventional matter and guided by the laser array (primary port only). It can also fire conventional matter in the form of dumb mass projectiles, reaction mass streams, self guiding missiles with various payloads.including immune-system robots

1 three stage accelerator ring, with
1 primary emission point
3 secondary emission points

There are also lasers, because you’ve got to have lasers! They are used for target painting, sensor illumination, direct thermal damage, blinding enemy sensors, and powering active projectiles.and remote bots

5 Lasers, around primary emission accelerator port
2 Lasers, rear facing

Beep Boop.
Beep Boop.

Sensors and Smarts

Primary and secondary sensor domes with radar and telescopes and stuff. As mentioned above, there are also sensors embedded in the armor. Finally, there are sensors to monitor all internal systems.

3 primary sensor domes
7 secondary sensor domes

The Data System has a primary bi-lobe core, and distributed secondary bi-lobe cores. They are tightly linked via hard-line to fire control, reactors, sensors, and force ports, all of which are connected to both the primary core and at least one secondary core. Each reactor has a data core controlling it exclusively. Most sensors, engines, and force ports have at least one other secondary controlling data core. All secondary cores have bypass lines, forming a network independent of the primary core.

1 primary core
6 secondary cores

Wait, this giant beautiful machine is riddled with humans? Gross.
Wait, this giant beautiful machine is riddled with humans? Gross.

Crew

The crew of ~500 consists of Officers, Engineers, Medical, Technicians, Pilots, Soldiers, and Mission Specialists. The Max capacity is ~1400.unless you convert the cargo bays

There are primary and secondary hanger bays front and rear respectively. In addition to the hangers, there are 4 docking tubes distributed throughout the vessel. 76 airlocks both partition the corridors, and allow for convenient egress.

The Fab Bay is on the starboard side, amidships, and can hold one entire drive unit for field overhauls. Engineering is a three story structure adjoining an auxiliary core, aux sensors, and the fab bay. An Arboretum in the prow of the vessel stores biomass, and affords recreation and a view of the forward firing arc. There is also an Observation Deck beneath dorsal sensor dome.

Quarters consist of 5 hab spheres, which house approx 200 crew each, also with viewing windows.
10 all purpose life support units
18 backup life support units

Control Centers are one each Main and Auxiliary, fore and aft respectively.
The Mess hall, has windows to Arboretum, and adjoins the food storage and preparation zones.
A dedicated recreation and fitness center is also connected to Arboretum. The Medical bay is centrally located in the crew area.

In the event of an emergency all five crew quarters double as lifeboats (capacity of 500 each). Some redundancy is provided by 11 dedicated escape pods (capacity of 50 each).

Immune

The “Immune system” is a network of interchangable robots for Security, Fire, Repair, Emergency response, rapid transit.yes, I ran out of capital letters The Primary immune center stores spare parts and automated assembly for immune unit maintenance. It can also perform in-depth tests for immune unit validation. 35 Immune Nodes store and exchange immune modules, allowing immune units to quickly switch operating modes without a full refit. 37 Immune Magazines, holding up to 10 immune units each, afford quick deployment of immune units to locations remote from the immune center and nodes. Immune nodes can accept new immune units. The rear unit between the munitions magazinesimmune center 24 is the normal entry point.

The autonomous robotic immune system is an aspect which I haven’t seen explored elsewherelet me know in the comments where you’ve heard of it if I missed it except as a distopian horror of machines gone awry. I feel like it would open up an interesting vista of unexplored science fiction.

We still need to get rid of waste heat in this fictional setting? Gross.
We still need to get rid of waste heat in this fictional setting? Gross.

Coolant System

32 Coolant tanks: Store and route coolant
15 Coolant Nodes: Route coolant and act as junctions
28 Coolant Patches: radiate excess heat (engines can also dump heat into reaction mass)

Big boxes, for storing smaller boxes.
Big boxes, for storing smaller boxes.

Storage

4 small cargo bays, 11 x 11 x 6.8
17 medium cargo bays, 17.8 x 11 x 6.8
1 large cargo bay, 35.6 x 28.8 x 11
The large cargo bay is adjacent to an armored cargo hatch.

All that other stuff.
All that other stuff.

Infrastructure

I put an Equipment Corridor running from the primary hanger to the fab bay. There is also another Equipment Corridor linking the Fab Bay, Munitions, Reactors, and Primary Immune Center.

4 landing legs and the lower structural hull are used to support vessel during landing operations. The low-gain force layer in the armor also helps to support the vessel, when landed on deformable surfaces.

Fictional History

While I was working out the details of the vessel, I was thinking about how it got to be the way it was, and what might happen to it later. Here’s the outline of the Tramp Destroyer narrative I came up with.

OMT (Orbital Materials Technology) Locates scrap 3m thick reactive hull.an offcast from a much larger vessel fabrication
Initial vessel built for TVS (Trans Vesta Systems), vessel named “Shaving”
Second hull (5m thick) located by GW (Gravity Well), sold to OMT
OMT expands vessel under contract for TVS, vessel renamed “Tramp”
TVS withholds payment, OMT loans vessel to GW
GW extorts payment from TVS, destroying minor property
OMT reclaims vessel, recieves payment from GW, surrendurs vessel to TVS
TVS refits internals (Tramp Destroyer, as shown), threatens GW
Vessel stranded after being disabled by GW coverts
GW arrives with aid vessels, TVS refuses aid.
Empire arrives, investigation awards majority stake to GW.
GW purchases remaining interest from TVS.
GW breaks vessel, reuses majority including the 5m hull in an outpost “Stunning Refusal”
GW sells 3m hull to the vessel AI
AI builds vessel in non-military configuration. Vessel named “Splinter”

Quirks

Finally, I’ll close out this description with a list of oddities about the design. Thanks for reading, and I hope to be back to making new stuff next week!

There is an orphaned thermal panel aft of Crew Quarters 3. It is hooked to power, but not to coolant.
Sec. Data Core 0 runs sec. reactor 3 with data lines threaded through the main cannon array.
Sec. Data core 1 Runs three sec. generators and two sec. sensor nodes. It feels overloaded.
Engines 1 and 2 have interfering thermal panels (30cm), and need special modifications.
The immune node in the center of the accelerator loses power when it is firing.
Dorsal Port sector should have a sec. data core, but it was never installed.
Power and data for Primary Dorsal Sensors run through the observation deck.
Three storage bays are only accessible via the immune system.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The Fall of 2012

[2] from a pine tree, I think

[3] I never properly captured the layers. I’ll have to try again some time

[4] or large bodies, such as planets, for high-impulse kicks

[5] okay, I hid some magic in the power source too.

[6] Unlike the power and drive apparently

[7] including immune-system robots

[8] and remote bots

[9] unless you convert the cargo bays

[10] yes, I ran out of capital letters

[11] immune center 24

[12] let me know in the comments where you’ve heard of it if I missed it

[13] an offcast from a much larger vessel fabrication



From The Archives:
 

42 thoughts on “Procgen Flag-Ship

  1. I wanted the weapon systems to be somewhat realistic,[6] so I based it around a particle accelerator ring. It can fire antimatter streams, with the path pre-cleared of conventional matter and guided by the laser array (primary port only).

    If you’d like a smidge more realism, you can drop the “pre-cleared of conventional matter” part. I once looked up the interstellar density for another sort of drive I was noodling around with, and it’s on the order of one hydrogen atom per cubic meter, IIRC. Even in the inner system where the Sun is spewing a lot of junk around, it’s not high enough to worry about. You can just shoot your antimatter stream right through it no problem. It’s negligible, by several orders of magnitude.

    (I had a drive that works by advancing you forward until it hit something, at which point it would then go again; rate of travel was determined by the areal cross-section of the field, the density of the medium it was moving through, and how quickly it could advance to the next cycle of teleporting forward. I had this visual image of traveling through space and having a visible aura in front of the space ship as all the interstellar gas was gathered up by the ship. I was also going for relatively high degrees of realism other than the drive. I was a bit disappointed to work the math and find out that a ship of a couple hundred meters radius travelling via this method to Alpha Centauri, which for various reasons I still wanted to take some real time (hours to days), would encounter on the order of single-digit kilograms of hydrogen, nowhere near enough to be a big, visible stream that the ship would need defenses against.

    I also learned that we happen to be in a relatively dense region of the medium right now; in a lot of the rest of the galaxy, you’d pick up even less over the same distance.)

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Good data! Yeah, I was fiddling around with ramscoop calculations and boy howdy does that field need to be big to pick up anything approaching a useful amount of mass!
      As far as the laser-cleared path goes, I was thinking that vessels in combat would probably release large quantities of volatiles to absorb antimatter beam attacks. That and hide in atmospheres. Was trying to work through the implications, and come up with counters to counters.

  2. Geebs says:

    Tramp Destroyer

    “Tramp Stamper”, surely?

  3. Eagle0600 says:

    The autonomous immune system idea is actually fairly similar to the DRDs from Farscape. They were small maintenance robots (also capable of rudimentary defence) built by the living ships called leviathans as they grow.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yes! Did a bit of reading, and there are a lot of similarities between the Farscape Leviathans and the Tramp Destroyer presented here. Neat!

    2. Lars says:

      And the Keepers of the Citadel in Mass Effect resemble that immune system. Only with organic matter, not robots.
      And the Cleaning-Bots of Wall-e seem to be something alike.

  4. Baron Tanks says:

    Like before, not much to add. Eating this series up, appreciate your style and I love how much thought went into this design, whether it makes sense or not. I don’t have enough knowledge to counteract what you propose and it definitely seems more thoughtful than the vast majority of sci-fi ships I’ve been exposed to, which are typically powered by 98% rule of cool.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Thanks! If you’re looking for a change from the mainstream, there’s always Outlaw Star, where ships have arms and are powered by disrobing entities that are indistinguishable from young women. Or maybe that’s just the one ship?

    2. Same boat here! I’m not well-versed enough to rebut / countermand / nitpick anything, but I very much enjoy reading about the process involved and the backstory of how such a thing came to be, and appreciate that some logistical thought was involved, not just “wicked laserz and bitchin’ racing stripes!” or similar whimsical “pointless, but so cool!” artifacts bolted on. So I’m a fan!

  5. Ninety-Three says:

    The autonomous robotic immune system is an aspect which I haven’t seen explored elsewhere

    Robots have an awkward place in space scifi. The more attention the author draws to them, the harder it is to avoid the question of why we bother having so many flesh and blood humans running around. Maybe you can mumble something about the spark of human intelligence for the captain and chief engineer, but why have human gunners, human redshirts, human whatever the role is that tells the captain shields are at thirty percent? Of course the real answer is that the author wants to put a bunch of humans in, because they’re more relatable, less SFX-intensive, and it’s what all the other fiction is doing.

    I guess the Culture novels sort of do this. Each ship is run by a superhuman artificial intelligence that does everything from engines and navigation, to puppeting maintenance bots and using forcefield projectors to sweep up trash. Their solution to the “Why humans?” question is 50% “this is soft scifi where all the aliens look like humans, don’t think about it too hard”, and 50% gesturing at the idea that humans are obsolete and the robots are treating them like toddlers “Oh, it’s so cute he wants to help.”

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, it’s a difficult problem to address. I’m half-heartedly working on a story that attempts (among other things) to explore that very question.

      My approach for this vessel was that robots are good at executing known solutions to known problems, and the humans are around to suggest the unknown solutions and confront the unknown problems. My head-canon has the captain and command crew spending most of their time counseling the ship AI to help it work through self-imposed traumas that result from the self-calibration training simulations that are the ship’s computer equivalent of recurring nightmares.

    2. King Marth says:

      Difficulty finding reasons for humans to be on board isn’t just sci-fi. There’s a reason human space travel is limited to the space station, robots are already better at space than humans are, especially as efficient space travel primarily involves consuming as little mass as possible while waiting for long spans of time for brief windows of extremely precise maneuvering. It’s also much cheaper to not bring another 10x the weight to be capable of a return trip.

      Of course, we’re also limited by this approach to very predictable routes. Apollo 11 only landed its capsule on the moon because someone was on board to look out the window and see the boulder field where their smooth landing site was supposed to be, engage manual control, and burn the vast majority of wiggle room fuel to skip over to somewhere nicer. Mind, if we didn’t have the ticking clock of life support, you could sit back and take better pictures from lunar orbit while leisurely figuring out your approach.

      Humans on spacecraft aren’t for solving problems, they’re for creating problems. It’s orders of magnitude harder to move a human somewhere than an equivalent mass of robot, due to all the extra requirements. You do it because you’re solving the problem of “how to move even a human through space”.

    3. Fizban says:

      To The Stars (a fanfic taking place in the far flung future of the Madoka Magica universe), has some hard sci-fi highlights, though most of the underlying tech is Sufficiently Advanced (nanotech stops all sickness and aging, bodies can be regrown as long as the brain isn’t damaged, antigrav, energy shields, ftl and ftl comms, full neural-machine interface with VR as good as reality, etc). They use both humans and AI because the humans and AI recognize each other as having a right to exist- while the government is essentially a massive number of linked AIs for maximum efficiency, they also include heavily enhanced human representatives to ensure a direct point of contact (cant’ remember the exact ratio though). There’s also a bit of an implication that AIs simply don’t want to have bodies, which makes sense: why tie yourself to a particular physical unit when you already exist in connection to everything you could want or need, including the entire AI community? But humans are created in bodies so naturally they walk around in bodies, and their implants let them be as connected as they need to be to mechanical systems. As for the robots, they’re a consistent presence at all levels of combat, from nanobots in the body fighting off enemy nanobot weapons to drone swarms and platforms of various sizes in space or atmo running recon, air support, defense, repair, and medivac, up to ships which are actually people because yeah why wouldn’t you put an AI in charge of the ship? But basically, humanity and machines are integrated enough in this setting that a human seems to already be the most efficient independent sapient multi-function robot, and just about everything that is more efficiently done with a sub-sapient drone, is.

      Of course, humans are also useful because they produce magical girls, with, ya know, actual magic, which is needed to give Humanity a fighting chance against the squid and their even more Sufficiently Advanced tech (usable combat lasers, blink drives and canons, etc), and it is suggested a wish may have been (totally was) behind the breakthrough that allowed the creation of the morally incorruptible AI that make all of that work.

  6. Kathryn says:

    >>de-columate

    Did you mean de-collimate?

    Looks good. I’ll take a closer look at the avionics later, but on first glance, it seems appropriate.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Hah! Yes. Or, perhaps if it is firing at charged particles, de-coulombate.

  7. King Marth says:

    Typical sci-fi spaceship: 90% cool spaceship, 10% engines. If the artist really thought about it, there might even be fuel!
    Real spaceship: 90% engine and fuel, 10% everything else.

    Yeah, there’s a reason people cheat. There’s also the problem that any sufficiently powerful propulsion system is indistinguishable from a weapon of mass destruction.

    1. Arstan says:

      I’ve instantly went imagining some kind of apocalyptic disaster happening on the ship, and then exploring the interior, in the line of system shock and prey :)

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Right! It would be amazing to be able to proc-gen a whole setting like that; Something which had some internal technical consistency so you could reasonably jurry-rig your way past problems without the game holding your hand.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          If you could actually pull that off…that would one hell of a Roguelike game.

        2. Nessus says:

          Prey is basically this, minus the roguelike aspect. There was a cool looking indie game called “Routine” that was supposed to be EXACTLY this, but it’s been in dev limbo for so long it can be safely assumed dead (and its aesthetic lunch got eaten by “Alien: Isolation” and “Soma” while it was hung up).

          I’d still love to see it, with one caveat: make the majority of the explorable space be machine space, rather than crewspace corridors and rooms. I don’t mean “the engineering decks”, or “the Jeffris tubes” I mean “the spaces between the pipes behind the walls where the rats live, only so huge that humans are as rats”.

          When you make a huge maze of people-spaces it implies said spaces have human functions. Often in games this isn’t the case though: maps are laid out for gameplay, and make no sense as places people actually work and live. In small doses this is easy to ignore, and deliberately designed spaces can be cleverly designed to feel utilitarian when they’re not, but in a procgen maze it would get really obvious. Easy fix is to make the procgen maze machine space which is explicitly not for people. No “rooms” or “halls”, just abstract negative spaces defined by the intersections of giant inscrutable machine parts. If it were a room, you could interrogate that space about what it was for. Not so with space opera super science machinery.

          Maybe have little random islands of crew space you could breach into. Like cluster of crew cabins with a hallway, but the doors are sealed/broken, so the only way to move on is to go back into the walls. You get these little momentary reminders of normalcy and security lost, but you can’t stay. There’s no food here, and the safety is an illusion, so you pick up your glow stick and move on.

          God, now I’m thinking of “Pandorum”, but as a giant rougelike game. That could be great.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    Typo patrol:

    The last would draws power

    scarse

    There is also an Observation Deck beneath dorsal sensor dome

  9. Leeward says:

    One comment, and clearly you’re not going for hard SF realism here, but when you said the armor had a “high density layers to absorb kinetic impact” it snapped my belief-suspenders. Thick, dense armor works well for low velocity projectiles like bullets, but if you have a projectile moving at several kilometers per second, the energy just gets transferred to the inside of the armor plate where something breaks off and rattles around the crew compartment (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spall). Fortunately, we live in a time where we have to protect spacecraft from very fast bits of stuff and engineers have come up with a solution that works:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whipple_shield

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      While a whipple shield (or stand-off armor) works well against scattered hypersonic debris (like small rocks and HEAT rounds), it does nothing against penetrators (like an arrow, or a particle stream). For that, nothing counts but mass in the impact cross-section (of which a whipple shield has very little). The theory I was working off of was that the armor would have high-density columns (long thin cylinders of DU or some other high density material) interspersed throughout. An attack that could not be completely deflected to miss the vessel could be instead deflected to intersect one of these columns. If there was enough reaction time (that is, if the processors and force ports were not overwhelmed with other targeting tasks) a column could be jettisoned and counter-accelerated to meet the attack at a safe stand-off range, effectively forming an active high-mass whipple shield (in contrast to the passive low-mass one you describe). In addition, there would be high-density layers in the armor, as a fallback in case the attack could not be precisely diverted.
      The point about spalling is well taken, though you may note that the armor is a seperate structure from the pressure hull, and does not form the primary encapsulating structure of any major component.

  10. Nessus says:

    Okay, I have to get one criticism out there. It’s a big one that effects the whole design strategy, so I gotta preface this with a disclaimer that this isn’t an attack or an invalidation. This is a really cool project, and I’ve been wanting to see procedural design move past the “handful of premade major sub-assemblies” stage to something more akin to algorithmic terrain generation but for hard surfaces (and creatures or NPCs) for a while now.

    So, the thing I’m seeing is major silhouette issues. Namely that while there’s a lot of abstract theory behind the bits, the end product still looks random. If I wasn’t aware of the thought that went into this, it would visually read as just a chaotic wad of random shapes rather than a spaceship. It’s the same problem that effects things like the Bay Transformers, or the alien ships from the Battleship movie.

    Most of the theory developed in the previous entries has been lost in this result. I can no longer distinguish the engines, crew spaces, etc from the rest of the kluge. The anatomy for subsystems metaphor (something I completely agree with, and have had similar thought on in the past) is completely gone. The “armor” just looks like pieces of a cracked egg instead of implying a purposeful shape. The shape as a whole is random looking, with asymmetry in every possible axis, and there are no cues as to scale or function in any part.

    When you break down the individual subsystems in cutaway/X-ray images, I can see the logic again, but when it’s all combined together in the final design, it’s indistinguishable from pure randomness.

    But that’s to be expected from a first draft of a complex system, so again: PLEASE don’t take this as an insult or a discouragement, and other readers PLEASE don’t take this as a call to misguidedly rally to the defense on principle (I know some of you will be unable to resist, but please at least consider it).

    *EDIT*: I tried to make this an embedded link in the last part of the last sentence above, but the post coding on this site is weird and nonstandard, so it didn’t work: http://plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, I really agree. There’s a lot more work to be done to make a sensible visual read possible.

      An encouragement though! This design was finalized years ago, so the theory hasn’t been lost. I’m hoping to incorporate the design sensibilities of the previous articles and the technical depth of the internals from this one, all with an eye toward a unified design. In the meantime, the observation is well made. It is a very chaotic design.

  11. Steve C says:

    I’ve always been fond of the space-magic idea of a gravity drive for sub light speeds.
    Accelerating at 9.8 m/s^2 (aka Earth gravity) for an entire year results in a speed of 309 092 000 m/s. The speed of light for comparison is 299 792 458 m/s.

    Basically if artificial gravity capable of 1G was a thing that existed, local space travel is automatically solved at the same time. A ship could put that gravity well on the nose and have the universe fall towards it. Which would only be relevant to the ship. Spaceships would accelerate halfway towards a destination and then flip over to decelerate the other half of the journey. As a nice SF narrative bonus it results in ship travel times within the solar system akin to ship travel in the 1800s. All while humans inside don’t have to worry about pesky zero G problems. Unless something goes wrong… dun-dun-dunnn.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Quite so. Gravity manipulation also allows for space-opera level construction projects, like mining planetary cores and pulling stars apart. Interesting to note that gravitational control is a key feature in the Schlockiverse tech as well, which seems like a pretty internally consistent and satisfyingly hard-science setting. I’m a fan!

    2. Duoae says:

      Ehh.. it’s a nice idea but I don’t think this is how gravity works.

      Sure, you can make an artificial gravity on a ship* (you generate a gravitational field to pull everything else in a particular direction) but that doesn’t mean you can push things or pull stuff around very well because of the whole inverse square law thing.

      Basically, you need something to push off and you don’t have a big effect until you’re at the equivalent mass of a planet and literally right at the surface of the planet. Even once you’re in orbit you don’t have the same effect or power – you’d have to increase the effective mass of the anti-gravitation to compensate to literally astronomical proportions. The power draw would be effectively infinite and you could not operate an opposing gravitational field in your ship at the same time as it would literally tear the ship apart.

      Either way, you can’t do it – It wouldn’t work.

      *Assuming you could

      1. Duoae says:

        Oh I also forgot the whole “screwing up the planetary system by introducing a new, huge, gravitational field”.

        Gravity isn’t a one-way deal.

        You’d end up shooting several planets off out into the galaxy and wrecking the orbit of the one we care about!

        I forget where the article is (maybe someone else knows?) but there’s an article where it is calculated how many launches of rockets would take to shift the Earth into a larger obrit (in the scenario that the sun is dying and begins to expand). Spoiler alert: It’s a lot. However, the point is that the law of “every reaction/equal and opposite reaction” stands. Even for a gravitic drive. You’d be pulling planets out of their alignment at the same time as pulling yourself to them. It would be a terrible, terrible idea (or a very good weapon!).

        1. Boobah says:

          The saving grace of the gravitic drive is the inverse square dealie. You can use a small gravity source as long as it’s very close to your ship, although the downside here is that then you have to worry about tide; that is, your drive will accelerate different parts of your ship at different speeds and directions.

          This also matters to your crew, because while you’ll be in free fall if you’re in the ship’s center of gravity, everywhere else you’ll be falling in some direction or another; people in the front of the ship will accelerate faster than the ship as a whole, while the opposite will be true for anyone in the rear.

          This all gets more complicated if you maneuver the ship by projecting the gravity source in a different location relative to the ship rather than turning the ship while keeping the gravity source in the same relative position.

  12. Decius says:

    There’s an awful lot of detail given over to types of subsystem, when the entire design concept is ‘make it look cool’, and the writing is mostly similar.

    But I find that there are more and better hooks when there’s things that haven’t been written yet. Have glowy things that you, the author, don’t know what they are; at some future point, when the plot demands a feature, those glowing panels can provide it- whether it be a weakness of the ship, or a way to introduce new plot elements.

    If you’ve already explained the cool blue light as Cerenkov effect, you can’t later have it be a posineutrino vent; but *anything* can be a posineutrino vent, while only certain things can exhibt Cerenkov effect.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Mmm, that’s a really good point! I’ll have to make sure the tools have a GNDN fraction setting.

  13. Mephane says:

    I found the formatting of this post confusing. The images corresponding to the various systems are placed above the headline and the horizontal divider, which makes it look like it belongs to the paragraph above it. I’d either put the images right below the headlines instead, or at the bottom of their corresponding paragraph.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I also found this rather confusing, and while I could work it out and adjust if it were consistent it seems like there are some images missing which makes it a lot harder. Specifically, there doesn’t seem to be an image for either “Drive” or “Immune,” which caused me to associate the following images with those headers (and by extension all the images with the previous header), which is more natural to my mind. Especially with the horizontal dividers between the image and the section it corresponds to.

      That minor critique aside, it was an interesting read. I feel like having a robotic immune system opens up all sorts of interesting stories taking cues from real-world autoimmune diseases. The issue of updating the software on your immune system alone presents some fascinating issues; like what if you accidentally upload (or have uploaded from sabotage) a patch that makes your immune system robots see humans as pathogens, and simultaneously locks out attempts to upload new patches because it doesn’t trust the source?

      Edit: Oh, I think I just realized that the Immune and Drive systems are included in the Armor and Crew pictures. Ahhh. It might be useful if the pictures had brief notes to that effect (either in-picture or in the caption).

  14. Zaxares says:

    Meanwhile, my brain is still fixated on the fact that the ship looks like a giant fist. XD

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      The Pareidolia man… constant vigilance!

  15. samuel222 says:

    I’ve always found it weird that everybody puts 500+ people into a (combat focused) space ship. The most sensible number of people in a combat space ship is probably 0, because that means you can build a ship that’s an order of magnitude smaller – life support stuff is gigantic, especially when it needs to offer some comfort.

    And when you have smart robots, you really don’t need 500 people. What do they do, except give us interesting human drama to watch? What do you need literally a hundred engineers for on a ship that is not mid-production? That’s more than most engineering companies employ. What are the robots for if they can’t fix the ship and need dozens of humans supervising them?

    1. Richard says:

      Some things to think about regarding crew:

      The world’s largest cruise liner (MV Symphony Of the Seas) has 2,200 crew & staff members.
      Most of these are to run the “hotel” and “entertainment” functions, looking after the 5,500 to 6,680 guests. Very few have anything to do with running the “ship” parts of the ship.
      (I used to work on such a vessel, the cast for the evening theatre shows was 20-30 people!)

      The world’s largest container ship (CSCL Globe) has a crew of 31, and the Emma Maersk (almost as big) can sail with a crew of 13 (though it can have up to 30).

      A British Type 45 Destroyer is designed to fight with 190 crew.
      – Though they usually also carry Royal Marines for boarding and shore actions, as well as trainee sailors.

      The reason military ships have larger crews is to operate the remote sensing and weaponry systems 24×7, and undertake large-scale damage control.
      If computers and robots are doing most of that, what are the people doing?

      I’d estimate that a crew of 30 * 3 shifts would probably be an appropriate upper limit, so 90 crew.

      That said, you could easily argue ‘in setting’ that their families would be aboard (especially if G-limits aren’t a thing), so 360 souls is not too excessive.

      If you say the ship needs to be able to rescue or furlough the crew of another similar vessel, then a 500 ‘normal’ capacity can be argued.

      So while you can get to capacity numbers pretty easily if you really want to, it needs a little world-building behind it to argue the case.

  16. Duoae says:

    There are a couple of points that I don’t really understand or think are a strange choice.

    First off, the easy one – I don’t see how an accelerator geared up to shoot shaped streams of anti-matter could also accelerate other solids. Basically, a railgun is not the same as a particle accelerator – they’re not interchangable because railgun rounds are very heavy compared to a particle… not to mention the fact that you’d need a “barrel” for a solid slug and not for a particle stream.

    Secondly, why dark matter as a power source? The whole point of what we understand as dark matter (if it even actually exists) – see MOND, or other, newer theories of gravity for example) is that it doesn’t interact with any normal matter and not really even with itself outside of gravity – at least not that we can detect. So, not only do you have to invent a way to interact with dark matter and contain it you also have to invent a way to generate energy from it.

    Why not just use the tried and tested “matter/anti-matter” combo to generate energy since you already have anti-matter for your weapon system?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      The idea was, because there is dark matter all over the place, you wouldn’t have to carry fuel with you. You just “react” the ambient dark matter. Using, um, dark matter fuel. Look! I’m just making stuff up here!

      Seriously though, I’m going to try to address this in next week’s article. Not the dark matter thing specifically, necessarily, but the broader issue of supporting multiple incompatible infrastructure sets with the same tools.

      1. Duoae says:

        There is one logical flaw with using dark matter containment though – if you have systems that can contain dark matter and it’s everywhere, then your ships will encounter a large amount of resistance when moving through space as the dark matter will hit those systems as the ship tries to move and cause drag…. :)

        1. Boobah says:

          Nah, now you’ve just got ‘space lanes,’ because dark matter isn’t evenly distributed throughout space. You’d want to travel near dark matter structures for fuel, but not through them because your fuel tanks would cause problems.

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