Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Space Combat in the Black Desert VI: Developing the Missile Craft

          Thanks to the recent exposure, I seem to have a good number of new visitors to the site!  Welcome, thanks for coming, and feel free to comment and stuff.

          I've been asked on a couple of forums about developing some of the combat spacecraft that will appear in The Black Desert, mainly by folks who are looking for something to add to other systems.  Fair enough; it's not like the BD Core Book is out or anything.  However, one of the interesting things about developing Hard SF spacecraft is that the designs absolutely cannot be done in a vacuum (no pun intended).   What I mean by that kinda goes into the nature of aerospace design, the back story of the setting and the constraints of the setting's technology.

          Case in point:  The Black Desert itself.  The term "Black Desert" in the game itself refers to the area of space between Terra and Mars where several asteroid colonies have been established in a pair of cycling orbits between the two planets.  These Aldrin Cyclers have six "nodes" apiece, spaced evenly around the orbits.  Each node has anywhere from four to a dozen asteroids clustered within a quarter-million miles of one another.  These asteroids range in size from massive hollowed-out vaults containing small O'Neil cylinders to tiny balls of ice containing the 23rd century equivalent of a gas station (download the first issue of D6 Magazine for an article about these). 

         Since we're talking about Hard SF here, distance and delta-v are the controlling factors as to how long it takes to travel from point A to B.  It takes single node on the cyclers thirty months to make a round trip between the Terra and Mars.  Since there are six nodes per orbit, that means the planets are visited by a new node every five months.  The nodes will have lots of mineral goodies to trade in exchange for food, luxuries etc, and these visiting asteroids have become an important part of Terra's and Mars' economies.  And where there is wealth and people exploiting it, there is a military presence as well.

         This is were are our Space Forces come into play.  Terran forces need to be able to respond to hot spots and conflicts faster than once every two and a half years, so they have to have something that can travel these ridiculously long distances in a reasonable amount of time.  They also have to get their personnel to their destination in one piece, with adequate air and food, and somehow prevent them from cooking in the harsh stellar radiation. 

        Enter the IPV;  a type of spacecraft that can make a one-way trip to Mars in about ten weeks, has plasma sails that can ride the solar winds without using propellant and, as a bonus, protect the crew from that very same radiation.  This type of craft is The Black Desert's answer to the distance, time and radiation problems combined.  I'm fairly proud of it.  In the article I've linked to above, I've outlined two broad types of IPVs, the Missile craft and the Strategic Craft.  In the last post in this series, I outlined what you can do with a Strategic Craft; namely the Hard SF version of an old-fashioned dogfight between carriers and Attack Wings.  The Missile Craft was described as smaller, more common (i.e. cheaper) and having a mission that more equates to blockading ports and laying siege to a fort. 

         This is the ship that we will be developing for you gamers out there.
         Now in order to do that, we will have to take into account lots of science-y stuff, like the above mentioned distance and delta-v factors, as well as tactical issues such as deployment, response time, and mission readiness, and the all-important political factors of what one can do with these resources and their effectiveness in the ever-changing face of warfare.

          Obviously, this is going to take more than one post.  So stay tuned for more posts on the subject between now and May, when this Missile Craft will be available for sale!  With deck plans and stuff!

          Also, I am working on the next entry in the Ships of the Galaxy series, which will be on sale Monday.  Stupid 28 day February...

           Anyway, see you all tomorrow, RocketFans!


  1. Ray - Terran forces? I'd have thought Martian forces were the more likely to need these. Or have inherited them during the rebellion and mutiny. How well would they maneuver into the system? I mean I'm pretty sure they could push off the planets' magnetic fields, or be pushed using p-beams, but how could they maneuver down the gravity well to take a fight to the transhumans?

  2. One more thing - I'd like to see the equivalent to a another Robert Heinlein or a passenger ship. Those are more useful than warships (unless you're playing a military focused game).

  3. As far as development goes, these IPVs were designed on Terra for Terran interests; Mars has indeed inherited many, but designed none. They maneuver about as well as a loaded Galleon would in the Caribbean, with their primary propulsion coming from solar wind or pushing off of Jupiter's field (the largest thing in the entire system), Laser installations on friendly outposts can be used to slow IPVs down and help them maneuver around, but usually they take up orbit near the center of the node and use carried craft to transfer cargo/personnel form there.
    As for the Transhumans, nobody is trying to pick a fight with them for now. Terran powers may be thinking about it, but until they get the situation on the home front more secure, they aren't trying anything. It could very well take a new type of craft to open up regular service to Venus or Mercury.

    As for another passenger Rocket, next month's release is a commuter from the Siberian Empire.


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