How about a Pirate Tech Tree? It could include a specialized cruiser (or maybe even a new capital ship!) that is primarily designed for anti-Pirate use. It could have an interdiction beam which slows down the Pirate vessels, and a ship-to-ship boarding party which allows the gamer to take command of captured vessels. In addition, new Pirate Techs could be added. A Tech Tree for Black Ops could allow gamers to spy on any faction in the game, and a special, cloaked ship could do surgical strikes and sabotage. The same ship, if the Tech Tree is researched far enough, could gain a “Kill Leader” ability which allows it to sneak into a pirate-held base and assassinate the Pirate King. Depending on what the developing team decides, this could “kill” the colony and everything in the gravity well, or instigate an all-out free-for-all between the Pirate defense forces in the gravity well, and the Pirate Raid forces that spawn in it, for a specified length of time. It would also stall any Pirate Raids for the same amount of time. After the Pirates kill themselves off until one team wins, then that team becomes the defense force and begins rebuilding the Pirate Base. That would create an excellent window of opportunity for my TEC fleet to drop in and wipe them out!
Temporary Pirate alliances might be good too. The Tech would be a regenerating one that would grant a cease-fire between the researching faction and the pirates for a certain amount of time. It would be costly in the long run, thus discouraging excessive use, but could prove to be a saving grace in the short run!
A Black Market Option for ships and technologies would be nice. The Pirates could act as mediums (or vendors) through which excess ships, and enemy techs, are sold or purchased; for extortionate prices of course! That opens up a whole range of Tech possibilities even in itself (Frigate, Cruiser, and Capital Ship availability Techs; Cost Discount Techs; personal selling price increase techs, enemy tech purchasing options, etc!). Think about it; say you have four Cobalt Light Frigates. You want to scrap two and purchase two Javelis instead. You only get a portion of your resources back. Why not sell them on the Black Market? Since no other faction except the TEC can get Cobalts, you could crank the price up to 400 or 500 credits and get your money’s worth and more out of them. Or, if you’re hard-pressed for crystal or metal, you could set a price in either of these commodities (200 crystals?). You could designate exactly which Cobalts to eliminate, so that you don’t accidentally weaken a fleet. Furthermore, the ships would vanish from the screen once placed on the market. If you change your mind, you could take them off the market and have them reappear in their original places, or by a ship factory. This could be done for any of your ships (you would automatically have your fleet points credited back to you upon a sale). Of course, it allows your enemies to use your own ships against you if they purchase them; enter the stolen ship tech market. If your espionage (I’ll get to that in a minute!) wasn’t obtaining Techs for your newly diversified fleets quickly enough, you could purchase them off of the Black Market for Techs. Example: A Vasari Warlord has a penchant for Cobalts. He loves ‘em and likes to use them as skirmishers. However, standard Cobalts just aren’t cutting it; he needs them to be souped up a bit. His espionage is still working on the Stage One LASER Tech, so he Googles his local Pirate Broker and purchases the Destabilize Reactor Tech; for an extortionate price of course! Now he has one Tech that is currently being stolen, and another which provides his Cobalts with an immediate edge! Again; this could be applied for any ships. Of course, you would need the fleet size and crew member points necessary before you signed the contract on these exotic ships, but, of course, that part is already an old mechanism in the game and is quite familiar to everyone.
On the Black Market Techs: any ships that are sold automatically have their relevant Techs displayed. After all, reverse engineering and systematic analysis of enemy ships (another new researchable tech!) would yield the knowledge necessary for your civilization to develop these Techs. Making them automatically available on the Black Market (for an extortionate price, of course), speeds up the process and adds another dimension of game play. In short, there would be three different ways to earn Techs for recently stolen or purchased enemy ships: Espionage could slowly steal them, you could by them (for extortionate prices!), or you could research them as you might if you were the enemy civilization (at about 2 times the usual research time, and for maybe 1.5 times the usual prices, and only after researching the reverse engineering Tech!). Another note about the Black Market Techs: civilizations in need of money could “sell” their Techs to the Black Market, or, use researchable diplomacy options to sell them directly to other civilizations. Again, this opens up a whole variety of related Techs that could be researched (increased price-gouging, better Market and civ. relations, etc.). Example: TEC could sell its Expedited Permits Tech to the Black Market for much needed resources. Black Market turns around and sells it to the Vasari. Flip side: TEC engages in direct negations with the Vasari and charges a steeper, or lower, price. However, the Tech remains private and is not placed on the open market (unless the Vasari decide to export their exotic Tech). Any star base Techs that are stolen or purchased could be engineered (expensively) to fit your own faction’s star base, thus yielding more varieties and surprises.
A Pirate Tech could be added which prompts them to sabotage enemy utilities. For example if your Black Ops Tech Tree yielded some saboteurs, and they were discovered, your enemy would know who it was that was attempting to sabotage them. However, if you drove your repulsorlift down to your friendly neighbor Pirate Agent’s Office, and signed a sabotage contract (for an extortionate price of course!) they could do it for you without alerting your enemy as to your involvement; even if they got caught. Of course, the pirates already attack ships, structures, and planets. This, though, would be stealthy; they could either destroy structures without warning, or, they could inhibit them (i.e. – drain resources from planets and asteroids, slow down ship production, lengthen structure construction time, etc.). In the long run, it would probably do more to hurt the enemy; if they didn’t notice it and research their rechargeable, but highly expensive, “Purge Sabotage” Tech.
Another Pirate Tech could be “Interception,” and it could have two or three other researchable levels. The warning bar for Pirate attacks could disappear altogether; that would definitely randomize the game and add some extra spice! The Interception Techs would replace it by allowing you to detect Pirate force build-ups, raid party launches, etc. They could even progress to the point where you can determine who is placing bounties on you, and allow you to trace the routes the pirates are using to attack you. Also, the pinnacle Tech could be “Intercept Aggressor,” where the Pirates are ambushed in each gravity well as they make their way towards you. This would seriously deplete their strength, and could even destroy them if they are located far enough away from you.
The ultimate Pirate Tech would be “Elimination.” This would be a Tech that all three individual empires must research before it could be used (definitely a team Tech). Once all three have researched it, and their experimental weapon tech (i.e. –Novalith Cannon, Kostura Cannon, and the Advent Psionic Cannon), then the leader of one faction can “build” an elimination ship. The other two factions will be prompted by the computer to accept elimination invitation or not. If both do, then they share the expensive costs and construct a computer-controlled elimination ship. The three factions each submit a target. The three targets are randomized and one is selected by the computer (or they could vote like the U.P. in Gal Civ.). Once the target is acquired, the elimination ship, armed with cores from the Novalith, Kostura, and Psionic cannons, will approach the Pirate (or enemy!) planet. It would look like a typical envoy (the target which won the computer’s dice roll decides which envoy is used). Once in the gravity well, all three cores would explode simultaneously. I’m still trying to decide whether or not the elimination ship should destroy the planet or whether it should just eliminate all unfriendly units in the gravity well……
I like the trades that somebody else in this forum mentioned; swap the Pirates a couple ships or Techs in exchange for reduced attacks. Of course, they’re pirates though; they might double-cross!
Off of the subject of Pirates, there are a few suggestions to be made…
The envoys should be classified as civilian vessels, and should receive the same bonuses that constructers, trade ships, and ore carriers receive from Techs like the reinforced hulls.
Torpedo cruisers should be extra effective against capital ships too; not just buildings. There are not, after all, any anti-capital ship vessels or Techs yet…
The whole dimension of Black Ops, Special Ops, Stealth, etc. hasn’t been explored. Just think; cloaking arrays that mask gravity wells, cloaked ships, cloaked fighters and bombers, portable cloaking generators which mask fleets to allow a player the chance to set ambushes, the list can go on and on! Long range sensor arrays that reveal enemy activity (over 2nd generation PSIDAR!) would also be a great Tech. Espionage I have mentioned more than once, and could be used to steal enemy Techs and reveal information about enemy movements, planets, gravity wells, and resource allocation; thus providing critical strategic information. Sweeper ships and Sweeper arrays (for gravity wells) could reveal enemy ships that are cloaked, and could intercept in-bound espionage forces.
Transports for Ship-to-Planet invasion would be nice. Of course, the idea of planetary invasion opens up another whole Tech tree. Better weapons, armor, warfare tactics, etc. could be researched for attacking troops. Though the space-to-ground bombardment option is always available, it destroys the colony. Space-to-ground invasion would give an empire the option of capturing enemy planets without destroying infrastructure, thus adding some diversity to the game. Transports could also double as boarding parties for enemy ships; particularly capital ships. The only hitch with boarding capital ships is the crew issue. Perhaps you could capture it if you had a capital ship crew available. If not, then the boarding party could self-destruct it. There would have to be a mathematical equation that could factor in all of the relevant data, and then roll the dice to see if the boarding party, or invasion force, was repulsed, or if it succeeded; it could be along the lines of the Galactic Civilization’s planet invasion counter…
More Capital Ships!!!
How about a new capital ship that sports fighter/bomber busting? It would be the equivalent of a huge Garda Flak Frigate, and would serve as small ship defense. Special abilities could include flak platforms (like the TEC carrier’s missile platforms), jamming, EMP nets, and a gravity-well-wide fighter/bomber disabler. The flak platforms are self-explanatory. The jamming ability would decrease the accuracy of fighters and bombers, and could decrease their speeds (due to their flight planner’s difficulty in interpreting the scrambled sensor data) which would make them more vulnerable. EMP nets could be deployed like flak platforms, but act as a literal net. They can be fired at a group of inbound fighters/bombers and envelop the dense formation in an EMP field which destroys them or disables them for a certain amount of time. The disabler would be like a gravity-well-wide EMP with the same effects. Rather a diabolical thought actually; the enemy fighters/bombers would be no good at all for a certain amount of time, and the enemy cannot regenerate them because they are not dead. It would be the bane of a carrier fleet.
Another main battleship would be sweet. I like the Kol a lot, but I often feel as though it and the Sova are the only two TEC ships that feel like warships. The rest feel like unwieldy freighters, although the Akkan and the Marza do possess some decent firepower. I am thinking another Heavy beam based cruiser with a few conventional lasers sacrificed in favor of missiles (thinking of a more balanced arsenal). Instead of a Gauss rifle slug, it could have a Meson bolt. The adaptive shield is nice, but, since the Kol already has that, it could possess a scrambler which disrupts missile trajectories and grants it temporary safety against all trajectory-tracking weapons (like missiles and phase missiles). Instead of a flak burst, it could have mini-swarm SRMs for anti-fighter/bomber use; or, it could have boarding parties. Since Finest Hour is already taken, it could have something like Last Stand or self-destruct. Last Stand would be akin to Finest Hour while Self-Destruct would be akin to the Space Station’s self-destruct mechanism.
Another carrier would also be terrific, but I’ll leave y’all to contemplate that one!
Actually, another expansion pack or two might be in order…….