May 11, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 2

Aurora is an interesting game, and now we'll turn to one of the parts that make it so unique: the ship designer. RTW2 is the only game I've ever seen that comes close to matching it in depth and complexity, and even that is more limited. It's probably best to check out the first installment before you dive into this one. I'm assuming that we're continuing with the game we created last time, although the few changes we made won't actually affect this part.

As our eventual goal is to colonize the universe, we're going to need ships, and the game didn't start us with any. Today, we'll build 3, a survey ship, a cargo ship, and a colony ship. First, we need to turn on Spacemaster mode, the lightbulb on the right of the top bar. This will let us instantly research components for the ship, instead of having to wait for them to be developed normally. Next, open the Class Design window, and hit New Ship Class. If you want to change the name, feel free to do so, although that obviously has no mechanical effect. The block on the right gives all of the important data about your ship, including size, crew, cost, speed, maintenance life, and range. Right now, there's just the default components, but we'll need to change that. Let's do the survey ship first. Open up Geological Survey Sensors in the menu on the left and double-click to add 2. If you add too many and need to take them off, change to Class Components using the radio buttons at the top.

As a stationary survey ship isn't particularly useful, we'll add an engine. Open Create Project using the Design Tech button (this can also be reached from the top bar) and change the type to Engines. The algorithms for these are complex, and there are tools you can find on the forums to optimize your engine choices for you. But we don't need to go into that now. In general, there are some dropdowns during technology design that you never touch (because they refer to tech levels) and some that you use a lot. For this, the first and third dropdowns just list the tech levels you've researched, and using a lower one is almost always strictly worse than using the current one, unless you're doing something really exotic. The second and fifth dropdowns are the ones you'll use. These set engine size and power multiplier, both of which have a major impact on fuel efficiency. The short version is that bigger engines are more fuel efficient, as are lower-powered ones. The power modifier in particular is a strong exponent, so if you're building a long-range ship, it's often smart to go with a slightly bigger engine and turn the modifier down somewhat. You can save more space in fuel than you use in engine.

Feel free to play around some with the engine settings before you build it. If you want to see how it works on the ship, the prototype button will create a placeholder, although you'll need to check the prototype box at the bottom of the ship design window to see it in the Race Components List. A ship can only have one type of engine at a time, although multiple engines are allowed. For this role, I'd suggest you'd want fuel consumption per EPH of no more than .7 liters, and at least 60 power. When you've got something you like, hit Instant, and then Refresh Tech in the ship design window. Take off any prototype engines you may have put on, and add the real one. Now, add fuel storage until you get a range of at least 40 billion km. How much range you need varies greatly with ship type, and while that's plenty for a ship of this type, you're going to want a lot more once you start surveying outside your home system. About the only other thing you need on a basic survey ship is to raise the deployment time. This is how long the ship can stay out before the crew start getting restless. I'd recommend at least 12 months, maybe 24. Definitely make sure it's longer than the fuel endurance of the ship. This is done by editing the green text box, which will automatically update the crew quarters of the design.

Oh, and be sure to check the Maint Life, too. Military Ships experience systems failures (commercial ships don't) and you don't want to get stranded when your engine breaks. Make sure Maint Life is longer than deployment time and endurance, and that Max Repair is less than the MSP value. Otherwise, if the most costly thing on the ship breaks anyway, they won't be able to repair it. More engineering spaces reduce the chances of something breaking, and give you more maintenance supply points (MSP) to fix it. This shouldn't be a big deal for your ship, unless you've done something crazy with your engine.

That's really about it for the survey ship. Change the type from Ammunition Transport to something more appropriate (or don't, if you're feeling ironic, because there's no mechanical effect) and then go to the Miscellaneous tab and instant build one to the survey fleet.

With that out of the way, we turn to our cargo and colony ships. These will be civilian ships, unlike the military survey ship. Civilian ships can only use a restricted set of systems, but don't suffer from maintenance failures. Any engine of size 25 or greater and with a power modifier of .5 or less is a civilian engine. There's only one option with the current tech, so go ahead and instant it now. Most sensors, all weapons, and a few other things are classified as military systems, and having any of those on your ship makes it military, which also restricts what shipyards it can be built at. If you're in doubt, the ship's military/civilian status is listed at the bottom of the stat block.

We'll start with our cargo ship. Create a new ship class, then open up the Cargo Hold section and select Cargo Hold - Standard. This is the normal size for most installations, and I'd strongly recommend not trying to get fancy with your hold sizes. Dealing with fractional installations gets to be a headache very quickly. The only other thing you need is a cargo shuttle bay, which allows you to load and unload on worlds that don't have spaceports (and speeds it up even when they do). Now, add engines and fuel to taste. This is a balancing act. You want your transports to be relatively cheap, but while being slow is fine for going to Mars, it's a much bigger issue when you're colonizing other star systems. Likewise, restricted range can become a major headache in those situations, requiring deployment of tankers. I'd recommend a range of at least 20 billion, and you probably don't want speed below 700 km/s or so. When you have a design you like, go to the Miscellaneous tab and create 5 in the Cargo Fleet. (All installations I'm aware of that don't fit in a standard cargo bay require multiples of 5. This game can get overwhelming, and things like this can go a long way to mitigate it.)

There's more flexibility in the colony ship, which uses cryogenic transports to carry colonists to a new planet. There are two main approaches here. I tend to make my colony ships the same size as my freighters, so I can have one yard tooled for the colony ship build both. If you want to do this, just copy your cargo ship, rename it, take the cargo hold out and add 10 cryogenic transports. The problem with this is that cryo pods are a lot more expensive than cargo holds. The optimum speed is thus likely a lot faster, and a smaller ship would also fit better with how infrastructure transport works. If you go this route, the best option is probably 5 cryo holds and maybe 50% faster than your cargo ship.1 In either case, be sure you have a Cargo Shuttle Bay onboard, or you won't be able to unload. Once you have a design that you like, add two of them to the Colony Fleet.

I'm going to stop here for now. Warship design is a topic that deserves a full post in its own right, although that might take a few weeks. First, I'm going to look at colonization and naval operations.

1 I did a quick design test while writing this, and for the numbers I have, the different design is about 35% more efficient in terms of colonists/cost. I may have to change my approach on this, although the dominance of the shipping lines means you usually don't have to worry too much.


  1. May 13, 2020Commenter said...

    Can't wait for part 47, where we launch our first ship, once we learn the correct Protected Geographical Indication menu settings to have champagne at the christening ceremony, rather than suboptimal sparkling wine.

    Seriously though, thanks. I wouldn't have made it five minutes into a playthrough without this guide.

  2. May 13, 2020bean said...

    I have very rarely laughed harder at something. Thanks.

    And you're welcome. There's a lot of learning curve, and it looks like this will run 12 parts or so. I've got the first 7 written so far.

  3. November 29, 2020Akshay said...

    "Now, add fuel storage until you get a range of at least 40 billion km. "

    When I reached this part, the range is N/A, no matter how much fuel storage I add. I followed all the steps you showed. What should I do?


  4. November 29, 2020bean said...

    Do you have engines on the ship? That's all I can think of offhand.

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