Designing an interesting StarShip takes some practice. Here are some design principles to keep in mind when building your vessel.
- Multiple Pathways: Always have multiple pathways to each Inspection Point. This will minimize bottlenecks, encouraging bots to take different routes.
- Cornered Forever: Never put an Inspection Point in the corner of two guardrails. When a robot occupies an Inspection Point placed in a corner, you cannot force them out. They may become cornered forever (intentionally, or not), and the game will come to a frustrating stop.
- Breathing Room: Avoid the temptation of making pathways too difficult to navigate. Robot movement is already restricted given the random allocation of program chips, and the contension with other robots. Use some open hull space to help acheive balance between player strategy and luck.
- Over Engineering: It is not necessary to use every element type on every StarShip. Some ships are capable of operating at Warp-3, and some are not. Some ships have launch bays, some do not. Pick a theme and go with it.
- Airlock Safeguards: When a bot dies, it returns to the airlock with two hits of damage. Be sure to have safeguards (e.g., guardrails) around the airlock to grant damaged bots safe passage away from the airlock. You also want to prevent airlock stalking, where bad bots hangout around the airlock looking for trouble.
- Arena Airlocks: Arena games are not any fun when it’s too easy for to robos to camp on the airlock and remain virtual. Put some obstacles in place to minimize this. One technique is to have tractor beams lead away from the airlock in all directions.
- Line of Fire: There should not be a direct line of fire from one Inspection Point to another. Offset the Inspection Points or add guardrails in between. This will tend to keep the lead bot from getting too far ahead of the pack.
- Scanner Distribution: Scanners start from Robo Repair Depots. Allow for good scanner distribution with smart Repair Depot placement.
- Size Matters: The larger the ship, the harder it is to keep the terrain interesting. Since these games tend to take more time to complete, the terrain design is important. A repetitive pattern on a large StarShip makes for a mentally boring game.
- Transporter Overload: The transporter network is randomized at the start of each game. The more transporters that a StarShip has, the harder it is for bots to discover and remember the network’s topology. For this reason, if you have too many transporters on a ship, robots will avoid using them.
- Transporter Exits: Always have one or more exits around a transporter. If a bot is beamed to a transporter, and it cannot safely step off of it, it will be forever stuck.
- Orientation: When designing a rectangular ship, consider making it taller than it is wide. This will make the ship more mouse and browser friendly, by minimizing horizontal scrolling during game play.
- Point Machines: Do not build StarShips with the intention of racking-up quick points. Such ships will be escorted to the nearest asteroid belt at Warp-3.
Recon Class Design Principles
In addition to the principles above, Recon Class StarShips have other design factors to consider.
- Power Crystal Accessibility: A Recon StarShip must allow the movement of the Power Crystal from any point to both airlocks.
- Edge Inward: Provide some means of moving the Power Crystal away from the edges and corners. This is typically done with docking arms or tractor beams.
- Guarded Corners: Right-angled guardrails will trap the power crystal. Consider using sliderails instead.
- Balance & Symmetry: On a Recon Class StarShip, both squads should be able to get to the crystal at the same time. A guaranteed way to accomplish this goal is to make the design symmetrical. But it’s possible to achieve balance without being strictly symmetrical.
- Airlock Alignment: If the two airlocks are in the same line of sight, then it should not be possible to play only forward move cards and land on the other airlock. The airlock placement either needs to be reconsidered, or obsticles are required between them.
- Crystal Grappler Tunnels: Avoid putting crystal grapplers in long corridors. Members of both squads will just end up on either side of the crystal, pushing it back and forth.
- Multiple Pathways: As an extension of the existing Multiple Pathways principle, Recon StarShips should provide several routes between the airlocks and the crystal grapplers to both allow the squad tactical choices and distribute the action over more than one part of the StarShip.