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The Fleet Ship designs, strategies, and tactics.

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  #1  
Old February 27th, 2007, 10:58 AM
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Surely starships will look different as tech level increases. Power supplies become smaller, drives become more efficient, and materials technology improves. The TL chart shows us where these improvements happen; can we extrapolate general design themes to create a richer game experience?


TL9-11: Bulky

For example, fusion power doesn't become compact until TL12; therefore we know something about construction constraints for starships from TL9-11: they require a 3000t fusion plant, or else they're stuck with fission, or a reaction drive that also produces the power.

So low- to mid- TL starships are bulky... and probably harder to move. So their engine clusters may tend to be prominent -- maybe they tend to look like "Daedalus" drives, with a big cluster of chambers and big, fat rocket nozzles.

Maybe the drive section looks like this:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...aluscap158.JPG


TL12-16: Compact?

We know mid- to high-tech starships. They're relatively compact and streamlined-looking. This is true independent of the race -- Vargr, Zho, Aslan, Imp, and the rest all tend to be designed for a look, rather than having to be built around clunky technological constraints.

For example, Imperial, Vargr, Aslan, and Zhodani ships are distinctive, yet they follow the same general theme of being compact ships with aesthetic elements, and their designs aren't hampered much by powerplant or drive considerations.

I'll also note that high-tech ships tend to be designed in a sort of military way. I don't know if I can explain that feeling further.

I'd suspect that TL16 still looks a lot like TL15, since the most significant improvement is only in materials tech.


TL17-20 ?: Lanky

But there is probably another style change at TL17 or 18, when antimatter pods become truly useful. What is the visual effect on ships? How can they be distinguished from TL15 or TL16 ships?

If the Annic Nova is a TL17 or TL18 ship, then we've got a data point: these ships are lanky, exploit a tugboat model, and are/can be canopied. The reason the open-skeletal structure and tugboat model work is due to very high materials technology.


TL20-23 ?

There may be yet another style change at TL20 or 21, but I don't know what it would be.


TL25: Organic

We do know of a style change at around TL25, due to Adventure 12. This is where hulls are more grown than cast molded, so they appear organic, like a cluster of soap bubbles or a gigantic sea sponge or something.


TL30: Cellular

Finally, I think there's some hint of style somewhere in the TL30s in the structures made by those Primordial critters in Knightfall. The organic theme is smoother, with each building looking like a single organism (instead of a cluster of repeated bits).
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  #2  
Old February 27th, 2007, 12:54 PM
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A couple of nits to throw into your mix:

Fusion plants are "bulky" (AKA "Ineffecient") until TL-13, and TL-16 gives both materials tech as well as the first antimatter reactors, so TL-16 should show a significant change in design.

If you're going by T4 tech levels, then TL-11 has a shift from reaction thrusters to reactionless thrusters.

Striker had a type of coral as a building material (like concrete but stronger and grown to shape, IIRC around TL-11) so this moves your "organic" stuff way forward.

Extrapolating *anything* from Annic Nova is problematic, since it really predates the whole 3I setting, and can be used to demonstrate an exception to many rules.

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  #3  
Old February 27th, 2007, 01:26 PM
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Strictly my opinions...

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
Surely starships will look different as tech level increases.
Why? More specifically, No. (And don't call me Shirley ). There's no reason to assume such. It is not TL that drives design "looks" but society. You seem to be talking more art than function below, and art is a societally influenced factor.

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
Power supplies become smaller, drives become more efficient, and materials technology improves.
None of which will affect how things "look" in general. Whether a widget is big or small the box it's in will be crafted as a reflection of the society that built it, not because of the size, efficiency or materials the widget is made of.

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
TL9-11: Bulky

For example, fusion power doesn't become compact until TL12; therefore we know something about construction constraints for starships from TL9-11: they require a 3000t fusion plant, or else they're stuck with fission, or a reaction drive that also produces the power.

So low- to mid- TL starships are bulky... and probably harder to move. So their engine clusters may tend to be prominent... with a big cluster of chambers and big, fat rocket nozzles.
All that is dependant more on the ruleset ship design and interpretation though so we can't easily generalize. Worse, you seem to be equating "primitive" (as in low TL) with "ugly" (as in design "looks") which is a false and prejudiced viewpoint.

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
TL12-16: Compact?

We know mid- to high-tech starships...
We do? I missed the release of that info by the government OH, you mean as in the many published fictional ships Well, not all those are TL12-16, many are lower TL and in fact there doesn't seem to be a difference in the design "looks" because of TL.

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
...They're relatively compact and streamlined-looking. This is true independent of the race -- Vargr, Zho, Aslan, Imp, and the rest all tend to be designed for a look, rather than having to be built around clunky technological constraints.
And that is because they were all drawn by the same artists, humans (to the best of my knowledge), and reflect their personal tastes. The TL and widgets had little if any impact on the design "look" of the ships.

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
For example, Imperial, Vargr, Aslan, and Zhodani ships are distinctive, yet they follow the same general theme of being compact ships with aesthetic elements, and their designs aren't hampered much by powerplant or drive considerations.
BINGO! "their designs aren't hampered much by powerplant or drive considerations" hits it right on the nail. None of the ships drawn are limited in such a way, they are all from the imagination of the artist but again I'll stress that TL doesn't look like a factor.

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
I'll also note that high-tech ships tend to be designed in a sort of military way. I don't know if I can explain that feeling further.
I think I know what you mean but it seems to me the problem is that the reason is because it is the high TLs that get the military ships while civilian ships are lower TLs, that's all. The problem I see is that there isn't enough military hardness (if you know what I mean) to many of the military ships.

Overall robject the thread is a good idea, let's discuss what ship's might look like, but let's not base it on TLs. Instead let's base it on cultural and societal esthetics. That'd be more logical and interesting in my opinion. The TLs and materials are unlikely to have any significant effect on the look of the design, barring the neccessary requirements like exhaust nozzles and such as needed.

Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
If the Annic Nova is a TL17 or TL18 ship, then we've got a data point: these ships are lanky, exploit a tugboat model, and are/can be canopied. The reason the open-skeletal structure and tugboat model work is due to very high materials technology.
Is it though? Or is it more likely due entirely to the "alien" concept of design "looks" of the builders?


Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
TL20-23 ?

There may be yet another style change at TL20 or 21, but I don't know what it would be.
And why? Why this TL break? You already know why I'm against it but can you postulate a reason?


Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
TL25: Organic

We do know of a style change at around TL25, due to Adventure 12. This is where hulls are more grown than cast molded, so they appear organic, like a cluster of soap bubbles or a gigantic sea sponge or something.
That is one possible TL tie to design "look" I'll grant. When the ability to grow and/or actively manipulate materials (like the liquid metal Terminator) is realised then there will be a design "look" revolution. But it's not so much because of the TL as because of the ability to do different things with the materials.


Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
TL30: Cellular

Finally, I think there's some hint of style somewhere in the TL30s in the structures made by those Primordial critters in Knightfall. The organic theme is smoother, with each building looking like a single organism (instead of a cluster of repeated bits).
I think that again would be down to the alien esthetics rather than TL.


Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
...can we extrapolate general design themes to create a richer game experience?
I'm all for that [img]smile.gif[/img] But let's make the reasons logical, not just simple TL breaks. Let's make them regional (as I have done) even within the major polities. We already know the general desgin ethics of the various races, but what of the differences between a Core (Imperial) Noble Yacht and a Marches version of the same for example.
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  #4  
Old February 27th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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I would think that materials technology would influence design to some extent, but the greatest factor would be cultural aesthetics and construction technology – which are both invisible in the rules. A car in the 1920’s is made from small pieces of flat sheet metal because that is what could be produced. By the 1950’s larger pieces of sheet metal could be stamped into curved shapes, but cars still have hoods and roofs and fenders because of the size and complexity limits on manufacturing technology. By the 1980’s, plastic and fiberglass panels were available to allow larger curved shapes than could be previously manufactured.

The improvements in Traveller manufacturing methods are largely unknown. How are crystal-iron and superdense made at various TLs? When is it cast – resulting in a ship made from castings? When is it made in plates – resulting in a faceted hull? When is it molded into curved shapes? When is it built up in thin layers?

How would one even begin to track the style trends throughout the Imperium? In other cultures?
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  #5  
Old February 27th, 2007, 08:38 PM
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OK, those are all good replies, so there are brains engaged.

Mr. Pollard asked the true question: how would one begin to track style trends?

And, is it important?

Perhaps technology is only of limited help. HEPlaR dominates to TL11, for example. Perhaps there are known design elements which can describe a wide range of aesthetics in ship forms.

The purpose of this would be to provide clues to the players that we're in different space. Local color. The shape of Zhodani ships helps establish the otherness of the Consulate.

With a descriptive language to outline design elements, I expand my ability to create new places for my players. I also prevent myself from cloning an existing aesthetic (hey, those guys' ships look just like our ships!).

Can words like this capture styles for Traveller starships?

</font>
  • Shape (Angular, Pointy, Boxy, Skeletal, Lumpy, Curvy...)</font>
  • Overlap</font>
  • Visual Texture (rough, smooth, glossy?)</font>
  • Balance (symmetry)</font>
  • Rhythm (pattern, repetition)</font>
  • Harmony (similar elements combined)</font>
  • Dominance/emphasis (of one main element)</font>
For example, Imperial ships might be angular, non-overlapping, rough, mostly balanced, arhythmic, harmonious, with multiple shapes usually proportional to each other rather than one being dominant.

Vargr ships might be pointy, non-overlapping, rough, mostly balanced, and harmonious, with a dominant shape and repetitive subordinate features (i.e. Fangs).

Aslan ships might be curvy with some overlap between shapes, smooth, balanced, arhythmic, and harmonious with a tendency to having a dominant main shape.
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Old February 27th, 2007, 09:24 PM
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As to TL influence on style and style in general I make reference to common commercial images and a quick rule of thumb.

First the rule of thumb, things are rough and more "riveted" together looking at odd tech-levels and smoother at even tech levels. This has more do to how I slightly shifted when various material advances take place in canon.

Basically, at a TL where a new superior hull material becomes available to armor a ship, the ships looks angular and more riveted as the technology and cost effectiveness to work this into smooth shapes is not yet available. Exactly as suggested above. So TL 9, 11, 13 and 15 ships tend to look more angular and have more noticeable panels.

I like to reference commercial images since people will instantly know what you are talking about.

Here are some common media examples I like. For this I completely ignore the technological capabilities of the ships in their respective shows, I just like the looks and forms.

TL 9 & 10 For me Space 1999 is the TL9 as well as atpollard’s Liberty ships, and 2001 A Space Odyssey is TL 10. Of course those Liberty ships are so cool and functional that they see service well into TL11.

TL 11 To me, Earth Alliance military forces in B5 are a early TL11 look, rotating sections for gravity at low TL11 are crucial.

TL 11 to 12 Star Trek Enterprise, the NX-01, is a late TL-11 to early TL 12 look. The original Star Trek series to me is a clear advanced TL12 look with a preference for smooth hulls with curves. Mimbari forces in B5 are a good artistic TL12 look or a basic TL14 look.

TL 13 Star Wars ships are a great TL 13 look to me. To me they don’t say TL11 because they have too many little bits sticking off. At this point space travel has become common place, and viewed the same way we view traveling on the freeway. Forms have become highly functional as materials are now strong enough that you can enter an atmosphere at fair speeds without melting all the bits sticking off your ship. Streamlined ships can certainly be made and are more a function of style. Military ships again have that panel/riveted look due to the nature of TL13 armor plate.

TL14 For TL 14 I think of the many classic Traveller ships, and Scarecrow’s amazing work.

TL15 For TL15 I think of Homeworld. New armor materials again favor somewhat blockier designs but the high TL provides for smoother integration than at TL13.

TL16 There are some painting’s, by Whelan I believe, used for the cover of David Brin’s book Startide Rising that say TL 16 to me. Extremely flowing hulls with a powerful look.
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Old February 28th, 2007, 09:49 AM
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Computer-aided design effectively removes any barriers to the creation of complex 3-dimensional shapes. The deciding factor is more likely to be the vessel's intended function. There would basically be three schools of ship design in any (human) society - military, commercial and private.

Military ships display aesthetic qualities only as the result of serendipity. Their only design criterion is functionality.

Commercial ships will factor in appearance only if it seems profitable to do so. So, liners, charter yachts and shuttle might be as beautiful as technology and fashion can make them, but don't expect to see a freighter which makes concessions to appearance.

Private vessels are where looks count. Nobody's going to buy a multi-megacredit starship if it's ugly. The amount of money spent on design will reflect the intended buyer - a free trader is going to worry a lot less about his ship's appearance than a noble would about his safari ship.

None of which answers the original point as to what any of these would actually look like. [img]tongue.gif[/img]
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Old February 28th, 2007, 11:37 AM
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Yes, good point from Ptah about working new materials (shape and surface texture?), and from Brom about human designs based on function.

I'm still thinking about these design elements, and whether or not I can figure out useful ranges out of them.

Main "Shape" ?
1 spherical
2 curvy
3 bubbly/lumpy
4 boxy/angular ?
5 pointy
6 skeletal/lanky

Surface Texture
1 frictionless
2 glossy/slick
3 smooth
4 matte ?
5 "disjoint" ?
6 rough

Balance - symmetry
1 radial balance
2 axial balance
3
4
5
6 asymmetric

Rhythm - re-use of elements in the overall shape
1 arhythmic
2
3
4 pattern
5
6 repetition

Harmony - similar or complementary elements form the hull (??)
1 always harmonious
2
3
4
5
6 always jarring

Emphasis - one shape dominant
1 always emphatic
2
3
4
5
6 always proportional
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Old February 28th, 2007, 12:08 PM
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Following on a bit of what Brom said, look at modern cars/trucks...

Military trucks/cars (Jeeps and HumVees) are function over form. They are blocky and "ugly".

Transport Trucks/cars tend to be blocky and only rounded enough for aerodynamics.

Private Cars/Trucks - Looks are very important. Styles are not tending away from highly aerodynamic to the ruggedized look with SUV's dominating the market, but that is a style trend. In the 1960s, cars had fins because they looked futuristic and cool, not because they served any purpose.

A delivery truck from the 1920s or 30s doesn't LOOK a whole lot different than todays. Performance is difference, but appearance is pretty constant, because it is function over form.

A 200 ton Free Trader won't change shape too much from TL 9 to TL 15+.

A 200 ton Yacht will NEVER look the same between tech levels, even if the performance doesn't change that much.
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  #10  
Old March 2nd, 2007, 10:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by robject:
Balance - symmetry
1 radial balance
2 axial balance
3
4
5
6 asymmetric
This depends on your preference for style or 'realism'. Vtend to be bilaterally symetrical because this reduces structural stresses, among other things. Asymetry means a heavier ship for the same volume.
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