So, I recently found out about a great game being Kickstarted, “Starfighter, INC.” It’s a newtonian-physics based space combat, and they’re putting a lot of thought into the realism side of this.
In the comments on the article, their technical consultant responded to some user questions about their decisions. The part that got me was this (emphasis mine):
“That being said, we’re not trying to make a sea analogy here – the carrier/capital ship/fighter distinction is based on the space environment. Why do starfighters exist? The first reason is an engineering one. Because of the square cube law, you can build a small starfighter with reasonable sized heat radiators and engine nozzles that aren’t asking to get riddled with holes, whereas they’d get out of hand on a dedicated kilometer-long warship. There are some means around this, which is why we come to the second reason, one both economic and logistical. With ubiquitous nukes a small ship like a starfighter can seriously challenge a far larger capital ship (or at least has a chance to, seeing as the latter has point defense lasers) particularly in numbers, as @PeterWimsey points out, and starfighters can disperse and distribute themselves far enough apart that you’d need a proportional number of nukes to handle them all. Knowing that one nuke can take out one capital ship but will likely only take out one out of the hundred or so starfighters you could build for the same volume, who’s likely still standing at the end of that fight, and what’s more worth the investment? You can afford to lose starfighters, but each capital ship gone is a hit to the war effort. However, starfighters are too small to host their pilots for the week or month long voyages between planets, so you need a larger ship to hold life support to sustain the pilots, and you can fit said ship with support equipment so you can trim as much mass off the fighters as possible – hence the carrier.”
This feels like an excellent set of points, and something I feel puts words to what I’ve been thinking about the RFI universe for a long time, just not able to express it as well. Additionally, they have some interesting thoughts on the concept of stealth:
" Heat signatures are impossible to hide and can be spotted at immense distances (apparently you could see the space shuttle’s maneuvering thrusters from as far as the asteroid belt with a homemade IR telescope), and via a combination of intensity (which tells you how much power the ship’s putting out) and Doppler effect (which will tell you what direction it’s going), you know its size and trajectory. Everybody knows where everybody is, there’s no stealth in the conventional sense, so you have to hide in plain sight. We’re thinking of having pseudo-civilian vessels with concealed weaponry for this purpose, and giving ships the ability to retract their guns."
That’s… a shocking revelation, but it’s one that I very much enjoy in terms of how the limitation could drive creativity in the universe.
So, what do you guys think? I’m really likely to adopt some of these ideas, but I’d love to chat about them a bit more.