Weapons 101

WARNING ! Lengthy Post Alert!

Real space combat – when we grow up enough as a civilisation to actually fly around in space shooting at each other like the idiots we are – will be totally inhuman and totally unfair.

A laser travels at the speed of light. It also won’t stop, or bend unless it hits something. It’s also invisible unless it’s travelling through a physical medium (the laser energy agitates the atoms in the medium causing flourescence).

So – get your super powerful metal melting laser, and fire it in space. It will go on forever, travelling at the speed of light in a vacuum with nothing to stop it, disperse it or slow it down.

This means a few things.

  1. You can hit anything no matter how far away it might be. If you can accurately calculate the positions of your target in a years time – you can hit it from a light-year away…
  2. You won’t know what hit you when it does – because it’ll be invisible.
  3. Stray fire is a bitch.

Imagine a heated space battle with lots of ships all trying to burn each other to death with various super-powerful lasers. No matter how good the targeting systems – they are going to miss. That’s a lot of stray fire all zipping off into the depths of space “forever” at the speed of light, and it’s invisible.

Now you come wandering in-system a few hours later, minding your own business. And whap – you get blasted by a laser fired two hours ago half way across the system which you couldn’t even see. No fair!

Now throw this in – reflective surfaces. A hull made of a highly polished surface will inherently deflect the laser – so now it can zip off in all manner of directions and at any angle – mucho chaos would ensue.

Next – missiles. Or more accurately – as they would become in reality – temporarily propelled mines. To get about space, most ships would be fairly fleet of foot. Interstellar distances demand this. So now you fire a salvo of missiles at me to take me out and I just laugh, and zip into FTL for a short distance and bye-bye missiles.

The missiles would only have a finite amount of energy – so eventually they burn out and just drift. Now you have a salvo of drifting mines going off in all directions – and our intrepid traveller from above suddenly finds themselves popping out into real space in the middle of a mine-field of dud missiles all primed and ready to detonate on contact.

Space is getting mighty dangerous for our casual traveller!

A lot of design issues come about from carelessly throwing weapons about. Balance is important – which means for every mega-weapon, a mega-defence is needed. You can’t let everyone have the mega-weapon without letting everyone have the mega-defence.

We also need to be careful with the weapon/defence design because of multi-player dominance issues. For now we’re single player. But we’re aiming to go multi-player as soon as it’s viable.

So what does this mean for Dominium? It’s just a game after all…

Clearly the “stray-fire” problem won’t actually pose a problem for our intrepid traveller popping into the system. We won’t be tracking every single shot fired in perpetuity “just in case” they should get in the way of one. That said – getting to close to a conflict may not be such a wise idea unless you want to take part.

We intend to put in weapons which are along these lines of “realism” (as we see it) but overcome the kinds of problems they pose – without cheating, or being unfair. We also then have to put in fair countermeasures, and defenses to tackle someone who is firing them at you.

Broadly speaking – weapons break down into two dominant groups…

Rangeless Attacks

Energy beam attacks from long ranges will be possible – provided you have a target you can aim at. So – you won’t need to be in close proximity to a space station – or enemy vessel to attack it. You could be on the other side of the system – but I don’t want to bog the player down with lots of “predictive if-buts” – so we’ll probably allow a light-second. This will mean firing on stationary targets is a cinch.

How to defend against this? Well, shields for one. Then pinpointing the attacker and deploying forces to take them out. Everything within the current star system will be simulated so the remote station can respond in this way. Also – don’t forget the station will also have energy weapons, and most likely they will be far more powerful. They will return fire on your attacking position.

How to stop  multi-player from ganging up on a station from various points 1 light-second away and just blasting the thing apart? Well, for one – they will all need the target in their system. That’ll be possible by sharing it. So once they all attack – the stations forces will target all of them for counter-attack. The station will also be able to fire directly back with energy weapons.

So although this sounds like a super way to “fire from afar” and get away with it – it won’t be so easy. It’ll pose technical challenges (especially in multi-player) but we’ll consider each and balance them as we go. For now, we don’t see it as a risk and think it adds a great new strategic element to the normal “space-combat” game for single player which  justifies  putting it in.

Ranged Attacks


Missiles are – generally – going to have to be fast. Driven by various levels of AI, with various drive systems and various payloads we’ll have a plethora of missiles available to tantalise and probably confuse the typical player. So we’ll probably allow a kind of “crafting” assembly system.

Whilst you can buy the “Mk II Hydra Low-yield Nuclear Warhead” – we’ll allow you to pick and mix from the drive systems, AI and payloads to make your own favourite combination. Each with it’s own associated costs, pro’s and cons.

Imagine being able to specify a short-range, high speed housing which deploys a dozen high-explosive magnetic mines. A long range, slow burn housing which fires up after a delay then shatters into twenty high-speed fully aware nuclear warheads on a wide spread just in front of it’s target. Or multi-targeting warheads where a single missile can split and attack twenty separate targets.


We touched on this and they will probably be “craftable” in the same way as missiles. Allowing you to chose ones that will be mobile – homing in on targets in their proximity, or stationary. Others can shatter and deploy multiple mini-mines or even missiles.  Really, the variety here comes from the fact that various payloads can be applied to various payload delivery systems.


We’ll be exploring all possibilities here – drawing on the realms of science and science-fiction for inspiration. Being able to put any payload into variety of delivery mechanisms means we can roll out new and exciting weapons much easier.

  • Nuclear warheads
  • Energy sinks which drain power from anything nearby
  • EMP ‘s disable unprotected equipment
  • High-explosive
  • Gravitational disturbances
  • Sub-space disturbances
  • Flash-bangs
  • Fragmentation
  • Shield feedback bolts
  • And more…

Energy Weapons

The usual plasma bolts, finite energy beams, energy balls, but also electric arcs, lightning bolts, shield leeches, electric rams for electrifying hulls.

One property of the Electro-magnetic Spectrum is often overlooked in games. Most of it is invisible. The Heat Ray of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds was invisible. “A ghostly ray of heat” – an intense beam of infra-red, or x-ray, or gamma radiation. No fluorescence. No visible beam. No warning.

So it’s not “overlooked” as much as discounted out of hand. How unfair to be hit by an invisible beam of energy which turns you to ash!

It’s only invisible if you aren’t looking for it though… equip your ship with wide-spectrum sensors and you can now see infra-red, x-ray, gamma et al. The better the equipment, the better you can see.

Mass Drivers

And of course, we’ll have the old faithful “bullets” – or more accurately cannon balls. Useful for depleting shields from afar, and for chewing into hull plating. The ‘masses’ involved will vary in size and type – requiring different drivers to fire them. Depleted Uranium shells. Phosphor balls. Titanium pellets. The harder the material used, the greater the effect, the more expensive the ammo.

Typically these are short range only – slow moving and easy to avoid if not fired ahead of their target. More powerful drivers (like rail guns) can fire masses close to the speed of light – so these bullets would ablate on impact and instantly flare off as energy, making for a very effective weapon at all ranges, but rail guns take a while to recharge…

Intelligent Weapons

Hinted at by “AI” guided missiles – which can choose their own targets based on proximity, targets damage levels etc. we will be providing a range of weapons which can pretty much direct themselves – such as the Automated Defence Platform (ADP).

This beast is one or more mounted turrets with a power core, shield and ammunition store as appropriate – often deployed by larger vessels to guard areas, and used a lot by stations. They basically fire-on-foe after issuing a warning to maintain a safe distance. Ignore the warning, and feel the pain.

These weapons can be “programmed” (to a degree) by giving them target priorities. ADP’s can be equipped with sensors allowing them to detect and target a vessels power core, weapons or drive system to disable it instead of destroy it.

Turrets – Weapon Mounts

This brings us neatly to turrets. Larger ships (and some smaller) will have weapons mounted on gimbals which can spin round and attack from any angle – some are free, some restricted to pitch/yaw. These turrets are controlled by AI and the targeting system – or you can take over yourself, or hire crew to take a gunning position in some turrets.

Each has a response time to orient to a target, tracking speeds and so on – where upgrades mean better efficiency and greater accuracy and speed of tracking.

Turrets can accept a variety of weapons (energy, missile, mass driver, etc) or will be locked to a specific type or range of types.

Signing off…

So – that hopefully paints a picture of where we’re headed weapon-wise for Dominium… heavy, hard, uber-powerful, kinda-future-realistic. Again the aim is to provide all these things you can tinker with if you choose – but not force you to – or bog you down in countless hours of micro-management before you even get to leave dock.

We’ll continue coming up with more and more ideas – and as ever, your more than welcome to throw a few into the pot if you’ve a mind to – just pop along to our forums on SpaceSimCentral and feel free to chip in!





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Author: Mr T View all posts by

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