In light of Keen breaking both merge blocks and welders again this last patch, after pledging to fix both, perhaps the title ought to be "how I used to build ships before I quit Space Engineers in a fit of RAEG," but regardless ... Over the years I've seen a lot of people ask how to get started on building ships, and have wanted to write a walk-through of my design process to help them. This isn't meant to be the only way to do it, just an examination of the way I do it, that highlights some of the considerations you have to make when designing things. Every time I've decided to do it, I've never really gotten started. This time though, I'm going to do it properly. So let's get started! The first step is deciding what to build; in this case, I want to build a carrier, a big carrier. This is both for Workshop points (engies love carriers), and also to fill a hole that exists in my lineup in both out-of-character and in-character terms. Now that we know what we want to build, we need to identify what essential features it needs. If I was building a normal warship, this would be where I sat down and figured out what weapons it needed, both stock and player-made. I'd consider the class of warship, and how much armor its main gun and missiles needed to penetrate. Then I'd look at my preexisting projectiles to see if I had anything in-stock that fit those needs; if I did, I'd either use an existing launcher/gun, or design a new one. If I didn't, I'd start with a bunch of tests of projectile designs against targets, both ideal targets (just stacked layers of armor), and practical ones (actual ships, eventually working up to ones with active defenses). A large degree of this testing would be speculative, since the best tests -- multiplayer fights -- are not practical with MP in such a sorry state. In this case, the features it needs as a carrier are fighters, or more accurately, hangars for the fighters. But this isn't going to be an escort carrier, like the Vancouver; this is a strike carrier, the equivalent of a fleet carrier. It's supposed to be able to store, maintain, and deploy enough strike craft that it can seriously threaten the enemy. So it needs hangars to match that. Looking at my inventory, it turns out I already have something that suits the bill pretty well. This is my stock landing pad; I use it all the time in survival, because it's big enough to handle just about all my small grid craft. I can also use it for my trucks, since they too have a ventral connector (this, BTW, is why I don't use dorsal connectors; those require a hangar with a ceiling, to stick the connector to. A pad lets me set down on it, and I can use the same pad for ground vehicles too). So I'll be using this as the basis for my ship. But it's going to need some tweaking; it can fit any fighter, but using something that big for a Viper would be a huge waste of space. So we need to add more connectors, and in such a way that it can handle multiple configurations of craft in a space-efficient way. A few minutes of fiddling around gives us this: It's not perfect, but it's a start; I'll probably make it a little wider so the Haasts don't have to worry about banging their wings on things. And I already know the Condor -- the dropship the carrier will be using -- will fit on the pad's central connector, so I don't need to test that (after all, I designed the Condor around this pad; standardization saves you a ton of time). This is a hangar floor that will work with everything it needs to. Now that I have a basic hangar floor design, I need to put some thought into incorporating it -- or them -- into a ship. And this is where we start considering the ship's overall layout, because this is going to affect that. Carriers are particularly complicated, because their design needs to make sense not just for the carrier itself, but for the craft they're carrying, and how those craft will realistically be used in (hopefully stable) multiplayer. So let's do some theory-crafting; this is going to get a little in-depth and long-winded. The big thing to worry about, as in real life, is collisions. So we want to arrange the ship to avoid collisions. I can't control what every individual idiot pilot will do, but I can arrange the ship so the things they have to do are unlikely to result in collisions. And on a carrier, they have to launch, and they have to dock. So the ship should be arrange such that craft doing those things do not cross paths. In launching, you're accelerating, so you don't want anything in front of you, especially if craft have different rates of acceleration! Ideally, each craft's launch vector should belong to it alone, with no other craft crossing it. This suggests the same kind of individual launch bays that the Galactica has. But there are two different kinds of docking; there's long-term docking, where the fighter gets shut down, repaired, and maintained; and short-term docking, which is basically a pit-stop between missions. This is particularly true if you're only flying back to the carrier to reload PMW missiles or rocket pods. It doesn't make any sense for the folks flying in to tank up their ordnance to have to maneuver around dropships that might not even be used that mission; additionally, long-term docking needs much less space. You just need to hold the thing, protect it from getting bumped into. But short-term docking needs everything a pit-stop needs; you need a space to decelerate, preferably with protection from being shot at. You could decelerate outside, easy, but then your ass is hanging out there for all to see. You need access to the ship's inventory and assemblers, and you need enough space to move around the thing to patch it up and stuff. And you also need enough space to fly around other ships that are doing the same thing. Putting these together, it starts to look like we need two different kinds of spaces on the carrier. One of them is what we'll call a sortie hangar; this is a large space that fighters can fly into easily, dock temporarily to re-equip themselves, and then fly out of quickly (since it's big, we can also use it to store the really big ships, provided we arrange things so they don't get in the way. And the other is a series of small, compact spaces, oriented such that craft flying from the don't intersect any other craft's vector, designed to hold craft and provide an initial launch space. That's all I have written now, but I'll be posting shortly to continue this, and show how I intend to implement this layout. --- Automerge --- So we decided on two different kinds of hangars, one big one for sorties, and a series of smaller ones for the initial launch as well as long-term storage. The launch hangars need to be positioned such that launch vectors don't intercept each other; the best way for this is either from the sides, or the dorsal-ventral faces. The sides are probably easiest, as well as being simple to fit into my existing aesthetic layout, so let's assumed lateral launches for now. The sortie hangar will have a fly-through design; this helps reduce the risk of collision, because craft are only coming from one direction. Fly-through lets craft decelerate within the bay, protecting them from enemy fire if an interceptor does a strafing run on the ship; and aligning the bay longitudinally will let craft dock more easily while the ship is moving, assuming it keeps its nose pointed forward. So we're looking at a bunch of little hangars on the sides, and a big ol' bay running the length of the ship. We'll work on the big bay first, because that will determine most of the rest of the ship's layout. We need to further reduce the risk of collision by making craft being refitted present a low profile; this means recessing the landing areas, like so: That leaves us with a problem though, because the Condors will stick WAAAY out; any ship running through there runs a serious risk of clipping them. About half its height is above the deck there. So we need to drop things down even further. Better, but yeeesh, that's huge. Then again, this ship was never going to be petite, anyway. The other problem we have is that, if we store the Condors in there, we can't refit ships during missions without moving them first. So we either need to add dedicated bays for the Condors, or extend the main bay. This is where we again look at the overall ship pattern. I like my ships to have a length-to-height ratio of 9:1; longer is definitely better here. Based on the width of this thing already, we need more length to keep that ratio; this is also a pretty short bay so far, so decelerating in it would be hard anyway. So, we're going to add more length to the bay; however, since the Condors have space allocated for them anyway, we're not going to recess these fully. Well, that's frankly huge. We'll see how this works out; the partially recessed bays may be all that's needed. They certainly look less hideous. We can't determine which option is better without roofing the bay, so let's get that done. Again, this will determine the overall hull of the entire vessel, so we need to pin it down early on. This will also let us determine how the bay entrance integrates with the rest of the ship. First, the height; if we're going with partially recessed bays, we need 4 blocks of clearance. Then we work out a layout that will give craft enough room on the sides, as well as look decent on the hull exterior. This works. And there's plenty of space to fly through. Now we can begin on the lateral bays, as well as forming the lower hull. Again, this is a carrier; if a warship gets close to it, someone done goofed. So unless we expect thrusters to be cooking it, it's going to be light armor. I'm not even going to bother with my normal heavy armor skeleton framework here; there will be so much light armor, that will be enough to hold it together. And that means we can cover the external conveyor blocks with just some catwalk blocks. But for now, lateral bays! Ta-da! Y'know, actually building these things has convinced me it makes more sense to put the Condors in their own lateral bays. Besides the fact that, holy toledo, that central bay is HUGE. More later.