Some thoughts about ships

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Wuzzy
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Some thoughts about ships

Post by Wuzzy » 18 Aug 2019 20:21

Am I the only one who thinks there are WAY too few ships in the game?

Especially ships are very limited. I really, really love the waterway improvements that have been made in recent OpenTTD versions, but I that awesome change is kind of being undone with the lack of ships … :(

I mean, think of it. In Temperate climate, the latest ship will be released 1974. I mean, come on! That's still 74 years till 2050. In this time period, all other vehicle classes, i.e. trains, planes and road vehicles continue to get many upgrades. Ships keep getting stuck in the past, while all other vehicle types will get fany futuristic versions. What's also a little weird is that in Temperate, the fastest ship releases in the 1960s, which is surprisingly early.

In the late game, ships become less and less relevant as the other modes of transportation will completely kick the ass out of ships. Especially in the non-Temperate climates. In the late game, ships are not useless, but they just cannot compete at all against other modes of transportation. If the goal is to maximize profit, ships are really just a waste of time, at least in the late game. In the late game, trains seem to absolutely dominate in terms of profit. In the early game, things still are more or less balanced out, however.

When you're a good player and you have made tons of cash, it's usually better to just terraform the hell out the landscape, even if it costs you millions, and build a maglev, connecting the islands instead of using a ship route.

Lately, I had a lot of fun playing on a vanilla server in which I basically used lots of oil ships to build my little oil empire. :D I basically tried to connect every oil rig and they kept popping up like mushrooms. :D
The new waterway features definitely improved the gameplay a lot. :) But later in the game, I find myself more and more moving to other modes of transportation simply because there was nothing more to do with ships.

Ships seem to be mostly useful for oil, especially in Temperate. The hovercraft is also a very good ship, especially early on, as it's fast, but the railroads and airplanes will eventually kick its ass, too.. All ships also only come in large form. Passenger ships are great to connect large cities. For small cities or industries with low output, buying a ship is (sadly) overkill. There's no small ship for a smaller budget.

I don't say the current ships are unbalanced, but it's just compared to the other modes of transportation, they just seem lacking.

I think the lack of variety in ships makes the overall use of ships rather limited. I noticed ships are best used for short- to medium distances. For long distances they are mostly s***, they just take too long, and if the journey is a year, they destroy your index.

I know, you are not going to touch the base game because I know you want to preserve the original TTD “feel”. OK.
So is there a NewGRF that extends the ship set to add more variety, while at the same time still being faithful enough to good 'ol TTD gameplay?
I have tried a few NewGRFs already, but they don't seem to be balanced well. They try to be hyper-realistic instead of having good gameplay.


What do you think about the way the ships work in vanilla OpenTTD? Do you think it's just fine? Or did you maybe have the same feelings as I did?

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by kamnet » 19 Aug 2019 03:57

I really did wish there was more interest in ships.

To that end, I think that FISH/Squid Ate FISH/Unsinkable Sam has become the go-to ship set these days. If you need earlier than 1930s, there's Sailing Ships, which are probably not as balanced as some may want, but unfortunately not under development anymore.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by andythenorth » 19 Aug 2019 08:58

It’s tricky to design an interesting ship grf.

One limiting factor is speed. Freight ships have limited options for speed in a set that is at least slightly realistic. I’m using speeds that are about 2x real life for freight, but it’s still only about 25mph.

Speed feeds into progression: there are limited options for new models to offer much better stats than the old model. Speed range is limited. Capacity is not very relevant because a group of ships has ~infinite capacity. There is no power, weight or TE value. That leaves loading speed and running costs as the progression points.

Additionally ships don’t contend for infrastructure. Water tiles and docks have ~infinite capacity, so there are no choices to make that affect network performance, unlike trains.

Finally ships are a pain in the ass to draw. They’re big sprites and have complex shapes, so ship grfs are slow to make.

Iron Horse 2 has about 365 trains and took 2 years to draw, so 1 train every 2 days. Unsinkable Sam has 40 ships and I’ve been working on it for 3 years, and it’s nowhere near done :twisted:

There are some ideas around for improving ship gameplay, but eh, they’re only ideas and might not even be good :twisted:

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L. Spooner Inc
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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by L. Spooner Inc » 19 Aug 2019 13:40

Suggestion: a class of smuggling ships, from early rum-runners to 80s cigarette boats to modern drug mule semi-submersibles. The idea is small boats with low volume and a relatively high cost, but with a focus on blazing speed to compete with planes and trains for cargoes like valuables and goods.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by kamnet » 19 Aug 2019 16:03

L. Spooner Inc wrote:
19 Aug 2019 13:40
Suggestion: a class of smuggling ships, from early rum-runners to 80s cigarette boats to modern drug mule semi-submersibles. The idea is small boats with low volume and a relatively high cost, but with a focus on blazing speed to compete with planes and trains for cargoes like valuables and goods.
The other frustrating thing about ships - they're limited to 125 km/h. If we could break through that limit, ekranoplans would be a serious reality.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by L. Spooner Inc » 20 Aug 2019 00:58

kamnet wrote:
19 Aug 2019 16:03
The other frustrating thing about ships - they're limited to 125 km/h. If we could break through that limit, ekranoplans would be a serious reality.
I haven't looked at the code, but could you create some kind of kludge? Like making airplanes which land at docks and can only cross water squares?

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by kamnet » 20 Aug 2019 03:26

It would be much better to work on that piece of code. Some have tried in the past, but it's resulted in graphics glitching and ships losing their way.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by Cool Loser » 15 Sep 2019 13:05

Just this morning I was wondering whether ships are worth the money or not. They're sooooooooooooo slow that... I guess you need a very specific map/situation in order for them to be the best choice. I like ships, and since that this game is so heavily focused on trains (which is cool, I like trains too!) it seems to me that the gameplay around other vehicles is kinda dull.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by odisseus » 16 Sep 2019 22:04

The original set of ships indeed has very limited application. If you want a more useful selection of ships, use one of the GRFs mentioned above.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by Alberth » 17 Sep 2019 10:43

Cool Loser wrote:
15 Sep 2019 13:05
Just this morning I was wondering whether ships are worth the money or not. They're sooooooooooooo slow that... I guess you need a very specific map/situation in order for them to be the best choice. I like ships, and since that this game is so heavily focused on trains (which is cool, I like trains too!) it seems to me that the gameplay around other vehicles is kinda dull.
The fun part of ships is if you have several islands with bodies of water between them. Trains are used at each island, ships do inter-island transport.

Ships shine with large amounts of cargo that need to be transported. Use a lot of ships rather than a few large ones. While each ship by itself is slow, all ships together can operate as a pipeline providing a steady flow of goods. Focus on that overall flow-size and having steady deliveries.

EDIT: Obviously it helps if your trains aren't lightning fast :p
Use steam trains!
Being a OpenTTD developer does not mean I know what I am doing.
Also, other OpenTTD developers may have different opinions.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by kamnet » 17 Sep 2019 13:35

1. Ships are slow but can carry much more cargo
2. Ships never collide and can go in any direction instantly, and don't have to wait on traffic.
3. Start using the new Multiple Docks per Station feature in OpenTTD nightly/1.10

Ships are slow on the surface (no pun intended) but will beat the brakes off of trains in constant throughput.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by Kevo00 » 17 Sep 2019 20:15

Don't forget ships also have the advantage of very low infra costs as long as you stick to open sea. They can also provide very direct passenger routes when playing with islands.

I use ships a lot especially with Squid.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by Pyoro » 18 Sep 2019 10:42

My main issue with ships are that they are boring. There's nothing to do with them. Make an A<->B connection and copy as many as you need and done. With trains, you can constantly tinker around and improve your network. Road vehicles aren't too crazy interesting either but they got more features lately and at least there's some things to do with streets and planning stuff. Planes are probably worst; ships at least have canals and landscape restrictions.

Still. They aren't very interesting gameplay-wise right now. ^^

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by PikkaBird » 18 Sep 2019 11:19

Pyoro wrote:
18 Sep 2019 10:42
Planes are probably worst; ships at least have canals and landscape restrictions.
Planes at least have vehicle movements limited by airport capacity. Ships are an infinitely wide pipe, and there's no practical difference between a few big ships and lots of small ones.

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by romazoon » 18 Sep 2019 13:14

Alberth wrote:
17 Sep 2019 10:43
The fun part of ships is if you have several islands with bodies of water between them. Trains are used at each island, ships do inter-island transport.
Doing exactly that and adding a bit of harbor life can make ships very interesting to play with in my opinion
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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by odisseus » 19 Sep 2019 23:56

Pyoro wrote:
18 Sep 2019 10:42
My main issue with ships are that they are boring. There's nothing to do with them. Make an A<->B connection and copy as many as you need and done.
Ships are the only mode of transportation in the default vehicle set that allows refitting the same vehicle to almost any cargo type. This means you can use the same boat to transport e. g. iron ore to a steel mill, and then transport steel on the way back. Or you can even have several resources transported to a single harbor, and make the ship cycle through the cargo types in order to pick up whatever cargo is waiting at the moment.
PikkaBird wrote:
18 Sep 2019 11:19
there's no practical difference between a few big ships and lots of small ones.
The difference is quite considerable in situations where frequency of service matters more than the throughput capacity. Consider an oil rig in FIRS: the oil it produces can be taken away by a huge slow tanker, but for stocking it with engineering supplies you would certainly look for something much smaller and faster.
Pyoro wrote:
18 Sep 2019 10:42
Planes are probably worst
The challenge of planes lies in building a transfer service that connects an airport with the town. If the service is efficient enough, the airport can be located at some distance from the city, which means that there will be room for a second airport (and a second transfer service) when the first one starts overflowing.

Also, planes are a lazy player's way to distribute small amounts of valuable cargo (such as vehicles in ECS).

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by PikkaBird » 20 Sep 2019 07:36

odisseus wrote:
19 Sep 2019 23:56
The difference is quite considerable in situations where frequency of service matters more than the throughput capacity. Consider an oil rig in FIRS: the oil it produces can be taken away by a huge slow tanker, but for stocking it with engineering supplies you would certainly look for something much smaller and faster.
For sure. But then, since they can just overlap, there's no throughput capacity limit to the smaller ships either, so the bigger ships are pointless. From a set design point of view, ships suck. :)

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Re: Some thoughts about ships

Post by odisseus » 21 Sep 2019 14:18

That would be correct — if not for the vehicle limits. On many servers the maximum number of ships a company can own is 100 or fewer, which is quite reachable if you have a lot of ship routes, and will cripple your company if you try to run those routes with small ships only.

That said, I realize that the absence of collision checking makes the capacity of ship routes theoretically infinite, and I agree that this fact makes ships too easy to use. But this doesn't mean you cannot do interesting and complicated things with ships.

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