This is a proposal that describes a revised mechanic for ship to ship boarding.
- Make boarding less random
- Make looting after boarding more flexible
- Make the effects of crew more apparent
The issue with the original boarding system is that boarding is instantaneous and the boarding dialog freezes the game simulation. Any ship can immediately board any other ship, plunder it, and fly away again. Given proper piloting, it can even be done in the middle of combat. This proposal hopes to discourage mid-combat boarding by making the process take longer, thereby making boarding ships vulnerable to attack.
Consider a mechanic where a ship initiates boarding, and then has to wait for a time before the boarding operation is complete. While boarding is in process, a progress bar will be displayed above the ships. During this time the boarding ship may not take any other actions. When the progress bar is full, the boarding operation is a success and goods, money or fuel may be looted.
There are two reasons why a boarding operation may be terminated prematurely. The first is if the boarding ship decides to abort. Aborting comes at no cost and is instantaneous, but all boarding progress is lost. The second reason is that the ship that's being boarded may recover from its disabled status while the boarding process is ongoing. If this happens, the board process is forcibly terminated and the boarding ship is stunned for a short while.
The speed of the boarding operation is a function of the crew values of both parties. The more crew the boarding ship has compared to the target ship, the faster the progress bar will fill up. A big ship will be able to board a smaller ship swiftly, while a small ship boarding a big ship will have little hope of completing the board operation in time. Of course, crew modifying outfits will have a strong impact on the boarding process.
The issue with the original looting system is that it provides the player with an arbitrary choice of fuel, credits and cargo. The player can only pick one of these, and even then he may end up with nothing because the target ship can "lock him out", or even explode. Both of these scenarios are extremely silly.
Consider a mechanic where, on completion of boarding, the player is presented with a list of the target ship's inventory. The inventory may consist of credits, fuel, or various quantities of cargo. This could later be extended with anything else we like, such as ammunition, internal ship outfits or even people. To transfer items from the inventory, the player must pay a cost, expressed in what we shall call Loot Points (LP). The amount of LP a ship has depends on its crew. LP are reset for each boarding operation, so there is never any reason to conserve LP for later.
The quantity of items transferred is fixed per item type. For example, 1 LP might transfer up to 10 tons of cargo, up to 100 fuel or up to 1000 credits. The value of the cargo is irrelevant in this case. Therefore, a player will want to loot whatever cargo is worth most, to get the most out of the LP available to him.
When all LP have been spent, the player has no other choice than to conclude the boarding operation, and normal gameplay resumes.