Jumpships are currently overpowered: able to carry out surprise attacks on any part of the map and retreat back to safety before an opposing player can take a turn. The jump beacons feature is designed to reduce jumpships' power while still preserving their distinctive features.
The core concept is that jumpships require a friendly jump beacon in order to plot a course to a given point on the map. All destination orders to a jumpfleet must target a coordinate within 250 light-seconds of at least one jump beacon.
For the initial implementation, any structure that can build jumpships counts as a jump beacon. Future implementations may specify other structure types that serve as jump beacons.
This feature limits the range of jumpships without limiting their speed or power. This will make it harder for massive jumpfleets to strike unexpectedly at an empire.
There are two ways to set the destination of a fleet. The player may select a fleet and right-click on a destination on the map, or the player may select a fleet, click the Destination button, and click on a destination on the map.
In the first method, if the destination is out of jump beacon range, we show an error. We use the same UI as other pathing errors, such as starships trying to enter a nebula.
In the second method, we show the valid jump area as shaded circles, centered on each existing jump beacon.
The whole purpose of explorers like the Vanguard class is to explore, so these ships are exempt from requiring a jump beacon. In exchange, they have much weaker weapons and armor.
If it turns out that explorers can still be exploited for surprise attacks, we could implement additional restrictions such as preventing them from initiating an attack.
For clarity we define the following terms:
- An explorer fleet is a fleet consisting solely of explorer jumpships.
- A jumpfleet is a fleet consisting of all jump-capable ships and at least 1 non-explorer jumpship.
- A slow fleet is a fleet consisting of at least 1 non-jump-capable ship.
- We use the term decay to indicate a change from one fleet type to another due to attrition or combat losses. For example, we can talk about a jumpfleet decaying to an explorer fleet.
Explorer fleets and slow fleets can be targeted to any destination, regardless of jump beacon distance. Jumpfleets can only be targeted to destinations within range of a friendly jump beacon.
Once the jumpfleet destination is set, the fleet continues to its destination at jump speeds regardless of what happens to any jump beacon. Even if all friendly beacons disappear, the jumpfleet would still reach its destination at jump speeds.
If a slow fleet decays to a jumpfleet after its destination is set, it stops in space and needs a new designation to be set before it continues. [NOTE: In the future we might change this to have the jumpfleet proceed at the fastest speed of any starship.]
If a jumpfleet decays to an explorer fleet after its destination is set, it continues at the appropriate speed.
There currently isn't a way to change the composition of a fleet while in transit, but if there were, we would need to deal with additional cases. If an explorer fleet changes to a jumpfleet (by adding ships) then the fleet stops and its destination must be set again.
If a jumpfleet changes to a slow fleet while in transit there is no change: it continues at the appropriate speed.