Since the idea of modular harvesters seems pretty popular (credit goes to Physical Original for the idea
), maybe we can talk about it some and get something reasonable to offer to the devs, though it probably will have to wait for the fourth expansion.
Here is my idea for a new harvester system.
Metal miner platform
Crystal miner platform
Both of these are invincible, perma-cloaked, cost no resources or energy. However, they also do not produce anything. Their lifetime is tied to the command stations, so if the command station dies, it dies. (Though this may be amended to a softer version, where only the harvester modules die. If this happens though, they should self-destruct on a change in planet ownership)
It has 3 module mount points (right now, all the same kind of mount point, but that is subject to revision). As such, it would be eligible for the ship designer options. (Though there would be 3 built-in defaults, see section on auto-building)
The modules would be
Metal/Crystal harvesters Mk. I, II, and III. Basically, these are the things that will actually give you resources, cost stuff, take energy, etc. They will be destructible (aka, an exception the standard non-ff module invincibility).
Mk. I would take 1 slot, Mk. II would take 2 slots, and Mk. III would take 3 slots. Only one harvester can be placed on any given platform, so no 3 Mk. I harvesters on a single platform. (For the time being, their stats will be the same as the existing harvesters, though they can be buffed if the existing harvesters get buffed)
If multiple slots taken up from a single module would take too much fiddling with the module logic, then maybe half the Mk. II and third the Mk. III stats, but let 2 or 3 (respectively) be built on a single platform. This time, no mixing of marks.
Alternatively, all the harvesters could be collapsed into one mark, with 1/3 or so the stats of the current Mk. II or Mk. III harvester, but allow the entire platform to have all modules be these. If this approach is taken, research unlocks could increase the number of usable slots on a platform, like starting at 3, but then going up to 5 when fully upgraded (or make multiple marks of the platforms)
Harvester forcefield module:
Has a traditional forcefield of a smallish radius, takes one slot. Higher marks can be unlocked with standard forcefield Mk. unlocks. Multiple on one platform is allowed. Coexisting with exo-harvester forcefield modules on he same platform is allowed
Exo-harvester forcefield module:
Has an exo-forcefield, only protecting those things attached to the platform, but can protect against FF immune stuff. Higher marks can be unlocked with hardened forcefield Mk. unlocks. Takes two slots, or alternatively, takes extra energy, or alternatively, Mk. I not unlocked at first but require hardened forcefield Mk. I to be unlocked first (giving it an effective knowledge cost). In any case, has less HP (though not that much less) than the regular harvester forcefield, to offset their "immunity to FF immunity".
Various turret modules. Works similarly to the spire modules, though maybe not quite as strong.
In the controls screen, you can select the default layout for platforms depending on whether Mk. I, Mk. II, and Mk. III harvesters are unlocked (or if the multiple mark levels of platforms approach is taken, the default layout for platforms depending on whether Mk. I, Mk. II, or Mk. III platforms are unlocked)
These will be used when you first take a planet, and the platforms are preplaced and their build queues are pre-populated.
There will also be default, undeletable, uneditable default configurations, one for each of the three harvester (or platform) marks. They would basically have just their respective Mk. harvester and nothing else as its configuration (or if the marked platform approach is taken, they would simply fill all their slots with harvesters). This way, even if the user never makes a "custom" loadout for harvester platforms, they still get sensible defaults.
Leverages an existing mechanic (modules) to provide flexibility and tradeoffs
Having "default defaults" for which platform to auto-build allows for those who don't mess with all this to still get reasonable loadouts automatically.
Having the platforms (but not the modules) be invincible solves the "what version do I auto-build" problem. If everything on the platform is destroyed, the standard module logic would just have it try to rebuild whatever configuration it had.
Having the platforms be modular allows it to leverage the existing ship-builder interface
Having user settable defaults will allow for players who don't want straight up maxed economy on all of their harvesters.
Having multiple defaults allows for new platforms to take advantage of unlocked functionality without too much extra work
Having "platform loadouts" saved will allow for easy placements of harvesters in "dicey" places where more defense or offense is needed.
Gives an option for more durability or firepower for harvesters, but cleanly allows for the tradeoff of less economic gain from that particular platform.
Disadvantages/To be resolved questions:
Balance may be tricky
If a higher harvester mark or higher platform mark is unlocked, what to do with existing platforms?
Exisiting games. How do we handle existing harvesters and existing exo-shield from previous versions?
Will take quite some time to implement, so probably will have to wait for next expansion.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticisms?