Currently the game offer to players more than 30 different space ships.
Unfortunately, the one who designed it made it with plenty of massives mistakes (the T9 having less 30% cargo than cutter, explorer jumping less than anaconda, cutter expected to be a fighter, viper slower than cobra, python better trader on outpost than any trade ships, passengers ships terribly bad at travel mission until this update, etc.)
Even more, all theses ships were almost all designed with any vision. It's more about random rolls, and enjoy what come out, we'll fix it later.
(I wonder which curriculum is required to be game designer)
At first time, many ships were designed to be "starter" space ships, for players without enough money. Obviously, this idea couldnt stand with time, as all players get more money, and income rose quickly even for starting players as they can now get their endgame space ship within a few hours. This is slowly corrected, but we still have 50% of ship currently useless once we have enough money for better.
The irony is that even ship building system is quite powerful, allowing to design many kind of ship while staying under global constraints (example of constraint : same effect of a given module on every ship), but ships design itself it terribly bad.
(it remind me this true story https://commeconvenu.com/lire# - in french, sry - where the boss ask for complete crazy game changes, making the whole company sink, while developers cries)
Anyway, many ships doesnt fit in any role, many ships doesnt fit in their supposed role, and remaining ship often doesnt completely fit in their role either.
Of course, the point is not to limit each ship to a given role. Player should keep having a choice. But a choice is made among several viable choices, not random stupid pointless ideas. And for crazy ideas, you can still make it whatever the vessels you'll want (a sidewinder went to beagle point, and that's great).
So, here is a way ship could have been seriously designed.
Different roles in the game :
Non fighting (would be pointless to have pnj with such ships in conflict role, or acting as pirate) :
- Trader (slow, low agility, huge cargo, huge jump loaded, low jump empty, low firepower, high defense)
- Explorer (slow, low agility, few cargo, low jump loaded, huge jump empty, low firepower, low defense)
- long range trader : mix between these 2 above
- short range passengers (like trader, with smaller internals and higher speed + luxury style)
- long range passenger (like long range trader, with smaller internals and higher speed + luxury style)
- courier (fast, medium agility, few cargo, average jump loaded, good jump empty, low firepower, low defense)
- racer (extreme courier with higher speed and agility, and much lower jump capability)
Fighting (how could it have been no difference at all between war ship, bounty hunters and pirates ...) :
- warship (slow, medium agility, few cargo, low jump empty&loaded, medium firepower, very high defense + many hardpoints)
- Pirates : higher cargo, lower agility (fast, low agility, high cargo, medium jump empty, medium jump loaded, medium firepower, average defense + many utilities)
- Bounty hunting (fast, high agility, few cargo, medium jump empty, low jump loaded, high firepower, average defense + many utilities)
- all rounder mission ship (same that bounty hunter, slower, with higher jump range, and with a better attack/defense balance)
- miner (slow, medium agility, high cargo, average jump empty&loaded, low firepower, very high defense + many internals + many hardpoints)
-> it's already 11 different ships, without any difference of size, or even differences between play styles (hitbox size, hardpoint spread, shield vs armor, speed vs agility, max fuel scoop, supercruise agility ...)
Here, we can mix between different sizes :
- small pad : cheapest, fastest, most agile, higher base jump, worse cargo, worse defense, average firepower. The idea is to get quickly for a low price a rather quite good ship for a given role. Less capable of multi-role.
- medium pad : same that small for a given role, but with many outfitting possibilities: big internal component (so high maxed out price), more cargo, utilities, weapons, sightly more extreme for a given role (sighly faster for the race, sightly better jump, sightly more damage for fighter), and better defense. Small base price. Some of them fighter launching capable (only the fighters roles). The best ship for outfitting fans.
- large pad : huge base price, same outfitting possibilities than medium, biggest cargo, best defense, low speed, low agility, and only a slightly better firepower to take account of low agility. All of them fighter launching capable. Less outfitting capabilities due to several modules non-modifiables (cargo rack, repair, collector, srv/fighter), and several scanners included within the sensor), making them more multi role capables. Designed to be the master spaceship for a role, but usually not the most time&cost efficient.
-> now, it's 33 different ships, all really designed for a given role, without even taking account on different play style. If you make for each ship the empire vs federal playstyle, you get 66 differents ships.
And I probably missed some roles (you'll tell me) -> for example, I missed the "starter free ship", aka sidewinder, which is a role of itself.
If we try to apply this ship role grid to our current ships, you'll realize many role doesnt have any ship designed for, than some ships will take 12 roles at once, and some others wont be efficients for any role.
If you read all of that, you maybe wondered how to distinct jump range empty and loaded ... It's quite easy with current rules
-> hull mass : huge jump empty imply a lower mass than average, huge jump loaded/low jump empty imply a very high hull mass.
Obviously, low jump empty is relative to other ships : the empty mass is always slightly higher that loaded on absolute values.
It give trader, short range passenger, pirate, miner needing to be heavy, while explorer, courier, racer and bounty hunter, and all rounder needs a light hull... Especially small explorers !
I repeat, making such ship doesnt mean that it will be forbiden, or even inefficient to use a ship for an other role (like a miner for pirating). It doesnt mean either than outfitting cannot change completely the role of a ship.
It only ensure that all ship are really different, and all ship have at least one role where they are really good, and no ship is simply the best for 5 different activities (previously the anaconda, and the cutter since then)
And obviously, we know it's waaaaaayyy too late. It should have been done at the start of the game. It's only something which is currently, slowly (taking 10 years ?), fixing.