All units now have a “Shields” healthbar in addition to the regular healthbar. Damage is applied to shields first; once the shields for a particular unit have been completely depleted, it will begin taking hull damage (note that groups have separate shields for each ship, and the displayed shields and health bars are the sum of all current units in the group.) Unlike health, shields naturally recharge over time. Additionally, during the campaign player fleet units will start with 25% shields, while enemy units with start with 0/50/100% depending on the difficulty level.
The addition of shields changes the game’s balance by essentially doubling units’ max health resulting in higher survivability and longer battles. Some units (such as the bomb frigate) have had their health or damage changed to maintain game balance. In addition to the extra health, there is now an additional damage reduction effect that occurs when an attack fully depletes a unit’s shields.
When an attack depletes the shields to 0, the remaining damage will be applied to health after being multiplied by:
(1 – (pre-attack shield health / max shield health))
This damage calculation is primarily intended to re-balance anti-frigate weapons against fighters, since high damage anti-frigate projectiles will now always take 2 shots to destroy a fighter with full shields, while having little effect on their dps against targets with much higher health.
In addition, this update adds a new flagship module: the Shield Recharge Module. This module enables the player to use an ability that partially recharges the shields of all units in the target area. As a defensive ability, it can be very useful in keeping units alive during battles. The idea of “healing” abilities such as this is something I’m looking to expand upon in future updates, including new buildable combat units that have a similar role, either through passive effects or active abilities.
This update also included a lot of less visible changes. I implemented a new version of the units panel and the actions panel (that display the currently selected units and their abilities on the bottom bar.) Now, all the relevant icons will be shown in a scroll panel, that will allow the player to scroll up/down if a very large number of unit types are selected (the old version would only display a limited number of these icons before they started being hidden behind the minimap.) I also did some refactoring to bring more unit type data such as icons and descriptions into a single file. Not a visible change, but this makes it a lot easier to edit or add new kinds of units to the game. Finally, I managed to implement some moderate optimizations, so the game should run a bit faster, especially on skirmishes with some of the larger maps.
In the future, as I add more flagship ability modules, I’m also designing an improved interface for accessing these abilities more easily. Right now the player needs to select the desired ability module by itself to see the ability button, so I’m working on a new series of panels that will display all the currently available ability buttons whenever the flagship is in play. This will probably be the next thing I’ll work on after finishing the 4th enemy subfaction/boss that I’m currently working on.