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I enjoy playing FTL: Faster Than Light and got inspired to write my own but more sophisticated 2D strategy game with the focus on custom ship construction. I want to have many systems on board which will require lots of engineering rooms. For this it would make sense to have multiple floors for housing all these systems and machines, but that would make ships three dimensional which would greatly overcomplicate an already ambitious game.

To keep the scope manageable, ships must have only one floor, but what reasoning do I give to the player as to why ships can only be flat?

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    $\begingroup$ None is needed imo. Game mechanics are by their nature restrictive. No one sits down and says "so that my game is perfectly realistic, I will begin by correctly simulating Planck-length one-dimensional strings". It's like asking for an excuse for why the checker piece can only move diagonally. Don't bother, it can still be a good (even great) game. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Oct 22, 2021 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ Especially if you've already handwaved in 2D space. People will happily suspend their disbelief for a good game, and writing games is already hard enough. You can always write an ambitious sequel, after all... $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2021 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ easy, the rest of the ship is futuristic the engine. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 22, 2021 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ Have you tried to make the ladders connecting multiple decks wheelchair-accessible? NOT EASY! $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ or: But captain, we cannot go there. That direction is TABOO! For did not the Prophet say "And Stay Ye Your Foot On The Level Path Of Righteousness, For To Deviate From The Level Is To Be A Deviant"... Are you asking us to commit sacrilege and climb those infernal stairs? Mutiny!! $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:52

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Smaller target

But not to enemies. When flying at relativistic speeds, even the smallest impact with space debris can ruin your day. Hitting an asteroid at 0.9c is equivalent to being hit by an asteroid coming at you at 0.9c.

In order to minimize damage, ships should ever have an expletive big shield attached to their tip, and/or present the smallest surface possible when coming at something. Making the ship as flat as possible helps with the latter.

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The ship can be 3D, so long as your representation is 2D

The easiest way to do this is with an abstract node-map, but with some clever ship design, you can have the inaccessible areas of your ship overlap with the crew-accessible parts and this have your crew climbing ladders, sliding down grav-lifts, or going through corridors/jeffrey tubes that squeeze between inaccessible sections.

You could also use your game perspective to enhance this, an isometric or 45° camera angle gives you some opportunity for viewing the z-axis in a way that FTL's bird's-eye view doesn't allow you to.

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Artificial gravity

In order to deal with an unrealistic, artificial restriction, explain it with an unrealistic, artificial technology that is ubiquitous in science fiction. 99% of TV / movie portrayals of fictional spaceships have artificial gravity on board, because it's just too expensive to simulate zero G on film. (Although there's a feature film being shot in orbit soon...) The large majority of science fiction books also have artificial gravity, because it's generally accepted by audiences and less risky than trying to go hard sci-fi but then messing up the realities of zero-G life. So, assume that your spaceship also has artificial gravity.

Next, specify that the grav plates that create the artificial gravity:

  1. do not have the gravity diminish in proportion to the square of the distance from the plate, but instead
  2. perfectly simulate 1G within 3 metres* above the plate but suddenly drop to zero G at a greater distance; and
  3. plates next to each other do not interfere, but a plate operating above another plate causes catastrophic gravitational effects.

*If you really need a higher ceiling to allow vehicles or (shudder) mechs then you can stretch it to 4m, assuming average-height modern humans, but that height could be split into two levels if there was a shortage of space.

Hence, the occupied part of the ship is at 1G and must be all on one level. There may be fuel tankage occupying other levels, but there is no ability or reason for the crew (or other players) to go there.

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The ship is huge, the living space is not.

Most of the ships volume in consumed by futuristic FTL drive, fuel tanks, reaction mass, and artificial gravity generators. Only a small portion of the hull is crew space.

This is not even unreasonable, look at a modern space ship, tiny little living capsule, absolutely massive fuel tank and engines.

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Daleks

Everyone knows Daleks can't climb stairs, and thus build single level spaceships.

enter image description here

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The ship is actually 3 dimensional, but the builders have advanced short-range transporter tech. Instead of climbing stairs or a ladder, or using an elevator, crewmembers simply walk into the transporter portals, which techno-magically place them on different levels. Thus even though the ship is 3D, to anyone inside, all the different levels map to a 2D space.

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    $\begingroup$ Any resemblance between teleporters and loading screens is strictly coincidental and should be ignored by the player ehh... crew. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 24, 2021 at 21:14

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