August 26th 2016
Another Concept Sale, another Question & Answer session. Since last Friday, we’ve been collecting questions from the dedicated Q&A post here and today our designers working on the ship will answer 12 more questions! We are very excited to discuss this ship in more detail, so let’s jump right into part 2!
Special thanks to Will Maiden, John Crewe, Steven Kam, and Todd Papy for taking the time to answer these questions for us.
The Terrapin was designed first and foremost for the UEE Military to provide overwatch, long-endurance picket, and reconnaissance capabilities to the fleet, as well as extend the Navy’s ability to provide a patrol presence to border systems that couldn’t be allocated capital ships or large fighter garrisons for defense. These capabilities lend themselves to civilian use as an explorer, particularly where a private operator principally gathers and sells information, point of interest data, risky deep scans of hostile environments, and survey data for a living, as opposed to collecting tangibles for sale. The Terrapin’s long endurance, advanced sensor suite, and range play to this aspect of exploration, whereas other explorers like the Freelancer DUR sometimes focus more on collecting trinkets, incidental salvage, and other physical items to supplement their exploration runs. While purpose built for recon, overwatch, and picket duty, the military makes good use of whatever is available, so the Terrapin’s supplemental military roles as an S&R ship or makeshift troop transport arose as a matter of need, in situations where the tried-and-true Argo wasn’t sufficiently robust for service under fire.
While the utility mounts are specced and rated primarily for sensors and scanners, we’re exploring the possibility of other options for those mounts. Current ideas include some command, control, and communications equipment that would allow the Terrapin to take particular advantage of its optional two-man crew to help oversee and direct group fighter combat without being as vulnerable as a traditional AWACS. A present day analog might be support or scout helicopters that some armies use in conjunction with helo gunships.
In terms of detection, we’ve noted some backers asking whether the Terrapin can do its job and keep tabs on enemies from a distance, even though in operation it might have a large signature. It’s worth noting that you can affect your craft’s signature by choosing which systems to power up or down. Almost every ship will have a larger signature when its power plant and shield generator are running hot; the Terrapin may have the signature of a larger ship when its shields are up, but not so much when the shields are down and the power plant dialed back – a common occurrence when the Terrapin and its crew are “listening” as opposed to fighting. This is an aspect of our intended stealth and signature gameplay in general, but the Terrapin’s capabilities bring this into very sharp relief. It’s easy to forget when you’re playing Arena Commander, where combat is direct and you have all of your systems pouring energy into weapons and shields and building up active heat all of the time.
In short, when a Terrapin crew is “stalking” or “shadowing” enemy movement, not only would a good crew attenuate the ship’s energy signature, the Terrapin’s sensors have a pretty good shot at picking up a small signature farther away than an actively hunting fighter would be able to detect a savvy Terrapin. And while the Terrapin’s shields might be down, its heavy armor makes it much more resilient to harm if surprised than a lighter ship would be in the same situation. The Terrapin may not have been “designed” as a stealth ship, but these principles really apply to this ship. They’ll help you realize the Terrapin’s full potential.
The Terrapin is designed for military long-endurance recon. It’s an intelligence ship; its best defense is, in fact, intelligence. The general idea is to see the enemy before they see you, and manage your position or make use of environmental hazards or features to keep them from finding you. If you learn the signature and shadowing game well, you should find that slower acceleration isn’t much of a problem, especially when you know where they are, but they don’t know where you are.
In a dogfight, the Terrapin has a lot of endurance, but it’s not the equal of a fighter in most direct combat situations. Fighters are purpose-built – you generally wouldn’t want to tangle with them at their own game. The Terrapin is the intel ship; the idea is not to fight against fighters directly. From a military perspective, when it comes to enemy fighters, the Terrapin’s job is most likely to detect them, anticipate where they’re going, and bring down the rain on them by calling in friendlies designed to tackle them.
The Terrapin’s shields are oversized; it’s a small ship, but it carries the kind of shield generator you’d expect on a much larger class of ship, like a Freelancer or Constellation, for example. Of course, an oversized shield generator has oversized power requirements and signature, which is one of the reasons why the Terrapin is also so heavily armored for all the operational reasons indicated above. Ideally, you don’t allow yourself to get caught by the enemy in a Terrapin, but when the jig is up and you’re spotted, your thick shell will buy you time you wouldn’t have in a lighter ship.
As designed in the concept, the Terrapin’s only definite weaponry is the chin turret capable of mounting two size 2 guns. The Size 5 hardpoint for the remote turret was calculated using the older hardpoint sizing profiles, where a Size 5 hardpoint could mount a turret mechanism and two Size 2 guns (1 for the turret/gimbal and 2 each per size 2 gun). The original Terrapin template comes from a long time ago back when we were brainstorming the new starter candidates, so it missed the hardpoint sizing update. We will need to revise the stats to reflect the true size of a hardpoint set for a twin-size 2 gun turret, which will result in a smaller hardpoint. Under the current sizing scheme, there’s just no way to fit a Size 5 hardpoint on the chin of the Terrapin.
That typo aside, we are not declaring that this by itself necessarily reaches the “hard-hitting array” of weaponry we envision for this ship. We also want to find a way to give it weapons that are both appropriate to the ship’s mission and yet different from the general flavor you’d expect from fighters. Bear in mind that for a ship with a big power plant, a few small guns can be more hard-hitting than they would appear, due to the abundance of juice available. As we continue to tinker with this ship’s concept, we will keep you apprised of what we come up with. As the Terrapin’s mission profile emphasizes defense and SAR potential, we might for example, look into weapons that allow suppressive fire, point defense, or disruption (you may not want to risk blowing up the people you’re trying to rescue), or other options that would really emphasize what the Terrapin is about, but at the moment we’re still considering the possibilities.
Exploration involves a number of different possible activities, not all of which involve taking material things home. True to its original design as an intel and recon ship, the Terrapin is more concerned with finding, cataloging, and reporting critical information and discovering points of interest than it is about taking home incidental salvage, trinkets, or loose resources. The Terrapin’s great emphasis on scanning and detection – including the dedicated utility hardpoints for doubling down on extra scanning capacity – make it ideal for exploring and data processing larger volumes of space more efficiently than even many of its small-explorer contemporaries. It may not be able to bring back many souvenirs, but the real point behind the Terrapin is to locate valuable things for friends. When you bring the Terrapin home, you can sell the information to other parties or call in friends, guilds, or NPC interests to exploit the resources you’ve found for them – or you can keep the secret to yourself and come back with a ship designed or outfitted specifically to take advantage of whatever it was you found out there. This echoes its military role – why tussle with the enemy, when your real strength is calling in the full weight of the fleet you have behind you on your hapless foe?
Finding samples on trips, recovering some salvage, that’s all something that can be placed inside the Terrapin and brought back for the eggheads to study or someone to make a buck on the black-markets of GrimHex, but the Terrapin’s focus is on data collection, worth its SCU weight in gold. Selling the mining spot on a virgin world or finding the location of the most wanted pirate lord in 3 systems is what the Terrapin pilots are all about, and those are the paydays they are chasing. If bringing back cargo and salvage from these trips is something you’re more interested in, as I talked about the scale of explorers, it may be that buyers want a ship more suited towards that, but there will be a payoff of more cargo space meaning the ship loses scanning and radar abilities as a result.
There are different degrees of customizability in different ships. For example, the Retaliator has modular spaces that it usually uses as bomb bays, the Vanguard has a drop-in, drop-out crew/escape module, and the Cutlass has an interior with hardpoints that can accept different types of equipment. While the Terrapin’s interior isn’t modular, we may find a way to play with the interior and allow for the installation of a few jump seats. Remember that the Terrapin wasn’t specifically designed for this role, but the military found it useful for the situation regardless, even considering it wasn’t part of the original mission profile.
None are currently planned. There is potential for it depending especially on what we find we can accomplish in design with regard to utility mounts.
Yes; see previous answer. Managing silent running is something you’ll want to master in order to get the most out of your Terrapin.
It’s a small, military ship. The UEE design brief didn’t include lavish creature comforts, and as a picket ship, the military expects at least one crew member to be awake and on duty at all times. How much good is a picket if the whole crew is asleep? Civilian operators might think differently, because they may be using their Terrapins as explorers, but Anvil designed the ship for military use.
As above; see existing answer. Information, points of interest, recon, enemy positional info, and whatever resources out there that the sensors and scanners can catalog and report on.
The Gladiator is tough but it’s still designed to dodge fire. The Terrapin is designed to bull through it instead.
The Terrapin was one of the reasons the UEE military approached Anvil to design the Hornet and the Gladiator. The Terrapin was pretty much the toughest small ship the military had ever seen, and as the Terrapin proved itself in operation, the UEE eventually asked Anvil if it was possible to design a dedicated strike craft with some of that incredible durability. Naturally some of that toughness had to be traded for improved speed and agility, since the Hornet and Gladiator were expected to be able to hold their own in a dogfight and couldn’t fit the Terrapin’s oversized shield generator and powerplant while doing so, but they’re still some of the toughest, most durable fighters in service. Don’t be too miffed if the Terrapin isn’t as fast or agile as a Gladiator, though. If you’re comparing nearly any other ship type to fighters or dive bombers specifically in terms of speed and agility, they’re going to tend to come out behind.
Outfitted with long-range scanners and encased in heavy armor and oversized shields, the U4A-3 Terrapin can face potentially hazardous circumstances with confidence, making it the ultimate combat scout and reconnaissance vehicle, at least according to Anvil.