So, this week I finally dug up the mesh files for the two extra BW fighters, the Dagger and the Spectre, that were originally made for UE2, and never had a chance to show up anywhere. I'm obviously not going to add them too much into UE - maybe the Spectre will show up in the final cutscene where we see the Border Worlds fleet, but other than that, they probably won't even be added into the simulator. They will be in the ship viewer, however, and the ship files will be available, so if anybody wants to do something with them, they're basically all there. The only thing I won't bother with - out of sheer laziness, frankly - is to make any kind of VDU image for them.
More about these ships next time. Meanwhile, working on those two fighters, I also confronted the Rapier IV question, as that was the "new" ship already present in the original UE. As I said when we first announced this project, the changes we make are fairly minimalistic - in various places, there's quite a bit changing under the hood, but on the surface, UE is not meant to change too much. I mean, now that a few more years have passed, and having found that limiting the amount of changes actually did not help at all to make this project go faster, I am a bit more open to deeper changes, but reason tells me that if I started going down that path, there's no limit to the amount of changes I could wind up making. At the very least, I'd completely rebalance the main fighters, significantly reducing their stats (since every older fighter in UE is significantly better than the original). At some point in that process, the original UE would disappear, replaced with a remake - probably a better remake, but not so much better that it would be worth the effort.
Still, all that aside, the Rapier IV clearly has to go, because in the post-Arena world, it breaks canon in a significant way. But hey, the ship mesh is still good, right? It's just that instead of being a Rapier IV, it's actually now the Rapier II Blade variant from Arena. That's actually a fun connection to make, and a very logical one - if the image of the Border Worlds Militia we paint in UE is accurate, and it is an image of a force finally ready to start replacing its rag-tag collection of many disparate fighter types long out of production with new ships, then it makes sense for them to be buying relatively affordable ships. And looking at the ship stats in Arena, it's hard to imagine the Rapier being comparable in price to ships like the Panther or Vampire.
Anyway, here's some images of how the Rapier II Blade looks in the ship viewer. One thing you will notice right away is that its speed is different than in Arena. Maybe I should change the ordinary max velocity to Arena's 415 kps, I don't know. No difference to me, but somehow I still find it hard to swallow. It's clear that Arena's ship speeds were balanced to a completely different gameplay environment than other WC games, and a new Rapier that flies slower than the old Rapier just doesn't make sense, unless it becomes a heavily armoured pig. It's no big deal, though, because Star*Soldier implies that the ship gets a few more improvements during the next two decades. Perhaps one such improvement is adding a jump drive, more fuel, or whatever, something that makes the ship slower. Meanwhile, armour is a hard one to work out as well. Arena only has one armour value, it's not divided into front, back and sides. So, to determine the values here, I actually divided up Arena's 415 centimetres into four parts with more or less the same proportions between them as the original Rapier had. But I'm pretty inconsistent, because rather than dividing up shields into two parts, I just gave it 280 cm of shields all around. There needs to be something good about the new Rapier, after all
. If anybody has ideas about what the earliest variant of the Rapier II Blade should be like, feel free to comment. I'm happy to change these, because hey, it makes no difference in UE anyway.
Oh, and since I don't like letting a story go untold... at some point in the early to mid-2000s, when a UE2 seemed like something that might viably happen, I actually wrote out detailed stats and history for the Rapier IV, which would have been posted on the UE2 website in order to make a new ship a bit easier to swallow. It's no longer relevant, obviously, but fun to look at, I think. The thing I like about it is that, having read far too many similar summaries of real aircraft histories, I wrote a development history that at least sounds fairly reasonable, even if half of it is basically a (lame?) attempt to justify using the Rapier IV name. There is also a not-so-subtle hint that UE2 would have at least partially taken place in the Dakota System. Anyway, as I said, it's no longer relevant - but if anybody's curious as to what could have been, here it is:
XS-1 Rapier IV-class Strike Fighter
Description: An impressive (and controversial) new design from Vieito Industries. Classified as a strike fighter, the Rapier IV is what the Rapier III failed to be - a fusion of the medium combat fighter and attack ship classes, taking the best features of both. The ship is also remarkable because it is the first ship made exclusively out of components produced in the Border Worlds.
Class : Strike Fighter (Medium)
Manufacturer : Vieito Industries
Length : 24 Meters
Mass : 21 Metric Tonnes
Max Velocity : 430 kps
Max Acceleration : 600 kps
Max Afterburner Velocity : 1500 kps
Max Afterburner Acceleration : 2400 kps
Afterburner Fuel : 360 units
Max Yaw : 110 dps
Max Pitch : 75 dps
Max Roll : 65 dps
YPR Rate of change : 170 dps
Shields : 280 cm equivalent
Shield Recharge Rate : 18 cm/second
Armor : 260/240 cm (Fore/Aft), 210 cm (Right/Left)
Core Strength : 170 cm equivalent
Weapons : 2 Viper Guns, 2 Particle Guns
Powerplant : 400
Recharge Rate : 45
Missile Hardpoints : 1 x 2 Light (DF), 2 x 4 Light (IR/HS/FF), 1 x 2 Medium (LT)
Missile Decoys : 24
Jump Capable : No
Development History: The XS-1 is the fourth ship to carry the name 'Rapier', and in some ways represents an extension of the war-era F-61 Rapier III project (which had been terminated when the prototype was destroyed in an accident). Although the Rapier IV has been developed by an entirely different company, it was initiated by a group of former Rapier III project staff members who were employed by Vieito Industries in the mid-2670s.
The project begun in early 2677, as a platform for the testing of an experimental new engine system - the multiple ion sub-engine array (MISEA) system. Following an analysis of MISEA's projected capabilities, Vieito concluded that the best platform to demonstrate the system's possibilities would be a medium fighter similar to the Border Worlds Militia's Rapier II. The company held an internal design proposal competition, and unsurprisingly, the best proposal came from one of the former Rapier III designers.
Basic design was completed by the end of 2677, and was well received by the Militia - who agreed to finance the development of two prototypes. The first prototype was partially completed in mid-2678, but delays in the development of the MISEA system forced the company to push the construction schedule back, with the first prototype being ready in late November 2678, and the second in February 2679. Flight testing finally begun in March 2679, and quickly proved the design was a great success - thanks to the MISEA system, the ship had a high afterburner velocity, and an exceedingly high acceleration rate. In addition, the system provided the ship with an improved manoeuvrability at a relatively low cost.
Impressed with the results, the Militia placed a preliminary order for 50 Rapier IVs. Although much will depend on the Militia's budget constraints, it is expected that this series will be followed by as many as another 200-300 Rapier IVs. Meanwhile, the first of the 50 Rapier IVs on order are expected to be completed in the first half of 2681.
There was one final postscript to the history of the prototype - when the development of the Brycer Armaments Ltd. Viper Cannon was completed in 2680, the Militia decided to add this weapon onto the prototypes. Thus, both prototypes have been rearmed, and are currently undergoing additional testing at Gibraltar Station in the Dakota System. However, while the Viper Cannon has so far performed admirably, its high costs mean that it is still unclear whether any more than a few of the serially-produced Rapier IVs will carry this weapon.