Fly as a capital ship
There is a trick that FREDders can do while FREDding a missiion that can allow them to pilot ships that they normally can't. This includes freighters, cruisers, capital ships, and even the Colossus.
For starters, suppose that you have 2 ships in a mission. Alpha 1 is in a Loki, while Beta 1 happens to be an Orion. Save the game, start FreeSpace 2, go to the mission simulator, and select the mission. When you're there, go to ship selection and there will be 2 icons, Alpha 1 (you) is a Loki, and Beta 1 is an Orion. Switch those 2 ships and start the mission. Congratulations, you're flying an Orion now.
The other way is to table hack to make them drivable; put the "player_ship" flag in the flags section of the warship you want to make available.
Although you are tricking the game to fly as a capital ship while you should be flying as a fighter, the game will treat you as a capital ship in all respects. This means that you will be targetted by anti-capital ship beams, bombers will launch cyclops at you, and wings protecting you will make normal cruiser guarding patrol patterns.
What are the problems with such missions?
- While it may seem cool to control a massive ship, keep in mind that you will be going slow, turning is horrible, and you have no primary gun mounts. Although you have dozens of turrets to do the work for you, having AI-controlled turrets doing all the shooting for you can really get you bored very fast.
- If you're using FSO and send beam cannons unlocked by default in the Mission SPEC, all beam cannons will fire normally, except for yours. To make your beam cannons fire normally, you have to set a beam-free-all SEXP on yourself.
- Warping out while flying a capital ship is quite different from NPC capital ships warping out. Instead of shooting out forward at incredible speeds, you will be going at a slow pace, and the subspace vortex will take a minute to show up, as will take another minute for you to enter it. Mission designers should keep this in mind when requiring the player to flee a supernova in a capital ship. The bigger the ship, the longer it takes to warp out.
- As your subsystems are damaged, the damage list will grow until it obscures most of the screen.
- Every time you get hit, even with the most insignificant primary fire, your screen will irritatingly flash red. In 3.6.13 builds, the ships.tbl flag "no pain flash" has been added to work around this.
- You can quite easily commit friendly fire. Your flak and beam guns will frequently hit all fighters that are tied up in dogfights, and your AI allies will start disciplining you for attacking them. These turrets cannot be disabled. Eventually, you be labeled as a backstabber and fail the mission.
- Switching the gauges between shields, engines, and weapons can cause some unusual effects to occur. The shield gauge will work as normal and the weapons gauge won't do anything (since none of the capitals have primary weapons; however, note that weapon energy is FREDded to control turret rate of fire in missions like The Blade Itself), but messing around with the engine gauge can actually cause some ships to slow down dramatically. For example: a maxed-out engine gauge will cause a Deimos to rank out to 60m/s, but a Hecate will reduce from a normal 15m/s to only 8m/s. This behaviour depends on the ships' listed Max Overclock speed value in ships.tbl.
Are there solutions to these problems?
- The list of damaged subsystems can be prevented by ship-subsys-guardian-threshold-ing subsystems not intended to be damaged.
- A new ship flag can remove the "pain flash" that occurs every time your ship is hit.
- Turret control scripts exist, allowing the player to designate targets, rather than leaving it to the AI, or even take control of turrets individually and aim.
- Traitor detection can be disabled easily in the mission-specs if necessary.
- Additional elements can be added to provide the player with more things do to, such as managing AI fighter wings, and utilizing FRED-created abilities for the capital ship.
If done well, a capital-ship flying mission can be as, if not more, entertaining than a well-made fighter-based mission. Witness the side-story single-mission campaign The Blade Itself from Blue Planet: War in Heaven. However, this should probably not be attempted by novices, as the process of building these missions is rather involved, requiring table-side edits, a solid understanding of FRED, and basic knowledge of scripting to effectively create a stimulating mission out of.