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Let's dive right in: the current system of how artillery - arguably the most important factor in the design, construction, and production of the modern battleship from inception to conclusion - works, sucks. As many people have already noted:

- Shell weights are considerably off reasonable spec, let alone historical.

- Gun ranges, a pet peeve, are considerably limited for all but the largest calibres.

While these are just a few examples - albeit well-known - the inability to choose certain real-life influencing factors considerably limits not only our capacity to create historical warships, but also be creative with our designs. The same extends to even the very gun calibre: what if I want to be French in the predreadnought era? I can't make a 138.6 mm gun, or a 164.7 mm gun, or 194 mm, or 240 mm, to say nothing of 274 mm; what if I wanted to make a German light cruiser? German '15 cm' guns aren't 150 mm, they're 149.1 mm. Then you also have things like the Japanese 15.5-cm in the 1930s, which of course doesn't line up to the 152.4 mm calibre we currently see.

The Gun Designer

My proposal is as follows: the current system of artillery will remain in place, as 'quick load' settings and also for people who don't want to spend the extra time with the Gun Designer (details to follow). But just as one can save ships for custom battles (a much-requested and soon to be added feature), one would be able to save custom-designed guns, which will go under a new tab (my current vision is that in the Guns section of the Ship Designer, there would be a checkmark to let you use custom guns; the tables would simply show the guns you've saved that are appropriate for the type, sorted within 5 years of nearest date.) Of course, the gun section in the Ship Designer, if you chose to use a custom gun - with the exception of the shell outfit increase/decrease option - would be 'greyed out' for our purposes.

  • Sections of the Gun Designer
    • Designation
    • Design Date
    • Artillery (side tab)
      • Barrel Type
      • Gun Bore
      • Gun Length in Calibres
      • Breech Type
    • Shells (2+ side tabs)
      • Shell Type
      • Shell Weight
      • Bursting Charge
      • Fuze
    • Propellant (side tab)
      • Propellant Type
      • Muzzle Velocity
    • Mounting (side & bottom tabs)
      • Mount Model
      • Elevation
      • Elevating Rate
      • Loading Angle
      • Train Rate
      • Hoist Type
      • Rounds per gun (base number, affected by reduced/increased ammo outfit in Ship Designer)

This looks like a lot, and it is, but let's break it down from here.

Designation

This is what we plan on calling our gun: throughout history, we see consistently that guns can be rounded to the nearest metric designation (all Japanese "8 cm" guns after 1907, for example, are 76.2 mm) or are deliberately mislabeled to confuse enemy intelligence (the British 15"/42 and Japanese 46-cm/45 Type 94 are prime examples). This functionally is the same as naming your ship in the Ship Designer: it won't have any bearing on the battle, but it may play into how intelligence gathering might work in the future. Nation of choice might also go here: it wouldn't do to use German 283 mm guns on an Alaska analogue, would it?

Design Date

This one is a little tricky. Why would we add a design date? That doesn't matter, does it? Well, actually it does. A design date limits the options for what we can use in the specific year - just like the Ship Designer - and more importantly, limits the ships we can place the gun on. If we don't have a design date on the gun, we might be able to stick our brand-new 1940s autoloading 203 mm triple turret onto an 1897 armoured cruiser. And that just ain't right. It's a refit some people might consider, and if you press "Unlock" on a custom battle you should be able to do just that, but we'll set some realistic limitations on what we can and can't do.

Artillery Section

Ideally, in this section, our view should be cutting to a different location from the ship designer- perhaps in one of the warehouses alongside? A nice little graphic touch to compensate the lack of direct interaction (placing guns in turrets, etc.). 

Barrel Type

Our first section here is somewhat difficult to grasp a hold of without a little prior knowledge, but it plays into everything else. The construction of the barrel is incredibly important in determining the maximum available gun calibre and how powerful your gun can be: too much, and the barrel will burst. A list of options would potentially look something like so:

  • Wire-wound
  • Partial wire-wound
  • All-steel
  • Autofrettage
  • Monobloc

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list: merely a few examples. Wire-wound guns are the heaviest type of those mentioned: they also have rather restricted gun lengths (e.g. the 15"/42), thanks to the lack of stiffness close to their centre of gravity. However, wire-wound guns, within their limitations, are extremely strong weapons with higher factors of safety than some other types. Maybe there could be an option here to plate the bore in chromium: it adds a ton or two, but it significantly ups the barrel life.

Gun Bore

This section should pretty much be self-explanatory. The gun bore is the interior diameter of the barrel, i.e. the calibre of the gun. We have a wide selection of models already, so functionally, many of the existing assets can be used without too much change; I highly doubt that people will nitpick over the less-than-one-pixel difference between a 406.4 mm gun and a 410 mm gun. The diameter should be set to the nearest 0.1 mm for metric, and for 0.01" for imperial: specific numbers should be enterable, much the same as how one can currently change armour figures. Commonality is important: we want to make a good transition and keep the theme of the designers consistent.

Gun Length

The gun's length in calibres is our second most important part, and arguably the trickiest: we have to be able to set calibres from as low at /30, to as high as /70. Ideally, there would be a slider, but enterable numbers are good as well: setting them by factors of /1 would be good, though in the interest of saving our poor modelers and the scalers some hassle, visual changes should probably only take place once every 5 calibres, working forwards (e.g. a 52-cal gun would use the same model as a 50-cal gun, but a /55 would have its own model). What's important here to help impose some limits on our wild imagination is gun construction: that will limit our available calibres. If we have a wire-wound gun in 1914, for example, depending on the gun, we might only be able to get it to /45 calibres before we hit our unfortunate red "Error: Gun Too Long For Barrel Type" warning sign. The game doesn't want us to suffer any unfortunate accidents because of barrel droop and insufficiently stiff bores, so we should listen to it. Calibres will gradually increase as barrel quality improves over the years and steels grow stronger: 65-70 calibres should be doable by 1940, for those of you who want to make Stalingrad's 305/62 Pattern 1948, or go one better.

Breech Type

And here we have another important question: the breech type. This directly feeds into the type of ammunition we're using. If the gun has a sliding wedge block, it's going to have to use semi-fixed or fixed 'cased' ammunition: propellant that is stored in a brass case that obturates the wedge when fired, to trap the expanding gasses and force the shell out of the muzzle. This is great for Q.F. guns and practically a necessity for autoloading gun designs, because it cuts down on complexity and loading time: accordingly, the rate of fire increases significantly. On the other hand, breeches of this type are heavy and tend to take up a lot of space: the extra equipment they need to operate is one reason why proposed German triple turret designs (and those that existed, like the 28.3-cm triple used on the Deutschlands and the Scharnhorsts) are so darn wide and heavy for what they are. Welin screws, on the other hand, are for 'bagged guns': they can't easily autoload and they have a lower rate of fire, but they're a lot simpler to construct and use, and they're lighter.

Shells

This section will deal with the shells we're using: weight, type, and so on. For the purposes of keeping it a little simpler, we're going to assume that the breech type you just chose in the last section has already automatically made you use cased or bagged charges for your propellant. Cut to looking at a generic shell and its brass or tin case for powder in our graphic. Note that there will have to be at least two sections, with options to add another: many ships carried more than just straight APC and HE, and many ships - particularly British cruisers - didn't carry either.

Shell Type

The simplest options can be found here: AP, or HE? Except it's not. We have a variety of types here: APC, HE, SAP, CBC... the list goes on. For now, however, we'll limit it to the first three, and roll things like capped common under the third category: semi-armour piercing shells. This will set our basic shell type and automatically adjusts our bursting charge percentage to the necessary value, in case you didn't really want to bother with this section.

Shell Weight

Arguably one of the most important parts of the shell designer proposal, and also one of the trickiest: it's also one of the reasons we gave for proposing it in the first place. After all, currently, shell weights are averages that seem to have no real connection to history (or the laws of physics, for that matter: just try and take that super-heavy 406 mm shell and get it up to 900 m/sec in real life). This number will be automatically averaged to a standard value based on the gun calibre and year: a gun around 380-381 mm, designed in 1914, will have a shell weight that would probably be in the 850-870 kg range, increasing slightly to 880 kg by 1940. Again, physics. You can change this number, but not by much: if you were designing a 406 mm gun, for example, the maximum shell weight would be around 1,400 kg (50 kg above the heaviest 406 mm shell ever considered for usage, the heavyweight Italian 1,350-kg shell for their 406/56) and the minimum somewhere around 900 kg. Similar restraints would exist for all gun calibres, necessarily, but everything's within a modicum of reason.

Until it's not.

Bursting Charge

This category is twofold: percentage, and type. The percentage of the bursting charge will directly impact our damage and penetration performance: the larger the charge, the higher the damage- but also a weaker shell overall, which impacts penetration in a negative way. Of course, the type of bursting charge matters as well: British Lyddite bursters had a habit of igniting upon any impact shocks (re: the Skagerrak battle), while German TNT bursters were somewhat more stable and able to resist impact shocks long enough to do their job: much to the chagrin of many British sailors. The category will include those fillers we already have, plus a few we don't (such as Shimose and TNA, trinitroanisol).

Fuze

The fuze type is important. If we stick a base fuze on an HE shell, congratulations, you now have an HE shell which will penetrate mild steel plates and even some light 'protective' plates before bursting, thus giving yourself a good anti-destroyer weapon. Fuze set time is also important: instantaneous fuzes will act immediately, but set it too long and it might overpenetrate. An automatic value of 0.03 seconds should be the default value for all shell types.

Propellant

A small section which we might group under "shell", but I decided not to, since the shell types are numerous while propellant tends to be - with very few exceptions - uniform in regards to amount and type.

Propellant Type

Self-explanatory. We're selecting what we want to propel our shell, whether that be cordite, SPD, cast TNT, or RPC: many variations of powder exist, sometimes even within the same nation and same time frame. Amount auto-scales with desired muzzle velocity, taking into account barrel length.

Muzzle Velocity

And here is the other half of our equation: how do we combine light shells with good range? Maybe I want to sacrifice my barrel on the altar of the liner gods in order to achieve a heavy shell at high velocity? Perhaps I'd to sacrifice ballistic performance to get consistent, long life out of my weapons in order to make ends meet? All of these questions will help determine your muzzle velocity. But beware of those pesky "Error: MV too high for barrel type" and "Error: MV too high for calibre" flags.

Mounting

Is this where the fun begins? Cut in our graphic theme away from the shells to a completed mount further on in the warehouse.

Mount Model

Are you tired of using Zara's turrets for your German 283 mm guns? Unsatisfied with the fact that it's KGV's turrets on your British CA, not Edinburgh-style? Perhaps you like the look of Agano's gunhouses over Mogami's? Want that snazzy French 38-cm gunhouse model for your new 24-cm guns to recreate a few ahistorical cruiser killers? This category is for you. Since we're doing away with specific gun "Marks", this category belongs at the bottom of the page and will allow you to select - from your nation of choice - the appropriate gun mount style for you. This should include open-backed and enclosed mounting options, with their own pros and cons: open mounts are a lot lighter but tend to be weakly protected and suffer lower fire rates. Since many of the gun turrets appear to be scaled versions of one another, this category should present no problems.

Elevation

The minimum and maximum elevations available to the gun turret. And here's where we have to cut in on a personal peeve: gun ranges are too short. For example, Mark V Super-heavy 8" shells max out at 18.5 km: real-life 8in guns in the 1920s (and the Mk.V mounts are only available in the late 30s onward, remember) were hitting ranges of around 30 km, easily. Now, the 203 mm gun really has no business shooting past 20,000 metres - it's a waste of ammunition, they're not going to hit anything unless said heavy cruiser is named Haguro or Gorizia - but dang it, I want the option to waste my ammunition. A general and radical increase in both maximum range and spotting ranges should start to take place in the years immediately following 1920.

Moving back to the minimum and maximum elevations: a high maximum elevation (~45 degrees) will yield you the maximum ballistic range available to your gun, at the cost of a severe increase in weight. As the depth of the gunwells increases, so does the weight of the turret. However, as the useful limit of naval gunnery is ~35 km, a sufficient muzzle velocity coupled with a good shell can yield you weight savings so that you hit that "golden mark" with your 380/406/457 mm gun. This can also play into gun modernization: allowing old turrets to be refitted in the campaign to have a higher maximum elevation and extend their useful range.

Elevating Rate

This directly impacts the firing rate: the faster the guns elevate and depress from and to the loading angle, the faster the firing cycle will be. Additionally: the rate of fire should change dynamically with the range, for the very reason just listed above. At high elevations, a slower firing cycle is expected, and guns tended not to fire as fast as they did on firing trials (unless you're part of the Hochseeflotte); however, at short range, as the gun needs less time to elevate and depress, the cycle should change.

Loading Angle

A settable angle (measured in degrees) that determines where the guns will "rest". There ought to be a tab here with options for All-Angle, Fixed Angle, and Semi-Fixed Angle loading: the first offers a faster cycle but also weighs the most and additionally has a higher chance of ammo detonation, to give an idea of benefits and tradeoffs.

Train Rate

We have included Train Rate merely to say that we are not including Train Rate, as it is directly affected not only by the motors and hydraulics used but also by the weight of the armour on said turret, which is a function of the Ship Designer.

Hoist Type

And here we come to a small, often overlooked, but important part of the designer: hoists. Pusher hoists, bucket hoists, dredger hoists, cage hoists: there are many different types. Each offers their own benefits and maluses: pusher hoists, for example, offer a very high rate of exchange between the magazines and the guns, thus improving your firing rate... but beware if that turret gets hit, because they also create a continuous powder train between the turret and the magazine. While this isn't a critical feature, it would be nice if this important part of the design of a warship should get its own spot in the sun.

Rounds Per Gun

A base number of rounds per gun, to be affected by the increased and decreased shell outfit options.

Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read through this. While this will probably not - almost certainly not - be implemented into the game at any point now or in the foreseeable future, I wanted to share my thoughts on part of the direction I'd like this game to take, especially towards an emphasis on creativity and removing some of the hard restrictions placed on the main selling point of this game (the ship designer)... with a little dose of reality mixed in. Fun in moderation.

Edited by Shiki
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@Nick Thomadis If you ever have time and the ability to do so, this would be very nice to add into the game. Also a great selling point for the game too.

Also a lovely, detailed post as well. Very nice I really do hope we can get something like this in the game, as with this and far more fleshed out ship designer would help this game massively, and also will allow the devs then to focus on other things as well and get those polished up, although it is still mid-alpha so we got a journey ahead of ourselves.

'w'

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I especially like the sections pertaining to barrel length, breech type and elevation angles. Incredibly well detailed, researched and thought out post. I can definitely see myself spending too much time in the gun designer looking over every miniscule detail...but I like that thought. Definitely a feature that would be a very nice addition to the game.

Something else I could see being a variable to consider along with all the gun customization: weather conditions and physics. Different weather situations (rain, wind, humidity, etc) as well as drag/friction due to air can effect your shells flight path depending on muzzle velocity and shell weight...thus resulting in the optimum angle being ~42.5 degrees of elevation to produce the longest possible gun range.

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Welp to be honest, nor guns are "the most important thing", nor a game of this genre needs this level of detail in this particular aspect, but everything's very well explained, a point to you for that. Something from this post may be taken into consideration by the devs, probably... though, considering what is gunnery in current built, very unlikely..

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Naval Action had the best ship building system ever where you would assemble a list of components and then build a ship from those, up until patch 27, when they destroyed it. It was a ship building system that gave the game depth, even created and catered for a whole class of players who just built ships.

This suggestion is definitely along those lines, where it would give the designer/game great depth. As was in NA showcasing the player architecture of the subject. 

Although I think it could be implemented as a tech tree. Tech tree form would still have the same depth but much easier to implement and just maybe be aligned with the campaign they already have i.e. you unlock gun bore X, breech type X... and then that unlocks gun X. 

Edited by Skeksis
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I do think this would add a ton of depth. If I could have just two things it would be elevation angles for mounts and calibers of length for barrels.

Would allow for making some quick and handy secondary weapons as well as exploring either longer guns for more MV or shorter main guns for better deck penetration at realistic combat range (angle of drop being higher given lower MV).

Would be an excellent campaign thing to have where you have to R&D a gun and mount which would take time to test and develop rather than just pick from a list. Would keep gun proliferation well down which would add to realism.

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