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I'm not terribly interested in designing ships, although I do enjoy the turn-based combat. Since I don't plan on playing past medium difficulties, I was wondering if the game can be enjoyed with the default ship designs. Would the computer eventually start outclassing me with their designs, or do they also use the same default ships?
This question / problem has been solved by Dreamteam67image
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clownshoes88: I'm not terribly interested in designing ships, although I do enjoy the turn-based combat. Since I don't plan on playing past medium difficulties, I was wondering if the game can be enjoyed with the default ship designs. Would the computer eventually start outclassing me with their designs, or do they also use the same default ships?
The Ai on your side does improve your design, BUT nothing beats you input ;) There are certain technologies (combos) which make the ships much better in tactical combat, I never played the other way round, so I do NOT know, how it works out.

The best results are, manual design with tactical combat. Which IMHO is part of the advantage/personal flavour MoO can give you ;)

Or in other words, withe right combo against the right enemy you can still win!!!!!!! BUT the same combo could make you loose a battle against a different one ;)

Yes, I do like it!!!!!!!
For MoO 2:

All your ships auto-upgrade to the best drive tech and targeting computer available to your empire when in a friendly star system. Your newly built ships automatically install the best armor and shields you have available, but only once as they leave the shipyard. If you want older ships to improve their armor or shields, you need to refit them at a friendly planet.

Every time you research something new in a particular school, (almost) all the previous technologies you have from that same school miniaturize by about 20%. Each tech can be miniaturized up to 4 "steps" like this, becoming radically more space-efficient. Plus for most weapon systems, each miniaturization "step" enables some nice bonus features to that weapon, like auto-fire (fire multiple times per round), no range dissipation (always inflicts max damage no matter the range), armor piercing (ignores targets armor), etc. So even if you wanted to use the starting laser tech on your ships throughout the game, if you don't design new ships, you never see any benefit from this extra available space and weapons perks. It is pretty easy though to click on ship design screen and simply max-out the weapons into the available space each time you "tech up".

Missiles do not auto-upgrade, and earlier versions quickly become obsolete as shield technology improves. Also miniaturization adds perks to your missiles like ECCM (more accurate vs jamming), Fast (quite a bit faster + improves accuracy), MIRV (multiple warhead 4x base damage), and EMG (single missile has a high chance of taking out target in 1 shot). SO your missile ship designs quickly suck if you do not upgrade them.

The only weapon system(s) that auto-upgrades with new technology is fighter bays / bomber bays / interceptor bays. The bays themselves never miniaturize (they always take up 30 space units). Instead the bays always upgrade their engine and armor to whatever the mothership has, Fighters/Interceptors auto-upgrade to the best laser weapon system allowable (only laser, mass driver, fusion beam, phaser or particle beam) when in a friendly system. Bombers auto-upgrade to the best laser and bomb available. Particle beam is a non-researchable tech only available if you defeat the Guardian at Orion or board and capture an Antarean raider (very difficult), but it does a base damage of 30 iirc so remains viable even into the late-game.

If you don't upgrade your ship designs, you won't be able to take advantage of all sorts of cool and useful defensive systems and "special" weapons like heavy armor (cancels armor-piercing rounds), inertial stabilizers (faster turning speed), battle pods (more space available), cloaking device, tractor beams, Assault Shuttles, etc. Also, certain techs completely neutralize certain weapons, so if you are using one of those weapons against said defenses and refuse to upgrade your ship designs, U R dead.

BUT if you REALLY don't want to mess with ship designs, use fighters. Your motherships will be glass cannons, but it is a viable ship strategy for hit-and-run tactics. BUT you still need to upgrade the mothership to better armor by hand if you want the fighters to have the best armor available.

The AI on the other hand is constantly upgrading its ships. The designs are similar to your own starting designs, but since the AI will be maxing out weapon systems and upgrading to more powerful technologies, you stand the risk of soon encountering a crippling disadvantage in combat.
Post edited September 17, 2016 by Dreamteam67
MoO1 is virtually impossible without design new and better ships.
I would also say that the MoO games (1-3) are not for you if you want to avoid the designing, sorry. Good thing is there are other games out there that are good in ways that might suit your tastes better :-)

I once tried playing MoO2 with tactical combat off and letting the game do the ship designing and combat for me. The result was I lost on MEDIUM difficulty...
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Dreamteam67: Instead the bays always upgrade their engine and armor to whatever the mothership has, Fighters/Interceptors auto-upgrade to the best laser weapon system allowable (only laser, mass driver, fusion beam, phaser or particle beam) when in a friendly system. Bombers auto-upgrade to the best laser and bomb available.
BUT you still need to upgrade the mothership to better armor by hand if you want the fighters to have the best armor available.
Thats slightly incorrect. They all are always upgrade to best weapon, armor and drive a player have. Even if you just acquired that tech from opponent's planet captured during the same battle round; they are not tied with mothership in that sense at all, and easily can have different drive and armor. "Bombers" are likely "Heavy fighters" here, as bombers have no beam weapons.

About main question - patch 1.50 offers to a player an ability to autodesign ships the same way the game will do it for AI, it can be used both for fair play versus AI (makes game slightly harder without cheap anti-AI ships, player got the same stuff that AI would get at his place) and definitely for topicstarter needs. Instead of sticking with some initial design, pressing ALT+AD will generate all the 6 new designs for you using the technologies you possess at that moment, with specials, weapon modifications and so on. Strategic combat is a great way of playing it too, as in addition player cannot have usual anti-AI exploits in battle (and AI is not good in battle already and without them).
Post edited September 17, 2016 by DarzaR
@ DarzaR, and everyone else too of course

Sounds excellent and I feel bad for writing as I did now but in my defence I have not yet tried the new fan patch (1.5.x) as I have not played MoO2 since last winter or so.
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Themken:
You can spend few seconds peeking at its changelog, maybe it will have something else of interest in it. Also that list should become slightly longer in a relatively short time.
Post edited September 17, 2016 by DarzaR