Interstellar Rift

Interstellar Rift

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Your ship and you: understanding its electrical systems
By SmaugBR
This guide explains the basics on how the game sees your ship electrical systems and gives you tips on how you can fine tune them to build, at least, a viable ship.
Hello! The following guide was born after I was lost and confused designing my ship and trying to balance fuel and energy systems. Like most of you, I asked myself if Interstellar Rift was an unbalanced game regarding ship energy management… then my inquisitive (read “annoying”) spirit took over and made me send a small avalanche of questions on Steam Forum. Sentinel373 then came and shed some light on the situation (thanks!). All I had to do later was to think a bit, observe and test. The final spark to write this guide came after seeing posts showing repeatedly on Steam Forum with the same questions I once had.

The information I’m sharing with you helped me a lot. Don’t be deceived, though: this guide is not immutable, refers only to the current development state of the game (whose mechanics can be freely altered by Split Poligon) and is not meant to bring you “combos”, “statistics” or “wiki-like details”. Far from that, but just because I’m not that kind of player. My intention here is trying to clarify some in-game mechanics as I perceive them and help you, not building the best energy-balanced ship, but at least enabling you to play with that personal Death Star you designed in Ship Editor at least in a economically viable way.

So, without further delay, the guide! :D
Your ship devices and how they work
In order to understand your ship’s electrical systems and design an economic and viable one, you must first understand the different types of devices your ship has. All the systems and devices installed in your ship fall into one of these three categories:

  • Continuously powered devices:
    Devices that are always on, consuming a constant amount of energy, like Shield Generators, Life Support Systems (the central console AND room vents) and Holotables. Shield Generators, specifically, consume an even greater amount of energy when recharging the shields;

  • Switchable devices:
    Devices that can be turned on and off. They are not always consuming energy and you must be operating them for them to work. Think about most of ship devices, including Wall and Console Systems, Extractors, Engines, Refineries, Weapons, etc. Cockpit Sensors fall into this category too.

  • Burst devices:
    Devices which operates using accumulated energy, working in a burst. Into this category we can find Teleporters (cargo and people), Rift Generators and Warp Drive (this is in fact the cockpit of your ship; when you engage warp it exceptionally assumes this mode of operation). In short, every device which makes a continuous charging sound then bursts in a sudden discharge effect falls into this category.

Why is it important to know this? Because this will influence the way you design your ship's electrical systems. So, this is my first advice to build an efficient ship: begin by building your ship anyway you want, placing everything you seem necessary and leave room to place the electrical systems later. In fact, this should be the last thing to be added to your ship. Below are some tips when building your ship:

  • You need only one Life Support vent per room. Remember they consume energy too, so try to be economic here: just ONE per room (ok, you may place more than one for aesthetical purposes, but you will have to deal with them later when building the electrical systems);

  • Try to put only the things you’ll need in your ship. Think a role for it: is it a mining ship? A fighter? An assembling ship? Plan and stick to it. Of course, the “complete industrial ship design”, full of cargo pads, extractors, refineries and assemblers is valid choice, but the more devices you place, the more energy you have to supply and the more mass your ship will have, decreasing its maximum speed and increasing Warp Drives and Rift Generators consumption;

  • Still about the “only what you need” philosophy, try to think about your design operation. I met a player once who built a ship with five extractors, when he didn’t even have a crew to operate all that. My main ship has two extractors and I usually have a crewmember with me, but even when I’m by myself I can operate both extractors myself. Having more extractors in a huge ship which I couldn’t operate with the available crew (or by myself) would represent an unnecessary increase in mass, building materials requirements and, ultimately, energy supply needed for it to function;

  • Jukeboxes consume no energy, according to the game loading screen tip, so feel free to add them anywhere you want;

  • Batteries are per se optional, but they work as secondary (and in my opinion essential) fuel tanks. Consider adding some of them. More details about it below; keep reading.

Ok, you built your perfect ship, now what? Time to supply enough power for it to work. In order to do this, let’s first understand what each electrical component is.

The electrical components are listed below:

  • Hydrogen Tanks:
    Large or small, this is where you keep fuel (hydrogen) to be used by generators;

  • Hydrogen Generators:
    Available in two sizes, these components convert fuel (hydrogen) into energy and they have different energy supply capacities. In practical terms, your ship uses “energy” as fuel, not exactly hydrogen. Generators convert this element into energy, which is continuously sent to your devices and your batteries;

  • Solar Panels:
    Another kind of generators. Despite of its very low output, they do not require any fuel to work. They may be placed only in the Exterior Mode, in the Ship Editor;

  • Batteries:
    These act like “secondary fuel tanks”. When a generator convert hydrogen into energy, it flows in two directions: into your devices and into your batteries, gradually charging them. All the energy not used by the devices flows into batteries too and is saved for later use. The function of batteries is to supply energy to devices in a steady flow every time your generators are unable to do this, due to a bigger demand or the lack of fuel. In the present time, we have only one type of batteries (a pillar-like structure);

  • Power Cells:
    These are “capacitors” for your ship, storing a high amount of energy to release it in a burst for that “Burst Devices”. They are like batteries, but they do not supply energy for general use, just when a burst is needed. They come in two sizes (small and big). Do not confuse them, though: the small power cell looks like a battery, since it’s also a pillar-like structure (it looks like a pillar with a TV set in the middle), but it’s not a battery and its bigger version is completely different (it’s a round structure which looks like a small generator). Batteries have no bigger version so far;

  • Other Devices:
    Everything else that demands energy to work.

When you first build your ship, all the fuel you add to your tanks will decrease at an alarming rate. This happens because your generator is draining the tanks to produce the maximum amount of energy it can. All the energy produced goes to the active devices (“switchable” and “continuously powered”) and all the unused energy flows into your batteries and power cells to charge them. The summed stored capacity of all batteries acts like a single “energy tank” which will keep draining your fuel tanks until full. Once all the batteries fill up, the fuel drain rate from your hydrogen tanks will drop significantly, adjusting itself to supply only the active devices. From this point on, your batteries will supply energy as if they were generators in specific situations, like of lack of energy (like when you run out of hydrogen), to compensate an energy burst demands (in this case, the energy supplied is capped by the batteries output/tick amount), and so on. The system will also recharge batteries everytime there is an energy surplus and a battery with available internal space.

When all batteries are full, your fuel will still to be consumed – but at a slower rate – because your generators keep feeding the continuously working devices, like shields, holotables and life support. So, in theory, if you can add enough solar panels to fuel this continuous systems, and you keep your ship idle and still, and your batteries and power cells are all full, you should see no decrease in your fuel reserves. At this point, you would notice a decrease of hydrogen from your fuel tanks only when you activate something, like an extractor or the engines.

Ok, connecting everything to solar panels… but how? Even if you don’t do this, how do you organize your electrical systems? In order to do this, you have to click on the Connection Tool icon (), located in the lower left portion of the ship editor screen to access the Connection Tool.
The Connection Tool
When you click this tool, your ship will assume blue wireframe aspect, with a lot of orange spots around it. Each of the orange spot represent an electrical device, be it a generating device (generators, solar panels, batteries and power cells) or a consuming device (all others). Everything not represented by the orange silhouettes (like fuel tanks) do not directly supply nor consume energy.

Connection Tool screen.

With the Connection Tool, you can configure electrical groups and understand how much energy you need.

On the bottom left part, a window will display the electrical groups created in your ship. By default, you’ll have just one called “Default Group” into where everything you add to your ship will be assigned. You can rename this group to anything you seem fit, like “Ship Systems” or so. Note: if you have more than one group created, if you select its name and go back to construction mode, everything you add to your ship will be listed under the group you selected.

To manage your ship’s electrical groups, you may create a new group clicking on the icon ; to remove a group, just click on its name and then the button. When you create a new group, will have to assign devices to it by clicking on the orange spots in your ship’s grid. Each orange spot represents an electrical device, and by clicking and highlighting it, you separate it into a specific group with distinct energy generation and consumption that doesn’t interfere in each other.

Connection Tool with a custom group and some devices selected into it.

For an electrical group to be valid, it must include these elements: at least one fuel tank, a generator (hydrogen generator or solar panel), batteries and/or power cells, and one or more devices. Two observations here: fuel tanks are not shown (they just need to be in your ship) and will be used by more than one electrical group (you do not need to have a specific fuel tank for every single group); and solar panels does not need fuel tanks.
Understanding the stats
On the top left portion of your screen, you’ll see a small table with the following stats:

Stats window.

  • Power Generation:
    The total amount of energy generated by your generators (hydrogen and solar panels). This stat does not include the energy provided by your batteries output.
  • Capacity:
    Your ship total energy storage capacity, which includes the individual storage amount of all batteries added together.
  • Peak Consumption:
    The total amount of energy used by your ship during “burst consumption”, which is required by teleporters, cargo teleporters and rift generators, and during each warp stage (activated in your cockpit). This energy is provided by power cells and you must have enough power cell burst power (i.e. small or big power cells) to cover this stat.
  • Drain:
    The total amount of energy used by your ship. This number is a theoretical one, since it assumes how much energy your ship would drain if all the “switchable devices” and “continuously powered” were on at the same time. So, in normal situations, your current energy consumption in a given moment is lower than that.

Your work here is to provide your ship an amount of Power Generation that covers or at least equals Drain. You don’t have to be precise, but remember: too much Power Generation and your ship will have an unnecessary mass increase*; too little Power Generation and there will be little to no energy surplus for the batteries and you’ll eventually have a hard time dealing with energy shortages.

*Ship mass increase, in this case represented by adding too many generators, have some consequences, such as (but not limited to): additional building materials required to construct your ship, increased energy consumption during warp, lower maximum speed when on cruise speed, and the need for a larger amount of the expensive fuel used on rift generators.

However, as mentioned above, Drain is a theoretical number, so you can have a nice result with a slightly lower Power Generation, since it will probably cover all the real current energy consumption. The direct consequence will be too little energy surplus, leading to a slower battery recharging speed and probably the risk of not enough energy in case you have a bigger ship and decide to turn on some devices at the same time. Me, I usually tend to equal or cover Drain by a little.
My experience with electrical systems
My present medium-sized industrial ship, I.S.S. Concordia, uses two large generators to cover Drain. Also, I’ve placed a lot of solar panels on it and wired them exclusively to Shields and Life Support (including room vents). When my batteries are full, I observe a very slow decrease rate of hydrogen inside my large fuel tank. It still happens because I have other “continuously powered devices” linked to my hydrogen generators group, like my holotables and doors. I could link every one of such devices into my solar panels grid, but since I don’t want my ship to look like Silver Surfer and I’m not that bothered by this slow fuel consumption, my ship is fine enough to be an economic and still viable ship.

In the beginning, I built a ship that moved very slowly, even though it had many engines. After I understood these mechanics explained above, I noticed I had fuel, but not enough energy available, so I tried to correct the problem by adding more batteries. Of course it was a temporary solution, because my full speed lasted only while batteries had charge to complete my humble generator. In a short time I had to stop and refill my hydrogen tanks and have my batteries fully recharged. The problem was only really solved when I had enough Power Generation to supply Drain and some batteries to store the surplus and work as a spare tank (see the next paragraph about this “some batteries (…) to work as a spare tank”).
Final tips
A note about batteries:
In case you run out of fuel, your hydrogen generators will stop working. If you have no charge in your batteries to keep you moving, you’ll be in trouble. According to the game’s Wiki, each battery has an energy output of 100 energy per tick. So, if your ship has a thousand engines, it will probably consume more than that per tick. That 100 energy will be equally split between them and surely will not be enough to grant each engine full power, making them work at just a fraction of their strength. Your ship won’t stop, but it will surely move at a sluggish speed. So, always remember to consider your total Drain (or at least your total engines drain) when deciding how many batteries will be included in you ship design.

A note about generators and batteries:
If your generator(s) supplies(y) energy which is not being consumed (either by devices, engines, or by recharging batteries), you’ll notice your fuel will have a slow decrease rate. That happens just because your generators don’t simply burn and waste energy, they notice there is no demand and slow down burning your hydrogen. When you start your ship’s devices and/or engines, however, if you have too few generators and batteries (which couldn’t sum the total output need up), then you’ll notice energy shortages (like your engines don’t reaching full speed). In short, batteries can, together, not act only as “spare fuel tanks”, but also as “mini-generators” to compete your energy demand when this is the case.

Another quick tip:
It’s about the need of a Wiki to know electrical devices stats. Even though a Wiki is extremely useful to really know all the details (like batteries output rate or power cells storage), you can use the Connection Tool to extract simple information on the devices to crudely cover your needs. To do so, simply start a new ship blueprint in Ship Editor, place a single empty room (add just the walls) and then place the device you wish to analyze. Then, click on the Connection Tool and read the stats. The numbers shown will express the energy profile of this individual device – if it generates energy, how much it generates (Power Generation); if stores, how big is this storage (Storage); and if it consumes, how much it does and if it works continuously (Drain) or in bursts (Peak Consumption).
Final words
Well, that’s it. As I said in the beginning, keep in mind this guide is not an absolute truth. This is just the fruit of my inquisitive questions on the Steam Forum and Sentinel373 patient answers (thanks again, dude/lady, you’re awesome!), mixed together with my own observations and some testing. The things I wrote here helped me go more easily through Ship Design and I thought it would be nice to share this with you. I hope you all enjoy it and, most importantly, I hope this information can be useful to you too.

In case you want it, feel free to share this guide. I just ask you to keep the credits (something like “by SmaugBR” and I’ll be happy – of course preserving the content, otherwise there will be no point in saying I’m the author, will be?). Also, if someone judges this worthy, this material can be posted on “Wikis” or used by Split Poligon or anyone else in any positive and useful way they see fit – I’m literally donating this to the world. ;)

Take care, my friends, and just drop me a “Hi!” in case you come across I.S.S. Concordia in your travels ;) Cya!
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Frayboy15 Sep 6, 2018 @ 12:49am 
This is a good guide. It just needs a bit of tuning for the latest build.(Power groups and Elcetrical Boxes)
Psynix Mar 7, 2018 @ 5:23am 
very helpful thanks for sharing
SmaugBR  [author] Feb 20, 2018 @ 8:50am 
I'm glad it's still useful after all this time. :)
scotfusion Feb 20, 2018 @ 4:55am 
I am finding myself back here at this very important guide, after a long break from game.
knightcore Feb 16, 2018 @ 6:11am 
Thank you very much for sharing this guide. It helped a lot. :)
SmaugBR  [author] Nov 19, 2017 @ 6:52am 
Indeed. The game has changed. I hope the essentials are still there, though. :)
[NOPE] Sigvar Nov 18, 2017 @ 4:14pm 
Thank you for taking the time to write this guide.
Some things have changed in game to my understanding. Many ships in the workshop do not function as designed because the way power functions has changed. ie: no more solar power only ships. So many need reworking of their power system grouping.
Thank you again!
Taxy Jun 10, 2017 @ 10:08pm 
Very nice thought and time spent putting this together. I really appreciate the time and effort it took to put this out. I am rather new to this game and was becoming frustrated. Though I understood that the batteries needed charging I did not think that it was going to be a long process.

Thank you much for this amazing guide. It really helps everything come together in my brain!

Thank you!
SmaugBR  [author] Jun 4, 2017 @ 7:29am 
Thanks for all the compliments. Although some things changed - like the introduction of Nuclear Reactor, which requires an specific guide - the fundamentals remain the same. Glad I could help. :)
The Burger Buster Jun 3, 2017 @ 3:19pm 
This is great man! Lots of insight into the ship builder I wouldn't have otherwise known. Well done!