Valkyrie Fighter (used in original and in 1.0.0 remake)
A versatile, multipurpose fighter. Most vulnerable of all crafts, good maneuverability, fastest but able to fly very (even unbelievably) slowly. Exceptionally powerful engine and climb rate: can (almost?) perfectly regulate speed during climb or descend. Least prone to be damaged during harsh landings and hitting the ground. Medium to low room (space) for weapons (how large weapon and ammunition it can carry).
This is the easiest craft to pilot, it nevers stall and is forgiving in harsh landings and hitting the rock. (It is also able to land vertically, an ability present usually only in helicopters; I imagine that the other planes must find a relatively level piece of rock to land - but maybe this will not work given the landscape in Fractalus.) Therefore it is the preferred fighter to be assigned to newbies new to the squadron; they are sent to areas with low enemy occurence where the limited room for weapons and very low resilience to fire do not matter quite so much.
Default weapon: A slow-firing cannon of powerful explosive shells. The shells are rather slow, so it takes long to see if the target has been hit. (Shell is probably not the best word for a futuristic weapon with trajectory not influenced by gravity - but what word should I use? Energetic torpedo?)
A huge machine designed to carry a massive armament (I mean: load of weapons). Very low maneuverability (slow turns etc.) Most resilient to enemy fire, but rather prone to harsh landings (landing is equally difficult for Colossus and Cobra, because Cobra is much more maneuverable, but punishes harsh landings even more than Colossus) - landing is hard because a bomber surely wasn't designed for rescue operations, but it may be a good choice for example in a mission with turrets with very high hitpoints. The difference between minimum and maximum speed is not quite impressive.
Default weapon: A fast-firing cannon of powerful explosive shells (the same as Valkyrie, but much higher fire rate).
An aircraft made for combat, not rescue operations. Average vulnerability, very prone to damage during hard landings or hitting the rock. Bad climb rate (??Maybe prone to stalling and falling?? Well it is not important.) and bad deceleration ability when descending: the difference between the minimal and maximal speed is relatively lowest of all crafts (OR: maybe it has no means to control the speed except by climbing and descenging, because the thurst of the engines is given and cannot be controlled. OR: It can only be controlled by turning the engines on/off and the change takes long to take effect ). But its room for weapons is surpassed only by the Colossus bomber and its cool maneuverability is legendary.
TODO: Finish my remark about precise aiming vs fast turns.
Default weapon: a launcher of homing missiles, average firing speed. These missiles are as powerful as Valkyrie's shells and they are fire-and-forget: after the launch they try to find and lock on the target. The higher the angle from an (angularly 'nearest') potential target (right after the missile launch this angle is as high as imprecisely the player aimed the missile), the lower the chance they will find this target.
In other words: They lock either to the angularly nearest target or they fly hoping to find some target. After they lock, they change target only if a nearer target crosses before them. Some Jaggi buildings may have ECM jamming.
These missiles are very dangerous if the mission objective insists that there are some Jaggi buildings that the player must NOT destroy, because they can lock on them (or on a crashed shuttle with a pilot) if they don't have a better target, so it is important to aim them precisely in such cases, but otherwise, in the heat of battle, it is a great convenience that precise aiming is far and far less necessary than with other weapons.
I imagine that a plane can trade altitude for velocity and vice versa. And as the engines of Cobra are weak, this "combined altitude and velocity" is a relatively rare resource which requires some planning. Cobra usually attacks by descending which gains a very high velocity, launching homing missiles (with relatively little time to aim) and immediately getting off before the enemy has much time to fire.
A plane with an extremely low HP and firepower (room for weapons), but extremely good maneuverability. It has a very good minimum and maximum velocity (meaning: the former low, the later high), surpassed in this only by Valkyrie. Its engines are surely good, allowing it a good climb rate (how quickly it can climb without losing speed, stalling and falling), although by far not as exceptionally high as Valkyrie (whose engine breaks physical laws that hold for normal engines, such as a law of conservation of energy, such as the sum of kinetic and potential energy).
This is the harderst player's craft to pilot. It excels in situations where dogfight and maneuvering is important. Obviously, it performs badly when encountering things like an all-directional turret, where one must simply endure fire while destroying it. In these situations, a Stuntman Fighter climbs, then descends to gain extreme speed and flies through the range of enemy weapons as quickly as possible, trying to deal damage in the process.
Default weapon: These fighters usually mount a beam cannon that automatically aims at any target that occurs within very few degrees from the direction of fighter's nose. In other words, it can shoot only forward, but it requires less precise aiming by ship's nose than most crafts (but more precise than Cobra's missiles).
The reason why Stuntmen pilots usually choose this weak beam weapon is that it allows them to shoot at the enemy although in that extremely high speed they don't have time to aim the fighter's nose precisely.
As a helicopter, it has unique flight properties: can hover in the air, fly forward, slowly backward, (maybe even to the side??). Rather prone to damage when hitting the rock or harsh landing, but with its zero minimal speed it is easier to land softly.
Very good to land and rescue in hilly terrain. The flight properties make it much easier (than for planes) to descend lower among the hills to be exposed to fewer turrets, or to hiding behind a mountain from a turret. Good maneuverability, medium to high vulnerability by enemy fire. The maximum forward speed is lowest of all crafts. Lowest space for weapons.
Default weapon: Four very fast-firing machine guns of kinetic (nonexplosive) projectiles, which are much weaker than those of Valkyrie and they also need a precise hit - but helicopter's forward-backward maneuverability makes it easier to aim.
A technical remark: Luke will probably not want to implement a completely different control for helicopter (where increasing engine thurst causes it to climb higher, while a forward speed is achieved by aiming the nose lower) - and also most players would probably not like it. But I think that current remake 1.0.0 (modified by allowing a small backward thurst) can be a good approximation of a chopper - not perfect (because this approximation cannot climb or descend vertically without extreme nose angle or without using L key) but fully satisfactory. Also, someone can have better idea than me how to make this work - there is surely more than one good answer.
A mediocre fighter with all attributes having an average value: minimal and maximal velocity a bit better than Colossus bomber; a cannon with firing rate between that of Colossus and Valkyrie, etc...
I'm not sure whether to include this craft at all, because this is the average while all previous crafts had some extreme weak and strong aspects. Some players might be tempted to use it in order to avoid dilemmas which craft to choose. I think this could be solved by
- either making the Averagus a bit worse (for an average mission) than the other crafts.
- or making many missions where the strength of one of the extreme crafts outweights its weaknesses. (In other words: Missions that can be most easily won by one the extreme crafts. Some missions will have more dogfights, some will have massive turrets, some will need to land in a very steep terrain etc.)
- Or letting some missions use only some crafts. Yes, I would like this very much. Then the player would not succeed very well by choosing a favorite craft without learning how to use the others.
I think that the six crafts described above are very distinct, each has an unique "feel". I think that by adding more crafts, this feeling of "discintness" might suffer, for example:
- A heavy chopper - less maneuverable than Apache, but a bit better armed and more resilient. Essentially a crossbreed of Apache and Colossus.
- A heavy dog-fighter: a craft with a good maneuverability, resilience against fire and at least average weapons at the expense of all other attributes. But there not many "other attributes", so how to make it interesting? By telling that it has a very short radar range? By giving it a high constant speed (not changeable by controls) so that it has to fly fast even when it does not want to? Or by tendency to stall if the inclination (lengthwise or transverse) exceeds a certain limit? The last thing would mean that it can quickly get into a lengthwise inclination that changes the heading (in degrees per second) very quickly (which is more or less a definition of good maneuverability and it gives an advantage in dogfights and fighting turrets with a slow barrel rotation), but if the player tries to use this over a certain threshold, the ship quickly starts to lose altitude and maybe also speed.