More Diversity in Ion,Hydrogen,Atmospheric Thrusters
The thruster selection ingame has little to no difference how a vehicle drives. While hydrogen need to have its own conveyor-fuel system designed, atmospheric and ion thrusters only differ in their area of usage. Currently Hydrogen, and Atmospheric engines have an adapting power output and they work with the inertia stabilizer just like ion thruster does, making all three engines uniformed in control, and because of this, they become kind of plain compared to each other.
It really feels like a missed opportunity to create diversity in the gameplay. I have an idea to include a bit variety in them:
1. Ion thrusters and capacitors:
Instead of making them the "space only" engine, they should have a hydrogen like "energy injection" system. Let's call them "capacitors". These capacitors are just modified batteries, which provide extra thrusting power only to the ion thrusters they are attached to/connected to for a small amount of time, so they can substitute hydrogen, or atmospheric engines, for a small time for an enourmous amount of extra energy preloaded into the capacitors. It would be only enough to land an interstellar ship on planet, or give them an acceleration boost in an emergency situation without stacking a large amount of capacitors, they are unsuited to be used for an interstellar ship to hover for more than 2-3 minute in standard designs.
2. Hydrogen systems & cheap merge block:
the hydrogen systems should be unsuitable for extended use (except the engine), since they generate enourmous amount of heat that damages itself really fast, and slowly but inevitably all the surrounding blocks. They are the "cheap" "one time use" alternative to ion capacitors, that burns out after use, and should be detached from the ship after use to avoid it melting its surrounding (basicly the tank and the thruster). They costs should be reduced, since they are expendable gear, and should be counted as a "consumable" part of the designs, that needs replacement or repairs after use. They also shouldn't be able to adjust to the inertia stabilizers. The amount of thrust power it provides dictates how fast the equipments are heating up, and through that how fast it destroys itself.
Also, the attach mechanism could have an extra block, a simple block that destroys itself if it heats up itself to a set amount. It's not digital, just mechanicly it melts on a set amount of degree. It would be a cheap alternative to a merge block.
3. Atmospheric thrusters and wings:
They are also not capable of adjusting itself to the inertia stabilizers, but they can provide constant lifting powers. So basicly a hovering machine needs an atmospheric thruster that provides the main lifting power, and the ion thrusters (maybe with capacitors) that does the corrections. Alternatively one can create a "plane" design, where the atmospheric thruster is overloaded to maximum thrusting power, and the wings redirect the power to the direction it's needed, thus providing a plane like control system.
4. (extra option) Rotors:
It might be possible, that mixing atmospheric thrusters and ion engines to provide a hovering machine in atmosphere is too complicated for casual players, so as an extra addition rotors could be a "hybrid solution". Rotors can provide enough power to keep a ship (helicopter) hovering for a cheap fuel cost, and they can match themselves to inertia stabilizers, their only downsize is they take really large amount of space, so they need some extra thinkering to house them on a compact design.
The game currently lacks the "expendable gear" aspects to it (minus the parachute), and the "onboard accident" aspect except the glitches. It would be great if hydrogen gear would be that thing that close this gap. All hydrogen stuff would be some steel plates and fuel in costs total, so they are cheap solutions to many thing, if the gear, or the requirement for their power is temporary (such as rockets,missiles, or a carrier that takes a shuttle to a one way road, or a hostile enviroment, where there is too big risk to bring in an actual dropship).
The Ion with capacitors are basicly for 3 thing.
1: current megaships are either can't enter the atmosphere, or they can fly in it. The parachutes for landing are not safe, they can break your ship. If one is "emotionally attached" to their main ship, they will make it able to enter the atmosphere, since they won't just leave it behind, but then, it's fully capable of doing anything and fly around, so no more thinkering is needed there anymore. Overloading the Ion Thrusters from capacitors, can make these megaships land, and strategically move around from time to time, but they won't be able to be used to fly around everywhere.
2: Relying on capacitor overloaded ion engines consumes a ton of energy. Hydrogen will be always the cheaper solution and it doesn't have any wind up time like ion does, however it always need some extra groundwork on repairs, and stuff like that. So capacitors are kind of an "end game tech", a luxury stuff that only those rely on that can afford to waste a huge chunk of energy instead of manual labor.
3: It's a hindrance. It removes the stable hydrogen thruster, and replace a temporary solution that might even blow up your ship if not handled carefully, or with ion engines, that have limited flytime and has a long reload time. It's not to make life easier, it is to make people prefer planes, helicopters, and cars instead of atmospheric spaceships. It seems like a huge nerf first, but it's only because the current system doesn't require one to truly engineer solutions. The current approach of the game "allows" omnipotential megaships to exist. However engineering comes from challenges that need unique solutions. "Specialized" tools. The omnipotential ships first might feel "comfy" and such, however they literally take away the reason to tinker around anymore. To switch seats and experience a different vehicle. And in the long term, this can make things stale.