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  • Nick Thomadis

Designing Warships

Hello to everyone reading our first blog post!

In this article we present several design aspects of “Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts”. Designing your warships is a vital procedure before building them and sending them into combat. No matter how important and complicated this process can be, the intuitive design interface should help you to easily learn the basics and start experimenting on with the various potential design combinations for your ships. Let’s see below the most important design characteristics, that are available at this moment of writing.

Ship classification

You can design the following ship types: Battleship, Battlecruiser, Heavy Cruiser, Light Cruiser, Destroyer and Torpedo Boat. Each type can fill a specific operational role as follows:

  • Battleship: The biggest and most expensive type of warship you can built. Battleships have immense firepower embodied in their large guns capable of destroying smaller ships with even a single shot. They are large targets and need heavy armour to be sufficiently protected from incoming fire. Battleships can execute any operational role but due to being so valuable, it is risky to send them into combat without sufficient escort.

  • Battlecruiser: A ship that combines the size and firepower of a battleship with the speed and maneuverability of a cruiser. Battlecruisers are undoubtedly superior compared to smaller cruisers and are ideal for distant commerce escort or raid operations, as they can hit hard and escape using their high speed. However, Battlecruisers are not suitable to fight versus heavily armoured Battleships, unless they can fire effectively with safety from very long distances.

  • Heavy/Light Cruiser: Cruisers are ships that fulfill various naval roles depending on their armour and weaponry. The “Light Cruisers” are suitable for distant commerce raiding or defense against enemy torpedo craft, or can threaten even battleships if they carry torpedo armament. The “Heavy Cruisers” have stronger armour and heavier guns, so they are potentially more powerful at the cost of being more expensive, less maneuverable and more detectable. They may stand in the line of battle in the absence of Battleships or Battlecruisers, or serve as flagships on distant colonial stations.

  • Destroyer: The “Destroyer” category of warship is specifically designed to carry strong torpedo armament to threaten capital ships and sufficient firepower to defend the fleet against smaller craft, such as Torpedo Boats. Destroyers are particularly effective versus battleships, because their small size, speed and maneuverability allow them to approach and launch devastating torpedoes against them.

  • Torpedo Boat: Designed solely to deliver the deadly new torpedo against capital ships, the Torpedo Boat is the smallest war vessel you may build. The Torpedo Boats combine small size, low freeboard and high speed, which help them approach dangerously close to battleships and unleash a powerful load of torpedoes. Evaluating their low cost versus their damage potential, they can be very effective in the early years of naval warfare, but lack the range and sea worthiness necessary to operate with the fleet in distant waters.

Hull Types and Technology

As technology develops, new hull types become available and older become obsolete. For example, in the early 1890s you may construct battleships with pre-dreadnought characteristics. When technology allows it in the 1900s, your battleships can be built bigger, stronger and carry heavier armament, replacing the older hull types.

Each hull has four basic characteristics which provide unique base statistics. These are: Resistance, Hull Form, Stability and Floatability.

  • Resistance: Affects the damage received from shell hits and torpedoes after armour penetration. Additionally, it applies special slope design that increases the ricochet chances of incoming shells.

  • Hull Form: Affects ship's acceleration, turning speed and the engine power needed to achieve top speed. Additionally, it affects the speed penalty from structural damage and influences ship maintenance costs.

  • Stability: The higher the “Stability” of the hull, the more accurate are the guns while under high speed and facing bad weather.

  • Floatability: Affects the impact of flooding on the hull. Raising this number reduces the probability of flooding after a hit and decreases the speed penalty from flooding.

All the above may be further modified by technology and ship design choices. For example, by balancing the placement of objects on your ships, Heel/Trim factors are calculated which can penalize or improve the Stability and Floatability of the Hull.


The ship’s displacement determines how many tons of machinery, armour, armament and other important equipment can be fitted. The more tonnage, the larger and more powerful the ship at the cost of maneuverability, detectability and, of course, expense.

The maximum displacement of a hull cannot be exceeded during the design process so this is why you need to carefully utilize the available free space and take advantage of design choices that offer weight savings. The final built may have flaws and make the ship overweight or lighter than expected.


The ship’s propulsion system is integral, as it determines the ship's maximum speed, maneuverability, operational usefulness and survivability in many ways. The following aspects are directly controlled in the design process:

  • Speed: This determines how fast the ship travels over the sea, measured in nautical miles per hour (“Knots”). Fast warships can outmaneuver slower enemies or evade and withdraw when needed. Slow warships will not be able to keep a safe distance from torpedo-equipped enemies and cannot run down weaker targets to destroy them. Moreover, fast ships are capable of maintaining higher cruising speeds. Reduced engine vibrations at cruise speed increases ship gun accuracy, while higher speed makes the ship a more difficult target.

  • Range: Operational Range only has effect in campaign play. It measures how far the ship can travel away from friendly ports without refueling and is mainly determined by the ship’s fuel storage. As technology develops, the engine fuel consumption becomes more efficient allowing longer journeys in shorter time, so a smaller share of ship tonnage is needed for storing fuel and provisions. The ship designs with minimum operational range limit the ship to coastal defense and standard naval duties, while higher ranges give the capability to participate in distant naval raids, surprise strikes and special missions, making for a much more useful and versatile warship.

  • Fuel: A ship can be fueled by either coal or oil. Late technology allows the usage of boilers that can either burn both types or exclusively oil. The choice for the player in this section allows for the immense weight savings and engine efficiency gained by oil-fired boilers, at the cost of added expense and the loss of the extra protection and floatability offered by coal bunkers lining the ship’s sides.

  • Main Engine: As technology develops, more advanced engines become available. If they can be afforded, Steam Turbines are the essential upgrade for any ship, because they offer extreme engine efficiency and reliability compared to older reciprocating engines. Later, Marine Diesel Engines become available, lacking the horsepower of Turbines but providing for immense weight savings from less fuel consumption and lighter structure, while they are even more reliable and easily repaired in combat conditions.

  • Auxiliary Engine: Extra engines may be fitted which increase total engine weight but they compensate this with improved fuel consumption, increased engine reliability during combat and power supply for the ship’s electric generators which speed up repairs, water pumping, turret traverse and other mechanisms.

  • Propeller Shaft: Advanced drive shafts substantially improve ship’s maneuverability, by increasing acceleration and turn rate. Engine reliability is improved also. But all this comes at additional cost and engine weight.

  • Boilers: Except from the various improvements gained by technology, boilers can be set up to have “natural”, “induced”, “forced” or “balanced” draft, with the respective effects in engine capacity according to their weights and costs.


At least one Funnel is needed for the proper operation of the ship's engine. More funnels improve engine efficiency and boiler performance. If an engine is not adequately supported by funnels, its efficiency is reduced and penalties apply to ship speed and acceleration. An extra boost of acceleration is granted if funnel capacity is higher than the minimum needed.

The side-effect of funnels is that they increase ship weight, ship detectability and create smoke obstruction to towers. When oil fuel is used, smoke exhaust lessens, reducing these negative effects.


Every ship needs a main and secondary tower, except Destroyers and Torpedo Boats which can operate fine with a single tower. The main benefits of Towers’ are enhanced visibility, accuracy and damage control. Smoke from funnels may obstruct visibility and reduce accuracy, especially for rear towers which are usually shorter and receive the most smoke obstruction in their location behind the funnels.

As technology progresses, towers may include Hydrophone or Sonar Stations which increase the detection range of underwater objects (Torpedoes, Submarines and Mines). Radio communications are also improved according to tower model.

The effects of a tower depend on size and tech level. Advanced towers are generally more expensive and heavier, so deciding which one to use is an important design factor.

Optical Rangefinders & Radar

Additional objects are placed on towers, enhancing the central fire control system at additional cost and weight. Optical Rangefinders are divided into two categories: Coincidence Rangefinders and Stereoscopic Rangefinders.

Optical rangefinders speed up the aiming process and improve the base accuracy of all guns. Stereoscopic rangefinders are heavier and aim more slowly but offer significant advantage in long range accuracy.

Late technology advancements enable the use of radar which improves gun aiming and accuracy even further and allows the detection of enemy ships beyond visible range.

Gun Layout

Each ship needs a number of main guns mounted in turrets to be functional, which can be placed either on the centerline, or in some cases, the side of a ship. Gun technology, super-firing barbette placements and hull types limit the maximum turret mounts. In any case, the position they are mounted at greatly affects the ship’s weight distribution and firing arc efficiency so this decision is crucial, especially when designing a battleship.

Secondary guns are of smaller caliber and are either turreted or placed in casemates. Casemate guns are mounted in protected positions along the sides of the ship's deck and require less tons of mounting equipment compared to turreted guns placed on top of decks. Their main advantage is that, in these positions, they do not obstruct larger main guns. Their disadvantage is that firing arcs are more limited compared to turreted guns and if placed in lower decks they may become wet and ineffective in rough seas.

Extra options allow the configuration of turret traverse speed and gun reload, depending on researched technologies.

Gun Caliber

Gun technology progress improves gun accuracy, reload, range and penetration, careful consideration must be given to, whether to use bigger larger caliber guns of older technology or smaller caliber guns of more advanced technology.

Guns of 9-inch caliber and higher belong to the “Big Gun” Category and are available in large capital ships (Heavy Cruisers, Battlecruisers and Battleships). Damage from guns increases exponentially with caliber, so it is usually best practice to maximize the caliber of the ship’s main guns if the technological development allows it.

However, mounting big guns on a ship that is not sufficiently protected with armour and damage control technologies is playing with fire. The size of guns and their respective ammunition magazines makes your ship prone to detonation if shells penetrate the hull near the magazines.

“Small Guns” (2 to 8-inch) are no match against big guns but should not be underestimated. Their high rate of fire can quickly disable a ship if it stays in their range for long and they are very effective against unarmoured targets, like torpedo boats. Additionally, the detonation hazard of small guns is much less.

Research of advanced hull types will lead to a uniform main gun battery that aims faster, because salvoes create water splashes all of the same size that are more easily observed. Therefore, an “all big gun” ship with many guns of the same caliber can acquire a target faster than a ship of mixed gun calibers.

Torpedo launchers

Torpedo Launchers may be either "underwater" or "above water". Submerged torpedo launchers placed underwater are typically found in earlier capital ships. Deck torpedo launchers are placed above water and can have multiple tubes and rotate, allowing for larger spreads and more flexible firing angles. Deck torpedo launchers are usually not placed in capital ships due both to the height of the hull that makes their launching hazardous and the danger of explosion if they are hit by an enemy shell.


The ship’s ammunition can be customized depending on the chosen armament with the following configuration:

  • Ammo Rounds: Ammunition carried can be set to “Decreased”, “Standard” or “Increased” for both guns and torpedoes. This setting is especially useful to fine tune weight distribution for your ship.

  • Shell Weight: Gun Shells can be “Light”, “Standard”, “Heavy” or "Super Heavy" This setting not only contributes to total weight, but also greatly affects the combat effectiveness of your ship. Lighter shells have higher muzzle velocity, slightly higher reload rate, much lower detonation risk and require significantly smaller storage space. However, their side-effects are lower penetration, lower range, less damage, and a steeper trajectory at long range.

  • Explosives/Propellant: Choosing the explosive material of your shells is of great importance as it not only affects the overall firepower but also the safety of your ship. For example, it is tempting to use the super explosive “Lyddite” to devastate your enemy with powerful HE shells, but its very unstable nature can cause uncontrollable fires or even a detonation, if your own ships do not sufficiently protect the magazines.

  • Torpedo Diameter: Researching torpedo technology, will allow you to choose heavier torpedoes which cause increased damage. The trade-off is not only the bigger increased weight and cost of torpedo launchers but also greater detonation risk.

  • Torpedo Propulsion: As technology improves the general torpedo characteristics, three choices can further customize torpedo propulsion: “Standard” (The default choice), “Fast” and “Electric”. “Fast” increases torpedo speed but reduces torpedo range, stealth and accuracy, while “Electric” increases stealthiness and accuracy, but reduces range and speed.


The armour is the most essential protection for capital ships, not only because they are large and extremely valuable targets but because they carry huge amount of explosive ammunition that may detonate. As gun technology evolves, armour protection must follow or else your ships will become very vulnerable to shell fire. The first thing that must be decided is the chosen armour quality.

Early technology provides access to simple Iron Plate Armour which covers less ship surface in thicker layers or the first type of Compound Armour, which is much more durable and more expensive. As technology progresses, Nickel-Steel, Harvey and Krupp armour qualities become available, which progressively enhance the armour strength per weight, but at greatly increased expense.

You can choose how this armour is distributed on your ship in various areas including: Belt, Belt Extended, Deck, Deck Extended, Conning Tower, Turrets, Turret Tops, Secondaries etc.

Armour will significantly increase your ship’s weight and cost, so the slightest increase in these areas will have noticeable effects on the tonnage available for other purposes, including armament and propulsion.

Underwater Protection

One of the designer’s top priorities is to sufficiently protect the underwater sections of the ship. If they these are penetrated by torpedo or shell the damage may easily spread to engine, rudder or ammo storage, leading to extremely severe consequences. The main design choices for this type of protection are the following:

  • Bulkheads: These steel walls divide the hull’s interior in multiple rooms. The number of bulkheads directly affects the ship’s survivability. When the hull is subdivided in many sections, flooding or fire damage is more easily controlled, and the ship’s citadel is far more protected against shells that penetrate the hull.

  • Bulkhead thickness: Bulkheads are reinforced with armour and watertight doors, enhancing their offered protection.

  • Barbette thickness: Turreted guns of caliber above 5-inch have an internal ammo feeding system supported by a barbette. The barbette needs sufficient protection because if it is penetrated then the stored ammunition may explode.

  • Torpedo Protection: No Battleship should lack this type of protection, at least at a minimum level, because otherwise a single torpedo hit may cause it to sink. Torpedo protection increases the weight and build time of a ship, in exchange for reduced damages and flooding effects from torpedo or mine hits.

  • Hull Bottom: Adding a second or third inner hull at the bottom of the ship forms a redundant barrier to seawater in case the outer hull is breached, reducing significantly the damage impact of torpedoes and mines. However, this construction process also costs weight and build time.

  • Citadel protection: The citadel encloses the machinery and magazine spaces. Engine damage and ammo detonation become less likely when the division of the hull by bulkheads is dense and well armoured but additional protection schemes are needed to increase survivability. The early options on this category include simple “Protected Deck” schemes while later you can choose between more advanced and expensive “Turtleback” or “All or Nothing” armour schemes.

  • Anti-Flooding System: A useful protection scheme, that trades additional hull weight for counter-flooding and pumping systems that aid repairs when flooding occurs on the ship.


With this first presentation we wanted to summarize the most crucial design factors of Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts. We tried to mention as many ship design features as possible, but we couldn’t include everything in a single article.

The game is still under development so more features will be added, based on your feedback and ideas. Thank you for reading and brace yourselves for another comprehensive guide of game features, coming soon!

Note: The images show a visual state of the game that is a work in progress.

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