Very illuminating, thank you.
You're very welcome. I just hope it helps.
So our focus should be on the hyperdrives.
I'm not sure that's the right way to put it? The largest mass consumption is the hyperdrives on larger ships, though. Keep in mind that compared to a hyperdrive, a weapon has nearly twice the core mass, even though it's got at most a quarter the 'percent of hull base mass'. This actually gets really interesting when you think about it. Specifically looking at comparable tech levels (at a level that I can confirm my listing is accurate for), you wind up with a best observation when looking at the Hyperdrive Plus, the Lasers, and the Shield Generators/Point Defence/Titanium Plating level of technology.
On a Tiny ship, a Hyperdrive Plus is only 10.5- I call them 'tonnes' in my head because I play a lot of Battletech and its related stuff, but they're probably not scaling quite like that given relative ship sizes. But I digress.
A Tiny ship's Hyperdrive Plus is only 10.5 tonnes, which is considerably less than the 17.3 tonnes of a Lasers, and comparable to the 10.5 tonnes of Armor Plating. So on a Tiny ship a 8+10% drive is equal to a high-value defence object and thoroughly light compared to a weapon, even a ballistic weapon. This isn't good enough to allow a full set of equipment, but you can load up a Tiny frame with, say, one drive, one defence, and one weapon for a cheap patrol drone in an area where you know the enemy weapons/defences combo.
A Small ship's Hyperdrive Plus is still only 13 tonnes, still much less than the 18.5 tonne Lasers and barely more than the 11 tonne Armor Plating. With twice the base mass of a Tiny frame, this also means it's actually possible for a Small ship to mount two drives with a single weapon- and a suite of defences if with any single weapon if you can get enough extra mass- even a Sparrow and a full set of defences only requires 70 tonnes of space, so Storage Maximization/High Capacity/Hull Capacity techs combined will allow that. If you're really paranoid, the remaining 4.5 tonnes will combine with the sacrifice of one drive to let you double the shields and point defence.
Even on a Medium hull, a Hyperdrive Plus is still only 15.5 tonnes, so it's still noticeably less than the 19.8 tonnes of a Lasers. At this point it's almost heavy enough to trade for a Shield Generators (8.5 tonnes) and a Point Defence (9.5 tonnes) together, though. A Medium hull with any one space-improving effect (it only needs a to reach 78.3 tonnes) can carry two drives, one weapon, and a full set of three defences.
It's only on a Large hull that it finally gets close- the Hyperdrive Plus hits 18 tonnes, compared to the 21-tonne Lasers, 9-tonne Shield Generators, 10 tonne Point Defences, and 12-tonne Titanium Plating. But the Large hull is even better off- the heaviest set with two engines (Again, two drives, Sparrow, one each all three defences) only reaches 86 tonnes, which leaves enough space for some extras on the hull. Drop to one Drive and you can double-stack all the defences and still only be at 98 tonnes.
It's on Huge that things finally tip over- the Hyperdrive Plus hits 33 tonnes to the Lasers' 28.5. Again, though, the sheer total mass available fixes things pretty well- the heaviest base load with two drives only hits 132.5 tonnes, leaving nearly half the hull mass still free to assign.
Basically speaking, adding more movement speed is no longer essentially free with larger ships, and that makes a huge difference for prioritizing your designs- the best fast responders are actually going to probably be (stay?) Medium and with enough space boosts or equipment mass reductions, Small ships, thanks to Logistics costs, speed of production, and lacking enough space to coerce players into mounting support gear. Large and Huge ships will still make horrifying hubs for space fleets, though, and you can pump the speed up a bit on them- just not as drastically as before. This especially hits colony and constructor ships hard, though, given the Cargo hull's 90 mass size and the 45+5% mass value of construction and colony modules- on a support hull, just one of either of these is now 49.5 mass, and with engines for those ships massing 17 or 26 tonnes, and the use of reduced mass to make engines better without just stacking larger movement bonuses onto the engines, you can't really make the 20+ move colony/constructor ships that used to be possible. It definitely makes big maps feel even bigger.
Maybe large ships should just be slow, lumbering hulks loaded with defense which rely on fleet support modules and favor particle beams?
Not really? Weapons are very heavy right now, and the most mass efficient ones seem to be Ballistics, not Energy. If it weren't for the Prototype Drive, I'd say Missiles seem to be the way to go, but... Well, I'll get to that.
The big thing I want to point out here is the specialization techs and the mass-saving or hull-mass-increasing options.
Since I'm trying to construct a core set of ship designs, I've been specifically eschewing the hull mass increase and gear mass reduction options on the hulls, and pre-Crusade I really wasn't feeling at all disadvantaged by restricting myself like that. Not only were the HP bonus options on hulls plenty- especially with levels offering a +% to HP scores that were already easily hitting 800 on a Large ship- but on larger hulls gear massed so little by comparison that I still just didn't care and got to mount kind of absurd weapons loadouts.
It feels like taking the right gear mass reductions and the right amount of hull mass increases is more of an impactful choice now- without something, you're not going to get very effective individual ships out when compared to someone with +30% hull mass and -20% ballistic mass. Especially with HP and damage numbers drastically lowered- resulting in defences offering effectively much larger pools of damage-type-specific HP that recover after every fight. That change has already made defence gear feel much more warranted (and alleviates to some extent the old complaint about how long it takes a ship to repair).
Because the percentages on the non-engine items are so low, larger ships are apt to be slower in the name of really absurd-looking weapons/defence/support loadouts, which feels very appropriate. It's also worth noting that the high mass of drives means that investment in drive-mass-reduction is really worthwhile- just a 10% reduction means that a Huge ship goes from mounting three Ion drives (+20% drive with +2 move) at 174 tonnes to doing so at 156.6 tonnes, and that right there is almost a whole Particle Beam of tonnage shaved off. If the Warp Drive follows pattern as a +10% drive, you're looking at only 99 tonnes for that speed and with a 10% drive mass reduction, 89.1 tonnes, which leaves you plenty of ship to terrify enemies with. It's only when looking past +6 move or so that things get truly prohibitive on a Huge ship, and a Large ship generally won't even want to consider such speeds without at least Hyperwarp Drives.
Unfortunately, the Prototype Hyper Drive provides a severe outlier here, with a massive +5 moves at 8+10% mass and two Antimatter. I wouldn't be surprised if Missiles become extremely unpopular in favor of spending Antimatter on Prototype drives, given how early they arrive and how ludicrously fast they make things in comparison to all the other engines available until Age 3 tech.
And the second and fourth drives are cheaper than the first and third? Interesting.
Remember that instead of the drives providing +1/2/3/4/5/6 and prototype at +5 speed, you now have +1/+1/+2/+2/+3/+4 and the Prototype is +5. Anyone who can't afford the spare antimatter is going to be moving much, much slower. Black holes just became hugely valuable, especially on larger maps. Which is kind of distressing; with the strategic speed changes and changes to resources, it feels like the Prototype drive really needs to be no more than a +3 speed.