The way I see it, Dual Universe will eventually have three primary means of transportation. Impulse (aka regular engines), which take an average of 3 hours between planets, Warp, which takes an average of 27 seconds between planets, and Wormholes (Stargates?) which, may be instantaneous (unclear yet.)
I've been working on crunching some numbers to make warp a good amount more balanced with what Dual Universe seems to be attempting to do. Now, I recognize these numbers may not end up meeting your expectations or visions, and that this may have been all in vain, but I do hope you gain insight and ideas based on this post.
The first things I would like to focus on is the distance cap on warp drives, as well as the warp speed. Warping through the primary solar system as is, you could find yourself needing to have an extra stop just to end up where you need to go. Jago to Lacobus? That's almost twice the distance a warp drive can go at maximum. I think that if there's ever cross-system travel (depending on the distance you're planning between systems) that this would mean upwards of 20-30 Warp Beacons (or more) just to properly warp. I don't see that as a realistic expectation, though that may be the intent. I think that a goal of warping between systems taking as long as impulse between planets is a good deal. That being said, I don't think systems should, on average, be within warp range. 10,000,000 kmph means 500 SU every 36 seconds. If you wanted to reach the goal of a 3 hours flight to another system, you'd need approximately 300x that, which would be 150,000 SU. At impulse max, c, that would take approximately 41 days of travel time. This is the balancing you currently have between warp and impulse.
Let's assume you DON'T want it to take 41 days of travel with impulse, but rather two weeks (as I heard approximated in a Q&A). Then you would need to multiply that 10,000,000 by (14/41) to get 3,414,634 kmph at warp max. Given that speed, three hours of travel would get you 51,219 SU away. I believe a balanced distance cap, would be 25000 SU, or roughly half the inter-system distance.
The next point I'd like to make is cost. Let's use the current linear model (approximated) cost = su * tonnes * 0.00023 (Graph A.) This linear model seems to diverge from the standard model that Dual Universe follows, which is that more time means more cost efficient. This model is evident in things like the cost of Tier 1 Scrap vs Tier 4 Scrap, or things like spending more time crafting vs creating an entire industry. This model, however, would make it cost the same to split a journey into 20 trips, than if you did one trip with all of the cargo. Let's use an example. Say I want to haul 2000 tonnes of weight from Jago to Alioth (475 SU) This would be 475*2000*0.00023 which is 218 warp cells. If I wanted to take more time and make multiple trips, I could maybe make it 500 tonnes per trip and make 4 trips. Then the math becomes 4 * 475 * 2000 * 0.00023, which is evident in the math itself that that makes no difference.
Graph A (Above) shows the amount of warp cells (z) increasing as distance (y) and mass (x) do.
In a recent Q&A, someone mentioned making a exponential rate of cost. I had this idea, along with another.I had the idea of multiple sizes of warp engines and what they would entail.
So currently as it stands the only warp drive is the Warp Drive L which weighs 31.36t, has a range of 500 SU, and goes 10,000,000 kmph. If there were multiple sizes of warp drives, we could easily skew up the statistics of them. The sizes would be S, M, L, and XL. Now I believe I heard JC say at some point that the goal is that small ships shouldn't be warp capable. Maybe? I think I heard that. However a small drive could provide some benefits but also some newer limits. I mentioned above a distance cap of 25000 SU. This would be limited based on size, and was just a rough estimate. A small drive, for example, could have a limit of 500 SU (as it currently is.) As well, a small drive would have a different formula for mass cost.
Let's show some of my maths now. The formula I've come up with for how you could do the cost, for a standard large warp drive engine, could be cost = SU * 0.01 * 1.002 ^ tonne (Graph B\)
Given the above example values of 475 SU and 2000 tonne, this would give a value of 258 cells, which is greater than the 218 above. Now if we decided to split it into those four trips of 500 tonnes, it would become 51 warp cells. However if we talk going max range of 25000 SU, that would be roughly 13,595 warp cells. If we split that into four trips you'd end up with 2715 warp cells. In short, it would make it far more cost effective to take extra time.
Graph B (Above) shows the amount of warp cells (z) increasing as distance (y) and mass (x) do.
Now, a small warp drive would want a different formula. That way you can't just use a lighter warp drive on a bigger ship to decrease it's mass. This formula would benefit smaller ships but be a detriment to bigger ships. cost = SU * 0.008 * 1.0023 ^ tonne (Graph C)
With this formula, doing a 500 SU trip with 50 tonnes amounts to 4.48 cells, vs the 5.5 cells of the above formula. As well, doing it with 2000 tonnes amounts to 395 cells vs the above's 271. Effectively making this a pretty bad thing to use on a larger ship.
Graph C (Above) shows the amount of warp cells (z) increasing as distance (y) and mass (x) do.
The formulas can vary how you want, I just gave rough approximations and ideas of how it can work. So rather than doing M and XL in this post, I'm going to head over to my next segment: Warmup Time, Cooldown Time, and Minimum Speeds
Just like impulse engines, warp drives should have a warmup time. However I don't think this should just be a t50, but rather an engage time to allow your warp drive to turn on and power to full. This would make it take time to actually engage warp, creating potential complications as an easy getaway.
As well, warp drives should retain the current cooldown system, however it should be far more punishing. Warp is made to make it easier to travel quickly between planets. And as it stands right now, due to the 500 SU limit, the cooldown is left low to allow for the multi-stop system. However if the distance limit is increased it would deprecate such a low cooldown. I propose an average cooldown time of 1 hour. This way it's still faster to warp between planets, but means that if you accidentally go to the wrong place, you'll have to wait to use it again. This would also create a usage for multiple warp drives on one ship. Less cooldown, effectively.
I personally loved how I was able to just create a dynamic core that was just 5 large containers, fill them to the brim, and just strap a warp drive onto it, but let's not kid ourselves here. No. I propose warp drives have a velocity requirement TOWARDS THE TARGET before they are able to be turned on. My approximation for what would be good is 8000 kmph minimum.
These above values also add more fun for my next segment: Varieties
Just like impulse engines, warp drives should have varieties. The ones I've currently come up with are:
Lightweight: A regular warp drive except it weighs less and has fuel cost reduction, with a lower warmup time.
Focused: A regular warp drive except it has increased range and fuel consumption, with a higher cooldown time.
Hauler: A regular warp drive except it has decreased speed and fuel consumption, with a higher warmup time.
These changes, as you can pick and choose what you want (or none at all) could potentially make warp far more useful in a variety of different ways. Instead of just being a flat costed fast travel that you can do whenever you want if you have fuel, it could turn it into a strategic choice between what kind for what ship, based on the desired use. It also gives a point to having multiple on one craft, and negates warp as a quick-escape from PVP scenarios.
I hope you guys give this a look and perhaps think about some of these ideas. Thanks for reading all this nonsense!