I tend to gravitate twoards broadsiding designs, preferring the ability to bring 100% of my weapons to bear towards the enemy and having my tasty radiators shielded away behind the rest of the ship, but designing ships in such a manner is a lengthy process, having to rotate and adjust each component manually is troublesome, particularly when things are not on the 'center line'. In theory broadsiders seem like an obvious choice, since they reduce dead mass by allowing all weapons to be brought to bear and completely shield vulnerable radiators. They also allow for dodging to occur with without the need as the ship could face the enemy and zig-zag on its main engine. I propose the inclusion of mirrored symmetry in CDE for ships using this configuration to be made more easily.
The AI is utterly clueless on how to utilize these ships too. They save on mass by having a flat nose, yet when the AI faction puts them on nose-foward leading them to be destroyed in short order. Sometimes I even have trouble with my ships when I'm in control, with the ship firing its thrusters (despite being on 'no orders') and rolling to position the radiators side-on to the enemy providing a huge targetable cross section and putting some of my guns out of a firing arc.
I've tried to resolve this by putting the longest-range weapons down what is supposed to be the ship's center line seeing as the in game prompt states that it orients so that the longest range weapons face the enemy. This seems to marginally improve the AI behavior. Presumably any ships that utilize mirror symmetry could automatically utilize a different AI algorithm that prefers broadsiding to nose-forward.
but if I have nose forwards designs I can fire all my guns forward, have my radiators edge on, and can doge with side thrusters, thicker armor (slopeing)
And a broadside can present a slim "knife edge" profile to bring all of its guns to bare too. Two different design philosophies. For example, I have a massive 2km Laserstar built broadside-fashion. For that type of design having over thirty 10GW laser turrets mounted towards the enemy would be very difficult to use a nose-on design without unreasonable armor spacing schemes.
Speaking of armor, a broadside design can maximize armor protection on the side that faces the enemy while leaving the rear end light and unarmored thereby saving cost. If we could get sharper "wedge shaped" designs they would be all the more effective. I picture a hull shape like a Merkava or Leopard tank turret, with vulnerable engines and radiators on the rear. (There was a thread on this way back when. There was even a fellow who did some snazzy sketches in it about these types of ships ).
I agree with OP in that it would be fun to have non-conic hull types as an option. Currently the AI is only able to use these conic ships though. Qswitched has done amazing work so far, and I do hope this type of thing is on the drawing board. Hell, even a dedicated RCS control system that is handled seperatly from the main engines would be a huge help in this regard.
Several updates ago, around November I think, I had a broadside design that I posted in the design thread. If I recall the broadside ship was roughly 1/3rd the cost of a ship built with the same armor/weapon scheme in the normal manner, and it had a significantly lower mass as well. It was always vulnerable to missiles though...of course we didn't have distrubuted targeting back then. Hmm, I do still have some of those old designs sitting around...