In conjunction with my other work, i have decided to make an entirely new expansion based on the drawing from this site: Androidarts
this would make all upgrades into visible models similar to what i was working on with the clippers by adding subentities to existing models, or to ones i have created recently.
this will be a fairly easy expansion to model, however the texturing and placement will be tedious. there will be many many models and textures, not to mention really creative scripting.
examples of visible upgrades are:
radar dishes(civ and military)
external fuel tanks
cargo bay extensions (the non time/space warping kind)
i have also thought about making the time/space warping kind of cargo bay expansion/passenger bay expansion only available to certain factions or ranks, maybe through a special mission. check out the novella of short stories contained in "between the devil and the deep black space" specifically mentioning that technology as exclusive to the INRA, an elite faction of military from all factions working in the shadows to defeat the thargon threat. although i have no idea what that means in relation to the OOlite timeline or the original games, it seems to be very advanced technology in the elite universe.
back to the original topic of upgrades, they will probably not be as extrusive as the drawing, but it seemed to me that the visual style was similar enough to the griff models that it would not be that hard to pull off.
each faction will also have slightly different models representing upgrades based on their technology level, and their particular flavor of style, so nothing will be coockie cuttter, however it wont be so different that one could not recognize what the upgrade is on other ships.
upgrades will be destructible, so if you blast an opponent and destroy the upgrade, it wont be a drop, die roll will determine what damage if any to those that survive catastrophic failure. so it is possible to destroy the hull of a ship and still scoop the upgrades. it is also possible to cripple a ship and recover the hull and upgrades, though not sure how i want to implement that yet. maybe in conjunction with salvagers or some other way, towing to a station etc. maybe a little of both depending on the system and whether or not salvagers are available or even friendly.
some ships will have the ability to mount more than one duplicate upgrade or a larger version of an upgrade, some will not. for instance scoops, some ships have the ability to mount 2. some only one. some pirate ships may have 3 cobbled onto something like perhaps a python, but they will also be limited in other ways with certain tradeoffs.
there will be different sizes of scoop, although there will be a standard size as well. most ships will be fine with the small scoop (relatively speaking) but some will be served better with a medium or large scoop.
each ship model will have to have the subentity placed individually and then exported as its own model so that is why there will be so many models. they will also be textured to match (as well as possible) the existing color scheme of the ship in question.
some ships have built in scoops that are not removeable or upgradeable (like the python class cruiser) some upgrades will not be available for some ships (due to design limitations already present in them)
the shadows will be visible where the subentity meets the hull, however this only means they will be on the texture of the subentity, and new textures will not really be necessary for the existing ship.
other types of visible upgrades will be present so a player can visually tell what they are up against.
thinking of fun upgrades like a whale harpoon, maybe a CB antenna, or something ridiculous like smoke stacks. each having their own pros and cons.
upgrades will also be buyable and show up on the hull of your own ship, depending on faction purchased from, or mission, etc.
previos expansions have featured things like these, such as some of the work mandoman has done. however the art style will be similar to griffs and take cues from the androidarts page, specifically the drawing i pointed to.