Thursday, January 14, 2010

The YT-1300

For those who aren't as big a geek as I am, the YT-1300 is the fictional model number of space-ships like the Millennium Falcon—i.e. it encompasses ships that have the saucer-shaped body with the two bow-mandible dealies and the cockpit (usually) set off to the side. I have always been a big fan of the design because it is such an oddball looking thing. Prior to Star Wars most space ships were either flying saucers or long, sleek rocket-looking things with fins—or at the very least, they were symmetrical. The first time I saw the Millennium falcon, I remember actually being confused by it—how the heck was it even oriented? And it looked so old and junky and...very very cool.

In the Star Wars roleplaying game, the YT-1300 was described as being one of the most common freighter designs—and indeed it turned out to be in my campaign. One odd thing, however, was the lack of information regarding the internal layout of the craft. In the Star Wars sourcebook (put out in 1988) there was a deck-plan for the Falcon. But some parts of it didn't QUITE jive with what was seen in the movies. Since that time, quite a few alternate deck-plans have surfaced, many of them with widely different details. As far as gaming is concerned, this can all be explained away by the ubiquitous nature of the craft—it was made to be modified, thus it makes sense there would be a lot of different configurations. I'm okay with that, I guess.

But what I've slowly come to realize over the years is that the YT-1300, while cool looking, seems to be a horribly inefficient freighter design. The YT was designed to be a 'light transport', so it was never supposed to carry huge cargos or anything like that... but in pretty much every iteration I've seen of the deck plans of the Falcon or other craft of this type, the cargo capacity seems extremely limited when compared to the size of the rest of the ship and its systems. I mean, when you look at a Semi-tractor-trailer as an analogy you see that the cargo capacity is at LEAST twice the size of the equipment used to drive it. A more 'realistic' (I hesitate to use the word in this regard) analogy might be small(ish) cargo planes, like the DC-3. Even there, when you factor in wings/control-surfaces and engines, it looks like at least HALF the size of the craft is dedicated to cargo.

In it's most 'stripped down' version, the YT can maybe claim this 50% cargo to 50% machinery, but even then, the cargo is divided among 3-5 small bays, and very few provisions seem to be made for any cargo larger than your hand-carried crate. Carrying a landspeeder onboard, for instance, seems to be an impossibility. Even if one of the bays could fit it, there is no ramp or hatch large enough (or well enough positioned) to get it in and out of the craft. It's just a.. peeve of mine, I suppose, that none of the deckplans put forth so far—even the ones that are supposedly dedicated to cargo hauling—really answer this glaring problem. Thus, as with many things, I am left to my own devices—tinkering and trying to figure this out.

I have also come across a slight size discrepancy. The stated length of the YT-1300 (in the RPG) is approximately 26+ meters—which would give the saucer-part of its frame roughly a 20m diameter. Considering the rather 'sleek' profile of the ship, this just doesn't seem to mesh with the ceiling heights we see in the movie—nor the machinery 'depths' that seem to exist beneath the main deck. If you increase the saucer size to 26+ meters, and the overall length to about 34 or so, however, you get something more in tune with the size of the craft as shown in the movies.

And finally, there is the issue of escape pods. In the initial version of the YT-1300 (from the SW Sourcebook) the large, circular port-and-starboard hull protrusions were identified as Escape pods. But in later iterations, they were supposedly cargo loading ports. The movies seem to suggest the latter, in that the Imperials note 'several of the escape pods have been jettisoned' from the Falcon. Since we see the two large 'pods' both still in place, it would seem to suggest that the escape pods are located elsewhere.

But does any of this discrepancy really bother me that much? Nope. Not really. Still love the design and still have the gumption to 'make it work' on my own terms.

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