|you could just make models for the AI to use that have no external hardpoints, but do have several hidden inside so their piles of parts dont get scattered all over the ship|
i assume you mean doing that in the ship designer itself, right? the .shipcfg files don't have relevant hardpoint info i can discern. if you were thinking about using your hard point extender to sink all the hardpoints into the hull, that'd probably work for the most part. my only concern would be the difficulty of doing that for awkwardly shapen jewelry, small pieces and such. a "hard point cap" might be simpler and easier - just a no art comp with no additional hardpoints, which'd serve to clog up the existing hard points.
i could also use some confirmation on which ship designs the AI uses. i'm pretty sure they're located in data\ShipCfg, the files that are not
named for the core designs, correct? all i'd need to do to for the AI to use one of my designs would be rename the custom art file, yeah? (that's assuming i don't use a base hull of a different style, unless i use it as jewelry using your mod... whew)
here's a thought. i read you talking about the ship style functionality due to sorting issues. from what i can discern, that feature is programmed mainly into the component files, raceconfig.xml and the prefix for the file names in info/shipcfg. i don't know if it'd cause a problem (crash) to rename a file designed in "0" (terran) as another style. but as long as i was playing a race with that style, i could use your hull mod for the hardpoint only hull to get around that.
getting to the point: do you think there'd be a problem in creating a mod to support 5 more ship styles? i'm not talking about base hulls per se, except your hardpoint-only bases, with only a style value appropriate for the new style values (if needed). style #5 is the dread lords hulls (i'm pretty sure) so maybe it'd only support 4 more styles. the idea is, even if we don't have 5 base hull styles, we can still have AI opponents each with unique-looking ships (rather than seeing the torians, drath and iconians will almost identical ships all the time) - just need to extend what your mod makes possible.
it's just a thought. i have the same issue of not putting in massive effort for a video game (at least, not unless i'm getting paid for it). designing ships is actually my favorite part of the game. i totally wouldn't mind designing a bunch of new ships as an end in itself, given a bit of time. with a bit of guidance, i could probably handle a lot of the other technical stuff myself.