Cruisers are mid-sized ships, primarily designed for combat, that are among the oldest class of ship in New Eden. Cruisers emerged fairly early into the conquest of space as a favored class, being large enough to survive sustained fire while having enough maneuverability and flexibility to fill a variety of roles. They possess four advanced variants; Heavy Assault Ships, Recon Ships, Heavy Interdictors, and Logistics Ships. A fifth type, the Strategic Cruiser, is the size of a traditional cruiser, but is a vastly different in concept.
The cruiser is the oldest class of ship still in wide use throughout New Eden. Earlier classes were generic vessels that were expected to fill many roles at once, including combat, science, exploration, and transport. For many years, this was all that was needed, as space was sparsely populated and relatively peaceful.
However, as space travel became more important and interstellar trade grew vital, the need to protect vessels became necessary. While the generic ships were used for a time, it quickly became apparent that they were not particularly well-suited to the task. The multi-purpose ships were given heavier armor and had non-combat systems replaced with weapons and systems dedicated to those ends.
The cruiser has evolved significantly since those early years, though the changes have been gradual upgrades rather than sweeping alterations of design. Modern cruisers are faster, more powerful, and much more specialized than ever before. They have moved from being the main ship of the line to support roles, as heavier battlecruisers and battleships have taken over those roles. Many cruisers are no longer even primarily intended as combat vessels, but rather are used for purposes as mundane as mining.
Cruisers are typically two to three times the size of a frigate and roughly a fifth or less as large as a battleship. As medium-size ships, they are not quite the self-contained towns that battleships are, but they are still capable of extended deployments where they do not dock for days or weeks at a time. Because of this, they tend to be somewhat more spacious and livable than frigates, though even the most comfortable cruiser is cramped compared to a space station.
Toeing the line between armor and maneuverability is the primary concern of the cruiser. They must be capable of shrugging off the fire of faster, smaller frigates while being able to avoid the weapons of larger ships that can rip them to shreds. The proportion of armor and shielding to propulsive power varies from design to design, though most find a comfortable middle ground. Some cruisers can be quite tough and take a significant pounding from even larger ships before succumbing; others are difficult for even frigates to catch, but are subsequently easily destroyed once they are.
After propulsion and armor, cruisers dedicate most of their remaining design to their primary purpose. Combat vessels typically are given targeting and tracking systems and specialized energy grids that allow them to more effectively use their weapons. Electronic warfare ships give the space to advanced electronic and sensor systems. Other, less common designs, have their own dedicated systems as needed.
Cruisers crew compliments typically number in the upper tens to low hundreds, depending on the size of the vessel and its mission layout. Rapid response and garrison cruisers tend to utilize the low end of the spectrum, using only the crew needed to fulfill its primary function and few others. These crew tend to be gunners (on combat ships), engineers, and navigators, with command staff as needed.
Long-term patrol ships and cruisers assigned to scientific and exploration missions tend to carry more crew to fill other functions, to ease rotations, and cover for cases of sickness or injury. In these missions, a sizable portion of the crew are custodial in nature, being responsible for such things as preparing and serving meals, cleaning, and other menial tasks.
Because cruisers are relatively tough, have plenty of redundancy among personnel, and don't have any particularly special needs, many rookie crews are assigned to work them. Many gunners cut their teeth manning a cruiser's weapon systems, while their smaller and more compact powergrid and electronic systems allow engineers and electricians to develop their skills on lesser scales.