Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

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MatGB
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Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#1 Post by MatGB » Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:14 pm

My biggest project for the runup to the 0.4.4 release was to rebalance the ship hulls and parts in terms of cost effectiveness to try to make it that each research line of hulls was competetive, and both not horrendously overpowered nor so weak/expensive they're pointless.

That has involved a LOT of changes, virtually every hull design has had its production cost changed, many have also had various other stats tweaked, the Robotic line (including the Constructed hulls built sith the Geo Integration facility) had their costs reduced significantly and the Constructed hulls have also been given Core Slots. On the other hand, the Organic line of hulls have mostly had their costs increased, in some cases significantly, and the Organic Growth feature has been tweaked repeatedly as well.

In the test games I've run over this time, I think it's now a lot closer to "right" and how fast I "win" with each research line as my main focus is now roughly on a par, with the exception of the Energy line of hulls which, despite both increased cost and reduced structure are still incredibly powerful if you can manage to build them.

So, we need feedback:
  • When playing through, do you think any particular hull is too fast? Too slow? Too weak? Too powerful?
  • Is the build time compared to cost effectiveness of a particular design at the right level?
  • When planning your strategy for conquest, do you find yourself deciding on a particular hull line as a main focus for reasons you don't think make for a fun game/choice? (eg if you always end up building Robotic-line hulls because they're easier and the AI always build drydocks, and not because you want to go down that research line this game, that may be an issue, if you avoid Organic line hulls because the build time to use them with newly conquered natives is too much compared to other lines, etc).
  • Each hull line is meant to have their strengths and weaknesses, these, I hope, should be fairly obvious now within the game, but is a particular line especially strong or especially weak due to those factors?
  • Over multiple games, if you switch hull lines and concentrate on a different type, do you find that, with similar galaxy setups, your victory is roughly at the same time? Is one hull particularly slow for victory, or particularly fast?

Specific parts concerns
:

The costs for the speed-increasing engine parts have been decreased substantially. The Trans Spatial Drive core part has been introduced, these, currently, stack, meaning certain hull types can be incredibly fast. Given that we, as players, regularly order multi-system long moves, whereas the AI tends to (but doesn't always) move from specific system to specific system, the massive speed increase gives us another advantage, is it too big an advantage? I'm fairly sure the TS-Drive is overpowered but at the same time it's a really nice part and I don't want to tone down its in game power too much. Would it be best balanced by an increase in build time, an increase in cost, both?

Please note, in planning for 0.4.5, nothing is off the table in terms of balance, if you think there's a problem, something is too weak or too strong compared to other choices, please do say so. That then gives other players the chance to also try your combination and discuss it. Some changes are inevitable and almost certainly necessary. Other problems might be best sovled by tweaking somethign else entirely, or aren't considered overall too much of a problem.

But we all need to be aware if they potentially exist.
Mat Bowles

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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#2 Post by gamer1357 » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:06 pm

Playing on [SVN 8050]

I would summarize my habits on hull below and hope they could help you guys, which did a very good job in creating this amazing game:

1) Always use Organic Hull at the beginning of the game, even though it takes forever to research and build, it is ok for me as I invest early PP in building 5-6 scouts. In addition, Organic Hull moves much faster than both medium & robotic hull. Symbiotic Hull is a good hull for scouts, colony and outpost as they move faster and share same incubator with Organic Hull

2) Will switch to robotic hull if I seek ships with more HP/ when I saw AI using asteroid hull, which could not be fight with my Organic Ship effectively (with 1 weapon, 2 plates and full tank so that it requires low PP and greater HP for a fleet of Organic Ship)

3) Love to use asteroid hull once acquired required tech & asteroid belt. They are the early tank with more HP and much cheaper than robotic hull. Later would switch to Heavy Asteroid Hull (3 weapon+ 3 plates +shield and engine matrix)

4) Seldom use Endomorphic/Static Multicellular unless AI deployed their endomorphic/bio-adaptive ship because they need to build new incubator which takes turns and increase my mircomanagement..... while I could build other buildings for better hulls (like energy hull, even asteroid hull)

5)Energy Hull is my favorite, if I got a bright star/ even a blackhole. They are easy to build (with an energy compressor only) --> less micromanagement on building ship facility, unlike the organic/gravity/robotic route. Also, they have tons of slots and fast moving speed. I love Fractal better than Quantum for eliminating monster from experimentors. Swarm of 20 Fractal could overcome a wave of space monster with 0-1 casualties. Not to mention it is cheaper for not giving them shields.

6) Scattered Asteroid Hull is my second favorite late-stage ship, after Fractal Hull. They have 25 shields after giving them a blackshield (would not mind giving them the shield as the hull itself already took forever to build). Tons of slots give them great damage output, HP and speed (with Engine Core and 3 Engine Matrix, they have speed of 150)

7) Very seldom/ Never use other hulls in my game against AI, including experimentors.

8 ) Never install Cloaking parts on my ship, dont find them useful/ I dont know how to use them in my strategy. Logistics Facillators dont interest me as well for its long research path & long facility development. 25% recovery from Advance Damage Control is fine for me already and seldom encounter fuel problems at late-game, where construction tech gives a lot of boost on supply lines.

9) Nova Bomb: Just tried it once. Fun to see an entire system vanished, but really not very useful and effective against AI, comparing to just fighting head on and conquer every AI planet with troopers.

10) Last, I would like to say that rock armors do not interest me as well, they require research, specific building and longer production time (comparing with armor of same strength). The reduced cost doesnt interest me comparing to the Research, building and micro required.

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MatGB
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#3 Post by MatGB » Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:42 pm

Thank you for this, it's actually close to what I'd expect to see given the current state of play.

Some, well, strategic disagreements. I sometimes use Organics, but I make a choice very early as to whether I want to commit to speed or strength, I only bother researching them at all if I'm not going to commit to them.

I agree about the speed issue though, it's something I want to discuss more generally, that I think the starlane speeds of the hulls is a bit of a mess and part of the strength of Organics is their extra speed that I'm not sure is justified.

I did a lot to reduce the power of energy hulls in the run up to 0.4.4, and I'm still convinced I didn't go far enough, Fractal Hulls are still so incredibly powerful overall. But, I'm not sure the fix is to further increase costs, instead it's to make internal slots more useful and more varied with an improved selection of parts.

I definitely agree that fuel in the late game isn't a concern at all, probably because both Gravitic Architecture and Galactic Infrastructure give a full +1 and you tend (or at least I do) to get both at a similar time. Not sure what to do there but something needs to happen.

I'm planning further work on Damage Control techs and parts, to make the Facilitator more useful (I find the instant repair very useful, especially since I introduced the delay on ADC), but do agree it's probably too much to get to at the moment (I virtually always do but it's normally too late), possibly because the buildings and interstitial techs are still more expensive than other lines. Not sure whether to reduce the Robotic line costs or to increase other line costs. The three buildings are definitely too expensive compared to other shipyards.

Trying to make Stealth a more viable strategy is an ongoing project, currently it's just not there, I've started doing some work on the planetary stealth bonuses and specials but I got stuck and switched to testing a few other things, I'll go back to it soon. But making stealth (and thus stealth parts) both a viable and fun strategy is something we need to do at some point, it's just not a priority.

Nova Bombs, yeah, need to do something there as well, it's a nice proof-of-concept part, more could be done with it.

Re Rock armours, yeah, I use them if I'm going full Asteroid anyway and thus have the buildings, but I think the partial problem is the other armours are way too cheap/easy ;-)

Like I say, thank you for this, detailed playtest feedback is always welcome, and it's apparent that we're roughly in the right place with a lot of things, but some still need work.
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#4 Post by gamer1357 » Fri Apr 03, 2015 3:41 am

In my opinion, the problem now is the hulls from different route doesnt make any distinctive difference apart from their stat. Things of balancing would become easier when they have distinctive roles in fleet. e.g. we know that logistic facility main feature is they provide instant repair/refuel, we can nerf the ADC tech or decrease fuel content of all ship hulls. Below are just some of my thoughts which may not useful but feel free to have a look if you are interested:

Organic Route

1) As you mention, comparing with other early game hull, speed is one of their advantage. Lower their speed may do the balance, but IMO I think deleting one external slot would do as well. With MassDrive3 and Standard Armor, below is a compare between organic (1 weapon+1 plate) and robotic(2w/2p):

OH: Attack 5 HP:16 Speed:90 PP: 64.9, 3 turns
Robotic: Attack 10 HP:42 Speed:75 PP:150, 2 turns

With this change, Robotic is more distinctively powerful than OH, while OH becomes a more swarmpy ship which shines when they are in swarm. Further lowering PP of OH would make this more distinctive.

2) Another feature of organic route is they would grow HP over time, developing on this feature would also make their role more distinctive.

3) As I observe, organic hull provides more internal slots which gives them no distinct advantage at this moment. If more internal ship part comes out, value of organic hull would definitely increase. Maybe restricting troop pods to internal slots only would help? That way fast-moving energy hull would lost their ability to carry lots of troops quickly while second-fast organic hull with more internal slots like Endosymbiotic would shine?

Robotic Route
1) As you mention, robotic's feature is their strength and endurance. So buff their hull stat while making them cost more would make their roles as a backbone fighters in a fleet more distinctively.

2) Refering to above swarmy organic ships comment, maybe adjusting robotic hull could made its repair in 1 turn while restricting organic ships repair to over several turns(2 turns?), hence making swarm ship could not recover quickly and has to be more defensive while robotic more blitz?

Energy Route

1) IMO, what makes fractal so powerful is that the damage/HP ratio is too high at this moment. Comparing MD1/Standard armor= 3/6= 50% to DR4/Xentronium=30/30=100% or DR4/Neutronium=30/40=75%. Considering weapon and plate occupying same external slots+weapon makes 3 attack trial per ship battle, I think that the ratio is maybe too high throughout the whole game.....

2) Which encourage everyone finding the sweet spot for equipping as much weapons on fractal while having minimal plate to keep them alive for each battle. So... if my theory is right, then changing fractal cost/stat would not help....

3) One of the weakness of energy route is they lack internal slot, making internal slot more valuable would nerf the energy hull already, and making them a distinctive ship hull route concerning on lots of external slot and high speed (which is good in my opinion)... May consider decreasing internal slot of quantum hull and solar hull as well, consider they've got high speed and lots of external slots.

Asteroid Route

1) IMO, you may consider buff the strength and stat of asteroid hull, while making asteroid resource a non-renewable resource. Hence making asteroid belt a more strategic military resource. In addition, may introduce the tech for player to blow up planets into asteroids. So, deploying asteroid ships is like burning fossel fuels (requires low-tech but gives distinctive advantage for a period of time), which gives them great advantage with little research effort, but forcing to switch to high-tech renewable hulls (other hulls) when asteroid runs out.

2) About the rock plate issue, I think that if you increase their strength with 20%, it would interest me to use them in my fleet.

Gravity Route

1)No comments as I never use them. Maybe you could suggest some hulls in this route for me to try?





Thanks for all the contributions you guys giving to this project. I enjoy the game very much

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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#5 Post by Morlic » Fri Apr 03, 2015 10:29 am

gamer1357 wrote: Organic Route

1) As you mention, comparing with other early game hull, speed is one of their advantage. Lower their speed may do the balance, but IMO I think deleting one external slot would do as well. With MassDrive3 and Standard Armor, below is a compare between organic (1 weapon+1 plate) and robotic(2w/2p):

OH: Attack 5 HP:16 Speed:90 PP: 64.9, 3 turns
Robotic: Attack 10 HP:42 Speed:75 PP:150, 2 turns

With this change, Robotic is more distinctively powerful than OH, while OH becomes a more swarmpy ship which shines when they are in swarm. Further lowering PP of OH would make this more distinctive.
The "problem" with this is that this makes the OH also weaker than the standard hull in combat. Swarming tactics are unfeasible due to the cost-increasing mechanics of FO.

2) About the rock plate issue, I think that if you increase their strength with 20%, it would interest me to use them in my fleet.
I disagree with you guys here. My gamestyle is heavily taylored towards abusing the power of asteroid hulls in midgame with a smooth transition into Heavy asteroids into Asteroid swarms in the lategame. If anything, I would consider the asteroid route way too strong than too weak.

Asteroid hulls instead provide an extremely smooth path throughout the game. You start with some other hull (Organics or Robotics for species like Egassem with mass PP) and then simply get natural development techs.
Orbital Construction? Must-Have anyway - bonus supply is invaluable for most species, Microgravity Industry usually is a nice production boost. OC also unlocks Orbital Generation if you do not have a suitable asteroid system yet.
So when you have researched Asteroid Hulls + L4 (or MD 4 for good pilots) + Zortrium, you have a cheap and efficient midgame force. Due to the tech route you took, it is easy to pick up further industry enhancing techs such as Solar/Orbital Generation. Because you engage in the asteroid route, there is no need to research diamond plates. Yes, Robotic 2/2 with diamond is slightly stronger than Asteroid 2/2 with Zortrium but compare the cost...
So once you are at ~100PP, you get Rock armour + Heavy asteroid hulls. When the HA tech is finished, you have the building up and can start pumping out the ships right away. This usually should be enough to finish the game (just spam more weapon techs now and the occasional growth tech).


What is there to compare? Considering you want Microgravity Industry anyway, all you need to research is Asteroid Hulls (50 RP) + Asteroid Reformation (200 RP) + Heavy Asteroid Hulls (32 RP). So you pay less than 300 RP for the techs.
300 is how much Diamond Armour plate costs (which you do not need to research going for the asteroid route). Which does obviously not give you access to two of the strongest hulls of their time.

Going for energy (from the first shields) costs us Gravitonics (160 RP, gives nothing), FE-compression (320, gives useless hull) and then finally Energy Boundary Manipulation for 840 RP. That's 1320 RP, i.e. 1000 RP more than HA. And we are still stuck with Zortrium armour, so we need to research diamond armor for additional 300, thus ~1300 RP more than going for HA.
To be fair, HA are worse than fractal hulls. If you somehow survive the HA rush with robotics (you obviously will not), you might win. But the asteroid route always has the option to go for scattered hulls as well for a mere 450 RP. Also, as fractal hulls can not hold shields, even the forces from early midgame from the asteroid hull route are still fully effective.
So basically, there is no real comeback mechanic here.

Gravitational route? Somewhat cheaper than Energy research wise but quite costly on PP, prerequisites of questionable worth again. Maybe if for some reason you have tons and tons of PP this might be a valid choice but this is usually rare (don't forget you quite need some research available, too...)

Organic route? The ravenous hull is acceptable but still very fragile. This route in my perspective only pays off if you play a huge map where you have time to build up many colonies (making use of the growth prerequisites and the speed of the hulls) and want to have some smoother curve into energy hulls. In direct comparison you are destined to lose vs a consequent asteroid route. You can potentially make use of your speed though to interrupt the required supply lines if you have some early advantage.
However, as you delay energy hulls even further and can't really contest the asteroids in direct combat, I guess things look quite grim anyway.
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#6 Post by labgnome » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:13 pm

Though I don't usually go for conquering competing empires, I will point out some things I've noticed. Asteroid ships, with their extra internal slots, are good for long-distance colonization as you can build a ship with a colony pod and a fuel tank. I think, just form their stats they look a bit OP. However considering the "stealth" asteroid hulls start out without external slots, maybe they could be nerfed in stealth, and be the beginning of the asteroid line, and the other hulls further along, possibly pared with or dependent on the rock armor tech.

I think the transpacial drive core and hull being unlocked by the same tech is a bit much. I noticed that if I invested in techs that improved my ships starlane speed, that the faster hulls didn't really give much of a speed bonus compared to others.

I think some work needs to be done on the pre-made ships. There aren't really any that use the stealth parts, and few that use shields, so some more that have those might be a way to give those techs some love.

The one thing I always, always do is design a 8 troop-pod carrying large troop ship at the beginning of the game, and largely rely on it for conquering planets. I've also found that lager hulls with armor are good ways to have specialized colony or outpost ships outfitted to capture monster nests. The improved engine couplings tend to work better for me than fuel tanks if I need to send warships to take out native defenses, as it's usually tough nearby planets as opposed to planets far from my empire I usually need to do that with. I don't think the weapons techs are set up well, (you can just skip at least half of them and shooting straight for death rays, or at lest plasma cannons, is more viable strategy than it probably should be) but that is probably a whole different issue.
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#7 Post by Cjkjvfnby » Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:06 pm

MatGB wrote:My biggest project for the runup to the 0.4.4 release was to rebalance the ship hulls and parts in terms of cost effectiveness to try to make it that each research line of hulls was competetive, and both not horrendously overpowered nor so weak/expensive they're pointless.
IMHO it will be good to add special loggers for research, creating designs and building ships. User play couple of games. User copy files to his public dropbox folder. We got result and build some graphs.

It is hard to me to argue about balance of different branches. I use asteroid because it is cheap and strong. Since price depend on number of ships, I don't need many small ships, only giants. I don't see reason to have may hulls, most of them useless for me.

I like to play on many-planet/low-starline maps. So I have 2-4 border systems to defend.

As fleet commander I need next types:
Main battleship. (defend borders/do invasions)
Cheap and fast to build transport (outpost/troopers)
Cheap and fast to build emergency fleet (in case if borders are broken and some clusters isolated)
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#8 Post by godel » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:53 am

I got trounced by those big monsters and the later blotted monsters.
I now have a feeling that the game only runs 200 turns.
So picking a limited number of research projects is important. You can not catch them all.
So, I am looking at this. The Robot hull shows up in all the worlds without any need for more structure to create it.
But it has limited slots.
The organic is even more limited.
I hope for a fast track for myself to a less limited hull. But maybe that would destabilize the game.

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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#9 Post by Dilvish » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:14 pm

godel wrote:I got trounced by those big monsters and the later blotted monsters. I now have a feeling that the game only runs 200 turns.
I suspect you are playing a plain 0.4.4 build, is that right? The monster release was at a fixed 200 turns in that version. If you instead try one of the recent test builds, then there are a number of factors that will delay the appearance of any of these Experimentor monsters. On the lowest couple "Max AI Aggression" settings the release of Experimentor monsters is delayed by a baseline of 1000 turns. On higher Aggression settings the release is delayed by a baseline of 50 turns times the number of tiers below Maniacal that you have Aggression set to. Finally, there are also some adjustments to further delay the release timing if Galaxy Planet Density is Low and/or if Galaxy Size is above 200.
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#10 Post by MatGB » Sun Apr 05, 2015 12:01 am

Cjkjvfnby wrote:IMHO it will be good to add special loggers for research, creating designs and building ships. User play couple of games. User copy files to his public dropbox folder. We got result and build some graphs.
That would be a very nice thing to have, I'm basically going on gut feeling, personal experience and stuff said on the forums. When I started the job there were a few very obvious issues, Organics were far too cheap, Robotics too expensive and Fractals overpowered. Now it's a lot more subtle and finding the minor differences is a lot harder. It is also, therefore, less important overall, things are, roughly, balanced, but not balanced enough for 1.0.0 release ;-)
It is hard to me to argue about balance of different branches. I use asteroid because it is cheap and strong. Since price depend on number of ships, I don't need many small ships, only giants. I don't see reason to have may hulls, most of them useless for me.
I use Robotic line then Self Gravitating/Titan for similar reasons. I dislike the way fleet upkeep as written pushes you to a small number of large hulls. But, I like the basic idea of the mechanism and I cannot think of a better way to do it that isn't unnecessarily complicated.
I like to play on many-planet/low-starline maps. So I have 2-4 border systems to defend.
What is this "defend" thing of which people speak? I find constantly invading my neighbours and pushing the borders out is by far the best way of making sure I don't get attacked ;-)
As fleet commander I need next types:
Main battleship. (defend borders/do invasions)
Cheap and fast to build transport (outpost/troopers)
Cheap and fast to build emergency fleet (in case if borders are broken and some clusters isolated)
Pretty much. Spatial Flux hulls for the latter two uses, sometimes unshielded Robotics for the last if it's a bigger problem, and whatever my best tech is for the former.

I do sometimes, for a change, go entirely Organic which has a lot more variety, but still not found a use for the Static Multicellular.
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#11 Post by Cjkjvfnby » Sun Apr 05, 2015 6:55 am

MatGB wrote: I use Robotic line then Self Gravitating/Titan for similar reasons. I dislike the way fleet upkeep as written pushes you to a small number of large hulls. But, I like the basic idea of the mechanism and I cannot think of a better way to do it that isn't unnecessarily complicated.
For example prices grow for each hull or branch separately. Building organic does not effect robotic prices.
What is this "defend" thing of which people speak? I find constantly invading my neighbours and pushing the borders out is by far the best way of making sure I don't get attacked ;-)
I prefer to invade to one direction and just block other. I don't like micromanagment to defend my inner borders.
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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#12 Post by costlybelt » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:44 am

This is the first version of freeorion I have played so first let me say it's a great game. The balancing issue i'd like to bring up is the effect of the 50% damage boost for exaw has on late game battles. mainly when deathray 4s (30 damage) are firing on black shields (20 strength) without a damage modifier only 10 structure damage is dealt. however if you have a ship crewed by exaw 50% damage boost the calculation changes to 30*1.5-20=25 . giving them a damage boost that is effectively 150%. I have found that late game this makes any ship not crewed by them next to useless. i think that this could be balanced by calculating the 50% damage boost after shields i.e. damage = (weapon damage - shield strength)*1.5 so that when calculating damage in the same example as i used before it would look something like this (30-20)*1.5=15
sorry for being of topic i know this is a species issue and not really relevant to the main balancing concern of ship hulls

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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#13 Post by Vezzra » Fri Apr 10, 2015 9:53 am

costlybelt wrote:sorry for being of topic i know this is a species issue and not really relevant to the main balancing concern of ship hulls
Um, take a look at the OP:
MatGB wrote:Please note, in planning for 0.4.5, nothing is off the table in terms of balance, if you think there's a problem, something is too weak or too strong compared to other choices, please do say so.
So, I'd say, don't worry, you're perfectly on topic. ;)

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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#14 Post by Geoff the Medio » Fri Apr 10, 2015 10:05 am

costlybelt wrote:...calculating the 50% damage boost after shields i.e. damage = (weapon damage - shield strength)*1.5 ...
Due to how / when strength of a ship's weapons and damage done to a target in battle are calculated, that would be difficult to implement. Effectively you'd need a variable weapon strength depending on what target is being attacked, or some other special flag or setting to set how much of a boost to apply after subtracting shields, rather than using the existing meter-modifying-effect mechanisms, which are resolved before a combat happens and the results of which don't change during the combat.

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Re: Game balance in 0.4.4 release—feedback needed

#15 Post by MatGB » Fri Apr 10, 2015 11:35 am

I actually think, and hope to do a pass on them at some point, that shields are overpowered in many ways and the blackshield in particular is proplematic. So while I'm slightly concerned about the Good Pilots bonus, as Geoff said it'd be hard to script it to take into account the target in that way.

But reducing the Blackshield bonus to, say, 15, and reducing the other shields down a bit as well (while also adjusting their costs down a bit) would partially reduce the problem in a different way.

As I do agree that finding a Great Pilot and making sure that my Mu Ursh ships outnumber your Mu Ursh ships is currently of more strategic importance than it should be.

So yeah, like Vezzra said, it's a balance concern, and one I share. I'm not sure how unbalanced it is, nor the best way to solve it, but it's definitely something that needs looking at. Solutions could vary, including vastly increasing the number of species with the good piloting traits, but I'd rather get the shields balanced a bit instead.
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