Armour plating balancing

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unjashfan
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Armour plating balancing

#1 Post by unjashfan »

Neutronium plating probably is the most OP ship part of FO right now - a whopping 100 HP for 3 PP! Here's a quick rundown of all armour platings, their strength, PP cost, and total RP to unlock cost:
  • Lead armour plating
  • 10, 1, 24
  • Rock armour plating
  • 15, 1, 568
  • Zortrium armour plating
  • 30, 2, 224
  • Crystal armour plating
  • 80, 4, 1768
  • Neutronium armour plating
  • 100, 3, 232
Crystal plating's 1768 research cost stands out, requiring more than 7 times more RP than the next most expensive plating. Rock plating likely serves no purpose as of now (at least I never used it) since it is easier to unlock a better one. The RP costs definitely need to be reworked.
  • Some ideas for balancing:
  • The rock, crystal, and neutronium platings probably could give slightly better bonuses compared to the other two simply because they require specific planet types and buildings.
  • The strongest armour plating strength should probably be no more than 50. Since armour plating can be stacked, I can imagine that the last two empires remaining would have really powerful and bulky ships, and we want to avoid scenarios where ships are being produced faster than they are being destroyed, resulting in an infinite standoff.
  • If ships are being destroyed too quickly late game after armour plating has been reworked, increasing the health of the ship hulls to lengthen their longevity is a good solution.
  • Speed penalties can be increased a bit, maybe a penalty of 10 is a good starting point.
  • PP costs could be doubled.
  • The strength increase from one armour plating to another must be subtle enough so that the game doesn't turn into a 'who can unlock the best armour first and spam armoured ships' contest.
Thoughts?

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Dilvish
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#2 Post by Dilvish »

You comment about armor being cheap, but all parts have comparable cost; the real cost for armor is the foregone weaponry. Neutronium armor is quite comparable to death rays, though the difficulty in productin is probably not balanced between them. Similarly, I don't think there's much need to worry about armor preventing endgame ships from destroying each other fast enough; the combat-rounds-per-turn we currently have would be a bigger factor in that respect.

I agree that the RP costs need some rejiggering; Rock Armor RP should probably come down some and I think its structure value would be better at 20. I also agree there ought to be another mid armor tier, perhaps around 50 or 60, that doesn't have such stringent requirements as a Neutron Star, but something, perhaps needing a Rich Minerals Special in the shipyard system.

I agree that Crystal Armor RP should come down some, but I think it should still be quite a bit higher than Neutronium since Asteroid belts are so easy to find.

I'd also say that the Neutronium Extraction tech should also unlock the Neutronium Synthesizer. Right now Neutron Stars with planets are fairly rare & an empire lucky enough to have one handy has a huge advantage in late game. The currently specified 1200 PP build cost for a synthesizer is high enough to be decently balanced as is & still leaves the ancient ruins find worthwhile.
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Vezzra
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#3 Post by Vezzra »

Dilvish wrote:I'd also say that the Neutronium Extraction tech should also unlock the Neutronium Synthesizer. Right now Neutron Stars with planets are fairly rare & an empire lucky enough to have one handy has a huge advantage in late game. The currently specified 1200 PP build cost for a synthesizer is high enough to be decently balanced as is & still leaves the ancient ruins find worthwhile.
I'm not so sure about that... 1.2k PP build cost isn't that much in mid to late game (depending of course on the galaxy size you play). That would take much out of neutronium being a rare, special resource with the locations where it can be acquired being of great strategic importance. I would suggest to at least require an additional tech to be researched ("Neutronium Synthesization") that unlocks the Neutronium Synthesizer, and make that tech extremly expensive.

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Dilvish
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#4 Post by Dilvish »

yes, you're right, by the time you get that tech 1200 is not so high; I like the idea of an expensive RP follow-on tech that allows synthesis, and even then perhaps the synthesizer should cost more.

Which reminds me, there is a win-the-game Learning tech Singularity of Transcendence that should probably cost something like 25k RP rather than its current 2.5k RP -- in addition to the increased cost I'd recommend that be broken into two parts, so that there could be a server-wide warning (as like in Civ) when a player starts on the second half. Anyways, not trying to derail the armor conversation, but I keep forgetting to mention something about the tech. It may not really matter for now anyways since I don't think it actually ends the game or anything.
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Vezzra
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#5 Post by Vezzra »

Dilvish wrote:...and even then perhaps the synthesizer should cost more.
Yep, I agree.
It may not really matter for now anyways since I don't think it actually ends the game or anything.
Yeah, as there is nothing like victory conditions implemented yet, so this tech does effectively nothing. But maybe it's possible to add a simple sitrep message (something like "Victory!!! Your race achieved ascension to the Higher Planes of Existence and is now part of the Powers That Be...") when the tech has been researched as a temporary solution?

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Sloth
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#6 Post by Sloth »

unjashfan wrote:
  • PP costs could be doubled.
Yes, but leave Rock armor at 1 PP.
Dilvish wrote:I also agree there ought to be another mid armor tier, perhaps around 50 or 60, that doesn't have such stringent requirements as a Neutron Star, but something, perhaps needing a Rich Minerals Special in the shipyard system.
I also think there could be another Armor plating. Rich Minerals (or Metaloids) as prequesite sound good.
Dilvish wrote:I like the idea of an expensive RP follow-on tech that allows synthesis, and even then perhaps the synthesizer should cost more.
This could be a random tech, so even though there are three ways to get Neutronium armour plating you can't be sure to get it each game.
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yandonman
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#7 Post by yandonman »

What if we put Tectonic Minerology (and therefore Neutronium Armor) much later in the tech tree; ie. dependent on Singularity Generation, Artificial Blackholes or Stellar Cartography?
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unjashfan
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#8 Post by unjashfan »

What if we put Tectonic Minerology (and therefore Neutronium Armor) much later in the tech tree; ie. dependent on Singularity Generation, Artificial Blackholes or Stellar Cartography?
Why not just move neutronium extraction later down the tech tree? Tectonic minerology could be used as a prerequisite for another tech later on. That being said, it could work as a prerequisite for the mid-level armour plating that has been suggested below:
I also think there could be another Armor plating. Rich Minerals (or Metaloids) as prequesite sound good.
especially with the Rich Minerals as a prerequisite idea.

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Re: Armour plating balancing

#9 Post by yandonman »

What if we put Tectonic Minerology (and therefore Neutronium Armor) much later in the tech tree; ie. dependent on Singularity Generation, Artificial Blackholes or Stellar Cartography?
Why not just move neutronium extraction later down the tech tree? Tectonic minerology could be used as a prerequisite for another tech later on. That being said, it could work as a prerequisite for the mid-level armour plating that has been suggested below:
Fair enough, and I like. Here's a patch with Neutromium Extractor dependent on Stellar Cartography and a speed penalty of -10
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[The extension patch has been deactivated and can no longer be displayed.]

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unjashfan
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#10 Post by unjashfan »

Here are some new values that I think is more balanced based on yandonman's neutronium patch. I've also included the suggested mid-level armor plating; it uses tectonic minerology and zortrium armor plating as prerequisites:
  • Tech changes
  • Asteroid reformation: 450 RP -> 100 RP *this might change if aggregate asteroid hull gets returned to the game
  • Zortrium armor plating: 200 RP -> 300 RP
  • Monomolecular Latticing: 1200 RP -> 800 RP
  • New tech - ??? armor plating: 150 RP and 5 turns and requires a planet with Rich Minerals special to build OR 450 RP and 5 turns and no restrictions
After the above changes are applied, we get:
  • Armor name: strength, total RP unlock cost, build cost, build time, speed penalty
  • Lead armor plating: 10, 24, 1, 1, 10
  • Rock armor plating: 15, 218, 1, 1, 5
  • Zortrium armor plating: 30, 324, 3, 3, 5
  • ??? armor plating: 50, 544 OR 844, 6, 4, 5
  • Crystal armor plating: 80, 1018, 8, 3, 5
  • Neutronium armor plating: 100, 818, 9, 4, 10
If we decide to restrict the new armor plating to require Rich Minerals, we could also include its sister specials, High-energy Metaloids and Simaline crystals, as options. So having any one of those three specials will do.

I've also suggested heavier speed penalties, but it's difficult to tell how much impact those changes will have. I do feel that the current speed penalties are negligible though, especially for the organic hulls.

Thoughts?

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Sloth
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#11 Post by Sloth »

unjashfan wrote:I've also included the suggested mid-level armor plating; it uses tectonic minerology and zortrium armor plating as prerequisites:
Couldn't Tectonic Minerology itself unlock the new armor. That tech does nothing at the moment.
unjashfan wrote:If we decide to restrict the new armor plating to require Rich Minerals, we could also include its sister specials, High-energy Metaloids and Simaline crystals, as options. So having any one of those three specials will do.
I think it would be hard to give an explanation for the armor to need any of three specials. Rich Minerals sounds fine.
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Vezzra
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#12 Post by Vezzra »

unjashfan wrote:I've also suggested heavier speed penalties, but it's difficult to tell how much impact those changes will have. I do feel that the current speed penalties are negligible though, especially for the organic hulls.
However, for the slow hull types (asteroid) they are already a pain as they are now, increasing them might render slow hulls unusable for military ships.

That's one reason why I'm very uncomfortable with these speed penalties. To me it seems quite arbitrary and ackward. Why impose this kind of "penalty" on armor, and not on all the other ship parts as well? That doesn't strike me as particulary intuitive. As a countermeasure we also introduced "add-on engines", so that the player can speed up his ship again, at additional costs and the expense of another slot.

Which basically means if you want to have a certain level of armor, you'll have to spend a certain amount of PP and slots dedicated to armor, which is split between the actual armor parts and one or more engine parts. That is unnecessarily complicated. The reason why we came up with the whole thing was because armor was felt to be unbalanced. But instead of adding an arbitrary additional "tradeoff" in the form of speed penalties and new ship parts (engines) to boost PP and slot cost, why don't we just rebalance armor strength and costs directly?

I too think that the armor parts are much too powerful im comparison to the basic hull strength. One piece of armor should be able to enhance the basic hull structure, not triple it (unless maybe you put some high end armor on an extreamly weak hull, but not as a rule). And certainly not at almost no costs. If we feel armor is overpowered, we can reduce the strength, increase the costs until we arrive at numbers that are reasonable. So you have to make a meaningful decision if you give up a slot and paying X PP to get YY additional HP or opt for another laser cannon instead. Same goal achieved, no need for engines, no problems how to balance the speed penalty against the different base hull speeds etc. Far more KISS, if you ask me ;)

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Sloth
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#13 Post by Sloth »

Vezzra wrote: That's one reason why I'm very uncomfortable with these speed penalties. To me it seems quite arbitrary and ackward. Why impose this kind of "penalty" on armor, and not on all the other ship parts as well? That doesn't strike me as particulary intuitive. As a countermeasure we also introduced "add-on engines", so that the player can speed up his ship again, at additional costs and the expense of another slot.

Which basically means if you want to have a certain level of armor, you'll have to spend a certain amount of PP and slots dedicated to armor, which is split between the actual armor parts and one or more engine parts. That is unnecessarily complicated. The reason why we came up with the whole thing was because armor was felt to be unbalanced. But instead of adding an arbitrary additional "tradeoff" in the form of speed penalties and new ship parts (engines) to boost PP and slot cost, why don't we just rebalance armor strength and costs directly?
I think the idea behind the armor system is good:
- Armor is cheap, but slows down ships.
- Additional engines are expensive, but only use internal slots (which most hulls have more than enough).

The result is:
- You can build cheap assault ships that are fast, but have low structure.
- You can build powerful, but slow ships for defense (you can even design ships that are unable to move).
- You can build expensive ships that combine both (speed and high structure).

I haven't tested enough to decide whether the system is balanced and all options are viable, but from a design standpoint this all makes a lot of sense to me.

But why not have both?
We can just add another armor that is way more expensive compared to the others, but has no speed penalty.
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unjashfan
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#14 Post by unjashfan »

for the slow hull types (asteroid) they are already a pain as they are now, increasing them might render slow hulls unusable for military ships.
Since the slower hulls don't really get anywhere quickly to begin with, slowing them down more doesn't really hurt them much anyway, especially when they become harder to kill off. The speed penalties only really make a difference when a certain ship would take more turns to reach a particular destination than if it had no speed penalty - I guess the idea is to make it harder to move defensive tanks around.
As a countermeasure we also introduced "add-on engines", so that the player can speed up his ship again
I believe the original intention was to allow ships to move around the map quicker mid-late game. The option of negating speed penalties is just a side effect.
One piece of armor should be able to enhance the basic hull structure, not triple it
I couldn't agree more. Feel free to suggest other numbers that you think are more suitable.
But why not have both?
We can just add another armor that is way more expensive compared to the others, but has no speed penalty.
I like this idea.

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Vezzra
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Re: Armour plating balancing

#15 Post by Vezzra »

unjashfan wrote:Since the slower hulls don't really get anywhere quickly to begin with, slowing them down more doesn't really hurt them much anyway, especially when they become harder to kill off. The speed penalties only really make a difference when a certain ship would take more turns to reach a particular destination than if it had no speed penalty
On the contrary, speed penalties hurt the slow hulls much more than the fast ones.

First of all, it already takes them ages to move around, slowing them down even more makes using them annoying, un-fun and even micromanagy, especially later in the game when you have a bigger empire and the distances your fleets have to travel increase. The result are fleets that take many turns to get from A to B, requiring the player to carefully plan and manage a whole lot of fleets moving around, keeping in mind which fleet moves where, which defensive or attack positions do have already enough reinforcements en route and which don't. The longer it takes your fleets to get to their destinations, the more of them are in transit at any given time, the more difficult it gets to keep track of everything. Even if you balance things in a way that these slow, but heavily armored ships are still a viable strategic option, players might get discouraged from actually making use of that option because it's so much more work to handle it, that you end up killing this option off.

Secondly, as the speed penalties are implemented as fixed numbers, slower hulls suffer more from them because proportionally their speed is reduced more. Example:

We have two hulls, hull A has speed 100, hull B has speed 50. If I reduce A's speed by 5, that amounts to a speed reduction of 5%. It will travel a distance of 1000 in 10.53 instead of 10 turns, that's an increase in travel time by 5.3%. If I reduce B's speed by 5, that amounts to a speed reduction of 10%. It will travel a distance of 1000 in 22.22 instead of 20 turns, that's an increase in travel time by 11.1%. A hull with half the speed is hurt twice as hard by the same absolute speed reduction.
I believe the original intention was to allow ships to move around the map quicker mid-late game. The option of negating speed penalties is just a side effect.
IIRC they were introduced together, and giving the player an option to negate the speed penalties of armor was at least as much an incentive for introducing engines as to be able to move ships around faster, not just a side effect...
Sloth wrote:The result is:
- You can build cheap assault ships that are fast, but have low structure.
- You can build powerful, but slow ships for defense (you can even design ships that are unable to move).
- You can build expensive ships that combine both (speed and high structure).

I haven't tested enough to decide whether the system is balanced and all options are viable, but from a design standpoint this all makes a lot of sense to me.
Not really. My problem is not that I'm against this kind of game mechanic in principle, what I dislike with this concept as it is implemented now is that it's inconsistent/incomplete/arbitrary. Let me explain:

Most the points you've made could be applied e.g. to weapons as well. Why not have big, heavy guns come with speed penalties too? This would require the player to choose between heavily armed but slower, and lighter armed but faster ships (or extremely expensive ships that are heavily armed and fast). And while we are at it, why not have all ship parts come with a certain amount of speed penalty, depending on how "heavy" they are? Ship parts like nova bombs could come with a very big speed penalty, which makes sense as that is an extremely powerful ship part (BigJoe would call it "epic"), whereas sensors might only have very light speed penalties. That would be more consistent.

But just picking armor for that kind of mechanic is what strikes me as completely arbitrary. My point being that this makes an exception to a consistent concept. The concept that speed is an inherent property of our hulls, and not provided by dedicated ship parts (engines). AFAIK there has been some extensive discussion on that in the past, because apparently there have been people who were strongly in favor of making speed not an inherent property of the hulls, but using engine ship parts for that. Obviously the final design decision had been against that concept, and in favor of having "engines" as an inherent aspect of "hulls".

So speed is now an inherent property of hulls, which have slots where ship parts can be placed to customize the basic hull types. The tradeoffs the player is confronted with when designing his ships are the cost/effectiveness balance of the various ship parts, the function they perform, and the limited amount of slots, which forces him to decide wether to put on an additional piece of armor to get a more durable ship or another gun to get more firepower, as Dilvish already pointed out:
Dilvish wrote:You comment about armor being cheap, but all parts have comparable cost; the real cost for armor is the foregone weaponry.
Or maybe to put on some ship part that raises stealth to build a surprise attack ship, for the price of not being able to use that slot for neither armor nor a gun.

And that's how complex the whole ship design should get, to stay true to the KISS principle (AFAIK, these discussion happened before I joined the project). At this point I probably should admit that I would have been very much in favor of having engine ship parts providing a ship's speed, not having that as an inherent property of hulls. But the decision has been made, and I'm in favor of sticking with it (unless there are very compelling reasons to rethink that decision). If we constantly question finalized design decisions, we'll never get anything done, because there will always be good reasons why this or that can be done differently.

But sticking with a decision means really stick with it. And here's why I feel uneasy with this whole armor slows down ships thing: It introduces an exception to this concept, it kind of "breaks" it - because it's doing it arbitrarily only for armor, while everything else works according to the original design. Resulting e.g. in the problem how to balance the speed penalties without hurting slow hulls unproportionally (see above). This will be hard or even impossible to balance without getting even more complex (by making the speed penalties proportional to the base hull speed).

However, if we decide to introduce this kind of mechanic (heavy ship parts slowing down the ship), we shouln't do it halfway, but consistently and thoroughly. Then each ship part should impose a certain speed limit, and engines provide a ship's propulsion. More engines -> faster ship, but less slots for other stuff. Stuffing a hull to the brim with ship parts provide more power, but slows ship. Ship parts of the "epic" kind (like nove bombs) could be especially "heavy", that is, impose a speed penalty that requires several engine parts to get a movable ship at all. Thus requiring a hull with a sufficient number of slots to carry these uber-heavy epic ship parts (otherwise you end up with an expensive, immobile piece of ship that's most probably of no use at all). Effectively eleminating the need to add an additional slot type to restrict "epic" ship parts to "big" hulls.

There can definitely be said quite some things in favor of such a system. If we decide to go all the way to a revised concept. But please don't keep the current mechanics and just plug in something that doesn't really fit with the rest because we were struck with the idea to balance armor by means of a different mechanic than all the other ship parts. This adds the complexity of that additional mechanic without getting all the benefits it could offer when applied to the whole hull/ship part concept consistently. Which would be decidedly anti-KISS IMO.

I hope I've been able to express my concerns sufficiently understandable... ;)

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