Balancing Iocrym sentinels

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Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by JohnBWatson » Thu Mar 10, 2016 9:22 pm

Brought over from ministry. Iocrym sentinels are presently very easy to kill for the last enemy in the game, and have stats that make them trivial to kite(even moreso than other enemies with this issue). This creates an economic imbalance with the ability to obtain large amounts of expensive loot with minimal effort or danger, and, more importantly, takes away from the apparent threat level of the Iocrym, which was built up as a supremely threatening and powerful faction over the course of the game.

Several means of solving this have been suggested, including(from least to most difficult to implement, by my rough estimation):

- Altering the Sentinel's weaponry to be geared towards longer ranged retaliation, in order to have better balance with their speed and large size

- Giving them some manner of retaliatory ability(virtual weapon) that they can use when being kited

- Providing a means of rapidly closing distance when being kited(a boost ability or "poor man's jumpdrive") that is triggered when the target is attacking from outside maximum range.

- Adding a second Iocrym gunship, which is less exploitable and serves the roles that the Sentinel is not compatible with, such as attacking the player directly and defending the stations.

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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by AssumedPseudonym » Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:11 pm

 I have no problem with the Iocrym sentinels as they are. They are meant to destroy stations, and they excel at that role. As for economic balance, if the player gets to Heretic and isn’t absolutely swimming in credits or rins, the Iocrym sentinels provide a more or less reasonable way for a cash-starved player to fund any last equipment purchases they might need at that point.
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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by JohnBWatson » Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:54 pm

AssumedPseudonym wrote: I have no problem with the Iocrym sentinels as they are. They are meant to destroy stations, and they excel at that role.
Confining them to a single role is certainly a way of solving this, but to do this we'd need something else cover the situations where they must attack the player directly(IE: guarding stations; attacking the player after all research stations are dead). The mechanic where the player protects stations from them is great, but they also fill several other roles right now where the kiting issue is quite apparent. They're effectively the logical conclusion of an enemy with high defensive stats and low offensive capability, and George has noted that those aren't particularly fun to fight, especially when they show up alone.
As for economic balance, if the player gets to Heretic and isn’t absolutely swimming in credits or rins, the Iocrym sentinels provide a more or less reasonable way for a cash-starved player to fund any last equipment purchases they might need at that point.
In a normal playthrough, that's fairly true - the economy's been on the generous side for a while now, and I've never had any practical limit on what I could afford at the end of a run. However, a player that buys a Tritium cannon or similar low - tier ion/thermo weapon at the start of the UT can just use a gem to get to Heretic and effectively upgrade to endgame equipment in a matter of minutes, due to the Sentinels' inability to retaliate, which causes something of a balance issue. Not the most pressing thing, certainly, but still an imbalance.

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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by AssumedPseudonym » Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:24 pm

JohnBWatson wrote:In a normal playthrough, that's fairly true - the economy's been on the generous side for a while now, and I've never had any practical limit on what I could afford at the end of a run. However, a player that buys a Tritium cannon or similar low - tier ion/thermo weapon at the start of the UT can just use a gem to get to Heretic and effectively upgrade to endgame equipment in a matter of minutes, due to the Sentinels' inability to retaliate, which causes something of a balance issue. Not the most pressing thing, certainly, but still an imbalance.
 Let them.
 …That’s right, let them.
 New players aren’t going to know to do that, and even experienced ones may not know unless they frequent the forums or IRC or do a fair bit of source-diving. If this were a competitive PvP game, I might be more inclined to think that something should be done about it, but this is a single player rogue-like. There are always cheap and/or clever ways to get around the system in rogue-likes if you know what you’re doing, which in its own way is part of the replayability factor. Players who don’t like such measures won’t use them on the simple grounds that they don’t want to. “Fix” this and players will find something else to “break” or go find a game that isn’t militantly shutting down all of the neat little loopholes. There really isn’t enough of a balance issue here to address, if you ask me.
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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by Xephyr » Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:28 pm

AP makes a good point.

This is like the factories around the Arcology of New Victoria - A player that knows they sell low and that corporate stations buy high knows that they can make a few thousand credits there easily. If memory serves, George has gone on record saying that this is intentional.

Even then, ares positron cannons are an even better source of rin and appear in much earlier systems.
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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by gunship256 » Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:44 pm

I would object to the somewhat unbalanced situation if the game were set up so that I HAD to use that exploit in order to play effectively.

For example, if trading at the Arcology were the only way to get credits in midgame, that would be boring and pointless for me, since I like looting and selling things. I usually purposefully choose not to trade at the Arcology because I sometimes bring so much loot to St. Kat's that the hotels don't have enough credits to buy my stuff. I'd rather sell stuff and get it out of my cargo hold than spend money to trade, get a more money back, and get saddled with stuff I can't get rid of later.

Similarly, if repairing and selling Ares positron cannons or farming Ferians were the only way to get rins, or if using the fabricator were the only way to get missiles, I'd have a problem and might ask for the situation to be changed.

I do see the lack of missile availability in 1.6 as an example of a problem that needs to be fixed, since the situation makes choosing any launchers other than NAMI and Rasiermesser a difficult choice. Using only one type of missile or only howitzers in the endgame makes the endgame less interesting than the early and mid games.

I've jumped to Heretic before to get light Iocrym armor and then jumped back to Sanctuary to finish out the game. The game was so easy that it was boring, so I stopped using the exploit voluntarily.

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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by PM » Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:56 pm

If I want to get stuff early, I go to a Teraton fabricator and fabricate away. If my ship is fast enough, I could simply run, dive, and loot along the way as done in Angband. No need to bother the sentinels unless I want light Iocrym armor (which I do want by endgame).

Sentinels are tough to kill quickly without enhanced endgame weapons. There are a finite number of sentinels player can kill before he must trigger the endgame to farm more, and once done, sentinels attack in ever bigger waves and stations will die unless player shuts down quarantine fast and kills the first wave of sentinels before they raze the stations. Afterwards, it is the final boss, and all I care at that point is to kill the boss and gate out to win the game.

I concur with the others that the sentinels' role seems to enforce the quarantine, which can include destroying stations, and they do that job well. I do not think sentinels are a problem. That said, Iocrym could use another unit, a faster battle unit akin to a battle auton to support the sentinels.
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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by Shrike » Fri Mar 11, 2016 1:12 am

PM wrote:If I want to get stuff early, I go to a Teraton fabricator and fabricate away. If my ship is fast enough, I could simply run, dive, and loot along the way as done in Angband. No need to bother the sentinels unless I want light Iocrym armor (which I do want by endgame).

Sentinels are tough to kill quickly without enhanced endgame weapons. There are a finite number of sentinels player can kill before he must trigger the endgame to farm more, and once done, sentinels attack in ever bigger waves and stations will die unless player shuts down quarantine fast and kills the first wave of sentinels before they raze the stations. Afterwards, it is the final boss, and all I care at that point is to kill the boss and gate out to win the game.

I concur with the others that the sentinels' role seems to enforce the quarantine, which can include destroying stations, and they do that job well. I do not think sentinels are a problem. That said, Iocrym could use another unit, a faster battle unit akin to a battle auton to support the sentinels.
A iocrym battle auton, perhaps equipped with the repeller, would also be a useful endgame auton for the constellation if it's lootable from the stations around the system. That would definitely be fun, if it could be balanced.

I also concur that the sentinel itself is pretty much fine as-is.
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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by JohnBWatson » Fri Mar 11, 2016 2:27 am

AssumedPseudonym wrote:  New players aren’t going to know to do that, and even experienced ones may not know unless they frequent the forums or IRC or do a fair bit of source-diving. If this were a competitive PvP game, I might be more inclined to think that something should be done about it, but this is a single player rogue-like. There are always cheap and/or clever ways to get around the system in rogue-likes if you know what you’re doing, which in its own way is part of the replayability factor. Players who don’t like such measures won’t use them on the simple grounds that they don’t want to. “Fix” this and players will find something else to “break” or go find a game that isn’t militantly shutting down all of the neat little loopholes. There really isn’t enough of a balance issue here to address, if you ask me.
In my opinion, ways around the system should be subjectively rather than objectively beneficial. That said, I don't mind there being shortcuts and the like so long as they're a side effect of a deep, immersive world. The Iocrym are exploitable because they aren't balanced for combat against the player, which isn't desirable.
I've jumped to Heretic before to get light Iocrym armor and then jumped back to Sanctuary to finish out the game. The game was so easy that it was boring, so I stopped using the exploit voluntarily.
Case in point - there's nobody that really, deeply enjoys the exploit, so why enforce something George explicitly tries to avoid solely for the sake of preserving it?

That said, Iocrym could use another unit, a faster battle unit akin to a battle auton to support the sentinels.
That's all I'm saying - something that attacks the player alone should be capable of doing damage or be supported by things that are.

A iocrym battle auton, perhaps equipped with the repeller, would also be a useful endgame auton for the constellation if it's lootable from the stations around the system. That would definitely be fun, if it could be balanced.
I imagine that could work, as long as the AI was smart enough to keep it from trying to engage the player on its own. Some sort of mechanic where lobsters deploy an auton or two while being kited and recall them once the player flees or gets in weapon range would be a good fix.

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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by Xephyr » Fri Mar 11, 2016 3:05 am

I think the changes you're suggesting would best be modded in before seeing changes to vanilla.
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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by AssumedPseudonym » Fri Mar 11, 2016 5:23 am

JohnBWatson wrote:
gunship256 wrote:I've jumped to Heretic before to get light Iocrym armor and then jumped back to Sanctuary to finish out the game. The game was so easy that it was boring, so I stopped using the exploit voluntarily.
Case in point - there's nobody that really, deeply enjoys the exploit, so why enforce something George explicitly tries to avoid solely for the sake of preserving it?
 It should be noted that only two people have actually said they don’t like the exploit in this thread: gunship256 (explicitly) and yourself (implicitly, by making the thread and the ticket that came before it). Maybe more, but that’s all I remember off the top of my head and what I saw from a quick skim through of the ticket. That makes for an awful lot of players who haven’t chimed in on the topic that you are potentially misrepresenting.
Xephyr wrote:I think the changes you're suggesting would best be modded in before seeing changes to vanilla.
 That’s probably the best way to go about this, and possibly many other balance issues as well. While there was no simple way to go about testing, say, a new system for internals via modding, something along the lines of this would be pretty easy to write up a mod for and see how it plays. You’ve even done this sort of thing before with the Black Market, which is an excellent case in point for Xephyr’s suggestion.
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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by TheLoneWolf » Fri Mar 11, 2016 10:12 am

Give the Iocrym a long range weapon, like a low damage long range fast travelling slow firing Kytryn (?) plasma cannon. Or maybe a Qsphere launcher. Fires slowly, as in APA. Projectiles travel fast, and can be fired in an arc, as a Feryr fires. No disintegration though. Or maybe the Iocrym launch two groups. One of 3-5 aimed to destroy a station, other of 2-3, aimed for the player.

We can also make an Iocrym ranged fighting ship. Or Iocrym launch mini ice shard like (akin to pteravores in behaviour) thingies, that thrust themselves into the hull and keep damaging armour and dropping shields.

Or maybe a motile version of those thingies around the Heretic sun. Travel slow, fire at the player from a distance, fire in an arc.

Or a multifire repeller type smartcannon. Fires 5-10 repeller projectiles, that have a large timespan, and persue player akin to smartcannon rounds. Those will travel fast like real Iocrym repellers, so player can have problem with PD systems guarding em.

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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by gunship256 » Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:30 pm

AssumedPseudonym wrote:
Xephyr wrote:I think the changes you're suggesting would best be modded in before seeing changes to vanilla.
 That’s probably the best way to go about this, and possibly many other balance issues as well. While there was no simple way to go about testing, say, a new system for internals via modding, something along the lines of this would be pretty easy to write up a mod for and see how it plays. You’ve even done this sort of thing before with the Black Market, which is an excellent case in point for Xephyr’s suggestion.
I agree. If someone makes a mod, it becomes possible to ask if the mod is more balanced or makes the game more interesting, and there are actual playable details to talk about rather than just hypotheticals.

There are other situations that are more interesting to fix for me personally, such as the lack of armor repair devices (Smart Spiders and Arrays), the need that Atarlost pointed out for a greater variety of enhancers for the EI500 (Swivel Weapons Platforms), missile availability (Reprogrammed Launchers), and playership thrust (Defiant, Wolfen/A, Bahnsen M). I'd be interested in trying out a mod that alters the Iocrym, though, as that could make Heretic more interesting to play.

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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by JohnBWatson » Fri Mar 11, 2016 5:01 pm

 
It should be noted that only two people have actually said they don’t like the exploit in this thread: gunship256 (explicitly) and yourself (implicitly, by making the thread and the ticket that came before it).
Honestly, I think the fact that nobody's said they greatly enjoy it is proof enough that it's not beloved enough to build the entire final system around.

That’s probably the best way to go about this, and possibly many other balance issues as well. While there was no simple way to go about testing, say, a new system for internals via modding, something along the lines of this would be pretty easy to write up a mod for and see how it plays. You’ve even done this sort of thing before with the Black Market, which is an excellent case in point for Xephyr’s suggestion.
That's definitely true, and I've thought of doing just that once I get the time. That said, it doesn't preclude discussion of potential fixes.

Give the Iocrym a long range weapon, like a low damage long range fast travelling slow firing Kytryn (?) plasma cannon. Or maybe a Qsphere launcher. Fires slowly, as in APA. Projectiles travel fast, and can be fired in an arc, as a Feryr fires. No disintegration though. Or maybe the Iocrym launch two groups. One of 3-5 aimed to destroy a station, other of 2-3, aimed for the player.

We can also make an Iocrym ranged fighting ship. Or Iocrym launch mini ice shard like (akin to pteravores in behaviour) thingies, that thrust themselves into the hull and keep damaging armour and dropping shields.
These two are interesting. They'd definitely keep the Iocrym unique while making them more balanced.

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Re: Balancing Iocrym sentinels

Post by gunship256 » Fri Mar 11, 2016 5:15 pm

JohnBWatson wrote:Honestly, I think the fact that nobody's said they greatly enjoy it is proof enough that it's not beloved enough to build the entire final system around.
I actually do take advantage of the exploit in order to get light Iocrym armor right before taking on the ICS. Otherwise, I'd have to spend a lot of time killing Ares shipyards and shopping until I found disintegrate-immune armor. I just don't like to jump right to Heretic just to farm Iocrym and then jump back.

As long as I can choose when to use a somewhat unbalanced exploit (farming Iocrym, farming Ferians, Teraton fabricator, Elysium) instead of being forced to use it to play, I don't really mind that it's there.

I don't really think farming is itself a problem, either. Iocrym sentinels are autons/heavy gunships, aren't they? I don't have a problem farming them for armor and shields any more than I have a problem farming Urak gunships to get the Urak mass driver in Eridani - and Urak gunships can be kited as well. Their weapon a level-appropriate item that is powerful but requires some trouble to get. I do think it's unbalanced if the player jumps to Heretic and gets that equipment really early, but again, that's an exploit I choose not to use.

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