A foolproof means of balancing weapons

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JohnBWatson
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Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:03 am

Given that Transcendence automatically records the statistics of all playthroughs while the game has an internet connection and the player is logged in, would it not be possible to gather statistics on which weapons are the most and least popular in registered games, and adjust their stats appropriately? Unlike purely math - based methods, this would take into account factors that are harder to account for, like how easy a weapon is to use or how well it works against the set of available enemies. If a certain set of weapons are hardly ever being used, it might be a good idea to take that as an indication that their stats ought to be buffed, as they currently aren't seen as a viable option for the player.

A more long - term possibility, in line with George's idea of using the multiverse to determine station inventories, could be the adjustment of item rarity based on use, with drop rates, pricing, and station inventory weighted towards weapons that aren't as commonly used, reducing complacency and encouraging players to try out new weapons. Pricing, in particular, would be an excellent feature to add, in effect realistically modeling how a market economy would make weapons more or less expensive based on demand.

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Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:36 am

 Most of that is dependent upon being able to buy the weapon in question. Weapons with a NotForSale attribute are going to be left out of that equation altogether. Granted, most of the NotForSale weapons tend to be… “lackluster,” to word it charitably, but there are a few notable exceptions — the Ares lightning turret and plasma archcannon immediately come to mind, for instance.
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JohnBWatson
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Tue Aug 30, 2016 3:22 am

AssumedPseudonym wrote: Most of that is dependent upon being able to buy the weapon in question. Weapons with a NotForSale attribute are going to be left out of that equation altogether. Granted, most of the NotForSale weapons tend to be… “lackluster,” to word it charitably, but there are a few notable exceptions — the Ares lightning turret and plasma archcannon immediately come to mind, for instance.
My vision for the popularity system was a function that tracked how long a weapon was fired(divide shots fired by rate of fire) in a playthrough, assigned it a value from 0 - 4 based on this*, and then looked at the frequencies of each value across all playthroughs to gather information on how the playerbase is interacting with the weapon.

Obviously, the price adjustment concept would only work for weapons that are generally bought rather than found, but I still think it'd be something neat, if not immediately doable. While I'm personally partial to weapons like the APA, Lamplighter, and ALT, from what I've seen, buying weapons does seem to be more popular than looting them among quite a few people. That said, it wouldn't be all that much of a stretch to weight loot tables in favor of less frequently used weapons, if multiverse integration into gameplay ever moves past the concept stage.

* Using slam cannon shots fired as a measurement of firing time, 0 would map to 0, 1-50 would map to 1, 51 - 500 would map to 2, 501 - 3000 would map to 3, and 3000+ would map to 4.

Elaborating on how this could be used, a particularly high number of zeroes could indicate that a weapon needs to be more attractive to players, either through easier access(lower price/rarity) or a better gimmick, a lot of ones might show that people are trying it and quickly deciding they don't like it, indicating an issue with usability or balance, a significant amount of twos would identify a weapon as having a 'niche role' in the game that might be interesting to explore by adding more enemies or situations that it's useful in dealing with, a bunch of threes and a few fours would indicate a well - liked weapon that lots of people enjoy using, and an excessive number of fours could be an indicator that a weapon is a bit too common, powerful, or lacking in drawbacks.

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Shrike
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Tue Aug 30, 2016 4:08 am

Yeah, this has problems with rare or hard to use weapons. It's not "foolproof", but it would be a useful tool to aid balancing of stuff.

Personally I'd be more inclined to use this for armor, since that really needs an update soon.
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Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:28 pm

Until the most recent alphas featured level-based inventories, some levels were obnoxiously rare. In particular, level 4 items were too rare in New Beyond and obsolete by St. K's. Level 10 is also rare unless you grind Phobos or Iocrym Sentinels, and/or fabricate a different weapon.

Also, I would imagine that starter weapons would be used more than others. For example, omni laser cannon for EI500 and NAMI missiles for the Wolfen.

I agree with Shrike, tracking weapon stats is not foolproof, but may be a useful tool to identify problems.
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JohnBWatson
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Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:31 pm

Yeah, this has problems with rare or hard to use weapons. It's not "foolproof", but it would be a useful tool to aid balancing of stuff.
I think you're overthinking it - 'rare' is a balancing factor in and of itself. A weapon that is ahead of the curve in terms of power but isn't possible to easily and reliably acquire every game is an excellent mechanic found in lots of roguelikes. Similarly, a weak weapon that can reliably be claimed as a fallback but is still noticeably outclassed by its more costly or difficult to obtain counterparts isn't underpowered, just different. Looking at player use stats would be a way of identifying weapons that the player never has a good reason to use, and, on the flip side, weapons that, being both very strong and very common, never provide the player with a reason to use some other weapon in their place. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage people to explore all of the game's content and increase replayability.

Similarly, a hard to use weapon should have some sort of benefit that makes people want to try it anyways. Otherwise, nobody will want to use it, and it becomes dead content.
PM wrote:Also, I would imagine that starter weapons would be used more than others. For example, omni laser cannon for EI500 and NAMI missiles for the Wolfen.
Naturally, that's something to be aware of. That said, tracking how long people tend to keep their starter equipment might be useful, so that potentially overpowered starter equipment that people keep using for the entire early game(making other early game equipment dead content in the process) can be toned down, and horrible starter equipment that needs immediate replacement doesn't turn people off of the game.

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Wed Aug 31, 2016 11:36 am

The main problem I have with this approach is that you lose a lot of detail. What you get from a bug report or a forum post is usually qualitative data, with a bit of quantitative data. The mix varies since some of us tend to run our own numbers, while others settle for "this doesn't feel right because X". You can know why someone feels that there's a problem if you've got qualitative data on it, and from that work out what the problem is (an importantly not-the-same thing) and fix it. You can't do that from quantitative usage measures (which is basically what this idea is). You can see that people aren't using something...but you can't always see why. It is incredibly easy to draw a false conclusion from this sort of work (just look at people whinging at multiplayer games that use this method of balance. War Thunder is one I've heard mentioned a lot). There's too many variables to easily process this kind of data if you're working with raw numbers right from the start, and causation is hard to establish. You're looking at a seriously detailed model to keep track of everything, and one that would break pretty easily if the game changes (as it will over time).

And that brings up a second problem..... generating a lot of data is all fine and dandy, but analysing it is hard. It's easier to just ask peeps and see what comes up, then look at specifics. That's where usage statistics become useful: see what people are talking about, then check the data to see if the reality matches it closely enough to do something about it. Usage data would be a really good tool....but it is not a suitable replacement for the older methods of balancing.



....plus we just had a major weapon rebalance and George made a bunch of tools for it, so we're pretty good for them right now.
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Mon Sep 26, 2016 7:52 pm

Wasn't this the central gimmick of Galactic Arms Race, except on a per-player rather than per-community basis? The idea doesn't seem to have caught on.

One issue to consider is that it would render in-game enemy strength extremely unpredictable, players would not be able to develop any kind of fixed shareable strategies or body of knowledge re: how to deal with enemies that are cyclically stronger and weaker.

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JohnBWatson
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Tue Sep 27, 2016 4:31 am

Watch TV, Do Nothing wrote:Wasn't this the central gimmick of Galactic Arms Race, except on a per-player rather than per-community basis? The idea doesn't seem to have caught on.

One issue to consider is that it would render in-game enemy strength extremely unpredictable, players would not be able to develop any kind of fixed shareable strategies or body of knowledge re: how to deal with enemies that are cyclically stronger and weaker.
I don't see how it would affect NPCs at all - an adjustment system would affect rarity/price, which only have an effect on ships that have to acquire their weapons, rather than spawning with them already equipped. Salvager Nomads might get affected marginally, but the rate at which I see them fielding special weapons is quite low regardless.

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