Armor balance discussion

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by PM » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:36 pm

I guess Spartan is not much heavier than gunships. If so, I would take the 3-ton armor over the 14-ton armor with double hit points if I had a choice. Speed and agility are critical for any gunship. Having too much mass slowing down turning and acceleration hurts.

Nearly five times the mass for twice as much hp alone is not worth it. Agility is critical, especially for gunships.

Part of the reason why I consider light Iocrym armor the ultimate armor is because it is so light, lighter than almost every other armor. It becomes a bit easier to watch a gunship's weight when the mass of all endgame devices put together are near the threshold of slowing down gunships.
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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Xephyr » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:59 pm

I'm the opposite of PM, I like having big, heavy gunships with 20 ton armor. If heavy armor HP is buffed then I would probably seek it out exclusively.

Right now mass isn't that big of a deal for armors; Heavy ithalium is only 8 tons, and transuranic 12, both of which can be used on a light gunship like the Wolfen. I think we should reconsider armors like these. Specifically there should be more of a tactical difference to choosing a heavy gunship over a light gunship. There are more problems with this than just armor mass limits when you compare the Manticore or the Spartan to the Wolfen or Raijin, but balancing for armor mass would be enough for me to prefer heavy gunships.
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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by AssumedPseudonym » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:58 pm

 I disagree with Xephyr on one minor point: Armor mass isn’t just “not a big deal,” it’s about as close to absolutely pointless as you can get in regards to installable mass limits, right now. It can affect turn speed and acceleration if you’re running a heavy loadout, as PM said, but even that might even be a good thing depending on your playstyle — better fine control, for example, especially on keyboard controls instead of mouse controls.

 There’s very little meaningful variance in armor mass. The Sapphire, as it currently stands, can buy and install any vanilla armor in the game through Level VII except for double and quadruple titanium barricades and heavy blast plate. In that same level range, there are exactly three armor types that can only be found as loot and not bought: Urak heavy (Level IV), Sung heavy (Level VI), and Dwarg holochroal. That’s it though Dragon armor would also make the list if it could generate as a random drop. All are rare, and while the Dwarg armor might get a second glance from players due to the particle and ion reflecting, the other two are are going to be obsolete when you find the ships you can loot it from. Generally, unless you get a lucky drop at an early hostile station, your odds of using any of them is already barely above zero, so having them be too heavy for a single playership class can hardly be considered a point against them.

 tl;dr: Armor mass pretty much only matters when you’re shoving it into the cargo bay as loot.

 I’m going to drop in an idea I’ve considered (and even implemented, and then never really properly tested). It’s mostly tangentially related, but would definitely affect balance in regards to armor mass: Instead of maximum armor mass on a ship, what about armor mass ranges? For instance, leave the Sapphire as-is (though frankly, I think its maxArmor could stand to be dropped by a ton or so), but add a minArmor field to the the EI500 of, say, four tons (for the sake of example; actual feasible values would probably be different).
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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Derakon » Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:40 pm

Another thing you could do to make armor mass more meaningful is to just flat-out say "this ship can only equip up to N tons of gear", including in that their armor, weapons, engine, shield, reactor, etc. This of course does suspension of disbelief no favors; it's not like Newton's laws of force stop working when something gets too massive. But gameplay-wise it'd be an easy way to add differentiation and I don't think it's any less realistic than armor mass limits.

Under this scheme, different ships would have different limits as to how much mass of gear they could equip, with the EI500 having a high limit (but few hardpoints), the Wolfen having a low limit, and everyone else somewhere in-between. I think this would make for a more interesting "packing problem" than current -- you'd be trying to get as much utility out of your available equipment mass as possible, rather than trying to get as much utility as possible out of a set number of slots.

Where this ties into armor is that you can let anyone equip anything, so long as they're willing to dedicate the mass to it. Players might decide to fly with heavy, durable fore armor and lighter, weaker, aft armor -- that ultralight titanium armor might actually see serious use on a playership! Armor selection is no longer just a matter of optimizing your defenses against the ships you're going to face, but also of deciding how much mass you want to leave free for everything else. The difference between armor massing 3 tons and armor massing 4 tons could be significant on a ship that can only use 30 tons' worth of gear.

Of course, such a change would probably require revamping the mass of literally every piece of equipment in the game. :)

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by JohnBWatson » Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:12 pm

As for things being used playing a huge part of balance, by that reasoning, laser resistance should be worth significantly more than kinetic resistance because the vast majority of enemies that appear in missions at low levels (and in Charon) is Charon Pirates. Kinetics get used by Centauri (less important now that Arco has random weapons) and other insignificant enemies.
Of course! The alternative is including a set of armors that overvalue kinetic resistance in SOTP that no player will ever have any reason to use, cluttering loot tables and shop menus and making players question why said armor was produced despite no clear market for it. If someone creates an adventure that takes place in a region or time in which kinetic damage is more important, it makes sense that the adventure would be responsible for populating its setting with relevant armors.

george moromisato wrote:
Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:19 pm
This is a great discussion--thank you! Let me try to summarize some of the key points so far:

1. MASS BALANCE
I'm not sure if there's consensus, but I think the current balance algorithm undercounts mass. The current algorithm gives the following balance values:
I'm with Xephyr and AP here. I've played several games with the Wolfen and never had any reason to choose a lighter armor. I've never noticed any loss of maneuverability either.

That said, I don't think it should be that way. The ability to field heavy armor should definitely be something worth looking for in a ship, and it could be the way to provide heavy gunships with the advantage over light gunships that they've been missing thus far, while making ships like the EI500 and spacebus worth using as something other than a self imposed challenge.

Right now, the main issue is that fast gunships get too much out of heavy armor, while freighters get too little. There are two possible fixes I see working here.

The first is basing maneuverability penalty on (sum of armor mass) / (hull mass), discounting weapons, cargo, and devices, and making it more significant, potentially letting it even have a small effect on max speed. This introduces a choice to players using gunships, allowing builds that create heavy gunships that can absorb or deflect a lot of damage or light gunships that focus on avoiding it.

The second possibility is going through the playerships and rebalancing their mass limits. We could decide on reasonable limits for light gunships(like the Wolfen), utility ships(like the Sapphire), heavy gunships(like the Manticore), and freighters(like the EI500), and balance armor based on which classes of ship can use them. For example, if light gunships can use 6 ton segments, heavy gunships can use 12 ton segments, and freighters can use 20 ton segments, the only thing we'd care about when balancing an armor's mass is whether it falls in the range <6, 6<M<12, or 12<M<20. This solidifies the 'character class' aspect of ships and allows us to better control and differentiate how different kinds of ships play.
2. SPECIAL ARMORS: For solar armor and stealth armor, I think we need special code. We talked previously about fixes to solar armor (to offset power use instead of create fuel); and we need to fix stealth in general (e.g., to break target locks, etc.).
Absolutely. There's no sense claiming stealth armor is too weak when the mechanic it relies on isn't complete yet.
4. BLAST PLATE, CERALLOY: Someone suggested that perhaps blast plate should be more vulnerable to laser/particle and that ceralloy should be slightly more vulnerable to kinetic/blast. I like the idea of making these armors more divergent. NOTE: Blast plate is comparable to heavy ceralloy (both 6th level). The current algorithm thinks both are equally powerful (overpowered by about 30%).
I agree with the algorithm that both are overpowered - I'd like to see how they feel when balanced by nerfing the energy resistances of Blast Plate and the matter resistances of Ceralloy.
5. REGEN: The current algorithm undercounts regen and decay. What are the proper values? Does anyone have any suggestions? V10 powered armor regens at 10% the rate of a level 4 shield and consumes 60% of the power (with 4 segments).
Regen serves two different roles, depending on whether it is great enough to be relevant in combat.

Low/any regen(roughly equal to what is provided by a patcher arm) serves as a cost modifier. Find a value roughly equal to what the player is expected to save on armor repairs, and subtract ~1.2x that from the cost of the armor in balance calculations. This can be considered 50% of repair costs over the lifespan of the armor for very low regen values, and 100% of repair costs otherwise.

If regeneration is significant enough to be relevant in combat, then add ~1.2x the health restored over the course of the average dangerous engagement to the armor's health in balance calculations, on top of the previous modification.

Armor regen also makes the player all but invincible if he sits atop planets and stars, but that's a larger issue.

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Xephyr » Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:17 pm

Regen and decay are both really underpowered.

Transuranic is trivial to keep at full HP, with a slotless item you find in the same place as the armor.

Meanwhile, regenerative armors like Duralloy are pointless to use because they regenerate so slowly. Regenerative armors that draw power/use a device are a little better (novaya is probably properly balanced) but otherwise don't provide enough of an advantage to alter balance at all.
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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Shrike » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:21 am

Just to echo the armor mass thing: This is a critical area for rebalancing. Mass really doesn't matter right now.
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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by george moromisato » Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:34 pm

One solution to the armor mass issue is to have ships lose max-speed as well as maneuverability.

E.g., the Sapphire might start to lose max-speed (slightly) on any armor above 3 tons. At 6 tons, its max-speed would drop by maybe 3 points (speed = 0.17c). Of course, drive upgrades would increase that, but you'd always be 3 points down (or whatever).

Conversely, maybe the freighter starts out with heavy armor and stripping it down can increase its speed.

The Wolfen (with those big engines) would be designed to handle relatively heavy armor (maybe up to 5 tons) and not lose any speed.

We can play with the number until we get a reasonable balance.

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Derakon » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:21 pm

george moromisato wrote:
Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:34 pm
One solution to the armor mass issue is to have ships lose max-speed as well as maneuverability.
Can we have the dockscreen show the impact that a given piece of armor will have on the ship's maneuverability, alongside the other stats the armor shows? Something like

Heavy Blast Plate
7 tons 180 HP
max speed -.02c per segment; turn rate -1rad/sec per segment; accel -.05c/s^2
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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by giantcabbage » Thu Mar 30, 2017 5:36 pm

george moromisato wrote:
Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:34 pm
One solution to the armor mass issue is to have ships lose max-speed as well as maneuverability.
I think it would be more intuitive if the ships maneuverability and max-speed were based on total mass (hull + armor + devices + cargo). I’m guessing that turn-rate and acceleration already depend on total mass, but most ships can reach max-speed so quickly I hardly ever worry about the penalty.

e.g. have max-speed = min( default-max-speed, f(accell) )
where f could be a simple a linear function, square-root etc. (maybe have a lower limit on speed too)

The Wolfen with the high engine output would be fine with heavy armor. Or depending on the upper limit for speed could become very fast with light armor.
The freighter could gain some speed by switching to lighter armor (but not too much as the hull + cargo will generally weigh more than the armor)

This could allow some extra gameplay options - e.g. if a freighter is attacked by pirates the player could try jettisoning those 100 tons of titanium ore or other junk and escape

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Derakon » Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:16 pm

giantcabbage wrote:
Thu Mar 30, 2017 5:36 pm
The Wolfen with the high engine output would be fine with heavy armor. Or depending on the upper limit for speed could become very fast with light armor.
The freighter could gain some speed by switching to lighter armor (but not too much as the hull + cargo will generally weigh more than the armor)
I think this is backwards. The Wolfen's engine is designed to move a light chassis around quite quickly, while the EI500's engine is designed to move a very heavy chassis around rather slowly. If you add the same amount of mass to both ships, the Wolfen will experience a comparatively larger drop in performance. Remember, F = ma; for a constant force, if you increase mass, you get less acceleration. The Wolfen gets great performance not because it has a more powerful engine than the EI500 does, but because it's so much lighter. The EI500 must have a more powerful engine (like a Mack truck compared to the Wolfen's sports car), but it's slower because it's burdened by so much extra mass.

So maybe do something like, "max load" for a ship is defined as whatever causes its baseline performance to be cut in half, the Wolfen weighs 50 tons when empty, and the EI500 weighs 500 tons when empty. So the max load for the Wolfen would be 100 tons (double the mass = halve the performance), while the max load for the EI500 would be 1000 tons.

The fact that the Wolfen currently can support heavier armor than the EI500 doesn't really make much sense to me. You could maybe explain it as heavy armors requiring a hull that has additional mounting points to secure the armor to the hull, and the Wolfen has these while the EI500 doesn't...but without such an explanation, just in terms of simple physics, there's nothing that says the EI500 should be worse at mounting armor than the Wolfen.

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Xephyr » Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:28 pm

Derakon wrote:
Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:16 pm
The fact that the Wolfen currently can support heavier armor than the EI500 doesn't really make much sense to me.
The Wolfen can't, though... Wolfen's max armor is 12 tons while the EI500's is 20.

And I do think that the wolfen's engines are more powerful than the EI's. Running with the horsepower analogy, A Western Star 6900 truck has about 500 horsepower, which most modern sports cars can match easily. The difference is that a big rig is engineered for hauling loads (and definitely not turning fast) while sports cars are built for speed.
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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by Derakon » Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:30 pm

Xephyr wrote:
Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:28 pm
The Wolfen can't, though... Wolfen's max armor is 12 tons while the EI500's is 20.
Whoops, this is what I get for operating from memory. I never liked playing the EI500 due to the single weapon mount so my memory of its stats are fuzzy. :)

Regarding the actual power of sports cars vs. trucks, I guess my question is, how much torque can the vehicle apply? Put another way, what would happen if you stuck a trailer onto your sports car and loaded it up with a couple tons of stuff? How would its actual performance compare to that of a vehicle purpose-built for hauling? My (largely uneducated) intuition is that the purpose-built vehicle would cope much better with a heavy load.

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by JohnBWatson » Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:50 pm

Focusing on cargo is realistic, but isn't as good for gameplay, in my opinion. Having freighters handle heavier armor better than gunships feels right - large ships should suffer less from mounting heavier armor segments rather than more.

This also elegantly solves the issue of armor mass being negligible relative to total hull, cargo, and device mass. As we see right now, the effect of armor on stats based on total mass is minimal.
Last edited by JohnBWatson on Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Armor balance discussion

Post by PM » Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:51 pm

Mass does affect ship agility. Too much mass from installed devices/armor and stuff in cargo makes ships more sluggish. Modern versions that decoupled turn rate from number of facings, plus Wolfen gaining more turn speed (it used to be 9 with forty facings, now it is 12, and it feels good), made it more forgiving. Old versions, if you were Sapphire or Wolfen, total extra mass (from armor, devices, and what is in cargo hold) exceeding somewhere in the high-60s made those two as sluggish as the EI500, while EI500 and heavier ships were largely unaffected. Today, it might take much more mass than before to severely weigh down ships. I am not sure how much mass lighter gunships can take before getting slowed down too much. Also, it could be that getting weighed down simply slows acceleration speed, not maximum speed. If so, even an overburdened gunship might be able to spin fast enough after a brief delay, instead of simply turning slower as in old versions.
george moromisato wrote:One solution to the armor mass issue is to have ships lose max-speed as well as maneuverability.
This is part of the reason why heavy armor is useless. My gunships with heavy armor are a bit more sluggish for marginally more hp. My EI500 might desperately need a bigger engine sooner before acceleration becomes intolerably long. I do not think marginally more hp is worth the speed loss.

If heavy armor slows down the playership either through excess mass or inherent armor property, I do not think I would ever use them, unless the armor is overpowered otherwise. (Somewhat more hp alone is not enough.) I do not even think about equipping Grome armor in VotG because of the speed penalty. All it is good for is selling for a quick buck.

Nearly all armor is five tons or less, which makes mass limits mostly meaningless for playerships. The one time armor mass is meaningful is when equipping autons via auton bay, because mid-level and high-level armor start exceeding mass limits autons have, which is four tons (for the best autons) or less.
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