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Old September 11th, 2010, 03:52 PM

ExplorerBob ExplorerBob is offline
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Default Theory of Combat (WIP; not at *all* pretty to read)

After examining WW and SAIS weapon balance, I have determined that although SAIS has superior balance, in some ways, it is still fundamentally lacking. I have begun working to try to resolve this, by strategic alterations suggested by the product of extreme analysis. This topic contains some of my thoughts regarding this. It is not organized well and is written in a very ugly style, but you may still get some information out of it. It is intended to be a (more or less) pure representation of my thoughts and notes regarding this topic. Consider it to be a long, rambling, "information dump". I may later revise this into a legible document.

Firstly, there are four stages to each battle.

The approach (10-20 seconds): The two ships close into combat range. At the farthest range, neither side can do each other any harm.
Long-range (10 seconds): The very longest-ranged weapons, like Tchorak missiles, can fire at this range (defined as being 601 range and above)
Medium-range (10 seconds): Domain of most missiles and higher-range beam weapons. (350-600)
Short-range (Rest of combat, barring below circumstance): Domain of every short-ranged weapon -- plasma torch, chaingun, plasma blaster, etc.
Ramming range: Your ships collide, almost inevitably resulting in the destruction of one or the other. Lasts very little time when it happens.

The approach time is about as long as the rest of the battle combined -- which makes fighters desirable, just because they open up the fight early and demand more attention than normal capital ship confrontations. I'm curious as to whether missiles would have the same effect.

I have calculated damage per six seconds for most normal weapons, and used it to determine the possible damage that could be done during these times. Here's my sheet of expected damages (it will repeat some of the information listed above).

10-20 seconds: The approach; no shots fired.
Very long-range (Tchorak lava missile): 10 seconds
Expected damage: 1,800 damage
Sum damage (against electron shields): 800 (1,200 nullified)
Half shields left
Mid-range: 10 seconds
Expected damage: 3,500 damage (+1,800) (2,300 damage - 3 hull damage)
Half shields after, plus -3 hull
Close-range: Rest of fight
Expected damage: 10,000 damage (2x, or +2,700/1,800)
Ram: Destroys or disables one of the two ships
Expected damage: 99,999

In short, long-ranged weapons don't seem to be of much help, unless your enemy uses structural gluon shields or other, weaker shields.

Even if they do, this is not a guarantee of damage, since your own weapons may be weaker too, or shorter-ranged. An impaler missile rack can do only a little damage to a structural gluon shield -- 800 damage, then after collision (presumed to be at 6 seconds), you have four seconds of recharge, which brings the shields back up to max!

Against other ships with missiles, this is even more worthless, since there's the possibility the two missiles might collide mid-flight, resulting in no damage.

In effect, impaler missiles are useless against shielded targets, and as-is, should only be employed against fighters, where the direct damage they do can kill targets a moment before they could get close enough to use their guns.

This balance may work fine for impaler missiles, but later missiles, and weapons like the torpedo, are just as effective, proportionately -- that is to say, not at all, against their intended targets, though the damage they do is extreme overkill against fighters.

Most beams are of inferior quality. They require targeting computers to optimize their performance, have scarcely better range than projectile weapons, and do *less* damage.

Case in point:
(These weapon statistics are from Odd Adventures, and may be slightly different than WW stats.)
(I) Chaingun: Rd: 10 / Dmg: 100 / Rng: 250 / Spd: 150
DP600: 6,000
(I) Laser Beam: Rd: 70 / Dmg: 4 / Rng: 300 / Life: 50
DP600: 1,600
(II) Molycone Gun: Rd: 30 / Dmg: 300 / Rng: 300 / Spd: 160
DP600: 6,000
(II) Proton Phasor: Rd: 180 / Dmg: 9 / Rng: 350 / Life: 100
DP600: 2,700
(III) Plasma Blaster: Rd: 50 / Dmg: 500 / Rng: 350 / Spd: 170
DP600: 6,000
(III) Positron Disruptor: Rd: 250 / Dmg: 15 / Rng: 400 / Life: 100
DP600: 3,000
(IV) Tachyon Ray Gun: Rd: 200 / Dmg: 20 / Rng: 500 / Life: 100
DP600: 6,000

The only one of these weapons where you can say, without a doubt, that the beam is better is the Tachyon Ray Gun -- and then, that's only true if you have a mnemonic sequencer (or really a matrix bubble/saurdion optimizer, since the sequencer still leaves a lot of room for error). If you don't, the resulting inaccuracy more than makes up for its instant-hit ability, and it only does about half-damage, at best.

The tachyon ray gun can be classified as a tier IV weapon -- the best projectile gun is a tier III. The graviton disintegrator, a tier V weapon, finally transcends this, at DP600: 10,000, but this is still open to failure with no targeting computer.

In short, beam weapons are unwieldy, clumsy, come with scarcely a better range, and in most cases have a significantly worse damage output than projectile weapons. Their only advantage is their instant-hit ability, but this is negated by beam inaccuracy with no combat computer -- to an even more severe extreme than with low chaingun shot speed. (Note that this does not apply to standard WW -- all the moderate factors in play in SAIS are thrown out the window, and high-speed chainguns decimate everything in their path; the only weapon that's better is the even more overpowered neptunium railgun, and the "elite" weapons -- Nova Cannon, PVC, Multi-Missile Launcher, and Graviton Disintegrator, although the last of these is arguably worse since it relies on a combat computer.)

The game of SAIS is advertised as taking "twenty minutes or less". The average is more commonly considered to be fifteen minutes. I did a calculation of how much time this is, spread out over fifteen or sixteen stars.

This gives us about a minute per star. Stars don't consume that much time in their own right; I estimate it to be about this much:

Ten seconds for each transit (going to another star)
Ten seconds to examine the item and planet
Ten seconds for cargo modification (changing things in your cargo hold)
Five seconds for hardware changes (altering your ship configuration; this is an average of the overall time since half the time there are no changes to be made)

This means that there are thirty-five seconds per star, on average, for eight minutes and 45 seconds. Clearly the remaining time must be filled by space battles.

Thus, we have about six minutes and fifteen seconds of space combat. There are about four or five fleets in the stars, meaning about that many space battles. Thus the time of space battles must be divided 6.25 by 4 or 5, for 1 minute and fifteen seconds per battle.

Since it's possible that there are other factors, or that you may take, say, a minute more time doing hardware/cargo changes on average than listed above, then the combat need only last about a minute per battle, which fits neatly into the stages of combat mentioned above, so this gives us a limit on the changes we can make (we can't make all the weapons dramatically weaker, for instance, or risk a long battle).

I am unsure as to what modifications should be done to ensure balance across all the weapons. It is difficult and highly circumstantial; ideally every weapon should find use, which suggests that some weapons should be tailored to work on some ships. Also ideally there should be a case where every weapon or weapon class is effective, or some niche or role in the game should be adequately filled by that weapon (a gun that is impractical in combat, but valuable because of its advanced technology, may work here).

Probably the best way to start is to try to spread the damage out among the weapon ranges. The current scheme can be estimated at thus, based on the "expected damage" listed above:

Close-range: 2/3rd
Mid-range: 22%
Long-range: 11%

An alternate damage allotment would be:

Long-range: 20%
Mid-range: 30%
Close-range: 50%

This provides more power to "mid/long-range" weapons, while still giving close-range guns their due. You could tinker with the allotment further and make mid-range weapons a 35% category while giving close-range weapons 45% damage potential. Truly long-range weapons shouldn't be very powerful since there are so few of them.

Alternatively, we could tinker with the range of some weapons. It is doubtful this would solve the existing damage problem, though, and even if it did work for beams, it would make missiles even worse. Thus I am disposed to believe that altering the damage of weapons is the best way to go here, but it will take time to work out the solution that's best for the game and the mod.

If you can decipher anything from what I've written here, feel free to leave a note. If you can't, then leave it be. I understand that this won't be useful for everyone; it might be of interest to some, though, and it's a dump of much of the information I've considered so far.

Thanks for your time, and for reading my very poorly-written ramblings,

- Bob

Last edited by ExplorerBob; September 11th, 2010 at 04:00 PM..
 

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