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Old November 30th, 2010, 09:03 AM

ExplorerBob ExplorerBob is offline
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Default Missiles and point-defense

Read this post only if you're comfortable with the possibility that it might ruin your Weird Worlds experience, reveal a major, ongoing problem in virtually every mod's balance, and make the game way too easy for you.

---

Anyone who's played Odd Adventures knows of how I've tried to make missiles more powerful and useful. I removed point-defense guns, like the neptunium railgun, with the goal of bringing them up to par with other weapons.

However, I've discovered that this is in vain, and 003 will require an even more comprehensive rebalancing, aimed towards increasing the durability of long-ranged attacks.

Even though your weapons do not automatically target the missiles, they're still vulnerable to your attacks. By specially firing weapons in the missiles' vicinity, it's possible to use any weapon as a counter-missile gun, from chaingun to laser beam to tachyon beam.

This defense renders most, if not all missile attacks futile. If you want proof, do the following test in the simulator (I did this in Odd Adventures, but the trick should work just as well in stock and other mods):

Put four (4) Tan Ru Demolishers or Decimators in your personal fleet. Make an enemy Tchorak fleet of one Vent Mother, two Crust Busters, and two Lava Pods. Once in the battle, order your Tan Ru square to stay still and fire their weapons at the Tchorak fleet. Fire weapons at incoming missiles if they're outside your normal firing angles. The Tan Ru square formation should stay intact and shoot down all Tchorak missiles, allowing you to gain the edge in close-range combat.

This tactic can even be successfully employed by smaller craft. A Zorg fighter with its stock plasma blaster can hold off two Lava Pods' missiles, long enough for a ship the speed of a Terran Corvette to leave the battle.

In short, even when beefed up, existing missiles are still useless against a skilled player. Thus it is necessary to increase the effectiveness of missiles even further, to render them more proof against this type of defense, and make them a viable option for humans and AI alike.

The question now is how missiles can be improved to negate this as a problem.

The simplest, and most direct change is to try to improve their basic durability. Unfortunately, as I haven't experimented much with point-defense yet, I don't know how this could be achieved. Even if it could be done, though, it isn't necessarily a desirable effect; it could result in missiles being as tough, or tougher than fighters, capable of soaking up unrealistic amounts of damage. It might become possible to use missiles as shields to stop incoming fire, and that would be just as bad as how it is now, unless it was specifically intended to work that way.

A more reasonable idea would be to increase the missile reload rate, so that they swarm over a ship, and it would become more difficult to prevent missile strikes. This is probably a good idea and would be advisable in any case, but with fast-firing beam weapons I'm not sure how effective it would be.

Likewise, you could improve missile speed, so that you have less time to ward off strikes before they hit. That's also probably a good idea, but it won't solve the problem in itself, and it could create other problems with evading missiles.

Missiles could simply be made unshootable, but that eliminates the reason neptunium railguns and the Tchorak defense weapons have to exist. While I will make that change if it turns out that there's no other choice, I think that eliminating diversity in the game should probably be a last resort option, and should be considered only after we've eliminated every other option.

In short, we face a difficult problem here, and it will take some thought to consider how it can be adequately solved. I appreciate your input into this process and hope we can quickly resolve this situation for an improved Odd Adventures 003, and an improved Weird Worlds game.

Last edited by ExplorerBob; November 30th, 2010 at 09:06 AM.. Reason: To prevent spoilers
  #2  
Old November 30th, 2010, 11:40 AM

sgqwonkian sgqwonkian is offline
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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

In Drives'R'Us, I cranked up the damage of the missiles pretty significantly. Then, when I recalculated all the costs, I also included a penalty / price break on anything that could be shot down.

For example:
Fission Missile in the default game: COST 126, DAMG 1800
Fission Missile in Drives'R'Us 4.0: COST 100, DAMG 3000

So it's about 25% "cheaper", yet does nearly twice as much damage (enough to knock out a fully-charged Electron Matrix Shield and still get 1/3 of it's damage through to the hull).

It's still kinda rare that a missile gets through, but when it happens it can really wreck you. So, point defense becomes a lot more important... and thus I increased the COST on the point defense weapons. One of my stated goals with Drives'R'Us was to make the COST values (and thus the coin/star ratings) on the weapons indicative of their potency, and largely I feel I achieved that.

However, you made a compelling argument that there's still plenty of non-point-defense ways to take out missiles. Clearly the missiles are much better against the aliens/AI than against a skilled human player. Off the top of my head I can't recall if I took the potential "point-defense like" qualities of a continual-beam energy weapon into account when I set the pricing on them, either. I'd have to go dig through my notes.

Hmm... this may provoke another round of playtesting, equation tweaking, and COST rebalancing. I'll think about it for a day or two, but this topic of conversation may (may) inspire a version 4.1.
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  #3  
Old November 30th, 2010, 11:50 AM

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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

Another thought related to your post:

Look at the SIZE rating on missile projectiles down in the weapon data blocks. (This is the second or subsequent SIZE line, for example on the fission missile, I'm talking about the "SIZE 11" line, not the "SIZE 2" line that's well above it.)

Rather than having "hit points" or otherwise tracking damage to the missile, a missile is automatically destroyed by any weapon that strikes a circle whose dimensions are defined by that SIZE entry. (I think the SIZE entry is a radius measurement from the middle of the projectile.)

Reducing the number there will make it harder on point-defense, and greatly reduce the chance of accidental collisions. I suspect (but have not tested) that if you set all missile SIZE entries to 1 or 2, they'd rarely get hit by random debris and unguided projectiles, but still be easy pickings for a good point-def gun with a decent targeting computer. If my instinct is correct there, that may be an easy fix to the problem you're seeking to solve.
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  #4  
Old November 30th, 2010, 11:54 AM

ExplorerBob ExplorerBob is offline
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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

The thing about "shootable" missiles is that you can take them out with *anything*. Just use the "Fire" command, aim in the missiles' direction, and you have one less missile to worry about.

The distinction between point-defense and non-point-defense is really just the distinction between a weapon that automatically fires and one you have to aim. ;-)

What would you think about upping the reload speed on the missiles, and making more/all of them involve MIRVing, or multi-missile attacks? This would require overhauling the multi-missile launcher a bit (since it would no longer be unique), but it might help restore equality to the whole thing.
  #5  
Old November 30th, 2010, 11:55 AM

ExplorerBob ExplorerBob is offline
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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

Brilliant idea; I hadn't thought about it, but I'll look into it immediately.
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Old November 30th, 2010, 12:07 PM

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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

It is possible to reduce projectile weapons' effectiveness, by this method, but that works for projectile weapons in general, including projectile point-defense weapons.

Beam weapons are essentially unaffected; a Tan Ru formation can resist size 1/4 missiles as well as larger ones.

So while lowering SIZE may help with stray fire and random chance, unfortunately, I'm not sure it helps with our manual point-defense problem.
  #7  
Old November 30th, 2010, 01:45 PM

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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

Let me preface this by saying "I agree with you." Let that color my next paragraph or two, and it will sound less trollfull.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ExplorerBob View Post
Beam weapons are essentially unaffected; a Tan Ru formation can resist size 1/4 missiles as well as larger ones.
Is the Tan Ru formation really an issue? I mean, it's not like the player typically has access to 4 micro-meteorite guns and 4 gatling lasers.

Even assuming they do have those weapons, sure that's a win against Tchorak... but they're just one race. That same weapon complement and formation would get ripped up by most carriers or an urluquai ambush. I can't say that I've had much luck using gatling lasers as my main armament.

I'm okay with a rock-paper-scissors relationship where a particular oddball weapon load-out beats some typically potent race(s) but loses to others. Choosing the right weapons for the job (and only picking the rights fights) is part of the game. 4 Tan Ru ships, using a tactic the AI never tries, can beat 1 Tchorak vessel. That doesn't seem like a huge problem to me.

Not that I'm saying your point isn't generally valid, I just don't think it's quite as dire as your initial post reads. I've been using Strange Quark Projectors on anti-missile duty for a long time, and they do it admirably. And yes, in general, this has lead to me feeling the missiles in the main game are all (even the multi-missile) over-priced, because they rarely connect. They are much better on paper than in practice. That's why certain changes were made in Drives'R'Us.

So, really, I agree with your point, and am not sure why I started this post off arguing against it. Oh, well. My next post will be more useful, I hope...
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Last edited by sgqwonkian; November 30th, 2010 at 01:54 PM.. Reason: Realized my post was dumb, antagonistic, and inadvertantly troll-like.
  #8  
Old November 30th, 2010, 01:47 PM

sgqwonkian sgqwonkian is offline
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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

Quote:
Originally Posted by ExplorerBob
The simplest, and most direct change is to try to improve their basic durability. ...

A more reasonable idea would be to increase the missile reload rate, ...

Likewise, you could improve missile speed, ...

Missiles could simply be made unshootable, ...
I think the list of options available to improve missiles is at least:
  • Smaller missiles (fewer random impacts with other projectiles, improved performance against slower point-defense)
  • Faster missiles (less time to react, less time in "kill zone" of point defense)
  • Multi-stage missiles with multiple warheads (like the Multi-missile, some warhead might be missed)
  • Multi-stage missiles that just "jink" to come in at wider angles (like my Ambush missile or Phlagm's superior Zorg missile)
  • Faster reload speeds (like my Jackhammer missiles, has similar advantages to Multi-warhead approach)
  • Higher damage output per missile (so it overwhelms shields if anything gets through)
  • Increased missile range (they'll at least have a shot at hitting sooner, and get a couple more volleys off per battle; but it's of no benefit at overcoming manual anti-missile fire)
  • Unshootable missiles (though as you mentioned this makes point-defense guns irrelevant, and also washes out the "flavor" of being a missile)
  • Decreased cost value of missiles to reflect their poor performance
  • Fewer or rarer point-defense guns (especially removing the default one that all normal Terran player starting ships have)
  • Fewer or rarer energy beams
  • Eliminating energy beams and/or point-defense entirely
  • Longer reload cycles on energy beams (so there'll be gaps in the coverage)
  • Shorter ranges for energy beams
  • Fewer or rarer targeting computers
  • Larger fleets, or more weapons per ship (similar to reload speeds or multi-warhead, it just hopes to provide too much incoming fire to shoot it all down)
  • Better mix of weapon types on AI ships (so formations or commands designed to shoot down missiles might be vulnerable to other weaponry)
  • Disabling the "Fire" button much as you did to the "Retreat" button.

Probably, some mix of the above is needed. I doubt any one change will handle all the potential issues with missiles as they exist now. I've implemented some of the above in my mods already. A few of those ideas I haven't touched on at all though, and some I'm not sure I'd be willing to do unless making a totally new mod based around it.
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Last edited by sgqwonkian; November 30th, 2010 at 01:48 PM.. Reason: added emphasis
  #9  
Old November 30th, 2010, 01:50 PM

ExplorerBob ExplorerBob is offline
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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

Well, to be fair, it's a win against five Tchorak ships, not one. ;-)

That said, though, you might have a point that there are tradeoffs to various weapon systems...it does mean, though, that we have to balance for humans, not AI, if the missiles are so easily defeated.

I'll continue trying to work on a solution to this missile problem, to make it harder to defeat them without a dedicated anti-missile setup, but it may be tricky. In any case, while it is a problem, I admit that, in retrospect, my post might have been a bit dramatic.
  #10  
Old November 30th, 2010, 01:59 PM

sgqwonkian sgqwonkian is offline
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Default Re: Missiles and point-defense

Quote:
Originally Posted by ExplorerBob View Post
Well, to be fair, it's a win against five Tchorak ships, not one. ;-)

FIVE? I missed that. Now I understand why it bothered you so much.

I was picturing a typical Tan Ru fleet vs a typical Tchorak fleet. However, 5 Tchorak losing to 4 Tan Ru is kinda... sad.

Looking back at your first post, and yeah, I see it's really clearly spelled out. I must have been distracted or skimming or something. Yeesh. Sorry about that.
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