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Post Balance Talks P1: Ships
Discussion topic for post: http://www.starsonata.com/blog/balance-talks-p1-ships/


Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:19 pm
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Post Re: Balance Talks P1: Ships
Thanks for sharing this. I have some thoughts. It seems like this is very focused on balancing individual items or balancing “Player Strength” which as you describe it is the general multiplicative effect of the power of a ship/char, taking into account how the main components all affect one another. This seems somewhat irrelevant though if the most basic performance standard balance test fails.

I know you briefly mention at the beginning that the balance sheets aren’t the end all, and maybe you will discuss this more in your continued post, but it seems like a look at the raw strength or power of a class would only be useful if accompanied by a performance standard, even if just a simplistic one.

For example many MMOs I have played which aim for balance seem to have at least a simple performance standard in mind before balancing of any actual stats. I know you talked about ships but given how linked ships are to classes in SS I don’t think you can fully separate the two and you have to consider classes first with a simple test like this:

-Does the class have a unique and valued role in a group PvE setting?
-Does the class have a unique playstyle that is capable of solo’ing reasonable PvE content when a group is unavailable or not practical?
-Is the class useful in a unique way in PvP, either solo or group?

The reason this is important is because if every class can say yes to all three of these questions, then there isn't as much need for perfection with the balance sheets or player strength, which having played SS for awhile now seems like a never ending no-win process. Classic MMOs with the trifecta of tank-healer-DPS can usually say yes to all three of these things. SS fails it though.

For example does it matter if your stats and player strength and overall power is equal to another if you are a Seer and fail the first two questions and really have no role outside of pirating and pvp?

Would it matter if two classes are greatly unbalanced from one other on the balance sheets as long as they can both say yes to the three above questions and provide a valued unique role to each setting? This isn't to suggest that they should have unbalanced stats, but that there is no longer a pressing need to get the numbers so exact and perfect if both classes have a valued role.

The emphasis and need to get this analytical and precise as you are describing in your post only results when initial class balance based on a simple performance standard has failed.

This same concept, slightly modified, can also be applied to ships. For example any ship should AT LEAST be able to say yes to being useful in one of these 3 categories: group PVE, solo PVE, or PVP. Right now some do, while others suck at all three (for their tech level and cost) which is why those ships are never used even though devs claim they are balanced. They are balanced on balance sheets only, and that's it. They failed the basic role test, even though they passed the balance sheet test. Every ship of a high tech level that you now rarely see used has this problem (Im talking to you Green Battleships, Prawns now, PBFs, etc).

Conclusion

I am glad the devs take power balancing so seriously and analytically, but it seems that is only useful if the class roles themselves (which are linked to ships) have purpose. Otherwise the balance sheets and player strength concept becomes more of an academic exercise than a practical one and the result is you end up “balancing” ships into obsolescence (PBFs, Prawns, etc) or claiming a class or ship role with no real purpose is in fact balanced due to the balance sheet numbers looking good.

I honestly feel bad for the devs because it seems like a losing never ending battle rife with player conflict to achieve balance of “player strength” through such a purely analytical process with so many variables. There is no need to strain and try this hard though if simple class/ship balance is achieved first. You can be off a bit on the player strength and balance sheet concept at that point and it wouldn't matter as much.

Recommendation: I would recommend incorporation of some form of basic performance standard balance at the class and ship level first. Because if you can achieve that, so much effort trying to balance a near impossible-to-balance player strength is not needed as much.

Example concept:

Achieve class balance through a simple performance standard, each class should be useful in a unique way in: group PVE, solo PVE, and PVP, then ->

Achieve ship balance ensuring that each ship has at least one role it is good at, even if it’s only advantage is cost (for starter ships), then ->

Apply the detailed balance sheet and player strength concept that Ingen laid out to try and achieve good balance at this point, but with no need for perfection since the balance achieved at higher levels already mitigates the need for precision here.

How the current problematic SS process appears (to me at least):

Very little class performance balance is achieved, which then makes ship balance even more important to get right than would otherwise be ->

Ship role balance is achieved sometimes, but often not, and even if it is it is undermined by lack of class balance, which then pushes the importance of getting individual item/aug balance to an unrealistic level ->

All the effort and pressure to get balancing correct is now done at the individual item, aug, or fine tuning of select ship stats since balance at the above two levels has failed fully or partially. So much pressure is then pushed down to this level for balancing that it requires a graduate degree in mathematics to even attempt and makes for a near impossible goal given how many variables need to be adjusted and tweaked just right to achieve "balance" at such a granular level.


Happy Valentine's Day everyone! -DLN


Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:12 pm
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Post Re: Balance Talks P1: Ships
I think the process may be streamlined a little by shifting the weight of power from augmenters to ship stats.

The current meta seems to be very "Got aug / augslots?" biased. While this definitely gives a lot of freedom to customise issues discussed by SWM can arise.

Imo if aug power was reduced by quite a bit then a lot of the guesswork in possible power level could be eliminated: hopefully you could calculate that a player of class X with hull Y would have Z amount of power +- 30%. This is a bit of a simplification I know, for example mods become significantly more powerful with tech level too which isn't something that I personally feel is in the best interest of balance & ease of properly designing content.

I'd like to see the roles players currently aug for used as a general basis for hull stats and augs used to allow for more specialisation within that role rather than aug setup defining if this is worth using at all or not. This would probably require a lot of new ships to be created and possibly some old ones overhauled but hopefully we'd end up with most or all ships in game being more suitable for general use.


Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:33 pm
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Post Re: Balance Talks P1: Ships
Shipmods are already quite weak because they're not affected by Augtweak. This was even more the case before the Augtweak change. As it stands the shipmods don't do much unless it was a negative shipmod (such as -50% RoF). You could conceivably double the stats in all T20+ shipmods and they would stay mostly balanced because of how skewed the balance is in favor of augs over shipmods.


Fri Feb 16, 2018 3:12 am
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Post Re: Balance Talks P1: Ships
dreadlordnaf wrote:
Thanks for sharing this. I have some thoughts. [...]


Thanks for the great response.

You are absolutely right that the end result of the entire balancing process should be ensuring that each class is unique and fun. In fact, I think the entire point of "balance" is to maximize fun.

My blogpost however did not focus on class balance, but the individual parts that flow into it. A ship, or any other item, that is fun to use is great, but there is an important distinction between creating something fun and maximizing fun.

I don't think it's possible to create infallible balance sheets, but while it would be to create a powerful, useful ship, it is very difficult to make sure it does not make ships of the same tier redundant. THAT is where the balance sheet is supposed to offer guidance.
I don't think trying to assign categories to ships works.
I think Sniper is the only class where that really works: The Resistance is mostly used for group content, while the Isvas'ayu is mostly used for solo PvE and PvP. The fact that you can categorize these ships is an emergent property of the ship stats in conjunction with a class playstyle (visible sniper vs stealth) and it is only that obvious in very few cases.
With SD, I think it's much more difficult. Which LF is good in one category, but not in another? For Engineer, I would have imagined that a Voulge is a terrible ship for pvp due to its size, lower speed and lower resistances compared to a KAD, but it's still being used to great effect.

Coming back to "maximizing fun" and your comment about the (pre-nerf) PBF and the (pre-nerf) Prawn:
Both ships are fun and unique, but they had exactly 3 problems:
1) It made any other option nearly obsolete. There was close to no competition (other than, again, the unusually easy distinction of stealth vs visible sniper). If you wanted to support a squad as a sniper, you needed a Prawn, no discussion. Being forced into options is not fun.
2) They were powerspikes in the tech progression. If the Prawn had not been changed, I strongly believe it would still be used today. Progression is fun, being stuck in a ship a tech lower because it's a huge outlier is not.
Of course, it would have been possible to make a T22 Prawn, i.e. HFs with 4 augs, which would address the progression issue, but presents problems on the content front: If the T21 Prawn is magnitudes stronger than T20 alternatives, then content designed for the T20-21 transition would either be incredibly difficult to not be trivialised by Prawns, or become trivial once you have a Prawn. A smooth power progression curve is another concept to maximise fun, having spikes caused by outliers introduces problems that we can't deal with easily.
3) They significantly changed inter-class balance.
Snipers in Prawns were the unrivaled damage dealers on squad runs, which in turn diminishes any other class whose primary contribution is damage. Buffing every other class to compensate rather than addressing an outlier is not viable.


Regarding your example concept: That is in fact how we work, although we usually don't assign roles to ships, but concepts. The Voulge is a massively bulky support freighter, but not restricted to one of 3 areas of activities. We try to offer a variety of focuses for different ships, i.e. speed, stealth, tank, hull, [...] and let people figure out where to use them themselves. In the end, it's not the ship, or the class, or any singular individual item that determines where you shine, but the setup as a whole.

dreadlordnaf wrote:
All the effort and pressure to get balancing correct is now done at the individual item, aug, or fine tuning of select ship stats since balance at the above two levels has failed fully or partially. So much pressure is then pushed down to this level for balancing that it requires a graduate degree in mathematics to even attempt and makes for a near impossible goal given how many variables need to be adjusted and tweaked just right to achieve "balance" at such a granular level.


Balancing with the number of variables that SS has is incredibly difficult, which means the simplest solution to correctly balance content is homogenization and pruning. Since the simple solution would destroy much of what makes the game special, we opt for instead analyzing the components individually and making sure that the components compared to EACHOTHER are acceptable. That is the entire point of the balance sheets.
The sheets, nor any other math, will not create balanced classes. That's where your suggested approach comes in: Setting performance standards and trying to encourage class-specific, unique playstyles. It's bottom-up balancing, while adjusting emergent behaviors to make sure that each class is fun.

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Thu Mar 01, 2018 1:32 pm
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Post Re: Balance Talks P1: Ships
Some generalizations based on overall feel of ships compared to others. This is how a player would recognize things even if the balance sheet doesn't care.

Speed Demon:
Brawler/Dogfighter Ship
Skirmish/Sapper Ship
Stealth Assassin Ship
Vanguard (HF) Ship
Quirky TFoD ship

Seer:
Assassin (DPH) Ship
Skirmisher (DPS) Ship
Minelayer Ship

Berserker:
Classic Berserker (MF5, uses 1200-1400 hull ships, generally DPS)
New Berserker (MF3, uses 800-1000 hull ships, either tank or DPS)
Light Fighter Berserker

Sniper:
Squad Sniper
Solo Sniper

Gunner:
Battleships (RPW, Stratos, Banu)
Cruisers (Antu, KWC, PBF)
Frigates/HF (Zebucart, BPC, actual HF)

FC:
Supercarrier (Vazi, Honey, Comb)
Lightcarrier (Zeus, KAC)
DPS Main Ship (nerfed into oblivion)

ShM:
Heavy Tanky ShM Ship like Rhino and KWD
Light Agile ShM Ship like App Ward and Bhisaj

Engi: (Heavily dependant on drone loadout)
Brick Walls (Voulge, Nikola)
Medium Agility (KAD, Paxes)
Pure Support Build


Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:14 am
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Post Re: Balance Talks P1: Ships
Max235 wrote:
FC:
DPS Main Ship (nerfed into oblivion)


While I have joked about making such a ship for years, was that ever really a competitive thing?


Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:01 am
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Post Re: Balance Talks P1: Ships
dreadlordnaf wrote:
Max235 wrote:
FC:
DPS Main Ship (nerfed into oblivion)


While I have joked about making such a ship for years, was that ever really a competitive thing?


That was actually a thing.

Razon the pirate used it to extreme success against Panther SDs to such a degree that both DM and USA teams were collaborating to get rid of it so they could continue their war without being slaughtered left right and center by some guy half their level and using a much weaker weapon. Razon used a Gigantic Neutronia. Virtually every Panther SD of both teams was taken apart by a level 500 with T16 gear.

Deadbeat was a FC that used it in conjunction with his Helga+ swarm (which he got nerfed too) and able to full solo UZ when everyone else were doing 3-4 man squads of bank zerk/shm/engicapship/extrazerk. He had an emp ray.

The result was that radiation resists on T20 AI doubled or tripled. Ice Picks used to be weak to only radiation, which is why they seem so tanky now if using a pure T20 setup. Panthers and other UZ ships went from 10% resist to 25%.


Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:29 am
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