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Thread: 2.2 Update: Combat Balance Adjustments [UPDATED]

  1. Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread. #1
    Programmer- Elite: Dangerous Frontier Employee Mark Allen's Avatar

    2.2 Update: Combat Balance Adjustments [UPDATED]

    Greetings Commanders!

    The next release we're currently working towards is a 2.2 update which will be arriving soon, along with a short beta.

    We wanted to take the time to discuss the changes we're making to give you folk a heads up, and explain our thinking a little. We've separated the various changes out into their own posts to keep the feedback channel nice and clean. Mark and I will hopefully be able to jump in to answer follow up questions.

    So have a read and feel free to discuss in the threads, your feedback will be greatly appreciated.

    We have some changes to make based in initial feedback before beta arrives, changes have been updated on this post in blue. More changes will likely appear once players have their hands on these proposals

    General Combat Balance

    We'd like to continue the process of combat balancing based on feedback from 2.2 and watching how things have evolved since. Sandro, Mike & I have been discussing some quite extensive changes that we'd like to share before the beta goes live and let people chew on what might be coming. These suggestions aren't final until they've been tested in fire! Our primary goal has been making a lot more loadout choices viable for a combat ship. There is a small change to gimballed weapons that mean they need slightly more skill to use at full efficiency, the rest of these changes are about rewarding player for successful use of the more difficult weapons, or about opening up new options.

    Comments from me in Italic are explaining the rationale behind each set of changes.

    Fixed vs Gimbal Weapons:
    We think there’s still too big a gap between fixed and gimballed weapons – fixed weapons do have a substantially higher damage in most cases, but this isn’t offsetting the current benefit to time-on-target the gimbals provide. We’d like to make the choice between these two more interesting, but without making the raw damage gap wider. To do this we’re looking at giving fixed weapons improvements to efficiency and their ability to sustain fire, and making gimbals less of a guarantee to hit – they will still perform the intended job of levelling the playing field a little for new players or those using less accurate control systems, but do so in a hopefully more interesting way and to a slightly lesser extent.
    • Increase Clip sizes for all fixed Multicannons to 100 (from 90).
    • Clean up reload time for all fixed multicannons, it is now 4 for fixed and 5 for gimbals.
    • Clip size for all fixed cannons increased to 6 from 5.
    • Reload time for all fixed cannons reduced to 3 from 4.
    • Increase Ammo reserve sizes for all fixed cannons (100 -> 120).
    • Reduce weapon capacitor drain by 10% for all fixed pulse/burst/beam weapons.
    • Gimbal weapons tracking angle now linked to the ship sensors, and rebalanced.

    In general with a high-end sensor you should have similar gimbal tracking as before, but with the maximum angle reduced from 30 degrees to 22.5 degrees (approximately the same size as the hardpoint HUD ring). With weaker sensors the tracking angle reduces, in a similar way to how distant/cold targets currently reduce this size, in the worst case with the weakest sensors the angle will be slightly more than half of what it is currently. Broken sensors will also disable gimbals - In a future build we’d like to make sensors explicitly targetable, but need more time to think through the ramifications.

    Not wanting to re-ignite the argument massively, but we're going into beta with the changes as proposed. We do definitely need feedback before these changes go live though! To comment a little on the intent of the change - our (and my own) internal testing shows the decrease in PvE kill rate during bounty hunting/CZ is negligible against most targets for a relatively competent pilot (think about how much time you actually spend with the target right on the edge of your tracking arc and unable to bring it closer?), but this does make them harder to use in PvP and against abnormally evasive NPCs.

    We really do think this one needs to be tried to be fairly evaluated.

    For a more in depth explanation of the size of these changes, see my post deeper in this thread:

    Defending modules:
    We want players to have a little more choices available to defend their modules once shields are down, and reduce the reliance on a shield-heavy metagame.
    • Add Module Defence Packs purchasable in outfitting.

    These modules are a lot like Hull Reinforcement Packs, but provide no hull health and instead act to protect modules. Each Module Defence Pack has two key stats: what percentage of damage it can absorb, and its own health. When weapon damage would hit a module the defence pack will absorb a portion of that damage to its own health pool, until it becomes broken and no longer functions. Multiple Module Defence Packs will apply multiplicatively (so two 60% absorption packs will absorb a total of 84% of damage (1-0.4*0.4). However they will only protect against direct damage that penetrates the hull, and cannot help against indirect sources like emergency drops or heat. These packs can be repaired by AFMs. Hardpoints only receive half protection from these modules.

    We’re hoping that this addition gives people a way of defending their key modules once shields are down, and continue the fight past this point. It’ll be interesting to see if this opens up options in the meta that move away from relying on titanic shields and fleeing as soon as they burst.

    These weapons are relatively powerful, but generally not enough to offset their current downsides. They’re also one of the weapons that have the highest difficulty to use when fixed rather than gimballed, so we’d like to reward players that can do so successfully a little more.
    • As mentioned in Fixed vs Gimbal Weapons, all fixed cannons have increased clip size, reload time and ammo reserve. These changes work out to an 8% sustained DPS boost.
    • All Gimbal/Turreted Cannon damage increased by 15%.
    • All Fixed Cannon damage increased by 25%.

    Plasma Accelerators:
    These weapons have many of the same drawbacks as cannons, with the added cost that they are very power hungry and hot. Rather than just buffing them to be “hot purple cannons” we’d like to carve out a distinct role for these powerful weapons – breaking through the heavy damage resistance of tough engineered vessels.
    The Buff here was probably a bit too large, the calculations for how big a penalty the switch to Absolute damage would be for non-engineered targets was done with some changes to shield resistance in mind (which we've since decided aren't a good idea), and not updated correctly. This is still a buff in all cases (of 16% sustained DPS in the smallest case), but it's baseline damage isn't high enough to make it a clear choice over alternatives against all targets.

    • Plasma Accelerators now have access to the Plasma Slug special effect, which allows them to consume fuel rather than ammo.
    • Reload time for all plasma accelerators has been reduced to 6 seconds from 8. Which is about an 11% increase to sustained DPS.
    • All Plasma Accelerator damage increased by 35%.
    • All Plasma Accelerator damage increased by 10%.
    • Plasma Accelerators now totally ignore damage resistances and deal Absolute damage.

    These changes relate to each other: against stock ships, switching to Absolute damage is a penalty that offsets the damage buff a bit. Against heavily hardened ships it is a huge win. In practice we expect this to work out to between a 15% and 250% (yes, 250%) 200% damage buff depending on your target, with the upper end requiring massive damage resistance from multiple engineered defences. Note that ignoring damage resistances means that any kinetic/thermal/explosive multipliers are ignored, but currently damage resistance from SYS pips still applies, this is under consideration.

    Beam vs Burst Lasers:
    At the moment these two weapons fill a similar role in a lot of ways. Beams see a fair amount of use but there is not a clear reason for people to choose burst laser. We’d like to adjust the trio of Pulse/Burst/Beam so that there is a clear choice that leads to each weapon: Pulse is the efficient compromise, Burst is the most efficient at turning WEP energy into damage but requires a lot of reactor power and increases heat, Beam generates substantially the most DPS, but drains WEP heavily and generates the most heat.
    • As mentioned in Fixed vs Gimbal Weapons, all fixed pulse/burst/beam weapons have 10% reduced draw from the WEP capacitor.
    • Reduce main reactor power requirements of Beam weapons (10%).
    • Reduce WEP draw of burst weapons by 15%, (fixed get both buffs and have a total reduction of 23.5%). Burst lasers are now the most Damage-per-Energy efficient of these three weapons.

    A few people are validly concerned that the efficiency boost to burst lasers makes them a new de-facto choice over pulse lasers, which while they do need a buff isn't the intent. For now we're not making changes but are keeping an eye on it and would appreciate feedback when you get access. One compromise might be to give them near-equivalent efficiency but leave the burst laser as a trade of slightly more damage for substantially more heat/power.

    These weapons are punished too heavily by ECM at the moment. We’re going to make a focused change and see how things settle before further adjustments.
    • Rather than ECM permanently breaking a torpedo’s guidance, it will now lose tracking for (2-8 seconds) and then re-acquire a target. ECM will buy you time, but it won’t stop the danger by itself.

    Slugshots: Frag Cannons
    Slugshots: Frag Cannons have immense burst DPS until their clip runs dry, but were not pulling their weight in most combat situations. Their current incarnation has lead to them being used by a very small number of people, and most commonly in ambush/griefing attacks. We’d like to make them more widely useful without losing their distinguishing traits.
    • Slugshots: Frag Cannons all have their reload time reduced to 2.5 seconds from 5 seconds.
    • Slugshots: Frag Cannons all have their armour piercing reduced (to 15/25/35 for Small/Medium/Large, from 20/35/52)
    • Slugshot: Frag Cannon ammo capacity increase from 90 to 180.

    The Effect of this is that their burst DPS against shields is unaffected, but because of the reduced armour piercing they lose a fair bit of burst damage against hull, which should reduce the “one-shotting” nature they can have, while retaining full damage against shields. The reload time reduction gives them an 85% increase to sustained damage, and doubling their reserve means they can keep this up for longer. Slugshots: Frag Cannons are now one of the highest raw DPS weapons available - offset by their short range, the difficulty of hitting small targets with multiple projectiles and their reduced ability to damage hulls.

    These weapons are very under-used at the moment, but we’re holding off on changes to them until we see how related changes take effect. Already in this build the Module Defence Packs will likely increase the reliance on hull and make module sniping more useful, and changes to NPC accuracy with railguns should make them less uncannily good with them. Our best guess is that they need a heat reduction, and the ability to pierce all or some of the absorption of Module Defence Packs, but this will be considered later.

    Missiles feel like they need some improvements again, but as with railguns, we need to see how things settle again before changing things further – they could be extremely powerful if hull-tanking becomes more common.

    Reboot/Repair and Shields:
    We’re making a change to reboot/repair and how it interacts with shields - primarily as an experiment to see how it reduces downtime between combats, especially for ships with very large shields.
    We agree there are potential in-combat abuses of this generally by faster ships FA-OFF boosting and then repairing, so we're making a small tweak to how this process works. Reboot/repair still behaves as normal, if you're near-stationary (below 50 m/s) when the process completes you'll get your shields back, if you're moving too fast this will disrupt the process and you'll be left shieldless.
    • Reboot/Repair will now jump-start shields to 50% on completion, if moving slowly.

    Full patch notes on other related changes will be available nearer the time.

    Fly safe Commanders

  2. #2
    Excellent stuff!

  3. #3
    Three big area's being worked on! Yahoo

    Go FDev!

    I like the idea about boosting shields via reboot, I often get into situations where this is greatly needed, vs the trade-off of lack of manoeuvrability

  4. #4
    You mind if i just repost my post from 2.1 beta discussion (again )? It wasn't answered then, but since you say you want to talk about torps again...

    So, torpedoes. Let me try and sum on my thoughts.

    Situation right now: there are basically three kinds of torpedoes.

    1. Basic torps, missiles but worse (take out external modules but fly too slow and have ammo that is too low)
    2. Reverb cascade, 35% damage to shield generator, must have for torpedo boat because there's no other way to damage ship itself without them
    3. Penetration munitions, the only hope for actually killing properly armoured ship with torpdoes, can damage internal modules (target PP and pray)

    Torpedoes have several counters:

    1. High speed - well, torpedoes are really small, most ships can just outrun them, and then their turning is bad so most ships can just outturn them, even unknowingly. There's speed inheritance but it really stops working after 3 sec or so.
    2. PDT - it takes around 21 seconds for one pdt to kill one torpedo so that's not too bad, but if you mount a few and then fly away, no torpedo will touch you even if your relative speed difference is just 100 m/s
    3. ECM - not only does it screw tracking but also makes torpdoes "drunk" now, veering them off course
    4. Staying close - well, torpedoes require time to arm itself, so if you just stay close to the enemy, he can't hit you with torps for damage

    All in all, torpedoes seem to be bad right now. How do we make them useful? There are several ways to do it, in any combination:

    0. Make tracking depend on external radar (that is, yours). Make it track better and fly faster if you have 7A scanner and wander around aimlessly and hitting you at 7F.
    1. Get rid of priming up time allowing for close range attacks
    2. Increase speed OR increase speed inheritance, allowing for longer range fast attacks
    3. Improve turning speed
    4. Add Huge and Large torpedo tubes with more ammo, allowing for second chances and more damage in total, OR
    5. Add Huge and Large torpedo tubes with better torpedoes that fly faster, turn faster or damage harder. Or whatever. Let them have more fuel and hitpoints.
    6. Remove ECM making them drunk / Allow for tracking reaquiring as long as you keep target targeted and in LOS / add some kind of KWS-like thing that lets you retarget torps if you aim at some ship and fire it up
    7. Introduce RNG or differences in ECM work, such as: smaller torps have higher chance of being affected by ECM while bigger torps are affected by it less. Make it a battle between radar and ECM. Make it rely on thermal signature. Make us do something that requires skill and allows for fun.
    8. Work on "incoming missiles" (or whatever it says, i can't rmeember) alert a bit - make the range of it dependent on distance, time, speed, position, etc.
    9. Drop the whole reverb thing and just let torps damage hull directly, ignoring shield, like the new hatchbreakers do. Think Battlefleet Gothic
    10. Allow for tracking assist on torpedoes by pilot/crewmember (and in future - by humans via multicrew) via telepresense, give the ability to aim the "pack leader" torpedo like modern AGTM can have


    Also, reading you changelog makes me warm and fuzzy inside. So many good things at once, it's neat.

  5. #5
    This can't come soon enough

  6. #6
    Will these changes affect SLF variants of these weapons to the same degree as they do big ships' guns?

    Will the changes be applied to CQC weapons?

  7. #7
    This is some outstanding stuff! Can I have it yesterday?

  8. #8
    Perhaps I am reading it the wrong way but, in the case of lasers particularly here but things in general, if the player base seems to be doing too much of one thing (weapons, mission types, ship types, whatever) why is the perception by FD that there is a "problem" and things need "fixing"? That the game needs to be steered in the direction you think disregarding the player base.

    Seems like with every patch or update I have to change my play style and ship/ship load outs to accomdate FD's latest mood.

    Yes, some changes are needed but I have to wonder about the directions of game mechanic philosophy here.
    In conclusion having fun or doing "too much" of one thing is not a sin. Seems the players should have some input. Fun is not wrong.

    Again...general statement but the wording used above made me think of it.

  9. #9
    Any changes of the turrets behavior? Considering the gimbal/fixed stuff is modified.

  10. #10
    This is interesting.

    How will this work for NPCs.
    NPC accuracy with fixed weapons has been somewhat over powered earlier. (Not done much combat in 2.2, so not sure what the situation is there).
    If the NPC accuracy remains what it was, then I guess this would be a considerable NPC buff. Might cause some problems, especially in Combat Zones or with NPC wings.

    Further: Mines.
    In 2.1 mines became a great defence weapon for traders against NPC pirates, but they were probably too good and over powered.
    In 2.2 they are more or less back to where they were before and in my opinion not very useful.
    Any plans for changes to mines.

  11. Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread. #11
    Programmer- Elite: Dangerous Frontier Employee Mark Allen's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Huita View Post (Source)
    You mind if i just repost my post from 2.1 beta discussion (again )? It wasn't answered then, but since you say you want to talk about torps again...

    Also, reading you changelog makes me warm and fuzzy inside. So many good things at once, it's neat.
    Warm fuzzy feelings are good .

    About torpedos - I agree they probably need some attention, it's quite hard to look at them in isolation at the moment though as so much is changing around them. There's the possibility for both missiles and torpedoes to become extremely powerful if the metagame shifts to allow hull-tanking to some degree, which our addition of Module Re-enforcement Packs is a step towards. I'll follow this with some musing on what torpedos are meant to be, and a brain dump of some possible changes (disclaimer: this is a stream of consciousness dump, not a promise!):

    - Torpedos are intended to be a severe threat to large ships, primary those that have their shields down.
    - Torpedos should not be unfairly lethal against smaller ships (it's fine to be terrifying if they hit, but should be hard to hit with/easier to defend against).
    - Torpedos should be possible to defend against, but hard to stop entirely.

    - The ECM changes address point 3 to some degree, meaning a torpedo will never stop chasing you until it dies or runs out of fuel (a couple of minutes) but improving their tracking rates or speed isn't out of the question.
    - Removing the arming period allows for some unpleasant point blank ambushes at ranges where defences can't really kick in, but neither is an ideal choice.
    - Large missile/torpedo hardpoints would most likely allow you to carry more, rather than larger.
    - I like the idea of making torpedo damage scale up on large targets, so it can be a threat to them without guaranteeing a one shot on smaller ships, but haven't run it past design yet.

  12. #12
    Although I am very pleased you are thinking hard about the game and certain aspects and I'm happy you are working on it, I'm not convinced this is a critical issue, and there are critical issues that need more urgent attention, I would like to draw FDEV attention to this post!

    This just about sums up all the essential things that would REALLY make a difference to everyone's game.

  13. Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread. #13
    Programmer- Elite: Dangerous Frontier Employee Mark Allen's Avatar
    Originally Posted by wstephenson View Post (Source)
    Will these changes affect SLF variants of these weapons to the same degree as they do big ships' guns?

    Will the changes be applied to CQC weapons?
    These changes are independant of CQC or SLF weapons. there's no reason we couldn't make the same changes there but don't want to upset the balance in CQC without good reason and being able to dedicate more time to testing.

  14. #14
    You know, if you ever have a smart intern at FD towers, it might be interesting to throw a genetic algorithm approach at stat balancing, and select for stable, diverse populations.

  15. #15
    Originally Posted by Mark Allen View Post (Source)
    Fixed vs Gimbal Weapons:
    To do this we’re looking at giving fixed weapons improvements to efficiency and their ability to sustain fire, and making gimbals less of a guarantee to hit – they will still perform the intended job of levelling the playing field a little for new players or those using less accurate control systems, but do so in a hopefully more interesting way and to a slightly lesser extent.
    I guess this is where I should post an apology to all the commanders that I've ragged on in the last three months for saying this.

    I genuinely never though that gimbals were included in the game as basically training wheels for noobs, or people using 'less accurate control systems' but as part of an overall combat mechanic which was based in something other than WW1 era air-to-air combat, by allowing players to use ship positioning more effectively in certain types of combat and being able to attack on a vector other than their ship's direct heading. Clearly I erred in this assumption.

    Perhaps in keeping with the vintage theme, if we ever do get FPS elements to the game I will just be able to open my cockpit and take potshots at a passing Anaconda with my sidearm.

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