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Messages - harrumph

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General Discussion / Re: Piranah vs Broadsword
« on: February 29, 2012, 11:43:20 AM »
I'd rather have one Broadsword wing than one Piranha wing, but there's nothing quite like sending four or five wings of Piranhas after a capital ship all at once. Unless the enemy has a ton of flak, there's no way to stop that many bombs.

Fan Media & Fiction / Re: The Lore Corner
« on: February 29, 2012, 11:41:44 AM »
Hey, I'll bite too.

What was the origin of the Tri-Tachyon Corporation? Were they a pre-Collapse corporation, or were they organized in more recent years? Are they actually mostly about business and profit, or do they cling do the whole corporate structure as a kind of mystical talisman of a bygone age, a way of organizing society in opposition to the Hegemony model?

What are decivilized worlds like? Are they mostly horrible, incompletely terraformed wastelands where people barely survive, or are there relatively hospitable ones where society has stabilized at a pre-Space Age, but still technically civilized stage? Little medieval kingdoms fighting over the ruins of the old Domain?

Suggestions / Fighters, Fleet Points, and Crew Management
« on: February 27, 2012, 09:52:23 PM »
So, first, the usual: hi, I'm new to the forums, got some impressions of 0.5a, got suggestions for future builds, yadda yadda. The game, of course, is amazing—it's incredible how enjoyable, robust, and stable it is at this super-early stage. I liked 0.35, but I've had an absolute blast with the new campaign mode, and I can't wait to see it fleshed out more. I understand that lots of features are implemented only in rudimentary fashion or are still very much in flux (as it were), so I want to focus my critical observations on a few mostly-finished things: the role of fighters in combat, the way fleet points work in combat, and the crew management model. All of them are somewhat interrelated, so I'll just ramble my way through the whole thing.

The campaign, where the player can actually determine fleet composition for the first time, exposes a problem with the way battles unfold. I've seen other people on the forums mention this as though it were common knowledge, so I won't go into great detail, but the concise version, in case anybody wants a thesis to disagree with, is that optimal play in the campaign right now means building a fleet around fast frigates and fighters. In your initial deployment, you send elite-crewed Thunders and Tempests to the most distant objectives and Wasps or whatever else to the rest; back up your Thunders and Tempests with a couple wings of Broadswords, Gladii, or Xiphoi at each objective and you can invariably take four (and often all five) objectives within less than a minute. Strangled by lack of FP, the enemy never even brings his biggest ships into play; a typical battle for me against a big Tri-Tachyon fleet ends with a Paragon and an Astral surrendering, both having gone unused.

Part of the problem is that no AI fleet in the campaign ever has enough fighters and frigates to devote all of its 60+ initial FP (in a big battle) to a rush for objectives, and that might change; players might also enjoy, in the more complete campaign, leading a smaller fleet. Still, some of us are probably going to want to see some hot battleship-on-battleship action in the campaign, at least in one playthrough or another. As it stands, fleets built around slow-moving, high-FP-cost vessels are at a severe disadvantage. A complement of fighters and frigates designed to escort cruisers and capital ships cannot contest objectives against a fleet that has devoted all of its FPs to fighters and fighter-killing frigates (which, for what it's worth, aren't always PD frigates—a Tempest with two pulse lasers and turret mods can't protect a cruiser from torpedoes, but it can chew up fighters all day long). Even if a battleship-focused fleet included 60+ FP worth of fighters and frigates, it'd mean that every battle started with small ships jockeying for control—and that every battle ran the risk of ending at that stage, without bigger ships ever seeing significant action.

I like the idea of establishing fighter superiority and getting benefits from controlling the battlespace, but I think that tying the ability to deploy more ships exclusively to objectives is a problem. Sensor arrays and nav buoys are worthwhile in their own right—if they didn't grant FP (and if comm relays were replaced or reworked), a strong force of fighters and fast frigates would make large warships more effective, rather than marginalizing them. Right now, I can deploy six fighter wings (say, 40 FP worth of Broadswords and Xiphoi) when my opponent has two battleships (40 FP worth of Onslaughts) in reserve and simply prevent the latter from entering the field; with a reworked system, I might choose to field three wings and one battleship against his two, counting on my fighter advantage and subsequent control of the objectives to give my one battleship the range and mobility (and fighter support) to outfight his two. There are many alternative ways FP could be generated: a steady drip (or periodic chunks) over the course of the battle, for instance, or from objectives that only cruiser-class and bigger ships were capable of capturing (which would add value to faster, weaker cruisers like the Falcon and Apogee). They could even remain tied to the present objectives, but require that the objective be held for X amount of time rather than granting points instantly.

If any big change is made to the way FP are accumulated in battle, of course, it'll probably mean rebalancing a few numbers. Given their versatility and ability to control the battlespace, I think fighters and frigates are generally undervalued right now—6 FP for a Tempest in particular is a total bargain (it's even got some hangar space)—but if they're pushed into more of a supporting role rather than being primary combatants in big fleet actions, maybe the numbers will be more appropriate. I do think you might want to take another look, however, whatever else you do, at the FP costs of carriers. Hybrid carriers (the Venture and Odyssey) seem to me to be undervalued—either that, or pure carriers are overpriced. With the Odyssey, for instance, you get literally everything the Condor offers—a flight deck, LRMs (which the Condor maybe isn't even supposed to have?), and decent mobility—plus massive additional firepower and vastly superior survivability, which, since it allows the Odyssey to operate at or near the front lines, offers the hard-to-quantify value of getting fighters and bombers repaired, rearmed, and back into the action much faster. At the same time, the Odyssey has very similar stats to the Aurora (better armor, tougher hull, smaller but more efficient shield) with vastly superior weapons and such a generous OP allotment that you can mod it to almost eliminate the Aurora's one big advantage (speed) without sacrificing anything. So it gives you everything the Condor gives you, plus everything the Aurora gives you, plus, say, a tachyon lance to starboard and a vicious laser broadside to port, and it costs a whopping one 1 FP more than the Aurora? God, I love the Odyssey. What was I talking about? Maybe the Condor, Gemini, and Astral should be cheaper, I guess, because I definitely don't want the Odyssey to change in any way.

Anyhow, the Odyssey is a decent way to introduce my last point. Let's say I have 55 elite crew and 145 veterans (and several hundred regulars). I can put them all into my Odyssey, bumping its level from regular up to veteran, or I can put them into frigates—four elite Tempests and ten veteran Wolves, for example. Even setting aside the particular advantage that I gain from conferring a 10% speed boost on those Tempests (as discussed above regarding objectives etc.), this is wildly unbalanced. I've got 24 FP worth of elite frigates and 50 FP worth of veteran frigates, using the same crew that'd give me 18 FP worth of veteran battlecruiser. Kill just one of those guys, and the Odyssey is back down to regular level. I get that high-tech ships require fewer crew, and that that's part of their appeal. That bigger ships are prohibitively difficult to level up, however, and that the player is strongly disincentivized from doing so, means that the system is flawed, and I think that a little more analysis shows it to be broken entirely.

If you think about the actual processes that the crew system is modelling, I think you can see the heart of the problem. It's twofold, really: first, as somebody mentioned in Alex's blog post about crew management, interchangeability of crew between a fighter wing and a battlecruiser doesn't really make sense. If you're an elite fire control officer on an Odyssey (or, to pick a sillier example, an outstanding cook, or maybe a really good doctor), it doesn't stand to reason that your skills will transfer into a Thunder. Second, the way XP is distributed in Starfarer right now doesn't make any real-world sense. You win a battle, you get a few hundred or a few thousand XP, and all of it goes to one, or five, or fifteen of your hundreds or thousands of crewmembers. In "reality," if a Thunder wing and an Odyssey went through a battle together, all three Broadsword pilots and all four hundred Odyssey crewmembers would learn from the experience. Each man or woman, individually, would gain experience and, individually, grow closer to being a veteran. In the game, instead, hundreds of people learn nothing at all, but one fire control officer, two cooks, and the ship's surgeon suddenly become vastly more skilled. Also, they know how to pilot fighters. This is lucky, because my average three-man Thunder wing loses four pilots per battle. Thus, interchangeability combines with overspecific experience distribution to create the ridiculous situation in which my fighter pilots, despite getting slaughtered day in and day out, remain the crème de la crème, while my battlecruiser crews, despite seeing a fair amount of action and never suffering any casualties, remain stubbornly mediocre.

I know Alex has put a lot of thought into the crew system (more than I have, I'm sure), but I just can't find a way to like it. Beyond the major problem detailed above, there's lots of smaller stuff that bugs me—not being able to mix veteran and regular crew in each ship is annoying, having to transfer command in every battle if you don't have any veterans to crew your intended flagship (but do have enough for a frigate or several) is annoying, buying and selling human beings is weird and kind of, uh, slavery-ish. I don't have any sure-fire solutions to replace the current system, but I do have a few suggestions. To a traditional system that models experience on a ship-by-ship basis, you could add experience loss—if a ship suffers casualties, the dead are replaced by inexperienced crewmembers (which prevents you from getting into a situation in which every ship in your fleet is elite and experience is rendered relatively meaningless)—and allow surviving crew from scrapped (or sold) ships to be transferred to ships of like types, boosting the effective level of the receiving ship. You could also, perhaps in addition to a per-ship XP system, collapse officers and crew into a single "personnel" category—in addition to captains and wing commanders (for ships and fighters, respectively), the player could assign special crew members to ships. They would provide narrower bonuses than commanding officers, but they'd add an element of human interest to the crew and offer things that hull mods don't. Maybe a medic on one of your ships distinguishes himself in action, and henceforth whichever ship he's assigned to takes 20% fewer casualties when hull damage occurs, or maybe you hire a quartermaster who can squeeze a few extra OP out of whichever ship you put her in. Obviously then you have to figure out how to keep the player from acquiring dozens of special personnel and filling every ship with them, but I think something of the sort is already in the works for officers.

One last thing: assuming crew experience stays in the game in some form, I think the roles of the Wasp and the Talon should be switched. The Wasp is a strong combatant, consistently able to defeat bombers, most (non-Xyphos) fighters, and some frigates. The only thing I've ever seen a Talon wing beat one-on-one was a Dagger wing—even Piranhas send them packing. As it stands, there's no sense investing experienced crew in the Talon; you're likely to lose them all. I'd like to see the top-tier interceptor be human-crewed and worth caring about, and the cheap throwaway wing best used for capping objectives be unmanned drones (although I guess that might not fit perfectly with the lore and the tech hierarchy).

Anyhow, I've been at this way too long and have probably written way too much. Hope there's something in there that's good food for thought for someone!

General Discussion / Re: The Last Hurrah and Predator or Prey?
« on: February 27, 2012, 04:43:58 PM »
I've beaten Predator or Prey twice in 0.5a, first in a totally Pyrrhic victory where I lost every ship but the Shogun, and then in a slightly less abysmal one where my carrier and a Broadsword wing also survived. I honestly think, though, that (no offense, Alex) it's the worst-designed mission in the game. There's little the player can do to influence the outcome of the initial fight, so it's mostly down to luck. Deploy your cruiser first, then wait a beat and deploy the rest of your ships (if you deploy all at the outset, you come in behind the Condor and will probably lose a fighter wing or two before you even have a chance to fire your guns). Order an assault on the closest objective (keeping all your ships together until you've knocked out at least some of their bombers and frigates really is essential), set up a carrier group rally point farther back, and hope for the best.

Can't remember what I did in Last Hurrah that worked so well, though, sorry. And Dire Straits, yikes. Has anybody beaten that in 0.5a? In a half-dozen tries, I haven't even gotten ONE civilian ship safely off the map.

General Discussion / Re: Ship Naming!
« on: February 27, 2012, 03:27:47 PM »
I've been giving all my ships weird old-timey names, mostly after officers from the American Civil War:

Wager Swayne
Savvy Read
Felix Zollicoffer
John Witcher
Sally Archer
Manning Force
Bushrod Johnson
Thomas Moonlight
Strong Vincent
Victor Vifquain
and my personal favorite, Zealous Tower

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