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News: Starsector 0.9a is out! (11/16/18)
 
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1  Starsector / General Discussion / Re: CSV files on: November 09, 2018, 03:40:58 AM
Is there anything Notepad++ can't do?

Don't answer that. I prefer to live with my delusions.
2  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 07, 2018, 10:14:25 PM
Another example would be classic computer RPGs like Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate/II. In those games, you could order your party to rest at any time, restoring hit points and spell uses per day. There was nothing physically preventing people from resting as much as they pleased, so some players would go all-out in every combat encounter, blow all their spells, etc., and just rest after each battle. No doubt some would have considered that the "optimal" way to play. I never did that. I tried to go as long as I possibly could without resting, conserving my spells, and playing as cautiously and tactically as I could, until finally being forced to rest. I knew that resting could be abused, but didn't.

Since some players will apparently abuse any available exploit, J.E. Saywer, project lead of Pillars of Eternity at Obsidian Entertainment, deliberately designed their Baldur's Gate successor with "camping supplies" and other mechanics that limited resting when away from safe zones. I won't delve too deeply into the specifics, but I felt that this decision harmed the overall gameplay and created a new and undesirable meta-game aspect.

Anyway, I just hope that if Alex ever does decide frigates are lacking and in need of a more substantial role in Starsector's endgame, he'll find some good ideas in this thread or another one, regardless of what form those changes take.
3  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 07, 2018, 01:55:35 AM
The issue lies not in late game fleets (which you are correct are basically invulnerable) but in early game contests where a properly tuned, fast player ship can take on huge fleets of frigates and destroyers (and even cruisers).

The problem is the combination of:
a) kiting and grinding the enemy down lets you win fights you otherwise would have no hope of winning without a fast kiting ship. If you can dart in with a wolf and get a single shot in on armor/hull before retreating yourself, you will win without trouble. This is a strategy that lets the player win impossible fights early, catapulting them into the mid and late game. This could be done either purely solo, or with a couple of similar speed tuned flanking buddies.
b) it is an incredibly tedious and boring strategy, once you have the piloting skill. (Its pretty exciting the first time you pull it off, but not the third.)

Yeah, it sounds like it was incredibly tedious and took a long time. It also sounds as though playing the game normally would have required only a somewhat larger time investment—except that the time spent would have been a whole lot more enjoyable, and thus (in my mind) a much better investment overall.

From my point of view, deliberately choosing to spend ten hours being bored and frustrated instead of spending fifteen hours having fun to reach the very same point (the midgame of Starsector, in this case) is incomprehensible. That puts me at a disadvantage in this conversation, and I truly wish that I could understand. That's not meant to be some lame insult; I just don't get it. I'm aware some people are that way, but it's beyond my understanding.

I mean, Starsector is a great game, right? How many other games like Starsector exist out there in this day and age? Why would anyone be in such a hurry to rush through as quickly as possible? Surely you're better off taking your time and enjoying it. It seems to me that many of you equate "best" with "shortest amount of time." Is this game a chore to you? Even if you just want to get to the midgame quickly, there are mods that will get you there in 0 hours. Modding really isn't worse than deliberately exploiting the game, and is much faster.

Trading boring real world time for the best strategy is imo poor gameplay.

That's true, and it's why I wouldn't do it even if it were still possible, nor would I consider it to be the best strategy.

A game's developer need not plug every potential exploit in order for me to recognize which mechanics can be exploited and avoid exploiting them. I consider games a sort of partnership between myself and the developer: They're building me a world, and I'm agreeing to have fun in their world. I have no wish to identify all the ways the game can be broken, and then break it. That isn't a condemnation of people who do like to identify and exploit weaknesses; it's their game, they can and should play it however they enjoy doing so (although, I don't always like being affected by design decisions that cater to them).

One interesting thing to note about the article Alex linked is that the earlier Civilization games (plus Alpha Centauri), despite not physically preventing players from exploiting certain mechanics if they choose to, are still considered the pinnacle of the series by the great majority of longtime fans. Alpha Centauri in particular is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the entire 4X genre, and has never been surpassed. It's still installed on my computer, I play it single-player and PBEM (with a bunch of Brazilian guys, oddly enough) every year, and yes, it can easily be exploited by experts... but we don't.
4  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 06, 2018, 10:51:21 PM
Speed is not the issue. Frigate kiting costs very few supplies, and has almost zero risk, as opposed to a full fleet battle with substantial deployment cost and recovery cost, as well as the (substantial) risk of losing ships that are quite valuable. If you lose 2 frigates and a destroyer, thats probably 80-100k credits to replace with all weapons etc, plus the time searching to find suitable hulls and weapons. That is a very substantial portion of any bounty payment, so mitigating that risk is well worth some time investment from an 'optimum play' perspective. For endgame bounties, you can easily lose much more than that in a fleet battle, so the risk/reward equation is quite simple.

This makes very little sense to me, because as far as I can tell, only bad players lose proper endgame fleet battles. After all, I'm an inexperienced and probably very average player playing on Normal, and yet I obliterate all enemy fleets, including 3:2 REDACTED battles in which I'm badly outnumbered, as though they were made of tissue paper. When I transferred my save to Nexerelin on Normal (to explore its features and experiment with some of the ship and weapon mods I installed; soon, I'll start over with a new character), for some reason I began winning fleet battles even more handily than I had before, with the same fleet. I had to double-check my save info to make sure I hadn't accidentally enabled Easy mode.

I'm not saying that I never lose a ship, but it's rare, and winning battles 2-4x faster than I could with frigate kiting earns me far more profit (and reputation, and experience, etc.) than frigate kiting ever would.

Bad players resorting to kiting to win is the absolute opposite of a reason to try to eliminate kiting. Very few games should ever be balanced around the exploits that bad players might resort to, except possibly multiplayer online games.

I know this is a very brash and bold post, and that tone doesn't always convey well over the Internet, but a disclaimer: I'm very calm. I'm not trying to go in for an argument-based killshot here. However, if you were trying to convince me that frigate kiting is a huge problem that required sweeping changes to prevent, at the moment I'm only leaning even more toward believing that it isn't.
5  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 06, 2018, 09:33:02 PM
If infinite kiting works best, I do not hesitate to use it.

Unless frigate kiting is just as fast as slugging it out with a proper fleet, one can hardly describe it as being the objectively best strategy.

It stands to reason that frigate kiting is slower, because 1.) the mechanic used to kill frigate kiting strategies is essentially a timer, and 2.) a proper fleet has far more damage output.

However, I haven't yet received a definitive answer. So, here is a definitive question: Is frigate kiting slower than using a proper fleet?
6  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 06, 2018, 10:58:09 AM
I hear what you're saying re: being close to the project and so on; however this is definitely a change that was driven by player feedback regarding what was actually happening in the game.

Yes, but for the most part that feedback has come from a very small group of players who've played the game for hundreds or even thousands of hours. I've played the game three times: once in 2014, again in 2016, and now once more in 2018. Each time, I played until I had a giant fleet, and at no stage of any of those playthroughs did I engage in frigate kiting, think about frigate kiting, or feel forced to frigate kite. Did I miss a short window of compulsory frigate kiting?

Just as a bit of proof that I'm not blowing smoke here:


Basically, that paragraph/section is a "don't take this as an absolute" kind of thing; less "summary" and more "disclaimer". The mechanic we're talking about here - infinite kiting - is exactly the sort of thing the rest of the article is about.

I disagree. I think that saddling the entire frigate class (and to a lesser extent, the destroyer class) with a sweeping universal disadvantage that doesn't practically affect cruisers or capitals except possibly in the most absurd and/or terminally end-game situations (fighting multiple large fleets back-to-back, battlestation fights) in order to address a single exploit—namely the possibility of a handful of frigate loadout combinations and strategies devised by veterans to efficiently kite—is just exactly what that disclaimer is talking about.

Yeah, okay, even a newcomer may be faced with a situation where the only way to win is to kite, but he could retreat, or (much more likely) just reload the game. In the simulator, I've tested some destroyer vs. destroyer loadouts and become bored to tears because neither of us could finish the other off. The AI's excellence at smugly and near-perfectly micromanaging its flux and shields can create those situations. It was just kiting and backpedaling for a good 4-5 minutes. CR or no CR, I'm leaving that battle one way or the other, and it's not going to be by kiting back and forth for an hour until I finally win, in the simulator or the campaign.

Of course, Starsector isn't the only game to see sweeping changes to its fundamental game mechanics in order to prevent kiting. Kiting is so well known as a concept that we all already know what it is, and need no introduction. Balancing around kiting prevention is not a philosophy I approve of in general, but at the same time, I acknowledge that it's a complicated issue with no easy answer. As someone who's never felt compelled to identify the most optimal and efficient strategy and then use it to the exclusion of all others, I realize that I'm an odd bird, and I have difficulty seeing things from that point of view. That doesn't mean I wallow in inefficiency on purpose, but at the same time, I don't obsess with identifying every little weakness and exploitable mechanic and then ruthlessly abusing them to the utmost.

Look, I knew before delving into this conversation that it was a losing battle. CR is here to stay, whether I like it or not. The game's moddable, though, so I suppose people who really dislike CR could make a mod that multiplies everything's peak performance by 10. The funny thing is, I had almost entirely stopped using frigates and destroyers without even thinking about what I was doing, and not even because of CR. They were simply obsolete. The fact that they beep at me and start to fall apart during extended battles (this was rare until the endgame) just adds insult to injury, and that's the point of this thread. Without this thread, I never would have thought twice about it.
7  Starsector / General Discussion / Re: My thoughts and impressions on: November 06, 2018, 04:15:47 AM
Yeah, I think of (and use) the Paragon more as a slow-moving area denial and anti-fighter emitter than as a killing machine, although it does killing too, when it can. With the enemy spread out into a big, wide arc and backpedaling slowly, the rest of my fleet and fighters move in and mop them up without issues because they're almost all filled with max-level officers. A ship with a max-level officer is like having 1.5 ships in one, a truly massive advantage.

Although the AI for some reason is nowhere near as proficient at using the Paragon even with a bounty pilot with many more combat skills than my commander, they are still threatening enough that it's one of the very few times I'll just drag a selection box around my entire fleet (when the time seems right) and right-click to eliminate.

By the way, I did pop APLs onto my Paragon and yeah, they are pretty ideal when it does come time for a focused kill shot, despite the long recharge time. You just have to be deliberate in choosing when and how to use them.
8  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 06, 2018, 02:33:35 AM

That was a very nice read. If I may, the summary echoes my own sentiment:

It's not necessary (and rarely desirable) to try to cork every possible way for a very experienced player to exploit the game—at least not a single-player, offline game.

Quote from: Soren Johnson
However, designers can go too far by trying to remove all exploits from a game. Often, the right choice depends upon the game’s context. Does the exploit drown out all other play styles, or is it a fun, alternative way to play? Does the degenerate strategy create an endless grind, or is it a quick shortcut for players who need a little help? ... If possible, designers should provide the ability to turn an exploit on or off, giving the players control over their worst instincts.

I'm in no way attempting to cherry-pick just this one statement, only pointing out that it's included. In Starsector, the CR mechanics are not optional and are insinuated into every aspect of gameplay, especially the skill system.

And a quick example that would likely affect even a player that's not particularly into minimaxing - let's say you're in trouble and the only way to win and avoid a fleet wipe is to use this tactic. It'll take you an hour, it's not particularly fun, and it's not particularly difficult; it mainly requires patience. A lot of people would feel forced to do it, even if they didn't want to to begin with. And this sort of thing will creep in all over the place; if the design makes it optimal, successful strategies will naturally lean in that direction.)

Your chosen solution has been to cause a warship to break down after four to six minutes in combat, give or take. I find it to be a very artificial solution. Although realism arguments with regard to computer games are often used to support someone's opinion or preferences and not out of any true desire to see more (or less) realism in the game being discussed, nevertheless, I can genuinely say I've found this silly from the moment I started playing Starsector 0.8.1a. I don't remember what I thought about previous versions in years past, as it's been too long.

I hear you, and respect your opinion, but you're also the developer of the game. You're very close to your own project, which is something that's worth keeping in mind. Even the article you linked mentions that a developer may not truly understand his own game until it's released in the wild, and the Starsector boards... well, the board regulars are clearly a very dedicated group of fans. I myself am a space, strategy, and simulation freak, and have been since I first played Wing Commander in 1990. This bunch of folks isn't representative of the general public, although that being said, I certainly wouldn't advocate developing the game for the least common denominator of player, either.
9  Starsector / General Discussion / Re: My thoughts and impressions on: November 05, 2018, 06:50:37 PM
This is a bit like the whole "Is the dress black and blue, or white and gold?" sensation from four years ago, except it's about ship loadouts in Starsector. I don't have enough context to decide for myself who I agree with more.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle: There may be solo duels, or there may not. Ideally, prepare for both things as long as you don't sacrifice too much formation brawling ability for 1 vs. 1 jousting ability, and vice versa.
10  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 05, 2018, 01:39:54 PM
Player kiting indefinitely is not as problematic as the AI doing likewise against the player.  Today, phase frigates can be untouchable until their CR times out.

I've yet to encounter these scenarios, but to be fair, I was new to (the current version of) the game and was only properly able to notice more of the subtleties after I began getting used to everything basic and major, by which time my fleet was on the larger side.

In my late game (now abandoned for full-blown mod mode), untouchable frigates just ended up retreating after I'd blown up 90% of their fleet, so I don't see why that's problematic. Yes, if there are phase ships present, they'll often be among the ships beating a retreat. I don't consider it a problem for them to escape, though, aside from the slight disappointment of less salvage and maybe not being able to retrieve a disabled rare frigate.
11  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Set CR Level on ships on: November 05, 2018, 12:52:55 PM
I don't mind CR as a mechanic, after all, even the modern military can't be on combat duty 24/7, and a few engagements that could of been deadly can easily shake even the most stout of people, so some R&R is a needed thing.

That's true, but a US Navy littoral combat ship—which is essentially a frigate (funnily enough, the Navy is actually moving back to calling new LCSs frigates)—can fight for hours or even days at a time, not for three to five minutes.

However, this is a tangent and I don't want to derail the thread, so I'll read people's replies (I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to sneak in the last word or any such passive-aggressive nonsense) but will personally say no more on the subject in this thread.
12  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 05, 2018, 12:38:15 PM
No CR promotes this kind of 'kite everyone to death' playstyle as optimal.

It's not necessary (and rarely desirable) to try to cork every possible way for a very experienced player to exploit the game—at least not a single-player, offline game. Advanced frigate kiting is only an issue for someone who knows the game backwards and forwards. Balancing the game around experts can harm the rest of it for people who are not experts, and I doubt I'm the first precocious newcomer to say so.

I've had the issue with no-CR frigates explained to me several times, yet in each case it's mentioned that it takes a long time to do. That's nearly the whole point of frigate-grade CR: It doesn't last as long as the amount of time required to pull off these min-maxed frigate kiting scenarios. I'd consider it far more optimal to finish the battle much faster with a normal fleet, not only in terms of less testing of my patience, but even in terms of use of resources and earning potential. If I can complete twice the bounties with a large fleet in the same amount of time, then tedious frigate kiting is in no way optimal.

Even if I concede that frigate kiting, if possible, is the optimal strategy from at least one point of view, why do it if it sucks the fun out of the game? I still use some ships that I consider to be sub-optimal, both for fun and to indirectly add a bit more challenge.

As for frigates waiting on the wings to pounce on and pick off vulnerable ships that are left exposed: That sounds fantastic to me, a very satisfying role for them to fill. You present it like it's a bad thing, but that would give them teeth, threat, and a real purpose, and add more dynamism to battles. Tell me where to sign, because I feel like a salesman just successfully sold me a new car.

Even waiting in its pure form is actually useful (with AI as is) - like my single AI frigate keeping enemy Capital permanently distracted somewhere far from main battle.

Well... yes, the AI's faults can be a significant issue. Finding ways to limit the player to indirectly help the AI is probably necessary, but there's a delicate balance to be maintained.
13  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 05, 2018, 10:48:01 AM
Frigates have speed advantage so if they decide to play waiting game, there is not much to stop them beside CR (and other frigates). Fighters are effectively very long range weapons, so they can't force fight if carrier can't keep up.

Speed is their ONLY in-combat advantage (again, special frigates excepted), already balanced by being offensively and defensively weak. They don't need another disadvantage.

What does waiting accomplish, exactly? If anything, it must be during the early game, which isn't terribly important since we all know the early game with a handful of small ships isn't the meat of Starsector.

Okay, let's say for the sake of argument that frigates have unlimited CR. They can now play the waiting game as much as they want to while I destroy the rest of their fleet, and then they'll be able to retreat and have the privilege of despawning at the nearest planet if my pursuers don't finish them off.

Sometimes I genuinely wonder if I'm playing the same game as the rest of you. What frigates do doesn't matter much in my endgame campaign unless they are player-piloted assassin phase ships (there's some value in using them as escorts, and limited value in using them to capture objectives, though I've found they'll very soon need backup when capturing), and that's what this thread is about: frigates in the endgame. Perhaps frigates' (and possibly also destroyers') peak performance time could increase with fleet size?

It could very well be that I'm ignorant about what a frigate waiting game would accomplish, and I mean that sincerely, so fill me in if I'm way off base.
14  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Bring frigates back to the late game. on: November 05, 2018, 10:23:08 AM
The elephant in the room here is that CR and minuscule frigate peak performance times are what have created most of this situation to begin with.

It affects frigates disproportionately more than any other size class, as though they needed an additional disadvantage on top of having the overall least range, damage output, and defensive capability (phase frigates and the Hyperion are obvious exceptions). Far more powerful ships are barely affected by CR and peak performance, aside from having a bit more or less CR incremental bonus/malus. I hadn't played Starsector in almost three years until very recently, I'm playing on Normal, and I have yet to see a message that any of my capitals have exceeded their peak performance time. I've only seen it twice for any of my cruisers, during a 300:200 REDACTED battle, out of dozens and dozens of battles that I've fought since I began my latest campaign.

You guys can make big, elaborate lists of professional frigate strategies, but the reality is that most players are not Starsector board veterans with 5,000+ posts who've created 2-4 mods, and they simply are going to stop using frigates past the midgame because not everyone is a consummate expert at high-end frigate strategies. Your high-end expert strategies are irrelevant in this context, and I'm not saying that to be a butthead. I'm saying it to give you a reality check.

It may be that you, yourselves, want Starsector to be designed and balanced with people who are already experts at playing it in mind, but I question the wisdom of that approach.

And really, the opposite could as easily be true, logically speaking: Capital ships are big, massive, complicated, and unwieldy, they have tons of moving parts, they're loaded down with weapons, they have huge numbers of crew, etc. Perhaps THEIR peak operating times should be short, while frigates, being simple and lightweight, should have long peak operating times. This discussion has actually made me curious why it's not this way and what the logic is.
15  Starsector / Suggestions / Re: Set CR Level on ships on: November 05, 2018, 08:59:48 AM
Plasmatic is saying that he wants to be able to set a ceiling on the CR of non-combat ships, say a slider set lower than normal to 40% CR on an Atlas. Perhaps its CR falls to 20% during a desperate combat where he's forced to deploy it; it will then repair back up to 40%, but not to 70-85%.

Yes, it's a very small savings; yes, it would probably be more trouble to implement than the minor amount of supplies it would save on a one-time basis in limited situations.

The more I read about people's numerous woes and issues with CR, the less I like it as a limitation mechanic. It seems to be by far the most troublesome and disliked mechanic, but I have a sinking feeling that ship has already sailed, if you'll pardon the pun.
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