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Author Topic: Missile Behavior  (Read 4553 times)

Kelvren

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Missile Behavior
« on: April 19, 2018, 11:33:39 PM »

I recently started using more dedicated missile boats in my fleets.

While they perform very well under my control, the AI does not seem to know what to do with them.  The first unshielded frigate or destroyer invites half my fleet to fire all of their harpoons.  My ships will fire torpedoes from long range with no chance of hitting their targets.  I notice enemy AI firing sabots at my flagship, however after most engagements my fleet's sabot racks are full.

Is there a way to limit the max number of harpoons fired at one target and limit the range the AI will use harpoons/torpedoes at? Is there a common reason why AI would not use their sabots?

Thanks,
Kell
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Thaago

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2018, 09:43:58 AM »

I've also noticed the same issues - as a fun little exercise, arm a Hound with a flak or dual flak, plus all the speed and maneuverability boosters. You can (relatively) safely disarm half of an enemy fleet's harpoon compliments and protect the rest of your ships!

The AI uses Sabots to gain flux advantage and when panic firing, but I've noticed they often don't use them when they are winning the flux war (maybe this is just my impression). On the one hand that a good thing because they don't waste them, but on the other it stops the ships from performing at full power. And for some builds (Dominator, Enforcer, Aurora with expanded missile racks) the sabots are enough to simply delete several ships of the same size class, so I would rather they be used early and often.
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xenoargh

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2018, 11:40:43 AM »

This is why I made missiles reload.  Trust me, it’s actually hard to write AI that does it right; Alex’s is better than mine, but, yeah, not perfect. Better to let them get another chance later, when they might get it right ;)
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Thaago

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2018, 12:08:45 PM »

The main issue I have with reloading is that it incentivises waiting for missile reloads as the optimal strategy, in many situations. For some types of missiles I don't think its a problem (I list some that have limited ammo at the end I think would be good).

However Harpoons, Reapers, and especially Sabots just don't work with reloads. A Wolf flying in and dumping 12 Sabots or 4 Reapers is very effective (The AI will deploy them aggressively if given the 'eliminate' command'). It would very much be the optimal strategy to then wait for the reloads. Given that the AI is in general conservative in their use, I can even see shenanigans like flying a group of frigates and switching command between them, using missile dumps for kills and then rotating along. (Even Harpoons would be very effective in this role, as a destroyer at even moderate flux is probably going to be, if not killed, then very damaged by 12 Harpoons). Phase ships make this so much worse, because they are invulnerable while waiting for the reload.

Some people compare strike fighters to infinitely reloading missiles, and there is some similarity, but bombers are limited to carriers, which puts pretty strict restrictions on what kind of optimal behaviors are presented to the player. The firepower of bombers is also pretty carefully balanced to being from a replenishing source.


This is not to say that reloading missiles can't work, just that to do so would require a heavy redesign of a lot of the current missiles.

Missiles I think would work well with infinite ammo, with minimal changes:
Swarmers, Annihilators (both), Locust, Squall 

Missiles that already have lots of ammo are balanced around it, so making the ammo infinite changes nothing in the short term, but gives those ships more longevity. It also prevents the optimal counter-play to those weapons being 'waiting'. In case its not obvious yet, I hate waiting being the optimal strategy.

Missiles I think do not work in their current form with reloading/infinite ammo:
Harpoons, Sabots, Reapers, Atropos, Hammer.

Strike missiles are at present are far too powerful and reloads give the wrong incentives. (I may have missed some as this is off the top of my head).

To me the question is: Do we want powerful strike missiles in the game? If yes, they need limited non-regenerating ammo to promote fun gameplay. If not, then we can fill their current role with weaker weapons.
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Alex

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2018, 12:20:27 PM »

There's an issue with multiple ships firing too many missiles vs an unshielded target, yeah. This is addressed in the dev version.

Missiles I think would work well with infinite ammo, with minimal changes:
Swarmers, Annihilators (both), Locust, Squall

The main issue there is flux cost. They'd end up being far too good over a long battle. As they are now, they're a limited amount of flux-free pressure a ship can exert, with various wrinkles. If they have unlimited ammo, they become both overpowered and boring - from something that's an interesting decision to fire, to something you literally never want to take off autofire.

It could all be worked around, perhaps, but a solution would have to address those concerns. IIRC I tried this with Swarmers a while back and it really did feel awful, they went from "a fun thing to fire" to a "have to make sure I'm firing them on every cooldown" chore.
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Thaago

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2018, 12:26:22 PM »

Well at present, if I know I'm going to be in long battles I just don't mount those weapons. The strike missiles have enough immediate bang to still be useful (though I know others don't feel that way), but to me these intermediate missiles don't do their jobs well enough to be limited ammo. Although I take the Locust off that list - it is devastating enough that I still mount it if I have an appropriate ships.

In small/medium battles I still use them and they last for most of the battle. I do just leave swarmers on autofire in that case... (Non-optimal play exposed!)

[Edit] I would be interested to hear how other players use those missiles... there's always the case I'm just loudly stating a minority/weird opinion. :P
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Megas

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2018, 12:33:41 PM »

Limited ammo makes waiting the optimal strategy, given how AI uses such weapons.  Wait until the enemy runs out, then kill them.  Unlimited ballistics killed waiting as the optimal strategy against ballistic users.  Medusa vs. Onslaught, wait until it runs out of Mjolnir and HVD ammo, then kill Onslaught.  With unlimited ammo, that is no longer possible.

Locusts is good because it has lots of ammo, and it is generally better than MIRVs.

MIRVs were better when they regenerated.

I consider fighters better than missiles that installed Converted Hangar and fighters is better than wasting OP on (non-strike) missiles themselves on various ships.

Like Thaago, I do not mount missiles in long battles, which is many of them late in the game.
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Thaago

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2018, 12:49:07 PM »

(I'll clarify: There are certain missiles I'll mount on certain ships in large battles. Reapers make for a good use of 2OP, especially on frigates, and the medium is also solid. If I'm going an industry run I will use Harpoons/Sabots on the junk ships. Sabots and Sabot pods for Dominators, Auroras, though its hard to get the AI to fire them so this is mostly for my flagship. But Annihilators, Swarmers, and Squalls are out because their ammo won't last and they aren't worth it if they aren't lasting the majority of the battle, and if I'm not going for a mass of cheap ships the small mount Sabots and Harpoons are out as well.)
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Wyvern

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2018, 01:54:16 PM »

There's an issue with multiple ships firing too many missiles vs an unshielded target, yeah. This is addressed in the dev version.

Missiles I think would work well with infinite ammo, with minimal changes:
Swarmers, Annihilators (both), Locust, Squall

The main issue there is flux cost. They'd end up being far too good over a long battle. As they are now, they're a limited amount of flux-free pressure a ship can exert, with various wrinkles. If they have unlimited ammo, they become both overpowered and boring - from something that's an interesting decision to fire, to something you literally never want to take off autofire.

It could all be worked around, perhaps, but a solution would have to address those concerns. IIRC I tried this with Swarmers a while back and it really did feel awful, they went from "a fun thing to fire" to a "have to make sure I'm firing them on every cooldown" chore.
The main issue I have with limited-ammo weapons is that, in some cases, they distort the optimal player tactic to one of 'wait out enemy ammunition, then engage'.  The most egregious example here is an Onslaught with four Annihilator Pods - as long as it's got ammo for those, it's very hard to push an engagement - due to both the flux-free damage output, and the fact that a wall of annihilator rockets tends to absorb a large portion of incoming attacks.

So, for example, I would not suggest just removing ammo from the Annihilator pods like you did with salamanders; instead, I'd suggest dropping them to maybe 30 shots and making them regenerate that in chunks of 20.  (Exact numbers subject to gameplay testing.)  That way, if you pressure a target using them, there'll be an initial burst of damage, and then you'll start to get large openings where it can't keep firing, followed by another burst of damage.

And that's a design that shouldn't distort player use too much, either, since 'wait for ammo to regenerate' wouldn't translate to backing off for too long.

* * * *

From a player perspective:

* Swarmers: Like Thaago, I use them in small battles, and do generally just put them on autofire there; swarmers are fun, but they don't pack enough punch to be worth triggering myself.  If I had a swarmer with regenerating ammo... I'd still just put it on autofire, but I'd also be willing to use it in larger engagements.

* Harpoons: The racks are good; the pods are not.  I'll often put racks on small ships to give them a bit more punch to exploit enemy openings; the pods, by contrast, are meh - if I want punch for a medium missile slot, I'll go with torpedos, which are punchier, have more shots, and are less likely to get wasted against unimportant targets.  Some form of ammo regen for the pods wouldn't be a bad idea (possibly along with a salvo size reduction), but I'd leave the racks alone.

* Sabots: Again, the racks are good... except that if you give them to the AI, they won't use them effectively.  Pods are, again, meh.  So sabots basically only come up if I'm personally piloting a ship with small missile slots; this tends not to happen after the early game.  (I -could- put sabots on my Aurora... but why would I do that when I can mount more ion cannons instead and not have to worry about ammo at all?  Hm.  I should still test this, though; having an extra 12 sabot missiles might be more useful.)
  I don't think you can currently do this without modding it in via combat plugin, but I think the fix for the three-shot sabot racks would be to add in a relatively slow regen (maybe one shot every 20 seconds or something?) that can only restore ammo from zero back up to one.  That way you can't pull out of combat and build up another huge alpha-strike launch, but AI ships that waste their sabots will get another chance eventually.
* Squalls: Have the same problem as annihilator pods - the best player tactic is to wait out enemy ammo.  Maybe a solution like I suggested for sabot racks would work, where it regenerates back up to a max of one salvo's worth?

* MIRV: Two of these on a Conquest is pretty good; they function like guided torpedos.  Without regen, though, it's hard to justify spending the ordnance points on these, and I frequently end up fielding conquest variants that are either entirely missile-free or only mount salamanders.  Perhaps if its heavy weapons integration mod applied to missile mounts (perhaps even large and medium) as well as large ballistics?
* Locust: I've tried these and never been much impressed.  Like swarmers, this is one of the first missile mounts I'd toss ammo regen on.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2018, 02:05:09 PM by Wyvern »
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Megas

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2018, 02:21:02 PM »

Quote
The main issue I have with limited-ammo weapons is that, in some cases, they distort the optimal player tactic to one of 'wait out enemy ammunition, then engage'.
The fear of waiting being optimal due to regenerating ammo is more than offset by waiting being optimal by stalling until AI wastes all ammo (except one for revenge kill).  Look at AI ships lobbing Sabots, MIRVs, or Squalls.  The optimal way to fight those ships is to wait until they run out of ammo.  SIM Conquest is one the biggest offenders.  Want to solo that?  Wait until it wastes all of its Squalls.  Onslaught with quad Annihilators is another example.

Back when ballistics had limited ammo, I frequently waited until big ships ran out of ammo before my high-tech ship attacked the ship.  Unlimited ballistics put a stop to that.

I would like ammo regen on Locusts.  If they regenerated, they would be like a clip version of Heavy Needler.

I do not use Swarmers beyond the tutorial.  Not enough ammo, and not bursty enough.  Also not very common when I care about them.  They either get replaced by other missiles or the OP gets used for something else.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2018, 02:26:05 PM by Megas »
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xenoargh

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2018, 02:55:27 PM »

Quote
Well at present, if I know I'm going to be in long battles I just don't mount those weapons.
Yup, me either.  The only missiles I like right now are Locust pods, because they usually have enough ammo to make the early-game stuff / fighters die, in Vanilla.  Pilums got nerfed too hard and the rest of them aren't worth the OPs for the occasional alpha-kills they generated.

With reloads, the AI actually can get lucky often enough and put pressure on players trying to kite.  But the reloads are set so slow on the burst-alpha stuff that there's absolutely no incentive for the player to use them to kite with.

I actually don't have any issues with missiles-on-autofire, with reloading missiles.  Stuff like Harpoons / Sabots / Reapers, you don't want on auto, they're a total waste then. 

Stuff like Swarmers, I usually never use on a player-ship; not enough alpha to be useful, limited utility.
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Goumindong

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2018, 03:45:57 PM »

Harpoon Pods are, by far, the best missile weapon for fleet operations.

The reason is that they have 2500 range and this means that when you smash shields at fleet range you can follow that up with a devastating Harpoon barrage. Torpedoes are not quite long enough to reach fleet range and the requirement to aim them means you’re much less likely to hit at peak range.

Plus, the longish retire time prevents the AI from dumping all its ammo on a flux locked target.
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TaLaR

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2018, 07:55:36 PM »

I make very limited use of missiles.
- Reapers on some player-piloted ships.
- Occasional Salamander/Pilum for AI.
- Squalls have potential usage as survival buffer (whatever mounts them will survive while they last).
- Annihilators on Dominator, Onslaught or LMG Lasher.

Missiles like Sabots or Harpoons are also in weird-place AI-wise. For them to be viable AI needs to be stupid enough to commit exploitable mistakes, yet smart enough to correctly exploit them.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2018, 01:43:11 AM by TaLaR »
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NightKev

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2018, 01:23:19 AM »

For them to be viable AI needs to be stupid enough to commit exploitable mistakes, yet smart enough to correctly exploit them.
AI (and players) will always make mistakes that can be exploited, the only issue is the "yet smart enough to correctly exploit them" part.
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TaLaR

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Re: Missile Behavior
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2018, 02:08:43 AM »

AI (and players) will always make mistakes that can be exploited

Not really - for example, for player controlled Medusa/other fast ships with character skills venting in front of Harpoon-equipped opponent is mostly safe. Just make sure that your vent time is below missile's arrival time.
AI very easily wastes Harpoons in situations like this.

With Sabots the problem is following through. Winning flux war via sabot usage is extremely expensive (opportunity cost compared to other methods), yet AI usually just lets the opponent to retreat and vent.
Frankly, Sabots are reliably useful only for 2 scenarios:
  • Panic button.
  • If you are fast enough to catch the target and can inflict significant damage during single vent cycle. Otherwise they'll get away mostly unscathed
...I'd rather just design variants that can sustainably win flux war. And they happen to be easier for AI to use too.
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