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Author Topic: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression  (Read 1990 times)

Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2020, 11:57:35 AM »

The intent behind the idea of no capitals on the open market is to reduce the RNG factor and therefore allow capital acquisition be more predictable- but not reliant on the player being lucky or unlucky.

Quote
And I also don't get the ''oh look pristine capitals in every market''. Yeah ok someone got lucky and saw a pristine ship once, so what? It's one capital. I was once commissioned by Tri-Tach and spent multiple months at their markets trying to buy a capital other than Paragon and no dice. It was always 4-5 Paragons and nothing else, not even Auroras. People see one Astral 2 on the black market and immediately lose their mind. It's strong as a mere cruiser so who cares about the ''no capitals on black market''.

This experience kind of says it all for me. It shouldn't take months to find a certain ship when commissioned, but it also shouldn't be easy to get a Paragon or Astral without one. The RNG is what is frustrating on both sides of the issue.

Keep in mind that this proposal wouldn't prevent the player from getting these ships from their own colonies' markets or from building them themselves. So a commission isn't strictly necessary to get one- it's just one of the more predictable ways. A story quest could also be implemented that could guarantee some of these things, too, or even blueprints.

The real point, in my opinion, is that in this sense it's hard to gauge a player's experience (strictly along the lines of ship access) because the RNG makes for two very different possible outcomes that can be extremes at either end of the spectrum. Either extreme feels bad here to me- and doesn't really do anything special when at its best case scenario.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2020, 01:40:04 PM »

My original suggestion was not directly about capital ships. I never mention them once in the post. The suggestion is about slowing down the rate that the player grows their fleet. Right now the only limiters to fleet growth are logistics/money, faction rep, and rarity/RNG, and all of those things push the player towards grinding.

The reason the player has access to so many ships is because RNG is frustrating, so the player needs to see a lot of ships to ensure that on average, they will see the rare ships a reasonable number of times. The side effect of this is that they pretty much get as many common/average ships as they want. I would argue that in terms of just making your fleet stronger (not obtaining specific ships), the player always has access to ships and the only limiting factor is money and rep. In other words, if an enemy fleet (like the red planet fleet or a big bounty) is too strong for me, the solution is always to just go and grind money or rep or salvage until my fleet is strong enough. I never have to do anything risky or difficult to get access to better ships, they're already there for the taking if I have enough money and rep. It's also very quick to scale up, the player can make money and gain rep very quickly so they can also get a large fleet very quickly. The only way to slow this down within the current set of limiting factors is to reduce monetary rewards and ship drop rates which I think would be more frustrating than fun.

The suggestion is to make the players access to ships an actual limiting factor in how fast they can increase in power. In some sense, you might say I want to replace the rarity aspect of finding ships, with difficulty of access i.e. you have to do very difficult missions to get access to TT capitals, but once you do, you can somewhat consistently find them (higher drop rates from a much smaller number of gated sources).

The idea is that limited ship access allows more direct control over the rate of progression and also creates more avenues for story-driven or relationship-driven progression rather than just grinding basic missions. Now there can be certain challenges that are actually worth struggling with because succeeding gives you access to better ships. Maybe it's worth losing 4 cruisers to get access to capitals from the TT, but it's certainly not worth losing a couple cruisers to get 200k, when I can just get 100k twice without losing any ships. This also can have the effect of causing the player to spend more time playing with smaller ships (assuming the progression gates are balanced that way) which I think will partially address a lot of other concerns with small ships being useless. They will be useful as long as the player hasn't progressed too far. If I use a ship for half of the campaign to good effect, then it is not useless, even if it can't compete in a super late game fleet.

Also, it's crazy to me that people think the astral is weak, but it also will totally derail this thread to argue about it.
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Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2020, 03:14:11 PM »

@intrisic_parity

I agree with your thoughts in general. I highlight capitals here because when it comes to derelict salvage and market access they offer the highest offset of RNG leading to a direct increase in player power for the lowest overall opportunity cost- and therefore a lower reliance on smaller ships when that happens cost effectively (such as in the case of derelict salvage). Whether I buy or find an Onslaught or a Legion, though, many faction patrols are now much easier to deal with compared to the purchase of most cruisers. There are still plenty of threats that are scary, but I've theoretically boosted my progression as a player into (subjective, true) late-early game at best, or straight into midgame and able to make colony acquisition and defense early on much easier in comparison. I don't think you can make that case for the majority of ships below capitals (and that is a good thing! power projection is my opinion of their overall role). There are certainly some outliers, I know, but in general I think this holds true the majority of the time.

Your point about credit acquisition as the sole output of progression is interesting to me. 200k credits versus higher level (whether size or "tier") ship access would be valued much differently for many players. Therefore that value is inherently highly subjective- since if you didn't really care about higher level ships that wouldn't be progression to you. I'm not saying that's a bad thing- it's just a different thing to consider over the arguable purity of credit rewards. (Credits are always valuable and can be used towards players making choices about what to purchase and so therefore are more flexible)

For my own thoughts on this subject, I think it is perfectly fine to soft-gate or even hard-gate access to larger ships and then require larger ships (composition-wise) for certain things. This opinion is mostly due to the idea that I don't think it forces the player to pilot any specific ship personally, per se, but rather results in a system where having larger ships accessible as fleet composition options is a sense of progression that makes sense to me. I don't think it should invalidate smaller ships though, but result in increasing fleet synergy or tactical options that boost player power indirectly in that way.
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Grievous69

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2020, 03:50:24 PM »

Yeah sorry I meant Atlas mk 2, not Astral.

Anyways, similarly to Megas I don't see the point of increasing the grind for everyone. If someone wants to jump to big fleet battles, they can do so, if someone wants to be a small trader, also fine. See my point? You're free to do as you please. Literal sandbox. Why limit something that's fun for some people behind artificial gates just so you "feel good progressing"...

Every time a thread like this comes up, I always say something like this but people just can't imagine someone not enjoying early game. It would be the same as me making a post to make it super hard to have small battles with frigates and destroyers, make capital fights the biggest part of the game. Now that would be stupid and selfish wouldn't it? (I'm not attacking anyone, I'm trying to paint a picture)
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2020, 04:45:51 PM »

Yeah sorry I meant Atlas mk 2, not Astral.

Anyways, similarly to Megas I don't see the point of increasing the grind for everyone. If someone wants to jump to big fleet battles, they can do so, if someone wants to be a small trader, also fine. See my point? You're free to do as you please. Literal sandbox. Why limit something that's fun for some people behind artificial gates just so you "feel good progressing"...

Every time a thread like this comes up, I always say something like this but people just can't imagine someone not enjoying early game. It would be the same as me making a post to make it super hard to have small battles with frigates and destroyers, make capital fights the biggest part of the game. Now that would be stupid and selfish wouldn't it? (I'm not attacking anyone, I'm trying to paint a picture)
I personally don't agree that more choice is always better. I think that constraints are what makes a game fun. The player having to overcome certain challenges in order to succeed/win/progress is what makes for interesting decisions. I guess you could say I like the problem solving aspect of games. If there are no requirements/constraints/objectives, then there is no reason to do anything. I like sandboxes in the sense that you have a lot of different ways to overcome challenges, but I still want to have the challenges and things that I need to figure out how to do, and not just be free to do whatever. I think that small ships are bad right now because they never represent the best solution to anything the game asks you to do. You can always choose a better fleet composition and so they become useless. The idea here is that if you introduce some other constraints that make it so smaller ships are the best solution at some point in the game, then they become useful without having to try and tune them to be similarly useful to bigger ships in general. This is a disagreement about what games we enjoy though, your opinion is valid and games that let you do whatever you want are fun for a lot of people, but that's not me, and I'm still going to say how I think the game should be.

As to 'grindyness', the whole point of this is to reduce the grind and replace it with a small number of big challenges. I specifically don't want to reduce access to ships by just making things cost more, or reducing income or decreasing ship drop rates because those would increase grinding. I want to make specific and tailored challenges/quests to unlock access to things. Hopefully you can see how this fits with my idea of a fun game.

As to the balance between late game and early game, this doesn't have to make early game longer. That's my preference, and I made the thread because I think putting more emphasis on early game would address some concerns I've seen in other threads, but you could just as easily make all the gates feasible in early game so that the player could go straight to late game (maybe that could even be an in-game option like an easy mode or something). The point is more that the dev has some control over that without messing with prices and drop rates that have huge impacts on other parts of the game.
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Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2020, 05:10:46 PM »

@Grievous69

I definitely appreciate that picture and the mentality behind it. I think this somewhat comes down to playstyle preference and what incentivizes me as a gamer. For me, at least, I don't want a literal sandbox like you suggest- at least in the sense that you can do everything right away like that. I've always hated pure sandboxes because the exploration and freedom that most of them advertise as their appeal inevitably breaks down from insane difficulty spikes due to RNG or boring "sameness" of difficulty to avoid said difficulty spikes. Experienced players know better and can manipulate those things to get what they want from it, but a new player it oftentimes completely lost. You have such little creative room to do anything memorable under those harsh of design constraints. Red Planet is a progression mechanic just as story-chains are. They feel good to complete, in part, because of that. I feel that more of that kind of thing is needed in this game.

I also don't believe progression is inherently grind. A game is only a "grind" if it feels like grind to play the game- no matter what part of the game you are in. What often feels like a grind is repetition and lack of meaningful player choices. You can still maintain that concept and have progression mechanics- in fact, to have a game that doesn't wear out after the initial appeal it must to my mind. In my opinion, a player shouldn't get all the best toys all at once. Goals give new players something to look forward to later in the same way that colonies currently operate. If ta player hates the toys they have at the start, then those toys aren't attractive enough and that is the design consideration to me- not accessibility to different toys that open up additional gameplay options.
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furl

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2020, 05:40:36 PM »

I don't know if it has been suggested before, but a skill would be nice that increases frigates' damage to larger ships, depending on the number of frigates deployed. Just like coordinated maneuvers. It could encourage you to use large number of frigates if you choose to invest in this skill.

Leadership: "Knowing how to utilize multiple frigates' mobility to distract their opponents, an experienced commander can order attacks on weak points of large ships, right where it hurts the most."

Level 1: Each frigate deployed increases damage dealt by frigates to destroyer-sized ships and larger by 5% up to a maximum of 50% extra damage.
Level 2: Bonus damage cap increased to 100%
Level 3: Bonus damage cap increased to 150% (for 30 frigates - max fleet size)

Or it could look like this (more straightforward):
Level 1: Frigates deal x1.5 damage to capital ships
Level 2: Frigates deal x1.5 damage to cruisers and double damage to capital ships
Level 3: Frigates deal x1.5 damage to destroyers, double damage to cruisers and x2.5 damage to capital ships
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Grievous69

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2020, 02:19:46 AM »

I'm pretty sure Alex already confirmed there will be some new skills that'll make use of smaller ships in fleet. We don't know what exactly it will do or the numbers but that's at least something.

Anyways for the original topic, I just think that way of making smaller ships more useful is not the way to go. Your solution to using weaker ships is to force a player to spend more time with them, instead of actually trying to make them useful in general. There's a good thread going on about PPT when escorting, that's a decent idea, as furl said, skills may also help a bit. Almost anything that will make smaller ships a decent choice in every part of the game and not ''well you just have to deal with this a bit longer''.
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Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2020, 02:31:43 AM »

There's a good thread going on about PPT when escorting, that's a decent idea, as furl said, skills may also help a bit. Almost anything that will make smaller ships a decent choice in every part of the game and not ''well you just have to deal with this a bit longer''.

I agree with this. I also agree with the progression mechanics of the OP though- but things like this that encourage diverse fleet compositions are great! It doesn't mean you can't gain value from progression mechanics around ship size, though.

The way I was thinking about this (from the perspective of easy access to larger ships for experienced players) would be to provide skill-based ways to streamline this progression (so, quests that are hard). That way if you absolutely loathe smaller ships, for instance, you can choose to circumvent that requirement through a challenge (rather than RNG determining your options at the expense of any sort of progression other than credit acquisition or the colony phase).
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Plantissue

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2020, 07:07:46 AM »

I see what you mean. You want to gate away ship progression whilst at the same time reduce the ability of the player to receive money. Which sounds reasonable, but how does that work in a universe where you can create colonies, find blueprints and have them produce the ships for you?

How would that work in a game where boring trading to give money safely is supposed to be part of the gameplay? I think the procurement missions give way too much money for the risk, but on the other hand, if they gave less money it just means that a player who desires to never take up a challenge will just grind for longer.

Currently it's not a grind anyways, if you can go from a normal start of 2 frigates to 5 million credits in 3 hours. So a good start would be to reduce the money given from procurement missions. perhaps instead of normally double the price, you get +20% of the price. Then the black market, both for ships and commodities, can only be accessed by being transponder off. Otherwise you can see, but not interact with it. Perhaps reputation with pirates is needed for buying ships. Perhaps reputation is the absolute gateway for ships and is gated by completing harder bounties or by fighting faction enemies in a commission. Perhaps resigning a commission plunges you in a state of hostility depending on the number of ships you have brought. Is that more of the style you was looking for?
« Last Edit: February 28, 2020, 07:30:05 AM by Plantissue »
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2020, 09:40:07 AM »

I see what you mean. You want to gate away ship progression whilst at the same time reduce the ability of the player to receive money. Which sounds reasonable, but how does that work in a universe where you can create colonies, find blueprints and have them produce the ships for you?

How would that work in a game where boring trading to give money safely is supposed to be part of the gameplay? I think the procurement missions give way too much money for the risk, but on the other hand, if they gave less money it just means that a player who desires to never take up a challenge will just grind for longer.

Currently it's not a grind anyways, if you can go from a normal start of 2 frigates to 5 million credits in 3 hours. So a good start would be to reduce the money given from procurement missions. perhaps instead of normally double the price, you get +20% of the price. Then the black market, both for ships and commodities, can only be accessed by being transponder off. Otherwise you can see, but not interact with it. Perhaps reputation with pirates is needed for buying ships. Perhaps reputation is the absolute gateway for ships and is gated by completing harder bounties or by fighting faction enemies in a commission. Perhaps resigning a commission plunges you in a state of hostility depending on the number of ships you have brought. Is that more of the style you was looking for?
I definitely agree that other forms of income could stand to be reduced a bit.

I think colonies sort themselves out in the sense that you need a good fleet to defend the colony successfully, so if your access to the ships needed to defend your colony is limited, then your access to colonies is also limited, although starting colonies in a commissioning factions system or in remnant systems is a bit of a loophole since you can get free defense. I think that could be fixed by having the remnants attack your colony rather than just the fleets (so it can't grow or make money), and having you commissioned faction get mad at you if you colonize in their system.

Procurement contracts also could stand to be reduced, although you could use a similar gating system where you can get access to the more lucrative contracts by completing missions for the factions/NPC's giving the contracts. Then you could grind low value contracts, or do the hard quests/missions which give you access to both better contracts and better ships as intended. I like things being gated by relationships with specific NPC's (station commanders or something) rather than factions so that you don't need to grind overall faction rep, you just need to do stuff for that NPC meaning you might only need to do a few missions where grinding the faction rep would take many missions.

I also 100% agree that currently the game is not a grind, and that its a bit too easy to get up to huge fleets. I got onto these ideas because I realized that in order to slow that down by just reducing income or ship drop rates, you would have to make the game a grind which led me to this idea of progression gates.
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Lucky33

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #26 on: February 29, 2020, 11:07:28 AM »

I think that everybody missing a point. There is no reason to force player to run small fleet if there is really nothing there to do with it.

Tried playing with the selfimposed rule of not using anything larger than a destroyer and dont do carrier spam. It gets stale very fast.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #27 on: February 29, 2020, 11:40:52 AM »

I think that everybody missing a point. There is no reason to force player to run small fleet if there is really nothing there to do with it.

Tried playing with the selfimposed rule of not using anything larger than a destroyer and dont do carrier spam. It gets stale very fast.
That's a good point. I think that as more quests and story type content gets added, there will be more to do because hopefully some will be aimed at smaller fleets. I also think some of the time implicit scaling like bounty scaling also means you actually have less to do as small fleet as time goes on. I don't mind things being made more challenging though. I think the game is a bit too easy right now because there aren't enough constraints.
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Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #28 on: February 29, 2020, 04:24:51 PM »

Speaking to Lucky33's point, I thought maybe I would take some time and really flesh out my thoughts on this suggestion in the hopes of possibly alleviating some of the concerns (or at least explaining why I think this is helpful) and generating further discussion. I've thought about this for a while (even before this post), so this will be a long one. I'll provide summary points though, no worries!

Briefly: I think the scale of fleet to above the destroyer level would be relatively quick to access anyway. Capitals should be an accomplishment, though, maybe right before or even shortly after a player's first colony is possible. For ship access, one or two missions past the tutorial, or a single modestly challenging mission that can be completed by a skilled pilot with a couple escorts (which you would already have the money for most likely) would give you destroyer access. Then, another mission or two from a local commander would give limited cruiser access. That could either be faction wide or market specific depending on what feels best in the end.

Two major points I'd like to highlight about why I like this design principle as a whole:

1) For new players this represents an extension to the tutorial that gives some guidance- with a relatively high incentive to complete these tasks as soon as that player is able. This increases the likelihood that the first experiences of new players remain balance-able and positive through additional constraints and guided learning. Yes, this is hand holding to veterans, but making parts "skip-able" to those players is the way to go there- either through harder missions not recommended to new players or are even unavailable during a first play through- but!- give accelerated access to the rewards this way. Right now far too many have to resort to online guides or help through forum posts. Many likely simply give up before they get to that point, and that could hurt reviews upon release (silent majority). This allows that experience to be streamlined (so ideally the missions teach many of the fundamental early game campaign mechanics in an immersive story-driven way to invest the player into the setting early on.)

For an example:

The first mission to get destroyers could be a small bounty fleet the player has to hunt down. This is therefore small-scale practice for doing the tiered bounties later. That can be invaluable guidance to a new player. The tutorial teaches combat, but it does not specifically teach all the mechanics of bounty-hunting. This is then the next "logical step" in difficulty for the player and specifically showcases an option for repeatable tasks that they have in the greater overall sandbox. So they don't exit the tutorial and meet that inevitable moment of "well... now what do I do?"

The next mission could be commodity based or even something more dramatic like a scripted food shortage or pather cell (to teach about those kinds of trading opportunities right away) that would require the player to gain the commodities in a way that requires more fighting (so again measurable difficulty that provides core mechanics practice). This also prevents the new player from "biting off more than they can chew" by attempting to immediately pilot larger ships- which can be more complex to fly and also incentivize larger and oftentimes therefore harder or more complex conflicts. (I plan to deep-dive that idea further down)

2) This will take some time to explain reasonably well, so please bear with me here: I'd like to go back to the idea of pure sandboxes and use a personal experience I had testing out .9 to demonstrate one of that design style's primary drawbacks- difficulty inconsistency or difficulty spikes due to RNG:

Spoiler
I was testing out the new bar missions in a relatively small fleet- (a couple destroyers and several frigates). The first mission I tried was the fairly common: "I need this shipment of X delivered to Y market." I will go on a tiny tangent here and point out that this alone has several difficulty factors: open market or underground transactions - hidden dangers, etc. For a new player, even if they understand all the elements there, it can be much harder to sneak in to some markets- and the random pick nature of the mission would make it impossible to reliably judge the overall difficulty of an underground transaction unless you are experienced enough to know what typically guards each market. Ok, tangent over. This time, its a standard delivery type and it goes smoothly.

Next mission(s). I choose a derelict salvage package mission and- hey! lucky me!- there is a weapons cache mission close by so may as well take that too while I'm at it! Since I'm going more into the unknown than last time, I beef up my fleet with a cruiser and another destroyer. I handle the derelict mission easily, and, to my horror, realize that the weapons cache is deep within the corona of the star. Well... I can't take my current fleet in there without eating my supplies to a point that likely my completed mission was a waste (I think to myself). So, instead, I calculate that I have enough time and fuel to make a return trip with a smaller fleet and still cut a profit. I've played Starsector for a while at this point, so I know how to do this. A new player would likely not even be able to make that judgement call. They would dive into the star and learn the hard way the first time. Anyway, I bring back a smaller fleet, fly to the weapon cache... and get met with a guard group of remnants that includes 2 Brilliants who do not much care about the environment they are sitting in. Well, that's out. I reload and bring back the cruiser fleet determined to beat the remnants because "wow this cache must be valuable to be this difficult!" I will admit, I didn't even know about this after playing Starsector for a long while before this update :P , but I had no idea having a larger fleet made it more difficult to get deeper within a corona. The cache was right by the surface of the star, so even with E-burn I don't think I could even make it there with enough available CR to fight the remnants. Impossibly difficult (to me) compared to the other two missions I had just completed. I'm not sure if this has changed since then, or, heck, maybe weapon caches aren't even supposed to spawn there and that was unintended. Either way, there were no differences between the way the missions were presented that indicated one was that much harder than the others, they were just "something to do." Imagine, for a moment, if this was a brand new player's first bar mission.

Another example:

I suppose I should have brushed up on my astrology, but I was woefully unprepared for a neutron star. I got unlucky and was already within the blast area when I spawned from the jump-point. That cost me two decent battles because I was careless and hadn't immediately saved after (which is why, I think auto-save as a feature comes up so much even though it's impractical to implement for this game)

Then there was the first, and last, time I responded to a distress call ;) (whoa that pirate ambush is huge!)

Importantly, these kinds of experiences are necessary to make the sector feel like a dangerous and exciting place. One might be tempted to think the way to go, then, is to warn the player and give them time to avoid the hazard through intelligent choices or good preparation, but consider the effect that has when that principle over-saturates the difficulty and everything is avoidable- now it's boring! You never feel in danger because you can always pick your battles! That's a problem too... so what is there to be done about this paradox of design? I'll get to that soon, but first: (feel free to skip ahead, I know this is long, sorry)

Deep dive analysis of player incentives from a learning perspective:

The primary thing to consider when thinking about difficulty and the scale of ship size is the hazard to the player. What does it do to make the game more difficult when you increase ship size? It costs more supplies to deploy fleets and maintain fleets (crew, maintenance, officers, etc). Essentially more credits required per month. This means from the player's perspective they must earn more credits than before to survive (inherent time limit to play without further risk by doing missions- remember this is before colonies and assuming no commission is possible right away because that causes further complexity or dangers). What does a player gain by larger ships (flavor aside)? Power to ignore hazards that include larger sized fleets.

Hazards. The secondary thing to consider here is that there are currently two category types of hazards whose lines would scale inverted in opposite directions if we were to graph them: Hazards that scale upwards in cost (again more credits) according to increasing fleet size (category 1) and hazards that scale in less combat difficulty by the same metric (category 2). The early game, and Core Worlds in particular, has far more category 2 hazards than category 1 hazards. Players, therefore, quickly feel incentivized to increase their fleet size- which requires more credits- which requires venturing outside the Core- which increases the likelihood of running into the category 1 hazard! RNG makes this even more difficult to calculate, and so the end result for an inexperienced player is often bankruptcy by trying to protect themselves from the category 2 hazard. Since the scale is exponential in this regard, it can make it all the more frustrating.

One special thing to note about this dynamic, is that it greatly increases the attractiveness of lucrative trading missions and Core World events such as food shortages or market commodity deficiencies to a large degree. Why? Because a player can avoid most if not all of the category 1 hazards and reliably predict the category 2 hazards. The only RNG comes from black market activities- which are generally a really light penalty overall considering the gain that can be achieved.

Since Starsector is about campaign elements funneling back to combat with meaningful player choices in between, it therefore makes sense in my mind to both increase the usefulness of smaller ships in trading missions (they are the most attractive early game options as a conclusion from above ) since decreasing the missions' lucrativeness could potentially create more grind without reducing the benefit of less risk/calculable progression at the expense of boredom- if that makes sense. Again, I'm not saying small ships shouldn't have a role all campaign long, but this is a current campaign mechanic that can increase their usefulness in direct way. Part of the way to do this would be to funnel trading missions back into combat by increasing their risk. Importantly this could scale to fleet size and make small ship-only group's have more interesting things to do early on and late campaign both- depending upon the Core's overall stability. This is only one example, ideally, but gets the general point across of the necessity, in this case, of creating additional options to increase the variety of things to do at each stage of the difficulty progression in order to prevent staleness at any particular level.

What I mean by "difficulty progression" is explained below.
[close]

(I think the details are useful to understanding the overall point- but for those wanting the bullet points of the story/analysis)

 - Difficulty spikes are very common in the campaign, and they can be very frustrating to a new player- even killing interest in the game outright when a player is trying to learn
 - These hazards have to be present for the sector to feel dangerous/exciting- so this creates a conundrum of design
 - There are ways to somewhat mitigate or explain these hazards to the player- but see point 2- this can make the sector boring so beware!
 - The dangers to smaller fleets vs larger fleets are separate considerations altogether and provide a difficulty conundrum where the player feels like they "can't win either way"

Ok, sorry for the novel. So how does all that relate to the suggestion? (You thought I'd never get there didn't you ;) )

Alongside gating ship access to briefly limit player power creep, the suggestion can be used to better gate difficulty as well! More difficult random missions or even campaign hazards/elements can be designed- guilt free- because they can be logically reserved for "when the player is ready" by locking them behind an accessibility gate that, crucially, requires the player to opt-in to the difficulty increase (and the story-driven nature gives the perfect medium to describe that particular detail to the player so they can make an informed choice in the matter).
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TaLaR

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #29 on: February 29, 2020, 04:43:43 PM »

Why wouldn't you be able to get larger ships without finishing some particular bounty/etc? It would be a horribly gamy mechanic. I'd rather prefer starsector design to move in exactly opposite direction, toward more dynamic sandbox.
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