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Author Topic: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance  (Read 4811 times)

FooF

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2020, 12:50:52 PM »

I agree with the OP but I see as symptomatic of a meta-game issue. Let's take the Vigilance as the example:

I never use them. I enjoy it when the enemy does because I know they're easy to kill. Some people use them once they have a few Destroyers or Cruisers to screen for them but  at the end of the day, its a support frigate whose glory days are over within 30 minutes of a playthrough. I've seen people defend it a few times but it's not "intentionally bad" like a Buffalo Mk. II or some of the pirate stuff. (Same as the Condor, though it is described as a hack-job.)

What to do with the Vigilance? It's a Medium Missile and a Medium Energy with average flux stats and average speed. If we buff it, how do we so? Make it faster so that it can harass better? Give it more flux so that it can engage its Medium Energy more reliably? Reduce its cost (4 supply/mo & deploy)? Give it free Expanded Missile racks? Even if we tweak stats, the fundamental role hasn't changed and a support frigate just isn't that useful past early game. We can make it better, sure, but will it ever be "good?"

In a vacuum, we could make the Vigilance look good on paper but is it intra-competitive with other Frigates of roughly the same logistical cost/rarity? Is it better than a Wolf, Lasher, Centurion, Brawler, or Omen? (I'd argue, no). Would I rather have 2 Kites? (Maybe) And yes, a Buffalo Mk. II has about the same logistical profile but is a better missile platform (though it is much slower). So we have a situation where we can buff the ship in question and it would still be a consolation prize unless we change it at some fundamental level. That's not to say it's not in need of a buff but I still wouldn't use it even if it did. I can't justify its role. (The Doom used to be in this category but then its role was fundamentally changed via the Mine Strike system, so its not without precedent!)

So, tl;dr, I agree with you but the solution isn't as simple as stat tweaks.

Commonly cited "bad" stuff:

For the Venture: increase its burn speed by 1 and it's in my fleet tomorrow. I think it's a cheap damage sponge but it's too dang slow.
For the Condor: it does need to be faster but I'm still ok with its existence as the lowest-bar carrier option
For the Shrike: I don't think it's terrible but the (P) version is better, which shouldn't be the case.
For the Thumper: It needs to be sustained fire, not burst. Lower the number of projectiles/sec but it's just a constant barrage that fighters/missiles can't get through and ships can't just ignore. Good anti-fighter/missile, otherwise a pressure weapon.
For the  Ion Pulser: Its range is too low which is why I never use it. It's half of an Autopulse in terms of damage but it's a knife-fighter when Energy is dying for range. It's also a "premium" weapon at 11 OP, which is counter-intuitive.



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Hiruma Kai

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2020, 01:30:27 PM »

For me, playstyle does factor into this.

At the end of the day, it is a single player game.  The objective is to have fun.  How to have that fun differs from player to player.  Which also means what makes a ship "bad" is going to also vary from player to player.

Some players like amassing an all powerful death fleet with perfect ships and skills that can crush anything the game throws at you. Their objective is end game, and its a perfectly fine way to play.

Some players like playing missions, sometimes just the hardest ones.  Perfectly reasonable.

Some like silly challenges, like building an all buffalo II fleet.  Or playing ironman spacer start without buying ships.  Perhaps they like the challenge of keeping their fast-dying-ship fleet from dying fast.  Also a perfectly fine way to play.

Some people play for the role playing aspects and to tell a story.  Rising from a lone buffalo to flying fleets of Atlases.  Having both super ships and clunkers is true to life, as already mentioned. There's plenty of military hardware in real life that is sub-par, and others that are best in class.  It can add to the immersion, and can be a fun way to play.

I view the campaign layer as a RNG mission generator.  Sure there's progression, but I find the fights along the progression are just as fun as the end game fights (1 destroyer vs 10 frigates or 5 capitals vs 45 capitals, both can be equally interesting).  I also tend to play iron man, and often times simply restart from scratch if I get into a fleet wipe situation.  Sometimes I'll make a misplay at the campaign layer mid-game, and lose half my fleet in a retreat situation and continue playing from there. I actually enjoy the early game fights just as much as the late game fights.

Game balance and ship balance is important, but only in the service of the question of, "Is it fun?"  Keeping in mind, you can't please all of the people all of the time. 

Ship balance is necessary to some level, as most people do tend to gravitate to the most powerful or effective options.  Particularly ineffective ships will generally not count as a real choice for the majority of players.  However, in the case of a single player game, how does one determine a particularly ineffective ship?  Who's definition are you using?  Not winning ship tournaments with it?  Losing one on one simulator fights?  Ability to get to end game in the campaign?

Sure a condor is much worse than a drover, no question.  Its not going to win any tournaments, nor is it much in a 1 on 1 simulator fight.  But you can certainly "finish" the game with condors in your fleet.  So if someone has beaten the game using condors and shrikes, and had fun, are they wrong to call them good based on that metric?  Are you saying you can't win with them?   Or they're not fun?  People have different tolerance levels for how bad a ship can be before they start not having fun using it.

In one ironman game, I used a solo SO shrike to distract a multi-fleet expedition from a relatively new colony that was in the process of building a starbase.  Kept them flying in circles for about 20 days or something like that.  Burn 10, 180 speed plus mobility ability, and sabots/heavy blaster to kill frigates that caught up when I did engage and retreat were useful when I needed to get them to stop in place for a short period.  Sure, its generally worse than a Medusa or Hammerhead, but it was good enough for my purposes at the time.  By the time they engaged the starbase, they had no frigates left, and were down a few destroyers.  Should I feel bad for having used it instead of an SO Hammerhead which without a mobility system would likely have gotten encircled during those engagements?

Admittedly, I'm guessing most players haven't engaged enemy fleets with the intent of losing and retreating.  It can be an interesting tactic on Ironman in certain desperate colony defense situations because of the way CR works and ability to store and/or restore ship CR at stations.

Perhaps its a disconnect between comparing between ships and comparing between ships and what you need to do in game to succeed?  You're clearly comparing ship to ship.  Perhaps they're comparing ship when combined with player and character skills versus game situations.  If they play the campaign and win with them, is it weird for them to think the ship is fine as is or perhaps even good?
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Megas

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2020, 01:32:25 PM »

Quote
I never use them. I enjoy it when the enemy does because I know they're easy to kill. Some people use them once they have a few Destroyers or Cruisers to screen for them but  at the end of the day, its a support frigate whose glory days are over within 30 minutes of a playthrough.
That is the fate of all conventional fighting frigates (not just Vigilance), except maybe Tempest.  They die too easily and low PPT means they die if the cowardly AI succeeds at stalling.  Not to mention officers and fleet slots are a valuable resource.

For the Venture: increase its burn speed by 1 and it's in my fleet tomorrow. I think it's a cheap damage sponge but it's too dang slow.
For the Condor: it does need to be faster but I'm still ok with its existence as the lowest-bar carrier option
For the Shrike: I don't think it's terrible but the (P) version is better, which shouldn't be the case.
For the Thumper: It needs to be sustained fire, not burst. Lower the number of projectiles/sec but it's just a constant barrage that fighters/missiles can't get through and ships can't just ignore. Good anti-fighter/missile, otherwise a pressure weapon.
For the  Ion Pulser: Its range is too low which is why I never use it. It's half of an Autopulse in terms of damage but it's a knife-fighter when Energy is dying for range. It's also a "premium" weapon at 11 OP, which is counter-intuitive.
Lack of burn speed is a fatal flaw of Venture.  If it has faster burn, I probably would use it occasionally.  It would also be nice if its flight deck could accept any fighter.

Condor is okay as the entry-level starter option.  Yes, it is bad, but it is functional.

Normal Shrike needs that hybrid.  Pirate version is superior as long as the hybrid has a ballistic.

Thumper before 0.8a had sustained fire.  Combined with windup and less range, it was so bad that no weapon was better than mounting it.  Even Vulcan was a better weapon than pre-0.8a Thumper.  Sustained fire made it easier to face-tank Thumper and shrug off hits.  Current Thumper can use improvements.  Either lower its OP cost and/or give it a special script to ignore minimum armor damage (i.e, does full 100% damage to hull).

Ion Pulser is only useful on Aurora, but Aurora is overpriced for what it can do.

Proximity bombs is a terrible weapon for ships.  Overpriced, horribly slow shots, burns through ammo fast.  Needs to be worth 7 DP or given ammo regeneration.

Mining laser needs more oomph somehow.  It is only useful after adding a laundry list of hullmods plus maybe Advanced Countermeasures 3 - yuck!  By the time I acquire the hullmods, I have (LR) PD and can use those instead.  Cheap options for other light mounts are fine out-of-the-box.

Quote
Some players like amassing an all powerful death fleet with perfect ships and skills that can crush anything the game throws at you. Their objective is end game, and its a perfectly fine way to play.
This is me to a T.
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Eji1700

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2020, 01:33:51 PM »

Having bad ships is absolutely critical. Pirates need to fly clunkers for the early game progression to make sense.

I disagree, sort of.

Yes having early game pirates in super ships is bad, but I think the "draw" of games like escape velocity was the idea that in player hands, I could take ANYTHING, and turn it into my ship(and you very much could).

To me it's a huge waste of effort to spend all this time creating assets and code for all these things, and then to just cut off entire avenues of gameplay because "well obviously they suck". Especially when you've already got a system in the game to help with this (d mods).  This was arguably a big complaint among the EV:Nova community (vellos were super restricted and Polaris were just better by design)

One of my favorite mods for the old EV's to help with replay value was themed starts (ditto for any RPG like Skyrim/Fallout).  For starsector the idea that you could start as a rim explorer, faction officer, bounty hunter, or pirate clan leader all make a ton of sense, and punishing the player for enjoying that playstyle doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

I'm hoping story points fix this to some extent, and if i actually put up and shut up it's one of the first things i'd try to mod, but this "it must be this way" mindset in general is usually wrong.  There's so many games out there that there's almost always a counter example.

All that said, and to be fair to the devs, dev time is a finite thing.  I get a "it's good enough for me" approach when you've got a million other features to work on that we don't even know about, but speaking from a pure theory standpoint I absolutely believe that "Every ship is viable in a players fleet" is an achievable, if very difficult, goal.  Especially given we've already got so many easy ways to asymmetrically tweak things (hull mods, player skills, and upcoming story points)
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Morrokain

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #19 on: July 07, 2020, 01:53:02 PM »

Some of the outlying stats, like the Condor's speed, are issues, but I think the short length of the midgame and the high endgame floor on the availability of the best possible tech are bigger problems.

I agree with this. (Also doesn't have to be grind if it's fun and creates excitement to find something rare, but I agree that it can be grind if done improperly.)

Rare stuff hard to replace happened before 0.8a, and I reloaded games the moment my side took a casualty and replayed until I won without casualties because it was faster to play that way.  Easier to reload and replay a fight once or twice (to undo a mistake) than to play on and grind hours for replacements.

We do not need junk that is easily found, most of that can be found in shops or as enemy loot.

Looting good ship types is easy.  Restoring them costs an arm-and-a-leg.  However, with permamods involved next release, restoration might be the way to go if income is high enough.  If not, save-scum like in old versions.

I don't think save-scumming is such a bad thing unless excessive in which case it becomes annoying. I think a good counter-balance to harder to find rare ships would be to reduce the cost of restoration to match the cost of the ship - maybe slightly higher but not by much. That way, finding one means you can essentially always "buy" at least one to replace it.

I would even be a fan of tying the restoration cost to commission/reputation to further make that more nuanced. So you can't just restore a good ship on a lucky find in the early game. You need the connections to reduce the cost enough to make it worth it, OR you can eat a large cost in credits to get it immediately.

I feel like that provides the most flexibility and a plethora of meaningful player choices.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2020, 01:58:53 PM by Morrokain »
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Goumindong

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2020, 02:04:45 PM »

1) maybe balance doesn’t mean “everything has use at all points in the game” but rather “there is a progression defined by advancement and change which produces an enjoyable experience as you move through the ships.


2) Maybe you’re just wrong?

Quote
In other thread I saw people defending Vigilance, Buffalo Mk II is a more useful ship.

But like... its not? The Vigilance does the one thing that any ship in a player fleet really needs to do, which is not die. And the Buffalo Mk II does not do that...

The Buffalo may be cheaper than the vigilance and may have more ordinance. But it cannot fit a turret medium energy for 1000 range pressure. It does not have a shield. Its 50 speed slower than the vigilance and has half the peak performance time!

Like... because it has 1k range pressure and a medium missile slot the vigilance remains valuable long after most frigates leave the value discussion. Its not good early because long range pressure doesn’t mean much to small fleets but is hella valuable Vs cruisers + as fleets get bigger. 

Think of them like small missile based Sunders instead of like lashers. The Sunder isn’t as good as the Hammerhead in a 1v1. But when there are cruisers around the Sunder is a much more potent destroyer. Able to hit to 1400 range (battleship ballistic range!) with big damage
« Last Edit: July 07, 2020, 02:12:28 PM by Goumindong »
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Megas

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #21 on: July 07, 2020, 02:52:53 PM »

Quote
I would even be a fan of tying the restoration cost to commission/reputation to further make that more nuanced. So you can't just restore a good ship on a lucky find in the early game. You need the connections to reduce the cost enough to make it worth it, OR you can eat a large cost in credits to get it immediately.
What kind of connections?  With factions?  What if I am otherwise self-sufficient with more assets than the core worlds?  (I tend to build colonies fast so I can get away from faction politics and be self-sufficient, then annihilate all of the core worlds if they do not stop their feeble bullying, which they never do.)

The thing is if save-scumming is faster than grinding up new replacements (ships, weapons, story points, income, whatever), then I see no problem save-scumming to undo casualties, even if it is annoying (because it is less annoying than spending hours grinding just to recover what I lost).

I like that in the current release, I can shrug off casualties late in the game.  I lose Paragon here or three smaller ships there, no problem, just build new ones with my Orbital Works and high income.

I hope permamods does not mean building ships is a one-and-done event because permamods will be so good and relatively hard to come by.
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pairedeciseaux

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #22 on: July 07, 2020, 03:03:51 PM »

(had I read what Hiruma Kai wrote a few messages above, I wouldn't have written the wall of text below, as I'm saying mostly the same thing with different words, yet ... Shrike lover unite! such a blow against our beloved ship can't be left unanswered! ;D )

Several things contribute to making Starsector a great video game. One of them is the great gameplay diversity it allows. Both in battle and outside of battle. There is not a single way to play. There are many ways. One obvious tool used to achieve that gameplay diversity is ship diversity, right?

Shrike and Pirate Shrike - use them as bigger Wolf with a unique gameplay, provided you like said gameplay - I you don't, that's fine as other ships will suit you better. How many ships allow either instant rush with shield up in front or instant flee with shield up in the back? How many ships allow having a medium energy turret fire in one direction, a shield up in another direction, and the ship move in another direction all at the same time? Biggest problem IMO is AI don't use it properly (mainly the mobility ship system issue), except maybe for pursuit. As a player ship I love it, it has replaced Medusa in my fleets (because Medusa is so rare).

Venture - use them as bigger Shepherd, either when you can't get Shepherd or when you reach a stage when you want to consolidate on bigger ships and you still need to do exploration. Unless I'm mistaken it as the same logistic profile as a Falcon, a good point for a utility ship that you can bring in battle. Indeed burn speed is an issue, fortunately Augmented Drivefield or Militarized Subsystem fix that easily. I don't use it often, because I usually do a quick transition from Shepherd to several logistic ships with Surveying Equipment for my exploration needs, but on a few occasions Venture appeared as the solution at hand.

I don't have much to say about Condor other than in my current run I still Have 2 Condor doing their jobs as I've reached mid/late game: fleet and station bounty duty, mostly around 200K and one 300K. They shall be retired soon, worked as intended I guess. Maybe Condor should have a 50 or 55 max speed (closer to Enforcer).

So count me in the "those are not useless" camp. Hopefully, this does contribute to the subject.

Also, IMO, thinking about this only in terms of balance or meta-game is preciselly missing the one point that matter. Think of it in terms of gameplay, "there is a purpose for this and for that". Please note I didn't write niche, as the word seems to convey poor value to what has the highest value here: gameplay. I would even go as far as claming: the meta-game viewpoint here can be dangerous as it might restrict one's view to "I want the best", which is indeed an issue in several video game community, especially where PvP fight is involved - and the balance viewpoint is dangerous as is encourage to level everything to a similar playing field.

I think the Starsector designers (and several modders too) go to great length to provide great gameplay, please do not undervalue this. This is not the only component of a video game, but it is a very important one.
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Morrokain

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #23 on: July 07, 2020, 03:29:04 PM »

What kind of connections?  With factions?  What if I am otherwise self-sufficient with more assets than the core worlds?  (I tend to build colonies fast so I can get away from faction politics and be self-sufficient, then annihilate all of the core worlds if they do not stop their feeble bullying, which they never do.)

The thing is if save-scumming is faster than grinding up new replacements (ships, weapons, story points, income, whatever), then I see no problem save-scumming to undo casualties, even if it is annoying (because it is less annoying than spending hours grinding just to recover what I lost).

I like that in the current release, I can shrug off casualties late in the game.  I lose Paragon here or three smaller ships there, no problem, just build new ones with my Orbital Works and high income.

I hope permamods does not mean building ships is a one-and-done event because permamods will be so good and relatively hard to come by.

Colonies would probably tie this to an industry like orbital works or heavy industry so it wouldn't require a faction commission/high reputation. That would just be one way to go about it. In that sense, everything you mentioned here would be maintained. As long as you have the blueprints you can do all the same things. To preserve casualties for high value assets just make sure they have an officer or Reinforced Hull so that they can be recovered. Or, don't, and build them like you said.

The idea is that it does nothing to affect late game. It provides more meaningful early and middle game and lengthens the duration of those two levels of the campaign.

For players that want to go straight to late game, this is still very possible - either with an advanced game start only available to veterans (maybe unlocked by your first medium sized colony or something) or by knowing enough of the game to be able to "pull the right levers" of the campaign to get there at the cost of difficulty. (Read as hard quests most likely.)
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Megas

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #24 on: July 07, 2020, 04:01:51 PM »

While Shrike is mediocre, it does one thing Wolf cannot do, which is support a proper hard flux energy weapon.  Shrike has as much burn as a frigate, and it cheaper than other destroyers that Shrike feels more like an extra-large frigate than a destroyer.  I kind of wish the starter Wolf was replaced by a Shrike with a good loadout (Heavy Blaster and Sabot Pod).

Only problem with Shrike as a playership?  It turns too slowly without Helmsmanship or Auxiliary Thrusters.
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Thaago

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #25 on: July 07, 2020, 05:23:01 PM »

The Shrike does its role of "frigate leader" very well, as it brings a lot of tankiness and firepower for a burn 10 ship and its very very cheap. But the phase of the game where a ship of that role is useful is chopped pretty short at the moment: the tutorial gives the player burn 9 proper destroyers that will all defeat a Shrike head to head. I've used the Shrike successfully as cheap, long PPT 'super frigates' that I don't mind losing, but I wouldn't call them top notch. Useful, but not top.

I think the example of the Vigilance being a bad ship is both correct and incorrect. Its underpowered, especially its flux stats, which makes it a truly horrendous gun ship. Its a bit expensive at 5 DP.

But would I take one and usefully use it once I'm at the cruiser/destroyer phase of the game? Yes, and I think at that point it would be much more useful than a Wolf/Lasher/Hound/other completely obsolete frigate. In testing in the mission Forlorn Hope (I posted about this in another thread) they successfully survived and landed many Harpoon shots, and disabled some ships with their ion beam. They honestly did better than I would expect a Lasher/Wolf/other gun frigate when fighting cruisers and destroyers.
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Goumindong

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #26 on: July 07, 2020, 06:12:42 PM »

Nah the Shrike maintains its usefulness as a mid size swarmer. Compare with the Medusa:

Medusa
12 OP
120 deg Omni @ .6
95 DP
7.616 OP/DP
400 Flux
33.3 Flux/DP

Shrike
8 OP
150 deg Omni @ .7
80 DP
10 OP/DP
350 Flux
43.65 Flux/DP

It does indeed not bring any kinetic damage while the Medusa can bring two LN's. And it does indeed have a slightly worse mobility system. But its still just as fast and with a heavy blaster is bringing better armor damage/DP than a Medusa does. And its less likely to take damage due to its larger shield.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #27 on: July 07, 2020, 06:24:04 PM »

Medusa has universal mounts for kinetics which is a huge difference that isn't represented in the stats.
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Terethall

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #28 on: July 07, 2020, 06:42:49 PM »

(and salvaged fleets built wide on destroyers would be more viable)
These fleets are actually surprisingly good when combined with d-mods, reinforced bulkheads, and industry skills, and used to prey on opponents with good ships but low numbers. It's a very fun way to play, except that outfitting thirty different destroyers on salvaged weapons is a huge timesink.

For the Shrike: I don't think it's terrible but the (P) version is better, which shouldn't be the case.
I shudder to think how you must feel about the Falcon (P) in that case. I think it's fine if sometimes the pirates luck into legit improvements.
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Thaago

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Re: A weird mindset I've been seeing lately about game balance
« Reply #29 on: July 07, 2020, 06:46:59 PM »

Regarding the Shrike vs Medusa flux budget, most of the time both ships will have maxed vents, so the ratio of flux/DP is even better:

Shrike: 550/8 = 68.75
Medusa: 600/12 = 50

Of course flux/dp isn't all that telling of a metric; as others have pointed out the kinetic slots on the medusa are very important to its performance and make it a vastly better duellist.
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