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Starsector 0.97a is out! (02/02/24); New blog post: New music for Galatia Academy (06/12/24)

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Messages - Delta_of_Isaire

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1
Finding the new meta is going to take a while yet, so it might be too early to say where the balance is at in 0.96. And any fixes would likely come in the .1 release. But yeah, no time like the present to start figuring this out!

My impression from 0.95 regarding the balance between missiles and PD is that good PD is necessary to avoid being bursted down by missiles. On the forums there has been a general vibe of not investing too much OP into PD, but I have never understood that. For me, one of the leading causes of my ships getting destroyed was from PD failure - missile strikes and Doom mines. And consequently my loadouts were always heavy on PD and IPDAI.

I haven't looked at the new 0.96 ships yet, but I have looked at the missiles. There's some good ones, and they are bursty, and the DEMs effectively beat Vulcan grids. Flak is still effective against DEMs though. Keep in mind Burst PD has also been buffed slightly with its increased charges. But yeah, DEMs punish short-range PD like Vulcans and basic PD Lasers. I could see a shift toward more Flak and more Burst PD + Advanced Optics. And the Point Defense skill bonus to range is more important than ever.

What I am most worried about is that the proliferation of missiles is going to create more cases of ships being obliterated out of the blue. Particularly Frigates and Destroyers as those are more easily overwhelmed and tend to lack the better (longer-ranged) PD options.

2
Announcements / Re: Starsector 0.96a (Released) Patch Notes
« on: May 13, 2023, 11:44:31 PM »
Review time! These are genuinely my first impressions of the new weapons, from messing around with them in sim battles via devmode > edit variants.

TL;DR:
> Sarissa has too much DPS. Latest patch fixes this.
> Kinetic Blaster and Gigacannon are very niche.
> Mining Blaster is awesome.
> Gorgons are awesome, lethal to Frigates.
> Hydra by contrast is underwhelming. The submunitions need higher speed.
> Medium mount Dragonfires are insane. They might need a longer refire delay.
> Large mount Dragonfire by contrast is a big letdown. It needs burst size 2.

SARISSA
>>> UPDATE: Latest patch reduces flux stats of Sarissa to balancing their DPS.
4x Sarissa on a Legion adds an impressive hailstorm of LAC rounds. Very good at taking out Frigates (including 2 Omen) and Destroyers attempting to flank the mothership. The Cannistar Flak is lethal against incoming fighters, and appears not to do friendly fire damage which is probably for the best. However the Sarissa are completely incapable of stopping Salamanders or things like Atropos strikes from Dagger bombers from hitting their mothership, so their capacity to function as anti-missile PD is limited. Well, that's just more obvious synergy with Xyphos I guess. Sarissa do hard-counter Piranha bombers though.

For the Legion, 2x Sarissa + 2x Xyphos + Defensive Targeting Array is a very strong defensive support package, that also synergizes well with the Legion's own weapons. Case in point: with this loadout and no other weapons, I could Burn Drive my legion into the face of the SIM Eagle (with its new shiny loadout) and watch as the fighters proceeded to pick it apart. Then I did the same thing with SIM Aurora. And then with the SIM Astral. Now of course Kinetic + Ion damage will cripple anything. But the raw DPS of the Sarissa is impressive. And killing an Astral with what is essentially just 4 fighter wings is kinda funny.
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KINETIC BLASTER
They're really cool! High damage per shot which means the armor penetration is actually kinda good. 600 range is the Energy weapon standard which I guess is fine. The main balance lever used here is high flux cost: 1.5 flux/damage. That is terrible compared to Ballistic Kinetic weapons and notably worse than the Minipulser. Very much in line with a Heavy Blaster, which I guess accounts for the 'blaster' part of the name. The big downside of such high flux cost is it hurts flux efficiency against hull, which means these weapons are really only good against the defensives they hit for 2x damage. And the big Elephant in the room is the Pulse Laser which has 0.8 flux/damage now. The Kinetic Blaster has 1.5 / 2 = 0.75 flux/damage against shields which is barely better than the Pulse Laser. Now Kinetic Blaster has a hit strength of 125 against armor compared to 100 for Pulse Laser. However with the Pulse Laser literally firing 3 shots for every 1 Kinetic Blaster shot, and for less flux to boot... I am really not seeing the appeal of the Kinetic Blaster. It is really only good on ships with plenty of flux to spare. Which is kind of a thing for High Tech ships anyway so it *might* work out. The DPS per mount is definitely higher for Blasters compared to Pulse Lasers.

On balance, I can't help but feel that combining a Heavy Blaster with Pulse Lasers is better overall than combining a Heavy Blaster with Kinetic Blasters. Preliminary SIM battles appear to confirm this. And fact remains Minipulsers are just better if the range drop to 500 isn't an issue, which it shouldn't be for fast High Tech ships.
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MINING BLASTER
It pounces on armor! On autofire it preserves charges vs shields, but will unload a barrage as soon as the enemy drops its shields. And that barrage HURTS. I can totally see this being a more flux-friendly alternative to a Heavy Blaster. Very impressive. And seeing another use for Expanded Magazines is nice too. Particularly now that Burst PD is fixed to be efficient with Expanded Magazines as well. My new standard weapon loadout for High Tech may very well be Burst PD + 1 Mining Blaster + Pulse Lasers now.
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BURST PD / HEAVY BURST LASER
Speaking of Burst PD: I love how it conserves its charges for missiles and fighters, not wasting them on the shields of enemy ships.
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IR AUTOLANCE
The perfect anti-fighter weapon. As long as enemy fighters come 2 wings at a time. Because after that the charges have run out and the sustained DPS is TERRIBLE. Expanded Magazines is an absolute must-have for this. At least 8 OP per Autolance isn't too expensive, so you can afford the Magazines if you have 2 or 3+ Autolances.

This weapons 100% feels like it was designed for Midline ships, which I guess it was so that works out.

Also a very good weapon for killing a lone Frigate attempting to flank you. Fire a couple Sabots to drop the shields and then IR Autolance it to death. And it might be the most reliable way to kill unshielded pirate Hounds. Again, Expanded Magazines is absolutely required to make Frigate-sniping work.

That's what this is, isn't it: the perfect anti-Pirate weapon. Kills those Hounds, Cerberi, Mudskipper Mk.IIs and Buffalo Mk.IIs at long range without hassle.

Addendum: These comments were based on SIM battles with an Eagle with 3 Autolances. The Autolance definitely benefits from being used in numbers, because the burst capacity of a single Autolance is underwhelming. Oh, and I suppose the Point Defense skill will be good for the +50% damage to fighters. Should make a noticeable difference.
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GIGACANNON
This thing is surprisingly light on flux usage. Reminiscent of a Hellbore Cannon. How is this thing going to compete with the Plasma Cannon though? Large Energy mounts are scarce and ships that have them generally can afford the flux cost of a few Plasma Cannons. And Plasma Cannons are good enough armor-crackers for the majority of targets, so why bother adding a Gigacannon? Paragon may be one good candidate. I tested Paragon with 2x turreted Plasma Cannon, 2x Gigacannon in the front hardpoints, 2x Heavy Needlers in the universals and 2x Graviton Beams in the front mediums. It feels like a good fit in terms of total flux/sec, and it certainly performs.

Aside from Paragon though, who is going to use a Gigacannon effectively? Champion? Champion can afford the flux cost of a Tachyon Lance so I don't see the Gigacannon being used on it. The Gigacannon is definitely a very niche weapon.
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GORGON DEM SRM
An Energy damage missile. That would make it an opener if it weren't soft-flux damage. Still, a large enough volley could overwhelm the shields on a Frigate and kill it outright. Sure enough: an Eradicator with 5 Gorgons can alpha-strike the SIM Lasher with 2x5 missiles. And with 4 capacity a piece it can then do it again, even without EMR. And even the Dev SIM Tempest dies easily to 3x5 Gorgons. Next I tried the Hammerhead, which was fried with 4x5 missiles.

There should be obvious synergy with Sabots here, so let's try 2x Sabots + 3x Gorgons on the Eradicator. OK, turns out enemy AI is quite willing to armor-tank the Sabots, but equipping a single Mauler solves that. Result: there is actually very little synergy. You still need to expend half your Gorgons to kill a Hammerhead. Moreover, if you overload an enemy ship then you might as well be using Harpoons or Atropos.

So yeah the strike potential of Gorgons is very real, if you use them en masse or against small targets.
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GORGON SRM POD
Like the SRM, but bigger and better? Actually no, because with 10 second refire delay and a burst size of only 2 it is more difficult to achieve a large enough volley. Let's take a Legion to experiment with because I like the Legion and 5 medium missiles is quite good. A volley of 2x5 Gorgons is large enough to kill a Lasher or Tempest. And the ammo capacity is great: 12 volleys with EMR. You can keep dropping Frigates left and right for a while. Next I tried the Hammerhead again. And while a single volley isn't enough to fry it, then 2nd volley actually comes quickly enough to finish the job.

So is there a weakness? Yes - good point defense. Individual Gorgons are quite fragile, and Flak in particular will chew them up easily. SIM Assault Enforcer for example holds them off quite well. The claim in the description that it "initiates beyond the range of the heaviest expected PD coverage" is either a flat-out lie or written by someone with very conservative expectations.

Also, Phase Skimmer on e.g. the Medusa is a very effective defense against DEMs because they don't retarget after going off.

My bottom line: Gorgons are more dangerous to Frigates and light Destroyers than Harpoons, Atropos or Locusts ever were. And they don't even need ECCM for that.
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GAZER DEM SRM
Very good ammo capacity at 6, with 10 second refire delay. That means Gazers remain available for longer and against more targets than most other small missiles, which is great. At first I was worried that these long-lasting DEMs might struggle to stay on target, however the missiles continue to maneuver after their beam starts, keeping it nicely in range. Even against Frigates.

So forget about pairing Gorgons with Sabots - pairing them with Gazers looks more promising! On the other hand, Gazers feel like they pair well with continuous-fire HE weapons like the HIL, or simply Heavy Mortars. Or, indeed, Mining Blasters. Weapons like Maulers and Hellbore are too bursty.
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GAZER SRM POD
Same as the small mount version, really. A good amount of ammo and a sensible burst size of 2. A little bit like the Kinetic variant of Annihilator Pods as a pressure weapon. The refire delay of 10 seconds is such that a 2nd volley starts beaming as soon as the 1st volley stops so the pressure is nicely continuous.

So I reckon the choice between using Gazers or Gorgons comes down to what your targets are. Against smaller ships the Gorgons look better, in combination with hard-flux Kinetic guns, while against larger ships I would choose Gazers paired with HE guns.

Gazers have a listed range of only 1200, however their beam also has quite some range so you can actually fire the Gazers effectively from more than 1200 units away. But of course autofire and the AI won't do that. Guns on capital ships can have quite a bit more than 1200 range so this does come up. It means aggressive AI behavior - be it from Aggressive AI or Eliminate orders - will come in handy here to close that range gap and bring the Gazers in autofire range.
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DRAGONFIRE DEM TORPEDO
Two ammo for twelve OP. That better be a hell of a munition. So 3000 soft Energy damage... That's quite a bit less than a Reaper. But it supposedly makes up for that with tracking ability and being less susceptible to PD. Well, let's test it!

OK so the graphics are definitely cool which is worth something. These things are also definitely underwhelming against shielded targets, unless used in large enough numbers. Notably, as with the Gorgons claim, the Dragonfire's claim of bypassing PD is not entirely accurate. Cruisers and especially Capitals with Flak can and will shoot down Dragonfires. SIM Onslaught in particular will just make an entire volley of Dragonfires disappear.

Fact remains though: a Legion firing a volley of 5 Dragonfires can just instantly delete a Hammerhead. Or any other Destroyer, except the Medusa which lives thanks to Phase Skimmer. That's a pretty powerful ability, and there is very little defense against it. Although the missiles are kinda slow, so backing away immediately might save you.

The refire delay of 5 seconds is also short enough that you can stack volleys on a target quit effectively. The abovementioned Legion with EMR can carry 5x4 Dragonfires, enough to delete SIM Eagle or even SIM Dominator, and nearly enough to kill SIM Conquest. Add a bit of hard-flux pressure from equipping actual guns, and the Legion can just Burn Drive up to the Conquest, drop 4 volleys of Dragonfires and kill the Conquest in the space of 30 seconds. Its really the short refire delay that lets you do that.

And you don't even need to rely on the Dragonfires alone: combined with Kinetic guns they are even better. Build up some hard flux on the target, launch a volley of Dragonfires. The enemy AI sees them coming and will refuse to drop shields, very reliably causing an overload under the Kinetic fire. And then the Dragonfires hit. Said Legion can delete like 3-4 Cruisers in a row with this tactic.

Dragonfires are dangerous...
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DRAGONFIRE TORPEDO POD
OK I was genuinely expecting this to be burst size 2. But it is single shot, and to add insult to injury it has a longer refire delay than the medium mount version. It literally just has 2.5x the ammo capacity for 2.5x the OP cost. I mean, how is this not outclassed by the Hurricane?
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JACKHAMMER
It's a medium sized Hammer Barrage! That doesn't fire in a spread pattern! The ammo capacity is atrocious though at just two bursts. At least at 8 OP you kinda get what you pay for. Let's call it thematically appropriate.
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HYDRA MDEM LAUNCHER
The final DEM. A DEM version of the Hurricane. With 1 fewer submunition and a different damage type. Similar spreadfire pattern, similar benefit from ECCM by the looks of it. Best I can tell, this is like a large mount version of the Gorgon. It even has the same refire delay. A Frigate killing weapon. Although it really does need ECCM to reliably catch Frigates.

So where a base Legion with 5 Gorgon pods can kill a Lasher in 1 volley and has (with EMR) 12 volleys, a Legion (XIV) with two Hydras needs 2 volleys to kill a Lasher, but has 30 ammo meaning 15 Lashers. And that 2nd volley is overkill.

So I have two complaints about the Hydra. First, the submunitions do not hit the target simultaneously, which gives time for soft flux to dissipate and thus reduces effectiveness against shields. Second, while the first-stage Hydra has the same speed as Gorgons, the submunitions are noticeably slower, which makes them less capable of hitting fast Frigates.

And anti-Frigate duty is definitely what Hydras are for. I mean, with a hit strength of 500 Energy damage coming from multiple angles you aren't going to effectively punch through the better-armored Destroyers. Keep in mind this is less than the hit strength of Gorgons at 800. And Hurricanes with ECCM can hit Destroyers well enough, and with HE damage and more focused targeting will hurt more.

So Hydras are cute and they have good ammo and the OP cost of 20 is cheap enough to make tacking on ECCM not unreasonable. But the damage potential is a bit underwhelming. Definitely more of a support weapon than an assault weapon.

And of course the AI will happily shoot at the first unfluxed enemy it spots at maximum range, for little to no effect.
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PILUM LRM CATAPULT
I love Pilums. Always have, and especially in 0.95 where they actually became good. For double the OP cost the Catapult launches double the Pilums, but as a bonus it has a shorter refire delay and regenerates ammo significantly faster. The downside is that the initial ammo lasts only half as long.

It's just a solid weapon.
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I might do the new ships next.

3
Announcements / Re: Starsector 0.96a (Released) Patch Notes
« on: May 11, 2023, 09:06:12 AM »
It's the release! Wow! So come June 1st we might be able to play again  :D  (waiting for those hot/warm fixes to drop)

Meanwhile we can play around with the new toys.

One thing I noticed about the Proximity Charge Launcher: it does NOT auto-fire against enemy fighters. Even the AI doesn't actively shoot them at fighters. Sim a Legion with 5x PCL and no other weapons against the three SIM Condors, activate autopilot, and watch the Legion die helplessly while barely firing any charges. For a weapon tagged "Anti-Fighter" that is kind of disappointing.


Oh and I think the DPS of the Sarissa fighters is a bit overtuned, though that's just my first impression.

4
Suggestions / Re: Eagle and (base) Falcon remain anemic
« on: December 08, 2022, 09:51:48 AM »
As a huge fan of the Eagle (with regard to its looks and paper stats, not its actual performance) I've been following this thread with interest. Some very good points have been raised.

There is one point I want to add, which is yet another example of how game mechanics interact poorly with the Eagle's design. It is about the ballistic hardpoints, upon which the Eagle is very reliant for its anti-shield damage, but which the AI uses poorly when faced with two or more enemies. The AI likes to point its nose towards its target, which is always the *nearest* enemy as far as I can tell. Long story short, if two or more Destroyers or Frigates attack a ship then that ship will frequently switch targets and attempt to re-orient itself. As a result of which forward-facing hardpoints spend a lot of time not pointing at a target, and thus not contributing DPS.

This really hurts the Eagle's ability to punch down, compared to Eradicator, Champion and Dominator which all have turreted medium ballistics. Of course the same problem exists for the Falcon, however the Falcon is much more maneuverable and therefore doesn't suffer as much, at least against destroyers.

Slating the Eagle as a defensive ship that can "dynamically hold an area" is absolutely fine. In 1v1 situations the Eagle is actually great at winning flux wars, and it is one of very few ships where equipping Ion Beams is both possible and sensible. Yeah it lacks finishing ability, but that's where fleet assets like Gryphon, Heron etc come in. It's all good. Except when the enemy doesn't allow a neat 1v1 but swarms the Eagle with smaller ships. Then, the fact that its anti-shield DPS is locked in ineffective hardpoint mounts becomes a huge problem. The Eagle cannot dynamically hold an area against multiple smaller opponents.

The obvious solution is indeed to swap the ballistic and energy mounts. That would mostly solve the problem, along with some other issues like the ballistic/energy range disparity, etc. Should the mounts be swapped like that? Well it's not my decision. I'm just here to say that giving the Eagle turreted kinetic weapons would enable it to be a good defensive pivot, which it currently isn't.

5
Actually the real problem of the Drover is how it compares to the Heron. Even if you assume the Drover's ship system is fixed, that system will not be better than Targeting Feed. Meanwhile, the Heron is both faster (80 vs 75 speed) and has more fighter bays per DP (6.67 vs 7.5 DP per bay). So fixing Reserve Deployment alone is not enough - the Drover also needs 5-10 more speed and have its deployment cost reduced back to 12.

As for the Heron: it is currently the uncontested best carrier thanks to its combination of speed, DP per fighter bay and Targeting Feed. Yeah it doesn't have enough OP to fit guns, aside from a bit of PD. But that is necessary to balance its advantages. The Heron is, currently, a pure carrier. And that's fine. If you want to give more OP to the Heron so that it can fit real weapons, then you'd also have to bump its deployment cost up to like 22-24, and nobody wants that.

6
Suggestions / Re: List of minor improvements for major increase in quality
« on: September 04, 2022, 12:57:08 AM »
Can we please just have the ship sprites rotated instead?

It is quite possible we are in violent agreement.  So... Want to guess which way that rotated Bliss is facing? :)

Considering I have a 50% chance to be correct purely by chance, the outcome of my guess would only constitute weak evidence that wouldn't fully convince you anyway. Much more importantly though, it's a Mod ship. Catering to mods is well and good up to a point, but in this case I think it's the mod author's responsibility to design a ship that isn't fully symmetrical. If nothing else, the sprite should have engines painted on it, which tend to be in the rear.

Hey, I'll concede. The current arrow doesn't need to go away. We can have both sprite rotation and an arrow to indicate direction.

I strongly oppose the suggestion about the command view, currently enemy ship face down and friendly ship face up in the command screen, with the arrow indicating direction in the battle scape, in my opinon this is an easier way to quickly identify the alliegance of ships (is that a friendly omen or a hostile omen? et cetera). For me this kind of pattern recognition is easier and faster than colour recognition, especially when colourblindedness is thrown into the mix.*
Friendlies are outlined by a green square. Enemies are outlined by a red diamond. That's a pretty solid difference. I can see how red/green isn't the best color scheme, but the solution there is providing the option of alternative colors.

Regarding slipstreams, they appear and disappear at fixed times (fading in July and December, IIRC) so you can schedule around that.
Personally I never liked to check the calendar for the monsoon season before going out on an expedition, but maybe I'll try actually doing it a few times.
Yeah. And half the year slipstreams tend to blow east, and half the year they blow west. Theoretically you can plan around that. In practice however I find the player doesn't have enough control over the target location of bounties and missions to make it work. There aren't enough different missions or bounties available to be picky about which ones to take.

And missions have time limits - both for their completion and for how long they are available. So if you see a good opportunity to chain 4-5 missions together then you cannot loiter for 2 months for the season to be correct.

[commands]
The inverse already exists in the form of the search and destroy command applied to all ships you want to ignore automatic assignment.  Which admittedly is a lot more clicking than your proposal - although it is more fine tuned in that you can leave some ships to automatically reassign if you wish.
That's kind of my point. It isn't that it is impossible to get the correct behavior - it's that it takes a lot of work to do that. As soon as you give one command to one ship, you then also have to give commands to every other ship in your fleet lest they do something unintended. That all-or-nothing nature of commands is what bugs me.

[Ship AI target selection]
Alex seems to always be making tweaks to the AI to try and improve edge cases, but I feel like you're simplifying quite a bit here.  I'm not sure it actually is low-hanging fruit.  Do you have a nice criteria that should be applied via algorithm that can show how it's easy to handle?  Keeping in mind it also has to work reasonably well with mod ships, mod weapons, as well as unusual fits (i.e. Onslaught with no PD weapons...).  Can you handle the situation with a Kite with 2 reapers.  Or a Tempest with an Ion beam?  Or how about some mod ship with modded weapons which have significant script based damage?  Maybe there is a simple universally applicable algorithm for prioritizing what a capital should be engaging, and would love to hear it if there is.
I would give each enemy ship a rating based on its proximity to the AI's ship, (maximum) speed compared to the AI's ship, and remaining hull integrity (as % of total). More points for being proximate; more points for being slower than the AI's ship but negative points for being faster than the AI's ship; and more points for being low on hull. Then make the AI target whichever enemy ship gets the highest rating.

Of course this is just a guess. And without the ability to test it, I cannot say if proximity/speed/hull is enough information, or how heavily each factor should be weighed.

Also I need to mention [S-mods]
The whole point of story points was to be a rare resource that you're not swimming in by end game, unlike credits, so a credit to s-mod conversion completely misses the intended purpose of story points.  Now people may feel story points are too limiting for what they want to do at end game, but that's what they're intended to be.  An XP tied progression mechanic that's easier to gain at the beginning and harder to gain at the end.
Funny how I mention the credits-to-S-mods idea only to dismiss it while raising an alternative solution, and then everybody reacts to the credits thing regardless.

Buying storypoints with credits is a bad idea. The point is that some current uses of storypoints, like S-mods (but also colony improvements), should not require storypoints in the first place. Or at least not nearly as many. Why? because there is a mismatch between the scarcity of storypoints and the sheer number of S-mods (and colony improvements) that a player wants to get.

7
Suggestions / List of minor improvements for major increase in quality
« on: September 03, 2022, 12:46:14 AM »
There are a couple of quality of life issues in the current game that have annoyed me a few too many times. Fixing these shouldn't be too difficult but will improve playability quite a lot :)


Asteroids interrupting the burn-in sequence at the beginning of combat. In normal fights it is a minor inconvenience. But in pursuit battles, it makes the difference between successful pursuit and the targets getting away. So why does this feature even exist? It's not like asteroids impacting on armor do that much damage anyway.

Setting course to a (uncharted) starsystem (i.e. right-click on a star in the map) appears to consistently target the jump point / gravity well that is furthest away from the player's fleet, resulting in unnecessary fuel use and wasted playtime. Why does this happen?

Slipstreams disappear too often. They currently vanish 2x a year, but IMHO that should be no more than 1x a year. Too many times I've seen a slipstream and thought "hey, that will be useful for my return trip" only for it to disappear by the time I'm ready to go back.

Contact bounties target star systems, but do not point to a specific location within that star system, unlike public bounties. This can and does lead to needle-in-a-haystack scenarios. And yes I know that the time limit on the bounty doesn't expire once you've entered the system. Don't ask me how I found out. The point is that I shouldn't have needed to find out about that.

The command view in combat shows ship sprites always pointing up, with a tiny green arrow indicating the orientation of the ship. Can we please just have the ship sprites rotated instead? That would make the information much more readily apparent. In fact, the command view could use a number of touch-ups like this.

Speaking of commands: we need a way for orders to apply only to ships specifically assigned to them. Because automatic assignment of ships to orders causes more headaches than it solves. For example, if I want to order one ship to engage one particular target, that may lead to half the rest of my fleet also deciding that they should engage that target. Or, if I tell a Frigate to escort a bigger ship and then that Frigate dies, instead of the order disappearing some other Frigate might assign itself to that escort job. Which is usually not what I want.

Ship AI target selection. Best I can tell, in the absence of engage/eliminate orders, ships will tend to target the nearest enemy. Which is an overly simplistic rule that causes a lot of obvious suboptimal behavior. Most notably, slow ships attempting to chase fast Frigates; or ships with hardpoint weapons constantly rotating back-and-forth between two targets without ever properly lining up with one of them; or ships disengaging from an almost-dead target because a random different enemy suddenly became marginally more proximate. I know AI programming is difficult, but as far that goes, improving this particular behavior is low-hanging fruit in terms of the potential benefits.



Also I need to mention S-mods. A complicated topic, but I bring it up because the current state of affairs isn't quite ideal. The thing is, IMHO a large number of ships are so OP-starved that having 2-3 build-in hullmods is essential to make their loadouts work. Consequently, instead of of S-mods being an occasional bonus on a prominent ship, they end up being a mandatory storypoint sink for a large portion of your fleet. The easy fix would be implementing a way to get build-in hull mods with credits instead of SP. But that is boring. Instead, I would propose a method for your own Heavy Industry to construct custom variants of blueprints that have a specific hullmod build-in. And the creation of those blueprint variants could require storypoints. So for example: for 1 Storypoint, you can edit a Hammerhead blueprint to have build-in Hardened Shields. This approach would also fix the issue where S-modded ships are irrepleacable when lost in combat, forcing their recovery instead of building a new one with Heavy Industry.

Oh, and speaking of blueprints: please implement a way to buy or otherwise acquire blueprints from factions. Some non-hostile alternative to repeated raiding.


8
Blog Posts / Re: Hostile Activity
« on: September 02, 2022, 11:45:21 PM »
The coming update just crossed the threshold where it is so much more awesome than the current release that I can't play the current release anymore.


Oh well. Back to romhacking Pokémon...

9
Guys guys guys. Lanchester's square law assumes all units are in range of each other (i.e. functionally infinite range) and have a clean line of fire to any enemy of their choice (i.e. no cover or hiding behind each other). Both assumptions are violated in Starsector combat.

Aside from that, the central point of the square law is describing the advantage of numerical superiority. Namely, that the strength of an army does not scale linearly with size, but rather faster-than-linear (approximately - but not exactly - quadratically). This contrasts with the strength of a single unit, which does scale linearly with that units firepower. For example:
  • 1 unit, given +30% firepower, becomes 1.3x as strong.
  • An army of 10 units, with each individual unit given +30% firepower, becomes 1.3x as strong.
  • An army of 10 units, reinforced with an additional 3 units (+30%), becomes 1.3^2 = 1.69x as strong.
Therefore, assuming the square law holds, using a linear measure like DP to balance the strength of ships doesn't work. Say for example that the Dominator at 25 DP is 25% stronger than the Eradicators at 20 DP. But for every 4 Dominators (100 DP) you can field not 4 but 5 Eradicators (5x20 DP = 100 DP). And 5 Eradicators are 1.25^2 = 1.56x as strong as 4 Eradicators. Which is a bigger jump in power than the 1.25x jump of 4 Dominators compared to 4 Eradicators.

Fortunately the square law does not hold, because as I said its assumptions are violated.


As for the Eradicator: my impression is that it is exceptionally good at punching down, but can struggle to punch up due to a lack of bigger-caliber weapons for armor-cracking, as it has no large guns or medium/large missiles, unlike the Champion and Dominator. Thus the Eradicator feels strong against pirate thrash and weakly-armored Remnants, but should struggle against more robust Lowtech or Midline fleets.

Which, come to think of it, is exactly the same situation the Eagle is in. Except the Eagle has it worse because its turrets are Energy rather than Ballistic and Energy weapons are crap.

10
General Discussion / Re: Coronal Hypershunt guardians early
« on: August 02, 2022, 02:58:02 AM »
I want to find and kill the guardians ASAP so that I can play around with their weapons during my playthrough(rather than leaving them until the end when it would be easy with a large, pimped out fleet but then there would be nothing left to do anyway).

What would be good early accessible fleet compositions for this?

As it happens that was the premise of my last playthrough. Speedrun the hypershunt battles, and then savescum them to try to get the weapons I wanted. (Result: the types of weapons dropped after the battle is largely fixed, however there is some randomness to the quantity of each weapon type dropped. So if you want multiple copies of a specific weapon, then savescumming can be worthwhile.)

The danger posed by Omega's is twofold: high damage output of the Tesseracts, and swarming  effect of the shards and fighters. To withstand the high damage output you want to use capital ships, and possibly Apogees and Monitors. Less tanky ships than those will get picked off and destroyed too easily. To deal with the swarming enemies I find Locust missiles to be particularly effective.

Getting an Alpha core Radiant is the single best thing you can do to prepare for these battles. You can reliably get an alpha core from the scientist's tech cache mission, and you can get an easy guaranteed Radiant encounter from the Red Planet mission (although you may have to savescum the fight for the Radiant to be recoverable). The best possible Radiant loadout in my experience is 3x Plasma Cannon + 2x Locusts + 4x Sabots, with some burst PD in the rear.

The other key ship to look at is the Conquest. Of all the capital ships the Conquest is by far the easiest to get, by buying it from the black market on Neutral, Diktat or League planets. It isn't the tankiest ship out there, however it brings a lot of firepower to the table including two important Locust mounts. Use a symmetrical weapon loadout with Locusts. For example, Mark IX + Mjolnir + Mauler + Dual Flak + Ion Beam on each side.

My fleet for the omega battles ended up being an alpha core Radiant, two Conquests with lvl 5 Officers, and player-piloted Paragon. All with 2 S-mods. Altogether I did close to 20 omega battles and won easily every time, only once or twice losing a ship. The strategy was ordering the Radiant + 1 Conquest to Engage one Tesseract, while the other Conquest and myself in the Paragon dealt with the second Tesseract. My overall impression is that this fight is actually easier than endgame Remnant fights. For one, I am honestly more scared of alpha core Radiants than I am of Tesseracts. For another, the absence of a dozen frigates and destroyers constantly flanking your ships helps a lot. Having just two enemies to worry about makes everything a lot easier, particularly for the AI, even if they are tough enemies.

If you don't have a Paragon (I was lucky to have one), then I recommend piloting a Monitor to draw fire from one Tesseract while ~3 Conquests are shooting at it. So a fleet of Radiant + 4 Conquests + Monitor should do the trick.

Finally, do you need to be lvl 15 to do it? Well you don't need a lot of personal skills if you sit in a Monitor. You need to be lvl 10 to get the Red Planet mission though. Also reaching lvl 15 is really not that difficult if you optimize for it. Spend your story points on 100% bonus XP options to have constant double XP, and maximize your XP bonus by using a small fleet without officers. If you are a decent pilot you can solo a lot of battles. Early game with SO Hammerhead or SO Falcon, later on with a Conquest, Odyssey, SO Eagle, SO Aurora or Doom. Or indeed the Ziggurat which you can get extremely early if you know where to look, although I'm not a phase kind of person so I wouldn't know.

11
General Discussion / Re: How do you use battlecruisers properly?
« on: July 04, 2022, 08:16:36 AM »
Battlecruisers trade defensive capabilities for speed. The main thing to remember is that this makes battlecruisers unsuitable for 1v1 against ships of their own size, i.e. battleships. (Although the case of human-piloted battlecruiser vs AI-piloted battleship is somewhat of an exception because human piloting is a significant advantage.)

Battlecruisers fill two roles on the battlefield. The first is punching down, killing cruisers and other ships smaller than themselves through superior firepower. The second is flanking other capitals that are occupied by teammates. In other words, hammer-and-anvil tactics where the battlecruiser is the hammer and the anvil is a proper battleship like Onslaught or Paragon. So it's not like you cannot attack an Onslaught or Paragon with a Conquest, but you need that Onslaught or Paragon to be distracted by one of your teammates first.

The way I fly the Conquest is as a second-line ship behind a battleship, ready to jump in and provide fire support while also preventing cruisers and smaller ships from flanking the battleship. I don't use Escort orders - instead, as a Conquest pilot I'm the escort. And I take to that role loosely, flying around the battlefield supporting whichever of my ships needs support rather than sticking with one ship to protect. If the enemy fleet completely lacks capitals then you don't need to hide behind your own capitals, but can take a more aggressive approach killing ships left and right. A properly outfitted and piloted Conquest has unrivaled damage output and crowd control capabilities.

Compared to the Conquest, the Odyssey has less damage output and weapon range but significantly more speed and a better shield. The Odyssey isn't as good at crowd control, but is better at hit-and-run tactics and can outrun cruiser fleets that are large enough to overwhelm a Conquest. Some say the Odyssey's speed advantage makes it the better playership. I think that's true if you use it to solo things, however in the presence of a supporting fleet the Conquest is at least as good, just in a different way.



As for Conquest loadouts:
You can go with double Gauss Cannons + double Hurricanes (and double Harpoons). This makes for an excellent 2nd-line support ship that can also attempt to kite slow capitals, but has noticeably less DPS than a 900 range weapon loadout, which limits its overall damage output and crowd control ability.

The second option is an asymmetrical DPS-focused build that puts as many big guns as possible on one side of the ship, alongside missiles. This type of loadout is excellent for aggressively flanking capitals and 1v1-ing cruisers. This is the default build strategy for most people.

My favorite loadouts are symmetrical, which is best for crowd control and tactical flexibility, but less good at 1v1. I do find plenty of opportunities to fire both broadsides at once. And I like how when using only one broadside, the flux cost is lower than dissipation which means you can dissipate flux (especially with shields down) and still output damage at the same time. Which is quite useful if you can't risk venting (because venting disables your PD).


12
Suggestions / Re: The heavy mortar deserves a buff
« on: July 04, 2022, 06:13:10 AM »
It all comes down to weapon range. 700 range is not bad for a cheap weapon, but the lack of options to boost that range is what kills the viability of the Mortar, and IMHO the Arbalest and Thumper as well.
How do you mean lack of options? To boost those weapons you have access to ITU, Ballistic rangefinder, Gunnery implants and Ballistic mastery. And all of that stacks. And all of those 3 weapons are viable (hell I never touched 2 of them before the current patch), the point of the OP is the lack of a medium range option, albeit disguised in a weapon buff. It's not weird to feel that one weapon seems bad when you have only 2 points of comparison. But it doesn't feel right to buff a weapon and make it more expensive when it already has a defined role. I know I've been repeating myself a bit but I'm willing to die on this hill, we need a 800 range HE weapon.
Oh we definitely need an 800 range HE weapon. The point I was trying to make is that the Heavy Mortar could be that weapon if ballistic rangefinder would buff its range to 800 on ships without large ballistic mounts (and to 900 on ships with such mounts). When I said lack of options for range boosts I meant that (1) heavy mortar does not benefit from IPDAI + Elite Point Defense like small ballistics, and (2) receives less range buff from ballistic rangefinder compared to small ballistics.

13
General Discussion / Re: Eagle + HSA decent?
« on: July 03, 2022, 03:30:51 PM »
Ah yes, the Eagle. I really want to like the Eagle but it feels underwhelming, even with the flux buffs. I tried some devmode SIM battles with it just now to check its performance, and it feels like all good builds boil down to the same recipe: 2 ballistic kinetic guns + 1 ballistic HE gun + 1-2 Ion Beams + 1-2 Graviton beams + burst PD. For a supposedly 'jack of all trades' ship that is remarkably limited build variety. The main cause of this is the lack of  energy weapon options suitable for the Eagle. Energy lacks hard-flux kinetic weapons, which pidgeonholes the ballistic mounts into kinetic. At the same time Energy lacks anti-armor options with range matching the ballistic guns, which makes EMP from an Ion Beam the optimal choice, alongside relying on a mauler or heavy mortar for anti-armor.

On paper the Eagle has the strongest shields of any midline ship (noticeably better than Champion and Conquest), but somewhat underwhelming armor and hull integrity. That means it wants to move in and out of the line of battle to dissipate flux. However, the Eagle is simply not fast enough to disengage from other cruisers with base 60 speed, much less the Eradicator at base 70. While Maneuvering Jets boosts its maneuverability, its base 50 speed is on the low end. Maneuvering Jets compensates for that speed gap, but not enough to let the Eagle disengage reliably. Heck, the Eagle under AI control cannot even disengage from a Dominator that is aggressively using burn drive to chase it.

The combination of sub-par armor and lack of extra flux-free DPS from missiles means the Eagle tends to lose in 1v1 brawls against Dominator and Champion. Combined with the inability to retreat effectively, the result is mediocrity. The Eagle really does need a speed buff. If it cannot be a ship-of-the-line like heavy cruisers, then let it be a fast cruiser. Faster speed should also help enable some niche builds using short-range energy weapons.


14
General Discussion / Re: Legion is too underwhelming?
« on: July 03, 2022, 12:14:43 PM »
One trick I've learned recently on Enforcers with Reapers is to put the Reapers in 2 groups, each one composed of the reapers on one side of the ship, each in alternating mode. This bypasses the AI's tendency to fire 1 reaper, overload the target, and then not fire anymore because it switches to the other group to fire off another. I suspect there is some sort of anti-overkill timer on reapers that this kind of grouping can bypass to make the weapons more effective.

The AI doesn't like to fire the same STRIKE group in rapid succession; it's... basically an early move towards avoiding Reaper etc overkill/wasting all of them too quickly. It can also be extra punishing for the player when they're on the receiving end.

Wow, that explains a lot.


One of my gripes with AI missile usage is the AI is really trigger-happy against targets that are already almost dead, resulting in massive overkill wasteage. Particularly noticeable wit Sabots and Breach, where the AI refuses to spam those in appropriate situations, but as soon as the target is struggling (at which point Sabots and Breach are past the point of their main usefulness) the AI lets loose.

Edit:
Heron would stomp an Eagle lmao, but that's not the point.
...
And for the funniest bit today,

(Reminder to please treat the other forum members with respect.)
I wasn't really offended. More amused because the concept of a Heron stomping an Eagle seems unrealistic to me. There is no way for a Heron with bombers to solo an Eagle. Maybe with 3 Lux fighters it could gradually wear the Eagle down, but that's only because the Eagle AI is bad at using Maneuvering Jets to chase the Heron. AI usage of MJ needs to be looked at IMHO. In player hands, the Eagle definitely can catch the Heron and proceed to 'stomp' it.

15
Suggestions / Re: The heavy mortar deserves a buff
« on: July 03, 2022, 11:15:13 AM »
It all comes down to weapon range. 700 range is not bad for a cheap weapon, but the lack of options to boost that range is what kills the viability of the Mortar, and IMHO the Arbalest and Thumper as well.

Ballistic Rangefinder pushes small weapons to 800 / 900 range. That matches the HAC: 800 unboosted and 900 with rangefinder + large mounts on the ship. In contrast, the Mortar, Arbalest and Thumper are stuck at 700 / 800 range.

The solution is simple: let Ballistic Rangefinder boost medium weapons the same amount as small weapons, up to the existing maxima of 800 and 900. In other words, 700 > 800 range on ships without large mounts, and 700 > 900 on ships with large mounts.


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