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Starsector 0.96a is out! (05/05/23); Blog post: Colony Crises (11/24/23)

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Topics - TheLaughingDead

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As per the title. I keep finding my later-game fleets gravitating towards cruisers, capitals, and oddly enough, frigates. Destroyers all seem too squishy but also too slow to live through fights frigates can often survive. I do find the Medusa's survivability to be decent, the teleport and decent shields help a lot, especially with a SysEx and Field Mod officer, but to be fair that officer could help a ship triple the DP survive and also make that DP thrive in a way I haven't found a destroyer able to do (even with Wolfpack Tactics). Tips? Tricks? Zany builds?!

Friend, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a pool table Large Missile Slot in your community
Well, ya got trouble my friend, right here
I say, trouble right in Starsector...

Music Man theatrics aside (the syllables didn't line up anyway), I think there is an element of game balance that is perhaps being thrown out of wack in the past couple of updates.

Not counting Automated Ships, off the top of my head there have been six new ships with Large Missile mounts (for a total of fifteen). Lots of the more recent ships seem to have impressive missile compliments: the Champion has a Large, the Fury has possibly two Mediums, the Manticore (a destroyer!) two Mediums, with the LP version now having a Large, the Venture (P) now having a Large, the host of new capitals that almost all have Larges (Retribution excepted), and on top of all of this, Automated Ships allowing access to, say, the Radiant with possibly two Larges and four Mediums, the Nova with four Mediums, the Apex with possibly four Mediums, the Rampart with a Large, and all that ignoring small missile mounts (which have just received Missile Autoloader to help them keep up).

On top of that, the S-mod system incentivize(d) S-modding more expensive hullmods such as Expanded Missile Racks. Now, it has been nerfed, true, but take note that the S-mod penalty doesn't actually reduce the number of missiles, but merely their rate of expenditure. I do think the new bonus/mallus system has created meaningful competition with S-modding EMR, but the hullmod's base effects are still pretty powerful as-is.

The Missile Spec skill is simply bonkers. Allowing flux-free, no-collision, long-range missiles (Squalls, MIRVs, Harpoons, the new Dragonfire, you name it) to stack not just +100% ammo from EMR, but another +100% ammo from Missile Spec, is really defeating one of the primary balancing levers of missiles in general. On top of that, the skill also buffs missile HP by 50% (!), which significantly hampers the efficacy of PD, which is perhaps the other primary means of dealing with missiles.
And the elite effect alone could be its own skill. On a ship with EMR, having +50% fire rate (see: +50% DPS) alone would be powerful; that is available with a cheeky +10% damage for the low low cost of a story point on top of an already amazing skill. +33% ballistics speed doesn't compare. -10% energy weapon flux cost doesn't compare. Even the elite skill for the other capstone, Systems Expertise, doesn't hold a candle to that kind of bonus.
Coupled with the sheer spike in ships that bring along a lot of missile mounts, officers are encouraged to take the Missile Spec skill because it provides the most bang for a single skill point's buck (likewise with the elite bonus for a story point), while still allowing the officer the flexibility of different assignments (since more and more ships have a larger contingent of missile mounts).

On top of Missile Spec, (S-modded?) EMR, access to a rash of new (and old) ships with more missile mounts than ever, there are skills that allow fielding a larger amount of ships in the first place. Support Doctrine and Derelict Operations both decrease DP cost. While not an issue with conventional weaponry such as ballistic and energy mounts (mostly due to line of sight), missiles allow for ships to essentially fire over each other and concentrate force in a way only before seen with fighters.
However, fighters and carriers in general got a balance pass a little while ago, and now carriers cost significantly more DP and the fighter skill system has been reworked. Missiles are still operating like 0.9.1a, when in reality the game has shifted to allow more ships that field them, more ships on a field to shoot them, more ready access to hullmods/skills that increase their longevity, and more skills (well really, just one uber skill) that increase their efficacy.

Now, this isn't all a problem in and of itself. Any game undergoes massive changes during its alpha, and finds its legs (and balance) closer to, or even after, 1.0. However, I think that all these missiles are having unintended consequences.

i) For one, old ships that lack missile mounts (or the significantly higher stats in other areas to compete) are suddenly underpowered. A gradual rift is forming between ships from, say, pre-0.95a and post-0.95a. Admittedly I came on in 0.9.1a, so I'm practically a pup, but the skill rework and the S-mod system seemed to change a looot of the balancing (not unexpectedly, and in a lot of cases for the better). All the buffs older ships have been seeing (especially for low-tech, most impacted by missile meta) might be described by the new accessibility of missiles; likewise this explains the nerf of large missiles such as the Squall or the MIRV.

ii) For another, the term "missile boat" has lost most of its meaning. Consider the Gryphon! I remember the awe I felt when I found my first Gryphon. I practically started salivating, thinking about all those missiles. Now there is hardly a need to touch the Gryphon, when one could produce as many large missiles with as much longevity by just sticking a Missile Spec officer into any of the dozen ships listed at the top. I may sound like an old man, but I want "missile boat" to mean something again, and the Pegasus was going to be that (although balance considerations seem to have put that one on the shelf for now).

iii) New ships that get added seem to trend towards having a lot of missiles. I'm thinking this is likely because it is hard to compete with missiles unless you also have missiles. Can't really argue (or in this case, fight) flux-free burst damage unless a ship has either its own missiles, or an incredible niche it fills, or some other trick up its sleeve.For example, the new Invictus; besides having two Large Missiles of its own, it also has 40k hull. If there wasn't a missile meta, could we expect that number to be lower? In your mind's eye, if two equal DP fleets fought the Invictus, which one would destroy it in a reasonable amount of time: the one that had a lot of large missiles, or the one that had, maybe, some medium missiles, and a lot of ballistics and energy weapons? Or perhaps put another way: a Pegasus, an Executor, these ships could beat an Invictus. A Paragon however would probably struggle. And the latter costs more DP. Or as prime example of a ship that doesn't have outstanding stats nor any medium or large missiles, one need merely look toward the Retribution. This ship wouldn't be that out-of-place were it added in 0.9.1a; as-is though, it seems like the underfed runt of a missile-capital litter :/

ix) And finally, missiles don't mix well with the AI. The AI works best with and against ships that have steady streams of damage, that spend flux to make flux, and that can be counted as vulnerable when high on flux. It doesn't time burst damage that well, and it doesn't judge the enemy's burst that well either. AI will move in to engage enemies with lots of missiles, thinking they are safe because they are low on flux (four sabots say otherwise), or will retreat under a wave of mostly-harmless missiles that would otherwise bounce off their shield (but shred their armour), or will doggedly track a Salamander and expose their supple hull to enemy fire, or or or. No one needs a segment on the eccentricities of the AI, but it gets worse when the game's balance introduces a variable as volatile as a Cyclone Reaper Launcher, and introduces it often.

So, all this to say what? How might we consider this shift in the game's meta?

Well, we might say missiles need to be tuned down.
You could halve the effects of Missile Spec (base and elite) and it would still be a great skill! Or alternatively, couple the halved ammo and fire rate as the base skill, and then have the HP as the elite bonus (ie, Base ->+50% missile ammo, +25% fire rate, Elite -> +50% HP). Or split the base and the elite skill into separate skills with their own elite effects! Who knows. That skill is crazy.
Also worth considering, reduce the ammo of the missiles with a lot of ammo. Maybe even make them do more damage as a sidegrade, but keep that impression that missiles ought to be used at key moments to turn the tide of battle, and not to simply spam until either you run out or the enemy dies (usually the latter). Really put some emphasis on needing both EMR and that Missile Spec ammo bonus if you want to use missiles as a primary weapon all battle!

Or, PD reaally needs to be tuned up. After all, even the older ships can mount PD. If missiles are really taking over as this post suggests, play into the Rock Paper Scissors bit and make PD more of a hard counter against all but the most specialized missiles. The new Dragonfire would justify its poor ammo count with better anti-PD capabilities. The Missile Spec skill might be used more for the HP than for the ammo and fire rate! There would be a broader range of ship builds, as a fleet might need destroyers (or even cruisers!) to field PD fits to counteract enemy missile fire. The Paladin might see genuine use! (Okay, let me not get fantastical here.)

Ooor, there needs to be a massive balance pass between ships with and without missiles. I think this is what is happening slowly over time anyway, where ships either load up with missiles or fall into more and more extreme themes, until most ships are either super-specialized or are all-rounders with a healthy missile compliment.

Or!... Well, I'm running out of time and I really ought to get to bed. And I spent two-thirds my time typing a more eloquently worded post that I didn't save (lost when Chrome crashed :'( ). So if this post seems rather abruptly ended, and if my wording seems off, and if I refer to parts of the post that aren't actually there, that is my reasoning. Ah well, just tossing my two cents into the ocean!

Suggestions / Converted Hanger Rebalancing
« on: February 03, 2023, 09:01:07 PM »
My reasoning is thus:

All ship sizes receive one fighter bay from Converted Hanger, (CH) irrespective of the hull size in question (destroyer, cruiser, or capital). However, Converted Hanger costs more on larger hull sizes.
Weapons cost the same across all hull sizes. For example, an HVD costs 13 OP regardless of whether I put it on a destroyer or a capital.
A fighter is a type of weapon, and not a type of hullmod. We know this because fighters cost the same regardless of whether you put them on a destroyer or a capital.
However, when we consider the higher cost of Converted Hangers for larger ships, this makes the same fighter cost more on a capital ship than on a destroyer.

Now, you might say that a destroyer has less OP than a capital, so even though it costs less for a destroyer to mount the same fighter, it renders the destroyer more useless in its other functions. However, a destroyer also costs less DP, so even though it might have a larger effect on a destroyer's functionality, it will hamper a smaller portion of DP than a capital.

I would even argue that regular weapons are more potent in the hands of a capital than in the hands of a destroyer, because a capital is better inclined to have the flux to use them. Likewise, a capital usually has other qualities (speed, staying power, etc) to put that weapon to greater use. All this even though the weapon costs the same amount of OP on both ships.
Two considerations that fighters are exempt from, because they don't cost the parent ship any flux, and they are less restricted by the qualities of the ship that uses them. Yet somehow, fighters cost more (via Converted Hangers) on a capital ship than on a destroyer, despite regular weapons costing the same amount.

I liken Converted Hangers to if ITU gave +20% range to all hull sizes, but costed more on larger hulls. Or if Salvage Gantry gave the same bonuses on all hull sizes, but costed more on larger hulls. And in the case of ITU, there is more reason for such a design decision, because a 20% range buff will give greater bonuses to large mounts than to small mounts! The disproportionate cost means that builds that use Converted Hangers will always favour smaller hulls, like destroyers. Rarely do I see or hear of Cruisers getting Converted Hangers. Never do I see or hear of capitals getting Converted Hangers. If Converted Hangers were changed so that it was more viable for larger hulls, that would open up build diversity.

What is the simple solution? Make Converted Hangers the same cost on all hull sizes. However, I can understand that hullmods are uniformly more expensive for larger hulls, and to break that would be disorienting to the player.
Another possibility is, of course, giving more hangers to larger hulls. But since fighters are such a dangerous weapon because of their range and lack of collision, this might result in too many fighters on the field at any given time, which could be a balancing issue. Not to mention, who wants to saturate their fighter skill bonuses with subpar fighters...
Perhaps we could give smaller hulls larger fighter penalties and larger hulls smaller fighter penalties? This way the same number of fighters are on the board at any given time, but fighters from a Shrike (P) won't be as effective as fighters from an Onslaught or a Conquest.

General Discussion / How would I give pirates blueprints from the start?
« on: October 07, 2022, 12:32:16 AM »
Hello! I find the idea of pirates using a wider range of weapons and ships is very appealing, but I have never encountered this mechanic in my playthroughs because I usually use blueprints for myself, and when I do sell them on the black market it doesn't seem to have an noticeable impact (even after an entire cycle).

How might I go about enabling these weapons and ships for pirates from the beginning of a run/without selling blueprints on the black market? Does anyone know which file(s) would have this information?

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