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Starsector 0.95.1a is out! (12/10/21); Blog post: Uniquifying the Factions, Part 2 (04/30/22)

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Topics - Helldiver

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Suggestions / On ruggedness: Reduce effects of D-mods on lower tech ships
« on: September 09, 2021, 10:26:01 AM »
Suggestion: Reduce the negative effects of D-mods on lower tech ships, with midline getting a small decrease and low tech getting a moderate decrease (adding note: a blanket reduction, different from the upcoming hullmod for special ships).

Reason: When you think low tech you think rugged, reliable. Something that's not cutting edge but will keep working when battered, like an AK for rifles. But right now, lower tech ships aren't any more rugged or reliable than higher tech machines, being affected by severe damage as much as them. Making D-mods less damaging the lower the tech level would help solve that both from a gameplay and "feel" perspective, giving lower tech ships the "ol' reliable" identity they dearly miss. And this should be an innate feature - not some "character skill" that you're pidgeonholed into and is detached from the ships.

For numbers (how much reduction per tech level, are the base numbers increased or not so they're not ignorable), that's up to the dev. Pirate fleets may need more D-mods per ship on average to stay "weak" if that's their place in the balance, but that's simple.

Currently, the player and AI have little control over fighters beyond targeting one ally or enemy and having all fighters attack or regroup. It's always been a big problem in my opinion, one that kills the fun of carrier gameplay for both ends of the gameplay equation.

There are multiple issues with this:

-Little interactivity and room for skill expression for a player playing a carrier = no fun from dedicated carrier gameplay.
-Any composition of fighters that isn't all fighters, all bombers, or bombers+specific escort is made horrid by the inability to order groups separately (can't have fighters doing one thing and bombers another, all are forced to return at the same time etc).
-Fighters can only attack in a straight line with no control. The player can't do anything creative, and conversely never has to think about how to deal with enemy fighters that always come to them like lemmings.

I have two suggestions regarding this, plus one inspired by a game that, in its old iterations, succesfully managed to make certain aspects of pure carrier gameplay fun and dynamic despite being a simple, fast-paced and arcadey shooter game.

1. Allow the player and AI to select and order fighter groups separately like weapons are (while keeping the ability to select all).
2. Allow the player and AI to target locations for their fighters, not just ships. This allow fighters to flank or circle around ships exactly as the player/AI needs (giving control to do more than just click ships and watching them lemming into main guns), allows them to wait to the side before attacking when needed (instead of being stuck at the carrier under regroup or being blapped by flak uselessly), allows for pincer attacks, allows fighters to be sent to a location in advance to intercept an enemy fighters or frigates instead of reacting after it's too late, etc

The third suggestion is inspired by manual fighter attacks as they were originally implemented in old versions of the arcade shooter game World of Warships (I know that game is now hated for many reasons - but stick with me here).

In old versions of World of Warships, carrier players could target enemies with a selected fighter group for an automated attack, target an ally for automated escort, target locations to move fighters exactly where they wanted, and one more thing: players could manually "aim" bomber attack runs.

The player would click anywhere, drag a cone, and release/click again. The selected bomber group would then automatically maneuver to reach the "attack cone" and release their torpedo spread at the desired location and direction.
This allowed more skilled carrier players to make precise bomber attacks with perfect timing to catch and surprise even quick targets. In a game designed for fast paced shooter combat, it allowed carrier gameplay to require some skill despite being played from ships that hide away from the big fight. "Manual air attacks" effectively replaced "aiming your guns" for regular ships.

For Starsector in which fighters are treated as the carrier's "weapons" (LPCs and all that), this is, in my opinion, a perfect addition to make playing a dedicated carrier fun alongside the previous changes.

General Discussion / Discussion of: Station combat, ships crashing
« on: May 22, 2021, 04:51:06 PM »
A few died occasionally from module explosions, being forced too close by the press of their fellows behind them

Why do AI ships even push each other into stations in the first place? There is no good reason for that. It's as if AI ships try to shoot the station at point blank even when they have long range main guns, and will push anything between them and the station into the station itself. It mainly happens if the station is high on flux, as if the "attack vulnerable enemies about to overload" behaviour went haywire when dealing with stations regardless of officer type.

Suggestions / Toggle move slowly
« on: April 04, 2021, 08:23:45 AM »
Now that "move slowly" is used much more often with the changes to asteroid fields/belts, being able to toggle "move slowly" instead of always having to keep it pressed down would be very welcome. Maybe double-tapping it would toggle it on/off?

Bug Reports & Support / [0.95a] 2 ship escort order AI bugs
« on: April 04, 2021, 08:16:10 AM »
Two AI bugs when ordering a ship (not fighters) to escort another ship:

The escort ship will sit very, very far behind the escort target, even when it is faster or the escort target is not moving, so far that it rarely engages in any combat and cannot cover against most attacks. This is new behaviour in 0.95 as while escort ships in 0.9.1a had a tendency to be slow to follow their escort target, they would at least sit at their side when they can.

Frigates given the escort order will sometimes unexplicably move straight ahead into a mass of larger enemy ships and promptly turn around exposing their rear to multiple enemies ships afterwards, dying instantly. This happens even if the frigate has weapons with 1000+ range (like a Wolf with a Graviton Beam) and no strike weapons. I have also seen Brawlers do this so maybe this is a bug with frigates with foward facing hardpoints?

Bug Reports & Support / [0.95a] 2 phase ship AI bugs
« on: April 04, 2021, 07:57:58 AM »
Two AI bugs with phase ships:

Phase ships nowhere near max flux will randomly uncloak near low HP ships about to explode, dying or getting heavily damaged in the process. Already lost multiple Shades to this in this playthrough.

When AI phase ships do the "pass-through" maneuver (where they phase through the ship and turn around to shoot its rear), they often turn around so late that they're already out of their own's weapon range. I have observed phase frigates with Anti-matter Blasters continously do the maneuver on helpless Buffaloes and never actually shooting their guns. I don't know if it's because they don't take their weapon range into account or don't start turning around early enough.

One of the upcoming ships in the next update is the Revenant-class phase hybrid freighter/tanker. Such a ship classification brings up but one thing to mind: U-Tankers. U-Tankers were special WWII supply submarines designed to carry supplies and fuel and secretely resupply friendly attack submarines in enemy waters. They would hide until contacted by a sub and emerge to transfer fuel and torpedoes to them, extending their capabilities, before hiding again.

My suggestion is to add a similar campaign mechanic using to this upcoming ship - one that would be engaging both for allies and enemies.

Factions that make heavy use of phase ships (Tri-Tachyon, Persean League) could regularly dispatch small groups of Revenants (maybe with some phase escorts?) to the fringes of enemy faction systems where they would hide in Go Dark using their 0 sensor signature as phase ships. If the player is commissioned to them and trusted, they would be notified of the presence of these Revenants and, upon entering a system, would receive an encrypted comm indicating where the Revenants are hiding. Once there and without nearby ships from other factions, the Revenants would reveal themselves and tagging them would allow the player to request supplies and fuel. The price of these could be deducted from comission salary - at what rate/if at all is up to the dev to decide.

On the opposite side, being commissioned to a faction enemy to Tri-Tachyon/the Persean League could give you missions to find and destroy these hidden Revenants, adding much value to the Neutrino Detector as a phase ship hunting tool, same as how sub-chasers with sonars and hydrophones were hunting for U-Tankers in suspected locations IRL. Thematic as all hell.

If you've got ideas on why this is good or bad or how it could be made better, discuss!

Firing range on guns and lasers in Starsector is very short, likely as a gameplay choice. However, the range being so short - especially on smaller ship classes - has various negative effects during battle:

Blobs and ship pile-ups:
With gun range being so short, ships, especially smaller ones with smaller guns and/or less range boost from hull mods, are forced to get very close to targets. With many ships involved, this results in massive pile-ups of ships trying to shoot at the same targets and constantly crashing into each other and blocking each others' shots. When people complain about ship AI being bad, it often stems from the AI being put into inextricable situations by their gun range.

Inability of escorts to protect escorted ships:
When ships are tasked with escorting a bigger ship, for example as PD escorts against fighters and missiles, the short range of guns is such that the escort usually cannot engage anything flying at the other ship before it gets hit. With many guns the escort's firing range can be less than even the length or width of a capital ship, making intercepting threats impossible unless the escort is already in their path beforehand, leading to the next point>

Ships with short weapon range blocking other ships' guns:
Ships with lower range weapons will frequently block the firing lines of ships behind them, causing situations where your big ships with powerful guns are made unable to shoot by whatever allies are in front of them. This makes using escorts harmful in most cases and discourages the use of anything but the biggest ships available outside of small skirmishes.

My main suggestion is to increase the overall range of direct fire weapons to some extent. Even a fairly small increase may be enough to have a very positive effect on ship AI: no longer stuck trying to maneuver and fight while rubbing shoulders with dozens of other ships all trying to shoot at targets up close, the AI would have more space to perform properly, also reducing player frustration and "AI is bad/stupid" feelings.
The dev could start by testing the effect of a blanket increase, like increasing the range of all guns by 30% on a test build, and then work from there and fine-tune numbers to achieve a certain weapon balance.

My secondary suggestion is to reduce the gap in range boost available from hull mods between ship classes. In a game where weapon range is overall short and ships can't shoot over each other, smaller ship classes having significantly shorter firing range than larger ones makes it difficult for them to do anything except hinder the larger ships by blocking their shots as they move in for their own attacks.
This could be done by making DTC useable on all ship classes like ITU is and tightening the values between classes on both hullmods. To retain a good difference in power between classes, larger ships could get boosts in other areas from these hullmods - such as reduced recoil. Example: ITU goes from 10/20/40/60% range boost to 30/40/50/60% range boost + 0/0/15/30% reduced weapon recoil.

Edit: Additional suggestions from later posts
And on that note, that's an additional suggestion from me in solving these issues and the problem of escorts: something, like a hullmod, that grants a range boost to frigates and destroyers when near a cruiser or capital ship or when ordered to escort them. Doesn't make them stronger in smaller battles but helps them be relevant and less of a hindrance to other ships in bigger fights.

Another suggestion:  Change sensor bonus back to what it originally did in early releases, increase your shot range instead of reducing the enemy's shot range.

During large battles, various factors contribute to battles devolving into two blobs fighting near a map border, usually that of the side that is losing/getting pushed in. One of them is that mid-battle reinforcements can only come in from one direction and usually fly right into the blob and feed into the stalemate at the losing side's map edge.

My suggestion to help solve this issue is to allow mid-battle reinforcements (maybe after a certain amount of time has gone through?) to enter from the sides of the map, towards their respective team's border. This would cause the losing side's reinforcements to naturally flank the winning side's mass of ships as they approach the blob, breaking up the blob as the winning side's ships will either try to move backwards to avoid being flanked (the usual AI behaviour) or be destroyed - either way, pressure is relieved and the battle can shift away from the border.

Currently, the game supports some variety in the size of fleet battles, but even though the area/size of the battle map changes accordingly, it is still small, especially in larger battles, resulting in a very crowded space without much space for large maneuvers such as flanking wide with multiple ships. I am not talking about the "hugging bounds" issue, rather the overall lack of maneuvering space for any battle bigger than a small skirmish.

Honestly, it often feels like the ships are fighting in a small bathtub.

Increasing the map size/area at certain battle size thresholds would help a lot, and it doesn't seem like this would present a technical limitation as the battle map area is already dynamic and larger map areas don't affect performance (thanks to maps being just invisible bounds over an image backdrop of cosmos with a handful of objects thrown in).

If the developer dislikes having a larger fields of battle as the default for some reason, then adding an option for players to increase relative battle map size would be the alternative.

Currently, engaging your engines forward or backwards requires you to constantly press a button as if pressing a pedal on an old car with no speed governor instead of setting a ship's speed. This can quickly become bothersome, especially on larger ships, when the player is maneuvering or dealing with other factors in combat and does not seem to have a gameplay reason behind it.

Something that is often found in naval games (even speedy arcade ones) and is very practical for gameplay (on top of being a realistic option) is to be able to toggle your engines forward or backwards. My suggestion is to either add a menu option to have the accelerate/accelerate backwards keys work as a toggle instead of needing to be always pressed, or to add a pair of keybinds for toggle forwards/backwards incase players want both options at the ready.

One of the campaign map's mechanics is that, when tagging an enemy fleet to engage them, nearby allied fleets can join the battle at your side. However, the range at which an allied fleet can join you or whether they actually will is very unclear. I have had multiple unpleasant experiences already of chasing an enemy fleet alongside a larger allied fleet, tagging them and seeing in horror that the allies are too far or unable of joining the fight for some reason.

Perhaps an icon near allied fleet circles or even a small line connecting them to the enemies would do the job of indicating who can join what.

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