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Starsector 0.95.1a is out! (12/10/21); Blog post: The Pilgrim's Path (07/19/22)

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Topics - xenoargh

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Discussions / Log4J attack!
« on: December 12, 2021, 10:35:01 AM »
This is probably Old News for most of the IT pros here, but be aware that Log4J (which is used by Starsector, Minecraft, a wide variety of Linux distros, etc., etc.) has been successfully attacked and allows for a very broad assault on end-users' machines. This security flaw has been patched by the Log4J team in the current version.

Discussions / Highfleet... ugh
« on: August 04, 2021, 02:15:36 PM »
Alex, Highfleet is like every choice you've ever made that made Starsector clunky and rough-feeling, compounded and never, ever fixed. 

Every UI felt like, "hey, it works, move on" and every decision made, from, "let's not give players any useful information" to "let's implement the worst aiming system ever" is just... wow.  Like, for something this ambitious, the whole thing feels so rough.  I didn't even get far enough in to figure out whether the ship-building mechanic is utterly broken, balance-wise (almost certainly "yes", based on a few things I looked at, though).

I recommend playing it for a "what if I made all my systems deliberately obtuse" understanding of game design.  I don't recommend it to anybody just wanting a new game to play right now; for $30, this was one of the faster things I've ever decided to stop sinking time into, lol.

Yet it's all over YouTube and it looks like it's a bona-fide hit; SteamSpy thinks 100K units shipped. 

If Starsector doesn't absolutely wreck those numbers when it hits Steam, I'm going to be rather shocked; it's a far better video game.

General Discussion / 0.95 Critique, Part Deux
« on: April 13, 2021, 03:31:12 AM »
OK, this is my not-so-hot take; how things felt like after I settled in, migrated my private build of Rebal forward, etc.  Here's a critique after seeing a lot of what 0.95 offered; I have millions of credits and a Zig and I beat the [SUPER-REDACTED].

1.  The quest-lines, especially the "main quest" via Galatia, added a lot of nice warm RPG talking to the universe, and, for anybody new to the Sector, surely helped explain the lore a bit better.  By the time I got done reading all the verbiage I was like, "OK, now I know why this release took two years", lol.  That was a lot of writing!

I now feel like the game should have a proper intro, where a brief explanation is given about How We Got Here; most new players, diving right in, are going to find things... confusing, I suspect. For all these years, we just kind of skated by on what scraps were in the Codex and a few other places; adding all these fancy Fedex quests to fetch McGuffins suddenly means that a lot of players are going to be like, "uh, what's the Sector, what's the Domain, who am I and why do I care about any of this, and why the heck am I dumped into the Tutorial Adventure without context?" 

It's the problem with a project that's been going on this long, I think; sometimes you need to dial the perspective way, way back and see it with new eyes again.  When the game was almost solely about "build fleet, bash fleet against other fleets" it didn't need much explanation; now that it has something like a small novella's-worth of verbiage, most of it pretty good... but new players are dumped in without all the context the oldies already know, because we've been speculating about Codex entries for almost a decade. Before this hits Steam or any other major platform, this is a real need.

2.  The quest-lines felt great, in terms of writing; mechanically, they're serviceable, but might want more polish when more important things aren't looming. 

There are a few important variations, like, "go here, but do it on the sly" but... strangely, for a combat-centric game, there weren't any real combat challenges- no forced arena battles, no bosses other than the AI Uber Zig. That part might need work. I noticed, a couple of times, that Huge Fleets With Hostile Intent showed up after a story mission, but they were easily avoided, so they didn't matter.  I never felt threatened or actually concerned I couldn't complete a mission.

3.  I'm (unfortunately) going to have to stand by my first critique of the Skills system.  It's a class system with pretty rocky balance issues disguised as a progressive system, and the roll-over mechanic isn't fun, it's punishing; having to pick irrelevant Skills to get to relevant Skills doesn't feel good; in some ways, it's even worse than "burn 3 levels to begin getting Skills here" was in the previous iteration. 

I feel that, in the end, it's trying to do too much with too few choices, now that it's become clearer what buffs / mechanics add Fun.  A pure class system that offered clean, distinctive, useful buffs for specific playstyles would have worked here, and frankly, with slightly more tuning, I think the old system would have worked better.  I agree that it wasn't perfect, either, but this felt like an experiment that went awry somewhere between, "hey, that looks like a good UI flow" and "wow, returning players are going to expect a lot of these buffs to return because it's part of the standard progression of play".

I just never warmed to it, even when I took out the level cap. I really wanted to like it, but it was even rockier than the first stab at Skills was, and the small number of choices available, plus the way progression works, means that either they need to get watered down and avoid the really important things, or all try desperately to be equally valid, which is, frankly, impossible.

4.  I really liked how the Perseans at least got mentioned in the story, but I felt like they could have contributed more.  The characters in Tritachyan and Hegemony space fit their memes well.

The treatment of the Luddites fell somewhat flat; they just seemed rather dull and unsympathetic, rather than people who (rationally or not) fear the consequences of... something.  Like, I enjoyed the Shrine where you can donate; that gave them a bit of humanity and an insight into their thought; but in the main storyline, they're just kind of ham-fisted.

I guess that's the issue with the Luddites, in the writing; what they should be afraid of is another AI War, or some post-Collapse event of techno-heresy that nearly destroyed humanity's foothold in the Sector. They just came across as vaguely Catholic, though, including that one terrorist who sounded like he'd stepped out of a character drama about The Troubles, which didn't serve them well.

The Path, in particular, should probably play out more like Al Qaeda; religious, yes, but really, they're hardcore geopolitical revolutionaries with a pretty specific endgame in mind (in their case, given the lore, demolishing the Hegemony through proxy wars, using planet-crackers to finish of Tritach, etc. might all fit). They wouldn't think small; sabotaging Industries is just work for the minor players and training for the next wave of leaders. Their endgame should be big and properly scary (or properly justified, depending on your POV).

This is the problem with Ludd in general; they don't appear to have a real goal, other than, "don't use AIs". The Hegemony and Tritachyon have specific goals and motivations; what was done with the Perseans fleshed them out a bit, but left me wanting to see more (which is a good thing in an Alpha, heh). But the Luddites didn't quite gel; Catholicism In Space, from 40K, is great, but Herbert's Jihad was a lot more interesting- the great sweep of a Violent Idea.

Ludd's death in the Gate Collapse, for example, or the hinted-at razing of colonies, nanotech outbreaks, etc. that is all darkly painted into the corners of the lore is treated a bit too hazily; the Hammers of Ludd would make great antagonists or allies if why they believe that Tech (or, at least, Some Tech) is Evil were more clear and less couched in vague religiosity.  That's why I liked the Persean you interacted with; he shed some light on them as a faction and gave a bit of context for their history.

I really wanted there to be a branch early where the player could side with the Pirates, flat-out, no stopping.  There was pretty much no way to take that route, ever.  I do like that there are plenty of Missions available for players who want to roleplay that out, but for a game set in a universe where, to paraphrase Dan Abnett, "everybody has a headache" your character essentially works the lines of Neutral Good. I'm not a big fan of being evil in games, but it's always kind of strange when you have a universe where most of the players are, at best, shades of gray, you're allowed to commit genocide, but you can't decide to raise the Jolly Roger very easily (and, frankly, it still doesn't pay well enough to bother).

I do hope that Sindria gets a major side-quest line at some point.  In the unreleased version of Rebal I have sitting on my hard-drive, the Sindrians have a unique fleet and lots of cutesy Codex entries where I tried to write Andrada-like sentences.  I feel like their weird position as the Oil Barons of the Sector would mean they'd be real, real interested in the [SUPER-REDACTED], if nothing else.

5.  In-system Bounties are worthwhile now.  Out-system ones still don't quite pay their freight.

6.  I super-approve of the occasional Actually Scary Pirate Armadas that show up.

7.  I'm generally not going to comment on most of the specific buff / nerfs on Skills, except for the one involving Militarized Subsystems.  That one ... if there were a few ships that fit into the super-narrow window of requirements and could become deadly-serious, I'd have bothered.  It felt too fiddly, though.

Honestly, with most of the "limited to X DP" skills, I just ignored their existence; if I got them along the way, fine, if not, oh well; they just weren't worth building an endgame fleet around. 

I also ignored all of the Frigate / Destroyer specific buffs.  I wanted other things early, and by midgame, no amount of buffing was going to make Frigate-only fleets viable. I know that's going to cue somebody to show off their "I defeated X in Sim with Y" but that's not how the game actually works; in campaign, you're not taking down mid-game Bounties with 20 Frigates, leveled Officers, and 4+ Cruisers with a Frigate swarm on Normal without frequent fleet-wipes; it's not sensible.  Don't get me wrong- I think those buffs were a Good Idea, especially for players who like smaller ships. They just weren't tempting ideas, when you're used to hand-piloting some Glass Cannon Assassin and using a fleet as a survivable hammer and anvil.

8.  Maybe I just haven't stumbled upon it, but the sudden end of the Galatia quests after you fire up the [REDACTED] felt a bit disappointing.  Shouldn't I be flogging the [REDACTED] to the highest bidder after discovering that all the precious research has been mysteriously destroyed, or something? It felt like when you think you're stepping off the last step in a staircase, but there's really two, if that makes sense.

9.  The new SRM is cool because of the specifics of its mechanics.  In certain situations, it's more efficient than a Reaper.  I mean, I'm cool with that- in Rebal, even Reapers get a little terminal guidance, because they're just so bloody prone to bad AI use otherwise, and honestly, they don't feel OP. I feel like maybe the issue's with the Reapers; maybe they need to sometimes detonate if intercepted by PD or have bigger AOEs or... something.  I can't figure out a single good use for even the Medium-mount version that isn't solved with something else better, though.

10. I don't think any of the [SUPER-REDACTED] stuff should be ever available to players.

11. I liked the [REDACTED] fleet option.  By the time I saw that, I was playing Rebal again, so my opinion of balance was that they're really quite nice, despite all their obvious problems.  IIRC in Vanilla they felt a bit too easy but it's been a long time since I've played a game out that far in pure Vanilla.

Well, this is long enough.  Overall, this build gave the game a true story structure to hang the player's actions upon- and that's good; I think that if there's some explanation at the beginning to set the stage, it'll really work, and if there are several ways in which that "last step" can be inserted into the player's story, it'll be pretty darn good.

General Discussion / 4K Starsector Fix (Windows 10)
« on: March 27, 2021, 12:53:21 PM »
OK, I found a fix that allows one to play Starsector in full, 4K glory.  If you want the explanation of why it's goofy on some people's 4K displays, open the spoiler; otherwise just skip to the pictures and do that.
Basically, the problem with 4K that most of you will experience in Windows 10 has to do with Screen Scaling- a feature that was introduced because, well, 4K screens that aren't giant have such tiny pixels that merely seeing things has become a problem (especially for old fogeys like me). 

The default Screen Scaling setting in Windows 10 for 4K displays is 150%; that means that all text and graphics are scaled up.  If you have Screen Scaling at 100%, probably none of this applies, but I didn't test that.

However, SS, started up in 4K resolutions after a clean install appears to be getting data from Windows 10 indirectly; the query to where the center of the screen is, XY, is off.  This makes the launcher, the game's window, and many other elements offset inappropriately to the right and downwards, respectively.  The fix below corrects all that.

First, right-click on your Starsector shortcut icon, and select Properties.

Now, click on the Compatibility tab:

Click on the button labeled "Change high DPI settings".

Now change the settings there to look like this:

Open the game.  The Launcher should be dead-center on the screen now.  4K should work, either full-screen or borderless window.

General Discussion / 0.95- First Impressions
« on: March 26, 2021, 10:57:02 PM »
I kind of hate to start this critique off with some negatives, but I am going to, because it's important to give it straight.  Overall, I like a lot of the changes.  The game definitely feels more finished; there's more good than bad here.

1.  The new skill system.  Man, IDK.  On the one hand, skills matter a bit less overall; this is probably a good thing.

However, the way it's set up is... weird. There's no flex, it's all about being in the right pigeonhole... and the 15 levels mean you can get 37.5% of the total skills.

Soooo... all the skills need to be pretty amazing, frankly (or equally meh).  I already dislike the, "you can only pick B if you've taken A in the chain" mechanic; it's even more irritating than the, "burn 3 points to be able to max any skill" in the old system.  It's almost the epitome of how to make an open-world game feel restrictive. 

If the fifth items on each chain were amaaaaaazing capstones, it'd at least offer a reason for this, but that's not how it works.  I mean... case in point: Missile Specialization is one of two capstones of Combat?  Really?

The flavor texts are also an unfortunate example of where that's not actually a good idea.  They simply aren't very informative, and new players will be confused.  I get what you wanted there, but the right answer is to describe the general mechanics, then provide some flavor, not the other way 'round.  The mechanics, meanwhile, are in teeny-tiny script that's dark and hard to read.

Lastly, the "oh, but this doesn't work if you have X FP of Y stuff" just gives me a headache.  I get why it's there, the whole, "try and limit player power in a soft way", etc., etc. and that's fine, but frankly... it's just un-fun to read it and try to understand the mechanics.

So... buying skills has gone from a moderately-annoying exercise in choice anxiety to "wow, I need to whip out a calculator and read some forum-dude's calculations about how to use it, and then build to a precise meta", and I'm not honestly sure that's an improvement, despite the obvious amount of time that went into making this system. 

Like, if this was the goal, why not have explicit character classes?  Because this amounts to a class system, only with a rather confusing presentation.

2.  The Hard-Flux Beams; 50% range on a PD Laser means that it's basically not a thing now, and Tac Lasers are... uh... 500-range weapons that trade 1:1?  Wow, sign me right up, lol.

It's a cute attempt at a tradeoff, and frankly it's great that Beams finally got some love... but this mechanic might need some work.  Also, the OP cost is like, "whaaaaa" for what you get.  At 1/2/5/10, I would at least think about it (and probably be disappointed).

3. I really like the Assault / Escort Hull Mods.

4.  I think the change to the Annihilator Pod is very interesting.  I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but it's interesting that it's basically a flux-pressure hose that mainly eats the opponent's Soft Flux reserves, rather than doing real damage.  David's rework of the art is nice, too. Heck, the work on the art for this version, in general, is really nice.

5.  Is it just me, or did Talons get a buff?  They felt rather vicious against Pirates.  I mean, I'm OK with that; Talons should be worth their 2 OPs, lol.

6. It looks like System Bounties were increased a bit.  Thank heavens, they're almost worth doing now.

7.  The perma-mod mechanic is really cool.

8.  The "miracle worker" mechanic is also really cool, and will be heavily abused to farm rare ships and weapons mounted on same, lol.

9.  I haven't even done any of the new missions yet, but I know I'll enjoy them. Knock out ports for Pirates?  Sign me up.

10.  The mercenaries are... interesting.  I need to understand the new Officer limits, but if they skirt those, they'll be actually useful... but frankly, I'm expecting a lot of them to not be, because they don't have the right combination of skills to minmax their meta pigeonholes.  This feels like a Newbie Trap, frankly.  Maybe they'll turn out to have rational hard-wired sets of useful skills rather than RNG; I haven't stared at enough of them yet.  But the one in Galatia was kind of a mixed bag and I passed her up.

Bug Reports & Support / 4K UI is borked.
« on: March 26, 2021, 07:30:11 PM »
Scales / positions of UI elements are way, way off, over here, at 3840x2160.  Game functions, but is effectively unplayable.  Unmodded run, etc.

Modding / BeamAPI getTo()
« on: December 26, 2020, 02:45:25 PM »
I've known this was bugged for quite a while but I thought I'd note it's bugged. 

Always returns the BeamAPI's end-point as if the end-point is at maximum length (maybe that's getting reset after it causes damage and EveryFrameCombatScript can't catch it, idk).

Suggestions / Why is Restore Expensive?
« on: December 07, 2020, 02:32:49 AM »
If you buy a used tank that's taken battle damage... replacing parts is nothing like the cost of a new tank. The same is true of pretty much anything else that's like a SS starship, IRL, military or civilian. Used machines like this, unless they are truly exotic / nobody-makes-those-anymore, are inherently cheaper to fix up, as anybody who's saved money keeping a car running with a little elbow-grease knows. There are exceptions, but they tend to be things like electronic devices that have been purposefully designed, by consumer-unfriendly engineers, to be difficult to repair.

Even in a far-future universe where somebody figured out Ultimate DRM, that wouldn't be the case with something like a starship; it's a durable good and, like all investments, it has to be maintained (which is already simulated via Supplies and the cost of Crew).  Sure, you'd have to buy DRM'd parts, but frankly, marking them up that much wouldn't work; competition would drive the prices down.

What's the justification for it being 120% above base cost and an additional 120% more for each D-Mod?  Given that ships sell for fractions of their value, none of this makes sense.  It should be something like 50% and 105% or so; repairing a clunker should cost a considerable sum less than buying new.  That price point still doesn't allow repairing stuff to make a profit.

If the goal is to keep players having to stay involved with maintenance, maybe the right answer is that, over time, ships reach a point where they require a "major overhaul" (this could be a D-Mod applied by script, most likely).  This would degrade CR significantly, or something, so players would want to get rid of the debuff, and that would cost serious cash; say, 25% of the value.  But I thought the whole point of Supplies was to abstract maintenance away.

I guess my overall feeling is, if the goal is to keep players from having shiny new ships, the right answer is pretty obvious: raise ship prices, a lot, especially for Cruiser+, and have different resale tiers (say, 5% under Restore base for Frigates, 10% for Destroyers, 20% and 30% for Cruisers / Capitals).  I'm actually pretty happy with the price ranges I've set in Rebal currently; getting into a capital ship feels like you've really arrived (well, until you see the maintenance bills and pay the crew, heh).

If the goal is to keep them upgrading their clunker fleets and feeling involved with that evolution, however, the mechanic as it works right now actually punishes players for bringing in their clunkers to be repaired.  This means whack-a-mole searches of all the Markets to find a pristine hull, or everybody doing boring min-max stuff to get their own production up as fast as they can, rather than taking the cheap route, repairing what they've managed to capture, and making due, which seems more in the spirit of the universe.

Suggestions / Saving Whilst At Stations
« on: December 05, 2020, 10:29:06 PM »
1.  It'd be nice to be able to save directly at a Station, rather than having to leave it.
2.  It'd be even nicer if, upon reloading, we didn't have to click on the Station, move to it, and re-open the dialog.

That's pretty much it.  After playing some other games for a minute, it feels really strange / clunky to have to do this.

Discussions / Noita reaches 1.0
« on: October 20, 2020, 03:54:24 PM »
If you haven't caught Noita yet... you really, really should. 

Bought it in EA, zero regrets. 

Awesome twitch gameplay, amazing physics, crazy mechanics, and it's moddable to a surprising extent; I'm expecting people will make some great content for it. 

For coders: engine is a marvelous beast; I really hope it gets used to make more games.

Discussions / Just wanted to check in...
« on: March 31, 2020, 03:32:31 PM »
...and express my wishes that all of you are safe and sound, staying home and healthy if you possibly can.

Modding / Please switch Bomb to MISSILE
« on: September 24, 2019, 08:37:19 AM »
...for the internal consistency children, things that have .PROJ w/ BOMB/ROCKET/MISSILE missileTypes should use MISSILE as their WeaponType in their .WPN, please.

Yes, that's incredibly nit-picky.  But it took me 15 minutes to hunt down why a Bomber AI could sense "ammo empty" for torpedoes, but not bombs (they're BALLISTIC; leftovers from Ye Olden Days, when you could strap bombs on a Lasher)... and it means an extra boolean check per Bomber, lol.

Suggestions / Colonists / Crew / Ransoms / Captures
« on: September 08, 2019, 09:44:51 AM »
Colonists / Crew

Simply put, I think these two resources should be separated.


1.  It'd streamline the economy a bit.  Some things should produce / need Crew, but not Colonists, and vice-versa.  It's a bit silly to need the economy to produce huge amounts of Crew all the time to make sure players can build Colonies.
2.  It's 'realistic'; Colonists aren't ship specialists, they're "just cargo". 
3.  It'd provide a fun resource to capture for pirate / privateer players.  Raids could collect Colonists to be "ransomed off".

Ransoms / Captures

I think it'd be cool if we captured enemy Officers and could ransom them back to their Factions or return them for free after capturing their escape pods.  Or just free them, Mount and Blade style, with a little, "thanks for freeing me" dialog and a +Rep for that individual.

It'd provide a little opening for reaching -100 and it'd provide a more-reasonable buffer for that whole, "this invasion fleet isn't authorized so engaging them won't hurt your Rep much" mechanic.

I also still think we should be getting escape-pods full of enemy Crew at the end of battles, for flavor, if nothing else.

Bug Reports & Support (modded) / Crash on Save w/ Falcon (P)
« on: August 13, 2019, 10:03:31 PM »
Relevant portion of the Log.  Weird issue; I can confirm that WS 003 is present in the base .ship.

2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Finished saving
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 9 (exception)
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 10 (exception)
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 11 (exception)
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 12 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 13 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 14 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 15 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 16 (exception)
2076833 [Thread-4] ERROR com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain  - java.lang.RuntimeException: Slot id [WS 003] not found on hull [falcon_p]
java.lang.RuntimeException: Slot id [WS 003] not found on hull [falcon_p]
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetMemberView.renderWeapons(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetMemberView.renderSingle(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetMemberView.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetView.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleet.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.BaseCampaignEntity.render(Unknown Source)
at Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.BaseLocation.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.CampaignEngine.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.CampaignState.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.BaseGameState.traverse(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.state.AppDriver.begin(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain.main(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.StarfarerLauncher$ Source)
at Source)

Basically, three things:

1.  I think that MISSILE / ROCKET / BALLISTIC / BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM / MIRV should all be combined into one group that satisfies the same requirements. 

It's just adding complexity, that we can have AoE on BALLISTIC, but not necessarily on ROCKET; it'd be better and easier to maintain, long-term, to just have one behavior-set. 

For example, a MISSILE is just a guided form of ROCKET; all that differs is inclusion of an AI (could just be a boolean "hasAI" and a pass-through). 

Performance-wise, these sorts of switches in basic behaviors are almost zero-cost.

2.  The visual behaviors need work, too.  BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM has its origin at the WeaponAPI's barrel point; BALLISTIC is offset, backwards no less, by the value of length.  This is non-intuitive stuff; for anything using the core functionality of DamagingProjectileAPI, you'd think that, unless the WeaponAPI specifies RENDER_LOADED_MISSILES, they'd all use the same basic behaviors. 

What I'd like to suggest here, for simplicity, is that new projectiles do a 2-5 frame "accordion", where they start at barrel-origin at nearly zero-length for their quad and then stretch to full size.  This (combined with muzzle-flash) should work well, visually.

I don't think that the additional "glow" features should be mandatory, either.  Most of the time, just one additive quad with a quality texture is all you need to convey a little pew-pew bolt flying around.  There really aren't many situations where using more CPU per frame on the additional stuff is warranted and the savings on VRAM are zero-to-minimal; even if every shot in the game had a unique graphic, we're talking about a teeny amount of memory compared to ships (and this is a priiiiiime area for atlasing, imho).

MISSILE / ROCKET / MIRV get a bunch of custom SFX applied when damaged / dying; these sorts of systems should (imo) be generic and either flag-based (or, better, but more work) directly exposed.

3.  Last, but not least, they're not acting the same in code on the modding end. 

BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM doesn't appear to operate correctly with setDamage(); when read back via getDamage(), the values are really high.  MIRV'd projectiles seem to have similar issues.  If they hit in a normal scenario, they're fine; if they're queried by code, they aren't.

BALLISTIC and BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM operate differently, when it comes to visuals; the way they're "wiped" when they've recorded a hit is different (personally, I think they should all get wiped immediately upon impact; covering that up with fx is better than continuing to let the projectile exist, however tenuously). 

Lastly, BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM implies a two-check-per-frame collision process, but it doesn't appear to be much different in practical outcome from BALLISTIC (and it'd be fairly easy/cheap to use a square-check to find out whether either "where I am this frame" or "where I'll be next frame" will have any intersections with the target's collision circle).

I'm 100% aware these are tiny, nit-picking things compared to the overall design, lol.  That, and I've probably stared at the visuals closely a lot more than most people, while building the stuff in my FX "example" project.

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