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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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Messages - Delta_of_Isaire

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Blog Posts / Re: Uniquifying the Factions, Part 2
« on: May 11, 2022, 12:32:45 AM »
HEF may be better than AAF for Executor. Slightly less powerful than AAF, meshes well with Gigacannon et al (on paper at least), and fewer ships have it so it deserves some love.

Either way, a damage boosting system may well be the extra push Executor needs to cement it as a solid alternative to Pegasus (in player hands at least). It's not that FMR is bad with 2 large missiles, but compared to Pegasus with 4 it is guaranteed to feel underwhelming.

To be fair, I am still seeing Tempests (without SO) occasionally getting killed by death explosions. I blame it on the AI either recklessly dropping its shields, or running its (soft) flux up so high that its shields can't take any real damage anymore.

Honestly, death explosions aren't a huge threat to a ship with shields up, so an SO ship ought to aggressively close the gap.

The real problem is that the AI - particularly aggressive AI - lets its flux go up too high before considering retreat to dissipate/vent. Which leads to shields being dropped in the face of enemy fire, or overloads, etc. Case in point: my aggressive Hammerhead decided to 1v1 a pirate Eradicator (both with lvl 5 officers) and ended up taking a good chunk of hull damage. Which would have been more if I hadn't ordered it to retreat.

Blog Posts / Re: Uniquifying the Factions, Part 2
« on: May 05, 2022, 02:46:57 AM »
This also brings up an interesting option for the 14th battlegroup ships.  What if the built in hullmod for those *was* a s-mod?  They'd still have some serious power over the default stock ships, but come with the downside of allowing one fewer S-mod in them.  As an interesting way to give them a minor nerf compared to the stock variants.

I'd think it'd be reasonable for both the XIV and LP built-in SO hullmods to take up s-mod slots that are retained upon salvage, assuming the XIV hullmod also loses its speed/maneuverability malus. This would temper expectations for players that "faction ships = better" instead of being sidegrades/possible downgrades.

That actually sounds like a really good idea, making these hullmods occupy an S-mod slot.

Some folks have been skeptical of the Executor so let's have a look at it, and compare it to Pegasus. Both ships lend themselves very well to long-range fire support. 5x HVD is the same DPS as 2 Gauss Cannons, but for only 875 flux/sec instead of 1200. And 200 less range, but 1000 range is still good, particularly with the mounts being placed forward on the hull. Then add 4 Graviton beams for 800 soft-flux shield pressure, costing only 300 flux/sec to fire. Then we're at 1175 flux/sec. At 200 for shield upkeep and you get 1375 flux/sec. For the Executor we can then add two Tachyon Lances for 924 flux/sec, bringing the total to 2299 flux/sec (2099 without shields). All told, the Executor is right up there with Paragon and Conquest in terms of potential long-range gun firepower.

Provided it has the dissipation to power these weapons. How much dissipation do these ships have? The Pegasus screenshot shows 1438 dissipation. But that can be increased with 5 more vents and Flux Distributor, bringing it up to at least 1638. By analyzing both the Pegasus and Executor outfit screenshots more deeply we can maybe get more accurate. The Executor has a lvl 1 officer and 60 speed at 71% CR, while the Pegasus has 52 speed at 79% CR. That is consistent with a base speed of 50 and the Executor having Elite Helmsmanship - and therefore not having ordnance expertise. Additionally, The Executor's flux capacity is highlighted green despite having 0 capacitors, which suggests fleetwide flux regulation. Then, the 815 dissipation with 34 vents suggests base dissipation of 450. So. 450 base dissipation, + 45 from flux regulation, + 550 from vents, +150 from flux distributor, + ~400 from ordnance expertise. That is 1595 total dissipation for the Executor.

Now 1595 is not 2099 to fully support the weapons package, but it isn't too terrible. For reference, an Eagle (XIV) tops out at about 1350 dissipation. The Executor is a cut above cruiser-level flux.

Of course the real question is whether 2x large energy is better or worse than 2x large missile. Given Fast Missile Racks, as long as the ammo lasts missiles will undoubtedly be better. But what if ammo does not last? Then the Executor may have the advantage, particularly for long-range weapon builds.

Blog Posts / Re: Uniquifying the Factions, Part 2
« on: May 02, 2022, 09:23:13 AM »
> Energy-damage missiles (looking at Gorgon, but also Hydra) are not finishers - they are openers. It's either free hard-flux on the enemies' shields, or a gash in their armor, particularly with how PD-resistant these missiles are.

I could see that, but it *is* also soft-flux damage, so you'd really have to make sure to overwhelm.

Oh it's soft-flux beam damage? Yeah that would straighten out the wrinkle :)

Damn, you're right.  It hadn't clicked for me that the Manticore was as tanky as it is, since I always thought it was more like a low tech Sunder.  So you can add that to the list of line ships then.  I understand now why it's a lot harder to come up with good midline destroyers that don't step on its toes.
Wasn't the point of asking for missile destroyer was something the League can use for their new missiles, since they are exclusively midline (i.e., Manticore not an option for them)?

Yep, PL lacks a Destroyer with medium missile capability, because they use exclusively Midline ships. An unfortunate restriction given the existence of Manticore and Shrike. Alternatively the Falcon (P) would also be perfect for the League. For the player's fleet there's also the Fulgent and Scintilla that have medium missile slots. And, of course, an honorable mention to the Gemini. So there is a lot of competition for a potential new missile destroyer, which makes designing it quite difficult. Particularly with "same thing - different tech level" being off the table (for good reason).

Blog Posts / Re: Uniquifying the Factions, Part 2
« on: May 01, 2022, 04:43:15 AM »
This is going to be the best Starsector update ever. Release when?

Alex after introducing DEM missiles for PL: "Between all these, we have a missile lineup that covers all the bases."

Me: But what about anti-fighter?

Alex: "[IR Autolance] wipes out most fighters easily."

Me: That... that makes a lot of sense actually.

Overall I'm pretty excited about the Persean League. They make Midline feel special in a way it wasn't before. I can see two wrinkles though:

> Energy-damage missiles (looking at Gorgon, but also Hydra) are not finishers - they are openers. It's either free hard-flux on the enemies' shields, or a gash in their armor, particularly with how PD-resistant these missiles are.

> There are relatively few Midline ships with Medium Missile mounts to fire Gazers and stuff. There's Conquest, Gryphon, and... Vigilance? At least it's cool that the Vigilance is useful now. But there's a niche here for, say, an Elite Midline Destroyer with medium missile capability.

We'll have to see how this pans out in practice.

The Sindrian Diktat ship skins are a bold move, but I'm with you on this one. It is good for lore, and cosmetic-only ship skins already exist so nothing new there. Aside from D-mod (that can be repaired with cash, so whatever) and the forced Solar Shielding. Well, I put Solar shielding on 100% of my ships anyways, so having it forcibly build-in doesn't look like a downside to me.

As for "base hull is bad": It kind of already feels that way to me because of XIV variants. Their only downside (aside from acquisition) is speed, but for all XIV ships besides *sometimes* Falcon the speed drop feels insignificant. I mean, I would never even consider using baseline Onslaught or Enforcer, for example.

The Remnant Nova Battlecruiser genuinely frightens me. It has a high potential to suddenly kill one of your ships if you aren't super-careful with orders. Same applies to a lesser extent with Plasma Burn Brilliant. Given how expensive and reload-inducing ship losses are, there's some rage-inducing potential here. If only the default ship AI was a little better at positioning and timely retreats...

Regarding Fulgent: it has the same speed as Hammerhead but generally lower weapon range. That implies a heavy reliance on dual Sabot pods for the Fulgent to achieve anything. Fulgent is also comparable to Sunder, trading a large energy mount for better shields. That's a mixed bag trade. From a long-range energy beam perspective 3x Gravitons + HEF is ostensibly good, but the Sunder can top that by trading one Graviton for a Tachyon Lance. So we could pessimistically say the Fulgent can't brawl as well as a Hammerhead and can't do beam support as well as a Sunder. More optimistically, we might say the Fulgent is the perfect use-case for the Energy Bolt Coherer.

Suggestions / Re: Teaching the AI about 'fleet power density'
« on: April 27, 2022, 05:25:03 AM »
(Just for the record - I have extensive thoughts on this topic but I cannot fully articulate my opinion yet. There is definitely *something* wrong with current AI positioning, caused by poor default behavior and/or poor response to orders. But I need to study the AI's response to orders a bit more. Going to do a command playthrough now to do that, with no manual piloting, and see how that compares to my usual approach.)

Yeah, I'd like a way of getting past slipstreams. Right now they're basically just a pain in the butt. Trying to get through one sends you a massive distance out of your way, just for you to fly back. It would be nice if there was an option for "bracing" through them or something, which would burn more fuel and supplies, but let you get across with minimal issues.
If you are willing to burn fuel and supplies, then you can use Emergency Burn to cross slipstreams fairly easily. Also a key thing to do when crossing slipstreams is to keep your left mouse button pressed and move your mouse pointer in the direction you want to go.

Crossing slipstreams shouldn't be that involved though. It needs to be looked at.

I feel like slipstreams really helped to make hyperspace more interesting but since so many players find them annoying, I propose a simple fix. Make it way easier to just pass through them. So no fancy maneuvers like using Emergency burn, cancelling Sustained burn and finding the thinnest part (going in the opposite direction should still push you back tho). Sure this would make them feel less impactful, and to that I say screw it, anything to make travel less frustrating.

Agreed this is the main trouble with slipstreams. Crossing them without E-burn is too cumbersome, and since E-burn costs fuel and supplies I always feel bad about using it for what is clearly a non-life-threatening situation.

Aside from this slipstreams are fine IMHO. I find useful slipstreams at a reasonable frequency.

General Discussion / Re: Is there a guide to the tutorial combat?
« on: April 21, 2022, 01:17:25 AM »
Starsector combat is surprisingly tough to get into for new players. Proper piloting of your flagship is a skill that requires training. One good way to develop that skill is to try the first few missions (not the campaign, but separate scenario battles) until you get comfortable with them.

General Discussion / Re: So the game's all about the huge fleets?
« on: April 21, 2022, 01:04:04 AM »
As others have said, if you spec into personal combat skills you can solo most of the game with the right playership - Ziggurat, Doom, Odyssey or Conquest are the main candidates. Provided you are good at piloting them. The only fights that really do require larger fleets to beat are high-end Remnant Ordos and Omega bossfights.

There are three main reasons to get colonies:
- a source of infinite money (once they are developed)
- ability to build ships and weapons from your own blueprints (with Heavy Industry)
- a cheap and plentiful source of fuel and supplies.

The latest game updates added arms dealers and contacts that offer ship/weapon production as well, sometimes even from your own blueprints. So unless you want to constantly produce large numbers of things, there is an alternative to having your own heavy industry.

Fuel and supplies are also not that hard to get from core worlds. You just have to pay a bit more.

As for money: the largest money-sink in the game is actually developing your colonies. So if you skip that then that saves a lot of cash you can use for other things. The main other credit sink is monthly pay for your crew and officers. which can be largely covered by getting a commission, or by doing profitable high-end bounties or trading runs.

Sounds like your taste in gameplay is very similar to mine. Particularly the small fleet thing and the gaining of power through insight/tactics instead of button mashing/grinding. Unfortunately Starsector is not at all designed for that style of play. That said, there are still some options worth exploring.

- I like having a small fleet, 1 to 5 ships very max, 2 or 3 would be neat
Understand that a 'normal' fleet is something like 15-30 ships. Certainly enemy fleets that you battle will not ever be small numbers. Additionally, for a reasonable gameplay flow you will need several non-combat ships for carrying cargo and fuel. However, it is definitely possible to win 90-95% of battles using a single playership or a small number of combat ships. This does require good piloting skill, patience, and some specific strategies.

The two main dangers of enemy fleets are (1) a dizzying number of small, fast ships that will gang up on you and (2) a core of strong capital ships that you simply cannot outgun with a small fleet. To win against the first threat, you need a flagship capable of quickly mowing down multiple smaller ships, which is doable by choosing the right weapons to use. To win against the second threat you need a flagship with higher speed than most capitals so you can maintain distance, while still having enough concentrated firepower to effectively kite the enemy capitals.

This limits you to two types of flagships:
> Phase ships (unique Ziggurat or Doom)
> Battlecruisers (Odyssey or Conquest)
Note this applies to midgame/endgame when you have access to capital ships. Earlier in the game it's the same principle but with Cruisers or Destroyers instead. Harbinger and Afflictor for Phase, Hammerhead/Falcon and Medusa/Fury/Aurora for non-phase.

I personally dislike Phase ships, and while the Odyssey is strong in the hands of a competent player the AI is less stellar at piloting it. So the best all-around choice for a solo/low-number combat ship is the Conquest. Give it a symmetrical weapon loadout with Locust missiles, Railguns, Hephaestus Assault Gun and Mark IX Autocannon. And stack all possible range bonuses from hullmods and skills. A fleet of 3 such Conquests, with the right piloting, orders, skills, etc. can win most normal battles in the game. Everything aside from some unique boss fights and high-level Remnants (in "high"-danger systems), all of which are entirely optional endgame content.

Incidentally, giving each Conquest a Monitor-class frigate as Escort will vastly improve their performance against tougher enemies. Even though strictly speaking the Monitors are separate ships, their strict usage in conjunction with the Conquest as 'mothership' can make them feel like a part of the same unit.

Lastly, you could reduce the "maximum battle size" setting to 200, which limits the amount of ships that can be deployed in combat at the same time. It doesn't reduce the actual size of enemy fleets, so enemies will have lots of reinforcements to deploy. Which has the effect of dragging out fights and causing issues with combat readiness degradation. Still, at 200 battle size you are limited to deploying 3 capitals, or 2 capitals + some escorts, which is pretty low numbers.

- I love exploration with meaning (finding usefull stuff, discovering weird places...)
Starsector does feature a lot of exploration and salvaging which can be quite fun. However, 99% of the point of exploration is to find items that improve your colonies, or blueprints that let your colonies produce better ships and weapons. Exploration is not the best way to earn money, nor is it the best way to level grind or to grow the strength of your fleet.

Having said that: the remaining 1% concerns the acquisition of unique overpowered weapons that definitely do increase your potential power in battle. Unfortunately this also involves the aforementioned bossfights that are difficult to win with a 'small' fleet. Although... with the right tactics and loadouts a fleet consisting of an Alpha-core Radiant, a player-piloted Conquest and a bunch of Monitor Frigate escorts could go a long way towards winning those fights.

- I like battles with small groups but tactical choices, not just lot of peons vs lot of peons
Does a single Battlecruiser with 1-2 escorts count as a small group? I think it might. And two or three such Battlecruisers can constitute a sufficiently powerful fleet for 90-95% of battles. Does it involve tactics? Certainly, because with such a 'small' force it is important to stick together and pick your fights, dancing around the tougher enemies will cutting through the forces of smaller ships that will swarm you. Something that can play out quite a few different ways depending on the enemy fleet composition.

- I like destroying some things easily as i grow not in numbers but in power and knowledge, not always be challenged every step i go
Pirates in Starsector go from menacing to complete pushovers as you progress through the game and increase the power of your fleet. Certain Bounty fleets can be scaled to your preferred challenge level.

A significant part of power growth can come from leveling up and gaining skills (which also applies to officers), retrofitting your ships with special built-in hullmods (S-mods) and optimizing your ship's loadouts. Loadout design is a deep topic where knowledge definitely helps.

- but i like also having some challenge from time to time when it’s justified, not just random pirate 10x my power because RNG hello
Random Pirates (and Pathers) will continue to show up throughout the game, but there soon enough comes a point where you are strong enough to just swat them aside. Most of the really frustratingly difficult battles (particularly for a 'small' fleet) are optional and in general you have to actively go looking for those fights. (not that that stops people from complaining about the difficulty)

- i don’t like being an octopus with many buttons to click in short times and fast clicking or i’m dead
Neither do I, which is one of the reasons why I play combat at 0.5x normal speed (the other reason being it gives me more time to look at the battle and enjoy it). You can edit this yourself in starsector/data/config/settings.json - look for the line "combatSpeedMult". For a lot of folks out there the concept of playing at half speed will be utterly baffling and the epitomy of boredom, but it is a single-player game after all.

- i like usually turn based tactical stuff, but that’s not this game, so...
Nope, sorry. Not this game. Although you can pause in combat whenever you like, and still look around and issue orders to your ships.

- i hate being dead because i didn’t do THAT or THIS in the right order at the right time
Yeah... Starsector is rive with out-of-the-blue challenges that are essentially automatic game-overs for new or unknowing players. Learn to quicksave often. Once you are aware of these speedbumps though they are mostly avoidable by taking the necessary precautions. Most importantly, keeping an eye on your supplies and fuel, and be careful to avoid dangerous enemy fleets.

The upshot is that a lot of this is early-game hell. Later on you should be rich enough that supplies and fuel are minor concerns, and most random fleet encounters will not be that dangerous. Still, even late-game, if you go out actively looking for trouble, you certainly will find it.

General Discussion / Re: whats the deal with supplies in this game
« on: April 17, 2022, 07:26:53 AM »
Your experience is a good example of how unforgiving the learning curve of Starsector can be.

And specifically regarding supplies, it is easy to paint yourself into a corner where you have no good options left. Starsector has a lot of gotcha's like that, situations that lead to game-over unless the player is specifically avoiding them. No amount of general-purpose advice is going to prevent new players from hitting these situations and having to reload saves a lot, or even restarting the game.

As a point of comparison: if you know what you're doing and have good skill outfitting and piloting your flagship, you can end the tutorial with >200k credits banked, enough to buy yourself any starting fleet you like and start doing whatever you want.

General Discussion / Re: Sad tale of the satbomber
« on: April 17, 2022, 07:07:43 AM »
Well written!

It is true that the player's potential responses to cargo inspection need to gain extra options in between "forfait all illegal cargo" and "declare war on the inspecting faction". Something a bit less black and white.

Suggestions / Re: Balancing Income
« on: April 10, 2022, 04:34:12 AM »
Re OP: Excellent analysis. I can get behind it 100%.

Trade contacts in particular require massive improvements. I've tried them a few times, but always gave up on them quickly for one of the following reasons:
> Their trade missions do not appear to scale properly with your cargo space, which means they are often too small to be worthwhile. To the point that random bar delivery missions ("concerned man/woman") are massively better than anything I've seen from trade contacts.
> Trade contacts often have no available missions, to the point of being unreliable and useless.
> Their offers to buy some commodity at a "bargain price" are not that good. Aside from being a ridiculously low quantity, the supposedly good price is often no better than the (black market) buy price at planets with an excess of that commodity.

Regarding public bounties: one function of these is that they spawn random dangerous enemies that add a level of risk to (early/midgame) exploration. In fact high-level public bounties are the most dangerous random encounters in the game (besides remnant ordos), much stronger than pirates or scavengers. So if these bounties are removed (and I can see the merit of the idea) then the actual fleets themselves should maybe still be spawned.

Suggestions / Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« on: April 10, 2022, 02:35:44 AM »
The fundamental problem with the XP multiplier is that it punishes the player for having a strong fleet.

Edit: I have to explain that because some folks won't understand. Yes, the absence of a bonus is not the same thing as a penalty. However it feels that way to min-maxing / optimizing players such as myself. Players naturally look for the most efficient ways to progress the game, and then that maximum rate of progress becomes the benchmark. By itself this is fine, but it becomes problematic when there is a discrepancy between "optimal" play and "fun" play. People want both fun and efficiency. If choosing for fun means missing out on rewards, then that feels like a punishment. Hence, ensuring that fun gameplay is efficient gameplay is of paramount importance in game design. And that is really, really difficult, but it should still be aimed for.

I am generally against any sort of automatic scaling with the player. All types of scaling should be the result of optional player actions, and should be reversible (i.e. scaled down as well as up). Of course fleet size is under direct player control so it is a kind of grey area in this regard.

Certainly, the way the threat level and bonus XP of enemy fleets is calculated currently has some flaws that exacerbate the problem. Over-valuing officers is the most obvious problem, but I also suspect D-mods are penalized too strongly (the strength of D-modded ships is under-estimated), and the power of stations is under-estimated as well.

Aside from rebalancing, there is a much better solution to the XP multiplier, and that is to base the calculation only on ships and officers actually deployed in-battle. That is, reward the player for completing a fight with as few ships as possible, without punishing the player for having additional ships in reserve.

Edit: someone will inevitably call this bad because it allows "gaming the system". To which my response is: why is gaming the system a bad thing? Why should the player not be allowed to do a self-imposed challenge with more XP gain as a reward?

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