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

Author Topic: Increasing weapon range/reducing range gap;helping AI and reducing ship pile-ups  (Read 977 times)

Helldiver

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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.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2021, 02:47:54 PM by Helldiver »
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Megas

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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.

Short-ranged combat is my biggest gripe with Starsector.  Most guns feel more like chainsaws and metal sticks.  One of the reasons Paragon is my favorite ship now is because heavy beams with ATC have some range to actually shoot and kill things, not punch them!  Even then, their range does not feel very long, just acceptable.

If I had to review Starsector, I would put lack of shot range across the board as a major weakness of the game.
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Helldiver

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Short-ranged combat is my biggest gripe with Starsector.  Most guns feel more like chainsaws and metal sticks.

Even the biggest "sniper" guns do feel more like oversized BB shotguns than any sort of ship mounted weapons due to their range.

Here I mostly argue about range issues and range disparity in how it negatively affects gameplay however, rather than it making guns feel weak.
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Alex

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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.

Quick question: this sounds like it's talking about what happens in a situation when battleSize is increased beyond its default maximum. Is this the case, or are you talking about with vanilla values?
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Helldiver

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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.

Quick question: this sounds like it's talking about what happens in a situation when battleSize is increased beyond its default maximum. Is this the case, or are you talking about with vanilla values?

I am refering to vanilla gameplay: vanilla max battlesize, no modded ships, weapons or hullmods. However, the issues mentionned here happen even in battles that do not involve the maximum of ships deployed.

Longer answer: Even if the AI is changed to encourage ships to spread around more or for smaller ships to not try to squeeze between bigger ships and instead move to the sides more, it would ultimately be forced into the same situations by lack of weapon range and big gaps in weapon range. Also, adding more tasks to the AI is generally CPU intensive and the poor AI already has many things to keep track of.
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Alex

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Thanks for elaborating! Hmm, I'll keep an eye out. Not something I've really seen in recent memory; possibly also less of an issue in the current dev build due to... various factors. Perhaps we're talking about different levels of clustering/shot blocking, though.
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Helldiver

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possibly also less of an issue in the current dev build due to... various factors.

For a second I expected something like the upcoming Escort Package giving a range boost to smaller ships when near/escorting a bigger buddy (lore reason: getting target computation through datalink?). Then I re-read the patch notes and it says it's Civilian ships only :(

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.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2021, 02:43:50 PM by Helldiver »
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Alex

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One thing I want to say on the topic of weapon range, actually - just as a general note. The longer weapon range is, the less impact on the outcome maneuvering has. Instead, focus fire becomes more dominant; the same kind of thing that makes fighters difficult to balance currently, see especially Thunder spam for what sort of impact extreme ranges have. You're obviously not suggesting anything that extreme, but this is just illustrating the point that longer range means ship movement matters less.

So, basically - the extent to which increasing weapon range helps the AI maneuver is likely matching the extent to which it's simply making movement less important. And since movement is generally more engaging than firing weapons (one might often let autofire handle the latter, with a judicious use of hold fire, but moving just right requires more predictive thinking), I think that's a tradeoff that needs to be approached very very carefully.
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Helldiver

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I think that's a tradeoff that needs to be approached very very carefully.

Of course - even just doubling the range of guns and lasers in game would change Starsector combat to a different kind of beast entirely; which is why I think that small changes, or changes that help smaller ships without making bigger ships shoot further (the escort hullmod), and changes that give bigger ships their advantages in ways outside pure range (recoil, less damage fall-off) can be good to test first.

Purely on the matter of blocking bigger ship's guns, the issue also stems from not being able the shoot "over" smaller ships ahead like they can in naval games thanks to ballistic trajectories - even a ship very close to a target won't get hit with how shells drop. Which could be a thing in Starsector by making capital and cruiser projectiles pass above friendly frigates and destroyers (it's space and all, they could be above or below their allies). But that's a whole other discussion/suggestion, probably.
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