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Author Topic: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing  (Read 6322 times)

rabbistern

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The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« on: November 16, 2021, 07:27:30 PM »

I have recently discovered a mod by the name of "better deserved S-mods", (bless you Jackie, this is huge) and have today finished off my second campaign with it. Both lightly modded (no nex, some generic SWPs, ghetto-rigged BRDY, spindle & tahlan, osiris alliance, however i practically only used vanilla and OA ships, which are roughly low-midtech at roughly vanilla OP capacities), tried plenty of different doctrines and playstyles, up until erasing star fortresses and ordos feels boring.
For those who have not tried it, the mod basically enhances sub-max-OP hullmods when built in, and quite mildly at that, that is to say, "i would likely not use this on my ship if these effects cost the hull-size price equivalent of HA/HSh etc in OP instead of SP". sometimes its a minor reduction of the penalties like for CH, sometimes its a little buff to the numbers of a hullmod itself like RFC or AccS or RB or AWM, with the numeric/percentile bonus respectively being larger the less OP the hullmod would have cost, and sometimes its also buffing something else thematically adjacent to it, like ATG, ARU, or ExS do.

I have not built in either HA or HSh a single time. was better off without. Way more properly specialized builds are possible, and more efficient than the alternative of "slap on the most expensive hullmod for an SP2 in combat, for example shield-flickering with S-AccS worked out better for me than using HSh, and for armored lads i was always better off with ARU or AWM or RFC rather than HA.
This has made me realize the way i, and id think most likely many others as well, have been kitting ships since 0.95: always knock on HA or HSh without thinking, as theyre simply the strongest mods in vanilla when you are thinking in terms of "per SP" instead of "per OP", and this is a giant issue, as this kills the granularity of ships.

Generally speaking, this granularity is at the core of starsectors ships, you dont have an amount of "slots" in which you put hullmods or weapons or fighters at the cost of "1 per" each, rather its finely granular, and you can balance your OP to your desire, use weaker weapons or forgo some weapons entirely in favor of having a better, more expensive hullmod, or do the opposite, these possibilities are what makes me keep playing SS year after year without getting bored.

Hardened shields getting downsized in combination with the unique experience of this brilliant mod makes me think were on a slippery slope here, and it should have been apparent from the start really: when you think in a granularity of 1/hullmod instead of hullmod effectiveness/OP, youre naturally inclined to just slap on the most expensive mod; weve seen it with SO, now HSh is getting the bat, and heres whats going to happen next: heavy armor will be the most expensive one and everyone will build in that, so then it will get reduced, then it will be expanded missile racks, then it will be ITU, then it will be RB, etc etc ad finitum you get the idea. eventually this would leave us with all hullmods costing the same amount of OP and an aspect of the ship customization granularity being cut out since you dont have to consider the balance of mod OP vs weapons/caps/vents OP anymore when all mods will inevitably cost the same.

The issue seems to be endemic to the concept of Story point mods, which is something that i and safe to say everyone enjoys, as it gives ships just more "soul" and makes them more a valued asset in your fleet rather than renewable, disposable, mass-produced flying metal. so what could the solution be?
The most trivial solution would be to just transpose adding story points to a ship as a direct OP increase, say 7/14/21/28 per SP perhaps, but this in my opinion would just cause even more issues, as while it would maintain the hullmod/OP granularity, it would also disproportionally affect different ships because OP are already a balance measure on their own, and would also enable powercreep due to those OP being usable for high-tier weapons as well, so this obviously cant be a solution at all, OP must be maintained at all times.

Is there a way to make use of the SP-built-in-mod system in a way different or better than it is now other than as its implemented in said mod? are there even any others in the SS playerbase who see the SP-granularity as a problem or is it just me being overly reactionary?

As for me, BDHM does seem like a good and vanilla-ish way to both maintain OP granularity and the SP-competitiveness of hullmods, but it doesnt have to be the only solution.
Since it is a Space game forum after all, id think most reading this probably know of Elite:Dangerous. ED has a system where rare resources (read: SP) can be used to have engineers upgrade parts of your ship, highly parallel to the way we have it in SS.
we could, for example, instead of having built-in hullmods with SP, have "local lore-based upgrades", that is to say, specific upgrades by local engineers; - think for example of effects like salvage gantry and ARU being built in by local engineers at a mining colony, or slightly increased ballistic range and rof engineered into your ship at a hegemony military planet, or slight energy damage reduction and maneuverability boosts at sindria, or improved shield damage and arc at X and shield speed and upkeep at Y, you get the idea.
 this would satisfy all 3 facets of:
  • several competitive options for SP upgrades, rather than one being "the best"
  • OP granularity and balance between existing hullmods remains maintained
  • ships get personalized flair and objective improvements through SP investment
though this is probably too far fetched for SS, its just food for thought to reflect on the weaknesses introduced by the current SP upgrade system.

I would like to hear from people who have played with the BDHM mod, do you see vanilla or the mod as more balanced? do you build in "OP-cheap" mods more often than not?
and respectively from vanilla players: do you have any builds in which you build in any hullmod which isnt the just most expensive one available?

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Amoebka

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2021, 08:10:14 PM »

Quote
and respectively from vanilla players: do you have any builds in which you build in any hullmod which isnt the just most expensive one available?

I don't think I understand the question. Of course I always build in the most OP expensive hullmod that I want for the build in question, there's no reason not to. That said, I'm not a player who believes ITU and HSh are must-haves on every ship. I commonly build in EMR+ECCM, for example.

I do definitely agree that the mod in question is well designed, and would welcome the same approach in vanilla game.
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rabbistern

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2021, 08:19:35 PM »

I don't think I understand the question. Of course I always build in the most OP expensive hullmod that I want for the build in question, there's no reason not to.
well, this is precisely the issue at hand. its probably going to always be like that, no matter what the most expensive hullmod is
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Wyvern

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2021, 09:09:43 PM »

For me, I like having versatility - I don't, generally, want to s-mod something like Expanded Missile Racks on an Aurora because there are some perfectly good Aurora builds that don't bother with missiles at all.

This generally leaves me with ITU and Hardened Shields as my s-mods - they're both on the expensive end of hull mods, and, critically, there are very very few builds for which either is actually a bad call. If I get Special Modifications, then my third choice is usually either Flux Distributor (almost never the best option, but always useful), or - especially for capital ships - Solar Shielding so I can get that and Efficiency Overhaul and Insulated Engines.

I do skew heavily towards high tech ships, though, so Heavy Armor is just something I don't use at all - not even s-modded. It's not worth it.

Frustratingly, the upcoming hardened shields nerf is, for me, just a straight-up nerf to ship durability. It doesn't change anything about how I pick s-mods: hardened shields is still in the top two list for most expensive hullmods that are generally useful.
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SCC

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2021, 10:32:16 PM »

I thought integrating the most expensive hullmods used in the loadout is actually intentional (or rather, not as intentional as much as unavoidable in this system), unless you were going to swap one of them out at a later date. It's a fixed improvement, you can't remove those hullmods later and they are specific that single ship. If you lose that ship, you lose those s-mods too. If you want to use a different loadout with different s-mods, you need a new ship.

As for Hardened Shields, I don't know the reason for this nerf, but I'm guessing it's meant to weaken shields (and high-tech) in general.
About Heavy Armour: it already is the most expensive hullmod. The reason people don't s-mod it is because it doesn't help many ships (it typically isn't a good idea on non-low-tech ships) and it comes with a downside on top of that.
ITU is quite necessary for cruisers and capitals, but on smaller ships I've found myself building HSS in or some other hullmod, simply because ITU isn't used and it's one of the most expensive mods anyway. HS is almost universally good, so it goes on almost all ships and it doesn't have a downside.

For me, I like having versatility - I don't, generally, want to s-mod something like Expanded Missile Racks on an Aurora because there are some perfectly good Aurora builds that don't bother with missiles at all.
I just never change the loadout after putting in s-mods, because s-mods is basically the finishing touch after I determined a given loadout is the one I want and which the ship is essentially stuck with until its demise.

Amoebka

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2021, 11:27:24 PM »

Perhaps a bit off-topic, but I think the game would benefit from having 2 differnet range boosting hullmods with different costs. So you have expensive ITU with a lot of extra range, and a cheaper ITU with less extra range. Would make s-modding less of a no-brainer. Yes, a capital needs SOME range extension to be useful, but now you would have to pick how much you want to invest into it.
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JUDGE! slowpersun

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2021, 12:52:05 AM »

I don't think I understand the question. Of course I always build in the most OP expensive hullmod that I want for the build in question, there's no reason not to.
well, this is precisely the issue at hand. its probably going to always be like that, no matter what the most expensive hullmod is
This could probably be mitigated by just making S-modding always equal OP out to whatever most expensive OP hull mod is, so a player can either S-mod in multiple cheap OP hull mods or one expensive hull mod per SP spent.  Just has to keep total OP cost of S-modding below whatever arbitrary cap is set.  But adding moar perks just for wasting a SP and S-modding stuff in?  Leave that in mods, thank you very much (although after skimming the mod linked in OP, seems to occasionally add penalties for S-modding stuff in, interesting concept; but that just means don't S-mod stuff in that gives a penalty, I guess).

I will admit to dabbling with S-modding Augmented Drive field onto some larger slower ships, very surprising how it affects supply efficiency per light year (not as much as you think, but some; also easier to S-mod it in and save the ship slot rather than use another ox).  But S-modding in HSh is essentially a no brainer, since it basically translates into a deeper flux pool (likely why it is getting some balancing in next patch), all for the low low cost of one SP per ship.

But this mostly just illustrates the limitations of the SP system.  Too many uses for too few points, basically.  Sure, fine, it helps with smoothing emergent gameplay, but after having it available for 9 months... it's too smoothing.  I'm not saying I don't enjoy the system, it certainly is an interesting addition to the game.  Just still seems too often to be just another resource to horde, and sometimes a "free" save throw to waste when killing time getting to 15 (maybe getting a derelict capital ship early, or ditching a patrol).  But for a game where "normal" is considered hard for casuals (so let's add an "easy" option), what are people gonna do when the "hard" option finally appears?  Why, just add a mod that makes it easier to generate SP!  Or alter the game code yourself if you're marginally code competent. 

But does a game that still lacks a hard "game over" really need saving throws?  The only reason I can think to use the saving throw function in vanilla is in order to minimize faction rep loss, since vanilla is kinda punitive with rep loss sometimes (although this seems ripe for change/improvement whenever that mythical diplomacy system finally gets coded).

Edit: spelling
« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 12:29:43 PM by slowpersun »
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Grievous69

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2021, 01:07:30 AM »

Once again I have come to a conclusion that I have a love/hate relationship with something, and that's Story points. I absolutely love how we have extra tools to customise and upgrade ships since bonus OP skill is gone, and the fact that you can't remove a mod after makes you actually think for a second. But only a second, you soon realise you'll be using SPs for same mods on pretty much all your ships.
If a ship needs range, which vast majority does, build in ITU.
If a ship uses missiles, EMR.
If a ship has already high armour, Heavy Armour.
If a ship slows me down a lot, ADF.
Else, Hardened shields since it's universally good.

And that's it, at the end of the day the real decision is what ship will get those precious Story points, what you actually do with them stays the same.

@Alex
I just now remembered since it's relevant here, sorry if this is already "fixed", but why can't we just build in mods directly from the list? If I want to build in a hull mod that I haven't put in yet, I have to remove something to free up OP, put the specified hull mod in, build it in, and then put back the rest I removed so I can actually do my thing. This to me feels like 10 extra steps when we could just immediately get a list and put whatever is available. After all they're all "free", I don't see what's stopping that.
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Megas

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2021, 05:56:49 AM »

The biggest issue with s-mods today is ship replacement or repairs.  Last release without s-mods, if you lost a ship and you could rebuild it, no problem.  Order one up from Orbital Works at bargain prices, and you are back on your feet.  Not today!  Now, if you lose a ship, your options are...

* Rebuild the ship with Orbital Works?  Sorry, no s-mods for free, spend two or three more SP to add them back to the new ship.

* Restore?  Pay way too many credits to remove the d-mods.  Really encourages winning flawlessly or simply avoiding combat.

* Field Repairs?  The only cheap option (in terms of saving SP and/or credits), but it requires getting Industry 4 and you need to wait months for d-mods to disappear.

Next release can refund the s-mods spent through bonus XP, so maybe it can work like in the no s-mod releases.

* * *

I thought integrating the most expensive hullmods used in the loadout is actually intentional (or rather, not as intentional as much as unavoidable in this system), unless you were going to swap one of them out at a later date. It's a fixed improvement, you can't remove those hullmods later and they are specific that single ship. If you lose that ship, you lose those s-mods too. If you want to use a different loadout with different s-mods, you need a new ship.
Not an option for Ziggurat, since it is unique.

Of course, with BotB and its shenanigans coming, player can remove s-mods after jumping through some hoops.  (Get BotB and 3 s-mods, remove BotB and one of the s-mods, get BotB again and 3rd s-mod... or not if respeccing and getting BotB solely for s-mod removal before respeccing back to original skills.)

For me, I like having versatility - I don't, generally, want to s-mod something like Expanded Missile Racks on an Aurora because there are some perfectly good Aurora builds that don't bother with missiles at all.
I would plan on getting multiple ships, like one Paragon with Augmented Engines (because it is so expensive, and I use Augmented Engines almost always on all base burn 7 ships), and a backup in storage without it.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 06:04:06 AM by Megas »
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JUDGE! slowpersun

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2021, 10:36:00 AM »

* Field Repairs?  The only cheap option (in terms of saving SP and/or credits), but it requires getting Industry 4 and you need to wait months for d-mods to disappear.

Next release can refund the s-mods spent through bonus XP, so maybe it can work like in the no s-mod releases.

IIRC, Field Repairs is moving to an Industry 5 slot in next update, although since wrap-around leveling mechanic is being dropped for more of a skill pool per tree, it still might be generally accessible (just kinda more mutually exclusive with other top level skills).  And it appears to be currently cheesable, since it repairs only 1 ship a month; doesn't appear to truly repair randomly, seems to repair either in order of D-mods acquired (ie, repairs oldest D-mod in fleet first), or if all D-mods in current fleet acquired simultaneously, then repair cheapest first (ie, frigates first).  So just pay $$ to repair cheap stuff in ports (mostly frigates and destroyers), and use Field repairs for expensive stuff.  Just have to be willing to drag around the supplies and fuel necessary for big stuff, and wait... which is pretty easy in the core, just wander around exploiting trade shortages until stuff is repaired.

Edit: spelling
« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 10:41:45 AM by slowpersun »
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Daynen

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2021, 11:28:58 AM »

For my SP slots, heavy armor isn't really my go-to.  The loss of maneuverability is something to keep in mind and I don't always want my heaviest ships turning even slower than before.  Hullmods that come with a disadvantage like that are something I prefer to keep as an option and not a permanent thing.  Most hullmods don't have such a downside so that's not a big list.  More than any other choice, baking in S-mods is something that I feel needs to be a case by case decision.
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Thaago

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2021, 12:36:38 PM »

For me heavy armor is a pick that depends on what I want the ship to do. If the ship's job is to stay back and fire at range (Beam Sunder, Conquest, HVD/Mauler hammerhead, some eagles/champions, you get the idea) then I'd rather build in hullmods that help it do that job better. If the ship is designed to be brawling though I like to take it alongside armored weapon mounts and resistant flux conduits - I do that on high tech ships if they have a high enough turn rate that its not a problem. It also helps high tech ships survive fighter swarms/chip damage getting around the shield a lot better!
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Null Ganymede

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2021, 09:49:28 PM »

In the end player fleets are just maximizing effective damage. Heavy Armor is a damage mod because it delays the AI going ultra-defensive and frees up shield hardflux for damage. Hardened Shields is a damage mod because it frees up hardflux for offense. IPDAI and fast turret mounts are damage mods because they increase accuracy and time-on-target.

At first glance "highest OP cost gets built in" is obvious but it's usually not optimal. There's plenty of missile ships that run autoloaders and don't need EMR, or don't benefit from ECCM. Some narrow omni shield ships get way more value out of extended/accelerated shields than hardened. Do you build in Hardened then spend OP on the mandatory mods at the cost of offense? Methinks not.

Even building in the ITU isn't obvious - you don't start the game with an ITU! You need to spend story points on respecs to get ITU + Hardened Shields, then go back to your end-game spec! So practically you're going to build in some other stuff the second you get your first big ship, knowing you'll be swapping ghetto-ITU for real-ITU like ten levels later. Same deal for logistics mods - early on having a burn 20 cruiser or burn 18 capitals is *awesome*, even if non-optimal for late game.


The more I play with the system the more I like it. It's powerful but requires you to really understand what you're trying to do with a ship. Having that understanding pay off with a big power spike is great - but just as often the loadout doesn't click with your fleet composition and ends up being relatively insignificant.
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Maethendias

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2021, 01:13:20 AM »

I thought integrating the most expensive hullmods used in the loadout is actually intentional (or rather, not as intentional as much as unavoidable in this system), unless you were going to swap one of them out at a later date. It's a fixed improvement, you can't remove those hullmods later and they are specific that single ship. If you lose that ship, you lose those s-mods too. If you want to use a different loadout with different s-mods, you need a new ship.

As for Hardened Shields, I don't know the reason for this nerf, but I'm guessing it's meant to weaken shields (and high-tech) in general.
About Heavy Armour: it already is the most expensive hullmod. The reason people don't s-mod it is because it doesn't help many ships (it typically isn't a good idea on non-low-tech ships) and it comes with a downside on top of that.
ITU is quite necessary for cruisers and capitals, but on smaller ships I've found myself building HSS in or some other hullmod, simply because ITU isn't used and it's one of the most expensive mods anyway. HS is almost universally good, so it goes on almost all ships and it doesn't have a downside.

For me, I like having versatility - I don't, generally, want to s-mod something like Expanded Missile Racks on an Aurora because there are some perfectly good Aurora builds that don't bother with missiles at all.
I just never change the loadout after putting in s-mods, because s-mods is basically the finishing touch after I determined a given loadout is the one I want and which the ship is essentially stuck with until its demise.

its probably a nerf for remnant capital shields, if they utilize hardened shields
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JaronK

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Re: The S-mod slippery slope, SP vs OP balancing
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2021, 01:31:31 AM »

It seems to me that the solution here is to change how S-mods work.  Instead of making them free, they improve what the mod does.  Hardened Shields for example, as an S mod, still costs normal OP but might grant a slight decrease in flux per damage over the normal, or maybe just extend the shields a little bit. 
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