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HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #1 
I know some folks love the thrill of manual beams at 300% being overpowered, but for purposes of game balance, they're overpowered, both compared to enemies and to torpedoes.

Here are the Damage Per Second stats (DPSs) of enemies' individual beams at difficulty 10:
 EnergyDamageFire EveryDPS
Standard Enemy Beam100%1061.7
Torgoth Behemoth100%1042.5
Kralien Battleship/Drd100%1033.3
Torgoth Leviathan100%2063.3
Terran Escort100%3065.0
Skaraan Executor100%3065.0
Skaraan Executor (rear)100%3047.5
Terran Destroyer100%30215.0
Torgoth Drone100%30301.0
Skaraan Drone100%30301.0

Let's set aside the Terran Destroyer for a moment.  Practically, enemies max out at 5 DPS for the biggest, baddest enemy out there (Skaraan Executor front beams, ignoring the back beam).  Here are the DPSs of a player ship with normal beams:

[THESE ARE WRONG, SEE THE CORRECT VALUES SEVERAL POSTS BELOW]

 EnergyDamageFire EveryDPS
Beams 100% Auto100%1262.0
Beams 200% Auto200%1234.0
Beams 250% Auto250%122.45.0
Beams 300% Auto300%1226.0
Beams 100% Manual100%1252.4
Beams 200% Manual200%1226.0
Beams 250% Manual250%121.48.6
Beams 300% Manual300%12112.0
Homing 100%100%2515.21.6
Homing 200%200%257.63.3
Homing 250%250%256.084.1
Homing 300%300%255.14.9

The key thing to understand is that firing rate is nonlinear when looking at DPS.  So when manual beams subtracts a fixed 1 second off of the firing rate there's a big difference between moving from 6s to 5s (20% increase in DPS to 2.4) and moving from 2s to 1s (100% increase in DPS to 12).  If we look at a player heavy beam (like a Ximni Battleship or TSN Dreadnought) it's even higher at 20 DPS.

While enemies max out at 5 DPS and players beams can be four times more powerful, this is also a problem for player standard torpedoes which are largely irrelevant with a standard DPS of 1.6.  Even if Engineering puts 300% energy and all the coolant in torpedoes instead of beams, you can only get it up to 5 DPS.  And this is for an attack with limited ammunition and might be shot down by antitorp.  It does have a range advantage, but those standard torpedoes are far more valuable as extra energy for beams than they are as torpedoes and that sits strange with me.

The two things that would fix this and bring it back into alignment are to eliminate the firing rate discount for manual beams (getting to disable enemy systems is advantage enough), which will bring beams down out of the DPS stratosphere.  Then a boost to torpedo damage will make them more relevant, 40-50 seems about right.  The second one I can fix in Artemis.ini, but the first I can't.  I can try to dilute the -1s effect by doubling the damage and recharge time, but that makes it hard for shooting incoming drones.

Is anyone else bothered by this (from a game design perspective)?
ryleyra

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Reply with quote  #2 
I will note that Destroyers and Escorts used to be much worse. I probably had a hand in bringing that down to a reasonable level. Thom also put a cap on enemy damage that should prevent that issue from ever coming up again.

That said, the player ship is supposed to be overpowered in comparison to its adversaries. I like to say that Super Star Trek, the old school 1970's game Artemis was based on, was very unrealistic pitting a single Enterprise against a whole fleet of Klingons. Thom designed his enemies so that it was understandable that the TSN was way ahead of the Kraliens in terms of technology, but you're still facing an enemy that can put 5 to 10 times the weapons to bear against you at high difficulty.

As for the manual beams issue, while I had never actually crunched the math before, manual beams are intended to be a bonus for advanced Weapons players, and you really need all the help you can get at difficulty 10 and 11. In addition, the beams have to be manually fired, so the damage produced depends on the work put into it. Plus, you can't sustain 300% power, without extra coolant.

So while an effective doubling of DPS is concerning, I'm not sure I would consider it imbalancing. There's room for discussion, but we're talking about advanced techniques that are intended for experienced players, plus it takes the whole crew working in combination. A bonus of 0.5 seconds or 0.25 seconds might bring the DPS more into balance, but I think I still agree with the concept.

When it comes to Homing torpedoes, though, I think everyone agrees they are underpowered, at least when it comes to ships and not fighters. I do like that Thom decided to raise the damage, but as you said, the standard consensus is that Homing damage should be around 30 or 50, and 25 is not quite that. It's a boost, yes, but a conservative one.

I'll repeat the idea that I think Homing torps should be able to be loaded into a tube up to three at a time, to fire a "spread" of torpedoes. This will effectively triple the fire rate for Homing torps ONLY, and give them more combat use. The greater fire rate will be countered by the fact that it will use up the supply faster, although you can always make torps out of energy. And this change will have no effect on fighter balance.

And of course it should be pointed out that comparing either beams or Homings to Nukes is comparing apples to oranges. The Nuke is still the most powerful weapon in the game, and no beam setting or manual fire mode is going to change that. Again, limited supply determines how often you can use Nukes, but only Nukes and Mines can wipe out a whole squadron of enemies at one time.

EDIT: I'll also add that the fighters' 4 DPS is pretty much overshadowed by 300% power to beams. And at least drones are just as weak for the Torgoth as they are for us.

Darrin

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Posts: 166
Reply with quote  #3 
I believe both the TSN mod and the Eastern Front mod adjust beam damage down, but I don't recall specifically how much. I believe this was to make hull points more important?


HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #4 
Yeah, TSN mod has beams and shields reduced to 1/4 of original values (as you said) to make the hull value more important (4 times more) by comparison.  They currently still have torpedoes at 35 damage (not quartered).  This basically means that torpedoes at 100% energy are are 5 times more DPS than beams at 100% energy.  Which makes torpedoes rare and precious (and a real bummer when anti-torp shoots them down).

ryleyra, good point about overshadowing fighters DPS as well.  The biggest thing that makes players overpowered is their superior mobility.  With Warp Drive (and jump drive if you get good at it), you basically control the engagement, fight when you're ready and leave when you want.  I like the idea that you have to use your superior mobility to tactically overpower your opponents, rather than just juice the beams, switch to manual and just sit toe-to-toe until you hammer them into oblivion (which isn't long) -- it's just more interesting to me.  Ultimately the problem with manual beams from a game design math perspective is that you're combining a multiplier with an adder (mixing your operations).  My experience is that always gets you in trouble, especially in nonlinear systems.  If you want manual beams to have a benefit, it should add to the divisor (as if the energy was 50% points higher, for instance) not take flat time off the top (-1 sec).

As a way to address my underlying issue that at 300% energy beams switching to manual doubles your DPS, I tried doubling both the damage and the recharge time (which makes the flat -1 sec less effective).  Setting torpedoes to 60 dmg in this scenario makes pretty comfortable set-up, IMO.

 EnergyDamageFire EveryDPSRatio
Beams 100% Auto100%24122.01.0
Beams 200% Auto200%2464.02.0
Beams 300% Auto300%2446.03.0
Beams 100% Manual100%24112.21.1
Beams 200% Manual200%2454.82.4
Beams 300% Manual300%2438.04.0
Homing 100%100%6015.23.92.0
Homing 200%200%607.67.93.9
Homing 300%300%605.111.85.9

Now the difference between 300% auto beams and manual just moves you from 3 DPS to 4 DPS.  If you really want to dish out damage you need to use torpedoes, which are in limited supply and might get shot down.

The other challenge in all this is that since fighters/bombers use the same stats as ship standard/homing torpedoes, if you boost torpedo damage to make them relevant, the fighters/bombers still have 3/6 torpedoes and get ridiculous pretty quickly, especially if they twink out and just step outside the ship, launch 6 torpedoes and then redock.  I'm planning a mod where fighters have either 0 or 1 torpedo and faster beams, and bombers have 2-4 torpedoes and weaker beams (right now there's not a lot of difference between them other than bombers are just better).  I was trying to think of a way to hot swap the onboard fighters between a variant with no torps and one with torps based on a Comms button that consumes energy, but I don't think you can actually create/destroy fighters after the player ship is created.  Ultimately, I think it's going to be simpler to just create a light fighter, medium fighter, and heavy fighter, give none of them torpedoes and just make trade-offs between speed, turnrate, beam damage, and shields.  Then I can solve the torpedo issue without mucking up other things.  Food for thought.
HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #5 
So, it's worse than I initially thought.  I did some research to figure out the full mechanics and posted them under Help to separate it from the development discussion:
https://artemis.forumchitchat.com/post/how-beams-work-engineering-settings-manual-beams-tauron-focuser-etc-10591458?pid=1311994931#post1311994931

For comparison here's the correct values for the standard TSN beam:
TSN Standard Beam
  Recharge6
TSN Light Cruiser
  Damage12
Beam EnergyAuto/ManFocuserRecharge (s)DPS
100%AutoNo6.002.0
51%AutoNo11.761.0
200%AutoNo3.004.0
250%AutoNo2.405.0
300%AutoNo2.006.0
100%ManualNo6.002.0
51%ManualNo23.070.5
200%ManualNo1.508.0
250%ManualNo0.9612.5
300%ManualNo0.6718.0
100%AutoYes3.004.0
51%AutoYes5.882.0
200%AutoYes1.508.0
250%AutoYes1.2010.0
300%AutoYes1.0012.0
100%ManualYes3.004.0
51%ManualYes11.531.0
200%ManualYes0.7516.0
250%ManualYes0.4825.0
300%ManualYes0.3336.0

This means a couple of things:
  • We can't fix/affect this by monkeying with vesselData.xml, it's hard coded and all proportional (which is good in the long run)
  • At 100% energy, switching from Auto to Manual has no effect on recharge rate.
  • At 300% energy, switching from Auto to Manual triples the damage.
  • At 51% energy, switching from Auto to Manual halves the damage (it's worse under Manual).
  • At 250% energy, on Manual, a ship can sustain a DPS of 12.5 per beam, far outpacing fighters and torpedoes and the heaviest "scariest" enemy weapons on difficulty 10.
  • With a Tauron Focuser, 300% damage, and Manual mode, beams do 18 times more damage than standard beams.
  • The lightest TSN Scout with one beam does more damage than the heaviest, most advanced enemy ship (Skaraan Executor) does with 2 beams.

It is my opinion that this not good and does not function the way anyone would expect it to.  Fighters and Torpedoes all pale in comparison to 250% beams on Manual Mode, which can be maintained indefinitely.

Given that beams consume about 1.5 damage per shot, they have a Damage per Energy (DPE) of 8.  Standard homing Torpedoes have a DPE of 25/100 = 0.25 (32 times less).  Torpedoes are better off as batteries for beams than as torpedoes, which is unfortunate.  Once players realize this, there is only one optimal strategy in the game.

As a recommended fix, I suggest making manual beams function as a 50%-point boost to Engineering Settings (i.e. 100% power on Manual would function as if it were 150% power, 300% power on manual would function as 350%).  With this fix our standard 6 second recharge beam would be:

Manual Beam Engineering Boost
  50% 
TSN Standard Beam
  Recharge6
TSN Light Cruiser
  Damage12
Beam EnergyAuto/ManFocuserRecharge (s)DPS
100%AutoNo6.002.0
51%AutoNo11.761.0
200%AutoNo3.004.0
250%AutoNo2.405.0
300%AutoNo2.006.0
100%ManualNo4.003.0
51%ManualNo5.942.0
200%ManualNo2.405.0
250%ManualNo2.006.0
300%ManualNo1.717.0
100%AutoYes3.004.0
51%AutoYes5.882.0
200%AutoYes1.508.0
250%AutoYes1.2010.0
300%AutoYes1.0012.0
100%ManualYes2.006.0
51%ManualYes2.974.0
200%ManualYes1.2010.0
250%ManualYes1.0012.0
300%ManualYes0.8614.0

This would fix several of the issues identified above:
  • At 100% energy, switching from Auto to Manual would actually affect recharge rate.
  • At 300% energy, switching from Auto to Manual only increases the DPS from 6 to 7, rather than 6 to 18.
  • At 51% energy, switching from Auto to Manual actually increases damage, rather than making it worse.
  • At 250% energy, on Manual, a ship can sustain a DPS of 6 per beam, bringing it closer to fighters, torpedoes (which we can fix), and the heaviest enemy weapons on difficulty 10 become scary again (though still do less than the player).
  • With a Tauron Focuser, 300% damage, and Manual mode, beams do 7 times more damage than standard beams.  That's still a huge multiplier, but much less crazy.
Thoughts?  Can I get an "amen"?  Does anyone have a more elegant fix?
ryleyra

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Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #6 
Good job on collecting this data. I don't think that anyone suspected that the Manual Beams bonus was based on system power. I would say that the bonus should probably be proportional to the rate of fire, (increasing power by 50% is a good idea) but squaring the boost to fire rate is probably a step too far. 

I will repeat, though, that I don't think beams should be compared to Homing torps. Homings are underpowered in comparison to OTHER torps. That should be the standard to which the DPS should be compared. (And I'd like to see you do a DPS comparison to a Nuke) 

It's my understanding that Beams use 2 energy per shot. Technically you are correct to say that a Homing torp does 25 damage at a cost of 100 energy, but a) you have a supply of Homings that do not cost any energy b) you can get more Homings from a base at any time, again at no cost and c) Nukes likewise do their DPS at no cost in energy. I think it would be more precise to say you can exchange that 25 damage FOR 100 energy. Which means Homings are more useful as batteries than for dealing damage, but we knew that.

BTW, I will add that there are other factors that should be considered in a discussion of Homing torps. For instance, a ship can "kite" outside of the beam range of an enemy ship and shoot it with torpedoes. Nukes and even EMPs are still more useful in the long run, but for a Missile Cruiser their primary weapon is Homing. 

HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #7 
Yes, Nukes are a whole different ball of wax, which is why I didn't use them.  Actual DPS would depend on the number of targets and how close they are and it's not a toe-to-toe DPS device the way homing torpedoes are.  And as a toe-to-toe DPS device, homing torpedoes pale in comparison to beams -- everything does.  

A ship on patrol with 8 torpedoes can choose to fire those torpedoes for 200 damage.  Or they can convert those 8 torpedoes into 800 energy for beams which use that energy to deal 6400 damage.  200 or 6400.  Let's quadruple torp damage to 100 each, which brings us to 800 vs 6400 total damage.  Homing torpedoes just don't matter.  We might quibble over whether it should be higher or lower, but they should at least be in the same sector as each other.  If the DPS of beams wasn't so high, then you could argue that torpedoes are less efficient but are when you needs lots of damage now (when you can't afford to be patient) or really need to stay out of beam range.  But since Beams have a much higher DPS, too, the only role for homing torpedoes is if you are desperate and need to nudge your DPS up from 12.5 to 14 for a couple shots.  Fortunately, we can change the energy value and damage of torpedoes so we can make it less nonsensical, but manual 300% beams is so broke we'll just be shaving the sides.  You basically can't design around the same beam doing an 18-fold difference in damage.  The energy imbalance is really a side show compared to that.  If the manual beams calculation can be fixed then the rest can be tinkered on.

One outstanding question I have is the energy cost of beams.  The 1.5 energy cost I got from the Ximni battleship, but it might be different than a TSN ship (since it does 5 dmg vs 12).  I'll see if I can get a clean reading on a TSN ship as well.  But again, the manual beams effect is the key bug here.
HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #8 
Tested the energy per shot and it's 1.5 energy per beam fired, regardless of beam damage (same for 5 damage Ximni Battleship, 12 damage Light Cruiser, and 20 damage Juggernaut).  This is with the default energyCoeffBeams=3.0 in Artemis.ini.  I'm sure the ship's particular shipefficiency came into play eventually with rounding, but 1.5 is the base energy per beam.  This means that the Juggernaut beams are four times more energy efficient than the Ximni Battleship Beams.

TSN Mod has the energyCoeffBeams turned up to the maximum 10.0 and the cost per beam is still 1.5 (it must just cost more energy to keep the system hot, whether firing or not).  So the cost per shot is not affected by energyCoeffBeams.  Interestingly enough, they also lowered beam damage (1/4 of normal) and the energy value of torps (50 energy), and increased torp damage (35, not quartered).

ModEnergy EnergyDamageDPERatio
NoBeam Cost Per Shot 1.5128 
NoTorp to Energy Value100250.2532
TSNBeam Cost Per Shot 1.532 
TSNTorp to Energy Value50350.72.9

Taken together this means that beams are three times more energy efficient than homing torpedoes, rather than 32 times more efficient.  In the same ballpark.
HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #9 
My son and I just realized that this means (by the numbers), the Ximni Battleship with Tauron Focuser, 300% Beam Energy, and Manual mode will do 240 DPS (with 4 Rapidfire Beams, at a range of 2600km), compared to a Skaraan Executor's 10 DPS (with 2 heavy beams on Difficulty 10).  Sure at some point your clicker finger is the limiting factor, but that means that a fully shielded Skaraan Executor is completely destroyed in under 2 seconds.
HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #10 
Here's the summary of torps and beams for the standard game and the TSN mod:

 Standard GameTSN Mod
 Std BeamStd TorpStd FgtrTSN BeamTSN TorpTSN Fgtr
Base DPS21.640.52.30.625
Max DPS369.948.413.80.625
DPE80.25N/A1.90.7N/A
Range100050001000100050001200


I like what TSN has done, nicely balanced.  Torps matter.  Fighters, eh.
notsabbat

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Reply with quote  #11 

So, Ill likely not be a huge contributor to this conversation, but I wanted to put something down in here. 

Manual beams is strong. Always has been. However if you walk around at Armada, VERY few people use it and think its weird when the vets ALWAYS go into manual targeting. 

Also, Thom is very aware that the homing torpedoes (I guess just torpedoes now) are underpowered in the higher levels. I know that he does talk to vets and that is something that is pretty regularly brought up. He is also aware that they can be used for other tricky stuff like finding out where a cloaked enemy is and burning up an enemy skarans number of beams for anti-torp/anti-mine.  So I think it is by design that at higher levels its more about how you use the torps rather than how much damage it does. 

I also believe there is a lower limit with how fast beams can shoot, though I dont go into the programming or check any of that, so I could be wrong. 

There is an interesting meta when the playership is mixed between casual and...well, Ill call them obsessive (I would be more of the latter). The general default difficulty tends to be around 6-7. The casual players (not new players, mind you. These are players that have been around, but just play for fun)  dont use manual targeting and use Torpedoes as a primary long range weapon and tend to hover around the diff lvl 6 range give or take. The obsessive players that have been around for awhile (This includes TSN run ships) and have dug deep into the tips and tricks will get advantages through knowledge of the game. The latter will use manual targeting, hit Skarans between beam arcs to slip EMPs in, use taunts to pull enemies into dangerous terrain, ie use exploits. I think this is an important aspect of the game and allows the game to change for the player as they get more skilled. Ie its a far more dynamic game if you are an experienced crew.

So, I really think that imbalance in DPS is one of the many time where a "flaw" in Artemis is actually a feature. 

However, it was made to be deeply moddable by Thom, so of course you can make the game whatever you want it to be, much like the TSN have.  


__________________
-Captain of the TSN Gungnir JN-001
-Eastern Front online group member
-My continuing bridge build:
http://artemis.forumchitchat.com/post/immersion-bridge-build-in-progress-7335195?pid=1290158413
HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #12 
Thanks for chiming in, notsabbat.  I know some people really enjoy exploits and see it as part of developing expertise.  For me, when a game is supposed to be a simulation (rather than a Super Mario Bros style game, for instance), the exploits are flaws in the simulation.  I'd rather defeat enemies using good strategy and solid tactics, rather than identifying loopholes.  I know I brought up a lot of issues, but to me the one at the core is that the effect of switching beams to manual mode is just weird and unintuitive:
  • At 100% energy, switching from Auto to Manual has no effect on recharge rate.
  • At 300% energy, switching from Auto to Manual triples the damage.
  • At 51% energy, switching from Auto to Manual halves the damage (it's worse under Manual).
If that one piece could be fixed, everything else would be adjustable-to-taste.  For my game I'm considering just asking players to not use Manual mode so that the difficulty of missions can be planned without an 18-fold difference in potential damage to consider.
ryleyra

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Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #13 
Well, I will add that I don't think of Artemis as a "simulation". Sure, that's in the name, but it's more in the simulation of the ENVIRONMENT of the game, the multi-player, multi-console bridge layout that forces the players to work together. The game itself is actually quite simplistic, and it includes some restrictions intended to force the cooperative nature of the game. For instance, there is no navigation, all courses have to be plotted verbally by the Captain and followed by the Helm manually.

I have to agree that the way I thought Manual Beams worked actually makes more sense that it actually does work. The idea that Manual Beams has no effect on fire rate at 100% power and has NEGATIVE effect on fire rate at less than 100% power is counter-intuitive. It does make sense that the base fire rate, at less than 100% power, would be slower because 100% power is the baseline. But then again, as notsabbat pointed out, this is very much an expert's feature, who would know how to fine-tune the game's features for maximum effect. Maybe Manual Beams isn't intended to effect fire rate unless Engineering properly allocates power to it.

I think when we really come down to it, this all comes down to whether an "exploit" or a "bug" is an unintended feature that Thom added accidentally in his programming, or an intended advantage that he expected advanced players to find and utilize. You can argue about whether this feature gives advanced players an unfair advantage and ruins the game for those who don't know about it, but that's a matter of opinion, and more importantly, the degree to which the advantage changes the game. Which is why in my discussion I've talked more about "balance" and less about "exploit".

I'll get back to my first post in this thread. When Thom first introduced the idea of allied ships being just another kind of non-player ship, and used them along with enemies in PvP mode, he made their damage proportional to difficulty. In 1.x, their damage, like the player ship, was constant. While this was a good thing, and made allied ships more useful at high difficulties, he unfortunately overlooked that their original damage was much higher than the enemy ships, and so ally beams became ridiculously overpowered. Damage was capped at difficultly 5, but the allies were doing the same damage they do now at difficulty 10, while enemies were doing damage proportional to difficulty 5.

For a long time, nobody did anything about this, because it was a feature that advanced players could use, if they realized how much damage the Destroyer did, and had a good Comms player that could direct the Destroyer to the battlefield. Notsabbat's average casual gamer, playing difficulty 6-7 wouldn't know about this feature and would just ignore it. Eventually, I convinced Thom to use a vesselData file that I posted that reduced the base damage from 7 to 3, and of course he changed the damage so that it wasn't capped at 5, but instead increased all the way to difficulty 11. I suppose it could be argued that he couldn't have done that, with the balance that he intended, if he'd left the Destroyer damage alone.

My point is that it may not be the fact of the feature itself, but the extent of the increase. Cutting the Destroyer (and Escort) damage in half fixed the problem. And as I said, I like the idea of translating it into an increase in power level, because it still makes it proportional to the power level, which is what is intended, but it is not the square of the power level, as I said.
ryleyra

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Posts: 3,007
Reply with quote  #14 
I'll also add that there are a number of "exploits" in this game that can be taken advantage of that players do NOT use simply because this is a cooperative game and there is no real benefit to be gained from using them. The most obvious is that any group of players can bring up a Game Master console and they have all of the enemy ships identified and located immediately. The Science console is still needed to scan the ships for shield frequencies, but a lot of the strategy can be cut out in this way.

I think Thom doesn't put a lot of emphasis on balance, and instead counts on the players to choose the tactics that will give them the best enjoyment out of the game. There are times when I have beaten my head against balance issues in this game, but overall I think these things have improved slowly over time.
HaydenBarca

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Posts: 198
Reply with quote  #15 
Yeah, I do appreciate that for the vast majority of the game, players can achieve whatever balance or lack of it that they want by modifying settings and vesselData (think torpedoes are underpowered? change them to do more damage).  The manual beams thing just happens to be one of the few pieces of the game that can't be fixed by players (as in the range between basic beams and twinked-out beams), other than just agreeing not to use them.  Hopefully it'll be fixed, but in the mean time my group is just going to agree not to use them, and I can plan GMed or scripted missions without either requiring the exploit or being too easy because of it.
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