Weapon balance & values

Difference between classes

Posted on Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Preface: This post has grown somewhat organically as I went through XML files over the past hour or 2. It moves from a balance discussion to something close to a modding discussion but there is no mod here. If it tests well and there is any demand I could put it up into the mod forum.

Found what I would call an oddity in weapons stats (base before mods, could very well be different after). This takes only base weapons, ignoring specials. that's an oversight of course but I'm working on it.

The below post is working off base values without technology bonuses. Multiplicative bonuses will not affect the general message but flat bonuses will if they apply to mass, base damage or production costs. Also note the column "Normalised damage". This is somewhat of an inaccurate yardstick for measurement, it's just a placeholder until I can locate actual figures. What is it? it's the average damage the weapon would do firing at base firing rates as a ship moves at 30 units/per second from maximum range to point blank range. 

For example, missiles. One shot every 8 seconds at base rate, moving at 320 units per shot, is approx 4 shots from max range to point blank range.  Because I'm lazy, and hate excel, and hate how formatting numbers created via formulas still uses hidden decimals and I'm too lazy to force integers in the formulas. For Kinetic, this is one shot every 4 seconds, which is moving at 120 units per shot from 600 units to point blank (or 5 shots).

Base values in the XML files suggest the following:

  • Beam weapons cost the most in basic production
  • Kinetic weapons take the most space
  • Missile weapons hit harder than comparable class weapons from other branches
  • Kinetic weapons cost the most maintenance but lowest initial production
  • Kinetic weapons do the least damage by far. At base stats they're lucky to beat 50% of beam damage over 30s or 33% of missile damage over normalised damage ranges.
  • Missile weapons are the most space/damage efficient, and cheaper than beams
  • Beam weapons are smallest, then missiles, then Kinetic.

So basically, if we weight classes as a 1 for poorest and 3 for top, the values are (and damage has a 2x weight)

  • Kinetics - 6: low cost (3, best), large (1, worst), and low damage (2, worst)
  • Beams - 8: high cost (1), tiny (3), mid damage (4)
  • Missiles - 10: mid cost (2), mid size (2), top damage (6)
This doesn't seem right. Missiles are cheap, they hit the hardest and they're not the biggest? Why are kinetics the largest? This means their damage/mass being worst/worst means they're not an attractive weapon going by base statistics *at all*. Ironically, I haven't actually seen any AI using mass weapons to any degree yet, only beam or missile. I wonder if they're hard-coded to seek specific weapons or if they balance the abilities?

This also tells me that missiles are a better way to go playing the AI. Also explains the amount of complaints about missile balance. I've re-organised it as follows -

  • Kinetics - 8: Smallest (3), low damage (2), low cost (3)
  • Beam - 9: Medium size (2), medium damage (4), medium cost (3)
  • Missiles - 8: largest size (1) highest damage (6), highest cost (1)

Basically, cost was not related to strength, neither was mass related to strength as missiles were both the cheapest/per damage and the highest damaging/per mass. This effectively means you're not hamstringing yourself by making kinetics if you're running on low production by effectively ending up with ultra-low damage ships. Instead, they're just kind of low damage. Missiles still hit the hardest, but the cost is now appropriate rather than being the cheapest and the hardest hitting, as outlined above.

As reference, see screenshot by comparison. Beware, its probably been resized or shrank so click on it to get the full pciture.

Changes I made:

  • Kinetic production costs lowered slightly in stages 1+2
  • Kinetic mass reduced below than of beam weapons
  • Kinetic maintenance brought below beam weapons (but as you can have more, it evens out)
  • Beam weapon maintenance decreased slightly
  • Beam weapon masses increased slightly at higher levels
  • Missile weapon cost increased significantly
  • Missile weapon mass increased slightly (not above 25% at any level)
  • Missile weapon attack untouched
  • Missile weapon maintenance increased significantly

Now I'm off to change the specials and to play test! I could really do with some input RE: Specials, so if you have any suggestions about balance, let me know!