Missiles everywhere

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icekatze
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Missiles everywhere

Postby icekatze » Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:18 pm

hi hi

So I recently played a game where the AI kicked my flank in a number of different ways, and I realized something about the nature of missiles. Beam weapons might work in very small scale battles, but anything above a couple ships, missiles sorta become the single best option available.

In the past, I had relied heavily on deflector screens to protect my ships, but now the balance seems to lean more towards fitting every possible slot with missiles or extra munitions. A single shield facing might be able to eat 2 or 3 missiles, and point defense might be able to eat up a few more, but extra munitions will give you those 2-3 missiles back and then some. And since missiles will often have the range to reach the enemy fleet before they get a chance to move, going on the attack means that you can handily defeat an equally sized fleet by taking out most of their front line on the first turn. (Some of that might be mitigated if there was an option to designate your ships as being "front line," and "rear line," and have them be placed accordingly in the initial ship placement.)

This discrepancy was illustrated for me in two key battles.

1) One of the major battles in which I lost my entire fleet. I had a group of heavy cruisers that were supposed to tank. They had shields and point defense, and were supposed to charge the enemy in front of my torpedo destroyers and take the hits on the first turn. The enemy fleet still managed to demolish my entire fleet on the first turn by simply saturating my point defense. Sooo many missiles...

2) After holding out against wave after wave of enemy ships using a single planetary defense station, armed with fusion missiles. (I would take out anywhere from 7 to 8 enemies every wave, by judiciously rationing how many missiles I fired at each ship.) I researched militias, and instead of giving my twice the planetary missile batteries, it replaced them with three sets of heavy turbolasers. Even though the enemy AI charged right into beam range, my heavy turbolasers barely managed to knock out a single destroyer before being knocked out themselves. Two sets of fusion missiles might have given a victory, but three sets of heavy turbolasers was a crushing defeat.

Maybe I am missing something, quite possible. But it seems like investing in defensive shielding and point defense is a trap, when faced with on opponent that maximizes missile output. :P

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Arioch
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby Arioch » Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:56 pm

Weapon balance is going fluctuate a lot in the near future, and so we can expect some weirdness from time to time. Recent changes have (inadvertently, I think) made missiles even more powerful than they were before. It's not, in my opinion at least, the intended situation. It's now literally impossible for a Scout to survive an encounter with two missile-armed pirate destroyers, even if it's armed with defensive lasers.

Currently missiles have superior range and damage, the idea being that they need to have a certain amount of punch to make up for the drawbacks of having limited ammunition and being able to be intercepted. However, it seems that the effectiveness of point defense fire has been reduced in recent builds, and ships' hit point have been reduced. When countermeasures are ineffective and a salvo of missiles can one-shot most opponents, then what you have is a very powerful weapon with no drawbacks. Obviously not ideal.

I think there are going to be some applications in which even properly-balanced missiles are going to always going to be the better choice, such as with Planetary Defense bases. I'm okay with that.

It is still possible to build beam-armed ships and win by surrounding them with smaller escort vessels loaded with point defense, but it's definitely a challenge.

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icekatze
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby icekatze » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:22 pm

hi hi

I've had some good luck in the past by surrounding my main ships with point defense escorts, but it is a lot harder to pull off on the defense, since defenders don't have time to arrange their ships into a formation where the point defense is covering the right spots. Have you ever had one of those moments where your PD ships are placed in the back, and by the time you can move them up, the ships they're supposed to defend are already space dust? :lol:

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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby AzraelRavenwing » Fri May 01, 2015 12:51 am

Yeah My main problem is that missiles are a pain, it really sucks that I keep getting zerg rushed cause the AI keeps sending fleets of about 20+ missile packing light cruisers around Mid Game and I just get steamrolled.
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Dinkelsen
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby Dinkelsen » Sat May 02, 2015 12:55 pm

Balancing missiles seems to be not so easy at it seems. In my view, the balance suffer from multiple issues as the pros and contras vary wildly, especially as the contras can be countered.

Pro:
- Higher damage than beam weapons (I will compare them to lasers at 5.5 damage that would be 3 times the damage)
- Way higher range than beam weapons, in addition, you can fire them from out of range too and they will just travel longer, opening them up to point defenses, but we will see later about that later
- never miss (at least I haven't seen it miss)
- this results in a huge alpha strike capability

Contras:
- Can be shot down
- Limited use (2 shots without additional ammo store)

What looks like a balanced setup is not because:
- Can be shot down: yes, but... in a 1:1 situation this is true and in this special case missiles would not be the weapon of chioce, but as soon as there are more than 1 ship with missiles the point defenses will be exhausted soon (usually after 2-3 shots) as you can fire all your missiles at one target - and the AI will do that, too. After the point defense is exhausted, you simply pump missiles into the target ship.
- Limited use. Ok, with 2 shot I would say they feel balanced but if you give up one little system slot, you will get 3 more shots. Now 5 shots is no limited use item anymore as most fights are definitly over after 5 rounds of intense shooting. Additionally, there is no system slot item that benefits beam weapons that I can think of. If there were a High Energy Focus benefitting lasers and making them more powerful, things would change.

I dont want to sound as I am ranting, I just wanted to look at the issue and analyze it.

Regards, Stephan

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sven
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby sven » Tue May 05, 2015 6:42 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:Balancing missiles seems to be not so easy at it seems. In my view, the balance suffer from multiple issues as the pros and contras vary wildly, especially as the contras can be countered.

Pro:
- Higher damage than beam weapons (I will compare them to lasers at 5.5 damage that would be 3 times the damage)
- Way higher range than beam weapons, in addition, you can fire them from out of range too and they will just travel longer, opening them up to point defenses, but we will see later about that later
- never miss (at least I haven't seen it miss)
- this results in a huge alpha strike capability

Contras:
- Can be shot down
- Limited use (2 shots without additional ammo store)



This is a good distillation of the current state of missile balance -- and why, exactly, it's so awkward. We can always mess with the damage numbers to make things feel roughly balanced, but, there are some tweaks to the core mechanics I'd like to try first.

One of the significant differences between MOO2's tactical model and SiS's, is that in MOO2, missiles only moved about .5 tiles on the turn they launched, whereas in SiS, they'll move as many as 30 tiles. That has huge balance ramifications. A .5 tile launch distance seems strangely low to me, but, I think what we're seeing right now is that a 30 tile launch distance just gives missiles too many advantages, relative to direct fire weapons. Missiles can track ships, which effectively gives them infinite range, but, with lower launch distances, they'd tend to hit on their opponent's turn, and that would give the defending player a lot more options for dealing with them.

icekatze wrote:I've had some good luck in the past by surrounding my main ships with point defense escorts, but it is a lot harder to pull off on the defense, since defenders don't have time to arrange their ships into a formation where the point defense is covering the right spots. Have you ever had one of those moments where your PD ships are placed in the back, and by the time you can move them up, the ships they're supposed to defend are already space dust? :lol:


This is certainly a real problem. But another one that might be solvable by simply reducing missile launch distances.

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Dinkelsen
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby Dinkelsen » Wed May 06, 2015 11:48 am

The big question, that should be answered is (in my opinion)
What should missiles be/do?

Should they be an alpha strike weapon or a regular (continuous fire) weapon? Putting aside the special handling of missiles where they can be shot down and are not an instant damage weapon (need to travel to the target) it is also the question what they should achieve in battle. A regular weapon fires all the time using energy or ammunition which is assumed to present in enough quantity. An alpha strike weapon has limited uses, deals lots of damage and is then silent for the rest of the battle.

At the moment missiles are alpha strike weapons that can be extended to beta, gamma and delta strike weapons. :-)

Depending in the answer of the original question ("Which role should missiles have") the rest of my post makes more/less sense... :-)

I cannot remember MOO and MOO2 in very good detail, but there seemed to be missiles in 2-shot volleys and in 5-shot volleys, the 5-shot volleys needing more space, which balanced them. You could customize the missiles in 2 dimensions, amount firing simulanously (more launchers) and amount of volleys fired (2 shot vs. 5 shot) In MOO you could build a cruiser and add "some" alpha strike capability as a polish.

Now in SiS, there is no ship space, only a "weapon mount" and energy. Mounts are very limited, at least they feel very limited up to those ships that are specifically designed for hardcore battle (battleships, battlecruisers) In SiS, I can only customize in 1 dimension (number of shots) via the "extended ammo" item. A limited possibility exists to customize in the second dimension by using more weapon mounts for missiles but then I would take away mounts for lasers. Additionally I do not get any benefit for using a weapon with lower energy usage as the reactor is still there, taking up space producing excess energy. (Meaning: I cannot build a smaller reactor and use the remainig space for even more missiles) In SiS the ship designs are more "chunky" as there are less weapon slots in SiS as there was "hull space" in MOO. That results in decisions having more effect.

Some ideas I had to balance missiles (that haven t been discussed yet):
- Add a maximum range as missiles need fuel to fly.
- Remove the "extra munitions" item or reduce the effectiveness (I love this item so this would hurt me a lot)
- Add system slot items that improves performance of other weapons as "extra munitions" does for missiles.
- Add missile miss chances and/or ship ECM systems
- Let the player decide it he wants an alpha strike weapon or a continuous fire weapon. (see below)

Alpha strike vs continuous fire:
Every missile comes in 2 flavors
- Alpha strike missile mode: more missiles per shot, less total missiles. (e.g.: 5 missiles, 1 shot of 5 missiles per salvo)
- Continuous fire missile mode: less missiles per shot, more total missiles (e.g.: 10 missiles, 5 shots of 2 missiles per salvo)
Extra ammo adds 1 salvo to alpha strike missiles and 2 salvos to continuous fire missiles

I like the idea of missiles travelling only a bit in their first turn, this might be a good solution.

Regards, Stephan

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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby sven » Wed May 06, 2015 4:36 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:I like the idea of missiles travelling only a bit in their first turn, this might be a good solution.


A version of this change is now up on 'dev'. I've cut down missile launch distances significantly, fighter launch distances less significantly, and torpedo launch distances not at all.

Dinkelsen wrote:What should missiles be/do?


This is a fairly deep question, and one that I'm not going to try and answer too thoroughly here :) But, basically, I don't think missiles should be limited to just one specific tactical niche. They should be heavy hitting, but, possible to counter using a range of different defensive strategies.

From what I've heard -- the consensus among the MOO2 multiplayer crowd has long been that missiles are OP. And right now, that's one feature of MOO2 that SiS has faithfully inherited ;) To keep the tactical mix interesting, I think missiles need to be very strong -- strong enough that you're all but required to invest in some sort of strategy for countering them. But, there should be a lot of workable counters -- including things like fighter patrols and dedicated escort ships, in addition to the more obvious "just mount PD weapons in all my turrets" approach.

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Gyrfalcon
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby Gyrfalcon » Thu May 07, 2015 2:59 am

Missiles launching for a shorter distance still don't let a scout survive 2 pirates long enough to retreat, even if the scout has pd lasers.

EDIT: or maybe they can sometimes.
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enpi
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby enpi » Thu May 07, 2015 7:39 am

sven wrote:
Dinkelsen wrote:I like the idea of missiles travelling only a bit in their first turn, this might be a good solution.


A version of this change is now up on 'dev'. I've cut down missile launch distances significantly, fighter launch distances less significantly, and torpedo launch distances not at all.

Dinkelsen wrote:What should missiles be/do?


This is a fairly deep question, and one that I'm not going to try and answer too thoroughly here :) But, basically, I don't think missiles should be limited to just one specific tactical niche. They should be heavy hitting, but, possible to counter using a range of different defensive strategies.

From what I've heard -- the consensus among the MOO2 multiplayer crowd has long been that missiles are OP. And right now, that's one feature of MOO2 that SiS has faithfully inherited ;) To keep the tactical mix interesting, I think missiles need to be very strong -- strong enough that you're all but required to invest in some sort of strategy for countering them. But, there should be a lot of workable counters -- including things like fighter patrols and dedicated escort ships, in addition to the more obvious "just mount PD weapons in all my turrets" approach.


yep. I also think that if the focus of SiS is on combat and ship design, fights and not diplomacy and colony management, there should be more interesting and deeper options to tactical combat. if not maybe it will become boring after a time.

In MOO2 you hadnt this problem because you had also spies, colony management and diplomacy so even if the ship combat was simple, the game never became boring because tactical combat was only one of several nearly equal important pillars of the game. But IMO if the game has fewer pillars like SiS, each of them should offer more options and be stronger.

One of the more interesting things in fighter/carrier interactions is the turnbased historical game OOB: Pacific from Slitherine. It feels very authentic. Each carrier is able to carry in its cargo hold several fighter/tac bomber flights. (usual 3) If launched, each fighter/bomber has a flight time of a number of turns, until it has to return back to a carrier for landing and refueling and repairing. A turn later it can launch again. Nearby fighters can support ships and bombers with defensive fire when they are attacked by enemy planes, which is nice because it incents the player to build sometimes a kind of defensive "fighter screen" without additonal rules. IMO that is a masterful way to portray small craft combat. Maybe you devs should bother to take a look at this game. (available on steam)

I could imagine a similar system for SiS. Eg. the fighter squadrons have a flight time of lets say 4-8 turns or more depending on technology/race. During this time he can fly to the target in order to bomb/intercept it and fly back to a base (planet or carrier). This gives a constant pressure to the player to plan ahead when to launch, fly to mission then and return and repair. He has move his fighters in an efficient way. In the base he can refuel and repair, then launch again. If a fighter has no fuel anymore he float in space and cannot move the rest of the combat until picked up by a carrier or other cargo vessel. A fighter should have VERY fast engines and should be able to travel at least twice the speed of a large ship, so the player has the impression that he "goes on mission" with a fighter.

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Gyrfalcon
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Re: Missiles everywhere

Postby Gyrfalcon » Thu May 07, 2015 7:57 pm

It seems that my single scout can survive a pair of the human pirate ships, but the Gremak marauders have more missiles so I can't retreat fast enough from them.
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