Attention! The modifications discussed below are all subject to change, based on player input and testing experience.
This blog, and the changes to which it pertains, has been a long time coming. I'm going to try to be as thorough as possible and explain the intent of every change. The blog will be structured thusly: I will start by listing the ideal, craved order of in-game affairs; then identify the present problems impeding this utopian order of balance; then proceed to describe our proposed solutions and their implementation; and finally take a squinting step back to make a beard-stroking analysis of the altered big picture.
OK, right off the bat I’ll admit that “Utopia” is a misnomer. A utopia is someplace where all tension has been dissipated with a grand unified order of infinite peace, calm and maximized fairness (and obviously, any truly utopian planning is an exercise in futility). Our order of business however, is not peace but balance, not calm but stability; ours is a world of volatile thermodynamics where all tension has its equal but opposite counterpart. Not inherently, unfailingly fair, but as fair as you dare to make it – revenge, redemption and riches are always an option to the arduous and crafty pilot. But I digress; the current focus is on speed.
Designing towards specific goals is a base tenet of game design; without goals there is not much to aim for. Yet, design goals can be very hard to put down on paper. Even with a room full of people where you’re sure everyone has the same basic vision, nailing a lengthy and lively brainstorm down in a clear and concise way can be like returning the toothpaste to the tube at the end of the day. That being said, this is what four of us came up with during the course of a mere five hour meeting on the current speed crisis:
- Speed must never reach ludicrous speed, which is defined as speeds where missiles and drones don't intercept the class of ship they were intended for.
- There should be a significant and meaningful difference in speed between the ship classes.
- Speed should not permit a larger ship to perform the role that a smaller specialized ship was intended for.
- Afterburners should be a viable module selection for PVP.
- Guerrilla warfare must remain a viable combat tactic.
This is our celestial vision.
As it stands, however, the previously mentioned arduous and crafty pilot won’t get to his revenge, redemption and riches without a microwarpdrive (MWD) at full throttle rattling his nanofiber hull. A MWD perpetually wielded in your mid-slot is becoming an axiomatic truth, not an option with an alternative. What’s more is that speed, alas, can only be countered properly with yet more speed, and so on in a dreadfully unidirectional tipping of the scales. There is no tension, just increasing slack. This is bad.
Currently we’ve got a number of different systems that affect speed that aren’t stacking nerfed towards each other, resulting in phenomenal speed that in turn results in near invulnerability. At the office we refer to this as “ludicrous speed”.
Here’s a quick overview of stuff that currently affects max speed.
- Navigation - 25% velocityBonus
- Acceleration Control - 25% speedFactor
- Pirate Implants - Snake - 53.63% velocityBonus
- Shaqil's speed enhancer - 8% speedFactor
- Hardwiring - Eifyr and Co. 'Rogue' MY-2 - 5% speedFactor
- Nanofiber Internal Structure - -12.5% massBonus
- Overdrive Injector System - 22.2% velocityBonus
- Polycarbon Engine Housing - -20% massBonus
- Auxiliary Thrusters - 15% velocityBonus
- Skill: Skirmish Warfare - 10% velocityBonus
- Module: Skirmish Warfare Link - Rapid Deployment 38.81% speedFactor
- X-Instinct - 20% velocityBonus
- Overheating MWD - 50% speedFactor
Combining all of the above with a faction MWD results in as much as an eightfold increase in speed over what a vessel can reach with a normal tech2 MWD.
If one then takes a look at the max velocity on missiles and drones, it is readily apparent that our combat system was never designed for such speeds. Even when we did some basic tests on our internal servers, with special high-speed missiles, we quickly noticed Destiny (our physics engine) behaving very strangely.
Then there is also the size/price factor; why would I spend ISK on a sleek, fragile interceptor (that’s lithe and quick, supposedly), when I can just spend the money on a more durable heavy assault cruiser and reach even greater speeds?
MWD's have become a necessity in any combat situation. Setups almost revolve around fitting them, limiting variety and unpredictability, and there is no clear advantage to fitting an afterburner over one.
So what are we thinking?
Laying the groundwork
We are considering a lot of base changes in order to ensure significant and meaningful differences in speed between the ship classes. Mass, agility and maximum velocity were tweaked. Let’s take a look at some before and after graphs:
The red and green markers are the minimum and maximum attainable speeds with a single tech2 MWD of each ship class; the white bar indicates the standard deviation.
As you can clearly see, the old values were all over the place, creating a hazy distinction between ship classes and resulting in considerable redundancy with the speed advantage of smaller ships minimized. The new values result in a smooth slope across the classes, yet still allowing some fringe cases, which is fine as long as it holds true to our utopian speed goals.
Changes around microwarpdrives
Warp scramblers (the close range ones), are due for a complete makeover. Our current idea is to have MWD's deactivate as soon as they get hit by their effect, and continue to be disabled until the effect is lifted.
This creates a whole new dynamic for PVP; the choice between fitting an afterburner or a MWD becomes a tricky one. It could also create a scenario where smaller ships would prefer to use an afterburner and scrambler, instead of a MWD, webifier and disruptor. Who knows? We might even see some crazy setups where both afterburners and MWDs are utilized.
A brief reactivation delay added to the microwarpdrives might ensure a speedy target actually slowed down, and of course with the MWD disabled, a webifier would have an even greater effect.
Our current idea is to have MWD's only differ in capacitor capacity penalty as well as reactivation delay, instead of the speed progression between meta levels. This means they would all give the same speed boost, 500%, the aim being to reducing the number of factors affecting the maximum velocity attainable over a normal tech2 MWD.
Currently when you’re webbed it’s pretty much game over unless you’re doing more DPS or have a better tank. The 90% speed reduction makes combat too static and predictable when webifiers have been applied. To address this, webifiers in our proposed changes have been reduced in effectiveness down to between -50% and -60%.
Nanofibers & Polycarbon Engine Housings
In order to reduce the slots required to attain maximum speed, we have to get rid of some variables. As you probably know one can fit 3 modules affecting the same stacking-nerfed attribute without being significantly hit by the stacking penalty. For example, if we had two types of damage modifiers—one that only increases the rate of fire and another one that ups the damage multiplier—one could fit 6 of them without being affected by a stacking penalty. In a nutshell, this is what’s happened with nanofibers and overdrives.
Nanofibers and polycarbon engine housings changed to affect maximum velocity and agility (which is basically what they did before, through mass reduction) would ensure balance, morphing them into a mixture of overdrives and inertia stabilizers and thus stacking penalized against those modules.
Our current implementation makes 3 nanofibers approximately as effective as 2 overdrives and 2 inertia stabilizers. This means, if one would want to fit for maximum speed, go for overdrives; maximum agility, fit inertia stabilizers; a bit of both, use nanofibers.
Polycarbon engine housings are overpowered, both in general and with regard to corresponding modules; this is because the tech1 version is currently more effective than a tech2 nanofiber. Following our changes we’re looking at them being 30% less effective than their module counterparts, which is more similar to the difference between modules and rigs in other categories.
Overdrives, Implants and Gang Bonuses
The balance between these systems is very delicate. Our suggested solutions would mean, yes, a general decrease in maximum velocity across the board, now that the interplay of all affected systems is duly accounted for. But the proportional gains are similar to before.
Our intent is to have overdrives range from approximately 7% to 12.5%; the high-grade snake set 24.7%; the low-grade snake set 16% and the gang bonuses down to 25.8% but with an added agility bonus. So yes, there is a speed nerf underway, but exclusive speed bonus items still retain their relative value, the snake set for instance still being the fastest single speed bonus item that money can buy.
All of this is of course done to push maximum velocity below the cursed ludicrous speed as it was defined, safely stitching back the burst seams of both our physics engine and gameplay.
Although these aren’t consumed a whole lot (D.A.R.E. at work?), we need to reduce the number of independent systems that affect maximum velocity. We propose to have the X-Instinct boosters cause a reduction in signature radius, rather than an increased base velocity.
- Web drones changed to be in-line with the new webifiers
- Marauders will probably get their web bonus boosted
- Due to the slight reduction in battleship MWD speed, the radius of the large mobile warp disruptors might get reduced
- Afterburners are being slightly adjusted to decrease the variation in speed boost from 105-171% to 112.5-162%
- Slot placement of other speed implants may shift
Yes flock, the dev giveth and the dev taketh. And surely, many will lament that he is heavy on the taketh this time around. But let us not succumb to exclamations and “I quit’ threats” just yet. These changes are of many dimensions, and even though there are few actual statistical boosts, each perceived nerf levels the playing field in such a manner where overall variety and inventive gameplay is being boosted. The battles will hopefully once again teem with ships of all sizes and makes, giving added weight to strategy and tactics (our very favourites).
We are fully aware that such complex changes can have unforeseen results, especially since such an agglomeration of them is difficult to test without the participation of a large number of players. Thus, we urge you to log onto Singularity (our test server) this Monday, July 28TH to give them a spin and spare us no feedback or thoughts on these issues. We're allocating a long time (a month or more) to oversee the changes because we are open to further tweaks, based on your suggestions.
-Nozh, bringing balance to the galaxy