Outside-the-Box Ideas for Balancing Units

Discussion in 'Balance Discussions' started by gitaxian, February 5, 2018.

  1. gitaxian

    gitaxian Member

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    It's important to keep all your options in mind when balancing a game. Most discussion I've seen revolves around just tweaking stats, but there are a wide range of possibilities that aren't being considered.

    Radar Stealth:
    Right now, this mechanic is present only on the Kraken. It turns a unit into an effective late-game raider, that can surprise opponents to alpha-strike key structures. The GIL-E and Hornet are good candidates for this ability.

    Mine Layer Stealth:
    Mines use a unique stealth mechanic that renders them completely invisible. Units that are completely invisible are much more risky to include, but Skitters are cheap and easy to build so it's worth a shot.

    Death Explosions:
    Units that deal damage on death are a good way to prevent blobbing units and breaking through stacked defenses. The Wyrm and Icarus in particular could benefit from this, as a way of countering air spam.

    Metal Ammo:
    Right now only a couple units use ammo, and only ones that produce other units use metal. Having a unit's weapon cost metal puts a cap on how many the player can support, allowing you to push its raw power level much further.

    Non-Resource Ammo:
    It's also possible to give a unit an ammo counter that isn't tied to a resource and simply recharges over time. In the base game only the Commander uses this, and only to give the player a visible indicator of when they can fire the Uber Cannon. This function can be used in other ways such as to create units with a powerful alpha-strike but low overall DPS. (Accomplished by a high rate of fire, low ammo recharge, and enough ammo storage for multiple shots.)

    Unit Radars
    Torpedo Launchers and the orbital radars have both a vision radius and a built-in radar with a longer range. Giving a unit a radar to extend its vision allows it to fire out to its full range without giving the player as much intel on what the enemy is doing.

    Energy-Dependent Vision
    Without energy some units, such as radars and the Hermes, have a reduced vision radius. This isn't that useful but it's still possible a unit might need it.

    Death Timers:
    Squalls (the drones produced by Typhoons) are currently the only units with death timers. While having units come right out of a factory with a timer active makes them difficult to use, there is a way around this using the next entry.

    Projectile Spawning:
    Units can create projectiles, and projectiles can create units. The Legion mod uses these mechanics to great effect with jumping Boombots and a scout that transforms into a Radar. One possible use for this is enabling death timers. For example, imagine if Locusts were produced as slow-moving, useless units. However, with a press of alt-fire, the "inert" Locust dies, producing a projectile that immediately spawns in an "active" Locust which behaves like the current version except with a death timer. That way their damage potential is limited without the need to weaken them.

    Targeting Limits:
    The Equilibrium Mend is limited only to targeting units and not structures with its new weapon. Limiting what a unit can target allows you to make powerful units that can't be used as the core of an army.
    Last edited: February 6, 2018
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  2. lulamae

    lulamae Well-Known Member

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    What is an "Equilibrium" Stitch?
  3. n00n

    n00n Active Member

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    Equilibrium is a "soon" to be released balance mod. The stitch is unchanged. The Mend has a functioning (self defence) front weapon. But because you don't want the default action to be attack but instead reclaim, some trickery had to be done to remove user control of the weapon. In turn you might not want it to destroy an enemy teleporter and so they had to be blacklisted from being auto attacked.

    In short look at the Barracuda for a simple example of exclude_unit_types.
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  4. MrTBSC

    MrTBSC Post Master General

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    ... equilibrium ?? .. like the supcom fa mod of the same name .... *shudders*
  5. n00n

    n00n Active Member

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    Fear not, as I know not of such things. :rolleyes:
  6. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

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    That is a really good list. There are a lot more that could be added too.

    I would add further weapon inaccuracy or dispersion should be a central element of balancing units. Inaccuracy can be used to create a plethora of very different weapons, from "spray fire" highly inaccurate machine guns, or a cannon that is more effective (due to better accuracy) from closer ranges, to creeping barrage indirect fire artillery.

    Splash damage is substantially underused in PA, with only a very select few units having splashing weapons. Inaccuracy combined with radial splash can make a weapon probabilistically effective fairly consistently; and all of these mechanics require only numbers to be adjusted to work.

    Turret mechanics such as unit turn rate and turret traverse rate can be used to make units more effective at a distance than up close. Slow turrets or poor maneuverability makes a unit very weak at short ranges, but matter little at long range. Poor aim on the move also encourages certain units to be stationary while fighting, while other units want to be moving as fast as possible to avoid inaccurate enemy fire.

    Shaped attacks are also a really good way to get a lot of complexity out of a very simple mechanic. For example, the Rocko simply fires an unguided rocket in a straight line. The fact that its weapon has a shape like this greatly changes the way the unit works in combat; a loosely spaced skirmish line is vastly superior to a blob for a linear attack.

    Weapon classes would be one way to simplify having a lot of different weapons; all lasers have characteristics X and Y, all guns have a high rate of fire and can attack ground and air, cannons attack ground only with a relatively long wait between powerful shots, etc. Exotic or fancy weapons could also potentially be shared between units with variants, such as having "flame" be a common weapon class for the Inferno tank and for napalm bombs or other units.

    Burst weapons such as guns or rocket pods unloading rapidly and then needing to wait before they can fire again. These are ideal for hit-and-run units, lightweight units that still should sting in combat despite losing to a heavier enemy, rocket artillery, or superheavy assault units quickly bursting down defenders.

    Multiple weapon units can give a unit a more complex damage table around itself. For example, a heavy tank destroyer vehicle with a huge, unwieldy heavy cannon might be complemented with a weak rapid-fire, short-range machine gun capable of attacking aircraft and useful for close-in defense of the vehicle so it is not completely defenseless against enemies it is weak against, or against enemies behind it. Other weapons might also complement the unit's primary weapon, such as a machine gun bot with a much weaker version of its main gun that does not need to wait to replenish ammo, so its damage is very high for a short period and then slows down while the primary weapon replenishes its ammo. Or a suite of weapons may have different ranges, such as increasing damage as an enemy gets closer as more guns will be in range. Or even having a definite optimal engagement range; i.e. three similar weapons with short, medium, and long ranges relative to each other, where the Long range variant has a minimum range. The optimal range would be where the unit can use all its weapons; if the enemy is too far or too close it can only use some of its firepower.
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  7. lulamae

    lulamae Well-Known Member

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    I already have issues with Levelers and Holkins not hitting their targets. There is no joy in that.
  8. manlebtnureinmal

    manlebtnureinmal Member

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    I've been experimenting with inaccuracy while developing my subfactions mod.

    I've come to the conclusion that inaccuracy feels crippling when there are conditions which allow for high variance, such as low unit counts or low rate of fire. Units like the Leveller are on the expensive side, and fire quite slowly, so variance doesn't lower until an extremely late stage of the game that isn't always seen in some games.

    It's also worth noting that Leveller inaccuracy scales inversely with planet radius. This is pretty stupid.

    Ants aren't as bad from that standpoint, but they can still run into this variance issue in the extreme earlygame, if someone only has one ant.

    Therefore, I've realized that inaccuracy must be used in moderation. For example, units like the Grenadier, who are cheap and rarely alone in the extreme early game (due to their role) can be balanced around inaccuracy. Units like the dox cannot.

    If a large unit like the Leveller is balanced around inaccuracy, it must be able to fire a large amount of projectiles per second, in order to lower the variance.

    As ledarsi mentioned, combining inaccuracy with large AoE can also lower variance in rate of hit, but it has the side effect of creating higher variance of damage, given that at least one hit is registered per attack. This seems to be a negligible side-effect in most cases, however, as the difference between a unit doing 50 damage to 1 unit and a unit doing 50 damage to 3 units tends to not feel as disappointing or awkward as the difference between a unit hitting something and a unit not hitting anything at all.

    I would argue that splash damage actually has a lot of usage in PA. The problem is that it's underutilized as a method of balance.

    Every anti-air attack has some splash. To my knowledge, it is always 10 damage, regardless of the main hit damage. This happens to create the almost negligible side-effect of making slower rate-of-fire anti-air attacks less useful for stacked air blobs. The radius of this damage is on the small side, however, but I'm not sure if it's constant.

    Many units, like the Leveller, and anything that uses Torpedos, also have some AoE, but, like the case of anti-air AoE, the radius seems to be negligible. As land and naval units don't stack in the same way that air units do, this AoE is rarely useful.

    _____

    Legion sometimes handles things better than base MLA. Their vehicles often have lower raw DPS output than their MLA counterparts, but have superior, non-negligible AoE radii instead. Hive nanoswarms use timed life instead of a the stupid degen-based timer that Typhoon Squalls have.

    The list of unit differentiation mechanics that Legion handles better than MLA is pretty long (although the Legion project has many shortcomings in its own right).

    _____

    EDIT: To re-summarize the thing about unit inaccuracy. Unit inaccuracy is a cool feature to balance around, as long as the unit is never meant to be around alone/in small numbers at the start of the first T1 or T2 factories. If a unit is meant to be built at the start of T1 or T2, and has inaccuracy, it better fire a large amount of projectiles. Firing a large amount of projectiles, however, could cause lag if it were on a cheaper unit like the Dox, or even the Ant. Therefore, I believe that using high amounts of projectiles is not a viable way to reduce variance unless it's at least a T2 unit.
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  9. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

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    Making a weapon inaccurate obviously greatly reduces its effectiveness, if all else is held constant.

    However this also lets you significantly alter the other characteristics of the unit, such as greatly increasing artillery's range, lowering its cost, and increasing its rate of fire relative to its cost, and its splash damage. Inaccuracy lets you have weapons that are highly damaging and destructive but which are not actually universally effective nonetheless. For example a Holkins with global range and a dispersion the size of a base is actually not a very strong weapon unless you greatly increase its rate of fire and splash damage, and lower its cost. Even then that might be too much dispersion.

    The number of shots has a huge effect on inaccuracy's reduction in effectiveness. A very rapid rate of fire makes an inaccurate weapon perform very consistently, but its effective DPS drops off at distance.

    Single-shot cannons with a long delay between shots would be a poor choice to have high dispersion, as it would severely reduce their effectiveness. But a very slight dispersion can still make sense, as this would have a subtle effect of making this weapon relatively more effective against large targets and less effective against small ones or moving targets at range.

    Inaccurate splashing weapons are ideal against huge groups of enemies and are one of the best ways to make a unit type actually trade up without outside fire support against superior opposition. Light, large AOE splash damage stacks up to a lethal break threshold when huge groups of things start dying really, really fast, above which point you really don't need to add more splash dealers regardless of the size of your opposition. Inaccurate, high damage, heavy, small AOE weapons would be highly effective against large base structures but less so against small, moving enemy units. Artillery intended for continuous bombardment against an enemy base, for example, which would be likely to deal large damage to a structure if fired at a concentration of them. But against a small group of enemies in the field you will miss almost every shot and largely waste your time.

    OP also had a very good idea of making heavier use of the ammo system, and possibly having shots cost metal. A lot could also be done with that idea, as it imposes a metal drain from having a large number of such weapons on the field. Again, combined arms of vanilla units supported with a few high-value metal-drain, ammo-producing units would be better than a pure composition of either.
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  10. tatsujb

    tatsujb Post Master General

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    I mean , I don't think anyone here is suggesting weapon inaccuracy wouldn't reduce shot after shot until nill (minus, of course, what target-leading can't account for : units avoiding, being gone (teleportation), ect...) ? are they?

    If not then hell yeah to weapon inaccuracy.

    the mechanic is tried and proved in SupCom
  11. MrTBSC

    MrTBSC Post Master General

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    ... and frigging annoying ...
  12. tatsujb

    tatsujb Post Master General

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    really? each unit in FA (say a t1 tank), contrary to PA lives long enough to fire it's weapon 10-20 times at an opponent.

    making the case that it having a 60% chance to miss the first shot, then a 30% chance to miss the second and then have pitch perfect accuracy from then on is "....frigging annoying ..." would be tough.

    especially since overall... shells actually hitting the target happens more in FA then PA despite that mechanic by a very large factor.
  13. MrTBSC

    MrTBSC Post Master General

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    just need to think about t2 static and t3 mobile artilery which over many months and maybe even longer barely gets used by players ... hoplite too micro intensive like without exxagarating in the last 20 games with cybran i have seen it in two matches .. .. only arty being consistently used is t1 ..

    why should there be inaccuracy for directfire weapons or tankcannons, this doesn't make much sense ...
  14. tatsujb

    tatsujb Post Master General

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    lore-wise you mean? actually yeah : they're trying to breed out incompetence and incapability of the AI they're using.

    Appart from the commanders on the field, there are no living biengs, they're all AI that follow the commander's orders but each unit is born anew because if they did the easy thing and cloned their AI into each unit, the opponent who mixed things up would get better bang for buck. So the idea is to have each unit learn on the spot. This has a chance of producing units that largely outperform their peers (vetted hero units), an improvement over the AI you already have and a new basis for your future troops.
    again this statement doesn't have much baring on reality. both the t2 static and t3 mobile artilery are incredibly used units. there's a reason the term "arty creep" and "firebase" exists for casters in FA, these are very successful strategies.

    as seraphim and uef you're likely to spam the t2 static arty as it bears great use to fend off ships when you're on shorline or fend of units when you're walling off a passage.

    as cybran t3 mobile arty is you're goto unit to break firebases because it's unparalelled aoe means it's the ideal shield-drainer and will end up clearing out lower tier mobile units under those shields. people use it all the time beccause it's incredibly effective.

    last PA game I played I spawed on a different planet as my opponent. artillery, especially static, didn't see much use in that match lemme tell ya...

    if I were you this wouldn't be what I'd remark
  15. MrTBSC

    MrTBSC Post Master General

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    show me 5 recent 1v1 games were they are used ..
  16. tatsujb

    tatsujb Post Master General

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    5? pfff! I'll do you one better






    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZuV2TkrHkc
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjsuu_d1zyU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcnZyAPWAo4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJiEHHUQl2o
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKaQJkLpokE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIocYV_S7fk
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywjVystYCbA

    as and added bonus to featuring t2 static arty almost all of them feature t3 mobile arty as well and all are between 2017 and now.

    they're basically a necessity for any map of 20Km² or more that goes on past the 30 minute mark, regardless of player count.

    while I'm entertaining you in every sense of the term, have you ever heard of the fallacy: "moving the goalposts?"
  17. MrTBSC

    MrTBSC Post Master General

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    not one of those is a recent 1v1 game (like at most 3 month old) .. the 3 you have shown are from over half a year ago

    my apologies for wasting your time and effort but this doesn´t convince me ... and yes i´m aware that this kinda makes me a bit of a nitpicky **** but still .. ..

    also i didn´t change the rules

    you said "they are used"

    i merely asked for some reccnt videos

    the stuff you show me rather shows that longrange weapons are more common in teamgames (well duh) than in 1v1

    were as in PA longerange weapons like the sheller and bluehawk or pelter and holkins are a bit more common, granted they operate wastly different than long range weapons in supcom ..


    looking at



    not gonna post the whole thing
    but even on the middlesized maps for 1v1 none of the players ever goes for longrange except t1 artillery even if they do reach t2(speaking mobile missilelauncchers) at best tacmissiles cause long enough range and accurate for sniping ... i don´t recall there being a match were any of the players reached t3 but even then they rather go for stratbombers because those are MORE ACCURATE while covering a area ..

    the standartplay regarding groundplay simply is t1 assault + t1 mobilarty >t2 assault >t3 assault/siegebot >MAYBE experimental ..
    barely any real deviation or additional units ..

    this is what i take from seeing most of supcommatches ..
    Last edited: September 11, 2018
  18. tatsujb

    tatsujb Post Master General

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    dude, @MrTBSC, at some point you gotta come to the realization your credibility is running dry here.

    really? now it's less than three months? how is that what defines "recent" especially considering that would have to imply FAF balance alters in a way that could make artilery obsolete or OP (either one, depending... which is just the most loose and radical and most awful balancing work I've ever heard of) ...that every two weeks for it to make videos of a year or age, two year, three, four irrelevant.

    that right there is insanity and is a lie and you know it.

    FAF balance hasn't ever changed in a way that radical in the 10 years FAF has been in operation. during all that time artillery occupied the same role and has never really lost popularity.

    why are you hellbent on making this point which is wrong?
    as I exposed, this is statistically false.

    if you're playing ladder where all maps are single planet spawn sure, but these are far from being the only 1v1s played in PA and many of them are played on multiple planets.

    making 1v1 artillery LESS frequent in PA.

    so this head-in-the-sand technique isn't going to work either... just because you, personally, don't recall a thing, doesn't make it so that it doesn't exist. just google any 1v1 between lu_xun and someone else. And I'm just fat-figering/off-the-top-of-me-heading here. there's much more where that came from obviously.

    The notion that: just because you believe something, backed up by anecdotal evidence, automatically makes it so, is upsetting to me. You should be better than that yet you're not.

    so you're lifting the argument here of the majority case.

    this again .... (this is starting to feel like a recurring theme), is a fallacy, just because something is a minority (and let's be careful here and restore context because you like to cherry-pick and superimpose your view (even your view of what others said) onto said cherry-picked elements) just because something is minority IN FAF (so FAF compared to FAF, not FAF compared to PA, let's remind ourselves that I just exposed above how in the case of FAF compared to PA, statistically FAF wins out in use of artillery and yes despite the fact that this is a minority tactic in 1v1 in FAF) ...a minority strategy, doesn't mean it's less relevant.

    The actual origin and cause for the use of artillery in these 1v1s (and you'll notice said players often won) is because they were the best solution for solving a specific problem on a specific part of the map.

    Jumping to the conclusion that t3 bombers would have been better is false.

    this is just rolling over the idea that maybe air wasn't the best option early and mi-game because the size of the map was still too small to justify teching up air.

    as such you end up mid and late game with a teched-up com and t1 land and but non teched up air so that's a heavy investment to make especially if you now want to rush them (and even rushing them you'd never build them in time as compared to the static artillery) and that's not even going into the staggering cost difference and time to finish of a t3 bomber and t2 artillery.

    http://direct.faforever.com/faf/unitsDB/?id=UEB2303,UEA0304


    last bit of misderection you've been throwing into this debate : are you implying that somehow 1v1 bers more importance for making balance choices?

    that every bit of balance is built off of 1v1? that the rest is sub-citizen? that 1v1 is the only thing that matters when making such choices, the rest can just take on it's example?

    that's a slippery slope you probably don't want to be going down.
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  19. MrTBSC

    MrTBSC Post Master General

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    so last year is recent to you ? ok then pal ..
    not like 3 months isn´t like half a season, but apearantly that´s too much to ask for you, alright
    if someone asks you "hey are people still doing x ?" would you then go and answer "they did 2 years ago"?


    why isn´t a bit more common when players go t3 if it is as popular as you say?
    because again from the last 50 or so games i watched over the last 6 month be the that 1v1 or team games out of 10 games barely 1 game has them used ..


    i am not here to convince you of it .. it is my perception that for the longest time it feels that way with artilery ..
    from my perspective supcom mobile artilery , mml heck even stuff like mobile shields and stealth seem to get used less and less .. if those things are sooo useful why do people not use them a bit more commonly ..
    again this is what i see from like the last hundred or so games i watched that includes 1v1´s and



    and were have i claimed that 1v1 does not include multiplanet?
    and still i see the afformentioned units in these games more comperad to what i see from respective games in supcom ...


    that´s seems a recuring theme with you .. and sure your "empirical" evidence is ohhh soo convincing ..


    it´s not a problem that it is a minority, it´s a problem of how small imo a minority it is ...


    bombarding from high ground, into clumps of units or use against fortified positions like firebases
    that is the general purpose of artillery ..


    i didn´t say that, i didn´t conclude that .. i ONLY said players on avarage seem to go for stratbombers when using AoE or t2 fighterbombers like the janus than going for t3 mobile artillery and t2 mml ..
    t2 tml´s are more used than t2 static artillery,


    yea but even then i still see very few people do that be that as defensive option or as aggressive firebase ..
    it´s mostly just bogstandart assaultunitspam ...

    are you implying it doesn´t at all? shall we continue to assume extremes of each other?

    because that also seems to be a reccuring theme with you ..
    Last edited: September 12, 2018
  20. tatsujb

    tatsujb Post Master General

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    the truth doesn't matter to you, only your personal experience of the matter, so basically you're presenting me with "alternative facts". cool... cool...

    well yes that definition neither agrees or disagrees with either of us. definitions aren't going to help you here. the trouble of mutually understanding each other wasn't over semantics @MrTBSC, it wasn't over a word, it was over a notion.

    the notion that any video or replay of a game serving to prove artillery is a valid strategy becomes null and void past two years.

    that was the point I was willing to concede (as ridiculous as it is, because there is still really no reason it should be, as I have explained the balance regarding these units has not changed so why should that be eliminatory?) but now you've gone and attributed this seemingly random value to "recent" of "3 months" and everyone is to abide because : "that's what recent feels, like doesn't it?"

    that's not how the word recent works.

    let's take a closer look at your own definition:
    don't you think the meaning of the word "recent" remains the same to you without the word "comparatively" in that same definition? :
    it does doesn't it?

    it then begins to align with what you were saying,

    that's because you glossed (an unfortunate gloss in which I can tell you with certainty : the subconscious played a major part) ...you glossed over that word. and yes that word is important, it signifies that we are talking not about a time frame but about proportions between two time frames :

    "the Current Era's (CE) most recent previous Era is the Cenozoic Era, which dates back in a range going from 10,000 years ago to 33 million years ago"

    is the above sentence an incorrect use of the word recent?

    suddenly the word recent isn't constrained to only 3 months anymore is it?

    and this ...proportionality, is important to my sentence because I did account for it :
    see?

    and now what you're saying is even crazier. Considering patches only ever alter values by percentages averaging 1% max, if videos from 3 months ago are obsolete from sheer balance changes .....how many balance patches would FAF have to average per 3 months period???? 150? 700? this is crazy it doesn't make any sense ....but also it makes me dream! if the FAF devs were that active that would be so cool! intennable for gameplay, sure, but cool.

    see? you get lost pretty quick in wanting to be right at all costs, even at the cost of saying anything and everything that seems at the time a counter-argument, but will turn out to be just another indefensible stance to add to the list of the current debate.
    Last edited: September 12, 2018

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