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Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Printable Version

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Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Psydev - 10-05-2015

There is a problem with the current upgrade system: it's not intuitive. Sometimes when you purchase an upgrade (especially Burst), it actually makes your weapon *worse*. This is unfortunate, because each successive upgrade costs more money than the last.
My proposal: Make upgrades "always good".

In order to do this, you should probably minimize the amount of "penalties" (negative modifiers to weapon variables) that come with an upgrade. The biggest problems with this are the Recharge Rate penalties (adding time severely reduces damage per second, and is the leading cause for making weapons weaker after upgrade), and Accuracy penalties (sometimes the accuracy gets so low (e.g. 20%) the weapon becomes useless and the real-life damage it inflicts goes way down).

While it's possible for you to fix these problems with careful adjustments of balance, this will result in a lot of work for the developers, because they will have to look closely at all the math for each weapon and each upgrade. This micro-management will take a lot of time; probably no one will want to do this. A simpler solution is to try to get rid of penalties associated with upgrades as much as possible. It's important to remember that recharge time is directly connected to damage per second. Essentially, lower recharge time == more damage (and higher firing rate, which is also an advantage).

Another option would be to change how time upgrades work. For example, instead of modifying Rate of Fire in fixed increments (e.g. "Recharge time -0.5s"), you could modify it with percentage values (e.g. "Recharge Time -15%"). This will fix some problems associated with recharge time, and especially problems with combining it with Burst. One of the big problems with recharge time modifiers is that when you use fixed increments, you cause damage per second to increase geometrically for each step that you increase. (E.g. the Particle cannon gets +33% DPS for its first -0.5s recharge time upgrade, then +50% for the second, and finally by +100% when it reduces its recharge time from 0.1s to 0.5s). The fact that the relationship between time and DPS is non-linear and escalating gives the player a disincentive from applying any further upgrades that would affect recharge time, because they would sharply reduce the damage. It's also worth noting that the particle cannon does the most DPS by only applying the recharge time upgrade, and doing nothing else; this is counter-intuitive for the player, who would presume that the "damage upgrade" would be the upgrade that actually gives you the most damage. Changing this to a percentage might allow a flat progression in DPS so that the changes are less extreme; it might also smooth out any problems for when other upgrades add time as a penalty. For example, you could have recharge time upgrades calculate -15% time after all time penalties from other upgrades (like Burst) are calculated, which will reduce interference from those other upgrades.

I would request/recommend, at the very least, that you remove Recharge Time penalties (i.e. damage per second penalties) from the following upgrades, where they are not needed, and cause problems:
- Accuracy upgrades
- Range upgrades
- Hull/Shield Damage upgrades (e.g. Laser Cannon currently penalizes time for this)

In most situations, recharge time penalties are unnecessary. The only time where I think they make sense might be for Burst. In other situations, they cause problems with balancing, and seriously reduce the effectiveness of weapons (sometimes causing the upgrade to make the weapon worse, which is very counter-intuitive!). In general, I would recommend not relying on penalties along with upgrades to "balance" the game, because I think it causes more problems than it solves. Please only use penalty modifiers where they actually make sense.

Finally, Burst is kind of broken. I have done the calculations in a spreadsheet for many of the weapons, and have found that when you buy Burst(1), it often does not improve your ship, or is a painful trade-off (when you take accuracy into account). There are several instances where buying Burst(2) makes your weapon clearly worse, and I would say this makes Burst broken. For a player's fun, upgrades should "always be good". They should not have to do careful math to see if maybe an upgrade they want to buy is going to make the weapons worse.
Weapons where buying Burst(1) makes the DPS worse: Flak Cannon (also reduces accuracy by 20)
Weapons where buying Burst(2) makes the DPS worse, or offers no improvement despite cost: Energy Cannon, Mega Plasma Cannon, Flak Cannon
Note: The particle cannon doesn't benefit from either Burst or Accuracy upgrades because they hurt the recharge time so much that it's not worth it to add even +0.1s.

If Upgrades to Accuracy, Damage and Range upgrades didn't have recharge time (i.e. DPS) penalties associated, this would make it a lot easier to use Burst without fear, because you could compensate for the penalties by spending more money (green tech) rather than adding more recharge time. One of the problems is also that sometimes the penalty increments are larger than the upgrade increments (e.g. for the Energy Cannon, the accuracy upgrades adds +0.3s recharge time, but the recharge time upgrade only removes -0.2s; the upgrade should always be better, I think).

Anyway, that was a lot of info, but I hope I was my writing was clear enough! I hope that you can make the game more intuitive for the players who are not so good at math. Smile I hope that you simplify the upgrade system so that an upgrade is "always good" and the player doesn't have to think mathematically, but instead just watches the battle and sees the difference (either in range, rate of fire, accuracy, etc.) but has faith that the DPS is higher because they paid for it. I think it would be best to get rid of all penalties/trade-offs, except for Burst, which requires it.

Thanks for reading! I love this game, but I hope you can balance it a bit better. If so, I will keep playing for a long time...

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Lurkily - 10-14-2015

I agree with this sentiment. In a game like Fallout 1/2, you would have traits that were free, and would increase one stat and lower another - they weren't a bonus, they were a rebalancing to suit a player's play style. The paid upgrades - skills, stats, perks - (Paid through points at creation, points gained through gameplay, or paid by time gaining levels) were always straight up 'this is now better'. Speaking from a game design perspective, I opine that when a player pays, a player should gain. Trade-offs are fine, but they need to be done clearly.

It would be helpful if benefits were displayed clearly. Including DPS/shield and DPS/hull stats would help this immensely.

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Noggin - 10-26-2015

What did you find on doing burst upgrades on missile turrets? I've settled on using nothing but missile turrets and drones. My upgrade priority has been to get 5 drones, then get burst on both turrets maxed, then get a second ship and repeat. After maxing out burst, I'd then max out hull damage. Missile range is quite high, so I can stay at a distance and take out the enemies.

Accuracy doesn't seem to be an issue since the missiles can maneuver. I wanted burst instead of anything else to help the missiles get through enemy defenses more-so than an attempt at increasing damage. For this reason, I'd still take two missiles even at the cost of a bit of recharge time.

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - CommanderYeti - 10-26-2015

I came to these forums specifically to mention this issue. Glad there was a post near the top mentioning it.

Just bought the game a few days ago, and already beaten it a few times on every difficulty. It seems that because of the way the upgrade system is set up there's a very specific set of upgrades that are worth buying while others actually reduce your DPS.

I run a lot of projectile cannons, and with max time to fire reduction they fire once every .5 seconds. Adding Burst 1 gives you two bullets per shot, but triples the time to fire while also reducing other stats as well. It ends up making the Burst upgrade a very bad idea. It would be nice upgrades were always an actual upgrade.

I also wish there was a way to perhaps buy upgrade points with the scrap type currency. I keep ending games with 40,000 scrap and <10 upgrade points.

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - AdmiralGeezer - 10-26-2015

Thank you everyone for your analysis. We will try to do some serious re-balancing of the game for the Extended Edition. Please don't be mad at us for some major changes, we can always keep on changing things until they are good! Smile

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Regar Reed - 11-01-2015

Burst is not broken. It gives you twice the damage with some penalties.
The penalty is more convenient on some weapons but for some it is not working well. That much is true.

Part of your job as a captain is to find out what kind of weapon mix is working best for your fleet.
Sometines burst is a waste, sometines it works just right. Part of this depends on luck. Some weapons you can find seriously alter the best setup (like Heavenly Dual Ion Cannon)
That is making the game intersting and challenging. But I agree that sometimes more transparency may be nice.

In general bigger should however not always better!
Making thinks always bigger is simple. But in the end you would have installed super weapons only, no thinking required.
(And in real world terms indefinite power supply, storage area for missiles or tareting computer power are just not real - or painfully expensive...)

The choice of the best loadout is a key to the game. So it should be challenging and something to think about.

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Lurkily - 11-06-2015

Regar, burst does NOT give you twice the damage. Leaving along the fact that damage is one of the attriutes that burst often reduces, with many weapons, your DPS is actually reduced by "upgrading" burst.

I could say a LOT on this subject, but I'll make it simple. There are correct and incorrect upgrades in this game. For instance, with projectile cannons, refire rate is the correct upgrade. It is incredibly beneficial in comparison to damage. Burst is an incorrect upgrade. It lowers almost every stat and reduces your DPS.

When implementing a strategic decision like where to put upgrade points before the exponentially increasing cost gets too high, there should never EVER be correct or incorrect decisions. These are not strategic choices.

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Fleet Admiral Hood - 11-07-2015

I actually like the burst reducing the quality of the weapon. It's very realistic. Take a shotgun for example. One barrel means one relatively accurate shot, with a relatively quick reload. However, add another barrel to that shotgun, you have two shots fired in quick succession, the second significantly less accurate

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Fleet Admiral Hood - 11-07-2015

(I accidentally submitted) than the first, with a longer reload time as well. This makes sense, and it is a fair penalty for the burst upgrade, as the upgrade still increases power in certain weapons, especially missiles. They may fire slower, but more missiles are harder to defend against.

Upgrades should always improve the ship! (Burst is a bit broken) - Lurkily - 11-07-2015

When arguing that burst doesn't need a fix, missiles are the logical example to make. They are easily the most balanced example of burst in the game. The drawbacks and damage loss are well-balanced with the advantages in defeating fighter screens and point-defense, especially because the loss of accuracy is meaningless to missiles.

Unfortunately, with many weapons, there are 'correct' and 'incorrect' choices. As you say, Fleet Admiral, there are many situations in which weapon upgrades have to be carefully weighed and balanced, and this is good. On the other side of the coin, there are other weapon upgrades where your choices are obvious - some upgrades are ineffectual, and others are too effective.

Projectile cannons and energy cannons are a good example, where burst doesn't increase DPS, while the loss of accuracy and range far outweigh the 'shotgun' effect.

When designing a game, it's my opinion that all choices should strive to be strategic choices. That is, you should be weighing advantages and disadvantages, in this case, when choosing what to upgrade. There should never be an 'incorrect' upgrade, or a 'correct upgrade. You should never have a 'best' or 'worst' choice.