Balancerama - The question of Scale and Speed

#1

Over the years I remarked on the state of scale of the game.

When flying over the giant ships lately I noticed that there is something that still could be done.
It only takes a few seconds to cross the biggest ships with all small ships and it did take a much too short time to reach these speeds.
(now that it’s possible to hug them even closer with patch 0.3.5)

I propose to dramatically increase the percepted sizes of Capital ships, Stations and Installations.
I propose doing this by scaling down, gameplay wise, the scale at which small ship combat is happening.

Following things need to be rebalanced for it to be achieved:

  • Small ship translation characteristics / Turbo (Main engine and manoeuvring thrusters)
  • Small Weapon travel speed
  • Small Weapon max travel distance
  • Small Turret Tracking Speed (With addition of a feature that makes “death zones” more fun … someone suggested that but I can’t find it)
  • Warp Entry and Exit Speeds for Small ships
  • Small fixed weapon spread or damage (If the benefit of smaller engagement distances to hit probability is too high)

I think following things don’t need to be touched for this to be achieved:

  • Turn Characteristics of Ships
  • Most Capital Ship Characteristics

I think the scale should be at least cut in half, if not more.
Combat Speeds in interceptors should still feel fast and thrilling. Be more around 200m/s though. Currently takes about 12 seconds to reach 500m/s (Without boost). If it instead took 12 seconds to reach 200m/s that would be one first step.

Boost throws a big wrench into all this balancing. Although it only does this to one/two factor. Time to reach speed and manoeuvrability. Those are quite important though and one main reason why players choose higher combat speeds.

The importance of warp will increase due to this. Players would use it to get closer to installations and even to get from one part of the installation to another.

This would also lower the aiming floor, as engagement distances are reduced drastically. If it overshoots and is too easy other things can be balanced.

Engagement distances haven’t been talked about here a lot but they also play a big role of how combat goes about of course. I lay the focus here on trying to increased percepted scale primarily.

Note that I talk about relative velocities here. When it comes to station and installations this is, of course, the absolute speed reading.
If a convoy flies along at 1km/s and small ships are attacking it, the relative speed matters in that situation when it comes to sense of scale.


Reasoning

In my opinion this is due to the high “combat speeds” usually employed for small ship combat.
The high combat speed, from what I can figure, is a product of ship capabilities, survivability and damage projection. All these factors come together to create a region of optimal speed, depending on the play-stile of the pilot of course too.

There are:

  • Survivability
    • How big is my own ship
    • How fast is the enemy fire and how well can it track my own ship
    • How many hits can I take before I destroy the threat
  • Damage Projection
    • How long is my attack window
    • How easy is the target to hit
    • How much damage can I inflict
  • Ship Capabilities
    • How fast can I accelerate (engine and ship mass consideration)
    • How fast can I change course

As a bonus one there’s pilot capabilities. If too much is happening for the pilot to act/react to at once due to high speeds, this is also a limiting factor to chosen combat speed. Often this is the first way new players choose their combat speed. This in combination with the feel of the ships momentum.

All these factors come together to create the “combat speed”.

  • Survivability
    • The Bigger the ship. The faster it needs to go to outrun the tracking of turrets and players and to survive longer
    • The faster and the better the enemy tracks the faster you need to go to survive longer
    • The more hits you can take the less important surivability becomes
  • Damage Projection
    • If you go faster, you have less time to aim and inflict damage
    • The harder it is to hit the target, the more time you need to inflict damage on it (attack window(s))
    • The more damage you can inflict, the less important other considerations become
  • Ship Capabilities
    • The faster I can accelerate the more time I have to do other things
    • The better I can manoeuvre, the less important other considerations become

In essence:

  • Higher Speed
    • Takes more time to reach, takes away time where you can attack (boom and zoom vs dogfight)
    • More Survivability
    • Due to momentum, less manoeuvrability
      • Less Survivability (Marginal, Tactical Consideration)
      • Less Damage Projection (attack window), no time to speed up, slow down just for the one attack run
    • Less damage Projection due to less time to aim and fire guns
  • Lower Speed
    • Takes less time to reach, more time for attack
    • Less Survivability
    • Due to momentum, more manoeuvrability
      • More Survivability (Marginal, Tactical Consideration)
      • More Damage Projection (attack window), time to speed up, slow down just for the one attack run (stretching the window)
    • More damage Projection due to more time to aim and fire guns

Now, it is debatable to say that even when this is executed perfectly we would be at the exact same point as we are right now, just with small ships fights being closer together and the goal achieved of making these big ships and structures truly seem massive … but still, gameplay wise we would sit at the exact same point we are now … is it worth it?
I think it is. A big selling point of the game is the massive space battles and the limiting factor to this currently is, in my oppinion, how far away everything is and how fast, even with a hundred ships in a battle where most of them are not visible, the battlefield can be crossed in seconds by a small ships going general battle speeds.
It takes away the importance of distance and size as well as the volume these stations, installations and ship take up.

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#2

I have to say i really like the scale and the speed of things as they are. I really feel i am in a powerful spacecraft, not a WW1 fighter plane (exagerating of course but you get the point). Especially in capships, the high speed gives you something no other game really offers: They ALL try to emulate a feel of ships of the line slowly hugging each other, clunky Behemoths that are slow all the time. Here, you slow down for engagement, cause you need to avoid overshooting, but are still pretty fast tactically and strategically. Way slower than small ships, but way faster than other games. You are a 100s of meters iron fist of blazing guns, but you also jump at people at warpspeed, drop out and open up. That is quite unique.

If id change anything, it would be small things: Longer warp cooldown and warp spoolup the larger your ship is. If you engage, you are committed longer. Also, longer warp jam duration.

One big thing to “compress” fights around stations would be station bubble shields that small craft can fly in, and individually taking out Station Turrets. This would make you get closer to the station as small ships. For small ships attacking capitals, targeting turrets could similarly make you go in closer. Right now, one of the main reasons to stay away as a bomber is that you will blow yourself up with your own Torpedo.

As for capship on capship, i think the effective range is perfect. You have to get fairly close to get a good hit percentage, even shorter effective ranges would feel like rock throwing.

Besides, to REALLY feel scale, you have to fly next to stuff in peaceful moments. In combat, you just dont have the time. We could maybe do with some increase in time to kill in some spots. I also think that we could still make atmospheric combat more interesting. Right now, its mostly strafing torpedo runs on stationary targets and getting out again. Once most people have capships, you mostly try to stay out of atmosphere cause it is so dangerous for you in a capship, so fights tend to go back to space where you have less scale references.

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#3

Interesting read. I think I mentionned it a couple times before, but I’ve been following a simlilar train of thought for a while now. So it might be worth testing.

In addition, I’d probably try to reduce the boost efficiency for the main propulsion. Boost would still work well for strafing ( correcting your course quickly ) but not as well to keep accelerating in the same direction than your velocity’s.

On the topic of adjusting small ships accelerations, one issue is that if you shrink their capacities closer to the capital ship’s, you’ll feel less difference between them. Aka the bomber or corvette might not feel as sluggish compared to the interceptor any more.

This is the current acceleration table per ship for the main propulsion (in G’s, aka 1.0 = 10 m/s/s ):

image

As you can see the difference between a destroyer and a bomber isn’t that huge ( 3.3 / 2.2 = 50% higher for the bomber ).

Now of course it would be possible to reduce the acceleration rates for capital ships too… but they already feel pretty sluggish / slow, so I hesitate to go too far in that direction.

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#4

I like Lomsors idea, but I think there is a danger that the handling of the ships would feel even sluggier and overall everything would become slow and tedious.
The problem is that even flying really really fast doesn’t make a big difference visually than flying slow, depending on the distance to reference points, the feel of speed can vary a lot.
Flying really slow and close to cap shits does give a good feel for their true size, but limiting speed by caps or having slow acceleration would not make that much of a difference I think.

What we need are visual and audio effects than enhance the sensation of speed.
For example a wider fov depending on current speed, slightly blurred screen edges and other small but important effects that indicate a high speed (like small dust particles hitting the ship and leaving a tiny impact sparkling sound and having a sparkling trail, roaring engine sound etc.).

Here some speed effects in action, the driven speed is actualy not that much higher but it feels faster:

With effects like that making the ships acceleration slower would be okay without it becoming too much of a slug racer
But please no screen jittering effect…

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#5

Thanks for the participation. :grinning:

I agree! That’s why I didn’t feel like anything should be changed there. I feel like engagement ranges are reasonable. You can see the enemy (capital) ship well. Speeds seem reasonable and fun. They could go a lot faster due to their capabilities but they often don’t (see below).

Some good points there, yes. I would welcome more incentive to hug stations, installations and cap ships. Even going as far as putting certain gamemodes or missions close to them additional to just blowing stuff up.
Still, a increase in percepted scale would help there anyway. Making the space and the “stuff” the artist already created more meaningful. I do a lot of close hugging of stations for fun and we are talking about second here that it takes to circle stations or run along them. I feel like a less capable ship would be forced to go slower so it could hug the surface.

You also disregard how deadly turrets become at close range. One of the big reasons why small ships are forced to go faster the closer in they are … as mentioned someone suggested a solution there to turret behaviour but I can’t remember who it was to link to it.

I disagree there. When you zip back and forth a station and a battle of a few dozen ships encompasses the whole side of a station and you see the station in the Background move a whole lot, or zipping past a couple of capitals in a few seconds. It’s not the same as a fight “infront” of a station where the station pretty much doesn’t move much while the fight is maybe progressing/shifting a few killometers here and there and capitals create some space between themselves and the station they siege … that feels like a space. I feel like anything but the biggest stations (Hebelos and Glimmerfall) have any noticeable size any bigness or presence to them. They should be something you can hide behind given their immense nature.


Thank you for this. Very interesting.

I think one interesting Observation to note is that the bigger the ship, the less time it spends accelerating. Where the Interceptor pretty much constantly is accelerating, the cruiser is often … cruising … at a set speed, maybe dodging incoming fire.

I feel like with bigger ships the focus is much less on the ships engines and momentum and much more on keeping the right distance to target and planning a good approach.

Interestingly. If small ship accelerations would really be cut in half or more, like I suggested, it would put some of the smaller ships bellow the capabilities of capitals.
Is that that huge of a problem though? The only situation I can think off is when capitals try to run away. Here small ships have boost … and even if that gets nerved, a lower warp entry speed. It is a concern, yes, but a rather fringe case if not exploited.

As mentioned just above, from my observation, capitals usually use their full capable engine power much less then small ships do, lowering their effective velocity “produced” in a set time-frame compared to small ships.


For us coming from the other version it might feel that way, yes. If everything gets srinked down though … what is the difference?
Acceleration, Engagement distance, Weapons Speed and Range … all halfed. (for instance)
Only real difference, besides the aimed for scale increase for structures and capitals, is that small and large ships will be more prominent and longer on screen.

Having more visual targets on screen may even help with conveying a sense of speed and scale. Yes they might be zipping about half as fast as they do now, but they will be more numerous and more prominent.

Getting to “terminal velocity” in atmosphere might take longer, yes. As mentioned though, warp will be used more in such a case. To warp close to stuff.

Atmospheric flight is a whole other topic though. Flavien mentioned that there are more things planned there.

#6

Hmm i think there lies the issue.
We don’t have sense of speed because we move so fast we don’t often dare to be too close to installations.
It is just too risky.
The slowness could encourage us to move closer to ship hulls or stations and fight right next to them.
This would convey the real sense of scale. Although there is one other thing that is a problem with this and that is turrets. On big ships they just shred small fighters immediately. on corvettes it makes sense, but not so on big ships.
In other space shooter games (Freespace, StarLancer, X-Wing). Big ships never had much fast or efficient small fighter deterrent weapons. Always those slow firing, moderately fast moving projectiles, that when hit you, you felt it, but if you were maneuvering you could avoid them.(except flak in FS2) Flavien talked about those sounded interesting.
Also you were pretty much useless against big ship only to deal with subsystems or turrets or in a bomber.
It was quite rock paper scissors like.
Bomber beats capitals and installations - fighter beats bombers and fighters - capitals beat capitals and installations and deploy small ships, and can take a beating - corvette is good against small but suck against anything else.
Right now everything is efficient against everything. bigger it is, more efficient it is in general.
Might be realistic but fighters loose meaning after you have money to get better ship.

I believe slowing all things down a bit… Just for a test. To see if it is that bad as predicted.
And letting small ships closer by nerfing capital ships guns (possibly even range of small ships as well) might produce exactly the scenarios when we fight next to them thus giving us that sense of speed.

Very similar topics used to be brought up ad nauseum on EVE forums as well.
But people were so used to old system and keeping it as is. Therefore every battle in EVE was a slug fest of naming one ship that was eliminated in seconds due to focus fire from tens of kilometers distance. While everyone was looking at the game from dot perspective. What a waste of pretty assets. Our fast speeds are creating same here. As a fighter/bomber we are so fast we shoot each other as dots in the distance.
By shortening the distance by limiting weapons range you create much more interesting scenarios.
I say force us closer. Because we as a humans will always pick most safe and efficient way.
Sure good visual effects can help also.

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#7

I feel like ultimately this is suggesting significant game-play shifts for primarily aesthetic goals. Adjusting the acceleration without adjusting the turn rates also isnt something you can do if you also want the same gameplay, the scale of the ships changes and that means all evasion changes, which means different turn rates and turn accelerations are required for the same evasion rates, hitrates, and general gameplay feeling, you’d need to do a lot of accounting. I do think testing this is worthwhile, it’d be nice to try a few scales just to see how they play, but i’d also be afraid of a lot of work being spent re-balancing things like this and being unable to go back if it doesn’t work out or ends up not being an improvement.

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#8

This is a momentary derailment, but OMG please @INovaeFlavien please change capital ship light guns to flak weapons (a la Battlestar Galactica). This would be a huge improvement. Small ships have a chance to evade the flak screen, yet it would certainly discourage pilots from getting too close, and maybe has a chance to take out incoming torpedoes/missiles. Plus it would look awesome.

I guess destroyers could keep the option for light guns if they wanted to equip for precision fighter hunting.

Anyway, continue…

I’m not sure about slowing things down. You would rely a lot more on manoeuvring but the way we can turn and shoot at the moment could turn it into circle fights. We’d have to drastically cut projectile velocity, which runs the risk of everything feeling less punchy.

Maybe things could be tuned down a little, but I don’t think I’d change much. I tend to go fast, get close then reduce my relative velocity anyway so I can keep my target in my sights.

#9

Could you please elaborate? I see hitrates changing due to the larger apparent size of targets which is, in turn, again due to the decreased engagement ranges … but what does it have to do with rotational acceleration?

Yes the ships get relatively bigger compared to the space that is fought inside off which means (other) things that travel and act trough the space needs to be scaled (gameplay wise) accordingly. All the angles stay the same though. Still 360* per the 3 rotational Axis.

Do you think it is impossible or too hard to change scales by changing gameplay/ship/weapon characteristics?

What I’m proposing could be nearly equally achieved by increasing the size of all the structures, stations, planets and capital ships. Because that’s kind of weird to do I rather suggested scaling the gameplay values of small ships and adjacent influential systems instead. The only difference you should notice is that engagement distances changed and enemies are closer and more visible as well as that absolute numbers have decreased.
The general feel of small ship combat should stay exactly the same and it isn’t my intention to change anything there. I don’t think it’s bad.

If the suggestion would change anything with the exception for hit chance I seem to have missed something major and I would like to be informed of it if possible.

Projectile speed would need to be slowed down if the feel and balance should be preserved. The projectiles would still reach the target in the same amount of time though. The target will just be less far away. You could say that, because the projectile has less velocity now, it is less punchy … that’s indeed a potential point. Is your preceived “punchyness” more coming from the speed the projectile is zipping off into the distance or the short delay it has to hit the target?


Yes this all is for aesthetical reasons. To note also that some AI parameters would need to be adjusted so they adapt to the smaller scale.
I still think it is worth it for the nice models and immense scale sake. That’s why I suggested it.
That scale that already works pretty well for the capital ships in my opinion. You fly a behemoth along behemoth installations. The huge mass and size of the capitals and how it acts in collision plays a big role in that too I think.

If it falls trough the grates due to its riskynes or if it’s deemed too low of a priority so be it.


Which makes me think of a thing.

Ship Acc. [G] Length [m] Mass Acceleration to Length Ratio
Interceptor 4.2 15.3 26 0.275
Bomber 3.3 25.2 40 0.131
Corvette 2.8 82 580 0.0341
Destroyer 2.2 460 18000 0.00478
Cruiser 1.8 992 45000 0.00181
Carrier 1 2165 100000 0.0004619

What I try to show with above table is following.
For each meter length, which stands in for the general size of the ship, I try to figure out how much acceleration that ship has compared to the other ships.
Meaning that the smaller ships have much more acceleration per meter length (or generally their size) then the bigger ships.

I argue that this should be a bigger or additional factor in comparing ship accelerations rather then directly comparing them to each other when it comes to what it will actually feel like in the end. I find this defines a ship “nimbleness” much more then just the raw acceleration it outputs … it’s how much it can output compared to its size. How much does it actually mean when I want to move the ship … 1 length of itself over there … and so forth.
People look how faar they come when they accelerate by comparing their own ship with a reference.

Dodging is also a big factor here. The ratio shows much more clearer how easy a ship can dodge, move out of the way of projectiles. I think it might even be a pretty good indicator of that.

When comparing how the ships feel I feel that the difference between destroyer and cruiser is more in the region of multitudes and not just 20% like the acceleration numbers would suggest.

Halfing the acceleration of the small ships would bring their Acc./Length Ratio closer to the capitals in absolute terms but small ships will still be a magnitude above the capitals.

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#10

You basically understand it, i just took the logic one step further. Rotation acceleration affects the player’s accuracy and the other player’s evasion power, it affects the ability to adjust their aim to another player’s evasive acceleration. With ships much bigger on the screen, it becomes easier to hit them, which means you’d need to reduce the rotation acceleration to match the aiming difficulty and get the same gameplay. The turn rates would probably then need to be adjusted to better fit the rot accels. It’s just that evasion is a core mechanic, probably the most important mechanics the interceptor has, here so i dont think it can be handwaved. The size of the ship/engagement range is directly in the equation for evasion, in a sense.

It may also then be worth raising the weapon velocity a bit (raising the adjusted/scaled version) to extend the range a bit to try to push them further apart and restore some evasion power, once the scales are reduced, to try and reduce the feeling of point blank combat you see often in some other games. Doing that then would require more rotational changes to compensate for.

I do think it’s worth testing lots of different balance scales and systems like this. If we had private server support it’d probably be possible for us to do this even just by modifying the XMLs.

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#11

Allright, I think it’s all fair points so in the next patch I’ll rebalance the game over smaller accelerations for small ships while more or less maintaining the current accelerations for capital ships. Weapons projectile speeds and range will also be adjusted accordingly. This should be interesting.

One clear benefit is that ships will be at closer range for dogfighting, which means it should be easier for beginners to hit their target, making the game less elitist. Players will probably adapt quickly to the new balance, however this will probably make veterans have an easier time against NPCs, so it might need AI adjustments / improvements too.

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#12

I would suggest just reducing weapon ranges first. Leave accelerations as they are.

Shorter effective ranges means people will stay at slower relative speeds to stay within range of their target.

If that doesn’t work then accelerations can be changed. I just think it makes sense to adjust one variable at a time.

Also I suspect reducing acceleration would result in people simply over-shooting as they’re unable to show down to engagement velocities quickly enough.

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