Mar 2, 2014

(Re)Balance Beams

Weapon Balance is the hottest subject in the comments section. Some of the issues raised can be addressed pretty quickly, like giving Chainblade the full Tension bonus instead of one half or clarifying that Missile Massacre's negatives only apply to the attacked Enemy. By far the most important part of the debate is about Beam Weapons though. And I've talked about them briefly myself. They are clearly a better choice if you have the XP to spare, but at most Power Levels you don't have that.

Depending on how you look at it, this is either a bug or a feature. The verdict on that won't be out for a while, but that does not mean you have to sit idly by and wait while the judge works. I said in the first post of this new blog that communication is key in game design, and this is the perfect opportunity to put that to the test. I've been sort of experimenting (I like experiments, as you can tell if you look at the header) with the Beam rules, and I might as well show you how some of it is going.

They each have their own quirks, and I'm interested in seeing which version(s?) you like best. As a final note, all these versions are written with the removal of Experimental Reactor in mind. Without further ado, let's get into it.


There is a world of difference between some of these options.

Exhibit A - Premium Beams

Beam (X) (Premium)
The energy-based equivalent of either of the above, Beam Weapons can be laser cannons or blades made of light. Their output varies depending on how much Element G is pumped into the weapons themselves. With enough juice, they are harder to dodge and pierce the armor of targets much better than their more physical counterparts. You may spend an amount of Energy up to the number between parentheses when using a Beam Weapon, increasing the result of the Might Test by the amount spent. 

Beam Saber (Premium)
Melee Weapon (10)
Effect: Beam (4).
A favorite for its low energy consumption, solid armor-piercing power, compact size and overall practicality. Mass produced and made standard issue for most factions.

Beam Rifle (Premium)
Shooting Weapon (10)
Effect: Beam (4).
Cheap to produce and easy to use, it makes a great all-purpose Weapon if you can get around its craving for energy.

Pros of Premium Beams:
-Extremely powerful and efficient.
-You can spend 0 if you are somehow entirely out of juice.
-They have all the pros of the last two exhibits, really.

Cons of Premium Beams:
-High MP cost and linear Energy dependency makes them very Expensive.
-You're really going to need a tank with all you're spending on attack power.
-Individual Weapons are a bit hard to design though not too much.

These are the least different from BCG's current Beam Weapons on a practical level. They take the idea of Beams being specialty guns stronger than the norm to its logical conclusion. They are more or less the current Beams with Experimental Reactor in-built into them. They're going to need tough drawbacks to balance abilities like Long-Range and Blast though. With that said they don't really change things much, though they are probably more fun to play with than the current Beams.

Exhibit B - Variable Beams

Beam (X) (Variable)
The energy-based equivalent of either of the above, Beam Weapons can be laser cannons or blades made of light. Their output varies depending on how much Element G is pumped into the weapons themselves. With enough juice, they are harder to dodge and pierce the armor of targets much better than their more physical counterparts. You may spend as much Energy as you want when using a Beam Weapon, increasing the result of the Might Test by half the amount spent.


Beam Saber (Variable)
Melee Weapon (5)
Effect: Beam.
A favorite for its low energy consumption, solid armor-piercing power, compact size and overall practicality. Mass produced and made standard issue for most factions.

Beam Rifle (Variable)
Shooting Weapon (5)
Effect: Beam.
Cheap to produce and easy to use, it makes a great all-purpose Weapon if you can get around its craving for energy.

Pros of Variable Beams:
-Cheap in Mecha Points.
-Energy costs are as high as you can afford to spend, including 0.
-Pretty strong at high Power Levels.

Cons of Variable Beams:
-Weak investment returns for Energy spent.
-Needs someone to tank for them so they can spend all their Energy offensively.
-Individual Weapons are hard to design since I cannot use fixed Energy costs as a drawback.

Variable Beams are more or less how I originally wrote Beam Weapons, but between being pretty weak early on and having to come up with unique mechanics for every single Weapon I wasn't too fond of them. If I tried enough, I'd get around the latter problem but the former is something of a tougher issue. Beams are, in fiction, almost always superior to material weapons so that was the deciding issue there. But they are there, and are one of the possible options we could go with. I still have a soft spot for them, honestly, and think they could work well.

Exhibit C - Boosted Beams

Beam (X) (Boosted)
The energy-based equivalent of either of the above, Beam Weapons can be laser cannons or blades made of light. Their output varies depending on how much Element G is pumped into the weapons themselves. With enough juice, they are harder to dodge and pierce the armor of targets much better than their more physical counterparts. Beam Weapons have an optional Energy cost between parentheses you can pay for to grant them an Advantage to their Might Test.

Beam Saber (Boosted)
Melee Weapon (5)
Effect: Beam (3).
A favorite for its low energy consumption, solid armor-piercing power, compact size and overall practicality. Mass produced and made standard issue for most factions.

Beam Rifle (Boosted)
Shooting Weapon (5)
Effect: Beam (3).
Cheap to produce and easy to use, it makes a great all-purpose Weapon if you can get around its craving for energy.

Pros of Boosted Beams:
-Cheap in Mecha and Energy terms.
-Custom Advantage is easy to earn but not obligatory.
-Easy to design individual Weapons with, since they are more or less like the current Beam Weapons.

Cons of Boosted Beams:
-Not very efficient energy to attack power ratio.
-They don't scale very well since they lack Experimental Reactor and cost too much to use with Weapon Specialization.
-Technically weaker than the current Beam Weapons.

This is probably the system most superficially similar to the current one. You can use their standard version or spend some energy to grant them an Advantage. It is simple and gets the job done. It is pretty easy to visualize how most current Weapons would end up with this change in, just make their Energy cost a little more expensive (Probably +2) and you're done. Obviously it'll be more complex than that and will have to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, but that's the gist of it. By far the most practical option of the bunch in terms of implementation.

Exhibit D - Fixed Beams

Beam (X) (Fixed)
The energy-based equivalent of either of the above, Beam Weapons can be laser cannons or blades made of light. Their output varies depending on how much Element G is pumped into the weapons themselves. With enough juice, they are harder to dodge and pierce the armor of targets much better than their more physical counterparts. Beam Weapons have an Energy cost between parentheses you must pay when using them, but increase the result of your Might Test by the same amount.

Beam Saber (Fixed)
Melee Weapon (5)
Effect: Beam (1).
A favorite for its low energy consumption, solid armor-piercing power, compact size and overall practicality. Mass produced and made standard issue for most factions.

Beam Rifle (Fixed)
Shooting Weapon (5)
Effect: Beam (1).
Cheap to produce and easy to use, it makes a great all-purpose Weapon if you can get around its craving for energy.

Pros of Fixed Beams:
-Costs 5 per Weapon.
-Very cheap energy costs for high attack power.
-Almost always stronger than material Weapons.

Cons of Fixed Beams:
-No scaling whatsoever.
-They need innate drawbacks to compensate for their raw power.
-By far the hardest to design since they are very strong and need considerable drawbacks.

Fixed Beams read like they're closer to the ones BCG uses, but play very differently since they all have drawbacks to compensate. In fact they are so strong that their version of Experimental Reactor has to hurt the user to keep them in check. Energy Costs would be around 1-3 for the most part, with Techniques and their ilk being allowed to use 4 and 5 since they would have negative traits up the wazoo anyway. I honestly am not even sure these have what it takes to carry 10+ Weapon designs in them, making them my least favorite of these four.

Beam Me Up

I was going to experiment with these privately over the next few months, but if there is interest I could adapt the current arsenal to these variant rules and post them here instead. That way you can have a better look at them beyond their very most basic forms and even try them out yourself. I won't be expanding all of them though, because this stuff takes time! I can do one or two armories this month, depending on how difficult to design and test they are, so that's what this month's poll is about. Choose one or choose none, it is up to you.

19 comments:

  1. Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but aren't the Fixed beams like Premium Beams but worse? Sure, they're cheaper, but also fundamentally worthless since they lack options and the defaults just suck. Why would you take a Beam Saber when the Dueling Blade exists? If you want to do damage, you take the weapon that does the most and most reliable damage. If you don't want to deeps...why are you taking beams again?

    On that note, Beams need a clear design direction first and foremost. All of these ideas could be workable, but what they do needs to be determined properly. Are they meant to be options you can take from the get-go or lategame picks? Are they meant to be the damager's choice or more all-purpose weapons? These decisions determine what sort of design you need. Regardless though, there's one thing that can be agreed on: Beam Weapons need *competitiveness*. Except for maybe the Premium Beams, all the other Beam Sabers are noncompetitive with the Dueling Blade, which just chokes them out under the power of 'so hey, I get a really easy Advantage and you don't!'. It may be that that weapon is overpowered, but I think it's more that the 'energy buy-in' for all the Beams is just too high. Regardless of Beam type, Beams are supposed to offer you an offensive way to spend your Energy that isn't the super costly Weapon Specialization. If it costs so much EN to perform better than an energyless weapon (once again, the dueling blade), there's not much reason to get a Beam in the first place. The cost of getting a Beam Weapon up to speed really needs to be lower early on, and then it can scale up to whatever point you want it to be so as to keep it more balanced. Having to spend 4 EN to match or exceed a vanilla weapon is just way out of line and totally not worth the effort, which makes it particularly sad that that is the baseline for every single beam version. It's probably a good idea to sneak in the current iteration of the Beam keyword into all models somehow, because it makes them significantly less painful in general.

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  2. All of those are pretty bad and don't solve the problem with beam weapons. There is also huge gap between melee and ranged.

    Normal melee has murderous dueling blade with +2 bonus for free. Melee also needs overbooster that limits your energy.

    Making a beam weapon to compete dueling blade is hard. You need to make the ratio 1 EN for +1 might at least.

    Normal ranged weapons however have very minor advantages and there is NO weapon that grants advantage all the time. At best you can count the weapon ability as +1. Might:EN 1:1 ratio on beam ranged weapons completely outclasses normal weapons and makes beam snipers insane. 1:2 ratio is kinda reasonable and gives you higher damage but at a reasonable price. 1:2 might be too low. Maybe 2:3 would be alright. 1:1 is definitely too much.


    Overall:
    Variant A - melee ok / ranged OP
    Variant B - melee terrible / ranged kinda weak
    Variant C - melee weak / ranged kinda weak
    Variant D - melee a tad weak / ranged kinda OP

    My solution: Just remove experimental reactor and leave everything else as is.
    Beam weapons are pretty even with normal weapons as is. It's the reactor that breaks the balance.

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    1. If you remove reactor make beam rifle/saber cost 5 XP too because they don't replace normal 2 weapons so beam tax is unjustified.

      Or just make the reactor cost 20 MP which is basically removal but would make it worthwhile with 10 Might and allow further beam weapon scaling on high power levels.

      Delete
  3. You also mention tanks a few times.

    In BCG there are no tanks.

    To be an effective tank you need a taunt ability to draw enemy attacks or zone of control ability that prevents enemies to move past you (Attack of opportunity). BCG lacks abilities like that. (that one genre power that lets you take HALF of damage for somebody is terrible, it needs to be full damage to even be considered worthwhile, and even then it has very few uses and high opportunity cost)

    If you make a tough mech the enemy will just ignore you and kill others and leave you for last.

    There are other options to increase your team survivability but I wouldn't call them tanking.

    1) Gravity territory. Best option to cover beam weapon users. Also decent as backup defense in case your primary gets maimed. 3 defense for 1 EN is very good ratio. Just slap one on all-rounder mech in your team. Overall good and effective system.

    2) Stealth system. Potentially game breaking. 5 EN for something like +5 defense to you and all adjacent allies. Stacks with normal defenses too. All mechs need to be adjacent so it'd only work with team of snipers. Makes you kinda vulnerable to blast weapons, but the massive defense bonus allows you to just tank them so it's not that big of a deal. Combine with 1) for maximum effectiveness.

    A team of 3 beam snipers, 1 normal sniper with gravity territory and support with stealth system in the middle is one of the most effective team compositions I can imagine. Even if they were grunts they could wipe out the player team.

    3) Jury rigging. 1 EN:1HP ratio is meh. It has 1 range too and limited uses. Not worth it.

    4) Melee builds. Engage enemy in duel to lock them down. It can't be a tank build because if you don't deal damage the enemy can just attack somebody else and trigger your free attack but unless it's a serious threat it won't work.

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  4. Also
    Powered rifle + reactor + integrated weapons = 30 XP
    Beam weapons are extremely good even on level 0. You don't need any spare XP that you don't have on most power levels.

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  5. That's a bit disingenious. Electrosapper Pods can work just like an 'advantage all the time' weapon damagewise, though admittedly they aren't as accurate. I also don't think range is particularly OP with decent damage. Melee still hurts more once it actually closes in after all, and if the Infinite Blade exists it can still engage from afar with relative parity. I do agree that melee suffers because it has to measure up to the dueling blade though (and thinking about it, ranged really needs some reliable, useful weapons that aren't one-shot or side-build enablers. Why is its most reliable advantage granter the anti air missile again?). In theory, implementing the current Beam keyword solves the issue, the problem is finding a way to write it in that isn't awfully clunky. Maybe split Beam into two keywords, Beam and Overcharge? That'd allow for relatively clutter-free setups, and also open up design space because you could have a weapon that could trade energy on a 1:1 basis but not add a default advantage, or a weapon that had a default advantage but not the 1:1 tradeoff. You could do fun things with that, and possibly even port Overcharge over to nonbeams so that Beamstuff isn't the only good offensive endgame option.

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  6. Praise the sun! Give us a rainbow! I want to perform vertical docking with your cargo bay!

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    Replies
    1. Guys I swear I'm not the sun god. I just wear a toga and a funny golden hat because I like it.

      Delete
  7. Directionwise, Beams have always been intended to be a little bit stronger but at an opportunity cost. That's what they currently are, and in general these variants all aim for a similar goal. It is clear that later in the game they are basically the superior pick, and that could be a bug or feature depending on feedback. There's certainly been enough friction to make me consider these other options.

    All Weapons have by default conditional Advantages from being Melee or Shooting, and then another conditional Advantage specific to them on top or relatively comparable ability. Beam Weapons have the Advantages from Melee/Shooting, then their condition for the other Advantage would be paying up 1-3 Energy.

    Dueling Blade: If the problem is that they cannot compare to Dueling Blade (when basically nothing else can) the problem lies with Dueling Blade. Dueling Blade needs a tweak, and if that proves unworkable (not unthinkable given it is limited in what you can do with it conceptually) the axe.

    On Tanking: If Experimental Reactor gets axed we'll need a replacement general Upgrade that could take an 'aggro' management role. Stealth Field is practically this already because you make attacking the rest of your team a losing proposition. But when the entire team needs to move as a single unit, they inevitably move at the speed of the slowest team member, and that can be exploited.

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  8. Ranged beams are superior option from the very start not late game.

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  9. Melee weapons should have some advantage over ranged weapons. It's better to buff other weapons to the level of dueling blade rather than remove it.

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  10. If I may, I have some suggestions for Dueling Blade:
    1) Instead of giving it an Advantage, it gives +1 to Might when attacking with it.
    2) Instead of giving it an Advantage, it gives a reroll to attacks when attacking with it.

    In essence, 1 and 2 gives the user "half" of an Advantage, which I believe nerfs it enough so that Beam Melee weapons are seen as being more attractive.

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  11. Assuming the Dueling Blade is nerfed, then I have no problems with Premium or Fixed Beams (or even Boosted Beams if properly EN costed). Variable Beams are just a waste though because they're like a worse pre-buff Chainblade that does not scale, so they'd need something more than what was listed to be worth spending time and effort on.

    As for Beams being automatically superior lategame, that's something I'd like to see addressed. I have no problems with Beams being the 'damage choice', but there's no reason the game can't have more weapons like the Boosted Lance, which can match (and sometimes, exceed) Beams with a focused build and enough effort. It makes for a healthier game than 'welp I hit PL3, time to cash in my SRW Upgrade voucher so I can have a useful build for the home stretch', which is what happens to non-Beam dedicated damage dealers right now.

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  12. Replacing Dueling Blade's Advantage with a simple +1 is probably what will end up happening. I'd like to give it a real drawback and keep the advantage for consistency's sake, but I've made similar changes in the past. Boosted Lance used to, for instance, grant Advantages per every 3 Zones moved which was kind of clunky to say the least.

    Even if Beams end up not being preferable at the high end, I'd like to have more variety as well. This goes for the basic '+1 Advantage when X' types and 'build around me' Lance/Sapper types. It is pretty much at the top of my priority list once the base game is ready, because diversity is nice.

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  13. On that note, the Sapper could probably use a bit of a redesign if it's a 'build around me' weapon. Compared to the Boosted Lance, it has the enormous disadvantage that it gets weaker as you go up in power, because your Systems eventually caps out and enemies start having higher and higher scores (with Bosses likely having maxed out Systems by PL3 or so). There's nothing more awful than a weapon that defines your character's schtick...and which has variable damage, which you have no control over. The concept is sound, it's just that the execution is off because right now all it is is a really inefficient mook mower.

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  14. Bosses will pretty much never have maxed out systems much less on PL3.

    Sapper is fine in concept but in reality it's meh. Support options suck aside from gravity territory and stealth field.
    Even if they were better, dedicated support mechs will have 0 Might at start and will cap out at 4-5 might if they even bump it at all. Getting bonus damage from sapper is only possible if you pass the might test which will be pretty hard.

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  15. Bosses are very, very likely to have high Systems, actually. It gives them the option to ruin a party's day with Bullet Hell, provides near-immunity to Extreme Terrain, and allows them to make more effective use of Support upgrades, which are ridiculously good on bosses when combined with Commander Type because they can ravage a party. Generally you can expect a boss to have high Might, good Guard, and high Systems and Energy in some order.

    I strongly disagree with the idea that Support options suck, though. Airstrike is +Tension true damage and Ensnaring Trap can turn an unhittable enemy into a joke for the entire party to smoke in a single turn, Somebody on every team needs to have Jury-Rig to prevent random enemy high rolls from taking anybody out, too, and of course the tension-denial ability (I forget the name) can act as effectively a bonus Gravity Territory if used past round 3, except it gets better. Support is very legit, it just has a kinda slow start in rounds 1 and 2 because at most you're likely going to spam Ensnaring Traps, since your allies are still healthy at that point and so much stuff you have runs off Tension.

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  16. Extreme terrains doesn't do shit to you even without maxed systems.
    We already went over commander type and support upgrades.

    Bombardment deals 3x damage of aristike.
    Distruptor scale at HALF tension so it needs turn 6 not 3 to match gravity territory.
    Support is useless and getting another attacker is MUCH more effective.

    For a boss maxed might or guard is much higher priority than systems.
    I can't even think of a support oriented boss concept that' snot super weak.

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  17. Tanking could be made possible through Electronic Warfare systems.
    Many modern targetting systems can be set to simply go straight for a source of emissions (think HARMs and general wild-weasel tactics).

    Way back in an earlier version of GGG, when the tension-brutalizing AoE missiles were non oneshot, such a caveat would have made my own unit a perfect example: not particularly damaging, but "needs to go down first".

    Unless you have abilities that let you take a hit for another at range - and even then they mustn't be costing resources or actions much at all for them to let one actually "be a tank", then being insanely tough but slow and weak is basically worthless. No one is (nor should) going to bother aiming at the giant lunar-titanium brick when it's all those other easily destroyable things that are actually being a threat. It takes force-scripted AI brain damage to have the standard 'tanking' in the style we think of in MMOs.

    But if you're causing significant disruption, that's a different affair entirely. Different systems with different drawbacks could allow you to juggle your weaknesses like an artillery type juggles shattered husks of mooks.

    One missile pack could be like the old tension-killer, halving effective tension on targets in the area for all purposes EXCEPT aiming at the unit that deployed it.

    One beam system could lock onto a unit, providing significant damage (perhaps as a 1:1 beam ratio weapon) and ruining their ability to produce active defenses until the beginning of your next turn, but in exchange allowing them to expend up to as much energy as you did, effectively letting them do the beam thing no matter what their weapon (or in addition to their own beam system variant), IF they choose to fire back at you with a non-area attack, as a kind of feedback bonus.

    And so on and so forth.

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