Alternative Damage Model


This isn’t really a suggestion, so much as an alternative way of calculating damage that might be worth considering, perhaps even for a future game or Ramcat’s hypothetical GSB 2.0. (I think the fad is just to use the roman numeral II now…)

In a recent mod, I re-scaled the shields to a scale of 0-6 because it bugged me that some shield penetration ratings were higher than the shields they were designed to bypass. The highest resistance shield, for example, is 27. Yet weapon penetrations got as high as 30, 50, 55, etc… they were all over the place. Is this to make room for some future shield expansions? In most cases, it seems the base shield penetration is an adjustment to the weapon’s armor penetration, and armor penetration was simply determined first.

But it got me thinking.

What if the penetration rating of a shield actually correlated to how much damage you can inflict on that shield? This way, weapons with a shield penetration of 55 would be better than a weapons with a shield penetration of 50, even if they were firing at a shield with a significantly lower resistance. The increased penetration would help you get through the shield’s strength.

Here’s how I see it working:

  1. If you attack a shielded target, you inflict damage to the shield strength equal to the SHIELD PENETRATION of the weapon, minus the SHIELD RESISTANCE value.
  2. If you attack an armored target without shields, you inflict damage to the armor equal to the ARMOR PENETRATION of the weapon minus the AVERAGE ARMOR value.
  3. If you attack an unarmored, unshielded target, you inflict damage to the hull based on the DAMAGE RATING of the weapon.

(Obviously, if the shield resistance or average armor is higher than the respective penetration rating, the damage inflicted will be reduced to 0.)

This means that damage done to armor and shields will be based on penetration ratings rather than damage. It also means penetration ratings can be far more important than damage. I think this would allow a wide variety of different types of weapons, and give other weapons more of a functional use even if their damage is higher or lower.

For example, it’s hard to imagine an “anti-shield” weapon in the game. Even if it had a high shield penetration rating, it would have to have a high DPS to take out the shield strength. And if it has a high DPS, you can use that same weapon to strip away the hull points and destroy the ship. A high enough DPS is even effective against armor, so you’ll want to keep the DPS fairly low, which will also limit how effective the weapons anti-shield role is.

Likewise, if you had an effective anti-armor weapon, you either have to give it a high shield penetration (making it a really effective anti-shield weapon also) or a lower shield penetration (making it completely useless against shields). There is no middle ground, which cuts out a lot of potential options. The lack of this middle ground also results in about half the cruiser weapons being able to penetrate any and every shield in the game.

This alternative damage model would allow for weapons that are good at one aspect of combat, but mediocre or average in another. It would also help quantify distinctions between weapons of different penetration ratings, such as 48 and 55. I think the same alternative damage model would benefit armor ratings to some degree, but it seems to me that its MUCH more useful and desirable when considering shield resistance and penetration.


This system sounds a lot like the Starcraft II system.


Nice system.

Just some questions. In the current game shields stop all mass weapons and energy weapons? Are there no weapons that pierce shields leaving them intact (or slightly weakened) and do damage to the target?

I see some shield hits do armor damage, is this “overloaded” shield module “cooking” the hull?

In the same concept of “piercing” weapons to shields, tank and ship combat is filled with piercing weapons. They do relatively little damage to the armor but massive damage to the internals because of the little hole they’ve blown through the armor.

Does your damage model account for that, and what is the math?


Well, as written above, no.

I wasn’t planning on suggesting this here, but I would like an additional penetration variable, represented as a percentage. Basically this would be the percentage of damage that bleeds through armor (armor bleed?) and shields (shield bleed?) even when the attack is blocked by armor/shield defenses. Basically, a total “no effect” (reduction of 0 damage) will also result in no damage to the hull, but if the weapon is capable of damaging the shields or armor, then some percentage of DAMAGE might bleed through to the hull, but not necessarily the same amount as a successful hit on a an undefended target.

I’m not picturing all weapons having this bleed variable, and the bleed variables need not be excessively high, but can be another factor to add to “underdog” weapons. Then you would have a choice between focusing on taking down enemy defenses, or attempting to bypass them altogether. The problem, of course, with bypassing is that your other ships may not benefit from this unless they also have bleeding weapons. This is especially important of the bleeding weapons are mostly short ranged.

I can picture, for example, a nuclear missile that does damage to the hull even if you have armor. Most of the damage might go to the armor, but a small percentage of that would bleed to the hull. Likewise shield bleedthrough could be a property of certain racial “fusion beams” giving them some distinction over typical cruiser beams.

edit: Allowing for bleed damage introduces some other complications though, like having to re-work how modules are hit and what happens when modules are hit. For example, shield generators might need hitpoints now. On the other hand, it would be weird if bleed-through damage took down the shield generator or armor. I’m not 100% sure if that would be desirable or not but at the moment it doesn’t seem like a good thing to me.


This is a nice system, well worked out. Good work sir.

The only thing I would like to add is a mention of critical hits against unshielded targets. I know a lot of people don’t like the critical hit mechanic, but stick with me for a moment please.

On a critical hit, a small amount of hull damage would be added to the damage already dealt. This would apply even to hits that weren’t strong enough to even dent the armor (i.e., 0 armor damage). What the critical hit represents is the shot hitting one of the unavoidable gaps in the ship’s armor (exhaust vents, sensor antennae, weapon mountings). If I have a ship with 99% of its surface covered by armor, even thrown rocks will occasionally hit the parts that aren’t covered. And when I say small damage, I really mean small damage (3-5 points maybe?).

Part of my motivation for bringing this up is an extreme dislike for game situations where things become totally useless; specifically, I’m thinking about fighters against a heavily-armored ship. Taking a strategy and then automatically invalidating part of the gameplay tends to cancel out some of the fun, at least in my experience.


I have a reply but it’s long, maybe I’ll take it in chunks.

First off let’s make some abstractions about ordinance and it’s target (the ship, the armor, and internal modules). At this point I’m not talking about guidance systems or delivery mechanisms (although some of that is implied).

Let’s say for simplicity’s sake there are three kinds of ordinance:

[]Penetrating (Armor Piercing, AP); basically a shaped charge or equivalent effect.[/]
[]High Explosive (HE); basically a big “ball” explosion, used for fragmentation, concussion, killing soft targets inside a hard shell (a ship, tank, etc…), these also do infrastucture damage (bend the ship’s superstructure).[/]
[]Ballistic (no explosive); basically two types AP and non-AP. I’m going to assume all would be AP in terms of this game or that because of all the angles presented in space combat we could abstract all balistics on one scale. BTW, don’t underestimate the power of kinetic kill or kinetic damage. At a high enough speed Ballistic is Penetrating because the state of matter changes and the two colliding matters become explosive (plasma is the primary reason).[/]

Every mass weapon ultimately falls into one of these classes, missiles, machine gun rounds, artillery, nukes, etc…

In your model each ordinace has:

  • DAMAGE RATING - the damage done to an unarmored target
  • ARMOR PENETRATION - the damage done to the armor (TOTAL ARMOR) - the AVERAGE ARMOR value
  • Pentration (bleed) - the percent of damage that goes through the armor to intenal components

The target has

  • TOTAL ARMOR - The sum of each armor module * efficiency (?)
  • AVERAGE ARMOR - no idea how current game makes this calculation

The part you hadn’t brought up is how does pentration work? Being an army guy and having worked on several missile and rocket systems designed to kill tanks I know something about Penetrating (AP) and Balistic (AP and non-AP) and High Explosive weapons/warheads.

The kind of penetrating weapons we are used to (modern millitary weapons) have much more pentration power than the thickness of the armor can withstand. Just for argument sake lets say our armor we are talking about is a piece of armor one foot thick. Few of anything we have sports armor like this but we assume that our capital ships would sport much greater thicknesses of armor than this.

Lets say we have three weapons, each an AP but with different depths of penetration possible to our armor. We have a 6 inch, a 12 inch (a foot), and an 18 inch weapon. What happens when we fire them into the plate of armor?

  • 6 inch: Armor gets a 6 inch hole (let’s say) one inch around. Hardly any damage. All the explosive force bounces off the target.
  • 12 inch: 0 to 1% of the total explosive force goes through the plate. The rest forms a cone shapped hole 2 inches at the top and zero (pinhole) to 1/8 of an inch at the bottom. Again not much damage.
  • 18 inch: 90% of the total explosive force goes through the plate. A 3/4 inch hole at the bottom and 2 inch hole at the top.

Wait that doesn’t add up, you say? The third one should have spent 75% of its energy to penetrate 1 foot. And while I can’t tell you the exact reason it just doesn’t work that way. If the charge penetrates, a huge amount of force goes through, if it doesn’t nothing goes through but is reflected back into the atmosphere (space). And reactive armor is a whole additional discussion I won’t get into here.

I’ll follow this up and make my point later…


What we aren’t talking about in terms of balancing armor issues is the thickness of the armor and the types of ordinance hitting it. There is one other factor, the curve of the armor/infrastructure of the ship. A one foot sphere of inch thick steel is much harder to penetrate than a ten foot sphere of the same one inch thick steel. While I didn’t model HE and Ballistic and the effect they have on armor (I will if you want), AP will highlight the issues.

So lets say our weapons we are shooting are of the 18 inch penetration type. And the enemy cruiser has on average 5 feet of armor. How many hits do we have to do to penetrate?

Four, if you are Robin Hood, or Daisy Duke, meaning you stacked that damage right down the same hole perfectly. But how many in game terms (shooting from all angles, etc…)? Hundreds, thousands depending on the square area of the plate. As you soften up that surface of plate by driving 18 inch holes into it, you provide voids and angles that deflect your attacks back into space with little or no damage.

In the model I presented above, just putting a one inch plate, one inch above the one foot armor, would be enough deflection to prevent the 18 inch penetrating weapon from penetrating the one foot plate (it would put a 6 inch hole in the one inch plate, and barely penetrate (2 inches) the one foot plate).

Ok, at some point our shots are going to losen up that plate such that large chunks of it are going to start to fall off. This is going to result in actual penetrations that will deliver the force of that weapon inside the ship/behind the plate. It might be worth noting that had we put some Balistic or HE against this plate in addition to our AP rounds it would have come apart much quicker, causing catastrophic failure (penetration).

To acurately model the damage done to a capital ship takes a huge amount of book-keeping, more than you want to do coding this game. Leviathan players know what I am talking about. The really big desicion the game designer has to make is: does the game regionalize armor? If you go the route of regionalized armor, you also begin to go down the path of weapon arcs, facing and being able to roll my ship over to prevent showing the side you’ve already lost your armor on.

I am going to presume we don’t want to go down that route. I play Battlefleet Gothic (love the weapons abstractions) but don’t think that kind of ship would appeal to me in this game. I like Cliffski’s “3D” ships that don’t need to face or rollover (Leviathan tactic). Given that, I’m going to say armor is kept track of on a ship wide basis, no regions.

Actually before I get to the mechanics I realized there is a bit more to talk about. The above quote is more the “feel” of the game I would be striving for.

Lets look at HE weapons for a second. These weapons have very low penitration from an explosives standpoint. What their explosives do though is to create a shockwave that is very destructive. In space there is less matter, so shock waves may be less useful. Ah, so what is HE good for in space, the other thing it is good for on planets, creating Ballistic weapons, AKA shrapnel. These shrapnel at capital ship scale weapons would weigh as much as SUVs and produce hundreds(?) of ballistic pieces. There is one more effect, when an HE weapon is in contact with the target. Assuming it can’t penetrate the armor, where does all that energy go? Some light, early anti tank mines are good examples, they bend things. Bend tank wheels, struts, axels, chassis, bulkheads, and treads (treads die when bent). And when between two parts of a tank they rip them apart.

Ballistics: Are the work horse of any army. Most of the explosives we throw at the enemy are designed to create ballistics at point of impact. Your rifles, pistols all ballistic. But at capital ship scales we start to play with ballistics just a bit bigger than anything we’ve built here. Although we have some inkling of what those future weapons might look like. Rail Guns. A quick search of the internet says they have guns that shot 10 miles/second (16000 meters/s). I know of a gun with a 20 foot barrel/rail that shots a 12 ounce steel and kevlar block 62 miles/second in earth atmosphere. It is the velocity in relation to the mass that determines what these weapons do to the target (and the target mass matters too).

Here’s where all this comes together, the framework holding the armor. Imagine building a framework that represents a capital ship out of rolled paper (small paper tubes) and coating that framework with cardboard. Then throwing lightweight beanbags at it:

  • Light throw - bounces off
  • Medium throw - bend cardboard
  • Hard throw - bend cardboard and supporting framework tube
  • Really Hard throw (at framework point) - cardboard bends but framework bends/breaks
  • Really Hard throw (between framework points) - maybe rip cardboard, bent multiple struts

Keep this up for a time, what happens? Probably the framework fails before the outer armor does. It just can’t rcover from being bent. The more framework the stronger, but less space internally. And modules are in direct competition for the space needed to make an indestructable framework. They are the “soft” spots of the ship.

To sum up ballistics they beat the ship to peices, bend, fold, mutilate, and spindle. At high enough velocities, and molten metal projectiles (and the like), ballistics become AP.

Blah, blah, blah… this became way too long winded.

Ok mechanics, I’m going to give the short version of them (assuming no framework interaction):

Penetrating Weapons (AP)

  • If they fail to penetrate: Do 10% of their total damage to armor, the rest is lost to space.
  • If the penetrate: They deliver 1% to 90% to internal components (hull) depending on how much penetration exceeded armor thickness, 10% to armor.
  • No armor: 100% damage to internal components (hull).


  • 100% of damage to armor.
  • No armor: 100% damage to internal components (hull).


  • Formula for relative mass/velocity compared to target mass, so they either act like HE or AP. For example, a fighter struck by a Ballistic intended for a cruiser is going to take an AP hit (and the tissue paper that is left over can be used to wipe you nose).

Ok, I know this got a little weak at the end. I read Cliffski’s blog. Game IV. I mean, more power to Cliffski. I hope he does well but development ends on GSB, at least for a long (time to write a new game) while. And I do truely mean ‘more power’. I’d love to write a game. Granted the app I am working on right now has a huge sales base many people use my products (about 400,000 users every day) but games are that special kind of software every developer wants to write.


Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but modern armor is designed to distribute damage as much as possible to prevent the creation of holes and similar concentrations of damage. There’s no reason to assume this trend won’t continue in the future, with armor designed to distribute impact damage throughout the ship and armor and even beyond it, if possible.

Also, I’m just curious, are you classifying lasers and “fusion beams” in the same category as high explosive munitions?

What a coincidence. I just happen to have a ship design named Federation Robin Hood.

You are such a tease.


I haven’t moved on to energy weapons yet. Sorry if I wasn’t clear but I’m only talking about “mass” weapons.


Where was this going?

Are you saying that Armor Thickness should be used to determine resistance, separately from total armor value? Like shields?


Yes, and better worded than I might have put it!!

Armor thickness is a critical factor in dealing with armor penetration.

Now the current damage model does have a mechanism for dealing with this in a round about way. I see “No Effect” hits from a cruiser being bombarded by fighters, and occasionally one “Armor -2 (lucky shot)”. I’d call that a “critical” hit. Sorry to bring this up on an armor thread, but shouldn’t shields suffer the same kind of criticals? After thousands of rockets fired into them they should weaken slowly over time.

Back to armor, thickness needs to reduce over time, representing the armor being stripped off. As it thins penetration becomes easier.

Why this needs to be a seperate variable from TOTAL ARMOR is the rates or removal are different (but are a function). Example: If the total armor was 500 and thickness was 5, it takes 100 armor lost before thickness becomes 4.

If your penetrating weapons are a 5 at the start of the battle they do not penetrate, but when 125 armor has been lost thickness is 3.75 and the 5 penetrator will penetrate and do 90% of its damage inside the armor!


So if I’m following this line of reasoning correctly, each armor module should grant a cumulative resistance value, representing thicker overall armor. As each module is taken out due to damage (representing massive fire concentrated in one area?), the resistance value no longer would add to the total.

Of course, in practicality, there is no way of concentrating fire in this manner, and your hits will be spread out all over the place, damaging each piece of armor only slightly and leaving the overall resistance intact, unless you were very, very lucky.

Which is basically how you’re proposing armor actually works, right?

As for shields, my thoughts are:

  • Shield performance should be linked with abundant power supply. Additional power should allow for faster regeneration.
  • Shield resistance should fall as shields take damage, but raise again as shield strength regenerates.
  • Shield resistance should be higher when the ship is not moving or firing weapons.
  • Large ships should have a reduced resistance value as the shield bubble is “stretched” over the whole ship.

All of this would probably involve replacing the “resistance value” of shields to some sort of “shield to strength-point” ratio.


Yes it it.

And the above examples about penetration don’t take that into account, I have been talking about plate steel.

There are two main types of defence employed today that make armor less penetratable, reactive and laminate (layered).

Reactive is just pure fun one time defence - put an angled explosive ON your armor (there are some multi layered (explosive, steel, cushion, explosive, steel) but that design prolly wouldn’t work in space, especially being hit by energy weapons which could ignite all the layers at once (can you say “boom”)).

Layered is very cool. Early design, 1/4 inch steel, half inch plywood, 1/4 inch steel. Shoot it with a penetrating weapon that would penetrate 1 inch plate and it would fail to penetrate the laminate. The problem with this design is that Ballistics tear it up. 50 Cal machine gun can eat it. So layering got more complex, steel, kevlar, exotic metal hybrids, woven metal cloth, foam (if you can believe it), etc…

Still most layered stuff does resist penetration hundereds of times better but it is ultimately weak to Ballistics (it suffers stress fractures over time and falls apart).


Yes, resistance to penetration stays high until you strip off massive amounts, depending on the ratio of how deep your penetrating weapons go compared to thickness.

This is hard to figure out in game terms.

How thick is the armor?
How deep does X value (total damage) penetrator, penetrate?

If your BIG penetrator can go halfway down average armor, you have to lose 1/2 of your armor to be penetrated (if you are lucky). But if your BIG penetrator can only go 1/10 of the way down, you have to lose 90% (or more) of your armor to be penetrated.


Given that on a larger ship (more modules), the Average Armor value will be lower than on a smaller ship (with less modules), wouldn’t be reasonable to assume that Average Armor is the thickness of the armor, perhaps represented in cm?

if so, then armor penetration should likewise be a measure of how much thickness (Average Armor) can be penetrated by a weapon in a single shot, perhaps also measured in cm.


Also sorry to continue this in an armor thread, promise I’ll keep it quick.

Not necessarily. Armor, by its nature, has to have weak spots. Not so much a single plate of armor, but a ship covered by them. Seams between plates. Exhaust ports. Sensor packages. Weapon mounts. Any place that isnt part of a smooth armor plate. (You can’t build a ship like that, because nothing could get in and nothing could get out. No thrust, no weapons, sensors only if they can penetrate the armor with radiation etc.)

A shield, theoretically, could be a single unbroken energy field with no variations anywhere on the surface. No variations = no weak points = no critical hits. As the shield weakens, for each offensive weapon it goes from a state of invulnerability to a state of vulnerability, all at once.

So shield criticals are really more of a game mechanic issue than a translation of “real” conditions.

End rant. :slight_smile:


Just to clarify: I don’t consider this an armor thread.
Your comments on shields, armor, or any other aspect that may improve this alternative damage model are more than welcome. Shields definitely have their place in the discussion.



Good points, BUT, a shield has to use power to stop even small rockets. I’m not seeing this in fighter vs cruiser matches where fighter weapons are producing “no effect” results. In NEC 1 there are cruisers taking 100,000 shield hits but the shields never fail. This is the core of my problem with this game and the lack of bombers, we use laser fighters as bombers and missile/rocket fighters as anti fighter! It’s backward. With all the hits happening the shield should be overpowered and fail. True, if it was only a few rockets the shield would hold, and could not be overpowered.

So if we had a mechanism like the one for armor, where a small percentage of shield “no effect” shots did “shield -2 (crit)”, massed fire could overload a shield and take it down.

Ah, like my argument 76 Cruiser Lasers hitting a reflective shield should weaken the shield, and sustained fire would collapse it.

Appologies to the armor thread…


@Cetiah Nova

cm? How about 30 feet (10 meters)? That’s a really good question, are these Star Trek like ships (skin thin armor) or Battle Fleet Gothic like ships (tens of meters of armor)?

I would think average armor THICKNESS would be greater on bigger ships.

And why do armor modules loss effectiveness when you add more? The game mechanism to make specializing more expensive is kind of flawed when it comes to physical properties of steel plate. In terms of a new Damage Model, shouldn’t armor always be 100% effective and maybe 110% when you combine the right types (layering?)?


It really doesn’t matter what scale you use. You started with an analogy on tank armor, so I tried to keep it relatively on par with that scale. Besides, given the length of these ships (about 200 meters on the cruisers, less than 100 meters on the frigates), an armor thickness of 10 meters seems an unreasonable assumption to me. (But I find the length values inappropriate anyway.)

Not sure how you come to that assumption. With the same amount of material, I can cover a smaller ship with a thicker shell than I could cover a larger ship. On the other hand, the larger ship could hold more material – which can be represented with additional armor modules. In other words, the larger the ship is, the more material is needed to produce the same thickness (which means more weight and cost), but the more room (module space) is available to add that material. Hence, Average Armor.

Yes, completely agreed. This is an artificial attempt to create some sort of balance in the game, but I don’t think it makes much sense or is very effective.