Attack Drones

Anyway, one of the units I’m working on in my unbelievably unfinished mod is an attack drone.

Anyhow, here’s the basics
It uses the Rebel Odin Frigate hull, resized to be just slightly bigger than fighter sized (call it 14x14 in the text file). I decided on using frigate hull so I could place them in the number I wanted, and I wouldn’t limited to packs of 16 drones.

It has one hardpoint, one module slot, and produces ten power.

There’s an engine (5 power drain, 0 crew, 15 thrust, 1 HP, 12 cost, 3 weight).

There’s an offensive missile launcher, firing Sprint-Capable Close Assault Missiles (5 power drain, 0 Crew, 1 HP, 14 weight, 25 cost, 25 damage, 20000 fire interval, 2.25 missile speed, 350 range, 5.0 tracking, 5.0 turnspeed, 45 shield penetration, 40 armor penetration, no decoys, ). Statwise, the missiles are the same as the sprint-missile launchers on my cruisers, save the lowered power drain, crew requirements, lower weight, lower range and uber-long fire interval. The cooldown is so long is because I wanted to make them kinda-sorta one-time use deal, but if the enemy can’t kill them in 20 seconds, well, have at it.

The drones are meat to fighters, what with only 2 HP and basically zero offensive ability against fighters. The missiles do have the tracking, speed and damage to kill a fighter, but they might kill one fighter, and then the rest of his buddies will be killing them off in droves.

Then I decided, I like traps. So I made a Drone AD (Area Denial) Charge. (Same “basic” stats as the SCCAM launcher, but with 50 damage, 20000 cooldown, Flak payload, 100 flak radius, and 1.0 flak scalar, 12 armor penetration, 5 shield penetration.) Basically they look and move exactly like a SCCAM drone, but when fighters come up to kill some fat, slow, vulnernable missile drones, they get an antimatter AOE surpise. They’re there to mess with the fighter jockeys’ heads. Should they send fighters far out to take out the anti-cruiser drones, or should they hang back in case they’re suicide drones and let frigates and cruisers chop them up?

Anyway, how does the concept look? Each drone is about 80 credits to deploy in either configuration, and take up a tiny footprint, of course. Do they seem overpowered? I made the AD Charge have low armor and shield penetration so they can’t be repurposed for anti cruiser crashing but is that low enough? Also, despite being no larger than a fighter, they spawn a dozen escape pods when destroyed. Is there a way to turn off the escape pods?

A pretty different to my concept of Drone that i’ve applied to PI, but sound good, i would like to blow some things with one of these (or a swarm of these :P)

It’s quite cathartic. I was having trouble on one of the Uni-T missions because of all those heavy shielded fighters. My strikefighters and interceptors just didn’t have the endurance and throw weight to last an extended slugging match.

I fielded a big old swarm of the suicide drones. One, the fighters got suckered off my dreadnought. Two, they met a fiery death when they got into range. I had a bit of overkill on the drones, so some of them went careening off against frigates and cruisers… and they did no damage. Which is what I was aiming for. So, damage-wise, it seems set.

Toyed around with the attack drones. I made it so the drones launch a burst of 3 35-damage fast missiles, but with 500 range and 90-second cooldown. (This variant I’ve named “Raider Assault Drones”)

I took them for a spin on Expert in the Uni-T mission “Subnode Error” (Sorry for making your homidical robots my constant whipping boy Darkstar, but I’ll explain why I picked this mission a few lines down.
(Only the first half is about the drones. The last half is the battleship dueling with the Uni-T survivors.)

As you can see, very deadly The drones themselves outright killed about half of the Uni-T prime fleet, and the rest were so weakened a few salvos from the battleship put them down. Some even survived their cooldown for an attack run on the Uni-T Viral ships (though they died very quickly from antifighter weapons).

So, the drones seem terrifying, huh? They are indeed, especially when they’re 70 apiece. However, they’re easily countered. I made a challenge of the above deployment and sent it to myself.

As you can see, they’re easily, easily countered by fighters and suicide drones (“Vanguard Interdiction Drones”). And now you can see why I picked the “Subnode Error” mission as my expo: there were no fighters to be seen on the enemy deployment.

I still have to figure out a way to make it so the damned things don’t eject escape pods when they die.

No worries - watching the video helps me think on how to optimise the Uni-T ships.

Oh, no…now look what you’ve done, Forge. You’ve doomed us all. Somewhere in the vast deeps between the stars, the great silicon satan is adapting even as we speak!

We have analyzed the new Uni-T attack strategy and there IS a danger… Might wanna postpone that moment of triumph, guv’nor. :smiley:

Seriously, I do find your attack drones to be interesting. They’re a most unconventional threat. The hilarious vulnerability of the platform almost seems cruel to a player choosing to use it – until one takes a deep look at its offensive potential. Mother of God…

As for the escape pods, I don’t think that a modder can turn that feature off for the sake of content he’s pushing to the players. A player can voluntarily disable it in his own installed game, but I haven’t found a way to close it at the source. Seems to be yet another charming datum that’s in the GSB core codebase & beyond our reach.

I know, I can say that they’re piloted by uplifted hamsters. Thus, escape pods to save Ensigns Fluffy, Gobbles, and Patches.

Anyhow, there’s lots of different applications and tactics besides what I showed in those videos. Note, in the second video the fighters ripped the drone formation several new orifices. However, imagine if a quarter of those drones hadn’t been the missile drones, but the suicide drones. The fighters would fly in, seeing some easy kills, and close into attack range. Then the drone would explode in their faces.

The counter for that would be send some frigates with anti-fighter weaponry forward and hold the fighters back. But then the missile drones will make mincemeat of the frigates. And, if I had some suicide drones following in formation, they would go to full speed once their formation-ee is killed, and then it’s more fighter mayhem.

And I don’t know if I should mention this, but the attack drones are pretty heavily influenced by SBMHAWKs and SRHAWKs.

To my somewhat tired eye tonight, it seems to me that the efficacy of the attack drones relies heavily upon the absence of a fighter-carried, stand-off anti-fighter weapon system. Something that had these specifications:

  1. can engage the drones well outside the blast radius of any possible suicide charges;
  2. enjoys high enough tracking to successfully acquire the drones with ease;
  3. flies quickly enough to inflict significant reduction of the drones’ massed numbers in a short span of time;
  4. reloads quickly enough so that one fighter so armed can shoot down multiple attack drones before getting himself KIA;
  5. carries a warhead tailored with a low yield to avoid being an anti-ship weapon.

I should think that the enthusiastic deployment of such a weapon would give the attack drones a pretty thorough curb-stomping, and with minimal effort.

As long as the defending fighters can get their anti-drone missiles into the air Pretty Damn Quick, and said missiles are built to fly like a bat out of hell (just as your own do now – holy cow, dude! :open_mouth: ), it should be an effective counter to the drones. Even a few “leakers” getting past the interdiction will cause somebody to have one heck of a mess to clean up. Doubly so if they’re targeted onto frigates instead of cruisers.

Don’t sweat it. We all have our various literary or televised sources of modding inspiration, including Drakeisms. With a bit of tailoring, quite a few of them can actually fit into this quirky but fascinating game. Even better is when we can somehow improve on the concept in some way that doesn’t murder gameplay balance but doesn’t strain credulity and is still cool to watch.

From a broader perspective, I’m concerned about the innate might of the attack drone platform. Not the drone itself quite as much as what it’s armed with:

That’s definitely strong medicine, even with making the drone hull just tissue-paper and attempting to have each launcher mimic a single-shot-then-empty deal. Got yourself a very strong anti-capship ability here. Why? Because the missile flies at a speed that’s roughly ten times faster than the ships of the opposing force would most likely be moving at. While the engagement range is short, the shockingly high maneuverability of the missile (well in excess of all official offensive missiles) – especially when combined with the “if you blink, you missed it” speed of closure itself – doesn’t mean a happy outcome for the target.

More yin-and-yang to ponder: the 25-point warhead is very respectable for a fighter munition. By itself, not a game-breaker. But add it to those stated penetration values and realistically, any ship which is not intentionally designed as an armor tank is going to suffer if it can’t shoot those things down. Vanilla cruisers generally are able to handle missiles with similar pen values because they’re expecting to defnd against the usual amount of incoming ordnance that vanilla launchers can throw. But a massive one-and-done missile tsunami of godlike velocity from weak attrition units which have no precise analogue in the official game is another matter.

Of course the defender could tank against these things, but at the enormous tactical cost of basically leaving most of his guns at home. Definitely not a tenable fleet-wide choice if the defender is reasonably tasked with winning, not just survival.

Doesn’t sound like much of a valid counter, then. With anti-fighter frigates being rendered impotent by facing certain death if they engage, and defending fighters unable to fight effectively without being forced to play the deadly gamble as to where the Area Denial bombs are hiding, that seems to leave only cruiser point defense systems to try swatting the incoming missiles. It is hard for me to detect a proactive instead of reactive role that the enemy cruisers can take against the Solarians in this situation.

What else are targeted cruisers supposed to do, other than hunker down and pray? Guidance scramblers have their limits, as do deflector shields and armor, even against the often irregular and very staggered missile attacks that other vanilla forces can throw. The penetration ratings of the attack drones’ missiles are on par with Cruiser Plasma, which means you can’t afford to let very many slip past your defense – but the speed & agility of the ordnance makes it nearly impossible to intercept them. Quite a problem. Something’s got to give, and at present I’m not sure what; multiple options abound here.

Even if the attack drones can be crushed underfoot like ants at a picnic, what of it? As long as they successfully reach firing position and then let loose a behemoth wave of those missiles, from their point of view it’s a good exchange – a bunch of friendly el cheapo attrition units lost, in exchange for 4 or 5 credit figures’ worth of enemy cruisers and frigates getting crippled or killed. Classic asymmetric warfare, but done GSB-style.

I see multiple mentions in this thread to the effect that this missile system is emphatically not an anti-fighter weapon. OK, fine with me; I have no issue with that.

Its true worth seems to lie squarely as a means of making an anti-ship saturation attack that’s very hard to defend against. That’s what concerns me.

Add this to the nebulous but seemingly Olympian specs of the Solarian forces’ large warship hulls + defenses & weapons, and I see balance trouble looming ahead. In their present incarnation and with their current arsenal, these attack drones seem too good at the mission of being “shock troops” to spearhead the advance against the opposing fleet – devastating their defenses and disordering their formations just in time for the rumored Solarian superships to reduce the surviving enemy vessels to phosphorescent mist.

From what I see in the video content you linked to, the Solarians’ big ships themselves seem to be in urgent need for some major nerfs of their own; but one issue at a time.

Lest i give the wrong impression, I gladly welcome additional info to support the belief that the attack drones and their arsenal are not in need of some carefully-chosen nerfs. The goal here is to refine the concepts; not to assassinate them. Just like you, I also want to see these new items end up as clean, balanced, fun choices to join the vast array of options that a GSB player has access to. My hope is that i’ve lent some useful perspective from angles that perhaps you hadn’t yet considered. It’s been a fruitful discussion; thanks for starting this thread. :slight_smile:

Every explosion creates an escape pod, so drop the number of kabooms :slight_smile:

Just re watching the videos and looking a bit more closely at the stats you have here. I think the AoE weapon may be overpowered, but its nothing that cant be fixed. While it is painful to nerf your ultimate creation, is a good pain :stuck_out_tongue: (Nerfing Uni-T was one of the hardest things i have done)

I fully agree with your concept of using fragile fighters is perfect framework for this glass cannon approach - my concern is surrounding the weapons and how fast can these small ships go.

Just looking at the speed factor. If a small target is exceeding 2.5 then its going to be very hard to hit by vanilla weaponry. (except the parasites flak cannon which is a 100% garentee hit or a free lunch on the species of your choice) So a fast drone should be able to last long enough to take a second shot. But since i cant see if you have mentioned speed here so i will leave that for your consideration.

Now looking at the weapons.
Sprint-Capable Close Assault Missiles
damage = 25
fire interval = 20000
missile speed = 2.25
range = 350
tracking = 5.0
turnspeed = 5.0
shield penetration = 45
armor penetration = 40

What we have here is a turbo-charged missile. I agree with Archduke - alone, this weapon is far from gamebreaking. In truth only the Swarm have the technology to defend against mass onslaught of a horde of drones firing their warheads which are moving nearly 10 times faster than the vanilla “Fast Missile” can.

Maybe slow it down a bit so the point defence lasers have a chance to shoot a few down.

Drone AD (Area Denial) Charge
damage = 50
fire interval = 20000
range = 350
tracking = 5.0
flak radius = 100
flak scalar = 1.0
shield penetration = 5
armor penetration = 12

Ah, the flak weapon - I love the idea of an AoE weapon but the fact that it always hits makes it hard to balance. It is worth to note for those that have not seen the video is that the Flak weapon will effect friendly fighters as well. This weapon would easily wipe out a squad of fighters with one shot. Quite a nice trade off for 80 Credits and a pilot :slight_smile:

I think the best thing to do is to play against your own creations with vanilla ships only - if you can defeat the Solarian forces then your well ahead of the game.

My only suggestion at the moment is you might want to change some factors slightly you have some soft counters to the drones rather than just the only counter. In the scheme of things these are rathor minor issues and would not take much to fix.

As for the Cruisers and Super Dreads - That can wait for another day when we have more information. . .
But they do look rather powerful . . . Wonder if Uni-T can survive long enough to corrupt one of them >:]

The specs have changed around a little, particularly on the SCCAMs. Sorry that I haven’t updated the previous post.


[config] unlockcost = 0 lockable = 0 armour_penetration = 45 shield_penetration = 40 category = "WEAPONS" classname = "SIM_MissileModule" cost = 15 crew_required = 0 damage = 30 description = "Sprint-Capable Close Assault Missiles mounted on attack drones." fire_interval = 90000 flareuvid = 2 fuel = 500 guiname = "Drone SCCAM" has_flare = 1 hitpoints = 1 icon = turret min_range = 25 max_range = 500 missilelength = 2.0 missilespeed = 3.5 missilewidth = 0.75 num_submunitions = 2 submunitionslive = 1 has_decoys = 1 decoy_release_range = 550

AD Charge

[config] armour_penetration = 7 blasttexture = "" category = "WEAPONS" classname = "SIM_BulletWeaponModule" payload = FLAK aoe_radius = 175 aoe_scalar = 1.0 color = 3 cost = 10 crew_required = 0 damage = 28 description = "High-effect area-denial antimatter charge used to destroy fighters." fire_interval = 10000 guiname = "Drone AD Charge" height = 0.5 hitpoints = 0.5 icon = turret lockable = 0 max_range = 125 min_range = 1 name = "Drone AD" optimum_range = 125 powerconsumed = 5 shield_penetration = 5 size = "FRIGATE" slot_type = TURRET sound = data/sounds/laserblastshort_crt05_06__6.ogg soundvolume = 0.5 speed = 15 tracking_speed = 10 turret_sprite = "turret_bull_v3" turretsize = 0 unlockcost = 0 weight = 2.5 width = 0.5 uisortpos = 1050 restricted = "solarian"

For a counter, it’s always possible to have the frigate escorted by fighters. With the fighters in constant motion the suicide drones would need to get close to the frigates. With such low penetration, the suicide drones would bounce, hopefully without killing too many fighters in the process, and then the escorts will mince up the slow, fat, missile pods. Also, even if the fighters can’t physically kill all the drones, if they get within range the drones will dump their missiles at the fighters reflexivley, even if told to ignore fighters. Since the missiles usually miss the fighters, and with a cooldown of 90 seconds, many of the drones won’t even be “recharged” to loose a second salvo before they’re killed.

Also, with tailoring, the suicide drones move at 4.5 speed (yeah, need to nerf that haha), but the missile drones move at a relatively slow 1.00 flat. Hull size is 22x22, so they’re larger than a fighter, too.

And, in the general context of Solarian ships, they are indeed powerful. One on one, their capital ships really do chop things up nicely. I’m also being more or less consistent in the story where Third Fleet is thrashing all comers. It’s because Third Fleet is all together. Taking money values, the one superdreadnought, four dreadnoughts, two fleet carriers, ten battleships, four siege cruisers, and eighteen light cruisers weigh in at whopping 969k worth of credits, and that’s not counting fighters. (This is with a “generalist loadout”). The superdreadnought itself is 94k, which means I can’t even deploy it on the vanilla scenarios. In context, a dozen Anacondas with a generic loadout would be about 135K.

I copy/pasted the explosion data for one of the Federation fighters to the drones, and it still spawns escape pods. (Thankfully, only three this time, but still).

Yup, been doing that. I discover that Solarian ships are incredibly vulnerable to a CL rush (and I mean rush where cruisers are >0.45 speed), but do obscenely well in any kind of ranged duel. The Solarian ships love long range.

Any suggestions? I can see the point of soft counters, and fighters are still a soft counter, since even if they don’t kill the dronce they force it to expend its missiles. I’ve very open to more suggestions though, since you guys have been on this game longer that I have.

Oh God.

At the moment no i have no suggestions other than the ones i have made or areas i have highlighted to look at.

Remember that its your mod and you make it how you want
Archduke Astro, I or anyone else in this friendly community will tell you that when any of us give you our opinion / feedback etc on your mod - we do so with the complete understanding that you are not honor bound to comply or even agree to the suggestions. :slight_smile:

For what its worth i think you are well and truly on the right track, you are playing against your own creation using vanilla forces. That alone will tell you if your mod is over powered or not.

In my opinion, if you are not a good commander (like me xD) would be better to have (as a plus) one or more “testers” that you know that are good strategists ^^

In other words

I know, I know. The thing is, I want to makes this mod fun and interesting, while not making it a complete overpowered ownage-fest. That’s why I like suggestions on balancing. Uni-T is very well balanced, although there are some exploits possible, like that challenge 123stw made. To date, I can’t beat it with any vanilla force. But barring that, it’s well balanced.

My mod does run a bit on Rule of Cool; who doesn’t want to see a massive superdreadnought lay waste to its weight in credits all by its lonesome?

Strangely enough, the drones weren’t too effective this time in raw damage dealt. And while the Federation fleet took some ugly damage, they did manage to run down the light cruiser once his attack drones buddies were finished and pound him to scrap. Goes to show that Solarian ships don’t like short range or enclosed spaces.

And yes, the credit values were equal. Those drones and single light cruiser were equal to 14 Fed frigates and 3 cruisers.

Balancing wise, I’m not sure if I’ll be changing the value much. One of the concepts I want to use–you see it in the story–are close-range missiles too fast to be intercepted by scramblers or point defense. So I’m probably not going to change speed or damage values. Penetration maybe. Probably, it’ll be nerfed like how all the Solarian stuff gets balanced: they get more expensive.

As for beta testing… huh why the hell not. It’ll be closed beta, so it’s not going into the wild as is I do need testers, to see exploits I haven’t thought of yet.

LOL, no true! I haven’t enough commanding skills for be a tester xD

EDIT: oh well, adding Solarian Union Mod Tester to my to do list… [size=20]thanks darkstar ¬¬[/size] Joke xD
I will gut every piece of information in this mod to find any evidence of OP, UP and bugs for tomorrow (if not, i will tell you) ^^

Those are epic weapons. I agree that fighters need an effective counter to them, though.