Cruiser missile examination


This thread is a side by side analysis of cruiser missile weapons, along with frigate counterparts. If you’re not interested in math, run away now.

These numbers/formulas are from in-game statistics and attempted observation.

I present these numbers to make your cruiser shopping just a bit more complicated. Hopefully this shows up correct.

Scroll down for DPS estimates.

                        megaton rocket  multi   fast    nuke    normal  firefly F-torp  F-Fast  Frig
Damage                  60      19      44      30      38      30      12      22      11      12
reload rate             2600    950     1950    2145    2860    1950    950     3510    3510    3900
fuel                    2200    1100    1700    1400    1400    1900    1150    1100    1400    1400
min range               300     224     500     270     330     340     300     280     300     375
max range               750     810     1160    900     900     1200    850     1000    1100    1200
speed                   0.12    0.48    0.19    0.32    0.2     0.15    0.79    0.17    0.25    0.16
tracking                0.5     0.9     0.6     0.9     0.82    0.6     0.83    1       1.9     1.2
recovery                18333   2291    8947    4375    7000    12666   1455    6470    5600    8750
max optimal range       312     456     500     686.4   572     340     750.5   596.7   877.5   624
optimal flight time     2600    950     2631    2145    2860    2266    950     3510    3510    3900
max dps                 23.08   20      16.72   13.99   13.29   13.24   12.63   6.27    3.13    3.08
maxLaunchRng dps        9.60    11.26   7.21    10.67   8.44    3.75    11.15   3.74    2.50    1.60
recoverdps              3.27    8.29    4.92    6.86    5.43    2.37    8.24    3.40    1.96    1.37
"paper" dps             23.08   20.00   22.56   13.99   13.29   15.38   12.63   6.27    3.13    3.08
Est. at 600m dps        12      15.2    13.93   13.99   12.67   7.5     12.63   6.23    3.13    3.08

The last three are frigate weapons.

This is all done with the premise that missile ‘speed’ is range-unit per time-unit. It appears correct on examination.
All DPS values are * 1000, “ranges” are from the launcher to the center of the enemy target. The nuke is adjusted for radiation payload.

The basics:

Each launcher can only have one missile out at a time. A launcher may reload before the previous shot has hit or expired. The physics of the missile therefore has much of a bearing on it’s damage capabilities and output.

The mechanics of a missile creates several statistical areas of interest:

  • The minimum range that a missile cannot fire
  • The range band where missiles contact before the launcher reloads
  • The optimal flight time/distance before another missile is ‘waiting’. Maximum theoretical DPS will occur at this range and lower if misses do not occur.
  • The range band where launchers are reloading before the missiles contact
  • Max launch range
  • Max flight range (fuel)
  • Recovery time, a function of both speed and fuel (which supposedly is a “distance”)

Using the megaton as an example:
The missile will fly 312 meters in the time it takes the launcher to reload. On a painted target, assuming no misses and no point defense interference, you can expect the highest DPS of any missile (23.08!) in a range band of 300-312. Once you go beyond this range, sustained DPS rapidly drops due to the extremely slow flight speed of the missile. At 750 meters (the max ‘launch’ range), you can expect 9.60 DPS. In practice, these values are much lower - the considerable fuel of the missile allows it to fly extreme lengths before it expires. Take note of the whopping 18333 time units a megaton can take to recover from a missed shot.

Multiwarhead missiles cannot clear their minimum range circle in time to achieve their maximum “paper” DPS.
The two rocket types are actually unable to achieve any of the DPS values listed above - they do not reach 100% accuracy with a painter.

The mechanics are a bit unintuitive sometimes - the fast “short” range missiles are often better at longer ranges, and the slow longrange missiles become high-risk-high-payoff weapons when painted in a feedback loop at short range.

As always, there are decisions to make that are outside the realm of these numbers - fast weapons are harder to shoot down, the difficulty of deploying painters, decoys, penetration, etc.


That’s some pretty nice number-crunching!


Very interesting. Studying your numbers makes me want to take another look at rockets.


Well, the thing with rockets is that they don’t hit anywhere close to 100% accuracy with target painters, so those numbers are way off. It’s due to the “spline” flight pattern, the function of which I don’t have info on.

I’m starting to think they’re being aimed at a non-existent shield bubble - once the shield collapses it looks like painted rocket accuracy drops to crap.


Fascinating stuff. The missiles are one of the harder weapons to really tell what is going on, this helps alot.


Something that missiles do not have an ‘optimum range’ statistic. Weapons with this stat can do as little as 50% of their stated damage depending on how far away from optimum distance they are hitting.

Therefore, the stock .6 speed cruiser plasma does roughly 10-5 DPS before you factor in it’s laughable tracking.

The target painter may very well be one of the most powerful weapons in the game.

After more examination, the wild inaccuracy of painted rockets does seem mostly relegated to unshielded targets. Perhaps they would be good coupled with cruiser pulse lasers, which have a similar ‘optimal’ range?


Certainly. I noticed this during the rocket riot “era”, trough I still cannot manage to see what kind of ship should be. fast? slow? aggressive? coward? support?


I’m not sure. They’re certainly more specialized… redoing my own rocket riots with fast missiles (Decoys + better accuracy + better standoff range) was convincing enough for me at the time.

Initially I’d say “Rescuer” orders as healthy targets are more likely to be shielded, but you would have to carefully edge over the enemy fleet that way and couldn’t pull up close. Otherwise you’d be spraying disorganized rockets across the whole fleet, and you’ll get wrecked by point defense/shield recharge.

Units tend to fire at painted targets regardless of order (as they prefer “Easy shots”) so maybe disciplining the painter behavior is more important.


I guess that PD scanners are not used that much =P

Well, my issue, is that it feels to me like “mid” range ships don’t really have a place in the game.

By the way could you add the rest of missile weapons to the list (or additional list)?


They kind of don’t. 500-700 range units are pretty miserable without a way to keep distance.

I’m not having much luck with rockets.

Which ones? I think all the fighter weapons fire much faster than they can reload, leaving just the specialty frigate weapons as anything potentially interesting. And whatever is in the swarm pack… unless I’m forgetting something, which is not unusual.


Swarm doesn’t have any new missile types.

Getting the numbers to format is a real hassle. The first chart is too big for more:

Frig specialty weapons
                        EMP1    EMP2    AFmiss    Disrupt

Damage                  0       0       19        60
reload rate             3900    3900    1100      1800
fuel                    1000    1000    650       800
min range               225     225     50        300
max range               800     800     550       650
speed                   0.2     0.24    0.52      0.41
tracking                1.5     1.65    12.5      1.3
recovery                5000    4166    1250      1951
max optimal range       780     936     572       738
optimal flight time     3900    3900    1100      1800

max dps                 0       0       17.27     33.33
maxLaunchRng dps        0.00    0.00    17.27     33.33
recoverdps              0.00    0.00    15.20     30.75
"paper" dps             0.00    0.00    17.27     33.33

Nothing too terribly odd in the mechanics here, all of these weapons save for EMP 1 can clear their max range circles (but not fuel limit) before the launcher is reloaded. Disruptor damage is of a different type.

The AntiFighter missile looks like it has considerable output; but it is quite limited in range and penetration.

EMP 1 and 2 have 2000 and 2400 shock time respectively. At optimal distance and lower, the two launchers can achieve their maximum of 51.2% and 61.5% disability coverage.


Comparing rockets and fast missile launchers, I did a test where I had two identical ships except for armament shoot at each other. One had fast missile racks and a painter and the other had rockets and a painter. If I filled each ship with the max weapons that could be put in, the missile racks won easily. But if I limited the cost of the missile ship to be approximately the same as the rocket ship, the rocket ship won fairly convincingly.

I also noticed the rockets definitely are better at taking down shields than at hitting hulls. Currently I tend to use a mix of fast missiles and rockets on medium-range missile ships, for budget reasons and to have weapons that work best at a variety of ranges and under a variety of conditions.


At what average range and what size cruiser?

I’m fairly convinced the spline-flight behavior is calculating paths for the rockets with the (erroneous) assumption that a shield is always up, causing rockets that “should” be hitting to swing wide to the sides of the cruiser. Not sure yet if the size of the cruiser has any bearing on this, though.

As far as rocket uses go, the recent SAC challenges are tending towards very fast (0.41+) speed shielded frigates in aggressive high-pressure roles, a target archetype that cruisers have difficulty bursting down in a timely fashion.

While these types of targets aren’t very favorable (.9 tracking is inconsistent at best if painting fails) for most of the weapons discussed above, the excellent response and recovery time of rockets might make them a logical choice if you can handle keeping painter fighters alive vs such a large number of targets. These type of frigates rarely last long after their shields fail, so the odd behavior of cruiser rockets shouldn’t get in the way too much.


I’ve noticed that while rockets are reasonably accurate and effective on dropping shields, it would be foolish to use them as your primary weapon, as once the shields drop the accuracy of the rockets drops to almost nil.

Rockets don’t seem to benefit all that much with a target painter either. They’re already quite accurate against shields, but even with target painters they still can’t hit the hulls of ships.

Rockets are probably best paired up with beam weapons. Use rockets to drop shields, and then carve up the hull with beam weapons. Frigates are small and fast enough to dodge rockets with decent reliability, but thats okay. Beam weapons cut through frigate shields with no problems anyways.

Figure maybe 2-3 rockets and 3-4 beam weapons on each cruiser hull, combined with a guidance scrambler for defense gets you a decent cruiser loadout.

I’m not sure if this would be more effective than just loading up with fast/multi missiles and target painters, are missiles are good against shields and hull equally well. Good old fashioned missile spam can be a devastating tactic. Massive range, perfect accuracy (with painter), and it just rips through defenses.


Both were Panther cruisers, so not very large. I just plunked them on the smallest challenge map and let them go at it, both were firing from the start. I’d guess the range was 600-800 or so. The rockets did miss quite a bit, but when you can afford 6-7 rockets versus 4 fast missile racks, the rockets tended to come out on top regardless.

That said, a 1:1 duel between just rockets and just fast missiles is not a 100% ideal basis for comparison because one generally shouldn’t use rockets in isolation; they work better when paired with other weapons, whereas fast missiles work just fine on their own (when painted.) Fast missiles will allow you to increase the overall firepower density of your formation, at the cost of being a bit more expensive overall compared to a combined-arms solution involving rockets and other weapons.

I am pretty sure that it does. Rockets that don’t intersect the hull of the ship don’t hit, which is of course why they are best used in support of a beam cruiser or some other weapon better at hitting hulls rather than all by themselves. What I don’t know is whether the spline is predetermined to miss (i.e. by die roll) or whether the spline is calculated first and then an intersection determination is made afterwards.

Sounds like a reasonable conjecture to me.

What I found worked quite nicely for me was having one escort cruiser mainly armed with a mix of rockets and fast missiles, plus a couple scramblers, providing close support immediately behind a pair of cruisers armed mainly with beams, a fast missile for ranged firepower, and a CL for close in work. The escort cruiser provided extra help breaking shields for the beams in case the front line’s shield breaking capability wasn’t enough on its own as well as providing extra missile defense.

Pure fast missile spam could work too, of course, but tends to result in more expensive hulls, so you’ll get fewer ships that way and potentially less diversity against different types of threats/defenses.