RushSecond's Balance Crusade

Hello everyone! I’m RushSecond and I’m new to the forums and also quite new to the game. I picked up GSB during the free weekend and couldn’t put it down. I remember that weekend I played this game for about 16 hours in two days, staying up until about 4am both times because obsessively messing around with the ships and formations was so engaging, not to mention watching the great battles unfold. Eventually I started getting more into the higher level strategy of this game, and given the game being in the… interesting state it’s in, that eventually led me here to the modding forum.

— About Me —

I’m 23 years old, I live in California, I’ve played video games as my hobby since I was three, and I’m currently a student in a game design and development program at a local technical university. I’m really very good at quickly picking up the rules of all different types of video games, what good or dominant strategies exist, and what makes the game fun or not fun. Some games really capture my attention and I’ll keep coming back to it; for eight years, I kept coming back to all the various modded games of Warcraft III, including DotA (which has since inspired countless similar games like League of Legends)

I’m hardly ever content to just play a game once and leave it at that. I often have ideas of how the game could have been made better with small tweaks here and there. That of course is why I am here in the modding forum.

— About this Project —
After just a few short weeks, already I have found many balance and gameplay concerns in GSB, and confirmed them by forum searches and my own gameplay tests. Fortunately it’s pretty simple to change module data, so for the next few weeks I’m going to try to fix the most egregious problems while trying not to change too much about the fundamental qualities of the game. I’m doing this mainly for myself, as this game has so much more potential for different build strategies that can be realized with just a few changes on major modules, and that will make this game much more enjoyable for me personally. I will however post all my changelogs, files, and rationale here so everyone else can use my work if they wish, in return for the favor of feedback from GSB veterans which I will almost certainly need.

Looking through the forums, I have seen a few other “balance mods” others have made, such as viewtopic.php?f=23&t=6215&p=45142&hilit=balance#p45142. The issue I have with them is that, while they attempt to address some of the issues I have with the game, they often contain many changes that either aren’t explained, that I don’t personally think are problems, or are problems but were changed in what I thought was a bad way (changing the various costs can drastically change the difficulty of unmodded challenges; in particular, increasing power or crew requirements causes gamebreaking issues). Also, this particular linked mod is made as one complete package so I can’t conveniently pick and choose which changes I want.

I’ll be making this mod in a far better fashion than that one. I’ll not only have a cumulative package of all changes I make, but I’ll also split it up into smaller changes. That way if you agree with my mod on one issue but not another, you can pick and choose which changes you want to implement into your own game. Each one will have a changelog with a complete rational of all the changes I made.

To begin, I’ve made myself a few guidelines to shape my methods:

  • Try to solve issues with as few changes to vanilla modules as possible.
  • Keep to the original vision and purpose of the current modules.
  • Try to stay compatible with unmodded versions of the game.
  • Keep the “uneven” numbers trend where appropriate; 26 damage rather than 25, 0.42 weight instead of 0.40, etc.
  • Stay within the “realism” boundaries of the modules; one weapon should not be 20x the weight of another.
  • Don’t make any change unless there’s a specific reason for it.

For now, I’m going to start with the most pressing issue, which in my own opinion is invincible armor tanks. Later I’ll move on to fighter balance, cruiser armor, and any other area that I decide needs a bit of work.

One final thing to note is that I currently have most DLC but not all; I don’t own the Parasites or the Outcasts. Obviously this means I can’t make changes to those races. If you would like to take my general ideas, apply them to the modules specific to those races, and then post it to me, I would greatly appreciate it. Now with no further ado…

— Project One: Armor Tanks —
Armor Pierce Increase (10.6 KB)
- The Problem -
Armor tanks with a bunch of armor plates and empty slots can get more armor than any armor piercing amount in the game. This by itself would be a lesser issue if it weren’t for the current targeting issues. The pilots of cruisers and frigates will lock onto the frontmost ship at the start of the battle, and won’t change targets until it is destroyed. Putting a nearly invincible ship at the front as a decoy is an incredibly frustrating tactic that drags out battles and hurts build diversity.

This could be easily fixed if cliffski decided to change the pilots behavior to be more, ahem, “rational”. However I personally think that’s still not enough. This is Gratuitous Space Battles. I bought this game to watch ships get blown to pieces, and I will not let a floating hunk of armor get in the way of that. Armor tanks look like normal cruisers, so I’m going to take a not-so-great leap and make them vulnerable just like every other cruiser.

- The Goal -
An abusive armor tank with nothing but armor plates should have no advantage over a legitimate armor tank with a lot of plates + all other slots filled with guns and stuff. A legit armor tank has with other modules besides armor so it actually takes part in the battle, just with more defense than usual. I have no problem with that kind of armor tank, since currently it can be beaten with high armor pierce weapons. However, a cruiser with armor plates and lots of empty slots with the goal of driving the average armor value up to the point of invincibility, is not fine. It’s not fun at all to have every weapon in my fleet focus it and to see hundreds of “no effect” pop up all over it. Nor does it make any sense realistically. You really think, among all the various factions, none of them could come up with a way to destroy it quickly regardless? Well lets just see about that…

At first, I tried messing with armor itself, reducing stacking effectiveness or reducing the strength of the plates themselves, but it doesn’t work because that hurts legitimate tanks just as much as the abusive case. Instead, the solution is to change the armor piercing of weapons.

- The Solution -
Beam weapons that can currently pierce a legitimate armor tank should have even more armor piercing, so they also damage abusive armor tanks. For more variety, fighters and frigates should also get a way to pierce extreme armor.

The following weapons now have their armor penetration increased to around 250:

  • Cruiser Beam Laser
  • Cruiser Proton Beam
  • Federation Fusion Beam
  • Rebel Fusion Beam
  • Alliance Beam Laser
  • Imperial Laser Beam
  • Nomadic Beam Laser
  • Frigate Beam Laser
  • Frigate SmallBeam Laser
  • Fighter Torpedo

I chose beam weapons as my armor piercing weapon type because they currently have the highest in the game, and I wanted to keep that theme, as well as make it clearly visible that a certain weapon effect (huge brightly colored beam) means it cuts through ALL armor. What I’ve done here is change “high armor piercing” to “essentially infinite armor piercing”. This keeps legit armor tanks at about the same viable state they were before, since almost all of these weapons can hurt them in vanilla.

The final major armor breakpoint becomes 55 which is the armor piercing of heavy plasma. After that, the only advantage of additional armor is that it will take more shots from beams to get the average armor low enough for other weapons to damage it (which is still a decent advantage and worth thinking about). Obviously there’s no way that a ship can get more than 250 armor to become invincible unless an evil enemy modder buffs cruiser armor to spite me. :slight_smile:

There are a few exceptions to the general ideas here. In vanilla, frigate beams have less armor piercing than cruiser beams, so the buff here is admittedly more significant for frigates. This is warranted because frigates are underutilized already, and it wouldn’t really be fair that their weapons that look almost like cruiser beams don’t act the same in regards to armor. Also this gives more options to break through armor; I don’t want these armor breaking possibilities to be limited to cruisers.

In the same vein, fighter torpedoes get 250 armor piercing as well. I admit this is a rather oddball decision of mine, but again I think it’s warranted as torpedoes are already weak and this gives them a very unique niche as the fighter’s only “unblockable” attack. This also rounds out the picture by giving every class a way to get through armor, so even when your dedicated armor crunchers are taken out of commission, there’s still a way to defeat armor tanks.

— Project Two: Fighter Module Rebalance —
Fighter Module Rebalance (14.4 KB)
- The Problem -
Fighter modules are beset by a number of balance issues. The laser cannon reigns as the supreme weapon as it gives by far the best defense due to it’s low weight and great dogfighting capability. Armor is completely useless. Expensive fighters are worse because of added weight. Torpedoes especially are known far and wide as the worst weapon in the game.

- The Goals -
Goal 1: Better define the difference between pulse and laser weapons
Goal 2: Make fighter armor more useful than an empty slot
Goal 3: Solve the “fighter paradox” and give expensive fighters more speed
Goal 4: Make torpedo more viable

- Solution 1 -
Rebalance the two standard lasers. The standard laser remains the dogfighting and cleanup weapon, but is only useful only against unarmored targets. The pulse laser remains a weaker dogfight weapon due to it’s higher cost and weight, but higher penetration means it’s even better against armored cruisers and frigates. Double armor fighters now become viable as they become immune to the premier dogfight weapon.

  • Fighter Laser Cannon shield and armor penetration from 8 to 4
  • Fighter Pulse Laser shield and armor penetration from 3.8 to 8

- Solution 2 -
Make fighter armor cheaper and lighter, so the durability gained is actually worth losing some speed. I really want the choice to be “which armor should I put on my fighter” instead of “should I even use armor”. Even after these drastic changes, armor is only barely more effective (and in many cases still less effective) in my test fights.

  • Fighter Armour cost from 25 to 7, damage absorb from 11.25 to 9.0, weight from 0.625 to 0.43
  • Fighter Armour II cost from 30 to 10, damage absorb from 13.75 to 11.5, weight from 0.86 to 0.56
  • Fighter Armour III cost from 36 to 14, damage absorb from 16.25 to 14.0, weight from 1.25 to 0.71
  • Ablative Armour cost from 28 to 6, damage absorb from 8.75 to 7.0, weight from 0.45 to 0.28
  • Advanced Ablative Armour cost from 31 to 7, damage absorb from 7.5 to 5.0, weight from 0.31 to 0.14

I made sure that it’s impossible to make a 3 slot rocket fighter with more than 4 average armour (one of the alliance fighters can get to 3.96). Such a fighter being immune to the premier dogfight weapon would be pretty insane, and not exactly playing nice with unmodded versions. You can still get an immune fighter by using multiple slots on armor, but then the added weight will make frigate and cruiser anti-fighters more effective against them, not to mention if anyone bothers to use pulse, your fighters won’t be so immune.

Interestingly, after lowering the weight to this point, I noticed that armored fighters were getting hit LESS often than equivalent unarmored ships, despite reduced speed. The armor was protecting the engines from being damaged, so the armored ships were guaranteed to continue full speed after getting hit one or two times, whereas the unarmored fighters might be crippled and slowed down by a single shot.

- Solution 3 -
Add weight to engines and remove some from other modules. This weakens multi-engine designs, so increase stacking effectiveness to compensate. This will allow expensive multi-weapon designs while still retaining decent speed if there is are strong engines. At the same time, fighters with an engine and only one other filled slot will be kept in check by the increased weight of the engine.

  • Fighter Rocket Launcher weight from 2.0 to 1.0
  • Fighter Laser Cannon weight from 2.5 to 1.0
  • Fighter Pulse Laser weight from 3.4 to 1.5
  • Fighter Target Painter weight from 3.1 to 1.6
  • Swarm Fusion Gun weight from 3.7 to 1.7, shield penetration from 4.2 to 10, armor penetration from 5 to 11
  • Micro Target Booster weight from 0.65 to 0.14
  • Nomadic DogFight Laser weight from 3.5 to 1.6
  • All power modules have 1.0 less weight
  • All engines have 2.5 more weight and stacking effectiveness from 0.72 to 0.91

I made sure to keep an eye on the speed of popular designs and make sure they don’t get any faster as a result of this. Single laser fighters have the exact same speed as before, whether they had one engine or two. Single rockets and double rockets are both slower than before (their speed was a little ridiculous previously and frigates were hurting too much because of it). Rocket/painter has the same speed. Nearly every other design is a little faster, especially designs with more than one weapon. I also threw a buff on the swarm fusion gun to make it have a role as a high piercing laser; it’s expensive and takes a lot of power, but it can damage frigate shields and cruisers that skimp on armor will fall quickly if they aren’t dealt with.

- Solution 4 -
Buff the Torpedo

Fighter Torpedo

  • Weight from 15 to 6
  • Range from 400 to 500
  • Damage from 15 to 21

Torpedoes are still be the slowest and most vulnerable fighter (and likely require armor in most cases), but now it’s much more difficult to deal with them without a dogfight force due to drastically increased speed. The range increase makes it much more likely that torpedoes target a cruiser instead of a fighter, and higher damage makes it much harder for shields to recovery from a torpedo volley. If you manage to destroy enemy fighters before they find your torpedo squads, they will become a major threat to every non-fighter enemy ship.


I’m interested to see how your fighter torpedo balancing goes…

Currently I’ve dropped the weight from 15 to 6, increased the range from 400 to 500, and increased the damage from 15 to 21. I’m trying to keep it within it’s theme of a slow bomber fighter that hits hard. With 6 weight it still it still makes the fighter sluggish and vulnerable, but higher damage makes it much harder for shields to recover fast enough, and the higher range makes it much more likely that it will shoot at a cruiser rather than wasting a shot on a fighter.

Also as a quick update, I came down with a cold pretty much the moment I hit the post button last Monday, so between that and my schoolwork I haven’t had much time to test my fighter module changes. I’m going to be doing that now and tomorrow, and post my results on Monday. In case you want to help test it too, I’ve posted it down below if you want to download it and give it a try.

Note that this is only making changes to fighter modules. I’ve realized that the various fighter hulls are way out of whack as well, and will work on that for my third project.

Fighter Module Rebalance (14.1 KB)

Alright, fighter module rebalance is done (for now). It was a bit late since I had to catch up on my work after being sick. Please try it out and leave me some comments about what things you like and/or what should change. I’m definitely willing to go back and make changes to previous projects if there are issues.

The next big thing I have planned is balancing fighter hulls, however that is just as big a subject as the modules so I figured I would make a series of easier changes first (like balancing cruiser armor) before I take that on. In the meantime I would like some suggestions for the fighter hulls. I play almost primarily Rebel as all my designs are for their ships and I don’t really have the time to make similar ships to test out all the other races. So unless I become willing to spend hours testing every hull for it’s strengths and flaws (I’m not getting paid to do this, so not really) I really can only do the most obvious changes (buff one ship because it’s weaker in every other way compared to another) and make other changes based on feedback from you guys.

So please, leave some comments about hulls you want looking at, and particular ways to improve them and make more variety. Keep in mind, the best kind of change is tweaking the hull bonuses, since current designs will take advantage of those, unlike having more power or slots.

Note that I would very much prefer to leave racial balance the same for now. I think it makes a much more interesting game if some races have better fighters than others. If that means somewhat nerfing rebel and tribe frigates and cruisers down the line, I’d be all for it.