This game is mechanically flawed


I like a lot about this game. I love the (illusion of) freedom while designing your own ships, I love the way weight, crew, power and engines work, I love the fact that there are several entirely different races with different design philosophies. But there are some things which I loathe. I’m talking about the core mechanics of battle.
Why does adding non-armor components lower the armor rating of a ship? Why does the game force you to build pure tanks and exploit the hilariously flawed aiming system? Armor values below the armor penetration of the enemies best AP weapon are entirely useless. With armor, you either take no damage forever, or someone destroys it in 3 seconds flat, and blows up your ship. Ship hit points are entirely redundant in this game; if a ship can be damaged, it will be destroyed instantly. The vulture and cautious options do absolutely nothing because as soon as a target is even dented, it blows up instantly. Also, why does every single component lower armor but increase health, but armor doesn’t increase health?
The damage dealing/mitigation formula of the game is ridiculously flawed. Threshhold and flat reduction style gameplay belong outside the PC. They are utterly inferior when compared to percentile reduction, but are easier to calculate. Except, a computer doesn’t care. So I come here with an idea of a solution, because I like the game and I want it to be awesome.

New damage dealing/mitigation parameters and formulas:
Health: Total Health is the sum of the hull and all hitpoint values of installed components, multiplied by any relevant modifiers. A frontline cruiser can expect to have between ~3500 and ~6000 health, while the relatively vulnerable backline could have between ~1200 and ~2000 health. Frigates would typically have between ~300 and ~1000, while Fighters would very, very rarely have over 100 health.
Armor: Total Armor is the sum of all installed armors on the ship. No stacking penalty from itself or any other component. The Total Armor value does not decrease until an armor component has been lost. All ships, regardless of size, have the same armor values on all relevant gear. A fighter can have as much Total Armor as a Cruiser can (well, it can’t actually, since it hasn’t got enough module slots), but a fighter has very little health to back it up. Health is now actually relevant, as it is the main thing which keeps a ship from going kablooie, and armor is a multiplier of said health. Frontline warships that focus on low-range weapons and armor are expected to have Total Armor values ranging from ~250 to ~450, while backline units could have between ~50 and ~150.
Shield: Two parameters, Total Shield, and Shield Resistance. Total Shield is the sum of all installed shields on the ship. No stacking penalty from itself or any other component. Shield Resistance is the average of all Shield Resistance figures of all shields installed on the ship. Total Shield values vary wildly, depending on the race and ship role and hull size. High-resistance backline cruisers could have ~500 Total Shield at 30 Shield Resistance, enough to defend from a wave of bombers for a short time, but a frontline battleship would value a high-capacity shield with ~5000 Total Shield at 2 Shield Resistance over a high-resistance one, since most of its enemies are expected to have relatively high Shield Penetration values.
Damage taken by the ship’s hull is calculated according to the following formula: Damage Taken = Damage Dealt / ( 1 + Current Armor / 100 ), where Current Armor is equal to Total Armor minus the weapon’s penetration or any present armor debuffs. So a 100 damage weapon with 0 Armor Penetration hitting a 220 Total Armor ship should result in 31.25 damage, for example. At 100 Total Armor, the hull takes half damage from all sources, at 200 it takes a third, at 300 it takes a quarter etc. Armor Penetration would lower the Total Armor by the flat listed amount. The best armor penetrating weapons could have up to ~215 Armor Penetration, but relatively average damage, making them excellent tools for countering tanks, but merely average against other targets. In most cases, weapons with high Armor Penetration would have lower range, with a few notable exceptions. In the case of multiple sources of armor reduction or penetration, the percentile debuffs are summed up and applied first.
Damage taken by the shields is only lowered by Shield Resistance, which reduces the damage by a flat amount. Low capacity high-resistance shields are effective against fighters, low-resistance high-capacity shields are vulnerable to all targets, but are a very effective tarpit and form a buffer before the ship starts taking actual damage.

New orders and tactics:
In addition to Fighter, Frigate and Cruiser focus, another four optional orders would be Ignore Shield Above, Ignore Shield Below, Ignore Armor Above and Ignore Armor Below, which would make a ship deprioritize targets with a listed armor or shield value. Fighters, for example, would typically be equipped with low-penetration weapons, and should ignore targets with over 150 Total Armor, going straight for the more vulnerable backline. Shields would be effective against most Fighters since their main weapons have low individual strength, but are fired in great volume. However, shieldbuster torpedoes on the first wave of fighters, which have Shield Penetration, would quickly bring a target’s shield down for the rest of the bombing group. A shieldbuster-equipped bomber should then use the Ignore Shield Below option, set at 10, in order to avoid wasting their precious payload on miserably-shielded targets. Installing some anti-fighter weaponry on well armored ships that fighters must pass through before engaging more vulnerable targets in the rear is a good idea, and so is having a dedicated anti-fighter cruiser or a few frigates escorting the juicier targets.

New ship components:
These are just examples of possible new module types.
Quantum Booster - Affects all projectile weapons installed on the same ship. Increases flight speed by 20% and armor penetration by flat 20.
Integrity Disruptor - A slow firing (over 10000) medium-to-long range weapon that behaves somewhat like an EMP beam; it deals no damage, but decreases the Total Armor of target ship by 33% for a few seconds.
Disruptor Field - This large power hogging module will decrease the Total Armor of all nearby (within 500) enemy ships by ~20%. The disruption persists as long as the ship is in range.
Hull Enforcer - Grants ~750 health to a cruiser, and increases the health gained from all installed components by 20%. This component is somewhat heavy, and draws a low amount of power, but requires no crew and is moderately priced.
Shieldbuster Torpedo - A small, 35-damage torpedo with 25 Shield Penetration and no Armor Penetration, excellent at bringing down shields, strangely enough.
Kinetic Missile - Packing 30 damage and 105 Armor Penetration value into a small, fighter-compatible missile. The Kinetic Missile and Shieldbuster Torpedo are the most penetrating of all fighter weapons, and are given here specifically to give you an idea of the order of magnitude I’m aiming for.
Pulse Dogfighter - A fighter-sized pulse cannon with 5 damage, Shield Penetration and Armor Penetration. Fast-firing, excellent at dogfighting at under 300 range, nearly absolutely useless against larger vessels. This is here just to give you an idea of an effective anti-fighter weapon that will remain specialized in this system.
Overpowered Armor - Providing the same armor as Ultraheavy Armor, 65, at half the weight but the same cost, while simultaneously requiring 2 power to polarize it and 2 crew to maintain it.
Bastion Shield - This shield provides an enormous 2800 shield with a minimal 5 Shield Resistance to cruisers that expect to take a beating.
Phasic Barrier - The phasic barrier lets none but the strongest of weapons through. With 25 Shield Resistance and a modest shield capacity of only 500, this can stop harassment attacks dead in its tracks.
Anti-Energy Cannon - Cruisers equipped with this cannon can easily take out shields at medium range, with its wonderful 35 Shield Penetration and 100 damage at a 2750 refire rate. 0 Armor Penetration, though.
Collapse Blaster - Extremely complicated weapon that causes molecules of the target area to collapse into themselves, releasing a shockwave of destructive energy. The range is low, and the weapon is almost completely useless against shields, but the constant stream of 18 damage with 180 Armor Penetration at a very short 350 refire will quickly melt any target. The weapon is too slow to engage fighter-sized targets effectively.
Tension Generator - Front-line frigates are often equipped with this module to boost their defense to rival those of most cruisers. Increases Total Armor, Total Shield and Shield Resistance by 25% for the ship it’s installed on.

Problems solved:
Battles would feel to have more of a flow, where ships can get damaged and successfully escape combat or turn to hunt down a fleeing enemy. The problem of absolutely invulnerable one-gun ships would be completely gone due to the amount of specialized weaponry to deal with all threats with a large number of different tactics and fleet compositions equally viable. Extreme gimmick fleets like the invulnerable tank+DPS in tow or a single fleeing frigate with fifty thousand fighters and bombers would be much less dire. The game would be much more intuitive: armor lowers incoming damage, shield stops incoming damage, health is the thing that keeps the ship together. Most, if not all stalemate situations would be completely gone.

Dear author of the game: If you are too busy to do this, but are still interested, I’d happily waste a few hours of my life to do this for you. All I need is our permission, and some help.

So, dear community. What do you think? Have any comments or ideas?


115+ views, and not a single comment? Come on, people. If you don’t like it, at least say why.


I’m pleased that you like Gratuitous Space Battles in spite of its weaknesses. :slight_smile: Your advocacy of an “improved” GSB came with some problems of its own, though. While your mostly paragraph-less wall-o-text was an interesting read, dividing it into more paragraphs separated by double line breaks [whitespace FTW! :slight_smile: ] would have made it much less difficult to tunnel through. Even more so when dealing with such intricate subject matter. I’m confident that you don’t want poor formatting sending your thoughts to the “TL;DR” pile.

This forum has a Suggestions subforum. It’s really hard to miss. As you’re suggesting changes, this post should have been written there instead of here.

Unfortunate choices of overblown adjectives in your post’s beginning also dilutes your arguments and frequently makes it difficult to take them seriously. Examples:

Statements like those above, while containing varying degrees of merit, do nothing to depict you in the reader’s eye as a careful, even-handed and objective observer of game phenomena. It reads more like an adolescent rant, which I’m reasonably sure you’ll agree is not a tool for persuasion.

The very title of this thread is inflammatory enough to serve as very ably starting off on the wrong foot with the same game designer whose attention you are hoping to attract. It weakens your case rather than strengthens it. :confused:

Now moving from presentation to substance…
Your post also raised points that are, simply put, with very little hope of gaining any traction. Here’s why:

If you had read the Positech blog as well as elsewhere on these forums before posting your thoughts above, you’d know that Cliffski’s long since moved on to designing his next game (Gratuitous Tank Battles). GSB is mature now, and whether we like it or not no substantial new features are going into this game. The only new features to be added to GSB in the last year are the Nomads DLC (September 2010), the spin-off Galactic Conquest campaign game (November 2010), and the upcoming Parasites DLC (real soon now).

While attractive new hull sprites and a handful of cool new racially-unique weapons are nice, but the changes you’re agitating for are clearly well beyond that scope and are also just as clearly not priorities for Cliffski. Unfortunate interactions do exist in this game, but since GSB is well past the time when it was Cliffski’s bread and butter, major tinkering is even less likely to happen now. Cliffski needs to focus all of his efforts on the next game; not sweat over things he messed up in an old game.

Also, I can’t realistically see any game designer bringing in some random player as a partner to implement a substantial set of changes to any game’s core codebase. I apologize if that sounds harsh. GSB does indeed have flaws – hey, what doesn’t, right? – but the measures you propose are too numerous as well as much too late. I’ve been here since day 1 when the pre-release beta first went public, and even with my own long-term knowledge set of the game I wouldn’t expect Cliff, in Willy Wonka-style, to allow me to come in & mess around with his gratuitous chocolate factory. :smiley:

This game was never meant to be akin to the combat dynamic in Space Empires, Master of Orion 2 or Homeworld. It simply is what it says on the tin. Anyone mistaking it for a comprehensive, multi-layered, completely balanced battle simulation is barking up the wrong tree. I still enjoy GSB greatly, and am in the middle of modding major content for it, even in spite of this. I’m the last person to tell you to just shut up and accept the game, warts and all, even though that’s what it probably sounds like. To paraphrase a former American secretary of defense, you can’t always play the game that you wish it was…you have to just play the game that you’ve got. :wink:

Instead, I’m saying that the measures you’re agitating for are already predestined to go nowhere, so you may as well save your strength for more angst-free pursuits. For me, that encompasses playing GSB, modding the things that are player-accessible (which does cover a lot of ground), and doing so in ways that mesh with my personal vision.

On a strictly personal level, I have to applaud your creative ideas. I especially liked the Integrity Disruptor and the Pulse Dogfighter.


I think the breakpoint mechanism is fine, it allows shield/armor to be immune to something. The only “flaw” in the armor system is that

  1. It can actually resist everything
  2. It cost too much in all other situations

All the fixes needed is doubling the armor penetration of the beam weapons while drop armor cost by 1/2. But as it currently stands it’s either armor tank, long range armor tank, or anti fighter.

But I doubt it’s gonna happen. I couldn’t even get Tribe hull bonus drop to 80% last time, which is a 5 minutes fix. That was back when GSB actually had a community to back that change up, and my 1:50 attempt/win ratio Tribe fleets to back up the claim that Tribe is OP. So I think most of us gave up on trying to influence the game.