The role of Frigates

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yurch
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The role of Frigates

Postby yurch » Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:12 pm

These vessels have a severe identity crisis.

Their sister class, Destroyers, are doing quite well as a support vessel for Cruisers and Dreads. Frigates have a smaller utility selection in exchange for a faster engine, a new tier of shield, and wider weapon options. This has proven to be an uneven trade.

Despite the weapon options, frigates are incapable of defeating cruiser level shielding with anything else besides their (mostly) unimpressive missile selection, and are stymied by armor values over 16.

Defensively, the unique shield has a strength of 15, which is reduced further by a higher than normal shield stacking penalty - it can be knocked out in a single hit by even small damage weapons. The high-performance engine is decent if a little low on maneuverability; however, making a fast frigate with the intent of dodging fire brings many AI problems into concern - primarily, if it gets there first it gets shot first, and there's no viable way to tether them.

It seems as if their offensive weakness against cruisers is intentional, but they haven't been given enough leeway to perform other roles. We're running into the same problem many other strategy games do, where when given the choice, everyone buys King Tigers instead of armored cars. Why waste money on mediocre when you can get the best?

I propose this: Since Destroyers are oriented towards teamwork and helping larger craft out, we make Frigates excel in self-survivability and helping smaller craft out. Ideally we want something that ranges ahead and around the core fleet that gives fighters and gunships a safer space to operate in. The harsh universe of GSB likely uses the frigate as the core scout and policing frame - outside of battles it would make sense for these to grow tough and slippery.

Survivability suggestions:
Unfortunately we need pretty severe changes on this front:
Bring the Plasmatic Shield Generator almost up to par with competitive cruiser shields, with higher recharge rates. Resistance to rocket fighters is a radical option. The current 15 shield capacity is comically unacceptable against existing heavy weapons that do 40-75 damage per shot.
Hitpoint increase on all frigate hulls. They are susceptible to death explosions.
Maneuverability increase on the high-performance engine.
Tracking speed nerfs to the following weapons, which for some reason are more accurate than smaller counterparts:
Cruiser Pulse cannons (which currently range from 1.5-1.85) including the egregious Sledgehammer Pulse.
Cruiser Pulse Laser (2.0)

Offensive suggestions:
It's okay to leave them weak vs cruiser shields if they get other abilities or simply lasted long enough to see enemy shields wear away. It'd be nice if they were a bit better against smaller craft than cruisers without the abuse of tractor beams:
Tracking speed and/or range increase to:
Pulse laser (1.5)
Defense laser (1.7)
Anti-fighter beam (3.0)

Utility suggestions:
New module: Gamma-wave disturbance generators (name taken from habitat D458) - a tractor disrupting field in a radius around the frigate.
Allow the simple point defense lasers to shoot down limpets.

These two combined would make a very nice hiding place for long range fighters (torpedo, missile, sniper pulse) to stage from. It would be preferable to have the fighters have some degree of understanding where to operate from - the Ad-hoc escort command we discussed earlier would work well for this.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby TheMightyCat11 » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:48 am

This seems like it would be great, frigates are in dire need of some kind of effective use.
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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Sable Phoenix » Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:00 am

Some good suggestions here. I've mentioned in a couple places before that frigates are far too fragile, slow, and have far too little firepower too be viable. When I think of frigates I think of Star Trek's Defiant or Klingon Bird of Prey; fast, agile, difficult to hit, and hard-hitting in their own right.

I'll also re-iterate my suggestion here that frigates should have the role of minelayers and minesweepers; I feel that limpets should be a frigate-only weapon option, and that they should have the ability to shoot down limpets, just as you suggested. I also think some anti-cap-ship limpets that move very slowly (or not at all) but do heavy damage (aka mines) would really spice up the tactical space of the game.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Alekan » Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:54 am

I agree with Yurch – Frigates are simply not effective combat units. I refer you back to the weapon charts posted that were extrapolated from the game files.

Seriously, the Frigate Missile has a Damage rate of 3.10 – compared to a Cruiser Fast Missile that deals 15.90. Frigate missiles deal ~18% of the damage for 50% of the podule cost. Every single other Frigate weapon – including the Frigate Pulse – cannot go through even Cruiser Medium Shields (aside from the Hvy Plasma at a useless DPI of 6.30).

Frigates have no effective offensive tools to take on Cruisers.


Yurch has nailed it – why take armored cars when you can take King Tigers? Or rather popgun Jeeps vs. Nuclear Kittens with fast-tracking, long-range turrets… and the scenario is always a straight-up kill or be killed, biggest guns wins, with no maneuvers, flanking bonuses, or logistics.

With the current state of Frigates, you pay 25-40% the cost of a Cruiser… for 5-10% of the effectiveness of a Cruiser. It may seem like something to laugh off, but Frigates and Destroyers are a large chunk of interactive content that is actively Disappointing for players because they are ‘cool toys’ that penalize you for trying to use them (same for the majority of all weapons in GSB2 really – you… lose games when you use them because they don’t work/are not effective/no balancing). Right now GSB2 is like Starcraft with only 1 faction (Cruisers)… and with only a handful of units (Sledge Pulse, MWM, etc.). GSB2 has lots of fiddly bits that are useless (Frigates, Fighters, ¾ of all weapons) and it results in a very shallow game.


Frigates have 2 strengths:
1. Small size/cost: great for specialized ships, questionable tactics, the expendables
2. Potentially a far faster and maneuverable hull

The weaknesses of Frigates (criminally low HP, ineffective weapons, dominating Cruisers) need to be minimized. The most dynamic games don’t compare weaknesses and strengths: they throw Strength vs. Strength, and let the Meta evolve from the competition. In this case, Frigates have Speed/Flexibility/Cost vs. Cruisers Raw Power. Cruisers are your tanks, Frigates should be the mechanized infantry. Roughly equal Value (cost/power) between the two hull sizes means a far deeper game and more meaningful (and fewer penalized) decisions – as there are fewer ‘obviously correct’ paths to take.

-I already mentioned it in the limpet thread – Frigates (and Destroyers) should have Limpets and Drones as their weapon of choice. It gives them stand-off support and attack abilities so they can hide behind the gun line of cruisers.
---Ability to fulfill mission while hiding behind Cruisers = more value; surviving longer behind Cruisers = more value.

-give FFs a tiny (refueling, but no repairs) carrier module
---this allows No Cruisers games and makes Frigate strike groups possible

-use what Yurch is suggesting

-FFs and DDs need to be treated and balanced like they are Pocket Cruisers – have the shield and armor resistance of Cruisers, but with lower HP totals. The target power level should be that 3 Frigates can take out a Cruiser (any weaker than that and Cruisers will steamroll in numbers). By normalizing resistances between the classes, it makes it far easier to balance weapons and come up with other mechanics to emphasize the differences.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Xinxspuz » Fri Jul 03, 2015 1:59 pm

I agree with a lot of the comments here. I rarely, if ever, use Frigates or Destroyers because they're just not effective at all.

I think their original design intent was to be point guards (with anti-missile defenses) and/or screen against fighters. They fail at the point guard role because they're so squishy that a few shots, even at a relatively low target priority, will knock them out and leave the thing they're supposed to be "guarding" open to missile attacks. They also fail at the anti-fighter role because all of their weapons have such low DPS values that even a squad or two of fighters can crank out damage faster than the Frigates/Destroyers can neutralize them.

After doing some historical reading, I think I see where these roles came from, in terms of wet-navy ships in the last century. Frigates and Destroyers (there's a bit of crossover in those labels at times) were supposed to be anti-submarine (and later, anti-aircraft and anti-missile) defenses, floating around on the outer edges of a fleet or convoy. They were generally faster than most other ships, and usually carried small- to medium-strength weapons. Some examples carried a few bigger weapons - Germany liked building heavily-armed destroyers with guns comparable to some cruisers (albeit usually just one gun of that type, compared to cruisers mounting multiple batteries of large guns).


On the other hand, frigates in GSB 2 have woefully ineffective anti-fighter weapons, and virtually no viable choices for hurting heavier ships. As others have pointed out, the only weapons a frigate can mount that will penetrate cruiser shields are a paltry selection of missiles, all of which are flat-out horrible compared to existing missile launchers for cruisers and dreadnoughts.

Frigate anti-fighter weaponry suffers from such low DPS and short ranges that a squad of fighters with rockets or torpedos can usually wipe whole clusters of frigates out in seconds, with the frigates shooting down only a few fighters in return. It's truly sad when a ship is handicapped out of the gate at the ONLY ROLE IT'S SUPPOSED TO EXIST FOR.


Destroyers are an even worse selection. They have literally HALF the available weapons modules of a frigate, and substantial speed penalties. On top of that speed penalty, they don't have access to the top-tier engine module that frigates can mount, making them even more cripplingly slow. The only thing destroyers have going for them is their array of anti-missile defenses, but those are only moderately effective to begin with, and if your opponent has built a missile-free fleet, your destroyers and up being a complete waste of money. Even against a missile fleet, a few missile-heavy cruisers can overwhelm even a group of anti-missile destroyers and take them out one at a time. Once again, the ship is failing at the role that it seems to be designed for.


One of my most memorable experiences in GSB 1 was playing the campaign, and getting my rear end handed to me by a fleet of fast Nomad frigates with Ion Cannons. Now, Ion cannons were one of the highest DPS weapons in GSB 1, and could penetrate heavy cruiser shields. Normally, that still wasn't an issue, because those were offset but a short range, and a pretty low Armor Penetration.

This fleet, however, was fast enough to close range (and evade my weapons) quickly, and the way the orders were structured made the ships keep dancing around and tearing my cruisers apart. It was a beautiful combination of playing to the strengths of the race (speed boosts on most Nomad ships), the strengths of the ship class (Ion Cannons were a frigate-only weapon), and using specific orders to make the ship design even more effective (Keep Moving, and having a short firing range, meant that most of my cruiser weapons couldn't hit back effectively).

Those frigates completely obliterated a cruiser fleet 6 times its cost - one, I might add, that had experienced almost no major problems in any previous battles. I retook the planet a few turns later, but I had to design a new fleet, with at least one new cruiser design, specifically to counter that fleet and that fleet alone.


Doing something like that in GSB 2 isn't even possible. Frigates, even frigates with missiles, can pound on a cruiser all day long and barely make a dent in it, while the cruiser just picks them apart at its leisure. Forget closing to short range - Pulse Cannons, especially of the Sledgehammer variety, make that a losing proposition for any ship (even another cruiser). That, to me, is the core problem with frigates and destroyers. They've been shoehorned into having only one specific role in a fleet, lack the flexibility to support innovative designs or clever use of orders, and even when you use them for the specific role they're supposed to fill, they still suck at it.

Having some longer-range anti-fighter weaponry would help - something that can swat fighters down before the fighters get in range of torpedo barrages, for instance. Why not have a fighter-killer missile that has long range (800+), high tracking speed, high turn speed, and low shield and armor penetration? That would make them better at their intended role.

Or, while you're at it, why not add a heavy shield-penetrating weapon for destroyers? Tribe frigates in GSB 1 could mount autocannons, which could penetrate anything but Reflective shields, did a moderate amount of damage (for a frigate weapon), and had a good tracking speed. Since all the beam lasers have low shield penetration and high armor penetration, why not bring back projectile weapons? Having a railgun-type weapon that's specific to destroyers, has long range, and high shield penetration (but slow rate of fire and mediocre tracking speed) would give them a viable option against capital ships. If it takes gobs of power or crew, you can limit how many are on a single ship (one if you want a destroyer that can still maneuver, two or three if you're ok with having a gun platform).


I'd also like to see destroyers have somewhat better engines. Historically (from what I've read, at least), wet-navy destroyers were usually more maneuverable than frigates. They weren't always faster in a straight line, but typically mounted two screws (propellers), which let them make sharper turns and respond to threats better. Frigates might mount a single screw with larger engines, but typically had problems with turning. Why not add a new engine module for destroyers that has decent thrust but high maneuverability? Maybe a 50 thrust, 100 maneuverability engine? That gives them better turning ability, which means that modules with narrow firing arcs can be brought to bear more effectively.

I'd like to play around with more designs, but there just don't seem to be any viable ones they way things are right now. This needs to be fixed. Right now, anything a frigate or destroyer can do, a cruiser can do 10x better - and with better chance of surviving the battle, too.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby cliffski » Fri Jul 03, 2015 7:41 pm

Thanks for the feedback guys. If people think frigates suck...then frigates need fixing. I totally agree.
Originally I was thinking frigates would be the first line in your fleet, they move fast, and they strike the firdt blow. They would intercept incoming waves of enemy fighters, and maybe not take them all out, but at least slow them down. This is not happening.
So in general; I think we agree that frigates need to...

    1) In general have greater survivability
    2) Have better anti-fighter capability
    3) Have a more obvious high speed option for attack runs
    4) Have a better chance of dealing damage against cruisers. (t least *some chance*).

So here are some concrete proposals for you to say yay/nay to:

1) An across-the-board 30% boost in the hit-points of all frigate modules.
2) Double the damage of frigate anti-fighter missiles from 9 to 18.
50% boost for the damage from a frigate flak cannon from 12.5 to 18.
Boost the beam power (time it can stay on) for both frigate tractor beam variants by 50%
Increase the tractor beam recharge rates for frigates by 25%.
3) Increase the thrust of all frigate engines by 25%
Increase the maneuverability of all frigate engines by 25%
4) Push up the shield pen of Heavy beam laser for frigates to 15 so it can now do damage to all frigate shields but plasmatic, and also damage light cruiser shields.
Give heavy frigate plasma a boost to shield penetration from 19 to 23 so it is also a viable option to damage cruisers with heavy shields.

Thoughts?

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Archduke Astro » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:26 am

cliffski wrote:
So here are some concrete proposals for you to say yay/nay to:

1) An across-the-board 30% boost in the hit-points of all frigate modules.
2) Double the damage of frigate anti-fighter missiles from 9 to 18.
50% boost for the damage from a frigate flak cannon from 12.5 to 18.
Boost the beam power (time it can stay on) for both frigate tractor beam variants by 50%
Increase the tractor beam recharge rates for frigates by 25%.
3) Increase the thrust of all frigate engines by 25%
Increase the maneuverability of all frigate engines by 25%
4) Push up the shield pen of Heavy beam laser for frigates to 15 so it can now do damage to all frigate shields but plasmatic, and also damage light cruiser shields.
Give heavy frigate plasma a boost to shield penetration from 19 to 23 so it is also a viable option to damage cruisers with heavy shields.

Thoughts?

For now, the very short version:

    1) = Yes.
    Additionally, the mission-critical "infrastructure" modules need to become much less likely to getting insta-killed. I would raise hitpoints of all frigate engines, frigate maneuvering jets, frigate shield generators, frigate power plants and frigate crew quarters by at least +90% to +125% above current levels. All frigate modules & weapons not mentioned above by me can have a +66% HP raise instead.

    2) = Yes to all.

    3) = Frigate speed yes, frigate maneuver potentially no. Firing arcs aboard the frigate hulls are, in the main, already quite generously wide. If frigate engine thrust become raised more than the +25% presently discussed, then better frigate maneuverability might then become needed.

    4) = Yes to both.
    Also, please do raise shield penetration values on several other frigate weapons as well -- not just frigate Heavy Beam Laser and frigate Heavy Plasma. We're stuck deep, Cliff; more digging's needed to get back to sunlight.

Additional insights as time allows...
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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Xinxspuz » Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:31 am

One quick note before I go to bed, then I'll respond in more depth tomorrow...
A boost to the flak cannon *damage* would be nice, but one of the problems I've noticed with flak cannons is that they only seem to do splash damage when the projectile actually hits the target... which is not very often against fast-moving fighters. It has a tracking speed of 1.6.
The whole point of a "flak" shell against an airplane is that it doesn't HAVE to hit... it explodes and briefly saturates an area with shrapnel, which is deadly to fragile airplanes. Is there any way to change the to-hit calculation for the flak cannon so that it *always* hits an area, instead of just sometimes hitting a fighter and THEN doing splash damage only in that case? (Or just give it a huge tracking speed boost and keep the damage lower?)
Also, cliff, unless you're a couple patches ahead, the flak cannons for both frigates and destroyers in my game show a damage rating of "5.00". Do they actually do 12.5 and it's just displaying wrong?

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Archduke Astro » Sat Jul 04, 2015 5:54 am

Xinxspuz wrote:but one of the problems I've noticed with flak cannons is that they only seem to do splash damage when the projectile actually hits the target

Actually, this is intentional; see below.


Xinxspuz wrote:Is there any way to change the to-hit calculation for the flak cannon so that it *always* hits an area, instead of just sometimes hitting a fighter and THEN doing splash damage only in that case? (Or just give it a huge tracking speed boost and keep the damage lower?)

In GSB1, we suffered for nearly two years with a flak gun whose flawed Area-Of-Effect damage dynamic was close to what you described above.....

The weapon did have a stated tracking value, but that was nearly meaningless because in practice it was an auto-hit a freakishly high percentage of the time. The resulting multiple chains of splash shockwaves were a bad thing, triply so when your side deployed numerous flak-armed ships. This would cause a massacre all over the place -- not just for the unfortunate enemy targets themselves, but also "friendly fire" for the flak-using fleet's own fighters, and even for their own frigates as well! Outside of modder-made content, almost no small unit was speedy enough or durable enough to transit safely through those kinds of AOE death zones without getting wrecked. Auto-hit & constant-splash flak was a menace to BOTH sides in battle; thank goodness its accuracy & detonation chances "on paper" were finally enforced in full.

I'd just as soon NOT have us return to anything remotely like auto-hitting either a solid target or an empty area of space near a target. ;)


Instead, as per your own alternate suggestion, let's consider improving the flak cannon's current bizarrely-poor 1.60 tracking value (raise it up to 3.30? 3.60? 3.90? More?) so as to make it truly effective against most examples of one-man craft. Very fast, fragile units are precisely what flak-armed frigates & destroyers should be able to engage with ease. We could somewhat raise the damage per hit while perhaps keeping the current rate of fire, or even raising damage and speeding-up the rate of fire to help those poor cross-eyed, can't-hit-the-side-of-a-barn AA gunners.

And friendly ships will not be imperiled if flak's armor penetration and shield penetration values are also kept below a resistance threshold equal to that of a weakly-shielded/-armored frigate or destroyer hull. This isn't supposed to be a "i can quickly knife to death any and all ships smaller than a cruiser" weapon. Otherwise, it's going to be difficult at best to employ such a flak gun aboard those frigates/destroyers as an anti-fighter/gunship defense.
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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Alekan » Sat Jul 04, 2015 10:38 am

Good to see that Frigates are being looked at.

Guess I will give feedback on the proposals…

1) HP Boost: Yay.
However, the extra HP is only a marginal buff – the problem is that Frigate Shields and Armor are completely ineffective at resisting enemy fire and they cost too much.

2) Anti-Fighter Missiles: Nay.
-The increase in damage will give AFMs very high alpha damage vs. fighters
-Frigate AFMs need more tracking to hit targets, greater RoF to efficiently engage fleeting targets, greater range to increase zones of control, and lower crew costs to make them a more attractive option.
---Tracking: Increase to 4.00
---RoF: Decrease to 1200 (this increases DPS by 140%)
---Range: Increase to 1000
---Crew: Reduce to 12
Flak Cannons: Nay.
-Friendly Fire… Flak will never be useful in a combined fleet if this remains
Tractor Beams: Yay.
-It’s a good idea with no obvious downsides.


3) Engines: Nay.
-Engine speed is not the issue. Fitting requirements on engines are too high. Its not practical to put more than 2 or 3 on any FF or DD. Thus speed fits are impractical. I recommend you take a look at the Thoughts on Engines thread I posted and look at the proposed changes to frigate and cruiser engines. Normalizing engines and reducing fitting requirements will encourage people to put more engines on their ships.

4) Shield Pen: Big Nay.
-This is a nerf to Frigates not a buff. The proposed change would make Frigates vulnerable to another weapon – and it does nothing to solve the problem of ineffective anti-Cruiser weapons. Almost no-one uses Light Shields without a Medium for resistance…

5) Heavy Plasma: Yay.
-BUT; the fitting requirements! The Frigate Plasma uses 22 power while the Cruiser Plasma uses only 12. Almost no Frigate can mount more than 3 of these and still cost a reasonable amount… so once again we are paying for an entire Frigate (25% of the cost of a Cruiser) to deal the DPS of 1.5 Cruiser Heavy Plasma podules. Totally not worth it. Even though the proposed change means it can actually do something, it is still junk.


As far as the thinking on Frigates… without a complete balancing pass, Frigates will never be the first line of the fleet. GSB is all about attrition warfare – small weak ships out in front is Free Money. Striking the first blow hurts you if the target survives the initial assault and you had to sacrifice units to achieve it.

Putting Frigates out in front to stop Fighters hurts you since Fighters cant do anything against Cruisers. You are just throwing money away putting Frigates with ineffective armor and shields out in front to take damage that would otherwise be resisted by Cruisers.


If anything, 3 Frigates should have equal or even greater firepower than a single Cruiser. If Frigates cannot tank fire, then they must dish out damage at competitive costs – otherwise they are worthless in the mainstream. Again, why settle for less?


One last thought: Frigates need to be meaner. They need to be able to do more. For GSB2 Cruisers got huge range increases on most of their weapons, and that has greatly increased their zones of control and overlapping fields of fire. Frigates had their firepower taken away when they should have been receiving buffs to compensate for their increased vulnerability. Fixing Frigates will take a lot more than just a few buffs…

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby cliffski » Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:38 am

As ever, its awesome to read feedback from you people. Ok, I take the point on the maneuverability of frigates. I guess they are slow enough now that you don't really appreciate whether they need to turn faster or not :D. I'll make sure these changes go into the next patch, which I also intend to use as an opportunity to improve some of the GUI and visual feedback for new players. I may start a separate feedback thread for that...

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Xinxspuz » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:31 pm

Archduke Astro wrote:Actually, this is intentional; see below.

The weapon did have a stated tracking value, but that was nearly meaningless because in practice it was an auto-hit a freakishly high percentage of the time. The resulting multiple chains of splash shockwaves were a bad thing, triply so when your side deployed numerous flak-armed ships. This would cause a massacre all over the place -- not just for the unfortunate enemy targets themselves, but also "friendly fire" for the flak-using fleet's own fighters, and even for their own frigates as well! Outside of modder-made content, almost no small unit was speedy enough or durable enough to transit safely through those kinds of AOE death zones without getting wrecked. Auto-hit & constant-splash flak was a menace to BOTH sides in battle; thank goodness its accuracy & detonation chances "on paper" were finally enforced in full.

I'd just as soon NOT have us return to anything remotely like auto-hitting either a solid target or an empty area of space near a target. ;)


Instead, as per your own alternate suggestion, let's consider improving the flak cannon's current bizarrely-poor 1.60 tracking value (raise it up to 3.30? 3.60? 3.90? More?) so as to make it truly effective against most examples of one-man craft. Very fast, fragile units are precisely what flak-armed frigates & destroyers should be able to engage with ease. We could somewhat raise the damage per hit while perhaps keeping the current rate of fire, or even raising damage and speeding-up the rate of fire to help those poor cross-eyed, can't-hit-the-side-of-a-barn AA gunners.

And friendly ships will not be imperiled if flak's armor penetration and shield penetration values are also kept below a resistance threshold equal to that of a weakly-shielded/-armored frigate or destroyer hull. This isn't supposed to be a "i can quickly knife to death any and all ships smaller than a cruiser" weapon. Otherwise, it's going to be difficult at best to employ such a flak gun aboard those frigates/destroyers as an anti-fighter/gunship defense.


I see your point. I think that keeping the armor and shield penetration values low on the Flak Cannon would help to keep that situation under control. Ideally, a Flak Cannon should be next to useless against anything OTHER than a fighter. Current shield penetration is 6 - it could even go to 0 and I'd be fine with that. There aren't any shields out there with <7 resistance, but why make it capable of damaging something that's not its intended role? Current armor penetration is 10 - that's pretty high. Just quickly dragging some modules around, I can't make a viable fighter or gunship with an armor value higher than 5.12 (and that was using the Zyrtari fighter hull with a 20% armor bonus). Most of the high-armor designs I just played with ended up in the 4-4.8 range. Why not drop the armor penetration on the Flak Cannon as well - to somewhere in the 3-3.5 range? That way, lightly armored, fast fighters are still vulnerable to it, but if you *want* to build a slower, heavily armored fighter/gunship, you can go that route and not worry about flak cannons as much. That also removes the problem of Flak Cannons being super effective against frigates when they probably shouldn't be.

As far as the Flak Cannon friendly fire on your own fighters - duh. :) To me, Flak Cannons (should) fill the role of "I want a workable anti-fighter defense, but I don't want to bring carriers or interceptor-type fighters myself." I absolutely think they should keep the friendly fire aspect. That's part of the fun of GSB: 'Awesome, I've got this great defensive formation where all my ships protect each other, but if enemy fire DOES manage to get through and kill one of my cruisers, the whole formation is going to go up like a string of firecrackers.'

To summarize:
Flak Cannons: (Current --> Suggested)
Shield Penetration: 6.00 --> 0.0
Armor Penetration: 10.00 --> 3.0? 3.5?
Tracking Speed: 1.60 --> 3.2?
DPS: 12.5 --> 18.0 (Oh THAT'S where Cliff got the 12.5. That's what I get for trying to post coherently late at night. X) )
Minimum Range: 120 --> 60? (I realize this puts the frigate potentially inside its own splash radius, but a 120 - 500 range bubble is a little weaksauce. You could also expand the max range instead of shrinking the minimum.)
Friendly Fire: Yes --> Still yes
Shield Damage: 50% --> 0%
Armor Damage: 100% --> 50%?
Hull Damage: 70% --> 100%? (This way, Flak Cannons are most effective against lightly-armored targets, but won't just sandblast all the armor off every fighter that comes in range.)

One caution on the DPS: With a higher Tracking Speed, the actual DPS will go up across the board because the Flak Cannon is hitting more. I think it would be less broken with a higher damage value and slower reload. That way, you're effectively projecting a "kill zone" around your destroyers where the Flak Cannons are going to get one, maybe two, good shots at fighters as they come in on their attack run. Fast reload, low damage is doing the opposite - you're making a "bubble" where fighters are going to take, on average, small amounts of damage continuously as long as they're inside the weapon range. The first one is closer to how Flak Guns (using the historical analogues again) actually worked. Although, some sort of radiation-based anti fighter weapon that literally DOES create a radiation zone around a ship might be an idea for an upcoming expansion... :)

Alekan, I'm going to go find your Engine thread right now. I had some thoughts on that, too.

And cliff, thanks for making such an awesome game. We wouldn't argue about it on teh Internets if we didn't enjoy playing it so much! :)

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby cliffski » Sat Jul 18, 2015 9:12 am

So a recent patch implemented a bunch of changes to frigates, to summarize:

2) Balance Change: An across-the-board 30% boost in the hit-points of all frigate modules.
3) Balance Change: Double the damage of frigate anti-fighter missiles from 9 to 18.
4) Balance Change: 50% boost for the damage from a frigate flak cannon from 5 to 7.5.
5) Balance Change: 50% Boost for the beam power (time it can stay on) for both frigate tractor beam variants.
6) Balance Change: Increased the tractor beam recharge rates for frigates by 25%.
7) Balance Change: Increased the thrust of all frigate engines by 25%.
8) Balance Change: Increased the shield pen of Heavy beam laser for frigates to 15 so it can now do damage to all frigate shields but plasmatic, and also damage light cruiser shields.
9) Balance Change: Increased heavy frigate plasma shield penetration from 19 to 23 so it is also a viable option to damage cruisers with heavy shields.

Do people think the situation feels better now?

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Alekan » Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:59 am

I suppose I should explain what I play.
Usually Terran; I don’t do challenges anymore due to lack of balance.
Having done the Slug and Rush stuff, I’ve settled on balanced/casual fleets
Fleet speed is usually 28-33
Most common setup is Cruiser Line, DN fire-support (DN explosions are killer…), DD and GS defense.


Boost to Frigate Engines
At first I thought ‘any buff is better than none’. After trying to redesign my FFs and DDs, the buff is Fustrating… and that is the last thing I expected. My Frigates go TOO fast now! It sounds dumb, but the art of the ‘Escort’ order for Frigates is to make the Frigate just fast enough to keep up with a Cruiser to support from the rear but not too fast to slide past it to the front. The speed ‘buff’ has made it difficult to keep an efficient Frigate in the 33-38 speed range. The fine-tuning of mixing and matching engines for Slow Frigates is harder due to the increased speed. The High-Perf engine has too much thrust, and the Thrust-Injection has too little thrust (and any 2 engines is way too much), so I literally have to put extra podules on my Frigates to slow them down. Otherwise they charge ahead of the Cruiser Line (even on Escort) and get slaughtered.

I still cannot make a practical Fast Frigate that is not Yootani. You cannot outrun Cruiser Pulse with a useful payload.
TLDR: The ‘buff’ was a suprising headache for little gain and did not achieve the desired results.


Frigate HP Boost
…most of my Frigates can take 1 or 2 extra Cruiser Pulse shots. Yay I guess. It really does not do much. I had been hoping a Fitting buff to FF engines would entice people use Frigates with 2 or 3 engines… now I just use one. Its like an oversized Fighter – one good Pulse Cannon shot (40 dmg) to the engine and my Frigate is dead. Even with the HP buff, my frigates are LESS survivable now…


Double Damage of Frigate Anti-Fighter Missile
I ran a test mission to see how this ‘improved’. 2x Assault Frigates with 4x Frigate Pulse, and 2x Escort Frigates with 4x Anti-Fighter Missiles each. The Frigates had all orders except Fighter and Gunship deleted and were told to engage at 250. They went up against 4x Fighter squads at 3.06 speed with an unarmed fleet carrier for support. They all failed miserably (2 min on 4x speed and nothing was killed), since the Fighters are too fast. The AFM failed at its Primary Role.
So I ran the same test again with an Escort Cruiser in support of the Frigates. It had 3x Multi-Tractors. Since the Frigates could not damage the enemy carrier, I ended the battle when the fighters died. The Fighters died eventually… and the Assault Frigates dealt 5x MORE damage than the dedicated Anti-Fighter Frigates (every single Pulse did at least 600 damage, with one dealing 910… the best AFM was 163). Additional tests were similar. The buff did nothing worthwhile. I’ve already posted how to increase the effectiveness of the AFM.


Frigate Tractors
I still wouldn’t take a Tractor Frigate over a Multi-Tractor Cruiser, but the buff does help Frigates hold down Fighters better.


Frigate Beam Laser
The Frigate Beam Laser has a Tracking of 1.50. I said this was a nerf to Frigates… and its even worse than I thought. Fast Frigates (and Pulse Frigates) are totally suicide now, as unless you are Yootani your Frigates will get fried by enemy Frigates with beam lasers. The 700 range of the FBL means they sit idle as the Cruiser Lines exchange fire at 1000 range… making incoming Frigates priority #1. If you put on a Plasmatic… your Frigates shields are a one-shot for anything bigger, making this a lose-lose situation. As for its supposed advantage… no one uses Cruiser Light Shields on any decent cruiser.


Frigate Heavy Plasma
This is better than I had hoped. The launchers still have horrible DPS, but the high Alpha damage helps volley down shields and it has adequate tracking to hit most cruisers. The Heavy Plasma still is not a competitive option, but at least it is a viable option. As for the outrageous power cost: I laughed really hard when I realized my Plasma Frigate did not care about the high power cost… since I needed the weight of the extra reactor to slow my ship down so it would stay behind the Cruiser Line!


Summary:
The patch was a disappointment. The changes to Heavy Plasma was a noticeable buff, while the changes to Heavy Beams was arguably a nerf if you take into account the opportunity cost of Frigates and the target of the change (I would rather have an Armor Plate or a Capacitor than a Light Shield… they are that irrelevant). Frigate Engines had a suprising effect that took me a while to figure out what was going on. The speed buff did not do enough to make Fast Frigates viable (again, Fitting Costs! Too many 1.40+ Tracking weapons like Sledge), and the new vulnerability to Frigate Beams pushes Frigates firmly to the second line. The higher output of Frigate engines roughly negates the HP increase, as it decreases the amount of engine podules needed – making Frigates more vulnerable to lucky engine shots just like Fighters. Every other change (AFMs, Tractors, Flak) are ‘buffs’ that have absolutely Zero substance in the larger framework.

TLDR: Frigates are marginally better… and for me at least the situation feels worse.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby cliffski » Sun Jul 19, 2015 5:17 pm

Thanks for taking the time to try it out and reply, its much appreciated. I hadn't really realised that the downside to the anti fighter missile was its turn speed. I don't use many really fast fighters myself, so I guess that hasn't come up much.
The next time I release a patch (fairly imminent actually) I guess it would make sense to give a big buff to the turn speed of frigate-launched anti-fighter missiles?
It also sounds like (and feels to me) frigates are just too vulnerable in general. Perhaps a general armor-buff is required too?


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