The role of Frigates

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yurch
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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby yurch » Mon Jul 20, 2015 1:47 am

We should take a look how we used frigates in GSB1.

You could reliably throw loose frigates at .35-.41+ speeds with keep moving orders into close range with cruisers and they would do decent service. There were setups that killed frigates faster than normal, but these were an exception rather than a rule.

On top of the speed frigates had these options:
Single shield (for really really cheap frigates, and thusly a lot of guns)
Armored (with frigates capable of resisting rockets or even cruiser lasers)
Multiple shield (for better longevity and rather high shield recharge rates)

This was also when 'keep moving' worked more reliably for staying out of the way of damage.

The dreaded cruiser laser that everyone hated going against in GSB1 had less range than the ion cannon and a .9 tracking, as well as the 'optimum range' penalty that GSB2 no longer has. The cruiser pulse variants in GSB2 are stronger, longer ranged, and much more accurate, and that's creating a rough environment to be a frigate in.

I really do think that frigates need to be able to dodge fire more easily.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Alekan » Mon Jul 20, 2015 7:49 am

Looong Poast:

OK… I did not want to sidetrack into this but since its Anti-Fighter Missiles…

Cliff I highly suggest you fire up GSB1, load up some frigates with Anti-Fighter Missiles, and send them against fighters. The GSB1 AFM has 4x the tracking (12.50) of any other weapon in that game. Watch how often they miss – even against stationary Cruisers. When it comes to Anti-Fighter weapons, high tracking does not guarantee victory.

GSB1 AFM:
Tracking: 12.50
Range: 550
DPS: 17.30

A high tracking rating does not guarantee a hit at all. GSB1 had serious fighter swarm problems, and yet the AFM – with its massive tracking and DPS – was still considered underpowered.

In GSB1 it was impossible to design a laser fighter that could out run Fighter Lasers (2.80). So the minimum requirement was that a Fighter needed to outrun the tracking of Ion Cannons (2.00). Some specialized fighters (1x Rocket, Painters, Decoys) could go faster, but their effectiveness was limited.

For GSB2 the golden rule for Fighters and Gunships is to have a speed of 3.00+. Tracking is everything for Anti-Fighter weapons: the Fighter Pulse has a tracking of 2.80. Go faster than that and your Fighters are easily 3x effective because the enemy will miss far more often. The only viable Fighter weapon is the Pulse Laser (and for niches the Disruptor Bomb and Missile Launcher), as everything else has worse tracking/weighs too much/ineffective in its role.


The test that I ran examined the two most common scenarios for the AFM: No Support (just AFMs) and With Support (combo with Tractors). To make AFMs worthwhile, they need to be competitive in BOTH scenarios. AFMs are a specialist weapon and they need to feel better than the generalist Frigate Pulse.

-AFMs need high tracking (8.00 – 12.00) to hit Fighters with No Support
---If they cannot do this, then there is no point to the AFM (they should be an economical Soft-Counter)
---Keep in mind that they will still miss often and will do a fraction of their listed DPS

-AFMs need high DPS (12.00 – 20.00) to stay in shouting distance of Frigate Pulse With Support
---AFMs do only 70% against Hull, giving them an effective DPS of 4.13 against Fighters
---The Frigate Pulse deals 28.00 DPS (minus salvo recharge) which makes them the clear choice (for Everything)
---Eliminate Shield Pen so AFMs don’t encroach on other roles (keep the ArPen for armored Fighters)

-AFMs need a higher ROF
---The test clearly showed to me that the ROF of the Frigate Pulse enabled the frigates to almost instantly concentrate on wounded/tractored fighters and secure kills. The AFM is so slow it only gets 1 or 2 shots at any given fighter – even if both shots hit the Fighter will just retreat to the carrier to get repaired.



A Report on the defensive problems of Frigates:

Most important thing: Keep Moving needs to be fixed. Damage Mitigation from moving literally doubles or triples the worth of a Frigate. If this isn’t fixed, Fast Frigates will remain pointless no matter how many buffs Frigates get.

Shielding is… complicated. Yurch already pointed out in the OP the subtle (but critically important) problem in the interaction between Cruiser Alpha damage and Frigate Shield HP.
-In GSB1 the standard FF shield generator (70 ShHP) could not be one-shot (Beams were 50’s, otherwise 30’s).
-In GSB2 only the FF Med Shield has the ShHP to take shots – the Heavy (30) can be one-shot by most Cruiser guns.
---One-shots completely negate the purpose of a regenerating high-resistance shield

The FF Med Shield is the only reasonable option due to the fatal weakness of one-shot kills to the other options. This needs to be looked at.
---Frankly it’s a bear to change… either boost the HP of the other generators or reduce alpha and increase ROF on many Cruiser weapons. Personally I would decrease alpha and increase ROF – GSB is not very ‘Gratuitous’ – there is waaay too little Dakka (shooting). I loved the machine-gun effect of the Outcast Pulse Gun. In GSB2 a DN fires less often than a pair of GSB1 Pulse Guns – its sort of lame.

Moving on, for Armor we could definitely use a Heavy Armor module with 70 Armor. The big change from GSB1 to GSB2 is the way Armor rating is calculated. In GSB1 Armor HP was spread over only the modules that were present – empty slots did not drag down Armor rating. GSB2 counts those empty slots, making it far harder to adequately armor a Frigate. Because of this I would reduce the stacking penalty from 0.85 to 0.90. This compensates for the calculation difference and gives a boost to overall armor HP.
-Another idea is to separate Armor Resistance from HP, just like shields. You could have high resistance low HP plate, and low resistance high HP ablative armor. This would allow Frigates to have more ‘Armor HP’ without becoming resistant to too many weapons.

Continuing Armor, there is one very important perk of Armor that did not carry over from GSB1: resistance to Explosions.
-A decent armor rating would provide immunity to blast damage. This was one of the big reasons why Armored Frigates had a place in GSB1 (the other two reasons being No Fitting Costs, Competetive alternative to Shields).

As I mentioned previously, I do not use DNs on the front line. This is due to their massive splash damage that will cripple or destroy any supporting Frigates or Destroyers. When a DN dies, for me it deals at least half its cost in collateral damage to my own ships (often more). That is unacceptable – especially for Frigates that are already marginal investments. I do understand the reasons for the damage and I think it should still affect Cruisers, but at least for Frigates we should have some way of minimizing the damage.
---This needs to be restored to Frigates in GSB2

Addressing these 4 issues will largely solve the defensive problems of the Frigate HULL.


The rest of the (addressable) defensive issues lies in Cruiser Tracking. Specifically Cruiser Pulse of all types and the Sniper Beam. They are simply too good at hitting Frigates. Reducing the ability of Cruisers and DNs to respond to fast targets that are resistant to tractor beams is one of the best ways to carve out a place for Frigates. You wanted Frigates to screen and escort larger ships – reducing Cruiser tracking is a good start to giving players a reason look beyond ‘I killz it with my Battleships’.

The last step (frankly these steps should be done in this order but whatevers…) is Frigates need better weapons to give players a reason to even consider them. The previous posts in this thread have already gone over this. The current Frigate Pulse should be the ‘maximum value’ of a Frigate weapon and the buffed Frigate Hvy Plasma should be considered the ‘minimum value’.


Fix Keep Moving, address the defensive issues, adjust Cruiser tracking, revamp the weapons.

Frigates are not a simple or quick fix. It is a complicated mess of interactions and shortcomings.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby cliffski » Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:25 am

Now I look at the stats of the anti-fighter missile, I can see what you are complaining about :D It clearly has some dumb decisions in there. The weapon really doesn't need to have any decent shield damage AT ALL, and there is no reason not to give it a better tracking speed. I'm currently re-vamping the design of the module comparison GUI (see here:http://positech.co.uk/forums/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=12736) And this makes issues like this much easier to spot.

I think given that missiles can be victim to enemy point defense/smartbombs, that the AFM needs to be better value for money all round.
However, the whole point (I would argue) of figter being 'too fast to hit by anyone' is that it requires a more co-ordinated strategy to slow them down. Whats the point (for example) of limpet launchers and tractor beams if you can just equip a few AFMs and take care of fighters without any problem?

But I agree that their DPS is low, and the shield damage mechanic is wrong.
I'm going to immediately change Hull damage to be 100% and shield damage to be 25%. I'll also reduce the fire interval to 1500, and bump up max range to 900
I'm happy to be talked into other changes, but I'm concerned that buffing the AFM nerfs the need for limpets and decent tractors.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Alekan » Mon Jul 20, 2015 7:05 pm

Cliffski I think GSB2 needs to reduce the emphasis on Cruisers and increase the need for Frigates.

Currently Cruisers are SoloPwnMobiles. (and I really mean that – they can do everything very well)

The whole point of buffing the AFM is to reduce the need for Cruiser Limpets and Tractors by giving a good alternative in the AFM.

This is so a player – who has a limited pool of resources and needs to compromise to find an effective setup – is not overly pressured into choosing SoloPwnMobiles over Frigates and Fighters.


Remember, the important thing to keep in mind is that GSB2 is a war based on efficient use of limited resources. You ‘Win’ by being more cost-effective than the other side. When you look at any system, the Question should be ‘is this system cost effective?’
Even with massive buffs, the AFM would be only an ‘OK’ weapon. Why? Because while it can kill Fighters without support, observe very carefully just how much time it takes AFM Frigates to clear the Fighters. Time that the Fighters are killing your Fleet. This is the same issue from GSB1. Despite their Tracking and DPS, AFMs lacked the stopping power to prevent Fighters from gutting every unarmored Frigate in a fleet (Fighters still kill their cost before they die). There is no such thing as equipping a few AFMs and having ‘no problem’ with Fighters when against a competent opponent.


As for your worries about Tractors and Limpets:
Anti-Fighter Limpets were a marginal choice from the start – both of them are strictly ‘Enablers’ allowing heavier weapons to hit Fighters. This is completely useless for their cost, as Auto-Hit Tractors are – and always have been – by far the superior choice.

Tractors never miss and are guaranteed to stop a Fighter in its tracks – it is totally OP. They enable ALL weapons a decent shot at a Fighter. You could Triple their cost and they would still be OP.


AFMs are Pressure and Zones of Control. Tractors are flat-out Terminators. Different roles that will not change even with extreme buffs to AFMs.

Limpets are already worse than AFMs because their core concept is flawed. Buffing AFMs will not change that.



Lastly - and perhaps the most important point - having Fighters 'too fast to hit by anyone' is a major NO-NO. If your Fighters cannot kill Enemy Fighters without support - what is the point? There is none. By operating under that assumption you are requiring the use of OP Tractors.
A specialized 'Anti-X' weapon IS SUPPORT. That is their whole point.

Fighters should never be able to outrun Anti-Fighter weapons.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby yurch » Fri Jul 24, 2015 2:37 pm

I can agree with not wanting to make AFM too good, mainly because they are missiles, and work with guidance systems. Also, these aren't frigate specific weapons (destroyers can use them) so any further buffs are just going to be transferred over to destroyers in most fleets.

If we want frigates to be front-line units, a starting point is to increase the capacity of the unique frigate shield to the level of a cruiser. The threat of cheap saturation might be enough to get fleets to relax on the 'attack frigates' slider.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Alekan » Sat Jul 25, 2015 6:11 am

I think everyone underestimates just how bad Frigate weapons actually are (and lots of other things). We have now had 2 ‘balance’ passes at the AFM. It is still terrible. I’m tired of writing detailed explanations of how, why, and what needs to be done.


They say pictures are worth a lot of words, so…
Basic Attack Fighter.jpg
Basic Attack Fighter.jpg (514.29 KiB) Viewed 4073 times

Basic Terran Fighter. Nothing special about it. Note the Fighter Pulse and speed of 3.06.


For 1.38 I wanted to see how things ‘Improved’. So I loaded up that custom test battle again.
Ship Setups.jpg
Ship Setups.jpg (840.88 KiB) Viewed 4073 times

Just a pic of the setups used. 2 Assault Frigates, 2 Anti-Fighter Frigates, and a single Escort Cruiser. The enemy was 2 Fleet Carriers (3 Hangars each) and 8 of those Terran Fighter groups. Note that even with the Multi-Tractors, this battle took long enough that I ran it on 4x. Its entirely because the enemy fighters are faster than specialized Anti-Fighter weaponry. If the enemy Fighters could actually damage Frigates and Cruisers, they would have crushed this supposed ‘Hard Counter’ (Anti-Fighter+Tractors). If you do not massively buff Anti-Fighter weapons, there will be huge problems if you try to buff Fighters.


Moving on, the idea that AFMs will make DDs better is misplaced. The real comparison is ‘Frigate Pulse >>>>>>> all other FF/DD weapons’.
AFM vs. Pulse.jpg
AFM vs. Pulse.jpg (415.48 KiB) Viewed 4073 times

The result of that battle: Frigate Pulse did nearly 4x the damage of the ‘Anti-Fighter’ missile. I ended the battle after most of the fighters were killed since nothing could pen Cruiser Medium shields. Note the higher accuracy of the Pulse despite its supposed worse tracking. The ‘buffs’ brought down the damage disparity between Pulse and the AFM from 5x to 3.75x. We are Very Very Far from the point that AFMs are worthwhile on anything.


Here is a graphic demonstration of the importance of Tracking and why the AFM will always suck unless this is addressed. This is 4 ‘Anti-Fighter’ Frigates with no Tractor support against the same enemy setup.
AFM performance.jpg
AFM performance.jpg (809.64 KiB) Viewed 4073 times

Look very closely at ‘Shots Fired’. My supposedly specialized ‘Anti-Fighter’ Frigates fired off 42,000 Missiles. 42,000!!! I literally went AFK and cleaned my house while the game ran at 4x for nearly an hour. Tell me with a straight face that this is intended – that its good game design to have a weapon labeled Anti-Fighter to be so bad against ordinary fighters. These aren’t even Yootani fighters. I repeat: having Fighters outrun ‘Anti-Fighter’ weapons is a big No-No. It doesent matter how much damage you do if you cant hit the target. A quarter of the Shots Hit are within the last few seconds before the Pic, as the Fleet Carriers had run out of supplies and the Fighters ran out of fuel (hence the fighters on the right of the map).

The argument of ‘Bring a Tractor’ needs to go one step beyond: this is one of the Core reasons to take Cruisers over everything else. It needs to go if there can be any room for Frigates.


Lastly, to demonstrate the irrelevance of the Anti-Fighter missile, I loaded the same enemy fleet, but this time against 4 Assault Frigates with Frigate Pulse.
Pulse performance.jpg
Pulse performance.jpg (753.86 KiB) Viewed 4073 times

The battle lasted less than 5min, so fast that the Frigates started shooting the Carriers before I could pause for a Pic. It is very sad to see that the Assault Frigates routed the same setup that the supposed specialized counter-fighter setup took so long against. The worst part is that despite their far worse paper Tracking, they did so with only 27k shots fired. That 15k less shots fired than a 'Counter' to Fighters. Cliffski if you want to balance weapons, you need to do far more than Tweaks.

The fact that a ‘Generalist’ weapon is light-years better than a specialized weapon is one of the biggest flaws of the game. This issue is present in all ship categories. ‘Features’ like Limpets are novelties at best – cool graphics and concept, but it is useless when compared to the massively OP alternatives. Months ago I posted a weapon comparison – mostly from the game files – and highlighted which weapons were good and how everything else was junk. There were only 2 Frigate weapons that were ‘OK’; the Frigate Pulse, and the Frigate Sniper. Even though we now have the Hvy Plasma, the fundamental issue remains – Frigates don’t have enough decent weapons to make them worthwhile at all.

This thread largely explains what is needed for Frigates to be better – but the catch is that it is NEEDED. The game needs balance Overhauls, not Tweaks.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby neverless » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:39 am

Just a very stupid idea... why not make poor tracking anti fighter missiles have a payload similar to the poor tracking of the FLAK cannon, but made for a longer range. You can also increase minimum range for them if you want?
Don't know if I am still waiting for a Linux update newer than V1.35, or have given up... :-(

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby yurch » Sat Jul 25, 2015 5:39 pm

Pulse rolls to hit, missile has at least two additional fail conditions. Fire rate becomes key there; it's no surprise pulse is better on targets out of tracking range.

However, you can get much, much better performance out of the missiles if you simply equip painters with them. I used to pair my AF frigates in GSB1 with painter fighters because there's still a ~45% miss rate with a 12+ tracking shot, presumably due to fighter size penalty. In GSB2 it's a requirement just to make them useful. I do not imagine this mechanic intuitive for new players.

I'm surprised we don't have have a weapon that exploits lucky hit mechanics, a mass volley AF weapon would look neat.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby cliffski » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:03 pm

Thanks for all the feedback and data, I've been running some testes myself and confirm, that AFMs are kinda useless :D There are a number of factors at play that have resulted in them being badly balanced, My underestimating the real-world impact of the size variable on hit chance played a part. Anyway, there is a substantial buff in the wings for the AFM.
The new stats are:
missile speed: 0.42 (turns out to be largely irrelevant, and is reported differently to ship speed, something I intend to fix...)
turn speed: 14.
tracking speed: 5.4.

My tests now show it to be effective, but not unreasonably so, and tractor beams and limpets retain their role, as they enable ships with long range armor & shield penetrating firepower to occasionally hit fighters too.

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Re: The role of Frigates

Postby Alekan » Sun Jul 26, 2015 9:34 pm

Hm. Those buffs look surprisingly good. It sounds like you have a better idea of where to go with Anti-Fighter weapons (the turn speed is the key). I hope it works out. I’m looking forward to finally having a good reason to combo AFMs with Tracer Limpets.

Since you have invested so much time into figuring out how the Frigate AFM works, could you look at the Cruiser AFM too? Its probably best to get this out of the way before the next big project comes up and the thoughts behind the AFM are forgotten. Cruiser AFMs have good RoF and DPS – and they rightfully cost more in Fitting for the Cruiser hull. Reducing the shield pen would be a start, but beyond that I don’t really have any suggestions. The Tracking and DPS values could go either way since Cruisers usually combo with Multi-Tractors.


Once these changes are in, there are still the two Defense Lasers and the Frigate AF Beam to fix.


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