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Community Discussion - V7 Balance Thread

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Closed Beta Build V7 has now been released and has substantially changed the balance of the game. This is the place to comment on the changes that have been made, and make suggestions about what else should be changed. The balance is still at a fairly primitive stage but it gets better with each new round of changes, so feel free to wade and give your thoughts even if it your opinions might seem obvious.

In addition to the specific balance changes made below, I want to pick out a few additional features from the (very long) full V7 changelog that are particularly likely to affect gameplay.

Relevant Features:

  • The fire path is now much better at correctly tagging intervening cover, which means cover now offers protection in a significantly wider arc than in previous builds.
  • Soldiers are now capped at gaining +30 in any attribute. A soldier with high starting stats will always be better than a soldier with bad starting stats (although the difference will be relatively smaller at higher level), which means those soldiers are now a more valuable commodity than before.

Balance Changelog:

  • Balance - you now have 12 soldiers at the start of a campaign, and the new starting dropship can carry 10 of them.
  • Balance - starting base Living Capacity is now 24.
  • Balance - starting funds on the Geoscape are now reduced to $2.5m, and the monthly funding per region has also been reduced by about 30%.
  • Balance - All weapons now have fire costs based on a % of max TU, rather than flat costs. The flat costs were an error on my part, as they were left over from some semi-related gameplay testing I did (X-Com and Xenonauts 1 both use %TU fire costs).
  • Balance - % TU fire costs are now always rounded down, rather than rounded up. In X1 you sometimes did not want your soldier to gain TU because it would actually cause them to be able to fire fewer shots in some circumstances.
  • Balance - Soldier training is now MUCH slower. Coupled with the change further down the page about stats being capped at +30 above starting values, your soldiers should no longer be superhuman killing machines about three missions in.
  • Balance - Soldiers can now gain strength in combat by spending TU while carrying over 80% of their max carry capacity.
  • Balance - Mind War is now squadsight for the aliens, rather than requiring no LOS.
  • Balance - Mind War success chance is now Psionic Strength vs Bravery, with 0-50 random roll added to both (previously it was 0-100 random)
  • Balance - the Mind Shield item boosts the Bravery (and therefore Psi-Defence) of a soldier by 25 when equipped in their Secondary.
  • Balance - due to one of the bugfixes below, UFO hulls are now much harder to destroy with small arms fire. Bring C4 if you want to easily breach a UFO!
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Balance - All weapons now have fire costs based on a % of max TU, rather than flat costs. The flat costs were an error on my part, as they were left over from some semi-related gameplay testing I did (X-Com and Xenonauts 1 both use %TU fire costs). 

If you only have 50 action point, per turn, and it cost 25% to fire your weapon, it doesn't matter how good you improve your stats, it will always cost the same, so that would be 4 shots, with 50 points, and 4 shots with 100 point. It actually takes you longer to fire your weapon the better you get!! I just can't see the the benefit??

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7 hours ago, Ruggerman said:

Balance - All weapons now have fire costs based on a % of max TU, rather than flat costs. The flat costs were an error on my part, as they were left over from some semi-related gameplay testing I did (X-Com and Xenonauts 1 both use %TU fire costs). 

If you only have 50 action point, per turn, and it cost 25% to fire your weapon, it doesn't matter how good you improve your stats, it will always cost the same, so that would be 4 shots, with 50 points, and 4 shots with 100 point. It actually takes you longer to fire your weapon the better you get!! I just can't see the the benefit??

It's important to know that the first Xenonauts and all the X-Com games use % TU costs - this isn't me changing the mechanics to something new or novel, we're actually moving back to the standard system used in almost all games like this.

Having said that, I do understand why you are raising this point. But here's why it's done that way:

  • The Time Unit stat of a soldier isn't intended to be a stat that makes them more effective at killing things, it's actually a stat that controls their mobility. Soldiers with high TU are fast and can move a lot of tiles. There's no other stat that makes a soldier move faster.
  • The stat that makes soldiers more effective at killing things is actually Accuracy. Accuracy doesn't do anything except make units better at dealing damage
  • (Incidentally, in the current setup having a soldier with high TU is always better than having high Accuracy, because TU makes you both faster out of combat and more deadly when in combat whereas Accuracy just makes you more deadly. We don't want one stat that is much better than all the other stats.)

Soldiers naturally increase both their Accuracy and their Time Units as they level up, which is where the problems happen. If a unit goes from 50% Accuracy to 100% Accuracy, they hit twice as many shots as a rookie soldier. If the soldier also goes from 50TU to 100TU and you aren't using % TU costs, that soldier can also fire twice as many shots.

Firing twice as many shots and having double the chance of hitting each shot means an experienced soldier can do 400% more damage than a rookie in one turn (as well as being able to move faster, absorb more damage and more likely to overwatch fire). Their killing power is increasing quadratically rather than linearly.

Sure, experienced soldiers are meant to be better than rookies, but they're not meant to be *that* much better. The best guns in the game do roughly 300% more damage than the starting weapons - which means an experienced soldier with a ballistic rifle will do significantly more damage than a standard soldier armed with the best weapons in the game developed from technology stolen from a spacefaring intergalactic civilisation, which is kinda silly. Making losing a couple of experienced soldiers such a big problem that it might end an entire campaign is the sort of thing that happens in XCOM, not X-Com.

So yeah, that's why Xenonauts and old X-Com use %-based TU costs rather than flat TU costs :)

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18 hours ago, Ruggerman said:

Balance - All weapons now have fire costs based on a % of max TU, rather than flat costs. The flat costs were an error on my part, as they were left over from some semi-related gameplay testing I did (X-Com and Xenonauts 1 both use %TU fire costs). 

If you only have 50 action point, per turn, and it cost 25% to fire your weapon, it doesn't matter how good you improve your stats, it will always cost the same, so that would be 4 shots, with 50 points, and 4 shots with 100 point. It actually takes you longer to fire your weapon the better you get!! I just can't see the the benefit??

No, it takes more TU, but the same amount of time.

Higher TU means you run faster, since movement takes constant TU.

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Has anyone gotten their steam code to try the new version? I had called Xsolla, but never heard back or seen a code( only had gog option, never pressed it).

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What a wonderful world there all are equally empowered with the same physical abilities, with all running the same time for the mile, and bench pressing the same weights.

Can't see it myself, but we can live in hope.

 

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Perhaps it would be nice to always have one elite soldier at the start of the game (say, from a unit such as the SAS). Someone to protect at all costs through the game.

Maybe if you paid for it, this could be the character you chose to model in-game :)

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11 hours ago, Coffee Potato said:

Has anyone gotten their steam code to try the new version? I had called Xsolla, but never heard back or seen a code( only had gog option, never pressed it).

Unfortunately you won't get it until towards the end of the month, sorry. Even migrating people off Xsolla is complicated.

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Edit: Arrghhhhh just gone back to Steam and it’s there! End Edit!    Have all the new codes gone out? to Kickstarter backers? Can’t seem to have or access the new game, could well be me having a senior moment!

Edited by stewpidbear

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When I started on Kick Starter, I bought it through Xsolla,( I have the email confirmation) but some how I got a steam key very early, about V3?

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I much preferred the mechanics where you had a flat cost for shooting. Some of the changes have been good, some have spoiled the game for me. I kinda feel that the game is regressing into X1 in 3D. 

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I am in agreement with Emily_F on this subject, as you are very much limited, in personal soldier stat advancement, if the better you get the slower your reflex are.

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37 minutes ago, Ruggerman said:

I am in agreement with Emily_F on this subject, as you are very much limited, in personal soldier stat advancement, if the better you get the slower your reflex are.

more TU's doesn't mean the soldier gets more time, it means the soldier gets more done in the same time. (every TU piont is more effective time expenditure)

for example: a "turn" would be 3 seconds of time where this realtime. (this is a made up number to illustrate the point)

-you have a 45 TU rookie, every 15 TU points would be a second.

-you have a 90 TU veteran, now every 30 TU is a second. 

flat costs grow along this line meaning that soldiers get notably faster. 90TU soldier can move faster because it can fit more 3-TU costs in its TU bar. flat costs still apply to movement as far as I have seen

percentile costs remain exactly the same time wise 34% of that TU bar would mean the action takes a second, regardless if you have 45 or 90TU's. effectively your weapons rate of fire doesn't increase...it does not make a soldier slower.

the stat to improve the soldiers lethality is accuracy, allowing the soldier to use the higher rate of fire burst modes more reliably, or land more shots with the semi-automatic options. 

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What if I don't move, but am doing covering fire for my team mates, I will still only get 2 shots, big deal!!

You can try to break it down, as above, but that's not how it feels.

I feel that a time unit should be just that, a measure of time, be it a second, or a minute, but a trooper should be able to do what he could do quicker, as that trooper got more efficient.

Edited by Ruggerman

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There's a set of videos that Coffee Potato kindly did here, which focussed on laser weapons. These videos, for me, had the unintended side-effect of showing endgame of flat costs. You'll notice in those videos that while he shows off the laser tweaks, everyone else is armed with LMGs and they are absolutely shredding anything that comes into overwatch range. This is because they can get multiple salvos off in a single turn, as everything has a flat cost. Is that fun for a mission? Possibly. For a whole game? Probably not. 

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I wonder if a hybrid model of "X%+N TUs" would work out; if the LMG is, for example, 50% +1, then it only ever gets one salvo off on any turn, even with MAXINT TUs- but with 30%+30, it's still going to be limited to one salvo for total TUs under 150, but someone with 70 TUs would be much better at repositioning and firing than someone with 50.

 

It would have the side effect that anyone with less than 43 TUs would be completely unable to fire it, which I think is interpretative of them being so badly wounded/encumbered/impaired/suppressed that they can't manage the weapon at all.

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Yeah, I feel locking down numbers will always result in a better strategy game, since even the smallest thing can potentially be exploited to all hell. The TU system allowed anything with rapid fire to just make an overwatch wall that absolutely nothing could survive. Thankfully that was adjusted, and I can't wait to try it all out. 

One of my favorite strategy games, Tactics Ogre, had a thing where they tried, and almost succeeded in implementing everything. We're talking an armor system, like 15 different damage types, dozens of buffs and debuffs for dang near every single situation, skills, perks, and even weight/movement calculations for each and every single action to attempt to be balanced by it's speed. They would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for some guy forgetting to adjust a number somewhere in the code for some of the Dex weapons (Longbows, Daggers, 1h Katanas), giving them something like 5% extra damage over other weapons. It would have been fine, except that this was just enough to make them utterly break the game on accident. The actual meta to the game became just getting all the fastest characters, giving them longbows, and abusing time travel spells to never give the AI a chance to shoot (The original intent seems to have been for the bows to suck against armor, which they do at first, and still do against certain units, but easily break about halfway through the first part of the game). 

The reason I mention this is that this balancing situation, while still incredibly fun, was missed by a team that practically invented the SRPG genre, and has been experiencing it for a couple decades. Not to mention this was sort of a labor of love for those making it, so they got some of the best talent out there to make it happen, making a game with such an absurd amount o polish in it's 600+ hours, branching timelines, time travel, and everything else, that there are only 3 known minor bugs to this day. When a modder began creating an overhaul project several years ago, they wound up reworking a lot of these systems to be more uniform, and the result was a far more interesting game strategy wise. I mention this mod in particular, because a lot of the answers came in the form of reworking mechanics to a fixed %. Cursed weapons were this mechanic where a unit could be sacrificed and turned into a weapon with their characteristics. Originally, though, this meant that they would always do either 1 damage, or near insta kill whatever they hit, but inexplicably also instantly remove terrain. When remade, they did a lot amount of initial damage, followed by a % of health, depending on it's type. This was a similar situation with the health drain spell, which always did either 1 or a ton, and ultimately found a nice anti-tank niche as a 20% drain move. There were hundreds of skills in that game, but let's just say that every time there was this all-or-nothing damage situation, locking it down to a % usually solved the problem, since grinding is usually not something people want in a strategy game. 

Ultimately, too many moving parts will break any machine, so if things are reasonably capped (which it sounds like they did, come on Steam code..), strategizing tends to feel better. As a rabid fan of the genre, I always loved when the core mechanics are locked down, but the battles and overworld are chaotic. You know yourself, but not your enemy, as it were. 

 

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It's not much of a strategy game if there's one easy strategy that makes everything else in the game irrelevant (i.e. stacking TU on all your soldiers). The argument against the % TU change appears to be that it feels better if your soldiers become ludicrously overpowered after a few missions, which doesn't hold much water as far as I'm concerned ... but if you really like flat TU costs, it's something you'll be able to mod in about 30 minutes once our mod editor is out.

As for the discussion about the X2 regressing to X1 in 3D, although I can understand the thought processes at work there given the changes we've made in recent months I'm not convinced it applies in this case. Should we do something notably worse than X1 just to make X2 different? That'd just change us from "X1 in 3D" than "X1 in 3D with much worse game balance". It's not like the base system or the air combat which at least made the game feel distinct, even if the X1 systems were better.

Decius - the game already supports % and flat cost combinations. I'm not sure if we'll use it in the game or just leave it for modders though, just because it's going to be hard to display the fire modes of a weapon to the player in an understandable way if each fire mode has a little TU cost formula. Like a burst mode would be something like " 20TU + 15%TU / 25 Acc x3 " which isn't exactly easy for a player to parse when there's up to four different fire modes on some weapons.

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I think it feels like how a sequel should. The same things are there, but tweaked to allow more depth from the system. There's more to do, the fighting feels more punchy, the new air stuff sounds nice, and there's more types of units skittering around. 

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I'm interested to hear what people think of the starting ballistic weapons. I've been doing a little tweaking, especially with the pistol, but overall I'm fairly happy with ballistic weapons at the moment. What do other people think of the v7 ballistic weapons?

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Mostly fine but the LMG before you sent the patch was useless, especially since it hardly ever actually caused suppression, let alone hit anything. Would be an idea to maybe make the LMG 50% of TU so if you're in cover you can actually put down some fire support. One paltry burst that neither hits anything or causes suppression is not what fire support weapons do. Also, the HEVY is even more useless. I know it's meant to clear cover, but not only does it fail spectacularly to do that, it's also wildly inaccurate. 

Finally, there should be an option to force troops not to take their overwatch shot if there is any chance of blue on blue. 

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One thing I've noticed with V7 is the change to the central base with the Skyranger and multiple regional bases with Radar and Interceptors. If an Alien Raid mission occurs in say western North America and your main base is in Northern Africa, the Skyranger is so slow that the raid almost invariably disappears before it can get there. So you take the hit in the region and likely lose funding at the end of the month, but have no way to address that. Given that there is no mechanic for having soldiers or other Skyrangers located in other bases, how will this be addressed? I don't think that you want to go back to something that is essentially X1 with a slightly nicer interface, but if there is no way to get to a raid mission before it disappears then that means countries will be dropping out left and right with no way for the player to address the situation. What are your plans around this?

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The other base bases, do not act like the bases in X1, and are hard to understand, how they are to be used, are they there to only house aircraft, or are they to place all of the infrastructure of the main base?

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1 hour ago, Ruggerman said:

The other base bases, do not act like the bases in X1, and are hard to understand, how they are to be used, are they there to only house aircraft, or are they to place all of the infrastructure of the main base?

The other bases work pretty much exactly like they work in X1, don't they?

2 hours ago, chiroho said:

One thing I've noticed with V7 is the change to the central base with the Skyranger and multiple regional bases with Radar and Interceptors. If an Alien Raid mission occurs in say western North America and your main base is in Northern Africa, the Skyranger is so slow that the raid almost invariably disappears before it can get there. So you take the hit in the region and likely lose funding at the end of the month, but have no way to address that. Given that there is no mechanic for having soldiers or other Skyrangers located in other bases, how will this be addressed? I don't think that you want to go back to something that is essentially X1 with a slightly nicer interface, but if there is no way to get to a raid mission before it disappears then that means countries will be dropping out left and right with no way for the player to address the situation. What are your plans around this?

Not sure. We'll probably either just speed up the drophip a little or put the X1 system in place where a ground mission will not despawn if there is a dropship enroute to it (unless it's a landed UFO).

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