A while ago I was contacted by @Enhawk to take part in a general balancing/rework project encompassing a lot of the game’s areas. Along with several other players, we have been working for about 2 months on various changes to ships, weapons, tutorials, the galactic market, and more. This is part one in a series of posts detailing our reworks.
One of the things we’re not particularly happy with at the moment is the in-mission performance of some spacecraft (and the relative balance between different ship families) and certain equipment. After a lot of thinking, we decided to make a bunch of changes to some items and gear as well as the BX family. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Engines and Maneuvering Jets
This section, along with some other ones, talks about spacecraft speed and its values. For reference, here is an infographic made by @EmeraldBirb which explains how that works:
In the first versions of the game, when fighter ships had a speed limit similar to the BX series, improvements to engines improved the ships’ maneuverability. This functionality has been removed along with the removal of the speed cap in Early Access version 3. Nowadays, engines only affect fuel efficiency while travelling between star systems in the galaxy view. They, along with reactors (which will be discussed later down the line), have no effect on gameplay in missions.
But with the inclusion of bomber spacecraft and massive environments, we think that engines should once again be made to affect in-mission performance.
The system works based on the same multiplier that are applied to the ship’s fuel efficiency stat and the engines’ thrust values shown in the store (and we presume that this is also how it used to work). This means that a fully upgraded, legendary Hall-Effect Thruster will give a 25% speed boost.
We’d also like to propose several changes to maneuvering jets. Currently, they allow the player to largely bypass the speed limit imposed by massive environments or bomber speed caps. Their only balancing factor is their prohibitively high price tag. So we decided to take steps to make them both less broken and less financially demanding.
Currently their bonuses stack multiplicatively. This means that one jet gives +15%, while two give +32.25%. The first change makes them stack additively (their bonuses are simply added together, so two jets with the current boost value would amount to a 30% boost). The main reason for this change is that otherwise jets would have to be nerfed to the point where equipping just one would net a negligible improvement. We also think that it’s just more intuitive to have them work as a linear bonus.
Both their effect and max mountable amount are lowered. We are considering two options: 3 jets adding 10% each, or 5 jets adding 6% each. Both of these configurations will make them contribute up to a 30% bonus to player speed. Which one we choose depends on how much we want the player to pay for the full 30% boost, and how many slots we want a full set of jets to take up.
Just like they do currently, multipliers are applied to the sum of the ship’s base speed and the rarity bonus. Their values are added together to form the total multiplier. For a legendary fighter with a full set of jets and a maxed out engine, this amounts to:
(800 + 75) * (1.25 + 0.3) ≈ 1356
The BX family
In their current form, bombers are not typically a viable alternative to fighters due to their large hitboxes and heavy speed limits. Using them on high difficulty missions without maneuvering jets is practically suicide. Their power limits are also set up in such a way that the BX-9 doesn’t get an upgrade on its max power level (30) while also reaching a full twin 10 pylon setup 8 levels before its predecessor, making it disproportionately more powerful compared to the rest of the family.
This is the table that shows changes we think should be made to the bombers (as well as showing how they’d perform with the aforementioned engine and maneuvering jet rework).
The first change that we’d like to point out is the removal of one of the bombers. There are several reasons for this move - we don’t really see the point of having more than 3 models in a family (especially when the other families have exactly that many), and having a 4th one complicates the rework.
For the sake of BX-9’s power progression, its limit is set to 18. If the BX-6 is given a 14 limit, the firepower range across the bomber family would get too compressed, and each bomber would only see a relatively minor improvement over the previous model (bomber limits would differ by 1 ). On the other hand, setting its limit to 12 would make it too weak in regards to fighters (with the current weapon stats, excluding Moron and Absolver, 12 would be 5% weaker on average compared with regular 20, and 22 would be only 10% stronger on average). This is why we believe that the bombers need some culling.
We’ve decided to get rid of the BX-6, since it is the least visually interesting of the bunch. The other bombers have their stats reworked, and the BX-7 takes the place of the weakest, lightest bomber. In terms of compensation for players who already own BX-6 bombers, we think that the best solution would be to just replace them with BX-7s. Preserving equipped gear shouldn’t be a major problem, since the BX-7 has a higher number of each type of slot compared to the BX-6.
The remaining bombers:
- have their hitbox radii lowered by 4 pixels (this amounts to a 16 pixel reduction in hitbox diameter at 1920x1080 resolution) (28/30/32 → 24/26/28)
- have their base speeds increased by 125 (450/400/350 → 575/525/475)
- have their power limits lowered by 2 to fix the max power issue on the BX-9 (16/18/20 → 14/16/18)
Additionally, we propose making it so that massive environments apply an additional 15% penalty to bombers’ movement speed (subtracted from the total multiplier) - it’s quite weird that the slowdown only applies to fighters, and we think that it should affect all ships so that it’s more balanced.
Müllers and H&Cs
While we haven’t reached any consensus on this matter, we have also considered several approaches to a rework of fighter spacecraft. Currently, Müllers don’t offer any significant advantages over H&Cs other than larger numbers of satellite slots. H&Cs have smaller hitboxes and offer a bonus key multiplier, making them a much more attractive choice overall. We brainstormed a few ways we could either nerf H&Cs or buff Müllers, but we couldn’t really agree on any one of them, so we’re going to present each of them here for feedback.
Firepower limits - suggested by @Enhawk
The first and simplest idea that was put forth. Each H&C model has a set power limit (we considered a range of 7 / 8 / 9 or 8 / 9 / 10) after which its weapon no longer upgrades. This would keep the H&Cs viable for very short missions, while allowing Müllers to outperform them on longer ones.
A second variant of this change was also discussed, one where in addition to the power limit the H&Cs would receive a slight damage buff (up to +15% was considered). This would make them better than Müllers on shorter missions where max power can’t be easily reached, but inferior on longer ones.
Weight limits - suggested by @OneWingLunarian
This proposal involves a new mechanic for the H&C family: each model has a set weight limit (higher with each next one) that determines what equipment can be mounted on it. This means that H&Cs can never mount the best versions of every type of equipment at once, only some.
There are several balance/design considerations. For starters, equipment weights would have to be redone (the aluminium nitride heat sink is both better and lighter than the copper heat sink), some equipment would potentially have to be removed if having different amounts of each type (we currently have 3 reactors, 4 engines, and 5 heat sinks) complicates balancing.
The weights of such equipment should also be constant. Therefore, rarity and upgrades shouldn’t affect it.
And of course, the weight limits have to be specified for each ship.
Here is an example:
Here, we reduced the numbers of all equipment to 3 per type, allowing us to separate them into 3 ‘tiers’. Each tier of equipment weighs a different amount, and each ship has a different max weight capacity. With this particular setup, the H&C 101 can’t mount any tier 3 equipment, and can only mount one tier 2 module if both remaining ones are tier 1 (setting it to 2100 instead of 1800 would allow for one tier 3 module to be equipped). The H&C 301 can mount up to two tier 3 modules if the last one is tier 1. The H&C 201 takes the average value.
Environmental resistance - suggested by @GgWw1175
This proposal involves a new mechanic for the Müller family called environmental resistance. As its name suggests, it lessens the impact negative environmental effects have on the player’s ship. I initially suggested a range of values from 6% for the M400 to 18% for the M408 (mirroring H&Cs key bonus, but increasing with each next model). The mechanic affects environments as follows:
Hot: mitigates the added overheat
Frozen: lowers the rate at which ice generates on the screen
Massive: mitigates the speed limit (adds its percentage to the total speed multiplier)
Electric: reduces the width of lightning bolts (I previously wanted it to lower their spawn rate, but that is impossible to do in competitive missions) / alternatively increases bolt telegraph time if changes to width are considered too insignificant
The problem comes with balancing – each environment would be affected differently. If an 18% multiplier is added to the +20% overheat rate from the hot environment, then we’re left with +16.4% overheat. Considering that cheaper Müllers have less resistance, that is quite an insignificant boost in performance. On the other hand, if that 18% is subtracted, then we’re left with +2% overheat, which is significantly too much. Similarly, a 6% reduction in lightning width or increase in telegraph time is probably quite negligible as well.
For frozen and massive environments, the matter should be quite straightforward. Perhaps the effect could be doubled or tripled for hot and electric environments (if doubled, Müllers would lower lightning width and overheat penalty by 12%/24%/36%, in the case of the overheat penalty reducing it to +12.8% with the M408).
Here is an example table showing how this mechanic would affect fighter speeds in massive environments:
An alternative approach was proposed by @Enhawk and @OneWingLunarian where H&Cs and Müllers would both have different environmental resistances (H&Cs would be faster in massive environments due to being lighter, for instance) combined with either a weight or power limit for the H&Cs.
Changes to numbers of slots
In addition to the aforementioned changes, we also tweaked the numbers of satellite slots, hardpoints and/or mission slots on some ship models.
H&C 101, 301: +1 hardpoint
H&C 202: +1 satellite slot (The H&C 201 doesn’t offer anything significant over the already weak 101, so it kinda just takes up space in the ship roster. While it does diminish the value of the H&C 301, that ship is a good enough pick on its own just by virtue of having more than one satellite slot.)
M408: +2 satellite slots (We’ve discussed this change extensively, and we think it’s a reasonable means to making the M408 something more than just the M404-PI with a bigger hitbox.)
CHL feature: purchasable hardpoints
Courtesy of @Recruit_75, we’d like to propose a new feature that could be added to the Chicken Hunter Licence - purchasable extra hardpoints.
Overall, it would work in a similar way to buying mission slots - players with CHL can buy additional hardpoints up to a certain limit. 12 would fit easily on the loadout screen and that would probably be a reasonable limit, but we could probably go for more if they fit.
If the limit is set to 12, then the player would be able to buy 10 at most (with the aforementioned changes, the lowest number of hardpoints on any given ship would be 2 for the H&C 101 and 201). Combining that with a price tag of around 500 keys would mean that buying all 10 hardpoints would cost 5000 keys (about the same as buying 24 mission slots), which is probably a reasonable price, considering you also need the licence.
Since hardpoints only allow mounting visual equipment, we think that this’d be an excellent addition to the CHL as they don’t grant the player any advantages in missions.
After some discussion, we decided to also propose swapping the price ranges of the M40X and BX-X families. Since Müllers are pretty much more advanced H&Cs, we think it makes sense for them to be the next tier in terms of cost, followed by the bombers which have vastly improved offensive capabilities.
This puts the Müller price range at 2.7k - 3.2k, and the bomber price range at 3.3k - 3.6k.
The BX family’s classification
This is a personal pet peeve of mine, one that I’ve already mentioned in the past. While we are talking about a space shooter with chickens here, and therefore realism isn’t a necessary component of every single aspect of the game, I do take issue with the BX series’ classification as heavy bombers.
Cambridge Dictionary defines the bomber as an aircraft that drops bombs. Wikipedia describes it as a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching torpedoes, or deploying air-launched cruise missiles. Those definitions do not fit the BX series’ design and role in the game.
A more appropriate classification would be heavy fighter (or we could even take the translation of the German term Zerstörer (destroyer) if we want to sound edgy, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t). The BX series spacecraft match the design of aircraft such as the Messerschmitt Bf 110 and the Bristol Beaufighter - large, heavily armed fighters (often adapted into fighter-bomber roles, but still fighters first and foremost).
That’s it for this post. If you have any questions or feedback, please comment. Expect more to come in (hopefully) the near future.
Edit: added section about reactors and overdrive.