CIU weapon balance program - Part 4: Photon Swarm

Hi, I am galbatorix and this is my CIU weapon balance program in which I talk about current issues with weapon balance and I propose solutions for them. More info about what my deal is you can find in my original post: CIU weapon balance program by galbatorix I strongly suggest checking it out, if you haven’t seen it yet, so you will fully understand what my goal is. Today I want to talk about Photon Swarm.

Photon Swarm isn’t a popular weapon amongst players. With 2,1% pick rate it is currently the least played gun in the entire game. This may be caused by the various reasons, but it’s no secret, that right now Photon Swarm is an underperforming weapon with wide variety of problems. As always, in my post i am going to present my thoughts on how it could be fixed. The issues with Photon Swarm are:

  1. Only thing that changes on 0-10 power levels of Photon Swarm is its automatic fire rate. This and lack of manual fire rate cap causes it to have the same performance on power levels 0-5. This causes it to be the most powerful weapon on level 0 and horribly bad one on level 5, where it has the lowest DPS amongst all weapons including Boron and Moron Railgun.

  2. Because of things listed in 1. Photon Swarm is a manual weapon on levels 0-5 and an automatic one on levels 6-10, which can be counterintuitive and misleading for new players.

  3. Photon Swarm uses two types of projectiles, but stronger one is exclusive for the max power volley, which seems weird and out of place.

  4. It has insane (50%) powerspike between power level 10 and max power dps.

  5. Just like majority of weapons currently, it is strongly underperforming on higher difficulties and because of that is not worth taking on hard+ missions.

  6. Photon Swarm obstructs a lot of vision, what makes it risky and hard-to-use weapon with nothing in return. This problem is visible especially on high difficulties. (Problem included to this list by “edit”, because of the community feedback.)

As you see, there is a lot wrong with this weapon, however I belive most of it can be fixed with relatively simple changes. In order to fix problems 1, 2 and 5 I would:

  • Buff damage of strong projectile from 150 to 200.

  • Change overheat time from 5s to 8s(on all power levels when automatically fired).

  • Change automatic fire rate scaling on power levels levels 0-10. New automatic fire rate on level 0 would be 4 shots/s and would increase by 1,5 shots/s each level, to reach 19 shots/s on power level 10. Max power fire rate would remain unchanged (20 shots/s).

  • Add manual fire rate cap for power levels 0-1. 3,5 and 5,0 shots/s respectively. For other power levels standard 6,5 shots/s manual fire rate cap.

Introducing special manual fire rate cap is neccesary to prevent this weapon from having the same DPS on different power levels. New, smoother automatic fire rate scaling should make Photon Swarm more reliable weapon on medium power levels and even out the DPS transitions, which are all over the place right now. Buff to strong projectile’s damage would make Photon Swarm deal 16000 DPS on max power. It is a bit lower than Utensil Poker’s and Neutron’s, but should be good enough for an auto-firing weapon that obstructs a lot of vision such as Photon Swarm.

With those problems solved, it’s time to talk about the absence of supercharged photons(strong orange projectiles) in earlier power levels of this weapon, and the insane DPS transition between 10 and max power levels. I suggest implementing supercharged photons in the following way:

  • Photons in volleys on power levels 0-10 have a chance to spawn as a supercharged photons. The chance is calculated by a simple formula : 7,5% times the power level.(7,5%*lvl) For example level 2 would have 7,5%*2=15%. Actually it would make the strong projectile chance to scale 7,5% every power level, starting with 0% at level 0, finishing on 75% at level 10.

Such changes would elliminate the problem nr 4, which is insane DPS power spike between lvl 10 and max lvl. If on level 10 , 75% of projectiles are already strong, jump to the 100% wouldn’t be that devastating. Moreover, it would make Photon Swarm more interesting gun in general, because instead of current only-blue volleys on most power levels and out-of-place orange volley on the max power, it would have cool mosaic look with both blue and orange projectiles in various(randomized) patterns. I think, that the “random” element is actually quite important here. If Photon Swarm had strict repeating patterns for every power level, it wouldn’t be as interesting as having a fully randomized pattern with a tiny chance to have “full orange volley on level 1” and this sort of stuff. It wouldn’t affect the gameplay that much, but would definitelly make the gun much more fun to use. (As RNG aspect became very controversial aspect of this post, I decided to elaborate on that. You can see it here.)

Down below you can see the visualisation of how it would look like. This simplified image should give you the idea what I am talking about. Of course paths of photons would bend and cross just like they do now in game, picture only shows how randomized volleys could look like for power level 10 (75% chance for a photon to be orange).

Also, with those changes Photon Swarm’s present should get recolored a bit. I could see something like this:
With most problems solved, there is only one left. Issue nr6, that was pointed out to me by the community. Currently projectiles of Photon Swarm cover large area and thus obstruct a lot of player’s vision. This becomes the serious problem on higher difficulties, where eggs and other projectiles tend to fly very fast. On such missions having a gun that obstructs so much vision and gives nothing in return is a clear disadvantage for everyone who uses that weapon. This may also be one of the reasons for why Photon Swarm is so unpopular right now. Solving this problem may be accomplished in few different ways. I see at least two ways to fix/improve it. One would be to lower opacity of the Photon’s tails, other would be to remove bright flares that are on the tip of the projectiles(basically it is what happens in CIU if you set the graphics to the lowest level). Here you can see how it would look:

(Special thanks to @GgWw1175 for making this and previous Photon Swarm images for me.)

As you can see, both changes would improve the visibility of enemy projectiles, but for me it seems that the main source of the vision obstruction are the flares, not tails of the photons. Removing the flares, or strongly decreasing their size should fix the problem. However making the tails more transparent should also be concidered. It is somewhere in between current and non-flare options in case of visibility.(However I think that having flares removed AND making tails less opaque would be too much)

Results of the changes proposed by me you can see here:

To summarize, I think that Photon Swarm could be improved by:

  • Increasing damage of strong projectile from 150 to 200.

  • Increasing time to overheat from 5s to 8s.

  • Changing automatic fire rate on level 0 to 4 shots/s and changing the scaling of the automatic fire rate on levels 0-10 to +1,5 shots/s every power increase. (Leaving 20 shots/s on max power as it is right now)

  • Introducing a manual fire rate cap for levels 0-1. Value of the cap would equal 3,5 shots/s for level 0 and 5 shots/s for level 1

  • Adding supercharged photons to the lower power levels. Each projectile spawned has a chance to spawn as a strong projectile. On power levels 0-10, possibility is calculated by 7,5% times power lvl number. (7,5%*lvl). On max power all projectiles are supercharged photons (100% strong).

  • Changing Photon Swarm’s present to the blue box with orange ribbon.

  • Making Photon Swarm obstruct less vision by lowering opacity of Photon tails, or by removing/decreasing size of flares that are on the tip of projectiles.

Such changes would:

  • Make Photon Swarm’s DPS increase smooth and remove its useless power upgrades on levels 0-5. (Problems nr 1 & 4 solved)

  • Make Photon Swarm an automatic weapon on all power levels. (Problem nr 2 solved)

  • Increase dps of Photon Swarm to the viable level. (Problem nr 5 solved)

  • Make Photon Swarm more interesting visually and gameplay-wise. (Problem nr 3 solved)

  • Make Photon Swarm block less player’s vision. (Problem nr 6 solved)

So yea, that’s it for now. Remember to share your thoughts in the comments below. If you think, that I forgot about something, or you have a different idea, feel free to tell me. I am interested in all kinds of feedback. Soon I will make a post about next weapon, so stay tuned. You can also check out my previous posts:

PS: I really appreciate the feedback from the community. I also want to apologize fot the fact, how long it takes me to make a new post. Making calculations for WBP(weapon balanced program) and writing the posts itself, is very time consuming. Lately I was working on Hypergun and Boron Railgun, and I had to make some nasty calculations that took me like… ages. That’s why you had to wait whole week for the next part. I will try to upload more frequently from now on, but I can’t promise.


I’m kind of against supercharged photons present in lower power levels. You see the weapons on max power level should be looking special so you can instantly know that right now you’re on a max level.

But we can solve it by simply making supercharged photons blue and turning them orange only on max power level. I mean, it’s just a texture right? This way we also shouldn’t change the look of a weapon gift.

The thing with Photon Swarm is that it was best in CI4 for Feathers waves and Supernova waves. It just destroyed everything on the screen with no effort and on last level you just changed the weapon back to neutron gun or utensil poker to deal with every other thing. So that’s probably why it isn’t popular in CIU.


I don’t know, those colors look pretty sick tbh.
Besides, it’s not like the gift has to be changed. It could, but it doesn’t have to be.

I made a slightly cleaner picture that shows the mixed photons and remade the gift.

(Some photons are more warped than I’d like them to be but that’s as good of a result as I can get out of my software. The main point was to be able to see the colors better. Also for some reason the preview is really grainy .-.)

Gift: GIFTPhotonSwarm_

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That’s nice, can I use your images in my post’s edit?

Sure thing, go ahead.

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For the first time I disagree with you
Making a gun rng-based is not a good thing at all.
Fun but not good.
Why someone should pick up a weapon that doesn’t deal consistent and fixed damage until last levels?
Ok… I know that riddler and corn shotgun are a thing but:
1)They gain accuracy on higher power levels
2)The crit hits are generally bad (have you ever played pokemon on competitive side?)
3) (Especially corn shotgun) dealing less damage than expected is frustrating (even if it can make you lose a life for that 1 more hit neded)

Another thing:
Why did you suggested to make positron steam/plasma rifle more transparent but not THIS?
Photon swarm can cover up to 1/4 (and more?) of your screen visibility! I like the weapon but visually is too dangerous to pick! I can’t be the only one who prefer to gather an egg over this…


Just gonna say, it’s not actually the projectiles themselves that are the problem, it’s the flares that cover everything up.
Removing the flares when the weapon’s design will be getting reworked would solve the problem, but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.

The flares are removed if you play with lower quality,so you can test it out and see how it affects the gameplay.
Take a look at this


I didn’t know that the flares are disabled with low detail, but I was pretty sure that it’d help since the projectiles are already mostly transparent.
Here’s how my picture looks without the flares (with eggs as reference).

You can see the eggs quite clearly.

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I was concidering inclusion of the “transparency” thing. But as I played with this gun for a while to test things out, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Well, Photon Swarm is indeed a gun that blocks a lot of vision, but I think it is far, far better than Laser Cannon in that regard. In case of Posiron Stream I suggested the transparency, mainly because the idea of “easy to use gun”.

But I see now, that most people find this a serious problem of Photon Swarm, so I think I will add this to the original post. Ppl want this, and it doesn’t really collide with any of the ideas I have for this weapon anyways. Lowering the opacity of photon tails, or as you guys proposed, disabling the flares. Both solutions should work quite well.


Oh man, Photons are definitely my favourite weapon and I’d LOVE these changes! Though, in my opinion the max power jump makes it unique in its own way.

I find it weird that people dislike the damage spikes in these weapons. I mean,you get the last power level after like 10 levels or so without any improvement to firepower whatsoever. I’d like to say that the weapons in ci2 had their damage more than even doubled at max power and it wasn’t broken a slightest bit. It’s supposed to be a “super-secret power level”,after all. But okay,I guess.
Don’t get me wrong,I do like the changes Galbatorix proposed,but I just needed to point this out.

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Yep. That feeling when you finally got max level neutron gun in CI2. Nothing beats it.


Hmmm, when did CIU2 release again?

I ensure you that at low graphic is still hard to see for someone with eye problems (like me) if there is an egg under the swarm.
A weapon should be playable for everyone

Definitely agree

I alwais considered Photon swarm a “nobby” weapon due to “hold manual fire to shot good”

ci 2 was released in 2002

:roll_eyes: i guess the changes galbatorix proposed are fine. but i only dont like ion blaster change.

i dont mean it in bad way galbatorix. the changes are good.

What parts about it do you not like?
Gotta be honest, the Ion Blaster changes seemed kinda weird (for lack of a better word) to me at first, but I did end up liking them.

I’d just like to say this…Galbatorix sure knows how to do this. I’d never be able to think of all of these changes…