On the subject of Plasma Rifle and Positron Stream reworks

In this post I’m going to talk about my thoughts on the current reworked versions of the Plasma Rifle and the Positron Stream. More specifically - why I think they’re not very good, and how they could be improved.

Big thanks to @1galbatorix1 for helping me with this.


Plasma Rifle

When the WBP post on Plasma Rifle came out, I was against making it manual, mainly because I actually really like the weapon from an audiovisual standpoint. The current damage ramping mechanic, however, doesn’t elevate automatic fire to the same level as manual. The main problem is that it further accentuates the already very high damage per hit, which is already very often overkill for basic enemies. On top of that, the DPS increase is actually neglegible when compared with manual fire, as automatic overheats significantly faster, and due to that has a much lower total damage output.

I decided to suggest implementing a change that would help to make automatic fire viable, while also tackling another issue that the Plasma Rifle has. It’s lack of effectiveness against crowds.

The Plasma Rifle has a very low volume of fire - 6.5 hits per second in manual mode. If we give automatic mode some kind of feature that would make it a more effective against crowds, we could still use manual fire for when we’re in need of raw, sustained DPS (for example, against bosses).

I suggest the following changes:

  1. Revert the damage values to the previous version. 2000 on :zap:10, and 2400 on :zap:20. This will give us 15600 DPS with manual fire, and 12000 with automatic.

  2. Remove the damage ramping in automatic mode, and replace it with a new mechanic.
    Instead of getting an increase to damage per hit, Plasma could get an AoE that deals 30-50% of the total damage and expands the longer the weapon is locked on, up to a certain threshold (reached after 1.5 seconds of lock-on, just like now). I haven’t exactly nailed down what that threshold should be, but a 400px diameter is the absolute maximum I’d consider going for (350-375px would probably be a better option).
    Now, instead of getting a neglegible damage boost, Plasma would get a big increase to its effectiveness against crowds while retaining a decent damage output against single targets with manual fire. I feel like the overheat rate for automatic fire could be lowered to 6 or 7 seconds, but that may not be quite necessary.

As far as the visual aspect is concerned, I think this could be done quite simply. Since IA has figured out additive blending, we now have the opportunity to experiment with more interesting visual effects. I came up with this:

I simply overlaid a sprite that I made with a single click of a brush on top of the impact flare, and turned on additive blend for that sprite’s layer. In this setup, the impact flare itself could be used to show the size of the AoE, with the overlaying sprite to make it look cooler.

And here’s the exact sprite I used for the AoE overlay: A_plasmaaoe


Positron Stream

Just like Lightning Fryer, Positron Stream is currently half-finished. It got a new mechanic, and that’s about it. Unfortunately, the splitting mechanic it received is very similar to Lightning Fryer’s chaining mechanic. It’s not identical, but way too close in my opinion.
This is also partially why I suggested giving Plasma Rifle an AoE - it’d work to improve its effectiveness against groups of enemies while differing greatly from Lightning Fryer’s chaining.

I feel like we could do what @Sophodot suggested, and give Positron the ramping mechanic that Plasma has. It’s more suited for it, as Positron actually works as an automatic weapon. Previously, I was of the opinion that it would be better to make Positron a simple beam, without any additional mechanics. But it does make the weapon require a bit more skill to use at its full efficiency, and I managed to figure out a decent power progression for it, albeit with a 1.3x multiplier instead of 1.5x. Fortunately, despite that decrease, it still gives the weapon a very significant boost.

image


In summary:

  • Plasma Rifle gets a mechanic that makes it perform better against crowds in place of the damage ramping.
  • Positron Stream loses the splitting mechanic and gains damage ramping, giving it a very acceptable damage output.
  • We end up having two beam-based weapons that both have their own, completely unique ways of dealing with crowds.

And that’s it for this post. If everything goes right, next week I’ll make one about Lightning Fryer, and then hopefully I’ll finally be able to talk about Absolver Beam (brace yourselves, this is gonna be a long one).

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EDIT: Disregard what i wrote above, It seems it’s AoE.

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Meanwhile, why not make Lightning Fryer chain instantly, kind of like Positron’s current splitting mechanic but without looking for the perfect angle? Conductors transport electricity instantly (I.e. at the speed of light) anyway, and that would vastly improve Lightning Fryer’s performance in my opinion.

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Partially what I’m going for with that tweak. Plus, I’m keeping the 10/s firerate proposed in WBP, which would make manual fire fully obsolete anyway. So I see no reason why it would have a delay at that point.
Will probably mention that in the LF post.

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@GgWw1175 I might be wrong though, but isn’t absolver beam strong enough? I mean, why discuss about it when it’s already powerful? (not complaining, just asking)

It’s surely strong in very certain occasion only. While in other occasions it’s almost useless. (The chicken is already gone.)

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As someone whose main weapon is Absolver, the biggest issue currently is the rate it generates heat. Everything else about it is finely balanced, I would say.

But wasn’t that changed in v37? I mean, it was very buggy and used to generate too much heat in v36, but i don’t think it generates too much heat. it seems fine for me.

Try and fly “High-Speed Traffic” or worse “Caught by Surprise” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s hard enough to juggle those waves with Absolver at all, without also having to manage heat consumption.

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I already tried them, and it seems you were right. it needs a littie rework for its heat.

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About absolver beam, this still stands as a good idea to improve the weapon

It wouldn’t hurt to see its overheat rate be toned down a little more. To compensate for this, I’d nerf the damage by 20%.

The numbers are adjustable of course if anything is too much/too little

Yes and no.
Rebalancing doesn’t necessarily bean buffing. It’s just that UP and Neutron were chosen as the meta weapons, so the other ones are being brought up to their level of usefulness.

Right now Absolver Beam is kinda all over the place. It performs barely ok against bosses (except for stuff like Bossa Nova and Apple Core, it absolutely annihilates them), it underperforms significantly on waves with fast-moving enemies (especially ones that can escape) and massively overperforms against minibosses.

Let’s consider this: a hypothetical epic wave with 10 columns of 5 egg ship chickens at 100% difficulty. We’ll compare Absolver to Neutron, as it’s currently our most powerful weapon. Both are at max power, and we’ll disregard overheat and assume that all projectiles hit and no damage is wasted.

This wave in total has 500000 hp. Absolver Beam deals with it in 5 shots (since it’s wide enough to hit two columns at once), aka in 9 seconds (let’s call it 10 seconds, because 9 would require perfect timing). Neutron Gun, which deals 17875 DPS, does it in about 28 seconds. That’s almost 3 times as long.
If we take into account overheating, Neutron’s performance will drop significantly, while Absolver will still be able to clear the wave very quickly.

I don’t think any regular weapon should be able to outright delete a dozen of minibosses on high difficulty.

Overall, we want to improve its effectiveness against bosses and regular waves, while making sure it doesn’t steamroll over epic waves. Plus, we’ll be touching on the weapon’s audio and visuals, as well.

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Oh i got it, so the absolver beam is useless in some cases and useful in some cases, got it, anyways, thanks for this nice info.

Yeah, too many people were complaining about it not sounding good, anyways, good luck.

Due to certain recent developments, the Lightning Fryer and Absolver Beam balance posts are now cancelled suspended indefinitely.
Sorry if you’re disappointed.

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Plasma

I like the AoE idea, it’s inspired. I’ve implemented it as follows:

  • Volley damage: 200 350 500 650 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2400
  • AoE radius: 150 native px (=300 actual px) over 1.5 seconds
  • AoE damage boost: +50%
  • Manual firing heat savings: 30% (was 35%)

I played around with it very quickly and it seems to cut through groups of enemies like, well, a plasma torch through butter. That’s why I’ve kept the overheat at 5s for now. Try it out, some further tweaking might be necessary.

Added to v.46 :medal_sports: Idea

Positron

I haven’t had time to think about this thoroughly, but I’d be sad to see the splitting mechanic go . Positron’s internal name is “crazy beam” (because of the way it uncontrollably folds over itself), and I think the splitting fits in perfectly with that nature. Plus, you get to do some cool tricks like hitting enemies inside bubbles or behind indestructible barriers.

Regardless, I’ve yet to understand what the problem with Positron is. Is it too weak? Overheats too fast? “Too similar to lightning” doesn’t sound like sufficient reason, particularly since adding continuous-lock ramping wouldn’t really make it more distinct – arguably, it will make it even more similar to lightning (the only difference would be that while chaining ramps damage to many individual enemies, continuous-lock ramps damage to the same enemy)

Perhaps a combination of the two? Keeping splitting and adding continuous-lock ramping. The splitting damage would of course need to be decreased (currently it’s way above anything else; just look at how far above the purple DPS line is:
image

Lightning

Slightly off topic, but I’ve reduced the chaining time to 0.150 seconds (from 0.200 seconds). A full rework is still pending, of course.

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Plasma

I tested the new version on a few hard/elite missions, and I think it works great. Manual handles bosses just fine, and automatic shreds clusters of enemies. So far I’d say that overheating doesn’t require any tweaking, it’s very powerful as it is.
Some users have pointed to the fact that the AoE flare can affect the visibility of projectiles, so that should probably be looked into.


Positron

I decided to explain in more detail why I proposed this change in particular.

I figured that since damage ramping was unfit for Plasma, but the mechanic itself has a lot of potential, Positron would probably be our best shot at implementing it into an existing weapon. With Lightning being oriented towards distributing damage across multiple enemies, and Plasma filling in as both, I thought that Positron might as well become a primarily single-target weapon.

In a way, it also covered @1galbatorix1’s idea of making Positron a “noob-gun” (even if it was initially due to overinterpretation of its in-game description) - strong enough to carry a newbie, while now also being viable for difficult missions in the hands of an experienced player (or rather one that knows how to make the most out of the ramping mechanic).

The main problem with splitting (and chaining as well) is that, in its current version, it’s not very reliable. If it does work at full or close to full efficiency, it’s usually when it targets a small group of enemies that are packed together (which at this point is pretty much AoE Plasma’s shtick, it doesn’t even come close to its performance).
Unfortunately, I have very little knowledge about how exactly the splitting system works, so I can’t really come up with any decent suggestions as to how it could be made more consistent. We are going to address chaining in the Lightning Fryer post, though.

Reliability issues aside, combining damage ramping with splitting would be interesting, but how do we want to achieve that? Splitting gives Positron a massive max damage boost, way bigger than the boost LF gets from chaining.
Removing the beams’ second split would lower the boost significantly, but I don’t think that’s a good option (the fact that it goes from one hit to a whopping seven is probably the most significant difference between this and chaining).
On the other hand, just lowering the damage dealt by each sub-stream would allow us to reach a reasonable damage output with both mechanics, but it still wouldn’t help much against bosses.
In fact, let’s talk about that.

While Positron and Lightning received major buffs (theoretically, anyway) to their damage output against crowds thanks to their new mechanics, their performance against bosses remains the same, save for some exceptions (multi-part bosses such as the Space Crabs, and multi-boss waves like Multiplicity and Show 'em Who’s Boss).

And while we did figure out a way to make chaining work with bosses (and again, we’ll talk about that in the next post - tl;dr, we’re going to suggest that if a bolt hits a boss, it always chains that boss once, assuming it’s not already the last possible link), I don’t think a similar solution would work particularly well with splitting. And if we do implement it for both, that’s just gonna make them even more similar.

I understand where you’re coming from regarding the “crazy beam” thing. I suppose, considering its initial meaning, the ramping could have a visual effect on the beam (making the bend more prominent, or maybe causing more bends to appear), but splitting does also make sense.

All in all, I don’t really know if this would work. If I figure something out, I’ll post it here.


On a side note, @1galbatorix1 thinks he might have an idea about what to do with splitting if it doesn’t go to Positron, but I’ll let him explain that personally in more detail.

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Yeah, it’s so bright that causes me to slightly lose my vision.

If it’s been decided to keep Positron as “noob-gun” then giving splitting mechanic seems to be double edged sword. It’s very easy to use, while very dangerous against Cowards and Slobs. Not to mention that splitting is like a tangled mess and obscures vision. Very noob unfriendly.

My point is “Crazy Beam” and “Noob-Gun” things aren’t going along together.

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Okay, maybe a bit less dramatic

When was this ever decided??? Update: Never mind

Yes, I’m extremely satisfied with the new Plasma Rifle and I think it needs no big changes other than cosmetic tweaks and whatever tiny tweaks the others decide to propose. For example (I think you’ve already done this actually) make the AoE light more translucent so that it doesn’t cover projectiles.

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It wasn’t. It just sort of stuck after galbatorix came to that conclusion.
I’m pretty sure the current version isn’t actually supposed to be a “noob gun”.

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