Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Anatomy of Design : Apollo

Designing an Apollo to Auto 91 Mega Hulls

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane

There are always questions asked about how one comes up with a ship design. On occasion I will likely post up a design article to help people understand the thought process behind a build.

In the past may players, including myself, were hesitant to share builds. This mentality has changed - a little. You still will rarely see me share a Baser fleet (one to hit bases with) beyond just a 'vanilla' build. however, with the necessity of the chores in the game I think it behooves the community to share the builds that mitigate the time investment of the chore items in the game allowing for more 'actual' play time. In addition to this, these fleets will help bring players up to speed.

The builds I provide typically will be tested builds. They are not always going to be 'the best', but that is not the goal of this exercise. I want players to understand the thought process behind selections and combinations so that they can come up with either their own designs OR be able to adapt the builds to the tech they have available. I understand completely that not all players have the same 'tech-depth' that I am lucky enough to have. That said, let's begin.

Much of what goes into a build is the understanding of the interaction of your selection of weapons and specials as well as the understanding of the mechanics of the game and target with regard to these interactions. You want to maximize your rewards for the goals of which you want to achieve.

While there are several things we could discuss about design, in this article I am going to use my Apollo build and go through some of the BASIC thought process behind them. The following is the build and a breakdown of the items and reasons for their selections. The build can be found here. Please note on the last two Apollos there is an additional Phalanx 4 added to each. In testing I have found when autoing the 91 Mega Hull target that this helps mitigate the occasional fire field.

The Apollo

1. The Blade missile selection and placement

Placement is key in this instance as the weapon speed is the same as the Switchblades, thus, in most instances, they will lead the barrage of missiles from this hull.  (As Dean Manson pointed out - this isn't an issue in this build as the Switchblades have the same Flak evasion %, but a good mechanic to know and take advantage of.) This is a very unknown and subtle mechanic that most everyone overlooks. The result of taking advantage of this very mechanic is that the enemy wastes counter-measure shots at my missiles that have flak evasion first. This allows for some counter-measures missing and wasting their shots while maintaining a higher overall dps for my fleet. You can see the Blades leading the Switchblades in the picture below.

2. Phalanx 4 

You will also note in the picture above, that while the Phalanxes are firing, the Switchblades stay in missile mode. The Phalanxes have a longer range than the Switchblades' countermeasure ability. This means that you can take advantage of a game mechanic itself - how the missile counter measure mechanic actually works. Since the Phalanx has a longer range, and you can only fire at each missile one time, using the Phalanx countermeasure allows the Switchblades to stay in missile mode sice the incoming missiles have already been fired at. This in turn allows you to maintain a higher damage output because the Switchblades do not come out of missile mode to deal with incoming missiles. With careful driving, you can keep the switchblades firing in missile mode constantly.

Note: Using Switchblades comes with a cost at times. I believe there is a glitch in the game causing ALL Switchblades to go into CM mode when even just one does. While Switchblades have a better DPS (damage per second) over standard Blades, it comes at the cost of possibly switching out of missile mode in some circumstances. I tried to allay this problem by adding those additional Phalanxes on the last two Apollos in order to gain consistency when autoing a 91 Mega Hull.

3. Switchblades over Blades

This is a choice in which there are advantages and disadvantages, and in some ways has grow controversial in the all-important and heated forum arguments. (And of course, giving Liam hell about his build.)

The Good: The Switchblade has more one-shot damage and better DPS than the Blades. As noted above, in a bad situation, it can also switch over to anti-missile mode in their entirety and cause problems. This is where good design mitigates a weakness.

The Bad: The Switchblade can switch over to anti-missile mode, and when it does, they ALL do (currently), not just the ones that shoot at a missile. Is this a glitch? As previously mentioned, I think so, but it is 'working as intended' as there has been no fix or mention forthcoming from Kixeye.

This build, as it currently sits is pretty good for lazy pirates. It can in fact auto the 91 Mega hulls very well for acceptable damage. If there is enough interest I can make another video, however, back in July 2016 when I was first starting to test this build with only 3 Apollos, this was the result on auto. With the recent spate of claims of increased damage in the targets I will have to try them again and compare, however... I am a lazy pirate and typically auto these things while I engage in other aspects of the game.

4. Complementary Specials

This is where a build can fall apart on you. Each special is chosen as a balancing act. These three are rather easy because of either their percentage attributes and/or their space saving nature because of the duality of their purpose. In reviewing these choices, I hope the reasoning behind them is apparent. If not, please ask.

5. Target Applicability

The ability to adapt a build to a change in meta OR design towards specific targets or goals is imperative for success. There are limited times now in which you want an all-around build like an Arblest Punisher fleet. With the change in the overall game design you now generally want to have something built more towards a specific meta or target, such as these Apollos for the 91 Mega Hulls (and Legion Assault Force targets). The choice of Reactive Armor III reflects the nature of this build to be towards the LAF/Mega Hull meta and targets.


Another aspect that seems to be overlooked by many players is the significant advantages that can be gained by using crews for subtle advantages. Most are aware of the huge gains one acquires with the use of a Grease Monkey for example, however, take a peek at the crew I use constantly when autoing the 91 Mega Hulls:

The oft overlooked single star Salty Dog crew. Since the Apollo is a Forsaken Hull, it will reap the benefits of that fantastic line that says +15% Reload. What are the implications of that you ask? Even at skull ranked, you are not at the minimum threshold of .2 seconds for reload on anything that is equipped to the Apollo. Not the Switchblades, not the Blade and not the Phalanxes. This little number right here will make the entire platform more efficient, thus mitigating damage and completing the target faster overall. Fantastic little gem of a crew for this fleet!


Hopefully this helps some people understand the basics of the theories and goals we contemplate when designing a ship or a fleet. Likewise, I hope this also helps people understand the layers that are looked at when starting or applying this process. The mechanics of the game can easily be overlooked, and sometimes in one of these mechanics you can find you some very peculiar, but very effective builds that give you a comfortable advantage in attaining your goals.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Straight Scoop on Diagonals

What is Legal, What is Not and Where to Score a Dime in Cali Now...

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane   

Since the OP9 upgrade, several players have noted that there have been bases in which 'diagonals' have been used for land tile placement. I had the opportunity to sit down with a developer last week to look at this issue, the underlying mechanic and to get a clearer understanding of what happened, what was legal and what was planned for the correction.

So, to begin with, what is a 'diagonal'? It is when you place land tiles corner to corner in your base. The following is a legal configuration of corner to corner placement:

This has been legal in the game since I started playing in 2011. Back then it had a very niche use and honestly, due to the limitations of its use, I can not see a viable use for it in today's game other than for aesthetics. What was not ever allowed was the 'building' off of those diagonals as illustrated below:

The issue arose from the OP9 update deploy and the larger base footprint that update allowed. Within the new expanded areas, illegal configurations such as the one illustrated above could be performed, but only in the newly expanded areas. The base planner worked properly in the old base area. The pictures below should help illustrate this:

As you can see, in the old base areas the attempt to build off of the diagonal is illustrated and marked properly in red, however, in the expanded areas, they are not.

That all said, the biggest issue the developers faced was the automated hacking detection programs that they run. One thing that is in the algorithm to detect is the illegal building off of a diagonal. This is a problem since the base planner currently allows the illegal placement in the game.

What the Development team at Kixeye is attempting to do is avoid improper bans by implementing something similar to the correction for square bases - if the base layout is illegal you will be prevented from launching fleets or leave your base until it is corrected.

This is the tentative plan and I applaud the forethought in this correction so that people are not banned for something that is, by all rights, a bit of an obscure mechanic rule that very few were familiar with. I hope this clears up any lingering questions.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How the F*#% Does Bloodthirst Work?

Yo Mamma So Fat Her Blood Type is KFC...

Fine, there wasn't a funny joke for Bloodthirst so you got a Blood type one instead.

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane

I'll admit, I was going to use a pic of Petrified Wood-Kin, but I thought that was too esoteric a reference for some, so I went with one of my favorite wheels. Oh wait... wrong game?

Last Friday there was a marathon episode of BP Crib. Somewhere in there we spoke about Bloodthirst - I think. I may have lost my concentration because I was asked last night about the Alpha Behemoth and Bloodthirst, and I quickly came to realize that many people do not have a grasp on this mechanic - probably since it came out piece meal and wasn't really reviewed before.

Bloodthirst is a generic mechanic (thus far) insofar as the activating mechanic is concerned, BUT the TYPES are not- Bloodthirst does have a differentiation. Confusing? Likely only in my delivery. It seems I have some difficulty in articulating the whole of this mechanic, but I shall endeavor...

Let's start with the Bloodthirst mechanic first. Bloodthirst is activated when a hull with this mechanic does damage to a target and then that target is destroyed. The destruction of the target that was damaged by a Bloodthirst equipped hull will give that hull a 'stack'. That is the triggering mechanic, not the actual killing of the target, but having dealt damage to the destroyed target.

The hull does not have to destroy the target, but it must do damage to the target before the target is destroyed. It cannot sit in the back while a non-Bloodthirst hull kills the target. This will not give you a stack. (Neither will a different Bloodthirst Type, but we'll get to that.)

This transitions well to this caveat and differentiation: the same TYPE of Bloodthirst will stack fleet-wide. Differing types do not generate a stack for other hulls unless those hulls do damage as well.

What I mean to say is that if you look at a Hull Blueprint, you will see under the Special Abilities a Bloodthirst, but it will be a specific kind. Ironclad - Bloodthirst will stack for all Hulls that are thus equipped. It will not share a stack effect with a Revenge - Bloodthirst type. Currently we have the following:

Revenge - Bloodthirst:
Harlock's Revenge
Zoe's Vendetta
Zoe's Retribution

Tideseeker - Bloodthirst:
Harlock Tideseeker

Ironclad - Bloodthirst:
Harlock Ironclad

Alpha Behemoth - Bloodthirst:
Alpha Behemoth

Rivals - Bloodthirst:

There is little to no crossover for the latter three other than from the standard hull to the flagship (IC and HIC both have the Ironclad - Bloodthirst for example), but the first one carries through the whole of the Conqueror line. So what does it mean when we have the same type of Bloodthirst? When one hull in the fleet that has the same type gets a stack they all will. So if you go into a target with 3 Spites and 2 Furies, when one hull gains a Bloodthirst, they all will gain one.

This means however, that if you have a Spite, a Malice, a Tide and an Ironclad in the same fleet, and the Spite gets a stack, only the Malice will gain a stack as well since it is the only other Revenge - Bloodthirst hull present. The rest would not due to being a different type of stack.

Side note: The stacks and benefits are linearly effective, in other words, at 50% stack, you have 50% of the bloodthirst buffs listed.

I hope this helps clear up how Bloodthirst works. I tried to make this as concise and clear as possible given the mechanic and what I have seen as the confusion over the mechanic.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Awakening - The Next Day

That's Not a Mint on My Pillow...

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane   

So... we are one day into the Awakening Raid. I'll be honest- I was hoping for far better given the last Raid Set, last week and what we were told to expect. I'll leave all that to be covered in the various shows. We have this dealt hand, let's see if we can do anything with it.


So let's talk some strategy for the targets. There are various ways to do some of this, and I've seen so, so many players give in and pick the blitz option. For me that was not an option. I'm a cheap bastard and I want more value for my coin. I'm also lazy so while I may tag the perfect run when motivated... I just wasn't for this raid. (Actually, given what has transpired I don't know many players that are.) I've actually decided to just run the damn targets and get what I could. Ren, from the TFC page, has some vids up on his YouTube page that shows both good runs and the pathing he used.

This is great for players to start out with, and it works rather well. Thing is, unlike last month where the pathing was rather important to maximize effectiveness, of far more import in this raid is your timing and ability to react to the target. Speed is essential in these targets to mitigate damage.

Some things to also keep in mind and to note when going through these are the following:

With Cannoneers, you out-range everything but for the long range ballistic cannons. These are what you need to react to when they surface as they are inactive for a few moments after surfacing.

Your speed is key and I hope you watch several of the videos referenced or linked in this article. Reacting to targets and having patience is very important. Speed will negate most if not all of the large launcher turret damage you may run into.

Lesser range damages are inevitable on the Ironclad and Centurions. Correct builds will help mitigate damage, but be prepared to suffer damage as these hulls can not out-range all the turrets in these targets.

As we go through the various example videos, keep those basics in mind. Speed, timing and reaction. Additionally, as several people have requested, I am going to start uploading and using some non-perfect runs as some of the examples so you can see where errors can occur. I'll be honest, that approach has saved me some time as my video editing is sub-par.

I am going to mention one other thing. As you get better at the targets you may want to switch to layered armor. I am avoiding that currently as I have found I am impatient. The cannon turrets take a moment to activate, and my mistakes are more impatient driving so I am going to stick with the CL-3 so I can mitigate my mistakes. If I get to the point that I am driving these targets with unmitigated facility, then I may switch to Layered 3, but for now I won't- my attention span won't let me.


First thing I would suggest to anyone that can grind up the points is grab the High Velocity Rounds special. This special will increase the overall effectiveness of any build. Grind for this and some tokens and slowly drag yourself up the ladder of accomplishment in the raid. I'm not happy that this is one of the paths to success in this raid but it's what we're stuck with.

The Grind

First up is a grind option I tried. It isn't for everyone and honestly I did use the worst of my Cannoneers, but that doesn't say much as I had already started refitting them. Here is the video for one of the runs. It can be done for no damage. Much like other targets, patience and good driving are key. To really mitigate damage, a pinch should probably be used when heading south towards the big tower as the isometric conversion screws you in this direction. (From my YouTube page.)


I like the fact that this game affords a strong community. You make some strange friends. One of those strange friends of mine is Jason Fisher, a/k/a Disturbed. He is an active member on TFC and BV and came up with some fantastic videos of Centurions doing the A set. All three targets were had for 13 coins. All three of his videos can be found on his YouTube page.

This is just one of the three videos in his set for the Centurion doing the A set. This is Jason doing the 75. Comparing this with other videos should help you get a feel for ranges used on the turrets and what turrets to react to and which you can wait to come back to.


This is supposed to be the be all and end all for this raid set. I had far more success after grinding away for some points for the special and tokens. Again, the strategy discussed above will be reflected in the videos below. I am including my A set run and one of Ren's with his pathing.


Sadly, I have not had a chance to get to try my single Ironclad in anything as yet. I'm not hearing a whole lot about them, but that may be just the lack of time the community had to build them. Ren did manage to get a chance to test them and made a video for our reference:

If I get the opportunity I may try my singular one in the B set, however, since time has been so cramped lately I have no idea if I can pull that off for you guys.

Edit: Punisher in Tier 3 (C Set)

Edit: Stu in a 74

Stu from the TFC page popped in a 74 for 15 minutes of damage or less with 2 Cannoneers with 4 new guns no new special and no GM crew. Another way to grind out some points.

Wrap Up

I think we can all agree this is not what we were expecting exactly. I hope that with some time reviewing these vids and the comments above I can ease some of the pain that is this raid for some of you.

If you can grind out points, as it stands right now, the Cannoneer, High Velocity Rounds and Millennium Cannon seem to be must haves. I don't know if I am entirely comfortable with that. I can not formulate a conclusion with regard to the Ironclad. Currently it is not performing as we have come to expect of this option hull, HOWEVER we also do not have the flag for this hull. The HTide made the difference in those fleets and I can only presume the same here. The jury is out with regard to that.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Alpha Behemoth - As Bad as They Say?

Underrated Hull of the Year?

by: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane

I was discussing this hull with a friend of mine recently and we were sort of chuckling at the bad rap it already seems to be having, with many people advising to pass up on the hull and calling it crap or a filler. I mean, there are people hating on this hull. I think I'll anonymously quote my friend because the quote really puts the situation in perspective (and it made me chuckle at its boldness). 

"Yeah. Going to vote this one in as being the most underrated hull of the year already."

Now, while we can't foresee the rest of the year, this does in fact put into perspective how poorly this hull has been welcomed. I was sorely tempted to not write this article and try and take advantage of so many people passing up the Alpha... but I guess I'm a nice guy. I'll let you read what I think and then you can decide for yourselves, in an informed fashion, what you want to do. You may think I'm crazy now, but let's see what you think at the end.

I tend to avoid articles about Base Defense/Attack because the can become complex beasts, and this article should highlight why that is. Lets look at the aspects of the Alpha and see why it grew on me.


This one, at first blush seems exceptionally lackluster. In fact, the Draconian Airstrike D-100R UAV does more one-shot damage than the new Cesium Scarab UAV. So why is this one better? Damage type and Mechanics. This has to do with the mechanics of the game that we don't get to see but have to test for, or rely on third-party information. I wish it weren't so, and Kixeye has been very good at getting a lot of info out, but I didn't ask about this as a lot of the info is out there already.

Each damage type has a minimum pass-through damage in some circumstances, and in others a minimum percentage pass-through. What we found in testing the Punisher was some very odd data points and since then we've found a bit more. Since most Conqueror hulls have deflection, chances are that the pass-through mechanic is based on a percentage rather than a minimum floor number. In addition to that, Radioactive damage has historically (from testing and data-mining rumors) had a higher pass-through than the rest of the damages. Add to all that- many conqueror hulls have different percentages for each of these stats and you have a neat little surprise package for those hulls in this UAV.

Upon closer look at the new UAV one may also notice a nice little stat that propels it well above any other UAV available - including the D-100R. That .2 second UAV reload. That means this little bugger is going to fire 5 times before moving to the next target. Using the example above (with UAV Powercells because everyone wants the High Velocity Rounds), if your percentage pass-through is 5%, that leaves 255.55 damage per shot... times 5 for the visit is 1,277.75... times 5 UAV's is 6,388. 75 damage. Not really a whole TON of damage on its own, but 'on its own' is not how base defense really works, is it? And this is the purported weakest part of the hull by the naysayers.


The hull is a bit of a deflection PITA. Let it get a hit on something and that something dies and it'll get a Bloodthirst, it then gets even worse. I don't know that I would choose this to be my lead, but it surely isn't a hull that can be ignored, particularly raining several thousand points of damage down upon you as you attempt to scoot by or waiting on something to kill it.


Yes, this hull has some countermeasure slots. This is cool, but that does not make it a countermeasure hull. It makes it a superb support hull. This is not meant to replace that CM Gamma Behemoth you have sitting in your base full of Gale III's, but it sure would bolster that thing if this were sitting close by. I'm not sure why people can't get past thinking of this as a countermeasure ship. It really is a new sort of hull in the Defender category, and the next section will show you why, and why it is underrated. That said, imagine this sitting as the back up to the Gamma. It would make life exceptionally difficult to get by that Gamma if the fleet is relying on mortars to clear the field. Time is of the essence sometimes.

I will note in here as well, it has a rather nice Thermal range of 90. This can come in very handy in mixing and matching hulls in your Defender Fleet.


This. This is where this hull shines and is completely overlooked. I'll be honest, I wanted to make all sorts of graphs and charts and shit, but I want to finish this quick and watch a stream or two to see how the targets are. I'm hoping Kix listened and tuned them down. 

The above picture shows the support effect the Alpha has to nearby ships. A lot of people scoffed at those numbers, but honestly, let's look at a practical application or two.

Let's park one next to a Valiant. What do we get? A little boost on the deflections. Enough to make a difference? Maybe. It would bring Scoria damages down from preps by a 1/3 in some cases. In others maybe more. It would help in mortar fire both with the deflection upgrade and the extra Gales firing. Just in the numbers area it bolsters this hull decently. Not game breaking, but a nice addition if you can fit it.

A little more interesting. 
Numbers would have to be run, but the Vanquisher works on the theory of huge amounts of health. Adding any deflection to this hull makes it that much more powerful and a pain to deal with. Remember, Base Defense is a complex beast and little tweaks sometimes make the difference between someone getting in or not.

Now, this one is interesting... I'll let you guys do the math, but see that Resonance Battery, see that Deflection? And the additional deflection gained from the Alpha? Plus all the additional resistance you'd get from all those Gales? And if it were sitting in another field from another hull? See where this can go? Add those Gales and play with the armor a bit and not an easy prep out for a Spite now either.


There are three very simple examples. As I have mentioned several times in the past, Base Defense is a very multi-layered thing. So many things interact that one tweak, one change can change the way your defense works entirely against various attacks.

In short, the Alpha is not a throw-away hull. Is it a game-breaker? No. I am glad for that. I do not want any more game-breaking hulls. Is it the piece of shit hull you can ignore and pass up as many are advising? That's up to you. Does it add a nice depth and complexity? Hell yes. What it does also do that people may not realize is slightly alter your defense fleet so that longevity and difficulty are increased. Much like any other Defender, this has it's place and given it's release before the Tier 6 Conqueror hulls, I believe that depth it provides is seriously being undervalued.

Personally... I am going to get it if I can get the points. Should you is entirely up to you and your play style.

Monday, January 9, 2017


Raid Preview Pokes and Prodding

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane   

Editing Help: Renato Putini

I took some time before writing this so I could cool off and try and write this article dispassionately. I will admit, I was initially pretty pissed off. There are a lot of issues that the preview brought up and I'm going to try and cover several things here. While prepping the article I compiled some answers we were given by Kixeye and extrapolated some others as well. At the end I'll share my thoughts and attempt to see things judiciously. I will be honest. This is a rant. A very long winded rant.



Let's start with some initial thoughts. The targets were interesting and looked fantastic. I don't think anyone can deny that. I also think they hold immense potential. What I expected in my mind from the sneak peek we got in the forum had me very interested. This expectation may have played a part in much of the frustration that developed.

That said, we have all observed several issues and I am going to touch upon a few and offer my ideas where applicable for discussion.

Displacement Mechanic

The first thing that struck me was the mechanic of the surfacing objects. Personally, I think it's pretty cool and I love the idea, however, one of the teams provided Doom with an explanation of the mechanic, and he passed this on to us. The mechanic was supposed to displace your fleet in the direction the fleet was traveling when the object surfaced. I loved the idea because it was, in my mind, reminiscent to the oil slicks we had in the last raid which I thought were fun as hell to play in. I was very keen on trying to exploit this mechanic as it was described to get me moving and in and out of target ranges. Sue me, I like using what they give us to my advantage.

Unfortunately what happened instead was that when the object surfaced the fleet was displaced to the closest open area that your fleet could go to rather than displace it forward in the direction in which the fleet was traveling. There were even reports of fleets being split by this mechanic when the objects surfaced.

I am going to guess that as it was originally intended, the mechanic was supposed to work as described in the forum post, however, in execution the intended result did not work properly and was tuned to the least impacting to the fleet's movement when over an object surfacing. I hope that the team is still looking into this to see if there is another option or if they can make the effect more reliably repeatable so players will have a solid expectation when engaging the targets.

If this is the case, I can live with this. Much like anything in life- in programming sometimes things don't quite work out as expected and you have to make the most of what you have or can do by deadline. So long as the mechanic becomes something standard that we can expect to behave reliably, we can form a strategy around it.

Dark Water Hints

The next issue that was 'off' was the dark water signifying where underwater objects were. This would have made life rather easy as you could kite those areas until you activated an object. We also did not have those towers in the forum post which confused many players.

What it looks like upon further review is that, should they have placed dark water over every submerged object, the whole of the target would have been dark and would have made the mechanic pointless. I think instead they put some dark water in the areas of actual objects that could damage you. Additionally, I believe the towers were placed to either help the Ironclad to execute an auto drive and/or to activate some of the submerged objects. At this point, we just don’t know but I hope we get some clarification soon.

Target Difficulty - SMILE!

We then have to address the Pink Polka-dot Elephant in the room. The target difficulty. I think we can all agree that as we saw them the targets were a bit... excessive. I think we were all expecting the targets to be doable with Centurians.

Honestly, in looking at the blueprints in hindsight, I would expect the Centurion to pull off the B set and maybe be able to do some in the A set, but struggle. This looks like it is doable like that *if* you have the correct build- and that is only one aspect of the issue.

I think another problem is the ranges that we are seeing in the targets. It seems that the targets were already tuned to the ranges that we will see on the Cannoneer. The issue with that is that this is not tuned to existing technology for the vast majority of the players base as we were expecting. The  devastating damages we saw concurrent with the health and speed of targets was not expected.

That said, Kixeye has stressed several times that the tuning in the targets was NOT final. We have been told that the tuning of the targets is not at all going to be based on the assumption of players having Millennium equipped Cannoneers.

Doling Out the Tech

As many people have seen in the forums, Kixeye has come forward and said that this release format that they tried for this raid set, this 'experiment', was one that they were most likely not going to repeat. I'll be honest, I was somewhat shocked. Historically speaking, the company generally does not come out and blatantly say 'Our bad' like this. I have to give credit here for that.

They have stated that they own that. 100%. This was in fact a bit of an experiment. One they will likely not repeat in the future for raids. They want to make sure players are prepared for the event, but “giving a hull without the weapon or special unbalances the tech-to-target ratio we were trying to tune for in an unhealthy way to the detriment of both the player and game.”

I'm also going to take the opportunity to repeat a question I saw asked and answered on the forum. “Any reason the weapon and build tokens weren't free to begin with since it was your error?”

*A quote from the forum: “We wanted to make sure the Cannoneer was available for construction prior to the January event, as this was to be the best hull for the event cycle. We figured that you could build a Cannoneer or Centurion fleet with the ballistic tech that you already had and still do well enough in the targets to earn the improved tech and even slow refit between events so there was a linear power curve. 

But, as testing went on, it became apparent that the event targets and the Cannoneer with T4 were incongruent with our expectations. Rather than nerf the event or nerf the Cannoneer, we decided to make this special offer of the Millennium Gun to Cannoneer owners to give them the best tech for the hardest targets. Those who were willing to fast refit could do so at a reduced cost while those who did not could still participate in the raid (albeit slower) OR, alternatively Centurion owners could grind the event to get the tech in the raid for next month. This does NOT mean you can not have a viable Cannoneer build for this raid, but we wanted to afford those players who invested in the Cannoneer an opportunity to begin building with the new weapon and take better advantage of their initial investment.”

Finally! My thoughts...

 So, given the responses from Kixeye (and keep in mind that we do not know what the targets are going to end up as) this is what I feel at this point. Some of this may not be viable, some might be late, but I think it may help in the discussion and add to the perspective going forward.

I would have liked to see a TLC for the Millennium. I don't know how difficult it would have been to lock the target to maybe Siege hulls or even just to the Cannoneer, but I think it would have sat much better with the community if this had been done. The Limited Time Offer would have been fabulous about a month ago. A week before the raid sets off everyone's Pissed-Off metric. As we have seen, the community saw this more as a slap in the face rather than a reaching out to the community as it was actually intended. In fact, following the acknowledgement of an error, it was really poor timing to offer this to an already upset community. Honestly, looking at the $20 USD deal, you could get $10 of gold, ~$38 of tokens and the Millennium. So at a minimum you were getting $48 for $20. As I said, a month ago this would have made everyone ecstatic. The timing is the only thing that changed our perspective of the offer and I hope Kixeye understands that. Alternatively, the targets could have been stepped and the Millennium could have been offered in the raid as intended.

This brings me to this- I would love to see the tuning 'stepped' in that the first raid the damage/difficulty gets tuned down so as to allow Centurions to possibly struggle through the A set. As I said before I have ZERO problem with the raid getting harder for the second raid so long as it is clear (preferably in-game) that this will be happening. If Kixeye is transparent about it I have no problem with this solution. I would much rather have this over the huge jumps in difficulty that we have seen in the last few S sets in the last raids of sets.

I also have stated, and would love to see, the C set targets blocked to Cannoneers and maybe Ironclads, thus allowing Kixeye to tune the targets more effectively. This would allow specific tuning to Centurion, Punisher and Zelos Hulls hopefully ensuring a much larger participation overall from the community instead of what we have been seeing. There were 6,000 or less players that acquired the Cannoneer in the last raid. If we guess a safe number of 24,000 legitimate participants, that is only 1/4 of raid players that have this 'advantage', yet the 'need' for the Millennium to be released was decided. This has me worried.

In the same vein, I would like to see the targets become a little less punitive against the Cannoneer (well, every Siege hull actually), or alternatively, adjust the repair time for the Cannoneer or nerf the Ironclad so the targets can be tuned differently to achieve the same effect. Most players (particularly the casual player) will be put off because of the learning curve that exists in these targets. I am rather partial to changing the repair time of the Cannoneer as the overall repair time has been seriously climbing over the last few raid sets. My Apollo fleet for raid was 6 coins (@ 1/2 repair) for repair from dead (that was for the last raid that I added an extra Apollo to the fleet). My HW fleet was 8 until I refit it down to 7 then 6 purposefully because of the stacking issues of the last few raids. The Cannoneer, with ZERO armor is going to be 14. Fourteen. Let me repeat that one more time... FOURTEEN @ 1/2 repair. With no armor. for only 4 hulls. And we have a Harlock Cannoneer coming in the raid as well. I am begging for this to be reviewed. The overall cost to coiners per raid is increasing from this repair creep.

There has to be better communication from the design team to the CM to the player base when things change. A LOT of frustration stemmed from player expectations of the targets and those expectations being wrong. What was communicated to us and what actually was in the target were exceptionally different. In and of itself it likely would have been minimal, but given the 'perfect storm' of events for this cycle, it certainly added fuel to the fire. I would love to see updates as things change, actually, I think everyone would.

Another aspect that I would like to be reviewed is the size of the targets. They seem to get bigger and bigger and more and more time consuming while the raid time does not increase. I think we will soon reach a tipping point with this, though I am unsure where that tipping point is.

Side note rant: Since the new practice has been put in place for the need of niche fleets for progression – raid to chore and making the fleets ‘necessary’ for a year, I would LOVE to see a nice easy way for newer players to get access to these hulls very easily, if not free about 3-4 months after a raid set. Actually maybe less because of build times. This would help retention and engagement and also help bring in new players if current players see an easier path for new players coming in to progress. If players feel relevant in the game quickly, they will become as addicted as we are.

Ok, that's my bitch-fest. I'm sure I could be far more negative or far more apologetic but I tried for a middle ground and an honest view of the issues and possible corrections. Thanks for reading this mental vomit of mine.


As was reported on Specs’ Blog in this post the Dev team is attempting to add something for the new raid to help players that do not have the tech participate in the raid. I have been advocating the absolute necessity of a larger player base engagement for the health of the game for a long time now. I am glad to see that Kixeye has taken a step towards this.

What was reported was that there will be an option to engage previous raid targets through a Campaign type system. The targets will offer raid points at a diminished return. I want to thank the TFC team for this, in particular TSM as I believe he was the one that put this idea forward for implementation.

I hope this is going to be a repeated option in raids. I do worry however, that this may create a secondary tier in players and bar new players from any significant progression. This bolsters, even more, my position that we should have a nice easy way for newer players to get access to these hulls very easily 3-4 months after a raid set.

Cannoneer, Ironclad and Centurion Musical Chairs

Let's Talk Builds...

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane   

I know a LOT of people are frustrated at the position they find themselves in right now. Raid is coming up, there has been a weapon offer for Cannoneer owners, there has been a late-ish TLC for the Ironclad, the Mauser isn't attainable for all players that could get the Ironclad and there are players who could not even attain the Ironclad and feel left behind. I understand and sympathize, but I'm not even sure what we can do about it. So, instead of ranting again (that article/rant will be out soon), I am going to try and concentrate on what we have available, what our options are and maybe look at what we can do.

Let's start with what we know about the targets in terms of damage and distance. We have seen that speed is going to play a large factor in these targets as well as range and our resistances.

During the test server I was on TSM's stream (which can be found here) and we tested several things. Many of the builds TSM tested are on the TFC website. The following builds are compromise builds based on what I saw and I'll explain each build. (Stu also streamed some as well and that can be found here.)


This is the hull that we were led to believe would be enough for the raid. A more accurate statement would be that this is the hull that will allow you to participate in this raid. I would not expect the Centurion to go beyond the B sets with the Harlock Centurion as a lead. Without that flagship, you may have to bump down to C sets which is a little disappointing. That said let's look at what we can do.

After seeing the targets, we know now that there really aren't any walls that we can shoot. We also know that the turrets have an incredible amount of armor and range and speed are going to be key in this. The example above is not retrofitted at all so any increase in level of your centurion will help mitigate even more damage.

1. The weapon selections is heavily weighted toward DPS with the lone Arbalest there to help bolster the one shot damage. Both selections are max range weapons as distance is a huge factor in mitigating damage taken with this hull. The Siege S cannons are there to help push the speed up a little also for damage mitigation in the target.

2. The specials selection is rather straightforward. We want the speed from Speed System V, the range and speed boost from the Nuclear Accelerators and the dual resistances afforded from the CL-3 Armor special. The last two, Siege Battery III and Siege Targeting III are for the increase in damage afforded to us in these targets with these specials as well as the protection from the turrets. We have seen that the faster you kill these targets, the less damage you take. With the shorter range of the Centurion, all this plays a role in the efficiency of this platform for these raid targets.

3. The armors. I leaned a little bit towards radioactive defense mainly because of the range limitation of the Centurion. This will hopefully offset the damage that the Centurion is likely to be exposed to because of that range deficiency. 

If you are missing any of the tech from this build, I would suggest you use this build (in this Huggy's link) and set yours in slot 2 so you can play with your tech and try to come as close to this build as you can in terms of damage, DPS, speed and resistances. This applies to all the examples used in this article.


This hull, in Kixeye's own words, is "...a hull that is designed to auto upcoming Siege event targets.". This is a hull which should take full advantage of the cannon offered in the same TLC, the Mauser. The build we will look at is not going to have the Mauser on it though. This build will work even better equipped with the Mauser, but I presume (from anecdotal evidence) far more people won the Ironclad and new special than they did the Mauser. In the Huggy's build link here I have the following build in slot 1, a second build without the Cannon System IV special in slot 2 and in slot 3 is the final Mauser build.

Some of this may seem odd for selections, but I built it as intended- an auto ship. I also built it to take advantage of its innate abilities.

1. The special and armors are balanced for the hull in this way: As you enter a target, you are more likely to take ballistic fire initially and as bloodthirst is quick to build in this hull, this should minimize that initial damage when the hull is most vulnerable. The armor selections are to balance the build out and are also selected to fit on a final build with Mausers saving refit time.

2. For the same reason as the Centurion, Siege Battery III and Siege Targeting III are there for the turret protection of SB3 and for the increase in damage afforded to us in these targets with these specials. The Cannon System IV is selected to help kill the targets faster to help mitigate damage to your hull as well as for fitment for the final Mauser equipped build.

3. As I mentioned above, this build presumes no Mauser. The next best selection that can also take advantage of the Ironclad's Splash is the Earthshaker. The 2 Siege S cannons are to help with speed and for fitment space when finalizing to a Mauser build as seen in slot three in the link above.

4. Speed. This is self explanatory but I did want to touch upon it again. It seems to be a rather important aspect in these targets, though I'm not sure how helpful it would be in an auto fleet. Presumably, the increase in speed should help navigate past some of the surfacing obstacles helping to mitigate some damage.


The cream of the crop. This hull was deemed as wanting, so we saw the special offer made available to the players. This one is a bit different in that the range afforded to it is supposed to allow it to do the targets damage free with skilled driving. Based on that, I have gone in a little bit of a different direction with mine. The two builds can be found at this Huggy link. Has anyone thanked Dave lately for the fantastic job he does on that site? Thanks Dave!!

As I stated, this is close to what I'll be starting with for the raid. I currently have some Arbalests and Mausers on my hulls because of the lack of information and direction prior to the test server. I also lack any armor at this point. That said, this build is close to what I will have and the plan in the raid is to get the new special and some tokens and to refit the Siege Targeting III to the new High Velocity Rounds so that my raid is made a little easier- and hopefully 'cheaper'.

1. The Millennium Cannon is the epitome of the Cannoneer build as we saw. If you don't have this the previous build I posted in this article performed suitably in the targets as well. The range of this weapon in conjunction with the Nuclear Accelerator and the native range buff allow this build to kite most if not all f the damage in the targets.

2. The speed of the engine, the Nuclear Accelerator and the stacked buff also will keep much of the damage from you if you drive well.

For the same reasons as the previous builds, the ST3 and SB3 are both there. As I stated, the ST3 will be replaced by the new High Velocity Rounds as soon as possible.

I'm on the fence about the CL-3 Armor special. I really am considering changing this to Layered Armor 3 because of the long distance ballistic weapon we saw. I won't be sure of this until I drive a few of the targets live. It may be that you can avoid the weapon's shots f you are fast enough, or not. That is something I will have to determine in the raid itself.

3. I did go ahead and add some ballistic armor. If driven properly this build should out-range everything but those ballistic turrets and this may afford some protection if they can reach, again, something to be determined. Currently I have zero armor on my hulls.

So that's the quick and dirty overview of where I think we stand currently. As the targets were still being tuned, no one knows for sure what will be the final best builds, but I think these will be close enough to get you to slog through. I only wish I could have written this article 2-4 weeks previous to this but, alas, I could not. I hope it helps give some of you some direction as there still seems to be a very large amount of the community that is lacking direction this close to the raid. Good luck!!!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ironclad or Cannoneer?

I Can't Think of a Funny Title Referencing the Civil War....

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon Bane   

I apologize for taking so long to publish this. It's taking me a while to get to writing because of a personal situation so bear with me on my publishing, my lack of poorly attempted humor and my grammar etc. I'm not entirely sure where to begin with this article as I have so many disparate and sundry thoughts with regard to the drop, the prizes, their impact on the game, timing and how much of this reflects upon the greater view of the game in varied aspects.

I think I will try and cover at least the new TLC prizes and have at least one tangential rant at the end of the article. Strike that- I will cover the hull briefly but mainly compare the two we have available and will try to write another article with regard to the weapon and special. There is a long singular threaded semi-rant at the end of this article as well.

As everyone knows, we have had a new TLC drop. The Iron Maiden campaign has dropped a week before the raid (rant material?) giving those of us who can do the TLC the opportunity to acquire the Ironclad and a new cannon and special. It has been reported that these are NOT the intended weapon and special for the Cannoneer, but I'll do that article later.

Let me say this as well before I begin- Folks, you do NOT have to do everything in one day in the first few hours of the release. USE the time they give you. Wait and watch some videos. The campaign was easily done for free if you had some Tideseekers and some 88 range torp equipped subs. Take advantage of options and opportunities presented you instead of trying to bull-rush it in the first hour or two.

The Ironclad

This hull boasts some outrageous numbers. Given what we know of the targets, this seems like an exceptional hull with which to engage those targets. Let's look at the stats so we have a reference point...

In looking at these numbers, one can not help but notice the 'tankiness' of this hull. Base armor is 12,000 Armor Points at a repair coefficient of .8. Not great, but not bad.

Resistances are through the roof. Baselines of 75% Ballistic Resistance and 85% Radioactive resistance - the two primary damage types we will face in the upcoming Raid, Since this is a Siege based raid, add CL-3 Armor Special (R15) and you jump up 89% and 93% respectively add Siege Battery III  (R15) and you are sitting at 94% and 97% respectively. After 5 kills, you then have your Bloodthirst bonus of 80% additional to each bringing your total resistances to approximately 99% for both. Wow.

Which One Then?

This opens up some interesting thoughts with regard to armor then, since you seemingly do NOT need resistance armors on this hull allowing to tweak your builds in a few varied ways. This is absolutely a fantastic hull to auto the upcoming targets.

Add to this the massive splash bonus, matched with the damage of the new Mauser Cannon and we have a had nice little debate going on currently about which hull to build- The Cannoneer or The Ironclad. I think this debate may be a little misguided.

It must be made clear - comparing these two hulls really is not an accurate reflection of either. They are designed for completely different styles of game-play and any comparison of the two will be a huge fallacy. I don't know why this debate rages on, but let's put it to rest.

The Ironclad has amazing stats for what it is designed for, however, it is clearly built to wade right into the targets and cause damage while taking everything the target can dish out. It has stun immunity, exceptionally high resistances, splash mitigation and a lot of offensive splash to lay waste as it goes.

The Cannoneer has a few subtle differences that should be screaming at us now that we have the 'other' hull. It is faster, has an incredible weapon reach, higher ballistic damage, higher siege deflection, better ballistic reload and above all - speed and turning abilities.

This should reflect exactly what each is built for. The Ironclad, exactly as Kixeye has advertised it by their own words: "Play the Iron Maiden Campaign to earn the Ironclad, a hull that is designed to auto upcoming Siege event targets.". That is what it is for. Set it and forget it. It does not have the range to snipe, it likely does not have the speed or maneuverability to avoid the new island mechanics that are in this raid format.

Additionally, some of the stats in comparison bolsters these observations. The Cannoneer has a negative resistance to stun while the Ironclad is stun immune. This should lead one to the conclusion that the Cannoneer will be, or should be if driven properly, out of range of the stunning tower.

Likewise, the difference in speed and resistances along with the info we were given about the targets can lead one to conclude that while the Ironclad is going to be taking hits to the teeth, the Cannoneer will be fast enough to avoid the damage the Ironclad would wade into. As we have already been told - The Cannoneer should be able to do targets for minimal to zero damage if driven properly and the 'puzzle' solved.


So then- which is better? Neither. One is clearly a hull meant to wade into the middle of a fight and start throwing punches, the other is a skill based hull that will require some good driving to take advantage of the hull's strengths. This is exactly like the Hellwraith and Tideseeker again. Personally I want both. I like the option of figuring out the puzzle to get to do the target damage free (we have been told that this is possible with the Cannoneer) and I like the 'fun' option afforded by the Ironclad. Let's face it- this is Battle Pirates, we like wading in and blowing shit up and not dying in seconds from one shot by the enemy.

I will also share this observation that came up in a discussion between Ren and myself- Given the ease in which we could do the new TLC when having both options built and available, I think it would behoove everyone to get them both. I'm not sure this is a good or bad thing, but I do want people to be aware that these hulls have other considerations other than for chores after the raid set is over.

The next part has nothing to do with the hulls and is merely a rant on my part. Skip it or read it, just remember, it is merely my opinion at this time, nothing more.

Tangential Rant...

As a side note: I would propose this to Kixeye- reverse the order of the hulls released for the raids and reduce the 'investment' of acquiring the first hull early.

Make the lazy-man's option hull the first to drop, along with the flag (which can be set to be pricey), and make them available both in the Store Raid previous to the next raid cycle as well as in a TLC.

The reasoning is simple. Some of the following points rely on empirical evidence, but given the amount of interaction and cross-sectional access afforded me by TFC, I think I have a somewhat unique perspective than many others.

1. These hulls offer greater playability to a wider range of players.

2. These hulls seem to create higher engagement to the targets from a larger player base than the 'skill' hull.

3. These hulls as designed to 'tank' a target, ensuring a higher than average damage-per-engagement, that has better potential to generate revenue (c'mon, let's be honest- if Kixeye can't make money, we can't play our game).

4. Bigger players, particularly coiners, tend to favor these hulls in raid, presumably eliciting coining.

5. These hulls, seemingly, create a higher player participation. Players may not get as many points as they would have, had they used skill and patience with the 'skill' hull - but since these hulls are generally 'easier' to get and have the disadvantage of having to 'tank' targets players are more willing to 'try'.

6.  Reversing the order in which these hulls are offered, and hopefully the revenue generated by this switch, should allow for a lower initial investment by players and a greater distribution to players compounding many of the points above and hopefully generating higher revenue ensuring a longer life to my addict... er... ensuring a longer lifespan to the game through higher player engagement.

7. These hulls seem to be the go-to hulls for our chores after the raid sets, making their acquisition (or lack thereof) an even higher game-breaker for those that can not get them. We need to stop alienating those players that are behind the curve or can't get these hulls for whatever reason. Availability- before, during, and particularly after the raid set is imperative.

8. This is the most important. By far. These hulls are FUN. Far more fun than the 'skill' hulls. This has been universally reflected in every conversation I have had with every player I've interacted with that has access to both types of hulls. Let's be honest- players will play more, and coin more, if they are having fun. While there may be some resentment in that we couldn't do the targets for free- tuning could be done for the first raid in the set so that damage was not excessive.

I hope this is discussed within Kixeye and if they choose to try this, I hope they commit to it by getting the initial player investment down so that it would work as designed (in my mind anyway). It only will work well if the hull distribution is large enough to engage a larger group of players than currently enter new raid sets with the new 'skill' hull.