Thursday, February 15, 2018

Buccaneer's Trap - Observations and Build

A Lazy Pirate's Diary

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane   

Is it really a trap? Maybe if you don't have your fleet squared away, but for those that have their Bucky fleet done, you were in for a pleasant surprise- at least at the start of the raid.

Going in, the new target has some mechanical differences. Where you did not need a Phalanx last month, this month, you will need them.

The next thing that was very interesting is that Time to Kill (TtK) is an important aspect in these targets. I tested a few builds and noticed that as I played with the resistances,using weapons that added resistance, there was a clear tipping point where damage started going up as my main damage weapon count went down.

The build is very close to the one I put forward in last month's article. The trick was finding that fine line balance point where TtK was fast enough so I didn't take additional damage, but still had my resistances high enough to mitigate both damage types in the proper proportions that were dealt in the target. It looks something like this:

Errr... wrong Bucky, how about this:

I did keep a pando mort on each hull. It helps 'dilute' the repair time a little as well as add a bit of radioactive resistance. It is also why I didn't stick the the B mort on the Boon. That choice did the exact opposite and made the repair time less optimized, so out with the B and in with the Pando.

Edit: I'm getting quite a few questions on the addition to the Pando and people wanting to know exactly why, so let me try and explain.

I initially had a Siege B mortar on the Boon and I pulled the Siege B off and put the Pando on because the repair modifier of the B was worse than the Hull's native repair modifier. What do I mean by that?

The Pando repairs 100hp/sec, the B 1.25hp/sec. The regular Bucky hull repairs at 1.25hp/sec so the Pando 'dilutes' the repair time (making the repair time better) overall to increase the hp/sec repair time.

On the Boon, the repair is 10.42hp/sec so the B would actually hurt the repair time, but the Pando doesn't, it still helps dilute it, just not as much so I swapped it.

Really, if I were edge tweaking further, I probably should use the Ballistic Resistor on the Boon to make up for the resistance disparity. Maybe next month. lol

The trap? The targets are consistently inconsistent. Or rather, are until you really start knocking the mechanics around a bit. While I would get 2 out of 3 hovering in the vicinity of 35 minutes of damage on auto, I'd also get that 1 out of 3 that came back with 1 hour 30 min of damage. I'm not 100% sure what is going on as the damage seems to be coming from the same instances of attack that do not cause nearly the same amount of damage in other engagements. A weird pattern that seemed to be holding as well is that the first engagement coming out of base seemed to be that 1 out of 3 and any map repair and then engagement seemed to be the 2 out of 3.

EDIT: That was around dinner time. Since that time I've seem my average creep up AND there seem to be 'super' missiles in the targets. In some instances when they hit, you take a decent shot of damage, and some instances... not so much until the fire field they produce expires - then you take significant damage if you are in the field when it expires.

Note to Kixeye: These are the exact types of inconsistencies that absolutely infuriate the player base. Just sayin'. I am not amused either.

Looking at what was happening made me decide to refit my 'anti' Buck so that the Phalanx's accuracy was more optimized. This change is reflected in the build above. It took that 1/3 out and made it more like 1 out of... wel, I don't know. As of this writing I haven't gotten the wonky uber damage runs... yet.

I also have a couple videos of the fleet in action. The first is the fleet running on its own with no crew, on auto of course in the middle of my refits. (If I could kindly ask people to subscribe I would appreciate it - YouTube is requiring 1,000 subscribers to allow the monetization, which helps me do this testing.)

The second video is of me running the target, on auto of course, using my favorite crew for this raid set- The Demo Squad. (Did I mention subscribing would help me a TON? Thanks!!)

What I found was that IF I didn't get whacked by a 'super' missile, I was under 30 min consistently, even though it did not look like the damage buff was really working. IF I got whacked by the 'super' missile, it was like the crew didn't exist. The same 1-1.5 hours damage as though I wasn't running a crew.

It requires further testing, and the wonkiness did appear to happen during a rolling hotfix for a glitch repair that unscrupulous pirates were using, so maybe that's it. I'll try and test a bit more again tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I can play tomorrow night some. :)

After running all this, I decided to do what I did last raid with the Hunters - run the fleet until the Flagship needed repairing, and then see how many I could pull off with just repairing the Boon. The answer?

Full fleet did 12 targets with a Demo for a full fleet damage of 2.5 hours. The Boon had 1 hour 20 minutes of damage.

After repairing just the Boon and running targets, this time with a 15% Steelhead, I squeezed out 9... well, I squeezed out 10 but the Boon died in the 10th one.

It seems that if you want to auto, this is one of the exceptions where it is better to NOT enter the target to force a population of the battle map.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Welcome to the New FM Cycle

Are You Ready?

By: George Argyropoulos
a/k/a Dragon_Bane   

Back in December 2017, we had the Winter State of The Game drop on us. One of the things that was expressed to us in this SotG was the change of the Raid cycles to 4 months and the pulling of the Garrison cycle out of the raid cycles and into its own little cycle. It was, to quote, "...spice up Garrison every four months and offer specialist hulls for new top targets."

Let's keep this in mind.

At the time, many players (the possibility does, in fact, exist that I was one of them) expressed concern at the time requirements of building Garrison fleets concurrently with Raid fleets and/or escalation refits of Raid fleets.

I'm sure none of those players will stoop to "I told you so.", right? Right?

Tonight we had a posting on the Forums of a slight modification to the timeline that was, at least a little, designed to mitigate the issues and relevant concerns many foresaw with the release of the SotG post.

"When we originally announced the change with the Garrison class, we mentioned that a new Garrison hull would be offered in the 3rd month of each cycle. Given the fact that we still plan to do an early-access offering of the next cycle’s hull in the 4th month, we just didn’t feel that there was enough time for players to both build their new Garrison fleet, as well as the next cycle’s fleet."

Fantastic, right? There is an acknowledgement of the fact that we just do not have the time to do this and that it would impact a concurrently running raid cycle. I greatly appreciate the forthright acknowledgement, yet... I have concerns still that I hope are also addressed going forward.

The second raid of this cycle is upcoming this week. I quite literally have not a single completely built Hydra yet. I have two partially built (the second is still a few days out) and still need to finish the builds, build 2 more hulls and then the Flagship. Add to this a new FM fleet now? I may have grave concerns.

Let me meander back a moment however. Another bit I truly appreciated was another forthright, and rather blunt, declaration. I have to give huge kudos for acknowledging this and not trying to blow smoke up our collective... chimneys.

"Given the history of the Forsaken Mission, we’re more conscious than ever how important those targets and hulls are for players, and are committed to making any target or content adjustments as smooth of an experience as possible. Once we’ve found the right rhythm for how to handle these transitions, we’re hoping to be able to replicate it each quarter so that the player experience is fairly seamless. We’ve know we’ve messed up Forsaken Mission transitions in the past, and are not looking to do a repeat performance in 2018."

That's manning up. It is. There is an acknowledgement of screwing up as well as validation of player concerns over an aspect of the game that is still considered by the community as the cornerstone of Battle Pirates in its current iteration.

We have seen a sneak peek f the apparent new weapon and special intended for our use in the upcoming FM target change. We have the name of the hull (Inferno  Dragon) and can conclude a few things from these hints, so, let's speculate a teeny bit before we get to the real concerns.

The weapon is named the Twinfire Rocket. Don't expect it to be a cannon, yea? It also seems to have a special ability called the Dragon's Flame. This could be interesting because I take that to mean some sort of funky secondary damage added to the rocket. Either type or function. Does it double the fire rate? Increase the damage? Have a distance factor like the Phoenix? Or is it literally a secondary special like the Co-Axial Firestorm or Spitfires? While it sounds very 'cool' I hope that there isn't a layered complexity involved with this special ability.

By necessity, that means we have ourselves a rocket hull in the Inferno Dragon. Which generally means... blitz hull. A fun hull, but generally not the first choice for mitigating damage in an FM environment. I'll be the first to admit- I love driving my Icebreakers for the fun factor. I'll also be the first to admit - I hate driving my Icebreakers for the damage factor.This paragraph is likely indicative of the majority opinion of the community in this regard. Take note.

We then go to the special, the RF-X Engine, that looks a lot like a cannon with little rockets around the rim. The name denotes an engine however, and I wonder if it isn't the rocket version of Nuclear Accelerator. Maybe some extra damage or reload on top of a speed boost? Though it is called an engine so maybe this is more in line with Strike System?

Isn't speculating fun?!? Yea... maybe I'd rather just have the bloody info. Given the inordinate amount of time we spend designing some of these hulls and fleets, and poring over the combinations (even when artificially limited), I was hoping for some more info because it is, after all, the FM cycle we are talking about here. This is, quite literally, going to stop everyone's progress on their raid fleets so that they can start the next FM fleet. At least those players that manage to get the hull, weapon and special.

On to the concerns!

Topics of concern going forward are going to revolve around the timing of the cycle change, the time investment for the fleet and the ancillary loss of time for the concurrently running raid cycle as well as the functionality of the FM itself with relation to the players and the level of difficulty adjustment necessitated by the escalation of power of the next Tier level of hull(s).

Timing of the Cycle Change : 

The concurrent overlap of FM cycle change with running raid cycle poses problems for players in both build time, build queue and prioritization of the game. The FM is the cornerstone of the game in terms of tech availability to 'keep up', however, we have seen in the past the ramifications of missing out on tech in the raid itself. This will likely be borne out in this raid wherein the FM hull is going to be offered as a prize. What do players do that can not get the trifecta of the new FM fleet? Do they then concentrate on the current raid cycle and pray they do not fall too far behind in the FM?

We enter a new era of cycle events and timing, which may pan out well for the game and players, however, there is a very, very steep precipice that exists when trying to run cycles concurrent and overlapping.

Time Investment and Ancillary loss of Build Time :

There is no simple solution to this as the game is currently laid out. With the loss of overall token availability, the gating of tokens behind inordinately long TLCs and sheer build times, the cycles are going to clash. There is no easy way around this. The rules of math preclude a simple solution short of cutting build times drastically, or reducing the needed amount of fleets - or both.

This is my planned Hydra fleet build. 103 days for the fleet - with an engineer. Without, it is a build out of 115 days. 115. That is almost 4 months of build time. For just one of the fleets of this raid cycle. Which lasts 4 months. And includes an FM cycle change.

This is my planned Bucky fleet build. 100 days without an engineer. Why do I use without an engineer? Because the engineer was supposed to be a 'bonus' not a standard. Many players do not have the option, and quite frankly, I want to keep the context appropriate.

The apparent concern here is a little tricky because it is another instance wherein one issue cascades into another. I know many people are going to start screaming TLCs!! Awesome. I'm glad that option is out there. Unfortunately this starts delving into the time investment the game dictates as well as the trend of necessitating the previous two fleets of a cycle. The game literally blocks players from participating in some fashion or another. It should create opportunities for revenue rather than limiting them, but again, another issue.

The base issue here is again the time needed to build these fleets in order to even participate in this aspect of the game. In 4 months time, we have 215 days (over 7 months) of build time required for two full fleets for a 4 month cycle - and then we have to add in an FM fleet- only one of three planned for the year. Clear enough?

We then need to address the 'lost' time to the raid cycle fleets necessitated by the abrupt interruption of the necessary FM fleet build. If the new FM fleet build takes another 100 days, where does that actually leave us? We have more FM hulls due to be released - that will have corresponding targets of increased difficulty while old 'top end' targets are removed. For one raid cycle and one FM cycle change, we are already at a gross build time of 315 days. Where does this particular cycle end?

Can this be addressed and corrected? Sure, but again, at what balancing cost to the game and community? 315 days and we have 2 more raid cycles this year as well as two more FM cycles this year. My hackles are raised.

FM Functionality & Difficulty Level :

This needs some clearing up. In 2017 we saw some shenanigans with regard to the FM. There is a general assumption the players have of the function of the FM. That function is not a three times a month raid. Nor is it supposed to be a chore. Many players have invested heavily on their FM fleet in order to alleviate exactly that feel from the FM, and yet, the last change to the FM caused exactly that feel to come back.

Putting the latter issue aside for now, the former speaks to the presumed intent of the FM for the players of the game. Barring any clarity on the matter, we procede with this presumed intent of: a function in the game where a player can 'catch up' on tech as well as gain new tech that will be useful in their day-to-day engagement of the game. N'est-ce pas?

The escalation to higher degrees of difficulty necessitated by the introduction of Tier 7 FM hulls may change this functionality. Given the above referenced build times as well as the sheer number of planned changes leaves a huge amount of room to lose players in the shuffle. Once fallen behind, we know nothing of any mechanism that will be in the 'new' FM to help struggling players. In fact, the simplest option - leaving the old targets on the map and increasing the worth of the new ones, seems to not be an option going forward. The stated intent is to remove the high level targets and replace them with the new ones, which would mean that if you do not get the new combination, your top-of-the-line current FM fleet will be devalued doubly with the change. You will not be able to hit the 115 for those points, and you will be relegated to hit lesser targets as well.

Concurrent to those 2 aspects of devaluation, you likely will not be able to use your fleet ion the shiny new target putting you further behind. We also do not know the intent for the lower level targets in the FM. Are they changing? Will lesser fleets be 'locked out' of the FM? Are there plans for players to gain access to the FM going forward after the debacle of 2017?

This seems a bit counter-intuitive to me, and I hope that this is not the case or that this has been addressed prior to the implementation of the FM escalation.

Conclusion :

Holy crap, you're still reading? Fine, I'll not mince words anymore. (read: CAUTION- Swearing Ahead!)

While these are very valid concerns, the fact that there is validation for the community in today's post is a good sign. That said...

The conclusion here is simple, the horse has been running wild in the field and it has to not only get reined the hell in, it needs to get bashed between the fucking eyes and be reminded who it is that rides his ass.

Don't get me wrong, I think the start of transparency as well as ownership of past issues is HUGE. I would just like to take the opportunity to get ahead of any other potential issues before they come and bite us in the ass.

To Kixeye: You have gone back and forth with regard to direction, intent, design and more. You vacillate with regard to so much, including who it is that is currently 'it'. Too many times in too short a span of time. We sit at a precipice for more reasons than one. For better or for worse, now is the time to bone up. You've picked a team, you've picked a lead(s?) and you've picked a direction.
Go all in with these motherfuckers, because if 2017 repeats in 2018, I fear that I won't have an addiction to partake in come 2019 and that would be a shame.

(Sidenote: Yes, you guys are getting the raw unedited article right now. I'll come back and edit and spellcheck and all that good shit tomorrow. Have a fantastic night all!)