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[RA] Complete balance patch (1.6) for the next playtest/release. #13790
To skip the abstract you can safely jump down straight to the changes themselves (see bold text below).
I initially held off these changes from #13640 in anticipation of the HitShape/UnitStance features in order to better evaluate its balance implications. A few changes listed below are adjustments from the current playtest but the majority represents the full experience coming out of the playtest maps concluded with the so-called v1.6 map playtest series: http://www.sleipnirstuff.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=83&t=20017
The map playtest v1.6 was distributed with ca 17.000 (!) map downloads with 1.6a and 1.6b (latter version still up on the resource site) after an aggressive distribution campaign, resulting in maps being redistributed within the community itself mostly within a period of ca 2-3 months. The download count doesn't tell us really the quality of the changes itself but shows the balance changes has been accessible, redistributed and familiarized with the larger community for a long period of time. This made it possible to observe hundreds upon hundreds of games periodically which made it possible to track the progression of both 1v1s and team games and on how players dealt with the changes over time.
As with my previous balance PR's I will refer to the experience drawn from the playtesting itself, not delving too much into discussion about other changes or experiences drawn from sources outside this particular playtest series. This outlines my attitude towards playtesting in the past where I would often dismiss concerns on past balance PRs from other community members that contrasted the experiences drawn from the playtesting itself. These often originated from other sources or just concerns in general drawn from general insight of the game. This might have come across as unfair to some, especially now that the community has recently split up into multiple playtest series, often overlapping certain tests of changes but at the end of the day that's the only way I can personally guarantee the experience gathered from the map playtests will accurately reflect that of the upcoming playtest/release.
This balance patch is a culmination of pretty much everything I've worked for up to this point and was part of a long-term 2-punch-combo plan starting with #12739 for the current release. The aim was to make way for a broad yet safe path for the RA mod to provide more fun, colorful and exciting games for everybody while at the same time slowly expanding some options for our most dedicated of players in the community. No doubt this playtest series managed to achieved that and is my proudest work in my time with OpenRA, especially in a time with growth in both the general player base and the competitive arena, challenged with more viewpoints and opinions than ever putting on an ever growing pressure to offer more of what the RA mod already provides.
For anyone not having followed up on the playtest series previously, don't let the long list of changes intimidate. In a nutshell the changes are more akin to tuning an equalizer, and with few exceptions has been quality checked over a very long period of time.
The proposal includes the following changes:
Mobile Radar Jammer, Mobile Gap Generator*
Soviet Tech Center*
War Factory, new production cap
One of the above changes needs to have the developer team on-board as it does essentially deal with questions regarding game design. The War Factory production capped at 4 instead of 7 breaks with all other build queues and essentially creates a two-tiered queue system. Practically the WF queue in relation to the others looks like this:
I don't remember who came up with the idea but I decided to bring it aboard early on and throw it out at the first sign of trouble. The War Factory being a $2000 structure I figured there was a chance it would add to the game without disrupting too much. To my surprise it basically under-performed, being phased out quickly as an early-to-mid-game option after just a few days of players attempting to abuse the vehicle production gain as a build-order opener. The geniality of the feature became apparent at the later stages in the games, ca. 15-20 minutes into the game after the tech-tree had fully developed both in 1v1s and team games. Practically there were more options presented on the table late-game with quicker transitions between types of vehicles and in combination with the new T3 custom build times and HP upgrades (phase/chrono/tesla tank) represented in this PR we saw players playing around with more of these units and often helping players close out games in a more colorful fashion instead of grinding the beaten player down in long drawn-out stalemate situations. It never felt over-board except perhaps in games with people playing around having their fun but at the expense of winning the game against an equal opponent.
The standard 7-point production queues themselves being a bit obscure to most players makes the deviation of a 4-point War Factory seemingly even more so but I would ask you to consider this - it never came up as an issue in any games I observed in the entire time. In fact players were discussing among themselves about the values given that the WF now had a distinct different production cap value. Those values themselves being simply a derivative of the original 7-point value (as visualized above) made the WF 4-point value easy and quick to learn and in return ironically fostered awareness on what the standard queue values really are.
It's my intention to sell this point across to the developers to add this deviation to the game for the great fun, the rewards and vast potential this feature adds to the experience. This playtest/release has with it a great many changes to standardize certain elements for sake of ease of understanding including building vision range and and cloak detection for the defensive structures. Those deviations served no purpose. This one does and I'd anticipate it to be one of the most well received balance features with the next release.
As mentioned initially all of these changes has been playtested at an unprecedented rate and, as with the previous balance PRs, can be expected to take aboard changes that are predictable and expected to function in the release as promised.