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RA balance change for December 2018 #15907

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@Smittytron
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Smittytron commented Dec 15, 2018

Orb has headed up the balance testing this time around. I posted his thoughts on the balance changes on this forum thread. Here is the summary for this PR:

  • Infantry in pillboxes will no longer gain experience.

  • Reload delay increased from 85 to 90. Projectile speed decreased from 204 to 170. Accuracy increased from 1c938 to 0c614. Splash Damage now has a falloff range. Damage vs infantry reduced from 90% to 40%, and damage vs light armor reduced from 60% to 35%.

  • Chronoshift return duration reduced by 20%

  • Medic/Mechanic speed reduced to 50 from 56

  • Camo pillbox price increased to 800 from 700. Cloak delay increased from 60 to 125.

Edit: As discussed on Discord, I've reduced this PR to just the pillbox experience change. The other changes will be tested in custom maps when the playtest comes out.

@Smittytron Smittytron force-pushed the Smittytron:balance-winter-2018 branch from dc44dc8 to c6be510 Dec 15, 2018

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matjaeck commented Dec 15, 2018

So AO arrived. Why is Orb not authoring, do you take responsibility? What is your opinion about the new artillery and why do we need to change its role? I personally can't follow the reasoning in the forum thread because there are no problems with imba artillery in team games. I also highly doubt that many 1v1 games last more than an hour. There is room for improvements in the Allied mirror match-up, but I find it hard to support this PR if these changes are exclusively aimed at competetive 1v1. Yes, big team games are a mess but they work quite well currently and the strong defense provided by current artillery allows less-skilled players to have a chance.

Some comments:

Artillery

The main problem with artillery is their DPS is very low vs defenses. This is because of their high inaccuracy, making it difficult to hit 1 cell targets. Combine this with an opponent actively repairing the defense and one artillery will likely die before it kills the defense.

Who says that one artillery should efficiently kill base defenses? In team games, people build them in ridiculous numbers. This will be a nightmare without inaccuracy. Increased accuracy for artillery combined with the changes from #15866 will get interesting, too, and make the aforementioned nightmare even worse.

They overperform in this role drastically, and Allies have many other tools to deal with infantry spam (Hinds, Pillboxes, Tanya).

Implies that the Allied Hind would not be an issue.

Chronosphere

Chronosphere’s in general are considered a little weak in the meta right now, and usually aren’t even constructed by Allied players.

Maybe in competitive 1v1 meta, doesn't apply to team games at all.

Mechanic/Medic

As support units, medics/mechanics should always be in the back of your army.

Who says that and why does this mean that they have to move slower? Tanks should be in the front lines but are slower, too.

generally leaves them in the back of your armies (where you want them)

I don't, I like to use them to tank enemy fire while healing. Micro them if it is a problem for you.

Camo Pillbox

Camo Pillboxes are not good for gameplay.

Ah, well then. -
This paragraph confirms my concerns that these balance changes are highly subjective and aimed at a small margin of players, who would agree with those remarks, while probably everyone else will not be able to understand or profit from changes. The changes to artillery and camo pillbox will have drastically more effect on team games than on 1v1 games, because they are part of and build in large numbers in every team game, and only a (maybe annoying) subordinate factor in 1v1 meta. Nevertheless, this PR leans exclusively towards improving the situation in 1v1.

👎 from me because of disproportion in inclusion of interests.

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dragunoff commented Dec 15, 2018

Perhaps AO should be re-evaluated after #15866 is merged as that PR changes things for artilleries and camo pboxes quite a bit.

@pchote pchote added this to the Next Release milestone Dec 18, 2018

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obrakmann left a comment

I find it curious that the balance changes this time around only touch allied units.

@@ -399,6 +399,8 @@ MEDI:
Name: Medic
Health:
HP: 6000
Mobile:
Speed: 50

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obrakmann Dec 18, 2018

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This won't help. The problem isn't their speed, the problem is that infantry stops to attack an enemy, but medics and mechanics either won't have targets immediately and go on their merry way to their AttackMove location, or have an Attack order converted to a Move order from the start.

The real solution is better micro.

@@ -743,7 +743,7 @@ HBOX:
Range: 5c0
Cloak:
InitialDelay: 125
CloakDelay: 60
CloakDelay: 125

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obrakmann Dec 18, 2018

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I'd say either price hike or cloak delay increase, but not both at the same time. That sounds like too much of a nerf.

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@pchote

pchote Dec 19, 2018

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We also have the cloak targeting fix removing their unwanted untargetable-under-fog buff, so this is a particular worry.

Report: tank5.aud
TargetActorCenter: true
Projectile: Bullet
ContrailLength: 30
Speed: 170
Inaccuracy: 0c614

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@obrakmann

obrakmann Dec 18, 2018

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Not a fan of the artillery changes. This makes them too similar to V2s in my opinion, and the exact opposite of what they are supposed to be.

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pchote Dec 19, 2018

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I agree here in principle - the Artillery vs V2 contrast has been as much a part of OpenRA as the flak truck or allied hind - but we should be open to evolving this if needs be.

Considering the negative feedback so far and the big unknown impact that the fog targeting changes will bring, I think it would be safer to defer this to a future release.

Show resolved Hide resolved mods/ra/rules/defaults.yaml Outdated

@Smittytron Smittytron force-pushed the Smittytron:balance-winter-2018 branch from c6be510 to 3fc0851 Dec 19, 2018

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Smittytron commented Dec 19, 2018

I won't speak for Orb's changes themselves but I'll say this: I've seen Orb put plenty of work into testing his ideas, and I've seen him make multiple edits and compromises to get to this last set of changes. I also trust his insight as a player; he's been at this game as long as I have.

In the two balance patches I've done myself, I heard the wider community feedback from the official playtests and made reversions as necessary. That's what I expect to happen here.

If that's not acceptable I'm okay with reverting things before a playtest but I'd like to give Orb a chance to weigh in on this discussion first.

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MustaphaTR commented Dec 19, 2018

I have my 👍 to the infantry in pbox not getting experience but i dunno what to think about others.

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Orb370 commented Dec 19, 2018

Hey, Orb here. In games, asymmetry and unit diversity are certainly desirable, but shouldn't be the end all be all. Asymmetry for asymmetry sake can create bad game play.

For example, in the CnC Generals competitive community, the USA faction exclusively builds only 3 units out of their roster. Humvees, rocket soldiers to fill those humvees, and ambulances to heal them. Tanks, artillery, commandos, and so on, are generally left unbuilt in the vast majority of matches. And yet, with this lack of unit diversity, there is still a rich and exciting tactical playing field for these players, both to play against and to use. In fact, I'd wager buffing other units (such as tanks), would make gameplay less interesting.

For Asymmetry, I point you to Grey Goo. Three distinct factions with fairly unique economic and base construction mechanics, and yet an extremely bland game. While they are different, for the most part, it doesn't actually impact the game. You do not consider your opponent's asymmetry in your plans.

But then you can look at Supreme Commander. The factions are extremely similar, with slight variations here and there. But because it has such a tight game design, these differences are extremely important. A UEF player with his 20% healthier commander unit will be more aggressive, while the Cybran player with 15% faster basic tank units will try to avoid direct confrontations and do raiding tactics (as does fit their faction flavors).

My point is, I don't think the Artillery/V2 asymmetry is good for game play. We can not have asymmetry for the sake of asymmetry. Allies lack a crucial defense cracking tool, both lacking a heavy tank and an artillery that can challenge defenses. In mirrors, this results in passive, boring, and sometimes frustrating game play if the games go long enough to stabilize. Most players have experienced this at least once, and I never hear positive things about it.

The problem of course, is how to go about remedying the situation. I've tried a a fair number of things, but the safest choice is to increase the accuracy on the artillery. This increases their effective DPS vs defenses high enough to be relevant. Yes, this makes them more like V2's. But, I think the inaccuracy is a fundamental problem that can not simply be kept for "asymmetry".

For Camo Pillboxes, being "balanced" or "good" isn't desirable. This would be a case for striving for unit diversity when it's not needed. Camo Pillboxes do not play a crucial role in current game play. Instead, they serve to stifle it.

I recently watched a 30 minute game turn into a 1 hour game simply due to the presence of Camo Pillboxes (these ones lacked the additional recloak time, but did have the price increase). This is because the usual counter to defenses, air + artillery, isn't possible against Camo's. You can't use infantry against them either. Their only counter is tanks, however Allies have a weak tank. Camo's combined with any sort of anti-tank complement (rocket soldiers, turrets) turns it into an unassailable position, which locks down gameplay and leaves no options for the aggressor.

The targeting change will help the problem, but still forces you to engage Camos with some kind of force to reveal them (and is also a bit awkward, since if the camo recloaks while in vision you will lose the ghost you want to target).

To give another example, sometimes players mention how weak minelayers are, and wish this unit to be "balanced". However, a game where minelayers are "balanced" is not a fun game to play. Mines are invisible, destructive blockers that prevent aggression (much like Camo's). You can't plan around mines. You simply send your forces somewhere and hope your opponent didn't place a minefield there. They are additionally tedious and uninteresting to clear.

Lastly, to quickly touch on the medic change, since this is already an essay, it's simply to reduce the chance of your medics running forward to die. The longer it takes them to reach the front line, the more likely one of your infantry will take damage and they'll begin healing. Players have been pretty positive about this change and I see no issue with it.

Overall, I'd like to get the chance for these changes to go into the playtest. I don't expect them to go into release as is, and would like a serious round of testing to tweak them (or discard them). A 2vs2 tournament is planned with this in mind.

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pchote commented Dec 21, 2018

I'm concerned that the justification for the artillery and camo pillbox changes so far don't live up to what we expect for PRs. #13790 (mainly the "Comments" bullet points) and #14471 are two reasonable examples: they focus on how they try to address specific shortcomings, without resorting to "trust me" or discussions on fundamental balance philosophy.

When I read the post above I interpret three key points:

  • Faction assymmetry is fundamentally bad.
  • The only reason for artillery spread is faction asymmetry, therefore it should be removed.
  • Camo pillboxes do not belong in the game, and should be balanced to discourage their use.

I hope this interpretation came from imprecise wording, because they run counter to the way that we have always tried to balance the games: asymmetry can be good, and minimize useless units by giving everything we can a role.

My main concern is that the comments above, on the forum, and on discord so far suggest that the artillery change rivals #13520 in terms of splitting opinion and generating toxic attitudes. The vitriol and harassment that followed the structure targeting change overshadowed all the other awesome changes in release-20171014, and did serious damage to the development momentum and moral. I'm not sure the project would survive a repeat of that, so I would only knowingly risk it if I were convinced and confident that the changes were important to the long-term viability of the project.

TLDR:

  • The artillery changes are clearly controversial
  • It is important to be precise and clear about why the changes are needed and the intended results
  • I'm concerned that relaxing our usual standards to give the artillery changes a chance in an official build risks a major blowback that I'm not prepared to deal with.
  • The other changes in the PR are probably fine.
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Orb370 commented Dec 21, 2018

You're right. I was a little too excited to talk about game design ideas I had been thinking about, and should have responded in a more professional manner. Let me do this a little more properly.

Artillery

Reload delay increased from 85 to 90. 
Projectile speed decreased from 204 to 170. 
Accuracy increased from 1c938 to 0c614. 
Splash Damage now has a falloff range. 
Damage vs infantry reduced from 90% to 40%, and damage vs light armor reduced from 60% to 35%.

There is currently a problem in both team games and Allies mirrors where players are unable to break through defensive lines. This results in stagnation. Stagnation being, an inability to make a play that increases your chances of winning. Passivity is rewarded due to any attacks being deflected cost effectively. The problem arises from Allied defenses being more effective than Soviet ones, and Allies lacking the tools to break them.

Allied Artillery misses defenses quite frequently with its inaccuracy, lowering it's effective DPS vs defenses only. This makes it tricky to balance, as any damage increase will have unintended effects. However, by increasing the accuracy, the unit is able to bring to bear it's full DPS on defenses. This change alone is sufficient from my testing to break the stagnation.

Additional changes have been made to it's damage profile vs Infantry. The main reason is to balance out the buff to it's accuracy. The other reason is to reduce the extreme difficulty in breaking fortified positions guarded by Artillery.

The damage to light armor change isn't essential, and if controversial, could be dropped without sacrificing my goal. In stagnant games, attacking Artillery can be efficiently countered by defending artillery, being able to one shot enemy artillery. By reducing the damage so it can no longer 1-shot artillery, it should reduce the passivity in these types of situations.

Camo Pillbox

Camo pillbox price increased to 800 from 700. 
Cloak delay increased from 60 to 125.

The Camo Pillbox's role in current game play is as an Artillery counter and to hold Tanya to surprise attacking enemy armies. What I'd like to do with these changes is to reduce it's role in the former. Camo Pillboxes unfortunately promote stagnant game play, and are typically built exclusively in these kinds of situations. By increasing it's cost, my goal was to increase the opportunity cost of building a Camo Pillbox over a normal Pillbox. This would increase the incentive for a player to fully take advantage of the cloaking ability during placement, rather than simply treating it as an upgraded Pillbox.

I've additionally increased the Cloak Delay to ease frustration for attacking players. I'll admit this change was hastily added in, and before I knew of #15866. As it has been pointed out it is unclear what kind of impact the FrozenActor change will have, I agree that it'd be wise to remove the Cloak Delay edit for now.

Potential Community Backlash

I think any significant change will involve backlash. As far as I can tell, there is negativity surrounding #15661 as well, if not more. However, I don't believe it will be nearly as bad as #13520. Most people I've talked to believe there is a problem with Artillery. There may be some disagreement on how to solve it, but I think folks understand that these sorts of issues can be ironed out during play test.

I also have an idea that the current implementation of Artillery drives potential new players away, though I don't have any particularly strong evidence to support it. My only data is I get new players in the academy asking how to counter Artillery, and talking about their frustration in dealing with it. I don't think I've ever been asked for the counter to any other unit.

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netnazgul commented Dec 21, 2018

One of the points I remembered regarding the inaccuracy.

High inaccuracy of anything has two core problems.

  1. It makes the behaviour too random and imposes too much of a luck factor on a unit, and its perception will always be "underpowered! please fix!" when you use it (because you will always notice only the misses and be frustrated with it) and "overpowered! please fix!" when you face it (same reasons - you will notice only the hits).
  2. It is very hard to balance against when facing targets of different size and shape. This was the problem when I was doing research test for SoScared's balance patch as buildings became targetable on its cells instead of just the center. It became a nightmare then as the artillery did completely different DPS against 1cell defences, 2cell SAM sites, 6cell radar domes, 6 or 9cell Tech Centers (!) and 9cell advanced power plants, also amplified by the distance you fire the artillery from and the vector of approach (!! from the bottom Radar Dome is 2 cells wide, from the left it's 3 cells wide). So in the end it was just patched up to not murder buildings too fast and to not fail at that too long, still fluctuating between the two extremes a lot. I even have the table here, with "release" being before the hitshape changes, "bleed" being after and without any updates and "playtest" including the changes to Artillery damage (#13877).

So, for the sake of proper tight-knit balance of the game, less inaccuracy is better as it's more manageable.

Btw point No2 implies that there will definitely be a need to update damage value and vs-armor modifiers further, because it might change a lot of stuff.

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pchote commented Dec 21, 2018

Another point to throw into the pot is making sure that the artillery projectiles do not feel out of place when compared to the cruiser.

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matjaeck commented Dec 21, 2018

For me, the following questions arise from the discussion regarding the artillery and pillbox changes:

  • Do we consider the high damage model vs infantry an issue?

  • Do we consider the setup of pillboxes still an issue?

  • Are there enough tools available for allies to break an allied turtle with reasonable effort and if no,

  • what makes allied defences so much stronger that these issues don't appear vs a soviet opponent.

If there are issues, I'm sure there is a way to deal with them by refining the damage model without changing the unit's role and maintaining known gameplay in situations, that are not addressed by these changes, but affected.

If artillery underperforms vs base defences, why not give base defences an own armor type and increase the damage vs this type? This would not affect other situations and we could work on the potential OPness vs infantry separately and leave everything else untouched.

It will already be hard to measure the effects of any artillery balance changes because of the changes to frozen actor targeting and it does not seem reasonable to me to redesign a unit in the middle of this.

On a sidenote, I'd like to say that my previous comment was not meant as harsh as it might read and I appreciate Orb's effort and that he's put so much time into this.

@Smittytron Smittytron force-pushed the Smittytron:balance-winter-2018 branch from 3fc0851 to e5026dd Dec 21, 2018

@Smittytron Smittytron changed the title RA balance changes for December 2018 RA balance change for December 2018 Dec 21, 2018

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Smittytron commented Dec 21, 2018

Updated. As discussed on Discord, I've reduced this PR to just the pillbox experience change. The other changes will be tested in custom maps when the playtest comes out.

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pchote approved these changes Dec 21, 2018

@pchote pchote added the PR: Needs +2 label Dec 21, 2018

@pchote pchote merged commit d10d48c into OpenRA:bleed Dec 21, 2018

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@Smittytron Smittytron deleted the Smittytron:balance-winter-2018 branch Dec 23, 2018

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