Star Sonata is a game that has changed much over the past 12 years, including tons and tons of new content, both small and large in scope, and more are yet to come. But to avoid going off on tangents as I enjoy doing, let me skip straight to the actual topic of this blog post:
All content, new and old, relies on our balance sheets to be ‘balanced’. However, as the game evolves, the sheets need to be adjusted to better reflect how the perception of ‘balance’ has shifted. Sometimes, doing exactly that goes too far, while other times necessary changes are not done at all. Both extremes are unhealthy, as new additions to the game continue along the same flawed principles.
A big motivator of all these changes is to make less used weapon types viable. You should be able to pick a weapon that feels fun to use without sacrificing effectiveness. Currently, despite their shortcomings, the best weapons are so powerful that they are always worth using.
While it would be simple to give all underused weapons a buff, this is not practical. Many of these underused weapons, specifically Pulse Guns and Magcannons, are commonly used by AI. This is not the case for many of the weapons that are too powerful, which means that changing them would affect the game’s overall balance the least.
Changes to the most commonly used weapons will, of course, affect the relative difficulty of many AI. We are aware of that and have already adjusted a lot of them, often going as far as halving their effective shields.
In fact, a recent addition allows us to adjust the strength of individual AI much, much more easily, so keep that feedback coming and we’ll act on it!
Pulse Guns are the quintessential weapons of Star Sonata, but over time and over tech, they become lackluster compared to the alternatives.
There are two major issues:
Weapons have 4 parameters that determine their power: Acquisition Difficulty, Cost, Size and Weight. Size is, by far, the most impactful modifier of these 4.
Pulse Guns however get very, very big.
Due to the lackluster nature of most Pulse Guns, there haven’t been many new ones for quite some time.
All Pulse Guns are getting their size effectively halved.
Pulse Guns are meant to be the default weapon. Reasonable DPS, reasonable DPE, reasonable skill requirement. As it stands, they are not.
The change to their size will hopefully make them more usable, but it is likely that more work is required. Ideas include increased projectile speed, or smart tracking (i.e. the projectiles are fired towards where a target is going, rather than straight).
The Thorax Conundrum
The ‘Thorax’ type weapons have been part of the game since the very beginning. Their principle is simple: High damage and high efficiency, in exchange for being very difficult to hit with.
Sometime before 2013, Torpedo (and therefore Thorax) behavior was changed:
Their projectiles were made to turn towards their target while they were spinning up.
Rather than only tracking near the end of their lifespan, they now only tracked near the start of their lifespan
Jumping forward, there are now additional factors to be considered:
With higher techs come stronger augs. Range bonuses further increase the distance during which Thoraxes have tracking
Sniper projectile speed bonuses had the unintended side effect of further increasing the effective tracking of Thoraxes
All these little changes and synergies combined, a Thorax effectively became a “fire and forget” weapon. Their high damage and efficiency was no longer offset by being difficult to use.
And then, there’s also the fact that Thoraxes have not used a balance sheet since 2013. That issue is being rectified as well.
Torpedo projectiles (and therefore Thoraxes) will no longer turn towards their targets during their spinning-up phase.
Torpedo projectiles will no longer get increased tracking distance from range bonuses. To compensate, their base tracking range was quadrupled.
There will also be some minor changes to their stats.
While the changes to the mechanics of how Torpedoes work are significant, they should still be very effective low to medium range weapons in controlled environments (i.e. against stationary, large or controlled targets), but far harder to hit with at longer ranges.
Due to the unintended effects of Sniper projectile speed bonuses also increasing the effective tracking of thoraxes, Thoraxes will not currently get any projectile speed bonuses while we work on a satisfying solution.
All Thoraxes are effectively Torpedoes, but the actual Torpedoes have not been addressed. Many of them are lackluster. In fact, the AI base torpedoes (Torpedo, Torpedo I, Torpedo II) are objectively the worst weapons in the game!
As mentioned before, the balance sheet for Torpedoes and Thoraxes needs work, which will be my (s_m_w) next priority. Torpedoes are fun to use, but there are only a select few that are worth using. (And fun fact: This is only because they completely circumvented the OLD balance sheets!)
Bursts are Magcannons
When Timotheus the Red was introduced, among his drops was the ‘De-Focused Plasma Particle Distributor’, a Sebastopol (or incinerator, aka ‘RNF Burst’) with slightly less power than a normal Sebastopol, yet a significant amount of tracking.
Initially, the weapon was not considered to be very good. Its range was increased significantly and with that change an entire new weapon archetype was created: The Burst.
The concept was continued at tech 22 with the Hazardous Oomping Burst and various other types.
There were, however, two problems:
The Sebastopol balance sheet works under the assumption that Sebastopols have NO tracking and SHORT range.
All Sebastopols receive a +15% DPS bonus PER TECH, for a total of +330% DPS at level 22. This means that Sebastopols were the only weapon type that had an exponential power scaling, rather than linear. (More on this in the next section)
The added range that the RNF Burst received caused the weapon to no longer fit into the Sebastopol sheet, since it no longer had any of the characteristics that Sebastopols were supposed to have.
All Bursts have been moved into the balance sheet for Magcannons. While we have tried to preserve their position as some of the most damaging weapons in the game, we have had to make significant changes. We have attempted to keep their DPS and size as close to live stats as possible, but they will receive a significant decrease in DPE.
Magcannons and Pulse Guns with self damage are a relatively new addition to the game. The self damage aspect has not been included in the balance calculations before. While it is simple to take the same calculations that we use for Sebastopols and apply them to Magcannons and Pulse Guns, the extraneous, tech-scaling DPS bonus Sebastopols receive makes it hard to know whether that formula is reasonable. There is still room for improvement, but it is impossible to properly judge a weapon by numbers alone. Time will have to tell.
Sebastopols (including Incinerators)
Sebastopols in our balance sheets currently receive a massive bonus to their DPS scaling by tech. Since pictures say more than a thousand words, here’s what that means:
For comparison’s sake, the graph uses ‘Power’, an intuitive number to judge how ‘good’ a weapon is, calculated by multiplying DPS with DPE.
Currently, at tech 0, a Sebastopol is roughly 93% better than a Pulse Gun (due to being a more difficult to use weapon while also factoring in self damage). At tech 22, a Sebastopol is roughly 731% better than a Pulse Gun.
Sebastopols are, in fact, the ONLY weapon type that scales exponentially over tech. This is not good.
The Cyan line shows the new scaling of Sebastopols. The extraneous +15% DPS per Tech modifier was removed. To compensate, their base power was increased by 33%. They are intended to stay very powerful, but they were magnitudes too strong.
The changes to Sebastopols are, unfortunately, massive but these changes are necessary. As with all things however, the numbers do not tell the whole picture. Neither does a graph.
While there is no possible justification to retain a DPS modifier per tech, there are other ways to boost Sebastopols up more, without affecting the lower techs. Specifically, the percentual self damage could be increased for the higher tech weapons.