Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Shield Support Balancing

GSB recently got a shield support beam. This was a groovy empire-frigate-only weapon which remotely boosted the shield power of friendly ships. It was criticised as being too powerful. Not surprisingly, people experimented with minimal cruiser fleets boosted by a huge swathe of support frigates using the beams for mutual reinforcement.

Surprisingly, this turns out to actually be super effective in comparison with filling those frigates with weapons and other useful stuff. I spent a while playing, and analyzing player challenges where it was claimed the SSB is just *too* good.

So I nerfed it badly to see what was needed to get the sweet spot for this new weapon. Serious nerfing of the transfer rate was tried. Then serious reductions in the amount that would be held in capacitors. Still, the SSB seemed awesome, in large numbers.

Then, eventually, I concluded that it was the mechanic, not the numbers that caused an imbalance. The SSB was being used regardless of the state of the target ship. It could be under intense plasma fire, and be ECM jammed, and still shake offf all attacks thanks to 6 or 8 SSBs boosting its shields. I wanted a single SSB to be worth having, but at any reasonable level, the combination of 8 then became a super-defence.

So my currejnt thinking (under testing now) is to nerf the SSB by reducing two key stats (beam rate to 20, recharge rate to 20), and also introducing three restrictions:

  1. The SSB can not be used to reinforce ships if the target ship is currently ECM jammed.
  2. Only a single SSB can be utilised on a target ship at any one point in time (although they could take turns).
  3. The SSB can only be targeted on cruisers.

I think this is the solution, but feedback is much sought. After all, I stupidly thought it as balanced already :D Ideas?

11 thoughts on Shield Support Balancing

  1. The only targeted on cruisers doesn’t really make any sense, but the other two would be a great improvement. If the shield boost would be taken from the frigates shield, this would still allow the target to get it’s shields boosted but makes the boosting frigate more vulnerable. This would necessitate an attack on multiple flanks to destroy an unboosted frigate

  2. It definetly is a challenge with multiple frigs boosting a cruisers shields, I was thinking that to “even” the playing field, that there should “cooldown” on the time that a cruiser may have it’s shields boosted, say 10 seconds or time units..
    the psuedo-science behind this would be that the cruisers shield capacitors would overheat from having som much current passing through them that they needed time to cooldown.

    I do like 1 and 2 but if you take the cooldown approach, you could allow the SSB to be targeted on frigs as well.

  3. I still don’t understand why the recharge rate is not being taken down to below that of regular shields. At some point, it has to be a matter of capacitance instead of pace.

    Technical restrictions could just make the thing scale weird. With a single-target requirement, I can see it being overpowered in a 5000 point fleet, useless at 20,000.

    The numbers have to line up. Right now it’s powerful even in a single-use application, and it’s not hard to see why:

    Empire frigate with two shields: ~138 capacity, 14 recharge
    Single SSB: 110 capacity, 45 recharge

    The technical ability to project the SSB, even at the reduced recharge of 20, still puts it well ahead of two high quality shields. The fact that it doing so while working WITH them in a sustained fashion is what makes it so outrageous.

  4. Might I suggest a decreasing benefit from each additional beam? The first beam works at 100% efficiency. Add a second beam and combined they’re only 150%, instead of 200%. Each additional one is even less effective.

  5. I would really like to have a crazy SSB cruiser with 10 of them on it protecting a swarm of attack frigates, like a mother bear protecting the cubs — I think that would be a really fun idea. Can we please not make it cruiser-only?

  6. A couple of ideas.
    1. Diminishing returns. Each additional beam is less effective than the last capping out at say 3 or 4 before the 5th becomes a waste of space
    2. Shield stability. Beyond the first, each additional beam increases the instability of the shield, making it more likely to over load or melt down or whatever shields should do when it has 250% load across it.
    3. More anti-shield weapons. Frigates have shield disruptor bombs, why not make more variations on this weapon. I always though it odd that cruisers didn’t have a weapon of this kind.
    4. More shield-bypassing weapons. Most sci-fi has a ‘phase technology’ concept which usually allows solid objects to pass through each other and or energy weapons to bypass shields .
    5. Covert fighter craft. A happy medium between fighters and frigates, heavy fighters with more gear available with a 2 or 3 man crew.
    6. A new order for the fleet AI. Attack shield recharger, to specifically tell the fleet AI to attack frigate recharging a cruiser.
    7. Hardline to the reactor. The shield support beam takes up more power than a v1 or v2 reactor can produce, so it stands to reason that they would need a huge bundle of superconductors or plasma conduits or whatever method they use to transmit power. Shut down all of the frigates other weapon systems while the beam is active.
    8. Take and Give. The frigate recharge the cruisers shields from its own shield power pool.

    Just some random ideas, most of them have probably already be considered but meh, thought I’d say something anyway.
    Great game and its only getting better :)

  7. Drew, and then Faolan’s comment, sound like they’re on the right track with the concept of diminishing returns. This reminds me of Sirlin’s excellent article on balance in Guilty Gear, where they avoided game breakers via several techniques. If I recall correctly, they mostly centered on progressive balancing measures. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of his opinions / perspective displayed in other places, I found Sirlin’s observations here really interesting.

  8. Do you have weapons that just cut through shields and hit armour?

    Or a counter weapon that would attack the shield beams and short out the SSB ship’s systems?

    What about shield regions, fore/aft/port/starboard and each SSB can only support the nearest section…

  9. Put it plain: Those are not very good solutions.

    >The SSB can not be used to reinforce ships if the target ship is currently ECM jammed.
    Does not make sense. The EMP is a defensive weapon which reduces attacking. Why should it suddenly reduce shields? Band-aid-fix, and a hard counter (everyone will just spam EMP then, making the SSB useless, or not have them and lose instantly. Neither is very interesting).

    >Only a single SSB can be utilised on a target ship at any one point in time (although they could take turns).
    While workable, it scales poorly. With 5000 credits, this is still ridiculously powerful. With 50’000 credits, this makes the SSB identical to “super-fast recharge shields”, and that means you still want a ton of them, because they are still broken.

    >The SSB can only be targeted on cruisers.
    While workable, not very interesting. It reduces tactical options instead of increasing them. And nothing guarantees this is not broken still. A line of cruisers with a line of frigs behind them is still a line of cruisers with super-charge shields.

    Now what is the main issue? The recharge that is magnitudes higher than a normal shield! If shields regenerate somewhere between 5 (single, cheap) and 28 (four expensive shields which burn a ton of space, power, weight and are hurt badly by diminishing returns), then having a single module recharge as much (or twice!) of that is just bad balancing.

    Better solutions:
    – Cut down the recharge by a ton. Make it lower than a medium shield.
    – Instead of “only 1”, have a limit where the first applies 100%, the second applies 75%, the third 56%, the fourth 42% and so on (-25% each), or some other number. That way, stacking works, but it will be inefficient.

    Other suggestions:
    – Every incoming SSB increases shield size by a bit. The bigger it gets, the easier fighters can shoot from inside.
    – SSBs fire their charge in bursts.
    – SSBs “forward” some of the shield damage the target takes to the SSB-user due to feedback, breaking the frigs shield more easily.
    – SSBs trasfer frig shields.

    Both these solutions scale and are not hard-countered by anything, while being easily soft-countered by killing frigs, powering through shields, ignoring them alltogether, or other tactics.

  10. May i suggest that any ship attempting to shield boost a ECM jammed cruiser they get jammed too!

    I mean, it makes sense. you know how electricity is.

  11. Another solution would be to add an AI ability to prioritize targeting ships that are boosting shields. The player could then make ships designed to rush behind the lines and destroy boosting ships. Giving the player more strategic options is better than nerfing, imho. :)

    I like Kdansky’s ideas of the boosting ship’s shields being effected. Either the boosting ship’s shield being transfered, or damage feedback from the boosted ship would result in some interesting battles.

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