for the past few years I've been playing distant worlds on and off, it's one of those games I like to pick up when I want to emerge myself in some far away universe and shut my door for half a week like a proper junkie. So lately, I've been thinking about modding some issues that have bugged me with this game over the past years, on which I'd appreciate some feedback. I'm thinking about doing some sort of rebalancing mod. Rebalancing the weapons, defences, etc is easy enough - but some issues aren't that straightforward.
To start with, the given that bigger ships are better ships. I'll give my analysis in a bit, but first I'd like to explain why I dont like it. I see in distant worlds a potential for a more interesting game with multiple ship types for multiple purposes, rather than one beat all design. The game is set up as such too - with different ship types - escorts, frigates, etc - but the balance does not reflect this. Thus, by understanding the game balance, we are forced to arrive at the conclusion that the winning strategy is that bigger = better. We can choose to ignore this for romantic reasons, but that's not proper game design.
Why is bigger better?
Lets imagine a very simple game and a very simple situation. Just hit points, attack damage and units - all other stats being equal. One side has one ship with 20 hit points and 2 attack damage. The other side has two ships with 10 hit points and 1 attack damage each. Now this would appear to be an even matchup, and for a while it is. Each side deals 2 damage to the other side with each volley. However, after 5 volleys and 10 damage dealt, the side with two ships loses a ship, and from there on out, the battle is no longer equal. Though both sides now have one ship and 10 hit points, the side which had two ships now only has 1 damage, as opposed to the two damage from the side with the bigger ship. The side with the bigger ship will destroy the second ship in another 5 volleys, while that ship itself will only suffer 5 more hit points of damage.
Long story short: Assuming the side with more ships can coordinate perfectly and get his forces to engage the an equal force of bigger ships at the same time, then still, doubling the ship size makes them 25% more effective, give or take a few percent.
Each ship has a certain amount of components that must be on it, but only one is needed. Command module, hyperdrive, targeting, etc. Lets call these components the fixed costs to having a ship (usually somewhere around 150 maintenance). If a fleet was made of small escorts of roughly 600 maintenance, these costs would be around 25%. If a fleet was made of capital ships of 3000 maintenance, this would amount to but 5% of the costs.
Add to that the fact that hyperdrives cost the same to operate at any ship size, and you can see that a fleet of 5 escorts at 600 maintenance guzzle up 5 times as much fuel on interstellar flight as your single 3000 capital ship.
Long story short: the bigger, the more bang for your buck.
Conclusion: The combination of tactical and economical benefits make bigger far to good.
What counterbalance could there be?
-Strategical inflexibility (aka rework the AI).
Bigger could be an over-concentration of force. Say I have one very big ship and 3 mining stations to defend, 3 smaller ships could attack these mining station simultaneously, and the one bigger ship can only defend one, losing two of its targets. The one target that is defended should have a threatening smaller ship close by, so that the defending ship can not leave it its defence without losing it.
If the AI could be reworked to pursue a strategy of constant threat against as many targets as possible, and defend appropriately, this would at least create a soft cap in ship size: you need an adequate amount of ships to cover all your assets, and threaten a fair amount of your opponents assets. Sadly, the AI prefers to lump up small ships into fleets of various sizes, and send them all on one target. This defeats sole advantage of having more smaller ships - the ability to be at more places than your enemy.
However: We have to scrap this option on the account that the AI is not moddable at this point. (note: by pursuing such a strategy yourself however, you can defeat almost any AI under almost any odds, allthough it requires excessive micromanagement.)
-Lowering the fixed costs or scaling them in proportion to size.
The economic part of the imbalance could be addressed by lowering the fixed costs, and let things like hyperdrive cost scale with size.
Taking this one step further, a slight exponential increase in operating costs in relation to size could counterbalance the innate tactical advantage. That is to say, if a ship becomes roughly 25% stronger by doubling its size, so should its operating costs increase by 25%.
However: While we can reduce the fixed costs somewhat by making the material requirement for said components minimal, that's as far as we're going to get. Hyper drives will still favour bigger ships. There is no way to add an "*ship size" modifier to any component, let alone work an exponential equation in there. We can get a little closer to economic equality, but nothing too influential.
-Using the overkill mechanic.
Remember our example from earlier, with 1 ship of 20 hit points and 2 ships of 10 hit points. Now lets say the first ship shoots a volley of 20 damage, and the two ships a volley of 10 damage each. After one volley from both sides, 1 ship from the side with two ships remains. This is due to the overkill of 10 points from the shot of the first ship.
However: This solution makes battle very sharp, very brief affairs, quite going against the notion of a game with multiple exchanges and gradually wearing down the opponents shields. It would go very much against the grain to implement such a solution. All though, as far as I can see, it's the only one that could be implemented.
-More random effect, making redundancy more important.
Say when you hit a reactor, it blows up the ship. Say shields reduce the damage let through by a percentage equal to how full the shields are. Say armour has a chance to block the remaining damage all-or-nothing, depending on how much armour is left. After a few shots there is a small chance any shot will penetrate both, hit the reactor and blow up the ship. This makes one ship a rather vulnerable affair - if you'd had more ships, you might face the same chance, but your redundancy means you wouldn't lose it all at once.
However: This cannot be implemented without access to the game mechanics, which we lack.
All though creating bigger ships should carry its rewards, it is a research investment after all, at present it's too dominant an advantage in my experience.
I'd highly appreciate any and all feedback in addressing this, for I'm rather stuck at this point in my rebalancing redesign.
< Message edited by Ikke -- 8/5/2014 7:53:37 PM >