Suggestion: Comprehensive Weapons Rebalance: Let's Specialize Weapons for Specific Targets

Erwin Heyms shared this feedback 5 months ago
Submitted

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WEAPONS REBALANCE PROPOSAL


In this proposal I will suggest a weapons re-balance for all in-game weapons so they are less, or more effective against different categories of targets.


Currently, weapons in space engineers are very uniform.

In general, large ship weapons overpower both small ships and player characters with ease due to their accuracy and raw damage potential. Ranges are very uniform making tactical choices impossible.


If I can shoot it = it will shoot me, and very quickly and accurately.


The only method to avoid a turret is to break line of sight or change course constantly to avoid turret tracking.


Secondly, in a straight up fight, large ship gatlings will always win out against missile turrets or rocket pods. This means that large ship gatlings are currently the king of the hill when it comes to weapons in the game. And due to their accuracy and strength against smaller targets gatling turrets completely throw off the balance of combat.


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This is a problem I aim to address in this suggestion by proposing a series of systemic balance tweaks to existing weapons and by suggesting a few new weapons that may better fill their respective roles. This proposal should be uniform so any future or modded weapons can benefit from this and fit into the gameplay without being overpowered.


This proposal aims to do this by introducing 2 new variables into weapon effectiveness:


Turret Accuracy VS Target Maneuverability.

Weapon Damage Potential VS Target Class,


The idea here is that each weapon has a specialized Entity size that its is designed to target and track. Weapons are not prevented from targeting larger or smaller entity classes, but they will be less effective at doing so.


The reason for this is that I would suggest that weapons, and especially turrets should be balanced to fit a specific class, which in turn will bring forward and promote certain gameplay from players.

I will lay this out below.


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First is turret accuracy.


Weapons that are specialized against large or medium classes will take longer to start firing at a smaller entity class as they first have to establish a proper target lock. And they will be less accurate, as their target prediction will take longer to catch up if the target changed course.


As a result, a large turret firing at a small grid ship that is changing its flight vector, will find it harder to properly lead its target for a few seconds and likely miss. This allows the smaller target to dodge fire giving it the opportunity to do damage without being harmed.


However if the smaller target does not alter its course, after a moment the turret will catch up and will properly predict its targets movement and lead its shots like normal.


So it requires skill and vigilance from the fighter pilot so stay safe when under turret fire.


This means that an (L) weapon can easily track an (L) target, however it will have trouble tracking (M) and (S) class targets.


An (M Weapon) on the other hand has no trouble tracking (L) targets


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Next is Weapon damage VS larger class targets.


This change is meant to balance out lower class weapons.


Weapons that are specialized against smaller entities will find it harder to deal damage to the armor or larger classes.

An interior turret for example would do less damage to small ship armor blocks, and very little damage to large ship armor blocks. However against missiles or players, its designated specialization, Interior turrets would be very effective.

Smaller class weapons however will still be able to do damage to larger type non-armor blocks, like engines or turrets.


This means that a (S) Weapon is ineffective against (M) target armor blocks and will do no or nearly no damage to (L) target armor blocks.

However, a (L) weapon will do full damage to an (M) or (S) target, if it can manage a hit.


Weapon damage scales for the class the weapon is meant to counter.

Weapons of the (L) class should do generally more damage and be more brutal than the (M) class.


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- Large ship Missile turrets become (L) type weapons.

They are meant to counter large ships and deal heavy explosive damage, their function is not changed much in this regard. However because they are (L) class weapons they are less effective at targeting or tracking (M) or (S) class entities when they are moving. Their range could be boosted to match that of the Railgun (L) turret defined below providing a soft counter to long range railgun sniping.


- Large ship Gatling turrets become (M) type weapons and will serve as point defense against fighters.

Their raw damage is reduced and they deal decreased damage to (L) targets armor.

However they are still effective at targeting non-armor components on large ships, like turrets and engines and will do low to average damage with sustained fire on target.


Against (M) targets such as small ships they will do moderate damage, enough to chip away at them but not tear them apart in 2 seconds.

They would not have trouble tracking missiles or meteors as they do not change course.

However as these are (S) targets they will need a second to acquire the target before opening fire, allowing cleaver missile users to exploit a small opening in their coverage.


(S) targets such as players can dodge their fire by changing course on approach.

Their range stays the same as before.


Because this suggestion removes the gatling turret from the large ship killer role


we need to replace its role as a large ship hitscan killer. For this I suggest we add a new type of (L) class weapon designed to puncture armor at pinpoint precision. Something like a rail-gun or artillery turret. (I prefer the rail-gun personally)

The weapon would have similiar issues tracking (S) and (M) targets and have a slow rate of fire. But pack a considerable punch. This will make large ship combat a lot more deliberate and less about spamming gatling fire. Rail-gun range will be longer than that of most other turrets, but their fire rate is low, meaning they will be able to do damage, but not be overpowered. Their power draw when reloading should prevent players from spamming these turrets on their ships.


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We could also consider a more dedicated defensive weapon for ships that prevents players or missiles from getting too close. I suggest a point defense flak cannon. They would likely eat through ammo quickly and have a very limited range. But their random explosive damage near its target will provide an interesting challenge to players aiming to board a ship. I'm thinking armored boarding craft or drop pods would be needed as long as these turrets are present.


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Next we need to look at the remaining weapons.


- Large ship interior turrets are (S) class weapons. Meaning they are not very effective against larger classes and have a much more limited range than than they currently have. But they are very effective as close range point defense and as interior defense. They should probably be placed on the inside of the ship or to protect the hull of the ship from players and landing pods.


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Players need some love too.

Currently any turret can kill a player in 2 seconds flat. However since players are very maneuverable and able to use their jetpack to grind through an enemy ship or base easily we keep this balance. Instead I suggest we add a new type of astronaut suit, or perhaps a body armor variant.


Additionally I suggest we allow players to carry medical components or craft them into medkits so boarders or defenders can heal in between encounters with turrets withou the need for a medbay.


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Finally I want to talk about range.

My proposal set out a series of ranges that drives player behavior and ship design to a certain extent.


For large ship battles:


Large ships will first engage each-other at long range with railguns, allowing players to snipe off thrusters or turrets at range.

But their low fire rate allows players to react however they see fit or otherwise jump away if they do not want to engage. They may also fire missiles at one another but the point defense will likely intercept these.


Once the large ships get into gatling range the gatlings will target non-armor objects like turrets and thrusters. Railguns can still target ship vitals by penetrating the armor of the enemy ship.


Missiles may be intercepted at this point, however once the enemy point defense gets reduced by the gatling fire, missiles will be able to connect and do serious damage allowing ships to bombard one another much like your favorite star wars or battlestar scene.


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For fighters attacking a large ship:


When players start a fight between a small ship and a large ship, the fighter will first encounter the railgun/missile turret range of larger ships and bases. At this point they can use their own railguns on small ships to snipe at larger targets. this gives the larger target the chance to flee, or counter.


However because rocket pods and gatlings on small ships have a shorter range, fighters will have to approach into the gatling range of the large ship to use their other weapons.

At this range the fighter pilot will have to use dodging skills to keep the large ship turrets from properly tracking him/her. Gatling turrets on the large ship will be able to track better but can still be avoided to a certain extend just like how they work now.


If a player aims to board, they will have to disable the close range point defense on the larger ships out hull or base.


Assuming the player gets inside, they now have armored suits to be able to engage the interior defenses and take the ship. But because of the reduced jetpack capabilities they will be more gravity bound and find it harder to dodge weapons fire.


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Finally I want to argue about how I believe PVE and PVP are a part of Space engineers.

I do believe we should have some kind of dedicated arena, but in the vanilla game weapon balance is just as important. And currently weapons in the game are so unbalanced and overpowered against smaller classes that in a lot of fights you simply don't stand a chance.


While I understand that this may be considered a lot of new variables in combat. I believe they are intuitive so that even new players can learn to understand them quickly if visualized properly.

The tracking and damage potential changes will make large ships act more like sluggers, while small ships will act like nimble fighter craft meant to dodge and pick off targets or alternatively armored bombing or landing craft that can absorb some damage even from large ship turret.


When a player will see a railgun or flak cannon fire, they will understand its power and limitations.


The changes to engineer survivability will be key to finish off what I've always found a lacking issue in SE, where engineers are too weak to face many of the weapons they have. While I don't think engineers should be footsoldiers by any means, being able to armor up for the occasion with its implied drawbacks should make fights and boarding a lot more interesting.


Please upvote this proposal if you agree.

Comments (21)

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Another way how we could understand tracking accuracy and how its penalty works is in terms of target lock percentage.


[lore mode]

When a turret targets a ship or player, its sensors scan the ship and model its trajectory.

Once the turrets targeting AI has sufficiently modelled its targets shape/identity and flight path it commences fire.

[/lore mode]


Lets think of it as targeting resolution.

Turrets start their lock when they aqcuire a new target at 0% and are unable to fire at this time.

Then at a fixed rate build target lock.


Depending on the size class of the target it will be harder to get an accurate scan from smaller targets, and this will in turn cause the target resolution to build slower.


Once the turret reaches 75% resolution it will begin fireing.

At this point its reasonably accurate but at 75% targeting resolution its accuracy is not perfect and will lag behind the target if it is moving.


If the target resolution builds to 100% however the turret will be able to perfectly predict its target path and if not dodged last second, will hit it.


However, if the target changes course or velocity away from the predicted path, the turret will lose some of its target resolution. Think of the targeting computer being unsure and making a best guess based on past data.


Targets much smaller than the weapon class will cause faster resolution loss as they will find it harder to maintain a proper lock.

So a small ship or engineer will be able to shake an (L) turrets target lock to a certain degree and make it miss by changing vector and speed often.


The turret will still build resolution over time though, and if the pilot stops changing course/speed for log enough or too little. The turret will recover its lock.


I don't think turrets should completely lose lock unless they try going after another target or lose line of sight for more than a second or two. But we could consider that they will stop fireing if they go under say 50% or 25% target resolution to save ammunition, as at this point the turret will likely not hit the target anyway.


I can imagine turrets output their target lock percentage in their control panel. So we can read them via LCDs :)

This would be rather cool for ship builders and scripters.

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Somebody appears to have been playing lots of Eve Online, hm? :)

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I did playing a lot of EVE online in the past yes. But I didn't want to make it THAT complicated.


Most of the ideas came from looking at how SE works and how it does not work.

I have over 600 hours in SE at this point and a good portion of that time was spend trying to attack NPC pirates.

Also I've been following youtubers and streamers who do PVP and find that once you start building large ships the weapons balance is completely skewed towards gatling turrets and small ships are practically powerless.


What I aim to address here is the serious issues SE has regarding turret / weapon balance.

Turrets especially are a problem case with their perfect tracking of targets and unbalanced damage output and uniform ranges. My goal was to find reasons why turrets would be better at a specific role as opposed to every role at the same time.


In SE there are only 2 factors that keep your ships safe.


Can you be hit ? & How much damage can you resist before you take critical damage ?


My main concern was to limit the strength of the gatling turret. As it is right now it is too powerful and omnipotent vs everything from missiles to player and small ships...

It makes attacking a gatling bank using anything but a large ship suicide, the only thing that's actually helped keep my small ships alive are decoys and they only protect you from the first few hits as they fold like paper under fire as well.


And yet the gatling turret has trouble actually dealing proper damage to a large ships armor.

But right now the only viable counter to a gatling ship is another gatling ship. This turns large ship battles into gatling spam fests... the one with the most armor and most gatlings usually wins out. which is not very interesting either.


And that doesn't even mention the role characters have, because right now engineers are squishy and there is no proper use for the various blocks already in the game focussing around engineers such as Interior turrets, cover barriers, assault rifles or any other feature around this. If the player gets in range of a hostile turret, 2 seconds later that player is dead.


The most most viable way I have found for dealing with enemy NPC ships is to stay at the outer range of their firing zone and snipe away at the turrets (as vanilla turrets are usually set to 600 m, not their maximum 800m), then go into a blind spot and grind into the ship, disable its power or grind away the block the turrets are attached to from below. While creative... its not exactly great in terms of combat.


Sure you can make a 3 layer heavy armor block with interior thrusters and gatling turrets attached to it doing flyby's... but that severely limits your creativity...

The fact that the most effective combat ship in the game is a brick of disposable heavy armor just serves to show how broken the balance really is.


In general, for a game that has armor, weapons, and other combat focused items, most engagements involve you having to cheese the game mechanics in order to properly capture an NPC pirate ship or base.


In straight up PVP or against player ships, this is often not even viable as players do not sit still when being shot and have their weapons set to max range.


So that is why I re-designed the gatling turrets to be more balanced towards small ships and less towards players or large ship armor. Instead, I suggested we added the railgun and flak cannon as dedicated turrets for those roles which are more specialized and therefor can do a better job at filling those roles.


That is what I set out to address with this.


The link to EVE online is only there as inspiration.

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I'm ok with most of this - would certainly have to check this out if/when it gets pushed to the test servers.

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Oh, that was just me fondly remembering it, nothing else.

Liked primarily for the amount of thought that you put in.


As long as this doesn't start to be a frustrating RNG fest capable of outright nullifying aiming effort simply because some electron or another decided to blip that way instead of this one, I'm fine. I appreciate why an MMO like EO has the system that it has instead of trajectorising every projectile and simulating every armour plate, but I would be rather upset to find a projectile ignored by the snap of a finger in SE, a game whose very premise is to design and build everything yourself.

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Well the tracking penalty basically just means that turrets have variable tracking precision.


My suggestion does not rely on random values to work, it just effects where the turret thinks the target should be.

Turrets would still shoot at the target but unless they have full 100% target lock they would trail behind the target's course changes and try to fire where the target used to be going instead of where it is going right this moment.


Then Keen can just tweak values based on the size of the turret and the size of the target to get a good balance.

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I think that even a variable tracking precision is not required, a simple variable tracking lag would do. Big ships are not very able to change course rapidly, and thus would have harder time to get out even of lagged trajectory. That way "evasion" would scale with acceleration not gridsize, which makes more sense and gives more room for engineering different solution.

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Hello Akuukis,


I get what you mean and in theory you are correct. But there is a reason I am advocating classes and not just acceleration and vector changes as the sole driver for turret lag...


I understand you mean that all turrets should have a similar tracking lag and this would be sufficient.

That may be true in some cases but it also assumes players have a faster acceleration than some small ships. The main reason is that it allows the designers at Keen to tweak turret variables for each individual target class separately.


"Variable tracking lag" kind of describes what I mean, the turret lags behind when it comes to predicting where the target should be.


The reason I would prefer we bind it to entity size and not just acceleration, is to affect the speed at which turrets can acquire a more vulnerable target like a player or small grid ships. On the other hand a small turret should have no trouble tracking a large ship, their damage doesn't scale well against them so it makes sense that if they are able to hit it they would be accurate.


For example:


(L) class weapons like the missile turret or the railgun turret shouldn't instantly lock onto and track (S) class targets like players, as they would be one hit kills.


Can you image if a player just barely entered the range of a Railgun without this delay.

The player would be unaware of it before the first shot is fired. In general I am trying to prevent one hit kills or unexpected deaths as they are not fun.


In shooter game design, if the player is faced with a lethal enemy with an instant kill weapon, in order to make it fair for the player, the player is given either a warning shot that misses on purpose (or due to bad initial accuracy).

Or the player is given a warning like a sound, hud marker or tracking laser plus a few seconds to avoid the first shot.


Because Large turrets can shred small ships I'm accounting for damage avoidance by design, not by default.

It is also dependent on ship design. If you make your small ship heavy and less maneuverable due to having lots of armor that is a choice the player makes.


(M) class Gatling turret will be able to track their own class targets much better.

These turrets will still suffer from a bit of lag if the target moves around a lot. But From a perspective of fairness and fun, against small ships gatlings would be more suited as their damage output will be balanced with that class, preventing instant kills, giving players time to react even if they are hit by the first few shots or volleys.

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Sounds good. +1 for support

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Thanks :)


Another minor tweak that I think could be very effective is to warn the player he/she is being locked onto by a turret. As it stands now, you wont know you are being targeted until the weapons start firing. And if you have realistic sounds turned on, you wont know it unless you see the turret shoot or the bullets hit you or your ship. And as i said before, instant and unexpected deaths are no fun.


A simpel warning sound, would be especially usefull if the player or a small ship is being targetted by say, a railgun.

A simple warning beep for a target lock could be enough to allow the player to react and take evasive action before the turret has established a sufficient target lock. Especially with strong or instant hit weapons this could be a life saver .

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Lock detection sounds like some very advanced tech requiring significant sensor input and processing power. I'd rather not have this in a "semi-realistic" world such as Space Engineers' just as a simple suit or cockpit option.

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Maybe you'd need a working antenna to have sensor lock detection. But i don't see how this is too technologically advanced. Radar detection has been around for about as long as radar itself. For a world where we have semi-intelligent turrets that have FoF detection and automatic targeting of ship vitals... I don't see how this is more advanced than that...


But honestly its a feature that the game lacks and we probably should have if we want to make fights fair.

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I would argue that there is a difference between identifying something as hostile and identifying whether said hostile thing is tracking you. Not shooting, just tracking. Just detecting radar emission doesn't necessarily tell you that you have someone's or something's attention, only that someone or something is having a look and is now (possibly) informed of your presence.

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Turrets in this game do not track you unless they aim to attack as well.

And in the end it doesn't matter. You can go into backstory all you want but the mechanics is what makes a game fun, not arguments about lore and fake technical integration in what I would argue is a pretty inconsistent universe already.


As outlined above it is very important for the player to be aware of danger if that danger can potentially instantly kill them or take them out of the fight prematurely.

The cue doesn't need to be complex or very obvious, but it does need to make the player at least alert to a threat.

Hey, a turret is tracking me... better pay attention.

the range at which the player gets the warning can already be a clue to the type of weapon that is targeting the player. Missiles and Rail-guns would be the first to fire at long range, and are arguably the most important to avoid.


If the weapon that is targeting you takes a while before it fires but deals very high damage and the player doesn't know about it until it fires, the weapon should either miss initially to allow the player to react. Or it should provide an audio or visual cue to allow the player to respond by taking cover or by dodging.


A very known one is the laser or sniper dot that you often see in FPS games. They can also be used as "barks" (AI vocal cues, shouting, mechanical noises from turrets). These things are everywhere in FPS games. And if you try to go through the interior of a ship or pirate base with interior turrets around the corner, it becomes obvious really quickly that ME is missing these.


But in general if we aim to make combat fun, we should make it fair as well.


We could argue that this wouldn't help at all if the turret was player controlled unless we take into account other factors such as aim ray-casting when the turret is player controlled.

But because AI turrets in this game are perfectly accurate in otherwise quite disorienting orientations, and players in general are not... this I argue is acceptable.


And that only accounts for ships, for engineer characters any turret is a sincere danger, so knowing you are being targeted is important.


Because of the design I suggested in this post turrets that are more dangerous (missile turrets, railguns and gatlings) have a longer target acquisition time against characters.

But anti-player (S) class turrets such as the interior turret will be quick to respond and are therefor more dangerous to the player in general as they will be much harder to avoid. Against these turrets a split second warning can be the difference between walking around a corner and being gunned down without being able to react or having just enough time to either disable the turret or take cover.


So for player characters which are quite squishy, some form of threat awareness is important regardless of what it targeting them.

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It would also be nice if weapons did not constantly fire when they are going to miss. This causes so much additional lag in battles because turrets are firing endlessly even when missing.

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Yep,

In my first reply above i outlined that a turret that has lost too much of its target lock resolution will simply stop fireing until it's had the chance to sufficiently regenerate its lock on.


However turret accuracy lag Is only efficient under 2 conditions:

1, The target is accelerating or changing vector. If the target is sitting still or flying in a straight line for more than a few seconds, even a lot of tracking lag won't matter much. Plus the turret would quickly regen its lock.

2, Don't fly straight AT the turret. Just like now, it won't t matter if the turret is lagged, If its hitting behind or in front of you it will still hit you ;)

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Do we need Flak? Gatling guns are great against missiles already and missiles are a bit underpowered as it is.

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After watching a video from wastedspace I realized that gatlings are not as powerful against missiles as I thought. They are good enough if the missile is going lateral, but not if its coming straight at the turrets because the missile travels too fast for the turrets to catch up. Even with multiple gatling turrets their targeting AI only targets the first missile letting any others pass through unharmed. Perhaps this is an issue with the missile flight speed and turret targeting AI prefering closer targets instead of spreading out their fire over multiple incoming threats.


Interior turrets do intercept them pretty well as I understand, but these i feel should be limited to interior defence because they are single target, dedicated anti-player weapons and can't be piped up.


So, it does mean we'd need some kind of dedicated anti player/anti missile defense that we can pipe up and place on the outer hull of the ship. At least a temporary deterrent.


Flak works because it creates a defensive line against multiple missiles with a chance to hit, against players with armor it would be less effective but against regular players and missiles it will be a short range field of micro explosions and shrapnel. Its main drawback would be the need for explosive ammunition and lots of it.


The damage per explosion would be relatively low. Enough to destroy missiles and hurt unarmored players. We could also let them fire in bursts, so it is able to intercept a few missiles but needs to reload in between shots. Creating openings that can be exploited unless covered by other turrets. Other options could be to limit their fire arc and minimum range so the explosive ammo doesn't explode right next to the turret but at a minimum distance from the turret. This way the player could get past and under the flak screen, allowing the player a way to disable them.


Its only a suggestion off course, other solutions to fit the role could be an option.

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Perhaps have minimum range and firing arc linked? A higher minimum range will result in a smaller arc and a better chance of hitting? The downside is you needing more Flak turrets.

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  • Long Range Highly Maneuverable Threats - Players with (L) weapons can engage beyond the distance of the (S) weapons designed to counter them. Against unmanned or stationary targets, there's no counter to this threat. This includes unconventional weapons like throwing or dropping blocks.
  • Armored Highly Maneuverable Threats - Without a propulsion rebalance, it's possible to make a highly maneuverable ship of any size. At long range, tracking delay will likely be huge enough that even armored large grid craft will be able to dodge a considerable amount of firepower and its armor will resist any (M) or (S) weaponry by design (but it won't be necessary if they stay at range).
  • Weird Threats - How does delayed tracking respond to a ship with decoys on long arms that just spins around and around?
  • Ship-O-Guns - Any ship that wants to become stronger will need to join the pine cone arms race of covering itself with turrets or stacking dozens of tiny fighter-class weapons. Balance relying on the limited damage of one turret often falls apart when you can build fifty of them.
  • Raiding - Turrets are at most a mild deterrent in the defensive role. Turrets that are specifically defensive, with short range and limited coverage, like interior (S) turrets, are completely useless against an opponent with the luxury of time because their victim isn't online at the time. There's nothing that addresses this, but it's the majority of what passes as pvp in this game.
  • Soft Counters - Technically these are all soft counters. This requires careful balancing otherwise one quickly becomes dominant, as is the current case with gatling guns. As pointed out in the first two points, there can be cases where the soft counters become hard countered by their own targets.
  • Engineering - Admittedly this game is more about design rather than engineering, but both this proposal and the vanilla system lack any emphasis on either. All of the decisions are made by the weapon rebalance, with all of the strengths and weaknesses baked into the weapons. This leaves no decisions for the players actually making their ships, they can only stack more and more turrets. Ultimately players will spend more time designing and building and repairing ships than they will fighting with them, so why should this be neglected?

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Really like all your ideas, Erwin, and integration with existing SE tech, e.g. antennas. I would totally get this as a DLC.