Combat Update

Doomed Person shared this feedback 13 months ago

A warning before we get into this: It's a long, rambling essay about what standards a potential Space Engineers combat update would need to satisfy to be effective, as well as my own concept for a solution for the current state of SE combat.

1. Issues

First, I'd like to go over the main problems that we currently face in Space Engineers combat. These are the kinds of issues that we need to address before or during making additions and modifications to the current system.

  • Rockets are effective, but impractically expensive. You could deal good damage, by burning through days' worth of power in seconds.
  • Small ships are useless. They get torn apart without careful piloting and great acceleration, and often don't have the ability to deal effective damage while surviving the onslaught. I'd also note that, at a certain point, pilots are more valuable than resources, which negates one of small ships' main advantages.
  • Suits are overpowered. Suicide missions cost effectively nothing, jetpack acceleration is high enough to often evade enemy fire, and placed blocks can function as kinetic missiles capable of dealing effective damage to stationary enemies.
  • Ranges are sharp. If you're within 800 meters, you're getting shot at. If you aren't within that range, enemies have to get closer to deal damage. I don't exactly know how to deal with this, but fixing the next point might help with that, or even make it into something interesting to play with.
  • Disengages are even sharper. The Jump Drive's activation time coupled with the hard 100 m/s speed limit means that it's almost always possible to punch the accelerator, dial in home base, and get away with only a few scratches barring overwhelming force.
  • Defense is almost entirely a contest of decoys and additional layers of armor, unless you brought a grav drive for strictly impossible stunts. It isn't exactly an interesting fight, especially with speed limits to make moving in and out of engagement more difficult.
  • Offline raids are easy pickings. I'm going to state flat-out that I don't have a solution for this any better than deep space or a Safe Zone. People will get through automated defenses, whether through attrition or ingenuity.

2. Goals

What am I aiming for? It's a little complicated, depending on exactly what I'm trying to achieve in a major addition or change. This is my list of priorities, which I believe is a reasonable representation of the requirements of an effective non-QoL suggestion:

  1. Gameplay. A suggestion, if implemented, would need to add new content in or near the central focus of Space Engineers. This is why I'm not suggesting, for example, several dozen handguns and variants. Space Engineers is about designing and building ships, and the adventures you can have with them. Combat is only relevant as it pertains to those ships and adventures, usually as a design challenge.
  2. Practicality. A suggestion has to be actually possible to code and run. Moreover, it has to be worth the dev time expended on it to implement it. This is why I'm not suggesting realistic water with fluid mechanics and evaporation. It's just not worth the effort.
  3. Thematics. No Space Engineer would be using a Star Wars blaster without a good reason, and no self-respecting Space Engineer would be caught dead using a sharpened stick as a weapon. Jump Drives, Gravity Generators, and Safe Zones are advanced tech with those good reasons, but not all ideas are so lucky.
  4. Realism. While it's at the bottom of the list, it's still important to keep in mind that we can't just ignore the laws of physics in a game that prides itself on being very accurate.

I'll start by outlining the proposed changes, and explaining why I'm doing them at the end.

Reference stats:

A Jump Drive is 3x3x2, stores 3 MWh of power, and charges at 32 MW.

A large grid Gatling Turret has a range of 800 m and fires at 600 RPM, dealing 150 mass damage or 33 health damage per shot.

A large grid Large Ion Thruster has a max power consumption of 33.6 MW.

Overall speed limit is now 80 m/s. Large ships can use sustained acceleration at this cap to go up to 100 m/s, with diminishing returns, while small ships can do the same up to 120 m/s and suits can reach 130 m/s. The additional speed decays quickly without thrust.

You can no longer place blocks without a base while moving. (ex. addition to existing grid is fine, small landing gear frame locked on a large ship is ok, new grids are otherwise not allowed.)

Jump Drive Jammer (large grid): 3x2x2, internal power storage (3 MWh, 32 MW charge rate), 1 km range.

When activated and fully charged, reacts to a jump within range by discharging both itself and a random Jump Drive involved in the jump. This also cancels the jump. All active Jammers act simultaneously to one jump and don't interfere with each other's operation (closest ones get priority). This does not prevent the enemy from choosing a new viable jump target and attempting to jump again, if they still have readied Jump Drives.

Defense Laser (large grid variant): 3x3x3, internal power storage (60 MWs,10 MW charge rate), 200 m range, fires at 660 RPM.

When activated, fires hitscan beams at enemy projectiles, cameras, and suits within line of sight, for a cost of 1.10 MWs/round from its power pool. At max charge rate, this gives it roughly 30 seconds of max performance, about 60 seconds of one-to-one countering with a large Gatling Turret, and about 540 RPM during sustained fire.

Defense Laser (small grid variant): 5x5x5, internal power storage (300 MWs, 5 MW charge rate), 100 m range, fires at 900 RPM.

When activated, fires hitscan beams at enemy projectiles, suits, and cameras (in order of priority) within line of sight, for a cost of 1.10 MWs/round from its power pool. At max charge rate, this gives it roughly 30 seconds of max performance, 45 seconds of one-to-one countering with a Gatling Gun, and 270 RPM sustained fire.

I'm not crazy enough to suggest a component list for either, so just assume it's similar to the other turrets with superconductors and bulletproof glass somewhere in there.

Interior Turret:

Set range to 400 m.

Now has remotely effective targeting against missiles.

200 mm Missile Container: No longer costs Platinum or Uranium to make. Add 0.1 Cobalt to the recipe.

Suit Jetpack:

Decrease thrust by ~30%.

Automatic Rifle:

Set range to 400 m.

Add reloading.

Remove upgraded variants.

Rocket Launcher (handheld variant): 800 m range, clip size 1.

It shoots rockets.

The main idea here is to create a balance between the three turret options. Gatling guns can drown out lasers en masse and win against them in a sustained fight. Rockets are now cheap enough to outdamage gatling guns affordably. Lasers can largely negate poorly-screened or poorly-timed rockets, and blunt the impact of gatling guns. Of course, it's more complicated than that, because of the ship design aspect of SE, but that's what the variable numbers are for.

I intended the Interior Turret changes to allow them to be an early-game replacement for lasers, because rockets no longer require rare resources.

The suit and camera targeting for lasers is intended to give them some utility against grid missiles, especially with a skilled pilot, and make suicide grinding functionally useless against a well-defended ship.

The mobility changes are to make them a relevant factor in ship battles. Jump Drives currently have no counter and are a hard disengage without truly overwhelming firepower. Jammers give a good reason to actually attempt to escape an attacker, while thrust differences ensure that they aren't just eternally stuck at 100 m/s.

The additional speed limit for small ships, combined with the powerful defense laser, should hopefully allow them to run operations within range of enemy large ships without getting melted immediately.

While the differential speed is a hard hit to realism, I think it's necessary for ship battles to be worthwhile. It also stays as close to reality as is practical by allowing ships with more thrust to catch up to slower ones.

The decrease in jetpack thrust, combined with the whole concept of defense lasers, nerfs suit attacks into the ground. I think this is fair, because the difference in invested resources in one of these attacks would commonly be measured in orders of magnitude.

I felt like the variants on the Automatic Rifle are a great example of "junk" content that don't actually add much to gameplay. Future weapons might be expected to follow the same pattern, when it might not work for those same weapons, so I just decided to do away with it.

If rockets end up too weak, there's an easy solution: give armor blocks damage reduction per hit. Notable values to balance around:

The Automatic Rifle and Interior Turret both deal 30 damage/shot.

The Gatling Turret deals 150 damage/shot.

The Rocket Launcher deals 500 AoE damage on hit.

So, as an example, giving Heavy Armor 50 damage reduction is effectively a 33% nerf to Gatling Turrets and a 10% nerf to Rocket Launchers, while making it invincible to small arms. This should make it possible to effectively balance rocket weapons in relation to the other weapon types.

It's also possible to rework the stats on Defense Lasers for more interesting gameplay. The constant charge rate still should be below the amount necessary for one-to-one countering, to prevent stalemates and keep the laser/bullet balance, but lowering it while raising charge pool and rate of fire creates a sharper dropoff in damage differential during longer engagements, allowing maneuverability to have a greater effect on the battle compared to raw firepower.

I'd caution against extremifying this too much, however, because this kind of limited-strength, unlimited-capacity defense causes massive gameplay issues that I'd be willing to clarify in the comments if necessary.

So that's my idea. Three main turrets, a balance between them, and pursuit mechanics. Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?

Comments (1)


Okay I pressed "I like this feedback", but there is a couple of things that concern me a lot:

- I really like the jump drives jammers. I've seen many servers inhibit this concept with a certain mod. I don't think jump drives should be usable as a combat mechanic in the first place, but this would add some form of counter play at least. Maybe an easier option would be to make jump drives unusable in combat. I mean immersively / technologically speaking, there would be some disruption in the space around the ship that jams the jump drive. Maybe a combat state as soon as a grid is affected negatively by a player that doesn't own it and have it last 10 seconds? This might also make other combat related issues easier to address.

- However rockets are not expensive at all. The platinum required for 1 Thruster Component can make 10 rockets (so 1 large grid small thruster is 800 rockets). Even on Official Keen Servers you should never have a shortage of platinum and uranium. With only cobalt requirements you can basically leave a refinery and a rocket launcher shooting simultaneously and it will never run out of ammo. Also, if rockets don't require platinum anymore the only thing that requires platinum would be Thruster Components (and hand tools), which are not a perceived an "end-game" item at all, so it effectively kills progression in my eyes somewhat. Rockets are a great way to drive players to find resources.

- I also have trouble with believing the small ships not doing enough damage. I know several pure pvp players that even at the time of writing this will opt for a small grid gatling gun wall on their "Battleships", because they have higher rpm and less pcu cost than gatling turrets / rocket launchers / missile turrets. I've heard they "eat" through heavy armor. From most of my own gameplay I can attest to this as well, small ship gatling guns are very effective and often used for custom turrets on large grids. About the defensive capabilities of small grids I think speed is the best defensive in the game currently, so unless you are used to 100+ turret grids on funservers (where you shouldn't expect balance at all) I don't see an issue.

- In general I would replace the word "realistic" with "immersive" or "epic" wherever Space Engineers design choices are concerned.

- I agree that there are not enough defensive combat options apart from armor contraptions and decoys (for larger grids mainly). This is very clear from watching the cookie cutter pvp builds on popular servers. And defense laser turrets can look really cool / realistic / immersive / epic / whatever and are a known concept to most of the community already. Maybe they can even base them off of Laser Antennas, to keep things immersive and consistent. Also I like how you balanced these blocks by adding power as a resource, this definitely favours bases with large amounts of power storage and can easily outweigh an attacker's ammo capacity, very thoughtful.

- Definitely a fan of any jetpack nerf and suicide mission countermeasure. If by "jetpack thrust" you mean acceleration then yes all the way. Also maybe increase the costs of respawning? Why shouldn't that cost a certain amount of medical components every time or be a very slow process if you run out? This would also solve spawn ship exploits among a myriad of other conceivable exploits concerning infinite respawning. At that point you could balance respawn costs with the average amounts of defensive weapons players build on their base, so that running out of ammo for them would be unlikely before the player runs out of respawns.

- About speed differential, with different speed caps it's not necessarily the faster accelerating grid that catches up with the slower accelerating one. You can have a slower small grid that can reach higher speed limits, which is vey exploitable and can lead to very ugly cookie cutter concepts.

- Also in general, if an issue is that players escape combat too much, maybe there should just be more combat objectives that drive both players to combat each other instead of just 1 of the 2.


- I considered just disabling Jump Drives when weapon damage was taken, and it's definitely an effective fix to the issue in most scenarios. However, I wanted to find at least one alternative that wasn't blindingly obvious for comparison, and I think I worked out a solution that isn't overly complicated and creates interactions between raiders and transport ships outside of a straight contest of engine power and damage output. Additionally, it prevents, for example, small grids speeding in to try and anchor enemy ships. Not necessarily gamebreaking, but probably exploitable and definitely annoying.

- Part of the issue is that rockets require platinum at all. While there isn't much progression in this game, I don't think it's a good idea to continue to have one of the two basic weapon types require both of the most endgame-type ores. While it's true that not much else uses platinum, I'm hoping that future updates deal with this issue, either by adding new blocks that require platinum for specialized functions, or adding platinum to the recipes for existing advanced items.

- I basically ignored beams of doom, because I wouldn't know where to start on fixing them. Block-based heat mechanics? Inherent weapon stacking limitations? I don't see a natural way to enforce diminishing returns on small grid weapon stacking, so I didn't suggest something stupid. Outside of absurd weapon stacking, the fact that the small gatling turret exists and presumably is intended to be used, added to the weapons load seen on Keen-designed ships, suggests that small ships are intended to be comparatively lightly armed, with their role presumably being more precise individual strikes.

- There's a significant difference between something that's realistic and something that's immersive. Space Engineers usually goes for realism, in that many of its processes approximate actual ones and the physics engine attempts to stay with real physics. Immersivity is much harder to use, having to do with common sense, expectations, and self-consistency, but exists even in media that are completely unrealistic. For the most part, I think I wouldn't change the wording, although the phrase "immersive speed limits" probably would have been helpful in that explanation.

- I realized that there weren't really many things that actually interacted with power much. Ion thrusters, at most, and those aren't all that useful once a ship gets past a certain point in surface area to volume. So one of my minor goals in this was to find ways in which power could be more than something for which you put down a large reactor and never think of again. I don't think it was a total success, but I'm glad someone else thought of it as well.

- Honestly, I just completely forgot that the idea of suit cost existed. I don't regret suggesting the jetpack nerf, since it still can feel extremely sensitive sometimes and it's possible to dodge turrets fairly easily with the current level of thrust, but I'd definitely put some form of that in if I had to do this all again.

- It's essentially "Higher thrust/weight ratio = higher effective speed limit" within a grid size. While a small grid with less thrust might be able to catch a large grid with more, I don't think this is likely to be much of an issue.

- There should be, but I'm nowhere near creative enough to think of what those might be, so I decided to focus on the issue of people easily leaving combat instead.


Ah okay I misinterpreted the speed differential mechanic then, yes that might work albeit a lot of extra calculations probably. Thing with jump drive jammers and jump drives in combat, there is a hard gap for simple and advanced grids that is so big it nullifies one's control over the fight completely, I'm just trying to think of every situation here. Also for "ship anchoring" , can't small grids just have a large grid rotor on them with a jump drive jammer and do exactly that?

Also yeah realism is probably the word, even though I think Space Engineers' does have a certain "epic" feeling to it with how the big the world and planets are, that is definitely missed when they are not there.

I did start to develop some funny ideas about combat objectives.. I recently wrote a suggestion for the bounty system (as I currently feel that it's not a finished feature yet). Basically pirate faction players can hire tracking crews to hunt players (with approximate GPS) while becoming bounty targets on neutral stations for the rest of the server. That's a short summary of it. Now, this lead me to some interesting ideas. What if... there are some server-wide contracts? Contracts that are dynamic and ongoing accross the server and factions? What if when 1 faction accepts said contract, another faction is signaled to defend it? Contracts spawn random grids in the world at various distances and locations already. Things like this can be used for PVP objectives in many ways, faction wars even. Maybe if you let a certain faction take too many objective, they become more powerful or gain more territory across stations? This is a really old PVP concept that has been used in many games. I think it might really stimulate players to actively participate in events and get all their ships in order faster.

Also the objectives might be a "repair contract" let's say there is a huge broken down grid (it might even be a faction members' grid that becomes stationary and a contract after an actual fight) that your faction wants you to claim and defend, the other faction (or factions) are also signaled for a "search contract" in their perspective to attribute a "lost grid" to the faction or whatever. Any emerging conflicts that could possibly happen in the server might be able to get interactively assigned as objectives for server-wide factions... What if a player has a 3rd button under the "Turn to station" button that says "Faction SOS" and automatically turns it to station that he can press if he considers the ship too valuable to lose and sends a server-wide GPS signal to the grid and a message to players depending on which faction they are in? Of course he can't turn it back to ship again and when the enemy faction wins the objective maybe it automatically becomes shared with their faction?

Maybe the main thing I'm saying is that player-made factions should become less of a focus in the game and have more defined pre-made factions that players can join and automatically assign them faction-wide contracts with GPS points and stuff. Honestly I see nothing wrong with that concept. Might work it out more and make a new topic about it.


It does seem like unnecessary computational load, but I think it's worth it for the ability to move in and out of attack range. I couldn't see any alternative that allowed movement to be a factor in combat.

The idea with jammers would be that, when an enemy grid jumps, the jump is cancelled at no cost, and then each active jammer fully depletes an enemy jump drive. So one jammer rotored to a small ship could block one and only one jump attempt, and any ship with more than one jump drive could simply make a shorter jump with the remaining drives to escape. Technically anchoring, but not the kind of thing that disproportionately limits an escape attempt.

I do think there's quite a bit of potential in the faction and contract system, but it for the most part would rely on a very active playerbase with more players than are normally on a server. Especially because sim speed tends to tank when more than a few people are on a server with a reasonable amount of power behind it.