[AE] Strategic Variety

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ais523
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Joined: Tue May 10, 2016 7:41 pm

[AE] Strategic Variety

Postby ais523 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 7:53 pm

Strategic Variety is an attempt to increase the replay value of FTL via changing the stats of player ships, weapons/drones/augments, systems, etc., in order to make the range of optimal strategies more diverse. Only minimal new content is added; this is mostly about changes rather than additions (together with the occasional bugfix).

Use this link to download the mod.
You will need Slipstream Mod Manager to install this mod.


Why this mod?
If you're like me, you're a big fan of FTL, but find optimal play to be repetitive; after a while, you learn that some strategies are simply better than others, and if you want to play to maximise your win rate, you're going to have to stick to those strategies. That means that one game often ends up much the same as the next.

The Strategic Variety mod is, in essence, about making it less important to stick to optimal strategies; the very strongest strategies have been weakened, the weaker strategies have been strengthened. The mod is therefore about balancing strategies against each other (rather than balancing items against each other). In many cases, this was accomplished via making items more situational, so that they shine if your ship is set up a certain way and are more dubious in other cases.

The player ships and weapons that exist in vanilla FTL were used to inspire those in this mod, but there have been changes in nearly every case. There is not a 1-to-1 correspondence; a ship idea from vanilla FTL might exist in the mod in the same slot, or might have been given to a different species, or different aspects of the ship might have inspired multiple ships from the mod, or multiple ships from vanilla FTL might have been merged into a single ship in the mod. Much the same applies with weapons; the mod's weapons are primarily inspired by FTL's, but sometimes a strategy needed a new weapon to make it work, or weapons needed changing to make them more different from each other. Unlike vanilla FTL, where some pairs of weapon are nearly identical, the mod tries to give everything its own distinct use.

Another aspect of this mod is to reduce the reliance on randomness. There's still randomness there, but you'll find that most of the game's 28 ships are now set up to be able to run a specific strategy fairly comfortably through the first couple of sectors; they're starting points to let you see what a particular strategy has to offer. (A few ships are much more general-purpose, enabling you to have a game guided by what items you find.) So you're less likely to die to bad luck early. You're also more likely to find an item if it's key to your strategy, with changes having been made to item rarity and to the number of shops you encounter.

Although the changes were mostly focused on making the player's strategy more interesting, the changes are usually symmetrical, giving enemies access to, e.g., the same new weapons that the player has. As such, you may find you see more varied strategies from the opponent, as well as yourself.

Does this mod change the game's difficulty?
Yes, but not in a consistent way. Some players will find it makes the game harder, others will find it makes the game easier, likely based on playstyle. One of the intentions behind the mod was to increase how skill-reliant the game is; so expert players may find it makes the game easier, learning players may find it makes the game harder. (In particular, micromanagement is more helpful in the mod than in vanilla FTL, so no-pause runs with certain ships may well be substantially harder.) That said, you may well find that you enjoy or are good at one of the strategies that the mod makes more viable, which is likely to make the game easier overall.

With the enemies having, in some cases, more powerful weapons or harder-to-counter strategies, you may find that the proportion of fights that are winnable goes down. (For example, there's a weapon in the mod that does 11 damage; if you can't stop or dodge it, jumping away is likely to be preferable to letting it hit you.) However, I've tried to make it easier to at least be able to run away from fights that you can't deal with any other way. On a similar note, there have been some changes to the Flagship fight to make it more manageable for some strategies, and less trivial for others, but it's likely to be easier overall than in the vanilla game.

I've made an effort to balance the starting ships against each other, but it's only a very rough effort, so there's likely to still be considerable variation in difficulty based on which ship you're playing (just as there is in the original game). If you think a particular ship is too hard or too easy, especially compared to other ships in the mod, feel free to express your opinion in this forum thread.

How complete is the mod?
I have ideas for the future, e.g. a much larger overhaul of events to make that part of the game more varied, but it'll likely be in a separate that's a companion to this one. So this mod's focus is on changing the stats of things, and I'm fairly happy with where they are at the moment. No doubt improvements are possible – and feel free to leave feedback if you have some in mind! – but I'd expect future changes to things that the mod already does to be minor rather than major. (There are some event changes in the mod already, mostly to adjust prices within events to be in line with adjustments to prices in shops; I may end up adding more changes to event-based prices, or to event rewards, in the future, but changes like adding entirely new events are likely to be in a separate mod.)

One possible scope for improvement is artistically; many weapons have been merged or substantially changed in nature (and often renamed in the process), but I'm reusing the same art from vanilla FTL rather than adding custom art. That leads to ill-fitting pieces of art on occasion, and possible confusion for people used to vanilla FTL (which is most of the likely audience for this mod), so it's a rough edge which might be improvable in the future. (That said, my art skills aren't that great, so if anyone works on this, it will likely be somebody else.) Likewise, it's possible that some of the renamed ships and items could use better names.

Another potential issue is in blue options; I haven't changed them, but some of them don't really make sense now given the changes to the items that trigger them. it would likely be ideal to go through the blue options in the game and rename them / reflavour them / change what they apply to in order to make them make sense in the new mod. (That said, there are a lot of missing blue options even in vanilla FTL, so maybe this is a job for another mod?)

Does this mod support Advanced Edition?
The mod is fully compatible with Advanced Edition turned on; AE items have been adjusted in just the same way as the standard game's items.

The mod is also workable with Advanced Edition turned off, but less focus has been placed into that mode. In particular, some items (mostly augments) were changed from being AE-specific to "buyable only in AE" (i.e. they can be used in the non-Advanced game, but only as part of a starting ship's equipment). So if you're a purist for the base game, you might not want to use this mod.

Can I use this with other mods?
It depends on what they do. Strategic Variety should be compatible with almost all mods that don't change gameplay in any way, and don't change the stats of the player ship. It may be compatible with mods that change events (or that implement changes to gameplay via changes to events), but this is not guaranteed. It is unlikely to be compatible with mods that alter the stats of existing items (it may be compatible with mods that add new items, but the balance of the combination may be dubious).

In your mod manager, my suggestion is to load Strategic Variety before any other gameplay-changing mods (e.g. "slow the Rebel fleet" mods), but after any mods that do not change gameplay (e.g. mods that change art or music). If the other mod has a mod order suggestion that contradicts this, it's probably correct; this mod is less dependent on mod order than some.

Using Strategic Variety with ship mods has an interesting problem: it almost works, but the ships will likely have stats based on vanilla FTL, which may be inappropriate after the changes to systems made in the mod. (For example, Shields 2 is a Weak System in Strategic Variety, but very common among ships in vanilla FTL.) A "baseline" for a fairly normal ship in Strategic Variety has Doors 1, Engines 2, Medbay 1, Oxygen 1, Piloting 1, Sensors 1, Shields 3, Weapons 3 (vanilla FTL ships tend to have less in Weapons and Shields). This issue can be fixed by adjusting the ship mod to compensate for the adjustments to system costs, weapons, drones, augments, etc.; once that has been done, the adjusted ship mod should work correctly with this mod. As usual, ship mods should be loaded last (thus after this mod).

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