Balancing the FTL ships

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Levgre
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Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Levgre » Sun Mar 30, 2014 3:54 am

I'm interested in figuring out what would make the FTL ships closed to balanced as possible. For perspective, they would now all be at the (upper?) level of "Mid-tier" on the tier list, linked below. I think the differing power levels are good for flavor for and some initially more challenging runs, but after that, at least with my gaming preferences, I find running with a weakened ship a drag. In the balancing, the 'core' theme of each ship is kept in place.

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=14629

So to keep things simpler, lets discuss balance on one ship at a time. Starting with Crystal B.

Here's my proposed 'balanced' version. Either propose your own version, or work off of this one. I doubt we will reach universal consensus, rather a couple different views. I view the core theme as 'all Crystal crew boarding ship', so that is unchanged.

(redid this after some testing)

Cloaking system removed.

Engines 2 -> 1

Power 8 - > 5 (enough to run everything needed at start, 2 shields, 1 engine, oxygen, teleporter)

Stealth compensates for the weakness of leaving the ship crew-less too well. Lack of stealth can encourage the player to sometimes go in with less boarders. Think it would be near impossible to balance stealth + boarding systems at start (with Crystal crew, at least).
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Sleeper Service
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Sleeper Service » Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:42 pm

I'd say the ships would get a whole lot less interesting if they would all be equally difficult/easy. Some give you a though challenge and some give you more flexibility or out right power. I like that, as each of them has a pretty unique character.

As you already mentioned, balance is a pretty hard to define thing and opinions will differ widely on how seamy or edgy a ship balance should be. IMO the vanilla ship all work well in their own regards and I don't see why anything should change.

Still, if you should reach some kind of conclusion here then note that changes like the ones you suggested could easily be implemented via modding. You could put together a full ship rebalanced mod, something that has not yet been done as far as I know.
Levgre
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Levgre » Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:20 am

I guess we just have different preferences in that regard, I don't enjoy playing Crystal B because it's too easy, I don't enjoy playing the weaker ships because I don't enjoy losing from situations the other ships could deal with in stride, while not receiving a benefit alongside that weakness. All it does is make you more vulnerable to the whims of the RNG.

So far the Crystal B balance I stated seems to work at making it a ship with risk/vulnerabilities. It could perhaps even be buffed from there, 2 engines and 6 power, to help it survive and escape. But really it might not need that to be a strong ship.

No replies, so I suppose I'll move on to other ships. Feel free to give balance input on any ship.
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby 5thHorseman » Mon Mar 31, 2014 5:12 am

I don't have much specific to mention tough I agree with Sleeper. My opinion is that it is far more important that the ships are varied than that they are equally easy/hard. Each ship gives a unique experience and some of those experiences are harder than others.

I personally wouldn't have the ships any other way.

Except maybe the Vortex. Give the poor thing a regular ion and a dualie for chrissakes. ;)
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Twinge » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:59 am

Balance is a bit of an oddity in a single-player game. When you're looking at multiple starting classes/ships/etc., you actually do not want them perfectly balanced - it's better to allow for some variance, which gives a greater width of design space and gives allowances for varying skill levels.

That said, I do like the idea of pinching in the ends of the spectrum a bit. In the Balance Mod, I remove the bonus power from the Mantis B/Crystal B and make the Crystal Vengeance sell for less; obviously Crystal B is still ridiculous, but a little less so. On the other side, I give Engi B Level 3 Piloting (which honestly just makes sense and doesn't help a lot anyway) and buff the Heavy Ion so it can chain with itself while manned. The Stealth B I give the System Casing (with a much reduced sell price) and I make it so Auto-Assaults and Zoltan Bombers cannot appear in Sector 1 - the former because beam weapons suck against it, and the latter so you aren't facing Zoltan Shield + Drones in the first sector.
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itg
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby itg » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:38 am

I'm also in the camp that likes the ships unbalanced. It feels like an accomplishment beating the game with a bad ship like the Vortex, and it's fun going on a Crytal Man beatdown with the Carnelian now and then. If the ships were all equal, you'd lose out on both those kinds of experiences.

Twinge wrote:That said, I do like the idea of pinching in the ends of the spectrum a bit. In the Balance Mod, I remove the bonus power from the Mantis B/Crystal B and make the Crystal Vengeance sell for less; obviously Crystal B is still ridiculous, but a little less so. On the other side, I give Engi B Level 3 Piloting (which honestly just makes sense and doesn't help a lot anyway) and buff the Heavy Ion so it can chain with itself while manned. The Stealth B I give the System Casing (with a much reduced sell price) and I make it so Auto-Assaults and Zoltan Bombers cannot appear in Sector 1 - the former because beam weapons suck against it, and the latter so you aren't facing Zoltan Shield + Drones in the first sector.


In addition to removing some of the more interesting challenges from the game, taking out Auto-Assaults and Zoltan Bombers is a pretty strong buff to the Crystal and Mantis B. What about instead giving the Stealth B an extra level in weapons as a damage buffer? I think it's safe to say most Stealth B losses start with an unlucky hit to weapons, and this is an easy, if high-scrap-value, solution.
Levgre
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Levgre » Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:00 am

Twinge wrote:Balance is a bit of an oddity in a single-player game. When you're looking at multiple starting classes/ships/etc., you actually do not want them perfectly balanced - it's better to allow for some variance, which gives a greater width of design space and gives allowances for varying skill levels.


In some games this is true, but it is a false statement as it is far from universal. Many games offer (or intend to) offer a number of choices that are similarly powerful, but in different ways, instead of having some choices make the game easier/harder. Difficulty levels are used instead, then the player can pick whatever class/character option they want, at the difficulty they want.

As for FTL, as you only start with one ship, and generally speaking the ships are mostly in a similar challenge range, imo it's safe to say there is no intent to design the ships as different tiers, or at least the designers' intent it ambiguous. Crystal ships may be an exception. In fact having a stronger ship that bypasses many of the challenges is contrary to the design philosophy of FTL, which is supposed to remain a tense challenge.

Of course, FTL is designed to be initially balanced around a newer player, and not the vets who have a near mastery of the mechanics. Otherwise you'd probably see boarding strategies weaker. A newer player can struggle or be intimidated by boarding, for a vet they are routine.
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Iranon » Tue Apr 01, 2014 11:50 am

Balance is good for the most part. For example, I have a very good success rate with the Slug A although it's not usually rated very high... the combination of arguably the most efficient general purpose weapon, two very specialised ones and great flexibility in shops nicely compensates for being slightly understaffed
I'd also rate the Engi A above most things listed at high tier and find the Stormwalker awkward rather than outright weak.


Things I'd like:

Some non-combat stuff for Engi B... e.g. a level of sensors and piloting. I'm fine with it being a weak fighting ship offset by being a good earner. Mediocre starting value and lacking standard systems cuts into that too deeply.

Something to make Stealth B a little less vulnerable... can't really think of a simple change I'd be happy with, titanium systems casing might be overkill because of sell value.

Something to make Crystal B less boring. Stealth + Crystal boarders means many ships won't be able to do anything, and we can't do anything against some other ships (at all, or without sacrificing crewmembers). Most obvious fixes would move it closer to Mantis B though, which isn't good either... drastic power reduction may be the safest optoin.
Eji1700
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Eji1700 » Wed Apr 02, 2014 5:42 am

Engie B just makes me sad, although i'm not sure which method could be used to fix it.

1.The drone systems are VASTLY overcosted for just how bad they are. On the upside you don't need oxygen, on the downside the complete lack of any micro control mixed with a resource cost is bad. Further since they're tied to a system, one lucky shot can annihilate your ship, especially mid game. The O2 advantage goes out the window if you actually start getting other crew members(sort of). The big issue is that there seems to be a rough total scrap value of every starter ship, and the engie is EXTREMELY weak in all other area's so it can "afford" the drone systems that really don't pull any weight.

2. Your starting weapon kit might actually be the worst in the entire game. You can essentially only fire once every 13 seconds, which is terrible, for VERY minimal damage. You're completely at the mercy of the weapon RNG to be able to hack it by mid game. Worse still your low kill power means you will spend a very long time in each sector fighting, and this incurs more damage/resource usage and leaves you with even less scrap. The whole ship has a very defensive weapon and item setup.

3. Your stats SUCK. Average everything except engine(below average at 1), NO scanners, and drone control at 4. The terrible engine means it takes you EVEN LONGER to run or cope with can't win fights and your dodge is even worse, which costs you more scrap(god i hate nova's in this thing), no scanners is just a low blow, and all of this is for high starting drones. The issue is that the drones don't stop you from taking damage. They don't defend(the personnel is terrible and the others just repair) and they don't help you attack and end fights quickly....so you've got a ton of your starting scrap invested in what is essentially a "die slower"-mobile.

4. 1. Engie. Crew. God this is so bad as 1 of ANY crew to start is awful. Not being able to man stations without costing your ship its dodge bonus is just so ungodly rough, especially with the terrible and slow weapons. If you do get unlucky and drone control goes down/lower(or the AI decides you really NEED doors up while something crucial is down) your going to take even more damage as you lose all your dodge. You're screwed if the enemy ship has offensive dones(a single blaster drone can wreck you while you fix things).

5. Drone booster is a sick joke. "here's a class of weapons SO bad we need to give you something special so they work barely".

What bugs me, is that if you fix any 2/3 of these issues, or just parts of them, the whole ship is more bearable. If drones were reworked to help offset their very obvious downsides(I can think of too many ways to list), it'd be a much better ship. If you decided to count drones as less toward starting scrap, and boosted stats and gave even a single extra crew, it'd be a much better ship. If you decided to rework the weaponry to assist with the obvious downsides, it'd be a much better ship.

I'm not asking for it to be able to hack all the way to the boss with stock toys, but I swear I don't feel NEARLY as crippled as I do in the engie B, and the fact that many of my most successful runs with it started with me SELLING ALL THE DRONES AND THE UNIQUE ITEM is not a good sign. The stealths and a few others can feel RNG reliant, but he engie B is the only ship in the cast that just feels flat out weak in every possible way, and I think that's because it's core gimmick is flawed in several ways.

It's a "defensive" ship in a way that means you still take the damage, and taking damage costs scrap, and hurts you in the long run. Worse to pay for this "defensive" setup you wind up severely hindered in several important areas, and before the end game will need to spend money on at least a few crew members, replacing your weapons, and the usual systems upgrades. It's really got nothing going for it from the get go.
Levgre
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Re: Balancing the FTL ships

Postby Levgre » Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:16 am

I've only played the Engi B a couple times, none of them lasting very long. I'll have to test it a good deal more, but here's a path I think would get it towards balanced.

Starting Drone Level 5

starting drones = anti-ship Drone 2, system repair drone x1, anti-personnel drone

More drone parts, 6 -> 12+? If you don't get a recovery drone, you are probably gonna run out fast. This would take playtesting to get drone parts to a sweet spot.

Starting Weapon Level 3 - > 1

Starting weapon now = small bomb

(perhaps add a basic laser, too, with or w/o another weapon system level?)

Starting missiles 0 -> 8

Starting Engine Level 1 -> 3

Starting Power 9 -> 10

Augment -> remove drone reactor booster (pos) + add Shield Charge booster. Gives the ship one "crew benefit", adds some defense for lengthy battles.

Here's a list of what the ship loses out on, to figure out how much value it needs to be given to be balanced.
Raw value of more crew members, at least 80-100 scrap worth, but more actual value since you are going to have non-operated systems and not have crew leveling up.
Boarding Potential.
Power free ship defense + repair in the form of crew members.

If these changes make it too good, I'd start with making the starting engine 1-> 2 and starting power remaining 9.

Although, Advanced Edition may give much better options for balancing this ship.
Last edited by Levgre on Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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