Rebalance - third go

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Rebalance - third go

Post by nozmajner » Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:08 pm

After a bit of talk on IRC with joonics, jpab, impaktor and others, and here I thought it might be time to start thinking and discussing about another rebalancing pass.
I've put all ship data in a sheet a while ago, which shows the current stats, including calculated deltaV and thrust values.
It also has the volume of each ship, calculated from the collision meshes mostly, and a density derived from that and the dry mass of the ship.
No hyperspace range though, I don't really know the formula for that.
Also it nicely sheds the light on that huge gap we have with our ship capacities.

Also here are the results from the survey I posted on SSC after the second rebalance pass. I think we need some number crunching on that.

What do you guys think?

First, as Johnj and jpab wisely said we should discuss, how we want Pioneer to handle and play, before we get to the specifics.
I personally think that the nerfing of deltaVs and thrusts on the second pass benefited the game, and increased the sense of scale.
Sometimes I'm contemplating nerfing thrusts a bit more, like topping it at 9 or 10 G for an empty light courier. But I'm not sure about that.

  • How fast we want the player to travel? (deltaV) - this brings up some realism questions too, like the tanks of current ships would be at least 10x to 100x larger if we used realistic H2 density. In my opinion we need to strike a good balance here, because if it's too fast, the sense of scale and acomplishment diminishes (in E:D they boast 1x scale systems, but you practically can cross most of them in a couple of minutes which sure shrinks them)
  • How good accelerations we want to give to the players? - The larger the differences here, the harder our already hard combat will be. Also when I experimented with this, I found that at around 7G combat was far more manageable and enjoyable. Also realism questions apply here too, like where's the threshold for pilot/meatloaf.
  • How much we want the player to work for a new ship/upgrade? - Which brings us to profits, like balancing trade and mission rewards.
As @joonics said, trading is barely profitable even when you discover a good trade route. I'm not really knowledgeable about that part of the game, since I rarely trade, so I'm asking the wise people: could it be made better by adjusting base prices, or it needs some fundamental change in the engine too to make trade more interesting and profitable?

Also I think there shouldn't be a clear line of progression when it comes to ships. Although we don't have that much stats to play with, like reliability and quality, power rates or so. But on the other hands, I think for a game like Pioneer, trade-offs can add a lot. Like when you need to choose between a bit more cargo space or acceleration for your future courier. Or "is that ship really better for exploration? It has a bit better range and capacity, but doesn't have a fuel scoop mount.

And on the side: the topic of switching capacities to volume instead of mass, and adding mass granularity (like 1.7t) to the game. I agree with @joonics and the others that this would add a lot to the game. Especially in the sense of emergent game-play, like for example you have some packs to deliver to a planet, but your ship is overloaded with valuable stuff, so you need to make the choice of dropping the cargo (will they float there for you to come back and collect them?) to be able to finish the delivery, or risk missing the deadline by first going to an orbital to sell that cargo. Or risk landing with your main thrusters and rotate your ship at the last second to align with the pad? (I was able to do that). All of this because you were greedy, and also forgot to check the gravity of the delivery destination.

And to close my wall of texts, this was my thinking when I came up with ship classes, each with a light, medium and heavy variant:
  • Shuttle - Low range, relatively light ships for short travels. Could provide more room as a trade-off, compared to a similar hyperspace capable ship. And they are cheaper too. Simple and sturdy crafts. Lousy in combat.
  • Freighter/transports - Hyperspace capable ships with decent range and capacity for passengers/cargo. Sturdy workhorse crafts. Not as simple as a brick of a shuttle, and they should provide the crew/passengers with things necessary for several week/month travels. Not really meant for combat, but some might be a good candidate for retrofitting.
  • Courier - Built for speed. Light long range ships. Small cargo space, good acceleration, maneuverability, hyperspace range(comes naturally from the low mass) and deltaV. Could be considered more sophisticated, high performance vessels, with very short maintenance cycles. Not really meant for combat, more for evasion.
  • Fighter - Light crafts designed for combat. Armored, and armed, but with little to provide for longer trips. Usually low range/deltaV, but top maneuverability and acceleration. Very short maintenance cycles. (mostly had police and short patrol duties in mind)
What lacks are other combat oriented crafts, like long range combat ships. (are they even available to the public?)

So let the discussion take off. :)

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by joonicks » Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:04 pm

I liked your wall of text.

I dont know about the deltaV, except I dont want spacetravel to become painfully slow. I dont want to spend 10minutes+ real time traveling between bodies in casual game play, thats just painful, not fun. Even now it takes a bit of time to travel 20au because of autopilot fuel limitations. Getting less deltaV for that same fuel would aggrevate that problem.

How fast do I want to travel? The current speed is decent for me, although the fuel+autopilot disturbs me.

My own experience with trading and grinding cash;

Trading is a non-starter. Sub-$100 profits per jump is laughable. Same jump in a mission gives $800-1600 without the headache of trying to find a good traderoute. Illegal goods I guess is a different thing right now since it has no drawbacks (no risk, only reward)

Pure legal goods trading might net you $8000 an hour with optimal, unrealistically perfect conditions.
$1000-4000 an hour might be more realistic.
My first test gave me around $360 an hour......
20 out of 26 trade goods are useless for trading. Impossibly low profits.
3 are middle-ground unknown potential.
3 are high value and might give the $1000-4000 an hour mentioned above.
Illegal goods in Sol not included in this summary.

How much do I want to work for a new ship/upgrade?
comparing to E:D where its ridiculously easy. Get your second ship in under an hour, while still learning the game.
original frontier, if I recall correctly, I would have stepped up in shipsize within the hour after starting a new game.

as for pioneer, I think it should not take me more than 2 hours of relaxed playing to step up in ship.
currently, running missions it would take me about 8.5 hours of hardcore grinding missions. not acceptable imho.

if youre thinking "oh dont make it too easy!" then I challenge you to play pioneer vanilla and go from starter ship sininatrix to Kanara/Wave/Mola Mola -- without cheats, without mods. those are ships in the same weight-class as sininatrix. should be easy, right? dont make it hard for others if you cant be bothered to play.

as I suggested on irc, why not set a benchmark, like

X = maximum profit per hour

if activity Y exceeds X, nerf it
if activity Z is far from X, boost it

set shipprices to value*X = cost in $, adjust "value", not $. if X changes, $ will be recalculated. and I think its easier to reach consensus on how much playtime is required to progress and make that into an idea and then enforce that idea in the code, instead of arguing over individual prices which have no real substance. right now, the price of a ship is just a number that can be arbitrarily changed, independent of any other ship.

if you instead argue the value, you need to come up with more substantial reasons why my ship is worth 3x more than yours even though they are the same size.

now, as for ship types, yes yes yes.
id like to add "multipurpose" to that type list, and maybe "explorer", and "passenger liner"?

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by nozmajner » Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:30 am

One thing that's on our side when it comes to earning money in the game that we have time acceleration. So playtime could cover a good amount of in-game time, so even if you play for a couple of hours, those can easily cover months.

I think there should be challenge to trading too, like that you need to find trade routes which bring in good money at least. Without that, it could only be a shorter grind with increased incomes.

E:D is odd in my opinion, when it comes to ship prices. Ship prices increase with quite large steps after you're past the first few type. Like if it's designed to keep you playing. I'm still flying a Viper, although a nicely outfitted one. Though I don't play too much, and never really looked for ways to ger rich.

On the other hand we should also think about balance: how strong we want the attachement one develops towards their ship? Making it too easy/fast getting a new ship, and it can becomes meaningless. Although, we don't have too much option or different types and tiers of equipment, and stats like reliability for example to differentiate ships right now, to propely provide for that.
Also if there's no clear and single straight line of progression for ship stats, then we could facilate some decision making when it comes to planning on your next ship purchase.

On ship classes: yes, we could have some others too, but right now the above mentioned few options to differentiate makes it a bit moot, and our current ones are almost only cosmetic changes. But that doesn't mean we couldn't have some others.
Multipurpose might be a bit odd cathegory in my opinion. Can be used for a lot of things at once, but has hard time exelling in any of those.
We already have passanger transports and shuttles, I'm not sure we need a liner on top of those.
Explorer would make sense as a long range, sturdy craft, but with limited cargo, but ample uprade space in my opinion.
Last edited by nozmajner on Thu Sep 24, 2015 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by joonicks » Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:17 pm

and on the subject of balancing,

right now the starter ship is Sinonatrix, a miracle of engineering, comes with a class 3 drive standard

class 3 range = 102.3ly
class 2 range = 65.8ly
class 1 range = 21.6ly

looks severely overpowered to me

for starter ship Id like to see something with,
~10t cargo, class 1 drive, 8-12ly range, atmospheric shielding, basic weapon

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by bobtheterrible » Fri Sep 25, 2015 7:54 pm

This is probably easier said than done but... could it be made possible to make some aspects of trading and ship cost/depreciation adjustable in menu options? Something like applying factors or modifiers to base values. This would let the player fine tune their experience instead of it being totally imposed upon them.

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by joonicks » Sat Sep 26, 2015 12:50 am

game setting: easy, normal, hard, hellish, hardcore ?
an 8 year old certainly wont have the same abilities as a hardened elite veteran when it comes to playing pioneer

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by demolitions » Sat Sep 26, 2015 4:20 pm

I'll spit out some words, keep in mind that I don't know how much of this is already implemented:
The player is not the only one buying and selling, isn't he?
So there should be some "trade routes" already laid out, it doesn't feel so.

I remember an old space trading game, not of the Elite franchise, had a nice touch on the market:
On a planet, some goods were not buyable, since they were import-only and because of that, in short supply, while other goods were at low prices and in huge supply: an agricultural planet won't sell its tools, they need them, but they'll sell fruit and meat very happily, the neighboring industrial planet won't sell their food or their raw materials, but they'll happily sell you electrical appliances, semi-finished products and so on.

Playing pioneer in its current state does not give this kind of feel, it seems that every market sells everything (apart from illegal goods), and there's a notable difference only between systems, not between planets in the same system.
With the mission times of the in-system delivery runs, since most times you don't fill the hold with the mission cargo, it should be more profitable buying an "export" good that's "import" on the planet you land.

And the difference between prices should reflect the difficulty, easier will mean bigger difference between buy and sell prices, and hard will mean less difference.

It could be implemented as planet-commodity modifiers, with the modifier having 2 distinct meanings: its sign would indicate if the good is imported or exported (imported - won't be sold, high selling price; exported - won't be bought, low buying price) and the absolute value of the modifier could indicate the value it has for the current planet, a higher value will reflect a higher price, a lower value will reflect a lower price.

That, however, leaves out the current handling of waste, in that game I'm taking as example, waste wasn't paid, its price was 0 and it was always an export, the player could equip his ship with a recycler, and the "organic" waste could be recycled as fuel and other commodities (methane, hydrogen), albeit very slowly; while the other kinds of waste was to be launched into stars, provided the player had the correct license.

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by joonicks » Sat Sep 26, 2015 4:43 pm

I was thinking of having a go at the market supply generator, doing it thusly:

prepare: set a random amount of "cash" according to the wealth of the system

pass 1: spread out that "cash" randomly "buying" any commodities

pass 2: have a phantom "merchant" with another, a bit smaller, pool of random cash go through the pass 1 list, "buying" major/minor imports until he runs out of money

resulting commodity market should be lacking in the goods that constitute imports but still have plenty of the export commodities

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by FluffyFreak » Sat Oct 10, 2015 2:30 pm

Hyperspace range calculation is:

Code: Select all

625.0*(hyperdriveclass ^ 2) / (shipTotalMass + shipFuelMassLeft)
  • How fast we want the player to travel? I don't think this is too bad right now, I want it to take a long time to travel across big systems as it gives the sense of scale - if deadlines are too tight then it's the missions that need to change.
  • How good accelerations we want to give to the players? Lower accelerations are good for combat but would this mean we'd have to increase the Delta-V to cover systems in the same timeframe? What other negatives are there?
  • How much we want the player to work for a new ship/upgrade? Hard for new ships but pretty easy for individual upgrades.
The whole trade system needs an overhaul. We only have 3 planet "types", I don't think there's enough variation or difference between their import and export prices.
Factions/allegiance don't have any effect on the prices of goods which is silly because you would expect different systems of government to lead to different values of goods etc.
I don't know if the prices are too low or if it's just that the trading of high value goods is too difficult / rare, combined with the lack of difference in values between worlds that would seem to be a bigger problem than a low individual price of wheat or something.

I like demolitions points about essentially increasing the difference between the needs and excess production of various worlds.
We could also take into account the specific nature of a planet to tweak the values of the goods that it produces, very hot or cold worlds will need better environmental equipment and produce more/less of particular types of goods even if they're both agricultural planets.

How much we want the player to work for a new ship/upgrade?
We could break down the equipment into more granular parts.
The hyperdrive is our classic big lump of technology that adds massive amounts of distance with each upgrade but we could tweak that so that you don't buy classes of drive but upgrade it in pieces to improve the range over time. Meaning you might end up with a class 2.7 hyperdrive or something.
All of those parts get added to the value of your ship increasing it's resale value when you do want to buy a new one, but also they customise your ship to the way you want to use it.

Actually modifying your ship to improve the thrusters, lighten the hull, strengthen the pressure hull, etc has been on my todo list for ages.

Volume & Mass
I agree that this needs doing, though I'm sure that it will lead to some interesting situations for players when they fill there hold with lead and can't take off :)

Needs more ships ;)

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Re: Rebalance - third go

Post by FluffyFreak » Sat Oct 10, 2015 5:45 pm

Another option with rebalancing the ship behaviour is the possibility of in-system hyperspace jumps.

This could be a module, piece of equipment or just a function of the computer like the trade module, that allows you to jump from planet to planet.
That would reduce travel time for large systems and let us relax the acceleration/delta-v of the ships themselves.

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