Baby Steps Towards Balance

Greetings, all.

I’ve noticed a number of threads about the Homeworld 1 (Taiidan and Kushan) and the Homeworld 2 races (Hiigaran and Vaygr) game balance, and I thought I’d add my two cents. I make no claim to being an expert Homeworld player, but I have a few general thoughts on game balance that may apply here.

Basic principles:
1). Baby steps – often, changing a single variable is sufficient to create subtle but significant changes in the metagame that must then be observed across hundreds of games under diverse circumstances before an accurate analysis can be made

2). Grain size – absent other considerations (such as damage and armor type), large-grain units should be less efficient (in terms of DPS-per-RU or health-per-RU or both) than small-grain units. By “grain,” I mean the comparative size in terms of health and DPS. A Battlecruiser has high health and DPS, whereas an Interceptor has comparatively low health and DPS. To compensate, the Interceptor should cost less for each point of health and DPS than the Battlecruiser.

3). Minimalism – ideally, the developers should address balance issues without creating entirely new units or pushing existing units too far outside their existing roles

Current issues:
1). HW1 races do not seem to have strong anti-corvette weapons; Defenders work in a pinch but cannot pursue, and Assault Frigates are sickeningly vulnerable to other damage sources.
2). A lack of squadrons causes the HW1 races to lose fighter/corvette fights by attrition
3). A lack of upgrades causes HW1 races to lag behind their HW2 counterparts as soon as upgrades hit the field
4). A lack of shipyards means that HW1 races cannot keep up with HW2 race production and cannot build capital ships once the mothership is destroyed
5). Many of the HW1 fighters and corvettes were balanced on the use of formations to bolster their effectiveness. With the changeover to the HW2 engine, these characteristics are largely irrelevant
6). HW1 frigates do not provide the same long-range options that HW2 races do (via missile frigates and
7). HW1 races do not have any weapons designed specifically to damage subsystems

Initial suggestions:
1). Adjust HW1 race corvette flight characteristics, maximum turret arc, and turret traverse rates for maximum effectiveness
2). Create new weapon class(es) for Light Corvettes, Heavy Corvettes, and Assault Frigate turrets designed for greater damage against corvettes and frigates, allowing light corvettes and heavy corvettes to function in the anti-corvette role
3). EDIT 2: Charge HW2 players RU for rebuilt fighters / corvettes, such that they suffer monetary attrition in the same manner as the HW1 races
4). EDIT 3: There are three possibilities to address the upgrade situation; I am a fan of the first one (thanks, Stuart98), but I feel compelled to list all three:

  • Reduce the cost of HW1 units to compensate for the health upgrades received by HW2 units; if necessary, remove the speed upgrades or provide HW1 units with a speed boost.
  • Remove HW2 health and speed upgrades completely
  • Give the HW1 races access to equivalent upgrades

5). To address one aspect of the Shipyard situation, allow HW1 races to research additional production tracks, allowing them to build one more ship simultaneously (they can already build two at a time, if I recall correctly)
6). To address another aspect of the Shipyard situation, allow HW1 races to research an upgrade that will allow Carriers to build capital ships by hyperspacing them in (at significantly reduced rates – anywhere from 50% slower to 90% slower). The completed capital ship will appear out of hyperspace near the Carrier.
7). Rebalance HW1 race fighter health and damage to compensate for their grain size and for HW2 unit stats
EDIT 1: 8). “Emergency Thrusters” for HW1 fighters and corvettes that would allow them to boost out of combat for a very short duration when given a Dock order (consuming fuel in much the same way the HW1 scout does, only much more rapidly – 5-10 seconds of increased speed, at most, just enough to get them out of the fight)

EDIT 2: The following is a summary of suggestions to address the squad issue

  • Emergency Thrusters: HW1 fighters and corvettes gain a short (2-10 seconds, depending on test results) speed boost when a dock command is issued (in order to help players avoid losing units). This speed boost depletes an energy bar (similar to the currently implemented Scout speed boost). This compensates for the fact that HW2 races have an advantage in keeping their investment alive (squads provide significant room for error).
  • HW2 races are charged RU every time they replace a fighter or corvette squad member, so they suffer the same monetary attrition that HW1 races do. For example: if a Vaygr Missile Corvette squad costs 400 RU, replacing one corvette costs 100 RU.

That should do it.


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I like the micro potential that the Emergency Thrusters suggestion you mentioned could bring.

However I’m worried such a mechanic could become similar to CoH’s “retreat” mechanic. Although maybe that’s not really a problem? I never played enough CoH online competitively to know.

Problem with this is just the way balance effects how the game is played is too out of whack, not just with the 2 other races just randomly dropped in but HW2 wasn’t known for having a thriving multiplayer community to begin with.

So no, not really. There needs to be somewhat sweeping balance/design changes.

HW2s balance was poorly designed in the first place with too many hidden damage modifiers.

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Yes and no.

In CoH and Dawn of War 2, you’re typically retreating whole squads rather than units. This changes things: if even one member of a squad successfully retreats, you will soon face that squad at full strength. Also: in Dawn of War 2, retreating units took reduced damage from ranged units (and extra damage from melee), which meant that retreating from ranged units while under suppression was optimal, but retreating from a melee was suboptimal (and vulnerable to ambush).

With the HW1 races, you don’t have squads, you have individual units, and there are no hidden modifiers in place during the dock command (and the burst of speed would be limited by fuel). You’ll note that the HW2 races don’t receive a speed boost on-retreat, nor do they receive any hidden modifiers.

To me, this would be balanced: the HW1 races with individual units get a speed boost limited by their fuel, and the HW2 races get squads (though the HW2 races should be charged RU when rebuilding a unit).

Balanced? Possibly.

It is pretty easy to balance the game

First fix the gameplay problems in HW1 (those - Things that need to be fixed asap on gameplay)

Second, cut all the buffs from upgrades by 50%

There, easy.

HW1 races depend too much on research compared to hiig for upgrades to be a boon to them. Lower their cost and the potency of upgrades instead.

A complete and game-wide redesign in terms of balancing direction is absolutely prerequisite to the game having a successful competitive scene.

This does not address a number of issues:
-Squads and HW1 race attrition
-HW1 lack of ranged attack options and anti-corvette weapons
-HW1 DPS and health balance based on presence of squadrons.

I disagree. I think the developers have plenty of room to maneuver within the existing framework.

Two requests:
1). Please elaborate upon what you meant by reducing the cost and potency of upgrades – even a minute advantage would still allow the HW2 races to win by attrition, particularly given the presence of squadrons (which reduce attrition)
2). Please address the above suggestions.

I could have written that better, on a tablet which makes me lazy on writing explanations.

I was advocating for a cost decrease on HW1 frigates, not upgrades.

The strike craft balance is actually much better than people think, I’ve got a clan mate who annihilates everyone using large numbers of HW1 strike craft.

That’s better!

Yes, a cost decrease for HW1 frigates would solve the problem; I’ll add that to the OP.

EDIT: Well, it would solve the problem for FRIGATES – but what about fighters, corvettes, destroyers, and heavy cruisers? ALL of these would need a significant cost reduction.

EDIT2: Likewise, reducing the cost would address the health advantage – but what about the speed advantage? No amount of reduced cost would permit HW1 forces to zip around the map faster!

One last question: what do you think of the “[Emergency Thrusters for HW1 strike craft]+[charging HW2 players for repopulating squads]” suggestion?

(BTW, I remember you from the AirMech forums – we meet again at last!)