First off i didn’t realize this post would be quite so long, my apologies and enjoy the novel (TL:DR at the bottom of the post after my conclusion).
I’ve just spent the past several hours testing with Singrana trying to find a way for hw2 to sucessfully defend against a hw1 opening with a scout kamikaze rush.
in short there isn’t…
Shield, 1k start, no fluff. the hardest conditions we could think of to try to find a viable counter play. We knew straight away that a normal opening (carrier grabbing an expansion) would be to vulnerable so ms and car would stay on the same pocket set to aggressive to try to shoot down scouts as they came in and i would be microing the collectors to try kite the scouts around the mother ship to create more time for guns to do work. Singrana would be playing Taiidan and establishing his economy and teching up behind the assault while sending in ever stronger waves of scouts. I would be playing Hiigaran and would be trying my damnedest to survive and turn the game if i could.
The first wave would be a wave of 12 scouts taking 36 seconds to build (6 seconds each across 2 production lines) and would arrive about 45 seconds into the game with travel time. this doesn’t leave a lot of options in terms of what you can get out fast enough to defend.
the first and most obvious thing with the foreknowledge of the kamikaze rush was to counter scouts with scouts. that failed pretty quickly with a longer build time (20s) and higher production cost (350 ru per squad vs 90 per scout) the scale of production was easily in the favor of hw1. Although it was possible to produce 4 scout squads by the time the attack hit the hw1 scouts were awful at trying to shoot down the hw1 scouts despite having a speed advantage.
so with that out the window we tried a blind (unscouted) fighter opening straight off the start line. double fighter was to heavy an opening investment to sustain and despite interceptors being hugely more effective at killing the incoming scouts they were able to get through without many losses.
so we toned it back to a more economically sustainable investment opening single fighter, interceptor spam leaving a production line open to start producing cols after the first few squads of intys had been built. this was a bit more successful at stopping the incoming scouts but still ultimatly failed.
next we tried ever ready mobile refinery the 55 damage output that can swing the tide of a dogfight. with their 800 RU and 45 second build time i could get just one of these out and flip it to aggressive by the time the first wave hit. then start producing more refs and cols. it had mixed results the scouts were able to close ground unhindered but would fall quicker while being kited. this too ultimately ended in failure.
Ultimately we found the main thing that made the most difference and had the most success microing the collectors to kite around the mothership with the hopes that the hw1 player would mess up his own micro management miss time the kamikaze command and send his scouts face first into the side of the mothership… not exactly an idea solution…
In the games i was able to hold off the onslaught for a protracted period of time under the relentless presure i was taking damage to my economy in two ways scouts finding their mark and landing the kamikaze on the collectors and lost mining time and income from the kiting micro.
in the best attempt i was behind by a huge amount but able to make a transition to frigates as the grav wells came in with support frigate and assault frigate escort rendering my interceptors useless and a transition to bombers out of the question.It quickly turned into a production battle i could not win with my faltering economy and stray fire from assault frigates reducing my collector count even further. i eventually got adv res and was able to get get some marine frigs out to start capping some of his frigates. with my marine frigs being target fired, the last of my collectors and my bank empty lost his destroyer exited hyperspace to end the game.
so with the knowledge we’d gained from testing so far we decided to to try it on a larger map, maybe the additional flight time would make the difference. it did but not enough.
Imposed cosmos, 1k start, no fluff. We’d take this more in the direction of a real game i would open normally and have to scout the rush before building to counter. Singrana would do his scout rush while establishing his economy and tech and i would not only try to survive against the odds, i would try to win.
First game. i open probe first(15second build time) and send it on it’s way while queuing collectors and sending my carrier to take a fast expansion to the side. Big mistake. the probe hit the dust cloud in the center of the map and showed his scouts finishing arriving at their rally point already half way across the map. i got my carrier back to the MS pocket without taking an expansion and braced for the incoming inevitability. it went slightly differently than on the smaller map. despite taking some damage and being set back i was able to make a decent defense. getting out 8 inty squads and a few scouts and tech up for speed upgrades and emp. This resulted in a contain scenario where he was unwilling or unable to push in for the kill but still maintain the threat of scouts kamikaze if i left my economy undefended and i with this threat hanging over my head felt i could break out of the contain at any point but would be to vulnerable to hold and defend both an expansion and my ms pocket. needless to say the game yet again transitioned to grav wells and frigates with destroyers on their way. i was able to grab his destroyer through use of cloak but by that point the game had already been lost. i was out of bank and under pressure and he was well on his way to winning with a huge economic advantage.
During the game i’d had an idea that might just be able to flip the outcome.
We loaded up on imposed went at it again. I had decided that the only thing i was able to do by playing defensive was prolong the game. this time i’d play aggressive and try to take mid with my carrier.
Probe first revealed the the incoming scouts and i could start building to counter. i opted to only go single fighter on the mothership and have my cols kite their little hearts out while my carrier pushed onto mid producing refs to try to stem the incoming tide before it reached it’s target. it almost worked. the center pocket became the focus of attention with us double mining each other and my carrier beginning plat form spam and building a grav well to try to cut cut off the stranded carrier and slow down the soon to be incoming frigates and grav wells. the game ended shortly after when i derped and let the plat production queue run out without noticing leaving my carrier up a river without a paddle. we both had destroyers on the field and were mixing it up. it was at this point he revealed that he’d just got his 3rd carrier out and was producing a heavy cruiser that i had no answer for but it was by far the closest game.
so, what to take away from this.
in terms of game play the damage a few kamikaze scouts can do in the first minutes of a game can have a snowballing economic effect over the rest of the game. on a small map their is no real defense even with foreknowledge and on a large map with the additional flight time of a few seconds and being able to produce a few more collectors can and get up some sort of a defense can make an impact but a negligible one in my opinion.
in terms of game design and coding i can’t think of an easy solution. the options i can think of are;
make Fighter Drive tech a prerequisite to building scouts, but this can make a mess of other parts of the game
play around with the numbers to reduce the damage scout kamikaze does to cols. i don’t see this as a real solution as 3 scouts or even 4 scouts inevitably leads to the same snowballing effect… well 3 not much difference, 4 might be border line… it’s a hard one because it’s very difficult to quantize the effect of the destruction of a few collectors, the lost mining time from kiting and cost of having to rebuild the collectors.
because of the recurring issues around kamikaze, remove kamikaze from multiplayer (while keeping it in campaign) to allow developer time to focus on more critical issues until such time when those critical issues have been addressed and the issue of kamikaze can be looked at in depth.
As a plea to Gearbox, can you please patch out kamikaze from multiplayer as it is causing far to many problems right now and perhaps revisit it and bring it back in when more critical issues have been resolved. To put it bluntly, in most games i’ve played people don’t use kamikaze because it’s considered broken, over powered or bad manners etc etc.