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Friday
Jan132012

Balance Changes

  

My name is James Ford and i'm the lead designer of ARMED!.

It's been about three weeks since ARMED! was first released and about time for a balance patch! I would love to get your feedback on the balance issues raised below and the proposed changes to address them.  

Tanks FTW

It seems that massing Tanks has become a dominant strategy.

Tanks are not intended to be your primary army: they are intended to be front-line damage-soakers as well as provide anti-air protection for your Artillery. The primary damage dealers were intended to be the HoverTank, Artillery, and the Striker. The Mech is, similar to the Tank, intended to be a late-game damage-soaker at the front-line of a battle, when the enemy has become highly entrenched with static defenses.

However, HoverTanks and Strikers simply aren't fulfilling their role very well.

While the Striker actually does significantly more damage than a Tank it has half of its Health, plus no potential for shields. If you could keep Strikers away from Tanks they would indeed kill units like Artillery very quickly, but since its FireRange is two, the same as a Tank, this is in practice nearly impossible to pull off.

The HoverTank actually does less damage than a Tank, has no shields, and has no armor (the tank takes one less damage from all attacks do to its ArmorRating). Not to mention, the HoverTank must be right next to the enemy in order to fire. With the range upgrade it can attack from one away, the same as the Tank, but this upgrade is not free. The HoverTank is burdened with all of these penalties because it has three very powerful abilities the Tank does not:

  1. It can cross water and other obstacles a Tank cannot.
  2. It has full ArmorPenetration, which is to say, its damage to armored targets like the Mech, some Structures, and the Tank is not reduced.
  3. It deals damage to EVERYTHING in the tile (or two with the range upgrade).

However, what I have noticed in online play, is that players are getting very good at "splitting" their Tanks, so they are not in the same tile. This effectively negates the primary ability of the HoverTank, to deal AoE damage. In a one-on-one fight even a single Tank can defeat a HoverTank, while costing less money!

There is also a significant initial investment required to even begin production of HoverTanks or Strikers, which is contributing to them not getting much use.

Some Remedies

How can we address these problems? Well I have some ideas...

Reduce HoverTank Health from 100 to 25, but give it 75 shields with no upgrade required. The HoverTank is suppose to be a "raider" and since shields regenerate this makes it more likely to survive multiple fights.

If the HoverTank is hitting only a single enemy with its attack, it deals double damage. This will allow it to be prive-effective versus single targets and not "require" bunched up enemies to do anything significant.

Change the HoverTank's special action to instead cause it to explode dealing damage to enemies, if it dies during this turn. The current special is simply not very useful, and exploding on death makes more sense for a close range fire-based weapon.

 Increase the HoverTank's movement speed by one. This would put it at the same movement speed as as the Drone and Striker. With a close range weapon and not a lot of armor, it really needs to close quickly with the enemy as well as making sense for a "raiding" vehicle play-role.

Remove the Reactor (Factory-upgrade) from the existing upgrade chain and instead have it as an isolated node. Would allow you to have both Hanger and Reactor, allowing you to build aircraft from your first Factory without giving up the ability to produce significant numbers of ground units.

Reduce the cost of Hanger from 400 to 250. Costing the price of 4 tanks just for the ability to make aircraft seems too high.

Reduce the cost of Mech Lab from 400 to 250. Same logic, sure the Mech is strong, but it costs 500 already.

Reduce the cost of AircraftAttack from 400 to 200. Plus one damage is really not that significant, should not cost the price of four tanks.

Change the Striker's special-action to something more useful. The current special "Immolate", or something similar to it, makes more sense on the HoverTank, the Striker shouldn't even be anywhere near that close range to enemies, if it is then it's already dead. I am open to ideas of what its new special should be.

Increase the Striker's AttackRange from 2 to 3. This makes it one greater than the Tank and one less than the Artillery. This should make it more useful as a mid-line damage output unit, defending your Artillery from Striker's with Tanks will no longer happen "automatically" since they no longer have equal range.

Give the Striker 25 shield points (no upgrade required). The Striker has 50 Health, a full half of most other units. This makes it die way too fast for such an expensive unit. It should still be somewhat fragile (but high damage output), but giving it a little shields should make it survive better from fight to fight.

Protracted Engagement

Another issue is that games sometimes seem to last way too long. This seems to occur most frequently on Riverted against equal skilled opponents. One match in the office lasted 45 minutes. This is much too long for a phone game; we would like games to last between 10-20 minutes.

I am considering making some map changes on Riverted to address this. In particular, thinning some of the trees and expanding the central bridge to be 2 tiles wide. The intention here is to make it somewhat easier to get forces to the other side and attack, as currently, the defender can setup a very hard to crack defensive wall.

We are also considering more radical changes to address game-length, such as a victory point system. But, this won't be happening before the balance changes already mentioned come out because I feel that increasing the usefulness of the Striker and HoverTank will already give the "attacker" more advantage than before, potentially leading to fewer "unpassable blockade" positions.

ARMED! Needs You

So how do you feel about the game?

Am I exaggerating the issue and in danger of making HoverTanks and Strikers way way too good? What about Riverted, does it feel too easy to defend or just right? Do you have any other pet-peeve balance issues that I missed?

Please let us know and thanks for playing ARMED!.

Reader Comments (32)

I think some of tha changes (bonus damage vs single target) are hard to discover. Several things in ARMED are not intuitive and I think this discourages beginner players. You should try to change basic statistics (range, damage, health, shield) and not introduce special cases like the one you suggested. Making tanks less effective is a good change indeed and boosting air units is a must.

I believe you are exaggerating the tank splitting issue. You can split in the early game and this is actually a good thing that makes the game more interesting but in the later stages of the game there is simply no room to split everything

I agree with your judgment about Riverted. I believe that the trees are much bigger problem than the size of the bridge.

I don't like the victory points idea very much. It would change the game at its core. I'd prefer if you use it for your next game. In the meantime you can add a single resource node at the middle of the map like you have on deserted. This will have an effect similar to victory points because the person who does not hold it will be motivated to attack.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

I so agree with Eirenarch and he/she is a much better player than me with a lot of experience.
For me the damage the hovertank deals is far too small so I prefer the striker because its fast and deals a lot of damage.
And it depends on the map. If I don't need to, I will not produce too much vehicles.
On vulcan0 you are forced to build airunits so I build some but on the other maps, tanks, artillery and drones are enough.
So maybe there should be more spots the player need airunits for or airadvantages maybe airunits have greater range on mountaintops.
I like riverted and I think the map is good as it is, but what Eirenarch says makes sense. Why not leave the bridge at each end at one tile and make it in the middle Three tiles wide so the player can fight for the resource.
The length of the game depends on the different playerlevel.
I think it was Eirenarch who owned me on desserted in 6 minutes. It only lasts longer if the player are equal.
You should point this out in your strategy section in the FAQ area that someone only should start a ranked match if he/she has the time and enough accupowerrecource.
Maybe you can also build a real huge map for costume games like in battle isle and a watermap with new waterunits.

Love your game as it is and it will be hard to make it much better because it allready is the best game in the market.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfirstmattheo

I personally LOVE when the games are longer. I do a lot of custom games with friends l, and they can last over an hour easily.when gaming that hard we make comments like wishing there were one or two more unit types, or the ability to purchase additional build tiles (make very expensive). Strikers are great when used correctly, or els it ends up wasting time. Two upgraded lasers will stop a striker armada with ease. We never build mechs. build the cost is high for a unit that has no range.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlawnpaul

Sometimes I wish I could resell or destroy wrong build struktures or vehicles.

Maybe you could make a game splashscreen which shows, that there is a new post on your website.

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfirstmattheo

@firstmatheo you can cancel something that you have built by mistake in the same turn. This is not the same as selling but you can fix mistakes that way. If there was a way to sell structures people would build much more defenses which in turn means more stalemates.

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

@Eirenarch thx
the first I know the second I have not thought about because of my skill lvl ;-)

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfirstmattheo

Thanks for the comments!

@Eirenarch
If we have time to redo some of the Riverted map-art I would like to try moving some of the resource nodes, with one in a more central location. Concerning HoverTanks, perhaps this could be done with only armor type modifiers and adding some burn-over-time, effectively increasing the base damage, but also with a cap on the max damage so that it is split between all targets hit. We want to add a "unit info" screen for displaying more details on unit types in-game. So if we need to add more "hidden" complexity, at least it will only be hidden temporarily.

@firstmattheo
We definitely want to add a "message of the day" on the main menu, so many things this could be used for!

January 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterJames Ford

I'd rather see things get simpler and more intuitive than more complex. The info screen will be useful even without additional complexity.

January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

Being intuitive is definitely very important, and I'm open to other ideas on how to handle this situation. I like where the Tank is right now as far as price, durability, and dps. But a HoverTank should be able to beat a Tank in a one-on-one fight. However if the base damage of the HoverTank is simply increased, this will make it extremely high dps when there are multiple enemy targets in the same tile all being hit. Thats why I suggested putting a cap on the max damage per second while hitting multiple targets (many of the hero-abilities in WC3 used this mechanic).

I just realized, this is simple to deal with... Treat the HoverTank's flamethrower just like the LaserTurret with PenetratingShot upgrade. That is, deal full damage to the first hit target, for each hit beyond that reduce damage to a fractional amount. Although this is consistent with other units / mechanics we are already using, I will say, from an "intuition" perspective it certaintly makes more sense on a "laser" than a "flamethrower". Maybe this isn't the perfect solution after all -.-

January 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterJames Ford

Please explain why it is so essential for a Hover Tank to beat a Tank one on one! What is the problem with a unit that get exponentially better with numbers? With the boosts the you've suggested for the Hover Tank I really don't see why this 1 vs 1 thing is required.

I remember I really hated it when they first introduced such a cap in WarCraft III (in fact I was so angry that I still remember that the first ability that was capped was the Carrion Swarm of the Dread Lord). I always felt that rules like this were artificial just like damage bonuses versus specific units (instead of unit types) in other games. A good balance design will have the least amount of unit types, damage types and bonuses. In the ideal case balance will be achieved through the mechanics of the attack itself (splash damage, DoT, line damage (splash in a line), fast/slow shots (armor value is substracted more times), unit speed, range, units spreading naturally or naturally sticking together making them better or worse vs splash damage, etc).

I fully realise that this is hard to achieve but I'd prefer if you do not give up on the first patch and introduce artificial rules. What is more I think that currently the biggest problem of Armed is the small number of players on the ladder and I believe one of the main reasons is that the game is not intuitive enough and too complex for the regular mobile player. Introducing more artificial rules will make this main issue worse.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

@Eirenarch

What is more I think that currently the biggest problem of Armed is the small number of players on the ladder

Believe us... that is our highest priority.

The 1.2 release will include ranked "correspondence mode" multiplayer with auto-matchmaking which should make it much easier to find a game. This also includes Mango features like "fast app switching" and deep toast notifications which will make multiplayer much more enjoyable. This is all a complement to the current "live" ranked matches and we feel it will boost the pool of players online at any one time.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Spilman

Please explain why it is so essential for a Hover Tank to beat a Tank one on one! What is the problem with a unit that get exponentially better with numbers? With the boosts the you've suggested for the Hover Tank I really don't see why this 1 vs 1 thing is required.

Winning a 1v1 isn't necessarily required, but I would like a small "raiding party" sized force of HoverTanks to be able to take out an equal number of Tanks (the standard and cheapest defender unit), because otherwise they cannot effectively act as raiders. I do not want HoverTanks to be bad until they reach the 10 vs 10 range (which is about where the Tanks start clumping up more than one per tile). I would like 3-5 HoverTanks to beat 3-5 Tanks. This would allow the player to make a moderate investment in a small raiding force, which can be sent separate from their primary force and be able to deal damage to a secondary target, even if that target has 3-5 tanks defending it (which it easily can since Tanks are so cheap).

On the topic of Weapon/Armor types, I would like to make "laser" type weapons deal bonus damage to flying units like the Striker/Drone. This would allow me to reduce the base damage of the Tank slightly so that it does not out-class the HoverTank but maintain its current dps versus air units, since it is the primary anti-air unit.

With a slight reduction to the Tanks base damage and the addition of HoverTank shields and slightly increasing HoverTank movement speed, it might not be necessary to do any other changes to damage amounts. I will have to run some simulations to see.

January 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterJames Ford

Adding bonus for lasers vs air is much better option than the dancing hover tank damage. (You should change the laser tower damage too) However I still don't see why you insist that hover tank should beat regular tank 1 vs 1 and this justifies including special case rule.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

I'll give an example on Riverted.

We have each captured our respective sides of the map. We each have some tanks and artillery stationed along the middle and top bridges. We also each have two tanks by the river-side power node to defend against stray drones or strikers. In this stand-off situation, I want to build 3 hovertanks, and send them across the river directly towards your HQ. Currently, your two Tanks, costing 200 total will defeat my 3 HoverTanks costing 375, plus another 400 for the Hanger upgrade.

To defend from a HoverTank "raid" like described above, the defender should be required to have more than simply a couple Tanks there. A Striker, Artillery, or RocketBattery for example. Did that make sense?

January 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterJames Ford

Not really. First of all this hypothetical strategy only makes sense on Riverted. The other maps do not have this kind of shortcuts for Hover Tanks. Second if I see your 3 Hover Tanks approaching (or any 3 units approaching on any map) I would immediately produce at least two more tanks (probably 3 if I have a reactor). At this point I will stop the attack anyway. Now if you were doing a raid with 6-7 Hover Tanks that would be a different thing but then the Hover Tanks would be able to beat equal number of regular tanks.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

This hypothetical strategy only makes sense on Riverted. The other maps do not have this kind of shortcuts for Hover Tanks

HoverTank raid tactics should be possible on all maps, if they aren't then that is a separate problem which I cannot address right now. Do to time constraints on our artists we cannot make map changes for this next balance patch (although we will in the future I am certain). I actually think other maps which have cover in which to gather the raiding party closer to the actual target while remaining hidden, would be MORE effective than on Riverted.

Second if I see your 3 Hover Tanks approaching (or any 3 units approaching on any map) I would immediately produce at least two more tanks (probably 3 if I have a reactor). At this point I will stop the attack anyway.

Those units are under construction and not able to fire for half of the combat round. Also your factories are probably at your HQ and not the location I am raiding. Even if they are very close by, such as on Riverted, they will probably not even reach fire-range of my raid within the same combat turn they are built. This gives me a full combat turn to "raid" and then retreat on the next turn when additional defenders arrive. How much time I have before retreating depends on how close I can get before being detected. If there are trees closeby I can group up in, then pop the Turbo special and go in all together, I believe it is possible to get within firerange in the same combat turn that they become visible. Of course the faster you can get reinforcements there the less damage I will deal before needing to retreat, which will give players more reason to keep scouting drones in forward positions.

Now if you were doing a raid with 6-7 Hover Tanks that would be a different thing but then the Hover Tanks would be able to beat equal number of regular tanks.

It isn't that simple. Most of the Resource locations on current maps which would be ideal candidates to "raid" are fairly wide-open with plenty of space to spread out even 6-7 tanks so only 2 would ever get hit at the same time. The Tanks would win this fight 90% of the time.

January 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterJames Ford

By the way... this is exactly the type of feedback we're looking for Eirenarch. We really do appreciate your time discussing this. Thanks!

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Spilman

Great game. Glad to be able to play some starcraft like game on my phone
. One Thing I would like to see would be to have a toggle for using tilt sensors to zoom in(tilt forward) and rotate(steering wheel like).
I think It would be nice to make a few less screen touches to twist screen around or zoom.
Still touch to move camera position tho. Unless u can make all the camera motion sensored. But not really important.

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersamsiam

Well even if this hypothetical scenario works as you have described (I kind of doubt it) it would still require changes to all the other maps then I could reverse the question. What is the problem with Hover Tanks being too good when massed (especially if you claim that <10 units is a number that you can effectively split). Let the Hover Tank be the main unit mid/late game due to great splash damage and let the tanks be the anti-air. This will indirectly buff Strikers because players will make less tanks and you can surprise Hover Tank heavy army with mass Strikers.

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

These type of "counter" builds are exactly what I want to see happening more. Artillery/HoverTank should be strong versus Tanks so that Strikers become more important as a counter to them. I really need to run some simulations to test these ideas before I have more feedback for your questions.

January 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterJames Ford

Id like to see a couple of things. First a way of removing dead games from the quick start menu. I.e. When some numpty leaves game on turn 0, and never comes back. The second thing is a means of messaging opponent, so i can either curse eirenarch as his multitude of tanks stomp through my defences, or tha k him when he lets me win a match to boost my rating (thanks for that by the way). In my view flooding the map with lots of tanks is too powerful in early game. If players have equal resource, and one players opts for loads of tanks with no upgrades they will beat player also with tanks but fully upgraded every time, that doesnt seem right. Also it is too easy to take out defences when first built. I.e a laser costs 250, 1 tank appears and its virtually dead after 1 turn

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermiserableget

@miserableget

There is a way to remove games from the quick start... press and hold on them for a second and you'll get a forfeit option. If there have been less than i think 3 turns then a forfeit doesn't affect your rating.

As far as chatting with opponents... we're discussing what we can do there. We sort of want to avoid making this into a full "chat room" sort of thing, but we need something expressive. Anyway... we are aware of it and will come up with something soon.

January 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterTom Spilman

I find it logical that upgrades will become more effective as you have more units. It is definitely not true that non-upgraded tanks will beat upgraded tanks for the same resources (including the upgrade) for any number. There is definitely inflex point in the number of tanks where upgrades become a good deal. If there was no such inflex point they could simply remove the upgrade as there will be no decision involved in getting it. You simply get it as early as possible. The idea of an upgrade is to provide players with strategic options on when to invest in it and when to spend their money on something else.

I assume you were in the game I was trying so hard to win with a final orbital strike on the HQ but then at the very same turn (but earlier) my HQ got destroyed by like 5 tanks. You should have seen my face expression :)

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch

@tom, not sure your theory on penalty free forfeit holds, as i was using firfeit when i first started playing last week, i then ended up with a score of around 1400 so stopped doing that. Even a few standard messages would be ok. I need a message that says "eirenarch/ 6477 b@%&".

@eirenarch, of course numbers should count, but ive been im games where i have had more than 50% resource, tanks with shields, sap and upgraded fab yard, plus lasers and i get muellered by a wave of tanks. Lots of tanks regardless of upgrade is still too powerful a tactic, if it were not the guys at the top of the league would not all use it i'm sure. yes it was me that caught you pants down on deserted. Actually it was 4 tanks. I wondered what you were playing at and why the screen turned pink. Have just realised that orbital strike is a special ability and not a std weapon, that will explain why my upgraded drones are particularly ineffective.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermiserableget

I think we all agree that tanks are too effective. This is why there will be balance changes. I do not agree that it is unupgraded tanks that are too effective. I usually avoid tank fights before I have upgrade unless the opponent has split his upgraded tanks in different parts of the map and I have 2:1 advantage in the battle.

BTW it would be cool if alert notification when a resource is taken is added to the game so I will not lose any more games like that:)

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEirenarch
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