Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Countermeasure Ships - To Be or Not to Be

A Preface: This post is a bit late... Since I started this blog, I've been posting every Monday morning.  I've had a work-related change (2 projects at once, including travel), and thus a lot less free time.  I did finish this post Sunday night, but I wasn't really happy with it, mostly because I didn't really come up with a definitive answer.  I let it sit for a day or two to see if I could come up with something better, but I didn't.  So here goes...

Today's post will cover Countermeasure Ships.  Right at the start, I am a proponent of countermeasure ships, but I've never done this sort of comparison.  My plan is to look at some fleets I have used, rebuild them without a dedicated CM ship, and compare their estimated effectiveness.  Keep in mind that a fleet with a CM ship can be effective, and a fleet without a CM ship can be effective - but by comparing similar fleets, we can decide what would be better to build.

I'll start out by describing what a usual Countermeasure ship looks like as part of a fleet.  The CM ship is usually the same hull as the rest of the fleet, or at least is speed-matched (triton hull with its defensive weapon range bonus is often matched up with other hulls as a CM ship).  It sacrifices offensive weapons and specials in order to mount the Countermeasure Special and as much Hail or Phalanx weaponry as possible.  In general, one weapon slot still holds an offensive weapon so that when clicking on a target, all ships in the fleet move to it together.  Ideally, that weapon has equal or longer range than the weapons mounted on the offensive ships, so that the countermeasure ship does not lead the fleet and tank all the incoming fire.  A Negotiator Mortar 1 has longer range than missile/mortar fleets, and is often a decent lightweight choice.  If using Launchers or UAVs, then mounting a single Launcher or UAV will usually be the ideal choice for a weapon on the CM ship.

MCX with Phalanx - for Weekly Missions and Drac Bases
I'll start with an MCX fleet that I use quite a bit.  It's a 4 ship fleet, and I can add a decoy Spectre.  I use this fleet for:

  • Forsaken Missions - after prepping the ships & 2 torp towers with Subs, this fleet (at R5) can do 55 Strongholds with 40 minutes repair time on average (no decoy).  Before Retrofit, it was 2 hours repair time.
  • Drac Bases - with good use of decoy, this fleet can solo a drac base in 2 hits (after the outside ships are prepped
  • Player Bases - Siege Missile MCX can't take high-end player bases anymore, but this fleet does well against player bases that are Javelin or Sentinel heavy, as long as the guard fleet isn't too good.
Build Link (with decoy):

The "Hitter"

The "Countermeasure"

Some Design notes on this fleet:
  • The single piece of Turn armor helps out with the lack of turning ability - I started out without it and decided I wanted just a little bump.
  • The Countermeasure ship above isn't a pure CM ship - I am taking advantage of Strike System to put a bit more offensive power onboard.  
  • Siege Missile F would also be a great choice here, giving the fleet more offensive power but sacrificing some speed.
  • Keeping Scrambler on the Countermeasure ship made the fleet too heavy, so the CM special replaced that instead of the armor special.
  • The armor was also lightened on the CM ship to make it all fit - one V armor is used so that it matches speed with the fleet to make up for the missing Siege V
My biggest gripe with this fleet is that when hitting a 55 stronghold, one volley of missiles is not quite enough to take out a gun - If I use a Wrecking Crew rogue (+14% building damage), that does it.  Retrofitting the Siege Missiles to R1 was not enough...  If I were to redesign it, I would want more hitting power.  

So if I redesign it without a Countermeasure ship, but try to keep similar weapons and specials, I would likely end up with something like:!70J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650V0S0V0V0C5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K02U00000001D5Z00004B00000Y

The redesign - No CM Special

With the redesign, I had to lighten up the armor a little bit and also lighten the Phalanx to all Phalanx 2 instead of half Phalanx 2 & half Phalanx 3.  

One more twist - you could swap the Scrambler for Countermeasures on the redesigned fleet, and have have some weight for more armor.  The lack of evade will hurt against ballistics, but it's another option when you have the special to work with.!70J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A193K3K3D3K0J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A193K3K3D3K0J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K0J650W0T0V0V2B5H1V1A3D3K3K3D3K02U00000001D5Z00004B00000Y

So lets compare some statistics between the fleets:
Fleet Comparison (no sub)With CM ShipWith RedesignSpread Out CM
Total Fleet Armor360103366037660
Building Damage Per Volley105481137611232
Phalanx Shots12@96%, 10@88%20@55%20@88%, 8@80%
Phalanx Hits (EV)20.3211.0024.00
MIssiles hitting from Volley of 20 (EV)1.449.02.4

The Countermeasure fleet has more armor, but the non-CM fleet has the extra siege Missile, giving about 8% more building damage (not quite the 14% I wanted).  The real benefit of the CM fleet is the accuracy on the Phalanx - when looking at an incoming volley of missiles that isn't large enough to overwhelm the number of shots, the non-CM ship will take 6x as many missile hits.  But the biggest surprise to me - the fleet with the CM special on each ship doesn't look too bad.  I think the lack of evade will really hurt against ballistics however.

What did we learn from all this?  Countermeasure ships work better because they have the countermeasure special (duh!).  Phalanx benefit quite a bit from CM because they only get one shot at an incoming missile, so accuracy is very important.  The tradeoff here is that the countermeasure ship has to give up the Guidance Scrambler special in order to use the CM special, hurting its survival time.  I didn't actually run the numbers here. Since the countermeasures aren't included in that calculator, so it wouldn't really be a fair comparison. One more option - give up the Armor special and keep Scrambler.  

DNX for Bases (Yeah, OK, old bases)
I never built this fleet, but I had the design laying around... My only current mortar fleet is SC R5, and it is constructed too similar to the MCX fleet so be a good example here... I want something with some Hailstorms.  This is a 2 DNX, 1 Triton base hitting fleet, using Siege Q and Shock B mortars.  It needs plenty of hailstorms, because it is SLOW.  Sure it's an old design, but I'm illustrating a point:

The "Hitter"

The "CM Triton"

And the redesign to 3 DNX:

With the redesign, I took off the Assault Mortar - the new fleet has more Siege Mortars, the Armor is unchanged, but the sacrifice comes in the Countermeasure capability.  To compare:

Fleet Comparison (no sub)With CM ShipWith Redesign
Total Fleet Armor3810038400
Building Damage Per Volley1949124600
Mortar Shells Per Volley3124
Phalanx Shots18@96%15@55%
Missiles hitting from Volley of 20 (EV)2.7211.75
Hailstorm Shots25@30%24@25%
Mortars landing from Volley of 20 (EV)12.5014.00

Other than the improved phalanx capability, which we saw in the last fleet, the only other advantage of the Countermeasure fleet is the additional shells fired, but that only occurs because it is forced to use smaller mortars - the Countermeasures don't help the hailstorms very much at all.  I think for most player bases (where the DNX would have a chance...), I would prefer the non-CM fleet.

The most common argument against the countermeasure ship is that if you lose the ship, the fleet becomes helpless.  This is a valid argument, but the advantage of the countermeasure ship against PvE targets is fairly clear.  On a base fleet, where mortars are a concern, the advantage of the CM ship is not so much.  Like I said in the preface - I didn't come up with a good answer here, sometimes you want em, sometimes you don't.

Next Week: 
I don't think I'll be holding to a strict publishing schedule for quite a while.  I just saw that Kixeye put out new items for the Forsaken Mission - I'll do a DPS/ton analysis on the new cannon and I'll talk about the Lead Panels by Monday.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Chaos Mortar Thoughts and a Nuke Cruiser Build

I wasn't sure if I would post this week, but here goes... Riptide is winding down.  I didn't want to spend too much coin during the raid, and I didn't feel like grinding away, so all I took were the High-Lander Nuclear Cruiser, Chaos Mortar, and the Juggernaut (just for my collection really). I've seen the Grimshine in action, and it is an amazing ship - I will probably regret not having it but I have limited funds and time to play this game.  

More thoughts on the Chaos Mortar
When the stats were released on this weapon, I was not floored.  After more thought, and seeing it in action a couple times, I like it more, especially when paired with the Berserker.  The original article where I showed the DPS per ton classified this mortar as a "tweener"... not the best for Anti-ship and not the best for Anti-building.  One of the reasons was its relatively high spread of 110 vs. the Siege B spread of 100, and the Assault X spread of 60. However, when putting this weapon on the Berserker, the overload effect makes a triple shot of mortars.  Normally, a mortar with a spread of 110 would take a few shots to take anything out, but when you overload, there are enough shots fired that instead of doing a little damage over a wide area, you do a LOT of damage over a wide area, and thus the high spread seeds that destruction over a larger area.  So even though the Berserker doesn't have specific mortar bonuses, the Chaos Mortar and the Berserker do make a great pair.

Nuclear Cruiser Build
I'm in the process of building my nuclear cruiser fleet, I have 3 hulls done with just 5 launchers and Speed System 3 and just started a High-Lander.  I like to build bare hulls like that so I can get them in the water quickly, rank them up, and think more about my build (and sometimes take advantage of new hulls and specials).

Liam99 posted a "Fear" NC build recently in the Battle Vortex page, and there were also some good comments against that post (thanks to Renato & Nelson in particular), and I think I've finally settled on my build.  I'll discuss my thought process, and post the build at the end.

My build was driven by my requirements - 
System requirements - Top priority is to hit bases, but second priority is to be able to take on Drac Base/Forsaken Mission targets.  
Ship requirements - Load up on the launchers, but I have conflicting requirements too - for the base hit mission, the most effective NC fleets I've seen don't have much (if any) countermeasures and simply drive without stopping.  For the anti-Drac mission, I want a fair amount of Phalanx, and also to be able to put in a decoy sub.

So when thinking about the fleet architecture, I considered whether a 4 ship or a 5 ship fleet would be best.  
For hitting bases, I considered the choices fairly even - more total armor for a 5 ship fleet, but more armor per ship on the 4 ship, and the capability to throw in a SFF to haul cargo.  
For the Drac base mission, a 5 ship fleet would have to leave one of its ships at home to bring a decoy sub, and it really wouldn't have much countermeasures either.  For the 4 ship fleet, I could insert the decoy into the fifth ship slot if I had enough weight available, but that fleet would have even fewer countermeasures.
The solution I chose for the CM problem is to replace one of the fleet ships with a countermeasure ship.  Now the choice between a 5 ship & a 4 ship NC fleet becomes clear - the 5 ship NC fleet would be down to 3 NCs, meaning only 15-18 launchers depending on the build.  The 4 ship fleet would also be down to 3 NCs, but they would have 24 launchers between them, so I chose the 4 ship fleet.  

My plan is to build 3 identical NCs, along with the High-Lander Nuke Cruiser to be the flag for that fleet, then build a Spectre decoy that is just faster than the NCs, and build a Triton Countermeasure ship that will have speed/turn less than or equal to the NCs.  

So here's my build (fleet design), showing the Drac base configuration.  The Base Hit Configuration has a 4th NC instead of the Triton and Spectre.  The NCs have the same equipment as the High-Lander, but weigh slightly less because they have less built-in armor.!50KU00U1N0V1N1V0C5H4P4P4P4P4P4P4P4P0KO00U1N0V1N1V0C5H4P4P4P4P4P4P4P4P0KO00U1N0V1N1V0C5H4P4P4P4P4P4P4P4P02U50000001D0I00004B00000004040L0L0L0R0R1V2B0C4N4M1B4N1B1B4N1B1B1O!50KU00U1N0V1N1V0C5H4P4P4P4P4P4P4P4P0KO00U1N0V1N1V0C5H4P4P4P4P4P4P4P4P0KO00U1N0V1N1V0C5H4P4P4P4P4P4P4P4P02U50000001D0I00004B00000004040L0L0L0R0R1V2B0C4N4M1B4N1B1B4N1B1B1O

Some of the thoughts behind the design details - 
  • The NC speed is 17.6, the Spectre is 18.0, and the Triton is 17.5, which are just about exactly the types of numbers I was looking for.
  • The Turn armor on the Triton brings it almost up to the NC turn capability (13 vs. 15).  
  • The NCs and Triton are using Strike System instead of Speed to avoid the loss of accuracy on launchers (and countermeasures).  Even though more turn would be nice, I'm trusting the experience of those players who have been using these Nuke Cruisers for a while.  I considered a Turn Armor plate instead of one of the Evade plates to help turn a little.
  • The UAV on the Triton will keep it behind the NCs when they are all move to a target - a Launcher would cause it to stack with the NCs, which means that it would get shot at more often (especially since it turns slower), and the Triton just isn't as tough.  (its armor is devoted to Speed/Turn, a special slot is used up for Countermeasures) 
  • The Armor configuration is a personal choice - Liam used the M, and C armors on his NCs, Renato used some Penetrative Plate to stand up to UAVs.  My choice gives me decent all-around resistance - I played with a few different configurations in the Survival Time Calculator, and I liked my results, although I really liked Renato's UAV resistance, and I may swap a CP4 for a Pen3, and then increase the D2E to D3E...
  • For the Countermeasure choice, 5 Phalanx 3 with CM3 should be enough to blunt drac base fire when my sub isn't decoying, and the 3 Hail C and one Hail B should be enough for the DNX in Drac bases, and most of the mortar fire in 55 & 65 Mission Strongholds (but I still won't stop).
Well there's my build... coming soon to a base near you?

One more note: I have updated my "Fleet Reference" page, which collects all of the builds I've posted in my articles to date.  Check it out if you are interested - and I'll take suggestions on how to organize it better.

Next week: I'll look into the practice of using countermeasure ships in more detail.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Riptide - Half Done

I don't have any brilliant advice for Riptide - I'm not really promoting this post, but for those of you who keep a close eye on this blog, here's my thoughts.

Spectres & Crypt Keepers- Best Choice
Crypt Keepers and Assault B Torp Specs with Engine3, (not speed system) seem to be the best option for A sets - I haven't heard of too much else that can do it with low repairs.  I finally coined my B Torp refits over Siege Torps and that helps some, but with Speed System 3 and only 1 V armor, I could use more speed.  If you have the ECM, 61 - 63 can be done with no crew.

Atlas - Pretty Good
I've also heard (but not seen) people doing well with Atlas fleets. Many of the enemy ships have very high evade, making launchers weaker, but the UAVs ignore evade, and the long range should help.

General Advice that you hopefully have seen already:
- Let the Dracs and Reavers fight it out if you can, especially if you are using subs.  For 45s and 65s, this goes double.
- Take advantage of retreat.
- Battery Specs (no ECM, no crew, no Cat) can do decent in the 41 & 43 once the dics are gone.  Let the dics separate from the MCX & use a fast ballistic, missile, or launcher fleet to pick those off - then retreat & bring the subs for the MCX & NC. Subs can also pick off the napalm ship and the Grimshine Berzerker.
- Never attack the Grimshine when it is near another ship (unless you are using hidden subs).
- My Microwave Disruptor that I mentioned in the pre-raid article was a total bust.  Not sure what Robot was thinking there.

My Raid
I've lowered my sights a bit... I'm going for the High-Lander NC and the Chaos Mortar only.  The Berserkers and the Grimshine Berserker (although awesomely destructive) are not my style, since their real power comes from getting shot up.  I've spent more than enough on this raid.... I'll probably finish tonight.  Good luck to you all.

Next Post 
I think my next post will be on Monday 4/28: I'll look at countermeasure ships, and try to see what sort of advantage (if any) a dedicated countermeasure ship will give you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Riptide - Pre-raid advice

This is a bit of a tricky situation... Some info on the raid has been posted, but there are still some key bits of information that are not clear.  The usefulness of the prizes will depend on how some of the statistics and mechanics shake out... but I'll try to share what I know, and I'll try to be very clear at distinguishing between FACTS and GUESSES.

Raid structure:

Official post from Kixeye:
Merged discussion thread:

Fact: 3 Sets: A, B, C with increasing bonuses for set completion, and bonuses are not capped (although they do have a max value).
Fact: 3 Target Types: Reaver Swarm, Drac Assault, and Clash!
Reasonable Guess: Each set will have a mix of the three target types.
Wild Guess: 2 Reaver fleets, 2 Drac fleets, and one Clash per set???

Strategy thoughts (based on guesses):  Since you will need to be able to take on all three target types in order to get bonuses, you will need to have a fleet (or fleets) capable of this.  Overall in these "Set" raids, it has been best to find which set you can hit with a reasonable amount of damage for the fleets you have (and the coins you are willing to spend).  You may find that you will have three different fleet setups, each optimized for the different target types.

One note from CM Robot in the discussion thread is:
I would say that in Drac Targets Microwave Dampener is your friend. Against the Reavers the Engine Disruptor / Ballistic or Torpedo option will still work.
Anti-Reaver Strategy
I would imagine the Reaver fleets will be similar to the Reaver fleets we've been seeing in the last three raids, and using similar tactics will produce similar results.  Hopefully by now you have some sort of Engine Disrupter ship paired with ballistic, rocket, or torpedo ships.  For the last two Reaver raids, I was able to do quite well on B sets while spending very little coin with the following Vanguard/Hellstrike fleet:!404U00L0L0L0L1D5K2B1S19194L4L4L4L4M4M4M04060JU01K1E1E0U0U0U5E1S2L5N000000A019A0A00JU01K1E1E0U0U0U5E1S2L5N000000A019A0A00ZZ0ZZ

(sorry BP Outpost - I can't make a fleet right now without running into your pay screen.  I understand you have server costs... but you have competition too)

The large number of hailstorms on the Vanguard really helped when approaching the mothership in 45s.  If you don't have Vanguards, an arbiter can also do well - just be sure to match the speeds between your Field ship and your Weapon ships.  If you can't match perfectly, build the field ship to be faster than the hitters, since the hitters are usually more able to soak damage, and you don't want the Reaver ships to be stuck at the edge of your field and out of range of your hitter weapons.  If you don't have an Engine Disrupter ship by now, you really should get on that - an ED3 arb can take less than 3 days to build if you keep the armor light.

In the last raids, I also used my ECM & Cat Drive Spectres to take out the Hulk (large ship) targets where I could, and Battery Spectres (no ECM needed) to take out the Napalm ship in 44s.  See my spectre article for those builds.

An alternate strategy I've seen work quite well against Reaver fleets is Assault Torp B equipped spectres and Crypt Keepers rogue crew being used to completely take out Reavers.  If you have the fleets and the Uranium, this may still work well.

Anti-Drac Strategy
To suggest strategies pre-raid on the Drac fleets, I'll draw on some OLD raids... I think Robot's comment about the Microwave Dampener being your friend is interesting.  Many raids ago, we had to fight Typhoons that spewed out drones.  Against these targets, Microwave Dampeners did a nice job of cutting the damage from those drones, a rocket or shockwave-equipped ship did a nice job of killing the drones, and finishing out the fleet with ballistics or torps was a good plan to take out the Typhoon and its escorts.  Engine Disrupters also hold off siege drones / piranha drones nicely, so that may be another option.

An old video of a Typhoon hit:

The other previous raid format that might apply is the "Drac Hunt" where we had to fight Draconian Military Fleets containing large numbers of Draconian ships.  These fleets were best tackled with maneuverable, long-range ships that could isolate parts of the enemy fleet and take them out, rather than attempt the whole Military Fleet at once and get surrounded.  

Old video of Drac Hunt mil fleets:
(I don't necessarily condone the target-stealing endorsed in that video, but he uses decent fleets & tactics for the hits, so it is worth watching)

I just started a refit on an old MD3 arb to match it to my Hellstrikes before this raid... it will be ready on Thursday morning.  I may want more range & thus use MCX instead of Hells, but we'll just have to see.!400D00M0M1R0C0L0C0JU01K1E1E0U0U0U5E1S2L5N000000A019A0A00JU01K1E1E0U0U0U5E1S2L5N000000A019A0A00ZZ0ZZ

That arb has a perfect speed match with my Hellstrikes, and GS3 to deal with aimed weapons.  Hopefully I'll be able to outrun Drac explosives. 

Clash! Strategy
With just a single screenshot to draw on, all we really know is that it will mix Drac and Reaver targets, and they won't necessarily prioritize the player as a target - they will shoot at each other too.  Perhaps drones or subs could be used to take advantage of this... drones may cause chaos while they shoot at each other, and perhaps a decoy sub could be used to draw the enemies closer to each other, but I think making any concrete suggestions as to how to take on these types of targets would be premature.

General Raid Strategy Tips

  • Remember that this is a six day raid - to get a bunch of prizes, you will need a bunch of points.  Use as much of the time as you can and take advantage of your off-line time for repairs.  Six days is 144 hours, or the equivalent of 288 coins.  Could you do a raid with 288 coins?
  • Don't ask for help on day 1... I think even the big players will be busy for quite a while getting 65 million points or so.
  • Find the targets that give you the best reward/repair ratio for the time you have, but I think C targets won't be worth the playtime if you are really going for the top prizes.  (unless you have a separate fleet that can auto them).
  • If you have different fleets for each target type, you can 'stack' targets, and then catch up later on different target types to collect your bonus (or at least you could for the last few raids of this type).  So if you have your anti-drac fleet deployed, hit a bunch of drac targets while you are repairing your anti-reaver fleet.  Then swap your fleets and catch up to collect your bonuses.  
  • You may even be able to team up with someone else - if you have a good anti-drac fleet and your buddy has a good anti-reaver fleet, you might be able to prep fleets for each other.  Unknown: Will there be a retreat button?
  • Prioritize your prizes, but if you aren't sure how many points you will be going for, don't spend any points until you are done so that you can make the best decisions.  Pick prizes based on their suitability for the missions you want to accomplish (be requirements-based).
  • New raid formats usually seem very difficult at the beginning.  If you think this one is really tough, wait a day or so and see what sort of tips you can pick up from other players.  I usually start with easy targets to get my feet wet (and hopefully not my fleet wet) and work my way up.  They can also be a little buggy or unstable at the start too, so be careful there. 

The Prizes:

Screenshots have been posted of the prizes, but they do not provide complete statistics - since we can't scroll the screenshots.

Chaos Mortar:
Fact: We can't see the whole list of damage, but Robot posted that there is an additional 215 Radioactive Damage.  
Guesses: There could also be other damage or bonuses that we can't see.  Extra armor points are likely, and other bonuses to ship statistics are possible.  There may also be some sort of explosive trigger, like the inferno rocket or the shockwave effect.
Raid weapons are usually good, and so you may want to get this one just based on history.  You likely won't see this weapon as a prize again anytime soon. 

Compared to other mortars - its DPS per ton looks like:

Base RangeFleet DPS/hTBld DPS/hT
Shock L40-845.23.9
Shock Q40-847.25.4
Assault M50-849.33.3
Assault X50-8811.14.3
Siege S60-844.66.4
Siege B60-846.112.2

This is sort of a middle of the road mortar, not as good as Assault X against fleets, and not as good as the Siege B against bases. Its balance may actually make this very good for Drac Base/Forsaken Missions.  The biggest red flag on it is the range - 82 is a little short, although Siege Missiles with Strike System3 have a similar range (82.5) - this is do-able for base hits, but you'll have to be careful around Howys.   The short range may also make this undesirable to use in your base guard ships. A reasonably fast projectile speed/low arc could make this very deadly in FvF, especially as you get closer to that minimum range.  

Berserker Hull:

Fact: The Overload capability allows the Berserker to instantly reload and fire a triple salvo every time it receives a total of 1,500 points of damage, then get enhanced resistance for nine seconds.
Guesses: Looking at that scrollbar, there is plenty of room for additional hull bonuses or capabilities.  We don't know its innate bonuses besides its conventional resistances, but it likely has some sort of mortar enhancements, given Kixeye's history of releasing raid hulls that match raid weapons.  We'll have to wait and see if the bonuses relate to splash, spread, fire rate, projectile speed, or something else.
Update: Radioactive Defense: 20%, Building Damage: 70% 

This roid-ed up Mauler has the slot layout of a Guardian, but one extra special.  With all of the slots available (especially 4 specials!), this should be a very flexible hull for players to use, even if not mortar-equipped.  With the update, we've learned there is no specific mortar buff, so this hull could be fitted with mortars, missiles, or ballistics as preferred.

The Overload capability is also interesting - allowing an instant triple weapon salvo every time 1500 points of damage is taken.  This ability seems very useful in any sort of difficult combat situation, but especially powerful if used on a ship in a base guard.  Make sure it is equipped with a weapon that will match ranges with base attackers if used in a guard.

Grimshine's Berserker Hull:

Fact: Players will only be allowed to build one of these limited ships.
Guesses: There will be bonuses similar to the regular Berserker, only better
Update: Radioactive Defense: 30%, Building Damage: 100% 
Unknown: Will the overload boost effect mean that all ships fire when Grimshine's ship overloads, or will each ship get its own overload ability each 1500 points of damage?  I think it is the first one.
Still totally worth it for only one of these... this hull with its combat speed of 11 will be very easy to match with other Berserkers or even other ships like Nuke Cruisers or MCX.  The overload effect will do crushing damage to whatever is targeted. Pairing that ability with retargetable weapons (Siege or Torrent Missiles) will really cause Grimshine-led fleets to ummm.... shine?

High-Lander's Nuclear Cruiser:

Fact: Players will only be allowed to build one of these limited ships.
Fact: The field will NOT activate resonance batteries (recent edit to raid description)
Guesses: There will be additional bonuses that we can't see on this screenshot.  Innate radioactive reload and radioactive defense are nearly certain.
Update: Ballistic/Explosive/Missile Defense: 30%, Radioactive Defense: 40%, Radioactive Reload: 80%, Field gives Radioactive Defense: 50%, Radioactive Reload: 50% bonus to all ships in the fleet. 
Unknown: Will the radioactive reload/resistance field effect apply to any ship in the fleet with the HLNC, only radioactive weapon equipped ships, or only other Nuclear Cruisers?  The description "all ships in the fleet" implies the first one.

The reload and resist are nice bonuses you will be getting when building this ship - I'm not floored but I'll take it.  This ship could replace a single NC in any NC fleet with the same equipment, and make the fleet more destructive.  Faster reload will help trigger shockwaves more quickly against high evade ships.  The extra radioactive resist and fire rate might be particularly nice for taking on dredge fleets as well.

I'll try to post one or two days into the raid if I pick up any good strategy tips.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Applying Real-World Engineering Principles to Fleet Design

Notification Poll
As a relatively new blogger, I wanted to get an idea of how people are finding this blog, and how you all would like to be notified of new articles.  Thanks to those who responded to the poll.  I'll go through all the ways you can keep up with this blog here.

Bookmark: and come to the site on Monday morning (or whenever you feel like it).  I try to post weekly analysis on Monday mornings. 

Facebook: When I publish new articles I post a link on the BP on Battle Vortex page and send a message to and let the admins there post the link in their FB feed. 40% of you asked for a new Facebook group.  Even though there are a lot of groups out there already, I might do it... give me a week or so, OK?

Twitter: Not too many people (3%) were interested in having me start a BP Professor Twitter, so I'm not gonna do it.

Kixeye Forums: This is my least favorite way of getting the word out - I put a post up in the Battle Pirates General Discussion area, but I think it gets buried pretty quick, and a few forum denizens consider my notfications spammy.  (I disagree with that but I can't convince them)  If you are in the 9% who prefers that method, I suggest you find something else.

E-mail: 34% of you were interested in E-mail notification.  If you haven't already, you can enter an email address under the "Follow by Email" at the bottom of the page and you will get an email when new posts go up.  I don't actually get your email address when you do this - I don't even know how many people are subscribed via email.  

RSS: If you use an RSS reader (I use feedly myself), use the following URL for the feed: 

UAV Delivery: Thank you for your interest, but I'll wait for Amazon to figure it out first.

On to the Article....
I didn't just come up with calling myself "The Professor" - others in my Battle Pirates circle started calling me that.  As I played this game for a while, my fellow players appreciated hearing my opinions on ship design, base design, and raid prizes.  As "that guy" I would end up fielding a bunch of questions, and the question that annoys me the most is.... "I just got a (insert hull name here) - what's a good build?"

As some of you may have guessed, I am an engineer, and I have spent my career (so far) working on safety-critical and mission-critical systems.  The aerospace systems I work with are generally regulated by the government in order to ensure their safety, and the standard that is used is called DO-178 "Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification".  One of the key activities required by that standard is called Requirements Management.  Requirements Management deals with writing requirements and flowing those requirements down to lower levels of design.  In this article, I'll discuss requirements management and explain how it applies to building effective Battle Pirates fleets.  For those of you who are familiar with requirements management, I'm NOT going to go all crazy about requirements language - I don't need to get into the meaning of "shall" vs. "will".

In real world software systems, requirements are collected at different levels of detail.  At each level of detail, the group of requirements is collected into a Specification.  Systems compliant with DO-178 are generally documented as follows:

Flowdown of Information in Software-based systems - each document leads to the next

(What did you guys think - that some dude with a beard just sits in a dark room with a can of Mountain Dew and bangs out code to control a jet engine?  There's a lot of work that has to get done BEFORE the hairy dude brings his Mountain Dew to the dark room and bangs out the code.)

I'll explain each level of specification, and draw a parallel to your Battle Pirates fleet.

System Requirements - What do you want to accomplish?  
This level of requirement is intended to explain what the system is supposed to do in the "real world".  For example, a jet engine control will have requirements that talk about what should be measured and computed in order to figure out how much fuel should be injected into the engine under various conditions.  System requirements for a Battle Pirates fleet would talk about the goal of the fleet.  

Some possible BP Fleet System Requirements would be:
  • The fleet shall be able to hit weaker player bases to get alliance points. 
  • The fleet shall be able to get Tier 4 in the Forsaken Missions in under 6 hours of gameplay without spending coin.
  • The fleet shall be able to beat submarine fleets in FvF.
Real world System Requirement Specifications are generally quite long.  For a BP fleet using statements like the examples I've listed above, generally only 1 or 2 requirement statements are enough.  The important thing is that you should be thinking about what you want the fleet to DO, before you pick a hull or equipment.

Software (Ship) Requirements - What features will your software (ship) have?
This level of requirements is intended to explain specific software features that need to be implemented in order to meet the system requirements.   For the jet engine control above, specific functions that move actuators would be described.  For the BP Fleet, here is where you want to think about what the fleet has to do to accomplish the System Requirements.  For example, if I used the above system requirement about getting alliance points from weaker player bases, I would write software (ship) requirements about what the ships need to do to beat player bases, for example - 

  • The ships shall withstand fire from up to 6 Victory Mortars.
  • The ships shall have weapons that outrange Level 4 Cerbs and Howitzers.
  • The ships shall have weapons that destroy turrets quickly
These requirements should be based on what you think the ship will be facing when it is doing the thing that you talked about in the system requirements.

Software (Ship) Architecture - What will the software (ships) that carries out the software requirements look like?
Software Architecture is a very interesting field to me, but probably not so interesting to most of you.  All I will say that the structure of a computer program that implements a massively multiplayer online real time naval battle game is very different than the structure of a computer program that controls a jet engine.  For Battle Pirates, this is where you think about the hulls and weapon/armor/special types that are used.  It may be possible to accomplish the Ship Requirements with many different types of fleets, for example, a Siege Missile Mercury fleet or a Shockwave Mortar DNX fleet could be used to carry out the Ship Requirements above.  Here is where you think about what tools you have to carry out the requirements and come up with a general concept.  You will get different strengths and weaknesses depending on the architecture you choose - for example the Siege Missile Mercury will destroy turrets more quickly, but it might not stand up to fire as well as the Mortar DNX.  This is also where you would  consider if all the ships in the fleet are the same, or different (using a countermeasure ship for example).

Software (Ship) Design - What specific modules (hulls weapons, specials, armor) accomplish what? 
In a Software design, this would be where specific modules (functions) are defined, along with their detailed interfaces and functionality.  For ship design, specific modules are chosen to implement the Ship Requirements within the constraints of the Ship Architecture.  For example, Hailstorm B might be chosen for the "...withstand 6 VMs" requirement.  Alternately, loading up on Explosive Resistance would be another option.  Shipyard simulator tools like the BP Outpost Shipyard and Huggy's Shipbuilder are the BP equivalent of CAD tools.  Simulation tools like the Survival Time Calculator or Schmee's Simulator are the BP equivalent of tools like MATLAB.  They allow you to compare different design options and estimate how they would be expected to perform against the enemies you might face.

Design is the art of balancing what is desired to be accomplished (the requirements), within the constraints of what is available (the architecture), at a reasonable cost (build time or coins).

Software Code (Shipyard) - Implement the design 
With a complete design, this part is easy, just put it in the shipyard.  This is often true in the coding world as well, with a good design and architecture, coding is usually a straightforward, low difficulty task.   

Verification (Testing)
For safety-critical systems, verification is a very structured process.  Systems of the highest criticality are tested at each level of implementation - code is tested line by line, modules are independently tested against their design, the software is independently tested against its software requirements, and finally the system is tested against its requirements in a Simulation Lab environment before anything is released to the real world.  In Battle Pirates, a test against an ally's base or fleet is much like the Simulation/Lab test. 

An Example of how this is Useful - The Crossbow SCX
This type of verification has some parallels in Battle Pirates as well.  Some of you might remember the Crossbow article with the video I posted a couple weeks back that showed a single Crossbow gun blasting away at a few layers of walls.  This was the BP equivalent of a low level design (module) test.  If we apply the concepts above to what we were doing at the time, we would have had something like:

Fleet Requirement - Beat high level bases
Ship Requirements - Withstand ballistic fire, outrun splash weapons, hit turrets protected by multiple layers of Level 6 walls.
Ship Architecture - Use blitzing SCX with Crossbow Cannons to punch through walls, carry other ballistics or rockets to finish off ships & turrets.
Ship Design - SCX, Crossbow 2, (didn't really get much farther)

So what we did was to put a single Crossbow 2 on an existing SCX, and tested it with a few walls protecting a warehouse.  Even though we only used one Crossbow 2, we were able to extrapolate the results and decided that the Crossbow really didn't punch hard enough to allow a fleet with a reasonable number of weapons to be able to punch through walls with a single shot.  At that point we decided to not continue building the fleet, since a fleet designed within those architectural constraints wasn't going to be able to accomplish the requirements.  It certainly was much cheaper/quicker to refit a single Crossbow and run that test, than it would have been to refit an entire fleet and find out it didn't work like we hoped.

Back to Asking Questions
Instead of thinking about hulls you'd like to use, start thinking about requirements you'd like to be able to accomplish.  This will guide you in raids, so that you can choose prizes that are appropriate to be used in fleets to accomplish those requirements.  That way, you can quit asking "What's a good Battlecruiser build?" and start asking "What's a good sub hunter build?  I just won Battlecruisers and want to sink some Cudas."

This philosophy can also help you feel better about your "backlog".  Very often, players will complain about the huge backlog they have of fleets to build, in order to build all of the hulls they have won.  Instead of thinking "I won the Vindicator, now it's going to take me 2 months to build that fleet", keep reassessing how you are doing in various phases of the game.  Think about which mission (requirement) you want to be able to do or do better, and try to come up with a design solution using the equipment that you have.  This could help you get out of the "2 year backlog" mentality, and help you focus on the fleet you want to build next, and the prizes you want to go after next.  

Next week:  It's gonna be a raid week - I probably won't do a new Analysis piece on Monday morning.  I'll try to do a pre-raid post about the prizes and any strategy tips I may find, and put up something during the raid if I learn anything new.