Monday, March 31, 2014

The Most Important Hull in the Game is....

Opening Business - Crossbows

First of all - sorry for the confusion on the Crossbow article.  Kixeye wasn't too clear on the description, and I made two sets of wrong assumptions and wrote almost two completely different different articles based on those.  I'm not writing a third, but here's my latest view on them:

How they work:
The Crossbow will fire on a target within its basic range (49 + any range bonuses), when the ship carrying it is stopped for 0.3 seconds.  When the shell hits something, whether it is the intended target, or another ship or a wall in the way, it will do its full rated damage against that target.  Then it will travel its Pierce Range (52), and continue to hit targets in a straight line, doing less damage (not sure how much less) against each successive target.

My evaluation:
Based on its damage, weight, and reload time, I cannot come up with a situation where this weapon would be particularly useful - against bases it will get too attenuated by walls to be able to crack a hole through in one shot.  If you have to stop for multiple shots - you'll get pounded.  Against ships its damage per weight against a single ship is very poor and its ability to hit multiple targets won't make up for it.  Oh yeah, the Crossbow 2 has about a 2 day build time.

Now I'm done with Crossbows.

The Poll Results  

I am writing this article about what I consider to be the most important hull in the game - but I also wanted to get your opinion.  I will have to grab the results a little sooner than I wanted to - I'll be unavailable to work on this blog over the weekend when the poll closes and this article posts, so these results are current as of Saturday morning.

You all seemed to think the Nuke Cruiser is the most important hull, getting 23% of the vote.  Hellstrike and MCX followed.  56% of voters picked those three hulls - which are good for base hits (seen an MCX R5 with launchers?), and also can be good for raids and missions. 

I was wondering about "Other" - the only other hull I could think of that I might have missed would be the Battlecruiser, which is the stepping stone hull for lower level players to be able to get better tech.  It also is a decent sub hunter at R5.

In 4th place, 12% of you chose the hull I'm going to write about - the Spectre. 

Spectre - the Most Important Hull In The Game

Playing the game as long as I have, I believe that base hitter hulls come and go.  I've seen Hydra Levis, Peacemaker FFs, Siege Missile HHs, Blitz Dreadnaughts, Strike Cruisers, DNX, MCX, Threshers, Hellstrikes, Nuke Cruisers, Atlas.... all come and go as the premier base hitter fleet.  

All of them can get in easier if you can use Spectres & take out the guard.  Defending a base against subs is straightforward, but a lot of bases don't do it.  If your base hitting fleet is sub-par, a spectre prep will let you hit a lot of bases you would normally have no chance with. 

For FvF - Stingrays and Interdictors are great.  But Specs can do a lot of damage too.

For Missions and Drac bases, a nice Spectre prep does wonders - these targets are much easier without the ships running around.

For Raids - everyone that used Specs + Crypt keepers (or even Specs without Crypt Keepers recently)

For Dredges - Battery Spectres are able to prep out the ships in the 5x & 6x series.  Taking out the center island after that is a straightforward exercise.

Base Defense is about the only place where Spectres aren't really helpful.  Although... I recently saw an alli mate of mine get his base fleet taken out because a target who was on-line swapped his guard fleet for Spectres at his entrance.   Not really a respect-gaining move, but effective.

In the Military, this type of fleet is known as a Force Multiplier.  So many "easy ways" to do raids, missions, bases, etc. involve spectre prep.  Spectres can make everything else you have more effective.  

Spectre Builds

I have two Spectre fleets that perform different roles - a Speed fleet & a Stealth fleet.  These were designed before B torps, and before retrofits.  I haven't refitted them for two reasons - they are still effective as-is, and if I refit them, I would be without their use for two weeks or so.I'll go through each build as is, and also explain how I'd update them to the latest tech. This should allow players with a wide range of tech options to be able to use the ideas here.  I also show a decoy build for use in Drac Bases or other targets.

Speed fleet

The speed fleet fills one basic role - prepping out guard ships.  In order to do so, it has to be able to stay underwater a long time, and it has to be as fast as possible to be able to penetrate a base's channel before it surfaces.  The build I use is:  

Battery and Engine as the specials are fairly obvious choices - the better turn with Speed System just isn't needed to make it down channels.  Unstable Core 3 could be used if you want the suicide boom.  Some Base Prep Spectre fleets use Reaver Scout Engine - with the range penalty, the fleet is very specialized and vulnerable to any anti-sub measures.  However those fast subs can sometimes get into bases where a Engine3 Spectre never could.

Assault Torpedo V is chosen for the speed bonus - Assault Torpedo B would be an upgrade if you have them.  

The Armor choice is a little up in the air - D3M is used to give some missile resistance, since those are the weapons that are most likely to reach the Spectre as it is intended to be used.  Using all V armor wouldn't be a terrible choice either. 

This build takes 5 days, 4.5 hours per sub, meaning you can have a full fleet of four in 3 weeks.  This is a great deal considering a decent base fleet is usually 8-10 weeks to build.

Tips on using this fleet:
- When hitting bases, you usually want to bring the Spectres as close as possible to the entrance without getting shot at, wait for the surfacing cycle, then make your channel run as soon as you dive.  Bringing the flagship first is a good way to find out exactly how close you can get.  If the first weapon to shoot at you is a halo, mortar, or similar weapon, you can even start your run before you descend. 
- Depending on the layout of the guards, when you make your run through the channel, you should be looking for a relatively safe area at the back of the base to travel to.  Don't rush to go after the guards.  Get out of range of the channel weapons like Cerbs.  If you keep moving in the back of a base, Mortars, Halos, and Brimstones will not land on you.  Javelins, Sentinels, and Vultures are your major worry.  Don't be afraid to take a little damage here - you can handle a few Sents & Javs.  After you dive again, start going after guards.
- Watch your fleet damage bar to see if you are really being hit or not.
- Don't get too greedy - you can return to the back of the base for another surface cycle, and get a second dive cycle's worth of damage.
- Don't be afraid to retreat & start over - you have 7 shots at this (the 8th being the actual hit)

You can prep Dredge Fleet guards with this fleet.  You'll take a few hits with no Rogue crew, or you can use the speed boost from Gearheads to get in & out with no damage.  B torp equipped ships sink their targets faster, so they can get away with no damage. If you are using V torps, and no rogue crew, spread your fleet on the way out to minimize splash damage, and be sure to hit the "whip" ship first.

Stealth fleet

The stealth fleet is for more general purpose FvF.  This can be used to sink many "anti-sub" fleets due to its stealthiness.  This is also my fleet for prepping Mission Strongholds and Drac Base fleets.  These days I'm finding it a little slow, and would really prefer the B torps.  

Cat Drive 3 gives this ship great stealth, and Speed System keeps it maneuverable.  With the additional turn gotten at R1 retrofit, Engine (or Unstable Core) also becomes more viable for an open water Spectre fleet, and gives you more speed.

Siege Torps give this ship maximum punch - it can sneak in close enough to use them. Use the C or X variants with additional damage.  With the Assault B torps, the damage difference is a lot lower, and refitting to those would be an upgrade from the Siege Torpedos, since the extra speed would make up for the reduced damage.

Two D2-S and one D2-V is the armor I've been using, and found I have enough stealth to get almost right under ships without sonar and still be undetected.

This fleet is a longer build at 9 days, 4 hrs per ship.  Another reason for using B torps would be to reduce build time to 4 days, 19 hours.

Tips for using this fleet:
- Good driving is key for beating anti-sub fleets - as they close in, splitting up the subs in 4 different directions is generally the best option. 
- Subs can be launched and used at 1% health.  This annoys your opponents, but keeps you in the game.  Just remember that full health subs usually beat no health subs.

Decoy Ship

This light, fast ship can be used with 4 ship fleets to hit Drac bases.  It stays detected and underwater - thus drawing fire away from your surface ships, but doesn't take damage while submerged.  It takes a little practice to get used to getting in and out of range for the surfacing cycle, but is well worth the effort.  Much like the speed fleet, it is built to stay underwater a long time, but I also want it as light as possible to allow as much weight as possible to be allocated to the surface ships doing the hitting.  It should be faster than the surface ships so it stays in front, but not so fast it runs away from them.

Reaver Scout engine, with no additional speed upgrades, gives the needed speed.  I wanted to have at least 21 speed, and this was the most weight-effective option. Battery gives me the maximum underwater time. 

The Vortex T torps are giving additional turn speed, to allow quicker turn & run maneuvers.  The number of torps can be tailored to match weight so it fits with your specific hitter fleet.  This ship isn't intended to do damage.

No armor is used because this ship should never take damage - you're using it wrong if it does.  Adding armor would just take weight away from the surface ships.

In Conclusion

If you don't have Spectres - I would recommend them as your first priority the next time they are offered.  They have been a useful hull for a very long time, and I expect that to continue.  Build time is very reasonable, and you can get a lot of gameplay out of them.  

Next Week: I plan to release the Survival Time Calculator for public use.  If you haven't seen its use in previous articles, check out 
for an idea of how it works.  The upcoming article will give you instructions and examples so you can use it for your own ship build optimization.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Forsaken Mission Item - Crossbow

First some general stuff:
Thanks to for the mention of my last article on the UAV Simulation - I got ten times my normal traffic on that article.  For you new readers, I try to post a weekly "Monday Morning Analysis."  If you liked it, you can use the Blog subscribe tools at the bottom of the page. I also try to post a quick analysis & opinion article when new items are released.  This article falls in that category.

Also with the UAV Simulation, I had intended for that spreadsheet to be usable by the readers as embedded on the page.  Last night I realized that it was not, and I was able to fix that this morning.  If you want to run some of your own scenarios, go back to the article and try it.

If you saw my initial cut at this article - I had it kind of wrong - I thought the damage decayed by 40% with every successive target the shot passed through - this is not the case.  The danger of trying to get a quick reaction article.  I'm still not 100% sure if this article is correct.  The description in the briefing, "
the projectile will travel to its maximum range dealing its full damage" does not match with the description "Every object it passes through reduces its damage slightly".

ANOTHER UPDATE: The damage definitely drops off as the shot passes through walls.  An alli mate of mine was kind enough to refit a Crossbow 2 onto a SCX & we ran a test looking how the weapon pierces four walls to get to a targeted warehouse. 


I'll try to keep this article up to date as I analyze the video and try to figure out how the damage drops off.

Crossbow Overview:
With this week's Forsaken Mission, the Crossbow has been released as a Tier 2 (Crossbow 1) and Tier 3 prize (Crossbow 2).  With the smaller Crossbow on Tier 2, I think lots of players will be winning the Crossbow 1 (at least) this week.  The Crossbow is a Forsaken, ship mounted weapon.  It is not the "Reaver Javelin" that some were expecting (that sounds more like a raid prize anyway).

Crossbow 2

When I read the description of the prize, my thought was... "How the F*** am I gonna analyze this???"  The difficult part is that the weapon deals additional pierce damage beyond its initial hit.  I'll compute my usual weapon metric of DPS/100t, and compare it to the alternatives.  Then I'll make some assumptions about some scenarios, and run a few more numbers, and we'll see what we get.

First of all, the key to understanding this weapon is to understand how the damage is done.

From the Mission Briefing:

"This Long Range Forsaken cannon requires ships its mounted on to be completely stopped before firing. This Cannon, will deal damage in a line to anything that its projectile passes through, as it hurls Heavy Shells at extreme speeds thanks to high power electromagnetic rails. The Cannon has a maximum firing range of 49 and a minimum range of 30. After shooting, the projectile will travel to its maximum range dealing its full damage. Once it reaches its maximum range, the projectile will then travel to its pierce range distance, dealing less damage to a maximum of 40% less damage. It is not possible to extended the Pierce Range of the weapon, but it is possible to extend the maximum range of the weapon through the use of Hardened Barrels."

(my emphasis) 

Some of you might have seen the first iteration of this article - I initially thought that the damage would be reduced by 40% for each successive target that is hit.  Based on the description above, all the targets within the max range that are in the line of fire will receive full damage.  Then any targets in-line in the additional pierce range (52), will take some amount of damage between 100% and 60% of the full damage.

Crossbow DPS/100T:
The numbers below compare the expected damage per weight of the Crossbow against some other weapons that we are familiar with, that might be used in similar situations.  This does not account for pierce or splash enabling multiple target hits - I'll get to that later.

WeaponBase RangeFleet DPS/hTBld DPS/hTWall DPS/hT
Crossbow 1495.514.453.7
Crossbow 2495.414.253.0
Siege Cannon W409.539.7103.2
Siege Cannon Z4013.372.272.2
Assault Cannon X4252.152.152.1
Chaingun 34623.333.333.3
Thud 44956.9142.0142.0
Inferno Rocket5816.621.921.9

This chart shows that:
  • The Crossbow is NOT an effective anti-ship weapon against a single target
  • Without accounting for its piercing ability, it isn't a very good anti-building weapon
  • It might be effective against walls
  • The Crossbow 1 & Crossbow 2 are very similar in DPS/100t.  Use the larger one if you can in order to save weapon slots.
So with characteristics like this, the weapon seems suited to mix in on a base blitzer fleet.  It might be suitable for anti-ship - if you can count on your enemy stacking up, the damage should be multiplied by 5.  Note that its minimum range might be a problem in true FvF battles.

So if I want to build a fleet utilizing the strengths of the Crossbow, I think the concept would be to mount enough of them to pierce walls, and allow the rest of the weapons to go straight to shooting the turret. Any extra damage from being in piercing range I'll consider gravy.  So... 

Crossbows Piercing Walls: (Needs revision - the crossbow will not one-shot through multiple walls)
I'll use the published Crossbow characteristics to try to figure out how many I need to pierce a reasonable number of walls, and then see if I can build a decent blitz fleet around that.

The Level 2 Crossbow does 3968 damage against walls, and a level 6 wall has 10395 health.  This means that three Crossbow 2s that target a turret behind a wall will be able to destroy all the walls between the ship and the turret with one shot, opening a hole for other ballistic or rocket weapons to attack the turret directly.  With a Crossbow 1 (2509 damage), 5 weapons are required to destroy a Level 6 wall. 

Also note that those 3 Crossbow 2s will do 3 * (968 + 96) = 3192  damage to the turret that was targeted, which is about 30% of the health of a Level 4 turret. (there will be damage done to the turret behind, but it will be degraded)

To compare - 7 Siege Cannon W hits are required to destroy a Level 6 wall, and since those walls block splash, 7 hits will be required for each layer of wall.  Although the Siege Cannons will open a wider hole due to their splash, the Crossbows will cut right through multiple wall layers.

Fleet Design:
I think there are two possible ways to go on a blitz fleet these days - SCX and Hellstrike.  The SCX has the Ballistic bonuses, but the Hellstrike has greater resistances and an extra special slot.Starting with the SCX, I will use the option with 5 Crossbow 1s, and put one on each ship in a 5 ship fleet.

Now these fleets won't work quite as advertised - the crossbows mounted will only pierce one wall layer per shot.  

The Diplomat 4 (516t) stands in for the Crossbow 1 (500t), since it isn't in the Shipyard yet.

Siege Cannon Z are used to give this fleet some punch.  Cannon System 3 gets the reload and range bonus in one special slot, leaving slots for Speed System 3 and CX-3.  Compound Plate 4 gives a lot of armor points for the weight.  Thuds are there for filler... a Phalanx 1 would be a good choice as well.  

This design results in a range of 49 +35% (CS3) + 20% (SCX) = 76 for the Crossbow and 40+55% = 62 for the Siege Cannons.

One more design tip - this usually doesn't matter, but put the Crossbow in the front of your ship, so those shots are sure to arrive first.

Driving it would be interesting - you'd have to target the turret, stop & fire the Crossbows, then start moving again to close range enough to let the Siege Cannons fire.  Hopefully they fire through the hole the Crossbows made, and hopefully they haven't fired at something else - forcing you to wait for reload.  The stop-start technique this would require is not ideal for blitzers, which usually don't want to stop and get hit by Mortar and Brimstone-type base defenses.  Another consideration is that careful targeting would be required in order to avoid wasting shots.  

A build like this on a Dreadnaught might be deadly as well - the extra special would allow Hardened Barrel and Autoloader to be used instead of Cannon System.  Agility System would be really nice to have as well.

Basically, any ballistic blitz fleet laying around might benefit from having a refit to add 5 Crossbow 1s instead of some current weapons.

For Hellstrikes - a carefully designed Crossbow ship could be used to escort and open holes for Hellstrikes carrying Infernos, or a one Crossbow 2 could be mounted on each of three Hellstrikes. 

I'll try the escort concept on a Hellstrike - I need to have the Crossbow range to be just over 63.8 (inferno range), meaning that I need at least a 30.2% range boost to get my Crossbow from 49 range to 64.  This means I end up choosing 35% from Cannon System 3.

For a Hellstrike Escort I end up with:

Full Hellstrike Fleet link: Kind of a quick build - I could increase the armor or even squeeze in a 7th Inferno. 

You could also try a few other types of hulls to be a Crossbow clearer, but if you want it to be out front of a blitz fleet - it will certainly have to be capable of taking punishment.  An SCX might be a decent match for the Hellstrikes.   

Other Thoughts:
On ships with HB3, and adding in the extra piercing range, you could theoretically do damage at very long distances with this weapon.  But you'll have to get the geometry right... you need a target in range, and then your longer range target has to be in the piercing range and directly behind that first in-range target.  I don't think people are going to be reaching out and touching Outposts with this or anything.

Guard fleets might be able to make use of this, as base fleets tend to stack up.  Putting these on Goliaths gives them Thud range... but their actual damage output isn't very high against ships either, so attackers would be best off treating Crossbow Goliaths about the same way as Thud Goliaths... IGNORE.

Verdict on the Crossbow:
This weapon looks like a great addition for blitz fleets, if well thought out and well driven.  Any ballistic blitz fleet gathering dust might benefit from refitting some of these.

For FvF, you'll need your enemy to stack up and stay at your desired range... I would be very cautious about using this in open water FvF battles.

Monday, March 24, 2014

UAV Simulation - How do you stop these things?

First off, those of you who voted in last week's poll picked the Torrent MCX over the Chaingun Ray by a margin of 41 - 9.  Thanks for believing the article.  If anyone builds some Torrent MCX, let me know how you like them.

There is a saying in Engineering: All models are wrong, some are useful. 

I built a model to attempt to simulate what is happening when UAVs go up against defenses.  I used the published statistics and some video analysis to get the data to input.  I'll explain how the model works as I go, and I'll try to point out the limitations.  I won't attempt to convince anyone (even myself) that this model will accurately predict exactly how a UAV hit will go down, but hopefully my model will help us understand what types of defenses might work better than others against UAVs.

Quick Edit (11:30 AM):  Some early responses pointed out that penetrative resistance works very well to stop UAVs from doing damage.  This is absolutely correct, and I didn't try to address that part of UAV defense in the simulation here.  I'm only looking at what configurations of countermeasures work the best.  Mix Resistance % and Plate Subtraction for best results.

Another Edit (26 March 10:30 AM):  Sorry - I intended that you would be able to edit the simulation in place to test out your own defense scenarios, but that didn't work when I posted the article.  It works now.

First of all, I'll explain how my simulation is built.  I used Excel, and simulated in time steps of 0.1 seconds, which conveniently is the salvo time of countermeasure weapons.  
For each time step, 

  1. (Launch Event) UAVs are launched: Number of launchers every reload time
  2. (Enter Def Event) UAVs move into defensive range: Time delay from launch
  3. (Enter Off Event) UAVs move into firing range: Time delay from launch
  4. (Shots Ready) For each defensive turret type: If shots are available, fire shots up to number of turrets & available shots (salvo).  If no shots are available, see if reload time has passed & if so, reload and fire shots.
  5. (Hits/Hornets Downed) For each shot fired, multiply by accuracy to determine how many UAVs are shot down.  Yes, I'm keeping decimals here, since I'm working with expected values.  Remove UAVs in offensive range first, since those are closer.  For flaks, divide number of UAVs by 10 and round up to estimate how many UAVs are downed from a flak shot.
  6. (Firing/Damage) Surviving UAVs in firing range do damage equal to the DPS * time step.  I don't try to accurately figure out when each UAV fires, since I'm just keeping track of the total number of UAVs in range instead of each individual UAV's dwell time.
  7. (Leave Event) After entering firing range, and after swarm time, UAVs leave.  The number of UAVs leaving is equal to the minimum number of UAVs in firing range during the previous amount of swarm time.
  8. (In Range) The number of UAVs remaining in range move to the next time step.

Lucky for me, a couple players were kind enough to hit my base with UAVs, and I was able to play them back and perform some video analysis to determine the UAV travel time.  For you who are interested, I recorded the video with Camstudio, and used Xnote to overlay the time reference.  

Video Link 1: Not sure if he was just out to steal some resources or if he overprepped or if he crashed here.

Video Link 2: This guy just barely avoided losing some medals.

(music by The Dead Weather)

To determine the travel time of Hornets, I tried to find a time where I thought that the carriers were at max range when they launched at a target, and tracked the time of the first UAV between launch and doing damage.  In Video 1, the event I used was when the carrier launched at my first Cerb turret.  It launched the first drone at that turret at time 28.333, and the Cerb started taking damage at time 32.717.  Unfortunately, the first two drones got shot down before taking damage, and I think it was the third drone that got through to begin doing damage.  It seemed to be about 0.7 seconds behind those first two drones, so I estimated the travel time to be 3.7 (32.7 - 28.3 - 0.7) seconds to go from max range to firing range.

Some more estimates I made in that area are:  the defensive range is a average range (weighted by number of shots) of all the different turrets available to fire, and I allowed the turrets to be behind (or ahead) of the target by some distance, so they aren't all on top of each other.    

Analysis: Video #1, First Cerb attack
My first run through with the sim, I tried to recreate the conditions of the hit from Video #1 on that first Cerb - the problem is that not all of the offensive ships start firing at that turret at the same time.  The Triton fires first with three launchers (at time = 28.333), and then the two carriers come in with 8 launchers each some time later (times x and y).  I also think that the range from my Triton to the turret is marginal - I think the hailstorms cover the turret but the phalanx don't, since you can see yellow shots but not white.  What is interesting is that the difference in ranges is only 6 (55.5 vs. 61.6) so even though the UAVs orbit their target, the range calculation may just use the range to their target, because the phalanx would have covered part of that orbit otherwise.

From Video #1 , I see that the Cerb is destroyed at time = 51.671, which means that the UAVs actually took 23.3 seconds between first UAV launch and destroying the turret.  When I run the simulation with 19 launchers, a offset range of 56 (chosen to allow two shots in defensive range before firing), and 5 Hail C on an R4 Triton with CM3, and try to determine the time it takes to do 28,800 ship damage (My Level 4 turret has compound plates, so it has 10,800 health with 33% penetrative resistance or = 10800 * 1.33, then doubled since UAVs do half damage against buildings).  The Simulation indicates the turret should have been destroyed in 7.2 seconds.

Not really very close there... is it?  I have a suspicion on a major source of error... let me look at Video #2, and see how the data looks against an undefended turret:

Analysis: Video #2, Undefended Cerb
I'm using the attack on the 4th Cerb for this analysis.  By this time my Triton is sunk, and so is one of the attacking carriers.  So I have 3 ships with 8 launchers each (24 UAVs) attacking a Cerb, and no countermeasures are in effect.  The turret under attack has ablative panels (no penetrative protection), so it should be destroyed after receiving 21,600 ship damage.   The UAVs are launched at time 2:01.685 and start doing damage at 2:04.727.  This shows a 3 second travel time.  The turret is destroyed at time 2:13.057, which is a video time of 12.4 seconds to destruction.  The simulation shows 5.9 seconds to destruction.  (and I had to leave in 1 defensive turret to get a proper run)

Since the countermeasures aren't playing a role in this one, I'm adjusting my DPS calculation to get the right answer... If I drop the UAV Ship damage from 66 to 11.7, then the destruction time matches.  If I put the conditions back to the conditions from Video #1, the time to destruction is 24.2 seconds - which is actually a pretty good match to the 23.3 seconds from the video.

Although I'm not too comfortable with proceeding with such a large difference in my DPS from expected, I'm going to run with it... mostly since it is Sunday night as I type this, and I'm on a self-imposed deadline.  I will go back to my first statement, "All models are wrong, some are useful"  Let's try to get some use out of this.

Note that I've seen people make statements on the forums that weapons actually only do half of their listed damage.  I've always been suspicious of this, but that could be part of my problem here.

Analysis: Hails vs. Phalanx
To try to see what works better, Hails or Phalanx, I'm going to do some more runs, starting with my Triton configuration (5 Hail C, 5 Phalanx 3, Countermeasures 3, Full Rank and Alliance bonuses for both attacker and defender ships) as a baseline against 24 UAV launchers.  I'll run the sim for 15 seconds, and look at the effects of removing the Countermeasures special, and also of different mixes of Hailstorms and Phalanxes.

CM3?Damage after 15 secondsHail KillsPhal Kills
Triton R4: 5 Hail C 5 Phal 3Y1491126.2586.4
Triton R4: 5 Hail C, 5 Phal 3N1550422.564.8
Triton R4: 8 Hail C, 2 Phal 3Y185984825.92
Triton R4: 10 Hail C, 0 Phal 3Y20328600
Triton R4: 2 Hail C, 8 Phal 3Y141029103.68
Triton R4: 0 Hail C, 10 Phal 3Y156770129.6

First off, I would have expected a lot more damage on the no countermeasures run, the damage only went up by 600 (4%) and I would have expected a number closer to 20% (the accuracy difference.  The Phalanx are more effective than the Hailstorm, likely because of their much greater accuracy.  The Phalanx are limited by the one shot per target per salvo, and my simulation does not account for that, but with the number of UAVs in range, the Phalanx would have plenty of targets on each salvo, so I don't think that is affecting the results.

Another interesting point is that the run with all phalanx did not do as well as the run with 8 Phalanx and 2 Hails.  When I look at the raw data in each time step, it seems like this happens because when there is only one type of defensive weapon they all run out and start reloading at the same time.  The most disadvantageous situation is when the defense holds off a wave of UAVs, but is almost out of ammo.  Then they wait for the next wave of UAVs, fire a shot or two then run out and have to reload.  Then the UAVs start building up.  When the weapons are mixed, one weapon is reloading while the other is still active. 

Analysis: Add a Defensive Turret or Two
Next I'll look at the benefit of adding Flak or Bombard turrets to cover the Triton.  I'll assume the turret is 20 spaces behind the ship target, and mounted with an advantageous special (Barrage Rack 3 for Flak, Enhanced Propulsion for Bombard).  The assumption I made for Flak effectiveness for this simulation, is that if there are 1-10 UAVs in range, the flak shoots down 1 UAV, if 11-20, 2 UAVS, and so on.  I drew a circle around a target, laid out UAVs on that circle, and estimated splash range to come up with that.

CM3?Damage after 15 secondsHail KillsPhal KillsFlak KillsBombard Kills
Triton R4: 5 Hail C 5 Phal 3Y1491126.2586.400
Triton R4: 5 Hail C, 5 Phal 3 + FLAKY61326.2586.4800
Triton R4: 5 Hail C, 5 Phal 3 + BOMBARDY719726.2586.4047.25
Triton R4: 5 Hail C, 5 Phal 3 + FLAK + BOMBARDY90326.2586.47036
Triton R4: 5 Hail C, 5 Phal 3 + 2 FLAKY7026.2586.41100
Triton R4: 5 Hail C, 5 Phal 3 + 2 BOMBARDY198926.2586.4082.5

With only one turret to add, it seems the Flak is the most effective choice, as it becomes more effective as the UAVs build up.  With two turrets dedicated to antis, the two Flak configuration in support of the Triton allows the defenses to almost completely hold off the incoming UAVs.  Although the bombard is useful, it looks like the flak is a better choice.

So what have we learned about defending from UAVs?

- For ship based weapons, Phalanx are better than Hailstorms
- For base turrets, Flaks are better than Bombards
- For the most effective defense, combine different defensive types.

Oh yeah - Here's the sim to play with:


Next week: A discussion about the most important hull in the game  (I've got my answer in mind & I'll be writing my article about it, but I'd be interested to hear yours - Vote in the poll!)

Monday, March 17, 2014

FvF Throwdown... Rays vs. MCX???

Opening notes: I wrote this article before the stats and analysis on the new Atlas & UAVs came out - I think any FvF fleet without countermeasures is in trouble, so these builds are not so well recommended at this point, particularly the MCX fleet which wouldn't be able to quickly close with a carrier.  Also about the game update - Kixeye has reduced the build time on some Forsaken Research items.  Last time my shipyard freed up, I rechecked the build times on Steel, Titanium, and Depleted Uranium armors - since I just posted an analysis of armor build times.  I found the build time on Depleted Uranium has not changed, but the build times for Steel and Titanium armors had dropped by a factor of 1.5 - 3.

My previous article about the Forsaken Mission Prize weapons got me thinking about the possibility of using MCX as a FvF ship, since the range and DPS of the Torrent missiles are in the same neighborhood as the Chaingun.

To decide if a particular ship would be any good, I really need to compare alternatives:

I'll start with a basic Stingray build loaded with Chainguns and emphasizing Evade and Firepower. 

We'll compare that to an MCX build utilizing Torrent Missiles, also emphasizing Evade and Firepower.

These two builds are fairly comparable - both will fit in a 5 ship fleet, and both are around an 11 day build.  The MCX has more Armor and Resistance, the Stingray has more Evade, Speed, and Turn.  Their weapon range is close - the Chainguns have a base range of 46, and get 50% bonus from the HB3 and 10% bonus from the hull, yielding a range of 73.6.  The Torrents have a base range of 58 and get a 25% range bonus from the Strike System3, yielding a range of 72.5.  With the ranges so close, the rays probably wouldn't be able to take advantage, unless they were driven VERY skillfully against a stationary fleet.   Looking at the Shipyard estimation of DPS, the MCX fleet is roughly double the Stingrays, although we already know that DPS does not account for many factors, including reload bonuses or any resistance or evade on the target.

So what I did to analyze these fleets was to put them both into my Survival Time calculator.  Looking at the picture below, Config 1 is a basic build allowing you to see how long each weapon would take to do 10,000 points of damage with no bonuses or resistances.  Config 2 is the MCX build, and Config 3 is the Stingray build.  

Underneath, in the weapons area, I entered the Stingray Bonuses for the Ballistic area and the MCX Bonuses in the Missile Area.
Stingray Reload: +10% Alliance, +25% Rank, +19% Stingray R4, +110% AL3 = +164% 
MCX Reload: +10% Alliance, +25% Rank +100% MCX R5 = +135%
Stingray Accuracy: +20% Alliance, +40% Stingray Hull = +60%
MCX Accuracy: +20% Alliance +60% LT3 = +80%

From the Survival Time, you can see the Torrent Missile 3s (32.2 secs) on an MCX should sink a ship much faster than the Chaingun 1s (82.5 secs) on the Stingray.  Doing some math to combine the 5 TM3 & 1 TM2 on the MCX (invert, add, and invert again), the time the MCX would take to do 10000 points of damage would be 5.9 seconds.  Doing the same calculation for the 6 CG1 & 1 CG2 on the Stingray results in a time to do 10000 points of damage of 10.3 seconds.  This means that the MCX could kill an unprotected target almost twice as fast as the Stingray.  Looking at the ships head-to-head... the MCX uses the survival times of the CGs from Config 2, and the Ray uses survival times of the TMs from Config 3.  The Stingray should last 4.9 seconds under fire from the MCX, and the MCX should last 18.5 seconds when under fire from the Stingray.  

One more consideration... the damage from each of these weapons is 'front-loaded', with the salvo fire followed by a long reload time.  The salvo time has been measured to be 0.2 seconds between shots for the chaingun (resulting in a 5.8 second salvo time for 30 shots), and I have assumed it is the same delay for the Torrent (resulting in a 3 second salvo time for 16 shots).  The reload time for both weapons is 12.5 seconds unmodified, meaning the ray has a 4.73 second reload time, resulting in a total cycle time of 10.5 seconds.  The MCX had a 18.5 second survival time, meaning the MCX would likely be sunk in the second salvo of fire from the Stingray.  The MCX would have a 5.3 second reload time, resulting an a total cycle time of 8.3 seconds.  Compared to the survival time of 4.9 seconds for the ray, this means that the Stingray is sunk within the first salvo of fire from the MCX - it won't even get to fire its second salvo!  

The table below summarizes the data from the article above.

Torrent MCXChaingun Stingray
Total Armor59654993
Combat Speed1925
Time to do 10000 Points of Damage5.9 sec10.3 sec
Survival Time Against Opponent18.5 sec4.9 sec
Weapon Total Cycle Time8.3 sec10.5 sec

 As I was writing this article, before I completed the numbers, I saw the big difference in Survival Times, but I was thinking that perhaps the Stingrays might be able to use their speed to their advantage by leaving the MCX's range during the reload time, and possibly equalizing the DPS disparity by equalizing the cycle time.  Since they can't even hold up to one salvo... this strategy wouldn't be effective.  

Of course there are plenty of other builds that might do better, and certainly the nature of Battle Pirates is that every build has a counter.  In this article, I tried to make a apples-to-apples comparison to see which fleet might do better in a FvF situation.  Many Stingray builds mix in a Rocket or a Piranha to do extreme damage when closing... this might help, but the Stingrays won't get very much time to close in.  And the MCX build could do the same thing... If you are considering something like this MCX build for an anti-reaver fleet - you'll need more turn speed.

One more thought: that MCX Torrent build would work nicely on a Mercury as well, with a build time closer to 7-8 days.  Less resistance and slower reload... but we already determined the reload might not be so critical.

Maybe I'm just spouting from an ivory tower here, so I'm going to try a new feature - a poll!  Look for the poll on the sidebar, and vote for which build you like better.

Next week: I'm thinking about trying to run a time simulation of countermeasures vs. UAVs to see what countermeasure configurations work best to protect your fleets or bases.  No promises...