Friday, July 31, 2015

A little rant on Support.. and the improved Artemis

So I was banned today... just for a couple hours.  

Apparently Kixeye had a problem:


By process of elimination, that hull must be the Aegis (the only hull I used in the FAT that I don't have).

The OP of this post (gtlyons) expresses some fantastic views on the mistaken banning.
https://www.kixeye.com/forum/discussion/562978

It's worth reading the whole thing but here's what I consider the highlight:

 

One neat little twist - the first indication I had that I was banned was that I couldn't get into Kixeye's site at all - I just got a redirect to a black screen.  I had to get in through Facebook to even see that I was banned.  I messaged the other admins on the Battle Pirates Crib to let them know of my predicament, and an hour later one of them let me know about Kixeye's problem.

I've had my suspicions that the "Fair Play" wasn't 100% accurate when two of my alliance mates that I've played with a long time were banned.  I'll admit I can't know for sure what they were or were not doing, but I trust them.  I expressed similar doubt when Caius was banned, but he admitted hacking... so like I said, we can never know for sure.  Do we really think this was the first time a player was banned unfairly?  Do we think it will be the last?

The inconsistent treatment of banned players is starting to seem more like an admission that "Fair Play" is flawed... why do some players get a reset, some get a reset with 500 coins, and some just have to delete a few hulls?  We don't know.

Well Kixeye, when I was able to file a ticket on my banning, and then I got a response after my account was restored, that response didn't even have an apology or an admission that they messed up... let alone compensation.  I'm going to post it below because this is my platform, and the players should know:



Go ahead Kix... ban me again.  Anyway, I didn't lose any time in reality... my tourney fleet had 5 minutes left to repair when I got back on.  But Kixeye, you have damaged your reputation even more.  We see it.  We won't forget it.

So let's move on to Kixeye Support specifically.... you know there's another problem with the response above... my ticket is closed.  So if I tried to respond to that ticket, I would get a response much like:


This ticket was actually about a different issue I had (Elite Tier Uranium not awarded), but they asked me to write back when I had space for Uranium.   This was 5 days later... and I can't write back? 

A ticket isn't closed until the customer needing support agrees it is closed.  Yes tickets can "time out" but not if you are looking for a response.

Alright - enough rant. To torture me some more, Kixeye has significantly changed the stats on the Artemis.

The New and Improved Artemis



They have increased Armor and Max Weight, changed the lousy ballistic boost to a Missile 
(with retargeting) and Concussive boost, given it sonar and thermal, increased the slots to the 8/4/4 Interceptor configuration, and even upped the mine damage (significantly by changing the damage type to concussive).

Now this thing looks like an upgraded V2-H...



This new hull addresses the shortcomings of the previous version - with offensive bonuses and slot configuration very similar to the V2H, better Sonar and Thermal imaging, better concussive defense, and mines, this hull might just turn out to be very desirable.  It will make a great sub-hunting fleet - subs won't be able to exploit its thermal range being shorter than a torpedo's like they can for a V2-H.  Its high speed even matches the Valkyrie, so a mixed fleet of Valkyrie and Artemis would be very simple to put together and could be very powerful in the open water.

And that build time?  No decent hull has been less than 4 days in a long time.

My previous thought on the Artemis was that you really only needed one, and that the best build would be an empty one.  Now, a single Artemis could be a great sub-hunting escort for other fleets, or a fleet of them could really go on the prowl.  In base defense, this hull can provide sub spotting as well as minelaying, so it doesn't even seem like a wasted ship slot anymore.

The tournament might just get a little more competitive.  What sticks in my mind is that if Kixeye is willing to release the new and improved Artemis, how was the old one approved?  Who thought players would like it?  It shouldn't take "The BP Professor" to point this stuff out.

One more thought I'm having.... the wheel of weapon love hasn't landed on "missile" in quite a while.  It might be worth holding off on a serious build of these until we know what's coming.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Artemis and a little bit of Tourney Advice

The second iteration of the "Toybox" Forsaken Arena Tournament is on, and I wanted to give a review of the new hull prize.  I also have a little bit of advice, so read on...

The Artemis:

 

This hull is the first minelayer we have seen.  It lays up to 4 Cryo mines, which seem like the ones we have run across in the Arctic-style Draconian campaigns.  Hard information on these was tough to come by, but it looks like there has been an update to the blueprint since Wednesday when we took a look at this hull on the Battle Pirates Crib show.  The Mine damage has been changed from "2 Concussive" to "4296 Radioactive".  That's not small potatoes!  On the show we had more of a wait-and-see attitude towards this one, but with the mines doing significant damage (as well as laying a cryo field), the Artemis might have some uses.

Mines may be of most use in PvE targets, where ships that don't have sonar could be easily lured into running into mines.  Even ships with sonar might be distracted by mines, taking fire away from the player's ships. In PvP, players will be able to see and react to what you are doing.. although ships with no sonar would be vulnerable anyway.  This may also be a good addition to anti-sub fleets.  

Base defense with the Artemis would be tricky - ideally you'd like to lay mines in your channel, but since ships move towards the enemy, you'd have to start your Artemis on the inside of your base and let it move outward to lay the mines.  That seems like awfully preppable behavior.  Depending on the drifting / homing behavior, it may also be possible that simply putting this ship on the inside and letting it sit still while laying mines would work out.  I think it will take some experimentation.

When building this ship, I would recommend keeping it light.  Although it has some ballistic enhancements, it really doesn't have enough slots or weight to be useful as a slugger, so just use its high speed and keep it out of trouble.  A few countermeasures may be a possibility.  It may actually be a real nice match for escorting Valkyrie Carriers...

Overall, I don't see a reason to build a fleet of these, so even if you only win one, I think you'll be satisfied.  The question is - will it earn a place in your build queue?  Maybe... I'd rather have a fleet of Fusion Cruisers, but a one week "detour" to build a light Artemis might not be a terrible idea.

Arena Advice:

The biggest difference in the Arena format this month is that the Toybox has been focused quite a bit.  The numbers of hull (regular and flagship) and weapons has been narrowed a lot.  There is really only one hull for each weapon type, and only 1 - 3 weapons of each weapon type.  The Flagship choices have narrowed to only the Grimshine Wrath, Grimshine Berzerker, Frostburn Interceptor, and Phantom Nighthawk.  Armor choices are also narrower, but almost the full range of special and tactical module choices are available.

The biggest mistake I'm seeing in arena builds is the flagship choice.  Many players are using the Frostburn... because the Frostburn is awesome.  But what is the Frostburn accomplishing?  Is anyone getting inside the field?  Firebats sure aren't.  I think the Grimshine Berzerker is likely the best flagship choice for most (non-Firebat) Arena fleets.  The fleet defense, speed, and triple salvo you get on overload helps all your ships just when you need it.  The Grim Wrath with its offensive shockwave might help rush fleets, or help Proto-Masts with the missile reload bonus.  One of the very early articles I wrote on this blog was an article about fleet design - make sure you have a concept of how the fleet is going to work.

My other piece of advice is that you should favor offense over defense.  You want to get the maximum number of points with the least amount of repairs, so just deal heavy damage.  Sometimes you will be outclassed & get your butt kicked.  In that case, you'll want the minimum repair time to get back in there.  So leave the Reaver Bulkhead at home & load up on weapons.

A few other notable changes with the Arena:

  • The straight Win totals for prizes has gone down a lot.  You can win tournament fleet repair tokens at 2 wins and 3 wins. I plan to use them when I want to get an extra fight in before going to bed.
  • You'll need to be in the top 50 to earn a hull blueprint, not the top 65.  But 25 wins will get you a hull no matter what (although... I'm guessing 25 wins will get you into the top 50 in most brackets).
  • The amount of Uranium it costs to open more fleet slots has gone up quite a bit. The cost is 10k to open the 2nd fleet slot, then 15k, 20k, and 30k for the 5th slot.  (the 5th slot used to be 10k.)  Having extra fleet slots gets you extra battles and also lets you try different fleet combinations.  It is also useful to help you manage your time better, allowing you to (hopefully) choose between a fleet with a short repair or a long repair, depending on when you want to fight again.
Overall:
Although the Arena format heavily favors big coiners, I think we are seeing that not too many players are coining heavily.  Non-coiners with a little dedication and skill can earn a hull prize in these FATs, no matter how long they have been playing or what hulls they have on their dock.  So get in there & give it a shot!

Friday, July 24, 2015

New Forsaken Missions - What's up with that 85?

Well, the new mission format is here, and we're all going to have to deal with it.  I'm not going to break down the new format in detail.  If you still are unclear on the concept, I suggest you head over to either:

The Kixeye Forum post at: https://www.kixeye.com/forum/discussion/559990

Or 

Watch URF and I on the Battle Pirates Crib show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syFTyhsvlsM

A couple notes on the new format...

- The 4.5 Million point level to reach Tier 3 in the new format will give you slightly more uranium (26,500) that you used to get (25,000) and access to the same prizes that you used to have, with the exception of new prizes that will be released.  Two of three new prizes are in the Elite tier, and I expect that trend to continue.  
- Eight (8) level 85 targets are needed to complete the Elite Tier the first time.  Resetting and doing a ninth will allow a repeat of Tiers 1 - 3.  Doing Elite twice will require a total of 18 level 85 targets plus a little more.  This is theoretically possible over 72 hours without coining if you can do a target with under 4 hours of repair, but will be difficult in practice for anyone with a life.  Nine Level 85 targets (3 per day) is more reasonable without coining, and will probably end up being my usual goal.
- If you go for the reset, make sure that you have room in your token inventory before earning more.

I'm not going to do a detailed breakdown on the new prizes either.... again, check out the webshow or the Kixeye forum post. In brief we have:

Lockdown Rockets (Tier 3): With a 75% slowdown, these are a good way for rocket-enhanced hulls to get the same advantage that ballistic hulls can get using the D33-DR cannon.  Combine them with Dragonfire or Inferno rockets so that you deal out some hurt to the ships once they are slowed.  May also be really useful in a base guard.

Zynthonite Armor D5-R (Elite): Same armor points, weight, and build time as the other D5 armors, but giving 14% radioactive defense per piece instead of the 10% from the D4-R.  On a build where you are worried about incoming launcher fire, and your evade is much higher than your radioactive defense, then D5-R may be more useful than D5-E.  Also depending on your retrofit levels, swapping D5-R & Guidance Scrambler for D5-E & Reflective Coat may give you similar bonuses with less build time.  Play around with that one in Huggy's (thanks for the reader tip on that one).

Fusion Charger (Elite):  With a 3x charge for 20% weight, compared to a 1.5x charge for 14% weight, the Fusion Charger makes Gauss obsolete.  And it also ups the Shockwave damage... so there's an even bigger bonus.  I would like to do a study on the various hull and charger combinations, but I'm not yet sure everything is working as advertised, and I'm not sure how all those charge multipliers stack yet, so I'm going to hold off until these things are better understood. (good thing I didn't try to do the full DPS calculation - they changed the "display" on the shockwave damage between the time I wrote this and now.  It now says +6% Shockwave damage and +30% max Shockwave damage instead of 106%/130%.)

So after all that, what I really want to do in this post is break down the Level 85 Military Stronghold.  (new XL rockets will have to wait for another post)

Fleet Design
Although these Strongholds are daunting, they fundamentally require the same type of fleet that the previous generation needed. 
  • High evade
  • Long range weapons with good building damage
  • Missile and Ballistic defense
  • Phalanx countermeasures.  
I prefer Speed and light Hail coverage, but other players use lower speed fleets with good Hail coverage.  The 85 target does have lighter mortar and missile density, but the radioactive launcher weapons compensate.

I've been attacking it with (mostly) my Frosty Crusader fleet ... it has really been my "do-everything" fleet for a while.  I'll share the build again in case you don't have it: https://www.dahippo.com/bp/ship/#!70MI00V0U400V1V2B5B684L191B0L1B1B1B1B06G01R1R401R5B686A1S4L5123232323000006G01R1R401R5B686A1S195123232323000006G01R1R401R5B686A1S195123232323000006I000000000001S0000000000001900000000000VdB
(I usually leave the Monarch at home, but it's really handy in dredges.  In targets like this it tends to be a mortar magnet.)

A really important element of the fleet is the countermeasure ship.  Although not usually useful in PvP, a dedicated countermeasure ship can do wonders in PvE targets.  Many hulls can be made into good CM ships, but the best have two traits - speed matched with the main fleet (whatever you have), and accuracy increase on the hull.  Note my Frostburn doesn't have that second trait.. but I make do.  Great hulls for CM ships include the Aegis (+20%), V2-C (+15% at R2), Vindicator (+20% at R5, +40% at R9), and the Battlecruiser (+20% at R4, +40% at R7).  The Battlecruiser is a little light on weapon slots - you might want two if using that hull.

(In the comments, a reader pointed out that the Avenger makes a great CM ship.  With the +20% accuracy, speed matching, 4 specials, and 8 weapon slots, I totally agree)

Target Breakdown:
I'm going to go through each part of the 85 target and talk about how to attack it.  

One great resource for this is the info dump at bp-information: http://bp-information.blogspot.com/2015/07/fm-lvl-85-fleet-breakdown.html  
I've used the data from that post for DPS and range information.

Charger Fleets: The first element of the 85 is the fleets that come out at you.  These consist of two groups of ships, each group has 2 SCX and 3 Interceptors.  The SCX are armed with HB3/AL3 Scrambler and Disruptor Cannons, and the Interceptors are armed with SFB3 Strike and Achilles missiles.  The Interceptors also have a thermal range of 80 - so using subs is pretty much out.

I like to approach from the SW/NE sides to attack these fleets.  If you come in straight from the corner, the SCX will reach you simultaneously, so coming in a bit above or below the compass direction will help spread out the times when the ships reach you.  Unlike most Reaver ships (and even the DNX in 65s) these ships don't have any surprises for you if you get too close, but moving away to keep them at range will reduce the number firing at you at a time.



One more thing I show on this picture is that I keep my Frosty just a little bit closer to the enemy than my Crusaders.  Although I don't want my ship fired on before the Crusaders are in range, I do want the Frosty to tank fire.

After the first group is killed, it is generally better to wait for the second group to come down, because they will be spread out even more.  I also pick off the two torpedo turrets on the SW/NE sides with this fleet to get ready for the next part.


Stay-Home Kodiaks:The eight Kodiaks remaining after the charger fleets are gone are not particularly tough, but they are armed with Siege Missile Z, so they will deal out some hurt, and may evade a lot of countermeasures.  With no sonar or thermal in the area, the best strategy for these is to use subs.  Some players use Phantom/Nighthawks and drive into the base.  I used my Magnus Drive/Battery Spectres.  With a flagship sitting out of range, the Kodiaks will come fairly close to the edges of the base, giving you plenty of time to enter and kill two, then get out of range before surfacing.  The other two are easy pickings once you dive again.  One of the ships sometimes sits a bit too far in to hit without driving into the base, but don't panic, you really do have plenty of time.




Time for a Rim Job: After all of the ships are gone, I take my Frosty Crusader fleet and go around the outside rim.  I do not go after the smaller SW/NE islands protected by the Wendigo.  A few things to watch out for on the outside:
Rocket and Coax Turrets:  The Rockets have a 72 range, Coaxs have 76.  Getting too close to either one will result in unnecessary damage, so don't do it.
Cryo Launchers:  There are two clusters of cryo launchers.  Since these have long range and are not interceptable, I regard them as a top priority target, and will shift click to target them when I can.  I do still watch my driving to stay away from the Coaxs protecting them.
Torpedo Towers: There will be 2 left.  If you use the walls (and have enough range), you can kill them while avoiding being fired on.
Mortars: Most of the time, you will be out of range of the center island mortars.  Just keep moving as you go down the long sides.



Move in for the Win:

After the rim job is complete, I move in to finish the job.  I start with the smaller island, and I stay very aware that the Wendigo is my biggest threat unless I drive stupid, in which case I'll take Coax and/or Rocket fire.  I am also in mortar range in this location, so I can't stop for too long. If you don't have a Frostburn or an Aegis, you might want to come at these islands from the ends, where you won't be susceptible to mortar fire while you are slowed from the Wendigo.  You'll just have to work your way through the short-range turrets...

 

After the side island is killed, I come around to the long side of the main island.  On this pass, I watch out for the Coaxs again - there is plenty of room to drive a path angled away from the island if I need to.  I then loop around the second small island, again focusing on the Wendigo while staying away from the short range turrets.



A final pass down the other long side finishes the job for a total of 6.4 million points.

On this run, my total fleet repairs were a little over 3 hours. The best I've done so far (with this method) is just over 2.  My Frostburn was just about half damaged, so it should be possible for me to do a second one (maybe with a little less tanking) and then do a longer offline repair.  

Overall
I'm sure there are plenty of readers who are saying "I don't have Frostburns or Crusaders!"
I hope the methods and driving techniques I discussed can help players who have a wide range of fleets.  I suspect you're going to have to have something better than Mercuries (please go ahead and prove me wrong) to beat these, but this article should help all players get a better understanding of the techniques and fleet designs to be going for.  

One more special that would help a lot, (which I didn't use) is the Siege Battery.  The extra turret resistance and damage could make up for a weaker weapon set.  Especially on a 4 special hull like Interceptors, Siege Battery should be a special you consider if building a "weekly mission" fleet.

Yes, the weekly mission got harder to complete.  I'm not sure I'll be doing much else during the three day mission period.  This week a couple of neighboring pirates managed to give me 24 hour bubbles while leaving my dock untouched, so I thank them for that - it helps keep the heat off while I figure this stuff out (no not a frubble, they just failed despite me being in the middle of an Enforcer refit).  

Kixeye has justified this by saying the new Elite Tier items are "event-level" prizes.  That's all well and good, but if we call this weekly an "event", then in very recent months, this game has gone from 1 raid per month, to 2 raids per month (add the FAT), to 5 raids per month (add 3 weeklys).  I'm not sure the harder mission is the "right" direction for the game right now, but it's here and we are going to have to adapt.  If you're here, then I hope that's your plan.

Side note: What's with the trolls who bother to follow & read this stuff, then post how much the game sucks?  Don't they have anything better to do?  I came up with a few theories... vote in the poll up top.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dark Tide - One Day In

(OK a day and a half - I've been busy)

Dark Tide has started.  All of the campaigns have been changed around, and any player can do any campaign, so I'll try to round up some tips for everybody.

One important correction:
In my previous article on the new prizes, I had said that using Gauss Supercharger on the Fusion Cruiser would be a waste, since the stacking of supercharges has been additive past one, so the x3 of the FC with the x1.5 of the Gauss should result in a supercharge of x3.5... which really isn't that much better.  A player (fulcrumer) posted the the following screenshot on the Kix forums:

(OK I cropped & added the circle)

Which shows 4.54x supercharge.  I'd like to know what his retrofit level is on Gauss, but maybe the supercharge is stacking differently when stacking between ship + special vs. ship + weapon.  

Campaign Selection: 
The Elite campaign cannot be aborted, but you can launch another campaign simultaneously.  Someone else pointed out the trick to being able to select the campaign when multiple are open - when you click the relay tower, click on the campaign name to choose which campaign to hit.

Recon Campaign:
6,252 points total (57k more if below level 45)
This entry level campaign didn't seem too rough. I would suggest some sort of long range weapon to outrange the rocket turrets, but not mortars since those won't be able to hit the Reaver ships.  Most of the ships are drones, but there is a Scout on missions 2 & 3, a Hades (Remote targeted torrent missiles) on mission 4, and a Javelin turret on Mission 5.

This campaign has no Forsaken Merc ships to rescue, and is only worth 6,252 points to complete (for anybody above level 45).  Only worth your time for low level players.

Strike Campaign: 
458,421 points (420k more if below level 60)
More players will be working on this campaign.  It can be done with Frosty Crusaders fairly easily, but players with that sort of fleet might want to think about attempting more difficult targets, like the Elite.  I'll run through each of the targets in a little more detail:

Strike 1: (21,942 points)
7 Drones, 1 Scout
2 Javelins, Rockets, 1 Mortar

You start in range of four drones... but not too much going on here, I did this one counterclockwise to take out the longer range turrets early.

Strike 2: (29,900 points) 
2 Drones, 3 Scouts
Javelins, Rockets
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> Flee NE (3 points)

Two Scouts start off active near you.  I  also did this one counterclockwise to leave the Rescue ships a clear path to exit.  They are really slow getting off the screen for just 3 points.  It might be a little quicker if you do it clockwise (from the outside), but your ships will need to be fast enough to cover the Forsaken ships as they exit so they survive.

Strike 3: (42,380 points)
3 Scouts, then 1 Sapper when Ships freed
Brimstone, Mortar, Rockets, Javelins
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> Flee NE (?? points... probably 6)

2 Scouts start active.  This one is tricky to get the rescue ships off the map safely.  The first time I did this I went straight for the rescue, but then the ships died when sailing off to the right side, into the Sapper that shows up.  The second time I cleared the right side, then went in to free the ships, but then everything died before the ships got off the screen.  I did this tedious campaign a third time... took out the bottom two Scouts, headed up the right side & took out the upper scout too, then I headed in to try to hit the prison building from above, leaving the bottom turret, but then the mission ended with victory before I could even free the ships.  Apparently that behavior is "working as intended." Some buildings do not have to be killed before the campaign ends, but they are not (currently) marked.

You're on your own to try to free those Mercs.

Strike 4: (48,008 points)
1 Scout, 3 Drones
Napalm, Javelins, Rockets
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> flee NE then exit NW (9 points)

This one is really easy, I just went Clockwise, then stopped after killing the prison building and waited for the ships to leave.

Strike 5: (54,335 points)
1 Scout, 1 Sapper, then 1 Scout, 1 Hulk when ships freed
Napalm, Javelins, Rockets
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> flee SW (12 points)

You start in range of the Scout, and the Sapper starts active too, so you'll have to engage it quickly. The Sapper has long range rockets, so keep moving & try to stay at max range.  After that I went NW to hit the Napalm/Javs, then went to hit the mortar and free the ships.  When the ships are freed, another Scout and a Locust Hulk come in from the SW (where the rescued ships head), so you need to turn and get down there quickly to keep them alive.  After that, you don't have to wait too long for the Forsaken ships to exit before going after the remaining rockets.

Siege Campaign:
(~3.6M points)
I ran through the Siege campaign twice, and found it.. annoying.  The maps are large and spread out.  You often have to double back just to clear an area or pick off a lone rocket turret.  

The Forsaken Rescue ships are worth more than they are in the Strike campaign, starting at 4 points per ship on Mission 2 and going to 12 points per ship on Mission 5.  But all in all, I think if you go through an entire Siege campaign and rescue all ships, you get slightly less than 100 points, so you will need to do this campaign at least 9 times to earn the Elite Mercenaries crew.  NOT GONNA DO IT!

I'm not doing this whole campaign as a walkthrough - it's just too tedious for me to do it again.  I found the most serious threat to my ships in these missions (and the Elite) was the thrower-armed Scouts & Hellhounds.  They seem to be Kixeye's counter to Frosty Crusaders blowing through the previous raid.  When engaging the thrower ships, stacking up will allow the thrower to damage all ships.  I tried to split my Frosty off my fleet to draw the thrower fire while keeping my Crusaders in their range.  I had mixed success.  My Frosty Mastodon fleet did better against these ships (more on this in the Elite section), so I would sometimes try to 2-fleet these targets.

The Hulks with Locusts generally stay stationary.  Since my Frostburn has Phalanx 3 with Countermeasure 3, it shoots down almost all of the incoming UAVs and my fleet takes very little damage from those.  I highly recommend some sort of countermeasures when engaging the Hulks.

The other thing to watch out for are the Pyroclast turrets.  Again, the throwers eat up stacked fleets, but even (old) launchers can be used to out range them by stopping just as you fire.

This obnoxious campaign took about 20 coins for me to complete (with no crew).


Elite Campaign:
(~4M points)
The Elite target in this raid is less challenging than the one in previous raids, and easier to do than the Siege Campaign (in my opinion).  Instead of the tremendous barrage of fire we've seen previously, it seems more like just an extra-large map from the Siege Campaign.  Like the Siege, it's also got plenty of places where you end up doubling back, especially if you try to pick off pieces strategically.

My strategy for this target is to start with the Frosty Mastodon fleet.

(no I didn't actually use these Cudas)

I first engage the Hellhounds, being sure to keep the Frosty between the enemies and my Mastys.  Then I sail North to take out the Jav, first Shroud, and the Pyro, then go after the group of Drones and 2 Scouts, with the same general tactic as against the Hounds.  Use the Frosty to draw fire and keep it moving (to reduce thrower damage).

After those ships are dead, my frosty is usually pretty close to dead too, so I retreat and bring in the Frosty Crusaders.



They sail south to take out the bottom cluster of turrets and then activate the 2 Scouts.  I used my Frosty to draw thrower fire from the first one while the Crusaders killed it.  The screenshot shows how I was able to pin the second one against the wall and stay out of range of the throwers while killing it.  After that I come back for the drones, then retreat.  Engaging the half-shrouded turret cluster just north of the drones would be pointless.

After that, I sail the long way around to the Northeast side to take out what I can - the Hades would be a real pain firing missiles at me while attacking the Locust Hulk in there, so taking it from the outside is great.  The mortars will be firing at you, so you have to keep sailing by - you can't stop to shoot at the Hades.  Make a pass to kill it on the way back if you have to.  After the Hades, I keep going to take out the turrets on the large island.  I sometimes take out the Pyros by the mortars from Arbalest overshoot, but they don't pose a problem to take out later.  

After killing those targets, I sail back around and work my way through the base.  I have to keep moving to engage the Locust hulk because of the mortars.  It will fire rockets if you get too close, so my path is a bit of a balancing act to keep my distance from the Hulk, but not get too close to the shrouded Pyro on the other side.  

World Map Targets:
With fewer choices on the map and more choices in the campaigns, players are hitting a lot less of these, and I think it's taking longer for sector bars to open (point levels needed seem about the same as last time).

Remember  that you can choose your entry point on these targets, so choose wisely.

23: (851 raid points, 10 Sector Points)
3 Drones, 2 Scouts

The Reaver ships are shockingly slow in this one.  You're just not getting any raid points to speak of when you hit it.  

43: (27,090 raid points, 100 Sector Points)
4 Drones, 3 Scouts, 2 Hades

The Reaver ships here still aren't very fast... I suspect a decently built Mercury could match them.  I entered from the SW and had 2 Drones & 2 Scouts activated.  I tried to run south before engaging them to stay out of the Hades remote targeting range, but didn't go far enough.  I then came in to finish the Hades and the remaining ships.

65: (381,979 raid points, 600 Sector Points, 600 Uranium)
7 Drones, 2 Scouts, 1 Hulk, 1 Sapper

There's a few videos on these - the generally recommended tactic is to enter from the north and take out the drones and scouts with a surface fleet (maybe using a sub decoy), then sub out the large ships.

The videos mostly show Nighthawks - I was able to do it with my Magnus Drive Spectres by entering from the SW, taking out the Sapper, surfacing far enough from the Hulk to avoid activating it, then I came in and managed to sink the Hulk about 1 second before I surfaced.

Here's one video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adP0dpqgbCw

Let's try a Western theme for this roundup - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good:
Just about anyone can find a target tailored to their capability. The points on the Strike campaign are pretty low for the higher levels, but it should be doable for just about all players who have any sort of decent fleet.  I also think the Elite campaign's level of difficulty is not too high for most players to attempt it.

Oh, and have I mentioned that the new prizes are pretty amazing?

The Bad:
The most exciting new feature of this campaign is the Forsaken Ship Rescue.  Unfortunately, the "sometimes a level just ends" feature and the "wait a long time for the ships to leave or you don't get credit for the rescue" feature make it slow and tedious to rescue ships.  In addition, I think you'd have to do 9 Siege campaigns, or pretty much the entire raid on Siege, in order to earn enough points for one of the Elite Mercenaries crew.  Getting the Rescue points in Strike is totally pointless.  We need more prizes at lower point levels, and I think if the Forsaken ships are alive and the Reavers are not, I should get credit for rescuing them.

Oh yeah, and good luck opening the sector bar when nobody wants to hit the map targets...

The Ugly:
The level design.  The targets are very spread out which just makes the whole thing take forever.  The Siege Campaign is full of rocket turrets that are spaced out all by themselves. They aren't any challenge, but it sure is annoying to sail out to kill one and sail back.  The multi-hit method I detailed in the Elite is also somewhat tedious.  Why can't I just sail around the right corner to continue my prep?  This may have been an attempt to make players think strategically about how to approach the targets, but it really ended up just being annoying.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dark Tide - Raid Info & What to Get

If you read Monday's article on the Fusion Cruiser and the D98-U early - I did forget to paste in the side-by-side hull comparison chart, so if you are interested and you missed it, scroll down and take another look.

Official Raid Info:

Overall, the raid is similar in structure to the last one, with three tiered campaigns + Elite campaign, map targets, and a Sector Bar.  The big difference is that all of the campaigns are going to be available to all player levels.  This will be a big benefit to the high level non-coiner players, who should be able to grind out Strike Campaigns at a much lower cost than Siege.

One other important detail is that the Elite Campaign is non-abortable.  This was true last raid as well, but it has been specifically announced this time.  If you don't think you can finish an Elite, don't start one, because you might be stuck begging someone else to finish it for you.  Kixeye also says in their post that there will be an expiration timer, so you might not be locked out of all campaigns for the rest of the raid (previous expiration timers counted down to expire at the end of the raid).  They also say that you can have multiple campaigns active - last time that seemed to work from the campaign window, but I didn't seem to be able to actually attack the second campaign I launched, so I was stuck attacking the Elite one only.  

It also seems like they have reduced the variety in map targets (23, 43, 65, and 90) - if the composition of the specific target numbers is the same, then it looks like they will be moving toward fleets only.  I thought the base-type targets took to long to complete anyway. 

I guess the 85s have disappeared?  

I think it's going to be more difficult to open the sector bar this time. The diversity of target choice has gone down, and some of the weaker Level 60+ players who resorted to hitting 40-level targets for raid points will be hitting Strike Campaigns instead.

Reaver Assault Platforms will be available again to drop Hellstars and Proto-Nemeses, but the respawn has changed.  Now they will respawn every 6 hours - starting on day 2.  This will give players more chances to try them.  The new Elite crew earnable from this raid (see Monday's post or the Kixeye Tips post) will probably be very useful for those Crusader drivers hitting 90s.  The announcement will now be a ships per hour meter, instead of a chat announcement.  That actually sounds a little more useful to a data-oriented guy like me, and will (hopefully) cut down on the chat spam followed by snarky comments.

The Sector Bar structure also looks similar to previous raids.  The only stat buff this time will be a 10% speed increase at 40% points.  80% points opens the sector store.  70% / 90% completion gets 5% / 15% point bonuses, and 100% opens the Reaver Assault Platforms.

What to Get:

The new hull and weapon are detailed in Monday's article.  If you've read it, you know that the new items should be the top priority for any player.

Prize recommendations - 
Green is "All players probably want this"
Yellow is "Maybe get it"
Red is "Probably useless"

Tokens:
24 hour Ship Build (2.75M) (limit 4)
12 hour Ship Build (1.4M) (limit 5)
1 hour Ship Build (120k) (limit 12)

These are yellow because their usefulness depends on how much it costs you to get them.  The largest tokens are the best deal in terms of benefit/point.  These point levels and limits are the same as last time, allowing a player to spend up to 19,440,000 points to earn one week of ship build speed-up.  You will be subject to token capacity limits so you will need to spend tokens before buying multiples of the same type.

Tier 5: 
Fusion Cruiser (12.5M):  This hull will give any launcher a big enhancement with Range, Reload, and Supercharge bonuses, but the new D98-U will especially benefit.  This hull is like the Crusader for Launchers.

D98-U Antipode Launcher (5.5M): This launcher has a longer base range or 94, and also a quicker, larger shockwave.  it also adds an "Auxiliary Shockwave" at half charge which debuffs radioactive resistance.  This will be a great upgrade compared to any launcher, but will work especially well on the new Fusion Cruiser.

Sector Store:
Reaver Bulkhead (5M): You don't want to build a ship with all Reaver Bulkhead Armor, but mixing one into a build will seriously up the armor points without too bad of an increase in weight or build time.  If you've been unlucky in the Forsaken Mission so far, you may want to get this one.

Grimshine's Berserker (25M): This limited flagship hull gives a triple salvo and a defense bonus when it takes overload damage.  This one may be an alternative to the Frostburn as an effective flagship for a Fusion Cruiser fleet.  There may be some targets that can stand up to the normal amount of fire from FCs, but surely not a triple salvo!

Warbird Carrier (12.5M): This limited hull (limit 2 in this raid) is another 4 special carrier hull, like the Valkyrie available from the recently completed Forsaken Wallet War.   The Warbird, at speed 12, is slower than the Valkyrie and doesn't have the anti-sub capability, but it also gives special override UAVs and a nice damage bonus.  It can be used effectively in both base defense or in open water.  12.5 million points each is a bit expensive ... but possibly worth it if you have a use in mind.

Impulse Launcher D92-S (4.5M): With the release of the D98-U (for just 1 million points more), I don't see any situation where you would rather use this launcher.

Mastodon Model (5M):  This model isn't too objectionable like some of the other ones we've seen, but I think it looks too much like the Proto-Mastodon, leading to confusion.

Tier 4: 
Zynth Armor D4-R (3.5M): Radioactive Defense will be very important, and D5-R doesn't exist (yet).

Compound Plate IV (4.5M): Not an awful choice, but I think I prefer the specialized plates based on what I expect my build to be doing.  

Reaver Scout Engine (4.5M): Useful for decoy subs or perhaps drone carriers, this can be used well if you have the right build in mind.

Pandemonium Mortar (5.5M): The very high splash of this mortar makes them more useful than the higher (theoretical) DPS Searing Barrage Mortar.  I think a D98-U Shockwave will be doing even more damage though.

Mastodon (7.5M): I like these against Reavers, which we will be seeing for a few more months (at least).  If you can't beat the Kraken to get a Proto-Mast from Snowfall, this is an alternative.

Berserker (9M): Between the fact that their only real bonus comes from taking damage combined with their 150% repair modifier... I just have never been a Berserker fan.

Cryo Launcher D104-N (6M): These are probably the second-best launcher to put on Fusion Cruisers, but not even close to the D98-U in damage output.  Why would you spend more 0.5M more points for these?

Inferno Rockets (3.5M): With the release of longer-range, quicker-build Dragonfires, these don't seem to be worth it anymore, but maybe as a last resort if you won Goresabers without Dragonfires.

Magma Throwers (4M): Some people like these, but I think they are too short range to be really desirable.

Tier 3:
D5-X Compound Armor (2.2M): This is my favorite armor special, even though may players prefer one of the alloys.  This is lighter than alloy and I have focused my retrofit uranium on it.   I also think that weapon damage types have become more diverse, so you can't really count on being able to avoid any particular damage type in a fleet for raids, base hits, or FvF. 

Maelstrom Rockets V (2M): These have come down in price from 3.5M last month.  If you don't have Dragonfires for a rocket hull, this can be a decent alternative, but you will want Cluster Warheads and high rank with these.

Poseidon Depth Charge 3 (2M):  A bit specialized for sub-killing.  If you know you want these, then they are worth getting, but the Poseidon 2 might be a better value for points and build time.

Nuclear Cruiser (2M):  Oh dear how the once mighty Nuclear Cruiser has fallen.  If you really can't get the Fusion Cruiser, and you don't have the V2-C, but you can scrape together the 5.5M for D98-U, then get this hull and start it in retrofit.  But you really want the additional 10.5M for the FC.

 Unstable Core III (2.2M):  This might just be my preference, but I hate building ships just to blow them up. 

Reaver Chaingun 3 (1.85M):  No, you want the Bypass Chaingun if any chaingun.

Tier 2:
Hurricane (400k): If you want a cheap way to get a lot of Firebat Drones into the water, this is your hull.  Lots of Firebats MAY be an effective way to take down Fusion Cruiser fleets (or any launcher fleet), as I don't think you'll be able to build a shockwave on a drone before killing it.

Poseidon Depth Charge 2 (100k): At this price, it is tough to tell someone not to get these really capable sub-killers.

Compound Plate II (350k): The way Compound Plate scales, the bigger ones are more efficient for damage reduction and build time.  You just don't want to use this one.

Assault Rockets D93-S (400k): Meh.  Kinda heavy, not that good, long build.  If you're using these, you probably could use  non-S Assault rockets instead.  

Unstable Core II (200k):  This might just be my preference, but I hate building ships just to blow them up.  With the slower speed, you won't get in range anyway.

Strike System II (200k):  You're just not going to want to use this long-term, you want Strike System 3.

Tier 1:
Battlecruiser (60k): A solid starter hull, and with the R10 upgrades this is useful even to high level players.

D1-M (40k), D1-C (40k) Armor: These armors can be useful when you want to add resistance without adding a lot of weight.

Poseidon Depth Charge 1 (40k): Sure, pick these up, but I think PDC 2 are in the sweet spot for this weapon type.

Unstable Core I (30k):  This might just be my preference, but I hate building ships just to blow them up.  With the slower speed, you won't get in range anyway.

Firestorm Rockets D91-S (100k): At half the weight, I usually prefer one of the other Firestorm versions (N or L) whenever I am considering light rockets.

Overall:
I have a very strong opinion that the new launcher and hull will be very powerful, and very powerful when used together.  Sometimes I advise players that if they don't think they can reach the hull, at least get the weapon.  In this case, you really want both.  Grind away on Strike or Recon if you have to... you shouldn't have to beg for help.  

Let me answer all questions of the form "Should I get X or Y?" right now...

Get the new ship and the new weapon.  Yes get them both.  

I should be able to post a "One day in" post on Friday like I usually do for raids... let me know in the comments if you want a detailed Strike walkthrough.  Well designed Mercuries and Battlecruisers should be able to blow through Strike.  Again, a countermeasure specialist ship helps immensely in that campaign because the large ships fire Locusts - shooting those down is key to cutting damage.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fusion Cruiser and Antipode Launcher D98U

The Dark Tide event is coming.  I think it was originally name Dark Water, but Kixeye quickly realized that they would confuse all the old farts that like to talk about "black water days", so they tweaked the name a little.  Me - I'm such an old fart that I like to talk about the days when talking about black water days was fun.  So there.

Anyway we've had a bit of official data come out about this raid along with some obfuscation.  There was a forum post off the Wishlist that was making the rounds today, it included Borba's Goresaber and a Reaver short range rocket defense turret along with a complete prize list including a sector store.  As far as I can tell, that post had no basis in reality.

Kixeye Tips & Tricks:
What we do know is what came out in Kixeye's Tips & Tricks post:  https://www.kixeye.com/forum/discussion/558707

This explains a couple interesting things:
- Campaign structure will be similar to previous campaigns, but...
- ALL campaigns will be available to ALL levels

Assuming difficulty is similar to previous campaigns, this will allow high level non-coiner players to grind through Strike (or even Recon) campaigns to earn points more slowly than Siege / Elite campaigns.  I think the players this really helps the most are the players that just crossed level 60 and experience the huge jump in difficulty from Strike to Siege campaigns.

This post also describes the mechanics for rescuing Forsaken ships to earn "Forsaken Rescue Points".  The FRPs can be redeemed for an Elite Mercenaries crew.


Free the ships marked with "!"






Earn points towards the Elite Mercenaries


Use the Elite Mercenaries to help you in the Raid (or maybe some other time...)


My Frosty Crusader fleet is drooling.

I had actually been saving up a bunch of Fearless Blitzers that I want to burn up during the raid (and 2 Grease Monkeys).  We'll see what I end up using.


Speaking of drooling, lets get to the new prizes.

Fusion Cruiser
Kixeye's rotating wheel of weapon love has come back around to launchers this month.  The Fusion Cruiser is launcher-optimized with built in reload, range, and supercharge bonuses.

This info didn't come from an official raid briefing thread, but DOOMROOSTER is posting this stuff, so I believe it:  https://www.kixeye.com/forum/discussion/559216

How does it stack up to other launcher ships?

I did make the assumption that the build time posted in the thread (by DOOM) was the no officer build time (since it matches the current Greta/Nuclear Cruiser exactly).  I also noticed that we couldn't see if there is a repair modifier.  All other Forsaken ships have had 100% repair modifier (or lower), but we don't know what this one will be for sure.

So it stacks up pretty good.  Although it doesn't have the speed of the Interceptor/Hellblazer, it has decent speed, good defenses, and the reload/range/supercharge bonuses will make this ship an offensive powerhouse that has enough defense to hold up in a fight.  (especially when paired with new launchers...)  Although the Greta & Nuclear Cruisers match the reload, they don't match the range bonus or the supercharge.  

Really the best description of this hull is the "Crusader for Launchers".  Compared to the Crusader, it has the same speed & turn, the 8/4/4 configuration, slightly better defense/evade, slightly less built-in armor, much less cargo capacity, and serious offensive enhancement for launchers instead of ballistics.

A few more notes on building these...
- Don't use Gauss Supercharger on this hull, since the x1.5 from Gauss will only get you to x3.5 charge, not x4.5.  It won't be worth the weight or special slot. 
- Like Crusader builds, one Reaver Bulkhead will be an efficient way to increase your armor points with reasonable weight & build time.  More bulkhead than that will probably leave you vulnerable.
- Also like Crusader builds, I expect to see lots of 3 FC + flagship fleets, probably with a Frosty, but it might be harder to match speeds without the +20% speed bonus from the Nuclear Accelerator commonly used on Crusaders (one could use speed upgrade as a 4th special).  A 4 ship FC + blank HLNC might also be a fleet we see a lot of.  However with D98-U, shockwaves will come fast so maybe the HLNC won't be too much of an enhancement.

Antipode Launcher D98-U

(from wikipedia) Antipode: In geography, the antipodes (/ænˈtɪpədz/; from Greek: ἀντίποδες,[1] from anti- "opposed" and pous "foot") of any place on Earth is the point on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to it.

I'm not sure what that has to do with this launcher weapon...



In the thread, DOOMROOSTER also posted that the Aux Shockwave takes 30 charges, and the full Shockwave takes 60.  

At a glance, this weapon looks powerful, but I'll stack it up against the other launchers:


(Woops - no Ballistic Bypass for D92!  I'm busy on the next article so I'm not going to make a new chart)

For the shockwave damage, I added the Auxillary and the Main Shockwave damage numbers, figuring you'll cause both over the 60 charge cycle.  (Aux at 30 and Main at 60, then repeat.  It may be possible that you get Aux at 30 & 60, then Main at 60, but my head hurts already.)

So it may look powerful, but when running the numbers we see it is REALLY powerful.  I was going to just combine the DPS numbers of the weapon damage and the shockwave, but I thought it was more impressive to show them separately, then combine them.  Both the weapon DPS and the Shockwave DPS are much larger than previous launchers.  You can see that the D98-U are expected to do over 3.5x as much damage (per weight) as the next closest launcher (the D104-N).

Those numbers were all run on a "zero bonus" case.  We all know that at higher reloads, the S launchers look better compared to the weapons with a higher salvo, so I'll reproduce the bubble charts for the launchers, but change my baseline ship to a Fusion Cruiser (with 45% reload bonus).



I included the data table since all of the launchers other than the Antipode look like they are sitting on top of each other in comparison.  The surprising part of this chart is that the S launchers did not catch up to the non-S launchers.  I had to stare at that a bit to undestand why, but the reason is that the x3 Supercharge on the Fusion Cruiser helps the U and N launchers much more than the S launchers.  I had to make some assumptions, but we've been told that the bonuses add, but start at one.  

The formula I used to add Supercharges is:  
Final Supercharge bonus = (Bonus1 - 1) + (Bonus2 - 1) + 1 

By that formula, U, F, and N launchers on a Fusion Cruiser get an x3 supercharge.
D104-S starts with x5, and with the x3 of the Fusion Cruiser ends up at x7 supercharge.
D92-S starts with x8, and with the x3 of the Fusion Cruiser ends up at x10 supercharge.
So the relative improvement of the S launchers is much less than the non-S launchers.

I'm sure people will want to see the Legendary case, so here it is:
 
The S launchers pass the non-S launchers with the high reload bonuses, but still aren't close to the Antipode Launcher.

If you are wondering about the "Bpw" number, that is build time / weight (in seconds per ton), so a lower number results in faster builds when using that weapon.  The Antipode, although it builds relatively fast at under 14 hours (with officer), its shipyard 2 bonus does make it a lighter weapon than the other launchers, so it has a relatively high Bpw number (although still better than S launchers).

Yeah... these are the launchers you are looking for.  No Jedi Mind Trick should convince you otherwise.

The other big effect these may have on the game is that having these high damage weapons on an offensive hull with over 98 range will mean that many bases will need redesign.  The previous rule of thumb was (approximately) that players needed 4 large (water) + 2-3 small (wall) tiles to keep snipers from reaching a turret.  This increase of offensive range from 96 (Hornet UAV) to 98.7 (FC + D98-U) will mean that another wall tile will be needed to keep buildings safe.

Overall:
Are these items game-changers?  Let me put it this way:

Maybe you missed out on the Crusader and the Arbalest.  Maybe you won them but didn't build them.  If you fall into either of those categories, you are probably sad about it.  If you won and built them, you probably know someone who didn't, and you may hear (constantly) about how they wish they had an awesome Crusader fleet like that.  If you don't start building Fusion Cruisers with Antipode Launchers, that is how you will feel.  But sadder.    With the removal of level limits from the campaigns, most players really have no excuse to not get these... 15 Strike campaigns over 4 days shouldn't be that difficult.

Or maybe you'd like to see it this way:

(45% rank for all weapon classes, each weapon is mounted on a hull optimized for that weapon type, launcher hull updated from NC R5 to FC)
(Sometime, I should probably update this plot to add Dragonfire Rockets and use Goresaber as the Rocket reference hull)

The first time I made this sort of combo plot, I had to make a separate plot without the Locust UAV, because it kind of collapsed everything else.  Now the Antipode makes the Locust almost fall back into the pack with every other weapon.  Are these overpowered?  Yes they are. Deal with it.  Welcome to Battle Pirates.