Friday, December 16, 2016

Uprising - What did we do wrong?

Well, it's Friday night, I have about 60 million points... I feel like I should write an article.

When I looked at the prize list, and the points/structure to get the Cannoneer, I feel like asking Kixeye what we did wrong.  Why are we being punished?  Is the Zoe Vendetta like the vegetables we have to eat before getting dessert?  Players have never liked 'locked' prizes, where you have to get something before being able to get something else.  When the prizes are related and laddered, we kind of understand, but having to get a niche Limited hull before getting the mainline hull before the next raid... well it just isn't right. 

Anyway I'll start off with my process for doing the 107.  I use a 4 Hellwraith fleet, armed mostly with Fire Twisters (and a couple Mayhems).  What I heard / read was that it was easier to do the bottom 'pancake' first and with some practice I found that was correct.  My process for the 107 is:
  • Clear the bottom five Scouts on the first two dive cycles.  Do not kill the Hellstrike - the oil slick makes it more difficult to complete the rest of the target.  (I find this also holds for the 105)  Don't kill any drones either.... they will respawn exactly where you don't want them.
  • About halfway through the third dive cycle, there seems to be a spot where the drones seem to be clustered at or heading toward the top.  This opens the bottom side of the Southeast pancake. I target it by clicking on it - I don't want to get too close or I'm seen by the drones above the pancake.  (your window is from about 7:25 to 7:15.  Follow the last set of drones on in... but not too close)  Heading towards the right a little bit as you go gives you a little more time.  Once it's dead I head back to the bottom.
  • Clean out the ships that are orbiting the (now sunken) lower pancake.  Also kill drones and then go after the four scouts that started between the Pancakes.
  • There should only be two groups of drones left.  Wait until they are on top, then hit the remaining pancake from the bottom.
  • Clean out the rest.
I can do a 107 for zero damage using this process, but usually end up with 2 - 4 coins repair.  Sometimes I'll take a couple hits from drones when hitting the first pancake, and sometimes I mess up a little with the scouts.  Again, just like last time, the Scouts are best hit by sailing alongside of them so you have more time to stop between your torpedo range and their thermal range.. 

So on to the prizes:

The Cannoneer certainly will be the go-to hull for the next raid with its resistances and ballistic weapon output.  I think the real question is whether they will work best singly or grouped.  I'm wondering this because when hitting mines, I find my Punishers are most effective when working alone.  Since they have enough offensive output to clear turrets in two hits, much of the firepower they would have when stacked up is wasted.  The splash weapons in the mines mean that the stacked ships just end up sharing more damage.  When I use Centurions, they have less offensive output, and also have the stacking field for splash resistance.  They work best stacked up so they can kill turrets faster.

The Cannoneer has the (new since preview) stacking field that provides speed and offensive output.  Whether they will work better stacked or not will remain to be seen, and may even depend on the target.  

The Zelos got better since the preview (when I panned it).  They've added resistance across the board, more deflection, combat speed, and more DPS.  I think with the new launchers or with ballistics (and its +45% ballistic range), it could be effective in the new Siege targets. 

One point many have seen on these new hulls is they have increased repair and build times compared to the times of many hulls since Kixeye made some reductions.  The Cannoneer is back to the old one point per second repair time.  I think what is going on is that we are getting back some power creep.  The longer build and repair times are reflective of the higher power level (performance) of these new hulls.  The alternative is to release hulls that are just as powerful as existing hulls, but the problem is that those aren't really very attractive to the players.  Power creep is necessary, let's just hope it doesn't get too bad again.

If you're unsure what to get in this raid, and you won't have the points to get everything, make sure you come out of this raid with the right hulls & equipment to do the following:

Siege Targets:
You need Radioactive and Ballistic resistances along with a weapon that won't get shot down.  After the Cannoneer and Zelos, Centurion, Punisher or Crusader are your choices (in that order).  If you're going with ballistic weaponry, the Arbalest is a great price this raid and still very effective.  CL-3 Alloy is key, or go after Reflective Plate (and pair with Layered Armor).  Also keep in mind that I, like many other players, expect some new Ballistic weapon + special to be released in the next FM or an upcoming TLC... so make sure you have a backup, but don't overcommit to ballistics right now.  Launchers may also be effective, and the new Squall Launcher + Flechette Feeder will be the best of breed there.

Reaver Targets:
The latest raid target style with these Reavers is expected to replace the current Draconian Armadas as the primary way to get Uranium.  Make sure you have the right equipment to build a fleet to go after these targets too.  If you are using subs, the most important thing is to have 88 range torpedos.  Mayhems are not available (coming from the FM Tier 5), but Fire Twisters are.  You could also go with Tideseekers and either Calamity Scatterguns (if you already have them), or the Concussive Gatling Gun (available in this raid).  

If you want to hit bases and haven't gotten any conquerors yet... the Fury is the best all arounder, but the revenge is probably best against low end bases and the Vendetta will still be effective as a remote target mortar chucker against bases that don't have the new Cataclysm Mortar or Maxim guns.

Base Defense:
A whole lot of base defense weapons are available.  Glacial Launcher and Coldsnap should be top priorities if you don't have them, but the Executioner and Drac Scattergun are still effective.  The Wendigo isn't totally obsolete yet, but I wouldn't spend on it compared to many other turret choices.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Prepping for Siege Part 2 - the preview

There was a raid preview on Friday.  I wasn't able to participate since I have to work during working hours, but I did see some of the outcomes, so I'll share some more thoughts as a follow-up to my last article on getting ready for the next raid cycle.

First of all, I want to follow up on my progress from last time.  I was planning some Punisher refits to specialize those hulls in mines.  Those are complete and I'm pretty pleased with the results.  With an Omega Behemoth flag, I was hitting Level 70 mines with a single ship and taking about 20 minutes damage.  For Level 90 mines, I'm taking about 38 minutes damage when entering from the NE side, and sending one Punisher around in each direction.  I've also been hitting 97s for about 1 hour 15 minutes damage with a similar strategy, but sending my third Punisher through the middle.

I also finished 3 (mostly) blank Centurion hulls - right now they have 2 PACs, 4 D30-R, Hydro Resistors, and Nuclear Accels.  The build worked out to about 4 days 1 hour, so it was real convenient to build with the FM tokens.

Centurions have the splash resist field and lower offensive output than the Punishers - so I tend to use a different strategy with those.  I keep them stacked up to kill turrets more quickly and buff each others' resistance.  The hulls didn't look good in a Level 60 mine (pinged away at a single turret for over a minute) so far, but unranked and unfinished isn't really a fair comparison.  The Arbalests on the Punisher works great - with 4 Arbs per hull, Siege Battery and Siege Targeting, two Arbalest blasts take down a turret and often damage another one behind it.  See the builds from the last article.  (if you do want to use that Centurion build, swap the AP shells for Siege Targeting and drop one PAC... better yet try Arbalests).

I had guessed that this next set of raid prizes would be some new toys to help us in the Siege targets, and from the preview, I wasn't completely wrong.  We saw some new hulls, but no new ballistic gear.  The hull of most interest is the Cannoneer:

The best (or most alarming) stat on this hull is its Siege Deflection of 900.  Compared to the 475 from a Centurion, or 500 from a Punisher, that's a lot of deflection for a PvE hull.  It's alarming because that means that the Siege raid targets will be 'tuned' to give damage to a hull with this sort of deflection, so the Centurions and the Punishers are going to be hit HARD.

The other significant stat of note is the built-in ballistic range bonus of +50%.  This is the first 'open water' PvE hull we've seen with that boost, and it means that 50 range ballistic weapons (like Arbalest & PAC) can have their range boosted to 100 instead of 95.

Another new hull we saw in the Preview was the Zelos, which was a called a "generalist" hull, which is a type we haven't seen before.

It has no built in defensive or offensive bonuses besides the 650 (high) deflection and the 300 (low) DPS.  I'm thinking this hull might serve as a tank for PvE Targets, but I'm not sure it would perform better than a more specialized hull with built-in defense bonuses.  With no weapon bonuses, Launchers (see below) might be the best option here if you are determined to build this... but it doesn't seem as desirable as any of the other options we've discussed as a raid hull. 

We also saw the Zoe's Vendetta, which isn't relevant for the raid.  And for base hitting, I'd rather bring in a Harlock's Revenge.  As more bases get Maxim Guns and Cataclysm Mortars, base hits with Vendettas ringing the outside are going to be a lot less successful anyway.

The new equipment we saw is Launcher-related: 

Flechette Feeder

Squall Launcher

This new equipment looks solid for launcher users, but not game breaking.  The utility of Squall Launchers will depend on how quickly they build a shockwave.  Launchers in general may be an alternative to Ballistics for Siege targets, but the slow speed of the flechettes means that you tend to take more damage when using launchers since they won't land on target as quickly as ballistics (similar to why the Harlock Citadel helps so much in the FM).

But given all this new equipment... what is a player to do?  

The big decision I (and possibly some of you) need to make is whether to keep working on Centurions or whether to go for Cannoneers.

Here's how I'm breaking it down.  The build time of the Cannoneer hull is pretty short, and with another 9-10 days per ship needed to finish out my Centurions... and the ranking... I think I'd rather just switch ASAP to building the Cannoneer and only worry about those.  If they aren't ready for the first Siege Raid, then my Punishers will do.  Because of the overall power boost (creep) associated with the Cannoneer, I really think I'll want them eventually, so why not start now?  If you are trying to make a similar decision, I think the key is whether you think you have something that's 'good enough' for now.  If you don't, then maybe you should keep working on Cents.

I'm not going to decide on a Cannoneer build yet, since I still have a lot of time before I need to come up with it... who knows what Kix will release in the interim through the raid, through the FM, or even through a TLC.  I plan to build 4 REALLY blank hulls as close to 10 days total build as possible... with 5 days of tokens (hopefully) from the raid I might be able to finish all 4 before VXP Weekend.

One more note on the Preview... did they REALLY need to change the S targets?  They are supposed to be fast moving, high damage targets.  If they felt the damage players were taking from the previous raid's S target was too low (on average), the answer should have been to revise it... not add a second one where the only players having success seemed to be those with Calamity Tideseekers (a pretty unusual build as far as I know).  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Prepping for the next raid cycle - Siege

It's been a while since I posted... I've been busy, and I haven't been able to find the time to put together articles like I used to.  So I was thinking about this, and whether I should put together a 'goodbye post'.  But I had another idea... I'm not going to be able to do the sort of in-depth articles that I have been doing, but I still have stuff I want to say about this game.  So I'm going to try shorter articles that are less based on math & graphs & more on opinion.  Let's see how it goes.

So a lot of people have been talking about the raid cycle that will be starting up after this final Reaver hull raid we've got upcoming.  So far we've gotten pretty strong signals that it will be a Siege-style raid, with targets that look a lot like the Draconian Mines we've been hitting for a while.  It's even possible that the new 95 & 97 mine targets are Kixeye's first 'trial' targets for the next raid type. 

So we've also seen the Centurion enter the Foundry, and a new Harlock's Centurion be available through collecting shards.  We also had the ballistic-based Malice Conqueror hull show up in a TLC. What we don't know is whether there will be new ballistic gear, or potentially even a hull, show up in the next raid to prep us for the cycle to follow.

So with all that, I think it's still a little early to plan a fleet and say "this is my next raid fleet".  But I think it isn't too early to look at what you have, and the fleets for doing mines are the logical place to start.  I never built a full fleet of Centurions, I only built a single hull and use it as a countermeasure platform with Punishers in a DUB fleet.  In fact, after the Foundry Centurion upgrades, I messed up that fleet because of the increased speed of the retrofitted Centurion.

What I have used for mines is a Crusader fleet that I refit from base hitters (way back when), and also the Punishers from that DUB fleet.  The Crusaders were refit to improve their performance in mines, and they look like this:

The armor wasn't really optimized, but these ships did all right, and since I didn't use them for anything else, I didn't mind if I took a while to repair them after getting shot up.  The Alloy CL-3 was the key refit on these.

The Punishers for the DUB look like this:

And even as-is, they would do better in the Mines than the Crusaders... deflection was the key.  But I'm looking at a 2 day 5 hour refit on the Punishers that would look like this:

Swapping the CL-3 for the MX-3 and adding 2 D5-R armors will really help me optimize this fleet for mine-style targets.  (a D5-C might be even better with its bit of deflection, but would take longer to refit) I got all my Gamma Shards, so I'm not too worried about ruining this fleet's performance in DUBs (and I would have to find a new CM platform anyway).  One week of shipyard time for the three Punishers will help me hit the early mine targets to collect Centurion shards with much less damage.  My existing ships are fully ranked, so that will save me even more time since they will be all set to go.

My first refit will finish tonight, so I may post a quick update comparing a refit Punisher against an old one and see what repair benefit I get.  I'm guessing damage will be cut in half.

I'm still looking at Centurions, and after I finish the Punisher refits I will start building some blank Centurions to rank in the next VXP weekend.  If it turns out that we get new ballistic gear in the next raid I'll take a revised look at my plans, but with no new gear I'd start working towards something like this:

Compared to my Punishers, these have slightly better defense (resistance AND deflection), but lower speed and lower DPS output.  The splash defense field will be nice too.  I used PACs instead of Arbalest on this build mostly for weight... with PACs instead of Arbalest / Railguns, I'm not sure the Armor-Piercing shells is the best choice.. I'm thinking Shielded Tactical System would be nice, but would add a lot of build time.  Anyway, the whole point is not to stress over a optimal build right now, since we still don't know what else is coming.  

One more note - although the mines do  a lot of radioactive damage, the Radioactive Plate will give you deflection in PvP targets only.  That deflection will be bypassed in the mines and upcoming raid targets. Don't use it for your raid fleet.

Here's the Huggy's link for all the ships in the article:!B06G51R1R401R346A2U6P00232323232323230NH01W130Z342U6A5K2F23232323AKAKAKAKAK2C0NH01W1W1W342U6A6P2F23232323AKAKAKAKAK2C07401W1P1V1P1V382U6A436P2C2C2C2C2C2C2C2C2C2C0ZZdC

Anyway I hope this new article format works for you, I'm also going to spend less time sharing it... probably just in the the 3 'show' groups, so feel free to re-share as you see fit.

(And would you believe this is my 200th post!)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Hellborn - What not to get

No pre-raid post this time, but I'll just combine my "pre" and "one day in" posts here.

Raid thoughts:

Hellborn is here and the raid looks just like the last one.  The one notable change is the addition of the 74 "blitz target".  This target is worth 600,000 points if you kill the Hellstrikes that run away.  If you beat it in one hit, it can be blitzed for a minimum cost of 5 coin, working out to 120,000 points per coin.  For me, I like to be able to do raids for 500k to 1 million points per coin, so using blitz would work out to be a very expensive raid by my standards, but your may vary.  In terms of target diificulty, I tried a couple 74s with the two Tideseekers I built using the build and VXP tokens from the High Tide TLC, and was able to beat it for 4 coin repair.  The keys I found for using Tideseekers there are to avoid drones until ready to hit the mothership, and drive so that you are only engaging only one ship at a time.  Basic stuff.

For most of the raid, I've been using my Hellwraiths to hit 105s and a Grease Monkeys crew to repair, and have just about completed the raid (64M points) using 2 GMs and less than 50 coin.  I've been seeing mixed messages from players in the Facebook groups and such, but I've been having pretty good luck using the 100 Uranium crew rolls lately and I had 3 GMs stocked up.  

The most important tip for this raid when using subs is to come alongside the thermal scouts when firing at them - this way small differences in your ship placement won't cause you to be in thermal range.  Note that the motherships have lower thermal range than the scouts, so you don't have to be as careful when approaching them.  

A couple other notes:

  • The yellow thermal rings seem to pop up a little more often than last time, even occasionally when I'm not near a thermal ship.  I think the drones are involved in triggering those, but I'm not too sure.  I generally try to hit areas that are away from drones until I have to.
  • When my Hellwraith fleet is full strength, it will kill a scout in one volley, so sometimes I will stop my fleet in front of a scout and let it creep into range... but your fleet may vary.


The new prizes are the Valiant - a new defender hull, a Harlock Tideseeker for finding Phantoms, and a new Scattergun weapon and corrosive special.  In addition there are two limited component prizes that will be available for only the first two days of the raid.


This hull has pretty good armor, but not as good as the Vanquisher (100k vs 500k) - it also has longer repair time (3h vs 2h, cut in half when in base defender fleet slot).  Instead, it has across-the-board deflection, which means that it just might hold up longer than the Vanquisher against a lot of attack types.

On the weapon side, this hull gives range, damage, and reload bonuses across the board, which means there are a lot of choices available to the player on what to use.

The first thing to look at is the range - Jefe put this chart together for the Wednesday night BP Crib show:

These are pretty good options across the board, but the new Calamity Scattergun looks really good here, considering it is a weapon that does area damage.

One more thought is that this ship with 1 speed (instead of zero speed) might be good for base prepping, this was probably more true with the stats from the preview, but the ranges as released are actually a little less than using Cyclone/D98-U launchers on a Retribution (103.4).  And even with a bunch of speed boosts, it's REALLY going to be tedious to use it.

Calamity Scattergun:

This Corrosive Scattergun has more range than any previous scattergun, and it also does a lot of damage with its secondary concussive damage.  Having two damage types is particularly useful against conqueror hulls that have the damage-type specific deflection.  In particular, the Fury and Spite have Corrosive deflection but no Concussive deflection (Fury gets 600 Concussive with Bloodthirst). A DPS comparison (again from Jefe) is shown below:

The DPS improvement from previous scatterguns (both by weapon and by weight) is pretty astounding.  Along with the range improvement, this is clearly the new "must have" scattergun.  Although the focus right now may be on building Valiants, any Furys you build would benefit from this weapon as well.

Compressed Corrosion Canisters:

Again, I'm going back to the Jefe well on this one:

From a pure damage perspective, improving the multishot though Heavy Barrel, or improving the concussive damage through Advanced Concussive will give more benefit than improving the splash damage through Compressed Corrosion Canisters.  But you don't have to choose.  Since each of those three specials affect different statistics, they can be combined for huge damage benefits (as shown in the "stacked" column).  On the Valiant with 5 special slots, and no reason to use an engine or armor special, there is enough room to do it.  But on Offensive ships where you may only have one special to allocate for your weapon boost, consider the other options and even the Hydroxide Injectors, which will give the +1 multishot with the +25% corrosive damage boost.  Adding to multishot is particularly effective with the Calamity Scattergun because it only starts with 3 pellets instead of 6 for the Conflagration Scattergun.  

Harlock's Tideseeker:

This is the anti-sub ship we've been waiting for since the very first phantom sub was released.  It can see phantoms on the world map, and it has the thermal range to see them in combat.  The only defense subs have left to survive against these is speed.. and that really applies only to Hellwraiths.  So when building Tideseekers, remember to emphasize speed if you want to kill the subs you hunt down.

Limited Components: 
I'm putting these together because they aren't worth any more time than that...
Using Armor to get 10% Slow Resistance just doesn't seem that great.  Better ways to get Slow Resistance are Agility System and Shielded Tactical System.  For Armor slots on Conquerors, War Plating is a better choice.  1 Million points per piece of armor doesn't seem like that bad a price, but only for armor you'd want to use.

With only 20 points of deflection, I feel like there are more important ways to use your special slots on the (generally) PvE hulls that this special is limited to.  If there were 100 points or so from this special, then it might be worth using.  5 Million points for this just doesn't seem right as-is.

What to get:
The new prizes are good for base defense... you want them.  At 30 million points they seem to be at around the same value point as other recent prizes.  If you're a little short on points, leaving off the new special is probably the best choice out of the three.

Elsewhere in the main prize ladder, the Enforcer (1.75M) and Charon Torpedo (900,000) are good deals if you are missing a defensive hull and a Scourge Torpedo.with 88 range.  D98-U Launcher (900,000) is also a good deal if you are missing a 94 range launcher.  It makes a great spotter weapon if you are building a tank-type ship, or even an alternative to railguns on a Punisher.  Stealth Attack System 4 (350,000) goes well with the lower end sub hulls where you are limited on special slots.  If you have to decide between the Tier 2 weapons, you'll just have to decide where you are weakest in capability and focus there.

And at this point in the raid cycle, I am less positive on the Hellwraith, especially if you were able to pick up the Tideseeker in the first run of High Tide.  If you don't have a good weapon for Tideseekers, the Fire Twister Torpedo (9M) is your best choice from this raid.  The Concussive Gatling Gun (7.5M) is also available but seems a bit overpriced.

The Harlock's Tideseeker, at 20 million points, also seems like a good value considering the brand new unique capability it brings to the table.  

The two new locked limited prizes just don't seem worth it to buy or use (as I mentioned above).  The shards for "super-hulls" may be worth it if you have the commitment to save up... the Gamma Behemoth in particular only takes 10 shards (45M total points over two raids), so only 2 raids are required to complete that hull.  Other than that I don't see too much use for the Hellstar, Protonemesis, or the Man-of-War.  Ghostcrawlers are fun and still useful occasionally... but don't be leaving them sitting around anymore (speaking of which I just docked mine)!

For the other unlocked Prizes, 

Good Deals:
Arbalest (1.1M) 
Heavy Plating 3 (2M)

Pick these up if you don't have them.

Overpriced but maybe useful:
Styx Torpedo (6M)
Concussive Gatling Gun (7.5M)
Concussive Upgrade (3M) 
Nuclear Accelerators (4M)
Punisher (12.5M) 

Only pick these up if you are 'desperate' for the capability, but look for alternatives.  For example, the Punisher is a great tank for the 109s in the FM, but many players are having success with the Tideseeker.  The Styx Torpedo is 6 million points, but the Charon is only 900,000.

OK pirates, play smart and have fun, and start sinking those Phantoms!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Update - my schedule

Aargh - it's been a little crazy in the Professor's ivory tower lately (so crazy he's writing in the third person), and he hasn't kept up the blog to his own liking.

(enough of that third person)

Recently, I would have liked to write articles on: 

The new round of FM prizes:
- put those Solar Reinforcements everywhere you have a free armor slot
- Splash Dispersion seems cool but I think you'll have to overlap a few for it to be really useful.
- Shockwave Plate 3 & 4 are useful on those Conqueror hulls vulnerable to Shockwaves.  Stack them up.


The FM mission 109s:
- Build a tank with M & X resistance.  Countermeasures are key for that.  
- Flagships are really useful.  Harlock Citadel best for its projectile speed, then a Savage Kodiak for M resist, then maybe a Dante's Novastorm for X resist.

And now on to the "what to get" article I should write about the next set of raid prizes.

On the new Raid Prizes:
- New missile based Conqueror stuff looks decent but I really haven't analyzed the DPS.  Missile is just another option, and I assume we will see a ballistic conqueror sometime in this raid cycle.
- The ballistic resistance on the Spite is a warning to those who overloaded on ballistic base defense.  I've always kept a Revenge in my base hitting fleet to account for that.  Spite will be another option.
- I would have loved the Spite if it had remote targeting.
- A reduced build time Neptune with its high Siege deflection might be a decent tank option for those working their way up, but with no Assault Resistance it will be vulnerable to the Rhino's missiles.  For Punisher tanks I generally advocate balancing M & X resistance, but on these you may want to emphasize M resist.
- Hellwraiths are fun to play with, and they will probably be the best way to get Uranium not too long after this raid cycle ends.  If you don't have them, and you do have any other conqueror hull, I would prioritize the Hellwraith over the Spite.
- Scythe & Death Scythe never really caught on.  Their build time is still really long (2+ days for regular Scythe, 3+ days for Death Scythe) and their flight time too slow to be worth it.
- I'm not super excited for the limited ST armor or Ampacity upgrade... just not good enough compared to the alternatives.

OK that's all - good luck in the raid.  I won't be publishing again (or on the Crib show) for two weeks at least.  Awesome stuff happening IRL but busy busy busy... I'm hoping to have enough time to do this raid, but won't get too bummed if I can't.

I also won't be advertising this article in the FB groups or Kixeye like usual - but of course feel free to share it yourself.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Lets get the fun back... with metrics?

I'm a professional software engineer.  Software Systems actually, I have never written code for a living.  Anyway, in the software world, metrics are a controversial topic.  For those who aren't familiar with metrics, they are ways to measure your work.  For example, to measure productivity you measure lines of code written per hour.  To measure test effectiveness you measure number of bugs found in a series of tests divided by the number of bugs that are found later.

Who remembers this?

It's sort of anti-metric... (and if you're mad at a certain CEO, freeze it at around 2:37)

But do metrics work?  And if you're working on a game, can you turn fun into a metric?  My experience is that metrics only work when you can measure what you really want.

Well sometimes we say that BP is getting less fun, so I started thinking - what can we measure to figure out "fun"?

I came up with three things:  difficulty, time, and engagement.

Difficulty: This is actually easiest to measure... just how much repair time per target (or per points).  I've been talking about this lately in my raid articles - when I saw that this raid cycle was giving me about twice as much repair time per point as the previous cycle, I concluded that this raid was about twice as difficult.  Players generally want this to be as low as possible, and Kixeye increases their revenue (ignoring participation) as this increases, but really there's probably a best value for this somewhere in the middle.

Time: This is also easy to measure... how much time does it take to beat a target?  Longer times result in players feeling like this is a grind, but targets that are too quick result in players not playing and getting bored (as well), since they don't get much time in actual gameplay.

Engagement:  This is the hardest of the three metrics to describe and thus hardest to quantify.  I'm thinking about engagement as ... how interesting are the targets to hit?  Are they boring or fun?  Time can enter into that, but the measure I thought of for this metric is time-independent.  To measure engagement, you can determine the ratio of damage taken on auto (when beating a target) to the damage taken when driving skillfully.  This metric should generally work out as higher is better, since a target that can be beaten on auto is not that interesting and takes no skill to fight.  As an alternative, clicks (user input) per time might be a decent engagement measure.  Sitting and waiting for a cavatator field to blink off isn't too engaging.

So I'm sure some of you are thinking - this is silly, these numbers are going to be all over the map for different players.  But since we are looking for a good user experience across the whole community, Kixeye really can measure the average and see how the player base is doing overall.  They could split it by level or coin spend.  The Engagement metric is a little tricky to measure from live data, but probably could be measured in the test environment.  

Averaging makes it even more powerful... one on the theories batted around is that the changes in the Reaver targets are based on the fact that players could use Ghostcrawlers and prep out targets for free points.  But if the number of players doing that wasn't too high, then the averaged metrics wouldn't be affected too much... and we can all just move along with the raid.

But just to play around with this, lets think about some of what is going on with our current BP targets through this lens.  Although I don't have access to player data, I can make some generalizations.

Rise of the Warlords: 
The latest event featured targets that were pretty much vulnerable to subs only and alternating cavitator fields to force some careful driving.  Much of the damage in these targets was driven by death explosions, forcing some strategy in deciding how many subs to bring around.  For players who kept up and had at least 2 Hellwraiths to work with, the way I would assess the metrics is:

Damage: Somewhat high but not totally unreasonable
Time: A little long for A sets, the careful driving forced by the cav fields caused the targets to take a while to complete
Engagement: Very good (using ships on auto wasn't a good strategy) but maybe also a bit too high, as the problem solving combined with the time required just limited the useful play time.

The latest changes we saw in the VXP targets, unfortunately, seem to be moving these metrics in the wrong directions... Damage went way up (obviously) and Engagement went down, basically because there was no smart way to drive against those targets.

Civil War cycle:
The last raid cycle featured Mega Hulls surrounded by a mix of turrets and ships. 

Damage: By the end of the cycle, I think damage on this raid was right around the 'happy medium'.
Time: A little long for A sets, and this was driven by massive maps.  It drove people to hit S sets (except on the last event of the cycle where damage got turned up to unreasonable, and so many people took more time to hit As.)
Engagement: Here is where this style shined - the targets were autoable, but good driving and strategy did allow a lot of damage mitigation.

Base Hitting:
For those who don't do it - you're missing out.  Base hitting is really fun, and I think it's getting even more fun with the crop of conqueror hulls and the options available.

Damage: It was getting out of control for a while there, but 30 minute - 1 hour repair times on Conqueror hulls have really turned this problem around.  Defense turrets and guard fleets are doing some damage, so base hits aren't free if you are hitting a player of comparable 'power'.  
Time:  5 minutes max... with many hits being done in less than 3 minutes.  Higher ship speeds is helping.  A base hit is usually quick & satisfying.  Preps that would drive up the time are a lot less common these days with the rise of sub defense and the nerfing/obsolescence of sub-based prep weapons (launcher / deluge). 
Engagement: You can't auto decent bases, and the strategy of base hits has really grown with the variety of damage types, deflection defense, and remote targeting.  Mixing up fleets and thinking about which ships to bring forward is the norm among good base hitters.  Click-the-back-of-the-base isn't happening too often, although some Fury owners are having success with this right now.

Furies aside, I think base hitting has been right in the sweet spot for a while now.

Weekly Forsaken Mission
We just had a shift from the 107s, where the avoiding the Angry Arc missile was the significant strategy driver, to the 109s, where most damage is incoming from missiles that are difficult to shoot down and Coldsnap rockets that are impossible to shoot down. 

Damage: Players were getting it down with the 107s, but the shift to 109s has ramped this up a bit.  With just a single tank taking the brunt of the damage, it is much more difficult to knock out the mission in a single evening without coining a repair. 
Time: Pretty good here - 3 109s and a few more points will get a round done instead of 5 107s.  The complaints about targets being gutted is really about time... if you are hunting around for a target to hit, it simply takes longer to get the mission done.
Engagement: Pretty good here, some thought should be given to approach angles and pathing through the targets to avoid some unnecessary damage.  Engagement in any target like this will go down over time as it becomes more and more of a rote pattern.

This post isn't going to help you play the game any better, but hopefully this helps us (and Kixeye) think a bit more about the fun (or lack of it) in this game, and WHY some targets are more fun than others.  I still owe you pirates a good look at the new FM targets and the latest crop of prizes, but I thought this article was a little more important to put out there.  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

VXP Weekend - New Reavers

With this VXP weekend, we've seen some new Reavers that are much harder to kill.  We've also been told that those are a preview of the targets for the next raid.  I'll leave my thoughts on that for the a bit later in this article, but first some numbers that might actually help you.

As you should know by now, the standard way that VXP are awarded to each ship in a battle is:

  • Up to 10 VXP for taking damage.  10 VXP are awarded for losing all heath, and less are awarded if you survive the battle, in proportion to the damage taken.
  • Up to 10 VXP for dealing damage (to ships).  10 VXP are awarded for dealing damage equal to or greater than your ship's health, and less are awarded (in proportion to damage dealt) if you do less damage than that.
Salty Dog crews will multiply those numbers by 2 or 3 depending on the type of crew.

It has been theorized (and I think mostly correctly), that the increased VXP targets will award experience in the same way, but with a multiplier applied, so that the "10" in the description above becomes some other number.  

I wanted to find out that number for this new crop of targets, so I took some hulls that had very few weapons on them and ran them into these targets.  

Here's what I found:

The third column in the table above is my actual data, and the 4th column is my best guess on what the base VXP number (instead of 10) is for that target.  The real interesting thing is that the level 80 Legion target paid more VXP than the level 112 Reaver.  Don't ignore those.  

The 114s are real wicked.  The Scouts have thermal that outranges your torpedoes and they fire deadly explosive torpedoes of their own.  I predict utter and complete disaster and revolt if those show up in the raid unchanged.  

So what's the best strategy for getting VXP?

If you have subs with weapons: Hit 114s
To maximize your VXP in the 114s, you will want to deal some damage.  One thing I've been doing is to make a hole in the ring of scouts (hint - take out the ship without thermal at the bottom), then you can pick off drones for a while and do your damage.  If you can't get to the drones and do any damage, it may payoff a bit better if you hit 112s and do some damage.  You'll have to experiment for yourself.

If you have surface ships with weapons: Hit 80s
Hit the Legion 80s and do some damage.  If you can, retreat occasionally to kill it in stages so that you don't hit the "dealing damage" point cap.

If you have ships without weapons: Hit 114s
Go die in a 114.

If you have a Ghostcrawler:
Damn it's expensive to level those.  They don't do well in these targets.  A single hit on a 114 put me up 3 ranks, but costs a bit over 22 coin (no armor, no GM) to repair. I saw a comment that buying rank would be cheaper, but I did check the price and a single rank cost 86 coin.  My plan for the Ghost is to put on a Salty and grind out URFs.. we will see how that goes.

Edit: On hitting URFs with a Ghostcrawler:
I've hit a couple (points are without taking damage, without Salty Dogs & without armor): 

Threshers/Avenger (86 VXP): The Avenger does have thermal with decent range.  Come out of Deep Dive  in range & kill it.

Mercuries/Sea Scorpions (86 VXP): The Mercs have some thermal, but you can kill them from outside thermal range.

Cudas/Banshees (64 VXP): You'll see them, they won't see you.

No matter what (Hopefully most players know this already, but I'm saying it anyway):
Use a Salty Dogs crew... Rare triple Salty Dogs if you have it... roll for uncommon double Salty Dogs if you don't.  The double Saltys aren't that hard to get from 1000 Uranium rolls.  If you are repairing ships to grind out lots of VXP, use a Grease Monkeys on a fleet slot in your base and repair back there.

Hopefully this helps you out.  I think the info on the 80s isn't really well known, so I wanted to get this article out in front of you pirates.   Stay salty!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rise of the Warlords - Two days in

I've had some time to make some first impressions of this raid, and I think the biggest surprise we got just before the raid started was the point awards:

The reduction in points paid out to a Tier "5" (that's an A set for those that don't adapt well to arbitrary name changes) for players above level 80 is unprecedented.  It makes some weird incentives.  

Just to set the stage, for this raid I'm running two fully ranked Hellwraiths with the following build: 

Some people like Mimicus, some don't... some prefer X armor for this raid, some don't.  Anyway, the biggest advantage of this build is that the extra Concussive Resistance cuts the penalty when you screw up & surface in range of the enemy.

So with that build, I can do an A set for 3 coin (no crew) and earn 1,725,000 points, which works out to 575k points / coin.  The weird thing is that if I do a B set, it costs me 2 coin to earn a little less than 725,000 points, or 362k points / coin.  But since the health on the B set targets is lower, I can blow through 2 B sets faster than an A set (where you really need to be careful and pick your way through).

As another reference, I was earning about 1 million points / coin on the previous raid cycle.

So the result is that ... (for high levels), the A set is the "grind" target, but the B set is a more costly, quicker point earner.  That's the wrong progression through the targets, and a real indicator that Kixeye hasn't correctly balanced the time / difficulty of the targets.  In fact, it's the time/tedium factor that bugs me the most about this raid.  A targets are just too slow to complete.  It's been a theme in raids lately as the target maps are too big to do quickly.  Higher speed ships like the Hellwraith and Apollo help, but for players without the top tech it's a huge problem.

I haven't talked about the S set yet - I'm hearing about players doing those for 8-12 coin (300k - 460k points / coin) with no crew, which is a bit lower but in the same neighborhood as other targets.  I'm doing those as well, and I'm doing them cheaper, but I'll say my experience isn't average or repeatable for most players.  You may recall (I've mentioned it once or twice) that I recently earned and built a Ghostcrawler.  Although the high repair modifier on the GC means that taking damage from death weapons is expensive to repair (1.5 coin for each scout), I've been using the GC to prep for myself.  Since a Ghost never surfaces, it can drive right through these targets and attack whatever is convenient as long as you keep a decent distance from the drones (I'd estimate 50-60 range or so).  So the technique I'm using is to prep all of the ships in the S target down to a sliver of health with the Ghostcrawler, wait for a timeout, then come in with my Hellwraiths and blast through and finish everything off.  I end up with about 4 coins repair on the Hellwraiths (and nothing on the GC if I do everything right).  Since my GC isn't ranked yet, this takes a while (2 cycles in the S, so 20 minutes), but it's the cheapest way for me to do this raid, and doing an S set like this is also faster than doing 2 A sets (which would pay about the same points).  By the way, mixing the GC and HW in a single fleet doesn't work too well - the surfacing of the HW draws drones and can get your GC spotted, you can avoid most of the Hunter Killer Mortars by sitting the HW in a corner but not all of them, so I'm playing it safe and using the extra time.

FYI here's my Ghost build right now (not done yet): 

So in the end... how upset should we be at Kixeye for this raid?  I've often tried to remind players that Kixeye is a business that has to pay its employees, and they do need to make money somehow.  This raid is about 2-3 times as expensive as the last raid cycle (if you've been planning for it... near impossible if you haven't), but I have no idea whether Kix is making a "reasonable" amount of money on these raids or not (and any player who does say they know is full of crap).  

What I can comment on whether these raids are "fun" and whether I feel like they are providing "value".  

For the fun factor... the real problem I have with this raid, like many others lately, is that it feels tedious.  You have to pick your way through the random cavitator fields, wait for the blink on and off, or get destroyed.  Removal of the retreat button makes it even worse, since unlucky drops of those fields may result in a really long drive or even no safe path at all.  Frankly, the last raid style that I found really fun was the Scourge.  Although those targets were really hard for many players, I think they were fun and the targets were not nearly as tedious as the current crop.  If those raids were introduced like they are introducing targets now - with lots of previews and information to get fleets ready, I think there would have been a much lower shock to the player base, and we wouldn't have reacted as poorly (yet justifiably at the time) as we did. 

For the value factor...  I've always thought a reasonable amount of spend for a raid is about 100 coin ($10).  Also remember for a four day raid, you have 96 hours to repair your fleets which works out to having 192 coin if you can use all that time effectively.  Even if you are on the lower end of the "doable" points / repair spectrum - 3 coins per million points, 100 coin gets you 33 million points, which is enough to get the top prizes (but not the tokens).  As always, the problem is for players that aren't prepared.  If you need to spend $50 to get caught up to current tier tech, that's a bit tough to swallow.

So in the end, I'm not mad, just disappointed.  (I think I've said that one before).  In order to improve the player experience, Kixeye needs to try harder to balance the points, damage, and TIME these raids are taking.  I think that we can have fun AND coin enough for Kixeye to pay the bills, but we're still waiting to see the right balance.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rise of the Warlords - What to get

A new raid cycle is upon us - the Reavers have returned with Drones, Scouts, Hulks, and a whole lot of Sub Cavitator fields.  If you've paid any attention at all over the last month, you've seen that subs really are the only viable option for beating these targets.  I was sort of intrigued by the idea of trying V2H or a similar ship with Concussive Reciprocators, but these Reavers deal out enough damage that I wouldn't want to rely on that.

The Raid Briefing is here:
The Raid Video is here:
(it's more entertaining than usual by the way)

To take these targets on, you will need to use your subs, pick off the scouts when their cavitator field is down, then go for the Hulk(s).  For targets without the hunter-killer mortars, patience is key.  If you do it really well, the only damage you will take is from their death weapon.  In early versions of these targets, you were able to avoid some damage from that explosion by turning & running before the target died.  In what we've seen lately, the splash damage is the same no matter how far you are from the explosion, so it makes more sense to ignore the splash and just think about going for the next target quickly.  Most of the damage is explosive from these explosions, so X defense is key.  Some is plasma and just can't be resisted.

For the S target (only?) when the hunter-killer mortars are in play, you will really want to go after the mothership and hulks that fire the mortars ASAP.  Then once you've rushed through that... then you can slow down & try to pick off the rest.  We've also heard that the retargeting range of the hunter killer mortars has been reduced.  Hopefully what we will see is that you will only need to face the mortar from one enemy at a time instead of all four.

If you have Hellwraiths with Fire Twisters, using one sub at a time is the general strategy to minimize the splash damage.  However, if you have weaker subs and the Cavitator field comes back on before you can kill your target, you might want to use more subs and stack up so you can complete each target in reasonable time.  In this case you'll want to stick with the lower level targets.

Let's look at the new prizes:

Fury Conqueror Hull

This Conqueror hull is in the same class as the other ones we've seen, but this time the rotating wheel of weapon love has landed on Scattergun. 

It has a powerful overload that will buff your other ships, as well as briefly stunning nearby targets.

It has very high deflection against Penetrative, Explosive, and Radioactive Damage where it will basically ignore any weapons of that type.  It has some built-in corrosive deflection too, but not enough that it will ignore corrosive weapons.  Bloodlust will get this ship some additional Ballistic, Concussive, and Corrosive deflection, but this hull will really have to watch out for Blunderbuss and Miniguns.

When building these, consider that they have the 100% defense handicap we've seen recently on a lot of hulls, but they don't have any built-in turret defense.  I recommend Siege Battery on any build of these for the Turret Defense.  Resonance Capacitor could also get you some turret defense, but I don't think you can count on being in a field all the time with these hulls.

You also will want to look at your Evade stat.  You start at -50%, which means that with an evade special and armor, you can get that into a decently positive range.  Perhaps the only weapon you'd face where you care about evade is Javelins, but you might want to be able to delay Shockwaves too.

With a bare hull build time of a bit over 2 days, this hull can be built for a reasonable amount of shipyard time.

Conflagration Scattergun

This new Scattergun has higher damage and better range than other light Scatterguns - it is definitely preferable to the Cobra and the D81-M for dealing damage.  It also has a death weapon that will start making your battle look really pretty once ships start sinking.  The actual amount of death weapon damage isn't too high.

One thing to remember on the old D81-M - it was Kixeye's experiment with making weapons have a uranium cost, and although it has shorter range and less damage than this new Scattergun, it does have a much shorter build time (about 3 hours vs. 10) and it adds combat speed.  

Hydroxide Injector

This special adds multishot and corrosive damage.  It is ideal for light scatterguns (like the new Conflagration), but Barrel System 3 still does better for your heavy scatterguns.

What to Get:

The prize list is not too massive, so I'll try to be comprehensive this time:


Fury:  The conventional story on these sort of blitz hulls is that they don't have very long useful lifespans.  I think the story might have changed a little bit, since most of the conqueror hulls are run like blitz fleets nowadays - you don't outrange the front line turrets anymore, remember?  This hull has a nice overload when damaged, so when fitted with a launcher for spotting, it can be swapped in for Retributions or Revenges as spotters for Vendettas and be a nice addition to your toolchest.

Conflagration Scattergun:  It's probably the best weapon to put on your Fury.  Concussive repeaters also come to mind, but without the damage bonus, those weapons are probably best on Revenges.

Hydroxide Injector:  Adding 46% to your DPS is a good thing, right? If you are using the Fury to spot, that might not matter too much though.

Hellwraith:  If you don't have these yet, I HIGHLY recommend them.  Of course, getting 15 million points this raid might be tough if you don't have these already.  They will be the critical hull to get in this raid cycle, and we expect to see these types of Reaver targets somewhere for a long time after this raid cycle.  If it is a question of "Fury or Hellwraith?" I'd strongly recommend Hellwraith.

Fire Twister Torpedo:  These torpedoes deal lots of damage, but the excitement for these was damped a bit when we saw they are "dumbfire" instead of aimed.  Coupled with Hellwraiths and Sealed Fire Charge, it really isn't much of a problem, but on other hulls you might not want to depend on these.

Sealed Fire Charge:  These go nicely with the FTTs, giving splash and speed bonuses. Critical hits are great against targets with deflection.

Tiger Shark:  I'm not scrapping mine just yet, but these subs are noticeably less effectivein this raid than Hellwraiths.  If this is all you can get (for a much lower point total than the Hellwraith), it might be a nice step-up to build these, but I'm not sure they are worth the build time in comparison.

Heavy Cruiser: These just don't seem like they have a place in today's game.

Charon Torpedo: Cheap at 900,000 points, these are the best alternative to Fire Twisters

Scattergun D81-M: I'm not sure where you'd really use these.  They were a cheap/light way to get some combat speed when they were introduced, but the nearly weightless/instant building Siege Cannons do that now.

Stealth Attack System IV: Again a good pickup for cheap, and usable in some combinations.

Barrel System 3: Best for "Heavy" weapon multishot of +6, you're more likely to want this special to be use with the Thermonuclear Launcher than the Heavy Scattergun.


Interception System: I liked this one in Tigers with my Styx torpedoes, or possibly on a ship with Antipode Launchers, but I'm not sure this is a must-have these days.

Railgun D-110:  Not bad if you have a use for it, but the Arbalest is better in Mine and FM targets.  This might be decent on the Gamma Behemoth if you are going that way - it has better speed than the Arbalest.

Gamma Behemoth Shards (limit 5):  Since you only need 10 shards for the Gamma blueprint, this raid could get you halfway there.  As a hull with significant buffs for ballistics and countermeasures, this hull has a place in many high-end guard fleets. 

Proto Nemesis / Hellstar / Ghostcrawler / Man-O-War shards x5 (limit 20 shards):  You already know whether or not you want to get these... just remember that you will need 250 shards to actually redeem the blueprint.  I still consider the Ghostcrawler useful.  Not so sure about the other ones.


Ship build tokens (limit 5 days 10 hours): Just make sure that you are getting a positive return on these before you redeem.

Fusion Charger: Not sure where you'd use this currently, but it sure is cheap.

Good luck in the raid pirates!