Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Professor's Two Year Anniversary

This blog published its first article on January 30th, 2014.  

And just in case you are wondering, that first article was a review of a new hull - the Sawfish.  The Sawfish was released in the Forsaken mission - along with Agility System and the D33-D cannon.

Going back over that article, there was one real interesting sentence I wrote that really illustrates how the game has changed over the last 2 years:

This hull is the lower end ballistic hull that we were all expecting.  It is in the same vein as the Mercury, Mauler, Mako, or Rampart, with reduced capability compared to its bigger brother hull, but also reduced build time.  The Sawfish compares fairly closely to the Stingray, but is it worth it?
And again, just to refresh some history for those readers without a steel-trap memory, the MCX, Dreadnaught X, Thresher, and Goliath were the "big brother" hulls.  Each of the the littler hulls (except the Mako) had reduced build time & reduced capability from the higher end hulls.  Those hulls were released to be appropriate for up and coming players, and they are STILL relevant to up and coming players.  Why?  Low hull build time.  

But the point is that we expected low-end, little-brother hulls because that's what Kixeye was doing.  When was the last time Kixeye released a hull that was not targeted at the top-end players?  Was it January 2014?

After that article, the Nuclear Cruiser & Launchers were introduced in the February raid, and the Atlas Carrier & Hornet UAVs were introduced in the March raid.  In April we saw the first Limited Hulls - Grimshine's Berserker & the High-Lander Nuclear Cruiser.

It really seems I started my blog just as Kixeye decided to kick off the flood of content and start to ramp up the complexity of the game with new weapon types, and it really hasn't slowed much since.


For my 1 year anniversary, I did a look back & tried to highlight some of my most useful articles.  For my 2 year, I'm going to do something different.  I'm going to try to explain how I play Battle Pirates.  Certainly over the last two years the "whales" have been emphasized more & more.  Players will spend thousands of dollars on this game - then get extremely upset when they realize they are not having fun.  Essentially they realize that they didn't get VALUE for the money they have spent, and then the rage quit in a blaze of glory.  Or just walk away without a peep.  

I will say that it is really tough to compete in this game without spending a cent.  I played free for a couple years, then spent a little bit of money in a raid to win the Strike Cruiser (when it was new).  Once I got those built (about 2 months later) I actually had a competitive fleet, and by continuing to spend a little bit ($10-30) per raid I have been able to continue to keep up.  For those players who fiercely choose to say that you won't give Kixeye a cent, but keep trying to "get over the hump", I suggest that you aren't ever going to get there.  It's tough to get value for nothing... consider what this game is worth to you.

And for those players who spend thousands, you also need to consider what this game is worth to you.  If you have the disposable funds to spend that much money, and you choose to, that's fine, but you should also consider what else you could be spending that money on and decide if Battle Pirates is the best way to spend that money.  If you decide that it is... good for you, but don't get upset when you realize that you haven't received thousands of dollars of value for the thousands you've spent.

I highlighted the same phrase twice up above - both in relation to whales and free players.  CONSIDER WHAT THIS GAME IS WORTH TO YOU.  Be willing to spend that much, but not much more.

So I continue to put in about $50 into this game every other month, and I think many players out there would say that you can't compete while spending that little.  I will admit that I generally can't crack the top bases, and I can't defend my base against the top fleets.  But I have fun playing this game.  I don't feel like there is any part of this game that I just can't do.  To go into more detail:
  • I hit bases to get my alliance points every week.
  • I keep a guard fleet and nobody walks through my base (less than 25% fleet damage).  I have been in the range of 250 - 300 medals for quite a while... without going "medal hunting" or "medal shedding".
  • I play every raid. I get the top prizes but not always the limited prizes.
  • I sometimes help other players in raids.
  • I do Elite Tier in the Forsaken Mission twice each week without coining repairs. 
  • I continue to work on the new R&D - I'm working on Objective 6 now.
  • My retro lab is constantly busy - specials & weapons I use frequently are R15.
  • I use VXP weekends to get my key ships to Legendary.
  • I beat the TLCs without coining repairs, but usually not all 5 Mastery rounds.
  • I compete in the FAT when I feel like it.
  • My arena rating is 1514 but I haven't played in it for a long while.
So what's the key to playing like that?  Having good fleets.  Some players will tell you that a ship is obsolete a month after it is released, but a well designed fleet will be useful in this game for much longer than that.

My overarching philosophy towards fleet design is that you need to start with a good fleet design, and build it.  It seems sort of obvious, but some players just jump from building ship to ship without a plan, and then have a bunch of mismatched, ineffective ships.  It can be tempting to build the newest, shiniest hull, but having three half-done fleets is less useful than one fully completed fleet.

Let's look at the last few full fleet builds I've done, along with the hull's release date:

Hellstrike - Dec 2013
Nuclear Cruisers - Feb 2014
Harlock's Atlas - May 2014 
Interceptor V2-H - Sept 2014 (build is a bit of a guess - I did some refits & forgot the original build)
Crusaders - March 2015 (Monarch added later)
Rhinos - August 2015 (with Aegis / Neptune / Proto-Hunter)
Tiger Sharks - October 2015

As a side note - the only major builds that I started and abandoned along the way are a Greta's Nuclear Cruiser fleet, and a Goresaber fleet.  For the Greta Nukes - I started those with F launchers but no armor.  I got fair use out of those in the Frost/Snow series of raids running them behind a Jugg X tank, but never finished the fleet, especially when I learned how bad the F launchers compared to others once ranked.  I have two Goresaber hulls done with a few Dragonfire rockets & specials, but saw those falling out of favor very quickly, and decided to stop those in favor of the Crusaders.  I never got much use out of them, although I continue to suicide them occasionally in Reaver Assault Bases for rank.

I also think I used a Frosty / Mastodon fleet for a while in there somewhere...

I've also built a few more hulls here and there, sometimes for Base Guard (like Enforcer, Goliath, or Omega Behemoth) or for other specialized tasks (Juggernaut X to tank, Mastodons for fire support).  But you can see I've skipped a lot of hulls too.  I didn't feel like playing too much with Reaver hulls and their 150% repair modifier.  I missed out on Nighthawks, Kodiaks, Fusion Cruisers... just to name a few hulls that were "worth building" yet I never did.  I also never got into the slow weapons like mortars, and the short range weapons like rockets & scatterguns.

I'm still finishing out the Tigers, as well as working on a few more goodies (like a Harlock's Aegis), so I still don't know what the next hull I would build around is going to be.  If I were ready to start today it would be the Draconian Carrier (not the Heavy Cruiser).

When I look back over those last seven fleets, four of them (NC, V2-H, Cru, Rhino) have been generalists.  I used those fleets in Forsaken Missions, Raids, Campaigns, and Base hits.  The Hellstrikes were mostly useful in Base Hits only (I still used MCX for other areas), the Harlock Atlas were not useful in FMs, and not very good base hitters without a Grimzerker, and the Tigers are obviously more specialized.  Whenever I've built a non-generalist fleet, I've always had an existing fleet that I felt was still a useful generalist.

My latest generalist fleet (the Rhinos) really benefits from having more specialized tank ships - the Proto-Hunter is optimized against ships, the Neptune is optimized against land targets & provides anti-mortar coverage, and then the Aegis provides anti-missile & more defense. I foresee being able to continue to use that fleet effectively by replacing the tanks and/or Aegis with upgraded ships while keeping the Rhinos (saving me shipyard time vs. building a whole new fleet).  My Punisher tank finished yesterday, so we will see how much of an upgrade that provides.

One of the benefits of not building every hull, and not doing it as soon as it has been released is that I watch other players to see what works and what doesn't.  I also get the benefits of being able to utilize tech that may not have been available when the hull was first released.  V2-H with Siege Missile Z is a good example of this.  I also was able to take advantage of using a HLNC with my NC fleet since that limited hull was released before I had a 4th NC built.

One of the drawbacks - You don't have every fleet type.  Nighthawks were often real effective yet I didn't have any.  Kodiaks were great once the Siege Z missile was released (and remember Strike B Kodiaks when bypass was reversed?).  But since I've always been able to play this game effectively, I never felt too left out.

So let's get back to where I started - how do I play this game for around $25 per month?

Where do I spend my coin?
Raid repairs:  200 coins has been my "average" raid spend for a while.  This is how I gain access to the tech I want.  I never have a build that I can't do because I don't have the blueprint. The most recent exception to that was when I didn't get the Harlock Aegis on its release.  That first Scourge raid was HARD, and I was not willing to spend the coin or time to get me those points.  I did pick up the Neptune even though I didn't have an immediate need for it... but it has turned out to be a real useful hull for me as a tank.
Ship builds:  For the amount of money I spend, I can't coin up full fleets, but I will speed up the last day or two if I want a ship done before a raid, and I'll speed up a few hours if it will be finishing overnight or some other time I can't access the computer.  Coining some Interception Systems on my Tiger Sharks before the December raid was a great investment to reduce repairs taken.  Really, I'd rather coin a build than a repair but it quickly gets too expensive.
Dock repairs: This is pretty rare.  More often I'm willing to walk away from the game & do something else.  

Where don't I spend my coin?
Non-raid ship repairs: I won't say never, but it is pretty rare for me.  I don't usually feel like it is worth it to me to spend money just to hit a base.  Campaigns, Missions, Uranium... it all can wait.  One very important case of this - snipers.  If someone is out hitting fleets with a Ghostcrawler or Phantom, I will absolutely bring in my ships and walk away.  I'll let the snipers stare at an empty blue ocean & have fun with that.
Research: It can wait.  Once in a while (like ship builds), I'll speed it up it if will be completed overnight as I do like to keep my retro lab busy, but more often I can wait for that extra retro level.
Buildings: Again, it can wait.  I defend my base, but I don't have an "ego" about my base.  If someone smashes it, I am perfectly fine with hitting repair & moving on with my life.  
Rank: Rank is super effective for increasing your ships' firepower, but it is too expensive for me to see the value in coining it.  Before VXP Weekend came around, I would grind away to the 45% - 60% range for my mainline ships... then be ready to move on to my newer fleet by the time I got there. Now I can get them to Legendary without too much trouble.  On the Reaver Assault Bases I use old outdated ships (like those Hellstrikes or Harlock Atlas) to tank while the other ships blast away at Hellhounds & rack up VXP.  I also generally do my ship builds by building them with partial weapons & specials first, then taking them out to rank while the rest of the fleet is building.  This lets me start ranking them earlier and gives me a general idea of their effectiveness.  My interim Tiger build was surprisingly useful.

I hope this summary helps you understand where I come from in paying this game, and how you can spend a little bit of coin to get a lot of enjoyment from this game.  One key - I don't let my ego get in the way... I'm always willing to walk away.


One more announcement... you may have seen this on Wednesday's Battle Pirates Crib show (or elsewhere), but Kixeye has started a series of meetings with a small group of experienced players called a Town Hall (as a closed group I'm not sure that's the best term for it, but so be it).  These meetings are with the Kixeye Battle Pirates leadership & staff.  The first meeting was last week.  The players participating were Dead Sinner, Boba Fett, PriceIsWrong, Dirty Harry, & myself.  Attending from Kixeye were Michael Murguia (VP/GM), Paul Preece, CM Doomrooster, and approximately 15 more staff (whom we didn't see or meet).  Our first meeting was a bit of an orientation, but we also were able to discuss some substantive issues, such as the overall complexity of the game, as well as build & repair times.  I can't go into full detail, as all players participating were asked to sign an NDA, which I take very seriously.  We plan to have these meetings every other week going forward.  It is early to make any conclusions, but I am optimistic that they are interested in listening to what we have to say.  Although I would prefer an even more public forum, I hope that this format allows for 2-way, frank discussion where we can suggest concrete, realistic actions that will improve and sustain the game going forward

Since I announced this Wednesday - I would like to add two more notes: 

  • I'll say this first one bluntly - I (and the other players involved) are not doing this to be your suggestion box.  We each have been playing a long time, and have ideas about what makes Battle Pirates fun and what makes it not fun.  We have all been involved in the community and know that build & repair times are a drag.  Fair play (no hackers) is critically important.  Our issues are your issues, and we don't need our inboxes bombarded.
  • Price brought up a concern about announcing this group, and I share it.  It's an issue that both he and I have run into previously - We don't want to be Kixeye's propaganda tool.  If I write an article about something, or when Price talked about something on the BV show... we were (and still are) always concerned about pumping up something that really isn't very good.  I don't want my announcement of this group to be taken as some sort of rosy statement that everything will get better.  If it is just for us to bring up the same issues that have been brought up over and over in the Kixeye Forums and various Facebook groups already, it won't be very useful.  We will need to get the 2-way discussion with Kixeye going, under cover of the Non-Disclosure, in order to make any progress at all.  I want people to know that there is potential for progress, but we will have to wait and see what develops.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Forsaken Mission gear - Solar Panels, Armor Piercing Shells, D5-M, & Coldsnap

Following the usual post raid cycle, Kixeye has released four new items for this week's Forsaken Mission.

Cadmium Solar Panels

These add 200 power to your base.  Clearly the best way to add power is to upgrade your Outpost, but once you hit Level 7 you might be stuck at the 85,000 power limit.

With 18 turrets at Level 5 (4,000 max power each), you can only use 72,000 power total, so 13,000 power is plenty for various tactical fields.
At Level 6, turret max power goes up to 6,400, so with 5 of those turrets, you can use up to 84,000 power in the turrets, and you might start maxing out your base power.  

The these Solar Panels are turret specials.  You will need to give up special slots on some turrets in order to get more power (for others?).   But really 200 power per panel isn't a huge deal - it might get you that extra bit you need for a field, but you'll need to build 12 to get enough power to move a maxed L5 turret to a maxed L6 turret, so I don't see these as a huge impact.

Armor Piercing Shells

Arbalest vs. Railgun... players seem so desperate for one to be better than the other.  With the weapon rebalance most of the weapons' efficiencies have become very close to each other, so there isn't a real good answer.  I lean towards the Arbalest with its higher building damage & higher damage per shot.  Also using a heavier weapon frees up weapon slots for things like D33-DR Disruption Cannons or D30-R Impact Cannons (which got real light in the rebalance).

Either way, this Armor Piercing Shells special is an OK deal.  35% damage for 14% weight is decent, and it enhances your piercing abilities by reducing the decay.  But when you add it to the Punisher with its 100% built in damage bonus, the relative benefit is lower, because the damage bonuses add (not multiply).  The 35% bonus becomes more like a 17% increase in damage, which isn't so good for 14% weight.  (By the way, this sort of math happens with other damage increase specials when stacked with a hull damage bonus... like Strike Warheads on a Rhino.)

So is it the best deal?  Let's look at a chart:

Looking at the raw DPS/hton numbers, the Armor Piercing Shells is isn't as good a deal as the Autoloader 3.  But there is another consideration - against deflection the damage reduction might swing things back to favoring the higher damage of the Armor Piercing Shells.

So if I look at this Punisher fleet as a target:!B06M01R1R0U252B0O5Z1B1B1B1B1B1B0NH0251R25345Y6A680U232323514Q4Q4Q4Q4Q4Q0NH0251R25345Y6A680U232323514Q4Q4Q4Q4Q4Q0NH0251R25345Y6A680U232323514Q4Q4Q4Q4Q4Q0NH0251R25345Y6A680U232323514Q4Q4Q4Q4Q4QdC

Some design notes on this fleet:

  • I like the Arbalest better - only 3 per ship seems low, but I have the Autoloader.
  • DR cannon slows enemies in open water.
  • Impact Cannon D30-R provides even more resistance and does good damage / weight.  (these seem to be overlooked in a lot of builds I'm seeing with empty slots & extra weight)
  • The Aegis is a ship I can reuse - I only have one Harlock Aegis & I don't think I would prioritize protecting this fleet over my Rhinos.
  • Using the Heavy Plate slows the Punishers down so the Aegis has a prayer of keeping up.
So I end up with a target that has 90% resistance against ballistic & missiles, 78% evade, and 500 siege/assault deflection. Heh heh heh.. I'm not sure what this fleet will be really good at, but it will be good at avoiding damage.

I was going to run some numbers here, but when looking at the Arbalest damage reduced by 90%, even the 3607 damage with AP shells comes up to be less than the Deflection of the Punisher (361 vs. 500).  So you'd have to hope for some kind of minimum pass-through damage (which we've never gotten a good answer from Kixeye about).  In that case, the higher auto-loader fire rate probably helps.  Against Carriers and Heavy Cruisers with less extreme resistance, then you'd start to have a chance to make a difference. My Drac Carrier design has 78% resistances, 76.4% evade & 450 deflection.

Now you see a slight edge for the Armor Piercing Shells.  So the "best choice" is all situational.  Stop asking for builds.

Zynthonite D5-M Armor

When D5-M was announced in the WIP, the deflection was mentioned, but the missile resistance was not... many people were confused by the D5-M designation on an armor with no missile resistance.  Well it has missile resistance and it is called D5-M.  

With 15% missile resistance and a relatively small amount of deflection, I consider this armor usable but maybe not a "use everywhere" sort of thing. Compared to D5-E, you have the same weight, armor points, and build time.  The Missile Resistance (+15%) is higher than the Evade Bonus (+10%). (Both can be increased with retrofit)

One more consideration for this armor is the reduced repair time.  This armor has the "40% repair reduction" compared to the 20% reduction of D5-E.  This is because the D5-M is a single resistance armor.  

When adding armors, I like to balance my evade with my weapon resistance - because "Kixeye math", adding 10% more evade at 80% evade doesn't help a whole lot, but adding 10% (or 15%) missile resistance at 40% missile resist helps a whole lot more.  Of course, it only helps against missiles, and not so much against ballistics or torpedos.... and then you have to think about bypass on incoming fire (bypass affects resist but not evade), and deflection.

For deflection, 20 seems mild, but I wouldn't kick it out of bed for eating crackers (if you know what I mean).  It is a bigger enhancement for hulls that have deflection already, since the extra deflection will be a bigger percentage of the remaining incoming damage.

One more consideration - Armor Abilities (like on the retrofitted Juggernaut X or Kodiak) do not affect the deflection on this armor.

Coldsnap Rocket Turret

Some of the Limited turrets have been good (Wendigo, Scattergun) and some haven't (Dead-eye Ballista).  What's this one?

I'm not even going to analyze the damage from this one .  It will do some damage (less damage than a Gargoyle & longer reload) but I don't care.  The big deal is the Coldsnap ability that disables tactical fields & overloads for 5 seconds.  In the WIP, they talked about overloads, and we were interested.  But fields make all the difference... because of Aegis.  Many base attacking fleets are hard to kill because of the extra 40 - 45% resistance from the Aegis/Harlock Aegis.  Combine that with some deflection and it's even worse.  The field is disabled for 5 seconds, and the weapon's reload time is 9 seconds.  But if the rocket is given a special that gives it nearly 100% reload or better, then the result will be that it reloads faster than the effect wears off.  Eruption Pyre would be my first choice, since that special also increases splash and projectile speed.  Slide Loader 2 or 3 would also give enough reload to have the same effect, but not increase the splash/speed of the projectiles.  Slide Loader 2 can be added to this weapon and still fit within a Level 4 turret.  Using Slide Loader 3 or Eruption Pyre will require a Level 5 turret.

The range of this turret is 140, which is a moderately long range... just a little bit longer than the Wendigo's range of 131.  Combining this weapon's effect with the Wendigo will be a real killer, since many fleets ignore Wendigo's ice effects via the Aegis or Frosty field.  If the Coldsnap disables the field, then the Wendigo applies the speed reduction and bypass effects, fleets could be a real sitting duck for Apoc mortars (or any other weapon).

Base design will be even more interesting.  Since the Wendigo placement usually ends up in a front corner, there may not be a good way to combine that with the Coldsnap.

Another consideration is that one type of countermeasure can shoot down rockets - the Trident missile.  Although Tridents don't have nearly the range of Blades or Harriers, they can be effective when used on Remote Targeting hulls, so some players might try the Trident to neutralize the Coldsnap.  We will have to wait and see whether that works...  You will need at least 10 Tridents to even have a shot at stopping all of the rockets in the Coldsnap salvo, and if even one gets through... it will be enough.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Revenge Raid 3 - Revenge Raid 2 Reloaded

Yeah this is my "One Day In" post.  I tried to come up with a snazzier name, but Chris P. Bacon was taken.

Overall, the map set targets are pretty close to the same as last time, maybe with the exception of the C sets.  So if you want more detail on the targets, see last month's "One Day In" post.

Anyway for this post I'm going to be that guy you hate... Blah blah blah I'm doing the raid for free blah blah.

World Map Sets 

A set
Here's my plan:
Enter with Styx Tigers with a BB-A instant repair flagship decoy.  (actually one of those Tigers is still all Vortex Z torps).  
Send the BB away to draw out the initial Heavy Cruiser & kill it, sail around and kill the other HC and Kodiaks, then retreat.  
Come in with my fast missile fleet (my usual Proto-Hunter, 3 Rhino, Aegis except I just finished my Harlock Aegis) and pick off the V2s before they get within launcher range.  86s are the best since they don't even break formation.

Collect 2.86 million points from that, don't touch the 89 Mega Hull, repeat.

B set
Very similar to last time, just trigger each ship and engage one at a time.  Although you can't outrange the Kodiaks, their missiles don't seem to have flak evade so Phalanx works well.

C Set
These targets have been changed from last raid.  They don't seem so crowded anymore, and the super long range missiles from the Missile Cruisers are gone.  Overall they look more appropriate for the lower levels than they used to.  Again you can really cut your damage with some Phalanx.

The Mega Hulls

89 Mega-Hull Target
I tried this one and found that the very long range splash missiles were just too annoying (damaging) for me to want to attempt this target.  The energy platforms are spread out at all 4 compass directions, but since you are being shelled with those missiles, you can't use the "hit one then retreat" tactic, so you'll take a lot of damage just sailing around.  If you want the extra 625k or so points, do another 86.

69 Mega-Hull Target
This one is more do-able, but still doesn't seem worth it for players who are doing B's to get points.  It was worth 265k points to me.  
Chat comment of the day
49 Mega-Hull Target
Probably hard for players doing C sets - possibly not too bad if you have enough Phalanx for those missiles.  It's only worth 55k points though.

Before the raid, I suggested that taking out the platforms before engaging the Mega-Hull would be a good idea.  Now that I've seen a few, I think that if you really are determined to take these things on, the best tactic would be to just take out one platform on the way to the center, kill the Mega ASAP, then you can take out the rest when the hull is sunk and you aren't getting shelled.  But that's just theory.  I don't think these guys are worth the points for the damage you take, and unless you find some creative low damage way to do them... my advice is to skip them.  They aren't fast to complete, and they'll deal out plenty of damage along the way.

101 Mega-Hull Target
Apparently these were easy to do early on, but they got changed.  BOO KIXEYE!  Mid-raid changes are the worst thing.  Any built-up trust vanishes right there.  When this happens, it isn't the fault of the players (even those who are posting videos)... it is Kixeye's fault because they didn't test the target correctly.  I'll admit that I haven't done any of these, I don't want to, and I'll move on.

So that's the raid... Vanguards open up Saturday.  I might just skip those and have a raid where I don't spend a single coin.  Hasn't happened in a long time.

More on Railgun vs. Arbalest
I gave the Railgun a "yellow" in the What-to-Get list, mostly because I didn't see it as blowing away the weapons that came before it.  What I think is that there are some situations where the Railgun would be better, and others where the Arbalest would.

Railgun Advantages
  • 10% more DPS/hton against fleets (25.0 vs 22.2).
  • 29% better projectile speed will help it hit moving targets more accurately.
  • Less pierce decay (15% vs 20%). 
  • More bonus armor per weight
Arbalest Advantages
  • Higher damage per shot will help overcome Assault Deflection
  • Higher weight per gun will use less weapon slots for a given damage output
  • Lower accuracy might help it get lucky against faster moving targets
  • 30% More DPS/hton against buildings (84.7 vs 63.9)
Railgun & Arbalest Tied
  • Build time
  • Weapon Range
  • Pierce Range
I feel like the Railgun's advantages are small, but the Arbalest's biggest advantage - the higher damage per shot - is big.  Again, all this stuff might just work differently once we see it, but I don't see the big need for getting Railguns if you have Arbalest.  If the Railgun had some Ballistic Bypass, or or even 1 more point of range, I'd be telling a different story. As is, my gut feeling is that the Arbalest might be better in bases, but the Railgun will be better in open water fights.  As always... we will see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Revenge Raid 3 - Punisher, Railgun & What to Get

Revenge Raid 3 is coming this week.  The Kixeye briefing is here:

The raid format seems like it will be pretty much like the last two - there was some word that Kixeye was converting the A set to be a 5 target set like the B and C sets, but the briefing still describes it as a 3 target set.  I'm pleased about this non-change, since that would likely slow down the raid, and good drivers don't take on the whole target at once anyway.

Changes that they tell us about are:
  • There will be a new "S" Level target, which will be like an Elite Target 
  • B & C Set boss targets will be Draconian Mega-Hulls, not Scourge
Read Kixeye's briefing for a full description of the Mega-Hull target, but one important element to note is the existence of power structures.  Destroying the power structures will slow down the fire rate of the Mega Hull.  As a tip, the lowest damage way to attack these targets will very likely be to pick off all of the support ships & power structures first, then attack the Mega-Hull.  

My experience with the A-level Mega-Hull last time was that spending the time to pick off the support ships first was time well spent - I hit the ships on one side, retreated, then attacked the other side before engaging the hull.  When I didn't take out all the ships first, I seemed to be attacked by the ships coming from the other side at about the same time that I was in range of the Mega.  I suspect that a similar strategy will be useful this time.  Those of you with Deluge or Scattergun subs may also be able to pick off the ships first (with a Scourge Torp sub fleet or a surface fleet), then use land attack subs to take out the structures, then enter with a main fleet to hit the Mega.

One more thing to remember for the raid, is that I was able to use Tigers (even without Scourge torps) to prep A set targets quite nicely.  Many players had trouble with the Heavy Cruisers charging in at the start.  In each target I was able to use an expendable flagship to draw those charging HCs into torpedo fire, and also pick off a couple more Kodiaks as a bonus.  If you have decent subs, this is also a nice way to help alliance mates do the raid a little more easily with no cost to you.  We will see if it works again.

New Prizes:

Punisher Hull

Yes, the rotating wheel of weapon love is back on Ballistics.  This hull is a high speed, high weight, high defense Ballistic platform, in the same class as the Heavy Cruiser and Draconian Carrier that we've seen recently.  Its high defenses, high evade, and 500 Assault / Siege Deflection will make it just as hard to kill (if not harder) than those other recent Draconian hulls.  Just like those other two hulls, it will make an excellent tank platform even if you don't want to marry it up with its "partner" weapons.

Compare to Crusader (for Ballistics) & other recent hulls (for tanks):

The only real drawback of building a Punisher compared to other hulls is the relatively low number of armor slots, but it makes up for that weakness with very high built-in armor points, evade, and defense percentages.  It also has the highest deflection of this group (although not the 600 Siege Deflection on the Neptune).  It certainly could be built as a very effective hull to tank and spot for Rhinos.  It is very fast without the punishingly low turn speed of the Heavy Cruiser.  The Heavy Cruiser still has the advantage of the heavy weapon slots, which can be used to mount D81-H Scatterguns giving the HC very high overall resistances.

As a Ballistic platform, I think the Punisher's higher damage will make up for its lower reload boost and at Legendary rank it should be approximately equal in terms of theoretical DPS output.  The Punisher would be more effective against targets with Assault Deflection because of its higher Damage boost, but the Crusader might be more effective against clusters of targets because of its reload boost.  It also has the same hull build time & range as the Crusader.

I'll talk more about the range and piercing in conjunction with the new weapon...

Railgun D-110

Comparing this to the previous Arbalest we get:

Update:  The new Railgun is already in the Retro Lab under Railguns.  So if you have Arbalest R15, then you have the Railgun R15 too.  The DPS numbers for the Railgun should be increased by 23.8% for a fair comparison.  This puts its DPS/hton at 30.9 vs. fleet & 79.1 vs. buildings.

Note that the Build time on the Arbalest is reduced (halved) with the latest release.  In some random thread, Kixeye let it out that the Railgun has a accuracy of 80%, as opposed to the 70% that the Arb has.  As we've seen with the Arbalest, the weapon fires at a point instead of targeting a moving hull.  But the Arbalest shot also goes wide sometimes... I'm ignoring the 10 spread shown in the blueprint - I assume it really is just there so the pierce damage actually has a chance at hitting something that isn't PERFECTLY lined up.

I threw the Crossbow 3 in there as well - since the weapon rebalance & build time reduction it has become usable.

In fact, at R15 the Crossbow has the best DPS/hton of the three weapons I compared, and the Arbalest and Railgun are pretty comparable.  Against buildings the Arbalest has a higher damage output.  The build times per ton are also fairly similar, and so my instinct would be to stick with Arbalest.  What we don't know about is the projectile speed.  Kixeye claimed the Railgun would have a "near instantaneous" projectile speed, so it MIGHT be more effective in use, but we will have to wait and see.  The Crossbow has a range disadvantage, so I still wouldn't recommend the Crossbow to players that have either of the other two weapons available.  

On piercing, the Railgun has less Pierce Decay.  Right now, I don't see Piercing as being hugely useful in practice, and I also don't see a huge difference in the 5% difference in the decay.  The extra 35 pierce range from the Punisher hull, and possibly additional Pierce range from a special expected in the next Forsaken Mission prize group may change my opinion of its usefulness.  When Piercing is up to 97 or more range BEYOND the initial hit, that may start to impact base design and Guard Fleet layout.  Again, it is something we will have to see on the water.

So I'm going to move right into the "what to get" section while this is fresh in my mind...

Green / Yellow / Red prize eval:

My color coding for prizes is:
Green  Most players should want this prize.
Yellow  You may want to buy this prize if you have a plan for using it, but consider "green" prizes first.
Red  I'm not sure why this prize would be worth the points it costs.

Top Tier:

Punisher (12.5M): This hull will be a very useful tank to protect any fleet, and it will be a fast, hard-to-kill ballistic platform for anyone wanting to build a full fleet of these.

Railgun D-110 (6M): This is the first time in a long while that I've recommended the raid hull more than the weapon.  Right now, the Railgun seems to be on par with the Arbalest, and so I like the hull more.  Still, we might learn more about this weapon in the near future, so I wouldn't pass it up just out of spite.

Tier 4 (2 prize limit):

Assault Disrupter D33-DR (6M): This weapon is extremely useful in conjunction with railgun-type weapons to slow down your target and make your shots more effective.  With a recently reduced build time (from xxx to xxx), it is a fair deal to build now. 

Neptune (9.5M): The best attribute of this hull is its 600 Siege Deflection.  I've been using one as a tank for base hits & Forsaken missions, and it has been quite effective.  The only fleets I've (personally) seen complete the new Drac Uranium bases are full Neptune fleets.  Use with Siege Battery 3.

Siege Battery 3 (5M): See above, but it is useful on more hulls than just the Neptune. 

Apocalypse Mortar (12M): Despite fleets getting faster, this mortar is found in many top-tier base defenses.  Retrofits & Eruption Pyre help it quite a bit.

Zynthonite Armor D5-E (5.5M): Although D5-E has been on the Elite Tier of the Forsaken Mission for a while now, this may be a sign that it will be rotated out.  Even if it isn't rotated out, getting this is a commonly used armor and you want it.

Harrier Missile D52-R (7.5M): The Blade gets a lot of attention, but the high bypass, light weight, and good build time make the Harrier EXTREMELY desirable, especially against high resistance ships.  See my recent missile comparison if you missed that. 

Trident (9M): You have to have a good plan to use this short range missile effectively.  It packs a huge punch, but you really need remote targeting to be able to get any useful range out of it.

Scrambler Cannon (5.5M):  I'd rather just kill my target faster.

Tier 3 (3 Prize Limit):

Nuclear Accelerators (2.5M): If you want to play with the new ballistics (or even the old ones), this is a must-have.

Crossbow 3 (3M): maybe not a top choice in ballistics, but with reduced build time & the removal of the "stop-to-fire" requirement, it is usable.  Make sure you can rank your ships if you use this weapon because it has a very long reload time.

Siege Missile D55-Z (4.5M): Still desirable in some situations, and with a newly reduced build time.  The lower range isn't so bad if you have Remote Targeting.

Compound Panels E (3M): Railguns are Ballistic, Drac Bombers are Explosive, Harrier/Blade are Penetrating... even on your turrets, you probably shouldn't load up on a single defense type these days.

Achilles Missile D55-B (1M):  One of the worst weapons ever in this game finally got a build time reduction to match its reduced weight, and it is now usable.  But now it's kind of light... more like a starter missile.  Harriers, Blades, Disrupters, and Siege Z are more useful.

Depleted Uranium Shells 3 (2M): Good for Javelin & Ballista Turrets

Countermeasure Targeting (2M):  This turret special is only really useful on Coax Turrets, which aren't too useful anymore with or without this special.

Tier 2 (3 Prize Limit):
Zynthonite Armor D3-C (500k): I always sing the praises of D3 armor as being a nice trade-off between weight & build time.  Ballistic protection just might be more of a thing.

Mercury (750k):  A useful missile hull if you don't have any of the premium hulls.  A short build time and good retrofits make this a great hull for moving up in the world.

Crossbow 2 (750k): With the rebalance, the Crossbows are all similar in performance, just varying size. See what I wrote about the Crossbow 3.

Siege Battery 1 (550k):  You might want some options if you are weight-limited, but using less armor and a bigger Siege Battery might be a better choice.  And why isn't Siege Battery 2 on Tier 3?

Compound Panels C (400k): Usable if you can't get the bigger version.

Interdictor (500k):  Without comprehensive ship build time reform, this hull usually works out to be a terrible deal in build time.

Tier 1 (3 Prize Limit):

Battlecruiser (60k): A very useful utility hull for stepping up.  Retrofits also are a big improvement here, but often available through the Forsaken Mission.

Crossbow 1 (75k): With the rebalance, the Crossbows are all similar in performance, just varying size. See what I wrote about the Crossbow 3.  This might be a good weapon for intro ballistic hulls.

Compound Panels A (50k): Usable if you can't get the bigger version.

Zynthonite Armor D2-C (150k):  Armor options are good, but Evade is usually better.

Zynthonite Armor D1-X (40k):  Maybe you need a little bit of explosive resistance on something, but you don't want to use a lot of weight.  Because... you know... Daisy Cutters.

Vortex Torpedo D61-M (50k): With the rebalance making all the weapons perform a lot more closely to each other, you usually just want the biggest torpedo you can find, and this isn't it.  For example, I'd look at using Havok 4 instead unless you are totally weight-constrained.

Limited Items (Limit 5 of each)
Compound Armor D6-A (1.25M):  I really like this special, since it is just a bit of a bump from D5-X without too much extra weight or build time.  

Agility System IV (1M): I've kind of come around on this one because it can be really useful, but I still don't like the build time.

Fallout Armor IV (500k): Even with the big price cut from last time (1M), I still don't think this is useful in most situations, and lack of ballistic defense can be a real Achilles heel.

Gale Defense System 1/2/3 (250k / 500k / 750k): Gale 1 in particular is light and cheap, but I'm not so sure how critical mortar defense is for today's fast fleets.  I prefer Phalanx with their higher accuracy for UAVs.  These anti-mortars can come in handy in 85s if you want to creep through the centers, so they aren't all bad, and they are a big upgrade from Hailstorms (a Gale 2 is more effective than a Hail C).  These are also pretty useful in those newfangled Draconian Uranium Bases.

Hydraulic Resistors (1.5M):  This combines a 15% concussive resistance with Speed System V.  If you aren't getting Tier 4 in the Forsaken Mission, this might be a way to get that capability for a fleet.  This is also a nice upgrade for "tank" ships, and it can be combined with Ion Thrusters to get a decent turn speed on the Heavy Cruiser (or other ships).

Cobra Scattergun (1.2M): The best use for this hybrid slot weapon seems to be on subs like the Tiger Shark.  Worth getting if you have a build in mind, but the build time is a bit extreme.

Token Store!  7 days of ship build tokens for 19.44 Million points.
  Remember you are still subject to the token limits, so you will have to spend the tokens to keep buying them, and you should keep an eye on the point / coin ratio you're getting in the raid to figure out if this is a good deal for you

Final thoughts:
If you are worried about power creep, the new Railgun is a good thing - it is just a slight improvement over the weapon choices we have now.  You could argue that for it to be attractive, bumping its range from 50 to 51 or 52 (putting it in the 97-99 range class as the Drac Bomber & the SFB3 Blade/Harrier) would have done it. Just remember that you can't have it both ways - either the weapon is pretty close to the same level of destructiveness as the ones we have now (and so it doesn't seem like a must-have), or it is super awesome & blows everything else away and continued the power creep/sprint we've been experiencing.  Let's try a month like this.  The new Punisher hull has similar offensive output as the Crusader, but it has defensive capabilities in line with the latest generation of hulls... although it is a step forward, I don't think it is out of line with what we should be seeing.  The 100% damage bonus combined with Railgun hits may make this hull more effective against ships with Assault Deflection.  One more thought - there is a new Armor Piercing Shells special planned for the Forsaken Mission cycle after the raid, giving a damage boost and more piercing range.  Keep that in mind if you plan to coin some builds.

The rest of the prize list is pretty good overall as well.  I put a lot less red out there than I have been doing in previous raids.  In fact, I think a lot of players will be "stuck" between which prizes to choose on Tier 4. My advice is to look at what fleet you are interested in building next, and decide whether ballistics (and the DR cannon) or missiles (and the Harrier) will be your thing. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Bypass & Deflection Effects on Missile Damage

Sorry about the long time between articles.  And for those who watch the BPC YouTube show, sorry I've been unable to come on for the last few weeks.  Holiday season has been a bit busy.  This article has been promised for a while... and here it is!

When the latest generation of missiles (Harrier, Disruption, Blade, and Trident) came out, it was a real resurgence for missile fleets, especially when paired with the Rhino hull.  It wasn't just their DPS/hton, it was also their range and projectile speed that really made them much better than any previous missile. It was also generally recognized that the Blade was the best missile, and the other ones were second class.  A lot of players overlooked the Disruption Missile available in Tier 3 (and still do), but everyone was wanting the Blade.  Because of the bypass on the Harrier and Disrupter missiles, I noticed that Harrier/Disrupter effective damage would overtake the Blade at some high resistance level (in the high 80's), but it wasn't really important in most cases.

Now Kixeye has done a weapon rebalance, and also introduced ships like the Heavy Cruiser and the Draconian Carrier with very high levels of Assault Deflection.  

The weapon rebalance had the following major effects on missile weapons:
Blade - No effect
Harrier, Disrupter, Trident - Damage more than doubled.
Siege, Strike, Achilles - Damage increase and large weight reduction.
Assault - Damage increase and large weight reduction.  Salvo changed to 1 (Z).

I'm ignoring most Forsaken and Reaver (Torrent) missiles for this article.  Most of the Forsaken research weapons have moved down into the really light category, so their performance is more like a Strike Missile, and including them would have just busied up the charts.  I still don't think Torrents are worthwhile in most situations.

Click this link for my more in depth article on the rebalance, and you can see some of the comparisons for missiles I left out.

So after the rebalance, the rest of the "new generation" of missiles really was a lot closer to the Blade, and the previously obsolete Draconian missiles might be usable again. 

Most of the rest of this article is going to be looking at different situations and comparing missile damage.  Those of you who really hate math should probably skip to the charts.  But to understand how I'm computing DPS (and what assumptions went into those charts), I'll remind you of the formula:

DPS = (Damage - Deflection) * Accuracy / Cycle Time

Damage is taken as the primary damage (Penetrative) plus the bonus damage (Radioactive for the Siege Z & Assault Z).  The damage is reduced by the target's resistance against that damage type so damage becomes:

Damage = Pen Damage * (1 - Pen Resist%*(1-Bypass %)) * (1 + Pen Damage Bonus %)+ Bonus Damage * (1 - Rad Resist %)

My spreadsheet uses a ratio of Rad Resistance to Pen Resistance in its computations, but in this article, I set that to 1.0, which effectively makes the Radioactive Resist % equal to the Penetrative Resist %.  This isn't a great assumption because Rad Resist is usually lower, but I couldn't really decide what to set it to.  This does have an effect on the relative effectiveness of the Siege Missile Z & Assault Missile Z that do bonus radioactive damage.

Bypass reduces the effective resistance of your target.  I have confirmed with Doomrooster that bypass does NOT affect deflection.

The Penetrative Damage Bonus is important, because it affects the relative effectiveness of missiles when deflection is included.

Accuracy is the weapon's accuracy multiplied by any accuracy bonuses, and then reduced by the target's evade as follows:

Accuracy = Weapon accuracy * (1 + Accuracy Bonus %) * (1 - Target Evade %)

Accuracy Bonuses can come from the hull, Laser Targeting, or Guided Missile System.  In this article I used only the weapon accuracy for my DPS calculations.  

When comparing the relative effectiveness of missile weapons, the Bonuses & Evade will only have an effect when the net accuracy (after evade) is over 100%.  Since the accuracy can't increase above 100% the DPS increase from an accuracy bonus stops when Accuracy hits 100% , a high accuracy weapon (like the Blade) is helped less by accuracy bonuses when firing at LOW evade targets.  For example, if the target has zero evade, the DPS of the Blade is not helped at all by Laser Targeting because its accuracy is 100% both before and after the LT is added.  (OK actually the Blade's accuracy is 160%, but its HIT RATE is 100% in both cases.) However, a Strike Missile with 60% accuracy will have 96% accuracy after the 60% LT3 accuracy bonus, so its DPS is also increased by 60%.  But against a target with 50% evade, the LT3 Blade ends up at 80% accuracy, it is is helped by LT3.  In most situations (these days), the target's evade is high enough that ignoring all the accuracy bonuses and Evade is good enough to do a relative comparison.

Cycle time is the reload time added to the time that it takes to fire the full salvo of shots. 

Cycle Time = Reload Time + 0.2 * (Salvo - 1)

It is just about always 0.2 seconds between shots in a salvo.  But luckily enough for the purposes of this article, all the missiles I'm comparing have a salvo of 1, so only reload time matters.  This also means that rank-based and weapon reload bonuses don't have any effect on the comparison.

One more number you'll see me use is DPS/hton, which tries to compare the relative usefulness of weapons by dividing by their weight.  

DPS/hton = DPS / weapon weight * 100

Before the weapons rebalance, this number was my most critical statistic in evaluating weapons, because there were drastic differences between weapons.  But since the rebalance, most weapons of a type (like missiles) have had their DPS/hton move much closer together.  In addition, now that missiles are much lighter (mostly), weapon choice isn't as limited by weight, and so raw DPS (rather than DPS/hton) is a much more important statistic.  Most of the comparisons I made in this article are using DPS rather than DPS/hton for that reason.  

So on to the charts...

This first chart will show the relative DPS of the missiles as the target's resistance increases.  It assumes no damage bonuses and no deflection.

When plotting my data, I used the convention that the base weapon was plotted with a solid line, and the R15 version uses a dashed line.  Most of the missile retrofits increase damage or fire rate, but the Bypass Missile retrofit increases the bypass percentage.  Because of this, there is no difference in those missiles' (the Harrier, Disruption, and Achilles) performance against a target with zero resist, but the difference shows up as the target resistance increases.

Also note that the DPS statistics for the Harrier and Disrupter are the same, so I used a single line to represent both missiles.

Most of the weapons have their damage trail off toward zero except the ones with some significant deflection - the Harrier / Disrupter (shown on the same line since they so the same damage), the Achilles, and the Strike B.  Those weapons have bypass which allows them to ignore a percentage of the resistance.

The Trident (orange) is often forgotten about because of its short range, but when used on a remote targeting ship it can be effective, although its damage won't be as good at those remote ranges.

The crossover points in the lines are important.  For example, the Blade R15 (yellow dash) line crosses the Disruption R15 (brown dash) line at around 64%, meaning the retrofitted Disruption (or Harrier) does more damage than the retrofitted Blade against targets with more than 64% penetrative resist.  If not retrofitted, that crossover point is at 55%.

The same graph showing DPS/hton is below:

The graph looks a lot more crowded, because of what I said before - Kixeye made a lot of the weapons perform much more closely to each other (in DPS/hton) after the rebalance.  

On that chart, the Harrier (red) shows much better than the Disruption (brown), since it weighs less, but the real surprise is the strong showing of the Achilles Missile (gray), which is quite possibly my least favorite weapon in Battle Pirates ever.  Of course, its high efficiency in DPS/hton is mostly because they have made the weapon lighter.  So a Mastodon full of Achilles Missiles still won't be as good as a Mastodon full of Blades (at least until Pen resistance is above 92% or so - see the last chart).  It won't ever be as good as a Mastodon full of Disruptions or Harriers.  And Kixeye still hasn't fixed build times, so that Mastodon full of Achilles will take an obscene amount of time to build.  Don't do it.

The interesting bit is that you can see that the Blade R0 and the Harrier start in the same place. In other words, the Harrier & Blade have identical DPS/hton, and so against a target with any resistance, the Harrier will be more efficient.  When fully retrofitted, that crossover point is around 33% resistance.

We have all come up against ships with Assault Deflection that reduce incoming damage.  The Proto-Hunter has 60 Assault Deflection, The Heavy Cruiser has 300, and the Draconian Carrier has 450.  This reduces damage per hit, and it isn't affected by bypass, so that will favor the higher damage missiles, as you can see on the graph below.

Two Notes:
1. I have not been able to confirm if there is a minimum damage that comes into effect with deflection.

2. The "hockey stick" at the bottom of the charts are an effect of doing the calculation at every 5% damage point.  The lines should actually be straight.

Many of the missiles are completely ineffective against the 450 deflection from a Drac Carrier.  When considering that a Drac Carrier using D5-X Compound Armor R0 is at 53% Penetrative Resist already (59% with R15), even an unretrofitted Blade is pretty much useless. 

I think the unexpected result is that the Siege Missile Z shows up pretty strongly here compared to the other missiles.  The reason is that it has a higher base damage than any other missile (1943 damage at R15 including the Bonus damage, a Blade R15 does 1255 damage).  When deflection is not at work, its lower accuracy makes its DPS worse than the Blade, but the higher starting damage helps it against the high deflection ships. 

But there is another factor at work here - damage bonuses.  If you are using a Rhino, you get a 20% damage bonus, and many players will use Enhanced Warheads, Strike Warheads, or Interception System with their missile ships.  EW3 gives a 33% damage bonus, SW & IS gives a 45% damage bonus, and SW R15 gives a 55.7% damage bonus.

Without deflection, the crossover points on the charts are just scaled when considering these damage bonuses, since they just scale the DPS.  But against the Drac Carrier they look like this:

Now the missiles look a lot closer to each other, especially in that range around 50% - 60% penetrative resist that we would expect from a Drac Carrier.  The Harrier and Disruption missiles stay relevant against high resistances.

So what have we learned?

The "Best" missile really depends on the situation.  

In my personal case, I am using two remote targeting ships in my Guard fleet.  One is a Proto-Mastodon with all Harrier Missiles, and the other is a Mastodon with a mix of Siege Z & Strike L missiles.  Both have EW 3. As you can probably deduce, my guard fleet updates tend to lag my other ship builds (since i much prefer spending my shipyard time building ships I sail around & have fun with), however, I was planning to refit the Mastodon with Blades.  After running these numbers, I think I will keep the Siege Z missiles, and only refit over the Strikes (probably to Blades to keep a mix).

Another point this analysis should have really driven home for many players is that if you haven't gotten Blades or Harriers, Disruption missiles are a great option.  If using Harriers or Disruption, the Bypass Missile retrofit is relatively cheap, so that is a cost-effective use of Uranium.

Keep range in mind too.  Although Tridents look great in these damage comparisons, their range with SFB3 is only 71.5  Even the difference with Siege Missiles (88.4) and Blades (98.8) is very significant, and is a big factor in making the Blade/Harrier/Disruption missiles more effective.

The Achilles is starting to show up OK in these missile comparisons, but keep one more statistic in mind... 2 days, 27 minutes, 29 seconds.  That's the build time of ONE Achilles Missile (with officer).  It was a terrible deal when new, and it still is.  Look at the Siege Z at 15 hours each, or even the Cutlass 4 at 10 hours 45 minutes (if you're really hurting for missile options).  Although the weapon rebalance seemed to have a goal of making a lot more weapons 'usable', build time reform is sorely needed before that is really the case.

One more thing - if you want the spreadsheet I used to generate these plots, you can download it at:!668&authkey=!AJqvJtJm8tTWoPk&ithint=file%2cxlsx
(Whoops! had an editable link posted for a while there.  Hopefully nobody messed with it too much, and any errors are now clearly the fault of the random dudes who messed with the spreadsheet.  Ha ha no I think it's still good.)

Hopefully you guys won't find any errors...but if you do, please let me know.