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!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Mega Ship Builder's Guide

I've got my Mega.  I was unable to beat any of the Clash of Titans campaign.  Part fo my problem was that my Mega was completed too close to the start of that campaign, but I did have a little bit of build time to work with before the campaign ended.  If I knew a little more, I might have been able to do better.  I still haven't done much with my Mega - I don't consider myself an expert in Mega Ship Combat, but I'll share what I know and hopefully this article will help you avoid big mistakes.

The first thing I want to get out there is that the Hyperion Build tokens only work as your Hyperion is being built in the Gantry.  Once complete, those tokens are useless for building and refitting modules on your Hyperion.  BOO Kixeye!

The basic view of the Hyperion looks like this:

You can see that there are 10 slots for Weapon modules, and 1 slot each for a Bridge and Engine.

Upgrade Options:

Within a Weapon module, you can upgrade the module, or upgrade the weapon.

Upgrading the weapon will make it hit harder - the Level 1 to Level 2 upgrade looks like this:

This upgrade shows about a 25% increase in damage.  (I'll summarize costs & such later)

Upgrading the module will allow more equipment to be mounted to the module

This upgrade increases the armor (health) of the module by 25%, increases the number of weapon & special slots by one each, and also increases the maximum weight allowed.

Building a new module starts with two basic weapon options: the Culverin Cannon and the Titan Mortar.  Conger Rockets were available from the campaign.

The Cannon isn't too difficult to understand:

It is a splash (un-aimed) cannon weapon that shoots with a small amount of splash and a lot of range.  8110 damage is nice, but in the big picture, it isn't too much all by itself.

The Mortar weapon is a bit more tricky to figure:

The Titan Mortar needs a bit more study.  At a glance its damage looks huge, but the damage will be spread over its projectiles, and those projectiles will be spread over much of its firing area.  With 4 simultaneous salvos of 15 projectiles, its damage per projectile will be 288,800 / (15 * 4), or about 4800 each.  The weapon also has a large reload time of 30 seconds.  Without having seen this weapon in action, I can't tell yet whether it will be more or less effective than the cannon.  Even against moving targets, if it covers a large enough area, the shells may be difficult to avoid.

Overall, I would count on the Mega Ship weapons to be more effective against other Mega ships, but to deal with the incoming "regular" ships we can see in Mega ship combat, you will need to mount "regular" weapons to your Mega Ship modules.

The interface to add regular weapons and specials to Mega Ship modules is accessed through the "refit" command.


This interface feels more like a traditional ship building interface, you can add weapons and specials (but not armor).  You are limited by weight.  Adding each weapon will cost Titanium.  The Titanium costs can really add up - weapons generally cost 5,000 - 30,000 titanium each, and specials can cost 6,000 - 40,000 titanium.  Build times look like the build time needed when mounting on a regular ship (without any R&D or officer bonus).

Build Strategy:
So without much experience, I can't be sure what's best, but I'll share my initial thoughts.

One more note: a module that is building, upgrading, or refitting will not fire.  So consider that before starting any combat.

Right now, it seems like the real hazards in Mega Ship combat are the incoming regular fleets.  Defending against those has to be a priority.  When adding regular weapons to a module, I plan to specialize a weapon type per module, in order to take advantage of the synergy between specials and weapons.  I'll go through some of the options:

Most hulls we see incoming will be Apollos, or other conqueror hulls.  Deflection is expected to be their primary means of protection.  It looks like weapons mounted to Mega Modules get 100% defense bypass, so high damage per shot is desirable to overcome any remaining deflection.  Old school DPS calculations may come back into play here when choosing weapons.

Cyclone Launchers are your best bet here, and adding Atomic Targeting for accuracy and damage is also a good choice.  For a second special, a multishot booster like Emission Generator is desirable, but also titanium expensive.  In comparison, Barrel Loader costs an outrageous amount of Titanium.

I tried some D33-DR cannons in conjunction with Concussive Reciprocator weapons - I wasn't too thrilled with the results.  Bypass Chainguns are sometimes used effectively against incoming Conqueror hulls and could be a good choice here - most lack ballistic deflection.  Nuclear Accelerators add accuracy as well as range (and a useless speed bonus), so they present an advantage over Hardened Barrels (which cost more anyway).  With no rank bonuses available, decreasing your reload time with Auto-Loader is a good play.  Armor Piercing Shells aren't too expensive here as a third special choice.

Switchblades are the intriguing weapon to use here here.  Not only do they do a high per-shot damage against ships, but they also give the anti-missile defense which could help against incoming Apollos.  Guided Missile System is a must for range and accuracy.  For a damage boost, Strike Warheads are the top choice, but awful expensive.  Interception System and Enhanced Warhead are much cheaper.  Anti-Missile Proliferation System would help your defense if you prefer that route.

Since your incoming targets are fast movers, Mortar & Rocket weapons probably are not the way to go on your Mega Ship Modules.  If you want to try these, the Coaxial Firestorm is a much better deal than the Judgment Mortar.

Depth Charge: 
I was hoping for great things from my Concussive Reciprocators, but have been disappointed so far, even against the computer-controlled targets that sailed into range.  I mixed them up with ballistics, so maybe concentrating them with Strike Warheads (Concussion System is the value play) and a splash upgrade like Combustion System 2 would be the thing.  Note that CS2 is a better deal than Explosive System 4.  I think that these have potential due to their Wind Up capability - remember your Mega Ships do not get a rank bonus.

Scattergun / Thrower:
The short range of these weapons makes them unlikely to be effective in most combats.

Phalanx might help against incoming missile fleets like Apollos, and Gales might help against incoming Vendettas, but I'd start with some offensive-focused modules before turning to these.  I'm really not liking the long build time of the Phalanx in this context, maybe stick with the cheaper, faster Switchblade for Anti-Missiles.

Can't use these.

Although armor specials won't affect these modules (Defense Handicap), evade... might.  Just keep in mind Mega Ship weapons aren't aimed, so evade upgrades like Guidance Scrambler would only help against incoming aimed weapons from regular ships (and I'm not 100% sure they would do that, although the evade statistic does show up in the module defense block).

I collected this data from my Mega - I am at R&D Level 30 with a shipyard officer- I'm not sure what effects carry over from the shipyard to Mega Ship refits... .at a quick check vs the in-game shipyard, it looks like none of them do.

Weapon Cost Summary

Special Cost Summary


Mega Ship improvements are mostly Titanium-based (with a little Uranium too).  Titanium is collected from 91 Mega Ships (currently), or looted from enemy Megas.  At 8,000 per 91 target, collecting Titanium is a slow process (but not too damaging) for most players and I think that is the biggest slowdown to try to improve Megas.

The other two basic resources are Advanced Components and Metal Alloy.  These are produced from Titanium and Uranium (for Alloy only).  This is done through a new Manufacturing tab in your Outpost R&D interface.  

Advanced Components are relatively cheap, but take a full day to build.  Metal Alloy takes 25,000 titanium and the same amount of Uranium, but only takes half an hour to build.  

The following table summarizes the basics:

Further upgrades past level 2 may take more resources and/or time.

Upgrade Strategy:
These are my random thoughts about how to increase the effectiveness of your Mega the most quickly:

- With Advanced Components being (relatively) cheap but long to build, I try to keep my Manufacturing busy building those.  If I can build up a surplus, then losing them won't hurt too much.  Losing the resources associated with the Metal Alloy will feel more painful (I think), and the Advanced Components are going to need to be built up in advance anyway.  

- Building a new Mega Module seems like it will add more damage output to a ship than improving an existing module.  It's cheaper and faster too.  So I likely will build out my modules before doing much improvement.

- Like I said earlier, building a single weapon type within a module will be the best way to optimize the weapon effectiveness.  I think I'll be building out the weapons on each module before building another.  After I get enough regular weapons to hold off a regular fleet, I may change that strategy, but I'm not sure how many weapons that will be.

I hope this helps those of you with new Mega Ships figure out the basics.  I'm going to need a lot more experience with Mega combat before being able to tell which items are really the most effective... so watch those hulls!