Author Topic: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts  (Read 456 times)

Offline tadrinth

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Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« on: June 03, 2020, 01:26:58 PM »
Started a new campaign even though I never finished the last one.  Some thoughts:

I still hate fusion bombers.  I know they're 'good against structures' because they ignore shields and structures have lots of shields.  The problem is, if I go up against a cluster of AI Great Turrets, I want to focus them down one by one. But, if I bring along fusion bombers, focus firing makes them useless!  Their bonus is useful in direct proportion to how much shield the target has left when they die, and if the rest of the fleet nukes down the shield while they nuke down the hull, their bonus didn't help me at all.  So I either need to not focus fire (which makes me kill turrets slower and take more casualties, even though the bombers should be killing things faster), or I need to tell the bombers to focus fire a different turret, which adds a constant micro overhead.  AND they shouldn't be in the default starting fleet, because they're not part of the rock-paper-scissors classic triangle, pike corvettes are.  Admittedly I've not aggressively upgraded them; perhaps they'd be able to nuke down turrets before the rest of the fleet took down shields if I invested heavily in them.  But their mechanic only works if they're enough of a percentage of your fleet to kill turrets themselves, which requires either a lot of science or getting more of them from ARS hacks. And since they're ONLY strong against turrets and structures, that seems like a terrible basket to put all your eggs in, their special mechanic doesn't counter against anything in waves or the hunter fleet. Maybe they've got a great base DPS to compensate, but if so, then they don't match the intuition of a bomber very well. 

And putting that mechanic on a turret is deeply confusing, because turrets are not going to be shooting at structures under normal circumstances.  Having turrets that prioritize ships that aren't being shot at by other turrets (because fusion turrets have a small damage bonus against ships with lots of shields) is an effective damage *penalty*.  I'm assuming they must have significantly higher base DPS to compensate, I haven't had a chance to check.  PS I miss having all the units in the wiki like AIWC had. 

Part of my grump here is that I don't care if damage bonuses are implemented as a wacky mechanic (ignore shields) or as a boring multipler (6x damage to structures).  If the wacky mechanic produces awkward gameplay mechanics, then I'd much rather just have the boring multiplier. 

I would rethink the default starting fleet, it should have all three components of a rock-paper-scissors triangle.  I think swapping in pike corvettes will accomplish this.

I don't think the default starting fleet should have a forcefield frigate (as badass as those are) because that sets people up with bad habits.  It encourages you to keep everything under the mobile forcefields, which eliminates 90% of the rock-paper-scissors gameplay, and hides all the differences between your ships, like range and speed and damage bonuses, because they're all always in a big clump if you're doing it right.  EDIT TO ADD: and this may encourage people to turn off auto-kite! The force fields also dramatically reduce casualties which in turn means mobile factories and econ are less important, which means new players won't learn those systems as quickly either.  I'd suggest something like fighters, pikes, concussion, and an anti-structure or general-dps frigate. 

I would like AIWC-style seeding of irreplaceable capturables:  all of them in one place in a system, all of them near the edge of a gravity well away from wormholes.  I have a major data center (which i have to defend forever against exos or monomaniacal hunter fleet units) that's right next to a wormhole to a system I really don't want.  The GCA in the same system spawned on the other side of it, so I had to hack it, even though I plan to hold and heavily fortify this system, just so that I didn't have to split my defenses and risk losing the data center.  There aren't enough major data centers spawned for me to refuse to take one just cause it happened to spawn next to a wormhole, that's just not very fun. 

Major Data Centers might be better if the map gen spawned more of them, but you could only hold two of them (either the rest explode, or the response doubles for each one you hold after the first two).  They're so good that I feel like there's not a lot of choice in whether to take them, and a more interesting choice might be which ones to take and hold. This is especially true since the usual anti-RNG currency (hacking) doesn't work on them.  Other thought would be adding the option to hack them before capturing them to destroy them without any cost, or to get a small AIP reduction; that gives you an option if it happens to seed on a planet with a really good fleet that you don't want to defend. 

Holy heck, Teuthida guardians on planets with munition boosters are scary.  I had to kill an instigator base on a piddling Mark II world, after I'd clear some Mark IV worlds.  It was in the opposite direction of my current expansion, and I figured, hey, mark II world, I'll just send my regular fleet and not try to get my combat factory all the way over there (which I forgot had my MkIV sentinel gunships which were half my firepower).  I wound up with half my fleet zombified by the time I killed all the dang guardians, had to go back and refleet, and lost almost the entire fleet killing the zombies, turrets, and the instigator base.  I have deep respect for Teuthida guardians, and also, need to figure out a new counter to them (the AIWC counter to Teuthida, like so many other things, was 'starships and low-cap fleet ships with piles of immunities'). 

« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 06:21:13 PM by tadrinth »

Offline tadrinth

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Re: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2020, 04:15:52 PM »
I'm totally having a blast, by the way, previous post of complaints notwithstanding.

Also I'm dying for the next patch to hit, I found a Scourge bio-lab and I really want to hack it once the next patch makes it so they don't kill warp gates. 

Offline tadrinth

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Re: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2020, 03:21:01 AM »
So, this wound up being an interesting campaign, though unfortunately not very representative due to a ton of bugs.  But hey, at least I finally finished a campaign!

I'm on an Octopus map, both because uh, I created it so obviously I'm going to play it, and also because I gave the AI some Intensity 5 Scourge.  Gotta have choke points against scourge.

First bug: I started with the Parasite fleet... which has only 2 ship lines, instead of 4. It's been buffed up to 3 ship lines (added parasitic hydras).  It worked pretty well against the first few planets; zombifying all the enemy ships works really well.  Killing guard posts was less fun.  Killing Dire Guardians was awful, and it seems as though every MkV+ planet gets one.  MkV planets were a real bear for a long time.

First fleet I went for was Agravics, Pikes, and Parasitic Pikes.  That was an absolutely crazy fleet to find, because all three of those are Disruptive/Medium tech.  Even better, I eventually figured out that Agravics are good against stuff with high engine power, and it turns out all Dire Guardians seem to have massive engine power to make them tractor immune.  That seems like somewhat of a balance issue, honestly, but I'm not sure how to fix it.  I wound up hacking for Agravic Pods whenever possible, with Pikes as secondary, and extending the Agravic lines twice.  With the Agravics killing Dire Guardians and the Parasites zombifying everything else, I had a pretty kickass fleet, especially once I upgraded Disruptive a bunch.

Unfortunately, my first attempt failed to cut the map in half fast enough. Well, I made the cut before hardly any scourge got past, but they put a spawner adjacent to my cut point, and a spawner sitting around for a while plus a mark V planet proved way too hard to clear. 

Wound up starting over and rushing down there; this time they put an armory there instead.  I was a bit quicker to get there also.  That wound up pretty much neutering the Scourge; they wound up trapped in just one arm of the map, pretty much. 

I captured a data center and a GCA in the middle.  Very helpful for AIP, but ultimately holy hell did this make my life pain.  See, initially it was triggering exos.. then i opted into a beta branch and it started spawnign threat, huge piles of guardians, enough to force me to defend with my fleet repeatedly.  I even updated the command station to mark II, but it was still pretty brutal.  THen I updated again and the attacks.. stopped.  There was a patch note that the spawns had been tuned down, so I figured maybe they were intimidated by my defenses.

I gradually realized that something was rather deeply wrong.  The threat indicator showed increasingly large amounts of threat strength, but none of it ever showed up to attack me, even though it was quite a bit higher than my defenses.  CPA triggered and, again, nothing attacked me.  Turns out there was a bug that caused the Hunter and Warden fleets to sit on the AI HW, which I finally realized when I scouted it and saw the gravity well liberally coated with guardians.  100+ of each type, roughly 1500S total. See the absolutely wild screenshot here: https://bugtracker.arcengames.com/view.php?id=23287#c57289

I'd also hacked for scourge allies, and ran into a bug where they were not properly respecting my instructions to not kill command stations. Got that fixed (and was forced to capture a GCA, but it has Acid Turrets so I can't complain).  They proceeded to liberally coat the map with spawners and armories; I'd attack and clear a planet, they'd follow up with a building, and then as long as I kept threat away they'd eventually reinforce it enough for it to stay alive without my help.  However, I think this resulted in even more threat spawns targeted at them, also not moving from the AI HW.

Well.  Not ideal.  I figured I'd need a lot of firepower to crack that, so I went and got the other major data center for AIP reduction, hacked for as many Agravics and Pikes as I could get, plus the Grand Salvage ark which came with Tackle Drone Launchers.  Then another ark for even more tackle drone launchers, another fleet with Rangers and Stalkers (yet more disruptive or technologist ships! and stalkers are good against all guardians because they all use lots of energy!), and finally a Hive Golem, which I then upgraded to Mark V.

That was nowhere near enough.  While I'd been looting the map, the AI had reinforced all the way up to 3000S.  I tried anyway; there were so many tractor guardians that my entire fleet would be immediately pinned in range of a giant pile of Subverter turrets.  Because the wormhole was directly on top of the AI Home Command.  Ugh.

Waited over the weekend for a fix to the hunter and warden fleets.  I fortified the heck out of the first planet next to the AI HW; milspec command, every turret I could build from two GCAs, a battlestation, and a citadel.  Giant piles of MkV pikes and MLRS turrets. 1300S total defense.  Expected to get steamrolled and have to fall back, possibly multiple times, with the goal of hard stopping them at the MDC if all else failed.

Applied patch, loaded up game, waited.  No bites; the AI refused to come at me. 

I had to abandon the system and fall back to my previous system before the AI would come out.  By this point there are 5-10 exogalactic units running around.  After a couple of reloads, I manage to lure a reasonable amount of threat and warden fleet out.  A couple of rounds of luring, attacking, and refleeting later, I got the HW down to just 2000S. 

Also, my friendly Scourge got a Nemesis right around this time.  Once they had that, they started actually attacking the AI... sort of.  I had to start attacks a few times.  Eventually they followed me into the AI HW proper, and I promptly ran all my ships away from the dang subverter turrets; scourge can't be zombified so I figured I'd let them deal with the turrets.  And with the multiple exo units that came out of the adjacent planet.

Well, while I was hiding out trying to take down a Gravity guard post to clear up some room to maneuver, the Scourge chewed through basically everything else on the planet.  I rushed the AI command station, but I think the friendly nemesis did most of the work of killing it; it went down really fast. Phase 2 lasted maybe 5s.

My biggest complaint about the ending, above even all the bugs I ran into, is that the fireteams logic doesn't seem to be very good at pressing the attack.  I had 1300S on a planet adjacent to their HW, and they supposedly had 3700S worth of threat.  If they'd rushed me with everything, I'm pretty sure I would have been steamrolled; I'd fortified heavily before applying the patch expecting exactly that.  I'd have done a heck of a lot of damage, but they could have taken out all my stuff and headed down the map to the Major Data Center, and I think they would have wiped everything in the way and take out the MDC, at which point the AIP would go from 200+ to 300+ and I'm not sure I would have recovered.  And there was a friendly Scourge Spawner in the same system as the MDC, so in theory all of the threat should have been able to agree on that system as an ultimate target and steamroll their way down together.  Instead they categorically refused to leave the AI HW unless I fell back a huge distance, and even then it took multiple reloads of the same save, removing different amounts of defenses, before I could get a useful amount of threat to head out.  At no point would they attack one of my planets.   I attached a save.

The friendly scourge did seem to follow me in when I attacked, at least if I tried it enough times, or at least once they got a Nemesis.  It was very nervewracking sitting there knowing that if we both attacking the Hunter Fleet we could take it, but if either of us attacked alone we'd lose, and the only reason the fleet was that strong in the first place was because of my scourge allies causing exo warfare units to spawn.  A better way to coordinate with them would be nice, either a 'hey follow me in' or 'hey please attack X'. Possibly I would trust them more if I didn't see them constantly send tiny forces into heavily fortified planets. And uh, it would be amazing if they were smart enough to send fireteams to friendly planets with incoming waves.  Possibly OP, though.

Other thoughts:

I had a huuuuge hump in difficulty for Mark V planets.  Possibly this was due to not investing in enough tech upgrades, or possibly due to starting with only parasites and mugger frigates, or possibly dire guardians are just a huge pain when all you've really got is mostly parasites, but it took me ages to get enough firepower to be able to crack these.  Eventually I went back and took some of the planets in my starting arm that I'd skipped to try to keep AIP super low, so maybe I just need to expand more aggressively early. 

Scourge builders should *always* be escorted around the map by some warriors. 

The combination of Disruptive (for killing guardians/dire guardians/hunterkillers via agravs/stalkers) and Technologist (for everything else via parasites / tackle drones / sentinel gunboats) is crazy strong. 

I wound up with 2 or 3 lines of Fusion bombers and got them to Mark V or so.  Still don't like them. 

Pretty much the only techs I unlocked were disruptive, technologist, fusion, medium hulls, and I think one level of econ and two levels of engineers.   I really don't like how the tech system forces you into a small set of ships; my fleet was basically agravs, pikes, parasites, stalkers, sentinels, and tackle drone frigates, because those are the techs I'd unlocked.   And the only turrets I cared about were Pikes, Acid, MLRS, and Fuseball, plus a tiny set of Gemini turrets from a Citadel. 

Possibly the Spire Archive should always spawn so that it is accessible from the human start without going through the AI HW.  It spawned on the far side and was totally inaccessible.

The Grand Salvage ark is hilarious.  Magnetic pull followed by point blank magnetic crush attack is just hilarious.

Tackle Drone Frigates are just crazy good.  Punting most of the enemies forces across the system makes life so much easier.  I'm not sure if selecting the fleet should also select the tackle drones, though.  I had to do a lot of manually selecting the drones to move them where I wanted them.  And the frigates themselves have a shocking amount of gun for how much damage the drones put out, but categorically refuse to close with anything to use them.  I'd often have to select the frigates, turn off attack-move or pursuit mode, then tell them where to go.  I guess the idea is that you don't want them moving around due to chasing enemies or autokiting, as that might cause your drones to come from a bad angle and push things in a way you don't want.  I think giving them longer range (8k probably) but less direct damage would make sense if the current behavior is kept. 

I need a hotkey for 'stop everything and go into pursuit mode'.  Sometimes I'd accidentally tell my fleet to move somewhere, and they'd all dutifully hike across the system and only then go back to pursuing things.

Also, all units in pursuit mode should have a queued order to return to their initial position once everything is dead.  Especially Citadels and Battlestations, and probably neither of those should autokite.  Possibly neither of those should shoot or repair unless it's been stationary 30s, like AIWC. I used my battlestation entirely offensively on my second run at this map, and it went much faster.  Citadels are a bit too slow for this to work, but if you can afford to wait for one to arrive, they certainly do provide a heck of a lot of additional DPS, especially if upgraded even slightly. 

« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 03:49:58 PM by tadrinth »

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2020, 10:43:40 AM »
Your ending complaint is noted, but it has much more to do with the fact that the Hunter Fleet didn't do anything until the late game. The problem is that the anti-specific thing fireteams are currently "only" allowed to go after those specific things. So they aren't allowed to be used to take random unrelated planets along the way. I don't think that accumulation of ships should happen without the bug you saw.
Edit I'm allowing anti-specific target hunter ships (like anti-MDC ships) to attack other things if they can't actually get to any of their desired targets.

Builders are deliberately not escorted so the player can snipe them. I don't think I could give them enough warriors to make it worthwhile anyway.

The Octopus or X map is definitely where the Scourge is weakest; basically, any map where you prevent their expansion early. I have a TODO to give them blockade-running builders.

"all units in pursuit mode should have a queued order to return to their initial position": Stuff like this where the ships are expected to be able to do "what the player wanted" is hard. For example, many times I have my units in pursuit mode all game; suppose I send them from planet A to attack planet B. What "initial position" should they use?

"Possibly I would trust them more if I didn't see them constantly send tiny forces into heavily fortified planets" That's probably a bug; do you have a save?
« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 12:19:30 PM by BadgerBadger »

Offline tadrinth

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Re: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2020, 03:47:23 PM »
Your ending complaint is noted, but it has much more to do with the fact that the Hunter Fleet didn't do anything until the late game. The problem is that the anti-specific thing fireteams are currently "only" allowed to go after those specific things. So they aren't allowed to be used to take random unrelated planets along the way. I don't think that accumulation of ships should happen without the bug you saw.
Edit I'm allowing anti-specific target hunter ships (like anti-MDC ships) to attack other things if they can't actually get to any of their desired targets.

Note: I'm gonna refer to the anti-specific-thing fireteams as 'assassins'.

Yeah, I think some kind of change is necessary here.  If I understand correctly, that means if I can capture a planet that is on all possible routes between the AI HW and an MDC, the assassins will not be able to attack, because they all spawn on the AI Homeworld and from there they'd have to go through a planet other than their target.   With the AI HW at the end of a long thin arm, that's basically inevitable, I'm almost forced to capture such a planet to be able to reach the HW without deepstriking.

I'm not sure what I think the ideal behavior here is.  I was sort of expecting them to figure out they have enough strength to push past all the defenses between them and their target and then just path straight through (not even attack, just fly past all my stuff).  I suppose that would leave them vulnerable to thing like long range turrets sniping them as they pass by, or tractor beams slowing them down (classic Exo counters).  It also might cause regular threat/hunter ships to think the AI has local superiority and head in, only to be left fighting overwhelming odds when the main force leaves to go kill an MDC.

If they clear planets that they're trying to get past, though, then you potentially wind up with the human player trying to maintain a forward base so he can hit the AI HW while the AI hammers that base with assassins for minor factions on the far side of the galaxy.  If that minor faction is really strong, the exo counter units might make that pretty much impossible (and you need to hold it to prevent deepstrike responses, IIRC). This might especially be a concern with the content for the next expansion. 

So, I think part of the issue is actually that all the spawns seem to show up on the AI HW.  If they could spawn at any warp gate, it would be much more difficult to block them from their target.  That might be too far in the other direction, of big nasty stuff spawning essentially anywhere on the map, though.  It's a bigger change, but I would suggest adding a new AI structure called an Exogalactic Warp Gate.  Exos and anti-specific-target hunter ships can then be spawned at any such warp gate.  Seed them sparsely all over the map alongside the regular warp gate and make them cost 5 AIP to destroy.  Make the AI Home Command count as one.  Have them sometimes spawn at the closest such gate and sometimes pick one at random.  That way you can gate raid the Exo gates behind your front lines, while not having to gate raid every single planet.  They don't even need to be retroactively seeded in existing saves, because the AI Home Command acts as one, so existing campaigns will get the current behavior and not invalidate anyone's strategic planning halfway through. 

Bonus points: allow AI ships in a system with an exo warp gate to teleport to any other exo warp gate. 

Or just have the AI be able to spawn assassins at any warp gate but prefer ones that are 3 hops out from any human worlds. 

The other issue, of course, is the Octopus map, which practically guarantees the AI will start at the end of an arm, and if they pick a sparse arm, there's just not a lot of routes available which exacerbates this issue. But I like the Octopus map so I'd rather make changes elsewhere. 

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Builders are deliberately not escorted so the player can snipe them. I don't think I could give them enough warriors to make it worthwhile anyway.
Yeah, I think this bothers me more from a flavor perspective than a gameplay perspective.   I just expect them to be smarter / more careful than to let their extremely precious builders run around by themselves.  Even some token guards would feel better, I think.  Or make it intensity based, with 5 having only token escorts and 10 meaning they guard them jealously.  If that means that Scourge 10 spends almost all its time escorting builders around until they get Subjugators/Nemeses, well hey, it's intensity 10, you asked for it. :)

On the other hand, the lack of escorts does make them stand out as noticeable and juicy targets, which is good from a gameplay perspective.  Though I'll note that Diablo 3 has Treasure Goblins for a reason, and that reason is to tempt players into reckless pursuits. Maybe builders should run when their shields are depleted?

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The Octopus or X map is definitely where the Scourge is weakest; basically, any map where you prevent their expansion early. I have a TODO to give them blockade-running builders.

Yeah, I like Octopus in general but I did pick it deliberately to let me try to bisect the map vs the Scourge.  Maybe it would be better if they always started with say, three spawners.  Randomly put them on AI HWs until all HWs have one, then scatter the rest on high mark planets through the map.  Still wise to bisect the map, because you can then focus on clearing all the scourge out of an arm at a time, but you can't just beat them to the middle and prevent them from leaving their starting arm. 

Or, you know, add Exo Warp Gates and let builders teleport between them. 

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"all units in pursuit mode should have a queued order to return to their initial position": Stuff like this where the ships are expected to be able to do "what the player wanted" is hard. For example, many times I have my units in pursuit mode all game; suppose I send them from planet A to attack planet B. What "initial position" should they use?

Hrm. I was going to say that I know this is solvable because that's how it worked in AIWC, but AIWC had a simpler selection and cross-planet-orders system.

In the given case, your last explicit order was to pass through the wormhole from A to B, so they should head back to the wormhole when they're done pursuing. 

I think AIWC handled the edge cases by only implementing this behavior in cases where there was a clear last movement order.  If you ordered everything to kill a guard post, they'd kill the guard post, then scatter to clear the system, then I think just stay scattered afterward.  As long as you queued up a 'move here' command after all your 'kill X next' commands, then they'd kill everything you asked them to, then everything else, then obey your move order. 

Not the most critical feature, but would be nice to have your defenses reset after each wave, or for your ships to re-coalesce after each hack spawn. 


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"Possibly I would trust them more if I didn't see them constantly send tiny forces into heavily fortified planets" That's probably a bug; do you have a save?

Yeah, attached to my previous post.  Load it up and wait, you should see tiny scourge fireteams head straight into the AI HW.  Possibly they are all part Evuck and think they can stealth through, in which case that's not so much a bug as them not understanding what it means for the AI to have over a thousand sentry frigates present. 
« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 04:02:30 PM by tadrinth »

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2020, 05:37:50 PM »
Yeah, the rules for (say) anti-MDC assassins are now as follows: If we can get to an MDC, we will go for it. If we can't, we are now generic fireteams that can attack anything. Keep in mind that assassins are brand new behaviour and the one person who has given me a lot of feedback (you) played most of the game with a bug that made them mostly disabled. I need more data before I make changes.

In general, X and Octopus maps give the player real advantages since you can cut off the AI homeworld. I'm not intending to add specific game mechanics for those map types. It just means the game is a bit easier on those, and that's okay. That said, DLC2 will have some new tools for the AI that will help on those maps...

Offline tadrinth

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Re: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2020, 06:48:28 PM »
Yeah, makes sense. Excited to play around with the new behavior, but I start a new job next week so may not have time/energy to play much for a bit.

I suppose I could always get a Pure 10 win by abusing the Octopus map, and then y'all will have to either ban Octopus or adjust mechanics. :P  I'd uh, probably have to get a lot better at this game for that though.

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Re: Trying out the Scourge / Random thoughts
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2020, 09:44:41 PM »
Could you stick your save and comments about scourge suiciding on mantis so I won't forget it?

The plan was to have DLC2 released around when multiplayer is done; the fact that multiplayer isn't even in alpha yet means it will  be a while. Which is actually great, because it increases the chances that DLC2 will be nicely polished and balanced on release.