Author Topic: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"  (Read 1306 times)

Offline x4000

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Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« on: January 10, 2017, 03:39:35 PM »
Original: http://arcengames.com/starward-rogue-update-1-507-difficulty-smoothing/

Hey everyone, Craig here.

The “Difficulty Smoothing” update is now out! For those not aware, the update prior to this one was huge, adding in a ton of new perks and also altering the balance significantly (for reasons I’ll go into below). Unfortunately, the balance was a bit too much on the difficult side, and this update should hopefully address that.

Quick Background

Before I go into the changes for this update, let me first explain why the changes for the previous update were needed. For a good while now, overly strong damage boosting upgrades have had an unhealthy grip on the game, causing the following problems:

1) The ability to stack upgrades to such a degree that the end game would become trivial. There have been many times when we’ve seen players tear through the final super boss of the game in a matter of seconds, and this was not a rare occurrence. It’s fine to hit an occasionally super powerful run that allows the player to do this, but it was happening way too often.

2) Having damage bonus numbers in the region of 50% to 75% for perks would mean that there would be no real choice for the player to make when choosing them. A player is always going to choose 50% damage over 2 extra missiles or a 25 bonus to energy, so coming up with perks to compete with those damage numbers would be very difficult.

3) As a result of the out-of-control damage bonuses, in the event that a player would get unlucky with RNG, and not encounter any, the game would become a very hard slog. Defensive builds could not really be used without the player intentionally wanting to handicap themselves.

4) In order to keep the game challenging so that players weren’t tearing through the end game, we would have to keep upping the HP on late game enemies which would make defensive builds even more worthless. It was a bad cycle.

Our Solution In The Last Update

In order to break free from the stranglehold of the above challenges so that other parts of the game -- like perks -- could flourish, we had to reduce the amount damage bonuses would give you.  Then we needed to try and tone down the enemy HP so that there was a bit more of a balance between damage and defense.

We did this, and we knew that this might cause some short-term balance issues. We tried to mitigate this by running a few betas over the course of a couple of months, but unfortunately it seems that wasn’t enough.  The build was indeed certainly much too on the difficult side, and overly tanky in particular. For a few folks, we know that was super duper frustrating, so thanks for bearing with us on that and also helping us find the trouble spots.

So What's In This Update?

Now we finally get to the changes for this update. :)

As a result of feedback since the build went out, we’ve managed to adjust a lot in order to get the current build much more nicely balanced. Here are the major changes:

1) Enemy HP has been reduced across the board by 25%. From our play-testing, this seems to have worked well and the game is in a much nicer place now. Far less tanky, and runs are a fair bit shorter too.

2) Damage bonuses have been adjusted back up somewhat. I went a little bit too heavy with the nerfbat on these and so most have been buffed significantly.

3) Health pickup frequency has been increased, and we have also added two new variants of pickup -- so it’s now possible to grab health packs worth 2 and 3 health. These also now appear in the cheap item shop, so you now have more options to spend your credits on.

4) Specific overly-dangerous or tanky enemies have been adjusted. Many enemies on floors 6 and 7 had been pushed up too much in difficulty as a result of trying to compensate for the previously out-of-control damage boosts; so now they needed to be nerfed a fair bit.  Rusted Lumiflare in particular!

5) Quite a few rooms have been adjusted to reduce enemy density. A few of these rooms were just too crowded, making them unusual difficulty spikes.

So that’s it, everyone! We hope that this build proves to be a lot nicer in terms of difficulty. Thanks to everyone for their feedback and patience while we were fixing this up. We wouldn’t be able to keep improving the game without your help, so it’s really appreciated. Thanks!
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Offline carldong

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2017, 07:41:54 PM »
I think the HP pick up's color feels strange... The "coolest" bright red one is +1, the "dumb original" one is +2, and the hard to see one is +3. I would probably put the original as +1, yellow as +2, bright red as +3.

Of course, that is personal preference, but it is fine to keep it unchanged.

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2017, 07:54:48 PM »
3) Health pickup frequency has been increased [...]
You guys weren't kidding. More and more, it's like a restorative invasion. Is it just me or is it a bit much at the moment?

Offline carldong

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2017, 09:17:35 PM »
3) Health pickup frequency has been increased [...]
You guys weren't kidding. More and more, it's like a restorative invasion. Is it just me or is it a bit much at the moment?

I have lots of spawns too... Just don't get the chance to use them since I am testing a glass cannon mech.

Looking at the nerf/buff cycles... Is Arcen doing binary search or something?

When there is an oscillation, go Imaginary

Offline Cinth

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2017, 10:33:21 PM »
Looking at the nerf/buff cycles... Is Arcen doing binary search or something?

No.  It's just the nature of balancing.  You'll never really get it perfect so you keep tweaking it until if feels ok.
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Offline ptarth

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2017, 10:34:20 PM »
Spawn frequency for all health drops from fragile shootables should have increased from 28% to 33%, up just 5%. Unless this is consistent I think you are just seeing RNG in action.

The balancing divergence comes from the unequal distribution of skill levels. Misery is really good and he can't believe how bad most people are at this game.
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Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2017, 02:21:16 AM »
I guess it's time for me to head back into this and see what the fuss is about. ;)
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Offline z99-_

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2017, 01:27:41 PM »
New update, same leaving the sacrifice room crash . . . but the difficulty definitely seems better! Files attached (hopefully)

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2017, 05:45:23 PM »
Spawn frequency for all health drops from fragile shootables should have increased from 28% to 33%, up just 5%. Unless this is consistent I think you are just seeing RNG in action.
Hm, that's a pretty big jump in % imo. But I'll make sure to do a bunch more runs to be sure it wasn't just Lady Luck pulling a prank on me. So far it looked consistent enough to make me post about it, but I wanted to see if other players had a similar experience since the update.

Offline x4000

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2017, 09:15:05 AM »
New update, same leaving the sacrifice room crash . . . but the difficulty definitely seems better! Files attached (hopefully)

Nuts! :(

Sorry to hear about this still being a thing.  What is interesting is that I see this having a stack trace with physx::shdfnd::Allocator::`default constructor closure' in it, which one source said might be related to sound playback, but I'm not sure I really trust it.

The other thing that is notable in the stack trace is this: (ntdll) RtlSubscribeWnfStateChangeNotification

The only thing I can really find related to that is this: http://answers.unity3d.com/questions/1248237/unity-graphics-randomly-freezes.html

From your logs it looks like you have a GTX 970, but I'm not sure if you're on a laptop that has two display adapters or not.  In the link above, apparently they found it was a windows 10 bug and disabling the onboard intel device solved the issue.

I'm not sure I completely buy that, but these are errors that are somehow getting triggered deep in the underlying engine.  It's possible I've just missed something in our code in terms of what could cause this, but it doesn't happen on everyone's machine, which makes me thing there might be some credibility to the two-graphics-cards theory.

And in general when there are those intel onboard cards, they can cause some funkiness with a variety of games (such as the game not initializing onto the nVidia one properly and thus you having a terrible framerate in some game because it's running off the integrated one).  Certainly there are power usage benefits to the intel ones when just doing desktop computing though.

I wonderif a driver update to not just the nVidia card, but also potentially the drivers for your underlying system components (including the intel graphics driver) might be of help?  If you have a specific manufacturer for your laptop, if this is a laptop, then they'd have the latest drivers on their site for your model.  If this is a desktop, then it would usually be with the motherboard manufacturer for the relevant bits.

Sorry to send you on a possible snipe hunt; I don't know if that stuff will work at all. :/
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Offline z99-_

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2017, 11:52:33 AM »
New update, same leaving the sacrifice room crash . . . but the difficulty definitely seems better! Files attached (hopefully)

Nuts! :(

Sorry to hear about this still being a thing.  What is interesting is that I see this having a stack trace with physx::shdfnd::Allocator::`default constructor closure' in it, which one source said might be related to sound playback, but I'm not sure I really trust it.

The other thing that is notable in the stack trace is this: (ntdll) RtlSubscribeWnfStateChangeNotification

The only thing I can really find related to that is this: http://answers.unity3d.com/questions/1248237/unity-graphics-randomly-freezes.html

From your logs it looks like you have a GTX 970, but I'm not sure if you're on a laptop that has two display adapters or not.  In the link above, apparently they found it was a windows 10 bug and disabling the onboard intel device solved the issue.

I'm not sure I completely buy that, but these are errors that are somehow getting triggered deep in the underlying engine.  It's possible I've just missed something in our code in terms of what could cause this, but it doesn't happen on everyone's machine, which makes me thing there might be some credibility to the two-graphics-cards theory.

And in general when there are those intel onboard cards, they can cause some funkiness with a variety of games (such as the game not initializing onto the nVidia one properly and thus you having a terrible framerate in some game because it's running off the integrated one).  Certainly there are power usage benefits to the intel ones when just doing desktop computing though.

I wonderif a driver update to not just the nVidia card, but also potentially the drivers for your underlying system components (including the intel graphics driver) might be of help?  If you have a specific manufacturer for your laptop, if this is a laptop, then they'd have the latest drivers on their site for your model.  If this is a desktop, then it would usually be with the motherboard manufacturer for the relevant bits.

Sorry to send you on a possible snipe hunt; I don't know if that stuff will work at all. :/

I'm on a desktop, and the only display adapter showing up in device manager is the 970. I've gone through and tried updating every driver that sounded like it could apply, and all except the 970's were up to date (I updated it, just in case).

It's not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I just restarted at the beginning of that floor, so there wasn't too much lost time (though I did lose a hunter killer :(). I imagine it's probably more frustrating for you guys. Making a really cool game, putting in all the time to polish all of the bugs out, and then it randomly crashes it a way that has nothing to do with your code, and seems impossible to fix - sounds like a dev's worst nightmare!

Here's a couple of files on my exact system specs via hwinfo, one's concise and one's super detailed, because I know you have so much free time :P Maybe if you get enough data from people experiencing these crashes, a pattern will emerge . . .

Whatever happens, don't sweat it. The game's definitely fun enough that a rare bug like this shouldn't be enough to deter people :)

Offline x4000

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2017, 12:00:49 PM »
Thank you for all that!  That's really great info, and also thanks for the words of encouragement.

Looking at this, something really odd strikes me -- you do indeed have internal graphics on that particular CPU chipset, and it even mentions it as being present in the detailed log.  However, it's not clear if it is enabled at all or not, and certainly windows doesn't think so.

They've been manufacturing the intel gpus right into the cpu chips for a few generations now IIRC (though I could be massively wrong on that, I've not paid too close attention), so it may just be that showing up.

Either way, given how things look at the OS level for you, this sounds like it must be some sort of bug on our end.  Particularly given how it happens on the change out of one specific kind of room.  The rarity is probably a race condition rather than something hardware-specific, and so it would just depend on luck and possibly the framerate as to whether or not this happens.  I'll have to look more into it!
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Offline Misery

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2017, 05:04:40 PM »
Best suggestion for those that are getting the sacrifice crash:  Save a bug report every single time you're about to enter that room.  It's not super obvious that you can do that... it's easy to miss it... but it'll prevent you from losing any progress if things go bad.  You cant load those saves from the main menu though, you have to be in a run to do it.

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2017, 09:08:57 PM »
Was gonna report it as a bug, but it seems intended after all. You get double healing from pickups on Easy now? (Triple on very easy) That confused the heck out of both me and the new player I was introducing to the game. I genuinely thought the double healing perk was carrying over from a previous run or something, until I checked the mechs file.

I think basic stuff like that needs to be consistent across difficulties, first to avoid unnecessary confusion, second to reduce the jump in challenge between difficulties. Weren't the tiered healing items created specifically to avoid this very situation?

In other news: Hot damn, Valor is fun to fight! It's probably my favorite boss nowadays.

Offline Cuedon

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Re: Starward Rogue Update 1.507 "Difficulty Smoothing"
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2017, 10:14:37 PM »
Just finished my first (successful) Hard game on 1.507, after I've been pushed back down to Normal difficulty after the last few updates and:

Took the Flame Tank mech. After a few false starts where I either died to stupidity or to minibosses I really can't handle (Paragon...) in the first few rooms, I got things rolling.

Picked up that cannon that fires out a bullet before exploding into a burst of smaller bullets, then switched to Solar Flare before settling on my favorite, the Scourge. (Though I'm perfectly happy to do an entire run with any of those three.)

Ran into Twin Suns and Condemned Hunter-- both of them are WAY harder than I remember. Twin Suns is actually sort of a challenge now (though I still managed to Perfect it) and Hunter did a great job of turning me into a pincushion. Thankfully, I took the Life Harvester Incredibility so I had ~25 life at the time, plus two shields.

Some of the perks I really didn't like; specifically, the orbital set (level 8?) where I didn't really feel that any of the selections were that desirable, or the set later one that included a deal-damage-when-hit effect.

First time I fought Humbler-- interesting fight. Lots of projectiles, but didn't feel particularly overwhelming, which was good.

Terminus was tougher than I expected-- barely made it, mostly thanks to my missiles. The phase with the Blades was, by far, the most problematic. Lots of bullets from different angles.

Now, time to try this on something slightly less tanky... two shields offers a LOT of leeway.