To highlight the changes to Dreadnought’s balancing that will be coming with PC game update 1.9.5, we had an interview with the YAGER Game Designers Torkel and Sam and talked about the art of balancing Dreadnought.

Fly swattin'
// Hi Torkel and Sam, we are curious how balancing a game like Dreadnought works. Can you give us some insights into that?

Right now, balancing the game is not very scientific. We are constantly evaluating community feedback and are looking to eliminate outliers. However, when the game had been balanced originally, we were very scientific. Back then we did lots of playtesting and used Tier-IV ships and weapons as a baseline. Everything was based on numbers that followed that system. After this baseline had been established we balanced the rest of the game based on what we decided for Tier-IV. We decided to use Tier-IV for the baseline, since it’s the most used tier of ships in the game. It’s the highest Veteran tier and will never run out of style.

The abilities and modules on the other hand have been balanced in a more heuristic way you can say. “Gut feeling” played an important role and once we had established a ball park for certain items we started adjusting from there. The way balancing is happening at this stage of the project is like so:

We listen to community feedback (almost 99% of all present changes are based on community feedback) and then look at it through our “Game Designer glasses”. We want to make sure that the things we change still fit our initial idea or role for a certain item or ship. But we also intend to follow the suggestions from the community. The changes we make become part of the next update where we evaluate the community feedback again to see if we got it right or if we went too far. One can say that we are basically “crowdfunding” the balancing. 😊  

The way we nerfed the Corvettes perfectly highlights that process. More on that later.

// How do you identify items in the game that need balancing and how do you determine the “right” values?

Almost all changes that we make at this point are based on community feedback. We often look at the numbers and things seem to be fine but only after evaluating community feedback and getting into the context we can identify aspects of the balancing that are not quite right. The game balance data consists of so many numbers and formulas and it’s easy to overlook things that are in the need for a change. Therefore we are heavily relying on community feedback to find and eliminate the outliers and things that need tweaking.

Finding “better” or “working” values for certain modules or mechanics is actually the easy part in this process. The hard one is identifying the things that need a change. The problem with this process is that we sometimes do not immediately understand the importance of things. Therefore you should constantly poke us if you feel that something is off.

// Can you give us an example for that?

A good example for this would be the changes we made with this update to the range of the “Stasis Pulse”. When we were looking into balancing for game update 1.9.5 we stumbled upon the range of the “Stasis Pulse” of 2400 meters because community insisted that this range is too high and makes no sense. At first this did not seem like a problem to us but according to community feedback it was. We then looked deeper and found the reason for why we initially decided for that number. The reason was that the calculation of the Stasis Pulse was broken for a while and to make it effective we increased its range substantially. Later we fixed the formula for the calculation of the range and effect of the stasis pulse but kept the range the way it was. Changes that had been made beforehand to compensate the effects of the broken effect calculation were not reverted. Back then, when we increased the range of the stasis pulse, it made sense. But since the bug in the formula has been fixed for a while now, it does no more. We did not realize that in the first place but your feedback made us aware of the fact that this number was in the need for a change.

We then decided to tune it down to 1200m. that value has been chosen because we have a lot of pulses in the game and we cannot think of a reason why the range of the “Stasis Pulse” should be any different from the other pulses in the game. Whether that is the perfect value or not will be determined by community feedback.

// What is the biggest challenge when it comes to balancing Dreadnought?

For us the biggest challenge is to find out how the things that we change behave in real life. We can do playtests over here at YAGER but not in the large scale that is required to really evaluate a change. Also, looking at the numbers alone can give a wrong impression of things. Here is an example:

The auto-guns in Dreadnought are looking great, numbers wise. However, they do not perform very well in the real world. Apparently, players have a tough time hitting stuff with them. This is something that we had to find out by looking at your feedback and how the weapon was used in the real world. The way these guns were designed numbers wise, gave us the impression that they were totally fine. The challenge was to find out how they really delivered and what was needed to improve that.

We finally decided to increase the projectile speed with this update to increase effectiveness of the auto-guns. This way the damage did not need to be buffed. The challenge here was to find out why the guns did not deliver, although they looked great on paper. Now that we changed them, we again rely on finding out how they behave in the real world by listening to your feedback.

// Corvettes will be nerfed with the next update. Can you give us some insights into that decision?

The Corvettes were a tricky case. Our players have asked for a Corvette nerf for a long time but we wanted to make sure that Corvettes keep their unique role in the game. Therefore a simple reduction of their damage output would not have cut it. We think that, for the Corvette to fulfil its role, it must be able to kill stuff fast. If it can’t do that it is useless. However, we also want the Corvettes to be ships that require sneaking up on enemies. If a Corvette Captain managed to get close to you it is supposed to hurt. The thing is: The way it is now, Corvette Captains do not need to sneak around. They would just rush through the map and run after their attack and although these ships are fragile they are getting away with that playstyle. The simple reason for that is that Corvettes are just very hard to hit, especially at medium and long distances.

Some players asked for a buff for defensive weapons but we think that it makes no sense to establish “the one counter weapon” against Corvettes. This would result in everyone needing to use these defensive weapons which would be pretty boring.

Because of all this we decided to make the corvettes slower by cutting their boost speed and by also increasing their energy consumption. This compared with the increased projectile speed means that corvettes will be a lot easier to hit from now on. However, they keep their unique role in the game as a hard-hitting sneak-up weapon. This way playing a Corvette stays fun and effective but will be more challenging than it is now. Nerfing them even more would have been too much. After all, Corvette players are people too. :-)

// Anything else you want the community to know?

Balancing the game is an ongoing thing. We will never be completely satisfied with the balancing and will continue to improve it but on the other hand we want to keep the games balance interesting. What this means is that it is totally fine for us if there are certain module and weapon combinations that work better than others. A good captain finds ways to play the game fitting to their playstyle and if they find something that works awesome for him or her then this is great. If this turns out to be way off then we will adjust as we don’t want the balancing to be broken. But as we said, we want things to stay interesting.

Besides the ongoing balancing of ships and weapons we will be taking a close look at the ship modules next. Right now, many of them are underutilized and are not very useful to the players. We intend to change that and will investigate the potential of these items. Weapons and ship balancing will continue with every update, though. We hope you like the changes that we made with the upcoming update and are looking forward to your feedback. After all, this is what our adjustments are based on.

// Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Torkel and Sam.

Game Update 1.9.5 Balance Changes


Autogun Projectile Speed and Distance
  • All Autogun module projectile distance has been standardized to 1800m

  • Projectile Initial Speed increased by 200%

  • Projectile Max Speed increased by 150%

Tier-I and II Weapon Projectile Speeds
  • Primary and Secondary Weapon projectile speeds have been increased by 20% in Tier-I and II.

  • The Akula Vektor Artillery Cruiser is not updated in this manner.

Stasis Pulse (All tiers and ships)
  • Radius standardized to 1200m

Dreadnought

Jupiter Arms Primary Weapons
  • Weapon Maximum Spread reduced by 12%

  • Tier-IV close damage increased from 210 to 220

  • Tier-IV medium/far damage increased from 115 to 132

  • Tier-IV close damage increased from 280 to 294

  • Tier-V medium/far damage increased from 150 to 172

Scattergun Broadsides

Across all tiers...

  • Max Range increased from 2400m to 2800m

  • Projectile Max Distance increased from 600m to 1100m

  • Ability Range increased from 900m to 1100m

  • A bug has been fixed so that the duration of the ability matches the actual duration

Ballistic Broadsides

Across all tiers...

  • Max Range increased from 2400m to 2800m

  • Projectile Max Distance increased from 2800m to 3600m

  • Projectile Initial Speed increased by 45%

  • Tier-IV Cooldown reduced from 10s to 8s

  • Tier-V Cooldown reduced from 8s to 6s

Offensive Lockdown: Tier-V
  • Now drains Energy

  • Active time increased from 15s to 20s

  • Cooldown decreased from 25s to 20s

Destroyer

All Particle Turrets
  • Tier-IV damage increased from 150 to 300

  • Tier-V damage increased from 175 to 330

Corvette

Weaponbreaker Torpedo
  • Range increased from 900m to 2400m

Jupiter Arms Tier-II and III
  • Tier-II forward speed reduced by 10%

  • Tier-II forward speed with Thrusters reduced by 13%

  • Tier-III forward speed reduced by 5%

  • Tier-III forward speed with Thrusters reduced by 7%

  • Tier-II and III Thruster energy consumption increased by 15%

Artillery Cruiser

Oberon Primary Weapons
  • Tier-IV close damage increased from 920 to 1196

  • Tier-IV medium/far damage increased from 795 to 1034

  • Tier-V close damage increased from 1150 to 1495

  • Tier-V medium/far damage increased from 1050 to 1365

Mine Catapult
  • Proximity Distance to trigger Mine placement reduced from 500m to 300m

Damage Autobeams
  • Tier-IV Duration increased from 30s to 60s

  • Tier-V Duration increased from 35s to 80s

Tactical Cruiser

Anti-Nuke Lasers
  • Tier-IV Cooldown from 100s to 70s

  • Tier-V Cooldown from 90s to 60s


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