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Author Topic: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.  (Read 8476 times)

Offline Telok

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Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« on: October 23, 2013, 04:59:04 am »
Save attached if anyone wants to play or data mine it.

Soldiers:
My A list soldiers were a rockin' slay-fest by the end. 100% weapon skill, 35 TU, and 160 health armed with particle beam rifles, grenade launchers (PB ammo), coil guns, and sniper rifles (enhanced ammo) made for a smooth death machine. The only save scumming I did was when I lost 2+ people on my first turn (that happened every five or six missions) or the transport got shot down by a surprise alien gunboat out past interceptor escort range (this only happened five or six times in the whole game).

My B list guys were pretty good too, except that last guy. Aliens have a tendency to target the easiest kill, which is pretty logical. But that guy is usually the newest guy, he'll have lower strength so may be in nano armor instead of power armor, and he'll have the lowest health total even when fully healthy. So I ended up hiring expendable assault rifle guys for that slot and letting them draw fire away from more valuable troops. This is pretty gamey and probably an unintended tactic but the AI pretty much required it.

When the aliens bust out the particle beam weapons you'll want a third squad and transport. This might give you time to train them up a little and maybe get some of them into power armor and the 120+ health range before things get hairy.

My C list guys are almost totally expendable. Maybe half are strong enough to wear power armor, which means that they other half usually die to a single shot from a particle rifle. That base (in Africa) has about 15 soldiers, most of them are pretty badly wounded much of the time. Almost none of them last for ten missions, the kill rate with particle beam weapons is too high for new recruits to survive gaining enough experience to get past the "mook" designation.

In future games I'm going to change my soldier skill spread. In this game I used (on the A and B teams) two assaults, three snipers, and three grenadiers. I will reduce the grenadiers to two, but I don't know if I'll increase the snipers or assaults. Plus the weight rules have caused me to disregard any soldiers with a strength score of less than 36. The weaklings just can't handle real armor and a weapon, combat armor is worse than useless against particle beam weapons. If a soldier can't handle nano armor, a weapon (plasma rifle or sniper rifle and a reload is the minimum acceptable), and a med-kit then what is he doing on the field? Dying, that's what.

Bases:
Do you see that ring of eight AA defences around the workshop base in China? That base was attacked eight times. My first base was attacked once, some other base was attacked twice, and that one workshop base just pissed the aliens off somehow. I only up-gunned it after the fifth attack, after the improvements that base must have accounted for 30%+ of the ufos that were shot down.

I also need to specialize my bases more, turning the first base into a full research/combat base is still OK, but no more combining an active workshop base with a combat squad. The hospital and large hanger reduce the available workshop space too much. Plus those stupid doors in the workshops favor a more kamikaze approach to base defence.

The entrance is still an ungodly pain in the butt to defend or attack, still a horrid OSHA violation that must be a right nuisance to carry fragile laboratory equipment or heavy aircraft weapons up and down. It's a good design for a dangerous tactical shooter set-up, but it really bad as an actual useful entrance. At the minimum that little wire cattle gate is idiotic and there ought to be a helicopter landing pad there.

Base defence consists of (for non-combat bases) expendable weaklings and a couple of snipers. I started the mooks with shotguns and slug ammo, which worked pretty well until medium alien armor came along. I tried giving them plasma blasters but that didn't work out, the blasters are too inaccurate to be effective even at close base defence ranges. Plasma rifles and plasma blades are where it's at, unless you want to spring for the enhanced ammo for assault rifles but that ties up production man-hours while plasma ammo just falls out of the sky. Set your command post right next to your entrance and lock a sniper rifle guy in the room with the security cameras, give him IR goggles just for something to do. Sniper guy is there to shoot through walls and ceilings when he's the last defender, plus the security camera views are useful. The other sniper gets to go to the ground level of an enclosed building, living quarters, small hanger, or power plant(?) and shoot through walls to wound as many aliens as possible. You'll lose two to five guys defending your entrance and another couple of guys clearing workshops or blind corners of ground level. That's why you use the weak mooks. Expendables.

Weapons:
This is what I used.
Assault rifle -> Plasma Rifle -> Particle Beam Rifle
Sniper Rifle -> Coil Gun or SR with enhanced ammo
Grenade Launcher, upgrade ammo as appropriate

I tried the following.
Plasma Blaster: too inaccurate, I missed 4/5 shots at a range of 4 squares with the Ball mode.
Particle Beam Cannon: enormous damage potential, crap accuracy. A one hit kill isn't worth the other 50 misses.
Shotgun: OK until aliens started wearing armor, needs enhanced ammo (slugs are bigger than AR rounds anyways).
Bolter: the TU, weight, and ammo issues make this not enough of an upgrade to adopt. Does the anti-matter enhanced ammo make it an area explosion? That might be worth it on a specialized support sniper, but that's still iffy.
Rocket Launcher: fun but too situational to dedicate a soldier to.
Flamers: the 12 TUs for the candle setting and the short range make this a suicide-by-alien weapon, and sometimes the tougher aliens survive.

Pacing:
Early game is still slow, waiting for aliens so you can sell some stuff for that next building or to replace a shot down interceptor. Late game is... interesting. If you play the save be prepared for waves, a week or ten days with eight to twelve ufos then a week to ten days of quiet. It's going to harsh up team 3 pretty regularly, that's why there are so many of them.

Last thoughts:
Good times, still some smoothing out to do, the AI is still in it's infancy. Implementing the dropship inventory will help with situational weapons, it'll happen someday. I don't know if 100% close weapon skill helps the plasma blaster or PB cannon, I don't know of it's worth carrying a close weapons guy long enough for him to get good enough to try. Close needs something, flamers need something, and I still don't know if the first two researched interceptors are worth the effort.

Offline H-Hour

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2013, 11:02:53 am »
Thanks for the feedback Telok. I don't have any time at the moment to check out your save but will definitely do so before 2.5 ships, as we still need to tune the stats growth.

Can you tell us how many missions you had? What was the date when you finished?

And lastly: no lasers? They were my go-to assault rifle for much of the game.

Offline Telok

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2013, 03:17:40 am »
Can you tell us how many missions you had? What was the date when you finished?

And lastly: no lasers? They were my go-to assault rifle for much of the game.

It finished at (OK: shot out the mothership ufo on) April 1st 2085 with 137 missions.

I knew I missed something in the weapons. Having looked at the stats in the code I totally skipped the laser pistols, the effort isn't worth the return. I did try laser rifles and heavy lasers a couple of times (the Electrolaser got used until I had 10 aliens captured, it's a fine tool). The lasers are a moderate improvement in accuracy in exchange for more TUs, weight, and slightly less damage. Significantly less damage against armored aliens. While they compare decently to plasma rifles I felt that the heavier punch, lower TUs for reaction fire, and more shots of the plasma was a better fit for the role that assault skill weapon play in my squads.

That's an important sentence there, I'll say it again and explain in more detail.
Quote
While they compare decently to plasma rifles I felt that the heavier punch, lower TUs for reaction fire, and more shots of the plasma was a better fit for the role that assault skill weapon play in my squads.
In my squads Snipers fill the offensive role. They have good accuracy, high damage, and can penetrate some walls and ceilings (the Solar Power map is really easy once you realize this). Grenadiers are multi-task specialists, trick shots around corners and over cover are where they get kills but they fill more roles than that. They scout, IR goggle scout, are the primary medics, carry more smoke grenades than others, and are the first people issued plasma blades once their strength is high enough (GLs are heavy).

This leaves the defensive role to Assault soldiers, the Close skill weapons don't have the punch to stop or dissuade aliens from walking up to soldiers and gutting them with a kerrblade. While lasers are comparable in an offensive role they suffer in a defensive role. The laser rifle is not damaging enough to armored aliens and the heavy laser is to heavier and 50% slower than a plasma rifle. To further complicate things particle beam rifles appear on the scene and effectively obsolete both other rifles. If you have the production capacity to spare* you can have the enhanced AR ammo that ignores armor (fear the aliens if they ever figure this out) but that still ignores the lasers.

*I didn't have production capacity to spare in this game, too little money early on and too long to build infrastructure at the late game. Plus late game workshops were being built to supply armors, PB grenade launcher ammo, and advanced aircraft.

Offline Wolls

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2013, 07:30:41 am »
Congrats man!! Nice win.  :D

Damage over distance, waIT;no.. no.. just stand there while I  ><  in yer general direction...

In terms of close combat I like the Monomolecular Knife, you can get it early, and it rox right up to needlers, when you can get it just switch yer close shotguns/blasters over.

its a 37 min strength just to get combat armour and the monomolecular blade... bat man Rambo? so worth it

Honestly I must have way better luck with the Blaster, no way I've ever missed to that degree.  But the Flamer? yeah thats no upgrade.

This is standart diff?  AFAIK its all balanced within standard difficulty.

edit.. looks at topic.. er hard mode... you should be floating in money..
also did I congratulate you on yer win yet??//
« Last Edit: October 24, 2013, 07:35:35 am by Wolls »

Offline Wolls

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2013, 09:09:04 am »
Damage over distance, waIT;no.. no.. just stand there while I  ><  in yer general direction...

To be clear this is me mocking plasma ( no masta blasta here.. weak?)  : cause with lazers if you blink your dead.  No need to go heavy laser but the rifle is better than good.

Offline H-Hour

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2013, 11:33:15 am »
The lasers are a moderate improvement in accuracy in exchange for more TUs, weight, and slightly less damage. Significantly less damage against armored aliens. While they compare decently to plasma rifles I felt that the heavier punch, lower TUs for reaction fire, and more shots of the plasma was a better fit for the role that assault skill weapon play in my squads.

When you factor in alien armour, the laser rifle in 2.5-dev actually has superior penetration. Not that the game provides you with any useful numbers to assess this, though. :)

Plasma rifle snap shot against alien light armour: 80 damage - 30 armour = 50 damage (with an accuracy spread of 1.2)

Laser rifle wave fire against against alien light armour: 62 damage - 5 armour = 57 damage (with an accuracy spread of 0.8 )

Arguably, the plasma rifle maintains an advantage by having an automatic fire option. But IMHO the accuracy improvement of the laser rifle more than puts it over the top.

(Hopefully we'll expose more information with UI2. In the meantime, the research text for alien light armour tries to stress how lasers can penetrate the armour.)

Offline debalde

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2013, 01:09:51 pm »

Plasma rifle snap shot against alien light armour: 80 damage - 30 armour = 50 damage (with an accuracy spread of 1.2)

Laser rifle wave fire against against alien light armour: 62 damage - 5 armour = 57 damage (with an accuracy spread of 0.8 )


Are the armour and weapon tables (http://ufoai.org/wiki/Weapon_tables) still up to the date (for version 2.5)? Most of them were correct in version 2.2 (or, in case of the huge comprehensive weapon table, it was updated 2 years ago) and I've see some minor mistakes (eg. the lovely 3 round burst mode for grenade launcher has disappeared in version 2.5) that makes me worried about how accurate the tables are in special with some of the large refurbishments made in the last times.

Offline Telok

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2013, 08:12:53 pm »
Plasma rifle snap shot against alien light armour: 80 damage - 30 armour = 50 damage (with an accuracy spread of 1.2)

Laser rifle wave fire against against alien light armour: 62 damage - 5 armour = 57 damage (with an accuracy spread of 0.8 )

Interesting. I see two minor issues here, both possibly related to the in-game feedback thing. First the unarmored aliens take more damage from plasma, and second I can't tell if an alien is wearing light or heavy armor. For a time I did arm some of my garrisons with laser rifles but the lasers underperformed the plasma in close quarters and the armored ortnoks and combat bloodspiders were highly resistant. Still the lasers did rock the shevarr pretty hard but I don't know if they can even wear armor.

I think that the issue for me is that lasers are another siituational weapon. They are better at longer ranges (but I have snipers fot that) and less damage for equal or greater TUs at point blank range. In my play style lasers compete against sniper rifles rather than against plasma rifles, and they lose in that comparison.

Is there a thought of adding a health bar to aliens on the battlescape? Stick a +/- 10% inaccuracy on the bar and it is useful without being spoilery. I would advise against giving it a number display (except perhaps a % of total health number). This would help players in game to better judee the armor/weapon interactions.

Offline TallTroll

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2013, 08:41:40 pm »
>> In my play style lasers compete against sniper rifles rather than against plasma rifles, and they lose in that comparison.

Yeah, lasers are a bit of an oddity, halfway between the sniper and rifle lines. Laser rifles really reward experienced soldiers, and I've found Assault XP to be easier to grind than Sniper XP, so I generally find that my LR troopers hit more often than my snipers, especially if I remember to crouch them  ;D

At the moment, I'm actually using heavy lasers as replacements for machine guns, because I have several very good Assault troopers who can't manage Nanocomposite armour and an MG load. Deadly

Offline MonkeyHead

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2013, 09:08:11 pm »
Honestly, once you get EP rounds onto the field, there is no need for any other weapon in the assault slot. The assault rifle with them penetrates armour, has high damage, decent accuracy, decent rate of fire in terms of TU's, a full auto mode and a light weight. The HMG with them makes the needler look stupid.

Mind you, I do make heavy use of laser pistols and plasma blasters. The laser pistol is my standard weapon for someone not strong enough to carry a front line weapon, and then they get loaded up with grenades, medkits and ammo for others, thanks to its lightness and improved accuracy compared to other light weapons.

Offline H-Hour

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2013, 11:53:34 pm »
Are the armour and weapon tables (http://ufoai.org/wiki/Weapon_tables) still up to the date (for version 2.5)?
No, not even a little bit. Our wiki is packed with outdated info. I wouldn't recommend it for any non-development information.

Interesting. I see two minor issues here, both possibly related to the in-game feedback thing. First the unarmored aliens take more damage from plasma, and second I can't tell if an alien is wearing light or heavy armor. For a time I did arm some of my garrisons with laser rifles but the lasers underperformed the plasma in close quarters and the armored ortnoks and combat bloodspiders were highly resistant. Still the lasers did rock the shevarr pretty hard but I don't know if they can even wear armor.

I think that the issue for me is that lasers are another siituational weapon. They are better at longer ranges (but I have snipers fot that) and less damage for equal or greater TUs at point blank range. In my play style lasers compete against sniper rifles rather than against plasma rifles, and they lose in that comparison.
Actually, by the time you get lasers, all aliens except the Shevaar will be wearing light armour (Bloodspiders and Hovernets both have protection values equivalent to light armour). So for all aliens but the Shevaar (who can not wear armour), the laser rifle outperforms the plasma rifle -- with the caveat that it does not have a full-auto option.

I admit the distinction between light and heavy armour could be clearer (although I think it's not that hard to notice). But by the time you see Ortnoks, Tamans will be in heavy armour (and Combat Bloodspiders and Combat Hovernets have heavy-equivalent values). The aliens have reinforced their armour against lasers by this point, so it's really in your interest to move quickly to Encased Plasma or Particle Beams. This is late-game, though, so you'll be on the back foot until you can deploy one of these -- regardless of whether you use Laser Rifles or Plasma Rifles at this point.

Is there a thought of adding a health bar to aliens on the battlescape? Stick a +/- 10% inaccuracy on the bar and it is useful without being spoilery. I would advise against giving it a number display (except perhaps a % of total health number). This would help players in game to better judee the armor/weapon interactions.

I have always liked that there is a little ambiguity in the game in how it doesn't tell you everything about your enemy. But I have been thinking that a rough gauge is important for getting in-game feedback about the impact of weapons. A lot of important thresholds happen with weapon/armour/health stats that go unnoticed. Showing one of three icons -- full health (90-100%), wounded (15-90%), near death (15%) -- would really help discern the impact of a hit, and help make decisions about when it's useful to deploy a low-power weapon (like a pistol or incendiary grenade). Having this information seems plausible without being too number-y. If you saw an enemy combatant on the field, you could probably tell if it was seriously wounded, or if it was limping along near death. Even if you knew nothing else of its physiology. But this is definitely not a 2.5 feature. Maybe 2.6, maybe later.

Offline Telok

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2013, 02:12:18 am »
Actually, by the time you get lasers, all aliens except the Shevaar will be wearing light armour .... So for all aliens but the Shevaar (who can not wear armour), the laser rifle outperforms the plasma rifle -- with the caveat that it does not have a full-auto option....
...But by the time you see Ortnoks, Tamans will be in heavy armour (and Combat Bloodspiders and Combat Hovernets have heavy-equivalent values). The aliens have reinforced their armour against lasers by this point, so it's really in your interest to move quickly to Encased Plasma or Particle Beams.
The laser rifle outperforms on a per hit basis and has better accuracy, it is a very good choice for newer soldiers who have lower skills. It's good to know that Shevaar can't wear armor because that's a good niche for lasers, I wasn't absolutely sure that we just didn't have the models for armored Shevaar in the game yet. I think that in my game (Hard mode) the lag between light and medium armor was too short for me to appreciate laser weapons and they just obsoleted too fast.

I have always liked that there is a little ambiguity in the game in how it doesn't tell you everything about your enemy. But I have been thinking that a rough gauge is important for getting in-game feedback about the impact of weapons.... Having this information seems plausible without being too number-y. If you saw an enemy combatant on the field, you could probably tell if it was seriously wounded, or if it was limping along near death. Even if you knew nothing else of its physiology....
Truth. Perhaps a 0 to 100% health bar with no numbers? Throw in a small five to ten percent inaccuracy to the calculation to help emulate the "fog of war". You'd be able to see that sniper rifles did about 2/3 to 3/5 of a health bar (armored ortnoks) while laser pistols didn't even move it. That sort of feedback would be nice.

Offline Telok

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2013, 09:35:45 pm »
You know how you have a good idea while taking your morning shower but then can't remember it later? I remembered!

Currently the laser weapons are made with Earth-normal materials. We could use the alien composite materials to open up an advanced laser weapons tech tree in late game. If you pseudo-science it, in the description, to something near the particle beam level of energy you could make them a PB-lite weapon line. Less damage, more accuracy, and using the particle beam armor resistances.

This would add a third base defense anti-aircraft weapon, another useful aircraft weapon that isn't dependant on salvaging alien aircraft, and a useful close combat weapon to compete with the PB pistol. Plus the rifle and heavy versions of course.

Offline MonkeyHead

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2013, 11:03:34 pm »
That overlaps with the EP rounds a lot IMHO.

Offline Telok

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Re: Finished game on 2.5 Hard mode. Thoughts and experiences.
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2013, 05:12:09 am »
That overlaps with the EP rounds a lot IMHO.

Not really. EP ammo doesn't cover aircraft, AA, or close weapons and has no effect on weapon accuracy.

Furthermore I'm not sure EP ammo is fully or accurately implemented. The ammunition is essentially a plasma generating widget inside of a shell made from alien materials and the rifle rounds are either a .223 or 7.62mm size (I really can't recall the exact size off the top of my head). While it should be reasonably simple to make similar rounds for 10mm pistol caliber weapons like the pistol and SMG, and there really ought to be EP shotgun rounds and perhaps even EP grenade launcher flechette rounds.

My other issue is that EP rounds just ignore armor, they really are magic bullets here. The armors have a separate EP ammo line in them that's set at 5 which means that EP ammo penetrates heavy alien armor as though it was a leather apron but does no more damage to an unarmored taman than regular lead bullets do. I don't know if this is the final implementation of EP ammo or if it's just a stop-gap for 2.5.

One question I do have: What's with all the love for machine guns? Whenever I've tried to use them they turn out to be horribly inaccurate at long ranges, a TU wasting overkill at short ranges, and they attract reaction fire like sniper rifles. Plus you can't use them defensively because the 14 TUs for a fire mode with 1.5(about?) spread means that they'll soak an attack first and then probably miss with half the bullets. That's really my experience with them from back before 2.3 up through to today. I tried a skirmish fight on the dam map with them and they underperformed the other weapons at long and short ranges.