Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Battlefleet Gothic Armada: Addendum

Hello everyone and welcome to the addendum blog post for my Battlefleet Gothic Armada video.  As always, if some of this reads a little disjointedly then that's because I'm writing some sections before making the video (to cover stuff I know won't make it into the video) and some after the video (for stuff I probably just forgot to mention in the video or didn't have time for).  If there's anything I said would be in here but that isn't, then let me know in the comments either here or on the video because I probably forgot all about it while I was editing.

Early Adopter Scheme and DLC

There's been a few instances of confusion on this point (although I expect a few of those were just the general knee-jerk reactions to DLC being advertised before the game's out) and DLC/pricing/etc controversy is something I don't like dwelling on so this is just going to be straight-forward information.

Firstly; the only benefit of it that is absolutely exclusive to pre-orders is access to the multiplayer beta (as I mentioned in the video).  The DLC included in it - the Space Marines and an as-yet unannounced faction - are free with any purchase of the game for up to two months AFTER launch.  So; a lot of the complaints about them using pre-order DLC to sucker you into buying a game before it's done and before reviewers and critics have gotten their hands on it just don't apply.  You can wait until after launch, after the reviews and nearly two months worth of post-launch patches and updates and still get the two DLC factions for free with the game.

Secondly; the Space Marine DLC (which will be the first one released) won't be finished until a few weeks or so after launch, so you can't call it Day One DLC either.  I know this point'll feel tiny compared to the first one, but there's not much else to say on this point.

Thirdly; some have said that relegating the Space Marines, the "most important faction", to being DLC is a cash grab.  Problem is; the naval combat that Battlefleet Gothic focuses on is one theatre of war that the Astartes are far from the champions of.  You want the Space Marine equivalent of space combat?  That's the Imperial Navy.  The Space Marines weren't in the tabletop game's core book and while they were introduced in later publications (and then compiled into the Battlefleet Gothic Armada expansion book), they only ever had five ships - the Battle Barge (mechanically a battleship), the Strike Cruiser (mechanically a light cruiser) and three escorts analogous to the Imperial Navy ones.  Whether Tindalos will make more ships for them or not for this game, I don't know, but either way they are still a minor faction within the context of naval combat and, thus, perfect for a DLC faction.

 Ork Kustomizashun!

As I said in the video; orks get to customise the loadout of their ships when first adding them to their roster.  This is the menu you're presented with when adding a ship (a Light Cruiser for the purposes of this example) to your fleet's roster:
As you can see; an ork light cruiser has two weapon hardpoints - one on the prow and one on each broadside (port and starboard broadsides are identical, hence why it's only on that screen once).  You get a certain number of Kustom Points, based on the ship's class, which can be used to swap the default weapons, highlighted in yellow, for any of the other options.
So; on this light cruiser, it comes stock with a Weak Torpedo Launcha in the prow slot while the broadsides mount Lotsa Gunz.  As light cruisers only have one Kustom point, I can only change one of those weapons.  I could swap out the torpedos for a Mega Kannon, for example.  Or I could keep the torpedoes and change the broadsides to mount either Lotsa Mega Kannonz or Grot Shipz Launcha.  Or I could keep the stock weapons, keep it simple.

Stats and Combat Mechanics Explained

Sadly, the nuts and bolts of weapon and ship stats aren't as clear as they could be.  I've pieced this together from various forum posts, what I could gather from the tooltips, and a little common sense.  So here are the stats for a Lunar-class Cruiser to work as our example.
Thankfully, some of these are self-explanatory but I'll go through these one-by-one all the same.
  • Hull Integrity - Health, essentially.  Once this drops below 30%, the ship is considered crippled and runs the risk of suffering insubordination where it will attempt to flee the battle via emergency warp jump.
  • Shield - Health of the ship's void shields, should be straight-forward.  Recharge times seem to be the same for all factions.
  • Speed - Ship's top speed.  I believe this is units-per-second but there's no indication.
  • Rotation - Another clear one; how quickly the ship can turn.  This is just normal turning, of course, not when using a High Energy Turn order.
  • Detection - Range of the ship's main augur systems - enemy vessels outside of this range of the ship are just red sensor blips which can't be fired on.
  • Troop Value - Represents the ship's armsmen and other defensive troops.  It's your percentile chance of resisting enemy boarding actions (so a Lunar has a 60% chance of negating each boarding action made against it).
  • Turrets - Point-defence guns used to shoot down hostile strike craft and torpedoes.  Also come into play on normal boarding actions (the close, broadside-on assault of boarding shuttles); each turret increases the ship's Troop Value by 1 against such actions, representing the guns shooting down the incoming shuttles.  You lose a turret for every 100 points of Hull Integrity lost.
  • Armour - Armour in this doesn't work as damage reduction like you might expect; here, it's a percentile chance of negating all damage from a hit.  So any macrocannon shell that strikes the prow of a Lunar has a 75% chance of being totally negated and doing absolutely nothing.  Lances, torpedoes, and other armour-piercing weapons treat the target's armour as being just 25.  So there's still a 1-in-4 chance of a torpedo that makes it through the turret coverage will do bugger-all.
So those aren't too obscure; mousing over the icons (not the name or the number, the actual icon) will get you a tooltip explaining it a bit more.  Where a lot of the stat confusion has come from is the weapon stats, where a lot is still unexplained.  So here are the stats for what could be considered bog-standard armament - the macrocannon batteries on a Lunar.
  • Number of Attacks - This is the biggest source of confusion.  This is the number of attacks a weapon fires with each reload, but its the number of attacks per gun.  Since the macro-battery consists of four macrocannons, it means you're firing four shots with each salvo, one from each cannon.
  • Damage - How many points of damage a shot will deal to shields or hull.  No extra math involved, one of these hits a shield, it reduces the shield's 'health' by 18 points.  Hits the hull and the armour doesn't stop it, reduces the ship's hull integrity by 18 points.  So, assuming each shell hits, a single broadside from this macro-battery would deal 72 damage.
  • Rate of Fire - This really should be called 'Cooldown' or 'Reload'.  This is how many seconds it takes for the guns to reload between shots; so this macro-battery will be putting out a salvo of four shells every twelve seconds.
  • Range - How far the guns can fire in units.
  • Critical Chances - Each shell that hits the target and gets through the armour has this percentile chance of causing a critical effect (knocking out weapons, components or causing a Hull Breach, which does bonus Hull damage).
  • Angle of Fire - The weapon's firing arc.  You can usually intuit this from where the gun's mounted - broadsides can only fire to port and starboard, prow weapons (with the exception of torpedoes) can only fire in a 90-degree arc to the fore and dorsal turrets can fire to fore, port and starboard.
Some further confusion's arisen from certain upgrades and abilities referencing macrocannons but being available on ships that don't have any weapons called "macrocannons".  Some weapons (like the missile pods on an Iconoclast-class Destroyer) were re-named a patch or so ago but the tooltips on upgrades and such were left alone.

Rule of thumb is that there are only two kinds of weapons that the player has no direct control over - weapon batteries and lances.  Any ability that mentions macrocannons refers to any weapon battery - so any gun that fires without the player having to do anything and that isn't a lance weapon.  Macrocannons, missile pods, lotz a' gunz, shuriken cannons, etc.

Couple of other mechanics not explained clearly.
  • Boarding - Making a boarding action has nothing to do with the attacking ship's Troop Value (which is only used to resist boarding actions).  A boarding attempt is a percentile dice roll against the target's Troop Value.  Normal boarding actions make two attempts, a Lightning Strike works over a longer range and wider arc but only makes one attempt and can only be used on a target that's lost its void shields while assault boats make one attempt for each boat that reaches the target.  So if you have a ship with the Astartes Favour (which replaces the normal Lightning Strike with a Terminator Lightning Strike, which makes 2 boarding attempts instead of one) and have it make a Terminator Lightning Strike on an enemy ship with a Troop Value of 60, the computer makes two dice rolls and each one that rolls over 60 will cause a critical effect on the target vessel (knocking out components, setting fires, etc).
  • Ramming - There is no way to automate a ramming attempt and this is by design (so don't go asking for a Ram Attack button) - it's a skill shot.  Give a move order that'll take your ship through the target's flight path and, if you want to do extra damage, give an All Ahead Full order before impact.  Some people have mentioned then giving an immediate Burn Retros order to stop, let the rammed ship drift away for a second, then All Ahead Full again for a second ram.
  • Combustion Gauge - If this runs empty then you won't be able to do any manoeuvring orders until its fully recharged.  So, you know; try not to let it run empty if you can avoid it.
  • Manoeuvring Orders - The Imperial Navy and Chaos are the only two factions currently that have access to all four orders.  Orks cannot make High Energy Turns or Burn Retros to come to a complete stop and they replace All Ahead Full with a Big Red Button - which is a semi-random version of All Ahead Full (takes a second or two to kick in and seems to run in stops and starts) that cannot be cancelled.  Eldar have a brief burst of speed they can use and hold up to three charges of, reminds me a bit of how a fish might suddenly dart forward for a moment before returning to its normal pace.
  • Sub-systems and Criticals - As well as their main health, each ship (apart from escorts and transports) have four sub-systems; engines, generator, deck and weapons.  Technically more than four since each weapon counts as a separate sub-system, but you get my point.  Critical hits can knock out these sub-systems - losing the Generator stops you from using abilities related to it (like a Lightning Strike; no power for the teleportariums), knocking out the Deck prevents the ship from being able to use special orders like Lock On or Brace for Impact, taking out the engines slows the ship to a crawl and stops it from being able to use manoeuvring orders and the combustion gauge, and it should be pretty obvious what happens when you lose a weapon.
  • Sub-system Targeting and Enemy Prioritisation - I didn't do it in the video, but you can order your ships to target a specific sub-system by left-clicking on the enemy ship in question and clicking on the related icon in the panel at the bottom-centre of the UI.  I believe this will also direct crits caused by boarding actions, but I could be wrong on that.  Same section of the UI also has a series of four numbers used to set the priority on enemy ships, this is how your ships' AI decides who to shoot at when you haven't given them an attack order.  All enemies default to being Priority 4 and the lower the number, the more your ships will focus on them over other targets.  Even when giving attack orders, it can be useful if you have a ship in the midst of the enemy; if their main target is to port, it'll give their starboard guns something to shoot at.

 My Other Thoughts

On the whole, I quite like BFG: Armada.  I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Real-Time Tactics games (the kind where you have no base building or resource management - where what you take into a mission is all you get) and I really got sucked into tall-ship combat thanks to Assassin's Creed IV.

That being said; half the reason I said I suck at games like this is that it demands a great deal of micromanaging which I just can't do without that slow-motion feature.  Had the normal pace been a bit slower?  Maybe it would be a different story.  But I can understand why they settled on the pace that they have - if they went any slower, then it would be ages before the two fleets came into contact.  Similarly, they haven't made it so fast-paced that you don't get a sense for the weight of these ships - as slow as those transports were, I was feeling some serious tension near the end as I tried to nail that last transport before it reached the highlighted area on my side of the map.  And being able to get that feel across is very important.

I'll be doing another, probably shorter, video on it after launch, just touching on the campaign format and the currently-disabled Custom Game mode (which I'm hoping will be the sandbox practice mode I wish Skirmish was).

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