DesuEx

Fixing War Rounds. Some suggestions.

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War rounds, taking the idea that the players of a Nuke Ops team will likely want to go full pink Mohawk loud with guns blazing, and building the game around it. The idea is great, and should provide us with some of the most colorful and intense rounds possible. So... why is it that whenever I hear those sirens, I find myself sighing with dismissal? The answer I feel is two-fold: Very rarely have I seen the Syndicate ever score a victory, in fact in the past 6 months alone (As far back as I can really remember vividly in terms of trends) I've only seen one Syndicate victory, and I distinctly remember the command staff being incredibly incompetent, so that seems to be a fluke. Now of course I don't play all the time, and I'd bet I miss more rounds than I play, so perhaps the ratio isn't quite as bad as my personal experience is. But it's still a pretty statistic from the sample size. The second reason is tied directly to the first, namely that the rounds end up being too repetitive. Some players have defended War rounds claiming that they're fun. Far be it for me to tell you that you shouldn't find it fun when I don't, experiences are quite subjective. But I don't find it fun when the rounds end up being so samey that I can easily sum each one up as bluntly as: "Syndicates declare war. The Crew hands out all access like candy and order guns. The Syndies get killed. The crew escapes. Rinse, lather, repeat." 

So why do these problems exist? Well, as stated earlier, with the advance warning and delay, the crew end up way too well armed for the extra telecrystals to compensate. Advanced Hardsuits and .50 Caliber rifles don't really help much against an entire crew armed with assault rifles and bulletproof armor. And that's not even getting into the other possibilities a good crew can bring to the table (Mobile Suit Squadrons anyone?). It's not that it's impossible for the syndicates to achieve victory, since I've seen it happen once it can clearly be done, but the deck is too heavily stacked against them.

Now, with all this in mind, here are some suggestions I have to fix the round, and maybe make the rounds exciting and fun again. Note that these are just suggestions, and not all of them may be necessary when put together. The last thing we'd want is for the ratio to be too far in the other direction. But these may help rebalance it to something more fun and less repetitive. Feel free to chime in with suggestions of your own.
 

  • Shorten the deployment delay. (This one's obvious, if the Syndies arrive sooner, then the crew has less time to get everything ready. Shouldn't be too short obviously, but I think just knocking off a few minutes will really give the syndies a better chance).
  • Delay the cargo shuttle in the beginning of the round. (A major reason the crew usually wins is because they can just order loads of autorifles and basically arm everyone. This would reduce the amount handed out and possibly force the crew to get more creative with their defenses. )
  • Raise the cost of ordering weapons and armor. (Same justification as the previous one, but different enough to warrant a separate entry. This can of course be rectified a lot by just mass mining plasma or sending research disks. Maybe do both if one proves insufficient) 
  • Reinforcements for the syndicates. (Basically when they're all dead, a second wave of them randomly drawn from dead players can be sent in, thus reducing the advantage in numbers. Of course it might be a bit too extreme, so I'd suggest giving them fewer TC to work with)
  • More TC (Also obvious, but I feel this one could either end up not being enough since it doesn't nullify the advantages of numbers. Of course with too much they all end up with mech suits and enough personal ordnance to blow up the station manually. )
  • Making handing out all access illegal/against SOP. (More subtle than the others, but it might go a long way. The crew still outnumber the syndies by a huge amount and can do other things besides gear up. People might just ignore this though.)

Anyways, that's all I can think of right now. Maybe I'll add to it later if others come to mind. Of course if some other more subtle solution can be found that fixes things, so much the better.

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Nukies don't win that rarely, in my experience. Yes, war rounds do favour the crew, but I'd say it's more 40/60. Also, declaring war is explicitly labelled as 'challenge mode' for the nukies. It is supposed to be harder than not declaring war. That said:

 

The idea of nukie reinforcements sounds interesting and could lengthen the round quite a bit. It would make it feel more like a proper war and less five random murderhobos.

 

Sidenote: SOP doesn't apply to war, as it is for standard situations now, so SOP can't forbid handing out all access during war.

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I'd seriously have to ask what rounds you experience, since as I've said I've only seen it happen once. Again, only one sample to speak of but 60/40 is way too generous from my experience, and I play very frequently.  I'm not opposed to it being harder than going stealth ops, I'm just asking that we give the nukies a good chance at succeeding rather than just having the Crew overwhelm them pretty much every time.

Edited by DesuEx

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I've seen nukies with more than 8000 hours of play time among them combined win a round in less than 30 minutes, but when we don't have any stats on the nukies teams and how often they win or lose I don't want to comment on the "balance". It seems like nukies already enjoy the challenge of declaring war. If they like the challenge, then I don't see what's wrong with it. They already get extra TC when there's more crew. If it's fun, why stress too much about balance? This isn't a competitive game and we're never going to achieve perfect balance unless we implement matchmaking.

There are probably a few things we can do to make it easier for new nukies though. There's a lot of gotchas involved, like not using magboots properly or putting the jetpack in the wrong slot. Plenty of times even for stealth nukies someone doesn't figure out how to use the jetpack and blows the nukies' cover. We should think about the UI and UX of these items that many players may not be familiar with. Sometimes it just comes down to being plain unrobust (eg me).

What we can also do is make the round more interesting if it's too boring due to lack of conflict. Reinforcements sounds like a good idea for this.

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Nukes winning or losing pretty is determined before they leave their hangar. If all nukes are working together, formulating a plan and gearing up in a way to synergize, they'll dominate. If everyone just buys what ever toy they wanted to use and equip to solo or cause mass chaos with little to no care if anyone grabs the disk or nuke, nukes fail. Veteran ops who like winning know the best way to do that is to work closely with others who know what they are doing and try to minimize the screw ups rookies will do. Problem is most rookies don't read the chat window and spend the entire prep time browsing the uplink then walk out the air lock with their suit in combat mode or their internals off and die of exposure.

In the long run the actions of the crew are pretty much irrelevant. If the ops are working together and being smart, no amount of preparation by the crew will help them since the nukes always know the general direction of the disk. If the nukes are solo ramboing then the crew will pick them off one by one till the shuttle arrives. The solution isn't to make it harder or less time for the crew to coordinate and resist, but better emphasize to the nukes they need to work together and not act like agents carrying out personal goals and vendettas.

Its one of the many reasons I've been pushing for months for VR consoles to get ported and one of the minigames being a nuke mode so people can get a chance to use nuke gear. Nuke is a role that I feel everyone should get a chance at playing sooner or later, but the occurrence of getting it is rare enough that throwing people in blind isn't really fun or fair.

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52 minutes ago, davidchan said:

(snip)

Very much the case. A good team of robust people working together is worth 100s of TCs worth of gear. Huge amounts of fluke ops fail because someone couldn't even make it to the station without dying.

 

As with wizard and other rare antag modes, getting experience with nuke ops is incredibly different. VR would be fantastic for that, as is just running various training events so people can get the basics of how to use jetpack etc. 

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What Davidchan stated more or less rings true. I'd argue it has to do less with coordination and teamwork, and more with a good tc build and competence/robustness level. But the point stays the same. If the ops are robust, coordinated, and have a plan, they can win quickly and easily.  And they would win quickly and easily every time, but luckily the antag selection adds newer players that aren't quite so elite. Even then, two robust and coordinated nukies can do it themselves. Hell, just one can carry at times and get the nuke disk solo, even if it is the exception instead of the rule.

In the end, nukies can win easily with experienced players that keep their eye on the ball. Making changes like these, any of these, I fear would tilt the balance towards where nukies stomp with just one good player consistently. I know it sucks to have a team of flukies, all die, shuttle called, and everyone leave and pretends that round didn't happen. But balancing around the newer players instead of around the elite who know how to play it perfectly, I don't think is a good call.

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10 hours ago, Tayswift said:

I've seen nukies with more than 8000 hours of play time among them combined win a round in less than 30 minutes, but when we don't have any stats on the nukies teams and how often they win or lose I don't want to comment on the "balance". It seems like nukies already enjoy the challenge of declaring war. If they like the challenge, then I don't see what's wrong with it. They already get extra TC when there's more crew. If it's fun, why stress too much about balance? This isn't a competitive game and we're never going to achieve perfect balance unless we implement matchmaking.

There are probably a few things we can do to make it easier for new nukies though. There's a lot of gotchas involved, like not using magboots properly or putting the jetpack in the wrong slot. Plenty of times even for stealth nukies someone doesn't figure out how to use the jetpack and blows the nukies' cover. We should think about the UI and UX of these items that many players may not be familiar with. Sometimes it just comes down to being plain unrobust (eg me).

What we can also do is make the round more interesting if it's too boring due to lack of conflict. Reinforcements sounds like a good idea for this.

You seem to have misunderstood me.This isn't so much about competitive Balance so much as it is making the rounds less repetitive. To me at least, it's not fun when every round basically ends up going exactly the same way. There's no challenge and drama when I don't feel that the nuke ops can win. It isn't that I find playing a nuke op during war not fun, it's that I find playing a crew member during it boring.

 

6 hours ago, davidchan said:

Nukes winning or losing pretty is determined before they leave their hangar. If all nukes are working together, formulating a plan and gearing up in a way to synergize, they'll dominate. If everyone just buys what ever toy they wanted to use and equip to solo or cause mass chaos with little to no care if anyone grabs the disk or nuke, nukes fail. Veteran ops who like winning know the best way to do that is to work closely with others who know what they are doing and try to minimize the screw ups rookies will do. Problem is most rookies don't read the chat window and spend the entire prep time browsing the uplink then walk out the air lock with their suit in combat mode or their internals off and die of exposure.

In the long run the actions of the crew are pretty much irrelevant. If the ops are working together and being smart, no amount of preparation by the crew will help them since the nukes always know the general direction of the disk. If the nukes are solo ramboing then the crew will pick them off one by one till the shuttle arrives. The solution isn't to make it harder or less time for the crew to coordinate and resist, but better emphasize to the nukes they need to work together and not act like agents carrying out personal goals and vendettas.

Its one of the many reasons I've been pushing for months for VR consoles to get ported and one of the minigames being a nuke mode so people can get a chance to use nuke gear. Nuke is a role that I feel everyone should get a chance at playing sooner or later, but the occurrence of getting it is rare enough that throwing people in blind isn't really fun or fair.

That's something I both agree and disagree with. Yes, inexperienced nuke ops do frequently buy what they think will be the most fun for their own experience thus shooting themselves in the foot and yes, experienced players do coordinate and know how to work their TC to their advantage. However I wish to voice the following rebuttals;

  1. I feel you've vastly oversimplified it and underestimated just how effective a good crew can be.  They have access to a bunch of effective equipment, and with a much larger pool than the nuke ops it's more likely that the robust ones end up supporting the station. Which brings me to...
  2. How often do we see a properly robust nuke ops team? With how big the rounds usually are, it's highly unlikely that we'll get just one guy on the team, and they probably won't end up as the leader (the guy that ultimately makes the call). Even then, it's a bit of a false dichotomy to assume that either you have a horribly incompetent team or a really robust one. Even those that have good experience and skill often fail at this round type due to all the advantages the crew has. Of course one must also consider...
  3. Experienced players might actually be less likely to declare war rounds. From what I've seen, the ones that know what they're doing are the ones pushing at the beginning of the round to not declare war.

Although I do think you are onto something with the VR solution. If it can help raise the tension without actually changing the mechanics much, so much the better.

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War ops have the odds stacked massively against them.

  • Stealth ops might be a 6v6 stealth operation. War ops might be a 6v60 full combat operation where the 60 have 20 minutes' advance warning to prepare. That is gonna be some steep odds no matter what gear you have.
  • Experienced players know that war ops generally does not win, and thus, they will push for stealth ops. The result is that war op teams tend to be dominated by newer op players, and/or op players who don't actually care about winning. This further reinforces the fact they are unlikely to win.
  • Ultimately, the ops' ammo and weapons are finite, whereas the crew can clone, use pets, golems, etc. Further, the crew controls the location of the disk, which means the ops have to come to them, through their defenses. The longer a nuke op round lasts, the better armed and more prepared the crew, while the more of the ops' resources are depleted. So, a quick stealthy smash-and-grab is always going to be more effective than a full-on drawn out military siege. Once the nukies' comms are compromised, they can't even co-ordinate effectively.
  • The tactics that work during stealth, or surprise ops, like having one person create a distraction, simply don't work during war ops. A lone op somewhere else can create a distraction for a few minutes, but eventually, crew will kill them. In stealth/surprise ops this does not matter since you'll hopefully have the disk by then. In war ops it means you're down a player without reducing the strength of the crew significantly.

For all these reasons and more, war ops are at a BIG disadvantage, to the point that many admins (including me) outright refuse to send ERTs during nuke ops, because we reason that the ops have little chance of winning even without an ERT / etc helping the crew.

I'm not sure what could be done to make war ops a fairer fight... or even if we should make it one (truly a 6v60 fight where the 6 win may not be satisfying to most players). It definitely isn't a fair fight as things stand, though.

Of all the ideas I've heard to make war ops a fairer fight, perhaps the one I like best is: upon declaration of war, turn 1-3 crew into traitors with objectives to assassinate different members of Command. This way, we're discouraging the HoP/Cap from giving everyone guns and all-access, without outright prohibiting it. We're also evening the balance in the number of players on each side, a little, and ensuring that the crew doesn't have 20 minutes' hassle-free prep time. Rather than outright prohibiting anything or making it impossible, we're introducing some disincentives that curb the most problematic behavior on the crew side, and even up the fight, without making anything totally impossible.

Edited by tzo
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10 minutes ago, tzo said:

Of all the ideas I've heard to make war ops a fairer fight, perhaps the one I like best is: upon declaration of war, turn 1-3 crew into traitors with objectives to assassinate different members of Command. This way, we're discouraging the HoP/Cap from giving everyone guns and all-access, without outright prohibiting it. We're also evening the balance in the number of players on each side, a little, and ensuring that the crew doesn't have 20 minutes' hassle-free prep time. Rather than outright prohibiting anything or making it impossible, we're introducing some disincentives that curb the most problematic behavior on the crew side, and even up the fight, without making anything totally impossible.

this would be an interesting idea to adminbus in a few times, and see how effective it even is

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22 minutes ago, tzo said:

Of all the ideas I've heard to make war ops a fairer fight, perhaps the one I like best is: upon declaration of war, turn 1-3 crew into traitors with objectives to assassinate different members of Command. This way, we're discouraging the HoP/Cap from giving everyone guns and all-access, without outright prohibiting it. We're also evening the balance in the number of players on each side, a little, and ensuring that the crew doesn't have 20 minutes' hassle-free prep time. Rather than outright prohibiting anything or making it impossible, we're introducing some disincentives that curb the most problematic behavior on the crew side, and even up the fight, without making anything totally impossible.

I'd almost like to see this. Maybe as a buyable option for the operatives. Activating a sleeper agent with 0-10TC or just a headset key, with an mission given by the operatives to either disrupt the crew in general or have a more complex plan. Ideally they're also given some opportunity to get off station as well. Either getting to the gateway or perhaps being given notice that one pod will launch right  before detonation. Making it an every time thing would discourage the security team from trusting anyone which might cut down on crew inclusion. Even having it be a buy in thing would likely cause some issues.

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You could even let the operatives decide the objective of the activated traitor when they buy the option. 

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if it cost TC, the drawback would be that players are hesitant to spend, as there is no guarantee that who gets picked will be any good, just as when people don't want to pick holopara because it's a roulette roll for competence.

edit (imagine spending 200TC to make 20 or more 'sleeper' operatives)

Edited by ID404NotFound
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30 minutes ago, ID404NotFound said:

if it cost TC, the drawback would be that players are hesitant to spend, as there is no guarantee that who gets picked will be any good, just as when people don't want to pick holopara because it's a roulette roll for competence.

edit (imagine spending 200TC to make 20 or more 'sleeper' operatives)

Of which all are armed with the guns and all access that was handed out like candy the moment one of the nukies as much as sneezed.

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1 hour ago, tzo said:

Of all the ideas I've heard to make war ops a fairer fight, perhaps the one I like best is: upon declaration of war, turn 1-3 crew into traitors with objectives to assassinate different members of Command. This way, we're discouraging the HoP/Cap from giving everyone guns and all-access, without outright prohibiting it. We're also evening the balance in the number of players on each side, a little, and ensuring that the crew doesn't have 20 minutes' hassle-free prep time. Rather than outright prohibiting anything or making it impossible, we're introducing some disincentives that curb the most problematic behavior on the crew side, and even up the fight, without making anything totally impossible.

Oooh, that's a great idea! Way to think outside the box whoever suggested this. This would definitely raise the tension and reduce the problem of repetitiveness.

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6 minutes ago, TheClosetMailman said:

Of which all are armed with the guns and all access that was handed out like candy the moment one of the nukies as much as sneezed.

If this is done automatically though, then command is less likely to hand out all access and weapons.

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9 hours ago, DesuEx said:

If this is done automatically though, then command is less likely to hand out all access and weapons.

I was nothing how all crew get AA and guns the moment anything remotely red gets spotted

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20 hours ago, TheClosetMailman said:

I was nothing how all crew get AA and guns the moment anything remotely red gets spotted

Okay... and? With potential syndicates hidden amongst the crew, command is going to be more hesitant to hand them out to the crew.

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but would assuming there are sleeper agents be a meta thing? "we can't give out guns and all access to everyone, there could be sleeper agents!"

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31 minutes ago, ID404NotFound said:

but would assuming there are sleeper agents be a meta thing? "we can't give out guns and all access to everyone, there could be sleeper agents!"

You should not do that in the first place

 

Anyway, it is much better to assume "dont give guns and all access, there might be traitors" than "its nukies so no tators or lings, arm the crew reeeeee"

Edited by McRamon
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34 minutes ago, ID404NotFound said:

but would assuming there are sleeper agents be a meta thing? "we can't give out guns and all access to everyone, there could be sleeper agents!"

I would argue that worrying about sleeper agents would be logical. If a giant sinister organization wanted to completely and utterly kaboom a station out of existence, and are capable of sending an elite squad armed with high-tech gear to do so, as well as frequently hire undercover agents to sabotage said station, then why wouldn't they have some double agents onboard to ensure their success?

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Really I think this choice can't be made with IC justification. It would make sense for sleeper agents to be on board. It would also make sense for agents to be on board during shadowling, blob, and cult rounds. However we don't have them for balance reasons. (Though I would love to see some agents who's goal it is to preserve the station integrity while commiting a more minor crime. Thats something else though.) The issue is with sleeper agents is that they add paranoia which while it can be fun it'll probably cut back on crew cohesiveness in a un-fun way. When the crew gets to stand as a ragtag team of sec, greyshirts, nerds, and cargonians vs a gang of heavily armed lunatics its lets the crew both work as a team and try out some of those crazy ideas. Plus for those who don't feel comfortable rolling antag yet it lets them have a chance at getting some gunplay or stunplay in without the pressure of playing security or traitor. I can see those oppritunites vanishing if Sleepers become a part of war ops. Which would be a shame.

Stealth ops can already stealth in with their teleporter or a clean entrance. War ops can order borgs to help them out or try to be a cohesive team and roll through the station. Maybe adding buyable reinforcements with your TC will help but I think putting them on station will do more harm than good.

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10 hours ago, TDS said:

For those unaware, a PR  adding sleeper agents as a buyable option for nukies is currently open: https://github.com/ParadiseSS13/Paradise/pull/10357

 We tried a sleeper agent yesterday, as far as I can tell, they did nothing whatsoever except cost us 40 TC. 

I'm however still tempted to try a war round where the nukies don't buy anything except sleeper agents, and go in just with their starting shotguns and free suits and jetpacks, about an hour in when absolute chaos has broken out. Because almost 10 sleeper agents, in a shift where everyone gets shotguns and all-access? Yes please. 

Edited by Splgrk
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9 minutes ago, Pennwick said:

It would also make sense for agents to be on board during shadowling, blob, and cult rounds. However we don't have them for balance reasons.

Claiming it's impossible to have a traitor onboard because there's a cult/slings/etc is a great way to get an admin to spawn a traitor with you as the target 😉

 

 

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