I think the relationship between T3 land and experimentals should be re-examined.

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So, when FA was released, I think experimentals were intended to occupy a different role than they currently do.

When FA was closing in on a release, the devs had a serious problem...

They had T3 land, which was complex and diverse, and they didn't want experimentals to just outright replace T3 land on high mass maps.

However... they needed experimentals to be scary units. They needed them to be impactful, both for sales reasons and to justify their existence in the game. If their role wasn't to be some kind of hyper end game replacement for T3 land, then what should their role be?

And I think that what they came up with, was that experimentals should be a sucker punch.

Their niche was providing a means of avoiding steep production costs in engineers and factories (factories were much more expensive back then, so this was probably a major factor) you could always take a risk and go for an experimental... and going for an experimental was always a very risky proposition...

The upsides were:

  • Fast to produce

  • Required next to no infrastructure

The downsides were:

  • Significantly less effective on a per mass basis than T3 land spam

Experimentals were always a major risk to build, because they were under-powered by design. If your experimental was delayed and your opponent gained enough production to match it, then it would die to significantly fewer units than it cost to build in the first place, and your opponent would get its mass as reclaim. They weren't units that you built on a whim, there was real risk in building them.

This gave T4 units a role that didn't step on the role of T3 land. They served two major roles that were related. First, they could be used as a sucker punch against opponents that weren't scouting effectively. Secondly, in the event of a significant influx of reclaim mass after a battle, they were an effective way to quickly put that reclaim to good use.

That is, I believe how experimental units were intended to work by the devs at launch. That was their top level design philosophy. They were risky units that could be built to give a player a large but temporary force advantage at the price of poor mass efficiency.

This thread takes the position that by veering away from this original vision for T4, we've inadvertently broken some aspects of the game...

So if that's how T3/experimentals used to work, if that's how the game used to define the role for experimentals, how are experimentals used today?

Today, Experimentals are much closer to being "T4" units.

I've avoided using the term "T4" thus far in this thread, because I want to separate them from being part of a tier system. They aren't really tier 4 units, they're experimentals, but we've moved them pretty far from their original roles.

Now their design philosphies justifying the existence of Experimentals more or less match the philosophies justifiying untis at other tiers.

  • They are more powerful

  • They have significant advantages over units at lower tiers

  • They have a mass efficiency that is close to in line with that of other tiers.

  • They require significant production and time to produce like units in other tiers.

And because they function more like T4 units than they used to, I think they are replacing T3 land in very late game engagements.

And I don't think that's really what we want. I don't think we want Experimentals to step on the role played by diverse late game T3 unit formations.

How did we get here?

So I admit that I don't really know how we got here, and that this is just a guess, but I bet its more or less correct.

The old system included the "sucker punch". That was the role of Experimentals. They were tough, but for the mass less tough than most other options. The thing that made Experimentals something that you feared was really the speed with which you could push them out rather than their innate combat effectiveness.

And that led to people losing games to units that they didn't scout.

And that led to people complaining about it without really understanding why Experimentals worked the way they did. They didn't understand why Experimentals had to be sucker punch units. They didn't get that this role was chosen for them to avoid having them step on the role of T3 land.

Over time this complaining became consensus. Its not just complaining, the build times really ARE too short. Its not a design choice that's working as intended to avoid stepping on the role of T3 land units, its a "bug" that needs to be fixed.

And so we fixed it, over and over again we fixed that "bug"...

And as we fixed that bug over and over again, we didn't notice that T4 units were starting to step on the role of T3 land.

And I wouldn't suggest that we just move Experimentals back to their release state. Perhaps the sucker punch really was too strong, perhaps they were too quick to build.

But I think that at some point, we've pushed these units too far away from their original role.

And I think that is having an impact on gameplay that is detrimental to the game and the community.

Ask yourself, is T3 land what you plan on fighting with in late game engagements, do you see it as the default late game force, or is it a stepping stone to keep you alive long enough to get out a Monkeylord or Chicken? Are experimentals T4 units, or are they niche units designed for very particular circumstances, either to surprise your opponent or capitalize on a reclaim field?

And if it really is a stepping stone, why the hell is that the way we think it should function? Are we really sure that we've made the right choices?

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Im not too knowledgable about the changes made in the past.

How do you feel about T3 Navy in comparison to experimentals? same goes for T3 air. I feel like you mainly focused your argument on T3 land but there are other options as well.

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I agree with everything you said. As a long time player I noticed that with the last couple years (2018) the changes started to go against fundamental design philosophies of the game.
Like my post about percivals having less HP than bricks. Not a big deal balance-wise, but shows that whoever was doing it forgot about the soul or theme of the game.

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I don't get these arguments about "the developers intended it a certain way". You can't know that. Also the developers weren't exactly pros at the game so you shouldn't read too much into the original balance. It seems a bit farfetched to say that every unit stat was carefully designed when there were serious imbalances on the last official version.
Also I don't really understand what you would like to change.

@moses_the_red said in I think the relationship between T3 land and experimentals should be re-examined.:

Experimentals were always a major risk to build, because they were under-powered by design. If your experimental was delayed and your opponent gained enough production to match it, then it would die to significantly fewer units than it cost to build in the first place, and your opponent would get its mass as reclaim. They weren't units that you built on a whim, there was real risk in building them.

This gave T4 units a role that didn't step on the role of T3 land. They served two major roles that were related. First, they could be used as a sucker punch against opponents that weren't scouting effectively. Secondly, in the event of a significant influx of reclaim mass after a battle, they were an effective way to quickly put that reclaim to good use.

Do you think it leads to good gameplay if you could build an experimental in a minute again?
How does an experimental punish an enemy that is not scouting more than any other threat that he also wouldn't see? You say there is a real risk in building them, but what is the reward? Why would I ever build a significantly underpowered unit?
The only scenario I see here is if you fucked up and did not scale your buildpower properly. This means in high level play we would never see the use of experimentals. (Except maybe as a meme unit to flex on the enemy).

So in conclusion the current role of experimentals seems a lot better to me?

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Old T4 were only curtailed by how obscenely OP t3 itself was in the past. If you could spawn an ML in a minute with 5 t3 engies now, it would be impossible to ever be aggressive in the t3 stage.

The idea of trying to bring back this “intended dev vision” is literally going to lead to this “stepping stone” relation you think exists now. Currently T3 is no more of a stepping stone to T4 than T1 is a stepping stone to T2.

Also yes, appeals to authority suck. The buildtime nerf has not made the game into something unrecognizable to a player from base FA.

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@Stealth9 I avoid playing Naval maps for the most part, and have for a long, long time, so I don't have an opinion on it. As for air experimentals, those are built less often than the land experimentals, they may have the same issues.

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@BlackYps I am not certain the the devs intended Experimentals to work as they did at launch, all I know for certain is that they did work that way at launch, and I think that because they didn't step on the role of T3 land, this was a design choice that was intentional. There were significant advantages to having it work the way it did, and so I think it wasn't just random chance that caused them to function as they did at launch.

I played the game in the era of the sucker punch, and I remember frantically begging team members to scout because I was terrified that someone had a ML or GC building out there. Experimentals were scary units then. I also remember times when I had 4-5 bricks out and a teammate would start panicing because he scouted one and I could just tell them to calm down, we have enough production to deal with it.

Experimentals at that time built faster, but they were also far weaker relative to T3 units, so they were scary, but you could deal with them. If we just took experimetnals in their current state and cut their build times we'd break the game, but if they got nerfed in accordance with the buffs to their build times, they'd be impressive terrifying units but they'd be manageable as well.

As for gameplay, I recall an old tactic that people used during the "Sucker punch" era that doesn't really exist anymore. You'd pretend to build an experimental. You'd see a scout coming and would start building a ML so that the scout sees it. you'd then reclaim it. This was a useful tactic - I wasn't the only one using it at that time - because of the panic the sight of a building experimental would cause in the other team. They'd start major investments in PD, gunships etc to have a chance at dealing with the ML they they thought would arrive in a few short minutes. You could then choose to continue to eco, or build a nuke. Just threatening to build one would have an impact on the other team.

I suppose that good players would perform a double check, to see if they were really serious about building it or if they were just trying to get you to make poor investment choices.

But that's really not the major issue with gameplay, and I explained this issue already in my original post.

Having T4 step on the role of T3 land disincentives T3 land and T3 production. You replace large armies filled with an array of different units each serving different roles - and their production facilities - with a ML or GC escorted by AA. THAT is bad for gameplay.

And maybe you aren't comfortable with scouting or knowing the build timings of T4 and you don't like the idea of getting sucker punched with them from time to time, but you have to see that replacing a lot of the late game unit diversity with Chickens and Galactic Colossus is bad from a gameplay perspective.

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@Mod_Councillor Yeah, if you could spawn a current strength ML with very short build times, sure... it would be crazy.

But T4 is stronger now relative to T3. If we nerfed T4 concordant with the buffs we give to their build times, they'd be manageable, have a niche, and not step on T3 land.

Also yes, appeals to authority suck. The buildtime nerf has not made the game into something unrecognizable to a player from base FA.

The change doesn't need to make the game unrecognizeable to be a bad change.

I noticed that this is happening. I play Cybran, Bricks used to be terrifying units, and against most things they still are, but against T4 they're pitiful.

Defending against T4 with T3 land is a poor strategy nowadays, and that is different than how things used to work, but more importantly it makes late game engagements less interesting than they used to be.

Nowadays, you micro your Monkeylord rather than your 20 unit T3 formation made out of Bricks, Loyalists, Decievers, Trebuchets, Bouncers, T2 flak and firebeetles. You do this because there is little to gain in investing in T3 production to the point where you can spend a significant portion of your mass on bricks. Why go the diverse formation route when a ML is better faster and requires less investment?

So is the game "unrecognizeable"? No, it isn't, but it has lost something that I think had value from a gameplay perspective. It lost something and I'm not even sure we ever really had a conversation about the fact that we were losing it, was it even a conscious choice to replace T3 formations with Experimentals or were we just fixing the "bug" of Experimental build times and OP T3 land?

I acknowledge that there is an argument for keeping things as they are, saying that the current system is superior. I get that, but I disagree with it, and I think this conversation really needs to happen.

If we're going to replace T3 land with experimentals, lets at least do so with eyes wide open.

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First thing here is the change you are talking about : https://content.faforever.com/patchnotes/3696.html
first thing, we didn't buff the experimental, just nerfed their BT. And yes, this mean that are better against T3 unit then before, because T3 have been nerfed at this time.
The idea was to make experimental, act as real beast in the game, not just some sneaky surprise tactic.
What you need to understand is that it is now difficult to rush them, so you actually need to make T3 units to hold your front (you can't rush them straight after getting T3 stage in opposition to what we had before). On top of this, if you went into a spam T3, you should have gather big enough army to be able to win fight versus exp mass effectively. Just a reminder, for the same amount of mass invested in brick in comparison to ML, you get 2.6 times more health and 1.2 times more dps.
Nonetheless, we are working on a rework of scu for the next patch. We will introduce the "support preset" scu, whose goal is to strengthen the T3 army at the later stage. It will have special ability for supporting those T3 armies, like adding buff to them. Hopefully this will lead to T3 army being still prevalent and having a big impact on the battlefield even after few experimentals being already up.

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@keyser

Nonetheless, we are working on a rework of scu for the next patch. We will introduce the "support preset" scu, whose goal is to strengthen the T3 army at the later stage. It will have special ability for supporting those T3 armies, like adding buff to them. Hopefully this will lead to T3 army being still prevalent and having a big impact on the battlefield even after few experimentals being already up.

I'm glad to hear it. I didn't expect anything to come of this post. I'm low ranked and I think people weren't recognizing the problems I was seeing as a real issue. Looks like you all are seeing the same issues I'm seeing and have a good plan worked out.

I have no reason to want this issue resolved via T4 nerfs rather than SCU upgrades. I'm not so much "pro-suckerpunch" as much as I'm "pro-late game T3 utility". If you can make SCUs a lynchpin unit that restores the the T3 unit formation, then I'm for that. I hope the benefit they provide is significant though, because now you're looking at a massive infrastructure investment to produce a good T3 land formation, not just T3 land factories but quantum gateways as well... They'll have to be pretty damn impressive to justify that cost.

This is probably super unpopular, but I think that if I were in charge of FAF, I'd remove all SCU upgrade options and simplify. They're such complicated units its difficult to balance them. You don't want them to replace T3, you don't want them to replace T4, you give them so many options, it must be hard to find a compelling role for them that is balanced and doesn't step on the roles of other late game units... but this idea definitely seems like a good one. Gives them relevance and keeps T3 relevant. Support units sounds great.

I eagerly await the release of the next patch!

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@keyser BTW, do you have any more information you could share on this SCU re-work? Is there a post up about it somewhere? Are there changes on a dev server or something?

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here you can see what has already been accepted : https://github.com/FAForever/fa/compare/deploy/fafbeta
and here you can see what still need to be accepted : https://github.com/FAForever/fa/pulls?q=is%3Apr+is%3Aopen+label%3A"area%3A+balance"

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So RAS SCU's will take ~32 seconds longer to build?

Does the engineer upgrade for SCU's still yield the same 98 (?) bp?

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