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?