Give engineers veterancy for mass reclaimed.
Engineers should get a small life/life regen boost for reclaiming mass. The intuition is that engineers who have experience on the field get battle hardened and have a little more survivability than engineers that have never left the base. This is just a fun little change that uses a new mass reclaimed stat and should not affect overall gameplay significantly. Speaking of a new mass reclaimed stat...
Display mass reclaimed by engineers.
This suggestion is one that doesn’t impact gameplay directly, but could actually have a large impact on how players play. Regardless of whether this change actually goes through, here’s a fun exercise for the readers at home to try – follow a T1 engineer that’s reclaiming on the field and tally up how much reclaim that single engineer actually gets over the course of its life.
I suspect most people who aren’t in the top 30 will be very surprised at just how much reclaim a single engineer can get. I know that I personally was, and this realization was one of the catalysts for my improvement in the game. Engineers are stupidly efficient at grabbing reclaim compared to everything else they do. T1 engineers spend -4 mass per tick when building land factories, and most of their other projects fall within this ballpark. However, T1 engineers can reclaim mass at a whopping 25 mass per tick (increased to 28 mass per tick on some experimental wrecks). T1/T2/T3 engineers will pay for their own mass cost while reclaiming a wreck in around 2 seconds. Engineer preset SACUs can reclaim mass at a staggering 490 mass per tick, and will pay for themselves in just over 5 seconds. For comparison, the T1 mex, which is often held up as a paragon of mass efficiency, takes 18 seconds to pay for itself.
How is this not a bigger balance issue, you might ask? For the majority of the playerbase, I would identify two main reasons:
One. A lack of knowledge in the playerbase means that most people don’t try to exploit this game mechanic nearly as much as they should. Up to around 2k ladder or even above, reclaim is frequently left untouched for far too long, and not capitalizing on reclaim is probably one of the most common glaring mistakes that can be improved upon for most players.
Two. The difficulty of issuing manual reclaim commands. The most consistent and effective way of ensuring reclaim income is to manually issue reclaim commands on wrecks. However, this is difficult to do, not very fun, and combined with reason one means that it isn’t done nearly as much as it should under current balance by the vast majority of players.
At the highest level of play, where reclaim is consistently being utilized effectively, however, this is not the case. Reclaim fields disappear very quickly after being deposited under the control of a top player. Exciting attacks or plays that ultimately fail are punished extremely quickly. Games are often decided based on who can secure a reclaim field for a short period of time. I personally think the conversion time should be a little longer, and the investment needed a little higher.
Reduce reclaim rate by 5x.
Here’s the real meat of the post, and the most controversial suggestion.
I can already see the crowds with pitchforks and torches forming, so hold just your horses for a few seconds and let me explain a few things.
This change is not as severe as it might seem at first glance, because this change does not affect the travel time of engineers. Another fun exercise for the readers at home: follow an engineer that is reclaiming and see what proportion of its time is spent reclaiming versus travelling. You will see that often the engineers spend the majority of their time moving, even if they were given manual reclaim orders. This change should also serve to somewhat lessen the need to manually issue reclaim orders all the time, as attack/patrol move reclaim becomes relatively more effective.
The travel time/reclaim ratio means the overall change in efficiency this change will make in most scenarios is smaller than a 5x reduction in efficiency, and is actually the reason I chose such a large factor (instead of like 2.5x); however, in very specific scenarios, the efficiency reduction will be large. Opening BOs on The Ditch and Daroza’s Sanctuary, where engineers spend the majority of their time reclaiming, will be more heavily affected, but that is an intended consequence of this change. It is debatable whether it makes sense that a one engineer should be able single-handedly power so much of the opening build order, but it seems to make sense that more investment should be required to get an astronomical level of mass income.
This change makes engineers reclaim rate on par with the rate at which they spend mass, instead of close to an order of magnitude higher. A T1 engineer will reclaim mass at +5 per tick, and builds land factories at -4. An unupgraded ACU will reclaim at +10, T2 ACU at +42, and T3 ACU at +100. Engineer preset SACUs can still reclaim mass at a blistering 98 mass per tick, and still pay for themselves in around 27 seconds.
There is precedent for such a change. The issue reclaim balance has been extensively debated and changes were made. Reclaim rates were reduced by a factor of 2x in patch 3684 (T1 engineers used to be able to reclaim at a mind-blowing 50 mass per tick!). This was a good and necessary change, but the exact same issues that compelled such a change still exist even with the 2x reduction.
The change that this suggestion is most similar to in spirit is the buildtime increase for experimentals in patch 3696. Experimental build times were increased, on average, by a factor of around 5x. This change was compelled by how easy it was to throw up an experimental with a small amount of build power and mass in the bank. The reduction in reclaim rate is just the other side of the same coin. Like the increase in experimental build time, both changes just require more engineers for the same job.
There is often the argument made that reclaim is a mechanic that helps prevent T1 spam “grond” strategies, and that any changes to reclaim would only help encourage the gronders. I’ve heard this from players all along the rating spectrum. In my personal experience, I believe that reclaim actually helps the spammer. The gronder is able to secure map control with his spam and is able to quickly convert that reclaim into an overwhelming advantage. This was my strategy of choice on particular maps, and won me many games on ladder. Nerfing reclaim rates should actually nerf mass T1 grond strategies, as it takes longer to convert the map control and associated reclaim into an advantage.
Please note that this change does not affect the amount of reclaim that is actually deposited. I know this may be an obvious point, but I suspect it will be overlooked. A failed attack will still leave the same amount of reclaim, it just requires more time to capitalize on it. This should give more opportunity for dynamic strategic decision making, as reclaim fields must be secured for a longer period of time. This should reduce the amount of snowballing and create more counterplay opportunities, leading to more exciting games.