In this post I argue that the ACU Gun upgrades are overpowered, and that they hurt game diversity at the late t1/early T2 stage. I will also list the drawbacks of getting the gun-upgrade and why I feel that these drawbacks are too easily circumvented. This post is primarily intended towards affecting larger team-games without making the gun upgrade too weak in ladder/2v2, as I feel it is in a good spot there.
The ACU gun upgrades are arguably the most mass efficient choice in the entire game. On many maps you are at a serious disadvantage if your opponent goes for it but you do not. the upgrade enables one unit to hold points with ease while ecoing or using units elsewhere, and at an early point in the game it can easily snowball with veterancy and future upgrades.
Some people may say that nerfing gun upgrades will make the game more turtly, however it is my opinion that in many cases, the ACU gun upgrade itself is what limits aggression. In an ACU vs ACU fight, one side having far more units can often still be unable to gain enough of an advantage to push, and this is even moreso the case with the Gun-upgrade. Units are virtually unable to contribute in some cases, as they just become vet before getting into range, and the fight becomes a game of who can bring T2 pd or mobile shields to support their Gun ACU faster.
It's my opinion that the gun upgrade is strong enough to limit strategic options, such as pushing with an unupgraded Acu and an early T2 Army, or getting nano/regen field without gun, et cetera. With that, my hope is that the Gun upgrade will be nerfed so that there is more of a choice of which to get first within the first several minutes of the game.
Gun upgrade does have some drawbacks that in theory, work to prevent it from being overpowered:
- The Gun upgrade has a relatively large energy cost
- You can not move or control the ACU while upgrading (though you can queue up orders)
- Opponents are aware you are upgrading due to the lighting effects on the ACU, and can see what arm is upgrading.
- You can not get other upgrades on the same arm (affects some factions more than others).
However, in many cases, I feel that these drawbacks are not enough to hold Gun back from being overpowered, and that they are often even nullified:
- The energy cost is appears high but is often negligible. Most of the time when going for it, you'll have an energy surplus and e storage for overcharge anyway. By building 1-2 e-storages while walking your ACU to a front/expansion you are essentially pseudo-building the upgrade, as by the time you get there you can click the upgrade button and use all your stored energy without having to unbalance your economy. Even just having 9000 energy in storage makes the upgrade very easy to get.
- Furthermore, in teamgames, players often gift energy to allow gun upgrades to finish super quickly. This does in theory put the gifter at a disadvantage, but in 4v4's and up there's usually at least someone with energy to spare.
- It's true that you can't use or move the ACU while upgrading, however the upgrade finishes so quickly that usually no loss is felt. Sometimes, you can even start upgrading in the middle of battle if your opponent doesn't have too much t1 arty, letting your acu still shoot and tank for your units.
- Your opponent can see that you are upgrading, but cannot see how close you are to construction. It could be just started or almost complete, and attacking an upgrading ACU with an unupgraded ACU is very risky, especially with the fast build-times and the ability to gift energy.
In conclusion, I believe that the drawbacks to getting the gun upgrade are too easily nullified in teamgames.
I do understand that certain units (such as Aurora) may become a lot stronger if Gun Upgrade is nerfed too much, so it makes sense to be careful and strike a balance. Furthermore, I the Gun Upgrades are decently balanced in combat outside of their cost. For that reason, I suggest changes to the price of the upgrade:
- Increase the build-time of the gun upgrade so an ACU can't just walk to the front while e-storage builds, and upgrade within half a minute or so.
- Increase the mass cost of the upgrade. This way, gun upgrades will cost something even with a ton of energy either gifted or in storage. I believe trying to increase the energy costs would have a negligible effect in teamgames while making Gun underpowered in 1v1.
My idea for the numbers is as follows, they are of course not set in stone:
UEF, Cybran, and Seraphim:
Build time: 800 → 1200
Mass cost: 800 → 1200
Aeon (both upgrades):
Build time: 500 → 720
Mass cost: 500 → 720