Thursday, October 25, 2012

Behind the Scenes Mechanics in Vorp

We've received a few questions from players about how some of the ship numbers actually work in the flight dynamics, controls and physics models. I'll attempt to address a few of these here for those interested in the nitty gritty.

Q: How does ship turning work? What does the Rotate Speed value mean? For example, SS Venture has 0.3 Rotate Speed, how exactly does it calculate?

Using standard mouse controls, your ship will always try to face in the direction of an imaginary line that extends from the center of the ship through your mouse cursor. The rotation speed is how long until the ship rotates from its current orientation to the desired rotation. 0.3 means it will take 0.3 seconds regardless of arc size. This approach allows for fine tuned aiming in small arcs (the ship turns more gently when the mouse is not far from the current rotation), but quick manuevers when swinging to wide arcs (the ship turns rapidly if the mouse moves great distances from current rotation).

Q: What is Thrust Power vs. Max Speed? How do Afterburners work with this?

Thrust is a physics force value applied to your ship while thrusters are active (i.e. while holding down the right mouse button with standard mouse controls). Thrust is largely about accelerating an object with mass. Different ships have fairly different mass values, so a larger thrust value doesn't necessarily equate to a faster ship.

Max Speed is the top limit (units per second) which the game will cap additional Thrust from having an impact. The Max Speed value displayed in the hull upgrade tooltips is the fastest you can go with Afterburners active; it is actually a lower value if your Afterburners are not on.

Afterburners apply a multiplier (usually in the range of 1.3x to 1.7x) to your Thrust Power, and as mentioned previously, raise the Max Speed to the value displayed in the HUD tooltip. This value is probably the single most important value in determining a ship's agility relative to another ship. Typical combat scenarios involve a lot of circling and positioning; this means many rapid acceleration changes in physics terms. Ships with high Afterburner multipliers (e.g. ANT, Angel Fire) will be the most nimble in positioning and evasive manuevers.

Most ships have fairly similar Max Speeds, but more variety in Thrust values. We do this because racing in a straight path is very uncommon in the current capital ships map layout, so we focus our differentiation on battle movement factors.

Q: What is the measurement unit of distance in Vorp?

We equate our units to meters, although we don't really enforce realistic dimensions in Vorp. It's more important how an object looks and feels relative to another object size in gameplay than if it would be a realistic size. To give you a rough idea of scale, the average ship has a front to back length of about 22-26 units.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Regarding Ship Balance in Vorp (A Space MOBA)

(This post is largely about our first MOBA game, Vorp.  It's free to play on Kongregate, check it out if you haven't already!)

MOBAs by nature are very competitive games. Action is intense, defeat is agony, victory is bliss. Community debates around ship balance tend to get emotional and irrational pretty quickly. For example, on our Vorp forums, there is much arguing over which ships are OP (over powered) and which are "useless". I'm posting a few thoughts here to illustrate what really factors into ship balance on a macro level for us, and I thought this might help keep the discussion calm and logical. Ha ha right!

For the week leading up to Oct 10 (basically the week before Turbo Hawk was released and a few other balance changes hit), this chart represents stats from all games played, filtered by Commanders Rank 10 and above (so presumably, players that have a pretty good idea how to play Vorp overall). The data sample is thousands and thousands of uses.

Overall Ship Metrics, Vorp, Week prior to Oct 10, 2012, minimum Commander Rank 10

NOTE! This is not the only chart we look at, but it's the most immediately understandable for how any ship is fairing in general.

My takeaways on this are:
  • A range of .9 to 1.6 KD (Kill Death ratio, i.e. how many times does this ship kill other players, and how many times does it die) is not too shabby, especially given that 1 month ago we had ships averaging 6 KD and .4 KD.
  • Shinobi and Iron Wolf are meant to be high DPS (damage per second) assassin roles. I expect them to be on top but not by much, which looks to be the case. Shinobi should have the edge here over IW since IW also has some defensive posturing naturally.
  • The next 5 ships are literally almost neck and neck at 1.3, a very good sign for them generally.
  • Most ships above 1.0 KD, again expected given the data set does not include lower ranking Commanders (newer players)
  • The two anomalies I see at first glance by role intent currently are SS Venture and Angel Fire.
    • Having support abilities, I would expect SS Venture to be lower in kills than most, on the other hand, it's also very survivable, so it probably doesn't die as much. Looking at Average Kills per match, SS Venture is 4th lowest, so I'm pretty comfortable with that.
    • Angel Fire, however, is an aggressive high dps ship. It is vulnerable to dying a lot if it is not played patiently, so I do expect slightly lower KD but not this much. I don't like where I'm seeing it in average kills either, just a little below where it should be. Clearly it is also not a popular choice. So this would be an instance where I say, that ship needs a bump.
    • For the other ships below 1.3 KD here (Xxggghhr, Circe, Torpaz) based on their intended roles these numbers seem not too far off where they should be. These ships are best suited to area deny, structure killing, and getting lots of assists in the KD game.
  • There is no clear "OP" ship currently from this view. Many times it will feel like some ship is OP because a ship or player is countering you very hard, and you can't figure out a way to beat it, and games are emotional (you should see some of our dev debates after internal matches, lol!). Also I believe we are having some lag or perceived lag issues consistently enough to affect this perception.

Having said all that, I play Vorp every day just to understand the "feel" of balance, because stats can lead you astray if they are your only viewpoint as well.

There are hundreds if not thousands of variables that go into a ship's design, changing any of which can have cascading effects to overall game balance. There is also a learning period where players figure out complementary team play between different ships (especially the newest releases). Because of those two factors, we are very patient and considered in applying balance changes. We listen to community input for a general emotional sense of balance, but we tend to make decisions much more on what's really happening statistically across the game.

For our Vorp fans specifically, this is why you will rarely see a dev join a discussion on ship balance in the forums and chat. It is good to debate merits and tactics, but we stay out of the emotional side of things as much as we can. Rest assured, however, that we all want a well balanced exciting game and we're going to keep ships  interesting and unique as much as we can at the same time.

Hopefully that gives some insight into why we do what we do on ship balance. Now. Go figure out how to spend that 4000 free Bang! we just gave everyone in the last update and get back to battling!