Z 95 Antares version "balanced" mode

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Tanel K
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Z 95 Antares version "balanced" mode

Post by Tanel K » 2009-12-08, 17:42

Hello,

This is an idea I got from two places:
*The games of Z that I played online 2-3 years ago
*NetStorm (http://www.netstormhq.com), a game similar to Z in the way that it was pretty much abandoned by the developer/publisher and later taken into the hand of hardcore fans, further improved and balanced and at this day is much more popular than it was when originally released.

The problem is, that I find the units unbalanced in Z, and this comes out especially in the multiplayer mode.

My proposition is that we gather and analyze the ideas to balance the game, find the best and develop a -UNIVERSAL- balanced mode for the widely-used and easily accessible Z95 patch by Antares (essentially the user would use it by using the /balance parameter when starting the game).

We would need to find the flaws, propose solutions, gameplay test them and then finalize the universal standard. The goal would be to provide a more interesting and varied multiplayer (and even singleplayer) experience.

My personal suggestions are based on the facts that some units are simply a LOT worse than others and lack the use. What I would like to achieve is that every unit has a use and is worth making, has it's strengths in addition to weaknesses, and that having access to higher ranked factories would mostly give you many choices for approaching the combat situation.

To explain it better, here are my proposed balance modifications.

The mode would be based on the /dos gameplay parameter, as I find the original Z-DOS release much more balanced and rich gameplay-wise than the original Z95 release, which had rather drastical changes (for example regular Guns became completely useless).

GRUNT. You never see this unit produced, except when you have a RF1 OR you are playing the level 17 "Car Park". It is completely useless and cannot do anything, it's role as "cannon fodder" is useless, as you could just as well produce Psychos for basically the same cost.

PROBLEM: Useless unit, never produced in RF**+ factories.

SOLUTION: Lower the production time to about 3/5 of the production of the Psychos unit and change the unit formation to 5 robots instead of 3. Why? This would give the unit strength in numbers, it could approach enemy vehicles better and also make for suicide runs to flags a lot more effectively. The production time should lowered so that it is actually considered as an alternative to making Psychos or the "number one choice or robot", snipers.

PSYCHOS. They are rather effective versus Jeeps and Gatlings, Grunts and even Snipers, but they cannot take on anything tougher.

PROBLEM: Unit has low usefulness.

SOLUTION: Increase the unit's speed to match the one of the Sniper. this would allow to use them for battling snipers, taking out Howitzers and even Missile Guns and they could even try to kill vehicle drivers much more effectively. A little boost to speed would sometimes make them a better choice to produce than even Toughs and Snipers.

TOUGH. In competetive play, they are only used in APCs, as even a Jeep can completely annihilate them.

PROBLEM: Potentially strong unit, but severely gimped by it's speed.

SOLUTION: It's speed needs to be buffed to match Grunts/Pyros, production time should be lowered by about 20%. This would make players consider using Toughs versus for example Medium tanks (which they cannot kill because the Medium easily dodges their attacks) and Guns/Howitzers/Missile Guns. They would retain their usefulness in APCs and would gain new uses in territory capturing, by allowing them to cross land faster and fight better stationary guns due to more effectiveness in approaching them.

SNIPER. The unit most produced in multiplayer, next to the strong Lasers.

PROBLEM: Overused, very weak against all tanks (except when luckily shooting out the driver). Very strong against all stationary defenses and most robots.

SOLUTION: Increase their range to 8, reduce their HP to match Grunts, increase unit size to 4 robots. This would allow a skilled player to use snipers against Light and Medium tanks, by outranging and shooting them from afar. They would not be overpowered against robots, Howitzers and Missile Guns as they would die faster, but their main role - attacking when the enemy cant shoot back, would be brought out much better, rather than using sheer force (especially considering these balance changes to Guns)

PYROS. Useful mostly is APCs, as it often misses it's shots. Sometimes devastating, but rarely finds any use.

PROBLEM: Unit is too slow/dies fast , cannot shoot tanks or guns before getting shot itself.

SOLUTION: Increase HP to match Toughs, increase Intelligence to match Snipers, increase Range from 5 to 6. This would give them much more usefulness versus Light and Medium tanks, and the added intelligence would allow them to get a chance versus for example MMLaunchers. The production time could also be lowered by about 10%.

LASER. A very powerful unit, that can both destroy other robots and even face tanks. Fast, agile and intelligent. Maybe needs more HP, but it has the potential to make them more overpowered.

PROBLEM: Always favored in RF5. Otherwise rather balanced unit, but is often choice no.1.

SOLUTION: Increase production time by 15%. This would make the player consider making other robots as well, depending on the -niche- that they need. Currently you would make Lasers versus robots, Lasers versus any tanks, Lasers into APCs, Lasers versus any guns etc. When the production time is longer, the players would consider units that are quicker to produce, but not as universal, while the Laser would still be the strongest robot with the widest usefulness.

JEEP.

PROBLEM: In multiplayer, nobody ever makes Jeeps (unless they forget to change the production). Only useful in the first four singleplayer missions. Gets totally destroyed by anything except Grunts and Psychos.

SOLUTION: Reduce production time by 25%, increase speed from 10 to 12. I find that the Jeep would be a very useful unit in quickly capturing enemy territories -IF- they could avoid enemy fire. The speed boost would also make them useful against Howitzers (which they kind of already are). Lowering the prod. time and increasing speed would make them a -very appealing- choice to make instead of the OVERUSED Light tanks and would give them a very specific and strategical niche in territory control and survival.

LIGHT. The most used tank in the game, can currently destroy any vehicle or robot unit in 1v1 in the hands of a skilled player (excluding Mediums -when- they get a lucky first shot; if they miss it, the medium is doomed).

PROBLEM: Overused, strong, fast to produce compared to other units.

SOLUTION: My solution includes leaving the Light AS IT IS, as a kind of standard tank, and balance the other units around it. As you previously read, Toughs would already be stronger against it, Snipers could shoot it from afar, Jeeps could outrun it. The Light should stay as it is, other units would be balanced to match it.

MEDIUM. A tank that is almost never made in multiplayer, because it is slowly produced (you can instead make 2 Lights) and lacks combat usefulness due to its slowness and slow attacks.

PROBLEM: Never a good choice to make, Weaker units like Light often overpower it, takes long to produce.

SOLUTION: Buff the unit. My proposition would be: -20% production time, +1 speed (to be 1 speed slower than Light), Range 5->6. This would make it useful versus Lights (a Medium should be stronger anyway) and even give it a chance versus Heavy tanks.

APC. I find this unit balanced, as it is fast to produce, strong and fast, but requires making specific robots to make use of it. Perhaps reduce speed by 1-2, because Sniper APCs would be too strong against Light and Medium tanks - on the other hand, it would add another strategical counter versus them for skilled players.

HEAVY. A strong tank that is built in VF4-5 when you think you can actually finish the production cycle (that is, if you are not making Lights, you are making Heavies).

PROBLEM: Often destroyed when it misses it's first shot versus a Medium or Light. Should not be overpowered by that much weaker units.

SOLUTION: Increase the rate of fire. The unit is strong as it is. It's slow speed and production speed would not make it overpowered, while giving it more combat capabilities versus smaller tanks. The high production time should not result in a tank that is useless. Additional fire speed would make stronger, but definitely not overpowered, as it would now only outrange a Medium by 1 (previously, if it missed it's first shot vs a medium, it would be hit at least twice if not die completely). This would make heavies a more strategic choice - if you can afford the time to make them, you are well rewarded, and won't be losing it against a single weak unit or robot.

MML, the slow massive destruction.

PROBLEM: Very slow, weapons rarely hit. Only useful versus Missile Guns and Bridges, as even a Heavy can dodge it's attacks.

SOLUTION: Reduce production time to match a Heavy, increase speed to match a Heavy, Increase projectile speed to about 175%, keep the rate of fire the same. This would create a powerful anti-armor device. Currently it is never made in multiplayer, but these small changes would make it a counter versus all kinds of tanks (except maybe Lights) and support it's anti-gun role.

The problem with stationary guns: Whenever you can make mobile units, you don't want to make stationary ones. Stationary untis cannot move and are VERY limited by that. You always want to have more tanks in multiplayer, not more guns which the enemy can simply not approach and focus elsewhere. I think that all guns need severe boosts. Guns should be a REAL tactical choice, not something that you make for fun but is totally useless.

GATLING. ("what is that, I never see it ingame!")

PROBLEM: Never used. Cannot beat anything except Jeeps and Grunts. Nobody makes it.

SOLUTION: Reduce production time by 50-75%, making it extremely fastly deployable. Increase range to 7 - this would let it be at least of some use versus tanks, but Snipers would still outrange it. The fast deployment could be strategically very useful in border areas. Being able to place lots of them very fast, would bring many tactical defensive choices into the game (Do you want a Light tank? Or place 3-4 Gatlings in the same time for defense?)

GUN.

PROBLEM: Low range and weak. Useless against every tank and most robots.

SOLUTION: Reduce production time by 50%, making it fastly deployable. Increase range to 7. Increase rate of fire to match a Light. Increase HP slightly. This would make the Gun actually have a real defensive role. Currently it is totally useless, because Heavy tanks don't even take a hit, it takes longer to produce than a Light and any tank can blow it up usually without even taking a scratch. Fast deployability and an increase in output would make it a choice very worth considering.

HOWITZER: The popular gun.

PROBLEM: Weak, slow rate of fire, easy to avoid it's shots, making tanks is preferred to making Howitzers.

SOLUTION: Reduce production time by 50%, making it fastly deployable. Increase range from 10 to 12. Increase projectile travel speed to about 160%. This would retain and improve it's role, while maintaining it's key weakness - the slow rate of fire and weak HP. Reduce needed tech level to FF3, VF3, RF4 (from FF4, VF3, RF5)

MISSILE GUN: the strong gun.

PROBLEM: Takes ages to produce, needs a high tech factory, tanks and robots are always preferred. Dies very fast in combat.

SOLUTION: Reduce production time by 50%, making it fastly deployable. Increase HP to 200%. Increase rate of fire by about 25%. It would not make the unit overpowered, but once again, a useful choice.

So, in short:

GRUNTS - reduce production time, increase unit size.
PSYCHOS - increase movement speed.
TOUGH - increase movement speed, reduce production time.
SNIPER - reduce HP, increase range, increase unit size.
PYROS - increase HP, increase range, increase intelligence.
LASER - increase production time.

JEEP - reduce production time, increase movement speed.
LIGHT - leave as it is.
MEDIUM - reduce production time, increase movement speed, increase range.
APC - leave as it is (or reduce movement speed).
HEAVY - increase rate of fire.
MML - reduce production time, increase speed, increase projectile speed.

GATLING - reduce production time, increase range.
GUN - reduce production time, increase range, increase attack speed, increase HP.
HOWITZER - reduce production time, increase range, increase projectile speed.
MISSILE GUN - reduce production time, increase HP, increase rate of fire.

(I didn't touch the crane, as it's not in the multiplayer game).

As we already have the option to modify unit aprameters (thanks to the wonderful enthusiasts of the community), I find that it's time to further improve the original Z to make it more versatile and strategically complex and colorful, especially in the multiplayer aspect.

Please, criticize the balance ideas and add your own! :cheers:
Meeky
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Location: Russia

Re: Z 95 Antares version "balanced" mode

Post by Meeky » 2009-12-08, 19:27

Hi, Tanel K
I like the idea. Surely, with help of my ZStats utility you can easily change those parameters you are talking about, EXCEPT unit production time, since it is calculated based on robot characteristics (such as stamina, alertness, speed) or weapon characteristics in case of hardware units. So if you need to influence unit cost directly, there should be a patch for it. It could, for example, take into account "Cost to buy" in Z Unit Data block (BL2) and multiply calculated unit cost by this value (in percentage).

So far, you can make modifications in your local copy of ROBOTS.DAT file and see whether your suggestions are worthwhile and balanced enough.
WinZMod - mod for playing Z with high screen resolution
ZEdMod - ZEditor mod allowing to edit single player levels
ZGFX - Utility for extracting Z graphic
ZStats - Small utility for fine-tuning unit statistics
Z-Remake - XNA project on 2D IceCream Engine
Tanel K
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Posts: 69
Joined: 2006-06-09, 16:14
Location: Estonia

Re: Z 95 Antares version "balanced" mode

Post by Tanel K » 2009-12-08, 20:09

Hi Meeky,

I am indeed experimenting with the units thanks to your wonderful ZStats tool :)

I have very little experience in programming (close to none), do you think that this build time modification would be easy to integrate into some launcher program such as winzmod.exe , so that players could choose whether to use the balance mod (including both the changed ROBOTS.DAT and the time changes) without permanently changing any root game files?
Meeky
Captain
Captain
Posts: 137
Joined: 2009-02-05, 11:18
Location: Russia

Re: Z 95 Antares version "balanced" mode

Post by Meeky » 2009-12-08, 20:45

Tanel K wrote:Hi Meeky,

I am indeed experimenting with the units thanks to your wonderful ZStats tool :)

I have very little experience in programming (close to none), do you think that this build time modification would be easy to integrate into some launcher program such as winzmod.exe , so that players could choose whether to use the balance mod (including both the changed ROBOTS.DAT and the time changes) without permanently changing any root game files?
Surely, I can do that. Send me modified file and next WinZMod release will comprise it within itself. So by using new /balance key users could effectively switch stats to new ones.
WinZMod - mod for playing Z with high screen resolution
ZEdMod - ZEditor mod allowing to edit single player levels
ZGFX - Utility for extracting Z graphic
ZStats - Small utility for fine-tuning unit statistics
Z-Remake - XNA project on 2D IceCream Engine
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