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DanseMacabre

Brainstorming - Aurora's Combat Problem

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Aurora faces a problem - a mechanical problem, to be specific. An umbrella of mechanical problems: Combat is unsatisfying and heavily weighted in favor of the station, and against antagonists. Armor, as I mentioned in my thread about porting Bay's armor mechanics, plays a big part of this - but it is not all. Here are some issues:
 

1. Characters react too little to damage in the short term. Nobody goes down immediately in a fair fight - this means that fights can become mutually exhausting stalemates, because:


2. Characters without medical backing receive a long-term death sentence. In the mutually exhausting format of Aurora's combat, both sides of a fight will inevitably end up dying without medical attention, if the fight is a fair one. This is not a problem for the station: Security is able to easily obtain all-encompassing medical attention. Antagonists-- Especially lone antagonists-- cannot. Ballistics are especially bad for antagonists, as arterial damage, broken bones, and organ damage is nigh impossible for anybody but a well-coordinated (and not exhausted) merc team, changelings, or vampires to repair.

3. Our combat system, ironically, is counter-intuitive to roleplay: You might think, "Well, if combat is so devastating to both sides, perhaps that means people would be less willing to fight!", but that's wrong. Security knows that they will win almost all fights if they're properly working together, by virtue of having better access to medical attention. Antagonists are either reluctant to engage in open combat, which leads to rounds where most time is spent chasing antagonists, or rounds where the antagonists are wiped out or otherwise decimated in the first engagement. This means that antagonists either don't have the time to stop and RP, or they're all dead or in the brig - also not great for roleplay.

 

tl;dr - Aurora's combat is about attrition. Outright victories are rare in a fair fight, and most battles are decided in the long-term, based off of access to medical attention. This skews the balance of power in favor of the station, to an extent where oftentimes fighting the crew as an antagonist is a death sentence.

 

Fixing this, obviously, is not easy. The quickest bandaid is giving antagonists access to extremely powerful, side-effectless drugs. Things that heal arterial bleeds, rapidly regenerate blood, and repair bone fractures. Making combat more lethal and armor more protective, as I outline in my armor thread, would help - but this is a lot of work, and isn't exactly something that will be done out of pure goodwill on a coder's behalf. Other fixes, like nerfing security's armory - is untenable for different reasons. Security does need to be able to adequately respond to threats, and outright removing the worst offenders - the shotgun and the .45 pistol - would gimp security's ability to respond to certain threats.

All in all, what do you guys think?

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Security gear has received innumerable amounts of nerfs to their effectiveness despite that antagonist gear has always been strictly superior in every way. What antagonists have never had, however, is actual self-sufficiency and the ability to properly 1v2 situations and consistently survive. It takes an inordinate amount of powergaming and positional skill to be able to avoid being damaged as an antagonist, but this takes its toll in the price of being unable to engage with the majority of the crew as a result.

Antagonists have an extremely difficult time shrugging off wounds right now. Just had a round before this post where security was struggling to get decisive hits in on a squad of sol marine mercs, but eventually the conflict subsided. Both security and marines that were engaged had died or slumped to the floor due to their severe injuries. Security admittedly pushed their luck too much, but the marines had no chance at all to get surgery operation while also staying alive from the constant hit and run attacks of security. 

Mercenaries absolutely still need chem dispensers and a premium hypospray, probably heisters too at this rate. Their ship is often way too far from typical shoot-out positions to get people back for medical attention. Medical sits central to the station and all security players are smart enough to recognize that the outer areas of medical are good positions to defend and set up chokes for.

As for traitors, they need redeemable tools of all sorts, especially medical supplies, to keep them alive in the round.

Edited by Scheveningen
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7 hours ago, DanseMacabre said:

Fixing this, obviously, is not easy. The quickest bandaid is giving antagonists access to extremely powerful, side-effectless drugs. Things that heal arterial bleeds, rapidly regenerate blood, and repair bone fractures.

Let me also point out that this is the best solution. For some reason, people hyperfixate on all the cool guns and stuff antagonists get. The fact of the matter is this: As long as you have a weapon that can consistently deal an okay amount of damage, and you have medical backing you up, you will always win. You could have a pulse rifle, and it would mean absolutely nothing if you get an arterial bleed. Antagonists, more than anything, need very good medical equipment in order to make the playing field level. Until then, security will continue to beat every antagonist without much effort - the gear means nothing, when you have a larger and more capable support network. Combat is based around attrition: And without medical, you will not last long.

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Been thinking and kicking the idea around for a while really. It was honestly just recently mercs got a better stocked medical bay with essential chemicals and such, they used to only really get get medical kits and nothing else. What antags really need is a way to treat their ailments without having to go to the station's medical. A trek back to their ships doesn't tend to end well if they are off-station, tends to need a unified force to survive such a journey.

Easy to think of what could be there too. Arterial fixers, bone fixers. Stuff like that. Maybe some disposable portable auto-doc? Even being able to do a blood transfusion easier would be better than nothing, since you need either a roller bed or an IV stand at the moment for a standard transfusion, and many don't know about roller bed IV's which is unfortunate for such a useful mechanic. The main round ender in brainmed for antags is almost always going to be a lack of blood. Sec mainly has weaponry that evaporates it.

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I would hope that any new self-curing medical implementations for antagonists are made to be used outside of combat (via causing temporary pain, slowdown and drowsiness or something like that). Medicine should weaken the long-term attrition tactic, but not allow for sheer dominance via in-combat healing.

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I made this suggestion purely without combat in mind. There can be other restrictions to this, for example a relatively low, fixed transfer rate, slowdown, etc. I have too much of a smooth brain for game balance, though 

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Anything that would put an antag back at one hundo should not be a quick and easy thing. What I mean is that the bad guy shouldn't be able to jab himself with the bone-fixer-matic and continue shooting while in a shootout. I agree with Carver that it should be something that can be used anywhere, but has some kind of constraint to keep it from being used during active combat. Maybe a long activation time, thirty seconds or so, or requiring both hands to use it, whatever "it" turns out to be.

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Spoiler

 

Since I joined this server there have been two constant changes. Security frequently getting weaker equipment, antags getting their gear improved, made cheaper or outright just more TC.

My favorite example of this is still the Rev mode. We gave both sides the ability to drop down an entire armory or combat mechs and the result was a lack of roleplay, recruitment and as combat goes, security getting used to seeing the same bullshit abused every other round. This is why security always goes cult, or the robiticists are always traitors. This is why we cannot play malf and the same three people go for the ninja slots each and every day.

It matters little to none how much you change game mechanics if the playerbase is unwilling to adapt. The security department has that basicly as their main task while the antags promise recently seems to be along the lines of "You do you, if you need handholding just ahelp, if someone hurts you feel free to salt in OOC after the round. Should you happen to win this just salt ICly, preferably after leaving the station early."

Some of the suggestions here show that quite nicely. The surgery bay on the ship being far away does not make it harder or easier for a prepared doctor. The issue being that most antags have not spent their 2-3 rounds of figuring out how the medical system works. You can see that with other basics as well. Hacking doors, breaking a window without causing an atmos alert, heck even telling the AI that you are just visitors with lasertag guns seems be out of style. Instead we got suicidal charges by antag teams with miniguns who then claim "We was friendly all along" in OOC. This seems to be what people take issue with, consequences and realistic behavior, in an HRP environment.

We had a good raider team yesterday just rubbing their brain cells together and vibing in medical. Suddenly they got access to the entire medbay with staff while the security team was left outside wondering if there might be a good reason to defend the medbay in case of a hostile attack. Funny part that even our lore supports such, doctors got to treat you for example according to their oath. Just try to shoot the people less and they will help you a ton. Medical is known for stepping over the idiot officer who frontlined with a batton and treating the antags first.

With all of that out of the way, yes, combat is about attrition. This is to make sure people can take their time and are able to play the shooty part without being good at it, or really requirering any form of knowledge. Most firefights can be won without knowing how to reload your gun really. This is the result of a ton of half assed medical changes. You cannot make combat really lethal and taking away the respawns at the same time. You cannot give 2-3 chemicals for every damage type and then expect someone to die before they arrive in the medbay. This is working as requested.

Just to pick the blood levels as an example here. When brainmed started out it was perfectly viable to refill your blood by eating anything with meat / iron. We then decided that blood bags should be the way to go, so iron was halfed in efficiency. Then we started running out of blood bags, since refilling those requires RP (Cargo orders or donations really). We now use saline plus, a chemical so easy to make that it should not be nearly as efficient. The same goes for brain and lung damage. We added a ton of options to treat it without considering how this would change the meta. This is also working as requested. Why antags do not use those is beyond me.

I have no idea why it is so frequently requested to improve antag odds. As antag you get to ignore almost all rules without any consequences, your magic tools teleported right into your hand at a buttons press and you even get to leave if you don't feel like losing. You do not have to roleplay any consistency or realistic behavior, nor do you have to take your character comfort or any sort of motivation into account. Your superpower is walking up to a random person, telling them you are here to murder folks, shooting them into the face without any consequences and then laugh at security for an hour while they try to find you in maint, while ahelping officers left and right for pulling out a stick too quickly.

 

Putting my rant in a spoiler. Just skip it if you identify and are unwilling to improve. TLDR: Antags need to step up their game, shoving more gear down their throat will not make them improve but decline even further as seen by the past changes. A security player only needs to be good at combat. This has a pro and a con side, since they rely upon others for their treatment, supplies and so on. Antags should have knowledge of the mechanics before attempting to wing multiple departments. Designating a doctor for your super legit death squad may go a long way. I am not opposed to making antags even worse through better equipment as it gives the rest of the crew equipment to play around with after the antags died, this is merely my observation and the community is free to move into the direction that is preferred. My main issue is that we have traded gimmiks for power fantasies, as frequently shown by the OOC outcry if those are not fulfilled. Providing more roleplay equipment would go a longer way than just le funny injector fixing IBs.

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1 hour ago, Cnaym said:

We had a good raider team yesterday just rubbing their brain cells together and vibing in medical. Suddenly they got access to the entire medbay with staff while the security team was left outside wondering if there might be a good reason to defend the medbay in case of a hostile attack. Funny part that even our lore supports such, doctors got to treat you for example according to their oath. Just try to shoot the people less and they will help you a ton. Medical is known for stepping over the idiot officer who frontlined with a batton and treating the antags first.

This is definitely an option for Antags to do. I've seen far too many shoot up medical and send all of the doctors fleeing, or perhaps merely robbing the store-room and fleeing than interracting with the staff inside. When the mercenaries held Yhara at gunpoint and had her treat them it was definitely a cool and tense change of pace, especially when in accordance to the NT Oath you're required to treat the injured anyways. The only downside I can see in this that it opens up medical to abuse. What wasn't fun was being yelled at by security for treating an antag with shrapnel in their lungs and heart and not the security officer who went into cardiac arrest and would have died regardless if I treated them or not, but that's a story for another time.

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5 hours ago, Faye <3 said:

This is definitely an option for Antags to do. I've seen far too many shoot up medical and send all of the doctors fleeing, or perhaps merely robbing the store-room and fleeing than interracting with the staff inside. When the mercenaries held Yhara at gunpoint and had her treat them it was definitely a cool and tense change of pace, especially when in accordance to the NT Oath you're required to treat the injured anyways. The only downside I can see in this that it opens up medical to abuse. What wasn't fun was being yelled at by security for treating an antag with shrapnel in their lungs and heart and not the security officer who went into cardiac arrest and would have died regardless if I treated them or not, but that's a story for another time.

Doing this is not always a tactically viable option. And insisting that the only way to get any non-trivial medical treatment is to cooperate with the station would pigeonhole the antagonists way too much. Staying inside medical, or taking a hostage who can treat you, or both, typically opens you up to major tactical vulnurability coming from security and the rest of the station. Along with the AI, you can easily get boxed in, at which point the attempt to get medical treatment has escalated to a siege -- not something you always want. And sieges tend to be won by the station, one way or another.

In general, I concur with everything Danse has listed. The availability of medical supplies for antagonists has been something I've pondered on for a bit, and I think we've even discussed it in devchat a few times. I don't think we need really high-powered "instant fixer uppers", that would be a threat if used in combat. Something that would treat you in about 20 - 30 seconds would be fine, specially as a lone antag. This would still be slow enough that, in an active combat situation, you're boned if you use it. But if sec disengages for their own medical trip, you'll be good to apply it chilling out in maint or something. For antags with ships or bases, like merc, more varied options could be introduced

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1 hour ago, Skull132 said:

I don't think we need really high-powered "instant fixer uppers", that would be a threat if used in combat. Something that would treat you in about 20 - 30 seconds would be fine, specially as a lone antag. This would still be slow enough that, in an active combat situation, you're boned if you use it. But if sec disengages for their own medical trip, you'll be good to apply it chilling out in maint or something. For antags with ships or bases, like merc, more varied options could be introduced

It really needs some sort of negative side effect that actively discourages fighting while it fixes you, as combat can last several minutes at a time fairly regularly with either group fights (nukies/raiders in particular) or with good armour (any antag with a combat-grade hardsuit).

There is already a very strong healing option in place for uplink-based roles with the combat medical kit (that always seems to spawn in cargo as well), the only thing particularly lacking for it is that there's nothing to help organs and shrapnel all that much. I'm not really sure nukies need more options as their on-ship medical bay is respectably well-kitted for most things, so long as they have a competent doctor. Maybe a slow-functioning autodoc or the like for those outsider groups would be an option for when no one knows surgery.

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I think the issue with antags and their medicine stems from two things mainly, which have previously been highlighted here:

The first is OOC skill. It's one thing to say that antags should designate a doctor, but what if none of them have ever played medical? You could end up with a "doctor" who's never even touched a health analyser before. 

The second is accessibility. And I don't mean they don't have enough supplies. In some cases that may be true, but as has been mentioned, mercs have a pretty well stocked medbay on their ship now. The issue is where that is. On their ship. Generally I see two situations with group antags: They set up in their ship with a hostage or whatever, or they guerilla warfare against the station, untill they all die of arterials and whatnot. Heck, I remember playing a round where we tried the latter, and after dying, I watched the lone survivor spend an hour and a half trying to find the ship again. He wasn't even bleeding out.

In short, the issue isn't that antags don't have the means, it's that they don't have the opportunity, either through lack of OOC knowledge, or medicines being awkward and difficult to get to in the event of them being necessary.

The idea of a portable autodoc seems the most reasonable to me. Having it potentially even determine what needs to be treated would mean anyone could use it, and given that it would (presumably) knock the user out, that seems to me like a draw back enough not to use it on combat. The idea of a fix-a-bone injector or something feels less useful as you could both use it in combat, and given a lack of OOC knowledge, not know what you needed to use.

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For fairness sake equipping antags with the advanced scanner the CMO gets might help a lot of nervous antags that forget the basics in a hectic round.

I am however strictly opposed to catering to the lowest common denominator here. If we want to have a first time player be as viable as an experienced medbay main we may get rid of a lot of systems all together and just rollback to the old medical system and fuse it with the CM scanners that even tell you which medicine to use and how much of it.

Spoiler

 

Broken bones are the result of taking too much heat in a short amount of time. If someone decides to run face first into bullets they should not be rewarded for such with an auto injector that fixes it 20 seconds later as this just removes another gameplay element. Interial bleeding can easily be patched on the move. Shrapnel faces the same issue, there are multiple methods implement to remove them, none of them require you to enter the medbay.

There are currently 4 static surgical areas on the station (ignoring the one that mercs and raiders arrive with), with stretchers providing a mobile alternative. I do not see why antags require a complete surgical site like the TCFL packs in their loadout.

The main medical supply for the entire station, the pharmacy fridge, is now next to a one way door leading straight into maintenance and airlock and the main elevators. This is already hillariously favored towards antags and many have made use of this recently. In comparison, officers lack access to medical, the fridge and are OOCly not allowed to know the medicine or inject themselves with it.

 

If the desire here is to provide antags with more free supplies than just fill their ships and starting areas with premade chemicals for every situation. This will in return mean that they no longer need to think about this aspect of gameplay or engage crew over it. Event breaking into science for free chems can be a thing of the past with this simple implementation.

If the desire is to provide antags with free get out of jail cards, than we should consider just nerfing weapon damage so far that broken bones do not happen anymore. This will in return mean that the antags can keep engagements going for much longer without having to seek even basic cover. I have no idea how a better equipped team with less OOC responsibility needs more chances in a head on fight, but appearently that is still a thing people ask for.

If the desire is to balance the game to make engagements more meaningful for both sites, then we should seriously remove the strength of chemicals and how fast people can be brought back into battle. A common suggestion in the past have been slow healing debuffs that occur after treatment, so that NinjaMcSwordface and OfficerMcSlugMain cannot run out of the medbay guns blazing after a minute of treatment.

Spoiler

 

The suggestion that a downside of this is that those options are not always available is honestly baffling to me. This is one of the random elements that makes rounds differ. If we provide everyone with everything all the time, then there is no more need for different approaches or changing circumstances. You could just execute your route every round and make team antag modes display a clock for the highscore at the top of the screen.

A good example here would probably be Naelynn, a rather famous antag player who decided to bring almost always more gear than needed. I am sure a lot of us remember how that influenced the average round experience. For the newer folks, this led to complete apathy on the stations side since there was almost nothing that people could do against it.

 

TLDR: Randomness and failing at mechanics create conflict and keep rounds exciting. Overgearing used to be called powergaming. People did not enjoy that. Actions become meaningful through consequences. If we take away consequences from actions we make them meaningless. I like to think that people enjoy this game for the meaningful interactions and tough decisions instead of a positive K/D ratio.

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3 hours ago, Cnaym said:

TLDR: Randomness and failing at mechanics create conflict and keep rounds exciting. Overgearing used to be called powergaming. People did not enjoy that. Actions become meaningful through consequences. If we take away consequences from actions we make them meaningless. I like to think that people enjoy this game for the meaningful interactions and tough decisions instead of a positive K/D ratio.

I'd say that there's a difference between deserved consequences and needlessly punishing handicaps. Antags should definitely have to play smart and not charge into a TDM with fully armed sec as ragtag raiders, but luck is a major factor in Aurora combat so you can be careful, smart, resourceful, and all these other virtues but STILL have your run cut short by managing to catch a single bullet that gives you an arterial bleed. If an antagonist is smart and skilled enough to get away from a big battle with serious wounds and find a safe place to hunker down to use their big healing item, why is it "babying" or "pandering" to allow them this? Make it cost a nice chunk of TC to be an investment. Make it take a full 30 seconds (or even a minute or more!) to use so it's impossible without disengaging.

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3 hours ago, Shenaanigans said:

Make it cost a nice chunk of TC to be an investment. Make it take a full 30 seconds (or even a minute or more!) to use so it's impossible without disengaging.

In this case said teammate is a down for the entire team by wasting a valuable resource though. I mean sure, if it is handled like the safe drill which costs 8tc and takes 5 minutes for something the stethoscope does for free then you could consider it an emergency alternative for new folks. That being said it is also an absolute newbie trap since most antags buy their gear before doing much of anything, not as response to something.

I'm gonna write up a guide for creative problem solving to give antags a hand in handling the more common issues they are gonna run into. I am a firm believer that roleplay and gimmiks improve a ton once people are comfortable with their roles. Command and antags being the prime example here.

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10 hours ago, Cnaym said:

For fairness sake equipping antags with the advanced scanner the CMO gets might help a lot of nervous antags that forget the basics in a hectic round.

I am however strictly opposed to catering to the lowest common denominator here. If we want to have a first time player be as viable as an experienced medbay main we may get rid of a lot of systems all together and just rollback to the old medical system and fuse it with the CM scanners that even tell you which medicine to use and how much of it.

Raising the floor does not lower the ceiling, especially when the floor is raised to give newer and abundantly underskilled antagonists a chance.

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I'm not sure if it's possible but maybe make simple 'ghetto' surgery possible to do on yourself while sitting in a chair? I can see an Antagonist sitting in some corner of maintenance stitching themselves back together in a haphazard manner, obviously with the associated risks. Most of the items for this can be obtained relatively easily as well, as they are just things like wire, duct tape, wirecutters ect. I guess a cure all drug would be easier - for a TC cost, but this just seems like something cool to layer on top of that. 

Edited by StationCrab
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4 hours ago, Carver said:

Raising the floor does not lower the ceiling, especially when the floor is raised to give newer and abundantly underskilled antagonists a chance.

I do not claim that the goals of the recent changes were not noble in nature, but the results do speak for themselves. While in theory this should be absolutely true, in my round to round experience the focus seems to have shifted towards either brokenly overpowered antag types like ling or vamp and on the other hand team antag types like merc and raider relying heavily on the experienced players, while the others do not even display much of the basics most of the times. I am talking about things like hacking doors, reloading weapons, first aid and so on, not some obscure mechanics that one would only be able to pull off with years of experience.

There seems to have been a shift in the mindset from what I can see, where once we praised gimmiks and planning we now celebrate the click until horizontal. It is in my eyes not a mechanics issue at all.

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15 minutes ago, Cnaym said:

I do not claim that the goals of the recent changes were not noble in nature, but the results do speak for themselves. While in theory this should be absolutely true, in my round to round experience the focus seems to have shifted towards either brokenly overpowered antag types like ling or vamp and on the other hand team antag types like merc and raider relying heavily on the experienced players, while the others do not even display much of the basics most of the times. I am talking about things like hacking doors, reloading weapons, first aid and so on, not some obscure mechanics that one would only be able to pull off with years of experience.

There seems to have been a shift in the mindset from what I can see, where once we praised gimmiks and planning we now celebrate the click until horizontal. It is in my eyes not a mechanics issue at all.

I'm just shilling for a tool for less experienced antags to have an easier time healing since nu-baymed is stupid complex if you're inexperienced. I'm not sure what that has to do with horizontal clicks, especially when every time I shill for this in a post it's also for having it as be non-viable in combat as possible.

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I'll always be a fan of making antagging a better, more bearable experience for the "lowest common denominator." personally. Seen a lot of good ideas and a lot of good players brought low during an otherwise nice round by something like a lucky .45 round causing an arterial in one hit, making them just die while staring at a black screen in maint.

When an officer gets an arterial, they at least have the chance of the express trip (without handcuffs!) to medical to survive.

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I don't get what the aversion to appealing to the "lowest common denominator" is. As it stands, we often suffer from players not checking their antag preferences, and as one of those I'll say that a major (but admittedly not the only) reason for this is the sheer number of systems the game has. I mostly play two roles, only one of which has any use as an antagonist, and I'm hardly an expert at either of them. And on top of those, I suddenly might need to know how anything from wiring to combat to cargo works. This is somewhat bearable as a traitor as you can chalk it up to character knowledge (though I think you ARE allowed to stretch what your character knows for traitors, I may be wrong there) but some of the other roles feel like you're supposed to know so much its kind of overwhelming. Adding small, but effective ways to circumvent player knowledge being less than you'd expect of their character would remove one of the major barriers, for me at least, to playing antagonists.

 

On 24/01/2021 at 16:29, Cnaym said:

If we want to have a first time player be as viable as an experienced medbay main we may get rid of a lot of systems all together and just rollback to the old medical system and fuse it with the CM scanners that even tell you which medicine to use and how much of it.

 

In regard to this, what's being suggested isn't to make it easier for people to play crew as a new player, but to provide alternatives for antagonists. You could (hypothetically) have played for years and have never learned brainmed.

Edited by Sparky_hotdog
English better
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