State of Balance [Dec 2019]

loMe
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10 December 2019 - 02:41 CET
#1
Intro
The development of the current CompMod goes back about six months when the first open tournament was held. From then on, we’ve seen the state of comp morph and change numerous times with different shifting metas from lerk tanking, grenades, catpack/nanoshield, adren fades, etc. Most of the time when the metas were proven to be OP, the Comp team did revert or nerf certain abuses, albeit sometimes begrudgingly (ex: Golden’s defense of nanoshield meta). Today, what we’re left with is a product that is still unbalanced and easily abused. Wrapping up the Grand Tournament this past weekend, most people I talked with were pretty dissatisfied with the state of CompMod. In this post I will present the most glaring issues that have been pointed out over the past several months.

Gorges
Gorges used to have a lot of p-res investments that delayed them from evolving to another lifeform. Gorge tunnels, babblers, hydras, and even at one point webs cost p-res. Everything is now either free or a t-res investment. On top of this, a lot of Gorge abilities were buffed. Babblers actually hurt significantly, a single gorge can generate babblers for two skulks, and hydras can actually hit Marines now. Further, both hydras/babblers scale with biomass, meaning a W2 shotgun can’t even 1 shot a hydra on bio 3. Babblers get something like 1.5hp per bio level, so they practically always take 2 bullets to kill. The no p-res investment means that Gorges can evolve to Fades/Lerk pretty quickly after their skulk counterparts. It’s essentially a free lifeform with close to no opportunity cost. This has led to a meta that lends itself to triple fade or triple lerk. The explosion and sustain of lifeforming gives aliens a steep advantage.

Drifter/Hive Abilities
Currently one of the predominant starting hive upgrades is crag. After carapace was deemed “impossible to balance” it was replaced with Vampirsm, an attack that leechers life per attack landed. With quick upgrades, it's very possible that a Marine can shoot a skulk for 150dmg in the first engagement and still lose the fight. Add to that babblers, heal spray, and mucous membrane and Marines are in a constant uphill battle. Stepping aside from the possibility of all these being available during the first real engagement, let's look at how these abilities impact team fights throughout the rest of the game. Mucous membrane gives Aliens an extra shield based on their hp (IIRC). Skulks get 15 armor, Gorges 32, Lerks 36, and Fades 50. Therefore if we were to take a pack of aliens with 2 lerks, 2 fades, and a gorge, the Kham is spending 2 tRes for an AoE 204 hp shield and with only a 1 second cool down they can spam it multiple times per fight. It’s not that expensive either, as long as Aliens are sitting on 3 or 4 RTs its a drop in the bucket for winning fights and keeping lifeforms up. Add to these fights vampirism and Gorge heal spray and Aliens almost never in danger or need to return for heals.

The other main hive choice is Shade for the obvious upgrades of Aura, Camo, Hallucinations, Inking, and invisible cysts. Aura allows skulks with a little patience to avoid marines and bite RT’s at every point in the round. Suggestions to nerf it were first introduced over a year ago with ProgMod such as a pulsing aura, making it line-of-sight, and getting rid of the hp indicator. None of these have ever even been tested the past six months. Camo on the other hand offers the ability to be 99.9% invisible with a single veil, almost instantly when a skulk stops moving. Hallucinations spawn 3 decoy lifeforms as well as a quick ink-like cloud of distortion that makes it nearly impossible to track targets in team fights. The one redeeming thing about hallucinations is that it actually has a cool down timer of ~12 seconds so it can’t be spammed in every fight despite still being a very strong ability for very little cost.

Shift hive doesn’t offer strong enough abilities by comparison to be the primary hive choice. Although it can be useful as a secondary hive for echoing and spammable enzyme but you do forgo the benefits of crag or shade.

One further point to make about drifter abilities is how much influence the Kham can exert in PvP team fights. I get that this kind of PvE (Kham abilities) makes Kham’s a little more useful/relevant but it’s just as bad as fighting PvE (structures) before if that makes sense. Not only are these AoE buffs powerful on their own, but you can spam all of them at the same time. On three hives, this means hallucinations, mucous, and enzyme simultaneously in the matter of 1 second with spammable mucous/enzyme for fights. And if the fights take place on infestation, good luck shooting anything with rupture and bonewall.

Marine Weapons
The biggest meta shifts for Marines in recent days has been a move away from SG and towards HMG’s and GLs. Why did this happen? It’s partially because of the above changes directing meta, but also because AA weapons were not touched. The SG the other hand has been effectively cauterized in terms of its usefulness to date. After several iterations the one we’ve been left with cannot consistently pump out enough damage to consistently kill skulks. The reason for this is that when carapace was deleted, the team felt the need to cut down on the SG’s damage as well. Simultaneously, Skulks were buffed with smaller models while SG spread was unchanged. This made it harder to reliably hit the smaller skulks for full damage at close range. When you’re dealing with mucous/vamp/babbler skulks and lerks, an SG isn’t going to cut it in team fights. If you don’t one-shot a skulk you’re dead. HMGs is far more forgiving with its large magazine that allows Marines to shoot endlessly at <20% accuracy while still putting out high DPS to counter mucous and hallucinations. Moreover, HMG’s on the field earlier can make playing lifeforms on certain maps way more risky with parts of maps that are more open hallways. The SG isn’t the Swiss Army Knife it once was for most situations on Marine. With damage nerfs, its less effective in both PvP and PvE. On W2 it takes 3 shots to kill an egg and good luck pushing through PvE such as whips and hydras.

Conclusion
Most of what I’ve addressed here is not new feedback. I’d argue that most of these complaints have been well-known to the comp team for some time. What I’m annoyed about is that they knew these were issues but did nothing to fix them. Not only that, but phone and Golden, the longest serving Comp Council members, used and abused these issues during the tournament with their team. It’s true, however, that anyone could have done the same, so I do have to commend phone’s drifter microing in the tourney to use every advantage to win fights. He did it better than any commander in the tournament. However, the results of the tourney would not have changed my opinions about the state of balance. Although I did not enjoy playing the current state of comp, I pushed my team to use these same advantages for the tournament but was outplayed in the final matchup. It’s a lot harder to stack the deck when you’re not the dealer. I was excited when the Grand Tourney was announced and there was some good changes going into CompMod, but it often felt like some of the more glaring issues were being ignored, undersold, or exploited by the people in charge. For me, seeing that any of my feedback would be viewed as stubbornness, led to me to not give much feedback over the past month or so. Instead I focused on abusing the same advantages to win.
Nightsy
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10 December 2019 - 05:03 CET
#2
"it's very possible that a Marine can shoot a skulk for 150dmg in the first engagement and still lose the fight. Add to that babblers, heal spray, and mucous membrane and Marines are in a constant uphill battle. Add to these fights vampirism and Gorge heal spray and Aliens almost never in danger or need to return for heals."

Sums up the PROBLEM OF THE CURRENT META pretty nicely
Gung-Ho
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10 December 2019 - 20:52 CET
#3
100% on that gorge stuff. Right now it's pretty much if you die early, you can regorge and still be able to be backup lerk/fade easily.
I've asked about why babblers have 11hp at biomass 1, because right now it doesn't make sense why you need to shoot two bullets to kill one babbler at w0? Answer has been "it's designed that way ;)", but iirc it was changed to 11 hp when babblers still physically used to attach to you. Now it's just flat eHP shield instead physical objects. I've asked and would like to see babbler health constant 10hp and die from one tick of welder fire. Welding babblers right now just feels stupid, aliens don't really gain any advantage if babblers die slower to welder, but on marine POV it's just annoying.
I wouldn't mind 1-pres cost for babblers, because right now every time you see a gorge, he always gives you atleast couple babblers even to fades. (might not make huge difference but...) When playing as a gorge babblers have become just boring and a "task", see any alien -> give babblers -> heal -> cya
There is no more "hey wait let me spend little of my pres on your skulk, so you have good chance of winning next fight"
Gung-Ho
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10 December 2019 - 20:59 CET
#4
And when babblers used to cost pres, it felt more like investment because it had more impact on survability of skulks/lerks, but you sacrificed more on your capability to be backup lerk/fade. And from player perspective, it felt rewarding when skulk managed to kill marine in unfavorable situation or when lerk survived with 20hp because of your small investment. Nowadays you don't get that same feeling.
lebra
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10 December 2019 - 23:32 CET
#5
The most enjoyable thing from Overwatch was killing someone from a risky play and them getting resurrected for free. I think ns2 needs an introduction of that mechanic.
DCDarkling
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12 December 2019 - 20:47 CET
#6
Speaking as a player (not an admin I mean), I do like the fact that using gorges without the pres is more viable.
What I mean with that is that if you use your babblers and hydras and stuff, it can really help your team vs the cost (nothing.)

That said, i can see the reasoning in lomes his opening post.
It will be interested what the community comes up with as a solution.
Forgive me if I offer none. I dont feel qualified to say whats best balance wise.
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