Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

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Smitty
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Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by Smitty » Wed Sep 26, 2018 9:04 pm

Time for my first balance topic of the new release:

We’ve seen several discussions over the mechanic’s husk restore ability, especially the ability to recover an MCV. I’m going to take a moment and discuss a couple options for us to pursue this release cycle.

A handful of folks have suggested that the power of husk restoration is too powerful to leave in the hand of one faction. I personally don’t share this opinion but if we were to go this route, the obvious substitute would be the engineer.

This would leave a hole in the abilities of the mechanic, which brings me to an idea I’ve had for a long time: Husk scrapping.

My idea was always meant for the engineer. It works like this: Engineer externally captures a husk like it was a building, but instead of converting it, the husk disappears and yields the players credits; lets say 40% of the unit’s value. This will give more later game use to engineers and make husks more interactive.

But … if we were to move husk recovery to the engineer, husk scrapping may be a viable compromise to give the mechanic.

Personally, I favor keeping husk recovery as a mechanic power. I don’t believe it is too powerful to only be in the hands of the allied faction. Also, it makes sense thematically. It would feel out of place for a structural engineer to be able to get a destroyed vehicle working over a mechanic. That said, if enough think this change is needed I think we can move the needle in favor of engineers. (We could in theory replace the recovery option entirely with scrapping, but I'd hate to see it go.)

So my question for the OpenRA public is this: Do you think the recover husks ability needs to be moved from mechanics to engineers so that both factions can recover MCVs? Also, what do you think of husk scrapping for $?

TL;DR options:
- Give engineers the ability to scrap husks for money
- Move husk recovery from mechanic to engineer, and give mechanic husk scrapping ability
- Remove husk recovery entirely and give mechanics husk scrapping ability (wildcard)
- Don't change anything.

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Sleipnir
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by Sleipnir » Wed Sep 26, 2018 9:39 pm

I've long held the opinion that the situation with engineers / mechanics / hijackers in RA is far from optimal, and that the balance surrounding them is trapped in a local minima where small tweaks only swap one problem for another. We need to make some bold changes if we are going to move these units into better roles (read as: interesting gameplay instead of gimmicks or single-purpose, more fitting for the campaign, more in line with expectations from people who played the original games).

Quote from a previous post where I outlined how I think this should work:
Sleipnir wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:33 pm
Engineers: One-shot capturing of things.
- Capture buildings with a short external delay, then run inside and are consumed (C&C3:KW behaviour) - with an "Reusable Engineer" lobby option to restore something approximating the current behaviour to help compromise with the people who will object to the change.
- Capture husks immediately (no external delay), running inside and being consumed (C&C3 behaviour).

Mechanics: Vehicle support and cleanup
- Repairs friendly vehicles
- Salvages husks for a small cash bonus (5-10%)

Hijackers: RIP
- Removed from the game.
- Could possibly be reintroduced in a different role in the future, but this is IMO outside the scope of the current discussion.

IMO this checks all the boxes we could hope for with the the topic at hand:
- Fixes the MCV capturing imbalance by making it accessible to both sides
- Keeps a unique ability on the Mechanic to encourage its use on the battlefield
- Hopefully addresses engineers well enough to resolve the "kick in the teeth" deal-breaker style complaints.
- Removes a unit that has no compelling reason to exist and hurts the perception of OpenRA as a bug free and well polished game.
- Gives units intuitive roles, instead of relying on players to learn a grab-bag of features.
This relies on new code for the engineers, which is currently half written and on-track to be PRed for the next full (not hotfix) release.

Regarding the Hijacker removal: this would open the door for reintroducing the Thief (which was the original RA unit it replaced) alongside a rebalancing of the Spy - but this should be treated as a different topic.

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Orb
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by Orb » Thu Sep 27, 2018 2:13 am

I never really liked the idea of husk scrapping tbh. With husks timing out I feel like this would just create frustrating gameplay.

It also indirectly nerfs vehicle play, which is already in a fairly weak spot.

It also acts as a snowball mechanic.

The only benefit I see is maaaybe more micro opportunities? Idk, mixing engineers in my army in the hopes I win a fight (though I'm behind because I built engineers) just doesn't seem like good gameplay. Mechanics work because they're also useful for repairing vehicles (combat value).

I'd rather see the engineer remain in it's current role, which is capturing structures and doing last ditch repairs, which has been its roles in every CnC game it's been in (with the exception of capturing walker husks in CnC3).

Having more units be "viable" at "all stages" =/= Better Gameplay. While it's nice to strive for unity diversity it doesn't always mean more enjoyable/engaging gameplay. Look at the competitive scene of CnC Generals for an example. USA only build humvees filled with rocket soldiers (crusader tanks might as well not even exist), and support them with ambulances. And yet there is a complex and engaging meta game surrounding this, even with only 1 type of unit being used.

A solution to faction imbalance regarding husk capture? Well tbh that solution doesn't exist in vanilla RA, so you can chuck out any ideas in regarding staying faithful to the original.

With that in mind, I think with the removal of the hijacker we can just replace it with the thief. Soviets can use the thief to steal credits from refineries, which was its traditional role, and also capture husks. The thief thematically feels more like a Soviet unit anyway, and conflicts with the Spies role if they're on the same unit roster.

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netnazgul
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by netnazgul » Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:30 am

Don't really like the additional engineer functions. Almost sure that it won't be ever used because of the same reasons other special units are not used - in middle/late game you have a long queue of units for production and fitting occasional new ones just takes a lot of involvement, where at the same time these special units don't really provide you with much benefits on the battlefield.
In the bigger scale of things you don't have much time microing engineers around, and getting, say, a 1K of money from scrapping tanks (that is when 40% is returned, with 10% even 1K is not reachable) that requires a) winning a fight b) driving ALL enemy forces off (cause engineer dies from a single sneeze from any enemy unit) c) still have enough time to actually salvage anything cause husks disappear - all this doesn't seem viable at all and not worth the risk of losing $500 spent on an engineer.
All in all it looks like introducing gimmicky mechanics which don't fix anything instead of fixing real issues.

Regarding hijacker - agreed that it's better to remove/replace him than leaving as-is, simply because it doesn't work properly and doesn't seem likely to be properly fixed any time soon. Trying to do a soviet thief instead might be a thing.

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kyrylo
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by kyrylo » Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:53 am

I agree with Sleipnir on all fronts. I do believe that mechanic's ability to capture husks is extremely powerful to be possessed only by one faction. Soviet's counter is the Hijacker, but as everyone knows, it's broken.

Just to demonstrate how powerful the Mechanic is, imagine this common scenario. You build a flock of yaks, fly around and see an unprotected undeployed MCV. You destroy it in 2 seconds and then in 1 minute you discover it's back because your opponent built a mechanic. Destroying somebody's MCV feels rewarding but not when your opponent can resurrect it. Now, even when the MCV is deployed and you are attacking it, your opponent can undeploy it to salvage the husk.

I like these features per se however it's really unfair that Soviets cannot do the same. Their best bet is to wait on an MCV to approach an expansion and execute the capture in a timely fashion (and also pray that it won't be bugged). Some people including myself were able to execute it but it's way too hard and actually more luck-based than skill-based.

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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by AMHOL » Thu Sep 27, 2018 2:12 pm

The hijacker is basically a troll unit, it's a complete roll of the dice and I've never seen it used in competitive play, even if it were fixed, it's a lot less likely to be pulled off successfully than a husk capture, it's just the nature of moving targets that can be microed and are likely to be supported / close to defences vs a stationary wreckage that can't be microed and is likely to be left behind (i.e. by a retreating army).

Having said that, they are very fun to use, I love using hijackers or mechanics whenever an opponent builds mammoth tanks or to capture an MCV husk, and I wouldn't want this feature removed entirely, perhaps an option to disable MCV husk capture which can be checked for competitive games?

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Smitty
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by Smitty » Thu Sep 27, 2018 2:49 pm

Thinking out loud here re: Hijacker -> Thief. What about going the RA2 spy route with the Thief and allow it to steal plans for tech options when infiltrating a building? For example, infiltrate an allied war factory and you're now able to produce Mobile Radar Jammers. Feels a bit light to me to just give Thieves the steal money ability, although that would still be an improvement from the hijacker.

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avalach21
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by avalach21 » Thu Sep 27, 2018 3:52 pm

Smitty wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 2:49 pm
Thinking out loud here re: Hijacker -> Thief. What about going the RA2 spy route with the Thief and allow it to steal plans for tech options when infiltrating a building? For example, infiltrate an allied war factory and you're now able to produce Mobile Radar Jammers. Feels a bit light to me to just give Thieves the steal money ability, although that would still be an improvement from the hijacker.
I think the thief should come back.. but it should be on the Allies. We are just setting up another Hind drama scenario... the game should resemble the original source material as much as possible. I don't think we need to keep thinking "well the allies have a husk retrieval option so the Soviets need it too." Even more so: "Well the allies have a sneaky guy so the Soviets need one too." The Allies are the sneaky covert team in Red Alert, so they should get ALL the sneaky guys. The soviets in contrast have grenadiers, flamers, shockies, dogs etc. Each team has their own unique racial traits and their own unique line up of units including infantry.

Also if thieves are given to the Allies, then the Spy's functionality can be tweaked to more closely resemble it's original RA function - Spying. Specifically with ore refineries, spies could tell you the enemy's current credit level, or their credits per minute stats or something like that.

That point aside, I think your idea is interesting.. getting technology plans from the enemy could work to give the thief some more useful abilities. Another idea that I think would be cool is if the thief could "hijack" vehicles, but only hijack Ore Trucks & Supply trucks. More often then not, the most interesting/funny/entertaining ways the hijacker is currently being used is to steal ore trucks, so it would be cool if the thief kept this ability, which would be in line with his abilities of stealing economy related assets of the enemy.

Finally, I really do think the hijacker needs to go. Units like that are fine for mod maps but I don't see why they should be in the standard OpenRA mod... It's really not imperative to balance like the flack track is, so i don't think it has a justified purpose for being in the official unit lineup. Even more so, the hijacker's capture function is glitchy and buggy, which is another reason it shouldn't be in the official mod. Even if the capture function were to be transferred to the thief as I suggested earlier, it shouldn't be implemented until it is working properly IMO.

One final point I'd like to make is that if we do actually implement thieves into the game, there was recently a thread about revamping Silo functionality. I think Silos could be retweaked as a way to keep ore safe from thieves. I know in the original game theives could steal from Silos and refineries, but that makes silos more of a liability - they already arent being built as is. Silos could be a safe storehouse for your credits where thieves wouldn't be able to steal the funds.
Last edited by avalach21 on Thu Sep 27, 2018 5:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

SirCake
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by SirCake » Thu Sep 27, 2018 4:02 pm

Extend the engi role (capture husks), revert mechanic to original
(heals vehicles, in line with medic which jut heals infantry and can't resurrect them, currently)
Remove hijacker.
Simple, fair and standardized behaviour while adding a role to the underused engi :)

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ZxGanon
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by ZxGanon » Thu Sep 27, 2018 7:39 pm

Give engineers the ability to capture husk to finally remove this whole imbalance that is existing.

I like the idea of mechanics scrapping husks to get some money.

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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by Blackened » Fri Sep 28, 2018 5:06 am

At the risk of sounding like a crazy person can we maybe not turn every faction into a slurry of stupidity? Where each faction is so muted that there are only stat differences between each one? If that sounds harsh it's meant to be, but not at anyone person in particular but rather the trend of "this faction can do this while this can't and that's unfair!". OpenRA and cnc in general has always been asymmetrically balanced.

Allies being able to recap husks is unbalanced and that's okay. Not every faction needs to be able to 100% do the same thing in the same way. Allies recaping husks is such a small advantage in 1v1's its almost irrelevant. in 2v2's you only gain the advantage of a player having dual tech in the very late game. In 3v3+ its just a bonus, it doesn't win or break a game, it just helps push one side a little harder.

This wouldn't be a problem at all if the hijacker could actually function as it is supposed to. Just because it doesn't yet, doesn't mean you should scrap it and entirely change the entire mechanic around capturing vehicles. TD already has engis cap husks and it is never used except to recap mcv husks and the occasional cost effective unit. With as infantry-centric as RA is you will see that even less especially in competitive play because breaking infantry queues is bad.

There are plenty of options to fix the hijacker whether changing hows it's ability exactly functions or adding further uses to it. But removing it and removing mechanics as husk recoverers and porting that to both engineers is not only boring gameplay wise but completely irresponsible.

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avalach21
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by avalach21 » Fri Sep 28, 2018 6:09 am

Blackened wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 5:06 am
At the risk of sounding like a crazy person can we maybe not turn every faction into a slurry of stupidity? Where each faction is so muted that there are only stat differences between each one? If that sounds harsh it's meant to be, but not at anyone person in particular but rather the trend of "this faction can do this while this can't and that's unfair!". OpenRA and cnc in general has always been asymmetrically balanced.

Allies being able to recap husks is unbalanced and that's okay. Not every faction needs to be able to 100% do the same thing in the same way. Allies recaping husks is such a small advantage in 1v1's its almost irrelevant. in 2v2's you only gain the advantage of a player having dual tech in the very late game. In 3v3+ its just a bonus, it doesn't win or break a game, it just helps push one side a little harder.
I absolutely agree with your sentiments on Asymmetrical factions - it was IMO one of if not the most defining features that set C&C + RA apart from their peers at the time. I really don't think that husk capturing is that imbalanced and it is definitely a fun and interesting feature. I would also be ok with it being removed from the game entirely... but IMO the best solution would probably be somewhere inbetween... making mcv caps some sort of exception case where they would switch to your own faction upon capture so as to not make tech transfer unique to the Allies. That would keep the fun feature in the game and also mitigate most of the basis for the "imbalanced" complaints.
Blackened wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 5:06 am
This wouldn't be a problem at all if the hijacker could actually function as it is supposed to. Just because it doesn't yet, doesn't mean you should scrap it and entirely change the entire mechanic around capturing vehicles. TD already has engis cap husks and it is never used except to recap mcv husks and the occasional cost effective unit. With as infantry-centric as RA is you will see that even less especially in competitive play because breaking infantry queues is bad.

There are plenty of options to fix the hijacker whether changing hows it's ability exactly functions or adding further uses to it. But removing it and removing mechanics as husk recoverers and porting that to both engineers is not only boring gameplay wise but completely irresponsible.
I really have to ask the question as to why the hijacker is even in the game.. honestly I am curious and am hoping someone who made that decision can answer. I would like to refer to your earlier stated feelings about asymmetric design, as it is my best guess as to why a seemingly random unit was added to the game that has no basis in the source material. "The allies have sneaky unit so the soviet needs one..." sort of logic. It seems to be the consensus that the hijacker is not imperative for game balance and is rarely... almost never used at this point. You are saying the hijacker shouldn't be scrapped.. in my opinion, the hijacker shouldn't be scrapped either.. it should be renamed the thief like it originally was. Since people say the thief didn't have enough usefulness and people also say the hijacker doesn't have enough usefulness, why not combine their abilities together? Finally, the thief should be on the allies, as there is no reason to not try keeping the unit lineup accurate to the original. Your assumption would be that this is a overpowering buff to the allies, but depending on how you balance the spy, it could actually be a nerf by splitting off one of its most common & useful abilities into another unit. This would all play in to the Allies asymmetrical strength of stealthy covert guerilla tactics and actually be more accurate to the original game.
This wouldn't be a problem at all if the hijacker could actually function as it is supposed to. Just because it doesn't yet, doesn't mean you should scrap it and entirely .
I agree, I don't want to see it get scrapped entirely... I would love to see the vehicle capture functionality work properly. If I had to be honest though, in its current implementation, it feels too buggy to be in official release. The dogs for example feel buggy but they would be sorely missed (crucial to game balance, and they obviously exist in the original game)... Hijacker not so much in my opinion.

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netnazgul
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by netnazgul » Fri Sep 28, 2018 6:21 am

avalach21 wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 6:09 am
IMO the best solution would probably be somewhere inbetween... making mcv caps some sort of exception case where they would switch to your own faction upon capture so as to not make tech transfer unique to the Allies. That would keep the fun feature in the game and also mitigate most of the basis for the "imbalanced" complaints.
That's actually a nice solution.

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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by Sleipnir » Fri Sep 28, 2018 7:59 am

avalach21 wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 6:09 am
I really have to ask the question as to why the hijacker is even in the game.. honestly I am curious and am hoping someone who made that decision can answer.
It was added to balance / justify moving the husk capturing from engineers to the mechanic in the first place, and to provide a use for the Thief that was removed after its functionality was merged into the Spy. See #4877, #5023, #5024. It was a good idea at the time, but balance and priorities change and it now IMO feels like an anacronism.
Blackened wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 5:06 am
This wouldn't be a problem at all if the hijacker could actually function as it is supposed to. Just because it doesn't yet, doesn't mean you should scrap it and entirely change the entire mechanic around capturing vehicles.
Fixing capturing for moving units means redesigning a fundamental part of the game code that is shared by several other core gameplay features - it will be painful to work on, and a significant job to test and review. That "yet" is currently at 4.5 years, and I'm fairly confident that nothing will change unless new developers come on board with both the skills to tackle this kind of work and the motivation to do it.

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WhoCares
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Re: Mechanics, engineers and scrapping and restoring husks

Post by WhoCares » Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:25 am

It has been suggested to give highjacker a "freezing ray" with a very very short range (almost contact range) to be able to paralyse vehicles before trying to jump in it. If such a weapon is codable and with a good tweak, it could almost be transparent as the action would be very fast : Hightjacker "touches" vehicle -> vehicle stop -> highjacker enters vehicle, end of story.

To be sure the highjacker respects the sequence, make the freeze ray toggle a condition; vehicle is not capturable if not touched by the ray.

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