LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

justdont
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by justdont » Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:49 pm

I think there's a bunch of fairly separate issues here, which probably need different solutions for each one.

#1: Stealth missions as a mainstay are a case of bad design. There's a very simple reason for that - missions that don't involve any meaningful combat skip most of tactical game mechanics completely. Instead of tactical combat simulator, it turns into a fairly simplistic "hot floor" game based primarily on just two parameters (detection radius and mobility). As such, rare (or "early game only", or some such) stealth mission opportunity might be nice to have, but vast majority of LW's missions should not be even possible to finish without engaging in meaningful combat for some turns.

On this issue, I think XCOM2 vanilla did it good enough, with typical mission being "sneak closer, engage, fulfill the objective, escape", rather than "sneak and fulfill the objective, escape by running through activating pods" which is the mainstay of LW2 for now. As for how to reach it - on a tactical level, it might be as simple as having a dedicated "guard pod" which will prevent doing such missions without combat, probably absent if enemy activity (or force level) is low enough, so that occasionally you still could do it only through stealth. But strategic layer will probably need more adjustments as to avoid making the game way too hopeless.

#2: Possibility of stealth missions promote "skeleton crew" infiltration way too much. In other cases, LW2 runs a nicely unstable boundary line between "many soldiers, lots of enemies" and "few soldiers, few enemies" cases, and incentivizes the player to pick a small enough team that still have enough combat potential to push through the mission. However, with stealth missions this mostly goes out of the window: when the combat can be entirely avoided, your team's combat potential is irrelevant. As such, there's absolutely no reason to pick more soldiers than a bare minimum. And the quality of those soldiers is mostly irrelevant as well.

#3: Infiltration slider is a good theoretical concept, but at the moment it's poorly balanced or poorly implemented. Most guerilla-type missions are outright unwinnable if not infiltrated enough, yet the game doesn't even prevent you from trying - but what's the point of it? To troll a new LW2 player? I see no other good reasons.
The slider needs lots of additional polish and trim to somehow disallow missions that will be statistically unwinnable for a player with a "normal" soldier roster and "normal" R&D progress for a given campaign date. As of now, there are lots of balance issues caused directly due to the slider being "too wide" - on one side, for guerilla-type timed missions, the slider enforces minimal teams (contributing a lot to #1 issue), because most of the slider's positions will create missions that are either unwinnable or just unnecessarily hard with no gains for the player. On the other side, with non-timed loot missions, the very same slider creates another balance breach by allowing the player to grind through (or rather, "cheese through") massively increased enemy numbers and get vast amount of loot.

This would probably require lots of additional coding and data-gathering, but in my opinion, if the infiltration slider will be kept mostly as-is, it needs trimming: low infiltration values creating unwinnable missions either need to be removed, or at least shouldn't allow you to execute the mission at all. If we have 20-something different enemy strength coefficients for the infiltration, they should be meaningful. At the moment, perhaps only 5-6 coefficients are meaningful - those near and above 100% infiltration, others are unwinnable, pointlessly difficult, or prone to abuse in case of non-timed missions.

#4: Loot/no-loot binary system and extremely small XP gain from kills contribute heavily to the lack of good "middle ground". If there's no loot - there's very little reason to kill enemies, and thus all reasons to avoid the combat as much as possible. If there's loot - there's very little reason NOT to kill as much enemies as possible.

gimrah
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by gimrah » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:00 pm

Some possible changes to address this:

- Make missions more or less likely to be detected at different stages in their lives, with a weighting towards infiltrating 4-6 guys. So you'll get slightly more that are viable to fight, balanced by slightly fewer that are viable only to stealth.

- Slight up-weighting of infiltration times for 1st/2nd soldiers and down-weighting for 3rd/4th/5th soldiers.

- Increase the delay from loss of concealment to first reinforcement. I often find a small squad can fight those early 'extremely light' missions until reinforcements hit and then it gets dicey. Which tilts me towards 6-man squads or 5 at a pinch as a minimum for fighting, otherwise preferring stealth (even if I currently suck at it).

- And/or make jammer earlier in the officer tree.

- Also (not instead) make intervention also affect the reinforcement timer. It already costs intel, which I'm learning should not be used lightly. May as well make it good.

- For high strength levels, perhaps more variability in the number of enemies at a given strength on guerrilla ops. I'm not fighting through a light/moderate with 5 guys for 23 intel or whatever. I might risk a rookie if I badly need the intel. But if there is still the odd viable fighting mission from that region then I don't have to.

For me, a good outcome would be an increase in the number of missions where you want a small team of 3, 4 or 5 and a reduction in missions where 1-2 is viable/optimal (a few like that is fine). At 3 people it's semi-stealth with some hold-out while you wait for evac (for example). At 5 you're prepared to fight your way through a few enemies. 4 is somewhere in between.

If you achieved that balance, you'd have a really nice spectrum. I feel there are enough big fight missions, i.e. some but not all the time. I like the early retaliations a lot (data tap, save recruiters, defence convoy, haven king of the hill) and I feel they are in a good place. And I like the change of pace with rendezvous.

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Arcalane
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Arcalane » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:03 pm

I feel like people are getting really sidetracked by this whole obsession with neutering stealth options/gameplay. :?

As someone who enjoys a good stealth op, can I just say; can we not? There's a certain satisfaction in pulling off a good stealth op.

Anyway, here's my most-recent thoughts for 'middle-class' missions;

ADVENT Tower Sites
Using the same or similar tileset as the Regional Network Towers, Tower Sites see you infiltrating a team of soldiers into one of the city skyscrapers. This team (explicitly locked to 5-6 soldiers) has a fairly normal objective - rescue a VIP, kidnap/assassinate a VIP, hack a workstation, secure an item - but the very location places very distinct limits on player and enemy squad sizes.

It may also place limits on enemy types. Imagine you're busting into the penthouse apartment of an ADVENT VIP to steal some classified data off their personal workstation. They're probably not gonna want Andromedons and MECs stomping around, nevermind anything heavier than that. In the case of a rescue, a defector might have locked themselves in a panic room after sending most of their staff to investigate a 'disturbance' on the lower floors.

On the other hand, most of the domestic staff are probably Faceless. So I guess they could double as trap missions?

Unfortunately this would require a whole ton of extra map design since afaik we only have the regional tower itself at this point, which has the uplink prop right there.

justdont
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by justdont » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:47 pm

Arcalane wrote:I feel like people are getting really sidetracked by this whole obsession with neutering stealth options/gameplay. :?

As someone who enjoys a good stealth op, can I just say; can we not? There's a certain satisfaction in pulling off a good stealth op.
I don't think anyone suggested them to be completely cut out. Rare stealth missions are fine, but at the moment it feels like nearly 50% of all missions volume that you're doing past early game are 2-3 people stealth runs. That aren't nearly always successful, but you do them anyway because there's little risk in trying.

That's several times way too much from what I've personally like to see. There's much more to the game than amassing low-level shinobis and specialists and spending hours and hours running around game maps.

Hazelnut
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Hazelnut » Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:26 am

I'm now deep into Feb and battling the doom clock. Just did forge, have blacksite vial coords + a facility so should be ok. :)

About Oct/Nov I really hit a difficulty wall with lack of gear (alloys+elerium scarcity since I was a complete LW2 noob and didn't know what was doing for first 3-4months) and only 1 squad of decent ranks. That was truely the time of stealth or war with nothing in between. As time has gone on and I've started doing HQs & other SWARMING missions with a team that have a 18-26 day infil time, I've found that 6-8 man squads have been used to cover during this period because I am stretched. So really have found the middle class missions come back after the hump where advent get stronger but you have lots of low ranks & very little equipment.

I was really hurting for a while, but now I think I am fine. The final tier of perks are so damned good! Rupture, full kit, full override, firestorm, bunker buster, serial, reaper, etc.

So, TLDR is that I'm not sure this is such a large problem as it seems in midgame. Although this maybe my playstyle, I like flawless missions (and was conditioned to seek em from LW1) but I hate boring strats, so I don't ever camp in a corner on 0% raids or anything like that. I like to mix it up with advent and use a good spread of classes. I will also reload if I do something really dumb and pull 2 more pods or LOS screws me. :) At the point I'm at I have contacted some low 3-4 strength regions and get LIGHT-MODERATE level raids which a 6 man is great for when you have 10 ace troops infiltrating for 20+ days! Send too many and you're down to rookies and psi's which are useless.

LordYanaek
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by LordYanaek » Thu Feb 16, 2017 12:49 pm

Arcalane wrote:I feel like people are getting really sidetracked by this whole obsession with neutering stealth options/gameplay. :?

As someone who enjoys a good stealth op, can I just say; can we not? There's a certain satisfaction in pulling off a good stealth op.
Don't get me wrong, i like stealth missions, have defended them in another discussion and will defend them again if it appears they are threatened of extinction. I also like the big 10 men raids, i liked them in LW1 and like them in LW2, they are a chance to get all your different soldiers to work together and combine each classes strengths and i don't really feel like we have too much of those seeing they are mostly reserved for HQ assaults and supply raids so please don't make supply raids small 5 men skirmishes.

However, while the developers succeeded in allowing missions to be played with very small and very large squads, i agree that we somewhat lost the intermediate missions in the middle. Stealth is interesting but it's often easier than a 5 men operation for the same reward and that doesn't encourage players to try a 5-6 men squad instead. So either we need some new or rebalanced missions where stealth isn't really an option (while keeping some missions for stealth operations), or we need some additional rewards for squads that actually put some fight instead of just going stealthy in all the guerilla missions so it becomes a real choice whether to go low risk/low reward or higher risk/higher reward. The current loot isn't enough so either we need more loot or something else. Maybe if every enemy was dropping some loot we need to build stuff like LW1 weapon fragments we would fight more often. Don't really know, but it might be another way to solve the "issue".

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3tamatulg
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by 3tamatulg » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:39 pm

Arcalane wrote:It may also place limits on enemy types.
I like this idea in general. It would be cool to be able to buy or scan for pre-mission hints about the types of enemy expected. So all that gear you can buy actually feels relevant.

10 chrysalids on this mission? Bring the anti-melee stuff. 10 MECs? bring the specialists and EMP nades

of course still throw in random extra enemies, so that you can't completely min-max.

nightwyrm
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by nightwyrm » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:57 pm

3tamatulg wrote:
Arcalane wrote:It may also place limits on enemy types.
I like this idea in general. It would be cool to be able to buy or scan for pre-mission hints about the types of enemy expected. So all that gear you can buy actually feels relevant.

10 chrysalids on this mission? Bring the anti-melee stuff. 10 MECs? bring the specialists and EMP nades

of course still throw in random extra enemies, so that you can't completely min-max.
I miss having the Shadow Chamber actually being able to tell you what enemies are on the mission.

Hazelnut
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Hazelnut » Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:14 pm

Hazelnut wrote:About Oct/Nov I really hit a difficulty wall with lack of gear (alloys+elerium scarcity since I was a complete LW2 noob and didn't know what was doing for first 3-4months) and only 1 squad of decent ranks.
Thinking more about this, and the infiltration mechanic replacing fatigue in LW1 means that essentially equipment has fatigue as well. Honestly it wasn't just that c team was mid/low rankers but more that they had crappy equipment.

trihero
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by trihero » Sat Feb 18, 2017 5:33 am

The retaliation missions have the "middle class feel" to them except they are balanced around 8 soldiers. I would appreciate these types of maps where there is a mix of a soft timer with emphasis on fighting (so pure stealth shinobis are not super helpful), but balanced for 5-6 men.

aimlessgun
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by aimlessgun » Sat Feb 18, 2017 6:46 am

Interestingly, in my campaign now that I have the infiltration GTS upgrades and Infiltrator officers, I'm doing medium size squad missions again. If these were the default infiltration speeds of 6-7 man squads it would be a much stronger strategy compared to the "go big or go stealth" philosophy.

RXTXK
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by RXTXK » Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:41 pm

I could live without 6-7 man mission if the larger missions were not so dull.
I only ever seem to fight by sitting in a corner and waiting for waves of enemies to come to me.

Moving-fighting-moving-fighting seems impossible. I can't remember the last time I've been able to take a flank shot without activating half the map. Especially with the sound mechanic.

So we have a case here where if the enemy density is small enough to allow move-fight-move-fight then the mission is almost always achievable better with stealth (lower infil. time, less chance of wounds).

My 2 cents (combined with everyone else's to make several million dollars worth) is that either you need larger maps, so the 10 solider missions can have a bit of tactical variety, or you need some kind of stealth fatigue mechanic to change the incentives.

Sir_Dr_D
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Sir_Dr_D » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:32 pm

Something needs to get done about the scamper mechanic. it is the most annoying thing about Longwar, and is the reason that forces stealth mission or overwatch crawls. It makes maneuvering and flanking and other fun stuff hard too do.

When I am fighting a pod. I want to fight that pod, and just that pod. I want to maneuver, and flank and do other things that involve fighting that pod. When I move to flank I don't want to activate another pod (which is really supposed to be an abstraction of another pod that is out of site range and blocks away,), and have them completely surround me.

Anyway of fixing it would come off as being gamey, but view distances and the way it works is already gamey. We just need something that provides fair and balanced combat. So this might be:
- When you are in battle with one pod, other pods do not activate unless it is there turn. If they happen to wonder close enough to the battle they can activate, but on their turn. And unless the players just came out of stealth mode, we can not overwatch scampering aliens, or otherwise damage a non activated pod. Just to ensure battles are always fair.
-If you are in battle with one pod, perhaps for another pod to activate they either need, to see you move more then 3 tiles, or see you take an offensive action. if you move an assault up to flank, but that ends up putting you in sight of another pod, it would then give you the option of just moving to your original spot, or just hunker down to prevent that pod from activating. But if is something you can risk, you can always take the shot.

But really the simplest answer is just saying we cannot damage yellow alerted or higher non activated aliens. And aliens do not activate unless it is their turn. Fix scamper so it is fair, and you fix a lot of problems. It is critical. Otherwise long war will always be played in a way that is non-intended.

RapidFire
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by RapidFire » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:03 pm

gimrah wrote:Some possible changes to address this:

- Make missions more or less likely to be detected at different stages in their lives, with a weighting towards infiltrating 4-6 guys. So you'll get slightly more that are viable to fight, balanced by slightly fewer that are viable only to stealth.
...
I think this is simple and real solution. I ran half of my aborted campaign with all intel rebels and still had issues with low infiltration times left on the later (mid-game for me) missions, forcing me more toward the binary stealth/large-squad decision. Maybe it was just beginner's (un)lucky dice rolls, but if more missions were popping up with better infiltration times left, it would make it easier. I'm not talking the 14 day limits that I've had a couple times.

With better infiltration times on average, if a player chooses to pack in 8+ troops, that's their decision. I would run more "middle-class" missions with reasonable infiltration time left. With that said, it is hard to fight the temptation to max out the infiltration timer, but that was probably the LW2 nubie in me. I am getting better about it as I progress.

Similarly, while it sounds like whining to say "there's too many troops" on the infiltration uptick, ADVENT is not going to defend every asset with 40+ aliens. Some, less important, assets should still have a low number of troops protecting them even toward the mid to late game, regardless of the low-infiltration modifier. Let the difficulty increase affect the viewing radius, reinforcement timers, etc. more than the gross number of on-map troops.

On the general conversion, I'm generally wary when designers start forcing players to play a certain way, since it seems ... well, forced. If it doesn't fit, don't hammer it into the mission sequence, but low-priority assets and better infiltration times on average would go a long way toward solving the issue.

Also, I like the stealth missions and do not get tired of them, so I would not like to see them reduced arbitrarily reduced in favor of combat missions. However, if some of them naturally morphed into 4-6 man missions, I would probably not complain much.

Sir_Dr_D
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Sir_Dr_D » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:21 pm

I agree with what was just said. Have the infiltration time available for a mission be on a curve, so most of the results are at a reasonable level.

RXTXK
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by RXTXK » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:36 am

I'm not sure this fixes it.
The basic question is if there are no corpses why wouldn't you stealth a mission? They payoff on the strategy layer is almost always bigger from stealth.

trihero
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by trihero » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:02 am

Yea I think infiltration's main purpose should be to encourage you to have multiple squads, but it's being used as a dual purpose to make the missions themselves difficult or not has bitten the designers in the foot, since the infiltration "screening process" polarizes you into stealth or go big especially on higher difficulties.

The times themselves should be very very reasonable and allow for 5-6 man squads let's say 80% of the time to get you a natural time of 100% infiltration. The penalty is already there in that you have to wait for them to infiltrate, we don't need to further penalize by giving low infiltration scores.

RXTXK
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by RXTXK » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:46 pm

That's a good point about the solider time cost of infil.
It's really an opporunity cost.

1 solider for 2 days = opportunity cost of what that solider could be doing for 2 days

6 soilder for 4 days = opportunity cost of what those soliders could be doing for 6 days or the cost of what one solider could be doing for 24 days

both assume no wounds

add in wounds and rather than 2:24 it is probably closer to 2:38

so the infil penalty is not linear but geometric

Plockets
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Plockets » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:01 pm

What about increasing certain mission/RNF timers for 1-6 man squads and/or decreasing the same timers for 9-10 man squads? It could be a sliding scale of some sort based on the number of soldiers in the squad, possibly with a GTS tactic to improve it further for 5-6 man squads. This makes a certain amount of sense (i.e. the smaller squads make less "noise" during their infiltration), and potentially gives the 5-6 man squads a more defined role for completing the timed guerilla ops (i.e destroy relay/steal object/smash n grab/eliminate VIP).

edit: On reflection, I don't think that adding more complexity to the mission planning is a good thing either, as it is already arguably the least newbie friendly / most difficult to manage mechanic in the game.

JackDT
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by JackDT » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:12 pm

Sir_Dr_D wrote:Something needs to get done about the scamper mechanic. it is the most annoying thing about Longwar, and is the reason that forces stealth mission or overwatch crawls. It makes maneuvering and flanking and other fun stuff hard too do.

When I am fighting a pod. I want to fight that pod, and just that pod. I want to maneuver, and flank and do other things that involve fighting that pod. When I move to flank I don't want to activate another pod (which is really supposed to be an abstraction of another pod that is out of site range and blocks away,), and have them completely surround me.

Anyway of fixing it would come off as being gamey, but view distances and the way it works is already gamey. We just need something that provides fair and balanced combat. So this might be:
- When you are in battle with one pod, other pods do not activate unless it is there turn. If they happen to wonder close enough to the battle they can activate, but on their turn. And unless the players just came out of stealth mode, we can not overwatch scampering aliens, or otherwise damage a non activated pod. Just to ensure battles are always fair.
-If you are in battle with one pod, perhaps for another pod to activate they either need, to see you move more then 3 tiles, or see you take an offensive action. if you move an assault up to flank, but that ends up putting you in sight of another pod, it would then give you the option of just moving to your original spot, or just hunker down to prevent that pod from activating. But if is something you can risk, you can always take the shot.

But really the simplest answer is just saying we cannot damage yellow alerted or higher non activated aliens. And aliens do not activate unless it is their turn. Fix scamper so it is fair, and you fix a lot of problems. It is critical. Otherwise long war will always be played in a way that is non-intended.

The pod activation mechanic bothered me so much that I actually made a mod that simply wakes up every pod on every map right from the start so this isn't an issue.

It's a fundamental problem with both XCOM 1 and 2 and there is no easy fix though. At least in LW2 on the stealth missions the activation mechanic feels thematically appropriate with a guerrilla/resistance movement -- oh crap I drew the attention of another patrol!

Motion trackers were a fun way to address this in LW1.

Sines
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Sines » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:30 pm

Haven't read the whole thread, but a few thoughts.

First off, more solo-drones when the party is size 3 or less. If you've got three soldiers, then you're almost certainly doing a stealth mission. Solo drones can significantly hinder stealth without increasing combat difficulty much. Personally, I don't have any problem with stealth missions as they are, but making missions harder to stealth can help encourage you not trying to stealth it, and maybe try for a 4-man loud mission.

More notably, special benefits for parties of size 4 or 5. I think these would be best if the effect is really strong at party size 4, and only marginal at strength 5. I think squad size 4 is a rather interesting size, and it's probably really good for encouraging a guerilla style approach. Do as much stealth as you can, but you're going to go loud eventually, and then you're going to have to run. Squad size 4 is also notable in that it's not easy to fit a Shinobi into that party if you're going to stealth it. A dedicated stealth shinobi is kind of only half a combatant, and that's when you take them out of concealment. So you'll be discouraged from taking one if you plan to go loud, and might just settle for a few battle scanners. This would indirectly buff Sword or Gun shinobis, as they aren't a great scout, but can much more easily deal with being revealed and running into combat. Scout a little bit with them, but don't be afraid to bring them out of concealment.

So, how to encourage a size four party? Well, one of the biggest reasons to run stealth is because of infiltration time. It's just so much faster to send in a solo-shinobi. Removing only one character for a couple of days of infiltration time basically means a free mission. As such, it might not be a terrible idea to greatly reduce infiltration time for a four man squad. I think it's enough of a penalty that you're already locking four soldiers into a mission, rather than one, that you shouldn't have to do it for several more days as well. With the infiltration timer reduced for squads of four (and possibly increased for squads of 3 or less) then that would help encourage small combat squads. Lore wise, it could be said that while a solo squad is harder for ADVENT to detect, it's also only a single man doing the scouting and reconnaissance, so he can't get information all that quickly.

There are other things that can be done. A small squad is going to take much longer to finish any given task, and will have a much harder time completing the mission quickly and dealing with re-inforcements. As such, a 4-man squad should get some bonuses on mission time, appearance of re-inforcements, and possibly evac delay. Perhaps stealth squads get penalized in these areas. This might be dicey though, as it might encourage you to take four soldiers, have just one or two complete the objective, and then have the rest just place an evac in the back of the map where nobody can see them. I like the idea, but it would be nice to not incentivize that. However, honestly, it's an obviously cheesy tactic, and I suspect that enough players won't do that, simply out of desire to avoid the cheese. And even then, if you balance things properly so that running a four man party has the same mission time and RNF time as a duo-party, then the only benefit is getting more XP.

And on the topic of XP, perhaps XP for killing aliens on a mission could be on diminishing returns. Instead of (or in addition to) the "Three men for max XP" thing, the first couple of pods of aliens killed provides bonus XP. So, for example, just doing the objective grants only 50% XP. Then, killing a single pod (not a solo-drone) would grant an additional 35% mission XP (in addition to the normal kill XP) and killing a second pod would grant the remaining 15%. This would greatly weaken solo-shinobis, who will get greatly reduced XP, and thus be less useful in solo-stealth missions, which makes sense, given that they can do one every two days with almost no penalty. While it does incentivize sticking around at evac and randomly killing aliens, that is already encouraged thanks to kill XP existing at all. This merely increases that incentive, and given that a stealth squad is likely going to be unable to kill even a single pod without huge risk, and that large parties are just planning on killing everything anyway, it serves mostly to encourage the 4-man parties that try to engage in a half-and-half approach to stealth vs. combat.

RapidFire
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by RapidFire » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:52 pm

Sines wrote:Haven't read the whole thread, but a few thoughts.

First off, more solo-drones when the party is size 3 or less. If you've got three soldiers, then you're almost certainly doing a stealth mission. Solo drones can significantly hinder stealth without increasing combat difficulty much. Personally, I don't have any problem with stealth missions as they are, but making missions harder to stealth can help encourage you not trying to stealth it, and maybe try for a 4-man loud mission.
Are you talking about just making it "so" when the player sends only a few soldiers. Advent would not know that, so I would be apprehensive about this change. I'm like you in that I'm fine with how stealth missions are as is, but one way to accomplish this anyhow, would be to have more drones patrolling some missions in the early days. The number of patrolling drones would taper off as time passes, thus nudging stealth missions away from those taking only two days or so. This would accomplish the same thing naturally. Although, I'm not sure that is would make sense in a "realism" type perspective still.
Sines wrote:More notably, special benefits for parties of size 4 or 5. I think these would be best if the effect is really strong at party size 4, and only marginal at strength 5. I think squad size 4 is a rather interesting size, and it's probably really good for encouraging a guerilla style approach. Do as much stealth as you can, but you're going to go loud eventually, and then you're going to have to run. Squad size 4 is also notable in that it's not easy to fit a Shinobi into that party if you're going to stealth it. A dedicated stealth shinobi is kind of only half a combatant, and that's when you take them out of concealment. So you'll be discouraged from taking one if you plan to go loud, and might just settle for a few battle scanners. This would indirectly buff Sword or Gun shinobis, as they aren't a great scout, but can much more easily deal with being revealed and running into combat. Scout a little bit with them, but don't be afraid to bring them out of concealment.

So, how to encourage a size four party? Well, one of the biggest reasons to run stealth is because of infiltration time. It's just so much faster to send in a solo-shinobi. Removing only one character for a couple of days of infiltration time basically means a free mission. As such, it might not be a terrible idea to greatly reduce infiltration time for a four man squad. I think it's enough of a penalty that you're already locking four soldiers into a mission, rather than one, that you shouldn't have to do it for several more days as well. With the infiltration timer reduced for squads of four (and possibly increased for squads of 3 or less) then that would help encourage small combat squads. Lore wise, it could be said that while a solo squad is harder for ADVENT to detect, it's also only a single man doing the scouting and reconnaissance, so he can't get information all that quickly.

There are other things that can be done. A small squad is going to take much longer to finish any given task, and will have a much harder time completing the mission quickly and dealing with re-inforcements. As such, a 4-man squad should get some bonuses on mission time, appearance of re-inforcements, and possibly evac delay. Perhaps stealth squads get penalized in these areas. This might be dicey though, as it might encourage you to take four soldiers, have just one or two complete the objective, and then have the rest just place an evac in the back of the map where nobody can see them. I like the idea, but it would be nice to not incentivize that. However, honestly, it's an obviously cheesy tactic, and I suspect that enough players won't do that, simply out of desire to avoid the cheese. And even then, if you balance things properly so that running a four man party has the same mission time and RNF time as a duo-party, then the only benefit is getting more XP.
I've had a few missions where I can send the second and third soldier for very little cost in the infiltration timer. I don't know it was a special mission or something else was happening.

I just had an idea. I would not expect Pavonis to take this seriously, since it would require reworking the starts for questionable gain, but what about allowing the player to boost infiltration at the cost of having the soldiers starting at different positions on the map. This would simulate not having to wait for the soldiers to congregate in the same location, more like individuals infiltrating. "No one" would know they are part of the same team until they let the hammer down. Just a spontaneous idea that would not take that much work to add.

On the practical side, if the player starts in stealth, this idea could just add a few turns organizing your troops (not necessarily a positive for mission fun), but if they are spotted, it could cause trouble. The player would have to decide whether that chance is worth the boost in infiltration time. For missions where you do not start in stealth, it would be a serious chance to take. On the other hand, the option could just add frustration for the player, but it is always optional, something like spending the intel to boost infiltration.
Sines wrote:And on the topic of XP, perhaps XP for killing aliens on a mission could be on diminishing returns. Instead of (or in addition to) the "Three men for max XP" thing, the first couple of pods of aliens killed provides bonus XP. So, for example, just doing the objective grants only 50% XP. Then, killing a single pod (not a solo-drone) would grant an additional 35% mission XP (in addition to the normal kill XP) and killing a second pod would grant the remaining 15%. This would greatly weaken solo-shinobis, who will get greatly reduced XP, and thus be less useful in solo-stealth missions, which makes sense, given that they can do one every two days with almost no penalty. While it does incentivize sticking around at evac and randomly killing aliens, that is already encouraged thanks to kill XP existing at all. This merely increases that incentive, and given that a stealth squad is likely going to be unable to kill even a single pod without huge risk, and that large parties are just planning on killing everything anyway, it serves mostly to encourage the 4-man parties that try to engage in a half-and-half approach to stealth vs. combat.
I wasn't crazy about the new roughly average xp assignments in LW2, so I do like this modification or something like it.

nightwyrm
Posts: 260
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Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by nightwyrm » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:51 pm

I think there's a fundamental math question here no one has brought up yet. On average, how long does it take for your squad of 4-6 to delete an enemy pod of 3-4?

On Vanilla, I can do it in 1 or 2 turns. In LW2, I find it takes on average 2-3 turns. Let's go with the higher numbers and say I can kill a pod of 4 in 3 turns on average, not too unreasonable I presume. That means on a mission with a 12 turn timer, I can on average fight 3 pods and have 3 turns remaining just for moving/reloading/objective completion etc. That is extremely tight and 3 pods of 4 is a Very Light mission. Any more enemies and it becomes nigh impossible to complete the mission on time by fighting everything.

So to get around that, we now have to go back to sneaking of some sort, only engaging enemies near the objective. But instead of sneaking 2-3 dudes to the objective, we now have to sneak 4-6, some of whom will be slow and/or easier to detect.

No amount of punishing 2-3 men stealth or rewarding killing can get around the fact that if you take more than 2 turns to kill a pod of 4, you can only engage 2 or 3 pods on a mission before a turn 8-12 timer ends.

Tuhalu
Posts: 433
Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2017 9:02 pm

Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by Tuhalu » Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:17 am

There does seem to be a fundamental problem with 6-man groups. Past the very early game, every time you try to use them, you get severely punished. It's not just one thing, but a combination of infiltration timers, baseline activity in high strength regions, time to kill, trap missions and the rapid response dark event. None of these things get better as a campaign progresses, excepting very narrow windows of opportunity, and some of them get much worse. In all timered RNF missions, you are actively punished for not using stealth and speed to win the day.

Furthermore, there are very few "kill them all" missions and the ones that exist have very strong caveats. The faceless hunting mission can only have 1 xcom operative (the haven rebels get no experience from killing faceless at all). The tower mission can only really be done once per region and includes a stun gimmick. The monument mission is rare and you usually want to skip it due to it attracting undue attention. Supply Raids, Troop Convoys and HQ Assaults are very heavily biased towards bringing the full team of 8 or 10 due to large pod sizes and/or difficulty in getting reasonable infiltration values. The retaliations are to be actively avoided as they only give XP and can result in dead haven members.

What we need are a few combat missions that can be infiltrated well at medium sizes with pod sizes small enough to make the fights reasonable.

One idea could be to kill enemy pods until you find the group that has a "key" item and then use it to loot a chest (probably guarded by a "boss" pod) before escaping. The evac zone would be set, but there would be no hard timer. There would be RNF after breaking concealment, but it would arrive sooner with low infiltration. Pod sizes would be 3 or 4 enemies at baseline infiltration (like most timer missions), but ramp up as you underinfiltrate, making going in with low infiltration hard. This kind of mission would likely have a generous discovery chance, but only spawn one at a time in a region (and not more than once in a 20 day supply period). The rewards would be a combination of supplies, alloys and elerium, but no corpses.

trihero
Posts: 1099
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:01 am

Re: LW2 needs more "middle class" missions

Post by trihero » Wed Feb 22, 2017 3:13 am

Really good points nightwyrm and tuhalu.

In xwynns most recent episode he even mentions he's sick of doing 1 man stealth missions, and he has over 900 hours in LW2. Unfortunately his only suggestion appears to be nerfing stealth missions without actually encouraging 5-6 man missions.

Infiltration times need to be relaxed in general so you can comfortably send 5-6 man if you want to. The punishment is already there - you have many men away for some time, you don't need to doubly punish by making the mission super hard because there are too many enemies to deal with.

IMO 5-6 man should be the optimal success for most missions, with the occasional low man stealth being ok for either low risk/low reward/low timer left sort of deals, and 10 man being desperate measures to stop some nasty dark event or a daring supply raid here and there.

But 5-6 is doubly punished - very hard to succeed with due to infiltration %, and takes a lot of your men out of action for a while. Solo shinobis bypass the infiltration enemy count punishment, and 10 man 0% bypasses the infiltration mechanic taking your men out of commission for a while.

I don't think infiltration does what it's meant to do - provide a "fatigue" system. It just winds up punishing the core xcom gameplay and encouraging ways to get around it (shinobis and large man teams both bypass the fatigue system entirely). (except for story missions, but the only one you have to send a large man squad is the gate mission)

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