Despite all our bickering and disagreements here, we can all agree on one thing: the game is certainly not balanced. Problems exist from the major racial imbalances (VL>VR>rest), corvettes are still problematic, and even fine details such as balancing the abilities of capitals such as Animosity which seems to be the most agreed-upon ability that is UP.
As such, this thread is about compiling a list of priorities to fix things and how they should be fixed. Due to it's attempt to contain a vast amount of feedback, it is a wall of text. Reading the sub-headings should allow someone to skim however.
I also only elected to contain "coarse changes" as fine balance changes are things that will (hopefully) happen after release. Right now, there are components of balance that are just broken. Fine balance suggestions can be found all over the place. From Rebalanced Races to many threads throughout the forums. These are all all well and good, but fundamental problems exist that must be fixed before any fine adjustment will have much of an effect. That is the focus of the thread: attempting to discuss and solve the primary balance issues of the game. I will attempt to proceed in order of priority. Even if the later ones can't be addresses well, the first three must be fixed for any sort of semblance of balance to exist.
UPDATE 1: With 1.01 released, many were hoping for some joy as maybe, just maybe the major balance changed would get fixed with release; after all, it was a month coming. Well, we were wrong. It appears that instead of focusing on balance changes (which from PM's with Yarlen and his posts on the forums) which will take place in 1.02, they focused on stability and functionality for release which is perfectly understandable. If you release a buggy game, it reflects badly in reviews whereas you have more time to fix balance after release. Despite this, we have no ETA as of yet for 1.02. As a result, our job is not done.
UPDATE 2: Due to the fact that the hotfix was 1.02, I'm assuming that 1.03 will be the balance patch, though there is no confirmation of this as of yet.
The fact of the matter is, this faction is wildly OP. While to a certain extent it makes sense for them to have all the things they do (tax from capitals, labs on capitals, mobile rulership, etc), these things were not implemented in a way that works well with the rest of the game, leading them to be the most powerful faction by far.
-Civilian Evacuations: The oddity of this researchable is that it could be OP if it weren't for what Stripped to the Core does. It gives a mobile player a steady income from tax which can significantly increase their base credit rate. For VL however, this isn't of much concern. Because of the massive influx of credits from stripping, they will likely expand their fleets rapidly, leading to high upkeep percentages. As a result, their steady income is minimal but their burst income from stripping compensates, leading to this not being much of an issue. If stripped were hypothetically removed, this would probably be OP, but as it stands, I don't think there's much of an issue here, though it by no means helps the situation.
-Mobile Rulership: This is clearly something necessary for the devs' vision for a completely mobile race as it allows you to strip even your capital planet, though many VL players keep it as insurance if their titan is destroyed because the Vorastra is the least powerful titan in terms of combat. Due to it's very nature, it makes sense for the Vorastra's construction or at least research to be a prerequisite for this ability. This would also mean that the VL would need nine labs before hitting Shipboard Labs and thus Stripped to the Core, changing the strip rush into more of a "strip teching," significantly increasing the window during which a VL player is vulnerable.
-Shipboard Labs: While this is fundamentally a good idea as you need such a thing for a fully mobile race, it's implementation has made research tiers moot. Previously, research tiers were a good indicator for how early or late technologies could be implemented with players in MP having to make great sacrifices to achieve the higher tiers with their limited numbers of planets. Since the introduction of titans, capital heavy fleets are now imperative, particularly against things such as the Kultorask that when faced by anything less than capitals, becomes invincible. This reliance on capitals results in high numbers of capitals for all factions, and when you have a tech that allows four capitals to compensate for all a player's labs, you have a clear problem. Suggestions for this ability have ranged from each capital being half a lab, to outright removal, though the most common seems to be having the first level allow a military lab while the second level enables a civic lab.
-Stripped to the Core: As the most iconic component of the faction, I feel this tech isn't something that should be changed as far as what it does, but some have suggested it be pushed up to tier eight. That's not something I'm personally a fan of because unless Shipboard Labs is changed, another tier isn't going to help anything.
While there are multiple solutions, I feel some sort of agreement needs to be reached because as it stands, there's little one can do against a strip rushing VL, but many of the above changes would need to be mutually exclusive, lest we over-nerf the faction. For instance, halving the effect of Shipboard Labs and having the Vorastra be a prerequisite for Mobile Rulership might delay their ability to strip too long, leaving them open to attack for too long. I personally feel that stripping should be one of those abilities that a single race in a game has that makes a mid-to-late-game strategy nigh unstoppable, forcing the other races to rush them while they're weakest. Incorporating both changes for instance might leave them vulnerable too long, leading to a race that while theoretically unstoppably powerful, is highly limited due to their extreme weakness until they unlock their iconic ability: Stripped to the Core.
UPDATE 1: This problem is now on the known issues thread and it appears that it is also known that the Vorastra is rather lackluster in combat.
UPDATE 2: Unfortunately, nothing about them was changed in 1.01. This is likely because they have a more complex balance issue than the other races. Give it time.
Although agreed upon as OP before the VL, they are not quite so bad. Their two primary components of imbalance are their titan and the ability to phase jump starbases. Aside from that, they are a relatively balanced race. Thankfully, unlike the VL, the iconic components of the VR are not intertwined, meaning that the problems can be balanced more independently of one another without so much fear of side-effects. The problem with the VR isn't so much a strategy overpowering all others, but rather a couple of units that trump all else.
UPDATE: Of the factions, the VR probably received the heaviest nerfs which honestly weren't that heavy.
-Jumping Orkies: Ever since Entrenchment, the Orkulus starbase has been one of the most powerful "units" in the game, and in a lot of ways was the game's first titan. It's a gargantuan gun platform that absorbs the corpses of the fallen to heal itself. With massive Phase Missile banks, when plunged straight into the heart of the enemy fleet, it can quickly bring down sixteen enemies simultaneously while healing itself from their destruction. This made it very powerful. Thankfully for those defending against a Vasari onslaught, they could have the peace of mind that any Orkulus constructed in their gravity well would only be a weak one and that they would have time before it reached it's full power. Now there is no such hope. The VR assault is almost identical to it's defense. Mines, fleet, titan, and now starbase, can be wherever the player so chooses. The only differences are the absences of weapon jammers and repair platforms. As a result, a VR on the attack is the most feared assault in the game at this time.
Having to deal with both a titan and a fully upgraded starbase is a truly fearsome experience, but one that could potentially be dealt with. The problem is that unlike previous installments of the game, the Orky can now appear in it's full power along with the rest of one's fleet, rather than acting as a secondary push throughout a battle. Perhaps even more scary is the fact that the a VR can have multiple Orkies lined up to take the place of the primary one. For every Orky that you destroy, another is instantly ready to pick up the slack. In other words, against a player with sufficient feed, you have to deal with one immortal titan and another pseudo-titan that can be instantly replaced and has no fleet supply. It's no surprise that it's OP.
Like the VL, there have been many suggestions including having an "unpacking phase," replacing the Colony Pods upgrade with this tech, making this a second level of it's ability to create a phase node, and most simply, bump it to tier 7-8. An unpacking phase would leave it open to attack as it brings it's systems back online (either together or system-by-system over time), thus harkening back to how it was prior to Rebellion. Making it a unique upgrade, perhaps with multiple levels and having this effect as the final level (thus requiring the mobile Orky to be a cost-investment and a player must make some sacrifices in some other area of the Orky's upgrades to allow it to jump). Moving it deeper into the tree would also make this a tech that would allow a VR player to become an offensive powerhouse late-game without making them OP earlier on. Above all else however, the devs have listed some sort of nerf to the Orky in the known issues thread as fixed internally. We'll have to see how it turns out. Hopefully, they haven't over-nerfed it.
UPDATE 1: I just learned that the Orky is immune to traditional jump blockers such as PJI's, destabilization, and Mass Disorientation. This should also be addressed.
UPDATE 2: As of 1.01, we can clearly see that the devs are interested in adjusting this. Their chosen method of nerfing was to move it to T8. This should prevent rush scenarios but nothing to stop the spam of them that eco players can put out and the unlimited income that is still possible. This fixes the majority of the problems with it, and though the simplest solution, it's probably not the best. They did fix some corner cases with it, so that should also be helpful.
-Kultorask: As if a pseudo-titan wasn't enough, those facing a VR will also need to concern themselves with the hardest ship in the game to kill. While the Orky feasts on the dead, the Kultorask drinks the blood of the living. As a vampiric titan, it gains more strength as more enemies face it. In fact, no frigate can overcome the raw drain this ship causes. Kiting light carriers are the only sub-capitals that can deal damage faster than this thing can heal itself from their existence. Even against capitals, it is a very powerful foe that cannot be taken down without the focus fire from either an incredible defense, or critical mass bombers. When facing down a Kultorask that has just Kostura-jumped to your rear worlds, your primary form of defense is probably going to be frigates produced locally. As mentioned, that won't ever work. Nano Leech, Gravity Pulse (and possibly Dissever) will demolish all frigates in the path of the Kultorask, meaning a Kostura-jumping Kultorask becomes nigh unstoppable without a full fleet to defend against it. With any sort of escort to the Kultorask, you're almost certainly going to lose the planet.
A nerf is clearly needed for this ship, but really it's not even the ship that needs it. Nano Leech is the offender. Dropping it's ability to drain would make the Kultorask mortal. As with the above, lots of ideas have been suggested. Unfortunately, many of the suggestions for fixing this have come from modders/the SP community. I would really like to hear what the MP players think should be done. I personally feel that lessening the drain by a point or two to hull and causing it to drain half as much AM on capitals would allow it to be taken down without losing your whole fleet in the process. If much more of a nerf is performed on Nano Leech, IMO, Dissever might need to be made to target titans because right now, the power of the Kultorask is it's ability to faceroll any fleet that contains frigates. Take that away, and you end up with something that can't do much against larger targets.
Overall, we'll have to see how the developers modify the Orky, but alongside the incoming nerf to the mobile Orky should be a nerf to the omnipotence of Nano Leech.
UPDATE: In addition to the above, the VR also lost the capacity to use Enslaved Labor which in and of itself may prove a very potent nerf. Only time will tell.
Ah these units.. Intended to be a cheap, easily produced unit in small numbers as an emergency defense and in larger numbers to counter LRF with their high speed and damage type. They work wonders in those things.. And pretty much everything else. Because Corvette spam has become so dominant, AoE's have become king, leading to many of the allegations against the Corsev and Marza. I'm not saying that the Corsev isn't OP (it is far too durable), but the corvettes in their current state are amplifying the problem.
It really seems that Corvettes need a unique damage type. Right now, because they share the composite damage type with HC's, you can't adjust counter webs without affecting HC. A dedicated damageType is probably the best solution, though there is always the possibility that adding a new damageType is more complex than what we would expect which might explain why such hasn't already been performed by the devs. Presuming of course that it's not overly hard to add a new one, I would advise starting with the composite damage type and modifying it to be less effective versus LF. I'm not going to list specific numbers now as I've listed them before, but the concept remains the same. A unique damage type would give control over the situation without having to involve HC's.
Another thing that is consistently pointed out is that while in small numbers they are harmless, it is their ability to massed, making them effectively heavy SC. It is when they reach large swarms that flak cannot be built quickly enough to counter them. Even if the flak builder does succeed in killing the corvettes, anything they built in the process aside from flak will die, leaving them with a "fleet" of flak that can be easily dealt with by LF and don't do much damage to priority targets.
UPDATE: Nothing in 1.01. Hopefully there will be changes in 1.03.
As someone who hasn't played these a whole lot during Rebellion, I can't speak from experience. Also, in light of the new balance issues related to the Vasari, these have been largely forgotten, though the problem still remains. While the AR are better off than their counterparts, they still suffer in many ways as their titan relies largely on death to cause it. Even with the increased duration to Unyielding Will, I still feel that fundamentally, it's not a useful ability. You have to let your titan die to use it and as we have seen noobs on the forums posting, it's a downright unexpected effect that noobs think is either a bug. For the significant portion of the community that doesn't frequent the forums, this seems horrendously OP. They probably don't even realize that all they have to do is run away. Thus, they come on here and talk about how OP it is. I know we shouldn't be balancing around them, but the playerbase is larger than the forumites and MP community.
UPDATE: Unyielding will now lasts for 4 minutes at both levels. The developers seem determined at this point about making it good, but unfortunately, as long as the opponent is the one with control of this ability, it will never be very useful. Unfortunately for us, they also seem determined to keep it that way.
Beyond the AR however, the AL are in worse shape. When in-culture, the AL will have the advantage. Their supreme ability to dominate culture will ultimately mean that when on the defensive, they will have stupendously high mitigation and bypass blocking. When combined with the use of the Coronata and Vertigo, they become debuff tanks. Under the best scenario, they could conceivably take only 2-3% of incoming damage. The problem for this faction rises when they attempt to attack. They can't. They in general lack the capacity to go on the offensive.
-Coronata: Suppression Aura is a great ability. No one is going to question the fact that passively reducing incoming DPS and enemy speed by so much is great. Unfortunately, that's really all the Coronata does. It's the game's worst case of a a one-trick-pony. Mind you, it is a spectacular trick, but it's only one and it's one that does nothing against SC, still leaving the door open for it's destruction, particularly against Vasari bombers. The other three abilities are more things to stick ability points in than things to invest ability points in. Subjugating Assault at higher levels is actually quite good, but at low levels, it seems to have little effect. I would in this case recommend compressing the chances to convert so there isn't as much of a disparage between the low levels and the higher ones. This would encourage players to put that first point in it and thus invest further. Alternatively a popular idea is that when Subjugating Assault is active, the weapons would drain a small amount of AM from the target, allowing the ability to have some use against capital fleets.
Unity Mass is forever doomed to be compared to and be considered an inferior version of Snipe. What must be remembered however is that you are dealing with a highly defensive race rather than the more aggressive AR which have Chastic Burst. Even so, casting Malice can result in nuking a good chunk of the enemy fleet. Unfortunately, the damage boost appears to originate from ships around the target, not the caster, meaning that while ships could conceivably be "in-range" from the perspective of the Coronata, they wouldn't be in-range of the target. A simple range increase to the radius should help this.
UPDATE 1: Subjugating Assault has been buffed significantly from 4/6/8/10% to 5/8/11/15%. This 50% buff wasn't quite what I'd expect, but such a large change may be enough to make players want to invest points in this and improve the Coronata's overall performance. Unfortunately, it will likely put Unity Mass at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to priority for ability points. Time will tell if this is the case.
UPDATE 2: Another idea I had recently regarding Unity Mass was that to avoid being a Snipe wannabe, it could receive a damage nerf but more importantly, drain the AM of the target. The amount of damage and AM are debatable, but I think that it would help the Coronata deal with other titan, starbase, and capital abilities.
-Deliverance Engine: Unlike the Novalith and Kostura Cannons, the Deliverance Engine is very easily countered. You can say, "but the Novalith can be blocked by Auxiliary Government!" but that does nothing to the huge economic impact that the weapon can do to an enemy. Bilun once computed that two shots would pay for itself IIRC in terms of enemy economic damage. The DE has no such effect. In fact, it can under certain circumstances do absolutely nothing. At minimum, the Novalith debuffs income and the Kostura damages and disables all structures. Changes to this ranging from the ability to capture a planet if neutralized to destroying culture centers to capturing culture centers have been suggested.
I'm personally partial to capturing culture centers, but that's also probably because I've invested time in developing that idea. That said, it makes the DE a definitive weapon against enemies and in the testing myself and others have done, it seems to make it a much better tactical and strategic weapon and forms a good middle-ground between the strategic Novalith and the tactical Kostura. By firing at a planet near where you intend to invade, you can increase the likelihood of your culture dominating that gravity well and giving you the upper hand. From the perspective of strategy and long-term bombardment, it forces reconstruction of the centers draining resources, but also reduces income rates. Beyond that, in a game playing against an AL, I for the first time in years actually had some concern when the enemy fired at me.
As I said before, I do not have the knowledge to argue more on the status of the Advent, but the underuse of the AL would surely have a reason and personally, I believe the above changes would constitute significant buffs to the playstyle of the AL as well as the DE buff assisting the AR.
UPDATE: With the significant buff to Subjugating Assault, the Coronata will likely be significantly more powerful now than before.
And here's the other underplayed faction. Ever since the Novalith cap (that's basically the whole point of the superweapon cap and everyone knows it), the TL hasn't been played as much. Their biggest toy got cut in half. True, it is still a very powerful economic weapon in the long-term, but when playing as the TL, you're basically restricted to playing strategically. As such, it stands to reason that they should be better at this than the other factions. When playing as TEC, you're either playing strategic offense or strategic defense. Due to Truce Among Rogues, the TR are much better at this than the TEC as they can effectively instantly expand once they research TAR. TL defenses only really become supreme once Twin Fortresses is unlocked. To a limited extent that's fine, but they still need something to accommodate their defensive playstyle until then.
Novalith Deregulation: This iconic tech of the TL helps in massing Novaliths that.. Oh wait, you can't do that anymore. This is my point. Now that there is the cap, this tech isn't nearly as useful as it previously was. As a result, I feel that perhaps the best solution would be to strip this of it's slot reduction boost and instead allow it to increase the maximum number of Novaliths available to the player by one. While this may seem inconsequential, that additional cannon would really be a boon to the defensive turtling playstyle of the TL.
Due to the superweapon cap, the current cost reductions really aren't as useful. True, it's not something that hurts, but for a race that reaches it's late-game earliest (I'm not counting the OP VL) and can accrue massive amounts of credits easier than the other races, cost isn't so much an issue anymore. Number is. Thus, the current version of this tech seems to be outdated, useful at a previous point in the beta's life, but should be retooled for the game moving forward. The addition of another Novalith to a player's arsenal would allow a turtling TL (the intended primary role for the faction) to more easily hide behind their Jerichoan wall and bombard the enemy.
Honestly, even that single change might be enough to make the TL a decent race. Once they set up borders and dig in, they can begin their artillery bombardment which really feels like what the faction was intended to be. Turtling is seldom a good idea in MP, so this would still probably be used less frequently than the others, but it should help it when used by skilled players and given how much the non-forumite SP playerbase seems to love their Novaliths, I think they'd love the idea.
UPDATE: Nothing has changed that will impact gameplay as of 1.01. Perhaps 1.03 will yield different results.
General Comments on Balance of Release Patch 1.01/1.02
Despite the balance problems that still persist, I believe the actions demonstrated in this patch are good indicators of what the devs intend to do with the game. They do want to balance it (buffing the weakest faction and nerfing the strongest), but due in presumably large part the focus on stability for release, there weren't many balance changes. Even so, I believe this is a step in the right direction. We'll have to see how much the small changes implemented this time around affect balance long-term, but I believe with the stability issues out of the way, the devs can now focus more readily on balance.
Well, there you have it. Fixing those things should be IMO enough coarse changes to fix the fundamental balance issues with the game. Sure, there's moderate balance (for instance, the late-game VR techs) and fine balance changes remaining for things such as Salvage Operations and Animosity, but ultimately, I feel that the above are the first steps that need to be taken in this game.
UPDATE 1: Even with all these problems, I congratulate Starclad on the excellent game Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion and wish them the best of luck in their future ventures, be it Sins of a Dark Age, future patches of Solar Empire, or something else entirely.
UPDATE 2: Moved to proper forum after forum bug and I can now edit OP again (thanks Kryo).