MechaStellar VER 8.8 Design Goals – Short Range Weapons Update

This update kicked off with the complete reworking of the thrown weapons from last month.  Our first new series added in 2023 is G Gundam, we began prototyping units in April and started playtesting in July of 2022, with G Gundam being the next release all forthcoming units receive heavy playtesting the two months leading up to release. 

During the playtests for G Gundam models, one unit in particular stood out.  Gundam Maxter almost exclusively uses short range weapons, with a pair of magnums and several different punches including a cyclonic, burning jet of fire, and semi-visible bursting machine gun punch.  We were able to utilize existing weapon profiles to at least give each punch a different special effect but something was lacking.  What we observed was that many of punches (and even the twin magnums) felt rather samey, and it didn’t feel like there was a good time to use one over the other. 

Typically when a unit has a wide variety of attacks, such as Mazinger Z, we design the unit where typically it is the best idea to use the shortest range weapon that is in range.  In Mazinger’s case typically it’s better to use its shortest weapon, Rust Hurricane when a target is in range, likewise it’s better to use Breast Fire while it’s in Rapid Fire range over a longer range weapon such as Photon Energy Beam. 

In Maxters case it’s a bit more difficult since almost every weapon would be the same range, and the overall profiles weren’t that different.  This necessitated taking another look at the thrown weapons and eventually starting over from scratch.  We also heard from a Mazinger player who much preferred the older version of Rocket Punch so this redesign sought to resolve both these issues.

The first problem we had to address was the number of attacks.  The most recent update left several of the longer range weapons on the extreme end of low attacks at their maximum range. So we decided to set 3 Shots as the minimum attacks at any range and then we wanted to make Rapid Fire (at this point a very short range of 8″) matter as well.  We decided to make Rapid fire for weapons such as a Rocket Punch have an automatic hit in Rapid Fire range, similar to how grenade launchers work.

We also wanted to differentiate the truly short range weapons, those that were stuck at 8″ permanently such as the Gouf’s heat rod. The range 16″ weapons had the capacity to increase their range for longer range attacks such as Turbo Smasher Punch,  Broken Magnum, or even Gurren Lagann’s Sunglasses Boomerang.  We went through several iterations and eventually realized we wanted to give the same benefit of auto-hitting. 

This came about during a discussion on Melee type units who have the lowest shooting accuracy in the game.  When we evaluated these units we noticed that almost all of them used extremely short range weapons. In game terms if a shotgun, heat whip could automatically hit this would resolve the issues of melee types having poor accuracy.  Melee types would never be that useful with a sniper rifle or an artillery cannon, with these auto-hit short range weapons they could still have an effective shooting action.

All sounds great so far, but we have a major issue we need to work through.  All the thrown / short range weapons are modeled after their melee counterparts.  The Killer Boomerang is modeled after the Killer Knife profile, the Tomahawk boomerang is modeled after the Getter Tomahawk, etc.  What this means is that each thrown / short range weapon was 500 damage like a melee weapon and also held onto their unique trait such as a drill missile getting +1 PEN on a Critical Hit. 

In the past the High Crit traits were often underwhelming, critical hits are not very common when you only have 3 shots to worry about.  The second issue was the damage, all the considerations we have for increasing the number of shots for these weapons simply won’t work when they now out-damage nearly everything other weapon in the game.

The solution was rather obvious looking back, but it wasn’t till the 4th iteration of tweaking the weapons table did we realize we should drastically drop damage on thrown weapons across the board.  The Rocket Punch being the iconic super robot attack would be our baseline and for now remain at 3 Shots, 500 damage and a bonus hit or two at rapid fire range (quite an upgrade over the previous iteration).  From there we looked to modify the remaining weapons while establishing a design rule that with the increase in shots no weapons would be allowed a damage boost.

High Crit weapons such as Rocket Drills, Wrecking Balls, Getter Tomahawks and even Zeus thunderbolt would drop down in damage, eventually settling on 200 DMG.  In return they would have automatic critical hits instead of automatic hits.  The 8″ ones would start off with two automatic critical hits while the longer range ones would start with 4 shots and +1 crit in rapid fire range, more shots giving more chances at a critical hit

Damage for Heat weapons started dropping 100pts at a time trying to find the right spot for them.  Eventually we ran into an issue when comparing the heat rod to the rocket punch baseline, in order to balance the two weapons we had to have at least 5 shots on the heat rod, but with even 200dmg each that would mean that a Gouf would automatically delete a GM, dealing 800 DMG after the Shield Block. 

This was not ideal, since heat rods were useful tools but rarely that reliably lethal.  Eventually we settled on 100 DMG for heat weapons, since the longer range ones had the special quality where the enemy must reroll 10s, the additional shots from being a 100 DMG weapon worked out great.

Next we had beam boomerangs, acid jets, and similar high Armor Penetration weapons.  We experimented with a few different designs but ultimately found they worked best as 100 DMG options just like heat weapons, and balanced extremely well against the Beam Spray Gun / Beam Pistol profile. 

Our last consideration was internal balance of the very short range weapons (8″ max) vs the 16″ weapons that could grow in range for Super Robots, for instance the Genesic Broken Magnum is longer range than the original GaoGaiGar’s Broken Magnum. 

We looked at our last rebalance and decided on a 2pt Armor Penetration loss for the longer range weapons, so a heat rod would stay at PEN 5 while a longer range weapon such as a Boomerang would be PEN 3, this also has the added benefit of letting us include more weapons under one profiles umbrella so both the High PEN (a superheated weapon) and lower PEN version (Combattler V’s EM Yoyo) could utilize the same profile.

Coming full circle we now had several different profiles for Maxters punches (and updated ones for Dragon Gundam’s claws and Bolt Gundam’s swinging graviton hammer) that all performed fantastically in follow-on playtests.  Now the question became, can we applied the lessons learned here with automatic hits to Machine Guns.

Machine Guns and Missiles

We had already added in automatic hits for a few explosive weapons such as the micromissiles, grenade launcher and missile barrage profiles, we were now curious if we could make that work with machine guns and gatling guns given how useful it was with thrown / short range weapons.  After all, more than a few iconic Melee types have been known to use gatling guns and machine guns as well.

This one actually ended up being a lot easier than expected.  We considered a few different options and settled on one where the solid shell kinetic weapons had +2 Hits in Rapid Fire range and the beam weapons had +1 Hit in rapid fire range.  While the maximum hits are lower, the automatic hits means that in Rapid Fire range the average damage is likely to be higher.  Bit of a wash but the key here is that suddenly these weapons would be very useful for cross era play for example OYW vs Zeta, or Zeta vs CCA units. 

Weapons with modest range that could automatically hit a target would be very useful when attacking a target with much higher Evade, such as a Zaku attacking Nemo, or a Hizack attacking a Jegan and turn it into less of a one-way fight.  We ran a few playtests of heavy Zaku forces versus Gundam Alex and some other 0080 units and were very happy that Alex was no longer the unkillable monster it was previously to outdated machines.  We’ve also tweaked the Shotgun profile for Kampfer players to enjoy.

The last thing we had to consider was the Micromissiles profile.  With the changes to the Machine Gun, the Micromissiles were now a very similar weapon.  An issue we have is that the micromissiles profile was currently trying to portray two semi-similar weapons, the classic micromissiles from Macross (and also Shin Getter 3 and Combattler V) which are longer range and make for a spectacular Itano Circus, and the shorter range needle missiles you see on the Gyan (and later the Pallas Athene) as well as GoLion and even Mazinger’s Southern Cross Knife.  The previous profile split the distance on range trying to capture both these weapons types.  We needed to adjust micromissiles to keep it in parity with machine guns but we would need to adjust the range on it. 

Eventually we pulled the trigger and split it into two profiles.  The first would hit a longer range and would acquire the “Target Rerolls 10s on Evade” trait to simulate the spectacular Itano circus.  The 2nd profile for Needle missiles would be shorter range but would have an impressive amount of shots and automatic hits.  It would also gain the Overwatch trait, perfect for a Shield loaded with missiles, or in GoLion’s case horns loaded with missiles.

With that we have our new weapon’s design with a big chunk of our weapon’s table now having some form of automatic hits at close ranges.  With all the improvements to machine guns (and beam pistols) we also opted to give Beam Rifles and Beam Carbines +1 shot in Rapid Fire range to keep up.

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