A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

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A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by hiroshi_tea » Sun Mar 24, 2019 8:19 pm

Posted originally on Reddit and someone suggested I cross post it here.

Let's talk about something that seems to have been neglected by many people, Combat Robotics! Namely I want to talk about the Defender Capsule and how it is awful. And also how the other capsules are pretty meh!

In 0.16, the Defender was a cheap entry level combat robot only requiring gears, electronic circuits, and piercing ammo. The unit itself can be equated to a flying pistol (that fires 25% slower than the player pistol) armed with an infinite supply of yellow firearm mags. As everyone should know, the pistol and yellow mags are absolute trash for dealing with anything more than a half a dozen small biters. Having a flock of 5 defenders (the base follower count) is useful but hardly anything to write home about. And while they only require red, green, and military science, Defenders are pretty deep down the research tree after Flight. Depending on your research speed and priorities, you might already be dealing with medium biters which make the Defender obsolete. Basically they're cheap and useful only if rushed.

With the 0.17 release, the Defender now requires a robot frame as an ingredient without any other changes to the unit. I can understand why they made the change as it is thematically correct; but they're still an automated pistol (but worse) armed with yellow firearm mag. Making them require chemical infrastructure pushes their timing back enough to ensure that they're outclassed by enemy resistances by the time they're obtained. They are also competing against other red-green-military-only techs that require chemical infrastructure such as lasers, basic rockets, and flamers. No one is going to bother researching them in this state or automate their production thus denying any desire to go further down the combat robotics line, which is a shame because the other drones are somewhat useable.

Some things to note:
  • Defenders benefit from both physical shooting speed and physical damage researches but their poor base values (5 damage, 3 shots/sec) means this amounts to little benefit.
  • Distractors do laser damage and benefits from Laser Damage Research, but only after the tier 4 research. And they receive them at a lower magnitude compared to Laser Turrets. By the time you get your first combat robot laser damage upgrade, Laser Turrets do 42 damage/shot verses the trio of Distractors doing 36 damage/salvo. The DPS is even more in favor of the Laser Turret because Distractors do not benefit from Laser Shooting Speed research.
  • At full upgrades it takes 7 capsules of Distractors to equal the DPS of an equivalently upgraded Laser Turret.
  • Because the Combat Robots clump up, Spitter AOE will damage all of them at once. This isn't an issue with the mobile robots because they can dodge most attacks but Distractors are no longer tanking damage because they all go down together in the AOE. Thankfully they can be spammed but this is definitely a huge hit to their utility.
  • Defenders and Destroyers scale with Robot Follower Count Research, but unlike other weapon bonuses, there is a scaling resource cost associated with utilizing it.
  • Tangentially related: the Personal Laser Defense counts as a Laser Turret so it benefits from all Laser Turret upgrades and has very good base values to boot.
  • With all damage and follower count researches complete (before infinite), a full pack of 50 Destroyers deals 3000 DPS. A single Personal Laser Defense deals 1267 DPS. A laser turret deals 633 DPS.
  • Regardless, Destroyers are still usable. Just wish they stuck with the player better.
TLDR: 0.16 defender was barely usable. 0.17 ensures they’re awful by the time they arrive and makes it feel like the rest of the combat bot line isn't worth pursuing when all the other options are more accessible and have obvious strengths. Defenders obviously need a buff. Giving it 16 damage at 10 shots/sec would make it equivalent to a single piercing ammo turret. Maybe the entire Combat Robotics line could use a look.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by steinio » Mon Mar 25, 2019 5:27 am

Well as you need to deploy them manually i only used the combat robots once for testing and ignored them afterwards.
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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by ManaUser » Mon Mar 25, 2019 6:11 am

Good analysis. I too, stopped using them a long time ago after my initial tests proved unimpressive. I didn't even realize they got worse still in the latest version.

If the devs can find time, I think they should give these guys a major overhaul before the 1.0 version. Like redesign from the ground up. I hate to sound this negative, but the way it is right now I feel like the might as well be cut from the game. I just never use them, and I get the impression I'm far from alone in this.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by leadraven » Mon Mar 25, 2019 2:27 pm

Also never used combat robots.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by hiroshi_tea » Mon Mar 25, 2019 2:47 pm

I do use them frequently as a force multiplier even in 0.17. I'd hate for them to be cut from the game as I really like having a hands free way of destroying spawners that isn't turret creeping or artillery.

In fact, Combat Robotics does have a lot of similarities with the aforementioned turret creep as it is basically a form of bringing base infrastructure onto the field to handle combat tasks in an temporary and impersonal manner. A turret creep wall is only a temporary fixture, much like the robots. And robots have benefits over turret creeping such as the logistics of power and ammo are already being included in the Capsule's pre-production process.

All it is missing is the damage to fulfill such a role.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by bobucles » Mon Mar 25, 2019 4:42 pm

I'd much prefer to see defender robots make an earlier appearance than having all 3 robot researches slammed back to back. The different bot types are supposed to be a form of progressive upgrade, but that only makes sense when they each have some time to be useful.

For the defender recipe, anything resembling the cost of the old recipe was good. Perhaps something like 1 engine, 1 solid fuel, 1 yellow magazine. That's as early oil as it gets. The next tier can upgrade into using flying frames and lasers. Destroyers are currently way too expensive when compared with other weapons, so a cost reduction would help them out.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by Selvek » Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:06 pm

I used destroyers back in... I dunno, 0.14? Back when the flamethrower was super OP and the PLD was worse than a tickle cannon. I had a base big enough that the cost of building the robots was insignificant, and they added enough DPS to be helpful when clearing big nests.

Haven't touched them since.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by Ranakastrasz » Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:45 pm

I remember using them a long time ago. Highly useful back then for clearing out bases. Their firepower sucked, (At least til destroyer + mass quantity upgrades) but any extra firepower and anything to distract the worms was welcome.

Defenders were basically really weak support. Distractors were durable enough to eat worm attacks while you moved in to grenade them to death or w.e. And destroyers + mass robots could melt through bases casually. Kinda like artillery.

Can't imagine using them now though. The lack of progression, requiring advanced robotic components just to start means you don't get the earlier version when they would be useful, and by the time you get destroyer count up you probably have artillery.

Defender should be pushed back to old recipe. if you want them to use oil, give them 8 base damage like piercing ammo.
Distractor capsules can use batteries/plastic/steel directly, or a normal/electric engine.
And destroyer can use robot frames. They are, or at least were powerful enough to justify it.

And distractors need a significant acid resistance. The rest are mobile enough, but distractors aren't.
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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by Hannu » Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:10 pm

Ranakastrasz wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:45 pm
I remember using them a long time ago. Highly useful back then for clearing out bases. Their firepower sucked, (At least til destroyer + mass quantity upgrades) but any extra firepower and anything to distract the worms was welcome.
Destroyers and distractors were the best option to destroy massive late game bases with swarms of behemoth class enemies when alien artifacts was in the game. Then devs gave a flame thrower which was extremely overpowered and made expensive combat bots obsolete. Now I can not see any other purpose than rolegaming. The most important resource at late game is player's time in real world and atomic bombs can clear much more area in hour than combat bots or any other weapon.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by Xeorm » Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:53 pm

Yea, they're pretty bad given the base numbers. Which is sad, because they seem exactly like the way to do combat "right" from a gameplay perspective. Making them increases player combat potential, but requires a good amount of resources to attack. Comparably much of the other combat items that I'll use feel much more like unlocking a tech without requiring an industrial base. They're essentially mobile turrets that you can't reuse.

I'd prefer if they were usable earlier and were better designed in function. Like making the first robot a turret with limited mobility would be very welcome. Would like too if the upgrade lines were more direct upgrades. I can see the idea behind having them perform different roles with the distractor compared to the other bots, but I don't think it fits as well as it should. As it stands you get the first capsule too late for it to be useful. Then you get the second at a time when I don't need more tankiness but instead need damage. Destroyers have too many scaling issues to be useful.

And the line in general is super expensive for tech. It's sad in general. Would like some improvements.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by Serenity » Tue Mar 26, 2019 5:41 pm

Robot follower count is also the only research that requires all the sciences at the infinite level. For the others you only need either military or production.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by nafira » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:58 pm

Built it, try it for the achievement, but it's useless and ineffective.
It's a factory setup I don't, and will not use.

Worse in 0.17

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by BlakeMW » Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:50 am

I'm not sure what to do to make them useful. They are so expensive now and weak too. I mean, if you drop a Distractor on a spawner, that spawner will die, 100% guaranteed. But you could also drop a cluster grenade. Distractors are so expensive, a Distractor cost several times as much as a Cluster Grenade, it costs more than a Laser Turret, it costs about 50x as much as a Rocket which can one-shot a spawner. And they don't have do a terribly relevant job of distracting, if I'm going to hold something in my fist I'd rather it be Discharge Defense remote to make the Biters fuck off instead of relying on their AI to decide to not bother me in favor of bothering a Distractor. Defenders and Destroyers seem to accomplish even less than Distractors.

I think a few things would help: Cost reduction. Damage buff (maybe 50%). More hitpoints (Defenders and Destroyers at least 100, like construction bots), more acid resistance because the entire swarm can get melted by acid splash in seconds. They can be cheap and die like flies, or they can be expensive and robust, but they can't be expensive and die like flies.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by ManaUser » Wed Mar 27, 2019 2:02 am

Personally I would like to see them reworked to remove remove the assumption that they are single-use items.

I would prefer they be more like construction robots.

That would be a major change and mean, among other things, that they would need to be tough enough to stand a decent change of surviving fights. But to me that makes more sense than keeping them disposable and trying to balance them against grenades and rockets. If they had more of their own niche, it'd be easier to come up with situations where they would actually be strategically effective.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by Hannu » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:36 am

I would give them much more power so that they would be efficient option to atomic bomb (at late game with high follower count and damage bonuses). Distractors should give player significant time (tens of seconds) to destroy large swarms of big and behemoth worms and 100 headed swarm of destroyers should clean biters, spitters and spawners during one run through the colony. Maybe they could drop atomic bomb away. I would like to have complex and expensive end game weapon which needs large and complex production chain and have non trivial resource consumption. Atomic bombs are quite expensive but feel somewhat lazy solution to endgame clearing needs. You can "stole" few rocket control units from science production and produce all atomic bombs you need with one assembler and couple of centrifuges running on Kovarex.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by xfir01 » Wed Mar 27, 2019 1:50 pm

ManaUser wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 2:02 am
I would prefer they be more like construction robots.
I like that idea, assuming you could throw them into roboports and add a 3rd zone to it: Construction, logistics, combat.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by ejg » Thu Mar 28, 2019 9:11 am

I hardly ever used combat robotics because they are incredibly weak / too expensive. I suppose a buff bringing them somewhat closer to PLDPmk2 layouts is fair, especially since PLD is a one-time cost and capsules are a continuous resource sink. It would be nice if the DEVs could mass sample gameplay data (e.g. total number of products produced / consumed at half an hour intervals) from players that would allow such data sharing. I think it would prove very insightful to see what are popular game play strategies.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by greep » Sun Mar 31, 2019 2:23 am

Requiring a robot frame makes defender bots tank-era which feels really silly since they were terrible before.

I don't see an issue with massively buffing bots, no holding back. They're offense only, material heavy, and limited by multiple separate techs, which is a lot of investment for something only used part of the time. Worst case scenario we have some awesome looking bot themed attacks for a while, and this would not seriously dampen game balance.

My thoughts:

Defender bot: 5->14 damage. With techs can even tickle behemoths.
Destroyer bot: 10->18 damage.
BlakeMW wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:50 am

I think a few things would help: Cost reduction. Damage buff (maybe 50%). More hitpoints (Defenders and Destroyers at least 100, like construction bots), more acid resistance because the entire swarm can get melted by acid splash in seconds. They can be cheap and die like flies, or they can be expensive and robust, but they can't be expensive and die like flies.
I think HP could be a good way to add distinction to destroyer bots, and make sure you can appropriately buff defenders so they can pierce blue biters without making them replace destroyer bots.

I.e.Keep defender bots fragile but highly damaging, so you have to use them defensively and not swinging them into the enemy. While with destroyers you could do exactly that. So basically my above damage buffs, with a large buff as well to destroyer HP like 3x. Or maybe armor, like 0/80% -> 30/80% acid armor, making them basically immune to big spitters.

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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by stm » Tue Apr 09, 2019 9:15 am

In my opinion combat robots should be auto deployable via the roboport network. In that case they would become an addition to turrets which could defend against unexpected angles. They would move around like construction bots and distribute themselves over the network, and when there are biters in range they would autolaunch against them. Even if they would not recharge after attacking (something reasonable in my opinion) they would be a nice backup feature for defense.
An alternative would be to leave them the way the are but remove the lifetime restriction (They propably should revert to items after some downtime).
Looking at their current implementation I don't think anyone has found out what role they are supposed to be playing (or at least what they are supposed to be good at).
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Re: A Deeper Look into Combat Robotics

Post by Terukio » Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:18 pm

stm wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 9:15 am
In my opinion combat robots should be auto deployable via the roboport network. In that case they would become an addition to turrets which could defend against unexpected angles. They would move around like construction bots and distribute themselves over the network, and when there are biters in range they would autolaunch against them. Even if they would not recharge after attacking (something reasonable in my opinion) they would be a nice backup feature for defense.
An alternative would be to leave them the way the are but remove the lifetime restriction (They propably should revert to items after some downtime).
Looking at their current implementation I don't think anyone has found out what role they are supposed to be playing (or at least what they are supposed to be good at).
Stm
I would love for combat robots to be able to be used in the roboport network.

Would provide a great alternative to lining your walls with hundreds of turrets.

For balancing, they could expire after some time like they currently do, or give them a set amount of ammo and have them refill at roboports? hmm

This should also work for personal roboports as well and auto deploy when you are engaged in combat.

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