It is no secret that balancing a game — is a process of continuous improvement. Even the balance of chess is still the subject of lively debate over the first-move right of the white pieces. In a large free-to-project such as Star Conflict the balance is also a subject of constant debate among both players and developers. Some balancing solutions are evident from the beginning of development, some occur during the evolution of an already live project. The ranking system we are discussing today is an excellent example of the second case.
The transition to the rank system has been on the cards for a long time, we realized that the current system based on technological levels had to be improved. However, we were aware of the importance of this decision and had to make some serious preparations for such a step. Therefore, the process took quite a long time. But now we can finally officially announce that the concept of ‘Rank’ becomes fundamental in the game.
Let's speak about future changes in detail. Previously, the game had five different technological levels, with each being its own game-within-a-game. Each module was available to certain technological levels, strictly limited by ranks. When switching the technological level the pilots had to start from scratch, upgrading the same equipment, which has already been upgraded on the previous tier. Besides, you immediately had to fight with pilots on well-equipped ships. Some aspects of this situation were not satisfactory so first of all it was necessary to revise all the mechanics of ship equipment, which we did.
This resulted in the following changes
Now all the equipment in the game has individual rank ranges, where it’s available for purchase and upgrades without having to re-do these steps later. Rank ranges vary for each module, but each range is wider than the three-rank limit of a technological level.
Let’s look into the difference between the old and the new system with examples in the tables below.
The old system, based on technological levels
Take "Inertial Stabilizer" — the module was available for use in the fourth and fifth technological levels or ranks 10-15. At each of these levels, that is, every three ranks (highlighted in the table with a different colour), we bought and upgraded the module again. It’s worth noting that despite the possibility of using the module on all ships of the fourth technological level, it only became available for purchase at rank 11.
The new system, based on ranks
Under the new system this module will be available from rank 11 to rank 15 inclusive. You only need to buy and upgrade it once. The result is a single module, available on 5 ranks, instead of two modules, available on two technological levels (or 6 ranks).
Adaptive Shield used to be available at three technological levels (T3, T4, and T5), yet despite the possibility to use the module on T3 ships, it was only available for purchase at rank 9.
Now the module is available from rank 9 to rank 15. The first module can be used at ranks 9-13, and its later version is available at ranks 12-15. The second version is unlocked starting at rank 14. In total, two modules available at seven ranks in place of three modules available at three technological levels.
Secondly, all the ship equipment that deals damage and recovery modules will be changed the following way: equipment of lower ranks will become more efficient, while characteristics of identical equipment used at the higher ranks, remain at the same level.
Thirdly, the changes will affect ship survivability increase. After the introduction of rank system ships will get most of their survivability on the first levels of synergy. Furthermore, the total survivability of most ships has been enhanced. However, survivability of rank 14-15 ships will remain the same.
Due to the above changes, a pilot’s progress in the game becomes smoother. With each level-up pilots feel more at ease, knowing that they do not have to play in uncomfortable conditions.
It is important that despite having more than two hundred ships in the game, about half of them were perceived by players as stepping stones on the way to maximum-rank ships of each tech level. We decided to remedy this situation and set ourselves a goal to make the player feel confident when flying on any ship in the game.
Taking this and equipment changes into account, we just had to revise the matchmaking system, which we’re going to discuss next.
- Now, only ships of two adjacent ranks can get into battle. In other words, when you take a Rank 2 ship, you can get into battles against ranks 1 and 2, as well as ranks 2 and 3.
- Balancing will be calculated according to the highest-ranked ship in your combat slots. Generally speaking, if you want to go into battle on ships of ranks 1, 2, and 3, only rank 3 will be taken into account. Nevertheless, you can also still fly the rank 1 ship. So do not be surprised if you encounter a ship much lower in rank than you — someone is giving you a free hit, or is very confident in his skills. In other words, battles between David and Goliath are possible, but only if the player himself wants to take risks.
- A prerequisite will be the same number of players with the ships of high and low ranks in each team.
As you can see, the changes are rather serious and we are very careful with their implementation. Trying to cope with this without your help would be too bold for any developer. Therefore, we paid special attention to preliminary testing, both internal and public. It's nice that a lot of players have responded to our call, looked at the rank system and gave us invaluable assistance in many areas. In particular, the above-mentioned damage-dealing equipment mechanic has been seriously reworked after careful analysis of mass testing. We are happy that many experienced players welcomed the innovations, in particular, less time spent on pure grinding, or the ability to use your favorite ships on new ranks. Of course, there was also constructive criticism, which has been as helpful as ever. Thank you for participating in the development of our game!
We are continuing to work on the ranking system, and monitoring your reaction. Pretty soon we are going to introduce even more new cool things, such as the system of automatic tournaments and, of course, the destroyers, but we’ll talk about this another time!
Looking forward to your comments!
Star Conflict Team