My original plan had been to run a bunch of Ryoken builds through March and report on them this month. Then, things happened. First, the UAC jam nerfs went live, which was annoying, but only affected a couple of builds, since the Ryoken only has one ballistic hardpoint (in C-bill omnipods, anyway). Then, the most recent patch pushed out a spread nerf to SRM4 and LRM5 launchers. That left me with two Ryoken builds worth testing and highlighting, which isn't enough for a full post. I'll still highlight those builds below, but there's another balance discussion and a bit about different mechs that I also ran this month to accompany the Ryoken information.
More Thoughts on UAC Jams
On the official MWO forums, I've been known to mock Russ for putting the cart before the horse, when it comes to his insistance that MWO is an eSports game. I specifically reference the marketing phrase, "highest-skill game in eSports," which is farcical enough that I can present it without modification for a laugh. The part that's a joke though, is not the concept of a skill-based game, but that MWO has the player base or audience to turn an eSports push into some kind of profitable venture.
A skill-based game is unsurprisingly one that rewards player experience and expertise. All games do this to an extent, but some do more than others. Games with fewer randomized elements and with more elements that require practice to utilize effectively are more skill-based. Depending on how strong you consider certain weapon systems to be, MWO at least has the potential to be a highly skill-based game.
Now, if you look at UAC10s and UAC20s, these are heavy and bulky enough that they are likely the primary weapons on the mechs that mount them. If your primary weapon jams for eight seconds, then you're probably going to die or be rendered useless long enough for the opposing team to turn the tide of battle against you. And UAC jams currently occur at random--that is, there is a chance of a UAC jam occurring every time you double-tap the trigger. Crippling a player based on a roll of the random number generator is quite counter to making MWO more skill-based than it already is.
If the large UACs deal too much damage with short jam durations (which was the argument for increasing the jam length), then how do you introduce long jam durations, while preserving the skill focus of the game? Make jams happen on a fixed number of double-taps.
Experienced players will keep track of the number of times they double-tap and ration those double-taps out, so that they can burst lots of damage when necessary, and let the jam time occur between fights. Less skilled players will have a similar play experience to the random jam system that is currently in place. Skill and experience are rewarded, and the number of double-taps between jams becomes available as another balancing mechanism for the developers to use.
Missile Spread Nerfs
Both the SRM4 and LRM5 had their spread radius increased in the most recent balance patch. Given my recent love-affair with ASRM4 launchers, I'll start with the SRM4.
Being honest, ASRM4s were too good. A three-ton launcher with a ton of ammo could put twenty-five, eight-damage volleys onto a target with a spread pattern so tight that all that damage could be focused on a single component. When you start stacking up multiple launchers and factor in the high rate-of-fire, that's pretty disgusting. Non-Artemis SRM4s felt more reasonable in terms of spread, but the launcher is even lighter, so maybe it's not as reasonable as it first seems.
As is PGI's way, though, I think they took the spread nerf too far for the SRM4 and will wind up having to partially walk it back at some point. The spread pattern of the (A)SRM4 is now almost the same in size to the (A)SRM6. It now makes more sense to carry a smaller number of ASRM6 launchers than any number of (A)SRM4 launchers, since they will both have the same degree of damage spread, but the ASRM6 launcher will put more missiles down range faster.
The LRM5 change was just ridiculous. I've said before that LRM15s, LRM20s, and unquirked LRM10s spread their damage too much to be worthwhile, while the (A)LRM5 launcher has a tight enough spread to be useful against a target that does not effectively shield its center torso. That tight spread pattern made the LRM5 at least marginally useful. PGI saw that one LRM launcher was outperforming the rest and decided that that launcher needed to be nerfed. Now, LRM5 spread is identical to LRM10 spread, and so without a significant missile spread quirk, there are no longer any worthwhile LRM launchers.
Quirks have been a part of the game for some time now, and the Ryoken is one of only a handful of mechs with no quirks at all. Most everything has some form of mobility or durability quirk, helping other chassis to avoid or endure more damage. When the Ryoken debuted, prior to the introduction of quirks, a mech's internal structure strength and maximum armor values were determined solely by the chassis' tonnage, making the 55-ton Ryoken one of the tankiest medium mechs in the game. Now, the Ryoken (and its arms in particular) feels squishy.
I mention the squishiness of the Ryoken's arms because substituting a big UAC with a Gauss rifle resulted in getting my ballistic arm getting blown off all the damn time.
So Gauss is out. UACs and SRMs are out. I didn't care for a PPC build, because I have a Nova and a Puma that each run PPC builds and have quirks to support those builds. Clan laser vomit isn't what it used to be, and most combinations of large pulse lasers and ER medium lasers felt too hot for their damage output.
That left me with a pulse brawl build. The short beam durations allow you to do a lot of twisting to shield soft components, and this mix of small and medium pulse lasers can belch out a lot of damage, before heat becomes an issue. The four small pulse lasers on their own can be fired constantly, while allowing the mech to cool. When firing all of the lasers, you do need to consider whether or not you want to alpha strike or ripple fire your small pulse lasers and then your medium pulse lasers, since firing them all at once generates a small amount of ghost heat. That's fine, if you're poking around a corner, firing, and then backing off, but in a protracted brawl, ripple firing extends the number of volleys you can fire, before reaching your heat threshold.
I've always had a dual-PPC Puma in my garage. For a long while, you could fit a Puma-Prime with Prime arms for all of the chassis' PPC quirks and then use A side torsos to mount the PPCs in higher, more central mounts. That build looks something like this. A recent patch switched the biggest PPC heat generation quirks to only apply to a Puma using all eight Prime omnipods. That led to math....
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PPC Adder Math Heat quirks w/ mixed pods: -5% energy heat gen (all Adder CTs) +10% dissipation rate (all Adder CTs) Heat quirks w/ all Prime pods: -15% energy heat gen -5% ERPPC heat gen +10% dissipation rate Mixed pod build gets +1DHS Capacity Mixed: 67.8 heat Prime: 66.0 heat Dissipation Mixed: 3.36 heat/sec. Prime: 3.17 heat/sec. Generation (PPCs only) Unquirked: 28/shot @ 15 shots/min. max = 7 heat/sec. Mixed: 26.6/shot @ 15 shots/min. = 6.65 heat/sec. Prime: 22.4/shot @ 15 shots/min. = 5.60 heat/sec. Net heat generation Mixed: 6.65 - 3.36 = 3.29 heat/sec. Prime: 5.60 - 3.17 = 2.43 heat/sec. Average time to capacity @ max rate of fire Mixed: 20.61 sec. Prime: 27.16 sec. At 15 vollies per minute, that's three individual PPC blasts extra w/ the Prime build, versus the mixed build. Dissipation times from 100% to 0%: Mixed: 20.18 sec. Prime: 20.82 sec. Dissipation time from 100% to able to fire two PPCs Mixed: 7.92 sec. (Safe to fire @ 60%.) Prime: 7.07 sec. (Safe to fire @ 66%.) Dissipation time to be able to fire one PPC Mixed: 3.96 sec. (Safe to fire @ 80%.) Prime: 3.54 sec. (Safe to fire @ 83%.)
In terms of heat, the all-Prime Puma is clearly superior to the mixed-pod build. The problem is that the more widely-spaced arm mounts create greater convergence problems than the torso mounts of the mixed-pod build. The arm mounts are also slightly lower, meaning that you have to peek higher over a hill in order to fire your volley. Despite the heat benefit, it's still tough for me to decide between the Prime and mixed-pod builds. I'm running the Prime build right now, but I switched back and forth three times over the course of last month.
I'm still running the triple-large pulse build that I highlighted in my February build thread. The other two Catapults got hit by the UAC and SRM4 nerfs, but the large pulse laser soldiers on as an exceptional weapon system. A sub-400 damage game in this mech was more rare than an 800-plus damage game. My average match score in this Jester for the month was 355 (compared to an average of 304 across all of the mechs I piloted that month). I had been taking screenshots of some of the more exceptional post-match scoreboards, but I accrued so many that it would be immodest to post them all.
That performance, coupled with the hero mech C-bill bonus meant that I stacked a ton of money last month. As I write this, I have 31 million C-bills banked. Besides just winning matches, the Jester is a great mech for grinding money.
Next month, I have another Inner Sphere light mech to clear that particular corner of my backlog once and for all. Either that, or those 31 million C-bills (and a few more on top of that) will be used to purchase a Clan heavy queue jumper.