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Friday
May252012

Starhawk Update 1.01.001

It's about damn time!!! -- We're finishing up the last bit of testing and "packaging" so we can deploy the Starhawk 1.01.001 Update world-wide early next week!

Please know that this is just the first of many updates that we're going to be doing to tune Starhawk's gameplay. We know this update alone does not "fix" all issues and achieve perfect game-balance, but it should address a number of key issues.

Our plan to reduce "base-ravaging" is a multi-stage process and this is just the first step towards that goal. We have also included a few other changes including a much "snappier" Homing Missile!

  • B&B OutPost cost reduced from 8 to 4 Rift
  • Field Mechanic Skill now auto-repairs Hawks far more slowly
  • OX Tank HE Shell direct-hit damage reduced by 33%
  • OX Tank HE Shell blast damage reduced by 33%
  • OX Tank HE Shell now has slower rate of fire
  • OX Tank HE Shell accuracy has been reduced a small amount
  • OX Tank vehicle construction cost increased from 2 to 4 Rift
  • Hawk Cluster Bomb blast damage reduced 40% per bomb
  • Hawk Cluster Bomb blast damage area reduced from 30' to 20' 
  • Hawk Cluster Bomb blast damage fall-off increased
  • Hawk Shield damage absorption-capacity has been reduced by 50%
  • Hawk Cloak time has been reduced by 33%
  • Hawk Homing missile Max speed has been increased by 25%
  • Hawk Homing Missile target acquisition speed has been increased by 70%
  • Hawk Homing Missile thrust-delay reduced by 50%
  • Player Complaint System is enabled
  • SkillScore now factored-in for Matchmaking
  • Updated "Player-Danger" icons & logic for server-list
  • Auto-Turret dismantle now twice as fast

Build & Battle Outposts:
In the release version of Starhawk, the Outposts cost 8 Rift and we've reduced that to 4. This significant reduction will greatly help teams increase their team's controlled regions on the map and even this one change should reduce base-ravaging by providing teams with more options for spawning locations.

Field Mechanic Skill:
There were some very savvy pilots who were using Cloak, Shield and the Field Mechanic Skill in such a way as to be almost unstoppable on the battlefield. While we applaud that kind of tactical use, it nevertheless resulted in very lop-sided engagements and we had to take action. Now, if you equip the Field Mechanic Skill, your Hawk will not auto-repair as quickly which results, in concert with the Shield adjustments, in a significant reduction in "invincible" pilots.

OX Tank & High-Energy Shell:
The OX Tank was very powerful, and rightly so... its a TANK! That said, it was a bit too powerful. Even our Tank-Divas here in the studio agreed. To help get the OX in better balance with the Starhawk's overall combat economy, we are making a number of changes. Firstly, it now costs more to build the vehicle at the Depot. The Depot itself still costs the same. But now the OX costs 4 Rift when you build it from the control panel.

We have also made a number of changes to the High-Energy Shell. This is the fast, almost rail-gun like shell the OX can fire. We've reduced the damage of a direct-hit as well as the area of effect damage. Previously it not only had super-high direct impact damage, but it's AoE was potent enough to make it simply brutal against troops -- when the real role of the OX needs to be more about anti-vehicle and anti-structure. We also slightly reduced the accuracy and increased the time between the first and second shot so that it couldn't be used as such an effective long-range-anti-troop-rail-gun.

We have not included any changes to the OX Tank's Artillery shell at this time.

Hawk Cluster Bomb:
The Cluster Bomb was OP. There is no doubt about that. Sure it feels fun to rain death on group of enemies... but let's be honest, we all felt a bit dirty doing it! We have decided to reduce the damage per-bomb *AND* shrink the area of effect of each bomb by 40% and 33% respectively. We have also added softer damage attenuation to the Cluster Bomb's AoE to help make them still effective against Vehicles and Structures and not so focused on troop ravaging.

Hawk Cloak & Shield:
These two weapons really spice up the Hawk's use on the battlefield but as we noted with the changes to the Field Mechanic Skill, there were also some changes that needed to be made to bring these weapons -- and the Hawk in general -- into better balance.

The amount of time a pilot can stay cloaked now has been reduced by 33%. This is still enough time for it to be used to get out of a sticky situation, but not too long such that a nefarious Hawk pilot can engage in perpetual *AND* invisible base-ravaging.

The Shield also got nerf'd and no longer can absorb as much damage before breaking. The reduction was pretty significant here and now the Shield only absorbs 50% of what it could previously. Again, much like in the Cloak situation, it's enough damage absorption to give you a "out" if you're in trouble but not long enough for it to yield degenerate bombing runs or dogfights when used in combination with some skills or other tactics.

Hawk Homing Missile:
This game balance update includes some dramatic changes to the Hawk's Homing Missile and these changes were focused on one key goal -- get the Homing Missile tracking its target faster and get it to impact its target faster. Now of course we need to make sure it's balanced so we're obviously not making the Homing Missile an instantaneous 1-shot kill!

So we've increased the thrust on the missile so that it has a higher top-end speed and the target has less time to scrub the missile. This thrust increase also includes a faster thrust activation time so when you do deploy a Homing Missile, the thruster kicks in far quicker and this gives it a "snappier" feel in combat. Lastly, we greatly reduced the amount of time the Homing Missile takes to maneuver towards it's locked target. This isn't the amount of time it takes to get a lock, but rather, the amount of time it takes the Homing Missile to steer and acquire its target while in-flight. 

Player Complaint System:
We've also enabled a system that allows players to anonymously flag other players for moderator review. Our Moderator Team has a special Starhawk system that displays a list of all players around the globe, how many complaints have been filed for each player and what kind of complaint.

This allows players to help "police" the games and get our Moderators into their games to render judgements more quickly. Moderators can watch individual players and can join games even when the game is technically "full" or password protected.

To file a Player Complaint, simply select a player's name from the Scoreboard and you will see a new "Player Complaint" item in the pop-up menu. Select it and you will be presented with a few options for the kind of complaint you want to file: Cheating, Harassment, Vulgarity and Bad Builder.

QuickMatch, Server-List & SkillScore:
When we launched Starhawk, we intentionally had SkillScore matching disabled for QuickMatch. This update re-enables this feature. If you select to join a game through Quick Match, the server will do its best to put you into a game that more closely matches your SkillScore -- or more accurately a +/- range around your SkillScore.

We have also changed the way "Player-Danger" icons are displayed in the Server-List. Preivously, you would see servers in the list have 1 of 3 icons displayed next to the connection strength of the server: Pink Cake, Yellow Fist or Red Skull. These indicated the average SkillScore of the server. So you knew a server with a Red Skull was dangerous to you. However due to another issue, high-SkillScore players were still allowed to join "Cake" games. This resulted in lots of newbie players getting worked-over by the best of the best. Until this issue is resolved, we have disabled both Cake and Fist icons.

So now, you will only see Red Skulls in the Server-List to warn you that game is filled with players that are "better" than you. Although you should note that playing in a Red Skull server can yeild faster SkillScore growth due to you battling with players that have higher SkillScores -- so the choice is yours!

Faster Auto-Turret Dismantle:
The auto-turret animation we shipped with was too long and resulted in players just getting ravaged by other turrets or players. The new dismantle animations is *WAY* faster and feels a lot better in the heat of combat.


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What're We Working on Next for You Guys?
Well of course we are finishing the testing of our 1.01.001 Update but we are also finishing a "stability" patch that includes many fixes for lots of annoying locks that we have seen in our global crash report. This patch should make a *HUGE* difference for Starhawk stability and includes a completely new system for network error reporting that automatically logs any player's network error with our game analytics database. This way we can correlate disconnects by region, by player and if needed, by discreet activity in the game.

The network team here at LightBox Interactive is also working very closely with the SONY Network team to isolate the issues that some players are reporting about our voice chat. After a few games the voice relay system is breaking-down and that's resulting in players being "dropped" from voice communication.

Beyond that on the horizon, we have more updates for game balance, protections against "base-ravaging" and the team is continuing to make great progress on the FREE Cypress Map Pack and we're really looking forward to sharing more info on it in the coming weeks!

The Design Team here at LightBox Interactive also had a playtest this week of a new prototype gameplay mode called "Flight-CTF" although to be honest... it had more in common with Quidditch!

Team-based air-combat, 1 "ball" in the middle of the sky and 2 goals one at either end of the map. You score points by getting the "ball" and flying through the goal. The prototype was early and rough but it was hellua-fun and we'll keep you posted on how it develops, and when it looks like we'll release it for all of you guys to get your hands on!