Ship shield balancing

There was a discussion on the UFO Discord yesterday which made me quite sad. To paraphrase somewhat:

L: I have 14 ships and I’m finding repairing them tedious. I want to upgrade them to the all-bells-and-whistles full protection suite of SRP, AWH, APT, RDL and STS.

Me: That’ll cost over 7 million credits per ship, but you’re one of the richest players in the game and that sounds like a very sensible late-stage gameplay mechanic.

The community: But adding those expensive addons makes your ships more expensive to repair overall, by a stupid margin.

L: Oh, I guess not then.

It made me sad because allowing a late-stage player to sink 100M credits into intangible assets for an incremental benefit sounds like a fantastic gameplay mechanic to encourage, but the balance of the high-tier ship parts is so off that it’s just not viable. It feels to me like the objective (encouraging players who can afford it, to spend capital up front to somewhat reduce their repair bills and substantially reduce their repair frequency) could be achieved with just a few balance tweaks:

  1. Increase the proportion of the repair bill that is fixed-price. Adding MFK/FLP was a good start here, but it’s very small: a fixed cost of ~4k against a floating cost of ~50k (most players I suspect will repair their ships at about 80% condition). I’d suggest adding another substantial fixed cost, perhaps one of:
    • The capacitor used in the ship’s FTL engine. Pros: scales with ship advancement, substantially buffs STL-only puddle jumpers; cons: Beryllium requires engineers.
    • One of the fuel pumps used in the ship’s STL engine. Pros: scales with ship advancement; cons: LFP requires technicians, BFP (as used in starter ships) requires engineers.
    • A proportion of the SAR used in the ship’s bridge. Pros: scales with ship size; cons: complex production chain, requires technicians.
    • The ADR used in the crew quarters. Pros: can be produced with just settlers; cons: very complex production chain that’s heavy on chemistry (of which we have too much already).
  2. Advanced repairs could displace simple repairs. A ship with RDS/RDL should require DRF repairs instead of SSC repairs, for instance, and ships with whipple shields and protective tiles should take no damage at all to hull plates. That would allow players to consider using advanced hull plates to permit high-acceleration builds, without the cost being prohibitive.
  3. (reduce the weight of AHP). As an aside to the above, AHP are currently unviable because their high weight means even HTE no longer has the thrust to accelerate the ship to the new maximum g-factor. Maybe add some NFI/NCS/MTC into the recipe and reduce their mass down to the ~7t range?
  4. Tweak the costs of shields/tiles down. I suspect that even with the above changes, the overall cost of advanced repairs will still be too high. In order to reach the ideal of an advanced ship ultimately costing slightly less credits and a lot less time to maintain, it’s probably necessary to also tweak down the cost of shields and tiles, maybe by increasing the number output from the recipe. I really like how complicated and varied the ingredients are, though :grinning:

These are some great ideas. Many of us are in the 10+ ship range, and we’ve got the production to build the fancier ship components… but unfortunately it’s pretty clearly so bad that it’s not a meaningful decision for a player to make… even if you stretch your reasoning, the shields and repair drones are always bad.

Another option is to improve the efficacy of items like the drone repair hubs. This strengthens the argument “Yeah it costs more, but you need to click repair fewer times, so it’s worth it for that reason.” 10% mitigation is pretty small.

I like the idea of DRFs being a repair object, because it incentivizes their production. But since they are more costly than 10% of your plates/SSCs, it’s a big net loss of cost. Thus I really like idea [2] of the DRFs replacing the plates/sscs. It adds some variety to the mechanic.

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I would echo the above comments, after looking into the advanced components, I decided I wouldn’t even offer them as options in the ships that I sell - I will sell you an entire WCB/LCB with certain options - but the advanced shields/plates aren’t offered period. Because I would feel bad selling them because I don’t think they are worth it and won’t take money for them. I would also like to see more differentiation among the engines, but that is a small issue based on the uselessness of the “advanced” shields/plating.

Saw link to this post at UFO discord. And as ship user, i can confirm, i often look onto other ship parts with sadness. I don’t even do maths, only weight ot other plates, what not LHP is make me sad. Yes, you can say, “But Nano, you always use fuel saving engine, it produces so small thrust”, yes, and? It still heavy as ten hells, and even idea to switch to other engines, to compensate weight of hull plates, looks bad, because i can just switch to other engines and have fun with them.

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With ship shielding the problem is twofold.

First, they are not viable economically. In the world of spreadsheets, those most able to afford extra things on ship shields have run the numbers (to the best of our ability) and have found that the numbers just don’t work out except in some extreme cases where you are dealing with well known routes and well known damage sources. These tend to be confined to in system ships that are in damaging environments. Unless the in system ship is likewise made with all the best components - it is one of the least expensive designs and ship shields add a considerable amount to that cost that its cheaper to run them with LHP and repair them.

From this and secondly, there are no interesting questions of “should I put on ship shielding?” The answer is simply “no”. Given how (I understand that) repairs are done for ship shields, one would be repairing them even if they weren’t used which adds to the cost of repairs substantially. The added weight for minimal additional utility results in slower ships (as can be seen in the example below).

I believe the solution to this would then be to separate ship shields (for each system - heat, whipple, grav, radiation, and drones) be tracked individually and apply their protection based on that damage source.

Basic Whipple Shielding provides 50% damage reduction from micrometeorite sources.

On the left is the starter ship, on the right is the starter ship with the addition of BWH (48 units on the ship, with a cost of 4000 credits adding about 190k to the cost of a ship and slowing down a standard MOR departure from 42m to 1h4m – adding an additional 50% to the time it takes to leave).

The impact of the BWH can be seen on the approach (line 14) where the starter ship takes 0.172% damage and the BWH ship takes 0.087% damage. An AWH equiped ship would take 0.015% damage on this leg.

If whipple sheilding was tracked and repaired separately you could have the whipple sheilds take 0.157% damage on that leg. At 100% repaired basic would block 50% of that to the hull while the advanced would block all of the damage from the hull.

As the whipple shielding took damage, lets say it is now at 75% condition, the basic would only be locking 37.5% while the advanced would only be blocking 75% of the damage.

(aside: while there are a number of ways to allocate damage to damaged shields, I would encourage them to be diminishing - 75% AWH encountering 0.1% damage would pass through 0.025% damage and take 0.075% damage itself – having it take a full 0.1% damage has initial thinking about this get into micromanaging fiddily “repair it every chance you can get” which gets into not fun domains)

Repair drones would then mitigate any source damage after shielding damage reduction has been applied.

The key part here is that shield and drone repairs would be tracked and repaired separately from hull repairs. Additionally, shields and drones block hull damage. If that damage source is not encountered, the shields do not degrade in condition as the hull does. A ship with BWH flying in Hortus all the time (Micrometeoroid density of 0.0) would never have the BWH degrade and thus never need to have it repaired.

In doing this, it would mean that there would be no penalty (other than the increased flight times) for having expensive shielding on a ship that doesn’t use it. Meanwhile, ships that may use it and have it be viable would include the shielding resulting in more and wider consumption of shield parts.

I do not believe that changing the mechanic for ship shields to this would be destabilizing on the game. They are sparsely installed as it is. Decoupling shields from hulls would mean that those who do have such ships would not need them immediately for repairs. Furthermore, if shields were initially set to 100% if installed, it would give any supply time to catch up to any increased demand.


He’s talking about me by the way :slight_smile:

I completely agree with everything. These things really could use a balance pass.

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Nice. Your message just given me idea how it can be done.

Create integrity for shields, when they have 90-100% HP integrity of ship does not affected by micrometeoroids or heat.

And same with plates. Separate their HP from ship integrity and slightly lower their efficiency when they worn off. But make them slightly better so player will actually have reasons to use them? Or give more benefits to use better plates.

And similar with STS and drones they lower rates of ship worn off but need to be refiled/repaired. With drones or materials like MFK/SFK or something else.

I understand that this is a lot of work and probably will require to remake a lot of ships code. But i just leave my idea here.

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As I mentioned on Discord, the devs will probably buff the shields again at some point.

Anyway, if someone were to make whipple shields at a reasonable price I will buy some.

Quote from the current devlog:

We’ve heard your concerns surrounding ship shields and repair costs, so we decided to make some changes as part of an upcoming maintenance patch (no final date yet though). Namely, we will reduce the weight of higher-level hull plates, so they will mainly differ in production cost (and of course their resistance). Basic and lightweight plates will be adjusted as well, but this should make the more expensive ones more viable in comparison. Shield recipes will become less expensive overall as well. On top of that, applying shields to your ship will reduce the amount of hull plate materials you have to provide. The more and higher-tier shields your ship blueprint has, the more hull plates will be deducted from your repair bill, so shields will not just reduce the rate of deterioration but also save on other required repair materials. This should make using (especially higher-tier) shields more of an actually viable choice.


Just wanted to say a huge thanks for reacting to the feedback here, and especially for taking the time to work out what you can implement quickly, and implementing that quickly :grinning: I’m sure when the changes come out people will run the numbers and speak their mind about whether you’ve got the balance right, but whatever it is, stepping in any direction is better than staying still.

Do these changes affect the protective tiles (BPT/APT) and rad-plates (BRP/SRP) as well as whipple shields (BWH/AWH)?

I’m not sure that this is going to help too much.

The mathematics / mechanics of shields is poorly understood by the player base. With shields being something that needs to be repaired as part of every repair, if they are used infrequently (as is the case for most FTL hauling ships - and this becomes even more applicable as the number of bases goes up and individual hazardous systems become visited less frequently by a specific ship), the “should they be added as part of a standard ship” remains “no” because of the unknown parameters in the “when should I repair ships” part. If the shields add 25% to the cost of a ship, but it is not known if it will help that remains the issue.

Ships themselves are never a good “investment”. They are necessary evils and operational costs to support the logistics of larger companies. If someone bought a ship to do hauling contracts at the start of the universe and had it running 100% of the time since then, it would have just started to have a return.

If the “add shields to a ship” is a major refit (compare adding BGS) that “throws out” a significant part of the existing ship, it becomes less appealing for existing ships to get refitted with shields because the undoing of that design adds them back in.

The spot where shields become most interesting is for in system ships where there is a better known of damage sources or for very specific designs (ships with a VCB visiting gas worlds). Yet, putting 40 BWS on an in system hauler in YI-705 (and having it remove 40 BHP) and then after a repair cycle finding that the repairs remain as frequent but cost more … and then undoing that costs another 40 BHP to refit back to the old design - this becomes a “shields still aren’t worth it.”

At least they do something.
“Ok we heard you and thinking how to fix this, give us some time” - Sounds better than silence in response.

But you right, they need to somehow separate bills for ship protection and the ship itself.

I don’t think this is accurate. Whether part of the original fitout or a retrofit, shields have a fixed upfront cost and an ongoing repair cost, and now they displace repair cost of the hull plates (because repairs are a proportion of the original hull plate requirements, so fewer required originally mean fewer required on repair). So the maintenance cost of your ship is now increased by having to provide shields, but decreased by having to provide fewer hull plates, and also decreased by not having to do it so often. The balance might work, or it might not, but it’s certainly worth trying it to see. You can get cost-per-repair comparisons fairly easily, and with some proper spreadsheeting and BTF theorycrafting there should be no reason why you should expect to have to add and then remove parts.

If I could add one thing to the general discussion and theorycraft-

I think that ships are too cheap to repair, by a lot, is the root cause of this problem. I think that a typical route should do damage comparable to fuel costs. Right now it’s about 25% of fuel costs. Simply adding additional materials to the mix as suggested in the OP would be all that would be needed. If the repairs are much more expensive, the upgrades we can make become much more attractive at mitigating this long-term damage to components of the ship and reducing their running costs.

I think this, combined with the systemic recipe changes suggested by @Counterpoint, are the real-world changes that are low effort enough to be done quickly.

If the numbers are tuned correctly, which probably will need one balance pass 3-6 months in the future once we know more, then I think it can make the shipbuilding mechanic actually economically attractive to use and there be meaningful progression about having better, faster, tougher ships.

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The more and higher-tier shields your ship blueprint has, the more hull plates will be deducted from your repair bill, so shields will not just reduce the rate of deterioration but also save on other required repair materials.

Adding ARP (for example) currently costs 4x more than the BHP. If the price of ARP was reduced to 1/4th of what it is now and displaced an equal amount of BHP that it is required… and was known to be useful for navigation in certain systems where its damage mitigation would come in useful… then it would be an economically viable choice.

As it is, I don’t know of any systems where ARP changes the amount of damage by more than 0.002% (and most are less to the point where they don’t show any change)

If I made 100 trips (3 months of flying) that each racked up 0.002% damage, that would be 0.2% … which is still a long way from needing a new hull plate.

I wouldn’t mind putting ARP on a ship if I didn’t have to replace it if I didn’t encounter any radiation damage.

The only situation where I have found shielding to mitigate a significant amount of damage has been in systems like YI-705 where the micrometeoroid density is higher.

ARP doesn’t need buffing as it is. That remains the case with many of the shields - they don’t need buffing on a regular “go where the solar wind blows” type flight of resupplying various bases.