Blog update

Sorry for the slow posting lately. I put more of my free time into editing videos instead of blogging recently, as I’ve had a lot of fun using footage captured with shadowplay. I am not working on anything currently, I think I’ll wait a few weeks before putting out more videos.

Work has been super busy lately, which has cut into my evening gaming sessions a decent bit. I’m still able to log in and get an hour or two of killing in most nights, but there have been more than a few times I have only had the energy to get home, eat and sleep.

So now that OMFG has been on the live server for a little it, I have to say that the game has overall improved substantially for me. I think most of us forgot just how fun the game could be with more people playing. I had flashbacks to the days just after Mattherson merged with Soltech, or even the days around last year’s release of PS2. Big fights, multi continent fronts and now we have good performance too! I know some people had issues this past weekend but I had a wonderful time during double XP weekend and my only regret is that I didn’t have more time to log in.

Another interesting realization has occurred for me. Now that OMFG is live, I am realizing that while I had a decent system, bad game performance had affected my play style as well. During larger fights, I had been favoring SMG infiltrator gameplay because it was harder to snipe. I’m now realizing that I did that more because of how hard it is to snipe with low FPS (I usually don’t go lower than 20) than because SMG’s were a better weapon to use. While I have a lot of experience using SMG’s, I don’t actually favor them over the sniper rifles in general. So now, I am enjoying using my SR-7 even more than before, and have been pulling out the TSAR-42 a bit as well. This patch has only improved my sniping gameplay.

BWC is going strong as ever, and we’ve had a few people come back after the update. I must confess though, I’ve had several frustating experiences with them lately, mostly surrounding what I believe to be bad decisions on the ground to take our guys to dumb fights. It’s very hard to not leave squad and just lonewolf (which is against our outfit rules) sometimes. And for those who don’t know me well – I absolutely despise squad leading, as playing infiltrator takes up 100% of my attention and leaves me with no focus left to place on others. It’s probably just a phase I’m going through. It doesn’t help that I’ve been focused on increasing my kills per hour lately, and being stuck in slow caps drives me nuts.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving, and I will try to stop by here more often with more discussion on infiltrator stuff!

Stay frosty,

Mustarde

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The nanoweave and sniper balance pass

Wow – for the first time in months, there is big news in the Infiltrator world!  As the optimization patch went live, within hours this post goes up on the official forums sparking controversy and turning heads.  And refreshingly, we get to argue about game balance, instead of discussing frames per second, physics rendering, and UI changes.  I’ve had a chance to read many responses to this, and wanted to use this opportunity to share my own reflections on the changes infiltrators are about to face, as well as some specific responses to common concerns being raised by the community.

I have been very vocal about what I considered to be an imbalance in the game, regarding the function of bolt action sniper rifles, specifically in regards to how they perform against the most common suit slot for infantry, Nanoweave.  As most of you know, nanoweave gave a flat health bonus to players, based on the rank you had certed up.  Due to specific damage values of sniper rifles as they reach their falloff damage (all rifles currently are 550 dmg at maximum falloff), it became possible for players to survive direct headshots while wearing nanoweave.  What was even more problematic was the unpredictability of this mechanic, and the fact that some rifles would end up getting “nanoweaved” at absurd ranges.  The worst case scenario was a suppressed M77B, which couldn’t kill a NW5 user beyond 33 meters.  The best case scenario was an unsuppressed RAMS.50, which would lose to nanoweave 2 at 110m.  There have been many charts, videos and demonstrations to show that in essence, sniping had become a roll of the dice, and with a single suit slot, players could enjoy a huge advantage against snipers, as well as enjoy the many other benefits afforded by having additional HP.

I won’t discuss the proposed nanoweave changes too exhaustively, as that would leave little room to get to my focus on the subject, sniper rifles.  But SOE realizes that nanoweave is too much of a one-size fits all suit, and is proposing changes that would narrow the scope of its benefit, from a flat health bonus to a small arms resistance (that does not protect the head).  This change alone would allow a sniper rifle to OHK anyone besides maxes and HA w/ shield on, from any range, with any of the flavors of bolt action.

I believe that SOE looked at this proposed change to nanoweave, and decided that they were not comfortable with such a substantial expansion of sniper efficacy.  Their preface for proposing changes to BASR mechanics was

giving snipers a 360° one-shot kill with unlimited range against all other players is not something we want to introduce into the game. Dying to a sniper that you never had a chance to see is a poor gameplay experience for everyone on the receiving end.

Therefore, we get this:

  • We are capping all one-shot headshots on a full health target at 150 meters.
  • Nanoweave will no longer apply to headshots, so the range limit will apply to all targets no matter what that player has equipped. This will give bolt-actions a more consistent feel when fighting within their effective range.

When I first read this post, I just stopped and went about my day and mulled over the changes, and consequences.  I’ve also been super busy with work, so my response to this change is quite delayed and has had time to mature.

The nanoweave issue was a huge one, and was getting worse each week as players slowly certed into higher and higher levels of the suit.  I could go on runs where over half of my headshots – engagements that should have ended in a kill – were denied by nanoweave.  It had killed my favorite style of infiltrating – as a sneaky flanker with a suppressed sniper rifle.  I was constantly feeling forced into using an SMG or sniping from longer range where getting nanoweaved wouldn’t cost me a life.  The changes SOE is proposing to nanoweave armor are very good one from the infiltrators perspective.  We finally can count on our weapons to function the way they were designed and balanced to perform.  Against a nanoweave user, hitting them in the head will net a kill, but a string of body shots will take longer than if they had flak or ASC.  While I had proposed increasing the HS multiplier for BASR’s, SOE’s change essentially acheives the same thing.

But then – the next paragraph hits most infiltrators in the gut.  150m?  While SOE stated that they exact range was up for review, the very thought of placing a hard cap on OHK range for the BASR’s sends the mind spinning.  It has caused at least a dozen infiltrator whine/rage threads on the main boards, and I can’t say I blame the authors.  But I have a different take on this proposed change, and will share my thoughts in bullet format to make it easier to read.

  • A hard cap on OHK range is probably not necessary.  The further away a sniper takes their shot, the less likely they are to land a hit to the head.  They also don’t have nearly as many targets from that range who are worth shooting at.  Long range sniping by its own nature is a self limiting, low yield activity.  As much as people love to hate snipers who work from extreme distances, the reality is that these players often have very few targets, a low kill rate and don’t impact the game greatly.  Capping OHK range for BASRs will impact a small percentage of players using sniper rifles.
  • Tracer rounds, and the ease with which players get spotted, give plenty of ques for players getting sniped (part of the justification for putting this hard cap in place).  It’s pretty obvious to me that when I take a shot at a target and miss, they will quickly spot me, hone in on my tracer round, and start chasing me around.  Even without scope glint or small maps (or that popping sound we get in BF4), I think there are plenty of ways to deal with long range snipers.
  • Most of my sniping takes place at less than 150m.  So for me personally, the changes proposed represent more or less a flat buff to Mustarde.  I couldn’t be more excited, from a selfish standpoint.  And I think most infiltrators who enjoy sniping will find ways to adapt to this range limitation.  That being said, I feel bad for players who live in the 200-250m realm, because there are some great players who love the challenge of sniping from those distances who will feel the pain of this hard cap on range.
  • My biggest concern with this hard cap is that some parts of the map will simply become useless for infiltrators.  Southeast Indar, a playground for snipers with cliffs and big battles, will become almost off limits to us in terns of effective killing.  See that huge battle at the stronghold?  Better get your SMG, because those cliffs that you used to love will net you an effective “100% nanoweave rate”.  Perhaps SOE will play with the numbers some, but with such large and complex continents, there are going to be great sniper spots that will become useless now.
  • With the range limitation, I think SOE should devise a rangefinder that they can put out with our ever-tantalizingly close but so far away infiltrator update (coming soon (TM)).  Setting waypoints don’t let you account for vertical distance.  A rangefinder would make a hard-cap on our sniper rifles more tolerable.
  • Lastly, the reason I don’t like the range cap is that while I may spend a lot of time in the 0-150m zone, I like the fact that if I spot an easy target at 200m, I have the ability to take them down.  Now, a hard cap on OHK does not mean I have zero ability to kill targets from long range, but it puts me at a significant disadvantage.  Even when I am in “aggressive sniping” mode, there are 10-20% of my targets that are standing in the distance that will now be safe from me.
  • The range cap will hurt the counter-sniping game.  This will both benefit us as snipers, and lower our efficacy at one of our primary jobs.  When I train other BWC snipers, I teach them that the first targets you need to clear from the field are other infiltrators, because they are the most immediate threat to you and your squad mates (in an all infil squad mind you).  Now, there are many scenarios where you can be sniping targets and enemy snipers will be well outside of 150m, rendering you nearly useless to take them off the field (I can discuss why in another post on the finer points of counter-sniping)

Now here are some predictions I have regarding the impact of these changes.  Remember, this is an MMO – balance passes will always be the norm, and if you want to remain a strong player, the key is to take change in stride and adapt.

  • If the changes go in as described now, the best bolt action rifle will be the “tier 1” rifles, the M77-B, Bolt Driver and XM98.  My reasoning is that at 150m and less, rate of fire will be more important than velocity and damage.  This is assuming that you are going for headshots, and are unsuppressed.
  • I see almost no role for the RAMS.50/Parallax/Longshot.  The reason is that their velocity and damage will get near identical results at 150m and less.  And you pay a substantial price in rate of fire and reload speed.  My biggest reason for using the RAMS.50 currently is that it gives me 20-30m of extra nanoweave insurance.  Post patch, there’s no good reason or these rifles.
  • At distances greater than 150m, the best weapons to use will be the Spectre/99SV/Gauss SPR.  The simple truth is a stationary target 250m away will die faster to two SASR headshots than two slow bolt action rounds.  With moving targets, there could be a role for the RAMS.50 due to superior velocity, but it’s a stretch.
  • New life will be brought to the TSAR-42, Ghost and SAS-R.  These weapons will be powerful at their intended ranges, and will be viable with suppressors.  It’s still a high-skill weapon to do well with, but NW really took the fun out of them for me.  No more!
  • I think these changes will introduce stalemates on certain lattice links where snipers were useful for flanking certain parts of the map.  Examples include the stronghold, allatum botany, Quartz ridge to Hvar, Bridge Ward and most of SE Indar.  Amerish is being redone, there are several places this will affect too.  There’s a spot at scarred mesa that lets me snipe the air pads if they are camped, that is easily 250-300m away.  I usually never snipe from that range but it’s one of the few places where you have no other options and it actually makes sense.  There are other examples out there, but these bases can yield piles of camped infantry with easy access to elevated perches for sniping at ranges greater than 150m.  Auraxis is simply too large and complex for a crude range cap, in my opinion.

Overall: This is a very good change for most infiltrators.  Taking nanoweave out of the equation and letting sniper rifles do their intended job for all headshots up to 150m at least provides the infiltrator with reliable performance.  Being nanoweaved at 50m was completely unacceptable and got me killed enough times that I nearly abandoned certain play styles.  Over time, I felt that I could only every snipe bad players who didn’t have nanoweave and stood still.  The good players in this game are very hard to hit, and if you did get a lucky shot off, they’d nanoweave you, pop a medkit and keep going.  This change makes me finally feel that I have the ability to be competitive.  I don’t think we have ever been close to powerful enough that the game needs a hard range cap on OHK’s, but if they feel compelled to limit us at 150m, then we will just have to adapt.  My two main concerns with the range cap are that we lack the tools to measure the distance of our shot, and some maps (stronghold is my best example) have very natural sniper nests that will not be useful anymore.

I’m very glad SOE has listened to not only my opinion on this balance issue, but that of others (including those disagreeing with me who made their hatred of snipers very clear).  The result is a broad but fair nerf to nanoweave armor, a substantial buff to sniping if you are under 150m, and a massive nerf to sniping beyond that range.  Let this be a reminder to everyone that when you seek changes in a certain game mechanic, you must be careful what you wish for (as a community).  In this case, nanoweave was fixed, but long range snipers were basically eliminated from the game.  This type of balancing doesn’t surprise me as we look at the decision history in this game, and yet I think it is a change worth making, because that’s how badly NW had decimated sniping in this game.  I know not all of my infiltrator peers would agree, but hopefully they can stay focused on being excellent players and finding ways to stay competitive within the confines of the rules of the game we play.

Recommendations:

  • consider upping range cap to 200m.  I’d take 250m but would settle for 200 🙂
  • give us a range finder
  • make sure suppressors don’t shorten the OHK range
  • consider re-designing the RAMS.50 family of sniper rifles, because they no longer have a reason to be in the game.

TL:DR – The nanoweave changes were very necessary.  While I don’t think a range cap was needed, I still prefer that over the inconsistent and imbalanced performance of BASR’s vs. nanoweave.  There are a few things SOE should consider before making these changes, including a range finder and redefinition of the different sniper rifle tiers (no role for the RAMS.50 after this goes live imo).  Most dedicated infiltrators will find ways to be successful in this new era, and I’m confident that we can continue to be a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

Hang in there fellow infiltrators, lets keep giving SOE our feedback, and please don’t uninstall the game just because of a balance post on the forums.  They just released the best patch in this game’s history, and soon we’ll be playing on Hossin with shiny new empire specific sniper rifles.  The future is bright, rage quitting now would be tragic.

I love Shadowplay! (New Montage)

Nvidia recently released Shadowplay, which basically uses your GPU to keep a recording of the last 15 minutes (or whatever you set it to) of gameplay.  If you had a great killstreak, you can just hit “alt-f10” and it will save the footage in a folder for later.  Say I have a great streak, hit save, and then do something really cool after hitting save – I can hit it again and shadow play will create a second video file that starts where the last save ended.  It records in higher quality than I’ve been able to manage with OBS previously, and also barely impacts my frames per second, something that had been keeping me from recording big fights lately.

So I’ve used some great moments collected over the last two weeks to make a new montage, mostly focused on mid-range sniping.  It’s basically back to my bread and butter gameplay, with a little SOAS-20 action sprinkled in for fun.  One big departure for me over previous loadouts is that I have ditched the suppressor on my SR-7 due to nanoweave.  It doesn’t really have a negative impact in these clips, but I had no choice but to stop using suppressed sniper rifles, at least until some balancing is done.

This might be some of my best work to-date, at least that I’ve captured on video.  I hope you enjoy!

 

The Infiltrator and Vehicles

First, we can start this post with a montage I made the other week – feel free to check it out now and then we can begin a discussion on vehicles and infiltration.

So I want to use this post to discuss the additional utility that an infiltrator can bring to the table with proper vehicle use.  I consider this to be advanced infiltration as the vehicles in this game often require a lot of cert points invested to be used properly.  Lets start by speaking in broad terms.  There are several differences between how an infiltrator uses a vehicle compared to other classes.

First, most players use engineer for the repair ability.  While you can swap at a nearby infantry terminal, often times in the middle of large fights, it is both too risky and low yield to swap classes and go BACK to a hacked v-term.  If you are behind enemy lines, it won’t be easy to get out and repair your vehicle anyways.  With that in mind, I often equip the auto repair defense slot, so if I find the opportunity to take cover, I can regain some vehicle HP.

The next big difference in vehicle use is where the infiltrator pulls a vehicle.  By infiltrating an enemy base, or even going further into the lattice or hex to pull, you will be, by definition, flanking the enemy.  This is a huge part of what can make the infiltrator so dangerous when using vehicles.  If there is an armor column approaching your base, by pulling an AP prowler behind them, you can often kill 2-3 MBT’s, and massively disrupt the armor advance as they have to turn around to deal with you.

One of the more obvious benefits that has long been utilized is sunderer placement.  Something that BWC utilizes is having 2-3 sunderers in place at a base before the assault even begins, allowing both the outfit and the zerg quick access to the next fight.

The last thing to keep in mind is that these tactics with vehicles are more or less suicide missions.  Once you pull your vehicle it’s only a matter of time before something will mop you up, and often quickly.  The goal is to make a lasting impact on the fight, by flanking the enemy and killing key targets, or inflicting massive damage on an unsuspecting enemy.  Once you go down, having a spawn beacon will allow you to get back behind lines to resume the usual disruption you perform in the base.

Lets briefly go over a few of my favorite toys to pull as an infiltrator, and how they can be used:

The flash: You can check the guides section for how I certed and use my fury wraith.  While it is not quite as potent as it was earlier this year, I still find the flash, in the right circumstance, to be a potent farming tool in big battles.  The nice thing about the flash is it doesn’t require you to pull from behind enemy lines to reach the good flanking locations as the cloak will often let you get wherever you need.  It’s a lot less common on the battlefield these days, due to the double fury nerf plus the increase from 25 to 100 vehicle resources, but if you have one certed out, it can still be a nice option.

The Harasser:  I will pull out the harasser for solo farming in select fights as an infiltrator.  Composite armor is the only choice for a harasser right now, and unless I can manage to pull engineer, or find an engie buddy, the harasser will have some limited application.  I pull them in tech plants to camp the tunnels that infantry pour out of during fights, and in situations where I need more durability than a flash but still want to take out lots of infantry.  While the harasser is good for AV, it is not a good choice as a solo infiltrator due to the need to be stationary while firing and lack of repair.  Thus, I recommend marauder or fury for the harasser pull.

The lightning:  This can actually be a good choice – the lightning is designed to be a solo vehicle, and as such, can be used for flanking, harassment and mobility.  The two load outs I use are the viper + auto repair + fire suppression for anti infantry, and the AP + auto repair + stealth for sneaking up on enemy armor or sunderers.  I do have a sky guard setup, but if I want to harass enemy air, I usually find a phalanx turret.

The Prowler:  One of my favorite toys to bust out behind a big fight, the prowler has great siege utility.  I can pull behind lines and ninja kill a few MBT’s and take out key sunderers with an AP load out.  It makes for a decent anti-infantry platform with good aim and lockdown.  If I want, I can even go one hex/lattice deeper and find a distant hill to snipe tanks from behind.  An example would be the NC attacking crossroads watchtower with armor, coming from Xenotech labs.  I could go to regent rock, hack out a prowler and place it near the hills by xenotech.  This gives me a good look at the enemy armor, where I can anchor down and start back raging tanks.

These tactics also scale well with your squad.  Even if they aren’t all infiltrators (like I run with in BWC), once you hack out a terminal, you can drop a beacon and have them all come in to pull a ninja armor column.  Imagine what happens to the enemy when 12 AP prowlers come baring down on them from behind!  Try volunteering to do this for your squad leader next time the opportunity arises and see what happens!

There’s much more I could write about this subject, but the most important thing is to be creative.  Figure out where the enemy is and where they are vulnerable, and see if you have a vehicle load out that could take advantage of that weakness.  Be quick and decisive, and watch the tide of battle shift as you destroy key sundies, farm infantry and force the enemy to worry about their six, as well as their twelve.  I hope this post has stirred the creative juices in your devious mind, and inspires you to be a huge thorn in the side of your enemy 🙂

Stay Frosty,

Mustarde