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.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The nanoweave and sniper balance pass

  1. The 2nd gen bolt actions won’t be useless. They still have higher bullet velocity and will still be the preferred rifle for ranged sniping.

    -Platinum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s