World of Warships

Improving interactions with carriers – A collection of mechanical changes to hopefully get us closer to the ideal gameplay experience for everyone.

WorldOfWarships5 - Improving interactions with carriers - A collection of mechanical changes to hopefully get us closer to the ideal gameplay experience for everyone.
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Over the past four months that the carrier rework has been released, the debate around the CV rework hasn’t changed all that much. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as little has been done to address core issues people are experiencing. Most of the changes we have seen so far, and that have been announced up to this point try to solve issues by modifying the available parameters ships currently have. Regardless of whether these changes are applied across the board or to individual ships, I don’t see such changes as being capable of properly addressing the interactions with carriers’ people are complaining about the most in a way that both parties can agree with.

In this post I would like to present possible changes to the game’s mechanics that are designed to reduce the likelihood of problematic interactions between surface ships and carriers, offer easier access to- and increased rewards for teamplay actions, increase the short-term impact of defensive actions against carriers within a game, reward carriers for more methodical, thoughtful gameplay, increase ship-build variety and provide the developers with additional balancing tools that allow for more varied interactions between surface ships and carriers.

All these suggestions should build on existing game mechanics be able to be implemented with reasonable effort (not a complete re-rework), though some would require balancing and rebalancing decisions to be made across the board. This post isn’t about nerfing carriers out of the game, but about improve the gameplay experience in matches where carriers are involved.



Fighters

As it stands, carrier-based fighters are rarely used for their most obvious purpose: fighting other planes. This isn’t too surprising, as in their current state they simply don’t perform this role very consistently and conveniently, as using the consumable can often require the carrier player to make detours to use them for defensive purposes, only for these efforts to go to waste. Instead, fighters are more commonly used as a throw-away spotting tool, even after efforts to reduce their effectiveness in this role.

To change the way fighters are used, as well as their effectiveness as a defensive tool, fighters need to become more convenient and limited to being used for their intended purpose. More common suggestions like adding an additional controllable aircraft type wouldn’t solve this, as giving up offensive capabilities to protect your team is not something you can expect most carrier players to do, playing this way may also be less helpful overall for your team. So instead, fighters still need to be a separate squadron from the rocket planes, dive bombers and torpedo bombers you’re controlling normally. This may sound like it would require us to go back to RTS mechanics to control two squadrons, however that is not my proposed solution here, as this wouldn’t change how fighters are used nearly as much.

Instead, fighters need to become more of a semi-player controlled, but partially team controlled thing, and here’s how: If you’ve ever opened up the quick command wheel (or pressed the corresponding key on your keyboard), you may know that there’s a “provide anti-aircraft fire support” command, that will in almost all cases lead to absolutely nothing being done to help you against planes. This doesn’t have to be this way.

Basically, the idea would be to replace the carrier’s fighter consumables with a single fighter squadron that can be used to protect one target (or tight group of targets) with practically guaranteed effectiveness. Think of it as a souped-up catapult fighter that is much more likely to engage planes before they can attack. Its defensive area would be larger than that of a typical catapult fighter, however the planes would not chase enemy planes outside of this defense zone.

This fighter group could then be assigned to one allied target in one of three ways:

  • The target requests fighter support (=> quick command, but with a cooldown to avoid spamming), and the carrier player is given the option to grant or deny support. If support is denied, the fighter squadron remains assigned to its previous target.
  • The carrier player aims his view at an allied ship and presses a button to assign that ship as the fighter squadron’s target
  • Since the previous option wouldn’t work for targets outside of render range, a similar thing could be done on the map screen

The fighter group will then move to follow this target (again: like a catapult fighter), however unlike the current fighter solutions fighters will take some time to relocate from either the carrier or previous target. If fighters are shot down, replacements are sent out from the carrier, they do not appear instantly out of nowhere. While relocating, fighters are treated like planes returning to the carrier, being unable to spot or be targeted by AA. The allied ship being protected by fighters would probably need to have the option to send fighters back to the carrier, as having a squadron following you around does run the risk of giving away your position.

As a defensive tool, fighters could be sent right at the start of the game, giving the carrier at least something to do before they are able to launch their regular planes. With these changes to fighters, team communication tools are strengthened through simple interactions, fighters are given a clearly defensive role, while having most of their offensive spotting capabilities removed. The carrier doesn’t have to spend a lot of time or effort managing his fighter squadron, while at the same time having the convenience of using it on targets all over the map without having to sacrifice offensive capabilities in ways that simply don’t make sense. I think this would also be a good step to making carriers more of a viable option in competitive modes, as it would provide teams with a more viable option for protecting ships in certain situations, whether that’s a ship that has just lost its AA buddy, or a ship that’s supposed to go somewhere on its own.

And hey, if you’re getting focused all game like /u/_mr_conway_ you’ll finally have the option to press a button and probably get an effective defensive measure from your carrier! 😉

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Slingshotting

The solution to most slingshot attacks, whether they’re effective or not, is so simple that it’s kind of sad that this change hasn’t been made yet. Right now, planes are given an immunity period to watch their armament fall and regain control of the squadron, which kind of make sense, but think of this: Do planes really need an immunity period when they’re making an attack outside of (remotely effective) AA? The solution for this would be to simply disable the immunity period following attacks made outside of AA, or when attacks are made within AA that has below a certain level of DPS compared to individual plane health. While there would probably be some situations where slingshot attacks would still be possible (from one AA bubble to another), this would still significantly decrease the number cases where this type of attack came into effect.



Plane Rearming

As of right now, all planes that return to the carrier are treated equally, being instantly added to the number of plane reserves available. In many cases this makes it easy to spam the same squadron type repeatedly at the same target, and if that target doesn’t shoot down planes (even if his AA does significant damage), the carrier is not affected all that much. Plans to reward plane damage more (or in a more obvious way) in the post-battle results do not address that damage to planes often only has a very limited impact on the flow of the game.

To address this, I think it would make sense for squadrons to have a rearm time, with each plane taking between X and Y seconds (exact numbers should vary from carrier to carrier and between plane types, but let’s say between 5 and 15 seconds as an example – certainly a lot less time than it takes to generate a new aircraft) to become usable again after they have landed. Aircraft repairs and rearming can happen alongside the generation of new aircraft, meaning that the total number of planes a carrier has available would be unaffected.

This would limit the possibility for carriers to constantly keep attacking a target with their most effective armament, while also providing carriers with an additional balancing factor to distinguish each other. It would also allow for every point of AA damage to have some effect on the game, even if that effect may be quite limited in many cases.

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Carrier Take-off Limits

Even when a carrier is as close to what you can call “deplaned” as possible, it will still pretty much always have at least one aircraft type that it can launch two or three planes of. What this means is that it’s basically impossible to completely halt a carrier’s spotting capabilities for some time, and that attacks can almost always continue to be attempted, even if they might struggle to make it through AA.

Deplaning a carrier should come with a more significant punishment and have a more obvious effect for the enemy team. An easy way to achieve this without changing all that much would be to require squadrons to have at least a certain number of planes to be allowed to launch. For example, the limit could be that a squadron needs to either contain at least two attacks worth of planes, or at least 50% of the maximum squadron size’s planes (whichever of the two is the lower number of planes) to launch a squadron. The two different numbers are there to account for special cases, like the Indomitable’s two-attack dive bombers with only 4 planes in a squadron (at least, that’s how it’s configured in its current testing state).

With this change, the frequency at which a deplaned carrier can send out planes of would be significantly lowered, while the number of planes sent out over time would remain the same.



Changes to AA Effects

Right now, there are several aspects that can make ship-based defensive measures against carriers rather frustrating, such as AA effectiveness being entirely tied to AA damage, AA damage being randomly spread across a squadron leading to very inconsistent results and AA sector reinforcement being kind of a mess.

There are also parts of the AA system that simply don’t make sense, such as some ships with more AA guns having similarly or less effective AA than others (like Azuma vs. Yoshino in its current state for example), as well as AA and plane health scaling between tiers being a bit extreme, but since those things would either require more significant changes to AA or are related to balancing I won’t cover those here.

The basic idea here is to bring back the panic effect, however not in the same way it worked before the rework, where it was either on or off and entirely tied to the use of defensive fire. Instead, each AA range would have its own multiplier that affects the aiming speed of aircraft, with defensive fire and sector reinforcement (as well as upgrades and commander skills) being able to affect this multiplier.

Let’s say for example we have a destroyer with short-, mid- and long-range AA. The long-range has a panic multiplier of 0% (aiming speed is not affected by the long-range AA), the mid-range 20% and the short-range 50%. If the carrier starts his attack in the mid-range AA, the aiming reticule will shrink slightly slower than normal, however an attack that is started from this range will still be quite accurate if not too many adjustments need to be made. An attack started in the short range on the other hand will take much longer to aim to become accurate and is more likely to miss most of its shots. Defensive fire and sector reinforcement could further increase these panic effects through additional multipliers.

With this mechanic different ships and ship classes would be provided with an additional balancing factor and an additional tool to combat certain carrier attacks independent of their AA damage. For example, if destroyers in general were to be given a higher short-range panic multiplier, this would be an easy way to make them take a lot less damage from USN HE dive-bombers specifically, as this type of plane spends a lot of its attack run within the short-range AA of a ship.

Would minimum and maximum plane accuracy, commander skills for both surface ships and carriers as well as carrier aiming time need to be adjusted? Probably, but this would be a great way to add more types of interactions between surface ships and carriers, make different ships and ship types more distinct in their ability to deal with certain types of attacks and reward carriers more for planning their attacks ahead of time.

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Changes to AA Damage Distribution

As mentioned before, the way that AA damage is spread across the planes in a squadron can rather often lead to your AA doing quite a bit of damage, but not actually getting any plane kills. Squadrons will soak up damage across all planes and return to the carrier before things get to the critical stage where plane kills become guaranteed. While this might decrease the number of strikes the carrier makes, this isn’t much of a punishment for the carrier, it’s only slightly decreasing the reward.

For AA to reliably shoot down planes, this system requires you to have a ton of DPS that can take out each plane in just a couple of hits. The more hits a plane takes to go down, the more likely it becomes for damage to be evenly spread across the squadron. A side effect of this is that long-range AA auras do practically nothing to deter the carrier from spotting ships, since there’s little risk in doing so.

To combat this, a solution would be to assign AA auras a targeted AA damage percentage value. This percentage of the aura’s total DPS would then be dealt to the lowest HP plane in the squadron, while the remaining DPS would be spread across the squadron like we have it now. The amount of targeted AA damage could be tweaked for each ship and AA aura, and could optionally be influenced by sector reinforcement as well as defensive fire.

This would provide us with another balancing tool to control how a ship deals AA damage, as opposed to how much. For example, a ship with good long-range targeted AA would make spotting the ship riskier, as the limited DPS of the long-range aura would mostly be applied to the same plane until it is shot down. While the squadron wouldn’t bleed HP at an excessive rate, it would experience plane losses at a more regular pace, a price for the spotting that is done. On the other hand, squadrons charging through the AA to attack would be less affected by this change, assuming the mid- and short-range auras have lower targeted AA values.

Such an AA configuration would decrease the value of carrier spotting and increase the ability of ships to provide AA support to teammates without the need to mess with AA ranges or DPS values. Admittedly this would also lead to a sort of “plane-kill stealing support AA”, however you could also see this as more of a reward for supporting allied ships. How the values should be configured for each ship remains to be decided, this would just be another tool in the toolbox.



Changes to Sector Reinforcement

Since we know that WG plans to change this feature but don’t know how, I’m going to keep this one short and just say that the way AA sectors are entirely damage focused, binary in their benefits and not very flexible when it comes to targeting an area can be an issue for certain ships, whether that’s ships that don’t put out enough damage for AA sectors to be worth using or ships where switching the sector takes way too long to feel like it is worth using in most cases.

Basically, my idea here – which I’m pretty sure has been suggested before – would be to have AA as a fourth weapon slot (next to HE, AP and torpedoes) that when selected allows you to aim your AA sector (in any direction, not just two) and gradually focus or defocus the sector (say using the scroll wheel), trading sector size for sector benefits. To balance this between ships, ships or ship classes could have different stats for sector rotation speed, aim speed and sector benefits.

Speaking of benefits, as mentioned in the previous section AA sector benefits wouldn’t have to be entirely related to damage, the sector could also increase plane aiming time instead or in addition to dealing more damage. With less of a focus on damage the sector system could also be changed to only offer benefits, meaning that areas outside of the focused sector wouldn’t counter this with performance penalties. That way the sector system would always be a mechanic that is beneficial to use.



A Note on Balance

It goes without saying that some changes suggested here would affect how various ships perform in certain scenarios, that may require changes to be made to existing ship stats, commander skill effects and upgrade effects. Since this kind of stuff can’t really be evaluated until such changes are tested, there is no point in focusing on that topic here. The point of these suggestions is not to nerf carriers into the ground, but instead make interactions with them more enjoyable.

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