BTA Developer Blog #5: Artillery and You, A Primer
Artillery has long been a weird component of BTA. Artillery weapons (here meaning the major five artillery pieces, the Thumper/Sniper/LongTom/ArrowIV/CruiseMissile50) don't really behave like anything else in BTA. They are large indirect fire single target weapons that have substantial AoE damage. There's other weapons in BTA that do some of those things but nothing else does all of them. Because of this, they have a variety of special rules such as target drift that show up nowhere else in BTA. In a recent patch (11.2), we addressed the subject of target drift (which is where the artillery shot drifts off-target on a miss, landing somewhere else instead of right at the target's feet like it had up to that point) and, to put it mildly, we received some complaints and justly so. The new drift numbers we used were too wide and led to player concerns about the use of artillery going forward. This prompted the team to have a variety of conversations internally about artillery and its intended role in BTA which in turn led to some large changes in how artillery behaves and what it is meant to do in BTA. I want to address those changes and the philosophy behind them here, since they may be unintuitive to folks.
So, before this patch (this blog post was posted for patch v11.3 of BTA, released in October 2021), artillery was largely about the primary damage that a direct strike with the shell produced. So, to use the Sniper as an example, it did the most relevant damage if you landed it directly onto the target, with the AoE largely being lower damage and less relevant. This encouraged play based around focusing fire and abusing Called Shots to do surgical strikes with artillery pieces. While this is a fine play pattern, it is also a play pattern shared by almost every large damage weapon in BTA such as the Autocannons, PPCs, Large Lasers, Thunderbolts (which are even indirect capable!) and other weapons besides. Because artillery has other things it is capable of and in order to encourage a different play pattern, the BTA Team decided to heavily adjust how artillery's damage is distributed.
Now, by default, the artillery pieces (ignoring the CruiseMissile50, which needed no changes) are heavily balanced towards the AoE damage they can deal. Their primary weapon damage has been reduced across the board but the AoE damage (of every type: standard, heat, and stability) and AoE radius have been increased significantly (by up to 50+% in some cases). These changes are also heavily ammunition dependent. Standard ammo, High-Explosive or HE ammo, has the above AoE focus. However, for those who want to still have the high-single-target gameplay pattern with artillery, Shaped Charge ammunition exists for the three tube artillery pieces that has zero AoE of any kind but does 250% direct target damage, which in all cases increases the weapons direct target damage *above* where it was before these changes were implemented. Now, the artillery ammos have more clear definition between them. The intended play pattern of new artillery is to encourage area saturation effects. Increased AoE damage and radius allows for even misses (which have had their drift reduced somewhat) to ensure damage on enemy formations. Yes, it is imprecise damage, but it is still effective damage.
To place some numbers on this for an example, the Thumper (the smallest artillery piece), has had its direct target damage (assuming HE ammo) reduced to 25 damage. However, the AoE damage has been increased from 40 to 55 and the radius expanded from 100m to 125m. Additionally, it now deals AoE stability damage and heat damage to all targets, though in low amounts. The intent is to encourage players to bring several Thumpers and combine them into a sustained area barrage, using the overlapping AoE radii to grind down large masses of enemies at once. However, if desired, the Thumper can also change to Shaped Charge ammunition, which loses all AoE effect but changes the base damage from 25 to 62.5, making it an extremely long-range indirect capable direct target weapon. And these numbers are on the smallest and least effective of the artillery pieces. The Long Tom's changes, for example, increased its AoE radius to 325m and its damage to 135, making it the equivalent of an AC/20 firing HEAP ammo at *everything in 10 hexes*. Imagine, if you will, bringing two of those to a fight. The results are foregone and horrifying for the OpFor.
I and the BTA Team know that these changes will not be for everyone and some people will be upset about artillery's role changing so drastically. To those individuals, I can only ask that you try it before you condemn it and us for making the change. We made this change because we believe that artillery behaving in this way will open a new combat tactic that beforehand was only minorly viable due to the lower AoE radius and damage. Now, massed artillery pieces will be able to completely saturate targets in a unique method of gameplay that we believe will be both fun and interesting. Give it a try, you might find you enjoy the new playstyle. Thanks for reading and for sticking with us in BTA, even through the weird times like the last couple of patches (11.2-11.3).