Torpedoes in VGA Planets and an Analysis of New Torp Changes

In order to write about the new changes in torpedoes announced at Planets.nu, I need to briefly explain how torpedo economics work in Planets. As most of you probably figured out pretty early on in your Planets days, Mk.4 torpedoes are the best go-to torp to pick, until you have more money to get one of the top-tier ones (Mk.7 or Mk.8). Many of you have looked at the damage (TW) rating of each torp and then compared it to the MC cost, and noticed that certain torpedoes are much more efficient at packing a punch than others.

For those who aren’t familiar with the torpedo stats, here is a graphic that explains the story. The red line represents the damage output of the torpedo class (measured in TW). The blue bars represent the economic efficiency of each torp (the cost in MC spent per TW of damage you do). In every chart I will highlight the Mk.4 as a reference point, and because it is the most resource-efficient torpedo to use overall.

As you can see, the Mk.4 is the torpedo of choice, far exceeding its neighbours in economic efficiency. The Mk.4’s advantage is so clear that it is overwhelmingly chosen by players as the weapon of choice in the early game, and even late game for cheap minelaying. The Mk.7 is a bit cheaper than its neighbours too, but not as much. For this reason it is usually chosen as the higher-end weapon of choice, until the player can afford the more expensive Mk.8.

You will also notice that the Mk.3 stands out as perhaps the worst of all torpedoes. It has both low power — similar to that of the Mk.2 — and bad economy — far worse than the Mk.7. This is probably why Joshua has chosen to adjust its price to make it more affordable in the recent changes.

The Changes (announced at PlanetsCon 2020):

Update: These torpedo changes are now in Bleeding Edge games as well as Campaign games.

But now, suddenly, change is afoot at Planets.nu! The clouds have parted and a few beams of sunlight have touched the torpedo charts. These new changes are relatively minor in the grand scale of things, but it is nevertheless a momentous time, since weapon stats are one thing that have stayed the same for decades.

What “Economic Efficiency” Means
A look at the above graph shows that Mk.4 torps are clearly advantageous in cost. This matters a lot. Say that you want to destroy a Super Star Destroyer with Mk.3 torps: you might think that you are going to save money compared to a Mk.4 by using a cheaper torp to do the job. But you would be wrong. The Mk.3 is cheaper, but it is also considerably weaker, particularly against hulls. To destroy an SSD’s hull requires 15 hits with a Mk.4 and 20 hits with a Mk.3. This translates to 185 MC for a Mk.4 load-out vs. 240 MC for Mk.3 — not counting missed shots, which increase the price difference by a third. Thus, along with being more powerful, the Mk.4 is also more efficient, making it the weapon of choice for both power and economy.

If cash is the only limiting factor, you might opt to go with Mk.2s instead — despite the 34 required — because the loadout only costs 170 MC, and we haven’t even paid for torpedo tech levels yet. In this regard, the Mk.3 is almost useless, because there is almost no situation in which you would choose it over a Mk.4, and equally few where you would choose it over a Mk.2.

Analysis of the New Torpedo Changes at Planets.nu:

Change #1: Torpedo Cost Reductions (Mk.2 and Mk.3)
Both the Mk.2 and Mk.3 torpedoes have received a reduction in their unit cost. They are now potentially usable, though still not great. The cost/damage of Mk.2 is now substantially better than the Mk.4, meaning they should be usable in combat in some situations.

This chart will summarize torpedo cost changes by comparing the new torps’ economic efficiency compared with the old ones:

You will notice that the Mk.2 and Mk.3 have enjoyed large improvements in their economic efficiency (cost per damage).

Mk.3 torps are still unfortunately significantly less efficient to build than the Mk.4 — but they are now in useful territory. If, for example, you want to save duranium, you can build your ships with Mk. 3 launchers, which cost only 1 duranium each instead of 4. This can be useful in situations where you don’t intend to use them for combat much (e.g. building a D7 to drop clans, or a disposable shield-scratcher).

One side effect of lower cost for torps is lower cost for minefields using that torp. Previously, the Mk.4 was by far the most efficient minelayer (per MC), followed by the Mk.7. The Mk.3 and Mk.2 are now the most efficient minelayers (in terms of MC). This means some players might decide that the Mk.3 or Mk.2 are reasonable minelayers, especially in situations where MCs are tight but minerals are abundant. On balance though, Mk.4 is still probably the best overall, since it will give you considerable mineral savings when building torps for minelaying, and has a very similar MC cost. (See minelaying chart below)

The Mk.3 also has a decent crew-kill:damage ratio, while the Mk.4 mostly just destroys things. In practice, if you use Mk.3 instead of Mk.4 you can capture Merlins, Neutronic Refineries, MDSFs, Red Winds and Sapphires. Its reduced cost means that it might find some use as a ship capturer.

The Mk.2 launcher still has an unusually high cost in duranium, at 4 KT per launcher, which is the same as the Mk.4 and more than the Mk.3. Given that duranium is usually in short supply in the early game, this doesn’t make a lot of sense for a low-tech weapon.

These changes are nevertheless a step in the right direction: starting by adjusting torpedo MC cost is the simplest approach for addressing the under-use of some weapons.

Change #2: Proton Torpedo range extension & Mk.5 conversion to “Heavy Proton”
Perhaps the most exciting and dramatic change, Proton Torpedoes now have extended range, and the Mk.5 has been renamed the Heavy Proton and also enjoys extended range. Basic proton torpedoes have had their price raised, now costing 5 MC per round instead of 2.

The range of protons is now 32,000 kellicams instead of the normal 30,000 kc. This means protons will fire sooner in combat. In combat, they will fire first, potentially giving them an advantage against other ships. It might also give them a significant edge in attacking starbases for this reason, too.

Joshua stated at PlanetsCon that proton torps would be useful as “shield scratchers”, allowing a small ship to hit a large carrier with an early volley of torps before getting destroyed by fighters. This will allow a follow-up ship to have an advantage against the damaged carrier.

It’s impossible to know at this early stage what the full consequences of these changes will be, but it is certain that players will find a new purpose for the Heavy Proton torpedo. This is probably most true for torp races who really want to win battles against other torp races who fail to adapt. As long as you can afford the launcher’s very high mineral cost, this could be a weapon worth having. Its high MC cost per torpedo can be avoided by using mine scoop conversion, making it more economical to use (see end of article).

Change #3. Launcher cost adjustments (Mk.6)
The final change announced by @Joshua is for the mostly unloved Mk.6 launcher, which has now gotten cheaper. Its MC cost was reduced from 100 to 80, while its moly cost was reduced from 7 to 3. This makes it significantly less expensive to build ships with these launchers.

As a real-world example, if you build a Darkwing with Mk.6, X-rays and Transwarps, it will cost you 1710 MC and 204 moly. If you use Mk.7 launchers, it will cost 2030 MC and 244 moly. This is a significant enough cost savings that it might be worth it to use Mk.6 at starbases where you are low on moly (or strapped for cash). Not upgrading your torp tech to Mk.7 will also save you another 700 MC.

The damage of the Mk.6 is a respectable 40 MW (compared to 30 TW for the Mk.4 and 48 TW for the Mk.7). This change might have been intended to make the Mk.6 into the “poor man’s Mk.7”. Unfortunately, the high per-torpedo price of the Mk.6 remains problematic, as the ammunition continues to cost almost as much as the Mk.7, undermining the benefits of having a cheaper launcher. However, this cost issue can be remedied somewhat using mine scoop conversion (discussed below).

It’s easy to imagine that we will probably see the new Mk.6 launchers used in matches that are tight on resources, such as short format Blitz and Dogfights. It can be useful in situations where a player is low on moly as well.

Scooping torpedoes
In practice, if players do decide to start building any of these torps, they will often use the mine laying/scooping trick to save minerals for their ships with cheaper torps. This is when you lay mines with a highly efficient torpedo (e.g. Mk.4 or Mk.7) and then scoop the mines into a different launcher, in order to save money and/or minerals. This practice is particularly useful when using Mk.5 or Mk.6 torpedoes, since those torps are still too expensive; building them normally at starbase or with MKT is very un-economical.

Here is why it’s cheaper to use scoop conversion instead of building torps normally: For the Mk.6 torp, the normal cost is 35 MC. If you convert from Mk.4, the new torp cost is 23 MC, but with increased mineral cost (78% more minerals used). If you decide to convert from Mk.7, new torp cost is 28 MC, while your mineral cost will also go down (21% less minerals used).

This chart explains why it is cheaper to kill ships using scooped torpedoes. Again we are killing an SSD, but now we are using the cost after using scoop conversion from Mk.4 torps. As you can see, the MC cost of killing an SSD goes down for every torp type, if we scoop from an economical torp like the Mk.4.

Thanks for your time and attention. I hope you found this article useful!

Coming soon:
Psydev’s analysis of torpedo balance in VGA Planets, and suggestions for a better cost/distribution.

-Psydev

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