Tuesday
Jun122012

Game Balance Update 1.02.002 now LIVE!

We performed server maintenance at 12pm Central Time today to deploy another great balance update for our Starhawk fans around the world! Today's release of the 1.02.002 Update includes the following changes: 

  • Hawk Homing Missile now harder to dodge
  • LR3 Sniper Rifle no-longer damages the OX Tank
  • Bruiser Skill damage to buildings reduced 
  • Home-Base spawn regions have been increase on ALL maps 
  • Re-Enabled kick player feature for game hosts
  • Reduced Flak Cannon rate of fire
  • Significantly Reduced Flak Cannon damage vs Hawks
  • Increased Flak Cannon pick-up respawn delay
  • Increased Grenade pick-up respawn delay
  • Reduced Grenade pick-up ammo from 3 grenades to 1 grenade
  • FIXED team roster imbalance for Rifter team in ZONES
  • Rift Barrels now only respawn once per round in Co-Op

Hawk Homing Missile:
In the last game balance update we made a significant improvement to the combat effectiveness of the homing missile which was something that our player community was really wanting -- but we feel we didn't go far enough! So this update makes the Homing Missile approximately 50% harder to dodge.

What this really means to our hard-core Hawk pilots is that you're now filling up your evasion bar at a slower rate when you're dodging. You still need a full evasion bar to dodge a Homing Missile but it will be harder to achieve a full evasion bar. This also resulted in us scaling the evasion required for the Swarm Laser accordingly so that it still requires the same amount of evasion "effort" to dodge as it did prior to this update.

Home-Base Spawn Region:
We have been aggressively tracking "base-ravaging" as an issue that we'll always continue to try and reduce. To help achieve this goal, we have increased the amount of "spawn-able" area for your home-base in both Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch.

Here's an example of the region increase for the Orbital Map. Although please remember that we have increased the home regions on *ALL* Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch maps.

The reason for doing this is to help provide players that are respawning into their home base with more options and distance between any attacking enemy players. This now makes it more difficult for an attacking force to keep a team pinned in their home-base due to the increased surface area the attackers need to cover to induce"base-ravaging". 

Bruiser Skill:
When players had the Bruiser Skill activated, they were simply tearing down the structures way too quickly. To help fix this we have reduced the amount of damage the melee attack does versus structures when the Bruiser Skill is equipped. For example, previous it required only 3 strikes to destroy a structure and now it requires 5. Please note that the small auto-turrets still only take a single strike to destroy. A further adjustment was made so that with Large Turrets (Beam & Flak) now require 3 strikes when the Bruiser Skill is equipped.

Hawk Flak Cannon:
This weapon was very over-powered and our fans agreed. This update includes a significant set of changes to the weapon's attributes. It rate-of-fire was reduced by 250ms and the damage it deals against Hawks has been cut more than in half. The respawn delay for the Flak Cannon pick-up was also increased from 30 seconds to 60 seconds.

These are some pretty massive changes but based on player feedback, our own internal review and play-testing *AND* our combat analytics, a massive change was warranted.

Troop Grenade:
There were some really degenerate situations occurring where players could essentially be come "grenade-turret" by staying in a bunker and continually throwing grenades -- never running out of them because the pick-up respawned so quickly. This drove us to change the number of grenades you get per ammo pick-up from 3 down to 1 as well as increase the respawn delay of the pick-up from 1 second to 5 seconds.

We're looking forward to hearing your feedback! 

Friday
Jun012012

Stability Patch 1.02 is now LIVE!

Very, *VERY* early this morning at 4am Central time we performed world-wide server maintenance and deployed a new patch for Starhawk. The patch is focused on resolving the most common crashes as well as providing a new automatic system of recording any network errors that players encounter. There were however a few other things that were included in the patch so here's the full list: 

  • Fixed for the prominent Crashes & Locks
  • Added automated network disconnect error-reporting
  • Fixed missing sound FX for when missiles are dodged
  • Fixed XP display for players already at the first-tier level cap of 50
  • Fixed Server-List so it can scroll properly and display the full-set of global games
  • Fixed texture paging bug that sometimes caused a blank Uplink
  • Fixed the Sweet-Tooth's awesome butcher's blade accessory
  • Fixed the bug causing only 4 players to be allowed into your Homeworld
  • Fixed bug that caused the Clan Leader board to scroll incorrectly
  • Fixed Server-List filter on full games to work properly 

As we've mentioned before, the team here at LightBox Interactive is working on another game balance update and we'll be providing you the list of all of the changes next week! We're also hearing our community "Loud & Clear" on our voice issues. The team at LightBox Interactive has spent many days debugging what the issue is and we've relayed that information to our Network team at SONY. They are currently investigating a fix and we'll be sure to keep you all posted!

We are very thankful of our community's patience and we are fully committed to making sure the Starhawk experience continues to improve with Updates and Patches as well as grow with FREE downloadable maps!

Thursday
May312012

Game Balance Update 1.01.001 now LIVE!

Our global maintenance is now completed and the game balance update 1.01.001 is now LIVE and ready for players around the globe to download and play!

Again we want to remind everyone that this update is just he first of many we have planned to really "dial" the gameplay in Starhawk. So please keep your feedback coming -- we do read Tweets, Facebook posts and forum posts!

There are a few other things we wanted to point out now that the 1.01.001 Update is LIVE.

You all will now notice that the server-list has a new icon displayed. This icon shows which region on the planet the server host is located. We felt this information was needed in addition to the connection strength icons so that players had more information to make up their minds on which game to join:

NA Flag is displayed for any player hosting in an SCEA Region
EU Flag is displayed for any player hosting in an SCEE Region
JP Flag is displayed for any player hosting in an SCEJ Region

You'll also will notice that the Cake, Fist and Skull icons are being displayed in the server-list even-though we previously posted that we were going to disable the Cake and Fist icons. This is due to us having to temporarily remove that change at that last minute. We'll keep you posted on when we roll that change back out to you guys!

Wednesday
May302012

Schedule for Game Balance Update & Patch Release!

We have finished tested both our first game balance update *AND* the stability patch! We're planning to have server maintenance at the following times and the down-time should be less than an hour.

Balance Update -- Thursday May 31st at 9:00 am Central Time.

Stability Patch -- Friday June 1st at 4am Central Time.

The details of all the items included in the game balance update were listed in our last blog-post. All of those items passed our QA process except for the new (and faster) animation for turret dismantle. There were some issues that it caused and we had to pull it form the update. Don't worry though -- we *WILL* be deploying the faster dismantle animation once the kinks get worked out!

As we've also noted in the past, the stability patch is largely focused on 2 key items for us. Firstly it adds a great new set of automatic network error reporting so we can isolate any connection issues that players are experiencing. And secondly, it adds a number of crash/freeze/lock updates that greatly improve the stability of gameplay even in large 32-player games.

We've also been working on the next game balance hot-fix and we'll be posting details on what's included in that one very soon. And yes, Bruiser Skill and Flak Cannon *ARE* on the list of updates!

The team is also been doing a lot of investigation into some reports of voice-chat cutting our for players and we're working on a new patch that, among many things, includes some voice updates that should greatly improve the connection stability of Starhawk's voice-chat.

Play Starhawk this weekend and let us know what you think of the latest balance update!


Friday
May252012

Starhawk Update 1.01.001

It's about damn time!!! -- We're finishing up the last bit of testing and "packaging" so we can deploy the Starhawk 1.01.001 Update world-wide early next week!

Please know that this is just the first of many updates that we're going to be doing to tune Starhawk's gameplay. We know this update alone does not "fix" all issues and achieve perfect game-balance, but it should address a number of key issues.

Our plan to reduce "base-ravaging" is a multi-stage process and this is just the first step towards that goal. We have also included a few other changes including a much "snappier" Homing Missile!

  • B&B OutPost cost reduced from 8 to 4 Rift
  • Field Mechanic Skill now auto-repairs Hawks far more slowly
  • OX Tank HE Shell direct-hit damage reduced by 33%
  • OX Tank HE Shell blast damage reduced by 33%
  • OX Tank HE Shell now has slower rate of fire
  • OX Tank HE Shell accuracy has been reduced a small amount
  • OX Tank vehicle construction cost increased from 2 to 4 Rift
  • Hawk Cluster Bomb blast damage reduced 40% per bomb
  • Hawk Cluster Bomb blast damage area reduced from 30' to 20' 
  • Hawk Cluster Bomb blast damage fall-off increased
  • Hawk Shield damage absorption-capacity has been reduced by 50%
  • Hawk Cloak time has been reduced by 33%
  • Hawk Homing missile Max speed has been increased by 25%
  • Hawk Homing Missile target acquisition speed has been increased by 70%
  • Hawk Homing Missile thrust-delay reduced by 50%
  • Player Complaint System is enabled
  • SkillScore now factored-in for Matchmaking
  • Updated "Player-Danger" icons & logic for server-list
  • Auto-Turret dismantle now twice as fast

Build & Battle Outposts:
In the release version of Starhawk, the Outposts cost 8 Rift and we've reduced that to 4. This significant reduction will greatly help teams increase their team's controlled regions on the map and even this one change should reduce base-ravaging by providing teams with more options for spawning locations.

Field Mechanic Skill:
There were some very savvy pilots who were using Cloak, Shield and the Field Mechanic Skill in such a way as to be almost unstoppable on the battlefield. While we applaud that kind of tactical use, it nevertheless resulted in very lop-sided engagements and we had to take action. Now, if you equip the Field Mechanic Skill, your Hawk will not auto-repair as quickly which results, in concert with the Shield adjustments, in a significant reduction in "invincible" pilots.

OX Tank & High-Energy Shell:
The OX Tank was very powerful, and rightly so... its a TANK! That said, it was a bit too powerful. Even our Tank-Divas here in the studio agreed. To help get the OX in better balance with the Starhawk's overall combat economy, we are making a number of changes. Firstly, it now costs more to build the vehicle at the Depot. The Depot itself still costs the same. But now the OX costs 4 Rift when you build it from the control panel.

We have also made a number of changes to the High-Energy Shell. This is the fast, almost rail-gun like shell the OX can fire. We've reduced the damage of a direct-hit as well as the area of effect damage. Previously it not only had super-high direct impact damage, but it's AoE was potent enough to make it simply brutal against troops -- when the real role of the OX needs to be more about anti-vehicle and anti-structure. We also slightly reduced the accuracy and increased the time between the first and second shot so that it couldn't be used as such an effective long-range-anti-troop-rail-gun.

We have not included any changes to the OX Tank's Artillery shell at this time.

Hawk Cluster Bomb:
The Cluster Bomb was OP. There is no doubt about that. Sure it feels fun to rain death on group of enemies... but let's be honest, we all felt a bit dirty doing it! We have decided to reduce the damage per-bomb *AND* shrink the area of effect of each bomb by 40% and 33% respectively. We have also added softer damage attenuation to the Cluster Bomb's AoE to help make them still effective against Vehicles and Structures and not so focused on troop ravaging.

Hawk Cloak & Shield:
These two weapons really spice up the Hawk's use on the battlefield but as we noted with the changes to the Field Mechanic Skill, there were also some changes that needed to be made to bring these weapons -- and the Hawk in general -- into better balance.

The amount of time a pilot can stay cloaked now has been reduced by 33%. This is still enough time for it to be used to get out of a sticky situation, but not too long such that a nefarious Hawk pilot can engage in perpetual *AND* invisible base-ravaging.

The Shield also got nerf'd and no longer can absorb as much damage before breaking. The reduction was pretty significant here and now the Shield only absorbs 50% of what it could previously. Again, much like in the Cloak situation, it's enough damage absorption to give you a "out" if you're in trouble but not long enough for it to yield degenerate bombing runs or dogfights when used in combination with some skills or other tactics.

Hawk Homing Missile:
This game balance update includes some dramatic changes to the Hawk's Homing Missile and these changes were focused on one key goal -- get the Homing Missile tracking its target faster and get it to impact its target faster. Now of course we need to make sure it's balanced so we're obviously not making the Homing Missile an instantaneous 1-shot kill!

So we've increased the thrust on the missile so that it has a higher top-end speed and the target has less time to scrub the missile. This thrust increase also includes a faster thrust activation time so when you do deploy a Homing Missile, the thruster kicks in far quicker and this gives it a "snappier" feel in combat. Lastly, we greatly reduced the amount of time the Homing Missile takes to maneuver towards it's locked target. This isn't the amount of time it takes to get a lock, but rather, the amount of time it takes the Homing Missile to steer and acquire its target while in-flight. 

Player Complaint System:
We've also enabled a system that allows players to anonymously flag other players for moderator review. Our Moderator Team has a special Starhawk system that displays a list of all players around the globe, how many complaints have been filed for each player and what kind of complaint.

This allows players to help "police" the games and get our Moderators into their games to render judgements more quickly. Moderators can watch individual players and can join games even when the game is technically "full" or password protected.

To file a Player Complaint, simply select a player's name from the Scoreboard and you will see a new "Player Complaint" item in the pop-up menu. Select it and you will be presented with a few options for the kind of complaint you want to file: Cheating, Harassment, Vulgarity and Bad Builder.

QuickMatch, Server-List & SkillScore:
When we launched Starhawk, we intentionally had SkillScore matching disabled for QuickMatch. This update re-enables this feature. If you select to join a game through Quick Match, the server will do its best to put you into a game that more closely matches your SkillScore -- or more accurately a +/- range around your SkillScore.

We have also changed the way "Player-Danger" icons are displayed in the Server-List. Preivously, you would see servers in the list have 1 of 3 icons displayed next to the connection strength of the server: Pink Cake, Yellow Fist or Red Skull. These indicated the average SkillScore of the server. So you knew a server with a Red Skull was dangerous to you. However due to another issue, high-SkillScore players were still allowed to join "Cake" games. This resulted in lots of newbie players getting worked-over by the best of the best. Until this issue is resolved, we have disabled both Cake and Fist icons.

So now, you will only see Red Skulls in the Server-List to warn you that game is filled with players that are "better" than you. Although you should note that playing in a Red Skull server can yeild faster SkillScore growth due to you battling with players that have higher SkillScores -- so the choice is yours!

Faster Auto-Turret Dismantle:
The auto-turret animation we shipped with was too long and resulted in players just getting ravaged by other turrets or players. The new dismantle animations is *WAY* faster and feels a lot better in the heat of combat.


-----------------------------------
 

What're We Working on Next for You Guys?
Well of course we are finishing the testing of our 1.01.001 Update but we are also finishing a "stability" patch that includes many fixes for lots of annoying locks that we have seen in our global crash report. This patch should make a *HUGE* difference for Starhawk stability and includes a completely new system for network error reporting that automatically logs any player's network error with our game analytics database. This way we can correlate disconnects by region, by player and if needed, by discreet activity in the game.

The network team here at LightBox Interactive is also working very closely with the SONY Network team to isolate the issues that some players are reporting about our voice chat. After a few games the voice relay system is breaking-down and that's resulting in players being "dropped" from voice communication.

Beyond that on the horizon, we have more updates for game balance, protections against "base-ravaging" and the team is continuing to make great progress on the FREE Cypress Map Pack and we're really looking forward to sharing more info on it in the coming weeks!

The Design Team here at LightBox Interactive also had a playtest this week of a new prototype gameplay mode called "Flight-CTF" although to be honest... it had more in common with Quidditch!

Team-based air-combat, 1 "ball" in the middle of the sky and 2 goals one at either end of the map. You score points by getting the "ball" and flying through the goal. The prototype was early and rough but it was hellua-fun and we'll keep you posted on how it develops, and when it looks like we'll release it for all of you guys to get your hands on!

Friday
May182012

Play-testing Some "Base-Ravaging" Fixes

It feels really good to be back in the mode of pushing game-balance update to our Starhawk players world-wide! And since our release on May 8th, we've been watching the comments about base-ravaging. We agree with those comments -- base-ravaging always sucks -- and we're seeing it when we play online as well. We're also seeing it in the game analytics.

So we just finished up an internal playtest using the initial set of changes we're planning to roll out next week. These are largely weapon damage, AoE and Build & Battle Rift cost changes but they made a really positive difference! The Design Team is discussing the results of the session right now and may have some other things they want to tune for next-week's balance update.

We're also going to start something new that we *DIDN'T* do during the BETA. We're going to be telling you guys about all of the changes we are going to make ahead of time before we deploy the update. This will help fuel discussion and debate in the community and really provide you guys with just a general "heads-up" to the changes.

Also, now that Starhawk is released globally, we need to make sure that individual players and their clans are aware of what's going to change *AND* when! This is especially true since many of our players are now involved in Starhawk tournaments.

Oh yeah, and one more thing. I threw in a few pics of the team working on some of the models and textures for the lush new world of Cypress. It's a really exciting and challenging environment for the team to be crafting, and the vegetation and organics are a really great addition to the collection of worlds in Starhawk.

So stay tuned to our Dev-BLOG here for the latest details!

Wednesday
May162012

You Got Questions About Starhawk?

We're working on putting a FAQ together to help answer all the player questions that we're seeing ever since our global launch of Starhawk last week on May 8th.

Be sure to check back soon!

Thursday
Mar222012

Follow-Up: Starhawk BETA Stress-Test

First off, on behalf of LightBox Interactive, SONY Santa Monica and the SONY Network team in San Diego...

Thank you for your help with the
Starhawk BETA Stress-Test!

The team was able to do a ton of monitoring on a variety of Starhawk's back-end systems. They were able to see them fail. Learn how they failed and experiment with hardware and action plans on how to resolve the issues. This would not have been possible without the efforts of our players around the world, all trying to hammer on the system yesterday!


Jose Madrigal, Chris D'Ambrosio, Mark Benevente, Heath McKay, Josephine Chia, Tyler Gaede, Tim Marsh, George Chen 

Many of the players never really see what happens behind the scenes on a global online game so we wanted to take a moment to show you a pic of the team that monitors and supports our global Starhawk infrastructure (that's just a fancy word that IT-types like to use for servers, routers, switches, etc.).

This team is stationed in the SONY Network Operations Center in San Diego where they monitor Starhawk and because the sun never sets on our global community, this team is working 24 hours a day!

So thanks again for helping us stress-test the Starhawk BETA. While it was certainly very frustrating for many players as they tried to log-in, match-make, view the server-list, etc, the end result was a great test of our Starhawk servers so that we can make sure that all of you that pay your hard-earned $60 for Starhawk when we release it on May 8th will have a great multiplayer experience!

That's it for now...back to work!