Interpretation of Weapon Balance Survey Results (part 2)

6 months ago

This post is part 3 of a series. If you're a new reader of the blog going through them in reverse-chronological order, I strongly recommend reading through part 1 first to see the raw data and analysis, and then reading part 2 to read about weapon Mechanics, individual Mods, and individual Overclocks that stood out to my eye as the things most in need of a balance change in Update 34. As stated in part 1, I want to start by identifying "micro balance" issues inside the weapons first and then move onto "macro balance" like inter-weapon and inter-class balance issues. This post will finish up the micro balance by analyzing Mod Tiers and Overclock Groups that have imbalance issues, and then move on to some brief macro balance discussions of the Weapons and Classes at the very end.

Mod Tiers

Flamethrower Tier 5

  Heat Radiance Targets Explode
Effects After every full second of firing, deal 80 Fire-element Area Damage and 80 Heat in a 3m radius around you. If the direct stream kills an enemy, there's a 50% chance that they will explode and deal 55 Fire-element Area damage and 55 Heat in a 3m radius.
Pickrate 46.4% 53.6%
Rating 2.67768595 3.110204082

This mod tier is a little confusing to analyze. It's decently balanced in terms of pickrates, but Heat Radiance falls just a little below the desired 2.7 - 3.3 range. On top of that, Heat Radiance outcompetes Targets Explode both in DPS as well as total damage in my modeling. I've talked with a lot of other veteran players, and the consensus I've heard back from them is that Heat Radiance is much stronger and is even worthy of being nerfed. If nothing else, seeing "balanced" pickrates from Karl.gg loadouts submitted during U32 and "balanced" numbers from the public survey that just finished last week tells me that the perception of Heat Radiance needs to be buffed first, and then the mod itself can receive a nerf in U34 without confusing the playerbase that gave Heat Radiance an average rating of 2.68.

Cryo Cannon Tier 4

  Hard Mixture Supercooling Mixture Larger Reserve Tank
Effects +3 Damage per Particle +1 Cold per Particle +150 Max Ammo
Pickrate 20.42% 22.54% 57.04%
Rating 2.633802817 3.135514019 3.528037383

The issue here is pretty obvious -- T4.C is seen as much stronger than the other two options, even though T4.B seems to be balanced overall. I'm not going to attribute T4.C's strength to it giving too much ammo, but rather that getting more ammo is stronger than everything else on Cryo Cannon. I'll expand more on this later when I talk about Cryo Cannon in its own section, but the teaser is "Cryo Cannon's current value is based in freezing things, not in killing them".

Cryo Cannon Tier 5

  Fragile Cold Radiance
Effects If a particle from the Cryo Cannon damages a Frozen enemy below 100 "true" health, it has a (100 - hp/100)% chance to deal the remaining health value as damage. After every full second of firing, deal 60 Cold in a 4m radius around you.
Pickrate 34.04% 65.96%
Rating 3.418604651 3.073732719

Similar to Flamethrower's Tier 5, this tier perplexes me. It seems that the survey takers rated Fragile much stronger than Cold Radiance, yet Cold Radiance had a significantly higher pickrate in U32. Addtionally, the same veteran driller friends tell me that Cold Radiance is one of the most OP mods in the game for the Cryo Driller playstyle and needs to be nerfed, while Fragile needs to be reworked. Truth be told, the data here is so conflicting that I'm not sure that anything meaningful can be derived. However, I think it's worth bringing up this tier in particular because the data conflicts. Clearly there's a mismatch between perceptions and actual power.

Subata Tier 5

  Volatile Bullets Mactera Toxin-Coating
Effects If a bullet from Subata damages a Burning enemy, this mod makes it do 50% more Direct Damage (bonus damage is Fire element) All Direct Damage dealt by the Subata does an extra 20% damage vs Mactera-type enemies.
Pickrate 73.03% 26.97%
Rating 3.021186441 2.676470588

It could be argued that this mod tier is a "false choice" for players; because Volatile Bullets only helps Drillers that run Flamethrowers, the mod you choose at this tier is tied entirely to which primary you equip. Personally, I view Volatile Bullets being so tied to the Flamethrower as a design issue that I think should be resolved. That said, it's rather obvious to see that a 50% damage boost vs any Burning enemy is better than a 20% damage boost vs Mactera enemies which only comprise about 4.85% of all enemies in normal missions. All in all, I think this mod tier is in need of a balance pass.

EPC Tier 5

  Flying Nightmare Thin Containment Field Plasma Burn
Effects Charged Shots now deal their Direct Damage to enemies hit by the AoE while in-flight, but it no longer explodes upon impacting enemies. Additionally, x0.55 AoE Radius and x0.8 Charge Speed. Shoot the Charged Shot with a Regular Shot before it impacts anything to make it detonate for 240 Damage and carve terrain within a 3m radius. Additionally: x0.8 Heat per Regular Shot and x0.25 Heat per Charged Shot which means it no longer overheats on charged shots. Regular Shots have 5 Heat added to them as well as 25% of their Direct Damage added as Heat.
Pickrate 5.26% 72.37% 22.37%
Rating 2.082926829 4.083333333 2.468899522

I've talked in moderate detail about both Flying Nightmare and Thin Containment Field in part 2, so I'm going to confine this snippet to talk mainly about the tier as a whole. Simply put: Flying Nightmare only works with OC "Overcharger", and even then just barely. Plasma Burn is fine in concept, but it has anti-synergy with the Frozen status effect. The 200 damage from Temperature Shock is far outweighed by letting the enemy stay Frozen and shooting it with more Regular Shots. Finally, not only is Thin Containment Field the only good option at this tier, it's also currently overtuned. TCF is already a balance problem in a vacuum, but frankly this whole tier is in desparate need of a balance pass.

Shotgun Tier 2

  Expanded Ammo Bags Loaded Shells Choke
Effects +40 Max Ammo +2 Pellets per Shot x0.5 Base Spread
Pickrate 30.28% 58.72% 11.01%
Rating 3.255230126 3.302521008 2.663865546

Although Choke is just barely shy of the desired 2.7, seeing two mods at the upper end of the "balanced" range competing with a mod rated below the lower end of that range is concerning. These concerns get amplified when looking at the pickrates, because even though T2.A and T2.B have very similar balance ratings, the pickrates clearly favor T2.B. It's clear that players value the DPS boost given by T2.B more than the ammo, and it's not hard to figure out why: T2.B multiplies its DPS boost with T4.B and every Overclock except Light-Weight Magazines, which instead gives an ammo boost to compensate for not getting the 40 ammo at T2.A.

Shotgun Tier 5

  Turret Whip Miner Adjustments
Effects Shoot a Turret with the Shotgun to consume 10 turret ammo and fire a projectile in the direction currently being aimed at by the turret, with a 3 second cooldown between projectiles. Each projectile travels at 50 m/sec, does 120 Explosive element Area Damage in a 1.5m radius, has a 100% chance to stun for 1.5 seconds, inflicts 100% Base Fear Chance, does 50% Friendly Fire damage, and has 200% Armor Breaking. Changes the Shotgun from semi-automatic to fully automatic. Also increases Rate of Fire by +0.5.
Pickrate 32.11% 67.89%
Rating 2.536585366 3.29338843

I bet a few of you right now are thinking "huh, I never knew that Turret Whip did so much". That thought, in and of itself, is why I think Turret Whip has such a negative perception in the community. Quite literally, the in-game description reads "Shoot your turrets to make them create an overloaded shot". There's also a bit of numerical imbalance between how much damage gets consumed to shoot Turret Whip in comparison to how much damage it does in return that gets covered by this video by Shadow Haxxor99. I think if players were better-informed about all that Turret Whip can do and it was balanced to have a better damage-conversion ratio, its perception and pickrate would rise in short order. I don't think that Miner Adjustments has any outstanding balance issues by itself.

PGL Tier 3

  Incendiary Compound Pressure Wave
Effects With the exception of Hyper Propellant, lose 50% of Direct and Area Damage and add the same amount of Heat to each grenade. Hyper Propellant loses no damage, but still only gains 50% of its damage as Heat. +500% Armor Breaking
Pickrate 19.17% 80.83%
Rating 2.396551724 3.135371179

This mod tier is a clash of titans: "the DoT Dilemma" vs "more damage over everything else". I've run the numbers; in the vast majority of situations Incendiary Compound does more total damage per grenade. And yet, it has an extremely low balance rating and a pickrate to match. In this instance, I think that the DoT Dilemma wins the fight for players' perceptions -- although it can do more damage total than you lose, you have to wait upwards of 5 seconds to get that extra damage from Burn DoTs. I think just a simple adjustment of the conversion percentage that takes less Area Damage and gives shorter DoTs would make people view Incendiary Compound in a better light. It's also worth noting that Pressure Wave's pickrate might be slightly inflated due to its strong synergy with the extremely popular Hyper Propellant, letting its 385+ Direct Damage ignore Light and Heavy Armor.

PGL Tier 5

  Proximity Trigger Spiky Grenade
Effects

After 0.2 seconds of arming time, any grenade that passes within 2m of an enemy will automatically detonate after a 0.1 second delay. Grenades no longer explode upon impacting terrain, but instead automatically self-detonate 3.3 seconds after being fired.

+60 Explosive element Direct Damage
Pickrate 20.54% 79.46%
Rating 2.309322034 3.097457627

Another major offender of "lack of information", Proximity Trigger has a great design and can be used to distribute each grenade's Area Damage a little more efficiently throughout a wave. However, it's another classic instance of a mod that doesn't increase total damage competing against a much simpler mod that does increase damage. I'm not sure that there's a lot GSG devs can do to improve the design of Proximity Trigger shy of giving it an arbitrary damage boost stat.

Breach Cutter Tier 2

  Expanded Ammo Bags Condensed Plasma Loosened Node Cohesion
Effects +6 Max Ammo +3.5 Damage per Tick +1.5m Projectile Width
Pickrate 64.71% 17.65% 17.65%
Rating 3.426008969 2.936936937 2.760180995

Although +6 Max Ammo sounds like a small number, it's actually a 50% increase in comparison to the baseline 12. In contrast, +3.5 Damage per Tick is only a 30% damage boost of the baseline 11.5 Damage per Tick. Technically the biggest "percentage" change is T2.C, which doubles the projectile width. However, T2.C is just barely above the 2.7 lower threshold so it's pretty clear that players currently value the single-target damage of Breach Cutter more than hitting a greater number of enemies. Because 50% more shots has a greater impact than a 30% damage boost, it gets picked more often and is seen as stronger. Although none of this is "surprising" to anyone, at the very least we now have the data to support what everyone already thought.

Minigun Tier 1

  Magnetic Refrigeration Improved Motor Improved Platform Stability
Effects +1.5 Cooling Rate +4 Rate of Fire x0.2 Base Spread
Pickrate 10.0% 25.83% 64.17%
Rating 2.491150442 2.924444444 3.359649123

My opinions of this tier line up exactly along the balance ratings -- Improved Motor is well balanced and its two neighbors have some issues. First, consider +4 RoF vs +1.5 Cooling Rate. That RoF bonus will affect Burst DPS as well as Sustained DPS, and players can immediately notice its presence when killing enemies. On the other hand, that extra Cooling Rate only applies between bursts of damage when the player stops firing before the Minigun overheats. This is generally when players stop watching the Heat Meter on the gun and start kiting enemies to stay alive. So, a mod that players notice in combat and helps Burst and Sustained DPS vs a mod that only takes effect when players aren't watching and only affects Sustained DPS -- it's pretty obvious why Magnetic Refrigeration is perceived to be weaker.

Then take into consideration Improved Platform Stability. Here are the numbers behind how Minigun's Accuracy works:

  • Base Spread: 5
  • Spread per Shot: 0.2
  • Spread Recovery Speed: 1
  • Max Bloom: 3.5
  • There's also a "Spread Curve" that transforms 0 Bloom to +25 Spread, and decreases at approximately -x^2 rate that transforms anything at 3 Bloom or greater to +0 Spread.

Putting it all together, Minigun starts at [Base Spread + 25] before the first bullet gets fired, and it takes [3 / (RoF * 0.2 - 1)] seconds to decrease down to Base Spread. Once Minigun stops firing, it takes [Current Bloom / 1] seconds to revert back to [Base Spread + 25], and this stat is not affected by T4.C Magnetic Bearings. Now that the in-depth mechanical explanation has been provided, let's talk about Improved Platform Stability. At x0.2 Base Spread, that brings Minigun's Base Spread down to a value of 1. By comparison, M1000's first Hipfired shot also has a Base Spread of 1, but it increases with each shot. Minigun decreases down to 1 Spread and stays there for as long as the player keeps firing. So, this mod turns Minigun into a weapon more accurate than the M1000 Hipfired that does better DPS and has a deeper ammo pool. It's no surprise that players have caught onto how strong this mod is, and its pickrate and perceived strength reflect that.

Minigun Tier 3

  Hardened Rounds Stun Duration Blowthrough Rounds
Effects +200% Armor Breaking +1 second Stun duration +1 Penetration
Pickrate 23.81% 7.14% 69.05%
Rating 2.862222222 2.529147982 3.31441048

Personally, I think that Hardened Rounds and Stun Duration are a well-designed choice at Tier 3 and are pretty balanced. I see Blowthrough Rounds as the real culprit here -- in the right circumstances this mod can theoretically double both your DPS as well as max damage, while also killing 2 enemies at once. Players recognize that, and it's almost a "false choice" at this tier. I wonder what the pickrate and balance scores of Hardened Rounds & Stun Duration would be if Blowthrough Rounds was no longer on Tier 3?

Minigun Tier 5

  Aggressive Venting Cold as the Grave Hot Bullets
Effects When the Minigun overheats, it will do 60 Heat and 1000% Base Fear Chance to all enemies within a 10m radius of the Gunner. Killing an enemy removes 0.8 Heat from the Heat Meter. This is equivalent to adding 0.8 seconds of firing before overheating. When the Heat Meter is red, this adds 50% of the Direct Damage as Heat to every bullet
Pickrate 4.35% 58.26% 37.39%
Rating 1.792951542 3.729613734 2.726086957

Similar to EPC Tier 5, I already discussed both Aggressive Venting and Cold as the Grave in detail in part 2 so I'm going to focus these comments to be about the Tier as a whole. What was intended to be a cool concept of "which new mechanic do you want to add to the Minigun at Tier 5?" instead became "Pick CatG unless you're doing a Fire Build." There's no escaping the conclusion that CatG is mechanically the strongest of the 3 effects and helps to almost remove the Overheat mechanic entirely from the Minigun. I think Aggressive Venting needs a bit of a redesign to be viable, Hot Bullets' delayed activation hurts it functionally even thought it makes sense thematically, and CatG is just the best pick here. I strongly recommend that this tier receive a balance pass in U34.

Autocannon Tier 1

  Increased Caliber Rounds High Capacity Magazine Expanded Ammo Bags
Effects +3 Direct Damage x2 Magazine Size +220 Max Ammo
Pickrate 21.43% 18.37% 60.2%
Rating 2.577981651 2.981651376 3.513636364

I see two design flaws in this tier:

  1. +3 Direct Damage per bullet isn't even in the same ballpark as the damage given by +110 or +220 bullets, and has only a minor effect on single-target DPS due to Autocannon's low accuracy.
  2. Because the Magazine Size of Autocannon is so large in comparison to its Max Ammo, it will be nearly impossible to directly balance a Mag Size boost against a Max Ammo boost.

Once those design issues are resolved somehow, I think that the numbers will finally be able to be balanced properly.

Revolver Tier 3

  Super Blowthrough Rounds Explosive Rounds Hollow-Point Bullets
Effects +3 Penetrations Gain 30 Explosive element Area Damage in a 1.5m radius on every shot in exchange for x0.5 Direct Damage. +50% Weakpoint Bonus
Pickrate 1.83% 29.36% 68.81%
Rating 2.337837838 2.798206278 3.540178571

When I look at these numbers and compare them to how this weapon is modeled in my DPS Calculator, it's a little baffling. "On paper", +3 Penetrations is just as strong as the other two options, and yet people think it's extremely weak on this tier and has one of the lowest pickrates of all 302 Mods/OCs. What I think it boils down to is that Revolver can achieve extremely high accuracy and single-target weakpoint damage (with Volatile Bullets and Elephant Rounds especially, and to a lesser degree Six Shooter) which provides a very clear use for Hollow-Point Bullets, or Revolver can be built for a high ammo "Swarmer clearing" build by picking ammo mods, Explosive Rounds, Neurotixin Coating, and most often Magic Bullets to double-dip in the explosion's damage. The two main "meta" builds have clear uses for T3.B and T3.C, so T3.A falls by the wayside as a result. I suppose that extra penetrations on the sidearm will never be valued very highly when both of Gunner's primaries are able to do multi-target damage with significantly deeper ammo pools. I think that in order for T3.A to be desirable to pick, the Revolver needs to have a third build route opened up for medium-high damage shots that are meant to quickly kill waves of Grunts without needing to aim for their mouths, and T3.C needs a small numerical nerf so that it doesn't outcompete the other two mods so strongly.

GK2 Tier 3

  Floating Barrel Improved Propellant High Capacity Magazine
Effects x0.5 Recoil +1 Direct Damage +10 Magazine Size
Pickrate 10.99% 36.26% 52.75%
Rating 2.686098655 2.659192825 2.851351351

Across the board, this feels like a weak Tier on the GK2. High Capacity Magazines is the highest scoring in rating, but it's still on the lower end of the 2.7 - 3.3 range. Floating Barrel also has to compete against a mod that provides damage (even as little as +1) which means it's automatically at a disadvantage in pickrate and perception. For instance, Floating Barrel scored a little higher than Improved Propellant yet the pickrates clearly favor Improved Propellant. I'll talk more about the GK2 in its own section at the end of this post, but I see Tier 3 as a prime example of why GK2 is perceived to be so weak.

Boomstick Tier 4

  Super Blowthrough Rounds Tungsten Coated Buckshot Improved Blast Wave
Effects +3 Penetrations +300% Armor Breaking +20 Blast Wave damage
Pickrate 60.75% 12.15% 27.1%
Rating 3.399082569 2.562790698 2.527522936

This tier is a bit of a mess, so I'm going to go through it piece-by-piece. Let's start with T4.C Improved Blast Wave. In the past this used to be +40 damage, and the Boomstick didn't have any Blast Wave damage at all unless this mod was equipped. Because people valued Blast Wave for its Swarmer clearing, it was dominant at this tier. To fix that, GSG moved 20 Blast Wave damage into the baseline weapon, and the current T4.C +20 mod was born. The fundamental issue behind this mod is that +20 damage 4m in front of the Boomstick doesn't kill any enemies that weren't already killed by 20 damage. And of course, there's not much sense in raising Blast Wave damage up to +40 or higher because then you wouldn't need to get Damage or Pellet upgrades to kill with the weapon.

Next up: T4.B Tungsten Coated Buckshot. Traditionally, low-accuracy weapons benefit from Armor Breaking mods because the damage that hits armor plates doesn't get reduced as much. However, in the Boomstick's case with a rectangular crosshair measuring 35 Horizontal Spread by 10 Vertical Spread, so few pellets actually hit that even with this AB mod equipped they're not guaranteed to break through things like Praetorian's Heavy Armor plates. On top of that, like I wrote about in part 2's Mechanics section, this AB mod competes against a damage boost and being able to hit more targets (an indirect damage boost). As a result, players who value damage above all else will very rarely pick Armor Breaking in its current design.

Finally, we come to T4.A Super Blowthrough Rounds. A simple stat of +3 Penetrations, but virtually every player has figured out that hitting 4 enemies per pellet on an inaccurate but wide crosshair is an excellent form of waveclear. In the current design of DRG's balance, Scout's weapons have shallow ammo pools and extremely limited waveclear, and Scout has no grenades that directly deal damage to enemies. So, with Boomstick getting +3 Penetrations its value skyrockets because it's halfway decent waveclear. I think that this mod isn't problematic in a vacuum, but it aggrevates some balance issues about the Boomstick in particular and Scout's arsenal in general that causes it to be the go-to mod.

Overclock Groups

Flamethrower

  Lighter Tanks Sticky Additive Compact Feed Valves Fuel Stream Diffuser Face Melter Sticky Fuel
Effects +75 Max Ammo +1 Damage per Particle, +1 sec Sticky Flame Duration +25 Fuel Tank size, -2m Flame Reach +5m Flame Reach, -1.2 Flow Rate +2 Damage per Particle, +1.8 Flow Rate, -75 Max Ammo, x0.5 Movespeed while firing +5 Sticky Flames damage, +6 sec Sticky Flames duration, -25 Fuel Tank size, -75 Max Ammo
Pickrate 28.22% 6.45% 8.87% 8.87% 20.97% 26.61%
Rating 2.953 2.901 2.218 2.618 2.356 3.480

Although the current Overclocks available to the Flamethrower support 3 build paths -- direct DPS, sticky flames, and hybrid -- it's pretty clear that players value the sticky flames build significantly more. As discussed in part 2, T3.B Sticky Flame Slowdown is what I see as the core issue of the OCs' pickrates. There's some support for the direct DPS builds as seen by Face Melter's decent pickrate, but Face Melter also received an extremely low balance rating. Compact Feed Valves seems to have a design flaw more than a numerical imbalance -- Flamethrower's limited 10m range is already pretty short, so players don't want to give up 20% of that range for a "MagSize boost".

Cryo Cannon

  Improved Thermal Efficiency Perfectly Tuned Cooler Flow Rate Expansion Ice Spear Ice Storm Snowball
Effects +25 Max Ammo, x0.75 Pressure Drop Rate +1 Cold per Particle, +0.8 Flow Rate x2.7 Pressure Gain Rate, +0.8 Flow Rate, x2.25 Pressure Drop Rate Press the Reload button to consume 50 ammo and fire an Ice Spear that does 350 Direct Damage and 150 Area Damage in a 1.4m radius and stuns enemies for 3 seconds. In exchange, +1 second Repressurization Delay x2 Damage per Particle, -3 Cold per Particle, -50 Max Ammo, x1.5 Pressure Drop Rate Press the Reload button to consume 35 ammo and fire a Snowball that does 200 Cold in a 4m radius, which freezes most enemies instantly. In exchange, -100 Max Ammo and +1 second Repressurization Delay
Pickrate 5.19% 42.96% 5.93% 14.81% 17.78% 13.33%
Rating 2.803 3.623 2.376 2.536 2.509 2.459

Similar to what I mentioned for Cryo Cannon Mod Tier 4, I see the pickrate and balance rating issues of the Overclocks as symptomatic of players valuing Cryo Cannon's ability to freeze enemies much stronger than its ability to kill enemies. It takes comparatively little ammo to freeze any enemy Praetorian-sized or smaller, but it's a massive ammo investment to kill any enemy using the Cryo Cannon alone. T5.A Fragile helps with that issue by killing enemies with Slasher health or less pretty quickly (and using less ammo), but I'm choosing to focus on the overall issue. In the light of players using Cryo Cannon to quickly freeze enemies and then swap to secondary weapon, drills, or Impact Axes, they no longer need to kill things with the Cryo Cannon. In fact, all they need is enough ammo to freeze every enemy they meet in a mission. As a result, Ice Spear, Ice Storm, and Snowball are all rated low because they cost ammo to equip/use, and Ice Storm makes it harder to freeze enemies. Flow Rate Expansion is decent for quickly freezing small and medium enemies, but it's extremely difficult to freeze anything larger than a Praetorian. You know, enemies like Oppressors, Bulk Detonators, and Dreadnoughts -- the enemies that teams care the most about freezing.

So, Cryo Cannon is all of a sudden down to two OCs: Improved Thermal Efficiency which gives a very small ammo boost and lets the Cryo Cannon fire a little longer before repressurizing, or Perfectly Tuned Cooler which makes the Cryo Cannon freeze every enemy about 20% faster regardless of what build is equipped. Gosh, I wonder which OC the playerbase will value more?

SMG

  Super-Slim Rounds Well Oiled Machine EM Refire Booster Light-Weight Rounds Turret Arc Turret EM Discharge
Effects +5 Magazine Size, x0.8 Base Spread +2 Rate of Fire, -0.2 sec Reload Time +2 Electric element Direct Damage, +4 Rate of Fire, x1.5 Base Spread +180 Max Ammo, -1 Direct Damage, -2 Rate of Fire If a bullet fired at a turret would have electrocuted an enemy, instead it electrifies the turret it for 15 seconds. If two turrets are less than 10m apart and electrified at the same time, an electric beam will run between them that does 20 Electric DPS and slows enemies by 70%. In exchange, -120 Max Ammo and -2 Rate of Fire. If a bullet fired at a turret would have electrocuted an enemy, instead it triggers an explosion that does 40 Electric damage and 50% Base Fear Chance to all enemies within a 5m radius. Every enemy hit by this explosion also gets electrocuted by the normal SMG Electrocute DoT, too. In exchange, -5% Chance to Electrocute and -3 Direct Damage.
Pickrate 9.57% 8.51% 50% 10.64% 5.32% 15.96%
Rating 2.628 2.619 3.329 2.710 1.730 2.256

Just looking at the pickrates and ratings of SMG's OCs, it's pretty clear they fall into three groups: EM Refire Booster, OCs that are weak, and OCs that interact with turrets. EMRB provides more damage per bullet, a moderate RoF boost, and a negligible penalty that raises Base Spread from 3 to 4.5. Altogether, EMRB increases the total damage of the weapon as well as a massive boost to its DPS in exchange for forcing players to get a little closer to enemies. It's pretty obviously the strongest OC in the group.

The second group are the weak OCs: Super-Slim Rounds, Well Oiled Machine, and Light-Weight Rounds. All three of these OCs hover around the low end of the desired 2.7 - 3.3 range and could use some buffs. I think the only real design flaw might be in Super-Slim Rounds, but it would need to have a numerical buff before being able to make that assessment.

The third group are OCs that interact with turrets: Turret Arc and Turret EM Discharge. Turret Arc holds the dishonor of being the lowest-rated Overclock of all 302 Mods/OCs in the survey, and Turret EM Discharge is pretty low too. I think the main design flaw with both of these Unstable OCs is that you have to fully build your turrets to use these OCs and shoot them instead of enemies. Additionally, Turret Arc doesn't even work as intended unless you're running Gemini System. Then, adding DPS/damage penalties to these OCs on top of having to build and shoot your turrets just killed any hope of players running these unironically. I've heard scattered reports of Turret EM Discharge being a fun playstyle, and a couple comments on the Infogrpahic post on Reddit claimed that Turret Arc was their goto OC and they couldn't believe it was rated so low.

PGL

  Clean Sweep Pack Rat Compact Rounds RJ250 Compound Fat Boy Hyper Propellant
Effects +10 Area Damage, +0.5m AoE Radius +2 Max Ammo +4 Max Ammo, -10 Area Damage, -0.5m AoE Radius Players who are not standing on the ground and are within the damage radius of RJ250's explosion will "blast jump" away from the center of the explosion. In exchange, -25 Area Damage. x4 Area Damage, +1m AoE Radius, x0.3 Max Ammo, x0.7 Projectile Velocity, increased terrain carving radius, and leaves behind a field that does 25 Radiation DPS for 15 seconds in an 8m radius. +385 Direct Damage, converts both Direct and Area Damage from Explosive element to Disintegrate element, x0.3 AoE Radius, and -2 Max Ammo.
Pickrate 14.16% 16.81% 1.77% 7.96% 20.35% 38.94%
Rating 3.066 2.944 2.393 2.104 3.411 3.428

It seems that PGL also has three groups of OCs: the balanced Clean OCs, the weak Balanced OCs, and the strong Unstable OCs. There's not much to say about Clean Sweep or Pack Rat; they have both good pickrates and good balance ratings. Compact Rounds, on the other hand, needs some attention. The way I see it, PGL's value comes from having enough Area Damage to one-shot kill Grunts who have 108 eHP at Haz4+. Because Compact Rounds takes away both AoE Radius as well as Area Damage, it forces players to pick a Damage mod at either T1.C or T2.B to get that Grunt Breakpoint back. No matter which mod you pick, you can literally get the same amount of grenades that all do 110 Area Damage with a larger AoE radius just by picking Pack Rat instead.

On a related note, RJ250 Compound has a bit of a design flaw, too: using a grenade to blast jump with the PGL is proportionally a much larger ammo commitment than using a shell on the Boomstick with Special Powder. At best, you get 9-13 shots with PGL + RJ250, in contrast to Boomstick's 26-46. Because PGL is balanced around having so little ammo, using RJ250 even once is already a huge penalty in terms of ammo, regardless of the -25 Area Damage. It doesn't help that it loses the Grunt Breakpoint, too, but I see the ammo concern as a larger issue for RJ250 to be justifiable to use in serious settings.

Last up: the Unstable OCs. Both Hyper Propellant and Fat Boy use the design philosophy of "more damage in exchange for less ammo", and take opposite sides of the spectrum on "area damage vs single-target damage". I see their high pickrates and decently-high balance ratings as indicators that most of the playerbase finds the baseline PGL a little underwhelming, and these two OCs make it "whelming" to use. I think it would be interesting to see if making the baseline PGL stronger (more damage and/or more ammo) without changing these OCs indirectly causes their balance ratings to fall back within a healthy range. I don't think it's necessarily that either of these are too strong in a vacuum, but they're both significantly stronger than their competitors.

Breach Cutter

  Light-Weight Cases Roll Control Stronger Plasma Current Return to Sender High Voltage Crossover Spinning Death Inferno
Effects +3 Max Ammo, -0.2 Reload Time Holding down the trigger after firing causes the line to roll, and letting go of the trigger stops its rotation. +1 Damage per Tick, +0.5 Projectile Lifetime Holding down the trigger after firing activates a remote connection, which on release of the trigger causes the line to reverse direction. In exchange, -6 Max Ammo. Adds a 100% chance to Electrocute enemies, dealing 16 Electric DPS for 4 seconds. In exchange, x0.67 Magazine Size. Instead of flying in a straight line, the projectile now rotates 2 times per second about the Yaw axis. Additionally: x0.05 Projectile Velocity, x0 Impact Damage, x2.5 Projectile Lifetime, +1.5m Plasma Beam Width, x0.2 Beam DPS, x0.5 Max Ammo, and x0.33 Magazine Size The first time the beam hits an enemy, it inflicts 75 Heat and applies a DoT that does 7 Fire Damage and 7 Heat at a rate of 2 ticks/sec for 5 seconds (does 11 ticks total). Additionally, it converts 90% of the Damage per Tick from Electric element to Fire element and adds the amount converted as Heat per tick. In exchange: -3.5 Damage per Tick, -6 Max Ammo, and x0.25 Armor Breaking
Pickrate 8.54% 4.88% 25.61% 19.51% 19.51% 17.07% 4.88%
Rating 3.205 1.916 2.791 3.444 2.416 2.607 1.742

Breach Cutter's OCs are another instance where the balance ratings don't all line up with the pickrates from U32. Pickrates indicate that SPC, RtS, HVC, and SD are the 4 top OCs, whereas the balance ratings indicate that LWC and RtS are the two strongest with the rest ranging from "low end of balanced" to "not worth forging". Here's a short take for all 7:

  • Light-Weight Cases: no one will use this for its Reload boost; BC is already reliant on the Born Ready passive perk. As a result, the strength of the ammo boost will be inversely proportional to how hard it is for BC to get more ammo (looking at you, T2.A...)
  • Roll Control: similar issue to T5.A "Explosive Goodbye", this artificially lowers the BC's RoF by forcing you to hold down the trigger, and the reward given is hard to get value from. Because it doesn't affect any numbers, it's clearly held back by a design flaw.
  • Stronger Plasma Current: boring design, but decent numbers. A fine Clean OC, but it will struggle to be seen as strong when more interesting OCs exist in the Balanced and Unstable sections.
  • Return to Sender: Halve the RoF to double your damage per shot; it's easy to see why this OC has dominated Breach Cutter OCs since its introduction. Getting a Max Ammo penalty was a good change, and it's arguably in an ok state right now. I speculate that making the other OCs more compelling will bring perceptions of this OC down without changing anything about RtS itself.
  • High Voltage Crossover: This OC gives the strongest Electrocute DoT in the game, both in terms of DPS and duration. On top of that, the x0.2 Movespeed from the DoT multiplies with Breach Cutter's innate x0.3 movespeed multiplier while its line is in contact with an enemy, so it practically "roots" enemies and makes them take a little more damage than normal. Solid design, potentially viable as a Clean OC?
  • Spinning Death: amazing design, but poor numbers in its current state. The amount of ammo and mag size lost for equipping SD isn't gained back from the extra lifetime and width, and players have picked up on that. Some small numerical tweaks are all that this OC needs to be great.
  • Inferno: this OC does a lot under the hood. By changing most of the damage dealt to be Fire element instead of Electric, Inferno makes BC a lot stronger vs all Mactera enemies, Spitball Infectors, Deeptora Honeycombs, and any Glacial Strata variants of common enemies. Additionally, the 75 Heat + 90% Beam DPS Heat/sec + 5 second "hidden DoT" is enough to guarantee that every enemy that can be ignited will be ignited. In fact, that hidden DoT has a higher Heat/sec value than the vast majority of enemies' Cooling Rates, so it functionally extends the time before Burn DoTs start ticking down by a full 5 seconds. In my opinion, Inferno is the "poster child" of the DoT Dilemma -- you have to wait upwards of 8-13 seconds after every shot to get the most value out of Inferno's extra damage, which almost every player is unwilling to do. This is clearly reflected by Inferno both being tied for lowest pickrate of all seven Overclocks as well as scoring the second-lowest rating of all 302 Mods/OCs. I think that if this OC didn't remove both DPS and max ammo it wouldn't be nearly as weak to equip.

GK2

  Compact Ammo Gas Rerouting Homebrew Powder Overclocked Firing Mechanism Bullets of Mercy AI Stability Engine Electrifying Reload
Effects +5 Magazine Size, x0.7 Recoil +1 Rate of Fire, -0.3 sec Reload Time Every bullet has a random multiplier that ranges from x0.8 to x1.4, but averages out to x1.1. +3 Rate of Fire, x2.5 Recoil Deal x1.33 damage vs enemies that have a Status Effect active. In exchange, -5 Magazine Size x0 Recoil, x2.11 Spread Recovery Speed, +40% Weakpoint Bonus, -2 Direct Damage, -2 Rate of Fire If any bullets from a magazine damage an enemy's healthbar, then those enemies will have an Electrocute DoT applied to them that does 12 Electric DPS for 4 seconds when that magazine gets reloaded. In exchange, -3 Direct Damage and -5 Magazine Size.
Pickrate 8.24% 11.76% 7.06% 7.06% 37.65% 23.53% 4.71%
Rating 2.718 2.728 2.173 2.454 3.362 3.276 1.797

To paraphrase what someone else pointed out to me about GK2's Overclocks: "GK2 has low damage and low DPS, and Bullets of Mercy and AI Stability Engine are the only two OCs that give it the DPS boost needed to make it feel good." I've already talked at length about Homebrew Powder in part 2, the two Clean OCs are a little on the undertuned side numerically, and OFM... exists. Its design isn't too bad; I think it just needs a little tweaking to be usable. I think the real issue is that because total Recoil is a rolling sum of every shot's Recoil per Shot, OFM's +3 RoF would make the recoil significantly more noticeable even without the x2.5 Recoil per Shot penalty.

Then, we come to Electrifying Reload. Ranked 5th lowest according to the survey, and has my nomination for "worst Overclock". This OC has a few design flaws to unpack:

  1. The 12 DPS gained from the Electrocute DoT is strictly less than the -20% lost from the weapon’s baseline DPS, and this problem gets even worse when mods are applied that make the OC-less DPS better. M1000’s Electrocuting Focus Shots is about in-place trade for DPS, but more on that later.
  2. The DoT only applies when the weapon is reloaded, which means that you have to stop shooting the enemy to Electrocute it. With the exception of Bulk Detonators, why would players ever do that when they could keep shooting it and it dies faster?
  3. The Electrocute DoT lasts 4 seconds, but the Reload time is 1.8 seconds. That means that if you’re trying to shoot an enemy you just Electrocuted, you only have a 2.2 second window with which to work. That’s functionally only around a 55% uptime.
  4. The biggest issue is that unlike Explosive Reload and Embedded detonators, it doesn’t matter how many bullets you unload into an enemy, this will only do one Electrocute DoT when you reload. ER and ED both give you more damage the more you shoot an enemy. This OC rewards you for shooting 20 enemies once and then reloading to watch a 4-second rave.

Frankly, I'm not sure that Electrifying Reload can be salvaged, regardless of numerical changes. The biggest issue facing it is finding a different way to proc Electrocute without reloading.

M1000

  Hoverclock Minimal Clips Active Stability System Hipster Electrocuting Focus Shots Supercooling Chamber
Effects While charging a Focused Shot in midair, your movespeed is reduced by 80% for 1.5 seconds, or until you fire the shot. Getting a kill or touching the ground lets you use Hover again. +16 Max Ammo, -0.2 sec Reload Time No movement speed penalty while charging a Focused Shot, +20% Focus Speed, +0.5 Reload Time +3 Rate of Fire, x1.75 Max ammo, -10% Spread per Shot, x0.85 Max Bloom, x0.5 Recoil, x0.6 Direct Damage Focused Shots have a 100% chance to apply an Electrocute DoT that does 12 Electric DPS for 4 seconds. In exchange, -25% Focused Shot Multiplier. +125% Focused Shot Multiplier, x0.635 Max Ammo, x0.5 Focus Speed, and you are unable to move while charging a Focused Shot.
Pickrate 10.39% 32.47% 11.69% 7.79% 25.97% 11.69%
Rating 2.959 3.088 2.704 2.335 2.287 1.959

Depending on which player you ask, M1000 has 1-4 good Overclocks. It's almost unanimous that Minimal Clips is the most well-rounded OC for both Hipfire or Focused Shot builds. Some people think Hoverclock and/or Active Stability System are good, and there's a handful of people who advocate for Electrocuting Focus Shots. But across the board, I've only heard bad things about Hipster and Supercooling Chamber. I think the design of Hipster is really cool, but it needs some number tweaking to be viable. More damage per shot, less RoF, and less ammo is the direction I would recommend. As for Supercooling Chamber, the 7th-lowest rated Mod/OC in the survey, I think it suffers from a design flaw (or maybe two). The fantasy of SC is to crank up Focused Shots to their logical extreme -- a lot more damage, but instead of moving at 30% speed, you can't move at all while charging. Additionally, to prevent this from being a huge DPS boost it also curently has a Focus Speed penalty. From my perspective, I see that Focus Speed penalty as what "kills" the viability of SC. DRG's gameplay involves a lot of movement to kite enemies effectively, and you often shoot on the run. Using Focused Shots at all can be risky in close-quarters combat, and that's only when you get slowed by 70% for 0.5-0.65 seconds. Being "rooted" for upwards of a second is lethal. There's almost no situation where any amount of damage per shot is enough of a reward for dramatically increasing the probability that you take damage, die, and fail a mission. It's ok to give Supercooling Chamber some other kind of DPS penalty, but being rooted while charging a Focused Shot is already bad enough without artificially doubling how long you have to stand there.

Just to briefly touch on Electrocuting Focus Shots: I see this OC as both well-designed as well as pretty well balanced. The 12 DPS you gain from the Electrocute is almost a perfect replacement for the DPS lost from -25% Focus Shot Multiplier for almost every build. Its pickrate is in an ok place, but it was rated pretty low on the survey. If I had to guess, maybe people want this OC to be a performance increase for the M1000 instead of just maintaining existing performance and gaining a 4 second 80% slow?

Boomstick

  Compact Shells Double Barrel Special Powder Stuffed Shells Shaped Shells Jumbo Shells
Effects +6 Max Ammo, -0.2 Reload Time Changes the Boomstick to fire in a 2-round burst. Additionally, +1 Damage per Pellet. Jump off the ground and fire the shotgun to "blast jump" around the caves +1 Damage per Pellet, +1 Pellet per Shot -35% Base Spread, -2 Pellets per Shot +8 Damage per Pellet, -10 Max Ammo, +0.5 sec Reload Time
Pickrate 16.67% 4.17% 43.75% 12.5% 2.08% 20.83%
Rating 2.943 2.268 3.496 2.929 2.051 3.225

Really, I only see three problematic OCs on the Boomstick: Special Powder, Double Barrel, and Shaped Shells. Jumbo Shells might need an extremely small numerical nerf, but it's hardly worth mentioning in comparison to the other three.

Ranked 9th best Mod/OC, Special Powder considers the question "how much mobility does Scout need?" and replies with "an extremely unreasonable amount". In stark contrast to RJ250 Compound which exacerbates PGL's shallow ammo pool problem, Special Powder can be used up to 46 times before needing a resupply. With T2.A Double Trigger you can fling Scout an extremely far distance, or with T2.B Quickfire Ejector you can almost hover in the air indefinitely. It's virtually unlimited mobility, allowing skilled players to never worry about fall damage again. But remember Uncle Ben's famous mantra for Spider-Man: "With great power comes absolutely no downsides". Wait, that doesn't sound right. Eh, I'll look it up later. Setting the jokes aside: Special Powder offers a lot, takes nothing in return, has an extremely high balance rating score, and has an obscene pickrate considering there are 5 other options. Its only real "design flaw" is that it's a Clean OC. I could easily see this qualifying as a Balanced, or maybe even Unstable for how drastically it changes how the weapon gets used.

I've been told that Double Barrel was created because of a community request to be able to fire both barrels at the same time. Well, wish granted, I guess? Unfortunately spending two ammo every time you pull the trigger effectively doubles the damage per shot (which was already high to begin with) and halves the ammo pool (which was already only medium-small). On top of that, Jumbo Shells generally outcompetes this OC in the "high burst of damage" niche while also giving the player more granular control over how their ammo gets spent. I like the idea of the design, but I'm not sure if it will ever be a viable design unless it can find some other niche stat it can modify.

Finally, we come to Shaped Shells. Ranked the 10th worst Mod/OC and having one of the lowest pickrates too, it's not hard to see why this OC is seen as weak. -35% Base Spread is a considerable improvement, but not enough to make 2 pellets that would have missed hit the intended target, so the -2 Pellets per Shot penalty ends up being a reduction in overall damage. The design is interesting, and I think it's salvagable with some numerical tweaking. Better Base Spread, less damage taken, or potentially add some kind of damage boost to offset the pellets' loss.

Weapons

You made it! After thousands of words and almost two full-length blog posts going over "micro balance" issues, you've finally reached the "macro balance" section! Congratulations!

Sadly, I don't have very many meaningful "insights" into macro balance issues like I do the micro balance ones. Pretty much every player you ask will be able to tell you what some of the macro balance issues in U33 are. Rather than try to pull some insight out of a hat, I'm going to just add a few comments on the macro balance issues that stand out the most to me. I'm pretty sure everyone's eyes will have glazed over somewhere around the Mod Tiers section, so I won't keep you reading for much longer.

Cryo Cannon

I mentioned it breiefly while talking about its Mod Tier 4, and went into it a little while discussing its Overclocks, but right now Cryo Cannon's main balance issue is that players value it for freezing enemies, not for killing them. Frozen is an incredibly strong Status Effect in DRG right now: "stunning" enemies for 0.9 to 7 seconds, making them take 3x Direct Damage while Frozen, flying enemies die instantly once Frozen, and it cancels all "on death" effects like Praetorians' gas glouds, Bulk and Crassus Detonators' final explosion, Volatile Guts explosions, and Parasites. Cryo Cannon is able to quickly and reliably freeze virtually every enemy in the game, and is able to do it using relatively little ammo. In theory, to offset Cryo Cannon giving easy access to Frozen, it does very little DPS on its own. This is easily sidestepped by swapping to either secondary weapon (Subata or EPC), the powered drills that do triple damage and can proc Vampire's +5 health from melee kills vs Frozen enemies, or just throwing an Impact Axe. As if that wasn't enough, literally every other class has 2-4 weapons that benefit from Frozen.

Because Cryo Cannon is used in short bursts to freeze enemies and then swap to something else (or let teammates shoot the Frozen enemies), it really doesn't matter how much or how little DPS it does. This is both why T4.A and OC Ice Storm won't be valued very highly and have low pickrates, as well as why the meta build is freezing power and more ammo. More cold per particle directly translates to less ammo required to freeze enemies, faster flow rate translates to less time spent freezing and more time spent killing, and more ammo means that you can freeze more enemies and use more of your combo options' ammo pools before resupplying. T4.C gives a lot of ammo and OC Perfectly Tuned Cooler gives both Cold per Particle and Flow Rate, so it's really no surprise why they're both considered extremely strong and have such dominant pickrates. I still can't get over how U32 gave Cryo Cannon more baseline ammo, more ammo in T2.A, and more ammo in T4.C and expected it to be balanced. I raised concerns about it in U32XP, I brought them up again in my U32 Pickrates blog post, and I'm bringing it up for a third time here: nerf Cryo Cannon's ammo.

I would prefer if U34 changed Cryo Cannon to shift its identity from "braindead freezy gun" into a proper weapon in and of itself that makes players earn the Frozen status effect instead of giving it away like day-old bread at a bakery. Only then will its DPS upgrades even be considered by the playerbase, and then picking mods/OCs to make it freeze enemies easier will have a true opportunity cost to equip.

EPC

I've said this elsewhere, but it feels like GSG took 70% of EPC's power out of the base weapon and crammed it all into Thin Containment Field, leaving everything else to feel like it's only at 30%. Baseline Charged Shots need a buff, Flying Nightmare in particular needs a buff, Thin Containment Field needs a nerf, and the Overclocks could use a little tweaking too. Alternatively, GSG could redesign EPC from the ground up instead of splitting it between Regular Shots and Charged Shots, and rebuild the mods/OCs for the new design. However, I doubt that redesign will happen in U34, especially with 4+ new weapons on the way in U35.

PGL

In my opinion, PGL's ammo pool is so small that it feels like players are forced to pick ammo mods. While its damage per grenade is ok, it can feel a little on the low side at times even with an upgrade or two invested into damage. I think giving it a little more ammo and potentially a little more damage would make the "normal" PGL builds feel a lot better to use, which would indirectly reduce the popularity and perceived strength of Hyper Propellant and Fat Boy. There are some design issues that I've already discussed a little, but overall I think that PGL is just a small buff away from a healthier balance.

Breach Cutter

This weapon is just all over the place -- it started out so weak it was called the "bread cutter", then got mega buffed and defined what "overpowered" meant for a while, and ever since U32 it's been in a decent place overall. I still think it does a little too much vs large enemies (Dreadnoughts and Bulk Detonators in particular), but with a little mod shuffling and OC rebalancing, I think Breach Cutter could potentially be in a really great state for U34 and beyond.

GK2

I think that GK2 has a bit of an identity problem. It's a very simple AR design, and doesn't seem to excel at anything in particular. Decent accuracy, moderate DPS, and low max damage all leave me wondering what situations it's designed to be used for. I think it would be interesting to see GSG move GK2 away from a Weakpoint DPS weapon in competition with the M1000 and instead gave it something that it can do that M1000 can't. Things like innate Armor Breaking and/or better DPS and total damage but without passive Weakpoint bonuses spring to mind, kind of leaning into the AR fantasy. If it keeps its current "jack of all trades" design, then it could stand to get a small ammo buff, a small DPS buff, and a massive rebalancing of its Overclocks.

Classes

Driller

Have you ever heard the saying "jack of all trades, but master of none"? I feel like Driller's current balance is "jack of all trades, master of most". Lots of crowd control, tons of multi-target damage, insane amount of utility and mobility, and can even get some pretty respectable single-target damage with certain loadouts. I'm not sure how so much got added to Driller to make him pretty much the entire team of 4 classes combined, but I feel like some stuff has to be taken back. Yes, Driller mains, I'm suggesting that Driller gets nerfed. In particular, the Impact Axes stand out to me as something that doesn't make sense for his kit. Without Impact Axes, Driller can really struggle to burn through large healthbars, even while they're Frozen. That used to be the case, and it felt like an intentional design decision made by GSG to encourage Drillers to play with Gunners and Scouts who had weapons able to deal with those large healthbars. Then, when Impact Axes were aded, that weakness virtually disappeared. Even without Impact Axes, Driller currently can freeze enemies and hit them with EPC Heavy Hitter 40 damage per shot, C4 them for 375-875 damage, or TCF detonate for 240 damage. I like the idea of making Driller great at small/medium enemies but struggling to deal with large enemies on their own, so that's what I would pursue.

Engineer

Engineer has decent balance overall, but feels very ammo-hungry in comparison to Driller and Gunner. I'd be hesitant to hand out baseline ammo buffs for no reason, but it's extremely common for Engineers to ask to double-dip and take someone else's resupply. I think both PGL and Breach Cutter need a little more balancing, both within themselves as well as against each other. U32 made it a lot better than U31 was, but U34 could make it great. If Engineer has to give up something in exchange for deeper ammo wells, I think a little of his AoE damage could be taken away. Also, his Turret has a few balance issues (mainly revolving around Defender), but these blog posts are focused primarily on weapons.

Scout

I once read a comment in the DRG subreddit: "Scout never has a high killcount, but that's only because it doesn't count how many enemies your team never has to fight because you finish missions so much faster with him on the team". That statement has really stuck with me, and I think of it often when trying to figure out what to do about Scout's weapon balance. As things are now (and have been for a very long time), Scout has low max ammo, moderate DPS, no grenades that damage enemies, his Grappling Hook only helps himself (and not the whole team like Drills, Ziplines, or Platforms), and his Flare Gun is a non-combat utility. It's quite clear that the devs don't want Scout to be the Engineer with a Grappling Hook, and want Scout players to be supportive of their teammates in indirect ways. Best equipped to get minerals far away and high up, able to let the team see Cave Leeches and other stationary enemies from a long distance due to Flares in the ceiling, and fast enough to kite enemies far enough away to revive teammates for clutch saves. On the other side of the issue, players generally resent playing Scout because he's so weak in combat in comparison to the other three classes, and don't want to be relegated to just a "get the minerals" class. I'm scared of giving Scout's weapons any large buffs, because I'm absolutely terrified of a "4 Scout meta" where swarms are easily dealt with and no one ever dies due to the mobility of Grappling Hook (and let's be honest, Special Powder). Like, why would you ever play Engineer or Gunner when you can get the same DPS and comparable max damage on Scout but with a Grappling Hook too? I firmly believe that current version of Engineer's Shotgun should be the absolute maximum upper bound of how far the GK2 and M1000 could be buffed, and even that might be too strong.

Final Thoughts

Damage above all else

This theme popped up a few times in these posts -- whenever players are able to choose between a Mod/OC that gives more damage (damage per ammo, more ammo, or more enemies hit per ammo) or a Mod/OC that's a QoL boost or accuracy boost, they will overwhelmingly favor more damage. Perhaps this effect is based on the noticeable impact that those upgrades have in combat, when players' attention is most focused on how the weapon performs? In contrast to the QoL or accuracy upgrades that have less noticeable impact unless you specifically know what you're looking for. If nothing else, I now have enough data from U31 pickrates, U32 pickrates, and the community survey to support a hypothesis that I've held for a while now: damage upgrades will always be more popular, therefore they should very rarely ever be in direct competition with non-damage upgrades if GSG wants to have good micro balance in the weapons.

The DoT Dilemma

I mentioned this a couple times in parts 2 and 3, specifically in EPC OC "Persistent Plasma", PGL T3.A "Incendiary Compound", Breach Cutter OC "Inferno", and Autocannon OC "Neurotoxin Payload". In the current balance of DRG, Damage-over-Time effects ("DoTs") only do between 8-25 DPS for 2-15 seconds, and generally average around 12 DPS for 4 seconds. In contrast, most weapons do 100-150 Burst DPS without upgrades, and easily hit 180-300 Burst DPS while fully upgraded. For the past few updates it seems like GSG has been penalizing weapons' killing power in exchange for theoretically more total damage if you let the DoTs run for their full duration, but that's a choice that the playerbase seems to be rejecting. Especially at higher difficulties, players value killing enemies quickly so that they're in less danger of losing the mission. In order to get value from DoTs, the player has to stop shooting at enemies and let the low-DPS DoT tick down the enemy's health for a few seconds. While they're waiting for the bugs to die of old age or a DoT (whichever comes first), they'll have to kite enemies a lot more and use their ammo more sparingly in order to justify having the DoTs equipped.

I propose a different way to balance DoTs: never decrease the DPS of a weapon lower than what is given back by the DoT being picked up, and instead have DoT upgrades come with Max Ammo penalties. That way the killing power of weapons remains on par with non-DoT builds, but the extra damage garnered by the DoTs is compensated for by having less ammo overall.

Breach Cutter Syndrome

I already talked about this while talking about Carpet Bomber, but I think it deserves to get its own section here at the end. I coined this phrase in Update 31 when Breach Cutter was able to get projectile lifetime at Tier 1, more ammo, damage, or projectile width at Tier 2, projectile width at Tier 3, Plasma Trail or Tiple Split Line at Tier 5, and Return to Sender as its Overclock. I use this phrase to describe weapons that have their upgrades distributed throughout the mod tiers and Overclocks such that they all multiply together, which creates a handful of builds that vastly outcompete the other builds in terms of max total damage and/or DPS. Autocannon is really the only weapon that still has some Breach Cutter Syndrome, but I think this term is worth introducing into the community's vernacular in case some of the new weapons in U35 suffer from this affliction.

Perceptions are affected by lack of information

This is a subject near and dear to my own heart. It's no secret that I originally created the DPS Calculator for my own personal use, but afterwards chose to share it with the community when I realized how much "under the hood" information I had gathered that most of the community didn't know about. For the same reason, I got in contact with the guys who made this website so that I could update the tooltips of the weapons with precise descriptions that were better than what was offered in-game (or even on the Wiki in some cases). Once more, I find myself compelled to point out how little information is actually given to players in the Equipment Terminal or the in-game HUD. Several of the Mods/OCs perceived to be weak (GK2 T5.B "Battle Cool" in particular) have extremely powerful effects, but because there's no information conveyed by the game itself about how they work players just don't know how strong they are.

As I pointed out a few times in part 1, I chose not to provide my highly detailed descriptions of how each Mod/OC worked on the questions of the survey because I wanted to gauge the perceived balance levels of each upgrade. The results are quite telling: mods that do a lot in the background but say nothing in the foreground have poor balance ratings and pickrates (Shotgun T5.A Turret Whip, PGL T5.A Proximity Trigger, GK2 T5.B Battle Cool, etc). I firmly believe that one of the best balance changes that GSG could possibly make in Update 34 is to simply tell players what every Mod/OC actually does. Because most players use the game itself as the primary source of information and don't want to consult something like the Wiki, this website, or my desktop app, the vast majority of balance perceptions are skewed by DRG's lack of information.

300 responses may have been too few

There were several instances where the perceived balance ratings given by the 296 survey-takers literally contradicted the pickrates of loadouts submitted to Karl.gg during Update 32. Things like Cryo Cannon Tier 5 and Breach Cutter's Overclocks stand out in particular. One of the higher-upvoted comments on the Infographic post on the subreddit was that 300 players is too small of a sample size, and I agree. Truth be told, I was hoping for 500 to 1,500 responses over the course of the week, but that wasn't how it turned out. With a playerbase numbering at least 200,000 (if not closer to a million), I think in order for any future surveys to be meaningful I would want at least 2,000 responses. I'm not sure how I would get that many, though, shy of GSG posting the survey themselves.


Thanks for reading! This was my longest post so far, taking around 24 hours to write the content, and so many words it had to be split into two parts. In the future, I'll try to confine blog posts to more focused topics, rather than a wide spread of balance issues across all the weapons. Sorry again for not getting it out by Friday like I had hoped, but there was just so much to say.

Rock and Stone!
-MeatShield