Armor Breaking in U34

1 month ago

Hey folks, it's another blog post from MeatShield! Going back to my usual style, this is going to be long and educational post with a ton of numbers in it. One of the many, many, many things I wrote about for the Community Survey series of blog posts (parts 1, 2, and 3) was the Armor Breaking mechanic in DRG. This blog post is a follow-up to the little "blurb" about Armor Breaking that was done in part 2 of that series. My goal is to explain how Armor works in DRG, describe how Armor Breaking mods ("AB mods") work, identify what design flaws are holding AB mods back, and list a few ideas of how to improve them.

Armor on Enemies

Before I begin describing how AB mods work, I first want to explain in detail how Armor works on the various enemies found on Hoxxes IV. There are three major categories of Armor: Light, Heavy, and Unbreakable. All forms of Light and Heavy Armor use either Armor Strength or Armor Health to determine how they get broken. All types of Armor are designed to mitigate the amount of Direct Damage being dealt to the enemy underneath the armor plates, but they do not reduce the Area Damage dealt to the enemy. Even though Armor plates don't reduce the incoming Area Damage, they still take damage from and can be broken by Area Damage (except for Unbreakable armor, as the name implies).

Armor Strength

All forms of Light Armor and some forms of Heavy Armor use a mechanic named "Armor Strength". Armor Strength plates have a chance to break when damaged by either Direct or Area Damage. If these plates are hit by multiple pellets from a shotgun blast, then each pellet will have an independent chance to break the armor plate -- they don't all add together to artificially make shotgun weapons better vs Armor Strength plates. To the best of my knowledge, Direct and Area damage happen in the same calculation, so if a bullet from the Autocannon were to hit an Armor Strength plate, its Direct and Area Damage would be added together to calculate the probability to break the Armor Strength plate while all the surrounding plates would only have the Area Damage.

To calculate the probability that any particular damage instance has to break an Armor Strength plate, there are 4 things you need to know:

  • How much Direct and Area Damage is being dealt in the one damage instance (each pellet from a shotgun blast is a separate calculation)
  • The Armor Breaking percentage being used
  • The Armor Strength of the armor plate being damaged
  • The Armor Strength probability lookup "curve"

Some useful reference points in the Armor Strength curve are x = 1.0 -> y = 50%, 2.0 -> 75%, and 4.0 or higher is guaranteed to break the plate.

Using those four pieces of information, you can follow these steps to calculate the probability:

  1. Calculate how much "Armor Damage" is being dealt: [(Direct + Area) x Armor Breaking].
  2. Divide the Armor Damage by the Armor Strength.
  3. Use that result as the x-value on the Armor Strength curve to look up the probability that the Armor Strength plate will break from that damage

Armor Health

Any Heavy Armor that doesn't use Armor Strength to determine the chance that the plate will break instead uses a mechanic named "Armor Health". Every Armor Health plate has its own Healthbar that needs to be completely depleted before it will break, and they inherit the Elemental Resistances and Vulnerabilities of the creature they're attached to. In contrast to the convoluted way to calculate the Armor Strength plates' probability to break, Armor Health plates work pretty intuitively. Multiply the Direct and Area Damage by the Armor Breaking percentage, and subtract that amount from the Armor Health plate's Healthbar. If the Armor Breaking is 400%, then the damage will do 4x damage to Armor Health plates.

Light Armor

The defining feature of Light Armor is that it reduces all Direct Damage that passes through it. If you only have Direct Damage at your disposal, then enemies covered in Light Armor will seem a little tankier than they actually are. After a Light Armor plate gets broken, their body will be exposed underneath and subsequent shots to where the Light Armor plate used to be will do full damage. All Light Armor uses Armor Strength to determine how it gets broken.

Table of enemies with Light Armor

  Direct Damage Reduction Armor Strength
Glyphid Grunt -20% 15
Glyphid Slasher -20% 15
Glyphid Guard -20% 15
Glyphid Web Spitter -20% 10
Glyphid Acid Spitter -20% 10
Q'ronar Youngling -50% 5

Heavy Armor

In contrast to Light Armor just reducing Direct Damage, Heavy Armor's defining feature is that it negates all Direct Damage from affecting an enemy's healthbar until broken. Just like Light Armor, after a Heavy Armor plate gets broken then any Direct Damage source will do full damage to the body beneath where the plate used to be. Heavy Armor can use either Armor Strength or Armor Health to determine how to break the armor plate.

Table of enemies with Heavy Armor

  Armor Strength Armor Health

Glyphid Guard
(front legs)

Glyphid Praetorian   100
Glyphid Warden 15  
Glyphid Dreadnought
Arbalest & Lacerator*
Glyphid Menace Front plates: 10
Rear plates: 1
Q'ronar Shellback   Head and Neck: 70
Body and Tail: 30
Mactera Brundle   80

* Disclaimer: there is a known bug where Arbalest/Lacerator's Heavy Armor around their abdomen doesn't interact with Armor Breaking mods correctly, but the Heavy Armor on their front legs does. Hopefully GSG will fix it in U35 so that AB mods will be really helpful vs the Twins.

Unbreakable Armor

Just like Heavy Armor, Unbreakable Armor negates all Direct Damage from affecting an enemy's health. However, as the name implies, there's no way for players to break Unbreakable Armor so it forces players to shoot these enemies where they aren't covered in armor.

List of enemies with Unbreakable Armor

  • Glyphid Oppressor
  • Glyphid Dreadnought

Other Armor

Some enemies have Armor that doesn't neatly fit into one of the three main categories.

  • Glyphid Crassus Detonator is covered in a type of golden "Medium Armor" that reduces incoming Direct Damage by -60%, but it can't be broken. After breaking the three weakpoint bulbs, I recommend shooting its mouth -- it's the easiest place to remember that isn't covered by the molten gold armor.
  • Korlok Tyrant-Weed's Heart is covered by Unbreakable Armor, but it's invincible until you kill enough Sprouts to open it up.
  • Gylphid Dreadnought Hiveguard is covered in Unbreakable Armor but it's invincible until Phase 3 of the fight.

Both Korlok and Hiveguard defy categorization because their Unbreakable Armor also stops Area Damage from damaging them, unlike the aforementioned Oppressor and OG Dreadnought.

Bugs with Breaking Armor Plates

Before we get too far, I need to bring up two major bugs with breaking Armor plates.

Armor Health divides Direct Damage by the Normal Difficulty Scaling Resistance

If you weren't aware, the reason that enemies take more damage to kill at higher difficulties is because all of the damage that you do to them is getting divided by the Difficulty Scaling Resistance. The total health of each enemy stays the same, but your damage per shot does less and less to enemies as the difficulty goes up. "Normal" enemies only scale with Hazard level, and "Large" enemies scale with both Hazard level and Player count.

The bug is that Direct Damage going into Armor Health plates should not be affected by the DS Resistance, but they currently are. I've talked extensively with the devs, and they're quite adamant that it's supposed to take the same amount of damage to break these plates no matter what Hazard level it is. Praetorian armor is only supposed to break after taking 100 damage, but on Haz4+ it takes 120 Direct Damage.

Area Damage that gets applied to Armor Health plates does not get divided by DS Resistance, as intended. That said, it has its own bug to deal with...

Area Damage does not use Falloff correctly when interacting with Armor plates

Rather than explain it in detail here, I'm just going to provide a link to the Wiki article about Area Damage to explain how Falloff is supposed to work. While it does work correctly when damaging enemies' healthbars, the Falloff does not work correctly when interacting with Armor plates. Regardless of what the Maximum Damage Radius is supposed to be for the Area Damage, it only does full damage within a 0.5m radius. After that, it then drops to 25% damage for the rest of the radius instead of tapering off linearly. So, if you had a Carpet Bomber Autocannon with a 2.6m radius, then the outer 2.1m would only be doing 25% damage vs Armor. It's worth noting that the "default" values for Falloff are 0.5m and 25%, so it seems that the Area Armor damage doesn't pull the correct values from the weapon.

As if that wasn't bad enough, there also seems to be a bug where the direct point of impact is only getting 25% of Area Damage, and the Armor plates immediately around it get the full 100%. If I had to guess, I think the game engine is measuring the distance between point of impact to the armor plates as being greater than the Radius (or possibly negative) which then causes it to default to the lowest possible damage multiplier (the Falloff multiplier, 25%). That might also explain why it drops off from 100% to 25% immediately; if the distance calculation is erroneous and it's returning a default/safe value.

Summary of bugged Armor interactions

When it's all said and done here's how it breaks down:

  • Where the projectile/bullet impacts the Armor plate: [(Direct Damage x Armor Breaking x Elemental Resistance / Normal DS Resistance) + (25% x Area Damage x Armor Breaking x Elemental Resistance)]
  • The armor plates within 0.5m of impact location: [Area Damage x Armor Breaking x Elemental Resistance]
  • All armor plates within the AoE damage radius but further than 0.5m away from impact location: [25% x Area Damage x Armor Breaking x Elemental Resistance]

Yeah... it's not pretty. But at least now it's figured out! I'm pretty sure that the Elemental Resistance only applies to Armor Health plates, but I wanted to show the full formulas for posterity's sake.

Miscellaneous bugs with Armor

  • Any mod that adds Heat to Direct Damage (EPC T5.C, PGL T3.A, Minigun T5.C, Boomstick T5.C) makes the Heat bypass Heavy and Unbreakable Armor, even though the Damage is fully negated.
  • Driller's Impact Axes are only supposed to have their 80 Area Damage have 25% Armor Breaking, but both instances of their Direct Damage bypass Heavy Armor as if it doesn't exist. Unbreakable Armor seems to work correctly vs Impact Axes.
  • Scout's Flaregun bypasses armor entirely on common enemies, but not the Dreadnought Twins.
  • Scout's Boomstick Blastwave damage is supposed to have 200% Armor Damage, but it currently does 0% damage to armor.
  • (already mentioned above) Dreadnought Arbalest and Lacerator have Heavy Armor all around their body, but only the armor plates on their front legs work with AB mods correctly. The Heavy Armor around their weakpoint abdomen just requires full damage, even with an AB mod equipped.

Armor Breaking Mods

Finally, after ALL that context, I can write the actual content that I had in mind when I had the idea during part 2 of the Community Survey series.

How do they work?

Currently, AB mods do 2 things:

  • Greatly increase the amount of "Armor Damage" dealt to both Armor Strength plates (increases probability to break each shot) and Armor Health plates (reduces the number of shots needed to deplete their healthbars)
  • If an AB mod is equipped, the Direct Damage of the shot that breaks the armor plate will do full damage. It doesn't get reduced by Light Armor, and it doesn't get negated by Heavy Armor. (This used to be broken, but U32 fixed it!)

Pickrates and Balance Ratings of the AB mods

For your convenience, here's the same table that I compiled for part 2 of the Community Survey series:

  Pickrate in U32 Pickrate in U33 Average Balance Rating
Shotgun T4.A "Tungsten Coated Buckshot" 9.82% 9.16% 2.666666667
PGL T3.B "Pressure Wave" 80.83% 84.43% 3.135371179
Breach Cutter T4.A "Armor Breaking" 32.94% 41.18% 3.080717489
Minigun T3.A "Hardened Rounds" 23.81% 36.61% 2.862222222
Autocannon T4.A "Hardened Rounds" 47.96% 46.32% 2.976525822
BRT T4.A "Hardened Rounds" 9.41% 6.94% 2.328358209
GK2 T4.B "Hardened Rounds" 9.89% 11.34% 2.538116592
M1000 T4.C "Hardened Rounds" 16.67% 10.1% 2.23255814
Boomstick T4.B "Tungsten Coated Buckshot" 12.15% 15.69% 2.562790698

Briefly summarizing what I said in that section: players perceive AB mods as balanced when they don't compete against mods that give more damage, more DPS, or more ammo. PGL's AB mod is overpicked due to Hyper Propellant and players not wanting to lose DPS from Incendiary Compound, Autocannon's AB mod has a great pickrate, and Breach Cutter's AB mod competes against a strong Stun and the BC ignores Armor anyway.

Issues with AB mods

From my perspective, I think there are three main issues that are keeping AB mods from being attractive to players:

  1. There is an upper limit on how effective AB mods can be -- they can't reduce Direct Damage "wasted" by Armor below 0% (M1000's AB mod does this, but at the time of the survey it was the lowest-rated AB mod of all 9)
  2. Because most weapons in the game that rely on Direct Damage are already pretty accurate, players rarely need to worry about missing Weakpoints and being punished by hitting Armor. As a result of good baseline Accuracy, the Armor mechanic is rarely a factor in combat.
  3. Because they currently don't give any damage bonuses, AB mods always have an uphill battle of "mitigating damage lost" vs competing mods "increasing total damage dealt". Like I had mentioned at the bottom of Part 3 ("Damage above all else"), if any mod gives more damage per ammo, more enemies hit per ammo, or more total ammo, then a QoL mod in the same tier (like AB) won't be competitive.

Potential Changes to improve AB

So, now that I've described both how the Armor system works on enemies as well as giving some context about Armor Breaking mods, I can dive into the whole reason I'm writing this blog post: ideas of how to make AB mods competitive choices on weapons. I came up with a few of these ideas, and the rest were suggested by other players that I've talked to about DRG balance. Any one of these ideas would probably help AB mods, but I would be excited to see two or three of these implemented simultaneously by GSG.

Move mods within tiers so that AB mods don't compete against damage/DPS

This is probably the most straightforward and easiest solution to implement, and GSG has already done this for the M1000 AB mod. Moving the AB mod from T4.C to T2.C has made its pickrate jump from 10.1% in U33 to 50.43% so far in U34, and I've heard a lot of buzz about it. For Warthog, BRT, GK2, and Boomstick, it might take a little bit of a reshuffle of the mods but I think it's doable. In particular, I think placing AB mods in competition against mods that improve Accuracy is a good choice. In theory, that would provide a player with a choice between letting their shots miss more often but not lose damage vs armor, or make it less likely to miss. The shotguns (Warthog and Boomstick) would probably benefit the most from this kind of change. As for Minigun, I think the AB mod is good competition vs the Improved Stun mod but the T3.C Blowthrough Rounds blows it out of the water. I would recommend moving Blowthrough Rounds to a different tier, and placing a different mod in T3.C. Autocannon's AB mod does compete against the radius upgrade, but thanks to Big Bertha its pickrate is in an actually pretty good spot so it might not need to be moved.

Make hitscan weapons less Accurate, thus increasing the amount of damage wasted by Armor

This idea stems off from the idea of placing AB mods in competition with Accuracy mods, but it works in the opposite direction. Right now, a lot of the hitscan weapons have really good baseline accuracy so it's not too hard for players to land their shots on Weakpoints or other areas of enemies that aren't covered by Armor. It's possible that by reducing the accuracy of weapons, players would start hitting armor plates a lot more often at range. This would force players to make a choice between a few options:

  • Let the enemies get closer to land shots with the reduced accuracy (puts players in more danger with going full "damage + ammo" builds)
  • Pick up some accuracy mods to regain the accuracy that we've been enjoying for a long time now
  • Equip the AB mod to still lay into enemies from range but not have their damage wasted by armor

Admittedly, this idea is probably the weakest of the bunch but I thought it was still worth mentioning to provide several alternative, "orthogonal" ideas to solve the AB mod dilemma.

Change existing enemies to have stronger Armor or more places covered by Armor, and potentially add new enemies with Armor

Another relatively easy idea to implement, just make all types of Armor waste more Direct Damage. Instead of Grunts' Light Armor reducing Direct Damage by -20%, increase it to -40% or something. Surround Glyphid Grunt Guards with all Heavy Armor, instead of just their front legs. Increase the Armor Strength of the various plates to lower the probability that they'll be broken without an AB mod equipped. All sorts of things could be done, and the cumulative effect is that even though the weapons themselves wouldn't be changed, it would still strongly enhance the value of AB and Accuracy mods to players.

The Balancing Group also had a very interesting idea a long time ago: what if armor plates covered up enemies' Weakpoints? After some discussion, the idea was passed along to GSG and shortly afterwards Mactera Brundles were added to the game and the Dreadnought Twins were covered entirely by Heavy Armor. Personally, I think this is a spectacular way to increase AB mods' value. Anyone with the DPS Calculator can easily see how much ammo gets saved vs Brundles' Breakpoint when an AB mod gets equipped. In addition to adding new enemies like the Brundle, I think some existing enemies could be changed to imitate this solution like Grunt Guards, Oppressors, and Wardens.

Add a third functionality to AB mods: give them a conditional damage boost to compete with max damage/DPS mods

As mentioned at the top of this section, AB mods only do two things right now: fewer shots needed to break armor, and the Direct Damage that breaks an armor plate doesn't get reduced in any way. Another idea discussed by the Balancing Group was to give AB mods a damage bonus to increase DPS vs the armored parts of enemies. Some of the suggestions:

  • Make the body parts exposed by breaking armor plates use a damage multiplier for all Direct Damage that has an AB percentage greater than 100%
  • Multiply the Direct Damage of the shot that breaks the armor plate, instead of just "not reducing" it.
  • Make every armor plate that gets broken by Direct Damage deal a set amount of damage to the enemy it was attached to

Of the three ideas, I like the third one the best. I see the first idea as problematic, because that damage multiplier would be competing with Weakpoint multipliers (1x, 2x, or 3x) along with the Weakpoint Bonus Mods/OCs. It would have to be a large enough multiplier to incentivize players to actively ignore Weakpoints and instead target armor plates to activate the bonus damage multiplier. At that point, it would decrease the incentive to pick up Accuracy and Weakpoint upgrades, because you can just pick up an AB mod and get the same benefit with fewer investments and less skill required. The second idea is better than the first, but it artificially leans towards high-damage sources like Hyper Propellant or M1000, because that one damage instance gets more damage from the one-time multiplier. The way I see it, the third idea is the only one that's balanced across all weapons' AB mods and damage output.

At the time, I did some preliminary math and I think some good starting numbers are 5 Kinetic-element damage when you break a Light Armor plate, or 20 Kinetic-element damage when you break a Heavy Armor plate. Both of those would be divided by the appropriate DS Resistance value, so at Haz5/4 Player difficulty Normal enemies with Light Armor would only take 4.167 damage per armor plate, and Large enemies with Heavy Armor would only take 13.333 damage per armor plate. If you broke every single plate, it shouldn't be enough damage to outright kill any enemy but it's enough of a bonus to be a noticeable Time-to-Kill increase with an AB mod equipped. Additionally, by preventing this bonus damage from being triggered by Area Damage it helps keep the PGL and Autocannon's AB mods from getting too strong for free.

That's all for this post, thanks for reading! Hopefully everyone who reads this will better understand Armor, Armor Breaking, and learn at least 2 new things! If you have any follow-up questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me on the DRG Community Tools Discord server.

Rock & Stone