Giving "Second Wind" a Second Chance

5 months ago

If you ever ask DRG players "What perks do you recommend?", the general answer would include ranking the Active perk "Dash" very high on the list and ranking the Passive perk "Second Wind" very low. For the past four days, I've become engrossed in thinking about Second Wind, testing it out in-game for almost 10 hours, doing math and making graphs, and I think it's time for people to take another look at this perk.

Part 1: A brief history of "go faster" perks in DRG

Thanks to the Wiki's page for Perks, I can easily find that perks were added in Update 14, and then massively overhauled in Update 28 (just over two years ago, at the time of writing). Before U28's rework, one of the must-have perks was named "Weekend Athlete". Its effect was quite simple: at rank 4 your sprint speed was increased by 12%. And yet, despite its simplicity, it was one of the most used and recommended perks for use on Hazard 5 (modded difficulties were a rarity at this point in time, as DRG modding was still getting started). It's no mystery to figure out; being able to run faster on demand meant you could get out of dangerous situations, kite enemies more effectively, and reduce overall time spent down in the caves.

When U28 removed Weekend Athlete and replaced it with Second Wind and Dash, there was a loud, negative reaction from the playerbase and noticeable increase of Haz5 mission failure rate. It got so bad that only a week after U28's release, GSG had to nerf Hazard 5 in Hotfix 4 by reducing the global movespeed multiplier from x1.2 to x1.1. This alleviated the problem, and over the next couple of months the playerbase adapted to playing Hazard 5 without Weekend Athlete. The DRG playerbase had lengthy discussions about the new Perks, and arrived at the conclusion that Second Wind was bad and Dash was good.

In the two years since U28 finished up, the Perks system has gone more or less unchanged. In the last 12 months I've noticed that Dash has been growing more and more popular, even to the point of pushing out Iron Will, Field Medic, and Beast Master. Meanwhile, Second Wind continues to dwindle at the bottom of tier lists, hardly ever considered for being equipped.

Part 2: What are the numbers?

For any comparisons to be made, or to have a meaningful conversation about movement mechanics and the relevant perks, let's start by establishing what the values are (perk values are taken from max rank versions).

Player Movespeeds

  • Walking speed: 3 m/sec
  • Sprinting speed: 4.35 m/sec

Passive Perk "Second Wind"

  • After sprinting for 4 seconds, your sprint speed is increased by +12% (4.35 m/sec => 4.872 m/sec)
  • Jumping and ledge-grabbing ("mantling") doesn't interrupt the boost if you're able to keep sprinting after completion

Active Perk "Dash"

  • When this perk gets activated, anything that could slow your character (sticky goo, snow, earthquakes, Naedocyte Shockers, Glyphid Slashers, etc) has no effect on your movement.
  • Also upon activation, it multiplies your movespeed by x2.2.
  • Slowdown immunity and movespeed increase duration: 1.5 seconds
  • Cooldown between uses: 25 seconds

Part 3: Comparing Second Wind to Dash

Current Community Consensus

Dash Second Wind
  • Very strong perk that allows you to quickly fix positioning mistakes, escape enemy ambushes, or skip over annoying environmental slows
  • Great on-demand mobility for the three non-Scout classes for making long jumps or getting from A to B quickly
  • Shortest cooldown of all the Active Perks means that it's always ready to use, and can be used freely and frequently during missions
  • Having to sprint for 4 seconds before getting the speed increase is too long; immediate threats need to be dealt with much quicker than that
  • +12% sprint speed isn't a good enough reward for the 4 second investment needed to gain it
  • Needs to combined with another "bad" passive perk to make one "passable" passive perk to replace both of them

Math

In some DRG streams and videos, I've heard offhand comments along the lines of "Why would you equip Second Wind when Dash would get you there faster while also being... you know, Dash?". I wanted to examine that claim, and see if it held true. With the help of WolframAlpha, I was able to generate this plot:

The X-axis is the number of seconds that have elapsed, the Y-axis is the number of meters traversed, the blue line represents Second Wind, and the magenta line represents Dash. For visual clarity's sake, I only plotted them for the first 26.5 seconds (one Dash usage plus one Dash cooldown), but I've also done the math all the way out to 60 seconds.

The two functions intersect at [x=19 seconds, y=90.48 meters], at which point Second Wind takes the lead away from Dash. On Dash's second activation it regains the lead for a few more seconds, and after Second Wind takes the lead for the second time at 35.5 seconds then it keeps the lead forever, no matter how many times Dash gets used.

Obviously, there's no way that two dwarves will be running in a straight line for 60 seconds in a race like that in-game, so I'm choosing to focus on the first 26.5 seconds: the Dash cooldown cycle. In the first 1.5 seconds, Dash will take a commanding lead of 14.355m to 6.525m. Heck, it won't be until Second Wind has run 17.4m that its speed boost will even activate, at which point Dash is still 7.83m ahead at 25.23m. Then, for the next 15 seconds Second Wind will slowly overtake Dash.

Part 4: Conclusions

So, if you're standing still and only need to get somewhere 25m away, Dash will get you there before Second Wind will even activate. Similarly, if the total distance that needs to be traversed is 90m or less, Dash will get you there faster. Second Wind won't even have an "absolute lead" over Dash until 35.5 seconds of constant sprinting have elapsed. This data isn't breaking any new ground; if anything it seems to confirm the beliefs that everyone already has. You might be asking yourself "Why is this blog post being written? It's not saying anything we don't already know." The answer is because of the key phrase "the total distance that needs to be traversed".

When analyses like this one get done, all too often we lose sight of the scope of the missions in game. It's not as simple as "activate Dash on cooldown", very rarely do you need to run in straight lines for longer than 10 seconds, and most importantly the total distance traversed per mission is in the order of hundreds of meters. Most cave rooms are 30-70m across, and there's constant zigzagging between mineral veins, Molly, secondary objectives, Molly, loose particle chunks, Molly, rare events, Molly, and the dirt door. Some of the largest caves you can find in 400 Morkite missions are over 200m from end-to-end in a straight line! Dash will rarely be activated for these mundane tasks, but Second Wind will just keep chugging along and giving you a passive boost. Any time you have to run further than 17m, it will activate and save you time. In my past 10 hours of playtesting I found that Second Wind would activate a lot more often than I would have expected on paper. I think the best way to phrase it is "4 seconds feels a lot shorter than it sounds." Obviously Second Wind doesn't have 100% uptime during basic traversal, and it can't activate during combat, but it was a much stronger and more noticeable effect than what we've led ourselves to believe.

Is Second Wind a really good perk? No. But neither is it a really bad perk. My experiments and playtesting this week have led me to believe that this is just "neutral" quality. I'd be hard-pressed to form a persuasive argument to take Second Wind over other Passive perks such as Born Ready or Resupplier. Because there are only 3 Passive perk slots available, everyone has to make hard choices and in general the strongest/best perks are the ones that get equipped. If nothing else, I'm hopeful that this short blog post serves two purposes: it changes Second Wind's reputation from being "trash tier" to "mid-tier", and encourages everyone to go and try out other perks, weapon mods, or Overclocks that have been written off. After the 10 hours I've put into it, I kind of like having Second Wind equipped for my Solo missions now and I'm trying to figure out a way to integrate it into my primary loadouts. I never would have even considered doing that if I hadn't taken the time to investigate and experiment with it.

As always: build variety is the key to game longevity. Keep trying out new things -- who knows? Maybe you'll like equipping Second Wind too.


Thanks for reading the blog post! I've been super busy with my new job, moving to a new apartment, and the holidays, but I'm starting to have enough free time to resume some of my DRG work. This is probably going to be one of the shortest blog posts I ever write (started and finished in about half a day), but hopefully it was a fresh examination of an old topic. I don't know how much I'll be able to contribute alongside my full-time job, but you can expect sporadic blog posts and continued development of the DPS Calculator. I'm hoping to finally finish U35's content, especially with U36 right around the corner.

See you on Hoxxes,
-MeatShield