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Napkin Analysis 0.13.1 - Italy


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Covering the 0.13.1 balance changes is going to be quite a trek. It took me one week to get the three Pan-Asian ships written up, which perhaps isn't surprising since I hadn't played them too much recently and some re-familiarization was required. On the other hand, Italy is one of my favorite nations to play, so here's hoping that the analysis will flow as freely as the fuel-smoke. 

For readers just joining the series, you may want to check out the meta-analysis for the 0.13.1 balance changes -- it will help as an overview of all the buffs and nerfs and contextualizes them against the Russian version of the game. Each new article will be 'featured' in General Discussion for a bit and then go to live in Torino's Napkin Emporium permanently. As always, I hope you enjoy.

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Links

Overview - Japan - United States - Russia - Great Britain - France - Italy - Pan Asia - Pan Europe & Spain

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Nazario Sauro (T3)

Main battery reload time decreased: 6.5s -> 6.4s
Semi-Armor-Piercing (SAP) shell damage decreased: 2,600 -> 2,350

Italian low tier DDs might be kind of ... broken. What is the basis for this assertion, you ask? Well, for Tier 2 through Tier 4 random battles it is more efficient to just list the major statistical categories1 in which the Italian destroyers are not #1: plane kills and WR among all players. Other than those two exceptions, they dominate every major category (WR, Frags, Damage, K/D) and fraction of the player base (ALL, 50%, 25%, 10%, 5%). The discussion is less about whether they are strong, but how badly they beat second place (see chart below).

Spoiler

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This chart looks at every major statistical category and divides the Italian DD's value but the highest non-Italian DD's value. For example, the T2 Curtatone has a 50.05% WR among ALL players. This is divided by the highest non-Italian DD in that category, which would be the Tachibana Lima at 53.19%. We thus get a ratio of 0.94. 

A ratio of ≥1 indicates that the Italian DD is in the #1 position in that statistical category.

The Bot Elephant in the Room

Does that mean the Italian DDs should be power-nerfed into the ground? Maybe, but there is one major factor that can explain their statistical dominance: bots. Among low-tier destroyers, the Italian branch are the only ships to have been released after update 0.9.6, which is when Wargaming decided to pad out Tier 1 through Tier 5 games with bots if there weren't enough players in queue. As anyone who has recently enjoyed low tier can attest, you can rack up some silly numbers nuking clueless computer-players. From a statistical perspective, the Italian DDs are in the unique position of having been able to enjoy this farm-fest from the very start. Obviously their numbers are going to be a bit silly. 

From the outside, this presents us with a problem because we're not able to filter out the impact of bots on the data. It could well be that had every T2-T4 destroyer been able to blow up computer ships for free, their statistics would be just as inflated. Perhaps this explains why the developer hasn't nerfed any of the low tier Italian DDs since release -- against human players they may have been perfectly ordinary. 

Slapping down the SAP

This brings us to the proposed changes to the Nazario Sauro: a 1% reload buff combined with a 10% SAP alpha nerf, meaning the SAP DPM will fall from 96,000 -> 88,125 and the HE DPM will climb from 62,769 -> 63,750. On the one hand, this nerf is perfectly understandable. A Tier 3 destroyer with 2,600 alpha damage on a shell that can penetrate armor up to 75° is pretty bonkers when we consider that the highest alpha damage on any DD HE shell -- in the whole game -- is 2,500.2

In practice, shells do 1/3 of their nominal damage3 to unsaturated targets, so the 2600 alpha of the 120mm SAP would hit for 866 apiece. Multiplied by four guns, that means the Sauro is hitting for over 3400 in one salvo. For most Tier 3 DDs, that is a third of their health wiped in one go. This is speculation on my part, but it is not unreasonable to conclude that the Nazario Sauro was too good at beating the ever-living pulp out of whatever destroyer she was matched against. 

Will the nerf make a difference? 

My initial inclination is to say no. The salvo damage will go from 3,466 -> 3,133 on an unsaturated target. Even with saturation kicking in and shells going astray, it is still very likely that a Nazario Sauro can knock off 20%-to-25% of a T3 DD's health pool per volley. The re-worked SAP DPM will still be 88k, which is still substantially higher than the tied-best HE DPM at the tier (Vampire and G-101 at 72k). And that is before players pop on a fancy captain to unshackle her true potential (see the discussion in the Aviere section on the impact of captains on Italian DDs). 

Conclusion

From the outside, Tier 1 through Tier 5 are very difficult to evaluate due to the abundance of bots. Maybe a little SAP nerf is just right to limit Sauro's effectiveness against human players. Or she might be completely laying waste to Tier 3, in which case more significant incisions would need to be made. Hard to tell. 

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Aviere (T6)

Researchable Torpedo Range reduced: 10km -> 8km

Changed parameters of the Emergency Engine Power consumable:

  • Number of charges reduced: 6 -> 4
  • Action time reduced: 25s -> 20s

The Aviere is a ship that the developers just can't seem to get right. Looking over her development history, she is one of the rare ships that had four rounds of balancing changes until she was considered fit for release. Once she was out on the server in 0.11.2 she nonetheless overperformed, earning herself a spot in the Top 5 among Tier 6 destroyers and #1 among all tech tree destroyers.4 Half a year after her release, in Update 0.11.8, she was bonked with the nerf hammer:

- Stock torpedo damage reduced from 9,067 -> 8,600
- Stock torpedo flooding chance reduced from 145% -> 136%
- Torpedo tube reload time increased from 75s -> 80s
- Main battery reload time increased from 6.5s -> 6.8s

And then again in 0.12.2:

- Main battery reload time increased from 6.8s -> 7.1s

Now she is once again getting a significant whack to her toolkit, at which point we rightfully ask whether this is ever going to end.5 My suspicion is that the answer is no, because:

Italian DDs are kinda unbalancable

It's an intentionally provocative statement, but I would argue the low- and mid-tier pasta destroyers are an unresolvable problem due to the way that the game is built. Everything that keeps their power-level in check can be (partially) undone by a 21 point captain and signal flags (i.e. credits).

Problem: I have monstrous gunpower with my SAP but the anemic main battery range is holding me back. 

Solution: Invest in 4 captain points for 20% extra range and/or run Sansonetti and get 1 kill.

Problem: I struggle to sneak up on the destroyers that I want to bully.

Solution: Invest in Concealment Expert and/or Radio Location.

Problem: When I pounce my target, I take too much damage.

Solution: Invest in Dazzle for extra un-hit-ability and speed, also consider Survivability Expert.

Problem: I keep running out of fuel smoke that I need to make my audacious plays. 

Solution: Invest in Superintendent for the extra do-whatever-I-want-card.

Problem: My smoke doesn't last long enough and isn't up fast enough. Also I am too slow to catch small botes.

Solution: Invest 120k/battle for +10% longer smoke, 96k/battle for -5% cooldown. Also maybe another 120k/battle for +5% speed.

Why is this different than other DDs? Because none of them use (getting into) Main Battery Range as their primary balancing factor. From day one, the design philosophy behind the Italian destroyers has been: scary SAP DPM but must get to within trash-talking distance to use it. Well, fortunately we have all sorts of ways to address that within the captain build. All you need is captain points (and credits), which will inevitably create a statistical chasm between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.

Will the nerfs make a difference? 

Lets take a look at each nerf individually, beginning with the Emergency Engine Boost. This is another example of WG reversing one of the balancing measures undertaken right before release.x In DevBlog 293, the action time (20s -> 25s) and number of the boosts (4 -> 6) were changed to match the Tier 7 Luca Tarigo. Now they go back to a middle ground between the T5 and the T7, which can be finnicky for players to remember (see chart below). This practice is reminiscent of the old designs for smokes where each tier got 3-4 second longer duration as you went up the line.6 While it might make sense on paper, experientially it creates a disjointed feeling when playing the ships in anything but ascending order.It would have been preferable to have just two sets of consumable characteristics for the Italian DDs -- low/mid- and high-tier. 

Spoiler

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Why not just make the Aviere's Engine Boost the same as the Tier 2 through Tier 5?

Apart from the numerical inconsistency, the change in the number and duration of the Emergency Engine Boosts is not likely to have much of an effect. Six charges was always an excessive number, especially given the almost three minute cooldown on each. The match was going to have to last 15min+ for there to be a reasonable chance to use them all. In terms of duration, the -5s duration will be most noticeable when trying to rush down a battleship. But that problem goes away if you have a captain with enough points to run Dazzle! 

Now we come to the torpedo range nerf. I am reminded of the Godfather scene where Don Corleone looks down at his bullet-ravaged son and cries out in despair: "Look how they massacred my boy." I have seen my fair share of ill-advised balance changes over the years, but I have seldom come across a more senseless and counter-productive nerf than the knee-capping of the Aviere's torp range. 

To understand why, first it helps to ask, "why do tech-tree Italian DDs have long-range torps?" What might seem like a trivial detail is anything but: if you want players to take their DD into a close range scrap, there needs to be a contingency plan for when they emerge from the brawl with only a few hit points to their name. The long-range torpedoes are the fallback for when the Italian DD has gone in, killed its opposite number, taken the cap, and now remains afloat only thanks to an abundance of duct tape and prayers. At that point, it has become a torpedo destroyer, which isn't easy given how slow the fish are, but at least it is a useful role.

Consider the position that most players will be in post-nerf: they probably won't have strong captains on their Tier 6 DD, so maybe they get one 4pt. skill. Given the 6.9km main battery range it is more than understandable that they prioritize +20% range over concealment. Or maybe because they are frequently shot at, Dazzle is the most attractive option. That leaves them at the stock 7.12km concealment with 8km torps. For a line of destroyers that already requires a high degree of pilot skill, this to me adds a difficulty spike8 that is inconsistent with the rest of the tech tree (see charts below).

Spoiler

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Why do all DDs in the tree except the Tier 2 have a better ratio between base concealment and torpedo range than the Aviere?

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The comparison becomes even more absurd when we factor in max concealment, which accelerates at T8+: It is quite non-sensical that the high tiers in the line enjoy a 5km+ stealth torpedo window, but Aviere must content herself with a barely adequate 1.59km. 

What is particularly infuriating is that the torpedoes are precisely the place where the measured nerf-approach used with the consumables would have made a lot more sense. Had the range been nerfed to a place in between the Tier 5 and the Tier 7 -- say 9km -- even under-captained Aviere players could have still made them work as intended. Instead we got a 20% nerf-hammer that makes playing the torpedo role unreasonably difficult for anyone who doesn't have a captain with concealment expert. 

What else could have been done to rein in her power levels without borking the concept of the ship? Taking her SAP alpha from 2850 (equal to the Tier 7) to somewhere around 2600 (equal to the Tier 5) would be an option. So would adjusting the torpedo damage, which is currently 10,000 on the upgraded fish, again the same as the Luca Tarigo one tier higher. As mentioned above, taking the torpedo range down to 9km would have still been tolerable. 

Conclusion

Senseless nerf to torpedo range cripples the Aviere's fallback-function as a torpedo destroyer; disproportionately affects players who can't afford to run a high-level captain. Two vigorous thumbs down.

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Leone (T6)

Main Battery reload time reduced: 9.5 to 8.5s

Torpedo launcher reload time reduced 50 to 45s

I have a confession to make: I am a Leone-enjoyer. Ever since this misshapen little tub of anger entered the game in update 0.10.2 I've had a soft spot for her. I think this is because she defies popular perceptions of what makes a good DD. Instead of fast cycling guns, she has the highest salvo weight at the tier, enough to do over 4500 damage to an unsaturated target with a single volley. At Tier 6, that is often a third of an enemy destroyer's health. She also has the infamous 'sea mines' -- slow but stealthy torpedoes that can catch opponents unprepared -- which teach the observant captain that torpedo detection is just as important in determining whether fish will hit as their speed. Due to her American smoke screen, the Leone is also a wonderful ship for smoke-divisions if you don't feel like abusing people in the Farragut/Monaghan. 

Unfortunately the broader perception of the Leone is poor, and the stats seem to bear this out. For all player brackets the Leone struggles to make it into the mid-table in all major statistical categories.9 What is particularly problematic is that the Leone is generally bottom or next-to-bottom of the premium T6 DDs, meaning that even with all the 21pt. Sansonettis in the world, folks are still not managing to make her work. So some help is clearly needed. What kind of help? Well there is the imaginative kind, and then there's...

Just one more reload buff bro

There is a semi-popular meme mocking the absurdities of the American urban freeway system called "just one more lane bro." The framing is that city planners behave like desperate addicts trying to convince themselves that the easy fix (yet another highway expansion) is preferable over truly addressing the problem (investing in mass transit). When viewed at a distance it becomes obvious that incrementally increasing something of which there is already an abundance isn't going to make much difference. But when put under pressure to deliver a change, those in power often reach to the easiest band-aid that will reliably get complainers off their backs. 

This is exactly how I feel about reload buffs. They are over-used10 and erode variety. They are the go-to solution when players are demanding a fix and finding the real source of the problem is not worth the effort. A reload buff should be used extremely sparingly, ideally when no other parameters could be reasonably adjusted without doing harm to the overall system. But two reload buffs are what we have here, so we might as well take a look.

Spoiler

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Will the faster main battery reload make a difference?

Possibly, but it depends on the matchup. The Leone already packed a punch before the balance update, having the biggest HE salvo at the tier with 13,600. Now that punch will be happening 11% faster (every 8.5s like she had in testingx), which catapults the premium pasta bote into the upper echelons of T6 destroyer DPM (see chart below). What the table doesn't show is that the Leone has the highest air drag on her shells among T6 DDs, which makes hitting small/maneuvering targets at range a massive pain. So the buff will be most noticeable against easy-to-hit targets such as battleships and clunky cruisers. However, given that most of these targets will have more than 20mm of armor, her effectiveness is limited to superstructure damage and fires. Relying on setting the enemy ablaze is not a safe bet though, because when we look at the fires/minute (see second chart below), the Leone is and will remain deeply mediocre.

Against other destroyers we have to take into account how the high salvo weight and slower reload synergize with the Leone's play-style. She basically has two approaches: ambush from behind rocks or kite. For the former, reload is mostly irrelevant since the ship re-enters cover between shots -- the idea is mostly to get in a few meaty smacks while taking as little damage as possible in return. In open water, kiting is the obvious approach since three of four turrets face backwards. This can be very successful since the ship can be turned away from the opponent during reload to minimize incoming damage, and then turned back once the guns are ready. Given the slow turret traverse of only 8°/s and the not-great rudder-shift of 3.4s, this whole process takes about 10 seconds to complete, meaning gun reload wasn't the limiting variable. Even with the buff, a slightly faster gun-cycle time is probably going to get lost to kiting maneuvers.

TL;DR: I am skeptical that a faster reload will make much of a difference. The real limiting factors on the Leone's performance (air drag, HE penetration, fire chance, turret traverse, rudder shift) remain unchanged. 

Spoiler

Damage Per Minute of Tier 6 Destroyers

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Fires Per Minute of Tier 6 Destroyers

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Note: The reload of the buffed Leone is 8.5 seconds. Due to how the ship building tool works, I had to approximate the effect with adrenalin rush, hence the 0.01s difference in reload time.

Will the faster torpedo reload make a difference?

Maybe in certain situations. In practice, spammable torpedoes are generally limited in effectiveness by the positioning of the player. That is to say, if the player doesn't have the smarts and/or the moxie to get themselves into an situation that will reward torpedo spam, the fish won't do much good. Sure, being able to chuck them out 10% faster will certainly lead to a few extra hits over the course of many games. But will it revolutionize the Leone? Doubtful.

The situation I am most curious about is when a Leone in smoke is being charged by a battleship. With a bit of Adrenalin Rush, she could get her torpedo reload under 40s, which is significant given her long smoke (30s emission + 118s duration). That means she could launch torps right before she pops her pollution generator and then follow up with four more volleys by the time the last puff has dissipated. A smart player could definitely make some plays using this sort of synergy.

Conclusion

Unimaginative buff brings about little fundamental change. Leone will remain a difficult boat that rewards players who can think beyond common DD tropes.

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Vittorio Veneto (T8)

Sigma value increased: 1.7σ -> 1.8σ
Stock hull Rudder shift time reduced: 21.7s -> 20.2s
Researchable hull Rudder shift time reduced: 15.5s -> 14.4s

Oh Vittorio. Everyone was looking forward to seeing your built-in-steel beauty in game and then you were such a disappointment. The main battery reload took an age, the range was lacking, and the sigma was bad. You were rightfully called the nadir of a frustrating battleship line that never recovered from the removal of Deadeye. Fortunately, help started trickling in. First the sigma was buffed from 1.6σ -> 1.7σ in update 0.10.4, then in 0.11.8 the Italian tech-tree BBs received a baked-in 30% shell-switching buff. Now the sigma is going to be raised again in combination with a improvement to her rudder shift. Not a moment too soon, as the Veneto is currently in the doldrums among the lower-middle of Tier 8 battleships.11

All roads lead to Roma

In order to understand the Veneto and her foibles, we must begin with her sister. Roma was the first high-tier Italian ship to join the server in 0.7.7 and has amassed somewhat of a cult following -- despite her oft-wonky gunnery. Folks appreciated the combination of excellent stealth that allowed the premium pasta-BB to win the positional game against other BBs and the sturdy armor that kept her health intact so that she could dominate in the late game. Her basic play-style was so solid that it was basically a prototype for the Russian BB line that followed in the 0.8.1 update.

Looking at the main differences between Vittorio Veneto and Roma (see chart below), the biggest one by far is the 1km difference in max. stealth. The 11.7km concealment on the fully specced Roma is excellent; there are only six battleships in Tier 8 to Tier 10 that can out-spot her. Among other benefits it means that she can have Brisk active for extended periods of time, which in combination with speed flags results in a 34.6kts top speed. It also means that the premium BB has an 8.6km Aerial/Periscope detect, which is very useful in avoiding the ire of the predatory classes. 

The Vittorio Veneto is mostly the same hull with worse concealment. A max stealth of 12.7km is still above average for the T8-T10 matchmaking spread, but it is no longer a notable strength. In exchange for being more visible she receives the two signature features of the high-tier Italian BBs: Fuel Smoke and the slow-reload-inducing SAP ammunition. Her results wax and wane with the player's ability to use these two tools to their full effect. Unfortunately for Veneto lovers, Semi-Armor Piercing is a deeply flawed ammo type, which more-often-than-not leaves players wishing they had just played the Roma instead.

Spoiler

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Semi-Armor-Piercing is semi-deeply flawed

In order to understand why the Italian tech-tree BBs have been a bit of nightmare to balance, we need to examine one of the pillars of their design: SAP. In general, SAP behaves a lot like fire-less High Explosive. Like HE, penetration doesn't change over distance or with the angle of incidence. The only thing that matters is that our SAP shell passes two checks: is our penetration (for 381mm SAP: 96mm) greater than the nominal thickness of the targets armor; and is the angle of incidence less steep than the ricochet threshold12 (for 381mm SAP: up to 80°). If yes to both: full damage! If no to either: you get nothing!

Assuming the aim is good and the dispersion-gods are favorable, SAP can slap for some impressive damage numbers. Unlike regular Armor-Piercing, SAP cannot over-penetrate, meaning that each hit will generally go for the full 33% of the shell's listed damage, even on soft stuff like the superstructure and hull extremities. Combined with the fact that SAP generally has a higher alpha damage than AP, it means the Italian BB can often do five-figure damage numbers against targets that think they're well-angled. Hence the abysmal reloads and poor sigma: the balancing team have rightly tried to suppress SAP-spam where players just pull the slot machine lever over and over until the opponent dies to a lucky salvo. 

For those frustrated with AP's tendency to bounce and over-penetrate, the theoretical upsides of SAP can appear very enticing. In practice there are a number of snags that will reduce the number for successful SAP hits: 

  • Water: SAP explodes on contact with water for no effect (HE will still explode and knock out modules). AP can penetrate the water and continue into the ships hull -- often for devastating citadel damage. 
  • Turrets: Almost all T8-T10 battleship turrets and barbettes represent insuperable obstacles for the 96mm SAP pen. Most large caliber AP will retain enough energy at range to penetrate most turret plates except for the turret face. Even most T8-T10 light cruisers have turret faces that can stop 381mm SAP. 
  • Spaced-Armor: Torpedo bulges and other types of multi-layered armor schemes will cause SAP shells to prematurely detonate for zero damage. With AP it depends on the angle of incidence and the type of layered/spaced armor: some arrangements will be easily defeated, while others (such as turtleback schemes) will present greater problems. At a minimum, though, most of them can be damaged.

All of this combines to make SAP the most capricious ammo-type in the game, a fact that is worsened by the generally poor accuracy of the Italian battleship guns. You could hit all of your shells on the squishy parts of the enemy for a staggering amount of damage. Or it could bounce off a turret, hit the water, and/or get caught on a torpedo bulge. You gotta ask yourself one question: do ya feel lucky paesano?

Ol' Reliable Armor Piercing

For players who love to roll the dice, SAP is an attractive ammunition choice. But for those who prefer consistent, predictable results -- like me -- the decision matrix on what ammunition to load in an Italian battleship is strongly weighted towards just running full AP (see chart below). In short, the only obvious use-case for SAP is on angled battleships and angled cruisers that have 27mm+ armor. Against everything else (broadside everything, nose/stern-in everything, all destroyers), the AP is equal to or better than the SAP. 

In the context of a match this means it is often easier to just leave AP in the barrels rather than to constantly swap ammunition and miss a firing window. Which brings us to back to the slow reload, a measure -- we recall -- that was needed to limit the over-use of SAP, but is now causing us to suffer using the regular AP. This is why battleship SAP is so hard to balance: if it had a normal battleship reload, players would spam it and achieve some (occasionally) absurd results. That same long reload pushes players to prefer the more consistent AP ammunition, which in turn is underwhelming because it doesn't have a normal battleship reload. There is no ideal solution,13 only unsatisfying compromises.

Spoiler

Torino's personal ammunition choice matrix for Italian battleships with SAP/AP

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Italian battleship experts may correct me here, but there are very few situations where the SAP will be the obviously superior ammunition choice rather than just firing what I have in the barrels (which is almost always AP). Note: both AP and SAP have a damage limit vs. DDs to 10% of their maximum damage, which means that both ammo types hurt roughly the same.

Will the buffs make a difference? 

Short answer: yes and yes. Slightly longer answer: the increased sigma was highly necessary to take some of the gamble out of the SAP and add some more reliability to the AP -- the ship needed it so badly that it is one of the few parameters buffed in both the western and Russian versions of the game.14 The Veneto will now have the same gun parameters as the Roma, which can still be a bit wild at times, but not enough to seriously turn off fans. As for the buffed rudder shift, this is welcome improvement to the core intended play-style of the Italian tech-tree BBs (the why behind this will be explained below in the Lepanto section). 

Conclusion

Thoughtful steps towards getting the Vittorio Veneto into a happy place. Not too much, not too little. Revisit in 6 months to see if more is needed. Two thumbs up. 

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Lepanto (T9)


Stock hull rudder shift time reduced: 23.3s -> 20.9s
Researchable hull rudder shift time reduced: 16.7s -> 14.9s

For all the criticism that is leveled at the developer's design decisions, they do occasionally hit the bulls-eye. One such instance is the Lepanto, which sits smack-dab in the middle of the performance charts for all major statistics and player groups,15 despite having only received one minor buff throughout her entire time on the live server. This is especially impressive since she is a 12-gun battleship with the notoriously-tricky-to-balance SAP. Credit where credit is due, they nailed this one on the first try.

Rudder Shift is key

I would posit that the reason behind the Lepanto's solid results is how her hull and turret-layout synergize with her smoke to create a strong identity. The high-tier Italian BBs are forward-facing ships, in that their armor and firepower are most effective when pointed towards the red team, as opposed to away from them. Not only do most of their guns face forward (or have favorable forward firing angles), it also helps hide their main structural weakness, the shell-catching vertical casemate armor that rises above the quarterdeck (see image below). This is why Italian tech-tree BBs have fuel-smoke: if things get too hot they can turn around safely without exposing their broadside to enemy fire. The Lepanto is the first ship in the line that properly embodies this challenging but rewarding play-style.

Spoiler

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Images courtesy of gamemodels3d.com -- highly recommended site for anyone who is serious about WoWS.

In the forward-facing Italian BB playstyle, the rudder is the unsung hero. It allows the ship to weave from side to side -- briefly unmasking the rear turrets -- pumping out damage while keeping the armor at maximum effectiveness. When the decision is made to bail with smoke, the rudder-shift is what helps the turnaround happen as efficiently as possible. If forced to kite, the rudder is critical in offering and then retracting the thick side-plate for enemies to shoot at instead of the weak quarterdeck casemate. The Italian BBs have incredible armor on mobile platforms; the rudder is what keeps these two core design aspects harmonizing with each other.

Will the buffs make a difference?

Only very slightly, but that is a good thing. The Lepanto was and is a well-balanced ship, so there was no need for anything drastic. I like these buffs for two reasons: 1) the stock experience should be made less painful wherever possible, as it is an outdated game-design philosophy that exists only as Free-XP sink; and 2) this is exactly the sort of quality-of-life improvement that makes a ship more fun to play without significantly impacting her place in the Tier 9 BB pecking order. Personally, I will be looking forward to running Rudder Mod. 1 and getting her hip-swinging ability down to a spicy 11.6 seconds. 

Conclusion

Well-considered quality-of-life buff to an already well-balanced battleship. Very good. 

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Cristoforo Colombo (T10)

Sigma value increased: 1.5σ -> 1.6σ
Firing angles for the aft turrets increased by 10 degrees
Rudder shift time reduced: 18s -> 15.3s

Declaration of bias: I love the Cristoforo Colombo. She is far and away my favorite Tier 10 battleship. Yes, she is quite flawed and quite frustrating at times, but to quote Bacon, "there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." Unfortunately, said strangeness has led her overall performance to lie towards the bottom of the pack for most major statistical categories and player groups.16 In a fairly rare moment of balancing agreement, both Wargaming and Lesta felt that the Colombo needed help.17

Will the buffs make a difference? 

Since we have already covered the problems with SAP and the front-facing play-style of Italian BBs in previous sections, we can cut right to the chase. YES these balance changes are very welcome. The increase in sigma pushes the dispersion to reward aim to a greater extent, rather than relying purely on carpet-bombing an entire ZIP-code with SAP shells and hoping for the best. The less the SAP becomes a weird gamble, the better.

Even more wonderful are the two buffs to rudder shift and forward firing angles, which reinforce the optimal way in which the Colombo should be played. The new firing angles are especially note-worthy because they allow the Italian BB to keep all 16 guns firing while maintaining a sub-30° auto-bounce angle towards her target. I cannot overstate how powerful that will be in the hands of a knowledgeable player: it supercharges the Colombo's ability to push and apply map pressure while taking a minimum of damage.  I for one am very excited to try out the new-and-improved Cristoforo Colombo experience.

Conclusion

Colombo receives well-thought out buffs that improve quality of life and reinforce her intended playstyle. Yes. Yes. YES. 

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Final Thoughts: Spanner in the Balancing Works?

Attentive readers will have noticed a small superscript x floating around the last reviews. This is my running count of development changes that were subsequently reversed after release. I first became aware of this metric and began tracking it because of the Colombo buffs -- I saw them and thought to myself, "hmmm these seem familiar." Sure enough, the developer was undoing the rudder shift and firing angle nerfs that had been applied before release,18 which made me wonder: "how often does the balancing team reverse buffs/nerfs that were made during the testing?" 

At the time of this article going live, I will have examined 23 different rebalanced ships. Of these, 10 have had parameter adjustments from testing (near-)exactly reversed. I don't have a frame of reference for whether it is typical in the videogame industry to undo testing changes on nearly half your units. It suggests that the entity in charge of the initial ship design more often has the right of it than they're being given credit for, and the down-stream process muddies their vision. To me it is strange, at the very least.

We will keep track as this metric as the series goes on and see how things stand after the 0.13.1 balance changes have been completely napkin-analyzed. As always, thank you for reading ❤️

 

Footnotes

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1 NA Server, random battles, all players/Top 10%, accessed February 6th, 2024.

https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/4187895536,Curtatone/

https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/4186846960,Nazario-Sauro/

https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/4185798384,Turbine/

2 If you correctly guessed that this was the 150mm Japanese HE on the HSF Harekaze II then give yourself a cookie, you mega-nerd 😃

3 See the wiki article on Damage Saturation and the How it Works video for more information.

4 NA Server, random battles, all players/Top 10%, https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/4183701232,Aviere/, accessed February 7th, 2024.

5 Ask Leander players, the answer is 'no'.

6 I thought WG had learned their lesson after abandoning this practice for the British DDs, Pan-Asian DDs, and Pan-Asian CLs. But nope, the Pan-EU destroyer split and the upcoming Commonwealth crawl smokers will be back to incrementally longer smokes.

7 The worst of these are the German DDs, as I found out when I recently re-ground the line for the Research Bureau. Having the higher tier smoke durations in mind, I was in for a rude shock when I played the Tier 2 and popped a 45s smoke with a 160s cooldown.

8 Even for experienced players, a sub-1km stealth torpedo window is challenging to use. Not to mention: how is the Aviere supposed to deal with the 10km+ radars that it must meet in Tier 8 matches?

9 NA Server, random battles, all players/Top 10%, https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/3764270832,Leone/, accessed February 7th, 2024.

10 I counted the number of ships in last three balance updates that received a reload buff/nerf of any kind (including torpedo and plane regen):

  • 0.12.10: 9 out of 9 ships
  • 0.12.11: 3 out of 5 ships
  • 0.13.1: 16 out of 39 ships. Getting better but still too many.

11 NA Server, random battles, all players/Top 10%, https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/4181669616,Vittorio-Veneto/, accessed February 8th, 2024.

12 Technically, SAP begins to check for ricochets at 70° and linearly increases the chance of bouncing until it hits 80°. 

13 There actually is a real solution: different reload timers for different ammo-types, but that is a bridge the developer so far hasn't shown signs of wanting to/being able to cross.

14 See the Russian DevBlog for their 0.12.8 balance changes (recommendation: use Chrome + translate).

15 NA Server, random battles, all players/Top 10%, https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/4180621040,Lepanto/, accessed February 9th, 2024.

16 NA Server, random battles, all players/Top 10%, https://na.wows-numbers.com/ship/4179572464,Cristoforo-Colombo/, accessed February 9th, 2024.

17 See the Russian DevBlog for their 0.12.8 balance changes (recommendation: use Chrome + translate).

18 If the Colombo needs more help, maybe we can mine her testing-nerfs for more ideas: the 50mm deck could return to the original 55mm, or the turret traverse could go back to its original 30s. We can also consider asking why the Lepanto has a 46.9% torpedo reduction while the Colombo only has 31%. Make it make sense...

x Running count of development changes being reversed: 10 (0.13.1: Aviere, Leone, Colombo, Dalian, Sun Yat-Sen | 0.12.11: Marlborough | 0.12.10: Rahmat, Chumphon, Harbin, Sejong)

________________________________________________________________

 

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Since you mentioned Italian ships in the post, just want to say... adding the plane ASW and the Submarine Surveillance to the Venezia has made it even more fun to play. It's fun just hunting down subs with it now, lol. Also, forgot they buffed the Cristoforo Colombo. Probably why I have been seeing them more since the patch was released. Will have to give mine a try.

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Whatever I disagree with you on elsewhere, this analysis hits the spot for me. 

It may just be an outlier, but I took the Veneto out into co-op after an eternity rotting in port and had probably the best game I've ever had in her in that mode. The longer reload on the guns was still a PITA, but I felt like the sigma uplift to 1.8 had crossed some sort of magic threshold at which the guns were actually useful and could be relied on to hit things and **** some bot **** up. 

Also, your turn of phrase in some places was truly hilarious (in the good way):

10 hours ago, torino2dc said:

this misshapen little tub of anger

Back on topic:

10 hours ago, torino2dc said:

You could hit all of your shells on the squishy parts of the enemy for a staggering amount of damage.

It's the best the Veneto could do which made me sympathize with their decision to keep the sigma low and the reload long, although that best was never consistent enough to justify the handicap. I kept saying that the reload needed to come down to a more sensible 30 seconds, but they decided to make her shoot better instead. As above, my initial impressions of this new change were good; it needs more testing. 

Concerning the Aviere, which I am thankfully done with, I did wonder about the torp range nerf and why they thought it necessary. I would venture to note, for the sake of comparison, that the Farragut can't stealth-torp at all, the Icarus barely can, and that's before we get to the Russian tech tree destroyers at any tier below 8.

I'll be interested to see how you reply to this point. It'll probably start with "Yes, but...", though I'm not ruling out the probability of agreeing with you when you're done. 

 

 

 

On to minor things. You have couple of small typos that I am bringing to your attention so you can fix 'em: 

10 hours ago, torino2dc said:

a high-level captains. 

Mixing your singulars and plurals here.

10 hours ago, torino2dc said:

In DevBlog 293, the action time (20s -> 25s) and number of the boosts (4 -> 6) where changed

Should be "were changed".

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6 hours ago, Ensign Cthulhu said:

Concerning the Aviere, which I am thankfully done with, I did wonder about the torp range nerf and why they thought it necessary. I would venture to note, for the sake of comparison, that the Farragut can't stealth-torp at all, the Icarus barely can, and that's before we get to the Russian tech tree destroyers at any tier below 8.

I'll be interested to see how you reply to this point. It'll probably start with "Yes, but...", though I'm not ruling out the probability of agreeing with you when you're done. 

You asked for it 😉

I would say the other T6 DDs have fallback options at low health that the Aviere doesn't have. In order from most to least options:

  • Icarus: 11.6km gun range, floaty shells (island farming), probably still has one or two of her six base smokes left, has 10x single-fire torpedoes with 1km of stealth to work with (when built for concealment, which is the standard build).
  • Farragut: 12.6km gun range, floaty shells (island farming), maybe still has a long-duration American smoke left.
  • Gnevny: 11.9km gun range, maybe has one 81s smoke left, maybe can prop-juke with engine mod. 
  • Aviere: 6.9km gun range, maybe has one 25s fuel smoke left, has 2x3 torpedoes with 1.6km stealth to work with (if stealth build, which is not necessarily the standard, else 0.9km).

To me, the biggest limiting factor for the Aviere in a late game low health scenario is the lacking main battery range. Other DDs can more easily farm from (near or behind) islands or even prop-juke in open water. The other factor is the Aviere's low number of quickly-consumed smokes, which means it is very easy to blow the entire set in the opening half of the game. 

I will say that the Russian DD line is also a bit handicapped in this department. The excellent shell arcs make farming from cover more difficult, and 4km torps are near impossible to use on low health. I would contend that 5km torps would add a lot of life to the line without making it broken. 

7 hours ago, Ensign Cthulhu said:

On to minor things. You have couple of small typos that I am bringing to your attention so you can fix 'em: 

Much appreciated, has been fixed. Keep the feedback coming.

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Torino .... excellent writing.

Do you often write for audiences?

 

I look forward to your Hayate analysis...

Never could figure out what WG was trying to do with that ship.

I actually traded mine in when they did the trade in promotion a while back.  Could buy it back now but not sure I want to...

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Enjoyable read, thanks. 

With respect to the Italian DD line, your comment about captain points is well taken, this line is very hungry for captain skills. I keep everything, so leveling up captains for these ships successfully got me to spend a lot of ECXP and FXP. 

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50 minutes ago, Pugilistic said:

With respect to the Italian DD line, your comment about captain points is well taken, this line is very hungry for captain skills.

I think its a bit of a problem with the line. The problem with Italian DDs is that most of the skills you end up taking are to fix deficiencies with them as opposed to making the ships themselves perform better. I don't believe any other line struggles with this to the degree that the Italian DDs do. I think that's partly why Italian DDs have generally struggled after their initial honeymoon period passed.

On 2/9/2024 at 9:25 AM, torino2dc said:

Senseless nerf to torpedo range cripples the Aviere's fallback-function as a torpedo destroyer

If anything the torps on the whole line should've been buffed. However, I'd say if your playing any Italian DD as a torp boat, you're a twitch streamer playing a meme build or the game really isn't going your way. As far as I'm concerned and statistically, Italian torps are the tied worst torps in the entire game at tier VI+( along with the 15cm german line). Nerfing garbage torps honestly just left me wondering why they bothered, its a change with no logic what so ever behind it. Especially when to make them even workable is a 6pts skill investment, Luigi, and torp mods. Even then, I'd still say playing them as torp boats is a waste of time when compared to proper torp boats.

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1 hour ago, MBT808 said:

If anything the torps on the whole line should've been buffed. However, I'd say if your playing any Italian DD as a torp boat, you're a twitch streamer playing a meme build or the game really isn't going your way. As far as I'm concerned and statistically, Italian torps are the tied worst torps in the entire game at tier VI+( along with the 15cm german line). Nerfing garbage torps honestly just left me wondering why they bothered, its a change with no logic what so ever behind it. Especially when to make them even workable is a 6pts skill investment, Luigi, and torp mods. Even then, I'd still say playing them as torp boats is a waste of time when compared to proper torp boats.

For me, the torps at least allow me to DO SOMETHING while waiting for an opportunity to use my guns without getting killed.

Nerfing the range just means more of the game is spent doing nothing but positioning. Boring.

It's just a terrible change idea.

If the ship is overperforming...nerf the gun reload or her turret traverse or her maneuverability.

But torp range?

Ugh.

Talk about not understanding how the line is played.

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24 minutes ago, Daniel_Allan_Clark said:

For me, the torps at least allow me to DO SOMETHING while waiting for an opportunity to use my guns without getting killed.

Nerfing the range just means more of the game is spent doing nothing but positioning. Boring.

It's just a terrible change idea.

If the ship is overperforming...nerf the gun reload or her turret traverse or her maneuverability.

But torp range?

Ugh.

Talk about not understanding how the line is played.

I do know how the line is played and playing them as torp boats is not efficient or good. You can do it, but there are simply better ships for that. The guns are what the line is built to use predominantly and use their SAP(their HE dpm is too low to be effectively, last I checked it was on the lower end of DDs). The playstyle is very close range focused up till tier VIII, the low tiers do have decent damage per salvo but the low range holds them back from actually performing properly. The torps are something you just throw out and hope on the off chance they hit something. In my experience, even playing today, if you do get hits it’s never going to be on the intended target or not at all. Generally as I’ve seen it, the line has always been optimally played as close range surprise attacks; not sitting back and spamming weak torps.

The tier IX and X, it’s a different discussion as then we’re essentially dealing with pseudo-light cruisers similar to Felix and Elbing. They play completely differently than tier VIII and below. They also need a different captain build as certain skills like CE and SI become irrelevant.

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