A new way of looking at WC guns

Farbourne

Rear Admiral
Hi Everyone. I'm a longtime reader and very occasional poster, but I came up with something that I thought people might think was kind of neat. If not, feel free to ignore it.

I was playing around with what might be involved in coming up with an objective scale for comparing fighters and guns across different eras/WC games (as groundwork for a possible paper-and-pencil WC RPG, or strategy board game, or somesuch...), and was trying to make valid comparisons among the multitude of different guns in the games. Through WC1 and WC2 there are just four to keep track of, but including Academy, Armada, WC3, 4, Privateer, etc adds a whole lot more. I quickly realized that there was no single metric that could compare any two guns--difference in range, refire rate, power, and damage make some guns good for one thing, and some good for something else. Indeed, this is one of the strategic elements that made Wing Commander such a great game.

However, I held out hope that I could come up with some nice, easy way to compare all the different guns properties at a glance--preferably something graphical. There are four different defining characteristics of the WC guns: damage, range, refire rate, and power consumption. Like most people, I'm not very good thinking in four dimensions.

But then it occurred to me...I could simplify things down to three dimensions, because these characteristics aren't all independent. For example, assuming you're a good shot, it doesn't matter if you do 30 cm of damage per shot firing one shot per second, or 15 cm of damage per shot firing two shots per second--the guns are essentially equivalent in the rate at which they can do damage. Yes, in some circumstances you'd rather have one or the other, as the target's shield recharge rate and the pilot's accuracy play a role in real life, but by defining this equivalence, you can compare the damage rate of two very different guns on the same scale.

Similarly, power consumption is a little meaningless when taken by itself, but taken in conjunction with damage per shot, you get a measure of how much damage potential the fixed amount of energy in your gun capacitors can do, assuming you hit everything you shoot at. Again, refire rate, opponent shield recharge rate, and accuracy will all play a role, but with this simple metric, the efficiency of two different guns at converting energy into Kilrathi-death can be directly compared.

With that in mind, I calculated these indices for all the different guns from WC1-4 (if I remain ambitious, I might expand it to Prophecy and Armada someday), and plot them on three axes--range, damage rate, and damage capacity (per some fixed amount of charge available). This way, people could compare all the different guns at a glance. Here's a picture of how all the guns stack up (attached).

In general, the further a gun is from the origin, the better all around gun it is. It's pretty clear why the Neutron was retired--it's clearly one of the oldest guns, faring relatively poorly in all three metrics. However, the most pointless gun seems to be...the ion. Exact same range and damage rate as the Meson, but much less damage capacity for the same capacitor charge. The Photon's not exactly a very good gun, either.

If you like range, the laser is your baby. Duh. If you crave maximum rate of dishing out punishment, you can't do better than a Tachyon, although the good old Mass Driver isn't bad, either. And to maximize your damage capacity, the Mass Driver leaves everything else in the dust. The Mass driver is arguably the best gun in the games (it was always my favorite) if you can overlook it's relatively short range. But hey, I love to mix it up close in...

I have some other plots normal to the axes looking at just two dimensions at a time--they're a little clearer and easier to read...but I'll only post them if people are interested. I didn't want to clutter up the posting board with something other people think is silly... I also experimented with another (in my opinion) less elegant way of reducing things to three dimesnions and plotting the different guns. Let me know if there's interest in seeing it.

For reference, I had to make a couple of assumptions when the stats of a gun differed from game to game. The only one I remember off the top of my head was the range on the laser (I think I used the WC2-4 value), but I think there were others. I also assumed a fixed capacitor size of 100 nJ. The value is immaterial for comparing guns, although it will scale the units on the damage capacity axis.
 

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Toast

Space Marshal
there's also the issue of projectile speed, which matters in WC1, 2, and Prophecy, at least. All projectiles seem to have the same speed in WC3 and WC4. Other than differences in maximum range, projectile speed causes some guns to not play as well with the others when it comes to deflection shots. Sometimes it's hard to land a full guns salvo with, for example, the Sabre's particle cannon/mass driver mix. And even with good marksmanship, tagging a Nephilim fighter with the Devastator's BFG is difficult in part due to the shot's low velocity, which makes just about any of the target's attempts at evasion successful. But those things are a lot harder to reflect objectively, since whether a combination works well depends on the other guns in the mix.
 

Farbourne

Rear Admiral
Good point about projectile speed. I hadn't thought about that. It's not listed in the gun statistics here on the CIC, so I don't know where one would find hard numbers for that...or whether it is significant enough to warrant its own axis (or if it could somehow be combined with range...)
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
there's also the issue of projectile speed, which matters in WC1, 2, and Prophecy, at least. All projectiles seem to have the same speed in WC3 and WC4. Other than differences in maximum range, projectile speed causes some guns to not play as well with the others when it comes to deflection shots. Sometimes it's hard to land a full guns salvo with, for example, the Sabre's particle cannon/mass driver mix. And even with good marksmanship, tagging a Nephilim fighter with the Devastator's BFG is difficult in part due to the shot's low velocity, which makes just about any of the target's attempts at evasion successful. But those things are a lot harder to reflect objectively, since whether a combination works well depends on the other guns in the mix.

Perhaps in WC3, but in WC4 the plasma gun seemed slower then the Tachs did. The Mass Driver turrets in WC3 shots were really slow.
 

Ijuin

Admiral
Hmmm from the looks of it then, the Particle gun is the all-around generalist, having a decent amount of each without excelling in any one of the areas.
 

Farbourne

Rear Admiral
Hmmm from the looks of it then, the Particle gun is the all-around generalist, having a decent amount of each without excelling in any one of the areas.

True, but the Reaper is superior to the Particle in every category, which implies that it's probably an even better generalist. (Which makes sense, since the implication in the games is that it's a much newer gun. LOAF or someone, is this correct?) I actually have some other plots (that I could post when I get home tonight) that show just two axes at a time and make this a little easier to see (the actual graphs are 3D rotatable, but exist in Matlab and so aren't really that portable).

Actually, it seems pretty striking to me how good a job the game programmers did in making each game with "newer" guns bring something more to the table. The original three had a gun that was good in two categories but lousy in the third (the Mass Driver), one that was good in the third but not so much in the other two (the Laser), and a balanced gun (the Neutron). Then the Particle was developed, which was also a balanced gun, but superior in every way to the Neutron--makes sense becaue it was newer.

Then a bunch of new guns were introduced, but some (like the Ion) were stated to be a very old design...and sure enough, plotted this way the Ion is obviously the most pointless gun in the games, since the Meson does everything the Ion does but draws less power per unit damage. Looking at the plot, I also get the sense that the Photon is quite an old and outdated gun, but I don't know for sure.

On the other hand, the guns we see on the most modern super fighters and heavy attack fighters--especially the Reaper and the Tachyon, feel like much newer guns--one is very good in all three dimensions, and the other is above average in two and exceptional in the third.
 

Moonsword

Spaceman
The Reaper was introduced on the Excalibur, as I recall. They also went out of service very promptly - powerful, but temperamental. Unlike, say, the tachyon guns, which were introduced commercially by 2669 and were common to both sides (as their presence on the Bloodfang demonstrates, as does the (extremely annoying) set on the WC3 corvettes).

EDIT: The Reaper was introduced in 2667 on the initial Wraith prototypes and would be deployed on them aboard TCS Lexington. My only defense is that it's been way, way too long since I've played Armada or Academy.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
You were right the first time - the Kilrathi Saga manual gives the Reaper Cannon's introduction date as "Planned 2669." The weapon seen in Academy is only a simulation of that which the Confederation expects to deploy on the Wraith when it enters production.

(... of course, it apparently did quite a lot of work once it did enter service in that least year of the war. The Armada manual says that Reapers have "gunned down more ships than all other weapons combined.")
 
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