Friday, 4 September 2009

Crunching the Numbers

I think have a natural aptitude for numbers. I can just add and multiply things that others find difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a genius, or a arithmetical savant, I just can hold numbers in my head and using tricks I’ve learnt over the years multiply and divide etc.

I enjoy being able to do this. I think numbers can be fun.

This blog you are reading now is going to have a lot of numbers in it. No need to step away, I will keep it easy and where anything looks difficult, remember you can always skip to the next paragraph.

A long time ago, in a town that is not too far away from where I live now, I had become an avid fan of a game called BattleTech. I was young, full of youthful passion and over here in England BattleTech had yet to catch on, as it was the 1985, and it had only just come out.

At the time I worked in a games shop, and had been introduced to BattleTech when my boss imported Battledroids. We use to play every weekend and played lots of games and RPGs over the years.

Anyway, I produced a small fanzine called MekTek, and one of the articles I wrote for it was called the “Meka of Design”. In this article I outline some of the factors that needed to be taken into consideration when designing your own battlemechs for a game.

D = Damage

R = Range

W= Weight

H = Heat points

A = Ammunition

CV = Combat Value.

Using these terms I created an algorithm, which is a procedure, or formula that allows one to work out an answer to a problem. I wanted to calculate the combat value for each of the weapons available so that I would know how effective each weapon was. Well you can’t go around designing the ultimate battlemech without having some idea of how to get the best value bangs for your buck. The formula I used back then was as follows:

D x R
CV = W+H+A

Back then I calculated the combat value using the full attack value for both the Short and Long Range Missile racks. However, it would have been better to use the average value, and here are the results.

Autocannon 2: CV = 6

Autocannon 5: CV = 9

Autocannon 10: CV = 9/9

Autocannon 20: CV = 8/7

Small laser: CV = 6

Medium laser: CV =11

Large laser: CV = 9

PPC: CV = 11

SRM 2: CV = 5

SRM 4: CV = 6

SRM 6: CV = 9

LRM 5: CV = 13

LRM 10: CV = 13

LRM 15: CV = 15

LRM 20: CV = 15

As can be seen from the rounded out combat value that the medium laser appears to be the same as the PPC, and therefore these two weapons are equal in their combat effectiveness.

The reason I bring this point to your attention, because experience from the many games that I’ve played, my experience is that bang for buck the medium laser is one of the best weapons you can buy for a game of BattleTech set in 3025.

Also it should be noted that the combat value I’ve calculated for the autocannons only allows for one ton of ammo, which is fine for the two smaller models, but not quite enough for the AC10, and the AC20 is poorly served with only five shots.

So I’ve included a combat value with two tons of ammo, which is the figure after the slash. From this one can see that while the autocannon 10 remains the same, the autocannon 20 takes quite a hit in this calculated combat value system.

Now, I’m not saying that the system I’ve illustrated here is what Jordan & Co. used when they were designing BattleTech.

From what little I know, I gather that the process of designing the game was far more intuitive, with ongoing fiddling of the weapon stats to get to something that was enjoyable to play. Though I admit I could be wrong on this conclusion, and would be open to anyone coming along and giving a first hand account of the design process.

Anyway, next post I'm going to show how all of the above assumptions are wrong, when I get my geek on...

Disclaimer: All posts are condensed & abbreviated summaries of complex arguments posted for discussion on the internet, and not meant to be authoritative in any shape, or form on said subject, T&CA, E&OE & YMMV.


  1. I actually like this system a lot, partly because I never understood why any combat system needed to use such large numbers to portray how "good" something was (some 'Mechs are up in the 2-3 thousand range).

    BattleValue gives more weight to damage than your system, though I am not sure how much.

    One thing I would like to comment on that is especially importaint for SRM's, LRM's, and anything with cluster damage is that cluster damage is a funny thing. While you may look at an SRM6 and say you generally hit with 4 missiles (on average) for 8 damage it goes farther than that.

    Basically when you have cluster damage each cluster has a chance to get a through armor crit, or to hit an unarmored location, or to hit the head (for 'Mechs). This is actually VERY powerful. I would actually put an SRM6 as a more powerful weapon than a Medium Laser because of this fact, and probably put the SRM4 as on par because of this.

    It is also importaint to realize that weapons with lots of ammo per tun often end up having several weapons feeding from the same ammo bin. For instance 4 MG's on a single ton of MG ammo.

  2. I've played around with ideas like this myself and wound up with similar results. It's interesting to note that the ML and AC2 are generally comparable in total firepower in both our evaluations. Adding in modifiers for minimum range, cluster hits and armour penetration actually smooth things out a little bit with most weapons falling within a tight 5 value range (notable exception are the SL, MG, and AC2 which are significant below and the ML and LRM5 which is slightly above the standard range). The really interesting result occur when I reduced the heat sink factor proportionally to account for the 10 free heat sinks; while most weapons improve a little bit, the ML doubled in value and if you allow for 20 free heat sinks (doubles) it triples in value!