Run a BalanceStats pass on vanilla weapons, and you'll see that the Smartcannon has a balance variation of +30.9%. Which is far beyond anything else at that level.

The closest gun to it algorithmically is the Moskva 11, which is less popular for its low range. After that is the AK15, which is supposedly slightly better before pricing (and it is, by one damage point, if you discount the tracking on the smartcannon. But these are +9.5% and +5.2% respectively. Remove cost from the equation and the Smartcannon is supposedly less effective than the AK15. I am dubious about the algorithm in this respect.

Regardless, even the final algorithm score reflects that the Smartcannon is simply outperforming its level,and doing it by a dramatic margin. There are also issues the algorithm isn't picking up (which explains its very close equivelance before cost to the AK15's score): Smartcannon ammo is almost valueless, low mass, and extremely common. It simply isn't providing sufficient penalty for the on-level damage, on-level RoF (which is even technically higher on-paper than the AK15), and extremely good tracking capability. Further, the price, ammunition factors, and rarity are negated by having an assured spawn in Eridani.

Level three is an important level. It's the highest level you can get in Eridani, and a good stepping stone to the rest of the game. We hand the player a smartcannon (for now) if they do the tutorial quests. This effectively renders every other level 3 (non-launcher) weapon obsolete: the smartcannon is so much better that there is very little reason to use anything else unless you're speedrunning or otherwise in a hurry, especially as it's effectively free to get hold of.

I like the smartcannon too, it's a great gun,and it's a very fun gun. It's an important gun to have. But it overperforms in a way that negates the value of other content at present, and both it and the rest of Level 3 need a bit of a look at (and possibly some more competition in core from new items) to get things balanced appropriately and spiced up. We need the rest of Level 3 to be as interesting to use as the Smartcannon,even if the current star gets dimmed a little to fit in better.

relanat 3 Apr 2021:

That is all true but on the other hand it isn't ideal to reduce everything to mediocrity.
"Which bland weapon shall I buy in Eridani this game?" isn't a recipe for a fun game.

It is a good weapon, easy to use, cheap to supply, can be enhanced and very effective. But I never use it!
It is ideal for beginners for the same reasons. They can get it easily every game and survive through a few systems. This is important. Constantly dying without even getting out of Eridani will IMO have new players giving up (I think George has some data that a player needs to get to St Kats or Rigel to stay interested?)
But if they can get a decent game happening at first, once they have a bit of experience they will try other weapons and the game will expand for them through that.

It is serving a useful function as it is. It quickly becomes obsolete but is a great introductory weapon.

digarw 3 Apr 2021:

We could simply reducing damage to around 2d6 which could be like a better heavy recoilless with tracking.

derakon 4 Apr 2021:

"Which bland weapon shall I buy in Eridani this game?" isn't a recipe for a fun game.

I agree, and so does Song, hence her statement "We need the rest of Level 3 to be as interesting to use as the Smartcannon, even if the current star gets dimmed a little to fit in better."

There's a bewildering array of low-level kinetic and laser weapons that are really not very well differentiated. Most weapons at these levels differ solely in fire rate, damage per shot, and power use. Off the top of my head, the only ones that stand out at all are the laser cannon array (and its kinetic cousin, the Trident), and the fast-fire laser cannon. I'm not saying that the other weapons are all the same, just that as a player when I look at them they all blur together.

As a design goal, I would suggest that we try to come up with at least 2 alternatives to the SmartCannon. That is, a weapon that is explicitly meant to be a "newbie crutch" (easy to use and effective in most early-game situations), which can generate instead of the SmartCannon in Eridani, and which shows off the game's cool capabilities.

A couple of possibilities:
- The Avian Enterprises mod has a "Woodpecker" kinetic weapon with an incredibly high fire rate, low per-shot damage, and short range.
- A swivel-mount laser or turbolaser

nms 6 Apr 2021:

There are a lot of mechanics that are currently only used for a small number of weapons: capacitor, overheat, burst fire, inaccuracy, swivel. They could be used on new weapons, or added to more existing weapons while adjusting their other stats to keep them balanced. That would make the available options feel more distinctive.

Swivel might need some tuning up though. I haven't checked recently, but I remember it being hard to hit targets with high tangential speed, probably because it didn't lock onto targets outside the cone even if the aim point was in the cone.

the_shrike 19 Nov 2021:

Update on this: I have sample code from Elemental Shift that can probably be ported in directly that balances the gun (algorithmically) almost perfectly.

the_shrike 13 Jan 2024:

Two years later, I should actually write down the changes Elemental Shift makes now that they've been very thoroughly tested and as such I think they'd work as a straight port into vanilla:

  • Firerate 15 --> 16
  • Poweruse 5 --> 10
  • Value 1300 --> 1800
  • MissileSpeed 50 --> 45
  • Lifetime 60 --> replaced by Range 60 (because working out range by hand is horrible)
  • ManeuverRate 18 --> 16
  • Ammunition Mass 10 --> 15

In addition Elemental Shift moves the ammunition properties over to the missile item to allow for other guns to fire smartcannon ammunition.

This balances the gun to within an extremely close margin of the 'ideal' according to the BalanceStats algorithm, keeps the feel very similar, but makes it less overcompetitive against other (mostly ES) similarly levelled weapons.

Elemental Shift also adds a competitor in the form of the Sangvin gimballed laser cannon from Makayev.