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Gun Balance

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I have been sitting on this post for at least 5 years and probably well over a thousand hours of game play. I remember specifically making an account to post on the forums way, way back in 2014, but for whatever reason, this post never saw the light of day. I know it is a veritable monster wall of text and I tried to organize it as cleanly and succinctly as possible. But, after all, it is the product of 5 years of off and on critical thought and discussion on the matter.

For those who do not have the time or cannot be bothered with the details, a compact summary is available in the section labelled "Conclusion".


The crux is as follows: despite a plethora of gun options, only a tiny fraction dominate the game in terms of usage (which seems to be indicative of power). While I wholly recognize there will never be an absolute perfect balance in this sense, some of these offenders not only dissuade people from using a great many different kinds of weapons, but also seem to directly contradict the game's own combat design. I believe some kind of re-balance and/or redesign is needed.


Game Play & Gun Play

Although at first this aspect of the game can be bit complicated, it really boils down very simply. Guns are meant to be chosen in reaction to 1.) an enemy's load out & 2.) to a very specific situation.
For example, an OCA is great at stuffing a sniper (with the help of a vehicle) and excels in close quarters areas. This game play loop of reactions can certainly be navigated around to a certain degree with player skill. An exceptional sniper, for example, could still probably defeat a mediocre OCA user, even at the OCA's preferential range. However, if all things are equal, one would expect success for the sniper to be in the negative at worst and wildly inconsistent at best in the aforementioned encounter.


Given that this "mini game" of rock-paper-scissors and reaction to environment/needs is so central to game play, it only makes sense that the game try to offer us various different options for each range and role to best suit our individual play styles. Shotguns and OCAs, for instance, fulfill the same role of being close-range killers while the OSMAW and Alig are vehicle-slayers. The issue is that in many of these roles are dominated by only one or two weapons that are used almost without fail despite there being many, many more options. 

In the close range niche, the OCA (and its associated re-skins) as well as the Colby Shotgun and NFAS (specifically the True Ogre) more or less dominate weapon picks. All things considered, this role is actually probably among the best balanced as people still do often pick PMGs. However, shotguns like the Strife, Agrotech series, and Tommy Guns are all left in limbo. Tommy Guns, arguably, also could fit into mid-range niches, leaving its precise design intention a bit ambiguous.

Long range is also in the same decently-balanced realm. Generally, players will pick a heavy sniper or a Scout. Obeya and OBIRs are not bad, but generally lack of the flexibility of the Scout series in particular. This said, it still does leave a range of snipers wanting. While the Agrotech snipers can do good vehicle damage, I find they really need another team member to be coordinated with the sniper to really be useful (which begs the question, why not just run an ALIG or OSMAW/Volcano). Both the N-ISSR-B series and DMR-SD series are a mystery to me in terms of what niche they are supposed to fill. Finally, the Anubis, a legendary weapon of significant rarity is just utterly out performed.

There are other weapons I can talk about, such as the SHAW and Euryale/Medusa basically dominating the LMG niche (barring the ALIG, which has it own sub-designation as a vehicle counter). Vehicle-destroying weapons seem varied enough to me, though as mentioned previously, some weapons appear to want to be an option in that niche, but simply are not. There will be a section a little later on truly vague weapons. For now, onto the meat and potatoes; the reason I felt this post was necessary at all.

The Tyranny of the N-TEC

I feel that this needs its own section because that is just how prominent it is. Earlier I mentioned that some weapons seem to deliberately contradict the aforementioned system of situational weapon niches and reactionary weapon swaps. This is the poster child of that supposition. The N-TEC (and its associated skins) is good at everything and downright absurdly great at what its really supposed to do -- which is mid-range combat. I have seen this weapon dominate at all ranges and completely eclipse basically every other weapon in its niche for years and years on end. While it certainly is not unbeatable, I do not think it is an overstatement to declare it the best weapon in the game. 

It is so solid in its hegemony that using a STAR, Vanguard, Misery, or even ATTAC (though those do sometimes crop up) seems like a willful downgrade. I would be comfortable placing bets that this weapon alone is the majority of players' "go-to" weapon and I generally expect to see 1-2 every time I get opposition. Although I unfortunately cannot prove these claims without a whole lot a data collected from a whole lot of screen shots as proof, I do not think any honest player would seriously argue how common the N-TEC is. To me, this overwhelming presence is indicative of a weapon that is too powerful and, by relation, kills gun diversity and the strategic design of the game. Not to mention, its free nature dissuades players from interacting with the ARMAS Marketplace (barring, perhaps, getting the Ursus N-TEC which is an even greater offender of everything mentioned prior). 

Specifically what is wrong with the N-TEC? I would say it is a jack-of-all-trades gone much too far. In a game that appears to value weapon niches (sometimes valuing them so much, in fact, the niches are too ambiguous to understand) the N-TEC is a viable if not the singular forerunner pick in almost every niche. To a lesser degree, but still a behemoth, the carbine (and its associated skins) does the exact same thing -- which is pretty much everything barring blowing up vehicles.

Vague Weapons

This is a section for weapons that just sit in very odd places. I mentioned a few of these before, but they still make me scratch my head. A weapon I like a lot, although using it is often an exercise in masochism, is the ISSR. It kills in 4 shots and does solid vehicle damage. Cool at first glance, but its rate of fire is far too slow to compete with basically anything at any range and more or less requires you to either ambush or cover-pop to survive any sustained gunfight. Moreover, its clip is too small to blow up almost any vehicle without needing to reload. This totally shoots the gun design in the foot because it tends to get vehicles down to their "burning" phase which cues the drivers to hop out -- meanwhile you are reloading while the opposition is abandoning ship. This is a fun weapon, but what, exactly, is it for? It seems to be an oddball, pale reflection of the jack-of-all-trades idea, but in this case does everything just up to the most crucial point, then peters out. 

The Agrotech and DMR-SD weapons are much the same. While the former can support better car-destroying weapons, the latter is just bizarre. It basically does the same thing as Obeya and OBIR, which are generally already secondary picks to the Scout and N-HVR. The N-ISSR series of sniper is very similar. 

Also everything from the Horseman line of weapons is weird except maybe the Curse which is not too bad (though basically boils down to being an OCA). The Strife was clearly meant to be the N-HVR of shotguns, but because you have to be right in someone's face to use it, you frequently die waiting to shoot one more time or while switching to a secondary. The Misery shoots slow and just gets mauled in any honest gunfight. And, frankly, I do not even remember the name of the sniper off hand. Probably Suffering because that is how it feels to use it.

Acknowledging Skill Gaps & Gun Favoritism & Metagaming
I absolutely recognize that skill goes a long way in defining weapons. Perhaps the most iconic demonstration of that in APB or otherwise, is close-quarters sniping; an instance in which overwhelming skill completely overrides a weapon's intended purpose. I also recognize that APB is a very, very strange beast. On average, there are very few "average" players. This means it can be difficult to gauge if designs are either fundamentally breaking down or, as with the sniper example, are simply being stretched to their absolute limits. While this skill gap poses another, separate problem, I still believe that if the game's internal logic for gun play is as I theorize -- a system of reactions to situations -- then that logic needs to be preserved in gun design. Not only should this system be clear (perhaps explicitly mentioned in the tutorial), but niches should be clear and understandable. Obviously, no one gun should rule over any one niche and certainly not over multiple niches. Without the formula for success being clearly defined, new players will only be further lost as they get picked off and, eventually, quit. This is a circumstance that would only serve to preserve the skill gap, not close it.

Second, I realize some readers might think I am poo pooing their favorite weapon here. I am definitely poo pooing the N-TEC, but that aside, I use plenty of "off-brand" weapons. Its fine to have fun, but my point is that right now the "competitive" weapons make up a fairly insignificant slice of all that is available in the game. Additionally, some of the weapons I have mentioned are locked behind price tags. While trials are available, it often is not clear to particularly new players what a gun's niche is and whether or not it excels in it or even suits them as an individual over the course of these trials. I am not saying make everything free as APB is absolutely a business, but I am saying weapon niches need to be more clearly defined and, as much as possible, especially for ARMAS guns, people should feel the value of their purchase. The ISSR is a great example. I did a trial and then paid for the gun and still did not really know what I had until a good week of fiddling with it. In short, I am not trying to degrade how you play the game. Rather, I am simply advocating for clarifications, balances, and more viable player choice. 

Finally, metagaming is always going to happen. I mentioned in passing before that expecting every weapon in the game to be perfectly viable is ideal, but unrealistic. Players will always optimize for success in any game and therefore core weapons, strategies, and so on will arise. To presume otherwise would be naive. This said, I do not believe there is ever any harm in expanding a meta as much as possible. Our current "rock-paper-scissors" could be "rock-paper-scissors-shotgun" and even that could go on and on. Although I admit doing this in a game requires a delicate hand and attention to detail -- it is not as easy as just slapping on new stuff.


I know I have covered a broad sphere of topics in this post. Yet, I have not clearly suggested anything yet. I need to first say that I am not in the least a game developer, just a passionate player. I do not know or have all the right answers.

However, my first suggestion would be making it explicitly clear what every weapon is supposed to do; in the tutorial, in the weapon descriptions, and certainly in ARMAS. Is it for killing people or destroying vehicles? What separates it from other weapons in its niche? Where should I use it? 

My second, and probably less reasonable suggestion, is a call for localized nerfs or near-universal buffs. I think at this point my ire for the N-TEC is starkly clear and it would be my first choice for re-balancing. Or, take a hard look at other assault rifles and try to make them more competitive. Though, naturally, these buffs would have to extend beyond just assault rifles. Make vague weapons less so (give the ISSR more shooting speed or a bigger clip; doing one or the other will really help define it as a weapon for killing people or ruining vehicles). There are so many ways to do this and all of them are very dependent on individual weapons. I would be happy to elaborate in the future, but this post is already a monster in size. Another option, although probably far too great an undertaking, would be to somehow integrate a new way to practically customize weapons. 


Finally, I will just briefly reiterate my points. There seems to be an internal logic to combat that the game pushes: weapon swap in reaction to environments and opposing load outs/play styles (this logic can be somewhat overridden with skill, something APB is highly saturated with). Despite this system of reactions which relies on clear weapon niches, a very small portion of available weapons currently dominate their niches. Some, such as the N-TEC and Carbine, even are extremely viable in niches they are technically far removed from (particularly long and close ranges). My suggested solutions include better clarity in the ARMAS, on weapon descriptions, and in the tutorial as to this reactionary system and the niches of weapons. Further, my solutions include either specific, localized nerfs to weapons such as the N-TEC or broad buffs to currently less viable weapons. Additionally, vague weapons such as the ISSR or Strife could use tweaks to better make clear what their niche actually is. The specifics of these changes I opted not to suggest citing both my own inexperience as a game developer and that it would require another long post given each change would be on a case by case basis. 

Now I would like to thank any readers who have gotten to the end. I know it was probably a hassle, but I am passionate about the game and really want nothing other than for it to succeed. While much of my input is subjective, it is also based on extensive time across almost 7 years of APB. This is my honest take on one of the greatest issues with the game right now, comparable to the issue of the skill gap -- which, for the record, I believe to be the largest problem facing Little Orbit. If anyone from Little Orbit puts eyes on this post, I want to personally thank you for giving it the time. I recognize that what you all must have on the table right now is a tall order and by extension recognize that suggestions such as my own are probably logistical impossibilities at the moment. Regardless, I appreciate the time and effort. I am hopeful that Little Orbit can breath life into APB and claim a bit of the glory the game has always deserved. 

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