First off, let me say that I am incredibly excited about the upcoming changes to the alien commander in 205. I think the entire NS2 community appreciates UWE paying close attention to its concerns in regards to the alien commander and alien balance in general, and these new changes will surely make this feature a more memorable experience. That being said, I do felt the need to bring up an additional 'issue' with the alien khammander that has thus far not been addressed, as has to my knowledge not even been debated in depth. This issue is the cost of cysts, and their place in the resource model. Cysts used to cost energy, they then went to costing p.res, and it looks like in 205 they will continue costing p.res, while becoming even cheaper. I would like to argue in this short, and hopefully to-the-point post, that cysts should go back to costing energy.
Before I go into my reasoning, let's ask ourselves the question: what is p.res used for? If we look at the marine commander, this is immediately clear. P.res are used to aid your troops on the battlefield, this can be done by providing health, stimpacks, ammo and even by providing them with better weapons. On the alien side however, things are somewhat different; not only are p.res used to support your troops on the battlefield through cyst abilities and pre-evolved lifeforms, they are also used for crucial expansion and map control. So unlike with its marine counterpart, for some reason, map control too is bound to the khammander's personal resources.
What does this mean for gameplay?
- It opens the door to 'comm-switching' (since you can have one player spend p.res on expansion and have someone else come in to spend his p.res on alien lifeform support)
- It is generally a weak mechanic to control alien expansion speed (due to p.res scaling with amount of extractors and cysts being so cheap)
- There is a trade-off between more field suport and 'more' (or sustained) map control for the alien commander
It is my belief that as a result, we are dealing with a significant design inconsistency.
Let's look at the use of energy. The marine commander needs it for: beacon, scan, nano-shield and probably nano-build. For the khammander the available mechanics (thus far) are: nutrient mist (the new catalyze), shade cloak and crag umbra.
Now, as someone pointed out in the original thread about the 205 khammander:
2.) To the people afraid of insta-bile-bomb rush, read the timing in the linked document. It takes > 6 minutes to mature a hive with constant misting, and > 18 without. and that has to pass before aliens can even start researching augment to get bile bomb.
What is of importance here is the huge time differential between a continuously misted hive and one that isn't. Given the simple fact that there are few things the khammander has to spend energy on, continuously misting a hive to speed up its build time is going to be the primary energy sink, certainly early in the game. (It doesn't help that shade cloak is a bit of a flawed and tedious mechanic, and that umbra is very situational at best)
Not only will this become an incredibly boring/repetitive task for the alien commander to devote all his time on, it also makes the 'max hive maturation time' kind of redundant. (Since there is no reason why you would ever take the full 18 minutes) This 'misting' task comes at no significant trade-off, at no actual cost to the alien economy, despite the fact that you are essentially 'speed-teching'.
This is why I propose moving cysts to energy as well.
What will this do?
- Create a trade-off between increasing map control or speeding up the maturation of the existing map control.
- Equalise the use of p.res for marine and alien khammander
- Ads additional depth to energy management and the khammander's choices
- Make early cyst losses more detrimental to an alien economy. (i.e having to replace a lot of cysts will make you unable to speed maturation all the time)
- Adds additional importance to second or third hive (more hives = quicker map control and easier to sustain that map control)
Not only that, one could argue that it feels very unnatural that a commander has to use 'personal resources' to spread infestation, which is something that is critical to the alien economy. A problem with them costing energy before was that it hampered alien expansion, which is why they were moved to p.res when instead they should have just been made cheaper on energy.
Please do consider giving cysts on energy another chance.
Thanks for reading