To whom this may concern: ccp devs, fellow bomber pilots, and interested fellow players.
My apologies up front for the wall of text. I felt it was not appropriate to post this in the dev blog thread for “Surgical Strike”, because of size and other ongoing discussions over there. I will only deal with damage dealing bombs, the “utility bombs” show no changes on Sisi.
If you can’t be prodded to follow the calculations, no problem, here’s the TLDR: the announced changes will result in limiting the squad sizes to 7 pilots, on top of the reduction in damage, and a reduction of sb’s dropping simultaneously on grid when trying to maximize the effect (and a likely negative balance vs the armor/shield changes). So, this becomes a triple, if not a quadruple nerf. If you want to know why, read on.
After comparing the current stats on damage dealing bombs with the ones currently published on Singularity, there is reason for concern. While on paper the numbers hover around 80% (reduction of HP, reduction of damage output), in reality they will be worse. The reason is of course that bombs are very rarely deployed solo, but in squadrons.
Recap: current damage bomb stats on Tranquility: Armor HP = 96, armor resists (1 type) = 99.8%; structure HP = 20, structure resists = 0; base damage output = 6400, maximum damage output = 8000
same stats on Singularity: Armor HP = 75, armor resists (1 type) = 99.8%; structure HP = 20, structure resists =0; base damage output = 5200, maximum damage output = 6500
A. Current situation on Tranquility
For the less informed player, the number of bombs that can be deployed simultaneously is limited, because of the armor resists of the bomb itself. The damage output of the bombs is determined by the relevant skill levels in the Covert Ops skill, BUT ONLY if the pilot flies the corresponding frigate (Hound for Shrapnel, Purifier for Electron bombs, etc). The damage output range per bomb on TQ ranges from 6400 (non-bonused hull e.g., any bomber hull but a Manticore dropping a Concussion bomb) to 8000 (max level bonus e.g., a Hound dropping a Shrapnel bomb). It is evident that this difference determines the number of deployable bombs. How ?
A.1. The maximal sb squad sizes
Without bonused hulls: 0.2% (the residue after 99.8% resist) of a bomb blast affects the armor of other bombs on grid. 0.2% of 6400 = 12.8. If seven bombs went off on grid, the 8th bomb will still have some armor left (96 - 12.8x7 = 6.4). If an extra bomb on grid would detonate, it would obliterate this bomb, punching through armor and into resistanceless structure). That is why the practical maximum size of a damage dealing sb squad is limited to 8 bomb droppers.
Things become interesting/complicated when squads have (some) bonused hulls in play, a very practical and realistic situation. The damage output of the bombs increases and of course their effect on each other. How many bombs can be deployed by the same squad now ? For every racial bonus level (the Hound dropping a Shrapnel bomb) there is now an extra amount of damage, namely 0.2% of the 5% extra per skill level of 6400 (= 0.64). Instead of 12.8, a bomb now has the potential to affect another bomb with 12.8 + CovertOpslevel# x 0.64. Therefore it is the number of applicable skill levels in the Covert Ops skill that determines how many bombs can be deployed without obliterating the squad’s bombs remaining on grid. A total of 96 armor HP (and 20 structure HP but these don’t come into play in practice) need to be sufficient for the last remaining bomb on the grid to remain functional. In other words, keeping the hard limit of 8 (unbonused) pilots in mind:
96 >= 12.8 x 7 + total bonus levels x 0.64
resulting in total number of allowed bonus levels = 10. If you have more than 10 bonus levels in your squad, your 8th bomb will simply vaporize. That too is a hard limit. If you have more than 10 levels applicable, the squad size is de facto reduced to 7 unless you want to waste bombs with every single drop.
A.2. Squad damage output
The total damage output of an sb squad varies according to these simple calculations. A “bonus level”, meaning a pilot’s level in the Covert Ops skill flying a racially bonus’d hull, is 5% of the base dmg value, or 320 or
**squad damage output = number of pilots x 6400 + number of applicable levels x 320**
A squad of 8 pilots therefore has a damage output range of 8 x 6400 (= 51,200) up to 8 x 6400 + 10 x 320 (= 54,400), no more, no less.
The very maximum of damage output in any sb squad (hard limit on 7 maxed out pilots) = 7 x 8000 (= 56,000) i.e., 3% higher than the maximum with an 8 member team.
B. New situation as visible on Singularity
B.1. The maximal sb squad sizes
Without bonus’d hulls: 0.2% of 5200 = 10.4. After 7 preceding blasts the 8th bomb still has some armor HP and is fully functional. The hard limit of 8 bomb droppers remains.
With bonus’d hulls in play: following the same method as above, with 0.2% of 5% of 5200 = 0.52. The formula for maximum allowed skill levels in a squad of 8 bomb droppers now becomes:
75 >= 10.4 x 7 + total bonus levels x 0.52
or maximum allowed bonus levels = 4 (!). That means four people with level 1 in the Covert Ops skill flying a Hound when the squad drops Shrapnel bombs is the absolute limit (or 2 pilots at level 2, or 1 at level 4) … Coming from 10 levels, which already was a bit of a headache for sb squad commanders …
B.2. Squad damage output
**squad damage output = number of pilots x 5200 + number of applicable levels x 260**
A squad of 8 pilots can dish out between 8 x 5200 (= 41,600) and 8 x 5200 + 4 x 260 (= 42,640), because of the new hard 4 skill levels limit.
The maximum damage output of any squad will be from a 7 pilot squad, for 7 x 6500 (= 45,500) i.e., 6% higher than the max possible with an 8 pilot squad (42,640).
C. The comparison
For damage output, squads of 8, falling back from 10 allowed skill levels to 4, do 81% to 78% of their current range
A completely maxed out squad, which can never be larger than 7 pilots, does 81.5% of the current damage.
On paper at least this looks like what was intended.
D. The practical consequences - the stinger
First off, and as a side note, the return on investment on getting the Covert Ops skill to level 5 in relation to bombing has been questionable for a long time, . The max increase in damage per bomb per pilot is 25%, true. But the squadron damage increase compares as 56,000 (max, 7 pilots possible, 35 bonus levels) versus 51,200 (no bonuses, but 8 pilots possible), a benefit for the specialists’ squad of maximum 10%, not 25%, When the announced nerf hits this changes to 45,500 (max, 7 pilots) versus 41,000 (no bonuses, 8 pilots), a benefit of 11% for the specialists, so hurray… Granted, the investment is not dramatic, 35 levels for the maxed 7 pilot squad, vs 5 for the minimalistic 8 pilot squad, a difference of 7.161 million sp in relevant squad sp. Of course the racial bonus pays off when using torpedoes. Still, it is a unique case in the game with diminished returns per level when using this weapon system in fleets as intended.
If you want to make use of the racial hull bonus, Beware ! The racial hull bonus on SB’s for non-maxed-out 8-pilot squadrons is as good as dead. 4 applicable levels in a team of 8, that’s kind of hard NOT to find. It’s as difficult to compose a squad of only racial hulls as it is to compose one without any racial hulls, let alone find pilots without more than level 1 in Covert Ops. That means that the squad size will now, more often than not, be reduced to a team of 7 pilots dropping bombs with some racial bonus. The damage output of such a team, with at least 5 applicable bonus levels can vary within 7 x 5200 + number of applicable levels x 260, so from 37,700 (5 levels) to 45,500 (everyone maxed out). The practical minimum output of a team in practice has been lowered to a range from 51,200 (8 pilots current. see calcualtions) to 37,700 (7 pilots), which means 27% less, not 20. That is only due to the new hard limit of 4 racial bonus levels.
In fact, flying a bonus’d hull forces the hand of the squad. A single level 5 Covert Ops skilled pilot already sentences the squad to a size of 7, because otherwise his bomb would always have to go off last in a team of 8. That is not realistic.
In essence this is not only (1) a nerf on bomb damage output, it is also (2) a nerf on practical squad size, which entails (3) a nerf on number of maximally usable sb pilots on the grid when trying to max output during fleet fights. Pending on the exact calculation of the resulting EHP on ships with the announced changes, it’s probable that (4) the reduction in damage output of bomb droppers is larger than the reduction in EHP.
edit for clarity