Tier-Less Specialization

Been going on about a tierless ship tree ever since I first got here on this forum. Thought it’d be about time I posted an explanation on how that might look like in Star Conflict for posterity sake nothing more. But change for change’s sake alone is no good. There are plus points to a tierless ship tree, here are some of those:

  1. Balance
  • It’s just that much simpler to achieve when all your ships reside within the same power band
  1. Matchmaker
  • when everything is in one power band, you have the opportunity to segregate the server into a more meaningful basis like winning streak or average efficiency points of last 5 matches or any other performance index between good players and the less successful ones.
  1. Ship Value
  • Lower tier ships lose value as players progress onward. Lower ranked ships are less valuable than a top ranked ship within the same tier even. This is redundant in a tierless ship tree where all ships have equal value.
  1. Sales
  • From an economic standpoint it makes more sense if all your ships have equal value when trying to sell them for the dollar. Where in the current ship tree each faction has arguably about 6 end game ships, in a tierless ship tree every single one of  those 100+ ships has end-game value.
  1. Renewable
  • Extending longevity is a simple matter of adding new content. If you’ve set it up right - a skeleton content crew can churn out periodical content that fits a predetermined modular scheme. Theoretically the game can last for a very long time in this state. With tiers and progression - extending shelf life isn’t as simple because you’ll either expand the last tier or add more tiers to the tree. If you don’t do either then severe balance issues can crop up years down the road when a new player reaches T5 and is matched up against veteran pilots who’s flown for years with rare modules to show for it.
  1. Scalability
  • Tierless relies on specialization for variety, an important ingredient to gameplay. Side product of specialization is the ability to continually add content in a balanced manner.

There are many other advantages which many can come up with on their own, let’s continue on.
So - how does a tierless ship tree look like for a Faction? Click spoiler


Hardly groundbreaking admittedly. But I like the philosophy behind Star Conflict’s ship roles and I see no reason to change that. But what if you do?
No big deal. You can add or omit categories with minimal impact on balance or any other issue. Coming right down to it, it’s just a question of how many ships you want in the game - that’s all. Which incidentally makes shifting dollar values around or adding content later on in the years to come easier to manage.
Clicking on any ship category opens up the Ship Purchase where specialization takes place.


This is also where you mask the progression Grind. Yes - The Grind still exist. It makes you money, why discard that. Difference?
It’s opt-out
Money Tip #1


" If a player quits the game because of The Grind, he was never gonna pay in the first place."

Opt-out progression don’t really reduce revenue. It retains player headcount. Leap of faith thing, trust me.


  • Grindy progression compels those willing to spend to pay up
  • Those who never intends on paying, quits
  • You get your money
  • You also lose players
  • Those willing to spend is gonna spend anyway provided value is managed properly
  • Those not intending to pay? - They stay on
  • If you think revenue will take a hit, there are other ways to make up for it.
    In Asia, we call that win-win


Why In The World Would Someone CHOOSE To Grind?




why do some people choose to find every secret room on a level they’ve completed 10 times over already?

why do you play Street Fighter again after having tried out all the characters?

why do casual gamers keep logging into Farmville to harvest the same crop 10 million times over

why do people restart a Solitaire game after having won one game already?


specifically in Star Conflict and the tierless specialization model:

  • it’s because people want to win

  • if you believe that having a certain type of ship specialized in a certain way gives you an advantage or atleast improves your odds at killing enemies - you’ll do the grind.




That is an end unto itself. It’s one way people play the game. Unlocking things is an activity. Can be made fun, should be made fun and most of all - players EXPECT it to be fun.


Forcing progression, punishing those who cannot do it well enough then asking money for it rewards you with 2 things

  • a low Meta-Score

  • piss poor Gameplay


When you encourage player behaviour towards progression voluntarily:

  • they have a positive opinion about playing

  • those willing to spend do so easier


Enough on theory. It’s probably all bullshit anyways.


Here’s the idea behind tierless specialization mechanic:





Key thing to note that needs to be in place to make it work:


Same Powerband, different Characteristics, equal Overall Balance.


  1. Entry level

  2. Jack-of-all-trades

  3. Specialized


Those Green and Red dots are for illustration purposes to show the idea of same overall power, distributed differently. I know game designers are aware of this concept just putting it in for the general audience who might read this.


Mk.I = You need an entry level to keep your options open in case you want to separate casual gameplay / beginner level from the veterans.

  • an Mk.I entry level ship only server for example.

  • But the overall performance remains equal relative to the other versions of the ship so it remains competitive when mixed with others


Mk.II = An upgraded version to play the role in a better capacity but suffer handicaps where good understanding of mechanics can reduce the impact.


Mk.III = Then you have specialized versions where hardcore pilots who main those roles can really appreciate.


Using the diagram as an example:


Entry level Fed Tackler doesn’t have max possible level of strengths than the other variants but it does enjoy none of the weaknesses. Feeds into the concept nicely also ie. beginners do not have to deal with adjusting too much from a handicap in ship performance but at the same time, having less than max potential strengths serves as motivation to progress up atleast one level. But theoretically, overall performance stays relatively equal so even if they don’t rank up, it’s still competitive.


Jack-of-all-trades Mk.II variant is the beginning of maximum levels of strengths for the ship type. But it does come with penalties. Balance it right; which includes deciding on the proper handicap types depending on roles, and you should cause the players to change their play style when flying the improved version. So much so that the handicap provide situational limitations where hardcore players are left wanting to eliminate certain weaknesses so they can perform better than any variant in certain situations.


Which leads to the specialized versions of the ship. Mk.III special versions is basically the upgraded ship without one weakness but the other handicap at maximum for eg. Theoretically they remain balanced overall to other versions of the ship but can be extremely good in certain situations which hardcore role pilots might want to use.


Specific example:

Strength 1 = Tackler Module Range

Strength 2 = Afterburner Speed


Weakness 1 = Tackler Module Effectiveness

Weakness 2 = Cloak Duration


Mk.I - Entry Level - “Nub Ship”

This ship has max duration on it’s cloak which new players rely on alot. Tackler module effects at max potential. Serves 2 purposes - it’s easier for learners to see the module’s function + makes up for their lack in experience in timing those modules. eg Target Painter, experienced tacklers can apply maximum usage by timing the activation, a trait newer players most likely lack. Veterans also have equipment fitting knowledge to make up for penalties in this area wherelse new players might not. Max speed and Module range however takes a hit. Not a biggie for newcomers for various reasons.


Mk.II - Upgraded Version - “I Am Tackler Pilot Ship”

Players who decide to go play as tacklers will want the module range at maximum. Afterburner speed aids them in their interceptor dogfights and positioning which they will actively seek out since they’ve begun to understand their role on the team. A shorter cloak time is a handicap they can live with since good tacklers use them in dogfights to mind-screw interceptors and not necessarily as a get out of jail button. However - less than max module effect is a handicap they will feel. Which serves as motivation to rank up one more level to Mk.III


Mk.III - Specialization A - “Pro Team Tackler Ship”

Max module range and effectiveness. Selling point right there. Max Afterburners, nice. Worst cloaking duration? Who cares.


Mk.III - Specialization B - “Ninja Tackler”

Some people find fun in the ninja function that’s possible with the Chameleon F-module. So why not. Max duration, maybe even immunity to decloaking from plasma web, shots and collision why not. Tackler Module Effectiveness takes a big hit tho. But in most ninja cases, you’re there for recon purposes or to sneak up and shoot people with your missiles and guns. Captains, hard to get to LRFs etc. Niche function - but that’s the idea behind specialization isn’t it.





and can be adjusted easily if you ever want to


Each role has 4 versions in this example.

Every faction has got 2 ships of their Main roles and 1 Alternate role

With 3 ship Classes and 3 Factions that’s = 108 ships


About the same number of ships from Rank 1 to Rank 12 currently.


If you want / see the need to add more to the ship count

  • adjust the specialization tree.

  • or add to the ship category in the ship tree




2 x Mk.II upgraded ships will add 27 ships to the catalogue

or 1 extra Mk.III

or 1 ship category



And this goes back to scalability and periodical content addition, phasing out old ones, adding premium ships, special event ships.

There so much space to add new ships

Easy to remove old ones and replace with new versions to keep interest going ad money flowing

Stick premium or limited edition ships somewhere in there for spot sales



Matchmaking imbalances? - thing of the past - ALL 100+ ships are equal now

More variety on the battlefield

Bigger number of tactics

Bigger squads possible manageable by matchmaker

Bigger pool of players for the matchmaking algo to use

More accurate balance metrics for MM to use

Grind? It has a real reward notivation now and it’s NOT FORCED



I love this thing. Best Free 2 Play model

You either grind for the ships or pay real money and get it instantly

Apply this to ALL Mk.II an Mk.III ships

You can play to unlock or Pay up



  • same ship models, numbers re-stat

  • progression mechanic: easy way = earn XP to spend on unlocking

  • progression mechanic: organic way is to tie unlocks with achievements


Mk.I → Mk.II = 200 wins

Mk.II → Mk.III A = 1,200 debuff assists

Mk.II → Mk.III B = 900 Kills within 15 seconds of decloaking

  • conversion of old ships to new versions might be a problem

  • could come up with an exchange rate where current ships = certain XP value correlative to time needed to get those ships

  • existing players then gets XP and use them to instant unlock any ship version in the new tierless system etc.



– this post got too long –




Tierless = Player and Income benefits

Matchmaking issues = solved

Developer Income = unchanged at worst, potential for more if sold properly

Balance = easier to do, easier to hide imbalances (lol), newly discovered OP’ness has a longer time to take effect giving devs more time to react

Ship Tree = Makes sense, Real motivation to Grind

I just skimmed this but I like the idea of that new tree, i think this is worth a look

Good idea for Star Conflict 2 but don’t really see them rebalancing everything to that level, it would be a massive amount of work, in particular if you keep the implant system in addition.

Also just looking at the picture most players would probably go for the Mk II and then either stay there or leave, I don’t see a strong push for progression.

Also just looking at the picture most players would probably go for the Mk II and then either stay there or leave, I don’t see a strong push for progression.

I’d definitely progress.


Nice work Kine, i’d up the OP but for some reason it’s been turned off by the moderators.

Indeed all additions will be very easy to implement in such a tree line. Balancing and other stuff as well.

Nice work Kine, i’d up the OP but for some reason it’s been turned off by the moderators.

Did it for you. They didn’t turn it off, but the admin removed a lot of images all over the forum in a vodka induced stupor yesterday and hasn’t recovered from the hang-over yet.

I like this concept way more than linear tiers. They could expand the shipbase individually, introduce new ships and niche products for years, without having to re-think 5 individual meta-games. No problemo to release pirate dlcs, more advanced fine grained modularity options, etc.


Coming from Eve or StarBattle, you would expect Tiers to have this behaviour anyway. This sort of ship tree (or in a similar fashion) is actually what I expected when I entered the game back in March; It is what Chris Roberts’ most probably will implement as Beta Test for his Spaceship MMO, so big chances there to get specialized fans. This would however really include a broad community discussion with a proposed revamp first, from the devs, even in a sort of brainstorm; I would definitely want a Unified Developer Feedback on this, with their thoughts on a system like this. Even if only for SC2 :slight_smile: (starcraft?! :smiley: )


However, this also needs quite a lot of balancing finesse.


Kine, I definitely agree with your philosophy, and did not find it illogical. However after reading it, I am still not sure if I understood all correctly.


We would all still grind. I do grind passively. I don’t focus on it, so I am slower. People like me will never enjoy this game, except they came in March or before that like me.


I don’t see why implants should not work with this. You could still say, Mk1 is T1, Mk2 is T2, Mk3 is T3, and T4 / T5 being the specialized variants giving bonuses especially to those kind of ships. Theoretically, individual ship upgrades to support better implants could be an additional alternative in the distant future, to make all ships competitive until the finishing line; Generally, the Mk1-Mk3ab ships could also come in different unupgraded fashion to make Passives / Actives logical: Mk1 start with only one active slot available, while higher ones start with more; however you could still have unlocking mechanisms in place. In the end, every game of course ends up in Cookie Cutting the best possible builds, but this is not different in the existing state. At least, what are your thoughts about that one Kine, since I hardly think, this part of the ships (passives and stuff like engine mods and how many ships have) was considered in your design.




Did it for you. They didn’t turn it off, but the admin removed a lot of images all over the forum in a vodka induced stupor yesterday and hasn’t recovered from the hang-over yet.


+1 for you for this incredibly funny hint.


Wondering how it works?

Right clicking the reputation box in Chrome and selecting “Inspect Element” reveals the 3 “li” tags for votes and puts you close to them, simply select the one (it is the first) with “rank_up” in the link / “Vote this post up” and click the link inside of there (in <a href="…"). Page reloads with a +1, You’re done, Pilot.


Note: it is not visible if you already voted, or cannot vote (your own post), so right click exactly on the Reputation box of the post you want to +1.


They should really remove rank down alltogether if they don’t want people to use this, however if people find this out, since it is also still there with a simple css “hide”.

We should have a suggestion topic for the forum somewhere.

Wondering how it works?

Right clicking the reputation box in Chrome and selecting “Inspect Element” reveals the 3 “li” tags for votes and puts you close to them, simply select the one (it is the first) with “rank_up” in the link / “Vote this post up” and click the link inside of there (in <a href="…"). Page reloads with a +1, You’re done, Pilot.

The more elegant solution is to apply some site-specific CSS to fix some of the current issues with this forum:


.rep_up {
	background:url("http://forum.star-conflict.com/public/style_images/master/rep_up.png") no-repeat;
.col_f_icon {
	background:url("http://forum.star-conflict.com/public/style_images/master/t_unread.png") no-repeat center;
#logo {
	background:url("http://forum.star-conflict.com/public/style_images/5_logo_forum.png") no-repeat;
	width: 263px;
	height: 80px;
	display:inline-block !important;

You probably need some extension to use it with Chrome, not sure. I’m using Opera 12 and that supports it natively.


They should really remove rank down alltogether if they don’t want people to use this, however if people find this out, since it is also still there with a simple css “hide”.

It won’t work though.


It won’t work though.



You mean they deactivated the down-vote view? I did never try that link before so maybe it isn’t even leading to a valid function. Commenting out that function on the server side all-together would be good, as we have learned through facebook, there is no need for down-voting anyway, except for a good mobbing run.


As for the modding, I rather hope they just fix the forums :yes_yes: Modding my browser seems so counter intuitive for a single bug. Brave sir, love that you are using a Qt browser, personally.  :salute:

Forums without downvotes are boring. But yes the backend won’t accept one.

Given what I’ve seen so far I’m not expecting a quick fix. Also I’m running a bunch of custom javascript for IPB based forums anyway since I find them lacking in functionality.

Opera 12 is not Qt based.

I don’t see why implants should not work with this.


sorry i missed this step in original post


different people have different approaches to balancing. personally ‘implant’ type bonuses belongs on the second layer to ship balancing so I didn’t see any reason to elaborate into it.


personal opinion: the same considerations that went into implant choices are the same ones that goes between different specialized ship variants in Tierless ie. Mk.III’s are the implants. Physically manifested.


doing it that way beats the weaknesses in the current implant system where it’s shared between ships.


example: say someone wanted to specialize in Covert Ops and wants all 4 ships in his hangar made up of CovOps

he may not want them all to have the same implant config.


CovOp 1 could be his Brawler

CovOp 2 for Suicides

CovOp 3 for Bating

CovOp 4 Speed fit Beacon drone tanked for quick captures


All 4 would need different implant configurations. Not doable in current model.

In Tierless - it is possible to have 2x Brawlers, 1 Beacon Cap CovOp, 1 Baiting Inty installed


Finally - how you do the ‘implants’ part of balancing depends really on how deep (time consuming, imbalance prone) you want to go.

And this can’t be addressed until you decide on a specialization ‘theme’ between all the variants for each of the ship roles first.

Which cannot be covered in a mere forum post.

Opera 12 is not Qt based.


just read up on that, interesting development, but makes sense.



I don’t feel that is fair. The main reason of an implant system is to give you strengths and weaknesses over your whole deck. You want to have best shield tanks? Go for it, but if you mix in a hull tank with your implants, you might have to fit it accordingly to your overall “implant style”. So I am pretty much against ship specific implants. They are stuff put in your brainz after all.

As far as I see it, SC might even work if higher implants would also benefit older ships, it might even fix a lot of issues in mixed tiers, since most of the stuff is linearly improved anyway - so atm. the “tier less specialization” are actually implants until the tier you are playing, which makes playing lower tier ships even harder.

I never understood this design decision, which seems to contradict the +/-3 rank philosophy in the MM


Your system would be tier-less, so implants should work accordingly independently of their rank on every ship, as far as i would presume. Which I would like, and actually even would like to see in the actual gameplay (so implants are active or inactive only by the tier of the battle, not the ship you are using)



Don’t bother. Seriously. They don’t listen.

Players lack avenues to express / represent themselves in Star Conflict.


We used to do it using our ship builds. People fit differently even if sub-optimal because hey, it’s how I roll kinda thing.


That’s probably why people want ship paints. Making our individuality visible and not an unknown possibility behind our ship fits that others cannot see, appreciate or question.


Not entirely sure why I linked that video here but I somewhat feel it’ll be easier or more effective to exercise immersion in a tierless than in a tiered system where ‘character’ differences can be seen in-game rather than just simple make believe.


With tiered progression for example - ships are made to look different just so you can say ship B is of a higher rank than ship A which adds little. But if a ship had a bigger ‘engine mount’ but still the same chassis because that model was the speed variant it becomes more relevant and believable. Aesthetics like changing some parts of the 3D model because you used a certain module and not another would also be interesting. It’s already there with gun turrets …


Yea whatever … I was bored.

Nice concept and I think the game would probably be better that way. I wouldn’t really trust them to implement the matchmaker correctly though.

I’d be all over this if it was a realistic change.


+1 and kudos to you, but at this point, it’d be cool enough if they just let us buy ship skins(instead of premium only ships which reek of P2W).

Premiums are not P2W.  Otherwise, I’d fly the ones I own.

Premiums are not P2W.  Otherwise, I’d fly the ones I own.


Let me put it like this: Pirate ships are the only ones that get both crit chance and crit damage as their stat bonuses.


While they demand a speciffic build to take advantage of it, they offer power and gameplay unavailable to a free user.


This should not happen. It’s how pay to win starts, and that’s how pay to win works when that unique gameplay becomes dominant over the commonly available.

Got reminded of this topic, reread it and didn’t like the initial structure of the tierless ship tree. Came up with another one





Each cube is a ship.


Top left in each cluster is the Basic Ship for that role.

You unlock each cube one by one starting from the Basic Ship in top left.


Unlocking downwards = more advanced ships

Unlocking horizontally = variant at that level of advancement


A variant cannot unlock ships below.

You can only unlock downwards via ships directly below the Basic Ship


Basic Ship attribute serves as the reference value for balancing all ships to one another.



The more advanced the ship is, the more slots it has BUT

Base attribute is reduced to compensate

Different variations give different passive bonuses


Using Federation Gunship as example:


Basic Fed Gunship

6,500 Hull

6,000 Shield

370m/s Speed

Passive = 25% Faster Gunship module reload, 7% weapon damage

Slots = None


Basic Fed Gunship Variation 1

6,500 Hull

6,000 Shield

370m/s Speed

Passive = 33% less spread, 35% faster projectile speed, 18% weapon damage


Advanced Fed Gunship

5,000 Hull

5,000 Shield

370m/s Speed

Passive = 25% Faster Gunship module reload, 7% weapon damage

Slots = 1 Shield, 1 Hull


Advanced Fed Gunship Variant 1

5,000 Hull

5,000 Shield

370m/s Speed

Passive = 33% less spread, 35% faster projectile speed, 18% weapon damage

Slots = 1 Shield, 1 Hull


So the more advanced the ship level the more slots it has for customization

But base stats is lower to compensate

In that example, Advanced Gunship has less shield and hull but gets 1 shield slot and 1 hull slot

The player can either raise the hull and shield values again using modules to get exactly the same stats as the Basic Ship OR

accept the sacrifice and install other modules to boost another attribute


eg. you could use the shield for Submatter and get higher speeds at the expense of lower shield and use the hull slot to raise weapon range or missile reload.


Unlocking further down would give you Expert Ships that has more slots available but with the corresponding attribute lowered to compensate.

So theoretically - you could build the most advanced ship in the cluster to have the EXACT same stat as the Basic Ship.

The difference is, you have the option to take a loss on base stat to raise different attributes using the advanced models.

Which is not an option for the Basic Ship


The variant is there to further augment possible playstyles each roles has. These would likely be a replacement for implants and misc passive ship bonuses.


In the gunship example:


Basic has module reload as passive bonus

variant 1 has main weapon bonuses

variant 2 for Empire’s gunship could be speed and afterburner energy related

You then have a normal gunship, a high burst damage gunship, or speedy one.


Benefits for this ship unlocking structure:


  1. ALL ships in the game are balanced to each other

  2. Casuals and beginners can use unmodified ships without penalty or handicap

  3. Expert tuners can optimize their fittings to achieve performances Basic Ships are incapable of YET remaining relatively equal in power.

  4. People who do not understand or uninterested in ship fittings do not play at a handicap but still enjoy Basic Ship Variants for playstyle variety



You will not need artificial boundaries to balance or regulate Open Space. ALL SHIPS ARE OF EQUAL POWER. They differ in customization options which allows for creative playstyles and tactics. Imagine ALL 100+ ships being able to fly in the same battles. Each one relatively balanced no matter how customized or not they are.

Why is there no fed recon? Why does jericho have hardly any variants or advancements. Why do neither of the LRFs have variants or advancements?