Saturday, 12 February 2011

Lasers v Projectiles

The issue:

While I am not quite ready to post Punisher 2 yet (largely because I don't have access to the killmail right now), one of the questions that encounter raised was the issue of lasers or projectiles on a Punisher.

Each side has its adherents. Laser fans point to the improved optimals (& therefore dps), as well as seamless ammo switches, while projectile enthusiasts extol the virtues of cap-less weapons, damage customization and unparalleled tracking.

After Punisher 2 I decided to train small projectiles to level 4 so that I could test the difference myself, but it does not hurt to run some projections to get an idea of what to expect.

Sample numbers:

The classic Dual Light Pulse with Multifrequency S will deal 12 damage (crystal) x 2 (turret) every 2.7 seconds (rate of fire) for a raw dps (ie, ignoring skill bonuses and enemy resistances) of 12x2/2.7=8.888.

The cost of this dps is 2.67 GJ every 2.7 seconds. However, I will include controlled bursts 5 here as well as the Punisher cap bonus, because these bonuses do not have an equal effect on autocannons. Therefore GJ/s is 2.67*(1-.5)*(1-.25)/2.7=0.371. For three of these (a full rack) our GJ/sec is therefore 1.112.

By comparison, a 150mm autocannon firing Fusion/Plasma/EMp will deal 12 damage (ammo) x 2.475 (turret) every 3.375 seconds (rate of fire) for a raw dps of 8.8, which is almost exactly what we would expect from the Dual Light Pulse.

Of course, while optimal + falloff is roughly equal for these weapons, the lasers have far higher optimals, and so are likely to do more damage in most situations, although the autocannon's higher tracking will make up for that in some cases.

However, the autocannon dps is completely cap free.

Preliminary conclusion:

Frankly, this seems like really poor game design. The autocannon does not have to sacrifice any meaningful amount of damage to be entirely cap free.

When you consider fittings, things get even worse. The DLP requires 6MW and 8tf, while the 150mm requires only 2MW and 6tf, allowing us more room to fit tank.

In short, at the tech 1 level, there is absolutely no reason, at all, to fit lasers over projectiles on a Punisher.


Up until now we have ignored the elephant in the room: Scorch.

With tech 2 weapons, projectile pilots can choose from Hail & Barrage. Hail is a high damage, short range ammo that was (until recently) strictly worse than faction Fusion/Plasma/EMP. Barrage, however, still packs a decent punch (ammo damage of 11), but comes without the 50% range penalty of Fusion/Plasma/EMP/Barrage. This ammunition allows Rifter pilots to fight at some range against targets that would out dps them at close quarters.

However, Scorch, the laser equivalent of Barrage, takes this one step further. In additon to removing the 50% range penalty of Multifrequency, Scorch adds a 50% range bonus! A Punisher using Scorch has a 33% greater range than a Punisher using Barrage, without losing any of his dps.

What does this mean?

As Punishers are most certainly not Rifters, and have no intention of kiting anyone, the initial response might be "so what?" However, the "so what" comes when we fight a Rifter, or anyone else that might try to kite us. Scorch allows us to reach all the way out to (4.5+1.5)km*1.50%=9km with a Dual Light Pulse. Which, coincidentally, is enough to cover scram & web range (once gunnery range skills are taken into account). Anyone we can't shoot, interceptors aside, we have a good chance of warping away from.

So for now, I'm going to be using autocannons because it's not worth putting any T2 mods on my ships yet. But I'm clearly going to have to revaluate when I do hit T2, as the game clearly changes.


  1. I've been toying with the idea of forgoing any speed modules in exchange for web and scram on a punisher when fighting basically any other frigate. Do you think it might work better? Also not sure you were aware, but autocannons tend to miss something like 30-40% of shots in falloff. If said autocannon fit wants to do maximum damage, it needs to be within 1000 meters most of the time, which is usually impractical because of orbital speed which will play negatively to the tracking speed of the autocannon

  2. You are absolutely right about fall-off. The flip side, of course, is tracking, which will increase the autocannon's damage compared to the laser where targets are moving at high speeds.

    Depending on who and what you are fighting, one quality will be more important than the other. I'm sure somebody with EFT skills could do a graph... I just wanted to get a rough idea of how the two compared on paper.

    As for web + scram, I have tried that and you'll get to see for yourself how that worked out when I post Punisher 5.