This one is mainly more balance based on the "worst unit of all time" polls. Interestingly, with last patch's improvements to the harvesters we actually went a bit too far -- so, yeah, we're totally taking that pony back. ;) More interesting is what is getting buffed this time, which includes the Neinzul Enclave Starships and the Armored Warheads.
Some History On Armored Warheads, For The Curious
The armored warheads in particular have been an ongoing bugbear for me since AI War was just having released its 1.0 version. I think that lightning and armored warheads were the first two "free DLC" ships to come out for the game, but I could be mistaken.
At that point the armored warheads were something of a safety valve for when a target you needed to kill was impenetrably well defended and you just couldn't get at it any other way. In that circumstance, you could basically just pay a fee in AIP (that was more or less how the armored warhead worked) and then Get That Thing Dead Now.
That was useful, but again only as a safety valve and only when you were already doing pretty bad to begin with. It could let you turn a stalemate into a victory (or into a hastened defeat if the AIP increase proved to be too much, as it often did). So it was a pretty interesting mechanic, and I think it worked really well.
Of course, then the game changed all around it. I'm reminded of the old man's house in the movie Up, where his house never changed but there are skyscrapers all around it rather than the rest of his neighborhood. How depressing! I think the armored warhead must feel a bit like that.
Because, fact is, the need for a Get That Thing Dead Now (in exchange for AIP) unit has pretty much dissipated. The way that AI forces and player forces are balanced, and the way that players can use tactics to take apart pieces of a planet rather than having to engage the entire planet at once, have really altered things. It used to be that if you went to a planet, you had pretty much better have been ready to take on everything at that planet. And that was then, as now, often quite infeasible.
Armored warheads are something we've thus updated every so often as the game has evolved, trying to find a new niche for them, but the simple fact is they just don't fit super well anymore. It looks like the current set of changes to them that Keith plus the players came up with are good ones, and certainly bring them back into the realm of usefulness. As he notes in the release notes, though, they are still "rot your teeth" sort of options that you only pull out when it's already going poorly.
That's as good a role as any for them at this point, and it's definitely the direction I would have gone myself as well, but it's certainly nothing compared to the glory days that the armored warheads once had. I just thought I'd point out that they weren't always such a strange blend of powerful and useless, since most newer players wouldn't have any context as to why they existed in the first place.
About The Neinzul Enclave Starships
These are another interesting sort of case. They were obviously added as part of our second expansion, and in some respects I had imagined them as being the flagships of the neinzul fleets. After all, with the short-ranged neinzul youngling ships you really need a mobile factory of some kind to crank those out right at the battlefield.
Problem is, these have always been too expensive in terms of knowledge to be worth it, and then we added the player warp gates and that really further reduced the need for a mobile factory. Back before the player warp gates I had been worried about the unbalancing effects of having a "super factory" that would basically replace the space dock in terms of being the go-to unit. Goodbye beachheads and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Well, as fate would have it, the game evolved a ton since then anyhow. The enclave starships got further marginalized, and I agree they've turned into one of the more useless ships. So now it's actually pretty cool to see them as these mobile death-star-like ships they're suddenly turning into. Or at least a star destroyer, I'd have to say. ;) The mark IV one still has to be prohibitively expensive in terms of knowledge or it breaks all kinds of things, but the mark I-III ones are now really enticing, I have to say. I look forward to seeing what other folks do with these, and I have a feeling I'm going to start using these a lot more myself, too.
This is a standard update that you can download through the
in-game updater itself, if you already have 4.000 or later. When you
launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found
if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have 4.000 or later, you can download that here.