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Quantifying Alpha Strike: A primer

Author
Kahega Amielden
Rifterlings
#1 - 2012-01-05 22:56:50 UTC  |  Edited by: Kahega Amielden
We all know that alpha is a cool thing to have. It's pretty much the only redeeming factor of artillery, in fact, but it's enough to make it used.

However, no one ever speaks about alpha damage quantitatively, and I suspect this is because many people don't really understand what it is. The most people seem to know about alpha is that "dps wins out if the fight lasts longer than two shots" or other anecdotes like that. However, alpha damage always helps you, no matter how long the fight goes on...It does, however, decrease in effectiveness with length. You don't have to one-shot the target for alpha to help you.

Disclaimer: for the more math-oriented of you (and given I'm on the EVE forums this is probably going be a lot/most of you), this may seem like common sense. Don't yell at me.

Example: Let's say you have a target ship with 400 HP. Attacker A deals 100 damage every 10 seconds, and Attacker B deals 10 damage every second. They both do 10 DPS, but Attacker A has more alpha. Conventional wisdom might imply that both attacker A and Attacker B would kill the target in a similar amount of time, since Attacker A can't one or even two-shot the target, but this isn't true.

So, let's say Attacker A attacks the target. It fires and immediately takes the target to 300 HP. 10 seconds later it goes down to 200. 10 seconds later, to 100, and then finally, 30 seconds into the fight, it explodes.

If Attacker B attacks the target...It fires and immediately takes the target to 390 hp. 10 seconds later, it has dealt an additional 100 damage (same as Attacker A), bringing it to 290. From there it will take 29 seconds to kill, bringing the total time to kill to 39 seconds.


Alpha damage is "free" damage. Because the shot is preloaded, the reload time of the weapon is not factored in. The normal calculation of DPS (damage per shot / reload time) ignores this first 'free' shot.

Ergo, whenever you look at DPS and using it as a measure of damage output, you're neglecting something. However, the impact of alpha depends on the length of the fight. You can easily calculate how much extra damage you're going to deal as long as you can guess how long the fight is going to take.

If you have 2000 alpha, then that means you have dealt 2000 "free" damage. over the course of the fight that isn't included in the normal DPS figure. You can calculate the additional overall DPS you're dealing over the course of the fight, then, by just using alpha damage / length of combat.



Now...why is this useful? A Thrasher with 280mm howitzers does about 1600 alpha with RF EMP, and about 200 DPS. This seems medicore. However, if we assume that a fight is going to last 30 seconds (very reasonable since it will probably be targeting frigates), the thrasher has done an effective 67 extra DPS over the course of the fight. The real DPS applied is (DPS * length of fight + alpha) / length of fight.

That means that the thrasher given in this example does a whopping 33% more DPS than the raw DPS given in EFT would indicate.

...Or, if you're an ******* and prefer graphs to walls of text, here's a graph courtesy of Petrus

http://i.imgur.com/NvtEG.png


...So why the **** does this matter? Because it seems like things that can't be quantified easily are ignored, and alpha's effectiveness is rarely quantified. It's a hidden benefit that is often ignored, even when talking about artillery (unless in the context of fleets that live to oneshot things). It also subtly increases the effective DPS of larger weapon systems in the same class - 250mm arties on the same thrasher listed above only do a little less DPS, but only have around 1100 alpha.
Aamrr
#2 - 2012-01-05 23:04:48 UTC
Now consider the negative effect that missile flight time does to your effective DPS...

...the more you know...!
Liang Nuren
No Salvation
#3 - 2012-01-05 23:05:57 UTC
You should just draw a picture - its easier on everyone. Draw damage at time T for two ships with DPS = 400 -- one with 400 damage every 1 second and one with 2000 damage every 5 seconds.

What will be shown is that from T in range [0, 5) the high alpha ship will have dealt more damage. In fact, as long as the DPS is similar it may not be practical for a high ROF ship to out-DPS a high-volley ship. But life isn't always golden for high volley - afterall if you fire a 10000 damage burst at someone that needed 500 damage to die, most of your time is spent sitting around when you could have shot something else if you had a higher ROF.

To me, though, the real thing that needs discussed is just how ****** artillery tracking really is - and what it does to actual alpha instead of what EFT tells you your alpha is. Its easy to dismiss "******" hits as being the result of resists when you may just not be tracking the enemy. That is to say that 50-75% of the volley damage may be preferable if it comes with significantly better tracking.

Anyway. Its about more than just DPS and Volley. That's all I wanted to say. Also, the graph - they say a picture is worth a thousand words and its true in this case. :)

-Liang

I'm an idiot, don't mind me.

Liang Nuren
No Salvation
#4 - 2012-01-05 23:06:47 UTC  |  Edited by: Liang Nuren
Aamrr wrote:
Now consider the negative effect that missile flight time does to your effective DPS...

...the more you know...!


This is a one time cost as long as you keep spewing missiles at something. Also, check out missile DPS vs everything else. There's a reason those BE Ravens were so ******* ridiculous.

-Liang

Ed: I'm not discounting flight time BTW - just pointing out the math because this is in theory a ~math~ thread not a ~***** about the game~ thread.

I'm an idiot, don't mind me.

Kahega Amielden
Rifterlings
#5 - 2012-01-05 23:10:28 UTC  |  Edited by: Kahega Amielden
Quote:
Anyway. Its about more than just DPS and Volley. That's all I wanted to say. Also, the graph - they say a picture is worth a thousand words and its true in this case. :)


While this is certainly true, tracking is another thing entirely, and it affects DPS and alpha statistics relatively equally. In any situation where you are looking at DPS as a measure of how fast you're going to bring down the other ship, it also makes sense to see the effect alpha is going to have.

Quote:
I'm not discounting flight time BTW - just pointing out the math because this is in theory a ~math~ thread not a ~***** about the game~ thread.


This.

This is not about balance between weapon systems, this is a thread about how we can use math to more accurately compare things in the future.




...Also, Liang Nuren responded to my S&M thread. I feel important now.
Valea Silpha
Sebiestor Tribe
Minmatar Republic
#6 - 2012-01-05 23:30:00 UTC
You make a good point about alpha being 'free' damage.

For any situation where dps is the same and one has more alpha, the side with the alpha will kill faster.

However, before you go too much further down this road remember to look harder at the difference between dps and alpha in all weapons.

I'd certainly be interested to read anything that compares time to kill for different dps/alpha weapons across races and classes but you need to keep it focused on the realities of eve to make it interesting to me. For example, is it possible for low dps, high alpha to kill faster than high dps even if they don't instapop ? That kinda stuff.
Metal Icarus
Star Frontiers
Brotherhood of Spacers
#7 - 2012-01-05 23:32:42 UTC
Why is the phrase "RAILGUNS ARE NOT FIXED" screaming in my head when I read that.
Petrus Blackshell
Rifterlings
#8 - 2012-01-05 23:34:49 UTC
Infographic for Kahega's post because I think he sucks at explaining things. It also looks like more common sense to those not math-oriented.

Accidentally The Whole Frigate - For-newbies blog (currently on pause)

Liang Nuren
No Salvation
#9 - 2012-01-05 23:39:08 UTC
Valea Silpha wrote:
You make a good point about alpha being 'free' damage.

For any situation where dps is the same and one has more alpha, the side with the alpha will kill faster.

However, before you go too much further down this road remember to look harder at the difference between dps and alpha in all weapons.

I'd certainly be interested to read anything that compares time to kill for different dps/alpha weapons across races and classes but you need to keep it focused on the realities of eve to make it interesting to me. For example, is it possible for low dps, high alpha to kill faster than high dps even if they don't instapop ? That kinda stuff.


Yes - that's exactly where the graph comes in handy. Suppose that there are two ships - one with 600 volley every 4 seconds (150 DPS) and another with a 200 damage volley every 1 second (200 DPS - 33% more DPS!). Suppose they're both shooting at something with 1100 HP.

Ship 1 (600 volley, 150 DPS) gets the kill at T=4.0
Ship 2 (200 volley, 200 DPS) gets the kill at T=5.0

Again, this is really a lot easier to visualize if you make a graph.

-Liang

I'm an idiot, don't mind me.

Kahega Amielden
Rifterlings
#10 - 2012-01-05 23:40:38 UTC
Valea Silpha wrote:
You make a good point about alpha being 'free' damage.

For any situation where dps is the same and one has more alpha, the side with the alpha will kill faster.

However, before you go too much further down this road remember to look harder at the difference between dps and alpha in all weapons.

I'd certainly be interested to read anything that compares time to kill for different dps/alpha weapons across races and classes but you need to keep it focused on the realities of eve to make it interesting to me. For example, is it possible for low dps, high alpha to kill faster than high dps even if they don't instapop ? That kinda stuff.



This is easy, and I already did it in my original post.

To be precise, the 280mm thrasher I tested has one damage rig. It does 209 DPS and 1614 alpha, giving a total effective DPS in 30 seconds of 263. With 250mms and the otherwise same fit, it does 190 DPS and 1164 alpha...giving a total effective DPS of 228.8.

The difference between the guns just by looking at damage is 19 DPS. However, when you consider the alpha increase, the 280s do an additional 35...Almost double the damage difference, in addition to the benefits of range and whatnot.


Even with non-arty weapon systems, this holds. A thorax does 355 DPS with heavy neutrons and void and 1342 alpha. A thorax with electrons does 311 and 671. Over 30 seconds, this turns into 400 DPS vs 333 DPS.


I think the primary thing to be learned is that bigger weapons have a real damage advantage over smaller weapons in addition to the range benefits.
Liang Nuren
No Salvation
#11 - 2012-01-05 23:40:39 UTC
Petrus Blackshell wrote:
Infographic for Kahega's post because I think he sucks at explaining things. It also looks like more common sense to those not math-oriented.


Its even easier if you use a line chart with time across the bottom and "total damage dealt" as the vertical axis.

-Liang

I'm an idiot, don't mind me.

Kahega Amielden
Rifterlings
#12 - 2012-01-05 23:41:38 UTC  |  Edited by: Kahega Amielden
Quote:
Infographic for Kahega's post because I think he sucks at explaining things. It also looks like more common sense to those not math-oriented.


or you suck at understanding things. My post -was- inspired by you failing at understanding alpha, remember.


A graph gives some explanation and lets people know that alpha is important but it doesn't necessarily go into why. At least, I like my explanation.


Quote:
Its even easier if you use a line chart with time across the bottom and "total damage dealt" as the vertical axis.

-Liang


I hate graphs
Goose99
#13 - 2012-01-05 23:44:26 UTC
Liang gets defensive whenever any of the reasons why Winmatar wins is discussed, whether it's directed at Winmatar or not.Cool

Alpha wins because of blob and logi. Your theorycrafting dps graph of slope vs steps is actually a flat line vs instapop, in rring blob form.Lol
Liang Nuren
No Salvation
#14 - 2012-01-05 23:46:01 UTC
Goose99 wrote:
Liang gets defensive whenever any of the reasons why Winmatar wins is discussed, whether it's directed at Winmatar or not.Cool

Alpha wins because of blob and logi. Your theorycrafting dps graph of slope vs steps is actually a flat line vs instapop, in rring blob form.Lol


Wut? I just went on to categorically prove that high alpha ships should have some kind of weakness - either via DPS or via ability to apply damage. -_-

-Liang

I'm an idiot, don't mind me.

Kahega Amielden
Rifterlings
#15 - 2012-01-05 23:46:55 UTC
Liang Nuren wrote:
Goose99 wrote:
Liang gets defensive whenever any of the reasons why Winmatar wins is discussed, whether it's directed at Winmatar or not.Cool

Alpha wins because of blob and logi. Your theorycrafting dps graph of slope vs steps is actually a flat line vs instapop, in rring blob form.Lol


Wut? I just went on to categorically prove that high alpha ships should have some kind of weakness - either via DPS or via ability to apply damage. -_-

-Liang


Ignore him. He's bad.
Petrus Blackshell
Rifterlings
#16 - 2012-01-05 23:49:29 UTC
Kahega Amielden wrote:
I hate graphs

Stop playing Eve.

Accidentally The Whole Frigate - For-newbies blog (currently on pause)

Buzzmong
Aliastra
Gallente Federation
#17 - 2012-01-06 00:07:03 UTC
Kahega Amielden wrote:

If Attacker B attacks the target...It fires and immediately takes the target to 290 hp. 10 seconds later, it has dealt an additional 100 damage (same as Attacker A), bringing it to 190. From there it will take 19 seconds to kill, bringing the total time to kill to 39 seconds.


1 + 10 + 19 = 39?

News to me.
Kahega Amielden
Rifterlings
#18 - 2012-01-06 00:09:24 UTC  |  Edited by: Kahega Amielden
Buzzmong wrote:
Kahega Amielden wrote:

If Attacker B attacks the target...It fires and immediately takes the target to 290 hp. 10 seconds later, it has dealt an additional 100 damage (same as Attacker A), bringing it to 190. From there it will take 19 seconds to kill, bringing the total time to kill to 39 seconds.


1 + 10 + 19 = 39?

News to me.


...Okay, minor typo, but you aren't right either. There is no "1". The first shot takes 0 time.

Should be "it fires and immediately takes the target to 390 hp"...since it started with 400.



OP is now fixed.
Petrus Blackshell
Rifterlings
#19 - 2012-01-06 00:10:27 UTC
Liang Nuren wrote:
Petrus Blackshell wrote:
Infographic for Kahega's post because I think he sucks at explaining things. It also looks like more common sense to those not math-oriented.


Its even easier if you use a line chart with time across the bottom and "total damage dealt" as the vertical axis.

-Liang


Here you go.

Accidentally The Whole Frigate - For-newbies blog (currently on pause)

Aamrr
#20 - 2012-01-06 00:23:08 UTC
Liang Nuren wrote:
But life isn't always golden for high volley - afterall if you fire a 10000 damage burst at someone that needed 500 damage to die, most of your time is spent sitting around when you could have shot something else if you had a higher ROF.


Or you could split your guns and not be a "press F1 to win" exhibit...

Liang Nuren wrote:
This is a one time cost as long as you keep spewing missiles at something. Also, check out missile DPS vs everything else. There's a reason those BE Ravens were so ******* ridiculous.


Yes. And alpha is a one-time benefit. It goes both ways, and the delay in damage application is a huge reason why missiles suffer -- their entire DPS curve is shifted by the missile flight time, in a very similar way that alpha damage frontloads your DPS. The formula used in calculating when RoF overtakes Alpha is quite similar in both cases, and the same phenomenon is at work here -- it's simply working to the disadvantage of missiles instead of the advantage of artillery.
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