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Saturn_VII

Cautious Shot and the Fallacy of Risk/Reward

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Posted (edited)

Cautious Shot, due to its recent buff, has come under player scrutiny.  Looking at past discussions of this mod, complaints fall into two main categories:

1) the mod is too hard to access/too expensive to implement

2) The mod does not accomplish its understood intention: allowing players to reduce the "risk" of player self-damage by reducing the potential "reward" in terms of dps

Objection 1: Given the potential of this mod to greatly increase ease of use of all self damaging weapons, I think it is appropriate to restrict access of this mod to high level play.  Most will agree that the weapons that this mod enable are very powerful in terms of their ability to do a lot of damage to a relatively large number of enemies.  The degree to which this has the potential to trivialize a lot of the game should not be understated.  Before the tonkor was nerfed to deal self damage, it was meta defining.  I can understand why DE took a very conservative (cautious) approach when implementing this mod.  Restricting access of this mod to endgame play removes the potential risk of trivializing new content for beginning players.  The tonkor is MR 5 restricted.  Allowing players to trivialize content they have already experienced is part of the player's growth into the game and is a natural part of progression.  Despite some of its flaws, an excellent example of this working somewhat well is how arcanes are situated into the game.  Placing them behind eidolon/orb mother fights, where they are debatable the most useful, allows players to experience their power growth as they continue to farm those fights.  Similarly, placing cautious shot in arbitrations has a similar effect.  I do not think it was an accident that mods that increase survivability in high level environments like cautious shot, adaptation, and rolling guard are rewards in a game mode centered around exactly that.  That said, the potential for power is not the same as actual viability and power.  Just like all arcanes are not of the same power level, not all arbitration mods are the same either.  I will talk more about the balancing of cautious shot in the next section.

In terms of the cost of the mod: it is quite expensive.  A rank 10 rare mod requires a lot of credits and endo to max out.  It should be noted that this expense is not an anomaly among powerful mods (eg. primed mods and rivens).  While I do certainly think it is valid to challenge DE's general attitude toward requiring large quantities of resources (and consequently grind time) to use these mods, recognize that this is complaint is not particular to cautious shot, but a systemic issue.

Objection 2: Many of the previous discussions of this topic have framed their analysis of the mod as a risk/reward relation.  I argue that approach is ill posed to provide a good assessment of the value of this mod.  Originally a term used in finance, the paradigm of risk and reward is inherently a probabilistic one.  With it, there is an implied chance of success or failure.  Using this approach allows different observers to estimate their own values based on their own experience.  This method is particularly poor at handling situations like these where use of a self damaging weapon is very all or none.  Thus the primary supporting argument for supporters of a stronger Cautious Shot point to the severity consequence of a misplaced shot: an instant an seemingly unfair death, while those against the strengthening of the mod point to the likelihood of the consequence: if you are careful/skillful, you will likely never get killed with the self damage (the probability is 0).  It has been shown that humans are particularly bad at assessing risk in low likelihood/high severity events (eg. comparing peoples relative fear of shark attacks compared to car accidents).

With this consideration I propose a different approach to assessing the strength of the mod: looking in particular use cases of the mod and discussing what the outcome of each would be.

Case 1: A tanky warframe using cautious shot

The change from 90% to 99% reduction in self damage only really effects the tankiest of warframes (rhino, inaros, etc.).  With this change, the mod allows these warframes to survive through an accidental instance of self damage.  This means that while using this mod with these frames, the player can be more cavalier when firing these weapons.  The removal of the threat of an instant death actually increases the overall dps of the weapon, by allowing the user to fire much more rapidly instead of carefully aiming each shot (ironic for a mod called cautious shot).  These warframes spend much of their power budget in increasing their own survivability both in their abilities and in how they are typically modded.  In addition to paying the cost of the -15% damage and the mod slot, there is an added "cost" associated with choosing this warframe over squishier counterparts that might offer utility or additional dps.

Case 2: A squishy warframe using cautious shot

These warframes will not benefit from cautious shot as they will die regardless of whether or not the mod is equip.  As result, they are better off investing in more damage and accepting the fatal consequences of a misplaced shot.

Conclusions: Thus to assess the balance of this mod, cutoffs should be established for the use case of this mod. Two questions arise from this:  How much should a player have to invest in the durability of their warframe to gain advantage from this mod?  How much additional cost must the player take (in terms of -X% damage/the mod slot) to balance the situations where the mod is viable?

Based on this assessment, it is clear why DE chose to buff the mod in the way that they did.  They found that no one was using this mod because the use case was so narrow due to having an overly large requirement for player investment into warframe durability.  By making this change, they hoped that it would expand the use case for this mod without actually changing the other costs associated with this mods use.  Whether or not this buff was effective in doing specifically that thus should be how this mod is assessed.  While I do not have a definitive answer on this, I believe the buff was heading in the right direction.  I think that some of the tankier warframes can use these weapons non-abusively and ought to have viability with them.  That said, I certainly do not think it is appropriate for all warframes, regardless of durability, to have access to the benefits this mod might provide.

And finally a note about the other costs associated with cautious shot use: both a -15% reduction in damage and a mod slot is a very steep price to pay.  It speaks volumes that despite these high costs players are still looking at this mod's viability.  To understand this, one only needs to look at the typical usage of one of these powerful launcher weapons.  Even with the -15% damage, these weapons can still one shot most enemies in standard play.  Aside from high durability bosses and high level enemies in long duration endless missions, the reduction in damage is not felt.  The additional cost to using this mod thus acts to discourage this mods usage in these particular instances.  Thus we can again separate our analysis into two use cases.  Establishing a cutoff for where these weapons should or should not one shot all enemies is again provides a metric for balance of this mod.

TLDR: The price and ease of access of Cautious Shot is comparable to other mods with similar power levels, so a pricing/access issue would be a systemic problem not specific to this mod.  Instead of assigning arbitrary probabilistic values to assess the worth of Cautious Shot, we should look at the potential viability of the mod based on the range of its use case (where unused and ubiquitous use are non-ideal balance-wise) and power of the mod based on the effect of the reduction in dps (in terms of ability of the weapons to one shot enemies).

Edited by Saturn_VII
Grammatical fixes
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Posted (edited)

Honestly, if it was up to me, there would be no Cautious Shot or it wouldn't at least be so game breaking. What's a point of having self-damage when there's a way to reduce it by 99%? DE shots itself into a leg here cause as it stands, entire implementation of self-damage was for nothing if we can so easily reduce it to low 1%.

Use of weapons with self-damage should carry the risk, should force you to play carefully. Self-damage makes sense for rocket/grenade launchers, if someone is a brainless person, then it's okay he's getting grounded by his own damage, it's a way to learn a lesson or (if person is totally dumb) stay dumb for eternity.

Edited by CoreXCZ
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Posted (edited)

Just get rid of Self Damage....Do we really need to worry about the Tonkor years later if you can slide into and kill fifteen garbage units and a lone NOX that hadn't melted fast enough before you reached them...while Saryn is busy watching netflix....

Edited by (PS4)FriendSharkey

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Posted (edited)
Quote

Honestly, if it was up to me, there would be no Cautious Shot or it wouldn't at least be so game breaking. What's a point of having self-damage when there's a way to reduce it by 99%? DE shots itself into a leg here cause as it stands, entire implementation of self-damage was for nothing if we can so easily reduce it to low 1%.

The whole point of reducing self damage from 10% to 1% was because 10% damage on a fully modded weapon was still enough to kill most warframes regardless of durability.  I agree with you in that Cautious Shot is quite problematic in how it will be either seen as a "required" mod (like serration or vacuum) or be completely "useless" (like fetch).  Similar to vacuum vs fetch, these mods seem like a band-aid solution to fix what really is an issue with the underlying mechanics of the game.  The damage warframes can take is much less than the damage and their weapons can dish out.  Having unscaled self-damage in the game is highly problematic at a systemic level and this mod only provides a quick fix for some of its use cases.

Edited by Saturn_VII
I suck at grammer

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16 minutes ago, CoreXCZ said:

Honestly, if it was up to me, there would be no Cautious Shot or it wouldn't at least be so game breaking. What's a point of having self-damage when there's a way to reduce it by 99%? DE shots itself into a leg here cause as it stands, entire implementation of self-damage was for nothing if we can so easily reduce it to low 1%.

Use of weapons with self-damage should carry the risk, should force you to play carefully. Self-damage makes sense for rocket/grenade launchers, if someone is a brainless person, then it's okay he's getting grounded by his own damage, it's a way to learn a lesson or (if person is totally dumb) stay dumb for eternity.

If killing yourself with a self-damage weapon was always your fault, I would be fine with this reasoning.

But, projectiles in Warframe tend to have interesting flight patterns, terrain hitboxes tend to not reflect what you see, and an ally moving in front of you will either kill you or make your shot do nothing (varying from weapon to weapon).

Thus, self-damage always have some amount of random element, and mods like this are necessary.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, -AoN-CanoLathra- said:

Thus, self-damage always have some amount of random element, and mods like this are necessary.

Wrong, it's not necessary in its current state. It's game breaking due to helping players to ignore game mechanic at 99%, a mechanic which was added for a certain reason which is now being ignored. I don't know if people are aware but if game babysits you too much, you end up not learning as much as if game was difficult from the beginning.

Yeah, projectiles have interesting flight patters, but is it our problem? It's DE's laziness which makes them produces mods like Cautious Shot instead of making proper adjustments to flight patterns. Honestly, from dev perspective, it's always easier to throw in something game breaking rather than fixing the issue at it's core, but that's how gaming industry is today, weak and not capable of doing things right.

Edited by CoreXCZ
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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, CoreXCZ said:

Wrong, it's not necessary in it's current state. It's game breaking due to helping players to ignore game mechanic at 99%, a mechanic which was added for a certain reason which is now being ignored. I don't know if people are aware but if game babysits you too much, you end up not learning as much as if game was difficult from the beginning.

Yeah, projectiles have interesting flight patters, but is it our problem? It's DE's laziness which makes them produces mods like Cautious Shot instead of making proper adjustments to flight patterns. Honestly, from dev perspective, it's always easier to throw in something game breaking rather than fixing the issue at it's core, but that's how gaming industry is today, weak and not capable of doing things right.

The purpose of my post is to discuss the merits of Cautious Shot without delving into arguments of player skill or determination of probabilistic likelihoods of instances of self damage.  It is my opinion the all or none nature of self damage greatly restricts the viable use cases of self damaging weapons and a mod that mitigates those restrictions is ultimately good for the game, despite my comment earlier about the current systemic problems with self damage.  Having a mod like Cautious Shot is good because it expands the use case of these weapons, but is problematic in how it can so easily be seen as necessary.  We don't want a mod that is another must-include.  At the same time the game can feel very punishing when you die instantly from something that may or may not have been in your control.  This mod attempts to bridge that gap by having enough downside to discourage ubiquitous use while still acting to remove what is ultimately an unfun interaction from a select number of cases.  Is this a job best suited to a weapon mod only accessible to endgame players?  Probably not.

Edited by Saturn_VII
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8 hours ago, Saturn_VII said:

Objection 2: Many of the previous discussions of this topic have framed their analysis of the mod as a risk/reward relation.  I argue that approach is ill posed to provide a good assessment of the value of this mod.  Originally a term used in finance, the paradigm of risk and reward is inherently a probabilistic one.  With it, there is an implied chance of success or failure.  Using this approach allows different observers to estimate their own values based on their own experience.  This method is particularly poor at handling situations like these where use of a self damaging weapon is very all or none.  Thus the primary supporting argument for supporters of a stronger Cautious Shot point to the severity consequence of a misplaced shot: an instant an seemingly unfair death, while those against the strengthening of the mod point to the likelihood of the consequence: if you are careful/skillful, you will likely never get killed with the self damage (the probability is 0).  It has been shown that humans are particularly bad at assessing risk in low likelihood/high severity events (eg. comparing peoples relative fear of shark attacks compared to car accidents). 

The Fundamental flaws with self-damage weapons are:

  • The weapons with self-damage are no better than the weapons without self-damage; so it's all risk, no reward.
  • Damage mods are multiplicative increases, whereas health is an additive increase; so the self-damage will always considerably outstrip your health totals.
  • There's little way to tell just exactly how large an explosion is when seeing it explode, so you cannot pace yourself with anything else other than trial and error; exception being the Lenz.
  • Allies can get in the way of self-damage projectiles, causing you to damage or kill yourself through no fault of your own simply because your teammate is inconsiderate or clumsy.

Now, what does cautious shot do, precisely to fix these issues?  Well, in practice it fixes none of these fundamental flaws, it just reduces the downside of self-damage slightly.  It doesn't make the weapons more viable at all, in fact it actively reduces it by eating up a slot that could be devoted to more damage (in a game that's strictly about damage and nothing else) and then penalizes your damage on top.  It doesn't reduce incidents of self-damage by letting you see the radius on the weapon, or preventing it from striking friendly targets and blowing back on you.  The worst part of it is that for most warframes, the mod still doesn't even serve it's intended purpose as even 1% of a hundred thousand damage is still 1000, which is more than most light warframes can handle.

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The mod is a meme at best. With how much damage these launchers do most frames won't even survive one percent of damage. Make it total damage negation or remove it from the game I say. And while we're at it make explosive shots go through allies so we prevent trolling or allies accidently killing you by getting in the way last second. Also buff the damage of any self damaging weapon to make the risk reward that much higher both ways and make sure the player feels accomplished. These are fair changes in my opinion and would go a long way to incentivize use of all the launchers.

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If you have play tested this mod, you would have noticed that the self damage reduction isn't actually in place as it currently stands.
Here's a quote I created in a bug report I recently visited.

12 minutes ago, CaptainJLP said:

It appears that it is reducing damage by 15% (which is the the exact number used in the total damage reduction) in my play testing.
An ogris does about 180 shield damage without the mod and with the mod it reduces the damage to 152 shield damage.
Which means the damage reduction isn't taking effect at all in fact.
Because 180 * 0.85 = 153 (the game rounds it down by 1 it seems) which means only the total damage is being reduced, whilst your self damage isn't being reduced.

This is perhaps a bug and in the next hotfix or update, there will be a fix implemented. So objection 2 where people say it doesn't accomplish it's understood intention is kinda false due to this actually being a bug and we don't know if it will accomplish it's intention of not one shotting every warframe in the star chart.

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11 minutes ago, CaptainJLP said:

If you have play tested this mod, you would have noticed that the self damage reduction isn't actually in place as it currently stands.
Here's a quote I created in a bug report I recently visited.

This is perhaps a bug and in the next hotfix or update, there will be a fix implemented. So objection 2 where people say it doesn't accomplish it's understood intention is kinda false due to this actually being a bug and we don't know if it will accomplish it's intention of not one shotting every warframe in the star chart.

Good catch. We should definitely wait and see what DE does regarding this bug.  I do hope that if it is hotfixed, people find the amount of self damage mitigation to be fair given the context.  As I state in the OP, I think that some of the tankier warframes should be able to use self damaging weapons with Cautious Shot in order to reasonably mitigate the damage they receive.  That said, I certainly do not think it is appropriate for all warframes, regardless of durability, to be able to use this mod and be able ignore the consequences of self damage entirely.

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3 hours ago, ReshyShira said:

The Fundamental flaws with self-damage weapons are:

  • The weapons with self-damage are no better than the weapons without self-damage; so it's all risk, no reward. 
  • Damage mods are multiplicative increases, whereas health is an additive increase; so the self-damage will always considerably outstrip your health totals.
  • There's little way to tell just exactly how large an explosion is when seeing it explode, so you cannot pace yourself with anything else other than trial and error; exception being the Lenz.
  • Allies can get in the way of self-damage projectiles, causing you to damage or kill yourself through no fault of your own simply because your teammate is inconsiderate or clumsy. 

Now, what does cautious shot do, precisely to fix these issues?  Well, in practice it fixes none of these fundamental flaws, it just reduces the downside of self-damage slightly.  It doesn't make the weapons more viable at all, in fact it actively reduces it by eating up a slot that could be devoted to more damage (in a game that's strictly about damage and nothing else) and then penalizes your damage on top.  It doesn't reduce incidents of self-damage by letting you see the radius on the weapon, or preventing it from striking friendly targets and blowing back on you.  The worst part of it is that for most warframes, the mod still doesn't even serve it's intended purpose as even 1% of a hundred thousand damage is still 1000, which is more than most light warframes can handle.

Many self damaging weapons are very powerful in terms of their ability to do a lot of damage to a relatively large number of enemies.  While they are not unique in their ability to do this, each offers something different.  To say these weapons are simply "no better than" to other non self damaging weapons is an oversimplification.  Different weapons offer different strengths and weakness.  Sure, weapons can vary in terms of viability, but that is weapon specific and is due to either other weapons doing exactly what the weapon does only in a strictly better fashion (eg. rubico vs rubico prime) or the specific niche a weapon holds isn't particularly useful for anything (eg. hema)

That said, all of your other points are quite valid.  They point to systemic problem with how self damage works. It feels unfair and is generally unfun to be one-shot by something that seems to be often be beyond the player's control.  I agree with you that Cautious Shot does not directly address these issues and the role of mods in the game should not be to fix systemic issues (I'm looking at you vacuum).

That said, adding a mod to the game that addresses this complaint does have its advantages.  The first being that the change is entirely optional to the player.  This mod is interesting because if balanced well, it offers the player a choice: would you rather deal more damage but have to deal with potentially large quantities of self damage or would you rather deal less damage and mitigate the hazard presented by self damage?  The key thing here is the mod needs to be balanced well for this player choice to actually be a choice and resigning this mod to either be a "must-include" or too bad to be viable.  As Captain JLP mentions above, there appears to be a bug with the mod, so we may need to reserve judgement until that is addressed.

In the OP I briefly mention my thoughts on the additional costs of using this mod: the 15% damage reduction and taking of a mod slot.

13 hours ago, Saturn_VII said:

And finally a note about the other costs associated with cautious shot use: both a -15% reduction in damage and a mod slot is a very steep price to pay.  It speaks volumes that despite these high costs players are still looking at this mod's viability.  To understand this, one only needs to look at the typical usage of one of these powerful launcher weapons.  Even with the -15% damage, these weapons can still one shot most enemies in standard play.  Aside from high durability bosses and high level enemies in long duration endless missions, the reduction in damage is not felt.  The additional cost to using this mod thus acts to discourage this mods usage in these particular instances

The point is that while damage is important, it is not the only thing that is important.  If damage were truly the only thing important in warframe mods like overextended or anemic agility would see no play.  The potential utility a mod like Cautious Shot brings may in fact be worth the reduction in overall damage both in terms of the built in -15% and the indirect effect taking up a mod slot.  Again this is dependent on the mod being balanced well.

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