An unpopular idea — Lifting "the boating curse" for good
I was reading a Reddit thread where Clan vs IS balance was being discussed. Someone mentioned that the only "good" clan weapons are lasers, followed by missiles because of their lower tonnage. I totally agree with this view. If the 'Mech isn't totally borked by its design (notable examples being the Gargoyle and the Nova), then sticking a few lasers and lots of heatsinks on them seems to be the first step to doing well.
What about the ballistics? Well, if you're not boating a lot of them the answer seems to be "don't bother". How much sense does bringing a single UAC2 or UAC5 make? Spreading 1-1.66 damage bullets all over the enemy 'Mechs hardly hurt them. The suppression effect is just not worth the tonnage. How about an UAC20? As a brawler, can you afford to sit there and wait as your cannon spits out 5 slow bullets? It's hardly worth it. UAC10 seems to be the most balanced of the bunch with its range, speed and 2.5 damage bullets.
Though, why shouldn't single UACs be unviable? Let me tell you the answer, boating. Any slight buffs to these weapons unproportionally benefit the 'Mechs that can boat them. Single UAC5 may be next to worthless, but when you boat 4 of them on a Dire (it's one of the most popular Dire builds) they suddenly become amazing. Judging by its popularity, the current UAC2 seems to be beyond saving. Only once in a bluemoon you see a Dire with 6 of them. Same goes to the 20.
So how can we make non-boated clan UACs viable? Someone on the thread I mentioned suggested decreasing the number of bullets clan UACs spit out. UAC2 to 1, UAC5 to 2 and so on. This is actually a great idea. Then you consider what would happen to a Dire boating 4xUAC5s. Instead of doing 20 damage in 12 bullets, it would drop to 8. This means more damage delivered in less time and the usage is easier because you have one less bullet to aim. Same with UAC10 and 20 boats, it would just be too good.
I think the reason is simple. PGI's ghost heat system is fundamentally designed to punish energy boating(against ridiculous PPC/LL boats at the time). It also punishes ballistic/missile boating, but since those weapon systems aren't that heat dependent and there wasn't many 'Mechs that could boat them properly, they were simply not a concern. Now with the Clans and new IS 'Mechs, we some formidable ballistic boaters to think about.
Well, here comes the unpopular idea. Instead of giving ballistic and missile weapons a heat spike, give them another boating punishment. A cooldown increase makes the most sense in my opinion. Something severe like a 10-15% cooldown increase for each UAC5 after the second could balance the alpha you get with lower overall DPS. It would also allow buffs to the single weapon itself without concerns of boating. For example dual/triple (U)AC20's could be balanced by much more severe penalties like 20-40%.
The thing is, will the community accept it? After almost 18 months, ghost heat still gets flak from the community. If something like this is considered, I'm sure there would be lots of discussions about how this would be limiting "choice and customization". Well, it certainly would. But it would also make those 'Mechs with limited boating capability (Kitfox and Summoner for example) more viable. Extending this to the IS arsenal, it could also mean improvements to the long-forgotten AC2 and the single AC5.
Just some food for thought.