So sprinting was originally implemented as a way to bring the baseline spaceman speed down one single tick in an attempt to alleviate the LRP behavior that was rampant at the time, particularly revolving around combat revolving around who can avoid being clicked the most rather than revolving around who is either more clever or better-equipped, this concept will be referred to as "WASD spam" from this point on. The idea behind sprinting was to keep the original TG speed in a form where it costed a lot to use, so that it could be used for getting from point A to point B fast without vehicular transport, with the cost coming primarily in the form of staminaloss (This was before the stamina buffer was a thing). The idea was to make people very hesitant to sprint unless their life depended on it, as sprinting everywhere was supposed to make you easy pickings for antags due to the massive stamina cost that was supposed to be associated with it (After one lap around boxstation's central hall, you had 40 stamloss if you had combat mode disabled). Basically, making it exclusively the "flight" part of "fight or flight". During the initial implementation of the combat rework, this accomplished it's goal, as people were actually hesitant to sprint, making combat encounters feel a lot more goon-esque (it was more about your knowledge of the game and your equipment rather than your ability to spam WASD).
However, one by one, several features were added to alleviate the common complaints surrounding stamina as a whole, the first of which being the stamina buffer. Personally, I think the state of sprint where it was tied to your stamina buffer worked the best if my own observations both ingame and in the community were anything to go off of. This actually turned out to work fairly well in general; a common complaint was that attacking and sprinting made you way too vulnerable to disablers and other forms of stamloss, and the stamina buffer tackled that issue head-on by giving you an extra stamina meter on top of your existing stamina, one that's affected only by your own actions, and has a much cheaper cost to use than if you let it drain and used your raw stamina instead. This resulted in players that knew about the mechanic being simultaneously more aggressive and more cautious in combat, leading to a general playstyle vaguely feeling similar to Dark Souls, buuut still in an extremely clunky state that boiled down to whoever could click the most amount of times with a higher damaging weapon (And yes, that was and still is a major issue considering the target RP level, the fact that I feel the need to say this at all speaks miles about the state of the community). Meanwhile, players that didn't know about the mechanic ended up completely ignoring their stamina buffer, leading to frequent complaints about some of the mechanics in place (an important thing to note is that, when developers were present to explain the mechanics as verbosely as possible, those players still continued doing the exact same actions the developers advised against doing, and continued complaining regardless. But I digress; this post is primarily to address the state of sprinting, and that pet peeve of mine isn't entirely relevant). Sprinting was still expensive when it came to prolonged use, but that was fine, as it meant players were hesitant to sprint, but due to the stamina buffer, sprinting was still the "flight" part of "fight vs flight". For the case of antags in particular, adrenals meant that sprinting was both fight and flight, but this was also fine, as antags can have a little fun if they have the TC/DNA/etc to fund it.
So time went on. People still felt that attacking and sprinting were too punishing, leading to people actively avoiding their sprint key outside of extreme circumstances, and complaints still continued rolling in. As a way to appease some of these repeated complaints, the sprint buffer was implemented. This is where things started going downhill and turned into a balancing nightmare. The sprint buffer accomplished it's goal of appeasing common complaints regarding the cost of sprinting, and for the first few months or so after it was implemented, all was well and good. But then people started realizing that the sprint buffer being entirely separate from your stamina buffer and stamina bar meant that sprinting was a much cheaper action than it once was. As a matter of fact, sprinting was essentially free. This lead to the old-TG-style WASD spam playstyle becoming a lot more prevalent as time ticked on by. As the playerbase cycled out and more migrants from other servers flooded in, the issue ended up reaching critical mass; sprinting was simply overpowered since it was essentially a free action. Remember the mention of adrenals in the previous section? Yeah, suddenly sprinting became both fight and flight, except this applied for everyone since the sprint buffer was entirely cut off from stamina, had a fairly large supply, and regenerated fairly fast. Due to the way the sprint buffer is coded, the regeneration rate also directly affects the cost of prolonged sprinting, meaning that having a fast-regenerating sprint buffer vastly reduces the cost of prolonged sprinting (The act of simply reducing the sprint buffer's regen rate made it cost an absurd amount due to how high the stamina cost had to be to make it actually deplete at a meaningful rate). So this basically means that combat ended up going back to the former state of WASD spam. This is the reason why I got as much hatemail as I did when I originally doubled the cost of sprinting post-sprintbuffer, as even though it turned out to not affect the WASD spam meta at all after the initial complaints settled, the lack of actual defensive options in the game meant that players felt as though their ability to survive combat encounters was being directly targetted, as even though WASD spam is fairly LRP behavior, it's one of the few things players are able to do to actually survive combat in the current sandbox. This is also the reason why I'm doubling down on nerfing the sprint buffer values in an attempt to make it cost effectively as much as it did during the stambuffer sprint cost days, to encourage developers to actually address the core issues with the combat systems in the game to make them less reliant on clickspam and WASD spam while still allowing sprinting to at the very least exist, while also directly discouraging WASD spam ingame.
So what are some of the short term options we can take right now at this current moment to alleviate current issues? Let's go down the list.
- Revert the current config changes on live (0.4 > 0.1 sprint buffer regen, 1.4 > 1 stamina cost per sprinted tile): This would do nothing but go right back to square one. WASD spam would be prevalent again. Nothing would change.
- Keep the current config changes on live: This currently alleviates some of the issues with sprinting specifically, but does nothing else, and causes a lot of complaints due to the underlying flaws with the rest of the game's mechanics. But for how long will it continue alleviating the issues?
- Revert the sprint buffer and go back to having sprint be tied to the stamina buffer: This would cause a lot more headaches than it's worth, but would at the very least resolve the issues inherent to the sprint buffer.
- Make large objects be capable of knocking down anyone that's sprinting: When I proposed this change, it was very positively received amongst the community. However, the PR for this was closed without proper notification following merge conflicts, and has not been reopened at all despite my pings to the maintainer who closed it. Also, this does nothing to address the core mechanical issues with combat as a whole, namely the lack of defensive options that aren't movement. That's not to say that it wouldn't alleviate the issues with sprinting specifically, though.
- Make attacks cause a temporary stagger effect, preventing sprinting at full speed: This is also a fairly positively received proposal. However, the PR for this is still nowhere in sight. This also does nothing to address the core mechanical issues with combat, but like the above it'd still help alleviate the issues with sprinting specifically.
- Add a goon-esque melee attack mechanic where you swing at whatever's on a turf instead of clicking on mobs directly: This, too, is a positively received idea. It also directly alleviates issues regarding higher movement speeds, but does nothing to address the lack of defensive options for crew members.
- Grab rework: This is a long term thing, rushing it solely to resolve a single short-term problem would be a horrid idea.
- Reduce movement speed as a whole (Sprint speed physically cannot be reduced on it's own, as server ticks are an integer value, and sprinting has a value of 1 tick): This would do a lot more harm than good. Traversing large maps would become a tedious slog without easily-accessible vehicles, projectiles and other things balanced around current jog speed would suddenly become a lot stronger than they otherwise would be, and more. This option would be extremely detrimental to gameplay in the long-term, as it is a bandaid to cover up the flaws made prevalent by higher movement speeds without actually addressing those flaws directly.
- Remove sprinting: No. This would also cause more harm than good, as it'd mean that chases go on indefinitely among other issues, which would do nothing but add further fuel for LRP behaviour. This also shares some of the issues with the above, and would be fairly detrimental to the game's health in the long term.