If your project code isn't currently being tracked with version control like git, it's time to start. I was able to go back through my log and find the bug that caused my "terrible playtest". It was actually quite a simple bug that broke everything and caused a very complicated result. The real REAL root cause of the issue was terrible engineering practices by me. In my radio communication scheme, I have 3 different versions of almost the same message for distributing the game rules. I added a feature and forgot to update just one of those 3 messages. What I ought to do is simplify this messaging system down to one somehow to make updates and new features easier to implement.
A couple more code improvements after perusing the base code, everything is back to being fast and stable.
I was testing the rocket launchers with some friends and discovered that the antenna strength of the bases are not the same. This is kind of an issue because I'm trying to make the blast radius consistent. What I decided to do instead was use the radar on the map to determine how far away you are from a blast. If this works, then I can also confine explosions to whatever room the are in too.
While testing weapon pickup and radar, I discovered that with 8 players there is too much radio congestion to have reliable weapon pickup, so I'm going to table that feature for now and think of a better way to share every player's location in a more efficient way. (edit: this was also due to a bug. while experimenting with how quickly/how often the location finding algorithm worked, I inadvertently also increased the radio traffic. this was easily fixed and I think I might still have multiplayer radar available)