First of all I'm sorry for the delay, because suddenly I hadn't enough time to play the game properly.
Now I've played it quite thorough and I like what I see.
I like stockpiling, I like the art, I like the automatic development of colonies and the overall game pace is great.
I love the fluid tactical combat (with rewind built-in), and I love the backtracking to previous turns.
The builds are reasonably stable, the crashes are rare and I haven't been able to reproduce crashes so it's fine to me.
In fact, I really like what I see, because I'm not usually writing tl;dr posts about games that left me unimpressed.
However, there si a number of issues in the game, centered mainly in UI and combat.
I fully understand that it's all work in progress, and I'll be delighted to hear "Oh, that old thing? We know all about it, it's gonna be fixed this month."
Everything I state here is purely my personal opinion.Colony growth
Population growth in SiS is crucial for a colony to be a useful asset.
However, the population growth model seems flawed to me.
Population growes in three stages:
1) Up to and including 1/2 of planet capacity - next turn gives you 1.01 (low growth rate), 1.018 (medium growth rate) or 1.025 (high growth rate) of your existing population
2) From 1/2 to 5/6 - population multiplier very sharply (seemingly according to some quadratic function) drops below 1.007 and steadily goes under 1.005 giving you diminished returns each turn
3) From 5/6 to full capacity - population multiplier continues to ecrease, but using some other function, far more slowly
What's all this math about?
- dropping an additional million to a new colony will save you ~40 turns of development, while an established colony will replenish that million in ~10 turns
- it'll be very hard to balance high-growth races with medium and low-growth races as high fertility is a gift that keeps on giving
- due to the very sharp multiplier drop on the second stage, small (<6 capacity) planets are essentially useless
Why am I so sure?
A similar model was used in Horizon (though it was four stages there, but it's irrelevant, as they used multipliers on all stages).
As they had billions on the planets, they used slightly bigger multipliers, 1.05 for high growth rate, 1.025 for medium and 1.0125 for low.
The result is that high growth races had immense advantage over everyone else, as a colony output similarly enough was mainly a function of population numbers:
I didn't do such graphs for SiS because I still did not figure out how exactly the multiplier drops, but I'm sure that the same model will bring the same problems.
The root cause in Horizon lied in the initial build-up and making it fixed for everyone made for a nice and controllable picture:
While I'm still unsure about the second stage, the same solution may be applied here if neccessary.
Regarding small planets, a buff of growth if the planet is small and (possibly) a debuff if the planet is huge may help.UI
The tiles in the colony management are too big, requiring you to scroll them up and down.
It's a real problem as it discourages fine-tuning your colonies and even building new ships, as going scrolling down for a ship, then scrolling down for a stockpile next turn becomes old pretty fast.
Scaling the tiles down in half may help.
Organizing them in distinct groups will help.
After completing a task the colonies default to research, not the previously selected mode (stockpile or trade).
Editing ships and orbital constructions requires some hard work, not in the decision-making, but in finding where this functionality is.
It becomes even more interesting when editing planetary defences. You would think that design 1 refers to the first one you've built and design 2 to the second and they'll be in the battle simultaneously?
No, the second one superceeds the first completely.
Refitting fleets is a pain.
While the absence of building queue is may be a viable design choice, refitting fleets remains a pain.
The UI strikes back here too, you can order a refit of multiple ships in one turn, but only one ship will be actually refitted.
All other are stacked into their own tiles on the panel and a new player may or may not find them (as they're used to scroll down constantly).
Scrap the old fleets then?
Oh, there's no such option.
The production tab is very nice, but it lacks indication of terraforming options available and you can't rush-buy from there.
The absence of zoom-out (both on main map and in-battle) is daunting.
At the main map it deprives you of important information if you're playing in window, in a battle it multiplies the number of clicks by two which becomes a big number if you have a big fleet.
Panning the map through the WASD buttons is a must nowadays.
The absence of a "retreat" button at the main map (just like in StarDrive 2) is frustrating (just like in StarDrive 2).
In the early-game skirmishes the scout is always able to escape the enemy (just like in StarDrive 2), but to not to lose it you have to go into battle and spend half a minute on a completely unneded task (just like in StarDrive 2).
As I'm talking about StarDrive 2, ironically enough, having every module lumped into a single list is better than arbitrarily divide it them on three lists.
Still it's somewhat had to operate.
Choosing where to send your fleet is also not great as instead of showing a red line like in a plenty of games, the green line blinks for a second and you're not sure if you clicked or not.
Holding the right button shows "insufficient range" on fleets, of course, but you can discover it only accidentally.
I believe, a basic overlay like shown here - http://www.java-moo.com/wp-content/uplo ... Setup2.png
- will do nicely.
All these issues lie in the core flows of the game and while they aren't that bad for a newcomer, they heavily impact replayability.Moving population
It's very effective in the current growth mechanics, but there's a catch.
With a multi-race colony you don't know whom you've picked for transfer.
If you found a gaia planet in Tyi, chances are that you'll transfer useless driadas, for instance.
If the races will differ even more in the later stages of development, selecting whom you want on your new planet will be a problem not really solveable in the current UI (a small blurb depicting two or three races will be small and won't show what a race can do best).Weapons and battles
AI is always a work in progress, so I won't talk about how having a designated sacrificial ship is good in offensive and will certainly win you a battle in planetary defense.
The whole weapons design is pretty strange.
Missiles own throughout all the game.
There's no way to save a ship of any size from a massive missile attack except from killing all the resistance in one turn.
You just can't fit enough point defense (even on a Fleet Base).
It's made odd further by limiting missiles to the venerable x2 design and with limiting the range of weapons.
There's no paradigm shift until the later game when it's better to use railguns.
The armor and shields are pretty useless.
Very rarely a ship is wounded, either it's all safe or it's dead.
The problem here is that better armor and better shields do not absorb damage.
Absorbing damage would render early missiles useless and will force the player to look for another strategy.
Ironically, a death star has great armor (the only ship in the game), but lacks reactor to power half of its weaponry.
Reactors, however, do not play a large part for all other ships as you can fit anything you like there.
So the differences between weapons in their performance-per-watt are not really noticeable and as their range is roughly the same, they are dull.
Planetary defenses are overpowered.
It's cheap to install even the best tech there and the immense number of point defenses (coupled with mostly x2 misisle design) makes them impervious against a mid-sized fleet.
If you're facing a large fleet, oh, no, nothing about sacrificial ships, nothing to see here.
If the AI will use a single slot for a PD, mid and late game invasions will become much harder though, and that will really impact the pace of the game.
There's no easy solution here.
Orbital bases on the other hand, are very fragile and non-usable in combat.
Also they are too big and too far from the planet to be covered by planetary defenses.
Probably they can be made smaller, but closer to the planet. A larger number of orbital slots will be welcome too.
It's very frustrating that the same fleet may be arranged differently between battles.
The hull types stay in place and the overall pattern is a nice crescent, but having to wonder wether your point-defense battleship is in the front or it's in the second line again is not the uncertainity I personally want.
AI autoresolve tends to lose ships even in minor skirmishes.
It's even more annoying if it manages to lose all dropships in a standard run-off-the-mill battle.
If the player's fleet vastly overpowers the enemy, it should destroy it automatically.
A cheat? Maybe. Improving the pace? Definitely.Game pace
The pace is great.
However the late game is somewhat of a whack-a-mole style.
It's fun to put off fires, but only for a while.
Personally I'd like AI to be more attached to their core planets and to form a more coherent front.
Thank you for reading.