[FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

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Mezmorki
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[FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Mezmorki » Thu Apr 16, 2015 3:29 pm

Hello all. I’ve had a chance to play around with a few games (didn’t get too far into the games yet), but wanted to share some initial feedback. Having not seen a design document (do you have one you can share?) I really have no idea what design features/elements are working as intended or are place-holder, or still need work. I’ll say this though (being honest here), if this is a “beta” it’s a pretty rough one, and I’d echo other’s concerns.

Here’s my feedback:

PACING + GAMEFLOW

This is the biggest issue in the game right now. The turn-to-turn gameplay does not flow well and keep the player engaged, which leads to feelings of “unfun” and this is the last thing you want.

For example, having your first factory take 30 or more turns (I think one starting game it was like 45 turns?!) to construct is just ridiculous. I gather you’ll be revisiting the production model for the game? I’d encourage you to do so sooner than later before it’s too late. Clicking for dozens and dozens of turns, while I sit in a position literally unable to expand (waiting for a colony ship to build for example), unable to explore more (maxed out fuel range), with nothing I can fight successfully is just not a good feeling.

Also, starting a game running at an economic deficit is just a terrible feeling. My first game I bankrupted myself before settling my first colony (as I was scouting around to find a good planet) and the game scrapped my colony ship. This is just terribly, terribly frustrating – and the general player base is going to be a lot less forgiving than I am. This is rage-quit inducing. I’m not sure what the design goal/intent behind this was. But decreasing upkeep costs and increasing your initial colony’s money income is critical I feel. Also, if players can amass some money more quickly in the early game, they can actually spend it rush producing things and hence speed up the pace of the game.

The potential niche for this game is to provide a lighter 4X experience (I think that’s what you are going for?). If so, it NEEDS to move at a much quicker pace. Production costs/times need to come way down, fleet movement speeds need to go up, etc. In short, the pacing needs to be fun, and it just isn’t right now.

UI ISSUES + CONVENTIONS

I’m trying to get caught up skimming past threads … so bear with me …. Basically, listen to what everyone is saying.

Map Zoom: You need to allow zooming on the strategic map – it just feels broken and archaic not being able to do that. If that means your icons need to scale and/or fade out as the zoom scale changes, fine – but you need a zoom.

Right-click to send fleets: This appears to be working – it seems glitched? If I right-click to move a fleet, the fleet turns/shifts position and the move path is drawn. Next turn however, the fleet doesn’t move at all. On the following turn it starts to move. Is this “lost turn” intentional? It’s confusing if it is.

Right-Click to cancel menus: This is increasingly become a standard interface feature for 4X games, but if I’m in the colony window, or production option window, RIGHT-clicking should close out of that menu. I think ESC also cancels menu, but right-clicking is faster still.

Consistent “X” Marks: On a related note, the “X” button to close menu’s is located all over the place depending where you are in the UI. Try to be as consistent as possible with the placement of the “X” close button.

Information Pop-Ups / Displays: I think someone else mentioned this, but more text/information is needed next to things (e.g. ships in the fleet viewer, planets in the system viewer) so that you don’t have to continually be clicking on things to see what they are (let alone what they do). For example, the fleet viewer at a minimum should display the name of the ship, the current HP’s, or other critical info.

GAMEPLAY MECHANICS + IMPLEMENTATIONS

Fuel Range: Having a dashed line drawn showing the extent of your fuel range would make that mechanic much more obvious to work with and plan around. It’s frustrating having to constantly be clicking on every single undiscovered star to see if it’s in range of a particular fleet. Given that ships can have different fuel ranges, I’d have one boundary line for the minimum range and one for the maximum range for any of your constructed ships. If you select a whole fleet or a specific set of ships, highlight the max fuel range line.

Build Queues: I’m assuming there is no build queue here? You can set AI orders for a colony though? In any case, you need a build queue. I want to be able to cue up 6 destroyers and not have to go back to the colony each time one is built and change it off the lab or factory that starts auto-building each time.

Combat: I’ve had a number of fights against pirates and the like. The combat system has some potential for sure, but it really needs better feedback on what’s going on. I’ll comment more

Research: Ironically, the one that that did seem to move more quickly (pacing wise) than everything else was research. As I was mindlessly clicking next-turn to build ships to do things, research complete notifications popped up frequently, so much so that after I a while I started ignoring them, which isn’t good. Research is one of those things that by default players should be directing so that they have some idea of what it is they are researching. If you don’t have a research item selected (e.g. after just researching something else), the player should have to choose what to research before they can advance the turn. You can include an option toggle for auto-research, but I’d have this turned OFF by default.

Production System: I need to spend more time getting a feel for this before I comment more. It doesn’t’ seem like the planet development options are terribly interesting or varied, which isn’t a bad thing, but I need to get my arms around the underlying system better. Is there a write-up anywhere of how the system currently works (or is intended to work?).

OVERALL
Aesthetically, this game has potential to stand out. And I think it exist in the 4X-lite niche and provide something fast paced with interesting decisions. But the pacing and gameplay flow needs a lot of work, because at the moment it just isn’t terribly engaging. The UI needs a fair amount of work IMHO, as a lot of the mechanics are NOT (edit) easy to follow / understand in-game. I’ll provide more specific ideas/suggestions as I get further into this.

Sorry if this comes across as harsh – I’m trying to give you my honest gut sense of things in the absence of knowing in detail what’s working as intended versus broken versus placeholder.

Cheers,

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sven
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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby sven » Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:08 pm

This is a helpful thread -- and I'd encourage other testers to read it and comment on some of the particular issues raised here.
In particular, I'd encourage you to quote and "upvote" those issues that you particularly agree with, or think require more discussion.

I really have no idea what design features/elements are working as intended or are place-holder, or still need work. I’ll say this though (being honest here), if this is a “beta” it’s a pretty rough one, and I’d echo other’s concerns.


The State of The Build sticky thread is still a reasonable overview of the high-level view of what's currently working, what's not, and what's planned for the future. I'll expand that thread a bit with more details soon, but, the bottom line is still that that there's a whole range of bigger and smaller ways in which beta remains very rough.

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby sven » Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:27 pm

Mezmorki wrote:
PACING + GAMEFLOW

This is the biggest issue in the game right now. The turn-to-turn gameplay does not flow well and keep the player engaged, which leads to feelings of “unfun” and this is the last thing you want.

For example, having your first factory take 30 or more turns (I think one starting game it was like 45 turns?!) to construct is just ridiculous. I gather you’ll be revisiting the production model for the game? I’d encourage you to do so sooner than later before it’s too late. Clicking for dozens and dozens of turns, while I sit in a position literally unable to expand (waiting for a colony ship to build for example), unable to explore more (maxed out fuel range), with nothing I can fight successfully is just not a good feeling.


This is one that I am worried about -- and the build times, (particularly for scouts, destroyers, and transports) are certainly due for an adjustment.

But, I'm also wary of over-correcting -- building your first colony ship or cruiser should be a big deal. There a 40 turn cost is roughly appropriate, I think. What's ridiculous about the current ship costs is that scouts and transports are just as expensive as Colony Ships. And Outposts are actually *more* expensive. That's madness. I need to get on that :oops:

MOO 1-2 and Civ both start with long stretches of end-turn clicking where there's not much to do -- and I think that slow initial pacing may actually be a key part of what works about their designs. You want to create a sense in which events are escalating over the course of a game, and starting slow helps. Right now, if you're playing as anyone other than humanity (who are really a dangerous faction to let new players start with -- see Arioch's comments in the Getting Started thread), your first factory should only take 8* turns to build. Which feels roughly correct, I think.

EDIT: *Ok, I fact-checked this one, and the Teros\Haduir actually only need 6 turns (due to their construction perk), while the Phidi and Orthin need 17 (as they both have penalties to production in favor of generating money/tech respectively). I think that feels about right. I'm less-confident about scaling of improvement costs as the development level of the planet increases -- right now, I think the curve may be making later improvements a bit too expensive, and slowing down the game more than is ideal. But, I say in 'State of the Build' -- the whole resource model is actually due for some fairly serious reworking, so all I'm trying to do right now is to get the costs to a place where they feel 'roughly correct', and the current improvement cost scaling probably qualities.

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Gyrfalcon » Thu Apr 16, 2015 5:12 pm

Mezmorki wrote: if this is a “beta”
This is a test of an incomplete, but mostly functional, product, not the preview-of-completed-product-we're-calling-a-beta that's more common these days. And if you think this is rough, you should have seen it a month ago. They've been working hard on getting things cleaned up.

Mezmorki wrote:The potential niche for this game is to provide a lighter 4X experience (I think that’s what you are going for?). If so, it NEEDS to move at a much quicker pace. Production costs/times need to come way down, fleet movement speeds need to go up, etc. In short, the pacing needs to be fun, and it just isn’t right now.
I certainly do agree that this is not a game that can be finished in an evening, which I seem to remember seeing somewhere was the intent. Some of the frustration I have with the early game is because of the slow completion times for items, particularly Scout ships, although some of that is because the only hazard is pirates. However, I still find myself starting the game waiting for lasers to be researched so I can give the Scout something to help it survive long enough to retreat when it does get attacked and having to interrupt construction of something else to retrofit the Scout still bugs me.

Mezmorki wrote:Map Zoom: You need to allow zooming on the strategic map – it just feels broken and archaic not being able to do that. If that means your icons need to scale and/or fade out as the zoom scale changes, fine – but you need a zoom.
I agree that not having the zoom is unusual, particularly if the plan is to have larger map sizes, and there ought to be a really good reason for not including it.

Mezmorki wrote:Right-click to send fleets: This appears to be working – it seems glitched?
It just moves the fleet icon far away enough from the planet so you can see that it has moved. The first turn is the fleet getting out of the system, so it just looks like it doesn't move. I was confused at first by this, too, but have gotten used to it.

Mezmorki wrote:Right-Click to cancel menus:
I like the sound of this.

Mezmorki wrote:Consistent “X” Marks: On a related note, the “X” button to close menu’s is located all over the place depending where you are in the UI. Try to be as consistent as possible with the placement of the “X” close button.
I'm waiting for a UI pass, but the current layering of planet and production queue screens generates a lot of what seems to be unnecessary thrash if you're using the mouse to try and get back to the galactic view.

Mezmorki wrote:Information Pop-Ups / Displays: I think someone else mentioned this
I'm probably one of these people and there have been significant improvements. I do agree that there is more work to be done, although I kind of like the lack of health bars.

Mezmorki wrote:Fuel Range:
This would be an improvement over the current system.

Mezmorki wrote:Build Queues:


This is still at the very top of my desired feature list.


Mezmorki wrote:Combat:
I find it fairly clunky as well and keep waiting for the game to automatically select the next ship when the current one runs out of things it can do. I also often have difficulty selecting ships, regularly ending up clicking three times on ships to select them.

Mezmorki wrote:Research:
I'm still hoping for a proper research tree so I can get a better idea of what research leads to which new technology, but I suspect that's waiting on more of the actual tech to be implemented in game.
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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby sven » Thu Apr 16, 2015 5:41 pm

Gyrfalcon wrote:
Mezmorki wrote:Research:
I'm still hoping for a proper research tree so I can get a better idea of what research leads to which new technology, but I suspect that's waiting on more of the actual tech to be implemented in game.


This is one I should probably add a UI FAQ entry about. As I said during the eXplorminate podcast -- my own feeling is that a tech tree visualization is a "nice to have" not a "need to have". There are a number of good games in this genre that have either bad or non-existent tech tree visualizations, I like to cite XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Alpha Centauri. And assembling the art and UI details of a tree visualization gets more and more challenging the more dynamic the research tree is, i.e., the more ways that in-game events can affect what sorts of research is possible.

One of the big intended features for SiS is a relatively dynamic tech tree. (This is something I discuss a bit inside the Space Sector QA.) That's not a feature you're seeing any sign of now -- but, when the alien artifact specials start to go into the build (which should happen very soon(tm)), you'll start to see a few cases where in-game actions can change the set of possible research projects inside your tech list. And changes to what's possible should become considerably more common when we bring in tech-trading and the diplomacy system.

That kind of dynamic content doesn't preclude adding a tech tree visualization -- but, it does make it harder. If we do implement an in-game visualization, it will need to happen *after* most of the dynamic-research tree features are up and running. And that means it would need to be a pre-release final-polish feature.

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Mezmorki » Thu Apr 16, 2015 5:46 pm

sven wrote:This is one that I am worried about -- and the build times, (particularly for scouts, destroyers, and transports) are certainly due for an adjustment.

But, I'm also wary of over-correcting -- building your first colony ship or cruiser should be a big deal. There a 40 turn cost is roughly appropriate, I think. What's ridiculous about the current ship costs is that scouts and transports are just as expensive as Colony Ships. And Outposts are actually *more* expensive. That's a madness. I need to get on that :oops:

MOO 1-2 and Civ both start with long stretches of end-turn clicking where there's not much to do -- and I think that slow initial pacing may actually be a key part of what works about their designs. You want to create a sense in which events are escalating over the course of a game, and starting slow helps. Right now, if you're playing as anyone other than humanity (who are really a dangerous faction to let new players start with -- see Arioch's comments in the Getting Started thread), your first factory should only take 8* turns to build. Which feels roughly correct, I think.


MOO 1-2 and Civ starting with long stretches of end-turn clicking is POINTLESS AND BAD DESIGN (IMHO). Why am I playing a game to just pound the end-turn button? I'm literally doing nothing but watch time pass. Looking out of the window is vastly more interesting. MOO and Civ have this because, perhaps, they didn't know any better. We can (and should) do better.

Here's something to consider - 4X games have a few types of activities or actions that players need to take, roughly in order of significance and interest to the player:

#1 Making a big strategic decision, e.g. deciding on a major near or long-term goal (what planet to colonize, what enemy to attack, what victory condition to go for, what diplomatic approaches to take etc.).

#2 Tactical positioning/allocation moves - where do you deploy your forces/garrisons, how split up or concentrated are your forces, etc. Where and when to use a pool of strategic resources, etc. These operates at the tactical combat level as well as the strategic level if the game has a tactical level (like this one does).

#3 Optimization-based decisions - e.g. should I build a lab first and then my factory, or the factory first and then lab? Some people really dig on these decisions, others not as much. Depending on the complexity of the game, these optimization decisions can be really obvious, or really challenging. Ship building is part of this too ... the act of ship building is optimizing the design for a particular tactical or strategic purpose you've already settled on.

#4 Management "overhead" and maintenance actions. These are things like adding things to the build queue, remembering to build transports every few turns, upgrading your ship designs to replace lasers 1 with lasers 2. Clicking through notifications, hitting the end turn button. In general, there is no "decision" involved in these actions

Of all these actions/decisions, minimizing the tedium and frustration of #4 is important for reducing the "not fun" factors of a game. I don't think clicking for 40 turns to convey some sense of time passing while I wait for something to build justifies the need for me to sit there and click end turn 40 times in a row. It's one thing if something takes a while if there are lots of OTHER things to do ... but waiting 40 turns to build a colony ship so you you can explore our further or expand further doesn't leave you anything meaningful to do while you wait.

If you want to have a sense of things escalate, make sure things escalate in a genuine fashion rather than making the start artificially slow. Things are going to escalate on their own as the number of planets in your empire increases, the number of opponents you meet increases, etc. As long as more and more gameplay systems become relevant to the play experience as you progress into the game, things will have a sense of escalation. So look for opportunities to cut the tedium out and keep the player engaged. Maximize the number of #1 and #2 decisions the player gets to make relative to #4 (and depending on the game's focus #3) and it will keep players interested.

Quite seriously, when I'm critiquing 4X games, I often think to myself what is the amount of time I'm spending making decisions that matter to my success versus taking trivial managerial-type actions to keep the game rolling forward. Better games eliminate or streamline the trivial actions and focus on the actions that matter. I guess keep that in mind :)

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Mezmorki » Thu Apr 16, 2015 5:53 pm

EDIT: Also - from reading other forum posts, I suspect there is more going on under the hood of the game than the UI and basic presentation would lead one to believe. As I said, I still really need to dig into the combat system more (I won a number of battles stumbling through so far!) and want to get a better handle on the production model.

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby sven » Thu Apr 16, 2015 5:59 pm

Mezmorki wrote:#1 Making a big strategic decision, e.g. deciding on a major near or long-term goal (what planet to colonize, what enemy to attack, what victory condition to go for, what diplomatic approaches to take etc.).


This is something we certainly want to add more of to the early game. Right now, there's not a lot in the galaxy for your scout to find -- but in the near future, there should be more diverse discoveries for it to make, and meaningful choices about just how to deal with said discoveries.

Mezmorki wrote:#3 Optimization-based decisions - e.g. should I build a lab first and then my factory, or the factory first and then lab? Some people really dig on these decisions, others not as much. Depending on the complexity of the game, these optimization decisions can be really obvious, or really challenging. Ship building is part of this too ... the act of ship building is optimizing the design for a particular tactical or strategic purpose you've already settled on.


The main obvious optimization that's available to you right now is shuttling colonists from your homeworld (where they grow relatively slowly) to your first colony (where they'll grow faster). The repetative nature of that task feels alright to me -- but, the multi-species population transport UI still needs some reworking. EDIT: When the morale system goes in, there should actually be interesting choices to make, in terms of which species you send to which planets. Right now, however, it's a relatively boring, MOO2-like arrangement. More species diversity = more better, all the time.

The somewhat less obvious optimization is how to split your production time between factories, labs, and a second colony ship. It's less clear to me just what the right decision there is -- and I think ideally, it would change from game to game, depending on who your neighbors are, and what kinds of specials you've run into in your first round of explorations.

The same ought to be true of the research tree -- though, right now, the tactical balance is still so rough that I suspect there probably is one relatively boring optimal path through the tree.

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby sven » Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:02 pm

Mezmorki wrote:EDIT: Also - from reading other forum posts, I suspect there is more going on under the hood of the game than the UI and basic presentation would lead one to believe. As I said, I still really need to dig into the combat system more (I won a number of battles stumbling through so far!) and want to get a better handle on the production model.


Be aware that you can click on most of the icons on the left-hand side of the planet production screen to get some in-game docs about how things like "improvement slots" and resource production currently work. All these details are subject to change -- but feedback on the present system is valuable nonetheless. Indeed, a few things are being *over explained* in the current in-game docs, and that's exactly because I'm fishing for feedback from more hard-core theory crafters :)

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Mezmorki » Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:09 pm

LOL - I've often been accused of over theory crafting! Watch out :o

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Dinkelsen » Fri Apr 17, 2015 6:04 am

Welcome Mezmorki!
If you are struggling with the early game I can give you some tips (if you want them) If you want to discover it by yourself, ignore the post. (Select following text for a better read)

Cash flow: If you send your transporter to the trade pool immediately even if there are no trade routes available, you do not have to pay upkeep for it. That will reduce your deficit by 3. Since most of the time you have a defeicit of -7 this halves your deficit while you look for a colonizable planet.

Planetary installations: It seems that planetary installations need 2m population per installation to work at full efficiency. I haven't determined the exact amount of the efficiency drop but it is significant. So builduing a third factory while you have 3m population on the planet will not benefit you. Also see this post.


Regards, Stephan

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Sziklamester » Tue May 05, 2015 7:00 pm

The OP said some valid thing.

My only further reaction on this game is overall good but also have so much to do with it.

Before I make any deeper critics I should tell the game currently less than a beta and some features are missing as you said and intended. Before those features I cannot make further/deeper critics just can tell some feelings about.

The race list currently small the nice is the addition to have races (gremak/enfi) symbiosys which make a bit more count on races but overall need more race and option for subraces. The AI is at moment a little bit harsh and I just begin the game in 30 min cycles because the AI is so agressive and atm there is no any option for diplomacy.

The map is still in developement so I can just say the currently map size is small and to be honest for me this part is the more critisable because there is no chance often to develop because a phidi or teros fleet "sometimes yoral" attack you after the first 50 turn with an unbelievable fleets.
The map size greatness could be help you develop more and without any fear there is an enemy fleet around the corner. Also some cluster would be nice for the galaxy map that also give more technical difficulties to catch you and expand the time for exploring and need to improve the fueling and drives.

The planet types could be more different and have much more variation in each type. This mean more graphic implementation and variations in looks.

Other parts are missing or intendend to be implement into the game.

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Re: [FEEDBACK] Initial Reactions

Postby Owlfriend » Fri May 08, 2015 12:37 am

I just finished my 1st Game as Ashdar Colonials.
What I noticed in the end stage of the Game: the NPC Empires didn't install any Point Defence Weapons in their planetary defences, only short range weapons. Which made their planets easy prey for Carriers and Missile Ships. While my Planetary defences had Turbo Laser Point Defences and Missiles. Especially the Turbo Laser PD's were absolutely deadly. After spending the long range Weapons the NPC's closed in and were slaughtered.

Starting on the North and having to defend myself against all sides was quite fun. At the start I expanded quite fast and neglected my military build up, which lead to a very interesting early game :D

All in all a very enjoyable Game, with a beautiful Art Style. Even in this early state it is more fun then several other Games on release.


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