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Bluddy
06-18-2012, 12:41 PM
OK so I'm starting another thread to lump together my analysis of the game so far. I've reached level 9 or so, and I've also paid attention to comments people have posted throughout the forum. I and others have already written many of these things elsewhere, but here I can compile them in one place and prioritize them.

I feel that the main strengths of the game so far are:
- The feel of a live universe is very vivid. Seeing the races go about their business is extremely enjoyable.
- Graphics are good.
- Explosion and beam effects are very satisfying.
- The item system is complex and interesting.

Issues with the game:

- The biggest issue in my mind is lack of agency. As a 3rd party in this power struggle, things that happen in the sector don't seem to affect me -- I can always switch sides and I'll always find some other quests to carry out. Contrasted with the way every occurrence in DoP and DC affected my survival directly or indirectly, it becomes obvious that this is a big issue. If I don't care about what happens in the universe, then it doesn't matter how fancy the quest/relations system is.

Suggestion:
a. The player should only be allowed to work for a few clients who aren't enemies with each other. Trying to work for anyone else will quickly destroy the player's reputation, unless they terminate their contract with their previous clients. This means that the player's lot is cast with their clients' lots. It also means that in multiplayer, players could be working different sides of the power balance.
b. Reputation and money should be the most important priorities.
c. To encourage client-switching at some point, successful clients (races) should be less and less profitable and gradually more arrogant. Switching clients will cause a reputation hit, but the new clients would offer to pay a lot more.
d. I highly recommend some kind of movable base for the Drox, which exists in the sector and is therefore vulnerable to attack. Moving this base to a client's system for safe keeping is another layer of dependency on the client. Moving it away from a client could be interpreted as hinting of a potential act of betrayal.

- The goal of having the sector be allied to win is boring IMO, and promotes boring gameplay. EDIT: A far better point raised by pnakotus is that requiring an allied sector requires the 4x to wind down all the way to the boring conclusion rather than playing with the 4x in the background. A much better goal is to profit as much as possible or to obtain a flawless reputation, while keeping your base safe. Occasional hidden goals could include securing the safety of certain planets/races and could vary randomly by sector.

- In general, the races don't fight enough, and fights that do happen are too brief. Instead, fights between races should be epic and long-lasting. Conflict and backstabbing should be the default modes, and your quests should contribute to the conflict. Peace should be mostly cold and suspenseful. Rather than forming global alliances, there should be conflicting alliances: if one race forms an alliance, that race's enemies quickly feel the need to form a counter-alliance.

- Skip the early 4x game. As other have said, the colonization part of 4x is slow. Quickly simulate the colonization part of sectors (for variety, you can sometimes skip the early part and sometimes not) and get races up to speed so they hate each other and are in combat when you enter the picture. Remaining colonial areas could be the 'frontier' where justice doesn't rule ie. reputation hits don't last as much, and everybody attacks everybody else to get their loot.

When you enter the game, IMO there should already be a front where the combat happens - long, epic combat of vessels grouped together to carry out attack sorties - and there should be zones where races dominate their system.

- Too much focus on monsters, too little on the races. The quest system inherited from DoP and DC is monster-oriented, but monsters are fairly boring in a space game. I'd much rather fight many types of race ships than monster ships. Monster quests mean very little to me because I'm not tasked with the defense of any particular race. Therefore, the evolution from boss -> trouble -> more trouble doesn't hold my interest as it did in DC and DoP. Solving the agency issue will ameliorate much of this. However, I'd much rather have bosses be generals of the opposing races who hate me. These generals would gather more and more power. While they would generally follow the dictates of their race, they could eventually go rogue.

To give a little more detail, every race could be driven by a group of bosses, with more bosses being created by their planets occasionally. These bosses would be their armada ships, and would be each race's ultimate defense and brains. Defeating a race means taking out these bosses, and blowing these bosses up severely hampers the ability of a race to function. Basically, it's superimposing the monster system on top of the covenant system. I think this would be much cooler than just fighting monsters (though monsters could still remain as additional entities).

- More quests dealing with races (related to the previous point, and outlined by others). This is the meat of the game and this is supposed to be the Drox Operatives' forte.

- Battles lack control. A lot of this has to do with the openness of space combined with the constant movement of enemies and just the speed of battles. This problem appeared in DoP as well since it was so open, but there at least only the nearest monsters and specific long-range monsters could affect you, plus you had a constant AI partner to help you sort through the mess. I highly recommend reducing the number of entities in battles and slowing combat down (combat speed). Fewer, stronger enemies would really make analyzing what you're doing during combat easier.

- Searching through space is tedious. Every quest with a target should mark the last known location of said target on your map. Even hunting for bosses, which was fairly easy in DoP and DC, is tedious. Having their last known location in the star system they're in marked on your map would help tremendously. For quests which require certain items to be found in space or certain monsters to be killed, it would really help if certain components (perhaps radars) pointed you in the general direction of their location. It would also help if you could ask planets where to go to find pockets of monsters in their star system.

- The item system is complicated to analyze. It's actually not that difficult once you get it, but it takes a lot of time to figure out what items can be combined and how to filter out items that aren't good. I'm not sure the inventory from DoP and DC does a good job of presenting your inventory clearly. In DoP and DC, items were all identifiable by their icons. You knew that a sword was a sword, or that armor was armor by their icons. Here, it takes a while to learn the icons, and even then it's still easy to forget what's what. An inventory system that presents your items linearly with names, and which would group similar items together, would make things a lot easier.

Perhaps just adding a 'sort' button to the current system would do wonders -- it would place similar items next to each other.

- The limits in place in terms of power and slot type severely reduce the number of viable builds you can have, at least up to where I'm at. Trying out new weapons is very difficult because of power and slot limitations, and with the current system, the early game of every player will play out virtually the same way every time.

- Control issues. The only real method of control that works consistently IMO is having W toggle thrusters and A and D turn. Other control methods using the mouse are inadequate, as you can't both move towards the mouse and operate the interface at the same time, and constantly holding down the mouse button is a huge pain. Also, other schemes don't allow you to fire while moving, which is an essential part of space battle. I recommend that WASD with toggleable thrusters be the default (and possibly only) control scheme. Additionally, this scheme still needs some help to become fully effective:
- Clicking on a planet to talk to it should both take you there and stop your thrusters when you get there. Otherwise you overshoot the planet and have to remember to stop your thrusters, which is annoying.
- After talking to the planet and leaving the dialog, your thrusters would automatically reengage if they were on when you first clicked.
- Thrusters on should be the default most of the time. It should definitely be the default state in combat, where you're a sitting duck otherwise. So there isn't a need to turn on thrusters (in combat) as much as there's a need to turn them off once in a while, and this could be accomplished by holding a button down.

- Thrust. I think it makes sense to limit or warn the player of any upgrade that would take his maximum thrust under 100, as it would cause extreme frustration to move around with so little thrust.

keith.lamothe
06-18-2012, 01:30 PM
- Skip the early 4x game. As other have said, the colonization part of 4x is slow. Quickly simulate the colonization part of sectors (for variety, you can sometimes skip the early part and sometimes not) and get races up to speed so they hate each other and are in combat when you enter the picture. Remaining colonial areas could be the 'frontier' where justice doesn't rule ie. reputation hits don't last as much, and everybody attacks everybody else to get their loot. I agree with much of what you said, and I agree that variety on this point would be good (having varying degrees of where the "frontier" is) but I really find the opening "early 4X" phase highly entertaining. Knowing that every planet I can send data about (particularly in further out star systems) and every colony mission I pull off is a critical step forward in my chosen puppet's "colony rush" has been quite a lot of fun for 5 sectors now. And the occasional furious frontier battle to keep that new first-in-the-system colony alive against some boss fleet or whatever is quite a thrill. It hasn't gotten old for me at all.

Of course, very much as in 4X games, winning the colony rush generally means winning the game. So some variety on the starting condition would be good, as would challenges to balance out the optimality (or at least the ease) of "om nom as many planets as possible as quickly as possible and then outproduce the universe".

Castruccio
06-18-2012, 02:03 PM
I agree with pretty much everything Bluddy has said here, and I especially like the idea of making the stakes for the Drox higher by giving them a destructible base, and by penalizing them for breaking their contracts. This would give the game a DoP feeling that it currently lacks. It would also really help the races feel more alive if the players lot was attached to his chosen race's lot. The idea of races being driven by boss "armada ships" (the way dungeons were driven by bosses in DC) is also awesome.

I really hope this feedback was given early enough to be implemented. It might require some big changes to the mechanics of the game, but they would be worth it in my opinion.

keith.lamothe
06-18-2012, 02:13 PM
On the concept of making/breaking contracts: I think the idea of the operative as being separate from all races and not obligated to any of them is a good thing. You already get fairly substantial relations penalties with races hostile to the one you do a quest for, and that makes sense, but I don't think it makes sense for a race to actively feel betrayed unless I've told it I'll do something and then don't do it. They shouldn't trust an operative unless the operative gives their word (and even then suspicion would seem in order).

But I also think it would be good for the operative to have the option of getting closer ties where questing for an enemy would cause serious relations loss (and corresponding/other penalties). The Alliance status seems like the appropriate point to consider that in effect.

But if I've just been helping a race get going on its colonization or whatever, and not going beyond a non-aggression pact with them, and then encounter another race that I also help out... well, the first race should be a bit annoyed, or at least realizing that I'm not really on their side exclusively, but if they get all on their dignity about me betraying them (and especially if other races think substantially less of me just for being a neutral merc) then I'm not going to be very happy about that ;)

Bluddy
06-18-2012, 02:20 PM
I agree with much of what you said, and I agree that variety on this point would be good (having varying degrees of where the "frontier" is) but I really find the opening "early 4X" phase highly entertaining. Knowing that every planet I can send data about (particularly in further out star systems) and every colony mission I pull off is a critical step forward in my chosen puppet's "colony rush" has been quite a lot of fun for 5 sectors now. And the occasional furious frontier battle to keep that new first-in-the-system colony alive against some boss fleet or whatever is quite a thrill. It hasn't gotten old for me at all.

Of course, very much as in 4X games, winning the colony rush generally means winning the game. So some variety on the starting condition would be good, as would challenges to balance out the optimality (or at least the ease) of "om nom as many planets as possible as quickly as possible and then outproduce the universe".

While I haven't experienced this particular aspect of the early 4x, I can understand its attraction.

What I would suggest is that there would be 2 general phases: the first one would involve combat mostly against the native monsters to help fledgling colonies survive. The key aspect here would be that by helping a race get really really big early on, you're practically assuring that the race will be too big to care about you later on in the game. This is a strong incentive against helping any one race over-expand. Additionally, any remaining races would be likely to form an alliance against the biggest, strongest race, further reducing the advantage of being too big. In the expansion phase of the game, you wouldn't be penalized as strongly for switching clients, as races don't really have full contact with each other and therefore don't hate each other so much. This allows you to help races grow gradually. There would still be intrigue vs other races, but it would be limited and similar to what's in the game now.

Playing the expansion phase of the game could be both optional and random ie. you could choose to skip it entirely or you could choose to randomly have some sectors with an expansion phase setup and some fairly developed with an already raging war.

The battle/intrigue phase of the game would be the second part. Here, the game would consist mostly of battling other races and doing different quests against the different races rather than against monsters. Long wars would be fought between races as they seek to dominate the sector as I outlined above. Abandoning a client race at this point would seriously hurt your reputation, and your fate would therefore be strongly tied with that of the side you've chosen.

keith.lamothe
06-18-2012, 02:29 PM
Playing the expansion phase of the game could be both optional and random ie. you could choose to skip it entirely or you could choose to randomly have some sectors with an expansion phase setup and some fairly developed with an already raging war.Or you could play it as it is now and just not get involved (or actively but clandestinely oppose the growth of the lead dog) until later, except for two issues:

- There may not be enough to make that interesting; I dunno: exploring the sector and finding how the stage has been set while fighting some monsters (and perhaps deciding to kill or not kill some key bosses that will probably factor in significantly later) seems fine.

- Currently, once the declarations-of-war start flying between races it seems that any race that does not actively like me will declare war on me too. So I have to have at least one staunch ally as a matter of self defense. And in my first sector even that didn't cut it: my ally was the ally of someone else who didn't like me, causing a chain-DoW on me. Of course in that case I was able to immediately ask my former ally for peace and get it (phew, because they had colonized... most everything).


It's not that I object per se to an "accelerated start" sector option (whether player-chosen or random-chosen), and I think some sectors being like that would be good, but I'm not yet convinced the real problems that generate the itch for that cannot be solved satisfactorily (and perhaps in a better way) within the "each race starts with one planet" scenario template.

Bluddy
06-18-2012, 02:29 PM
On the concept of making/breaking contracts: I think the idea of the operative as being separate from all races and not obligated to any of them is a good thing. You already get fairly substantial relations penalties with races hostile to the one you do a quest for, and that makes sense, but I don't think it makes sense for a race to actively feel betrayed unless I've told it I'll do something and then don't do it. They shouldn't trust an operative unless the operative gives their word (and even then suspicion would seem in order).

But I also think it would be good for the operative to have the option of getting closer ties where questing for an enemy would cause serious relations loss (and corresponding/other penalties). The Alliance status seems like the appropriate point to consider that in effect.

But if I've just been helping a race get going on its colonization or whatever, and not going beyond a non-aggression pact with them, and then encounter another race that I also help out... well, the first race should be a bit annoyed, or at least realizing that I'm not really on their side exclusively, but if they get all on their dignity about me betraying them (and especially if other races think substantially less of me just for being a neutral merc) then I'm not going to be very happy about that ;)

Check my other response regarding phases.

What I think would make sense is that every race can give you some light quests to do to help it out which would affect relations as they do now. But to get to the really heavy rewards (XP, money, reputation), you need to sign an exclusive contract that you won't betray them to their enemies. This is essential IMO to get you actually involved in what's happening in the sector. This contract will only be available at the second phase -- once they know there are competing factions that are completely at odds with their own interests. Breaking this contract is a bad idea -- your reputation will tank and that race will come after you. But sometimes you have to do it, especially if the race has gotten too big and doesn't give you lucrative jobs anymore, or if they're committing atrocities, or if the opposing, desperate race offers you everything in their coffers to switch etc.

pnakotus
06-18-2012, 02:31 PM
Would that breakdown work with the current victory condition (universal peace)? I think the difference between 'save town' or 'destroy other covenants' and 'make everyone pals and/or hunt down everyone else' is what leads to what people report is a slow, yet predictable endgame. This is also a problem shared by 4X games. Unless each sector is intended to last much longer than a town in previous games (which leads to problems with content levelling) I think there needs to be some examination of what constitutes victory and what the player does to achieve it.

If the 4X business is supposed to be a backdrop to exciting adventures, maybe victory should be based on those adventures, and not the actual completion of the 4X backdrop. This is particularly important as the 4x elements sometimes never get off the ground, or for various reasons are one-sided or uninteresting, but are still required to be played to completion.

Bluddy
06-18-2012, 02:38 PM
Would that breakdown work with the current victory condition (universal peace)? I think the difference between 'save town' or 'destroy other covenants' and 'make everyone pals and/or hunt down everyone else' is what leads to what people report is a slow, yet predictable endgame. This is also a problem shared by 4X games. Unless each sector is intended to last much longer than a town in previous games (which leads to problems with content levelling) I think there needs to be some examination of what constitutes victory and what the player does to achieve it.

If the 4X business is supposed to be a backdrop to exciting adventures, maybe victory should be based on those adventures, and not the actual completion of the 4X backdrop. This is particularly important as the 4x elements sometimes never get off the ground, or for various reasons are one-sided or uninteresting, but are still required to be played to completion.

Not sure what you're replying to, but this is why I think the goal needs to be more along the lines of 'make X credits from quests' (even if much of that is taxed towards the Drox between sectors for balance) or 'attain X reputation' or both. The 4x then doesn't need to resolve itself. That's an excellent point btw.

It works especially well if dominant races are bad Drox clients and little races are good Drox clients.

Reefpirate
06-18-2012, 02:41 PM
I like this contract idea, but you could do it without implementing such a rigid contract I think. You could just offer higher rewards for quests that require you to declare war on another race, ie. destroy a colony or destroy a faction's ships/freighters... The completion of these quests should be enough to destroy your reputation with the target faction.

Bluddy
06-18-2012, 02:56 PM
I like this contract idea, but you could do it without implementing such a rigid contract I think. You could just offer higher rewards for quests that require you to declare war on another race, ie. destroy a colony or destroy a faction's ships/freighters... The completion of these quests should be enough to destroy your reputation with the target faction.

That's a good point. But what about things that don't require declaring war, like spying? The real reason I want this is to get the player emotionally involved in what's happening to a faction/alliance, even if it's just his latest client. That's why I want there to be an additional 'global reputation' that takes a hit when you ditch your clients.

Chumpy
06-18-2012, 04:55 PM
Bluddy, have you seen my political quest brainstorming thread (http://www.soldak.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5051)?

Interested in your thoughts.

Bluddy
06-18-2012, 05:08 PM
Bluddy, have you seen my political quest brainstorming thread (http://www.soldak.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5051)?

Interested in your thoughts.

Yes. I think they're all great. I actually missed the fact that you already had 'champions' there, which is what I was referring to with 'generals'.

This is exactly what I think is needed in terms of making the races the focus of the game rather than the monsters, though the early colonization game could be dominated more by monster quests. Your post has so many good ideas that I didn't feel a need to go into detail about this topic.

Bluddy
06-18-2012, 05:35 PM
Perhaps my idea of a contract could be realized within the alliance framework. There's no need to have alliance-formation take so much work and farming for the Drox. Every race would love to have the Drox on their side. A few quests would get you an alliance, which would be the only way to get the race's most lucrative quests (political quests).

However, the choice of your first alliance in the sector would be critical. It would become less and less lucrative when/if your clients grow in power, and switching to another alliance would cost you severely -- it would be hard to get another alliance unless a race specifically bribed you to switch alliances or your original client became extinct (though that would kill your reputation).

This would allow you to perform menial quests for all races, but the heavy jobs - the really money-making stuff - would be exclusive to your alliance choice.

Ghost Matter
06-18-2012, 05:37 PM
I really like your ideas. Made me think of how it would be nice to have a build/item set system. For example, I could switch from one set of equipment to another at my base.