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incognoscente
06-30-2012, 05:34 AM
Nothing here is new to 0.905 . I joined the beta at 0.903, but patches come out faster than I can re-test my list, almost. I have some thoughts on early game matters and easing the learning process for new players, but that's for another day. I don't want 0.906 to come out while I'm still ruminating.



bugs / issues / inconsistencies:

Waypoints not reset: When starting a new game/abandoning the old sector, waypoints set with this character are not cleared. [This only applies to consecutive games with the same character: starting a new sector with a character other than the one loaded will not cause the waypoints of the latter to be copied to the former's sector.]

Minimap blips not centered : in 1024x768, the player blip is centered vertically, but rendered 7 pixels to the right. Likewise, waypoint blips, enemy blips, etc. are also rendered 7 pixels to the right at the same resolution. At 800x600, it's 5 pixels to the right. Other resolutions may be similarly affected but I haven't tested them.

Minimap waypoint blips are squished vertically : Place waypoints describing cardinal and intermediate directions relative your ship. The blips on the minimap will describe a vertically-challenged ellipse instead of a circle (in 1024x768, an ellipse which crossed the center of each blip was 94 pixels wide but only 67 pixels tall). As enemy blips are not scaled in this way (confirmed via image overlay), the minimap suggests the player is closer to waypoints north and south of his/her position than is the case.

Minimap is not rendered when first loading a game : If you fire up the game and load (or create) a character, the minimap is empty. It will remain empty until your ship moves a short distance. However, if you save and exit this character and change to any other (including loading this one back), the minimap will be correctly rendered at load. This bug only seems to happen to the first sector loaded after launching the application.

Minimap is not rendered if emissive maps are turned off : I had assumed it was simply unlit! Since the minimap is such a useful tool and is toggle-able by the user at will, I think it should be granted a special exception to emissive map disabling.

Game Option > Thruster Cursor description inaccurate : The ship will turn toward cursor if the option is on even if Thrusters Toggle is off.

Toggled Thrust turned off when clicking menu icons at bottom of screen (including help files) : If the relevant menu hot key is pressed instead, thrust is not discontinued (preferred behavior).

Game becomes unpaused : If the game is paused, any of the icons on the bar at the bottom of the screen (character sheet, inventory, etc.) may be opened and closed and the game will remain paused except for the Quest Screen and Ingame Menu buttons. These will allow the game to remain paused while they are active, but closing them will un-pause the game. Why not leave the game paused if it's already paused?


concerns:
Intro video stutters on "recommended spec" machine : I've been playing on a 2.0 GHz Athlon / 1 GB of RAM / GeForce 4 Ti4200, so not very far above the listed specs. The intro video hiccups throughout. I guessed that the bitrate was too much for my old clunker, but VLC doesn't stutter when playing the video. Not that that really helps you, but there you go. :\


miscellaneous requests:
Can move destinations have priority over combat targeting? If I've clicked on a teleport, I want to go to it and not to what I'm firing at in self-defense. (Or in the case of toggle thrusting and manual steering: I want to continue to the teleport instead of stopping in place when firing.)

On the quest screen, can a middle button be added to completed quests to either take you to the quest-giving race's screen or simply to allow you to complete the quest from the quest screen?

Can a Max or All button be added when choosing how many credits to offer in trade in a diplomacy window?

While we're still limited to 7(?) waypoints, can there be a "remove all waypoints" button? I end up accumulating these in systems that I rarely go back to in later game, but I tend to forget which systems exactly. Clean up is a chore.

Can right-click be used to dismiss a given help text without opening it? Seems like DoP and/or DC did that. Or maybe I'm getting senile.

incognoscente
07-01-2012, 02:07 AM
Chapter the Second

I had an extended watching-over-the-player's-shoulder account of my first encounter with the game, but I hit the character limit when writing it. I did my best to make it humorous, entertaining, and revealing; but if I hit the character limit, I probably wrote more than anyone cares to read. Essentially:I was lost for a long time. It took me 10-25 (perceived, if not literal) minutes to find anything beyond random encounter enemies, mines, and empty planets. When I found a race, it was from one of their ships grazing my FOV or something (I'm still not sure). It took me another several minutes to actually find their planet to get the only available mission: colonize.
I didn't know if the random encounter enemies were Races (for the purpose of game victories) at first blush. Embarrassing but true. I was afraid that I was pissing off potential allies from the word go.
I read most of the help files but read none of the race information on the new game screen.
I relied on my knowledge of DoP to inform my use of the Relations screen, as I don't remember Drox Operative telling me anything about it.


Some suggestions, especially in regard to early stuff:

1. Make the minimap fog mowing size the same radius as the view field at farthest zoom. A lot of my playtime seems to be used in clearing the fog of war. A bigger brush (or blade, if you'd prefer I didn't mix metaphors) would help expedite this and get me to the more interesting parts of the game.

2. Slightly expand the minimap from its current size while keeping its scale the same (meaning it would render-- but not reveal-- further than the player can see at max zoom). The player would lose a little more screen real estate, but the gains in navigation would be worth it. Space is mostly empty. Helping players to set their courses around gravity wells, to gates, etc. would be a blessing.

3. Make the base radar value equal to the visible area. This will let players see that the minimap isn't broken (my first thought) and will give them incentive to upgrade radar so it'll reach beyond their max visible range. At least, I'm assuming you can upgrade radar. I haven't found anything that does that yet.

4.A. Meet new players part way with a not-exactly-a-tutorial: in the starting system of a level 0-1 sector, establish one of the races on the planet farthest from the player's start position. Reveal it on the system map and place a waypoint on it. Have the race contact the player with a brief expository blurb: ~"A Drox Operative? You couldn't have come at a better time. On behalf of the [race], the planet [planet's name] welcomes you. Please drop by at your earliest convenience. We have much to discuss. On your way here, you're bound to see some space nasties. We suggest you kill them before they kill you. It's your choice, of course. When you see some space nasties with icons floating above them, that's us. Please don't kill us. We're not actually space nasties."

4.B. When players arrive at the planet, give them a mission that required a planetary visit (e.g., colonizing mission) so they won't feel they dropped by for no reason. A bonus tiny storage compartment could help, too, to show the player ASAP how storage compartments work. Bags were one of the stranger quirks to me when I first encountered DoP. Giving the player an early bonus compartment can illustrate how to install components, how to expand inventory space, and possibly that filled compartments can't be moved--all in one fell swoop.

5. The help files at present are information overload and don't all need to be there. Some thoughts:
Dynamic Galaxy -- this is a selling point/marketing, not something the player needs to learn. In the case of a player completely ignorant of the game (e.g., they were gifted it and had never read about it), I don't think their opinion will suffer when a quest escalates or turns obsolete when they were dragging their heels. At worst, they'll be temporarily annoyed but I expect their overall opinion will be favorable: they'll learn that the game world is alive and there are consequences for inaction.

Game Objective -- useful, but would be more useful still if it lived somewhere permanently, like the Quests screen. That way a player could easily refer to it later down the line, in case they've forgotten what exactly their goal is. Especially during beta. :)

Moving + Attacking + Targeting + Left vs. Right Click -- merge these, with revisions to avoid redundancy. These four documents essentially represent one piece of information (the basic controls) in 4 arbitrary pieces. The player isn't being saved any reading time by having this information split.

Ship Speed -- the player doesn't need to learn this so early. I don't know how help files are triggered, but this would be best served if it appeared once the player has looked at their character screen and the cursor has ticked the Ship Speed text. If the player is curious to see a tool-tip, they might be curious for further information at that time.

Damage + Low Structure + Low Energy -- merge these into a Ship Status help.

UI Screens + Alt -- merge these to form a general Hotkeys help.

Component Rarities -- the player doesn't really need to be told this. I can't think any player would feel betrayed when they find a spiffy looking item with a special color. Essentially, help should prevent frustration, anger, or confusion. It shouldn't tell every last thing: pleasant surprises are always welcome.

unless I've missed it, there is no help file for the Relations screen, which is one of the most vital interfaces in the game. I think most of us beta testers have played Depths of Peril or are/were hardcore gamers who will try every interface element, but players that aren't I think will be quite lost. Part of the suggested race-initiated contact in 4.A (above) is to introduce one of the most vital interfaces to the player as quickly as possible and to give them a race they can immediately interact with to acclimatize themselves to this screen.

6. Don't be stingy with pinging/fog lifting. If I'm allied with a race, wouldn't they be okay with my knowing what planets they have, in case they need defending? If they want me to colonize in an adjacent (but uncolonized) system, ping the starlane/wormhole that leads there. Possibly I've already found it. Possibly not.

7. If quest necessaries are being pinged, quests of deliberate unknowns could offer an interesting contrast: "One of our scout fleets was exploring the frontier. The last successful transmission came from Idaho, but the fleet may have moved to an adjacent system before meeting their untimely demise. Give our people closure. Help us solve the mystery of the Agile Fleet."

8. The "explore planet" quest doesn't currently require the research action "explore;" it just requires the planet to be found. I find this underwhelming. But instead of merely requiring the "explore" action, I think opening up these quests to be a hunt for a type of planet in a specific system might be worthwhile. ~"Find us a suitable gas giant in Ohio." The player will feel that s/he is having more choice in the matter, and that's almost always a plus.