Author Topic: A prolixity of suggestions  (Read 4768 times)

Offline keith.lamothe

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A prolixity of suggestions
« on: June 04, 2009, 09:32:40 PM »
Chris,

Thank you for this game, it's refreshingly different, and oozes potential for some serious fun.  For full disclosure: I haven't bought it yet,  kinda tied up with other co-op gaming stuff right now and don't want to annoy my wife and friends by moving onto a new game so quickly (plus I'm still enjoying the other).  And then the Elemental beta is coming up soon.  But it's very likely I'll buy it at some point in the future because I want to support efforts like yours.  For now just going on knowledge from the trial and what you've written.

Anyway, you seem keen on suggestions, and probably won't mind if some/most are misguided based on my incomplete information, so here goes.  Consider all prefaced with "if you don't already have this".

- Force Field ships.  Essentially a mobile force field generator.  Cool because of being able to have very defensively weak ships (guns with engines) last longer in concert.  Would require significant thought to properly balance without crippling, possible balances:
-- only starship class
-- only with (significant?) knowledge investment
-- very low ship cap
-- HIGH energy costs
-- really slow

- Ship-cap-expanders.  Someone else suggested a mobile command ship that increases the ship cap by 5 for each command ship or something like that.  Another approach would be a stationary command center which does something similar but is more vulnerable to AI attack since it doesn't move.  Could apply to all caps, specific ship type caps, specific tech level caps, one for "ships" one for "starships" one for "econ" and one for "turrets"; whatever.  Balances:
-- stationary, so more vulnerable to AI raids
-- You could also limit it to X command centers per system, so you couldn't avoid AI raids by secluding them in a corner unless you were content with the number that fit in that corner.
-- ongoing metal/crystal costs, though this may not make story sense
-- consumes knowledge, though this may not make story sense (could call it "research into logistics of controlling more ships")
-- specifically does not apply to ship types you really want to keep low caps on
-- every X command centers built increases AI Progress by 1

- In general, more powerful/cool structures could be limited on a max-X-per-system basis instead of (or in addition to) a global cap, and/or increase AI progress

- Another take on the mobile command ship and/or carrier ship idea is to have a sort of symbiotic pair system where one ship type (starship class) isn't so impressive by itself but has the ability to "control" a certain number of a "drone" ship type.  This "drone" ship type could have a really, really high ship cap, but if a drone is not inside a control ship's control radius it shuts down entirely.  You'd have to add a whole new concept of "control range" and the resulting "don't go faster than your control ship" and "don't get too far from your control ship" and "AI should target control ships" etc logic that would be non-trivial, but the idea may be worth consideration.  

- Shared ship caps: tie two or more really useful ship types together under a single cap, offering (or perhaps requiring) a certain degree of specialization particularly in co-op games.

- really knowledge-expensive tech(s) that increase the knowledge-per-planet cap to 2500 or 3000 or whatever.  Basically it wouldn't pay off unless you have (cost)/500 or more planets and it would take time to pay off.

- this would be pretty involved, but it might be more interesting to break out the AI's resources into more ablative chunks.  Have military production (reinforcement points), tech production, and aggressiveness all as separate numbers.  Add "normal" AI factories or lesser warp nodes that contribute to reinforcement points, and "normal" labs that contribute to tech points, and have data centers or whatnot apply to aggressiveness.  Maybe it would be tough to balance so it wouldn't be too easy to cripple the AI's supply chain or research, but if nearly every AI world had *something* interesting worth taking out (even if the planet isn't worth taking), each node on the galaxy map might feel more meaningful and unique.  Maybe even break the factories down into ship-type specific stuff so if you really wanted to reduce the number of cloaked ships coming in... but that's potentially a lot of coding.

- planet-specific bonuses, again to make each node feel more unique.  Honestly not sure what to give bonuses on, but perhaps stuff like:
-- builds bombers 20% faster (potentially give motivation to risk putting up production plants on the front lines if you just captured this)
-- reduces/increases effect of shields by X%
-- reduces/increases speed/damage/range/etc by X% (could be asymmetric, some planets favoring the humans, some planets favoring the AI, not sure how to put it story wise but there's always enough selective forms of radiation to cover a sci-fi writer's needs)
-- permanent scouting of adjacent planets
-- free tech on first capture
-- when a ship wormholes in, applies a flag that prevents wormholing out again for X minutes
-- cannot be AI-warped to, has to be wormholed to

- accessible progress bar on starship construction (I can't seem to find any indication other than how faded in it is)

- in general, I would like to be able to manage/play more from the galaxy map (the Turn-Based gamer in me again, I think), specifically:
-- select a system I own, and press a button or "M" to build a metal producer on an empty metal spot (if available), or "C" for the same on Crystal
-- it would be nice to be able to order construction of other stuff from the galaxy map without having to select a specific constructor or building location, but that would be tricky because the questions "what constructor does the player want me to use?" and "where does the player want this structure" are non-trivial.  Could just have a default behavior of building in an expanding spiral from the command center, and either have to place turrets manually or put them at some radius out from the command center.  I could go nuts with shortcut commands like "put a tractor turret next to the hostile wormhole in this system with the fewest tractor turrets currently in range", but then you'd probably hurt me and tell me there's more to the game than the galaxy map for a reason ;)
-- overlays for displaying on each system "number of ship producers", "number of starship producers", "number of available metal spots", "number of available crystal spots", "amount of knowledge remaining", "number of hostile wormholes", "number of incoming AI waves", etc; it would also be interesting to have some sort of derived statistic for "total defensive strength" that would take some thought but a quick comparison of the "has hostile wormholes" and "total defensive strength" overlays could be quite informative.
-- fleet sub-screen that displays all numbered groups (maybe allow fleet naming, just for fun?), which allows left click to select a fleet and has buttons and/or hotkeys for setting to lone/group movement, normal/attack-move stance, and that "patrol/go-after-any-hostiles-in-system" flag I think you mentioned; you already allow currently-selected-group move orders to other systems from the galaxy map so that's taken care of
-- "production chain" sub-screen that shows a summary of all scheduled ship production, would make it feel like more of a naval wargame to me, might be me being silly

- setting on a ship/starship constructor to automatically assign all produced ships to group/fleet X

- button/hotkey for "narrow selection to first idle ship in selection" so when I want to send 1 of each of my 3 scouts to a different system it's just "select scouts", "assign to group 1", "go to galaxy map", "select idle from selection", "right click target system 1", "select group 1", "select idle from selection", "right click target system 2", etc.

- interface option to automatically pause the game every X seconds, for those of us Turn-Based gamers who really want to like an RTS for a change.

- interface option for "music keeps playing while paused"

- mostly for graphical "looks cool" purposes, but it would be nice to see ships with really long range spinal mount lasers of doom.  Remember Freespace 2?  And Homeworld's ion cannon frigates?

Anyway, that's quite enough out of me for now ;)

A non-game suggestion: have you ever read the Lensman series by E.E. "Doc" Smith?

Thanks,
Keith

(you know, I think I used "prolixity" in the wrong part of speech...)
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2009, 10:26:33 PM »
Just wanted to drop a note to say that I have seen this, skimmed it, and I will be back to it in the morning.  Right now I am trying to finish up a new prerelease, and then I desperately need some sleep (it's been a long week).  I'm not ignoring you, and I really appreciate all the feedback -- looks like a lot of good ideas in there, and I look forward to going through them more carefully in the morning.

Thanks!
Chris
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2009, 10:44:24 PM »
Please, sleep :)

Some of the suggestions are more "not sure if this is a good idea but it's worth thinking about" and some are "please add this", but I didn't think it was worth indicating which.

Thanks for your consideration, my interest in the game actually increased considerably when I saw your interactions with suggestions on the forums.
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2009, 10:49:18 PM »
Please, sleep :)

Just... one more... feature... to finish... :)

Some of the suggestions are more "not sure if this is a good idea but it's worth thinking about" and some are "please add this", but I didn't think it was worth indicating which.

No worries, I'll give them all equal consideration (as always), and will add whichever ones fit with the game onto my list for either short-term or eventual implementation (I'll say which it goes on and why, and if I opt not to do something I'll also give my reasoning why not and will still be open to further conversation/convincing).

Thanks for your consideration, my interest in the game actually increased considerably when I saw your interactions with suggestions on the forums.

That's always good to hear!  It's a win-win, I think, because players get what they want and players are also a trove of great ideas and improvements for any game.
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Offline Janster

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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2009, 03:09:09 AM »
Hehe, you need more visible lazor pew pew too.

Its very hard to see the action sometimes, unless I'm zoomed in a lot.
Some starwarsy lazor pews would make the fights look more spectacular. There are some in play already, but most of my regular units, use pellets which are hard to see.

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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2009, 08:27:42 AM »
Hehe, you need more visible lazor pew pew too.

Its very hard to see the action sometimes, unless I'm zoomed in a lot.
Some starwarsy lazor pews would make the fights look more spectacular. There are some in play already, but most of my regular units, use pellets which are hard to see.

Yeah... but without an artist on staff, I pretty much have to work with what I have.  These are the graphics that I have from Daniel Cook's free resources.  Plus, I worry that increasing their size would have a negative impact on visibility -- might look cool, but would be hard to see what ships are still there, etc.  That's why I like the border-flash on far zoom, it at least tells you who is being shot, etc.  I'm sure I will come back around to this issue sometime in the future if we later have an artist on staff, but right now I'm kind of constrained on that front.  :-\
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Offline Bridger

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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2009, 11:01:41 AM »
I have a guy at work who does graphics stuff.  He owes me some favours... and I could ask him for some work if you want?  I'm sure he will do it for the kudos too :)

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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2009, 12:18:09 PM »
I have a guy at work who does graphics stuff.  He owes me some favours... and I could ask him for some work if you want?  I'm sure he will do it for the kudos too :)

Could be... I would feel bad about asking someone to do work for hire like that when I'm not in a position to pay them, though (and yet I'm making some, if not a huge amount, of money off of it).  The art style would also have to fit with the game, I'm pretty picky with stuff like that, but I'd at least be interested in talking to him if he is interested.  This is a kind of fine line for me to walk, because while I would be foolish to not accept offered help, I also don't want to take advantage of anyone.

Anyway, if the game does well enough over time, I'll definitely either be hiring or contracting someone later down the line.  We'll just see how that goes, I suppose.
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2009, 12:56:50 PM »
Another thought on the "more powerful/cool structures" balancing of only allowing X per system is that you could only allow X "super" structures per system and the player would have to pick between a variety of options like:
- command center increases global ship caps
- resource center increases local resource income
- defense coordination center increases ship stats in system
- snare center that decreases speed of all enemy ships in system
- intensive research center that increases that planet's knowledge cap by 500/1000 (but permanently consumes the super structure slot even if later destroyed)

On top of that you could have tech level 1, 2, and 3 structures with separate caps per system so the tech level 1s would still be useful, like the ships.

And one way that systems could be different than others is the number of "super structure" slots they have (of various tech levels).

Not trying to keep piling these on, but the idea sounds like it has potential and wouldn't necessarily take a ton of extra programming to introduce the per-system cap concept.
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2009, 02:19:34 PM »
Another thought on the "more powerful/cool structures" balancing of only allowing X per system is that you could only allow X "super" structures per system and the player would have to pick between a variety of options like:
- command center increases global ship caps
- resource center increases local resource income
- defense coordination center increases ship stats in system
- snare center that decreases speed of all enemy ships in system
- intensive research center that increases that planet's knowledge cap by 500/1000 (but permanently consumes the super structure slot even if later destroyed)

On top of that you could have tech level 1, 2, and 3 structures with separate caps per system so the tech level 1s would still be useful, like the ships.

And one way that systems could be different than others is the number of "super structure" slots they have (of various tech levels).

Ooh, I really like this!  I will definitely have to consider doing something like this, I think it could add a whole new little subsystem to the strategy, and that's always good.

Not trying to keep piling these on, but the idea sounds like it has potential and wouldn't necessarily take a ton of extra programming to introduce the per-system cap concept.

No worries, that's good stuff.  And I already have a per-system cap for certain things (well, just command stations actually, I think), so that does fit quite well into the existing design.

Okay, I'm finally going to get back around to your huge list of suggestions now... :)
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2009, 03:09:13 PM »
Thank you for this game, it's refreshingly different, and oozes potential for some serious fun.  For full disclosure: I haven't bought it yet,  kinda tied up with other co-op gaming stuff right now and don't want to annoy my wife and friends by moving onto a new game so quickly (plus I'm still enjoying the other).  And then the Elemental beta is coming up soon.  But it's very likely I'll buy it at some point in the future because I want to support efforts like yours.  For now just going on knowledge from the trial and what you've written.

Sure thing, no worries, I can understand that.  Thanks for taking so much time to engage with a game that you only have the trial of!

Anyway, you seem keen on suggestions, and probably won't mind if some/most are misguided based on my incomplete information, so here goes.  Consider all prefaced with "if you don't already have this".

Nope, that's fine -- fire away.  I certainly don't expect people to have a full working knowledge of every feature in the game before they make a suggestion!

- Force Field ships.  Essentially a mobile force field generator.  Cool because of being able to have very defensively weak ships (guns with engines) last longer in concert.  Would require significant thought to properly balance without crippling, possible balances:
-- only starship class
-- only with (significant?) knowledge investment
-- very low ship cap
-- HIGH energy costs
-- really slow

Yep, this is in there -- the Mark III force field generator is mobile, but as you note, really slow.  And yes, it also costs a lot of knowledge to unlock, and you get very few of them. We;re clearly on the same wavelength there. :)

- Ship-cap-expanders.  Someone else suggested a mobile command ship that increases the ship cap by 5 for each command ship or something like that.  Another approach would be a stationary command center which does something similar but is more vulnerable to AI attack since it doesn't move.  Could apply to all caps, specific ship type caps, specific tech level caps, one for "ships" one for "starships" one for "econ" and one for "turrets"; whatever.

With this, what I think I've decided to do is to create a stationary ship that you can build, but it's really expensive (maybe 50k metal and crystal).  It would do something like increase the caps for all space-dock ship types by 12 at Mark I, 8 at Mark II, 4 at Mark III, and 2 at Mark IV.  It wouldn't increase stuff that you build directly, such as turrets, mines, etc.  I think I'd actually allow the player to build unlimited of these, since if they have the money then why not -- gives them something to do with all that wealth.  And I think I would limit these to only allowing one per planet, and then perhaps also make the AI get double-strength waves against any planet you build this at.  So that gives you a lot of benefit, especially if you build these at interior planets that are well protected, but it also causes some ongoing trouble for you.  Oh, and I think I'd make it so that AI Progress goes up by 1 if these are destroyed -- this is kind of like a Captive Human Settlement that you can build, and which has different bonuses.

- In general, more powerful/cool structures could be limited on a max-X-per-system basis instead of (or in addition to) a global cap, and/or increase AI progress

With this sort of thing, the really powerful and/or cool structures, I usually make them something that you have to capture from the AI.  That way a) it might not be in an ideal defensive position, which can be interesting b) there is a very fixed number of them that you can have, period, since if you lose them they are just gone, and c) it provides more variety between different campaigns, since not all structures show up in every game.  For most of the really powerful stuff this is how I prefer to handle it, but for a few things like the Logistics enhancer thing, I think that is something players should be able to build directly, and thus your suggestions on how to handle balancing those are duly noted and great ideas.

- Another take on the mobile command ship and/or carrier ship idea is to have a sort of symbiotic pair system where one ship type (starship class) isn't so impressive by itself but has the ability to "control" a certain number of a "drone" ship type.  This "drone" ship type could have a really, really high ship cap, but if a drone is not inside a control ship's control radius it shuts down entirely.  You'd have to add a whole new concept of "control range" and the resulting "don't go faster than your control ship" and "don't get too far from your control ship" and "AI should target control ships" etc logic that would be non-trivial, but the idea may be worth consideration.

I love this idea!  I'm going to have to think about the specifics for a bit more, but the general idea of having drones with a control range like you describe is super cool and really different.

- Shared ship caps: tie two or more really useful ship types together under a single cap, offering (or perhaps requiring) a certain degree of specialization particularly in co-op games.

Could be, but it's a bit counter to the way I have the internal logic for this set up already.  Specialization in co-op games is already hugely emphasized because there is too much stuff for everyone to unlock everything.  And also each player starts with a unique ship type that none of the other players on the team will have.  I'm all for encouraging specialization, but I'm not sure about this specific way of doing it.

- really knowledge-expensive tech(s) that increase the knowledge-per-planet cap to 2500 or 3000 or whatever.  Basically it wouldn't pay off unless you have (cost)/500 or more planets and it would take time to pay off.

I'll have to think about this more, this could seriously complicate the balancing of the knowledge costs of ships. I'm not super inclined to provide a way to get more knowledge than what is already there, just because I don't want players to be able to get everything in a given single game -- if they can eventually just get everything, then the individual choices that they make don't really matter and are kind of boring.  Unlike other RTS games there is not a "civ" that you choose at the start, so that means that you are kind of building your civ as you go.  If I made it so that people could get everything, or nearly everything, then that would mean that it's just one big generic civ in practice.

- this would be pretty involved, but it might be more interesting to break out the AI's resources into more ablative chunks.  Have military production (reinforcement points), tech production, and aggressiveness all as separate numbers.  Add "normal" AI factories or lesser warp nodes that contribute to reinforcement points, and "normal" labs that contribute to tech points, and have data centers or whatnot apply to aggressiveness.  Maybe it would be tough to balance so it wouldn't be too easy to cripple the AI's supply chain or research, but if nearly every AI world had *something* interesting worth taking out (even if the planet isn't worth taking), each node on the galaxy map might feel more meaningful and unique.  Maybe even break the factories down into ship-type specific stuff so if you really wanted to reduce the number of cloaked ships coming in... but that's potentially a lot of coding.

Could be something to do... I like the fact that it has a lot of potential for interesting choices for the players. But as you say, it would probably be a lot of coding, and the other worry is that this adds a serious amount of surface complexity to a game that is already complex.  I'm more interested in ideas that increase complexity/variety in terms of what you find out in the galaxy, instead of what you see in the interface (e.g., so I doubt I'd ever split the AI Progress like that).  But I do like the idea of potentially adding some more AI targets like you describe that would let players affect gameplay more.  I'm almost positive I will build out some new AI ship types in coming releases with stuff along those likes -- great idea on that front!

- planet-specific bonuses, again to make each node feel more unique.  Honestly not sure what to give bonuses on, but perhaps stuff like:
-- builds bombers 20% faster (potentially give motivation to risk putting up production plants on the front lines if you just captured this)
-- reduces/increases effect of shields by X%
-- reduces/increases speed/damage/range/etc by X% (could be asymmetric, some planets favoring the humans, some planets favoring the AI, not sure how to put it story wise but there's always enough selective forms of radiation to cover a sci-fi writer's needs)
-- permanent scouting of adjacent planets
-- free tech on first capture
-- when a ship wormholes in, applies a flag that prevents wormholing out again for X minutes
-- cannot be AI-warped to, has to be wormholed to

Usually what makes the planets feel unique is the capturables, and those are really only on 30% of the planets at a time.  I will be growing the list of capturables as we go (because I do think that's really important), but I'm not sure that I would make inherent changes to the planets beyond that.  There are already half a dozen or so capturables, but I want to add a lot more.  I also like that some planets are generic except for their "terrain" of resources and wormholes, because on those it comes down more to player judgement as to what to best defend, where to get resources, etc.  But then those other 30% of planets with specialized capturable ships stand out more.

Of course, that 30% number is rarely hit except in a 40 planet game at the moment, I need more capturable ships before that will be the case in the larger games.  But I like a number of the ideas here, I'm sure you'll see at least some of them showing up in future releases. :)

- accessible progress bar on starship construction (I can't seem to find any indication other than how faded in it is)

When you click on any constructor, it has a progress bar above the thing it is currently building.  It's on my list from someone else to also have a countdown timer over that bar.

- in general, I would like to be able to manage/play more from the galaxy map (the Turn-Based gamer in me again, I think), specifically:

I'm not super keen on this, just because it's a real departure from most of the game.  I could basically be building about half of the controls in the game a second time for this, and I don't really think that the galaxy map is ever going to be large enough and expressive enough to really be a replacement for the main view.  But, I'll respond to each of these individually.

-- select a system I own, and press a button or "M" to build a metal producer on an empty metal spot (if available), or "C" for the same on Crystal

With the new one-click metal/crystal production, I think this is less needed.  But an important thing is that you cannot "select" planets on the galaxy map, when you click a planet it just takes you there and puts you on the planetary view.  I figure that anyone who is rebuilding metal/crystal spots is also probably going to want/need to check out the planet and see if their defenses need shoring up, anyway, since clearly something got through.

-- it would be nice to be able to order construction of other stuff from the galaxy map without having to select a specific constructor or building location, but that would be tricky because the questions "what constructor does the player want me to use?" and "where does the player want this structure" are non-trivial.  Could just have a default behavior of building in an expanding spiral from the command center, and either have to place turrets manually or put them at some radius out from the command center.  I could go nuts with shortcut commands like "put a tractor turret next to the hostile wormhole in this system with the fewest tractor turrets currently in range", but then you'd probably hurt me and tell me there's more to the game than the galaxy map for a reason ;)

This sounds a lot like Star Wars: Empire at War.  Are you a fan of that game? ;)  I really don't intend for the galaxy map to be used to this degree like this, the entire structure of the code, etc, for working with it is all wrong for that sort of control.  If there's a lot of demand for this I would consider it, but right now I'm not seeing that it really has many benefits beyond the more RTS-style (versus turn-based-style) controls that are already there.

-- overlays for displaying on each system "number of ship producers", "number of starship producers", "number of available metal spots", "number of available crystal spots", "amount of knowledge remaining", "number of hostile wormholes", "number of incoming AI waves", etc; it would also be interesting to have some sort of derived statistic for "total defensive strength" that would take some thought but a quick comparison of the "has hostile wormholes" and "total defensive strength" overlays could be quite informative.

These I love, but a lot of them are already there.  One's already there (use the Disp button on the left bar):

1. Number of available resource spots vs those used (metal and crystal in one).
2. Knowledge gathered (always out of 2000, so the amount remaining is easy).

The ones that I'll definitely add are:

1. Number of constructors (includes space docks, advanced factories, and starships in one).
2. Number of starships.
3. Number of starship constructors.
4. Number of incoming enemy waves.
5. Number of hostile wormholes (GREAT idea -- will only count enemy planets with warp gates).

The total defensive strength would be tricky, as there are really a lot of variable in that.  Plus I'm not sure I see the value, it's a bit hand-holdy.  And even if you have a really well defended planet, the right mix of enemy units might be able to bring it down.  So a number like that could be more misleading than anything else.

-- fleet sub-screen that displays all numbered groups (maybe allow fleet naming, just for fun?), which allows left click to select a fleet and has buttons and/or hotkeys for setting to lone/group movement, normal/attack-move stance, and that "patrol/go-after-any-hostiles-in-system" flag I think you mentioned; you already allow currently-selected-group move orders to other systems from the galaxy map so that's taken care of

Yeah, my dad wants to be able to see his numbered groups, too.  That's on my list.  Will probably do it as iconic or something, I try to avoid subscreens wherever possible just because it is, after all, a realtime game that doesn't pause while you're in a subscreen.  I really don't see myself adding a lot of secondary menu-based controls as an overlay to the existing realtime controls.  That's just not the sort of game this is, in general.  Again, if there's a lot of interest in this I could do it, but right now I just don't see doing it.

-- "production chain" sub-screen that shows a summary of all scheduled ship production, would make it feel like more of a naval wargame to me, might be me being silly

This is a sizable one to code, but it might be interesting/useful -- I've added it to my maybe list. :)

- setting on a ship/starship constructor to automatically assign all produced ships to group/fleet X

Would this really be desirable?  Having ships that are all part of the same control group, but which are on different planets, is non-ideal (though it does work).  I'm not real sure about this one, I think it could be more problematic than helpful (and I can't think of a good way to easily add it into the interface -- again, I really don't want to have a proliferation of single-use buttons that only 1% of the players use, because I think that would damage clarity for the game for very little benefit).

- button/hotkey for "narrow selection to first idle ship in selection" so when I want to send 1 of each of my 3 scouts to a different system it's just "select scouts", "assign to group 1", "go to galaxy map", "select idle from selection", "right click target system 1", "select group 1", "select idle from selection", "right click target system 2", etc.

I love it, that seems really useful.

- interface option to automatically pause the game every X seconds, for those of us Turn-Based gamers who really want to like an RTS for a change.

Eh... would that really make you happy as a turn based player?  It darkens the screen, etc, and seems like it would turn out to be kind of annoying.  If you really think that would be a fun way for you to transition, though, then I could do something like this.  I'm not going to turn this into a turn-based game, though. :)

- interface option for "music keeps playing while paused"

Ah, because of the above thing.  :)  Well, I can understand this one at the least, I'll add that as a settings option whether I add the auto-pause or not.

- mostly for graphical "looks cool" purposes, but it would be nice to see ships with really long range spinal mount lasers of doom.  Remember Freespace 2?  And Homeworld's ion cannon frigates?

Gosh, I can't remember Freespace 2 very well, it's been so long (though I loved that game).  And Homeworld is also a pretty distant memory.  Main thing: right now we don't have an artist on staff, so I work with what I've got from free sources and what I can make myself. :)

A non-game suggestion: have you ever read the Lensman series by E.E. "Doc" Smith?

I have not -- will check that out.

(you know, I think I used "prolixity" in the wrong part of speech...)

You got me, that's a new word for me (and I consider myself to have a pretty good vocabulary).  Good word, anyway. :)
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2009, 08:48:45 PM »
Chris,

Thanks for taking the time to go through all that.

On unlimited turrets, I think that would be a good idea.  With a global cap it gets exponentially harder to defend multiple systems at once particularly on larger map (a "front" of 20 systems could be pretty brutal in terms of getting enough turrets).  On the other hand, you probably don't want someone having 5000 tractor turrets and 10000 sniper turrets in a given system, so having some sort of per-system turret cap.  This could fold in with the other idea of per-system limits, like:
1 Tech IV Structure (something that increases stats of all your ships in the system)
2 Tech III Structures (ship-cap-increasers,resource-production-increaser)
4 Tech II Structures (starship builders)
8 Tech I Structures (advanced warning sensors, space docks)
200 Turrets

On control-ship-plus-drones setups it's kinda like having a ship with disconnected turrets.  You can destroy the "turrets" individually to chip away gradually (but in quick increments) at the attack power or you can try to blow away the controller and take them all out of commission fast.  If multiple drone types were available it would allow for different controller ship "builds" like "do I evenly mix missile and laser drones, or do I go heavily into the short range stuff?"

On shared ship caps I also don't think it's that great, just came to mind.

On knowledge-increasers I agree it's better to not allow that sort of player-initiating cap increase.  Perhaps certain planets could have a cap bonus (or penalty) to make them more or less valuable, but it's probably much simpler in your code to not differentiate between planets for knowledge.  Not sure if that would add much, I'm just looking for ways to:
1) provide balanced-tradeoff (opportunity cost) options for players to marginally increase available knowledge beyond just conquering 1 system per 2000 knowledge
2) make planets more distinct and interesting

Another idea is to allow the player to build some buildings which give bonus knowledge but if the AI captures/destroys them the AI gets a Progress bonus (kinda the inverse of us blowing up data centers).  Risk and reward.

On providing more AI targets, one way to think about it is "how many distinct 'missions' can I send my fleets on?"
- wormhole blockade to reduce damage
- system patrol to reduce damage
- data center raid to decrease AI progress
- warp gate raid to reduce/narrow wave attacks
- ion cannon raid to reduce defenses
- command post raid to reduce reinforcements
- system capture
- clear away some enemy ships to make a future mission easier

I'm thinking of something that would add options like
- normal factory raid to marginally decrease global reinforcement points
- normal ship producer raid to marginally increase the amount of time between waves
- normal lab raid to marginally decrease global tech advancement
- mini-data-center raid to decrease AI progress by 1

Another idea is to make AI Progress more granular (say start at 10 and increase by 10 per warp-gate/system taken) and allow smaller targets that reduce it by relatively small steps (1 or 2 in that example).

As for playing from the galaxy map, I can understand your reservations.  In Sins of a Solar Empire you can manage stuff from an individual system/planet (same thing like in yours) but you can zoom out to the "see everything" zoom level and still issue ship and structure build orders and whatnot (it just automatically places the structures if they're free-placement so if it's a turret you generally want to place that yourself).  And that's an RTS, so it's not just us TBS addicts ;)  But I think I should get much more experience with the game to see how it goes before revisiting what amounts to a whole separate UI (narrow down to key things).  Basically what I'm looking for is a minimal cost in real-time, keypresses, mouse movement and mouse clicks to implement a decision I've already reached.  I also like the sweeping control but that's more a psychological thing.

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With the new one-click metal/crystal production, I think this is less needed.
I didn't see that one yet, but it sounds good :)

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This sounds a lot like Star Wars: Empire at War.  Are you a fan of that game?
Nope, never actually played it though it was tempting, people weren't real pleased with it so I gave it a miss.

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The total defensive strength would be tricky
Yea, basically I just want to see at a glance "these systems are threatened" (i.e. hostile wormhole) and "these systems are under immediate threat" (i.e. waves incoming" and "these systems have a significant friendly presence".  I think you already have decent indicators of "big fleet here" so that's probably enough on that third one.

On the production schedule screen, don't worry about it, that's just a "would be cool"; I doubt my production will ever get so out of hand that I need a summary to tell me what's going on.  But you never know...

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(about auto-build-to-group-X feature) Would this really be desirable?
Yes! At least for me ;) More seriously, this was one of my favorite things about Total Annihilation, I could build 8 tech 1 air plants and tell  4 of them to build bombers into group 1 and tell 2 of them to build air-superiority fighters into group 2 and tell 2 of them to build air-constructors into group 9; I could even set the patrol waypoints on the factories so those separate groups would feed into the "loop of scouting and death" around my base.  So when I was leading a ground assault I could literally "call in air support" by hitting 2, clicking a couple patrol waypoints over the battle field and then hit 1 and do the same (the fighters could clear stuff out before the bombers came in), and these orders would apply to units I'd never even seen, selected, or interacted with before because they were automatically built into those groups.

This may be less useful in multi-system situations, but coordinating the efforts in a single system battle might really benefit and I think even multi-system it would be nice if we could tell the factories to send their production to the target system.

Again, I should probably revisit the topic after more experience with the game.

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(on auto-pause) Eh... would that really make you happy as a turn based player?
Not me personally, but perhaps others and certainly my family when we play together; my wife love playing games like Empire Earth and Kohan together but we're constantly calling out to each other "gotta pause! ... ok!".  If we had a set pause interval that might make it easier, and I figured the coding implementation of "pause every X sim-turns" or whatnot wouldn't be too hard.  But I'm almost certainly underestimating the cost of interface buttons since I'm so used to html interfaces where they're almost free time wise.

On the "keep music playing during pause" that's actually totally independent of autopause; one of my very first impressions when playing was hitting pause to issue some initial orders and being disappointed that the cool music didn't keep playing.  I could just play something else over media player or something but I figured it would be easy enough for you to change.

Another thing about pause: it does correctly register commands during pause, THANK YOU, I really don't like games where you can pause but not actually issue any orders (or only certain arbitrarily-selected orders).  One issue is that the player can't really tell that the orders "took" until they unpause (try it with building a metal collector on every empty metal spot during pause), so if there was a hotkey for "advance paused game by one sim-turn" or something (equates to "unpause; schedule pause for next sim-turn") to make any issued orders "take" it could help keep the pace of order-giving easy-going where we want it to be.  On the other hand, I think that might be a waste of your time since I can just tap pause twice and get a similar effect ;)

Many Thanks,
Keith
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2009, 10:40:09 PM »
Thanks for taking the time to go through all that.

Sure thing, thanks for taking the time to write it.

On unlimited turrets, I think that would be a good idea.  With a global cap it gets exponentially harder to defend multiple systems at once particularly on larger map (a "front" of 20 systems could be pretty brutal in terms of getting enough turrets).  On the other hand, you probably don't want someone having 5000 tractor turrets and 10000 sniper turrets in a given system, so having some sort of per-system turret cap.  This could fold in with the other idea of per-system limits, like:
1 Tech IV Structure (something that increases stats of all your ships in the system)
2 Tech III Structures (ship-cap-increasers,resource-production-increaser)
4 Tech II Structures (starship builders)
8 Tech I Structures (advanced warning sensors, space docks)
200 Turrets

Well, I'm not sure about that.  I'm thinking I really don't want to allow people to just spam turrets all over the place.  You're supposed to be pinched and not be able to defend a front of 20 planets.  That's part of the strategy -- like in tower defense games, which were the inspiration for the defensive parts of this game, having limited tower placements is part of the challenge of it -- so, your challenge is to narrow your front.  Do gate-raids, build outward in a growing sphere instead of a line, destroy planets but don't capture them, unlock more advanced turrets (you can get quite a few if you are that inclined, it just costs knowledge), etc.  In a game with 80 planets, you are expected to take 30-40 at most before you win the game.  If you go for more, on an AI difficulty that is appropriate for your skill level, the AI Progress will get too high and it will kill you.

That's one of the big things that I realized late into the design of this game -- limiting the players in what they can do (overall, not in a localized sense) makes for some pretty interesting strategic and logistical problems.  That occurred to me when I was playing a round of PixelJunk Monsters with my wife, actually, and then I started seeing examples of that all over the place in other great games (my favorite is Chess -- you only get one move per turn, and if you lose a piece it is gone forever.  You don't get more limited than that, and it's a fascinating game because of it).  And, I started also realizing how that was not generally something you see in RTS games, partly because of the realtime nature of it (you see it in turn-based games and tower defense games, mostly).  So, making appropriate limitations was something I paid a lot of attention to, but it's always balanced so that you have options, but you can't just spam the units you normally would in another game.

On control-ship-plus-drones setups it's kinda like having a ship with disconnected turrets.  You can destroy the "turrets" individually to chip away gradually (but in quick increments) at the attack power or you can try to blow away the controller and take them all out of commission fast.  If multiple drone types were available it would allow for different controller ship "builds" like "do I evenly mix missile and laser drones, or do I go heavily into the short range stuff?"

Oh yeah, in earlier of the games there were "capital ships" that had a model basically exactly like this.  It worked really well, but as a core mechanic for the game it just wasn't strategic enough, etc.  But as a secondary mechanic like we are discussing, I think it will add a lot back in.  The other thing you have added, which wasn't there before, is that if the core ship is down then the mobile turrets are also down.  That makes it so much better.

On knowledge-increasers I agree it's better to not allow that sort of player-initiating cap increase.  Perhaps certain planets could have a cap bonus (or penalty) to make them more or less valuable, but it's probably much simpler in your code to not differentiate between planets for knowledge.  Not sure if that would add much, I'm just looking for ways to:
1) provide balanced-tradeoff (opportunity cost) options for players to marginally increase available knowledge beyond just conquering 1 system per 2000 knowledge
2) make planets more distinct and interesting

The planets get pretty distinct and interesting because of the huge variance in what the other resources there are, in what capturables are there, in what AI superweapons or other defensive forces might be there, and on what they are adjacent to and/or are blocking you from.  They also get progressively more differentiated if you leave them alone for a long time, because the AI might do a lot of reinforcing that makes a low-level plant turn into a bear to deal with over time -- so that makes the opportunity cost of choosing any one path over another pretty steep.  With all those existing variables, I don't feel like adding knowledge as another one would be a positive thing (at least, at this time that is how I feel).  And if you're hard up for knowledge, you can always steal it from an enemy-controlled planet without taking it (just go over there with some science labs and something to defend them, then hold your ground for as long as it takes).  The knowledge stealing can be hard, but would make it so that attempts to differentiate planets via knowledge counts would probably not really change much, since the best solution would be to just steal the knowledge off of high-knowledge planets that are otherwise undesirable.

Another idea is to allow the player to build some buildings which give bonus knowledge but if the AI captures/destroys them the AI gets a Progress bonus (kinda the inverse of us blowing up data centers).  Risk and reward.

Yeah, that's kind of like Captive Human Settlements (but the settlements do it just for metal/crystal, and also increase the strength of AI waves while they belong to human players).  The main thing is that I'm really not looking for ways to complicate the knowledge model, it's very well balanced at the moment and it's something that players can predict and plan for relatively easily.  I'd rather focus on added complexity with other resources, mechanics, and unique risk/reward things such as powerful capturables that can't be rebuilt if you lose them, etc.  Plus anything else cool that people suggest, but mainly what I'm saying is that for me to want to muck with the knowledge model at this stage, it would have to be something really compelling.  Worst thing I could do would be to unbalance that aspect of the game, because it affects the pace and feel of the game the most.

On providing more AI targets, one way to think about it is "how many distinct 'missions' can I send my fleets on?"

I'm thinking of something that would add options like
- normal factory raid to marginally decrease global reinforcement points
- normal ship producer raid to marginally increase the amount of time between waves
- normal lab raid to marginally decrease global tech advancement
- mini-data-center raid to decrease AI progress by 1

Oh yeah, I'm really with you on those things -- I think those would add a lot, and I'm all for it.  Those are great ideas, and I'll probably use a lot of them and also will want to think up and solicit even more.  New kinds of sub-missions and targets to choose from are one of the main foci I want to have with DLC, I think that will really add even more breadth to the game, more variance to the different planets, and more difficult choices for the players to make (because you can't ever just do it all).  This is the sort of thing I want to focus on, at least for now, to make planets unique (instead of the knowledge stuff).

Another idea is to make AI Progress more granular (say start at 10 and increase by 10 per warp-gate/system taken) and allow smaller targets that reduce it by relatively small steps (1 or 2 in that example).

Could be.  I'm inclined to add more ships that cause the AI progress to go up in some manner, and then have more that make it go back down.  Thus some planets become even more desirable, and others become even less, etc.  Will take some thinking on how to best balance, though, since if someone just went for the reduction-type targets the game might become super easy.  It's on my list of "things to think about and/or discuss more," though.

As for playing from the galaxy map, I can understand your reservations.  In Sins of a Solar Empire you can manage stuff from an individual system/planet (same thing like in yours) but you can zoom out to the "see everything" zoom level and still issue ship and structure build orders and whatnot (it just automatically places the structures if they're free-placement so if it's a turret you generally want to place that yourself).  And that's an RTS, so it's not just us TBS addicts ;)

My argument is that Sins is not a pure RTS.  Even they call it an RT4X or something, because they have so much 4X influence there.  If I had to pick a similarly conjoined description for what I want AI War to be, it would be "a grand-scale RTS game with tower-defense influences and a hint of TBS-inspired pacing."  That sounds almost like a wine description or something, haha. :)

(This message is split in two because it got too long!)
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2009, 10:40:27 PM »
But I think I should get much more experience with the game to see how it goes before revisiting what amounts to a whole separate UI (narrow down to key things).  Basically what I'm looking for is a minimal cost in real-time, keypresses, mouse movement and mouse clicks to implement a decision I've already reached.  I also like the sweeping control but that's more a psychological thing.

Sure, that's understandable that you want to easily be able to issue orders.  An I want to support that, too.  For me, issuing orders that are not precise, or which let you avoid actually playing the RTS aspects of the game (you should not spend the bulk of your time in the galaxy map, in my opinion, even though that is something frequently checked), is counter to the general game philosophy.  Total War let me skip the RTS parts if I wanted to, and I always took that option because I hated the RTS part and loved the turn based part. 

Maybe if I had had to play the RTS part I would have gotten better at it and liked it more; on the other hand, maybe I would have just stopped playing the game.  So it's a fine line, and I recognize that.  I want to support as many differing play styles as possible, but for now let's just say I have some reservations about too many sub-screens and global build interfaces (in the sense of ships that are directly placed, not those that are managed through queues).  But, like I said, I'm certainly open to more discussion, and this might be even more interesting to resume after you've seen more of the game and can offer more pointed criticisms/suggestions based on what actually would save you the most time, be the best value, etc.

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This sounds a lot like Star Wars: Empire at War.  Are you a fan of that game?
Nope, never actually played it though it was tempting, people weren't real pleased with it so I gave it a miss.

I actually really liked the turn-based parts (on their galaxy view), but the real-time stuff (especially in space) left a lot to be desired.  I got a good 20 hours out of it, but that's really low for me with an RTS game.  Oh, and I never played it multiplayer, which is also rare, because they cut out all the cool parts and just left the little RTS skirmishes in multiplayer.  Oh well, they had a lot of cool ideas there, it just didn't quite all come together.  But I'm not sorry I bought it, so that's something.

Quote
The total defensive strength would be tricky
Yea, basically I just want to see at a glance "these systems are threatened" (i.e. hostile wormhole) and "these systems are under immediate threat" (i.e. waves incoming" and "these systems have a significant friendly presence".  I think you already have decent indicators of "big fleet here" so that's probably enough on that third one.

Ohhhh, I see.  I thought this would be based on your fortifications more, or something.  If this is purely a "threat level" from AI planets, that would be easier to calculate.  In fact, I'm adding that to my list to add.  Let's see what you think of that, and if you still want something else in addition, if that works for you.

On the production schedule screen, don't worry about it, that's just a "would be cool"; I doubt my production will ever get so out of hand that I need a summary to tell me what's going on.  But you never know...

Okay, we'll see what happens.  If you have that many producers all building ships at once you are probably either a) hitting your ship caps or b) running out of resources.  I've never seen it become an issue, but you never know.

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(about auto-build-to-group-X feature) Would this really be desirable?
Yes! At least for me ;) More seriously, this was one of my favorite things about Total Annihilation, I could build 8 tech 1 air plants and tell  4 of them to build bombers into group 1 and tell 2 of them to build air-superiority fighters into group 2 and tell 2 of them to build air-constructors into group 9; I could even set the patrol waypoints on the factories so those separate groups would feed into the "loop of scouting and death" around my base.  So when I was leading a ground assault I could literally "call in air support" by hitting 2, clicking a couple patrol waypoints over the battle field and then hit 1 and do the same (the fighters could clear stuff out before the bombers came in), and these orders would apply to units I'd never even seen, selected, or interacted with before because they were automatically built into those groups.

I see -- how did the interface for that work in TA?  How did you tell a factory that you wanted to automatically put it into that group?  Bear in mind that you can only select ships on one planet at a time, so if half of your Group 1 ships are off somewhere else and half of them are at the current planet, when you press 1 it only selects the ships at the current planet.  Giving cross-planet orders, aside from "go to that other planet," is not supported nor would it be very easy for me to add.  The original idea is that all of these planets are very discrete and distant from one another, so there's a certain amount of local feel to each one despite the fact that you also are commanding galaxy-wide fleets.

This may be less useful in multi-system situations, but coordinating the efforts in a single system battle might really benefit and I think even multi-system it would be nice if we could tell the factories to send their production to the target system.

This may be less useful in multi-system situations, but coordinating the efforts in a single system battle might really benefit and I think even multi-system it would be nice if we could tell the factories to send their production to the target system.

Again, I should probably revisit the topic after more experience with the game.

I like your last idea there, let's see how you feel about it with more practice.  I'm reluctant to make sweeping changes on speculation, haha.  But having each planet feel separate to a degree, and emphasizing that with not letting you auto-send ships from one planet to another on build, is important to me.  If you want to have ships right on the front lines, well then your job is to send a mobile builder over there, protect it, and have it build some new space docks.  The feel I am trying to go for is kind of like how islands feel relative to one another in terrestrial RTS games.  It takes a certain amount of energy to move stuff between one island and another (a lot moreso than in this game, but this game is basically a toned-down version of that concept).

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(on auto-pause) Eh... would that really make you happy as a turn based player?
Not me personally, but perhaps others and certainly my family when we play together; my wife love playing games like Empire Earth and Kohan together but we're constantly calling out to each other "gotta pause! ... ok!".  If we had a set pause interval that might make it easier, and I figured the coding implementation of "pause every X sim-turns" or whatnot wouldn't be too hard.  But I'm almost certainly underestimating the cost of interface buttons since I'm so used to html interfaces where they're almost free time wise.

Well, interface buttons do require more code, but they also start to really clutter up the screen and overwhelm new users pretty quickly.  There are already a ton of buttons, so I'm very careful about adding more, especially top level ones.  The auto-pausing would be fairly easy in some respects, but I wonder if that would really solve the problem since you and your wife probably need to pause just when you need to pause, not at a regimented interval.  I'm willing to keep an open mind about this, but right now I'm not quite feeling it enough to move it off the maybe pile.  Let me know if it surfaces as a bigger issue, though, and we can talk more about specific design / functionality for the interface on this (since presumably you wouldn't just want to set this at the start, you might want to tweak it as you play, etc).

On the "keep music playing during pause" that's actually totally independent of autopause; one of my very first impressions when playing was hitting pause to issue some initial orders and being disappointed that the cool music didn't keep playing.  I could just play something else over media player or something but I figured it would be easy enough for you to change.

Oh yeah, it's easy.  The game used to do that, actually -- but then it became clear that most of my beta testers preferred it the other way because when the game was paused that was usually to answer the phone or do something else that was nice to have the game music muted for.  But I see your side of it, makes awesome sense, and I'm going to add a settings option for that very shortly.

Another thing about pause: it does correctly register commands during pause, THANK YOU, I really don't like games where you can pause but not actually issue any orders (or only certain arbitrarily-selected orders).  One issue is that the player can't really tell that the orders "took" until they unpause (try it with building a metal collector on every empty metal spot during pause), so if there was a hotkey for "advance paused game by one sim-turn" or something (equates to "unpause; schedule pause for next sim-turn") to make any issued orders "take" it could help keep the pace of order-giving easy-going where we want it to be.  On the other hand, I think that might be a waste of your time since I can just tap pause twice and get a similar effect ;)

Glad that works for you!  I am pretty full up on the list for now, and the difference between one keypress and two does seem really slight at this stage (plus I'm back to that whole "running out of keys to use" thing), so I'm going to take your advice and just kind of leave this one alone for now, but if it is an ongoing issue then let me know and I can look back into it.  Most issues that are raised are never dead, just (sometimes permanently) dormant. ;)

Thanks for all the great suggestions!  My list keeps getting longer and longer, haha.
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Re: A prolixity of suggestions
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2009, 04:37:37 PM »
Okay, the latest prerelease is now out with a couple of these:  http://arcengames.com/forums/index.php?topic=64.0

The rest that I said I added to my list are still in the queue, just not released yet!
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