Author Topic: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style  (Read 915 times)

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2018, 10:35:12 PM »
Units would have to be absolutely enormous to even be visible most of the time.  Likely not viable.  And heck, even if they were made bigger, there would be so many, so close together, that they'd just be a blob anyway.

Reduce the total number of units and increase the visual size of each one and you end up with a map that looks a lot like Sins of a Solar Empire. I would be exceedingly on board with that, because Sins is very good at making the map decipherable at a glance.

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2018, 10:39:04 PM »
For now I've mostly just stopped with this one, honestly, and gone back to the first game.  The hard-to-read icons are a headache waiting to happen, and I dont even want to talk about the bloody ship stats.   Normally I try to help out with testing and all that, but this is a bit beyond my patience.

Yeah. I hated the way the ship stats were presented in AIW1, too, though. It was a lot of information that I was never going to use. Maybe I could have been a more efficient player if I had used that info, but I never felt that the amount of effort involved in unpacking all the details was worth it. At the end of the day I was still just building everything I possibly could and throwing them at the enemy.

Online TheVampire100

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2018, 10:45:34 PM »
I think the sidebar could use some tweaks. Like, sorting the ships into different types with clear boundarys so you can see what the role of the ship is.
For example, any frigate would be "artillery", any high HP/shield unit would be a tank and so on. That way the player has an easier time to figure out what he can use the units for, it help him also to group those up.

An important aspect of RTS games are control groups. I din't know to which extent you use them but it really helps if you assign the different ship roles to a different hotkey each. One for artillery, one for close combat ships and so on. With the new "build to control group" feature on AI War 2 you can also easily replenish those groups without having to assign them again (which you had to do in AIW 1).

I think what also would help players is a feature that lets you select multiple unit types in the side bar at once, either by pressing shift/ctrl or with a selection rectangle with the mouse. That way the player wouldnt have to select the units on the planet itself which is sometimes a hassle when all the units come out from one dock.

Offline etheric42

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2018, 01:51:08 PM »
I think the sidebar could use some tweaks. Like, sorting the ships into different types with clear boundarys so you can see what the role of the ship is.
For example, any frigate would be "artillery", any high HP/shield unit would be a tank and so on. That way the player has an easier time to figure out what he can use the units for, it help him also to group those up.

I'd be afraid this would clutter up the sidebar with too many subgroups, for each entity on a planet.  Plus if procedural stats end up happening, it'd be difficult to decide what goes in what group (not that it would be entirely easy now for some border cases).  But I get where you are going with this.  That's why sometimes I wish the icons would be based on classes instead of individual ships (triangles for artillery, squares for tanks or something like that).

An important aspect of RTS games are control groups. I din't know to which extent you use them but it really helps if you assign the different ship roles to a different hotkey each. One for artillery, one for close combat ships and so on. With the new "build to control group" feature on AI War 2 you can also easily replenish those groups without having to assign them again (which you had to do in AIW 1).

There was a way you could build to control groups in 1.  I think it involved you adding the building facility to the control group or something.

I think what also would help players is a feature that lets you select multiple unit types in the side bar at once, either by pressing shift/ctrl or with a selection rectangle with the mouse. That way the player wouldnt have to select the units on the planet itself which is sometimes a hassle when all the units come out from one dock.

You can shift-click currently.  But there probably does need to be a way to select multiple units in the sidebar without using the keyboard as a usability measure.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2018, 01:59:35 PM by etheric42 »

Offline etheric42

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2018, 01:58:47 PM »
My sense of it is that the decision way back in AIW1 to implement massive quantities of tiny ships was a design decision that ultimately painted the whole enterprise into a corner. The way the game is designed to be played, there is very little functional distinction between a hundred fighters blobbed together attacking an opposing blob of a hundred fighters and a single "capital ship" with (for the sake of argument, but I'm aware that it's extremely reductive) stats 100x larger.

I'm not disagreeing with you, but when I see reviews of AIW, they often talk positively about it's "maximalist" style.  People come away talking about the massive numbers of ships involved in an engagement.  From a game theory perspective, the C&C problem you're discussing is real.  But from a visceral perspective there's something cool about those big numbers (even if it's mostly blobs of icons, and at least now you get cool zapping effects).

I am in no way suggesting this is a path Chris and Keith are willing to walk down at this point.  They've got a long walk to 1.0 and any big change is risky and time consuming.  But: how would you balance the feel of the big swarms and the continuity of the AIW series versus the playability of the fewer discrete units?  Could you think of a system that respects the maximalism but embraces the usability side?

Online TheVampire100

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #20 on: November 01, 2018, 02:52:02 PM »
Personally I don't like the idea of having fewer units. The game was called "fleet command" for a reason in AIWC.
Balancingwise it could also be a nightmare. Not to mention that it would chnge the entirety how the game has to be played.
The big numbers of ships have multiple reasons and uses that you might not see right now, kmunoz.
The main problem is micro management. i War was never meant to be a micro management heavy game, ) was meant for macro management where the decisions on the wider scale (galaxy map, where to attack, what to conquer) were more important than stuff liek controlling individual units.
Compare this ti a game liek Starcraft 2 where the number of units is very limited and smal (even if you play Zerg) and each unit is super important. That's why micro management there is such a big deal, if you can control individual units and draw damaged units away from enemy fire you will win the game. Any unit loss is very costy, in AIW however they are not such a big deal, refleeting is fast (and often necessary to defend or conquer), fleets have so many ships that small losses are negletable, it is the grander scale that counts, you don't care if you loose 5 bombers but you do care if you loose 20.

AIW has also an attack wave system, in regulary timed events the AI sends ships to your planets o attack, these attacks get bigger in number over time. Less ships would mean that defending would be easier for you (because you don't have to focus on so many ships at once and each ship destroyed would have an increased impact on the attack force).
Defending with fleet ships would be hard because of micro management and any ship loss on your side is devastating (instead of the current "fast rebuild, don't care" system).

This all obviously takes into account that ships would be "beefier" and stronger" to balance out the smaller numbers.

Tl, dr: Don't decrease the number of fleet ships because that would make the game too micro-management dependant.

Offline etheric42

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #21 on: November 01, 2018, 03:31:18 PM »
Tl, dr: Don't decrease the number of fleet ships because that would make the game too micro-management dependant.

I think that's a very good point to consider: Large numbers of ships makes micro control difficult (which deters micro), makes the relative power of each unit smaller (which deters micro), but the SupCom control scheme still allows for micro should a player really want/need it at any point.  It may not be the best way to communicate this, but at least it's a tried-and-tested control system.

Take away the power to control individual units (by only letting you control them as mass control groups) and people will be upset they can't micro when they really want to.  Give they player more control over a smaller number of more impactful units, then micro is enforced on people who don't want to.  Leave a system where people can choose to invest in starships or fleet ships, it lets players kind of dictate how much micro they want (although that may not be communicated clearly).

There's still the concern that people playing at the limit of their ability might need to pause-micro to do it.  But I don't know if that's the case.

I don't think this invalidates what kmunoz is saying, but it is something to think about.

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2018, 10:20:38 PM »
I accept that the game is intended to be conceptually about massive fleets. I wouldn't expect that to change, even though I wouldn't have made the same decision pre-AIW1 1.0.

I disagree that the number of ships affects micro-management, or at least I don't think the effect is as large as one might think. You can still micro-manage clusters of ships; the tools exist in the game and the options and opportunities are there, just not at the individual ship level. But certainly at the cluster/clump level.

The impact of AI wave volume is, similarly, not really that significant. The physical volume of the wave doesn't matter that much when the AI is still clumping the units and sending them all to the same place. Now if the AI were sending 10 clumps of 50 of the same unit type to different parts of a system, then sure - it matters. But the AI generally doesn't do that. And even if it did, it could do the same thing with 10 individual units that were each 50x stronger than a single unit would be under the existing model.

So what it comes down to is the fact that neither the player nor the computer really take advantage of the vast number of units on the board. We still clump them. Maybe we chop up the clumps a bit but never to the point where individual units matter. What's the smallest cluster of units you regularly send out separately from the main fleet? 10? 50? Whatever that number is, that should be the force value of a single unit in the game.

Another way to think of it is to consider other kinds of wargames. You have four common options:

1) Soldier-level combat (individual soldiers are modeled; typical of Brothers in Arms and other FPS/tactical hybrid games)
2) Squad-level combat (individual soldiers are modeled but organized and commanded at the squad level; see the Combat Mission series or the Close Combat series)
3) Operational-level combat (companies and brigades are modeled; see Advanced Tactics and TOAW, or Total War perhaps, though maybe that's #2, I haven't played it)
4) Army-level combat (armies are modeled; see the Hearts of Iron series)

What AI War is doing is giving you a game that presents itself as having the scope of #4 while giving you the modeled unit sizes of #1 or maybe #2. That's something that makes AI War exceptional and interesting. But it also makes the interface very difficult to get right. AIW1 sort of got it kind of ok. AIW2 doesn't get even that close.


The game is trying to have its cake and eat it too: to present you with what looks like incredible detail (#1 or #2), but at such a massive scale (#4). The problem is that all of the things that make a game at level #1 or #2 work (fine control, meaningfulness of individual units, diversity of behavior even among identical units) simply do not exist in AI War, or are at best largely irrelevant to playing the game well. You have access to the soldier/squad level (via the icons on the map and the sidebar interface), but you don't need it. And so it just gets in the way.

If there are any players out there who ever play the game by regularly selecting individual fleet ship units (that is, apart from scouts and starships) instead of drag-selecting or type-selecting, I would love to know how they do it, and why.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2018, 10:27:58 PM by kmunoz »

Offline etheric42

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2018, 04:25:08 PM »
What AI War is doing is giving you a game that presents itself as having the scope of #4 while giving you the modeled unit sizes of #1 or maybe #2. That's something that makes AI War exceptional and interesting. But it also makes the interface very difficult to get right. AIW1 sort of got it kind of ok. AIW2 doesn't get even that close.

Hey, look: I'm not disagreeing with you (well, maybe that the AIW2 interface is somehow worse than AIWC except insofar as it is just incomplete at the moment).  Chris and I have gone back and forth over this quite a bit.  We've got a variety of discussed and discarded of concepts for fleet-level or at least task-force-level systems in place of the unit-level systems.

But what's the solution?  Keep in mind finite resources, so (if) any energy is spent here prototyping solutions, that's energy that's coming from somewhere else.  What would be a solution you would like to see that honors AIWC, honors the "play your way" mentality, and isn't too risky of a change?

One thought that's been kicking around in my head and is even doable in just a mod is to basically get rid of fleet ships for human players and replace them with more carrier-type starships, so the only thing you are directly controlling is starships and your fighters-and-such just roam around and attack by themselves.  Then strip the icons from the drones and greatly increase the size of starships (or at least certain types of starships).

Offline Misery

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2018, 04:38:43 PM »
For now I've mostly just stopped with this one, honestly, and gone back to the first game.  The hard-to-read icons are a headache waiting to happen, and I dont even want to talk about the bloody ship stats.   Normally I try to help out with testing and all that, but this is a bit beyond my patience.

Yeah. I hated the way the ship stats were presented in AIW1, too, though. It was a lot of information that I was never going to use. Maybe I could have been a more efficient player if I had used that info, but I never felt that the amount of effort involved in unpacking all the details was worth it. At the end of the day I was still just building everything I possibly could and throwing them at the enemy.

Yeah, alot of players seemed to have trouble with that too.

The way I looked at it was that I dont always need to know ALL of the stats for a given ship.  After enough experience with the game, there were certain things I tended to always look at, and other stats that I only looked at in specific situations.  The main things I wanted to know about any given ship:  Hull type, damage bonuses against hulls, immunities, and if they were capable of producing a special effect (anything that would be listed in immunities).  And for some units (usually starships, turrets, and "special" things like forcefields) I would want to be aware of the ship cap. 

I think part of the problem was that it was hard for players to really get a handle on what stats were important at the time, and what stats they could overlook.  And of course, that might differ based on playstyle.  I personally dont look at things like armor values or metal costs, but other players might.  With the sheer complexity of the game, it was inevitable that the stats would also be complex.  And I think taht one way or another, that's going to be the case here, even if it's a little lessened.   

No, what I dont like about the ship stats here is the nature of them.  Like, int he first game, things like hull types, right?  It's nice and easy to remember the keywords used there, or in the immunities, or whatever.   It was a good way to present the stats that determined what units were good at what jobs, and what they were strong/weak against.  But in this game, it's all numbers instead of keywords, and that honestly just confuses the hell out of me.  It's muuuuuuuuuuuuch harder for me to remember.  Which is to say, I just cant.  I mean, I'm forgetful by nature, and even in the first game I look at the stats fairly often, but it happens like 5x more in this game than it did there.  I end up spending WAY too much time checking and comparing stats.  Way too much.  Just because of HOW they're presented and the form they take.



Quote
If there are any players out there who ever play the game by regularly selecting individual fleet ship units (that is, apart from scouts and starships) instead of drag-selecting or type-selecting, I would love to know how they do it, and why.

With individual fleet ships being so weak by themselves, I'd be surprised if anyone does that.  I mean, some players (such as myself) will try to micro the hell out of every battle, but... even I dont do it to THAT level. Individual fleet ships are too weak by themselves for that to make sense.  I tend to split up a given fleet into many smaller blobs based on what's going on, rather than just throw the whole ball in one direction during a fight.

Now that all being said, I agree with what some of the others are saying:  The sheer scale of the game is part of what makes it what it is.  If unit numbers were alot smaller, it just wouldnt feel right, not to me anyway.  Having big fleets is part of what makes it feel so epic.  And it also gives a sense of managing chaos moreso than other RTS games ever really do.  I personally like that quite a bit.

It also means that when you have a unit that's strong by itself, it just FEELS really freaking strong.  It makes the starships (or even moreso, the Champions in the first game) truly stand out.  Makes them that much more satisfying to use, and rewarding to unlock.




Also, since this was mentioned somewhere here (cant find it suddenly)  I DONT find microing inherently difficult to do in this game.  If I did, I'd probably get frustrated and wouldnt play it.  On the contrary, I find it much easier to do than in most RTS games.  And much more interesting.

Offline Cyborg

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2018, 10:09:45 PM »
Graphics are fine. You can modify the icons. And, what matters most is the gameplay.
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Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #26 on: November 03, 2018, 12:26:54 AM »
But what's the solution?  ... One thought that's been kicking around in my head and is even doable in just a mod is to basically get rid of fleet ships for human players and replace them with more carrier-type starships, so the only thing you are directly controlling is starships and your fighters-and-such just roam around and attack by themselves.  Then strip the icons from the drones and greatly increase the size of starships (or at least certain types of starships).

I mean...yeah, that's...pretty much the way I would do it. Have carriers and other starships, and the carriers utilize all the fleet ship types. Perhaps the carriers would be like the riot control starships, where they're modular and you can pick what hangars (i.e., ships) they carry. But fleet ship control (now understood as fighters) is out of the player's hands. I would even go so far as to say they shouldn't be selectable at all, for any reason. The most you'd be able to do is give the carrier a target, and either turn it "on" or "off" (deploy or retrieve).
« Last Edit: November 03, 2018, 12:28:54 AM by kmunoz »

Offline kmunoz

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #27 on: November 03, 2018, 12:32:48 AM »
Graphics are fine. You can modify the icons. And, what matters most is the gameplay.

Modding the icons would be a good first step, but to some extent that's still putting lipstick on a pig. There are parts of the interface that are much too cluttered no matter what the icons look like. And the existence of that clutter points to the gameplay problems I've noted already. I don't see any sufficiently good reason in the context of the way the game is actually played for there to be enormous piles of selectable ships on screen. Like pennies in Canada, the smallest units in the game are just too small to be meaningful.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2018, 12:37:09 AM by kmunoz »

Offline Cyborg

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #28 on: November 03, 2018, 04:05:10 PM »
This game has always been about giant space battles. Your ideas are really bad, in my opinion.
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Offline Misery

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Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
« Reply #29 on: November 03, 2018, 05:40:02 PM »
The ideas are fine.  There's always room for opinions and new ideas here.  Simple as that.  Keep 'em coming, everyone.


Anyway...




Modding the icons would be a good first step, but to some extent that's still putting lipstick on a pig. There are parts of the interface that are much too cluttered no matter what the icons look like. And the existence of that clutter points to the gameplay problems I've noted already. I don't see any sufficiently good reason in the context of the way the game is actually played for there to be enormous piles of selectable ships on screen. Like pennies in Canada, the smallest units in the game are just too small to be meaningful.

Hmm, modding them might work out a bit better than it seems.   I mean, the first game had a very different style of icon.... yet it had the same huge number of ships.  However, there was no visual confusion with that one.

With THIS game though, even a single lone icon by itself can be visually confusing.  I dunno about you, but I found myself squinting at the bloody things alot.  I'd originally wondered if it was me being nearsighted, but... yeah, when I go back and look at things in the first game, I have no trouble at all with them.

So, in my view at least, something about the 2nd game's icons is a bit off.  Of course, individual perception is possibly also a factor, but still.


Now that being said, I wouldnt expect the number of units to ever actually change much here (er... probably).  With this game following in the footsteps of the first one, people will be expecting the massive conflicts that were a big part of that game.

Besides.  This lacks one really major thing that traditional RTS games have:  micro focus.  Alot of RTS players get used to smaller amounts of units entirely because smaller numbers of units are *required* for the level of micro that games like Starcraft or Warcraft (and their endless clones) use.  But this game was never about micro to begin with.  And yes, I know, I've said that I myself micro the hell out of these battles, but it's a VERY different type of microing from what happens in Starcraft (a game I frankly hate due to that).

There may be alot of selectable ships, but I've always found them nice and easy to control and keep track of in the first one.  I know I"m not the only one.

Out of pure curiosity:  Did you play the first game yourself at all?