Arcen Games

Games => AI War II => Topic started by: kmunoz on October 28, 2018, 11:12:11 PM

Title: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on October 28, 2018, 11:12:11 PM
I'm finding it a lot easier to use and interpret the interface in AIW2 than in AIW1, which is great. I was worried that it was going to be a lot more confusing.

However, I'm finding the visual style of AIW2 to be incredibly off-putting. The icons are so thematically inappropriate that they are intensely distracting. Maybe it's the colors, but I do think it's much more the fact that the shading, outlining and overall shape of the icons are much too "childish" looking. And because the icons on the map are the dominant feature, the fact that there are gorgeous ship graphics underneath is completely lost. Even zooming in really close, the icons are so fantastically prominent that they divert the attention of the eye.

This was one of my frustrations with the original game. The way the game is meant to be played, you're constantly zoomed out, and so the details of the individual ships are lost because the icons are necessarily overriding the visuals. I had hoped that AIW2 would fix this, or adjust it, somehow. And I was encouraged to see all the great work that went into making really gorgeous units. But once again, as with AIW1, you just never get to see them. You spend all your time watching the icons again. And if you do zoom in, the icons are in the way.

There are a few other little details that perhaps are going to be filled in over time, that suggest to me at this moment that the great visuals in AIW2 just aren't that important in the development process. Ships pop into existence while being built, rather than undergoing even the most rudimentary of construction animation. And when ships drop into wormholes - which are below the plane of the game - they simply disappear. They don't even drop down into the wormhole graphic, they just go poof (and they go poof at a surprisingly great distance from the wormhole graphic). When the AI's command centers get destroyed, they blink out of existence. There's no graphical representation of their destruction, as far as I can tell. The ships move around and have pew-pew graphics, but they have very limited dynamic quality.

I'm not a modder (well, not a good one), but if I'm going to spend as much time playing AIW2 as I did AIW1 I'm going to have to do something drastic about those icons. They need to be toned way, way down - the colors need to be more muted, they need to be less puffy, and as graphical representations they need to be a lot more immediately distinctive. Yes, they all look different, but even in their difference the still look very same-y and don't contain enough information. NATO symbols work despite their obtuseness because each one is identifiable immediately, even if you don't know what they represent. You're never going to mistake infantry for armor - the icons are simply too distinct. Learning the meaning of each icon may take a little time, but once you've got it in your head, you can read a map very clearly and very quickly. I suspect that is not going to be the case for AIW2's stock icons, because while they convey information more immediately (take less time to learn), they convey that information very poorly (are difficult to distinguish on the map).
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Misery on October 29, 2018, 04:03:12 AM
For what it's worth, I actually agree with the bit about the icons.  I hadnt mentioned the icons in my own feedback topic... but I did have trouble with them, in terms of trying to figure out what I was looking at.  At the time though, I figured "Well, it's just that I'm nearsighted, that's why I'm having trouble differentiating them", but... then yesterday I went and started a new game in the first AI War.  Same very small icons, but I have no trouble seeing what they are and distinguishing them, nearsighted as I am.

Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: TheVampire100 on October 29, 2018, 06:41:53 AM
What icons are you exactly talking about? The icons of the ships? The icons in the UI?

I don't have any issue with the visual aspect of the icons so far, in fact I find them a lot better than what we had in AI War 1.
As far as colors go, don't forget that the colors of the icons are the color you chose for the game. There isn't much the developers can do for you in that way.
That being said, I think a black (or better white) borderline around each icon would help to differentiate them from each other better when they are grouped together. Currently the outline of icons is a lightler version of the color you choose (if you choose green, its light green).

I also think the icons should be bigger when fully zoomed out. It is hard to see or distinguish them when they are so small. For example, look at the guard posts. They have basically the same core design. Which is good btw, it helps the player to notice immediately that these are guard posts. However, the tiny ymbol in the middle, the one that shows what type of guard post it is, is so small, it is hard to notice.
This goes both for the UI and the planet view.

It would also help if the icons would not "stick" together, overlapping each other. That way its hard to see what is exactly in your fleet. Maybe you could make it, that when multiple icons of the same type are very close together, they are brought together into fewer icons until you zoom further in again or until some of them are destroyed so the visuals are not so "swarmed".
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Misery on October 29, 2018, 03:01:17 PM
For me it's the ship icons, whether they're on the map or in the UI bar.  I find them very hard to look at and differentiate.  May as well be a bunch of blobs half the time.  It's really hard to say just why that is.

I did try changing the colors up.  didn't make a difference.

I wish I had a suggestion to give here, but yeah, I dont quite understand the cause.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 on October 29, 2018, 04:48:42 PM
I don't have much to say about the "childishness" of the icons.  I'm not an artist and I'm not sure what it would take to make them fit stylistically in the game.  But I agree that there just seems like blobs of color when large numbers of ships get together and I would appreciate some kind of icon grouping, or as kmunoz says, let me see the ships and not the icons.

The problem is this is a hard thing to figure out.  How do you effectively command and control this many ships if you want to preserve the RTS/SupCom/TA-style interface?  And the RTS/SupCom/TA interface is at the core of AI War, if you make it a different kind of interface it might be a good game, but it may not be AI WAr.

Total war does it by making the icons the unit's class and only having 20-40 units in a slow-moving engagement, although I like that style a lot, even that's likely not enough for AIW2 with its hundreds of units (and everyone loves the hundreds of units in a fight).
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on October 29, 2018, 10:15:33 PM
What icons are you exactly talking about? The icons of the ships? The icons in the UI?

Both.

Quote
As far as colors go, don't forget that the colors of the icons are the color you chose for the game. There isn't much the developers can do for you in that way.

The color palette is too bright overall.

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I also think the icons should be bigger when fully zoomed out.

Oh god no that would be even worse. The problem with differentiating the icons isn't that they're too small, it's that they're both too complex and too similar. Size matters a lot less than differentiation. If, for example, the icons were replaced with numbers in 5 point font, you would find it much easier to distinguish them, even though they're half the size of the current icons.

Quote
They have basically the same core design. Which is good btw, it helps the player to notice immediately that these are guard posts. However, the tiny symbol in the middle, the one that shows what type of guard post it is, is so small, it is hard to notice.

If the tiny symbol in the middle weren't surrounded by an indistinct color blob, it would be easier to distinguish, though still not ideal.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on October 29, 2018, 10:20:41 PM
I don't have much to say about the "childishness" of the icons.  I'm not an artist and I'm not sure what it would take to make them fit stylistically in the game.  But I agree that there just seems like blobs of color when large numbers of ships get together and I would appreciate some kind of icon grouping, or as kmunoz says, let me see the ships and not the icons.

This is a good point as well - when you have a lot of squads of the same type the icons overlap and jostle but you're not gaining any significant information. Perhaps if X number of identical squads are clumped together then the icons should merge like Voltron and become a single icon, with the icon's size identifying how many squads are involved.

I am probably an outlier player because I'm generally terrible at all games and AI War is no exception, but I honestly cannot figure out why I would ever need to distinguish, on the game map, every individual unit in my fleet-blob. Does the exact location of a particular unit really matter when most of the commands I'm giving are very broad stroke "whole fleet attack these things here" commands? And if I need to grab only a specific type or types of units, am I going to do that from the map or from the sidebar? In short, do I even need icons on the map at all? (Yes, I know I can turn them off - this is more a game design question than a personal preference interface question, at this point.)
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 on October 30, 2018, 01:55:13 PM
There's a command to turn off the icons in the main viewport.  Control + F11.

Play with it for a bit and see how it feels.  See what information you're missing and what uses it has.  I'd love the feedback for that.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: RocketAssistedPuffin on October 30, 2018, 02:24:15 PM
There is also a file in the game, called CMPVisualConstants. Found by AIWar2 > GameData > Configuration > External Visual Constants.

In there, you'll find a line: "extra_y_offset_to_all_icons="0""

With that you can shunt icons up a fair bit. More you do it, the more the units'll become visible underneath, if that's something at all curious of. It's been on my mind to get that improved a bit officially. Generally I think above 60 works well, though higher you go the more the icon and the units actual position get separated visually.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on October 30, 2018, 08:18:02 PM
With the icons off entirely, the units on the map become even more indistinct at the usual zoom level for effective play. I’ve considered changing my playstyle around a bit to play the game zoomed in more closely and run at 1/2 speed, to see if that provides a more satisfying experience.

Offsetting the icons farther away than they already are makes matters worse, because your eye naturally moves to the icon rather than the ship itself. And then everything seems to be in the wrong place.

The thing that all of this makes me wonder is something that I wondered about with AIW1 as well. If the level of granularity in the game is so low that playing zoomed out and moving huge masses of ships all at once is the most effective play style, why does the game even bother representing “individual” units? How often do players utilize the geography of the map vs. simply sending blob vs. blob without concern for direction, encirclement, etc.? (And if those things are important in the game, should there maybe be tools and controls in the interface to make certain types of positioning and formation accessible without fiddly clicking all over?)
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Misery on October 31, 2018, 01:16:26 PM
The thing that all of this makes me wonder is something that I wondered about with AIW1 as well. If the level of granularity in the game is so low that playing zoomed out and moving huge masses of ships all at once is the most effective play style, why does the game even bother representing “individual” units?


Aye, I've had the same thought on that.  Though, with the first game, I always found it totally irrelevant.  I was playing it for the sheer strategic depth it offered... the graphics had no bearing at all on it.  I honestly would have barely noticed if it simply never bothered to render things beyond the icons.  With this new one, I forget it's even got 3D anything going on most of the time.

And AI War sure isnt the first game to do that.  I remember SupCom was like that.   It was nice to look at up close I guess, but much of your time was spent so zoomed out that it was a wonder they'd even bothered to make proper graphics of the units in it.   And I was totally fine with that.  The game was brilliant, as far as I was concerned.  Granted, not as good as AI War, but still...
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on October 31, 2018, 02:02:22 PM
For most players (the average player who isn’t here on the forums) the draw of AIW2 over AIW1 will likely be twofold: 1) graphics improvements and 2) better performance. The gameplay has been reset to be mostly the same as 1 and the under-the-hood changes, while massive, aren’t going to be “visible” to most people. But once people realize that #1 doesn’t help game play (because the icons are still the primary information source in the game), they may come away disappointed. Especially when the icons look the way they do.

Modding the icons looks to be beyond my capability, otherwise I’d try putting together something more NATO-style to see if that improved readability and immersion.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 on October 31, 2018, 03:28:21 PM
You still have the sidebar to select units from, like you said before.  Is there anything that could be done with unit size that would make it manageable?

Some people on discord have been talking about starship-focused builds instead of fleet ships.  If your fleet was mostly/entirely starships, would it be easier to manage?
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Misery on October 31, 2018, 07:45:39 PM
You still have the sidebar to select units from, like you said before.  Is there anything that could be done with unit size that would make it manageable?

Some people on discord have been talking about starship-focused builds instead of fleet ships.  If your fleet was mostly/entirely starships, would it be easier to manage?

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.

As for the sidebar... I dunno about anyone else, but I for one find even that hard to look at.  Which doesnt make any more sense, really.

If I could I'd probably just mod the icons and put the old ones in from the first game instead.  Those were very crisp and clear.  Even being small as they are, I can still read them easily.


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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on October 31, 2018, 10:33:06 PM
Some people on discord have been talking about starship-focused builds instead of fleet ships.  If your fleet was mostly/entirely starships, would it be easier to manage?

Well, this gets far afield of the original topic, but... My opinion on this is probably not going to be especially helpful. 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. With a small number of larger units you have a number of game advantages:

1) The map is less cluttered
2) The graphics can be showcased
3) Additional strategic and tactical tools can be implemented that don't get oversaturated when you have to think about 100 discrete entities

Maybe there are strategies that involve splitting up 100 ships into smaller strike forces, but has there ever been a strategy that hinged on a single non-starship unit doing anything on its own (and for this argument I'm not including scouts)? And if (read: since) the answer to that question is "No," why do single units exist? Why not scale to the minimum distinguishable force element in the game? (By analogy: why the hell do we still have pennies in the U.S.? Why not just go full Canada and get rid of them already? We don't need them and they only get in the way.)

So that's a roundabout and unpalatable way of saying: I think a starship-only build is a lot more interesting, manageable and graphically/iconographically appealing.

Way back when AIW2 was in its first iterations, some videos were shown of groups of small ships zipping around one another like bees or gnats. Visually, very cool. It didn't survive, however, and now we've got static formations of little ship groups (each one being represented by a single icon). Perhaps it was too graphically intensive to do it the original way; I'm not sure. But what's important to note here is that it never made a difference in how the game would be played. The bottom line was that each formation was really treated as a single unit as far as the interface was concerned. So why not just have them as a single unit? Why not go farther, and have the blobs of units that we treat as single, discrete force projections actually be single, discrete units?

Then half the problem with the icons is gone (because there aren't nearly as many of them to become a visual clutter).
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: TheVampire100 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 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?
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: TheVampire100 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 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).
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Misery 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.



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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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Cyborg on November 02, 2018, 10:09:45 PM
Graphics are fine. You can modify the icons. And, what matters most is the gameplay.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz 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).
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Cyborg 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.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: Misery 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?
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on November 04, 2018, 05:18:52 PM
I have about 150 hours in AIW1 (which is a lot for me). I agree that the icons in 1 weren’t as problematic as they are in 2. I think part of the reason that’s the case is that in 1 the icons were pretty much the only unit graphics you ever saw. You had to zoom in pretty far to see the sprites - and they replace the icons. In 2, the ship models are visible at much greater distances, and both the icons and the sprites are visible on screen at the same time.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: etheric42 on November 08, 2018, 01:49:55 PM
The spirit of AIW is always going to be in massive battles.  That's what it is.  I don't think kmunoz's ideas about smaller forces is a bad idea for a game, see The Last Federation where you control a single ship (in a VERY satisfying way).  It just isn't the AIW the fans know and love.

That being said, the carrier/drone idea keeps the huge numbers and just changes how you control them (kind of like Total War has massive numbers, but changes how you control them by forming them into groups you can set formations on and slowing down the speed of engagement).

Anyway, everything except having "strike targets" and modular hangers for the carriers is currently available to try out in the XML.  I might give it a shot some time, but if anyone else tries it I'd be interested to hear their opinion (or maybe sharing their files for comparison).

Edited to add: Another big spirit of AIW is playing your way.  A solution that fits both crowds or is customizable would be ideal.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: jenya on November 09, 2018, 07:01:26 AM
If I remember correctly AI War already had an option to reduce the fleet caps by joining ships, 2 -> 1 (reduces ship cap by 2, increases ship stats by 2), 4 -> 1, etc. Though this did change the game balance versus big ships.
Title: Re: Initial feedback on the graphics - details and style
Post by: kmunoz on November 10, 2018, 12:56:51 AM
I tried playing a game without any icons and given the scale of the system maps it just doesn't work. Your own units are tiny enough as it is, but enemy units are completely invisible unless you know exactly where to look.

And that surfaces a whole lot of questions. The pretty graphics are essentially hidden in regular play. They're not useful for interaction and the icons completely cover them at the scale one generally uses. (Up close they're off to the side, but that itself is a whole other problem.) I'm also surprised at the size ratios between the fleet ships and larger structures. The player's Ark is pretty big, but most AI structures seem to show up on the map as barely more than dots when you've got the whole system in view.

It definitely seems to me that the right happy medium would be for identical icons to merge into single (larger) icons when they get close together. The size of the icon would identify roughly the number of units it represents. Additionally, it would make sense if the "close together" threshold were based on the view rather than absolute distance, so that if you zoom in, the icons would separate down to smaller components, until you're zoomed all the way in and seeing one icon per squad.

However, the only way this would be satisfying for people who want to see huge masses of ships is if the ship graphics themselves were a little bit larger. Right now with icons off they look like a cloud of gnats (and you can't distinguish single units from the background).