Author Topic: My comprehensive feedback  (Read 1139 times)

Offline Magnus

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 33
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2018, 12:28:17 PM »
My 2 cents.

I agree there is not enough going on at the moment. I started a short game on AI War 1 which I hadn't touched in years and I was immediately reminded of much more "stuff" is going on even in just a single planet.
I understand the idea about moving away from micromanagement and agree with it, it makes sense if the game wants to be a grand strategic, but the removal of micromanagement also implies a nearly complete removal of the tactical aspects. And if you're restricted to the strategic ones, this currently means: one offensive fleet going on some planet to bust the A.I., and turrets + tractors for defense.

You need, as a minimum:

 - the capability of more than one strategic initiative at a time. I know I sound like a broken record here, but picture this: you're playing an hex and counter WW2 wargame at the grand strategic level, and as the U.S. player you can only ever act on either the European or the Pacific theater, never in both at the same time. It doesn't work
- supply lines and logistic considerations are an essential part of operational and strategic games. There is currently very little of this in AI War 2: mainly which planets you take, and the limited capability of destroying Warp Gates in AI controlled planets.
- you can't act "behind enemy lines". No forcefields, no transports, non-operative cloaking (all cloaked units are decloaked nearly instantly by AI controllers and tachyons, which also have infinite range). This strikes me as odd in a game where you're supposed to engage in guerrilla warfare
- no strategical feint possible (only way would be to move the Ark on one planet to start hacking and move the fleet somewhere else; way too risky and hacking is too fast anyway)

If you don't solve these points at least, you will have, by necessity, to reintroduce tactical complexity to make the game interesting. In fact you will need to introduce some of it anyway even just to implement some of those (e.g. spec-ops deep strikes to significant enemy assets).

A few ideas:

- establish supply lines both for the player (most units can't act more than X hops away from your nearest planet, with exceptions being units specifically designed for deep strikes) and the A.I. (targets which if destroyed greatly limit the A.I. ability to operate in a certain radius until the line has been re-established)
- make cloaking (or some other mechanism like e.g. "disguising" units as A.I. controlled ones) effective again and allow it to be used to setup a strike even far away from player-controlled territory
- reintroduce some form of scouting, otherwise it's impossible to plan anything farther away than the immediately adjacent planets
- allow some mechanism to lure the threat fleet somewhere else


Luca

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,504
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2018, 01:29:40 PM »
On cloaking, bear in mind that it's a very recent change that controllers had tachyon at all, so previously it was too easy to sneak around AI planets cloaked. More balancing can be done there, obviously.

There's also no cloak-boosting unit; the Stealth Starship would fill that role well.

Those two things would greatly change the picture.


On warp gates, what specifically is limited in the capability to destroy them on AI controlled planets? They were briefly autotargeted, but are already back to not being autotargeted.


On multiple attacks at once, what specifically makes it impossible? Just can't get a big enough fleet to split? Even with spending science to increase fuel production?


What sort of scouting do you mean? Currently scouting is "destroy sensor scramblers", which reveals the map in chunks at a time. Or do you mean actual vision? That's what Sensor Arrays were for, but they're currently not on the build menu due to incompatibilities with the new approach to mark upgrades; that could be remedied fairly quickly.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,049
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2018, 02:58:47 PM »
Regarding the hacking "minigame," that is perhaps a bad way for me to explain it.  I view it as a "minigame" in the same sense that the waves are a "minigame," or the logistical challenges of AI War Classic were a "minigame."  They're a self-contained part of a larger whole.

I wrote this up for an internal email, and we've not discussed it yet internally, but I may as well post it here as well for feedback:

Why do we need hacking to be more of a thing?
In the first game we had a lot of things that were relating to logistics, and that was basically the third leg between offense and defense.  Logistics kept people busy, and gave them ways to feel clever.  Where do you allocate your engineers?  Which command stations do you make logistical ones, and by how much?  How do you route ships from the construction yards to the front lines?  Etc.  We have, happily, streamlined pretty much all of that out.  It was often leading to annoying micro, and it was getting increasingly streamlined-out during the progression of the first game from 2.0 to 8.0, anyway.  Things that were meant to be logistical challenges early on in, like having advanced factories be capturable and location-locked, eventually got stale and had to be changed to letting you build those mark iv variants wherever, or using those warp-gate pads that let us send things to far locations directly from the advanced factories.

The removal of this stuff was a really good thing, but it left a hole.  The game is now lopsided, and feels too simplistic because of it.

I don't think any of our existing designs cover this hole, and I feel like people will feel like this game is ultimately a dumbed-down version of the first one because of this hole.  My sense is that no amount of improvement of archers and soldiers is ultimately going to solve this issue.  People will get happier and happier... but you know what?  They're ultimately going to prefer the original game anyway.  This just has a Valley 2 versus Valley 1 vibe to me, it's too familiar.

We're very limited on time, though, so that means our options are limited.  And that's pretty good, in some respects, because we want to introduce something that is interesting to add to the game, but not so complex that now it's a mage-fest and soldiers and archers are falling by the wayside.  It needs to be just complicated enough to break up the tempo of the other two things, and all three components need to have lots of room for expansion in the future, but without adding something that feels too unconnected (like the nebula missions in the first game did, in my opinion, with the champions in the first game).  It also shouldn't just be yet more logistical MacGuffins like the spire quests in the main offensive terrain.  That can come later, but that's basically a variant on offense, not a third leg for the game to stand on (the original game had offense, defense, and logistics; this game has offense, kinda defense, and...?)

Hacking Alternative Idea
To me, the only idea I have that seems remotely feasible, is an addition to the metagame based on the concept of hacking.  We have the galaxy view already.  Taking a galcon-like approach with hackers and antihackers on there, in a specialized view, makes sense to me.  It's something that can replace the existing hacking mechanics, but accomplish all those same things in hopefully a more interesting way.  And it can accomplish a bunch of other things, too, such as allowing for debuffs or other things on enemy worlds, or buffs on our own worlds.  Bring in a bunch of hackers to aid in the defense of a planet by hacking the gravity in your favor for a while.

Then the hackers are basically augmenting either the offensive or the defensive power-based structures very directly, OR they are progressing the meta via means other than planet-hopping with your offensive fleet.  It also requires skill and planning: putting the right amount of hackers in the right place at the right time for the right length of time.  Blocking enemy anti-hackers, or tricking them out of position, or similar.  Just basically making the whole thing feel more like... a second battle front.

To me, it's always been the intersection of interesting and fairly simple systems that provides the greatest opportunities for player creativity as well as procedural magic to happen.  It's part of why I've been so happy with the way that the warden fleets and hunter fleets have evolved, and with the way the minor factions have been added.  Those allow for a bit of player creativity in dealing with them, and definitely contribute to the procedural magic effect.

But they don't do enough for allowing for player creativity.  I don't think that we can solve the fleet-ball problem, at least not with everybody.  But if an attack is inherently two-pronged because you're doing things with hackers at the same time you're doing things with physical ships... magic happens.  Suddenly the offensive game isn't just "put fleetball in place and win or lose."  You may have players going "dang I lost because my fleetball was there, but my hackers didn't finish doing xyz because my blocking hackers at planet A got overrun by antihackers from planet B, who came on over to the planet with my fleetball and interrupted me, so my fleetball was hung out to dry."

I haven't been to specific with designs on the hacking side of things yet, because I don't know what sort of buffs and penalties are possible to apply at a per-planet level.  Keith will have to answer that.  But, assuming that there are a fair number of things that we can do there, I can start providing some designs for the hacking game for people to tear apart and rebuild.

Techs And Hackers
The other area of meta is the tech tree, and that's something that is... tricky.  It may be that we need a lot more science, but then having a lot of that able to go to hackers, and really required to go to hackers, if you want to win.  The nice flexibility about hackers in my general design is that they can fast-travel very well, they don't exist on planets but only on the galaxy map, and they could have a bunch of techs associated with them if need be, which make them able to augment both soldiers and archers flexibly.

Hackers, TLDR
My thought is that basically these are logistical keys for doing all manner of cool things.  Yes, you absolutely wouldn't be able to play the game without them, same as you can't play without turrets.  But, as with turrets, this isn't exactly a whole new thing.  The general idea of the hackers here has a lot in common with the rest of the game:

1. A lot of it is just positioning numbers on a planet-by-planet basis, so it's strategic thought about terrain.  It's just adding more variance there.

2. This isn't some abstract minigame or door-cracking situation, so it's not disconnected from the rest of the game.  It happens right on the galaxy map, albeit in a specialized view of it.

3. There's a strong and immediate interplay between the battles and the hacking, because you can hack enemies to make them slower (I hope), or hack a planet to give yourself a range boost, or speed up starship construction at that planet, or whatever else.  A lot of these were things that fell under logistics in the first game.

4. There's a strong and immediate interplay between your long-term meta progression on the strategic front, and hacking.  You can hack to soften up targets, find targets, scout without traveling, create diversions, cancel or redirect waves, and all sorts of other things.  I expect.  So basically it's another resource that you're expending in order to make your main battles easier. 

5. The idea being that, on any serious difficulty, if you just leave this sitting around and never make any choices with it, of course you lose.  But it's not a grand new skillset to learn, not some disconnected "now we have go-kart racing mode" that you have to play, but instead it's a whole new toolbag that is very micro-averse that lets you do a lot of things that you could do in the first game, plus even more, but minus the micro the first game had.


edit: In general, obviously the hacking stuff I'm talking about here is pretty huge in terms of additions at this stage... but if people are on board with the general idea, I can write up a document that lays this out as just a few days of work, in the main, I think.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 03:10:33 PM by x4000 »
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Magnus

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 33
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2018, 03:45:58 PM »
On warp gates, what specifically is limited in the capability to destroy them on AI controlled planets? They were briefly autotargeted, but are already back to not being autotargeted.

If I need to bring a fleet strong enough to destroy a warp gate, I might as well raze the whole planet. The only decision left is whether I want to conquer it or not, based on the production advantage it will get me against the increase in AIP.
I can't blitz in this game. Nor can I setup an hidden strike. So destroying the warp gates becomes simply another necessary step in me systematically stripping the A.I. of everything it has in all its planets (except the controller if I don't want the AIP increase) up to the core planet I want to reach.

Quote
On multiple attacks at once, what specifically makes it impossible? Just can't get a big enough fleet to split? Even with spending science to increase fuel production?

It's not a problem of caps, it's a problem of control.
Small ships in AI War 2 are incredibly fragile but also incredibly easy to replace; they die much faster than in the first game, but they also get rebuilt much faster. This means the only tactic possible is to send at least a builder on loop-building configuration, and the related death ball.
Due to how rebuilders work, if I have two fleets fighting at the same time on two different planets, I don't have any control on which rebuilder will rebuild any given lost ship; it's basically random on whichever queues it first. This will make it so that my initial ratio of ships in fleet 1 versus fleet 2 is subject to random changes. It's why I proposed that additional setting on rebuilders to only (re)build ships lost on their same planet.

Quote
What sort of scouting do you mean? Currently scouting is "destroy sensor scramblers", which reveals the map in chunks at a time. Or do you mean actual vision? That's what Sensor Arrays were for, but they're currently not on the build menu due to incompatibilities with the new approach to mark upgrades; that could be remedied fairly quickly.

If I want to setup a spec ops deep strike, I want to know where to send it first. If I'm limited to the nearby planets as my theater of operation, I might as well not bother with spec ops and keep going with deathball-based systematic A.I. planet-and-resource stripping.
How do I play guerrilla-like if I'm mostly blind and to see more of the map I need to conquer territory (or to have a fleet strong enough that it would be able to take territory anyway)?

Both this and the warp gate problem have the same root: it is theoretically possible to send a fleet and only destroy the sensor or the gate, but if you've gone to the trouble of assembling a strong enough fleet and moving it on the target planet, why bother targeting only those? Might as well kill everything important while you're there (which, btw, right now essentially means "all the A.I. fleet ships which will otherwise be added to future threat", since power nodes and other stuff do little to nothing and conquerables require either planet capture, or hacking).
The only reason to leave something important alive is if you need to recall the fleet in a hurry due to it being needed to fend off an attack. And we're back to "OMG I need to move back my fleet ASAP" which is annoying and not at all fun.

Basically, what I'm saying is: right now there's only one real way to play this game: build one single death ball, conquer the planets one by one until you have enough resources to never hit the cap, systematically strip the other planets of everything short of the controller to clear a path to the A.I. cores, and pray your turrets are enough (which is almost never the case) to not force you to recall the deathball and waste hours on playing the whack-a-fleet game with the A.I., with your fleet chasing its fleet all over your empire while Yakety Sax is playing in the background.

Offline etheric42

  • Jr. Member Mark II
  • **
  • Posts: 85
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2018, 04:20:14 PM »
It's not a problem of caps, it's a problem of control.
Small ships in AI War 2 are incredibly fragile but also incredibly easy to replace; they die much faster than in the first game, but they also get rebuilt much faster. This means the only tactic possible is to send at least a builder on loop-building configuration, and the related death ball.
Due to how rebuilders work, if I have two fleets fighting at the same time on two different planets, I don't have any control on which rebuilder will rebuild any given lost ship; it's basically random on whichever queues it first. This will make it so that my initial ratio of ships in fleet 1 versus fleet 2 is subject to random changes. It's why I proposed that additional setting on rebuilders to only (re)build ships lost on their same planet.

This gets resolved by a UI feature that has been outlined but not implemented (or approved for implementation until after EA starts).  Control groups where you can set the quantities of each ship you want in them and they reinforce up to that limit.

Chris, do you want to move this up as a higher priority to address this issue?

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,049
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2018, 04:36:04 PM »
It's not a problem of caps, it's a problem of control.
Small ships in AI War 2 are incredibly fragile but also incredibly easy to replace; they die much faster than in the first game, but they also get rebuilt much faster. This means the only tactic possible is to send at least a builder on loop-building configuration, and the related death ball.
Due to how rebuilders work, if I have two fleets fighting at the same time on two different planets, I don't have any control on which rebuilder will rebuild any given lost ship; it's basically random on whichever queues it first. This will make it so that my initial ratio of ships in fleet 1 versus fleet 2 is subject to random changes. It's why I proposed that additional setting on rebuilders to only (re)build ships lost on their same planet.

This gets resolved by a UI feature that has been outlined but not implemented (or approved for implementation until after EA starts).  Control groups where you can set the quantities of each ship you want in them and they reinforce up to that limit.

Chris, do you want to move this up as a higher priority to address this issue?

I strongly doubt I'd have time for that sooner than EA, and that's the sort of feature that only advanced folks will use, anyway.  While I'm not averse to having the feature, I feel like we need to have a default non-advanced flow that is comfortable for people who don't dive this deep into the UI.  That should be bumped up in priority, and doesn't really involve me. ;)
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline zeusalmighty

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 65
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2018, 12:26:41 AM »
  I don't think that we can solve the fleet-ball problem, at least not with everybody.  But if an attack is inherently two-pronged because you're doing things with hackers at the same time you're doing things with physical ships... magic happens.  Suddenly the offensive game isn't just "put fleetball in place and win or lose."  You may have players going "dang I lost because my fleetball was there, but my hackers didn't finish doing xyz because my blocking hackers at planet A got overrun by antihackers from planet B, who came on over to the planet with my fleetball and interrupted me, so my fleetball was hung out to dry."

This sounds so good to me. Imagining playing the as it is with this added feature makes me excited. But I realize that this would be a big undertaking this close to EA. I can't help but think it's worthwhile though, for the reason that fits the bill in terms adding the necessary depth that will make each new campaign unique as well as satisfying a key premise of the game--waging GUERILLA war against an AI OPPONENT.

Perhaps we need a new thread just for this question--what role should hacking have in AI2?

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,049
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2018, 09:43:39 AM »
Sounds like that would make sense, yes.  I might need to just make a document and have done with it.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,049
Re: My comprehensive feedback
« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2018, 11:17:21 AM »
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!