Author Topic: Not a fan of the combat start  (Read 846 times)

Offline dfinlay

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Not a fan of the combat start
« on: March 02, 2017, 02:12:16 PM »
I posted a Mantis comment on this here https://bugtracker.arcengames.com/view.php?id=18983&nbn=1#bugnotes and kieth told me to discuss on the forums, so doing that.

I totally get the wanting to start in the action idea of this and in a lot of other games, I'd agree that this is the right move. I just basically feel like this isn't great for AI War for either new or experienced players (and for different reasons).

New players: This is the big one. AI War is intimidating. No matter how successful AI War 2 is at being more accessible, AI War 2 will be an intimidating game. I remember starting my first game and being all "OK, so what's going on? What is all of this? What are my controls? What am I supposed to be doing? Where do I build? How do I play?" I think giving a new player some time to acclimatize themselves to the controls and interface and figure out what's going on is important before throwing them into a fight. If the idea is that you want the early game to be a bit more actiony, start with an announcement right off the bat that an AI fleet is inbound and have an incoming wave in 3-5 minutes or so. That way, they get that nice early action and a fight that they can win and feel good about, without just throwing them into the deep end.

Experienced players: I can't talk for super experienced top tier players, but I also don't think it's great for players with some experience like me in that it'll get pretty repetitive. The first fight in AIWC is potentially somewhat varied depending on what you decide to build and what target you decide to attack and there is potentially some interesting decision making in the setup of this. This fight will always be and will always have to be "throw my mixed blob of ships at their mixed blob of ships and I'll win because of course the first fight has to be set up so I will", which doing this every game before we can start playing isn't a huge issue but feels a bit ugh. Most of the interesting stuff in AI War is how your strategic set up decisions affect things including tactical fights and there just can't be any of that here because you haven't had time to make any strategic setup decisions.

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2017, 02:17:16 PM »
If there's a problem with starting mid-combat, it's that you really shouldn't be able to lose the fight for the first planet; if a complete novice starts the game and loses that battle, well, they're probably not going to keep playing.

So if that battle is a foregone conclusion, is there really a value to making you fight it?

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2017, 02:33:37 PM »
I agree that the current setup isn't the way to go. On the other hand, I'd like to keep the ideas that:
- you just start with one unit
- you literally just arrived
- you don't have to "start" here

How about having the Ark start with a 5 minute cloak or something like that?
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2017, 02:54:09 PM »
That'd be interesting.
As well as making it so that on lower difficulties your starting location actually *is* free of AI influence (new players -> no threat).

Offline Lakshata

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2017, 02:58:10 PM »
My problems with the start so far:

1. It's basically on autopilot
2. The ark is autoproducing ships

Offline dfinlay

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2017, 03:05:31 PM »
I agree that the current setup isn't the way to go. On the other hand, I'd like to keep the ideas that:
- you just start with one unit
- you literally just arrived
- you don't have to "start" here

How about having the Ark start with a 5 minute cloak or something like that?

Hmm...if that's the goal, you could go even further and have not only the Ark be concealed but have a cloaking field until you either attack or some time is up. It could potentially even be permacloaked so you can go through wormholes. Then you could have a sort of concealment phase where you scout with it a bit, find a vulnerable point in the AI defenses, build some ships and get into position and then a strike phase where you start attacking, which would break the cloaking field and get you into a fight. That would at least make the fight a more interesting one that you could set up and it could even be a replacement for getting to see the map and picking a starting planet.

It would still have the problem of being potentially confusing to new players (players potentially dying before the game starts by choosing a Mk 4 world to attack or by breaking concealment too soon), but I guess Draco18's idea of having a free planet on lower difficulties might help with that. Hmm...

Offline MHB

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2017, 03:06:22 PM »
i personally enjoy the fight for the first planet thus far, that said that could be because I've started on AIWC about 400,000,000,000,007 times and I'm enjoying the change. Equally however i can understand that this could be a tad daunting for new additions to Arcen's "head-wall-bashing-simulator", i mean, who want's to lose in the first fight... *looks at difficulty 10*

Maybe having this as an option during start-up later on in development (that is hidden enough that the younglings don't find it) could be a good set if it's 50/50 on the people's enjoyment?
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Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2017, 03:43:04 PM »
The tutorial could be made to play inside the wormhole / warp / slipstream in approach to this new planet, and you build up your strike-force there (and optional tutorial) and hit "complete jump" and go into the battle, maybe even get an option which planet (of a selection) you hit, this would allow new players to actually reload from within that safe space and try different things if they fail.

But anyway, the tutorial gotta be part of the core gameplay and this would be the easiest way to do it, tutorial could maybe be done around an asteroid shipyard or something, and the jump is where you build strike forces for that first fight.

Anyway, just some ideas.
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Offline Squashyhex

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2017, 05:06:00 PM »
Hmm...if that's the goal, you could go even further and have not only the Ark be concealed but have a cloaking field until you either attack or some time is up. It could potentially even be permacloaked so you can go through wormholes. Then you could have a sort of concealment phase where you scout with it a bit, find a vulnerable point in the AI defenses, build some ships and get into position and then a strike phase where you start attacking, which would break the cloaking field and get you into a fight. That would at least make the fight a more interesting one that you could set up and it could even be a replacement for getting to see the map and picking a starting planet.

It would still have the problem of being potentially confusing to new players (players potentially dying before the game starts by choosing a Mk 4 world to attack or by breaking concealment too soon), but I guess Draco18's idea of having a free planet on lower difficulties might help with that. Hmm...

I personally think that could be a good way to start, giving the player a little more freedom with their start position right off the bat, while if you had a free planet to start on on lower difficulties, newer players could just use that for their first few games, while they get the hang of the mechanics. It would also fit in with the idea someone posted a while back of a potential post-1.0/moddable playstyle where you just roam around and never settle down on one planet, living nomadically till you finish off the AI :)
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Offline Matruchus

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2017, 05:16:24 PM »
Yep, the current start will definitely kill any new player base coming in after release and bad reviews will rain in fast. Why do I think so? You essentially throw the player in to the middle of a big battle without him being prepared for it.

I think it should be default to start on one non AI infested system like in original Ai War. Current start option should be only as optional for advanced players.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2017, 05:21:30 PM by Matruchus »

Offline Drjones013

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2017, 07:51:17 PM »
I'd like to see more of a 'pocket plane' start to the game, like the Human player starts in deep space with just the Ark and xyz materials, 'advisors' tell the player that they're ready to start building and walk the player through the different ships they've developed to keep the battle against the AI mobile. They've got a wormhole generator that'll work once to get the human player into the fight and after that, it's all up to them.

The biggest complaints I've gotten about AI War from people is that 1) the game is ridiculously intimidating in pace (people who can't track multiple things well), 2) they're worried about not being able to keep up (or that they'll cause the human group to lose because of same), and 3) they have no idea how to play and don't want to play the tutorial because it's a game, not a law degree. Starting with an isolated 'here's your pocket plane' means that the human players can 'start' the game at their leisure and toy with the interface without significantly holding the game up. No one wants to feel like they're the reason other people can't get started.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2017, 09:20:10 PM »
Yea, as discussed in another thread during the kickstarter, I do want to have the tutorial basically just be the beginning of the normal game, with the end of the tutorial being equivalent to what you're seeing now. I.e. the fight isn't the very first thing you do, it's just the first thing that happens after you flee the tutorial.

That said, any tutorial needs to be skippable when playing again, and if skipped it could just have the first planet empty of AI presence.
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Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2017, 10:55:18 AM »
Yea, as discussed in another thread during the kickstarter, I do want to have the tutorial basically just be the beginning of the normal game, with the end of the tutorial being equivalent to what you're seeing now. I.e. the fight isn't the very first thing you do, it's just the first thing that happens after you flee the tutorial.

That said, any tutorial needs to be skippable when playing again, and if skipped it could just have the first planet empty of AI presence.

An option would be if the optional tutorial starts in a shipyard belt facility or whatever and goes through a full suite of optional stages, from basic (camera/unit control) to medium dif (combat) to higher dif (some higher gameplay systems so that players learn that these exist in various forms) - and the force build-up and planet selection is done in transit. The former is optional, the latter should be how the game starts. You gotta take into account people not doing the tutorial or not paying attention. And if first planet is empty then they don't really learn anything about combat and unique stuff now do they.... you just delay the fail-state to the next planet, in worst case costing people more time before they realize they should probably do the tutorial.

Either way, better to think about your game-start and how to integrate tutorial and player choice from the start ^^ Make it optional and modular, for potential expansions having own tutorial segments in a safe-zone where players can experiment or something. That would be even better. Would have saved us 500 page discussions about damage, armor and weapon modifiers in AI War 1 hehe.

I think the "in-transit" start, to build up an arrival force with your current resources, should be the default setting for the game btw. And if you were meta, you could tie this to in-game profile ranks, and perks we earn by beating the AI, giving us better options in that moment, and allowing us to start with higher tier tech but fewer units (for example)

Ehm anway, that's my 2ct ;P
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Offline WolfWhiteFire

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2017, 11:28:39 AM »
Maybe a tutorial that involves you having a small force of ships and finding the Ark? Like "Commander, we have heard of a powerful artifact in this area, we need to find it if we are going to have a chance" and have it where first you have a small force of ships, as you travel towards it you encounter some AI ships, maybe some other remnants of human resistance you can find along the way, and designed where any player should be able to succeed in the combat, maybe have a big battle or two, then you find the Ark, but there is a large force between you and the nearest planet you have to produce ships and the such for, and afterwards can either continue the game and enter an actual planet from the outside of it or something, or just start a new game without the tutorial section. It could be an interesting and effective way to teach new players the game, while also showing off some fun large battles to help keep players interested.

Offline NichG

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Re: Not a fan of the combat start
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2017, 10:32:41 PM »
I really like the idea of using the Ark-only start as a way to have a kind of 'choose your starting planet' exploration phase with an element of risk to it. Something like, you have some fixed number of wormhole jumps and then your permacloak ends. Sort of like placing that first settler in a game of Civilization.

I don't think the game should begin with any kind of strong time pressure though - it should be a # of jumps rather than # of seconds (minutes would be okay, but I can imagine other problems such as being able to scout-rush everything before the cloak falls). The reason being that when you first start playing AIW, you waste a lot of time just looking at things and trying to figure out how to interpret the display correctly. But when you've played a bit, it's second nature, and there isn't really anything 'strategic' or 'tactical' to that - its purely just being familiar with the game. So I think having a significant timer at the start (seconds-scale) is kind of unnecessarily punitive to new players.