Author Topic: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)  (Read 2181 times)

Offline x4000

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New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« on: March 29, 2014, 04:14:16 PM »
Release notes: http://arcengames.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=The_Last_Federation_Alpha_Release_Notes#Alpha_Version_.814

Restart steam to force a quicker update if you like.

Another biggie in terms of its impact on how you play the game. 

1. The timing on the solar map has been slowed down a bit again, which has a big impact on how hard it is.

2. The special abilities now swap in at random after you use up the ammo for one in a battle, which means that having more than your preferred loadout actually has a purpose.

3. The biggest: when you use an ability, a protective blast destroys all incoming shots within a ring around you, protecting you while you use the ability and in general clearing out what might well be a pretty bad spot.  This allows for all kinds of new tactics, and really by itself would make any "useless" ability useful now, in a manner of speaking.  As noted in the release notes, this may be too powerful at present, but I think the concept is solid and it's a matter of adjusting how much special ability ammo you have, or how frequently you can use them.

Would write more, but have to run to a wedding actually!

Caveats (Same as last time):
1. All of the Operational abilities are still having their ships slaved to your attacks, and I don't intend for that to remain the case.

2. If you are running into specific mission types that are un-fun slow in the new combat model, then please send us saves.  I tested (for instance) dropping off spacefaring tech, and it was a tense 60-second excursion or so.

3. I think I have a pretty good handle on making the combat tactical now, and honestly I think we are pretty much there already, in the main.  There are some overall structure-of-special-abilities changes that I am planning that will make those a lot more relevant as well as safer to use as well as making it actually valuable to have more abilities than just the three in your currently-equipped lineup.  Those things I think will add a lot, as will an expanded roster of abilities and enemies in general, and in particular some turrets with some new firing patterns, etc.  But honestly that is just content development aside from the basic changes to the special abilities concept, so it's a matter of having more of a good thing rather than trying to find a good thing, if that makes any sense.  I'm liking where we're at with this, in other words; but if anyone feels differently, please speak up and let me know what you think and (as well as you can) why and what you would want done about it.  I can't promise to actually do that of course, but I want to know these sorts of things sooner than later, as I'm hoping that I can make as many people as possible happy with the combat while at the same time homing in on what my current vision for this has become.


Enjoy!
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Offline Kingpin23

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2014, 07:26:31 PM »
Just stared to tryout the new version and I noticed you removed the race symbols above the different
planets. Is that a bug or is it intentional?


Edit:

Maybe a good idea to make a new overlay for it so you can turn it on or off.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2014, 07:31:16 PM by Kingpin23 »

Offline Misery

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2014, 06:54:01 AM »
The change to abilities is much better, though some are still terrible (anti-swarm, for instance.... it seems to only work on Interceptors, the one enemy type that isnt worth using an ability on).

Predators need a change.... I hadnt even entirely noticed what they were doing as they werent appearing very much for me, but their attack is pretty much unavoidable (extremely wide and very fast, and does really silly amounts of damage (their DPS is like, 50,000 or so, I think?).  Only cloaking works on them.   Other things seem better balanced out.  Cutters are annoying in a more normal way rather than being annoying in a really cheap way.

Only had a bit of time for it today though, so I'll give more feedback later.


EDIT:  Oh, before I forget, there's one other thing that needs a fix, which is that slower spawned ships tend to simply sit right on top of whatever flagship spawned them, rendering them totally invincible until the flagship's shields are down.  They can sometimes still be undamageable after that depending on their sprite placement against the sprite of the flagship itself.

Pods also still seem pretty bad.  Their damage is lower, but this doesnt matter much as there mere existence is almost like a debuff that just causes your shields to constantly drain.  Only killable by accident or very specific abilities.  I've only had the spreadshot ever hit one.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2014, 07:37:46 AM by Misery »

Offline alocritani

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2014, 01:21:32 PM »
anyone else suffering from this bug?

Offline Hyfrydle

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2014, 03:05:19 PM »
Yes a similar thing happened in my game with this version.

Offline doctorfrog

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2014, 02:16:08 PM »
I played a little bit, and though I still think that the switch to turn-based was a positive one, I eventually quit on the very first mission in a new game, and here's why:


1. The mission was taking too long. 20 turns in, I just wanted to leave, because I wasn't having much fun, but was locked in for another 20 or so turns. This is related to the next point:
2. The turns were too short. The pacing is like this: Think. Click. Click. Bang-bang-bang. Repeat. In the end, I'm just seesawing back and forth, or circling, and shooting, and it became monotonous pretty quickly. What I wanted to be able to do, was move out a good distance and just let my ship target things and shoot for a few turns, without planning each one out. Space Rangers did this by letting you plan a path beyond 1 turn, and indicating that you were doing so. Let me plot a path beyond the 1-turn-radius and commit to it. This will let me do strafing runs, tactical fades, etc. with a minimum of hassles, and shoot myself in the foot with a dumb move if it comes to it. I know there are special powers that let me go further out, this is not what I'm talking about. Like, if I want to move out 30 space inches in one direction, and am currently limited to 10 space inches per turn, let me plot that 30 inch course.
3. Weapon ranges felt too short. I felt like I had to get super close to do any damage. This is not a big deal if eventually those ranges increase as I buy new stuff, that's an expected sense of progression, and part of the reward of playing.
4. I don't "feel" any impact from weapon hits, mine or theirs. It's hard to get a sense of progression in a mission without weapon impacts. Is all this shooting doing anything? This is something that just needs some graphical refinement, and I assume this will be implemented before 1.0. Shots will need to appear to hit the hulls of ships, maybe a heavily damaged ship starts smoking, etc. I don't really see or feel shots hitting my ship, or theirs. When I target a static installation, I actually can't even tell if my shots are hitting, they seem to just skate by.
5. Lack of panning: I can't get past the idea that I can't pan away from center. It's really driving me nuts. Black out things outside my sensor radius, that's fine, but please don't lock my view.

Galaxy Map:
1. The galactic map is too difficult to read, and I don't know what's important. This is something I noticed from earlier playthroughs, before I would see stuff like "Spacefaring in 19:52", now I see some inscrutable icons that I have to "learn." This is a turn-off for the twitch dude in me, I just want to make some quick decisions. What's worse is that a) I can't pan the map, and b) zooming out makes all map text ultra tiny and completely unreadable.
2. The list of icons on the right side of the map mean nothing to me. I click on them, and expect a popup or some other information, but instead, they just disappear! What if that thing was important? Who does it affect? I'll never know. I would want these to slide out with a little more info (what the event is, who it affects, etc.), or get a popup. It's also confusing because I can't tell which events are more important than other events. Are they all equally serious?

Feel free to not respond to any of these notes if they are either already being worked on, or you are aware of them and are keeping them in place. Just firing off a quick twitch reply before work. I can make a Mantis for any feedback that's helpful, later tonight.

Me: My play profile so far in this game has been to play a bit in the evening when I have time. It is the most common way in which I play games, usually between 20-45 minutes before I get ready for bed. So I tend to want to size up a situation quickly, do some things that feel roughly like I'm making headway in a game, and then put a cap on the day. If I don't get the "making headway" feeling, I tend to Alt-F4 and try something else. I may or may not be a target player for the game, just letting you know my profile so you can decide whether my opinions are worth focusing on.

THE ASSERTION THAT I AM NOT A NEGATIVE NELLIE: Just some notes because I have the time to post! I like the direction this game is heading, please keep it up. You definitely have me wanting to see how this game evolves and deepens as the underlying framework becomes easier to interact with on the main map!

Offline Mick

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2014, 02:27:59 PM »
#4 is something I think could be vastly improved, and I hope this is just a round 0 thing. I find good sound effects to be very important in immersion. When I do badly in a mission, I am often surprised that my shields and hull are so low, because it didn't really register to me that missiles were smashing against my hull. There needs to be more of a sense of "impact" when ships get hit by stuff, *especially* the player's.

Offline x4000

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2014, 02:36:53 PM »
Few notes:

1. Not sure what I can do about this, honestly; if you aren't enjoying the missions, then that's kind of... well, that's a big part of the game.  You aren't locked in for another 20 turns, because if you actually win faster than that you're all set.

2. This has been discussed some before, but basically if turns are any longer, then you wind up not being able to make adjustments to your plans often enough.  Doing a long strafing run would be an incredibly bad idea so frequently that I can't see allowing the interface to do that, because making it seem like that is possible and thus a good idea just leads new players up the garden path.  For the few times it is actually relevant, really it's just click, press A, press A, if you're strafing.  And with that, you get a chance to correct for incoming fire, etc.

3. This has been something we've experienced in AI War, where when ranges are too long, there is no meaning to position.  This is working as intended, and you don't really get longer-ranged stuff as things progress.  Being able to shoot from way far away where you are safe... well, it's not really a game, then.

4. Good point on shot hits needing a better animation.  There is currently one, but it's very small.  I did it that way when it was in the realtime mode because otherwise things would get too obscured to see.  Here you can't do anything during the playback anyway, so making it look cool is more relevant.  And having popups for damage done to ships last turn is on my list.  In terms of ships getting progressively more damaged, anything larger than a certain small size gets progressively more cracked and has these glowing ember-ridden spots in the hull, etc.

5. Yep, the panning thing is going to be addressed very soon.

Solar Map:
1. Do you not read the tooltips when you hover over things?  All the stuff on the sidebar has tooltips, for instance.  The left-click functionality bringing up extra info is something I have been meaning to do, thanks for the reminder.  But everything is explained in some detail when you hover over anything icon-wise.  It no longer has the great gouts of ugly text because those were very hard to read when they stacked up.  So now you do have to learn icons to some extent, yes, but just putting your mouse cursor over it gives you tons of details that were not there before, as well as reminding you.

2. Oops, already addressed that in #1.


A few questions of my own:
1. Are you an AI War player?  I can't recall any more.
2. Do you like turn-based games like XCom or anything else?
3. Do you like Paradox titles?

More broadly, I'm curious why you wanted to basically abdicate control of the battle and just watch it play out on autopilot.  That's kind of what setting up a big strafing run would represent.  As opposed to being in there and making all the various decisions yourself, and choosing when to use which gun or which ability, etc.  I know this is not really the way you were framing your comments, but that's how I read them in terms of net effect.  Is there something else that you were really trying to get at?  You mentioned repetitiveness, but it's fairly true of any game that involves shooting stuff that there is a back and forth of moving around and shooting things repeatedly and gradually moving towards an objective.  What about this particular system did you object to, if you can articulate it?

Please understand: it's not really my intent to try to convince you "oh okay things are perfectly fine as they are," because that would really serve no point.  You're one guy.  I can't do that to everyone who might feel the same way as you.  So I'm trying to explain things in terms of my intent, and places where I don't understand your reasoning, so that hopefully you can reframe your comments in a way that might be actionable for me.  Or maybe, as you noted, you aren't in the target audience.  But I try to use that cop-out (on my side) as little as possible, because then I wind up just kind of throwing in the towel prematurely, if that makes sense.

Cheers!
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Offline alocritani

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2014, 04:19:01 PM »
Is it intended that when you use an ability you can also fire at the same time (if you set fire mode to AUTO or SELECTION)?

Offline doctorfrog

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2014, 06:39:12 PM »
Always with the personal touch. Thanks for taking the time to address my comments so directly and thoroughly. I'll try to make my inline replies as helpful as possible.

Few notes:

1. Not sure what I can do about this, honestly; if you aren't enjoying the missions, then that's kind of... well, that's a big part of the game.  You aren't locked in for another 20 turns, because if you actually win faster than that you're all set.

I should clarify that I jumped in, as a wet-behind-the-ears player, and felt that I wasn't being effective in the very first battle. I figured maybe it was because I was piloting a prototype ship with basic weapons and maybe I wasn't supposed to be overpowered yet. I wanted to withdraw, but was told that I couldn't do it for another 20 turns. It's not that I don't find the battle fun in concept, I just thought: "Ah, this is supposed to be a bit of a slog to show me the basics, but I can't just drop my burrito and split?"

I'll give combat another go tonight with a more open mind and a bit more persistence, and give more thoughtful analysis if one is warranted.

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2. This has been discussed some before, but basically if turns are any longer, then you wind up not being able to make adjustments to your plans often enough.  Doing a long strafing run would be an incredibly bad idea so frequently that I can't see allowing the interface to do that, because making it seem like that is possible and thus a good idea just leads new players up the garden path.  For the few times it is actually relevant, really it's just click, press A, press A, if you're strafing.  And with that, you get a chance to correct for incoming fire, etc.

I understand what you're saying here, and I will try the battle again with that in mind. Strafing isn't necessarily something that I would do, either, and I get the sense that you don't want the game to lower itself to where that sort of autopilot is desirable: you want there always to be a variety of interesting options to choose from.

I suppose I am a bit used to being able to string multiple moves together in turn-based games. I can plot several moves ahead for units in Space Rangers, Civilization, Frozen Synapse, Fallout 1 + 2, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel... and all of these provide a method to interrupt a chain of moves in progress, though I may have to wait for the "current turn" to end. I understand that shoehorning in a Frozen Synapse-style detailed turn plotter is beyond thought at this point in the development, but it is a norm that I'm accustomed to.

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3. This has been something we've experienced in AI War, where when ranges are too long, there is no meaning to position.  This is working as intended, and you don't really get longer-ranged stuff as things progress.  Being able to shoot from way far away where you are safe... well, it's not really a game, then.

I absolutely agree with this, by the way. It was an observation, though, that ranges feel a bit... stubby. At first. I still assume that range becomes more relevant later as you're able to upgrade your weapons, but maybe range, range never changes? I am pretty sure I can get past this feeling, though, over time.

Quote
4. Good point on shot hits needing a better animation.  There is currently one, but it's very small.  I did it that way when it was in the realtime mode because otherwise things would get too obscured to see.  Here you can't do anything during the playback anyway, so making it look cool is more relevant.  And having popups for damage done to ships last turn is on my list.  In terms of ships getting progressively more damaged, anything larger than a certain small size gets progressively more cracked and has these glowing ember-ridden spots in the hull, etc.

Cool, and I would have expected flair-type-stuff to get addressed sooner or later. It is already one of your slicker-looking games from the ground up.

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5. Yep, the panning thing is going to be addressed very soon.

Cool beans. I figure some of the sense of constraint that I experienced will be helped by this.

Solar Map:
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1. Do you not read the tooltips when you hover over things?  All the stuff on the sidebar has tooltips, for instance.  The left-click functionality bringing up extra info is something I have been meaning to do, thanks for the reminder.  But everything is explained in some detail when you hover over anything icon-wise.  It no longer has the great gouts of ugly text because those were very hard to read when they stacked up.  So now you do have to learn icons to some extent, yes, but just putting your mouse cursor over it gives you tons of details that were not there before, as well as reminding you.

Yes, I do read them (I am lazy, in that I don't have a lot of time to build a large foundation to play the basics of the game. But I am not that lazy!). The icons themselves are very nicely styled in theme with the game, but they just take some getting used to. This is not a problem you need to repair per se, just an impression a new user is likely to have: what is this stuff?

The side icons can still be more informative. They can stand out from one another in terms of things like severity, perhaps a glyph indicating the faction that's affected, and so forth. For example, a huge environmental disaster can literally stick out a bit to the left, a "head" taller than smaller potatoes, like "Ambassador Pees His Pantaloons." I can also see that they are different colors, but haven't yet figured out what the colors mean. If they describe just different aspects of a society, that still doesn't quite tell me how important they are relative to my purposes as a many-headed space dragon. At the moment, they are a long list of things that has to be studied really carefully relative to each other so I can make a judgement, and after a few tasks, there quite a lot of them. It represents a lot of work on my end, without a lot of guidance, because early in the game, I'm just figuring out who I want to do nice things for. Who needs me the most? Who has the most to give me back for my good deeds, or penalize me for my bad deeds?

I'll have to take another look at this when I'm able to play again, because as I recall, this is how it currently works: This is also in addition to the way eyes tend to "expect" tooltips, they want to see the tooltip near the mouse cursor, and it means additional "work" to hold the mouse in place, and move your eyes to the bottom left of the screen. So to judge which side icon needs my attention the most, my eyeballs are playing the role of a tennis ball going back and forth over the screen.

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2. Oops, already addressed that in #1.


A few questions of my own:
1. Are you an AI War player?  I can't recall any more.
2. Do you like turn-based games like XCom or anything else?
3. Do you like Paradox titles?

1. Yes, I play AI War, very casually and at a rate of about an hour a week. I'm a huge fan of the game, but I am nowhere near the level of many of the heavy players around here. I get my fun by trying to understand the game intuitively, learning from my own mistakes, pushing perceived advantages and trying to overcome failed strategies. I don't mind getting wiped out if I really mess up, but I expect to understand why. I don't pursue Ultimate Winning Strategies or engage in deep discussions on fleet composition.

2. Big fan of TBS games. New X-Com I am not very interested in, but Xenonauts I am really looking forward to and I wish they'd release it already. Played original Fallout 4 times, enjoyed Civ 4, GalCiv, Advance Wars, Space Rangers. This is perhaps telling: I really liked Frozen Synapse but gave it up because I just wasn't enjoying the multiplayer versus and didn't have time to fiddle with every last particular command for each turn, whereas all my opponents seemed to have perfectly intricate master planning skills.

3. I haven't played many Paradox titles, but this is partly because they have a bit of a spotty record. But also because I just have moderate tastes and like to play other games: my strategy needs are well-taken-care of by other publishers in general, and strat titles are only a part of what I play.

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More broadly, I'm curious why you wanted to basically abdicate control of the battle and just watch it play out on autopilot.  That's kind of what setting up a big strafing run would represent.  As opposed to being in there and making all the various decisions yourself, and choosing when to use which gun or which ability, etc.  I know this is not really the way you were framing your comments, but that's how I read them in terms of net effect.  Is there something else that you were really trying to get at?  You mentioned repetitiveness, but it's fairly true of any game that involves shooting stuff that there is a back and forth of moving around and shooting things repeatedly and gradually moving towards an objective.  What about this particular system did you object to, if you can articulate it?

I think I didn't make myself clear, and as I sort of indicated, these were notes that I typed up just before heading off to work. I don't necessarily desire autopilot, but if there are repetitive things that I have to do in a battle, I think that after a bit, I might want to be able to have a pre-set plan that doesn't require repetitive fiddling.

Granted, it's wayyy too early for me to judge whether this observation is even relevant for TLF, but it was something that I sensed in the first battle: that I'd be reusing tactics a lot.

To give an example I gave before in some thread somewhere, here's some of the progression that occurs in Star Control II:
1. You start out with a pretty rickety ship that can barely defend itself.
2. You work to build up that ship, and get better in battles. You also get other ships with their own advantages and disadvantages, that you can use in battles. You get two things: a sense of progression, and variety.
3. Your ship eventually is built up to the point where it transcends the battle. Battles with even the biggest, baddest enemies are over in seconds with hardly a thought on your part. By this time, however, you are up to your neck in other, larger diplomatic issues.

So the progression for SCII combat is: Desperation -> Competence -> Even Footing -> Dominance -> Transcendence (where victory is all but inevitable)

I don't know if the above is something you have planned for TLF's battles (or if it can even be planned), but if I find that a set number of tactics in a battle tends to work, even just having better weapons/stronger enemies is going to top out pretty quickly in terms of fun value. At that point I will either desire to have those battles trivialized, or be able to handwave some the finer points away to some sort of automation (turrets, a flotilla of partner ships, etc).

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Please understand: it's not really my intent to try to convince you "oh okay things are perfectly fine as they are," because that would really serve no point.  You're one guy.  I can't do that to everyone who might feel the same way as you.  So I'm trying to explain things in terms of my intent, and places where I don't understand your reasoning, so that hopefully you can reframe your comments in a way that might be actionable for me.  Or maybe, as you noted, you aren't in the target audience.  But I try to use that cop-out (on my side) as little as possible, because then I wind up just kind of throwing in the towel prematurely, if that makes sense.
No problem. I think one of the major challenges of any game design is trying to figure out your audience, while they are trying to figure out you. The more complex or ambitious the game, the harder this is. TLF certainly looks like a game that I want to like, but I realize that if I'm a weird fringe case, that I can't have it all my way. I'm fine with that. I don't want to push for shaping the game in a way that pleases me if it turns off a larger audience, so like I say before, if a comment just sounds like something you don't see as part of the scope of the game, please feel free to ignore the comment. No hurt feelings on this end.

I'm just a dude saying, "This is how I feel right now, and I better say it while I can make a difference" Cherry pick what's useful, blow off the rest, at the end of the day, you still got a fan here!
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 06:41:07 PM by doctorfrog »

Offline Misery

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2014, 07:19:21 PM »

Quote
2. This has been discussed some before, but basically if turns are any longer, then you wind up not being able to make adjustments to your plans often enough.  Doing a long strafing run would be an incredibly bad idea so frequently that I can't see allowing the interface to do that, because making it seem like that is possible and thus a good idea just leads new players up the garden path.  For the few times it is actually relevant, really it's just click, press A, press A, if you're strafing.  And with that, you get a chance to correct for incoming fire, etc.

I understand what you're saying here, and I will try the battle again with that in mind. Strafing isn't necessarily something that I would do, either, and I get the sense that you don't want the game to lower itself to where that sort of autopilot is desirable: you want there always to be a variety of interesting options to choose from.

I suppose I am a bit used to being able to string multiple moves together in turn-based games. I can plot several moves ahead for units in Space Rangers, Civilization, Frozen Synapse, Fallout 1 + 2, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel... and all of these provide a method to interrupt a chain of moves in progress, though I may have to wait for the "current turn" to end. I understand that shoehorning in a Frozen Synapse-style detailed turn plotter is beyond thought at this point in the development, but it is a norm that I'm accustomed to.


Hm, I'd been wondering if anyone was going to mention something like this.  I dont think it's a matter of it being beyond development scope at this point.... the problem is the nature of combat.  Something like Civ, the reasons why plotting turns out way in advance works is because it really is just a "pure" turn-based game.  This isnt like that.  If you were to try that with this game, you *will* just get shot a whole lot.  Particularly on higher difficulties....  if I were to try that on Misery, I'd be dead within 3 turns.   

The combat in this game is about constant adjustment to dodge enemy fire with a single unit, which is an important difference.... one of the reasons why this function even exists in a game like Civ is so you can drop focus on less "important" units, like scouts or something, while focusing only on the main things you need for your strategy at that time.   But that mostly makes sense when you have a variety of units on your side at a time.... in this, you have only the one.  There's no need to speed up a given turn by skipping the turns of lesser units because there arent any.  And of course those units dont have to constantly avoid tons of enemy shots all the while, either.




That all being said, I agree with your points about weapon impact, and the panning thing.  I end up wanting to do that in combat a bunch myself.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2014, 08:40:46 PM »
Hm, I'd been wondering if anyone was going to mention something like this.  I dont think it's a matter of it being beyond development scope at this point.... the problem is the nature of combat.  Something like Civ, the reasons why plotting turns out way in advance works is because it really is just a "pure" turn-based game.  This isnt like that.  If you were to try that with this game, you *will* just get shot a whole lot.  Particularly on higher difficulties....  if I were to try that on Misery, I'd be dead within 3 turns.   

The combat in this game is about constant adjustment to dodge enemy fire with a single unit, which is an important difference.... one of the reasons why this function even exists in a game like Civ is so you can drop focus on less "important" units, like scouts or something, while focusing only on the main things you need for your strategy at that time.   But that mostly makes sense when you have a variety of units on your side at a time.... in this, you have only the one.  There's no need to speed up a given turn by skipping the turns of lesser units because there arent any.  And of course those units dont have to constantly avoid tons of enemy shots all the while, either.
In Space Rangers 2 you just have the one unit and multi-turn stuff is the norm.  But there are 2 key differences:

1) Shots are either insta-fire or homing.  No ballistic-trajectory shots. (edit: except those &*@#[email protected]#& asteroids, which gravity-whip in at terrific speeds and kill your 10%-hull-left-and-almost-escaped ship with remarkable regularity)

2) You do all your normal flying around at that level.  There is something akin to a solar map but you don't move around on it, you just click a target planet and it sets a "combat map" course to where you can jump from your current planet to the destination.  Anyway, so there's lots of flying around that isn't combat, so doing that turn-by-turn would be excruciating.

So I agree that if this is basically "turn-based bullet hell" (not touhou-level shot density by a long shot, but lots of fire you're supposed to dodge) then the multi-turn thing would ultimately detract more (via confusion of the interface making it too easy to push the "I'd like to see the game-over screen now" button) than it would contribute in ease-of-use.

The larger question in my mind is whether the bullet-hell/shmup aspect belongs at all in a strategy game (or even an adventure game like Space Rangers, which had a lot of positional tactics without needing to specifically dodge stuff).  The turn-based aspect helps it not be reflex-based but there's still the motivation (and flat-out need on higher difficulties) for extremely precise maneuvering that seems a strange fit (to me, anyhow).
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 08:42:19 PM by keith.lamothe »
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Offline x4000

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2014, 09:20:23 PM »
Always with the personal touch. Thanks for taking the time to address my comments so directly and thoroughly. I'll try to make my inline replies as helpful as possible.

My pleasure, and I appreciate it in return!

Few notes:

1. Not sure what I can do about this, honestly; if you aren't enjoying the missions, then that's kind of... well, that's a big part of the game.  You aren't locked in for another 20 turns, because if you actually win faster than that you're all set.

I should clarify that I jumped in, as a wet-behind-the-ears player, and felt that I wasn't being effective in the very first battle. I figured maybe it was because I was piloting a prototype ship with basic weapons and maybe I wasn't supposed to be overpowered yet. I wanted to withdraw, but was told that I couldn't do it for another 20 turns. It's not that I don't find the battle fun in concept, I just thought: "Ah, this is supposed to be a bit of a slog to show me the basics, but I can't just drop my burrito and split?"

I'll give combat another go tonight with a more open mind and a bit more persistence, and give more thoughtful analysis if one is warranted.

Honestly I'm not looking for you to have a more open mind.  That kind of offhand dismissal of stuff that annoys you is way more useful to me, to be perfectly frank, because that's what the average potential customer or reviewer is going to do.  You want to like the game.  They don't necessarily.

I think that the ability to withdraw after a certain number of turns in the first battle is confusing people.  I'm going to disable that for that first combat.  That, plus more clear statement of objectives, ought to help with the feeling of effectiveness there.  We'll see.


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2. This has been discussed some before, but basically if turns are any longer, then you wind up not being able to make adjustments to your plans often enough.  Doing a long strafing run would be an incredibly bad idea so frequently that I can't see allowing the interface to do that, because making it seem like that is possible and thus a good idea just leads new players up the garden path.  For the few times it is actually relevant, really it's just click, press A, press A, if you're strafing.  And with that, you get a chance to correct for incoming fire, etc.

I understand what you're saying here, and I will try the battle again with that in mind. Strafing isn't necessarily something that I would do, either, and I get the sense that you don't want the game to lower itself to where that sort of autopilot is desirable: you want there always to be a variety of interesting options to choose from.

I suppose I am a bit used to being able to string multiple moves together in turn-based games. I can plot several moves ahead for units in Space Rangers, Civilization, Frozen Synapse, Fallout 1 + 2, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel... and all of these provide a method to interrupt a chain of moves in progress, though I may have to wait for the "current turn" to end. I understand that shoehorning in a Frozen Synapse-style detailed turn plotter is beyond thought at this point in the development, but it is a norm that I'm accustomed to.

Gotcha.  I'm coming more from the FFT mindset, hence the model.  Well, and mainly, frankly things just change insanely fast per turn.  Whatever my plans were one turn ago, now there are completely different enemies near me, and the shots are all over the place differently, and what I thought 3 seconds of gametime ago is now completely irrelevant 75% of the time.

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3. This has been something we've experienced in AI War, where when ranges are too long, there is no meaning to position.  This is working as intended, and you don't really get longer-ranged stuff as things progress.  Being able to shoot from way far away where you are safe... well, it's not really a game, then.

I absolutely agree with this, by the way. It was an observation, though, that ranges feel a bit... stubby. At first. I still assume that range becomes more relevant later as you're able to upgrade your weapons, but maybe range, range never changes? I am pretty sure I can get past this feeling, though, over time.

Yep, range never changes.  I have been mulling your comments today, though, and thinking that perhaps something like a 1.25x or 1.5x boost across the board might be a good idea.  It still keeps a sense of location, but it gives you more time to react to incoming shots.  Which, with the other changes, actually would fit pretty well.  I'm making a note.

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4. Good point on shot hits needing a better animation.  There is currently one, but it's very small.  I did it that way when it was in the realtime mode because otherwise things would get too obscured to see.  Here you can't do anything during the playback anyway, so making it look cool is more relevant.  And having popups for damage done to ships last turn is on my list.  In terms of ships getting progressively more damaged, anything larger than a certain small size gets progressively more cracked and has these glowing ember-ridden spots in the hull, etc.

Cool, and I would have expected flair-type-stuff to get addressed sooner or later. It is already one of your slicker-looking games from the ground up.

Thanks!

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5. Yep, the panning thing is going to be addressed very soon.

Cool beans. I figure some of the sense of constraint that I experienced will be helped by this.

Good point.  Ditto here, it really does grate on me increasingly.  It seemed a good idea at the time. ;)

Solar Map:
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1. Do you not read the tooltips when you hover over things?  All the stuff on the sidebar has tooltips, for instance.  The left-click functionality bringing up extra info is something I have been meaning to do, thanks for the reminder.  But everything is explained in some detail when you hover over anything icon-wise.  It no longer has the great gouts of ugly text because those were very hard to read when they stacked up.  So now you do have to learn icons to some extent, yes, but just putting your mouse cursor over it gives you tons of details that were not there before, as well as reminding you.

Yes, I do read them (I am lazy, in that I don't have a lot of time to build a large foundation to play the basics of the game. But I am not that lazy!). The icons themselves are very nicely styled in theme with the game, but they just take some getting used to. This is not a problem you need to repair per se, just an impression a new user is likely to have: what is this stuff?

Okay, I understand.  My question was really meant to be "do you see the tooltips."  Because I was worried that perhaps the fact that they are in the bottom left meant that hovering over the icons did not actually register the tooltip to you in the sense of noticing that something over across the screen had changed.  It wasn't a question of laziness, it was a question of if the interface was actually being clear enough that there WAS a tooltip.  Sorry for the misunderstanding.

The side icons can still be more informative. They can stand out from one another in terms of things like severity, perhaps a glyph indicating the faction that's affected, and so forth. For example, a huge environmental disaster can literally stick out a bit to the left, a "head" taller than smaller potatoes, like "Ambassador Pees His Pantaloons." I can also see that they are different colors, but haven't yet figured out what the colors mean. If they describe just different aspects of a society, that still doesn't quite tell me how important they are relative to my purposes as a many-headed space dragon. At the moment, they are a long list of things that has to be studied really carefully relative to each other so I can make a judgement, and after a few tasks, there quite a lot of them. It represents a lot of work on my end, without a lot of guidance, because early in the game, I'm just figuring out who I want to do nice things for. Who needs me the most? Who has the most to give me back for my good deeds, or penalize me for my bad deeds?

The colors actually tell you the faction, although I suppose that could be more clear.  I've made a note.

In general... right now it is telling you a lot of stuff that frankly isn't that useful to you as a novice player.  The things that are there do represent changes to game-state in terms of things that really matter, but it's not typically crisis-level stuff.  I have been wanting to gate the flow of information in general actually, so I may just make that an option in the settings that default to filtering more.  It does represent a lot of work on your part, and it's not something that you should be fussed with until you get to an advanced level of play.  Being able to turn that on is important, but being faced with it immediately is not.

I'll have to take another look at this when I'm able to play again, because as I recall, this is how it currently works: This is also in addition to the way eyes tend to "expect" tooltips, they want to see the tooltip near the mouse cursor, and it means additional "work" to hold the mouse in place, and move your eyes to the bottom left of the screen. So to judge which side icon needs my attention the most, my eyeballs are playing the role of a tennis ball going back and forth over the screen.

Yeah, it's one of those things where having a dedicated tooltip area just works so much more cleanly for GUI purposes, though.  One of my biggest beefs with prior Arcen titles is how tooltips can constantly get in your face.  It's kind of a rock and hard place, apparently. ;)

1. Yes, I play AI War, very casually and at a rate of about an hour a week. I'm a huge fan of the game, but I am nowhere near the level of many of the heavy players around here. I get my fun by trying to understand the game intuitively, learning from my own mistakes, pushing perceived advantages and trying to overcome failed strategies. I don't mind getting wiped out if I really mess up, but I expect to understand why. I don't pursue Ultimate Winning Strategies or engage in deep discussions on fleet composition.

Gotcha.  So you got into AI War, but found this ragequit material on first go.  Yikes.

2. Big fan of TBS games. New X-Com I am not very interested in, but Xenonauts I am really looking forward to and I wish they'd release it already. Played original Fallout 4 times, enjoyed Civ 4, GalCiv, Advance Wars, Space Rangers. This is perhaps telling: I really liked Frozen Synapse but gave it up because I just wasn't enjoying the multiplayer versus and didn't have time to fiddle with every last particular command for each turn, whereas all my opponents seemed to have perfectly intricate master planning skills.

Big fan of Civ, Advance Wars, as well, here.  And I don't like playing MP against others in most strategy games, either, for similar reasons to you.

3. I haven't played many Paradox titles, but this is partly because they have a bit of a spotty record. But also because I just have moderate tastes and like to play other games: my strategy needs are well-taken-care of by other publishers in general, and strat titles are only a part of what I play.

Got it.  Thanks for the perspective on where you are coming from as a gamer in general, that does help me understand what part of the market you (somewhat) represent.

I think I didn't make myself clear, and as I sort of indicated, these were notes that I typed up just before heading off to work. I don't necessarily desire autopilot, but if there are repetitive things that I have to do in a battle, I think that after a bit, I might want to be able to have a pre-set plan that doesn't require repetitive fiddling.

Granted, it's wayyy too early for me to judge whether this observation is even relevant for TLF, but it was something that I sensed in the first battle: that I'd be reusing tactics a lot.

Gotcha, that makes more sense.

To give an example I gave before in some thread somewhere, here's some of the progression that occurs in Star Control II:
1. You start out with a pretty rickety ship that can barely defend itself.
2. You work to build up that ship, and get better in battles. You also get other ships with their own advantages and disadvantages, that you can use in battles. You get two things: a sense of progression, and variety.
3. Your ship eventually is built up to the point where it transcends the battle. Battles with even the biggest, baddest enemies are over in seconds with hardly a thought on your part. By this time, however, you are up to your neck in other, larger diplomatic issues.

So the progression for SCII combat is: Desperation -> Competence -> Even Footing -> Dominance -> Transcendence (where victory is all but inevitable)

I don't know if the above is something you have planned for TLF's battles (or if it can even be planned), but if I find that a set number of tactics in a battle tends to work, even just having better weapons/stronger enemies is going to top out pretty quickly in terms of fun value. At that point I will either desire to have those battles trivialized, or be able to handwave some the finer points away to some sort of automation (turrets, a flotilla of partner ships, etc).

I tend to actually aim for a bit of an opposite arc: even footing -> footing sliding -> competence but great struggle -> incredible war for last stand.  It's the sort of arc that something like FTL has, for one example.  You start off a bit better than your opponents here and in that game, and they will outpace you as you go.  After a while you are clawing your way up in power in a variety of ways, and your own skill/knowledge is making up for the fact that they are now outgunning you.  So things get more tense, but you are better able to handle it.  And your stats and tools are better, but your enemies' are as well and improved faster than yours did.  That more or less the progression that I have partially implemented in TLF, and am aiming for.

I'm just a dude saying, "This is how I feel right now, and I better say it while I can make a difference" Cherry pick what's useful, blow off the rest, at the end of the day, you still got a fan here!

I appreciate it!  And honestly, those harsh first impressions are the thing that is valuable.  Part of what I was trying to say is "don't let me talk you into liking something that you actually are iffy about still."  If you still get a squiggly feeling about something, despite going "okay, I see his reasons," then someone new will NOT see my reasons and will just dislike it.  If that makes sense.  I try to pay attention to my own squiggly feelings as I play, but it's harder as I am closer to it.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 09:33:14 PM by x4000 »
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Offline x4000

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2014, 09:32:40 PM »
So I agree that if this is basically "turn-based bullet hell" (not touhou-level shot density by a long shot, but lots of fire you're supposed to dodge) then the multi-turn thing would ultimately detract more (via confusion of the interface making it too easy to push the "I'd like to see the game-over screen now" button) than it would contribute in ease-of-use.

The larger question in my mind is whether the bullet-hell/shmup aspect belongs at all in a strategy game (or even an adventure game like Space Rangers, which had a lot of positional tactics without needing to specifically dodge stuff).  The turn-based aspect helps it not be reflex-based but there's still the motivation (and flat-out need on higher difficulties) for extremely precise maneuvering that seems a strange fit (to me, anyhow).

To me, I think that is the unique hook for combat in this game, honestly.  A few various thoughts:

1. In games like Total War or Age of Empires 1, positioning guys super precisely actually mattered a lot.  Be on this hill, or that elevation relate to the enemy, or micro these guys into just the right formation, to win at a high level.  The problem I have with all that is that it is largely invisible.  You can't learn this naturally by experimentation, at least not in my opinion, and it's something that uses artificial bonuses based on position to achieve its aims.  I do LIKE the idea of it, but the execution bothers me.  Oh, and Skyward Collapse does this, it's worth noting, but it does it in a way that you don't have much control over.

2. In a game like AI War, it bothers me to no end that the "terrain" of space is basically empty.  We ultimately got around that with the addition of guard posts, and then making them ever more interesting, and then clamping some units to them, and then not clamping others, and then filtering down ship mixes, and so forth and so on.  But I feel like that has been explored as well as it possibly can be in AI War, and I feel like it requires the scale of the unit counts of AI War to pull off at all.

3. Games like Sins of a Solar Empire make it so that it's kind of like base capturing, where you have a planet with some ships on it, and either there are enemies there or not.  And if there are enemies there, then it's kind of forces-committed.  There aren't any bonuses to my knowledge.  This requires vast tracts of space, and lots of units, and while that works for Sins (and to some extent that also works for AI War), it doesn't fit the scope here.  And it really drags out the pace in a way that doesn't fit combat here.

4. A game like Final Fantasy Tactics makes it so that units get bonuses to hit chance based on their relative position to one another, the facing of the target, and the relative heights of one another.  This works really well, and is something that you get easily trained on because the game kind of tutorializes you through it once, and then after that it's obvious what is good and what is bad based on the percentage chance projections on the "do I do this attack" confirmation windows.  So that works out really well, I feel, and is a great example of position mattering.

5. In Chess or Civilization, position matters because space is constrained and units block units.  So that makes position matter a lot, but again it's relying on lots of units.

6. By contrast, in TLF, what we have is a battlefield that has constantly-changing danger-zones and opportunity-zones.  That you can _predict_!  That's amazing to me.  It's just this awesome thing that came out accidentally, and I love it.  You are trying to balance your desire to hurt the enemy against your desire not to get hurt, and you are thus tracking your position, the position of the enemies, and the position of the shots of the enemy, all at once.  You can do this pretty quickly in your head (particularly now with _K_'s suggestion of the shot lines being added during your movement phase, though that's not public yet).  It is extraordinarily visible and intuitive compared to Total War or Age of Empires 1, and even compared to FFT: nobody has to tell you "avoid those bullets" or "shoot those guys."  Those are kind of implicit things to most gamers, which is why I love that that shapes the battlefields here.  It also doesn't rely on high unit counts or high distances (high distances being one of the things that we ran into with Bionic that could make things frustrating in a turn-based context).


This is what excites me so much about this model, as I feel like it is a whole new peg in the tactics/strategy milieu.  I'm not sure how many other people feel the same way, or agree with that, but anyway that's where I'm coming from.  It's not about being merged with a SHMUP for me, it's about making position matter in empty space, which is a problem that I have literally been wrestling with since 2008, with great frustration and many different attempts.  And the answer just finally fell into my lap in the last month or so, completely by accident! ;)
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Offline doctorfrog

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Re: New version .814 now out! (Special Ability Blast Waves)
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2014, 09:33:16 PM »
These are very well said points. I'm going to take them to heart as I do my next play session. I will say a couple additional things, though:

1. If I'm flying a flagship, at a certain point--either in a battle itself, or in the scope of an entire game-- I'd expect to stop being an Artful Dodger and become more of a 900 Pound Gorilla. Like, if early on, I might have to tiptoe through scads of enemy shots, later on, I'd either have armor cladding to shrug them off, or point defenses that utterly nail them. TLF already has some of that with some earlier play sessions I've seen. It feels good to be surrounded by smaller craft after engaging something frigate-like, then switch to a different weapon, hit autofire, and just watch it nail each and every one of them.

I'm going to look for more opportunities for those "feel-good" moments and try to figure out what helps bring them about, but I suspect it has something to do with a mini-arc within the battle itself, where you feel things turning, and you flip on that one button, knowing your shields are going to just barely hold as you slice through that one tough opponent with a risky, but powerful, weapon or tactic.

2. As for the question as to whether bullet-hell belongs in a strat game, it's all in the implementation. It's just that easy, and by that, I mean that friggin' difficult. I mean, before I played Star Control II, I would not have said that I wanted a diplomacy simulator in my action shooter. But I can't imagine how many inches thick the floor was with crumpled notebook paper before they got it to be really good. So in other words, don't give up on it if you really think something is in there, not the least because one lone dude had some trouble with it early on.