Author Topic: #12 Will Drop The Pre-Alpha Moniker, And Has Big Surprises -- Hits in 1-2 Weeks  (Read 9303 times)

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,619
Our inspirations for the final designs came from diverse places such as what we already had, Minecraft, Torchlight, Neverwinter Nights, and a few others.

That's sort of funny, because there are things about all of those that bug me, and Terraria, too.

Oh, believe me, there are things about all of those that bug us, too.  If there was some game that had done it what we felt was perfectly, we'd just do the same as they did.  Rather like the camera in AI War, and the build loops, are straight out of SupCom -- you can't improved that mechanic in my book.

But, to me, the problem of inventory and some of these other interfaces has never been perfectly solved.  I dislike just throwing a lot of menus at the problem, but having things that are really discoverable like in Minecraft has many drawbacks, too.  There have been bits that we like from many games, though, so we're taking all those bits and doing our own thing for the parts that we didn't like.  I'm sure this will require some honing and revision as we go (and we're like three major redesigns into that and aren't even to alpha yet), but I think that the latest design, which is largely Keith's doing, is pretty close to where we need to be at worst.  I don't know that this particular interface problem is solvable in a "perfect" way, but we really are trying to go above and beyond the usability issues that plague most games of this broad sort.
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 Nalgas

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 680
Rather like the camera in AI War, and the build loops, are straight out of SupCom -- you can't improved that mechanic in my book.

Funny you mention that, too, because I was just thinking about that recently.  I didn't play those games until after I'd played AI War, and when I did, I noticed how much of that was taken from them.  However, I find it really hard to play them after getting used to AI War's way of doing things, because there are lots and lots of little improvements you guys have included that really add up as a whole.  Every five minutes I kept discovering a keyboard shortcut or minor feature didn't exist that would drive me nuts.  It's amazing how much you don't realize how useful a key to split a group of units in half/thirds is until it's not there, for example.  At least those games are still sort of playable, though.  Trying to play traditional Blizzard-style RTS games without proper queues and full-map strategic zoom (like AI War/SupCom/GalCiv/etc.) makes me a sad panda these days, even though that's what I grew up with.

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,619
Incremental improvements, I think that's what really can be offered to a larger genre by indies.  And the reason is players: a lot of those favorite shortcuts of yours are not something that anyone thought up at Arcen.  Heck, FRD mode was one of the first player requests we ever got.  And the half and thirds shortcuts were, too.  AI War's interface isn't perfect either (I think perfection is impossible), but it's got positive input and contributions from more knowledgeable people than any AAA game, I'd wager.  It really does take a village for stuff like that.
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 Nice Save

  • Jr. Member Mark II
  • **
  • Posts: 76
AAA developers get a lot of stick in indie circles for not listening to the players, but when you stop and think about what the majority of their customer base consists of it makes some sense.

It's easy for good ideas to get lost in a sea of whining, and the hardcore minority are often vocally and seemingly automatically opposed to even the most inconsequential changes.

(If you've ever read an EVE devlog comments thread you know exactly what I mean)

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,212
(If you've ever read an EVE devlog comments thread you know exactly what I mean)
Yea, when it comes to game communities the bigger the pond, the smellier it gets.  I won't elaborate on the mechanics.  Not always, though, I've seen some larger communities where the leadership sets the right kind of example and uses enforcement properly.  It might not ever get as good as a really good indie-game community can get, but it can be reasonable.

When it comes to EVE, though, I think CCP is encouraging and exemplifying a certain kind of mindset in the players that they're going to get more of some kinds of pathological behavior.  Perhaps less of the lowest-common-denominator immaturity, though, and more of the more refined mental maladies.  I'm guessing that's what they want, at least.
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 Nalgas

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 680
AAA developers get a lot of stick in indie circles for not listening to the players, but when you stop and think about what the majority of their customer base consists of it makes some sense.

Honestly the majority of suggestions/requests/demands from even the communities of smaller/indie games are frequently bad/stupid/counterproductive.  Game design and balance is hard, and most people aren't particularly good at it.  The group of people on here is somewhat unusual even among indie games (and almost unheard of for larger ones), but it's probably helped both by the tone set by the devs and by the type of people you're likely to attract with a fairly hardcore non-competitive strategy game that formed the original base of the community here.

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,212
Honestly the majority of suggestions/requests/demands from even the communities of smaller/indie games are frequently bad/stupid/counterproductive.
Haha, yea, it can be pretty bad.  Arcen's community is strikingly above-average in producing good suggestions, but everyone has bad ideas from time to time.  Even Chris and I have some _major_ lemons, and sometimes we don't notice for a while and it can take a few weeks to iron them back out, but most/all of those happen behind the scenes and only we know about them ;)

The key is remaining conscious of one's own fallibility and not doing something silly like getting upset if someone else rejects the idea because they don't think it's a good one (they might be right, they might not be, it's just not that big a deal).  This is especially true if one does not have technical knowledge of the game in question (much more if one lacks technical knowledge of the field in general).  With that consciousness and persistence, eventually just about anyone comes up with a winner at least occasionally.
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 Nalgas

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 680
It's not like there aren't bad ideas here, because there certainly are, but there are at least a lot fewer of the mind-bogglingly stupid ones that show up constantly at some places, which is nice.  More importantly, though, people actually discuss why ideas are good or bad most of the time instead of just calling each other wrong and stupid, which helps a lot more to reach a useful solution.

A lot of the time it's hard to pin down what it is that's wrong or missing that's inspiring a change you want, even if you're the person who created the game (or other software) in the first place, and a lot of people seem to miss that and just insist that their pet idea will fix everything without realizing the cause of it or what other effects it'll have.  That's probably the most refreshing thing to see less of as a result of the more constructive discussions, aside from less calling people names.  Heh.

Offline Nice Save

  • Jr. Member Mark II
  • **
  • Posts: 76
I think a lot of the things that make the Arcen games community so good in this respect is the staff attitude to new ideas. You've made it clear on many occasions that you're open to suggestions, and when you reject one not only is there always a good reason, but you take the time to explain it. I've always admired the way you guys are instantly willing to make changes for the better, even when the ideas come from outside. Most people would let their pride get in the way of that.

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,212
Quote
Most people would let their pride get in the way of that.
Oh, we have some pretty strong pride-reactions sometimes; particularly when someone appears to be acting unreasonably, but we actively try to identify/work-around those reactions... maybe after a day or two, in some cases ;)
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: 30,619
Quote
Most people would let their pride get in the way of that.
Oh, we have some pretty strong pride-reactions sometimes; particularly when someone appears to be acting unreasonably, but we actively try to identify/work-around those reactions... maybe after a day or two, in some cases ;)

Not having to talk to people in person is a big help on that, for me.  I can have my pride reaction, swallow that pride, and then address the idea on its merits.  Do that enough, and after a while, depending on the idea and how it is presented, and you don't even get the pride reaction.  Some ideas we just instantly recognize as good, "why didn't I think of that!? I must put it in immediately" sort of ideas, too.  Those are rarer, but definitely happen.  Never a pride reaction with those.

The pride reaction, for me, tends to happen when there's an idea that I really like but which others seem not to (astro trains, control nodes, etc), or when someone is being really forceful about an idea where there isn't an overwhelmingly obvious answer and they haven't made their case well enough to convince me (control nodes again, ship bonuses versus an armor system, etc).

I've found that I don't have to suppress my normal human responses, I just have to not let them rule my actions.  And hey, when somebody other than me thinks of something new that is awesome, it costs me nothing to accept that idea.  I think at least 50% of the various ships added in the expansions, if not far more, were directly from player suggestions with some tuning in the details from Keith and myself.  I mean... 50% is probably really undershooting it, too.

I find that's a really nice way to work, when it comes to an established game that has a certain baseline of existing good design on it, and when everybody on both sides is respectful.  If the core game is broken or not yet finished, you get "too many cooks" syndrome instead of a happy and productive community, I think.  But when you're talking about masses of incremental additions being funneled through one or two developers doing implementation and keeping mindful of the whole design as they do so... that's where have a really smart, dedicated group of core players really pays dividends.  Some of the best innovations of AI War's interface and even mechanics came from that sort of process.

Once we get AVWW to beta, I think we'll start to see that to some degree.  Once we get to 1.0 and after, I think we'll see that increasingly much, and to a similar degree of what happened with AI War.  Though I don't expect AVWW to change as drastically post-1.0, because it's so much more polished in a lot of respects at 1.0.  Morel like starting with AI War 4.0 and going from there, I hope. :)
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 Flatfingers

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 43
Not to get too far OT, but I wanted to comment on this since I occasionally offer suggestions that, although I try to avoid it, may sometimes come across as sounding like, "Well, this is just obviously the Right Thing, duuuh."

I first started having online discussions with people back in the early '80s, and game design discussions in the '00s. And if there's one thing I've learned from all this conversation, it's that trouble starts when people get too personally attached to their ideas.

For example, there were a couple of forums in which we had absolutely massive knock-down, drag-out fights concerning a couple of core ideas for Star Trek Online. In particular the design choice between "you are the ship" and "you are an avatar who can walk around inside your ship" generated incredibly heated arguments. Everyone who had an opinion on either of those options was certain that their way was the right way for this particular game.

And inevitably, someone would show up, state one of those positions in an insultingly "I'm obviously right" kind of way, and then react to any disagreement with their idea as though it was a personal attack on them. There'd be a heated emotional response; those who disagreed would defend themselves; the defenses would set off another round of attacks; and so on.

So from my perspective, keeping design conversations civil usually requires a couple of things. One, we (myself included) should try to remember that "I am not my ideas." If someone disagrees with an idea I have, it's not in any way a personal criticism of me from which I need to aggressively defend myself. (If I need to step away from the keyboard for a little bit, or even write a scathing essay which I then very carefully do NOT post online, that works.) Second, as Keith mentioned, for those folks who just can't separate themselves from their ideas, forum rules forbidding personal attacks and a forum staff who can stop ad hominem fights without punishing the innocent are a requirement for maintaining an environment where people feel welcome and encouraged to contribute their thoughts.

It's harder for a developer who posts on their own forum, though. No one likes being told their baby is ugly; even someone who's pretty objective must get tired of having their intense creative efforts dismissed by some one-line wonder. The temptation to post a retort like, "if it's so obvious, why haven't you made your own game?" must be extreme at times. ;)

So the fact that you guys are willing not only to take this occasional abuse with dignity but to continue to post some of the best design write-ups I have ever seen from any game developer is a tribute to your professionalism. I can't speak for anyone else, but I really appreciate it. Please keep up the great work.

Offline Nalgas

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 680
For example, there were a couple of forums in which we had absolutely massive knock-down, drag-out fights concerning a couple of core ideas for Star Trek Online. In particular the design choice between "you are the ship" and "you are an avatar who can walk around inside your ship" generated incredibly heated arguments. Everyone who had an opinion on either of those options was certain that their way was the right way for this particular game.

That got particularly fun, I'm sure, because in addition to the usual attachment to ideas people have, you have to deal with the extra fanaticism that Star Trek fandom brings with it.  On top of that, both sides of that are perfectly valid ideas for a game, so you can't really objectively argue one as being better or worse than the other...but they potentially result in two very different games depending on which of those starting points you're working from.  I bet that had some "vigorous debate" going on.  Heh.

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,619
Much appreciates. :) And yeah, the temptation to meet one liners with one liners can get pretty extreme at times. We've had a few slips, but mostly just try to keep emotional distance as best we can. That was harder in the early days, and gets harder again at the early days of each new game. Like now with AVWW. But self control is always worth it, I think.
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: 30,619
Just thought I would mention that we are aiming for next Monday or Tuesday to have the new video and dev diary out.  I don't want to jinx anything, but I think folks will be stunned in a good way.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!