Author Topic: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained  (Read 913 times)

Offline Asteroid

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Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« on: September 17, 2019, 08:27:48 PM »
Sometimes I get the impression that AI War II introduced the Fleets concept but only took it halfway. It creates a weird mix of Stellaris-like controls and RTS-like controls, which is not intuitive for beginners and not that comfortable for advanced players.

Examples:
  • (right-)Clicking on the fleet bar selects the fleet...
  • ... but double-clicking on the flagship selects all units of the fleet, but not "the fleet"
  • Actually you can't select "the fleet" in any way from the planet view
  • Movement orders given in the local planet are ignored by selected units that are not there
  • You still have controls to split the selection as if you were supposed to micro your units, and some units like the cloaked ones are clearly meant to be sent out on their own.

One option would be to make the game fully Stellaris-like and only let you select whole fleets, with a choice of pre-set behaviors for each ship type within. But that's probably too radical, I myself am not sure I would like it.

There's another less radical step that could be taken however. I was wondering how people would feel if the basic selection unit was one whole subfleet, for instance all bombers in the fleet? Clicking one unit of a type would select all units of that type in the fleet. Double-clicking would select "the fleet", and any order given at that point would apply to all units no matter which planet they're on.

To simplify things, subfleets would probably also cross wormholes as a whole, so you couldn't end up with half your bombers on one side and the others on the other.

Subfleet selection modified to work like this enables interesting and useful things such as tying standing orders for newly (re-)constructed units to their subfleet and not to the flagship - so you can keep your shield frigate in passive mode at all times without worrying that you're removing attack/move or pursuit behavior from other units all the time, for instance.

Offline I-KP

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2019, 04:57:53 AM »
Agreed. Having only just started playing AIW2 (I played AIW a good amount years ago) I found the fleet selection controls to be cumbersome.

I don't mind the RMB on the left tab to goto and select, I like that. But only on the Planet view!

The inability to select a fleet from the Galaxy view by clicking on its icon is awkward. (Unless I'm missing how that's done.) Having to go into the planet, select it, then return to the Galaxy view to move it currently requires too many clicks.

When I order my fleet to 'go somewhere', I expect the entire fleet to 'go there' not just the fleet components that happen to be on that planet at that moment. Mobile fleet assets currently in other worlds should respect that new fleet-level order. (Again, unless this is possible and I've missed how it's done.)
« Last Edit: September 18, 2019, 05:02:15 AM by I-KP »
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Offline x4000

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2019, 08:32:59 PM »
A few notes:

1. This isn't meant to be Stellaris, which I've never played and don't have much interest in.

2. Moving to less control of units is something that would cause rioting in the streets, in the sense that this would no longer really have the DNA of AI War at all.

3. That said, the fleets change was a huge paradigm shift for the game and so I'm not surprised that there are things that are outstanding that could use looking at.  These are more or less individual mantis issues, or should be.  It's the sort of thing that I didn't think of and nobody reported it yet, or it's just on the backlog in general.  These are incremental refinements that can make a huge difference to the feel of the game, but it's not something that abandons what the game is like sub-fleets or whatever.

To specific examples:

Quote
(right-)Clicking on the fleet bar selects the fleet...

Yep, agreed this is good.

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... but double-clicking on the flagship selects all units of the fleet, but not "the fleet"

...Because when this concept was introduced, "selecting the fleet" didn't exist as a concept.  And I tend to select fleets a different way by default, so I hadn't thought of it.  This is just something that needs to be corrected, and could either be something you do if you want (it ought to be very simple to do), or you can throw it on mantis.

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Actually you can't select "the fleet" in any way from the planet view

Other than the fleets tab, or hotkeys, but I see your point.  I am so used to using the hotkeys that I had not noticed.

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Movement orders given in the local planet are ignored by selected units that are not there

In order to give movement orders to a ship that is somewhere else, it would have to first get a series of wormhole orders, and then the movement order after that.  The framework for that is there, but it would be some non-trivial code.  I agree that it would be really nice, but the game never has supported giving orders to move or attack on a planet from a different planet in general, and that would need to be added anyhow.  I think people would like that, but I don't see it as an utter crisis compared to other things.

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You still have controls to split the selection as if you were supposed to micro your units

I didn't see any reason to remove that, but it's not emphasized anywhere.  Removing it felt like I would be ramming one playstyle down the throats of people.  The reality is that some people always WILL want to micro their units,  and that's okay with me.  But it's not expected.

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and some units like the cloaked ones are clearly meant to be sent out on their own.

True, but in these cases they either need to be swapped around to other fleets, or in theory we should make them grant cloaking to all the units in the fleet they are in.  This is a good example of things like the Raiders that were only good if everything else is fast, and so they buff everything else to make them also fast.

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The inability to select a fleet from the Galaxy view by clicking on its icon is awkward. (Unless I'm missing how that's done.) Having to go into the planet, select it, then return to the Galaxy view to move it currently requires too many clicks.

This is already in mantis, but basically the history is that the galaxy map was always just something to look at, and then give wormhole orders to your current selection, but nothing else.  There were never any of your own units visible on the galaxy map, except for any superweapons you had, just as a reminder you had them there.  A convenience.

But with the addition of fleets, the "superweapons" concept basically grew to include pretty well all the fleet leaders, again as a convenience.  But we then moved from a situation where it was just view-only as far as units are concerned to something where people expected to be able to select units all of a sudden and order them around.   That wasn't even a thing prior to fleets, and it didn't occur to me because I had never conceived of the map in those terms before.  But people brought it up a while ago, and that's been on the list to add for a while now, because I definitely immediately saw the benefit.

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When I order my fleet to 'go somewhere', I expect the entire fleet to 'go there' not just the fleet components that happen to be on that planet at that moment. Mobile fleet assets currently in other worlds should respect that new fleet-level order. (Again, unless this is possible and I've missed how it's done.)

That's possible for wormhole orders, but anything else is something where the game explicitly never has supported "cross planet attack orders" or orders to move to a specific  spot on another planet.  Keith and I went back and forth on some approaches in the past, but all of them were confusing at the time from an interface perspective, and messy in terms of generating the wormhole commands prior to that.  Now the interface is more clear in terms of how that would work, and the code is still a bit of a pain to get working the first time, but after it's working it will be a boon in general: not just for your use case above, but also for being able to select something on one planet, and give an attack order on a different planet, which people have wanted for ages but we said wasn't in the scope back then.



So basically when it comes to the biggest gripes you have, those are things that I do plan to do at some point, or that can easily be added to mantis as they come up.  And I welcome hearing about more such things, because most of them are based around the fact that this is a game that went through a pretty radical evolution.  But that's a matter of small incremental changes, not an indication that I plan on doing anything that will turn this from AI War into Stellaris.  I'd be flayed alive, if that was even something I wanted to do in the first place. ;)

But seriously: please do keep those sorts of oversights coming.  That's why we need testers, because everyone comes at it with different expectations and histories than I do, and so it's often just stuff that never even occurred to me. I have my habits, for better and worse, and if it doesn't intersect my habits or I don't just happen to think of it, then it won't happen until someone else brings it up because it intersects their habit or they just happen to think of it.  That's the awesome thing about having so many people around like this!
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Offline Asteroid

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2019, 01:12:48 AM »
A few notes:

1. This isn't meant to be Stellaris, which I've never played and don't have much interest in.
STOP THE PRESSES. ERROR. ERROR. FUNDAMENTALLY BAD DECISION DETECTED. ENGAGE REEDUCATION PROTOCOLS.

But seriously, if you remotely have any interest in 4X games (which, I mean, you tried to make one...), you should play Stellaris. The way it mixes in authentic Sci-Fi flavour and little stories and quests through the big picture, and weaves in some interesting speculative sociology in the game mechanics is fascinating. Do you open your borders to other alien races to make xenophile factions happy and so your empire can colonize a wider variety of worlds? Pretty awesome, until you realize you're a democracy and now your president is a Fungoid and humans aren't even heading the federation anymore! Enter the human supremacist faction. And then your hard-working robot population which was so handy for colonizing those radiated worlds is a bit too sentient and revolts. It's pretty awesome. (Not saying game mechanics are perfect, but it's definitely a "must play a couple times" title.)

They also went through a pretty crazy and controversial redesign of how ship movement works in the game, BTW. Might be of interest to you as a game designer.

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2. Moving to less control of units is something that would cause rioting in the streets, in the sense that this would no longer really have the DNA of AI War at all.

Having standing orders be preserved for each unit type in the fleet when rebuilding instead of having a single standing order for every rebuilt unit would actually give players who rely on standing orders *more* control though. Might still be doable but having the base selection unit be a whole unit type within a fleet would've made this a lot more intuitive... trying to please everyone has the risk of pleasing no one.

ASIDE:
I thought most people fleetballed on auto-kite in AI War 1 anyways and focused more on strategy than tactics, so are we talking DNA in terms of what you originally intended, or how the game is played these days? I read a good part of the "What makes AI War, AI War?" thread, and the things that seemed to come up seemed to be "large battles", "variety", "replayability", "many crazy strategies work", but not "I kite the AI with my L33T skillz 111!!!"

ASIDE-ASIDE:
If you wanted no rioting BTW you should've Kickstarted and released "AI War Remastered" first - new engine, exact same game. It worked for other games. Might've brought in reasonable cash, shorter development cycle, less stress and a lot more freedom to experiment with a new formula afterwards. Might still be an idea actually, depending on what the future holds. (Disclaimer: I've never staked my future on an indie game and might therefore have no clue of what I'm talking about.)

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3. That said, the fleets change was a huge paradigm shift for the game and so I'm not surprised that there are things that are outstanding that could use looking at.  These are more or less individual mantis issues, or should be.  It's the sort of thing that I didn't think of and nobody reported it yet, or it's just on the backlog in general.  These are incremental refinements that can make a huge difference to the feel of the game, but it's not something that abandons what the game is like sub-fleets or whatever.

To specific examples:

Quote
(right-)Clicking on the fleet bar selects the fleet...

Yep, agreed this is good.
Actually, I think it's bad. Why right-click for the most common action? Besides legacy, there doesn't seem to be a good reason not to use left-click like every other RTS out there that has icons to select units.

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... but double-clicking on the flagship selects all units of the fleet, but not "the fleet"

...Because when this concept was introduced, "selecting the fleet" didn't exist as a concept.  And I tend to select fleets a different way by default, so I hadn't thought of it.  This is just something that needs to be corrected, and could either be something you do if you want (it ought to be very simple to do), or you can throw it on mantis.
A lot of things to Mantis and to potentially work on. Picking one will be hard.

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Actually you can't select "the fleet" in any way from the planet view

Other than the fleets tab, or hotkeys, but I see your point.  I am so used to using the hotkeys that I had not noticed.

Me typical dumb lazy player who want select Fleet to hit bad AI. Me will explain. Fleet tab isn't always open, I gotta get there first. Furthermore, I might not remember the name of the fleet I'm looking at, much less its hotkey. I want to select "these guys". Memorizing their name (which I didn't bother to change) for a couple seconds, opening the fleet sidebar (manually unless I've memorized yet another hotkey, which the UI doesn't tell you about), scanning visually for the name of the fleet, clicking it... damn I left-clicked and it opened the edit panel, close the edit panel. Where was I again. Oh yeah, these guys. Right-click. Yay, I selected the fleet (assuming I didn't get distracted en-route and forgot the name :P). That's... a lot of steps for something that's likely to be in the top five most common actions in the game.

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Movement orders given in the local planet are ignored by selected units that are not there

In order to give movement orders to a ship that is somewhere else, it would have to first get a series of wormhole orders, and then the movement order after that.  The framework for that is there, but it would be some non-trivial code.  I agree that it would be really nice, but the game never has supported giving orders to move or attack on a planet from a different planet in general, and that would need to be added anyhow.  I think people would like that, but I don't see it as an utter crisis compared to other things.

It does get people very confused, messes with their expectations. You see the units from other planets in the selection, you can even scrap them all by pressing DEL (very useful for turrets, but seems accidental), you'd expect them to react to the movement order!

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and some units like the cloaked ones are clearly meant to be sent out on their own.

True, but in these cases they either need to be swapped around to other fleets, or in theory we should make them grant cloaking to all the units in the fleet they are in.  This is a good example of things like the Raiders that were only good if everything else is fast, and so they buff everything else to make them also fast.
Yeah. That Raiders thing is where the whole fleets concept as currently implemented feels really iffy IMO, it's so contrived. To the extent that I wonder if you didn't already lose your RTS DNA with how units can't be interesting on their own like this... but you didn't fully acquire another DNA.

So what, if you add cloaking units to a fleet with Raiders you'll end up with a super-fast cloaked fleet of doom? What if you add a third type of unit with such a buff? Not sure this concept is extensible.

You remind me that I was trying to find a solution for cloaked units. I was thinking that perhaps the flagship should cloak as well, only when it's accompanying only cloaked units (hard to justify thematically, but whatever). So this way you can at least bring it on a raid. But what do you do with the rest of the fleet? Either you leave them stranded somewhere as defenders, which breaks the concept of fleet, and can cause problem if we change the fleet selection to move every unit when giving orders. Or you allow selectively loading/unloading subfleets so they can be built but hidden in safety - but this unused ship strength kinda feels bad, it would be needed somewhere else.
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The inability to select a fleet from the Galaxy view by clicking on its icon is awkward. (Unless I'm missing how that's done.) Having to go into the planet, select it, then return to the Galaxy view to move it currently requires too many clicks.

This is already in mantis, but basically the history is that the galaxy map was always just something to look at, and then give wormhole orders to your current selection, but nothing else.  There were never any of your own units visible on the galaxy map, except for any superweapons you had, just as a reminder you had them there.  A convenience.

But with the addition of fleets, the "superweapons" concept basically grew to include pretty well all the fleet leaders, again as a convenience.  But we then moved from a situation where it was just view-only as far as units are concerned to something where people expected to be able to select units all of a sudden and order them around.   That wasn't even a thing prior to fleets, and it didn't occur to me because I had never conceived of the map in those terms before.  But people brought it up a while ago, and that's been on the list to add for a while now, because I definitely immediately saw the benefit.
On this note, there's a maximum number of icons that display under each system, it's already a bit annoying for visibility, but will become more so when those icons are used for selection.

As an aside, said icons should probably display their control group number as an overlay, for quick selection.

Offline Draco18s

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2019, 11:23:14 AM »
* Draco18s is not following closely, hasn't poked the game in quite a while

Left selects
Right issues orders

Don't mess with what works

Offline kasnavada

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2019, 01:09:46 PM »
Quote
(right-)Clicking on the fleet bar selects the fleet...

Yep, agreed this is good.

Errrr sorry, can't agree to this.

Left selects
Right issues orders

This.

Offline x4000

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2019, 01:26:04 PM »
A few notes, I can't remotely respond to everything:

1. No I don't have much interest n 4X games right now.  After working on them for so long, I'm just kind of burned out on them.  I enjoy making AI War, but I'm really absorbed into tactics games more at the moment.  I tend to go through genres in cycles, which I think is kind of natural.

2. A number of the things that are already conceded as simply being accidents or oversights seem to be things that are still being debated on the merits?  I'm not sure what the intent there is, since I already agree.  ;)

3. The fleets tab is something that we have some differences of opinion on, mainly in terms of what its primary purpose is.  To me, the primary purpose of it is managing your fleets.  Hence that being the left-click.  The right-click thing was an added convenience I thought of later on, or somebody suggested; it wasn't even part of the original design IIRC.  But I suppose we could always make a settings option to switch it if it really bugs some people.

4. On the local sidebar, the goal is to start showing fleets and other things differently there, and on there the main purpose is selection or other purposes.  So I'd see left click acting that way there.

5. Combinatorial things from Raiders or other units with special abilities are something that I really really dig, personally, though I will concede that there are cases where you could make fleets of doom if this was extended too much.  In that case it would need to be something like choosing which bonus applies or something.

6. The icons on the galaxy map only having space for 6 is a matter of prudence and space.  In theory maybe we could extend that to 8, but that seems like so much overkill past a certain point.  And we're pushing the screen well beyond what  it was intended for, at this point, although to some extent that was inevitable.
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Offline Asteroid

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2019, 04:03:12 PM »
#4 - I hope that if fleets appear in the Local sidebar, there'll be a way to manage fleets from there without going to the Fleet tab.

BTW what do you think about autoswitching to the Local tab when a unit is selected?

#5. Not saying it's necessarily bad, but it's not very RTS-like hence the comment about DNA.

#6. Hamburger menu replacing the 6th icon if number of fleets > 6.

Offline x4000

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Re: Making fleet selection more coarse-grained
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2019, 05:28:12 PM »
#4 - yes, I'd plan on that.  Ironically, in THAT context I'd expect it to be the alt-function (right-click to open fleet management, left-click to select).  So those two panels would be opposites.

I'm not a fan of auto-switching to the local tab when things are selected, because that could potentially really have a lot of different unexpected consequences.  People often get frustrated when things change without their permission.  But I could see it as an option that someone adds, and if people like it we make it the default.

#5 - AI War has never really just been an RTS.  Tom Chick described it as the world's first "grand strategic tower defense RTS" or something like that.  If anything, the sequel is a bit more RTS-like than the original, with the tower defense elements being less prevalent.  The original game eventually evolved that way, too.  But planning and composition were always a big part of it, which to me falls under the grand strategy aegis, I guess.  Which is why I like things along the lines of fleet compositions being adjusted from what you put in there.  That kind of lets you pre-bake your tactics into your fleet itself, and then avoid the RTS-style microing during actual combat. 

Unlike a lot of RTS games, with AI War you can often walk away during combat and focus on your economy or building replacements or a second front, etc.  You CAN micro it like an RTS, and super advanced players tend to, but the expectation isn't that you have to.  So the message of what this game is has always been kind of mixed, and it means diffferent things to different people.  Some people play it like a really long-running RTS and they micro the hell out of things.  Others play it like a turn-based grand strategy game, with lots of pausing to plan and give orders and then fast-forwarding through combat.  That's one of the most challenging things about this game, is that it's very different things to different people.

#6 - I feel like if there are more than six fleets at a planet, then it should just beat on you for that. ;) I am mostly kidding.
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