Author Topic: My personal issues with Fleets  (Read 1771 times)

Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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My personal issues with Fleets
« on: June 24, 2019, 06:32:19 PM »
So Fleets have been out for a while, and I've tried them and poked them. I liked them initially, but once the novelty wore off I began to have some issues.

=== Clumsiness ===

Let's say I have a goal to destroy a Data Center. In Classic, I could grab Raiders, Raid Starships, Raptors, or Vampire Claws or Space Planes, etc, exactly what I needed, send them over, and get the job done. Any that are lost are replaced automatically at home. This is fine.

With Fleets however, there are annoying limitations. If I send the unit out, it'll be disabled due to distance from the Flagship. So I send the Flagship alongside. But then, what if I have units like Tesla Corvettes, which are terrible at raiding and really don't want to come with? If I keep them at home and try to find something else to do, they'll be disabled and thus useless. If I bring them with, then I can lose so much more if/when the raid goes badly, and they're not adding much.

Another issue is unit combinations. I have used the example of Spiders and Agravic Pods before - Spiders slow things down, Agravics have a bonus against anything immune - a fairly simple, defensive combo, that I can happily send to where it's useful and needed. With Fleets however, they are stuck with a Flagship. If they aren't in the same Fleet, then I must group two Fleets together to do this one combination, dragging every other unit in them alongside, and likely making them unable to go be useful elsewhere.

Another example is of an AI planet that really likes Concussion Turrets. I look through my three Fleets, and find all of them have one unit type that would be useful here. I send them over...and disabled. In order to use these three, I bring all the Fleets together...and thus have Fleetballed. Again, all the units that aren't useful here, because the Concussions would murder them, are stuck sitting around.

Fleets being pre-divided does help in a way with controlling them around and knowing where everything is, but it is extremely annoying to then have this distance disable effect, which is constraining what I can actually do with my units, and has led to me Fleetballing anyway, despite the pre-division being to help with that.

=== Procedural and AI Ship Groups ===

Currently, Fleets can be complete mishmashes of unit types, which can lead to very strange and borderline useless Fleets, which I cannot divide up to give useful tasks, due to the above Disable effect. This essentially means you are completely at the mercy of RNG to be able to do meaningful things. You can even have units that are contradictory, such as Spiders, which slow things, and Snipers, which do more damage to fast things, and you can't separate them properly.

This ties into AI Ship Groups. Before, the AI had a basic Triangle (Vanguard, Raider, MLRS), and unlocked extra ships throughout the game. You could spot these, you could plan for them, acquire a new unit to deal with it, upgrade it or something else. Currently however, the AI is essentially an "Everything" type all the time. It can have anything on their planets, and attack you with anything.

Combine your Fleets being 100% random, and the AI being 100% random, and it is very difficult to have planning or strategy here with your Tech, or Fleet acquisitions. This has led to me simply upgrading the Techs which benefit whatever I have the most of, as that's the only real option. Everything else is ignored. My Fleet choices are also the same - build on whatever my best Tech is.

I have also noted on the forums the problem of Battlestations. As the AI can send anything, there is no decision to be made in what turrets I build - the only option is all of them, and again the only Tech choice is what affects the most stuff.

=== Permanence and Experience ===

Currently, I think everything that can be captured cannot be lost permanently. Fleets are merely crippled, and Zenith structures go to remains. The only structures you can lose are the Cryopods and Home Settlements, as well as the Home Station (though that loses the game of course). This essentially means there is little permanent damage that can be done to the player, beyond some AIP increases.

Hacking is a particularly poor source of permanence. With the removal of Design Backup Servers, and no Fabricators or Advanced Factories to Hack, there are less permanent effects to do to the AI with this, and I'd note it's a bit disappointing that an opponent entirely of machines is barely hackable - I think the Dyson Sphere alone has more. Hacking was a way to make something you could lose (i.e Fabricator) permanently available, but now everything essentially is already.

In addition to that, the player now gains permanent power increases, simply by fighting. This to me feels very at odds with the whole concept of the game, which is to be sneaky, pick targets worth paying the cost for, and try to not alarm the AI too much. Instead, I can bypass all of that by just fighting over and over. Bypassing planets is essentially giving up experience.

=== Economy and Territory ===

Economy is something as a result of the recent updates. Energy production for the player has increased dramatically, and with low mark units being discounted on both Energy and Metal as you increase Tech, and higher Marks not costing anything more, economic considerations have been lessened greatly.

By that, I mean things like capturing and holding territory, for additional energy collectors, metal harvesters, and things such as Zenith Power Generators and Matter Converters has become far less important. A single Economic Station produces around 75% of the Energy a ZPG does, for instance. This has resulted in me having the behaviour of capturing a planet for a Fleet, then abandoning it immediately after, because it's near worthless.

Before I could build Turrets there, entirely separately, but now trying to hold it requires Battlestations or Citadels, which would either weaken my Homeworld, or increasing AIP, and neither is worth it anymore.

=== End ===

It hurts a bit to say, and I really don't mean it in a harmful way, but I've grown to really dislike the things in the Fleet update. I originally really liked it, and completely supported it when the design document was shown to me, but over time after playing it...it's started to become a game that I don't want to play or work on. I seem to be in a tiny minority though...plenty of people like it.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2019, 12:00:46 AM »
I don't really like the feeling that there's no early game anymore. You basically start out in the midgame.

Offline MaxAstro

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2019, 02:01:03 AM »
I will pitch in that to me, the biggest issue is the fleet composition issue.  Not being able to throw a "this is my raiding fleet" fleet together, despite having all the individual pieces, is frustrating.  Same with fleets of just weirdly nonsensical units.

Ideally fleets are a puzzle of "how do I use this interesting combination of units?" but in practice lots of combinations really aren't that interesting.  I almost feel like making fleets more handcrafted and less random would be a big improvement.  Then if I want to raid, I just need to find and capture a raiding fleet, which obviously would be a specific thing or one of several specific things, instead of hoping for a procedural fleet that happens to have everything I need to raid... or worse, getting a few units that are only really good for raiding in a fleet that really isn't.

When I first read about fleets I was under the impression that they would be much more handcrafted than they turned out to be.

I also agree with Rocket on the AI mishmash - the more different things the AI uses at once, the harder it is for "clever counterplays" to exist.  This kinda reminds me of the Champion in AIWC, in a way.  In theory it was probably optimal to give the Champion a variety of different weapons to be able to fight a wide variety of foes.  In practice, though, the most fun I had with the Champion was when the AI was annoying me with one particular kind of ship or structure and I could spec my Champion to be a counterplay to that specific thing.  If the AI never does any one thing often enough to annoy you, that gameplay opportunity doesn't really exist.

I really love fleets in general, though.  The whole thing where they compartmentalize the decision space is amazing.  I love thinking about "what am I doing with this fleet and this fleet?" instead of "here's a pile of units what do I do with all of them?"  I just think the current procedural nature of fleets hampers some of their implementation.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2019, 02:09:12 AM by MaxAstro »

Offline x4000

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2019, 02:33:38 AM »
Thanks for writing all this up.  I think that a lot of the things that are brought up are more related to... different sub-parts of the implementation, rather than the concept as a whole?

For instance, the ability to redesign parts of fleets, or get killer combos in place, is something that is a lot more to do with the implementation than the framework.  At one point I was planning on things being a lot more handcrafted in terms of fleet compositions, but there was some resistance to that idea, so I went with just procedural fully on that since that was quicker to implement as a first test, anyway.  Then not a whole lot was directly said about it, though certainly some of the complaints that have been made since the fleet updates have been related to it.  There are a couple of ways to address this, non of which are systemic and all of which are more to do with just how things are organized.

In terms of there being no early game anymore, there is that to some extent, but that was always the case with the first game also.  It explicitly skipped a lot of what would be the early game in most strategy games.  This game takes it a bit further in that there are certain repetitive things that are really annoying to do over and over again, and I'm trying to skip those bits and just get on with the "slightly after the stuff you'd do the same every time" point, but before the point where you're really getting into the rest of things.

Economically, if things are off those are pretty simple dials.  I took a stab with exactly how much to reduce energy costs, and the fact that the economic energy output is so high is also something that could be corrected.  It might be that the energy falloff is actually okay the way it is, or close, but that there's just too much energy at baseline now (and/or metal), especially now that those things can be upgraded.

The concept of supply isn't really something that has to stay, or could be turned off for things that are more raid-y.  I worry a bit that people will be trying to create control groups out of things from multiple fleets, and trying to set rally points way the heck off on some other planet again, though, and those were logistical nightmares in the first game that are neatly solved now but with some backlash in terms of ships being tied to their fleet centerpieces in a way that can be un-fun at times.

In terms of the need to hold remote territory, that's about the same as it was pre-fleets, potential economic imbalance aside.  You never had to hold design template servers or similar, and you couldn't lose things like a new ship type you unlocked (which is basically the same as not being able to lose a fleet).

I feel like things are way too reliant on battlestations right now, and I want to make it so that turrets are unlocked for all your command stations (with bonuses by command station type) instead, while keeping maybe 10% as many battlestations as before.  So that most things move back to the command station.  Perhaps these things could be something you have to hold in order to keep the new defensive capability, or at least to keep all of it.  Maybe you get all of the new capacity if you hold it, and only half of it if you lose it, or something like that.  A lot of people got really irritated at having to hold too much undesirable territory in the first game.  So it's a balancing act, I guess.

A lot of people seem to like EXP, but in the very latest version I've really made it limited a lot further back down.  And if we want to make that an optional thing, that's certainly possible.  There are a lot more science options now, and potentially there should be even more splits on science in the military units, I dunno.

The lack of hacking targets is definitely annoying, I will agree.  To me I wanted the other things to be more in good shape before focusing on new barriers for the AI, but things like stuff to hack as well as those things that buff the AI homeworld that you can optionally destroy (the soft CSGs) are I think relevant.  I would just be careful not to mistake the lack of things to hack at the moment as being a general design shift versus just a transitional period.  It's the latter.

Potentially the ability to simply trade units between Fleet A and Fleet B would be useful (you take all my spiders, I give you all my tesla) would solve some of the problems with fleets being procedural the way they are.  That way people are still getting something that needs some personal love and care to really group the way they want, but they CAN group those things the way they want.  That might be more interesting than a bunch of hand-designed fleets that have the cool combos pre-done for you.

As far as the AI mishmash goes... I'm less sure what to do about that.  I really hated how samey things got to feeling in this and the prior game, and I wonder how much of that feeling of it being a mismash that's difficult to deal with here would be solved simply by the ability to trade units between fleets.

And in terms of supply... that's something that... well, it's not that I care at all if ships are off acting without their flagships.  But what I do care about is that the flagship is meant to be the standard-bearer for the fleet, and things pop out of that and so it's this source of new ships, etc.  As well as being a transport when needed.  If it didn't need to be a transport, then it being a perma-cloaked, incredibly fast ship with no guns would be fine with me.  It's mean to be a marker more than anything else, most of the time.  That way we aren't getting into all that insane stuff with rally points, which just absolutely break down because people want them to do too many things at once (go to FRD when you get to the target, but oh wait get all the way to the target but not just the planet... except when there are enemies present on the way... well there are exceptions... etc etc).   The rally stuff just was filled with intractable problems, and I don't want to get where people are asking for that again.  Supply was mainly about preventing that.  If there's no supply, I figure that people will sit with their centerpiece on a far back planet with a factory and want a rally point way off somewhere as they crank units out to the front lines.  To me that's not very strategic in the first place, and it's just filled with so many problems that I can't logically reconcile with one another.

Anyhow, I just saw this because gmail was sending all the arcen emails to spam, annoyingly.  But a lot of these sorts of things seem like they are easily solveable in the current framework.  Some others require more thought and discussion, but they don't seem completely out of bounds.  I dunno, I'm super tired at the moment, so I'm going to sleep for now.  But I appreciate the candor, and hopefully we get some really solid improvements out of all this.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2019, 10:48:09 AM »
I don't really like the feeling that there's no early game anymore. You basically start out in the midgame.

For any other game, this would be a good thing. The problem with AI War, though, is that the mid game is the boring slog where nothing happens. Sure, you're having to fight off the AI incursions and taking heavy losses, but not enough to kill you, but also so much that you have to spend 100% of the intervening time rebuilding.

Offline x4000

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2019, 12:07:01 PM »
I don't really like the feeling that there's no early game anymore. You basically start out in the midgame.

For any other game, this would be a good thing. The problem with AI War, though, is that the mid game is the boring slog where nothing happens. Sure, you're having to fight off the AI incursions and taking heavy losses, but not enough to kill you, but also so much that you have to spend 100% of the intervening time rebuilding.

Well there's the problem, then.  If the midgame is a boring slog, that's... well, that's quite a problem.

The good news is that I am hoping that with some changes and additions to things that create mid-level objectives for you will be things that cause the midgame to be more interesting.  But if the midgame is having a gameplay loop issue, then that needs to be solved, full stop.  We have a number of months prior to 1.0 in order to make that happen, but knowing where and how things are bogging down for different people in their own playstyles will be really instrumental for me to actually do much about it.

As far as the whole rebuilding thing goes, my hope is that with the most recent build that will already go a lot faster what with having more engineers and more ability to upgrade command stations, etc.  But I don't pretend to think that's the sole solution or something.
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Offline x4000

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2019, 01:52:46 PM »
Okay, I'm working on a list of new mechanics and changes to lay out for people in terms of what is coming, to hopefully address the various concerns folks have.  Both here and in other threads.

I'm about to go through a third thread, but this covers everything that I saw from this thread and the one with AnnoyingOrange, so I'll go ahead and post it here: https://bugtracker.arcengames.com/view.php?id=21310

I don't think that this particular changes will definitely solve ALL the problems, but I think that these are things that will get us very far in the right direction at the very least. 

And in terms of dealing with other things that might come up about the mid-game being boring or there not being enough verbs for humans or fleets being awkward in various ways... these are the sorts of things that I have in mind.  None of these things are all that major of a refactor (aside from relying on battlestations so much less), and instead they're just fleshing out the current fleets-based game in a variety of ways to make it more fun and shave off the rough edges.

Please do keep the feedback coming; I wouldn't have thought of most of this stuff had specific issues not been raised.  I think that the fleets model itself is solid at the moment, but certain smaller mechanics are not (supply, too many battlestations), and there are various things that the AI needs in order to make it a lot more interesting to actually play against in the mid-game, and to make you have to capture territory.

The one thing that I didn't really address here (much) is the potential for permanent loss of units.  I'm not really sure what to do on that front, to be honest.  It does appeal to me in some ways, but it winds up in so many situations where people feel like they have to see everything at once and micro away something that might be at risk of dying... or that they can't use X unit because it might die, etc.  So people wind up not using all their tools.  In the short term, I've felt like making units not something you can lose permanently be something that causes the least-bad behavior, psychologically, for players.

But with THAT said, having some other NEW things that you have to protect that are permanent losses would be pretty interesting.  I added one, in the form of a Major Data Center, but other ideas along those lines strike me as interesting.  Or even some other mechanic.

If there's anything else I didn't address from this thread, it wasn't intentional so please do bring it back up again if it's still important.  There's just a lot in here.  ;)
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2019, 02:05:29 PM »
Instigators were intended to make the mid-game at least a bit more interesting by giving the player regular targets to go after. Are they not doing what they need to do? At the moment I'd probably say they are underpowered.

Offline x4000

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2019, 02:15:31 PM »
I think that one problem with instigators is that they aren't a core part of the game, they are something that people may choose to add but don't always.  And most of the quick starts don't include them, to my recollection.  I wonder if we should just make these an invisible "always there" faction" like the zombies, and have the instigator settings move to the galaxy wide settings.

It's also quite possible that they're underpowered, but I think that people are wary of turning them on.  I know I have been.  But if the choice is "how strong are they" instead of "are they there at all," I'd be more likely to use an average strength for them, oddly.  Human psychology is strange.  :D
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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2019, 02:42:14 PM »
Instigators are always-on, and there's actually no way to turn them off.

Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2019, 04:10:29 PM »
One thing that I thought with Instigators was...if you aren't already on the borderline of how powerful an AI thing is, i.e waves, unless you're already struggling to deal with it...then the Instigators bonus isn't that much.

I wonder if they need to have bigger effects but take longer? i.e 10x the effect in 10x the time, so it really ramps up a specific AI wave to much stronger levels that are more likely to do something, rather than a small 15-20% increase to all of them currently. This'd help make the unit spawner scarier as well, since it's now a much more concentrated attack than a trickle.

Might make their effects more obvious too.

Late addition: Indeed, Instigators are incredibly underpowered. Woops. My bad.

Okay, I'm working on a list of new mechanics and changes to lay out for people in terms of what is coming, to hopefully address the various concerns folks have.  Both here and in other threads.

I'm about to go through a third thread, but this covers everything that I saw from this thread and the one with AnnoyingOrange, so I'll go ahead and post it here: https://bugtracker.arcengames.com/view.php?id=21310

I don't think that this particular changes will definitely solve ALL the problems, but I think that these are things that will get us very far in the right direction at the very least. 

I've looked at everything so far, and I'm very, VERY happy with it. The supply for combat Fleets alone is a huge improvement for me, and everything else just piles on the goodness.

The AI Wave change is a particularly impressive one. The AI planets are to me a very good result of the AI Ship Groups function, and this greatly improves the mishmash downside of it, and even brings in new targets to hack!

The one thing that I didn't really address here (much) is the potential for permanent loss of units.  I'm not really sure what to do on that front, to be honest.  It does appeal to me in some ways, but it winds up in so many situations where people feel like they have to see everything at once and micro away something that might be at risk of dying... or that they can't use X unit because it might die, etc.  So people wind up not using all their tools.  In the short term, I've felt like making units not something you can lose permanently be something that causes the least-bad behavior, psychologically, for players.

Maybe a "Perma-Death" option in the lobby? All structures like Zenith Power Generators that normally die to remains are instead lost forever.

And in terms of dealing with other things that might come up about the mid-game being boring or there not being enough verbs for humans or fleets being awkward in various ways... these are the sorts of things that I have in mind.  None of these things are all that major of a refactor (aside from relying on battlestations so much less), and instead they're just fleshing out the current fleets-based game in a variety of ways to make it more fun and shave off the rough edges.

Please do keep the feedback coming; I wouldn't have thought of most of this stuff had specific issues not been raised.  I think that the fleets model itself is solid at the moment, but certain smaller mechanics are not (supply, too many battlestations), and there are various things that the AI needs in order to make it a lot more interesting to actually play against in the mid-game, and to make you have to capture territory.

I'd agree on the Fleets model being solid, actually, despite that original post. When I was nearly done writing it, it struck me that a lot of my issues end up being from the Supply mechanic for mobile Fleets, and since that's decided to be removed...

Thanks so much for this, Chris. As noted in the other post, apologies for the negative feel this gave off - really wasn't meant.

If you need me for anything, or have something I can do, feel free to toss it to me - I feel much more motivated and happy knowing about these changes!
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2019, 05:23:19 PM »
I don't really like the feeling that there's no early game anymore. You basically start out in the midgame.

For any other game, this would be a good thing. The problem with AI War, though, is that the mid game is the boring slog where nothing happens. Sure, you're having to fight off the AI incursions and taking heavy losses, but not enough to kill you, but also so much that you have to spend 100% of the intervening time rebuilding.

Well there's the problem, then.  If the midgame is a boring slog, that's... well, that's quite a problem.

I was referring to Classic in that regard, and "Netflix Time" has been a known issue for a while. ;)

All I'm saying here for AIW2, is that jumping straight into Netflix Time the moment you start a new map doesn't do the game any favors. :P

Offline x4000

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2019, 10:27:42 AM »
Hey all!

Running around like a madman the last couple of days, and that's likely to continue for the next couple.  Blah.  I also slept extra yesterday after being up until 2:30am working on the latest release, then having to be up at 7.  I'm too old for that stuff.  :P

Various topics:

1. Instigators being always on is good, I'm not sure how I missed that.  It looks like in svn those have already seen some important buffs, which I'm glad about.  I agree with the idea of those being something that are more scary like the svn changes make them, but not something that you have to drop everything this very instant to deal with (giving the player a ramp-up time to deal with them as they have time is good for not making this a time management game all of a sudden, heh).

2. Really glad that you're liking the proposed changes, Puffin -- I'm definitely pleased with all the new hacking opportunities, too.  The idea for the waves was something that came about directly from your complaints, so definitely keep those coming.  When there's something that is just low-level unsettling and feels slightly wrong about some mechanic, sometimes it pops to the forefront of our minds and other times it just keeps being an uneasy thing.  I'd always like to hear about those, because often there's something that we can at least try to do that would make it better.

3. As for the negative vibes, I know the spirit that they were said in, and I totally get it and don't hold a grudge or something.  I'm just... emotionally redlining it these days, so I don't have a lot of extra capacity and it leaves me feeling a bit more fragile/vulnerable than usual.  It doesn't mean I don't want criticism -- far from it, that would be terrifying as the game would come out terrible without constructive criticism and identifying pain points .

But I'm just... really in need of knowing that people are on my side in the sense that they trust me to work with them on problems, and that people aren't going to be ragequitting the community/game because of something that is temporarily not the way they want.  I know that's not really what you were directly saying, and I'm not trying to make you feel bad at all in return either, but that's the sort of place my mind goes right now just because I'm really feeling overwhelmed and also worried about the future of this game, Arcen, my ability to be a game developer, etc. 

Right now it's entirely possible I could be forced out of this industry if things don't turn around.  And yet I'm having fewer hours to work because of all those other life stuff, and extra parenting (which I love but which is also cutting into my work time in a major way), and so that's very disheartening in a completely other fashion.  I'll get through it, but it's just a matter of every day I kind of have to mentally steel myself for getting whatever I need to do done.  It will be easier after the move, which is good.

4. As far as the "Netflix time" goes, I know that was a thing in the first game, and it's something that I always hated and would like to see resolved in this game.  My hope is that having more intermediate goals will make that less of a thing.  But it's also possible that refleeting needs some major rework in some fashion.  Maybe fleet ships cost very little metal to build, and build something like 3x faster or whatever, but then all have an ongoing upkeep cost in metal so that you do still have to keep capturing metal.  That starts overlapping heavily with energy, though, if we introduce metal upkeeps.

5. Puffin, as far as things that you could potentially work on... I'm a bit concerned about the economy (metal and energy income, specifically) at the moment.  I'm not unhappy with how much things cost, or the falloff in costs on lower-mark ships.  I think that's all good.  But those things, paired with the buffs to let things like command stations be upgraded by science, and upgrade in general as of the EXP updates to the game... I think that players are now too rich, and have less to spend it on than before.

My thought is that we just need to tone down how much energy collectors and command stations generate at mark 1, and possibly the same with the metal generators.  Versus making any changes to ships.  Then the ZPG is an obvious "wow that's a ton of energy" thing again, and players are encouraged to take more planets, etc.  But I don't really know how much to reduce these things by.  I wonder if the discord crowd or forum crowd has some thoughts on that.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2019, 11:19:01 AM »
4. As far as the "Netflix time" goes, I know that was a thing in the first game, and it's something that I always hated and would like to see resolved in this game.  My hope is that having more intermediate goals will make that less of a thing.  But it's also possible that refleeting needs some major rework in some fashion.  Maybe fleet ships cost very little metal to build, and build something like 3x faster or whatever, but then all have an ongoing upkeep cost in metal so that you do still have to keep capturing metal.  That starts overlapping heavily with energy, though, if we introduce metal upkeeps.

Sure, sure. And I don't know what the solution is either. Something does need to happen, but I don't know what would work.

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: My personal issues with Fleets
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2019, 11:51:32 AM »
Can't you just speed the game up for refleeting? It goes pretty quick at 5x game speed.