Author Topic: My experience trying AI War 2  (Read 243 times)

Offline Magnus

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My experience trying AI War 2
« on: April 02, 2018, 06:14:59 PM »
Hello.

I'm a KS backer who received access to the Steam pre-release game, and I tried playing a bit around to check and see what's the status of the game and if I could maybe help a bit with some feedback about what I'm finding.

A bit of background: I own AI War 1 and played a few games of it but it was many years ago and I never really went too much in depth. I also haven't followed development much, so you're getting essentially a newbie perspective. That said, maybe this can be useful as well, so I'm leaving it here  :)

I'm going to split my experience in 3 different topics: bugs (or stuff which looks like one to me anyway), UI, and game flow.

Bugs
The biggest one for me: after you reach mid game and the AI starts tossing around 2-3K-squads strong fleets, the game slows down to a crawl, especially if the AI has fleets in more than one player-controlled planet. The game becomes unplayable. For reference, my CPU is an 4790K overclocked to 4.5GHz. While old, it's still able to drive most of the recent games.
Whenever you try to use tech 3 items, weird stuff starts happening. If you upgrade tractor beams to MK3, for example, they disappear from the build menu. MK3 fleet base types (bombers etc.) keep getting produced past their theoretical caps, resulting in numbers like -168 on the build GUI.
Regarding the build menu itself, left clicks to queue an item and (especially) right click to remove from queue can be hard for the game to register. Sometimes I had to right click on an item 5+ times to remove it from the queue.
Often the cursor will become "unresponsive" in the sense that hovering over units won't show unit info anymore. Happens especially if you open the system menu options. Cursor reverts to normal after an apparently random amount of time.
Another symptom of the "unresponsive cursor" is the UI info "lagging behind" the cursor position. For example you're hovering over one unit type / tech upgrade and the GUI shows you the info from the cursor's previous position, even if you don't move it for several seconds.

UI
The location of the numbers regarding AI fleets on the galaxy maps is quite hard to parse if you zoom out; they often appear closer to the "wrong" planet and you need to zoom back in to be sure where the fleet is actually located.
There needs to be an indicator for the location of the incoming next wave which doesn't require the player to enter the planet map of every "border" planet and check which wormhole is blinking red. If the info is already there... it's way too subtle :P
Checking info on game units (or selecting your squad of a given type) can be a pain during a battle. This is because you either have to "track" one unit of the needed type with the cursor while it's moving, or, if you're using the squad recap GUI in the upper right, the position of the icon of the needed unit type can very often "zig-zag" back and forth as squads are destroyed/recreated/move back into the map. This is especially noticeable for player unit types when there's a big attack which keeps destroying your turrets which are rebuilt/redestroyed/rebuilt etc. resulting in the icons moving continuosly back and forth.
Speaking of which, it would be nice being able to assign specific keyboard keys to selecting unit types.

Gameflow
I played a few hours, managing to conquer 4 clusters (after many reloads...). A huge turning point early in the game was finding a regenerator golem, which makes your fleet virtually invincible in a war of attrition, unless the AI sends you a force at least 6-7X stronger than yours.

Problem 1: by far the most effective tactic I've managed to employ is throwing a gigantic ball of death to the enemy's position. The rock-paper-scissor nature of the units doesn't enter the equation except for the need to have all three in your fleet and sending everything together. The game controls are not precise enough to seriously think about employing finer tactics (fighters first, corvettes later etc.) as it would result in micromanagement nightmare.

Problem 2: sending your fleet without a fleet builder unit is useless. They will be shredded in a matter of seconds by the UI fleets which are invariably much stronger. This also reinforces the ball of death experience, since every engagement becomes an attrition war where you try to exhaust AI resources before yours run out and/or the AI sends a fleet strong enough to overload your rebuilding abilities.

Problem 3: the fleets move at a crawl, which makes managing your empire an exercise in frustration. Turrets are sistematically incapable of defending from AI incursions, able to, at best, buy you a few more minutes. That means that already from early middle game this becomes a whack-a-mole where you send your fleet from one border to the other to wipe out invading fleets and are hard pressed to find the time for strategic initative. Also, due to the same problem, whenever you do find the time to go on the offensive, you need to blitz a whole cluster up to the next choke point; galaxy-wide turret limits make all but impossible to do otherwise. For my last cluster, I was forced to employ a double strike approach: wipe out all the planets of a cluster without conquering any (while running back and forth to keep the defenses up), then try to get all of them at the same time. Had to reload several times to make it stick, due to the fact that an invasion fleet at the wrong place and / or the wrong time will wreck your plans.
If you could at least create separate fleets, assign your units and builders to one of them, and give them a fleet-wide unit cap (e.g.: fleet 1 builders can build a maximum of 50% of the fighter cap), then you could employ multi-front strategies. As it is, your only hope is to find new unit types and use those as a separate helper fleet (with one or more builders dedicated to that type only, while the main fleet builders do not ever produce it) to reinforce turret defenses.

Problem 4: I find the threat number a misleading info. It's the strength of forces you know the AI has around roaming somewhere, but of course it doesn't include the forces which are going to appear in the next wave. Which is often a big multiple of the "known" threat.

Problem 5: warden fleets are ridiculous. I pounded them into the dirt due to the regenerator golem, but I'm doubtful I would have had any luck past my second cluster without it.

Problem 6: the regenerator golem is godmode.

Problem 7: tech advancement feels slow. You need a whole cluster to get a decent amount of science points, especially when you start going up the tiers.

Problem 8: fuel is useless in its current iteration as you'll hit the cap much, much sooner than exhausting it.


Well, that's what I can think of right now. Hopefully it can be of some help.
Despite the issues I had fun playing the game already in its present state; i can't wait for the final release. Keep up the good work  :D
« Last Edit: April 02, 2018, 06:20:12 PM by Magnus »

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2018, 06:28:24 PM »
In problem 5, do you mean the warden fleets are "ridiculously strong" or "ridiculously weak"?

Offline Magnus

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2018, 06:47:07 PM »
Too strong. They routinely came with 800+ units. Often in a span of 60-120 seconds from system entrance.

Offline etheric42

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2018, 07:07:48 PM »
UI is currently undergoing an overhaul and you likely have played the last update on the old one since the next one will have the beginning of the new one.  We already have a plan in place for the overlapping numbers, Chris is currently executing on it.  The galaxy map and wave indicators haven't been added yet, but they are planned and outlined.

Good point about ships being destroyed/replaced on the sidebar.  They should probably remain at quantity 0 for 10-30 seconds before being removed to prevent the zig-zag.  I'll shoot off an email to Chris.

You can assign different ships to different control groups, as well as use [ and ] to select next/previous ship.  I've found a healthy amount of success microing positioning of ships to be optimal versus various high-value targets, but the main impediment for that is quick and easy feedback when the AI has multiple high-value targets (with different defenses) near eachother.  Which is something that's being worked on, although it will likely need quite a bit more tinkering than the other solutions that are on-track.

Thanks for the feedback!

(My focus is on the UI, so I can't add much to your other comments, but I'm sure other people will)

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2018, 07:18:57 PM »
Well, that's what I can think of right now. Hopefully it can be of some help.
Despite the issues I had fun playing the game already in its present state; i can't wait for the final release. Keep up the good work  :D
Wonderful, thanks very much for the feedback :)

We're currently dynamiting some mountains and filling up some valleys to deal with various issues (including some of the ones you mention), so stick with us and help us bring this thing in for a landing.
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Offline x4000

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2018, 07:58:50 PM »
It's also worth noting -- if there are any particular early feelings you have on things that you can steer us with numerically, then that's helpful.

Things along the lines of:

"I kept finding myself wishing I had about 2x more science than I did."

and

"I felt like I always had at least 25% more fuel than I ever needed."

and so on.

Obviously any such numbers are unlikely to be final, but they give us a sense for what the scale of your experience was.  We've recently made massive changes that ripple through the game in terms of causing balance to shift all over the place, and so our amount of data on many of these subjects is a lot lower than you'd expect.  For instance, when we adjusted the mark level stuff, that messed with the metal balance completely, and the fuel balance.  We also rebalanced science a lot around that time, and if you have too little science then that also means you have too much fuel, so those can be kind of connected.

And so forth.  Some of these mountains that we've razed and valleys that we've filled in have made aspects of the balance a complete unknown quantity to us in the short term, and it's people like yourself who can help steer us to clearer values.  We took our best guesses based on what balance DID mostly-work, and then what on paper seemed to translate, but obviously that only goes so far.

Despite all those issues, glad you've been enjoying it!  And the GUI is really coming along in a way I'm excited about, so that's coming up soon, too.
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Offline Magnus

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2018, 03:13:53 AM »
Ok, a few more observations to reply to the points made so far:

Control groups for micromanaging

IMO, they're useless for a very simple reason: every time one of your ships is destroyed, it's removed from the control group and the replacement ship which gets built is not added back to it. Given the speed at which ships are recycled, this makes them unusable. A much better solution would be to be able to create control groups which comprise all ships of a given unit type.

GUI info for better options for tactical micromanagement

Use the squad sidebar to relay the info. Create a border with a different color for every defense type (e.g.: armor = red border, structure = green, jammers = blue, deflector = yellow); then have a small dot using these same colors added to the icons to show against which defense the units work well.
Bonus alternative: use small geometric shapes (e.g.: tiny triangle, circle, square) to show the same info for color blind people. Maybe tiny shape on the left side = defense, on the right side = offense.
Bonus addition: also use this system to differentiate between fleet-type (i.e. movable) units and stationary units (planet controller ought to be shown as stationary even though it technically moves).

How to avoid the ball of death effect

You recycle small units (fighters etc.) which such speed and they're present in such numbers (both yours and AI ones) that the effect is unavoidable if they comprise the main grunt force of your fleets, as it is now.
You already have the solution in place witouth needing to write code: tweak the numbers and let big ships become a lot more important. That means both the player and the A.I. need to have more of them available, they need to be much more powerful, and much harder/slower to replace.
In my play experience, I only lost the golem when the A.I. kept throwing several fleets at me for many minutes in one of its planets and I didn't retreat, OR one time when I (later) realized there were two Mark V mega ships (a Hunterkiller and something else which I forget but also had either "hunter" or "killer" in its name), one of which especially was able to inflict huge amounts of damage. IMO, this stuff needs to happen earlier in the game, a lot more often, and players need to be able to build more starships (at least triple the amount) from the start.
Big ships make big moving targets to assault/defend and this instantly creates tactical choices. Obviously, these ships need to be made visible at a glance even when sitting in the middle of 3 thousand squads.

Numbers

This is incredibly hard to quantify because everything is linked. In my playtrough I always had excess fuel, with all ships built (9500 excess at the latest save), simply because I couldn't progress in the tech tree fast enough to build more (and later on the problem was also due to the MK3 bug so I purposefully avoided upgrading to tier 3 even when having the science).
Maybe start with 30% less fuel and 30% more science and work from there.

Turrets

One more thing I forgot to add in my first post. Turrets are destroyed in the blink of an eye from any A.I. fleet big enough to be a threat (i.e. the ones you'd like to stop with turrets in the first place). This makes the usefulness of turrets directly linked to their range (longer range = less units able to immediately strike them after emerging from a wormhole = more time spent hitting the enemy rather than being rebuilt).
This means the upgrade path becomes immediately obvious: for every defense type, upgrade the turrets which are good against that defense and which have longer range. Currently, there are 2 long range turrets against structure, one long range against jammers, and one medium range, if memory serves, against armor. Upgrading the others doesn't look like a good idea.


I've just seen the upgrade pushed to Steam with the revamped UI. I'll need to play a bit with it to let you know how it looks like.

Offline Magnus

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2018, 01:14:34 PM »
Still haven't had time to explore the new GUI in depth, but I like the first impression.

A couple quick notes which you can easily guess from the image here:

http://i64.tinypic.com/2w6z6kj.jpg

A) tech level 3 on fleet ships is still broken. It's producing nearly infinite amounts of them, ignoring even the fuel limit.
B) tell me by looking at the image above how am I supposed to do any tactical decision at all except "build the biggest possible deathball"

This is on an MK3 planet, btw. I conquered a couple MK4 ones in the previous cluster. The warden fleet was strong, but not this strong.
I feel at these numbers, player control is not really possible anymore.

Query: would you like me to concentrate on early game, or to keep going with mid and late game?

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2018, 01:31:05 PM »
Do you have a save game with your unlimited fleetships you can upload?

Offline Magnus

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2018, 01:41:32 PM »
I have attached a save immediately before this happens.

Steps to reproduce:

- develop tech level 3 for fleet ships
- enable construction on some of the ship builder units on the planet where the main fleet is
- unpause the game

In my experience, at the very least the bombers will go over the cap; sometimes the corvettes will also do it.
If you then move the fleet and attack the nearby planet, as soon as some of the units are destroyed even the types which didn't go over the limit after unpausing will jump over it when they are rebuilt.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2018, 02:00:34 PM »
Badger, it looks like when it upgrades a unit, it's creating two. The duplicates are not prevented by fuel. I'm checking the code now.

Though that doesn't sound like a full explanation of the report.
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2018, 02:16:21 PM »
Ok, I've got a fix for that particular bug on the internal test branch. I don't know if there are others related, but the ships looked to be building and upgrading correctly in my test.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: My experience trying AI War 2
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2018, 02:21:10 PM »
I note Magnus has a regenerator golem; it might be good to check whether the regenerator golem's respawn of unit also honors the cap.