General Category > Stars Beyond Reach Beta Phase 1-2 Discussion

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Okay, I might go and stick this in mantis as well, since you might not be having time to read it right now;  that way if you feel like having a look later, there it is.  ...well it makes sense to me, anyway, sort of. 


....oh, also, if I start to sound negative in here (dunno if I will or not, I have a hard time telling how I'm coming off with what I say), I'm not trying to be insulting or anything.  I cant seem to NOT sound negative most of the time, or at least that's what everyone that has to deal with me tends to think.  So just keep that in mind when reading this.  I'm just negative by default, really.

Okay.  So, my overall impression of the game so far is that it has a ton of potential.  Though, I do see a few specific things that could hold it back a bit.... note that I dont mean the interface with any of the stuff in here... talking gameplay and such only. The interface actually didn't bug me.

Now, the first thing that I notice is that the game really is *entirely* focused on the city building aspect.... it doesnt feel like a 4x game to me whatsoever.  In fact, the feel that I get from it is actually closest to Skyward Collapse.  In that, your actual goals was to control and deal with all of the stuff that WASNT the cities themselves, but you did this mostly by manipulating those cities.  The biggest part of the game was building those, strategizing every single little building, and stuff like that... sure there was alot more to do, but you didn't do it nearly as much.  This one feels much the same, except that it seems to JUST be the city-building bit.

Which, honestly, is fine by me... the thing with most 4x games to me is that the early game is BORING.  Nothing happens, and you're very restricted on how fast you can make anything at all.... it takes forever and is uneventful.  In this, even without knowing what I was doing, each turn was very fast, and I felt like I had constant stuff to do, constant ideas and strategies to go with.  There's a few problems with that though, but I'll get to that in a bit.

The confusing part to me was building positions.  At first, I wasnt sure how much those positions were going to matter... the early buildings you have access to dont seem to suggest that positioning is important at all... I'd been a bit concerned that it was going to end up like how the building positions were in the first Valley game, where it didn't actually matter whatsoever, and only mattered that you HAD them.  That of course turned out to not be the case whatsoever with this game, but it was still the impression that it gave off.   That might be an issue that leads to frustration down the line for new players, as they very *abruptly* find out how and why the positions of everything matters.

Now, this is where I get to the part of the strategizing and tactics that kind of bugs me:  It seriously feels ENTIRELY about the positioning.  There's no military tactics to deal with, I dont really "engage" with the other civs much, there's not much going on with the map itself... even later on when I was trying to deal with the irritating Skylaxians and their stupid "no, we dont want you to build in that spot" attitude, it STILL felt like a pure city-builder to me.  It didn't feel like there was tension/combat or something going on, and what WAS happening in that manner was a bit overly simple.  Like, his helipad crashes it's radius into mine... beyond that, it's all out of my control, once the things activate.  Put those in position, and that's about the extent of the battle tactics.  Yeah, I can aim at targets, but that bit is a bit simple.  So that might be an issue.

Along that line as well is the map itself.   The exploration aspect is in the game... but it kinda feels like it doesnt NEED to be.  I played on the default map size (used the quick start), and really, most of the map seems VERY barren.  There's different terrain types, but mostly, they just dont seem to matter.  Forest, plains, whatever... they were just "tiles" to me, in that they had no buildings on them.   And there was alot of them... positioning with buildings mattered only in relation to other buildings.  At no point did I have to consider the landscape at all.  This might also be an issue in terms of presentation and perception as well, because it ends up really looking kinda blank.  Like, I had my city in this plains area, and the thing about each individual biome is that there seems to be JUST the one tile, and nothing else happening in them.  No rivers, or maybe a string of hills/mountains, you know, stuff to break up the flatness of the landscape.  Usually that's not just a visual thing, but it's also necessary for the strategy/tactics aspect in most 4x games.   There were resources to get, sure, but they are very few and far between.   even when I zoomed far out, after having explored a large area, there couldnt have been more than 10 or so of them on the screen at once (half of which were taken by the AI already).  And those are the only non-building tiles that actually matter.  So it makes for this static "flat" perception to it.  You know how gamers are... graphics, graphics, graphics.  In this case, it's not a matter of the art... it's a matter of not enough stuff in a given area.  A part of the screen or game zone with nothing really happening or breaking it up is a part that just LOOKS dull.  Even if the bits that do have the stuff (the cities) are utterly fascinating. 

Those I think are the biggest problems with the game right now actually; that landscape and the way it's laid out and how the player interacts with it... I personally think it could be quite a problem.  I can already see reviewers harping on about it annoyingly.  Because.... that's what they do.  The lack of units makes for an interesting game mechanic, but the perception it gives off is not units being replaced by some new interesting concept; it gives a perception of them simply being REMOVED.  As in, "dumbed down".  That, obviously, is not what's ACTUALLY happening here.  But I think it's what it's going to LOOK like, and you know how people are about initial impressions and such.

Now that all being said, the game to me so far is bloody hypnotic.  As I'd said, there was always something to DO.  I didn't have any moments of "well I dont know what to do right now".   Even when I was skipping turns, I wasnt skipping them because I didn't know what to do with them; I was skipping them for an actual REASON, whatever that happened to be.  Tactical skips, really.  Which... just doesnt happen in other 4x games.

So, to me, you've got the "one more turn" aspect nailed down here, except that it's there even right from the start (I cant say that about Civ and such.... just, ugh, BORING early games, aside from having scouts explore, and even that is done very slowly....).

Now, I didn't get around to the diplomacy stuff.... this part seems VERY slow to get going.  I was 170 turns in when everything had gone to hell too far for me to fix it, and in all that time, I hadnt had ANY interactions of any sort with the other races.  Aside from the Skylaxians shooting me for no reason (and those guys are supposed to be honorable and all!).  The linguistic thing seems very slow to get going, and even then, I just couldnt think of any reason to start with that part of the game.  My focus was on the building;  I hadnt yet had a reason for anything else yet.  As I didn't get into the "end game" though, or even past a midway point (by my current perception anyway), I dont know how that might change later.   But for now, I've not had to do anything with it.

Tech tree and those things seem easy enough to use;  the tech tree seems fairly obvious in terms of which things do what, and I had an easy sense of what I felt I wanted to go after and why.   The social upgrade screen though... that one wasnt doing it for me.  Alot of the things in there seemed kinda unimportant, or didn't have any real "impact" to them.  Particularly as many of them just didn't seem applicable when they appeared.  But I need to experiment with them more... but that's my initial impressions of them.

Visually, buildings can get kinda cluttered, too.  I had some trouble looking for specific ones among the mess.  Overall, the art is pretty good, at least it seems so to me.  The buildings for the other races all were pretty cool, even if I hadnt the foggiest idea what I was looking at. 

It'll also help alot to have tooltips and such expanded, as just like with TLF I got the constant "not enough details!" feeling from dealing with the various statistics and such.  Though not nearly to the degree that TLF had that issue.  But it's still there.  It is easy enough to figure out what every individual building is for though.

Oh, also, the balance of the social level system, in particular, how much EXP is needed to level up, seems to fall completely apart far enough in.  I was getting a level up nearly every single turn near the end (when like 70% of the city wasnt even functioning properly!).  That definitely doesnt sound right.  Though I do remember you said you hadnt tested the balance of the later content in a single game yet.

Uhhhh.... I think that's about everything.  At least for now.   A bit rambly, but... gotta be specific as always, or it'll just bug me.   Wether or not it's helpful, I dunno, but there it is!   And of course if anyone disagrees with me on any of it, be sure to say so, I'm interested to see how the game is doing for the rest of you.

So, yeah... overall, I'm having a good time with it. It is doing quite well at this point.  But I definitely can spot some glaring flaws.  More experimenting to come!


Reading quickly, so if I miss anything feel free to bring it back up.  First of all, glad you're finding the game "hypnotic." ;)

Specific things:

1. The game is overly focused on the citybuilding aspect right now mainly because crime is too much of a problem (balance knob), and because the other races are not being aggressive enough in, say, the 80-turn range and onwards.  They are supposed to be periodically attacking you, as are various independent rogues, but they do so with incredible rarity right now.  It's a knob I need to turn some, but I wanted to leave that alone while focusing on the citybuilding first.  So what you're seeing is definitely skewed, because I intentionally didn't turn up the heat on that other major part of the game yet.

2. My goal with building position is to make it so that, yes it matters quite a lot, but that you don't shoot your leg off with it on the default difficulty if you don't realize that at first.  Clearly that's not balanced yet.  Suggestions welcome on that front, most specifically in mantis if folks come to any sort of conclusions.  I'm mostly going to be checking out of this thread after this post so that I can get work done.

3. The overall map is kind of samey in some regards, but part of that is due to the monsters not spawning and due to the number of natural wonders not really being as high as the end goal, and the natural wonders not being something that get highlighted to you when you do find them.  Also, different types of terrain and such have different resources on them, so if you want to find specific things you'd better go to specific kinds of places.  Later in the game the idea is for most of the world to be taken over by competing alien biota, too, but I haven't figured out an ideal size for the starting AI empires to be yet.

4. I actually really toned down the number of resources a lot recently, because they were too frequent.  THAT said, there are actually vastly more resources than you realize, because a lot of them don't appear until you get close to them or until you sonar scan them.  The underground thing I think works fine, but the surface thing I'm realizing now is a major source of confusion and makes it seem empty when it's not.  I'll make an adjustment there for next version, thanks.

5. The commentary on battle tactics is kind of interesting.  In a lot of respects that's basically the same as any 4x, honestly: put the right things in range of the range of the right other things, in the right volume and position, and then win or lose based on that.  The first-mover advantage is something that will require more discussion for sure.

6. Diplomacy and such is meant to be more of a late-game thing, or a mid-game thing if it's your focus.  It's the least-tested part of the game in terms of actual game flow, so I have expectations that it will need a lot of tuning.

7. When there are tooltips you want, then please let us know.  Feel free to make a list of things that are confusing and put a mantis ticket.  Anybody feel free.  As I mentioned in the redshirts original note, lack of tooltips was going to be one of the biggest sources of confusion here.

8. Interesting on the social upgrade screen not seeming very exciting or relevant.  I may have to rethink order on some of those, it sounds like.

9. The overly-frequent unlocks of social stuff is an issue I'm aware of, though I forgot to put it on my list, thanks.  I haven't figured out how to solve that yet (the fact that there are three categories independent of one another is the big challenge, and that wasn't always there, but I have good reasons for it being that way).  That's something I need to noodle on more, but I think it should be a somewhat quick fix when I do figure that out.

I think that's it, in terms of responding to everything?

The thing to remember is that this is the redshirt experience, so when I was talking about things being out of balance and whatnot this is what I meant.  Most of the things you refer to are balance issues in my opinion, even things like the citybuilder aspect being overly prevalent.  That said, time will tell.  I should be able to address a lot of that this week, so it should be a fast turnaround to see if I'm right.

Yeah, I know alot of this is still quite early stuff, is more the reason why I figured a bunch of feedback right away is good.  Though half of it is still a bit fuzzy right now.  My feedback will be a little screwy till I've got a handle on what everything does (and can actually REMEMBER it).

The bit about the sonar and stuff is interesting... there were no hints that there was any "searching" for new resources, stuff that doesnt just show up right away.  That might do with some explaining at some point, and hinting that the player should want to consider going down that route at a certain point.  It's also occurred to me though that I dont know what these resources DO.  didn't get to that yet.  Had extractors and related things, but yeah, didn't do anything with the stuff they were gathering.  Hadnt gone and gotten the sonar and such in my first game.

With the battle stuff, I think the problem with it at least for me is that it's JUST initial positioning.  Yeah, there's some of the first-to-get-there advantage in any 4x, but that can usually be dealt with via strategic arrangement of the units you do have, unit types, positions as they move towards a target, all of which can constantly shift after any of them are produced.   There's none of that here right now... it's JUST the placement of the building that in other games would produce the units, but the rest of it is just automatic. 

And yeah, the social upgrade screen... messing around with the game a bit more just now, I end up clicking through that part a bit fast.  There's a few very specific things that have a use early on (like more crown production), but past that.... nothing's really all that important there.  And I get the feeling that these are supposed to be pretty major things. 

Tooltips... I'd have to think about that, for suggestions.  I think there's actually quite alot that might be done with them, but I'll ponder that a bit later.

I'm totally cool with all the feedback, though big blobs aren't my preferred.  But whatever works for folks, I suppose.

1. Good point on sonar not being explained as a way to find stuff.  I've made a note to go in and do that after I get past the sooner stuff than that.

2. The battle stuff is actually a lot more complex than you might think, in many cases.  The order of attack matters to an incredible degree if you want to minimize casualties.  This is presuming that you have a fortified base with a lot of different attacker types, and so do they.  Go in with when it's a maze of interceptors and so forth, then your chosen order of attack with combined arms is actually pretty slick.  With just one attacker type, even there it can matter what you choose to attack first quite a bit, but again that's dependent on the interceptors.  If the AIs are doing a poor job of having proper defenses in some cases, then I'll have to look at that.  Most cases I've seen have been pretty fine.  And in terms of projecting your own power, that's another matter that may require some extension on my part.  The first mover advantage is a big deal, you're right.  I'll have to think about it.


* The Skyward Collapse Comparison is the one that I made too. That and Populous.
* It did intrigue me, so that works.
* Sonar
* There are 2 types of sonar buildings. One that automatically opens a wide range of scanned terrain. The other allows you to do manual scans.
* I didn't find the scouting fun. I found it tedious. As a first solution, if you don't use the sonar/scout for the term, have it automatically pick somewhere for you. This works this way for Scouting. Not sure about sonar.
* Tiles & Terraforming
* I'm not sure why we can or should bulldoze forests and mountains. Can we eventually plant forests/mountains?
* Building placement.
* Things that matter for building placement are: Crime, Pollution, and ?
* I'd like to see Crime production information on buildings.


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