Author Topic: About combat and updates, circa 3/31.  (Read 3214 times)

Offline Tridus

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Re: About combat and updates, circa 3/31.
« Reply #30 on: April 01, 2014, 06:49:59 PM »
Concerning the rage quitters and lack of info, I think this will be a difficult thing to solve but I hope the solution can come through elegant game design instead of walls of text.  AVWW1, for example, had a TON of text walls and Arcen in general is a very text wall-y company.  In one sense, this is great for the forums because we all get an inside look at development with Chris' posts (it's why I'm such a huge Arcen fan).  He is able to churn out very informational progress reports in very short amounts of time.  In an actual game, however, walls of text can be a huge turn off.  This is all by way of saying that the learning curve problem for this game should be solved through gameplay and design elegance and not through walls of text.

It's also a UI conveying information thing. I wrote a fairly lengthy post about what happened to me, but in general the UI at this stage doesn't convey some information very well (or at all). So if you don't already know something doesn't work, the game isn't making it easy to find out whats going wrong.

That's not at all abnormal for a game in alpha. There's no sense in creating a super polished UI, tutorial, and such, while the game systems are still changing. So it's not a criticism of the development effort at all when I say that. 

A comparison can be made to Age of Wonders 3, which has a really sophisticated turn based combat system and does a great job of conveying information to the player about what's going on. There's no case where something is immune to an attack and the game won't tell you (both before the attack and in the damage popup if you try it anyway).

Offline Mick

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Re: About combat and updates, circa 3/31.
« Reply #31 on: April 01, 2014, 07:33:59 PM »
I think there are definitely cases in the UI where the text is TOO informative all at once. I definitely like to be told what's going on, but you need to balance that out with the ability to quickly check what something is.  As an example, look at the following screenshot:



The tooltip is showing that I'm currently hovering over the "Defensive Armada Power Level". But it doesn't tell me that, instead it starts off in a lecture of "This is [an] abstract representation of the combined....." ZZZzzzzzzzzz.. Huh? What?

It's great that you are telling me this, but the first line of the tooltip really just needs to (in a different color than the text preferably) say "Defensive Power Level". Even after reading it once, I come back later and think "what was this again?", hover over it, and get slammed in the face with a bunch of text I have to scan through to figure out what it is I'm looking at. For a new player, this is simply information overload. I'm not saying it's bad that the information is THERE mind you, but there needs to be a quick and dirty title saying what it is. Highlighted in yellow. Every word I'm tricked into reading while finding what words are important is a needle pushed into my eye (OK, not really, but it's a good way of thinking when writing tool tips).

Highlight important information in tooltips.

Offline x4000

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Re: About combat and updates, circa 3/31.
« Reply #32 on: April 01, 2014, 08:29:28 PM »
As one of the mentioned "rage quitters", I don't have much of anything to say on proposed combat changes. I'm still ignoring them until given the flag to try again.

Yep!  Not there yet.  Your problem was less mechanics, and more tutorials.   I haven't even begun to address tutorials, as I'm still addressing mechanics.

I am somewhat concerned about the general difficulty of this particular development process. If you compare this one to something like Bionic Dues, that one had a lot of tinkering in the alpha but generally always had a set vision of what combat "is". Given all the changes between different combat styles here, I hope that there is still a vision for it.

Yes, Keith gets consistently concerned by this, too.  Honestly, this is just the way I work.  The process for AI War was this way, too.  Whenever I'm working on a design for something new and large, I have a vision for how I want the game to feel, and the overall parameters for the genre and so forth.  But the specifics are all up for grabs.  For instance, AI War was originally turn-based, but went realtime.  This game is the opposite.  AI War originally had small, squadron-based battles centering around flagship, then went to massive independent fleets with flagships being just "big ships."  This game stuck more closely with the original AI War idea, because it had promise.  Etc.

Overall, my goals here are:
1. Something that moves along at a pace that is pleasing if you know what you are doing.  Aka, you're not waiting around annoying amounts of time before you can do something else.
2. Something that gives you as much time to think as you need, within reason.
3. Something where procedural aspects really matter, and each battle plays out differently.
4. Something that takes tactical thought in some form, whatever that may be.  My favorite method is always positional tactical thought, but that is very hard to achieve.  Bionic and Skyward both do that, and AI War does on a grand scale, but not a micro scale.
5. Something that is in general fun and pretty.

There is a pretty clear throughline from the first versions to the current version of me trying things and discarding stuff that doesn't fit with the above as much as I'd like.  And when it comes to player feedback, I only EVER take feedback that I actually agree with on some level.  Aka, I wasn't sure about the "weight of the ships" thing, but I also did feel like ships were too fighter-like for their size, so I was willing to give it a shot.  I didn't think it would work, for various reasons, but I agreed with the core problem of the feel of the ships.  And it turns out it did work.

Etc.  So there's not cases where I'm just going "well, these guys want X, and I don't, so I'll just do X anyway."  That never ever happens.  That would not be a game designer you want designing games, it would be a mess.  Though something that DOES happen is I'm super resistant to an idea, and then eventually people wear me down. ;)

Don't get me wrong - it's great how much feedback gets taken into account. But as can be seen even in this thread with disagreements over things like ship mass & inertia, the forums are likely going to never stop wanting some kind of change. Given the time still available before you have to release, I'm not sure how much time there is left to keep trying new systems.

The time for trying new systems is rapidly dwindling.  Whatever we have at the end of this week has to work.  Period.  Otherwise there's not time for proper polish, and even that is pushing it.  That said, there haven't been any major reinventions since the switch to turn based, and even that was an incremental change in some respects.  As a lot of people pointed out, "it's still the same SHMUP, just turn based."  And my response was "yes, that's the point."  Incremental changes.  Since then, there are things that can only be done in a turn-based model that could not be done in the SHMUP model, and we've been gradually adding those, making it deeper.  And changing various other things that did not work in the SHMUP mode (slow turning radius is super frustrating in a SHMUP, I tried it, but it works well in a turn-based sense as a tactical limiter, particularly paired with the power system where you can tweak the turning arc at a cost to other systems).

So from my perspective, we're not really trying out new systems anymore, and haven't been for a while.  It's been a matter of consistent refinement.  MY worry is how many iterations of such refinement are needed, because that rabbit hole just keeps on going and going so far.  I don't want to wind up with something half-baked because of just not having time to continue following this rabbit hole all the way down.  That's where my worry is, and believe me it worries me.

Or maybe I'm just rambling. Sick and kind of on pills right now, so I might be out to lunch. Sorry. :)

Sorry to hear you're feeling bad! :(

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Sigh, likely the 18th of this month.  Are we insane?  Yes we are.  If we had to we could push it back as late as the 23rd, but we really don't want to.  We have a metric ton of stuff to do in a very short amount of time, which is frustrating.  But we are out of money, plain and simple.  So we're going all-out guns-blazing trying to make this into everything we want it to be before D-Day.  I think we can do it, but it's going to be extremely tight.

Oh dear. That's awful soon.  Would it help to have another Alpha Tester, or are you good in that department?

We will definitely be adding more alpha testers, and at a more rapid pace, coming up.  Right now there are enough things that we know we have to do, though, that more testers would be kind of pointless.  And we're really trying to get solid first impressions from folks in batches, if that makes sense.  If Tridus ragequit because of tutorials lacking, and then we add tutorials, I want to see if anyone in the next few batches has a similar reaction, thus meaning the tutorials need to be expanded, etc.  Or if our response to Tridus's initial issue was sufficient to handle everyone's case (haha, not likely), then we've learned something there, too.

Concerning the rage quitters and lack of info, I think this will be a difficult thing to solve but I hope the solution can come through elegant game design instead of walls of text.  AVWW1, for example, had a TON of text walls and Arcen in general is a very text wall-y company.  In one sense, this is great for the forums because we all get an inside look at development with Chris' posts (it's why I'm such a huge Arcen fan).  He is able to churn out very informational progress reports in very short amounts of time.  In an actual game, however, walls of text can be a huge turn off.  This is all by way of saying that the learning curve problem for this game should be solved through gameplay and design elegance and not through walls of text.

"Elegance" is a funny word.  Different people use it to mean different things.  Aka, there is the Apple Computer form of elegance, where they strip away functionality to keep things elegantly simple.  And for a phone, sure, I like that.  Or there is the elegance of a really attractive and flexible system that allows people to do whatever they want with it.  But usually that comes with a learning curve.  Or there is the elegance of something that is intricately complex, but ultimately hard to get into, like Dwarf Fortress.  There is an elegance there, of a certain kind, but not in the UI.

There is going to be a lot of text, there's no way around that.  I mean, you just can't have a game that is this complex without that.  SimCity has a lot of text, that is inescapable without dumbing it down (which they did do, sadly, to the detriment of the game).  The nature of a game of this subgenre (hardcore strategy) is that usually there's a pretty large amount of text.  Keeping the number of "walls" low is of course a goal, but that in turn means plenty of little popups here and there, etc.  Or tooltips, tooltips everywhere.  Or both.  In the end, it's both.

It's also a UI conveying information thing. I wrote a fairly lengthy post about what happened to me, but in general the UI at this stage doesn't convey some information very well (or at all). So if you don't already know something doesn't work, the game isn't making it easy to find out whats going wrong.

That's not at all abnormal for a game in alpha. There's no sense in creating a super polished UI, tutorial, and such, while the game systems are still changing. So it's not a criticism of the development effort at all when I say that. 

A comparison can be made to Age of Wonders 3, which has a really sophisticated turn based combat system and does a great job of conveying information to the player about what's going on. There's no case where something is immune to an attack and the game won't tell you (both before the attack and in the damage popup if you try it anyway).

Right, that sense of conveyance is one of the big things on my list for coming up super soon.  Some comments originally by Cyborg sparked some things for me, and your further thoughts really cemented it.  I have a method for doing this conveyance that is better than in any game we've ever done before, but I haven't had time to put it in yet.  I am excited about it, though, as it is elegantly simple and not much text.

The tooltip is showing that I'm currently hovering over the "Defensive Armada Power Level". But it doesn't tell me that, instead it starts off in a lecture of "This is [an] abstract representation of the combined....." ZZZzzzzzzzzz.. Huh? What?

Highlight important information in tooltips.

Yep, we almost always try to, and you'll notice that most of the GUI does in this and Bionic in particular, but there are some that get missed.  If you can log those to mantis (putting a list in one ticket that you keep updating is fine), then that would be helpful for me to come back to.  There are times when I'm also just overly wordy, and things need to be rewritten.  When I've been coding and writing for 12+ hours, sometimes it's just a matter of "get it down there" and then come back to polish later.  So definitely let me know when you find stuff like that, I appreciate it.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline PokerChen

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Re: About combat and updates, circa 3/31.
« Reply #33 on: April 02, 2014, 03:48:01 AM »
Short UI suggestions for polish:

Tactical.
- Expected damage from current weapon with reduction taken into account. Please consider a potential visual format like decreasing bars or circles arcs.
- Mouse-wheel over energy bars also increments and decrements allocation. Lost a turn or two clicking on it only to order a movement command? Six key-allocations for keyboard control - painful but necessary in space combat sim, not sure here.
- With pan in place, disable mouse clicking => movement command near where you would expect click ala energybars above?
- Show spare energy, possibly in form of hollow boxes. (Related: add special ability to boost energy allocation by 6?)

Strategic.
- Ability to pan helps a lot.
- Still difficult to find out, e.g. number of spy probes around a planet and what resources it has at a glance. Plans for visual categorisation and separation of economic / military info?

 = = =
W.r.t. to time, try not to change the combat model again. ;P The current model is a bit clunky, but overall fine. You can't, for example, turn in place with vernier thrusters. Alternatively, shift-clicking to let you ship move in an S-shape would be nice. Each movement command is a turn-then-move in you current setup, which is not so desirable. Turning circle is a little large, but it's probably ok give you want players to divert max energy to thrusters for turning as well as movement.

 As Misery said, dodging is much more difficult in this setup since capitals don't dodge in general. I think he's also not using Gravity Missiles, which has 30 ammo and gives players that amount of turns of invulnerability sitting in one place as long as there's a valid target (NOT Pirate Ravens). At lower difficulties, circling the target at a comfortable variation of speeds appears to be efficient, exact distance is hard to judge without an explicit orbit command or turning circle, but easy to get a hold of approximately.

 In other thread, cited LoGH IV EX for similar movement patterns. It has a two click-system in which you determine target point and desired orientation -> fleet then turns while moving, moves to target, then turns in place (firing arcs very important there, determined by ovals). Also has a small circle around current location in which fleet would simply strafe move with vernier thrusters. Raising for reference and potential ideas.

Offline Tridus

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Re: About combat and updates, circa 3/31.
« Reply #34 on: April 02, 2014, 09:34:59 AM »
Yes, Keith gets consistently concerned by this, too.  Honestly, this is just the way I work.  The process for AI War was this way, too.  Whenever I'm working on a design for something new and large, I have a vision for how I want the game to feel, and the overall parameters for the genre and so forth.  But the specifics are all up for grabs.  For instance, AI War was originally turn-based, but went realtime.  This game is the opposite.  AI War originally had small, squadron-based battles centering around flagship, then went to massive independent fleets with flagships being just "big ships."  This game stuck more closely with the original AI War idea, because it had promise.  Etc.

Overall, my goals here are:
1. Something that moves along at a pace that is pleasing if you know what you are doing.  Aka, you're not waiting around annoying amounts of time before you can do something else.
2. Something that gives you as much time to think as you need, within reason.
3. Something where procedural aspects really matter, and each battle plays out differently.
4. Something that takes tactical thought in some form, whatever that may be.  My favorite method is always positional tactical thought, but that is very hard to achieve.  Bionic and Skyward both do that, and AI War does on a grand scale, but not a micro scale.
5. Something that is in general fun and pretty.

There is a pretty clear throughline from the first versions to the current version of me trying things and discarding stuff that doesn't fit with the above as much as I'd like.  And when it comes to player feedback, I only EVER take feedback that I actually agree with on some level.  Aka, I wasn't sure about the "weight of the ships" thing, but I also did feel like ships were too fighter-like for their size, so I was willing to give it a shot.  I didn't think it would work, for various reasons, but I agreed with the core problem of the feel of the ships.  And it turns out it did work.

Etc.  So there's not cases where I'm just going "well, these guys want X, and I don't, so I'll just do X anyway."  That never ever happens.  That would not be a game designer you want designing games, it would be a mess.  Though something that DOES happen is I'm super resistant to an idea, and then eventually people wear me down. ;)

Great, I'm glad to hear that. :)

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Sorry to hear you're feeling bad! :(

Thanks! Everybody in the house was sick at one point, but we're all on the mend now. :)