Author Topic: New version .816 out! (Combat Clarity! Better Flagship Physics! 6 Abilities!)  (Read 5169 times)

Offline x4000

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Release notes: http://arcengames.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=The_Last_Federation_Alpha_Release_Notes#Alpha_Version_.816

Restart steam to force a quicker update if you like.

This is definitely my favorite version yet of the combat, by faaar.  The prior version was a bit clunky in some ways -- I felt it, but it was a matter of tuning variables, mainly.  The new version adds deceleration, larger ranges, and beefed-up smaller ships, among other things.  The sum total of a ton of small changes to combat is that it really feels natural to me, as well as realistic.  I just love the momentum that the ship has, and the way it accelerates, and the way that it handles differently at low speeds and high ones.  And that's just on the default power draw to it -- you can make it battleship-y or fighter-y by changing that.

A number of things have improved on the solar map as well, mainly in terms of removing some options and screens that were confusing and borderline pointless, and in making the NPC battles (ground, bombing, and space) all take place over extended periods of time rather than just waiting and then happening all at once.  This feels a lot more natural and is a lot more fun to watch.

In combat, you also now have six ability slots, rather than just three.  I'm super pleased about this, because the number of ability slots was feeling incredibly anemic to me recently.  Right now it probably feels to you like there are not enough abilities to really warrant six slots, though -- and you would be right!  There are a couple of dozen new abilities I intend to add in the next couple of days to round all those out.  There are some more techs coming as well.  In general these things will keep things fresh into the later stages of each campaign, and keep the challenge up as you go.

One of my very favorite things in this release, however, is the improvement to combat clarity.  There is a ton of stuff that explains things waaaay better, and which gives you better feedback when you take actions, too.  If you were previously one of the rage-quitters, I'd like you to give combat another go and see how you feel.  The solar map isn't much better in the main in terms of what might confuse you there (we're getting to that), and no literal tutorial stuff has been added to the combat area.  However, hopefully combat itself is a lot more self-explanatory now, which is the goal.  And if not, I'd like to hear about what is still confusing, so that we can address that in one fashion or another.

Also, there's going to be a new batch of testers tonight!

Caveats (Same as last time):
1. All of the Operational abilities are still having their ships slaved to your attacks, and I don't intend for that to remain the case.

2. If you are running into specific mission types that are un-fun slow in the new combat model, then please send us saves.  I tested (for instance) dropping off spacefaring tech, and it was a tense 60-second excursion or so.

3. I think I have a pretty good handle on making the combat tactical now, and honestly I think we are pretty much there already, in the main.  There are some overall structure-of-special-abilities changes that I am planning that will make those a lot more relevant as well as safer to use as well as making it actually valuable to have more abilities than just the three in your currently-equipped lineup.  Those things I think will add a lot, as will an expanded roster of abilities and enemies in general, and in particular some turrets with some new firing patterns, etc.  But honestly that is just content development aside from the basic changes to the special abilities concept, so it's a matter of having more of a good thing rather than trying to find a good thing, if that makes any sense.  I'm liking where we're at with this, in other words; but if anyone feels differently, please speak up and let me know what you think and (as well as you can) why and what you would want done about it.  I can't promise to actually do that of course, but I want to know these sorts of things sooner than later, as I'm hoping that I can make as many people as possible happy with the combat while at the same time homing in on what my current vision for this has become.


Enjoy!
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Offline x4000

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New testers today:

Walter Sullivan
linuxgnuru
mlwhitt
Nitrax
Penumbra
GenScorpius

It's a smaller batch than usual, but I will be adding batches of testers with more regularity after this.  At the moment, after these folks, we have another 50 in the queue, and only 2.5 weeks until release.  If you are on this list (or the stickied list of testers above here) and don't have a PM from me shortly, PM me back.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 10:12:31 PM by x4000 »
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Offline Professor Paul1290

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Wow, OK this is cool.

I REALLY like how much "throttle" control we have now. You can arc around and pick up speed for very fast passes, or you can slow way down for more fine maneuvering. If you get yourself into trouble and need to do a 180 really fast you can re-route power to engines and force the ship around if you have to.

More balancing and tweaking aside, as far as I can see I think you're good to go on this part.  ;D

Offline alocritani

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Not tried it yet (damned time zones - you always release at night, for me :D ) so maybe it's not relevant, but have you thought about possibility to use waypoints to decide where and when to turn?

Offline doctorfrog

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Five minutes in: now we're talkin'.

This is a game I might be able to play. I'll play a bit more before bed, but I'll have to wait for the weekend for a deeper play session.

Combat mode felt much better this time. I felt more in control, and distances feel more natural. Battle feels less sloggy and more of a balance between danger and pulling something off. There is a definite sense of freedom and flexibility that wasn't there before.

I'll have more later, praise, but I'll also muster up some grouchy/helpful criticism from my relatively casual play stance.

Keep this up.

Offline Misery

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Well, the movement is much better here.  Having more skills is neat too.  And finally the anti-swarm beams are useful!

Aside from Predators being so broken that some battles are unplayable, this is coming along nicely.

The smuggling missions are super buggy though.  I cant count how many times I have to restart any given one JUST to keep races from randomly flipping out over it.


But then there's the solar map.... for now, I must declare it unplayable.

I know that it was technically slowed down with a certain patch, but.... I'd never know that if the patch notes hadnt told me so.    If anything, it's even FASTER now to descend into utter lunacy.   Strategy of any sort cannot be implemented.   Even the shortest of dispatch missions causes the universe to explode. 

I do however look forward to properly jumping into it once it's fixed up.  I've mostly tested the combat up to this point.

Offline Cipherpunk

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I totally get that the solar map is broken right now so I'll focus on combat thoughts:

Thus far I haven't really enjoyed combat missions and I dreaded having to endure them. With that in mind, I'm happy to say that this patch is really warming me up to combat. Ship handling especially has become super engaging. The new dps tooltips solved most of my gripes about having to constantly compare damage types against various hulls. Missions feel more tense in general and get you into the action quickly. Overall, I would say that this new combat model feels good and, more importantly, it feels RIGHT for TLF.

One complaint I have is that I find myself constantly low on shields in a hurry, even when making a reasonable effort to avoid shots. Also, I was under the impression that pumping up shield points would "harden" them but after reading it closer, it seems to only improve regen rate. However, the base regen speed is so low that it makes any kind of multiplier pointless. Currently, the only way to recover from mistakes requires sitting out of combat for a dozen or more turns, waiting for more shields...only to lose them all again instantly.

Offline Mick

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I was only able to test just the first battle before leaving for work, but I like the way this is heading, a lot. Love the damage numbers, the tooltips for enemy ships are much more straight forward, and the movement is a big improvement with the ability to do smaller turns.

The last niggle is the lack of waypoints (which I know others have mentioned). See, sometimes my goal is to reach some destination that is say 20-30 degrees off my current orientation. The system will only allow me to move straight in that direction, but what I really want to do is move out at my current direction about half the distance, and then turn toward that new heading (maybe because a straight line would take me into something nasty).

Offline Kuer

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Combat feels that it should be much improved - many changes improving upon previously simple, unfluid or unclear mechanics. While the changes are on the positive side and I like the direction you're going, some things feel unfriendly to use. For example, it seems that in order to be flexible and fight well, I would need to fiddle with the power management a lot. With the current interface/keybinds it feels like an obstacle.

In fact, I'm curious how you guys feel about changing the power management interface into one of those 3-section bars, each section representing the amount of power attributed to a module. To move some power you'd only have to move the separator between the sections to the left or right. Sounds easier to use.

I'm thinking about one of these:


I may have more to say later as I get to play more, but I wanted to throw this your way before that.

Offline Riabi

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Not tried it yet (damned time zones - you always release at night, for me :D ) so maybe it's not relevant, but have you thought about possibility to use waypoints to decide where and when to turn?

He releases pretty late for him too. ;)

This thread was started ~ 9pm for him, I'm sure the actual release was JUST before that. :-p

You'd be hard pressed to find a dev that works as many hours as x4000 and still keeps his sanity.... wait... nevermind there's no such thing as a sane game dev. :)

Offline PokerChen

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If you really wanted to do it graphically, make a circle slider or a triangle with a ternary plot.

Between weapons / shields/ engines, you always have two choices as to which of the other ones to take power from.

Balance-wise, diverting power to shields needs to make a bigger impact relative to the others. Would you consider damage reduction against shields as an additional variable? It would then be relatively useless when shields are down. Or just general damage reduction.

Offline GenScorpius

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My first impressions of the game, now that I got my hands on it, are pretty good. Sure, the combat controls were a bit fuzzy at first. I kept for some time pressing WASD to pan the screen, obviously out of habit from other strategy games.  ;)
What would be helpful is to have an extra window popup showing the mapping of the most important controls.

The movement of the flagship seems pretty much ok to me though I haven't had a fight yet where I needed to be extra careful. However, plotting the longest trajectory possible felt a bit awkward as such that it required zooming out...
A bit better control of the trajectory, like setting waypoints within the turn's movement radius, would be great, especially when cranking up the engines and a long straight path might be not that wise (spyprobes!).

Not that I needed to use the hotkeys for the special abilities but according to the tooltips the latest added abilities all are linked to 7.

Regarding the first mission setup, I actually missed the intro story (video). Sure, I've seen the video quite a long time ago in the forum but for immersion sake having the complete story would be great. The combat itself, once the controls are mastered, was very easy. The 2 Acutian flagships got no chance. Actually, I miss some pointers at the beginning about the consequences of the first battle, given that you can also choose to just withdraw without killing the flagships, or in addition even blast the couple installations out of the sky (they hate me already anyway).

I'm not sure if the minimap works completely. When toggling the minimap I would expect to see one mode where each ship has the colour of the respective race and the other mode either red for hostile, green for friendly, white/grey for neutral. However, IIRC in the latter mode they were mostly purple....

I really like the damage numbers visually represented on the map and also the shown effectiveness of my weapons in the respective tooltips when hovering over enemies.

The power management works for me very well and is intuitive.

On the solar map, there doesn't seem to be much to do at first except for sharing space tech. The black market doesn't offer any goons for quite some time. Selling the initial resources didn't seem to be a good idea given the huge costs of outpost construction and the mining mission seems to yield little compared to the time required.

Also I find it strange that I get no influence when helping a race to destroy a pirate base, makes me wonder why bother with that mission anyway.

Before I forget it, I definitly would want a popup explaining the various planet stats like economy, environment, etc and the meaning of the numeric values. Hence, at what point I really need to act. Right now it feels more like: Sure I can help out to improve the numbers but I got no clue how significant the improvement is. Alternatively, I'm okay with if I hover over a stat that it tells me what it does affect in gameplay mechanics something like +x population growth.

Offline Mick

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The shield thing is an interesting issue. If you could effectively disengage from combat and charge your shields from zero to full in 2 turns, would that be overpowered? Well, I would argue that being able to do it in 100 turns is just as overpowered... but annoying. You're not really making the game more difficulty with the slow regen rate, you're just basing the difficulty around the player being impatient.

How would combat play out if shields could effectively be recharged in two combat rounds, without getting hit, at full shield power? To compensate, the shields could either go down much quicker, or work differently on defense, say instead of simply being a straight hit point buffer, act as a mitigator of damage based on the % of shields that are remaining. So if say a shot takes you down to 75% shields, you are not going to say "oh good I can take 3 more of those before worrying", but instead have to face taking hull damage for 25% of the next missile shot (arbitrary numbers).

In any case, I'm just braining storming here, but I think it's bad if you have an option to putter around at the edge of combat for 100 turns to recharge your shields. Now, many players aren't going to bother doing this, but by making it "optimal" it can be really annoying to folks who want to play with the best possible strategy they can conceive.

Offline x4000

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Awesome on the combat!  Glad you guys feel the way I do. :)

Aside from Predators being so broken that some battles are unplayable, this is coming along nicely.

Savegame, please?  On normal difficulty I don't have a problem with them, so if you can give me a save on your difficulty where they are being a pain, then I can actualyl deal with them.

The smuggling missions are super buggy though.  I cant count how many times I have to restart any given one JUST to keep races from randomly flipping out over it.

Save?

I know that it was technically slowed down with a certain patch, but.... I'd never know that if the patch notes hadnt told me so.    If anything, it's even FASTER now to descend into utter lunacy.   Strategy of any sort cannot be implemented.   Even the shortest of dispatch missions causes the universe to explode.

Details, please?  My testing time is limited at the moment, and we are constantly changing balance, and so I am having a hard time knowing exactly what is happening too fast during dispatches.  In the next version I am slowing down some NPC-vs-NPC combat stuff in particular, and making it so that certain actions can't happen early in the game anymore.  But what else is going on that is such a problem?  If you tell me, I can fix it. ;)
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Offline PokerChen

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Will have to defer to Misery on how much regen affects max difficulty.

 In any case, shield power and shield regen are two issues to consider. Power management is more or less meaningless outside of direct combat. It's easy to make players effectively invulnerable to minor hits if shield-power tweaks regen value instead of %-mitigation. ...and we've just amalgamated the AI-war armour + refleeting threads.

 I also wouldn't make it purely mitigation as per Mick's thought - players need a reliable buffer before their hull, which is designed to be costly to repair. As it stands, every mission will result in players getting hit a few times, and in an AFA/assassin battle this gets lethal rather quickly.