Author Topic: Player actions need more noticable effect overall  (Read 9786 times)

Offline Misery

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Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« on: April 27, 2014, 05:01:18 PM »
Ok, this one I'm copying from the Mantis ticket that I just made up for it.  This is in response to a whole bunch of things said by many different players when describing their own experiences with the game, and to some degree I can agree with some of it and see where they're coming from with this one.  Certainly the RCI values are a bit broken, but it seems like it's a whole pile of things, as well as the simulation speed perhaps.

But I'll just paste this here:


Ok, this is one complaint I'm seeing often now, which is the idea that the player's actions really only have very small effect, which are quickly papered over by the simulation itself.  I keep hearing "Well it doesnt really matter what you do, the simulation just keeps going in it's own direction regardless", and to some degree I can see where they are coming from.

For example, the RCI values are all sorts of messed up right now.... there's next to no point to bothering with these. Things like armada production are totally out of the player's hands, in terms of being able to do something with it... influencing the different races to go to war or to not go to war, or things like that, often seem to take way too much to achieve, to the point that it might not even be possible.

To some degree, this can also be exasperated by the speed at which some things happen as influenced by the RNG.  For example, in my own game, everything was going relatively normal, I was doing stuff with the Andors and Peltians, and there wasnt TOO much loopiness going on. The Burlust had been attacked a few times, as had the Acutians, while the Thoraxians had both been ignored, and also had done very little themselves, and the Hive Queen's mood had been neutral for awhile.  I go to do a quick dispatch mission of some sort, which isnt a very long one, taking maybe 4 or 5 minutes of time... and in that rather short amount of time, the Skylaxians declared war on the Thoraxians, the battles in space around the planet had time to fully occur and resolve, and then the Thoraxians were defeated on the ground and killed off entirely.  All in a very short amount of time, in the space of just ONE short-ish dispatch.

This strikes me as being way too fast. I mean, if I *hadnt* been in a dispatch, what could I even have done about this?  Their actions were too strong, and too quick for me as the player to have any real effect on.  And that's just one example of this. There's all sorts of other examples, most of which dont even involve wars, though wars are usually the big nasty one, but they can all be frustrating.  Considering the way the player's actions work, where most decisions and actions you make, be they dispatch or political or helping/sabotaging, take a bunch of time to fully work, having something like that burst into the scene, and fully resolve itself in the space of just ONE rather short dispatch is definitely a problem.

I know that the player is supposed to be influencing things in at least a somewhat subtle way, but that idea may have gone a bit overboard. I dont think that it's all completely broken or anything, but there are definitely many things that feel this way, and alot of new players are getting that feeling about the entire game.

I dont think the core mechanics are at fault either... this seems more a set of balance issues to me, numbers being all out of whack, but this problem as a whole does need to be looked at, and I'd say it's a high-priority issue currently.




So there we go, that's what I wrote up about this.  And as I said, while I used a war as an example in there, it's far from the only thing that can occur in this way... all sorts of things can happen that the player just cant seem to really do something about, or at least that's the feeling.

This being a big issue, at least by my view, so if anyone has any thoughts or feedback on this one, it'd help alot if you'd like to chime in a bit!  Feel free to add notes to the ticket as well if you'd like, which can be found here:  http://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/view.php?id=14751


Offline I-KP

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2014, 05:29:43 PM »
I've not been playing for long but I tend to agree with the above.  There's not much you can do to alter the course of a landslide event once it's started because more often than not it has started /and ended/ within the tiniest of timeframes.  I've seen nearly 1 million Space power fleets get all but 'one shotted' by only a few thousand points in defence; I heard two explosion sound effects and the 1 million power fleet was dead before I could even hit the spacebar.  I have no idea how such a thing could happen (but I suspect it's another example of wonky maths in the simulation).

My two biggest gripes about the game are the completely ignorable RCI mechanics and the very clearly wonky Power bonus maths (which I suspect pervade many of the less visible simulation elements where multipliers are accumulated; for example, the above 'one shotting' of a 1 million power fleet).  Fix those and the game will immediately play less capriciously.
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Offline Platypus

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2014, 05:54:13 PM »
I feel a large part of the general feeling of powerlessness comes down to there being very few options for influencing inter-species diplomacy. Outside of being the big awful thug that blasts every armada from orbit before it gets too big and steals every bit of tech as it's researched your hands are basically tied when it comes to trying to contain aggressive powers. Beyond some one shot deals that provide a one time boost to relations the only long term changes to how the factions interact that you can cause are:

- Federation yes/no
- Trade yes/no
- War yes/no

Honestly I feel that the existing features in game are more than adequate, for the most part, and what is needed now more than anything to enhance the experience is a general cleanup of the simulation. Fixing some of the wonkier numbers, Improving AI's behavior in war and clarifying/simplifying the RCI scores to name the big ones.

Really the only major addition I feel the game needs to enhance the apparent meaningfulness of player actions is more Long Term Deals that can be made by the various races either independently or with the encouragement of the player like Non-Agression Pacts, Defensive Alliances, Research Share Agreements that can lead more naturally to a unified government. Being able to see visible effects of your actions like a minor power fighting off an invasion thanks to an allied intervention fleet coming to break the planetary siege would be really cool.

Offline Elijah

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2014, 07:58:30 AM »
I feel a large part of the general feeling of powerlessness comes down to there being very few options for influencing inter-species diplomacy. Outside of being the big awful thug that blasts every armada from orbit before it gets too big and steals every bit of tech as it's researched your hands are basically tied when it comes to trying to contain aggressive powers. Beyond some one shot deals that provide a one time boost to relations the only long term changes to how the factions interact that you can cause are:

- Federation yes/no
- Trade yes/no
- War yes/no

Honestly I feel that the existing features in game are more than adequate, for the most part, and what is needed now more than anything to enhance the experience is a general cleanup of the simulation. Fixing some of the wonkier numbers, Improving AI's behavior in war and clarifying/simplifying the RCI scores to name the big ones.

Really the only major addition I feel the game needs to enhance the apparent meaningfulness of player actions is more Long Term Deals that can be made by the various races either independently or with the encouragement of the player like Non-Agression Pacts, Defensive Alliances, Research Share Agreements that can lead more naturally to a unified government. Being able to see visible effects of your actions like a minor power fighting off an invasion thanks to an allied intervention fleet coming to break the planetary siege would be really cool.

Totally agree with the thread creator and this quoted post in particular. I'd like a little bit more of diplomacy in-game among races and among races and yourself in the form of formal stuff, not only numbers. (pacts, contracts, partnerships, and so on).

Also :

the meaninglessness of the player is already pretty evident in combat. The game should be a sort of dual stance :

1) Powerful mastermind in the solar map.
2) Weak (as only one) in the combat screen. (guerilla warfare or intelligence warfare)
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 08:02:24 AM by Elijah »

Offline Mick

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2014, 08:40:00 AM »
I still feel there is too much disconnect between the player and the underlying simulation. I don't know if it's just issue of lacking interface, or a deliberate attempt to hide the "math stuff" from the player lest they be overwhelmed, but I find it to be very off putting.

Now, this game is in a genre of it's own, so it's hard to compare to others, but there is definitely a bit of an underlying 4X (for example, Endless Space) that is more or less playing out behind the scenes, and that the player only has indirect control over. I've also seen it compared to Crusader Kings 2 by others because of the political manipulation aspects. A major difference between those games and this is that they don't hide the mechanics from the user. I can find out exactly how much science is being generated by each planet in Endless Space, and even check the math if I were so inclined. In CK2, I can figure out exactly where all my taxes are coming from, and see what bonuses and penalties are applied. I can work out how long it will take for a castle upgrade to pay for itself because the mechanics aren't hidden from me.

I like crunchy number stuff, it's why I generally like PC strategy games, as well as board games. I can work out a plan because I understand the consequences of actions. I have no problem with randomness in strategy games, because it's an element that forces you to adjust your plans and account for contingencies. Even when things don't work out as I hoped, I can still understand the sequence of events that lead to whatever outcome I ended up with.

What is my point in all this? In The Last Federation, I feel like I'm pressing random buttons on a black box. It's not very engaging to me. At best, my actions are more reactive than active (cleaning out fleet buildup somewhere for instance).

Many actions, buildings, events deal with RCI (the majority of them), and this is what I feel is really the weakest aspect of the game. I have no idea what a -20 vs a 0 vs a +80 RCI value even means. Didn't the tutorial say something like "what affects these values, I dunno, a butterfly flaps its wings..." I feel like I'm the goddamn butterfly, and that's not very engaging. Chaos theory is certainly an interesting concept, but I don't think it makes for engaging gameplay.




Offline Kahuna

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2014, 08:51:32 AM »
It does feel like I can't control or do anything indeed.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2014, 09:58:00 AM »
I feel that there are aspects over which I have a modicum of control, but the impression that I've got even less control than I feel I should.  (A full year and I can improve the relations between two races by 3.6 and I need 90?  This takes twenty five years per race!?)

Then there are other aspects that I have a massive amount of control over, but little to no information.  "You.  Colonize that moon.  Now that one.  Now make a trade route with those guys.  Now.  K, thanks, bye."  Hot damn, look at that influence gain.  It's been like two months and its already gone up by the amount I can do in a year!

Also, this reminds me of a thing I did a bunch of years ago.  I intentionally hid the exact results of any given action, but provided a description that implied what it was supposed to do and the exact costs.  Sometimes the description was an outright lie, but at least it was a believable lie (and with as complex as the underlying system was, it was really hard for the player to go "that didn't actually do that").  Essentially it was a complex simulation of "the president does not control gasoline prices."
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 10:01:15 AM by Draco18s »

Offline Conductorbosh

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2014, 01:41:57 PM »
I agree with all this. We need more nuanced political and deceptive actions; right now we're thugs who can make some large, blanket suggestions, but we all want to be the crusader king/wormtongue/varys of space.

Offline kosmoface

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2014, 05:36:12 PM »
I really would like to have more impact regarding the RCI values. Just like the tooltip says... hamper their economy, destroy they country... this must have more effect and it will be fun to tinker with it.

I really tried in some to hold down the Acutians down via RCI manipulating. It didn't have any noticeable effect. But I think if it works it is a fun mechanic, it just need more balancing.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 05:41:45 PM by kosmoface »

Offline Mal

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Players have an enormous effect already
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2014, 05:56:43 PM »
Having read everyone's impressions of the games diplomacy above, I have to heartily disagree that player actions need more of an effect. My reasons are as follows:

0- The player is the Broker of Destinies. Its largely up to you how a race develops, what outposts they have, what tech they have to an extent ( the evucks and skylaxians are almost always state of the art, but thats because you want to steal or trade from them all the time for this very reason and beef up other races).

1- Player actions such as bribing and using the more "social" races such as the boarines, andors, skylaxians, and peltians  means that you have an enormous ability to impact what other races will do and how they will treat other races. The boarines alone can make two races have as much as a+15 influence rating towards each other...thats huge! Now, you cannot get this without some effort on your part and the boarines liking you ect, but its still very possible and very powerful.

2- The players can use informants on planets to do some nasty stuff like frame other races, steal technology, perform terrorism. These have impacts on a race that will cripple them or make them do your bidding.



Also concerning RCI, I find that it is a big deal...crashing a races economy can stall warfleet production big time, medical crashes is a great way to contain a race that constantly wants to expand when they reach their population equilibrium, environment crashes can do the same as medical as well as devestate their infrastructure putting them far behind the curve ( over a couple of years or so), and finally public order can cause all sorts of chaos.

On the flip side, positive RCI is a huge boon because nothing bad happens and they can receive some really cool buffs...so you cna make sure the empires you want are succeeding.

I think the players have a ton of influence on the game from the above, and I did not even list everything. :) Hope this helps you enjoy this great game more.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 06:02:29 PM by Mal »

Offline Faulty Logic

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2014, 06:07:12 PM »
I find that there's a good balance between what we can control and what we can't.

There need to be situations where a race is just utterly hosed, or a powerful empire can't be stopped. Your job is to not let those situations arise in the first place, or adapt to their occurrence.
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Offline Conductorbosh

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2014, 06:48:33 PM »
I find that there's a good balance between what we can control and what we can't.

There need to be situations where a race is just utterly hosed, or a powerful empire can't be stopped. Your job is to not let those situations arise in the first place, or adapt to their occurrence.

Totally. But nobody's arguing for tons and tons of control, just more options are more noticeable effects from what we can do. For example: RCI values have very little effect. We're asking for them to be more impactful, not that it should be easy to cripple a planet's economy in a few months. Just that it should be possible to do it eventually

Offline NichG

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2014, 07:25:22 PM »
More to the point, the effects you do have should be collected in a way that makes it much clearer to the player what impact they're having. For example, lets say you were to use the same mechanics for the player adjusting RCI as the game has right now, but you make it so that special things happen at -100, -50, 0, 50, and 100 in each RCI category rather than having very gradual effects. Then the player can set a mental goal 'okay, the game told me that at 50 points this thing happens, so I just have to push them up by another 10 and...'

A simple way to do it, albeit somewhat forced, would be to make more of the player friendly and political actions have RCI requirements. Maybe you can only help them research tech if their economy is good enough, otherwise there just isn't the money. Or perhaps if Public Order gets too low, the government won't speak to you since its busy trying to hold it together. Or things like that. Basically no change in the actual underlying simulation, no increase in the potency of the player's acts, but a clear increase in the significance of things that are already there.

Personally though, I'd prefer that those threshold events would actually have a stronger effect on the simulation, but perhaps weakening some of the overpowered options like helping Armada construction or brokering trade routes. What if, for example, trade between planets where one of their Economy ratings was negative actually hurt relations between the races rather than helping? Then not only do you have to broker trade routes, but keeping the Economy up becomes critical to getting races ready to Federate. If the better the economy ranking was, the better the trade routes worked to improve relations, then you have even more reason to watch those values.

For high environment, you could have jealousy from low-environment races and tourism (improved relations) from ones that are only mildly worse. For medical>100, that race might get the ability to wage biological warfare or be very resilient to it and automatically fix their own plagues. And so on.

Offline kosmoface

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Re: Players have an enormous effect already
« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2014, 07:42:01 PM »
Also concerning RCI, I find that it is a big deal...crashing a races economy can stall warfleet production big time, medical crashes is a great way to contain a race that constantly wants to expand when they reach their population equilibrium, environment crashes can do the same as medical as well as devestate their infrastructure putting them far behind the curve ( over a couple of years or so), and finally public order can cause all sorts of chaos.

Well, since when do I see effects then? Acutians Economy was -80, Public Order was -35 and still over years they outproduced everybody else and fought simoultaneously two wars. Adaption to their planet was 0.50 or something, Ecology and Medicine where negative, too (lower numbers). They had the most fucked up RCI in the system, still...

Are these numbers too low to have any effect whatsoever? I don't think it did something, at least nothing I could notice.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 07:45:45 PM by kosmoface »

Offline Misery

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Re: Player actions need more noticable effect overall
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2014, 07:48:16 PM »
Having read everyone's impressions of the games diplomacy above, I have to heartily disagree that player actions need more of an effect. My reasons are as follows:

0- The player is the Broker of Destinies. Its largely up to you how a race develops, what outposts they have, what tech they have to an extent ( the evucks and skylaxians are almost always state of the art, but thats because you want to steal or trade from them all the time for this very reason and beef up other races).

1- Player actions such as bribing and using the more "social" races such as the boarines, andors, skylaxians, and peltians  means that you have an enormous ability to impact what other races will do and how they will treat other races. The boarines alone can make two races have as much as a+15 influence rating towards each other...thats huge! Now, you cannot get this without some effort on your part and the boarines liking you ect, but its still very possible and very powerful.

2- The players can use informants on planets to do some nasty stuff like frame other races, steal technology, perform terrorism. These have impacts on a race that will cripple them or make them do your bidding.



Also concerning RCI, I find that it is a big deal...crashing a races economy can stall warfleet production big time, medical crashes is a great way to contain a race that constantly wants to expand when they reach their population equilibrium, environment crashes can do the same as medical as well as devestate their infrastructure putting them far behind the curve ( over a couple of years or so), and finally public order can cause all sorts of chaos.

On the flip side, positive RCI is a huge boon because nothing bad happens and they can receive some really cool buffs...so you cna make sure the empires you want are succeeding.

I think the players have a ton of influence on the game from the above, and I did not even list everything. :) Hope this helps you enjoy this great game more.


Hmm, you might be misunderstanding what I meant originally.

It's not that the player doesnt have all of these cool actions available to them or something.  All of the different possible things that you can choose, they all really do fit the whole "mastermind carefully influencing things from the background" idea.  Like some sort of hidden puppetmaster.

The problem is that alot of these actions available, in terms of pure gameplay and numbers, simply dont have enough effect. Assisting with armada construction, for instance.  As best I can tell, this does nothing.  Or the example of the explosive sudden war I mentioned originally.   Something like that massively affects the overall simulation, and more importantly, the strategies being implemented, but it happened and ended so fast that I couldnt do ANYTHING about it... it went by even faster than a very short dispatch mission.  Even if I hadnt been on a dispatch at the time, I still just could not have done anything about it in the 6 or so months that the war took. I have political options, but they're not strong enough.  I can sabotage things.... but not enough to have a true effect on the situation.  I could improve relations.... very, very, VERY slowly. 

And that's just with that example.  Even something like a much longer conflict seems to generally suffer from this same problem.

And I'm sure that it's all just imbalances, not problems with the core mechanics, really.  Lotsa numbers being off.  But one way or another, alot of players are getting the "I cant REALLY affect much here" feeling, which definitely says that there's stuff that badly needs fixing.






I still feel there is too much disconnect between the player and the underlying simulation. I don't know if it's just issue of lacking interface, or a deliberate attempt to hide the "math stuff" from the player lest they be overwhelmed, but I find it to be very off putting.

Now, this game is in a genre of it's own, so it's hard to compare to others, but there is definitely a bit of an underlying 4X (for example, Endless Space) that is more or less playing out behind the scenes, and that the player only has indirect control over. I've also seen it compared to Crusader Kings 2 by others because of the political manipulation aspects. A major difference between those games and this is that they don't hide the mechanics from the user. I can find out exactly how much science is being generated by each planet in Endless Space, and even check the math if I were so inclined. In CK2, I can figure out exactly where all my taxes are coming from, and see what bonuses and penalties are applied. I can work out how long it will take for a castle upgrade to pay for itself because the mechanics aren't hidden from me.

I like crunchy number stuff, it's why I generally like PC strategy games, as well as board games. I can work out a plan because I understand the consequences of actions. I have no problem with randomness in strategy games, because it's an element that forces you to adjust your plans and account for contingencies. Even when things don't work out as I hoped, I can still understand the sequence of events that lead to whatever outcome I ended up with.

What is my point in all this? In The Last Federation, I feel like I'm pressing random buttons on a black box. It's not very engaging to me. At best, my actions are more reactive than active (cleaning out fleet buildup somewhere for instance).

Many actions, buildings, events deal with RCI (the majority of them), and this is what I feel is really the weakest aspect of the game. I have no idea what a -20 vs a 0 vs a +80 RCI value even means. Didn't the tutorial say something like "what affects these values, I dunno, a butterfly flaps its wings..." I feel like I'm the goddamn butterfly, and that's not very engaging. Chaos theory is certainly an interesting concept, but I don't think it makes for engaging gameplay.


I agree with this too.  More graphs and info and whatnot, not a bad thing here.  I dont think there's really a concern about overwhelming the player... let them explore things like this on their own, it's not like you have to toss 50 number-filled screens at them in the tutorial.  And it seems like players into this game or others like it tend to prefer that these things be there, it's not like they're an unwanted feature.

So yeah, MOAR NUMBERS!!!!!


Quote
Well, since when do I see effects then? Acutians Economy was -80, Public Order was -35 and still over years they outproduced everybody else and fought simoultaneously two wars. Adaption to their planet was 0.50 or something, Ecology and Medicine where negative, too (lower numbers). They had the most fucked up RCI in the system, still...

Are these numbers too low to have any effect whatsoever? I don't think it did something, at least nothing I could notice.

The RCI numbers seem just unbalanced right now, is all.  I'm pretty sure the devs are well aware of this one. They are indeed meant to have real major effects on things in the way that you say, but the math behind them needs a bit of tweaking.