First Game issues

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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corazhor
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First Game issues

Post by corazhor » Mon May 05, 2014 8:06 am

Just finished my first real game of Pandora. It was mostly great, with a handful of bugs, and some irritations. My true first game ended with the alien drones annihilating me (apparently you're meant to hole up in town for the first 'wave' of aliens?), the next game I played much more defensively, though the sudden aggression on the part of the stronger aliens cost me a couple cities. Fortunately several factions died to the aliens, so I had plenty of time to recover before crushing everyone with my apparently impressive satellite array.

The good:
I love the hex grid, its so much better than the damn squares from the older civ games.
randomized tech tree is fun, prevents you from just memorizing the tech path you want and forces you to make actual decisions about what techs to get (and make do with the consequences).
customizing the units is alot of fun, though the ability to rename the designs needs to be more prominent, I didn't notice it for the entire game (read another post that mentioned that theres a pencil icon you can click to do it) Maybe add in several ways and alternate places to edit the design name, like either a right click menu, or selecting the name text whenever you can select the unit (from the workshop and the production menus), maybe even a button on the units themselves.

The irritating:
The lack of help documentation. This game really suffers from not having a civopedia help equivalent - alot of the game mechanics are very confusing and non-obvious, and are in desperate need of some paragraphs explaining them. Example: naval logistics (the transport tech) unlocks the 'transport unit', and the naval logistics advancement. The manual (seriously why is that called a manual? its more the background story than a manual) doesn't even mention what an advancement is, and it took me an embarrassingly large amount of time to realize that the 'transport unit' wasn't something you build - you build the advancement, and all of your units start carrying magic transports with them and can just cross water at will. The transport is called a 'heavy mechanical unit' - I feel sorry for all those colonial troopers lugging those around on a Pangaea map. Also it took me 30 minutes to figure out the city screen and how to assign population to produce what I wanted them to. Sure I figured it out, but a good civopedia would have had me on the right path in under 5 minutes.

Combat seems to be stuck on the 'quick resolve' setting from the civ games - I really want a blow-by-blow combat that shows how my units are faring, and that cuts to each battle every turn, so I can better evaluate whether I'm just getting unlucky, or have the completely wrong makeup.

I miss unit promotions from the civ games - ranking up is still valuable, but its very bland. Even Alpha Centauri gave an extra movement point when you reached max rank.

The automation is lacking. Cities don't assign workers intelligently - they will add a farmer to a 1 food hex instead of a miner to a 3 mineral hex, even when the empire is producing more extra food than extra minerals. I can't tell formers to build a road to a specific destination, they have to be done tile by tile. Would also like to see former automation along the lines of 'build road network', 'build defenses', and 'build economy'. Additionally, an auto-explore command would be awesome.

Alien aggression is very confusing. First off, I don't see it measured or displayed to the user anywhere, it seems to happen suddenly without much warning. I love that the world has a bunch of alien life roaming around to start with, but it just seems to ignore you, and then suddenly decide to murder the entire lot of you, with no in between or even warning past the pop up that says 'hey, they're going to try to kill you now'. And I really don't understand what sets off the strong aliens, they were neutral for a long time before they tried to kill me. And what do the -alien aggression techs even do? is it a damage bonus (I never noticed one), or is it meant to be something I can use to delay them trying to kill me? Once they start attacking, is there anyway to convince them to leave me alone? Is there some kind of graduated system of 'we will kill you if you're nearby' to 'we will hunt you across the entire planet'. Also, if all these aliens are predators, why aren't they attacking each other? Could be a fun way to get a galeth or devourer ranked up or something.

I don't think the satellite/orbital stuff makes sense. The buildings you build seem like mission control type places (Houston, for NASA), which brings up the question of where all of these single use satellites come from. That they are manufactured and placed in orbit for free feels very strange, especially with some of the techs you can research, like the 'recycle your colony ship' tech. This might just be me going 'damn it I wanted to build a space elevator', but this seems like a major missed opportunity. Granted, at this point it would probably be extra complexity that might not add much.

On the same idea of realism, why does the game start with all the terrain covered in black? We came down from orbit - did we forget to install a single window or camera on the outside of the ship, so we could at least figure out how many continents there were and have a good idea where the oceans are? Alpha Centauri had the colony ship pretty much explode on reaching the planet in order to cover for why the world started black (also you could choose to have it not start black at game creation).

The Planetary Market is strange. Great idea - buying and selling the resources needed to run your empire, but the implementation feels off to me. First off, you can research it and start buying and selling your resources before you even have contact with other factions. I don't understand who I'm buying and selling with at that point. Also, it would be great to have it tie in to diplomacy, like the more factions you have trade deals with, the better the prices you get. The more you're at war with, the worse the prices get. Should also be restricted based on the number of other factions you have contact with. Prices should be downright horrendous without another faction to contact.

The headquarters building is too easy to build on accident. I changed my capital on accident three times in my first game. Please either add a confirmation dialog, or move it to the top of the build list, or place it in its own separate category in the build list.

The terrain improvements were kinda bland. This might just be that I didn't get far enough in the tech tree, but it was just farm, mine, and road. It needs things like boreholes, solar farms, something to increase credit output of the city, and other things. I'd love to see improvements you need to build for the special tiles (like gold vein would need a mine to access the bonus). Also, the ocean is a very boring place. Can't build cities on the water, can't improve water tiles, and all water tiles are identical. The ocean is in dire need of some TLC. And no, that is not just because sven was my favorite faction in alpha centauri.

No wonders of the world. Some of the coolest things in Sci-Fi are mega structures or projects that would change how the world works - things like space elevators, or orbital solar arrays for power, or massive virtual worlds.

Some of the techs are in dire need of renaming. Example: Belt Armor. This wasn't even considered an advanced idea in WW2, why the heck is it technology? At least call it something like 'polarized belt armor' and star trek a description that makes it sound sci-fi, something like 'allows for the belt armor of a ship to be polarized tangential to the hull at a molecular level, allowing for greater thickness without significantly increasing weight'. Sure its gibberish, but at least its not from WW2 anymore. Another example: Customization. And for the opposite end of the spectum: the electroplasma dynamic thrusting tech for ships. Drop at least one term from that (dynamic plasma thrusting works so much better), its too far into the 'star trek gibberish' zone that it no longer sounds like an actual thing. Bare minimum change it to an acronym - hard to go wrong with an acronym.

Grayed out actions should have a tooltip explaining why they are grayed out. Example: heal is grayed out, tooltip says 'unit is at full health' or 'can't heal in a fungus'. Also, should be grayed out for units that take damage in fungus, since healing there wont work for them.

Terrain is lacking some important elements. Rivers, for example. And access to fresh water is meaningless (would definitely need rivers to be useful though). No ice at the poles, yet it will have arctic tundra if there is land.

Forests and fungus don't spread on their own.

No real terraforming - couldn't raise or level hills, couldn't raise the ocean floor to make new land. Or are these unlocked at later tech levels? I didn't make it out of the second era.

The aspidoch and leviathin need something to differentiate them. I think currently one has a combat bonus and the other moves 1 speed faster. I'm also not a fan of the universal combat bonus that doesn't show up in its base health.

Bugs:
when a faction dies and I don't have contact with them, I get a message saying that I now have contact with them. Can't talk to them, but its still odd. Might actually be worth leaving in and modifiying for the religious faction since they're likely the only ones concerned with an afterlife, but removing for the other factions.

When i select hostile alien units, the command buttons light up as if I own the unit. I can even click them and they do nothing, so its a minor graphical thing.

Solar Dynasty named a city Rockefeller. This clearly should be a city for the Noxium Corporation - Rockefeller is a famous monopolist, and at least according to wikipedia, might even be the wealthiest man to have ever lived. Certainly worthy of reverence by noxium, but why would the solar dynasty give a damn about him?

The path drawn for where a unit will go doesn't reach the unit's destination if the destination is far enough away. The unit will still go to the real destination, but you won't be able to tell what path its taking to get there.

the pathing algorithm is very odd. Not certain this is a bug or just a design I didn't understand. The issue: If I order a unit to move to hex Y, then decide to tell it go one hex further to hex Z, the path to Z might take it through hex Y. When it does, the path it will take to get to hex Y may change. the differences seem to be a matter of when it decides to jog up or down. Is this just a case of the algorithm choosing a separate, but equally optimal path to the same hex, and if so, why? Shouldn't the algorithm always pick the same path, even if there are two equal choices? And I also felt like my units didn't like the roads I built, often taking 'shortcuts' over mountains. I couldn't really tell if it was my bad road building (another argument in favor of route-to road automation), or if the unit was just using its last fraction of a movement point to get into a better defensive position.

dmantione
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Re: First Game issues

Post by dmantione » Mon May 05, 2014 1:28 pm

I have seen the comment about terrain that cannot be lowered or raised a few times now. We have to be realistic: This game has 2D terrain (despite using a 3D engine). That means raising or lowering as in Alpha Centauri is not possible with the current game engine. The best that is possible is to convert grasslands into hills, and hills into mountains. This was a feature that Civ2 had that I actually didn't like to much, glad that Civ3 didn't have it.

Now if we take Civ as example, it does quite a lot with terrain. Take for example rivers, they do really a lot:
  • Give cities acces to fresh water, no aquaduct needed, so you can have big cities early on in the game
  • Increase food and trade output. Land with rivers is highly valuable
  • Can be used to travel fast. Strategically usefull early in the game when you need to have your land explored as fast as possible.
  • Movement stop if bridges not invented yet. Fast units like horsemen are useless to attack cities build next to rivers
So rivers are something that play a major role in your strategic. You have to learn their strategic properties and therefore they play a role in the development of civ players, which allows ultimately to allow them to play at higher difficulty levels. So this is just rivers.

So does Civ do this only for rivers? No, for example sea has several handicaps as well... with triremes that get lost at sea. This impacts your exploration strategy and has impacts on your scientific strategy (invention of nagivation could become a priority) or city building strategy (construction of the Great Lighthouse).

Getting everything together, I don't think we should stare us blind at lowering/raising because the game engine isn't built for it. Pandora is not Alpha Centauri, get over it. However, with the current 2D terrain, there is a lot more possible than there is now. This is the point where it is feasible to improve the game.

corazhor
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Re: First Game issues

Post by corazhor » Mon May 05, 2014 8:42 pm

I would definitely agree that converting plains to hills to mountains would be pretty bland and uninteresting. That said, I still want a way to convert the sea into usable land, which is really what I was after with 'raise terrain'. Especially since the sea as it stands now is very bland and uninteresting. Might even just be 'make the sea interesting' and I won't really care all that much. I do agree that with Pandora's map, the alpha centauri method of raising and lowering terrain wouldn't work at all. The game would have to built around having the 3D map, so its just not plausible to give it to pandora at this point.

I had alot of other comments, anything else stand out as unreasonable?

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