Feedback: increasing "agency", player customization and UX

Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager (SPM) Road to the Moon is the ultimate game of space exploration.

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Feedback: increasing "agency", player customization and UX

Post by edbailey » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:13 am

First off - huge "props" for an engaging tense game. I am loving my time spent with Buzz's SPM !!

One of the things I appreciate is the strong sense of "agency". You have clear role as Director of NASA - all the choices you make (and the ones you can't make) are well-aligned to that job. You decide how the budget is spent, which programs to fund, when to start/stop a program, which projects to assign people to and you authorize (and staff) the missions.

And then you sit back and watch. Much like a sports simulator where you play the GM instead of the athletes. In fact, that's the perfect analogy!

Which leads to my "wishlist" for the game.

1) You are nameless, faceless and have no skills yourself. The game would improve if you had a persona that explains how/why you got the job - retired general, ex-senator, Nobel laureate, aviation pioneer (Howard Hughes), et al. Each choice should have some impact - better morale, lower facility cost, better science results, lower penalties for mission failure, et al. Moreover each choice should have slightly different "special missions".

2) You plan the mission, staff it, it runs ... and then nothing. When major milestones are accomplished, I want a public reaction and a visit on Meet the Press (where I have to decide who to congratulate, and answer questions about where/when we will hit our next major goal). When there is an explosion, I should be called before Congress to explain my incompetence. And when the Russians are winning, I should have a very uncomfortable conversation with POTUS.

3) I want a tradeoff on debriefing and analysis of each mission. No automatic tech increases. If I want that bonus, I should have to assign a SET or mission specialist to evaluate what happened and recommend improvements. That would also create realistic tension e.g do I pull my lead engineer off the Saturn 1B if an Atlas explodes - or ignore it because that rocket is about to be obsolete?

4) I want SECDEF to come calling, asking me to run "black ops" programs. The money would be nice, but we need the SET and mission control teams working on the moon, not spying on the Russians. Or what do I do when AT&T wants to put a comm satellite in orbit?

5) The game does not explain the critical historical/technical dilemma you are making to pursue DA vs LOR vs EOR. This should be a scripted event sequence with various "factions" pushing their pet theory. It also means many of the Gemini missions are quite confusing.

Now some "minor" changes that would make the game more engaging.

1) Every mission should have a name. Every mission's staffing and results should be saved and easily visible from the museum.

2) History. Who was the lead scientist on the Gemini EVA suit? Who was the first astronaut to orbit? Who died in that fiery reentry in Jan 1964? How many times has someone been in space? Expand the museum - and add tooltips for each employee that feature their mission history and major achievements/failures.

3) "Lead SET" should be a special position - not just first on the left. Hiring/firing someone from that role should have consequences.

4) Let me build a "team". I would like to assign SET in groups of 4 or 5 (if 5, then lowest skilled auto-trains). I would also like to have an assigned mission control team, and a Gemini/Apollo flight crew that trains together.

5) You cannot plan ahead easily. I want a "tech tree" that lets me pre-allocate my people 3-4 seasons ahead, and lets me know if I have time to send someone to training.

6) Customize the pictures. It's 2014 ... we should have procedurally generated male/female faces.

7) Failures are stressful, but what happened!? I want to know who saved the day (or who screwed up). And I would like cut scenes that show people working to fix the problem - either on the ground or in space.

One final thing I am very glad about - gender/race equality. It may not be "historical" - but I really like having females available in all job roles from the beginning.

Thanks again ! Great game and a very well spent $30.

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Re: Feedback: increasing "agency", player customization and

Post by lordshipmayhem » Thu Nov 20, 2014 9:09 pm

1) I'd love this. I want to be Carl Sagan. ^_^
2) I agree, at the very least when your first mission returns safely from the Moon, there should be some sort of celebration: film of ticker-tape parades, of awards, etc., and with the pictures (or silhouettes at least) of the successful crew flashing on the screen. (You should also have the opportunity to skip this if you've done your celebrating TYVM).
3) I'm not sure about the automatic tech bonus. I think in the Real World, there was a review of staff and tech as a matter of SOP.
4) The tradeoff for SECDEV and AT&T (and Soviet equivalents) should be time versus money - they give you more money for their missions, you take more resources away from launching research missions to get you to the Moon. I think we're in agreement here.
5) I think you're suggesting we be able to plot "critical paths". That would be useful - you could set the system up to go along your critical path, and instead of just kicking your research team loose for you to reassign, can automatically open the next mission in the Critical Path and auto-assign the researchers when the last step reaches a certain research point.

1)Every name has a mission: And rather than identifying it by the payload, you identify it by the name that the player chooses to give it. Mars Probe F1 for the first Mars flyby, Mars Probe F2 if you repeat it, and so on. All those Pioneers get kind of confusing after awhile.
2) The history, I find, needs work. I've noticed others commenting about it. Once you retire, you seem to vanish. Plus, there's no way of finding out who was on what mission, or what missions (and when) you've done.
3) I've always tried to "rank" the researchers from strongest to weakest from left to right. It would be a good idea to have the best in the left-hand window - and it should cost you research time and staff happiness to have them mis-sorted.
4) I've asked for something like this: teams, or at least the ability to sort by hire date.
5) I think this "tech tree" can be integrated with the Tech Tree suggestion above. It would be a good idea.
6) Pictures - doesn't bother me all that much, but it IS a nice touch.
7) This point has been mentioned by others: why did something fail? As well, your research payload's reliability gets punished if your rocket fails, and vice-versa - that shouldn't happen. If the rocket works but the probe fails, the rocket should get the reliability increase while the probe gets hit with a reliability punishment. And if it's a goof by a controller, then the controller should lose a point or two, not the equipment. "It is a poor carpenter who blames his tools."

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Re: Feedback: increasing "agency", player customization and

Post by jgf1123 » Thu Nov 20, 2014 9:43 pm

If I read the OP correctly, he wants more narrative. To quote xkcd:


This is what humans beings do. We turn events into stories, look for causes and effects, follow the actors. Sometimes BASPM feels like trying to extract a story from a spreadsheet. At the very least, remembering more history and providing a text summary of missions should be easy to implement. If an Apollo 13 mission-ending failure happens in BASPM, you get a failure message and prestige hit, not a thrilling story that gets books and movies based on it. It would cool to be able to look in your history and say, "Alice's quick thinking saved their lives; that extra season of R&D really made a difference on this mission."

I also thought the lack of pictures was a beta thing and was surprised they weren't in the release. Again, it puts a human face on the numbers.

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Re: Feedback: increasing "agency", player customization and

Post by kongxinga » Mon Dec 01, 2014 1:48 am

Please have messages for how missions failed, or what the glitches were, just like in Baris. Baris gave information on how the mission failed (parachute fail to deploy etc). I would love the news personalities back as well. It just feels so much drier.

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