First Impressions & Concerns Thread

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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Blackadar
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First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Blackadar » Sun Nov 17, 2013 5:18 pm

I wasn't in the beta but since I'm a 4x TBS junkie, I forked over my $30 and jumped in on release. I've been playing 4x games since the original Civilization back in '91 and have been gaming longer than that. I've played almost all of 'em - Civ series, CtP, Colonization, SMAC, Distant Worlds, Fallen Enchantress, so on and so forth. I'm a massive fan of the genre. And before I start, let me dispel the myth that this is a SMAC clone. It's not. Inspired by SMAC it may be, but it's not a clone.

I've been playing Pandora a couple of days now - lost a couple of games early, won one late - and my overall impression is quite favorable. The game isn't perfect yet, but it's fun now with enormous potential to be a classic of the genre with some further development. I'm not going to write a full-blown review as I stopped doing that years ago, but I do have some impressions and suggestions. Oh, and for anyone reading, this is NOT a SMAC clone. It's inspired by SMAC, but there's enough different here to make Pandora its own game.

First Impression
The overall package's production values are excellent, especially for a first-run game. That includes a bunch of items - graphics, sounds, interface and overall stability are quite good. The game is visually appealing, the interface is a Civ V clone (which is a good thing), the unit graphics are neat, the sounds ok, the music unobtrusive (maybe a little too forgettable) and the game has only crashed on me once. I applaud the developers for releasing such a polished product.

Other things work really well - stuff that's not so simple like map scripts and the combat AI. These things can sink a game (FE:LH's map scripts are still horrible and that's the 3rd try for Stardock on those!) and they're just nailed.

I like the flavor of the descriptions. Inspired by SMAC, they help breathe life into the game. A couple of other concepts that seem to work well are the semi-random tech tree, the unit editor and the global pool of food, minerals and the like. I didn't see the impact of migration from one city to another, but supposedly it's there. Because of these concepts, the game starts off a little slower than other 4x games, but it makes up for it later. Each civ has its own personality and that's generally a good thing (more on the downside of this later), and between the descriptions, the AI and some of these other factors the game had some unique flavor. It's not faceless and that's a good thing.

I played last night and got that "just one more turn itch" and finished my first victory this morning. That itch is the hallmark of a good game. My first impressions are favorable. But I have some concerns about this game long-term. Here's why:

Concerns
I don't want to call these cons, because they can be altered and/or fixed. Some of these things will be easy to fix, others might take a little more work.

- The randomized tech tree is cool, but it's perhaps too long and too focused on military upgrades.
- The unit editor is cool, but I need a way to delete and make obsolete designs. I'd also like to make some designs upgrade automatically. Sorting through the designs started to become a chore after a while.
While having unique bonuses for each Civ is a good thing, they HAVE to be turned down. Some are so overpowered it makes the game absurd. +50% production? -25% unit costs? These are massive advantages that make the beginning of the game very, very difficult to survive for other civs. I'd suggest turning down every single civ bonus in the game by half. They're just too overpowered.
- The game needs some more flavor. While I like the Operations, I'd like to see more city specialization (which means needing Wonders) and unique landscape tiles. They're greatly needed.
- I'd also suggest either some random events (SMAC had 'em) or just a way to make the game feel more "alien". Once I was halfway through, the alien species were gone and I could have been fighting on Earth. That's not good for a Sci-Fi game. I'd suggest creating some events around the flora/fauna of Pandora and keep those events going throughout the game. The devs could look at the decent Warlock: Armegeddon DLC for a way to give Pandora a way to fight back. In keeping with the Sci-Fi theme, aliens could land and attack. All of these things help keep the mid- and end- games more interesting.
- The AI and the diplomacy needs some work. Imperium and Divine are simply awful and overall the AI is far too aggressive. A player using someone like Togra is at a massive disadvantage early in the game because some civs are like the Civ 2 Mongols on steroids. At the same time, Noxium and Terra are diplomatic pushovers. Moderate these a bit and provide a bit more clarity as to why civs like / don't like you. Also, the ability to have one civ attack another would be nice. But the game needs work here ASAP.
- Everyone else has commented on this and I will too. Players need a manual and more information regarding how they're doing. I won a tech victory and I couldn't even tell it was coming. The devs don't have to do a ton here, but the players need some guidance on the mechanics and some better information as to the winning conditions.
- I'd like some better combat sounds and a few more unit special abilities. Yeah, we got attack, defense, heal, sight range, blah blah blah. There's a lot more that could be done here. How about attack on hills or on the plains? How about better shielding from aircraft attacks? It's not urgent, but it would help to give the units more flavor. At the same time, the combat sounds could be improved a bit too.
- This one is an annoyance. STOP the city spam by the AI during the endgame. There's no way the AI should be putting cities on little silvers of land on my continents. I don't care if there needs to be a penalty for the overall number of cities, but that's just annoying as heck. Maybe create a rule that after a certain point you can't put a city within 2 tiles of someone's border?
- The speed of the endgame seems to go a bit haywire. I was researching techs every turn. Buildings were being produced in one or two turns. It was nice to see things happen, but it got old after a while. I'd love to play Pandora on a huge map to keep the exploration aspect going longer, but I can't imagine how long the endgame would take on such a map because there seemingly aren't penalties for city spam and unchecked growth.

These suggestions and annoyances are where the game becomes a bit weak. The entire opening third of the game is dictated by the psychotic AI and absurd civ bonuses contribute to this. It doesn't matter who you are, you better just churn out units to fend off the inevitable attacks or you're done. There's just no option. The mid-game gets bogged down because there's no "alien world" left and there's a decided lack of events and wonders to keep things fresh. The endgame becomes a bit of a slog with city-spam and incredible production speeds. Luckily, many of these things can be fixed with relative ease because much of this doesn't require new gameplay mechanics (wonders and events would).

So I'll conclude with this - Pandora is an excellent start and it's within reach of being a classic in the genre. If this ends up being the final and complete product, I'll be disappointed. I'll get a few games out of it, but I'll ultimately return to Civ V, DW and other games for my 4X fix. I'll get my money's worth, but it won't be something I could recommend. However, if it continues to get developed (and it won't take a whole lot), Pandora could be considered one of the best 4X games ever. It's in the hands of the developers at this point.

void
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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by void » Sun Nov 17, 2013 5:30 pm

Hi Blackadar, thanks for the feedback!
Blackadar wrote:However, if it continues to get developed (and it won't take a while lot), Pandora could be considered one of the best 4X games ever.
That is the plan, we're in for the long run.
Lorenz Ruhmann
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void
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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by void » Sun Nov 17, 2013 5:45 pm

Also, note that our updater allows you to seamlessy swap between Release and Beta version, so all players who bought the game will be able to experience and test new content regularly while it's in development! When you check our Beta forums, you'll notice that we're willing to iterate and polish a ton, which is also the reason we have a story/art manual instead: Even shortly before release we were still tweaking, reworking and refining mechanics.
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Blackadar
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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Blackadar » Sun Nov 17, 2013 5:49 pm

void wrote:Hi Blackadar, thanks for the feedback!
Blackadar wrote:However, if it continues to get developed (and it won't take a while lot), Pandora could be considered one of the best 4X games ever.
That is the plan, we're in for the long run.
I'm glad to hear that. Right now you have something now can be proud of, but you guys are so close to having something truly exceptional.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Teodosio » Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:07 pm

The fact that the tech tree is too long sounds like a big pro to me! :p

I don't fear the civs unique bonuses either; after all if all of them are overpowered, it means that none of them really is. Unless one of them is clearly superior to all the others...

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by MizzouRah » Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:29 pm

- Everyone else has commented on this and I will too. Players need a manual and more information regarding how they're doing. I won a tech victory and I couldn't even tell it was coming. The devs don't have to do a ton here, but the players need some guidance on the mechanics and some better information as to the winning conditions.
You can hover over the buttons at the bottom, like research, and it will at least tell you what % you are at in relation to victory.

Great write up Blackadar.. I'm glad you purchased it, I know you are one 4x junkie that will only help in the future development of Pandora.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Blackadar » Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:57 pm

Teodosio wrote:The fact that the tech tree is too long sounds like a big pro to me! :p

I don't fear the civs unique bonuses either; after all if all of them are overpowered, it means that none of them really is. Unless one of them is clearly superior to all the others...
No, it is a problem - because not only do they dictate how you play and react to the other players, it really determines when you can win or lose. It all has to do with the bonuses being percentage based.

Togra gets +50% research from Scientists and -25% from upfit costs. The later is decent, but the former bonus means that if Togra makes it to the mid-game relatively intact, they will win unless everyone makes a concerted effort to gang up on them. There's just no chance that a civ of the same approximate size can keep up with them on research because of the percentage bonus. That relative bonus will keep them in the lead and it never really evens out. Compare that with the University of Planet in SMAC, whose +2 bonus was large in the beginning of the game but becomes less of an advantage in the later game. +2 is massive when everyone else is +5, but +5/+8 (with supporting buildings) isn't that large of an advantage when everyone's research is 50 or 100. Conversely, Togra simply cannot match some other civs early in the game from a production standpoint, so the game becomes a matter of holding on long enough until your research advantage becomes overwhelming. If I take Togra and can turtle (ex. an island map) long enough, it's over. You can't beat me. So playing Togra becomes the same game, the same plan every...single...time.

Imperium's +25% power and +100% healing rate makes the early tank-rush all but inevitable. In fact, there's no choice but to rush early. Because once you're into the late game, the +50% maintenance cost on units make fielding and upgrading a large army all but impossible. So unless they're in a massive position of power early, they have zero chance to win late in the game. None whatsoever.

Therein lies the problem. The percentage nature of the bonuses, coupled with how overpowered they are, conspire not only to severely dictate the way you play any of the individual factions but also determines when they can win. I like having somewhat unique factions, but these bonuses are not only ridiculous, they detract from the game by dictating a specific gameplay style every single game. One thing that made Civ 4 (IMO the best 4X TBS game ever) brilliant was that while the various civs had advantages and disadvantages, they weren't so overpowered that it dictated how the player played the game regardless of the circumstances within that individual game. In Civ 4, you may have a warlike Civ but the player can still win playing fairly peacefully if that's what the circumstances dictate. Alternatively, you may be playing Gandhi where circumstances (an abundance of iron in your city) enable you to be the world's biggest warmonger - so you are and you can still win. With the bonuses in Pandora, I'm not sure that's really possible at all, never mind easily as viable.

EDIT - mind you, I generally like the game. I just think absolutely dictating the play style of the factions is a mistake in both the balance and the replayability of the game.

EDIT2 - Heya Mizzou! Fancy meeting you here!

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Veneke » Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:09 pm

Nice write-up though I disagree with several of your cons.

- A tech tree can never be too long. On one hand that's simply personal preference and, on the other, it helps extend the length of the end-game even in the face of significant research bonuses (the default ones or even the Togra's boost).
- I haven't experienced any significant city spam by the AI. I've seen some curious city placement (like the ones right on another faction's borders) but nothing like the city spam from the Civ games.
- Things do start moving very quickly by the endgame but I've mixed feelings about this in it's current form. On the one hand by the time the end game comes along you already know, usually, who is going to win. It's just a matter of researching or conquering or tweaking your economy and clicking end-turn. You'll likely need the last couple of techs to make the final push to allow you to win the game. As there's really nothing new introduced in the end-game there's nothing to be gained from slowing it down. If there were new mechanics or events then it would be different. As is though slowing the end-game down might increase the tedium of the end-game.
- Even on a Huge map the exploration phase is well over by the mid-Mechanization era if you make even the slightest attempt to be active in using your orbital scanner operation. I'm not convinced that this is necessarily a bad thing either and it certainly isn't a departure from the 4X norm where exploration is, largely, over by the mid-game.
Blackadar wrote:
Teodosio wrote:The fact that the tech tree is too long sounds like a big pro to me! :p

I don't fear the civs unique bonuses either; after all if all of them are overpowered, it means that none of them really is. Unless one of them is clearly superior to all the others...
No, it is a problem - because not only do they dictate how you play and react to the other players, it really determines when you can win or lose. It all has to do with the bonuses being percentage based.
I'm not convinced that this is as big an issue as you appear to think that it is. It's quite clear that the different factions were designed to be quite different from each other and all, equally clearly, have a very distinct goal in mind. It isn't like Civ where you can get away with discarding your bonuses and not feel as if you're playing a Civ incorrectly. Here, Togra is meant to research, Nil is meant to amass credits, the Imperium is meant to have a huge army and so on. The idea that the Imperium should be able to compete with Togra on a research basis makes much less sense than the Mongols being able to compete with Babylon in research in Civ. It's almost certainly a design decision to ensure very different playstyles across playthroughs which, in Civ games, you generally don't necessarily get just by changing factions. Here, you are obliged to alter your strategy to meet the different factions you can't use the same path for each one.

That's not to say that the system is perfect, far from it. Indeed, the greatest problem is that there's a limited number of factions and playstyles available to you. This could be mitigated (as I suggested in another post) by being able to create a custom faction.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Rosseau » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:13 am

Thanks for your insights. I bought the game, but have not started. The bonuses can easily be modded from within the Factions folder. If you want to suggest certain values, I (or anyone else with 1/2 a brain :) ) can put together the files. I did notice the game does not like odd folders in its directories, so I store my back-ups outside the Pandora folder to avoid initial crashes.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Blackadar » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:17 am

Veneke wrote:Nice write-up though I disagree with several of your cons.
That's fair, but let me help clarify some of these and address your comments. On some of these I'm not sure you understood the entire point - it's quite possible I wasn't clear.
Veneke wrote: - A tech tree can never be too long. On one hand that's simply personal preference and, on the other, it helps extend the length of the end-game even in the face of significant research bonuses (the default ones or even the Togra's boost).
As compared to the rest of the game, the last tech-tree keeps going. The endgame epoch tech tree just seemed significantly longer and I tend to like things to be even in each phase. I got pretty deep into it and to tell you the truth it didn't add much. It was there just to be there. And when I'm discovering a tech a turn and the tree keeps going, that's perhaps an issue. Making each endgame tech take a bit longer to research and making them more meaningful could be a better solution. Of course, I'd rather it keep going than run out altogether. It's a relatively small point.
Veneke wrote: - I haven't experienced any significant city spam by the AI. I've seen some curious city placement (like the ones right on another faction's borders) but nothing like the city spam from the Civ games.
I've never seen Civ spam cities the way the AI did in my game. If there was an empty spot on any continent, the AI placed cities. In fact, the AI placed undefended cities right on my borders when I was in the middle of a war with that civ! What was the point? With no apparent way to raze a city, those cities just were one more thing that I had to mess with during the endgame. A small AI tweak is all that is needed here. I'd suggest that after a certain era the AI just doesn't put a city within 1 or 2 hexes of another player's border. That's all.
Veneke wrote: - Things do start moving very quickly by the endgame but I've mixed feelings about this in it's current form. On the one hand by the time the end game comes along you already know, usually, who is going to win. It's just a matter of researching or conquering or tweaking your economy and clicking end-turn. You'll likely need the last couple of techs to make the final push to allow you to win the game. As there's really nothing new introduced in the end-game there's nothing to be gained from slowing it down. If there were new mechanics or events then it would be different. As is though slowing the end-game down might increase the tedium of the end-game.
It's certainly better than Civ V's interminable endgame, that's for sure. It's as I said before - many of these discoveries didn't add much to the game. It started to feel like spam and that's not a good thing. Slowing down isn't a good thing, but making what happens more significant certainly is.
Veneke wrote: - Even on a Huge map the exploration phase is well over by the mid-Mechanization era if you make even the slightest attempt to be active in using your orbital scanner operation. I'm not convinced that this is necessarily a bad thing either and it certainly isn't a departure from the 4X norm where exploration is, largely, over by the mid-game.
We agree here - exploration is usually over fairly quickly. My point was that once it was done and the alien lifeforms were wiped off the face of Pandora, it didn't feel like an alien planet anymore. One of the great things about SMAC was that Planet was really another faction, but one that would put up a lot of resistance if you tried to take it head-on. It was more about learning somewhat to live with Planet, rather than entirely conquering it. I think it would add flavor to the game if Planet put up more resistance and found a way to fight back a bit more. For example, borrowing some of the mechanics from Warlock's Armegeddon DLC could add some flavor. The Dremer cataclysm adds real (and much needed) flavor to that game. A lesser version of that - especially against those players who are hell-bent on terraforming the heck of out Planet - could add much-needed flavor to the mid-game.

In fact, there's all sorts of mid-game possibilities for events. Alien landings, Planet fighting back, solar events, etc. could help shake things up a bit. Now let me place a caveat here - random events should never dictate who wins or loses. But they should force new alliances, cooperation between players who were previous enemies and add some fluidity to the game just as it starts to solidify. Heck, even something as simple as a planetary council election and some votes on various subjects would help.
Veneke wrote:I'm not convinced that this is as big an issue as you appear to think that it is. It's quite clear that the different factions were designed to be quite different from each other and all, equally clearly, have a very distinct goal in mind. It isn't like Civ where you can get away with discarding your bonuses and not feel as if you're playing a Civ incorrectly. Here, Togra is meant to research, Nil is meant to amass credits, the Imperium is meant to have a huge army and so on. The idea that the Imperium should be able to compete with Togra on a research basis makes much less sense than the Mongols being able to compete with Babylon in research in Civ. It's almost certainly a design decision to ensure very different playstyles across playthroughs which, in Civ games, you generally don't necessarily get just by changing factions. Here, you are obliged to alter your strategy to meet the different factions you can't use the same path for each one.

That's not to say that the system is perfect, far from it. Indeed, the greatest problem is that there's a limited number of factions and playstyles available to you. This could be mitigated (as I suggested in another post) by being able to create a custom faction.
A custom faction would be a nice option, but I still maintain that the bonuses are too overpowered. If Togra is caught between Imperium and Divine on a Pangea map, they have almost no chance of winning because of the combination of the bonuses and personalities of those two factions. They'll be wiped out almost every time. While that may be realistic in the presentation of the factions, it's not a lot of fun IMO. It's too predictable and too rigid. If the personalities were toned down, that would help. I like having distinct personalities and significant advantages/disadvantages between the factions. But the same thing could be accomplished by halving all the bonuses and it might open up a few more options to the player. Again, that's why Civ uses +1, +2 bonuses to factions and rarely, if ever, a large percentage like 30% or 50%. It's too difficult to balance throughout the game. As always, YMMV and thanks for the feedback.
Last edited by Blackadar on Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Emmeric » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:23 am

I also saw some very big advantages to a +50% whatever, and found myself modding them down to 25% or even 10%.

In another thread, someone wondered why bother planting forests. I changed the "1" values to "2"s. Still not what you want in every tile, but worth planting forests. I also didn't like mountains bare and plain, so I went and changed the "vegetation" chance from 0.0 to 0.5. now there can be proper mountains with forests on them!

No matter how I try, and I'm old enough to have played every game since Wizardy I on the Apple II Plus, I still cannot match the growth rate of AI cities. They are always double what I have and I always run food surpluses. I play on medium.

Excellent game, moddable, and I am so very thankful they didn't go Steam on release. I just will not ever again subject myself to such torture. Civ 5? Didn't buy. Bought this on the day of release and my shirt was soaked from months of drool anticipating this game.

:P

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Blackadar » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:43 am

Emmeric wrote:I also saw some very big advantages to a +50% whatever, and found myself modding them down to 25% or even 10%.

In another thread, someone wondered why bother planting forests. I changed the "1" values to "2"s. Still not what you want in every tile, but worth planting forests. I also didn't like mountains bare and plain, so I went and changed the "vegetation" chance from 0.0 to 0.5. now there can be proper mountains with forests on them!

No matter how I try, and I'm old enough to have played every game since Wizardy I on the Apple II Plus, I still cannot match the growth rate of AI cities. They are always double what I have and I always run food surpluses. I play on medium.

Excellent game, moddable, and I am so very thankful they didn't go Steam on release. I just will not ever again subject myself to such torture. Civ 5? Didn't buy. Bought this on the day of release and my shirt was soaked from months of drool anticipating this game.

:P
Another old-time gamer! I played Wizardry 1 on an IBM XT. I remember finding that secret door (the 4th floor, I believe) allowing me to progress with the game. It was a momentous achievement. :)

Obviously I haven't gone into modding this game. I'd like to see what the devs do first.

I don't share your Steam trepidation - I love that service and think it's been the best thing for PC gaming ever (more games, better prices and offered an alternative to worse forms of DRM ) - but I rarely buy anything on release nowadays. I almost always wait. Which means that since I bought Pandora on release, you weren't the only one drooling about this game. As I said before, I think this game has the potential to be a classic of the genre. When that list has MOO, SMAC, Civ 2, Civ 4, Colonization, MoM and DW on it, that's high praise indeed. It's not there yet, though.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Veneke » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:48 am

Blackadar wrote:As compared to the rest of the game, the last tech-tree keeps going. It seemed a bit unbalanced. I got pretty deep into it and to tell you the truth it didn't add much. It was there just to be there. And when I'm discovering a tech a turn and the tree keeps going, that's perhaps an issue. Making each tech take a bit longer and making them more meaningful may be a better solution. Of course, I'd rather it keep going than run out altogether.
That's true and, I must say, that I have a hope that they'll add more things to do in the late game and with the existing tech tree as it is there'll be a fairly easy way to ensure that there'll be sufficient time in the late game to play with any new options they introduce. Mostly though yeah, there's quite a few techs that are there just to add options to the unit designer or provide some late-game bonuses for the dash to the finish.
I've never seen Civ spam cities the way the AI did in my game. If there was an empty spot on any continent, the AI placed cities. In fact, the AI placed undefended cities right on my borders when I was in the middle of a war with that civ! With no apparent way to raze a city, those cities just were one more thing that I had to mess with during the endgame.
I think we just have different experiences here. I don't think I've seen the AI ever place an undefended city and it certainly avoided going for empty spots in favour of building up. There is an option to raze a city though, it's in the city view. On the left, I believe.
We agree here - exploration is usually over fairly quickly. My point was that once it was done and the alien lifeforms were wiped off the face of Pandora, it didn't feel like an alien planet anymore. One of the great things about SMAC was that Planet was really another faction, but one that would put up a lot of resistance if you tried to take it head-on. It was more about learning somewhat to live with Planet, rather than entirely conquering it. I think it would add flavor to the game if Planet put up more resistance and found a way to fight back a bit more.
Aye, the Planet is underutilized and, something someone else mentioned, it would really be very nice to be able to play as the natives. Or perhaps Terra Salvum could be changed so that instead of delaying the inevitable they could, potentially, find a way to work with the planet.
A custom faction would be a nice option, but I still maintain that the bonuses are too overpowered. If Togra is caught between Imperium and Divine on a Pangea map, they have almost no chance of winning because of the combination of the bonuses and personalities of those two factions. They'll be wiped out almost every time. While that may be realistic in the presentation of the factions, it's not a lot of fun IMO. It's too predictable and too rigid. If the personalities were toned down, that would help. I like having distinct personalities and significant advantages/disadvantages between the factions. But the same thing could be accomplished by halving all the bonuses and it might open up a few more options to the player. Again, that's why Civ uses +1, +2 bonuses to factions and rarely, if ever, a large percentage like 30% or 50%. It's too difficult to balance. As always, YMMV and thanks for the feedback.
That's kinda like saying if Ghandi is caught between Monty and Genghis on a map in Civ he's no chance of winning. You're not wrong, it's just that that's just part and parcel of the system. My real concern with reducing the difference in faction bonuses is that it increases the possibility and ease with which a faction can overtake another in their particular area and ultimately result in a series of factions which have boosts which you can largely ignore (like most Civ bonuses). The less the difference between the factions the more options open up but the less distinctive each faction is in terms of how they play. On this matter I'm inclined to err on the side of caution and would sooner have them as straightjacketed as they are rather than risk losing that feeling. It would be different if one (or two) factions were clearly overpowered but that isn't really the case. Togra are the only ones that need a bit of luck to compete but if they get it they'll do just fine, and typically much better than that.

I think, perhaps, that we're just approaching this from different angles more than anything else.



@Emmeric - Food surpluses don't affect your growth rate. I'm not even fully certain what does. Morale, I believe, has an impact and there's an operation you can perform but I found that by the mid-late game (when you get the operation that boosts your growth) my population was exploding all on its own.

Emmeric
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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Emmeric » Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:13 am

Blackadar wrote:
Another old-time gamer! I played Wizardry 1 on an IBM XT. I remember finding that secret door (the 4th floor, I believe) allowing me to progress with the game. It was a momentous achievement. :)

When that list has MOO, SMAC, Civ 2, Civ 4, Colonization, MoM and DW on it, that's high praise indeed. It's not there yet, though.
Don't forget the all time classic and first of the exploration games, Sword of Aragon!. Danged Gernok.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Mord213 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:33 am

Blackadar wrote: Togra gets +50% research from Scientists and -25% from upfit costs. The later is decent, but the former bonus means that if Togra makes it to the mid-game relatively intact, they will win unless everyone makes a concerted effort to gang up on them. There's just no chance that a civ of the same approximate size can keep up with them on research because of the percentage bonus. That relative bonus will keep them in the lead and it never really evens out.
Togra's research bonus is additive with the research bonuses from buildings and the tier 3 scientist advancement while Morale is a separate multiplier. Their faction advantage is less of a comparative advantage as the game progresses. Even Divine Ascension at late game will research a tech a turn. Additionally the game is pretty production heavy so while Togra will research faster the extra turns they spent building will set them back more than the other factions. And then if they have to rush an army their production weaknesses really gets them killed.

As far as the tech tree goes most of the techs in tier 2 and tier 3 are simply multiplied version of tier 1 techs. I was initially impressed with the tech tree but once I'd explored the later techs I was disappointed with how shallow the tree overall feels. I'd much rather have some of the chassis types pushed into only later tiers and some of the filler building techs removed.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by AlfyB » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:50 pm

Hi!

Another old gamer here, having also gone through SMAC, the CIVs, Colonization and some of the outer space stuff. Went through my first game today, but it did not last nearly as long as I thought it would: got murdered by a mix of war and alien aggression just as I was reaching tech tier 2 (I was on average difficulty). This was actually a nice surprise: I'm not used to die easily, and it's good the know the game will punish complacency (and I admit I was VERY complacent with defending my cities).

I'll chime in on a the general quality of the package: it's impressive. the game looks awesome, the music is nice, the UI is spot on. There are a few bugs here and there on the Mac version, but nothing that breaks the game or can't be sorted out easily. The sounds are a tad below par, but I feel picky mentioning it.

My biggest peeve for the moment is the diplomacy. It's really difficult to figure out what the AI thinks, and it might be worth bringing in the plus and minus system of CIV IV as a remedy. Very early in the game, one faction decided to declare war, and would not accept peace offerings. The crazy thing is that we were very distant neighbours (I met them while exploring), and I never saw a single one of their troops. So a 100 turn war without a single shot fired...

I personally like what I have seen of the tech tree (mostly tier 1, remember). I do not mind at all that there is no factual link from one tech to the next: we're talking techs of a distant future here, so it's hard to fault the logic, and the randomness is actually welcome. I would actually like to know if the tech tree is the same for all faction, or if each receives a different tree at game start. The later would be very interesting, as asymmetry usually brings some interesting interactions.

I'd have a lot more to say, but the truth is, I still feel very ignorant when it comes to Pandora. We really need a proper manual for this game. I know it takes time to produce, and it's always a tad difficult to start this kind of endeavour when you're still making changes to the game, but with manuals being PDFs only nowadays, it's not so much of a hurdle to update it when the time comes. I'm fairly sure I am dreaming, here, but I would point out to CIV III excellent manual (the first version of that game): it went beyond explaining the basic concepts, units and techs, and gave fantastic insights into the underlying mechanics. Plus twenty pages of designer's rambling as an epilogue.

Ok, ok, I'm dreaming here. Just a normal manual, then? Pretty please? :p

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Blackadar » Fri Nov 29, 2013 4:52 pm

I've played a few more games now and I wanted to add some additional suggestions and follow up on my earlier ones. Remember, I LIKE the game. I just think it could be improved greatly with some additions and gameplay tweaks.

Better borders - God, this is MASSIVELY needed. In every single game I've played, the AI has spammed cities everywhere. If there's one open space on my continent, the AI will spam a city there. It's absurd. Borders shouldn't end at the limits of what a city works. A tech would be awesome here - one that expands your borders one space past all existing borders. Another one could make that two (though you couldn't encroach someone else's existing border). This would allow everyone to claim more territory without having to spam a city on it. And the AI shouldn't be placing undefended cities right next to mine. Again, that commonly happens.

Wonders - Yeah, operations offer something different. But some World Wonders would be a great addition because the building gets dull after a while. There's a reason virtually every Civ clone has had wonders - they're fun to build and they help the player choose their winning path.

Too Predictable - Every game follows the same general pattern. Establish the first city and a second. Explore the world. Wait for the aliens to counterattack. Fight them off. Expand like mad and spam cities everywhere. Then either conquer or race for the tech win depending on what civ you're playing. End of game. Repeat. I mentioned the need for some random events before and after playing a half dozen games, I firmly believe more than ever that they're needed. The game is currently too predictable and that's not a lot of fun. Now some people might argue that all Civ games follow this pattern, but I find it's far more locked in here than in other games. Yes, in Civ V I can't expand past my happiness limits. But I can expand early or later, depending on how the situation dictates. With certain civs I may choose not to expand at all!

No Real Penalties for Growth - Besides money, there's no reason to not grow. While I'm not a huge fan of Civ V's happiness limits, there should be some reason to stay small and efficient. But there's practically none. Keep growing! Keep growing! Meh...again, it's that predictability factor.

Pandora Should Exist Throughout - Following up from my earlier thread, I again think this is a massive need. Much of the personality of the world is lost by the time you get into the mid-game. All aliens are exterminated and virtually every square inch of the world is covered with a city. It's ugly, unrealistic and unneeded. There has to be a way to keep Pandora as a NPC throughout the game. Where's sea-level rise? How about nature reserves? Improving the xenomorphs to make better weapons? One of the "lessons" of SMAC was the desire to somewhat co-exist with Planet.

Civ Bonuses - I still believe the bonuses are too strong, especially early in the game. Divine can simply wipe the nearest civ off the map in virtually every game if they can make flamethrowers on the first research tier. Get that tech, put your citizens into production, spam as many soldiers as you can and take a stack of 7 -8 to the nearest NPC's town (they'll only have one). Take it over and wipe them out. I've done this repeatedly just to test and get it perfected. It took a few aborted attempts, but the last 10 times I tested this I was successful 8 of those times. There shouldn't be an 80% chance of wiping out one of the AI players within 50 turns. Togra has never withstood this tactic. So why not have a few "National Wonders" where the bonuses start off relatively small and then those bonuses will get better once the National Wonder is built?

In other words, a few things are needed - more gameplay balance, options to make gameplay more interesting and options to encourage players to make different choices.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by Emmeric » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:14 pm

I like those points, Blackadar.

Most especially, I like the tech to expand borders one ring. That would indeed reduce the need to spam cities. I'm not sure if the AI would use it before spamming cities unless it was an early tech.

Somewhere, someone said (maybe you, don't remember), that alien hives should randomly spawn throughout the game. I feel that is a missed opportunity, too.

I hope a future expansion includes more terraforming options. I miss raising terrain. I also miss ocean bonuses, but the game is very playable and satisfying on release. I am surely content to wait to see what expansions might bring. But the two points above this one would be really helpful in a patch.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by fortydayweekend » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:39 pm

How about fungus growth outside borders? So that all those slivers of land would be mostly fungus by the end of the game and the AI presumably wouldn't rate them as a good spot for a city. Would also provide a natural check on expansion and a place for hives to respawn. Plus, SMAC did it, so everyone will love it :P

In terms of gameplay choices, the beta now has "growth" buildable in cities like wealth. This presumably lets you expand upwards as an alternative to expanding outwards, or by conquest. I'm not sure how the payoff rates yet vs. rushing opponents but if it's comparable that's another strategic option.

I hate to say it but the AI probably does need some bonus defensive units at the start on higher levels, or it needs to "cheat" and know that a nearby player is building lots of units.

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Re: First Impressions & Concerns Thread

Post by adamsolo » Fri Nov 29, 2013 7:17 pm

Blackadar wrote:Divine can simply wipe the nearest civ off the map in virtually every game if they can make flamethrowers on the first research tier. Get that tech, put your citizens into production, spam as many soldiers as you can and take a stack of 7 -8 to the nearest NPC's town (they'll only have one). Take it over and wipe them out. I've done this repeatedly just to test and get it perfected. It took a few aborted attempts, but the last 10 times I tested this I was successful 8 of those times. There shouldn't be an 80% chance of wiping out one of the AI players within 50 turns. Togra has never withstood this tactic.
Civ5 solved this with passive city defenses. In Civ4 a similar thing was happening. Early city rushes were quite doable and even common. But, after Civ5 cities got much harder to conquer early because of the quite powerful built-in city defenses. Something to consider implementing here perhaps.

Frankly, it never occurred to me to rush cities in Pandora, because that's not the way I usually play. But, I can confirm that an early takeover is indeed possible, and even quite easy to accomplish. Just in my last Very Hard game (which I lost miserably to James by the way, but that's not the point), I was playing with Terra Salvum (the one with the -25% attack bonus) and I managed to wipe out Lilith (capital and another city) - she declared, not me - with 4 or 5 ranked ATVs and a couple troopers against her standard troopers and a couple ATVs.

So, I confirm that it is indeed quite easy to destroy a close by AI if you do it quickly. I managed to acquire a good start and felt bold to win my first Very Hard game. Hardly did I know that James had a nice surprise planned for me. So, I had this Machiavellian plan to destroy my best friend Xi (which was clearly on the lead) in late game, with a master strategy plan: Medics (one in each stack), Defense Paratroopers (to be dropped in key forests blocking enemy lines), AntiAir Destroyers (because Xi had many airplanes and his 3 key cities were on the coast), Barrage Artillery and a pack of Tanks. I couldn't fail. It was even too predictable.

And, so, James declared and, no joke, annihilated me in no more than 10-15 turns (I had 6 cities). He brought a nice mix of troops. A bunch of airplanes, many troopers and several dreadnoughts. He also attacked in two fronts. A few airplanes harassed my capital city while he was busy invading my westernmost city.

Conclusion from this little rambling:

It's not hard to do early takeovers as Blackadar suggests (even in Very Hard), and playing in Very Hard is really a pain :) Has anybody beat the game in Very Hard by the way? If so, with which faction, map, map size and alien aggression?

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