My first few hours with Pandora

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larchy
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My first few hours with Pandora

Post by larchy » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:05 pm

My first ten minutes spent with Pandora gave me a huge smile as I sat there thinking "it's a modern SMAC, hurrah!". After the initial inevitable comparison I'm not sure it starts to show much of it's own personality though. This might just be because there are so many assets not included in the Beta.

Here are my initial thoughts from about 6 hours of play:


1. The interface is very slick and polished, reminding me of the very sleek Endless space UI. Everything is super-smooth and responsive, and laid out cleanly.

2. The graphics are nice and unit animations great.

3. The interface has too little feedback on important information. I am told after founding my first city, with nothing yet in the build queue, that "-2.00" minerals are being used for "production". Production of what? Where? What is going on? Maybe I just need a manual.

4. The 'economy' screen very badly needs setting out in tabulated form organisable by different resources to be of any use. The current list of cities makes it very difficult to see what is producing what.

The tax rate control on this screen also really needs to have some sort of projected +/- changes displayed next to economy totals so you can see the potential effect of changing it.

5. When there are a lot of units on the screen it's difficult to see at a glance what units are where. This was always a problem in civ-like titles; Civ V's graphical style alleviated it about as well as I've come across, but Pandora can become a jumble when there are a lot of units on screen. I think there are a few ways to combat this. One would be to ensure units are a bit more distinctive, as everything seems to blend together into a bit of a melange at the moment. Another would be to combine the info icons for a unit and city when a unit is fortified in a city. At the moment when a unit is in a city it still has a separate icon floating above the lower city icon. It could be cleaner to combine them.

5. It crashes when I alt-tab from fullscreen (W7 x86-64, Radeon 5850 w/ Cat 13.1)

6. There are some factions with basic differentiators, but I've seen very little in any personality to them beyond a short few lines when you first start the game. I assume this will be fleshed out.

7. There doesn't appear to be any further story to the alien life beyond them filling an early game barbarian role to inhibit early expansion. There are some nice "you have found a new alien..." 'pedia entries, but no tales of your little marine squad's first encounter with an evil alien foe, let alone any suggestion of anything more buried in there. I realise that you aren't recreating SMAC exactly, but SMAC wasn't just civ-in-space and the aliens weren't just barbarians with different unit graphics. The different types and their behaviour formed part of the story of Planet and responded somewhat to the player's actions. At the moment, once I've cleared all the initial barbarian-spawning camps (sorry, alien hives) away, then that's it as far as the 'alien' part of the game goes. Enter the game after about 50 turns or so and anyone would think it's just a future tech mod for Civ V.

8. There doesn't appear to be anything inhibiting city-sprawl, so it seems like a land grab. Where are the maintenance increases for higher numbers of cities? What scope is there for playing with a few focused powerful cities? SMAC was always laid low with effectiveness of endless low-pop city sprawl tactics.

9. The AI will settle cities in tiny gaps of a couple of hexes between my cities, even when these spaces are deep within my empire. Civ IV's cultural borders were created to alleviate this problem, and Civ V just has an AI that is aware of not being so land-grabbingly flagrant. I'm ending up with my larger cities that have popped their borders a few times having little 3-hex islands of other factions' cities in between them.

10. While I understand not having a visible tech-tree is a design decision, it would be nice to at least have some indication of which techs are military/economic/production/science etc. SMAC had the 'blind research' play setting to directly address this issue (although it did allow a visible tech tree if players preferred it). It seems to me this particularly needs addressed as some important city improvement techs require researching through military techs. This wouldn't be an issue so much if the player had some indication of how they could aim/focus on a particular area, but if I want to focus on, say, production techs I seem to constantly be choosing from lots of random military techs and hoping something relevant turns up.

11. Resources need balancing; I can be founding my second city and have enough cash to buy every city improvement in both cities AND additional units, but not enough minerals, apparently.

12. No wonders/special projects? I are dissapoint ;(

13. FOR THE LOVE OF JEBUS GIVE ME AN AUTOMATED EXPLORE BUTTON

14. I can meet an AI player and instantly negotiate trade, research and non-aggression treaties. Some sort of basic relationship system is needed, and there needs to be feedback on what actions are positively and negatively influencing relations. I also need the industrial player to be telling me how he hates my hippy alien-loving ass, or some church zealot threatening to do unmentionable things to my squidgy bits if I continue doing all that science stuff. At the moment my only interaction with other factions are soulless and seemingly random treaty proposals.

15. No social policies? Seems a huge oversight. Not only was SMAC pioneering with such mechanics (which greatly add to both CivIV and CivV), the ones available in SMAC help add to each faction's personality and unique playstyle. I want to be able to decide if all of my people live in treehouses made from discarded toilet rolls to keep Stabby the alien arachnid happy, or order them to live on half a kitkat a day to make them all bloodthirsty soldiers.

16. Seems to be very little relationship between player actions and the effect on the gameworld. Adopt overly-industrial policies in SMAC and you had aliens erupting at your toes and xenoflora overgrowing your farms. All you seem to get here is a CivII pollution-on-steroids effect.

17. My current game sees me at turn 221 with about a dozen cities. My advisors tell me I'm doing terrible at everything, yet I'm researching new discoveries every 1-2 turns, popping out even big city improvements in 5-6 turns and can prettymuch buy anything I don't have. I think there needs to be some attention to pacing/scaling

18. I have -187 minerals per turn. I press end turn. My minerals total increases by 33. Hm. I have huge (HUUUGE!) +ive incomes in every other resource, but a massive minerals deficit. Perhaps all my miners are on a break or something. Maybe I should send my seemingly over-productive farmers down the pits. I still have no idea what all this "production" is that is using my minerals up. I shrug and carry on, as it seems to make no difference.

19. When I start the game up and load an existing game, the tutorial tips reset.

20. The menu screen is fantastic and makes me happy.

21. No unit upgrades? :/

In general this looks like it could be utterly fantastic. I really hope you can give it a bit more of it's own personality and some more depth; you'll get very sick of SMAC comparisons, but at the moment I feel like I've been playing a very nicely presented SMAC-lite.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by SephiRok » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:14 pm

Thanks larchy, that's golden. I feel bad for not having the time to reply to everything.

We do plan to flesh out the factions more, add more aliens, and some story-related things.

Did you reassign any colonists in your cities, or did you just play with the defaults? Did you stomp over everything in the normal difficulty and never had to care?

If you get the mineral weirdness where they're not increasing/decreasing by the amount stated, could you please send the save game my way?

Awesome!
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void
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by void » Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:23 pm

Huge feedback, thanks a bunch larchy!
larchy wrote:3. The interface has too little feedback on important information. I am told after founding my first city, with nothing yet in the build queue, that "-2.00" minerals are being used for "production". Production of what? Where? What is going on? Maybe I just need a manual.
A lot of things have hover tips, namely the resource items in the top left and the statistics in the city screen on the bottom right. Each city -- even without colonists -- grants food+1 and minerals+1 of the tile its on, as well 2 production and research points.
larchy wrote:4. The 'economy' screen very badly needs setting out in tabulated form organisable by different resources to be of any use. The current list of cities makes it very difficult to see what is producing what.

The tax rate control on this screen also really needs to have some sort of projected +/- changes displayed next to economy totals so you can see the potential effect of changing it.
Ye our economy and military panel are severely lacking in functionality atm. However, we'll improve it big time in the future, allowing to sort by various criteria, change production, etc.

larchy wrote:5. When there are a lot of units on the screen it's difficult to see at a glance what units are where. This was always a problem in civ-like titles; Civ V's graphical style alleviated it about as well as I've come across, but Pandora can become a jumble when there are a lot of units on screen. I think there are a few ways to combat this. One would be to ensure units are a bit more distinctive, as everything seems to blend together into a bit of a melange at the moment. Another would be to combine the info icons for a unit and city when a unit is fortified in a city. At the moment when a unit is in a city it still has a separate icon floating above the lower city icon. It could be cleaner to combine them.
Interesting idea, we'll experiment around with it in the near future.
larchy wrote:6. There are some factions with basic differentiators, but I've seen very little in any personality to them beyond a short few lines when you first start the game. I assume this will be fleshed out.
Yes indeed. While there are faction specific standings in, the system definitely needs improvement and have more of an impact.
larchy wrote:7. There doesn't appear to be any further story to the alien life beyond them filling an early game barbarian role to inhibit early expansion. There are some nice "you have found a new alien..." 'pedia entries, but no tales of your little marine squad's first encounter with an evil alien foe, let alone any suggestion of anything more buried in there. I realise that you aren't recreating SMAC exactly, but SMAC wasn't just civ-in-space and the aliens weren't just barbarians with different unit graphics. The different types and their behaviour formed part of the story of Planet and responded somewhat to the player's actions. At the moment, once I've cleared all the initial barbarian-spawning camps (sorry, alien hives) away, then that's it as far as the 'alien' part of the game goes. Enter the game after about 50 turns or so and anyone would think it's just a future tech mod for Civ V.
Originally we had planned to make native alien life be a constant threat (and I'll still add that new hives can spawn), but we dropped the idea and will now rather have a large-scale alien invasion of an intelligent species (that will kick in around the time the first faction reaches the transcendence era). We are still missing a little art and code for that one, but shouldn't take too long to get it in. I'm more worried about balancing the whole thing, and for now I want to make sure the game is fun even without it.
larchy wrote:8. There doesn't appear to be anything inhibiting city-sprawl, so it seems like a land grab. Where are the maintenance increases for higher numbers of cities? What scope is there for playing with a few focused powerful cities? SMAC was always laid low with effectiveness of endless low-pop city sprawl tactics.
This one is a really tough call, since it's so subjective. Personally I hate nothing as much as artificial city restrictions (like done with morale in Civ 5); I'm a heavy warmonger at heart (Spartans for life!), and want to conquer the whole globe in epic campaigns. If anyone can suggest a system that makes both ways equally viable, I'm all ears. What we definitely need is a morale penalty for newly conquered cities, its on the TODO.
larchy wrote:10. While I understand not having a visible tech-tree is a design decision, it would be nice to at least have some indication of which techs are military/economic/production/science etc. SMAC had the 'blind research' play setting to directly address this issue (although it did allow a visible tech tree if players preferred it). It seems to me this particularly needs addressed as some important city improvement techs require researching through military techs. This wouldn't be an issue so much if the player had some indication of how they could aim/focus on a particular area, but if I want to focus on, say, production techs I seem to constantly be choosing from lots of random military techs and hoping something relevant turns up.
Currently eco techs can lead to battle techs etc., and we tried to balance the tree to always give several interesting choices per tier. Flagging them (including the techs they lead to) based on their category is a good idea we already discussed internally, and implement once a good visualization is found. We currently color techs on tier (white, blue, gold) and have icons planned based on research field (math, physics, etc.), so how to best hint at what they provide without telling too much? Also, note that each tech opens up two other (non-discovered) techs, so your options will drastically increase over the course of the game. It's our design decision to give a lot of freedom on how to work through the tree, which includes skipping a bunch.
larchy wrote:11. Resources need balancing; I can be founding my second city and have enough cash to buy every city improvement in both cities AND additional units, but not enough minerals, apparently.
Currently its intended that a player often spends his money on buying items, if you had enough cash to buyout all improvements at once, you probably banked too much (the AIs spend a ton, which would explain why your advisors told you you are behind).
larchy wrote:12. No wonders/special projects? I are dissapoint ;(
Yeye, sorry but with our small studio certain things have to be cut, and those are a great candidate (bunch of work for a minor gameplay impact). I also have to admit I was never a huge fan of them (apart from the insanely good project videos in SMAC), since they made your tech tree research plan unreliable (Command Nexus was vital for my Spartan conquer strat, though Yang could have it first, or some other faction finds an artifact for acceleration etc.). And lastly, their gameplay mechanics can be nicely captured in operations (e.g. we have a Cloning Center op that doubles your city's growth rate for 10 turns).
larchy wrote:13. FOR THE LOVE OF JEBUS GIVE ME AN AUTOMATED EXPLORE BUTTON
Yes Sir, will come.
larchy wrote:14. I can meet an AI player and instantly negotiate trade, research and non-aggression treaties. Some sort of basic relationship system is needed, and there needs to be feedback on what actions are positively and negatively influencing relations. I also need the industrial player to be telling me how he hates my hippy alien-loving ass, or some church zealot threatening to do unmentionable things to my squidgy bits if I continue doing all that science stuff. At the moment my only interaction with other factions are soulless and seemingly random treaty proposals.
Currently you can see a faction's relation towards you in brackets behind their name. Yes, we need more text and dialogue options. However, I want it all to be text based (and yes, including insults), I really don't like the "put terms on the table"-system of Endless Space / Civilization. Also showing numbers for everything just takes the magic out of diplomacy in my opinion, we just need enough text and options for the magic to appear.
larchy wrote:15. No social policies? Seems a huge oversight. Not only was SMAC pioneering with such mechanics (which greatly add to both CivIV and CivV), the ones available in SMAC help add to each faction's personality and unique playstyle. I want to be able to decide if all of my people live in treehouses made from discarded toilet rolls to keep Stabby the alien arachnid happy, or order them to live on half a kitkat a day to make them all bloodthirsty soldiers.
We feel that this is inherent to the faction you play, the social mechanics allowed to turn the faction ideologies on the head or at least blend them together. If you want the treehouse people, pick Terra Salvum. If you want bloodthirsty soliders, pick the Imperium.
larchy wrote:In general this looks like it could be utterly fantastic. I really hope you can give it a bit more of it's own personality and some more depth; you'll get very sick of SMAC comparisons, but at the moment I feel like I've been playing a very nicely presented SMAC-lite.
Thanks for the confidence, we'll try to deliver!
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Janek
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by Janek » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:31 pm

Unfortunately, first impression for me is quite negative :(

1. ALT + TAB = crash.
2. My first thought on seeing the start screen was "TES IV: Oblivion".
2. The game in early stages is all about war with tons of aliens that are much more a nusiance than any challenge.
4. Please add sentry order to units not only fortify.
5. Please allow players to play after game ends.
6. Research system is a bit unclear - there are tons of inventions, but after some turns I just click a random one. A research tree would be nice, so we acctualy know whats the big picture.
7. Unit workshop is a nice idea but poorly executed at the moment - it is easy to accidentialy delete previous designs. I couldnt find any way to improve previous units to new desings. It is hard to distinguish units - all "colonial infantry" units look the same regardless of what they are armed with.
8. As many people before said, there is no difference between civs, they all feel and play almost the same.
9. But most of all - the game looks like a mediocre clone of Civ IV. I mean - the game mechanics are almost the same, the game idea is almost the same well pretty much everything is almost the same. Even the planet looks almost the same (it is not enough to rename iron to xenosomething to create a planet that would feel as if it wasn't earth). Why should I pay to buy such game if I can get Civ IV at bargain price and download some mods? If you are making an independent game then it is ok for me that some feautures are not as good as in AAA game, but the game has to show some innovation, it has to be much better in some aspects than an AAA game in some aspects. In case of Pandora there is nothing more than in Civilization series, even some feautures are missing. Sorry for that, but I'm afriad that many people will feel that way.


EDIT:
If you want the treehouse people, pick Terra Salvum. If you want bloodthirsty soliders, pick the Imperium.
Unfortunately this is an RPG aspect of Pandora - I have to imagine myself that one faction is "bloodthirsty soldiers" and the other one is "treehouse people" as there are no differences in gameplay.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by void » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:00 pm

Thanks for the feedback Janek, and sorry to hear that!
Janek wrote:1. ALT + TAB = crash.
Since we develop for three different systems (Windows, Mac, Linux) and with several third party libs, these things are just bound to happen in beta. On the around two dozen systems we tested the game so far it did not happen, but PCs have a wide range of configurations. As closed beta tester you just need a strong stomach!
2. My first thought on seeing the start screen was "TES IV: Oblivion".
I did not play Oblivion, but with start screen do you mean this menu screen? http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l ... -menu.jpeg
While I can see a resemblance here, I'm pretty sure there are plenty of games with a very similar main menu screen -- but I honestly don't think that's a problem.
2. The game in early stages is all about war with tons of aliens that are much more a nusiance than any challenge.
Finding a native alien difficulty level that all players are happy with is tough, that's why we added the Alien Aggression option in world creation. Maybe you can find a setting more to your liking.
4. Please add sentry order to units not only fortify.
5. Please allow players to play after game ends.
No-brainers, we'll add that.
7. Unit workshop is a nice idea but poorly executed at the moment - it is easy to accidentialy delete previous designs. I couldnt find any way to improve previous units to new desings. It is hard to distinguish units - all "colonial infantry" units look the same regardless of what they are armed with.
The functionality to upgrade units and replace designs in queue will be added. For distinguishing units we use different weapon models for their 3d view, and in the army/selection panel or territory hint they show different icons.
8. As many people before said, there is no difference between civs, they all feel and play almost the same.
Especially since the updated modifiers earlier today I have to say I can't agree anymore. While before you maybe had to know the game quite well to notice the differences, e.g. the 50% power increase or double unit upkeep of the Imperium should be clearly noticeable -- way more than any civilization modifiers in the Civ series.
9. But most of all - the game looks like a mediocre clone of Civ IV. I mean - the game mechanics are almost the same, the game idea is almost the same well pretty much everything is almost the same. Even the planet looks almost the same (it is not enough to rename iron to xenosomething to create a planet that would feel as if it wasn't earth). Why should I pay to buy such game if I can get Civ IV at bargain price and download some mods? If you are making an independent game then it is ok for me that some feautures are not as good as in AAA game, but the game has to show some innovation, it has to be much better in some aspects than an AAA game in some aspects. In case of Pandora there is nothing more than in Civilization series, even some feautures are missing. Sorry for that, but I'm afriad that many people will feel that way.
While we sure as hell did not reinvent the wheel, with operations and the upcoming alien invasion I think we added enough innovation to a very stable core (for a more innovative title check out our first game Conquest: http://www.conquest-game.com) -- and a game like Alpha Centauri (which I personally prefer to Civilization) has not been made since over a decade. While we can't compete with SMAC's project videos / voice acting due to budget (we have a very atmospheric intro though, will be enabled soon!), our modern technology, refined mechanics, cool operations and dark sci-fi atmosphere in my opinion totally justify Pandora's existence.
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larchy
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by larchy » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:51 am

Wow, thanks for such attention Rok.

Of course I didn't think to keep a copy of the savegame, but I'll think on from now should I come across any further strangeness.

I hadn't touched colonist assignments at all. When you mentioned it I had a look and found that if I assigned the pop of one of my cities entirely to production (about a 28 pop city with the tile that gives a 25% production bonus) I was running a mineral deficit of over -700 (pre-nano factory 100% production bonus). Even if I assigned every single person in every other city to mineral production (I had about a dozen of cities, all 20+ pop with a few 40s), I could only get this deficit down to about -300. Looking at the production table in the city screen it seems that buildings have an order of magnitude greater effect on resource production - even if you assign an entire population to the production of a particular resource the change is relatively small and still only about a quarter of what the buildings produce.

If it's intended that I shouldn't be able to have a couple of mega-producing cities, or be able to specialise in production (though food/sci/min production seems fine) then that seems an odd decision; but I assume it's just a balancing issue. I seem to be running into a lack of minerals a lot, don't know about other players or if I just haven't worked out the right way of dealing with it.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:23 pm

Well that really depends on a few factors.

First, if you're playing the indistrious guys the miners:workers ratio won't balance out.

Second, it depends a lot on what you've built. If you got the best production buildings and not the mineral buildings it again won't work out. You also really want to build mines on every hill from my experience, formers atm suck and don't do that when automatized. And since minerals are gathered from tiles it depends how many of those you have in general.
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:02 pm

Minerals do seem to be much more valuable than food. If cities could consume extra food to grow faster, than it wouldn't seem so different.

I've also noticed that most of my production is done through purchasing rather than actual production.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:22 pm

I'm thinking of adding mineral depletion to territories (like 1% per turn if worked), so that you eventually run out of them. As well as add minerals to purchase costs, otherwise it doesn't make any sense to have depletion. It would generate pressure for a resource and make the game more dynamic; plus it makes sense there aren't unlimited resources on the planet.
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by Ribes » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:31 pm

So I managed to play for around 3 ½ hours today. In that time I got to the mechanized era and managed to eliminate the militaristic AI (medium). Here are some of my thoughts so far.

-Starting out everything was easy to figure out except that I mixed up unit power and health during the first few turns (I thought they were the same thing). Also my colonizer spawned about 3 hexagons away from the map edge and for a long time I was wondering why I couldn't walk with my units to that area. After having explored a bit more of the surrounding area I saw the pattern and realized that it was the map edge and not an unexplored area as I first thought.

-The aliens were really aggressive during the early parts of my game. I could handle it but other players might find it to hard. Maybe you could decrease the alien spawn rate during the first turns of the game and then increase it later when players have gotten a few more cities up. You could even incorporate it into the story by saying that the aliens are growing more aggressive as a response to the human colonization, or something like that.

-Very often I would end a turn and then the next turn one of my cities had 1-3 aliens beside it. And I didn't always have units in range to defend it. Sometime I even completely missed that an alien stood next to my city and then find out next turn that the city had been destroyed. I have a few suggestions for this.
1) Increase city line of sight so that it can see at least two hexagons away. That way you'll have a little more time to prepare your defenses.
2) Make it so that cities can defend themselves or give cities hit points that enemies have to deplete first before they can take a city. This was also annoying me later in the game when i was fighting against an AI opponent. He had an aircraft unit 2 hexagons away from my empty city but I had a tank unit between my city and his aircraft. But his aircraft simply went around my tanks and captured my city. I could capture it back pretty easily, but through out my war with him many cities changed owners very quickly.
3) Make the warning notification bigger. They were very easy to miss. Maybe make it so that you have to click on them before you can end your turn?

-I couldn't figure out how to use the satellite scan. You were supposed to click on the button and then on the place you wanted to scan right?

-Are you able to upgrade units with new armor and weapons? If your able to do that I couldn't figure out how to do it. If your not able to do that then that's probably a good thing to ad. Many of my experienced units got stuck with old armor and weapons.

-I don't know if unit stacking is a good thing to have in this game. I've played Alpha centauri and it became rather annoying a bit later in the game when AIs would just stack a ton of units in the same city making that city very hard to capture. I haven't played Civ 4 but I've heard that that game had the same problem. It seems to work well enough in your game though but maybe you could limit it so that no more than 3 units can occupy the same hexagon?

-Took me a while to figure out that I can't build roads on forest tiles. Maybe ad some red text warning you about that.

-The game says that I'm loosing 20 minerals every turn but I my mineral count stayed the same. Later on it said that i was loosing 40 minerals every turn but I was only loosing around 5 minerals every turn. Increased my mineral production and then it said that I was loosing 2 minerals every turn while I was really gaining around 10 minerals every turn.

- Another bug. I captured a city from an AI that was building aircraft. I hadn't discovered the technology for aircraft yet but it was still building it. After two turns the aircraft was complete and it appeared in my recently captured city.

-The cloud shadows look a lot like fog of war. Got a bit irritating after awhile.

-Not a big thing but i would prefer if units with a predetermined path moved at the end of the turn rather than at the start of one so that you can move them if the need arises.

-I just have to say that the Leviathan looks really awesome. First time I saw one I got all of my units the f*ck out of the water as fast as I could. Also I noticed the same Leviathan a bit later after it had eaten a few AI units and it said that it was a Lieutenant. Thought it was a bit funny but maybe you should at different ranks for aliens. Not a big thing and you've probably already thought of it and not just had time to ad that yet. Just thought I'd mention it.

Overall I had really fun playing the game. Looking forward to being able to play more.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:44 pm

Cities will get be damaged (population decrease by the unit's power) by native aliens in the next version.

Operation usability needs more love, but yes, that's how you use it -- right click on territory.

We have multiple mechanics to combat stacking: flanking, nukes, artillery.

You can't upgrade units (yet), you can disband them in your own territory for credits though.

Cheers,
Rok
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:57 pm

I definitely prefer unit stacking to 1 unit per tile. Civ V used 1 unit per tile and it was a mess. It makes a sensible AI MUCH harder to implement and it causes all sorts of miscellaneous problems in a game at this scale. I think added mechanics that make spreading out units desirable but not required is the way to go.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:05 pm

Yeah, stacking is something we've decided on from the start and is not something we will be changing.
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:51 pm

I'm thinking of adding mineral depletion to territories (like 1% per turn if worked), so that you eventually run out of them. As well as add minerals to purchase costs, otherwise it doesn't make any sense to have depletion. It would generate pressure for a resource and make the game more dynamic; plus it makes sense there aren't unlimited resources on the planet.
This doesn't really make sense to me. The majority of my mineral production seems to be from buildings rather than from actually working territories already. Making terrain LESS important seems like a bad move. Exhaustion mechanics are especially dangerous because the entire world gets filled up with cities before turn 100 it seems. So it's not like you can expand your way out. Maybe having some sort of overharvesting option that drastically boosts production at the cost of depletion would work, but not just a straight: "If you use this for 100 turns it's gone."

Any exhaustion mechanic should probably be tied into pollution. I'm really not sold on pollution so far either. It's a nice idea, but it's a really unsatisfying implementation I think. It's basically taken directly from the civ 2 pollution mechanics, but those didn't really kick in until near the end game, AND they were tied into the global warming mechanic so they were a little scarier. It was both much easier to avoid pollution and much harder to clean it up, so it made it a decision whether you wanted to pollute or not, rather than just a minor annoyance that has to be dealt with once in a while. Alpha centauri did it well, where you had the planet react to you polluting, but again it didn't really kick in until you got into the game a little, and it was something you could choose to avoid if you wanted to.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by void » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:15 pm

While I'm also not a fan of mineral exhaustion, I have to state that a (fully justified) code refactorization from last week introduced resource misscalculation. The stats showing how many resources are gained from buildings etc. are wrong and values are getting inflated. We'll publish a new build shortly that will fix this, but old save games will no longer work.

Concerning pollution: While the accumulation barrier to trigger pollution currently is set to 50 (so it only depends on the city's pollution output), we could make the barrier dynamic by tying it to global pollution (e.g. at the start of the game its 100, and then slowly keeps going down based on the combined pollution of all cities on the planet and polluted tiles).
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:16 pm

The first mineral building gives you a direct increase in mineral gain, the other two give you a % increase, so you don't get that much directly from buildings. Only the tiles you have a miner on would be getting depleted, so it wouldn't all be gone at the same time at all. What I like about it most is that it could keep it interesting going into the mid-game, where normally 4X games start becoming less fun.

Another possibility would be that each time pollution happens on a tile, it's depleted by a certain %. But that would feel pretty random since you can't control on which tile pollution does happen.

I do think pollution could be better, it should probably have some kind of global effect. How did CivII and AC give you the option to not pollute?
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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:35 pm

You only started generating pollution when you crossed certain production thresholds in both I believe. The thresholds were high enough that you didn't really start hitting them until you had a pretty strong industrial base. So you didn't start seeing pollution until mid game at all. Then they had powerful pollution reduction buildings. If you wanted to have very high output cities, you ended up polluting, but you could counteract that to a large extend with the reduction buildings. I believe forest cover also helped reduce pollution. I believe in AC the social priority settings gave you a lot of control over pollution as well.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:37 pm

I'm not sure that mineral exhaustion will work to make mid game stay interesting, it might just end up with mid game being totally depleted and no one being able to build anything.

I could see some possibility where "surface" minerals are depleted, and you are able to use formers to mine deeper. I would really like to see formers doing more in general though.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by larchy » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:37 pm

Jon Schafer recently discussed some of the issues facing 4x games (slitherine's fantastic Unity of Command also gets some praise); of particular relevance to this discussion is the exhaustion at around the mid-game where most players find they have things sewn up and the rest is just a slow inevitable steamroller to the end.

Talking about introducing mineral exhaustion would introduce a feature that would cause mid to late game conflicts, but as that resource is fundamental to your cities doing anything at all I think it's going to be tremendously hard to make it work. I already think Pandora is failing to address city-sprawl, and mineral exhaustion will only tip the scales further in favour of a mad land-grab and huge numbers of undeveloped low-pop cities as a winning strategy. The same strategy broke SMAC and 4x games have spent the last 14 years addressing the problem.

CivV introduced the happiness mechanic to balance city sprawl, but also resources that give you objectives to fight over (or trade) in the later game - be it over newly revealed coal/oil/uranium or for new luxuries. The system is finely balanced and works well, and allows scope both for conquest, larger empires, or focussing on smaller empires. Often initial surroundings can determine a particular strategy, though the likes of Ghandi has huge small-empire bonuses. Social policies also allow the player to adapt their playstyle to circumstance.

While we're on the topic, why do we have food and mineral stockpiles? It's fine having a money stockpile/balance because you spend it, but why food? Why not just have a balance and be done with it? I don't see what purpose it serves. Ditto minerals; why not just have a balance that needs to be kept positive? If you pulled together some of the suggestions in other threads about transport and connecting cities to connect resources it would open up the possibility of damaging supply lines in enemy empires to put them into a -ive resource balance. Then that guerilla war tech could actually live up to its name.

I really feel that Pandora is retreading the old ground of 15 years ago and making some very old mistakes. The game seems heavily skewed toward quick land grabs and large numbers of small cities. City buildings are so cheap and cash so plentiful that urban development is hardly ever a worry, with city production largely idle unless you're cranking out unit after unit. Given how plentiful cash is I can't see a lack of minerals being a huge issue anyway. I just played through a game with constant "you are out of minerals" warnings with no apparent effects other than the very occasional unit disappearing until I eventually won a tech victory.

The likes of CivIV RoM went overboard with the sheer number of improvements etc, but the systems it introduced with the expansion in religious and cultural strategies were tremendous and provided an emergent dynamic that spurred the mid-game. The system it had for instigating internal events within your civ (various challenges based on how you were developing your civ, cities left unconnected and on the fringes of your borders rebelling, entire civ revolts, religious schism events etc) also provided an additional immersive dynamic that helped maintain interest through the mid-game and beyond.

The city health system was also a far better realised way of managing runaway population growth than the way pollution is implemented currently in Pandora.

I am hopeful that there is a lot more added to Pandora before release to address what looks at the moment to be some major pitfalls.

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Re: My first few hours with Pandora

Post by void » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:10 pm

Alright, have to defend some of our design decisions here, because we pondered them quite a bit before implementation.
larchy wrote:While we're on the topic, why do we have food and mineral stockpiles? It's fine having a money stockpile/balance because you spend it, but why food? Why not just have a balance and be done with it? I don't see what purpose it serves. Ditto minerals; why not just have a balance that needs to be kept positive? If you pulled together some of the suggestions in other threads about transport and connecting cities to connect resources it would open up the possibility of damaging supply lines in enemy empires to put them into a -ive resource balance. Then that guerilla war tech could actually live up to its name.
If you do not stockpile resources, you have two options: You either disregard or you convert them (e.g. food into growth or credits). No matter what route you go, the optimal play will be to try to stay as close as possible to a certain value (like either 0, or, if the food-to-growth conversion is attractive, as much as possible / whatever value is the sweet spot for your conversion function). On the other hand, while stockpiling still is most efficient when your pile is kept at 0 (so you always utilize all food and minerals), it has the ability of compensation. So even if you don't feel like reallocating your colonists every turn and pilled up a couple hundred of your resources, you can heavily compensate a couple turns later by moving a bunch of your guys out of the respective harvesting area into production or research. This allows pro players (who want to optimize to the maximum when fighting a very hard AI) and casual players alike to have a satisfying experience.
CivV introduced the happiness mechanic to balance city sprawl, but also resources that give you objectives to fight over (or trade) in the later game - be it over newly revealed coal/oil/uranium or for new luxuries. The system is finely balanced and works well, and allows scope both for conquest, larger empires, or focussing on smaller empires. Often initial surroundings can determine a particular strategy, though the likes of Ghandi has huge small-empire bonuses. Social policies also allow the player to adapt their playstyle to circumstance.
I really feel that Pandora is retreading the old ground of 15 years ago and making some very old mistakes. The game seems heavily skewed toward quick land grabs and large numbers of small cities. City buildings are so cheap and cash so plentiful that urban development is hardly ever a worry, with city production largely idle unless you're cranking out unit after unit. Given how plentiful cash is I can't see a lack of minerals being a huge issue anyway. I just played through a game with constant "you are out of minerals" warnings with no apparent effects other than the very occasional unit disappearing until I eventually won a tech victory.
This is of course subjective, but in my opinion for a good 4X game building cities / colonizing planets to expand your empire is a crucial aspect of the game. I'm aware that Civilization and Colonization introduced the concept that empires with one or two cities can be stronger than ones of significantly larger size, but I have very mixed feelings about that. Realism aside, to make this happen you have to introduce artificial distortion by either heavily penalizing expansion or providing gigantic boni to small empires. However, I do agree that spreading yourself too thin with too many cities should be punished, and the AI actually does that already to an extend. My main problem is that cities provide a too high intrinsic bonus (equivalent of 4 colonists), so we could tweak in that direction by making a colonizer consume 4 colonists and new cities starting with 4 (but not having boni by itself). We could also give one of the factions a heavy bonus for keeping its empire small.

The mineral penalty works in a way that it basically hard caps your production, so if the production points of your total empire would be 1000, but you only gain 500 minerals per turn, the effective production in all of your cities would be 50% -- which means building things takes twice as long.
The city health system was also a far better realised way of managing runaway population growth than the way pollution is implemented currently in Pandora.
To be honest, I really like our pollution system. Formers constantly cleaning up is pretty cool because it gives them something to do after improvements are up, and makes your empire look alive. On top of that if there is war and they can't do their job anymore for besieged cities, prolonged battlefields will look devastated (thus visually attractive), and the respective city will be severely hindered in its efficiency.
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