First impressions

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whaleberg
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First impressions

Post by whaleberg » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:21 pm

I'm very excited to see a new planet colonization game coming. Here are some of my first impressions and some thoughts. It's obviously a beta, so I'm not sure what is in the works and what isn't. These are a collection of my thoughts in a rambling order. I haven't actually finished a game yet, but I've started a few different games.

First off, installation worked fine. I alt tabbed to look up my serial number and immediately crashed out. Not good... Any time I alt tab or lose focus for any reason in full screen mode the game crashes. That's a pretty critical bug. I had to switch to windowed mode, which doesn't suffer that problem. However, if the window size is set to my screen resolution, when the game starts it crashes. I have to manually edit the configuration file, set it to a size smaller than my screen, restart, and then in-game go back and reset it to my desired screen size. I'm guessing this is related to the alt-tab bug. I'm running in windows 7 and have 2 monitors.

The main title screen looks good. It's a little strange that the first button on top is grayed out, I guess quick play isn't implemented yet? So I go to new game, where it puts me in a pretty standard game lobby and lets me pick a faction. Seems functional.

I picked a faction at random and hit start. I was sort of expecting an intro or explanation of what I'm doing. Apparently it's just assumed that we've played alpha centauri already and know that we've all crashed and formed militant factions on a strange planet for some reason. I was given the tree hugging hippy faction, who seem to get some minor advantage in pollution for a disadvantage in combat. I'm not sure how the alien aggression reduction works, because I was immediately surrounded by swarms of zerglings and flying mutalisks. Some of them would ignore me completely for a while, and then they would attack at random. Its totally unclear to me what their logic is. I started in some frigid wasteland, and just decided to place my first city there. My guess is that there isn't really any attempt to balance starting locations.

The graphics and interface look good, although it's pretty hard to tell what weapons a unit is equipped with when you aren't zoomed all the way in on it. The interface was responsive and worked well technically.

My impression of the gam eplay is that it is a standard civilization clone. The limited city radius seems like it makes city placement very important, but the fact that resources are shared between all cities sort of cancels that out. It appears from my extremely limited early game play, that spamming cities to cover as much surface as possible is what is important. Aliens attack seemingly at random, but having a few roving units stopped that from being a problem. It's like barbarians in civ, but ones who sometimes leave your undefended cities alone for no reason.

The biggest change that I can see from the standard civilization format is the uncoupling of food and mineral production and there consumption. This is something that I haven't seen in many of this sort of game. It's interesting to me that you can produce a lot of minerals in one place, and then use them somewhere else. It is strange though that there isn't any sort of transportation network required though. It seems like this is the perfect place to make roads and connections important, but in fact there isn't any sort of trade network and resources all just pass directly to and from an abstract bank.

Research is fairly blind, and doesn't really give you a good sense of what a technology is going to do for you. Maybe that is a good thing in the first play through, it makes discovery more exciting. I think that once you have discovered something once it should stay permanently in the civilipedia though. It doesn't look like the tech tree varies between games, so there really isn't a point in making it a secret after the first time.

Special map tiles are incredibly valuable, and terrain improvements are pretty dull, just the standard +1 to whatever. Since they all seem to work the same no matter what the underlying terrain is, there isn't really any need to think about how to place them. Thankfully there is an automated former option.

For some reason attacks on me between my turns don't always seem to show up in the alerts. I wish there was an option to have it zoom to the attacks as they happen so I don't miss something important. For example: I had an undefended city, the zerglings that I was ignoring because they were wandering around it for a number of turns without bothering anything decided to attack and destroy it. I didn't get any notification that I lost a city, but I did get a note that my former had been attacked a few squares over.

It seems like there should be a notion of territory control that is more than just the city radius, like culture, or expanding city radii.

Ruins are awfully boring right now, they're just goody huts, and not even particularly useful ones.

Special map features are WAY more valuable than regular squares, but not particularly interesting.

Pollution is a strange fundamental mechanic, it seems to just mean I need to occasionally waste former time on cleanup, and former time isn't exactly a rare resource. Its unclear if it ties into alien attacks at all. I'm assuming it does, but that's just because I've already played alpha centauri.

I like that you used the embarkation mechanic from civ V to let units cross water on their own.

I was VERY surprised to run into the left side of the map and not wrap around to the right...

My overall first impression is that the engine seems sound, but the actual game needs serious work. It currently seems like a fairly undifferentiated alpha centuari cover, but one which misses a lot of the essential things that made alpha centauri exciting. Somehow the feel seems off. It doesn't feel like I'm colonizing a terrifying alien world, it's more like I'm trying to efficiently lay out an even grid of hex cities while being annoyed by erratic nuisance creatures.

whaleberg
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Re: First impressions

Post by whaleberg » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:35 pm

Queued auto moves should really happen at the END of the turn rather than the start, so that you can respond to events that take place during the other players turns...

whaleberg
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Re: First impressions

Post by whaleberg » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:53 pm

Currently moral seems to have completely negligible effects.

Two of my cities in a row were named Molyneux...

whaleberg
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Re: First impressions

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:25 am

Operations seem to be completely non-functional for me. They show up in their own window when they are constructed, but I can't figure out how to deploy them. Clicking on them and then on the map does nothing. How is it supposed to work? I like the idea of the operations.

larchy
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Re: First impressions

Post by larchy » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:44 am

whaleberg wrote:Currently moral seems to have completely negligible effects.
I also noticed this. On the late stage of one game I had a city with a population of 40+ (can't remember exactly, but it was my second largest city) and morale of -48. The effect of this was about a -14% reduction in resource production, hardly a big deal. The most advanced tech improvement to improve morale (holo theatre?) could barely dent all that unhappiness!

void
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Re: First impressions

Post by void » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:27 pm

Heya whaleberg, thanks for the feedback!
whaleberg wrote:Ruins are awfully boring right now, they're just goody huts, and not even particularly useful ones.

Special map features are WAY more valuable than regular squares, but not particularly interesting.
Do you have any concrete ideas how you would rather do it? Earlier we also had ruins with negative effects (damage unit, spread pollution), but they weren't that fun and got dropped. We might readd them just with a way lower trigger chance.
Operations seem to be completely non-functional for me. They show up in their own window when they are constructed, but I can't figure out how to deploy them. Clicking on them and then on the map does nothing. How is it supposed to work? I like the idea of the operations.
For deploying ops, you select them via left click in the ops panel, and then right click to deploy. The only non-functional operation atm should be the teleport (will teleport all units from source to target tile), and note that some other operations can only be deployed on certain territories (e.g. a cloning center on one of your cities, repair bots on your troops, etc.). We know that operation deployment should be more intuitive and highlight the target area.
larchy wrote:I also noticed this. On the late stage of one game I had a city with a population of 40+ (can't remember exactly, but it was my second largest city) and morale of -48. The effect of this was about a -14% reduction in resource production, hardly a big deal. The most advanced tech improvement to improve morale (holo theatre?) could barely dent all that unhappiness!
Each point of morale results in a +/-1% efficiency, so a -48 morale should basically half almost every stat in your city. At least a week ago this was working, I'll check if someone broke something. Also, the holo theater is the least advanced morale structure, for the mid and end game you have the emotional regulation center and collective consciousness.
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larchy
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Re: First impressions

Post by larchy » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:06 pm

pandora.jpg
pandora.jpg (241.66 KiB) Viewed 1250 times
^^ morale is -42, and as you can see there is only about -14% on food production. The other resources are similar.

I didn't mean the holo theatre, couldn't remember the names. The point remains that even the most advanced buildings would be unable to assist in controlling that level of poor morale, so it's just as well it's broken at the moment.

SephiRok
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Re: First impressions

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:09 pm

Could you attach the save game?
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larchy
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Re: First impressions

Post by larchy » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:38 pm

Sorry, yes


That save also has another issue - when you load it you get the message which I think is about the start of a science victory. when you close it it leaves that big blank report window shown in the screenshot above, with no way to get rid of it.
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x.rar
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whaleberg
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Re: First impressions

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:51 pm

First of all thank you for letting us play and test the game. k.
For deploying ops, you select them via left click in the ops panel, and then right click to deploy. The only non-functional operation atm should be the teleport (will teleport all units from source to target tile), and note that some other operations can only be deployed on certain territories (e.g. a cloning center on one of your cities, repair bots on your troops, etc.). We know that operation deployment should be more intuitive and highlight the target area.
I restarted and tried again, and this time it works. I'm pretty sure I was doing the same thing before and it didn't work, so I'm not sure if I was just crazy or if there was something wrong that restarting resolved...
Each point of morale results in a +/-1% efficiency, so a -48 morale should basically half almost every stat in your city. At least a week ago this was working, I'll check if someone broke something. Also, the holo theater is the least advanced morale structure, for the mid and end game you have the emotional regulation center and collective consciousness.


In the city screen moral seems to equate to a .5 % per moral penalty to food, and minerals, science and credits, and 1% penalty to growth.
I'm running at maximum taxes, and it seems like the money I get far for it, far outweighs the penalties in everything else.

I've attached my saved game. I have been crashing regularly ever since I got into a war. I was in a previous war with no problems. Is there a way to get information about crashes so that I can post them for debugging?
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whaleberg Auto Save 1.zip
Saved game showing problems with moral and operations.
(36.64 KiB) Downloaded 37 times

whaleberg
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Re: First impressions

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:58 pm

Do you have any concrete ideas how you would rather do it? Earlier we also had ruins with negative effects (damage unit, spread pollution), but they weren't that fun and got dropped. We might read them just with a way lower trigger chance.
About ruins, I don't think that adding negative effects to them would be helpful. It's just frustrating when you think you're going to get something nice, and then suddenly your killed by a swarm of barbarians. The problem now is that from what I've seen they're just not that useful. I get things like +9 food. It's a nice bonus, but not one that's really worth fighting over. Then once it's activated the ruin is gone, so they're only around for the very start of the game. I'm generally against large, randomly distributed, one time bonuses, so I wouldn't just hugely pump up the numbers, although a slight bump might help.

One thing that would make them more interesting is if they stayed around after they were discovered. Maybe they become a valuable map resource of some kind. Or maybe a city built on a ruin gets some sort of benefit, like being able to build alien units, or a free alien structure that does something useful. Obviously anything like that can be unbalancing, but I'd really like to see the ruins stick around and be fought over later. Maybe using them long term comes with some sort of existential risk, like the possibility of re-awakening their previous owners.

SephiRok
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Re: First impressions

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:08 pm

larchy wrote:I didn't mean the holo theatre, couldn't remember the names. The point remains that even the most advanced buildings would be unable to assist in controlling that level of poor morale, so it's just as well it's broken at the moment.
It seems than in basically all except Encke you would've gotten to positive morale if you'd have built the most advanced morale and pollution buildings. That city however is doomed. You're getting like -60 from pollution. I guess morale and pollution buildings need a buff.
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