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News: Celebrating 30 years of Star Control 2 - The Ur-Quan Masters

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1  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / Technical Issues / Re: Engine Speed / Difficulty on: December 19, 2012, 07:24:46 am
Personally, I think you just need more practice in Melee.
That's always the easy answer, when people say a game's feeling artificially difficult.

Why not just address the design issue?  Surely adding a couple of new choices to the existing menu UI isn't that big of a deal; nor would be changing the behavior of the AI if X or Y flag is set.  Voila, game's easier for people who don't want it to be all that hard.  Anyhow, if I felt like playing it any more, I'd probably get the source set up to build and see if I could knock it out; it's probably not too bad.

Remember that it isn't a pure action game; there's strategy involved, and this is very important if you play against other players (but still important against the AI). One important aspect of strategy is ship choice; there's a very elaborate rock-paper-scissors chain in terms of what ship work best against what other ships (though this differs against players and the AI, since the AI is rather stupid).
When you're playing the SP game, you don't get those choices, unless you know the game's static universe really well and just go for the stuff you need right away (kind of like how you could speed-run through Fallout).   Bear in mind that we're talking newbies here, not people who've beaten SP so many times that they helped write the Wiki about it.

Unlike Fallout, however, the difficulty ramp is not well designed; it doesn't gently immerse you in the title past that very first fight, which is so artificially easy (compared to anything else you'll do) that the first "real fight" is like, whoa, I've just lost all three ships and now I have to reload from my last save, which was, oh, about an hour ago, because it doesn't auto-save or prompt to save when entering a battle.  For a modern gamer who's used to how games are designed now, it's almost unbearably frustrating. 

I just plain don't have time to sit and play Super Melee until I can win that Earthling Cruiser vs. Spathi fight, if it's even winnable vs. the AI.  I have a million other games to play, and one without a difficulty slider and that big of a difficulty curve just doesn't appeal any more Smiley

Anyhow, I know that a lot of you guys probably played it back in the day and it's hard to have an unbiased conversation about this title; I had fun playing Star Control 1 with friends back in the day but never played this one, and I don't recall it being anything like this hard vs. the AI.  It's just a bummer that what looks like a really rich game is marred by something that's pretty easy to address without destroying the core at all; a difficulty setting hurts no one and broadens a game's appeal.  Ah well Smiley
2  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / Technical Issues / Re: Engine Speed / Difficulty on: December 19, 2012, 05:49:17 am
Well, I don't know how to answer all of this without possibly looking silly, but here goes:

1.  I remember playing Star Control 1 on a much older computer.  I don't remember it running anything like this fast.  It certainly doesn't feel like 24 FPS.

2.  I did the Chenjesu Broodhome test; it takes about the stated time to turn with player input.  That said, I saw some really funky behaviors with ship velocities when two Awesome AIs were playing in Super Melee; at times, they'd hit asteroids and end up at warp speeds.

3.  Anyhow, let's presume it's all working as designed.

Let's consider that the hardware it was originally deployed on, though, probably wasn't actually capable of running it at 1600/1200 resolution with AI updates every 24th/second. 

IDK whether they wrote it with timing code like in any modern game or whether it was originally only frame-bound, but I suspect that it just didn't run like this; it's probably really hard to see (if you're one of the devs and / or this is one of your all-time favorite games that you know every trick) but the current difficulty ramp is basically a cliff.  One battle that wasn't too bad (for a lifelong action gamer, mind you, vs. a handicapped opponent with the only bad AI in the game) followed by severe drubbings means I just lost interest immediately.  The only reason I'm even writing to you folks about it is that it's considered a classic, is now Open Source and presumably it could be addressed down the road.

Perhaps a good long-term (and fairly easy) solution is to put in a UI at the start of play and/or an option in the game menu that tweaks game speeds and the AI up and down maybe even adds more enemies for people who find it's already too easy, so that everybody at every level of skill can play it and have fun?  That's a modern touch that would be much appreciated by a very large number of your audience, I suspect Smiley
3  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / Technical Issues / Engine Speed / Difficulty on: December 17, 2012, 11:15:33 am
Hiya.  Tried playing this old classic on Windows XP Pro 32-bit on a quad-core Athlon system, ran into a fairly severe issue. 

While the game runs flawlessly (from a technical perspective) the gameplay had severe issues.  Basically, the main game runs at a reasonable speed, but battles run so quickly that it's almost impossible to defeat the AI. 

I haven't had time to break open the source and take a look at this issue yet, but I was wondering if anybody with knowledge of the source could take a peek.  All that probably needs to happen is a small change in the AI code like (pseudocode):

if (systemTimeSinceLastUpdate > ONE_SECOND / 30f)
Run AI sim step
} else {
Advance to next frame, do not process AI

We can chalk this up to this ol' gamer's slowly-deteriorating reaction times if we'd like, but frankly, it feels like there's something wrong.  It feels like it's running the sim a lot faster than it was intended to, because it's frame-locked, not time-locked.  The behavior of the ships, shots, and most importantly the AI all indicate that it's all processing a lot faster than it was originally intended and isn't staying locked to real time properly.   It makes the game artificially difficult and it became pretty un-fun once I got past playing against the sole Weak Android enemy (that Spathi at the start).

The rest of the game doesn't feel like it has this problem, so it's probably something specific there Smiley
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