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News: Paul Reiche and Fred Ford want to continue the story they started when they created Star Control II — The Ur-Quan Masters. «Happy days and jubilation!» «But wait!» «There is something wrong here... something which makes my sheath retract and my talons ooze.» «Please, Captain, we need your help!»

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Author Topic: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?  (Read 80036 times)
Death 999
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2005, 06:24:13 pm »

Why do the hierarchy races not react? Various reasons. The only one I can't work out is the VUX, but they could be thoroughly cowed by the Ur-Quan's order not to go anywhere.

As for Hayes: the whole resources of the starbase are available. The value of the various resources is due to the precursor fabrication capabilities. It likes exotic materials like aguuti nodules and neutronium. And, for whatever reason, Silver and Gold are more useful than Iron or Bismuth. Certainly they are more useful in real life for electronics. And in World War 2, what metal did the US government run so short of that they stopped using it for currency? Copper. What metal did they replace it with? Steel. Go figure.

Your apparent hypothesis that he is charging a FEE is ridiculous. Sure, we have to suppose some weird things about precursor fabrication techniques, but it makes more sense than to suppose that he's trying to make a profit. What good is a kiloton of silver if all you can do is trade it to one of nearly 2000 other people on a space station?

As for sending races -- If the Thraddash go, they do NOT join the alliance.

If the Utwig and Supox go, it is because the Ultron told them to, not because of a strategic plan.

Your points to have some merit, but they're not incontestable.
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2005, 08:47:21 pm »

Consider:

Idea: Prevent the user from leaving the Sol system when game starts.  When the player has completed at least the first set of tasks inside the Sol system (Pluto, Luna, defeat crippled Illrath, introduced to Hayes), then allow the user to leave the system. 

Motivation: Usability, approachability

Pro:
* Makes the game much more approachable.  Leaving the Sol system without any means of getting fuel or understanding what the game is about puts the player in a very difficult situation. 

Con:
* This might confuse users as to what the game mechanic is to leave star systems in general.  (see below)
* Hard-code players might not like this change
* Restricts the user's choices, which doesn't match the open exploration aspect of the game. 

Notes:
* At the very beginning of the game, new users will have no idea what hyperspace is or how to access it.  The intro hints at it, but doesn't show how to access it in-game. 



Idea: Provides in-game tips that introduce game mechanics.  The first time the user is expected to do something, explain how to do it. 

Presumably, this is implemented by displaying text directly on the screen for a few seconds, or providing some kind of GUI pop-up (like a Tip-Of-The-Day thingy that most software has). 

Example: when leaving Sol for the first time, show text that says, "Enter hyperspace by flying piloting to the edge of the screen," or "Press <button> to select a star system to auto-pilot to."  (This is best when coupled with the idea above)

Example: When entering a planet's orbit for the first time, explain to the user about how to scan, land on its surface, etc.  Keep it concise! 

Example: When selecting a ship for combat for the first time, explain what the selection of ships will do.  Explain that losing your main ship will lose the game. 

Example: When starting combat for the first time, display the current key selection. (?)

Motivation: Usability, approachability

Pro:
* Makes the game more approachable for new users. 

Con:
* Somewhat patronizing for hard-core players. 

Notes:
* See the game Escape Velocity: Nova for great examples of this. 


Idea: While the user is doing the first few missions in Sol, give the player free landers and fuel if they are exhausted.  It is possible that the user exhausts their fuel supply by repeatedly landing on planets. 

To implement, add a conversation bullet that says, "We're out of fuel, can you spare some just this one time?"  Hayes should tell the user that they are out of fuel and can't complete the missions without more.  Hayes should inform the user that he is giving the command ship more fuel, but "just this once".  Moreover, Hayes should also clearly and concisely reitereate the current objectives, as the user is probably frustrated at this point. 

Not sure if this is already implemented or not. 
Motivation:Approachabilty
Pro:
* Makes the game easier for new users
Con:
* Seeing the text "We're out of fuel, can you spare some just this one time" might confuse users that the fuel is always free...
Notes:
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2005, 09:20:50 pm »

Idea: Prevent the user from leaving the Sol system when game starts.  When the player has completed at least the first set of tasks inside the Sol system (Pluto, Luna, defeat crippled Illrath, introduced to Hayes), then allow the user to leave the system. 

Motivation: Usability, approachability

Pro:
* Makes the game much more approachable.  Leaving the Sol system without any means of getting fuel or understanding what the game is about puts the player in a very difficult situation. 

Con:
* This might confuse users as to what the game mechanic is to leave star systems in general.  (see below)
* Hard-code players might not like this change
* Restricts the user's choices, which doesn't match the open exploration aspect of the game. 

Notes:
* At the very beginning of the game, new users will have no idea what hyperspace is or how to access it.  The intro hints at it, but doesn't show how to access it in-game.


Idea: Provides in-game tips that introduce game mechanics.  The first time the user is expected to do something, explain how to do it. 

Presumably, this is implemented by displaying text directly on the screen for a few seconds, or providing some kind of GUI pop-up (like a Tip-Of-The-Day thingy that most software has). 

Example: when leaving Sol for the first time, show text that says, "Enter hyperspace by flying piloting to the edge of the screen," or "Press <button> to select a star system to auto-pilot to."  (This is best when coupled with the idea above)

Example: When entering a planet's orbit for the first time, explain to the user about how to scan, land on its surface, etc.  Keep it concise! 

Example: When selecting a ship for combat for the first time, explain what the selection of ships will do.  Explain that losing your main ship will lose the game. 

Example: When starting combat for the first time, display the current key selection. (?)

Motivation: Usability, approachability

Pro:
* Makes the game more approachable for new users. 

Con:
* Somewhat patronizing for hard-core players. 

Notes:
* See the game Escape Velocity: Nova for great examples of this.
Both of these ideas, if implemented, could be turned on and off using a Tutorial/First Timer Mode (which both ideas fit under)  for beginners that is set either by changing settings, or asking when they start a new game if it is their first time playing. This would seriously help newbies!
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2005, 10:53:12 pm »

Right.  Other games have a user profile built into the game, and keeping this data there would be one way to do it (example Prince of Persia: Sands of Time).  Most just have the ability to skip a tutorial quickly (Example EV: Nova), or make it fast enough that power users can finish it in no time at all (Example World Of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Call of Duty).  Other games just have the help/tutorial text unobtrusive, so that there's nothing to do to avoid it (StarCraft). 

Each method has its advantages/disadvantages.  One consideration is how long do we expect users to play the game?  Is it worth having a 0.5-hour tutorial for a 15-hour game?  Is the same "user" the same physical person?  Is the player's style more to try everything possible right away, then go through tutorials; or is it to go throught tutorials first?  Has this user played the game back in the 90's; and how much does she remember?  How could the software know? 

A curious statistic is that only about 60% of game players actually finish modern games.  (Source: a Ubisoft game designer at a presentation here in T.O. this summer -- whose name escapes me right now.)

I believe UQM could use unobtrusive (that do no interrupt the player) text tips that are shown once per instance of a "full game."  Most of the time, Hayes and other NPCs explain what to do in reasonable detail, but there's often just that one little bit of info users need to actually execute something. 

Your suggestion about choosing this option someplace is great.

Side note: would users get confused about whether it's safe to collide with a planet?  In melee, colliding with the planet damages your ship.  In a star system, colliding with a planet lands on it.  Ambiguous interface. A fix might be to convey how to land when the player first visits the star exploration screen such that we're looking at a single planet (ie when you get close enough to land on it).  Still, in the star system view, you'll have to collide with a planet just to get to this view.  Gah! 
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2005, 04:36:15 am »

New users are more resourceful than you think. When I first started with UQM, I didn't have any trouble navigating. I didn't have a manual, or hints or anything. To have been given so many tips would also have taken away from the idea of being a seasoned veteran commander, who knows how to get around space. In addition, having pop-up hints all over the beginning would ruin that wonderful feeling of helplessness you feel, exploring your abandoned home system and then the intimidation of the UQ buoy's warning message.

One thing that would be useful though, is to have a constellation overlay that you could access in the starmap. It would connect the constellations with lines and label them. Without the old starmaps that came with SC2, many of the in-game references to the constellations cannot be decoded. I know there are copies to download, but I'm not sure who owns the rights to them and they don't come with the current package (so many newcomers don't know about them.)

I've also heard people talk of adding a system that allows you to type in the name of a system and then the nav cursor moves to it. That would probably be useful to cadets as well.

The final hurdle is the wrong and missing lines that were inherited from the 3DO version, especially the Mycon/Syreen one.


By and large though, UQM is easy to pick up and learn the basics of. Only the plot related issues listed above and the short time limit will really kill the new-bes.
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #20 on: December 30, 2005, 05:58:09 am »

Quote
Your points to have some merit, but they're not incontestable.

Especially when you convert them into strawmen . . . .

Roll Eyes

I've got responses below, but I think you're missing the overall point, which is that the Starbase makes the player feel tethered and subordinate, rather than feeling like a free captain leading a rebellion.  It makes the central gameplay mechanic ferrying metals back for a bounty.

Quote
Why do the hierarchy races not react? Various reasons. The only one I can't work out is the VUX, but they could be thoroughly cowed by the Ur-Quan's order not to go anywhere.

It doesn't matter that you can create ad hoc explanations for why the Hierarchy races fail to launch a reprisal on the Humans.  Scifi / fantasy nerds love to justify the plot holes in their pet universes, and that's all well and good, but the fact that you can explain them away with effort doesn't solve the fact that they look like plot holes to anyone who isn't that indulgent.

By midway through the game, a clearly human force was launching raids deep into Hierarchy-race territory, destroying dozens of ships and slaughtering hundreds of crewmen.  The Hiearchy knew where Earth was.  With the least bit of poking around, they would realize the human fleet was striking from the human homeworld and was reliant on the starbase there.  It just makes *no sense* that none of them would launch a reprisal mission.  You can try to explain it away all you want, but you just come across as a fanboy when you do.

Quote
The value of the various resources is due to the precursor fabrication capabilities. It likes exotic materials like aguuti nodules and neutronium. And, for whatever reason, Silver and Gold are more useful than Iron or Bismuth. Certainly they are more useful in real life for electronics. And in World War 2, what metal did the US government run so short of that they stopped using it for currency? Copper. What metal did they replace it with? Steel. Go figure.

That rationale fails on silver.  Silver, unlike copper and gold, is not used in electronics.  Moreover, aluminum, not copper, was the most valuable metal during WWII -- hence the invention of Saran Wrap to replace tin foil -- because of its used in airplane construction (among other things).  Regardless, if someone had said to FDR, Stalin, and Churchill, "Uhh, for your war effort, I'm going to bring you only gold and diamonds, but no steel," I don't think they would've said, "That's a great haul, Captain!"

Quote
Your apparent hypothesis that he is charging a FEE is ridiculous. Sure, we have to suppose some weird things about precursor fabrication techniques, but it makes more sense than to suppose that he's trying to make a profit. What good is a kiloton of silver if all you can do is trade it to one of nearly 2000 other people on a space station?

I never said he was charging a fee.  Rather, it feels like he's giving you a bounty based on the value of the metals in some exchange system.
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #21 on: December 30, 2005, 07:29:42 am »

Quote
I've got responses below, but I think you're missing the overall point, which is that the Starbase makes the player feel tethered and subordinate, rather than feeling like a free captain leading a rebellion.  It makes the central gameplay mechanic ferrying metals back for a bounty.

It's just realistic is all.  No matter whether you're the greatest power in the universe, you ain't getting anything done without materials to put into it.  You can have 100 billion dollars, but you aren't getting anywhere in builiding the tallest building in the world without getting your hands on some steel.

Besides, as I continue to point out in here, most people seem to have the huge problems with mining simply because they choose to mine unprofitable planets...and even after Hayes tells you what to do.  Most games have what's called a "learning curve".  After a while you should be figuring out how to handle the game to do whatever you would like by mining only 6 months to a year game time.  For example, I end up with a decked out starship, my choice of escorts, and about 100K RU left spending that kind of time mining.  Or if I want to be minimal, all it takes me is 2-3 planets.  Because I surpassed the learning curve and know the game.

And what of the starbase?  What do you have on your ship?  Not much space.  In fact, getting space to ferry those minerals back is an issue.  So how are you going to have the foundries, processing plants, and so forth on your ship to do things?   It's just not realistic.  And who else in space is going to handle that for you?  Most of the other races don't know how to handle your ship or are too scared to.  So guess who that leaves?  Hayes.

And I should address something else in that pointed-out review.  It seems that he/she (that wrote the review) has no clue of the existence of the Arilou portal spawner.  With that, transportation should be little issue.
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #22 on: December 30, 2005, 06:05:24 pm »

Quote
Your points to have some merit, but they're not incontestable.

Especially when you convert them into strawmen . . . .

It would help if they weren't straw to begin with.

I've got responses below, but I think you're missing the overall point, which is that the Starbase makes the player feel tethered and subordinate, rather than feeling like a free captain leading a rebellion.

Commander Hayes is inferior in rank to the captain. He is a resource; he is not your boss. You only think of him as controlling things because of your bizarre 'bounty' conclusion, which is nonsensical.
Additionally, the starbase serves as HOME, as a center. Many players like this.

t doesn't matter that you can create ad hoc explanations for why the Hierarchy races fail to launch a reprisal on the Humans.  Scifi / fantasy nerds love to justify the plot holes in their pet universes, and that's all well and good, but the fact that you can explain them away with effort doesn't solve the fact that they look like plot holes to anyone who isn't that indulgent.

The justifications are BUILT INTO THE GAME. It's not like I'm wildly rationalizing here.
First, recall that the Ur-Quan haven't said a word to the thralls for somewhat over a decade. So, the yoke is somewhat light for the moment.
Then, there's the EarthGuard. Recall that Sol is supposed to be a heavily fortified system. If the VUX, say, give the Spathi a call and ask them if Earth has broken free, they would NOT be inclined to say, "Oh, of course, we just left it to be taken." They'll say, "Oh, it's fine. Why do you ask?" and the VUX will figure you are operating out of a base elsewhere. In their slow ships, going to check on Sol would be a long trip; and with the probes around, a small mission would be suicide. Do they really want to dedicate a task force to verifying the word of their allies the Ilwrath and Spathi, who agree that Earth is totally under control?

That rationale fails on silver.  Silver, unlike copper and gold, is not used in electronics. 

Funny, I use it all the time in my electronics nanofabrication projects. And I understand it is used widely.

I'm going to bring you only gold and diamonds, but no steel," I don't think they would've said, "That's a great haul, Captain!"

And neither would Hayes. Diamond is an allotrope of carbon, which is a common.
Wink
He might be happy with the gold alone, which does imply strange things about the precursor fabrication tech.

I never said he was charging a fee.  Rather, it feels like he's giving you a bounty based on the value of the metals in some exchange system.

And this is the most ridiculous part. We know that we don't know how Precursor fabrication works; but we know how human nature works.

Human nature tells us that HAYES IS NOT WITHHOLDING RESOURCES FROM YOU. For him to do so would, on the whole, be suicide. The only exception may be in the event of slave-trading; but even then it may be that he has a harder time recruiting and training when the crew are disinclined to get on board.

That leaves precursor fabrication tech having some strange properties. Or they're using electronics to create force fields to replace sections of the starbase hull, thus freeing up more steel than would be if they were to bring in steel itself.
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #23 on: December 30, 2005, 07:16:22 pm »

The speed even VUXes travel on the starmap is more than fast enough to get to Sol without encountering more than a probe or two.  The Ur-Quan have enough manpower to fly out to Vela, but don't bother double-checking on Sol?  Shrug.  Maybe that works for you.  Whatever floats yer boat.

Quote
Commander Hayes is inferior in rank to the captain. He is a resource; he is not your boss. You only think of him as controlling things because of your bizarre 'bounty' conclusion, which is nonsensical.
Additionally, the starbase serves as HOME, as a center. Many players like this.

Right, his rank is inferior.  But unless I missed out on the part of the game where the "captain" enlists in Star Control, his title isn't a mililtary one, but rather an honorific given to anyone who "captains" a vessel.  In the backstory, we learn that the "Captain" is "a precocious young genius . . . born on Unzervalt - the son of an officer from the Tobermoon and a Research Team engineer."  No mention at all is made of him being an enlisted officer, and in fact the backstory strongly suggests otherwise by failing to mention any rank and treating him as an outsider to the military hierarchy.  After all, he receives his comission not as an order, but as a "plan" that he is free to "accept[]."

So start with that fact, which explodes your reductio, and then look at the following dialogue:

"Captain. Bringing these small amounts of minerals is not cost-effective. Try getting larger loads."

"Not a bad job, Captain."

"A fine job, Captain!"

"Captain, you are to be commended. Keep up the good work!"

"A race of plant creatures called the Supox have arrived in your absence, Captain.  They offered use of their ship designs and will supply as many starship captains as we require.  I, of course, accepted their offer immediately."

"Discover who is producing those probes and stop them from creating any more."

"[E]xpect me to bring charges against you when this is all over."

"You must assure me that you will NEVER do this again!  Even with that assurance, great damage has been done.  With the word out on what you have done, it's going to be pretty damn hard to recruit volunteers for your next trip. I expect the RU cost for crew will sky-rocket."

[note that elsewhere, this is how the Crew RU is explained: "However, each hand we lose to your ship means less manpower here at the starbase
and this is reflected in the Crew RU cost."]

Now, why would the Captain need "volunteers" if he outranked the Commander, who was the military officer in charge of the base?  Perhaps Star Control works differently from every other military ever in existence, but normally, a Captain doesn't request "volunteers" from his lower officers, and his lower officers don't reply by saying that he'll need to offer them more of a bribe if he hopes to get them.

None of this sounds like a subordinate talking to his superior.  At most, it sounds like a sometimes deferential, sometimes condescending coequal.  

Again, though, you're missing the point.  These are all weaknesses in the plot, but more importantly, they're weaknesses in the gameplay.  Whatever mealy-mouthed excuses you want to gin up for the storyline, they don't change the fact that the game *plays* like you're a mercenary doing missions for the military, not like you're in charge of your destiny.  Want proof?  Compare the gameplay to any of the other space exploration games in the genre.  Mining / selling has always been a classic gameplay mechanic; so has purchasing ship upgrades from a central station (see Star Flight, Elite).  Likewise Hayes's occasional mission assignments (although I'll concede these are less common).

The gameplay clones Star Flight pretty closely, but there was no *storyline* need for it to do so, since, as you note, it's the precursor fabrication technology that's doing the work.  A better gameplay decision would have been to have that stay on your ship and let the player process the minerals himself.  Then he would feel free and self-sufficient, rather than like Hayes's "work-horse."  The main interaction with Hayes will always be him praising or ridiculing you for your resource hauls, and so the player's main experience vis-a-vis the station will be that of a miner, not that of a commanding officer.

Star Control II is a very solid game, but I rather feel like the gameplay and story don't quite mesh.  The story is meant to place you as the head of the New Alliance, a captain like Kirk or Adama or whoever.  But the gameplay inexorably leads back to feeling like a subordinate doing milkruns and a prospector hoping to find the big haul.

I think that feel could have very easily been improved by having the player process the minerals on board his ship.  This is a fairly tiny change, but one that I think would really make for a better game.  (There would be some other adjustments I'd make, like having a build time for modules, since you could now make them onboard.)  Another possible change would be to make modules require certain *specific* minerals, rather than breaking everything down for value.  (But let anything be broken down for fuel.)  Then, rather than feeling like a vacuum cleaner praying for gold or exotics, you would feel like you were searching for *specific* minerals.  By having the player process minerals on board, he would be dissuaded from stockpiling (after all, that would waste cargo space), and thus you'd spend much less time mining overall.  I'd probably throw in a few more options to streamline exploration -- like letting the player scan planets from the solar system screen, rather than the planet screen.

The result, from a gameplay perspective, would be to shift the player's time from primarily mining and ferrying to primarily exploring.  Untethered, the player would be much more likely to poke about and discover things on his own, rather than relying on buying the info off the Melnorme or (worse) consulting an FAQ.  I know my experience was a mix of buying from Melnorme and getting the various clues in game (I did using the FAQ once or twice), but the whole time I felt like I couldn't really explore freely until the very end (at which point I knew exactly where I had to go) because fuel was so expensive.

As I said initially, the mining mechanic made me basically explore in an outwardly expanding spiral from Sol, which meant that I got bio data (and thus upgrades and hints from the Melnorme) almost as quickly as I got minerals, and thus was able to leave my mining trip suped up and certain of where to go.  This further frustrated the gameplay, I think, because it meant that my flagship was always so good that I never used support ships as anything other than crew mules (thus defeating the wonderful action sequences, which I've played PvP for years).

I'm sure your play experience was different, and maybe you had none of these problems.  But I just don't really see how having the starbase as a hub improves the game at all.  And you could leave it there as a crew factory if you absolutely needed it (I might use a few such crew factories, maybe one or two for each allied race).  Speaking of -- is there any reason we can't recruit other races as crew when we're at their homeworld?  I guess the flagship is tricked out only for sentient mammals?

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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2005, 11:32:30 am »

Hayes' title of "Commander" also appears to be a similar honorific, as the following Hayes quote suggests:
Quote
The next time I saw the stars was 8 years ago, when I was transferred up here to be the new commander of this starbase.

The Ur-Quan are also known to prefer to pick commanders (seemingly) at random. This leads me to believe that if Hayes has a military rank, it's an Ur-Quan one; the Kzer-Za, not Earth, the Alliance or Star Control, put him in charge of a starbase.

This means that neither Hayes nor Zelnick is in any externally defined way subordinate to the other; their own behaviour, status and resources determine their positions relative to each other. Zelnick has a really big starship and can easily save the starbase from death by power failure; Hayes has a starbase full of people and construction equipment. Both need each other to survive and execute an effective rebellion (barring, of course, Zelnick "beating the game differently"). It's only natural then that Hayes criticises a person he considers an equal for failing to acheive their common goals in a sensible manner.

The division of responsibility is also quite simple; Hayes keeps the starbase running and Zelnick handles everything outside the base. For example, Hayes doesn't have anything to do with what ships are constructed, as he doesn't have anything to do with how they're used. His main concern is keeping the starbase going, which means that in order to construct a ship, module, fuel unit or whatever, Zelnick has to provide the required raw material (apparently, the ship designs allow for great flexibility in construction materials or some really creative rebuilding of the starbase is being done).
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #25 on: December 31, 2005, 02:01:06 pm »

What avout adding another little slide after "TFL - FRUNGY LEAGUE PRESENTS" saying "Note: This game has a timelimit. If you don't complete the game within 5ish game-years, you WILL get annihilated" or something along those lines.. It seems as if the timelimit bugs most people, simply because they don't know about it (even though they CAN know about it, just ask 'em ZFP)...

A tutorial could -ofcourse- also be done with a simple slideshow, but I think that'd be worse than having in-game pointers to things.. If those in-game pointers get added, make them so that a player can decide to NOT read them.. As in they appear, and then just dissapear without actually bothering the player himself....
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #26 on: December 31, 2005, 05:16:26 pm »

The speed even VUXes travel on the starmap is more than fast enough to get to Sol without encountering more than a probe or two.  The Ur-Quan have enough manpower to fly out to Vela, but don't bother double-checking on Sol?  Shrug.  Maybe that works for you.  Whatever floats yer boat.
Most races are either paralyzed by the Ur-Quan absence or are taking advantage of it:
*The Ur-Quan have something a little more important to do; when they are done with the Khor-ah, they will use the Sa-Matra to make sure that Humans are in line.  Not to mention that they "know" that Earth is secure and that you came from Vela.
*The VUX (already explained) would rather not deal with the humans if they don't have to, so the Spathi and Ilwrath would be believed.  A slightly better rendition would be if Orz were actually battling the VUX for asking too much about the Androsynth, giving them a stronger rationalization for ignoring a rogue human.
*The Androsynth are kinda busy too...
*The Ilwrath don't know about the humans being free (the Spathi should be guarding them, and the Ur-Quan drone was intercepted by a single Ilwrath craft that you turn into slag.  Even when you meet them later, you're a rouge, not the leader of a rebellian.
*The Umgah wouldn't care one way or the other, nor would the Spathi, Thraddash, or Mycon.
  *The Umgah are also busy with something else
  *The Spathi probably started working on the slave shield idea long before they were allowed on the starbase.
  *The Thraddash are "rear-guard"
  *The Mycon are busy with spreading Juffo-Wup, and Earth is slave shielded, so it's not a good target
*The Yehat give me the most trouble.  The Queen seems keen on being subserviant to the 'Quan, so you'd think she'd mount an expedition to Sol when they find you (the Yehat don't know about Vela).  The only reason I can come up with is that they still like the humans, but are honor-bound to the 'Quan (they'll act against the Humans only when ordered).

Quote
Additionally, the starbase serves as HOME, as a center. Many players like this.
You blatantly ignored this comment, despite its importance.  People like having a place to belong.  If Earth were the final goal of the story, there would be no place for the Captain to rest his head.  It also makes the map feel less restrictive.  If I could go anywhere I pleased, it would seem odd that I was barred crossing an invisible barrier.  It's still slightly annoying, but much more tolerable when considering that you _are_ tethered to home.

Again, though, you're missing the point.  These are all weaknesses in the plot, but more importantly, they're weaknesses in the gameplay.  Whatever mealy-mouthed excuses you want to gin up for the storyline, they don't change the fact that the game *plays* like you're a mercenary doing missions for the military, not like you're in charge of your destiny.  Want proof?  Compare the gameplay to any of the other space exploration games in the genre.  Mining / selling has always been a classic gameplay mechanic; so has purchasing ship upgrades from a central station (see Star Flight, Elite).  Likewise Hayes's occasional mission assignments (although I'll concede these are less common).
The game plays like a mercenary because that's what you are.  The storyline never assumes you're the boss (unless you choose the "Empire of <the Captain>" name; even then, it's only because you have the big ship).

The gameplay clones Star Flight pretty closely, but there was no *storyline* need for it to do so, since, as you note, it's the precursor fabrication technology that's doing the work.  A better gameplay decision would have been to have that stay on your ship and let the player process the minerals himself.  Then he would feel free and self-sufficient, rather than like Hayes's "work-horse."  The main interaction with Hayes will always be him praising or ridiculing you for your resource hauls, and so the player's main experience vis-a-vis the station will be that of a miner, not that of a commanding officer.
It's not the Precursot matter fabricators, it's the Ur-Quan fabricators on the starbase, that can convert one form of matter into another:
Quote
The Ur-Quan were supposed to resupply this base at regular, five year intervals
but we haven't received anything in almost eight years!
What we don't recycle we can usually synthesize
but to do so, we need replacement radioactives for our generators' energy cores.
If you could bring us some radioactive elements, we can fabricate the cores ourselves.
They could create radioactives to power the generators out of other things (bulkheads), but apparently didn't think of the need until the generators didn't have enough power to do so.  Catch-22

Star Control II is a very solid game, but I rather feel like the gameplay and story don't quite mesh.  The story is meant to place you as the head of the New Alliance, a captain like Kirk or Adama or whoever.  But the gameplay inexorably leads back to feeling like a subordinate doing milkruns and a prospector hoping to find the big haul.
This is the Straw-man Death_999 was talking about.  You're _not_ the leader (not Mon Mothma, not Bail Organa), you're the principle do-er (Luke Skywalker, Admiral Akbar).

I think that feel could have very easily been improved by having the player process the minerals on board his ship.  This is a fairly tiny change, but one that I think would really make for a better game.  (There would be some other adjustments I'd make, like having a build time for modules, since you could now make them onboard.)  Another possible change would be to make modules require certain *specific* minerals, rather than breaking everything down for value.  (But let anything be broken down for fuel.)  Then, rather than feeling like a vacuum cleaner praying for gold or exotics, you would feel like you were searching for *specific* minerals.  By having the player process minerals on board, he would be dissuaded from stockpiling (after all, that would waste cargo space), and thus you'd spend much less time mining overall.  I'd probably throw in a few more options to streamline exploration -- like letting the player scan planets from the solar system screen, rather than the planet screen.
Why not scan the galaxy from Sol?  There needs to be a reason some of the powerful/cool energy signatures you find aren't already scooped up by other races (especially in their sphere of influence).

As I said initially, the mining mechanic made me basically explore in an outwardly expanding spiral from Sol, which meant that I got bio data (and thus upgrades and hints from the Melnorme) almost as quickly as I got minerals, and thus was able to leave my mining trip suped up and certain of where to go.  I'm sure your play experience was different, and maybe you had none of these problems. 
You also mentioned that this was more of an indication towards your own character than the game.  I was guilty of this when I first played SC2 as well.  I also turned Lord British's throne room into my treasure chamber in every Ultima I played.  Slow and steady wins the race (unless the Khor-Ah are looming).

But I just don't really see how having the starbase as a hub improves the game at all.  And you could leave it there as a crew factory if you absolutely needed it (I might use a few such crew factories, maybe one or two for each allied race).  Speaking of -- is there any reason we can't recruit other races as crew when we're at their homeworld?  I guess the flagship is tricked out only for sentient mammals?
This apparently was overlooked story-wise, considering SC1 colonies could recrew your vessels.  From a game-play perspective though, you could say that having only one source for crew ties the Captain to the StarBase more (A Good Thing ™ ).  It also gives a good reason for the Shofixti-quest (who cares about a few more shofixti if you get crew for 0RU already?).
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #27 on: December 31, 2005, 05:25:45 pm »

Idea: Prevent the user from leaving the Sol system when game starts.  When the player has completed at least the first set of tasks inside the Sol system (Pluto, Luna, defeat crippled Illrath, introduced to Hayes), then allow the user to leave the system. 
The Probe appearance value is set to 100% (which means 1 probe a day) until you reach the Starbase.  Add this to the intro (you're returning to Earth), and the fact that you start pointing _towards_ Sol, and you've got enough indicators to go to Earth that a 10 year old couldn't mistake.  When you find out Earth is all red and glowy, your next stop would likely be the moon or that fancy space station...

Idea: While the user is doing the first few missions in Sol, give the player free landers and fuel if they are exhausted.  It is possible that the user exhausts their fuel supply by repeatedly landing on planets. 

To implement, add a conversation bullet that says, "We're out of fuel, can you spare some just this one time?"  Hayes should tell the user that they are out of fuel and can't complete the missions without more.  Hayes should inform the user that he is giving the command ship more fuel, but "just this once".  Moreover, Hayes should also clearly and concisely reitereate the current objectives, as the user is probably frustrated at this point. 

Not sure if this is already implemented or not. 
Yep:

Due to an unforeseen fuel shortage, we are unable to complete our mission.
We do have a small amount of Starship fuel which is of no use to our power systems.
We will now transport 5 units to your vessel.
This should be sufficient for a trip to the surface of Mercury.

Boy, mileage sure does vary. Could you spare us some more fuel?
We are almost out of fuel now, but we do have a BIT more.
You will have to be more careful with this supply.
Transporting fuel now.

Moreover, if you get stuck in hyperspace, the Melnorme eventually make a surprise visit and transfer fuel for a nominal fee (surprisingly, for material goods if you have no info).
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Re: Improving the original? What to improve to do the game even better?
« Reply #28 on: January 01, 2006, 10:46:37 pm »

Sigh.  I'd written out a longish reply, only to leave the computer and come back to find it gone.  But it was irrefutable!  So just concede!

The gist was:
(1) You and Death are take contrary positions, Death claiming that the Captain is in charge and you and that the game reflects this, and you claiming that the Captain is a coequal (or even subordinate!) and that the game reflects it.
(2) Luke Skywalker was never a "doer" for the Rebellion -- he's never assigned missions by a higher up, he never does grunt work like gathering resources.  And that's why the movie follows Luke and Han -- who are not constrained by tedious adminstrative tasks -- rather than Admiral Akbar, who would just be blubbering about paperwork and supply requisitions the whole time.  There's a reason why movies and TV shows are made about people who don't sit around doing grunt work -- it's boring.  If 3/4 of Star Trek was about the Enterprise ferrying dilithium crystals from planets back to DS9, I doubt anyone but hardcore trekkies would watch it.
(3) I assume that the game was supposed to feel like a scifi adventure, where the captain usually controls his own destiny, explores strange places, and does exciting things.  There has never been a scifi adventure that contained heavy amounts of mining -- even including Dune!  The mining was included as a mechanic to let players interact with planets.  It was lifted out of Star Flight (which had a far more elaborate and interesting lander mechanic) and was also meant to reflect the trade component of games like Elite.  That's why the pricing matches standard "rare = more valuable," even though that makes no sense in the context of the game, where the station would logically need lots of commons and only a few rares.
(4) Given that I think it was meant to *play* as an adventure, I think untethering the player from the station would've been a good idea.  It would have reduced mining, made exploring easier, and given a greater sense of freedom.
(5) Maybe some players like doing primarily ferrying missions (they presumably are the same type that loves RPG FedEx quests).  But I don't think most do and I don't think it was necessary for the game.  I think if the game had been made as I described it, none of you would be saying, "I wish I had to go back to the Starbase to process minerals.  I wish fuel were more expensive.  I wish it were more difficult to explore."
(6) To the extent that the station is meant to act as a "home," that aspect is *not* reflected in gameplay.  Your only interaction with the base is superficial and annoying.  If the game was meant to capture the DS9 / B5 type atmosphere (obviously that's anachronistic, but so what?), then there should've been more to do to make the base feel like you were a part of it (and vice versa).  Like, let the player choose how to allocate resources on the base, have it go from broken down to built back up, add more characters there, etc.  Right now, the player never feels attached *emotionally* to the base, even though he is attached *physically* to it by the need to ferry stuff back.
(7) To argue that a mineral processor would take up too much room on the ship is juvenile.  Realism has nothing to do with games like this -- the quesiton is whether what the game tells you is going on accords with how it plays.  The game makes its own reality.  If they said, "The ship built itself, and if we can keep giving it the materials it needs, we can build it up even more," we'd buy it and there'd be no questions asked.  Once you did that, you could make certain components need certain materials (the high end stuff could require lots of rares), which would make mining feel more interesting.  Currently, as I said, you just vacuum, always prefering fancy stuff to normal stuff, which makes everything on every planet seem alike.
(Cool I'm sure my strip-mining tactic did, in part, reflect my personality.  But I don't think I was unique in doing it that way, and in any event, that doesn't excuse the game for channeling players in that direction (i.e., by not making clear to them that there's an alternative option of being picky on planets).  The fact that after someone has played the games tons and knows where everything is, he can avoid stripmining is so stupid as to not be worthy of a response.  Still, I'll respond: gameplay should not be determined by what will be fun for a hardcore replayer.
(9) I only said it was  Precursor fabricator because Death999 did.  I don't know the game lore that well.

I just get the sense that you defend the game because you love the game and can't imagine having the audacity to change it.  But if you were designing it from scratch, I just have a hard time believe that you -- or anyone else intelligent and thoughtful about game design -- would've done the Starbase mechanic the way the game has it now.  The proof of this, I think, is that no contemporary game has a hub system like that.  The closest you get is the Diablo-type town, which avoids the problem through town portal scrolls.  And in Diablo, the loot that you ferry back and forth is primarily generated by doing the fun core stuff in the game -- killing enemies -- not a relatively tedious and mindless mining mechanism.  Most RPGs, which would be the only type of game to have this kind of slogging, have multiple towns (rather than a single hub) and give you most of your loot in the form of gold, which you don't need to ferry.  The also reward you with XP, which doesn't need to be ferried back to a town, except in rare games like Avernum / Exile, which just removed the "train in town" element from Avernum IV.  Game designers now realize that the player likes to feel like he's going ever outward into new territory, not merely going back and forth through the same area he's seen before.

Happy New Year.  I'm done on this thread. Smiley
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Improving the original? OK, but make the original available
« Reply #29 on: January 02, 2006, 03:20:08 pm »

Well...
There are a lot of ideas on this thread, some of which are really interesting. I don't see any problem in implementing them. But first, I think it would be better to finish the original (fix the few remaining bugs, a Remix Pack 4, etc...). Then, add the new ideas to the game. But leave the original version downloadable.

Happy 2006.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2006, 03:32:54 pm by Vela » Logged
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