Author Topic: Biggest Concerns for AtG?  (Read 28389 times)

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2013, 11:01:24 PM »

 (e.g. SSI's Imperialism).

An un-exhausted resource of new ideas and good gameplay concepts. Still fun, many years on.
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Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2013, 11:22:33 PM »

 (e.g. SSI's Imperialism).

An un-exhausted resource of new ideas and good gameplay concepts. Still fun, many years on.

Agreed. Some parts of it make me want to tear my hair out (trade, and how it ties into the economy probably being #1), but it was a amazing game, particularly for its time. As you point out, many of its concepts haven't been touched since. I'm particularly a fan of two features.

First, the centralized economy. It was great for putting a cap on the amount of required micromanagement, as you basically had the same number of knobs to fiddle with on turn 150 as you did on turn 10.

The other aspect I loved was the model for minor nation friendship and development. The idea of competing economically with other players to buy up valuable plots of land was brilliant, and something I've really always wanted to capture. One day!

Anyways, this isn't an Imperialism thread, so I'll cut myself off there. ;)

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2013, 01:58:24 AM »
I'm a little late to this party, but as the thread remains open there is one thing I'd mention -- not an AtG issue specifically, but one endemic to strategy games: the information interface.

Half of what's necessary for good strategy is the ability to perceive the critical patterns within information that covers a wide swath of time and space (otherwise it would be tactics or operations). These include patterns of force configurations in space (how are the enemy's resources deployed now?), and patterns of force movement over time (how has the enemy tended to behave?).

But to be able to see those patterns, the player needs access to the relevant data. Not enough information and choices become guesses; too much information and it gets too hard to see signal amid the noise. (Better too much than too little for a strategy game, though.)

To make things even more fun, it's not just what data you show the player, it's how you organize it. Master of Orion 3 remains an unfortunate example of making it too hard to find the information you need, and even the wonderful MoO2 could leave you cycling through several screens looking for something instead of doing what's fun, which is forming and executing clever plans.

So my concern for AtG as a strategy game is how much information about the state and history of the game world will be available to players (including AI players!), and how effectively that information will be presented to human players.

My vague thinking on this suggests the following guidelines (which are open for debate):

  • players should never have to drill down more than two screens for any information
  • screens should be rich in information (represented either numerically or graphically or both)
  • screens should not be cluttered regardless of screen resolution
  • larger screen resolutions should allow more information per screen
  • screens and their sub-screens should be organized logically
  • screens and sub-screens should have rich links between them
  • it should always be obvious how to navigate back to a higher-level screen

The fact that some of these goals contradict each other should offer a clue as to how hard it is to do good interface design. ;)

But to sum up, the challenge in playing a strategy game should never be in finding the information you need in the data you have, but in using the same kinds of information held by every player to devise and execute a better strategic plan.

That leaves room for spycraft and incomplete/inconsistent knowledge while keeping the playing field fair and rewarding skillful perception and planning.

Given the level of transparency so far, I'm hopeful that tester feedback -- once the early versions of AtG become available -- will help the information interface of the game shine as brightly as the other important bits.

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2013, 07:48:40 PM »
I have to agree with Flatfingers, information is critical, and the UI even more so, I've dropped more games because of a bad UI than anything else. The thing that I am really worried about is the AI. Getting a decent AI on this small a project is going  to be challenging. Especially teaching it what to do when it notices resources are running out. I'm not sure what the best strategy is for that myself ;)

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2013, 06:03:45 AM »
My primary concerns (in no special order):
1) It just isn't fun to play (not very helpful perhaps, but honest)
2) It doesn't have a period feel (I bought the game because I love that period of history)
3) The AI is too weak (or only provides a challenge through blatant cheating)
4) It doesn't feel like playing the game is building something - it should "make sense" and feel like an accomplishment beyond winning the game.

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2013, 12:13:25 PM »
In observing other 4x games, mainly Civ 4 and Civ 5, I have a few comments:

1) No matter how good a mechanic, I don't want it to be thematically distasteful. In Civ 4, it is apparently vital to whip for production, rather than use mines and other tiles. First, this is  not intuitive; second, it doesn't allow for variety or thematic connection. I don't want to be forced to play a slave empire - why is it so overpowered? That's lame. I'm not going to just forget about it and pretend it doesn't mean anything. I played Civ 3 and Civ 5 quite a lot, and heard a lot of good things about Civ 4. But I have chosen not to buy and play it, though it sounds so much better to me personally than the two I've played, there are a few things that make it ugly. Another besides slavery is the spying mechanic  - it seems like it could be wholly left out or automated without much loss. Make sure every option, every type of decision, is thematically viable and has meaningful consequences. If it could be automated with semi-random results or left out altogether, it should be, unless it is inherently important and interesting. NOT ONLY thematically, but also mechanically.

2) It sounds like the tribes are going to be very different - I'm excited. But that makes it all the more important that the AI can play them not only as well as a human, but in the same way a human player can and does and should. Thus to some extent the AI can even teach the human player HOW to use the tribes. I think this was one of the good qualities in Bronze, by Shrapnel Games.

3) Too little micromanagement = next turn, next turn, next turn. Too much = ummmmmmmmmmm. It should be really hard for a certain thing to be selected for regular management. It should have to prove itself as really fun, important, interesting, etc.

That's it for now. It sounds like some of these worries are already being thought about, and I just wanted to agree and emphasize them.

~ Joshua
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Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #21 on: September 09, 2013, 12:00:42 AM »
1) No matter how good a mechanic, I don't want it to be thematically distasteful. In Civ 4, it is apparently vital to whip for production, rather than use mines and other tiles. First, this is  not intuitive; second, it doesn't allow for variety or thematic connection. I don't want to be forced to play a slave empire - why is it so overpowered? That's lame. I'm not going to just forget about it and pretend it doesn't mean anything.

I think I know what you're talking about, but to clear up something I see slavery being VERY thematic (in the sense that early powerhouse production civilizations almost exclusively relied on human labour), but may not be appropriate outside the game's theme. A strong theme helps set the tone and feel of a game, but also requires some form of suspension of disbelief on the part of the player to "buy in" to the theme completely. "Thematically distatesful" to me would mean that the action is distateful even considering the theme of the game. I agree though that broaching subjects that may be distateful to people (razing & pillaging spring to mind) are a concern no matter what the theme of the game is.

Quote
I played Civ 3 and Civ 5 quite a lot
Ever razed a city? Razing was both mechanically efficient in certain situations and quite valid thematically, but would be seen as barbaric in today's day & age.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2013, 05:53:06 AM by VRBones »
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Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2013, 02:48:08 PM »
Okay, slavery is thematic. But even though it was included, it shouldn't be so central - at least to me. The iconic civilization concept for me is building the empire I want to build, not being forced to use slavery and whip my workers rather than mine normally. Anyway, I guess the main problem was balancing, not necessarily theme, in that case.

Hmm, I wonder - are razing and pillaging central to AtG? Thematically it fits barbarian tribes. But I would still prefer the option to choose between razing and pillaging, and fighting more honorably for glory. I don't like being forced into an action with obvious moral implications without a choice either way (moral or immoral). Obviously a little of that can't and shouldn't be avoided, since it IS a game about fighting, killing, and expanding. But one should be able to choose whether it is done merely for survival, or whether for optimal expansion, choosing how and for what reasons killing, razing, pillaging are done.

~ Joshua

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Jon Shafer

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Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2013, 04:58:34 PM »
Much of the tension in AtG is deciding between keeping something because you want it, and burning it because you need the resources you get for doing so right now. I don't know exactly where that balance will end up in the final game, but one thing I can guarantee is that there will be tough choices to make.

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #24 on: December 03, 2013, 08:29:10 PM »
All of the above posts are good points, so there is no need for me to retread that ground.

I wonder how the game is going to be expanded in the future. Don't get me wrong - this is NOT something I want to take first priority, merely a curiosity. Obviously the main goal is to finish the game you've got before you actually worry about such things, but it is something I hope is kept in mind. Right now the goal is to create a great game about the Fall of Rome... but that doesn't mean it has to stop there. I feel that when the time is right, this game has a big potential for being built upon.

My concern is that a when games do eventually get an expansion they all too often go about it the wrong way. Generally speaking expansions fall into two traps. One of them occurs when expansions just add a whole bunch of new things without making any real improvement to the game. The recent Sim City expansion is a perfect example: all those new buildings and features may be nice to look at but for the most part they don't really address the fundamental problems that players have been complaining about. If an expansion is going to be made, it shouldn't just be along the lines of "more is better."

The other trap occurs when the expansions, while good in and of themselves, do not integrate with the original game. For all intents and purposes, they are just a separate scenario with similar rules. For example, while the expansions to Shogun 2 were well made and interesting, they didn't really add anything to the main game (apart from adding new units/terrain to skirmish battles). You could not play a single game spanning from "the rise of the samurai" all the way through to "fall of the samurai". Now I know that simulating the rise and fall of empires is not an easy thing, but it has been done successfully before (the Rhys and Fall scenario from Civ 4 BTS comes to mind). In my opinion at least, if they had gone a similar route with Shogun 2, or at least have made it into an option, they would have turned one of the best strategy games ever made into the best strategy game ever made. What a wasted opportunity that was. I would hope that if an expansion is made to ATG down the road to depict what happens after Rome Falls, it is integrated into the main game rather than be an entirely separate scenario.

Again, this is not something I feel needs to urgently addressed ASAP, just something to keep in mind.     

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #25 on: December 03, 2013, 08:36:27 PM »
All of the above posts are good points, so there is no need for me to retread that ground.

I wonder how the game is going to be expanded in the future. Don't get me wrong - this is NOT something I want to take first priority, merely a curiosity. Obviously the main goal is to finish the game you've got before you actually worry about such things, but it is something I hope is kept in mind. Right now the goal is to create a great game about the Fall of Rome... but that doesn't mean it has to stop there. I feel that when the time is right, this game has a big potential for being built upon.

My concern is that a when games do eventually get an expansion they all too often go about it the wrong way. Generally speaking expansions fall into two traps. One of them occurs when expansions just add a whole bunch of new things without making any real improvement to the game. The recent Sim City expansion is a perfect example: all those new buildings and features may be nice to look at but for the most part they don't really address the fundamental problems that players have been complaining about. If an expansion is going to be made, it shouldn't just be along the lines of "more is better."

The other trap occurs when the expansions, while good in and of themselves, do not integrate with the original game. For all intents and purposes, they are just a separate scenario with similar rules. For example, while the expansions to Shogun 2 were well made and interesting, they didn't really add anything to the main game (apart from adding new units/terrain to skirmish battles). You could not play a single game spanning from "the rise of the samurai" all the way through to "fall of the samurai". Now I know that simulating the rise and fall of empires is not an easy thing, but it has been done successfully before (the Rhys and Fall scenario from Civ 4 BTS comes to mind). In my opinion at least, if they had gone a similar route with Shogun 2, or at least have made it into an option, they would have turned one of the best strategy games ever made into the best strategy game ever made. What a wasted opportunity that was. I would hope that if an expansion is made to ATG down the road that depicts what happens after Rome Falls, it is integrated into the main game by default, with the option of splitting it up into separate components if you want to play a smaller campaign.

Again, this is not something I feel needs to urgently addressed ASAP, just something to keep in mind.   

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2014, 12:36:02 PM »
What do you guys have planned for the "save system"?

I think the best way to do it would be to prevent the player from being able to save the game, EVER. Now, the player can delete saves at will. How it could work is that the game auto-saves when you start, and then every x turns (maybe every turn, if it can be done quickly enough), overwriting the previous save. When you quit, it will also auto-save. This way, you only have one save-game per game. You don't have to spend any time saving the game. So the surface level benefits are: a simpler save screen and less time spent in an options menu.

But the main reason to do this is that it isn't good enough to just let people choose not to 'save-scum'. The option to reload and make a decision over is terrible, in a game focused on measuring decision-making skill and telling a believable story.

Obviously, for testing the game the option to save is very helpful. But the final product would be a lot better without it. Permanent consequences are always good for a game like AtG.

~ Joshua
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Jon Shafer

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Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2014, 12:23:50 PM »
What do you guys have planned for the "save system"?

I think the best way to do it would be to prevent the player from being able to save the game, EVER. Now, the player can delete saves at will. How it could work is that the game auto-saves when you start, and then every x turns (maybe every turn, if it can be done quickly enough), overwriting the previous save. When you quit, it will also auto-save. This way, you only have one save-game per game. You don't have to spend any time saving the game. So the surface level benefits are: a simpler save screen and less time spent in an options menu.

But the main reason to do this is that it isn't good enough to just let people choose not to 'save-scum'. The option to reload and make a decision over is terrible, in a game focused on measuring decision-making skill and telling a believable story.

Obviously, for testing the game the option to save is very helpful. But the final product would be a lot better without it. Permanent consequences are always good for a game like AtG.

I absolutely agree with your conclusion, but achieving that is tricky. I'm not a fan of save scumming, but that's just how some people play. As a designer you want to discourage it as much as possible, but go too far and you alienate a big part of your audience.

Roguelikes nearly always feature short playthroughs, which allows them to shrug off saving and embrace completely brutal consequences. After all, if you're only losing 10 minutes it's really not that big of a deal.

Strategy games are much different animals though. People play a single game for hours, days or even longer. Minor setbacks should just be part of the game, but major ones can completely blow up your game.

To combat this I'm aiming to remove much of the randomness from the game. Combat, the seasons, etc. is all fairly predictable, so if you end up in a really bad spot going back a turn or two isn't likely to help. I'm hoping this 'structural' approach is more effective than a heavy-handed "you can't save your game!" decree. Any time I've run into that in other long-playthrough games I've been frustrated, and I don't want to inflict that upon my own players.

Of course, making ironman at least an option sounds like a great idea...

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2014, 01:43:21 PM »
I see your point, but from my perspective it seems like it would be saying "You don't need to save, don't worry" rather than "You can't save". I think you should need a reason to put save/load in, although since it is a norm we come at it from the stance of needing a reason to take it out.

It will work either way, so it isn't too big of a deal, but I wanted to mention my personal bias :)

~ Joshua
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Re: Biggest Concerns for AtG?
« Reply #29 on: May 01, 2014, 11:33:25 PM »
Quote
I think the best way to do it would be to prevent the player from being able to save the game, EVER.
The only true way to do this is server side. No matter what type of save game prevention you have client side it can be save scummed if determined enough (Eg: game running inside a virtual machine that can be snapshotted ..)

Does Steam offer any form of save game timestamping & validation?

Some roguelikes are short, but you would be hard pressed finishing the main variants in under 20 hours (I've had some saves with over 200,000 moves). Save scumming is certainly frowned upon, but even in roguelikes it's more about the reward from self-discipline rather than some external force pressuring the player to only play one way (exception is of course playing on a server through a terminal session). Choosing to play ironman and then save scumming to prevent death simply cheapens your own enjoyment.

That said, I usually play games in 2 modes. At the start I want to understand the system and break it (to beat the game). In this mode I'm totally focused on optimising and the enjoyment gained is from mastery. Once mastered, I then sometimes play the same game for the experience / story. In this mode I definitely play using ironman rules even if the game doesn't officially support it because it adds to the experience.
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