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Old 07-18-2012, 11:04 AM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Default Potential of this game

I want to put down some points here, but it's difficult to get them out clearly. TBH, I was about to write off the game as something I just wasn't interested in, but I played a session last night and it clarified some things for me. The game can be amazing when everything clicks. Seriously, the general design of the game is excellent. However, there are many issues in the design that need to be addressed.

The strongest part of the game by far is the race relations layer. Once you get into a game with many races, and some declare war on others, and you get several alliance blocks being formed, and you make friends with a race at which point their enemies declare war on you... all of that is awesome stuff. Seriously seriously incredible.

At the same time, many parts of the game don't feel right, and much of this has to do with the fact that pieces of the game were cobbled together from the previous games, while Drox itself veers much further away from the Diablo formula.

Here's a non-exhaustive list of issues:

- The number one problem in the game is that there is no challenge, and therefore it doesn't feel like much of a game. Ever played a game in god mode? Did you notice that you get bored pretty soon? That's because there's no challenge. For there to be challenge, there has to be an obstacle to overcome. Because of infinite resurrection, combat is not an obstacle in Drox -- it's just an annoyance when you die. But the quest system doesn't provide a challenge either since it can rarely lead to a loss condition. The 4x system can provide some challenge in specific circumstances, but usually you just make friends with the strongest race and you're set. In general, the game rarely places a threatening challenge in your way. Without the threat of loss, the only task in the game becomes investing enough time to get to one of the victory conditions, and without challenge, that means grind.

- Quests. I detailed the problems in another thread, but the bottom line is,
1. There are too many of them: there needs to be a general cap. If I have 7 races in my sector, even if each race has 4 quests, I'm already at 28, which means I can't keep track of what's going on. EDIT: As an alternative, we need a way to prevent low priority quests from filling up the quest space. If a race has 40 planets and 10 of them have unrest quests, that's all you see. Perhaps a priority system would be good, or perhaps those quests shouldn't show up on the relations screen unless they escalate into something bigger.
2. Too tedious to get/manage them: my 10 accepted quest list is useless at keeping up. We need a button that weeds out all failed quests. We also need a way to see all quests at once rather than going race by race.
EDIT: Just to explain why the 10 quest screen + quests by race aren't effective: DC and DoP lived on a cycle. I go to the wilderness/caves, I do my quests, I go back to town and I hand them in. It was simple. Here, you're basically forcing the race relations screen to be my town screen. That isn't fun -- I don't want to spend so much time in it, nor to click around in it so much. Also, I have to be able to choose between quests of different races. In DC and DoP, all quests belonged to the same source even if different people gave it to you. You were helping the same cause. Here, there's a mixture of causes (races) and that makes constant comparison important, which is tedious.
In DC and DoP, you knew how far you had gone into the wilderness(dungeon) and you therefore knew which quests were going to be on your way. Here, you jump from system to system without a simple, direct path, so it's very hard to decide where to go next -- you need constant, tedious comparisons again, so a master quest list would be much more helpful.
3. No consequences to failing: in DC and DoP, the consequences were built in. Here, we need real consequences to make these quests feel like something other than a chore. Relation penalty would be good, but I also want to see Legend/Fear go down. Additionally, we need new losing conditions: if both Legend and Fear are too low, we automatically lose. This IMO is essential to making Drox a compelling experience. Without real, palpable (and easily achievable) loss conditions, nothing really matters, as our ship is always resurrected. What this would mean is that once we accept quests, we're expected to do them (we shouldn't take a penalty for every quest that fails in the sector). So we have to carefully pick the quests we think we can take on, and not commit to too many at once. I would also suggest that if we solve a quest without accepting it, the reward should be 0. We got lucky, and the race got a freebie. Otherwise we encourage the player not to take on quests. We also need to prevent an exploit where a player could soften a boss up without taking on the quest, and then take the quest seconds before the boss dies to avoid quest failure penalties. Perhaps we need to have the player engaging the boss/quest automatically accept the quest on the player's behalf to prevent exploits altogether, so there's no such thing as solving a quest without accepting it.
It's a lot of work to do to prevent exploitation, but I think it's worth it. This is the single most positive change that can be made to Drox IMO.

4. Quests don't impact the simulation enough: I want to see the leader lose his first place position after a several quests are lost. Otherwise there's no real story being crafted.
5. Political quests: Shadow is already taking care of this one.

- Race ships: Race ships are built out of components like you are. While the idea is cool, the reality is that fighting them is really really hard. They're far too strong, and they often have better shields and armor than you do (due to having many slots) despite the fact that you've been collecting the best stuff for ages!
The other problem with race ships is that rather than having many weak ships and a few stronger ships and one flagship, which is what you'd expect a race's army to be like, all race ships are the same, which means the economics is off. In fact, I don't think there's any cost difference between ship types. So all the race ships you fight are super duper class.

- Log: There's too much noise pollution in the log. I'm constantly informed that some race expanded somewhere. The full log should be in its own screen for when I want to examine exactly what happened in the sector. Other than that, only the most important events should show up in my always-visible log.

- Command points: I've come to realize I don't like this system. At the very least, we should start out with a 4/4/4 ship. I'd much rather see command points be given every level to spend on more ship slots or something else (more crew quarters? Race skills?) The competition of command points vs crew points just doesn't work well enough IMO (ie. it works, but I think it could be better).

- Items and equipment system:
1. Item levels: The game starts out with mostly lasers, and stays that way for a while. This is a big problem. The first 12 levels of the game give the player very few tactical options, and that makes for boring gameplay and a really bad first impression. I understand the need to spread items out over levels to keep introducing cool items over the course of the game, but perhaps there could be randomization of items as well, so that you could occasionally get items veering outside of their levels.
2. Item rarity: I made a post about this. It simply doesn't work in my experience. An artifact is very often worse than a normal item. I think the rarity system needs a rework: rare items should use less power and always have a boost to their primary stat. This makes sense: if you find an artifact laser, it should do what it's supposed to do really really well (ie. low power and high damage), not give you a bunch of other things you didn't care about. Instead of having a bunch of random modifiers up to 6, high rarity items should choose 1 or 2 other things and boost just them (after they've already boosted the main stats). So an artifact laser would have a modifier to damage, to power, and 3 more applied just to EM resistance, for example.
3. Power: I feel like if the game didn't have power limitations, it would be a little less interesting in that sense, but it would allow for so much more experimentation and weird combos -- exactly what Shadow talked about in his posts before Drox was made. The current power limitations are just too limiting. I think power should be something that's kinda on the back burner: it's there, but until you abuse the heck out of your ship by loading it with too much stuff, the power limitation shouldn't show up. As it is, I'm constantly limited by power and I can only upgrade to items if they have abnormally low power requirements. It also makes Fringe ships too OP, because they don't have power limitations. We need to be able to shuffle stuff around and experiment, and that experience needs to be available at the earliest levels to create a good first impression, and power really prevents that.
4. Equipment system: I'm not entirely happy with it, but I can't think of such good alternatives either. I just think we should start with a 4/4/4 chassis so we can have more tactical options. One thing I was considering is having a visual layout of slots, so we could place things physically next to each other. If we get hit, those 2 things could get hit together. There would also be considerations about which direction we get hit from that way. Another idea is to just have a count of slots remaining (like power remaining), and instead of specific 'heavy, medium, light' items, heavy items would use 3 slots, medium would use 2, and light would use 1. I think that may be easier to manage. It would also allow substituting lots of lighter components instead of one heavy one.

- Armor: I think I would like it much better if items could get damaged during combat more. The way armor just blocks all damage is 'unrealistic' in some sense, but it also makes structure useless since armor allows your systems to be impervious to damage. Also, item damage only happens as you're about to be destroyed, so it's not a part of the game. I would much prefer it that as you fight, there's a chance that armor will take the hits, but there's also a chance that your items/crew will be hit.

This is actually an idea that could make battles a lot more tactical. What could happen, is that every item malfunctioning could cause some impact on your ship. If your engine is damaged, your ship could start turning uncontrollably, or going really fast, or really slow. If your radar is damaged, your vision radius would decrease -- just like light radius in DC. This makes radar much more important: if you want to see enemies, you need a radar. If you want to see invisible enemies, you need a good radar. Radar taking damage could also cause you to see phantom or double images of enemies.

- Espionage/rumors and manipulating the 4x: Currently these seem more like placeholders in the game. I haven't found a reason to use them yet, possibly because nothing in the 4x level justifies getting involved to this degree. I think Chumpy had the idea that the Drox could give you quests as well. These quests could involve manipulating the 4x. They could ask you to get the Cortex wiped out in some way, or to get the Brunt to betray their allies, or to make them lose a certain planet. You can't refuse Drox quests, and failing more than a certain amount will mean game over.

At this point, these options will become relevant. However, I'd like to see them involve verbs that are in the game rather than just spending money. For example, espionage could involve planting a spy drone on a planet. But you can't do it while a planet has ships around it. So what you have to do is bring monsters or enemies close to the planet, and if the planet is left alone or if there's enough chaos, they might not notice you planting the drone. We use verbs available in the game to make new actions possible.

Sabotage could be done by selling a planet an item it needs, but taking the item to a shady vendor of some sort (or just the Shadow) so they can 'tweak' the item. You sell the items to the planet and once the planet tries to use the item, it's sabotaged.

-Simulation: the simulation itself doesn't seem to allow for power changes. One a race builds up a lead, it's very hard for any other race to catch up. It may not be abstract enough. If we just have abstract 'control points' for the sector, it may be easier to allow random events, technology research etc. to allow races to keep up with each other. This is much more interesting than having planets be the basic unit of power: more planets = more resources = more ships = dominance. In a 'real world', even a huge empire would be sensitive to many factors, such as decadence, bureaucracy, lack of spirit etc, and a small power might prevail sometimes. But we can't possibly simulate all those things. So better to abstract it (control points), and have things like technology finds, quests and random events modify the control point balance. Ships could be built in a general way, rather than actually producing them.

I'll keep adding to this list as I remember more stuff I've been thinking about.

Last edited by Bluddy : 07-31-2012 at 05:23 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-18-2012, 11:11 AM
fotan fotan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluddy View Post
This is actually an idea that could make battles a lot more tactical. What could happen, is that every item malfunctioning could cause some impact on your ship. If your engine is damaged, your ship could start turning uncontrollably, or going really fast, or really slow. If your radar is damaged, your vision radius would decrease -- just like light radius in DC. This makes radar much more important: if you want to see enemies, you need a radar. If you want to see invisible enemies, you need a good radar. Radar taking damage could also cause you to see phantom or double images of enemies.

That sounds pretty cool. I'm always up for the game being more challenging in interesting ways. This game is very Star Trek-ish and that kind of stuff happens to the Enterprise all the time.
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Old 07-18-2012, 11:32 AM
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PixelLord PixelLord is offline
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Regarding your power comment:

I agree. Do you think it would be a good thing if all ships had a slot (one of the race specific slots maybe - since I think there's a spare one left) for a power plant like the Fringe currently have? (I guess the Fringe would need to have something else then in addition to a power plant slot).
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Old 07-18-2012, 11:43 AM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Originally Posted by PixelLord View Post
Regarding your power comment:

I agree. Do you think it would be a good thing if all ships had a slot (one of the race specific slots maybe - since I think there's a spare one left) for a power plant like the Fringe currently have? (I guess the Fringe would need to have something else then in addition to a power plant slot).
I did consider that. The things is, if we go in that direction, then why not just have every ship have essential slots (power, thrust, shield, armor) and then a bunch of extra slots to play with? That wouldn't be a bad system: you could reduce the number of extra heavy/medium/light slots so that the hard choices would still be there, but a ship can't really function without those things.

Some races could be missing some basic slot: for example, a race that doesn't like war (like the Cortex) could be missing a basic armor slot, and have an extra slot of something else (shields or whatever it is they get). The Fringe could be missing shields but have an extra medium power slot or whatever -- it wouldn't make as much of an impact.

That's just one alternative though. I think in general, the power output levels need to be boosted up or the power requirements need to be lowered. The seeming fact that players playing with Fringe ships enjoy the game more and have more possibilities available to them means that power is currently way too scarce, and that has indeed been my experience playing with a Drakk ship.
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Old 07-18-2012, 11:53 AM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Another item in the list:

- Espionage/rumors and manipulating the 4x: Currently these seem more like placeholders in the game. I haven't found a reason to use them yet, possibly because nothing in the 4x level justifies getting involved to this degree. I think Chumpy had the idea that the Drox could give you quests as well. These quests could involve manipulating the 4x. They could ask you to get the Cortex wiped out in some way, or to get the Brunt to betray their allies, or to make them lose a certain planet. You can't refuse Drox quests, and failing more than a certain amount will mean game over.

At this point, these options will become relevant. However, I'd like to see them involve verbs that are in the game rather than just spending money. For example, espionage could involve planting a spy drone on a planet. But you can't do it while a planet has ships around it. So what you have to do is bring monsters or enemies close to the planet, and if the planet is left alone or if there's enough chaos, they might not notice you planting the drone. We use verbs available in the game to make new actions possible.

Sabotage could be done by selling a planet an item it needs, but taking the item to a shady vendor of some sort (or just the Shadow) so they can 'tweak' the item. You sell the items to the planet and once the planet tries to use the item, it's sabotaged.
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Old 07-18-2012, 08:55 PM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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OK I just looked through some of the quests in the game, and there are indeed some epic quests that affect whole systems.

Here's my suggestion: take away the log that shows everything happening in the game, and take away the ability to get quests from races through the relations screen (you can keep the ability to submit quests).

Hear me out on this:

Think of games like SR2, Pirates or Privateer. Your immediate surroundings are what matters. You slowly work your way up, into the next system etc, discovering as you go. The common thing to all these games is that you have an imperfect knowledge of the state of the galaxy. Once in a while, you may hear of some big things happening somewhere. But you don't have a constant flow of information about everything that happens in the world -- you're within that world, and information doesn't flow that freely.

Why is this so important in Drox? Because the quests need time to develop. If you know where the quests are as soon as you meet a race, then a. you're not learning about your surroundings organically -- you just zoom off into space to handle the quest -- it's like driving with GPS vs driving by your own devices, and b. you'll nip quests in the bud (e.g. by killing a boss right away) instead of letting them develop, so they'll rarely get to be interesting.

So what's my suggestion? Get rid of the log that shows you exactly what's happening. Quests should be picked up from planets as you explore. The emphasis here is not on containing any threat and neutralizing all the quests -- it's on experiencing the sector, discovering things as you go. Once in a while, you encounter a race's planet and get some information about what's been happening with them ('visit the bar' as in Pirates!). If a boss is slaughtering them somewhere far off, you may hear about it. You might even get some news about something big that's happening to an ally race or a great war going on. But you always have imperfect information, and are therefore really experiencing this galaxy as a participant.

Further advantages of this approach:
- Fewer user complaints about quests far off in distant systems that you can't even reach.
- No overload from having to manage a huge number of quests.
- No overload from seeing an endless stream of text in your log. I'm developing OCD from that log.
- Your new log would be a journal summarizing what you've learned about what's happening in the galaxy from picking up information here and there. It'll be an imperfect record of the world as seen through your eyes.

The whole feel would be very Pirates-y. In Pirates!, you never get the full picture of what everybody is doing all the time. And you shouldn't here either - this is space we're talking about here - not some small town. But you get to manage your corner of the world and try to do big things. I think this approach could really work here.

EDIT: Forget this idea. It seemed good at the time, but the knowledge that there are realtime quests happening and escalating everywhere would cause players to obsessively search for them, and the lack of knowledge about said quests would just cause frustration.

Last edited by Bluddy : 07-18-2012 at 09:41 PM.
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Old 07-18-2012, 09:19 PM
Cheet4h Cheet4h is offline
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I see a little bit of inconsitency of your suggestion with the premise of the game:

You aren't just a measy mercenary struggling for his own power, you are a Drox, a member of a mighty organisation, known throughout the galaxy. You don't go into the bars of a planet to know what's going on, you get hired by the ruler him-/herself.

As with the quest overload: I don't always have this. In a later game, when it's reduced to 2 - 3 races, if there isn't an epidemic, you get very few quests, let alone if there are only 2 races left, of which one is your enemy.

But I agree, that you should be able not only to look at a certain race, but also a system as a whole. But I still like to take quests from races to see, what else I can do for this particular race.
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Old 07-18-2012, 09:23 PM
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Castruccio Castruccio is offline
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In response to Bluddy's comments about the log, I agree. In Dins and DoP the log was manageable because there were fewer quests. In Drox, it gets out of control fast and makes me a little crazy.
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Old 07-19-2012, 07:59 AM
silverhound silverhound is offline
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Question Create more focused threads

Bluddy as a suggestion could you maybe break your giant thread starting post into several smaller posts with their own threads and link them in this one?
It would make it a lot easier for people to respond to and discuss the individual parts without having the feeling that they arent discussing the same thing as the person before and after them.
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Old 07-19-2012, 11:16 AM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Originally Posted by silverhound View Post
Bluddy as a suggestion could you maybe break your giant thread starting post into several smaller posts with their own threads and link them in this one?
It would make it a lot easier for people to respond to and discuss the individual parts without having the feeling that they arent discussing the same thing as the person before and after them.
That's a lot of work It also makes it harder to keep track of issues I think are important, because threads will 'disappear' (ie. be bumped down) and then the issue is nowhere to be found. This is a problem with the forum format for reporting issues. I think having access to a Mantis-like issue reporting system like what Arcen does is probably much better suited for this kind of thing.

Feel free to open a new thread on any one of the issues I raise. No need to quote me btw -- I'm of the opinion that it doesn't matter who raised what issue, so long as it gets discussed and hopefully resolved. Having things in one thread (where I can update the first post as I think about the issues) makes things much easier for me to think about.
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