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Author Topic: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)  (Read 20227 times)

Squigzilla

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I often see requests from players who want to expand the boarding mechanics of Starsector. In-combat boarding using assault boats/drop pods, specialised weapons like ion canons that make boarding more likely/possible, and detailed post-battle systems that add more nuance to the boarding process have all been suggested at various times by many different people. Each post brings a lovely debate about the relative merits of different options, so it is clear that there is player interest in the topic.

That said, I believe many people don't want more complex boarding mechanics for their own sake; they really want more control over acquiring their favorite ships. Diving into a tough fight in the hopes of boarding a Hyperion but being given a Buffalo MkI instead is extremely disheartening. If you aren't allied with the Tri-Tachyon you might not have another chance to acquire this ship for a very long time.

Am I mistaken, or is that the core reason boarding overhauls are so often requested? I hope there are other methods for finding specific (especially rare) ships planned for the future.
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xenoargh

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2016, 01:51:23 PM »

I think that a great deal of it has to do with:

1.  It used to be pretty straightforward to capture lots of ships and this was fun; then this was taken away and a new gameplay system was developed, that essentially made capturing ships pure RNG, which is un-fun.

2.  Other games in this genre (Escape Velocity, SPaZ, etc.) have real-time boarding systems, and weren't fundamentally broken by this; in fact, it was one of the fun parts.

3.  It's especially un-fun to have to RNG-grind for rare ships; a game based on RNG rarity in general is un-fun; a game where you're grinding to get gold to buy nifty things, which in turn allows you to take on harder challenges, is inherently more fun.
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David

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2016, 02:25:22 PM »

(things)

I'm not jumping into this conversation as-such (fake edit: okay, I am), but I'd be interested in hearing this without using the word "fun". In discussions about experiencing games, "fun" is used like the word "good". X is good. Y is bad. Z is good. This points at a part of the game and says Good or Bad but doesn't say why.)

Disclaimer: I don't speak for an official dev position here and wouldn't talk about Alex's position on the matter without his permission in the case that I even knew what his final intentions were. So: purely speaking for myself here.

You mention randomness, and I think that's a good start on the question -- thing is, RNG = bad doesn't quite say why it feels bad in this circumstance. Certainly games have made random challenges feel good. It sounds like you're getting at is a desire for controlling the boarding target. And currently this is frustrating (un-fun!) because you can see a juicy target but only very rarely actually get it and have no way of having any control over that result. Surely games successfully pulled off mechanics with a very low chance to acquire something and it's worked. So why not here?

Say you could do targeted boarding easily: giving the player to ability to possess any ship they beat in a fight means they'll very rapidly acquire the ideal set of ships. It's a classic videogame problem of "I beat the bad guy who has a machine gun, so why don't I get his machine gun to use?" - if the game just gave you everything you wanted, it can break pacing and challenge. Starsector seems to want to pit the player against superior ships without actually giving those ships to the player because a skilled player will always beat an equally equipped AI. Give them what the last AI had will just bring endgame ennui all the faster.
How can Starsector get away with what it seems to be trying to do?

One answer to this is "it's not a completely finished game". Certainly the higher-level mechanics in the works will help.

Many suggestions involve a lot of feature-creep like boarding minigames or expanding the scope of combat to have a sub-level of assault shuttles and ship invasions. Starsector is a game that's fairly clear about what it's about - space battles - and what it's going to be better about - campaign-level gameplay - so I don't think extremely detailed sub-features are a useful route to solving this problem.

MoO2 comes to mind as an example: why does it get away with what it does? A. Perhaps because it blows up ships completely when they are killed and doesn't even hint at any recovery (unless the player specifically engages with the marines/boarding mechanic in the game). A side-note to keep in mind: MoO2 combat was turn-based and had far inferior AI and less sophisticated tactical battles therefore could way more easily add a boarding component to combat than Starsector ever could.

A thought: Imagine a Starsector that never had the ability to recover destroyed enemy ships in any manner at all. Might that be more satisfying if you never knew the boarding feature existed at all?
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Weltall

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2016, 03:43:47 PM »

I will comment as someone that loves capturing ships, ever since the first game (that I liked) gave me the option to, which is Cutthroats!: Terror on the high Seas!

Capturing ships to me is a challenge and even now on 0.7.2a, I prefer to blow my money on expensive Marines, so I can capture ships, rather than buy em. It is the pleasure of looking at my fleet and thinking that I was lucky to capture that ship in the X battle, which gives me the feeling of fulfillment.

As such a person I can easily say why getting a ship by playing on a lottery. Because when I look at them, I just say I was lucky to capture that ship, where if I had to go through a long process of capturing it, it would be a feeling of awesomeness and I would think "Oh darn, I broke my bottom to be able to get that ship!" or something alike. That gives the ship a different "value".

The easiest that a boarding process could be, would be to first lower the "health" of the enemy ship to a lower point, make sure it will not be able to keep it's shields up and maybe force it to overload or make it's engines stop. But no matter how simple or complicated the process would be, it would take more effort than just hoping lady lucky will be on your side.

I do not know much about the thought of minigames, but I am guessing people want these affected by FTL? But it is not weird for people to want such features in any games. In Sims people always seem to want to be able to enter the rabbithole buildings, and actually "go to work" or "go to school" and whatnot. In many talks I have seen people say something like "Oh it would be so awesome, if you went to work, to be something like janitor simulator (I am just giving a non existent example) and be able to experience cleaning floors wit more detail than Sims lets you! I myself found in the past saying that it would be so awesome that a less detailed part of a game, could be just like that other game.. Obviously most of the time that is impossible, since adding a game within a game, probably means more than I can even imagine.

I personally do not feel like the game is not good cause it lacks a boarding mechanic, but more like it is one of the things that I wish it had. I guess I just like the idea of having prize ships with a "story" behind them. One that does not evolve a slot machine luck.

Sorry I can't compare SS to any game, since I played no game like it before. I never played a game where I felt so up and personal to my whole fleet. It was always just in general "my fleets", in strategy games and in games like X3, It was my main ship, oh and those other guys around me.
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Gothars

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2016, 03:59:12 PM »

Say you could do targeted boarding easily: giving the player to ability to possess any ship they beat in a fight means they'll very rapidly acquire the ideal set of ships. It's a classic videogame problem of "I beat the bad guy who has a machine gun, so why don't I get his machine gun to use?"

You know, that is a problem that could actually be solved the same way Alex solved it for the survey mechanic - require a specialized skill for boarding, and lock high value ships behind high levels of that skill. Say ships have a secured computer systems, and you need to hack them to be able to use the ship. Unskilled characters could only make use of ships with unsophisticated systems, e.g. pirate barges. Using a captured Hyperion would require a master hacker. That would enable the dev site to control the boarding mechanic's influence on the pacing of the game, and at the same minimize the RNG aspect.


On the other hand, I wouldn't mind if boarding as a way to get ships would disappear completely. I'd like to have boarding in the game for roleplaying purposes though, if only to pirate freight from ships without having to destroy them.




That said, I believe many people don't want more complex boarding mechanics for their own sake; they really want more control over acquiring their favorite ships.

One main culprit here is the lack of progression diversity, i.e. the only way to progress is to upgrade your fleet. When you have a fleet for a purpose, and not just for its own sake, possession of individual ships becomes less important.

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Scanaro

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2016, 04:32:49 PM »

Hi there, finally de-lurking.

First I want to say that I do like the majority of added mechanics in the past, for example combat readiness as a whole and even the inbattle cr timer has grown on me.
What else? Well, great game, I like how it's coming along etc.
 
So, now that that's out of the way let's start with a little story.

For the last couple of (major) updates I tried to acquire an Apogee. Had a lot of fun with this ship in the past, soloing system defence fleets in particular; but which ship couldn't after the introduction of skills.  ;)
Anyway, until this update I actually never managed to get one. Even at one time aligning myself with Tri-tach didn't help.
No market had one, no matter how often I checked and attacking my only allies was kinda out of the question. In my other playthroughs boarding was kinda the only option I had,
though to organically get one by hoping real hard the rng didn't want to wave the middle finger in my face again was a somewhat futile attempt.
Those few Apogees I got to fight never ever became board able until I just gave up and gamed the mechanic to the breaking point. Basically killing every other ship in its fleet,
harassing and bullying it repeatedly into retreat with a heavy scoop of the ice cream of safe scumming. Though a chore I was finally given the ship. Hurray, I guess.

That seamlessly leads me to the point why this mechanic is my personal "big fat hate target".
(disclaimer: the following are my personal opinions of boarding, so take it for what little it is worth)

Well, the biggest issue I have with boarding as a mechanic is the complete lack of control.
The game rolls if I get the ship I actually want to acquire or if get handed the half eaten burger wrapped in a greasy newspaper.
I may then decide if I want to bet some marines on the chance to get said burger or if the games feels funny and just blows it up.
For me, that creates a pretty long chain of frustration.

Maybe I am spoiled by a lot of games that featured boarding, but in my mind boarding is a pretty straight forward decision making process: I want to acquire ship x.
Can I get it by other means (aka buying, producing, etc.)? No. Enable the ability to board (in this case marines). Done. Commence boarding of ship x.
The current mechanic throws some pretty big curve balls in that regard. The fattest and smelliest is of course the game slapping my hands by not allowing to choose the actual ship that is to be boarded.
And then blowing it up if it feels I didn't appreciate its choice enough. Now, I did read the arguments stating it would make it to easy to fast if you can get whatever, just need the marines and of you go.
Though I am firmly entrenched on the "don't care" side of this. I do however get Alex comments why boarding will not become a part of combat itself and stay on the aftermath.

That's fine, I can live without the shuttle cannon. But I do want to make meaningful decisions and feel the results, positive and/or negative and not play lottery.
Make it more expensive, don't care.
Even require a tug to drag the half burned wreck with your fleet around at burn 5 with a additional cost in .. supply, machinery, what ever, just to get it to the point where it becomes a ship again with 1% hull and 0 cr.
Force me to shuffle it to a station or have a repair rig in my fleet (would give 'em some use). Don't care. Just make the middle finger shoved in my face go away.
Increase the initial hurdle to boarding, make it require campaign time, what ever, but please, tone down the randomness.

...

Well, that ended up being quite a rant, off to a great start  :-\
Sorry 'bout that.

Or yeah, just get rid of it, that's an option as well. I don't think I would mind.  ;)
« Last Edit: August 09, 2016, 04:59:13 PM by Scanaro »
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FooF

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2016, 05:27:38 PM »

About a week ago I was traveling around doing bounties with a small fleet of destroyers and frigates and ran into a named bounty with an Aurora and Apogee along with support destroyers. I ran away, was barely able to purchase/equip a Dominator, and went back to have one of the most enjoyable fights I've had in awhile. My losses were not nearly as terrible as I thought (a Lasher and Wolf) but more importantly, the Aurora came up for boarding. I happened to be carrying 60 Marines on-board and took the plunge. Now, the RNG gods smiled upon me that day and I've been using the Aurora as a flaghship since but rarely do I get that lucky.

As Weltall said, boarding a ship gives it some intrinsic value to me. I earned it "the hard way," whatever that means. I played Sid Meier's "Pirates!" and god if I didn't hunt down a Ship of the Line until I could capture it. That was the unicorn.

I think a mechanic that made it difficult, but not impossible, to capture what you wanted would be superior to the pure RNG that we have now. I don't know what that would look like and I think the mechanic would have to be very specific and very intentional. If it took bringing a troop transport into battle (which is relatively easy to kill), killing the target, keeping the transport alive while it boarded, and then towing the destroyed ship's hull out of the battlezone, that's a start. As Gothars said, maybe even putting up a skill wall to keep the best ships until the end would be in order.

As a player, though, I would know "the rules" of boarding. If I could get all the various elements in order, I have a shot of getting of what I want, even if it is improbable. The "fun," as we are trying to define, is typically in the prep and pursuit, not the kill. RNG still plays heavily into what fleets you fight and whether or not you'll get the number of Marines, the troop transports, the right fleet to pull it off on, etc. But, if I do my part, there's a chance that through skill and prep, I score my unicorn.
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Megas

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2016, 05:39:15 PM »

Unless we get blueprints and autofactories to build whatever we want, boarding is the only way to get ships if the faction that sells them hates you.

I like high-tech for small ships, then low-tech plus Eagle for big ships.  No single faction sells every ship I want in my fleet.  (e.g., only Tri-Tachyon can sell the Scarab, and only Hegemony sells some of the XIV ships), and some factions have trouble stocking all of the best weapons.

I remember one of my games, I had to save-scum to board a Hyperion (after save-scum deterrence was added).

I will use dirty tricks and exploits to get what I want if they are the only way.
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King Alfonzo

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2016, 05:43:35 PM »

I personally do not feel like the game is not good cause it lacks a boarding mechanic, but more like it is one of the things that I wish it had. I guess I just like the idea of having prize ships with a "story" behind them. One that does not evolve a slot machine luck... I never played a game where I felt so up and personal to my whole fleet.

I feel this argument nails it on the head for myself when I, too, made a post about boarding.

The Total War series is one of my favourite games to play, and had been intensely interested in modifcations of that series that added intense complexity. This was because when I played the game, it was less of a 'game' and more of a narrative-in-progress. I wasn't moving an army with some guys towards an enemy city; I was invading Gaul with the second-in-command (and dangerously ambitious but rather rash) Marcellus at the head of an untried army, to face off against the Arvenii in a foolish expedition to refill Marcellus' coffers after disasterously backing Alexander II's bid for Head Oligarch of Massilia. Likewise in StarSector, I too have an internal narrative. Heck, some of my successful campaigns are actually the basis behind some of the factions I want to mod into the game (For instance, a mining conglomerate that plumbs the farthest reaches of the sector for the rarest and most profitable of ores, all based on a playthrough where I did just that).

For boarding, it feels like there should be more of a 'story' behind the ship, and I think this can be somewhat fixed by having a little more intensively 'dialogue' when invading a ship, (For instance, your first attack with marines might completely fail, and you have to send in more marines, or perhaps the ship suddenly opens fire on your ships during the boarding, resulting in damage to your ships, etc.), and maybe having a choice of several ships that survived (with better ships being locked unless you have the appropriate skill). I do acknowledge however that the basics of the system are essentially hard-coded at this point, but with the upcoming 'breaking ship' update, it might be more satisfying to know that you couldn't capture ship X because it blew up right in front of you. On the flip-side, I think people will be upset if they DON'T capture a ship that DIDN'T blow up.

In summary:
-People hate how you have no control whatsoever over which ship you get to board, and boarding is a boring experience ina nd of itself.
-Giving people a selection of several ships would ease the first issue, (but not remove it), and perhaps adding more boarding 'events' may make boarding itself more satisfying.
-Restricting this selection based on skills (IE Skills that increase the number of boardable ships, and a different skill for what you can actually board) in addition to marine amount would help prevent power creep.

Tartiflette

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2016, 11:59:14 PM »

A thought: Imagine a Starsector that never had the ability to recover destroyed enemy ships in any manner at all. Might that be more satisfying if you never knew the boarding feature existed at all?

   This is exactly the core of the issue here: you have a mechanic with nearly no control over, in a game that heavily favor player agency. The inability to even stack the odds in favor of capturing a particular ship is frustrating when your progression is so dependent on acquiring more ships.

   Loot based games usually shower you with weapons of all kinds so that every few minutes you find something interesting. And weapon drops in Starsector don't count the same way as they are so easy to obtain otherwise: in said loot based games they usually are a big money investment closer to acquiring a new ship in this game.

   As mentioned before it also completely close an alternative way of progressing in the game that could potentially be more interesting to buying your way up. Expanding your fleet with better ships would imply taking on fleet better equipped than yours to get said ships instead of farming pirates until you are strong enough to steamroll the main factions. A much more interesting reward than supplies and rep hits.

   Even in-universe, in a world with limited means of production it would make sense that ships do rarely get completely blown up, and that the main path to get a fleet would actually be salvaging wrecks.

   Now that being said, I'm not in favor of a detailed in-battle minigame. At worse I could see the ability to disable completely a ship with special EMP based loadouts and a special order that prevent the AI to fire missiles or HE weapons at the target. But many things could be added on the campaign side to gate the usefulness of boarding:
 - time consuming skill based survey of the enemy fleet to determine the ship to board because "the boarding team need that time to draw a plan of attack",
 - time consuming salvaging to prevent farming ships in enemy space as you'll be interrupted,
 - burn 0 disabled ships that needs tugs and repair gantries to move...
 - to a spaceport to get reactivated, again to limit the number of ships you can get in one patrol. It would also create some interesting choices like when you get the opportunity to capture a second ship on your way home but only have one tug.
And many more that also might have been suggested.

As it stand with 1/20th chance to board something and then only a low chance to board something interesting, it is 80% small frustrations, 18% big frustration for 1 or 2% big joy moments. I have to I agree that the game could very well be better without boarding at all.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2016, 12:03:41 AM by Tartiflette »
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King Alfonzo

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2016, 02:08:10 AM »


 - time consuming skill based survey of the enemy fleet to determine the ship to board because "the boarding team need that time to draw a plan of attack",
 - time consuming salvaging to prevent farming ships in enemy space as you'll be interrupted,
 - burn 0 disabled ships that needs tugs and repair gantries to move...
 - to a spaceport to get reactivated, again to limit the number of ships you can get in one patrol. It would also create some interesting choices like when you get the opportunity to capture a second ship on your way home but only have one tug.


Why not at the end of battle have 'Time Points', where you can use the points to attempt to take a vessel, attempt to repair a vessel, or attempt to salvage some really good but perishable loot. The larger the vessel, the more time it takes? Also, I love the idea that salvaged ships have 0 burn, and you NEED tugs to bring them along.

I have to I agree that the game could very well be better without boarding at all.

...I can kind of get behind this, while simultaneously not getting behind this. Maybe if 'boarding' were instead relegated to the Salvage aspect of Star Sector and not battles, I could see THAT being a thing. But it's still fun to conquer your way into decent ships as is. It's just frustrating as hell.

TJJ

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2016, 02:30:01 AM »

I like the idea of having to stay around after a battle to salvage, so you'd not be doing it deep inside hostile space; rather like spaz 2 does it. Having to bait enemy fleets into an ambush seems like it could add an interesting mechanic for the campaign map.

I also think in-battle boarding would add further depth to combat, requiring the player to restrain their attack so as to not destroy that which they desire. I'd cite Starfleet Command, and Star Trek Armada as examples, but they're almost exclusively done via transporters; not nearly as viscerally satisfying as boarding craft and ship to ship docking could be.
Something more like boarding as portrayed by pirates during the age of sail; yarrrrrr!
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Deshara

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2016, 02:56:43 AM »

Simple answer: people want boarding mechanics so they can have a tool to manipulate the rng towards a reward that they want without having to lose out on all the benefits that the rng provides to the gameplay experience
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Weltall

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2016, 04:45:29 AM »

I am not sure how valid this would be, but I do think there should be an option that will favor both the people that are yay and nay with this. As in keeping the quick slot machine mechanic, giving a random chance to players that do not want to go through the trouble of capturing ships manually, if they did not attempt to capture a ship during the battle.

>.> not to mention that it would help those poor souls that have the actual patience to keep doing battles, in order to try their luck, until that luck brings them the ship they want from the fleet.

I would love to see someone trying to capture a Paladin.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2016, 04:48:49 AM by Weltall »
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Megas

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Re: Why so many people want detailed boarding mechanics (my best guess)
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2016, 05:55:17 AM »

There could be an alternative to boarding, or rather, the idea is boarding on a massive scale - invasion of markets.  Kill all of the defenders of a market, deploy a bunch of marines at a market, and seize it!  Anything left in the market is yours!
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