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Author Topic: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression  (Read 1989 times)

TaylorItaly

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #30 on: February 29, 2020, 04:50:55 PM »

A briliant post.

As a Newbee player i can not say much about that topic , only two things.

1. I love this game for being harsh to me , while learning it.
But after a few attemps , the only difficult thing is to beat those Remmants Fleets.
So , i would love to have more missions , to unlock things.

2. You wrote : " (which is why, I think auto-save as a feature comes up so much even though it's impractical to implement for this game) "

I am using that Autosave mod , with the Autosave after each Market Transaction.
That is a good thing , but sometimes it also saves when i am in Space or after a battle , so when i get a Distress Call i save manually , Alt-Tab , copy the Save folder to another location and look.
If i was ambushed and the game saved after that battle , i just Alt-Tab again , get that save , copy it into SS/save and all is good.
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Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #31 on: February 29, 2020, 05:44:15 PM »

Why wouldn't you be able to get larger ships without finishing some particular bounty/etc? It would be a horribly gamy mechanic. I'd rather prefer starsector design to move in exactly opposite direction, toward more dynamic sandbox.

I think it can be explained by setting alone reasonably well. I mean, much of the game is "gamy" right now for practical reasons. Mostly, my goal here is to point out what I believe to be the biggest concerns for new players and give potential ways of solving them while extending other design benefits in the process. I'm trying to take the grind aspect into account, generally, and give access to higher difficulty without overwhelming an unlucky new player too often. Essentially- "What results in the most 'fun' to me?" (from the perspective of trying to imagine myself as a new player) - and I really like what instrisic_parity has suggested and wanted to add my thoughts to it.

I'm certainly open to your interpretation, though. It would be helpful from the idea of trying to better understand your thoughts for you to flesh out what you mean. What do you mean by dynamic, for instance? Does dynamic sandbox mean progression can't be implemented, and why? Do you think the difficulty issue is a problem, and if so, how would you solve it? (An answer of "no clue" is fine for me- just to be clear- just trying to move the discussion into more detail and get more info out there)

I am using that Autosave mod , with the Autosave after each Market Transaction.
That is a good thing , but sometimes it also saves when i am in Space or after a battle , so when i get a Distress Call i save manually , Alt-Tab , copy the Save folder to another location and look.
If i was ambushed and the game saved after that battle , i just Alt-Tab again , get that save , copy it into SS/save and all is good.

Thanks for pointing out that mod and thanks for the general advice. :) The story in the example was before that mod was available (I think, anyway), but that sounds really useful to have installed.
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Lucky33

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #32 on: February 29, 2020, 10:43:16 PM »

That was a nice read, Morrokain.

Now for the more practical things.

1. There is a need of the intel ui overhaul. Reminder of the missions availability should be on the main screen and linked to the main intel screen. There should be a more simple index system for missions.

2. All missions should be tiered by difficulty and tiers are based on "opposition power", "cargo capacity", "time importance" and "secrecy". This is a more systematic approach to the mission generation resulting in easier sorting and indexing. In turn this allows to keep missions of different tiers in abundance since you can simply hide anything you dont want to see and participate in. This way the player can define that progression actually is. Admiral, Smuggler, Trader, Explorer and so on. With the possibility of mixed types of missions and gameplay. This also provides opportunity to control the scale of the player's operations.

3. To spice things up there should be missions with only partial details available.

4. Current system of a single guaranteed sniffer should be more flexible to allow more diverse info stream. Yes, it includes the capability to tap into Redacted comms.
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TaLaR

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #33 on: March 01, 2020, 12:11:35 AM »

@Morrokain

I really don't like any sort of world scaling to player. It's always immersion-breaking. Dumbest example of this was TES Oblivion: you are level 1? - Rats everywhere! Level 20 ? - Trolls everywhere!... Bounties in starsector follow overall same principle, though with wider range of outcomes.
You are lowly single frigate captain? Behave like one! Hide from scary big fleets, smuggle, seek appropriate challenges in large sandbox rather have game generate only them. Game may highlight threat levels of missions/fleets/areas/etc, but it should be always up to player to decide to challenge them anyway.

Dynamic, as in faction doing their own things - waging wars, expanding, building up infrastructure, etc. Not just formally declaring war/peace like now without any real consequences. Or pirates behaving like ones, rather than combination of zombie horde and bounty pinatas waiting to be looted.
Missions/bounties/etc not generated simply because player needs something to do of X difficulty, but due to current state of simulation. Of course, in sufficient number that player is likely to find ones he can do with current fleet at any point.

In terms of mission generation based on simulation state, 'Drox Operative' was quite a good example (if you were willing to accept actual combat mechanics being not very good).
« Last Edit: March 01, 2020, 12:13:57 AM by TaLaR »
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Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #34 on: March 01, 2020, 02:24:15 AM »

I really don't like any sort of world scaling to player. It's always immersion-breaking. Dumbest example of this was TES Oblivion: you are level 1? - Rats everywhere! Level 20 ? - Trolls everywhere!... Bounties in starsector follow overall same principle, though with wider range of outcomes.
You are lowly single frigate captain? Behave like one! Hide from scary big fleets, smuggle, seek appropriate challenges in large sandbox rather have game generate only them. Game may highlight threat levels of missions/fleets/areas/etc, but it should be always up to player to decide to challenge them anyway.

Heh, I can't agree with that more :D. I greatly disliked TES: Oblivion's scaling just as much as you, it seems, and it really ruined the game for me. Starsector's bounties don't feel that bad to me. Anyway, Oblivion-esque scaling- in general- was not what I was going for, but I definitely get the concern. I think pirate ambushes/other threats to "pre-determined trade convoy targets" (aka the player on a trade mission) would warrant an appropriately boasting-level optimistic rather than decisively overwhelming- "response strength" from pirates/other hazards due to their nature as having your travel/escort information upfront. So scaling is very specific in context in this regard. It was intended to be a suggestion to give small fleets direct roles in more missions since general mission scaling tends to require larger fleets from repeated completion. Good point, though!

I'm also wanting to preserve the player's choice of composition, so I agree with the large sandbox aspect in general- it adds a lot to replay-ability and for that I like the concept a lot. My intention wasn't to take this part away, if that was the concern. I would, subjectively, like to try and get away from the idea that implementing progression gates kills the sandbox feel, though. I don't think it has to, at least. I could be wrong, but that's my take on it.

Quote
Dynamic, as in faction doing their own things - waging wars, expanding, building up infrastructure, etc. Not just formally declaring war/peace like now without any real consequences. Or pirates behaving like ones, rather than combination of zombie horde and bounty pinatas waiting to be looted.
Missions/bounties/etc not generated simply because player needs something to do of X difficulty, but due to current state of simulation. Of course, in sufficient number that player is likely to find ones he can do with current fleet at any point.

In terms of mission generation based on simulation state, 'Drox Operative' was quite a good example (if you were willing to accept actual combat mechanics being not very good).

Oh ok, I see what you mean. Well, it's not necessarily my preference for dev work, but I understand the desire for those kinds of mechanics in general. It's not that I don't want these things too, to be sure (Slightly off topic: Doesn't Nexerelin do some of these things? This doesn't help the unmodded new player but is a consideration as far as available content is concerned), but more that the difficulty state early on cannot, by the simulation's nature of being dynamic and variable, result in a calculable determination of difficulty for early game. The game could be difficult to learn in some circumstances because it's somewhat random as such a simulation should be- or therefore it's too predictable. The gates act as an ease of entrance into the simulation to increase the overall available audience of gamers and their general tolerance levels regarding said difficulty spikes. That's the idea, anyway.

The sort of dynamic simulation you're referring to, in my mind, would be a mid-late game mechanic to me (so debatable difficulty gate 3-4)- because it requires experienced knowledge of the simulation for the player to be able to interact with it effectively without a relatively steep learning curve or, worse, a predictable enough behavior to be manageable for a new player. The gates are proposed with the intention to give that new player experience in a controlled and therefore balance-able way. Then, greater difficulty levels can provide greater challenge without the worry of RNG causing an over-percentage of difficulty spikes. Experienced players could theoretically opt-in to as much complexity/difficulty as they want relatively quickly.
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TaLaR

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #35 on: March 01, 2020, 03:42:32 AM »

Nexelerin does a good job at making game more dynamic, but there is always place for improvement. And there are limits to what can be done as a mod vs core game.

As for having clear difficulty progression, is it really that important? I've played many runs. From single frigate to capital fleet doesn't take all that long. For replay-ability embracing the volatile nature of dynamic sandbox and developing that further would be the best imo.

I mean sure, we could have some crutches for the tutorial run. But overall I don't like design like: "Big alien invasion will start...But only after you do this particular fetch quest.". Player shouldn't have that much unilateral influence on world state. Being able to influence - yes, but up to a limit. And if player ignores/delays some critical event it shouldn't simply go away/wait for him endlessly.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #36 on: March 01, 2020, 11:08:11 AM »

I think there can be scaling in a natural way. In a job, you might be given easy tasks early on, and then when you prove you can do them, you get promoted to doing more difficult tasks with more responsibility and access to resources. That's not some unnatural structure imposed on you, that's just a reasonable way of getting things done and allocating resources. Particularly here, the scaling is supposed to resemble a situation where you do some work for an admiral and prove that you're loyal to the faction, and then he gives access to some military tech help you continue benefiting his faction. Even more so, the idea that he gives you access to tech to do some specific thing that he wants done (i.e. I need you to kill this enemy admiral, so I'm going to give you access to a higher tier of tech that I think you will need to do that mission). To me that is less 'gamey' than you clicking the 'commission' button and then getting monthly income and access to military tech with virtually no strings attached.

In some sense, this idea can get reduced down to replacing the current reputation system where you can grind an endless number of simple/easy missions to build up rep and get access to tech, with a system where you do a few significant and challenging things to build up rep. At the end of the day, your access to tech would still be based on your 'reputation' like it is now (although perhaps with local commanders rather than whole factions), it's just that the way you get reputation is a bit different. I spent a lot of time explaining the benefits I think that will have on gameplay, but that really the actual change that I'm suggesting.

My biggest problem with the game right now is that there's no reason to ever do anything difficult. Once you understand the game mechanics well enough, you can pretty easily avoid every situation/fight with any risk and get the exact same outcomes you could get by taking difficult fights. The only exception might be if you want to get to a certain point faster, but there's no in-game reason to do things faster so that doesn't really do it for me.
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Morrokain

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #37 on: March 01, 2020, 12:59:53 PM »

Nexelerin does a good job at making game more dynamic, but there is always place for improvement. And there are limits to what can be done as a mod vs core game.

True.

As for having clear difficulty progression, is it really that important?

Certainly not to most people here (when speaking to the easy side of things) but to widen the audience? Absolutely. Those who would care about this the most can't speak here because they got frustrated and never registered (is my thought process). Some did, and after experienced forum members helped them out they got a better impression. That is part of the evidence I am considering to think about this in the first place.

I mean sure, we could have some crutches for the tutorial run. But overall I don't like design like: "Big alien invasion will start...But only after you do this particular fetch quest.". Player shouldn't have that much unilateral influence on world state. Being able to influence - yes, but up to a limit. And if player ignores/delays some critical event it shouldn't simply go away/wait for him endlessly.

I think that may be a tendency to look at the most extreme cases of difficulty gates and assume that will be the implementation because it has been done before. Those two things don't make much sense when stacked up next to each other- but- "Deteriorating diplomacy that relies on the player to smooth things over (for whatever reason) and opps! War!"- Is much more believable, for instance. Context matters here.

My biggest problem with the game right now is that there's no reason to ever do anything difficult. Once you understand the game mechanics well enough, you can pretty easily avoid every situation/fight with any risk and get the exact same outcomes you could get by taking difficult fights. The only exception might be if you want to get to a certain point faster, but there's no in-game reason to do things faster so that doesn't really do it for me.

This cuts to the core of why I, personally, am excited by the idea. It allows for harder difficulty without hurting new comers. Harder difficulty is tough to do right now because the way missions are generated is somewhat random. So the more difficult missions you have as potential options the more convoluted the mission screen gets and the increasing likelihood of generating few to no "easy" missions early on becomes more of a problem without some kind of system or metric to direct it.

Looking at the metrics that would be immediately attractive (player level, num of officers, fleet size) it becomes difficult to correctly parse a player's "strength" effectively to increase the difficulty since that can be so dynamic (so the calculation would have to be equally dynamic and complex- that could be really tough!). Players opting in seems like the best solution.

Since the technical considerations of opting in- upfront- (by easy mode, hard mode, etc) are good but incapable of handling the random (so difficulty spikes still prevail just more scale is available) in-game opt-ins seem better suited (alongside the difficulty options). On that note, since a "Do you want to increase the difficulty now?" dialogue seems immersion breaking, the logical conclusion is immersive missions (to me).
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Terethall

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #38 on: March 02, 2020, 12:44:24 PM »

My first playthrough, I got a commission and bought all the best ships, and made a colony and then printed paragons and tach lances. I was bored after like 15-20 hours. My second playthrough, I added a handful of extra ships in mods and played salvage-only (no commission, no market purchases except fuel, crew, and supplies, no officer hiring from markets, and no colonies). It was a hundred times better because I was forced to use a wide variety of ships, and when I lost them,I couldn't just buy or print more (reinforced bulkheads was a good friend). D mods everywhere. Hunting fleets with capitals in them on the chance of being able to recover them was huge fun. I 100% support the suggestions here about having an option that heavily restricts markets and access to the top tier ships. Otherwise you miss out on a lot of content. New players don't have any kind of reference telling them that using markets and colonies and commissions will make the game stale much faster.
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Daynen

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #39 on: March 05, 2020, 03:08:13 PM »

Over the last three decades of gaming, I've developed a bit of a bad taste for what I call "disposable gameplay."  It feels bad to me to discard something I enjoy using just because something else is more powerful.  It's one thing to drop a low-level sword in an MMO because that's just a stat stick; it's another entirely to throw away a detailed, nuanced, specialized starship just because something else is bigger.  How many times have you found a weapon, character, ship, etc. in a game somewhere that you fell in love with playing but had to discard later because "it's not viable late game?"  It sucks and I don't like doing it.  That's not even counting how I feel for whichever artists and developers put in the work to make the thing in the first place.  It just feels like we're throwing away what they built.

I'm of the mind that if you're going to make something for the game and put in the work to make it useful you should make something that STAYS useful so it doesn't just get left by the wayside.  It's easy to get lost in the "progression" debate and turn the game into a spreadsheet with a bell curve but I feel that does great games (like Starsector) an injustice.  There's a strong foundation here for varied, challenging and durable gameplay but if it all boils down to who has more Paragons then that's a lot of wasted work in my eyes.

One thing I think could have an intriguing effect on Starsector pacing and progression, or at least the player's priorities within it, is time.  You have all the time you want in SS.  There is no real "game over."  Lose your entire fleet?  you get thrown back to a ragtag starter fleet.  Get all your cores taken?  Go farm some more.  Sure it's a sandboxy game but a definite loss condition adds structure and incentive.  If you've ever played a game like Sid Meier's Pirates you'll know precisely what I'm talking about.  Having your captain age as you game puts you on the clock and forces choices.  I've mentioned it before and I still wonder what kind of experience SS would be if your time in the sector wasn't infinite.

Another game that taught me a fascinating lesson on progression was Firefall (before its full release; I played during the open beta.)  The main feature I reference was the finite durability of every piece of gear.  No matter the item, it had a limited pool of health and when it hit zero, it was scrap.  End of story.  Some weapons could be maintained longer but eventually, EVERY item broke.  Many people hated it.  I found it created an intriguing choice system: do you bring your best gear for this outing?  Or do you hold it back and bring something more expendable?  Do you really NEED that top quality epic gun for this or can you handle it with your more common variant?  What if bigger ships just gradually developed baked in D-mods over a period of time, owing to the more challenging maintenance of such huge vessels?  Taking less hits could slow this process but all machines degrade with time, right?  While it would automatically make smaller ships better, it would create an ever so slight rubberband effect on endgame capital fleets, while also giving your favorite ships a bit of a history over time.  What if having excess crew helped delay this degradation, while running understrength accelerated it?  What would THAT game look like?
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Grievous69

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #40 on: March 06, 2020, 01:25:54 AM »

@Daynen
1. ''disposable gameplay'': There's nothing wrong with wanting a certain ship or weapon to be useful 100% of the game but that's nearly impossible to achieve. There's always gonna be a better escort ship, better missile boat, better support etc. And you're not ''disposing'' anything that you really need to do so, it's a single player game. Your point would stand in a multiplayer one where it's beneficial to have the best possible equipment unless you want a real challenge, here the choice is all yours. So what people found out capital spam works, and capital spam is also good? You can still experiment with other fleet comps. I'm getting a bit annoyed seeing these two playstyles EVERYWHERE and then people totally forget you can play the game however you want. Also even if something appears only once in the whole game, then it's not a waste of resources, your ''disposable gameplay'' contradicts every linear game ever.

2. Time limit: Now I don't think this was confirmed confirmed but Alex said he wanted to experiment with a system where you have a limited time frame before x thing happens, there was also talk about it being optional so it doesn't ruin the game for those who like to take it slow.

3. Durability: Funnily enough, this is my #1 most hated game mechanic, it's so incredibly gamey and just a way for the game to tell you ''*** you for using good weapons''. But even I understand that it's meant to diversify what equipment a player will have to use for any given task. The thing is, we already have a similar-ish system in Starsector. Aaaaand the name is DP. You have to deploy just enough ships to be able to defeat the enemies, but under the total cost of CR repairs afterwards. Just like you're not gonna kill a lvl 1 Frog with an Excalibur in RPGs, you're not gonna deploy your whole fleet to blow up a few destroyers here.
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Igncom1

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Re: Tuning fleet composition balance by progression
« Reply #41 on: March 07, 2020, 12:56:11 AM »

I suppose one thing to consider is even if late game frigates become outmoded, giving them a new use could be nice.
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