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Author Topic: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system  (Read 5218 times)

Amoebka

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Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« on: April 11, 2021, 03:05:51 AM »

Everyone's posting their hot takes on skill balance, so here's mine. The skills are fine, it's the aptitudes that are wrong.

Skills, currently, are grouped into aptitudes mostly based on flavour, and not their gameplay use. An aptitude can have fleet-buffing skills, campaign QoL, piloted ships skills and colony skills all mixed together. Since skills are tiered, this forces players to pick skills they fundamentally don't want to unlock the higher ones. Industry has piloted ship skills at tier 2. Anyone who wants colony skills has to pick a skill that applies only to their flagship. Why is this a thing?

Let's now have a look at the 4 aptitudes:

1) Combat. This one is perfect. Every single skill is about buffing your flagship and nothing else. This is how it should be, no big changes needed.

2) Leadership. Here you have fleet-wide bonuses, officer bonuses, frigate and carrier bonuses (?), colony buffs (??!) and rading buffs (??!). Mostly fine, outside of tier 5 colony stuff.

3) Technology. We have campaign QoL, flagship skills, fleetwide buffs, carrier stuff, phase stuff, loadout bonuses and new ships. All over the place, zero cohesion whatsoever. Yes, flavour-wise, navigation and sensors are "tech stuff", but gameplay-wise they have nothing in common with fleet and loadout buffs.

4) Industry. Campaign QoL, flagship skills, fleetwide buffs, zombie ship stuff, colony skills. No cohesion again. A dumping ground for skills that didn't find a place elsewhere.

Suggested improvement is conceptually simple - make aptitudes defined by their GAMEPLAY effects.

1) Combat remains as is - flagship skills only.

2) Leadership is fleetwide buffs, including officers. Remove civilian hull buffs, remove colony and raiding. ECM and phase corps belong here, not tech.

3) Tech is about more freedom in loadouts, encouraging unconventional loadouts and new ship types. Flagship skills go to combat, fleet buffs go to leadership.

4) Industry is about campaign-level QoL and improvements, including ship salvage and zombie fleets. Navigation and sensors go here, not tech. Flagship skills go to combat. Colony skills are ALL dumped here (I know you wanted them separate so players can't have all 4, this was a bad idea as it forced colony skills into leadership, preventing looping). Alternatively, colony skills are removed entirely and moved to admins (with the admin cap increased for everyone). They are simply too far removed from everything else in the game. Industry players are the ones most likely to want them, but even then I don't think it's optimal to have them there.

If all skills in an aptitude are about the same general area of the game, people will feel a lot less miserable about looping around to get the skills they want, or even getting to high-level ones at all.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2021, 03:10:32 AM by Amoebka »
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SonnaBanana

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2021, 03:10:37 AM »

No, the amount of tiers and the low level cap are the problems
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Megas

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2021, 06:22:49 AM »

Combat is miserable for players who frequently change flagships, because player needs to respec every time player changes from a warship to phase ship (and carriers if they were good) and back.  Elite skills make respec (more) expensive, but I imagine even a single point with no bonus xp would add up if respec was done often.  (I cannot waste points if I plan to feed the 2^n costs of colony improvement.)  It should be as free as swapping officers for flagships.
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Sutopia

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2021, 08:58:00 AM »

Combat is still not ideal due to forced picking unwanted skills.
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Alex

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2021, 10:47:48 AM »

Industry has piloted ship skills at tier 2. Anyone who wants colony skills has to pick a skill that applies only to their flagship. Why is this a thing?

This sentiment comes up a bit, and, I mean, I think I understand where it comes from. But - the game is still *primarily* combat-focused. If you're forced to pick a combat skill on the way to other non-combat ones... it's the same idea as Tech 1 being a choice between 2 QoL skills. If you're optimizing hard, you might not get either of them. But since you have to pick *one* of them to get to the higher-level Tech skills, then you can feel ok about picking up a QoL skill - it's not "wasted" since you had to do it. Likewise with the combat skills on Tech/Industry 2 - you're forced to pick them, so even if you want to spend as many points as possible on boosting your fleet or colonies, you'll still end up with some combat skills without feeling like you had to make a sacrifice to do it.

I understand that the flipside is that if you really just didn't want any combat skills at all, it feels like you're forced to pick a skill you're not going to use. But, well, not piloting the ship personally (or even deploying your flagship) is definitely a bit of a fringe style. I get that people do it, and I'm glad it's possible, but it's not the primary design focus, so some things will be a bit rough if seen from that perspective. This is one of them. I hope this makes sense!
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Sutopia

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2021, 10:55:58 AM »

Industry has piloted ship skills at tier 2. Anyone who wants colony skills has to pick a skill that applies only to their flagship. Why is this a thing?

This sentiment comes up a bit, and, I mean, I think I understand where it comes from. But - the game is still *primarily* combat-focused. If you're forced to pick a combat skill on the way to other non-combat ones... it's the same idea as Tech 1 being a choice between 2 QoL skills. If you're optimizing hard, you might not get either of them. But since you have to pick *one* of them to get to the higher-level Tech skills, then you can feel ok about picking up a QoL skill - it's not "wasted" since you had to do it. Likewise with the combat skills on Tech/Industry 2 - you're forced to pick them, so even if you want to spend as many points as possible on boosting your fleet or colonies, you'll still end up with some combat skills without feeling like you had to make a sacrifice to do it.

I understand that the flipside is that if you really just didn't want any combat skills at all, it feels like you're forced to pick a skill you're not going to use. But, well, not piloting the ship personally (or even deploying your flagship) is definitely a bit of a fringe style. I get that people do it, and I'm glad it's possible, but it's not the primary design focus, so some things will be a bit rough if seen from that perspective. This is one of them. I hope this makes sense!

It's fine to have a combat skill but my choices are the two I wanted least so it's a frustrating experience.
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Amoebka

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2021, 11:02:13 AM »

Tech 1 being a choice between 2 QoL skills. If you're optimizing hard, you might not get either of them. But since you have to pick *one* of them to get to the higher-level Tech skills, then you can feel ok about picking up a QoL skill - it's not "wasted" since you had to do it.

I'm afraid that's not how minmaxer's psychology works.  :D I can forgive navigation because +1 burn at least very indirectly boosts combat (I can bring bigger ships to fights more easily), but getting colony skills to loop leadership is not something I can "feel ok" about.
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Alex

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2021, 11:52:55 AM »

... but getting colony skills to loop leadership is not something I can "feel ok" about.

A fair, but different point! Though that's why one of those gets you a raiding bonus (so it's not purely colony) and I'd like to add an extra bonus to Space Operations. (Probably something along the lines of "as if you held an objective worth 10% DP at the start of combat"...)

Looping is somewhat less of a concern, too; in general I'd imagine it's a less-appealing option most of the time than investing in another line of skills.

It's fine to have a combat skill but my choices are the two I wanted least so it's a frustrating experience.

Perhaps the two options there could stand to be more exciting or at least diverse, hmm...
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TuxedoCatfish

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2021, 12:04:58 PM »

I strongly feel that combat skills and utility (and especially economy) skills should not be purchased with the same currency. It's a miserable choice to make every single time -- do I want to be effective, or do I want reduced tedium? Pretty much all of the utility skills that are currently in the game would be better off if they were either baseline, or only competing amongst themselves in a parallel system.

I'm more ambivalent on the skills that make you choose between different combat roles. On the one hand, in 0.91 I really enjoyed bringing multiple un-captained ships and swapping command between them according to what the battle at hand needed; on the other hand, I understand and accept the rationale that Starsector is at least partly meant to be an RPG and having the player specialize into particular roles promotes replayability.

I also really enjoy specializing officers into particular roles and how that shapes your fleet -- in fact I think that aspect could be pushed even further, because right now for example the only difference between my perfectly-optimized frigate pilots and my perfectly-optimized tanky/anchor pilots is which skills get upgraded to Elite.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2021, 12:06:51 PM by TuxedoCatfish »
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Megas

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2021, 03:16:11 PM »

What I do not like about Leadership colony skills is they are gated behind permanent officer skills.  If I wanted Ground Operations for raiding rare items (and stability), I have locked skill points into officers for the rest of the game.

At least Automated Ships do not lock the player into Tech, which is the main reason why I took Automated Ships over Special Modifications.  +1 s-mod interests me more than killer Radiant (although killer Radiant is fun), but I do not want to lock out use of Automated Ships for the rest of the game if I want to respec and play around.
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Amoebka

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2021, 03:21:40 PM »

I don't understand why the +2 limit skill is even permanent. The game already allows you to over the limit and handles it properly with the cryopod rescuees. Simply unassign all officers when the player refunds the skill and let the last 2 become unaccessible until the player dismisses somebody.
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Megas

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2021, 03:24:03 PM »

I don't understand why the +2 limit skill is even permanent. The game already allows you to over the limit and handles it properly with the cryopod rescuees. Simply unassign all officers when the player refunds the skill and let the last 2 become unaccessible until the player dismisses somebody.
Not to mention Colony Management in I5R too.
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ubuntufreakdragon

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2021, 03:43:06 PM »

I dislike the new skill system.
The old one was a perfect parallelization, which made it difficult to balance, as you could reach very good and mediocre skills with the same investment.
The new system is a perfect serialization, leaving close to no choice in what you take, also the roll over forces you to complete a category to take 2 tier 1 qol skills like nav and sensors.
I want a tree, or trees, a forest maybe where some skills are based on others and you can take some in parallel.
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Sly

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2021, 08:26:52 PM »

[SPOILERS]

I don't think the skills should be locked behind tiered progression. Any skills that build on another are on separate aptitudes and on different tiers. I find no reason the player can't simply choose whatever skill they want, whenever they have the points to do so.

Even if I think there is a thematic case for skills being tiered where they are, your skills don't exist to tell a story - they simply allow you to perform a given function better. I'm always fond of the flavor text, though.

Anyway, my point is that I think tiers are pointless and aptitudes are only good for organizing skills thematically.

Any challenge in the game can be surmounted without spending a single skill point, and if you think something is so powerful that it needs to be locked behind other skills, then maybe that needs to be re-examined and become something to unlock, instead. Like the Red Planet Shield or the Traverse Jump and Neutrino Detector handouts from the Academy.

Leadership T4, instead of a skill, is probably easily gated by something like "Start your own faction! Now, do you like your officers higher level or in greater number?"

Tech T5? Cool, you built your first Heavy Industry and started your own corps of engineers. Here's your extra slot for a built-in mod. Good work!

Blow up a Remnant Nexus? Here's how to ~control your own robots~, you did it!

Those mechanics are all great ideas, but they're terrible as skills because they screw up your system. With the way you have it set up, skills are just stuff you plug in or pull out depending on your circumstances, after all.

There's plenty of space in the game for cool stuff like the above. Not only is there space, the game is practically begging for the accompanying flavor text to fill in the blank spaces. I thought it was great on the Academy missions, and would have loved to see more.
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Atilla the Bum

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Re: Aptitudes are the real problem with the new skills system
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2021, 02:30:50 PM »

I like what Sly is saying a lot. Let the player cherry pick what they want from each aptitude but keep it so that to "double-up" on a skill choice you still need to buy at least one of every skill in an aptitude. Forcing players to pick stuff they don't necessarily want to *complete* their build is always a feel-bad moment.

Now obviously not all the skills are equal so that would require a rebalance of some of them or perhaps a level requirement and/or a in-game achievement like Sly was advocating for the most powerful of skills. Keep skills like this to a minimum but they would add some neat flavor to your character's accomplishments in the sector.
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