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Starsector 0.95.1a is out! (12/10/21); Blog post: Hyperspace Topography (10/12/22)

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Author Topic: Skill system encouraging frequent respec is annoying when it is not cheap.  (Read 5170 times)

Megas

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Some ships benefit so much from specific skills that it feels like I ought to respec often if I want to change flagships, but I do not like the idea of throwing story points away just because I want to change flagships frequently.  I like Ziggurat, but its weaknesses irritate me from time to time, and sometimes, I want to pilot something more ordinary like an Onslaught.

Lately, I have been reconsidering swapping my planned Combat skills from Field Modulation and System Expertise to Point Defense and Ballistic Mastery.  Why?  If I end up picking Onslaught as my primary flagship (because hangar queen Ziggurat eats too much CR and DP), then the range boosts from Ballistic Mastery and elite PD turn Heavy Machine Guns from mostly PD to a medium range assault weapon with high DPS and great efficiency, plus mass HMGs can and will shoot down missiles.  HMGs with all the range boosts feels like a poor-man's Storm Needler, but much more practical.  Onslaught becomes a blender, with TPCs and Gauss for long-range kills while Devastators and HMGs chew up everything else closer.

That is not all.  With Medusa or various midline ships ranging from Centurion to Eagle, I can have long-range burst PD as anti-armor to compliment otherwise all-kinetic loadouts plus double as reliable PD; or I can add elite PD and IPDAI and have some high-tech ships like Wolf or Aurora with IR Pulse Laser spam that has better range and efficiency than 600 range medium weapons.  Even with Sunder, elite PD + IPDAI is a cheaper alternative to Ballistic Rangefinder to boost Railgun range close to Tachyon Lance (or HIL) range.  Speaking of Railguns, Medusa with ePD+IPDAI Railguns and AO+ePD burst lasers have surprisingly long range that the AI can use very well.  While I build up flux with more traditional loadouts, Medusa with Railguns and burst lasers is very cool and defeats enemies that flux themselves out trying to kill Medusa.

But if I am not using one of several ships that benefit highly from Combat range extenders (that let ships replace normal kinetics with extremely efficient and damaging HMGs and/or make burst PDs long-range hitscan weapons), I am stuck with skills (Point Defense and Ballistic Mastery) I cannot use well, and I want to swap back to other combat skills that are more generally useful.

If skill system encourages different selections that vary by flagship, and the player wants to change flagships often, then it should be cheaper to respec.  Also, it hurts not being able to respec officers at all.  Now, I am tempted to try to squeeze elite PD on most of them (or more precisely, firing most of my officers and hire new ones) because long range HMGs are so good, and long-range burst lasers are fun.  Also will not say no to IR Pulse Lasers with more range than any medium hard-flux energy weapon, and longer-ranged railguns for ships with hybrid or universal mounts like Centurion and Medusa (that Ballistic Rangefinder does not work on).
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Flet

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>Skill system encouraging frequent respec is annoying when it is not cheap.
this is true, but skill systems with cheap respecs may as well not even be skill systems
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Megas

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Respec is not cheap, it eats a story point without any bonus xp.

"Skill system encourages frequent respec"
It does?
*Has never respec'd yet*
For me, I have not taken Combat skills yet because in part because of respecs.  But I will need to take more skills once I prepare to attack full Ordos fleets.  For some ships, I want range boosters (like elite PD) because it turns normally PD weapons into premium assault weapons by extending range far enough, making the ships that benefit much stronger.  If I want Doom, I want Systems Expertise and probably Field Modulation for mine spam.  If I have Legion XIV, Conquest, or other missile reliant ship, I may want Missile Specialization.  If I have any frontline ship that does not benefit too much from range boosters, I may want Field Modulation and Impact Mitigation to brawl Ordos with mass elite Target Analysis (that cuts through shields and easily knockout mounts).  Maybe I want Target Analysis to kill most ships faster.

If I have five points for Combat skills, I do not have enough to take everything I want for any ship I want to pilot.  The skills I want for any given ship will vary.  Also, if I get bored of Automated Ships and want other ships in my fleet like carriers or several frigates with officers, I want to respec Auto Ships away for the one or two Leadership skills that massively boost certain ships.

Respec with no bonus xp discourages respec, and even if it did, paying off the bonus xp debt is tedious without a fleet that can grind Ordos for +500% xp.  I like to spend most of my story points on s-mods and colony improvements (and I want some more to retrain officers), and frequent respecs get in the way of that.
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DirectionsToL3Please

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I know elsewhere you've said that you don't like modding your game, but the fix for your problem is so simple that honestly it's kind of your own fault if you let this continue bothering you.

Go into settings.json and change the maximum level to 21 or 23.  Then you'll have enough skill points at maximum level to get all combat skills plus all the essential non-combat skills, but as long you keep your max level under 25 you'll still have enough scarcity that there will be skills you want but can't get, and so will have a distinct "build" instead of just having all the skills.

You'll still need to work to get those skill points.  Levels slow down markedly so you'll be playing the mid-game longer as you get those extra few levels, but having those extra skills means you'll be able to have your combat skills while you play through the mid game.

As for story points, change the points per level from 4 to 5. That'll let you do most of your critical colony upgrades, upgrade officers, and still spend enough story points to keep your xp bar green in the later levels.  See?  Two tiny changes, easily done, and your problems are solved.  When a game is this easy to modify, it's really up to the player to make sure they get the most enjoyment out of the game.  There's no existential purity to playing the game unmodified - it's a framework designed to let you change it to suit your needs.  Change it.
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Megas

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Quote
I know elsewhere you've said that you don't like modding your game, but the fix for your problem is so simple that honestly it's kind of your own fault if you let this continue bothering you.
The underlaying problem is the tedious grind for story points at max level and competition for story points by things more important than respec (like s-modding ships).

I do not mind the max level of 15.  What I do not like is the painful cost of reconfiguring skills and officers when story point gain at max level is slow.  It is better than before 0.95 when respec was not possible (and replaying the game from the beginning was the only option), but even now, losing story points for relatively frivolous things (like respec or even adding elite skills to officers only to fire them later) hurt when player wants to double or triple s-mod dozens of ships and/or bestow multiple improvements to five or so colonies.  If player only gets normal experience or mild extra xp (less than 100%) from combat, it takes a long time to build up story points.  I almost feel like I am doing Countess/Mephisto/Baal runs for uniques or other items in Diablo II when I grinding dozens of bounties for credits and story points in Starsector.  I do not want to burn a story point for good just to change and optimize for the flagship of the day, then a new one for the next moment, and so on.  Instead, I feel my choices that burn story points are locked because if I do not stick with them, I sacrificed my story points for nothing.  Even spending a story point to recover one of my ships for +100% xp kind of hurts, and I have reloaded the game once or twice to avoid spending a story point because I do not want to grind away several more bounties to clear the bonus xp debt.

Starsector is not a coffeebreak game that can be done in a few hours or less.  It is a long haul game that can take a while before player gets very far.

If the game makes itself a pain to play, I may just quit and stop playing.  But Starsector is not finished yet, and there is time to vent things that bother me before the game is done.
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DirectionsToL3Please

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What I do not like is the painful cost of reconfiguring skills and officers when story point gain at max level is slow.
But this is my point. You don't have to reconfigure your skills if you can afford to get the ones you "need" to be happy with your play.  You can fix your problem by just increasing the skill cap.

I do not want to burn a story point for good just to change and optimize for the flagship of the day, then a new one for the next moment, and so on. 
Again, you won't be burning story points if you allow yourself a few more skills.  This will fix the problem you keep hammering on.  You'll have enough skill points, and will be able to spend your story points on things you'd rather spend them on, like your S-Mods and colonies.

I feel my choices that burn story points are locked because if I do not stick with them, I sacrificed my story points for nothing.
And yet with just a few more skill points, you don't need to sacrifice story points at all. This problem only exists because you allow it to, despite the game being designed to make it easy for you to fix this problem for yourself.

There's no need to respec, ever.  But if you find yourself respeccing, it's because you feel you don't have the bare minimum skills you need.  So the fix is obvious - save your story points by increasing your skill points.  You can do that by increasing the level cap, or if for some reason you just love the number 15, you can increase the skill points per level from 1 to 2, though 30 skill points is very Monty Haul. But, hey - it's a single player game.  There's no such thing as cheating in a single player game.  There's just enjoying the game, or not.
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Megas

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If having all the skills fixes the problem, why is the level cap 15 instead of 40?

Giving myself more skills by altering out-of-game settings file is akin to cheating.  If I want to do stuff like that, I would do much more than few minor power tweaks.  I want to play the game within the rules given by the devs.

Even raising game speed from 1f to 2f feels a bit dirty, and I do not like to do it, but I make that one change only because I would refuse to play the game otherwise for combat being way too slow paced.  I wished game speed was in the in-game settings like map size is (even if maximum map size limits are too low).

Cheating should not be the answer to "fix" problems.

P.S.  If I thought the game gave too few skills, I would have posted a topic titled something like "Game gives too few skill points" or something like that and made the case for it.  I think the game may favor combat skills more than QoL skills enough that getting QoL skills hurts, but that is not very relevant for this topic of frequent respecs due to varying flagships being painful.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2022, 03:55:02 PM by Megas »
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Call me Dave

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If having all the skills fixes the problem, why is the level cap 15 instead of 40?


Because for many (most?) people it isn't a 'problem'.  Everybody has their own preferred way to play, but your post history reads to me as somebody that feels that there is a single 'right' way to play and everybody else is just wrong.
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Thaago

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I'm a bit confused, because you said that you haven't taken combat skills yet, but you also said the frequent respeccing is due to combat skills, so are you actually doing frequent respecs or not?
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DirectionsToL3Please

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If having all the skills fixes the problem, why is the level cap 15 instead of 40?
You haven't even clearly defined a problem, so who knows?  But the reason the skill point cap isn't 40 is because scarcity drives game play.  If you can get everything, then there's no tradeoff.  Being unable to get everything you want makes you choose a specific way to play. This is Game Design 101.

Giving myself more skills by altering out-of-game settings file is akin to cheating.  [...]  I want to play the game within the rules given by the devs.
It's nothing like cheating.  And if the game devs didn't want players to be able to modify the game rules so they could enjoy the game more, they wouldn't have put those settings in a clear file called settings.json that can be edited by anyone with a text editor.  The choice to make a game moddable is exactly that - a choice.  The way the devs made this game is so that people can make small or even significant changes, if they want to.

Cheating should not be the answer to "fix" problems.
There is no such thing as cheating in a single player game.
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Megas

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I'm a bit confused, because you said that you haven't taken combat skills yet, but you also said the frequent respeccing is due to combat skills, so are you actually doing frequent respecs or not?
Not yet because 1) I do not want to burn through story points like water reassigning skills frequently instead of s-modding my ships and improving my colonies.  As a result, I resorted to 2) Ziggurat flagship with Phase Anchor to avoid the need to pick Combat skills because Ziggurat supported by SO Hyperions is strong enough to smash endgame human bounties without any need of Combat skills.  (I have five unspent skill points at the moment, the other ten are in Automated Ships and Hull Restoration.)  But I can see it will not be enough against a single full Ordos with Radiants and all blue cores, or even if it is for one fight, if I get sucked into a multi-round combat or a second fight too soon, my fleet will die (because my fleet's strongest ships are Ziggurat and Hyperions, and I may get different ships to fix that).  I will need to spend my five unspent points somewhere to make my fleet strong enough to defeat full-strength Ordos instead of getting wiped by them.  In other words, I deferred my decision on my remaining five skills for later, but "later" is coming up very soon after I resume my game.

Three of the five points will go the Helmsmanship, Combat Endurance, and Impact Mitigation.  Helmsmanship because piloting big ships without it feels very sluggish.  I want my ships to feel responsive, not slow as molasses.  Combat Endurance mainly because if I pilot a small ship, I do not want PPT expiring too soon.  Also, if I pilot Ziggurat, I want less time before its CR recovers enough.  Impact Mitigation because more maneuverability (great for otherwise slowpokes) and more importantly, Ordos not knocking out my weapons so easily if my ship eats a few hits, not to mention more armor is great for low-tech armor tanks.  So that leaves two left for elective Combat skills, or perhaps Wolfpack Tactics and/or Carrier Group for the rest of my fleet.

For Ziggurat, I would want Field Modulation and (if I get enough Omega missiles) Missile Specialization or (if no Omega missiles) Systems Expertise or Wolfpack Tactics (I have many frigates with officers).  Ditto if I pick Doom or Paragon for my flagship.  However, if I decide I want Onslaught flagship (and Onslaught is very good this release), I want to swap those two skills for Point Defenses and Ballistic Mastery because it turns those HMGs from fringe PD into superior assault weapons.  Ditto if I take various ships that work very well with the kinetics and burst PD combo, like Medusa or some of the midline ships.  If I want to pilot something with lots of large missiles, especially if it can use Hammer Barrage, I want Missile Specialization.

However, what I have done is reassign skills frequently when testing ships and loadouts in the SIM in preparation for my eventual clash with Ordos, before quitting and reloading the game to restore story points.  When I test Onslaught, I had the best results with Point Defense and Ballistic Mastery instead of the other skills I originally planned to take as default general skills because machine guns become medium range.  It is like the Lucky's Onslaught build on steroids because HMGs have so much range (and the old Impact Mitigation that gave extra protection against kinetics and/or low damage attacks is gone).  If I want I different capital, I probably want Field Modulation for harder shields (or cheap phase upkeep if I take Doom or Ziggurat), and the last skill can either go to Tier 5 combat or Wolfpack Tactics.  My Ordos killer fleet is not yet set in stone, but even if I did pick one, I want to change flagship without spending all of my story points to get the right skills.

I do not want to be locked into one flagship for a significant amount of time.  Before now, I have picked QoL or generally useful combat skills in the non-Combat tree.

You haven't even clearly defined a problem, so who knows?  But the reason the skill point cap isn't 40 is because scarcity drives game play.  If you can get everything, then there's no tradeoff.  Being unable to get everything you want makes you choose a specific way to play. This is Game Design 101.
Then why did you suggest I mod the game (via altering settings.json or whatever) to raise max level cap to eliminate scarcity in the first place?  (Rhetorical, no need to answer.)  Not to mention raising level cap does not truly fix the problem of relatively expensive respec when game can encourage respecs if player wants to change flagships often.

I want to play an unmodded game.  But parts of the unmodded game are annoying.  For this topic, I am venting about the cost of reassigning skills.

There is no such thing as cheating in a single player game.
Hard disagree with that.  Even single-player games have rules.  Break them and the game has no point.  I do not need to waste time playing a game with no rules.  I am not opposed to taking advantage of exploits and loopholes that are degenerate but still rules-legal, even if it is a good idea to patch them out.
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DirectionsToL3Please

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Then why did you suggest I mod the game (via altering settings.json or whatever) to raise max level cap to eliminate scarcity in the first place? 
I've been quite clear. Recommending you raise the level cap to 21 or 23 still only represents barely over half the points needed to get all skills, and does not eliminate scarcity - it simply pushes it from what should be, based on your posts, uncomfortable scarcity to tolerable scarcity.  If you're not even going to pay attention to solutions, why complain in the first place?
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Linnis

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Whole skill system is stupid on a "sandbox" game. It would make sense for a game that is "play-throughs" based rouge-likes or strategy games. Just mod it yeah?
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Vanshilar

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No, the premise is backward.

The skill system discourages frequent respec. That's why it costs a story point to do so. It's the game's way of telling you, hey, you should reconsider if doing a respec is worth it. The skill system encouraging frequent respec would be something like, giving you a free story point every time you did it.

However, yes the skill system is by design scarce with the number of skill points given. That is to say, the player will never have "enough" -- the player is always missing out on something, no matter what they choose. This is by design, so that the player is forced to choose between many good options. If this weren't the case, then the player can just stick with one set of skills (the one that's the "best" and has everything) and never bother with other possibilities, which hurts replayability. The whole point is to give the player lots of different ways to play the game, but not all of them simultaneously, so that the player has to consider the effects of the different skills and how they want to construct their flagship and their fleet.

But it seems like you would like to indulge in a playstyle where you're constantly changing flagships and thus changing the skills for them, to min-max the effectiveness of the flagship for any given situation. The whole point of a respec costing a story point is to make it not so frivolous, so that it "means" something. That there are consequences for doing so. In other words, Alex is specifically not condoning too-frequent respecs, or at least, having the player pay in story points if he wishes to do so.

As others have already mentioned, you could just change the total number of skill points given if you feel it's too constricting for you. You could also just give yourself a story point with Console Commands if you don't want to pay for it, whenever you want to respec. It's a single player game, and the devs give the player lots of options to change the game to suit their own tastes. But it seems like you don't want to do that because it feels "akin to cheating". In other words, you would like the devs to change the base game to condone frivolously changing skills, when they expressly don't want that by making it cost a story point. That's what it boils down to.

I don't see it as a problem that the player needs to spend a story point to respec. It means "something", but is not an onerous cost. A story point is fairly cheap. At the early levels, you get a lot of them quickly. After level 15, when you can hit Ordos fleets, you should be getting roughly say 1 to 4 story points per Ordos fleet (assuming your XP bar is in the green). If you can't tackle Ordos fleets yet, then you obviously get less from faction fleets, but they're also correspondingly easier. If you would rather put the story points into s-mods or whatever, well, then that's on you. If you're already at the point of wanting to min-max the game by doing lots of respecs to keep your flagship optimized while changing flagships frequently, then spending the 5 minutes it takes to kill an Ordos fleet shouldn't be a problem.
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