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Author Topic: New Player Experience SUCKS  (Read 1562 times)

Slim_NZ

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New Player Experience SUCKS
« on: November 13, 2022, 05:29:54 AM »

I'm not sure how many new players you get, but the experience sucks!  Even on easy, having watched a playthrough, I can't even finish the tutorial section after three goes and I'm close to giving up and calling it a day.  One mistake and it is game over.  It is very unclear what to do, where to go.  Step foot into the wrong system and you get jumped by a fleet that you can't touch.  But you didn't know you couldn't go into that system.  It is impossible to find enough things to make money.  The game throws a whole lot of bounties at you, but doesn't tell you can't reach them, and if you do, you'll die immediately.

There is a real lack of structure that is going to prevent new players from even getting past the tutorial.  I was strongly recommend putting some work into the new player experience.
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robepriority

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2022, 07:23:05 AM »

Yeah, I feel like the combat/fleet control tutorials should be integrated into the campaign tutorial.
Also:
   - Fuel range visual by default toggled on
   - Black market profitability/Tarriff costs highlighted early
   - Dram/Hammerhead highlighted in Galatia debris pile (pristine? idk)
   - Rotate on mouse by default toggled on

Alex

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2022, 07:54:51 AM »

I can't even finish the tutorial section after three goes

Hmm - I'd *love* to know exactly what is giving you trouble in the tutorial, especially on the easy difficulty. It can be hard for me to step away from the game enough to see what might be a major stumbling block, and I'd really appreciate hearing the specifics of what's causing you problems.

There is a real lack of structure that is going to prevent new players from even getting past the tutorial.

(I mean, I hear what you're saying! And improvements can always be made. But a "lack of structure" is also kind of a key thing with a sandbox game, isn't it? And I'm not sure that putting the tutorial on hard rails would do the player any favors in the long run.)
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touchofvanilla

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2022, 08:48:24 AM »

I mean, it isn't like the game is unforgiving to new players per se, I remember my first vanilla character. I did pretty well for my first run, got to level 15, and all that stuff. I think the problem with new players is more getting a feel for the core mechanics of the game, which sometimes aren't elaborated on well, if at all.

I think the help pop-ups are a super good way to educate players on current happenings in the fleet. Low supplies, hyperspace, buying a new ship, etc. It's quick and helpful and is a guiding hand to the main mechanics and functions of the game and the player's choices.

A few of the problems that I encountered as a fresh vanilla player that I now know not to do took me a while to get over.

1. I was unaware of how supply consumption based on ships and burn level based on ships worked. This led to me snowballing my fleet with combat ships I didn't need, and dragging onslaughts to the outer rim of the sector, and wondering why I was always out of supplies/fuel. I was also spending *most* of the credits I earned exploring or doing bounties just resupplying and repairing my fleet.

I didn't know that you could store ships, how supply consumption was affected/calculated, or that burn level was impacted by the ships you had in your fleet. The game didn't do the best job of explaining that, and as a new player, it helps to have a few pointers for common sense. "Don't fly with ships you don't need!" and "Don't deploy more ships in combat than you need to!" or "keep in mind supply and fuel economy when traveling!" and "you can store ships you don't want to carry around!"

2. I had zero clue about the random happenings in the sector that make it feel more 'alive'. Things like smugglers or traders or pirates waiting for you at the end of hyperspace streams, scavengers turning on you randomly, paying tithes to luddic fleets, etc. I had to learn about ALL of these things the hard way. As a new player, I saw these things as flavor or simply decoration to make the sector feel more fleshed out. It wasn't until about 100 hours in that I started looking at every trade fleet as a possibility, keeping a special eye on fleets in hyperspace, or just being wary about what the sector threw at you.

I think that hinting at, or at least acknowledging the existence of the chaotic nature of the sector in a more direct and concrete way would make players feel less helpless when they get jumped by a bounty fleet in a system they were innocently exploring.

Last notes!

The Galatia Academy storyline should be a bit more front-and-center, I think. It would give new players a concrete goal to work towards.
New players (myself included) had very little clue on how to build ships effectively- flux dissipation, weapon types, etc.
The main ways of making credits in the sector (trade, bounties, exploration) should be elaborated on a bit more.

Maybe give the player a Delta-Level AI companion that acts like a friendly face and a helpful mentor? With the option to toggle it, of course.

TLDR: Shortening the learning curve for new players may provide a better experience for them, and make the game seem less unforgiving. Of course, balancing a game and making it less difficult is arguably making it worse, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Thanks for Reading!
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Amoebka

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2022, 12:36:36 AM »

The one thing I always see screwing new players in every single lets play is autofit. Everyone just presses the button without thinking much (admittedly, that's how it advertises itself), sometimes when not even docked at a market, and ends up with a terrible loadout with half the weapon slots empty. There needs to be a bright red warning flashing all over the screen, screaming that autofit only uses weapons you have in your cargo or can buy from the current market, and those are insufficient for a decent fit 99% of the time.

An even more radical solution might be to create a "stock" variant for each ship, using only open market common weapons, but in a reasonable way, and ensure that every market always sells those weapons in large quantities, so at least autofitting at a market is guaranteed to make a working ship.

In general, it feels like the game doesn't explain the importance of loadout design to new players. People just assume that autofits are sufficient and don't start looking into the system until tens of hours into the game.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2022, 12:46:12 AM by Amoebka »
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Grievous69

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2022, 01:46:19 AM »

The one thing I always see screwing new players in every single lets play is autofit. Everyone just presses the button without thinking much (admittedly, that's how it advertises itself), sometimes when not even docked at a market, and ends up with a terrible loadout with half the weapon slots empty. There needs to be a bright red warning flashing all over the screen, screaming that autofit only uses weapons you have in your cargo or can buy from the current market, and those are insufficient for a decent fit 99% of the time.

An even more radical solution might be to create a "stock" variant for each ship, using only open market common weapons, but in a reasonable way, and ensure that every market always sells those weapons in large quantities, so at least autofitting at a market is guaranteed to make a working ship.

In general, it feels like the game doesn't explain the importance of loadout design to new players. People just assume that autofits are sufficient and don't start looking into the system until tens of hours into the game.
Yes. Yes. And a huge yes. All of the little tips and tricks combined don't help out as much as the moment when the player figures out "wait I've been doing this all wrong". Autofit is so bad it brings out heavy backseating in every new player stream I've watched. And of course, I don't blame folks for taking the recommended and easy path, there's already a ton to take in. But too many times I've seen someone 10-15 hours in still using autofit without a single glance at the loadout to check if it's sane. That is genuinely the biggest obstacle to overcome to get better in game but one that you can't simply tutorial through. It would be silly to have a whole hand holding part "take this weapon and put it here, now this one, now take these hullmods, now group your weapons like this...", that's just too much and that's just for a single ship.

Having always available "stock" weapons is a good idea, I even believe Alex made some changes to markets, so they have more things, just in lesser quantity. Another idea would be that autofit outright won't work unless you have all the materials, so it forces players to experiment, but that's too harsh. Maybe if the ships bought from markets already come with a basic loadout could help out? That still leaves ships you recover from battle though. It's honestly a super hard topic since to me it seems almost impossible to balance experimentation with hand holding here. Players will either get overloaded with information or keep using autofit since it's faster.
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Lortus

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2022, 03:58:28 AM »

I've tried to introduce the game to a couple of people and every one of them stopped playing pretty fast because of how hard the early game is to conceptualize.
Some of my perceived problems and fixes:

1. Combat is hard: Not really a problem. It's to be expected, and early game fighting dmodded pirates can just be brute forced usually, but when you are stuck with trash fits on dmodded ships fighting enemies you have never encountered, compounded by the other problems I will get to and the massive punishment you incur if you fail, it can be pretty hard, or even discouraging. I would fix this by making it impossible to get Degraded Drive Field on spawn, to prevent players from being stuck with an extremely slow fleet, without even knowing what that means, and improving the early game fits. I mean, do you really expect a newcomer to do well with all downsized apogee? And the worst weapons on those downsized slots too.

2. Better tutorial: Combat tutorial is nice and all, and I know that the game was initially a combat sim, and the entire game is structured around combat, but to even get there you need to survive the campaign. This seems to be the big issue and even last week I saw people complaining about the campaign holding them back from combat on USC. I'd suggest a longer form tutorial of some kind. Endless Space 2 does a good job of it IMO, by slowly introducing mechanics as you unlock them, accompanied by lots of tooltips and reminders, but never actually entering a real "tutorial". I get that it's harder in an open world game, where part of the appeal is doing what you want, but at least showing them where the missions tab is, or maybe letting them choose a mission, and then walking them through it could be helpful. And then follow up with a second mission they can do on their own. Making multiple tutorials for the different mission types is a lot of work but I think if you want the game to be more than a niche thing for weirdos that's the best thing to do.

Also there shouldn't be a tutorial mission and a tutorial within the game. It's confusing and weird and people miss it and it makes things detached.
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Grievous69

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2022, 04:03:25 AM »

Also there shouldn't be a tutorial mission and a tutorial within the game. It's confusing and weird and people miss it and it makes things detached.
True, I've seen most straight up dismiss the main menu tutorials because in some game, those are just textual hints or something. So imagine starting up the campaign without knowing how to pilot your ship or command your fleet. I understand why that part is in the main menu, but the player should somehow be forced to it if they immediately try to launch the campaign.
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Amoebka

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2022, 05:31:52 AM »

I think a workable approach is to add a selection of optional dedicated tutorial missions to the Galatian academy, unlocked after the initial campaign tutorial (and explicitly tell players to go check those out instead of sending them to Corvus). So instead of a huge linear tutorial you have multiple smaller quests, each explaining some game aspect in detail, which can be done in any order or skipped entirely. To an extent the academy already works like that, but I would suggest doubling down and having these tutorial missions be more blatant and leaning on the 4th wall with hints and explanations, like the initial linear tutorial.
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BCS

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2022, 06:36:40 AM »

Even on easy, having watched a playthrough, I can't even finish the tutorial section after three goes

Just to offer an alternative subjective opinion: after watching some playthroughs my first game ever was on Normal difficulty, Spacer start. Never had any issues.
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Candesce

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2022, 07:47:09 AM »

my first game ever was on Normal difficulty, Spacer start. Never had any issues.
I went through the tutorial missions first, myself, but never watched any playthroughs. Normal difficulty, wayfarer/shepard, which resulted in a very stupid first fight in the campaign tutorial.

Other than that, though, I've never had any serious difficulties with the game. I also never, ever used autofit. That might not be a coincidence.
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Nick XR

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2022, 08:34:18 PM »

Have an option to cut fuel and supply costs to 50% or 25% of normal.  The game snowballs against you if you're fighting fights, but losing ships and you keep going without save scumming (Pyrrhic victories, but you're new so you don't know!).  You'll end up with dmods AND burn your supplies repairing ships so you end up broke or stranded with a fleet crippled by dmods.

"Easy" really needs to ease people into the logistics part of the game too.

Also, starting ships should have some sustain with some lethal burst damage that isn't missiles.  If your killing blow / alpha strike is missiles a new player WILL use them at the wrong time then be unable to finish their first fights and think combat is awful.  That was my experience with Starsector starting out.  Others can suggest better ships & load-outs than I can for how to fix this.

Jabroni

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2022, 01:49:03 PM »

To be honest I miss my first experience with this game when I had to figure everything out. ;P
It's an indie game that's supposed to be hard and I hope it stays so. My first hours I was completely destroyed, but I really enjoyed it. Problem is that people are too used to modern gaming experience which makes everything sooooo easy. Take Skyrim for example - you've got fast travel, compass that always tells you where to go and environment levels up with you, so you will never meet an enemy that outmatches you too much, but for me it completely takes away fun of getting better at the game and makes whole experience shallow.

I agree that there are some issues. Maybe easy difficulty should actually be easier for people that want to enjoy other aspects of the game. However it's important to understand that it's am indie project without huge studio and every setting has to be written and tested separately which takes away time from other game mechanics.

One thing that lacks for me is some indicator that supplies or fuel are low. Preferably sound indication and popup like when your system is about to get raided, so I could pause and check what's happening. I played this game a lot and still forget to fuel up sometimes. Especially in the late game, when I feel too confident because of amount of fuel and supplies I usually have.
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Linnis

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2022, 04:18:38 PM »

Having introduced this game to a couple of friends and  dozen or so of my students, the new player experience is indeed horrible.l

The primary problem is ship combat is unlike any other video game out there. On top of that it is heavily knowledge and decision based instead of reaction based.

The second problem is the inverse difficulty. Letting the kids play with my saved games with an end game fleet they can go in with no experience and have a great time.  But you throw them into a wolf and tell them to fight a hound half of them will fail on their first try.

I think the solution is simple.  Have players play a support role in many battles first for them to learn the game, before throwing them into the dog eat dog jungle of the open world format.

Start the campaign with an option to have them as a officer somehow and have the player participate is as many battles as they want. When a battle is lost the player loses no progression and the system continues.
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Hiruma Kai

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Re: New Player Experience SUCKS
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2022, 05:41:22 PM »

Start the campaign with an option to have them as a officer somehow and have the player participate is as many battles as they want. When a battle is lost the player loses no progression and the system continues.

That kind of sounds like the main menu missions to be honest.  Personally, I think it's a good idea to have new players at least try all the main menu vanilla missions, if not win at them, before going to the campaign.
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