Say hypothetically...

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Knecht Ruprecht
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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Knecht Ruprecht » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:33 pm

Hypothetically, SotS HD could be a damn great thing! About every time in the last few years I played anything 4x (Master of Orion Remake, Stellaris, Endless Space 2...) I found myself going back to the SotS1-modding forum after a few days to check if there is anything new to try. Not saying those games weren't good, I enjoyed them all for the most part, but sadly, the combat never came close to how it feels in SotS1 (especially modded).

So, not having read anything in this thread apart from the opening post, here are my thoughts about SotS HD:
1. Make it a SotS Prime HD
I know you are probably tired about hearing how SotS2 wasn't quite as good as Prime for many people. For my part, SotS2 just isn't a game that needs a HD remake. It does not look outdated, IMHO. On the contrary, I think it looks very, very good compared to any younger rival. Still, the game I come back to is Prime (every time wishing it would look as good as SotS2), not because it does everything perfectly, but it has the best combat and does not distract from it too much.


2. Keep the focus on the combat and keep the combat streamlined
There probably is a lot to tweak and improve on all of the four "x"es. But for every change to the gameplay, you should ask yourself: For how long will this occupy the player on every turn until he sees combat drones dodging PD blasters? And that is what at least I want to do most of the time. I do want to be able to develop a plan how to fight an enemy fleet, I do want to be able to give commands to my ships when necessary (shame on you, Endless Space!) but, most of all, I want to watch my plan unfolding and my commands to be obeyed in a glorious, cinematic space battle.


3. Focus on single-player
I do not play 4x games in multiplayer, and I believe that is true for most people interested in such a game. That probably is one of the reasons I felt so let down by the SotS2-release, with the empire AI not really working.


4. Do not make it the exact same game
From how I see it, you already know which parts of Prime should be tweaked and which problems addressed. Why do I think that? Because you did with SotS2. I personally didn't like the result very much and I think that was also the general reception, but that should not keep you from trying again with a different approach. I believe the solutions you found for SotS2 made the game to complicated, UI and gameplay-wise. I have a few specific points (in lose order) I would like to see improved, changed or added. They might, on first sight, appear to go too far for a simple HD remake, but these are, technically, just small changes and adjustements to streamline the experience without dumbing it down too much. In the end, a clever way to make a repetitive task less repetitive and more comfortable might even lead to players putting more thought into its options and possibilities.

4.1 Galaxy map
- auto-sat building. Let me define a (or some) template(s) for how many sats of which design should be build, based on planet size. Then just let me select the template for the system and have the game automatically build up to it, upgrade/replace sats when I make a change to the template and replace any sats destroyed in combat.
- an improved system defense manager (or just make sure different satellite types/designs are spread evenly, differenting between actual types and just updated designs)
- automated mining operations (just designate source and target system and amount of resources to transfer)
- notification window showing all notifications right on turn start. Saves a lot of unnecessary mouse action.
- different notice markers (let me choose between three or four different markers for notices, not just exclamation marks), I usually use them to designate a) worlds I want to colonize next, b) ship yard worlds, c) constructor fleets and d) general reminders to myself
- ship/sat/station refitting: please let us update the things we build. It is just so tedious to upgrade anything, especially stations and sats.
- incorporate something like the "better systems" mod (was that the name?). It makes the unexplored suns look like a tiny system (with a definite plane orientation) from close up. It helps so much in regards of finding your bearings on the galaxy map.
- different ship icons/models based on accumulated fleet size. Maybe use DE, CR and DN for different CP thresholds (based on known fleet strenght). I know they do not differ much visually, but any indication whether there is a DE scout or a DN fleet underway withouth actually clicking on it would help.
- get rid of the tedious trade micro-managing. Building freighters, assigning trade routes (via the economy sliders) and designating trade protection forces was just a necessary click-fest in Prime, with the AI empires apparently being a little random about it. Make it either more comfortable to manage or simplify it. I personally liked the idea that trade was on one hand important for keeping up with your enemies and that there was piracy you could influence in an offensive or defensive way, but there was too much micro-managment to it. Maybe just make the trade sectors a lot larger and implement all trade control on one screen per sector (only managing maybe two handful of sectors instead of a few dozen).
- make systems a little bit more specialized. Bastard SotS (the mod) raises the population limit for additional orbital stations. Maybe couple that with a wider range of station types/customizations (e.g. a "Police HQ" with a swarm of AI controlled DE police cutters) and you have less micro-management with more strategic depth.
- limit fleet sizes/reduce number of battles. This somewhat ties in with singleplayer focus and better simulated combat. Overall, a large singleplayer game in SotS Prime has to many insignificant and repetitive battles the simulation handles A LOT worse than the player. So you either a) build fleets tuned for simulated combat, b) play A LOT of battles that all feel the exact same or c) risk losing due to implausible simulation. This, of all the points listed so far, may be the most significant for me. In SotS2 you introduced the much more rigid fleet system to counter exactly this issue (I guess). For a Prime HD remake I would opt for something in that direction, but not going quite that far. Just limit the number of CnC ships (maybe by class, to keep the smaller classes relevant throughout the game) and split the fleet composition window in the fleet manager: Have a "reinforcement" section (with a CP limit similar to the actual deployment, or whatever turns out to be well-balanced for an intense battle round), a "CnC" section and a "support" section. In combat, only ships from the reinforcement section can be drawn as, well, reinforcements (handled through the traditional reinforcement window). If all fielded CnC ships are destroyed, the next one from the CnC section jumps in. If all initial ships, all CnC ships and all reinforcements are destroyed, the rest of the fleet, being assigned only to the support section, automatically goes into retreat (randomly leaving the contested system, maybe applying some random damage to them or destroying a few). UI-wise, this only needs changes to the fleet manager (split the lower right fleet list into three sections and show the reinforcement CP limit) and some UI-element showing the empires CnC ship limit. Gameplay-wise, the change would of course have a lot more implications (without, I suppose, changing too much of the look-and-feel of Prime). It would certainly lead to fewer battles, but with more battles coming to an end after round 1. If there is a draw, ships can of course be moved from support to reinforcements, so you can still bring along many ships for prolonged battles. But if one side manages to annihilate twice the number of enemy starting ships (or however high you set the reinforcement CP), that side wins and is rewarded for it. CnC ships are limited by the empire limit, so spamming those is not an option. For cases with multiple fleets in one system, some mechanism should be thought of that rewards a player for concentrating his precious CnC ships (leaving other systems without protective fleets) without making him invincible. Additionally, it has to be factored in how fleets without CnC ships should be handled, so that they are neither completely worthless for anything but also a player is not rewarded for spamming them.
TLDR; implement a soft-limit for combat-viable fleets and number of battle-rounds, maybe utilizing a hard-limit for CnC ships.

4.2 Combat (and, where appliciable, blueprints)
- better simulated combat results. I know you tried hard to find the sweet spot between amount of calculations necessary and plausbility of results for SotS2. Just make sure if there ever is a SotS HD that the results are more believable than in Prime.
- different starting positions over uninhabitated worlds. I never understood that design choice in Prime. Why does on fleet face the planet and the other come from the side at a 90° angle? Just make both fleets face each other with the planet as a scenic background.
- better fleet manager and formations. This is a tricky one. Three combat planes in SotS2 weren't good for the UI, but the single plane in Prime feels too limiting in terms of ship movement and formations. Maybe allow for three planes during formation setup and then let the ships maneuver more freely during combat. See also next point.
- better ship/squadron AI. What I would really love to see is a little bit of Endless Space combat in a general SotS Prime environment. I imagine putting some thought into ship design, fleet composition, starting formation and squadron composition and sometimes would just like to sit back and watch the results. From my experience, this is not possible without disaster. I do not know how the enemy AI "commands" its ships, but if I just set my squadrons to close-in, pursue or stand-off (either depending on their intended role or just one setting for all) the resulting actions do not look appealing and do not mirror even the most obvious tactial possibilities. I know this would be quite a change, but being able to designate actual squadrons with pre-defined tasks and fitting behaviour would be a great thing for me. All in all, I'm in for a big part because of the eye-candy.
- better drone management. I would like to be able to designate interceptors, bombers, escorts and general strike craft (space superiority). Some more in-depth drone choices (not just bigger -> better) would go along nicely with this. Maybe just let us tick roles for our fighters on the design screen (multiple choice), let us set fighter-role-sliders for our fleets and just have the game match those dynamically to the fighters actually deployed to the field. I am a FreeSpace fan, please make fighter combat more important and visually more attractive. Alpha One forever!
- less friendly fire. It looks cool when a missing salvo hits the ship behind the target. It looks dumb if ships in a standard formation sink hails of torps and missiles into each other.
- less drifting away. Minor point, but I hate when damaged ships drift away from the combat zone so far that they delay the end of combat.
- ship subsystems. This does not have to be managed by the player. Take the "destroyed section/turret" concept a step further and designate subsystems on all the sections (and show damage to them on the model). Have the AI not target the center of the ship (or the exact point you click on), but spread its aim across enemy weapons and subsystems (you could still designate a hotkey+click for pinpoint targeting). Does not really add depth to tactical gameplay, but would make watching combat a lot cooler. The effects of destroyed subsystems do not have to be gamechangers, just minor points for combat plausibility (e.g. slightly slower energy and mass driver recharge for every generator destroyed, slightly reduced turn rate for destroyed bridge section maneuvering thrusters and so on). It always bothers me that DE lose a section so quickly when they do not live long anyway, while DN appear to remain unharmed (apart from the odd lost turret) right before they blow up.
- ties in with almost everything above: Larger space battles! Moar ships, moar action! Larger distances to cover, with weapon ranges tuned accordingly. Have the action start right from the beginning (long range missiles and fighters) and keep it in flow over the whole round. More possibilites to maneuver and fight with style (and a ship/squadron AI to make use of that if I just want to watch and command by veto). Oh, and make early planets more resilient. In Prime a decent squadron can rush a young colony regardless of the defending fleet. Or just increase system size and starting points so the defenders have a better chance to intercept an enemy fleet.

I am not a game designer (obviously) and I do not know if I am a typical SotS player. These are just my thoughts on how I would like a SotS HD remake to be.

Summary: Make the, hypothetical, game a modernized version of Prime. If you add complexity, make sure it does not make the game more complicated. Automate those parts which add nothing to the fun. Improve on the possibility to just let combat flow according to your plans and initial orders without taking from the player the option to adapt to the situation.

Thanks for reading.

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by ScoSteSal118 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 1:22 am

I only skimmed your post, but I was struck by the contrast between your characterization of this proposal as "technically, just small changes and adjustements" and the number of times you spoke of automating in-game tasks or improving how other things were automated. Automating, in software, things that humans find intuitive/easy is actually really freaking hard, costly, and unreliable/buggy much of the time. As case in point, consider how a bunch of your complaints were about how frustratingly badly the original game automated various systems.

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Knecht Ruprecht
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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Knecht Ruprecht » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:30 am

So? As I said, I am no game designer. For the player, the change to have the option to use a very basic mining run AI is just a very small change, but might lead to him actually implementing mining runs into his strategy.

Bad AI is not really an argument against an AI-overhaul. Quite the opposite.

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by ScoSteSal118 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 11:47 am

I misunderstood, thinking that the word 'technically' referred to how many resources the proposed changes would take to implement, ie how feasible they were, particularly for a small company like Kerberos.

Even with just the issue of throwing off players who were familiar with and liked the existing gameplay, I think you miss the point. A 'very basic mining run AI' is one that will blithely overlook all sorts of considerations that human players take for granted or will assume after the fact that they would have taken for granted. This usually yields great frustration and disillusionment with the game when such an oversight by the AI system causes a serious setback, let alone a loss, for the player. Consider something as trivial as your dissatisfaction with the ship/squadron AI. Similarly, combat autoresolution is infamous for distorting the effects of some weapon types/etc. even as it manages to effectively simulate combat in many ways/cases.

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Slashman » Sun Jun 10, 2018 12:28 pm

Yeah Knecht,

I think your post constitutes vast and sweeping changes as opposed to the smaller, more focused tweaks that we're likely to get. Some of the things you ask for are OK but you're very much underestimating developer effort and resources. Both of those are incredibly vital considerations for a small indie dev team.

What I foresee (and I might be dead wrong here) are changes to the armor system to mimic SOTS2, tweaked weapon balance (maybe), UI changes, tweaks to auto-resolve, some changes to trading, updated graphics (kind of obvious), maybe some new randoms and grand menaces, possibly some diplomacy additions and tweaks and whatever else Kerberos decides would be fun to add to the initial release.

The initial release will likely not be the equivalent of the SOTS Complete Collection, and whatever expansions they decide to release afterwards will probably come with bigger additions and changes (if they see fit).
If you want a different perspective, stand on your head.

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by ZedF » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:52 pm

I agree that we should probably be thinking more along the lines of how much content was in SotS prime at initial launch, before expansions, rather than what's in SotS Complete plus additional subsystems and AI features. Mining might not even be in the base game, though trade might since it was a popular feature. Refitting probably won't be. Probably it's better to be thinking along the lines of abstracting out complexity that's prone to devolving into busy work, rather than automating it. You can always revisit the abstracted content to flesh it out in an expansion if the game does well enough.

As far as limiting fleet sizes goes, you made a lot of very specific suggestions, but bear in mind that Kerb can't take (or even really read) such specific suggestions. I don't think those suggestions would effectively limit fleet sizes or number of fleets in any case. You should rather say something like "I have too many fleets to control in long games on big maps and fight too many battles that feel too similar", and let Kerb figure out what to do about it. But if you are worried about having too many things to control in long games on big maps, there is a very simple solution: play shorter games on smaller maps, where individual combats are more meaningful because you don't have and can't afford dozens of warfleets. Or explore options like the "Land Grab" scenario where the game automatically ends once you reach a victory threshold.

That said, I could see Kerberos going with a more "AI control" approach to autoresolve in a SotS remaster, ala SotS2, rather than a simulated math-based approach. I don't recall hearing too many complaints with the SotS2 autoresolve system (apart from how AI fleets behaved in general.) And who knows, maybe someday in some expansion it would be possible (perhaps with the requirement to research some AI technology) to turn specific fleets over to AI control and let the AI decide what orders to give them. Most people probably wouldn't under most circumstances, but if you are in a really big game and deliberately opt into doing so, maybe that could let you focus only on the fleets you really care about.
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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Azrael Ultima » Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:14 pm

Let's not forget it would be done in a new engine either way, and it's been a few years since the original released, so things would probably be done differently anyway. "Sweeping changes" may not actually be as much extra work as they sound.

I think i'd like to see a different race release order this time. Maybe even have SolForce left out of the initial release.
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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by ZedF » Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:37 pm

It's true we don't know what is easy in (say) Unreal versus what isn't. So we should expect some changes, and some features may be easier to shoehorn in than might have been expected. Nevertheless, my point about likely budget size and game scope probably still stands; even if some things are easier, others might be harder, and budgets can't be stretched indefinitely.

I doubt Kerb would cut SolForce from initial release. That would very likely annoy more people than it pleases, and doesn't make sense from a lore PoV since humans bursting onto the scene was a big catalyst for change in the SotSverse.
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Slashman
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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Slashman » Mon Jun 11, 2018 2:17 pm

I really don't envision a Solforce-less release. Interested to see what new randoms and GMs they might add.
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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Mecron » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:39 pm

any redux edition will be the original 4

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by THIEFs » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:02 pm

I'd prefer to keep the fundamentals of game as close to original as possible with initial release focus on the original 4 races only.
Add bells & whistles and fundamental improvements with expansion packs.

So essentially remake of original, but with reworked and more detailed ship models (same ships with HD details) and refreshed graphics.
(and vs SOTS2 decrease the overuse of bloom and plastic shine... keep it sharp. No need for the translucent / refracting windows in captain cabins :).. was a major GPU resource hog on older GPUs, but with no benefit)

a must have - 4 types of note markers for keeping track of various things :)

* I'd prefer no trade, or much more streamlined trade.. so that it would require minimal click-fest, but would remain as a greater revenues in long-term, if you keep it healthy.
for example, build orbital Trade station on at least one planet within sector, which then would automatically build freighters & police cutters from revenue... Initial 1 freighter is included in the station cost (1 free freighter per station with free replacements). Freighter makes money based on available trade-paths... You can set a simple slider for the sector on what % of trade revenue goes towards building up additional cutters&freighters, and remainder from trade goes to your pocket. You can choose to put 100% into building up freighters to maximize future cash-flow or choose slower buildup of trade but with immediate return.
Orbital station initially builds up freighters, and when freighters reach max, then it builds up police cutters to decrease piracy of sector to zero... cutters simply are part of the trade sector, not stuck at individual planet. This means that during initial build-up of trade, you need to protect sector with your military fleets, until you have enough cutters to reduce random-event-piracy to zero. Player piracy still works as before.

* If dev resources allow it, then it would be great if each of 3 ship sections would physically consist of multiple modules and add additional tactical options when fighting more up-teched or stronger enemies... e.g. reactor, engineering, command, shield gen, ammo bay/accumulators... which can individually be damaged from any hits passing shields/armor if hit lands specifically on them... whole section still has HP as before, but performance of section is decreased based on its pieces destroyed (slower weapons, slower engine, slower shield recharge). If section HP reaches 0, it shows up as badly messed up structuraly and all remaining modules still keep performing at whatever... 25% capacity... once total ship HP damage worth of 2 sections has been reach , whole ship is dead as in prime before.... Make Drones capable of skipping any large ship armor and shields and make weapons auto target modules, not just general direction of hull.

-----------------------------
Definitely features to keep:
1. single plane battles... Sots1 was great that ships would float above/below each other if necessary to avoid collisions. It gave more time to manage tactics and more time for surgical / advanced attacks on enemy ships)
2. comic-book style of UI and general styling of the game... was super intuitive and easy to read.
3. event notifications as the main navigation tool for managing empire.. in Prime it worked excellent.. always provided the most critical info and clicking them would take you to the place where to make decision.
4. empire/politics AI was perfect in SOTS... it truly wants to win and plays like a human.
------------------------------

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Space Voyager » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:06 am

Mecron wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:39 pm
any redux edition will be the original 4
At first. :angel:
ErinysSolForce Intelligence has great difficulty penetrating Liir society to that depth, for obvious reasons. fibioLack of scuba gear?

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Mecron
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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Mecron » Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:33 am

You realize that this...

"* If dev resources allow it, then it would be great if each of 3 ship sections would physically consist of multiple modules and add additional tactical options when fighting more up-teched or stronger enemies... e.g. reactor, engineering, command, shield gen, ammo bay/accumulators... which can individually be damaged from any hits passing shields/armor if hit lands specifically on them... whole section still has HP as before, but performance of section is decreased based on its pieces destroyed (slower weapons, slower engine, slower shield recharge). If section HP reaches 0, it shows up as badly messed up structuraly and all remaining modules still keep performing at whatever... 25% capacity... once total ship HP damage worth of 2 sections has been reach , whole ship is dead as in prime before.... Make Drones capable of skipping any large ship armor and shields and make weapons auto target modules, not just general direction of hull."

...is a four fold increase in combat model detail and a 6 fold increase in the load on the GUI...right? ;)

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by Ludovsky » Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:46 pm

Mecron wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:33 am
You realize that this...

"* If dev resources allow it, then it would be great if each of 3 ship sections would physically consist of multiple modules and add additional tactical options when fighting more up-teched or stronger enemies... e.g. reactor, engineering, command, shield gen, ammo bay/accumulators... which can individually be damaged from any hits passing shields/armor if hit lands specifically on them... whole section still has HP as before, but performance of section is decreased based on its pieces destroyed (slower weapons, slower engine, slower shield recharge). If section HP reaches 0, it shows up as badly messed up structuraly and all remaining modules still keep performing at whatever... 25% capacity... once total ship HP damage worth of 2 sections has been reach , whole ship is dead as in prime before.... Make Drones capable of skipping any large ship armor and shields and make weapons auto target modules, not just general direction of hull."

...is a four fold increase in combat model detail and a 6 fold increase in the load on the GUI...right? ;)
That comment about "load increases on the GUI" detail reminded me of the folks praising the Switch for it's rapid load times but bemoaning it's lack of Netflix/Internet Browser/Video app/etc. compared to the operating system/main menu of other consoles like the PS4.

But really, the fact the Switch's UI/OS is so snappy to load -is- directly related to how little clutter it features compared to other game console's operating system(and generally I can confirm that even the stronger PS4 will take longer to boot up I feel as a result).

It's a different situation and very little in common but I couldn't help but feel there was still some commonality to the situation of the "weight" that a ton of clutter can add to something I feel. Which I have to echo is what a lot of these suggestions would feel like a lot by that point even for a player. Too much of a "good" thing can be the same as "not enough" I often feel ^^;


Beyond the GUI stuff noted by Mecron I'd have to add that just from my player's viewpoint it would feel like a crazy insane amount of things to track especially since combat is just but a single component of SOTS games(even if a big one) at the end of the day?

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Re: Say hypothetically...

Post by willdieh » Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:07 pm

SOTS2 has all that modules stuff already... It adds some ship design strategery, but on the actual battlefield I don't think anyone has time to stop and think about individual module damage and crew health. It'd be different if the simulation was on a lower level (ie, you were captaining the specific ship) but with SOTS2, all the critical damage, crew population, and other additional battle related information was stuff that just flew by me in the damage alerts (admittedly, they were tiny one line text messages that would scroll off the screen).

Some other games like the current Battlestar Galactica and Warhammer fleet sim games are intended to be run in a less than RTS mode (although they both run in RTS, you're really supposed to pause a LOT or run in slow down mode in order to do ship maintenance and make strategic decisions) and include more verbose ship status information which makes individual module/ship crew/weapon status more meaningful. But in the SOTS RTS implementation, unless you really want 15-30 minute battles, I think most of this stuff would be lost beyond a simple abstraction of "module X = +1 repair speed" that keeps that ship alive a bit longer.

I loved the idea of modules in SOTS2, especially the crew augmentations like Marines or PSY Ops, but honestly, when I'm managing a whole fleet in realtime, it's not something I think that needs to be interactive on the battlefield at the per-ship level.

William

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