Feedback on gameplay changes

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norfenstein
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Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby norfenstein » Sun Nov 15, 2015 8:09 pm UTC

I've finally found the time to read through the feedback (1, 2, 3) on my experimental gameplay changes, and to write up some responses, explanations, and my thoughts:


x_noStamina

This was not done to fix any particular problem but because I simply never enjoyed the stamina system in Tremulous/Unvanquished and wanted to see if removing it entirely would be an improvement. In my opinion it is, but from everyone's feedback there seem to be two issues:

1) Humans are annoyingly slow. Part of this might be people not yet being used to bunnyhopping everywhere as a human, but it probably has more to do with Unvanquished's maps not having enough long, open space to get up to speed. When such corridors are available humans are actually faster than they used to be since I tried to match the new human speeds with the average speed of sprinting/walking cycles -- and ended up making them faster than that because it felt way, way too slow.

2) Human movement is not as interesting as it could be. I don't like Tremulous's stamina system, but that doesn't mean stamina can't be done better. Urban Terror's system, for example, feels fine to me. And with or without stamina, more movement options like ledge-climbing, sliding, etc. would be fun and interesting. Something like the wall-kicking from Warsaw would make bunnyhopping more viable too (since you could maintain momentum around sharp corners).


x_noCamping

This seems to be generally well-liked, but has the effect actually been noticeable, or are people just appreciating the reduction in camping caused by other changes? If you were in any of the games I was a part of -- except for the very first one on the first day we tested this -- then it wasn't even turned on. There, apparently, are now enough others incentives for people to play aggressively, and since in your base your structures will steal some of your kills anyway I no longer think this is something worth considering.


x_simpleLocationalDamage

This change was not motivated by dretch floor-headbites. As I mentioned in the original post, I don't think vertically stacked locational damage makes a lot of sense for melee-range attacks since when up-close the part you hit has less to do with how well you aim than simply how high up you are (either while standing, as with tyrants, or because you're jumping constantly anyway, like marauders do, etc.). I'm sure there's disagreement on this point, but don't let it overshadow what I think are the more important benefits of front-back locational damage: it promotes alien teamwork and is more tactically interesting:

Humans naturally have an easier time fighting together -- with range weapons you can easily stand back and focus fire on a single target. Aliens in melee range tend to just get in each other's way. But if your teammates can do 50% more damage attacking the human that's focused on you, that goes a long way towards giving aliens a reason to fight together, which besides being more fun is really something you'd expect from a hive/swarm of insectoid creatures.

Similar to that, you might also expect aliens to rely on stalking and ambushing more than the headlong rush towards the guys-with-guns you typically see in Tremulous and Unvanquished. If locational damage was less about aiming well and more about how you attack (e.g. from behind, having successfully remained hidden as some humans passed you by), I think aliens would be more tactically rewarding and more thematically appropriate.

These are also the reasons I don't think aliens should have vulnerable damage regions -- the swarming and stalking are things that are better thematically suited to aliens than humans, and they're in part meant to make up for some of the inherent disadvantage of melee attacks.


x_buildAnywhere

I think this change (along with build point pools) makes playing a builder much more fun and I very much wouldn't want to go back to having power/creep building restrictions. I'm largely indifferent about retaining overminds/reactors as single points of failure for teams, which seems to be the biggest concern about this. I don't think it's necessary, but that kind of capture-the-flag focus can be fun.


x_buildPointPools

Besides desperately needing UI for queued build points, I think this change was a big success. As a builder I no longer have to worry about doing things "wrong" and permanently losing build points due to bad placement or a risky forward base that didn't pay off.

I'm especially pleased with how this directly and obviously rewards map control -- if the enemy team isn't be aggressive enough you can spread drills/leaches around the map and gain a lot of build points for use on the front-line. "Spamming" drills/leaches around the map with no defenses might seem like a misfeature but it was actually completely intentional: think of them as flags a team can use to stake a claim to part of a map, which the other team is free to contest if they're able.

This does suggest one change we might want: you shouldn't be able to "secretly" claim something so it should really hard, or impossible, to hide drills/leaches. Bright lights, loud noises, or just always showing up on radar for everyone would be an improvement.


x_simpleMomentum

First, an aside:
Ishq wrote:Simple Momentum: The idea of momentum is that the inner workings are meant to be opaque to the user. Doing what "feels" right, like attacking, killing, building, or helping your team in some way should result in momentum.

I might be in a tiny minority here, but I hate it when games make systems opaque because they're intended to be intuitive enough to not need explanation. It's basically always the case that you're better off learning how the system actually works because player intuition never exactly lines up with designer intuition. Even if there's good feedback for doing something considered "right" there's no way to know what things you aren't doing are also "right".

It turns out that's not hugely relevant, though, because, as Viech has since explained to me, the current momentum system isn't really that complicated outside of the largely ignorable way momentum scales over time (ignorable because it doesn't affect the decisions you make in-game). So "simple momentum" isn't the best name for this change as the only major difference is building no longer gives momentum and spawns are the only structure you get momentum for destroying.

Viech wrote:Do you actually enjoy the fact that killing enemy non-spawn structures doesn't give you anything, neither credits nor momentum? I think it's nice to have an additional motivation to do what sometimes needs to be done to break base. It's possible that a perimeter turret is everything you can kill with your current team upgrades and I don't see why it should feel more like a necessity than a success.

As an attacker, no, I didn't enjoy that, but as a builder, yes, I very much appreciated being free to push turrets or a booster forward to help my team without the risk of "feeding" the enemy momentum. I can see how gaining momentum from building in the first place should offset potential gains from the enemy destroying your structures, but it'd feel much nicer to me if the whole process were momentum-neutral.

So why make spawns exceptional? Because this was really a kind of philosophical experiment. Momentum was designed so that everything we as designers wanted to reward as "good behavior" in-game could be directly rewarded with momentum. My theory is that there's no need to go to the trouble of assigning rewards to anything but the core objectives of the game (of which there are exactly two: destroy all enemy spawns and kill all enemy players) because by rewarding those things, all other "good behavior" is indirectly rewarded. Anything that doesn't help you win the game doesn't deserve a reward. It's a much simpler system to understand for players and there's no way to get it wrong by accidently incentivizing useless or harmful actions.

All that said, my opinion on this isn't very strong. I made this change because I wanted to test the theory with actual gameplay. From what I've seen it seems valid, but I don't know how many games one would have to play to be sure.

x_freeUpgrades

I think, at minimum, this showed that there are fun improvements we could make to how player upgrades work that haven't previously been considered. Unfortunately, any serious structural changes to this probably have to be planned out ahead of time if we want the game to remain playable during testing. I think this redesign should be our next top priority.
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby Viech » Sun Nov 15, 2015 9:49 pm UTC

Cool, let's get to the decision making!

x_noStamina

I think that we can balance the speed of humans without the stamina limitation. If they are currently too slow in narrow areas, make them faster. They may get faster in open spaces but aliens do so, too, by atleast the same factor. Plus, you can't really aim continuously while you're strafing, so you can't capitalize on it during fights as much as you could on sprinting.

I don't think stamina as such makes human movement more interesting. It may be a necessity to add movement skills that are otherwise too powerful but if we plan on doing so we could also add stamina back later (or add a cooldown like the one for the mantis pounce).

All in all I think we can safely remove stamina from the game now and open up possibilites for trickjumping.

x_noCamping

So it seems we should not port this.

x_simpleLocationalDamage

A agree with your reasoning, though I still feel the biggest win here is getting rid of unintuitive alien aim. I don't agree that we should not consider damage zones for aliens as I can see boosting the rear damage as a tool to nerf the alien's ability to disengage, but that's just a sidenote.

Now there are two ways to port this. The first is to just merge your config file changes. The second approach, and I kind of favor it as it neatly plugs into the new CBSE logic and gets rid of the ugly config files, is to define locational damage as a steady function over the angle(s) of the incoming damage. This means that a perfect backstab yields the biggest damage boost but even stuff like strafing left and right during a fight matters a little. Hence, this raises the skill ceiling while at the same time is less complicated than a fixed number of angle thresholds.

x_buildAnywhere

Ok, fine. However, I do need your help figuring out a good use for the repeater structure. It's unfortunate that it looks a lot like the reactor.

x_buildPointPools

I'm fine with a pool of a (maximum) size depending on the space being occupied via drills and leeches. I need to have a closer look at your implementation to see if I'd want to port it as-is or try a different design. I think I want to keep a half life time on the mining/refilling rate (or pool size) so that we maintain the soft sudden death that the old approach offered.

x_simpleMomentum

I'll think about this again. I do want to decrease the feeding risk of forwards but I'm still not convinced that momentum is the best knob to do so. I'll figure out if making a binary distinction between forwards and main bases when it comes to rewards for both building and destroying structures makes sense. We do have a tool to make the distinction (base clusterings) but I'd like to play a few scenarious in my head before considering it. So far, I'dl ike to postpone any momentum system changes.

x_freeUpgrades

norfenstein wrote:I think, at minimum, this showed that there are fun improvements we could make to how player upgrades work that haven't previously been considered.

Indeed. For the specific change you made I'd argue to not port it like this.
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby norfenstein » Sun Nov 15, 2015 10:30 pm UTC

Viech wrote:So far, I'd like to postpone any momentum system changes.

I'd go so far as to say if/when we want to start focusing on different upgrade systems we should do so with momentum disabled and everything always unlocked from the start. Reasoning: the game will always need to be balanced when everything is unlocked, and I assume we don't want to turn the game into a race to a certain level of momentum to unlock a "win button" (e.g. tyrants and lucifer cannons are so strong the first team to unlock them always wins). It'll be easier and faster to playtest new upgrades/classes if we don't have to simultaneously decide what momentum level they belong in.
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby kharnov » Sun Nov 15, 2015 11:01 pm UTC

Turn the repeater into a force-field generator! I swear we discussed that once ages ago.
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby Comet_ » Sun Nov 15, 2015 11:31 pm UTC

Nice post, norfenstein. I agree with most of your statements and I'm glad these changes looks like they are moving forward because they showed a lot of promise. I do, however, have a few disagreements:

norfenstein wrote:
x_simpleLocationalDamage

This change was not motivated by dretch floor-headbites. As I mentioned in the original post, I don't think vertically stacked locational damage makes a lot of sense for melee-range attacks since when up-close the part you hit has less to do with how well you aim than simply how high up you are (either while standing, as with tyrants, or because you're jumping constantly anyway, like marauders do, etc.). I'm sure there's disagreement on this point, but don't let it overshadow what I think are the more important benefits of front-back locational damage: it promotes alien teamwork and is more tactically interesting:

Humans naturally have an easier time fighting together -- with range weapons you can easily stand back and focus fire on a single target. Aliens in melee range tend to just get in each other's way. But if your teammates can do 50% more damage attacking the human that's focused on you, that goes a long way towards giving aliens a reason to fight together, which besides being more fun is really something you'd expect from a hive/swarm of insectoid creatures.

Similar to that, you might also expect aliens to rely on stalking and ambushing more than the headlong rush towards the guys-with-guns you typically see in Tremulous and Unvanquished. If locational damage was less about aiming well and more about how you attack (e.g. from behind, having successfully remained hidden as some humans passed you by), I think aliens would be more tactically rewarding and more thematically appropriate.

These are also the reasons I don't think aliens should have vulnerable damage regions -- the swarming and stalking are things that are better thematically suited to aliens than humans, and they're in part meant to make up for some of the inherent disadvantage of melee attacks.

As much as I'd like to agree with your logic in this, I can't see this being the system for 2 reasons (I think that this system needs to be implemented to tyrants however since tyrants are so large already, there should be no difference between a head attack with a massive claw or a body chop.) :
1. You say that the system is in place to reward flanks and splitting up your attack, however in every FPS in the world the flanker has a distinct, inherent advantage because it is in First-Person. With the way the game is balanced, without x_simpleLocationalDamage, an unarmoured human will die in half a second to a flanking dretch. If anything, that sounds like plenty of encouragement to flank for me since not only is it half a second but subtracted the reaction time of the human and time it takes for him to turn. I would accept your point more if the game was a top down shooter.
2. The system feels too basic. What I mean by that assertion is that aliens become all about movement instead of aim and movement; it just feels like it's making every dretch the same even if one is incredibly better than the other. I like being rewarded for exceptional aim and being punished when my aim is less than quality because it makes sense in a FPS setting.

Yes, my opinion has changed slightly since making my feedback post. I did have more or less the same sentiment then.

norfenstein wrote:"Spamming" drills/leaches around the map with no defenses might seem like a misfeature but it was actually completely intentional: think of them as flags a team can use to stake a claim to part of a map, which the other team is free to contest if they're able.

This does suggest one change we might want: you shouldn't be able to "secretly" claim something so it should really hard, or impossible, to hide drills/leaches. Bright lights, loud noises, or just always showing up on radar for everyone would be an improvement.


My only concern raised with this is the introduction of "more to do". The game's pace is fairly slow as is and destroying these spammed resource machines might elongate time in the game. I like the second idea about no "secret" drills.

norfenstein wrote:
Viech wrote:Do you actually enjoy the fact that killing enemy non-spawn structures doesn't give you anything, neither credits nor momentum? I think it's nice to have an additional motivation to do what sometimes needs to be done to break base. It's possible that a perimeter turret is everything you can kill with your current team upgrades and I don't see why it should feel more like a necessity than a success.

As an attacker, no, I didn't enjoy that, but as a builder, yes, I very much appreciated being free to push turrets or a booster forward to help my team without the risk of "feeding" the enemy momentum. I can see how gaining momentum from building in the first place should offset potential gains from the enemy destroying your structures, but it'd feel much nicer to me if the whole process were momentum-neutral.


This is probably where I disagree the most. Every wrong action in this game has punishment and that should not exclude builders, especially humans as human forward bases are more potent. Build points disappearing when not located near the RC might be a possible solution that you would like. However, in my opinion, regardless of anything, momentum and/or creds should be given for destroying any type of structure built.
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby Viech » Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:59 pm UTC

kharnov wrote:Turn the repeater into a force-field generator! I swear we discussed that once ages ago.

I guess that's what could be done here. While most implementations of force-fields will certainly reduce the fun of playing an alien to zero, I'll try to figure one out that's interesting to fight against and requires skill to build most efficiently. (Currently I have the feeling that's mission impossible…)

x_simpleLocationalDamage

With regards to the locational damage, maybe using the incoming elevation angle of the damage is a more interesting approach. This still kills the look-up-trick for dretches but it allows small aliens to jump on head height for a damage boost. It would be particularly interesting for Mantises and Marauders. It also allows humans to jump (on crates) for damage mitigation. Not much would change for the Tyrant and Dragoon – it was nearly impossible to not hit the head anyway.

I can also imagine an interesting antagonism with alien damage zones. For them it could be flipped so that they're more vulnerable from below. That means a floor Marauder both deals and takes less damage than one that's hovering right above a human head and exposes its fleshy belly to the shotgun in order to yield a critical headbite.

All of this has a higher "resolution" than the current damage zones but it's much easier to explain in one sentence: "Attack humans from above and behind, attack aliens from below."
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby Comet_ » Mon Nov 16, 2015 4:20 pm UTC

Viech wrote:x_simpleLocationalDamage

With regards to the locational damage, maybe using the incoming elevation angle of the damage is a more interesting approach. This still kills the look-up-trick for dretches but it allows small aliens to jump on head height for a damage boost. It would be particularly interesting for Mantises and Marauders. It also allows humans to jump (on crates) for damage mitigation. Not much would change for the Tyrant and Dragoon – it was nearly impossible to not hit the head anyway.

I can also imagine an interesting antagonism with alien damage zones. For them it could be flipped so that they're more vulnerable from below. That means a floor Marauder both deals and takes less damage than one that's hovering right above a human head and exposes its fleshy belly to the shotgun in order to yield a critical headbite.

All of this has a higher "resolution" than the current damage zones but it's much easier to explain in one sentence: "Attack humans from above and behind, attack aliens from below."

That sounds really awesome. I would love that.
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby Viech » Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:19 pm UTC

Please try to not discuss the status quo in here, this is for settling on changes we'll do.

Here's a proposal for damage zones based on the position of the attacker (melee) or projectile impact (ranged) relative to the target.

Image

  • Attacking from the exact front deals normal damage.
  • Attacking humans from a higher position adds up to 25% damage, doing so from a lower position decreases damage by up to 25% though.
  • Attacking aliens from below adds up to 50% damage, but attacking from above or the side yields no bonus.
  • Attacking from behind deals up to 25% more damage (12.5% from the side) for aliens and up to 50% (25% from the side) for humans.

Should be intuitive enough: Always attack from behind, attack humans from above where there's the head, attack aliens from below where there's no shell.
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby lamefun » Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:38 pm UTC

Viech wrote:
  • Attacking from the exact front deals normal damage.
  • Attacking humans from a higher position adds up to 25% damage, doing so from a lower position decreases damage by up to 25% though.
  • Attacking aliens from below adds up to 50% damage, but attacking from above or the side yields no bonus.
  • Attacking from behind deals up to 25% more damage (12.5% from the side) for aliens and up to 50% (25% from the side) for humans.

Should be intuitive enough: Always attack from behind, attack humans from above where there's the head, attack aliens from below where there's no shell.


±25% from head to legs seems saner than +50% -40%.

:thumbup:
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Re: Feedback on gameplay changes

Postby lamefun » Mon Nov 16, 2015 9:05 pm UTC

kharnov wrote:Turn the repeater into a force-field generator! I swear we discussed that once ages ago.


Make it powerful (deflect barbs, strongly push mid-air aliens) but have it activate only if the human base is unoccupied. That'll encourage humans to attack and not camp.

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