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LTP 1.0 Observations and Suggestions

#1
I've been thoroughly enjoying the Limit Theory Prototype. Should I even add my own amazement to everyone else's at how fast so much good work has been done? (Plus I spent a lot of time visiting Baton Rouge when I was growing up, so that's also nice. :) )

The following are some suggestions after playing LTP for long enough to explore a couple of asteroids and mount some OK weapons on a destroyer (Advanced Raptor). I expect a number of these will already have been noted by several testers, and many probably already are being addressed in 1.1 or future updates. I figured I'd go ahead and list them here as additional data points, or for the one or two items that might not have been mentioned yet.

In all cases, these are meant to be friendly observations with constructive suggestions. I fully understand that this is just the 1.0 version of the prototype. Looking great so far!

CONTROLS

Can't Bind Plus Key: I am delighted to see that keybinding is in the initial prototype of LT! That -- and the quicksave feature -- speaks very highly of understanding what PC gamers actually want. One quirk, though: I can't bind the Plus key over on the keypad, which I normally bind to the quicksave function. I can bind the Minus key to quickload, but the Plus key is not bindable. [added - Gazz]

Primary/Secondary Weapons: I see this has already been suggested, but what the heck: I'd like to be able to designate weapon groups installed on my ship as either primary or secondary weapons, with primaries and secondaries keyable to different mouse buttons. For example, I'd probably put beam and rail weapons on my left mouse button, and projectile and pulse weapons on my right mouse button. This would let me save slower weapons for when I've got a good shot lined up. [edit: I see that this is, in fact, already in the 1.0 List.]

Autocruise: I hope we'll see a function for toggling thrust on and off -- much nicer than having to hold down a key for minutes in between furballs. (Being able to click on a target object and say "go there" would be appreciated.) [already in the 1.0 List.]

MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

Inconsistent Colors on Ship Systems versus Ships: Ship systems (weapons, armor, etc.) that you can afford to buy in the Buy screen appear in white, and systems you can't afford are in gold. But in the Ship screen, ships you are permitted to buy (although you may not be able to afford them) appear in gold, while ships in white can't be selected for purchase. It's a minor inconsistency that I'd guess is relatively simple to change.

Ship System Spawning Logic: When starting out, it's nice to see plenty of ship systems you can't afford. That's called "incentive." ;) But as you buy better weapons and bigger ships, the value of the systems spawned isn't increasing. I'm now always looking at a lot of cheap weapons I don't want, and I can spend 10 or more minutes staring at the Buy screen waiting for a system to be spawned that I do want. Presumably an update to LT will use the value of the player's ship and installed systems to condition the quality of purchasable ship systems. Also, different space stations might specialize in different kinds of systems (as in Freelancer), or might have more or less valuable systems for purchase depending on whether they're located in dangerous places (as in EVE Online).

20K-75K Purchase Gap: There seems to be a big gap between 10K-20K systems and 75K+ systems to buy. Very few ship systems spawn with prices (and appropriate capabilities) between those values. But I'm just now starting to fly a destroyer, and I'm hanging out in the same couple of starting asteroids, so it's possible that I'm just not seeing ship systems that would be spawned otherwise.

Too Few Beam/Projectile Weapons: Most weapons spawned are pulse weapons, with a few rail weapons. Almost no beam weapons are spawned at the 10K or higher level, and I haven't seen any projectile weapons beyond the 1K range. I don't know if this is intentional (maybe projectile and beam weapons just don't do much damage in the LT universe), or simply an artifact of the current code for generating new ship systems to buy -- if the latter, I'd like to see more such weapons for sale at the medium (20-100K) and high-end (100K+) levels.

Item Spawn Times Too Short: If there's a timer for how long a newly-spawed purchasable ship system stays on the Buy screen, it's too short -- I've had items come up, I've clicked on them, read their text and decided I wanted them, only for that item to disappear before I can click "Purchase." I definitely like the simulated volatility of items, but the minimum time that a new item is available needs to be increased to, say, something like a minute or two. Another suggestion: detect whether the player is currently highlighting an item for sale, and don't let it be despawned. [edit: already in the 1.0 List.]

Storage Awareness: The difference between storage (asteroid-based, and must be paid for) and cargo (ship-based) wasn't clear to me for a while. I didn't realize that I could put looted systems in storage, and wound up selling good ones I could have installed in later ships. A tutorial might help spell this out, or a pop-up message the first time you access the Storage menu. [added - Gazz]

Ship Repair: I didn't realize my ship could be repaired for quite a while. Eventually I saw the option, not in the Ship Viewer where I expected it, but in the Ships menu. It makes sense that this option would be available only when docked, but it might help to highlight it more there. A pop-up message the first time the player's ship has taken damage and is docked could also help: "I see you've got some damage there -- click the Ships menu to access our repair crews." [already in the 1.0 List (18.)]

Magic Power Allocation Numbers: Where in the world are the power allocation percentages in the Ship Viewer derived from? I don't see a text value for a powerplant rating for different ship types, so I'm puzzled by being able to set 11 systems to over 100% in my destroyer, while my fighter could barely get my sensors up to 100%. Shouldn't fully loading up any ship require the player to make choices about what systems have to have less than 100% power allocation? What does having more or less than 100% allocation do to a system, anyway? (Apologies if this has already been asked and answered elsewhere. I'm still plowing through threads!) [added - Gazz]

Save Custom Power Allocation: Having different power allocation settings in the 1.0 prototype is awesome. In a later version, I'd like to be able to save my custom power allocation so that I can switch back to it quickly after using one of the built-in settings or the Cruise Mode. [already in the 1.0 List (20.)]

FLIGHT UI

Subtle Enemy Markers: It's sometimes difficult when exiting an asteroid dock to see the red crosses indicating enemy ships. They can be found after flying and turning a bit, and that's OK for Assassinate missions, but it adds perilous delay in Distress Call missions.

Hard-to-see Targeting Reticle: In firefights where both the opponent and I are trading a lot of brightly-colored fire, it's easy to lose the crosshair and wind up missing the target. Allowing players to change the shape, color, and brightness of their crosshairs might help. [already in the 1.0 List (25.)]

FLIGHT MECHANICS

Impact of Ship Systems on Ships: Do ship systems have mass? If I only have two systems, can my ship move and turn more nimbly than if all my slots are filled? Do different kinds of systems (armor, projectile weapons, beam weapons, etc.) and different versions of the same kind of system (e.g., cheap pulse weapons vs. powerful pulse weapons) have different masses? Do different systems require different amounts of power from a ship's powerplant? How can I know which ship systems are so massive or sucking so much power that they're degrading my ship's overall performance? [added - Gazz]

They're Coming In Too Fast!: For one recent Assassination mission I used my destroyer to fight a bomber and a fighter. I took out the bomber in short order, but the fighter was so agile, and my destroyer had such a slug-like turn rate, that the fighter spent three or four minutes at a time behind me -- I could never turn fast enough to get him in my sights for more than a few seconds. This fight took something like 30 minutes to resolve, and that was only after I tried backing into an asteroid dock. While I appreciate what's perhaps intended to be the realistic fact of inertia, where bigger ships have increasingly slower turn rates, it just wasn't fun to turn, turn, turn without being able to do anything else. Possible solutions could include: roughly equal turn rates for all ships ("inertial dampeners"); power allocation from other systems to turning thrusters; switching to side- or rear-view cockpits (with weapons magically firing instantaneously from that perspective); more variable enemy AI so they don't always stay behind you (even if that would be sensible) (see next suggestion). [already in the 1.0 List (12.)]

AI

Circular Enemy Flight: Enemy ships basically fly straight at you, then once they're at a particular distance try to fly in a circle around your current position forever. The circular routine in particular should be interrupted after no more than 30 seconds or so to avoid the "turning in slow circles getting shot at" effect.

No Variety in Enemy AI: All enemies, in all ship classes, seem to use the same AI. This restricts combat in LT (prototype) to finger exercises. Giving individual ships in LT distinctive levels of combat AI capability would keep the combat play experience fresh, and would let players exercise their tactical thinking skills as well as manual dexterity.

No Terrain Effects: Tactical action depends on the existence of different kinds of local resources that can be exploited for an immediate force advantage. In a ground combat game, for example, acting to occupy the high ground or fire from cover (such as from behind a treeline) is usually good tactics. This is tougher to do in space combat games because there's no "terrain" as such... but that's an opportunity for LT. :) Terrain here could be interpreted as asteroids that give cover (from direct fire or sensors); nebulae that reduce visibility and confuse sensors or seeking-weapon tracking; radiation zones that damage certain kinds of ship systems over time; gravity wells that alter flight paths and interfere with kinetic weapons; and so on. Space should probably be mostly empty, but more "terrain" for clever pilots (human or AI!) to exploit would add a lot of tactical fun to LT.

WISH LIST

1. When a ship (enemy or friendly) is targeted, optionally display text data about that ship as an overlay (weapon systems, cargo type, name of selected destination, threat level, etc.). Increasing detail level as distance decreases would be a nice enhancement.
2. Allow targeting of particular enemy vessel subsystems (presumably with lower hit probability unless some power is sacrificed from other systems to targeting systems).
3. Allow more variation in enemy ship AI capability. I'm imagining a bell curve of probability: most ship pilots in each class would use relatively average tactics, with some being pretty dumb drivers (flying slowly in straight lines), and a few being "smarter" with less predictable flight patterns and more accurate shooting.
4. In Wing Commander, the occasional randomly-spawned enemies on the high end of the capability curve were "boss" enemies with unique names and improved tactics. Not to suggest copying other games, but that was huge fun.
5. I assume this is planned, but I'll mention it anyway: I hope later versions of LT will include non-combatant ships plying the spacelanes. That helps add a feeling that the world of the game is a living place, which will be important to some players. (Picking off easy-looking targets also might appeal to the more piratical players... but I hope some ships are armed for bear and only appear to be helpless traders. ;) )
6. While I'm enjoying the combat, I'm looking forward to non-combat features such as trading and perhaps some form of crafting of ship variants and maybe ship systems. And I'm really, really hoping to see the exploration of new spaces and new worlds (and maybe new civilizations?) as a gameplay mode that gets some love in the near future.
[all planned already - Gazz]

...

Overall, bravo for a fantastic starting point. I can't even guess how much more fun Limit Theory is going to get over the next few months, but I'm looking forward to finding out!
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Re: LTP 1.0 Observations and Suggestions

#2
The remaining points mostly concern balancing / item generation (and there is no such thing in the prototype) or are minor UI / polishing items.

The UI will see many more changes as more game features come online so investing a lot of work into polish is premature.

Same with AI. Many systems don't exist, yet, so it would be pointless to have an advanced AI at this time.


Keep up that level of detail, though!
Even though a lot of it turned out to be redundant, this is greatly preferable to "game doesn't work". =)
(I can already imagine Josh going "Yay. Another one of those.")
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
Post

Re: LTP 1.0 Observations and Suggestions

#3
This was the initial list of notes based on the 1.0 prototype. I understand not every observation or suggestion will be useful, and that any useful things need to be prioritized sensibly.

As Josh tells us his priorities, I'll try to key future testing and suggestions to that.

As for specificity, I've been a programmer and project manager a fair few years now; believe me when I say I appreciate useful detail and constructive notes from users. :)

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