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Author Topic: 2.5-dev Feedback (Early Game, Hard difficulty)  (Read 2403 times)

Offline Ragwortshire

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2.5-dev Feedback (Early Game, Hard difficulty)
« on: September 14, 2013, 06:53:15 pm »
This isn't my first time playing UFO:AI, but last time I gave up because of the campaign pacing in previous versions. However this time I'm enjoying it a lot more, and decided to write up some very quick comments on the game and post some general feedback. I hope this is helpful in some way! I made a couple of "suggestions" in the course of this post, but these are mostly very minor and I'm aware they have probably been suggested before - in which case I'm just voicing my support for them.

The version of the game I played was from 8th September.

Geoscape:

 - I really like what I've seen so far of the new tech tree.  In particular the links between actual research projects, disassmbley and combat missions (e.g., shoot down UFO, research UFO theory, dissassemble, research parts, produce parts) seem to work well.  There does seem to be an awful lot of things to research, but I consider that a good thing!

 - I experienced some odd behavious of UFOs: a couple of fighters that totally ignored my aircraft, and a harvester that seemed more interested in going after my interceptors than in the humans on the ground! Could this be a bug?

 - The limit on the number of installations that can be built can be very annoying at times. It restricts the range of available playstyles, penalising players who prefer fewer, better-developed bases and favouring those who build lots of bases. Further it breaks immersion, since it beggars belief that a high-tech command centre cannot deal with more than three basic radar stations!
 
 I don't see why the limit is necessary, especially for radar towers and UFO hangars. I suggest that the limit should apply to SAM sites only, so that the player has more freedom but still cannot build SAM sites en masse and shoot down arbitrarily strong UFOs.
 
 - The range of the Radar Tower seems very small, especially the detection/inner radius (the tracking radius, on the other hand, is large enough to be very useful). Is it intended that the player build extra bases as glorified radar stations? This feels unsatisfying to me, so I suggest that the detection radius be increased by 25% or so with the tracking radius remaining the same.
 
 - The UFOs maintain targets forever and only shoot at their target, so can always be shot down with 2 interceptors if they decide to get aggressive. The interceptors close in until the UFO targets one, and whichever was targetted flies directly away. The other moves in and shoots down the UFO, which will not fire back.
 
 - There seems to be little strategy involved in research once the player has worked out what the most immediately useful projects are (e.g., plasma rifles are very important early on, but live alien research is not). Since the player can always focus all of his scientists on a project and complete it very quickly, there is little incentive to pursue a `balanced' approach to keep options open. However much a player neglects a certain area early on, he will always be able to catch up quickly once it becomes relevant (so once the player has 70 scientists and wants to start on the way to psionics, he can complete the live alien research in a few hours).
 
 FreeOrion added another layer to the research system by limiting the number of scientists (which FreeOrion calls RP) that can work on a particular project at a given time. This means that if a player neglects live alien research for a long time, then it will cost him a minimum amount of time (e.g., 5 days) to complete it. In my opinion this works very well and encourages players to research multiple topics at once, which greatly improves immersion (in real life, universities tend to have multiple projects going simultaneously). I also introduces a choice between pouring everything into immediately useful projects (better now) and spreading out a bit to avoid bottlenecks (better later). So I would suggest having a look at implementing this kind of system.

Battlescape:

 - I really like the new wounds system! First Aid Kits are now vital because without them your soldiers will die of their wounds, rather than because they make your entire team invincible to anything but a one-hit kill.
 
 - I also really like the way reaction fire works. There is a real tactical choice in whether to use a low-TU mode an guarantee at least some damage, or a high-TU mode and hope the AI is silly enough to spend many TUs in your line of sight.
 There is also a similar choice when dealing with enemy reaction fire. Overall, it's really really cool.
 
 - Weather effects (specifically snow) produced a dramatic drop in performance for me. Similarly, triggers (specically that map where there's a door you can open by standing near it) produced a dramatic but temporary drop in performance. On the other hand, my computer was able to handle the rest of the game with little trouble so far.

AI:

 - The AI does not react at all to smoke grenade clouds. As a result, soldiers can stand in a smoke cloud on completely open ground and be almost completely safe, unless the AI walks a unit right next to them.
 
 - The AI units do not support each other, at all. For example, one unit frequently wanders around near the edge of the map, away from the player's units, while the rest of the AI team is engaged in combat. As well as making battles easier (since only a reduced force is present), this can also make them more irritating as one has to hunt down stragglers after the main battle is over.
 
 - The AI does not utilise cover, frequently standing around on open ground waiting to be shot. I suggest they should at least prefer to stand near a wall (maybe even a wall which blocks them from the enemy, but any wall would be a start!).
 
 - The AI is very vulnerable to reaction fire, because instead of firing as soon as it sees your unit (which might be 10 spaces away or so), it tends to close in for a better hit chance. Of course this gives your units a better hit chance too, as well as giving you more time to get your shot off first!
« Last Edit: September 14, 2013, 07:01:39 pm by Ragwortshire »

Offline geever

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Re: 2.5-dev Feedback (Early Game, Hard difficulty)
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2013, 01:25:45 pm »
- The limit on the number of installations that can be built can be very annoying at times. It restricts the range of available playstyles, penalising players who prefer fewer, better-developed bases and favouring those who build lots of bases. Further it breaks immersion, since it beggars belief that a high-tech command centre cannot deal with more than three basic radar stations!
 
 I don't see why the limit is necessary, especially for radar towers and UFO hangars. I suggest that the limit should apply to SAM sites only, so that the player has more freedom but still cannot build SAM sites en masse and shoot down arbitrarily strong UFOs.

 - The range of the Radar Tower seems very small, especially the detection/inner radius (the tracking radius, on the other hand, is large enough to be very useful). Is it intended that the player build extra bases as glorified radar stations? This feels unsatisfying to me, so I suggest that the detection radius be increased by 25% or so with the tracking radius remaining the same.
 

The radar tower is a cheap external installation designed to increase the UFO tracking range and filling small gaps in the radar network. If we allowed to build more of them and/or their range, players could easily cover the whole Earth early with them and hit on more UFOs/missions. It is a different play-style, yes, but it would seriously unbalance the game.

The dogfights (UFO-PHALANX airfights) are not yet developed in depth and we cannot speak about any kind aircraft-AI yet. We're on a long road... :)

-geever

Offline vedrit

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Re: 2.5-dev Feedback (Early Game, Hard difficulty)
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2013, 07:17:57 pm »
I have issues with reaction fire. For example, in a few missions I had soldiers at one end of a hall, looking down it. An alien walked up the hall and right past my soldiers without anyone firing. This has cost me soldiers in many cases, since aliens prefer to fire point-blank, it seems.

Offline Battlescared

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Re: 2.5-dev Feedback (Early Game, Hard difficulty)
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2013, 12:47:45 am »
The radar tower is a cheap external installation designed to increase the UFO tracking range and filling small gaps in the radar network. If we allowed to build more of them and/or their range, players could easily cover the whole Earth early with them and hit on more UFOs/missions. It is a different play-style, yes, but it would seriously unbalance the game.

The dogfights (UFO-PHALANX airfights) are not yet developed in depth and we cannot speak about any kind aircraft-AI yet. We're on a long road... :)

-geever

I think I've come to the conclusion that radar installations aren't worth it.  I'd rather have a SAM site or UFO hangar.  With only three available, it's not much of a choice anymore.  I think three is too limited too, but I'd probably feel that way no matter what value you picked.

Offline RealSpirit

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Re: 2.5-dev Feedback (Early Game, Hard difficulty)
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2013, 03:23:08 pm »
aliens dont prefer close combat usually. they do a) if they are facing several soldiers and likely would be dead if they'd try to fire (aliens should hide here imho,....) or b) if the time required to leave your reaction zone is lower than required for reaction. in that case the alien could shoot 2-3 times without getting reaction fire. mean, but clever.

aliens wont close-up - imho - as long as the own death is improbable (only 1-2 guys could react) or when your reaction takes more time than their fire (e.g. using snipers and heavy weapons to defend plasmas)

IMHO reaction fire should be changed a bit. my suggestion would be that

1st reaction ability should not only depend on time units, but ALSO on - lets say - mind skill (cant tell if it is "brain", "mind" or whatever in the english version)
2nd crouched soldiers with the correct turning angle should fire earlier (on Time unit base) than soldiers that must turn b4 they can shoot.
3rd soldiers (out of correct angle) should turn (on the bases of 2-4 TU spent by the opponent) before the real reaction would start to count.

as it is now sometimes it can be useful not to fire 1st when facing several aliens. instead you could wait for them to move and shoot 1st. no big difference on just one opponent (even though yet present), but bigtime difference on facing 2 or more aliens. having fast guns (pistols, lasers, plasmas etc) you can likely kill them all before they can release a shot.

Offline Ragwortshire

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Re: 2.5-dev Feedback (Early Game, Hard difficulty)
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2013, 02:26:35 pm »
I've now downed my first Supply UFO and found a Plasma Blade, so I guess that means the early game is over! I've enjoyed the campaign so far, and seem to be keeping up reasonably well with the aliens. I have 5 working Labs (all at my original base) and 3 workshops, and have been able to research all of the topics that seem important as well as producing two Dragon Interceptors. However money has been pretty tight all the way through.

Here are some issues which I encountered:

Geoscape:

 - Aerial Laser Cannons never appeared on the market for me, even though they were the second tech I researched. In the campaign_asymptotic_market script, they don't have an entry despite being a human-manufactured weapon. Is this intentional?
 
 - At some point I received the message, "United America is content and below the minimum happiness allowed for the campaign." Am I supposed to have lost now? Their funding dropped a lot, but it's recovered since then. I didn't have radar coverage at the time, but I assume the drop was due to a successful Harvester attack.
 
 - There's a long period from 110 alien interest to 200 alien interest, during which the aliens receive no new weapons, species, armor or UFOs. I think this is actually a design flaw. The Hard campaign starts at 50 alien interest, so this period of 90 interest is longer than the entire game up to that point! There was still lots for me to do on the Geoscape, but the Battlescape missions became steadily easier and more tedious.
 
 I really think this needs to be changed, since a new player might well get bored by such a long, early period of not much happening. I think the simplest way to do it would be to move some alien tech forward from 80 Interest to 110 and from 110 to 140, and some back from 200 to 170. That would smooth the difficulty curve out somewhat, rather than having this annoying dip.
 
 I do admit, though, that the current pacing is much better than it was before!

Battlescape:

 - In general it seems that during this period, the aliens are decent at short range combat but quite useless at long ranges. So my tactics were always focused around engaging the aliens at long range. When I researched Heavy Lasers, the disparity only became more apparent. This got tedious after a while, so I think my ideal weapon to encounter earlier would be the Needler.

 - Having researched all of the early Plasma weapons, I really haven't found a proper use for either the Pistol or the Blaster yet. This is mainly a result of the previous point: If the aliens are close enough for my Plasma Blasters to be effective, then *their* weapons will also be effective, which is bad. Also Plasma Rifles seem very powerful; a typical team for me early game was 5x Plasma Rifles, 2x Grenade Launchers, 1x Sniper Rifles.
 
 - Also a result of the previous point: Close-combat skills were not very useful for me. Assault specialists, on the other hand, get to play with the Plasma Rifle, the Laser Rifle (I assume, I didn't research it yet) *and* the Heavy Laser, which seem to be three of the best weapons. The Heavy Laser in particular surprised me; doesn't it have much more in common with the Sniper Rifle (long range, high accuracy, single shot) than with the Assault Rifle?
 
 - Certain maps were a bit weird. The Sewage Construction map is basically a huge, linear crawl across the map... and then the same again, but underground! The Bungalow map suffers from the opposite problem: There's no room to deploy your troops and the fight is over very quickly; moreover, smoke grenade abuse is needed as there is not enough cover for the whole team. Finally, the start position on Village is just evil and requires horrific smoke abuse to escape from.

AI:
 
I think that rather than trying to diagnose specific problems, I'll just give a general overview of how my battles tended to go:
 - Turn 1: Phalanx shoots any visible aliens, and deploys smoke grenades if needed. Team members take cover (or hide in the smoke, if cover does not exist).
 - Early on: Phalanx has all team members who can engage Reaction Fire and try to maximise vision and cover. Aliens emerge and either try to take some shots from long range (with not enough accuracy to kill) or move in closer and die to reaction fire. Aliens who took long range shots are taken out by snipers, Lasers or just aimed shots from Plasma Rifles.
 - Later on: Phalanx advances slowly across the map with Reaction Fire on. Alien stragglers either emerge one by one and die to reaction fire, or are spotted and taken out by Grenade Launchers.
 
 I guess that the AI has a rather hard task here; it somehow has to make its short- and medium-range weapons effective against an opponent which has long-range weapons as well. That would indicate things like hiding around corners, or maybe swarm tactics to overwhelm Reaction Fire. But the AI only has a routine for closing in along the most obvious path and shooting, and it doesn't do teamwork.