Hello everyone! Like many of you, I am devoted to the "Annihilation subgenre" of RTS games, which in my book encompasses TA, SC/FA, SC2, PA, and now AOTS. Since SC/FA, I've been longing for a physical/simulated RTS that tackles the challenge of "massive scale" and "macro vs. micro" more profoundly, by innovative UI and advanced game mechanics. I'm hopeful that Ashes of the Singularity will be that game — or at least a big step in the right direction.
So I'm not in it for the graphics, balance or competitive play, but for the possible advancements in visualizing and controlling large (real-time and physically believable) battlefields. I realize that I'm joining the discussion rather late — but I hope not too late to provide some useful ideas and feedback.
TL;DR: The one most important point I will make is that AOTS can be, and should be, more innovative and groundbreaking in its attempt at "massive scale" and "macro vs. micro". (Stay tuned for posts on this matter.)
In this post, I want to present feedback to various other points that have come up so far.
- Frogboy's relentless fight against the One-Icon-Per-Unit meme
- "We are working on an abstract map view mode (full map zoom out)." [Frogboy]
- "Overall, we do not want micromanagement to be part of the "skill"." [Frogboy]
- Armies/Battlegroups/Meta-Units and -Reinforcements
- Global Abilities
- Slow pace. But NOT the slowdowns!
- Pseudo-Units (Archer/Brute): What a huge disappointment.
- Current Army/Battlegroup/Meta-Unit Behaviour/Robustness
- Meta-Unit Stat Buffs
- Right mouse button for panning
- Upcoming BETA
- Resistance against abstractions
- Extent of moddability
- Chrono Cam
- Borderless/Infinite Maps
- No Upgrades
- Weighted pathfinding
- Area commands
- "Imbalance in Power" game ending condition
Frogboy's relentless fight against the One-Icon-Per-Unit meme (Positive)
A "massive scale" RTS clearly deserves (and needs) better ways of abstraction/visualization. When playing vanilla SC/FA (without Icon mods), it does feel like the icons are hardly helping; it's frustrating to keep an overview. PA improves the situation a bit by much better icons, but it's still one-icon-per-unit there. I hope AOTS will have something that's better (provides more information) than just dotplots or heatmaps (those certainly are valid options however in some cases).
"We are working on an abstract map view mode (full map zoom out)." [Frogboy] (Positive)
Alright! I am very anxious to see what this will look like. Can you share info about what you're planning to do here? Is it not too late to provide ideas in this area? (@Frogboy)
"Overall, we do not want micromanagement to be part of the "skill"." [Frogboy] (Positive)
Armies/Battlegroups/Meta-Units and -Reinforcements (Positive)
This is really what made me spend more time with AOTS in the first place. Especially army reinforcements is the kind of "non-trivial" feature I like to see more in a "next-gen-RTS".
By the way, could someone settle the choice of term for this one?
Global Abilities (Positive)
Same here. This certainly helps reducing the micro. On the other hand, it might be that they will feel somewhat "soulless" (excuse the term), compared to effects that visually originate from units directly. We'll see.
Slow pace. But NOT the slowdowns! (Positive)
I do like the pace generally. In some cases however, units seem to slow down to a crawl. When it's a dreadnought that is desperately needed at the front line and it's just crawling there (slower than usual) — Well, that's annoying to say the least.
Pseudo-Units (Archer/Brute): What a huge disappointment. (Negative)
This is the one "feature" of AOTS that is truly disappointing and confusing. Confusing in gameplay, and confusing as to why the heck someone comes up with this idea. It does complicate the game a lot and makes it a harder to understand and use, without any apparent benefit whatsoever. It feels like deceit, to be honest (not to be overly dramatic), or a "betrayal" of the core "massive scale" promise, to be precise. A game like this can only be (feel like) massive scale, if it is truly simulating every single unit, and if every single unit can actually be controlled independently of others. These Pseudo-Units or Forced-Groups violate this, and make the "scale" feel "faked".
With this feature, it is possible to see four Brutes that could be four quarter Brutes (using 4 logistics) or just one full Brute (using 1 logistics). See, it's not even possible to properly talk about "units" this way... It doesn't even make sense to ask: "How many Brutes are in this Army?" Moreover, the health info is irritating (240/320 for three-quarters-of-Brutes, but repair is not possible, because this would have to "bring back" one "quarter-unit"). A quote:
"While the game will allow you to control individual units if you'd like to, you won't want to. Ashes is not designed to be a game that rewards clicking speed." (FAQ)
This is currently not the case. Firstly, we can't control every single unit, and secondly, one DOES want to, mostly because meta units are currently rather broken (see below).
PLEASE REPLACE THIS BY PROPER SINGLE UNITS. Now, if you really, really need to have units "come out" in groups, then just let them be Armies (of 4 single Brute units, e.g.) that then can be split up!
What was/is the reason behind this "feature" anyway? (@Frogboy)
Current Army/Battlegroup/Meta-Unit Behaviour/Robustness (Negative)
Others have complained about this already. I'm aware that we're in Alpha, but the implementation of Army behaviour should receive max priority, more than anything else, in my opinion. This is the one feature that needs to work flawlessly on release. Players must never feel like it's good idea to break up armies to improve unit behaviour. Because when they do, this core feature can be considered a "fail".
Meta-Unit Stat Buffs (Negative)
Having this is a valid design choice. It feels misplaced in the AOTS "niche" however. I'm not strongly advocating against it, but it really does feel "magical" instead of "physical". Having unit stats buffed by "assigning" units together makes absolutely no sense (in a physical world), and that hurts immersion. A player should want to assign units together because of their respective function that they perform (offense, defense, protection, repair etc.), not because they magically alter the other units' stats.
Right mouse button for panning (Negative)
Actually, the problem is having the already "overloaded" usual right-click and camera movement mapped to the same button. If panning really has to be on the right mouse button, then the "move/attack/guard/join" command needs to be mapped to something else. This is really a problem while playing; I feel like I have to wait a while after moving my mouse and then click "carefully", so that my orders won't be misinterpreted as panning. As others have mentioned: At the very least, this must be configurable.
Upcoming BETA (Worries)
Well, this worries me because, as a software engineer, when I hear "beta" I understand "no more changes except bugfixes". I hope very much that there's still time (and courage) for more profound innovation. (@Frogboy?)
Resistance against abstractions (Worries)
"Ashes of the Singularity games can be described as a war across an entire world without abstraction." (FAQ)
Well, how do you intend to visualize (get a good overview of) a "massive scale" battlefield without any kind of abstraction?
Extent of moddability (Worries)
"Ashes is very moddable. To mod, you will need to get a good CSV editor as that is the format we're storing everything in." [Frogboy]
Chrono Cam (Wishlist)
Chrono Cam is perhaps the most impressive feature of PA. AOTS totally needs to have this! At least, Chrono Cam must be available for reviews. Better however if it were available in-game. Ideally, Chrono Cam would be tightly integrated with events. For example, "enemy dreadnought detected" could show up on a timeline in the UI (which visualizes events of the last minute or so), and a click on the "EDD" event would then take the player to the place AND TIME of the event! How great would that be?!
Borderless/Infinite Maps (Wishlist)
I realize this is probably out of scope, if only because an engine not built to do this will probably not be enhanced accordingly. Anyway, let me still advocate for borderless/infinite maps. They work by simply repeating a rectangular map vertically (without any offset) and horizontally (with an optional vertical offset). The effect then is that the map has no "beginnings" and "ends". This would, in my opinion, help much to convey the message of "battling over a world" instead of some backyard with artificial straight borders. Also, it would allow much more symmetric and interesting geography, e.g., having each player have exactly 3 players around them (120 degrees apart), or two players who can both attack the other by going north, east, south or west!
No Upgrades (Wishlist)
I'm aware that this most likely won't change, but still: One of the key ingredients of the "Annihilation subgenre" is the absence of research trees, in my opinion. (And this is why I consider "SC2" not to be truly "in line".) I'd rather have buildings and units perform functions, instead of hidden stats being tuned. And it feels weird too: Needing certain factories to build certain units makes "sense", while having to research the same things over and over again in every battle feels "unrealistic". And why should it be possible for the armor, health, strength or even armament to suddenly change for all the units in the battlefield, anyway?! (It's magical!)
Weighted pathfinding (Wishlist)
Currently, units seem to drive to their destination the shortest way possible, completely ignoring the facts of the battlefield. In particular, units that drive towards Armies as reinforcements might want to take "safer" detours. This could even be configurable in-game. A player might define the pathing penalty for different kinds of territory. For example: Captured and visible territory (100%, fixed), territory known to be free of enemies by vision or radar (80%), fog-of-war territory (50%), territory with enemy presence (20%). This would mean, for example, that a unit would take a path up to 2.5 times as long through fog-of-war territory to avoid travelling through territory with enemy presence.
Area commands (Wishlist)
Another reason not to have panning on the same button. Area commands in PA are utterly helpful. Why not tell an Army to capture an entire area on the map? And the Army will capture every node in the area, in such an order as to minimize the time it takes to complete the full area command.
"Imbalance in Power" game ending condition (Wishlist)
To reduce the "mop up" problem, I'd like to see a "power balance" game ending condition. For a two player game, for example, one player wins as soon as they have superior economy and military, where "superior" would be configurable (factors 1.5, 2, 4, ...). Of course, the "imbalance" factor would need to be visualized (always, or only when close to the configured threshold).