I believe this game has lots of potential and some unique features and I'd like to thank the developers for creating such an interesting 4x space strategy. I also think, however, that this program is lacking in thoughtful design in an ergonomic sense. Even after a couple of minutes of play I became fond of this game but with a large number of ships fun deteriorates into tedious micro-management quickly, spending an hour to manually upgrade a 100 or so ships, etc. And while having the AI auto-manage things for you would be great, it just doesn't work well. It has never worked in any game I've ever seen for that matter, therefore it's critical to allow the gamer easy customisation of AI features and adding semi-automated features (such as explorer ships would refuel automatically even if their basic task to explore a sector was assigned manually).
My suggestion would be for the developers to look at other games in the genre: Sword of the Stars, Sins of a Solar Empire, Galactic Civ and Space Empires aren't necessarily better or worse than DW, but I think there're a couple of ideas DW could borrow from them, especially regarding UI ergonomics.
Some of the items on my list were mentioned before in this thread but it'd be confusing to just write +1 many times. Things I consider essential to comfortable gameplay are in blue.
1. Expand the manual on hidden things currently not described well. E.g. when creating a game empires can be quite advanced if not created manually, if multiple commercial centres (trading centre or whatever they're called) have an additive effect, etc etc all those things we can only guess about now.
2. Jump to / search option for names. If I've got an ship heading to, say, KV445, currently I've got no easy way for finding it's destination if I don't remember where I sent it or if it's automated.
3. Clicking on the destination field in a ship's info panel should take me to the indicated location, this could be an alternative/additional solution to #2.
4. Visible paths for ships: a thin line showing where they're heading. Ideally an option to show all paths or just for selected ships.
5. Sometimes it's impossibly difficult to find a position where I can open the right click menu for selected ship(s). Zooming out might help, clicking on many different locations also helps sometimes. Generally there should be either a toolbar/panel with the same options appearing if ships are selected even without a right click, or a keyboard shortcut to force the menu to pop up.
6. Seamless zooming, or zooming with less levels. Currently I use the keyboard shortcuts for quick zooming because the mouse-wheel is too unpredictable and it's visually unpleasant to see how the screen jumps between zoom level.
7. More filters for ship types on the ship listing screen:
- Ship classes (escort, frigate, ... - there're to many in the "military" category)
- Ships under construction
- The option to exclude or make more visible ships under construction in other lists: different colour or an extra column indicating that. It's difficult to tell them from the others.
8. The ship list screen, colony screen and galaxy map (maybe others) should be more interactive with the normal game view, as in if I select a ship in the ships screen then that selection should be applied to the normal view and maintained if I close the ship list, or I could just interact in the normal view while the list is open. This would require either the list screens windows to be moveable and non-modal (I believe they're not) or just move them to one side by default.
9. Meaningful names for stellar bodies - how do I know what KV445 is? Include planet names into moon names or if you prefer to have cryptic names then add extra info or a pop-up box that indicates location: sector, solar system and planet. A search tool (#2) would alleviate this problem at least.
10. Solar system information showed in one location: either when I click on the star, or in a separate screen, I'd like to see hierarchical (tree) list of planets and moons, bases on them, ships present in the system, indicated in a visual way whether these are assigned for patrol or just passing through. For the latter the ships could be listed along the planets/bases they patrol, whereas fleets and other ships should have their individual branches. A windows explorer like tree would be nice solution.
11. A way to tell whether a planet has bases (preferably a list of bases) from the colony view screen. I'd like to see where to build where not.
12. A way to tell what happiness/development/etc bonuses from buildings a certain planet has or will have if these are under construction. Would help greatly to see where I should build them.
13. Quick links to ongoing battles.
14. Warning issued for stuck production - either indicating that there aren't enough resources when the production starts or after a while if there was no progress.
15. An option to select whether state-owned ships should start automated or not. Ideally this could be specified individually when purchasing a ship for production, e.g. through a checkbox beside the "purchase" button.
Ship Design and Editing
1. An option to stop this silly naming for ships - I prefer a <class name><id> naming scheme, such as frigate mk.2 001, explorer ship 001. It's difficult to remember ship class names (Windsor and alike), and it gets especially confusing in the case of completely unique names for explorer and constructor ships.
2. The design upgrade tool should keep the name I gave to the class and just append/increase a tailing number. Currently if I have, say 'research base', upgrading it will reset the name to the meaningless 'star base', whereas I'd prefer 'research base 2' or 'mk 2'. It works for already numbered class names (LSP-1 becomes LSP-2) but not for custom names and not for military class ships.
3. Filters for component classes in the design editing screen. Now all the available components are in one list making it difficult to see what's what. Filtering both available component and ship components lists to categories like engines, power, command and life support, research, manufacturing, etc would make manual editing tremendously easier and quicker, especially when a ship has a large number of components.
4. Give more screen space to available and ship component lists larger. With hundreds of components these tiny little confined windows are difficult to navigate.
5. (or #15, preferably both) Group identical components together and just indicate how many of them are present on the ship. This would make the component list much shorter and easier to handle.
6. The checkbox to list only recent designs should remember whether I selected it or not. Currently it always turns on if save a design (not if I cancel) and it's very annoying to have to press it again and again. Generally windows should keep a better track of how I use them and remain in that condition.
7. Upgradable off-planet bases. Just drop the upgraded components, rename the class and let the base be repaired by a constructor. Ideally constructors should be able to be assigned to retrofitting duty, performing retrofitting repair on bases that need them.
8. An easy way to retrofit a large number of ships: the possibility to select a group of ships belonging to the same build class (identical retrofit targets) and issue a retrofit command for all of them. Should work from the right-click menu and from the ship listing screen.
Ship behaviour and control
1. "Go to location and engage enemies" command for ships to attack a group of enemies instead of having to click on each enemy individually for non-automated ships.
2. Non-automated ships should also auto-engage nearby enemies (seem to do it very reluctantly now). In addition to the "when to flee" option there should be an aggressiveness option too: actively engage, defend if attacked, etc.
3. Better way for organising escorts / patrols. I've got loads of automated frigates and escorts yet many of my mines have never seen a single patrolling ship. I believe patrolling should be moved to a system level, meaning a group (numbers preferably dynamically scaled to local threat level) of patrol ships should be assigned to a system and respond as a group to threats. There's really no need to have ships at individual stations, rather have a group per system. Also a group is much stronger than stray individuals. I believe the AI could do a very good job at keeping a number of patrol ships per system and direct them to deal with incoming threats. You can, of course, do all of this manually even now, but the program doesn't offer you any help at all for managing this and it gets very complicated to handle with a large number of systems.
4. A screen where I could see and customise how the AI organises patrols would be grand. I'm thinking along the lines of seeing how many ships are assigned to which system (with system based patrolling) and possibly assigning priority levels to areas/systems. Ideally I should be able to assign ships to systems from a pool of ships assigned to patrol duty.
5. 'Explore this sector' option when right clicking on a sector other than the ship is in for explorer ships. Currently there's an option only for the sector they're located in.
6. Explorer ships should approach distant planets to discover available resources within the system they're assigned to explore. Automated explorers do that while manually commanded explorers only travel to the star.
7. Ships that should flee when an enemy is sighted should really do that, not just when the slow space slug has already munched off some if its components. Explorer ships should be able to outrun scorpions easily but they fall prey to them too often. (this might be a "bug" instead of a feature request?)
8. New command: repair damaged ships and refuel all ships at nearest yard. Currently only damaged ships go to shipyard, and I have to send the rest of the fleet after them with a separate command.
1. Idling ships run out of fuel very fast. Decreasing idle energy need could help, for example by allowing solar panels to decrease/eliminate fuel consumption for idling ships, or a researchable energy-management component. The idea to have docking bay components to park ships is also very appealing, but this would only work in your own systems. Parked ships, of course, would be refuelled and would not consume energy. I believe both (solar panels AND docking bays) solutions would have a place in the game: ships that don't need to travel out of system (patrols) would just dock whereas other ships would have less issues with idling by design (with solar panels added). Idling ships should NOT have to return to base frequently for refuelling.
2. A checkbox for auto-refuel for manually controlled ships. E.g. patrol ships or explorers assigned to explore a sector would refuel when needed. This behaviour, if non-selectable, would disrupt combat manoeuvres so make it an option.
I do NOT think general fuel consumption (apart from idle) should be decreased from current levels. In other threads some describe that the AI can't plan for longer distance attacks properly, but it is the AI should be adjusted not the game. If overall consumption levels were decreased it'd make it too easy to conquer distant systems and the game would lose on complexity.
< Message edited by playedabit -- 3/30/2010 9:44:03 AM >