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My thoughts... and fears.

 
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My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 6:39:03 AM   
Texashawk

 

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I've been playing this game off and on for about 2 weeks, after reading the manual and watching a few videos. I wanted to give a perspective from a game designer (me) and someone who enjoys games like Distant Worlds and the WITE/W/P series, as well as some fears, and advice.

Imagine viewing a gorgeous engine running through a window that is caked with vegetable oil. You can hear all the parts, in all their glory, humming and whirring, but you can't quite see the engine working. You know there's something special there, but when you try to wipe the window to get a glimpse of a game system or a function, you end up smearing more oil around. To really see the whole engine in all its glory, you have to scrub and scrub and scrub.

For me, it was worth the scrubbing. I have purchased Matrix games for almost 15 years (my first game was Uncommon Valor!) and I have by this time a full idea of what to expect from a Matrix game in terms of accessibility/manual/developer consistency, and obviously I've been a loyal customer for quite a while. As a designer, the game loop is (when it works properly) highly addicting; the beauty of it is that you can as the player design your loop the way you want to get from where you are (small civ on a hostile planet surrounded by death) to where you want to go (king of said hostile planet). Research, combat, leadership, production, economy, cards(!), diplomacy, spying... it's all here.

Somewhere.

And that's the thing. This game could be literally the best 4X ever made. When you finally understand the relationships between the factions, leaders, Profiles, and Strategems, it's really bordering on genius. You can over time literally shape the direction of your empire, simply by the leaders you find and develop, the factions you support, the feats you attain, and the choices you make, without doing anything else militarily or scientifically. It's ripe for role-playing, and the game happens quickly enough that you can see your empire shifting gears realistically and dramatically should you wish to change your governing style. I am to the point where I enjoy the hard decisions about what to build, how to lay my LN, what armies to raise, what to develop, and how to play Strategems (and who should play them, and how to develop them), and it is great fun to me!

But to get to that point! Here is my concern.

It probably took me about 15 hours to get to this point, counting reading the manual, watching a few videos, playing about 3 or 4 learning games, and a LOT of trial and error. The LN system was confusing to the point of almost causing me to give up the game (and I play a LOT of wargames, both computer and board, so I am quite familiar with various supply systems in games), the OOB system was highly frustrating (what do you mean I can't build an army of motorcycles? I just researched them, didn't I?) the science system was RNG at its worst, I was frequently given situations where the only good options were far beyond my ability to pay for them, my leadership seemed to have the worst self-control or restraint because they kept pissing off the citizenry every other turn doing bonehead public things, I couldn't figure out for the life of me why a building that was supposed to take 3 turns after turn 10 was still supposed to take me 1.4 more (4/10's of a turn? Whaaaa?), and the cherry on top for me was when I was trying to play a Stratagem and the game literally told me in red letters 'You can't play that Strategem right now, and we can't tell you why'.

WTH???

That's when I walked away for a few days. But much like the excellent Tom Chick review/agonizing mental window said, I kept wanting to come back. I wanted to see that engine. I wanted to wipe away the smear on the glass and see what everyone else who had put in the time and scrubbed that glass over and over was seeing. I wanted to be in the club. And finally, I persevered. I am by no means an expert, but I can certainly play and know more or less why things are happening and what my strategic and tactical options are.

But I'm a 'Matrix guy' and I sort of knew what I was in for. When this game goes on Steam? I fear it will be a bloodbath of bad reviews and refunds because Steam players tend not to 'put in the work' needed for games like this. Distant Worlds could have suffered this fate but it went through 4 expansions and years of polishing, and it had a very loyal fan base. Ditto the WIT series, which helped to get it over the rough patches when rolling out to a new audience, as well as having a legendary developer's name on the tin. SE has neither of these built-in advantages.

So I say this to Vic and Matrix. Before you release on Steam, I deeply, strongly recommend some sort of guided tutorial game added to the game. I know that would be a decent amount of extra effort at this point and I know that some of the systems are either being revised or locked down, but I can't recommend enough some sort of game-embedded guide. This could be a seminal game for the genre, and I would hate for what may well be Vic's masterwork in his game development career to crash on the jagged rocks of impatience, ignorance, and frustration. I (and many others) chose to wipe that glass to see the vision beyond.

Many, many others, will not, and not only that, they will tell others how their elbow hurt from trying.

Just my $0.02.

-Steve

_____________________________

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 9:00:50 AM   
Shards

 

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Thanks for the feedback Steve, and glad that you came back :)

(in reply to Texashawk)
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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 9:34:31 AM   
scottrossi

 

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When you got the "You can't play that Strategem right now, and we can't tell you why", were you trying to play the stratagem before clicking on a leader or zone? that comes up for me sometimes if i'm going back and forth between stratagems and the map or leader lists and haven't reselected it. i've always been able to get it to work instantly once i reclick. just wanted to put that out there!

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 12:33:29 PM   
Kriegsspieler

 

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I do not have the cred of having been a designer, but I have played wargames -- beginning with Tactics II, if you can believe that -- and strategy games since before there were computers to play them on.

What Texashawk says here is completely on target. This is a deep, sophisticated and challenging game that is hampered by its unintuitive interface and the lack of transparency in many of its outcomes. An expanded and updated set of video tutorials would certainly help, as would a "strategy guide" that gave you basic "how-to" information on how to do things like handle logistics, build out your economy, recruit leaders, etc. I think you need to have both, because while video tutorials are clearly the medium of choice for those who no longer seem to read anything, they're difficult to consult for specific information.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 1:38:40 PM   
actrade

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Texashawk


So I say this to Vic and Matrix. Before you release on Steam, I deeply, strongly recommend some sort of guided tutorial game added to the game. I know that would be a decent amount of extra effort at this point and I know that some of the systems are either being revised or locked down, but I can't recommend enough some sort of game-embedded guide. This could be a seminal game for the genre, and I would hate for what may well be Vic's masterwork in his game development career to crash on the jagged rocks of impatience, ignorance, and frustration. I (and many others) chose to wipe that glass to see the vision beyond.

Many, many others, will not, and not only that, they will tell others how their elbow hurt from trying.

Just my $0.02.

-Steve


100% agree. Great game but I have NEVER spent as much time as I have on this one reading manuals, DasTactic's complete guide, forums, etc to even feel partially adept. I fear the Steam crowd will tear the game to pieces if a detailed tutorial (and not 8-10 hours of which like Das) isn't readily available.

(in reply to Texashawk)
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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 1:52:53 PM   
Texashawk

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: scottrossi

When you got the "You can't play that Strategem right now, and we can't tell you why", were you trying to play the stratagem before clicking on a leader or zone? that comes up for me sometimes if i'm going back and forth between stratagems and the map or leader lists and haven't reselected it. i've always been able to get it to work instantly once i reclick. just wanted to put that out there!


Thanks! I went back and checked out what you said, and it appears you are correct! I suspected it was something like that to begin with, but at that moment, after all else I had been through in trying to learn the game, it felt like I was being mocked, honestly. Vic, if you're listening, I'm sure this is the result of a message at the end of a case or switch statement checking strategem validity - I would recommend changing it to 'You can't play that Strategem right now, most likely due to an invalid target being selected.' That should cover most bases and not entice someone else to ragequit in a moment of sheer frustration.

-Steve

_____________________________

Lifetime "You Magnificent Bastard!" callouts: 5
Lifetime slaps across the face by a female: 2
Lifetime games that hold my attention longer than a month: 3

(in reply to scottrossi)
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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 4:16:27 PM   
willgamer


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Totally agree with the OP.

DC:Barbarossa had Cameron Harris as the developer alongside Vic.

The differences in both the game and the manual are very apparent with respect to Shadow Empire.

I wonder if Vic could bring Cameron, or someone like him, to address the substantial and important issues identified above.

No one can do it all; the game is brilliant, but another set of eyes could improve it even further.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 4:27:39 PM   
Malevolence


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Texashawk

*snip*

Just my $0.02.

-Steve


Brilliant. Very much agree.

You Magnificent Bastard!




loved OP's metaphor



Attachment (1)

< Message edited by Malevolence -- 7/13/2020 4:39:20 PM >


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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 4:33:41 PM   
CelestialSlayer

 

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Agreed it was one of those games were you had to work hard and study to git gud. Won my first game last night after three unsuccessful attempts. Great game, but needs to be more user friendly in various ways.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 4:47:04 PM   
Pymous


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Agree with OP too, good points!
I really think this is future classic. The foundations are solids, it can be further enhanced in many directions. Long live to Vic!

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 6:24:13 PM   
SCSNV

 

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I will say that I don't buy into the assertion that the game won't do well on Steam because of how complicated it is or the necessity to 'put in the work'. People don't buy things that they're not interested in, and all of the marketing of SE has made it clear it's a complicated, hyper-intensive, but comprehensive 4X/empire simulation. It's been very well-regarded and followed, even in Steam, and it will undoubtedly do very well.

That being said, I do agree that it may be advantageous to include some sort of tutorial/instruction piece beyond the manual. It's just good practice to do so anyhow. I just don't agree that there's any real danger to the game/its success if such an inclusion weren't made.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 6:51:21 PM   
Kolbex

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: willgamer

DC:Barbarossa had Cameron Harris as the developer alongside Vic.

The differences in both the game and the manual are very apparent with respect to Shadow Empire.


Interesting. I own Barbarossa, although I have shamefully not delved too deeply into the game or its manual, and I am considering this one very strongly. When I heard Cameron wasn't going to come back for another game after DCB, I assumed that meant the roleplaying aspects I thought were so innovative in the wargame space were gone, but I know SE seemingly has some of the same sort of stuff (subordinate relationships, decisions), so I'd be very appreciative if you could elaborate on this!

< Message edited by Kolbex -- 7/13/2020 6:54:09 PM >

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 7:47:27 PM   
eddieballgame

 

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For me this game delivers on so many levels which is why I have played this game almost everyday since June 4th.
Of course...Covid-19 has been a contributor, also.
Would an in depth tutorial have helped me in the beginning...yes, except I never use them.
I tend (need) to learn the hard way, anyways.
Yes, you can raise an army of a specific unit type.

I did read the manual (more then once) & watched a lot of videos (DasTactics being the most viewed) which did help a lot. (& I still consider myself a weak player)
So much of this game entails figuring out how every aspect of the offered options, choices, & decisions have an impact on the results you achieve, either positive or negative.
As 'Das' suggests, there is "a lot under the hood".

There is a lot going on in this gem & based on what some universities offer for courses...this game could be one of them.

Considering how many younger gamers are into action, graphics, & most of the info needing to be on one screen; when this game is released on Steam, I recommend it comes with a disclaimer...for mature audiences, only.

(in reply to Kolbex)
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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 8:17:47 PM   
Texashawk

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: SCSNV

I will say that I don't buy into the assertion that the game won't do well on Steam because of how complicated it is or the necessity to 'put in the work'. People don't buy things that they're not interested in, and all of the marketing of SE has made it clear it's a complicated, hyper-intensive, but comprehensive 4X/empire simulation. It's been very well-regarded and followed, even in Steam, and it will undoubtedly do very well.

That being said, I do agree that it may be advantageous to include some sort of tutorial/instruction piece beyond the manual. It's just good practice to do so anyhow. I just don't agree that there's any real danger to the game/its success if such an inclusion weren't made.


The analogy I would use is this:

I like to make complex Lego kits. Some of the most complex Lego kits contain upwards of 10,000 pieces. So let's say I purchase a complex Lego kit. My expectations are 2 fold:

1) It will be a beast to put together, but I like putting together Lego kits, so this is not an issue
2) The kit will have all the instructions I need to put it together properly

Now, if the kit is properly documented and the book leads me to finish the kit, that's the desired outcome! I knew it was going to be challenging but I was properly prepared for the journey by Lego, and the expected fun was had! Mission success.

But... what if the book was missing, or very poorly written?

Then my enjoyment at building the kit would be replaced by frustration - I would have to go online, look for videos on how to build the kit, see if there is a replacement/expanded instruction manual, and worst case try to build the thing without any help at all. Now, I have the exact same kit, and in theory I should have the exact same amount of fun, since it still builds whatever it is supposed to build, but the journey to get there is no longer fun. Regardless of what it was advertised on the box, my expectations can no longer be fulfilled because I was not set up properly to have that fun journey. I may get there in the end, but chances are my model will not look like what the designer intended because of that lack, and if I didn't really, really love to build complex Lego kits, it would almost certainly be returned, and I would probably think twice before buying a similar class of Lego kit again.

My point is that most Steam players, even though they may love complex Lego kits, probably don't have the patience to put together the kit given those circumstances, and I would hate to see that happen.

Does that make sense?

-Steve

< Message edited by Texashawk -- 7/13/2020 8:20:03 PM >


_____________________________

Lifetime "You Magnificent Bastard!" callouts: 5
Lifetime slaps across the face by a female: 2
Lifetime games that hold my attention longer than a month: 3

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 9:04:01 PM   
lloydster4

 

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Shadow Empire is always going to be a niche title because of its complexity. There does seem to be an issue with transparency. Learning the basics through trial-and-error will not be possible for most people.

Personally, I watched DasTactic's youtube series before I even bought the game. I won my very first game on Beginner difficulty. When I need to get some more info, I ctrl+f the manual and find what I need every time. Forum members are already compiling supplemental guides. The external resources required to learn the game already exist, but forcing players to seek out external help will drive away lots of people.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 9:25:30 PM   
willgamer


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quote:


Interesting. I own Barbarossa, although I have shamefully not delved too deeply into the game or its manual, and I am considering this one very strongly. When I heard Cameron wasn't going to come back for another game after DCB, I assumed that meant the roleplaying aspects I thought were so innovative in the wargame space were gone, but I know SE seemingly has some of the same sort of stuff (subordinate relationships, decisions), so I'd be very appreciative if you could elaborate on this!

< Message edited by Kolbex -- 7/13/2020 12:54:09 PM >


I'm blessed with the hardback DCB:Barbarossa manual. The care and attention that went into it is wonderful.

Almost every page has multiple color illustrations, Designers Notes, and importantly, Staff Advice sections. The latter explain many of the commonly asked questions and also give background and developer intent info.

Difficult subjects, like logistics(!), receive illustrated examples of play.

Additionally there are extensive designer notes at the back totaling 53 pages.

No editor is named, but someone did that job very well indeed.

Since Vic has mentioned his intention of a hardback manual later down the road. Perhaps (hopefully?), he also intends to bring someone of Cameron's abilities to produce it.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 9:51:43 PM   
Malevolence


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Who is Cameron?

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/13/2020 11:24:20 PM   
willgamer


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Malevolence

Who is Cameron?


From the DCB:Barbarossa manual in the A Word From The Designer section:

"This has been a dual effort between Victor Reijkersz and myself, Cameron Harris."

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 2:43:32 AM   
Malevolence


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quote:

ORIGINAL: willgamer

From the DCB:Barbarossa manual in the A Word From The Designer section:

"This has been a dual effort between Victor Reijkersz and myself, Cameron Harris."


Ok; thanks. I thought VR Designs was one person supported by Matrix. Maybe Cameron is on a different product this round.


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*Please remember all posts are made by a malevolent, autocratic despot whose rule is marked by unjust severity and arbitrary behavior. Your experiences may vary.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 3:26:00 AM   
jwarrenw13

 

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I agree on Steam and think some kind of guided in game tutorial would help a lot of new players.

I don't agree on the UI. I think it is good. I've never found it confusing. There is just so much to present that there is no simple way to present it. I'm sure it can be improved of course. Anything can be improved.




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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 5:00:05 AM   
eddieballgame

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: lloydster4
The external resources required to learn the game already exist, but forcing players to seek out external help will drive away lots of people.


If one truly desires to excel at any game, then shunning 'external help' is not the formula.
You get out of something what you are willing to put into it.
If one wants to be a successful Chess, Go, & even Backgammon player for example, than it is necessary to study & watch the masters of said genres.
You can 'get good' on your own, but good luck with that.


< Message edited by eddieballgame -- 7/14/2020 5:01:11 AM >

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 8:04:26 AM   
DasTactic

 

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I also agree with the sentiment of the OP that generally Steam users will be a different beast than the community here on the Matrix forums. Even here there have been some threads that have become personal attacks between posters - and that is pretty rare to see where posts tend to be respectful. It speaks volumes about the really interesting dynamic between confusion and passion about the game within our community.

And when it releases on Steam it will require a real effort to keep up the support there to answer questions etc which can be difficult when there is already such a strong community here. Hopefully, some of us will spend time over there as well to act as 'brand heroes'.

I've been involved with a lot of game and product launches and it is getting more and more difficult to cater to all the various learning styles. Essentially there are four methods people have of learning and somehow you need to try and cater for all or most of these.
'Kinesthetic' (touching/doing) is the in-game tutorial approach.
'Reading' is the manual approach but can also be an in-game encyclopedia and these forums.
'Visual' is reference tables, cheat-sheets etc.
and 'Auditory' along with Visual are in-game presentations and online videos.

Personally, I feel the game is too broad to really have a guided tutorial within the game and that only a small percentage of players will actually sit through it. I feel that there should be another simpler difficulty level below beginner (and rename the difficulty levels accordingly) that is much more forgiving to allow new players to break into the game. That way they get bitten by the possibilities the game offers while they stumble around learning the game mechanics. This would satisfy the kinesthetic learning style. Couple that with more relevant tool-tips in-game and the manual and it should help players get a handle on the game.

(in reply to eddieballgame)
Post #: 22
RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 8:08:04 AM   
Tomn

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: eddieballgame

quote:

ORIGINAL: lloydster4
The external resources required to learn the game already exist, but forcing players to seek out external help will drive away lots of people.


If one truly desires to excel at any game, then shunning 'external help' is not the formula.
You get out of something what you are willing to put into it.
If one wants to be a successful Chess, Go, & even Backgammon player for example, than it is necessary to study & watch the masters of said genres.
You can 'get good' on your own, but good luck with that.



Games don't exist for the sake of demonstrating the moral worth of the players, though. They're entertainment, and if you need to spend hours in pre-research to understand the basics of the game then as a player you need to seriously consider whether you A: Have that time available, and B: Feel it's worth it. And if you're having trouble understanding the bare basics of the game it can be tricky to make an accurate assessment of whether it's worth it or not, especially when you have a lot of competing forms of entertainment that require much less investment.

To put it another way, I wonder how well Shadow Empire would have done if it had been released when there wasn't a pandemic and corresponding lockdown giving people all the free time they needed to learn?

More importantly, though, from the developer's perspective improving documentation, in-game help and UI-friendliness is possibly the single best financial investment they can make. At the moment the game is fundamentally good but has a pretty high barrier to entry that makes recommending the game to others a bit difficult unless you're really, really sure they'll take to it. Lowering that barrier to entry can directly translate into more sales and more positive word of mouth, which means more money in the dev's pocket, without having to "simplify" or "dumb down" the game in any way. It also, from a non-financial perspective, means that more players can start understanding and engaging with the underlying strategy of the game instead of getting stymied by a basic understanding of the rules.

To put it another way, chess is a lot more fun when somebody takes the time to explain to your opponent how the horsey pieces move. Where's the pleasure in playing against someone who was just given the board and the pieces and firmly told "NO" every time they tried to make an illegal move without telling them what the legal moves actually are?

I say this all, by the way, as someone who didn't watch a single tutorial video (I loathe tutorial videos) and got by to begin with basically solely through in-game experimentation and extensively checking the manual. I survived, but I see no reason why it couldn't be made easier.

(in reply to eddieballgame)
Post #: 23
RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 3:23:24 PM   
jwarrenw13

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: DasTactic

I also agree with the sentiment of the OP that generally Steam users will be a different beast than the community here on the Matrix forums. Even here there have been some threads that have become personal attacks between posters - and that is pretty rare to see where posts tend to be respectful. It speaks volumes about the really interesting dynamic between confusion and passion about the game within our community.

And when it releases on Steam it will require a real effort to keep up the support there to answer questions etc which can be difficult when there is already such a strong community here. Hopefully, some of us will spend time over there as well to act as 'brand heroes'.

I've been involved with a lot of game and product launches and it is getting more and more difficult to cater to all the various learning styles. Essentially there are four methods people have of learning and somehow you need to try and cater for all or most of these.
'Kinesthetic' (touching/doing) is the in-game tutorial approach.
'Reading' is the manual approach but can also be an in-game encyclopedia and these forums.
'Visual' is reference tables, cheat-sheets etc.
and 'Auditory' along with Visual are in-game presentations and online videos.

Personally, I feel the game is too broad to really have a guided tutorial within the game and that only a small percentage of players will actually sit through it. I feel that there should be another simpler difficulty level below beginner (and rename the difficulty levels accordingly) that is much more forgiving to allow new players to break into the game. That way they get bitten by the possibilities the game offers while they stumble around learning the game mechanics. This would satisfy the kinesthetic learning style. Couple that with more relevant tool-tips in-game and the manual and it should help players get a handle on the game.


I like the suggestions. Coming from you they have, well, gravitas.

Your discussion of learning styles is important to how people learn to play games. I'm not sure I've ever seen a discussion about that before.

Learning style theory is really big in education, and I've been a teacher for 27 years following a military career. Now cognitive scientists will tell you that learning style theory as understood in education is not supported by evidence. In education theory, the idea is that everyone has a learning style that best suits them, and teachers have to find the best learning style for each student. It is a theory taught in universities and believed by many if not most teachers. But it isn't backed up by evidence. [For more search Daniel Willingham learning style theory and see articles like this https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0098628315589505]

What is backed up is that presenting new things in a variety of formats as you described them helps students learn, but that what works best for a student is situational. Students -- and adults -- will actually think they learn best in a particular way, but studies show that they actually don't, that again it is situational. So presenting things in a variety of formats will help more students grasp the new material.

So how does that apply to computer games? For complex games especially, having a variety of methods for players to learn the game will be most helpful. And you hit on everything in your suggestion. Have an in-game tutorial, have written instructions (rulebook, written tutorial, etc.) and have videos. There are people who prefer each style and think they learn a game best using that style. But what actually connects with them in a given situation might be something different from their prefered style.

For me, for example, I prefer a written step by step tutorial. Next I prefer just playing the game while skimming the manual and looking at forum posts. Last is videos. I don't like videos. I don't think I learn best through videos. Heh. But to learn this game I watched all the DasTactic tips and tricks video series, maybe the best video tutorial series ever.

I like the suggestion of a level below beginner. But we could call that a tutorial level, and give players a pre-set tutorial planet and then give them tool tips telling them to do certain things in a certain order and it would become an in-game tutorial. Like being challenged by one relatively weak arachnid at the start of the game. The in game tips could also be expanded in general. Also perhaps someone could write a tutorial for starting a game including planet generation and the first things that need to be done.

Beyond that the game is so complex and can branch out in so many ways.

I also think that it needs to be spelled out over and over for Steam release that this is a very complex game that requires a time investment. And it should be remembered that the game is going to be attacked by some on Steam just for the presentation, 2D, hexes, turn based, charts and graphs.

(in reply to DasTactic)
Post #: 24
RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 3:30:04 PM   
willgamer


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quote:


I like the suggestion of a level below beginner. But we could call that a tutorial level, and give players a pre-set tutorial planet and then give them tool tips telling them to do certain things in a certain order and it would become an in-game tutorial. Like being challenged by one relatively weak arachnid at the start of the game. The in game tips could also be expanded in general. Also perhaps someone could write a tutorial for starting a game including planet generation and the first things that need to be done.


That's the best idea I've seen to date.

It meets the need for a tutorial and is perhaps the easiest way to prepare for a Steam release.

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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 3:40:49 PM   
jwarrenw13

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: willgamer

quote:


I like the suggestion of a level below beginner. But we could call that a tutorial level, and give players a pre-set tutorial planet and then give them tool tips telling them to do certain things in a certain order and it would become an in-game tutorial. Like being challenged by one relatively weak arachnid at the start of the game. The in game tips could also be expanded in general. Also perhaps someone could write a tutorial for starting a game including planet generation and the first things that need to be done.


That's the best idea I've seen to date.

It meets the need for a tutorial and is perhaps the easiest way to prepare for a Steam release.


Obviously something like that could only cover a small portion of what the game has to offer, but players could be given a series of tasks in every area of the game that makes them look at the different game functions and do a wide variety of tasks. That could probably be done in about 10 scripted turns. I'm thinking a planet artificially reduced to maybe moon size but offering things a moon doesn't, maybe up to everything a Siwa class planet offers.

(in reply to willgamer)
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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 7:41:26 PM   
Sequitor2000

 

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As someone who is a long time gamer (I played the original Fantasy General on release), but a recent Matrix gamer, I think Texashawks warning is spot on. We all have to budget our leisure time and the investment in learning has to have a high probability of payoff for most busy people. Shadow Empire does have that payoff, but it took me 15+ hours of investment before I realized it. Why did I stick with it? Stubbornness combined with a conviction that the combination of war game, 4x, and Rogue type will fill a niche I never knew I needed filled. However, at many other points in my life (I'm almost 60 years old), especially when my children were young, I wouldn't have been able to make that investment.

I know a "Tutorial" might be too ambitious to pull off. However, a pre-rolled easy planet would go a long way. This planet could be included on installation. I suggest no raiders/slavers, no hostile majors on your door step, some nearby goody huts, enough resources for early building, etc. After enough of us in the community play it, we can create a consensus script for the first 10 turns, then pointers for the remainder of the game. The discussion of the first 10 turns will be very helpful for learning basic game concepts and becoming comfortable with the UI.

(in reply to jwarrenw13)
Post #: 27
RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 9:36:38 PM   
Malevolence


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I agree with jwarrenw13 that you need a combination of multiple methods for access to knowledge.

The first group of common mistakes are to use techniques for education, where the actual goals are training. Education and training are not simple synonyms.

You train the player to use the interface, identify the rules, etc. The act of playing educates the player, given the combination of setting, design, and simulation--- problem solving, critical thinking, strategy, planning, ethics, etc.

The second group of common mistakes are to allow all the features to the beginner and then dumb down the numbers to easier victories. For example, small planet. Weak enemy units. More powerful player units. That's a naive solution, despite being intuitive to some. This technique can work in sports and sports-like games, however, so it's easily identifiable to many.

If you want to train someone to play Shadow Empire, you give them a subset of the game's features for the purposes of achieving a specific set of victory conditions that correspond to available, flagged features.

Example, capture a neighbor zone with a provided set of forces. Nothing else. No logistics. No raise formation. No 100 reports waiting for you this turn. Training objectives are implied. Read map, identify terrain, move units, attack, etc.

Later, provide logistics to a front of friendly units. You don't get to control the units. Focus. You just train and master logistics to work for one SHQ.

The games progressively integrate more features in a controlled environment---like techniques used in real testing. More deterministic. Less PRNG.

They are essentially stand alone games built using the same code, but offered separately via the game's main interface. The hook for a new player in the lore is that these victories resulted in your ascension to supreme leader, etc.

The experienced player skips them and rolls a planet. Dad just hands you the keys the car.

Some other games try this as a sequential series of tutorial quests that are completed in the early turns of the main game--they turn on the features over a set number of turns. This tends to make experienced players apoplectic after a second game.

Scenario based games sometimes use limited units and directed objectives too. Scenario based games have the advantage of being ready-designed for training. Each scenario is a separate, compartmented game. That's how real training and exercises are conducted.

The correct technique depends on the design, and should be baked in to the code early. Game's with feature flags and with quest systems as a core mini-game have a simpler time with this integration. Imagine the need for conditionals--- If player captures X, then TriggerYEvent.



< Message edited by Malevolence -- 7/14/2020 10:12:57 PM >


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RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 9:58:57 PM   
demiare

 

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If Steve is that Steve and creator of awesome Aurora 4X then he know well when complexity of UI is becoming a huge problem.

I can't suggest anything reasonable about tutorial - my last played tutorial was in WC3. And I lost human campaign first mission Yean, it was so good to be young :(

But I will suggest to not overdoing on it, especially when game goes Steam. Even in casual games here most of players never complete game on default difficulty. And poorly designed tutorial will do more harm then help (Factorio story - they'd forced to redesign in finally), while good tutorial may require too much coding & design efforts from a single dev.

Let's be honest - game UI is atrocity for average player of GTA5 era and it's impossible to change it. Hell, even Stellaris is too complex for many, many players despite all Paradox's efforts. Screenshots of game interface will clearly warn everybody that game is ... wargame-like. So most of buyers will be quite hardcore players.

P.S. IMHO another option is to make a good game encyclopedia, something like Paradox's have for their own games. Sure, it's less pretty then good and complex tutorial system, but may require less work for Vic plus some of us may help a little with content for it. Dunno, maybe it's my personal quirks but I'm fine to play game keeping it's wiki open & used a lot.

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Post #: 29
RE: My thoughts... and fears. - 7/14/2020 10:47:59 PM   
Smidlee

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: DasTactic
I feel that there should be another simpler difficulty level below beginner (and rename the difficulty levels accordingly) that is much more forgiving to allow new players to break into the game. That way they get bitten by the possibilities the game offers while they stumble around learning the game mechanics. This would satisfy the kinesthetic learning style. Couple that with more relevant tool-tips in-game and the manual and it should help players get a handle on the game.

In Beta 7 there is a super easy mode with Robinson Crusoe (no other majors) and Haven of Calm (Majors start out cold or friendly.) Add in a tool tip to use this settings with 2 or 3 zone with one or two armies which would give a beginner a change to learn the game at his own pace.

(in reply to DasTactic)
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