Ideas to improve Darwinia

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neurocrash
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Ideas to improve Darwinia

Postby neurocrash » Tue Nov 21, 2006 12:27 am

1. Task switching key doesn't work in icon mode, add that functionality too

2. Offer a tracking camera. Camera babysitting is never fun. An option to have the camera follow the selected program might be helpful

3. Offer a direct WASD mouselook control option. For some situations, especially squad battle, direct control would be much more fun and immersive. The current click-to-move, move the camera, fight, repeat... system is unnecessarily cumbersome.

4. Offer toggle to First Person camera _and_ direct WASD mouselook control. The ability to toggle to this could be fun, especially if a cooperative multi-player option was created, such that programs could be controlled in real-time by each player.

5. A tiny bit of AI improvement for the Darwinian's would be helpful. Sometimes they just get stuck running around in a circle, commit suicide, or refuse to follow orders. Maybe this gets better after I play a while?

6. Ability to select multiple programs/select all. Sometimes I want to move everyone or multiples, but there does not seem to be any ability to rubberband or select all programs to move them from place to place.

7. Insufficient aggressiveness! - AI controlled squads definitely don't fire enough. Is there any way to make them use their guns more rather than just sitting there and taking a pot shot occasionally when an army is in their faces?

8. It would be nice if the mousewheel zoom could be reversed. I am accustomed to games where scrolling up zooms in rather than out.

9. Is there a key or option to have the camera go to the selected program? Perhaps double selecting a program (1-1) would select then bring the camera to them. This would save a lot of time and wandering.

Every frustration that I have with Darwinia is based on controls and camera, and these problems seem to occur with every top view/third person/"click to go" game out there. The solution? Offer alternatives so more play styles are available.

Additional camera/control options would enhance the game greatly without significant changes to game design or balancing.
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Re: Ideas to improve Darwinia

Postby xbskid » Mon Nov 27, 2006 9:08 pm

1. No need. Simply use the number keys along the top of your keyboard. 1 through 5 correspond to, top to bottom, your process list. It's easier to simply hit one key than hold Alt and hit Tab X number of times.

2. I personally wouldn't like this. Occasionally I'll forget to deselect a process and I'll want to go monitor something else immediately after I give a command, and I don't want to be locked onto a process simply because it's selected. I suppose it wouldn't be too painful if it was set up so that you'd have to select a process then hit a currently unused key, like G or H (I don't think these are used), to initiate the camera lock which would, of course, cease once you've deselected that process. I'm unsure whether or not the lock setting should be persistant or not (As in the setting is remembered and when you reselect that process, the camera automatically moves). In reality, I like the way the camera currently is. I prefer to be in complete control of where I look.

3. I don't think this is really suited to Darwinia. I mean, these are dumb programs (Hello Engineers). It would really be a waste of your time to sit on this one squad trying to get them to where you need them for three or four times the amount of time you'd need with the current system where you can simply say "Go here" and you can go do more productive things while they travel. And if you need 3 squads, you've just wasted a good hour getting them across your map because you had to control them one at a time. Right about now you're thinking "No, it would be optional", and I'm going to counter with "Pick one or the other". Games usually don't cater to one user's specific preferences, and Darwinia is no different.

4. See the Darwinia FPS thread.

5. I think the AI is fine. It's just like reality, really. The majority are sheep and will do as they're told, but you're always going to find some people that don't give a crap about authority. If they anger you, promote them to Officers, and then destroy them. Darwinia isn't a Dystopia.

6. Certainly an interesting feature. I got around that by using the 1-5 keys like I mentioned in #1 and simply clicking in the same place ([1], [LeftClick], [2], [LeftClick], [3], [LeftClick], etc).

7. I kind of agree. It would be nice to have them automatically go after virii, however that will lead to wandering squads, and I would not like that. I'd prefer squads to stay where I left them and take shots at virii that gets too close. I suppose I could deal with them actively seeking to kill virii, so long as they stay put.

8. Again, this is really preference, though I suppose a toggle wouldn't be difficult to implement.

9. Actually a decent proposal. Double-select it and the camera automatically centers on the process and moves to it (But not too close. Keep a comfortable distance that gives you a decent perspective of where that process is and what's around it).
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Postby neurocrash » Tue Nov 28, 2006 10:14 pm

> 1. No need. Simply use the number keys along the top of your keyboard.

I suppose, I just couldn't see any reason not to have this implemented as the manual describes. It is frustrating to _actually_ read the manual, and find that the program doesn't work that way ;)

> 2. I personally wouldn't like this (tracking camera)

I think the best implementation would be a toggle, so those that want to use it can turn it on or off, and others can simply ignore it and retain current control and functionality. This feature is requested simply for cases when I'm trying to accompany a squad or engineer as they move across the landscape. I suppose that one possible way of doing this is to have a key that turns to and begins to move towards or track the selected unit. This would essentially combine items 2 and 9. As such, as soon as you let go of this key the camera would be returned to normal control.

I think the problem that I have is the way that the camera tracks the cursor when you go overhead, then causes the landscape to spin. I tend to have a hard time sending things where they need to go unless I'm pretty much overhead, but the spinning gets me turned around.

If the camera is not going to track selections, then I would rather have the option of using a completely free camera aka "the debug camera".

> 3. I don't think this is really suited to Darwinia. I mean, these are dumb programs (Hello Engineers).

I'm really suggesting this for implementation if coop multiplayer ever becomes a reality. It would be interesting to, for example, have several players - one who is calling the shots and can control programs, and the others that can only control available programs directly. A few hours into Darwinia, I was thinking that it would be a lot more fun if some of my friends were controlling the programs that were running around the landscape.

Still, as a single player game, there are times when a squad gets stuck on a polygon, which serves no purpose except to make me want to play a different game. It would be better if I can just tell the program what to do directly.

> Games usually don't cater to one user's specific preferences, and Darwinia is no different.

"User requests are what computers are for!" - Walter Gibbs (anyone? anyone?)

I believe that one of the keys to a successful game (or any program) is to allow the user to choose their style of interaction. Don't support reversed mouse Y-Axis? Don't support key or control re-mapping? Don't support controllers vs. keyboard? Don't let me turn the music off? Any of these can make a program intolerable to different users. If it doesn't specifically impact the gameplay/logic, there really is no good reason not to cater to some degree of customization so that all players will be comfortable.

> 4. See the Darwinia FPS thread.

I would just like to see an FPS camera for use in a coop multiplayer environment (if that happens), so that the individual players would get on the ground and into the shoes of the programs, so to speak. The game would use individual player input instead of AI, so the same game engine would be in place. I'm not suggesting a whole new game be written.

With regard to the control scheme, what I find happening, which always happens in third person floating camera games, is that I'm trying to select somewhere on the landscape and I accidentally click on a program - or perhaps I'm trying to click on a unit, but accidentally click on the landscape and send Darwinians in the wrong direction.

I don't know if there is a better solution, especially without playing into higher levels, but I have found that a fair amount of the time the game is not doing what I intend to be telling it which detracts from enjoyment.

The thing that absolutely ruins games for many people is the feeling that you can't get it to do what you want it to. It then becomes less about strategy, thought, or creativity, and more about some barrier related to the interface or controls. It may be more challenging when the interface interferes, but certainly it is not more fun.

> 5. I think the AI is fine. It's just like reality, really.

That's fine, I just wanted to mention it in case this may not have been intentional. I've played many games with NPC pathfinding problems that were not intended, and sometimes even prevented the game from being possible to complete. If some of the Darwinians are supposed to be rebellious, then I can accept that. Maybe they should dance around or something, change colors, or make gestures at you.

> 6. Certainly an interesting feature. I got around that by using the 1-5 keys like I mentioned in #1 and simply clicking in the same place ([1], [LeftClick], [2], [LeftClick], [3], [LeftClick], etc).

Well, as I mentioned, I run into the problem of accidentally clicking awry, and sending the wrong guy to the wrong place. Sometimes I just want to say "all squads go here".

> 7. I kind of agree. It would be nice to have them automatically go after virii, however that will lead to wandering squads, and I would not like that. I'd prefer squads to stay where I left them and take shots at virii that gets too close. I suppose I could deal with them actively seeking to kill virii, so long as they stay put.

I wouldn't suggest that they would go anywhere that they are not specifically told to go - but I would like it if all of them would _actually_ shoot when they are surrounded by 100 enemies. It seems that the squad that I am controlling is the only one that can ever accomplish anything, which makes the ability to run multiple programs/squads pointless. The AI controlled programs just sit there and fire every 2 seconds while getting killed.

> 8. Again, this is really preference, though I suppose a toggle wouldn't be difficult to implement.

It's like mouse Y-axis. Some people use it one way, and others another way - most games allow the choice. After playing 150 games one way, it is pretty hard for me at least, to unlearn the habit, and I'm finding the mousewheel thing the same. I constantly do exactly the opposite of what I intend to do.

> 9. Actually a decent proposal. Double-select it and the camera automatically centers on the process and moves to it (But not too close. Keep a comfortable distance that gives you a decent perspective of where that process is and what's around it).

Absolutely. It would allow one to painlessly check on what each program is doing no matter where they are, and wouldn't interfere with normal camera control when not requested.

Okay, I have another one...

10. Allow selecting of building as destinations for programs. Currently, when I try to send an Engineer to a building, since I have click in the middle of the building - a place that the Engineer can't get to - they just circle around bumping against the building. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to me that to send a program to a building, you have to make sure you don't click on it.

Cheers!
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xander
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Re: Ideas to improve Darwinia

Postby xander » Wed Nov 29, 2006 12:28 am

Allow me to add my own two cents here:
neurocrash wrote:1. Task switching key doesn't work in icon mode, add that functionality too

As stated, unnecessary, because you can use the number keys. If you are in gesture mode, then you can alt-tab between programs, no worries. The manual does not reflect this, because the manual was written for the version of Darwinia which was released in March of 2005, and the icon system was not added until December of that year. If you want to alt-tab between programs, then you need to use the gesture system. You can enable this in the control options menu.

neurocrash wrote:2. Offer a tracking camera. Camera babysitting is never fun. An option to have the camera follow the selected program might be helpful

Meh. I think this is largely unnecessary. I find that, in general, I interact with units and the camera in one of two ways: either a unit is going through completely safe ground, so I give them their orders and forget about them, and worry about something else; or a unit is going through enemy territory, so I am constantly moving the camera around them to get a better view. In either case, an "over the shoulder" tracking camera would get in the way more than help.

Also, the world of Darwinia is basically dumb. You are required to control things in the world directly. I think that the tracking camera is somewhat non-thematic in that regard.

neurocrash wrote:3. Offer a direct WASD mouselook control option. For some situations, especially squad battle, direct control would be much more fun and immersive. The current click-to-move, move the camera, fight, repeat... system is unnecessarily cumbersome.

4. Offer toggle to First Person camera _and_ direct WASD mouselook control. The ability to toggle to this could be fun, especially if a cooperative multi-player option was created, such that programs could be controlled in real-time by each player.

These really seem about the same to me, so I will address them as one issue. First off, I have never encountered this "click-to-move, move the camera, fight, repeat" system, as you put it. I am perfectly capable of moving the camera while directing units to fire or moving them about. If your squad ends up surrounded by virii, I would suggest that you have advanced too far -- you should have killed the virii before you ended up in the middle of them.

Secondly, you say that such systems would be more "immersive." Perhaps, but I think that it would be the wrong kind of immersion. You are meant to be immersed into the granduer (for lack of a better word) of the world of Darwinia, not the minutia of it. You are not meant to take on the roll of a squaddie or engineer -- you are meant to control them from some omnicient point of view. In a later post you say, "If it doesn't specifically impact the gameplay/logic, there really is no good reason not to cater to some degree of customization..." I think that changing this would impact the logic of the game. There is a logical reason, in terms of story or setting, not to allow first person control of units. I think this is a good reason not to change it.

neurocrash wrote:5. A tiny bit of AI improvement for the Darwinian's would be helpful. Sometimes they just get stuck running around in a circle, commit suicide, or refuse to follow orders. Maybe this gets better after I play a while?

I, too, would like to see a couple of small AI tweaks. I don't think that DGs should circle a radar dish if they have been directed to it, but can't use it -- those DGs become unusable until you restart the level, or kill them off and recycle their souls. I think that the algorithm for choosing which officer to follow or absorb into could use a bit of tweaking, perhaps. However, DGs that refuse to follow orders, or who heed the call of the deep are just part of the game. They are supposed to be living entities, and we cannot be expected to believe that they follow orders all the time. Personally, I would like to see more random behaviour from time to time (i.e. Darwinians simply refuse to follow an officer, or run screaming from battle to the other side of the map and refuse to come back, &c.). Not very many of them should ever do it (i.e. not enough to cause problems with the game), but enough to let you know that they are all individuals. :)

neurocrash wrote:6. Ability to select multiple programs/select all. Sometimes I want to move everyone or multiples, but there does not seem to be any ability to rubberband or select all programs to move them from place to place.

Honestly, I don't see the reason why you would ever need to do this. At most, you can only have five or six programs running at any time, and it isn't that hard to order them about one at a time. I also think that controlling squads two at a time would be a bit of a cheat -- don't have very high squad research? no problem, just create three squads, and move them about together!

Darwinia is not just another RTS. If IV had wanted to create another RTS, just like all the others on the market, I am sure that they would have included a "rubberbanding" option -- it exists in enough RTS games that I am sure they know how it works. I am convinced that such a feature was left out on purpose.

neurocrash wrote:7. Insufficient aggressiveness! - AI controlled squads definitely don't fire enough. Is there any way to make them use their guns more rather than just sitting there and taking a pot shot occasionally when an army is in their faces?

The programs in Darwinia are meant to be directly controlled. When not being controlled, they are basically idle. If you want your squads to be more agressive, control them yourself. People have been bringing this up since the betas, and I don't think that it is going to change. Squads are disposable units, and have no sense of self preservation. That being said, I think that squads are quite aggressive if you don't select them. I don't know if it is a bug or not, but starting at version 1.4, they seem much more aggressive if they are not selected by the user. You might try applying the latest patch.

neurocrash wrote:8. It would be nice if the mousewheel zoom could be reversed. I am accustomed to games where scrolling up zooms in rather than out.

I agree, though I think you are using the wrong metaphore. You don't use the mousewheel to zoom, you use it to pan the camera up and down. you use Z to zoom in (or the middle mouse button, but I don't think that is what you are talking about). To me, it makes logical sense -- if you want to go up, move the mouse wheel up; if you want to go down, move the mousewheel down. Again, I agree that the control should be customizable, but, as it isn't, you might try thinking about it with a different metaphore -- it might make things easier.

neurocrash wrote:9. Is there a key or option to have the camera go to the selected program? Perhaps double selecting a program (1-1) would select then bring the camera to them. This would save a lot of time and wandering.

There is no such key, and I don't think that there should be, for many of the same reasons that I object to your points #3 and #4. Anyway, the cursor and yellow arrows give you a pretty good idea of where your unit is, and if you can't find it, you can always select it in the task manager, destroy it, and create a new one. Units in Darwinia are cheap :)

neurocrash wrote:10. Allow selecting of building as destinations for programs. Currently, when I try to send an Engineer to a building, since I have click in the middle of the building - a place that the Engineer can't get to - they just circle around bumping against the building. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to me that to send a program to a building, you have to make sure you don't click on it.

Yes, this would be nice.

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Postby neurocrash » Wed Nov 29, 2006 2:39 am

>There is a logical reason, in terms of story or setting, not to allow first person control of units.

Here, I was speaking in terms of game loop or the game's internals etc... in contrast to some of the discussion about a Darwinia FPS or other changes which would require re-writing the game. I can't debate it if certain design decisions make "logical" sense, since those decisions are up to the designers. What I'm speaking of with regard to camera and control alternatives are things that only impact how the player is able to interface with the game.

With regard to control choices, I just wanted to point out what seemed to me to be missing or awkward, because quite honestly, some game designers haven't considered every possibility. If after consideration, there is a decision to keep things as they are, or not to add alternatives in future products, then that is fine.

I like to think that feedback is good.

Cheers!

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