Spooky Womble Mar 23 @ 5:25pm
Concerns about core gameplay
Before I start I need to make it clear that I understand and accept two points commonly used to dismiss criticism of this game:
1. This game is currently labelled an alpha, so it is theoretically far from finished.
2. This is largely inspired by Dwarf Fortress and similar games.

These facts do not invalidate the points raised in this post as my concerns are not limited to alpha issues and I feel the game has the potential to satisfy both Dwarf Fortress players AND a wider audience. Okay, now that you know I’m not mindlessly ranting I can make my point.

What has compelled me to write this is my ongoing concerns with the core gameplay. I don’t just mean one or two mechanics, but the way all those elements come together to create the whole; the core experience of play.

Having experienced Alpha 4 for a while now, and having read the entire development plan (all the stuff they want to add to the game) I have to say that none of it has convinced me the game is headed in the right direction. While solutions to some of my points are hinted at in the dev plan, it doesn’t seem like the plans actually address the problems I perceive, they just kind of distract from them.

Aside from bugs and glitches and nitpicks, the problem is that there simply isn’t any real fun to be had. Sure some people do and will enjoy it, even I did for a time, and that’s great. But for the majority it is a vapid experience. The reasons for this are varied and difficult to explain with any brevity, so I will try to break it down simply.

1. The crew demands make base construction a very linear process. There are no choices to be made about which facility to build or how big the rooms should be because crew needs force your hand, and credit/time limits mean there’s no reason to be anything other than ruthlessly efficient in design.

How to fix it: Make construction faster and easier, and make crew generally more resilient. They know the importance of their mission and shouldn’t be so sad or incompetent. This fix obviously removes some challenge, but whether it was ever really compelling challenge or just unnecessary inconvenience is debatable.

2. The game becomes repetitive too soon. While the early game is too linear, it at least forces some action to be taken. By mid-game you’ve done everything worth doing with no reason to continue. There is no progress or difficulty curve, and no spikes along the way, only a straight line.

How to fix it: Allow greater interactivity and customisation. Examples could be missions to complete, be it XCOM style battles or Star Trek/Civilization style diplomacy. These can be short term challenges to overcome or long term goals to build towards. Customisation could be design of the room interiors; different colours and decorations. Maybe crew ranks and unique skills, like a Captain that gives efficiency bonuses, a counselor that gives happiness bonuses, a telepath that can mind-control invaders, or an alien race that can survive without oxygen.

3. The lore is extremely weak. There is no emotional connection to the game because there is no backstory to speak of, no characterisation of alien races, and superficial crew personalities.

How to fix it: Create a deep lore and use that to inform every element of the game. So far the only example of that thinking is the replicators which are an imperfect technology meaning that grown food is still needed. Maybe Blue alien doesn’t like Red alien because they recently had a war, or maybe Green alien gets sad faster if he doesn’t have good food because his planet is richer than most.

4. Without significant additions, the mechanics create unsolvable balance issues. For example, if the AI makes a lot of mistakes the game is too hard, but if it makes no mistakes the game is too easy. If it is usually competent and only sometimes makes mistakes then the game is unpredictable, confusing and frustrating. There is no solution if the mechanics continue the Dwarf Fortress design philosophy. This is sad because, as stated earlier, I believe the game can satisfy both people who like that unpredictable gameplay and those that don’t.

How to fix it: Look at other games with unpredictable mechanics and see how they keep the gameplay engaging. Personally I look to strategy games like XCOM, Civilization and FTL. In all three of these games, how you manage your resources and plot your development is crucial. Making a single poor choice can start a chain reaction that brings everything crashing down. This fight for your life can be fun because the context is heroic and there is a chance to learn and be better next time. In Spacebase, there is no context, and there is no way to get better because there are no choices, only random events. The game needs goals to build towards and choices to be made, and it needs context to inform those choices.

These are my core concerns with the game. I hope that I have made my points clearly and would love to know if others feel the same way.

Finally, as this has been very negative so far, I would like to congratulate the devs for what they have done so far. I do feel that despite my worries the game is fun for some people and will continue to satisfy them as development continues. I don’t feel lied to or ripped-off and I don’t think this is a bad game. What I do feel, is that it can be much more than what they’re heading towards.
Last edited by Spooky Womble; Mar 24 @ 8:42pm
Showing 1-15 of 19 comments
< >
Zergash Mar 24 @ 4:19am 
Very good comment, relfects many of my thoughts as well.
ChrisPlaysLinux Mar 25 @ 9:04am 
has been posted a million times yet the devs keep adding content that break the AI even more.
Acorino Mar 26 @ 5:27am 
good post! :)
Meanwhile Mar 26 @ 6:55am 
I haven't taken part in the alpha, but this is exactly the kind of information I was looking for as I'm very interested in the development of this title. I sincerely hope the devs listen and are able to address most of your concerns because to me, they seem quite valid.
Dracoola Mar 26 @ 1:47pm 
likewise, good post (pats back)
Spooky Womble Mar 30 @ 10:35am 
Thanks for the praise. I really hope the devs consider the things myself and others have said and maybe give an indication of their direction in the next big update.

Of course they don't have to listen to us. The plan they currently have will certainly deliver a good game for a certain audience. I just hope they see the same potential I see for an even better game for an even bigger audience.
smartbombradio Mar 31 @ 6:28pm 
Exactly all these things.
my•glass•eye Apr 2 @ 5:26am 
I'm not really sure what the point of this post is. You think the devleopers don't know their game lacks a huge variety of things that a finished game would? You say you know it's an alpha, but posting this massive list of suggestions here just seems to me to be no more helpful than playing Spot The Difference between a game at least a year away from completion, and the finished thing.

The insinuation almost seems to be that without you pointing the obvious out nothing would get done. Why else post it? At the very least post this on the official forum where they'll actually see it!
Spooky Womble Apr 2 @ 12:43pm 
I am assuming the devs read all the feedback they can get. Even if they don't, putting out ideas to the community so that people know others are thinking the same things has a lot of benefits. I haven't ruled out writing something on the official forums, but even if I don't directly contact the devs, others might see this and then write their own thoughts elsewhere.

As for criticising an alpha, I also said that I'd read the dev's plans for future features and decided that none of those fully address my concerns. Of course there's no telling what they have up their sleeves but there is absolutely no point in staying silent and simply hoping everything will turn out well.
ФHarmlessBushФ Apr 2 @ 5:05pm 
Originally posted by my•glass•eye:
I'm not really sure what the point of this post is. You think the devleopers don't know their game lacks a huge variety of things that a finished game would? You say you know it's an alpha, but posting this massive list of suggestions here just seems to me to be no more helpful than playing Spot The Difference between a game at least a year away from completion, and the finished thing.

The insinuation almost seems to be that without you pointing the obvious out nothing would get done. Why else post it? At the very least post this on the official forum where they'll actually see it!

I think the points he put forth are all very reasonable and clearly stated. He's trying to give feedback to the devs, which is THE WHOLE POINT of EA games.
As for posting it on the Doublefine forum instead of here? Okay you win that one that's a good point.

Personally I think a pallete customization feature for objects or wallpapers in rooms might be a simple way to add more interactivity to the game.
I also have no experience with game development, so take all this with a grain of salt.

So the lore for the game is weak, but we DO have one fundamental piece, which is the idea of launching a seed and repopulating the galaxy after this grand tragedy or disaster or whatever.
They've set up a purpose for the whole building of the space base with that one piece of lore: Take the few survivors you have, regroup and rebuild, research the technology that was lost, and then proceed to send out seeds onto planets and other habitats. This would be another way to start a new base as well without feeling like you've just murdered your last one.

Also take a page from the old school city builders and management games. The campaign for Startopia is the most creative use of game mechanics to tell a story that I have ever seen. What should be a simple sand box game still offers a variety of challenging scenarios that force the player to use the game mechanics DIFFERENTLY than last time in order to win.

This has the potential to be a great game, but is obviously a fair way away from the final product.
It seems like the Devs are focused on getting all of the different mechanics and AI behavior the way they want before they expand into the more abstract elements of the game. It's always a negative when the mechanics of a game and the lore/story of a game don't match up. It takes away from both and interrupts the experience.
I'm personally in favor of them ironing out the bugs and getting the skeleton of the game to WORK the way it should before they try to flesh out and finish the product.
my•glass•eye Apr 3 @ 4:18am 
Originally posted by A Harmless Bush:
I'm personally in favor of them ironing out the bugs and getting the skeleton of the game to WORK the way it should before they try to flesh out and finish the product.

That's pretty much the complete opposite to how alpha development works. Alpha is generally for getting the features into the game, everything you need to make the game fun, adding and removing things as they are found to improve or detract from the fun. You stamp out bugs where they pop up to make the game unplayable when a new feature is added, but mainly it's about adding the features.

Beta is when you pretty much stop adding features and start fixing the remaining bugs so it's ready to release.
smartbombradio Apr 3 @ 5:31am 
Originally posted by A Harmless Bush:

So the lore for the game is weak, but we DO have one fundamental piece, which is the idea of launching a seed and repopulating the galaxy after this grand tragedy or disaster or whatever..

Which feels kinda special until you realize tons of other people including humans did it first, lol.

"I'm here to be the first one to reseed the galax-"
"A ship will be arriving in 20 minutes. Then another one every 20 minutes until-"
"Wait, Lore says I'm repopulating the galaxy. Where are all these people coming from?"

Personally I think the people on earth just really hated those three dudes so they tricked them into going 40k years into the future.
ChrisPlaysLinux Apr 3 @ 7:58am 
minecraft has no lore. lore basaed gamesa are boring anyway,
Spooky Womble Apr 3 @ 9:20am 
Unless they make spacebase even a tenth as creative as minecraft, then I personally think lore would help a huge amount. City builders would be a better example of a game without lore, but even they are still rich with potential and detail, not to mention a relatable concept.

Spacebase isn't really relatable because there's no context to anything, whereas building a city or a theme park or a zoo has clearly defined goals and challenges, and reasons behind attaining them that don't even need explaining.

You don't NEED lore, but you do need context, even if it's very subtle and implied. Besides, what's the harm in creating a great lore? Players such as yourself will enjoy the game regardless, and players like me will have a bunch of cool stuff to make my experience better.

It's another reason why I think this game can appeal to a wider audience. Very simple things like this can massively expand the scope of the game and the player-base with minimal effort on the part of the developers.
ФHarmlessBushФ Apr 3 @ 3:18pm 
That's pretty much the complete opposite to how alpha development works. Alpha is generally for getting the features into the game, everything you need to make the game fun, adding and removing things as they are found to improve or detract from the fun. You stamp out bugs where they pop up to make the game unplayable when a new feature is added, but mainly it's about adding the features.

Beta is when you pretty much stop adding features and start fixing the remaining bugs so it's ready to release.

Thank you for correcting me, I'm pretty damn ignorant about the whole subject from anything other than a consumer's viewpoint.
The progression from alpha to beta you describe makes perfect sense and I appreciate the education.
Showing 1-15 of 19 comments
< >
Per page: 15 30 50
Date Posted: Mar 23 @ 5:25pm
Posts: 19