Feature Asymmetry and Player Immersion


#1

One of the biggest flaws in nearly every RTS and 4X game is that the vast majority of features are symmetrical. All-too-often, every playable race will have identical weaponry, defenses, and support equipment, with just a few pieces of unique “faction-only” systems. This is a major missed opportunity to lend depth, alternative-replay value and stickiness into the gameplay experience.

Let’s rewind all the way back to the original Command and Conquer. One of the things that made the very first C&C iteration great was the fact that GDI and Nod had completely different forces and functions—that it wasn’t a simple rock-paper-scissors-nuke match-up and the strategies and tactics which worked for one player faction would lead to failure if applied to the other.

This type of asymmetrical approach is an opportunity to lend tremendous depth, alternative replay value and “stickiness” to the GSB2 experience, a factor which most RTS and 4X types of games seem - unfortunately! - to miss in favor of uninteresting generic weapons, defenses and styles (excluding the Starcraft, and Sword of the Stars, franchises to a varying degree).

In contrast, games like Supreme Commander 2 or Sins of a Solar Empire feel very mono-dimensional in that almost every single faction-unit has a comparable unit in every other faction with identical functionality, with just a few differences in top-level units and in the visual flavor of the generic army or fleet. This cheapens the RTS/RT4x experience to a degree where once any one faction is mastered, the mechanics for the other factions are largely mastered as well.

In GSB1, each faction had a very few unique pieces of equipment, but the generic items dominated the stage. The range of variance between factions wasn’t significant, except for a small few of the later DLC expansions. With most of the generic gear being symmetrical and overly-balanced in nature, it was easy to determine the optimal solutions for most engagements for most factions with a quick cost-damage-defense analysis. This does not add much to the replayability to the game; instead, it detracts from that.

My suggestion is to take those existing variances and push them much further than in GSB1 — remove generic weapons from the game entirely, and to make sure that the weapons of each faction are truly distinctive from one another (i.e. a wider range of kinetic weapons for The Tribe faction and equipment to really push their tank-status, etc,.). If each faction in GSB2 were to have their own full array of weapons and defenses and support systems, unique onto themselves, each faction will take on a compelling new level of depth in ship design and fleet organization and the player will need to learn and master each faction to be successful. This type of asymmetry will raise the challenge factor and set GSB2 even further above other comparable game experiences. This would give the player a whole lot more content to discover and enjoy.

Arguably, the greatest testament to the success of a game is the amount of time players spend playing it. In an age where player experience becomes franchise success and where games are too-often simplified to be easy to produce or play, it would be great to see a product reach the market which raises the ante on asymmetrical game play instead. I’ve probably logged more time in GSB1 and GTB than most of my other games combined.

I haven’t looked forward to a new release in a long time, and I am very excited for the prospects of GSB2. Thank you for your hard work!


#2

I would worry too much about the appearance of one race or another suddenly becoming OP’ed. Or underpowered.

When Tribe came out many people threw down the gauntlet and “OMG TRIBE IS OP”.

Certain race specific weapons/systems were officially Nerfed - one to uselessness and one to sub-par usefulness.

Also, most importantly, GSB1 (and from the looks of GSB2 even more so), the complete combat system is uniformly the same all around and I don’t think anything but a complete redesign would change anything. Regardless of specific weapons systems combat is a complete face each other and charge. Restricting design thoughts to A>Max damage before close combat, B>Max Damage during close combat, C> Somewhere between.

The addition of weapon arcs facing forwards pretty much nailed that .

So there is little ability to give each race a unique system that would not inherently cause an inbalance one way or another.

Berny
Still awaiting though.


#3

That’s the entire point, Benny—to throw the traditional notion of game balance to the wind, and I’ll use Tribe and Outcast as examples of this.

They were my two favorite factions to fight against, because the systems that would work against other factions wouldn’t be successful against them.

These two factions both possess some incredibly unique equipment that made their factions stand out from the rest. Going into an engagement against the Federation, or Alliance, the Empire, The Order or The Swarm, a good fleet just simply needs a few slight adjustments (if any), and it should be optimized for the fight.

Launching a battle against Tribe or Outcast factions, or even against the Parasites to a lesser degree, a player needs a whole different approach to ship design, weapon selection, and fleet layout to succeed. Tribe howitzers and Outcast snipers made for particularly dangerous challenges which really livened the experience of fighting them.

Reversing that role, however, doesn’t work if a player just tries to spam it. A fleet that is entirely designed around Outcast sniper-frigates with some strong anti-fighter support will never crack the shields of a cruiser. Similarly, a Tribe fleet designed completely around howitzers and auto-cannons will make quick work of anything other than cruisers with reflective shields, but, that’s only if Tribe ships come within range. As a player, these instruments provide unique tactical opportunities not available in other factions, and they are more than just “flavors”—they do reshape the dynamic of fleet design, but, cannot be solely relied upon for victory. This is why they become fun to work with (and against)!

The best way to think of game balance would be to imagine EQ settings for a good sound-system, with each faction represented by a different pre-set configuration. One faction might be very heavy on the bass, another designed for 80’s hair-metal maxed to the high-end of the spectrum, and a variety of configurations in-between. Even the strict and reliable notion of damage per second goes out the window, because a very high damage per second system could require getting up-close-and-personal with enemy ships at a range that’s far too close for comfort. Conversely, a game with a strictly balanced or flat profile will have an identical EQ configuration for all factions, rendering even the choice of faction to be moot.

If all factions have strictly identical equipment, with nothing to set them apart, then there will be little to differentiate one faction from another and everything becomes a matter of optimization equations. My suggestion is, admittedly, the extreme end of the spectrum, but no differentiation whatsoever leaves a very flat experience.

There is a third alternative, however, which could be the ability for a player to design their own weapon-systems and other features. I imagine this would be a tremendous under-the-hood effort, however, and a real challenge for implementation.


#4

I’d like to note that a little imbalance here and there is not always a bad thing when it’s done right.


#5

As I stated above (I think) as much as I would like races to have extreme differences - the game design does not allow it. The game pits 2 fleets facing each other in a very restricted area with maneuver being forward or not so fast forward. Physical Boundaries mean there will be limited flanking, no running fights, and speed will be limited by - borders.

You brought up the following point…

No… I don’t. A very basic design, a proper formation, and most of my fleets chew through anything in its way on player challenges. Unless I am playing a person who I know is going to put something Nasty out for me (Yes Angry Redhead I am looking at you)

Now I have not seen any challenge placed by you on GSB1 so I cannot comment on your style - but everything quickly boils down to very similar deployments and designs with quite limited differences.

You are pointing out the weapon systems - but there are only so many variables that actually apply in GSB. Giving a race incredible speed - becomes fairly moot when it will be cornered. Long Range Standoff weapons - in a map so claustrophobic that ships are practically placed on top of it. Firing Arcs great! But forward ones only, making that the only direction. Now I have not played GSB2 with the added classes - but the actual combat format looks pretty similar.

I am not disagreeing with you - but what I am saying is with the limited variables that is presented with us anything that can truly be a game changer can be a game breaker.

Really want the original Imperial Shield Beam returned to power? Mind you I think the Outcast Snipe Laser may… just may…

Berny
Find my older challenges Berny_74 or now recently just Berny


#6

The Xedilco confirm that…

BUT ScottMulder still got a point.

In GSB1, race specific module of the core races are variation of available module (Federation Beam ; Alliance Plasma), and they don’t generate any true gameplay orientation.

Now take a look at the Tribe: just the hull bonus and repair module grant them a new way of plying them (Hull raiser than shield/armor) and against (Increase your raw DPS rather than anti-shield/armor weapon)
My Xedilco (yes, it’s a shameless self praising ^^) come with module that boost speed, crew and power, all in one, but at the cost of it’s EXTREME fragility.
Where Tribe will use Tank strategy, Xedilco is a race of Glass Cannon.
Or, an other mod race: His Voice. They are the counter to Tribe, thanks to their numerous radiation based weapon. For them, the objective is to take down your shield, as they do mostly hull damage.


#7

I’m definitely aware of these issues in the first game and would like to rectify them. Totally different weapons for each race isn’t doable for such a small company as us, but I’d like to ramp up the variety, by adding everything from the base game, plus all its DLC, and distributing stuff more widely between races and classes. For example, in GSB2, cruisers and dreadnoughts have no point defense at all, they require support ships.
I’d like to take that a bit further, and am wondering about stuff such as ECM beams and shield disruptor technology being race specific. Plus I have ideas for cool new stuff that I’d also like to be race specific.
I’m currently in graphics + bug fix mode ready for eurogamer…


#8

Well then…there went cruiser spam 0_o

Berny
Anyone seen my Inventory Sheets - I don’t want to count 10,000 dollars worth of beer again.


#9

That’s the best news about GSB2 yet!! Variety is the spice of life, and if smaller classes become essential for point defense, they will take on a whole new layer of importance! :smiley:


#10

I like the idea of at least a few unique weapons and systems for each race, even if they are just improved versions of common equipment as well as fully race-specific gameplay-altering bonuses. with regard to how this game is shaping up with weapons now dealing %dmg to shields armor and hull, there is a lot more room for variation.

you could have one race offering beam variant designed to pierce shields (which lasers are normally weak against) or bunker busting missiles that wreck armor and hull. I liked the variation in GSB1 and I hope it improves more in 2.


#11

my 2 cents about this topic …
generic modules, common to all races, should be considerably cheaper and with performance sensibly inferior to race-specific ones.
You could build a cheap cruiser equipped with standard components or an expensive one with your race specific modules.
In this way player can choose between “quality over quantity” or “quantity has a quality all its own”!


#12

I agree on this method… if it’s feasible. Anyone ever throw dice playing Starfleet Battles? There were many common technology types in that game as well, and each race had their own strengths and weaknesses to boot. I liked the Andromedans, who could absorb enemy energy attacks and use the power to charge their weapons and repair their shields. If you ever played Pax Imperia, you might remember that the races had some customizable features, but the tech tree was identical for everyone… that could be another option.


#13

I am fine with adding the asymmetry feature, but wish to keep the ability to use the existing generic modules as well.


#14

There is a big, big problem with this:

When one faction has a great strength and a great weakness, then when fighting that faction you know what to expect and know how to capitalize on it.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say (For scientific purposes) the Federation has a massive weapon strength buff, and a massive shield debuff.

So, when fighting them. One guy knows what the try and minimize (Account for low shields with their fleet) and the other knows what to capitalize on. So battles become predicable slogs, with both sides just desperately trying to secure enough buffs to capitalize on the enemy’s weakness.

Fleets that are being challenged just need to account for:

  • Various races and their buffs.
  • Weaknesses and abilities to capitalize on them.

While fleets on the offensive need to account for similar things:

  • Your race and it’s buffs
  • The enemy’s weaknesses and capitalizing on them.

So battles are predictable as hell, and in the end they aren’t interesting because the result is generally determined from the get-go. And has little in the way of surprises against good fleets.

It makes the battles worse.


#15

i personally think that that event happens when this is done poorly

the key is to make the differences in a way that gives that race a unique feature but don’t make them more weak or powerful than any other

for example
side A moves 10% slower but turns 20% faster
their shields charge 50% faster but are 40% weeker (they have less capacity)

side B has armor that is both 50% more reflective and strong, but has weaker shields and hulls
its weapons also have long range AND minimum range. A faster fire rate but less alpha damage

the goal is to make disadvantages get covered up by the advantages

not give arbitrary buffs and debuffs that put gaping holes in the ability of the ship

as for tank ship spam, these were just examples


#16

That’s exactly what I did however, and it didn’t work out.


#17

not exactly, see you loder the overall ability for hulls of that race to take damage
in my examples weaknesses in the the shields per se were counterbalanced by buffed armor or hull

if you give race specials like the one you proposed it will get unbalanced, because we are effectively doing making different classes of vehicles – except it’s an entire race

for balance two base things should probably be achieved
average damage output between races should be close enough so that one race doesn’t have enough to clean up all the others (say 20-50 dpm (for an entire ship not a single weapon))
likewise they should also be able to resist damage from basic weapons (things that are masters of none) for an equal amount of time whilst having a reasonable setup (no tanks) with the races abilities thought of during the ship’s construction.

now if you thought i wanted something like starcraft 2’s asymmetry
first i’m not smart enough to think of how to do that myself
second that system probably won’t work in a game like this because of its hands of 2d style

asymmetry in this situation in my opinion is best used for giving the races a unique flavor in the same way their hulls do
the outcasts dlc (although i don’t own it yet) is a good example of what i am thinking about