GSB - Regarding recent impressions of game at Indiegames.com


#1

First thing’s first… Sorry I’m late to the game. Had heard about GSB a while ago but just picked up the Pre-Order Beta and I really like it.

Alright, I’m not going to quote the entire impressions of GSB from Indiegames.com, instead I’ll just include a link for anyone interested in the subject to check out:

http://www.indiegames.com/blog/2009/09/impressions_gratuitous_space_b.html#more

The impression is obviously based on one gamers opinion. My opinion is slightly different however. I respectfully disagree with the comment stating that: “only hardcore strategy enthusiasts are going to get a kick out of GSB”. Yes the game looks great and is very smooth on a decent PC. Yes it involves Gratuitous Space Battles as promised with spectacular displays of weapon fx and damage. But there’s also an extremely interesting game beyond the paint job and under the hood. Even though some of the elements might seem complex at first glance, however, I think the game is perfect for casual gamers as well. This is only my opinion, but with a little polish the game can have widespread appeal. One of the few problems I found is that there is a lot of reading. This is fine for me, I love games and I have no problem reading or following instructions in games (as long as they aren’t long winded). GSB isn’t full of long winded text, but it is all over the place. I had no problem with starting the game up and immediately diving, reading and figuring out the mechanics of it. The problem is if I were to show this to friends and / or family member that is more into gaming as a casual hobby, and I were to try and sell them on the point that this game has some awesome space battles utilizing a unique type of gameplay mechanic, they would probably be immediately interested from how I describe and tell them about the game. Unfortunately if I had to sit them down and allow them to go through the tutorial levels and the disjointed reading of the text involved in taking the tutorial they would probably become lost before even starting their first game. This isn’t because they don’t like reading, or because they can’t read, but more because they don’t want to read all over the place. They’d more than likely want to jump in, create a fleet, and see the battles.

I find that GSB is approachable, especially compared to 4X strategy games and even RTS games in general. Although you could go into complex detail and strategy designing and giving orders to your fleet the game actually isn’t complicated. The problem for a newcomer is it seems complicated. Unfortunately that’s misleading and might also turn potentially interested gamers off and I think that might be part of why the comment at Indiegamer.com was made.

The game is still only in the Beta stage, but what’s here is both interesting and unique on top of looking fantastic. There might be room however, for an even more casual dive into the game though. Perhaps an even more casual tutorial for Dummies, without making the gamer feel like a dummy (and without calling the gamer a dummy either :wink: Again, I have no problem with the tutorial, but I’ve played thousands of games. Others may not have a problem with it either but that might be because they are completely enthralled with Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, etc. etc. etc. There’s an obvious appeal for the setting, and there’s even an appeal for the genre (TD type games). The problem is access. How easily can I access this game without feeling like an idiot.

There are a two FANTASTIC games that come to mind when I play Gratuitous Space Battles. The two games are:

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space - http://www.digital-eel.com/weird/

AND

Carnage Heart (Playstation) - http://psx.ign.com/articles/150/150304p1.html

Both of those games are, in my opinion, excellent examples of intriguing and unique gameplay. Both are accessible, specifically Wierd Worlds, but Carnage Heart while more complicated, offers something that no other game (specifically referring to console games but not limited to) and that is the ability to create robotic fighters and then actually program how those robots are going to fight. Carnage Heart wasn’t really designed so that just anyone could pick up and play it, although I think that was the intention, but the idea behind it was just so unique that it begged to be played because strategy games just weren’t made like this, ever. Weird Worlds used everything that makes a great 4X strategy (with a sense of humor) and stripped all of the time consuming (and even tedious) fluff and extras from the formula and genre while turning it into a bright and shiny game that held the gamer for 20 mins straight - because that’s about as much time as you need to actually finish the game… However, each time the game is started it is randomly generated creating a new adventure in a 4X strategy style universe. No two plays through the game are ever exactly the same. The difficulty level is broad but the learning curve is extremely low so that anyone can play and enjoy it.

Those two games have something special about them and like I said earlier, GSB reminds me a bit of both of them. With a little fine tuning, a slightly streamlined tutorial, and perhaps an easier to understand “post battle” statistics and descriptions screen, GSB would be set for even broader appeal.

As is, I think GSB is a great game and a great idea. I’m looking forward to all of the new features and updates in the near future. So keep up the great work Cliffski, you’re doing a great job!

  • Dodger

#2

Talking about niche games for hardcore strategy players is an odd way to refute the idea that GSB is for hardcore strategy players. :slight_smile:

The review correctly talks about the after-match assessment process and doesn’t even touch the spotty and clunky UI. I think it’s pretty fair to say that players who come to GSB expecting anything other than a spreadsheet simulator with explosions will be turned off. This could be mitigated by polishing the UI and information, but you’re still going to spend most of your time looking at the ship design screen (and wishing it had more information). That’s not really for everyone.


#3

It’s also important to bear in mind that the game is still in beta. Hopefully Cliff will give the UI, including after-battle stats, some more attention eventually. That could go a long way to helping a more casual audience get into the game.

But fundamentally I have to agree that this isn’t a game for everyone. People aren’t going to quit Bejeweled for GSB. (Which might be a good thing, honestly.)


#4

I’m with Supraluminal on this. First off, it’s not fair to judge a game that’s still in development, even if it says Beta. The game is undergoing some major changes already and Cliffski has made it clear that there’s a lot more to go. I wonder, does the reviewer follow the forums at all?

To counter his assertion that this is for hardcore strategists only: see me. I’m by no means a strategy game player. I play some strategy board games, like Settlers of Catan, and I enjoy some 4X games like Civilization, but I’m terrible at RTS and spend most of my time playing FPS. I’m also extremely picky when it comes to games, and yet, I really enjoy GSB.

It’s rough around the edges and certainly needs more work, but what I’ve seen already tells me things are going to continue to change. If the critics are reading, please consider the harm that can come of giving reviews based on early impressions of a game and how much things can change before the product is finished. I, for one, am hanging on to see just how good this game can get.


#5

Hmmm… perhaps I should’ve been more clear because not all people who enjoy games as a casual hobby find Bejeweled all that interesting either.

@Pnakotus: Sorry but Weird Worlds isn’t really a niche game for hardcore players, it’s for casual players though perhaps the genre is niche in which case, GSB is also niche… But the important thing is, it is a casual experience. This is not Galactic Empires or even remotely as complex. The reason I brought up Weird Worlds and Carnage Heart was because of the gameplay elements that were involved and the unique mechanics of them.

Those games aren’t necessarily for everyone, but there is broader appeal for them than just another tower defense game and easier to get into than your average 4X Strategy - which is more to the point that I was trying to make. GSB has both more and less to it than your average Tower Defense game or your average 4X Strategy Game, which is a good thing. In this case it’s because gamers have the ability to pick up and play the game with relative ease. The area that seemed the most grey to me was the tutorial (and the after battle status report). The tutorial isn’t cryptic, but it does cause the player to be removed from the actual game… That’s fine for some people, but I find the best tutorials are the ones that cater to and include all players. By include, I mean giving the player purpose and function. It’s far easier to feel engrossed in an experience if that experience isn’t being paused every 3 - 4 seconds, that’s one example. There are few games out there that actually have decent tutorials these days but I think a game (especially an indie game - any indie game) can benefit immensely by giving a coherent and immersive experience to the gamer, even through the tutorial, because that can attract all sorts of potential and wannabe gamers to said game. I find the Tutorial in GSB coherent, but not exactly immersive. Again, I enjoy the game and I’m all for it, I can’t wait to see what comes from future updates, but someone who might be interested in this game could otherwise be turned off by something as simple as this subject if neglected. In most cases it’s the more casual gamers (not necessarily the bejeweled players), rather the gamers who really would like to try different games but find them too mind boggling to afford enough attention if they don’t find the game easy to get into within a few moments, or if they find that the tutorial is more boring than fun. The after battle status report has already been brought up by others so I’m sure Cliffski has already heard the concerns, I just hope I was able to clear up what I meant earlier and why I used those other games as examples. Again, it’s just my opinion and it’s nothing personal, it’s just the way I see things. I’d really like to see this game evolve and become even better because I’m already enjoying it and I can’t wait to enjoy the final product. This should be obvious, otherwise I wouldn’t have paid the pre-order for the beta. :slight_smile:

Also, keep in mind, no game is for “everyone”, and that’s a good thing. Otherwise indie games would only be doom clones, tetris clones, or super mario clones. Beyond that, even hardcore gamers (people who play games as a major part of their lifestyle) are of different breeds and have different tastes. Some are Halo Fans, while others are Final Fantasy fans, and sometimes those fans don’t mingle… That’s just how it is. Doesn’t mean one is any less hardcore than the other. I assume that casual gamers are similar for different reasons though, most importantly, they don’t see games a daily part of their lifestyle, or could even live without video games altogether (shudder at the thought), but that’s just how it is.


#6

Well, he actually said that it wasn’t a review, it was just a preview… unfortunately, in my eyes, the preview was just slightly biased. The reason I say that is because had it been a gameplay genre that he really liked he might have had nothing but good things to say - which still doesn’t make for a good preview. Instead he should have just stuck with what is there, the gameplay that is up and running and whether or not there were any glitches or hitches. There’s nothing wrong with having your opinion, but good news it does not make, and that’s where the person who made that post on Indiegames.com went wrong. A preview is supposed to be news about the item or event, not an actual review. My main problem is I can’t agree with what he states in his post regarding GSB as being a game for hardcore strategy fans (mostly). I just don’t believe that it is. Truly hardcore fans might pass this one off because they’d rather engage in a full campaign proportionally larger and far more technical than that which GSB has to offer, like MOO, or Galactic Civilizations. That’s not to take anything away from GSB, I just don’t believe Cliffski is trying to make it be any of those games. The premise is simpler and much more direct and so are the in-game results, and that’s what I find most appealing about the game.


#7

The game is casual insofar as there’s not much to do; the actual work involved is not. Talking about how things like the UI will be improved is irrelevant to whether this preview is accurate or fair. I own the game and like it, and I think the review is on the money; it’s an interesting, pretty and complex game not for everyone. So what? ‘I like’ doesn’t equal ‘is good’, after all.

When I get home from work I’m going to post a mockup of an improved orders area, and I’m certain people can improve the design window. This will actually help resolve the games’ weaknesses, rather than being upset people consider an animated spreadsheet not for everyone. Reducing the barriers to players will help the game.


#8

I don’t think I’d categorize this game as complex or hardcore. It’s more “opaque” than complex. Granted, the more modules that get added the more complex it could become, if they actually add any wildly different functionality to ships. But right now its all a balance of speed/armor/shield/armor pen/shield pen. You could almost have sliders for those 5 stats instead of collections of modules and get the same effect.

Which is not to say I don’t like it. It’s a very elegant setup and it does’t get bogged down in it’s own minutia.

Anyways, in regards to the review, I also disagree that only hard core strategy players will like this game. Most real hard core strategy games out there give you tons of options to micromanage your forces, and I think a lot of us who plays those games actually like to micro manage our forces. At least occasionally. This game is the oposite of that… once you’re actually in the battle you have no control. I think that if anything is going to turn most players off, it’s that. Personally, I love that style of gameplay… one of my favorite games ever was Mindrover, which works on a very similar principle if anyone remembers it.

This game is really or anyone who ever played Homeworld, loved watching the pretty battles, but got pissed off (like me) when you had to stop paying attention to the pretty lasers and explosions and go look at numbers and manage you resource ships. I have the same problem in EVE Online PvP. gorgeous game, but for the life of me I can never remember anything about a PvP engagement except the status of my armor and cap and who was on my overview. This game gives you the time to sit back and enjoy a pretty game while still leaving enough strategizing to be interesting.


#9

I can agree with that; ‘hardcore’ to me is opposed to ‘casual’, but it also opposes ‘easy to learn or play’. In this sense I think the preview’s statement that only beardy people who want to peer at a spreadsheet are likely to like the game is fair - it even couches it in extremely soft language.

Anyway, time to improve the UI. :slight_smile:


#10

@Kashre:

I like the way you put most of that, and I agree pretty much with everything you’ve stated. Again, that link that I posted was actually only supposed to be a “preview” but because of the tone and bias in the writing it comes across more like a review. I don’t know why they would’ve posted it like that… I know it’s not exactly a big deal, but it might be a big deal to Cliff because an article like that (something that was meant to be a preview) could turn some people off, most importantly, it might turn off gamers who otherwise might enjoy GSB very much.

Another way that I like to look at it is like bringing home all of those classic Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, and all those other movies or tv shows with epic space battles, and bringing to your PC and participating in them at a more personal level. Watching them on TV could be entertaining and fun, but interacting and becoming engrossed in the universe of the thing means even more fun, especially if you’re into that sort of thing (Sci-Fi / Space Battle TV and Movies). I think this game can appeal to anyone who enjoyed any of the above mentioned titles, if you are the type of person who tuned in for the action and not just the dialogue (Did anyone actually watch any of those simply for the dialogue? God help you if you did ;-))

Anyway, I’d like to think that this game - even with it’s limitations, offers appeal to anyone who’s into big sci-fi space battles. Another reason why I think there’s potential for a larger than expected audience. Again, that’s just my opinion though.

@Pnakotus:

Hardcore also opposes “easy to learn, or play?” ??? I’m really not sure if I understand what you mean by that, but if you mean that Hardcore means that a game isn’t easy to learn or play I’d definitely have to disagree. A lot of people would consider a game like Halo a “Hardcore” gamers game, yet it’s extremely simple to play. So I’m not sure if I understood what you meant exactly, but if that were the case there wouldn’t be so many fans of those hardcore games. I think maybe you meant the more complex games are developed more for hardcore players because they take more time to learn and are far more complicated to master… That would make it harder for a more broad appeal, and in that case I would agree with you. However, my main points of concern regarding accessibility and achieving a broader appeal were mostly based on my opinion of the Tutorial in place and the lack of useful data in the After Battle Status reports. Everything else seems to be evolving transparently, even if subtly. Aside from that, there’s really not much I would want to change about the actual gameplay or mechanics. Fine tuning, tweaking, and balancing are about as far as Cliff needs to go regarding the in-game, I don’t know that it would be the same game if things were taken too far from the initial premise though.