Sword of the Stars demo

Talk about strategy games like MoO series, Civilization, Europa Universalis, etc.

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Kharagh
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#31 Post by Kharagh » Wed Aug 16, 2006 8:34 am

You can change the focus by doubleclicking the middle mouse button on a ship or a planet, both friendly and hostile :)

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#32 Post by Daveybaby » Wed Aug 16, 2006 8:54 am

Just got around to downloading the demo. First impressions:

Its very much a streamlined, cut down version of this kind of game. What's odd is that it really feels like somebody tried to make a moo-a-like for consoles, but its only coming out on PC. Weird.

I like the way tech works - kinda like moo1 in not having guaranteed access to all techs keeps things interesting and forces you to plan your research instead of going through the same sequence of techs each and every game. Dunno why they felt the need for a 3-d rotatey spinny roundy interface though. The marketing people probably insisted on it, i guess.

3-d starmap. Very pretty and all that. But it gets a bit hard to keep track of where your fleets are after a while, and it's next to impossible to get an at-a-glance overview of the state of your empire, especially once the explored area gets bigger than a dozen or so systems. God only knows what it's going to be like with larger maps in the full game. This has pretty much convinced me that 2-d is the way to go in these matters.

Ship design sucks, IMO. Way too simplistic. Horrible UI. A huge screen with nothing to do in it. Blech.

Hate the faffing around keeping ships fueled. Pointless tedious micromanagement. Is this a strategy game or a logistics simulator?

In general the game needs an awful lot of UI work. They have tons of screen area sitting idle, and yet a lot of stuff is still really badly laid out and non-intuitive, like that crappy round button in the lower right that exits the research screen. Speaking of research, it took me quite a while to realise that, though i'd clicked a tech, and it told me there were 10 turns to go, the game hadnt actually started researching yet because i hadnt clicked the big blob that said 'research', because i'd mistaken it for the screen title instead of a button. Ugh. Also, the UI is really inconsistent, with teeeny text buttons for some functions, HUUUUUGE text buttons for others and graphical icons for yet others. Button placement totally inconsistent. Its like somebody took bits of 4 different games and glued them together.

Controlling ships in combat seems really hit and miss (and is there a way to pause the combat?) and also seems pretty much devoid of much in the way of meaningful tactics. Quite pretty though, which i guess is all that matters really.

Overall: seemingly lacks depth and variety (though i may be proven wrong as i play more), but also doesnt seem to have much in the way of strategy or tactics (again, i may change my mind with further play). Looks quite pretty, but the UI is dreadful. Despite all this am actually quite looking forward to having another play around tonight.
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utilae
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#33 Post by utilae » Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:42 am

First of all, Davey Baby. Your Website is Not Working. I try http://www.cowproject.org/ and it does not work. Now that you know, you will fix it? I do like to know how the various Moo2 style games are going in there development. I just wish there were more in development and maybe one will actually get it right. At least we still have Moo2. Though it does get a bit boring with the same techs all the time, but still fun.
Daveybaby wrote: I like the way tech works - kinda like moo1 in not having guaranteed access to all techs keeps things interesting and forces you to plan your research instead of going through the same sequence of techs each and every game. Dunno why they felt the need for a 3-d rotatey spinny roundy interface though. The marketing people probably insisted on it, i guess.
Yes, that 3D tech interface ruins this game.
Daveybaby wrote: 3-d starmap. Very pretty and all that. But it gets a bit hard to keep track of where your fleets are after a while, and it's next to impossible to get an at-a-glance overview of the state of your empire, especially once the explored area gets bigger than a dozen or so systems. God only knows what it's going to be like with larger maps in the full game. This has pretty much convinced me that 2-d is the way to go in these matters.
Yes, I am against 3d maps. 2D is so much more intuitive.
Daveybaby wrote: Hate the faffing around keeping ships fueled. Pointless tedious micromanagement. Is this a strategy game or a logistics simulator?
Yeah. It's annoying. What happens when you have hundreds of ships.
Daveybaby wrote: like that crappy round button in the lower right that exits the research screen. Speaking of research, it took me quite a while to realise that, though i'd clicked a tech, and it told me there were 10 turns to go, the game hadnt actually started researching yet because i hadnt clicked the big blob that said 'research', because i'd mistaken it for the screen title instead of a button. Ugh.
There's a round button to exit the research screen? I keep wondering how to exit the research screen when you've zoomed in all the way. The silly thing is that you have to zoom in all the way to see what the tech is. But zooming out is too slow and is the only way to exit the screen.
Daveybaby wrote: Overall: seemingly lacks depth and variety (though i may be proven wrong as i play more), but also doesnt seem to have much in the way of strategy or tactics (again, i may change my mind with further play). Looks quite pretty, but the UI is dreadful. Despite all this am actually quite looking forward to having another play around tonight.
I like the simplicity though. These kind of games need less crap overloading your mind with information. Look at Moo3, displays all sorts of useless rubbish. These kind of games need a dictator as the designer, not a PR department. Useless information must be ruthlessly cut out like fat off the bone, hehe.

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#34 Post by Daveybaby » Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:54 am

utilae wrote:First of all, Davey Baby. Your Website is Not Working. I try http://www.cowproject.org/ and it does not work. Now that you know, you will fix it?
Heh, i... umm... accidentally let the domain expire. :oops:
Ironically, once i actually put the webpage up, i pretty much stopped working on the thing. However, i've recently been working on the GUI front end (called, for want of a better name, cowgui) which is like my version of GiGi (but probably not as good). Reinventing the wheel, i know, but i'm primarily doing it for the enjoyment and for the learning experience.

Once i'm finished with cowgui i will probably start to port cow over to it (i still work on the design doc from time to time), and continue development from there. Maybe at that point i will put up a webpage again. But its always gonna be going at a snails pace, so i wouldnt hold my breath if i was you.
I like the simplicity though. These kind of games need less crap overloading your mind with information. Look at Moo3, displays all sorts of useless rubbish. These kind of games need a dictator as the designer, not a PR department. Useless information must be ruthlessly cut out like fat off the bone, hehe.
Yeah, streamlined can be good, as long as they use that streamlining to enhance the strategic and tactical aspects of the gameplay. But i havent seen much sign of that yet with this game.
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#35 Post by marhawkman » Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:15 pm

I dunno. MoO3 has many flaws, but the useless info (IMO) isn't one of them. If you don't care, ignore it. As a whole it's more interesting than boring gifs that don't change.
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#36 Post by utilae » Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:01 am

You can't ignore it when you have to search through 50 buttons, images and text to find the thing you are looking for. In the end, if there is less information and unnecesary gui parts, the turn would go faster, since the player can see that which he needs.

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#37 Post by Kharagh » Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:12 am

utilae wrote: There's a round button to exit the research screen? I keep wondering how to exit the research screen when you've zoomed in all the way. The silly thing is that you have to zoom in all the way to see what the tech is. But zooming out is too slow and is the only way to exit the screen.
You can double click on the techs to zoom in and out fast. Using that the tech screen isn't quite that bad anymore.

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#38 Post by utilae » Sun Aug 20, 2006 12:09 am

Look, a review by IGN:
http://pc.ign.com/articles/726/726551p3.html

The review highlighted something I noticed, but didn't mention here.

*Sword Of The Stars focuses on combat - While I would think this is something I would like, the fact that combat is RTS makes the game boring for me. I would much perfer turn based combat, because it worked best that way in Moo2.

*The tech tree only has ship technology - So there are no techs that improve infrastructure, research, production, diplomacy, spying, etc. Just techs to go on ships. While this would also be liked by me, the fact that all the weapons are very similar, makes it boring for me.

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#39 Post by EoD » Sun Aug 20, 2006 1:01 pm

No, there are not only ship techs. It is also possible to research technology e.g. to improve the production rate or to make communication possible between different races (a tech for diplomacy).

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#40 Post by marhawkman » Sun Aug 20, 2006 10:12 pm

EoD wrote:No, there are not only ship techs. It is also possible to research technology e.g. to improve the production rate or to make communication possible between different races (a tech for diplomacy).
I think the point was that there are very few of those compared to weapons and such...
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#41 Post by Aquitaine » Sat Sep 09, 2006 1:52 am

I just downloaded this from direct2drive a couple days ago (they have a patch for it out that deals with some of the micromanagement/refueling issues).

I don't necessarily agree with all of the design decisions, but I understand them. This isn't 'Civ + Total War' - just like GalCiv is Civ in space, this is War in space. Everything that isn't war is just waiting around to have a better war. And that's okay.

Haven't played too much of it yet but it seems like a nice shot off the 4X bow. Some things to be learned here.
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#42 Post by grinningman » Tue Sep 12, 2006 6:14 am

Daveybaby wrote: 3-d starmap. Very pretty and all that. But it gets a bit hard to keep track of where your fleets are after a while, and it's next to impossible to get an at-a-glance overview of the state of your empire, especially once the explored area gets bigger than a dozen or so systems. God only knows what it's going to be like with larger maps in the full game. This has pretty much convinced me that 2-d is the way to go in these matters.

Ship design sucks, IMO. Way too simplistic. Horrible UI. A huge screen with nothing to do in it. Blech.

Hate the faffing around keeping ships fueled. Pointless tedious micromanagement. Is this a strategy game or a logistics simulator?

In general the game needs an awful lot of UI work. They have tons of screen area sitting idle, and yet a lot of stuff is still really badly laid out and non-intuitive, like that crappy round button in the lower right that exits the research screen. Speaking of research, it took me quite a while to realise that, though i'd clicked a tech, and it told me there were 10 turns to go, the game hadnt actually started researching yet because i hadnt clicked the big blob that said 'research', because i'd mistaken it for the screen title instead of a button. Ugh. Also, the UI is really inconsistent, with teeeny text buttons for some functions, HUUUUUGE text buttons for others and graphical icons for yet others. Button placement totally inconsistent. Its like somebody took bits of 4 different games and glued them together.

Controlling ships in combat seems really hit and miss (and is there a way to pause the combat?) and also seems pretty much devoid of much in the way of meaningful tactics. Quite pretty though, which i guess is all that matters really.

Overall: seemingly lacks depth and variety (though i may be proven wrong as i play more), but also doesnt seem to have much in the way of strategy or tactics (again, i may change my mind with further play). Looks quite pretty, but the UI is dreadful. Despite all this am actually quite looking forward to having another play around tonight.
I suggest you stick with it a bit longer (if you haven't already). There is certainly more depth and varitey present than is apparent at first glance. The designers have followed a Moo1 philosophy for much of the game (randomised techs, no refitting ships, streamlined planet management) which I would have thought would appeal to you. The UI limitations are partially alleviated by the patch, and I can live with those that remain once I get into the game.

I quite enjoy the fuel logistics, and these are minimised with the patch, which sets tankers to auto-refuel by default. As you research better engine types, fuel becomes less important. I also enjoy the 3-d strategic map. It is confusing at first, but I think you'll get used to it. It is also strategically different to a 2-d map - i.e. it isn't there as a gimmick.

To those complaining about the research screen - double click on a tech to zoom in, double click to zoom out again. I quite like the 3-d room, but the controls to look around the room and zoom in and out could be better. Hotkeys are good if you are frustrated by the button positions (e.g. R opens and closes the research screen).

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#43 Post by utilae » Tue Sep 12, 2006 10:57 am

In the end, I think that these kind of games need GUI systems that allow for efficient user input. Turn based games are slow as it is without players having to find there was through 3D maps and tech trees. 2D is the most efficient and fast means of user input. And I think that the tech tree GUI is a disaster. I mean it is not clear at all that double click zooms in or out. I think a 2d GUI, like what Titan Quest has for its skill tree looks better than that tech tree GUI does anyway.

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#44 Post by Daveybaby » Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:19 am

Hi grinningman, sure i've seen you around somewhere before :P
grinningman wrote:I suggest you stick with it a bit longer (if you haven't already). There is certainly more depth and varitey present than is apparent at first glance. The designers have followed a Moo1 philosophy for much of the game (randomised techs, no refitting ships, streamlined planet management) which I would have thought would appeal to you. The UI limitations are partially alleviated by the patch, and I can live with those that remain once I get into the game.
I actually really like the tech model - just not the UI. Even after playing with the demo for a while, i still found it frustrating trying to decide which tech to choose - e.g. if i have a choice of several weapons techs, its difficult to tell at a glance which is the best choice since to display the bar graphs you have to scroll around, zoom in, try to remember their vague positions (since you get no hard numbers), then zoom out, scroll around again, zoom in again, and try and figure out if the bars are actually bigger or smaller than those for the previous weapon. Maybe keeping a ruler handy would help.

Similarly, lots of techs dont really give you any idea what they actually do. Several times i was designing a ship when i suddenly noticed i had a new mission or command section, and didnt really have any idea how it got there. Eventually you figure it out, but the info in the tech screen is pretty useless in general. As with the ship design screen, they have a huge amount of screen real-estate filled up with 3d graphics, and very little given over to information and controls.

Its just terrible ergonomics. The information is all there somewhere, but the presentation of it is so poor that it becomes nearly useless. They really need to hire somebody who understands how people process information, rather than just let the 3d graphics people design it all. Hopefully things will improve with further patches.
I quite enjoy the fuel logistics, and these are minimised with the patch, which sets tankers to auto-refuel by default. As you research better engine types, fuel becomes less important.
Yeah, the fuel logistics did get a whole lot less tedious once i discovered the auto-refuel button (though it would be nice if you could command tankers to automatically go and refill their tanks at the nearest system once they were empty). If the patch improves things then that would definitely help.
I also enjoy the 3-d strategic map. It is confusing at first, but I think you'll get used to it. It is also strategically different to a 2-d map - i.e. it isn't there as a gimmick.
Yeah, possibly. I doubt it adds as much strategy as it actually subtracts via poor presentation of information though.

Despite all this (hopefully constructive) criticism, I'm actually planning to buy the game at some point in the future. One thing i have noticed is that the developers really seem to listen to the users ideas, and that bodes well for the future.
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#45 Post by MikkoM » Tue Sep 12, 2006 3:32 pm

utilae wrote:I like the simplicity though. These kind of games need less crap overloading your mind with information. Look at Moo3, displays all sorts of useless rubbish. These kind of games need a dictator as the designer, not a PR department. Useless information must be ruthlessly cut out like fat off the bone, hehe.
A little off topic:

What do you mean by useless information? As for me MOO 3 didn`t offer nearly as much information as I would have wanted. For example the tech descriptions in MOO 3 where like two lines long and contained information like, this is a big gun, it can do a lot of damage, which was a major disappointment for me as it didn`t feel like you where dealing with real complex technologies. Whereas with FreeOrion it was nice to see that there where detailed descriptions of the techs, which at least to me gave strait away the feeling that you where dealing with real technology.

Now of course there should probably also be a shorter version of the tech text available especially considering the multiplayer where you might not have time to read through those longer texts, but I at least personally love to get a lot of information from the galaxy as it immediately makes it feel more alive and if you look at the world around us today it is full of information that we have to deal with, so I can only imagine what it would be like for a galactic emperor.

Also if I can remember correctly MOO 3 didn`t give the player information on what is going on with the other species and in general in the galaxy, like MOO2´s news about suns going super nova etc. So at least to me it felt like I was all alone in a dead galaxy where only the diplomatic meetings and battles brought some life. I think this is also one of the main reasons why one of our local game magazines wrote that there was a " You don`t need to know attitude" in MOO 3. But more from this subject can be found in the Brainstormings Galactic news thread.

Now of course if you meant that the sitreps in MOO 3 had a lot of useless information I agree, but I think that this problem could be solved by, like Geoff The Medio suggested in the galactic news thread, using various filters so that you would only get the information that interests you.

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