Newcomers! What's confusing about Contributing to FreeOrion?

Discussion about the project in general, organization, website, or any other details that aren't directly about the game.
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eleazar
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Newcomers! What's confusing about Contributing to FreeOrion?

#1 Post by eleazar » Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:39 pm

I've long realized that this is a hard project to get involved with. It takes some time to get up to speed so that you can contribute usefully. I had to do that several years ago.
Part of this is inherent in the project -- there are a lot of details in even a simple 4X game.
Part of this is the staff's fault -- we've let FAQs and information go out of date. Though we certainly don't have the man-hours do to everything we want as quickly as we want.

I'm going to take some time away from game design for a week or so to try to smooth out the process of newcomers getting up to speed so they can contribute usefully to the game design process. I'm aware of some of the issues, but probably not all of them. Such as this page is hard to find and partially out of date. And no doubt i've forgotten some of the things that confused me years ago when i arrived.


If you had a problem figuring out this project that relates to game design: couldn't find information, found confusing or contradictory information, or whatever please post it in this thread.
Last edited by eleazar on Sun Mar 07, 2010 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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pd
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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#2 Post by pd » Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:50 pm

eleazar wrote:I've long realized that this is a hard project to get involved with. It takes some time to get up to speed so that you can contribute usefully. [...]
Part of this is inherent in the project -- there are a lot of details in even a simple 4X game.
Part of this is the staff's fault -- we've let FAQs and information go out of date. Though we certainly don't have the man-hours do to everything we want as quickly as we want.
And part of it is also the newcommer's fault. How many of them have actually taken a look at the design documents, before engaging in discussion?

The wiki is a great resource and it's even quite streamlined already: Main Page -> How to help -> Design

Maybe the brainstorming/game design forum's descriptions should mention, that reading those documents is a requirement for participation?

Anyway, I applaud your effort to do this.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#3 Post by Bigjoe5 » Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:24 pm

I recall that when I started, I was a bit confused by the idea of those "meters", which are so fundamental to FO's design. "Meter" is a very generic term which is used to mean something very specific in FreeOrion, and knowledge of the exact way a "meter" is defined would help prevent newcomers from describing totally non-meter related ideas in terms of meters (the alignment scales discussed in Simulating Citizens, for example, are most definitely not meters. A measure of a ship's hit points that can go up to 10,000 would definitely not be a meter).

More importantly though, newcomers tend not to consider the strategic implications of what they suggest - they suggest a certain progression of techs, or a particular game mechanic because it sounds "cool" without considering how it will really affect gameplay. "Fun" comes first - "cool" comes after, and can be done when adding extra fluff to the descriptions of in-game mechanics and content.

That's my idea of what tends to confuse newcomers, but hopefully an actual newcomer will come along and give you a better idea of what's confusing.
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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#4 Post by Aussie Mick » Fri Feb 26, 2010 1:55 pm

eleazar wrote:I've long realized that this is a hard project to get involved with. It takes some time to get up to speed so that you can contribute usefully. I had to do that several years ago.
Part of this is inherent in the project -- there are a lot of details in even a simple 4X game.
Part of this is the staff's fault -- we've let FAQs and information go out of date. Though we certainly don't have the man-hours do to everything we want as quickly as we want.

I'm going to take some time away from game design for a week or so to try to smooth out the process of newcomers getting up to speed so they can contribute usefully to the game design process. I'm aware of some of the issues, but probably not all of them. Such as this page is hard to find and partially out of date. And no doubt i've forgotten some of the things that confused me years ago when i arrived.


If you had a problem figuring out this project that relates to game design: couldn't find information, found confusing or contradictory information, or whatever please post it in this thread.
To be honest I've been wondering whether my contribution is worth the time of the main people involved. If the time you spend on responding to me is greater than the value of my input obviously that's bad. I read the V.4 but I didn't read the earlier ones which I should have since they give a better idea of how abstracted this game is. I had a different mental picture, sorry.

You know what might be helpful? Some idea how much number-crunching an average computer can do without slowing down. How many calculations about as complex as finding one of the meters can the program do without say, being .05 seconds slower per turn? That way I can see if I'm asking for too much complexity. Of course if it's too complex to code or play that trumps everything.

How set in stone are the requirements? Because I want to talk about how industry is produced and if that's unchangeable I won't bother.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#5 Post by Bigjoe5 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:52 pm

Aussie Mick wrote:To be honest I've been wondering whether my contribution is worth the time of the main people involved. If the time you spend on responding to me is greater than the value of my input obviously that's bad. I read the V.4 but I didn't read the earlier ones which I should have since they give a better idea of how abstracted this game is. I had a different mental picture, sorry.
The way things are set up now, it's almost inevitable that every newcomer will go through at least a small period of adjustment where he has only a vague idea of what FreeOrion is looking for, and offers ideas and contributions that are somewhat ill-fitting with the current game - that phase can be sped up mainly by more experienced contributors providing very clear feedback explaining exactly why such ideas aren't very useful to FO. Alternatively, it can be sped up just by reading lots and lots of old design threads, which can be a bit time consuming, but definitely gives you an idea of what we're looking for. You'll read lots and lots of complicated ideas in a given design thread, but in the end, a simpler model is usually chosen, because such a model adds the greatest depth-per-click to the game.

Probably the most important thing to do to make sure your contributions are valuable is to read through the entire thread, understand why the discussion went where it did, and then you can make a good contribution to the current discussion with a good understanding of the line of thought leading up to that point in the conversation. If you do that, and try to adhere to FO's design philosophy, your contributions can hardly avoid being useful.
Aussie Mick wrote:You know what might be helpful? Some idea how much number-crunching an average computer can do without slowing down. How many calculations about as complex as finding one of the meters can the program do without say, being .05 seconds slower per turn? That way I can see if I'm asking for too much complexity. Of course if it's too complex to code or play that trumps everything
Yog S'loth wrote:I'm a little worried that computers will be the size of my nose and I'll be toting the new 12TB i-Pod by the time Free Orion is done, but keep plugging away, gents!
There is some truth to what this user is saying; honestly, at the rate this project is going, processing speed shouldn't be one of our priorities. Also, when we talk about complexity, it's only in terms of gameplay complexity. Complexity to code is fine if it makes things simpler for the player (combat manager, for example).
Aussie Mick wrote:How set in stone are the requirements? Because I want to talk about how industry is produced and if that's unchangeable I won't bother.
If there's a really compelling reason to change something (Geoff wants to replace the current universe generation code with a Python script, for example), it will probably be changed, but it's unlikely that any aspect of the game that's been sitting there unchallenged for quite a while (industrial production, for example) will be changed unless you can prove that there would be a really significant advantage to doing so.
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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#6 Post by eleazar » Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:23 pm

Unexpected Differences
Ah, one of the things i forgot to mention, the issue of FO's differences from MoO#. There are several significant ways that FO is different, and that often trips up new contributor, who assume certain things will work more or less like MoO.

I've started a rough list of unexpected differences here, but please mention any other major differences from MoO that have surprised you at some point.


Progress so far:

* Updated and cleaned up the description of our various design subforums including links, and removed reference to non-existent subforms and obsolete rules. Moved some information into more logical places

* Consolidated and updated the Stickies in the story subforum. Unsticking this one is beyond my mod powers, but all the useful content has been added to another sticky.

* added a few more items to the Philosophy wikipage that were floating around.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#7 Post by pd » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:45 pm

eleazar wrote:Unsticking this one is beyond my mod powers, but all the useful content has been added to another sticky.
Which ones should be unstickied? "Post your races here" I assume? Anything else?

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#8 Post by eleazar » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:52 pm

pd wrote:
eleazar wrote:Unsticking this one is beyond my mod powers, but all the useful content has been added to another sticky.
Which ones should be unstickied? "Post your races here" I assume? Anything else?
Oops, i meant to include a link. No, this one should be unstickied:
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=205

Though, I don't think the "Post your races here" is set up very well. IMHO it would make more sense to have an index thread. This index thread would have a brief summary of a species and a link to that species own thread. Much more useful to skim through to find what you are looking for. At the moment my "personal evaluation" thread and the "Post your races here" thread both sort of serve the index function in different and incomplete ways.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#9 Post by pd » Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:08 pm

Turns out, I can't change that either. Seems like I can only do this in the Graphics forum.

I could never quite figure out what "Post your races here" was trying to achieve. I think it's confusing to people whether to post in that thread or just in the forum.
You're right though, that as an index it would make sense, but your evaluation does a much better job at this.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#10 Post by eleazar » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:20 pm

added a "Guidelines for Contributors" section to Game Design to cover some of the gaffs that didn't fit elsewhere that new contributors often make in the design forums. There's probably a few more i'm not thinking of.

Aussie Mick wrote:I read the V.4 but I didn't read the earlier ones which I should have since they give a better idea of how abstracted this game is. I had a different mental picture, sorry.
Can you explain a little more about which abstractions surprised you?

pd wrote:I could never quite figure out what "Post your races here" was trying to achieve. I think it's confusing to people whether to post in that thread or just in the forum.
You're right though, that as an index it would make sense, but your evaluation does a much better job at this.
My evaluation thread is a better index than the "Post your races here" thread, but it shouldn't be too hard to make an index that works even better. Though i don't want to do that work myself. I'm thinking more on the lines of something anyone can add to as new species are invented.

I wonder if a wiki index page would make more sense than trying to do a forum index thread?

Either way, I might go and split every species out of that thread into it's own.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#11 Post by MikkoM » Tue Mar 02, 2010 2:17 am

eleazar wrote: Either way, I might go and split every species out of that thread into it's own.
This would seem like a good idea. If every species is in its own thread it is easy to make suggestions/comments and when/if necessary modifications to the species in question. And having each species in its own thread, and hopefully some sort of an index page, will make reading through the descriptions a much easier process at least for non native English speakers like me. I have read through the "Post your races here" thread in the past, and can`t say that it was a very enjoyable experience.

In addition to the "Post your races here" thread there is also at least this thread that contains multiple species:

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1016

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#12 Post by eleazar » Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:33 pm

For now i locked the "post your races here" thread, and removed the instructions telling people to use it.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#13 Post by eleazar » Fri Mar 05, 2010 12:15 am

Geoff signed-off on the philosophy page after correcting some of my clumsy wording. I don't think the contents will surprise anyone whose familiar with this project, but it's good to get them down in one place, especially for newcomers.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#14 Post by RonaldX » Fri Mar 05, 2010 1:03 am

I took a bit of a hiatus, I finally broke down and bought a playstation, my first console since the SNES, and I've been spending some time shooting my friends.

Hrm.. I wouldn't say anything is *confusing*, per se. The challenges for a new contributor come from the sheer volume of text that's been written over the last 7 (or more?) years, plus a development staff that seems to be big on creativity but with no real guidelines as to how the final project is going to look. The guys who are actually programming the thing appear content to let fundamental discussions go on and on and on without providing limitations.

I understand that there is an overarching "philosophy" to the design of the game, but "keep it simple" and "realism isn't everything" aren't a design direction. I would expect the guy who originally came up with the idea of putting this whole project together had an idea how he wanted the final result to work, and wasn't just thinking, "I'm going to make a game, and I want everyone on the internet to contribute away until something hopefully materializes", and yet, that seems to be how the project is progressing.

As far as the design documents, that's all well and good, but it's a relative gloss-over of the game's "established principles". Currently, there are dozens of 50+ post threads (in which many posts are near-novels) covering topics that havn't been even somewhat resolved yet (again, no hard-and-fast direction). You can spend nearly an hour reading just the first few pages of a thread before making your first post in it, and again, that's just half the content of one thread, and it turns out half the stuff you suggest was already vetoed in another, peripherally-related thread, nearly 3 years ago. Oh, and that topic was never resolved either, it just kind of died out. Threads seem to have a habit of being ressurected after lying dormant for years.

There is simply too much content for a new person to realistically go through, and not enough hard-and-fast direction from the designers to push discussion forward. The miles and miles of ancient text wouldn't be relevant if the topics weren't still up for discussion, so some definitive closure on the long-debated topics is required. Then you can throw the established solutions into the design docs and keep things managable for a newcomer, rather than require them to read through page after page of essays on why x is better than y is better than z is better than x.

-Ty.

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Re: Newcomers! Please describe what's confusing about FreeOrion

#15 Post by eleazar » Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:23 am

RonaldX, that's exactly the sort of reply i was hoping for.

I wouldn't have expected that things look so insurmountable, but i can see now how it would look that way when you haven't been involved as deeply or as long as for instance me.

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