Playing with 0.4.5 (build 2015-08-18.a590f7e)

Describe your experience with the latest version of FreeOrion to help us improve it.

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toolforger
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Playing with 0.4.5 (build 2015-08-18.a590f7e)

#1 Post by toolforger » Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:21 pm

I am aware that this is a slightly dated version of Free Orion, but anyway.

The colonization change was a huge improvement.
I was having micromanagement nightmares trying to keep colonization fleets for every conceivable environment around, replenishing them in time, not forgetting where each new colony ship was supposed for when it was ready, lots of accidentally misdirected colony ships which meant one planet got two and the other no colony ship.
How I simply keep a single outposter fleet near my main push, build an outpost on every planet that is supposed to be colonized. I still have to select the right race at that point, and sometimes I cannot because of bad tides of war and loss of connectivity, but that is a strategic challenge which also happens rarely (I shouldn't try and colonize and area that gets retaken after all).

Paradise worlds were a huge improvement, too. No more boring clicking through all the intermediate terraforming steps. Yeah okay I could colonize with the appropriate species first, but I do not find Kobuntura or Sslith in every game.
What is still missing is a "Terraform to Gaia" command. Could be expensive, could be slow, would be a huge timesaver. "Terraform to Gaia" would be good, too, it would still halve the number of micromanagement steps to get a planet to full potential.
I don't care about the Artificial Factory World. At all. Exobots are nice, but they never get past Adequate (so: no "huge Gaia" for them, ever); I tend to scrape them off every world and replace them with some other race, any race with a population bonus will do.

Population bonus is vastly overpowered, particularly later in the game. Having 25% more population multiplies all the bonuses that you have; having a race with 25% more production is just a one-time bonus.
Case in point are the Egassem: 400% industry is great, 75% population reduces that to effectively 300%, and with every 25% bonus that you get through tech, the race bonus for industry pales more and more against the population malus.
Egassem are quite hard to play initially with their limited eco compatibility and their population malus (that's a nasty combination), and later in game they don't even really get an advantage out of being behind initially - seems a bit harsh to me.
That's just balancing I guess, so I'm providing that just as a data point.

Production queue is a long, long problem.
Production queue changes become slower and slower as the game progresses. Two factors seem to contribute to that: Current size of production queue, and number of queue entries ever made.
Seems like something isn't deleting queue entries, but keeping them around and making stuff slower.
The slowdown persists across game saves and loads.
UPDATE: Currently, everything that affects the build queue takes 13 seconds. Switching a planet's focus takes around the same time. This is move 379, in a game where I have 373 ships and 366 planets (which is most of the map).

Ninjaing the Experimentors by slipping through with a small force that could take out just the shields and defences was very much fun, but it was also quite cheesy. That is not possible anymore (I think, I didn't try after reading the somewhat vague description of Experiment One - but the defenses are too strong to try anyway).
I am not sure whether I like that or not. Cheesing your way to victory is a lot of fun. On the other hand, it felt like cheating.
Maybe I'd prefer a fleet-based defense for the Experimentors that could be lured away. It would certainly be a challenge (and difficult with all the free-roaming monsters around - it is something you can do only in the first few turns after the Experimentors have decided to become active).

I find myself unable to be ready for the Experimentors before they come out.
I am not 100% sure what the reasons are. One thing that contributes is that even winning a battle means damage to your fleet, and you can't simply rush through enemy empires anymore. (I still like that change - winning a battle without losing a single hitpoint felt like cheating, even if I exploited that to the hilt.)

The Greek letters, while appealing to the astronomy crowd, are horrible. At several hundred star names in a game, it is hard enough to remember which star is which; making the star names confusable is making things worse.
For people who happen to not know the Greek alphabet, the situation is even worse since they cannot even spell the star names anymore. To get a taste of that feeling, try replacing the Greek letters with an alphabet that you do not know (Dewanagari or whatever) and play a few games.

One longstanding problem has not been addressed: Far too many mouse miles.
Typical click sequence:
1) Situation Report says "Stalaz alpha 1 has been terraformed". Move to top left, click "Stalaz alpha 1".
2) Stalaz alpha 1 comes up on the right side of the screen. Move across the entire screen to the proper planet, click it. (You may have to move up to activate build queue and "producible items" window, but that's okay.)
4) Move to the bottom-left area where it lists the producible items. Double-click the next item to build here. Possibly change things in the build queue.
Situation is similar for Shipyard orders: here you start on the galaxy map, move right to select the planet, then left to work on the build queue.
This cannot even be improved because the build queue is fixed to the left screen border, and the planet list can be moved but the planets stick out and the thing is really designed for the right screen border.

Okay, I guess that's enough for now :-)
Last edited by toolforger on Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

toolforger
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Posts: 29
Joined: Sun May 18, 2014 6:31 pm

Re: Playing with 0.4.5 (build 2015-08-18.a590f7e)

#2 Post by toolforger » Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:24 pm

Ah, I forgot a minor annoyance: I usually don't care about the free kraken, crystals and juggernauts that I get after conquering their planets. I have to go back and delete them to prevent them from making my other ships more expensive.
It would be nice if there were a way to disable them. Or auto-scrap them. Or turn the specials that build them into buildings that can be scrapped.

toolforger
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Re: Playing with 0.4.5 (build 2015-08-18.a590f7e)

#3 Post by toolforger » Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:34 pm

Oh, and another one: If a star has multiple asteroid belts, give each a different name.
Best: use the same numbers for asteroid belts and planets. So... "Teka 1", "Teka Asteroids 2", "Teka 3", "Teka Asteroids 4".

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MatGB
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Re: Playing with 0.4.5 (build 2015-08-18.a590f7e)

#4 Post by MatGB » Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:22 am

toolforger wrote:I am aware that this is a slightly dated version of Free Orion, but anyway.
Nah, you're good, some of it's still relevent and it's meant to be the Release, we've discussed more regular Release builds a few times but it's no work my side so it's not my call. Feedback is always good, it's bug reports that're harder to deal with this far in.
The colonization change was a huge improvement.
Agreed, for all the reasons you outline.
Paradise worlds were a huge improvement, too. No more boring clicking through all the intermediate terraforming steps. Yeah okay I could colonize with the appropriate species first, but I do not find Kobuntura or Sslith in every game.
I am very pleased to read this as reducing the micromanagement was the biggest push from my side, combining this change with the colonising change and it's an actually useful, fun mechanic now. I still think I undercosted them a bit but I'm happy overall with the implementation as is.
What is still missing is a "Terraform to Gaia" command. Could be expensive, could be slow, would be a huge timesaver. "Terraform to Gaia" would be good, too, it would still halve the number of micromanagement steps to get a planet to full potential.
We're discussing various ways to change terraforming elsewhere right now actually, it would be possible to do this with a single building, but balancing it would take time and as many of us want a complete rework of terraforming it's not going to be done until we decide what to do.
I don't care about the Artificial Factory World. At all. Exobots are nice, but they never get past Adequate (so: no "huge Gaia" for them, ever); I tend to scrape them off every world and replace them with some other race, any race with a population bonus will do.
Fair enough, they're far quicker and some players really prefer them, they're deliberately cheaper overall than paradise + colony. I sometimes build them, depends on what style I'm playing and how aggressive I'm being.
Population bonus is vastly overpowered, particularly later in the game. Having 25% more population multiplies all the bonuses that you have; having a race with 25% more production is just a one-time bonus.
Case in point are the Egassem: 400% industry is great, 75% population reduces that to effectively 300%, and with every 25% bonus that you get through tech, the race bonus for industry pales more and more against the population malus.
Egassem are quite hard to play initially with their limited eco compatibility and their population malus (that's a nasty combination), and later in game they don't even really get an advantage out of being behind initially - seems a bit harsh to me.
That's just balancing I guess, so I'm providing that just as a data point.
Yup.

It's fixed in Trunk, try a Test release, the traits are still good but apply to far fewer bonuses now, relatively soon there'll also be prioritising of Industry and Research bonuses in a similar way to make them better. From my current testing, I'll need to reduce some of the other benefits Egassem get when the changes go live (basically the backend was updated to let us tell the engine what order Effects should be processed in fairly soon before the Release, and there wasn't time to balance a lot of the changes that allows for, so I'm doing it now, but got sidetracked recently by some other things).
Production queue is a long, long problem.
Production queue changes become slower and slower as the game progresses. Two factors seem to contribute to that: Current size of production queue, and number of queue entries ever made.
Seems like something isn't deleting queue entries, but keeping them around and making stuff slower.
The slowdown persists across game saves and loads.
UPDATE: Currently, everything that affects the build queue takes 13 seconds. Switching a planet's focus takes around the same time. This is move 379, in a game where I have 373 ships and 366 planets (which is most of the map).
Ow, yeah, it's a problem for me and I try to keep less than 100 ships flying and tend to go for a fast conquest victory where the number of planets never gets that high, I find anything above 150 planets starts to slow things down.

Not sure if it's in the Release but it'd definitely in Test (fairly sure it's in Release), you can change Focus setting from the Objects menu which has got a lot more useful over the last 18 months or so, this allows for bulk focus changing. If there is no system actually open (ie you're in the map window with no selected system) it works almost instantaneously, the big speed slowdown is the UI recalculation of all the target/actual production amounts. It is a problem and various people work to improve it every so often.
Ninjaing the Experimentors by slipping through with a small force that could take out just the shields and defences was very much fun, but it was also quite cheesy. That is not possible anymore (I think, I didn't try after reading the somewhat vague description of Experiment One - but the defenses are too strong to try anyway).
I am not sure whether I like that or not. Cheesing your way to victory is a lot of fun. On the other hand, it felt like cheating.
Maybe I'd prefer a fleet-based defense for the Experimentors that could be lured away. It would certainly be a challenge (and difficult with all the free-roaming monsters around - it is something you can do only in the first few turns after the Experimentors have decided to become active).
I am not 100% sure what the reasons are. One thing that contributes is that even winning a battle means damage to your fleet, and you can't simply rush through enemy empires anymore. (I still like that change - winning a battle without losing a single hitpoint felt like cheating, even if I exploited that to the hilt.)
Balancing these guys is difficult, I personally find them way to easy to defeat, by the time they launch I'm normally always in complete control of the galaxy and setup ready to get in there quickly. It's even easier now in Test with the completely unbalanced but fun Starlane Bores.

Any ideas for ways to make them more interesting and fun for everyone are always welcome, there are many many threads on the subject already.
I find myself unable to be ready for the Experimentors before they come out.
The Greek letters, while appealing to the astronomy crowd, are horrible. At several hundred star names in a game, it is hard enough to remember which star is which; making the star names confusable is making things worse.
For people who happen to not know the Greek alphabet, the situation is even worse since they cannot even spell the star names anymore. To get a taste of that feeling, try replacing the Greek letters with an alphabet that you do not know (Dewanagari or whatever) and play a few games.
I agreed with this at first, I don't know Greek letters (lots of compsci types tend to be maths types so do know them) which is why it's possible to turn them off, it's a hidden option in the options.py file but it's easy to set.

Go intot he game install area, if you're running Windows you need to load up a test editor as an administrator (right click/run as admin) on other systems it's easy, you want to go through default/python/universe_generation/ and tell the editor to load options.py (you won't be able to save it unless you load it from the editor window).

Right at the top of the file there's this:

Code: Select all


###############################
## STAR GROUP NAMING OPTIONS ##
###############################

# if star_groups_use_chars is true use entries from the stringtable entry STAR_GROUP_CHARS (single characters),
# otherwise use words like 'Alpha' from the stringtable entry STAR_GROUP_WORDS.
STAR_GROUPS_USE_CHARS = True
Change it to False

Alternatively in create a new stringtable and have your own list of letters or symbols to use, you only need to include your changes if you normally play in English.
One longstanding problem has not been addressed: Far too many mouse miles.
Typical click sequence:
1) Situation Report says "Stalaz alpha 1 has been terraformed". Move to top left, click "Stalaz alpha 1".
2) Stalaz alpha 1 comes up on the right side of the screen. Move across the entire screen to the proper planet, click it. (You may have to move up to activate build queue and "producible items" window, but that's okay.)
4) Move to the bottom-left area where it lists the producible items. Double-click the next item to build here. Possibly change things in the build queue.
Situation is similar for Shipyard orders: here you start on the galaxy map, move right to select the planet, then left to work on the build queue.
This cannot even be improved because the build queue is fixed to the left screen border, and the planet list can be moved but the planets stick out and the thing is really designed for the right screen border.
Hah!

Also fixed (partially) in trunk, at my request but done by a better coder'n me. If you click on a planet from the sitrep or objects windows that planet is automatically selected (you can also double click a specific planet if it's already open and it'll open production on that planet). This works best (for me) if you rearrange windows so that production looks like this:
prodwindowlayout.png
prodwindowlayout.png (286.36 KiB) Viewed 1040 times
Then you can go through your sitreps and do any extra building you need without opening and closing the production window, far faster. Does need a bigger screen though, but I prefer having the Pedia right there where I'm looking anyway.

You can also right click an item to add it tot he queue or send it to the top of the queue which is brilliant for urgent stuff.

Thanks for all the feedback, some of it's stale because we fixed it in a way you like anyway but it's good to know we did the right thing ;-)

(for what it's worth, the most recent Test release appears stable and has many improvements, if you know how to play I strongly recommend the most recent Test for each new game, there's incremental changes and feedback is always welcome)
Mat Bowles

Any code or patches in anything posted here is released under the CC and GPL licences in use for the FO project.

toolforger
Space Floater
Posts: 29
Joined: Sun May 18, 2014 6:31 pm

Re: Playing with 0.4.5 (build 2015-08-18.a590f7e)

#5 Post by toolforger » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:10 am

Thanks for the response, very much appreciated!

On the mouse miles issue: Yup, autoselecting the planet does help.
One more thing: Move the window activation commands from the top right to the top left. It's nearer to the build queue (which you need to continually access). The Next Turn button could go to the right corner.
That change would not only reduce mouse miles, it would also be nearer to expectations: The main function selection area is usually in the top left of a program, in the form of a menu bar; for FO, they find only the turn change button, and a bar with a set of indicators that they almost never need to click, the actual action is in the top right where they'll look last.

In general, it might be a good idea to record a heat map of a game: Where is the mouse, what are the mouse paths, where are the clicks. This could give the UI designers some insight where the actual problems are - I can report only those that I have, which may or may not be very useful.

Just FYI: I'll probably wait until the next PPA release or Ubuntu version upgrade before trying the new version.

toolforger
Space Floater
Posts: 29
Joined: Sun May 18, 2014 6:31 pm

Re: Playing with 0.4.5 (build 2015-08-18.a590f7e)

#6 Post by toolforger » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:53 am

N.B. I reset the percentage of stars with individual names to 100%.
Just switching off the single-letter extensions as instructed would have given me names like "Teka Alpha", which is overly long and tends to run into other text in the UI.

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