Mostly Game Design Related Feedback
Hi! I finally got around to writing proper feedback. Overall I'm really enjoying the game, but I think there's still some work to do before it can become really popular like LoL did back in the day (wow it's already been 6 years since that game came out of nowhere! Also keep in mind how they started exploding with really pretty minimal features, having a good base will go a long way). My apologies if I'm pushing for a bit too much moba-like features, but I don't think it's reasonable to request too major feature changes even if it is still alpha. Here's some thoughts on what I think is missing from the GoA experience:
The concept of reward and punishment should be familiar to most people. Too much reward and the game gets boring, too much punishment and the game gets frustrating. I think GoA is currently leaning a bit toward the latter.
The main reward mechanics in the game are as follows:
- Shard Collection
- XP Collection
Shard Collection: Having to pick up shards is a tedious task that may decrease the amount of satisfaction compared to automatic collection. They say that you have to give a dog its reward a few seconds after the action or it won't be able to correlate the reward with the action. This is much the same with humans too. Take for example the concept of delayed gratification - it's difficult to resist the temptation of a short term reward instead of a bigger long term reward. You might think this is far fetched (we collect shards from the ground at the nearest opportunity anyway, right?), but there's a few cases where I feel like this becomes a pretty large problem: destroying structures. Not only is it difficult to pick up all the shards from destroyed structures, the shards will also split unevenly between players, even though getting the Titan was something everyone contributed to!
--> Solution: You could simply remove pickups altogether and opt for a traditional instant reward system. I heard a developer mention in chat that there were readability issues with this, but honestly I don't see how this would be a problem. You could play an animation of shards flying toward your shard count in the UI and show how many shards you have collected above it. Alternatively you could show the amount of shards at the shard source location, just a blue label that fades upwards and says "+50 Blue" should be enough (basically how LoL does it as I recall). As for structure kills, I think they should always reward the whole team.
XP Collection: As I'm sure you are aware atm XP is super underwhelming, it only contributes to hero level which doesn't really feel like it makes any kind of difference in the vast majority of games.
I would like XP to be the reward mechanic that we are kind of missing right now - permanent rewards. You could argue that upgrades are also permanent rewards, but they don't necessarily feel that way because it is preferred to spend shards on replenishing your army and upgrades are just a luxury. The player should feel like with every good move they are stronger in relation to other players, this is the strongest kind of reward I can think of (and part of the reason why LoL and DotA are vastly more popular than HotS). It's hard to put into words why, but the individual satisfaction of becoming an unstoppable monster creates a hungering thirst to play more and play better. It's addictive.
This can be achieved simply by making XP more significant. Scale hero stats up with level (btw just in general it feels a little silly how weak heroes are atm imo), perhaps give upgrades you can buy with XP (talent trees, anyone?), maybe add more hero abilities or the ability to upgrade them if you want to go that route. One wild idea is to make upgrades cost XP instead of shards.
The notorious e-peen is an important tool for motivating players, no matter what you personally think of it. Ranking players both in-game and out-of-game are great ways to motivate people to spend more time playing the game.
Credit players for good performance in-game: We already have decent after-game scoreboard (still a lot more interesting statistics that can be added there too, though!), but it is also very important to have one in-game! I don't have too much to say about this really, a table of stats like damage dealt, damage tanked, shards destroyed and shards collected will go a long way.
Ranking players in-client: This one is probably obvious, I'm looking forward to ranked ladder games! However there are also other ways of rewarding players in-client - avatars, achievements and the like - they should not be underestimated. Perhaps it's best to keep the focus on in-game features right now though
People often think about cosmetics such as character skins when they think about self expression in games, but it can be so much more than that. Any set of choices of equal viability comes down to self expression. Sometimes it can be gameplay oriented such as finding your favorite gun in an FPS game or a hero that fits your playstyle in a moba, other times it can be purely cosmetic such as character skins, badges, avatars etc. but it can also be somewhere in between - a really cool form of self expression is base building in RTS games, it technically doesn't make a large difference if you had rigid base building like BFME1, but most people much preferred being able to design a base of their own in BFME2.
There's some amount of self expression already in the game - choosing your hero and army composition - but I feel like it's fairly limited atm. While hero/army compositions make a difference ingame, they are not really decisions that you make while playing. Here's some ideas
- A larger (and more unique) selection of upgrades (thinking of them a bit like you would think about items in a moba)
- Building placement (or units that create structures). Engineer is an example of a good unit, it gives you a lot of choice of where and when to put down your turrets and whether to defend them or not, Purifiers, Lancers and flowers all reinforce self expression as well!
Imagine Chess, the game is completely deterministic - it would be theoretically possible to calculate the best possible move 50 turns into the game. This creates intense pressure on the players to find the exact right solution and as a result Chess feels very stressful for a lot of players. In the opposite corner we have Hearthstone, where the game is so unpredictable that a master player can lose to a beginner. I feel like Starcraft 2 has found a very nice sweet-spot. FoW creates a good amount of unpredictability - a player can guess at what their opponent is doing, but it's possible to hide things you don't want your opponent to see, or even fake tech switches.
In GoA we have FoW and it does create a certain amount of interesting gameplay opportunities in terms of positioning, however I feel like it's not quite at the sweet spot:
- Positioning is fairly predictable since there's a very limited number of things players can be doing at any given moment
- Opponent tech options are very limited: Firstly you see the opponent tech so from the beginning you are aware of their possible choices, secondly the upgrades - which are hidden until finished and thus could enable some really interesting stuff - really don't play a major role in the game
- Create more choice in map objectives, maybe a certain camp gives more yellows and other more blues, perhaps a camp could give a buff
- Make the map larger and add sneaky paths to enable camp stealing
- Hide opponent 'decks'
- Buff upgrades in general (and try to diversify them a bit .____. )
The smaller details...
- Need an audio cue for when research queue is about to finish
- Map size is a bit small, this makes AoE abilities extremely dangerous
- Carriers should automatically stop dropping units when you load something in them
P.S: I'm open for discussion on TS/Discord if you want help with brainstorming. I really wish for this game to succeed!
P.P.S: I did not proof-read this t.t sorry if I'm a little incoherent