I feel like I'm starting to grasp the game, and am finally getting some high-level skirmishes with my buddies. What I'm finding though is that most my battles turn into micromanagement nightmares. Not just nightmares, we’re talking hideous twitchfests that invovle wrangling with an interface that wasn't designed for such things and a unit AI that makes terribly unintuitive decisions. I'm talking Warcraft 3 level twitchfests, and it's driving me nuts! This game was supposed to be the opposite of that! (sorry for the wierd formatting, the forum seems to insist on putting extra space where I don't want it)
From an interview with Blair on Gameinfo.net, http://www.gamersinfo.net/articles/1714-producer-blair-fraser-of-sins-of-a-solar-empire:
If you aren't interested in the low-level, twitchy micromanagement of combat, turn all the ships in one of your fleets to the automatic settings that you like and send them to a planet you want taken. They will take care of the rest.
This is not my experience. But when developers say something like this, and my experience is something completely different, I prefer to assume I'm not using their system properly rather then assum Blair was talking out of his ass. (because I respect Blair, and I don't think he would willingly talk out of his ass.)
So there are 3 mechanics I think are pertinent to this aspect of the game, and I'll discuss my questions about each one individually.
1) Empire Tree:
The empire tree is supposed to reduce clickfesty micromangement by showing all the pertinent info in one place, allowing you to choose targets without having to zoom in on them and click them individually. I prefer to use the stack option (show units in stacks of ten, whether than an icon for each unit) because without it the screen gets very unwieldy very quickly, and I can’t actually count how many units I or the enemy has.
The trouble here is that you can’t cue up orders from the empire tree in stacked mode. If you rt. Click on a stack, the ships will attack one unit from that stack and go back to whatever their automatically chosen target is. Is there a way to create an attack cue of 30 ships by clicking 3 times (once on each stack) rather than 30 times (coming out of stack view and clicking on each ship)? I can’t figure it out.
I get how fleets work, and autojoin and all that stuff. And I get that there are settings for engagement range and fleet cohesion. My impression is that setting up my fleets properly is a critical factor in creating this fire-and-forget approach to combat. But I can’t seem to get this working for me. I still wind up having to hotkey each unit type and kite them around the grav well, dancing and moving like I was playing oh… say, warcraft 3. Can anybody provide some suggestions about how to optimally organize my fleets? And what the different cohesions are good for. Or how fleets affect the unit AI to help them make intelligent decisions?
Here’s a simple, and common example. The opponent has built a bunch of flak frigats and LRMs. I have access to all the basic stuff too, Lights, LRMs, Flaks, maybe even carriers. My economy is stronger than his, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to take him in a head to head battle. What would I build and how would I arrange them in fleets so that I can “turn all the ships in one of my fleets to the automatic settings that I like and send them to a planet I want taken and have them take care of the rest.
3) UNIT AI, specifically targetting priorities.
The publicity for this game greatly hyped a more advanced, more tactically aware unit AI that would take care of the nitty gritty while I worried about larger problems. This is what I notice: Unit AI checks for targets in range. If so, attack target. If not move towards closest target. If multiple targets in range, attack flack frigate first.
Why oh why does the unit AI prioritize flak frigates? And how can I arrange things so that the unit AI can take care of itself so I can begin getting my trade routes up while the battle resolves.
Now there’s an argument to be made that some people like the twitchy micromanagement, and the game should reward it. And as good as the automated stuff could be, the player who does it all himself should win. I completely disagree with this argument. Games do not have to cater to everyone!! There are plenty of games out there that reward twitchy micromanagement. If you want a twitchfest, go play one of those games. Sins is not one of them… or at least it has spent a lot of time and energy billing itself as not one of them.
So if Sins indeed is not about twitchy micromanagement, can somebody please help me figure out how to use these twitch-reducing mechanics effectively.
A note to the devs, in case I’m wrong, and there aren’t solutions to these problems, they’re just problems: I am not a casual gamer, I am trying to play the game at a high level and optimize every aspect of my play. But I don’t understand why your automation doesn’t serve my purposes. It’s frustrating to see a big list of important features that only apply to people who don’t care that much. If the idea was to put in enough automation for the people who weren’t interested in micromanagement, but make that automation weak enough so that the players who wanted to micromanage still had something to do, please STOP! I refer you to my above point. Games do not have to cater to everyone!! Is your game for the twitchy microey crowd, or for the people who want to think on a grander, higher level? Please pick a side and commit!! And optimize the game in that direction. This best-of-both-worlds thing results in an inelegant, awkward, tepid, gameplay experience where highly publicised features do not serve the purposes of people who are actively seeking to get the most out of them. I'm sure this is not news to you. I have no doubt you all have had this exact conversation already several times... and that's why I'm so perplexed by this state of affairs. Any insight would be very helpful and very very much appreciated. /rant