Here are some of my thoughts about the beta; I've tried to organize them the best I can.
- Ordering of the ship construction buttons
As a few others already said, the button rearrangement is hard to relearn. It's easy to figure out why it happened - starbases build frigates/cruisers and attack, and the frigate and attack buttons overlapped. In this case, they chose consistency of the UI instead of keeping the legacy layout. I’m sure there has got to be a solution that is both consistent and keeps the old layout, though.
I think that a possible solution would involve another layer of menus for starbases.
Some others have noted that it’s difficult to select the starbase itself when zoomed all the way out. It’s also hard to tell what kind of starbase force is at a gravwell from far out.
Adorn the gravwell with icons in a similar fashion to the artifact or capitol planet. The image indicates that there are two friendly starbases (orange, purple) and one hostile starbase (red) in that gravwell. Clicking on the box will select that starbase. It might also be helpful to have the icons represent what race the starbase is OR be the player’s theme icon. I think it would be convenient to have my own starbase always on top of the list. These would overlap the capitol icons.
- Construction / In-combat use
There is a mismatch between form and function for TEC. The TEC cruiser is named Heavy Duty Constructor, much like the planetary version is named Construction Frigate. A new player would infer that construction of starbases does not consume the cruiser, as building regular buildings does not consume the frigate.
I suggest naming it along the lines of starbase convoy and model it accordingly. Perhaps IC could recycle the large pirate cruiser model and attach several of the trade ship cargo bays.
If IC is willing to change the mechanic, consider if the cruiser is not consumed. TEC fleets on both offense and defense would be able to construct replacement starbases quicker, easier, and with less supply. I think it also dovetails nicely with the TEC themes of strong economy, fast construction, and fast replacement of forces.
This would also reduce the effectiveness of in-combat construction, as like making tactical structures can be countered by killing the constructor, so can killing the heavy constructor stop a starbase from going up.
Some time ago, I read that one of the major problems that was being addressed by Entrenchment was a lack of ‘area control’ – players can simply skip hostile planets and their defences and phase jump to the crème filling. (http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/sins-of-a-solar-empire-expansion-box/919968p2.html)
It would make sense that one of the main purposes of a starbase is to enforce a ‘front’, where the enemy has to defeat it before decimating the planet or moving on past it to the next gravwell.
Starbases, as currently implemented, do not address this. It provides fair amounts of firepower, but there’s no reason for the enemy to fight it: it’s essentially twelve gauss platforms packed together in a ball. Skirting the base and phasing to the juicy empire interior is the same as skirting a gauss orb.
So, summed up, what starbases need to do is:
- Have a significant enough effect outside of their attack range to make fighting them worthwhile or necessary
- Establish area control by preventing movement toward friendly space
- Allow retreating away from friendly space
- Prevent lone siege frigates from skirting the station and bombing the planet anyway (save the populace)
- Prevent parking outside of attack range and just farming the trade ships heading to it
- Make 'hit and run' more difficult, but still viable
(Posted here) What if phase lanes soaked by friendly culture are impassable to enemies when there is a starbase present? It opens up some interesting possibilities.
Starbases in areas of uncontested culture become tar pits - once you go in, you can't go out without smashing the base.
If you want an escape path in case the assault turns for the worse, push your own culture back at the target gravwell to open up the retreat path. If you happen to have a lot of culture to push, you could simply remove the jump interference. An interesting side effect is that the culture repel rate of capitol ships suddenly becomes critical to hold blockades.
For Vasari and TEC, this means that a Starbase at a neutral gravwell that is 2 or less jumps away from a planet with a broadcast center will protect the jumps behind it. Uncontested with culture, of course. Perhaps Starbases as a whole could receive a minor culture resist, perhaps that of one capitol ship.
Advent starbases can generate their own culture, making their defenses more powerful - but they're already the racial defense specialists, so this fits thematically. It also makes the Deliverence Engine useful for blockade running.
I'm not sure how star to star and wormhole travel should be handled, though.
An interesting play would be when you're pushing a lot of culture at a base but the enemy has several capitol ships stationed, blocking it. You phase in, snipe their caps to let your culture through, and then jump out, skipping the starbase. Makes the support abilities of bases more important.
It's graphically easy to see what your jump options are and probably isn't that difficult to implement. It gives 'area control' to gravwells under your domain without making offensive use of starbases too powerful. I think it might just do the trick.
(Posted here) Give the cannons and stations very long range; the inherent problem is that they'll graphically shoot through the planet.
One solution is to give cannons and starbases relative swift movement along the Z axis only to allow them line of sight to the other side of the planet. It would have to be automatic and not controllable by the player, since structures are not supposed to 'move'. The Vasari starbase would have this ability too, but it would keep the player-controlled movement ability
This might actually be the easiest to code and isn't too unreasonable from a gameplay point of view.
I suspect that giving gravwell range to starbases negates the movement ability of the Vasari, but I'm sure there are plenty of other specialties IC can give them.
(From discussion here) Fully upgraded starbases cannot take a small mixed (150 supply) fleet, no torpedo cruisers. In fact, it doesn't even take that much: three carriers (two Advent) can eat it without losses. I never found a reason to build the torpedo cruisers.
Once you have a moderate empire on a small map, it is relatively very cheap to fully deck out a starbase – it shouldn’t be. Starting a starbase should be cheap - it allows for a particular playstyle of lightly defending everything. Fully upgraded starbases, however should be huge investments (80k+ credits) but give a strong hold on territory. Upgrade purchase costs and the resulting power should, at the least, double the current values for every level.
This might make constructing starbases for offense too powerful. One way to counterbalance this is to have upgrading the health should simply upgrade the maximum health, much as it does for planets. This encourages more thought out in advance deployment of starbases for defense and placement near support structures. Fleet support for blitzing with a new starbase on offense would also be more important.
Starbases act as super trade ports; this means that a much larger number of trade ships can be generated for even a small map. On huge maps, there’d probably be ludicrous numbers of them – this also translates to unusually high trade income. (link) As they aren’t directly controllable by players and often have their icons hidden by players, I wonder if reducing their number but increasing their HP and payload would save enough processor time to be worthwhile. (link)
Glows around player colors on ships tend to ‘pulse’ as you rotate the camera around them. Doesn’t seem to happen all the time; it might be skybox or lighting related. (link)
Sideways factory glow; already noted by other people.
Strange dust clouds sometimes; no upgrading, no debuffs, just strange clouds. (link)
Repair bay animations, but it doesn’t have the docking beam upgrade nor does anything nearby need repairs. (link)
If friendly ships are very close to it, it will slowly rock back and forth instead of fully rotating. When they move away, it will spin quickly for a bit and then slow down to its normal spin, presumable once it’s ‘caught up’. (rotate.save)
Looks kinda small compared to the TEC one.
The odd greenish dust-clouds seen on the TEC bases is present on these as well, but less often. I have not found what the exact cause is.
Occasionally flies at things tilted forwards. While not unreasonable, it looks rather awkward compared to flying straight at it like the base usually does.
I looked at all the capital ships in detail, as it seems there were some nice upgrades. Some of these issues I list existed before Entrenchment. Almost all of these issues are very minor but I've listed them anyway; I don't expect IC to hunt down every little detail here. Many of them are 30 second value changes while others might be more complicated.
When capital ships are under construction, only their paint reflects light. When they are finished, the entire ship reflects light as expected. It’s possible that this affects frigates too, but I haven’t noticed it. (link)
No problems noticed.
Portion of the keel texture appears stretched (link)
Parallel parts of the right side of the ship do not always reflect at the same angle (pops) *If nothing else is addressed graphically, please fix this*
Engine exhaust clipping (link)
Deployable missile battery glows; kinda like ghosts in movies. (link)
Seam on left side of tip does not line up. This might make sense if the nose was attached to the end ad-hoc, but the right side does match up. (link)
There’s a green texture that could be intentional, but it doesn’t fit the TEC general ship color scheme. (link)
No, it’s not a cap, but I can’t buy a plushie or die cast of this sexy thing! Pretty please? (link)
One of the light flasher poles hangs right next to the main engines. Putting it there is kind of like dragging an antenna right next to the main thrusters on the space shuttle during launch, only except with a few order of magnitude more thrust: it would get toasted right away. (link)
Revelation, Halcyon, Rapture
No problems noticed
The head has a triangle that doesn’t reflect evenly with the rest of the side. (link)
Most of the Vasari caps seem rather low-resolution when compared to TEC and the Advent (link).
Kortul, Skirantra, Jarrasul / Egg, Vulkoras
No specific problems noticed.
There are odd squares on the tips of the fangs in the front (link)
My relatively viable system appears to be severely CPU bound in this game by how many ships are active. On a small map with a nearly empty AI fleet and 500 frigates built, but not rendered, will bring the game to a crawl (500flak.save). The trade ship count mentioned earlier may or may not be relevant to performance.
Disabling background tasks does not appear to influence it.
I’m willing to run some benchmarking tools or a specific benchmark build if my results are substantially different from what you expect this hardware to get.
All components at factory speed.
Vista 64, up to date
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600@2.4
Asus P5K-VM (Intel G33/P35 chipset)
3 x 1Gb Corsair XMS DDR2-800 4-4-4-12 (RIP my fourth stick)
XFX 8800 GTS 640mb @ 600MHz (using the 180.48 WHQL drivers)
Western Digital 500Gb RE2, AHCI mode
Alt-tabbing, Vista64, other idle tasks
If an idle-priority task is running, such as BOINC, bringing the game back from alt-tab will take an indefinite amount of time. BOINC does not interfere with the game while the game is in the foreground, however, so I suspect that it is a thread priority issue.
When moving over very short distances, ships will shimmy and rotate, instead of rotate and fly. See picture for approximate threshold. (pops) While graphically awkward, this is, strategically, an awesome feature. IC, please don't fix it and extend the shimmy distance a little!
Broadcast centers can be constructed while the research is queued, but not obtained. (Fixed in 91.002)
Rebels caused by my culture are hostile to me. I’m not 100% sure, but I recall my rebels not shooting at me in vanilla sins.
Trade ships travel through planets I own that do not have trade ports, much like they travel through empty UCGWs. However, both my planets and UCGWs without tradeports of some kind block calculation of the longest path. This is probably not a big deal because of the announced change to the trade port system. (link)
A constructor (mechanical noise) says a voiceover ‘I have arrived’ message from another TEC unit; can’t place which one.
New Items (91.002)
The Advent starbase can receive a movement debuff (pic) (save)
Movement commands issued while a ship is in phase space shows an invalid path (pic)
Homing Mines will sometimes not trigger. I suspect it's related to killing the parent Drone Host or the drone host jumping out of a system before calling in it's mine squadron. (pic) (save)
Mines spam the empire tree, making it much less useful for seeing more than one system. (pic)
Starbases appear to regen their health very slowly sometimes - minutes inbetween updates. (save)
When attacking, ruiners and their counterparts often leave systems with hundreds of mines. When rampaging through an enemy force, these mines build up and do nothing more than slow down the game. Perhaps mines should expire after a certain time period.