So I've been playing SOASE for over a month now and thought it would be good to give my impressions and suggestions for the game. I wanted to do this before I get assimilated into a tolerance for things that aren't perfect.
I've been gaming for over 25 years (from good 'ole BBS days) and have played a countless amount of games, and contributed to the development of many. However, when I first played SOASE, I had the rare feeling that I'm playing a game that could be a classic. It's very rare that a modern game gives me that feeling as they generally lack depth. However, as I got more accustomed to the game, I began uncovering some flaws in it...
Note: Some of this may be incorrect based on my limited knowledge so far. Feel free to challenge it or inform me of inaccuracies.
Multiplayer - I'm someone that loves a human opponent. I was really dissapointed when I first went into ICO and saw there was no matchmaking functionality. This led to me having to search for games to join. However, most of the games seem to be friends only and those I was able to get into I usually got kicked out of. When I did get into a game, I was immediately told I can't play this sub-faction, or I can't use these strategies, etc. If a game is really at a place where people feel the need to ban elements of it from multiplayer then it has very serious balancing issues. I've heard things on the forums about the devs only caring about single player, which, I doubt is true, but even if it was, single player should be balanced as well so that's not a good excuse. What's more frustrating for me is that these issues seem like they could be easily addressed and haven't been. Then I was enjoying myself in a multiplayer game and got disconnected from the game (by the game). OK, no problem, I'll just reconnect and get back into the game I was in... err... nope. So those to me are basic things nowadays. I'm not even asking for ladders, automated tournaments, etc. I expect matchmaking at a minimum and rejoin is crucial for a game that can last several hours. Other games have these and I see no reason why SOASE can't. In summary: Need matchmaking, balancing, and rejoin capability.
Learning Curve - Now I have no problem with a steep learning curve. In fact, I tend to prefer games that have it. However, I felt that this was magnified in SOASE due to lack of documentation. To clarify, you have a manual and some tutorials that teach you what the interface does and how to use it. However, what's really missing is some basic strategy guides. Yes, I'm aware of some guides floating around, but I mean something robust. For example, something like a Bradygames strategy guide would really help beginners. I want to know what all of the research skills really do, when to use them, when not to use them, how to prioritize, etc. Another typical one is which ships I need to be using based on which game scenarios. Those are just a couple examples. There's lots of basic things like this that I've not seen fully documented anywhere. And yes, someone will say you just learn that from experience. I would say you fine-tune it from experience, but there's no harm in having a decent starting position. I'm going to attempt to work on this personally though as by making a resource it will help me learn more about the game.
Replay Functionality - So, it's not the easiest thing to obtain replays as there is no current archive for them. However, when you do get them, you need to be prepared to sit through a lot of down time. What's needed at a minimum to me is fast forward and rewind and replay speed. A nice to have would be to be able to jump to a certain position. That being said, I'm happy that there are replays as some games don't have them at all.
Game Performance - Perhaps the number one frustration for me is around poor game performance. Or to put it more clearly, poor late game performance. I was quite surprised to find out it wasn't a bug, but is just "how it is" that the game slows down and eventually crashes when there are large fleets involved. It's so frustrating to be playing a nice multiplayer game, three hours in, then the game starts getting little hiccup lags.. then more often.. then becomes unplayable. This makes the game feel like an unfinished beta to me. I'm really shocked by this. Again, reading the forums, people say this is because of processor and memory limitations. I'm not so sure I agree with that, but I really hope this is addressed.
Other General Suggestions:
* Blind Picking (can’t see opponents faction/sub-faction) before game starts - more strategy, make you learn from scouting
* Contextual Ping with Messages – being able to ping for things like attack route, inbound, look here, etc.
* Quick Multiplayer Mode - A quicker version of the game. Sometimes it's nice to just play for an hourish max.
* Auto-Research when building something unresearched - Dumbs down the game, so can understand concern with that.
* Show Current Rally Points when clicking on a structure / planet.
* Allow you to shift-queue rally points. Let us avoid that pirate base!
* Show More Detailed Missing Requirements - doesn't really tell fully what you need and then you need to try and figure it out. For example, it took me awhile to figure out how to build a starbase. Would be nice to have a grid reference or something telling you what you need as a final research.Can use codes, like Mil-3-5 for Military tree, 3rd row, 5th column
* Show Abilities unlearned as greyed out with tooltips for missing research. Some abilities didn't show up until they were researched. Ex: Vasari starbase doesn’t show up on Frigate abilities until it’s researched
* Cheat Codes for single player games - this would help with learning about the game if you could quickly build a test different aspects of it.
Some Cooler Suggestions:
* Espionage/Terrorism/Etc. could be a really cool feature. Either for attacks/bombing or culture shifting
* Cloaking (and means of detection) could also be interesting
* Solar Storms - random AOE's generating from stars. Closer you are = more damage
* Auto-Pilot - say you need the toilet - press a button and let the AI play for 5 min while you are gone
I have a longer list, but I've tried to just pick the more important/interesting ones...
In a nutshell, this game is really good. In fact, right now when I'm playing other games, I'm just thinking how lacking in fun they are to SOASE. However, I think it could be a true classic if the things mentioned above are improved upon. I mean look at the reviews the game has even though it has some major flaws with it. I really hope there is indeed a SOASE 2 and it addresses these issues and make the game what it should be. I would certainly invest in a kickstarted project to do that. I'm disappointed I didn't see the game in it's prime and wonder how many other people are missing out on it. I only stumbled across it because I was testing SoaDA. There is likely to be others discovering SOASE like me when SoaDA increases it's user base.
Thanks for reading my essay... I don't do TL;DR, sorry