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Author Topic: A Review by Some Jerk  (Read 3261 times)
Minus
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« on: January 25, 2009, 04:40:26 am »

Hello all, I just thought I'd throw together a quick review/constructive criticism post about Mayhem Intergalactic for Chris and the devs. To be honest I haven't browsed the boards much, so I don't know if there are any other devs than Chris, or if they're active here.

Anyway, these are my impressions.

I've played and purchased a few "indy" games, but wouldn't have even heard of any of them or become interested in the 'scene' if it weren't for Steam. My favorite would have to be Defcon, followed closely by the Penny-Arcade Adventures series, World of Goo, and Aquaria. I mention Defcon because like Mayhem Intergalactic, it is a game with a simple interface and a simple gameplay mechanic with little variation on the basic premise, and yet you can have a very long, thought-requiring and tense game with a good handful of your friends. Mayhem Intergalactic, as a game, is a good comparison to Defcon.

I hate to be the kid who complains about graphics, but compared to the other games I mentioned, MI is rather behind in polish and presentation. Most text is drawn in a white basic font, the ship designs aren't animated very much, and the UI is kind of... I don't know, I don't want to say 'boring,' but maybe 'style-neutral' would be accurate. All of this seems odd for an indy game, because most others rely on fancy cursors, frontends, and menu effects as a hook for players.

What MI really has going for it is the game itself, and it's very easy to get in and play and have fun. There is definitely a game here, but little things like counterintuitive frontends, a few programming bugs, and in-game hotkeys mapped oddly (s, r, and u key?) make it feel more like software than game.

All that said, I bought a copy after a friend sent a guest pass through Steam, and my guest pass went to a friend who also bought it after playing a match with us. The 10$ is worth it to someone like me who loves the blend of Risk, Diplomacy, and interstellar warp drives.

Thanks for the game, Chris!
« Last Edit: January 25, 2009, 04:42:35 am by Minus » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2009, 05:58:50 am »

No problem. I'm glad that you (mostly) like the game! It's also great to hear that the guest pass promotion is working as intended. Wink  Thanks for taking the time to write your review.

I am aware of the problems you've listed, to a greater or lesser extent - except, possibly the bugs, unless they're the same ones as have already been reported. Please do go ahead and report any new bugs you find!

Could you elaborate about the counter-intuitive frontend and any other annoyances you've found? I love getting in-depth feedback.

This post is getting long, so time for some headings!

Graphics

I agree the graphics are not so hot. This is because I made most of them (Mayhem being a solo effort apart from the occasional contractor) and I'm really not an artist. At best I'm an aspiring pretender. Mayhem's graphics aren't all that bad as programmer-art goes; this is, of course, not saying much.

I'd love to team up with an artist, but it's difficult to find someone talented and reliable who's willing to work for next-to-nothing, and I don't have enough money to pay decent commissions/wages. (Unless Steam changes that - I'm still waiting on initial sales figures!) Aquaria and World of Goo were both created by very talented artist-programmer duos. Introversion (the guys behind Defcon) are a company with multiple salaried employees and money in the bank from their previous releases. Penny Arcade Adventures is probably funded in some way, and has multiple people working on it. So they all get to have great art. Unfortunately I'm in a bit of a catch-22. I can't afford an artist, and therefore the graphics suck, so I can't sell enough copies to be able to afford an artist! Wink

Additionally, I'm not doing this full-time during university terms, which wouldn't really be fair if the artist didn't have similar time constraints at similar times.

Controls

Apologies for the controls. I realise they're a bit awkward. They were originally chosen because I'd underlined the first unique letter of each button (Send ships, Set rally point, Upgrade), in crappy Windows GUI style, but after the v1.1 graphics revamp it certainly would be a lot easier to change them. I've grown used to them and thus haven't bothered; you're right that it needs a rethink. I need to choose more sensible defaults and put in a key-remapping screen.

What keys would you choose as defaults? Is there any particular scheme you had in mind? I'd be grateful for any feedback.

One idea - and I'm just brainstorming here - is to subvert standard FPS controls. Use WASD for moving the screen around or for selecting planets, E for sending ships (like a "use" key), R for setting rally points (since it makes sense mnemonically - R for Rally - and is next to E, slightly further out since it's used less frequently), and Q for upgrading since it's in a convenient location. Then you'd use the mouse for clicking and selecting, and either the row of number keys or the numpad for typing ship quantities.

Alternatively, WASD could be used to move your selection between adjacent planets, like Ctrl+arrow does now. You'd keep one hand on WASD, and the other on the numpad to type ship quantities and press "Enter" on the send ships dialogs and when choosing destination planets. In this scheme the mouse isn't necessary, and you don't have to move your hands.

I can immediately see some flaws in these schemes, but it's a start. Anyone got any better ideas?
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2009, 06:26:05 am »

I just played five or so games with two friends, and we were having too much fun to take notes on anything we'd improve. The only two things that come to mind are someone accidentally starting the game without fail, every time, because they wanted to say something but forgot to click the chat box, and thus accidentally hit the hotkey for it. We'd also like the ability to set the AI difficulty in the game lobby instead of it using the AI difficulty setting in the options menu.

I also had some sort of bug where half the time it wouldn't "secure the socket" or something whenever I tried to create an internet game lobby. The solution was to keep trying. Might have something to do with my router, or my ISP filtering my ports again.

As for key placement, they just need to be within easy reach of one hand. I play with the turn deadline set to 120 seconds, so the mouse is sufficient even for large empires, but in faster 30-second turn games, I felt rushed and wanting to use my left hand to keep up.

My friends and I are big Diplomacy buffs. We like MIG because it's like playing a very fast version of it. If you've never heard of it, Diplomacy relies extensively on alliance and treaties... and stabbing those alliances in the back when they don't expect it. Essentially, it relies totally on trust, and, at the right time, being able to realize your friend has nowhere else to expand but into your territory and will likely attack soon. There are no rules that govern alliances, so it is very easy but very risky to attack someone you've publicly or secretly made a friend. Essentially, it's the honor system. We think this sort of system would work very well in MIG. All it requires is some sort of communique system in place so we can talk to one person without the other players knowing. A little AI code could get them to accept alliances and then dump them when they feel powerful enough to stab an ally. Combined with an overhaul on the in-game chat box, this would be the biggest feature we'd like to see implemented in the long run.

Sorry this post is such a mess, I've gone over so many revisions I doubt it sounds coherent at all. Hope I've made sense. I also don't want to sound more negative than I should - we had a blast tonight.

edit-heavy changes to fourth paragraph.

ps - come to think of it, a little unobtrusive 'blip' sound when someone says something would go a long way to improving the chat system as it is.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2009, 06:48:14 am by Minus » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2009, 06:46:21 am »

I just played five or so games with two friends, and we were having too much fun to take notes on anything we'd improve.

Can I quote that on the website? Smiley (If so, feel free to revise it first, and let me know how you'd like to be attributed.)

Quote
The only two things that come to mind are someone accidentally starting the game without fail, every time, because they wanted to say something but forgot to click the chat box, and thus accidentally hit the hotkey for it.

Hmm, maybe I should just make the chat box stay open permanently on that screen. What do you think?

Quote
We'd also like the ability to set the AI difficulty in the game lobby instead of it using the AI difficulty setting in the options menu.

Good idea. Noted.

Quote
I also had some sort of bug where half the time it wouldn't "secure the socket" or something whenever I tried to create an internet game lobby. The solution was to keep trying. Might have something to do with my router, or my ISP filtering my ports again.

If it was "could not bind to port", that's a known bug which happens when you create a new server shortly after closing down an old server. It has no easy fix that I'm aware of, although you can work around it either by trying again (as you found), or changing the port number on the "Create server" screen.

Otherwise, the exact text of the error message would be helpful if you get it again.

Quote
As for key placement, they just need to be within easy reach of one hand.
Right. Just wondered if you had any specific ideas. Smiley

Quote
My friends and I are big Diplomacy buffs. We like MIG because it's like playing a very fast version of it. If you've never heard of it, Diplomacy relies extensively on alliance and treaties... and stabbing those alliances in the back when they don't expect it. Essentially, it relies totally on trust, and, at the right time, being able to realize your friend has nowhere else to expand but into your territory and will likely attack soon. There are no rules that govern alliances, so it is very easy but very risky to attack someone you've publicly or secretly made a friend. Essentially, it's the honor system. We think this sort of system would work very well in MIG. All it requires is some sort of communique system in place so we can talk to one person without the other players knowing.

Interesting idea. I might just add a chat-to-one-person feature.

Quote
Combined with an overhaul on the in-game chat box, this would be the biggest feature we'd like to see implemented in the long run.

What exactly would you like overhauled about it?

Quote
Sorry this post is such a mess, I've gone over so many revisions I doubt it sounds coherent at all. Hope I've made sense. I also don't want to sound more negative than I should - we had a blast tonight.

Nah, it's quite coherent. Thanks for all the constructive feedback!
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« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2009, 06:53:12 am »

Quote
Quote
Combined with an overhaul on the in-game chat box, this would be the biggest feature we'd like to see implemented in the long run.

What exactly would you like overhauled about it?

It's hard to quickly tell chat messages from the game messages (x defended y with z ships remaining, x left the game). There could be a scrollbar to go back up through the chatlog, or the text could be smaller, or the window could be moved someplace. But really, the simplest and probably the biggest thing would be a little unobtrusive 'blip' sound whenever someone speaks.
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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2009, 07:36:42 am »

But really, the simplest and probably the biggest thing would be a little unobtrusive 'blip' sound whenever someone speaks.

I'll see if Duncan can whip something up for me. Smiley

Putting a scrollbar on the info bar's chat log (press Tab or click the button in the top-left) is already on the to-do list, I believe... no doubt buried somewhere amongst all the other really good ideas for interface tweaks!
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2009, 05:51:26 am »

I just played five or so games with two friends, and we were having too much fun to take notes on anything we'd improve.

Can I quote that on the website? Smiley (If so, feel free to revise it first, and let me know how you'd like to be attributed.)

Sure. No attribution necessary, something anonymous would be fine.

Quote
Quote
The only two things that come to mind are someone accidentally starting the game without fail, every time, because they wanted to say something but forgot to click the chat box, and thus accidentally hit the hotkey for it.

Hmm, maybe I should just make the chat box stay open permanently on that screen. What do you think?

That'd probably work fine.

Quote
Quote
I also had some sort of bug where half the time it wouldn't "secure the socket" or something whenever I tried to create an internet game lobby. The solution was to keep trying. Might have something to do with my router, or my ISP filtering my ports again.

If it was "could not bind to port", that's a known bug which happens when you create a new server shortly after closing down an old server. It has no easy fix that I'm aware of, although you can work around it either by trying again (as you found), or changing the port number on the "Create server" screen.

I didn't get this error at all today. How odd.

Anyway, I thought up two more medium-sized updates. A victory condition drop box would be handy in the game lobby, "Classic" would be something like it is now, something like "Conquest" would cause a defeat for a player when they lose their last planet instead of their last convoy, etc.

In today's game we were so evenly matched that we probably would have agreed to a draw. Because there were people observing and waiting for the next game, I surrendered like a gentleman, because I had set no turn limit at the start. We set it to 50 turns per game for the rest of them, but it would still be nice to have the feature to agree to a draw, probably in the same Diplomacy window I envision would also include the speak-to-one-player function and the surrender function.

Lastly, here's the crash I got today. I was hosting an 8-person match, and suddenly everyone was crashed. I couldn't make this error box go away so I killed the process in the task manager.

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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2009, 06:15:58 am »

Sure. No attribution necessary, something anonymous would be fine.

Well, I like to have an attribution so that people can verify I'm not just making this stuff up. Smiley  I'll stick with "Minus" unless you have any objections.

Quote
I didn't get this error at all today. How odd.

Yeah, it's intermittent. I did program in a workaround but it's only effective some of the time.

Quote
Anyway, I thought up two more medium-sized updates. A victory condition drop box would be handy in the game lobby, "Classic" would be something like it is now, something like "Conquest" would cause a defeat for a player when they lose their last planet instead of their last convoy, etc.

Good idea. I've added that to my notes about scenarios from that other thread.

Quote
it would still be nice to have the feature to agree to a draw

Also a good idea.

Quote
Lastly, here's the crash I got today. I was hosting an 8-person match, and suddenly everyone was crashed. I couldn't make this error box go away so I killed the process in the task manager.

"Bad file descriptor", eh? Haven't seen that one before. I'll investigate.
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