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Stars in Shadow 
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Carl Miller wrote:
I'm not sure what surgery Talon needs in order to stop coughing up hard drives, but it sounds expensive, especially since hospitals in this world, not being the TdSmR-verse, don't have stocks of loroi blood. :mrgreen:

Unfortunately I lost a lot of data, as I had been using my backup drive to transport files during my recent Canada trip, but on the bright side I'll be replacing the hard disk with a much faster SSD, so Talon should be a better performer when all is done.

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Thu Sep 15, 2016 2:03 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Time for a first impressions review about Stars in Shadow after spending about three hours on it and without reading anything about it previously.

Its an above average early access game in terms of functionality and approach-ability; it is mid beta in terms of missing or unfinished portions of the game. The UI needs streamlining and there are some missing elements in regards to ground fighting, missing texts and some minor bugs here and there. When compared with the rest of Early Access games this entry represent what early access should have been: Highly functioning and approachable games pushed out of the door for a variety of reasons, whether financial need or streamlining after player input.

Visually the game scores exceptionally well when compared with the vast majority of indie games out there, it stands out on this department and the unique look allows it to dodge the comparison with AAA games.

On the Gameplay front its a run of the mill 4X game, if you have played other 4X games you will recognize all strategic gameplay mechanics almost instantly. Beyond the somewhat non-intuitive UI it does function properly which allows the player to focus the game's strong point: The turn based tactical combat which is expanded by the ship building system.

I haven't delved into the mechanics much but the potential of an awesome turn based strategy battle system is there and so far the AI seems competent even on low difficulty levels, hopefully with larger fleets and competent AI the TBS aspect of the game will allow for some much needed longevity to the game itself.

The game suffers on the sound front, the music is good but repeats and will get stale after a while. The UI sounds need some expansion for some much needed feedback and there need to be some short of minor theme music for each race when conversing with them via diplomacy and even when battling them.

Overall its a competent 4X game that satisfies the itch but it still needs work, streamlining and by the looks of things some finalized end game content.

As it stands now it is a 7 out of 10. 4X Fans will appreciate it and spend hours on it but the UI needs to be streamlined very soon if the first players are to return to it quickly after the initial rush is finished.

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Thu Sep 15, 2016 4:21 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
dragoongfa wrote:
Time for a first impressions review about Stars in Shadow after spending about three hours on it and without reading anything about it previously.

Thanks for the feedback.

We have a long list of TODO's in terms of improving the UI, but I'm interested to know what bits specifically you found unintuitive or felt are in need of streamlining.

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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Arioch wrote:
dragoongfa wrote:
Time for a first impressions review about Stars in Shadow after spending about three hours on it and without reading anything about it previously.

Thanks for the feedback.

We have a long list of TODO's in terms of improving the UI, but I'm interested to know what bits specifically you found unintuitive or felt are in need of streamlining.


Is this an acceptable place to put such? I haven't gotten to play it yet - tinkering on a D&D homebrew campaign is hard, then someone distracted me by saying "Heroes?" and I went to play a siege tank dropping hellfire on primitive screwheads whilst archangels, demons, and protoss dueled all around me, but I'll get to it.


Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:34 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Arioch wrote:
dragoongfa wrote:
Time for a first impressions review about Stars in Shadow after spending about three hours on it and without reading anything about it previously.

Thanks for the feedback.

We have a long list of TODO's in terms of improving the UI, but I'm interested to know what bits specifically you found unintuitive or felt are in need of streamlining.


I will delve in the game some more before putting some feedback down but the most glaring issue for the time being is having to refit each ship separately which is something that you guys are already working on.

There are some more pet peeves of mine but I will see if I missed something obvious before saying that they need work.

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Thu Sep 15, 2016 6:10 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Just started things up.

First impressions:

The font and icons used for the title screen and informing the player that their maps are being generated may be offputtingly cartoony to some players. It bears an unfortunate resemblance to Comic Sans, and years and years of memeing have left Comic Sans and fonts which resemble it as the butt of a joke, the punchline of which is typically a sense of slipshoddiness.

Additionally, I think some players may be highly offput by humanity being the "Hardmode gonna get shrekt!" option, because a lot of first-time players are likely to gravitate towards the human race, which in video games is traditionally the "no special bonuses or penalties" race. Also, aesthetically speaking, I think a lot of players would be biased towards a human, or humanoid (think Star Trek rubber forehead alien) race, than the distinctive not-very-humanlike other races on offer. I'm not saying the other races in question are bad, or even bad looking, I just think some players might not like to play them, and might be offput by being forced to choose between the familiar and hardmode start, or that which is offputting in the long run.

Anyway, that having been said... I'm looking forward to digging into this, now I dunno what to start researching first. (That's a good sign.)


Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:49 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
A few more early thoughts:

It might be nice to draw the player's attention if they colonize a world where their people are going to be starving and they need to buy a farm right away to stop that. (It might be nicer to have the colony set-up include a pity farm capable of feeding the starting colonists.) I had to spend basically all my starting cash (as humans) getting from my outpost to a planet I could habitate, by way of dropping a farm on a mars-like planet to provide a jump range extender.

It might be nice to let ships exceed their "bingo" range, which I presume is modeled as the distance they can jump to and return to their nearest fuel source, with the understanding that it's a one-way trip. I had a habitable world inside my scout's bingo range, but juuuuuust outside of my transports' range.

Also, the game stopped responding to me when I bombarded a planet, I was obliged to blindly kill it with the task manager.


Thu Sep 15, 2016 11:29 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
Also, the game stopped responding to me when I bombarded a planet, I was obliged to blindly kill it with the task manager.

I think there may be a new bug where the game hangs if you kill all population with bombardment.

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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
In order not to clatter the thread I will post my suggestions on this post as they come to me:

Streamlining:

1: Either a shorting function for the current research menu or a standard tech tree to the research screen in order to make researching more approachable. A compromise between the two is possible, with an easy and quick small menu with a shorting function and an expanded tech tree on a secondary screen in order to see the full tech path. The ability to queue research would also be nice.

2: Planet info side panel. Currently they are auto shorted by population but the side panel can be expanded somewhat. Having the planets showed there grouped in a per system basis would be nice as an Empire management screen. Showing some additional info as built buildings, construction queues and orbiting stations would also be nice.

3: Ship differentiation. Currently selecting the right ship for the job is a chore. The model system of the game doesn't allow for a standard 'at a glance' differentiation between the various player made classes but the implementation of a differently colored 'shade' or perhaps a visual overlay on each ship model would perhaps help the player in immediately recognizing each different class of ship during the mid and late game.

Gameplay additions:

1: Blockades. Perhaps its already implemented but I haven't gone that far in my games yet. The current auto-transportation of food and metals should allow for the easy implementation of a blockade system when an enemy fleet is within the system, this should cut off all the planets within that system from each other and the rest of the Empire which would bring forth starvation and economic and industrial strangulation depending on population size (more populace cut off should translate to a lesser monetary income via trade), metal production and food production. An option to allow or forbid the passing of food should be included for the reputation mechanics:

A) Allowing food to pass freely in and out on all blockaded systems: Positive reputation impact as the rest of the enemy empire is unaffected if a bread basket system happens to be blockade.
B) Allowing food to only come in: No hit or bonus, the rest of the empire may suffer a little if a bread basket system blockaded but there wont be a die out if a net importer gets blockaded.
C) No food transportation whatsoever: Negative reputation impact as food shortages will mean mass die outs.

2: Capability for Human Empires to buy/bribe human pirate fleets. Balanced with a negative hit in reputation with aliens but a positive hit in planetary morale.

Gameplay/UI issues:

1: Neutral fleets in system. A neutral fleet was in system and I got the little 'battle' bubble next to the star system in the map. Thinking that I was attacked I clicked the auto resolve which ended up with me declaring a war on them without receiving any short of pop up warning. I know now that nothing would have happened if I did nothing but it was confusing at that moment as the little 'battle bubble' made me believe that I was under attack when I was not.

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Fri Sep 16, 2016 5:09 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Arioch wrote:
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
Also, the game stopped responding to me when I bombarded a planet, I was obliged to blindly kill it with the task manager.

I think there may be a new bug where the game hangs if you kill all population with bombardment.


Ah, that would constitute a problem in the situation I'm in. Some alien arseholes (as differentiated from the perfectly reasonable aliens,) decided to declare war on me, with the stated reason of "we want your territory." Obviously, that was not kosher, but I was not set up in any way for invasions. They had also unwisely settled three planets in two systems already in my jump range.

So I baited the defense fleet from the system that had actually useful planets with a scout, jumped in some warships, and planned to proceed to wipe them out... But that bug has kind of put the kibosh on that.

So, how do you invade planets, anyway?

[e]Yep, just tried it again. Definitely bugged. :(


Fri Sep 16, 2016 9:24 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
To invade a planet you need to build ground forces and load them onto transports (or build the "troop transport" option, which includes both).

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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Arioch wrote:
To invade a planet you need to build ground forces and load them onto transports (or build the "troop transport" option, which includes both).


Thanks.

Found another problem, though.

The Yorgal declared war on me for $REASONS.
They didn't come at me in like, ten turns. Eventually, I said "this is stupid, let's end this war."

I paid 100 Influence to end the war, 80 to establish embassies again, 80 to establish trade again...

And the very next turn, they declared war again.


THIS NEEDS TO BE ADRESSED! The player shouldn't be allowed to spend a metric assload of influence to accomplish something only to have it immediately undone by the AI going "Psych!" Either the AI should be bound by its agreements to end wars for a nice long time (like, 80-100 turns minimum,) or it should reject peace offers if it's just going to declare again next turn.


[e]Also, a minor thing that I just found; the Windows Hotkey doesn't just alt-tab from Stars, it changes Stars from Fullscreen to Windowed mode. Alt-Enter doesn't, however, nor does it change it back.

[e2] Found an amusing typo in the description of missile Cruisers. It references "Missile duals" when it probably meant "duels."


Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:23 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
The diplomacy system is brand new, and there's a lot that still needs to be added to it, not least of which is AI handling.

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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Arioch wrote:
The diplomacy system is brand new, and there's a lot that still needs to be added to it, not least of which is AI handling.


Fair 'nuff, I'm just saying, it was quite a rude surprise to basically influence-bribe them with an asston of influence, basically saying "Look, you guys, some things were said, but we're willing to let bygones be bygones. We cool?" And they said "Sure, we cool," and then immediately afterwards go "Psych! Heil Hitler!" (Nobody's gonna get that reference, are they?)

So of course, I had to bombardinate the crap out of several worlds and invade them before they got the point...


Fri Sep 16, 2016 5:38 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
The Yorgal declared war on me for $REASONS.
They didn't come at me in like, ten turns. Eventually, I said "this is stupid, let's end this war."

I paid 100 Influence to end the war, 80 to establish embassies again, 80 to establish trade again...

And the very next turn, they declared war again.


THIS NEEDS TO BE ADRESSED! The player shouldn't be allowed to spend a metric assload of influence to accomplish something only to have it immediately undone by the AI going "Psych!" Either the AI should be bound by its agreements to end wars for a nice long time (like, 80-100 turns minimum,) or it should reject peace offers if it's just going to declare again next turn.
Really? I would just throw in a negative reputation hit on them, and have the AI take that into account. Potentially more variety in the gameplay that way.


Fri Sep 16, 2016 7:25 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Absalom wrote:
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
The Yorgal declared war on me for $REASONS.
They didn't come at me in like, ten turns. Eventually, I said "this is stupid, let's end this war."

I paid 100 Influence to end the war, 80 to establish embassies again, 80 to establish trade again...

And the very next turn, they declared war again.


THIS NEEDS TO BE ADRESSED! The player shouldn't be allowed to spend a metric assload of influence to accomplish something only to have it immediately undone by the AI going "Psych!" Either the AI should be bound by its agreements to end wars for a nice long time (like, 80-100 turns minimum,) or it should reject peace offers if it's just going to declare again next turn.
Really? I would just throw in a negative reputation hit on them, and have the AI take that into account. Potentially more variety in the gameplay that way.


It would need to be huge: nobody should ever again want to trust the guy who just signed a peace treaty and then pulled a "Psych! Heil Hitler!" on someone.

I mean, I'm all for not outright prohibiting actions in video games, because it can get absurd. Consider Stellaris: "There's galaxy-devouring monsters on the far side of this galaxy. We have a fleet that can stop them, but only if we can get to and take their beachhead so they're warping into hostile territory. We WANT to go and get them, but some tiny, pissant pack of radical pacifists refuses to open their borders to us for any reason. We would like to say "screw you guys" and fly across their space, but we shouldn't have to declare all-out war on them to do so."

But there should be consequences for doing things like, say, reneging on your word, or violating someone else's territory.


Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:07 pm
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Arioch wrote:
To invade a planet you need to build ground forces and load them onto transports (or build the "troop transport" option, which includes both).

That's why I always play Elerian, or Custom Race with the appropriate pick...
Oh, wait, that's Master of Orion 2.
DosBox loading again....

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Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:17 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Gameplay Issues: AI lags in research and/or mounting weapons.

I initially thought that the slavers tech too fast when compared with the player and the AI as they currently have Large Railguns and Fusion Missiles mounted on their planets when the AI still has Lasers and Nuclear Torpedoes mounted on their ships. I am at stardate 1304 which means that either the AI is slacking on the research department or their ships aren't properly outfitted with what they currently have.

Considering that I do observe progression in AI tech I think that the AI just doesn't refit its past designs. Could be intentional or non implemented.

EDIT: Yes the lack of an automated Refit is by far the worse problem of the game in its current iteration, I know that it is being worked on but I just can't not comment on it.

In order to properly have a refit system a few things need to be included:

1: Refit queue
2: To refit based on existing blueprints
3: The ability to select multiple ships for refit
4: A semi automatic 'hide obsolete equipment' function when editing current designs, the ability to mark certain weapons as obsolete would also be nice

As it stands now the lategame is an extreme chore as trying to refit dozens of ships one by one is a nightmare.

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Sat Sep 17, 2016 3:49 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
One thing I'm wondering about: Is the AI opportunistically comparing their fleet strength to yours when deciding when to go to war?

They should also compare industrial base, economic and metal base, too. When the fuzzies decided to claw my bollocks off and I said "naw," I was able to basically conjure a fleet out of wholecloth inside of ten turns and kick them inna nuts on even terms.


Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:35 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
The two major additions we are making to the refit system are:

A - option to refit to existing design (instead of having to choose components manually for each ship)

B - mass refit (the ability to instantly refit all ships in a class with a currency payment instead of production)

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Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:37 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Thank goodness. I started playing yesterday, and am having a lot of fun, but refits are already wearing on me.

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Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:40 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Here's a repost of the development roadmap:

Development Plans
We expect to be in Early Access for a few months while we flesh out systems, add assets and put a polish on gameplay. During this period, we will try to maintain a clear roadmap of development progress, and pay close attention to player feedback. Here is a list of features planned to be added during Early Access, in the rough order in which we plan to tackle them:

  • Strategic Zoom: two additional zoom levels for the strategic map, one in and one out, to allow you to better step back and and see the larger picture or lean forward and concentrate on local details.
  • Galactic Council: adding graphical victory screens both for the existing conquest victory and for a new Galactic Council victory. You don't necessarily need to destroy everyone if you can befriend, coerce, or otherwise awe a sufficient percentage of the surviving sentients in the galaxy.
  • Diplomacy Event System: in addition to expanding the number of diplomatic issues and the ways factions can respond to them, we are adding a new event system that will allow the AI factions to create issues outside of direct player behavior to help further drive interactions and the sense of a living galaxy. Events can take the familiar form of such things as natural disasters, or they can be action cues for an AI faction leader who may have simply gotten out of the wrong side of the bed that morning.
  • New Player Tutorials: an expanded set of (optional) advisor notifications that will help ease new players through the mechanics of the game.
  • Game Options: adding a variety of gameplay options, including graphical settings and more advanced map configuration settings.
  • Enhanced Refit System: new functionality for the ship refit system to allow mass refit for cash (rather than production), and refit to class (in addition to per-ship refit).
  • New Encounters: space monsters, Pirate asteroid bases, and new interactions with existing minor races (such as those pesky Gaiads).
  • Tactical Combat Enhancements: including area of effect weapons and a rebalancing of fighter mechanics.
  • Added Faction Mechanics: two additional playable factions (Phidi and Ashdar Imperials), and full implementation of the special features that distinguish one faction from another, including: Gremak distortion fields, Orthin shield capacitors, Ashdar stargates, Human salvage systems, Phidi resource trading and mercenary hiring.
  • UI Refinements: usability improvements to the screens for the Ship Designer, Research, Tactical Combat, and miscellaneous status screens, along with improved informational tooltips throughout.
  • Steam Integration: Steam Achievements, Trading Cards, and what not.

Post-Release Plans
We have many ambitious plans for features that won’t fit into the time constraints for the initial release of the game, and so if there is still interest, there is plenty of ground to cover with post-release content. Exactly what form this will take remains to be seen. Features we’d like to add include: new playable factions (Tinkers and Gardeners), Officers, Ship Promotions, Player Campaign Victory Conditions, Steamworks integration and Multiplayer support.

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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
The lack of a map zoom has been bugging me. No rhyme or reason for it, since it's perfectly usable at the default zoom, it's just one of those things you expect that feels missing. I didn't want to mention it because it's such a minor thing, really.

What about the option to rename whole star systems?


Also, do you have any larger-scale versions of the artwork for the human refugees or colonists, and Lt. Bailey? I mean, that you're at liberty to share?

[e] Also, is there any plan to add map shapes, so the game map isn't just a relatively heterogenous mat of stars? Spiral galaxies, long and thin, clusters, etc? Maybe add Outsider-like areas that impede hyperspace, adding natural terrain?

[e2] Is there any way to embark a sub-1pt number of colonists? I'm trying to move like 300,000 humans off an airless world so the Wrem can have it all to themselves. Do I just have to wait until they're near enough to a 1pt pop?

[e3] City Planning could probably use a tooltip to explain that it increases pop growth rate, it's not as intuitive as "TRADE" is. It should also be treated as a completed construction when the population caps off, canceling and prompting the player to select something else.

There could maybe also stand to be, say, a "nutrient recycling" thing that produces extra food, and maybe an "intensive recycling program" that produces extra metal.

Also, it would be nice if the planetary report sorted by star system, or at least by planet name, rather than going in willy-nilly.


Sat Sep 17, 2016 10:13 am
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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
The lack of a map zoom has been bugging me. No rhyme or reason for it, since it's perfectly usable at the default zoom, it's just one of those things you expect that feels missing. I didn't want to mention it because it's such a minor thing, really.

It's at the top of our list of things to do, after bug fixes.

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
What about the option to rename whole star systems?

It's on the list of requested features that would be nice to add.

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
Also, do you have any larger-scale versions of the artwork for the human refugees or colonists, and Lt. Bailey? I mean, that you're at liberty to share?

Yes, though I need to get my computer back before I can access them. What did you want them for?

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
[e]Also, is there any plan to add map shapes, so the game map isn't just a relatively heterogenous mat of stars? Spiral galaxies, long and thin, clusters, etc? Maybe add Outsider-like areas that impede hyperspace, adding natural terrain?

Different map shapes are a possibility, but personally I find a collection of 100 stars shaped like a spiral galaxy to be ridiculous and immersion-breaking. I think of the map as a cluster of stars rather than a galaxy.

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
[e2] Is there any way to embark a sub-1pt number of colonists? I'm trying to move like 300,000 humans off an airless world so the Wrem can have it all to themselves. Do I just have to wait until they're near enough to a 1pt pop?

No and yes. But you don't really gain yourself anything by removing the humans.

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
[e3] City Planning could probably use a tooltip to explain that it increases pop growth rate, it's not as intuitive as "TRADE" is. It should also be treated as a completed construction when the population caps off, canceling and prompting the player to select something else.

I think just about everything could use more tooltips, but documentation is among the last things we'll do before release.

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
There could maybe also stand to be, say, a "nutrient recycling" thing that produces extra food, and maybe an "intensive recycling program" that produces extra metal.

We're considering those things.

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
Also, it would be nice if the planetary report sorted by star system, or at least by planet name, rather than going in willy-nilly.

Well they're sorted by population and not willy-nilly, but a variable sorting feature would be nice to have.

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Post Re: Stars in Shadow
Arioch wrote:
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
What about the option to rename whole star systems?

It's on the list of requested features that would be nice to add.


I claim this star, and I shall call it... 'This Star'.
(Also, curse your sudden-but-inevitable betrayal!)

Arioch wrote:
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
Also, do you have any larger-scale versions of the artwork for the human refugees or colonists, and Lt. Bailey? I mean, that you're at liberty to share?

Yes, though I need to get my computer back before I can access them. What did you want them for?


I just rather liked them and wanted to see the full-detail versions, if such existed. Also, I noticed that the colonist/refugee icons on the issue tracker at the right were different from the population icons. Do those have fullsize versions?

Arioch wrote:
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
[e]Also, is there any plan to add map shapes, so the game map isn't just a relatively heterogenous mat of stars? Spiral galaxies, long and thin, clusters, etc? Maybe add Outsider-like areas that impede hyperspace, adding natural terrain?

Different map shapes are a possibility, but personally I find a collection of 100 stars shaped like a spiral galaxy to be ridiculous and immersion-breaking. I think of the map as a cluster of stars rather than a galaxy.


Well, I agree with you in that it is slightly silly, but we'd need the processing power of the SETI @Home project to run a game with the number of stars that actually exist in a galaxy, not to mention an extremely robust automation system capable of running thousands of turns at a tick. It's one of those things that's an acceptable break from reality in the name of gameplay convention; adding terrain of a sort.

It might also help to cut down on "border gore," where people are colonizing willy-nilly without any respect for proximity to my stuff. It's like, guy, are you trying to start a war, colonizing a star behind five parsecs of my planets? Because that's how you start a war!

Arioch wrote:
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
[e2] Is there any way to embark a sub-1pt number of colonists? I'm trying to move like 300,000 humans off an airless world so the Wrem can have it all to themselves. Do I just have to wait until they're near enough to a 1pt pop?

No and yes. But you don't really gain yourself anything by removing the humans.


Really? Huh. I thought they were, well, "taking up" space that the Wrem could be taking up?


Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:32 am
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