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EMcNeill
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« on: August 28, 2010, 07:58:05 pm »

Aurora is an RTS that is intended to be highly abstracted and simplified. It's heavily inspired by Dyson/Eufloria.

Download the current beta from here. Aurora is built in XNA, and so is available for Windows only. It requires the XNA and .NET frameworks, which are linked from the game page.



  Smiley

Things I would like feedback on:

1. Performance: Did the game run on your machine? Did it run well (even in late-game)? What are your system specs?

2. Learning the game: Were the in-game hints enough? Did you figure out the game easily? Were there any things you had trouble figuring out or are still unsure about?

3. Gameplay: Did you have fun? Does the basic flow of the game work for you? Any big complaints about the AI or rules? Too easy or hard? (And on which map?)

4. Aesthetics: Do you like the graphics? The music? The sound effects? The rhythm system? Do the controls and movement in the game "feel" right?

5. Maps: Do you have any ideas for new maps in the game? The "terrain" in Aurora is a pretty minimal thing, since it's pretty much only a matter of sun placement, but if you have ideas for cool layouts (and you don't mind me stealing the idea and profiting from it), please share!


A screenshot for good measure:
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Pixelthief
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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2010, 08:11:55 pm »

Unfortunately I couldn't get it to run. Windows 7 64bit system, both frameworks installed.
Is it not compatible with 64bit?
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2010, 08:13:57 pm »

 Lips Sealed  I thought XNA was supposed to Just Work.

It should be compatible with 64bit. I tested it on another Windows 7 system in the past (a friend's, and I'm pretty darn sure it was 64bit), and it ran fine. Did you get any error message?
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Pixelthief
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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2010, 08:53:05 pm »

Yeah thats what I thought! I looked and realized my XNA was out of date >_>

I like minimalism. It can be a tricky thing to pull off though. Players need a lot of both audio and visual clues- and I think you've done quite a bit of these. But it took a while to realize you could drag the cursor to issue an order after clicking- perhaps you could have a line of some kind to make it more clear? On that same notion, it would help if there was a way to know where the troops are going at any given time- perhaps a rally line for groups of a minimum density? Its hard to do with so many objects and keeping it looking good.

The game ran well enough. I'm not sure what lategame would be- I just got into an unendable stalemate with half a map against half a map. In that way, its kind of nice in RTS's to have something to exploit, even terrainwwise, to give yourself some advantage. In a zero sum game like this- especially with the explicit 1:1 annihilation of troops, I think the game would benefit from having some mechanic that would let you get more marginal utility out of each troop. A war game often lets you do something like high ground- exploit your positioning to make less troops do more damage. I don't know what would work here- thats up to you Smiley


Overall looked pretty good!
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Nix
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« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2010, 09:13:32 pm »

I got it running and found it rather enjoyable. I like the way the music is combined with the gameplay. And very sleek and polished all around. I don't think it's totally playable as a complete game at this point (there isn't a whole lot on which to create strategy), but it's definitely getting there. Simple is good, but too much simple is just... too much simple. But compared to all the other games like this that I've seen, yours definitely takes the cake (in a good way).

I'm not so sure about "RTS" though...  My Word!
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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2010, 04:32:34 am »

It ran fine on my development machine... Although it's a 8-core 3GHz Intel Xeon with 16 GB RAM and a NVidia 480 GTX, so that might not be saying much.

I liked the feel of this a lot, the music could've been calmer I suppose but other than that it was very nice how everything seemed to create harmony no matter what state the game was in. The UI text was kind of off-putting but as there wasn't much of it it didn't matter much... And this might just be me but I think the intro might look better if you had some variation in the particles, even if it was just different sizes.

As Nix pointed out, there isn't really much in the game to create strategy, minimalism is an interesting goal to pursue but I think this is taking it a bit too far. After figuring out the basic ideas of the game I got stuck in a deadlock with the AI in the 'Y' - level, this would probably never have been broken with 3 AIs, but since they do not attack anything but neighbouring suns defeating them was a simple matter of building up a secondary force and attacking their rear.

There are plenty of ways of adding to the depth of the game without increasing the input complexity, the first version of Dyson for instance had different distances between planets and different planets produced units with different strengths, making progress be about something more than the mere amount of planets you had captured. This is of course changing the type of the game so I'm not going to say what would make it better, but if the game had more variation more possible strategies would emerge.

Oh, and finally - there seems to be no way of leaving a game in progress without quitting the program with alt+f4, might want to fix that.
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2010, 09:34:52 am »

Thank you all for your comments! I'd like to talk a little more about the basic strategy of the game, since that's the part that really interested me when I was making the game.

I get what you're all saying: the game is built to produce a stalemate. When designing this, I thought it would be more interesting this way. I.e., I figured that it would be more strategically intriguing to have to find a way to break a stalemate with two opponents than it would be to grow exponentially and roll over your enemies.

I'm not dead-set against adding some more complexity (such as, maybe, suns that produce double or half the current normal rate), but the current system works for me, and I'd like to know more about why it doesn't work for you guys. I'm already planning on having future maps that are more varied in distances and layouts, but that doesn't sound like it would address your core complaints.
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2010, 09:42:39 am »

I liked the feel of this a lot, the music could've been calmer I suppose but other than that it was very nice how everything seemed to create harmony no matter what state the game was in. The UI text was kind of off-putting but as there wasn't much of it it didn't matter much... And this might just be me but I think the intro might look better if you had some variation in the particles, even if it was just different sizes.

Yeah, I found an album for free on Jamendo for music in the game. Some of it works really well (the menu song, for example, is pretty smooth and calm), but other songs are a bit too energetic. I might cut the more jumpy songs, at the expense of musical variety.

Could you explain further how the UI text was off-putting? Are you referring to the menu stuff or the fading hints in-game? Those were a late addition, once it became clear that I couldn't leave players to figure out the controls entirely on their own, and if there's something I can do to make them more graceful and integrated, I'd like to know.

P.S. You can use the Esc key to exit the game, although I made it so you had to hold it down for 3 seconds (with a visible countdown displayed) so that you couldn't exit by accidentally hitting the key. Is that a dumb thing to worry about, or a legitimate concern in a game with no save system?
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Nix
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2010, 10:03:10 am »

P.S. You can use the Esc key to exit the game, although I made it so you had to hold it down for 3 seconds (with a visible countdown displayed) so that you couldn't exit by accidentally hitting the key. Is that a dumb thing to worry about, or a legitimate concern in a game with no save system?

I don't think anyone would accidentally press the escape key too often on an entirely mouse-driven game unless they have some serious keyboard issues. Though I do think that instead of just quitting with the escape key, you should do like most games and have it bring up a menu or pause the game, and in this "pause menu", say something like, "Press Q to quit". So that, in order to quit, you have to press escape, then Q. You can easily get out of the menu and back to the game by pressing escape again. This way, you not only add a way to pause the game, but you add an extra layer to the quitting sequence so people don't make stupid mistakes.
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2010, 10:14:07 am »

I'm now really annoyed at myself for having not already thought of that, Nix.

Thanks!  Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2010, 10:22:48 am »

Could you explain further how the UI text was off-putting? Are you referring to the menu stuff or the fading hints in-game? Those were a late addition, once it became clear that I couldn't leave players to figure out the controls entirely on their own, and if there's something I can do to make them more graceful and integrated, I'd like to know.

Well... The rest of the art looked really smooth and integrated while the text was kind of sharp and didn't mesh with the style very well. I would personally avoid too large fonts and put the text in frames or something to make the contrast with the rest of the art more intentional and show that it's not there to be a part of the world. But maybe that's just me - anyway it is a very minor issue.

P.S. You can use the Esc key to exit the game, although I made it so you had to hold it down for 3 seconds (with a visible countdown displayed) so that you couldn't exit by accidentally hitting the key. Is that a dumb thing to worry about, or a legitimate concern in a game with no save system?

Huh, I didn't notice any countdown... But yeah, like Nix said, people rarely press Esc by accident and a pause with the option to leave seems like something of a standard.
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2010, 08:48:45 pm »

Thank you all for your comments! I'd like to talk a little more about the basic strategy of the game, since that's the part that really interested me when I was making the game.

I get what you're all saying: the game is built to produce a stalemate. When designing this, I thought it would be more interesting this way. I.e., I figured that it would be more strategically intriguing to have to find a way to break a stalemate with two opponents than it would be to grow exponentially and roll over your enemies.

I'm not dead-set against adding some more complexity (such as, maybe, suns that produce double or half the current normal rate), but the current system works for me, and I'd like to know more about why it doesn't work for you guys. I'm already planning on having future maps that are more varied in distances and layouts, but that doesn't sound like it would address your core complaints.

Anyone? I kinda thought this would be something on which people would want to weigh in. Straight-up mechanical questions are rare treats for me.
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Nix
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2010, 04:56:13 am »

I figured that it would be more strategically intriguing to have to find a way to break a stalemate with two opponents than it would be to grow exponentially and roll over your enemies.

The thing is, with too much simplicity, there's nothing to base that strategy on. When there's really only one thing to do and one way to do it, it's pretty hard for players to make strategic decisions. That's really all I'm saying. With simplicity comes a sacrifice of strategy, and going too far might destroy that strategy altogether.

Also, I recommend reading LostGarden's SpaceCrack series of articles.
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2010, 09:22:41 pm »

The thing is, with too much simplicity, there's nothing to base that strategy on. When there's really only one thing to do and one way to do it, it's pretty hard for players to make strategic decisions. That's really all I'm saying. With simplicity comes a sacrifice of strategy, and going too far might destroy that strategy altogether.

True. I just didn't think that this was a problem in Aurora (until 3 separate critiques delivered the same complaint). There's more than one way to gain an advantage in the game.

I'm considering adding bases that produce troops at double and half the rate of the current ones. Do you think this would add depth, or just fruitless variety?
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Pixelthief
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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2010, 09:31:32 pm »

To be honest, what you really need is some kind of unique gameplay mechanic to create that upendedness in a zero sum game- something for players to exploit to give them an advantage. This could be anything. The best way to find the one that works is to try different ideas and see how they turn out.

It could be something as mundane as a double-production base (SC2 recently did this), or it could be something as complex as allowing you to draw lines between clumps of units, positioning them to enclose and destroy units trapped within the (polygon?).

Just play around with a few and see how they ring
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Alex May
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« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2010, 03:03:58 am »

Hi Smiley

Aurora is an RTS that is intended to be highly abstracted and simplified. It's heavily inspired by Dyson/Eufloria.
I'm really happy that our game is inspiring other people!

1. Performance: Did the game run on your machine? Did it run well (even in late-game)? What are your system specs?
The game ran fine on my machine. AMD Athlon 64 X2, 5200+ (2.6Ghz on 2 cores), Windows 7, GeForce 8800 GTS. 1440x900 display.

2. Learning the game: Were the in-game hints enough? Did you figure out the game easily? Were there any things you had trouble figuring out or are still unsure about?
The game was easy to figure out, yeah. Unless there are hidden rules about conflicts (more later), I don't think most people would have much trouble.

3. Gameplay: Did you have fun? Does the basic flow of the game work for you? Any big complaints about the AI or rules? Too easy or hard? (And on which map?)
I found it a bit frustrating the first couple of goes, but I'm sure that's just noobishness. Played the triangle map and the circle map. I felt a bit helpless against large forces. There was very little that I could do, strategically speaking, to counter a larger force, besides pulling in more units. There didn't seem to be any strategic advantage between fortifying the planet (the large force is likely to wipe it out anyway), standing and fighting, or bringing in reinforcements. I felt like whatever I did, if the other team had expanded better in the starting stages of the map, I was a goner whatever I did. Again that may all be just down to inexperience, but I have kinda the same problem with Galcon etc and to an extent with Eufloria, although there is some granularity in Eufloria as there's some differentiation between units and planets.

Is the outcome of any given battle between two units deterministic? That is, is a large unit always worth X enemy units or does ganging up with a larger force against a smaller force help? At the moment I feel like once a winning strategy is formulated there wouldn't be much point in playing. Perhaps it is worth having a couple of tutorials highlighting different ways of gaining an advantage.

I liked the star upgrading and felt that was the main thing that really made the game interesting - maybe more could be made of that?

4. Aesthetics: Do you like the graphics? The music? The sound effects? The rhythm system? Do the controls and movement in the game "feel" right?

I couldn't seen the mouse pointer - it definitely needs to be brighter. The music was okay - for a while I thought it was procedural as there's quite a lot of it and it's pretty progressive. It reminded me of the Pixeljunk games. The rhythm system works well, definitely worth exploiting that a bit more if you can. I think the whole look of the game could be made more interesting. All that blackness is quite depressing and generally what many amateur projects seem to look like - definitely worth spicing up the visuals a bit to take them beyond that level.

The controls were a little annoying - if I'd sent a bunch of guys over to another planet and wanted to select some nearby ones then I had to reposition the cursor carefully, which was a bit weird. Otherwise the bulk selection system was okay. Maybe the user could set the size of the circle somehow? Also holding escape for three full seconds to quit was very annoying. Just a double-tap would be fine, or a pause menu like most games have (I needed to pause once and couldn't so I had to allow that game to be lost). The mouse zooming didn't gel with me but I think I'm too used to Eufloria's by now. The game could use arrow keys/wasd scrolling as well as edge scrolling.

5. Maps: Do you have any ideas for new maps in the game? The "terrain" in Aurora is a pretty minimal thing, since it's pretty much only a matter of sun placement, but if you have ideas for cool layouts (and you don't mind me stealing the idea and profiting from it), please share!

I'm wondering whether you could have areas across which units couldn't be sent, as at the moment since units can be sent right across the map, the battle field is fairly fluid (maybe that's the idea). Or perhaps areas through which affect units, they slow down or speed up, or get stronger or weaker depending on their colour. Anyway if you're happy with the gameplay, you should set up a bunch of crazy patterns instead of having just the three - maybe make some kind of procedural level generator that makes geometric shapes based on name input or something!


Good luck with this anyway. I like the feel of it so far.
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2010, 02:05:56 pm »

 Grin My hero!

I'll respond further later (pressed for time right now), but I'd like to continue talking about the basic tactical layout of the game.

I found it a bit frustrating the first couple of goes, but I'm sure that's just noobishness. Played the triangle map and the circle map. I felt a bit helpless against large forces. There was very little that I could do, strategically speaking, to counter a larger force, besides pulling in more units. There didn't seem to be any strategic advantage between fortifying the planet (the large force is likely to wipe it out anyway), standing and fighting, or bringing in reinforcements. I felt like whatever I did, if the other team had expanded better in the starting stages of the map, I was a goner whatever I did.

This seems to be the same problem the other posters have been having. I had thought to make the strategy in Aurora entirely a matter of allocation of force (retreating, reinforcing, massing troops, etc.). I don't know whether I'm not delivering that well or whether it can stand alone as a core game dynamic at all.

My problem with Galcon (and Phage Wars and Nano Wars and to a lesser extent Eufloria) is that the winning strategy always seemed to be about rushing to the high-value production resources and exploiting them as quickly as possible. I tried to make Aurora slower and more symmetric precisely so that you would, initially, end up in a stalemate, rather than roll through your opponents. Then, the game is a puzzle in which you have to move your troops in such a way that you create an advantage.

Some of these strategies include sneak attacks from behind (if you can manage to spare enough troops to do so), destroying a planet and then retreating (so that you maintain a higher rate of production for a short while), or finding ways to pit the two opponents against each other (by putting one enemy in between you and the other, or by retreating suddenly from a central planet and letting the others opportunistically attack it at the same time).

Of course, the strategies that the designer has while making the game are pretty worthless if few players enjoy them or if the game obscures them.

I don't want to make it a game that's micro-heavy. I don't want to include any RPS mechanics. I don't want to include any obvious advantages like fortifications that the AI will just hurl itself against. So where, then, does the player find the advantage? I'm certain that there are answers, but I don't know where they are.

I really like thinking about this because it seems like delving into the very core dynamics that make an RTS game tick. I know there's something to show here, focusing solely on the tactics of movement and allocation, but I don't know how to express it through the game yet.

That was more rambling than I anticipated, but I have to go now. Apologies!
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Alex May
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« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2010, 10:59:38 am »

Yes, these are exactly the issues that gave us pause while developing Eufloria. I wanted a simple RTS that required cunning and strategy to win, over resource gobbling. But in the end we had to add stuff that made rushing the fatter asteroids desirable just to make it a bit more interesting... I don't think we went too far as there are still some pretty fun strategies to play out in Eufloria, but it's an interesting game design proposition anyway.
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RCIX
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« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2010, 08:21:22 pm »

Obviously, since you're going for simplicity here, you can't load the game up with all sorts of fancy mechanics. Perhaps a simple visibility mechanic where you can't see what's happening on planets you don't have troops on? Better yet, if you can "stealth" troops (so they can move unnoticed), then you can do sneak attacks and stuff and that would be really cool.

Edit: i downloaded it, and i have XNA 3, 3.1, and 4 installed, but i got a NoSuitableGraphicsDevice exception. Sad
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 08:36:57 pm by RCIX » Logged
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