Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

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EagleOne
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Joined: Sat Jul 28, 2012 5:40 pm

Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

Postby EagleOne » Sat Jul 28, 2012 6:16 pm

Hello guys,

If TLDR, just DR.

I am a newcomer to Frozen Synapse, I acquired the game through Steam.

I already played 80+ hours on this game, so I feel confident to write a review of it. Why? Because this game is great, and I hope that writing a review may help the devs to improve. Ok devs, I know you already got a ton of feedback, do you need more? I don't know, why not :-)

First of all, FS is a great game. It is concise, clear, and efficient.

I appreciate the thinking that some set ups require. I already spent an hour or so on single rounds, trying to figure out a solution to any plan the ennemy can have. How satisfactory it can be when a well designed plan goes perfectly well. This game is just like Chess, and I felt really entertained by playing it. On the gameplay perspective, for tactical thinkers, it is probably one of the best title out there.

But, there are a few things that I find quite deceiving. I hope these things will be solved for a sequel (oh yes! please!)

1. Pixel hunting

it already happened that I found myself in situations where I had to hunt pixels in order to evade an incoming threat. The waypoint and aiming system is too accurate to benefit completely to the game. This is not rewarding to spend 10 minutes or so in designing waypoints that are just sticking a wall, a corner, or whatever. Zoom in, zoom out, zoom in again, sloooowly moove your mouse, ok it's done, and oh no wait a pixel is threatening me, I have to focus on that. Just no. 10 times no.

If based on tactics, the game should either choose its side : or it's a FPS and there is complete freedom of movement, or it's not, and there is a magnetic grid, and 8 directions players can go through, sticky waypoints and so.

The pixel hunting phase adds depth to the game. But is it a really worth it? Sometimes I have a feeling of pain when I lose versus a pixel-wide event, sometimes I am happy this pixel saved me. Overall, After thinking about it, I simply think that pixel hunting SHOULD NOT be part of a tactical game, and is not really benefiting the game. I have the feeling of being a Photoshopper and to waste time on moving pixels rather than focusing on my global strategy.

Best example is aiming before strafing on a corner. You have to set up your aiming before the corner, even if your waypoint is just stuck past to the end of the corner, or you will not get focused aim on your ennemy. So you spend time setting up aim orders on your waypoint lines, testing multiple waypoints to get both speed and security. This is no good, this is loss of time, nothing productive here for a tactical thinker.

2. Waypoints and waypoints stacking

The waypoint system is working quite good as it is right now, but feels kind of limited sometimes. Worst is when you want to use the timer. Why for god's sake is the timer not a waypoint event like all the others? I fail to understand that. If I want my character to make multiple actions with timing between each, I have to set waypoints (??) and stack the waypoints onto the character rather than just setting up the sequence in the waypoint sequencing mechanic. This is wrong, especially when it becomes hard to reselect a stacked waypoint, sometimes forcing you, in case of mistake, to delete it all and start the sequence again. Loss of time, again.

3. Focus priority

Sometimes I feel the game lacks of a focus priority mechanism, rather than simply an ignore system (focus being the negative of ignore). If there are two ennemies far away, a shotgunner (no threat) and a mg (threat) I want to take whatever kill I could take, but to focus on the MG first without avoiding to be distracted by shotgunner then being killed by the MG because I was shooting the shotgunner. Usually i end up ignoring the shotgunner so I can safely try to kill the MG, but if he goes out of range and the shotgunner does not, then I will simply take no kill. At first I thought the focus system would prioritize, but it's a reverse of ignore. This could be a way to add more tactical depth to the game.

4. Luring

This is probably the worst of all gameplay mechanic in this game. Luring your opponent means you get him shooting a standing still character, while another comes to safely take the kill. This looks ok on paper, BUT the luring mechanism is a combination of pixel hunting and timing with hard to stack waypoints (see 2.). This makes this very useful tactic a perfect pain to apply on the battelfield.

There really need to be a consistent 'lure' mechanic, so that it is something more obvious to new players and less deceiving for experienced players.

5. Spawning

Stop spawning shotgunner/Rocket opponents below 2 times a shotgunner radius. Seriously. Just. Don't.

6. Buff/debuff info

The games lacks a simple indicator (graphical or numerical) near any character that shows how powerful he is in the situation he is currently running on. I had to learn on an obscure wiki all the buffs and debuffs priorities before I could start to outsmart many opponents due to that crucial advantage in knowledge. I think that this is not the way to do it. No player should go on a wiki to understand that aiming will give them a buff over non aiming players. Duck is penalizing? Who knows that. All newcomers use duck because they think it makes them stronger. Seriously, don't run the opposite ways of gaming standards, or, if you do so, make it obvious.

7. The chat system

Probably one of the worst chat system ever made in a game. Really needs something simpler and efficient so that people are not "invited" or "cannot receive while offline", and forget that IRC stuff. You truly are geeks xD

8. Rewarding nice plays

it is very cool the game offers some hints about played games, liked games, commented games, and such. But it should be more emphasized. I spent long long time thinking very difficult situations, and when I finally get out of it I am so proud I want the all world to know how I managed to think it out. If in the future you intend to continue on this kind of titles, make more emphasizes on this, so people can share more, and comments. This is what can make the success of such game. So far I saw an history of played/wins/likes/comments which is something like 30 games long, and just temporary. What about voting for games you like, making discussion topics on a game, commenting each round, explaining tactics to others, and so on?

I know you are indie, and this is not a priority... but, what if it could bring more people up there?

9. Shortcuts

There is a "v" key? Giving you info on ranges from any point you select? Where was it indicated? I can't remember where I learned it, and I think a lot of newcomers never use it. How many so important hidden shortcuts are there in the game? I don't remember seeing any shortcut list in the game. If there is one, it is not obvious enough.

10. Line of sight

Add a ruler or simply add an option to put a "Line of Sight" map painting color on whatever point I select, so I don't have to trick with the in-game "rulers" (like check) to see if I can aim in diagonal from that window or not. There is simply nothing useful to efficiently manage lines of sights.


Conclusion


After all, I find that this game is perfect for geeks willing to encounter situations where deep-thinking is required. It won't match for more casual players, even if their tactical skills are superior on the paper, because the pixel hunting phase, waypoint stacking mechanism, and hard-to-work luring mechanisms (which requires to understand how an AI works) lead non-geeky players to get stomped, and not get the complete perspective, and even if they do, not sure they would appreciate it.

I think FS could have the potential to become a legendary strategy game, but it lacks more for the community to share plans, tactics, etc. in game. Don't forget that if people like to play, they also like to see others play !

I am a geek and will continue to play this game! But I hope a sequel will give the improvements required to focus on tactics, and less on photoshopping :-) Just for the sake of time spent.
Scorpion0x17
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Location: Cambridge

Re: Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

Postby Scorpion0x17 » Sat Jul 28, 2012 7:50 pm

EagleOne wrote:1. Pixel hunting
...

Like 'luring'/'distraction', I think removing, or making easier, this aspect of the game would be a bad thing - advanced tactics shouldn't be too easy to use, otherwise everyone uses them, and they stop being 'advanced tactics'.

To use a very poor example, it's like 'dolphin diving' in BF2 - if it was really hard to dolphin dive, not many people would use it, and it would be one the 'advanced tactics' that separate the vets from the noobs. However, every noob knew how to dolphin dive, so every noob ran around dolphin diving their way from one flag to the next.

EagleOne wrote:2. Waypoints and waypoints stacking

Do you not realise you can place orders anywhere on the delay time-line (and, for that matter, anywhere on the line between way-points)?

So, if you want to, say, duck after 1s, then stand 1s after that, you drag the delay out to 2s, place a duck order half-way along it, and a stand at the end.

EagleOne wrote:3. Focus priority

This is something I completely agree with.

Along with more functionality for optional/conditional orders.

EagleOne wrote:4. Luring

I think making 'luring', or 'distraction', too easy to achieve would be a bad thing for the game - advanced tactics shouldn't be too easy to apply, otherwise the game would bog-down with endless bouts of distraction, and very little else.

EagleOne wrote:5. Spawning

LOL!

Some of the 'situational' extermination starting set-ups can be a little silly.

But then, those situations also teach you useful skills - like how to get out of them alive!

EagleOne wrote:6. Buff/debuff info

Believe it or not, the game actually used to have a little readout of why a particular engagement went a certain way!

Why they removed it (or at least didn't leave it in as an option), I don't know.

EagleOne wrote:7. The chat system

Partly agree on this, IRC's fine, it just needs to be integrated better.

EagleOne wrote:8. Rewarding nice plays

You do have the option of exporting to YouTube and sharing great plays and commentaries that way, but, I think some simple Twitter and/or Facebook integration would also help a lot.

EagleOne wrote:9. Shortcuts

Main Menu->?->Scroll Down One Page->Visibility Tester...

;)

EagleOne wrote:10. Line of sight


Again, this falls into the 'make it too easy and you'll ruin the game' category for me.

EagleOne wrote:Conclusion

Several good points, all well made.
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Slow Dog
Posts: 13
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

Postby Slow Dog » Sat Jul 28, 2012 11:45 pm

EagleOne wrote:Reasonable stuff


As Scorpion says, you don't seem to realise that you can use waypoints for where you want to go, and the click on the lines between them (or on timers) to issue orders. I certainly don't seem to have the difficulty you describe as pixel hunting or in luring, at least.

I agree with the focus issue to an extent, but I don't think there's an easy answer. You can almost certainly come up with problem scenarios with any system. And the problems with chat I wholeheartedly endorse; I'd like a message log associated with each match that doesn't care whether your opponent there or not.

However,
6. Buff/debuff info

The games lacks a simple indicator (graphical or numerical) near any character that shows how powerful he is in the situation he is currently running on. I had to learn on an obscure wiki all the buffs and debuffs priorities before I could start to outsmart many opponents due to that crucial advantage in knowledge.


I don't believe such an indicator could exist. Regardless, the game doesn't need it. You simulate your plan; if you win, you were stronger; if you lose, you were weaker, and so you plan something different. And the basics of this are all in the in-game help. Sure, not everyone seems to have read it, and it's a bit terse, but it's enough to point you the right way with spoon-feeding.
EagleOne
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Joined: Sat Jul 28, 2012 5:40 pm

Re: Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

Postby EagleOne » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:56 am

Indeed I did not notice for the fact you can add orders on the timer line, this will save me a lot of waypoint stacking :) thx

However, if for luring this is obviously a debatable question, I don't think there would be any loss of depth in gameplay by adding obvious map painting on a shortcut for line of sights and ranges. This would just make easier a job everyone does , and by easier I mean faster. It does not change the tactical depth of the game.

Also, the pixel hunting is still a pain: it is not just a matter of running a simulation and see how it finishes. In some encounters a pixel-wide variation can change the whole result of a battle, and except if you replay your simulation many times just to play over one pixel, you will not notice. This is especially true when, for example, two opponents at the same distance behind a wall rush an open spot to be standing still first. A pixel can make the difference, and a pixel Should NOT make the difference. Same goes for rockets and nades where you can waste time to hunt the pixel to save a lost companion, or to save yourself from the so-called dumb spawn (even if some times you just can't and must die/kill)

And I maintain IRC is not fine. It does not support offline messages, and a turn based game like this cannot efficiently support IRC as a valable chat system. Actually the game's chat system is a mix between IRC and live-chat. This is the first game I play which uses IRC as chat system. I heard of that before, but never thought it was a good idea, and now I am convinced it is not :-) (still I don't blame the indie team for not spending most valued time on this)

For the focus an option to ignore specific custom zones of the map could be cool too on top of the specific ennemy ignore system ;-)
Scorpion0x17
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Location: Cambridge

Re: Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

Postby Scorpion0x17 » Sun Jul 29, 2012 4:46 am

EagleOne wrote:obvious map painting on a shortcut for line of sights and ranges


Not really sure what you mean by that. Could you elucidate?

EagleOne wrote:a pixel Should NOT make the difference


Why?

This is actually something I really like about the game - whilst the game mechanics are almost entirely deterministic (only equal-engagements are determined randomly (unless you have the double-kill mutator enabled)), you can not always be 100% certain of your plan - there are just too many permutations to consider - so, sometimes you just have to prime, and cross your fingers.

EagleOne wrote:And I maintain IRC is not fine


That depends on your definition of 'fine' - I agree that the chat system could be better, but it's there, and it works.

EagleOne wrote:For the focus an option to ignore specific custom zones of the map could be cool


You mean like using T to draw Zones, and then using Ignore/Focus Zone orders?
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EagleOne
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Re: Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

Postby EagleOne » Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:48 am

Scorpion0x17 wrote:
EagleOne wrote:obvious map painting on a shortcut for line of sights and ranges


Not really sure what you mean by that. Could you elucidate?


Take a waypoint (or a specific character), press a key, and then you have the map painted with line of sights, such as green where you can shoot, light green where you can't shoot ducked foes, and nothing where you can't see. A much more powerful replacement to the v key. Like in the game "Commando" (Picture of commando game's line of sight system when you click on any character. This game is old, and this game mechanic is proven solid beyound any doubt)

Scorpion0x17 wrote:
EagleOne wrote:a pixel Should NOT make the difference


Why?

This is actually something I really like about the game - whilst the game mechanics are almost entirely deterministic (only equal-engagements are determined randomly (unless you have the double-kill mutator enabled)), you can not always be 100% certain of your plan - there are just too many permutations to consider - so, sometimes you just have to prime, and cross your fingers.


Yes this is exactly the theory of chaos : a few determined rules, but a so high number of variations makes some situations impredictible. So why do I suggest that it should incorporate a magnetic grid instead? At first, like you, I thought it was perfectly ok, then I realized that a vast numbers of players don't have a clue of why their plan is failing due to a a single pixel. And if they know, I am not sure they would appreciate the pixel hunting fest the game can become if everyone get that point (and sometimes I don't too, when you are in situations the pixel-hunting is life saver)

Adding a magnetic grid rather than letting micro-variations bring chaos into the game would permit to focus more on the tactic, and less on micro-managing pixel-wide situations. My wish is to have the gameplay more focused on the tactics and not on the fully zoomed-in setting up of waypoints.

Scorpion0x17 wrote:
EagleOne wrote:For the focus an option to ignore specific custom zones of the map could be cool


You mean like using T to draw Zones, and then using Ignore/Focus Zone orders?


Omg this is brilliant xD
Scorpion0x17
Posts: 508
Joined: Sun Oct 02, 2011 10:40 pm
Location: Cambridge

Re: Honest and (not so) concise review of FS

Postby Scorpion0x17 » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:53 pm

Ah, right, I get what you mean now, with the line-of-sight painting.

And, yeah, I too have, at times, thought it would be preferable to have that kind of thing, however...

I think both these things, the line-of-sight painting, and the pixel-hunting, come down to ones subjective personal opinion on such helpers - like racing-line indicators in racing games - some like them, some hate them.

The potential player-base is always going to be split into two camps on any such features, so at the end of the day, it comes down to the game designer making a choose based on his personal vision of the game-aesthetic.

And the question "hard-core or noob-friendly?"

FS is clearly hard-core.
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