What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Discussion about PULSAR: Lost Colony including talking about factions, classes, ship systems, playstyles, etc.
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maplealmond
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What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Post by maplealmond » Thu Nov 28, 2019 6:25 pm

Oh man it's been a while since I posted one of these!

Had a bunch of new players join up and we flew around an on Intrepid class. I took on Captain/Pilot, with new players taking on Science/Engineering respectively.

What Works
Just about everything. Maybe that's not helpful feedback, but the general experience is a cohesive whole. So many little improvements have added polish to the game and made it a fun experience. I was not trying it with the HOTAS, but the Intrepid flies just fine with mouse controls. Missions make for a fun general experience.

We got to experience all phases of the game. We were not playing Ironman style, and as a result after getting our ass kicked in ship combat we could pause, rethink how to handle it, and approach it again. The fact that rethinking our plans resulted in victory is a huge positive sign for the game -- it means skill and strategy really do make a difference.

Ship boarding and combat remains frantic fun. I've died gloriously on enemy ships keeping their shields down while the crew took it down. We've had frantic stands trying to manage a boarding of enemy ships. Some enemies on planets legitimately scared players the first time.

So that said, here are the minor issues we noticed.

Engineering/Science Program Management
This has been an annoyance for me for a long time, and it remains true. There's an optimal strategy for science and engineering, and it involves engineering dumping fuel capsules to recharge programs while the science offers spams programs (but mostly SH) to stay in the fight. It works really well... and as a result instead of playing careful energy management, the engineering officer is running an assembly line.

Science is much more interesting than it was before, with drones, the sensor dish lockon, and probes to find enemy cloaked ships. But programs are basically flowchart -- run SH when shields are down, run RV when virus hits.

I really think having programs not recharge, but operate on a "only so many can be on at once because of limited CPU power" would work better. So having Shields + Thruster + Barrage active using up 120% available cycles (or whatever metric used) means they work at 83% effectiveness. Or maybe not at all.

Whatever solution, something which a.) keeps science engaged on the regular with using programs and b.) makes the strategy of dumping fuel cells is really needed. It's perhaps the number one problem with ship tp ship combat.

Piloting and Energy Management
Lots of improvements here with core temp showing up on the pilots screen. It's still a very frustrating role to play sometimes in combat, because burning engines uses up energy, but so does getting hit. Because burning engines uses so much energy, engineering regularly targets this for cutting power, meaning the ship takes more hits than it might otherwise

Pilots also generally have no idea *why* their ship is suddenly maneuvering like a slug unless engineers call it out. I'd love if Pilots could have a reserve buffer they could use, maybe 10-20 seconds worth of full burn reserve tanks, and the engineering power fueled that. That way when an engineer cuts power to the engines, pilots notice their engines are not recharging, instead of just finding they can barely maneuver.

I have not yet gotten the chance to try the pilot-aimed mega-weapon but I am 100% on board with giving pilots some shooty interactions along with weapons.

Weapons
Not a lot to fix here. I do notice that, generally, other crew members do not manage extra turrets. Since weapons spends a lot of time downfield, it would be nice to see a master control panel that lets the weapons offer cycle through all the turrets/weapons systems. Not a dealbreaker, but the extra turrets still don't feel meaningful. Other than that, weapons feels great.

Talents
By far and away everyone hated having to reload talents every time they relogged in. A message telling players they cannot process scrap unless they have the upgrader talent would also be really useful, since players would stand in front of boxes and wonder why they couldn't play.

Mission: Stop the Nelaxus
This mission (or at least I think it's this mission) resulted in getting flagged by the CU. I am not sure how this happens. But it has happened to me multiple times.

Misc
I don't know exactly what happened with handgun gun combat, maybe it's an engine upgrade, but it feels so much better. More furious and fun.

The AI seems much smarter than it was before. Really nice. It had been a long time since I used AI, and seeing PilotBots and EngBots intelligently warp us along based on my instructions is super great. I need to try a full AI game at some point.

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Re: What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Post by EngBot » Fri Nov 29, 2019 11:12 am

Three small things from a Engineer main:

I can understand dropping engineering (or just main trust) in combat unless running away, but going too far leads to the problems you listed. I recommend taking power from science, weapons, and shields if you have really high power requirements there

I tend to see engineers just leave bars at full power and allow the game to auto-manage the power. This doesn't work well, and also leads to everything feeling slow since getting hit and shooting tend to take power from engineering.

Power and heat should be the two things engineers focus on, fuel caps and the occasional restarting of the ship should always be secondary. The current Fire Ext/grenade situation leads to either engineers being told they can't use coolant outside of "fluttering for the weapon cooldown", or it leads to engineers that feel like coolant and managing power are secondary things and that they should just pump fuel and only care about the core when it gets hot, and then only for a few seconds
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maplealmond
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Re: What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Post by maplealmond » Fri Nov 29, 2019 3:19 pm

Yeah, when I play Eng, I usually tell the pilot with my voice "We're running hot, cool the engines if you can" and I downplay shields.

Shield recharge is one of the most energy (and thus heat) intensive things on the list, but it's also the easiest to bypass with fuel cells -> SH.

I'm not sure what letting the game auto-manage the power means. Doesn't that just result in a shutdown?

I agree that engineering should be a more intensive minigame. Barotrauma has an interesting mechanic where you need to manage core temp to be both hot enough *and* not too hot. You want to balance the reaction rate against the power draw, and it ramps up/down slowly. Maybe that's too much to put in Pulsar, honestly what we have is fine. But Engineers should be doing that.

There's a rule of game design that "Given the opportunity, players will optimize all the fun out of your game." And fuel cell recharging is honestly a weird artifact of that game. The original idea behind programs was that you got to recharge X number per jump. But then ships would just warp back and forth as a way to recharge programs before a big hit. This led to people asking for engineers to be able tos pend fuel to recharge programs without warping. But that led to engineering having an optimal boring strategy in combat. None of this seems intentional.

I can see a few fixes. One is to make fuel cell charging programs very slow. If you can only do it every 60 seconds, then it becomes less of a cheese. The other is to simply reevaluate if "X uses per jump" is a good idea. I am tempted to say the latter.

I know at this point the devs are in "breadth" mode instead of "depth" mode, adding more planets and ships and content, so I am trying to not go too wild with suggestions. But I'd view any kind of "boring but optimal" strategy as a game-breaking bug in terms of design philosophy.

They're clearly looking at alternate ways to play the game (scrap repairing ship hull, yes please let's generalize that so engineering has more downtime activity!) so revisiting science programs (which have kind of existed in their current form for years now) is my number one hope.

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Re: What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Post by EngBot » Sat Nov 30, 2019 3:57 am

"auto-manage the power" means you put all the bars to full and the systems just steal power from anywhere they can
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Re: What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Post by maplealmond » Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:59 am

Ah, yeah, that's not great.

Update to the above, for the Leafy Devs. We took our new players into two key missions -- stopping the asteroid impact, and the wasted wing.

The asteroid impact mission is great fun. Past times I had failed it, but this time we somehow pulled it off. Getting a Level 5 Core reward instead of the core we had was great. Downside: I had just upgraded our core from Level 1->2 and wondered why. The radiation on core overload is new. Next time I do that mission its gonna be zero oxygen, exosuits only.

The Wasted Wing mission was great. Players really got into it. It was my first time playing as well. I had previously seen a Stalker but the new players had not and there was lots of chaotic shouting. The big blobby boss was great fun and regeneration was annoying as hell.

Pretty much every player was cheesing the fight by having guns in 2-3-4 slots and going pew pew pew SWITCH bang bang bang SWITCH pew pew pew SWITCH on a loop, because gun heating is a real problem in that fight. Intentional? Bad? I didn't hate it as much as other stuff.

That said, food seems to be in a weird spot in this game. It heals very little HP compared to the total bar, and players have to dig into inventory, such that it was rarely used. Outside of combat, HP recovery has almost no value since every Scientist takes bridge crew. Inside combat, where the scientist only has so much time, no one wants to fiddle with food.

If food is to be more meaningful, it might be nice if it had persisting boosts unlike HP recovery. Food that does recover HP could be a passive regeneration (recover up to 60 points of health, 1 point per second) so that players would want to consume said food before a fight. Other buffs like a minor percentage tick up of damage, carry capacity, stamina, etc would make carrying a perfect lunch feel way more appropriate.

Right now food in my inventory just blurs into food, food, food, food, sandwich for quest, food, food

Would be need to see it as rations for HP recover, jerky for damage, cookies for stamina, etc.

From a storytelling perspective, it's great.

One more annoyance. I went to deliver some warp coils and while checking on who I was supposed to give them to, I somehow misclicked on abandon mission. And just like that, bam, mission failed. That sucked. The game could seriously use a "are you sure you want to abandon this mission?" when you do so from the player screen.

And as a final note, my complaints aside... it's really awesome how the game is coming together. It feels mostly like a cohesive whole with a few fixable warts instead of being fundamentally wrong. Earlier on I had a major concern that engaging in ship to ship combat from the get go, a thing as a pilot type I generally want to do, would be impossible. The balance seems to have been fixed to make all phases of the game playable.

So in summary

* Everything is awesome
* Engineering cheesing fuel cells to scientist is biggest weakpoint of ship to ship experience
* An energy reserve between engineering reactor power -> pilot engine power would make it much less annoying when engineering wants to cut piloting power since they'd get a leading indicator that their reserve is dropping
* All food feeling samey is biggest weakpoint of away mission experience, but this is smaller
* An "Are you sure?" prompt for abandon mission would be great

I'm really looking forward to playing some more ships and some more updates, now that the crew is comfortable.

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Re: What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Post by EngBot » Mon Dec 02, 2019 5:18 pm

you can eat food from the Z menu, try holding Z next time

Are the reactor rads new? I remember them existing for as long as i've been playing.
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Re: What Works, What Doesn't: New Player Edition!

Post by maplealmond » Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:48 pm

Food from Z menu, I must have missed that. That's useful. Food still has the problem of feeling samey, but at least its quicker.

I haven't run the reactor that far into the red in a long, long time. So yes, the rads are probably not very new, but they're new to me!

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