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Old December 3rd, 2010, 06:46 PM

JCrowe JCrowe is offline
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Default Suggested Fixes - Major to Minor

I've put some time in on a game or two. Fun stuff. And if the developers have a moment to entertain the rantings of yet another certified loon from beyond the ethereal dark, I've got a list changes here that might (or might not) put some added shine to the product. Take it with a grain of salt - I haven't played a lot, and maybe some of these suggestions could lead to disaster. Dunno. But here it is, folks:


BIG STUFF THAT REALLY MATTERS -


1.) CITIES DON'T WORK

Problem:
Cities appear to be a losing proposition. They cost a bundle and deliver little in return. Let's run the numbers: Imagine the ideal scenario, where you've got a primo piece of real estate generating $12M a year. Nice scratch, but you won't be winning many wars with it (especially when that bomber bill comes through for upkeep). So you drop $100M to build a city. With a 25% bump to revenue, you're now making $15M off the territory.

So .... you spend $100M and get $3M back in return for every turn that passes. Which means it will take you a whopping 33 turns to recover your investment. And remember - that' under IDEAL circumstances, campers. Drop a city in a 10-spot, and you're looking at a 50-turn horizon to economic equivalence. Try selling THAT to Goldman Sachs!

In my game, I built six cities in 11/12-value territories. For the $600M I burned, I could have bought a couple armies (bombers, fighters, choppers, tanks, the works) with enough left over for a "Star Wars" defense grid. Instead, all I got was this T-shirt ... and an extra $18M in my coffers each turn.

So, why would anyone build cities? What's the incentive?

Suggested Fix:
The impact of a city ought to go up, or the cost to build one needs to go down, in order to make them more meaningful within the context of the game. Personally, I'd favor keeping the build cost at $100M, which helps to keep them "special". But I'd suggest increasing the economic impact to 100%. Basically, a city doubles the revenue of a territory.

You could stop right there. But you could also limit territories to one city apiece, or establish a rate of diminshing returns - city #2 only boosts you by 50%, etc.

I'd also advocate tying factories (fabrication units)to cities. To whit - no city, no factory. As it is, I can land invasion forces on the beach of a distant territory, conquer it, order a factory for just $20M, and if I can hold it for just two more turns, I can assemble a Grand Army right on the beach and end any possibility of defeat. But if I need to drop a city BEFORE I can drop my Factory of Iron Doom on the beach ... well, that changes the equation.


2.) MOVE, ROCKET ARTILLERY, MOVE!!

Problem:
They're mechanized, but they move like it's the 19th Century. "Sorry, Sir! Can't move until the horses are fed and the saddles brushed!"

They just can't keep up with everyone else, unless you buck in for air trannies (they're next on the list). Which often leaves them lagging way behind as they wait for load and transport ... and their daily rations of hay.

Suggested Fix:
Tanks, APCs, and other land-based vehicle units should all be able to cover two territories a turn on the strategic map. Infantry goes one, because they're on foot. Truckie-stuff goes faster, and it ought to be reflected.


3.) AIR TRANSPORTATION GOES ECONOMY CLASS

Problem:
Applies to navy transports, too. The unit who loads, loses movement for the turn. In play, it seems a steep price to pay, especially when you consider how little 'ground' the transport will cover afterwards. Pick up laggard pair of Rocket Artillery, wait, then fly them four territories, unload. The RAs can cover half that ground on their own in the same period of time.

Sure, if you're flying 'international', the loss of one turn is a small price to pay. But in the experience I've had with the strategic maps so far, most flights / cruises are fairly domestic. Less "LAX to Tokyo" and more "Atlanta to Chicago". And the one-turn penalty really cuts the utility of shorter hops. Especially since air transports have to land on friendly turf at the end of each turn ... kinda limits the fly plan.

So, in the end, you seem to end up with transports "taking five" and waiting for that very special moment when it's time to 'reach out and touch someone' on an international call.

Suggested Fix:
Transports (of all stripes) load and unload without penalty. The unit loaded, however, ought to expend movement 'points' if it had to move out of its current territory to effect the load. That is, move a tank onto a sea transport in an adjacent 'sea square', and it loses one unit of movement. That way, if you have a one-sea-square "strait" dividing a pair of land territories, you can't move a unit from one side of the pond to the other in a single turn without paying some kind of a penalty.


4.) UH, AIR SUPPORT? A LITTLE HELP HERE?

Problem:
You can call in an air strike from land units to support a naval action off your coast when it's your turn to attack. However, if the 'other guy' attacks first, his ground-based air forces can sortie to attack your fleet - unimpeded - while your own jets sit back and watch your ships sink and die. It seems a wee bit one-sided to require a defender to have carriers in the fleet when there are massed air squadrons lying right next the sea territory.

I ran into a situation just like this - I was invading a big continent. I had a couple territories under my belt when the "Chinese" showed up in a territory by the sea. TEN bombers. TEN. Just about dropped a deuce when they showed, you know?

Unfortunately, the placement of territories meant I could attack with fighters, but they couldn't get back. No Sale. But ... I had two cruisers puttering off the coast, blasting Neutrals. The sea territory the cruisers were in directly abutted the turf I held with tanks and fighter jets.

From their location, the Chinese bombers could have hit my territories (if they were nuts) or they could put the smackdown on the cruisers. And my mass of fighters could do absolutely nothing about it. In fact, with an effective attack range of 3, the bombers could have tagged my ships no matter where they went - at least for two or three turns. Without carriers, I needed to kill the bombers at their base or move the cruisers ... to the other side of the planet - in spite of the fact that I had plenty of interceptors screaming around the place.

Suggested Fix:
A defender ought to be able to "call in" nearby air units for support when attacked. Penalty? Maybe those air units called-in lose their movement during the defender's next turn. And maybe participating air units are limited to one intervention per turn.


5.) GETTING "TECHNICAL" WITH AAA

Problem:
Anti-aircraft units are unavailable at the base tech level. Makes it something of a mismatch in the power balance. Until someone "levels up", air units rule everything. But ... when someone DOES light the fuse and gets the AAA units, look out. Now they have a cheap way to stop your air forces flat, and their flyboys still rule the battlefield. Might as well hand over the keys and turn off the lights, dudes. You're pooch'd.

Suggested Fix:
Move the triple-A class down a notch on the tech tree. C'mon - I've got intercontinental bombers and nuclear submarines, but no one's figured out AAA yet? That's like having a civilization with the techno capacity to land a man on the moon, yet the concept of "fire" wholly eludes them.


6.) WE'RE JUST ADVANCING IN ANOTHER DIRECTION

Problem:
When tactical combat starts, all units are 'locked' in a fight to the death. Depressing, and tactically limiting.

Suggested Fix:
There ought to be a "sanctuary" zone at either end of the field for units to use as a means of retreat. Step in, step out. Attackers who flee go back to the territory from which they launched their attack. Defenders retreat to the nearest adjacent friendly turf. If there isn't one, they're stuck.


7.) KAMAKAZIS ARE SO WW2

Problem:
The game seems to allow you to sortie jets for strikes on enemy territories ... from which no return is conceivable. "Go Forth and Croak It, Young Man" is not working slogan for most air force recruits. And it can be a sudden - and ugly - surprise for a military commander who orders the attack ... and is negligent in matching ground-covered to fuel-available.

No, didn't happen to me, but I can totally see it.

Suggested Fix:
The game ought to pre-emptively cancel any proposed movement of aerial forces if there is no possible hope for a safe return in the suggested flight plan.


8.) SORRY SIR, WE DON'T FLY THERE

Problem:
Air transports can't drop invading forces into territories not already under friendly control. Question is, why not? We pull that jazz all the time in the real world. Does it imbalance the game in some way?

Suggested Fix:
Let transports add their charges to the fray.


9.) SINKING SUBS

Problem:
Everyone and his mother's brother seems able to take pot-shots at subs. And lots of them can smack subs to pieces. However, the subs can't do much in return. Nice initiative, but "intiative" in the context of a sub vs. unescorted cruiser fight means chosing the place of your subs' demise.

From what I've seen (and this is just me - limited naval exposure here), I'd take a single cruiser over three subs any day. Buck-for-buck, the cruiser rocks over all other seaborne competition - especially subs. Where's the argument for spending your $40M on subs instead of a cruiser?

I had a battle in which a single sub of mine took on a single enemy transport. I won, but the sub lost a bunch of hit points in what was a fairly long fight. Against two transports, I calculate failure for the sub. That's just ... wrong. Like, buying up a bunch of transports would be about as good as having subs, only better, because the transports can move units and make themselves useful.

Suggested Fix:
Dunno. Limited play. I could be missing a crucial piece of the digital puzzle and not know it. Even if I'm not, I don't have a good idea of how you could rebalance the picture without making subs too powerful. Maybe they should have longer range (they're more apt to use missiles to knock out ships these days than they are to use torpedoes). Maybe units that can attack subs have a severely limited range. So a cruiser might have a range of four squares against all other units, except subs, where it only has a range of two.


AESTHETICS - ME SO PRETTY

1.) SCROLLING ALONG

Maybe this is just my machine, but when I use the mouse wheel to adjust zoom on the strategic map, it scrolls me to the edge of the map, THEN adjusts (haltingly) the zoom level. I haven't seen anyone else bring this up, so maybe the weirdness is just on me. If not, give a shout.

And on the subject of scrolling & zoom, I think it would be nice to have a feature like a zoom bar. Just click on the level of zoom and there you are - just like Google does on its maps, or like M.A.X. did on its game map a decade earlier. It gives you an option - zoom by wheel, or click the bar. The bar is nice for also showing you the boundaries of your zooming ability, whether you zoom by click or wheel.


2.) BODIES IN MOTION

I would recommend "smoothing" out the animation depicting unit movement across the strategic map. It's a little "hurky-jerky". Instead of showing bombers or tanks or etc. moving from one territory to another, one-at-a-time, why not have the game plot a "great circle" path that sweeps through the necessary territories, and let the unit move in one, uninterrupted motion.
It would be more graceful, more elegant, and more true-to-form than some of the coarse start-stop-go motion currently used. (Feels like being in rush-hour traffic).

And naval units should not, uh ... "fly" over continents when sailing to their destination. Dunno if that's happened to anyone else, but the ships I've had seem to run a very, very direct path to destination. Any land in the way and my boats sail right on over it, Mary-Poppins style.


3.) SOUND-A-MATION

In general, sound sounds muted in the game in comparison with the music, but there's no adjustment bar for sound / music effects. And while the game's graphics are sweet, the effects seem ... modest. For example, when a bomber lets loose hell (& change) on some dude's head, the graphical representation is really nice, but the sound is like very distant thunder. Why not kick this puppy up a notch? Freakin' Rock & Roll, Man!! Live it Loud & Proud! Give it some juice - make it SOUND like cordite thunder rolling across the open plain - right upside your head!

THAT would be most ... satisfying. Even if you happen to be on the receiving end.

And tying in to the notes on smoothing the movement of units across the strategic map, why not "carry-forward" the sound effects for that movement?

For example, the sound effect for bomber movement is very cool - sounds just like a large passenger jet taking off and flying overhead. Except that the effect cuts short of 'completion'. It ends with a jarring abruptness. I say, let the sound effect play out to its completion, and if you smooth the motion on the "board", then you have plenty of time to run the effect without interferring with gameplay. Again, as the game currently runs, it sounds like stop-and-go traffic because the unit in motion has to stop and restart in every single territory it hits. Bombers can go six in one shot; that's like driving manual through DC at rush hour.


I'll shut up now, and thank you for the time. I imagine that I'll have more as I rack up more games under my belt (not sure yet, but the AI seems a wee bit ... more "A" than "I", know what I mean?), and I'll add those thoughts to the thread if they don't sic the pitchforks and torches on me for this one.
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