Opines from Beta

The 1.31 Open Beta has been steadily rocking along. Few little wobbles at the start there, and I’m not sure if Ramp has fixed the gargoyles yet (infantry “statues” that appear when a trooper dies out of your line of sight but inside your vis range; the trooper animation system surrenders the body to the ragdoll system, which promptly disowns it because he’s not in LOS; leaving a death-throws statue).

Started out rough: In short, the debug build of the servers I was building couldn’t handle 20 people simultaneously, the world-update loop was frantically dialing back its capacity and then treating everyone to the “wow, long time no hear” treatment.

I’ll explain the technical issues in a little more detail after the bump, but this post is primarily going to be about the gameplay feedback we’ve gotten…

Specifically, regarding the feel of the new capture system; picking up a discussion I fired up a little while back.

Lot of factors to the update issues… I’ve humanized some of the inner workings of the update loop. With optimization, it’s actually slightly more efficient. Without optimization? Crash and burn.

We’d elevated some of the hard-coded capacity settings, increasing the amount of memory some of the critical loops were working across, causing lots and lots of CPU stalls. Unfortunately, stalls look like idleness.

But fortunately, factor #1 helped me go through and find lots of redundant code. I used references to eliminate a whole bunch of unnecessary validation-branch operations (which it turned out were all generating expensive branch misses), some “future feature” junk and various other odds and ends.

And with the replay tool (it’s not a feature, it’s not remotely near to being a feature at this point) I’ve been able to get fairly good confidence that we’re back on track there.

But back to the main topic and opinions from beta… Specifically, the matter of Capture.

We’re not done with the capture system yet (please note: I’m talking about the back end, not the client presentation of it, which I think needs a lot of work): the current beta implementation is trivially simple. There are some minor tweaks we definitely want to make, specifically to ensure that the system best rewards “fair” play styles – with somewhere between 5-8 people capping a depot, perhaps more for a military facility.

But that means that Mr Solo Cap should expect a long, slow capture (perhaps not in a softcap town?) and if the BKB all pile into one single capture depot, it will still take a minute to capture: if you have more than X people in a depot, your “reward” should be that you’re harder to kill off, not that you cap the depot in 1/10th of a second.

Someone, somewhere, suggested that capture be replaced with attrition: create an mechanism that gradually deletes units from the enemy spawn pool unless they outnumber you. So – choosing not to come fight lets you win faster. Pulling the brigade(s) out, lets you win nearly immediately.

Iffy suggestion. But one thing I’d want to add: You can’t move a brigade into a town without first physically outnumbering the enemy presence…

The ruleset we’re using for capture right now is fairly simple. Don’t get excited, that is prototype code.

Interestingly: When I mentioned that I was going to add capture announcements to chat on the beta server, everyone grumbled. I mean, everyone. I explained that I only meant “to your team”. But people still grumbled.

Given that I’m a douchebag, I went ahead and did it anyway.

And apart from a few bright sparks who were there at the time spotting that I’d done it anyway, I’ve not seen a single complaint yet.

Right now it’s sending an “LSTR_GENERIC”, which means it’s not localized and the client can’t do any smart processing of it. But if the producers don’t beat me to a pulp for feature creeping it, and decide they want it included in the actual code, I’m hoping I can convince Ramp to make it flash on the UI or something.

As I said in the previous post, this is all about encouraging team work.

Capture is pretty slow in beta. It takes 500s for a single player to cap a depot. However: If he dies, or if he fires his gun, or if he walks out of the building, that progress isn’t wiped out.

If you’re talking about a stray depot 2km away from anything else – yeah, it makes little difference. But in most of the battles we’ve had in beta, it has really changed the play of depot battles.

You have to apply a certain amount of skepticism to anything that happens in beta tests, but the simple fact that one dude has to spend nearly 10 minutes in a depot before it gets captured means that he’s more likely to get company. And then once there are two guys, it starts to cap twice as fast. And the new arrival doesn’t have to play ei bait. Both of you can work together, shoot out of the windows, etc. The stuff that normally only happens when a couple of players decide to defend a hard earned depot. Now that hard work starts during the capture too :)

Beta players are generally trying to have fun. Whereas as soon as the new capture system meets the live game, people will be trying to win. The current ruleset would fall flat on its backside as people took depots in moments by zerging.

I demonstrated a formula for the capture-points-per-player curve to Dana and he was not keen on it because as the number of players went up, it actually started to come back down again (i.e. get slower).

Trouble there is it might get griefed. “Damn it guys, leave the depot, you’re slowing down cap”. But we’re talking about short times here. And my thinking was: If you have 30 guys in a depot, you’re not so much pwning it as cowering in it. And if Bob steps into the depot and slows down capture, well (a) one of you could step out or (b) you could wait the extra 5 seconds: with 30 of you in the depot, it’s not a big deal.

We’ve had a few people complain about the dreary days. In 1.31 it is either bright and sunny for a day, or it’s overcast and dreary with a chance of rain. The rain doesn’t last more than a few minutes at a time. But people keep asking to see it, so we keep switching to the dreary days. And then people complain that it’s overcast all the time :)

The rag doll stuff and the new building models are being pretty well received. The new clutter and eye candy make such a huge difference. Some of the towns are unrecognizable. The new bunkers – all of them – are a real different combat experience. My thoughts of making military facilities take longer to cap dissipated after I’d tried attacking a couple of bunkers :)

I’m very much looking forward to playing 1.31 when it goes live :)

8 Comments

Not your job to penalize 30 guys all capping a depot. If they’re wasting manpower, that’s its own penalty. If they’re not wasting manpower because they need 30 guys in there…then you shouldn’t be penalizing them for that either.

Anything that can be griefed, will be…to the Nth ridculous degree until it has an effect.

The answer should never be “Well, that guy’s griefing you…but you can just step out”. Because that griefer’s watching for that, and will then step out himself, to re-slow the cap. He doesn’t care that it’s only 5 seconds…he only cares that someone will notice, and complain about it, and start a shitstorm in chat, thus gaining his “someone knows I’m alive” points.

Leave that out.

…@/

Thank you for explaining this. I was wondering how long capturing currently(1.31.0.29) takes for one player. Every time I have been capturing something, I have either been interrupted by an enemy, or assisted by a friendly.

About the testing to have fun vs. to win, it takes time for some of us to change our ways, from being Mr Solo Cap, liberating the town alone against a horde of ei and tanks, to becoming a player who naturally seeks, or perhaps even creates, the team work necessary to win in 1.31.

I still run into depots alone and start capturing, just because I can.
I still see ant trails in 1.31, from 1km out of town all the way to the objective.
If it took 2+ infantry to begin capturing a facility, then perhaps players would gather for wave-attacks instead of ant-trail attacks?

sms: Maybe, but I like this as a first step: The nice thing about this variant is that an extra 250s of cap time is going to create natural situations where someone else is likely to join you.

While only one of you will get the credit in the database, both of you will be awarded a full capture and full capture score. So there’s very little disincentive for him to scuttle off again.

And with 250s still on the clock, there’s time for another friendly to head in.

I didn’t mean to imply “everyone will be a teamplayer with 1.31”; I mean that team play is going to be far more likely. And I think the time frames will be longer than the “awkward silence” period for N% of players. It’s long enough to get a kill or two, maybe. Long enough to add a little bit of camaraderie.

The 60-second all-or-nothing system we have live right now is anti social.

It probably needs bolstering with something like a “secure” progress bar… Until the facility is secured, the enemy can re-cap it faster, or some such nonsense – that would certainly be a step towards the 3-way-cap system I would like to see.

I got to play the beta for a while last week and the whole game feels totally different compared to live.

Cloudy & Rainy days are what makes the whole ambience so much better, I found that the bright day was far too bright.

The capture rules seemed a little confusing, I didn’t read up about them, which I assume the majority of the players will not bother.

The progress bar moves that slowly that it doesn’t seem like anything is actually happening, perhaps pulsing the bar might indicate that something is happening. I also found the footsteps in the building to be incredibly loud.

This is where you have always been prescient KFS1 (prescient in a way I can comprehend).

The rides in the Opels and Beddy’s were a long slog..but they meant something to the ad hoc team in the truck. The Ju52 rides are slightly similar – except paras are dropped in suicide missions so often that no one takes it with any real stress.

Teaming up. Having to get some *connection* with that ‘buddy’ in the same location to accomplish the task – a sort of -forcing- of communication to break down the internet lack of facial recognition, is to be encouraged.

Make the flag buildings/capture cp’s into the ‘beddy/opel’ of old – allow firing and working together to maintain your hold over the facility; and viola’ – you have created to teamwork that everyone raves about and misses most when its not rewarded or existant.

Fight for the right to force the players to party together. Even catillion dances weren’t that bad once you were forced to find your partner and dance with her – and couldn’t be blamed for her/his looks (forced friend).

Great explanation on the capture – agree that the client feedback needs a little work.

I must say that I support any attempt to try to get people to team up for captures – it makes engagements instead of singular kills much more likely.

I also believe that the capture systems together with a new spawning systems (like the one you linked to with Mission leader re-spawn etc) will truly propel the fighting experience into another dimension. The moment you allow people to come back to fight a litte closer to their objective and their comrades on the mission within a set of rules – then you will have many more “real” fights. Can´t wait to see the first implementation of that!

Yep: I think the MSP system doesn’t give you the opportunity to invest anything in the setup of a battle. And that is fine, but that investment needs to be there to keep the game from being a “bad shoebox with thousands of possible, but not very good for a shoebox, combat maps”.

Remember the big multi-day battles, the Aachengrads and such? Being a part of the setup of those fights makes them really mind blowing. But it ought not to require everyone to participate in the gargleblaster. That diminishes the effect and makes it a chore rather than a privilege.

Well implemented advancement-claiming is probably a goal of just about every armchair WWIIOL designer :)

So why haven’t we already got it? Because we’ve always had a problem with the setup guys not wanting to stick around :) They encounter the enemy and they want to move off. We have to address that in anything we do too, and it’s a real headache :)

I think the capture changes – or whatever we do with them will go a long way to making it practical to look at advancement-claiming (the ability to move forward so far and then be assured of not having to make a complete fresh trip if you die).

Mixed, of course, with “free advancement” in the forms of mobile spawns and depots. Like I said: claim-staking is not what everyone wants to be doing all the time, and not what some people want to be doing at all; so you need those auxiliary mechanisms for delivering the average player into the “massive” combat relatively painlessly once combat has been established — which is fine, because at that point they know you’re here and you know they’re here, so bring it on.

Its interesting to hear you point out how “the setup guys not wanting to stick around” is a problem. Its also curious that you find it necessary to address this issue in everything/anything you do. Surely by now you guys have figured out by now that it is core elements of the Game itself that is promoting such behavior. I mean, when the Capture System is predicated on the concept of the Attacker having to attack an OBJECT rather then the ENEMY how can you expect Players to act any other way? It may not be the intent of the original Designers, but that sort of Avoiding the Enemy/Avoiding the Fight is what success in the Game and Capture The Flag demands of Players in order to be successful.

Even now, even in 1.31, all you’ve done by increasing the duration of the timers (at least for solo cappers) is increase the likelyhood of folks running into each other. But you’ve not actually solved the problem. All you’ve done is paint over the problem, blur it up a bit so its not so glaringly obvious. Yet Attackers intent on Capture are still going to avoid the enemy whenever possible, are still going to do whatever they can to spread the Defender out and ‘Attack’ where-ever the Defender is not. Avoiding the Enemy/Avoiding the Fight is going to remain the primary method of the Attacker because it is STILL the Capture Buildings, the Flags, the OBJECTS that need to be Attacked in order to Capture a town and NOT the ENEMY.

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