MinMax Spaz


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 Post subject: 1.0 release critique and feedback.
PostPosted: Thu 07 Dec, 2017 11:25 am 

Joined: Thu 07 Dec, 2017 8:55 am
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I'm gonna link to the Steam forums version of this as well, just because this place seems less active. http ://steamcommunity.com/app/252470/discussions/0/ 1500126447386510650/

Now, I've been with Spaz 2 since it 'came out' into early access. I was wary of it, because I dislike E-A games and the risk they carry. Or more, how much people abuse it. But I bought into it because of Spaz 1, or more over the support it was given even well after release. Lets be honest here, a good chunk of the game could have just been left out, and it would have been 'fine'. So that hit me there that 'maybe they'll support Spaz 2 the same way. So I picked it up, and once a year streamed it for a week around the Steam Sale/Black Friday, to show 'Hey guys, not all E-A titles are bad or run by dishonest people. Plus the game looks cool already.' And it did actually work, some of my friends that watched bought into the game because it got shown on my stream.

But now the game's reached 1.0 status, which for many games, in my opinion at least, doesn't mean much. Nowadays, 'beta' and 'launch' have 0 meaning with games. There's 'launched', 1.0+ games that change or get updates weekly, or in some cases [Spaz 1, Terraria] get them months later like it's nothing, while there's others like HAWKEN or Warframe that have been in 'beta' for literal years, yet in their right are fully fleshed out games.
But with Spaz 2, it feels different. It is different, because MinMax basically held up 1.0 as 'This is the goal line'. This is the state of the game where it evens out and becomes the base game to build up on, rather than 'next month, this feature will be reworked totally'. To that end, I feel it's worth my time to give the game a critique and you, the devs, some feedback, considering I've been with the game on and off for the passed two years.

Overall, the game is good. I'm kinda amazed you were able to get the concept of what was Spaz-- a top down, vehicle shooter with multiple factions that could be in one battle, that allowed you to screw over your friends for an advantage, with weapons that had physics even in a 2d world-- into a 3D environment. The fact it was all on a 2D plane kinda threw me for a loop the first time, and seemed like a wasted opportunity, but after a couple hours' gameplay I saw why it just wouldn't work considering how the rest of the world was structured verses the motherships. I recently explained to someone the difficulty of adding axis and planes into 3D space games, and how coding AI would become near impossible, and I realized the same logic applies to Spaz 2; If ships could move along the Z-Plane, let alone rotate on the Z-Axis, coding AI and weaponry would be 10x harder. Still, I was amazed how you guys made it work, especially with weapon targeting. While broadsides were a thing, you made it so 'bellysides', which only really exist in Space sims, were possible. It meant that ship design actually mattered, and that values such as speed and turning had a measure in both offense and defense, instead of just one. Do you build the ship so that you can hit them with a frontal assault and then run away, or do you build it to fire pretty much all cannons for a short window when banking hard?

The design and assets of the game are great as well, not just keeping stuff you saw in Spaz 1 from the active and background, but making them 3D AND have an impact. I can't tell you how many times I've used say a rock or one of those floating spam signs as cover from and attack, to turn around a fight. Sound wise, I'm glad you kept the distinction between all the weapons AND didn't make it silent. Yes, it's space, there's no noise. But lets be honest, Star Wars wouldn't have been as awesome if when the Deathstar blew up, you heard nothing. But all of that extends to both the new characters and parts. Seeing each part, and how it's different, how it looks overall in a 3d enviroment, and how a ship comes together to look amazing, or absurd, when you have specific parts that aren't a hodge podge of scrap is great. Likewise, each character feels like that. A character. They're not some nameless NPC that looks like everyone else, or even behaves like everyone else. And depending on how the playthrough goes, even characters with the same voice have life to them. I especially like the new, 1.0, character specific voices as well, and how absurd they can be. We got into a fight with Slurp on stream a few times, and his dialogue literally made people laugh.

Story wise, It's Spaz. Spaz had a good story, but lets be honest, you didn't swing for an epic. And that's good. Where Spaz 1 is concerned, you made a more or less MadMax in space world, but with a comedy/parody feel to it. Yeah there's tense moments and actual epic moments, but you know what you're going with, with Skid Puff, Defender 900, and 'THE SCIENCE IS LEAKING OUT!!!!1!!' And I'm glad you kept that in Spaz 2, and brought back some stuff. It didn't need to be an epic, it didn't need to be edgy. It just needed to be base funny and you nailed that.

Now comes the criticism and the not so good parts. Unfortunately, I'm gonna have to say there's more of it than the good parts, at least writing wise.

First off, I need to say this first before it gets away from me, because it's probably one of two, maybe three major issues, if not the only one. Replayibility. Which somehow is not in the dictionary yet....Reading over your struggles over the passed couple years with the game, I very much appreciate what you've gone through. Especially as a game dev myself. I worked on team projects before, and now I 'work' casually on passion projects, kinda like you guys, so I really do appreciate what you went though. And more, I'm thankful that you went to the effort to make the game playable AND reached for that replayibilty factor that Spaz one had, as well as making that hard choice to switch gears from 'multiplayer' to 'expansive sandbox'.
But with that said...I come from playing Spaz 1. Probably a lot more than I should have. Whenever I needed to travel, I took a laptop with 5 games on it. A modded version of Minecraft that escaped the Microsoft sweep, Creeper World 3, Spaz 1, Starbound, and Atom Zombie Smasher. Why? These are all games with high replay value. Once more, why? 3 have large, RNG-genned worlds, 3 have a clear defined goal that can be achieved through multiple different playstyles, and all 5 are moddable. Without tools. Yeah, it's hard, but all 5 I've modded for before. So I've played a fair bit of Spaz 1. And I'm still not bored or 'done' with it yet. And what to I mean by 'done'? I haven't done everything there is to do, within reason. I don't look at Spaz 1 as just an action game; It's an RPG too. There's literally a leveling system and all, and a stat system, so that each time you playthough there's a difference. But that's not why I call it an RPG, and I'm sure people will yell at me for looking at it this way, but....What makes it an RPG is that my 'character' changes drastically each playthrough. I am playing a ROLE with a specific character. One playthrough I'm playing as the cannon guy that likes long-range sniping, the next I'm playing as laser general, next time around I play as punchy the navigator with fast ships and shotguns, or with my crewmen as free flung weapons instead of just a defensive stat. It's no different than say in Skyrim or Fallout 3/NV [not counting 4] or something as far back as Fable where you build someone to be all ranged one playthrough, then go Mr Fister Nixon with nothing but bare knuckles the next. It's that fact that brings people back to play those games, even vanilla. And when you mod it....You get Tomas the Tank Engine attacking towns instead of dragons.
With Spaz 2, there's none of that. I'm sorry to bring this to you after you've worked so hard on the game, but....I know you guys were aiming for replayibility and all, with expanded sandbox options and all.....But that's not what brings replayibility. You missed the mark there. The sandbox genner that you had was fine; What was needed was a reason to play again, which in my opinion, Spaz 2 lacks. Why? Because there's no difference between playthroughs. Look back at Spaz 1. Every category of weapon had something that was effective against each type of defense. You could do an 'all lasers' or 'all cannons', 'all missles' or 'no cannons' run because for each category there was something that was effective against shields, armor, and hull, separately. And they played differently, and effectively. With Spaz 2, there's none of that. Sure, you could change all your weapons to be say 'all shotguns' or 'all lasers', but there's no point to that other than self induced difficulty. From what I've seen, most ships will end up roughly at the same place, with the same weapons, fairly quickly. And while there's no 'one' effective build, there's only a small pool. Long range, shield shredder that obliterates even the hardest ships in seconds. Range beam+Ion bomb/SRM+Mass Driver. Not having those basically means you're gimpping yourself for a harder fight. And sure, that works, there's plenty of games out there that let people impose difficulty on themselves via poor weapons. Castleveina SOTN, Darksouls, even FF if I remember correctly. But that doesn't feel like Spaz. Spaz was more about 'finding the right combo that works' and 'the right ship that works for your playstyle.' I've used every base ship in Spaz 1. Every one of them. And found a use for all of them depending on my build. There's none of that in Spaz 2. There's no reason for me to go back and play again, other than to experience 'harder' enemies that die just as fast as the 'normal' enemies.
Honestly, it's a balance and a content issue. Again, go back and look at Spaz 1 and how you guys handled leveling and weapon design, and then come back and play Spaz 2. Sure you have cool weapons like the Krule or Mac Hammer, but unless I'm doing a gimmik gimp build, there's no reason for me to use them, and even the people on my stream noticed it. I went from actually fighting and struggling against my enemies, where either of us to could win, to 'they're dead in the first ten to twenty seconds of the fight' all because I got a mass driver. Why would I ever switch off that? And I'm not saying that the Mass Driver needs to be nerfed hard to fix the problem-- It does need to be looked at again, but it won't change that something will just take it's place. Yes, rebalancing everything will help, but the underlying problem is that you designed the game with vertical choices instead of horizontal ones like in Spaz 1. Mass driver is better than Sniper Cannon, Sniper Cannon is better than Omni Cannon; Mass Driver is better than Krule or Chainsaw beam, both of those are better than Omni laser or missles; Hammerhead is better than any medium strikecraft, Hammerhead is better than Sunspot, Starcruiser, or anything similar. Spaz 1, the Mining Beam was still useful all the way to the end of the game, and even a viable weapon. I've done runs where I just use the mining beam and yeah I had some issue, but nowhere near as much as if I say took off one of my weapons from my build, and replaced it with anything before it now. And again, EVERY ship in Spaz 1 has a use. EVERY. Shortbus; useful if you fucked up hard and lost all your Rez; Ranger, still good even late game for harrassment and support; Digger, late game, still useful even as 'player' craft to be able to nuke someone from afar. In Spaz 2, all you do is trade up, and get better. Even in the level system, it's just flat 'you get more, you get beefier.' And yeah we had that with the Level system in Spaz 1, but those weren't nearly as strong. The primary thing with those was unlocking parts and getting utilities like turn and rotation speed. Actual offensive values I believe capped at 2x at max. In otherwords, late game for most. Here, you pretty quickly get up to 2x and beyond even in the base game.

To that end....All I can really say is go back and play Spaz 1. I could go on an hour more explaining by word, but actions and experience speak louder. Go back, compare the differences. You don't necessarily need to make the game just like Spaz 1, but there's elements there, especially in your balancing, that Spaz 2 sorely needs to keep going. More over, I'd recommend looking at your goals ingame. One thing that smacks me here is that besides 'get a base, kill zombie alpha.' There's nothing to do...No other main objective, no side objective that's explicitly stated or pointed out, unless you count 'wipe all other factions out' one. One thing you guys did right, was the side missions and side story missions. That 'there's a fight going on over here, maybe you should check it out', or 'there's people trying to cram into this hotel, maybe you can make use of that' or 'there's a minefield here with treasure. Clear the minefield, and/or get the treasure'. That kept the game interesting at a basic level. And at a higher....BASE KILLINGTON. I go for that every single run, even though I have the achievement already. Why? Because it lets me know where I, and my build, stand. How effective X is against Y and all of that, and 'do I have the skill to make it work.' It's challanges like that that make the game interesting as well, especially when you play it totally differently. Suddenly a 'boss' that was hard before fell over dead fast, while another that was a cakewalk is sitting on your face. THAT makes the replayibility, the second, third, fifteenth run of the game interesting, and keeps people coming back. And modding, that's right I forgot that; Work on making modding a bigger thing.
Seriously. Spaz 1 was moddable, some parts more than others, but THAT is what keeps games going for years. -coughs- Skyrim -cough- 6 years old -cough- still most played and being released -hack cough- again....I do focus on modding a lot, to the point I almost always look for a way to introduce modding into my games, because....Lets be honest and blunt here, we're all gonna die one day, but this non-sense we make now may continue to exist a millennium from now. And we don't know who is going to want to play it....Look at AGDQ if you need an idea about what I'm talking about; We're in 2017, and some of the most played games, most popular games are ones from the 1980s and 1990s. I personally play a bunch of games that are old and no longer supported. Some are bad, some are great. But every single one that still has a community, mods it. Day of Defeat; Demigod; Xcom; Irongrip Warlord; Killing floor; Creeper World.....Hell, the last two, came OUT of mods, and now are their own games, with sequels! If your aim is to make a good game that the players like, even love, and want to keep playing, which I think you do considering the effort you put into the game....You need to focus on streamlining mods to a degree. Not just to add in new models, or change weapon properties, but to be able to introduce more code and new things that maybe you can't figure out. Or think is impossible. Notch said X, Y, and Z were impossible in minecraft, and within days or hours someone did it to prove him wrong; Bethesda said that Obsidian wasn't able to do weather because the engine wouldn't allow it, and we now have a full other game using the same exact engine with much more than weather. EA said Dawngate wouldn't last, and could never be reversed engineenerd, Gate of Amani is in working alpha.

Off that large bit, into the smaller problems. As I said before, balance is an issue. Almost a major one, but really it comes down to a small number of weapons. Mass Driver is very much one, and I'm fairly sure why. Krule, in AI hands, is godly, but in player hands is shoddy. And Acid Bomb is worse than an actual acid bomb. Moreover, the Strikecraft system needs a re-balancing. Not a rework, but adjustments. And the last real gripe there, I think, is the difference between targets.
Weapons wise, Mass Driver is king. Once shields are down, it can literally oneshot any mothership. I've done it to enemies, enemies have done it to me. What's most concerning is that Strikecraft that are able to equip the MD can take on entire fleets by themselves, so long as something can strip shields. The reason? This is me guessing because I don't know for 100%, but if you guys coded the Mass Driver like you did in Spaz 1-- where it does more damage the longer it travels through an enemy and all that-- then the new multi-core ship system is why. Every part that the MD goes through adds to the damage. Not to mention it seems to have a similar effect to an acid cloud, where damage done to inner cores gets spread to outer cores. There's been a couple times where I've shot basically straight down the middle of a ship, it didn't die, but EVERY core and part started flying off even though nothing touched them. I get what you were going for there, but the fact that it can obliterate everything from the smallest strikecraft to the largest base, at long range, while being effective against both hull and armor, means this is pretty much the choice weapon once you can get it. Add in the fact that you can technically get it right away, so long as you can get large strikecraft, AND at the cost of a single wing part is....It's broken, I'm not going to mince word here, it's broken. I'd recommend lowering it's damage in some way, but I don't know enough about the coding or operation with this weapon to say one way or another. All I know is, there's no point to any other weapon when you can use the Mass Driver.
The Krule is honestly your most interesting weapon, and I'd say a logical one. Again, MadMax in space, people aren't going to limit themselves to beams, bullets, and bombs. Someone's going to break out a chainsaw sooner or later. Design wise, thematically, great weapon, make more of them. Useage wise, one of the most fiddly weapons I've ever used. It's the only 'laser aimed' weapon in the game, which follows the reticule. Great; What if I'm not aiming at my enemy? It goes flying off into oblivion. Since you switched from Top down to 3rd person, where you can't always see where you're going....This does not work. I'd recommend allowing it to lock on to a target and lettting the ships computer run it if the player chooses.
In the hands of the AI though, this is probably one of the most punishing weapons in the game. They will ALWAYS have their reticule on the player, and since this is the longest range weapon in the game, can't be shotdown by point defense, and does damage to shields....I'm thankful most AI can't have more than 1. I tried using 7 of these things at once on a 'run and hide' ship....While not as effective as MDs, I basically could sit back and slowly work an enemy down, while stripping them of their means to do damage to me. I imagine that it'd be the same with the player if the AI ever got more than one. Recommendation; Let point defense be able to destroy this after some time, and allow players to use lockon with this weapon.

Acid Bombs are probably the most dangerous bomb, followed up by Mass Bombs. While Mass Bombs slow a target and effectively do the same thing as an Acid one, they don't do nearly as much damage as acid does to shields and armor. In fact, a single acid cloud is enough to cleave off half of a ships full shields if they're not boosting them, even for a couple seconds of exposure. And if any unshielded part touches a cloud, it's gone. This makes a potent combo with the Mass Bomb, and if say two salvos of both were launched, almost any ship can be wiped in seconds. I don't think that acid should do that much damage to shields, and either needs a custom modifier towards shield damage or a lower tick rate.
Where point defenses are concerned, Flak is king. Defender fighters are a close second, but actual point defense moduals are a very distant third. Early on, flak isn't as great against 'single' missiles or bombs, but those aren't really the major threats. Ion SRM and fighters are, and against those flak is the best, expressly because it's AoE and doesn't have restricted firing arcs. Later on, as long as you can get 3 to 6, either on a single part or across multiple, you can pretty much ignore fighters and munitions. They put out similar DPS to defenders, but in an AoE, so instead of destroying one bomb and letting the other through, both are detonated before impact. Don't change this. Not having reliable fighter and munition defense will hamstring the game. Instead, buff Point Defense to have longer range and unrestricted firing arcs. Defenders are fine where they are.
And while we're on the subject of munitions and fighters, both are in a weird place. Unless the target has flak, they're godly. Fire a salvo, launch fighters, then in theory hold down space bar and let the bees kill the enemy. If they do, then you're just pissing in the wind. Nothing gets through and at best you're just annoying them. I will say, on the player side, encountering a ship with fighters is probably the most damning thing early on, because they do SO much damage. Every run, the first thing I look for is point defense and flak, to prevent death by a thousand cuts, from a ship a 100th of my size. I hesitate to say lower their damage, but I can't count the number of times when I've basically crippled a ship, just to have their bees rip me apart. It's a bit silly.
On a related note, Strikecraft do way too much damage. Even early on. There's been fights where I'll pretty much kill the mother ship right away, but the remaining strikecraft are geared such that, even with my own supporting me, they're able to take out my mothership from full shields and hp to nothing with little to no support. There was even one fight on stream where I believe a Sunspot? survived me, my wingman, and our strikecraft wiping out the enemy mothership and strikecraft and went on to kill literally everything else, including me. Look, I don't imagine myself to be amazing at video games, but I know I'm not that bad, that I'd die to that due to incompetence. What the issue was was I could never take down the thing's shields, even with beam weapons. That...That really should not be happening. Combine this with the fact they can get ANY weapon for cheap, including MD, hangers, bombs, and range beams, and they're much more of a threat than any mothership. 70% of the game is my strikecraft opening up pretty much any target after I've removed it's shields, to the point I've effectively made my mothership support for them, instead of the other way around....Pretty much all their numbers need to be taken down, still, and something needs to be done to address the fact they can get any weapon, any time, with roughly the same power at a fraction of the cost....
Lastly, there's no difference between a station, a mothership, and a strikecraft. None. In Spaz 1, a Station, when upgraded, was a boss. Same general mechanics, but with Adds summons at health gates, significantly more weapons, and no general weakness like some ships. But otherwise, a very, very tanky ship, with more shields, hp, and shit tons of armor. In this, they're barely comparable to Motherships in terms of threats, and no where near as threatening as Strikecraft. Infact, I'd say stations are the weakest ships in the game, since their shields don't cover their hitboxes. It's a pretty simple matter to take a long range weapon and aim at one of the pylons of a base and kill it before ever taking down the shields. Likewise, despite being a 10th of the size of the mothership, Strikecraft are able to be as tanky if not tankier than motherships. This really shouldn't be. Stations should take less damage and be stronger than motherships in general, and strikecraft shouldn't be able to take shots from a capital ship that's meant for other capital ships. It's the idea of someone taking a tank round to the face, but still going like nothing happened because magic armor and hp pool. I'd recommend that bases get a 50% damage reduction, flat, from all sources, and Strikecraft get a 50% increase damage gain from motherships.

Besides that, I can't think of much else to touch on, mechanically...I'm sure I've forgotten something critical I wanted to say, but maybe it'll come to me later. Maybe Stealth or something, but as it stands, most of the major things I wanted to poke at have been poked. Overall, I like the game, I do. I want to see more of this game, and play more of it, but...As it stands I don't have a reason currently to play through it again. I beat all the difficulties, toyed with different settings, and.....I'm back to playing Spaz 1. And that kinda makes me sad, because I do like the game...I just don't have a reason to play through it again, not like Spaz 1. Hopefully, that will change.

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