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Factories are unintuitive

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BRrankManored
3 months ago
I feel there's a contradiction between what factories suggest they offer and what they actually offer currently. Factories are largely based around movement modes, with the exception of kbots and vehicles, who offer you two options, and the strider hub which is used to build large units with no concern for their movement mode.

In theory, this would mean that factory-building strategy is largely based around terrain, with players having to judge the terrain and build the appropriate factory, with some room left for personal taste through the wide selection available. On practice, its pretty much never that simple, because the mode of movement is far, far from the only difference between the factories. Every factory has unique units with unique abilities not found anywhere else, and even among the more cookie-cutter units designed to fill broader roles, there's so much variance that often times you just need a different unit from the one your factory offers you, to fill the same role, even thought you got your factory right terrain-wise.

Why is the Spider factory the only one with an ultra-cheap cloaking scout? Why only vehicles have mind-control? Why only hovers have a mobile tachyon accelerator? I'm sure there are balance reasons behind all these decisions, but my point is, logically, they don't make sense, and these balance reasons are, perhaps, misplaced. Picking between kbots or spiders isn't supposed to be picking between two factions with strengths and weaknesses, its supposed to be picking between two modes of movement. That's what the game promises, at least.

Rather than a radical modification in our current unit selection, what I'm proposing is a change of paradigm in the factories themselves. Instead of being based around terrain, I feel they should be based mainly around roles. Have a few basic factories to deal with different terrains, maybe 2 or 3, with large selections of simple, versatile units, and then a number of specialized factories that build units according to specific functions, such as, say, class factories, factories gathering units with common mechanics such as slow, cloak or shield, etc. And allow factories to have some overlap between each other, aka, some units being build-able from more than one factory. This would make factory navigation much simpler for a new or casual player. If they need artillery, they build the specialized artillery factory and pick the unit they need from pretty much all artillery units in the game. They don't have to guess which factory builds artillery that fires in the angle or spread they need.

Off course, no longer grouping units according to movement mode would mean that now not every unit of the same factory can reach the same places, which in itself could be confusing for newbies. I feel that this could be easily made clear through some UI magic thought... an icon on top of each unit build image indicating its movement type, maybe with a tool-tip if you hover over it explaining it, should suffice. Plus, this is something that actually is intuitive when you look at the game. It doesn't take long to understand that tracks and hovers deal poorly with rough terrain, legs deal better, and spiders rule. I guess jump-jets and amphibious units are not as obvious, but could be made to be via visual hints.

Thoughts?

+1 / -0



CHrankAdminDeinFreund
3 months ago
(edited 3 months ago)

From how I understand it, factories are supposed to be the equivalent of races/factions in zk. But instead of choosing it before the game and having to stick to it, you have the freedom to use every unit for the small price of building the corresponding factory.

Factories are supposed to give you a set of unit that allows you to deal with most of the common in-game situations, while you'll only have to switch for more complicated strategies. All units of a factory also have a few traits in common, not just the movement type. Cloaky bots have many stealthy, lightweight, autorepairing bots. Light vehicles have many fast, lightweight, expendable vehicles. As you have correctly noticed, factory choice depends on many factors besides movement type. There are also quite a few violations of the movement type: Tick is a spider, Moderator can't jump, Dirtbag can jump. Naming the factories by movement type is just the easiest way to make it understandable to everyone while still applying to most units within the factory.

You can't base factories on roles because that would force players to have a multitude of factories just to get started in the game.
+6 / -0

PLrankOrfelius
3 months ago
(edited 3 months ago)

There are no kbots in Zero-K.

I broadly disagree with what you said. Having unique units in various factories is good. It creates variety and differs units from one another. Imagine ZK being full of units with a plasma cannons and only various damage, range, hp and cost variations between these units.

That being said, the fact that a lot of units don't make any sense to be in one factory comes from these units simply never supposed being in these factiories.
You have to understand how ZK was made: it was a collective addition of cool things that can be thought of and then balancing said ideas. ZK factories never had a designed kit (besides shieldbots more or less), they are a collective of cool new concepts and legacy (BA and TA) concepts tied together with the same movement type.

quote:
what I'm proposing is a change of paradigm in the factories themselves. Instead of being based around terrain, I feel they should be based mainly around roles.

I think that would be an interesting direction to take. So far only one factory kind of do that. Planes are not supposed to be a frontline hit hard factory but one that supports your forces on the ground.

However! I do not think that making an "artilery" or "riot" factory would be interesting in any way. You would basically limit the options of a player upon factory plop by disalowing them to make riots or skirmishers because they picked raiders. Then why would you use any other units in said factory if you could just pick one best value unit for the situations. Currently you have to play around the strenghs and weaknesses of your factory and then eventually substitute them with a factory switch.

tl;dr: By streamlining the options you are limiting the player.
+1 / -0


USrankFealthas
3 months ago
quote:
Picking between kbots or spiders isn't supposed to be picking between two factions with strengths and weaknesses, its supposed to be picking between two modes of movement.
Wrong. It is supposed to be choosing between the strength and weaknesses of a factory. Movement type is just a little flavor addition/quirk of the factory. IE with spiders you can walk over hills, with amphib you can walk through pools. Only real divide is that on some maps you can't use vehicles because they are too restricted by the terrain.
+6 / -0

ATrankSkasi
3 months ago
Designing factories around roles would turn Zero-K into an extreme case of blind early game rock-paper-scissor. If you plop Raiders and enemies plop Riots you're in trouble. If you plop Raiders and enemies plop Artillery then you're getting a free win.

How would sea work? You plop a raider factory and only get to make use of four units (ship, amph, hover, air raider)? How would extremely hilly maps look? Only three units (spider, jump, air raider)?
+1 / -0

PLrankOrfelius
3 months ago
(edited 3 months ago)

quote:
Designing factories around roles would turn Zero-K into an extreme case of blind early game rock-paper-scissor.

Yeah but ZK already does that anyway. It is not bad to specialize factories as long as you still give options to play that factory with a different style. Shieldbots for example are mostly played for the shieldball but this is not always how I play shields. Sometimes instead I go bandit, thug and racketeer heavy instead despite the factory being strongly centered around the concept of a shieldball.

What I'm proposing is creating playstyle themes around each factory. Have their kit being centered around one concept but also give them option to diversify. Give interactions and synergies between the units of said factory to make them more interesting.
+1 / -0



unknownrankSnuggleBass
3 months ago
I agree it can be a little unintuitive, but that's fine. The vast majority of units are straight forward, and having stuff that isn't immediately obvious gives a game depths to explore.

As mentioned by others, your proposed suggestion might make some sense, but it wouldn't result in the game being more fun. Having to build new factories for the counter units you need would make it very RPS. You'd also likely only be building one unit type from each factory, as the map would dictate which raider/riot/whatever is the most appropriate. Since both sides would be forced to factory switch constantly in order to find the answers to their opponent, and on most maps certain units are just better than others in their role, that game would more closely resemble players only having one factory worth of options, with costly tech levels to unlock extra roles.

I personally don't like that factories are largely based on movement type. It makes some sense (just like the role idea) that factories would specialise in certain things, but I think it's an unnecessary 'restriction' that is often broken, but also reduces the number of options available. This all said, ZK is a great game and this is more of an opinion in the abstract than a genuine criticism.
+1 / -0

BRrankManored
3 months ago
Let me clarify that my proposed "class factories" would not be the main factories. They would be auxiliary factories you'd build later in the game, and would not be factories you'd start the game with unless you were trying a very specific strategy. You'd start off the game with more general purpose factories, of which there would be something like 2-3 picks. So there would be two factory "types", so to speak. A small number of general-purpose factories with wide selections of versatile units, and a larger number of specialized factories with small selections of specialized units, some being shared with the generals and others being unique.

This isn't the only system thought, we could also have a division based on war philosophies instead, aka, more proper "factions", because if this is what the factories are in spirit, why not make it so?



DeinFreund: Indeed, factories are more than their movement types and are little factions unto themselves, but my point is that while this is the truth, it is not how they present themselves in most part, and while the're not entirely about their movement types I feel there is an excessive emphasis on it.

Orfelius: I'm not opposed to having many unique units, I just find the way how the're organized currently uncomfortable.

Fealthas: Picking between the strengths and weaknesses of factories is what happens in practice, but what the game suggests, in the way how it describes itself, is that you're picking between modes of movement. This is the contradiction I'm talking about. Plus, if we're really picking between factions, why should these factions be largely restricted to specific movement methods?

Skasi: Those cases is where the "general" factories would come in. We'd probably have one more geared towards flat terrain, one more geared towards hilly terrain, and one geared towards the sea. So yes, the most general factories would remain terrain-oriented, but in broader strokes, and including units from multiple movement modes.
+0 / -0


ILrankAdminhokomoko
3 months ago
quote:
Fealthas: Picking between the strengths and weaknesses of factories is what happens in practice, but what the game suggests, in the way how it describes itself, is that you're picking between modes of movement. This is the contradiction I'm talking about. Plus, if we're really picking between factions, why should these factions be largely restricted to specific movement methods?

So it seems like the game doesn't present this well, because strengths/weaknesses is exactly the game's intent.

Do you have a suggestion how to present the current factories in a way that makes it obvious they're not just movement modes?
+3 / -0



CHrankAdminDeinFreund
3 months ago
(edited 3 months ago)

Neon!

Replace the big fat com selector buttons by factory selection! Give 2-3 keywords to each factory and a hovertext. Then you click to place your factory.

So a new player directly starts with a fac and can start making units. No need to fiddle with complicated build menu at start of game.

Also add a "No factory" button so we can choose to just plop our com without fac.

The com selection itself could go into a smaller submenu or just be the current menu but minimized at start(com selector button at side of screen). Newbies don't need to select com, show them the important part of the game. Currently it looks like selecting com would be the important pre-game decision, while factories aren't even mentioned.

This is partly based on the feedback of a friend who was confused as to why you start with a com instead of just a factory, and why you have to instantly place a factory after game start instead of doing that at game start.

The factories themselves could be represented by a foreground icon showing their main strength and a backdrop showing their terraintype. Shields would be a shield symbol with a few smooth lines sketching out hills in the background.
+3 / -0

BRrankManored
3 months ago
Well, just changing names and descriptions would go a long way. Currently factories describe themselves largely in terms of the movement mode they produce... shield/cloaky bot factory, light/heavy vehicle factory, spider factory, jump/specialist factory, etc.

Also, the names and descriptions of some factories suggest the're specialized factories that can't be your mainstay. For example the jump/specialist factory sounds like something you build later in the game rather than a viable start. Spiders, too, sound like the're meant for incredibly rough terrain only and aren't viable anywhere else. Amphibious bots sound like the're meant to cross rivers and seas and that's it, and hovers same except on the surface. I mean, all of these things are technically true, but the game makes them sound like hard limitations when the're really more like recommendations.

And ultimately I think the factory descriptions could use just being more fleshed-out overall. The're mostly 2-3 lines. I imagine whoever wrote these descriptions was aiming to keep them brief and give players a quick general idea of the factories... but this is a complicated game, and I think these superficial descriptions are insufficient. Players who just want a quick general idea probably won't bother to read the manual anyways.

I think we could use having more detailed descriptions of the play-style of each factory, their strengths and weaknesses, the viability of using them on the various terrain types, and units to pay particular attention to. There's the "key units" section, but it fails to mention why the units are key. It also fails to mention, in most part, the very unique units you should know about, and that are sometimes worth building the whole factory over. For example, in the Cloaky bot factory, we have Scythes and Spectres. Spectres are one of those units that can completely bone a newbie if he doesn't know it exists or how to counter, so it really should have more emphasis.
+0 / -0


AUrankAquanim
3 months ago
http://zero-k.info/mediawiki/index.php?title=Cloaky_Bot_Factory
+0 / -0

CArank[G0G0]Dancer
3 months ago
Everything can move everywhere with the wonderful power of teraform!
Have hovers on a uneven map and smooth as you go.
or build a tower with a Crabe (it is spelt Crab in English... fyi) on the top.

Sometimes you will encounter that the enemy has a factory that can make units that have a strong advantage over the units from the factory you currently have.

so build a new factory.

I do this all the time.

My last battle.

http://zero-k.info/Battles/Detail/439553

A key factor is when is a good time to swap labs? what is the unit your after?
+0 / -0

BRrankManored
3 months ago
(edited 3 months ago)

Aquanim: That's what I'm talking about. These extended descriptions need to be more accessible. There's no link to them in the unit list, instead you have to open the manual tab and click on units, then the factory name. I just found that out, instead I usually click on manual and go from there, I assumed everything was accessible from there.

Edit: It seems Hovers, Airplanes and Ships are lacking their detailed descriptions, also.
+0 / -0


AUrankAquanim
3 months ago
I wrote most or all of them, and I don't consider myself much of an authority on Hovers, though I suppose I could hack something together. Ships are changing fast enough at the moment that I don't think there's much point in writing that until it's settled down. I guess I didn't get around to the planes.
+0 / -0

BRrankManored
3 months ago
Amphi-bots are also missing, just noticed. Also thank you, the newbs of the world appreciate your efforts.
+0 / -0

CArank[G0G0]Dancer
3 months ago
http://zero-k.info/Static/UnitGuide

though it is a bit out of date, for more detailed information, hold Space and click on the unit, or unit icon to find out more. dont have to build the unit to find out more info, just space + click.

Good to do some vs ai, and spec some games if you are new to the game.

A dedicated campaign (how old school RTS games would teach game-play before they would try multi-player)

+0 / -0


FIrankVermind
3 months ago
New descriptions focusing more on what each factory is good at sounds like a great idea.

When I started ZK, I was often using the same factory, and only one factory, for an entire game. I had this idea that factories are expensive. However, in ZK, you should never just stick with one factory. Plan to build a different one sometime around the middle of the game, so that you can get a more diverse selection of units.

For example, cloakies are weak, lightweight, and sneaky. Using a cloak AA spotter on hold fire in the middle of the enemy territory and then building a ton of artillery from a heavy vehicles factory is a nice combination.
+0 / -0

LVrankSenaven
3 months ago
i think you need to discuss this idea with AUrankhedgehogs. He may improve it because he is very creative person. Only then post it to forum.
+2 / -1


FIrankVermind
3 months ago
He is also fairly new and picked up the game pretty fast. Maybe he has different ideas about what the factories are in terms of conceptions people have from other games.
+0 / -0
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