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Old New Player Opinions

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13 months ago
As a very old spring rts player (capob7, https://zero-k.info/Battles/Detail/52394) that probably made some of the lua unit behavior code that went into zero k, here are my thoughts from playing this recently:

- The campaign is great. It really does well at showcasing the various units. However,
-- either I'm bad at reading or it doesn't do a good enough job at explaining the various key combos for operations, like rectangular terraforming. I had to watch the frog tutorials on youtube to understand various things. I don't think ordinary new players will do this.
-- it doesn't, to my knowledge, showcase commander morphing
-- I was disappointed I didn't get more points or a trophy for beating campaign levels with brutal ai
- the emergence of BAR will probably take audience from Zk. One thing I've always thought was a problem with zk is there is no exclusive tech based on faction choice, or tech progression. Having factions adds an interesting dynamic. Starcraft does this well, and BA does this decently.
- why is there no "wait" command
- why do the missile trucks not have skirmish behavior and just sit to be killed by swarm units?
- why is the big fat ball unit so useless. When I group them and jump on a walker, they injure themselves. They need to have better collision damage resistance and better grav guns. Particularly because the microing needed for the unit and chance of jump failure/miss makes the expense of the unit not worth it.
- I see pathing is still a bit of an issue. I built a big ditch across a level for a tower defense mini game against the ai, and it just sat on the edge because the path was too long. I couldn't even get my own units to traverse it without giving waypoints. The AI should be upgraded to unmorph terrain in certain conditions.
+3 / -0

13 months ago
There was an update that simplified the command UI, it happened to hide wait. I think the default hotkey for wait is now CTRL+W, and there's something in the settings to toggle all the hidden things back on(like float to fire toggle, overkill prevention, fire at radar dots, gunship strafe toggle, selfd on capture, etc etc.)

Missile trucks in this game now stop to fire, so moving means they don't attack.

The big fat ball, Jugglenaut, is a janky and cool micro intensive unit. Gravity beams can be toggled to push or pull, yes it takes an awful lot of self damage when it collides things with itself. Many units need to take advantage of retreat and repair, and juggle requires a fair bit of attention in micro for sure.

I'd also like to see engine updates that fix the little things like occasional bugs between path finding and terraforming, and it would be cool to see the AI use terraforming.
+1 / -0

13 months ago
Commander morphing work differently in campaign compare to Multiplayer
+0 / -0


13 months ago
Hi, that's great to hear.
  • The campaign opts for a persisted morphed commander rather than commander morphing. This reduces the UI people need to learn and gives them another sense of progression. I think it works well.
  • The terraform UI is sounds more like a terraform UI problem. I recall there being a tooltip that appears whenever you terraform, not just in the campaign.
  • A brutal campaign trophy sounds good. As for points, what points? If you're talking about experience points, then we can't give out more of those because then the campaign would get easier as you play it, due to a higher level commander. Brutal is supposed to be a challenge level people set for themselves, not a way to get more bonuses.
  • There is a setting ingame to show the Wait command. Its button was removed by default to cut down on clutter.
  • I think ZK does factions better than BAR. ZK effectively has more factions than BAR in 1v1 due to the way factory costs are balanced and in team games I see quite a bit of variation within what players are doing. What specifically do you want from factions? I want there to be many ways to start a 1v1 and many roles to take on in a team game, and I see more of that from ZK than BAR.
  • Fencer doesn't fire while moving (since maybe 2008), so it doesn't automatically pack up and move when facing raiders.
  • Don't jump a group of Jugglenaut to the same location as they damage everything around them when they land. It's a useful yet specialised unit.
  • Pathing seems fine to me. Can you link the replay where it messes up?
+4 / -0
13 months ago
- "The campaign opts for a persisted morphed commander rather than commander morphing. This reduces the UI people need to learn and gives them another sense of progression. I think it works well." Perhaps, but then they are clueless in multiplayer. Going from campaign to single player skirmish, I was confused.
- "The terraform UI is sounds more like a terraform UI problem. I recall there being a tooltip that appears whenever you terraform, not just in the campaign." On second thought, I'm not sure how I didn't notice the tooltip boxes at first.
- "If you're talking about experience points, then we can't give out more of those because then the campaign would get easier as you play it, due to a higher level commander. Brutal is supposed to be a challenge level people set for themselves, not a way to get more bonuses." Yeah, I figured as much. Though, apart from the early missions, I didn't find having an excessively upgraded commander all that important to how I played, and figured the reward for the effort would be fitting.
- "There is a setting ingame to show the Wait command. Its button was removed by default to cut down on clutter." I see. Frankly, I don't think there are enough buttons. :).
- "I think ZK does factions better than BAR. ZK effectively has more factions than BAR" Yes, I acknowledge that the free initial factory is sort of like a faction, but it is not the same thing, because a player has the option to build one of the other factories as the game progresses and the cost becomes inconsequential, whereas, in BA (BAR is essentially BA-remake), the factions represent exclusive tech, and I brought up starcraft to make this more apparent, since with BA, much of the tech is mirrored between the factions with slight differences. But there are difference, for instance, in BA, I know if my opponent chose core, they can't build a tachyon, only doomsday (unless they manage to resurrect a con). Starcraft does a better job of distinguishing factions, with zerg being swarmers. But, I bring this up just as something to think about, and I realize it is pretty much out of the question for zero k.
- "Fencer doesn't fire while moving (since maybe 2008), so it doesn't automatically pack up and move when facing raiders." Yeah, it is a gimped slasher.
- "Don't jump a group of Jugglenaut to the same location as they damage everything around them when they land. It's a useful yet specialised unit." Well, yeah. Though, I was recommending changes. I don't know if they are actually used in multiplayer by anyone, but it seemed to me like it would hardly ever be worth the cost owing to the aforementioned. I thought it would be amusing to have a swarm of jugglenauts jump on a walker as a tactic for killing walkers, but they'd have to be immune to each other's landing damage.
- "Pathing seems fine to me. Can you link the replay where it messes up?" This was against the AI. It doesn't look like there's a replay online for that. But, what I did was, on LLTAComplexV2, I dug a ditch in front of the road that went the length of the road, and had a ramp on one end for one side and a ramp for the other side at the other end. And I also cut off the top path with terraforming. I had to use two waypoints within the ditch to get units to cross it.
+0 / -0
12 months ago
quote:
I don't know if they are actually used in multiplayer by anyone, but it seemed to me like it would hardly ever be worth the cost owing to the aforementioned.
In multiplayer Jugglenaut is used reasonably often and is very effective if used correctly. For me sounds strange to hear about When I group them as most of the times they are used by themselves and for specific purposes (pull a crabe from a spire, hold a unit to finish it, skirmish a shield ball).

quote:
but it is not the same thing, because a player has the option to build one of the other factories as the game progresses and the cost becomes inconsequential
Would disabling some factories for a team be an improvement to the current state for you? Like team A can do only bots (cloack/shield/jump), team B can do only vehicles (lveh/hveh/hoover). Of course this would be an option that should be setup pre-game, similarly to how you can disable completely a unit in a game. Just trying to understand what you would like I personally prefer later game freedom (and in multiplayer this tends to not happen that often - many people seem to have a big inertia, not to mention the complexitites of managing armies with different unit types)
+0 / -0
12 months ago
quote:
most of the times they are used by themselves


On a campaign missions showing off the jugglenaut, the AI sends a bunch of the inferno walkers. In the spirit of the level, I attempted to kill them with just jugglenauts. Perhaps the level should be revamped for the AI to use shield bots.



quote:
Would disabling some factories for a team be an improvement to the current state for you?


This would not be the same as factions seen in BA or starcraft. In BA, both factions have shipyards, just different units. Both factions have vehicle factories, just different units. The factories in zero-k solve unique problems. To deny one faction jumpers would make the other faction preferable on some levels. Instead, what I was thinking was having variants on units. IE, one faction would have weak fast jumpers, the other faction would have stronger slow jumpers. But it's actually a bit more complicated than that in balancing factions. For instance, in BA, the ARM can build the Annihilator tachyon, which out-ranges most units. But then, CORE can build tactical nukes.

I suppose something more complicated, like tech selection, allowing the choice of multiple but not all factories, on a map, would work. But, I don't see how that would be reasonably built in the lobby, except, perhaps if there were factions that had pre-selected tech selections, which might even include selections of units within factories.



+0 / -1
12 months ago
In my opinion what you describe in regards to faction sounds to me quite a different game compared to what ZK currently is, and does not sound as a simple incremental change or a natural extension. Maybe you should check the mods page for different styles of play (I did not try them much myself): http://zero-k.info/Mods.

+1 / -0
12 months ago
Only because other games do something in a certain way, you don't have to copy that. To my taste, having dynamic factions in the form of factories is actually an advantage because it increases unit variety and gives you more interesting choices. With multiple static factions, you are limited in your unit choice in the end game. It makes the faction choice more interesting, though. If you had immediate access to all units on the other hand, the faction choice would be removed. The more factions you have and the more static they are, the more you can give them differently powerful versions of the same unit type. But this does not make the unit choice more interesting. It only makes the faction choice more interesting. It is probably more interesting to focus on unit choice rather than faction choice because it depends on your enemy's actions and is therefore different between different matches.

Fencer = Slasher

If you have multiple Jugglenauts selected and press the jump key, you can draw a line of jump positions and they will split up to those positions and thereby avoid area damage. If you set the gravity gun direction to attract, it's actually a very powerful unit.
+1 / -0
12 months ago

quote:
does not sound as a simple incremental change or a natural extension.

As I mentioned, "I realize it is pretty much out of the question for zero k.". What spawned this is seeing and reading the other thread on the forum about "is Zk dying". If you look at most other RTS, you have both factions and tech progression. There are both psychological and battle dynamics reasons for this. I'd have to do a lot more thinking on the matter to determine whether it was definitely better, and I'd have to play a lot more zerok. I just brought it up for something to think about. I recall the initial development and launch of zero k, and I'm trying to figure out why it did not become more popular.


There was, in fact, a Spring RTS game "Tech Annihilation" that flared up in popularity and then died down. If I recall, it was an extreme example of including teching/ecoing. Zero-k appears to be entirely counter to that, given no energy converters and diminishing returns on overdrive.


quote:
If you have multiple Jugglenauts selected and press the jump key, you can draw a line of jump positions and they will split up to those positions and thereby avoid area damage. If you set the gravity gun direction to attract, it's actually a very powerful unit.


I think I resolved on a solution. The jugglenauts should be combinable, and result in a larger jugglenaut of additive volume and health - creating a new endgame of a super jugglenaut of some 2^x base jugglenauts. Perhaps rename it kirby. :).
+2 / -0
12 months ago
quote:
The jugglenauts should be combinable, and result in a larger jugglenaut of additive volume and health

We should have this for every unit! My 10000x flea will kill your 2x detriment (I hope)!
+0 / -0
The thing about faction diversity is that it doesn't place any hard limits on teamgames, and 1v1s don't tend to reach lategame units. In a team game people can share constructors, or just go and fill the role their faction is good at. So BA-style faction diversity is only mechanically relevant in FFA and the rare 1v1 that goes late. One side having tacnuke and the other having a better Bertha (or whatever the distinction is) is not that impactful because lategame structures are mostly made in team games.

Now the difference between BA and ZK goes back to design philosophy. While designing ZK we imagined the sorts of mindless/tedious things involved in "optimal play" and tried to remove them. Optimal play is clearly theoretical, but the idea was that it would future-proof us against people breaking the game in unfun ways as they improved. Or at least, we would be set up to deal with it when it did happen. This influenced the choice to go from two factions to one, since sharing constructors around to make the best version of each unit seems tedious.

Some thing were lost. Factions don't do much mechanically but can still be relevant psychologically. We're also not taking into account people who play far from optimally. A competitive 1v1 effectively has factions because an extra factory is almost always expensive, but a laid back 1v1 against chicken or AI gives players enough space to build everything. That said, I think we do better on faction feel in competitive team games. Factories-as-factions gave us the space to create many more factories than BA has factions so each player is more likely to have a unique start and role in the game. Technically players can share units around (and now make plates), but in practise it doesn't happen to a great extent. The unique factory plop at the start of the game gives people the momentum to maintain their niche within a team, much like a faction would.
+7 / -0
12 months ago
quote:
So BA-style faction diversity is only mechanically relevant in FFA and the rare 1v1 that goes late

This is mostly true, and I did have FFA in mind, but, even in team games on BA with Delta Siege, getting a shared other-faction con was unusual. And, as such, the limitations of the various fronts were largely faction dependent.

quote:
mindless/tedious things involved in "optimal play" and tried to remove them.

T2 mexes? T2 cons? I would be interested in know what you tried to remove. There are often unseen consequences to game and team dynamics.

quote:
breaking the game in unfun ways as they improved

From what I've seen on team battle videos, it seems you've done a good job with the balance.

quote:
since sharing constructors around to make the best version of each unit seems tedious.

Sure, it is a bit tedious. But, the tedious things often determine the best team/player. Back when I played BA, I had become perhaps one of the top players to the extent that the top player then had to expose himself cheating to beat me. And I did this with my unit behavior code that issued perhaps 1000's of commands per minute to cons, nanos, skirmishers, swarmers, etc. For example, the tedious micro involved in kiting with slashers made or broke their efficacy. Where to draw the line on what to automate is a question.

BTW, I sent you that lua code over a decade ago, and I no longer have it. Might you still have something from it - there were a lot of base helper functions I built into it which I might want if I start to make another widget. One thing I found useful was enabling toggling of behavior. I could turn off skirmisher behavior, and I could turn on encircling behavior, such that rocket bots would encircle an enemy and walk around in a circle it while attacking it, and I could toggle that off for the normal skirmisher behavior to resume.


quote:
A competitive 1v1 effectively has factions because an extra factory is almost always expensive

Yep
quote:
unique factory plop at the start of the game gives people the momentum to maintain their niche within a team, much like a faction would

Yep
+0 / -0


12 months ago
Ah I forgot to mention two things.

Firstly, the loss of FFA faction diversity is certainly a cost. FFAs back in CA had a minigame around trying to get tech from the other side to fill out your options (Core could resurrect and Arm could capture). One of my more memorable games was a 6-way FFA on Comet Catcher that quickly turned into a 3-way FFA, and it ended up in a bit of a stalemate since we were all Core so could spam shields. It then became a game of searching through wreckage to find an Arm constructor to build EMP tacnukes. Having different lategame options was certainly interesting.

The other thing is about structures. Plop momentum seems to have a large enough effect in on the average team game player to give them a sense of faction, for units. Structures are all the same though. I suspect that giving each constructor its own build list (with some variations or missing options) would enhance the ZK faction feel, possibly to the level of BA outside of FFA. That would be an insane number of structures though.

quote:
T2 mexes? T2 cons? I would be interested in know what you tried to remove. There are often unseen consequences to game and team dynamics.

Things like.
  • Optimal play surely doesn't involve everyone on a large team making their own factory. Not having a factory is boring though, so we give each player one for free.
  • Unifying build lists so you don't have to search around for the constructor that can build the particular thing you want.
  • Merging floating and land versions of structures into a structure that can be built anywhere.
  • 1:1:1 build cost ratios.
  • Being able to invest in more energy to metal conversion just by making power, rather than remembering a ratio of metal makers to fusions.
  • If the end state of skirmisher gameplay is to be a bunch of wiggling around, then they should be able to do some basic version of it themselves.

quote:
Sure, it is a bit tedious. But, the tedious things often determine the best team/player.

Yes, I have come to realise that this is part of the appeal. One of the principals of ZK is "Fight your opponent, not the game", the idea being that winning or losing based on how your decisions interact with those of another person (or team) is better than the outcome being determined by who is better at forcing the game to do what they want. Since then, looking at games like Starcraft and Supcom, I see that a decent number of people like a more solo experience. Perhaps it is more relaxing, and it seems easier to get feedback on. Someone who practises rushing T2 at the back of DSD has a clear metric for success - how long it takes them to reach T2. In a game about expansion and raiding and interaction it is a lot harder to tell how good you are, when you did well, and how to improve. That seems to be what ZK is, and at a minimum it seems to have a niche. So I'd say the design works.

quote:
For example, the tedious micro involved in kiting with slashers made or broke their efficacy. Where to draw the line on what to automate is a question.

Yes, it is a tricky question. The theory behind the auto-kiting is that units need to approximately behave how they should be used if they are to be balanceable across a wide range of skills and game scales.

quote:
BTW, I sent you that lua code over a decade ago, and I no longer have it.

I don't recall, what was you name then? You might show up in a widget file. I recall writing the original tactical AI widget that did skirmish and swarming. Which broke Slashers, and motivated their stop-to-fire behaviour in the first place. Are you talking about Global Build AI? It handles constructors.
+2 / -0

12 months ago
quote:
I suspect that giving each constructor its own build list (with some variations or missing options) would enhance the ZK faction feel, possibly to the level of BA outside of FFA. That would be an insane number of structures though.

Perhaps it would be enough to remove one "basic" building from each con?
For example, spider loses picket, tank loses stinger, shield loses stardust, cloak loses llt, hover loses gauss, amphs loses torpedo, etc..
That would certainly affect 1v1s, and balance of course.
Removing more "advanced" structures like fusion or cerb might just be an annoyance in team games.
+0 / -0
12 months ago
quote:
FAs back in CA had a minigame around trying to get tech from the other side to fill out your options

Usually it was just a matter of rezzing enemy com.



quote:
I suspect that giving each constructor its own build list (with some variations or missing options) would enhance the ZK faction feel, possibly to the level of BA outside of FFA. That would be an insane number of structures though.


Yeah, that would be a lot of work. What would the jumper specialized defense tower be, a giant flail?
Perhaps it would be better to have a overarching faction choice that enables special tech on top of the existing units and structures - special or selected super weapons, special walkers, perhaps special regular units and defense structures. Bring in turret mex and the cloak emp mex.

quote:
Unifying build lists so you don't have to search around for the constructor that can build the particular thing you want.


Handling the T2 constructor is part of the game of BA - making sure it doesn't get harmed. The dynamic of the time to get the T2 constructor to the front to build T2 defense, where to invest in T2 mexes, etc.


quote:
Being able to invest in more energy to metal conversion just by making power, rather than remembering a ratio of metal makers to fusions.

If I recall, there was a widget that managed turning on and off converters as energy became deficient. I figured the removal of the converters was intentional more towards favoring people who claim/mexes land rather than sit back and tech.
I remember a delta siege team game where I built a "fuse" of t1 metal makers to the front.


quote:
If the end state of skirmisher gameplay is to be a bunch of wiggling around, then they should be able to do some basic version of it themselves.


I found the needs varied. In some cases, it was better that a group of swarmers ran straight to the target rather than all zig zagging to avoid shells, since the zig zagging increased the path distance and doesn't matter as much when there's a large group. And, again, this makes the case for having a behavior toggle.


quote:
Perhaps it is more relaxing, and it seems easier to get feedback on. Someone who practises rushing T2 at the back of DSD has a clear metric for success - how long it takes them to reach T2


There is definitely something people like about trying to perfect preset paths. I remember there was a period in BA where comnapping and combombing was a thing, and the community was emotional about it until it was finally removed and nerfed. It was hilarious fun, but it impeded on people's normality.
There's something about familiarity and going on cruise control. Delta Siege was perhaps played 90% of the time, with familiar confrontations at the top and bottom, with variations. And perhaps that is one of the downsides with regard to popularity with zero-k - it is too dynamic. There is something exhausting about too many options (this is well known in business). At the same time, gamers seem to like brainless activity with the sprinkling of novelty (WoW, etc)


Personally, I never got into zero k because my unit behaviors were not as big of advantage. Nanos can't reclaim enemy units, my swarner, skirmisher, kiter behaviors conflicted with what you had added. And, I liked having the freedom to mess around in BA as other players were contending with my unit AI.


quote:
I don't recall, what was you name then? You might show up in a widget file. I recall writing the original tactical AI widget that did skirmish and swarming. Which broke Slashers, and motivated their stop-to-fire behaviour in the first place. Are you talking about Global Build AI? It handles constructors.


I was capob through capob9. I think starting around 2007.

What I recall was, there was existing swarmer and skirmisher widgets (one for each) for BA, but the skirmisher/kiter one was broken and the swarmer one was unreliable. I fixed both, and then evolved it into a much grander set of widgets. One thing you might note in my version is I used a trig function for a nicer unit circle and the original used a short cut. My code also worked fine with slashers.
You had asked for the code at some point early in zerok development, and you were 1 of 2 people I gave it to. I had mentioned to you that I was calculating which units to apply the swarmer or kiter behavior to based on taking an inventory of the units and comparing ranges and speeds, dynamically at the start of the game.

Any way, it seems like that code is gone now. Are there even any LuaUI widget sites any more?














+0 / -0
12 months ago
I think quite a few of these suggestions would result in a different game. Ie., Zero k has made a number of design choices to simplify (1:1:1 build, metal, and energy ratio, for example), no t2 metal constructors, no advanced factories (apart from striders I guess), smart units that roughly do what they should. A lot of these choices simplify the game in some areas, allowing the player to focus on countering their opponent, but it is certainly correct that you do lose something from that.

They aren't bad suggestions, but I think with some of them would end up with a game that has a very different feel and would cut against what Zero K is trying to achieve.

If you're one that likes micro, I'd suggest getting good a jump bots. They are the most micro intensive factory from my perspective and if a player is microing them well (Pyros, juggles, firewalkers, jacks, scuttles, they are incredibly annoying to deal with).


+5 / -0
12 months ago
quote:
They aren't bad suggestions, but I think with some of them would end up with a game that has a very different feel and would cut against what Zero K is trying to achieve.


I present the suggestions not as final products, but as items to discuss relative to what I see as a lack of success of the game. This website, along with the integration with commander morphing, unit unlocking, player ranking, etc, was all very nifty on release, and I expected more success. But of course, there could have been other factors.

A few more notes from some more playing:
  • why is reclaim so slow?
  • why not add an option to tweak overdrive return falloff? The massive BA/BAR games occur because the economy scales up with adv fusions and metal makers.
  • I thought I found a strategy with juggle, jacks, and funnelweb, where the juggle would pull units into self and jacks would kill anything that survived, while the funnel healed juggle, but then I go to jump on a shield bot cluster, and the juggle pulls a felon or something while it's jumping, and shoots it into the funnelweb that dies.
+0 / -0


12 months ago
  • Reclaim is as fast as it is so that reclaim fields can be fought over rather than slurped up as soon as someone gets a constructor there. People make 5-10 constructors to take reclaim quite rapidly, but doing so is an investment.
  • I might add such an option. Nobody has really thought to do so since options are rarely used. One of the barriers is that we would have to solve a family of differential equations rather than the special case we use at the moment. That said, we have some pretty massive ZK games too, and I prefer them to massive BAR games as more unique things happen within them. I suspect making the economy ramp up more would increase the number of striders and superweapons in ZK but reduce the diversity of what happens in those games.
  • Jugglenaut is weird like that.
  • What sort of success where you expecting? I think we're where we are due to the near-complete lack of marketing. That and a lack of spare time to move things along at a decent pace, especially when it comes to the web site.
+1 / -0
12 months ago
zk's lobpot is full of strategic diversity because of large player numbers. the less of the full teams eco you have to manage yourself, the more you can focus on making a unique set of units work.

Outside of striders, you can build any 1 unit you want to from the first second. While a units cost is fixed, their relative value is dependant on the ever changing gamestate.
Raiders are a prime example of units falling out of fashion, only to surge in value when frontlines become eroded or screening units are required.


Im opposed to a tier system for units, since it only serves to delay the bigger stick, and causes units to be depricated when theyre simply outclassed.
Looking at FAF, theres 3 tiers of tanks/bots that serve the same purpose as frontline units in slightly different flavors. Real matchup diversity comes from the "traits" of the 4 factions that their units obey (aeon being longer ranged, cybran rapidfire, UEF tankyness, sera ???) aswell as the outliers of those traits. Very little is gained from the different tiers, besides condensing more mass into less units.
+3 / -0
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