Bron

Should Astroneer be less Random?

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i've been playing Astroneer for some time now (170 hours single player on steam) and have thoroughly enjoyed building, exploring, crafting and researching in it's cartoon-style universe. it's looking like it could be one hell of a game when it's finally complete!

however, something has been bugging me since the most recent coule of updates. it's clear than the designers have been struggling with getting the fundamental mechanisms of the game just right. the new research alterations being a case in point - some players hate them, some are very frustrated by them, others have had less trouble. i myself have been up and down with it - ive had games where key base researchables are nowhere to be found, others where they come up multiple times. ive also struggled with the research pods themselves; having gotten nothing from unique shapes, but had multiple useful research from identical ones. this kind of stuff can frustrate.

so i thought - is some of this frustration down to the randomness? sometimes i would love to know just exactly what it was i was looking for, more than simply 'a research pod'.  i'm talking about having some sense of, if you explore in this place, your chances of getting this kind of result are increased. i have yet to see any kind of pattern that suggests theres a bias in the game for particular pod types, or locations, or anything. maybe it's there and i'm missing it?

i love exploring particular planets, but there's very little sense of purpose to the process - it's not like i havent gotten everything i need from the terran world at some time or other. perhaps some idea that you could create different types of base on different worlds - maybe a mining and refining world for things that only turn up there, maybe a skybase station could be made on a particular world, maybe a base crafted from organic materials on another. verisimilitude would provide greater purpose to the exploration.

the trade platform seems pretty rigid, in that you know your exchange rates and they dont change. but what if trade was different from different worlds? what if having bases on the other planets gives you better trade rates in some things? maybe you could use the platform to 'trade' with other bases - effectively loading it with materials you can send offworld to another base. these could appear when you eventually get there as the spherical 'resource drops' you see in the initial game stages. moving stuff from world to world gets less difficult, making travel from world to world less of a pain.

randomness can be pretty cool - i would never suggest that they should stop these beautiful procedually generated landscapes because they are almost an art form, and exploring them can be like looking at an art gallery - 'look at how cool this cave is!'. but too much randomness can be frustrating and stifling to gameplay, i've found. maybe it's time for ASTRONEER to have more rules in it's universe that we can learn, exploit, and enjoy.

does anyone else feel this way?

 

 

Edited by Bron
must spellcheck!

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40 minutes ago, Bron said:

sometimes i would love to know just exactly what it was i was looking for, more than simply 'a research pod'.  i'm talking about having some sense of, if you explore in this place, your chances of getting this kind of result are increased. i have yet to see any kind of pattern that suggests theres a bias in the game for particular pod types, or locations, or anything. maybe it's there and i'm missing it?

It it's there I'm missing it too. 

Differences between the biomes on the planet are insignificant for the gameplay.  Of course we've got mountains, caves and ordinary terrains, but nothing more to differentiate terrain - it looks almost the same everywhere. I wish to have the sense of diversity that I had playing Minecraft many years ago. There, every biome has offered resources that either did not appear in others or were definitely less frequent elsewhere. And in Astroneer, if player can feel that he is in a interesting, different region of the planet, he will remember it and associate all resources and artifacts he collected in this place.
What I'm trying to say, is that current research design isn't necessary bad. But, there is a lot to improve, for example: 

  •  artifacts visuals should correlate with blueprints hidden in them, ex:
    • yellowish artifacts for energy-techs
    • blueish - life support
    • reddish - mining
    • gray - vehicles, etc
  • location of them should also follow some rules (like: solar - wrecks, mountain tops; geothermal - underground; wind - creeks, lowlands etc.)
  • biomes should differ more
Edited by gp.

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Removing the randomness might actually detract from the experience in some way. I like the fact that you've limited resource to start and getting stuff should be hard. I liken it to the film The Martian which I really enjoyed.

Agree that worlds should be more diverse. While we do have different types of worlds, the terrain differs little across them. Hopefully one day we'll have ice at the poles, rivers, lakes, oceans even (if the worlds get THAT big), forests and maybe even some wildlife or the odd volcanoe!

It's all work in progress and the Dev's will sometimes get it wrong and sometimes they'll implement something wonderful that gets us all talking, and playing, for many hours more.

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world diversity is a big thing, essentially multiplying the design and implementation of the game by (at least) the number of planets. but i agree that it's probably the key to increasing the appeal of the current game. but diversity in this manner implies an order, so perhaps the randomness would be lost? would that be a bad thing?

also, colour coding the research pods seems a simple way to give us a sense of understanding about the world. i like that much of what you know you gain by exploring, not by reading a manual, and that ethos should remain. but currently i'm hauling back every single pod i find regardless of what it looks like because i know that any of them could have something useful in them. if they were properly differentiated, perhaps by colour, but perhaps by what colour terrain they were found in, or if they came off a plant or a rock or a crashsite, then we as players could move with purpose and concentrate our efforts more.

also, there has to be more reasons to do stuff other than the ones we have now. looking around at the players' reports, some of them get as much enjoyment out of sculpting the terrain into mad shapes, or hauling wrecks back to their home and building a 'museum' as they do from regular gameplay. it would be wrong for the devs to consider this activity 'cheats' by people trying to somehow break the game - people will find their way to have fun with your game if they arent entertained by what you give them to do. That i feel is the inherent randomness inherent in the players, and the game should continue to service this sandbox activity even as it introduces more linear styles of gameplay. example: the tool modifiers are a good thing, giving players more stuff to play about with and encouraging creativeness, but removing the ability to shape the terrain youre standing on (so you can't built a column under your feet and shoot up into the air) is a bit too restrictive, in my opinion. i cant see why it was 'breaking' the game, and some players were having a lot of fun with it.

it's an interesting dilemma. thanks for beiong part of the discussion, gp. and CodelsBroken, you both make some good points.

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First I am enjoying the game period, so far in Alpha it is better then some "complete" games I've purchased in recent history.  I enjoy that the development team is actively working on the project and taking into consideration the feedback they are given [especially with the quick hot fix recently give the response to 154]  So you should be proud development team of what you have here.

I think the posts above are narrowing in on a gap with the game.  With the mechanics of research there is something lacking, and I think this comes down to a "foggy" purpose of research. What is the goal you [development team] are trying to accomplish with the mechanics?  One of the typical "theme" I've seen in the posts here on the forum is to get players to spread out and explore.  If that is the case then I think the current guaranteed "tech" and random discoveries is not helping that purpose/goal.  With the given mechanic of this "random" paradigm for research, I want to bring the most research pods of varying types to may Research platform as quickly as possible.  Once I get something "good" from a color/type of research pod I stop collecting those and move on to a different type.  I first harvest from any vegetation on the surface near me then I just drill straight down into caves just off my research platform.  Then I just work clockwise around this tunnel looking for pods [and collecting raw materials as I go along] in an ever widening pattern.  Sticking to the actual caves is unnecessary you can just bore a little while and end up in another "cave'.  In this pattern I can find most of what I want without actually going very far and I use the "randomness" to get whatever is useful and move on to a different research pod pretty much ignoring they type anymore.  So the mechanics of research is not encouraging me to venture out into the world but just the opposite, it is just turning into a grind to find the widest variety of research pods.  Be careful of "grind" mechanics because many will get bored quickly with this once they realize this is going on.

IMHO a mechanic that is more structured by a "tech research tree" or better multiple research trees dependent on what you discover put together.  Then throw in some randomness within that structure to increase the variation between two different games.  Now throw in the specific category of research pods and/or resources are more prominent in different terrains would encourage players to move around more away from their habs or even promote creating multiple hab sites for harvesting purposes.  In my first real successful world I started doing this including making smooth roads between sites and I was having a blast but then I realized spreading out was just burning time instead of getting me to my tech goals.

Now you take the ideas above and add in combining Research Pods into one to increase probability to have a successful research event you'll have players creating personal game goals and off exploring to find the combinations of pods to support those goals.  This is one way I see of getting players to explore; pure randomness is antipathetic to the goal of getting players [most] to stick with the game long term and explore.

I think basically an overall structured research mechanic with an overlay of randomness that can be modified by effort of the player would be more attractive to most players.

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Grendel, thanks for contributing. i like a lot of what youre saying, and can definitely see a 'Research Tree' approach working in further variants of this game. i'd suggest that it should be combined with an approach to building and designing your base that makes each base have some sense of individuality. currently bases are pretty homgenous and utilitarian, and the idea of a different style of gameplay supporting a different type of base construction and design is intriguing. support for differnt activities would help this idea: more ways to tap into power (such as geothermal vents) may result in bases that are just giant power stations, that you run cables to and from. development of interplanetary exchange may result in bases that just do that; shifting stuff from one planet to another. mining, of course, may result in bases tailored for that activity alone. the introduction of automata to keep things running might require a factory base to churn out robots just for this. and yes, even bases that just do (sigh) agriculture and farming could be developed. (i am personally against the introduction of food and farming to ASTRONEER because, well, the game is ASTRONEER - thats Astronaut + Engineer, not Astronaut +Farmer). all these base types could be developed using different paths on the research tree. this might make the game grander in scope and a denser play experience.

but will it be better? not sure. it's beginning to sound like a City Sim game more and more. is that what we want? will we lose the joy of exploring stuff? i really don't know the answers to any of this, but i have enjoyed this game so much so far, despite it's flaws, that i am willing to spend time speculating on it. and that doesnt happen much.

a footnote: interesting to hear you gameplay tactic there, Grendel. just keep boring holes and keep going clockwise in bigger circles till youve gotten everything you need? you see, i'm sure you find that great, but i would get really bored with that. you could be making your own grind there, you need to stop and do something different, not because it works but because you can.

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1 hour ago, Bron said:

...a footnote: interesting to hear you gameplay tactic there, Grendel. just keep boring holes and keep going clockwise in bigger circles till youve gotten everything you need? you see, i'm sure you find that great, but i would get really bored with that. you could be making your own grind there, you need to stop and do something different, not because it works but because you can.

The grind there or tactic is not dictated by my desire to grind it is because of the randomness if I want something to use in the game I have to grind away until I randomly get the ability/resource I need.  So I do this so I can get to the desired researched item the quickest i can.  

Example i like to have a good stable source of power so I can start really exploring; so I like to combine Solar and Wind Turbine to supply batteries.  All of those need to be "researched" and to get these I have to "crack" a lot of Research Pods currently so this seemed the quickest way to get to that ends.  I'd rather be exploring and building/reshaping the land. :)

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@Bron

I too would like to see greater variety in flora and mineral formations (more pretty things to look at) and some of it, along with some blueprints, exclusive to some planets. More incentives to explore. For example, we discover the shuttle on Terran but must go to Barren to get the spaceship blueprint and venture further in the solar system.

I also like the idea of using trade platforms to ship resources to bases on other planets. It would add an interesting economic element to the game where a planet rich in resource X but poor in resource Y trades with another planet poor in X and rich in Y.

@everybody

Yes, a tech tree that combines structure and an element of randomness would be fine.

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9 hours ago, Bron said:

if they were properly differentiated, perhaps by colour, but perhaps by what colour terrain they were found in, or if they came off a plant or a rock or a crashsite, then we as players could move with purpose and concentrate our efforts more.

I may be reading this wrong but the pods are indeed differentiated.  They are, in fact, different between plants, rocks and crash sites.  Each of the 3 types giving different research results.

 

9 hours ago, Bron said:

but removing the ability to shape the terrain youre standing on (so you can't built a column under your feet and shoot up into the air) is a bit too restrictive

This was changed because it was leading to players being sucked into the planet when the dirt they were placing overlapped their character.  This usually ended in the result of death and they were not able to find their body to recover items.

 

6 hours ago, Bron said:

the game is ASTRONEER - thats Astronaut + Engineer, not Astronaut +Farmer).

Nope.  It's Astronaut + Pioneer.  Hence the purpose of the game being exploration.  

 

There is a system to the research pods/chests.  There is randomness, yes, but there are certain lists that go with types.  Check out my experiment post.  Heck, add to it with your own findings.

 

3 hours ago, Eoghan said:

I also like the idea of using trade platforms to ship resources to bases on other planets. It would add an interesting economic element to the game where a planet rich in resource X but poor in resource Y trades with another planet poor in X and rich in Y.

I really like this idea.

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I think the main flaw was that the progression were made random, when it's not supposed to be, not even in any games. If the randomness was coming from, level, enemies, puzzles, or world, then it is a good kind of random. The research, which is the main part of the progression is one of few that should not be made random. as the result of the recent patch many player got pissed the fuck out because not only that the previous system was random, the new system were made even way more random, so much that progression were almost impossible.

Now whenever I play the game, I usually start a new save and go along with it, but not this time, cause I have to re-roll the game everytime I got the less useful tech

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On ‎5‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 10:07 AM, Eoghan said:

@Bron

I too would like to see greater variety in flora and mineral formations (more pretty things to look at) and some of it, along with some blueprints, exclusive to some planets. More incentives to explore. For example, we discover the shuttle on Terran but must go to Barren to get the spaceship blueprint and venture further in the solar system.

I also like the idea of using trade platforms to ship resources to bases on other planets. It would add an interesting economic element to the game where a planet rich in resource X but poor in resource Y trades with another planet poor in X and rich in Y.

@everybody

Yes, a tech tree that combines structure and an element of randomness would be fine.

I am with you 100% Brother Astroneer..... Making the Trade platform able to transport to a desired planet would be awesome..... but ....who's on the other side to unload?

 

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I can think of 2 ways to do it:

1) one-way transfer: you load/launch the platform on planet A. On your arrival on B, you have boxes that parachuted at/near you base, you click them to open and retrieve the resources. Pros: you can send several batches. Cons: they may land in hard to reach places and being able to send too much stuff may feel like cheating or abusing the system.

2) two-way transfer: before leaving A, fill the platform slots just like we do now. On your arrival to B, fill the platform slots and then launch to trade with A. Pros: most players will not see this one-time transfer as cheating or abuse.

Cons: in both cases you have to introduce some interface to make sure the resources you send end up at the right base on the right planet and that could get very messy pretty fast. And it doesn't fit with the "less interface is good interface" philosophy the game has.

In theory, I like the idea of trade. In practice, not so much. The idea should probably be sent to the trash can.

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