Killtech

The magic of playing Astroneer for the 1st time and how some of it got lost

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When i first started playing Astroneer shortly before release there was a magic to the game that made it feel really special. But over time and after it's release is somehow lost a lot of that and i was thinking how that happened.

Well, for one playing a game for a longer time always loses a little of its magic that simply comes from being a new experience. but there is more to it than that. i realized that in the beginning the game offered me a lot more in terms of exploration... and this is due to two things: for one back then i didn't have the knowledge of how to make my life 'easier' massively relaying on the terrain tool. so in order to get aluminium i had to first find an entrance to the underground -> exploration! today i would just dig a ramp downwards to the lower level... and be done in a few minutes but in a boring fashion. The other thing was the terrain 1.0 that had it boons when not overly relying on the terrain tool. I remember exploring the cave networks for long hours for resources and passages to the deeper levels - and back in the day the caves were tunnel like structures with some bigger chambers in between creating a complex labyrinth. now the caves are their own biomes that while looking nice with an individual flair they are less interesting for exploration: there is a lot more space, all chambers are if not directly connected to each other then just separated by thin walls that you can easily dig through always knowing you don't need dig deep to get to the next room. Exploring a maze turns out to be more interesting than a de-facto open space. 

And there is also the question of having a reason to explore. When i started exploring the underground my motivation was to look for tunnels that go downwards deeper and deeper to see what's down there (even through back then apart from resources there was nothing overly interesting there). If you think about that kind of exploration coupled with the quest to reach the core makes for a good gameplay concept in theory - as long as is cannot be simply skipped. The reality however is that nowdays there are hardly any tunnel connections between the different cave layers and even if there were they would be much easier to find in the vast cathedral like caves. But why even bother looking for a way down if you can just fast dig down yourself... soon even with a drill vehicle that can pave a ramp too to fast track the whole process even more? When i landed on last planet to unlock the core the exploration aspect left was nearly null. going to the core was swiftly finished with a ramp with merely a short look around at each cave layer before going to the next - no reason at all to say any bit longer. It is perhaps interesting to mentioned that "Subnautica" game had a terrain tool in its development originally too but it was scrapped exactly because how it impacted exploration because that game is focused around exploration.

So it all sums up to (or TL;DR) drill mod 3 + wide mod + boost mod + canisters on the terrain tool or a diamond drill vehicle with a (soon available) paver renders underground exploration trivial and obsolete and that is where a lot of the original Astroneer magic came from for me.

I'm not saying to remove these tools - not at all - because they are cool for building bases/infrastructure and other situations. But when it comes to the main quest it would be better to have some serious obstacles and challenges left these tools can't just steamroll, be it like diamond rocks they cannot dig through, reactive rocks that explode when exposed to air and drilled or whatever else that made exploring an important part of the game.

Edited by Killtech

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Spelunkers unite! I remember those days of gigantic caves and nicely sloped entrances big enough to drive a rover down. It seemed like there was more area underground than there was on the surface. Now we have caves with entrances that are narrow, steep, and that lead to a deadly drop-off. It is truly a different experience than it was. Not necessarily worse, but different.

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strange even if I dig down with vehicle, (not to make it fast, more to make it straight :)) it never kills my interest to explore lower levels or deep caves which always different, and those flowers! whoa and lost underground cities, fancy artifacts. Maybe imagining some other goals than just drop down/unlock the core/leave would help? :)

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On 10/5/2019 at 1:27 PM, Killtech said:

When i first started playing Astroneer shortly before release there was a magic to the game that made it feel really special. But over time and after it's release is somehow lost a lot of that and i was thinking how that happened.

Well, for one playing a game for a longer time always loses a little of its magic that simply comes from being a new experience. but there is more to it than that. i realized that in the beginning the game offered me a lot more in terms of exploration... and this is due to two things: for one back then i didn't have the knowledge of how to make my life 'easier' massively relaying on the terrain tool. so in order to get aluminium i had to first find an entrance to the underground -> exploration! today i would just dig a ramp downwards to the lower level... and be done in a few minutes but in a boring fashion. The other thing was the terrain 1.0 that had it boons when not overly relying on the terrain tool. I remember exploring the cave networks for long hours for resources and passages to the deeper levels - and back in the day the caves were tunnel like structures with some bigger chambers in between creating a complex labyrinth. now the caves are their own biomes that while looking nice with an individual flair they are less interesting for exploration: there is a lot more space, all chambers are if not directly connected to each other then just separated by thin walls that you can easily dig through always knowing you don't need dig deep to get to the next room. Exploring a maze turns out to be more interesting than a de-facto open space. 

And there is also the question of having a reason to explore. When i started exploring the underground my motivation was to look for tunnels that go downwards deeper and deeper to see what's down there (even through back then apart from resources there was nothing overly interesting there). If you think about that kind of exploration coupled with the quest to reach the core makes for a good gameplay concept in theory - as long as is cannot be simply skipped. The reality however is that nowdays there are hardly any tunnel connections between the different cave layers and even if there were they would be much easier to find in the vast cathedral like caves. But why even bother looking for a way down if you can just fast dig down yourself... soon even with a drill vehicle that can pave a ramp too to fast track the whole process even more? When i landed on last planet to unlock the core the exploration aspect left was nearly null. going to the core was swiftly finished with a ramp with merely a short look around at each cave layer before going to the next - no reason at all to say any bit longer. It is perhaps interesting to mentioned that "Subnautica" game had a terrain tool in its development originally too but it was scrapped exactly because how it impacted exploration because that game is focused around exploration.

So it all sums up to (or TL;DR) drill mod 3 + wide mod + boost mod + canisters on the terrain tool or a diamond drill vehicle with a (soon available) paver renders underground exploration trivial and obsolete and that is where a lot of the original Astroneer magic came from for me.

I'm not saying to remove these tools - not at all - because they are cool for building bases/infrastructure and other situations. But when it comes to the main quest it would be better to have some serious obstacles and challenges left these tools can't just steamroll, be it like diamond rocks they cannot dig through, reactive rocks that explode when exposed to air and drilled or whatever else that made exploring an important part of the game.

IMHO, what your experiencing is the phenomenon that comes from the latest one-and-done approach SES has taken to updates

When you first started playing every item you used, you used over and over again. You created and placed countless tethers. You dug up resources over and over again. And when you thought you had enough resin or compound, BOOM, nope you needed still more! You smelted and smelted and smelted you collected all the gases and unlocked enough bytes to build everything! In building everything, you needed some of...everything! Every resource, every combination, every recipe we're all needed, not once not twice but multiple times. 
For dozens of hours there seemed to be no end in sight as to what one could do or should do.
Then came the purple dead end
It all started with the trio of purple things. The things we all only used once, once, and never again. 
Then we got fed more and more one and done type items
Beachball Soccer
Hoop Storage
Chess
Camera
Finding chess pieces 

To me it is no surprise you feel this way. It is a total shift in gameplay. You're not alone as some of us have been expressing our displeasure with the direction the game has taken. The next update appears to have some of the "good 'ole days" back with the ability for us to lay roads and a fix to the drill. Those will hopefully be delivered sooner rather than later as those are items, if working as designed, should have long legs like the jetpacks. 
 

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I miss the storms. My brother noted the other night, that the game is like a children's survival game. There's no real danger anymore. I remember the Exotic planet had a lightning/radiation storm, and most all the other planets had their own mostly unique storm. Building a fort around my shelter was one of my favorite things to do in the game. On Glacio, I'd hollow out a mountain peak for a protected base.

I hope they bring back at least the option to turn on the storms.

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10 hours ago, KingMonkey said:

I hope they bring back at least the option to turn on the storms.

I have to say that sometimes I miss the storms with their onslaught of "Cardboard boxes from Hell". I was hoping that the next galaxy that they add [possibly in a DLC add-on] will include more planets with storms, but that remains to be seen. I like the idea of having the option to switch the storms on or off, but I don't recall that it was ever an option before that could be "brought back".

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51 minutes ago, Flyingcrowbar said:

I have to say that sometimes I miss the storms with their onslaught of "Cardboard boxes from Hell". I was hoping that the next galaxy that they add [possibly in a DLC add-on] will include more planets with storms, but that remains to be seen. I like the idea of having the option to switch the storms on or off, but I don't recall that it was ever an option before that could be "brought back".

Pls no DLC, I would like it with the current game.

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On 10/6/2019 at 9:19 PM, The Touch of Grey Gamer said:

IMHO, what your experiencing is the phenomenon that comes from the latest one-and-done approach SES has taken to updates

When you first started playing every item you used, you used over and over again. You created and placed countless tethers. You dug up resources over and over again. And when you thought you had enough resin or compound, BOOM, nope you needed still more! You smelted and smelted and smelted you collected all the gases and unlocked enough bytes to build everything! In building everything, you needed some of...everything! Every resource, every combination, every recipe we're all needed, not once not twice but multiple times. 
For dozens of hours there seemed to be no end in sight as to what one could do or should do.
Then came the purple dead end
It all started with the trio of purple things. The things we all only used once, once, and never again. 
Then we got fed more and more one and done type items

No, i don't think that what you are describing is what's bugging me. The purple stuff is maybe a one time thing and gets a bit grindy but still provides a simple motivation to visit all planets and build bases there - something that i didn't do in EA. and these means to an end requires enough repeated resource gathering and base building. new storage and platforms added over the updates extended on that, especially now that i am revising all bases for the wanderer quest. 

i don't mind all the little 'fun' stuff added. i guess it is something that fits well for a creative mode and guess that kind of gameplay has an appeal for a certain audience even if i am not part of that. if anything i am somewhat disappointed that the game wasn't split into two separate modes: survival and creative, each with it's own balance and focus. because right now there are a few fundamental things that feel more balanced towards a creative gameplay rather then survival, making the latter unappealingly trivial. the terrain tool is the best example. for creative play it's natural that is should be almost godlike to help the player achieve what he wants the swiftest but for survival it simply trivializes progression (no point in cranes etc.) and exploration aspects (no point in pathfinding when it is faster to make a path through any terrain or rock). it's perhaps more obvious with shelters, something that sounds very survival-leaning but in the safety of an almost creative mode there is absolutely nothing to take shelter from...

when i began playing i just didn't know all those shortcuts and easy solutions, so i took the difficult route and that was fun and often magic. but over time i learned how to play way more effective and what has been learned cannot be unlearned.

22 hours ago, KingMonkey said:

I miss the storms. My brother noted the other night, that the game is like a children's survival game. There's no real danger anymore. I remember the Exotic planet had a lightning/radiation storm, and most all the other planets had their own mostly unique storm. Building a fort around my shelter was one of my favorite things to do in the game. On Glacio, I'd hollow out a mountain peak for a protected base.

I hope they bring back at least the option to turn on the storms.

yes, i feel very much the same! can relate to your mountain base. also loved how the storm impacted base design for example with the need to place solar and wind generators outside.

however i would opt against storms on every planet, especially Silva. they don't fit in there and when starting a new game could become an annoying time sink sitting them out in a shelter, especially for new players that don't know all their options.

Edited by Killtech

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I mostly agree.

I have great memories of my first to-the-core mission on Sylva made only on foot, with tethers and a very basic knowledge of the terrain tool (I didn't know how to copy the slopes...)

But yet I was afraid, immersed and astonished while advancing in the mission, knowing I was far from the base.

In hindsight I guess it was a lie because there wasn't much of being afraid of after all... except being careful of where I stepped on, but yet those sensations were intense and thanks to this game for having them delivered!

Others to the core missions are more cold and schematic with no emotions and all but c'est la vie :D

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Great post and I find myself agreeing with a lot of it!

Personally, I tend to be the kind of player that, if I want that kind of challenge, I give it to myself and play that way. I say that with full acknowledgement it isn't fair of us to ask you to put that kind of restriction on to yourself and that its always better for the game to do that for you. A lot of or goals for 2020 stem around this kind of feedback so I'll be sure to share it with a few folks on the team that'd benefit from reading it. Thanks again for sharing.

Adam

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after playing with a friend for a while and letting him lead on what we were doing next i have to revise my original statement a little bit. watching someone play with a fresh view on the game brought some magic back i must admit. where he sees walls and walks around it i just see terrain that apart from obstructing my sight isn't an obstacle. so exploring the caves in search of resources (without him knowing that some ammonium cannot be found in the shallow caves) and research nodes by mostly following the landscape layout rather then brute force terraforming our way through felt like back in the old days and it was far more interesting to play that way - albeit you have to bring the patience to do things the long and ineffective way since i always saw how much easier we could've achieved the same. that said i have learned that there are still natural tunnels connecting the cave layers but they are somewhat rare. but it is a statement that for someone that played so much i didn't event notice that.

exploration and survival games normally present you with a set of many riddles. how to get there? where to find x? how to master survival in various types of environments against different challenges? but in Astroneer we have a lot of those cheat-like powerful tools at our disposal that take all these puzzles away leaving merely creative gameplay. perhaps that is fine for those that are looking for such an experience but for me it is just not very interesting.

Edited by Killtech

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any thread that says so much about the importance of the individual, subjective experience of playing the game, that also draws the direct attention of the Devs is worth it's weight in gold. if we can infer anything from SES_Adam's response here, it must be that core gameplay direction and ethos are still up for grabs, and that our comments are not simply shouting into the void, which is heartening news. we love this game, but we all love our own visions of what the game could be. these can be pretty widely different, but sometimes you get a lot of very similar opinions converging, like in this case, and when that happens it must be a signal that there's real opportunity for growth in the game. I've made it clear what i would like to see in this game elsewhere and i don't want to muddy the message with more variation, but i want to say that i too have felt the shine fade from my gaming experience, and haven't found anything in the release packs that has restored that shine yet.

oh, also:

On 10/12/2019 at 2:20 PM, Flyingcrowbar said:

"Cardboard boxes from Hell"

coined it! thanks for the repeat, Flyingcrowbar!

 

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but seriously, who'd be a game developer eh? i mean, what a ball-ache we must all be at times. it was only a few short years ago we were all griping about how much of a pain storms were, how they were our least favourite part of the game, how we wished we could get rid of them etc etc.... now they've been removed and what happens? we miss em! we get all nostalgic about the challenging aspect of them! we want them to be 'an option' for our game! bloody hell, there's no pleasing us is there?

just wanted to say thanks for sticking in there, guys.

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13 hours ago, Bron said:

coined it! thanks for the repeat, Flyingcrowbar!

 

13 hours ago, Bron said:

"Cardboard boxes from Hell"

I can't claim credit for the phrase because I do remember hearing it used in one of the videos I watched somewhere,  so if that was you @Bron thanks for the chuckle I got out of it and it seems to have stuck because that was exactly what the projectiles in those storms looked like.

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don't know about sources outside this forum, but in April 2017 i posted:

On 4/22/2017 at 1:17 PM, Bron said:

i just assumed the guys who live in the storms who throw cardboard boxes at me are getting more accurate!! 

and followed it up with:

On 8/20/2017 at 12:00 AM, Bron said:

you could hear those cardboard boxes that come with the storms hitting stuff clearly.

which seems to be the first use of this idea in this forum. I'm assuming the 'from hell' addition is  a relatively common one, i do it all the while.

but hey, let's not be obsessive. it's just a phrase, a nice bit of descriptive imagery. open for all to use.

but i did it first.

 

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On 11/8/2019 at 7:02 PM, Bron said:

it was only a few short years ago we were all griping about how much of a pain storms were, how they were our least favourite part of the game, how we wished we could get rid of them etc etc.... now they've been removed and what happens? we miss em!

Nah. Personally, they can stay where they are, out of the game. However, I know some players liked them. I'm not opposed to them coming back if there was an option in the menus to either remove them or tweak their intensity...

 

On 10/5/2019 at 1:27 PM, Killtech said:

And there is also the question of having a reason to explore. When i started exploring the underground my motivation was to look for tunnels that go downwards deeper and deeper to see what's down there (even through back then apart from resources there was nothing overly interesting there). If you think about that kind of exploration coupled with the quest to reach the core makes for a good gameplay concept in theory - as long as is cannot be simply skipped. The reality however is that nowdays there are hardly any tunnel connections between the different cave layers and even if there were they would be much easier to find in the vast cathedral like caves. But why even bother looking for a way down if you can just fast dig down yourself... soon even with a drill vehicle that can pave a ramp too to fast track the whole process even more? When i landed on last planet to unlock the core the exploration aspect left was nearly null. going to the core was swiftly finished with a ramp with merely a short look around at each cave layer before going to the next - no reason at all to say any bit longer.

I think this is the biggest hurdle the devs need to jump: game replayability. Like I said somewhere else, the game shines in the early through mid game, but once you research al the basic techs to efficiently move from planet to planet and dig down to the cores, the game becomes stale and repetitive: go to a planet, land next to a portal, make a quick outpost, assemble your rover with drill and paver, dig down to core, rinse & repeat. There are no real reasons to stick around in planets. Sure, you can go for a stroll and find wrecks in the surface, but that gets old pretty quick. There is currently nothing in the game that would personally make me jump in a rover and go explore planets. I would love to have a reason, but neither scrap, chess pieces, current wrecks nor wanderer stuff do it for me...

I miss those pre-terrain-2.0 cathedral caves a lot. You could drive for hours down there looking for resources or research pods.

If Adam is reading, please take a look at this. It's Starflight's Cluebook (it's a short read, promise). Might help give you guys some inspiration...

https://archive.org/stream/Starflight_Cluebook/Starflight_Cluebook_djvu.txt

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I miss the massive cave systems from EA, too.  There was something fun about going down there and following them for as long and far as possible.  Leaving a trail of "fingers" created by the terrain tool to point you back to the way you came.  The new caves, while spectacular in appearance, are just TOO big and don't really guide you anywhere.  It's no different than exploring the surface.

As for being "too easy" with all the new tools, just make it a point to not use them.  You aren't forced to use the "drill on a rover" technique.  I can see why the game would be very boring if it was just "alright, here I am.  Let's do this in 2 hours."  Astroneer is self directed.  And if you want to "finish" in 2 hours, then go for it.

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