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Bron

It's been a year.... Bron's Back, and he's brought OPINIONS

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So.

Nearly a year ago now i opined about the state of ASTRONEER as it approached it's official release date. back then, i was deeply concerned about the potential shape of the official release, about what i saw could be a betrayal of the possibilities of the early adopter version. i was underwhelmed by terrain 2.0, and dismayed by the lack of narrative content or challenging missions. i feared that this beautiful game could become a sort of 'faerie-under-glass'; beautiful to look at but impossible to interact with, and lacking in any substance.

i made a decision. once the official release came out i would stop using the forums because 1) there wasn't going to be the same kind of opportunity to shape the nature of the game anymore (once an official release is under way most games companies have already gotten themselves a clearly defined plan and no amount of whining is likely to alter that) and 2) i should just shut up and play the damn game - i cant abide premature opinion forming and a game like ASTRONEER has to be properly soak-tested before getting a true sense of it's longevity or immersiveness.

And play i did. many hours of play, across several release packs, for almost a year. and you know what? it didn't suck. no surprise there, as you'd have to be a spectacular kind of imbecile to foul up the play of something with such a great core of design and activity. but it didn't  blow me away either. many of the things i feared would pass haven't, but many have. i enjoy the game, but i still feel frustrated by the game. but lets plunge headlong into the murky details, shall we?

terrain 2.0 is still a big sticking point for me. in the original system, i used to take great pleasure in building underground bases. part of that pleasure was the exploring of underground spaces, which were huge, cavern like, and wondrous. terrain 2.0 gives us cavern spaces that are small, awkward and ugly, all sheer angles and impossibly acute surfaces. we all talk all the time about the beauty of this game, but the caves have little beauty about them, they are oubliettes designed to trap and kill unwary explorers. i know that this is arguably more 'real' (i am told by my spelunking friends that this is so) but this is beside the point. the design of caves in 2.0 goes to the heart of a bigger problem in the game, and that it that it no longer encourages exploration.

" but how can you say that, Bron? look at all these planets, look at the transporter artifacts, the new vehicles and attachments! surely it's all about exploration!" says the imaginary reader that, for the sake of this post, i am visualizing as a tiny naked green pixie sitting on my shoulder in a yellow top hat. well, Bernard (he's called Bernard, you see), that would be where you're wrong. and go put some trousers on.

when you look at how the game relates to it's undeniably surface-lovely worlds, you see a pattern emerging. tools are provided that dig, shape and transform it. we are encouraged to do so. whilst the early game had it's share of this, the official release makes it a key feature, a primary goal, if you like. ASTRONEERS no longer explore the world, they alter it to suit them. seriously, how many of you can say they got to the core of the planet through traveling down cavern systems? after the first few goes at this early on, i quickly abandoned this idea in favour of swiss-cheesing my way direct to every planet core - simple and effective, but ultimately unsatisfactory - i saw little of the deeper caverns, just a series of coloured tubes custom-made for single minded access to the core. and it's not just a gameplay choice either, in some cases it's the only way to achieve access to the planet core.

it was fun in the early game to dig tunnels, holes, make flat surfaces, carve bases from mountains. it was fun because it was a challenge, the tools being simple and our plans being grand. we began to speculate about better, more precise or more robust tools to work the land with. but i don't believe I'm alone in saying I did all this earth-moving because there wasn't any other challenges - nothing else to achieve other than what we made. i for one was digging because i was waiting for a reason to stop digging and do something else, like learning about a long dead culture, or solving engineering problems, or farming the land, or protecting myself and my base form natural disaster, or, well, something.

and we did it to ourselves. we went on to forums and spoke about the things we'd done with excitement and fun. digging a hole through the planet? cool! lets see pictures! building an elevated road that traverses the globe and then heads into orbit? man, you guys are crazy!! how could the devs not take this as meaning 'we love digging, give us more digging stuff!' truth is, we've been children playing with empty cardboard boxes, making forts and submarines, but secretly hoping someone will give us some real toys to play with. should we be surprised when all we get is more cardboard boxes?

at the moment, ASTRONEER suffers too greatly from the thing that it suffered from in early access: great players. guys willing to cut a moon in half for kicks rather than look around for any real content to engage with (that's no offense to 204, mind you; only gods reshape worlds, so you know what that makes you, pal!) but a real lack of direction from the devs.

so, am i still playing? sure. there's still a lot to enjoy, albeit viscerally. love the new jet packs, they are a life saver, literally. working in caverns no longer means certain death when you fall down a hole. the crafting mechanic is nicely implemented. planets have varied out a bit, but still not enough for me. i spend a lot of time on Glacio because i love the bleak aesthetic. But unless the devs stop with the cosmetic additions (horns???? really????) and focus on some engaging content then this game will never be anything more that a fun and colorful waster of spare time.

well that's me done. see you all in another year, probably. enjoy your pursuits, be they hollow or hollowed-out. and have a creepy all hallow's.

 

 

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hello all :) I am trying here to figure out how I feel after reading this post. Somehow feels right, somehow not. Why ppl making narrow holes direct to the core? Exactly because game tells us to do so, giving us the story (quest) and achievement for that, basically forcing us to do this. We have SO many theme park games around with stories and quests and hand holding and content - those lasting good if for a month for me. I am from sandbox players legion (well I hope we ARE still the legion) and I love Astroneer exactly for being proper sandbox game. Do I want more tools to play with? sure, why not. Do I want more content and adventures and game telling me what to do? Not really :) I have plenty of ideas what to do in the sandbox game, I just want game would allow us do proper multiplayer and not drop down to 1 fps after me implementing those ideas.

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hi Mio, thanks for replying.

i hear what you're saying. i'm not pretending that i hold a monopoly on game-play direction, and i recognize the value the game has as a kind of sandbox game environment. there are some truly great sandbox games out there, after all, and they have a devoted following. Astroneer could become such a game, and although it would sadden me that it was not the direction i had hoped for, it would at least be a direction, a choice, which the devs should make and follow up on by tailoring their content to engage that audience.

you're right that they need to fix all the things that are wrong right now with their multi-platform, multi-player implementation to properly do that. the fact that they don't seem to have cracked that yet makes me unsure as to whether they really know what they want the game to be. think about it: if i was releasing a sandbox type game after a lengthy period of early access, i might consider the cross platform multi-user game-play to be an absolute top of the list priority for that release. but the devs didnt. they released something that was still struggling in that area, which kinda puts the emphasis squarely on it's single player experience. for me, a single player sandbox game is pretty unsatisfying - if you create or build, you also want to collaborate and show off your stuff. if you cant do that effectively, you may as well go read a book.

so where does that put Astroneer? it's single player doesnt have the narrative or challenge elements, and it's value as a sandbox game is limited because of it's poor multi-player. which is it? i suspect the answer the devs are looking for is; both. because they obviously want to appeal to as many players as they can, they want to be all things to all customers. and that is a much bigger, trickier ask. not impossible, but very special. they need something more than what they got already to properly pull that off.

i don't believe that quest or narrative content is necessarily contrary to sandbox gameplay. i don't believe that you need to pick your niche and stick with it to the exclusion of all else. but i do believe that a lack of clarity and direction (as evidenced by a kind of malaise about implementing both good new content and/or better multi-user support) is choking this game. I also don't doubt that players will find great, fun things to do in this visually attractive, simple but effectively ordered game world, but that is down to players, not game developers. we are shouldering a lot of the effort here, and it's fine whilst it's fun, but how long will that last?

as a side note, i'm not a great fan of excessively linear gameplay either. i recently brought the latest Tomb Raider game in a Steam Sale. it was  a huge download, and it looks beautiful (i remember watching the reboot movie a few years back and commenting that the visuals were less impressive than the game it was based on). Ive played about a tenth of it, and it's a slog. the story is dull, and the gameplay is constantly fighting with the player's choices to force certain plot points. it's a bad game, even compared to it's earlier chapters. i would never recommend such a prescriptive course for Astroneer. but there's more than one way to harpoon a racoon, as the saying goes. humor can cover a lot of bad structure, for example (the Portal games have humor in spades and i replay them for my favorite gags as much as for the puzzle solving). just a quick skim of these forums show how many neat ideas there are about the Astroneer universe, all they need to do is pick a couple and execute them well and i'd be moderately engaged.

there's still hope. the roadmap has a lot of vagueness to the later releases, and i'm hoping that it's because they have a killer idea that going to fuel every player with new excitement and start us on an epic adventure. because if it's the other thing...... now, where's that book?

 

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40 minutes ago, Mio said:

hello all :) I am trying here to figure out how I feel after reading this post. Somehow feels right, somehow not. Why ppl making narrow holes direct to the core? Exactly because game tells us to do so, giving us the story (quest) and achievement for that, basically forcing us to do this. We have SO many theme park games around with stories and quests and hand holding and content - those lasting good if for a month for me. I am from sandbox players legion (well I hope we ARE still the legion) and I love Astroneer exactly for being proper sandbox game. Do I want more tools to play with? sure, why not. Do I want more content and adventures and game telling me what to do? Not really :) I have plenty of ideas what to do in the sandbox game, I just want game would allow us do proper multiplayer and not drop down to 1 fps after me implementing those ideas.

Just because Astroneer is a sandbox game it doesn't need to strictly follow conventional sandbox game rules. Let's take the indie game ARK: Survival Evolved as an example. I think Ark is the ultimate sandbox game. It ticks all the sandbox game checkboxes, yet it also has lore and meaning behind your character being there. You can either have a local sandbox experience, or join public/private servers and go full PvE or PvP with clans and everything. You have the freedom to make your gameplay as easy or as difficult as you like via difficulty controls, which control every aspect of it: from how much XP you get for doing every activity, to how much damage dinos deal, to how resistant your buildings are, etc. You can explore, craft, build, level up and unlock technologies all you want without ever fighting any of the bosses up to a certain point, in which you have to do the boss fights to unlock other optional high-level technologies. The game has literally hundreds of chests hidden throughout the different maps with dossiers on each animal species and their utility, or explorer notes, or journal entries. You won't find a beach ball or goal posts in the unlockable technologies, those are reserved for community-created mods. On the contrary, you will find a GPS, two-way radios, multiple outfits/armor for different weather conditions, etc. You have the option to enable creative mode from the main menu, or hide it altogether, and once enabled, it's part of the actual world you're playing, not a separate game mode (you can toggle in and out of it whenever). It is nice to have the freedom to choose what to do without a linear story, but if you really analyze it, Astroneer's progression is also linear. You can't build everything from the get-go. You have to first build certain techs to be able to craft others. You can choose what path to follow, but in the end, they all converge to one. My point is that game developers don't need to follow strict rules to fit their games into a category. They have the option to be as creative as they want.

I agree with much of what @Bronposted above. I liked his "faerie-under-glass" analogy. I would like to also add that Astroneer really shines in the early to mid game, but once you have unlocked the core technologies that are essential to do the main objectives, the game becomes stale and repetitive. This is probably when most players start to do these "creative" non-linear activities to force oneself to keep playing, such as hoarding large quantities of resources or doing those amazing feats like cutting celestial bodies in half. And now with the paver, the task of digging down to the cores has been trivialized. Since cave structures are no longer an impediment for rover travel, you can potentially have a 4-large-rover train filled with empty medium storages and come out of the caves with all of them filled with resources in one quick dip.

 

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thanks vvhorus, it's interesting to hear how much we seem to be on the same page with this one. ive never played ARK but from your description it sounds like there's an incredible amount of content in that game, and purely from the viewpoint of it being some kind of content treasure hunt, it can reward repeated play, regardless of it's user configurable sandbox play. but that much content cant all be procedural, much of it has to be generated, and that's a lot of work. i dont think Astroneer needs anywhere near that amount of scripted content, but i do believe that some kind of Lore or emerging backstory could help as discovering it could be a mission in itself.

 

On 10/31/2019 at 4:04 PM, vvhorus said:

And now with the paver, the task of digging down to the cores has been trivialized. Since cave structures are no longer an impediment for rover travel, you can potentially have a 4-large-rover train filled with empty medium storages and come out of the caves with all of them filled with resources in one quick dip.

i have to say this does seem to be the oddest of play developments. back in the early game i remember many players expressing a desire to be able to build roads between bases. i did so myself. but my conception of this was nothing like the paver, it was a simple idea that you could flatten and clear strips of surface and (probably using the colour sampler) you could render those strips immune to plant 'grow-back' or rock re-population. this should have been simple to implement and minimal in it's impact. the paver, however, so dramatically overstates that simple request that it damn near breaks the game. i am left in total bemusement as to why it was done in such a way.

perhaps the cries for more automation in the game has resulted in this. it has certainly made all kinds of mineral harvesting simple, but it's also made it dull. and we still have to hand feed all these bricks of ore into the same small smelter, so that doesn't work.....unless..... has anyone tried putting a smelter onto a large trailer and seeing if the resources filling up storage on other trailers will auto-feed as you dig? my god.... you may never need a static base again....

never mind. we shall have to see if the devs bring more player adjustable content into the game. i for one miss storms (i know, right?) as i wish i had a reason to build safe bases underground again. i like to think they might be back as user selectable content one day.

Edited by Bron
spelling bug

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I like the sun and the stars. Being in buildings or in caves all the time depresses me grandly, nights too - they SO dark. And latnerns, well, those are too bright and lighting too small area and having cold white blinding light - having one lantern still not beating darkness, having many of them is like supernova, ugh. So no, storms which made me constantly sit in a dark bunker was not fun at all. I like to build alot but it is usually open light places, alot of windows and such. And after unlocking those achievements I prefer not to be even near any of those gates which made me feel like I am doing some kind of work unlocking them, my roads were ugly cos I was in a hurry to do it quicker to not waste much time. And now after I did the "work" part I can finally play as I like, taking good care of every triangle :) Wish there was less darkness.

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14 hours ago, Mio said:

Wish there was less darkness.

man, i know how that feels. sometimes it's like the weirdest case of SAD ever, dealing with the dark and the long shadows this game tends to have. in the early game (sorry to go on about stuff long past, but it's important to remember how far the game has moved from it's early form) one of my great pleasures was bringing light into the underground - it seemed that all you needed was a decent string of tethers and you could illuminate the hall-like caverns and make it sort of cosy. now we no longer have hall-like caverns, and setting up illumination that actually works over a distance is  almost impossible. i'd love to be able to set up a cluster of floodlights so they point directly upwards into the clouds, making a pillar of light that could;d act like a navigation beacon, but it seems the devs aren't even considering that. i know that there's a clear trade off between draw distance and performance, but i cant help thinking that this game needs more stuff to be visible from further away, just to make line of sight navigation a proper thing.

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Bron! Thank you for this honest write up. FWIW I remember your posts from a while back, too. There's a lot said here and I can't spend the time it'd take to reply to it all so I'll try and be frank: I found myself agreeing with a lot of what you wrote but also know that I love Astroneer as it is, now.  I think its fair to say, especially in the early PRE pre-alpha days, there was no 'big picture' of Astroneer. We knew the direction we wanted to point the cannon but we weren't sure what the cannon ball would look like. Leading in to 1.0 we had a clearer picture of the cannon ball but knew, for us, it couldn't just be a thing we release to 1.0 and move on from... It was a legacy thing; something we knew we'd have to grow over time with the (relatively) small team we have. So, we're doing that now where the game is 'out', but, like the games that inspire us (Minecraft on one end of the spectrum and Fortnite on the other) its something we'll continue to grow and flesh out. Its posts like this that'll help us do that and keep our ideas in check.

Keep the honesty coming - its useful and appreciated 🙏

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11 hours ago, SES_Adam said:

 So, we're doing that now where the game is 'out', but, like the games that inspire us (Minecraft on one end of the spectrum and Fortnite on the other) 

Yes there is a lot to learn from Fortnite too, if anyone starts complaining because the devs like getting inspired by Fortnite/Minecraft I swear I will smash your........
 

Edited by TMarcher74

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4 minutes ago, TMarcher74 said:

Yes there is a lot to learn from Fortnite too, if anyone starts complaining because the devs like getting inspired by Fortnite/Minecraft I swear I will smash your........
 

I find it odd that for a game that its mantra is "no weapons" and it's about space exploration, the devs say they get inspiration from Fortnite, of all games. There are much better sources of inspiration out there...

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Just now, vvhorus said:

I find it odd that for a game that its mantra is "no weapons" and it's about space exploration, the devs say they get inspiration from Fortnite, of all games. There are much better sources of inspiration out there...

Well they don't get inspired from their content but they get inspired how Fortnite manages to keep its fanbase active by keeping the hype, and how they mange bugs by fixing it with updates every 2 weeks at least, how they try and use different strategies, like they did with Fortnite Chapter 2 instead of giving it Fortnite season 11, this not only gave Fortnite it a better image but it also gave a boost to Fortnite. Also if you wanted one thing similar between Fortnite and Astroneer is they use the same engine, Unreal engine.
Am I wrong? Idk why everyone keeps hating such a beautiful game like Fortnite. There is a lot to learn from everything.

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8 minutes ago, TMarcher74 said:

Well they don't get inspired from their content but they get inspired how Fortnite manages to keep its fanbase active by keeping the hype, and how they mange bugs by fixing it with updates every 2 weeks at least, how they try and use different strategies, like they did with Fortnite Chapter 2 instead of giving it Fortnite season 11, this not only gave Fortnite it a better image but it also gave a boost to Fortnite. Also if you wanted one thing similar between Fortnite and Astroneer is they use the same engine, Unreal engine.
Am I wrong? Idk why everyone keeps hating such a beautiful game like Fortnite. There is a lot to learn from everything.

That's the only thing they have in common, their game engine.

No one is denying that Fortnite is a good looking game. But in my opinion, a space exploration survival game getting inspiration from a game not in its same category is odd to me. What can they get inspiration for, emotes? Certainly it's not game mechanics, nor survival elements...

If they're trying to emulate Fortnite's marketing department, I think they're failing...

Edited by vvhorus

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1 minute ago, vvhorus said:

That's the only thing they have in common, their game engine.

No one is denying that Fortnite is a good looking game. But in my opinion, a space exploration survival game getting inspiration from a game not in its same category is odd to me. What can they get inspiration for, emotes? Certainly it's not game mechanics, nor survival elements...

Well you do have a point not gonna lie, emotes are one thing they might have got from Fortnite, if I was a dev of Astroneer I would look for ideas and inspiration from Subnautica, Osiris New Dawn, Surviving mars, Minecraft (Adam mentioned it anyways), Kerbal space program. You got any more space exploration survival games?

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2 minutes ago, TMarcher74 said:

Well you do have a point not gonna lie, emotes are one thing they might have got from Fortnite, if I was a dev of Astroneer I would look for ideas and inspiration from Subnautica, Osiris New Dawn, Surviving mars, Minecraft (Adam mentioned it anyways), Kerbal space program. You got any more space exploration survival games? 

I play a lot of Ark: Survival Evolved. SES can learn a thing or two there.

Back in the 80s (and sometimes in the present) I used to play a space exploration game called Starflight. Look it up. Not a modern "sandbox" survival game, but you did need to gather resources to upgrade your ship or your crew's abilities. It had planetary exploration and mining, alien race interactions, ancient/modern ruins, etc. Excellent game to get inspiration from...

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Marcher74 nailed it and I mentioned more in detail in the other thread, but I really like learning from Epic in how they've engaged their players with Fornite and the events around it. That's all :) All the other games being mentioned we certainly look to for inspiration.

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