Such a great and flawed game


Count Cocofang
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Just wanted to get this off my chest. Astroneer is an amazingly great game that I enjoy a whole lot. And I wish I could say I enjoyed every minute of it but that isn't the case. It still has a lot of growing to do. It feels raw and unwieldy a lot of the time.

Pretty much all of my experiences come from playing in Co-Op. We started completely blind, without looking at the tutorial. It was such a blast. We had to learn and discover the most basic things and were amazed time and time again along the way. When we discovered the tool could not only dig but also flatten or build by default it was like a whole world opening up all over. We went running back and forth from our base on short trips until we found tethers and our horizons literally expanded. Learning and understanding from absolutely nothing was so much fun. Experimenting, optimizing, discovering until you basically have a base on wheels and turn the whole planet inside-out. Getting wow-ed multiple times by the cool upgrades and the thoughtful design so that even older unlocks always remain useful somewhere. Organizing your base and workflow can be lots of fun.

Unfortunately the experience also suffers from a whole lot of issues. First, the broken parts then a few intentional design decisions that irk me.

LOTS of annoying, little bugs (possibly because of Co-Op?). Just from the top of my head:

1. Unable to put in commands on terminals (Research Chamber most notably)
2. Often being able to put small items into slots that are already filled (including Tractor seat)
3. Players getting stuck on each other
4. Glitching/overlapping interfaces
5. Shaking interfaces
6. Small objects dropping through the floor
7. Mining tool getting stuck in a weird state where you can't regularly equip/outfit it and attachments potentially getting deleted on relog
8. Heavy stuttering while walking on some planets
9. Terminals not showing the location of the currently selected choice accurately until you change it once
10. Not sitting on a vehicle seat but inside it
11. Glitching through geometry and free-falling through space forever

Just a constant stream of small annoyances that are ever present.

Desync and crashes

The frequency of crashes seem to increase with the player number. With two players I would guess that I experienced on average like 1 sudden crash per 8 hours of playtime as a client. With three players one of us crashed consistently and repeatedly. No crashes for the hosts. And the desync is really rough. Boulders blocking the way or equipment getting flung into the air but only for one of us. And desynced, perpetually respawning boulders can not only get your vehicle stuck but also KILL you on contact. Those god. Damn. Boulders.

The desync problems and crashes can quickly become infuriating over ANYTHING ELSE in the game, they are a major turn-off.

Dying in loading screen

If you leave in an dangerous area or the game crashes on you during mining, you are dead. Slowly suffocating during loading screen or getting picked off by plants. Why is there no grace period on login during which you don't consume energy/oxygen and are invulnerable until you actually input a command?

Floating geometry

Small debris that you unavoidably miss while mining just sits there, floating in the air, potentially blocking you. The game should clean that up by itself. Everything that has no fixation to the planet and is below a certain mass should auto-delete after a few seconds.

Performance

Expansive bases and lots take a noticeable toll on the frames. But only sometimes? It's weird. If you don't have a powerful rig I'd imagine it can get very rough. Also excessive loading times. During which you can die.


Now to the things that are intentionally designed that way but are quite the pain:

Unwieldy UI (major problem for me)

The design is really cute but there is a very simple guideline for any functional UI: The less user input is required to get to the desired option, the better.
The current UI violates that heavily. It's a bit cumbersome right from the get-go but later in the game with over two dozen different items on some terminals switching between them one by one with left and right becomes really annoying. Imagine if you had to go through your music library one song at a time. The backpack has 31 items, small printer 30, medium printer 27, large printer 16. Chemistry Lab 12, Soil Centrifuge 7.

So if you want to craft something on the small printer and just so happen to be on the opposite side, you have to click over a dozen times! The workaround? Holding the exact materials, quickly flipping through the pages and only stopping on something that has a different color or if the material in the backpack flickers into place. That can't be it.

What it should look like instead is this: Click 1 - I open a terminal/backpack crafting. ALL available options are getting shown simultaneously and arranged in a grid. Crafts that I can immediately use because the materials are available to the module are differently colored. Click 2 - I select the option I want, it gets zoomed in or something, showing me the cost. Click 3 - I open the lid. Click 4 - I confirm by pressing the button. That cuts out easily ten user inputs. Even gamepad users would benefit as they could navigate the grid with directions.

It's also kind of silly from a lore perspective. Imagine anyone would design a cumbersome interface like that for a crucial space mission where seconds can decide over life and death, success or failure.

Horrible camera in caves and tunnels (major problem for me)

The camera takes some time to get used to but is generally okay. It's borderline unusable in narrow caves though, especially in vehicles with lots of equipment packed. Vision is blocked and the camera wiggles around. The absolute worst offender was a location in the game where the direction of gravity can change and the camera follows accordingly. Vomit inducing. Aside from that, many instances would massively benefit from a (close-to) first person view there. Not only by vehicle, when cargo starts blocking you, but also when you dig a narrow corridor yourself.

Because do you really want the end-game experience of your game to look like THIS? bKbHDQa.png

Tedious task managing

A lot of machines perform any given task only once. If I want it done multiple times I have to wait for it to finish and then re-select it over and over again. An option to repeat a task a specific number of times would help a lot. Atmospheric Condensers already do this. They even stop automatically as soon as they have no more available space to store the product. Sure, I can run from one machine to the next, keeping all of them busy with singular tasks but I don't always have things to do for every machine and often the task I want one to do relies on the result of another.

No automation yet

Machines don't interact with each other unless you play the middle-man. There are very limited options to temporarily automate SOME work-steps later into the game but never without your constant attention. Automation enhancements would be interesting.

Low accessibility of the compass

Mousing over your character to see the compass is clunky, especially while you want to drive vehicles. Just always display one at the top of the screen.

Extra annoyance

The most irritating feature is where the character points at a thing in your vicinity to draw attention by left-clicking. It happens all the time unintentionally. The irritating part is that the animation locks you in place for its duration. Let me cancel the animation!

Welcome additions to the game

I wouldn't even need to see any extravagant stuff. Just two QoL improvements.

A satellite. Getting lost on a planet is extremely annoying. Following stars is helpful but can lead you all across a planet. The ability to view a planet from the space shuttle perspective through a satellite so you can orientate yourself with the help of your icon and beacons would be enough already.

Spray paint. Let me scribble on the environment so I can orientate myself.


The game is fun and engaging, which makes you put up with all its flaws but they are a constant reminder that this experience is still very raw. Also, probably not a single concern I mentioned here is new and has most likely been brought up already. Which is a bit of a demoralizing through.

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I agree with a lot of your comments, but I have a few suggestions that may help in the meantime:

1. Automation between tasks does exist to some extent: machines can be placed on the same platform to perform some sequential tasks. So to make carbon to use in the chemistry lab, for instance, you can have a soil centrifuge, smelter, and chemistry lab all on the same extra-large platform, so you just need to load on (ideally medium) canisters of soil and periodically start the soil centrifuge. You can also use the large storage silos packed with medium storage silos to have large numbers of different kinds of resources available for the chemistry lab, and swap in full silos of metal from the smelter, for instance.

2. Spray paint: that's the main function of the terrain analyzer. You can colorize any soil to match any soil color that exists in the game.

Edited by Pippa
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Yeah, I know, that's why I wrote there are limited options to temporarily automate stuff. But that's clunky as all hell. You have very little control over what the machines do, or better yet, what they DON'T do. They just go through the motions until all is done. Especially the Centrifuge is wonky with how it handles canisters. It needs two small canisters to refill itself from a medium one but it always puts one of them in a random slot that you later have to pluck out again.

My main thought process with spray paint was: Draw stuff on walls and the floor so you can orientate yourself. The tool is way to unwieldy for that. Signs, that come in big batches like tethers, that you can put up and write on would do the trick just the same. They would actually be even better.

If I had to make a priority list of things to address in the current game it would definitely be:

  1. Crashes and Desyncs - Those can make multiplayer, which is normally a great experience, completely unbearable. Just a smooth experience, that's all I really want.
  2. Camera - The option to switch to a first-person view or at least a fixed, very close third-person one, would deal with all visibility issues for vehicles and narrow corridors.
  3. UI Overhaul - Switch to grid-based interfaces so it doesn't take literally a dozen user-inputs and wasted time to get what you want.
  4. Point-action - For the love of god, let me cancel that animation.
  5. Automation/Control of Workflow - Means to organize what task a machine does, how long it does it, possibly even smart resource management (Like a network of platforms that, if set up correctly, would distribute Soil between multiple Centrifuges so that the different storage spaces you prepare are always stocked up for example. There would be SO MUCH you could do if they implemented the right modules)
  6. Signs - Come in big batches like Tethers and you can set them up and write on them.
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Multiplayer stability and connectivity is probably my biggest issue. It can be pretty good at times, and really bad. Its kinda random as you mentioned. If I had to say what should be done, I think these are the things:

  1. Lag - This seems to mainly come up in the later game when you have larger bases or when loading stuff in. I have mainly experienced this when entering near a base. Something is definitely up with how the game deals with loading objects or how it handles objects already in game like the tethers. While I understand that more objects can mean more lag, I feel like having to manage tethers due to the game getting angry kinda sucks.
  2. Connections - This is a HUGE issue for me after the most recent update. I don't know what happened, but my friend and I cannot connect at all anymore. I am on Xbox and the host is PC, everything is open and good, yet we still fail to connect. Even before the update, things would be a bit janky on trying to connect of it the game would show their world, etc.
  3. Desync/non-host glitching - This is mainly the issues of research not working or buggy's being eaten by the planet. Things just kinda whack out after some play time and force you to restart the game to get some semblance of calmness again. It seems that the longer you play, the more broken it gets at times.

They have mentioned dedicated servers in the past and I think it will solve or at least help make these issues less notable or frequent. I really want to know what that most recent update did cause I am convinced it broke cross-play in some way but can't confirm it since we have no patch-notes even after two weeks.

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Fascinating, in a horrible kind of way.

A lot of what The good Count is complaining about is, probably inevitably, pretty much what most players have been complaining about and requesting since the game was still in beta. when a new player (who clearly has a blast with the game at it's fundamental level) is perceptive enough to see that these things are not working properly, its a vindication of everything we have been saying about the game. and it's damn depressing.

we all know that multiplayer has some serious problems, but that aside, we have some key ideas here that have been player requests since day one. first person alternative view? absolutely, for those that want it it should be there. user controlled signage? man, i was asking for this one in beta, and i'm STILL asking for this. i still navigate my way using columns of soil i build as markers, and when i started doing that i was telling myself that it was only as a placeholder, until the devs produce a better way of mapping/navigating the planet surface.

oh, and the point-action animation? i can honestly say i have never made it play intentionally. and i have made it play dozens of times per game session.

HUD style compass, satellite links, automation/better integration of working machines... the list goes on and it's ALL OLD REQUESTS. and none of them - none of them - are complicated or even unreasonable. so why arent they already part of the game?

and so i end up asking myself; why are we here again? back, if you will, where it all started, as keen new players trying our best to suggest improvements to a beta game that we all loved. it feels as if the forward momentum the game showed initially has all but ceased, and with it goes my desire to play and explore.

i would gladly trade any of my advanced Astroneer game saves with hundreds of hours of play invested in them for a proper reboot, a full-blooded feature-rich upgrade that not only shows that the devs have been listening, but that they haven't run out of ideas themselves.

Count Cocofang, welcome to the haunted forums.

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Yeah, pretty much as I said in my last lines. A lot of these flaws are so obvious that it must've been brought up a hundred times.

Things like new mechanics like automation and bug/crash fixes can be really tricky. But how much work can it really be, letting me zoom in more with the third-person camera (until I am really close, slightly above my characters head or sth) or letting me cancel the point-action animation? Hell, when I am in a narrow tunnel the camera already sticks really close to me, it's basically in the game already just let me zoom in this close manually.

Navigation is a big issue yet a planet-view is already in the game from the shuttle and having access to that on demand would help a lot for surface-navigation. Grid-based menues that require WAY less user input to navigate and have a better overview might be some work but then again I don't get why they figured one-by-one selection with left and right is a good idea in the first place.

It is indeed demoralizing having a game, which has such an amazing groundwork, that went through several years of Early Access coming out with these sort of basic issues. Especially when we don't know what exactly is preventing some of these simple community suggestions, like animation canceling or closer camera zoom, from being implemented.

Edited by Count Cocofang
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  • 2 weeks later...

i think i get some of the technical issues around the implementation of better navigation and signposts.

as far as i can make out, because the game is a procedurally created set of worlds, one of the ways they reduce the amount of stress on the system is to keep everything 'low res' until it's actually being explored, then it 'unpacks' as it's approached. that's why stuff you build, or mountains, or the planet from orbit, all have that unfinished chunky look from a distance. in the early access game, if you covered a significant amount of the landscape with tethers it would slow the whole game down, because tether locations couldnt just be dropped, they had to be stored, and so the world file became huge and difficult to resolve.

i imagine that a proper navigation system might need a more complex reference grid to be added to the planet and this might slow the whole thing down, like the tethers do.

of course i'm just guessing. and it doesn't preclude removing the 'in-world' existing compass on the floor and replacing it with a HUD style one.

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