Ohhhhhhhhh boy. I missed being in the pilot’s seat.
The previous iterations are definitely a thing of the past. At least, with the current weapons. Numerous occasions I tried the backpeddling spin type evasion. It was worthless compared to what I think will be the new meta: Speed. Effective combat range is something like 50~120 meters depending on target size and speed of projectile involved. I would estimate my accuracy to be something like 150% at the close end of that range (two projectiles per shot, three hits per two shots) and a dismal 20% at the far end. That distance can be traversed in less than two seconds so the interceptor’s extra 37% move speed is really helpful, both sending accuracy into the gutter and reducing firing opportunity.
I mentioned this in the previous post, but firing opportunity is substantially more important than damage or heat efficiency in a dogfight. The frigate has a stellar amount of damage that it can put out but needs a large opportunity window to do it. This is great against the capital ship maybe, but substantially less useful in a dogfight. With a bit of extra speed, the interceptor could also keep pace to the side of the frigate, enabling it to fire against its massive broadside.
I really wanna sing about how substantial speed felt in this playtest. Being able to dip out of effective firing range to recharge heat is massive. Heat in the tank is worthless, it needs to be turned into damage to be useful. To deal damage, you need opportunity. If you can dictate the length and frequency of opportunity, then you can perfectly optimize your heat->damage efficiency.
Let’s talk about deadzones. I did not expect them to be as disruptive as they were. I think the problem might be that, with a 10% deadzone (example numbers), as soon as you leave the deadzone your ship will immediately jump to 11% rotation speed. This makes it really hard when you’re trying to adjust your aiming a tenth of a degree for a long range shot. I think by the end of the playtest I got pretty used to it, but there was a pretty substantial adjustment period.
Speaking of aiming, my ship’s course was thrown way out whenever I so much as looked at a rock too closely. I don’t know if being in the states was causing a latency problem or something but collisions for me were unexpected at best and totally random at worst.
On the topic of collisions, I wanted to bring up that engagement distance being so close is really causing a lot of head on collisions. I dunno if that’s really something you guys want but I’m heavily incentivized to headbutt my target if it allows me to get just one more shot off. Ramming isn’t really something I like seeing incentivized, personally.
Third person mode is greatly improved, but it still suffers at short distances. And since engagement distance is so short, I often find myself aiming much higher than my target knowing that my crosshairs need to point past it. Everspace is an example of a game that’s done really well with third person mode, and gameplay wise isn’t dissimilar to AoA at all.
I had a lot of trouble with chat focus. After chatting I’d have to fight with it for another minute or so trying to get it to stop typing as I was maneuvering. I could eventually get it with some combination of spacebar, enter, and clicking, but it was extremely disruptive in fights. More than once, typing in the chat box would cause my ship to move around and boost.
Another UI element I found myself fighting with a lot was the targeting elements. T for target nearest never worked cause it always targeted the barge’s shield. My typical interaction with it was to press T N N N N N N N N N to cycle all the way to the first enemy, and hope that that enemy didn’t move on the list or dip out of range before I got there. I could press space to just click on a target but I feared angering the chat box by doing so so opted not to. I also noticed that my current target would be ripped from me on occasion, and I think the cause was this:
- Target someone
- Have them fall off your radar
- Target someone else
- Have the original target come back onto your radar
This was extremely disruptive in the middle of a firefight, and with the radar/team colors/names above people’s heads being so unreliable, it wasn’t something I could just ignore. I would love to see a button that is simply “target the thing I’m looking at”.
I noticed that damage was somewhat unpredictable. I saw myself die once as the large frigate with 75% of my hull still remaining. I also noticed that sometimes one or two shots after the shield would destroy a ship and other times it needed my entire heat dumped into it. I couldn’t tell if I was landing a critical hit or if there was some damage variance, but it felt like it. I dunno if you guys think that damage numbers would be appropriate (personally I love seeing a fountain of numbers rain off something I’m shooting) but I think we at least need to be able to see how much health is in a health bar. The health bar for the lightest and heaviest ship look exactly the same, yet numerically they are very different.
And lastly, I still had problems with clicking buttons in 3440x1440. The tutorial modal buttons worked fine, but the ship selection buttons weren’t where their graphic expected them to be. Wasn’t a big deal, I forced the game into 1920x1080 and it worked fine.
I’m very much looking forward to early access, but I’m quite wary that existing issues are going to cause really negative first impressions when released to the bridge troll known as the average steam user. Would a closed beta be more appropriate?