Detailed Feedback for CW4

Started by Qwerty Quazo, June 18, 2020, 04:04:57 PM

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Qwerty Quazo

This is the second time I attempt to post this. Yesterday I wrote almost the same stuff, but I probably didn't hit the submit button. Nothing was saved. Oh well. Like that would have stopped me from doing this again :D.

Who are you? What is your relationship with the CW series?
   I'm a young pianist and maths enthusiast from Greece, and I love RTS, TD and CCG games. About 10 years ago I came across a CW flash game on Kongregate and the games that followed have kept me excited since. Eventually I bought all KC's games on steam, and I play some custom maps every now and then. I was even a beta tester for Particle Fleet!
   When playing a strategy game, I mainly focus on efficiency, optimisation and timing. Games like Protolife, Oxygen Not Included and Reassembly are in my favourites, including of course the CW games. However, the graphical and UI details of a game matter a lot to me. I can't help but notice every little thing when I play. In this post I will cover every bit from my experience: minor details to gameplay mechanics, all will be talked about in detail. Let's begin:

What hardware are you using to play the demo?
   Sadly, an old laptop.

  • Intel i3 (2x1.70Ghz)
  • 8.00GB RAM
  • Windows 10 as software
   In the demo I clicked the "performance" button at the settings. Low quality doesn't bother me, and I have kind of grown used to it. No lag experienced in the demo so far.

What did you like about the demo?
   In a few words, this demo covered most of the things I wanted to get my hands on. A tutorial to help me get used to the new form of creeper and some more difficult stages to test the power of my arsenal. Here are some things that I enjoyed about CW4 in general:

  •    Waves. Waves are awesome. The fact that a tsunami can wash over your defences adds another layer of complex thinking when playing. You need to be more aware of the surrounding creeper than in CW3 for example.
  •    How weapon range is affected by terrain level. When placing a mortar in high ground, it can lob projectiles further than a mortar at lower terrain. This really encapsulates  the 3D-ness that the game inherently has.
  •    New enemies. The blobs are a nice addition to the game, and here's why I like them: along with spores and
    airsacs, i believe the flying jellyfish are called :P
    they require a secondary form of defence. In this way, CW4 has many layers of threats to deal with. This concept reminds me of Protolife.
  •    Tower connections exist in 3D space. I love how difficult it is to connect to higher ground because it's a tremendous advantage against creeper. Combined with increased weapon range, the game really makes you feel like you are playing in 3D, because you are. A difference from CW3 is that weapons do not function as relays. That is, you cannot use a blaster as a bridge to another area. Check this image for reference:
       The 3 collectors south cannot be built, even if they are connected with the blaster. I am not sure I like this mechanic, though.
  •    The placement grid. These pictures right here speak for themselves:
       It makes placing towers so much easier, since the camera angles can be decieving. Speaking about the camera,
  •    The camera. It's... amazing. Truly amazing. In fact, at one instance I was panning the camera left and right for so long that I didn't notice my base was weakened by spore attacks... It truly made me not care about achieving a high score, optimising was not my priority. For me, that's big.

What would you change, based on your experience from the demo?

  •    Save/load system. It bothered me that I couldn't save my progress, it made experimenting and being reckless harder.
  •    Key bindings. I am used to pressing space to pause with my thumb, and using numbers to place towers. It slowed me down a bit, but of course, the full release will allow custom hotkeys.
  •    Soylent. Yes, the green area around collectors. To begin with, it is currently deployed in a square pattern around the centre of the tower. I think it would be a lot cooler if it was made in random patches, some green here and some over there. For me at least, it seems a lot more intuitive.
       Also, I would make terrain green at cliffs. Here is what i mean by that:
    I believe it looks more beautiful this way. Dark green where there is soylent makes the map a lot more enjoyable to me, even if it is just a tiny detail. As I said, I notice all the details.
These are the details that would make CW4 an excellent experience for me.

   I am in no way telling the devs how to do their job. They have done a great job so far. I am just giving voice to my thoughts, thoughts that might be insignificant at this stage of development. Feel free to ignore them if there are other, more significant things to do right now.

What are some big changes that you would make, then?
  •    Creeper flow rate. I would increase the speed at which creeper diffuses for many reasons. Firstly, the first level of creeper doesn't flow fast enough, so that a few blasters can hold of many layers of creeper with no problem. Check these pictures:
       It seems unfair to the creeper to be increasing in height while my weapons don't care at all. Sure, Maybe this is how it is supposed to be designed, but isn't it weird that given all that firepower, no turbulance is made? One would expect for the creeper to rumble and form waves when you are damaging it. I suspect that the flow rate is so slow that no waves can form, because they don't have the time to. That said, I'm not an expert in fluid dynamics. Correct me if that thought was wrong.
       Moreover, creeper feels slow when compared to the speed at which I can build and act. One might say that I am biased from the previous CW games, but hear me out. Considering packet speed, collector cost (for network), weapon costs and building speed, creeper should catch up with me. I can literally see a big wave coming from afar and I have plenty of time to react and place blasters. I believe that this is an issue of balance. For me, creeper seems much less of a threat compared to CW3.
       Expanding on that, small maps in Tormented Space are awesome challenges for many reasons.In my point of view, the creeper flows right at the time where you can start to fight it. It's hard to turtle and harder to occupy a lot of space. When considering that type of gameplay, along with CW3's weapon efficiency, I'd say that CW3 is very balanced in that respect.
       As far as I have played in the demo, my impression of the creeper is that it's a tad too easy to clear. The speed at which I can build infrastructure, develop a factory-based economy and raise defenses at the frontlines, it just doesn't match the speed at which creeper becomes a threat. Given that, the new camera distracts me from the action, so it's complicated I guess...
  •    Energy. I touched on that earlier, but here is another balancing issue for me. Here are my thoughts:
       The early game is excellent, energy-wise. The fact that collectors do not give an instant reward anymore, they take some time to fully cover an area with soylent, is the best mechanic I could implement in an RTS game. The set-it-and-forget-it nature of collectors makes for a nice start for any stage.
       What bothered me (in the demo, at least) is that after a couple of minutes, energy becomes abundant. It may be that expensive towers are not unlocked yet, but I don't think this is it. To say it in a few words, The production I gain from the reclaimed terrain is not hand-to-hand with the energy required to clear the ever-increasing creeper, as time advances. Basically, filling the patch of land you just freed from creeper with soylent creates a increase in production that is not necessarily met with the demand of weapons in the newly-advanced frontlines. The need for miners generating energy is minimal, later on.
       I am not a game developer, but I can imagine a couple of ways to solve this. One, increase difficulty. Anything from increased creeper production at emitters, to increased flow rate of the creeper. Two, make weapons more power-hungry, such that you are closer to the edge of deficit. Three, decrease overall production from collectors. That's up for the devs to decide, if they think this issue I described is a problem at all.
  •    Pylons. They currently cost 25 energy to erect, 5 times more than a collector. I won't lie, the need for pylons is greater now that the nature of connections has changed. However, it is faster to build a long row of collectors than a row of pylons of the same distance, considering packet speed. It defeats the purpose relays had in CW3, where you can choose to build relays along with collectors in early game in order to reach the front lines faster. Here, it's more difficult to assault a valley from high ground, since some times collectors won't reach and pylons take so much time to build that weapons run out of ammo. I would love to hear the devs' thoughts on this.

Is this a bug?
   A spore landed in empty space, and the creeper diffused into a square:
I wonder, how does the creeper flow? Does a cell give creeper to its adjacent 4? Why not the diagonals as well? I guess that the square comes from the fact that creeper does not spread diagonally, which feels unintuitive for a 3D game like this. Devs, is this a conscious choice, a balance between what's possible and what's feasible? Or is it maybe that I play in low settings? I wonder how power-intensive would 9-cell spread be.

   CW4 has made an excellent impression to me so far. I might seem too bothered with details, but that's because there aren't many serious concerns to complaint about ;D. I hope I provided the lovely developers with some insight as I dumped my thoughts into this forum. My English is not that great, as of right now this post took me a little over 3 hours to write. Continue the good work!

Also, great work KC. I really mean it. Take my money already!
The brain is complicated. Use it or lose it.


Hey, nice post!
Always good to hear other fans of the series talk about their great experience with this title.

I'm with you on that energy thing. In CW3 I thought of the land I fought for as land I had to utilize afterward or else I would waste energy that could be needed to keep momentum.
At first the guns did feel a bit weak, but that is I think because for a while the creeper seems not to be influenced by the hits but suddenly it starts detracting. Especially mortars can hold off enormous amounts of creeper, like the waves you mentioned.

However, for me it seems CW4 does deliberately things different than CW3. Things feel less about optimization and more about strategic now.
The 3D space make things more complex, the fluid dynamics, the different ammo kinds...
I'm however with you on that the CW4 demo last level was the only seriously interesting level, and I think that is because of the canyon and the volcano. They require to utilise the new strategic possibilities.

But yeah, those are my 2 cents on this.
I didn't spend 3 hours creating this post so there is less thinking in my post than in yours :P

Qwerty Quazo

Quote from: Xorgye on June 21, 2020, 05:47:49 PM
I'm with you on that energy thing. In CW3 I thought of the land I fought for as land I had to utilize afterward or else I would waste energy that could be needed to keep momentum.

You phrased this very well on your reply! Conquered land doesn't necessarily have to be filled with collectors in order to maintain energy surplus.

Quote from: Xorgye on June 21, 2020, 05:47:49 PM
However, for me it seems CW4 does deliberately things different than CW3. Things feel less about optimization and more about strategic now.
The 3D space make things more complex, the fluid dynamics, the different ammo kinds...

CW4 is definitely a different game than CW3. Sure, my thoughts about comparing these two games don't really matter if they cannot be compared... You make an interesting point that a lot of strategy elements have been introduced such that optimisation seems impossible, so I guess that the nature of this game makes the kind of optimisation I mentioned quite hard to execute... Thanks for your reply!
The brain is complicated. Use it or lose it.