Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Better Damage Feedback

A lot of the replies to my ‘why didn’t you buy gsb’ post mentioned the lack of understanding what weapons and modules were effective, and the steep learning curve. I think this is a good point and I agree it should be better. I suspect one of the worst things is seeing your weapons firing but not knowing if they got through, and if they did any damage. You *can* tell this now, by the explosions, or the armor or shield glow effects, but it’s not immediately obvious and thats different to how most games handle it.


I thought I’d investigate how it looked to have those MMO style floating ‘damage numbers’ above ships as they got hit. I stuck this in this morning, and so far I REALLY like it. You can of course, toggle it off, along with the whole UI, if you prefer a more cinematic less gamey look. I think this makes the game much easier to play and learn from in the early stages. My only phear is that established players may howl with anger at the thought of changing this, because it removes a lot of the guesswork. I think the guesswork probably creates more annoyance than fun, but what do you think?

here is a crappy blurry youtube video.

But much better to download the wmv.

It still looks blurry, and not as good as it really looks, but its better than youtube.

In other news, patch 1.39 is in limbo because some people had crashes with it. I’m awaiting feedback from people with that issue so I can give them patch 1.40 and see if that runs ok, before I release it properly. This damage numbers thing likely won’t be in until patch 1.41, which may roll in some other usability improvements now I have some decent feedback on what to fix.

23 thoughts on Better Damage Feedback

  1. A great idea – I look forward to seeing it in the game. Guess work is not fun for me, in the context of wondering if my weapons are working or not.

    Also, please do something about those damn point defense weapons – make them normal modules, or more effective, as they are currently without value, but sound so cool.

  2. When I read your post I thought I’d hate it. After watching it, I actually like it quite a bit!

  3. I like! It is a game after all and this helps the player manage his inputs into it better.

  4. I like the option but do not know if I will use it, but I already have the game sooooooo there.

  5. I like this addition. It’s an instant visual feedback telling you what’s working and what isn’t. I’d personally use this to send in ship formations of one type in numbers to get a feel for what weapons work and what don’t before working on a final squad to beat the scenario. Exactly as it’s supposed to work, i reckon. Keep it in, please. Just make it a toggle option in the interface or something for people who don’t like it. Thanks.

  6. On the one hand, I like the clarity, but on the other hand I think it could be one more thing to overwhelm beginning players.

    Are you sure there’s no way to represent this “in context”? Obviously, these aren’t as trivial to introduce as the text notifications. It also sounds like you’ve got some effects in place already, but I may just not have enough experience to recognize what’s going on.

    For instance (I recognize that some of these are already in):
    No effect: no effects
    Shield deflection: shield glows
    Shield damage: shield flickers\crackles, as if strained
    Armor damage: bits of armor ejected w/ “clank\clunk\whump” or other indicative sound effect
    Hull damage: explosions (missles\rockets), flames (energy weapons)

    Feedback from the pilots could also be used, given certain thresholds:
    “Our missles aren’t getting through!”
    “Their shields are deflecting our energy weapons!”
    “Those rockets are hitting the spot!”

  7. Now that I watch the video again (should have known to do that a couple of times before clicking Submit), the text notifications make it more clear what the existing visual effects represent.

  8. Looks good Cliff! Reminds me of Master of Orion. 2 anyway. I assume they had the readouts in 1, but I can’t recall for sure. 2 was my crack. 3 made me want to slit my wrists or track down the devs and kick them.

  9. Maybe not a bad idea if it can be switched off during play (another button on the left panel…)

  10. I agree with Tony. Nice and simple addition that might help to give a better clue to players with a bit less focus like me. Of course a switch to turn it off keeps current players happy if they don’t like it so it’s a win-win here.

    I think adding more clues like this might help some players to feel more “in control” of what’s happening even though you can’t interact while the battle unfolds. Well at least that’s how I’d see this as a player which is a good thing IHMO.

  11. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure this really solves the problem. When I played the demo it was fairly obvious when my ships were being hit, but I didn’t ever get a feel of how I’d avoid this in the future, what weapons I should’ve picked to counter this, or suchlike. I’m not sure how you’d fix this. The detailed stats help, I expect. Does damage from different sources create noticeably different explosions?

    Similarly the priority sliders (am I remembering this right? It was a while ago I played the demo) – How much difference will I notice between 75% or 80% attention focused on one task? I found I did what I nearly always do when faced with such fuzzy distinctions and picked round numbers (75%, 25% or 100% mainly). A list of selectable priorities might remove a small amount of fine tuning but it’d save a lot of frustrations. Particularly if the mouse over for each suggested why you’d want to select one.

    Anyway, I’ll shut up now. Sorry if I sound a bit preachy, I could rant about accessibility for hours!

  12. “I think the guesswork probably creates more annoyance than fun…”

    YES. This is why I never got far in the game and haven’t gotten any of the DLC. GSB as it is right now is one of those games I want to love but don’t. I’ll have another go when you release that patch. Hopefully it’ll be just enough to make me a fan. :)

  13. I think it will still look a bit confused. Or better said because of the many numbers IT WILL BECOME confusing ^^ I’ve seen in other games that the damage gets summarized. So over a ship will appear a 10, when another projectile hits shortly after that one the number will become thicker and larger. Like: 10 20 30 33 35
    Or so. Problem is the constant firing, so maybe you should stop counting after 3 seconds or so (1 intervall) Then show the large number blinking away above the ship and begin to summarize a new. This would be less confusing although you would have to count back to see which amount of damage the recent laser did. Well whatever ^^ just give it a tought.

  14. This actually brought up a completely seperate thought, Cliff. Have you considered the idea of “skill” or “rank” for the ships in your new campaign mode? I’m no RPGer but I love some elements that are sneaking in to more and more genres and the idea of working harder to defend and preserve your best ships sounds great. So I imagine at the moment when a weapon is fired you have an element of chance involved in that shot hitting its target. As you “level up” you could *slightly* raise the chance of scoring a hit. Perhaps improve hull repair time ever so slightly too, etc. Just a thought…

  15. BTW – The damage feedback looks fantastic. I do find it frustrating to look at all the pretty pew pew weapons fire and not know why it appears to be doing nothing, or if in fact it IS doing something. Looking forward to seeing it in-game. :)

  16. Niice one cliff

    I think this will boost the interest of some people to play more gsb
    and hopefully for some to buy it : o

  17. I do agree with Javaguy. I won’t replace a step by step tutorial that would teach systems on small fleets, one after the other…

  18. @ tim

    about RPG elements mixing more and more with other genres to become rpg-fps and rpg-rts and whatnot? yeah I like it too but for GSB it might be interesting but it might be also be horrible so unless you know a good system to do it there should not be a RPG element.

  19. Geressen – I’m not talking anything complex. The only “RPG-like” element I’m referring to is a “rank” or “skill” modifier. You could do it in a similar way to some of the C&C games, with a very small rank image above (or below) each ship that helps differentiate it from other ships in your fleet. And again, I’m talking subtle differences here. Slightly higher chance of hits, that sort of thing.

    I’ve always liked the idea of rewarding and incentivise a player to play well and strive to do better. This is just another way I could see GSB doing this.

  20. As someone mentioned, this was in MOO2. It’s a really good idea, obscure instead of transparent game mechanics sucks in my opinion.

    Personally I wonder why everyone goes for “spammy” machine gun weapons fire all over in most every game, as opposed to longer reload times. If guns only fired rarely but with large effect it makes things like missing shots, overkill, etc more interesting, and it reduces the information overload problem. Also feels more impressive when theres one shot and a ship blows up, then the whole sprinkling enemy with shots that don’t seem to have any individual effect and suddenly the enemy blows up.

  21. Personally… though your implementation of floating numbers is flawless, a better option would be more post-battle reports. Leave some of the mystery in there. In fact, what I’d really like to see is battle reports stats as thorough as post-game American baseball/football stats. Part of the fun of those sports (and fantasy version) are the endless hours a person can spend looking at stats each player accumulates after each battle… errr game. This is what would keep it strategic, but less frustrating.

  22. I’m a bit late to leave a comment, but I really like the addition of the numbers and effects. It makes for a great tutorial mode, where we can finally see what’s going on amid the battle frenzy.

    One of the things I’d like to see in future versions of GSB is a training or skirmish mode, where I can test a single ship design against various kinds of enemies. It’s really hard to figure out what weapons and tactics work best when there’s all that gratuitousness going on. :)

    Perhaps a scaled-down tutorial mode would help? It took me a while to associate shield glow effects with deflection or damage. A training mode that points out these visual cues would go a long way toward making the “MMO damage numbers” less necessary.

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