The current iteration of the fleet builder has accessibility and learning issues for newer players who are looking to jump into multiplayer games. I wanted to share how I may have designed the system, and the problem it tries to address. This is not a demand that the system be made this way but some suggestions to help start a discussion.
- Allow for strong fleet identity that teaches a play style
- Make each choice clear and meaningful
- Still allow variety and creativity for experimenting players
I want to make sure a player with little to no meta knowledge can still have an enjoyable multiplayer match. The immediate differences between ships when selecting them should be more apparent. After building their fleet the player also should have an idea of how to play it. The main deciding factor of a match should be the player's skill at commanding their fleet and not the ability to decipher which ships will be the most cost-effective.
To this end is my proposed system using Hero Flagships:
In this system a player in the multiplayer lobby does the following:
Select a race
Select a subfaction (The fact that this is mostly cosmetic should be communicated better)
Select a flagship
Build a fleet (Add one decent default fleet per flagship)
Select abilities (can be done in-game as well)
The flagship is such an important part of the gameplay that it should be a unique choice that the fleet is built around. In this system, the traits that the fleet gets are dependent on the flagship selected and cannot be individually selected. This helps with the amount of hidden information in the game since a player only needs to learn the flagships to know what hidden bonuses the enemy fleet will have. This does restrict the play styles available but allows the team to focus on balancing on making just a few viable tactics for each race.
Choosing a flagship also gives the player an immediate idea of what ships to pick and what their game plan is. It also forces the player to take some escorts which an integral part of the game and should be automatic. There is also the potential for expanding the game with a progression system for each flagship to unlock new loadouts, escort choices, or skills. Future flagship choices can also be monetized with DLC or an in game currency progression system.
Mockup of the flagship selection screen.
Once a flagship is selected the player can now build a fleet for it with their remaining points. This is where I'd look at all the ships in the game again, cut out any that feel unnecessary and give each ship a clear strength and role. More ships can be added back into the game as new flagships are added to support them but for now I would focus on making sure there are good choices that support the flagships. I won't go through each choice for the sake of brevity but I would stress the following:
Make sure you can describe to someone in one line the strengths and weaknesses of each line ship when compared to others. For example: "The Avenger is a durable grand cruiser that sacrifices versatility in order to have overwhelming broadside macro firepower"
I would also add small icons next to ships that show if a certain ship benefits from flagship traits, so that new players can have some obvious choices to get them started, like so:
Small icons showing an avenger benefits from AP ammo and Ramming Spurs from the Retribution flagship
If you got it this far thanks for reading. I'd like to say it again that I am not demanding that the system be built exactly like this. The current fleet builder is daunting and confusing but I am not privy to the inner workings of Tindalos and I don't know if there are licensing issues surrounding modifying ships and designing new ships. For me this is practice communicating my ideas on a game I am passionate about so more people can enjoy it.
Comments and discussion welcome.