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Multi-cooptional choice paradigm

Random ramblings about what we are working on.

Postby amul » Thu Dec 11, 2014 16:27

As mentioned in my recent devlog responding to some of the feedback of our closed-beta player Alarinth, there is another topic that he brought up a few weeks ago, that is very important, and that I wanted to discuss. Though I will try to keep it a bit briefer than usual this time.

Alarinth is one of our players playing Roche Fusion in coop with a friend. While he writes about a lot of small points (that you can read about on our forums, if you are in the closed beta), what I want to focus on here is the upgrade stages of Roche Fusion's coop mode.

Until just this week, the game would select three random upgrades for the players, just like it does in single-player, from which the players can then choose one each. Further, since the game has unique upgrades, that only specific ships can take, it would make sure that there was never more than one unique upgrade per ship, so that there was in principle always some amount of choice.

As Alarinth points out, this choice, while at first glance fairly decent, can be quite meaningless in certain situations. In single-player, the player always has exactly three options, which often include at least one item the player likes, or at least offers an interesting choice, allowing the player to find synergies or experiment in different ways.

At first glance, the number of choices in coop seem to have increased, after all, with two players and three upgrades there are now six instead of three different possible outcomes of the upgrade stage. However, if we disregard which player takes what upgrade, the choice is still the same, since we are essentially deciding which of the three upgrades to leave behind.

The biggest problem with this occurs when one, or even two of the upgrades are ship specific. In that case, if a player does not like the item for their ship, and this take one that both could have chosen, the other player is left with no choice but to take the remaining upgrade.

Additionally, the upgrade choice can be even further impaired if one of the items is one the player does not want to pick at all. While each of the upgrades has its place in the game, not every player likes every one of them, and not every item fits for every ship or style of play. In single-player it is easier to ignore these upgrades and still remain with a meaningful choice, while in coop this is not always possible, and sometimes virtually no choice is given (for example, one unwanted and at least one player-unique items).

There are a lot of possible and different solutions to this problem. Alarinth suggests to increase the number of upgrade stations from three to four, or alternatively making the upgrade selection algorithm considerably smarter, to exclude certain situations from happening.

His ideas for a smarter algorithm include such terms as 'part of niche builds' and 'fitting for plenty of builds'. Defining such properties for all our upgrades is virtually impossible however. Further, it would make the upgrade selection much more complicated, and might result in any number of unforeseen problems.

Increasing the number of upgrade stations to 4 on the other hand is almost trivial. However, we feel that it would be giving the players too many options, so we did not choose it either. Instead, we took the idea and varied it slightly: Since this week, if a player-unique upgrade is selected, the game will spawn an extra upgrade station just for it, and slightly to the side, to clearly separate it visually, while keeping the three upgrades that both players can choose from intact. To keep things slightly manageable, and to not increase options too much, if each player has the choice of a player-specific item, then only two items for both players are shown.

Image

This way, we prevent the problem of limited choice due to player-specific upgrades, while also keeping the overall number of choices as close to the previous, and in our experience well-balanced, amount.

Of course, none if this is necessarily final. We did a bunch of play testing with this change, and are very happy with it ourselves, but we also need to see what other people think about it.

I hope this gave you some insight in this small, but I think significant change we made to the game in our latest build.
As always, let us know what you think, or if you have any questions.

And of course, enjoy the pixels!
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