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coodav

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So I was playing through new builds in Empire Mode, searching for the 'one build to rule them all.' I was playing against four allied commanders, who were all basically surrounding me, and I was looking for a short game. Regardless, despite my considerable efforts, I still hit "The Wall."

What is The Wall, you ask? It's NOT that the enemy was repelling me or anything - I flew through them like smoke. The wall is a non-stop manual adjustment phase that begins about at the same time that you conquer your first opponent. In this case, I had 4 computer AIs I had to beat, and I was on my second here, in the mid-20's. But once #1 was down, everything ground to a halt. It literally took hours longer than it should have, because of the immense number of forced manual changes that cannot be automated/shortcut, no matter what you do. I can't finish them off because it just FREEZES.

Now this is not entirely new. I have complained about this in part before:


And in this new game, it was the same. By way of example, what was this city supposed to be?:

1655309610670.png


There is no logic behind this city layout, no matter how hard you look. It had to be completely redone, by razing both expansion sectors, re-expanding, and then creating all infrastructure. Like all instances, it took me a LOT of time before it was worth ANYTHING.

I suppose I could just have it Generate Energy, but at 1/4 production, it is virtually not even an asset. If, in the off chance I lost enough of an army to matter, or more likely, I required a LOT more energy for maintenance, I would need it as an asset. No, these cities had to be reformed.

But I was really trying to end the game ASAP. I badly wanted to avoid this. But I couldn't. And it took forever.

What is doing this? For everyone that knows the game, the answer is simple: terrible UIs, unfinished programming, and poor conceptualization.

But isn't this the game where management is streamlined in order to favor strategic combat? Why is this even possible?

Here is the truth ... the game has the worst city Governor design of nearly any 4X game I know. The UI is SO DAMN BAD, that it is impossible to figure out which part is contributing most. This is seriously exacerbated because the computer is literally throwing darts at a board during expansion. That city I just showed you was the worst possible expansion pattern I could conceive of, and that is more common than not.

So now, combine that with the city mechanics:

1. You can't que sector level upgrades. This is BOTH in sector type and specialization, i.e. you can't que "production" sector and "specialization," AND you can't que both level Level I and II. You can only do 1 at a time, and you have to manually go back and enter the second after the first. So say you want an Advanced Military Engineering Guild, Level 2. You que up "production," then afterwards, "Advanced Military Guild," and the Level 1 Production Upgrade. Then later, you have to go back and add the Level 2 Production Upgrade. 3 visits, minimum. What a TERRIBLE DESIGN.

What is funny is that they DO allow it in other ways. Take for instance the Military Infrastructure (city garrisons) upgrades:

Build order 2.png


See how it can be queued, and things which don't interfere can be 'moved up' the que, but the sequenced items stay locked? And they got ordering right:

Build order 1.png


It won't allow you to move 3 before 2. So the mechanism is in the game, but not here. Why not? Obviously because it wasn't finished - SINCE THE GAME LAUNCHED. They had THREE EXPANSIONS, and couldn't finish basic essential tools.

2. Adding to the fun, you can't que up anything with sector downgrades. So assume I wanted to reverse those two bad sector upgrades. You have to take them down individually, manually. This requires 9 UNIQUE VISITS:

1. First production set - I typically get get initial defenses up, and maybe a few racial buildings, depending.
2. Remove sector specialization (such as military research)
3. Remove research exploitation (research exploitation)
4. Place new exploitation (energy)
5. Place energy specialization (Energy Optimization)
6. Remove production specialization (Say Advanced Military)
7. Remove exploitation (production)
8. Place new exploitation (Food)
9. Place specialization (Wellness Center)

You must visit the city interface ON EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE, unless you know all the tricks. And then, it requires at least 5, plus some luck. Nearly every other 4X game has this down - typically allowing you to select sector specializations far in advance, and it build them as appropriate.

3. You cannot que up sector expansions, not even one. Every single sector expansion is manually generated, and requires AT LEAST 2 unique visits. So here, at Pop 12, it gives me an expansion marker, I use it, then the next turn, it brings me BACK to the city, to start queuing the specialization, which as I showed before, takes like 1,000 manual visits to trudge through. So I get pulled into the city expansion screen for fifteen+ minutes EVERY SINGLE TURN. Why the hell can't we figure this out? Go into the city, pick an expansion pattern, and show how it applies on the map. Just allow a 'placeholder' phase where you can mark sectors, and expand into them. This must be done, for sanity's sake.

4. You are punished severely when you attempt deconstruction. There are terrible mechanics on over-flow production with deconstruction. So say your city produces 300 production per turn, which is a lot. Say you finish building a scout, and have 200 production 'left over' for more units that turn. Say then you que up sector deconstruction. It will NOT automatically deconstruct the sector, no matter how much over-flow you have. It will hold-up the que, meaning here the last 200 minerals, plus the next 300 minerals for that turn, giving zero production for the next item in que, and all you get is one sector-level of disassembly. That is 500 production for ONE LEVEL OF DISASSEMBLY. This has to be the least meaningful mechanism in the entire game. What a TERRIBLE DESIGN.

How the hell was any of this allowed? Starting from conceptualization, this UI was terrible, and did not improve meaningfully in 3 expansions! ARGH!

Here are a few pro tips, from games far older than this one:

Allow full-game build-order ques. This was done as far back as Firaxis's Alpha Centauri, and was ironically called the "Governor." It could range through all of the buildings in the game. If you wanted to interrupt it, you just added to the building que, and it would put it next in line. Then, it would then go back to whatever buildings were available for your tech level. This has evolved greatly in every game but this one.

FORGET ABOUT DECONSTRUCTION - OBVIOUSLY. Or just "sell" it. Just start building the new building, and assume that the old building is repurposed when it is done. This couldn't possibly be easier, and is probably allowed on every 4X game since Civ II.

Allow cities to move their city center to any sector in their influence. Just pick another sector, like the way you select the "Harbor" in this game. How freaking hard is this?

Allow a sector expansion que, and when you expand, pick everything about it THEN. Allow an option for the sector type and specialization UP FRONT, and que production automatically. You hit the sector you are expanding into, choose the type, and specialization you want, and BOOM, it is automatically queued at first opportunity. Hell, it already has a menu pop-up when you hit the sector! Just choose the specialization while you are at the map level, and you are done.

Flagship, this is almost too obvious to believe. I know that the game seems tailored to avoid city management, but you COMPLETELY blew it. You were trying to focus on tactical combat, aiming to have sector specializations be a middle-ground mechanism to lower city management time, and add consequences for capturing territory. But you failed. You drastically increased city management time, requiring probably 10X the manual visits of lower, less interesting games, and it is immensely frustrating.

Now while I think this will fall on deaf ears, I am going to ask again: FLAGSHIP, FIX YOUR GAME! Just these would allow 3X the number of games I play, AND the number of tactical combats.
 

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coodav

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FYI:

Here was my cities, right before completion on Turn 52:

x1.png

x2.png

x3.png


That is 32 cities. One currently being captured. 16 of these cities required attention that turn, AT LEAST. Even at a mere 30 seconds per visit, that is +8 minutes per turn, though in actuality, it was far worse than that. I would say every turn took 30 minutes +/-, and the majority was city management.

This was probably the worst wall I ever hit. Management was neverending.
 
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lesleylai

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I just started to play this game recently, but I have the same feelings. The game's city micromanagement doesn't scale when there are 10+ cities. I'd rather have a system more like aow3 or paradox games (except Stellaris) where we don't need to do much for city management.
 
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coodav

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Yeah, that was clearly the initial concept. You basically have 4 resource exploitations; production, energy, research, and food (housing/ocean/relay aside), with 2 levels to advance them, pretty-much. That is simple. The upside + downside of it is that you get a few, very limited roads, but even a system that simple can be cool, if the system around it works smoothly. Think chess.

The problem is that ALL of the mechanics to the game are directly in your way. It is a case where the conceptualization was so badly deranged by the poor rollout, that it damages the experience.

What pisses me off is that I have been harping on this stuff since the game was first rolled out - in early 2020. Despite that, 90% of everything remains unresolved. They barely fixed the critical abuses for PVP before bailing on it. I don't know what to think about that, other it seems to be a pretty clear message in itself.

Maybe next time, they can make it work. I have to say though, the game industry has not been impressing me lately, including Flagship. If they stick with the sector system in AOW4, they work it out, or I can't imagine suffering through it again.

It doesn't seem all that hard either. Just using the systems that I listed would make a huge impact.

Past that, they need to make a management system compatible with the new sector system. That basically means that you can integrate expansions without having to go back before the city is a meaningful resource. Today, that is a pipe-dream. We will see.
 
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VacuumDecay

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Dumb AI colony management might be by design. When I played AoW3, taking the first city was the hardest part since I usually only had T1s and T2s. The first city I took was usually fully built out except for the Item Forge. So more mana, gold, and research and access to T3s. The rest of the game was just mop up.

Planetfall "solves" this by making colony management something that needs to be planned and then making the AI very bad at making plans. It's not a solution I love but now, if you take a colony or even defeat an enemy commander, it takes some time before the benefits show.
 

lesleylai

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Maybe the dumb AI is by design, but that is probably because of the implementation difficulty of a "proper AI." To properly making the tradeoff as an AI in this sector system is hard. For example, AIs can always build buildings those sectors are most fit for, but then they will have energy shortage if their initial position only have food sectors. This "random" strategy, although dumb, at least guarantees AI has a relatively "balanced" income.
 

coodav

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Dumb AI colony management might be by design.
Mmmm... I doubt it. Why spend a second thinking about how to make the computer go against its own interests? Just making it random would take less time in development. Just pick one of the four specializations out of a hat, and go on. That sounds exactly like what is happening.

And I bet they actually tried to have it make sense. They just couldn't be bothered to make the computer a meaningful opponent.

Again, just take ques from other games. One would be generic 'computer-only' city specializations. It would basically be an all-purpose city specialization that you have to retrofit with a specialization when you take it over. It would give resource generation based on the sector's profile, perhaps not as much total as you would get if you specialized it right. Or maybe just as good / better, whatever. What is important is that you don't force a lot of time-wasting mechanics into every single game played. This is the worst part, by far, of how the game currently performs.

They have to see this. They must have some sort of metrics on game play. Those last 5-10 turns as your doomstacks sail across the ocean to victory, take like 1,000 hours to complete because of this crap.