Firstly I may as well introduce myself. I'm GoogleFrog, a core developer for Zero-K (a TA inspired open source rts which I doubt many people have heard of) and I also won a few Achron tournaments (that time travel rts which I think fewer people have heard of). I've backed PA with $100 basically because I have wanted this game to exist for a long time and I like alpha testing rts.
I'm posting this here because I was a bit disappointed that the UI in SupComm wasn't powerful enough, not enough was improved since TA. At this time the precursor to Zero-K already had a UI that was in many ways more powerful. I'm trying to head off this outcome for PA with a slew of suggestions which are basically 'copy X from ZK'. Of course the easiest way to absorb this feature request would be to play the game for a bit
and use the UI (it's not shameless plug because I would make an awful marketer). Anyway here are some things in ZK which I think could benefit PA.
This also might be a bit premature (although the kickstarter is going really well) but I want to post on the forums and then these ideas would just end up spread around all over the place anyway. Better if I make a central post right now.Area Commands
In TA and supcomm how do you reclaim a large wreck field? You have to set up patrol commands that cover the entire field and then hope that no damaged units wander through and distract your constructors. Area commands give you a much better way to do this.
Simply select the command, click in the middle of the field and drag a large circle. Constructors then reclaim everything within. Off the top of my head ZK has area selection commands for reclaim, repair, resurrect, attack, load, unload and mex. I don't see why PA shouldn't be able to do this as well. Yes, this has been extended to mexes. Constructing them is just another area command because clicking on each spot in a large area is tedious.
(btw the cursor isn't showing up in these screenshots.)Custom Formations
This is the ability to create free form formations on the fly to fit to the current situation. The solution in ZK is very simple; right click somewhere and drag the mouse to draw a line then release the mouse to have your units moves towards that line.
It sounds unwieldy but I find myself giving most group move orders as custom formations orders. To cover a front with AA units just draw along the front. To make a firing arc just draw the arc. To spread units out just make the line a bit wiggly. To scatter just draw a circle. Custom formations drawing can also be supported for patrol, fight (aka a-move) and attack ground.
There might be a bit of a conflict with SupComm's ability to move command waypoints. One solution would be to associate the orders given by each custom formations order and then make these groups of orders movable as a group. If PA is extremely 'strategic' it may turn out that custom formations is not needed at all.
To be really advanced custom as well as ordinary formations could be merged. For example artillery could be placed behind assault units along the custom formation line.Construction Priority
Here is the situation; you just scouted your opponent's nuke and need to get anti-nuke ASAP. But, being a good player, you are running your economy at 0 metal by spending as fast as your production. To divert as many resources as possible to your anti-nuke you have to go through many of your constructors and factories and pause or cancel their construction projects.
Even in less extreme circumstances you may want to work on a project with a larger fraction of your income. The only way I could see to do this in supcomm was to fiddle with pause or add more constructors such that overall you drain much more than you produce.
Construction priorities is a simple state toggle for every nanoframe and constructor. There are 3 settings; low, normal (default) and high. Constructors with high priority get first dibs on your incoming resources. When all high constructors are constructing at full capacity the leftover resources filter down to the normal priority constructors and once they are fully constructing the remainder filter down to low priority. Nanoframes with high or low priority temporarily set their constructors to high or low respectively.
With this system you can implement your economic intentions with as few clicks are possible. No more tedious pause economy management. I'd like to point out you can replicate priority behaviour with infinite pause/unpause micro but it is infeasible, I don't see why players should have artificially limited control over their economy.A-Move++ (smart unit fighting)
A-move (or fight, patrol, whatever you call it, I call it 'fight') tends to have the same basic functionality; move towards the enemy and when you are in range stop to shoot it. If this is to be an rts which is low on tedious micro then I think units should be smarter than that. Units which out-ranges their targets should automatically kite when told to (probably with some kind of state toggle). If there are slow projectiles then it should attempt to dodge (this is quite hard though so I'd cut back on the slow projectiles).
I see the potential for a bit of an argument over this one and how much automation is always up for debate. My implementation is a bit worse than human management (remember the humans are using custom formations) but I find it makes light ranged units scale well into late game across multiple fronts. It also lowers the apm barrier of entry by providing a baseline unit effectiveness at a simple task which I think it always good.Design Stuff
That's as many core UI things I could be bothered writing up for now. Below are some things which I have found work in ZK but don't necessarily fit in PA. By no means do I want them to be the same game. ZK really goes for a large set of really diverse units that somehow end up balanced. PA could have quite a lean unit set (much like supcomm) and focus on the large scale army movement and planet mechanics.Uniform Constructor Drain
In ZK a constructor will always drain as much metal as it drains energy. When it is working at full capacity it always drains the same amount. This is because everything has Metal Cost = Energy Cost = Build Power Cost. Basically the costs in TA look like they were hit by a random number generator. There are some themes such as high energy aircraft and high metal ships but there is also a lot of noise. Anyway uniform drain makes economy planing a lot easier for what I think was a fairly minute loss in depth. I think it is worthwhile considering for PA. If the distinction is really important there could at least be a few classes of drain ratios. Maybe PA will do away with construction assisting all together, I don't know.No Armour Classes
This is a really situational design feature so I'm not even sure if it belongs here. I'm just pointing out that it is entirely possible to have every unit deal the same amount of damage to every other unit. But if you want units interaction to be somewhat abstracted (instead of physics based) then armour classes are a fine way to do that.Flat Tech Tree
Again might be entirely irrelevant to PA (actually probably is). I'm just pointing out that it is possible for a TA-like game to have very little in the way of tech progression while still having heavy units. Basically the way this works is that every constructor can build every structure which makes the UI a bit simpler. I think it creates more strategic diversity (eg what happens if I porc and fly to the moon really early) but I see that many people like 'epic tech progressions'. Also there is definitely something to be said for sudden tech jumps that shake up the game. ZK does this a bit as you add more factory types.
Edit 24 August, Extra stuff added
Some people on the ZK forums said I missed a lot andI have a bit of spare time so here are some more ZK features I think would work for PA. I'm not that familiar with supcomm so while I will try to avoid mentioning things which overlap with supcom I will not always succeed.
To try to keep things brief I'll just describe the mechanics of the feature in ZK. I'm not trying to prescribe exactly how things should be done for PA (anyway I have no hope of doing so). This is just a brief way to describe the idea. Many of these are minor UI or control things that could be added by players if there is decent local modding.Economy Breakdown
A popup appears when mousing over the metal bar which tells you where your metal comes from and where it is going. The implementation in the image tracks your economy as a player and as part of a team. The same thing exists for the energy bar.Drawing on terrain
Players can draw and place markers on the terrain to coordinate. Each player has their own colour. Drawing mode is enabled when a key is held down. In ZK left click drag is draw, double left click places a text marker, middle click places an empty marker and right click erases.Movement independent attack command
This is a command which is independent of the rest of the command queue. Units do not move in response to this command, it only controls their weapon target. This lets you control unit target priority and movement at the same time. There is a command to set target and a command to cancel target but they can be a bit unwieldy.
Of course the normal attack command would still be present. A smoother way to use this command is to automatically add it if you give units a move command while they have an attack command. The attack command is then replaced by this independent target command. There are also more images (some are superfluous but people love images).
The image shows attack ground, of course it can be used on units as well.Factory Queue Insert
Queuing a unit in a factory with Alt held inserts the unit at the start of the queue. If the factory is set to repeat inserting means you only want one unit, it is not added to the repeat queue. The inserted command is put at the head of the queue if repeat is disabled and the current construction cancelled, this is mainly for "oh **** I need unit X right now" moments.
Seems arbitrary but it actually works quite well. The usual Shift = 5x and Ctrl = 20x modifiers apply.Command Insert
Hold Shift+Space to cause given orders to be inserted in the middle of an order queue. The command is inserted such that the added length of the queue is minimised. Holding Space by itself inserts the order at the very start of the queue. Works for all orders.Build ETA
Display the expected construction time somewhere above each construction. This simply projects the completion time based on it's current work speed.Configurable Initial States
This would let you configure the state (movestate, firestate, cloak?, priority?, activation?) of each unit type when it is constructed. This requires some sort of menu and is probably best done while not in a battle.Multiple Building Placement
The 'Building Buildings' section of this page
. I can't explain it better and don't want to copy it all here. Basically it lets you queue squares, lines and boxes of buildings and set the spacing between them.Radar Drawn On Terrain
Radar is drawn on the terrain along with LOS, this view can be toggled. Two ways to visualise this are shown in the image. The filled in radar is a bit more visible when zoomed out but the edge based radar is less intrusive and clearly visible when zoomed a bit further in. Ideally people would get to choose the one that suites them.Retreat Zones
This is a lightweight implementation of units that retreat when damaged. Units have a toggleable state for their repair level, when their health goes below that level they retreat to nearby repair zones which the player places. Constructors near the zones automatically repair the units and when fully repaired the units go back to do whatever they were doing.Weapon Spread and AoE Drawer
When the attack command is selected this draws the AoE of the unit's main weapon and projected hit area based on inaccuracy. I think it is a really good way to teach people the characteristics of unit weaponry and it helps when placing nukes.Persistent Scouting
Structures which have been scouted but can no longer be seen are drawn as semi-transparent ghosts. This preserves information from scouting. The ghosts are removed when the building's position is visible. Defence Range Visualiser
Turrets generally don't move about (I assume) so once an opponent's turret is scouted the range of that turret is drawn on the terrain. This makes them easy to avoid, the range is also drawn for ghosts. This works for every static thing with range such as heavy artillery and anti-nukes.Smart Radar Dot Shooting
There are quite a few assumptions of other features here. If there is radar AND radar wobble AND there are perfectly accurate weapons with no aoe THEN it would be nice to be able to tell them not to shoot at radar dots. This would be a toggle because sometimes their shots do not have to be saved.