Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

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Yoshimitsu
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Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by Yoshimitsu » 25 Aug 2015, 21:03

Last Saturday myself and two other followers of Sol Contingency were lucky enough to be invited to play a current build of the game with members of the team. They wanted to get some feedback from people who could come to the game with a fresh perspective and also to do something nice for their fans. So here I am to tell you all about the many things I liked and the few that might want some adjustments.

First things first. The game is a lot of fun to play. We flew on three different maps, playing a mix of anarchy and team anarchy. The maps look beautiful and are great for exploring different tactics in dogfights. They are very distinct from each other and will probably suit various gametypes differently. Also as seen in a previous video the team released, the maps vary in how friendly they are to pilots with different levels of experience in 6Dof.

The ship flies well. I am a longtime player of the whole Descent series and have a sense in my hands of how the ship should feel (although there are many players with more detailed knowledge than me on this subject). The rotation and inertia are spot-on. The only aspect of movement that I would change is to slightly increase the ship's top speed in all three axis. It accelerates and decelerates at what feels like the right rate but it doesn't quite seem to reach full speed. Once I was accustomed to that however, I found that I was very comfortable hurling the ship around the maps just like I would in Descent. In fact the Eclipse feels a lot more like Descent 1 & 2's Pyro than Descent 3's Magnum.

I am a bit of an oddity in that I play with two joysticks rather than a HOTAS setup or joystick and keyboard. In its current state SolC only supports one joystick at a time and doesn't support DirectInput at all (the software used by older joysticks). I was able to overcome this problem though (with some good advice) by using an Xbox360 controller emulator to make the game see my two sticks as one gamepad. It took only a little bit of setup and worked flawlessly. There didn't seem to be any lag or translation errors. I will post a thread soon with detailed instructions on what I did.

The weapons in SolC feel powerful and fun to use. They currently have five primaries which should be familiar to any Descent fan and four secondaries (also old friends). They all reacted the way I would have wanted. The team has included two new features with the weapons that I noticed. The gatling gun (Vulcan) has a spinup period between when you press the trigger and when it starts spraying bullets. I didn't especially like this. It made it less useful, especially in the tighter parts of the map where you could suddenly encounter an enemy around a corner and need to shoot immediately. The spinup made me less eager to use the gatling gun which is a pity because when it's firing it's terrifying (think Class One Driller). We discussed a couple of possible solutions to the issue. One is to allow the player to pulse the trigger to keep the barrels spinning and ready to fire. The other is to have the gun start firing immediately at a slower rate until it reaches full tilt. I think that either would be fine. The other new feature that I saw in the combat system is the ability to use flares to distract homing weapons. I think the mechanic is really cool but it works a little too well at the moment. The team is working on adjusting the effect to make it less powerful and I think once it's balanced it will be a great addition.

One aspect of the game that I'm not yet sold on is the sound effects. It likely didn't help that I mixed my sound (in Windows) so that my voice chat was much louder than the game so that I could hear everyone, but some of the weapons didn't sound all that dangerous. I would need another session where I focus on the sounds to nail down anything specific to critique. Most of the time I was having so much fun that I forgot to give the sound the attention that I meant to.

The last thing that I took particular note of was the HUD. On the whole I love the layout and the visual design but there were a few things that I had trouble reading. Particularly, the energy and afterburner bars are a little hard to distinguish in the heat of battle so I often found myself suddenly without energy. A good part of this is down to the color scheme. The three gauges are a little too close to the same color. However this is an issue that the team is aware of and they are working on it.

On the whole, I came away from the session very excited. We played for several hours and it felt like no time had passed I could easily have gone for twice as long (if time-zones had permitted) even with just those three maps. The team members were very interested to hear what we had to say and open to suggestions, and although I would happily play the game in its current state, there are definitely a few things left to be done.

Once more, I want to thank the team for making us a part of this, and I can't wait for next time.

-Yoshi

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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by DuderSeb » 25 Aug 2015, 21:18

Yoshi, thank you very much for taking the time to join us and for writing down this very useful feedback!!! Very much appreciated!
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Yoshimitsu
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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by Yoshimitsu » 25 Aug 2015, 22:34

I had a blast. It's a win-win.

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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by metalgunner87 » 26 Aug 2015, 03:54

Hi Yoshimitsu,

first of all thanks for your helpful feedback and critiques, and i would like to introduce myself. My name is Cesar Suarez (aka Metalgunner87) and i am the audio lead for SolC. i am excited to hear that you had so much fun with the game and unfortunately i couldn't be there to experience that with you but i feel that as a fan, we (specially me) owe you guys a bit of explanation as to what you heard with the sfx. the majority of the sfx that you heard muffled (w/ LowPass Filtering) were merely a test that i wanted to achieve to give the player and sense of being inside "a cockpit". maybe a week prior to the test, i tried messing with LPF attenuations to achieve the aforementioned effect but we faced some roadblocks along the way. during debugging, i ran out of time and didn't get a chance to turn off the LPF attenuation for the sounds, so you all could have a full experience with the sounds prior to my experiment.

I do understand that many players like to adjust sfx/music and dialogue (Voice chat) and thus changing how the game sounds, but i will take into serious consideration about making the weapons sounds more dangerous and since you all were hearing almost all the weapons with that filter, i am positive that next time we won't disappoint. But for now, i think we will scrap the idea of the LPF, until we migrate to UE4 and we have an actual cockpit view to enhance that experience.


So Thanks again for taking the time to enjoy Sol C and its for fans like you that we do this for.

till next time!

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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by ZcRaider » 26 Aug 2015, 04:01

I so...want in...

The expectation...the revelation...

Man... I've been monitoring the progress of this game since before the C&D...Watching from the shadows....but today... I am compelled to post.

I would just like to say, that no other game has me as hype as this. In fact, 75% of the Games now a days don't even interest me. I've either mastered them, or there all so similar that I don't even bother. I find myself spending like an hour, looking through the New Steam releases. To be met with...discontent. I find myself going back to the older games. UT99, Quake, Descent, etc. I find these games more fulfilling than most of the new games out there.

I greatly admire the efforts put forth by the Developers, and supporting the Fans of this game. This game shall have my full support as well.

So close...can't be much longer now. Good things come to those who wait!

I shall remain vigilant. I trust the Developers. From the many posts I've read over the years, I can tell they are all good people. And they are loyal fans themselves, even in the face of opposition.

When this game is released...history will be made.

Until then, I guess I'll just brush up on some old school Descent. But, reading posts like this, really helps take some of the edge off of waiting. I know its only a matter of time, before this game is officially released. And judging by the feedback given, its only going to keep getting better. I agree with everything the OP has mentioned, and I haven't even touched this game. I can feel it in the experience he shared.

The lion shall awaken once again. The reckoning is coming...

*Drops the mic.

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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by Yoshimitsu » 26 Aug 2015, 06:01

Hey Metalgunner. It's interesting to get the full story behind what we were hearing in the game. The team members we played with did explain that the sound wasn't the way it was meant to be and I'll be very curious to hear what the game is actually supposed to sound like. They also mentioned that you might be working on a complementary set of sounds that go with the weapon shots that will represent the mechanism of the weapons moving inside the ship as they fire. That idea sounds excellent.

I mentioned the sounds because they were always one of the most important elements of Descent for me. They gave each weapon and enemy a personality and somehow made each of them feel special to use. Even the spreadfire cannon (the gun that sounded the most like pew pew pew) had a menacing hum to each shot. Then Descent 3 came along and suddenly it sounded like you were shooting water pistols instead of lasers :roll:. And the Descent 3 fusion... If Descent 1 and 2's fusion sounded like a jointer cutting oak, Descent 3's sounded like a dremel grinding styrofoam by comparison. Anyway I look forward to hearing SolC when it's in full voice. :)
ZcRaider wrote: I shall remain vigilant. I trust the Developers. From the many posts I've read over the years, I can tell they are all good people. And they are loyal fans themselves, even in the face of opposition.

When this game is released...history will be made.

Until then, I guess I'll just brush up on some old school Descent.
Welcome ZcRaider!
My experience with the team over the weekend was extremely positive. The dedication to making this game as good as it can be is obvious and heartwarming. Also you can't go wrong with the Original. I've been going back to Descent 1 & 2 (via the D2X-XL source port) a lot in the last few months and it never ceases to amaze me how much fun they still are even after playing them for 20 years.

Seb (and team, and fans) I've had an idea about that HUD layout which might help with legibility. What if the afterburner bars were moved to either side of the Ship and Shield Gauge? I think that orientation screams AFTERBURNER! much louder than having them horizontal above the energy bar and also helps the energy to stand out more. Just an idea.
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MadMax1998
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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by MadMax1998 » 26 Aug 2015, 11:57

I like this idea a lot. I think I could even draw the lines myself in Flash for this, and animating would be straightforward (unlike what we discussed then).

Thanks for the preview and your comments again, Yoshi. Also I was quite entertained by ZcRaider's post; glad to have you on board! As a final comment on the sounds and low pass filter issue, and for information to Cesar: I did tune the LPF on most sounds so they would at least sound correct from the player's own view (Cesar's original values had even some of the player's own weapons sound muffled), so the guns as you heard them from your own ship were in fact sounding as they should. Yoshi said that he finds some of the gun sounds not powerful enough and although I'm used to the new sounds, I tend to agree that some could be more menacing. The LPF itself is not a bad idea at all, just needs to be tuned right. It should muffle other players' sounds as they move away from you.

That said, Cesar has made those kickass afterburner and Gatling sounds too, so I've got full confidence that his best work is still to come.
Max
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Yoshimitsu
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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by Yoshimitsu » 26 Aug 2015, 15:07

MadMax1998 wrote:That said, Cesar has made those kickass afterburner and Gatling sounds too, so I've got full confidence that his best work is still to come.
Kind of comical I suppose that those were the two sounds I heard least :P . I didn't use the gatling or the afterburner that much.
MadMax1998 wrote:animating would be straightforward (unlike what we discussed then).
Doesn't mean I wouldn't still take a crack at that more complicated animation, even if just for fun. Now that it's in my head, it wants to come out and play ;). I think that both changes together could be even better.

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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by Earthshaker » 26 Aug 2015, 19:34

Well, I was going to make a private PM to the devs about my experience but after Yoshi's post I guess that's not really necessary. ;)

I was one of the three involved in last Saturday's test. First let me reassure any lurkers here who might be slightly dubious about the project after all this time - it's real and it's very, very awesome. The experience was way more polished than I expected, and it was great to have the chance to chat with the devs and get an interactive tour of how things stand. Just to give an idea of how awesome it was: The test started around 22:00 GMT, and living in the UK, that was reasonably late for me. I was thinking that I'd only be able to end up staying for around half an hour before calling it a night, but once things got rolling, it turned out to be two and a half hours later, at 00:30, when I had to sign off with great reluctance! SC will be a great way to lose all sense of time .:P

After taking a couple days to think and watch over some parts of the footage I recorded, here's a bullet list of "stuff wot I thought":

* Controls felt spot on - the game let me adjust bindings for keyboard and mouse so that I could use the same setup as I do for Descent. Aside from getting used to the feel of the game, nothing was preventing me from playing to the best of my skill, and everything was responsive.

* Menu UI is great - look and feel is good and all the important options (resolution, detail, vsync, audio volume, etc.) were covered.

* Ingame UI is perfectly usable, although from this post I made a little while back, you perhaps already know that I think there is room for improvement at some point in the future. Having said that, after experiencing the UI in a dogfight, the "top-heaviness" wasn't as noticeable as I thought it might be - it's certainly not a major problem that prevents enjoyment of the game. I understand that right at the moment this is a low-priority thing.

* UI weapon status / labels - showing what weapons you are carrying is a feature I like (a luxury none of the vanilla Descents had). The labels themselves are quite small at lower resolutions, though... getting close to becoming unreadable. At my windowed 1366x768 res they looked like this:

Image

At 1080p this wasn't so much of a problem - but perhaps, rather than the diagonal text, you could somehow work the weapon icons into the UI instead? Underneath the current afterburner energy bar might work.

Another UI-related thing - the game has a mechanic where you don't die instantly at 0 shields; you can take a small amount of extra "hull" damage before finally being destroyed. I should have asked about it at the time, but there didn't seem to be any indication of exactly how close to death you were at this 0 shield state, except for a fairly vague recolouring of the ship graphic in the middle-bottom of the screen (from blue to red, I guess?). More numbers or bars isn't necessarily what you might want, but I think this is something that could be clarified somehow (unless there was some other indicator that I missed).

* Ship handling - just one word, sublime! I think that's partly because you've been setting things up purely based on the "feel" without necessarily doing lots of involved scientific tests. Yoshi was talking about possibly having the ship's top speed be a jot faster - until I heard him mention that, I was immersed enough not to notice it, but maybe another 5-10% more on the engines would be a tweak worth trying out.

* Level design and environments - excellent. A lot of care and attention has gone into some of the details, which I won't spoil too much so people can discover them for themselves hopefully very soon. The lava and water effects in Vertigo are great to see first-hand, and the texturing and lighting within the levels are really well done. My personal favourite detail is the FX that happens on some of the energy recharge station walls. Shiny! :mrgreen:

In terms of size, both of the levels that we played in - Vertigo and Neptune - felt like they would be best with no more than 6 players at once, which conveniently is what we had for the test. I think that keeping the levels modestly-sized but well-polished is a smart move for now, though for the future it was nice to hear a hint get dropped about a larger level being in the prototype stage.

We didn't get to play in Icebreaker because its collision map was being rejigged at the time, but we did get a very thorough video tour via Skype, and it looks to be keeping up the high standard of the other two levels. The snow and ice texturing looked spiffy - it has more verticality than Neptune, but nothing that's too mind-melting. Looking forward to playing it!

* Audio - everything I heard sounded like a good fit, though I can't really speak with too much authority about the "punchiness" of sounds because on the test night I was having to use some fairly rubbish earphones that completely lacked any bass power. The gatling gun was probably my favourite along with the satisfying hum of the recharging sound from the energy stations. Only audio-related thing to mention was that nearby ships occasionally sounded like their noise was coming from a long way away. I think this was because of some audio filter stuff that the team was just starting to tune, so not a big deal.

* Weapons - most of the equipment you use to shred the opposition will be familiar to anyone who's played "that other 6DoF game". :P I won't make direct comparisons but clearly inspiration has been drawn from Descent, as is only fair to expect given SC's history. All of the weapons feel viable if you have the skill to make best use of them (which, most of the time, I didn't!). Boring as it may be, the default lasers were probably my favourite, especially in their quad format. Next to that I thought the gatling gun was pretty satisfying too. The visuals for everything, guns and missiles, felt appropriate and not too over the top. I appreciated the "enemy lock" indicator that appeared on the HUD for certain weapons - very useful in a heavy firefight.

* Last but not least, the new player ship, the Eclipse - on face value I thought it was modestly good. But then, during the pre-match flyarounds we had, I got to see the animations that happen when the ship switches between weapons - pieces of machinery smoothly and believably morphing into new positions. Let me tell you... pretty damn awesome, and not something that I could imagine would have been possible using the Pyro. The team having to make a new player ship could have been a disaster, and I'll admit that upon first seeing the Eclipse I had some reservations, but those are well and truly out of the window now. I've seen the light, even if that's really hard in an Eclipse!... har, I'm here all week folks, don't forget to tip the waitress... *runs*

So yeah, the TL;DR is that I really enjoyed the test and I think the game is shaping up tremendously. There are things that no doubt will be improved as development goes on, and most of my gripes revolve around the UI, but the gameplay definitely feels like a contender for taking the crown of best modern 6DoF when PG and the Kickstarter hits the mainstream. Thanks again to the team for extending the invite - keep it up, and keep heading toward that light at the end of the tunnel!

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Re: Report from an Inside Look at the Proving Grounds

Post by MadMax1998 » 27 Aug 2015, 01:15

Wow, thanks for the detailed feedback there. Sounds like good advertising for us (heh) and gives us a preview of what the overall reaction of fans will (hopefully) be like.

Now if we can just finished the damn thing...
Max
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