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Looking forward to v2, some words on design

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Hey guys,

 

First, I want to say that I'm very excited that Firestorm Armada V2 will be coming out soon.  I played when the game first came and played again when you guys made what you now call v1.5.  It's a solid game and it's truly one of the few remaining large-scale space-faring minis games out there.  While I look forward to getting my rulebook and seeing the rules for myself, I'd like to share with you some of my opinions on the direction of V2.  As an experienced gamer and game developer myself (with a focus in multiplayer and game balance), I hope these words will find deeper roots.

 

Let's talk about what V2 is going to offer to the game, as stated by Neil himself some months back.

  • Distinct play styles across the core races
  • Greater tactical diversity, including new ‘Tactical Ability Cards’
  • Targeted Strikes to take out key systems on an enemy ship
  • Faster and deadlier rules for Carriers and their Short Range Spacecraft
  • New Fleet Building systems, presenting you with more options and tactics
  • Rules for dynamic moving Terrain
  • Smoother Boarding Assaults
  • Brand new Weapon Types to crush your enemies!
One of the my biggest gripes about the game when it first came out is the faction diversity.  Back then, there were no MARs and the ship's only difference was distinguished by the scaling of numbers.  Tweak a few range bands here and there, add or subtract some dice to symbolize damage potential, and there you go.  This is what separated one ship from another, but also one faction from another as well.  Having played many other games from different developers, I was little saddened with this.  Even a little blurb about how the weapon systems actually worked could of helped the initial fantasy presented in the game, but alas, it was not to be.
 
Now, it's a completely different story.  With the additional of MARs, the expansion of the fluff and the addition of new ships, I can clearly see that the developers over at SG saw what was missing and remedied it.  The one thing that really captures the audience above all else is the majesty of imagination.  You must immerse your audience in the universe that you create, and you do so by making each and every faction different.  Players want to feel unique with the factions they play and I think it's absolutely vital in the success of a game that offers "factions" as an option.  Having this system in place allows players to make better choices when picking their armies, using aesthetics a guide as they find their way to their own playstyle.  All successful games that offered a choice in allegiance or factions have made it a priority to uphold the virtues of faction diversity.  In Starcraft, the design, playstyle and function must "feel like Terran".  A card that offers control, draw or permission should "feel blue".  And the speed, precision and lethality should again, "feel like Eldar'.  As long as the design, function and purpose of the ships within a faction matches the fantasy, I will be very happy.
 
As I read through some of the other points listed above, my excitement grew.  Great tactical diversity through tactical ability cards, targeted strikes and new weapon types all scream fun to me.  Being able to build your own units with modifications, MARs and weapon systems is a dream for player options.  One of my favorite things about a well-designed games is that they should have a low learning curve, but with a mastery level borderline impossible.  You want to be able to introduce a easy-to-learn, hard-to-master system by adding complexity through player options, player skill (choices), and faction design.  This, in my opinion, is the hallmark to a great game.  One of my favorite examples when I talk about this is Pokemon.  On the surface level, the game is easy enough that a child can understand the basic principles of battle:  Water beats fire, fire beats grass and so on.  Only on a truly competitive level, do EVs, IVs, natures, stats, and prediction matters.  That is where games should be these days, and its especially important for any miniatures games.  You want to be able to pick up and play a casual game if you want without the needed complexities.  However, if you want to really get into the game and spend hours fiddling around with deeper fundamentals and army list construction, you should be able to.  This is why it's so utterly important that the depth and complexity comes from player options:  Designing your own army should be a mini-game in itself in any minis game.  If I was to pick a game recently that fits this criteria, it would be X-Wing the miniatures game by FFG.  I think they did an absolutely fantastic job at marrying the age-old rivalries of simplicity vs. complexity. 
 
Once we tread down this path, this is where the game gets truly interesting.  This part is where my specialty lies and it's a game balance design.  Once the core gameplay design have been determined and built, it's really up to the internal and external balance aspect to keep the game going.  Internal balance comes from the ability to balance the faction within itself:  Is there one clear winner if you had to pick 2 ships for the same purpose?  Is there a distinct enough difference between MKI and MKII cruisers that will justify a place for both ships?  Not only is this important for sales, but it's important for the player playing your game.  It's the stuff like this that will engross the competitive player and allow captains and admirals from all over to dive deep into your game for hours at a time.  Casual players won't really mind nor may they necessarily care:  They just want to drink beer, eat pretzels and roll dice.  However, building up player options can only help them, not turn them away.   Like I said previously, being able to immerse your audience in your universe is vital to the success of your game.  When you give the player a nice, balanced faction that's dripping with viable, exciting and unique player options, you will win the heart of the player.  He will play your game even when he's far away from the tabletop and is sitting on the computer (like I am right now).  This is exactly what you want.  You want to expand a player's curiosity, tempt them to try something new and exciting, and most importantly, not be punished for it.  Coincidentally, more options leads to more experimentation, and more experimentation means buying more product.
 
Where internal balance will increase the longevity of the game, external balance is what will drive it forwards to bigger and better horizons.  Sure, the book might be really well-balanced internally, but how does it fare vs. the other factions in the game?  Having playtested competitive games for well over a decade now, I must say this is the most challenging and most unforgiving.  The reason for this is simply because: There's a lot more factors to consider now.  Just because one MAR or upgrade option looks great on X ship doesn't mean it will be balanced when you put it on the table vs. another.  What if a ship is too cost-effective vs. a certain ship in X matchup in X scenario?  While the possibilities are near-endless, there are ways to address these issues.  Having read through many of the threads here as of late, the beta testers here assure me that the game will be balanced or close to it.  While I'm always skeptical of such statements, I'm also excited to see it and play it myself.  Regardless of outcome, I know for certain that the devs at SG embraced the culture of digital media and are willing to rectify and address issues through altering card stats and erratas.  This is something that I wish other minis companies are willing to do because it's literally a way to "hotfix" (for computer games) a minis game.  No matter what,  having an externally balanced game is a good thing.  This means more places are willing to host more tournaments, and that means having your game blasted through social media outlets, blogs and an ever-increasing fanbase.  In a world where marketing can only go so far due to financial restraints, free advertisement is the best kind of advertisement.  This can only happen if the players love the game and help promote it themselves, and having tournaments is the best way to get it done.  Having been a patron of many GTs and nerdy 'cons, the type of hype that you can generate from a tournament cannot be denied.  I think as long as SG continues this thread of beta-testing and receiving balance feedback from qualified individuals, they are on a road to success.
 
Well, there you have it folks.  I'm sorry if I typed too much or confused you guys in anyway, but I wish you guys luck and success in your V2 of the game.  I know a lot of people have put many manhours into the product and it wouldn't be possible without you guys.
 
TLDR:
Version 2 of the game will be highly successful if;
It promotes faction diversity
It provides players with customization and play options; army design mini-game
It has strong internal balance and external balance
and it has constant support
 
Bring on Version 2!
benoflamancha and Sky_Admiral like this

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Well, I'd say we've certainly tried to hit those concepts and discussed them all in the beta team (except constant support, I guess, that's a more long term thing than rolling out a new version).  Time will tell how successful we've been.

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Well, I'd say we've certainly tried to hit those concepts and discussed them all in the beta team (except constant support, I guess, that's a more long term thing than rolling out a new version).  Time will tell how successful we've been.

 

Cool, I have a quick question.  What point levels did you guys playtest under for balance purposes?

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We have been playing at about any point level you can think of really.  From personal experience, I've played games as small as 400, all the way up to a knock down afternoon of a 2,000 brawl in the hall.  

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We have been playing at about any point level you can think of really.  From personal experience, I've played games as small as 400, all the way up to a knock down afternoon of a 2,000 brawl in the hall.  

Is there a tournament level point range that you guys use as a benchmark for balance testing?  While testing 400-2,000 is good for scaling feedback, the power of some ships differ at different point ranges.

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Firestorm doesn't have much/anything really in the way of organized play, so unlike Warhammer of either type, there isn't a certain point level that we were aiming at.  It's to my experience that most games get played around 1000-1200 points, with a few exceptions going into higher totals.  

 

And i do agree completely about different ships being better or worse.  In a smaller, 800 point game, I had a particular squadron prove devastating, coring out half of my opponent's fleet with little damage in return...only to see that same squadron beaten bloodily to death by turn 3 in a 1200 point game.  Granted, in that smaller game the squadron did make up nearly 300 pts of my fleet total.  

 

The size of the game will determine what units are best suited to the engagement, but really that's been the case in many games, and 2.0 feels spectacularly well done overall.  

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On the whole, I would much rather see a solid amount of work done at all levels (as it seems has been) rather than a huge focus of one value, thus throwing off the balance at every other scale.

 

Just in case it hasn't already been said (and also on behalf of all those who haven't been privileged enough to participate in the play test) I want to express many thanks for the hundreds of games and thousands of hours of effort, testing and re-testing (and re-re-testing!) you (the testers) have put in so that everyone can enjoy this new edition of the game. 

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I played from 400 - 1200 with a single standout 1500pt game.  At these levels the game works wonderfully and there are mechanics inplace to help with scaling to a much larger game.

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I personally played 500, 800, and 1200 point games. I focused on carriers and medium play which is something I enjoy. I also used several deployment options and had fun with "its a trap" kind of games.

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I pretty much focused on 600 to 1000 point full games (just because that's what I usually end up playing), with a lot of smaller "mini-tests".  BB vs BB or 2 squadrons (1 each of cruisers and frigates) vs each other, a large vs (roughly) equivalent points of mediums, etc...

 

One of the good things about a diverse group of beta testers is our individual tendencies tended to give a whole range of point levels a solid look.

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Really excited to be getting into this game on the eve of such a big change that has, by all accounts, had a lot of time and effort put into it.

 

Now, to be skeptical, I've seen similar claims from games companies, beta testers, and so on in various spheres (online, pen and paper, miniatures games, yadda yadda) and in my experience it has NEVER turned out as well as the hype.

 

So as I said in another post... here's to hoping that I am wrong, and the hype is justified; here's to hoping this is the first well balanced miniatures game in the history of ever :)

 

Still wary of those 12" Dindrenzi range bands

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1st rule of not getting disappointed is not to get hyped.

 

 

Just a hint:

 

The general section of Firestorm in the community has 18000 replies since it exists in this form. The Beta Crew part hast over 5000 replies already in its short life. Of corse that doesnt say anything about quality but quantity at least.

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Hey, Quantity has a Quality all of its own. ;). I must say though, please doubt. I want people to find anything that we may have missed. I have no doubt that if we have any major problems popping up Spartan will take steps to correct the issue, they have already gone well above any other company or group I've worked with in terms of taking the testers results and ideas to improve the game.

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Also the stats will all be released in PDF so its rather easy to change them if there are clear imbalances.

 

When should we expect the fleet pdfs to be released?

 

Also, the reason why I asked about the point limit that you guys played at for balance testing purposes is because most minis games have an idea in mind.  Sure, the game should be viable to play at any point level, but having a competitive target zone is quite important.  Like some of you said, some ships preform better or worse depending on scaling, so have a control point range for testing definitely a factor to consider if you want a competitive aspect.

 

For example, more points results in more ship combinations, upgrades and MARs.  While stock ships might be only decent in lower point ranges because you can't afford upgrades, they might be extremely powerful in larger point ranges.  When you guys said that you have done testing anywhere between 400-1200, I get a little worried unless there was a system developed to test these point ranges.  E.g. - Week 1 - all games are played at 400, Week 2 at 800, Week 3 at 1200.

 

I don't know what SG's plans are for the game nor their testing apparatus so I'm definitely curious.

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Is there a tournament level point range that you guys use as a benchmark for balance testing?  While testing 400-2,000 is good for scaling feedback, the power of some ships differ at different point ranges.

 

The Black Ocean will be looking into getting organized tournament play rules and stats out within the next few months. We will be starting after all items for 2.0 have been released.

 

When should we expect the fleet pdfs to be released?

 

Also, the reason why I asked about the point limit that you guys played at for balance testing purposes is because most minis games have an idea in mind.  Sure, the game should be viable to play at any point level, but having a competitive target zone is quite important.  Like some of you said, some ships preform better or worse depending on scaling, so have a control point range for testing definitely a factor to consider if you want a competitive aspect.

 

For example, more points results in more ship combinations, upgrades and MARs.  While stock ships might be only decent in lower point ranges because you can't afford upgrades, they might be extremely powerful in larger point ranges.  When you guys said that you have done testing anywhere between 400-1200, I get a little worried unless there was a system developed to test these point ranges.  E.g. - Week 1 - all games are played at 400, Week 2 at 800, Week 3 at 1200.

 

I don't know what SG's plans are for the game nor their testing apparatus so I'm definitely curious.

 

The Fleet PDF's will be released right around the same time as 2.0. Do not quote me on that. Only Spartan can answer for sure.

Calmdown likes this

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The Black Ocean will be looking into getting organized tournament play rules and stats out within the next few months. We will be starting after all items for 2.0 have been released.

Speaking of which, I've seen the Patrol Fleets ready to go on the 11th, but there's been no word on the "tactical cards".  During your playtests, did you guys play with the cards heavily?
 

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The Relthoza Patrol Fleet

 

Contains: 1 Nexus Class Battleship, 3 Assassin Class Cruisers, 4 Widow Class Frigates, 1 upgrade components for a Huntsman Class Heavy Cruiser, 1 Large SRS token, 1 Small SRS token, 2 A5 Token Sheets and 1 Pack of Tactical Ability Cards.

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The Relthoza Patrol Fleet

 

Contains: 1 Nexus Class Battleship, 3 Assassin Class Cruisers, 4 Widow Class Frigates, 1 upgrade components for a Huntsman Class Heavy Cruiser, 1 Large SRS token, 1 Small SRS token, 2 A5 Token Sheets and 1 Pack of Tactical Ability Cards.

 

Excellent, are those to be used with our current set of cards or as standalone play cards?

 

Awesome, thanks for the news.

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Is there a tournament level point range that you guys use as a benchmark for balance testing?  While testing 400-2,000 is good for scaling feedback, the power of some ships differ at different point ranges.

 

I'd say the bulk of our playtest games (across the board, and others can correct me) have been at the 800 point value. It's a really good place to test (for reasons I can't get into right now) because of how fleets are constructed. Gives you a good variety of ships and options on what you can bring but doesn't take all day long so you can get in a good PT session and have enough time to do an AAR and really write up a review with notes.

 

I've personally done 500 points "boxed set" style PT games all the way up to 1200.  The old general standard for games in V1-V1.5 was generally 1k. I think 800 and/or 1200 are really a good game values (anything is doable but I think the game shines, to me, in that range). 800 forces you to make some list choices and you can't take everything you want (which is fun in and of itself) and 1200 is the point where you can get just about any toy you want but not have the battle take 4 hours to finish (though it's pushing it at that rate if you're a precise gamer like me who thinks on each move for a few minutes).

 

My guess is that newer players will start out at 500 "boxed set style" and the average game will be 800. Older (in terms of experience in the game) players and those with decent collections will gravitate towards 1200. Oddly enough I don't think 1k is a good compromise (again, I won't get into the reasons why here just yet).

 

 

On the whole, I would much rather see a solid amount of work done at all levels (as it seems has been) rather than a huge focus of one value, thus throwing off the balance at every other scale.

 

Just in case it hasn't already been said (and also on behalf of all those who haven't been privileged enough to participate in the play test) I want to express many thanks for the hundreds of games and thousands of hours of effort, testing and re-testing (and re-re-testing!) you (the testers) have put in so that everyone can enjoy this new edition of the game. 

 

It's a labour of love but...the hundreds of posts, dozens of games, and constant trial runs and (sometimes!) heated debates have been a lot. I will say this, even with some of the heated debates, I feel very strongly that we have a really dedicated and intelligent collection of players in the playtest group. And we've got a really dedicated inner circle/core of gamers who've done their best to make this a really solid good edition with tremendous effort on creating diversity and balance and giving every unit a reason to exist.

 

I'd like to say even that we've been perfect.

 

I'd like to...but that would be a lie ;).  We've done the best we can (I honestly believe this) but there will never be enough time to test everything in every combination and some things will almost inevitably be used by people in ways that we and Spartan couldn't foresee. So am I confident we've helped (let's not take all the credit here, this is Spartan's work that we're helping polish it) Spartan and that what comes out will be pretty damn good. But don't seek or expect perfection (this is to everyone - not just fraulein Doomkitten) .

 

As an aside, I want to thank Reddwarf and Pok in particular for their extensive work and contributions (and...me :P) towards the Aquans.  I hope, in the end, we can help take credit for a supremely cool and varied race that is tough as nails and full of fun for people who love a finesse experience. Of course, I'm also throwing those two under the bus (with me) as I'm sure we'll have some wrath directed at us too! (and thanks to all the others but I don't want to volunteer names for other people who haven't admitted to being part of fight club yet - the list of playtesters and their contributions is pretty long and once everything is public I'll thank you all individually!).

 

Zak

Alex Mann and Doomkitten like this

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I've been doing most of my testing at the 800-2000 point range; my largest game was a 3400 point mega-game (Pro-Tip: When facing a Dindrenzi fleet containing 3 Battleships & a Dreadnought, don't deploy your admiral's vessel [even if it *is* a dreadnought] out of cover and directly in front of the Dindrenzi battlegroup.  :D). I've also played quite a few smaller "Patrol Fleet" 500 point games as well. Everything scales very well, IMHO.

 

When you see the new fleet construction rules, I think you'll be happy with how things are balanced out.

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