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[Multiplayer] UI and usability (part 1)

The_baronThe_baron Registered Users Posts: 631
Hello ,

So I want to take this opportunity while things are in beta and feedback is being absorbed to chat about the state of TW multiplayer. I know that it's to late probably to chat about those things for this update - but I would be happy to get a reply if those features could be changed / implemented for future patch :)

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The state of TW multiplayer ins't great its a known fact , however the reasoning about it is debated quite often and a lot of the noises come from people who might be a bit less educated in the matter :). Take me for a example a mulitplayer heavy gamer which spent most of years playing almost exclusively multiplayer focused games - in TW I barely played any multiplayer - why ? because of the following criticisms I am going to pass below :

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Communication :
This is one of the biggest downfalls for TW. A huge part of what makes MP better is the fact you can communicate with your opponents or teammates which creates more intrigue and fun behind the game ! unfortunately TW's chat system is one of the worst out there, being less effective in its design than the chat in games such as Runescape who are 2 decades old :(

Solution :
A few steps need to be taken -
* visibility needs to be in mind , Battlefield chat is a good example, chat appears when written and disappears after a few moments on main screen. Options to change it are existing in need for personal taste. At the moment chat is often being missed especially during intense gameplay and messages go unread , I found myself using outside messaging systems to communicate with my game partners cause the in-game chat always failed us.
* added option for sound when receiving messages in game.
* Voice over IP ... It seems like there is a in game option for it which no one seems to have found how to use it until today. Most prominent good MP games feature this systems from OW to DOTA, voice is the fastest and best way to communicate and strategies with your allies or provoke your opponents (in a nice way ;) )
* Tools to highlight features in pre game setup or during campaign to other players such as unit cards / cities / magic ability use.

Team games have almost no coordination between army picks before battle and no coordination during battle ... whats the point of playing with other people if it will just make you more frustrated with the game due to the lack of control ? communication is the key and VOIP is 100% times better than text !

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One of the biggest problems with TW MP is that the MP isn't constructed to fit TW ... the MP design seems to have been created and almost not changed back in the 2000's and feature a some what generic MP built that was used to other strategy games. With a title as big as TW I would have imagined more steps to retrofit the MP experience to the game it delivers will be taken but alas none of that had occurred so far ...


Army setup :
One of the things I found problematic and not only me (Turin and some other youtubers mentioned it as well) is that in TW Army compositions can be so varied (which is good for balance) but also be so unique and different (which is part of what makes TW unique) to the point that a player might 'lose' the battle before he started ! this is due to being completely countered from the get go...

Solution :
Some card games feature some kind a mind game before the cards are revealed but often its not based on thin air but rather some intelligence such as likely hood of a cards being received or held by the other player. Same can be applied to improve the TW MP !
In army setup stage the player will have 'intelligence' clues about what is his opponents army gonna be like. So for example if the enemy builds an army who is heavy on cav , or artillery, or skirmishers the opponent will get a notification about it which will aid him to get someone prepared to his opponent. People get frustrated by 'entering' ambushes ... this system would allow players to react and to adjust pre battle to a certain degree.

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Computing power and latency :

So another big deterrent for players from MP derives from how the system deals, or to be more exact, doesn't deal with the differences people have between their systems and locations/internet connections. At the moment a lot of the MP games suffer from lags whether it is due to system requirements or because of latency which makes players including me to step away from it. there is no proper indications once in a host lobby to know if the players in lobby can handle the game that is about to start whether if it is because of lacking power to host the game , run it , or simply maintain a stable connection.

Solution :
* Whats needs to be added is just indications to show players stability / computer power. TW is heavier in a lot of ways than other games and having opponents with SSD and huge ram is far more impacting on the experience of the player than in other games. those should have in-game indications.
* Same for hosting capabilities, while in setup lobby the game should rate the hosting capabilities of the game that is about to start and if no one can 'carry' the host people should know and maybe try to split to more suitable hosts.
* As for latency, the UI does a horrible job helping people to get a clue if they have a good stable connection or not to conduct a game ... changes need to be made to make it more visible and clear.

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Costumaziable rules :
This one is quite simple , lots of players want to give a bit more personal touch to their game but in order to do so they need to write down things and hope for co-operation from the other players.

Solution :
Instead what needs to be available to an option to add remove host rules - those rules should of course keep balance in terms that it won't impact one faction more than another if applied ( max 3 units per type is a good example can be relevant for any faciton without applying specific penalties to specific faction types) at the same time opening a no rules match should also be an option

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Ranked system :

Quick play and ranked are two different things and the separation should be clear ! now I know its not easy to implement a ranked system but the lack of one really hurts people who try to enjoy multiplayer on casual bases. The reason behind ranked system is beyond a 'reward' system to feed the brain , the main reason is to help separate between the different levels of players. at the moment to often people who are just stepping for the first time to the MP are being completely stumped by veterans a reality that doesn't make any joy for both sides (because those veterans aren't trying to smurf on purpose but rather just find games).

Solution :
establishing a good ranking system as close to what you can create that can resemble success like those of Blizzard ;).
and leave the quick play option to people who just want a quick drop into a MP game.

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Mods :
This is a big problem , at the moment active mods block players from joining other player matches completely - obviously because of the nature of mods this is reasonable for starting a game however it blocks also the entry to the lobby.

Solution :
creating an indication for hosted games , and players inside of hosted game which can show compatibility between host and player but also indicated on hosted games which mods are running on the hosts game. by that allow popular mods such as better camera ( a mod which doesn't affect gameplay) to be hosted and still people joining up to the game.

a better system would allow to players who ready up in a game with mod to reset game immediately with the correct mods.
people who enjoy multiplayer often are familiar with mods and enjoy some of them and its a shame that even mods that don't impact MP block players from playing together

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Lobby UI :
For the last segment I saved one of the most crucial issues with TW - the MP UI , especially the lobby one. The UI doesn't reflect or fit almost any of the TW features ! this means setuping a game because not only tedious and unsuccessful venture but also ones which escorted with a lot of frustrations ! take for example the MPC lobby ... MPC isn't the typical MP experience people are used to from other MP games and in what way is it reflected in game lobby ? in a turn column ?

Solution :
I am gonna focus on the MPC experience to make a clear example but it is relevant for the main MP as well. MPC is a type of gameplay that can spread across a period of time and a game of it can last for 30 hours and more however you play those 30 hours is a huge factor some can play it across 2 days and some can only play 5 hours per weekend meaning that for completion of the game we need to check with the players. Its sad to see that a indie project such as Thronesmaster.net has better ways to deal with their game then a tripple A title like TW :(. so here is a list of examples of changes that are needed -
* Availability ( a column to indicate requested obligatory/non obligatory gameplay availability) this column will be featuring details like hours per week / per day/ per month.
* local times, this is obvious ones in order to coordinated game times you need to know some basic time schedules of the other person including his location in the world.
* mods, already mentioned its impact - but basically players should be able what mods hosts are using , get into the host in order to coordinate with him the mods (via UI and not only text so there will be a visual affect to it) and only after they ready up the game will reset for those who had missing minds - install them and then relaunch into the host. After the hosted game start it will save this mods as part of it and will reset to the players every time unless hosts will make changes (mod changes will be noted to the other player via clear notification).
* computing power and hosting capabilities as mentioned before.
* custom text based rule sets - this one is needed due to the fact that the game as designed is mostly geared towards singleplayer experience which left some critical issues in gameplay which can be heavily exploited in MPC - therefore as a player who had more than a couple of H2H games I realized some rules were needed such as no gate bug exploit and so on...

While there are more examples on needed changes to the lobby the last one I want to touch is also a critical example on why the lobby fails as is - its the core structure - the MPC lobby should be built in a format that acts both as a offline and online lobby. at the moment in order to run a host and wait for a player the player needs to keep the game running something that kinda contradicts the reality of most MPC games. therefore in order to better fit the hosts in the MPC lobby should act out as kind of 'notes' which players can leave for a certain amount of time before they will be deleted or started for other players to examine or see even when they are not online - and in response people who viewed this lobbies could join up and ready up or leave a comment like a 'forum' post to try to coordinate changes about the hosts settings if needed.

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Bottom line is that there is plenty of reasons on why the MP/C is failing and there is plenty of simple solutions to those issues I hope you guys at CA could read and reply to this post and if it will get a response I will add up part 2 which includes issues like in the host lobby itself , examples on how to improve it and so on (for example setting a time limit with a function based on turn number to allow a better use of the feature for MPC)

If applied I believe a guaranteed shift in multiplayer usage will occur and since this tips are generic for TW they can be applied for future titles as well. if applied they might be needing advertisement as lot of people including me gave up on TW MP but still dream on the day of a better one :).
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