First experiences / difficulties

General discussion for players of Oolite.

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Fritz
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First experiences / difficulties

Post by Fritz »

Hi Everyone,

I'm new to Oolite - I installed it some days ago - and of course I'm new to this forum. I'm from Germany so please excuse spelling and grammar mistakes!

30 years ago, Elite was one of my favourite games for my C64, and it still is. I became really good at it and because trading becomes boring when you have more than enough money, I concentrated on fighting. Even a Thargoid encounter in witchspace wasn't an unsolvable problem, and I started to provoke these encounters by using a certain key during hyperspace jumps (I think it was CTRL). I never used escape pods and other 'cheating' equipment (I'm not even sure the 'injectors' existed on the 8 bit version), and missiles only if things really got out of hand.

Because I still own some C64s, I have played Elite from time to time in the past decades, and I haven't lost my skills. So when I first launched Oolite I was surprised how familiar the look-and-feel was, the controls, the energy bars, the radar, the 'funny' distances and sizes of space stations, planets and suns compared to the speed of the ship. I immediately felt 'at home' and I could control the ship and dock it without a single scratch (and only a completely unexpected fine for docking without permission :D).

On the 64 I use a joystick and I've never tried the keyboard controls. But because I don't own a PC joystick I play Oolite with the arrow buttons. They seem to be a good representation for the digital joysticks used for the C64 and other 8 bit home computers. Perhaps this is part of the problems I have with fighting, especially with aiming, but it's certainly not the only problem with combat balance.

Aiming seems to be difficult compared to the C64 version. This doesn't seem to be a problem with less exact controls but with the much higher screen resolution. I don't know how it was programmed on the C64, but a pixel-wide laser beam on the C64 seemed to be much 'bigger' at a greater distance, although it shouldn't be when you use exact 3D calculations.

Aiming with Oolite is made even more difficult because you don't hear if you hit. On the C64 you could kind of aim with your ears when the opponent was little more than a pixel on the screen. On Oolite there seems to be a slight difference in the noise but it is to subtle to hear in a fight with all the other sounds around. Perhaps I'll learn to hear it.

But aiming isn't the only problem. Even if you engage in a dogfight and manage to hit your opponent over short distances, it takes much too many hits to destroy it. I wasn't able to destroy a single Krait with pulse lasers although I chased it for a long time. The chase was eventually stopped by some Vipers showing up and destroying the Krait, so I couldn't see if I eventually would have been able to destroy it. I also wasn't able to destroy a single peaceful Cobra 3 with beam lasers before it had called for help and a pack of Vipers arrived. Encounters with vipers or more than one pirate ship seem to be almost unsurvivable. The NPC ships can score hits from a great distance but I can't because the aiming is too inaccurate and if I don't turn away my front shield is usually destroyed before I can score a single hit. The only survival strategy is to turn away and start a dogfight, but because you need so many hits to destroy even a single enemy, it's practically impossible to survive for long - even if the enemy doesn't use missiles.

Speaking of missiles. The good thing about them is that they work exactly as on the C64 version. The bad thing is that they are almost useless - everyone seems to have ECM! I never managed to score a hit, even over short distances. The reaction time of the NPC pilots is unrealistically instantaneous, they turn around and accelerate in the same millisecond I press the m button. No human or humanoid could do this in reality. Why don't they simply use their ECM just as fast? This seems strange.

If this sounds a little disappointed - yes, I am. Everything else is like on the C64, but fighting with a single ship is more difficult than destroying a bunch of Thargoids - and the latter certainly is not easy even with two military lasers and after years of playing! I am used to the (for a computer game) unusual roll-and-pitch controls, I can deal with the heating of lasers and I am used to interpreting the 3D radar. How much more difficult must it be for a real newbie? Or are all modern games so difficult to play and I'm simply too old? :roll:

Because Oolite seems to be a big success I'm almost sure I'm doing something wrong on an elementary level, but I can't figure out what it is. Perhaps I was expecting too much C64? So please don't understand my posting as criticism; I just wanted to give you my first impressions as an old C64 player!

Of course I'll continue to try to get used to Oolite. Probably I'll avoid battles until I can afford military lasers, but I can't remember that you had to avoid fights on the C64 version until you could afford them. I also have the impression that laser strength isn't the main problem, since the beam lasers seem to be much to weak to destroy even a single opponent and I can't remember them to be so much weaker than the military lasers. The core problem is that the NPC ships in Oolite are much too strong: they aim better, they have better shields, and they probably have better AI than 30 years ago on the C64.

And they seem to regenerate their shields. I'm not sure if this was the case on the C64 version, but because it didn't take so long to destroy one, it usually wasn't an issue.

* * *

And now for something completely different. I mentioned the chase with the Krait. It had been part of a pack of Pirates attacking me in the Diso system, and it was somehow separated from the others when some Vipers arrived. I chased it for some time until the vipers (or other vipers?) caught up. They even thanked me for helping, but when they had destroyed the Krait, they turned against me although I'm quite sure a didn't hit a Viper accidentally. Why? The only thing I can imagine is that my missile accidentally locked on a Viper after the Krait exploded, but of course I didn't fire it. Can they really detect it?

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Layne »

Welcome to the forum, Fritz!

While I haven't upgraded to 1.82 myself (1.80 works a lot smoother on my system), it was my understanding that they tweaked the AI behaviors because of some similar complaints in enemy ship reaction times-- inhuman (and perhaps unthargoid) reaction speeds that made combat in 1.80 more difficult than it should have been. Just out of curiosity, are you playing the game in vanilla mode (no OXP's) or have you already installed some mods that might increase NPC ship difficulty?
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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Cody »

Welcome aboard, Commander! Oolite, while based upon the original Elite, is subtly different in some ways - and far more advanced.
To be honest, the original was too easy - and player-centric, which Oolite is not. You are using Oolite 1.82, yes?

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Fritz »

Layne wrote:Just out of curiosity, are you playing the game in vanilla mode (no OXP's) or have you already installed some mods that might increase NPC ship difficulty?
I installed only one OXP, reverse control, because I'm used to it from the C64 version. I can't use it yet because I have no rear laser, but that's the next thing I'll buy after shipping the next cargo of computers from Leesti to Diso.
Cody wrote:To be honest, the original was too easy.
That's true, but a game should not be too difficult in the beginning because it can get frustrating. I think, combat balance it is a difficult topic in an open world game like Elite/Oolite.
You are using Oolite 1.82, yes?
Yes.
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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Cody »

<chuckles> You should have tried 1.80 - some said that release was too tough. Not in my opinion, but 1.82 was toned-down somewhat, nevertheless.

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Layne »

Fritz wrote:That's true, but a game should not be too difficult in the beginning because it can get frustrating. I think, combat balance it is a difficult topic in an open world game like Elite/Oolite.
A very difficult, not to say thorny and contentious sort of a topic with many loud viewpoints on both sides of the aisle! There are multiple threads here on the subject of combat balance, which is one reason for the recent AI changes I mentioned before.
Cody wrote:<chuckles> You should have tried 1.80 - some said that release was too tough. Not in my opinion, but 1.82 was toned-down somewhat, nevertheless.
Exactly. I have a fast ship and a tendency to flee. The better part of valor and all that sort of thing.
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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Norby »

Welcome Commander Fritz!

Yes, you can get many hints from the community which help to step over the gap from the letter E to O. ;)

The hit sound in the core game is barely different from a missed shot (oolite.app/Resources/Sounds/laser.ogg and laserhits.ogg), will be much better if you install [EliteWiki] BackGroundSet.

Hold down the Ctrl key for fine aim with keyboard.

A useful addon is the [wiki]Scanner Targeting Enhancement[/wiki] which turn to red if you have good chace to hit (but not exactly).

You can buy ECM Hardened Missiles for combat.

Injectors equipment is a new thing, a life-saver in many situations and your enemies will use it also.

Beam Laser is much weaker here than a Military Laser, especially in the latest Oolite. A good change imho - small ships should not use as strong weapons as the large ones.

As you see the energy regeneration rate is an important parameter of ships due to the longer fights. The reduced power of non-military lasers is another change which compensate the much better aim of the enemy - in v1.80 a big promblem was the too much press space due to the weak durability of the ships - the ability to blow up fast is not the best thing if used against you.

Any ship can decide to attack you just because your target lock. The red alert is turned on when somebody target you, probably others do not like this color in his cockpits also. Against Vipers your legal status (in F5) can be the main problem, check if it is still clean or not.
Last edited by Norby on Sun Jul 12, 2015 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Cody »

A few tips: pick your fights carefully, and the systems you trade in. As Layne says, running is a valid tactic - I do plenty of running as a parcel courier. There is a sweet spot when aiming, due to parallax, which can be important at long-range. In the Cobra Mk III, it is slightly below the centre of the crosshairs. Better to fight up-close and personal, anyway! Be prepared to drop some cargo when pirates demand it - often they will specify the amount.

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by spara »

Norby wrote:A useful addon is the [wiki]Scanner Targeting Enhancement[/wiki] which turn to red if you have good chace to hit (but not exactly).
For target reticle to turn red you'll need an oxp HUD or a tweaked HUD. Unless something has changed lately within the core game.

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Norby »

spara wrote:For target reticle to turn red you'll need an oxp HUD or a tweaked HUD.
Either you can use a custom HUD which contain a reticle_target_sensitive = yes: line or set this near the end of oolite.app/Resources/Config/hud.plist .

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Fritz »

Thank you for all the advice! I had some fights since my last post, and I gained some new experience, and I'm starting to hear the sound difference between hitting and missing. As I found out 'playing' with asteroids, laser range seems to be limited to about 3/5 of the radar range. I wonder if there is also some linear decrease in power. This range limit explains at least some of the frustration I experienced during combat and during the mentioned chase of the Krait. I thought that I _must_ have scored tons of hits but I probably didn't.

Knowing this I tried to fire only at shorter distances. I improved my aim and I once managed to fire 'everything' into an enemy ship (laser from cold to overheated) but this heavy and well aimed laser burst over a short time span and distance _still_ wasn't enough to destroy the ship. It cried for mercy, fired a missile and fled with 'ludicrous speed' (using injectors*, I assume) so I didn't have a chance to finish it off. This shows that the problem isn't bad aiming or the wrong HUD, but the armour and shield strength of the NPC ships compared to the players lasers seem completely out of balance. Not _missing_ causes frustration but hitting over and over and _still_ not destroying the target! To put it simple, the AI is ok and the strength of the NPC lasers too, but the NPC shields seem much to strong.

As I said in my first post, I can't believe that this imbalance is normal, because every (new) player should experience it, even if he doesn't know the original Elite, and I wonder what I'm doing wrong. Of course it is good that it is not too easy. As I mentioned, I provoked Thargoid encounters on the C64 version because everything else wasn't really a challenge once you had equipped your ship. But if every small pirate group is practically invincible, it's not a challenge, you must avoid it if you want to survive. Fighting seems pointless. If you don't continue to practise fighting and dying, you can as well restart the game once you get attacked.

Some of you did mention running and fleeing, so I'm not the only one thinking like this, but this isn't a very satisfying option. This is a game, not reality! It can't be the the point of a game involving fighter ships, lasers, shields and missiles to _avoid_ combat, especially when you are attacked on a regular basis even in a relatively safe system like Diso! Dropping cargo isn't an option either when you still are harmless and poor and just spent your whole fortune buying, let's say, 10 tons of computers. In this case there is no point in continuing the game even if you survive the attack, it is better to restart from the last save. The same can be said for the expensive extra energy unit. It was destroyed almost immediately when I really needed it - when a shield had broken down. Perhaps it was bad luck, but it was not very satisfying...

My last hope for this game to catch on are the military lasers, so I'll be seen avoiding pirates between Leesti and Diso for some time! :)


* By the way, is there any way to remove the injector feature completely? It wasn't on the original Elite, I don't want to cheat (it feels like cheating for me), and the enemies shouldn't do it either. It kind of destroys any realistic battle. I always found it a good idea that hyperspeed is blocked when other ships are in the vicinity, so you couldn't avoid fighting by simply running away, and this injector thing just ruins it.
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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Cody »

Fritz wrote:I provoked Thargoid encounters on the C64 version because everything else wasn't really a challenge once you had equipped your ship.
You can do that in Oolite too, when/if you feel up to it (military laser recommended). Force a misjump into interstellar space, and Thargoids will be waiting.

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by another_commander »

Hi Fritz, welcome to the game. Sorry to know you find it too difficult, but bear with me and I'll try to explain a few things as best as I can. The below is my personal opinion and other members of the dev team may see things slightly differently or not fully agree on every point made, I don't know, but here it is for what is worth.

The first thing one needs to do when starting fresh in Oolite is forget the combat play style of the old 8-bit versions. Back in the old days, screen resolutions were much lower as you have correctly mentioned, frames per second were in the single digits for the fastest computers of the time, memory available for AI routines etc was much much lower and so on. This resulted in combat tactics that were fit for purpose for the available spec. An example of this is the "fat pixel" that represented any ship at large distances. Back then, the standard combat tactic I was using on the Spectrum was to shoot that fat pixel as much as I could before the ship it represented approached to a distance where the switch to proper vector graphics was made. Battles could finish in a few seconds like this before they even had a chance to properly start. And of course, it meant that I kept my ship moving steady forward while doing all this.

The above example will not work in Oolite. Nowadays we have high resolution graphics and better artificial intelligence. There is no fat pixel anymore and ships are drawn as textured meshes regardless of distance, often with shaders running on top of them. So, there is no easy targeting at the start of combat and the AI is using predictive routines to try to judge where it should fire the next shot. Someone engaging in a fight while carrying the mindset of 8-bit computers will see the game over screen very quickly indeed.

On top of this, there is one more detail that I need to bring to everyone's attention: Most of us (and, from what I understand reading your first post, you too) have memories of how Elite used to be when we had a fully equipped ship. I remember Elite being really easy once I had an iron-ass ready. I, just like you, was hunting Thargoids in witchspace for that extra bit of challenge and I still could eliminate hordes of them in one little single ship. That, looking back at it many years after, seems wrong, no? But the question here is, does anyone remember how it was when they were starting? Was it not hard back then? Did you not lose one battle after another? I remember I did, and I remember being frustrated. But the feeling of achievement when I won my first encounter against a pack of three using a pulse laser (even though I had to bring a half-destroyed ship to the station) was so intense that it made all worth it at the end. And the rewarding feeling of adding one more piece of equipment to the ship as I was progressing was enhanced by the fact that I knew that next time I was going to be in combat I would have slightly better odds. And because of this, I wanted to continue playing (you know, that "one more flight and I'm done" thing... ;-))

We are trying to capture this in Oolite. Yes, it is very difficult. It used to be even more difficult in the previous version. We had players coming here to complain about it but, guess what, the very same players who persisted and did not give up told us a few months down the line that the game was perfectly balanced after all and we really did not have to do any changes (but we did, because v1.80 was really, seriously difficult). To be able to capture this, some base design decisions had to be made and they have been with us almost since the beginning.

The philosophy here is two-fold: 1. The player ship is just another ship in the universe, no special treatment is reserved for it (the polar opposite of the 8-bit Elites) and 2. The player must be able to be challenged even at higher ranks, but still be able to sruvive at start up. The immediate implication of this is that there are no skill levels. The game will not give you easy opponents in the beginning and harder ones when you are rated Deadly. The universe will always be the same. Bad things may and will happen to the player regardless of rank. Battle against a small group of pirates when armed only with what our Advice For New Commanders document, distributed with the game, refers to as "penlight", should not be easy. Sometimes the Brave Sir Robin tactic may be a really good option and part of the strategy of this game is exactly this kind of decision making, knowing when it's ok to flee and when it is worth facing the opposition. Getting surrounded by a wolfpack of 8 should be barely survivable even for an iron-ass Cobra.

Having said that, I get the impression from your posts that you believe the enemies are unbeatable. They are not. You can win against them. NPCs do not have shields (one of the very few occasions where the player is given an advantage free of charge), only energy banks and those are exactly the same as yours. One of the things we did when we adjusted the balance for 1.82, was a survey amongst players. Part of the data collected was input from a few experienced players who started as brand fresh commanders at Lave when we asked for their help. And their input was that, with the balance changes in 1.82, it was definitely doable. Not easy, mind you, but doable. I expect that fresh players will obviously not find it doable immediately, but I believe that it is just a matter of persistence and developing some skill that was simply not applicable in the 8-bit versions, before they get to the level where they can make it. You already seem to be getting there; remember that ship that run away on injectors after having begged for mercy? You almost had him there and if he used injectors to flee, it was because he had already lost the battle. Without injectors, you would have finished it really soon. In any case, ships with injectors in the core game are mostly Asps, Kraits or Fer-de-Lances, so it was not exactly an easy-peasy fight you had there to begin with. So you are already progressing, but you seem to be quite unlucky too (bumping on tough opponents, having your Energy Unit being picked as the first equipment to be damaged in combat etc), but I am sure you are getting there. Some tips have already been given and there are other combat tactics that you can find out as you play the game too. For example, did you know that if you put your ship between the sun and your enemies, the sun glare will blind them and cause them to miss a lot? Also, fly unpredictably. The enemies are programmed to simulate human behaviour and they try to predict where you will go next based on your current heading and maneuvering. Surprise them. If you have one ship in your sights and another starts hitting you, do not be afraid to break lock on your current target and evade. Be on the move at all times. I'm sure you will find other tactics yourslf if you don't give up. And yes, get a military laser, it makes life so much easier. And quirium bombs, they are good for cleaning up a mess, provided you can run fast.

This post has already gone for too long now so I'll stop here. I hope that you can see Oolite as the new experience it is and that you will appreciate its potential soon. If in doubt, just ask. We're here to help.

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Disembodied »

Fritz wrote:Some of you did mention running and fleeing, so I'm not the only one thinking like this, but this isn't a very satisfying option. This is a game, not reality! It can't be the the point of a game involving fighter ships, lasers, shields and missiles to _avoid_ combat, especially when you are attacked on a regular basis even in a relatively safe system like Diso! Dropping cargo isn't an option either when you still are harmless and poor and just spent your whole fortune buying, let's say, 10 tons of computers.
Oolite is a lot tougher than the original game - this means that it continues to present players with a challenge long after they buy all the gear. I played Elite (on a Spectrum), and once I'd got my military lasers and full shields I was pretty much indestructible: every trip was a parade of destruction.

In Oolite, you're in it for the long haul. When you start, you are not equipped to successfully fight off anything but the most incompetent and poorly equipped lone pirate, if you're lucky. The answer is, don't try. Dodge. Run away. Drop cargo (and buy cheap cargo just to drop if you have to: don't give them the good stuff! 5 tonnes of Food looks like 5 tonnes of Computers when it's floating in space ... and when you drop it, try to send it on a course away from your route to the station: let the pirates chase it halfway to the sun before they find out what's inside).
Fritz wrote:By the way, is there any way to remove the injector feature completely? It wasn't on the original Elite, I don't want to cheat (it feels like cheating for me), and the enemies shouldn't do it either. It kind of destroys any realistic battle. I always found it a good idea that hyperspeed is blocked when other ships are in the vicinity, so you couldn't avoid fighting by simply running away, and this injector thing just ruins it.
I don't think so - not without fiddling with the code, anyway. But the injectors will grow on you, I think: they're part of the extended options (for fleeing, but there are other uses too) which players have to allow them to live successfully in a universe which is rather less player-friendly than Elite was: sometimes you need to run away! Plus, they're not guaranteed to get you out of anything: they make long jumps potentially much more hairy, because you've only got a little sneeze of fuel left in your tank for the injectors. So you have to think a lot more carefully about where you go to, and how you get there.

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Re: First experiences / difficulties

Post by Norby »

Fritz wrote:laser range seems to be limited to about 3/5 of the radar range.
The target sensitive reticle will not change to red until the target is out of range. Pulse laser: 12.5km (~1/2 scanner), Beam: 15km (the 3. horizontal line from center of the scanner), Military: 30km.

About damage capability, a Beam can deplete almost a full energy bank in a second and overheats after 7 seconds, so most small ships (including Krait) can not survive a full salvo. Even large ships should show flickering exthaust plumes after this which mean high damage.

A Military Laser clear two banks in each seconds and overheats after 5 seconds, enough against all common ships.

There is no decrease in power with distance. I requested it but left out from the current version.
There are many laser and missile addons but probably you will stay with the standard ones for a while.

You can remove Injectors from the game if you delete the corresponding lines from oolite.app/Resources/Config/equipment.plist. Just save the original file for sure and a possible usage later.

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