I've consistently heard feedback that Transcendence is not well-suited to new players. Data supports this: lots of players try out the game but don't progress beyond a certain point. Conversely, players who persevere and reach (e.g., St. Kats) end up liking the game a lot.

I'd like to request feedback and ideas in this area. What do you think is difficult for new players? How can we improve this? If you've got something, please comment below.

Problem Taxonomy

I think we can organize the problems into three broad categories:

Don't know how to play: This category is about learning the game mechanics. How do I aim? How do I upgrade? What should I upgrade to? How come no one told me about Sustain? In general, these are the kinds of problems that can be solved either by a tutorial or by in-game hints.

Too hard to play: This category is for problems dealing with difficulty. The player knows what they need to do (hit the target) but can't do it (and gets frustrated). I also include quality-of-life problems that force the player to do tedious tasks.

Don't see a reason to play: This category focuses on goals (or lack thereof) for players. What should I do next? Where should I go? How do I advance in the game? Though this category sounds similar to the first (Don't know how to play), it is less about tutorials and more about new missions, progression ladders, and goals.

Are these reasonable categories? If they work for you, please try to attach your proposed solutions to one or more of these categories (i.e., what problem category are you trying to solve)? If you have other ways to think about the problems, please post those too.

Suggested Solutions

Below I list various solutions that I've either thought about or heard from others:

Upgrade Hints

PROBLEM (Don't know how to play): New players don't necessarily know which items to upgrade too. This problem is compounded by the fact that the player can find lower-level items that are clear downgrades (but how would the player know that)?

PROPOSAL: Add hints at upgrade time to help the player judge whether a weapon is better. Some examples:

  • When trying to replace an omni weapon with a non-omni one, we should explain what's about to happen.
  • When installing a second primary weapon, we should tell the player that they will need to switch between primary weapons; they can't fire both at the same time.
  • In general, we should provide the same hints whenever the player acquires an item, e.g., in Commodities Exchange and when looting. For example, when looting a damaged weapon, we should have a warning about being (generally) unable to sell it. Similarly, Buy and Install should lead to the Dock Services UI so that the player can compare what they're about to buy with what they've got already.

Alternate Save Checkpoints

PROBLEM (Too hard to play): When players die, they lose all their progress, which can be frustrating. Moreover, it is not clear how much progress will be lost (when was the last checkpoint) nor how to save progress.

PROPOSAL: Add options for how to deal with player death. We can support three options:

  • No Death: When the player dies, they are automatically resurrected (as if they had insurance). Their armor/fuel/shields/etc. are restored and they do not lose any progress. We track deaths in stats (and lower score as appropriate).
  • Checkpoints: We save the game whenever the player undocks from a station, accepts a mission, or enters a stargate. If they player dies, they can resurrect at the most recent checkpoint. Player may also save the game to create a new checkpoint.
  • Permadeath: Cannot resurrect after dying (except via insurance, etc.).

NOTE: We can use the UI for choosing debug mode to select this option. For debug mode we add an additional option that behaves as Checkpoints.

Achievements

PROBLEM (Don't see a reason to play): Players don't have a sense of progress right now. How much of the game have I played? How much content is there? What kinds of things can I do?

PROPOSAL: Achievements could help by explicitly tracking how much of the game the player has completed. For example, we can have achievements for reaching various star systems (St. Kats, Sol, Point Juno, etc.). We can also have achievements for reaching the end of various mission arcs.

We should track achievements both per-player and per-game. Per-player achievements are stored on the Multiverse (or on Steam).

We can use the F2 UI to show achievements as well as stats (perhaps on two separate tabs). We should a list of all possible achievements. Each achievement is in one of three states: locked, unlocked in this game, unlocked in a previous game. At the bottom we might show something like, "Unlocked 97 of 102 achievements (35 in this game)", or something.

megas 8 Nov 2019:

Two things that came to mind.

Identification Items

PROBLEM (Too hard to play): Due to being placed into a hold like every other item, they can be lost or left behind if player jettisons all items then recovers some items during inventory management. Losing them (and usually not able to find a replacement) can lead to item loss or locked access to stations.

PROPOSAL: Change from items to character data, similar to Nethack's intrinsics, that can be accessed at Game Statistics screen and/or one of the ship status screens. Perhaps they can be an accomplishment. No more accidentally tossing identification chips in the trash during inventory (mis)management.

Customs and Item Confiscation

PROBLEM (Too hard to play): Player may not notice his identification is gone, or have not acquired any yet, then lose possibly very valuable items for no reason aside from not paying enough attention before being punished in a "Gotcha!" moment. George has lost items several times this way during his Twitch sessions.

PROPOSAL: Treat the ship as if it is radioactive and block docking. Player can presumably jettison the offending items himself if it is safe after undocking, then dock again. Also, when viewing cargo hold, alert the player if he has contraband in the cargo hold. Sometimes, they can be hidden between all of the other junk in the cargo hold. This is a case where gameplay or quality-of-life trump (simulated) realism.

giantcabbage 9 Nov 2019:

Upgrade Hints

If you add many more hints then there should also be a setting to disable hints

Alternate Save Checkpoints

Some players also expect a more traditional save / load interface (see forums and Steam). Consider:

  • changing the [ESC] game menu to a more typical interface e.g. paused game with large centred GUI
  • adding a load (restore from checkpoint) option. This could either count as a player death (as it is equivalent to current self-destruct + resurrect), or track restore-from-checkpoint stats separately (could even add a save-scum achievement)
  • allowing multiple (1-4?) save slots per game e.g. new players may wish to save a game before buying a new weapon or ship for the first time

Game Settings

PROBLEM (Don't know how to play): New players wont know to edit Settings.xml (or even realise it exists if they use the steam version)

PROPOSAL: Add an in game GUI for editing relevant settings.

More Missions

PROBLEM (Don't see a reason to play): Eridani and Rigel Aurelius provide guaranteed missions, but systems in between may have very few or no missions if the player does not encounter a Korolov or Corporate Metropolis

PROPOSAL: More friendly stations should offer a range of missions. Commonwealth slums, colony, mining etc. should probably have 4+ possible missions similar EP UAS/NAU

derakon 10 Nov 2019:

From what I remember when I was learning to play:

* Weapon upgrades are a huge problem. There's lots of weapons, you can't compare them without buying one (and if you then don't like it you can't get your money back), and most critically IMO the game does not do a good job of messaging how WMD works and why it's important. My first game had me using a particle lancer against Ventari ships, because a) numerically it didn't look much less powerful than other weapons, and b) it had incredible fire rate and range, allowing me to kite enemies.

A "weapon simulator" feature would be great for this issue, though it'd also be a lot of work. Drop the player into a "VR" ship with the weapon equipped (and ammo if necessary), and give them some targets to shoot at, ideally ones they can relate to the ships they're actually fighting. Then they can get a realistic idea of how the weapon performs.

Failing that, allowing players to get a 100% refund if they return the item to the station they bought it from within some time limit would also probably work out OK. Of course we'd need to tell them the refund policy.

* Another important issue is messaging who will buy what. In particular, it's a harsh lesson that damaged items are plentiful and *seem* like a good source of cash, but almost nobody will buy them. I expect the majority of players fill their hold with useless junk and then wander around frustrated because they can't find anyone to sell it to.

(Tangentially related, can we nix the 90% discount for faction equipment? Intact equipment drops so rarely that I don't imagine it'd affect the economy much, but it's annoying to get a rare drop that's not useful to you *and* that doesn't sell for anything. This isn't really an issue for newbies though because almost everyone in the New Beyond uses corporate-manufactured equipment)

* Oh yeah, hold limits. Ships can't carry much, and inventory constraints are a big problem especially for newbies who don't know what to hold onto. You can mitigate this by installing a cargo hold expansion, but you need to know that those are available. That should be readily doable by just making the basic expansions (standard and miner's) available more frequently.

relanat 12 Nov 2019:

Firstly, I will point out that the game is much, much better at explaining things than it was. The Teratons, Domina and Benedict are examples that all give valuable info now. The screen descriptions "These %items% are filled with resonant energies. Domina will be very pleased." and "These %items% are useful to us in serving Domina." are a great improvement and very helpful. Same with the energy and material points at the fabricator. The trading computer is great. As is the ship comparison screen when changing ships.

Ideas:

Number one is clearing out an entire system and then dying when on the way to the stargate to gate to the next system. It means it all has to be done again. Aargh!!! No idea which save options would be best (the jargon is beyond me) but this is heart-breaking.
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Also bring back the game end resurrect somehow. It was great being able to practice and learn more once you had won. It is a time-consuming journey from Eridani if you want to learn more about the Teratons after winning. It may be frowned upon in game circles but I loved it as a player.
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Weapon upgrades: the stations could have a "gun broker" or "weapons consultant" tutorial or station or added dockscreen action. This would be a dockmaster or character who could explain damage, hp, resistances, omni, tracking, etc. Could use existing weapons in the station as examples. "So you want to upgrade? This beauty, 'the Desnogrifying cannon', is death on Arcturian ships but no good against Blobovians because 'insert explanation here'."
An added action sounds good. Once the player has run through the explanation it could be either removed or ignored.
Same with armor and shields. Resistances, immunities, etc could be explained.
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Also I am an omni fan. I only every use omni primary weapons because it is too hard to hit some ships, especially small ones. Launchers and howitzers can be fixed-fire because they are used for station bombardment from a stationary position.
An early-game example is the Earthzones with a shield. They are very difficult to hit with fixed weapons and take a while to drop shields and take armor damage because of this. All the while they are hitting the player nearly every time. Mouse-aiming helps but new players may be frustrated by this.
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Sense of progress: I agree. ATM the linear nature of Part 1 forces the player in the right direction. But some idea of what the player should do to achieve the "mission" of getting to the Core would be helpful. Perhaps the abbess in Eridani could guide the pilgrim: "Seek further direction at the 'next system with a Sisters station' Sisters of Domina." Once there the next direction could be "Your next step to fulfilling Domina's destiny for you is to travel to the Sanctuary system and seek enlightenment at the Cathedral". Once at the Cathedral that abbess could direct the player to Heretic (and id the Heretic system). A basic progression for the new player.
EP needs this too IMO. Maybe the shard could advise on the next step for the player.

Also the different ranks could be linked by information.
Once Korolov rank reaches a certain level the player could be advised at the Korolov station to either keep going with Korolov or try the Militia in St Kats or the fortresses. Similarly once the player gains Militia Major rank they could be advised to either keep going with the Militia or head off to the Outer Realm. "You've got the 'right stuff', pilgrim, the Fleet could use your talents against much tougher enemies. Try the CSC (name) in (system name)." Something to point the player in the right direction.
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There has been the idea of a three tier game around for a while. Easy, normal and hard (gc's or 0xABCDEF's idea maybe). A two-tier game might work. A beginners version which had a lot of hints and explanations and a standard version which doesn't have these.
Or a completely new tutorial adventure which explains the mechanics in detail. A lot of games do this and they are really helpful. (Actually this is a really good mod idea!)
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gc's idea from above is a great one.

allowing multiple (1-4?) save slots per game e.g. new players may wish to save a game before buying a new weapon or ship for the first time

This would make it much easier to learn about the game mechanics. If you saved the game and then bought a new weapon and found out it didn't work against stations because it lacked WMD you could revert back and either not buy that weapon or try another one. Great for learning.
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And there could maybe be a last-ditch panic button. "I'm confused, what do I do now?". This could give the player a task which gets them moving in the right direction.
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As the main problem is getting new players to St Kats perhaps the game could be more directly explained in the first systems.
Benedict is great but if the next Korolov station is in Charon that is a long way away for new players. Maybe give a mission to a station in the next system as a tutorial. Something like "Go to C1 and help the occupied colony there." Once that is done have that colony give a mission to a station in C3, possibly "Sell the damaged weapon in your hold to the arms dealer". Continue like that to Rigel and maybe to St Kats. That helps to give the new player an immediate direction or goal

assumedpseudonym 18 Nov 2019:

 I’d forgotten about this ticket when I posted my own Suggestion: Gameside GUI for Settings.xml ticket. That would fit in well over here.

cinnabar 27 days ago:

From what I remember when I first started to play, two major things that I needed the wiki to figure out:

WMD: This really needs to be explained. Some ships just seem not to die no matter how many times you hit them with laser fire or similar. I'd realised that missiles were good for destroying stations but probably assumed it was to do with causing a lot of damage rather than the nature of it. Further confusions was caused by the tendency of weak fast-firing weapons (e.g. mining laser) to damage stations when better weapons did not. Anyway, this is a concept that Benedict could usefully explain (or Katami, since his 'training' is more apparent than real).

Inherent armour properties: It is not obvious that properties such as radiation resistance are inherent in higher level armours when they are flagged explicitly on early game armours (e.g. blast plate, hardened plasteel). I don't think this needs to be completely spelt out (or have a huge list of properties on high level armours) but a tip popping up when the player first installs level 5 or above, for instance, could be helpful.

cinnabar 27 days ago:

Comments on others' comments:

- I'm not sure I agree with the suggestions of providing weapon test modes. A lot of stats on weapon effects are provided in their descriptions and it's fun to take a risk on a new weapon, fly around and try it out. Just letting people play with them without cost makes discovering and using a new weapon less engaging. Hints can also be gained by watching the intro screen. However the damage types/armour types really could use some explanation.

- Hold limits. Actually I find this the most tedious part of Transcendence. Personally I find a cargo bay extension an absolute must, which means that one slot is unavailable for fun stuff right from the outset. Perhaps making the Trader's hold larger and not take up a device slot would help here. The others can be left as they are: smuggling and mining are both very lucrative so it's fair enough to force a trade-off and it also makes sense in lore terms (secret compartments take up existing space rather than add to it; mining grapnels are large and complicated). As things stand, for most ships the trader's hold is an inferior version of the others since the ROM is found easily enough.

- Missions. The absence of missions never really bothered me as I came to the game as a roguelike. Clear the level, move on to the next. Of course, this may lack broad appeal so some kind of central narrative would help draw new players in. Ideally there should be genuine narrative choice in these, with varying rewards/consequences from the player's choice. Putting aside the small side missions where the only choice is to take the job or not, too many are of the form "Do you want to do the obviously correct option, or pointlessly be a douchebag?" E.g., there is no gain for abandoning Katami, you just get to feel bad and fight the Slicer anyway with less help (as opposed to not fighting the Slicer and receving a sad Katami and some black market hush money in return). In contrast, the Antartica mission offers a genuine choice, which offers alternative rewards and allows the player to choose what kind of character they want to be. While the Benedict arc missions were fun the first couple of times through, the lack of choice makes them a chore after a few games. If, for instance, you could choose to abandon Benedict and side with the Sisters/Penitents (revealing different lore and different rewards such as looting Stormhound), this would offer variety but also a feeling of consequence. Games should present a series of interesting, meaningful choices.