## Increasing Replayability ##
One of the major projects for after version 1.6 (Fall) is to implement features that will further increase replayability.
The sandbox game is something we think is very strong. But Ashes isn't a 4X game which are the kings of strategy replayability. And while we love multiplayer, only a small percentage of people play Ashes multiplayer. We are adding more features for MP (such as replays) to help on that end. But we want people to want to play Ashes daily for years to come.
We'd like to hear your thoughts on that.
Apart from lack of observer mode, ping, replays and things like a proper tutorial for Substrate (I still see people not building Capacitors at all) I think one of the things which has hurt the take up of Ashes in MP, and perhaps in general, was the adoption of Company of Heroes connecting node/resource system. It works well in CoH but there is one big difference between the two which changes everything: scale. A company of heroes map really has very few sectors and because of the nature of that game each sector can be quite interesting on its own, with fences, ditches, tree lines, huts, bunkers, roads etc. all being quite different. In Ashes the maps are bigger (and plainer) and because you have made the sectors quite small you have to go through a lot of sectors before you can meet each other. On the medium sized and up maps it is even hard to scout the enemy early-ish with planes as the AA defender units cut scouts apart in seconds. So the end result of this is that the beginning part of this game can get samey after a while. To help alleviate this then in the short term you could make maps with far fewer sectors (so each sector will be far larger) so it feels less like connecting the dots. You could also get rid of the AA defenders, or buff the scout units some (the PHC unit dies too easily to be useful mid game). Longer term you could allow the option of free expansion so you can expand to anywhere and you don't need to be linked. This can co-exist with the current system.
Allow people to turn off Orbitals, either a blanket option, or better still on an individual power basis. Going further you could allow that ability to turn off or limit the numbers of any unit in the game. Don't want T3? Turn them off. Only want to allow 2 of each type of Dread at any one time to make them more valuable, you can do that. Want to leave eco orbital boosts in but turn off destructive powers? Done. Orbitals aside this was doable at the unit and building level in TA and was great. We used to allow only one Big Bertha (or sometimes none) as they were kinda fun but also annoying, same with limiting nukes too.
Further again would be to allow tweaking of quantum rate and even a % increase on ground units etc. so at a click of a button you could make all ground units 20% tougher so the fights lasted longer. Or choose the opposite.
The coolness/character factor: (pros probably won't care about this so much but a lot of people do)
Ashes looks good, I've now seen it at 4k too and it looks soo good on that. There are cool moments and scenes in Ashes, like when you have big battles raging on and then air sweeps in and there is a dog fight above the ground fight, and the music swells, so good. Something TA was very good at too (and Blizzard are great with character, a big part of their success). But, and I know this is subjective, I think there could be more cool visual things. I really hope you get the shields on the upcoming Substrate unit right. The unit looks good for the job but the shields have got to ripple and/or change colour where they are getting hit hardest etc, could be a visual treat if done right and a bit of a crowd pleaser too I think. That exterminator cannon in the twitch stream was cool too, a beefy projectile trail and proper eruption on impact. Big tanks and artillary pieces could rock back when firing etc., dust kicked up in the wake of units on desert plabets, that kind of thing. (eventually non-evaporating units too). I think you are making a big tank unit for PHC (the one in the stream?), can I suggest making it look more like...a big tank. People like units they can relate to more, hence the popularity of the Fat Boy unit in Supcom, which is like a huge tank with artillary guns. (true of other experimentals too, people say the want original things but really they want big tanks and robots )
Some more replayabilty would come from just more content too. Ashes can't quite achieve the epicness factor SupCom achieved in videos where you see the army meeting on Seton's land bridge, with the Navy firing on, and then the planes come in and then the navy climbs out the water and are met by Experimentals. Very cool. I think Navy will add a lot of replayability and diversity/options in Ashes and give it that feeling of the grand theatre of war.
You once said you were thinking about adding a tier 2.5 between tier 2 and tier 3 (and make tier 3 stronger in response) and I think that would be a good thing too. People like a feeling of progression. Dreads can come pretty early in a game and I think that diminishes them somewhat.
But make progression easier to manage. At the moment a substrate player can boost an amplifier 3 times. So if they are on a medium to large map and have, say 8 nodes, to boost them they have to do 24 separate actions to bring them all up to maximum efficiency. That is a lot! And there are plenty of maps when you can have more than 8 active modes. That would be more time consuming than in TA where you had to destroy the t1 metal extractor before you could put the Tier 2 one down. The single shot PHC upgrade is much nicer to deal with.
Currently the end game in the big AI games (And I think most people playing just AI are doing at least 4 player games and not so much 1v1), because of AI hammering down orbitals you end up with large armies of just Dreadnoughts as everything else just gets fried. Which for me at least is less interesting. I think you could alleviate this a bit, apart from add the orbital jammer, by decoupling the huge quanta boosts the top AI get from their eco boosts, or make it a configurable option as mentioned above.
(In human vs human this is less of a problem as they don't get the quanta boosts etc. and as there are so many different demands on the quanta then the big orbitals can't be used as often.)
I think there needs to be some true end game units, like T4 and also something like a conventional nuke. Yes I know we have orbitals but sometimes they can feel like...magic or something. There is something satisfying about launching a proper nuke and I think some of the negative reviews on Steam echo that.
I think you have said you don't see the need for conventional nukes so so here is an alternative: Make a missile (missile launcher, not orbital), that can cause earthquakes. This would not damage units but would destroy buildings. This would be great against crazy turtlers, and with so many defensive structures coming in the expansion you know that is going to happen . The more I think about it the more I like this earthquake idea, as it only destroys buildings but not units it is kinda of unique, certainly earning its place in someone's arsenal, and is not so OP as it would not leave someone defenceless like when they get nuked and everything gets destroyed. You could make it a risky weapon to own too, so if someone destroyed the launcher it would set off an earthquake where it was located. So if it was in the middle of your base then bye bye base. So people would either risk it in their base where they can probably protect it better, or they could make a satellite base for it which save their main base but makes it more vulnerable to being destroyed. Makes things interesting I think.
You could even make a game type based off this sort of thing. Put the launcher of some kind of super weapon in the middle of the map and people fight to control it. Perhaps you have to collect parts of a super weapon around the map before you can fire it.
AI + diplomacy
The AI is good...but I think it can be improved. Actually to me it feels like it has got worse since release. If you have got to a decent level then to have a good challenge you have to put it on Painful AI and I don't remember it being like that before. Also Painful AI (and probably the others too) still have the habbit of sitting too many Dreads in their base instead of pushing the attack. The AI doesn't really know how to deal with real late game really, where a human player can have a great deal of dreads or a swarm of bombers to snipe their base.
You have said the expansion will bring the ability to share resources and even sectors between allies and I think that is great. Further improvements to this system is to allow the creation and ending of alliances mid-game. Option of map vision share or not too. Not an issue at the moment but if alliance can be ended you may not want to have map share for obvious reasons.
Steam workshop + mods
This is a big one and I know its coming but the ability to share maps, scenarios and mods will be great. Especially when we can share maps in an actual game lobby if someone doesn't have it.
From what I have heard the ability to add new units to the game by modders is currently either very hard or impossible so that barrier really needs to go asap. Modding has been a big part of what has kept alive Sins, or the original homeworld game as well as many others, I mean, even TA is still going with mods (and though it was badly recieved anyway, not being able to mod or make new maps killed Supcom 2 and possibly the MP experience of the new Homeworld game as well). So vital.
Anyway, those are some thoughts on the future of Ashes. Nothing too controversial I think. Please put more money and people on the game