This thread is an Epic Wall of Text. Consider yourself warned.
I read a lot of posts on the forum about people requesting features to the game, things like better friends lists or improved match making, however no one ever really seems to go indepth about how they'd like to see these features work. I noticed Frogboy will often ask people the hows rather than the whats and so I wanted to share my thoughts on how I think some of the additional features should be implemented. Feel free to add your own suggestions and comments, as I'm sure the Developers would like to read about how their players want things to behave being as we're the ones who are going to use them.
In my humble opinion, replays are a massive item needed for any competitve game. They allow for the disection of strategies and help people improve their overall skill level by understanding where they went wrong or what they did right in certain circumstances as well as learning how that level 5 Oak smashed you down with 500 damage auto-attacks.
Replays should be easy to access and use, to help facilitate their purpose. An additional Main Menu button to view saved replays should be added, rather than the obscure little buttons off to one side we see in other games. At the conclusion of a game, I'd like to see an option to save the replay rather than it automatically keeping, say, the last 5 games like Halo 3 operates. Some games, where I didn't see or learn anything that I'd like to go back to, just aren't needed to be viewed again. Being able to name the replay files as well, instead of just having them time stamped or some such, would greatly increase the ease in which we can find the one we're looking for.
Viewing the replay should be as simple as clicking "View Replay", selecting the one we want and waiting for it to load. We should have the options of pausing, rewinding and fast forwarding replays with a handy, moveable tool bar present while viewing replays. Also having the option to turn off the in-game HUD and to hide the Replay Toolbar would help movie makers out immensly. Now, something I'd really like to be able to see is viewing a replay as a Group. I'll mention further down the 'Group' idea, and I'd like to be able to view a replay with the people in my Group. Discussing previous games and strategies is a vitale part of competitive teams' organistation and having this option would help those teams prepare for future games better. In terms of how this Group function should operate, when clicking "View Replay" it should auto-matically detect if you're in a Group and ask if you want to a launch a Group viewing, where everyone is then pulled into a lobby from where the replay can be selected much like one would select a Map in the Custom Game's option and the Group Session launched. I'm not sure how the Group Replay should be handled in terms of the file itself - can it be streamed or does it need to be shared first? If it's needed to be shared, which I imagine it would, I'd like to see support for this in the Group Lobby complete with the option of who I'm going to send it to. This would enable a system of Me sharing to friend 1, and then Me sharing to friend 2 while friend 1 shares to friend 3, decreasing the time required to share the replay amongst the group. While viewing a Group Replay, there should be the option to have a 'Draw' overlay where people can add notations to the replay while it's playing with a freeform marker - think MS Paint with a Demigod Replay as the background. This can help illustrate a point or explain a strategy or counter-strategy when viewing the replay as a group and would become invaluable. Also while viewing these replays as a Group, it would be ideal to have access to VOIP.
Now, while viewing the replays I'd like to have a few additional options. Being able to view the Citadel Upgrades and Item Layouts of each team as well as, of course, their Skill Trees is a given. I think we should be able to 'Track' any Entity in the replay - be it a creep, or a Demigod - with the press of a button, as well as having the option for some kind of Window that breaks down the maths of which ever entity is being tracked. Think of how an MMORPG has their Combat Log where things are detailed out - including armour mitigation - for ease of use. This would remove a lot of guess work from the process of breaking down strategies entirely. Now, I understand that this feature would be fairly complex and if it's not added, I won't lose sleep. Nightmarish additions like this have never stopped a modding community, so if it's not offical I doubt it would be long before we see it in some form.
2. Friends Overlay.
The current Friends system was implemented in a "better than nothing at all" rush before the launch of Demigod. This is common knowledge, and I was pleased to hear that the overhauled Impulse Friends system was getting bumped up the list because the moment you load up the current overlay, it becomes blindingly apparent it was rushed. I understand that the overhaul is well underway and most of what I'm going to detail is probably already coded in, but I'd still like to share my thoughts.
The first thing I'd like to see isn't actually a 'Friends' overlay addition, however it plays into the social nature of the game. At the completion of a game, can all players please be returned to the Lobby. This allows for those same people to play again if they'd like, to discuss the game in detail and to add friends to their list.
Now, after looking at Stardocks previous work in Computer Applications, I have to say my expectations for the 'Friends' overlay is very high. The 'Friends' overlay itself should be very customisable, right down to it's colour. Being able to re-size it, position it, anchour it, set transparency - all of the little polish items will make the world of difference to the player base. I'd like a very extensive list of behavioural options as well, because the thing that pisses me off about Steam is that when it's opened initally I'm bombarded with pop up windows. I'd much rather a text based list of New Items, and be able to pick my way through. Having '[Player] would like to add you to their Friends list' pop up at me randomly is not something I like, however there are those who do - providing for both is something that Steam fails to deliver, and I hope Impulse does. To get specific, I'd like extensive control over message notifications - being able to set up how I'm notified I've received a chat message is very important. I, personally, like the Outlook-email-notification style - albeit I'd like to speed up it's pop up and fade out behaviour - while other people might like a bright flashing pop-up window. This needs to be nailed down with a multitude of options to provide everyone with not only a functional, by enjoyable, 'Friends' overlay. Getting a message from a friend is supposed to be a good thing, not something I scream and rage about over a microphone in the middle of a game.
We also need a multitude of 'Right Click' option. This allows access to all of our options quickly and easily. For example, right clicking on a player in the Demigod Lobby - either pre or post game - should bring up a small right-click menu with "Add to Friends List" as an option instead of having to type a players name perfectly into the "Add Friends" box. To go along with this, inside of the 'Friends' overlay we should have a tab containing a list of the last, say, 50 people that we've played which would help people add friends to their list. Now, when opening your 'Friends' overlay, I think we need to have a seperate tab for 'Pending Invites' so that we know who've we've requested be added to our friends list with the option to either re-send the request or cancel it. This list should also contain a segemented list of people who've requested that we be added to their Friends list. These options streamline the process of adding friends to our lists and make it easier to keep in constant contact with the people we like playing with. On the opposite end of the spectrum, can we please also have a right click option to "Ignore Player". Personally I won't use this, however it's something that people have asked for and I hope it's on the cards. I'd highly recommend adding a confirm dialogue box to this option, incase someone accidently clicks it.
Something that isn't specific to the Impusle 'Friends' overlay is the Demigod Pantheon. To get more specific, I'd like to be able to view the net based Stats contained under the 'Pantheon' link of this site inside of Demigod. When right clicking on someone in the Demigod lobby, I'd like to have the option to 'View Stats' and - instead of a small pop-up opening with '5 wins, 2 losses, 189 disconnects' - I'd like to be taken to their Pantheon stats as if I was looking at the web page itself. The site contains a lot of useful information, and this would allow all that data to be used quite readily. To move this option back to the non-Demigod specific 'Friends' overlay, when right clicking on a friend in my friends list - not the Demigod Lobby - instead of "View Demigod Stats" can we just have a "View Stats" or "View Achievements" or some such option which then lists all the Impulse games they have stats registered for so that I can pick which game I'm looking for. Keeping up with my friends is something I enjoy doing - particuarly if they have that bloody hard to get achievement!
Now, I mentioned this in my 'Replays' section and it really is important. Groups, or Premades, are the backbone of any competitive game, and this really needs to be easy to use and powerful at the same time. The importance of this cannot be understated. Look at the way in which 'Parties' operate on Xbox Live, and you'll have an understand of the type of behaviour I think would be benefical. For example, in the Right Click menu we should have the option to "Invite to Group". The person who invites the other is the Group Leader. Once in a group, we should have access to our own chat and VOIP channels, I don't care if someone in the group has to host this - if we do, can we please have the option to designate the host as the Group Leader may not be the person with the best connection. Frankly, this needs to happen. We should have a seperate pop-up window for the chat channel where the group can talk. The Group Leader should be the one with the ability to launch the game - be it through a match making service, or through Custom Game or whatever - to help minimise the arguments within the group and the Group Leader should also have the ability to add and remove people from the Group exclusively. Group Leaders should have options to label the group - such as the player skill, or country - instead of the match making system attempting to figure it out based on the average player skill. While this might lead to abuse of the system, it provides more flexibility than an automatic system. An interesting problem might be if a group contains 4 or 5 people - who's included in the match making process if Pantheon is limited to 3v3 players? A possible solution to stamp out this problem before it even arises to have the Group Leader select which game the Group forming for - such as Demigod Pentheon, Demigod Skirmish or even 'Social' to dictate a group that is just together for the hell of it - and limit the size of the group accordingly. This is fairly non-flexible method to deal with the issue, however it does deal with it. Another solution would be to enable 'Groups within Groups'. So, for example, my Group might join a chat channel with another Group. We can chat together while we look for a game, however the match making options of my group are seperate to any other groups while still enabling me to communicate with more than 2 other people.
Another feature we need is, of course, Clan Support. The best handling I've seen of this system is the Guilds User Interface in World of Warcraft - not a modded one, but the stock interface that everyone has access to. If Stardock and just did that in Impulses' 'Friends' overlay, I'd be more than happy. It provides exactly the kind of flexibility we need. What I'd hate to see is a second friends list.
Lastly, is how the overlay is brought up. I'd like to be able to set the shortcut key(s) myself. Shift+Tab is sufficent, however I'd much rather just hit Left Ctrl - because I never use that key - instead. Personal choice - however allowing people to change it is just another feature that would make the friends system easy rather than just sufficent.
There are a lot of additional features I'd love to see, however this is basically what I'd like to be available at re-launch of the 'Friends' overlay. I can only really stress that the whole system needs to be both light weight and flexible - however, from what I've seen of Stardock's other applications I have faith that they'll deliver what we need.
3. Server Browsing.
Outside game Server browsing is something that Steam nailed, and I was a little annoyed when I discovered that Impulse didn't considering what Gas Powered Games was attempting - basically, the Counter-Strike of the RTS genre - with Demigod. Being able to view all open Custom Games and see how many people are currently match making through either Skirmish or Pantheon before loading Demigod would be fantastic. Being able to double click on a Custom Game, Pantheon or Skirmish from a list outside of Demigod and then have Demigod launch and automatically go into whatever option you've selected would also be amazing and simply makes the entire process more userfriendly to the end user. Hell, if we could join the que for Pantheon and Skirmish and wait until we've been matched before launching Demigod, I'd build Stardock a temple.
Once Group games have been added in, Pantheon and Skirmish need to be divided up between single and team games. This should be an automatic process; when clicking Pantheon or Skirmish, the game should automatically detect if you're in a group - however, it should give you the option of launching a 'Group Session' or a 'Single Session' because there are some people who might be apart of a group who simply don't want to play a game with them right now. Custom Games need to have the list devided up with tabs at the top of the screen for single and team games.
Another issue would be Ping; I realised that the reason 'Ping' wasn't included on the Custom Game browser as a column was because each game is an actual person rather than a server - if 50,000 people are looking at custom games, a single person is going to get hit with 'ping' requests from 50,000 different machines. This was quite rightly excluded. An alternate solution is to have a ping que per game listing - if I select a game, such as "Australian 3v3", it pings the host then - not on refresh of the whole list - to give a rough indication of the ping for the match. My ping request would be added to a que that sends one request every second or so to ensure that the Host doesn't become flooded and crashes out. Instead of adding another column for 'Ping' times, simply colour the text once I've clicked on the game listed. Green for 150 and below, Yellow for 350 to 150, and any thing over 350 should be red. I believe this rather basic solution enables us to know if a game is going to be playable before joining and will help speed up the process of finding a game for a single person, and for a team.
I believe I read that Game Scheduling was going to be be implemented in the 'Clan Wars' patch, which I thought was a fantastic idea! In competitve games, getting matches organised usually falls to third party mods and websites - having built in direct support for this feature would be fantastic and enable a level of interaction with the game that mods simply can't match. I don't feel I need to go into too much detail - MMO style 'Guild Calander' mods are basically what I'm thinking would be great starting point - however, please ensure that we have search options rather than just a listing and that the schedule is viewable outside of Demigod.
4. Mod Managing.
When I read about Stardock's plans for Demigod Mod managing I was literally speechless; offical support and hosting for mods? Built in Mod Manager complete with online listing for said mods? A dream come true! Mods are the key to a long lasting game - you might even find out ways that Demigod itself can be improved, not to mention that if and when offical support has to stop, fans can keep a community going for a long, long time. One only needs to look at the Fan Patches released for Vampire: The Masqurade Bloodlines to realise how much dedication people can have for a single game if they enjoy it.
What I'd like to see with the Mod Management is a cross between two pre-existing systems. Halo 3's system for media content sharing, where you can que up downloads on a computer and have them automatically download when you turn on your Xbox 360, is a great example of a user-friendly system. I'm writing this ever-increasingly-long post at work - and if I could browse mods at work, I'd be doing that too - and if I could que them up for automatic downloading when I got home I'd be doing that, as well. The second system is the Mod Managers created by third parties. These lovely programs let you know in advance where conflicts arise as well as providing an easy to use interfact for enabling and disabling mods. I'd like to have an entirely new sub-tab within Impulse under the Games Tab, where mods installed are broken down into a list - sorted by game - providing a comprehensive list of everything you have installed for your Impulse Games. Having a simple 'Activated' tick box would make the process incredibly easy, as well as the 'Rating System' we see in the Games tab. Having a mod's offical 'Rating' being an average across all users who have rated a Mod would also ensure a dynamic and automatic system for weeding out the good mods from the bad.
In terms of installing a Mod, it really does need to be user friendly. Look at the modding community for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - hell, just visit their forums - and you'll see a large number of people have difficulty just getting mods to work. Including a small installer file for any mod created with the offical Mod Development Tools would solve this issue. Just double click the file, and Impulse does the rest - it knows what game the mod is for, it knows where your game is installed so I don't think this is terribly difficult to accomplish. Uninstalling a mod should be as simple as right clicking the mod and clicking uninstall. Now, if you really wanted to impress me - add the option of sharing a mod with any of our friends. Right click on any mod installed on your list, select share - pick which friend(s) you want to share it with and off it goes. They'd have to accept it, of course, however I feel this would enable the rapid spread of popular mods and, as a side benefit, would take a bit of the strain off of the Impulse servers as mods would be shared from user to user rather than downloaded from the server every time.
The last thing that I feel needs to be closely looked after is mods in Custom Games. A completely seperate set of Tabs - 'Modded Group Session' and 'Modded Single Session' - is needed as some people simply don't like to play with mods, and as the game is synced we need to be able to ensure compatibility. As I mentioned in the Game Browsing section, when clicking on a game, the mods used should also be checked - if there is a compatability issue, this is where it needs to be checked. The problem with offical Mod support like the plans I've read about is that this issue is no longer on the end user to ensure that their mods are up to date - Stardock has to ensure that compatability between users is expressed in some way that is easy to see and understand for everyone. Ensuring Mod updates are indicated like Game updates in Impulse is probably the best way to ensure this. If I click to join a game I'm not compatable with, I should have a dialogue box offering to make me compatable, either by downloading new mods or by disabling/enabling mods that I already have.
I'd like to finish off this post by saying I'm impressed with whats been happening so far with Demigod, and this thread isn't mean to be a "Do this or Demigod dies" post. These are merely my thoughts about how I feel things should be implemented. I hope the guys and gals at Stardock and Gas Powered Games keep up the good work, and if you've read this much text you deserve a cookie.