The Great Vanishing Act
Recently, the team have been beset by many a real life trauma: I have been working on Blur The Game (go buy it!), ScreamingCricket has moved to California to work for Carbine Studios and Nuka5 and most of the testers have vanished for the exam period. However! When we have had time, we've been looking at a considerable barrier to entry within VGO.
Hard Counters and the Speed of Failure
One of the problems we have been trying to overcome is the dramatic gap between skilled and unskilled players. We believe this was caused by the speed with which hard counters can destroy very expensive units with little to no recourse; if an assault is not pre-empted, it is possible to lose a lot of money's worth of troops in a very short space of time.
To this end, health has been improved across the board; all units have greater survivability. Hard counters are still hard counters, and they fire more rapidly than they did, but they also do less damage per shot. This gives the player under attack the opportunity to pull their expensive units back before they are completely destroyed in many instances, giving a player who failed another chance to regroup.
This has another nice bi-product: battles last longer. This makes for more interesting, more dynamic gameplay, as well as putting greater emphasis on healing infantry - medics now require less micro management when reviving infantry and as a result are now regular members of squads in most games.
We have also overhauled the visibility system. While vehicle vision will remain broadly similar, infantry now have a greater vision radius as do scout units such as the OH6. This encourages ambushes to occur in jungle areas (as stealth detection ability remains unchanged), as well as makes forward scouting just that little bit easier for most players.
The Brutality of the AI
For an experienced player of VGO, the AI was a pleasant challenge. For the new player, it was overbearingly difficult. As such, the NVA AI has been built from the ground up to be more easily scalable in terms of difficulty. The Easy AI is now a much more sedate experience, allowing new players to get a much better handle on the game and its mechanics; the hard AI is still as brutal as it always was.
We intend to expand this new system to the old USA AI; this is especially important because learning to play as the NVA is much harder than learning to play the USA was. The NVA build mechanics are fundamentally different in their approach, which usually takes players a bit of time to learn. It's worth mentioning at this point that the NVA AI is complete for all standard maps for up to 4 players and 6 villages. Glorious!
The villages have always been core to the VGO gameplay experience, but frequently people do not realise they exist or how to use them. As well as creating very obvious mini-map markers to encourage exploration of the villages, we have created some large, animated village markers to show the area in which infantry must reside to produce the village bonus.
This is in addition to the changes to villages and monetary funding in general introduced in Pegasus 1.4 that gave players more of a chance of assaulting an enemy with a greater number of villages by giving regular fund injections directly to the HQ and additional funding just for holding the Master Hut.
Sadly, it is clear that our in-game tutorial is woefully inadequate at teaching the finer points of VGO - not only does it teach you the basics of ZH control (something one would hope you should know by now), which bores people such that they don't even play through it, but it doesn't teach you the most important aspects of gameplay beyond the trivial.
While we would love to re-do the tutorial, we simply do not have the time to do the scripting effort required; as such, we intend to release a plethora of training videos aimed at all levels of skill to teach players how to play the game effectively. These will be released with the Hydra release, and will be linked to from the launcher.
We are still in need of somebody to do the NVA voices. Ideally this will be Vietnamese, however at this point we would accept any far eastern accent. If we do not find anybody, you'll not only have my terrible American accent and ScreamingCricket's real one in the game, you'll have to put up with our terrible (and probably unintentionally racist) renditions for the NVA, too. So lend us your voice!
Obligatory Screenshots vs NVA AI
Because no news post would be complete without them, here's some screenshots of some games between the testers playing against the NVA AI: