Make the game less... swingy, tone down the difficulty spikes. (and more)

#1
Hi o7

First of let me just say that I've bought the game quite a while ago and fell in love with the concept pretty quickly.
The music and documentary style narration is very entertaining while eating my way through the shrubbery.

That being said, the game at times manages to piss me off significantly.
I get that the RTS/Strategy demographic is one of min maxing difficulty fetishism, but artificial difficulty spikes or RNG elements of "sucks for you it's all happening at the same time!" make for a less engageing experience.

In an attempt to provide with honest feedback, i will try to be as consice as possible.

"Swingy" nature of combat
-------------------------------
The swarming of the enemy is a fun experience overall, seeing your ball of chitinous warriors slowly grow as you tackle bigger and badder enemies is fun.
Until you guess wrong...

As there is no way to quantify your army strength apart from numbers, nor the enemies. the only teacher is experience.
Which is fine... but not at the expense of the entire round worth of playtime.
Judge wrong a single time, and chances are you're ... thought you could take that enemy? maybe you could, but pathing pulled in another one and now you're losing hard. Retreat! and now you're behind the curve and the next big wave will be insurmountable.

Learning by way of mistakes is fine, but if all of them are game ending, it's just an exsercise in frustration.

Enemy stacking (paired with aoe)
--------------------------------------
This has been a thing before, but the burrowing toad map takes it to a new lvl.
An ant is small, their tunnels are also small, that's why an ant nest is so easy to defend... it's a hole.. a small one full of biting mandibles.

I get that AoE attacks make for more interesting gameplay, big creature can kill multiple ants in a single go, but these things are balanced by not breaking the laws of physics and ramming 6 in a single spot.

If i have to play around large swaths of ants getting mulched in a single go, fine.
But if my succes is based on the RNG of AI pathing and whether or not it puts 2-3 or 6 toads in a single spot, healing and aoe swatting my army with no cooldown, it feels like a cop out.

Yes you can probably outpace this, yes you can play the same mission over and over and over until you "solved it".
But tieing back to my previous point, it makes for a frustrating learning experience, none of which feels like a fun time.

Preventing the enemy from doomstacking would be a lot more fun..


Very linear path =/= difficulty
-----------------------------------
The difficulty is very swingy... one second you're doing well, the next 6 spiders sprint for your queen and you're dead before you can respond.
This same difficulty mentality is apparent with your new game starting options.

There is usually only 1 best order of things to get started, since the enemy stacking makes an addition of even a single enemy, a significant power increase.
So you follow the path of least resistance... every... single... time....

Too many instant game over moments means I often have to restart the same round over and over again.
And i have to tediously do it in the same order, in the same way... every... single.... time...

Flatten out the difficulty spikes, enable me to start with a different objective when i have to restart.
The way these levels are designed reminds me of the old SC1 custom "rpg" maps. Where your beginning and ending was tailor made by someone who had 1 and only 1 vision of how to beat the map.

I'm pretty patient when it comes to games, i know 10 ppl at least off the top of my head, that would play this game and get angry and never touch it again...
I get angry at it... And usually difficulty does not register with me on any emotional level...

Digging into open spaces
---------------------------------
Sometimes the cave is bigger then i thought, and my rooms end up being bigger or not closed off because of it.. or i pull in a bug i'm not equiped to deal with yet.
I can understand if you dig without rhyme or reason, you will bump into issues.
But if i'm slowly approaching a cave... my ants should know they're about to dig into it.

Maybe have the walls glimmer through a bit if your ants are close, that way i can prepare accordingly.
When replaying a mission for the 5th time, i know which cave opens up where and whatnot, but it makes the whole learning process so dull and repetitive...

I'd be better off starting a game and digging out the whole underground just to see what it looks like and then restart and build with pre-existing knowledge... the game can't be intentionally designed this way...

Smaller bulletpoint suggestions
-------------------------------------
- Any chance for larger maps? With multiple nests?
- More maps! They can be in the same biome, so assets can be re-used. But more maps! The progression curve currently forces you to replay missions, these are not quick games either. I get that you're trying to pump play time into your games, but you're going about it all wrong.
- More missions in between each "challenge" mission. More missions with your labAnts too! All these upgrades, so few times to use em.
- Love the music, the ambience, the humor. More of this! Less artificial difficulty to pad out the game.
- I would love this game to get 5 ant types. But for 20EUR, this seems excessive. I thought i heard the fire ants were the last new type of ant.
Consider making an expansion? With 2 more ants?
- If you make the difficulty spikes/curve a little less punishing, ergo reduce the amount of times ppl have to restart a mission, and provide more maps to diverisfy what people can do to get the materials to progress, this gem of game will look and play a lot better.

- The "account making" for this forum is a drag... far too many captcha tests.

I wouldn't be surprised if more people found it too much of a hassle to make an account (I did at first) and as a result it's pretty quiet here.
Or maybe the brutal "unfair" difficulty spikes feel cheap and word of mouth isn't doing you any favours...

I know I havn't been that enthousiastic about it the last couple of patches for these exact reasons.
Hope this reaches someone!

TLDR - Solid game, nothing quite like it... but a frustrating experience at times for no good reason whatsoever...
 
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#2
As there is no way to quantify your army strength apart from numbers, nor the enemies. the only teacher is experience.
I use Battle Arena for this.

and whether or not it puts 2-3 or 6 toads in a single spot.
I might agree with this point, the RNG can be unfair sometimes, especially when the enemy does AoE. I'd focus on surrounding them using larger tunnels and excavating tunnels beforehand.

one moment your doing well, the next 6 spiders sprint for your queen and your dead before you can respond.
The difficulty spikes aren't a problem. They make the game more vibrant and interesting. If you want to counter suprises, then be ready for them. I'd use a second group specifically for underground matters.

my ants should know they're about to dig into it.
There won't be any empty caves, all caves already have something that glows inside them, unless you are using realistic mode. You can carve around them while being careful.

Any chance for larger maps? With multiple nests?
https://forum.slugdisco.com/index.p...-they-establish-new-colonies.5616/#post-28254

More missions for the labAnts too!
You can use them, along with their upgrades, in freeplay.

fire ants were the last type of ant.
This is false, Bullet ants were confirmed, and
Matabele ants were accidentally leaked on a stream.
 
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#3
I use Battle Arena for this.
And you shouldn't have to is my point...

I might agree with this point, the RNG can be unfair sometimes, especially when the enemy does AoE.
I'd focus on surrounding them using larger tunnels and excavating tunnels beforehand.

The difficulty spikes aren't a problem. They make the game more vibrant and interesting. If you want to counter suprises, then be ready for them. I'd use a second group specifically for underground matters.
A difficulty spike adds flavour yes, my point is that you should, within reason, be able to address a difficulty spike when it happen with what you've accumulated thus far.
Not throw in the towel with each one because without proper prior knowledge you will lose.
Ergo, these are too sharp.

I've had multiple squads running around, upgraded too, i was even ready for the frogs underground, i still got smooshed.
I haven't tried surrounding them, although i remember that was something that did help.
The frogs also excavate their own tunnels, digging out a bigger room to fight in might work, but 6 aoe spamming frogs will not stay put.
They're already coming from multiple angles, preventing these entities from stacking only makes sense....

There won't be any empty caves, all caves already have something that glows inside them, unless you are using realistic mode. You can carve around them while being careful.
I'm aware there are no empty caves. Yes i see the big exclamation marks. Yes you can avoid them.
I would like a more precise means of control, i want to see where the edge is of the cave before i dig into it.
Sometimes the cave is a lot bigger then i thought.

"Does this room fit here?" Ah shit it doesn't, and here comes the cavalry... this issue is exacerbated by having to re-start often, it's tedium on top of tedium.

Oh, recently discussed I see, ty o7.... too bad it seems out of scope..

You can use them, along with their upgrades, in freeplay.
Yes, I was asking for an elongation of the campaign, by adding more missions, similar maps to re-use assets and more missions involving your superAnts.

This is false, Bullet ants were confirmed, and
Matabele ants were accidentally leaked on a stream.
That's nice to hear, i would've expected this to be out of budget for a 20Euro title.
5 ants does sound perfect, and if all are as beautifully done as they have before, this'll be a banger of a title. I hope the gaming "community" doesn't sleep on it for too long.

I would still make it more accessible, even if it's just on the lower difficulties, and also charge a little more once you hit ant 4/5.
(Remove the doomstacking of large enemy entitites would be a good place to start...)
 
#4
And you shouldn't have to is my point...
You did say that it's fine as long as it doesn't warrant a restart, and Battle Arena doesn't.. But anyway, how do you propose to fix it? I heard an in game Wikipedia is in the works, that would help out a lot in this case.

Not throw in the towel with each one
That's fair, I don't have much experience with these events anyway so I can't really ar

i want to see where the edge of a cave is before i dig into it.
I concur, this is also a problem with the two top chambers in Front Line. Perhaps the developers could trim down caves to only the content visible inside of them, that would allow you to know the size of caves while retaining the realistic visuals.

I was asking for an elongation of the campaign
I would love this too, but I think anything beyond FC5 has been sadly deconfirmed (will need confirmation). I know that the fifth tier update will bring the game into 1.0, though. And about the extra missions for previous tiers, the fifth tier will feature three levels but I don't think any plans for more levels of other tiers have been made.
 
#5
I completely agree with the insane power swings in levels. I find this game very interesting and appealing and have enjoyed playing it. This fire ant expansion has amplified the power swings even more. I am extremely frustrated with the cold blood level for the new fire ant quests. However; I am the kind of person you mentioned, to simply drop playing the game and new content, as it is almost as if it is designed to frustrate you at points. Restarting the entire level is very dull and boring the second third and fourth times around redoing the exact same thing as the prior times, just to get to the way overtuned part, and probably lose again. I find the gameplay and sound design of this game astounding, yet often find it very unfun to play do to this power swing dynamic you point out. Which saddens me because this game is pretty cool but is as if it is designed to make you want to stop playing it.
 
#6
First off, my apologies.
I wanted to reply sooner but life caught up to me... and i forgot.

You did say that it's fine as long as it doesn't warrant a restart, and Battle Arena doesn't.. But anyway, how do you propose to fix it? I heard an in game Wikipedia is in the works, that would help out a lot in this case.
That's a tricky one, especially starting from a purely experimental background and not knowing the ins and outs of the underlying system.
At best, all i can do is vaguely sketch a concept
And it will probably touch on more then just that particular aspect.

So starting from the position of "The difficulty spikes are too harsh, and it is partly caused by not knowing what strength your ants vs enemies have"

As i stated above, experience fighting enemies will probably do a good job teaching people the strength of their ants.
(As you also remarked upon with the Battle Arena.)
But as each teaching moment goes, this way must leave some room for making a mistake and recovering from it.

I would say currently, there is a far greater chance you will lose the round because of a mistake.
Armed with this new information you attempt it again adjusting your playstyle.

Although i can get the appeal to a degree, as you do improve as you keep going, it also feels artificial.
You do better because you know the scripted events, not because you adjusted to new information.
It loses some of the dynamics and regurgitates content to artificially bloat play time.

As i would argue the presentation, music and fantasy would be the strong point of the game.
I feel that artificially lengthening the game actually spoils these strong points sooner, as repeated voicelines start to grate and the music loops one too many times.

You could "soften" the encounters a little, or make them less punishing, allowing for some "learning" moments with leeway to recover.
- Like adjusting some enemy AI to not go as "balls to the wall" with every attack.
- Voicelines saying "you probably don't have enough ants" , or at the risk of being gamey "you need a min of X amount of ants"
- Giving the player a break if they are likely to lose, make the enemy retreat if they've eaten 80% of your ants or whatnot.
"The [insert latin name] has eaten enough for now, but he has smelled a meal and will be back before long, hungrier than before...

Another big part in softening the difficulty curve would be removing big entity stacking.
Not only does it look ridiculous, a ball of hard hitting enemies is only dealt with by way of critical mass, you lack the fine control to spread out effectively in small hallways, and big entities shouldn't break the laws of physics that way anyway.
Balance them accordingly so they pose a big enough issue on their own. or spread out.
(Big enteties in the nest not properly dealt with often spells game over... another restart...)

If they do end up stacking up and you have not achieved critical mass, have one of the forementioned warnings alert the player that he needs to do something about it or he will eventually lose.
The play and restart cycle shouldn't be removed entirely, just smoothed out and applied less often.

That being said, i understand this would shorten the play time / lvl and as a result the game time of the whole game.
That's why we need more lvls!
like 3-4 / tier instead of the 2 we get now. (I would love 6/tier, 2 mini campaigns of 3 (more info below))

Make em into mini-campaigns.. i always get attached to my colony of whatever ants i'm occupying.
So why not have it be the same nest. You beat a mission and the same hive moves, or has new enemies appear changing the map in the next mission.
"The [insert latin ant name] colony has dominated the area for an entire year, but winter was exceptionally cruel and 90% of the larva died to frost"
or
"Being forced out of her previous nest by a colony of [i l a n] she must claw her way back into her position of power if she wants her brood to live"
Bam, new mission, new enemies, new resource options, re-used assets to keep it manageable.
It's the same beach so of course the tiger beetles are back, etc etc. but maybe some others since you moved a little and you entered the territory of something else?

We stretch the game time, since the game is pretty short without the endless restart cycles, we provide new content to farm resources to advance the game (Currently requires replaying stuff, which is again a restart).
And we get a nice storyline with our ant friends, making previous game's effort seem like it contributed to the whole picture.
(Which it could even in gameplay benefits, maybe you start a little stronger if you did well etc etc, the possibilities are endless)

It would add to the replayability of the game too, since it'd be a more relaxing experience, you get less repetition and you are more emotionally invested.
If you want to go wack like the way things are now... put it in higher difficulties. That's what they're there for.
(Currently i don't believe you can do this without the changes mentioned.)


I would love this too, but I think anything beyond FC5 has been sadly deconfirmed (will need confirmation). I know that the fifth tier update will bring the game into 1.0, though. And about the extra missions for previous tiers, the fifth tier will feature three levels but I don't think any plans for more levels of other tiers have been made.
5 ants sounds like a treat! I actually forgot the leafcutter ants in my previous post.
I just wish i could spend some more time with them, 2 missions / ant is so very little.
(As said, i would be as bold as to ask to triple it... but 20EUR might be a little low to facilitate the extra work, pump it to 25 or 30? The increase of customers and positive word to mouth would probably more then make up for it.. and it makes way for expansions! More ants! \o/)
 
#7
I completely agree with the insane power swings in levels. I find this game very interesting and appealing and have enjoyed playing it. This fire ant expansion has amplified the power swings even more. I am extremely frustrated with the cold blood level for the new fire ant quests. However; I am the kind of person you mentioned, to simply drop playing the game and new content, as it is almost as if it is designed to frustrate you at points. Restarting the entire level is very dull and boring the second third and fourth times around redoing the exact same thing as the prior times, just to get to the way overtuned part, and probably lose again. I find the gameplay and sound design of this game astounding, yet often find it very unfun to play do to this power swing dynamic you point out. Which saddens me because this game is pretty cool but is as if it is designed to make you want to stop playing it.
Yeah i got rly frustrated too..

Mass ants seemed to be the solution, like as many warriors as you could possibly fit (In proper rooms).
And upgrade soonish, since the max tier gives douuble ants for a room.
Eating the black ants early is quite the boost, and leaving the left ants alone until you're ready did the trick.


Though it took way too many restarts to figure out the nuances and now it feels empty and hollow, i don't even want to attempt higher difficulties just because the journey was so unpleasant...

Also I felt the game did a very bad job at explaining your goals clearly.. maybe the narration was a little vague.
 
#8
First off, my apologies.
I wanted to reply sooner but life caught up to me... and i forgot.


That's a tricky one, especially starting from a purely experimental background and not knowing the ins and outs of the underlying system.
At best, all i can do is vaguely sketch a concept
And it will probably touch on more then just that particular aspect.

So starting from the position of "The difficulty spikes are too harsh, and it is partly caused by not knowing what strength your ants vs enemies have"

As i stated above, experience fighting enemies will probably do a good job teaching people the strength of their ants.
(As you also remarked upon with the Battle Arena.)
But as each teaching moment goes, this way must leave some room for making a mistake and recovering from it.

I would say currently, there is a far greater chance you will lose the round because of a mistake.
Armed with this new information you attempt it again adjusting your playstyle.

Although i can get the appeal to a degree, as you do improve as you keep going, it also feels artificial.
You do better because you know the scripted events, not because you adjusted to new information.
It loses some of the dynamics and regurgitates content to artificially bloat play time.

As i would argue the presentation, music and fantasy would be the strong point of the game.
I feel that artificially lengthening the game actually spoils these strong points sooner, as repeated voicelines start to grate and the music loops one too many times.

You could "soften" the encounters a little, or make them less punishing, allowing for some "learning" moments with leeway to recover.
- Like adjusting some enemy AI to not go as "balls to the wall" with every attack.
- Voicelines saying "you probably don't have enough ants" , or at the risk of being gamey "you need a min of X amount of ants"
- Giving the player a break if they are likely to lose, make the enemy retreat if they've eaten 80% of your ants or whatnot.
"The [insert latin name] has eaten enough for now, but he has smelled a meal and will be back before long, hungrier than before...

Another big part in softening the difficulty curve would be removing big entity stacking.
Not only does it look ridiculous, a ball of hard hitting enemies is only dealt with by way of critical mass, you lack the fine control to spread out effectively in small hallways, and big entities shouldn't break the laws of physics that way anyway.
Balance them accordingly so they pose a big enough issue on their own. or spread out.
(Big enteties in the nest not properly dealt with often spells game over... another restart...)

If they do end up stacking up and you have not achieved critical mass, have one of the forementioned warnings alert the player that he needs to do something about it or he will eventually lose.
The play and restart cycle shouldn't be removed entirely, just smoothed out and applied less often.

That being said, i understand this would shorten the play time / lvl and as a result the game time of the whole game.
That's why we need more lvls!
like 3-4 / tier instead of the 2 we get now. (I would love 6/tier, 2 mini campaigns of 3 (more info below))

Make em into mini-campaigns.. i always get attached to my colony of whatever ants i'm occupying.
So why not have it be the same nest. You beat a mission and the same hive moves, or has new enemies appear changing the map in the next mission.
"The [insert latin ant name] colony has dominated the area for an entire year, but winter was exceptionally cruel and 90% of the larva died to frost"
or
"Being forced out of her previous nest by a colony of [i l a n] she must claw her way back into her position of power if she wants her brood to live"
Bam, new mission, new enemies, new resource options, re-used assets to keep it manageable.
It's the same beach so of course the tiger beetles are back, etc etc. but maybe some others since you moved a little and you entered the territory of something else?

We stretch the game time, since the game is pretty short without the endless restart cycles, we provide new content to farm resources to advance the game (Currently requires replaying stuff, which is again a restart).
And we get a nice storyline with our ant friends, making previous game's effort seem like it contributed to the whole picture.
(Which it could even in gameplay benefits, maybe you start a little stronger if you did well etc etc, the possibilities are endless)

It would add to the replayability of the game too, since it'd be a more relaxing experience, you get less repetition and you are more emotionally invested.
If you want to go wack like the way things are now... put it in higher difficulties. That's what they're there for.
(Currently i don't believe you can do this without the changes mentioned.)




5 ants sounds like a treat! I actually forgot the leafcutter ants in my previous post.
I just wish i could spend some more time with them, 2 missions / ant is so very little.
(As said, i would be as bold as to ask to triple it... but 20EUR might be a little low to facilitate the extra work, pump it to 25 or 30? The increase of customers and positive word to mouth would probably more then make up for it.. and it makes way for expansions! More ants! \o/)
You get 4-5 missions per ant (2 story missions, 2 extra missions, 1 demo mission), not mentioning how many extra missions with them as gene-thief ant units.
 
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