Assisted Play: AI coaching
As much as I personally like the tactical depth this game has, I also have learned that it can be a deterrent to newcomers. Initial play testing, after the tutorial, is key for them giving up or getting hooked.
Of course a first and easy mitigation is to very strongly advise players to train against the AI before trying to challenge experienced players. But even against the AI, the span of choices can get a bit daunting at first.
So here's a first feature proposal to help players who are unsure about what to do. I call it "AI coaching": Not sure how to best guide your characters' fate? Ask them!
Double-tapping on one of your units would mean: "Give me your opinion on what we should be doing".
A chat bubble on the character would then reply "Let me think". Then the AI routine gets applied to the human player's team.
Another character dialog bubble then says "Here's what I would do". An indicator (like for instance a colored box around the game area) would turn on to show that this isn't the real game, but just a prospective view. In that special mode the first, say, 3 actions of the AI routine results would play out (including drag actions, to show not only the results but also the process, at least as a default setting).
Then the prospective view indicator would turn off, at the same time as everything returns to its initial state. A final message might say "Ready to decide?", with two buttons: "OK" and "Replay".
Game design considerations
- Of course all surprises would need to be temporarily turned off.
- The right number of actions to show is to be defined, probably by testing. I suggested 3 to get an opportunity to see how combinations start to play out, without going through an entire turn. Less actions could leave the player puzzled, not understanding the direction the AI is taking. Too many would take too much time, and be overloading the person trying to understand/memorize it all.
- As previously discussed for the Undo button, the number of times you can use this feature could be directly proportional to the player's experience level. So this could be used even against a human player. The opponent would then se the actions unravel, then be canceled just as when the Undo button is played. This way the opponent would have something to watch while waiting!
Development Priority Level
My intent is to make a feature to help reach community critical mass, so that would make it a 2 on the scale.
Is it novel enough that it could contribute to wow an editor and be worth a rank of 1?
- In the settings you should be able to toggle displaying the process (dragging, tapping, etc.). This is the bare minimum to not get annoying very fast.
- You could imagine different classes of characters having distinct dialog styles (the Barbarian likely having a rougher attitude than the well-behaved Time Keeper Rat).
- Down the road voice-over could be added to the dialogs.
- With inexperienced players the characters could offer their help spontaneously. Not sure what the right trigger would be, though.