The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

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Ronar
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Mar 26, 2017 9:35 pm

The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by Ronar » Tue Apr 04, 2017 3:58 am

Yellow alert has been a mechanic that has been a big issue for a lot of my playthroughs on Long War 2 for quite a while now. The main issue with this mechanic (Aside from the likely unintended behavior where pods can change alert status on the same turn.) is the fact that a pod can walk up to XCOM on the sides, then get a free scamper action to flank, then take a yellow alert shot. It's not a problem a lot of the time due to graze and missing shots, and it feels punishing enough when they land full hits from the front. However, on certain missions where your whole team is integral to the fight, one bad yellow alert flank can destroy the mission without the player able to react in any way. I just had a mission on my legendary run where a pod involving a gunner and a viper just came in from the side, and the viper just one shot one of my 4 soldiers. That's an instant 25% of the team's damage output removed. It would be one thing if the team was overextended, but we were well on the side of the map, and there was no conceivable way of doing the mission without moving in the direction we moved. In general, a scamper move + a free offensive action is pretty unfair, especially when it is given to a random amount of aliens. I've had scenarios where the entire enemy pod got shots off at us.

While yellow alert flank kills happen quite rarely, it only takes a few yellow alert flank kills on hard/important missions to end a campaign. In general, I feel giving a random amount of aliens run n gun to be a tad bit unfair to the player. I understand that yellow alert as a mechanic provides a little depth to gameplay by making the player think about unactivated pods rather than just ignoring anything that hasn't activated. It also provides the player with an incentive to not overwatch camp by encouraging player turn activations to prevent enemy free actions, but instead overwatch camping becomes even more necessary with yellow alert. Not only do you need to overwatch camp, but you need to do it in the corner of the map to prevent yellow alert flanking. In any mission with a large number of enemies, moving up to them will always be against the player's favor. Not only is the player putting one unit further into unknown territory in a bad position with only one action left, but enemies all get one free action. Furthermore, you are likely to be within yellow alert range of newer enemies after taking the step foward, thus making this mechanic further enforce the necessity to overwatch camp in a corner.

These are all separate issues that can each be addressed in different ways. In regards to the yellow alert flanking issue, I feel like a fairly straight foward way of dealing with it would be to count enemy yellow alert shots as overwatch shots. Flank shots will still be punishing, but not mission ending for no reason. This would also simulate a fair situation: XCOM can engage through overwatch camping, so when aliens move up to XCOM, it's as if they overwatch camped onto XCOM. Anyone overextending will take multiple exposed OW shots which would be fairly punished. Another way to deal with the issue is just to force yellow alert troops to move in cover, and when they activate, they no longer get scamper moves, but regular actions. This will prevent moments where the entire enemy pod can get 8 run n guns to flank and kill XCOM with their patrol, scamper, and yellow action.

In terms of making XCOM move up into the enemy, there needs to be a clear benefit to moving up. Punishing the player less through yellow alert will never be enough to encourage this. Currently, moving up into fog without concealment is the most difficult way to engage. You end up either moving too slowly for timed missions, or you have one soldier with half a turn in an overextended position with the rest of the team too far behind to assist properly. In my opinion, a simple solution where a soldier who activates a pod has half their actions refunded is fair. Now instead of being overextended with half an action, the soldier then is only overextended, but can fall back properly. Of course I've never tested any of these solutions, but a lot of thinking and reflecting on previous campaigns have allowed me to land on these answers for these issues. I can see the possibility of these potential changed being abusable so if these ideas are to be taken into consideration, a lot of testing would have to be done.

Antifringe
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by Antifringe » Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:33 am

My preferred solution is to have aliens fire first, and then scamper. There will need to be special logic for overwatch (aliens really need to move first if they are going to overwatch).

I don't mind aliens being allowed to fire on their own turn if they move into me. I do mind the occasional circumstance where they move out of FoW, scamper behind me, and then fire.

MacroNova
Posts: 55
Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:53 am

Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by MacroNova » Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:58 pm

There is a simple solution for yellow alert that I can't seem to get traction for. The shots should be treated like overwatch shots. Aim malus and no crit chance. Easy peasy, problem solved.

chrisb
Terra Invicta Dev
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by chrisb » Tue Apr 04, 2017 10:04 pm

MacroNova wrote:There is a simple solution for yellow alert that I can't seem to get traction for. The shots should be treated like overwatch shots. Aim malus and no crit chance. Easy peasy, problem solved.
Sure it's easy to say, doesn't mean it's easy for the devs to implement. Some game mechanics are coded in the engine itself and not available to modders. I'm not sure exactly where this fits, but at first glance it doesn't actually fit overwatch or standard shot. Maybe there's a simple solution that would work, but maybe there isn't and it would take a lot of time and may never work right because it's all in some native code.

Ideas are easy, making them reality is not always so.

MacroNova
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by MacroNova » Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:39 pm

I meant simple in terms of an elegant solution balance-wise. It also sounds pretty easy to implement compared to everything else in the mod, and I see no reason to believe otherwise until a dev says so.

Severian
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by Severian » Wed Apr 05, 2017 1:10 pm

MacroNova wrote:There is a simple solution for yellow alert that I can't seem to get traction for. The shots should be treated like overwatch shots. Aim malus and no crit chance. Easy peasy, problem solved.
That's a nice compromise. I like it.

Denniz
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by Denniz » Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:13 am

From watching xwynns' videos, it would seem that pods flanking you is an intended thing. He has talked about pods having a job to go around and try to hit you from the side. (His last HQ assault shows a real good example where two pods did just that.) If you are making a lot of noise then using Shinobis and battle scanners are a must to keep an eye out for that kind of thing.

Autoclave
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by Autoclave » Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:13 am

Yeah, it pretty much made shinobis mandatory to ALL missions. Fog of War is Death.

Solomani
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by Solomani » Thu Apr 06, 2017 12:01 pm

It sounds like the deeper root of the problem is losing too many important soldiers can end a campaign. Addressing ways to recover in mid to late campaign from a squad wipe or top tier soldier losses might reduce the effect of yellow alert.

I have a feeling the scamper is just to make up for short comings in the Ai. The aliens aren't moving from cover to cover and setting up over watch like we are.

Psieye
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by Psieye » Thu Apr 06, 2017 12:14 pm

MacroNova wrote:sounds pretty easy to implement

see no reason to believe otherwise until a dev says so.
It's a fair stance to take, but in the software industry that sort of assumption causes ruin. The idea itself has merit. Unknown dev cost to implement the intended effect.
My three 8-man GOp squad Commander campaigns:
1st
2nd
3rd

LordYanaek
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by LordYanaek » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:51 pm

Solomani wrote:It sounds like the deeper root of the problem is losing too many important soldiers can end a campaign. Addressing ways to recover in mid to late campaign from a squad wipe or top tier soldier losses might reduce the effect of yellow alert.
The root of this root is that players are not training enough soldiers. If we could get out of "A-Team mode" and just had several good squads of more or less equal rank soldiers, loosing one squad would be a setback but not the end of the campaign.
An issue doing this is that unlike LW1, you actually have a limited pool of recruits and in the early game it's really limited so by May-June you might not have enough soldiers to maintain a good barracks of multiple squads and when your recruit pool have grown large by July-August it's probably too late to train them to a good level and they end up used for suicide missions.
I think something should be changed about soldier recruitment and/or training and this would help in a number of apparent issues.
I have a feeling the scamper is just to make up for short comings in the Ai. The aliens aren't moving from cover to cover and setting up over watch like we are.
In Vanilla XCom, scamper existed to avoid aliens from simply being one-shotted out of cover in every engagement. The alternative would have been to have all pods go red as soon as you leave concealment so they would use their full combat AI but i suspect having non-active pods follow a much simpler AI was at least partially an optimization decision. LW2 Yellow status is somewhere between Green (inactive) and Red (fully activated) so it would probably be possible (in theory) to have them better at using cover and using OW, possibly removing the need to scamper. However it would be a lot of work to try and program an AI that's really smart about taking cover from unknown enemies without making this AI cheat and always know where you are. Pavonis have always attempted to remove as many cheats as possible and have an AI that tries to play smart but fair. It's a remarkable decision but also one that needs some compromises.

As far as Yellow alert pods using Overwatch in the FoW, i bet we'd see much more people complain if they just got shot one their turn because they stumble into an inactive pod on overwatch :lol: . Also it would require removing the overwatch message or you would always know where the pods are.

JoINrbs
Long War 2 Crew
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Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:43 am

Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by JoINrbs » Sun Apr 09, 2017 3:08 am

Psieye wrote:
MacroNova wrote:sounds pretty easy to implement

see no reason to believe otherwise until a dev says so.
It's a fair stance to take, but in the software industry that sort of assumption causes ruin. The idea itself has merit. Unknown dev cost to implement the intended effect.
it actually sounds quite difficult to me.

nightwyrm
Posts: 260
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 4:52 pm

Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by nightwyrm » Sun Apr 09, 2017 2:55 pm

LordYanaek wrote: In Vanilla XCom, scamper existed to avoid aliens from simply being one-shotted out of cover in every engagement. The alternative would have been to have all pods go red as soon as you leave concealment so they would use their full combat AI but i suspect having non-active pods follow a much simpler AI was at least partially an optimization decision.
I have some experience running All Pods Active in Vanilla and I believe this to be the case. On large maps with lots of enemies, such as Waterworld, the alien turn takes forever.

fowlJ
Posts: 198
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:45 pm

Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by fowlJ » Sun Apr 09, 2017 3:06 pm

nightwyrm wrote:
LordYanaek wrote: In Vanilla XCom, scamper existed to avoid aliens from simply being one-shotted out of cover in every engagement. The alternative would have been to have all pods go red as soon as you leave concealment so they would use their full combat AI but i suspect having non-active pods follow a much simpler AI was at least partially an optimization decision.
I have some experience running All Pods Active in Vanilla and I believe this to be the case. On large maps with lots of enemies, such as Waterworld, the alien turn takes forever.
The AI running is part of it (the game's pathfinding only checks one tile per frame as far as I'm aware, which with like 40 enemies is a bunch of frames), but it's also the fact that for some reason the game plays full animations for moves you can't see - there's a noticeable reduction in turn time using the 'slomo' command, which wouldn't happen if units out of sight were just skipping right to their destination.

nightwyrm
Posts: 260
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Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by nightwyrm » Sun Apr 09, 2017 5:16 pm

fowlJ wrote:
nightwyrm wrote:
LordYanaek wrote: In Vanilla XCom, scamper existed to avoid aliens from simply being one-shotted out of cover in every engagement. The alternative would have been to have all pods go red as soon as you leave concealment so they would use their full combat AI but i suspect having non-active pods follow a much simpler AI was at least partially an optimization decision.
I have some experience running All Pods Active in Vanilla and I believe this to be the case. On large maps with lots of enemies, such as Waterworld, the alien turn takes forever.
The AI running is part of it (the game's pathfinding only checks one tile per frame as far as I'm aware, which with like 40 enemies is a bunch of frames), but it's also the fact that for some reason the game plays full animations for moves you can't see - there's a noticeable reduction in turn time using the 'slomo' command, which wouldn't happen if units out of sight were just skipping right to their destination.
Wasn't one of the early complaints in XCOM1 the "teleporting" of alien pods while on patrol? They figured that if the player couldn't see the pods in the FOW, they wouldn't have to do the movement animation, but then of course the players start using scanners and gene-mod stealth units and now we can see pods moving without the animations. It's always a tradeoff. You either animate everything and slow the game down or you leave out the animation for things you think the player can't see and when the player finds a way to see it, he gets annoyed coz the animation isn't there.

fowlJ
Posts: 198
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:45 pm

Re: The Issue with Yellow Alert and Engagements

Post by fowlJ » Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:56 pm

nightwyrm wrote:
fowlJ wrote:
nightwyrm wrote:
I have some experience running All Pods Active in Vanilla and I believe this to be the case. On large maps with lots of enemies, such as Waterworld, the alien turn takes forever.
The AI running is part of it (the game's pathfinding only checks one tile per frame as far as I'm aware, which with like 40 enemies is a bunch of frames), but it's also the fact that for some reason the game plays full animations for moves you can't see - there's a noticeable reduction in turn time using the 'slomo' command, which wouldn't happen if units out of sight were just skipping right to their destination.
Wasn't one of the early complaints in XCOM1 the "teleporting" of alien pods while on patrol? They figured that if the player couldn't see the pods in the FOW, they wouldn't have to do the movement animation, but then of course the players start using scanners and gene-mod stealth units and now we can see pods moving without the animations. It's always a tradeoff. You either animate everything and slow the game down or you leave out the animation for things you think the player can't see and when the player finds a way to see it, he gets annoyed coz the animation isn't there.
The problem with units teleporting wasn't that it didn't animate, it was that it didn't follow the game's movement rules - there's a big difference between finding a valid tile to move to and then just popping there if the player isn't going to see and jumping from one side of the map (and one side of your squad) to the other for no reason. (Besides, battlescanners and concealed units aren't any different from regular soldiers in that they should make revealed enemies ineligible for teleportation, not that I'd be surprised if they sometimes did it anyway - EU's line of sight checks were never the most reliable thing in the world.)

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