New player, just picked up your game in v2.0.1 from Steam. I'm very happy with the product so far, and wish to thank you for making it. However, coming in with fresh eyes I hope to make a few suggestions that haven't already been addressed/answered in the previous posts still available in the forums. For reference, so far I've beaten the main game and the Blockade scenario on the first try and I'm looking forward to cranking it up on custom to make it more interesting. The idea of being the engineer driving Snowpiercer entertains the heck out of me.
While I realize this wall of text looks like a massive criticism, I assure you it's not. Most of it is UI and mechanics adjustments I noticed would have significantly improved my experience on my first few playthroughs. If I hadn't seen how responsive and open you folks are to comments and suggestions I wouldn't have bothered with spending this much time in the first place, so please, consider it to be a compliment.
1) Rail map
First thing this thing desperately needs is a legend of what the little flags mean. Your conductor put them there, you should have an idea of what they are. The blue flag with the... bullets? Maybe?... I think that's military? (Passes by in the night and gets shot at) Yep Military. I think? Hmm, they're still there, not sure. Some of the others are also as obtuse. A piece of looseleaf taped up on something with the colors and general definitions would cure a lot of the pain.
I finally saw the book lying on top of the battery/speed controls. That helped a lot. Change of suggestion: Please lighten up the book's cover a bit so it doesn't blend quite so much.
Not being able to zoom in on the map, or manipulate it, also can make for navigational confusion. Flags will hide things behind them, so you can forget or miss (for a new location) that something is under there. This I'm not quite sure how to adjust without actually being able to get a more 'top down' view on the map itself, or rotating it somehow.
While on the subject of flags, even though they can be problematic; more would be useful. Particularly indicators from what you've overheard on the radio for supplies, large bodies of rescuees, and resources. Albeit this would clutter the map horribly, a useful midpoint would be on the notes to put small icons next to the locations (say, a person, a food basket, and a scrap indicator) or a not-icon (think no smoking) for things you've overheard on the radio. Having to GO to a location to see a filtered result of what you know from the radio is more tactical and less strategic, which means either you tediously do it yourself or you just hang on for the ride and see what you get when you get there. Neither is my personal preference for a game of this style.
Finally for blockade, there is a need to be more obvious when damage has taken out a component. For example, my throttle controls had gotten whacked. I don't check the front page of the log book very often, so I didn't realize it. I'd thought the interface was simply 'clicking through' when I'd get sparks and I tried to adjust my speed, and thought I actually had. Another example is I had no idea my anti-personel weapons were down when I got into the next fight. Some form of more obvious indicators here would be very helpful to reduce the 'wake up, check the book from cover to cover, then do something' mentality the game starts to force you into. Also, if a damaged component would be outlined in red or something in the front of the book that would jump out a lot more and be less likely to get missed.
2) Carriage Management
Please, please, please, put up an indicator that shows the strength for each dream type defense. A total bonus % next to each bar on the dream logs would be enough. As it stands, if you want to know, you have to painstakingly go through every defense on the carriage to confirm your numbers. While with two carriages this is merely annoying and tedious, at 7-9 carriages it gets rediculous. Especially if you're playing with Wanderers who suddenly throw carts completely out of whack and you're trying to clean up the mess.
Second, I like that defenses take up storage space. This is an excellent pressure mechanic. However, what I dislike is the fact that these morons will go on a raid where I prioritize food and fuel, and they decide to fill up the entire car with scrap if someone 'up train' decides to claim the two food units we actually got. Not even the good stuff, either. Near the mid-end game, you end up micromanaging all of your carriages to dump out scrap and materials and the like constantly, as well as using the last cars as a storage space (that's kind of nice actually, when you want it) to simply dump goods off into. Where the end of the game should start ratcheting up the tempo and tension, it's more anti-climax as you sit there and play tiddlywinks with scrap.
When a dispute occurs, there needs to be a 'lockout' on the goods they got. Fine, you're idiots, you've just traded all of your food off for this ton of scrap (when your defense needs are near 0, to boot). There should be a revolt if I have them store all that stuff, and then take the food they traded to another car and give it back to them! This also really needs to be streamlined, for a few reasons. Admittedly, the different carriages may not know that I've got two cars full of scrap at the tail of the train, but you'd think they'd ask first. Secondly the idea of them starving themselves to death behind their defenses, while amusing, is counter-productive.
Purges. Dear gods purges. Okay, I understand that you want carriages to be neutral. That's fine, so revolts are actually dangerous, but it's counter player mentality. Our 'automatic' expectation is to provide defenses and food to our cargo and to upgrade the heck out of our train. Suddenly, everyone loves you. So, either you starve out some folks now and then, leave them a bit helpless (and thus one of your favorite haulers might get whacked), run with low power/weak engines/whatever, or once again you're playing tiddlywinks with scrap to up the Chaos. All of these are things that are against good play. Either you're not 'optimizing' your play or you're doing tedious makework simply to adjust things. Neither are fun. There's a simple fix in my mind. Make loyalty like that significantly time based as new riders are much less likely to be loyal (you're a crazy chick driving a train around in the fog, but you're a lot better option than hiding in this bathroom...), and adjust the threshold for a loyal faction to be MUCH higher. Getting a faction loyal to you should be an "Oh hells yes!" moment. No an "Oh god, there goes the train..." moment when one stops being loyal.
3) The Lottery
Well, for starters... it isn't one. At least in Blockade it's honest. "Squad: You're doomed, now go get stuff." I check every morning after rescuing survivors to see if any of the new folks are improvements (that I can remember got on board from the now missing mission results page), adjust the list, and it's static from there. Noone seems to care, either, which surprised me. I'm not against this, as sending out Mary Sue and her "I can lift 2 lbs of food" and One legged Pete who can't get in the front door before he's dead to the fog would be frustrating in the extreme. The other side of it is finding people is a tedious exercise. You flip to mission skills, and until you realize that the size of the bubble isn't their skill abilities but their social standings (I think, it's useless either way) and that their position on the wheel isn't an indicator of skill but of ratio to other skills, you madly click on the same four guys looking for someone. Then, you have to manually, one by one, go through every blinking person in the car until you locate (and hopefully this time remember the name of...) the person you wanted to include. When The Hulk of a hauler got caught out 3 seconds too long and disappears with the wheelbarrow, and you've got a ton of wimps and need to find a replacement, this is painful.
Additionally, the stats on top I assume have more to do with defenses against the fog than actual mission stats.
I've noticed that some people move faster than others. Signficiantly faster. This statistic is quite possibly as, or more, important than searching! Nothing really beats hauling. However, as far as I can tell, this speed difference has nothing to do with Vigor, Acuity, Wits, OR Grit, nor any of the Mission skills. It's a hidden attribute, though I've noticed a bit of a pattern with their previous occupations. However, that means that I have no idea what the stats I CAN see mean, other than intuitively assuming a few things. They won't mean much to me ever though. It's not like I'm going to de-faction someone with high Acuity to the car that needs it for spotting Old Daisy to close the blinds before they're hurt and start a mess... not unless I'm utterly sure that's what it does. The amount of play throughs and mechanics testing it would take to come close to even figuring out the first clue of what to look for, nevermind all the details, would be huge. If we're supposed to figure this out on our own, I have to admit, I haven't and don't feel any great desire to try.
Edit: I finally found the entry in the manual that describes movement speed. I'd misunderstood and thought Breaching was how many walls they could crash through (too much CoD? My bad). It's right there in the manual, sorry about that. Still not sure what the main four stats really do other than adjust the useful skills below. I was messing about with customs and figured out a few things.
It becomes painfully obvious once you've gotten into the game for a week or two, but from reading the manuals (beautifully done, btw) you don't immediately understand that an upgrade order and a build defenses order override each other. My initial assumption was that "Okay, first upgrade engines. Then, if you have time, start building defenses against Old Daisy from this here scrap." Particularly since they'll repair the car with leftover time. A simple note in the manual would have cleared that up from the start.
Zoom. Please let me zoom the map in and out when I'm planning? Some of those places are huge.
Personel order. Let it match the order I stuff them into the lottery/squad list? It's one of those little things for my head that I want the really fast person on top, hauler/searcher mix in the middle, and guard last so I know where he needs to be. Also makes for setting up the equipment a bit faster.
On that note: If you gave a person something last mission, can they assume they're taking it again this mission? Reassigning the flashlight, two shotguns, a lockpick, and the wheelbarrow every. fricking. time... is annoying, particularly when I'm not agreeing with what auto-assign is intending. A new lottery might reset it, but guess what folks, you're going to all four buildings here, you're today's "winners". Work with me a little, 'eh guys and gals?
Powering down the engine: I've tried this. It's clicky. I'm sure it's meant to be like that so it's an emergency measure. However, I wasn't expecting to be playing an APM game to try to get off the mission menu as fast as possible to flip the throttle back on. Your settings in options as to fast transitions and the like actually affect how efficient you are at this. You setup your plan, you get everything just so. Then minimize power to all carriages and head to the front of the train. You prep yourself for a moment, flip the throttle to zero, run back to the console, and accept the mission. Wait 1:43 or whatever. As soon as it's complete you get off the console, run to the front, and flip the throttle back on. Now you can check over the mission reports and plan the next building. Rinse repeat. For what's basically a turn based game to have a random APM segment seems odd. Also it'd be nice if Battery upgrades would affect the time your battery can run on idle. It's possible it does and I simply missed it though. # of populated cars, timing, rushing to do things, etc certainly could have thrown off my perception. In the end, though, I wasn't expecting my Starcraft skills to be tested here for the most 'efficient' play.
If you stay within time boundaries, 'guard' seems superfluous other than to get rescuees. I can't tell if he's continuously guarding or only guarding when he's on his target within the time span. This could lead to some really interesting setups if you need a lot of time to get into a fuel depot that's way in the back of the building, where you'd chain four guards into a collapsing column where you have more overlapped guards as they fall back and a single searcher way out on the edge, but it's just not clear enough what to expect from guards.
I'd additionally have thought breeching would let me go through walls a little more obviously. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. Sometimes I can have a good breecher walk up to the outside of a building and just rip out 3 rooms 30 seconds away from the train. Sometimes they have to walk for a good minute and a half to reach an equivalent spot. While this makes for interesting design and planning and I like the idea, it's very 'clicky' to try to figure out which walls you can and can't get through from the exterior as you test different points with a squad member. As a rule of thumb I've found the larger rooms are usually harder to get into, but that's not guaranteed either. Some indicator (maybe via the radar?) of wall thickness or whatever you're using to determine this would help tremendously.
Continued play has shown me the 'trick' to this. They can search the room they're in or whatever the radius of their search can reach the center/letter for the room. This is definitely non-intuitive.
Finally, a request. Can the red alarm not sound like my alarm clock? That is quite possibly one of the most annoying sounds I know and you hear it just about every mission. Alternate: Can you tell me what sound file it's using and I'll swap it myself?
A+. Fun randomizer. However, what does 'Hide' mean on the Accept/Hide/Reject menu?
The radio needs filters, or organization, or something. Get to Radio II and you're inundated with messages that you have no idea where they go to without getting off the computer and going to your map between every two or three. Get to III and you're bombarded in the morning. I gave up caring. I left it on 'Help' and listened for where the military was and that was it. The rest was as bad as my email without a spam filter. It becomes useless fast without some form of sorting and control with a map that you can understand nearby.
For the mission logs, can the 'results' be posted below the transcript? It'd be nice to be able to reference after a 4 mission stop where all the new folks went to and what the real overall haul was. Either that or can our engineer simply stack the 'results' messages she gets from the pneumatic tubes into an IN basket nearby?
8 ) Lore
Um, why (non-blockade) is the military trying to blow up my train? Okay, fine, they are, but why? "Hey guys! I've saved a bunch of survivors for you! Can you quarantine us until you're satisfied and get us out of here?!" BOOM! "Oh, so that's a no?"
Edit: Nevermind, found the book.
Thank you for your time. I realize there's a LOT of text here, and hopefully I've kept it concise enough that it's useful. The game itself functions quite nicely and is a solid game in and of itself and is a worthy game as it stands. Most of these items are polish to me, things that take it out of 'a bit clunky' to 'Dude, let's do that again' territory.