Zach wrote:

>On 6/22/06, Cliff Hudson <chronosws at> wrote:
>>I've always been disappointed at the decline of Netrek (I started myself
>>back in 92 in college) but the client presentation has always felt like
>Welcome Cliff.
>What handle did you play as primarily? I've been playing since '94.
>Welcome to the list.
>Are you a programmer?
Back then, I played under a variant of the handle chronos (I can't 
remember which one now though, since the name was always taken and I 
have so many variants.  If you look through server logs, I logged on 
from WSU in Washington State)  More recently I have played under 
ChronosWS, but now I use Jahnweh (no collisions, same handle I use in 
Eve Online.)

I am a developer (8 years C/C++ dev work for Microsoft (Windows/DirectX) 
and a startup called Wildseed (Linux)) and a program manager (1 year at 
AOL when Wildseed was acquired.)

>>one of the largest factors in turning off new players to me (I have no
>>studies to prove it, this is a gut feeling.)  Personally, I think you
>>draw them in with cool graphics and sound (first impressions, right?)
>>and keep them with the stellar game play.  I know there have been many
>>client forks, but even the NetrekXP ones have just been mildly warmed
>>over rehashes of COW clients, and certainly not up to the standards a
>>modern gamer would expect.  Is the community even willing to give the
>>game the good, hard look it deserves to bring it up to the 21st century?
>I agree. What ideas do you have that a modern client should encapsulate?
I have several ideas.  As I said, I believe the game play for Netrek is 
excellent, and I think changing that directly is not appropriate.  Some 
things which strike me as needing work, looking from an 'attract new 
players perspective', are:

(NOTE: When speaking of the client, I am referring to the NetrekXP 2006 
client, V1.0)

- 10 updates/sec.  Because the client does not interpolate between 
server updates, gameplay appears 'choppy'.  This is probably the area 
where I would most be inclined to change the server, moving to an 
event-based network protocol with sync rather than a updates/sec protocol.
- Graphics.  In general the bitmapped graphics look dated.  Now I have 
the utmost respect for those who have come along and tried to give the 
game a more updated look with new bitmaps (Pascal comes to mind 
recently) but it's not just the bitmaps.  Smothing out movements 
(vis-a-vis smooth ship rotations) and better effects (explosions with 
particle effects, maybe some lighting, trails off the torps or plasmas) 
are the top things which come to hmind.
- Playfield. I've always felt the tactical should be much larger.  
Obviously the galactic is very important and its ability to convey 
information should not be diminished, but perhaps it could be made as an 
overlay, or hidden under some circumstances, etc to give the player more 
tactical screen real estate (even if no real additional information is 
disphhlayed on the tactical.)
- Sound.  Netrek has always been weak on this front.  We all know that 
it sounds like what it is - developers grabbed some wavs from their 
favorite Star Trek-themed source and slapped a playSound() call in the 
right places in the code.  What needs to happen is someone who is good 
at manipulating sound files needs to fix these up, balance their levels 
and integrate them into an overall sound scheme for the game.  A bit of 
background noise (the hum of the ship) wouldn't hurt.  To be fair, 
recent clients have done a better job with some of the sounds (shields 
sound good, for instance,) but others leave much to be desired (the 
login WAV on NetrekXP 2006 for instance seems jarring, the cloaking 
sound takes WAY too long compared to the cloak animation time, phaser 
blast sound is slightly delayed compared to the graphics.)
- Configuration.  RC files died in the 90s, at least as a primary method 
of users configuring applications.  There needs to be a proper 
configuration UI, including a modern keymapping system.  Obviously keys 
can be remapped using the help screen, but this fact is a bit opaque to 
new players and provides no instruction.  The ability to move windows in 
the client is nice, but quite possibly misguided, especially since you 
can do it while in combat.  There are probably a limited number of 
genuinely useful configurations, and it may be wise to make it so you 
can't create dumb ones (for instance, where the galactic is partially 
obscured by the tactical.)  These will obviously seem like minor issues 
to devs and hardcore players, but I believe new players will expect more 
polish from a game which is ostensibly 20 years old in its present form.
- Window decoration.  Now maybe this can be turned on and I simply 
haven't looked for the switch, but by default the game should be using 
the OS standard window decorations for the main window, so that it can 
be resized, closed, minimized, etc.  Having a game window without a 
title bar (as appears on NetrekXP 2006) looks VERY strange.

Overall, the client needs to be polished.  It looks and feels rough 
because it was made by developers for hard core gamers, and for those 
two groups it large meets its presentation goals.  But if I put this in 
front of a new person, the first thing they think is that it looks 
awfully old (and therefore must not be very interesting.)  I think if 
people can just get past the first-impressions hurdle, they will be more 
inclined to stick around long enough to see how deep the gameplay goes.

That's my $0.02.

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