Tribes Ascend Notes

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6 years 1 month
Submitted by SuperSayu on Sun, 01/24/2016 - 16:49

Thoughts that occur to me while watching Tribes: Ascend competative play (EU draft tourney 1/24/16 dEdZ vs GP Ascend):

The commentators and players are obviously quite comfortable with the concept of the "rock bounce", which is somehow a complete momentum reversal when you hit a rock with apparently no damage. This is a technical glitch, not remotely the same as skiing, which was originally a physics glitch in the original Tribes but which has been embraced. I would much prefer to see deployable route alteration tools, eg, deployable acceleration pads or bounce pads. Physics-less transitions are acceptable when done deliberately, much less so when you literally hit a rock and bounce off like it's rubber.

Watching makes it clear to me again how the lack of inventory stations and the strict limit on deployables makes defense a total crapshoot. It may be that there are deployables being used that I don't see--mines as well as turrets and shields--but my time playing I have never felt that they were allowed to be relevant. I don't want them to be overpowered, but relevant should be a minimum standard. If deployables are relevant, mortar fire and vehicle support are much more relevant, which in turn makes anti-heavy and anti-tank equipment like rocket launchers relevant.

Now heavies still exist, as I type I'm watching someone harass the flag stand with mortar fire, but when Heavies are truly relevant, you aim to intercept them before they arrive, as once they deliver a payload they seriously set back the defense. This moves heavy defense to a midfield game, and again, that's where deployable inventory stations are relevant, as they are necessary to mount a good midfield defense strategy. Without that, heavy offense and midfield support have to leave post at intervals to resupply.

Given T:As strong focus on routes, it is notable that deployables are so weak. Consider deployable mid-field anti-air; this can hard-counter certain routes. A good deployable inventory station allows you to maintain these tools without respawning or backtracking to base, either of which leaves a hole in your midfield defense in the interim. Similarly, deployable forcefields or ground turrets can block certain low routes on a per-team basis. The probable consequence of weak deployables is that light armors rule over mid and heavy armor in terms of how much they see play; light armors are strategically weak to deployables because the latter are largely intended to be area-denial or route-denial tools.

We return again to the concept of deployable boosters and jumpers. Routes as they exist in the game now are necessary because the entire concept of a good fast route is dependent entirely on the physics engine and skiing, making them static per map, although you frequently have to improvise. Deployable boosters and jumpers, plus deployable energy recharge and other support tools, would literally change the landscape in terms of route selection. Similarly, you could conceive of defensive route altering deployables (pushers and pullers) which have relatively little effect on slow or heavy mobs but will have a substantive impact on airborne or skiing lights. All of these would fundamentally alter the capping game for lights, and so lights would require additional support.

That said the additions may not make the game more fun and I could see a competitive mode with these deployables disabled. In this sense I wish that T:A was more mod friendly; it is always easy to allow server operators to turn off certain deployables, but since there is no mod support server operators cannot add anything that the devs do not wish to see.

In summary though I really would be interested in seeing more deployables. I would even be interested in seeing a return of the classic commander's view of the map, although I know that's too much to ask--and haha, how many people used it really, ever. But if you have deployable sensors and sensor jammers and turrets, you want to know ranges and coverage areas, and maps are good for that. But adding deployables to shake up the map, giving people and excuse to have deployable-centric roles--offense, defense, and midfield--these make the game interesting. I don't like T:A's original conceit that the game is more interesting if you add guns with different rate of fire and damage per bullet metrics. I do like the original Tribes' conceit that interesting games come from interesting strategic and tactical decisions, mixed with players of various skills each playing a role in the larger scheme of things.