I had a long conversation with a few of the moderators last night, and I feel like the lightbulb finally came on for me -- I think I get the vision, and I've turned the corner from "I want to influence this" to "I'm fully onboard" (relatedly, I upped my KS pledge to the $2500 Omnipotent One / Advisory Board level).
All this time I've been thinking "this guy is making some weird casual game with 8 ships, and he's willing to tack on real Descent to placate hardcore players, but he views it as just an add-on to the casual game he wants to sell to casual gamers". But now I see the coherent whole, with the base game as a sort of player funnel to guide people from noobhood to whatever skill level they're willing to invest time in reaching, and with D1 flight/combat at the top of the pyramid.
Back in 1995, D1 trainee mode mostly taught us how to fly around without hitting too many walls, to occasionally dodge a shot, and to explore levels. Bumping the skill level up put more focus on dodging and moving efficiently. Bumping it up again got us into planning ("I need to secure the energy and take out the hulk behind the grating before I go for the blue key") and resource management ("do I use this smart missile now or hold it for the nasty room coming up?") Then we discovered friends and neighbors who played Descent, and got into modem games, and learned more advanced tactics for fighting intelligent opponents -- prediction, setting ambushes, running away, dogfighting. Eventually we got on Kali and learned more advanced tactics, and those who were really motivated and honed their craft joined elite clans or ladders. And of course some people settled at each of those levels instead of climbing further.
Now I understand how the 8-ship game relates. It's a system to expose new players to different parts of the flight dynamics and tactics, for gamers who expect to learn by playing multi instead of learning by playing bots. Mining teaches you how to fly around without hitting too many walls, to occasionally dodge a shot, and to explore levels. Scout ships that see more combat and need to cover more ground will put more focus on dodging and moving efficiently. The ships and roles and game modes are designed to help people deal with the skill curve -- not merely to sell the game to casual players, but to build casual players into competent pilots
, and build a few of those into top-tier competitors. So the current competitive community isn't just an afterthought; we're the *target* for the most motivated players, and we're also their training mechanism -- when the ever-important matchmaking algorithm puts them on our radar, we're the ones who will make them say "how did you DO that? Teach me!" The awesome flying we want isn't just tacked on to the game; it's the explicit goal, which is why they're reaching out to people who fly well and can explain why.
That's what will make this "Better Descent" -- a superior way to bring pilots up the skill curve, keeping it fun the whole way, but where skill is still king. There's still time to screw it up, but if they keep going the way they've been going, this will be the Descent game that's better than Drakona would make. So I'm no longer urging mere cautious openness. I'm officially on the D:U bandwagon. Come support it with me. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/de ... nderground