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I'm trying not to go off into all these long-winded posts and be more to the point, but here goes....
I've not been in a gaming mood the last few days, but I played "Outlaws" for about 20 minutes yesterday. Keep in mind my sedate mood as I post this, in case I'm not coming across as my usual enthusiastic self. Here are some thoughts:
1) It's very difficult to assess a "two-to-four-player" game when I don't have a second person to compete with! It looks like it could be a lot of fun, but I don't have anyone that I can get to play this game with. So the rest of the comments below are what I can assess and imagine based on what I'm experiencing.
2) The game is hard as hell! Even without a second player, it was extremely difficult to line up a shot at the non-moving/fighting opponent. I think it took close to 10 minutes before I even scored a hit!
3) the graphics look good. The new ships look cool, particularly in the ship selection screen. I am not sure what really needs to be better about the graphics; they look crisp, smooth, and colorful as is. Actually, it all appears to be good as is. Perhaps longer missile trails would be interesting.
4) The new weapons are cool, as are the different ships (each with their own strengths and weaknesses). The long charging of the various weapons makes sense, particularly the Mirvs.
5) This relates to point #2: The firing rate seems too slow, in my opinion. I'd prefer to have a faster fire rate for the low-powered cannon weapon, even if it meant reducing the damage inflicted. It'd make it easier to waste a cannon shot to line up your trajectory for a major Mirv attack. Note: this might not be applicable if played with another real human. In a real two-player battle, I can imagine that each shot would be a tense experience, which might be amplified by the slow rate of fire and the slowness of the bullet travel. If four people are playing, the excitement would be even more amplified!
As you can see, it's very difficult for someone in my position to judge the fun factor of this multi-player game while playing it solo. If you manage to get multi-player working, then I have no doubt that I would enjoy this.
Unfortunately, I think trying to program an AI opponent would be an extremely difficult programming challenge. Just trying to compute trajectories toward the player, taking into account all the gravitational effects of the planets, would require you to be a mathematical prodigy!
A few ideas:
1) perhaps a "handicap" system could be implemented to balance out the gameplay. If a good player (me) is facing a less-competitive player, I could be saddled with a slower rate of fire, less hull strength, less weapon strength, etc., while a "poor" player gets faster fire, better hull strength, more damage inflicted per shot, wider blast radius upon impact, etc..
2) Random bonus targets on the playfield. Hitting such a target (saucer, satellite, asteroid) yields a bonus of some kind (weapon power-up, money, healing, opponent-hampering, etc.). This might give the player a reason NOT to aim directly at the opponent, keeping the player constantly adjusting his/her firing arc. As it is, the game strategy appears (as in most artillery games) to be finding a general firing arc, then making minor adjustments to fine-tune their shooting accuracy. In a four-player battle, I think this would add even more frenzy to the game!
3) A single-player variant of some sort. Perhaps shooting at random moving targets is all that's required. Perhaps use it as a "practice" mode. That'd give people a reason to play if they can't find an opponent to play against. The multiplayer would still be the main attraction, of course.
Ok, I'm running out of energy, so I'll post this now. Hopefully there's some food for thought here.
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