First of all, thank you Gearbox, for the interest and willingness to bring Homework back, and for all the effort and work done on making this release, in which the original games feel like they aren’t just tacked on as a bonus, but are a significant property of the whole package.
I personally have been playing through both HW1C and HW1R simultaneously, going back in forth between each as I progress through the campaign, and getting a great sense of which is stronger, where. It should ideally be that all strengths are present within HW1R alone, making it the definitive statement, but right now I feel that it is overall the lesser package, due to missing the premises that stand out to me as the founding design considerations of Homeworld’s concept. Fortunately, the discrepancies can be resolved, and most of them very simply, too.
Many of the remaster’s shortcomings concern presentation. The original developers made a point of creating the most immersive atmosphere possible, and that massive sense of pure environment is largely what crafted the lasting impressions that players held and which made a remake of the game viable, and desired.
The presentation should be just the player, and space. But in the current setup, there are so many layers that obstruct that direct relationship that while the classic Homeworld gives an impression of immense atmospheric enormity, the Remaster comparatively feels condensed and compromised. Gearbox, it seems you’ve designed the presentation of the remaster largely without knowing this point, and have placed many layers of disconnect between the player and the environment.
When you reduce the considerations of the original game, you consequently offer a lesser product.
While playing HW1C, I can contemplate the environment and experience endless distance, but there are too many interface spacial interruptions in HW1R to allow for that same experience.
The impression of the remasters is indeed flashy on superficial appearance, but it doesn’t manage to convey an endless deep. The intention of this remaster is to honour the identity original, but the concept of having re-released something HW1-like in a new engine is a different concept than honouring the identity of the original.
List of Specific Points:
The game’s UI settings need to be remembered so that the UI elements don’t all turn back on every new game, every saved game load, and every next level. This is a basic design value that spares a player inconvenience and irritation, as recurring micro-management of the UI setup is not gameplay, and is not enjoyed.
Provide a menu option to permanently disable green wireframe tactical overlay (In HW1C it is disabled with a button in the overview map, and I’ve since been informed that TAB cycles this off in the remaster) – this setting should be remembered and not turn on with every new game and load and level.
Unbind the hyperspace jump button from the UI HUD – otherwise it never shows up when the HUD elements are turned off. Also, move it someplace that is non-obtrusive, such as the overview tactical map screen, which is where it is in HW1C. Players regularly remain in an area long after the mission objective is completed, to harvest all remaining RU. It is not pleasant to have the Hyperspace button stuck in the middle of the screen all that time. The quiet time after clearing a zone of hostiles is also optimal time to contemplate the space, without distraction.
Make the RU display re-disappear after the Build or Research panels are closed, when the player has their UI elements set to being turned off. Presently the RU display turns on with opening the Build or Research panels, and then stays on after those panels are closed, making the player need to press Backspace 4 times in a row after each access of the menus in order to return to their no-HUD viewport layout.
Provide a menu option to permanently disable lens flare in space. It is breaking of all logic to have a lens flare in natural space, and detracts from appreciability of the space environment, especially when looking at the vista highlights. Again, it creates a layer of interruption between the player and pure space.
Regarding the lens flare, I’ve explained in greater detail how it is jarring to the Homeworld narrative and its creative universe in another thread, using this (here revised) paragraph:
[quote]The game’s actual take on the controls during the campaign is that the player is sending out commands having assumed the role of the mothership, who Karan, the ship’s designer, integrated her mind into. The mothership is not floating around space with the view the player is seeing, but is commanding with a sight of mind more closely resembling the information of the tactical overview map. The player’s ability to be in space is an interpolation of the combined resources which the mothership’s mind/ship integration has access to. Seeing lens flare implies the player viewport is not these things, and contradicts the premise of Homeworld. It is non-canon and story-breaking. The player’s experience of space is firstly intended to be just pure space.
There is no magical floating camera in space that runs on space magic and can pop from to and from all parts of the tactical map and game zone in a split second. Having lens flare in the Homeworld remaster (it isn’t in the original) is like painting lens flare on to scenic artwork in a museum. It’s ridiculous. It obstructs the scenery, it takes away the sense that this is out in space. It isn’t supposed to feel like being in a teleporting pod, or sitting behind a security screen, it’s supposed to be in space.[/quote]
Provide significantly smaller UI HUD scaling options. Smaller mouse cursor, too. The huge and bulbous theme for UI and mouse right now completely misses the point of minimal interference between the player and space atmosphere. One third of their present smallest scale option is sufficient – and is probably the same scale HW1C comparatively is. The purpose of these elements is to accomplish functionality, and not be a part of the environment. The magnitude of Space is the environment. It would be great to have the original HW1C mouse cursor optionally available to select for use, keeping its original size dimensions.
Implement the spacecraft-type selection filter that HW1C has. This refers to the itemized list of selected craft when drag-selection is made over a larger area. This makes organization and commanding far less messy, far more efficient, and far more meaningful. This is also in accordance with the player assuming the role of the mothership, sending out commands to the fleet. The mothership can certainly form instant command signals based on ship-type, and so could the player in HW1C. It should continue to be that way now, as well.
Let escape also natively bring up the game menu – In HW1C, escape functions as both Cancel and Game Menu. There is no reason it can’t also do this in HW1R. Escape is more ergononmic than F10.
Provide an option to permanently disable ship highlights on mouse-over. This is entirely unnecessary, is not present in HW1C, and is also a layer of disconnect between the environment being true space, and is a weaker amalgamation of different presentation concepts.
Lastly, both the HWRs have been balanced to cater to HW2 gameplay. That’s only one side of this project. It will be proper to also have a total re-balance to make both games respect and honour the HW1C style of gameplay - as they truly are two different gaming experiences. And between the two, it’s the HW1C experience that has made the series renowned, and got things to the point of this remaster being as desired as it is. MP games should have the option to select either HW1 balancing or HW2 balancing. HW1C is more technical, and more meaningful in its strategic decisions. It’s a grander experience. The dramatic differences between ship statistics in HW1C are a real part of the classic’s portrayal of immensity, and . Again this is a place where the loss of design considerations results in a lesser product.
It is the context between all considerations that creates meaning, value, purpose, and point, and game design should always be trying to harmonize more considerations in a efficient manner, rather than reducing them to low common denominators.
For a relatively little amount of straight-forward refinishing work, the impression and legacy of the Homeworld Remasters can easily increase by an order of magnitude, and I think that’s worth it to all.