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The Roguelike World => Events and News => Topic started by: Bear on August 25, 2010, 06:25:25 PM

Title: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Bear on August 25, 2010, 06:25:25 PM
Let's get past the technology for a moment and focus on game design.  What makes good roguelike gameplay?  These are all matters of opinion, so I expect that no consensus will emerge; but I want to have the discussion and see the opinions.

In some games items are relatively simple.  Most items do what you expect they will and that's all they do.  In other games, items are relatively complex.  Their effects can usually be strengthened or weakened, and sometimes changed altogether, eg, by blessing, cursing, overcharging, corrupting, or reversing them.  Many items can have interesting effects on the dungeon itself (eg, by breaking rocks, digging holes, freezing moats, triggering drawbridges, etc).  Are simple items or complicated items better for gameplay?

In some games enemies are very predictable and have several highly exploitable behaviors like lining up in corridors, predictable chase paths, predictable behavior in chasing you around pillars, etc.  They have known (or at least knowable) capabilities and are dangerous in known (or at least knowable) ways.  Their speed is usually fixed in some very simple ratio to yours, so it's "countable" and you know exactly when they'll move.  In other games, enemies are complicated and often unpredictable.  Their capabilities can vary tremendously, and unpredictably, due to individual variation or just because they can pick up and use magic items from the dungeon floor.  Different types of enemies exhibit different kinds of intelligence and, frequently, different motivations.  A hungry panther who wants to eat you will behave in a very different way from a hostile wizard who wants to steal your amulet.  And enemies can be peaceful or tame or hostile, and there are (sometimes) things you can do to pacify, tame, or enrage them.  Some creatures can be beneficial to the player under some circumstances, usually involving some risk (such as foocubi and nurses in nethack, quest masters, and so on).  Is it better for gameplay to have simple creatures, or complicated ones?

Some games have a simple interface.  It may be as few as a dozen or so commands.  There may be a single "use" key (assuming the items are also simple and have exactly one use).  Other games have complex interfaces and allow most objects to be used for many different things. Such games may have literally hundreds of commands, organized in a hierarchy of menus where you go to an "inventory screen" for acess to "extended inventory commands" that didn't fit into the main menu.  Most objects can be used as at least improvised weapons.  The first way is easy to learn and the second way is more flexible.  Which way is better for gameplay?  Would the availability of really good in-game help change your opinion one way or the other?  Would playing the game day-in, day-out, until you have the complicated command set committed to muscle memory make that game a "better" game than a simple game you'd played the same amount?

Some games have a very long equipment upgrade path.  You will probably replace your entire kit at least a dozen times during the game.  Other games have a short upgrade path where you can find good gear fairly early (less than 5 replacements) and then stick with it.  Which way is better?  Does it depend on the length of the game?

Some games have a short character power curve, where a "winning" character is likely to have less than 15 times the hitpoints/damage dealing capabilities of a starting character.  Low-level characters have a chance, if they are sneaky cowards, of surviving surprisingly deep.  Other games have a  long character power curve, where a "winning" character is usually at least 100 and sometimes 1000 times as tough as a starting character.  Low-level characters, regardless of sneakiness or cowardice, get killed fast if they get out of their depth.  Which way is better?  Does it depend on length of game?  Does it depend on the length of the equipment upgrade path?
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Krice on August 25, 2010, 07:52:43 PM
It depends on game's design. And for that we have game designers. They are the guys who know what to do.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Etinarg on August 25, 2010, 09:27:44 PM
I like the part of equipment assembling. Finding and selecting items to have a good kit for my PC.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: getter77 on August 26, 2010, 12:00:46 AM
If you can wind up with a great many varied YASD and YAVP postings in theory, generally arising from a variety of builds, styles, and interesting encounters to run into, and the game has enough of a hook and replay value to encourage them---I would reckon you to pretty much be there.

I suppose in a magic world a project would start of as a streamlined and direct one...fun in turn, while then also forking off for a more complex variant twist and then keeping both pretty well in sync dev wise as then no flavor goes untasted by anybody.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Bear on August 29, 2010, 02:46:18 AM
I like the part of equipment assembling. Finding and selecting items to have a good kit for my PC.


Does a hard ID game contribute to the fun, or get in your way?  And how about the ability to make limited modifications to items or have items behave differently in different circumstances (for example the way stuff works differently in Nethack if blessed, cursed, used while confused, etc)?  Does that contribute to the fun, or just complicate matters?



Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Etinarg on August 29, 2010, 09:54:44 AM
ID should be available fairly conveniently for my style of play. I avoid unidentified items if possible, so games where ID is limited give me troubles. It's fair enough if ID scrolls cost money and are not always/everywhere available as long as there are overall enough of them. Or other, risk-free means to identify items are available.

Lot's of modifications are good, also context-sensitive modifications. Nethack is obscure though, since without spoilers it's very hard to find out how things work and what side effects there are. For me it's important that game mechanics are clear.

I also like to alter items like the gems, runes and runeword ideas from Diablo II.

A few of the restrictions from RL games seem silly, though - e.g. a priest cannot read prayers from books while blind in Angband. While I agree that mages might be required to actually read the spell, not just reciting it, for priests I do not believe that. So while generally I think these limitations are good, some of them appear unreasonable to me. (In general, I think the books should only be needed for learning the spells/prayers, not each time one uses them).

The "slay" modifications are a particularly good invention I think. But only if the game has themed areas where one sort of enemy is very frequent and there is a matching slay. I do not like to switch my equipment every few minutes, and to have to carry 5 different weapons "just in case".

This are just my very personal preferences. I do neither try to say what is "good" in general, or say that games must be made this way. It's just what I like and dislike among item identification and item use.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Bear on August 29, 2010, 01:25:21 PM
ID should be available fairly conveniently for my style of play. I avoid unidentified items if possible, so games where ID is limited give me troubles. It's fair enough if ID scrolls cost money and are not always/everywhere available as long as there are overall enough of them. Or other, risk-free means to identify items are available.

I think I agree in most points. In particular I like "detect curse" and "detect magic" as specific effects available early/cheap/plentiful, to remove unreasonable risk from id-by-use and allow people to not waste ID on non-magical items.  But I like ID itself rare and/or expensive, and I like items with substantial tactical components that are likely to be risky in some circumstances even when functioning as designed (beams that reflect from walls, large fireballs in small rooms, etc). "Reasonable" risk IMO is from the items working the way they're supposed to when you try them in an inappropriate situation. "Unreasonable" risk from curses etc should be possible to minimize, or with careful play avoid completely.

Lot's of modifications are good, also context-sensitive modifications. Nethack is obscure though, since without spoilers it's very hard to find out how things work and what side effects there are. For me it's important that game mechanics are clear.

Agreed, again.  Providing a reason for a character to seek to curse his own equipment, or become confused, etc, is providing an effect that benefits only the spoiled, and is for that reason unfair.  Characters should have cause from basic game mechanics, not from spoily oracle hints, to expect the modified effects as a result of the modification.

The equipment-modification subgame is a large part of what gives nethack its depth, but that subgame can be supported with other modifiers, more reasonably/intuitively connected to the modified effects.

I also like to alter items like the gems, runes and runeword ideas from Diablo II.

I don't know anything about this.  Can you give some examples?

A few of the restrictions from RL games seem silly, though - e.g. a priest cannot read prayers from books while blind in Angband.

Remember the primary issue is game design not realism, so consider the game design objective.  They were trying to balance the spell-casting classes so they didn't have a grossly unfair advantage over all other players.  The reading restriction (amongst others) did that.  If you think it's unreasonable, you don't have to do it with exactly the same set of restrictions; but you still have to accomplish the game design objective, so your spell-casting classes don't have a grossly unfair advantage.

This are just my very personal preferences. I do neither try to say what is "good" in general, or say that games must be made this way. It's just what I like and dislike among item identification and item use.

Well, personal opinions are what this thread is about.  If anyone claims that there's a real objective best game design, s/he is wrong.

Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Etinarg on August 29, 2010, 04:14:42 PM
They were trying to balance the spell-casting classes so they didn't have a grossly unfair advantage over all other players.  The reading restriction (amongst others) did that.  If you think it's unreasonable, you don't have to do it with exactly the same set of restrictions; but you still have to accomplish the game design objective, so your spell-casting classes don't have a grossly unfair advantage.

Maybe something like "Your god can't see the world but through your eyes while you pray" could explain why prayers do not work when blind. I understand that such restrictions spice up games. I guess it's just a matter of taste of one likes the chosen reason for the restriction or not.

The gems and runes thing should be easy to explain.

Starting with the gems. Each gem has an effect that can be added to an item. For example, chipped rubies give +10 life (HP). Items have so called sockets for gems (and runes). If you put a chipped ruby into a socket, the item will get the +10 life bonus.

Runes work similar. A "El" rune gives +50 to hit bonus (much less effect in Diablo II than +50 to hit would have in Angband, it's a ratehr small bonus) and +1 light radius. If you put this rune in an item socket, the item will get +50 AR and +1 light radius mods.

Then there are rune words. If an item has several sockets, you can put several runes into them. If you assemble a "rune word" you get all the individual mods of the runes plus one or more "rune word" specific mods.

Not all items can have sockets. I think only weapons, armors and helms can be modified this way.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Drag on August 30, 2010, 02:22:11 PM
My point is in the bottom paragraph.
Let's get past the technology for a moment and focus on game design.  What makes good roguelike gameplay?  These are all matters of opinion, so I expect that no consensus will emerge; but I want to have the discussion and see the opinions.
In my opinion conventional Roguelikes, I'm speaking Rogue-Nethack-etc are in a dead end. It doesn't get much better than Stone Soup with tiles or <insert your own favorite here>. I even managed to make a few "oh god no roguelikes!" people play it and they enjoyed it for about 20 deaths. From a technical and conventional standpoint, the dungeon-creating algorithms are refined and at times give truly remarkable results. Even useability is at a level that is "as good as it will probably get".

In some games items are relatively simple.  Most items do what you expect they will and that's all they do.  In other games, items are relatively complex.  Their effects can usually be strengthened or weakened, and sometimes changed altogether, eg, by blessing, cursing, overcharging, corrupting, or reversing them.  Many items can have interesting effects on the dungeon itself (eg, by breaking rocks, digging holes, freezing moats, triggering drawbridges, etc).  Are simple items or complicated items better for gameplay?
Items that do simple things, like killing stuff, should be simple and do what the player expect them to do. I'm not a big fan of improving a +3 sword/blaster/whatchacallit to a +4 blaster. It's just supposed to kill stuff and "stuff" should never take a bajillions hits to die unless your weapon is completely defunct. Now changing the way you wield your sword (technique) or changing the energy settings on your blaster --> Good, immersive, believeable. Items that do complex things, like tools to change the enviroment or something to create other items or even creatures should have complex mechanisms and upgradeability behind it. In summary: Basic stuff --> simple ; Complex gameplay elements --> complex; duh.

In some games enemies are very predictable and have several highly exploitable behaviors like lining up in corridors, predictable chase paths, predictable behavior in chasing you around pillars, etc.  They have known (or at least knowable) capabilities and are dangerous in known (or at least knowable) ways.  Their speed is usually fixed in some very simple ratio to yours, so it's "countable" and you know exactly when they'll move.  In other games, enemies are complicated and often unpredictable.  Their capabilities can vary tremendously, and unpredictably, due to individual variation or just because they can pick up and use magic items from the dungeon floor.  Different types of enemies exhibit different kinds of intelligence and, frequently, different motivations.  A hungry panther who wants to eat you will behave in a very different way from a hostile wizard who wants to steal your amulet.  And enemies can be peaceful or tame or hostile, and there are (sometimes) things you can do to pacify, tame, or enrage them.  Some creatures can be beneficial to the player under some circumstances, usually involving some risk (such as foocubi and nurses in nethack, quest masters, and so on).  Is it better for gameplay to have simple creatures, or complicated ones?
Predictable (beatable, masterable) enemies are good. They may be repetitious, but most people prefer it that way. A game is fun if you can "get behind the mechanics" understand it, and exploit it to full reward. However, a slight mix of the two is nice, like an odd, proceduraly generated variant of an enemy ever so often. This does not mean that there should be just enemy npcs. Neutral and sometimes friendly NPCs are a great benefit to atmosphere and believeability of any game.

Some games have a simple interface.  It may be as few as a dozen or so commands.  There may be a single "use" key (assuming the items are also simple and have exactly one use).  Other games have complex interfaces and allow most objects to be used for many different things. Such games may have literally hundreds of commands, organized in a hierarchy of menus where you go to an "inventory screen" for acess to "extended inventory commands" that didn't fit into the main menu.  Most objects can be used as at least improvised weapons.  The first way is easy to learn and the second way is more flexible.  Which way is better for gameplay?  Would the availability of really good in-game help change your opinion one way or the other?  Would playing the game day-in, day-out, until you have the complicated command set committed to muscle memory make that game a "better" game than a simple game you'd played the same amount?
Learning how to play a game is fun up to a certain point of hurt. Menus and commands have to be context sensitive. On the other hand you should never compromise depths of a game to simplify the control scheme. It is the wrong place for such considerations in these days. An good ingame-help eases things up tremendously, especially for your target audience, smart people with varying degrees of attention span and time. Interactivity and the ability to "improvise" solutions to problems the player is facing is key to good gameplay. Enable the player to tackle a particular problem in unique and freeform ways and the player has fun because "his" solution did work or resulted in so called "epic fail" (FUN) Now using objects as improvised weapons is only a tiny, tiny portion of the true potential that lies here.

Some games have a very long equipment upgrade path.  You will probably replace your entire kit at least a dozen times during the game.  Other games have a short upgrade path where you can find good gear fairly early (less than 5 replacements) and then stick with it.  Which way is better?  Does it depend on the length of the game?
How often you switch your equipment depends on the length of the game and the amount of equipment you get. In that regard I personally dislike "equipment spam" which results in me weeding through oodles of useless crap and probably missing a few gems because I lack insider knowledge to spot them. Identification of objects is only fun if there is truly something to discover! What the hell do I care about the fifth +1 ring of whatever. What I want is something of a skill check to unlock varying degrees of usefulness out of a strange artifact. A good roll and maybe you figure out a game changing use for it --> You have something to TALK about with your friends who also play the game: "Hey guys I found this truly remarkable, rare thing that..." BAM, you as a game maker caught the attention of a player and his peers, who might continue to talk about how epic the game is and make a Let's Play... and so on. That said, equipment you find should have some uses and it should be very rewarding to experiment with it. Equipment can be very powerful/rare if there is a logical explanation for it.

Some games have a short character power curve, where a "winning" character is likely to have less than 15 times the hitpoints/damage dealing capabilities of a starting character.  Low-level characters have a chance, if they are sneaky cowards, of surviving surprisingly deep.  Other games have a  long character power curve, where a "winning" character is usually at least 100 and sometimes 1000 times as tough as a starting character.  Low-level characters, regardless of sneakiness or cowardice, get killed fast if they get out of their depth.  Which way is better?  Does it depend on length of game?  Does it depend on the length of the equipment upgrade path?
I dislike becoming a shoeless god of war completely overpowering earlier foes. Progression in a game should mean that I unlock new/clever/hilarious/efficient ways of solving problems instead of (just) getting a +1 to damage/whatever. Why can't I kill a horde of undead space miners from ceti V by overloading a power conduit in a minigame. Why do I have to repetitively fire ma blaster +5 until they are all dead or my arbitrary hitpoint number is depleted? Why can't I improve my reputation with the "Stereotypically tough mercenary company" so I can call them in as reinforcements to wipe out the alien infestation on an untouched planet full of mineable goodies? So they help me further my overarching goals of galaxy domination?

Yes you read right, overarching goals in a halfway believable world. What you save on art and graphic you have to give back somewhere. I'm sorry to say, but Dwarf Fortress certainly is not as popular as it is because of its classic roguelike part! And it still is in its infancy, barely exploring the possibilities "modern" games can never hope to explore. Now I don't think the excess of DF's procedural generation is truly needed for a good/popular neo-roguelike. There is a lot to be done by just creating a game that reacts and gives clear, concise feedback on the players actions in a set-up world with limited procedurally generated content. Like different factions each game or proceduraly generated worlds (lets step away from "dungeons"?) Elements of building up what is yours, from the humble beginnings to your own "bases/castles/starships/whatever" make for a truly interest-catching experience. An experience where the player "can't get enough".
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: deeper on August 30, 2010, 06:54:29 PM
Exploration is what matters most in a roguelike. Unending strangeness, deeper and deeper. Weirder items, monsters and fortresses. I don't even care about winning. I just want more world.

Level generation is good. I think angband has a beta artifact generator. How about a monster generator? A vault generator? We could really have an infinitely deep world that never gets stale.

OTOH I've gotten tired of roguelikes. I like realtime action. I'd like Angband and Kobo Deluxe to have a baby.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Etinarg on August 31, 2010, 02:01:16 PM
I think angband has a beta artifact generator. How about a monster generator?

The problem is that random monsters really puzzle the player. Artifacts, and items in general can be identified so the player know what the thing can do.

A random monster is much more difficult to to judge.

"You see a Furglabaz. No battles to death are recalled. Nothing is known about it's attack".

It might have something really evil, like a nether breath, but can be harmless and it's only attack is to dim your light source. If a game has random monsters, it needs mechanics to learn about these monsters in a fairly safe way too. A deadly mistake is permanent, and the next game will have different random monsters, so one cannot learn from a past game ...

I'd assume this is the main reason why so few games have random monsters. on the other hand, I like the idea, but it seems to be difficult to do right.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Bear on September 01, 2010, 05:53:17 PM
Exploration is what matters most in a roguelike. Unending strangeness, deeper and deeper. Weirder items, monsters and fortresses. I don't even care about winning. I just want more world.

This is something I totally agree with.  I've already decided to add a bunch of "rarities" to the game.  A "rarity" is just something that cannot be generated in every game.  I mean, for example, every game can have a few ultra-powerful "artifact-level" items, chosen from a set of dozens or scores.  But more than that, every game can have a few low-level peculiar items, and a few mid-level peculiar items, a few recurring NPC's, a few unique monsters, and a few kinds of rare creature, and ...  all of these things, each chosen from its set of however many, are rarities.  They generate interest _because_ you don't see them every game.  Their appearance puts you into new content, and new content keeps happening game after game after game. 
 
Level generation is good. I think angband has a beta artifact generator. How about a monster generator? A vault generator? We could really have an infinitely deep world that never gets stale.

A good excuse for getting rare creatures (or procedurally generated creatures) into and then out of the game is to have them be the minions or constructs of a unique NPC.  In a fantasy-themed world, if Drusilla the Bone Gatherer is loose then a randomized, procedurally generated, or just plain rare type of undead (presumed to be her creations or minions) can be found with her.  A nice thematic way to introduce a rarity - a monster type which you'll meet *many* of before you manage to defeat Drusilla, and then suddenly they're all gone and you'll get the progress rush for making a win that changes the game conditions.  I think this amps up both the reasons and the rewards for defeating uniques. 

OTOH I've gotten tired of roguelikes. I like realtime action. I'd like Angband and Kobo Deluxe to have a baby.

I'm much more a game-theory purist and don't particularly like realtime games.  But it gives me an interesting thought.  It wouldn't be hard at all to make the commands in a roguelike game take the same amount of time it took the user to type them, and add a "timeout" command that keeps happening every half-second or so even if the user stops typing.  The result would be a lot like realtime play.

Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Bear on September 07, 2010, 03:05:01 PM
I've been thinking lately about the depth of a game and what supports it.

Dwarf Fortress has great depth, and it's supported by arbitrary player-created maps and a whole tribe of characters.  When the fortress is attacked, there are tactical considerations about routes and getting defenders to the post and decisions to make like flooding passageways and  random things that happen to individual dwarfs and so on. Each combat is an application of simple rules about dams and fluid flows and fights and accessibility/mobility and supply and so on, and players use these consistent rules plus their ability to create a map and configuration, to make a whole that either efficiently defends itself, or fails to do so.  This is a very pure application of a Conway-type game, with actions begetting reactions and consequences while the player strives for a "good" outcome as measured on several different axes.  That is really a brilliant premise for supporting incredible depth of play, and I can't think of any real parallels in roguelike games.

Chess, Go, and Othello have a different kind of depth.  It's more epiphenomenal.  The rules about individual pieces are simple, but combinations and particular formations have subtle emergent properties.  The two applications of this kind of depth in roguelike games are the equipment subgame and monster/monster and monster/terrain interactions. 

The equipment subgame in some roguelikes has some of that type of depth, in that even though each individual item is simple, forming a strategy involves knowing what combinations of items have particular emergent properties and effects and what combinations are actually possible within the constraints of what slots each item occupies.  Modifiable equipment adds a dimension to the game, but needs to be more than just an obstacle-course to a better chunk of equipment; each modification (or decision to not modify) needs to be a valid option in the development of a strategic combination. In other words, each modification ought to involve some kind of tradeoff, where some strategies will benefit from it and some will benefit more from not doing it.

Monster/monster and monster/terrain interactions also have some of that property, in that simple (but different) movement or interaction rules per monster and some varied terrain can make for a huge variety of combinations and formations with different emergent properties. 

What else supports real depth-of-play?
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Jo on October 30, 2010, 04:58:09 AM
I enjoy this discussion but have very little to add. In general i play crawl, powder and doom/aliens. Grew up on old hack builds. they were all pretty fun. All so different. So it is hard to give answers. Generally a simple interface, low confusion but freakishly deep and varied is what roguelikes can bring better than other games.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Ancient on November 01, 2010, 04:09:50 PM
Since you bumped the thread I'll add my three zorkmids.

Lining up and other predictable movement behavior is fun to exploit when game features equipment making use of these arrangements. ZapM and DoomRL feature railgun. Tight long corridors are a blessing. Creatures aware of this tactic and trying to make this harder for player seem to have "good AI". Monster acts significantly smarter but not in unbalancing way. Eight way targeting also falls in this category. In MPRDB dragons are actively trying to line up with you to have a clear path to breathe fire. In general I find omnitargeting to be less interesting mechanic. It fails to capitalize as well on grid nature of roguelikes.

About identification. Most pleasant ID is when there is not so plentiful source of easy and full identification and plenty of methods giving partial information. Wands engraving in NetHack is good example. When you engrave something and get effect "the bugs on the floor stop moving" you just narrowed wand type to two different effects. If you happen to also know price of the given item you know what it is. Bad example is ring identification in ... NetHack. You drop the ring in a sink and get a message which gives the ring class away to you but without automatically identifying it. The sacrifice a ring to ID it mechanic itself is acceptable but prompting to name is just silly. Oh, and avoid potions of death please. ZapM has one currently ... :-( Angband too but fortunately it no longer instakills.

Interface? Here I think my musings will not be overly useful. I can master almost any interface unless it is context sensitive. My particularly hated behavior is Auto-Select-Doors from ADOM. Well, there it can be turned off. In DoomRL it is simply evil. 'o' key automatically opens door when there is only one in your vicinity. However, when there is more than one it asks you for direction. Combined with fast-and-furious gameplay you sometimes press 'c' to close a door to obstruct monsters' line of sight and flee other way. Now imagine you being in a vertical corridor with two open doors to the east and to the west. Some imps are on west side. So you press 'c' and go east for supercharge globe. But! Your "move" east was interpreted as close the door to the east. Bang! Boom! You are dead. Killed by interface. Close command asking for direction is fairly rare. This inconsistency prevents you learning interface. Correct solution is to ask for direction for open and close *every freaking time*. You will get used to and this will never fail you. Your fingers will know this by muscle memory.

I've been thinking lately about the depth of a game and what supports it.
What else supports real depth-of-play?
Monster and item descriptions. They create unique world and make me look at the game from a different viewpoint. Kobolds of POWDER are like no other kobolds. They have their own society, own patron (Wpark the Wonderful) and own secrets. ADOM's rats also feel different to many other kinds of rat. Just read the description where you are surrounded by dozens of pairs of red glowing eyes and your torch dies ... On the other hand quote-based descriptions of NetHack could just as well not exist. Not helpful at all; not immersive at all.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Bear on November 01, 2010, 08:53:31 PM
Re: message and item descriptions:  That's more about immersiveness than depth, but I'll agree that they're important to the quality of the game. 

Interface considerations like modal door-opening and door-closing are an interface problem that  trades off muscle memory vs. situational awareness and doesn't affect depth-of-play as such.  Players whose primary means of mastering an interface is situational awareness and observation hate non-modal door-opening and door-closing passionately because, "This is STUPID! Why does this dumb game ask this question when there's only one possible answer?"  Players whose primary means of mastering an interface is muscle memory will hate the modal version just as passionately  because "AAARGH!  My hands can't learn to do it without taking into account whether there are other doors, or chests, or whatever crap that my attention isn't focused on!"  Either problem disrupts gameplay and flowstate for players who are strongly dependent on one of these methods rather than the other.  So, yeah, it does need to be an interface setting if you don't want to exclude either group.  But then there's a fight about which way should be the default and whether the players whose style doesn't match the default will stick around long enough to learn that they can change the setting. 

Re: 8-directional targeting vs. omnitargeting, I've thought about this one.  You're right that 8-directional targeting imposes constraints that can be developed into depth-of-play whereas omnitargeting does not, but I still object to it on two grounds:  First, 8-directional targeting without omnitargeting is hard on my suspension-of-disbelief, and thereby breaks immersion.  Second, I think of targeting more as 'interface' than 'game' and as a general principle I prefer it when only the 'game' introduces problems and the 'interface' only facilitates solving them.  When overcoming an interface problem becomes an important subgame, I think we're getting too far away from the spirit of the game.  For example, there's an implicit subgame (introduced by game elements such as monster movement)  of lining up trick shots, which plays monster movement rules against rules about ranges and effect-traversal paths, and can make a huge difference in play. Brilliantly effective use of trick shots can lead to quick victories in difficult situations.  And monsters and effects with different movement capabilities and traversals can make this subgame very interesting, without making the simple direct shot across the room impossible due to interface constraints.

I agree about identification with lots of sources of partial information contributing depth.  If you're going to run an interesting ID subgame, I think the characters should have access to things like "detect magic", and it's interesting to have "experiments" that divide things into classes like engraving does in Nethack or Item Feelings do in Angband or detect-curse does elsewhere, and so on.  But it's actually very hard to do an interesting ID subgame that will stay interesting in the presence of spoilers.  Once a player has memorized all the engrave messages and prices, etc, the ID game in Nethack is just a walk, or, more pejoratively, a grind.  If you have any ideas for an ID subgame that isn't blatantly unfair in favor of spoiled players, I'd like to hear 'em. 


Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Ancient on November 04, 2010, 09:42:15 PM
Re: Interface. Thank you for explaining this to me. I had thought those who scream to remove this stupid keystroke just do not want to be efficient and have smooth experience. How shallow.

You could try modifying NetHack identification to become more spoiler-proof. Lets take wands again. Items have KNOW_B/U/C and KNOW_PVAL (charges here) flags. Lets add KNOW_VALUE which would be set when seeing item in a shop. Then appraisal scrolls would reveal gold value. Also, have set of uniform descriptors for wands:

\oDeath: {lethal} {targeted} {stops bugs}
\oSleep: {debilitating} {targeted} {stops bugs}
\oConfusion: {debilitating} {targeted}
\oFire: {lethal} {targeted} {elemental}
!oBlindness: {unhealthy}
!oConfusion: {unhealthy}
!oHallucination: {unhealthy}
!oAcid: {unhealthy} {turns-to-fruit-juice when treated with u-horn}
...

Upon gaining knowledge of a descriptor check whether known set of descriptors and secondary qualities are unique to this item. If yes, auto-identify this item. Dipping an unicorn horn into a potion of blindness, confusion or hallucination would inform player that this potion has {harmful} descriptor or identify outright if acid.
"You infer that lethal wand stopping bugs must be a wand of death. (+250 xp)"
"You infer that wand of stopping bugs that costs 200 gold pieces must be a wand of sleep. (+50 xp)"
"You deduce by elimination that this wand costing 300 gold pieces must be a wand of fire. (+125 xp)"


Identification almost invulnerable to spoilers is technological gadget figuring out in Alphaman. But it is also boring. You just hit 'f'igure out until item is known or damaged beyond repair by your actions. Unless you have (or hope to) some means of raising intellect.

Berries of Alphaman still were interesting despite being totally spoiled. Ripe berry could be thrown to cause good damage if harmful but if it is stat modifying berry you just wasted a large boost or small permanent increase. Unripe berry could be eaten to identify with weak harmful effects or thrown on monsters for a little damage. There is also possibility of waiting for them to ripen.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Skeletor on November 08, 2010, 01:45:23 PM
I have to say you started a very interesting thread, Bear. Thank you!

My personal point of view:

   Items: complex = better. This adds tactics and roguelikeness.

   Enemies: I like it when different kind of enemies show different kinds of behaviors; anyway, there shouldn't be too many intelligent ones IMO. Managing to kill hordes of stupid predictable enemies using the player intelligence is still very satisfying!

   Interface: I think a good compromise between simplicity and flexibility can be done, but if I had to choose one then I'd go for the complex one.. implying the game experience it's worth it. But I think that item/world complexity don't necessarly need a difficult interface.

   Equipment upgrade path: inventory/equipment management is a very tactic and fun aspect in roguelikes, so it shouldn't be undervalued. Lots of stuff found, little inventory/equipment space, good stuff not so early but neither too later: random quarterstaffs of devastation in SMC1 (ADOM) never were a problem.
   
   Power Curve: I'd really like a roguelike where low-level characters have a chance to win the game, I just love when the player manages to surpass very strong / out of depht enemies using his intelligence and tactic. It's not only realistic, but also very rewarding for the player to know that with his knowledge of the game aspects and his tactical and strategical abilities he now manages to proceed through the game even skipping exp/gold rewards: this is ANTI-FARMING, one of the best game experience one human being can have IMHO. But I fully understand that this can be very difficult to obtain in a regular turn based roguelike (without losing the satisfaction factor for levelling and stuff).. and this is also why lately I'm very interested in action roguelikes (and projecting one).
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Elig on November 09, 2010, 03:44:23 AM
This is an awesome thread and I'm not sure why I haven't commented on it sooner. Anyway, here are the things I like:

- Exploration: It's fun to go around in a dungeon that you know nothing about.
- Loot: I always love getting awesome stuff, and I like the lottery-like unidentified item system. It's great to randomly find a huge pile of gold in a roguelike, even if you can't use it for anything.
- Interesting Classes: I like classes that allow interesting and unique styles of game play. Things like the archeologist in nethack, the knight of the order in CVRL, the half titan in ZAngband, etc.
- Interesting advancement: I like getting new abilities that change gameplay when I level. I love the way DoomRL does it's advancement, and anything that has a fallout 2-like perks system.
- Killing: I love killing monsters of all shapes, sizes and kinds. And I love encountering new monsters.
- Scrolls, potions, and rings: I absolutely love those items with effects that you don't know about before you try them. Unless you're lucky enough to get an identification scroll.
- Upgrading equipment: I always enjoy searching for the best set of equipment and looking for that perfect set of enhancements on a weapon.
- Not dying: I hate dying in roguelikes. After all this time, it just annoys the hell out of me.

The great irony in the above list is that I've never implemented all of these things in my own roguelikes.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: jim on November 10, 2010, 09:58:29 PM
I've got one. It's optional, heavily optional, and it's not always applicable, but I love it when it works.

The Base

This is the area where your character stashes all his hard-stolen loot and performs his alchemical transmutations, trains his henchmen, casts his ritual magic, breeds his horses, uses his telescope to augur the future, communes with his deity, forges his new sword, repairs his armor, researches new magic, writes his novels, seduces his romantic conquests, etc.

When not doing any of these things at the base, he is improving the structure of the base itself so as to better defend it from encroaching baddies.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Vanguard on November 11, 2010, 03:44:15 PM
Permadeath.

The risk adds so much tension and excitement.  Fear of the unknown gives roguelikes a better sense of mystery than you're likely to see in any other genre.   Being set against impossible odds and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, not because you could abuse quicksave or anything like that, but because your tactics and preparation were just that good.  It's the best.

I've got one. It's optional, heavily optional, and it's not always applicable, but I love it when it works.

The Base

That's a good one!  I hadn't thought of that, but you're right.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Ari Rahikkala on November 11, 2010, 07:56:31 PM
Back when I used to play roguelikes more, my favourite moment in any game tended to be reading the first blessed scroll of identification in ADOM (usually in early CoC or late VD/PC). Yes, there is plenty of gameplay value in having complicated identification, but in ADOM you get so much loot it'd be difficult and tedious to identify all of it feature by feature. Usually while being next to an altar so you can bless all of your water too. You close the doors, read a scroll of ID, drink your stat increasing potions, maybe read some equipment-enhancing scrolls, sacrifice or drop the equipment you don't need... it's a moment of respite away from killing monsters, and you come out of it with less encumbrance, better stats, feeling refreshed and ready to take on challenges you never could handle before.

(it's funny how that works - sitting down and going through your equipment is far more of a reward in ADOM than gaining a level. I'm not sure roguelike developers really even see leveling as something to make the player look forward to... the only game I can think of offhand where I really anticipate gaining a level is DoomRL, whose traits are very powerful and directly linked to leveling)
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Z on November 11, 2010, 09:36:41 PM
I don't like leveling. I think a smooth curve is better. That is, you still get stronger with experience, but you get e.g. a tiny bit stronger for every monster you kill, not a "level" stronger for every 50 monsters you kill.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: corremn on November 11, 2010, 11:22:29 PM
I love leveling, it is what traditional RPGs are all about.  Striving for that next level, taking risks, hoarding equipment you cant use yet, and then finally you achieve it, and the sense of achievement hits you. Very rewarding. 
Roguelikes diminish this somewhat, but still its a major factor that I love about the genre. 

Players like to see noticeable differences not a smooth curve.  Its the same as replacing you mundane weapon with an awesome one, if you dont notice the difference between the weapons then why have them.  Players NEED accomplishments, without them the player will be quickly bored.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Z on November 12, 2010, 12:07:39 AM
I feel it is strange that a "role playing game" commonly means something like "a game about characters whose statistics are measured with numbers and who can raise these numbers by gaining experience".

When I play e.g. Crawl, I do not have any noticeable sense of accomplishment by getting a new character level (unless it is the highest level possible) or a new skill level. I get a sense of accomplishment when slaying a powerful monster (or overcoming another kind of challenge). There are games where the new level is celebrated e.g. by giving the player full health at this point, but I find it illogical.

The question of smooth curves versus sharp steps appears in many situations. Experience levels, stats (just weak/normal/strong? or 5-10-15 with all numbers in between? or 60-100-180?), resistance levels (there are lots of games which contain items which raise e.g. fire resistance by 5%, I don't think this is very fun; Crawl has 5 (6?) strongly distinguished levels and it feels better for tactics), speed (in ADOM you can have e.g. speed 101 instead of the usual 100, in another game you could have only 50%, 100% or 200%), ... I believe that, in most cases, a smooth curve feels realistic, but having only a few levels is better for tactical gameplay. (So, I have this Dexterity stat, which I can decide to raise from 15 to 16 at some point, it will raise my Evasion value using some formula which I do not understand, which will in turn determine the chance of avoiding the attack, by another formula which I do not understand... Good for simulation, but bad for tactics.)
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Fenrir on November 12, 2010, 02:44:22 AM
We (well, maybe not me so much) throw around some interesting topics and ideas around here, but, when it gets down to experimenting, we have the "nDRLs". I think that a 7DRL event should be set up in a similar manner to the Experimental Gameplay Project. We choose a mechanical "theme" (leveling/item stats/dungeon generation/etc.) each time, then developers experiment with these themes to determine what works and what doesn't work.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Bear on November 13, 2010, 04:41:06 PM
I don't know about that. 

I think that the "NDRL" impulse is more about overcoming the tendency to lose focus and let the project back-burner forever than it is about experimenting.  It's a good medium for experimentation, but I don't think it's a good medium for trying out any new game mechanics except the ones that are very easy to code. 

Hmm.  Mixed opinions on leveling.  That's interesting.  I don't really have a strong opinion on that myself. 

I like the shorter power curves too (smaller difference in hits & damage between starting and winning characters) but they're harder to balance well. 

I think permadeath is a good thing; it's a game's way of demanding respect, and it leverages content so the player can keep getting accomplishment rushes off "further than I've been before" rather than just a linear playthrough based on backup files.

The Base-Building game is what's so great about Dwarf Fortress.  It supports as much depth of play as you want to put into it!  It's hard to work into a traditional "Quest" roguelike though. 

Re: "Anti-Farming" I totally agree it's an awesome subgame.   Encouraging it is the main reason why I plan to award score bonuses for smaller turncounts. 

The best I can think of for spoiler-proofing an identification subgame is this.  First have lots of item variability so individual items, even of the same type, have different range, damage, recharge rates, specials, and so on.  Second, have "rarities" - that is, types of "common" items that simply don't appear in all games.  If every game has an unknown number (say 5 to 15) "rarity" potion item types, you can't play spoiler-based process-of-elimination with any real certainty. And if those rarities are drawn from a large pool some of which are very rare, you'll occasionally be seeing potion types that you have not seen in any previous game. 

But an identification subgame needs to be over at some point.  I think before a character gets more than 50% of the way to a win, he should probably have a reasonably available and reliable means of fairly complete identification. 
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: jim on November 14, 2010, 03:35:44 PM
The Base-Building game is what's so great about Dwarf Fortress.  It supports as much depth of play as you want to put into it!  It's hard to work into a traditional "Quest" roguelike though. 

Totally. But I remember when I first successfully stormed the castle in Nethack and found myself with a base to end all bases. It was fun to store all my goodies in different treasure chambers and to line the entrances with Elbereth.

ADOM, meanwhile, is a game in serious need of a base. Chaos notwithstanding, the game has no real time limit, and the lengths people go to in order to "fake" a base (like leading the old barbarian back to the farmer's village) speak to the necessity of at least a safe storage closet.

Meanwhile, Omega has a base for sale at 50,000 gold, and Incursion (should it ever be finished) will have an upgradeable stronghold as a base of operations.

I think that a base can be a worthy addition to any (let's say) less linear roguelike, especially ones with an overworld or where maintenance / training / long terms planning comes into play.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: mariodonick on January 17, 2011, 06:34:08 AM
Interesting thread I overlooked until now.

Setting and Story

Any game should have an interesting setting which gives the player character a reason for (whatever the ultimate goal of the game is). The setting should be consistent, it can have similarities to cliché settings, but should add its own flavor to these. Examples I like in this regard: Vanilla Angband (because of it's simple LoTR setting and it's deep depressing dungeons), Legerdemain (because it even has its own printed book). Examples I dislike in this regard: Nethack (too much inconsistency in monsters and items), Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (often I forget why my character is in the dungeons at all).


Dungeons and World

I prefer non-persistant dungeons like in Angband and have the feeling that today most people disagree with this, because of some disadvantages, but it forces you to go deeper, deeper, deeper, if you don't want to explore all the paths to the exits of a level again. It's also good to have some kind of town level or even overworld in the first level. This strengthens the feeling of a consistent setting.

Dungeons should also have some things to play around with, for example oil on the ground that can be set on fire, or spider webs that can be destroyed by fire.


Monsters

Monster's should not be procedurally generated. Each kind of monster should have some speciality that distinguishes it from others, and the player should have to find ways to cope with this speciality. The preacher throws fire? Well, get fire resistant equipment, or resistance potions. There should also be some peaceful monsters and for some character classes, killing these should have a negative outcome (like no EXP). Monsters should also react on different dungeon states (e.g. getting hurt when standing inside fire).


Items

In general, items should be static, too, but identifying potions and rare and unique items should be required nevertheless, and there should be a SMALL amount of weapons with randomly chosen specials. It's good to have the possibility to combine items with other items, to create new items (such as combining bread and meat to a sandwich, or inserting a crystal into a socketed weapon). It's also good if enemies react on items thrown on them (such as getting peaceful, if food is given them), and if there are parts in the dungeons which react on items, too.


Inventory

Inventory size should be limited, because I simply like inventory micromanagement, and the decisions about item usage.


Quests

I like subquests, giving the possibility to get better equipment or money, and to get to know the setting and the story. I also like fed ex quests ("get me A from B") and simple kill quests ("kill X of type Y"), but many people don't.


Interface

As easy as possible. My ideal roguelike interface LOOKS like the interface of World of Warcraft or similar games and PLAYS like Diablo. As few keys as possible, and no huge boxes at the screen, except small status areas and an action bar. In console mode, of course, compromises have to be made. The interface should also let the player know what he can do in a given moment at the current position (not everything, but common things).
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Rya.Reisender on January 26, 2011, 10:57:17 AM
I like roguelikes most when they are incredibly simple to play, but yet hard to master. I like it when the focus is on very short and simple decisions like "move up or up-left?" rather then complicated "I need to read a 20 pages guide book about it before deciding the whether I should join this religion or not" decisions.
I usually don't like item systems in roguelikes, because they usually ruin any fast-paced gameplay.
If the game is not fast-paced it has no replay value for me.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Krice on January 26, 2011, 02:43:24 PM
I think it's the non-linear gameplay. Problems can have more than one solution and you can create different kind of strategies in combat. There are no artificial limits to stop you trying crazy stuff like stealing from a shop or killing the shopkeeper.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: Darknoon on February 01, 2011, 08:43:56 AM
I think if your trying to program something, try making an incredibly small game first that isolates something that is fun. I'm pretty sure most roguelikes are actually accumlations of lots of things that would be fun on their own, but gathered together are either as fun as all those parts or more fun.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: mariodonick on February 01, 2011, 10:46:01 AM
Quote
I'm pretty sure most roguelikes are actually accumlations of lots of things that would be fun on their own, but gathered together are either as fun as all those parts or more fun.

Sometimes. You need to be consistent, though, otherwise all the funny things don't fit together and feel strange.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: jim on February 03, 2011, 08:04:58 PM
Sometimes. You need to be consistent, though, otherwise all the funny things don't fit together and feel strange.

EXACTLY. There needs to be a thematic feel of some kind.
Title: Re: What is good in roguelike gameplay?
Post by: wire_hall_medic on March 12, 2011, 09:40:57 PM
I find that, while I've tried a few rougelikes, far and away the most time I've spent playing is Diablo II and DoomRL.  So this reply is mostly about them.

Items:  In my preferred rougelikes, items are relatively simple.  Often, they can be modified (slotted items, upgrade packs), but they do little other than their intended function.

NPC Behavior:  I like 'em simple.  I don't much care for exploitable behavior, but I do like the old-school black-and-white morality.  I'm not here to understand what motivates my NPCs, I'm here to separate them from their tasty, tasty EPs and swag.

Interface:  I like a simple interface.  I prefer games which are designed to enable ease of control, rather than depth of control.  I'm not going to quaff a wand, nor fire a helmet.  I've never enjoyed fighting with the computer to try and word a simple action completely.  Any one who's played the text adventure games of the 80s knows what I mean.
     I'm totally happy with "equip," "use," "alternate use," "combine," etc. 

Equipment Upgrade Path:  I'm pretty flexible on this one.  As long as it's easy to tell if the swag I find is better than what I've got, I'm fairly good.  Oh, and I should be improving fairly often.  This can be leveling, new gear, or whatever, but there should be a definite feeling of progression.  Infrequently enough to be satisfying, but frequently enough to be fun.

Power Curve:  Again, it can be steep or shallow.  As long as the game is consistently challenging, without being overpowering, I'm happy.  Of course, without some power progression the game gets boring, but I don't care whether I get large or small power boosts when I level (or whatever).