Author Topic: a RL that requires skill?  (Read 49415 times)

punkbohemian

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a RL that requires skill?
« on: April 04, 2012, 01:37:16 AM »
Basically, I'm looking for a RL where success is largely based on some kind of ability and not dumb luck. Read on for details (and probably a rant).

I (relatively) recently discovered RL and have been playing a few different RL games lately. I'm not really into fantasy, so I've been focusing on other settings (DoomRL, Decker, a couple others). I read the guides, learned the systems, and this is the conclusion to which I've come. That is, it takes very little skill/strategy to play RL games. Or, more accurately, skills and strategy are of minor use in RL games. The bottom line is that the odds are so stacked against you, success is most definitely going to rely more on dumb luck than any ability. For example, with DoomRL, I'm usually dead within an hour. As much as I have mastered cornershooting, giftdroppng, and even dodging (for what it's worth), it's only a matter of time before I find myself in an I'm-pretty-much-screwed situation. I don't feel like I'm being challenged with RL, I'm just biding my time until the game randomly spawns my guaranteed death.

Also, I'm gonna say it, Vi is dumb. No really. Tell me, what makes more sense for simulating the cardinal directions on a keyboard. hjklyubn, or how about qweadzxc? Take a look and think about it. I do quite a bit since I'm playing on a laptop.

On the bright side, from these experiences, I've invented a RL LARP. Here are the rules:

1) Flip a coin, and let it land on the floor.
2) If it's heads, you lose.
3) If it's tails, you lose.
4) If it lands on it's side, cures cancer in a 100 mile radius, and completely repairs the ozone layer, you win.

There are two difficulty levels, easy and hard. For easy, use a nickel. For hard, use a dime.

So, uh, yeah...any RLs not contingent upon dumb luck?

Legend

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2012, 02:40:44 AM »
Roguelikes is a genre where pretty much, you either "get it", or you don't.

There actually is a great amount of skill that goes into playing most roguelikes despite the amount of randomness that is involved. The skill mostly comes from making the proper choices given your current situation. Which direction you move, what you decide to eat, what armor or weapon to wield, which enemy you choose to attack first, are all very important decisions to make even if it doesn't seem so on the surface.

Playing roguelikes is not about winning. It's about playing.

Unfortunately, given your description and perception of roguelikes, there really isn't any game I can recommend to you. Other than maybe spelunky although it is not a traditional roguelike. Possibly Cardinal Quest.

But if you are mostly concerned about NOT dying within an hour of gameplay and winning frequently, then roguelike may simply just not be the game genre for suited for you.

Game Hunter

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2012, 03:28:53 AM »
So, uh, yeah...any RLs not contingent upon dumb luck?
In my opinion, this is a pretty legitimate complaint about roguelikes. At the same time, however, it's one of the hardest obstacles to overcome for a developer of roguelikes. Consider:

  • One of the fundamental bases of a roguelike-styled game is its ability to render perceptually-random environments through procedural content generation (PCG). This ensures a certain degree of replayability, since you aren't playing the exact same map, or finding the same weapons, or fighting the same enemies at the same times, and does require one to become as flexible as possible when dealing with a constantly-unknown game.
  • Games with definitively random elements are, by their very nature, going to require a certain degree of fortune in order to have a successful venture. While PCG isn't necessarily random at all, it is certainly easier to develop one that leans towards randomness rather than tightly bounding the restraints so that only combinations that teeter on the edge of easy death and scrapable victory exist.
  • Trying to build a PCG "engine" with such restraints while still feeling random is probably very very VERY hard to do. Tack on the fact that this is still a game that should be fun and enjoyable, and you've got quite the large boulder to push up that hill.

Let's face it, a lot of roguelikes take a relaxed approach when it comes to providing what would be considered "fair challenge". There are going to be a lot of situations where the player is screwed, totally and utterly, and there are going to be just as many times where the player breezes through a ton of the game without so much as a long battle. To be fair, this is basically the norm of the genre, and most players who engage in roguelikes learn to accept it. But it could be better. (Perhaps a lot like saying national governments could be better, given the challenges awaiting a developer.)

With this in mind, I'd say Brogue really strives to give the player a challenge while preventing as many luck-influenced deaths as possible. Don't get me wrong, it's a freaking hard game: I believe that the developers designed their difficulty such that even the best players will find it hard to achieve success reliably. Still, it's probably closer to what you're looking for than most other roguelikes. Other people can surely provide more examples, if not better ones.

For example, with DoomRL, I'm usually dead within an hour.
I find this funny because players I would consider good at the game can pretty handily win a game in well under an hour. Or, at least on the easier difficulties. The harder difficulties are a lot more "play until you get something nice", although it's still quite possible to get yourself through without superb gear.
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punkbohemian

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 03:53:53 AM »
You're right. I don't "get it", but it doesn't mean I can't. I want to get it. I really do. I'm so bored with mainstream games. And, the travesty that was called Fallout: New Vegas finally broke me and drove me to take my interest in gaming in a new direction.

So, I'll say stuff now. Feel free to rebut. I hope you (or somebody) does, because I really do want to understand this.

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Playing roguelikes is not about winning. It's about playing.
...if you are mostly concerned about NOT dying within an hour of gameplay and winning frequently

Let's forget "winning" for a moment. So, you pick up a new RL. You're learning the game, and you're dying a lot as part of the learning process, starting over, utilizing what you learned. Now, with a better understanding of the game, you're adjusting your strategy, but you're still dying a lot and having to start from scratch. What have you accomplished? With DoomRL, all I've accomplished is dying just as much, but at a more consistent point of the game. I can build a character for one of the challenges, and unless I get a certain random drop by a certain point, I know exactly where I am going to die (literally within 5 squares), regardless of strategy for that particular situation.

I don't mind dying at all. In fact, one of my favorite games ever put an interesting twist on dying in video games (Planescape: Torment). But, when you die in RL, it usually because you've been boned by fate, and you get nothing for your efforts. It really is a gamble, like going to the casino, except with worse odds. Imagine playing poker and never having the option to fold. You have to play every hand through, even when you know you're screwed. What's the payoff?

And another thing, why are more RLs (even newer versions) fantasy? In fantasy, the basic idea is that you win the magic sword, slay the BBEG, be the hero, get the girl, blah, blah, blah. It doesn't seem to jive with a game that emphasizes chronic death. What about PA RLs? There's, like, none of them. You could turn The Road into a RL and call it Roadlike. Considering how bad that movie ended, I would look forward to dying in a tributary video game. My point is, considering the spirit of RL, why not a game where death is its own bittersweet consolation prize for lack of victory?

Anyway, that's where my head is at, though I do want to try and get something out of RLs.

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In my opinion, this is a pretty legitimate complaint about roguelikes. At the same time, however, it's one of the hardest obstacles to overcome for a developer of roguelikes. Consider...

I totally agree with everything you said here. From the player perspective, games look pretty "simple", but from a designer perspective, they are so much more complicated. I had taught myself python a while back for my own game design purposes, which was eventually derailed due to a philosophical dilemma somewhat similar to this conversation. It's something I still ponder to this day.

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With this in mind, I'd say Brogue really strives to give the player a challenge while preventing as many luck-influenced deaths as possible. Don't get me wrong, it's a freaking hard game: I believe that the developers designed their difficulty such that even the best players will find it hard to achieve success reliably. Still, it's probably closer to what you're looking for than most other roguelikes.

How is this different than any other RL? If you're the best player, but still getting boned enough to prevent reliable wins, clearly its "fate", not your own skill.

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I find this funny because players I would consider good at the game can pretty handily win a game in well under an hour.

I totally agree, and I've seen the YAVP threads to prove it. I think you've actually replied to one of my posts over there (the dual vs. single pistol thread). Above, when I was talking about being able to predict where I die within 5 squares, it's my AoMr character. Whether I go for DW, MSs, MGK, MCe, I always die in HNTR in exactly the same place within 5 squares without fail. I would say that level of consistent failure is a testament to skill. It's just not very fun.

Legend

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2012, 07:49:34 AM »
You might try playing UnNethack or Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (even though you are not fond of fantasy settings) and playing through the tutorials. They are pretty good at giving you hints and helping you grasp the major concepts of most roguelikes.

As for why most are in fantasy settings, try having a listen to the Roguelike Radio podcast episode on themes and settings. We discussed that very subject. There are definitely other themes for roguelikes out there ranging from sci-fi, horror, steam punk, giant mech, space marine, zombies, serial killer, and my little pony. Just gotta poke around.

"Getting it" will most likely only come from playing more and more. To me, it's very much about exploration, discovery, survival, experimentation all coming together to create a sense of adventure and wonderment.

I rarely feel like I die in a roguelike from simply bad luck. Most the time, I feel I die from making a mistake or playing poorly. I even enjoy dying in Nethack because there are so many ways to die.

You may want to check out sewer jacks since a lot of the skill comes from choosing the correct offensive and defensive moves. Try as many different rl's as you can. You should eventually come across one that just meshes with you.

There's also Shoot First which is real time.

DoomRL is not easy for the average player starting out. Most the guys who are that good, have logged quite a few hours into the game and know most the spoilers. DoomRL is the kind of game, in my opinion, that you get really good at by mostly being spoiled. Similar to Nethack. It's still a great game though.

DoomRL also has the set special levels that would definitely be considered as needing skill to complete since they are more or less exactly the same every time you play and you know what items can be found in those levels. (except for beating The Wall on Angel of Berserk. That requires just dumb luck. (unless some sort of brick breaking gauntlets or melee weapon are added to the game))

Most likely there is going to be a lot of "getting screwed" no matter which game you play. I would just take it like a pro-bono porn star. Do it for the enjoyment of getting screwed and take it on the chin with a smile.  

 

kraflab

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2012, 09:17:08 AM »
Maybe I've been lucky with my choice of RLs, but I almost never come across a situation where I feel like I got beaten by dumb luck.  When I die in a RL, my immediate reaction is 'Darn, I should have done A instead of B a couple turns ago!' which is definitely a matter of skill/experience.  Take Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.  I have probably played that more than any other roguelike.  The more I play, the deeper I get more often.  If the game was really about luck, then it would be totally random how deep I get each time.  As other people have mentioned above, there are various cases of people that can win repeatedly, so saying it is totally chance is a little silly imo.  In the recent crawl tournament I believe the winner won 12 games in a row.

Now crawl is actually a very good game to consider in this argument, because its former lead designer, David Ploog, actually believed that even the 'perfect' player should lose about 10% of games or so.  Of course no one is perfect, and you will never be the master of a roguelike, so I think this lower bound on failure is just a theoretical thing that shouldn't affect you.  I think roguelikes are supposed to pose a situation where the odds are stacked against you in a sense.  It takes skill and player experience to know how to overcome those odds, and only practice can improve your chances.  Is there luck involved?  Yes, because it's random and that is almost inevitable (if it isn't, I think you start moving into the puzzle game genre).  But your skill will determine just how good your chances are.

I haven't played DoomRL, so I can't comment on that specifically.  But perhaps the problem is just that you aren't playing the right roguelikes for you.  Again, I strongly recommend DCSS if you haven't tried it.

Z

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2012, 09:56:32 AM »
Yeah. It surely depends on the game. For example, I have noticed that 7DRLs tend to have low winning rates as a balance for their relative lack of content (Fuel, Drakefire Chasm from this year). These two games are still extremely fun, but you have to be used to it.

The best Crawl players win more than 10 times in a row. I am not as good, but when I die, I often see that it was my own fault. It would probably take a year to win it for the first time, for a relatively good player. So it is certainly skill, not luck. (Also depends on your race/class selection of course, some are more reliable, and some are less.) I expect the same about ADOM. I have no stats about DoomRL.

You can also try my Hydra Slayer, it is fantasy, but it has a completely different fighting system, and it has almost no instadeath. Losing comes from using a bad strategy of picking your equipment, or from making many small errors, rather than one big error. You can get a partial win or a full win, and I obtain a partial win virtually any time, and I would probably obtain the full win too, but it seems more difficult for newbies (I have seen only one victory post for the full win, and only for one race).

getter77

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2012, 11:48:55 AM »
Aside from Shoot First!, I'd reckon you might get something out of Triangle Wizard, as unlike the outstanding majority of RL's---realtime physical dexterity can have a tremendous effect on successful play as opposed to just ponderous decisions and dice rolls.  Even beyond that, the game generally heavily favors improvisation, as well as many different character styles, if not a variety of abilities to outright "make much of your own luck".  Also, you get invincibility for awhile when descending stairs, so the classic, damnable "stair trap" really takes quite a perfect storm of confluences to happen.
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Darren Grey

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2012, 12:30:54 PM »
I have to agree with some of the points about there being too much random chance in roguelikes.  Dice rolls really have little place in a game with permadeath, in my opinion.  One shouldn't end up dying just because the RNG made you miss 4 times in a row.  In a turn-based game good planning should ensure success, not good dice rolls.  I love random content, but I dislike random mechanics.

I don't mind dying at all. In fact, one of my favorite games ever put an interesting twist on dying in video games (Planescape: Torment). But, when you die in RL, it usually because you've been boned by fate, and you get nothing for your efforts.

Get nothing?  This is something I have to disagree on.  The game is fun to play, and though it ends at some point (winning or dying) it's not the end that matters.  You should be having fun playing.  You don't moan when you lose at Tetris, do you?

One game you might like (in spite of its fantasy setting) is ToME4, since it gives achievements and unlocks throughout the game, so even if you die halfway through you have the feeling of "well at least I got x and y".  It also has an option for a more relaxed death treatment - you can play with a set number of lives rather than a single life, allowing easier recovery from dumb mistakes.  Also it has a much bigger variety of gameplay across its classes than DoomRL, with many more tactical choices available, so replayability is a lot better in my opinion.

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And another thing, why are more RLs (even newer versions) fantasy? In fantasy, the basic idea is that you win the magic sword, slay the BBEG, be the hero, get the girl, blah, blah, blah. It doesn't seem to jive with a game that emphasizes chronic death.

Because fantasy is easy, and you don't have to go explaiing a whole world to the player.  Most roguelikes are pretty light on story.  Also, tradition I guess.

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What about PA RLs? There's, like, none of them.

And here I must refute you, since I have made a bleak post-apocalyptic roguelike about an alcoholic trapped down a mineshaft - it's called Broken Bottle.  The other well-known PA RL is Caves of Qud.

You might like some of my other games since they emphasise tactical choices rather than blind luck.  However many of them are generally considered quite hard, punishing you severely for the slightest error.

punkbohemian

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2012, 01:54:36 PM »
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I strongly recommend DCSS.

I've seen a lot of recs for DCSS. I even played through part of the tutorial. The gameplay wasn't bad, but all the talk about elves, swords, magic, etc. kinda turned me off. Maybe I should give it another chance...

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"Maybe I've been lucky with my choice of RLs, but I almost never come across a situation where I feel like I got beaten by dumb luck.  When I die in a RL, my immediate reaction is 'Darn, I should have done A instead of B a couple turns ago!'

I have been in the same situation. However, at the point where I had to decide between A and B, it was an educated guess (not knowing the future of the rest of the game), and B was the better choice.

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Get nothing?  This is something I have to disagree on.  The game is fun to play, and though it ends at some point (winning or dying) it's not the end that matters.  You should be having fun playing.

Playing is fun, but the (death) endings are so anti-climactic that I feel I just wasted my time. Living is fun, why not make dying fun as well?

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David Ploog, actually believed that even the 'perfect' player should lose about 10% of games or so.

That's just kinda mean, if you think about it. If success isn't guaranteed even with "perfect" playing, and there's no reward for failure, it's really an exercise in masochism.

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Is there luck involved?  Yes, because it's random and that is almost inevitable (if it isn't, I think you start moving into the puzzle game genre).  But your skill will determine just how good your chances are.

This makes me think of blackjack. Blackjack is actually more chance than skill. It just so happens that the chances are relatively close to even (compared to other games). However, work the (right) tables properly, play the odds, and count cards, the odds swing slightly in your favor. Now, even in these situations, you're going to lose a lot of games. But, in the long run, you'll come out ahead. If RL games are generally meant to be "lost", I would think there should be a "long run" towards which you can work.

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And here I must refute you, since I have made a bleak post-apocalyptic roguelike about an alcoholic trapped down a mineshaft - it's called Broken Bottle.

I played it a couple times. Actually, since you mentioned it I'm playing it a bit again.

Pueo

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2012, 04:55:23 PM »
You're right. I don't "get it", but it doesn't mean I can't. I want to get it. I really do. I'm so bored with mainstream games.
I think your situation right now is exactly how I felt when I first started rogue-likes. I was so tired with Call of Duty and Battlefield and "Shoot. Turn right.  Walk down hall. Die. Do over." Unfortunately, I started on NetHack, which kind of put me off the rogue-like genre for a year or so. 

Imagine playing poker and never having the option to fold. You have to play every hand through, even when you know you're screwed. What's the payoff?
I think in poker, the payoff would be a bank account with negative numbers in it.  In rogue-likes, however, when you die, you don't 'lose' anything.  Sure, you lost an hour of your life, but you gained information, skill, and you also had fun (hopefully)

Let's forget "winning" for a moment. So, you pick up a new RL. You're learning the game, and you're dying a lot as part of the learning process, starting over, utilizing what you learned. Now, with a better understanding of the game, you're adjusting your strategy, but you're still dying a lot and having to start from scratch. What have you accomplished?
This is how I felt when I first played Brogue (which I wholly recommend).  I got to level 4, or 5, then I would die.  I died about 5-10 times, right around the same spot, and then I made some adjustments and got to level 10.  I died at level 10 for about 100 games, made some adjustments, and got to level 17.  I died there too.  Another 100~150 games, and I learned more about the game.  I made adjustments again. I saved items for when I knew they would come in handy later.  I found out more about the creatures that lived deep down.  On another run, I got all the way to level 21. Then I found out about Dragons, and died.  I imagine with another 200 games I'll finally win, and then another 200 games later I'll go down further and get those extra point stones I hear about.  I guess my point is that while with every individual death, you haven't accomplished much, per se, but add all those deaths together and you've learned so much about how to win.

And another thing, why are more RLs (even newer versions) fantasy? In fantasy, the basic idea is that you win the magic sword, slay the BBEG, be the hero, get the girl, blah, blah, blah. It doesn't seem to jive with a game that emphasizes chronic death.
I'm pretty sure (not 100%) that the original Rogue was based on D&D, so I think it's just tradition.  However, I also agree with you that the 'High Fantasy' kind of stuff, with elves and dwarves and dragons and "The mystical land of Illyraniablahblah" is kind of a turn-off.

If RL games are generally meant to be "lost", I would think there should be a "long run" towards which you can work.
The "long run," as you put it, is the moment when you finally win!  I haven't won anything yet, but just imagine how great it would feel to finally win, after hundreds (if not thousands) of deaths.

Anyway, that's where my head is at, though I do want to try and get something out of RLs.
Really, keep trying.  Rogue-likes are incredibly fun. 
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Fenrir

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2012, 06:50:52 PM »
If you know where you are going to die within five squares, stop going to those five squares. It sounds like I am being sarcastic, but, unless I misunderstand, it seems to be a valid solution. It appears to me that this would be a symptom of the unreasoned assumption that one must clear every level before proceeding, but avoiding challenges until your character has a good chance of overcoming them is important to finishing a roguelike. The skill in a roguelike is the management of risk.

Further, I wonder if you are really experiencing the best roguelikes have to offer. Coffeebreak roguelikes (like DoomRL) can be amusing, but the meat and potatoes of the genre are, unfortunately for those with no appetite for fantasy, the venerable fanstasy roguelikes like DCSS, Nethack and ADoM.

I personally do not mind Vi keys, but I do happen to be a bit of an odd one, and Vim is my text-editor and development environment, so that probably means nothing.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 01:45:46 AM by Fenrir »

kraflab

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2012, 01:19:34 AM »
I just want to add a couple post-apocalyptic games if you want to try some more.  Darren mentioned broken bottle and caves of qud, but there is also cataclysm and rogue survivor that I know of.

punkbohemian

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2012, 03:47:51 AM »
Quote
I think in poker, the payoff would be a bank account with negative numbers in it.

Exactly. If I play poker and lose everything, I'm not going to be happy about it in the end. With RL, if there was some kind of metagame element where your losses all built towards something game-wise, I think it would make dying more worthwhile.

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The "long run," as you put it, is the moment when you finally win!  I haven't won anything yet, but just imagine how great it would feel to finally win, after hundreds (if not thousands) of deaths.

I honestly don't think it would feel that great by that point. I mean, it would take a completely mind-blowing earth-shattering ending to make it worth the countless failures it took to get there. I've only seen endings like this a handful of times in my life (between books, video games, and movies/TV) I doubt that's possible in a game with minimal plot. I bet the ending is usually just some text that reads "Congrats, you won. Now visit your mom, she's wondering where you've been the last four years. And, maybe you should take a bath, first."

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Really, keep trying.  Rogue-likes are incredibly fun.

I will. Maybe I'll take a crack at Brogue.

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If you know where you are going to die within five squares, stop going to those five squares.

I would if I could, but the five squares happen to be at one of the few non-randomly generated points in the game where I absolutely have to go through a bottle neck that springs an ambush surrounding me with the one enemy that is highly resistant to the weapons I have to carry for this character.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 03:50:15 AM by punkbohemian »

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2012, 10:12:43 AM »
  There are people that have mastered major roguelike games to the point that they can beat them consistently over and over and over. I am not one of them, unfortunately. So I can be of no help on that score.

  What I can tell you is that it is not about winning. I play for the beauty of design. I grew weary of the repetitive grinding design of other games. The unchallenging gameplay buttressed by small nuggets of pseudo-win masquerading as 'achievements' and what ever else.

  Rogue-likes are about playing a hard as shit game. No babying. No excuses. Sometimes not even fair play. They are winnable, surely, but not on the cheap. Not by a long shot. You gotta commit!

  Welcome to gamer hell. If you've found your way here and stayed awhile you'll likely not be satisfied by other genres of games. You are ruined. You value replay, clever design and difficulty. You care little for production pizzaz, online fragfests, overwrought story and flashy animation.

  May god have pity on your soul.

-Jo

PS: Give PRIME a try...harder than any of the games mentioned and Sci Fi. Embrace death.