Author Topic: a RL that requires skill?  (Read 49423 times)

punkbohemian

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #45 on: April 12, 2012, 02:49:16 AM »
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And that would suck...if that's what we were talking about.

That is what I'm talking about. The orc situation I mentioned above was that 1 in 100 situation. I had no "trump" at my disposal, no recourse that could have saved my ass. I had many similar situations in DoomRL. Eventually, in all probability, a game is going to end that way. I've been surfing RL boards for a while now, and have seen a lot of experienced gamers say things like, "Not that I've ever beat such-and-such RL, or any RL for that matter..." or "I've hardly heard of anyone beating it." Are we saying that a majority of gamers, and not just any gamers, but pretty hardcore gamers who are playing on a higher level than your typical GTA-Madden-Mass Effect-Wii Sports-playing gamer, pretty much suck?

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Games without an explicit narrative often give way for the player to make one for themselves, and that's usually what roguelikes allow for.

But there is an intended plot. Delve into the dungeon and retrieve the Amulet of Yendor, for example. The plot is pretty flat (with the climax and conclusion being almost identical), but a plot is there. And theme is there, too, even if someone flubs it up by doing something like putting kobolds in a Middle Earth game. These all contribute to a narrative.

Not taking responsibility for the more creative aspects of the game is a cop out. Look at Diablo, which is often categorized as a RL (I'm not 100% sure I agree, but whatever). It had plot, theme, an internally consistent setting. They really covered their bases and even built on it for the sequel. The short of it is I don't think a RL is helping itself by cutting creative corners.

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Where's the journey in Minecraft, or Civilization, or Sim City? Where's the journey in League of Legends, or Counterstrike, or competitive Starcraft?

If we're looking at RLs in that regard, then I suppose I should look at it like a tabletop RPG and focus on the system (which I do with any tabletop RPG). To be frank, I've fiddled with a fair number of RLs, and have yet to see one with a system that dazzles me. Sil does some interesting things with its system, but other than that, I've only seen a bunch of unoriginal, clunky systems lacking in elegance. I mean, so many games are derivative of d20 (which is rubbish for so many reasons), or some incarnation of D&D. Most of them have pretty much the same gameplay, too. Use items to identify them, zap wands, drink potions, bump to melee, etc. It's all the same.

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I suppose you could also look at it like one of those kinds of books that talks about a thousand years of the big bad, with hundreds of heroes dying at his hands, until that one hero comes and beats him.

There's a reason why people tell tales of the hero that survives, and not the hundreds of poor schmucks who died attempting the same thing. I think permadeath should and could be utilized better so that your characters' likely deaths would be more interesting.

Pueo

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #46 on: April 12, 2012, 05:49:07 AM »
I had no "trump" at my disposal, no recourse that could have saved my ass. I had many similar situations in DoomRL. Eventually, in all probability, a game is going to end that way.
I suppose the jerk-ish answer to that is you should anticipate that 1 in 100 chance and save a "Get Out of Jail Free Card" just for that occasion, but I understand where you're coming from.  I've been in a situation were I got into two "1/100" situations in a row, and used my Jail Card the first time.  And I guess the jerk-ish answer to that is always have a backup "GOoJFC" in case your original "GOoJFC" fails.

"Not that I've ever beat such-and-such RL, or any RL for that matter..."
That sounds like something I would say :P

But there is an intended plot. Delve into the dungeon and retrieve the Amulet of Yendor, for example. The plot is pretty flat (with the climax and conclusion being almost identical), but a plot is there. And theme is there, too, even if someone flubs it up by doing something like putting kobolds in a Middle Earth game. These all contribute to a narrative.
I think the major problem of "plot" is shared with many main-stream, plot-heavy games.  Once you play through the "story," there is little replay value.  Plus, its incredibly hard to make a coherent, completely random story.

Not taking responsibility for the more creative aspects of the game is a cop out.
I completely agree. Sometimes it's difficult to make a "creative" or "interesting" feature, but you should always try.

There's a reason why people tell tales of the hero that survives, and not the hundreds of poor schmucks who died attempting the same thing. I think permadeath should and could be utilized better so that your characters' likely deaths would be more interesting.
Well, I didn't say those were very good stories :P There's always the good ol' "bones file" from NetHack's day, though I don't think I've ever seen one in a non-NetHack game.
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kraflab

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #47 on: April 12, 2012, 01:30:15 PM »
Not taking responsibility for the more creative aspects of the game is a cop out.
I completely agree. Sometimes it's difficult to make a "creative" or "interesting" feature, but you should always try.

I just want to add one thing to this, that most rl's are still in active development.  At least in my case, I have a lot of interesting plot details to get into my game, but I just have been focusing on content rather than details.  Of course there are plenty of developers who don't care about plot at all, but I can see how it might just get put on the bottom of the to-do list and forgotten.  At the least, the climax and conclusion of my game are two separate events ;)

punkbohemian

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #48 on: April 12, 2012, 03:29:11 PM »
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I think the major problem of "plot" is shared with many main-stream, plot-heavy games.  Once you play through the "story," there is little replay value.

I both agree and disagree with that, mainly because of two games, Planescape:Torment and Fallout 2. I've only played PST once, beat it, and put it on a shelf. The characters, setting, and story was so great in that game I feel like I'd cheapen the experience by playing it again. Despite having no replay value for me, I do not regret in the least the money I spent on that game. In fact, I would have gladly spent more (I think I got it for $30). OTOH, I've played FO2 more times than I can count. Sure, I know the story in and out (and I also think it's great), but it's just one of those games where it's always fun to take another run. The bottom line is that you can have a game with a strong plot and great characters, and people may still want to replay it.

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Plus, its incredibly hard to make a coherent, completely random story.

Well, the story doesn't have to be random for the rest of the game to be. Take Diablo, again.

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I just want to add one thing to this, that most rl's are still in active development.

Yeah, I noticed this at the Basin. The full game list has around 1000 games on it, but if you filter to stable games, you have only about 100 or so. Many of them are 7DRLs, and some of the rest are stable but still not complete. Other than the major RLs, I've seen very few that can say that are actually "done".

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At least in my case, I have a lot of interesting plot details to get into my game, but I just have been focusing on content rather than details.

I checked out your page when you mentioned that. The multi-window approach was also used in Sil, but your layout is much cleaner (and more readable). I also like the tileset you're using. While I'm fine with ASCII, I certainly don't mind a nice tileset.

Since we're on the subject, I noticed that you're a grad student at Rensselaer. I also did the grad school thing (just finished a couple years ago), though my field was Sociology and Statistics. I also tinkered a bit with Monte Carlo simulations, but I'm sure how we use it in stats is different than in physics. My specialty had nothing to do with video games, but what I learned along the way totally changed the way I look at them (and games in general). I'm curious, has anything similar happened with you in your academic career? And, if so, how?

Fenrir

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #49 on: April 12, 2012, 04:50:11 PM »
Plot is not a prerequisite for a fun game. Chess is one of the oldest games in existence, and its plot is as detailed as Rogue’s plot. Rogue says “Get the Amulet of Yendor!” Chess says “Capture the enemy king!” The difference is that Rogue’s players must frequently defend that simplicity of purpose from detractors.

This is not the part where I tell you that you are simply unimaginative and unsophisticated and Roguelikes are just too intellectual for you to understand, because they are not, but when we say that we do not mind the lack of plot—when we say that we imagine plots and grow attached to our little ‘@’ character anyway, we are not lying to you. It is not a “cop out”. We mean it.

All your examples come from DoomRL, a game termed a coffeebreak Roguelike, and Sil, one other relatively new game. As you stated that you are avoiding fantasy, and all of the Roguelikes that are staples of the genre are fantasy, I can only suppose that you have not played them. Some of them even have plot elements like characters and multiple endings.

You are addressing important points. Game balance is probably the most important part of a Roguelike, because it is as random and unpredictable as it is, and it is something game developers work to get right. Plot is definitely something that should not be ignored too. The 7DRL competition was made to explore new possibilities like that.

No one of us will think you deficient if you decide that you do not like Roguelikes, and, yes, the genre is not perfect. We do need to be thinking about improvements, and we should not turn a blind eye to problems, but please remember that this a community of hobbyists, and do not compare their work with big-budget games—or compare their hobby with flipping a coin and ‘dumb luck’. I know you can understand that, with all the care that has been put into developing them and all the enjoyment that we have had playing them, telling us that we may as well be flipping nickels is rather cutting.

kraflab

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #50 on: April 12, 2012, 08:20:21 PM »
My specialty had nothing to do with video games, but what I learned along the way totally changed the way I look at them (and games in general). I'm curious, has anything similar happened with you in your academic career? And, if so, how?

In terms of direct influence between the domains of academia and game design, I tend to take the algorithms that I have needed to use in one and apply them to the other.  Seeing the differences and yet also the similarities is quite enlightening.  But to be honest my viewpoint hasn't really changed much, because from the beginning I viewed games in the same way I would view any other science.  The problems and the audience are different in game design, certainly, but the way you go about trying to solve them is very similar.  Of course, some people do game design completely unaware of this, but that's another story.

Pueo

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #51 on: April 13, 2012, 03:58:03 AM »
Plot is not a prerequisite for a fun game. Chess is one of the oldest games in existence, and its plot is as detailed as Rogue’s plot. Rogue says “Get the Amulet of Yendor!” Chess says “Capture the enemy king!” The difference is that Rogue’s players must frequently defend that simplicity of purpose from detractors.
While that's true, the difference is that Chess is a strategic board game, whereas Rogue (borrowing on your example) is a Hack-And-Slash, Dungeon-Crawl, RPG with Random Content Generation and strategy elements.  No Chess players expect a plot, let alone complain when there isn't one, whereas anyone who's played an RPG is probably used to a linear, plot-driven game.  I'm not saying we should all start demanding plot, but I think your comparison isn't an exact match.

when we say that we do not mind the lack of plot—when we say that we imagine plots and grow attached to our little ‘@’ character anyway, we are not lying to you. It is not a “cop out”. We mean it.
I don't believe he thinks us to be "lying" to him, I think he's just stating his opinion on the matter. 
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punkbohemian

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #52 on: April 13, 2012, 02:51:14 PM »
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We do need to be thinking about improvements, and we should not turn a blind eye to problems, but please remember that this a community of hobbyists, and do not compare their work with big-budget games—or compare their hobby with flipping a coin and ‘dumb luck’.

First, I'm certainly not making a comparison to big budget games. If so, A/V would have been a cornerstone of this conversation. I don't really even care that much about a plot, it's more of a tangential topic. For a video game, Diablo did it well enough for me, and it was a pretty simple plot. I think it would be easily possible to implement it, and would kick things up a notch, but it's not the be-all-end-all of RL.

If I were to pick one thing to criticize, it would be system, and you don't need an AAA production studio to kick out a top-notch game in that department. There are plenty of indie PnP designers who put out clever work and they're essentially hobbyists. When I did tabletop, I'd occasionally whip up my own homebrews that went over well with the players. That's all system is, resolving action with as much mathematical grace as you can muster. Having a novice background in Python, I have a fair idea as to how much work it takes to code a game, and anything to simplify things (without loosing efficacy) is welcome. It boggles my mind that people choose to code clunky, convoluted, elaborate systems, when a much simpler and more effective system would do the trick.

As for dumb luck, let's face it, it plays a role. If you do everything right, and still fail, you've just been screwed by chance. What isn't free will is fate. In that sense, you can compare it to a coin toss (though the coin toss has better odds :P ). I think it might be difficult to see how chance is the ultimate governor in something like RL, as the games are so long and there are many factors that influence the numbers, but it's there.

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While that's true, the difference is that Chess is a strategic board game, whereas Rogue (borrowing on your example) is a Hack-And-Slash, Dungeon-Crawl, RPG with Random Content Generation and strategy elements.  No Chess players expect a plot, let alone complain when there isn't one, whereas anyone who's played an RPG is probably used to a linear, plot-driven game.  I'm not saying we should all start demanding plot, but I think your comparison isn't an exact match.

I agree, but I think the plot topic is besides the point. I don't remember how we got on it, but I'm sure it was just some tangent that happened to pop up.

kraflab

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #53 on: April 13, 2012, 03:05:46 PM »
Quote from: punkbohemian link=topic=2278.msg17665#msg17665
It boggles my mind that people choose to code clunky, convoluted, elaborate systems, when a much simpler and more effective system would do the trick.

I experience this sensation quite a lot.  One thing you need to realize is that a lot of people make a roguelike while they are learning to code, or as their first game.  One thing I've learned through making games is that each time you start a new project it is almost unfathomable how much better your code becomes due to experience.  Another thing is that often simple systems are not as easy to think up as just brute-forcing something elaborate.  Of course you also get to the situation where people just copy the poorly designed systems from earlier roguelikes and assume that is what's best.

There are also some developers who purposefully want their games to be hard to play and get into, but I think that's a whole different story  :P

requerent

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #54 on: April 14, 2012, 08:36:24 AM »
I've been keeping up with this thread but haven't really had time to chime in.

I opened a thread in development over here-> http://roguetemple.com/forums/index.php?topic=2220.0 that tries to quantify a similar complaint into a problem that can be explicitly addressed. I haven't had a chance to reply to that thread either, but I think there is some decent thoughts tossed around on the matter.


I know of a few instances in academia where developers create an AI that handles randomly generated levels. The AI first generates the level according to a certain criteria of expected difficulty and then quickly playtests the level several times at varying degrees of 'skill.' In this way, the AI can determine exactly where the level is most difficult and make fine adjustments. Needless to say, indie developers don't really have time to take this sort of approach unless the rules of their game are fundamentally simple (say, to the point that they could be reduced to a CSP- idea? Yes!). We want greedy or simple algorithms that can give us reasonable expectations of difficulty. Which is why so many Roguelikes use depth-based difficulty.

If the difficulty is determined by depth, then our ability to descend depends upon what equipment/bonuses/enablers that are randomly generated for us. The more we play the game, the more we realize what items are important for when we approach certain depths. Your utilization of the equipment and the terrain may increase your chances, but you might simply never received enough goodies to succeed. Even if no aspect of combat is random, you're success still depends upon the tools that the RNG makes available. The game becomes less a matter of skill and more a matter of knowledge- kind of like Chess.

If a PGC considers the character's current strength when generating challenges and equipment, then difficulty can be regulated in a more reasonable way. Doing that, however, doesn't necessarily make the game more interesting or skillful-- but it will both prevent inescapable failures and expose how terrible or boring a 'system' actually is.


What set of criteria satisfies the skill-minded player?

Ancient

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #55 on: April 15, 2012, 12:58:36 PM »
I have recently read up on this thread and it just screams for some trolling.

You guys appear to suck badly at roguelikes and thus make excuses for lowering the difficulty instead of increasing your skill. The problem is amplified because sometimes it takes skill which you don't have to tell what you did wrong the last time. This is why it pays to post a YASD and discuss it.

Of course, there are unavoidable deaths and always will be. A developer of Crawl stated that even best players should die 10% of the time. I agree completely. If this is not the case it means most likely one of two worse major design mistakes are being made.

A developer must even out fairness, randomness and challenge. The first and the last are not the same thing. In practice he can choose to have two out of three at best.

NetHack is weak on randomnes. If you take a character past early game it is fully winnable. This is because resources are plentiful and you can take your time to prepare for challenges. However, it is not random enough and leans too much into puzzle realm making it boring for more experienced players who take up conducts to make it interesting again.

Crawl is on the random and challenging side. You need to adapt very much which is where things get fun. In mid game people still consider changing their planned skill set a bit to adapt for newly found randart or magic spellbook. The downside is you get unfair deaths. Not because the game did not drop you enough enablers (all really needed enablers are guaranteed) but sometimes concentration or layout of monsters creates really big obstacle.

Angband is meager in challenge department. In theory all games of Angband are fully winnable. Borg proves that by being successful despite using really ineffective tactics. It also has plenty of random encounters with almost no constraint on what creatures may band together except depth. The problem is scumming is not prevented leading to low challenges until you play *bands "the one true way" -- dive.

Since no one is able to balance a game perfectly one will end up leaning on one of these three sides eventually. Why not consciously pick random+challenging? It makes for best games.

Quote from: requerent
If a PGC considers the character's current strength when generating challenges and equipment, then difficulty can be regulated in a more reasonable way.
Sounds pointless. This would take all the fun and satisfaction of solving an out of depth challenge. Current ways of regulating difficulty are superior to this because they offer good enough margin for creating deadly threats while maintaining reasonable difficulty. When faced with too strong opposition player should skip it and come later or not at all. One does not need to kill everything despite it is rewarded with experience.

Furthermore each player values equipment difficulty because of his skill employing an item differs. For example it may sound weird but I hardly use the plasma rifle in DoomRL but can put a good use to chainsaw.

There are also games like DoomRL. Its nightmare difficulty is purposely unbalanced to be winnable only with RNG's blessing. On the other hand UV and lower are pretty much reasonable. This comes from Arch-Vile General (0.9.9.2), mind you.
Michał Bieliński, reviewer for Temple of the Roguelike

punkbohemian

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #56 on: April 15, 2012, 09:20:24 PM »
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I experience this sensation quite a lot...

I agree with everything you said here. It seems that a lot of RLs are like the bastard children of devs. They push them out to build up their chops, but then abandon them when they are capable of flashier projects. As for system, being a better programmer doesn't necessarily make one a better system designer. Frankly, I think the best system designers (for obvious reasons) are (some) PnP designers, though they can't program, so their systems would never make it to a RL.

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I know of a few instances in academia where developers create an AI that handles randomly generated levels.

That's rather elaborate, clever, and probably unnecessary. Anyone smart enough to design that kind of an AI should be smart enough to govern their own RNG-based elements.

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I have recently read up on this thread and it just screams for some trolling.

I assume you're the troll, in which case, should we be ignoring you?

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You guys appear to suck badly at roguelikes and thus make excuses for lowering the difficulty instead of increasing your skill.

A developer of Crawl stated that even best players should die 10% of the time.

Just in case you were wondering, this is where you contradict yourself. You're basically saying that a player who cannot achieve the impossible (depending on the RNGs mood) is not a good player.

You're also missing the point. Because so much of the game is the product of the RNG, your strategy is pretty limited. Your strategy generally cannot hinge upon specific enablers or any environmental variables, as they are all randomly generated and therefore you cannot count on them. All you can do is gen a PC, shoot for a survivable build and go through the motions hoping you don't get boned. I don't feel terribly engaged (mentally) when I'm playing a RL. I run through a limited set of "what ifs" in my head, maybe do some simple calculations (DPS, enemy strength vs. my own), but for the most part, the RNG dictates my actions.

So, I suppose my original point in this thread is that I was looking for RLs that engage me more (mentally). In other words, something with more active thinking. Though at this point, the thread has gone off in a few different directions (about RL design, and design in general), and I'm cool with that, as it's an interesting conversation.

Pueo

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #57 on: April 16, 2012, 12:13:13 AM »
You guys appear to suck badly at roguelikes and thus make excuses for lowering the difficulty instead of increasing your skill.
I'm wondering where the hostility is coming from. It appears to me that we are having a discussion on rogue-like design and skill, whereas you are just being mean.

Since no one is able to balance a game perfectly one will end up leaning on one of these three sides eventually. Why not consciously pick random+challenging? It makes for best games.
Why not shoot for the perfectly-balanced inverted pyramid of fairness, challenge, and randomness?

Frankly, I think the best system designers (for obvious reasons) are (some) PnP designers, though they can't program, so their systems would never make it to a RL.
What does PnP stand for?
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kraflab

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #58 on: April 16, 2012, 01:12:33 AM »
What does PnP stand for?
Pen and paper perhaps?

Since no one is able to balance a game perfectly one will end up leaning on one of these three sides eventually. Why not consciously pick random+challenging? It makes for best games.
Are you suggesting we completely abandon an attempt at fairness?  I think that is a terrible idea.  Also, challenging and fairness are intimately interrelated.  You can't call something that is truly unfair "challenging".  Although based on your preface of trolling I assume you were being facetious.

requerent

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Re: a RL that requires skill?
« Reply #59 on: April 16, 2012, 04:53:14 AM »
@Ancient,

The complaint that the people have here has more to do with learning curve than it does with 'skill.'

In a fighting game for example- before you can even think about strategy you need to understand the mechanics and principles governing gameplay. Once you've learned enough of the game, you can start employing strategy that favors your specific skillset. At that point, the game becomes an application of skill rather than (or in addition to) an accumulation of it. Once you reach the application phase, the game becomes cognitively interesting.

Punkbohemian is complaining about balance when he's still fumbling with the metaphorical controls.

I personally feel that this is a legitimate complaint, but he's completely wrong in calling it 'skill.' His complaint is on the game's accessibility.