Author Topic: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point  (Read 15332 times)

qbradq

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Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« on: December 04, 2012, 07:52:00 PM »
There's something that really bugs me about most Roguelikes, and I'd like to take a moment to air the complaint: Auto-Explore.

Why do we provide an auto-explore feature? Because exploring the dungeon is tedious, repetitive and uninteresting. Auto-explore is a means to get the player to the interesting bits of the game quickly and efficiently. But isn't that missing the point? Rather than giving players a way to skip past the uninteresting portions of the game, shouldn't we strive to make every portion of the game interesting?

This phenomenon isn't constrained to exploration. This is just the most common case. In Angband combat is also quite uninteresting in most cases, leading to "hold left to continue" syndrome. In Frozen Depths most items are quite uninteresting.

When I think back on the games I have played, the only one in which I can honestly say I enjoyed the exploration was DoomRL. I think it's because there is a small map size (like Rogue / NetHack), but with very complex layouts (like Crawl) and widely varied level generators.

On a side note, I think the more confined spaces of DoomRL also help the pacing of the game and the combat.

Z

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2012, 07:59:56 PM »
Darren Grey's post about this

Now I will read my comment there and see if my thoughts have changed since then ;)

qbradq

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2012, 08:19:03 PM »
Thanks for the link! I think I've got Darren's RSS feed link messed up. I haven't seem most of these blog posts :D

Darren Grey

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2012, 11:59:58 PM »
Heh, was gonna chime in with a link to my post, but I see Zeno has beat me to it.  As you can see I agree with your post, and I go further in saying that it has become too much of a crutch for players.  It's really saddening when I see people say they can't enjoy a new roguelike because it has auto-explore.

In Rogue Rage I've tried to make monster density high enough that auto-explore is never needed.  Plus one of the levels is a narrow left-to-right level, so exploration is not part of the gameplay there.  Also there's no experience, so searching out every nook and cranny is irrelevant.

For a lot of games just having much smaller levels would fix the auto-explore problem.

guest509

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2012, 02:10:58 AM »
  I used it while playing crawl and it made the game for more enjoyable, but then it becomes just a series of encounters. It was one of the motivations behind the main mechanic in Cardlike (roguelike cardgame). There is no map, just a series of encounters, similar to playing with Autoexplore.

kraflab

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2012, 03:19:54 AM »
I talked about this in the comments in Darren's post, but let me do this again.

Everyone who plays your game is going to be at a different level of understanding.  There is no way to keep every level of your game interesting to even the most veteran of players (this is just an unfortunate fact of turn-based games (games that have no skill element)), so allowing them to autoexplore to the interesting bits helps them enjoy the game more.  In Epilogue, I use autoexplore a lot on the first 3 levels, because I am pretty confident that I can survive any unfortunate situation it throws me into, but I never ever autoexplore on the levels after that because the game is just too difficult to allow automatic movement to be strategically viable.

Then there are people who just can't make it past the first 3 levels, even taking everything seriously.

Of course, if your game is just plain bad, autoexplore indeed just covers up the problems of boring dungeons and lack of content.

So basically, what I'm saying is that there is a subjective element here.  Autoexplore does reduce the tedium for players that need that reduction.  I don't see any downside to that.  It doesn't mean that the underlying game is tedious for everyone (unless we're talking about Angband ;)), just for someone at some level, which is unavoidable.

What you are coming to realize, like I realized a long time ago, is just that most roguelikes are made by very poor designers xD

guest509

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2012, 03:30:54 AM »
There's some truth there....

naughty

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2012, 02:21:47 PM »
I think there's a underlying issue that's not been addressed.

The keyboard is the worst input method for exploration. It doesn't have enough 'dynamic range' compared to a mouse, touch screen or even a thumb stick. Auto-explore is an attempt to try and solve this issue as well as overly large levels.

For combat and other close quarters activities in roguelikes the keyboard is superior to other input methods. Less chance of miss-clicks you'd get with a mouse or touch screen and much better control over diagonals compared to a d-pad. A counter example would be long range weapon targeting, keyboards aren't great there but systems like auto-target and remembering your previous target help to paper over the cracks.

Before crawl-style auto-explore you had the 'shift and direction key' linear auto-explore (did Angband do it first?) but that only helps with really long corridors. It works for going between rooms if the corridor entrances line up on a cardinal or diagonal direction but level generators are never constrained to make that work well.

It's also not just overly large levels that give an incentive to add auto-explore. Overly connected levels have the same issue as well, i.e. the more linear a level is the less likely back-tracking is needed and the more likely 'exploration' goes into the black.

Krice

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 07:55:13 PM »
Can someone explain what is autoexplore and why it sucks.

guest509

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2012, 05:37:14 AM »
Can someone explain what is autoexplore and why it sucks.

The best way is to fire up crawl and see it in action.

Press a button and your avatar moves about to places unseen, 'exploring' the level for you.

It sucks because it takes you out of the driver's seat. The same reason cut scenes suck.

Krice

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2012, 08:19:10 AM »
Press a button and your avatar moves about to places unseen, 'exploring' the level for you.

So it's using some kind of AI to explore? Maybe that's gone too far, but I think automatic moving in a non-AI style is not a bad thing. I have some ideas for that kind of moving in Teemu, for instance when you press a key the player walks to nearest visible item. It's a simple but clever way to take out some of stress of hitting movement keys all the time.

guest509

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2012, 08:57:28 AM »
  Yeah it's a sort of AI thing. You walk around to new places until you see something interesting, then it cuts out and you play. You can cancel it whenever you want.

  Really it's just a hack required when levels are sparse and boring.

Darren Grey

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2012, 09:51:28 AM »
It's also not just overly large levels that give an incentive to add auto-explore. Overly connected levels have the same issue as well, i.e. the more linear a level is the less likely back-tracking is needed and the more likely 'exploration' goes into the black.
Then I think developers should realise this and make linear levels if they don't want exploration in their game.  Too many roguelikes assume they have to have rooms and corridors in a 80x24 grid when that's not actually suitable to their gameplay.

kraflab

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2012, 11:44:56 AM »
It's also not just overly large levels that give an incentive to add auto-explore. Overly connected levels have the same issue as well, i.e. the more linear a level is the less likely back-tracking is needed and the more likely 'exploration' goes into the black.
Then I think developers should realise this and make linear levels if they don't want exploration in their game.  Too many roguelikes assume they have to have rooms and corridors in a 80x24 grid when that's not actually suitable to their gameplay.

If we had more roguelike developers realize that making exact copies of things from the past isn't necessary or even desired we'd have a much more interesting genre in general :P

TheCreator

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2012, 12:00:51 PM »
If we had more roguelike developers realize that making exact copies of things from the past isn't necessary or even desired we'd have a much more interesting genre in general :P

If we had more roguelike developers who don't copy anything at all and do everything their own way, we would probably have no new playable games. Some balance must be kept and I think that the proportion of "canonical" stuff vs. experimental stuff should be rather 10:1.than 1:1. Most players have certain expectations and if they are not fulfilled (at least to some degree), the players would just reject the game.

The "Auto-Explore" feature is usually optional for the player, so it does not hurt anyone. At least until the developer starts to think "I don't need more content for this level, because players can just auto-explore it as they get bored".

Thus, "Auto-Explore" itself does not suck. It's just that some developers tend to overuse it when thinking about level design.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2012, 12:04:57 PM by UglyTroll »
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