Author Topic: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point  (Read 13748 times)

naughty

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2012, 12:37:13 PM »
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.

I totally agree but I think the current technology the community uses to make dungeons isn't currently refined enough to allow smarter level design to emerge. There's notable examples trying something new though like Brogue (which also has auto-explore) but it's still based on 'fill the box with spray and pray'. The constraint propagation work mentioned on Roguelike Radio #53 might be a good place to look, I've got a basic version working in Lua based on Ian Horswill's and Leif Foged's paper referenced in the episode.

There's probably room for UI improvements as well to make navigating already explored areas easier with a keyboard as well. I just think it's worth noting that it's an issue with keyboards as an input device as well as with level layout.

Also large levels can work really well in games from other genre's, e.g. Super Metroid and Dark Souls. But it puts a lots of responsibility on the designer to do a good job. I don't think roguelikes make such design impossible, just a lot harder due to the procedural gen.

Darren Grey

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2012, 01:36:02 PM »
I think a lot of roguelikes would benefit from switching to a Streets of Rage style level design.  There would be no exploration, just sequential challenges as you follow a linear path.  It doesn't literally have to be left-to-right, mind, just cut out branching entirely so the player is always going in one direction and must overcome or bypass all the challenges in front of him/her.  This suits the designed gameplay of many roguelikes better than more open level design, whilst also allowing for some interesting ideas on how to populate such a plain layout.  For instance one can control the difficulty and reward progression across a level more easily with this set-up.

Or at least do this for the early levels when you expect the gameplay to be more easy, and introduce branching levels and exploration when there is more depth to the play and exploration becomes tactically interesting.

You don't need fancy technology to make 8 space wide corridors with features randomly placed on.

qbradq

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2012, 02:02:21 PM »
Just to be clear I like Auto-Explore (at least in Crawl and Brogue), I just think it's missing the point (in Crawl at least).

Brogue is a great example of a game that does things right. To the veteran player the first few levels are just a slot machine to see what goodies you get. Auto-explore allows them to clear those levels quickly and efficiently and get to things that are more challenging for their skill level.

At the same time those first few levels are a real challenge to the beginner, and provide a lot of fun.

The key point with Brogue is that by the time you get into the meat of the game (level 5+), Auto-Explore is no longer a viable option due to the density of decisions you need to make to be successful.

One thing I do like about Crawl's Auto-Explore is that you can use it as a "do what I mean" button. If I'm standing three tiles away from a scroll and hit "o", I know I'll go over and pick it up.

Really I guess my whole point with this post is that many Roguelikes have very sparse and uninteresting levels. If we could make more games with the density of interesting things like Brogue and DoomRL have, it'd be a good thing.

Z

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2012, 03:40:29 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

On the other hand, I think that it is not that good that strong voices in the roguelike community nowadays are so against traditional features. Although the setting is innovative, Brogue is actually very close to Rogue and PRIME is a rather traditional hacklike, and they are IMO among the best roguelikes I have played recently, while ToME, DoD, or simple games did not capture my heart.

Darren Grey

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2012, 03:57:12 PM »
I'm not against traditional features, I'm just against their assumption.  The blind copying of features is not good in games.  Clever copying is all well and fine.  Brogue does that.  Even FTL does that in their food-clock mechanic - I normally hate food clocks but theirs was implemented sensibly.  There can be value in tradition, but not blind tradition.

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #20 on: December 06, 2012, 04:57:33 PM »
Having played a little bit more with autoexplore, I find it enhances my experience. I was kind of against it I guess, but now I'm not so sure. Theoretically it seems like a lame hack, but in practice it's just fine.

jim

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2012, 11:00:24 PM »
I'm in favor of it - just not as a crutch to good level design.

In games without autoexplore, I've died dozens of times because I rapid-fire clicked a direction and bumped into a powerful monster. Stupid way to go, even for a roguelike.

requerent

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #22 on: December 07, 2012, 04:06:44 PM »
To me, auto-explore seems more like a flow management mechanism to prevent inane human mistakes. Holding down a button on a keyboard in a game with discrete movement is error-prone.


I don't think auto-explore turns a map into an encounter-based game. The map should be a tool that the player must navigate/utilize/understand to solve the puzzle presented by the enemies/map and progress to the next stage. Auto-explore doesn't detract from that, so long as it is present to begin with.

If a game has unessential maps, then it is encounter-centric whether you have auto-explore or not.

Skeletor

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2012, 07:57:02 AM »
Darren Grey's post about this

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

Quote from: Darren Grey
BORING GAMEPLAY SHOULD NOT BE REPLACED WITH AUTOMATION! I’m not sure if that can be emphasised enough. Tedious gameplay needs addressed at the root. Otherwise why have a game at all? Why not just play a slot machine like Diablo? If there’s an element of the game that the players don’t enjoy then find ways to prune it or change it to make it more interesting.

Some fixes for the auto-explore problem:
– Smaller levels, so there’s less backtracking
– Looping levels with many connections between nodes
– Densely packed monsters
– More varied rooms, dungeon features, vaults
– Linear levels, such as a 80×10 map requiring you to move from the very left to the very right; you still have a procedural environment, but it essentially removes the exploration component instead of automating it
– More variety between levels so dungeons don’t feel samey or predictable
– Higher rate of monster regeneration so you always feel pressured
– Effective food clock or similar “push” to make every turn matter
– Interesting rooms, full of traps or themed monsters or special floor tile effects, so every time you open a door there’s a wealth of possibilities lurking behind
– No maze levels. Seriously, who the hell likes maze levels?!

Great article.
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Holsety

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #24 on: December 17, 2012, 11:39:22 AM »
Two cents;

Auto-explore depends on the game it's in. Off the top of my head I know three games with auto-explore;
Forays into Norrendrin, Crawl and Brogue.

-For Crawl it works like a charm; levels are BIG, encounters happen at a medium (gut feeling estimate) pace, and the density of traps is LOW. In general traps are incredibly non-lethal, so if you auto-explore your face into one it's just about as big of a non-issue as is possible.

-Forays using auto-explore is fine too. After a bunch of plays you get the hang of the level generator; levels are usually quite samey, not necessarily a bad thing because it's the tactical encounters that are the meat and bones of the game. Levels are compact and encounters take your full attention. Auto-explore is used purely as a means to shorten time between encounters and to me that's absolutely fine.
Traps are generally medium-density outside of trap-vaults, and bumbling into one is a pretty serious problem.

-Brogue has its click-to-travel mechanic and usually comes with several places in a level that grant you panoramic view of the level; removing auto-explore is pointless since it serves the same function as click-to-travel with less hassle.


In a game like Angband, auto-explore would be a godsend. The levels are HUGE and boring as fuck, and any food clock problems can be solved with a trip back to the surface.

If you want to remove auto-explore from a game you need to remove the NEED for auto-explore.
The quote on Darren Grey brings up some strong points;
Quote
– Smaller levels, so there’s less backtracking
YES. I'm a big big fan of making roguelikes compact. Smaller levels, less floors to dive. Tightening the world-space like this forces you to make gameplay more interesting!

Quote
– More varied rooms, dungeon features, vaults
– More variety between levels so dungeons don’t feel samey or predictable
– Interesting rooms, full of traps or themed monsters or special floor tile effects, so every time you open a door there’s a wealth of possibilities lurking behind
Halls of Mist tries to do this, effectively moving away from its Angband origins. In general it's succesful.
I think it was NPPAngband which had markings on the walls that you could read for hints about the level you're currently on, that was very interesting as well.
Incursion did it masterfully;
Whether it was the cultivated mushroom farms where you could hide between the plants for a game of hide-and-stab with the enemy, the transparent ice mazes (see-through walls AND a chance to slip unless wearing boots of winter), the slime rooms (corrosion for everyone), the library (magical books so you can learn new spells, the place itself can be camped in to identify curses and try to lift them AND the alleys are trapped usually!), the kobold warrens (cramped, so you move slower. Also peppered with traps.), lake with island+treasure chest in the middle (easy for shapeshifting druids, everyone else better take off your armor and hope you don't fail your Swim skill check), graveyards (woe to those who knock over a tombstone) ETC ETC ETC.
Terrain in Incursion is just SO diverse and fun, each room type forces you to keep in mind your strengths and weaknesses.
And of course there's Brogue, with the pressure plates, key puzzles etc.

If you make your rooms non-boring because of the intrinsic features of the room there's no need for auto-explore.

Quote
– Effective food clock or similar “push” to make every turn matter
In general it's hard to strike a balance between "interesting food clock" and "I'm going to starve because this fucking game won't drop any food".


Auto-explore provides a psychological service first and foremost I think.
There's a gain in avoiding the annoying tap-tap-tap traveling where nothing happens. We're all simpletons. We want to be amused, and if you have to press your movement keys 400 times to traverse a level that's empty, it is a shame.
If there's a food clock involved, there should be a reason for the player to backtrack (and a reason completely unrelated to anything Angbandy, that game has a terrible grindcentric design).
And I don't believe upping monster spawns will help, since that would turn the game into a monster-meatgrinder, and that's a whole nother type of boring.


In conclusion, I agree that auto-explore is usually a symptom of bland level design, but it can also be a sign that the level design is not the primary focus of the game in question.
I feel for games that have a bigger level size than Nethack (or Forays or Brogue) that auto-explore can be a useful feature to have.
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TSMI

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Re: Why Auto-Explore is Missing the Point
« Reply #25 on: January 02, 2013, 02:12:31 PM »
I think many of you are missing the point of auto-explore. While exploring a dungeon might not be that interesting and can be done semi-automatically, the layout of a dungeon becomes *very* interesting when you have to flee from a monster or multiple monsters.

Cramped roguelikes with population density problems ruins this tactical aspect entirely.