Author Topic: Difficult vs Punishing Games  (Read 11575 times)

CaptainKraft

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Difficult vs Punishing Games
« on: April 05, 2014, 03:28:41 PM »
I came across this Extra Credits video yesterday and thought it would be great for a discussion about roguelikes. They talk about how difficult games can be a great experience but punishing a player can turn them away.

From my experience, I would say that roguelikes actually tend more toward the punishing side of the argument, yet they have players that stick around for years. The video mentions some ways to make sure your game isn't punishing that involve alowing them to screw up and jump right back into the action. That might not be the best approach for permadeath games, but they do make some great points.

What are your thoughts?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ea6UuRTjkKs
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Endorya

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2014, 06:52:17 PM »
My thoughts about this video can be found in the "My two cents about permadeath" thread, where I did mention the player being harshly punished, i.e. having the player's progress reset as consequence to events that he has no control over whatsoever (among other things). This video proves exactly my point, you don't need permadeath to make a game challenging. I don't mean that there is no room for permadeath but the majority of roguelikes simply tend to have harsh consequences relying too much on luck.

Another thing the video states which I'm giving extreme importance in my current project is having all the game's features being explained on the fly. The functionality and general overview of Items, skills, attributes, classes, races, etc. should be described directly on the screen add not amounted inside some manual (specially if not a built-in one) the player needs to consult over and over to make sense out of them. Also, throwing the player inside an unknown world forcing him to memorize stuff that is not documented anywhere is already halfway sending players towards great sessions of pure punishment. Sure a little mystery is important but as far as the game's general functionality goes, this type of information should be of easy access as it it strongly affects the player's learning curve.

Nowadays I don't feel compelled investing time in roguelikes whose disposition to whip my delicate ass is simply their excuse of existing by punishing me through thick shrouded mystery, misfortunes, lack of information and memorization of stupid criteria. ADOM was the first and last roguelike that I did "dedicate" my life to. I really don't want to endure through the pain again of trying to "decipher" another roguelike by licking pages and pages of bits of information so in the end I can actually enjoy it; I got enough of this when I was back in school.

Its fine with me if there are players who enjoy this type of scenarios. Heck, you will find people enjoying the weirdest things in life but I guess that the majority of it is simply not the masochist type.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2014, 09:16:18 AM by Endorya »
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Vanguard

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2014, 08:01:43 PM »
That video is dumb.  A punishing game is a one that punishes the player.  Obviously.  Most of what they're complaining about are unfair games.

Most roguelikes are difficult, all are punishing, and all are at least somewhat unfair.

CaptainKraft

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2014, 02:31:36 PM »
One thing that would be nice to see more in roguelikes is the game educating the player once they have made a mistake. In order to get better at a roguelike you should be analyzing what you did wrong, what you could have done better, and then learn from your mistakes the next time you play. I haven't seen many (if any) games that give you some information about what you could have done better or even why you died so easily in some situations.

Dying is part of the game and should be a learning experience. Even when a game is punishing, it can be fun and help you improve.
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Endorya

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2014, 05:55:28 PM »
One thing that would be nice to see more in roguelikes is the game educating the player once they have made a mistake. In order to get better at a roguelike you should be analyzing what you did wrong, what you could have done better, and then learn from your mistakes the next time you play. I haven't seen many (if any) games that give you some information about what you could have done better or even why you died so easily in some situations.

Dying is part of the game and should be a learning experience. Even when a game is punishing, it can be fun and help you improve.

That's in fact a very nice idea. The game could analyse what went wrong and have its final words being something like:

"The Orc's attack was simply too powerful to be blocked by your shield. You end up being crushed by his massive morning start."
"You fail to see the trigger which activated the trap. Your body is sliced to pieces beyond counting."
"Your lack of dexterity prove to be fatal with such experienced foe."
"Your armor's poor condition failed to properly block the enemy's blade."

Hmm... I  really like your idea :)
« Last Edit: April 06, 2014, 07:24:42 PM by Endorya »
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Vanguard

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2014, 10:39:35 PM »
It's a lot harder for the game to identify what went wrong when you died to a tactical error.  And if the game is any good, most player deaths should be due to tactical or strategic mistakes, not because they never found the right armor.

CaptainKraft

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2014, 08:05:31 PM »
It's a lot harder for the game to identify what went wrong when you died to a tactical error.  And if the game is any good, most player deaths should be due to tactical or strategic mistakes, not because they never found the right armor.

That is very true. I wonder how an implementation would look if the game was designed to keep track of your conduct. It could analyse every encounter throughout the game and maybe provide some feedback on which encounters could have went better. Something like that (obviously oversimplified example) might be interesting to look at.
Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day.
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guest509

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2014, 10:43:21 PM »
Permadeath isn't that punishing if your game uses procedural generation in such a way that each game is new and exciting.

The punishment of permadeath is that you have to go through the same old slog every time you start the game, suffer through the same crap again.

If dying feels overly harsh that's because your game world lacks enough variety.

Vanguard

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2014, 12:13:31 AM »
It's still a punishment even if the game is extremely fun and varied.

CaptainKraft

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2014, 11:37:42 AM »
Permadeath isn't that punishing if your game uses procedural generation in such a way that each game is new and exciting.

The punishment of permadeath is that you have to go through the same old slog every time you start the game, suffer through the same crap again.

If dying feels overly harsh that's because your game world lacks enough variety.

I agree that this is something that would make permadeath punishing, but that isn't a concern with most roguelikes. This is pretty much a solved problem.

What is a concern with some games is that the player feels punished (especially when they are new at the game) because they died unexpectedly and without warning. There are other concerns as well, but I think this is a major one for a lot of big roguelikes.

The goal here is to discuss ways that we can try new things with roguelikes when we keep punishment vs difficulty in mind.
Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day.
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mushroom patch

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2014, 08:30:28 PM »
Re: in-game advice and the idea of telling your players how not to die sounds like a good idea, but in reality, if your game is even moderately interesting, it will not be possible to accurately determine what a player did wrong to make him die (this is often a complex matter even for players of middling skill). [Edit: Sorry, didn't notice someone had made the same point upthread.] More importantly, it should not be obvious to the designer what the best thing a player could do is. It's good to have certain strategies in mind that serve as a guide to what the player might be able to do, but good players should be finding strategies you hadn't thought of.

To expand on the idea of helping the player learn what to do better, here's a radical concept: Allow the player to replay the last turns of his life, without offering the possibility of resurrection if he does better, but simply as a learning experience. Experienced players wouldn't bother, I think, but it offers an interesting puzzle to new players: How could I have played this differently?

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"You end up being crushed by his massive morning start."

Quoted without comment.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2014, 09:02:46 PM by mushroom patch »

Krice

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 09:23:00 PM »
I hate over-analyzing, even I'm guilty of it myself sometimes. If the game feels punishing don't fucking play it.

Jaxian

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2014, 09:53:01 PM »
I agree that this is something that would make permadeath punishing, but that isn't a concern with most roguelikes. This is pretty much a solved problem.

I disagree with this, sort of.  While I do think that the randomly-generated content of roguelikes goes well with the punishing nature of permadeath, there is more to it than that.  The designer of a roguelike should really think about what the player will find interesting with each new playthrough.  If the map is random, but the player ends up using the same tactics to fight the same monsters and gain the same rewards, then the game will still feel punishing when you die.  It is the job of the designer to craft these new experiences, and to truly be called a new roguelike, each new game should answer this question a bit differently.  So I guess I don't think it's a solved problem so much as a challenge for anyone creating a new roguelike.

You mentioned earlier that dying is part of the game, and that's an excellent point.  But the game designer needs to work to achieve that feel.  I've played some roguelikes where I've been devastated to have to replay the beginning parts, and I've played others where I'm anticipating my next run before the first one is even complete.  That speaks, I think, to how effectively those games integrate death into the game and how well they deal with this feeling of punishment.

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2014, 10:50:48 PM »
If the map is random, but the player ends up using the same tactics to fight the same monsters and gain the same rewards, then the game will still feel punishing when you die.  It is the job of the designer to craft these new experiences, and to truly be called a new roguelike, each new game should answer this question a bit differently.

It's the player's job to refine their tactics with each playthrough.

Jaxian

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Re: Difficult vs Punishing Games
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2014, 03:53:17 AM »
It's the player's job to refine their tactics with each playthrough.

Certainly.  Just as the player must refine their tactics, the game designer must assure that refinement of tactics is necessary for the player to succeed.