Author Topic: Identification subgame  (Read 7119 times)

Bear

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Identification subgame
« on: July 15, 2014, 08:41:07 PM »
Which of the following, in your collective opinions, are good features for an identification subgame?  I'm trying to make something that's interesting and has moderate depth, but not punishing nor too grindy. 

I plan having no "identify" effect as such in the game at all, replacing it with means of fairly quickly learning which things are (reasonably) safe to try out and experiment with, combined with various channels that can give more specific information if you bother to use them but usually won't provide full certain identification. 

Looking through rings.  If you have a ring whose magic is of a general type, then when looking through it, you can "see the aura of a similar enchantment" and tell whether another item has the same general type of magic. For example, looking through your levitation ring should give you a positive reading for the flying broom and looking through your stealth ring should give you  positive readings on the shadow cloak and the silent boots.  This effect can be used to link ring enchantments with other item enchantments in general families, giving partial-identify information both for rings (where other items are known) and for items (where rings are known). 

Rarities  Rarities are item types or varieties that only exist in a fraction of all games, making the number of "unidentified categories" uncertain.  For example, in a game with a dozen standard types of rings, one game might have fifteen ring types (because three rarities were included) and a different game might have eighteen ring types (because six rarities were included). The point is that the player does not start the game knowing how many kinds of rings there are, nor knowing exactly what kinds of rings (beyond the basic dozen) are there, so certain kinds of "process of elimination" subgames for item ident become more interesting.

Combos One kind of rarity is the combo, an item which has essentially both the effects of two randomly-selected "standard" items.  And when the combo is included, both the standard types are eliminated.  For example, a rarity boot type combining stealth and feather-fall may be a "combo" in a given game, and standard stealthy boots and featherfalling boots would not appear in games where that combo item appeared.  So instead of a dozen standard types of boots there are only 10 standard types plus the combo and any other rarities.  The point is that in the presence of combos, the player doesn't start the game knowing for sure even which standard types of boots exist in that game.  Selecting effects to combine should be weighted against the most powerful effects, to avoid creating combos of unbalanced power too frequently.

Detect effects A number of detects can give information about items without giving full identify information.  For example a relatively easy "detect magic" effect (a "magic ring" with no particular effect, if you're allowing look through rings) can be used to tell which items are magical.  A "detect curse" effect can be used to tell which items are cursed.  Other "detect" spells might reveal which things use elemental magic, which use fire magic, and so on. 

ID by Use.  When a character puts on both an unidentified ring and some unidentified boots, and then later sets off a pit trap but floats gently to the bottom instead of falling, should the character automatically know which of the unidentified items caused floating rather than falling? When a combat-knowledgeable character like a fighter picks up an unidentified sword and uses it through a few fights, he should know very quickly what general combat bonuses it has been giving him.  But should he notice the 'dragon-slaying' magic on it if none of the things he fought with it were dragons?  A less combat-knowledgeable character like a wizard, picking up an unidentified blade and using it for a while, might take a lot longer to figure out what combat bonuses it's been giving, but would eventually figure it out because he'll notice the magic working.  So should the wizard, who is a more magic-sensitive character, notice the dragon-slaying magic lying latent in the blade after fighting a bunch of non-dragons with it? 

Item Variability  Items of the same type may differ significantly in their effect;  We're already used to seeing swords that vary in hit and damage bonuses.  What if wands also varied in their range, area of effect, number of charges possible, and damage?  What if some have a cooldown period and others don't?  What if occasionally a wand has a weird inexplicable trait like having doubled range when fired northward and half range when fired southward, or the last charge always comes out at double strength? 

Labels. Some item types might be clearly and correctly labeled.  Common things like healing potions that we can imagine being used for trade, especially.  This could provide a major advantage to characters with the literacy skill.  Of course some labels might be cryptic or miss important information.  The clearly labeled "fireball wand" might neglect to mention that it has five charges and creates a fireball sixty meters wide, within which volume the user will almost certainly be if he is so misfortunate as to use it indoors.  If I introduce mislabeling (the poison that's labeled as healing potion) I should probably introduce an effect to magically detect mislabeled items.  But if the player creates a label for something, it should call it mislabeling unless the character actually knew what it was *and* labeled it correctly. 





Paul Jeffries

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2014, 10:37:56 PM »
Interesting topic.  I think identification systems have the power to add great depth to a game if done well, and be horribly horribly annoying if done badly.  Here are some thoughts on your ideas:

Looking through rings: There seems to be no downside to doing this and so no reason not to do it to everything once you've learned the trick, which would be dull gameplay-wise.  I like the idea of being able to detect affinities between items though, I just think it should be done automatically as soon as you pick up that item - i.e. "As you put it in your bag the dagger begins to resonate with your ruby ring".  The inverse might be interesting as well - if antagonistically-aligned effects repelled each other.

Rarities: This could be a good way of introducing more variety.  However, in a lot of games knowing what effects you've eliminated is a key part of the item identification subgame, to the extent that some provide a list of effects and cross off the ones you've discovered automatically.  I'm not sure if this would be worse, but it would be a bit harder.

Combos: I like this.  POWDER does something similar where different types of equipment have 'built in' effects which combine with the randomly assigned magical ones.  This can give interesting trade-offs where a beneficial magical effect is combined with a negative mundane effect.

Detect effects: I've seen similar things in a couple of different games, and I think it works well.

ID by Use: I don't think there's really a right or wrong answer to these questions but personally I would tend towards generosity.  You could explain identifying which item had the given effect as that item glowing during operation or something.  I think if you have to wait to identify an anti-dragon sword until you happen to use it on a dragon, you'll end up with an inventory of junk with hidden effects that you won't use tactically because you won't know what they do unless you've accidentally happened to deploy them in the tiny percentage of times when they are contextually appropriate.

Item Variability: I like this.

Labels: I like this too.  It makes sense that dungeon inhabitants might sometimes label the contents of their medicine cabinet and it seems like a nice way of cutting down some of the daunting task of identifying everything from scratch each time while also giving nice opportunities to occasionally fuck with people.

In general, I think the most fun identification methods are those which are unlikely to instantly kill you but which still carry some kind of indirect risk.  For example dipping an item into a potion - most of the time it might have no effect (and not waste the potion), sometimes it might have an effect on that item that reveals the type of potion and sometimes it might turn out to be a bottle of acid and you lose the item (but you don't have to test it by drinking it and risk an instant game-over.  Yes, Pixel Dungeon, I am looking at you).

Bear

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2014, 12:12:06 AM »
You're right about looking through rings having no downside.  To avoid tedious dull grind, it should therefore be a single command to check any new item (or any set of unident items) using all the rings you have in inventory.  I could give it some abstracted cost such as a mana cost, which counts on the mana recovery clock and eventually becomes a food cost. Or I could make the look-through power have a cooldown, where you can only do it once per N turns, or make it work only with rings that you've been wearing for the last while, or make the ring need N turns of wearing afterward before it starts working normally again - but that just creates a grindy subgame of swapping out rings in a low-risk area and waiting around for long enough to cycle through all of them.  I could decrease the 'grind' factor in that case by making such investigation automatic behavior whenever the character is 'resting' (and running the clock) anyway, but unless time is a precious resource is that significant?

"Detect poison" effects should definitely return true for anything it would be fatal to drink - including acids.  I think of the main purpose of the "detect effects" as being to determine what's relatively safe to experiment with and what kind of risks are associated with the other things, so "detect poison" should be fairly available. 


Kevin Granade

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2014, 01:32:55 AM »
I think the main thing you need to decide about the looking through rings mechanic is what you're trying to accomplish with it.  if it's a hint based on random-ish item accumulation, just have them 'resonate' and provide mutual semi-identification based on picking up the second one.  if it's supposed to be a puzzle to solve, give out hints about what the player should be trying to do and make it a puzzle.  if it's a resource to be managed, make it a bit more general and treat it as a resource.

reaver

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2014, 08:13:23 AM »
IMHO these are mechanics that sound good in theory but they become tedious in practice. I have no suggestion of my own, since I'm not at that stage yet in my own game, so I can only criticize :) Some comments below.

Looking through rings: So, every time I get a new item, I would have to look at it through all the looking-through rings that I have? how many key presses would that be? Very cool concept though.
Rarities: This is a nice concept for variation, but I see no connection to identification. Why would I care if the ring that I find does not appear in many other games that I will eventually start?
Combos: Again, I don't see any connection to identification
Detect effects: So, every time I get a new item, I would have to cast at it all the detect spells that I have? how many key presses would that be?
ID by Use: So, every time I hit, I would have to check if any properties have been revealed? I guess you can address that with some nice popup messages. Also, that would encourage grinding at lesser, respawnable enemies till I eventually get some more info.
Item variability: I don't see how these variable effects would be identified - other than that, variation is good, extreme variation might be game-breaking though (if you get a lucky drop)
Labels: So to avoid screwing up, your char would need literacy and magic, which kinda sounds unbalanced. I generally prefer the color-coding of potions to labelling, as it doesn't draw on any required skills (well, unless your char is blind)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2014, 08:18:37 AM by reaver »

Zireael

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2014, 09:21:40 AM »
Angband 4.0 had a neat variation - a combination of ID by use/wear with labels, called rune-based IDs.

Basically, every ego had a rune and once you learned it once, you recognized it on all items.

I'm not sure how it worked for similar egos on different item types (shields/armors/rings/potions of fire resistance, for example) but the idea is really good and I plan to implement something similar for Veins when I have time (TM)

AgingMinotaur

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2014, 10:00:07 AM »
Of great importance, of course, is that the ideas you go with should offer some strategic depth rather than just potential for grind. For instace, theme-wise I love the idea of "looking through rings", but it probably needs to be developed some more in order to work in the game. In particular, keyboard mashing != fun. Also, what would be the risk/cost? Maybe looking at ice-magic through a fire-ring depletes the potency of the enchantment or causes the player to receive some semi-permanent damage. OTOH, if such risks feel too arbitrary, what's the essential difference from just "drinking a potion to identify it"?

Combos is a great idea, I think. It will add unexpected synergies to each generated world, as well as having a subtle effect on the id subgame. ID-ing weapons by use: I generally prefer games that instantly id stuff when you put it on. For instance, in Crawl, you have to swind a sword N times before your character figures out its stats, and its just really annoying, forcing you to hang on to crap and use suboptimal tools for extended periods of time.

It seems to me you want to steer clear of "id as a resource" by leaving out scrolls of identify and the like. It might be nice with a more "puzzley" id subgame, but there is the danger of that becoming too reliant on spoilers.

Something like "resonating" might work well, or what Zireal is mentioning, having similar markings/colors/whatever on similar items (this idea might work better interface-wise, as the "resonances" will be in plain sight when you examine your inventory). So you might have a wand and a potion with corresponding runes. Upon id-ing the wand as a wand of fire bolt, the potion would be marked in your inventory as "fire-brand potion", which may imply one of a few different effects (fire resistance, burning hands, etc.) Using something like runes, you could even get away with weapons not being fully auto-identified upon wielding. For instance, let's say you find three swords: A +1 sword with no runes, a +0 sword with no runes, and a +0 sword with a rune on it. The unenchanted sword goes straight in the trash, but it makes sense to hang on to the +0 sword with a rune until you've figured out what it does. To ease things a bit, maybe slaying weapons will glow or something when close to their preferred enemy.

As always,
Minotauros
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mushroom patch

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2014, 11:57:50 AM »
I concur with other comments to the effect that you want to decrease tedium wrt the ID game, not increase it. The less interactive ID'ing stuff is, the better. You never want the player to take an action short of actually using the item to ID it that might fail to ID it. (Well, hardly ever.)

The charm of the ID game in roguelikes is generally overestimated, imo. If you're after a deeper ID game, I think it's better to go in search of randomized item interactions, not randomized item flavors. Randomized alchemy is a good example. Researching item interactions via finding recipes might lead to new and interesting things. Not knowing what prefab items like potions are is interesting for a while, but ID'ing things gets onerous/boring pretty easily and it's badly played out (imo).

Basically, make the prefab item ID game lighter, go in other directions if you want deep item researching mechanics.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2014, 12:04:32 PM by mushroom patch »

Pickledtezcat

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2014, 01:47:55 PM »
Personally I prefer the idea of having a generic identify skill, or specific identify weapon, or identify wand type skills. I think the generic skill with ranks would be best. Identification could be reduced to simply using your identify skill to have a chance to identify any of the items in your inventory. Each item could then be given a flag "identify_attempted" which would only be cleared once you improve your identify skill.

I like the 'looking through' rings concept, but I think it could be part of a skill increase or event. Like for example reading a scroll tells you:

"To gain an understanding of a magical item, it is recommended to look at it through the hole in a magical ring". (Your identify skill is increased by 5 points).

Another might hint be revealed by reading an inscription on a pillar:

"Rubbing a magical sword with the scales of a common fish will reveal if it is effective against reptiles" (Your identify skill is increased by 1 point)

A scribbled not left in a drawer might tell you:

"... illegible ... but I will continue none the less... illegible... today I found that ... page missing .... the mouse quickly drank the potion and after that ..... blood from the eyes.. illegible ... must have been poison! With sadness I discarded all the ... illegible ... colored potions..." (Your identify skill is raised by 2 points)

You could write a bunch of these things and have them give a bonus to your identify skill the first time you read them. (put them in a list of learned techniques and do an "if not in learned techniques" boolean check to see if any new knowledge should trigger a skill increase.)

I think the best part of having an identify skill is that it keeps identification a going concern through out the game rather than just being an issue for the first hour of play. Imagine discovering a gilded, gem encrusted skull. It is definitely magical, but with a ID_rating of 50 you had better be playing a wizard and have invested a lot in your identify skills.
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AgingMinotaur

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2014, 03:59:51 PM »
"To gain an understanding of a magical item, it is recommended to look at it through the hole in a magical ring". (Your identify skill is increased by 5 points).

"Rubbing a magical sword with the scales of a common fish will reveal if it is effective against reptiles" (Your identify skill is increased by 1 point)

Better yet (or not at all), implement a lot of these techniques, and let only a subset be available each particular game. If you randomize the bits making up each technique, ie. "rubbing a magical [foo] against a [bar] will reveal if it's imbued with [gack] magic" can give hundreds or more possible techniques: In one game, giantslaying clubs will be revealed by rubbing it against dead livestock, in another, wands of elemental magic will be revealed by rubbing them against certain species of plants.

I guess such a system of random magic theory might fall flat on its face, or be just crazy enough to work if implemented properly (if the system allows for at least a few thousand techniques, of which a dozen or so are generated to be effective for each new game, it should be enough to prevent extensive grinding/spoiling).

A table of correspondences could also be more general, eg. "fire magic corresponds to eagles and the cardinal direction of north", "invisibility magic corresponds to sesame seeds and the science of heraldry", "earth magic corresponds to your rectum".

As always,
Minotauros
« Last Edit: July 16, 2014, 04:06:06 PM by AgingMinotaur »
This matir, as laborintus, Dedalus hous, hath many halkes and hurnes ... wyndynges and wrynkelynges.

Bear

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Re: Identification subgame
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2014, 05:41:50 PM »
Well, I figured out what the implementation of the "Looking through rings" mechanic ought to be.... 

If you have an "identify" skill, then you attempt to "identify" an item.  If the game determines that you have in your possession a ring that will give you a reaction, it tells you about your character seeing the aura while looking through the ring, and that therefore the item and ring must have some kind of magic in common.

That way there's no spoiler about it and no extra grindy button-mashing while you try all rings one at a time on all items; you learn about the mechanic from the game not from a spoiler, and then you can work out for yourself that it may be worthwhile to carry around a selection of known rings you don't actually intend to wear, just to give yourself better identification abilities.