Author Topic: Going beyond hack and slash  (Read 24430 times)

Ex

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Going beyond hack and slash
« on: December 26, 2014, 11:31:36 PM »
I've been thinking lately that (as much as I hate to admit it) maybe Krice is onto something when he says that Crawl has something wrong with its gameplay.

I used to be a huge Crawl fan, until I started making it into the late game consistently. The beginning of Crawl is amazing, but the midgame and endgame just become a kind of FPS with swords. It's kill your way to victory. Better equipment, better character, still just killing things until you win. It's boring. It's like playing an FPS. Many other roguelikes have this same problem: the entire game revolves purely around killing your way to victory while progressing purely forward in a linear way.

I guess I want something else, but I'm not quite sure what it is. The only game I can think that I know has it is (of course) Nethack.

Nethack does the whole "kill your way to victory" thing, too, but there's something more ontop of that. It's nonlinear. It has sidequests that are wholly optional. It has things like sokoban, mine town, and shops with complex interaction. It encourages you to backtrack, and to visit places that have little or nothing to do with actually winning the game (aside from collecting an ascension kit).

The fun from playing Nethack often has nothing to do with actually progressing towards winning the game. It has everything to do with kicking that sink, throwing a gem to that unicorn, fighting the police after stealing something, wishing for an overpowered item, solving sokoban, quaffing from that fountain, locking yourself in a room to escape from a horde of monsters, carving elbereth into the floor with a wand of lightning, visiting the oracle, etc. etc.

I like Dwarf Fortress' idea that losing should be fun. In Nethack, just playing around is fun. In Crawl, you're either progressing and killing your way linearly to victory, or you're doing nothing. Like many roguelikes, Crawl seems like an FPS with a sword, and also like many roguelikes its waaay too linear.

Maybe losing and just playing around should be fun? 99% of the time we spend in permadeath roguelikes involves losing and not progressing. Maybe we should make losing and not progressing fun?

What do you think? Ideas? Suggestions?

Kyzrati

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2014, 12:44:05 AM »
While your general analysis makes sense, I don't this can be described as something literally "wrong" with DCSS. Many many players enjoy this kind of game, just as many enjoy FPSes. It satisfies a different taste, and from a developer point of view it's the difference between very tight design focused on clear mechanics with semi-predictable progression and fun-but-if-you-want-to-do-well-you-need-a-zillion-spoilers.

I guess you could say Crawl is more about the long-term meta experience rather than the short-term experience. As you mention, though, this can be a problem in roguelikes because you may die often, but that's why it's important to make sure the early game is interesting and fun.

mushroom patch

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2014, 02:33:22 AM »
I don't think Krice makes a point about DCSS specific enough to be right or wrong, but anyway...

As to the points you raise here, I don't there's any evidence that there's a substantial audience for a roguelike game that isn't primarily about hack and slash or some minor variation on it (e.g. sneak and stab). Dwarf fortress, as people are fond of saying, is not a roguelike (in fortress mode). I'm not sure I see your argument about linearity wrt to DCSS, but if you think crawl is too linear and combat oriented, I suspect there are reasonable ways to address that without making fundamental changes to the game. You might try your hand at a variant if you have specific ideas about how to address the issues you mention.

Paul Jeffries

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2014, 08:46:41 AM »
Maybe losing and just playing around should be fun? 99% of the time we spend in permadeath roguelikes involves losing and not progressing. Maybe we should make losing and not progressing fun?

In Roguelikes losing and progressing are not mutually exclusive - dying can be an important step towards winning if it teaches you something that you can use to do better in your next run.  I think part of what you might be identifying as 'fun' here is that Nethack is a more complicated game with more systems to learn, so there's more chance of a death contributing to your knowledge of the game and consequently dying feels like less of a waste of time (and so is less frustrating) than in a more straightforward game when you die for pretty much the same reason you died the last 10 times.

Krice

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2014, 09:51:28 AM »
I don't think Krice makes a point about DCSS specific enough to be right or wrong, but anyway...

There is nothing wrong with Crawl if you like hack and slash. Nethack is kind of odd case, because it is hack and slash, but then it's from 80's, all games were like that then. But it's got more depth than just combat, while games like Crawl and ADOM are completely focused on combat, stat grinding and equipment. For me role-playing games have always been something more than just fighting. I also hate what happened to mainstream RPGs, they actually became FPS games with fantasy stuff and often completely linear gameplay.

wire_hall_medic

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2015, 05:15:55 PM »
It sounds like you're just getting bored; just doing the same thing too long.  Two suggestions would be to either play something that's shorter, or something that changes more as you go through.

One of the common things that we run into with monsters is that they can't just be reskinned with a +2 to everything; they have to present a new tactical challenge to the player.  For example, Brogue introduces salamanders however many levels down; while not statistically that different from other monsters, they light everything around them on fire (including you and the environment, which spreads). 

In a really long roguelike, it's quite challenging to have the player continually need to adapt in ways other than "make sure you have max fire resistance by L30, a Scroll of Laundering by L42."

Ex

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2015, 03:41:39 PM »
It's more than boredom. I want more roleplaying and cool stuff to do than just hack and slash. I want more depth than just combat, a lot more. I want depth, complexity, and things to do that have nothing to do with combat. I don't want a game focused on combat, stat grinding, and equipment, but one focused on cool stuff you can do, roleplaying, depth. I want a roguelike that isn't about hack and slash, where hack and slash is only a combat system that is a small part of a much larger game. I want a game that focuses on kicking that sink, throwing a gem to that unicorn, fighting the police after stealing something, wishing for an overpowered item, solving sokoban, quaffing from that fountain, locking yourself in a room to escape from a horde of monsters, carving elbereth into the floor with a wand of lightning, visiting the oracle, etc. etc.

Once upon a time, the combat system was a much smaller part of the game than it is today. If you look at Nethack (or even Omega), combat is a much smaller part of the game compared to modern roguelikes where the entire game revolves around hack and slash combat.

Role playing games used to be closer to role playing games than to first person shooters. Dungeons and Dragons (especially back in 2nd ed) has a LOT more to it than fighting, and so does virtually every other pen and pencil roleplaying game. Yet, that kind of complexity seems to have been abandoned in modern roguelikes. Even the complexity of a game like Morrowind or Fallout 3 just isn't seen in roguelikes anymore. And it used to be, if you look at games like Nethack.

chooseusername

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2015, 06:18:27 PM »
Once upon a time, the combat system was a much smaller part of the game than it is today. If you look at Nethack (or even Omega), combat is a much smaller part of the game compared to modern roguelikes where the entire game revolves/around hack and slash combat.
Often, when I play games, I feel like combat is the tedious thing you do between the interesting bits.  Case in point is Anachronox (not a roguelike), where there's this awkward Japanese game inspired combat system.  It's prolonged and painful, and gets more prolonged and painful the longer the game goes on.  The worst part was that I saw a Matt Chat with the game designer, and if I recall correctly, the one thing he would have changed was to make the combat even more involved.  WTF!

The sad fact is that it takes a lot of time and effort to make a game.  It's a lot easier to cram in and pad out your game with lots of tedious combat, than it is to make a game full of content or gameplay that's interesting and worth playing instead.  If people are throwing tomatoes at you, you get tired of tomatoes.  If people are throwing handfuls of shit at you, you look forward to the odd tomato being thrown.  Does this mean that tomatoes can only truly be appreciated if the option is shit?  Or does it mean that the whole experience is lazily constructed to begin with?

mushroom patch

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2015, 08:35:16 PM »
There are no games like nethack. There is only nethack.

It's just not true that roguelikes have been significantly less hack and slashy. People talk about nethack as an exemplar of the genre, but in fact it's an outlier in terms of the complexity of its items and non-combat mechanics. There's been plenty of time to make a much more involved game in this vein, but no one's been interested enough to do it. This is telling, I think.

The arc of development seems to vindicate the combat oriented model. This, by the way, is what computers are good at: Automating the bookkeeping and computation involved in creating game content and resolving combat. Running from the Keystone Kops is not roleplaying, it's just a preprogrammed game mechanic. On the other hand, actual roleplaying has never been more available -- even a lone nerd in rural Idaho can find a couple of interweb buddies to play with over skype/google hangouts/whatever. You don't have to play a stripped down D&D simulator if you don't want to. And indeed, it would be interesting to create a roguelike-ish system for actual roleplaying with a DM controlling things at a higher level, players interacting in the usual verbal way, and the bookkeeping, map/board type stuff and calculations done by a server. But you'll never get much more out of the idea of doing "roleplaying" in a completely automated computer system than you see in games that are already out there. It's just not what computers do well.

Also, I'd like to push back at the idea that being more like a first person shooter is bad. Many of the best video games ever made have been first person shooters. At their best roguelikes can produce the kind of excitement of combat you see first person shooters, although in a more cerebral, less visceral kind of way. That is the strength of the genre, not puzzly minigames and wishing for Pinky Pie's party cannon.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2015, 11:23:31 PM by mushroom patch »

chooseusername

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2015, 11:34:38 PM »
And indeed, it would be interesting to create a roguelike-ish system for actual roleplaying with a DM controlling things at a higher level, players interacting in the usual verbal way, and the bookkeeping, map/board type stuff and calculations done by a server. But you'll never get much more out of the idea of doing "roleplaying" in a completely automated computer system than you see in games that are already out there. It's just not what computers do well.
Anyone care to outline what they imagine this game would look like / the game play experience would be?

Also, I'd like to push back at the idea that being more like a first person shooter is bad. Many of the best video games ever made have been first person shooters. At their best roguelikes can produce the kind of excitement of combat you see first person shooters, although in a more cerebral, less visceral kind of way. That is the strength of the genre, not puzzly minigames and wishing for Pinky Pie's party cannon.
You are basically constructing a straw man argument, by taking the discontent with combat and making a jump to first person shooters, and going from there.  Then you throw in some hyperbole and suggest combat is the core, and compare it against two more straw men you pull out of somewhere.

Less hyperbole and straw men please.

mushroom patch

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2015, 12:50:41 AM »
I wasn't responding to you. The other guy explicitly put forth the comparison with first person shooters in what I took to be a negative light. He also suggests that wishing for overpowered items, sokoban, and playing with unicorns are what made nethack and by extension roguelikes great historically. My point, which I think is self-evident, is that those things, and more broadly things like them, are unique quirks of nethack (which aren't universally loved) that were never present in the other surviving strains of the roguelike tradition. The hack and slash orientation of roguelikes has always been the norm.

You ask what a game like I describe would look like. It would be a multiplayer, turn-based, tile-based game that acts as a companion to a game played verbally online via a video or audio chat program. It would know the rules of combat and movement, display an interactive, tile-based map to all players, similar to what you would see if you play with a physical board, it would be able to automatically create boilerplate maps, generate treasure and monsters in a way optionally guided by the DM, and it would have commands available to the DM to override outcomes of the system's rule application, script or manually control monster and item behavior, and whatever other deviations from default rule resolution to facilitate the DM's preferred style of play. It wouldn't even have to be that fancy, since people could share scripts, art, etc. I don't know that people would be interested to play something like that, since I haven't played D&D since I was 12, but there it is.

Rickton

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2015, 04:31:59 AM »
There are no games like nethack. There is only nethack.
Yeah, I think it's pretty telling that all the examples used have been from Nethack.

I've never played Elona/Elona+, but I think that it offers stuff besides combat and dungeons to do. I've also never gotten very far in ADOM but someone told me once you can just go off and be a farmer in it if you want to.

Now, if you're willing to go outside the boundaries of "traditional" roguelikes, you've got "survival roguelikes" (like Cataclysm) that feature plenty of other stuff besides dungeon-delving and combat.
Dwarf Fortress Adventure Mode also has plans to let you do lots of things, though who knows when they'll actually be doable or fun. Ultima Ratio Regum seems like it'll have lots to do besides hack n' slash, but since as cool as it looks it doesn't really have much/any game play in yet, I can't say for sure.
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stefoid

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2015, 12:32:36 PM »
I reckon the big three aspects of roguelikes are  progression, discovery and tactics.

Nethack is big on discovery - there always seems to be some new way to do things or combine things, or some new 'offical' area to explore.

Havent played crawl, but how is it tactically?  Perhaps it is mostly just progression from your description?

My own game (www.dungeonbash.com)  prioritizes tactics, although as a work in progress, there is still lots to implement in that area.  It is less concerned with discovery as it is 100% procedural - there are no specific areas to discover, only learning the capabilities of the creatures and items, although there are a lot of creatures and items.
My squad-based tactical roguelike for mobiles:
http://www.dungeonbash.com

Trystan

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2015, 07:24:21 AM »
I reckon the big three aspects of roguelikes are progression, discovery and tactics.

Of all the ways of categorizing roguelikes, this may be the most interesting I've seen. I'll have to think about these aspects and various other games.

reaver

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Re: Going beyond hack and slash
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2015, 08:51:53 AM »
I reckon the big three aspects of roguelikes are progression, discovery and tactics.

Of all the ways of categorizing roguelikes, this may be the most interesting I've seen. I'll have to think about these aspects and various other games.

I can't see *anything* other than progression: discovery is your progression of knowledge about the game world and tactics is the progression to your approach in combat.

Actually, for games, it's *all* about progression, otherwise it's grinding:
In super mario it's about game world progression (new environments), tactics (different monsters) and player run n jump skill.
In roguelikes, the way stefoid framed it, it's about character progression (new powers etc), game world progression (discovery of new places, things, creatures) and tactics (progression of how you deal with enemies, combat-based or not)

It looks like Elig complained that in Crawl mid/late-game there is a halt in tactics progression. And the praise for nethack is that there so many special things programmed so that world and tactics progression keep till the end.

It's obviously more difficult to develop a long game that exhibits continuous progression and doesn't result in grinding. Nethack and crawl and other major roguelikes had YEARS of development to add and refine content. Yes, combat may not be one's thing, but then again, required wiki reading may not be one's thing either. So, nothing's fundamentally wrong with either, in a permadeath scenario.

So, IMO, progression is essential. Dying should give progress on some of your game knowledge, obviously. The difficult task is, can the game offer you a sense of progression till you reach where you were when you last died? And I'm not talking by just creating differently shaped dungeons. Otherwise permadeath requires you to grind till you get where you were, so that you begin discovering and progressing again.