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Old February 15, 2011, 03:12   #1
buzzkill
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My anti-summoning rant

Don't hate me, but I feel that summoning is severely broken. Summoning is seldom beneficial to the summoner. The summons are either TO's/banished/destructed and dealt with later (or not), or the summons themselves, if weak, become defensive barriers for the player and also keep a fleeing summoner from escaping. In the best case, a lucky summons may chase the player off the level. I don't know what can be done to fix it. It really seems like an AI issue to me. Monsters summon in inappropriate situations and then behave as if they hadn't summoned at all.

In my current game a few deep summoning uniques turned a fairly ordinary level into a huge jackpot. I refuse to use ASC's, so big summoners often summon at least once before they die. These summons provide a lot of additional 'good/great' drops, and also often summon more worthwhile stuff for me to kill. It's not farming, and I'm not doing it intentionally to gain XP and treasure, but it sure does feel like cheating. I shouldn't have to flee a level or dig an ASC to prevent my character from growing too powerful too quickly.

When all was said and done on DL89, I had killed about 10 deep uniques (in addition to dozens of ancients/wyrms/deep demons and undead), gained 3 levels (43-45), and found no less than six artifacts along with all the other stuff. It was RePos, but it's essentially the same as V3.2. (EDIT: ...so far, just spotted two more uniques I TO'd earlier.)

I may be whining about nothing, and I know there was a thread on fixing summoning some time ago, but as I recall nothing concrete ever came out of it. I just wanted to bring it up again, as my situation has a bit of a different twist.
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Last edited by buzzkill; February 15, 2011 at 03:28.
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Old February 15, 2011, 03:58   #2
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Stop whinging and get your skates on - you've got less than two days to win!
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Old February 15, 2011, 09:19   #3
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Quote:
gained 3 levels (43-45), and found no less than six artifacts along with all the other stuff.
just any good pit can give same results. Deep levels of angband anyway have more then enough monsters for any character to maximize his exp, find endgame kit and tons of consumables, your character have not become too powerfull too fast. You allways have to have some back up here, so it is ok to build endgame ironman at level 85 already, then just dive and kill Morgoth.
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Old February 15, 2011, 17:03   #4
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Summoning is broken. Unfortunately most of the suggestions for fixing it result in the game becoming easier, and that's not likely to happen.

If I was to change summoning, the first thing I'd do is eliminate FRIENDS from summons. With the exception of time/gravity hounds this would actually make summonses harder. (ESCORT/S would be left as is, so that Gothmog comes with his full complement of greater balrogs and gelugons.)

The next thing I'd do is put an upper limit on the power of monsters that get summoned, dependent on the level of the summoner. Something like summoned monsters total levels < 2-4 times summoner level. I'm not sure whether ESCORTS should be immune. I kind of like that a Gothmog summon means GTFO now.

Putting a max level also get a more consistent difficulty of summons. No more groups of jackals, but no more 4 high uniques by Lorgan. It could also be independent of terrain. They'd still get summoned, even if there is no place to put them.

If I was feeling really evil, I would add some terrain dependent summons. If the summoner is surrounded by monsters, he'll summon something with PUSH_PAST or TRAMPLE. If the summoner is surrounded by walls, he'll be more likely to summon something with EAT_WALL or PASS_WALL. The goal would be to make more dangerous, targeted summons with less monsters.

Now, if monster mana ever gets implemented everything needs to be rethought.
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Old February 15, 2011, 17:28   #5
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Originally Posted by fizzix View Post
If I was feeling really evil, I would add some terrain dependent summons. If the summoner is surrounded by monsters, he'll summon something with PUSH_PAST or TRAMPLE. If the summoner is surrounded by walls, he'll be more likely to summon something with EAT_WALL or PASS_WALL. The goal would be to make more dangerous, targeted summons with less monsters.
Do keep in mind that making monsters react to the player's tactical decisions by acting to neutralize those decisions can have the effect of making the game less tactical overall. If there's zero benefit to limiting LOS where you fight, then why bother? A truly smart monster AI will beat the player every time because monsters are so much more powerful than the player. The player has to be clever to beat the monsters, so we should reward cleverness instead of penalizing or neutralizing it.

(That said, the current tactics for dealing with summoners are so well-established that I don't think we can really call them clever any more)

Incidentally, you reminded me that I saw a blubbering icky thing trample a white harpy awhile back. I hadn't even realized they had KILL_BODY.
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Old February 15, 2011, 17:53   #6
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Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Do keep in mind that making monsters react to the player's tactical decisions by acting to neutralize those decisions can have the effect of making the game less tactical overall. If there's zero benefit to limiting LOS where you fight, then why bother? A truly smart monster AI will beat the player every time because monsters are so much more powerful than the player. The player has to be clever to beat the monsters, so we should reward cleverness instead of penalizing or neutralizing it.
That's a good point that I hadn't thought about. At the very least, monsters shouldn't be summoning when there's no adjacent square to put the monster. Alternatively, more powerful summons should automatically trample weaker summons.
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Old February 15, 2011, 23:43   #7
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What about summoning at a distance? Instead of trying to place summons in 2 tiles of the player and in LoS why not place summons between 10 and 12 tiles from the player without regard for LoS. That way summons wouldn't clog the battlefield as quickly, and would be potentially able to enter LoS on a double move rather than appearing with zero energy where the player can TO them.

Summons might become a little weaker especially in maze levels, but antisummoning tactics would probably still have to shift significantly.
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Old February 16, 2011, 00:39   #8
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It's a curious situation --- summoning has very different effects on characters who are "below" the curve than "above" it.

What I mean is that if you're playing for turncount or real time, or generally playing for some kind of challenge game, your character is often weak enough relative to his depth that powerful summoners are dangerous for their potential to overwhelm you. If you're about to sort through some treasure and a summon-chain starts, you might never get to ID your stuff before you have to run. I think summoning is very well balanced from that perspective.

However --- and I usually experience this only in the endgame --- there may come a time when your character is too powerful for anything at your depth, and then those summons become a party. You start abusing Greater Draconic Quylthulgs so you can get the most treasure in the shortest amount of time, and generally a mass of high-level monsters isn't a deterrent, it's an attraction.

In tactical situations (those where you're fighting with something that's about a match for you), summoning is a really effective game device. Sometimes is helps you, usually it hurts you; and for me the most exciting Angband is when I'm trying to kill dangerous summoners. Deciding whether to damage the main summoner or spend time wiping out the summons (maybe they can summon too!) is a balancing act.

Variant territory: in quests, summoning is pretty much never good for the player. Quests are generally designed to be difficult already, and summons can put victory out of reach. When you don't have the option of just leaving, summoning is an *excellent* weapon in the game's arsenal, because it requires you to take precautions and adjust your play.

So, yeah, sometimes summoning "breaks down" when you're just massacring D's and gearing up for Morgoth. And sometimes even before that, it can be beneficial to the player. I wouldn't object to seeing improved AI --- but I do think that summoning is overall a good game element, and the fact that sometimes it helps the player isn't inherently wrong or broken.
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