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Old June 21, 2022, 15:22   #21
emar
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I asked "Why isn't Angband more popular?" on reddit and it seems to confirm the issue.
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Old June 21, 2022, 18:35   #22
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You might also ask how popular reddit is here on the Angband forums
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Old June 21, 2022, 20:07   #23
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How would new players get the message that diving early and/or avoiding encounters is the "right" way to play? It's effectively dogma here
Are we really so dogmatic? I think most community members will tell you that there are many ways to play Angband and that the right way is the way that's fun for you. But should anybody complain that the early levels are too boring, then yes, most community members on this site will recommend diving faster. It's just common sense that, in a self-paced game, if the pace is too slow for you, you should set a faster pace.

This is what Fizzix wrote on the reddit thread, and I'm reposting it here because I thought it was really constructive:

Quote:
I used to play angband a lot, and even wrote some code for it back in the day. (old-timers might recognize my user name)

I think a lot of the commenters hit on some of the key points. Some are design decisions, some are historical, some are accidental (and could be changed). I'll discuss a few of them and try to explain why they are why they are from my point of view.

1) Slow pace/grind. This is the number one complaint and it's a bit of an annoying one. It comes from a mindset that the player will always choose the most boring way to progress possible, so you need to force the player into difficult scenarios. Most games today are "tight" meaning that the game progresses you along at a constant pace and throws appropriate challenges at all steps. It's easy to be tight with an RPG, it's harder with a roguelike. Yet it's clear that games like DCSS (and even TOME) are much tighter than Angband. Angband basically let's you progress at your own pace, which was actually a draw to me when I first picked it up many years ago. You can make Angband tight if you want. Turn on forced descent (one of my additions) and the game quickly becomes pretty tight, although it isn't optimized nearly as much as DCSS.

2) Large, empty levels. This is partly a design choice, and partly gameplay forced. Angband has large field of vision (20 tiles) compared to like 8 for DCSS and 12ish for TOME. Furthermore, high level game play relies on avoiding/removing monsters you don't want to face, often by teleporting them away. These two things (and what I discuss next) set the level size. Finally, the endgame of Angband centers around epic sized giant vaults. These need to actually fit as part of a level, rather than be the full level, like some of the giant vaults are in TOME. There are ways around this, reduce the field of view to 10 or so. Reduce level size up to around level 50 and so on.

3) One-shot kills. "It breathes, you die" is an old angband trope and is still true. Games tend to try to avoid one-shot kills because it seems unfair, especially for a roguelike. TOME has them, but DCSS does not. Most of Angband's danger after the midgame come in the form of one-shot kills and if you're inexperienced you don't even realize when you had a close call. The fact that monsters are deadly mean that you usually can only face off against one at a time, which prevents small/crowded levels too. (Angband does have some small labyrinth like levels, and those are death traps.)

4) The graphics are terrible. The interface isn't that bad per se, but Angband always prided itself on modability, nearly everything in the game can be easily changed through text files, etc. A lot of the stuff requires no coding ability to edit. Angband's original popularity came from this as people replaced the monster list with whatever they wanted. It still prides itself on this. It's a lot harder to make a new monster or a whole new monster list if you also need to create tiles. Angband never had a strong graphical team. The best was Shockbolt who made the tiles for Angband and TOME, but the tiles were too big for Angband's 20 tile field of view, so they're difficult to use. I think Angband could really benefit from a strong graphical overhaul, but it's never had a dev who was skilled in that area, so that never happened. I noted that Angband was getting killed by DCSS in this area 10 years ago or so. It's only gotten worse since then.

5) Repetitive late game. Granted this is only a concern for old-timers like me who regularly reach the late game. While I don't find the first half of the game grindy at all, the late game is really boring. I find the epic vaults not that interesting, and I have argued against removing them all in the past. It was not a popular opinion. I don't have a good solution to this beyond just condensing the last 50 levels into 10 or so, but that requires a major rebalance change.

there's probably more that I'll think of, but I should get back to work. As for why I don't play Angband so much? It's the same as why I don't play many roguelikes. They require too many keypresses. After a day of typing at work, I usually need to rest my hands in the evening.
In some ways the great draw of Angband is that you can play at your own pace. Without realizing it, I found this a very attractive feature in my first ~20--40 games of Angband. But after winning the grindiest possible game of Dunadan Ranger, I gradually came to prefer a tighter gameplay experience (Fizzix's terminology from point 1, above). I tried tighter roguelikes like DCSS and Sil, and they're great, but I still prefer something about the mechanics or atmosphere in Angband. So what I landed on was PosChengband, with a whole slew of OCD self-imposed rules that force the game to be tight and not grindy (and hard enough that I can't possibly win, lol). Now of course I don't play anything because I have tiny kids... except that when they're napping in a kangaroo pouch, I can play Hearthstone since that just requires one hand on the mouse.

Last edited by Djabanete; June 21, 2022 at 20:21.
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Old June 21, 2022, 22:30   #24
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Originally Posted by Djabanete View Post
Are we really so dogmatic? I think most community members will tell you that there are many ways to play Angband and that the right way is the way that's fun for you. But should anybody complain that the early levels are too boring, then yes, most community members on this site will recommend diving faster. It's just common sense that, in a self-paced game, if the pace is too slow for you, you should set a faster pace.

[...]

In some ways the great draw of Angband is that you can play at your own pace. Without realizing it, I found this a very attractive feature in my first ~20--40 games of Angband. But after winning the grindiest possible game of Dunadan Ranger, I gradually came to prefer a tighter gameplay experience (Fizzix's terminology from point 1, above). I tried tighter roguelikes like DCSS and Sil, and they're great, but I still prefer something about the mechanics or atmosphere in Angband. So what I landed on was PosChengband, with a whole slew of OCD self-imposed rules that force the game to be tight and not grindy (and hard enough that I can't possibly win, lol). Now of course I don't play anything because I have tiny kids... except that when they're napping in a kangaroo pouch, I can play Hearthstone since that just requires one hand on the mouse.
Most people won't ask the community; they just quit. Nothing on the label calls it self-directed, or that diving isn't penalized and often a better idea than grinding. Most players that have stuck around started as grinders and realized later that diving also worked and was a more efficient way of grinding.

Coincidentally, the main reason I'm personally working on autoexplore and autofight is so I can play the Android Angband port more easily with one hand for precisely that same reason (I walk around while my kid is napping in the pouch). The early game issue came up as a result. It's not fun to hammer autoexplore and autofight/shoot, but it is less fatiguing and shortens the tedious period of the game, whether on PC or phone.

I'll continue to experiment and if I come up with something that I want to share, I'll make the decision then whether to fork V or try to mainline them.
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Old June 21, 2022, 22:57   #25
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In my opinion part of it is in the name. Angband is the fortress of the great evil of the world, Morgoth. Getting to the bottom of it, and killing him, is going to have to be epic. This is not a "let's go on a random Dungeon Crawl to kill some generic monsters and grab loot" exercise, it's an attempt to overthrow the Middle-Earth equivalent of Satan, defeating most of his minions along the way.

Timo (Angband player from the early days) used to complain about the focus on turncount, diving etc because he saw Angband as an adventure, not a contest. Or maybe it's a puzzle. You can make up your own mind - it doesn't tell you how to play it.

I'm not being very focused here, but (by happy accident) that's actually a metaphor for what I'm trying to say. Angband is its own game, and I think comparing it to other roguelikes is to some extent missing the point. I was drawn to it by the theme and the atmosphere, not by the fact that it's a roguelike and certainly not by reddit.

Rantier than I intended, but hey
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Old June 22, 2022, 01:04   #26
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DCSS, for instance, has sexier graphics, lots more playable races and characters, and an easily accessed, much more polished, graphical web-based front end, with servers on most continents. It also has, for most people, a much shorter play time--or so I gather.

For that matter, Diablo is far more popular than DCSS.

Those of us who are here rather than there are clearly after something else.
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Old June 22, 2022, 01:25   #27
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DCSS, for instance, has sexier graphics....
I used to play Angband with graphical tiles, now I just play with ASCII. I'm not looking for "Call of Duty", and besides, I think my imagination is far better than any graphics will ever be.
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Old June 22, 2022, 01:37   #28
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How would new players get the message that diving early and/or avoiding encounters is the "right" way to play? It's effectively dogma here but the game doesn't do anything to document or signal that as the right strategy, or penalize players that grind (not necessarily that it should). The food clock (I think) is supposed to achieve that implicitly, but doesn't (except in ironman).

A tutorial or even an in-game guide accessible via the character creation screen would do a lot to motivate new players in the right direction without any gameplay changes, but it still leaves the early game as a slog to repeatedly find stairs until you start facing meaningful resistance, and anyone who doesn't read guides (most of the general population) will play for ten minutes and say "Yep, this is grindy" and never come back.
The "right" way of playing is only defined in a competitive context, which you can have with Angband but you are not forced into.

I dont know how much a guide being "in-game" would help; we live in the age of Google. Certainly all the people who find Angband through reddit will not miss an in-game guide - they may miss a good comprehensive guide in general though. A small tutorial is a different matter, basically pointing to where more information can be found, like the various menus.

Angband can be viewed as many game modes in one game. Many of the issues you addressed can be solved by picking the right mode - like you noted, food clock becomes relevant in ironman.

So, whats good about early empty levels ?

They provide an easy shot at character improvement. The monster population is such that even a very weak class combination played by an inexperienced player can make progress without much risk of getting overwhelmed. Slow progress, thus it feels grindy.

I wouldnt like handholding new players towards one or the other playing style.
If their short attention span prevents them from getting involved deeply enough to become interested, so be it. There are thousands of games out there for them - Angband has its rustic, but unique spirit. There is room for that, and some new people will prefer it this way.
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Old June 22, 2022, 04:03   #29
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Well, I guess the grognards have spoken. I'll summarize what I've heard:

The game is fine.

Thematically, it's a sandbox where epicness matters, but only when people compare Angband to anything else, especially if on reddit. Angband is its own game, where the nearly-vacant fortifications to the impregnable successor to Utumno are guarded by molds, jellies, and fruit bats. Heroes are hauling around trash bags of potions while effortlessly killing Satan and his minions because they lack object permanance and you are slightly out of view. This is all fine because reasons.

The defaults are also fine, unless they're not, but then that's your fault. You're free to play any way you want to, and if you're not having fun, you're playing it wrong, but there's no "right" way to play. Reddit is very bad and no one should ever go there. The end.
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Old June 22, 2022, 05:02   #30
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Hm. I could be wrong about this but I think another reason DCSS probably needed to automate their gameplay--aside from the terrible early dungeon layouts and, it seems to me, difficulty curve that is much more random and less well worked out than Angband's--is that you don't really have the same option to dive in that game, because there are fewer levels and they do not regenerate, so resources are quite limited, and you really do have to go through every nook to get everything you possibly can. And also the way items work in that game, items you find very early on can quite easily serve as end-game items. So you've got to poke through every bit of even the early levels, no matter how boring you may find them, rather than being able to race for stairs and skip the bulk of the level.
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