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Old April 30, 2013, 20:39   #1
Therem Harth
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The magic of the unknown

Or, "ignorance is fun."

(Inspired by this thread.)

Over time, Angband has lost a lot of its "magic" for me.

Pretty simple reason for that - I went from being an ignorant kid to a computer nut. (For which Angband is partly to blame. ) What I think is interesting is that I got to see a different side of it back then than I see now.

e.g.

When I started playing Angband I had no clue how the combat and magic systems worked. Magic items, oddball weapons, etc. were things I would mentally goggle at, thinking "What does this do?" Whereas my current knowledge of the game says there's no practical difference between a broadsword and a long sword, and that the silver wand I found on dlvl 1 is going to be Magic Missile at best.

Also, I'd never seen the vast majority of monsters, so things seemed to get weirder pretty fast as I descended. Every time I saw a new monster, I approached with some trepidation, because I never knew what it might do... Especially as I also didn't know all the possible effects on my character.

(One particularly memorable incident involved a Dwarf Warrior and a Green Glutton Ghost, circa 2.4.x I think. The character didn't have See Invisible, and I didn't know there were invisible ghosts, so it went something like: "It hits you. It hits you. You've been slimed! Oh no, it got your rations!" (x10 or so.) All the character's food was stolen, and he eventually died of starvation. That one had me thoroughly perplexed for a while.)

Anyway, part of the reason I've shied away from V for a while is because it no longer has that element of mystery to it. I feel that it's gotten too simple and too obvious. I'm cool with the increased transparency, but I feel that things have gotten too predictable.

What do I think can be done about this? Three things: granularity, complexity, and randomness. These are my terms, mind, not technical terms; I'm not sure if they're the correct ones.

Granularity as I define it is more fine-grained behavior of things in the game. The most obvious examples here would be with items. If the aforementioned broadsword and long sword differ only in terms of damage per hit and number of blows, that is not very granular. If they actually behave differently, and may therefore be more or less useful to certain characters, that is more granular, which is IMO what we want.

IMO v4 has made big advances in granularity with the finesse/prowess system, and also with the new ego system. I especially like the idea of each ego item potentially doing all kinds of strange things, instead of being limited to a few sets of flags.

Complexity to me just means more stuff. More items, more monsters, more races and classes. This is what I like about ToME 2; IMO it improves replay value if the game has aspects that you don't see on just one play through. Recent versions of Angband have improved this a little, with new level types.

(Shameless plug: this is why I've been stuffing so many severely unbalanced classes into Neoband. I don't think it's working too well though. )

Randomness means you never know exactly what you'll find. Angband already covers a lot of this, with procedural dungeon generation, and more randomized ego items in v4; but maybe it could do more - e.g. boss monsters with level-appropriate random spells would be interesting...

Obviously too much of any of the above factors would be bad. But I think the introduction of a bit more of each to V, in a controlled fashion, would make the game a lot more interesting. A game can't be completely unpredictable, but IMO losing some predictability would be good at this point.

Any thoughts?
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Old April 30, 2013, 21:21   #2
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If I had to boil down your post into two words, they'd be "more content". Which isn't a bad thing by any means, as long as you can keep the content varied, interesting, and reasonably balanced. It's certainly true that some degree of entertainment from any game comes from the novelty factor, and novelty is inherently short-lived; once you've experienced some bit of content a couple of times, the novelty wears off. Novelty has value, certainly, but you can't expect it alone to keep a game interesting indefinitely.
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Old April 30, 2013, 21:35   #3
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I have a different definition of granularity than you. Typically, I think of granularity is the fineness of changes. So if every monster has 10 to 20 HP then a difference of 1 HP damage per round is huge. If instead, every monster has 100 to 200 HP then 1 HP damage per round isn't all that big. The second option has a finer granularity than the first. It actually sounds like you want coarse granularity on multiple axes as opposed to fine granularity on one axis (in my parlance.)

The other two focuses really come down to game design theory. For complexity, there are two types of complexities that you care about. The complexity of the mechanics (how many commands/spells/items/monsters are there) and a complexity of results (I only have 4 mechanics but each interact with each other in interesting ways yielding 120 different situations.) Simple mechanics with simple results is boring, but there are examples of the others. Brogue has simple mechanics with complicated interactions. Nethack has complicated mechanics with relatively simple results. Tome4 and Dwarf fortress have complicated mechanics but also complicated results (Civilization also fits here for what it's worth).

In my opinion just adding more monsters/effects/whatever doesn't work if what you actually want is more complicated results. And if complicated results are what you're after, then you might consider limiting the total number of mechanics to get gameplay right. In actuality, adding more complicated mechanics often increases the entrance curve. So if you're going to do this you better have an extremely good guiding UI (like tome) or a huge payoff.

Flavor, of course, is separate. You can usually add lots of extra flavor without affecting either complexity of results or mechanics. This does change the perception of the game, and it's also something that we could certainly do with improving in Angband.

As far as randomness, this is another area where people disagree on a lot. Too little randomness and the game feels flat, too much and it feels unfair. Where the sweet-spot is depends on the player, and we can argue all day over what's right and get nowhere.
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Old April 30, 2013, 22:05   #4
Antoine
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Try a variant, perhaps PosCheng.

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Old April 30, 2013, 22:15   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Therem Harth
the silver wand I found on dlvl 1 is going to be Magic Missile at best
That's one of the things I dislike about Angband as compared to, say, Nethack or even Crawl - the fact that all the stuff you find early on is guaranteed to be crap. (PROTIP: Don't equip any rings until you reach at least 500'! ) I mean, sure, giving the player an Uber Miracle Sword of Everything Slaying on level 3 is a bit much, but there really ought to be some useful items there...
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Old April 30, 2013, 22:30   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekolis View Post
That's one of the things I dislike about Angband as compared to, say, Nethack or even Crawl - the fact that all the stuff you find early on is guaranteed to be crap. (PROTIP: Don't equip any rings until you reach at least 500'! ) I mean, sure, giving the player an Uber Miracle Sword of Everything Slaying on level 3 is a bit much, but there really ought to be some useful items there...
that's not true at all. First of all, all rings and amulets can be safely equipped, the cursed ones are gone. Second people are always talking about finding a rare item early on, but many games you don't. The balance is hard though, and if other people want to take a crack at improving it, that'd be great!
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Old April 30, 2013, 22:57   #7
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Things I find early on that are useful:

* Enchanted weapons, especially lightweight ones. It's not that uncommon for a weapon I find at 150' to last me through to 900'.
* Potions. Delicious, delicious potions. I'm not gonna get to the midgame if I can't survive the early game, and CLW/Heroism/Speed are a big help there.
* Likewise, scrolls -- Phase Door, Blessing, Detect Traps, Light, etc. all get used.
* Armor to flesh out my kit; I probably entered the dungeon with body armor and maybe a shield.
* Missile weapons, since I almost always start with none.

I guess none of this stuff is super exciting, but none of it's crap either. Should you be expecting to find amazing magical artifacts on kobold corpses? Probably not. On the other hand, one of my attempts at the competition found a Dagger of Slay Giant at 100'; that was pretty memorable.
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Old May 1, 2013, 00:19   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Things I find early on that are useful:
to flesh out my kit; I probably entered the dungeon with body armor and maybe a shield.
I usually go down with a torch and a main gauche. There's plenty of armor in the dungeon. (Early on, !Hero and/or ?Bless give sufficient AC for most situations.)
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