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Old November 2, 2015, 08:43   #1
Timo Pietilš
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Is the unavoidable death really a bad thing?

I have noticed a bit pattern in my games, and not only angband:

After some point of the game "I have won" without actually winning. After that point it only takes careful play and patience. This leads to phenomenon where I rather start new game than play that endgame, whatever that might be, because of knowledge of the fact that I can win if I just "play it right".

So, is the possibility of unavodable death really a bad thing? I remember losing game in some exceptional way longer than winning it.

I want unfair phenomenons. Surviving and/or dying from clearly unfair thing is fun. Dying only from own mistake not so much, because that leads to some way of playing that always leads to victory.

It breathes poison -more- You die -more- is not actually a bad thing if you know that this is the way game goes and there was nothing you could have prevented it.

Discussion: Do you agree/disagree and if you agree, how to do that "properly", if disagree, why?
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Old November 2, 2015, 09:56   #2
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Play TomeNET and do ironman dungeons. Even your most overpowered character that nothing can harm has a chance to die if going downstairs lands you in the middle of a large vault with the "no teleport" flag.

Unavoidable deaths IMHO ruin the fun of a game, because winning would then be a simple matter of luck. The best thing to do is make the endgame more difficult by balancing stuff that makes it too simple.
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Old November 2, 2015, 11:28   #3
Timo Pietilš
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerWyrm View Post
The best thing to do is make the endgame more difficult by balancing stuff that makes it too simple.
OK. How? Using vanilla as model. What would you change?
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Old November 2, 2015, 12:41   #4
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Escapes should come at a cost. For example: teleport other and banishment get a saving throw, destruction hurts the character badly, teleport level gets a delay like recall. I'd keep teleport as it is, since you still can teleport into something nasty.

Then I'd add some more powerful monsters to fill the gap between levels 80 and 98, which only contain uniques that don't appear often and can be skipped. For example: split wyrms in two parts, normal wyrms at +10 speed and summon dragon, ancient wyrms at +20 speed and summon ancient dragons (I think demons and undead are fine as they are). Maybe modify the monster generation routine to ensure that deep levels get more deep monsters.

Add level restrictions that can appear randomly deep in the dungeon: no map, no banish, no destruction.

Of course, the best change would be to introduce cooldowns on resources like in tome4 (potions, scrolls, spells) so that the character needs to think carefully before healing, teleporting, casting and such... but that would be probably too much for V.
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Old November 2, 2015, 12:44   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timo Pietilš View Post
After some point of the game "I have won" without actually winning. After that point it only takes careful play and patience. This leads to phenomenon where I rather start new game than play that endgame, whatever that might be, because of knowledge of the fact that I can win if I just "play it right".
This is why I quit Nethack and moved across as it's a new challenge, yeah I got to the point where I knew I was essentially invulnerable, the rest became boring. I guess eventually you just tire of a game, no matter how good it is.

I'm not convinced the solution is just to have random death as a possibility - there's little skill in avoiding that, just luck.
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Old November 2, 2015, 13:19   #6
Timo Pietilš
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerWyrm View Post
Escapes should come at a cost. For example: teleport other and banishment get a saving throw, destruction hurts the character badly, teleport level gets a delay like recall. I'd keep teleport as it is, since you still can teleport into something nasty.
This is basically creating unavoidable death if you rely on them, if you don't then it just adds tedium.
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Old November 2, 2015, 13:28   #7
Timo Pietilš
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bimbul View Post
This is why I quit Nethack and moved across as it's a new challenge, yeah I got to the point where I knew I was essentially invulnerable, the rest became boring. I guess eventually you just tire of a game, no matter how good it is.

I'm not convinced the solution is just to have random death as a possibility - there's little skill in avoiding that, just luck.
Maybe I wasn't clear. I'm not talking about "roll a dice, you die" -type of situation, but a more a type of unfair death where combination of things lead to practically unavoidable death no matter how good you are. Get a "perfect storm" of events more likely than it is now. If you suck at the game you die more easily than if you are good at it, but even the best, most OCD player should get into situation(s) where escape isn't obvious.

Getting killed every now and then is refreshing. Not necessarily every game, but sometimes.

Currently game is too "clean" if you know what I'm talking about. Too clinical and too straightforward.
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Old November 2, 2015, 15:39   #8
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I think a lot of the design is really inherent to the way Angband plays, as opposed to many other games (let's use Sil as an example, but DCSS also works).

Angband (from dlevel 50 onwards) has a lot of effects that are high damage, they do >50% of a players hp unavoidably. These are usually fairly rare events but high damage. Proper play requires knowing what monsters can do those attacks and avoiding them, or ensuring you have enough hp to survive the blow. It also requires players to ensure that they are always dealing with 1 on 1 situations, where there is only one monster around that can do a >50% hp attack. Unsurprisingly, a lot of player deaths (probably all of mine after dlevel 50) are deaths by a high damage attack. Consequently, Angband gives the players tools to deal with these monsters if it can't handle them. You can essentially "pass" on them. You get no reward, but you skip the risk.

If we contrast this to Sil, it has very few (if any) monsters that do this even in the late game. Furthermore, these monsters when they do exist (ururauku) tend to have very low hp, so provided you aren't surprised, you can usually kill them easily. Instead of killing you in one blow, Sil often kills you by cutting off your escapes and forcing you to fight a monster that you cannot defeat or run from. In fact, it has monsters who's specific purpose is to block you (Grotesque). Consequently, Sil doesn't have anything near the range of escapes that Angband does. There are no teleport or destruction spells. The best you can do is stuff like "exchange places" to get by a monster blocking you in.

To simplify, Angband kills you quickly over a few turns, while Sil prolongs the agony leading to a slow inevitable death.

My personal opinion is that the way Angband currently plays limits design space. If the player can't survive two breaths, then late game debuffs (like confusion) are too debilitating. The player must have a way to either resist it entirely or cure out of it in a failsafe way. Similarly, escapes must work 100% and occur immediately, since you only have a few turns to live anyway. Whereas, in Sil, if you recognize the danger before things get bad, you can usually make a run for the exit, absorbing the 10-20 rounds of combat along the way. Since Angband always throws monsters at you that you cannot handle, or ones that there's really no benefit to dealing with (beholders), the game requires you to have a way of avoiding those fights. Whether it be by removing the monster or removing yourself from the area.

If I was in charge (and it's probably good that I'm not) I would actually reduce a lot of the high damage monster spells and breaths. Then, and only then, would I make escapes less powerful in some of the ways that PowerWyrm suggests.
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Old November 2, 2015, 16:43   #9
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Completely unavoidable death (purely luck-based) is bad IMO. I often find it frustrating to lose in a game when I did nothing wrong.

However, it is too obvious in Angband when you have to escape. Everyone knows he should run away when he sees two breathers in front of him. We should make it less obvious. Currently it's like "If I don't run away now I will likely die the next turn", but it's better to have "If I don't run away in 5 turns I will likely die in 50 turns".
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Old November 2, 2015, 17:33   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timo Pietilš View Post
I have noticed a bit pattern in my games, and not only angband:
[...snip...]
After some point of the game "I have won" without actually winning.
Discussion: Do you agree/disagree and if you agree, how to do that "properly", if disagree, why?
That just may be the character of the game. There are official ways to make it (much) harder: full ironman, for instance, and the various option in between (no connecting stairs, no recall, etc.). Some games, if you play them for a few decades, you just get good at, and the game may cease being fun. Taking a break (for a year or two perhaps) can help in this case.

As fizzix pointed out, survival requires monster attack knowledge, and managing encounters. Take away detection and ESP, for example, and you can stumble into deadly situations easily (packs of gravity hounds or Neekerbreekers, e.g.). But with no detection, there's no strategy.

One way perhaps would be to have (some) random monsters or random uniques who resist rod of probing. Maybe they are "monster mimics" ("oops, that apprentice is really an Arch Lich" or some other random thing).

For me, I like the game the way it is, but I definitely suffer from the "game is won before it's won" phenomenon. My current gnome mage has just found all dungeon spellbooks at clev 39 and now "it's just a matter of technique." But I'm diving well below safe dlevel for my hit points (heading to 98) so that keeps it interesting.
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