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Old January 29, 2013, 13:37   #11
Mikko Lehtinen
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The rulebook or in-game help could have several example character development paths that you could choose to follow. Perhaps with some explanation for why a given ability was chosen for the build.
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Old January 29, 2013, 14:44   #12
Darren Grey
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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
Thanks to you and Andrew for the episode. Some really good comments in there.
Some Sil fans disagree

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I found some of the UI comments very interesting. I think this can be a tricky part of design, and half has done a lot of good work on it, but at least I'd never thought of putting more gameplay commands additionally in the window menu, which seems like it could have a lot of mileage.
Overall it has an excellent UI, especially for a roguelike. Just a few things that could be tweaked. Some other things I'd suggest:

- The main menu should be reordered New Game / Continue / Tutorial / Quit. Tutorial should be top the first time you install the game and then move down the list. Continue should be top if the last action in-game was save&quit. This makes it easier to just press return to get into the game.

- On character creation when selecting stats and skills to put points into it would be good to have some context info on each one displayed. So whilst Strength is highlighted it would have text below saying what Strength affects. Or even better there would be a side-window with some of the really detailed info from the manual, especially for the skills. Otherwise one is left consulting the manual quite a bit during char creation.

- Have char creation remember your gender preference, ie. always default to same as last char.

- The combat stats window is a bit of a mess I think. I don't find it practical in battle - too many numbers to keep track of turn by turn. It would be nice to have a touch of Brogue's "You have a 56% chance to kill this enemy in 3 rounds" style of information. This is much quicker to absorb and helps make an informed judgement.

- "Repeat same character" option on death screen. Every roguelike should have this

- Multiple lines on the message bar. Having to press for "more" all the time really slows the game down. Perhaps remove more prompts entirely if the player has the separate message window open.

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- If you open the savefile of a dead character, you can just hit enter through to the game. It's not quite the quick-start option you were asking for, and you still need to allocate experience, but it's something.
Heh, this is very useful to know. A good way to teach it might be to include some of these files already with the game, as example builds for people to use. You can base them on the likes of Feanor (smith), Fingolfin (melee + song), Luthien (stealth + song), Idril (stealth + archery?), or maybe just make up characters. Tell new players to try out these recommended builds and you'll teach them about the character profile system whilst also giving them a quicker route into the game.

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- It's quite easy to be in situations where your Stealth is 10 higher than enemy perception on a given turn, so they have no chance to notice you (there is an entire ability, Vanish, which only functions in these circumstances). There is a middle ground of dangerous turns.
I want to know when! Some system so you know when you're safe and when you're not. Technically you could go and calculate that already with the manual information etc, but that's a burden on the player. Have the "S" in stealth mode change colour dependent on how safe you are. White when no enemies around, green when impossible for enemies to see you, yellow when they have 80-99% chance to see you, orange for 60-79%, red for <60%. Would obviously base it on worst chance for the enemies around.

I think you need this sort of clarity in any Stealth system. Lots of Stealth focused games like Tenchu or MGS have this sort of safety meter front and centre. The best stealth roguelikes have had 100% clarity on when you can be seen or not.

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- In stealth and combat, having significant variance from the dice helps to keep it feeling exciting and to generate interesting situations (even sometimes in what 'should' be relatively easy fights).
I disagree :P But this is a matter of design philosophy.

I guess a big part of my problem is that the numbers are so cut down and set elsewhere, but vary so hugely in combat. The combat system feels really out of place next to the stat system. The stat system is very tight and well-designed whilst the combat system feels loose and messy.

It's also odd to use the 1d20 system for attacks instead of the 1d10 system that's universal elsewhere in the game. I'm guessing you're worried about people building up too high evade?

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At least we really enjoy the risk-management game: is it worth taking a small chance of disaster to kill the wounded giant/steal the sword from the dragon's hoard?
Nope, never! This is a permadeath game that takes several hours to complete. You can't take such risks. Get to a position of overwhelming power or minimised risk and then proceed. Which is why Risk the game is so dull - with the huge number of dice rolls it's all about who gets to that overwhelming position first.

Ever played Small World? Wonderful board game with very deterministic combat, all in very small numbers. Immensely more fun than Risk. I think Sil could take some inspiration from it if you were to consider reforming the combat.

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- The dice for weapon damage being perhaps too complicated is a separate point, and one I don't have such a strong reply to, except that it is a natural way to bring in some of this variance.
A little variance I don't mind, but when you have the combat modifiers be tied to this variance as well it gets a bit silly I think. Why have Strength increase in the dice rolls instead of having it just add +1 damage for 2 lbs of weight of the weapon? Easier to describe, easier to keep track of during normal play. The system at present is complexity for complexity's sake - it adds no tactical depth to the game and only makes a barrier to tactical decisions.

Just my opinion etc etc

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Maybe just slightly more/more interesting floor drops in the first couple of levels would help a lot (kept low enough to discourage start-scumming).
At the very least give the player some starting items based on the character they create. If they've invested in archery they should have a bow and arrows at the start of the game. Why have a sword in the first room instead of already equipped? Character creation takes long enough, don't force me to spend two dungeon levels of exploring before I feel like I'm even getting to start my build

And as has been said elsewhere having some of the light vs darkness dynamics come into play earlier would be nice.

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Finally, for anyone who cares about the history: I've been involved in the development for five or six years (around where the version numbers begin in the early changes document). I think half had started branching it off five years before that.
Would be good to have you both on the show some time. It's quite peculiar to have a game in development for so long come out and make a big splash. Or to come out at all really. Really is light from the shadows! Would love to hear some of the dev history and what has inspired you guys
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Old January 29, 2013, 14:52   #13
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This discussion actually highlights one of the main issues I have with skill-tree based games. Namely, that making a good build is often a daunting task for a new player and is also a poor way to learn. If you die, you won't know if it was because your build was bad or you made a poor choice or you just got some rotten luck. Games are most fun (for me, YMMV) when there is a basic working build that I can use to learn and explore the game mechanics, and then branch off from that build as I gain expertise. If the game came with some standard guides, like a smithing build, a protection build and whatnot, then it would help new players that don't necessarily want to trial-and-error figure out how to make something reasonable themselves. And the ones that do want to trial-and-error it are free to not look at these guides.

I'm sue you could convince HM, Psi, debo, etc. to make a couple short descriptions of how to make certain builds work. These could be shipped with the game and tagged appropriately with spoilers or something.

I had thought this was something mostly unique to me, but listening to some of the discussion on roguelike radio and here makes me think that other people might prefer similar information.
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Old January 29, 2013, 15:18   #14
HallucinationMushroom
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The game currently keeps track of when and what abilities are purchased, along with what items the player forges, and you can tell what the initial stat investment was in addition to the typical artifact/unique-monster notes. Greatly helpful for following, if you know about the ladder that is, which is listed on the Sil homepage. It would be nice if the notes took into account initial skill investment, and made a note of every time a skill went up. This way you could copy a build verbatim, if you wanted to. I will sometimes manually put notes for my challenge character on current skills, melee/protection for future reference. Many players add a lot of helpful notes too.
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Old January 29, 2013, 15:59   #15
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I don't think I'd like the stealth game quite as much if there was such "perfect information" available. I'd be willing to try it, but I do sort of like the feeling of "ok, I think this is good enough... OH SHIT HE SAW ME"

On the other hand, if perception affected how well your character was able to do these calculations and expose the information to the player, well... that might be sort of cool

I like Sil because of the flavor of being stuck in the dungeon, I don't always like all the stat-guts poking out of a game. I don't think any elf in the silmarillion peeked his out out a cave door and said "oh shit that Orc has a 36% chance of seeing me -- I'd better tread carefully"

I realize I'm backwards though, and it's entirely possible that being exposed to these sorts of more modern-y approaches would make me wonder how I ever lived without them. *shrug*

Edit -- also, stealth depends on things like how close you are to a wall, etc, and on a monster's perception. So would you need to know the likelihood of every monster in a room seeing you (independently), for every step you take? Or just on inspection? I think the latter would be fairly useless except in specific high-danger cases (e.g. I'm about to try stealing Glamdring from under Glaurung's butt.)

OK now I'm rambling

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Old January 29, 2013, 16:13   #16
Starhawk
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I, for one, disagree with most of the comments made above.... I have enjoyed stumbling through build after build, figuring out what works. Enjoyed dying horribly, thinking about why, and improving my play. I enjoy the STR-die-sides-weapon-weight-damage-versus-crits formula: it's an awfully MINOR complexity and it's scads more interesting than Angband's weird blows-per-round formula. I LOVE the stealth system and feel that a perfect-information Stealth icon would take away from the pulse-pounding feeling as I sneak past a dragon, a scary unique, or what-have-you -- or sneak up on a squad of cat warriors and assassinate them quietly, one by one...

I do agree that it would be nice if the beginning game was made a little more interesting -- not as a crutch to new players, but because (as was stated a couple posts up) sometimes it is 200' before you find a shortbow for your archer. Or a stabby 2-pound longsword for your crit-based finesse fighter. Or whatever. For intermediate players like myself, it gets tiresome.

Many(most?) of my early deaths are happening just because I haven't found any equipment worth having, and I get bored knocking around the first handful of dungeon levels fighting Yet More Orcs/Wolves. There's a timer on the game. So I am forced to push lower and die because I have no body armor yet. Or a poor weapon. Or whatever.

I suppose this could push my builds more toward Smithing to alleviate the missing-equipment problem -- but -- ugh. I don't wanna.
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Old January 29, 2013, 16:16   #17
Darren Grey
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Originally Posted by debo View Post
Edit -- also, stealth depends on things like how close you are to a wall, etc, and on a monster's perception. So would you need to know the likelihood of every monster in a room seeing you (independently), for every step you take? Or just on inspection?
On inspection would be tedious and for every monster on every step would be information overload :) No, I simply suggest letting the player know in which range their worst chance is. And just the range is fine (with the colour scheme I mentioned before) so it wouldn't need to have the perfect clarity you find distasteful. Just less obfuscation than at present :)
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Old January 29, 2013, 16:59   #18
Scatha
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Originally Posted by Darren Grey View Post
Some Sil fans disagree
Well I'm not saying I agree with everything you said! (Particularly on randomness we seem to have different attitudes.) But while I agree that it would have been better if you'd seen more of the game, I think you have good game design instincts, and we've previously had a relative dearth of high-quality critical feedback.

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- On character creation when selecting stats and skills to put points into it would be good to have some context info on each one displayed. So whilst Strength is highlighted it would have text below saying what Strength affects. Or even better there would be a side-window with some of the really detailed info from the manual, especially for the skills. Otherwise one is left consulting the manual quite a bit during char creation.
I'm not going to commit to anything on half's behalf, but this stood out as a strong idea.

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- The combat stats window is a bit of a mess I think. I don't find it practical in battle - too many numbers to keep track of turn by turn. It would be nice to have a touch of Brogue's "You have a 56% chance to kill this enemy in 3 rounds" style of information. This is much quicker to absorb and helps make an informed judgement.
Personally I get some value out of the combat rolls window (to see what has happened), but there can't be many players who are so familiar with the mechanics! Something along the lines you suggest might be good, but there are lots of questions about how it should work: how should it let the player know about penalties for being surrounded, unable to see their opponent, etc.?

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Heh, this is very useful to know. A good way to teach it might be to include some of these files already with the game, as example builds for people to use. You can base them on the likes of Feanor (smith), Fingolfin (melee + song), Luthien (stealth + song), Idril (stealth + archery?), or maybe just make up characters. Tell new players to try out these recommended builds and you'll teach them about the character profile system whilst also giving them a quicker route into the game.
I was wondering about something of this form last night after listening to the episode. It's in the direction of character classes as a crutch to the player. We'd previously thought of having such characters available as prizes to unlock, but it does seem they may be most useful to new players! Certainly half and I will talk about this (you have given us a lot of food for thought).

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I want to know when! Some system so you know when you're safe and when you're not. Technically you could go and calculate that already with the manual information etc, but that's a burden on the player. Have the "S" in stealth mode change colour dependent on how safe you are.
Interesting! We did use to display your stealth score for the turn, but it just wasn't very player useful. This is further from the rules level of the game (and our general philosophy is to let the player know a lot about exactly what's going on), but the usability probably makes up for that.


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I guess a big part of my problem is that the numbers are so cut down and set elsewhere, but vary so hugely in combat. The combat system feels really out of place next to the stat system. The stat system is very tight and well-designed whilst the combat system feels loose and messy.
The difference in perspective here is interesting. The combat has a lot more complexity than most components of the game, but it is a very central part of the game. The rules give a lot of space to play with weapon optimisation (there are several genuinely different dimensions in weapon choice, and we've quite carefully balanced them against each other), and this aids those who enjoy that subgame.

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It's also odd to use the 1d20 system for attacks instead of the 1d10 system that's universal elsewhere in the game. I'm guessing you're worried about people building up too high evade?
Yes, unfortunately d10s made combat skills unreasonably good compared to the other skills. They are still often the best.

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Nope, never! This is a permadeath game that takes several hours to complete. You can't take such risks. Get to a position of overwhelming power or minimised risk and then proceed. Which is why Risk the game is so dull - with the huge number of dice rolls it's all about who gets to that overwhelming position first.

Ever played Small World? Wonderful board game with very deterministic combat, all in very small numbers. Immensely more fun than Risk. I think Sil could take some inspiration from it if you were to consider reforming the combat.
Small World is definitely a huge improvement over Risk, but I don't think the dice take anywhere near all of the blame in the Risk mechanics.

We actually want Sil to feel dangerous all the way through. Of course it's about minimising risk, but sometimes that means taking short term risk for longer term safety. Decisions of when to use stat/speed potions in fights also take this form -- you may hope to get through the fight safely and preserve the potion, but if you are going to take it the effect will be larger if taken earlier in the fight. I generally don't like (sustained) positions of overwhelming power in roguelikes, and would prefer them to be just barely attainable.

A reason to avoid too many deterministic mechanics is to avoid analysis paralysis. I find I get this a bit in 2-player Small World; with more players the unknowns about how others will act prevent it, but bring their own problems (politics). Sil has quite a bit of space available to move in that direction before it hits these issues, though, so I suppose the more relevant issue is how much you like the risk management game.

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A little variance I don't mind, but when you have the combat modifiers be tied to this variance as well it gets a bit silly I think. Why have Strength increase in the dice rolls instead of having it just add +1 damage for 2 lbs of weight of the weapon? Easier to describe, easier to keep track of during normal play. The system at present is complexity for complexity's sake - it adds no tactical depth to the game and only makes a barrier to tactical decisions.
There's something to be said for this, but there is also for example some elegance about keeping all weapon damages of the form XdY. We have a bit of a status quo bias here since it would need a lot of rebalancing work to change.

I should go now, but thanks again for the comments.
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Old January 29, 2013, 20:21   #19
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Hullo all. I'm not normally a *band fan, but Sil rather caught my fancy. Andrew Doull and I have just covered it on Roguelike Radio:
Hi Darren,

That was a nice surprise. I'm glad to hear that you and Andrew liked many aspects of Sil. I think that some of the things you disliked you will find less problematic on further reflection/play. Indeed, I think you should try playing until you can at least get down to 600 ft or so -- there is much more to see and from listening to many of the episodes of Roguelike Radio I think you may enjoy the game quite a lot. Let me reply to a few of the things that you and Andrew mentioned.

Firstly, yes the game was being developed since October 2001 -- more than 12 years ago. However, at that time it was just a personal project and I'd only make a few small changes per year. The pace picked up a lot in 2008 when Scatha became involved. We released it in January 2012, and were happy to see that it was the most popular non-commercial roguelike that was first released in 2012 according to the Ascii Dreams poll (though of course these numbers are not that reliable).

I really like your idea of having a few sample characters that start with an interesting and sensible stat choice and experience investment. The idea of having the default of the main menu change is good too. We wanted to get new players to try the tutorial as we think it is a great way to learn the game, but this could get put out of the way after that. Congratulations on surviving the tutorial -- the fire drake is *very* out of depth so it is tricky, but did you know that the game also tracks whether you have killed the fire drake. It is possible, but very tough (and inspired by Powder's tutorial). It is probably an exercise in frustration to try it until you have more experience with the ins and outs of the game though.

Regarding restarting characters and having an option to fill them in the same as last time, we did consider this, but actually want to encourage people to try different allocations. Having a default to be the same would nudge people towards keeping on doing the thing that was not working. Still, if you open the old save file again, it does set all the other defaults which will save you some time.

You also mentioned the characters being too similar at the start, as opposed to in games with classes. This *can* be the case, but it need not be. The initial stat allocation, skill allocation, and ability allocation allows for some extremely different starts. More different than in many class based games. However, it is not immediately obvious so perhaps we need to hint at this more. For example, you can start with wildly divergent mixes of the different skills (such as all stealth, or all evasion, or all melee) and can start with many of the different special abilities which change the game quite a lot. E.g. Charge or Polearm Mastery. You can even start with some of the very advanced ones if you are unbalanced enough, such as getting Song of Silence and Song of Lorien, or getting Sprinting, or Vanish. These make for *very* different starts to the game.

That's probably enough for now, I'll post some more replies later. Thanks for continuing the discussion on the forum.
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Old January 30, 2013, 00:52   #20
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A reason to avoid too many deterministic mechanics is to avoid analysis paralysis. I find I get this a bit in 2-player Small World; with more players the unknowns about how others will act prevent it, but bring their own problems (politics).
Heh, I love that in 2-player Small World

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There's something to be said for this, but there is also for example some elegance about keeping all weapon damages of the form XdY. We have a bit of a status quo bias here since it would need a lot of rebalancing work to change.
Yeah, would obviously be an insane change to make now. And not necessarily one you or your fans would like. So I'll stop moaning now

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Congratulations on surviving the tutorial -- the fire drake is *very* out of depth so it is tricky, but did you know that the game also tracks whether you have killed the fire drake. It is possible, but very tough (and inspired by Powder's tutorial). It is probably an exercise in frustration to try it until you have more experience with the ins and outs of the game though.
Heh, I got by with stealth as I'm sure you've guessed - an early sign of stealth's power. I mostly mentioned it to get a one-up on Andrew

Quote:
You also mentioned the characters being too similar at the start, as opposed to in games with classes. This *can* be the case, but it need not be. The initial stat allocation, skill allocation, and ability allocation allows for some extremely different starts. More different than in many class based games. However, it is not immediately obvious so perhaps we need to hint at this more. For example, you can start with wildly divergent mixes of the different skills (such as all stealth, or all evasion, or all melee) and can start with many of the different special abilities which change the game quite a lot. E.g. Charge or Polearm Mastery.
A few of these things don't make any difference till you have the relevant equipment though. And some of the skills can't be taken advantage of before you gain the requisite xp. With many set-ups it feels like there's an initial grind before you get to properly get into your character.

There's various options for how to spice this up - I'm sure you would know better than I what would work for Sil
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