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Old January 28, 2014, 11:30   #1
Estie
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The new AC thread

Reluctantly leaving the cozy "memorable randarts" thread to contnue the topic started there:

I think not even a different combat system will be enough to make AC important. The thing that would make it so has to be inability to kill stuff without getting exposed to physical damage. To achieve that, youd have to change not the way ac works or its amount, but the dungeon environment.

It is really worthwhile to think of diablo I/II difference; anyone who has played (the lategame of) those games will know what I mean. I am not entirely sure what exactly caused that difference though.

A few points come to mind:

- Is it possible to enforce 1on1 situations ? In vanilla thats typically easy. Attempts to prevent that by introducing swarmy ai that avoids hallways and surrounds in rooms has imo not been satisfactory, as it doesnt leave many tactical options (for melee characters).
You force the situation "now you are surrounded" on the character once he enters the room, but the interesting part for a tactical game is HOW that situation occurs, the way to it and how to avoid/delay that unwanted scenario. If there are many grunts (with grunt ai) running towards you, youd want to use bottlenecks to thin them out. Thats the fun part. Swarm ai completely removes this aspect.
The thing to do would be to make it harder and not perfect like the @oooo situation. Hallways of width 2 or 3 might be interesting.

-AC in vanilla lategame is guaranteed. Even if you wear, say, a robe of permanence, the boni of all your other items will guarantee a minimum AC.
Going beyond that (by favouring heavy armor and +AC artifacts) does come at a cost, but also doesnt make much difference.


Heres a theory to try to explain that:

A character who struggles to stay alive in a dungeon has various threats coming at him. Lets sum all the threats up and call the threat level that kills him 1; so he has to stay below 1 to survive.
Now there are various kinds of threats; here (both angband and diablo) we can distinguish between those that have to overcome AC ("physical attacks") and those who dont ("magic attacks").
The ratio of the presence those 2 determins how much a character can possibly value AC or resists. If 80% of the danger comes from magic attacks, then he will never favour AC over resists, no matter how you change combat mechanics.

For the vanilla situation, we have off-screen 1-hit magic attacks that you can only protect against by having the appropriate resist in place. To even consider wearing non-magic mithril plate mail rather than a leather jacket of resistance, youd have to introduce similar physical threats (archers?). To make the plate the winner, youd also have to reduce the magic threat.

There is only so much you can throw at a character without turning the game into "a rock falls on your head, you die" every time.
This is the threat level I called 1 above.
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Old January 28, 2014, 16:58   #2
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So it sounds like your conclusion is that big magical damage attacks are too much of a problem. I tend to agree with you. I think there are a couple options here. I'll just throw out a few with no regard to how crazy or ill thought out they are. Because, you know, gamecrafting is fun.

1) Breath weapons are no longer a ball attack but a beam attack (or cone attack). Intelligent monsters will not fire them if there are other monsters in the way. (Dumb monsters like golems or elementals will). This cuts down on the "Cannot fight two dragons in a hallway" problem.

2) Alllow AC to absorb magical damage as well. It already blocks acid damage, let it block elemental damage as well, albeit possibly to a lesser effect.

3) Distinguish more between base elements. Metal armor does not give any bonus to Elec, but wooden/leather/cloth armor does. Consider the reverse for Acid. Make poison be more of a damage over time thing, and don't let curing potions cure it.

4) Distinguish between certain higher level elemental types. Perhaps plasma has a portion that bypasses armor altogether with the rest split between fire and elec damage. Perhaps nether is reduced not by armor but by Wisdom level. Chaos can be reduced by INT. Gravity could have no damage but causes teleportation, slowing and stun. Sound damage could be greatly reduced when there are no walls nearby (consider a lot of the damage as coming from nearby echoes) Make shards only castable if there's a wall near the caster (which gets destroyed or converted to rubble or something.)

5) Give the player benefits against certain classes to fighting in a room. Allow them to hit multiple enemies at once, or give everyone a bonus to hit with every empty space near them.

6) Make summons temporary or even weaker than they currently are. Or pull one of my old ideas that summoning monsters calls monsters already on the level instead of bringing new monsters here.
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Old January 28, 2014, 17:32   #3
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There's a number of ways you can completely change combat in Angband which would, as a side-effect, make armor more meaningful. I think though that the main problem with the current system is simply that the numbers are so huge. It's hard to get excited about +5 to AC when your total AC is 100.

If you want each point of AC to be as relevant as, say, a point of DEX or INT or whatever, then you need a drastically compressed scale. Most non-body armor would have a base AC of maybe 1-3, with enchantment being similarly capped; body armor would be bigger but probably mostly in the range of 4-10 plus similar enchantment. The overall goal would be to get a "top-tier" AC value down to around 50 at most, which would be roughly equivalent to an AC in the current game of 300+.

I don't think too much needs to change beyond that. AC does function in the current game. Characters who spend a lot of time fighting in melee (at least half the classes, in other words) will notice if their AC changes significantly, as it has a major impact on how much damage they take. Sure, there are issues with big magical nukes, not being able to fight multiple enemies simultaneously, etc. but I think it's possible to solve the AC problem without tackling those.
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Old January 28, 2014, 19:09   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
If you want each point of AC to be as relevant as, say, a point of DEX or INT or whatever, then you need a drastically compressed scale. Most non-body armor would have a base AC of maybe 1-3, with enchantment being similarly capped; body armor would be bigger but probably mostly in the range of 4-10 plus similar enchantment. The overall goal would be to get a "top-tier" AC value down to around 50 at most, which would be roughly equivalent to an AC in the current game of 300+.
You may really be onto something here. If AC operated within roughly the same range as stats do, then even a modest boost to AC, let's say a point or 2, would be noticeable (assuming linear scaling, unlike stats). Thus a full suit of unenchanted heavy armour would yield an AC of ~18, and with magical bonuses would reach ~40. This would greatly compress the AC difference among the various armours rendering many identical, so there would need to be a separate means of differentiation, or a culling of the types. I'd prefer the former.
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Old January 28, 2014, 21:32   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
There's a number of ways you can completely change combat in Angband which would, as a side-effect, make armor more meaningful. I think though that the main problem with the current system is simply that the numbers are so huge. It's hard to get excited about +5 to AC when your total AC is 100.
I think either you or I misunderstood Estie's point. I was thinking that they meant that while AC is useful for melee combat, when you have a choice of any amount of AC or resist basic element, you choose resist basic element every time. This is because at the midgame and later you can control which monsters can approach you in melee, where AC is important, but you may not be able to control which monsters breathe on you from MAX_SIGHT. So you choose the resist every time.
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Old January 28, 2014, 21:37   #6
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That's true, but I think comparing against basic resists is a bit unfair. Rather you should be looking at less vital and/or more analog things, like resistance to sound, or +1 to your casting stat.
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Old January 28, 2014, 22:00   #7
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Thats what it boils down to: AC is a luxury, like sound resitance. I feel it should be a necessity, like poison resistance.
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Old January 28, 2014, 22:49   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estie View Post
Thats what it boils down to: AC is a luxury, like sound resitance. I feel it should be a necessity, like poison resistance.
To be fair, if you try to engage in melee with an AC of zero you will have a bad time. So it is a necessity, at least for melee characters. The problem, I suspect, boils down to:

1) Players tend to get "enough" AC without really thinking about it, and
2) It's difficult to gauge how much of an impact each additional point of AC makes.

Item 2 can be taken care of by compressing the AC scale. I'm unsure what to do about item 1; part of the problem is that there are so many AC-giving equipment slots. I guess you could make every piece of armor (except maybe body armor) give 0 AC by default, such that the player would be getting hit 95% of the time "by default" unless they made a dedicated effort to get +AC, but that feels weird to me. Maybe start the player off with negative AC, which is brought up to zero by filling in every equipment slot with unenchanted gear?
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Old January 29, 2014, 00:37   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
I guess you could make every piece of armor (except maybe body armor) give 0 AC by default.
This doesn't strike me as a particularly well thought out proposal. (In a game with squelch option!)

Last edited by taptap; January 29, 2014 at 00:51.
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Old January 29, 2014, 00:55   #10
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A crazy idea would be
  • Keep the existing range of AC
  • The AC on starting gear is more of less what it is now, perhaps slightly lower.
  • The AC on most other gear is only slightly better, +1/2/3 better than starting gear.
  • The AC on a small subset of items (mithril plate, etc) actually has a fantastic AC value, like +50/75/100

i.e. have all armour split into two categories:
  • A lot of item that give small amounts of AC.
  • A few items that give large amounts of AC.

A player will need at least two or three in the latter category - but until that time, every +1 or +2 you can get on each in the former category help keep you alive. Collecting 'high AC items' becomes more like collecting high resist items. (Assuming you will be in melee)

Then you really may have a difficult decision between adding rPoison at the expense of where 50% of your AC is coming from.
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