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Old May 23, 2013, 15:06   #1
MattB
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Some thoughts on difficulty

There appears to have been lots of posts on here about making the game more difficult and this alarms me! Sometimes this takes the form of people calling for certain monsters to be more effective, certain player utilities/abilities to be nerfed or just general difficulty levels to be increased. Don't get me wrong, balance is important but as far as I am concerned the balance of the game is great!

For what it's worth here are my thoughts on the difficulty level of vanilla...

It's really, Really, REALLY hard!
And it should be. It's part of what makes the game great.
(Historically I believe that levels 51-100 were actually added to render the game 'impossible'?)
I love the fact that in an era where most games are engineered to ensure that victory is inevitable if you stick at it long enough (e.g. Final Fantasy series), there is still this quirky, tiny bit of uber-efficient code that means I haven't even turned on my PS3 for over a year.

In the last year my success rate has been about 1%, which is just right for me - just enough to keep me interested. If, at some point in the future, this figure starts rising up to the heady heights of 10%, I might consider turning on some of the options that make the game more difficult (e.g. no selling, monsters exploit player weaknesses, disconnected stairs, ironman etc., etc.). But I strongly feel that these should remain just that, options. Why should the game be made harder when options already exist to make it so?

Maybe there should be more options to make the game harder for those that have them all turned on and still progress to one processional victory after another (or, more likely, don't enjoy the experience of playing some of them). Perhaps things like char_half_xp_gain, monster_double_hp or larger_pack_sizes, just off the top of my head.
Perhaps there should even be a variant produced which is identical to vanilla but with all of these difficulty options, all the existing ones and a few more besides turned on (RockHardBand, anyone?) so that those that find the game too easy can suffer to their hearts content.
I should add that I am utterly in awe of those people who regularly win and have nothing but respect for their angbanding abilities (especially when they make life harder for themselves than it need be (cf hallucination mushroom & Ditchdigger - incredible!). Furthermore, I'm incredibly grateful for the patience shown and advice given to me on this forum by the likes of Timo, Pete, Nick, Fizzix, Takkaria, Magnate, Derakon et al..

The thing that worries me is that the voices on this forum that tend to shout the loudest, or at least the most often, are the hardcore of players who are the most experienced and, without doubt, best players that form the top 1% of banders out there. It concerns me that the devs will hear people calling for the game to be made harder without hearing the opinions of the vast majority of players who rarely, if ever, make their views known on this forum.

Call me a newb if you like - I am one! What I'm really saying is that there already exist options for making the game harder so I don't see any need to make the default Vanilla game any more difficult than it already is.

[rant over - deep breaths]

Last edited by MattB; May 23, 2013 at 15:12.
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Old May 23, 2013, 15:56   #2
Timo Pietilš
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattB View Post
For what it's worth here are my thoughts on the difficulty level of vanilla...

It's really, Really, REALLY hard!
And it should be. It's part of what makes the game great.
I find current angband easy. Too d*mn easy. That's why discussions to make it harder, too many people here find it easy. Old angbands were a lot harder than this current incarnation of it.

However I would rather make it more interesting than a lot harder, I like adventuring and exploring more than I like actual winning the game (but I still do need some incentive to keep playing, so after winning I start a new char and don't continue playing).

It's actually quite hard to make game harder without breaking some of its basic rules that make it angband, like no forced diving, no unavoidable instant deaths and stuff like that. Making monsters harder is not answer because you can simply just ignore monster that is too tough to kill. Reducing objects, especially speed-giving objects could be. Reducing brands could also work (original game did have only three of those: fire, cold and elec, elec being very rare and x5 brand). We have huge number of items that could be simply removed from game. Not just artifacts, but base and ego objects. This would create more variety to game (if there are too many trees in a forest all trees start to look alike).

3.4 reduces a bit of the information you get (fuzzy object detection) which makes game a bit harder and same time a bit more interesting. Maybe telepathy could go same way, give fuzzy indication about monsters (maybe distance&clvl-based) instead of clear picture of a monster.

For a long time now I have thought about how char should matter more than equipment. Especially CON effect to HP: current way HP is generated creates too big emphasis to CON, which makes certain CON-giving items too powerful. Skills should matter more than they do. Stealth should be clvl dependent skill instead of fixed number that can be increased only with items. Missile/melee critical hit quality should depend about skill more than weapon weight. Maybe maximum blows count should depend of clvl as well as DEX and STR (extra blows still count).
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Old May 23, 2013, 16:26   #3
Estie
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Are you sure old angband was harder ? I have been wondering about that.

Now there were some things that did make it harder, like instadeath on stairsdown, or having to deal the killing blow to the unique while he is in the middle of a room because otherwise you lose most of the drops (items dont stack), and other such things. However, thats not the kind of "hard" that I find attractive. If we could play some old version without those aspects that make it hard in an unwanted way, I suspect we would find it easy, with all the knowledge of today.

While there werent that many items and options, some of the old ones were also much more powerful than today (x5 brand, speed without diminishing returns, whatnot), so in the end it will even out.

I somehow feel theres a limit to the difficulty you can achieve in a round based dungeon crawl game like this without introducing artificially hard puzzles ("win a chess game against a computer opponent of grandmaster strength to open this door").
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Old May 23, 2013, 16:47   #4
MattB
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timo Pietilš View Post
I find current angband easy. Too d*mn easy. That's why discussions to make it harder, too many people here find it easy. Old angbands were a lot harder than this current incarnation of it.
I'm sure you find it easy, I'm just saying I don't (and I like it that way).
I'm just trying to add a voice for those, like me, who find it quite perfectly tough as it is at the moment, thank you very much! I reckon, and I might very well be wrong about this, that there are far more players like me than you.

To put it another way, if you've spent twenty years playing a game you really should be pretty good at it by now! Doesn't mean people new to the game shouldn't be able to enjoy it.

{FWIW I played for a couple of years in the nineties and then again for a couple of years in the last decade before rediscovering it a year or so ago. I can confirm that I'm doing a lot better this time round than previously. However, as previously posted, is the game easier now, or am I now better?}
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Old May 23, 2013, 16:53   #5
MattB
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timo Pietilš View Post
It's actually quite hard to make game harder without breaking some of its basic rules that make it angband, like no forced diving, no unavoidable instant deaths and stuff like that. Making monsters harder is not answer because you can simply just ignore monster that is too tough to kill.
Not if you make ALL the monsters harder...

I actually agree with you about making the character more important at the expense of equipment - and a few more boosts at certain milestones would be fun (rather than just e.g. pfear at clvl30)...except...would it still be angband? If levelling up goes too far towards progressing your character, what's to make it different from every other RPG? Just a thought.
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Old May 23, 2013, 17:10   #6
Derakon
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For what it's worth, I think the difficulty is pretty solid right now. Can I, personally, win fairly consistently? Sure, once I get out of the first 500' anyway. That doesn't mean the game is too easy. It just means I've been playing for nearly twenty years.
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Old May 23, 2013, 17:56   #7
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The current v3.5 dev versions seem to be pretty close to appropriate difficulty. The only change I would make would be to remove shallow monsters from deep levels or make them drop money instead, as it is in O. This forces characters to either stay at depths where they can kill stuff, or scavenge deeper.

I recall back in 3.2.1v2 or something, someone winning with their third character. That seems over the top. A lot has changed since then, but it is still worrying. Is there any incentive to stay around? You might try winning with different classes next, then with races and then with race/class combos. You might get bored at that point, as I did.

I won with a warrior, priest, mage, as a highelf, dunadan and hobbit, with and without randarts. I didn't feel like continuing. I realized quickly how much different races changed the game - not very much at all, except in the early game, the only things they change are stealth and HD - and decided to switch to O, which I haven't won in 3 years of fairly consistent play. The closest I came wasn't even clvl 40 IIRC, and dlvl about 70. Since then, a long time ago, I have managed only below clvl 30. Yet I keep playing.
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Old May 23, 2013, 18:34   #8
Estie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip View Post
The current v3.5 dev versions seem to be pretty close to appropriate difficulty. The only change I would make would be to remove shallow monsters from deep levels or make them drop money instead, as it is in O. This forces characters to either stay at depths where they can kill stuff, or scavenge deeper.
Not sure what you want to achieve with that; those would have 2 very different effects. Removing shallow monsters from deep means the diver cannot gain xp, only items; having shallow monsters drop money deep down means he is sneaking around looking for floor items only, instead of sneaking around looking for either floor items or easy kills. Or are you looking to make diving completely unattractive ?

Maybe I should try O, but I still have a grudge towards Sangband for destroying my character with a cursed item that I never equipped, only picked up; since that incident I am wary with new variants.
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Old May 23, 2013, 19:40   #9
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Not sure what you want to achieve with that; those would have 2 very different effects. Removing shallow monsters from deep means the diver cannot gain xp, only items; having shallow monsters drop money deep down means he is sneaking around looking for floor items only, instead of sneaking around looking for either floor items or easy kills. Or are you looking to make diving completely unattractive ?

Maybe I should try O, but I still have a grudge towards Sangband for destroying my character with a cursed item that I never equipped, only picked up; since that incident I am wary with new variants.
I don't want to make diving unattractive, I want to make levelclearing viable. My (now dead at -1hp to dark elven sorceror) character dove at a somewhat reasonable pace under O rules, and did well for himself for a while. I just want to remove two somewhat broken systems by which objects are attained very easily.

I do think you should try O. It made me a better player, IMO. It's more challenging. The big issue is UI. It has a UI that makes a couple options broken, others conflict with other options. It lacks many of the good gameplay and UI changes of V. Nevertheless, it is a learning experience. Be prepared to die to new and interesting monsters. A lot.
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Old May 23, 2013, 19:57   #10
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How do you consider level-clearing to not be viable in Vanilla?
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