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Old October 20, 2013, 12:01   #1
TJS
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New vision for Angband - Part 1

As I was sort of alluding to in the rather lazy post I made the other day, the game seems to be hitting a bit of a lull at the moment. What I mean by that is that despite a load of good stuff being done/fixed/made more accessible (great work by the way!), the actual game design itself seems to lack a bit of overall direction regarding the big picture of where it wants to go. There also seems a bit of a lack of enthusiasm generally.

I was thinking to myself the other day that it might be possible that a game can have a natural life cycle in terms of development since the longer things have stayed as they are in the game, the more entrenched they become and the more difficult they are to ever change. Developers have to become ever more conservative and careful and dissenting voices to any changes begin to outweigh those in favour regardless of whether it is a positive change or not. Developers then understandably get frustrated and give up trying to change anything apart from cosmetic tweaks, UI improvements or less controversial gameplay changes. Any radical ideas slowly becomes impossible.

But then I thought nah. In the days of the internet it is possible to host the old versions so that those who like stuff preserved in aspic can stay happy, which then allows the game to continue to develop, improve and change.

So on that note I thought I'd put out my vision for what I'd like to see happen from here regarding the game. Particularly I think it would benefit from some analysis that looks at the parts that don't very well and think about reworking them, simplifying, reducing or even removing them entirely.

The goal is to create a design that increases simplicity, clarity, challenge and gives the player more interesting decisions, whilst attempting to limit tedium, non-choices and dull stretches of gameplay.

What I'm not interested in (and I think is the last thing that Angband needs) is adding loads of unnecessary ill-thought out content, new game mechanics, monsters, items or other such bloat which I dare say Angband has collected a fair amount of over the years. Any additions (if any) need to be simple, transparent, avoid special cases to make them work and have a good reason for being necessary at all.

What is the point of this? Ideally to try and help create a coherent vision for where the game is going to go, get some more enthusiasm about the idea of development back and try and shake people out of the fact that they're scared of changing anything.

Anyway rather than make a list of loads of stuff in one go, I thought I'd add just a few design ideas at a time which will hopefully get some discussion going.
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Old October 20, 2013, 12:01   #2
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The numbers are too big and too meaningless.

I find this a major problem which reduces enjoyment a lot for me personally. For the end-game mage I am currently playing I have an AC of [43, + 122] a melee to-hit of 32, +44. Now while it's obvious that higher numbers are better, it still isn't very clear to me after years of playing how good +1 to-hit or AC actually is. Finding a weapon with an extra +1 to-hit or armour with one more AC should be a cause of celebration, but at the moment it means absolutely nothing. Even a ring of protection +10 is pretty much the first thing that gets chucked. Also it makes enchantments very dull (see below) as +1 doesn't really do all that much.

As a solution I would propose scaling up the value of each to-hit and AC (and obviously scale down equipment bonuses to match) and simplify the calculation so that the player can get a feeling of what exactly each upgrade is doing and more importantly actually notices the difference when playing.


Enchantments are boring.

Finding a scroll of enchantment should be a bit of a wow moment and create some interesting gameplay choices about what exactly you should do with it. Do you keep it taking up an inventory slot until finding a better weapon to enchant (rather than your current average longsword) and risk it getting burned up? Do you use it on your armour to get one more valuable point of AC that increases your chances when taking on that titan? Do you use it on your Amulet of Wisdom, hoping to increase it from a +2 to a +3 to allow you a shot at learning Orb of Draining? The answer here is that you'd probably use it on your weapon (if it is currently enchanted below the threshold where above which it doesn't work) or for an enchant armour scroll on whatever piece of armour has the lowest magical enchantment. That's if you can be bothered to read them at all (I don't after the first few levels).

Solution: I think the various types of scroll should be merged and it should work on other sorts of equipment too. With a rebalancing of the massive numbers to something more meaningful (see above) this would make enchantments an interesting and dare I say it fun game mechanic. Of course it would no longer be found in stacks, be found much rarer and only appear on the black market occasionally for a load of cash. I can't imagine anyone is yearning for the days where the standard strategy was getting a longbow and then enchanting it up to +9 with a stack of shop bought scrolls of enchant weapon to-hit and to-damage.


The whole searching mechanic is a waste of time.

There I've said it. In the first few levels you might search a couple of times for a door, but that's it. Mages can pretty much forget about it after 2 minutes of play when they get the doors, stairs and traps detection spell. Other classes such as warriors have to find rods for these things, but can forget about it when they do. So essentially we have an ability that is very marginally useful for the first couple of levels and completely useless after that. There's no interesting gameplay choices involved, such as about whether to put on an amulet of searching (instead of say resist lightning) which would then protect you against the more dangerous traps you can find.

The solution is to make searching at a distance possible (1/n where n in the distance - 1 perhaps), remove all the rods/spells/scrolls/staves that tell you everything about the level (and that includes magic mapping), make the areas vaults are contained within accessible by a secret door (so imagine a whole hidden area of the dungeon with the vault contained inside that) and make traps more interesting, varied and dangerous. Also better items, equipment and treasure can be stored in hidden treasure rooms. So now yes I might well wear that amulet actually.

This also touches on another problem with the game which is that when you start you are stumbling about (almost) blindly with a light radius of 1 and no knowledge of map layout, monster or item positions and by the end you are mapping, lighting and probably detecting all treasure as soon as you step onto the level. But I'll leave that bit of the discussion for later on.


Simplify rules that inexplicably don't apply sometimes as people don't like one aspect of the emergent gameplay that results.

For example phase door and teleport can land you in any square on the map. Er...except vaults as that is not allowed. Heroism gets rid of any fear! Except if you get the wrong sort of fear of course. I think I read that monsters can't pick up artifacts, but I could be making that one up. Yes I know I've mentioned this before and these examples aren't really a massive deal, so I won't go on about them again too much.


Well this is controversial, but here we go. Speed is broken.

It completely and utterly changes the game going from hard at 0 speed to very easy at +10 speed and beyond. I've argued before that I would rather a +10 speed equipment boost at the beginning of the game than have a permanent +10 to all my other stats. +10 speed doubles the rate of all of your actions, so that means double damage dealt, chances to escape, running speed, tunneling, healing etc. It also effectively doubles your stealth too. If any item doubled just say melee damage then it would be removed due to being overpowered. Ditto with any of the other abilities.

My solution is to have just three speeds for the player which are slowed (50%), normal and fast (200%) with fast only being available temporarily to the player. You can make a select few monsters even faster than that if desired. The main thinking behind the change is that currently there is the problem that if you are slower than a monster the battle is artificially hard and if you are faster it is artificially easy. All the carefully balanced stats, hit-point, damage per round, breaths and AC values that provide a challenge are completely skewed by the relative speed of the player to the monster in question. And it isn't just when up against a particular monster type it is the same with every single monster you meet. By far the single most important factor in whether the level you are currently at is difficult or easy is determined by your current unhasted speed in comparison to the norm for that level. The whole point of rings of escaping (and the subsequent fudging of the rules to stop them being used purely as speed) was to try and bridge this power gap a little bit.

Last edited by TJS; October 20, 2013 at 12:47.
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Old October 20, 2013, 20:19   #3
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As I read this I thought to myself ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by TJS View Post
The numbers are too big and too meaningless.
... hmm, I think that's a big part of the attraction of Sil ...
Quote:
Enchantments are boring.
... I'm not entirely certain, but I think Sil fixes this too (even if only by derivation from the above) ...
Quote:
The whole searching mechanic is a waste of time.
... um ... didn't Sil fix this? Not sure off the top of my head since I haven't played it yet, but it wouldn't surprise me ...
Quote:
Simplify rules that inexplicably don't apply sometimes as people don't like one aspect of the emergent gameplay that results.
... yep, Sil definitely fixed this one ...
Quote:
Well this is controversial, but here we go. Speed is broken.
... and this one.

(Apologies for being slightly facetious, but as someone said in another recent thread, anyone with this kind of vision tends to release a pretty decent variant. Not that I don't agree with everything you've written - I'd be interested to see what happened to V with these changes.)
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Old October 20, 2013, 23:13   #4
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Essentially, yes, every single issue he has has been solved in Sil, usually in the exact way he is suggesting.
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Old October 20, 2013, 23:40   #5
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Well I was hoping to provoke a bit more discussion than just "your ideas are (or might) be a bit like Sil".

As far as I know Sil doesn't have magical enchantments, teleportation or rings of escaping. In fact does it even have different speeds?

Two totally different games IMO.

Are Angband veterans getting a bit of a inferiority complex about Sil or something

I probably should have started with points that couldn't possibly be compared to Sil in any way.
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Old October 21, 2013, 00:53   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJS View Post
Well I was hoping to provoke a bit more discussion than just "your ideas are (or might) be a bit like Sil".

As far as I know Sil doesn't have magical enchantments, teleportation or rings of escaping. In fact does it even have different speeds?

Two totally different games IMO.

Are Angband veterans getting a bit of a inferiority complex about Sil or something

I probably should have started with points that couldn't possibly be compared to Sil in any way.
I basically agree with you about what could/should be changed, but Sil has done so much of it you'd probably be better off starting from Sil than starting from V. I think it wouldn't be a bad outcome if V itself stopped moving and fossilised, like Moria did years ago, with variants continuing.
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Old October 21, 2013, 02:08   #7
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Scatha has written at some length about how Sil's system could be extended to a longer game. An Angband-length variant using modified Sil mechanics could be interesting...
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Old October 21, 2013, 02:27   #8
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Love the idea of merging enchant scrolls and expanding their use to amulets and sticks - this will make the use of an enchant scroll an actual strategic decision, as opposed to just "use it now, or wait for a better applicable item to use it on"!
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Old October 21, 2013, 02:45   #9
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Quote:
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Love the idea of merging enchant scrolls and expanding their use to amulets and sticks - this will make the use of an enchant scroll an actual strategic decision, as opposed to just "use it now, or wait for a better applicable item to use it on"!
Brogue does this quite well- the scrolls can be used on almost anything, and usually have at least 2 effects (increase in the bonus plus increase chance of the ego effect plus decrease in strength requirement for weapons, increase in bonus, max charges, for staves, etc). They are also a way to break a sticky curse. Definitely a resource you want to use carefully.

IMO a clean break in development sounds like a good idea.
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Old October 21, 2013, 09:58   #10
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The whole searching mechanic is a waste of time.
Also Halls of Mist solved this. Perception is super-important in Mist, in a myriad of ways (read the documentation about the Perception skill).

You never need to hit the 's' key. Perception is always a pure percentage chance, and you only get one chance to find anything.

Traps only exist in rooms with closets and around some monsters.
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