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Old November 21, 2014, 21:28   #31
mushroom patch
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An important aspect of the latency issue is what I would call the latency ratio: What fraction of time a player spends in this stage of not doing interesting things (in particular, not having interesting combat options or having to rely on tedious tactics to survive). This is particularly important for players who are new to the game and don't know what they're doing, because it largely determines whether they stick with the game in the long term. (And of course, these are the players for whom the ratio is the largest.)

Setting the character up at what is now xp level 5 radically reduces this ratio. The player has reasonably diverse combat options from the start with most classes.

I think it's a mistake to believe dlvl 1-5 makes things nice for new players. In reality, it makes a slower, less engaging start to each of their many, many games. And again: The threats at these depths are so trivial and uninteresting they don't actually teach the player anything. The only way to learn about the game is by getting to greater depths and the main mechanism of learning is getting killed by new monsters and new situations. It is therefore critical to reduce the gap between the interface with new things and the start of the game in a game that involves so many restarts.

Last edited by mushroom patch; November 21, 2014 at 21:56.
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Old November 21, 2014, 21:45   #32
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That sounds all good. Since vanilla is severly lacking physical ranged attacks, why not give them to some (early) monsters; yellow centipede could throw spikes for 1d3 or such, novice rogue could use slingshot for 1d4. At the very least that would make all that armour bought from the smith somewhat useful.

As for shopping at start, it has never struck me as boring. Maybe thats just me, but browsing shops in the hopes of seeing something good that is affordable is fun.
I usually do play with the "start with basic gear" option set, check bm for speed potions, check weapon smith for enchanted daggers, buy clw, buy phase door, buy magic map or detect stair, kill Maggot if hes there and then take the stairs to level 1. For this to become a latency problem, you need to repeatedly die before dlvl 5.

I dont know if this is feasible, but if people really dislike the shopping phase at start, would it be possible to introduce another step at character creation where you can buy items from a basic selection of starting material, and if you select "start with same charcter" after death, appear in town with the same gear you picked last game ? I suspect it might be a lot of work though, so let the players shop for their gear in town. Its not too much to ask imho.
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Old November 21, 2014, 23:10   #33
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It seems to me testimonials about what people who know what they're doing buy in town kind of miss the point re: latency issues, because there is no latency issue in that case. I doubt anyone who understands the game spends a lot of time on dlvls 1-5. Indeed, they probably buy stuff just to get through them more quickly.

When I was a kid playing moria, I'd spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of weapons and armor to buy at the start, which is a completely ridiculous waste of time, I now understand. Yet that's the obvious thing for new players to do. It's what you do in most rpgs. In some sense, the fact that that option is even available hurts new players. Why on earth would you ever buy a weapon at the start other than a dagger, whip, or main gauche? Why would you bother spending money on armor that makes only a marginal difference and that can be cheaply picked up in the dungeon? And why would you ever buy unenchanted or marginally enchanted weapons later on? Only in rare circumstances is this a good idea, but the natural guess is that it's a great idea, because that's what you always do in rpgs.

Relatedly, how does the new player intuit that it's a good idea to pick up and/or identify everything you can? The lesson of the early game is that almost everything in the dungeon is useless crap and picking it up means you have to drop it later, which is a hassle. How does the new player realize how heavily the item generation code favors depths they have never seen and don't even know how to reach?

Similarly, it's extremely nonobvious why buying stair detection scrolls is a good idea, why you should buy clw, which quickly becomes only marginally useful to the untrained eye, etc. I totally agree with Estie that it's a good time checking out what's available in 7 etc. at the start, but on balance the freedom to do stupid things hurts the new player in ways that are difficult or impossible for them to grasp based on the feedback they receive from the game alone.

re: more ranged attacks, this would be great if characters start with commensurately improved capabilities. It would suck if it means your lvl 1 mage is going to get killed by low level monsters even more easily.

Basically, thinking about how to alter the early game should be oriented toward moving the new player more quickly into the core content of the game, as opposed to offering more opportunities to screw up in structural ways that are difficult to understand without a broader perspective.

Last edited by mushroom patch; November 21, 2014 at 23:30.
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Old November 22, 2014, 03:03   #34
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@mushroom patch:

Maybe I am not qualified to judge as I have learned the game decades ago and my memory of that procedure is blurry. However, I dont see the radical cut between "early game" and "real game" you mention. I would rather divide into 3 stages - early-, mid-, lategame, where midgame starts about when the warrior switches from dagger to heavy weapon and lategame starts when you get ~700 hit points. The gameplay on dlvl3 isnt that much different from dlvl 20 - explore while having a safe retreat, hit profitable targets and avoid unpleasant fights. The latter are brown molds early on and nexus hounds later, but the principle is the same.

Each rpg has its own rules and finding out what is worth buying/using and what isnt is part of the game. I dont recall any rpg where the shop inventory consists only of useful gear. If I start a new game, I experiment and see what works for me; if I commit and play longer, I visit the communities website and see how other people play, in particular if I get stuck at some point - like dying around clvl 20 all the time.

I find it perfectly ok that its not obvious what to take down on your first trip. Moreover, even among old players there is no complete consent; theres more than one playstyle.

For an extreme example, take this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kedip...spVpAs&index=1

This guy relishes in those features of the early game that you (or the op) dislike, and while I think he might be shooting himself in the foot somewhat, he enjoys what hes doing. I wager he wouldnt be happy if the early game as it is now got removed completely.
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Old November 22, 2014, 19:56   #35
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Really? You don't recall an rpg where shops consist only of useful gear? I agree that shops generally contain various possible options, some better than others and all of which become obsolete in the fullness of time, but angband is the only game I know where it's a straightforwardly bad idea to buy from certain apparently legitimate shops (e.g. the armor shop) except in rare circumstances that only occur well into the game or where shops offer such a multitude of items, only two or three of which you would ever buy if you know what you're doing (e.g. the weapon shop). It's not like you buy something from these places and have a wild and woolly time with the stuff you buy -- there's no apparent mechanical difference between different weapons and armor -- the only difference is the opportunity cost of not buying something that's actually useful, which tend to have subtle effects the importance of which are not readily apparent.

Here's the deal: The depth of a game is not determined by the absolute number of possible choices one can make. It is determined by the breadth of possibility that results in something reasonably approximating optimal play, at least as it is understood by experienced players. Having a large number of apparently reasonable but bad choices available only makes the game difficult to grasp on one's own.

Also: re: what this unbelievably slow talking vlogger thinks about the start of a game of angband, I find this a somewhat peculiar counterfactual. If a new player comes to the game and it's not the same as it was a year ago, how could they form an opinion about that? And I don't see an argument here that the new player won't have a better experience if the start is faster, more streamlined, and less frought with nonobvious pitfalls. (If I understood what he was saying, the youtuber isn't actually a new player and seems to have developed pretty silly, yet enduring habits. My feeling is this kind of supports my point.)

[Okay, managed to skip through enough of those videos and grit my teeth through the commentary -- the guy doesn't go to 7 until after he's wasted all his money on armor... I'd like to say he wasted the opportunity to buy !heroism, ?blessing, and !berserk strength, but of course, he's playing mage. If you skip to the end of his 30 hour series, you get to see him one-shot by a 7-headed hyrdra at xp level 29, dungeon level 36. This is the stereotype of clueless beginner play: Not using detection, trying to just fight through everything, waking everything up, getting surprise killed by poison breath around level 30. I mean, yeah, he make a lot of substantive errors of strategy and tactics, but his series would've been about four hours shorter without the first five dungeon/xp levels.]

Last edited by mushroom patch; November 22, 2014 at 20:58.
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Old November 23, 2014, 03:20   #36
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I'm curious what gear people like to start with. Obviously, some of that is race/class dependent (for example, I grab more food if I'm a HT than other races), but do people set the birth_start_kit to Yes or No? I usually set it to Yes so I don't have to worry about rerolling if there is no suitable weapon in the weaponsmith (or temple if I'm playing a priest). I always buy at least one !CLW so it is pre-identified when I find it in the dungeon. I also like 3 food rations and wooden torches (including the one I'm wielding. When playing a mage, I usually buy Book 2 since I learn everything in Book 1 on my first trip and don't want to have to come back to town until I'm ready to buy Book 3. After that, I'm not so sure what's best. One or a bunch of ?Phase Door (although usually they are plentiful in the early dungeon). Any ideas?
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Old November 23, 2014, 03:46   #37
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In my opinion, you don't want to buy anything but a dagger or main gauche as far as actual equipment. If you're a priest, just roll with whatever you start with.

The main thing is consumables. Unless you play mage, you want !clw, ?detect stairs/doors, !heroism, ?blessing, ?phase door (not too many), !berserk strength, !speed, ?deep descent. Maybe ?mapping, !csw, !ccw if you can't spend all your money on other stuff. I think extra arrows if you're a ranger. I guess I should buy flasks of oil, but I generally don't. You want to be able to kill relatively high level stuff at relatively low level, so buffs are key.
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Old November 23, 2014, 04:23   #38
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For most classes, I get a weapon (dagger/main gauche/whip, as noted), some Phase Door, some torches, some CLW, and some Heroism. I don't worry much about identifying new consumable types because ID-by-use is pretty safe; instead, I want to be able to smash my face through lots of enemies, hence the focus on CLW and Heroism.

Food, and more light, can be found in the dungeon pretty reliably. So can armor. So can CLW and Heroism, honestly, but not so reliably that they show up before I need them. Once you know what you're doing, there's little point in not playing the early game as aggressively as possible; it's not like you lose much by dying.
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Old November 23, 2014, 04:41   #39
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No one picks up a word of recall? Do you guys ... walk back? Up through the shallow levels again? So boring... imo either 1 word of recall should be provided on start, or word of recall should be cheaper.
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Old November 23, 2014, 05:32   #40
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Oh, right, I grab a WoR too. Unless I'm playing a warrior; then I figure I can just ironman it until I ID one by use.
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