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Old October 2, 2014, 23:53   #1
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FA vs Vanilla

Having been FA maintainer for several years, and now having spent this year neck-deep in Vanilla code, I have a fair appreciation of where they differ. The thing is, though, it's only one person's perspective.

So - with a view of possible changes to particularly V, but FA as well - I would like to get some opinions from people who have played both, on a number of issues. Any input is valuable:
  1. FA learnable specialty abilities
  2. Monster traps and stealing
  3. XP penalty for stronger races/classes (V has, FA doesn't)
  4. Rubble you can walk through
  5. Other varied terrain (trees, lava, water)
  6. Combat system
  7. Difficulty
  8. Monster mana, and AI more generally
  9. Different ego types
  10. Rings and amulets
  11. Randarts (change the whole set in V vs always have the standarts and a few randarts in FA)
  12. Summoning around the player vs around the caster
  13. Stat and *stat* potions

I'm sure there are others I've missed, and also comparisons with other variants like NPP would be welcome (just no rockets debo).
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Old October 3, 2014, 00:13   #2
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IMO I think you should ...

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Old October 3, 2014, 02:30   #3
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Originally Posted by Nick View Post
Any input is valuable
Even mine? Haha. hahaha. Here goes:

Regarding FA: Character specialties are fun, I wish there were even more in FA, and if possible, tiered abilities, like armsman 1, armsman 2, etc... Read as: HM wants more armsman. I think anything that lets you create more customized characters is a huge attraction. I said something like this once before, but didn't really flesh this idea out properly, and well, still haven't. It'd be an interesting way to branch the game out. Dragonslayer bonus, choose a resistance, etc... that kind of thing.

Not mentioned: Your storekeepers. One of the reasons I can still fire up FA and retain my sanity is that your 'ordering' storekeepers take the edge off of the endgame tedium of finding the necessary potions/scrolls. Should I play FA, I know I don't have to stress the whole time about stockpiling all the best stuff like I would with O, or V, or other variants. I endured FA without them, but once you added them, I couldn't imagine playing any other way. It takes what should be stressful and makes it relaxing. Easier, most definitely, but it makes the game more enjoyable, at least to me. So, maybe in V, have alchemists stock the biggest heals for big $ prices? I dunno.
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Old October 3, 2014, 02:40   #4
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Originally Posted by Nick View Post
Any input is valuable:
I have only very briefly played FA, as I found the wilderness confusing and felt horribly exposed especially at nighttime, but anyway!
XP penalty for stronger races/classes (V has, FA doesn't)
I'm fine with this going away. All it does is encourage newbies (who disproportionately pick High-Elves) to spend even longer scumming shallow depths. Besides, the actual penalties are dumb, witness the low penalty for Half-Trolls and Hobbits.
[*]Rubble you can walk through
I'm not opposed to having more tactical terrain, but recognize that the Vanilla rubble does serve a useful purpose many times, in being, effectively, a door that can only be opened once, only by the player, and never closed. Maybe webs would make more sense as a traversible barrier.
[*]Combat system
Use v4's combat system.
I generally think that Vanilla should not be an overly hard roguelike. I mean, it's a roguelike, it's going to be hard, but it shouldn't be masochistically hard like, say, OAngband is.
[*]Monster mana, and AI more generally
If you can find a good way to make sensible restrictions on monster spellcasting then I'm all for it, but I'm not convinced that monster mana is the way to go. There've been several discussions on this topic here; I'm still curious how cooldowns on individual monster spells could work.

As for AI, in general I think the better approach is to find more ways to make combat varied and interesting. That can include having smart monsters, especially if most monsters aren't smart; it can include having more varied monster spells, more varied terrain, etc. There's a lot of room to play with things even with Vanilla's current sack-of-hammers AI. Not that I'm opposed to smarter monsters; I'm mostly just saying that you shouldn't limit your vision.
[*]Different ego types
Adding item types has historically been a common way for new maintainers to [s]ruin[/s]make their mark on Vanilla.
[*]Randarts (change the whole set in V vs always have the standarts and a few randarts in FA)
Honestly I prefer not having access to standarts in my games; they just aren't interesting to me any more. Making the option into a three-way option could be interesting though -- standarts, randarts, mixed standarts and randarts.
[*]Summoning around the player vs around the caster
Make certain you don't make the Sea of Runes tactic viable again. Fighting Morgoth should not be a zero-risk endeavour.
[*]Stat and *stat* potions
I don't know what FA did here, but I don't really feel like Vanilla's stat gain is problematic any more.
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Old October 3, 2014, 08:46   #5
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Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Adding item types has historically been a common way for new maintainers to [s]ruin[/s]make their mark on Vanilla.
Changing some of the existing ones could work better. For example anything with "searching" is utterly useless unless we change searching itself (no more magical trap/door detection, LoS search) .

Weapons of Gondolin are pretty useless as well, even that they have potential to have random ability. Those could be removed (which makes every other type a slightly more common).

Single slay weapons could all be x5 weapons, not just those with stars in the name.

and so on...
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Old October 3, 2014, 10:21   #6
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FA learnable specialty abilities
I like these. As HM says, there is room for more as long as they give subtle effects. I like the idea of Dragonslayer.

Monster traps and stealing
Can never be bothered to do so in FA. Might as well go away IMHO.

XP penalty for stronger races/classes (V has, FA doesn't)
Unlike Derakon, I'm all for them. Like Derakon, however, I think they are oddly apportioned.

Rubble you can walk through
Why not both - two types of rubble?

Other varied terrain (trees, lava, water)
Yes please for V! They make the game more interesting/exciting. (This despite having my most promising attempt at an FA win teleported into lava by a humble imp while on low HP and killed outright - still hurts).

Combat system
I far prefer V, it's much more transparent.

No real feeling either way here. V is easier. FA is harder. They are what they are.

Monster mana
I completely ignore it in FA, so don't mind either way.

Different ego types
Rings and amulets
I need to think more about these two so will post seperately.

Randarts (change the whole set in V vs always have the standarts and a few randarts in FA)
I love the V randarts, and nearly always play with randarts on.

Summoning around the player vs around the caster
Again, why not both. It would make life more interesting. Low level monsters shouldn't summon around player IMHO. It's probably my biggest cause of low-level-char-death-frustration.

Stat and *stat* potions
Please no! V's potions are just fine thank you.
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Old October 3, 2014, 11:01   #7
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I don't play V or FA, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I decided I should comment as I've thought a lot about some of these.

* XP penalty for stronger races/classes (V has, FA doesn't)

One thing to consider is where the balance point is. I think that the history of Angband involved first balancing around humans, elves, etc. then adding the super races (High Elf, Dunadan) later and giving them an XP penalty. I think this makes them too tedious. It is like a reasonable time XP progression or a really slow one. What if all XP requirements were scaled down, so compared to now the super races are somewhere near the current human requirements and humans level really fast. That sounds like a fun choice to me, making humans a kind of glass battleship, rather than making the super races invulnerable but boring to play...

Obviously, for Sil I decided to just scrap the requirements, which is also a good option.

* Monster mana

In Sil, I think the current version is that monsters have 12 mana, regen 1 a turn, and need 8 to cast a spell (or breathe fire or whatever). This seems to work quite well at keeping them going over time. They have an initial assault, are pretty quick about their second attack (which can happen as soon as four turns after the first one) and then settle into a long term average of one every 8 turns. This limits their rate while avoiding the huge series of attacks at the start, followed by not much thereafter. You could obviously change the numbers if they should generally cast spells more often than in Sil. I'd suggest super simple numbers, with them regenerating either 1 mana a turn or a fixed percent of their total (better if some monsters have more starting mana). You could have spells that cost different amounts, but I'd just use a couple of levels. The different amounts thing can bite if the monster is needing to save up mana to cast a big spell and keeps getting tempted by small ones.

* Monster AI

I think this is well worth improving, and you should follow the suggestion above of giving some monsters a SMART flag and having those ones use a different AI. Different AI for different monster types is fun and interesting, and adds a lot of individuality to the monsters. The start of the Sil AI was to begin with the 4GAI, then switch the pack AI from hounds to orcs. Bang, instant flavour. I then tweaked it from there, and even added a super dumb AI for things like Trolls.

* Rockets

I'm beginning to think about adding these to Sil. I'm not even sure what they are, but I keep hearing good things about them.
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Old October 3, 2014, 11:25   #8
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Originally Posted by half View Post
* Rockets

I'm beginning to think about adding these to Sil. I'm not even sure what they are, but I keep hearing good things about them.
I think this thread should mainly discuss rockets. I'm sure that's what Nick intended.
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Old October 3, 2014, 15:11   #9
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1. While I really like the FA/O specialties, they feel like they should stay as variant territory.
2. Same goes for Stealing. Monster Traps seem like they could be good if Rogue ever have an issue is being to weak or boring compared to other classes.
3. I never found the XP penalty to be that meaningful.
4. Same for Rubble. A turn or two to dig vs poor footing on a square.
5. I do like the varied terrain; water and lava especially. Since V takes place entirely in the dungeon, trees would seem out of place.
6. I feel O style combat works better than V, but weren't they coming up with a new combat system in V4 that fixed that?
7. No real opinion on the difficulty.
8. I like the idea of Monster Mana, but I don't think FA does it well at all. See below for my thoughts on a better monster mana system
9-10. I don't rememer any major difference
11. Perhaps have an birth option: Randarts vs Fixed Artifacts vs Mixed
12. I like summoning around the caster more
13. No strong opinion

Regarding monster mana, FA tries to treat it the same way player mana is treated. The problem is that they need to work toward fundamentally different goals.
Player mana needs to focus on the long time. The player needs to care about their mana from fight to fight.
Monster mana has a more short term focus. It needs to stop the monster from spamming horrible things non stop. The monster will rarely be in multiple fights, so it doesn't need longevity.

To that end, monster mana should have a small pool of mana with expensive spells, but regenerate rapidly.
This means that a monster can't keep using big spells without having a cooldown period to regenerate mana, but they will still gain that mana back fairly quickly, so they don't suddenly become a ton easier.
Something like all monsters having 100 mana and gaining 10 mana per turn. Minor spells would cost 10 mana, basically negating that turns regeneration, while bigger spells would cost more. Any spell that costs 60+ mana could never be cast 2 turns in a row.
I feel this allows for a lot more strategy than the FA system, which encourages turtling until the enemy is out of mana or just ignoring the mana system entirely.
I'm trying to think of an analogy, and the best I can come up with is Angband is like fishing for sharks, and Sil is like hunting a bear with a pocket knife and a pair of chopsticks. It's not great. -Nick
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Old October 3, 2014, 15:48   #10
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I'm very familiar with FA and reasonably with V. FA in angband mode is the best vanilla style game that I've played, something about NPP rubs me the wrong way, not sure what but I can't play it at all. Any variant older than these has too much interface burden for me to play often.

To summarise the ways I think V is worse than FA: it feels so much safer, especially at the end. The dungeon generation is much more segmented, because of V's terrible pathfinding and rubble blocking monsters, so often you don't even have to consider something dangerous because it can't get to you. The monster generation gets much more diluted deeper and there are also less dangerous monsters overall (no sky drakes, power wyrms, storms of unmagic, etc). Vaults in O/FA are scary even if they are completely sealed because monsters teleport out to you, or teleport from one part of the vault to another. Pits are also scarier and more interesting, you can get any type of monster potentially and deep dragon pits always have wyrms of power which dig towards you, bringing the rest of the pit too. Monsters feel more lethal in FA, humanoids especially. Ranged and spells are a threat comparable to breath attacks.

So mainly, it is the end of the game which can learn the most from FA I think, V is super fun from DL1-~40 because you can just dive down and find everything you need in the dungeon, then around that depth you get far too strong, it becomes boring and the endgame is too easy.

V could definitely add FA's new magic schools and classes, there's no reason V can't have more choices as long as they fit in with the others. Also artefact devices, they are so cool. Personally I prefer stacking resists, I think Poscheng does it better than FA though (1 res = 50%, 2 = 65%, 3 = 72%, 4 = 75%). Hmm, what else, there are lots of little things.

Edit: Oh yes, I like the way FA gives you speed more, lots of smaller increments rather than boots of speed +10 and ring of speed +10.

Going down the list you gave...

1) I could see it being in V but it would need much better balance or an overhaul, right now you essentially just take 3 of [shield mastery, fury, armsman, fast attacking, mana burn, athletics] or [meditation, heighten magic, channeling, clarity, enhance magic, soul siphon] while there are a lot that there really isn't much reason to take.

2) Monster traps are fun and the interface in FA is actually not too bad, never found a use for stealing though. Actually I hate stealing because I always accidentally do it and it causes aggravation.

3) Doesn't make a difference to me as long as it isn't extreme, like poscheng's 300% races.

4) Yes. I don't like rubble blocking the dungeon off at all.

5) Fine as long as it is like FA's angband mode and not like NPP, limit it to interesting rooms mainly.

6) I see no reason to prefer V's.

7) My ideal is between FA and O's.

8) I ignore mana existing. I don't care too much about smart spellcasting, it has good and bad things, the bad thing is mainly spamming blindness and confusion a ton. Pathfinding *definitely* needs to improve in V. Monsters should also do more things like teleporting to you or you to them. I think poscheng has the most fun and varied AI.

9) Sure.

10) Poscheng has a similar jewellery system to FA and I'm not the biggest fan, it can be interesting but it has a pretty large drawback: you now have to ID and examine every piece of jewellery in the dungeon. It's fine for those games but V should be more simple probably.

11) I wish I could play randarts only in FA.

12) I only really play variants with summoning around the player, V feels pretty tame to me. Like MattB said, no reason you can't do both, it would help in distinguishing monsters, for example if only Qulthuylgs could summon around you, or if undead summons did, and so on.

13) No opinion.

FA & poscheng for life

Last edited by clouded; October 3, 2014 at 15:54.
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