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Old November 29, 2012, 12:45   #1
debo
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Some thoughts after playing Brogue

Hey everyone,

Brogue isn't a 'variant' of Angband, clearly, but I have been playing it lately and it's really neat. If this doesn't belong here, let me know.

This is just a list of things it does differently from most *bands I know. This is not a statement that ANY of these things should be in Angband; this is mostly just an exercise in "that's pretty cool."

Things I liked:

- The look and feel. Holy crap is this thing pretty for a roguelike. There are lighting effects, fairly complex animations, and a weiiiird charset that looks great.

- Some of the help/convenience functions. My favorite is if you type '>', it will show you the most optimal route to the down staircase. If you type it again, you will auto-walk there.

- The variety of terrain. This is something that I feel e.g. Halls of Mist does well, but Brogue has these really cool chasms that span the level. You can dive into a chasm to escape to the next level.

- They also reused the chasm mechanic for escapes -- there's a "potion of descent" that opens a chasm underneath you, dropping you to the level below. However, any monsters standing closeby may also be dropped into that chasm.

- Gas / explosion effects. These are neat -- many potions or monsters will blow up, and emit flames / noxious gas / other nasty things that spread outwards in a cloud.

- Machine rooms / puzzle rooms -- often times there are rooms with multiple treasures, but you are forced to pick a subset of them as your reward.

- Visible countdown meters on buffs/conditions. I can see exactly when my invisibility will run out, when poison will run its course, etc.

- Recall windows are done quite well. I feel like this is a result of Brogue's mechanics (which involve very little randomness) but they give very concise information about how a weapon or a battle may go. (E.g. "at your current strength, you will defeat this monster as few as 2 turns")

- The quality of generated items is completely independent of floor depth. So, that +3 Warhammer of Holy Shit you just found on DL16 could just has easily have been found on DL1. This is really fun as it rewards exploration at the earlier depths.

- Things are simple. It feels less like an RPG and more like a normal board game. There's no XP, everything is really down to the items you find.

- Each monster has a pretty cute new mechanic that you have to deal with.

- The overarching theme of "everything is overpowered". This means you'll always have a few dimensions in which you are very strong, and a few dimensions in which you are barely scraping by. (Same goes for the monsters.)

- The fact that floors persist once created, and the determinism of the game based on the dungeon seed in general. They've even nailed down the monster generation to the point that two players playing the same game seed will find _exactly_ the same floors, _exactly_ the same items, etc. which is great for comps.

- The recordings. Once you die, instead of producing a chardump, you instead dump a replay of your entire game which you can walk through step-by-step. If you just let it play in movie mode, it will actually _slow down_ the playback at the parts where your character got himself into interesting situations. So cool!

- ID by use is quite manageable in this game. It's annoying but really not that bad to quaff a 'bad' potion or wear some bad equipment. Anyone who is curious about / annoyed by the id-by-use system in Vanilla or other *bands (I saw this was a hot topic a little while ago) might want to explore this. IMO this is done even better here than it is done in Sil (it's not quite as anguish-inducing) but then again the number and the complexity of the effects is quite a bit more limited, so it's sort of a mixed bag

Things I don't like:

- Things are too simple. I think I've become addicted to the statgain/ability stuff in *bands. If I had to make a comparison, the spectrum of character strength feels more finely-grained in *bands than it does in Brogue. (This is a bit true of Nethack as well, but at least that one had XP and character level.) Angband feels like a continuous system, while Brogue feels more discrete. I'm already sort of bored of it for that reason.

- Monsters. Really, now that you don't get any discernible reward for killing them, it feels like they're shepherding me into an avoidance-style of play. Which I normally like, but I'd like to feel rewarded for thwacking that Kobold. They removed the XP system to encourage exploration -- I wish they'd gone the Sil route of _awarding_ XP for exploration / discovering new things, instead. (Although this does have the disadvantage that a kill-everything build that also explores a lot will get more XP than one who just avoids everything. Maybe there could be some sort of balance there.)

- Autoexplore. Seriously wtf, I hate games that try to play themselves for me. (I know, I don't have to use it.)

- The mouse. I know, it's 2012, but I hate having to hover over monsters or items to get their recall information when they're sitting on the floor.

- The simplicity of the stealth mechanic. I'm biased here, since Sil also has reasonably simple system that IMO manages to create a lot more tension / interest. In Brogue, there's a 2-part LOS check that depends on your stealth. If you hit an unwary/sleeping monster, you do 3x damage. That's it. The fact that you can hide in shadows etc. is nice, but not super useful since a Ring of Light is more or less required to survive later on and dispels all shadows. (I'm very glad Sil decided to ignore the light-effect in the stealth system. Unrealistic, yes -- but way more fun.)

- Being chased across floors. The mechanics of how this works are quite simple and understandable, but this is just a personal preference of mine. I like stairs to be safe haven

- The supposed lack of fanfare at endgame. No, I haven't made it to the end yet, but it sounds like the Amulet of Yendor is just dumped somewhere, you pick it up, and you leave. Of course, I haven't looked into this it all, so it's entirely possible that there's some more interesting thing that happens when you have it. (I kept looking for Rodney in the monster list before I realized that he's not in this game ) I would kind of like there to be a "special" final floor though. (Yes, I'm aware that Vanilla doesn't have this either.)

Whew, OK. I think I've officially spent more time writing about the game than I have playing it. I'd encourage you all to give it a whirl, it's a breeze to install on any platform and is at the very least worth playing a few floors to see how it looks!

Then again, I suppose it is very possible that you have all played it already and I am preaching to a disinterested choir That just happens to be a hobby of mine.
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Old November 29, 2012, 14:42   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by debo View Post
Hey everyone,

Brogue isn't a 'variant' of Angband, clearly, but I have been playing it lately and it's really neat. If this doesn't belong here, let me know.
These types of idea sessions are always useful. I haven't played brogue, but I've watched several let's plays (how I learn about stuff/gather ideas on limited free time)


Quote:
- The look and feel. Holy crap is this thing pretty for a roguelike. There are lighting effects, fairly complex animations, and a weiiiird charset that looks great.
Yes, it also has great atmospheric music.

Quote:
- Some of the help/convenience functions. My favorite is if you type '>', it will show you the most optimal route to the down staircase. If you type it again, you will auto-walk there.

- The variety of terrain. This is something that I feel e.g. Halls of Mist does well, but Brogue has these really cool chasms that span the level. You can dive into a chasm to escape to the next level.

- They also reused the chasm mechanic for escapes -- there's a "potion of descent" that opens a chasm underneath you, dropping you to the level below. However, any monsters standing closeby may also be dropped into that chasm.

- Gas / explosion effects. These are neat -- many potions or monsters will blow up, and emit flames / noxious gas / other nasty things that spread outwards in a cloud.
Most of these are good mechanics and could be ported into bands without much difficulty. (Terrain in V is still controversial, but most variants use it to great effect).

Quote:
- Machine rooms / puzzle rooms -- often times there are rooms with multiple treasures, but you are forced to pick a subset of them as your reward.
I would call these obstacle rooms instead of puzzle rooms. There are only a very limited number of possible puzzles and they all have the same solution. It's just a matter of execution (e.g find the key, or find the potion of fire breathing and burn down the barrier). These are essentially equivalent to the quests that appear in many variants, and they're mostly a good idea.

Quote:
- Visible countdown meters on buffs/conditions. I can see exactly when my invisibility will run out, when poison will run its course, etc.
I think the lack of counters was by design in V, one that I don't necessarily agree with, because it really belongs in the old style where we hid information from the player.

Quote:
- Recall windows are done quite well. I feel like this is a result of Brogue's mechanics (which involve very little randomness) but they give very concise information about how a weapon or a battle may go. (E.g. "at your current strength, you will defeat this monster as few as 2 turns")
Brogue has *many* less effects than almost any variant, which is why conciseness is possible. You could tell a character that it could kill a time vortex in 3 turns, but that will do nothing to inform you about the danger involved.

Quote:
- The quality of generated items is completely independent of floor depth. So, that +3 Warhammer of Holy Shit you just found on DL16 could just has easily have been found on DL1. This is really fun as it rewards exploration at the earlier depths.

- Things are simple. It feels less like an RPG and more like a normal board game. There's no XP, everything is really down to the items you find.
These are both design choices that I dislike. The item generation is probably better suited for a shorter game, although I don't even like it there either. There's something inherently appealing about finding more powerful treasure the deeper you go, just as there's something appealing about developing your character's intrinsic abilities.

Quote:
- Each monster has a pretty cute new mechanic that you have to deal with.
Making each monster interesting is generally a good idea. If you have 50 monsters, you can probably given them their own mechanics. If you have 700, that becomes impossible. To brogue monsters scale with difficulty as you descend, or is a newt on level 1 the same as a newt on level 20?

Quote:
- The overarching theme of "everything is overpowered". This means you'll always have a few dimensions in which you are very strong, and a few dimensions in which you are barely scraping by. (Same goes for the monsters.)
It seems this is the mechanic that arises when your skill is entirely equipment based and there is no level dependence on how powerful an item is.

Quote:
- The fact that floors persist once created, and the determinism of the game based on the dungeon seed in general. They've even nailed down the monster generation to the point that two players playing the same game seed will find _exactly_ the same floors, _exactly_ the same items, etc. which is great for comps.
I'm in the minority of devs that like the idea of persistent floors. Saving seeds for comps is also a good idea, but obviously not possible if you can replay the same level infinite times.

Quote:
- The recordings. Once you die, instead of producing a chardump, you instead dump a replay of your entire game which you can walk through step-by-step. If you just let it play in movie mode, it will actually _slow down_ the playback at the parts where your character got himself into interesting situations. So cool!
Doing this in the current C code is pretty damn painful. It might be easier to do in pyrel though.

Quote:
- ID by use is quite manageable in this game. It's annoying but really not that bad to quaff a 'bad' potion or wear some bad equipment. Anyone who is curious about / annoyed by the id-by-use system in Vanilla or other *bands (I saw this was a hot topic a little while ago) might want to explore this. IMO this is done even better here than it is done in Sil (it's not quite as anguish-inducing) but then again the number and the complexity of the effects is quite a bit more limited, so it's sort of a mixed bag
Your analysis is accurate. IIRC brogue has less possibilities than Sil and far less than V. Regardless, I think forcing @ to jump through hoops to find out what a weapon or item is that the player already knows, is not fun. So +1 to that.

Quote:
Things I don't like:

- Things are too simple. I think I've become addicted to the statgain/ability stuff in *bands. If I had to make a comparison, the spectrum of character strength feels more finely-grained in *bands than it does in Brogue. (This is a bit true of Nethack as well, but at least that one had XP and character level.) Angband feels like a continuous system, while Brogue feels more discrete. I'm already sort of bored of it for that reason.

- Monsters. Really, now that you don't get any discernible reward for killing them, it feels like they're shepherding me into an avoidance-style of play. Which I normally like, but I'd like to feel rewarded for thwacking that Kobold. They removed the XP system to encourage exploration -- I wish they'd gone the Sil route of _awarding_ XP for exploration / discovering new things, instead. (Although this does have the disadvantage that a kill-everything build that also explores a lot will get more XP than one who just avoids everything. Maybe there could be some sort of balance there.)
I dislike the removal of XP also. But that folds in to my general dislike of things that don't allow intrinsic character development. I think the Sil idea of rewarding the player for encountering new situations is a good one, and I plan on swiping it at some future date.

Quote:
- Autoexplore. Seriously wtf, I hate games that try to play themselves for me. (I know, I don't have to use it.)
Interestingly, the lack of an auto-explore feature is something that people cite when they describe why they dislike bands. I guess this is just a preference issue. Brogue is also much more sparsely populated than any band variant I've seen, so autoexplore works far better in that game.

Quote:
- The mouse. I know, it's 2012, but I hate having to hover over monsters or items to get their recall information when they're sitting on the floor.
Everything that can be done with a mouse should be doable with a keyboard and vice versa.

Quote:
- The simplicity of the stealth mechanic. I'm biased here, since Sil also has reasonably simple system that IMO manages to create a lot more tension / interest. In Brogue, there's a 2-part LOS check that depends on your stealth. If you hit an unwary/sleeping monster, you do 3x damage. That's it. The fact that you can hide in shadows etc. is nice, but not super useful since a Ring of Light is more or less required to survive later on and dispels all shadows. (I'm very glad Sil decided to ignore the light-effect in the stealth system. Unrealistic, yes -- but way more fun.)
I'm not sure I would call Sil's system simple. It may be intuitive, but it's far more carefully crafted than Vs approach.

Quote:
- Being chased across floors. The mechanics of how this works are quite simple and understandable, but this is just a personal preference of mine. I like stairs to be safe haven
I've always wondered why monsters couldn't follow you up stairs. Even in something like tome4 with its persistent levels, monsters can't follow you. This led to a tactic of: enter area, try to kill boss, if rolls are unlucky retreat, heal, and try again. That seems super cheesy. I think that if you have persistent levels then monsters should be able to follow you.
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Old November 29, 2012, 15:15   #3
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Doing this in the current C code is pretty damn painful. It might be easier to do in pyrel though.
I would like Pyrel to support replays; it ought to just be a matter of recording the initial seed and the player's input stream, and then playing them back as an alternate input source instead of the keyboard.
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Old November 29, 2012, 17:59   #4
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I would like Pyrel to support replays; it ought to just be a matter of recording the initial seed and the player's input stream, and then playing them back as an alternate input source instead of the keyboard.
... assuming the exact same version or that any code changes haven't affected the number of PRNG invocations on any code paths played in the game.
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Old November 29, 2012, 18:54   #5
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... assuming the exact same version or that any code changes haven't affected the number of PRNG invocations on any code paths played in the game.
Well, yes. If that happens then you're screwed. Can you think of a reasonable way to handle replays that isn't subject to that constraint?
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Old November 29, 2012, 19:23   #6
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Well, yes. If that happens then you're screwed. Can you think of a reasonable way to handle replays that isn't subject to that constraint?
FWIW this exact thing does seem to happen frequently with Brogue (out of sync errors).
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Old November 29, 2012, 19:54   #7
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I would like Pyrel to support replays; it ought to just be a matter of recording the initial seed and the player's input stream, and then playing them back as an alternate input source instead of the keyboard.
Pete Mack wrote a replayer for V once - I don't recall what happened to it, though.
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Old November 29, 2012, 21:25   #8
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I heard on the Brogue forum that most of Brogue's out of sync errors are due to floating point computations not giving exactly the same result, and that Pender is rewriting all float computations that can effect the game to integer computations to prevent this.
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Old November 29, 2012, 21:39   #9
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I heard on the Brogue forum that most of Brogue's out of sync errors are due to floating point computations not giving exactly the same result, and that Pender is rewriting all float computations that can effect the game to integer computations to prevent this.
...wait, is this an issue with a single computer's FPU being nondeterministic? Or with different FPUs on different computers not behaving the same, so that replays cannot be shared across systems? The latter is much more of an acceptable issue than the former, though it's still not great.

Rather than ditch floating point calculations altogether (ugh...), we could switch to using Python's Decimal library for fixed-precision floating point arithmetic. It's a bit tedious to set up, though, since Decimal instances don't interact with normal floating-point values (you have to do e.g. "decimal.Decimal(2.5)" instead of just "2.5").

Alternately, a different approach to replays would be to store them as incremental state updates. Assuming those updates are reversible, you'd also get the ability to rewind the game. But implementing that in the first place would be very tricky.
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Old November 29, 2012, 21:44   #10
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...wait, is this an issue with a single computer's FPU being nondeterministic? Or with different FPUs on different computers not behaving the same, so that replays cannot be shared across systems? The latter is much more of an acceptable issue than the former, though it's still not great.
I think the latter only.
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