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Old June 14, 2011, 16:37   #1
jens
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Making the game harder, take five: stealth

I haven't seen anyone mentioning stealth in the discussions about making the game harder.

When I started reading these forums I was mostly a clearer (as opposed to a diver, i.e. a person who clears each level, and doesn't move on down until being pretty sure that he can clear the next level). I already knew that diving would be more efficient, but I liked my playstile.

As a clearer some things are valued quite different. AGGRAVATE doesn't really matter, I'm going to kill that monster anyway, so that it walks to me just makes clearing the level go faster. STEALTH is not important because I can handle all monsters that belong on the level.

After trying some games as a diver, using lots of stealth, one thing that really stands out is how quiet the levels are. It feels both boring, unrealistic, and like I'm sort of cheating.

Reducing this effect would clearly make the game harder, since diving would become a bit more dangerous. Some suggestions to this effect:

1) Reduce the availability of stealth: maybe remove it from some items, reduce some of the pvals, possibly increase rarity on some items.

2) Increase the vigilance of monsters: Go through the monster list and make a general increase of vigilance. Some monsters could be set very close to waking.

3) Increase the number of monsters that shriek for help.

4) Rebalance classes/races for stealth. (I have no idea how this is today, but mention it for completeness)

5) Make some code changes in how monsters get awake. Like a fight in a room should disturb all monsters in the room. The more monsters that are awake in the current dungeon level, the more the sleeping monsters are disturbed.


1-4 are quite easy changes that could be made in a few hours, and then some testing on that... 5 would take some more time.

What I would like is to achieve a balance where different classes play quite differently when it comes to sneaking. E.g. a rogue would be able to sneak around quite easily, but a warrior would not be able to achieve enough stealth. Trying to find a balance where a character that has a good class and good race for stealth does not need very much in stealth eq, but a character that has a bad class and bad race for stealth would not be able to sneak very much even with the best stealth eq in the game.

Even if we don't reach a concensus on stealth balance in different classes/races, I would like a general increase in the difficulty of sneaking...
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Old June 14, 2011, 17:25   #2
Derakon
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Stealth is tricky to balance. Every +3 stealth roughly doubles your stealthiness, as measured in percent chance to disturb a monster. This is actually necessary to make stealth worthwhile for noisy characters; otherwise, a character with terrible stealth has zero incentive to grab stealth-boosting equipment as it will make no measurable difference in how long he has until monsters wake up. Even with this, you need a stealth of at least Superb before you can really rely on it, in my experience.

Stealth is relevant for the entire game and cannot be innately boosted except by choosing different races or classes. That young character that wants to sneak around, say, a group of cave spiders, has just as much to gain as the veteran trying to sneak around Ancalagon and his escorts. (Bizarrely, all of the novice-adventurer monsters are very twitchy and basically impossible to stealth even if you have massive boosts).

Now, it may be that stealth bonuses are too easy to accumulate as it stands; though I'm not certain. I did have one game in which I found a randart cloak with +6 stealth on it; that made a huge difference. But +3 from a pair of boots is less common. The main thing, I suspect, is stacking boots of stealth with cloaks of stealth, and that happens mostly because those are the only two egos worth a damn that you can expect to find before artifacts and boots of speed kick in.

My suggested solution for this whole thing is to add stealth penalties to items as part of making them mixed-blessing.
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Old June 14, 2011, 18:32   #3
camlost
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
My suggested solution for this whole thing is to add stealth penalties to items as part of making them mixed-blessing.
One of the problems is that, like aggravate, once you have a few -STL, you might was well pack them on. Perhaps if -STL caused the radius of active monsters to increase, or to greatly increase the spawn rate, it would be doable.
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Old June 14, 2011, 18:49   #4
Philip
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jens View Post
1) Reduce the availability of stealth: maybe remove it from some items, reduce some of the pvals, possibly increase rarity on some items.

2) Increase the vigilance of monsters: Go through the monster list and make a general increase of vigilance. Some monsters could be set very close to waking.

3) Increase the number of monsters that shriek for help.

4) Rebalance classes/races for stealth. (I have no idea how this is today, but mention it for completeness)

5) Make some code changes in how monsters get awake. Like a fight in a room should disturb all monsters in the room. The more monsters that are awake in the current dungeon level, the more the sleeping monsters are disturbed.
1) This is not a bad idea, I think that reducing max stealth pval on some items, mostly egos, could work.
2) This could also work, but watch out, increasing it too much could be really deadly.
3) NO! This doesn't work mostly because it would haste everything. Shrieking is very annoying and not good for gameplay.
4) I think this is viable, my personal opinion is that race/class should act as multipliers for stealth and a few bonuses. An elven cloak of stealth would go a lot further for a hobbit rogue than for a half-troll warrior. Probably my favorite idea of all these.
5) Very nice idea, probably slightly harder to implement, but O has (AFAIK) implemented combat noise, S probably has as well. There could be noisy monsters, monster movement noise, sleeping noisy monsters and monsters that wake up others.
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Old June 14, 2011, 19:20   #5
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The main difficulty I have with combat noise is that it's freakin' awesome to be able to take out an entire pack of sleeping enemies without waking any of them up prematurely. Perhaps it should be harder to reach this point, but I don't want to see it going away.

Currently race and class just add a hidden modifier to your stealth stat -- half-trolls get -2, while hobbits get +4; warriors get +1, while rogues get +5. Combine these two values and add 1 to get innate stealth. Thus a half-troll warrior starts out at 0 stealth (effectively aggravating) while hobbit rogues only need a small boost to be able to sneak around almost everything.

Since stealth is already exponential, you should get the same effect from changing these base values as you get from adding a multiplier. I.e. if you want humans to get precisely half the benefit from stealth that hobbits do, then you just make the human base stealth be 3 below the hobbit base stealth.

I have to agree that adding more shriekers is probably not a good idea. They're interesting tactical problems at the current density, but I fear that adding more of them would just render stealth utterly moot.

EDIT: if you're curious how stealth works, I described it here and calculated the effectiveness of different values here. Some discussion of tweaks to stealth was also made in that thread.

Last edited by Derakon; June 14, 2011 at 19:25.
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Old June 14, 2011, 20:09   #6
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Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
The main difficulty I have with combat noise is that it's freakin' awesome to be able to take out an entire pack of sleeping enemies without waking any of them up prematurely. Perhaps it should be harder to reach this point, but I don't want to see it going away.
My point is that Hobbit Rogues should be able to do that, with a few mediocre stealth items, but a half troll warrior should not, even with the best stealth eq. And the rogue should only be able to do it if he kills each monster quickly, in say 1-2 rounds of combat, and the total number of monsters is not huge.

While you feel it's awesome, my feeling was mostly that it feels unrealistic when my melee mage walks into a room full of monsters (that would be really dangerous if they surrounded him and he did not have an escape) and picks them of one after another while the rest keep sleeping.
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Old June 14, 2011, 20:11   #7
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Originally Posted by camlost View Post
One of the problems is that, like aggravate, once you have a few -STL, you might was well pack them on. Perhaps if -STL caused the radius of active monsters to increase, or to greatly increase the spawn rate, it would be doable.
I have thought about giving stealth a range depending of monster detection range. Each + reduces monster detection range by some % until at perfect stealth you can sneak right past monster without waking it up. Inside that stealth-determined detection range the closer monster get to @ the more likely it would notice it.

This requires that awake monsters are not aware of players presence at all of time.

There should be three stages of monster awareness:

1) asleep (obviously not aware at all)
2) awake but not aware (maybe roaming randomly)
3) aware (goes after @)
maybe 4) with invisibility awake doesn't change to aware even in LoS, unless monster has see_inv (if that gets implemented at some point).

Negative stealth then does opposite of stealth (obviously).

Also stealth should be a skill that increases with level based on race and class. Warriors especially should be very very stealthy at clvl50 and noisy as drum pattern at clvl1. All fighter-classes should be more stealthy than casters. Monster lvl and char lvl should play a role here. clvl 50 warrior should be nearly impossible to dlvl 1 monster to notice (unless awake and in LoS) and a switch side clvl 50 warrior has disadvantage against dlvl 100 monsters.

This "everything has radius" is something I would like to see in trap and door detection (visible LoS only), making Searching have some meaning again. Now searching is completely useless ability. Even if you could have +200 searching in one item you probably would trade that to one point of infravision. ESP could have variable range. trap/door/monster detection spells could have variable range.

(IMO there is nothing wrong in stealth as it is, it just has potential to be much more).
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Old June 14, 2011, 20:43   #8
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Random aside: I had a character who for awhile had 100% perception, thanks to some ridiculous searching bonus on a randart. Even though I always immediately saw any traps I walked next to, I still used trap detection, because you really want to know if a given tile is safe before you get close to it.

A simple way to have monsters be awake but not aware would be to have each pathfind to a random location in the dungeon, and when it gets there, pick a new target. You'd need some mechanism to keep groups together, though, and right now there is nothing in the game that has the concept of "group" after the monsters are generated (they just stick together because they're generated in the same place and always have the same pathfinding target, i.e. the player).

Adding complexity, you might also want wandering monsters to move more slowly than monsters that are aware of the player -- maybe make it a per-monster type of thing. Fruitflies move at maximum speed all the time, but mystics amble about chatting up the local wildlife and only start running when they have something to kill. You could even tie the variance in speed between combat and non-combat modes to the monster's likelihood of noticing the player when awake.
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Old June 14, 2011, 21:00   #9
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Originally Posted by Timo Pietilä View Post
2) awake but not aware (maybe roaming randomly)

(IMO there is nothing wrong in stealth as it is, it just has potential to be much more).
I agree with awake + roaming.

Sangband has a stealth skill -- have you used it? Do you like it?
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Old June 14, 2011, 21:16   #10
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My point is that Hobbit Rogues should be able to do that, with a few mediocre stealth items, but a half troll warrior should not, even with the best stealth eq.
Why not? If I'm packing on *that* much additional stealth, then it's likely at the cost of a bunch of other things.

If the problem is really related to dive strategy, then perhaps the better solution is to make stealth more strongly level-dependent. I assume that every class gets a bonus to stealth every level, with probably rogues and rangers getting the best. How about dropping initial stealth ratings, and increasing the per-level improvement in some manner? And perhaps lower the Dex contribution to stealth.
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