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Old November 17, 2016, 17:32   #1
fizzix
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Balance and pacing (long)

I was going to finish my current game first, but I think I've seen enough so far (character is at endgame) that I can make some suggestions to game balance and game pacing that hopefully will improve things.

BACKGROUND

Typically, I break the game up into 4 sections. The first section is the early game where you can pretty much defeat all the monsters the game has to offer, except for some early large groups and early uniques. This lasts until about dlevel 10-15.

The second stage is one where you can still handle most things the game throws at you, except for most uniques, but monsters start appearing that you probably shouldn't deal with, because the xp isn't worth it. This lasts from about 10-15 to 25-30. It's when your character starts gathering the basic necessary gear, escapes, a decent weapon, some armor, healing potions, etc.

The third part (in my mind the most fun) is when the player starts lagging behind the monster development. Now it's not only uniques you can't kill, but a lot of native monsters that are very tough. Historically, this is the region where you are most likely to be instakilled by a high damage breather, like a drolem or a darcolich. This typically lasts from about 30 to n, where n is arbitrary. For the way I would play (without force_descent active) I would pretty much go directly down to 99 from here. With force_descent you can't scum the bottom levels, so this cuts off early (for me it ended at about 60)

The fourth part is when your character starts being able to handle most things in the dungeon again. Stats are near max and you have a good selection of artifact gear. This is the endgame and it usually involves gathering enough gear to go kill Sauron and Morgoth, and covering up any key resistance holes that you are missing.

MID-GAME WOES

With cone shaped breaths, a lot of the danger in the third part has been removed. Monster breath damage from off-screen just isn't a killer anymore. I think this change is for the better, but it needs to be compensated, and I'm going to offer some suggestions. This is the first mid-game woe.

The second is that gear goes from crap to great way too fast. Perhaps this was needed in the past, but again, now with breath damage reduced greatly, stuff like rbase can be pushed later in the dungeon. There's some nice balance things we can start doing with monster elemental attacks and the expected players kit. Gear that is too powerful is the second woe. There are a lot of tweaks I'd like to do here.

The third woe is that too many monsters are exactly the same. The problem is exacerbated in that the most common similar monsters are ones that appear in groups. This is a long standing problem, and I don't have good solutions for this yet.

Let's get to some suggestions.

SUGGESTIONS TO MONSTERS

In the past the most dangerous monsters were big breathers. Since breath damage was based off of HP, this meant a dangerous breather was also a monster that you couldn't kill. I think it's fine to have these monsters around, but it did feel a bit annoying. Specifically it felt like angband was missing a very common and important archetype, the glass cannon. The closest we have to glass cannons are Wights. This is where we can add things in.

My idea here is to include monsters that do a high amount of specific elemental damage (regularly 150-200) with spells. This might require redefining monster spell damage (I'm actually having a lot of trouble finding this info in the code...) Basically I want monsters to show up in the mid 30s that are a serious danger to a player without an elemental resist. Furthermore these monsters would have low hp, 100-200 or so, you'd be able to pick them off fairly easily, but if they get a shot at you, you could die.

The obvious class for these monsters are human casters (pyromancers, cryomancers, hydromancers and electromancers). But maybe there's something cleverer we can do.

The second thing I'd like to do is increase the damage for monster ball spells (and elemental bolt spells). These tend to be wimpy if you have the resist. I want them to be reasonably deadly without a resist. IIRC monster spell strength is based entirely on monster level. We might want to include more flexibility here so we can have earlier monsters that can cast powerful spells. Two options, the first is to include more powerful versions of spells. The second is to specify a caster level for each monster.

SUGGESTIONS TO ITEMS

This is probably the easiest thing to fix. Going through ego_item.txt offers many options for improvements. In the past I remember balancing these with stats, but with the changes to the deadliness of monsters, these can be rebalanced fairly aggressively.

Resist single element armor and shields currently stops at 30. I'd recommend bumping that up to 50.

Resist all, starts at 10, I'd recommend bumping that up to 30. Elvenkind similarly.

Permanence shouldn't be found until 50 at earliest.

headgear of intelligence and wisdom should be found until level 60

headgear of magi, might, lordliness, night and day, shouldn't start until 50.

telepathy shouldn't start until 70

Of seeing shouldn't start until 30

Boots of speed should have a much lower speed rating at low levels. We might need a new custom function rather than the mvalue. At very least they need to be moved deeper, at least to 60. Finding early boots of speed at +5 or higher is too powerful, and too easy to do.

I'd like a more heavier allocation penalty to the strong ego weapons at early levels. Either that or a reduction of the ego creation chance.

Lanterns of True Sight are way too powerful, freeing up important helm and ring slots. They're the only ego lantern creatable after level 30. Simple solution, increase brightness allocation all the way to 100, coupled with a drop in allocation prob for true seeing to 5 (so it's 10 times less likely than brightness).

Ego bows are actually pretty decent with their allocation sorting, as are DSMs

Artifact creation rate should be lowered and the OP early artifacts should be nerfed. This includes most daggers and rapiers, all the thancs should drop back to 1d4, bonuses should be reduced on many of the others as well.

In fact, I'd like to propose a temporary fix to the early game weapon problem. I'd like to introduce hard caps to enchantment possibilities for different weapon types. So daggers would max out at +5,+3 or something. The *thancs were boosted becauase at 1d4 they were worse than most standard branded daggers, but that's because standard branded daggers are too strong. This fix would go until a new and improved combat system comes into play.

There are probably some changes needed to consumables as well. Restore mana potions should probably have their allocation rate dropped for example. But this needs more input.

DUNGEON GENERATION

Finally, there are too many vaults in the late game. These provide so much useful gear for the player in the form of powerful artifacts. We probably should reduce greater vaults to about 2 or 3 total for a 100 level game.

Allocation of monster pits seems off. Troll have an average of 45, surely that should be around 30. Orcs average at 25, seems like it should be around 18. Yeah that means you probably can't handle an early troll or orc pit, but that's fine. Most of the other pit average levels seems like they can drop by about 5 levels or more. I mean, demons are 105, that's just dumb. Demon pits should be a common choice at dlevel 90, they shouldn't be drowned out by the Dragon and Ainu pits.
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Old November 17, 2016, 18:05   #2
Bogatyr
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Playing mostly small hit-die mages, I find that there are *plenty* of insta-kill spell monsters already. Wights as you mention in particular, but any of the cursing monsters can easily one-shot an even late-mid-game mage. Really the only way to reliably survive is to spam detection, and have full monster memory for those monsters and just avoid them. Adding more wouldn't make it better, I think.

For items, my foray back in to to 3.0.x has been a real eye-opener. Good items are few and far between. It seems like *nothing* good ever drops. Ego are way rarer, and even plain enchanted weapons much more stingily dropped. I have a clev 27 mage on dlev approaching 30 and the only artifact found so far is Thingol. He's found one Defender and about 3 other (most useless except a tremendous find of a blessed dagger giving ESP, a game changer) ego weapons all told.
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Old November 17, 2016, 18:17   #3
fizzix
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bogatyr View Post
Playing mostly small hit-die mages, I find that there are *plenty* of insta-kill spell monsters already. Wights as you mention in particular, but any of the cursing monsters can easily one-shot an even late-mid-game mage. Really the only way to reliably survive is to spam detection, and have full monster memory for those monsters and just avoid them. Adding more wouldn't make it better, I think.

For items, my foray back in to to 3.0.x has been a real eye-opener. Good items are few and far between. It seems like *nothing* good ever drops. Ego are way rarer, and even plain enchanted weapons much more stingily dropped. I have a clev 27 mage on dlev approaching 30 and the only artifact found so far is Thingol. He's found one Defender and about 3 other (most useless except a tremendous find of a blessed dagger giving ESP, a game changer) ego weapons all told.
I'm playing a gnome mage... I wasn't really in any danger during the midgame.

Spamming detection should really be a requirement for survival. There's a reason mages get powerful detection early.

3.4 was balanced against 3.0.6, but I think things are out of whack again. Either that or the balance wasn't done well, which could very well be. Either way, we should correct it.
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Old November 17, 2016, 18:45   #4
Will
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Re: monsters I don't mind them too much, the variety is ok even if I agree the selection of casters could improve: summoners (druid, enchantress...) have been added, but no spellcasters. I think here the main issue is that I feel there's a clear difference between the kind of mobs I meet at dlvl 10, 20... until 50 or so, then it seems like a blur until dlvl 80 or so when there are really a lot of tough demons and undeads and wyrms.

Re: items my main impression after 2 recent wins is that ego items that aren't boots of speed or cloaks of aman or of the magi are utterly useless (ok, maybe some gloves too). I remember that in 2.8 finding a holy avenger or a weapon of westernesse was a great find. Nowadays I'll grab any light weapon until I find a decent artifact and from then on ego weapons lag behind significantly (at least for fighter classes, spellcasters who use weapons as a stat stick may feel differently). There are way too many good weapons early on, especially light weapons of extra attacks. The great ego weapons can't compete because their damage is lower, their brands are situational, and their abilities are easy to get elsewhere.

Similarly most ego armors aren't that great. Armors of resistance are a joke since rbase is so easy to get. Same for shields. Basically any ego item that doesn't get a random high resist or ability (or a good set of those like the best amulets) very quickly become useless as well. I simply can't remember using an ego weapon, armor, shield or helm after finding my first artifact for those slots.
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Old November 17, 2016, 18:56   #5
Estie
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Ages ago I made the suggestion to cap damage enchantment of weapons at max base damage, so dagger would be 1d4 + 4 at most, while 2 handed sword 3d6 + 18. Of course the distribution also needs to change, but this was made during an era when every artifact had at least +20 enchantment.

In hindsight, I am not so sure this would be a good idea, as basing everything off weapon damage would make the game onedimensional. Speaking for randarts only, but I think the current values are good. Going much lower would lead to a similar distortion that daggers +20 created - one aspect dominating too much.
As it is, both base damage and enchantment matter and having a low value on either can mean the weapon is junk.

As for early artifacts, I would much rather see them moved downwards or made rarer than nerfed (back) to junk quality. Artifacts should be the top end equipment. In the same sense, I dont like that artifacts have had their pvals reduced (f.e.: Sting). They are too close to the high egos now. Seeing as you are still considering major changes in the light of which the previous small pval changes seem irrelevant, the effect on balance was not nearly satisfactory. However, having egos topping artifacts all the time in the endgame is still in effect.
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Old November 17, 2016, 18:57   #6
fizzix
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will View Post
Similarly most ego armors aren't that great. Armors of resistance are a joke since rbase is so easy to get. Same for shields. Basically any ego item that doesn't get a random high resist or ability (or a good set of those like the best amulets) very quickly become useless as well. I simply can't remember using an ego weapon, armor, shield or helm after finding my first artifact for those slots.
This has been a long standing problem. Artifacts are way too powerful. Truth is you shouldn't really find an artifact for every slot until the very end game.

It's not terribly easy to both allow the occasional early game powerful artifact and reduce the quantity in the late game without some exceptional hacks.
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Old November 17, 2016, 18:57   #7
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One of the first things that the v4 project did was scrap the current set of egos and replace them with a more Diablo-like system where egos had various attributes cobbled onto them that mutated the item in various ways. Pluses were part of this, so e.g. the Sharpness affix would increase +to-dam on an edged weapon. One of the big lessons of this effort is that the greatest ability that early weapon ego items have? Is the pluses on them. A Dagger of Flame (+0, +0) is a lot less good than a Sharp Balanced Dagger (+4, +6).

In current Vanilla, all egos have substantial pluses on them, and most {good} weapons have upwards of +5 on them even when found at dlvl1. There's no particular reason this needs to be the case. We can clamp down on the player's power level simply by redoing the formula that decides how many pluses to put on an item, and remove the additional plus bonus that ego items get. I don't think an enchanted item found at dlvl1 should have more than +2 on it at the most, for example.

I will also agree that ego items are probably too common right now. Decreasing ego frequency will also decrease artifact frequency.
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Old November 17, 2016, 19:06   #8
Will
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estie View Post
However, having egos topping artifacts all the time in the endgame is still in effect.
Not sure what you mean by that. For the last fight (and maybe Sauron too) there are indeed some ego weapons that would be better (because they are more specialized) than artifacts, but that's a rather extreme example. I could give the reverse example with artifacts weapons with fire immunity being much better for Gothmog.

For other slots except the ones I mentioned (BoS and clocks of Aman) I feel artifacts are still much better than ego, even at the very end.
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Old November 17, 2016, 19:21   #9
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We really need a 3.0 "v2" competition. (That is, modified with runes and current squelching. The new ID system is much better, except we'd need to get rid of the really horrible items like =Woe, !Detonations, !Death, because ID-by-use is impossible--or at least ridiculously tedious*--with those present in the game.

* You can ID-by-use !Death and !Detonations by throwing every single unseen potion against a monster the first time you pick one up. =Woe, of course, would be useless: by the time you see the first one, you would already know enough mods to recognize immediately what it is.
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Old November 17, 2016, 20:01   #10
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Not sure what you mean by that. For the last fight (and maybe Sauron too) there are indeed some ego weapons that would be better (because they are more specialized) than artifacts, but that's a rather extreme example. I could give the reverse example with artifacts weapons with fire immunity being much better for Gothmog.

For other slots except the ones I mentioned (BoS and clocks of Aman) I feel artifacts are still much better than ego, even at the very end.
I was mostly thinking of randarts, standarts are built into the niche much more effectively. But it applies there, too.
Look at Sting, for example: it used to be +2 str/dex/con. If you are using it, it competes with egos - a Lochaber axe of Westernesse is not gonna top it, but a MoD +2 attacks is most certainly going to. Somewhere inbetween is the border, and by reducing the Pvals of Sting, you lower that threshold leading to more egos in the lategame setup.

If you are using artifact weapons mostly for the immunity they provide, your kind of proving my point.
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