Arcen Games

Games => Starward Rogue => Topic started by: Misery on October 16, 2015, 04:34:17 AM

Title: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 16, 2015, 04:34:17 AM
Okay, so, I have a couple of questions for those of you that have played this sort of game before, which should help some things in the long run here.

First of all, here's what's currently going on, at least for me:  My role in this whole thing has started, and I've had a chance to try the (very early) current version of the game.  I've seen some things, I've tested some things.  Needless to say, I cant mention what they are, which I must admit is darkly amusing, because I can be a bit of a snot that way, cant I...  But I've gotten an idea as to the very absolute core basics and how they're probably going to work out.  I think it's all very promising, even if there's not much to see at this time as you'd expect.  It's looking good.

But anyway, my role in this is a couple of things:  I'm doing enemy/boss/whatever attack patterns as I did last time, but I'm finding that this time around plenty of it is also coming up with ideas & suggestions for both parts of the game's engine, and also the actual gameplay mechanics and such.  Basically, using stuff like that to help as much as I can, so the devs can get the game as close to their vision of it as possible; and what they've envisioned for it is pretty darned great, I think.  I think many of you guys are really going to like this when it's done.  Arcen's games are typically pretty high quality... and I cant see this one being an exception to that rule at all.

However, I have a tendancy to use my own bias that I've gained from the sorts of games I play, a bit too much when coming up with stuff like this.  For TLF, this fact was just fine:  The Obscura were my main job, and they were meant to be overwhelming, intimidating monsters that COULD be fought, but SHOULD be avoided.  This fit my typical style of design very well.  But this time, that's not what I'm after here.  I dont want things I come up with to be super frustrating or just downright annoying.  We've all seen that sort of boss in games like this... the ones that dont really add fun or true difficulty to the game, but are JUST annoying, and really nothing more.  I'm doing my absolute best to avoid this sort of thing, but it's not always so easy, particularly when the game is still meant to definitely be pretty tough.  And while I know a good bit about game design in general and particularly about the genres that are a part of this game, I very definitely dont have even remotely near the experience and overall ability that the devs do.  So sometimes, some outside influence can really help.

And that's pretty much what I'm after here.  Some thoughts, ideas, and opinions from you guys on games that are of a similar style to what this is.  These things can help my overall thought processes in doing all of this, allowing me to more easily keep away from that tendancy to go overboard.  Seriously, it'd help a ton, it really would. 

So firstly, I'm wondering, for those of you that have at all played games that are in any way similar to this one, is which ones are your favorirtes, and which ones do you just not like at all?

Examples of the sorts of games I mean are Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, Our Darker Purpose, Cryptark, Vagante, Spelunky, and even Arcen's own Valley Without Wind games (both of them).  Anything at all like that.  Even if it's something really obscure.   And yes, I know full well that something like Spelunky isnt even remotely close to being like this game in terms of gameplay, BUT it does use a few concepts that actually do fit what I'm doing, even if the reasons dont appear to make sense when you look at them.

So, for favorites, or ones that you just hate.... what is it about them that puts them into those positions for you?  What element stands out the most?  What do you think about the style of design for the enemies/monsters/whatever in the game, and their behaviors and the threats they represent?  What do you think about the overall pacing of the game, in terms of moment-to-moment stuff like combat?  How about the player's movement and overall "feel" of the controls and such?  If you find they have high replay value, what is it that keeps you coming back to them?

Again, those may not all seem like they make sense in relation to the specific things I'm doing, but I promise, that info is useful to me.  I'm trying to be as helpful in all of this as I can, and any additional info I might learn about stuff like this can really help.... even if it's only a small bit of info, every bit counts for something, and is very much appreciated. 

And who knows, the devs might get some ideas out of any answers you guys have as well.  Though they're already going off of tons of their own excellent ideas already. 
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: x4000 on October 16, 2015, 09:43:54 AM
For me, one that I've been having a ton of trouble with lately is Our Darker Purpose.  It's something that feels like it should be really fun, but:

1. There's a whole lot of text I have no interest in reading, mixed with stuff that I do like to read.  (This is a minor point, not sure why I put it first).

2. The movement and shooting feel painfully slow.  On my 360 controller I'm literally hurting my hands a bit because I'm pushing so hard trying to get that little girl to just move a teeny bit faster.  This is my biggest issue.

3. The enemy design is clever and I really like a lot of it, but on the other hand a lot of stuff just runs after you or shoots at you straight from where it is, early in the game at least.  The problem with things that chase me is that they often move very close to my speed or faster, so I have to do that roll move a ton in order to get away from them.  My feelings on the roll move are really mixed.  On the one hand it's great because it allows for some cool tactics.  On the other hand, it's frustrating because I have to use it so much, and I lose control when using it.  Plus it contributes greatly to the cramping up of my hand since I'm now having to constantly use both sticks (or the stick/d-pad and the four face buttons) plus the right shoulder button.

4. In general every time I start a run I feel like there's not enough variety, to be honest.  A lot of the bosses are also very clever, but wind up dragging on about 30% too long, I feel like.  I'd rather that they do more damage to me but have a shorter fight so that it doesn't hit a point where I'm only taking damage due to my own impatience.

5. The emphasis on putting me in really cramped spaces, particularly those with spikes that are teeny and scattered around, bothers me somewhat.  I mean to some extent it's okay, and if it were bullet patterns I'm dodging then that's fun for me.  But when I'm trying to dodge boring bullet patterns repeatedly in a room that is static but littered with gotchas, there again I can feel like "I completely understand how to solve this puzzle, but it's just going to take me another 3 minutes to do it if I don't rush and possibly take damage or die because I don't feel like taking three minutes."


That said it is a great game for sure, and I don't want to come off as just bashing it.  It's extremely clever in a whole lot of ways.  The atmosphere is superb, etc.  It's worth you playing for sure, and this is NOT a review of the game!  But in terms of talking about particularly things that bother me with similar games (mechanics-wise) and thus that inform my own decision making on how to handle mechanics in my own projects, this is a big part of that.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: ElOhTeeBee on October 16, 2015, 10:02:24 AM
At the current time, the only potentially-helpful input I have is that I really hated the dudes in Binding of Isaac that 1) only took damage when shot from behind and 2) usually tried to walk towards the player. They aren't nearly as much of a problem in what little I've played of Rebirth.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: x4000 on October 16, 2015, 10:21:06 AM
At the current time, the only potentially-helpful input I have is that I really hated the dudes in Binding of Isaac that 1) only took damage when shot from behind and 2) usually tried to walk towards the player. They aren't nearly as much of a problem in what little I've played of Rebirth.

Those guys are basically Darknuts from Zelda.  My experience in Rebirth is that they just walk around at random mostly.  But yeah, that sort of thing bothers me too.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 16, 2015, 10:37:40 AM
For me, one that I've been having a ton of trouble with lately is Our Darker Purpose.  It's something that feels like it should be really fun, but:

1. There's a whole lot of text I have no interest in reading, mixed with stuff that I do like to read.  (This is a minor point, not sure why I put it first).

2. The movement and shooting feel painfully slow.  On my 360 controller I'm literally hurting my hands a bit because I'm pushing so hard trying to get that little girl to just move a teeny bit faster.  This is my biggest issue.

3. The enemy design is clever and I really like a lot of it, but on the other hand a lot of stuff just runs after you or shoots at you straight from where it is, early in the game at least.  The problem with things that chase me is that they often move very close to my speed or faster, so I have to do that roll move a ton in order to get away from them.  My feelings on the roll move are really mixed.  On the one hand it's great because it allows for some cool tactics.  On the other hand, it's frustrating because I have to use it so much, and I lose control when using it.  Plus it contributes greatly to the cramping up of my hand since I'm now having to constantly use both sticks (or the stick/d-pad and the four face buttons) plus the right shoulder button.

4. In general every time I start a run I feel like there's not enough variety, to be honest.  A lot of the bosses are also very clever, but wind up dragging on about 30% too long, I feel like.  I'd rather that they do more damage to me but have a shorter fight so that it doesn't hit a point where I'm only taking damage due to my own impatience.

5. The emphasis on putting me in really cramped spaces, particularly those with spikes that are teeny and scattered around, bothers me somewhat.  I mean to some extent it's okay, and if it were bullet patterns I'm dodging then that's fun for me.  But when I'm trying to dodge boring bullet patterns repeatedly in a room that is static but littered with gotchas, there again I can feel like "I completely understand how to solve this puzzle, but it's just going to take me another 3 minutes to do it if I don't rush and possibly take damage or die because I don't feel like taking three minutes."


That said it is a great game for sure, and I don't want to come off as just bashing it.  It's extremely clever in a whole lot of ways.  The atmosphere is superb, etc.  It's worth you playing for sure, and this is NOT a review of the game!  But in terms of talking about particularly things that bother me with similar games (mechanics-wise) and thus that inform my own decision making on how to handle mechanics in my own projects, this is a big part of that.

Ah, your thoughts rather echo mine on this one.  So that's interesting. 

I'm thinking that something important with this new game might really be to make sure that enemies/bosses dont have too much health, then, as I get the impression this really affects the fun level of pretty much anyone playing these.  ODP does that, definitely, but even Isaac does it as well, sometimes to a deeply stupid degree.  I mean, really, a Champion-version of freaking Gurdy (not Gurdy Jr) when you're having a really low damage run is just UUUUUGH SO BORING.  It takes 10 thousand years and you have to stop shooting at him every 10 seconds to shoot at the irritating THINGS he summons, since he doesnt do ANYTHING ELSE in that champion form.  And he's at his easiest in that form too!  It's so dull!

I actually hadnt really thought of this at all in relation to this new game until you'd mentioned this, despite the fact that this very thing drives me completely up the wall in any game it appears in.  DEFINITELY something to keep in mind, I think.  I seem to remember that I might have actually gone really overboard with hull/shield values on the Obscura and stuff as well, come to think of it, for TLF.  Which probably made those not as good. And annoying.

I do agree on the chasing bit too; that one I HAD thought of.  Mostly because of Isaac:  An attack you literally CANT dodge simply because your speed isnt high enough (Mullibooms, for example, those damn exploding jerks in the Basement) is to me a badly designed thing.  I've seen a bunch of other games of this type do that too, and it sucks just as bad in those, but that's the most well-known one. 

I'm curious, do you have any similar thoughts on Isaac or Rogue Legacy?  Those two specifically just because they're the ones I'm most familiar with, for the most part.

At the current time, the only potentially-helpful input I have is that I really hated the dudes in Binding of Isaac that 1) only took damage when shot from behind and 2) usually tried to walk towards the player. They aren't nearly as much of a problem in what little I've played of Rebirth.

I'll agree: Those are tedious as hell.  They make you really, really happy to get piercing shots.  Or Brimstone:  It's like going through Castlevania and getting to run over Stupid Flying Medusa Heads with a giant lawnmower.... very satisfying.

The bad news:  They're just as bad in Rebirth.  Along with a new and even more freakishly irritating variation.  Play Rebirth enough, and you'll really get even more tired of these guys.  They seem to start appearing more frequently as the game's difficulty starts "unlocking".  The "fun" part is when they start appearing in rooms with the indestructible bouncing skulls.  Even MORE ways for you to NOT be able to hit them!  Joy!

I cant imagine there being anything like that in this game.  I just cant see them fitting at all.  Well, at least not based on what I've seen of it anyway.

At the current time, the only potentially-helpful input I have is that I really hated the dudes in Binding of Isaac that 1) only took damage when shot from behind and 2) usually tried to walk towards the player. They aren't nearly as much of a problem in what little I've played of Rebirth.

Those guys are basically Darknuts from Zelda.  My experience in Rebirth is that they just walk around at random mostly.  But yeah, that sort of thing bothers me too.

Unlike the Darknuts they only walk around at random until you get in line with them: They'll then charge forward slightly faster in that direction and not turn until they hit a wall.  So if they're being annoying that's the time to hit them.  It's very much not a fun mechanic at all.  But alot of games keep doing it.  I wish they wouldnt.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: crazyroosterman on October 16, 2015, 11:14:07 AM
I don't really have anything to add here that hasn't already been said from asides from(and I seriously doubt this would happen any way) I really hope that the weapons you use don't have percentage chances of missing I find that utterly infuriating for no dam good reason and is part of the reason I was never able to get into ftl.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 16, 2015, 12:02:43 PM
I don't really have anything to add here that hasn't already been said from asides from(and I seriously doubt this would happen any way) I really hope that the weapons you use don't have percentage chances of missing I find that utterly infuriating for no dam good reason and is part of the reason I was never able to get into ftl.

I'm pretty darn sure that's not going to happen, indeed.

I will agree though, that just bugs me sometimes.  Though, FTL was a game that had alot of "RPG" mechanics to it... you couldnt take your ship and like, actually MOVE it and dodge stuff and neither could the enemy, so it's all calculations and RNG.... so at least it made sense.  But it was indeed kinda annoying.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: crazyroosterman on October 16, 2015, 12:18:38 PM
I don't really have anything to add here that hasn't already been said from asides from(and I seriously doubt this would happen any way) I really hope that the weapons you use don't have percentage chances of missing I find that utterly infuriating for no dam good reason and is part of the reason I was never able to get into ftl.

I'm pretty darn sure that's not going to happen, indeed.

I will agree though, that just bugs me sometimes.  Though, FTL was a game that had alot of "RPG" mechanics to it... you couldnt take your ship and like, actually MOVE it and dodge stuff and neither could the enemy, so it's all calculations and RNG.... so at least it made sense.  But it was indeed kinda annoying.
yea it made séance and I'm not saying it even a bad thing I just find it really irritating I wouldn't even care if it was an option you could put turn on or off really.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Cinth on October 16, 2015, 02:17:09 PM
I'd say do what feels good to you and make it the hardest difficulty (lol).  Then take that and nerf the crap out of it for me ;)

Examples of the sorts of games I mean are Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, Our Darker Purpose, Cryptark, Vagante, Spelunky, and even Arcen's own Valley Without Wind games (both of them).  Anything at all like that.  Even if it's something really obscure.

Out of all of these, I know of only AVVW 1/2.  I had to google up some videos.  Why do all of these look like almost every late 80s - mid 90s console game ever made?  I'm not speaking to the graphics either, just gameplay.   I think I saw LoZ, StarTropics, Defender 2, and every adventure game I've played (way to many to remember).

My question is what makes these rouges?  I don't get the genre label at all. 

Sorry for being that off topic.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Captain Jack on October 16, 2015, 02:46:18 PM
Procedural generation, permadeath, and a certain lack of persistence between runs.

The games look as they do because of the tools and manpower the developers have available to them. It takes a lot more work to make something look good with a 3D or semi-realistic style than 2D sprites. That isn't likely to change for a long time.

As for gameplay, there's a certain purity to SNES era mechanics. Besides, there are only so many ways you can throw items, shoot a bullet or jump. Developers from the 90s hit on most of the good ones.  :D
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Cinth on October 16, 2015, 03:00:57 PM
I'm not referring to graphics quality, just the gameplay.  These look (as in seem similar in play) to the NES games I listed.  If I sat down and thought hard enough, I could probably pull some Atari analogs and add to that list (and a couple old arcades)
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Rythe on October 16, 2015, 03:29:02 PM
I actually couldn't get into Binding of Isaac. I lost the thread of why I was playing it after a few hours. If I remember right, I was turned off by a system that was high on repetition and luck of the weapon draw, and there wasn't a point beyond that. I remember the turn-based variants (ToME, Dungeons of Dredmore, Bionic Dues) more fondly and played them a bit longer because they had more variety. Bionic Dues in particular for the game systems. ToME because I still haven't seen its entire story arc yet, even if it's a rather bland thing moment by moment.

But for a rogue-like, twin-stick shooter akin to what you're working on, I'd have to go with Ultratron as the thing I'd actually play again. Now let me go play it again so I could tell you why. :p
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Captain Jack on October 16, 2015, 03:55:23 PM
I'm not referring to graphics quality, just the gameplay.  These look (as in seem similar in play) to the NES games I listed.  If I sat down and thought hard enough, I could probably pull some Atari analogs and add to that list (and a couple old arcades)
I thought I'd answered this as well? They play similarly because they're built on the same gameplay principles as those NES games. It's intentional, they want to put their own spin on the genre rather than come up with their own entirely.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Rythe on October 16, 2015, 04:43:27 PM
So Ultratron because it's twin-stick candy. You get to pick your upgrades between levels, and otherwise frenetic fun.  I think the crux is it provides more variety and flavor in quicker, shorter doses than most. Downside is I get the feeling that part of the difficulty of the game is trying to see what is actually going on half the time. Visual clarity wasn't particularly a thing for this game.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: madcow on October 16, 2015, 04:55:37 PM
I'll go into somewhat about the games you listed and which I liked/didn't like.

Of the ones you listed, I really love Binding of Isaac and Spelunky.

Some of the keys that I like in Spelunky were:
1. Item management in that game is fun.
2.  Enemies tended to have very predictable and honestly easy enough to dodge patterns - the difficulty comes in from combinations and careless or greed on your part.
3. The runs tended to be fairly quick.
4.  Decent variety of special items. And there was the occasion rare room with strange spawns/conditions in it that really varied things up.
5. It had really fun. Intense bursts but then you could go at your own slower pace until the next especially difficult obstacle.

Binding of Isaac I really enjoyed because of a combination of the deep and interesting item combinations, the item/health/risk/reward management that could be offered (do I fight the boss or keep search. So I make a devil deal, etc). And the fact that most of the enemy patterns are easy enough to recognize while still being varied.

I really liked Valley 2, and I think the class system and upgrade customization was a large part of it. I also really liked that a game pad could be used and that some of the attacks were built around the contra style of control (that was my biggest dislike in valley 1. Mouse + keyboard felt like the only way to play). Whereas valley 2 really felt made for it and the classes had a very nice variety that complimented it with different play/control styles

I haven't played our darker purpose or many of the other games on your list. I have played rogue legacy and after the initial excitement of the game faded. I honestly didn't find it enjoyable. The grinding for gold was awful (if you didn't have enough gold to upgrade something it felt like a waste of a run). The RNG of stats, especially considering how bad the bad effects could be was not fun after the first few times you saw it. Your basic attack never changed, so the play style never really felt varied. And something about the feel of combat just never clicked for me.

One game I'll mention as one I love, but probably outside the scope is Nation Red. It's not a rogue like or anything just a regular twin stick shooter. What it does very well is that it has 1.  A cool upgrade system with lots of interesting perks that you can pick between semi-randomly (when you level you get a list of 7 or so and can pick one of them) 2. it has lots of interesting weapons to pick between - offering varied play styles 3. It has tons of temporary power ups which can be really fun. It's even possible to spend your level upgrades to make these temp power ups better. It's incredibly satisfying and fun to get that temp power up right when you need it, however most games seem to lack them these days.

Anyways. I hope some of this has helped! Written on my phone so sorry if it wasn't the best organized or full of typos.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Castruccio on October 17, 2015, 10:51:15 AM
I know you've played Nuclear Throne Misery, but Chris should maybe take a look at it if he hasn't.  I don't think it was mentioned in your OP.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 17, 2015, 11:10:12 AM
I know you've played Nuclear Throne Misery, but Chris should maybe take a look at it if he hasn't.  I don't think it was mentioned in your OP.

I agree with that one, sort of.

It's a pretty good buy, but has issues.  Kinda big issues.  Still good, but...

Not to mention that as I experiment with Starward Rogue's current version, I'm thinking there's a decent number of concepts that (in some screwball way) can be helpful if understood, that are used by Nuclear Throne.

Despite that Nuclear Throne is really the "mindless" type, all about JUST dodging and shooting, and of course Arcen's games are never even close to that simple.  But there's still some helpful info to be gleaned out of that.

....also it's hilarious fun.  Well, sort of.

As an example, there's the third boss, you see.  He's a walking (flying, screaming) balance and design disaster.  If you want an example of how NOT to design a boss, that guy is the example.  He's also basically a complaint generator.  There have been so very many topics, posts, and rants (only some of which are from me...) about this guy and how much of a mess he is.  Vlambeer has refused to change him, and he's SUCH a mess that some players left entirely.   He's THAT bad.  Even I have barely touched the game since the change that ruined him (which was also a change that was utterly unnecessary).  I went back to just playing Isaac instead at that point.

And it's not a matter of him being hard.  Not at all.  He can be the easiest boss in the game, dying *instantly* depending on what you're holding.  And that's not like, a hard technique to do, it's just dependant on what you have.  No, the problem is... absolutely everything else.  It's just.... so ridiculously tedious.... IF the RNG doesnt kill you.  He's the only thing in the game that can cause your death via pure RNG (well, other than a bad Palace spawn involving Dog Guardians).  Yet despite this (and also like the Palace spawns) he just doesnt get fixed. 

Which is part of the problem to me and part of why my interest is so low.... For all of Vlambeer's skill, they outright IGNORE certain loooooooooong-running issues.  I mean, Palace spawns have been broken for HOW long now?   A freaking year?  But it's been utterly ignored that entire time, no matter how many people bring it up.  And since "pure RNG" deaths are basically the biggest sin in this genre, that's.... really bad.  Like, if you spawn in the palace, in a corner, with three Dogs RIGHT NEXT TO YOU and some other things beyond them?  It doesnt matter what you have, mostly.  You are dead.  It's over.  You cant drill through them with ANYTHING.  They just have WAY too much health, are too big, and one quick leap from them (which wont miss) will end you... and those exploding things are probably firing at you the whole time.   You can escape IF you have the Hammerhead mutation.  It's literally the only way out.

THOSE sorts of issues are something I really want to see this game avoid as much as possible.  For the most part, Arcen's games do avoid this, but still, it can be difficult to completely manage.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Pumpkin on October 17, 2015, 02:00:33 PM
You're already testing the game AND you're involved in the development? Ok, I'm officially jealous.
Hem, I mean, cool. Thanks for sharing this.

I'm afraid I won't be very useful here because the action part of this kind of game isn't what I prefer. However, I can share my thoughts on the rest of the gameplay.

1) Choice.
I love Isaac, but I hate it at the same time. I love it because it's a great game and stuff. But I have it because there is so few choice in it. IMO, The D6 (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/The_D6) and There's Options (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/There's_Options) must be part of the core of the gameplay for it to be a truly good game.

2) Progression
I hated Rogue Legacy (mostly because I hoped it to be "the legacy of Rogue", but it was "a legacy that is a rogue one", but this has nothing to do with the game itself, just my personal disappointment). First there is too many grinding for me. I don't mind if there is some persistence between runs, but... ugh. Not that much, please. And the second problem, which is tied to this first: there is no in-run progression. Each run feels so bland... I feel a roguelike/PDL (http://www.proceduraldeathlabyrinth.com/) must do things the other way around: each start is fresh (It's ok if there is a meta-goal and content-unlocking) and each death is bad (well, maybe !!fun!!, but bad).

Which leads me to my last point:
3) Death & Tension
I discovered Teleglitch recently. I was blissful to play a game that call itself roguelike and make me hold my breath each time I open a door. The acoustic ambiance is awesome (no music, only steps, machines' noises, monsters growling and weapon sound) and ammo are scarce. Something I only feel in old ASCII roguelikes (Nethack, Crawl). Dying in Isaac is sometimes plain bad luck, and a full run is rather short; I rarely truly care for my character. Dying in Rogue Legacy is just a joke: you "earn money" by dying. Well, not actually. I'll be bashed that. ^^ I mean, there is really nothing bad about dying in Rogue Legacy, because all your progression is outside of the run. At least, with Isaac, you always have a fresh start (minus the massive unlocking system... but it's okay, it's mainly diversity unlock). That what I love Isaac, despite it's "choice problem". But there is no redeem chance for Rogue Legacy. >D

Sorry again for not talking about the action part.
I trust you for that.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Draco18s on October 17, 2015, 04:51:53 PM
I'll drop a mention for Sublevel Zero in here, as I watched TotalBiscuit's WTF on it last night and I feel that it's got some similar aspects along with some frank criticisms about how Sublevel Zero approached things.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: crazyroosterman on October 17, 2015, 05:44:22 PM
i'm looking forward to testing this not necessarily because i'm into the genre(only roguelike/lite game i think I've played is ftl and MAYBE invisible ink although i'm saying that one because i heard some call it a roguelike like game i'm probably talking out my ass there though i wanted to like ftl but i could never really get into it) but just because i enjoy testing.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 18, 2015, 01:13:19 AM
You're already testing the game AND you're involved in the development? Ok, I'm officially jealous.
Hem, I mean, cool. Thanks for sharing this.

I'm afraid I won't be very useful here because the action part of this kind of game isn't what I prefer. However, I can share my thoughts on the rest of the gameplay.

1) Choice.
I love Isaac, but I hate it at the same time. I love it because it's a great game and stuff. But I have it because there is so few choice in it. IMO, The D6 (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/The_D6) and There's Options (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/There's_Options) must be part of the core of the gameplay for it to be a truly good game.

2) Progression
I hated Rogue Legacy (mostly because I hoped it to be "the legacy of Rogue", but it was "a legacy that is a rogue one", but this has nothing to do with the game itself, just my personal disappointment). First there is too many grinding for me. I don't mind if there is some persistence between runs, but... ugh. Not that much, please. And the second problem, which is tied to this first: there is no in-run progression. Each run feels so bland... I feel a roguelike/PDL (http://www.proceduraldeathlabyrinth.com/) must do things the other way around: each start is fresh (It's ok if there is a meta-goal and content-unlocking) and each death is bad (well, maybe !!fun!!, but bad).

Which leads me to my last point:
3) Death & Tension
I discovered Teleglitch recently. I was blissful to play a game that call itself roguelike and make me hold my breath each time I open a door. The acoustic ambiance is awesome (no music, only steps, machines' noises, monsters growling and weapon sound) and ammo are scarce. Something I only feel in old ASCII roguelikes (Nethack, Crawl). Dying in Isaac is sometimes plain bad luck, and a full run is rather short; I rarely truly care for my character. Dying in Rogue Legacy is just a joke: you "earn money" by dying. Well, not actually. I'll be bashed that. ^^ I mean, there is really nothing bad about dying in Rogue Legacy, because all your progression is outside of the run. At least, with Isaac, you always have a fresh start (minus the massive unlocking system... but it's okay, it's mainly diversity unlock). That what I love Isaac, despite it's "choice problem". But there is no redeem chance for Rogue Legacy. >D

Sorry again for not talking about the action part.
I trust you for that.

Hah, dont be too jealous... something like this always comes with downsides.  For my part, that means BUGS.  Particularly my own.  I dont deal with them well, not at all, so like with TLF's expansion, I'm going to have LOTS of moments of great frustration that I really just dont get with normal testing.  And I dont exactly have a particularly big role here, yet will still get that.  Though yeah, it's still pretty nice to be involved with this, particularly as it's THE game from them I've been most excited about since Bionic Dues.  I've very high hopes for this one, very high indeed.

But anyway....

You bring up a few very good points that do relate to all of this, so I'll touch upon them a bit:


1.  Isaac's "choice".  Now, this is an interesting thing about the game, and I think it really needs to be considered with THIS game. See, the thing about Isaac is that it actually DOES have alot of choice.  As I'd rambled about in that thread about the game in off-topic recently, a HUGE part of the game is making choices, and then dealing with the results of the choices you made.  The game does not and cannot create genuinely unwinnable situations where the RNG alone can kill you.  What it does is give you alot of decisions to make, which will then make you stronger, or weaker, depending on what you do.  Hell, half of my playstyle is based entirely around this concept.  And looking at some of the "pros" with that game, well.... you cant get a winstreak of 125+ if the game has too much RNG in it.  You just cant.

The problem though?  The game does NOT make this very obvious.  Particularly to new players, it seems extremely random, and it seems that you have little control over anything at all.  It can be hard to spot the choices that are available to you and the things that you can do, because of the way the game works.  And that is kinda a problem for this sort of game.  Plenty of roguelikes have this issue, actually.  To some degree, it depends on the player though... hell, I've heard this very thing about Bionic Dues, that it's "totally RNG, strategy doesnt matter!" and I know full well that THAT sure as heck isnt true.  But it can be hard to really show that in a game like this, and Isaac has that problem pretty bad.   This game, I think, needs to work to avoid that.  Fortunately, Arcen has been VERY good at avoiding this one.  You cant really avoid it COMPLETELY, but if you constantly give the player as much info about things as possible... you dramatically reduce the chances of this happening.  Isaac.... does not do this.  At all.  It seems to thrive on NOT telling you stuff.  And that's a definite problem.  And a very good point to consider.


2. Rogue Legacy.  Yeah, I agree completely.  I like it decently enough... but it'd be soooooooooooo much better without the grind.  And I'm indeed not too fond of persistence between runs in most cases.  I want each run to feel like a new experience, a new challenge from the ground up.  But in that, my character keeps getting stronger, and eventually, the old areas pose no threat anymore, unless I start a new game totally from scratch.  I dont like that bit at all.  It's kinda subjective though... some players really like that sort of thing and will complain if it isnt there.


3.  Yeah, I agree with this too.  Anything the game can do to get the player invested in their character as they are in that run is a very good thing indeed.  From what I know of THIS game, I think it has the potential to pull that off.  In RL, it really did feel like I was just losing another Stormtrooper or Goomba or something, another faceless jerk, every time I died.    It just didn't matter much.  As opposed to something like BD: that game doesnt have true permadeath normally, this is true.  But still.... in a mission, I really, REALLY dont want to lose my Science Exo, for instance.  If I do, it hurts.  IT HURTS.  It's a "GODDAMN IT WHY DID I LET THAT HAPPEN, ARGH" sort of moment, since the game has gotten me to actually CARE (as opposed to a death in RL, where it's like "well, that was annoying, but oh well").  And same with the other Exos since they all have an important role to perform.  I know I'll get them back in the next mission, but for THAT mission... that "run"... they're gone, and I have to pay the price for it.  It works out very well.


I'll drop a mention for Sublevel Zero in here, as I watched TotalBiscuit's WTF on it last night and I feel that it's got some similar aspects along with some frank criticisms about how Sublevel Zero approached things.

I did buy this recently, actually.  So far, pretty nice, but it has it's problems.  For me, namely the "loot is kinda uninteresting" problem.  I mean, really... I'm not going to be very interested if this new gun has a whole 2 points of damage more than the OLD gun.  It's like, what's the point?  Why should I care?

I'll have a look at TB's video of it though and see what he thinks, I havent watched that yet.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 18, 2015, 02:13:16 AM
This has quickly become my favorite genre. Here's what I think are the main ingredients for an action rogue-lite:

1. Challenge: Since these games are almost entirely mechanics based (since narrative doesn't build up procedurally very well), they must challenge you heavily. It's best if the challenge starts right away. For example, the very first minute of Spelunky can easily kill you. This genre demands skill from the player, much like the old games from the 80s and 90s, except that I can never play those games for long because they're too repetitive. This is where variety comes in.

A game that did this badly is Legend of Dungeon. The first couple of levels were filled with creatures that could only hurt you slightly (you have 100 hit points). It takes getting to the 4th or 5th level to get the point, that you have very little healing ability, and that any damage you took in the early floors (and any consumables you used up) is now a mistake you can't undo. But those first few floors are such a bore.

Another way of messing this up is with the metagame. Rogue Legacy starts out great, but you quickly realize that the grind can make the castle far too easy. The same applies in my opinion to the Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. I much preferred the original, where you barely got to beat mom, and then discovered there was a whole game behind that. In Rebirth, passing level 3 or so pretty much makes you unbeatable, since so many incredibly powerful abitlities were added to this version of the game.

You really want to keep the challenge going, and increase it as the player gets new tools to play with.

2. Variety: This is the other major leg of this genre. I really feel it's like playing Contra or TMNT or Mario, except without the boredom of those games from repeating everything. Rather than training your memory, you're learning skills and making quick decisions, reacting to situations as you go. The best levels of variety are such that you really form unique narratives once in a while, when the randomness meets in unique ways.

Spelunky was able to build quite a bit of variety out of its level design and item spread. The linear path, however, means that it really is quite lacking as far as variety is concerned. Isaac, however, while suffering from repetitive rooms, uses your unique combination of upgrades to create unique situations. Rogue Legacy failed here again -- the enemy designs are very repetitive, and most character traits ended up being too similar or too silly to care about. Nuclear throne also suffers here, even though arguably its map generation is more 'random'.

The interesting thing about procedural generation is how it interacts with the human mind. If you add lots of landmarks and details to your rooms/generation units, you'll have people remembering the patterns better and getting bored by repetitiveness. If you make the units too bland (as in just 'space' -- see Drox Operative), there won't be any differentiation. The key is to make the units of procedural generation interesting enough to feel different, but also bland enough to not remember every distinct combination. Both Spelunky and Isaac win out here IMO.

3. Feel: Since these games take the rogue-like genre but apply it to a classic game formula, they need to execute that formula well. The graphics can be simple, but the feel of moving, the reaction time, the animation -- all should feel good, which is to say, they should be comparable to the best examples of the sub-genre. Our Darker Purpose appears to really miss on this count, and the same applies to a Wizard's Lizard. Isaac, Spelunky, Nuclear Throne, and Necrodancer, however, all get the feel really right. Controls don't feel floaty, the interface is fairly clear, and bad guys die with a satisfying crunch. There's a lot of subtlety with this stuff - a lot of tweaking frames and input latencies to get them just right. This is one of the things I feel both Valleys didn't get right (though they're obviously in a different genre).

(Interestingly, for a strategic rogue-lite like FTL, I would replace this point with 'satisfying model'. Does the game model the experience it tries to convey well? Is the model complex and interesting enough to require skill? In FTL's case, I would say the answer is yes.)

4. Significant but limited loss: the whole rogue-lite formula takes you back to the days of games that weren't afraid to make you lose. Unlike the trend on the PC in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s, saving isn't there, which means you experience actual tension. Given the fact that every experience is unique, you also learn to appreciate death, as having at least taught you something, if not given you some reward in the metagame. However, balancing the amount of loss the player should experience is tough. Without any loss, the player loses involvement. This is probably Rogue Legacy's biggest issue. The whole game boils down to getting gold, and the run itself has no significance without gold. In Spelunky, you lose everything - it's one of the purest representations of the genre in that sense. But the run is fairly short, so your less is limited in terms of time invested. FTL, though I would place it under 'strategic rogue-lites', tends to have overly long runs, making the loss perhaps too great.

5. Consistency - This is something that not every member of this genre has, but I've found it to be a big plus. Inconsistency happens when a rule of the game is not followed under certain circumstances, either because the designers didn't think to program it in, or they felt allowing it was not good design. In general, because they are random and lack fleshed out narratives, rogue-lites benefit from rules that interact with each other in open ways. In Seplunky, anything can trigger an arrow trap, throwing an enemy on spikes will kill it, and dead shopkeepers will yield a shotgun because they have one. There are consistent rules, and they're almost always followed.

Platformers tend to have more consistency because the rule of gravity is already one rule that must act on all entities. Top-down games don't have to have as much consistency, but it's a really nice touch when they do. Nuclear Throne allows enemies to blow up cars, just as you can, and almost any explosion acts both on you and on enemies. This makes the game much more interesting, as good player skill (and luck) can combine rules in interesting, if unexpected ways. Isaac is perhaps the king of this aspect of design, as the game contains hundreds of upgrades, each of which has its own interaction rules.

6. Discovery: Rogue-lites tend to share little information with the player to begin with. The expectation is that as the player grows in skill, so too will he learn the intricacies of the game. A tutorial may show the basics, but that is generally only the beginning. In Isaac, items are mysterious and must be figured out by the player over time. In Nuclear Throne, a lot of hidden unlocks exist, and can only be discovered by the player. In Risk of Rain, both items and general player strategy is left a mystery. In Spelunky, the main game path is really the inferior path, and the proper path involves a secret (there's a problem with relying so much on secrets that are eventually spoiled and known to everyone, but that's a different issue).

This lends an air of mystery to the game. It expands it from being a game with many permutations to being an infinite game in the player's mind -- one of never-ending possibilities. Many players will spoil themselves with looking stuff up in a wiki, but the real experience perhaps is stumbling in the dark, being guided only by the occasional 'ah-ha' moment.

Note that some games, like Necrodancer, use such unusual mechanics, that they can't afford to leave things as mysteries, since the player is already adjusting to a completely different way of playing a game.

7. Narrative Coherence: This may seem irrelevant to rogue-lites, where the narrative is usually very basic, but in fact, this is a very big deal. Breaking the 4th wall is a very bad idea in rogue-lites, as it is in most games. Information should be provided without alerting the player to the fact that a game designer exists and is running the show. Spelunky's tutorial, for example, is provided by a fellow survivor of the cave. The bestiary, which provides small tidbits of info about enemies and locations, is in the form of a journal. Even the concept of procedural generation and the cave itself is given a magical explanation. The same is true for Rogue Legacy, where the castle magically re-designs itself after every run, and one can even re-use particular layouts using the in-game architect character.

In all of the top examples of the genre, careful attention has been paid to craft the experience in such a way that tutorials belong in the narrative (in Isaac, a basic tutorial is scrawled on the first floor of the dungeon), player notifications from outside the game are minimal, and no message breaks the 4th wall.

More importantly, though, levels are logically consistent, as are the creatures within them. Spelunky presents 4 versions of what you might expect a magical cavern to contain, each in its own level. While the aliens really stretch the narrative, the rest of the critters all fit the location and setting. You don't suddenly fight a clown or a dog in the first cave world. Nuclear Throne taps into our notions of what a wasteland would look like, with appropriate mutated monsters. Rogue Legacy contains the kinds of ghostly apparitions you'd expect in a haunted castle, and Isaac, after an odd intro mixing themes of horror, childhood, and Christianity, presents us with grotesque enemies fitting all of those themes.

The aliens in Spelunky present a good example of the problem one has when straying from this rule. Why are the aliens there? What do they have to do with the rest of the cave world and its Mayan/Egyptian mythology? Suddenly we need a narrative to explain things, because we can't just tap in to pre-existing assumptions about narratives that we know. Every time we introduce something that counters the player's expectations, we get another narrative problem. We need to explain to the player why this thing is there, but most players don't even pay attention to the narrative -- they'll just be taken out of the game's world. This is one of the big things I felt Valley 2, and to a lesser extent Valley 1 did wrong (aside from weak mechanic 'feel'). The collections of enemies made no sense, and making sense of them would require heavy narrative, which the player didn't want to be burdened by. Making enemies that tap into the player's pre-existing knowledge and expectations, and that make sense to him is *so* valuable.

A great example is the game Jamestown. It's a terrific shmup, set in a weird world where the American colonies and native Indians are being invaded by aliens, or it happens in space or something. To be honest, I don't remember the details. It reminded me a lot of the weird Inca games by Coktelvision, where the Conquistadors invaded Inca civilization, which lived in space. Anyway, the games starts with you flying over colonial American imagery, which all makes sense, and then aliens arrive and f*** s*** up. It's really weird, but the game gives you a lot of narrative sections to adjust you to that reality. Once you've switched to that mindset, though, it all makes sense -- you see a whole bunch of alien spaceships, and some more American colonial imagery, and it all makes sense and is very consistent. It's a very risky strategy, however -- I'm sure many people were turned off by the very weird juxtaposition of concepts and never allowed it to 'click' for them.

A rogue-lite that get this aspect wrong IMO is A Wizard's Lizard. I never got the feeling that the enemies were anything more than attempts to create different attack patterns, without regard for any consistent world. I don't even know what the consistent world was supposed to look like. Also, in Legend of Dungeon, some of the zombies had traffic cones on their heads, and they had the plant shooters straight from Plants vs Zombies. This is because Popcap contributed significant money to the kickstarter. While the game establishes that its world is tongue-in-cheek, this intrusion from another game's world is very jarring.

Anyway, those are my 7 cents on this matter.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Pumpkin on October 18, 2015, 06:28:44 AM
You're already testing the game AND you're involved in the development? Ok, I'm officially jealous.
Hem, I mean, cool. Thanks for sharing this.
Hah, dont be too jealous... something like this always comes with downsides.  For my part, that means BUGS.  Particularly my own.  I dont deal with them well, not at all, so like with TLF's expansion, I'm going to have LOTS of moments of great frustration that I really just dont get with normal testing.  And I dont exactly have a particularly big role here, yet will still get that.  Though yeah, it's still pretty nice to be involved with this, particularly as it's THE game from them I've been most excited about since Bionic Dues.  I've very high hopes for this one, very high indeed.
Yeah, that's a price I would totally afford. Being an aspirant game designer, I know how the path is long and harsh.

But anyway....
Sure. Back to business.

I won't come back to 2) and 3): we agree on that.
However, I'm willing to dig a bit deeper in 1). You say Isaac has more choice than it seems. I'm very interesting in this, because I don't think I'm such a newb at Isaac (Steam says 87 hours and 74% achievement on Rebirth), and if you say I missed something in the design, what a poor GD I am...

1.  Isaac's "choice".  Now, this is an interesting thing about the game, and I think it really needs to be considered with THIS game. See, the thing about Isaac is that it actually DOES have alot of choice.  As I'd rambled about in that thread about the game in off-topic recently, a HUGE part of the game is making choices, and then dealing with the results of the choices you made.  The game does not and cannot create genuinely unwinnable situations where the RNG alone can kill you.  What it does is give you alot of decisions to make, which will then make you stronger, or weaker, depending on what you do.  Hell, half of my playstyle is based entirely around this concept.  And looking at some of the "pros" with that game, well.... you cant get a winstreak of 125+ if the game has too much RNG in it.  You just cant.

The problem though?  The game does NOT make this very obvious.  Particularly to new players, it seems extremely random, and it seems that you have little control over anything at all.  It can be hard to spot the choices that are available to you and the things that you can do, because of the way the game works.  And that is kinda a problem for this sort of game.  Plenty of roguelikes have this issue, actually.  To some degree, it depends on the player though... hell, I've heard this very thing about Bionic Dues, that it's "totally RNG, strategy doesnt matter!" and I know full well that THAT sure as heck isnt true.  But it can be hard to really show that in a game like this, and Isaac has that problem pretty bad.   This game, I think, needs to work to avoid that.  Fortunately, Arcen has been VERY good at avoiding this one.  You cant really avoid it COMPLETELY, but if you constantly give the player as much info about things as possible... you dramatically reduce the chances of this happening.  Isaac.... does not do this.  At all.  It seems to thrive on NOT telling you stuff.  And that's a definite problem.  And a very good point to consider.

So where's the choice, according to you? Taking or not taking an item? It's rare. One with high health must avoid the Dead Cat (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Dead_Cat); I always avoid Bob's Brain (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Bob's_Brain) and sometimes Dr. Fetus (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Dr._Fetus) because they can hurt myself, etc. So let say this "choice" is pretty poor.
So what? Grinding? Is grinding or rushing a choice? IMO, no. If you're skillful enough to survive the grinding and take a bit more power from it, there is no way to not grind. Avoiding a Challenge Room (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Challenge_Room) is rarely a wise choice.
So, really, tell me. Where is the choice? I see only skill in fighting RNG. I'm only seeing RNG as a question to the player: "which bad luck level are you able to survive?" Because there is always a very-very-bad-luck run that nobody can win, and a very-very-lucky run that can allow a low-skill player to oneshot the last boss. And this is good. But there is no choice there.

I'm not mocking. I'm sincere: I don't understand your reply to my 1). Would you develop more, please?

* * *

(...)
:o
Whoa. Excellent post. Clear, precise and wise. Nothing to add. GG WP
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Tridus on October 18, 2015, 08:02:20 AM
I don't really have anything to add here that hasn't already been said from asides from(and I seriously doubt this would happen any way) I really hope that the weapons you use don't have percentage chances of missing I find that utterly infuriating for no dam good reason and is part of the reason I was never able to get into ftl.

I'm pretty darn sure that's not going to happen, indeed.

I will agree though, that just bugs me sometimes.  Though, FTL was a game that had alot of "RPG" mechanics to it... you couldnt take your ship and like, actually MOVE it and dodge stuff and neither could the enemy, so it's all calculations and RNG.... so at least it made sense.  But it was indeed kinda annoying.

It's funny how different people react to different things, because I thought that was just fine. It made things so that nothing was a sure thing in FTL, which is part of what I liked about it so much. There were multiple totally viable ways to beat most of the encounters, and none of them were guaranteed.

A miss chain can be pretty annoying, but when everything just always works there isn't the same kind of risk vs reward. It also removed having to physically move your ship around, which let you focus just on the other tactical parts.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: madcow on October 18, 2015, 09:45:12 AM
I want to echo one of Bluddy's points in that discovery is extremely important. I'll go a step further and say secrets in general just really make the game.

One of the reasons I like to keep playing Isaac (and Spelunky) is that feeling of maybe I'll see something new!  Isaac occasionally has bosses replaced with other variants. That feeling the first time you accidently discover secret rooms (although it could be argued they're too important a mechanic to hide). Or when you stumble across the glitched out bonus "I am error" room.

Using Spelunky as an example, there is the whole chain of bringing the key to unlock the chest across levels, and the whole chain of items that can result from that.

All those little things can keep you playing because it feels like even after putting in lots of time into the game, you'll discover something new and cool that it feels like most people haven't seen!

Hiding base mechanics isn't particularly fair, but it's fun for the game to feel like there's stuff out there you haven't seen. Or that you might find something new even after a good amount of playtime. Unfortunately this is probably the hardest type of content to add because it's not part of the procedural code (I would assume).
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 18, 2015, 11:53:43 AM
I want to add to my 7th point.

Having thought about it some more, it's not just a matter of Narrative Coherence. It's Narrative Coherence and Buildup, and it's an art in and of itself. Essentially, it's the art of staying consistent to the narrative framework in the mind of the player, and expanding it gradually to tell your story.

Consider Spelunky. Spelunky works very hard to keep you in the world of the magical random cave. The menu is part of it. There's a very simple intro clip of the hero riding across a desert into the cave, with a single line (chosen randomly out of about 5) out of the hero's diary displayed on the screen. He throws a torch into the cave and descends down the rope. This already gives you so much knowledge about what to expect from the game: a cave, light and dark, mystery, treasure... The first world affirms that with creatures you'd expect: snakes, bats and scorpions, rock traps out of Indiana Jones. In fact, the game pretty much relies on the player's knowledge of Indiana Jones at this point, and fills in some blanks.

If you die in the level right before the second world, the hero's journal states that he was 'so close', and he could hear some rushing water. That's a slight buildup of expectations. When you finally make it into the second world (after much trial and error), you find that it's a jungle, populated by man-eating plants, jumping frogs, some of which are explosive, and giant bees. The narrative has been built up in your mind, and while some of these creatures are 'out there', they also fit into different conceptions you may have. Master the second world and die right before the exit, and you will be informed that you felt a 'cold breeze'. It's preparing you for the fact that the next world is cold, which it is. It's an ice cave, with yeti and... aliens. As I mentioned, this is the one thing I felt was out of place. Nevertheless, there's an alien ship if you want to explore one, and on and on it goes... the narrative doesn't hit you with the weirdest stuff right away -- it builds up with a cutscene, a menu that integrates into the environment, and then little clues throughout. It's a masterful narrative with almost no words, and no huge text blobs to read.

The next example is Nuclear Throne. The game opens with wild music, and you immediately get associations of wasteland and Mad Max. Now the game does something brilliant. It introduces your to the weirdness of the world through the characters you can choose to play as. Some of them are weirder than all the enemies you'll face. The Player Select screen is an establishing shot of the strange player-controlled creatures sitting in a circle and singing a campfire song. Immediately we get the idea that these guys are loners, out in the wasteland, and that they banded together for some reason. All this without a single word!

The first world is a simple sandy wasteland. The enemies are some human-ish nomads and giant scorpions shooting rays of... something. We're not hit with anything too weird yet -- we're using player expectations to build the narrative scope. We see that radiation is a big motif, with rads allowing us to mutate (the game mechanic thus introducing a theme) and little pools of radiation strewn about the landscape.

The next level is in the sewers. Again, nothing is too weird, but we get introduced to mutant rats or mice. We're familiar with this concept, and it makes sense in the sewers, but it introduces the theme that animals have mutated in this world and can do things we wouldn't expect. In the next level, mutant crows fly around and shoot machineguns, and the big boss is a massive dog shooting out missiles and laser shots. The game has taken its time building up weird elements, and everything comes together to create the expectation in the player's mind that this is a seriously messed up world, and things have been changed and mutated. Additionally, every time the player dies, if he plays a random character (which is common), he'll come back as another very unique looking creature, such as a walking, eating plant out of Little Shop of Horror.

All of the above is done with virtually no text and minimal cutscenes. It's all about how you layer your narrative, or whatever exists of it, into the game, and gradually open up the player's expectations to handle the more creative things in your game world.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Castruccio on October 18, 2015, 02:32:05 PM
Bluddy, you should submit your rouge-lite essay for peer-reviewed publication!  I vote yes.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: crazyroosterman on October 18, 2015, 03:44:54 PM
I don't really have anything to add here that hasn't already been said from asides from(and I seriously doubt this would happen any way) I really hope that the weapons you use don't have percentage chances of missing I find that utterly infuriating for no dam good reason and is part of the reason I was never able to get into ftl.

I'm pretty darn sure that's not going to happen, indeed.

I will agree though, that just bugs me sometimes.  Though, FTL was a game that had alot of "RPG" mechanics to it... you couldnt take your ship and like, actually MOVE it and dodge stuff and neither could the enemy, so it's all calculations and RNG.... so at least it made sense.  But it was indeed kinda annoying.

It's funny how different people react to different things, because I thought that was just fine. It made things so that nothing was a sure thing in FTL, which is part of what I liked about it so much. There were multiple totally viable ways to beat most of the encounters, and none of them were guaranteed.

A miss chain can be pretty annoying, but when everything just always works there isn't the same kind of risk vs reward. It also removed having to physically move your ship around, which let you focus just on the other tactical parts.
like I said I don't think its really a bad thing exactly its just something I find irritating losing after doing all the best choices I could at those points in time because I kept arbitrarily missing did my head in makes me glad invisible doesn't do that.(not that I think its really labelled as a froglike I'm just using it as a comparison since I started playing it recently)
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Rythe on October 18, 2015, 09:21:41 PM
I replayed Isaac after my Ultratron run to remember that one too, and even with what little I saw, it was enough that I'm going to underline Misery's observations about choice and the Isaac game.

There is choice everywhere, but you have no idea how these choices are going to play out most of the time. Do you take some damage going into this room at the risk of it not being worth it? Do you use your bombs/keys on this mystery grabbag or this one or this one or save them for later? Do you pick up this unexplained ability or this unexplained ability and not really have the ability energy to play with them to figure it out? (Which may just be an aspect of me not trying hard enough due to not really caring at that point).

That's a lot of where my 'random' complaint about Isaac stems from, because to me, these choices are RNG equivalents due to me not knowing enough about the outcomes to make an educated choice.  They might be good stuff to the dedicated at some eventual point, but that's like Yahtzee's take on FFXIII - "Saying it gets good twenty hours in is not exactly a point in its favor."  If I have to know all the things before I can enjoy/appreciate something, then I'm really better off playing something I'll enjoy/appreciate right off the bat.

And then there's the straight RNG of upgrade drops, at least in my limited experience of it.

Also, Isaac's twin-stickiness felt...rudimentary to me, and not in a good way. Partly for how basic Isaac's attack starts as, partly because I couldn't consistently do angle/bendy shots with the keyboard.

So yeah, still cold on that game.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Pumpkin on October 19, 2015, 03:53:16 AM
I want to echo one of Bluddy's points in that discovery is extremely important. I'll go a step further and say secrets in general just really make the game.

One of the reasons I like to keep playing Isaac (and Spelunky) is that feeling of maybe I'll see something new!  Isaac occasionally has bosses replaced with other variants. That feeling the first time you accidently discover secret rooms (although it could be argued they're too important a mechanic to hide). Or when you stumble across the glitched out bonus "I am error" room.

Using Spelunky as an example, there is the whole chain of bringing the key to unlock the chest across levels, and the whole chain of items that can result from that.

All those little things can keep you playing because it feels like even after putting in lots of time into the game, you'll discover something new and cool that it feels like most people haven't seen!

Hiding base mechanics isn't particularly fair, but it's fun for the game to feel like there's stuff out there you haven't seen. Or that you might find something new even after a good amount of playtime. Unfortunately this is probably the hardest type of content to add because it's not part of the procedural code (I would assume).

I agree on the "discovery is good" stance. However I think discovery should be more about mechanism discovery rather than content discovery. (I said more, I don't mean "no content".) What I want to say is that I feel that it is utterly important for a roguelike to have its mechanisms to unfold. This mechanism unfolding is what an idle game is (or should be) all about. If you don't know Candy Box, at least read about it on Internet: it's something to know about. And to get back to Starward Rogue, I think that more important than plain content discovery (like the items in Isaac or the biomes in Spelunky), discovering mechanisms and getting better at the game by this knowledge is very important for the game's feeling.

As the player can't build on the knowledge of a static map (Risk of Rain does things a bit differently here; not uninteresting), its skill must be built on the knowledge of something else: content and mechanisms. Shall I talk about Nethack? Shall I mention engraving Elbereth, eating floating eyes or mixing potions? Well, this is a bit extreme, and moreover Nethack contains very few clues about its own mechanisms. I can't find a game right now that has a good mechanisms' unfolding. Oh yeah: Portal. And puzzle games in general. Tidalis does that well too, but I can't tell where is the mechanism and where is the content.

TL;DR: mastering a roguelike/PDL should require the knowledge of its mechanisms.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 19, 2015, 07:11:54 AM
You're already testing the game AND you're involved in the development? Ok, I'm officially jealous.
Hem, I mean, cool. Thanks for sharing this.
Hah, dont be too jealous... something like this always comes with downsides.  For my part, that means BUGS.  Particularly my own.  I dont deal with them well, not at all, so like with TLF's expansion, I'm going to have LOTS of moments of great frustration that I really just dont get with normal testing.  And I dont exactly have a particularly big role here, yet will still get that.  Though yeah, it's still pretty nice to be involved with this, particularly as it's THE game from them I've been most excited about since Bionic Dues.  I've very high hopes for this one, very high indeed.
Yeah, that's a price I would totally afford. Being an aspirant game designer, I know how the path is long and harsh.

But anyway....
Sure. Back to business.

I won't come back to 2) and 3): we agree on that.
However, I'm willing to dig a bit deeper in 1). You say Isaac has more choice than it seems. I'm very interesting in this, because I don't think I'm such a newb at Isaac (Steam says 87 hours and 74% achievement on Rebirth), and if you say I missed something in the design, what a poor GD I am...

1.  Isaac's "choice".  Now, this is an interesting thing about the game, and I think it really needs to be considered with THIS game. See, the thing about Isaac is that it actually DOES have alot of choice.  As I'd rambled about in that thread about the game in off-topic recently, a HUGE part of the game is making choices, and then dealing with the results of the choices you made.  The game does not and cannot create genuinely unwinnable situations where the RNG alone can kill you.  What it does is give you alot of decisions to make, which will then make you stronger, or weaker, depending on what you do.  Hell, half of my playstyle is based entirely around this concept.  And looking at some of the "pros" with that game, well.... you cant get a winstreak of 125+ if the game has too much RNG in it.  You just cant.

The problem though?  The game does NOT make this very obvious.  Particularly to new players, it seems extremely random, and it seems that you have little control over anything at all.  It can be hard to spot the choices that are available to you and the things that you can do, because of the way the game works.  And that is kinda a problem for this sort of game.  Plenty of roguelikes have this issue, actually.  To some degree, it depends on the player though... hell, I've heard this very thing about Bionic Dues, that it's "totally RNG, strategy doesnt matter!" and I know full well that THAT sure as heck isnt true.  But it can be hard to really show that in a game like this, and Isaac has that problem pretty bad.   This game, I think, needs to work to avoid that.  Fortunately, Arcen has been VERY good at avoiding this one.  You cant really avoid it COMPLETELY, but if you constantly give the player as much info about things as possible... you dramatically reduce the chances of this happening.  Isaac.... does not do this.  At all.  It seems to thrive on NOT telling you stuff.  And that's a definite problem.  And a very good point to consider.

So where's the choice, according to you? Taking or not taking an item? It's rare. One with high health must avoid the Dead Cat (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Dead_Cat); I always avoid Bob's Brain (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Bob's_Brain) and sometimes Dr. Fetus (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Dr._Fetus) because they can hurt myself, etc. So let say this "choice" is pretty poor.
So what? Grinding? Is grinding or rushing a choice? IMO, no. If you're skillful enough to survive the grinding and take a bit more power from it, there is no way to not grind. Avoiding a Challenge Room (http://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Challenge_Room) is rarely a wise choice.
So, really, tell me. Where is the choice? I see only skill in fighting RNG. I'm only seeing RNG as a question to the player: "which bad luck level are you able to survive?" Because there is always a very-very-bad-luck run that nobody can win, and a very-very-lucky run that can allow a low-skill player to oneshot the last boss. And this is good. But there is no choice there.

I'm not mocking. I'm sincere: I don't understand your reply to my 1). Would you develop more, please?

* * *

(...)
:o
Whoa. Excellent post. Clear, precise and wise. Nothing to add. GG WP

Well, to go into Isaac a bit....

Firstly, consider "win-streaks" in this genre.  One thing about those is that, no matter what, in a game where RNG can consistently kill you (as in, genuinely defeat you, producing situations that are either impossible or so difficult that they may as well be), you cannot get long winstreaks.   It doesnt happen.  A well-designed roguelike avoids this.

But you cant avoid it if the RNG is too strong in the game.  Isaac, however, DOES avoid this.  Consider players like NorthernLion; the guy has had streaks of over 120!  Which is pretty crazy!  And he's not really THAT darn good at the "combat" aspect of the game, as he will frequently crash into stupid things, or stuff like that.   But his knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge to the decisions he needs to make totally makes up for any other mistakes he might make, by making sure that Isaac is as powerful as possible for that given run.

This actually was my experience with the original game.  I only have about 80 hours in that.  Why?  Because I was basically invincible.  I reached a point of something like a near-infinite win-streak.  I knew what I was doing, I knew it well, and the game wasnt hard enough to counter it; I couldnt die.  Nothing was a threat.  Eventually I rather tired of this, and stopped playing it.  This happens with roguelikes for me every now and then.

Rebirth is harder, so that aspect of it is no longer an issue, which is very nice, but again, I'm muuuuuuch more likely to win than lose unless I specifically do something risky (What?  Missingno?  Do I take it, or.... heck with it, YOLO!!!!!) simply because I know what I'm doing when OUTSIDE of combat.   For example, early in the game, you often tend to just not have many resources.  Keys, coins, bombs.  If I find no keys but ONE bomb on the first floor, but no keys.... what do I do with it?  Usually, there's a variety of options.  Do I analyze the map and go after the secret room?  It contains stuff like that often... but it COULD also contain something useless like a battery or things that just have no effect right now.  Or do I blow up the tinted rock that I saw earlier in the level? That may not get me a key.... but sometimes it DOES, and finding bombs from it isnt that uncommon, and of course, there's usually soul hearts... those could make it easier, on the next floor, to get a Devil Room.  Buuuut.... there's always that chance of getting a gold chest from that rock instead.  Or do I perhaps just hold off, and take the bomb to the next floor?  There may be more options in the floor features itself, particularly after I go through all of the rooms on that floor, since I may have something else by then that could increase my options.  Perhaps I'll find a key THERE instead, and not need to use the bomb to search for one.   

Choices like that, of course, do not happen just on the first floor, but can happen anywhere.  What's more, they are influenced by your current build.  The aftereffects of what you do or do not do can be heavily affected by the items you currently have, and in order to maximize your chances of victory, you must consider all of these things before you decide on something. 

Let's look, for example, at the item called "Tiny Planet".  Alot of people dont like this item.  I suspect, though, that when they've tried, it, they've tried it when the situation basically says "this is a bloody stupid idea". All of my most powerful rampages in the game... and I mean *all* of them... in all of my 200+ hours... have involved this item.  It's one of those things that can seem bad at first, but when you know what to do with it.... it's supremely strong. Even Brimstone doesnt match the sheer power of a full Tiny Planet rampage.  However, if you take it at the WRONG time.... it's a game-ender, and will probably get you killed really fast.  When this item appears, there's a choice:  Do I take it, or do I leave it?  What items do I have right now, and what effects will they have on it?  More importantly, what are my stats?  If my tears stat is too low, this item wont go well at all, and I'm likely to fail.  However, it can truly be great.... what position am I at in the game?  If I'm already at depths 1 or 2, this'd be a risky idea, but if I find this early, there's still plenty of time to get tears-up items from bosses (since that's where you most frequently get that sort) or spend some time focusing on somehow getting pills that may help.  Or other effects.

Often, when I spot an item, even if it seems good right away... I wont take it yet.  I'll let it sit there, and I'll clear out the rest of the floor AND the boss.  THEN I'll make my decision, based on anything new that might have happened in that time.  Sometimes, this can avert total catastrophe. 

For example, one item I tend to really like is "Undefined".  Not only can it get you to the secret room, but it's one of the only true reliable ways to reach the Error Room. But... it is, of course, based on chance, and what if I already have a spacebar item?  Well, I usually call them "active" items, but apparently many call them "spacebar" items, but I digress...  often, I'll let that thing sit there, until I clear out the level.  I'm probably on the lookout for batteries, or money to buy batteries later, if I'm early enough in the game that there's more shops.  The more batteries there are, the more charge I can get; the more charge I can get, the higher the chance of getting to that room.  Not to mention the less bombs I end up spending opening up the two secret rooms.  And the Error Room is worth the trouble, as it's almost always very profitable, and the ONLY time it should be avoided is on the second Depths/Catacombs level (skips the Mom fight, thus skipping the Polaroid and Negative... unless you use it in THAT specific room after grabbing one).  And perhaps the current spacebar item might prove more useful depending on the situation, and what other items I have at the time... I have to consider these things, to use all my stuff to it's maximum potential. 

And of course there's much more obvious choices like the shops;  alot of great items come out of there, and can heavily impact the rest of the game, so deciding what to buy and when to buy it is important.  Particularly if you're tempted to spend on consumables.  You need to consider the OTHER stuff you already have, including how much money you'd have after buying a bomb/key/whatever, for future purchases (or even future beggar encounters).  I even consider Greed when I think about this:  If I'm on Depths 1, and I'm in the store, and I *havent* encountered Greed yet... I may choose to blow as much money on that floor as I can to get whatever advantages I can, because there's a good chance he could appear in the store on the next floor.... and make all of that money I have almost totally useless, denying me the chance to get anything out of it.  I also will check for the secret room first, because that leaves a chance that I could find him THERE, before Depths 2, and thus get rid of him... and his chance of appearing... before going to that floor.  That is.... IF I think it's wise to spend the bomb on doing so.  Sometimes it isnt.

That's just the start of it, and some of the simpler and easier to explain situations I encounter where I need to carefully think out what I do to maximize everything I can.  It keeps my chances of winning high, even when the game is being a snot with the item rooms and such, because if I can get that much more out of them, I have that much more advantage over future foes in upcoming floors. 

Going through the game though and not thinking about these things, or not noticing that such decisions are available to be made, can and will hurt you, or even end your run.

Of course, ALOT of these situations.... just arent obvious.  The game never makes it apparent that such choices exist.  The only one that's OBVIOUS is the very basic "should I grab this thing or not".  But even then, alot of players dont take into account as much as they should before choosing, and so, too often, will make the wrong choice.

And of course some choices are VERY not obvious.  You mention Dr. Fetus, and that's a good example, because LOTS of people will avoid that.... but I know of some reasons to take it, and I know what my stats will do to it, that affect how easy or not easy it is to blow myself up.  The biggest advantage with that item is NOT the damage it does, but the destruction it causes.  This does a couple of things:  1, destroys rocks, which can both clear out obstacles but also allow you to access things you otherwise couldnt get, 2, find all secret rooms (because you can blast *every* wall), but the big reason *I* take it is 3, use it to find crawlspaces.  I already find crawlspaces often.  They're not a rare encounter for me.  And I dont mean just with that item... I mean even with normal bombs, or other things.  I know how to look for them, WHEN to look for them, and in general, how they work. The sort of logic and decision-making that I'm trying to show with this explanation gives me a high chance of finding them, while when I watch other players play the game.... they almost never find them.   

And most of the time, they're a great thing to find, containing a free item, which often can be something very good like the Gnawed Leaf, or something.  They are usually better, much better, than secret or super secret rooms.  And Dr. Fetus pretty much means that, most of the time, yeah... I'm *going* to find one or two, and power up that much more.  Often, enough to overcome that item's downside. So, I consider these various things into just that ONE decision.   There is, actually, more I can consider with it, but you get the picture.

Heck, you could even consider an item like Soy Milk.  ALot of people haaaaaaaaaaate this thing.  But do I have something like Mom's Perfume?  By itself, that's not a very interesting item.  But with Soy Milk, it's a game winner.  Or even better, anything that has even the tiniest chance of firing a tear that causes fear; that's almost a 100% guarantee of victory.  There's a reason why Soy Milk is in the "special" item pool.  Which, if you dont know, is the item pool reserved for things that the devs consider to be more powerful (in their potential) than anything else in the game.  There are only about 12 items in this set, and the game calculates their chances of appearing differently. Soy Milk is one of them.... as is Dr. Fetus.

Again though, most of this is not made obvious by the game.  I mean, how many players are going to honestly consider the crawlspaces into that decision of wether or not to take Dr. Fetus? And NOBODY seems to think of the status-effect idea with Soy Milk, despite the ridiculous power of it (to me, this is second only to a Tiny Planet rampage). Wheras, in a game like Spelunky, things are MUCH more obvious, decisions are much easier to make.  The game is designed that way: decisions tend to be very black & white, and easy to read, which is good, because you can die REALLY FAST in that game.  Adding confusion to the mix would ruin the experience.

And of course, you then add in every individual's playstyle and unique ways of thinking, and it gets even more complicated...


So yeah, that's a bit of what I meant, and like I said.... that's only the tip of it, and the ones that are easiest to explain, but it shows that even "do I take or leave this item" can have WAY more to it than what most people think.  And there's alot more types of choices than just that, but that one is the easiest to show my sort of logic with.  And this sort of logic can apply to MANY roguelikes of all sorts.  For those that I can beat consistently (or every single time, in some cases) chances are, I'm using alot of this style of reasoning to make decisions that may seem very confusing to others.... yet are there nonetheless.

This, all, is why Isaac isnt TRULY based on luck... but is based on a combination of your skill at combat, and your ability to gain and APPLY knowledge about the game, to the situations you encounter, to increase your power that much further.



Now, there's other things to respond to in this thread, but I'm having a bad day, as pain goes, as everything kinda hurts at the moment, so for now, I need to stop typing.  I'll give other replies a bit later tonight, probably.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 19, 2015, 10:25:48 AM
Misery, that's a great description of the strategy that goes into a game of Isaac. There's definitely a lot of decision-making skill involved, and not just action-based skill. My beef with Rebirth is that you generally don't need to work this hard to do well. It's too easy to get carried by a few lucky items due to some annoying design issues. You can read my analysis if you want [here](https://justabluddyblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/the-sloppy-design-of-isaac/).

Spelunky also has decision-making: do I use this bomb here? Do I dig through to rescue the damsel, even though I might not have enough resources for what I need afterwards? Do I buy this thing, even though I might lack the funds to get the ankh? Do I take a high risk jumping over these spikes even though the slightest mess-up can kill me? Should I try going to the ship, or into the worm?

The same can be said for Nuclear Throne to some degree: which mutation do I pick to maximize my chances of success? Do I risk using the grenade launcher up close? Do I risk going melee (which is super fun) even though I stand a better chance of getting hit? Do I take specific weapons so I can enter the special zones? With the character that spends HP to get AI partners (I forgot its name), do I do that and when? Do I risk going in to the zone of fire to get those rads before they disappear?

Every one of these games have non-action strategic elements, which implies making choices. The best players will be able to reason through those choices better, often identifying a seemingly weak strategy as a dominant one.

Often, though, it is the limitation of choice that makes things more interesting in rogue-lites. Imagine if you had the ability to choose from among 20 items every floor in Isaac. It would make the game boring, as you'd constantly pick the best items. Being dealt bad cards and making the best of it is one of the most enjoyable aspects of these games, and that only happens when your choices are constrained.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: ElOhTeeBee on October 19, 2015, 10:51:23 AM
Probably minority here, but I liked the grinding in Rogue Legacy. I was in that sweet spot of 'bad, but not so bad that I usually didn't get enough gold to buy something', so the metaprogression elements meant I got a little farther each time until I finally reached the end. Also, I enjoy exploring and collecting shiny things in video games.
And I appreciated how it tied into the plot; I love it when gameplay mechanics are made part of the story.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: madcow on October 19, 2015, 10:59:24 AM
Discovery of mechanics rather than content is a bit iffy in my opinion. On one hand, it is a very measurable way of improving and it's cool to discover new mechanics. On the otherhand, if it's powerful mechanics that are hidden in a way that's really obtuse, it can lead to feeling less like discovery and more like the mechanics aren't being accurately presented and can lead to "playing by the wiki" syndrome.

The most obvious example I can think of is crafting systems in some games. I've played games with crafting where you make new items by combining raw ingredients (or combinations of ingredients) without actually having a recipe list. You need to combine items and hope it's a correct combo.  This is one of the worst most frustrating systems in games that seems like s growing trend these days. Sure there's the discovery of making a board with nails by combining a branch with nails, but it also just leads to play-by-wiki syndrome.

Another example is Binding of Isaac and secret rooms. It is definitely cool the first time you discover them and adds a lot of depth.  On the otherhand, it's one of those things that not knowing how it works can REALLY hurt your ability to play the game. It's definitely a good mechanic, but it could have used in game hints (maybe beat mom the first time and get a clue about it), otherwise you have to resort to the wiki to really figure out how it works. Same with item descriptions (at least give more info once you've discovered the item!).

I guess I would say when it comes to base mechanics, don't hide too much of it just feels like new players are being gimped or that there aren't enough tutorials, but there should be some room for discovery at the same time.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 19, 2015, 11:19:41 AM
Misery, that's a great description of the strategy that goes into a game of Isaac. There's definitely a lot of decision-making skill involved, and not just action-based skill. My beef with Rebirth is that you generally don't need to work this hard to do well. It's too easy to get carried by a few lucky items due to some annoying design issues. You can read my analysis if you want [here](https://justabluddyblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/the-sloppy-design-of-isaac/).

Spelunky also has decision-making: do I use this bomb here? Do I dig through to rescue the damsel, even though I might not have enough resources for what I need afterwards? Do I buy this thing, even though I might lack the funds to get the ankh? Do I take a high risk jumping over these spikes even though the slightest mess-up can kill me? Should I try going to the ship, or into the worm?

The same can be said for Nuclear Throne to some degree: which mutation do I pick to maximize my chances of success? Do I risk using the grenade launcher up close? Do I risk going melee (which is super fun) even though I stand a better chance of getting hit? Do I take specific weapons so I can enter the special zones? With the character that spends HP to get AI partners (I forgot its name), do I do that and when? Do I risk going in to the zone of fire to get those rads before they disappear?

Every one of these games have non-action strategic elements, which implies making choices. The best players will be able to reason through those choices better, often identifying a seemingly weak strategy as a dominant one.

Often, though, it is the limitation of choice that makes things more interesting in rogue-lites. Imagine if you had the ability to choose from among 20 items every floor. It would make the game boring, as you'd constantly pick the best items. Being dealt bad cards and making the best of it is one of the most enjoyable aspects of these games, and that only happens when your choices are constrained.

Again I'm not going to do a longer reply right now, but one thing I found interesting is that you think Rebirth is easier than the original.  I've heard that from some others as well, and from some the other way around.  For me, it's the original that's too easy.... it seriously doesnt matter what the game does or how much of a snot the RNG is being, I'm still going to win, and it's not going to be difficult.  But that just isnt the case in Rebirth.  Dont get me wrong, I'll still win alot of the time, but I've found the game harder from the start, and my win-streaks will end sooner or later.  Which is why I keep playing it; and apparently Afterbirth will then make it harder past that, which it does need.  Does nerf some things though.... I *really* didn't think the Haunt needed a nerf, but he's getting one, because people keep complaining about him (seriously, he's easy!  Argh!).  Gurglings are getting a nerf because I hate them.  Well, okay, that's not the reason, but it may as well be, the stupid little snots...

As for the matter of OP runs, that, in this game, I genuinely dont mind.  In many other games, if something becomes too easy I just lose interest.  Even if the game is otherwise fascinating.  Isaac is a bit different though: the difficulty in a run (and thus the power level of Isaac) varies so wildly that the temporary nature of a roguelike causes it to work out.  In addition, the way the game works as a whole, the more OP you are, the shorter the game actually gets.  The most extreme example of all, by far, is what (as far as I know) is the game's ultimate synergy, Brimstone + Tammy's Head, that room clearing, system-slowing (on the Wii U anyway) explosion of blazing laser death.  The one that just KILLS THE WHOLE ROOM and can be used in every room.  It's the most extreme example (and it's been shown that Afterbirth will give it the potential to be even more ridiculous), and the game becomes extremely SHORT once you get it, because everything dies immediately, and you're just blazing through the rest of it.  It just ends up hardly taking any time at all.  Particularly if you then find things like maps, or the World or Emperor cards to speed up simple passage through the last couple of levels.   So for me, an OP run ends up not having enough time to really overstay it's welcome.  And since it's not like they're happening every single time, and also since the gameplay can vary wildly based on your current items, it doesnt get stale much either.  And the very next run could end up being the opposite... you never know.


Nuclear Throne I've actually found though to be a bit different.... the more I played that one, the less I had to really think about much.  Mutations are terribly unbalanced.  My decision making process is usually 1. Is this Scarier Face, Rabbit Paw or Hammerhead? If yes, take it, with priority always in that exact order.  2. Is it a weapon-based mutation that matches my current main weapon?  Particularly if it's Bolt Marrow, I'll probably take it.  3.  Is it Gamma Guts, Eagle Eye, or Back Muscle?  If yes, then ignore it.   Beyond that, I pick somewhat at random and dont care all that much.  And as for the weapons.... they're all over the place.   And certain.... issues.... have reduced my weapon-choosing logic to something unpleasant.  This one goes:  1. Is it a shovel? If yes, take it and never drop it.  2. Is it a laser weapon (or most energy weapons)? If yes, ignore it.  3. Is it a slugger or crossbow?  If yes, take it, if I dont already have one or the other.  And 4, the most important of all:  Is it a weapon that can somehow allow me to kill Lil' Hunter in a single strike?  If yes, take it.  If no, and I do not already have such a weapon, it is now the number one priority until that boss is gone (yeah, I find him THAT much of a disaster that my ENTIRE early-game focus is "find weapon to insta-kill Lil' Hunter so that mid-game isnt hyper annoying or hyper boring"). If I'm in a bad mood and I reach 5-3 without such a weapon (or without at least a crossbow and Bolt Marrow, I'll simply restart, because screw that, I dont feel like dealing with it.  But yeah, I really dont have too much in terms of logic beyond that with this game.   Though, I havent been playing it since it kinda went downhill in recent months, and since Vlambeer seems to be slowly revealing a Mojang-like inability to fix problems that have been there for a REALLY REALLY LONG TIME. 

I'll have a read through your blog post later tonight too, and may post about some of that.


Now, as for Arcen's new game here, well...  I think I can guarantee that it'll always retain a challenge, hah.  Though Arcen's games have so far been very good at allowing a VERY wide selection of possible difficulties that the game in question can function at, so that'll probably help a ton overall, as I'm expecting it'll be the same here.  There'll be something for everyone here, I think.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: dfinlay on October 19, 2015, 11:23:30 AM
Balance is crazy important in games with procedural builds and permadeath. Some games make it so you feel like you got screwed over by bad item drops all the time (killed FTL for me) and some make it so you sometimes get such good drops that the game becomes trivial (killed Isaac for me). Neither of these are fun. What you want is where every game's drop-set is a similar level of awesome but in different ways. For an example of a game that does this really well, see Brogue.

As for the SHMUPy side of it, I tend to prefer SHMUPs where you have a very limited amount of hits you can take that don't easily recharge (life system with one-hit-kill, ala Touhou, for example) so that you never feel like you can afford to take hits. Of course, in order to do that well, avoiding hits needs to be viable, which generally means a small, visible hit-box and decent mobility. I also like it when my enemies don't have a huge amount of health so I'm not stuck spending ages grinding them down (long bosses are fine like, say in Touhou, but only if their bullet patterns change regularly). Additionally, note that any bosses will probably be fought a bajillion times, so it's really super-duper important they never feel grindy or tedius.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 19, 2015, 11:32:40 AM
If that didn't kill FTL for you, I can do it in a few sentences. FTL is the best designed game with the worst basic mistake I know. Please don't read this if you want to keep enjoying FTL, because you can't un-see it, and the game is fun until you focus on this issue.

FTL only works because the AI is terrible. How can you kill 100 ships with only one? Only because the AI doesn't prioritize hitting your weapons and shields as you do to it. If FTL was multiplayer, everyone would use the same strategy and you'd have a 50-50 chance of dying. The mechanical problem is with the ability to target specific parts of your enemy's ship with 100% certainty, rather than being able to miss and hit adjacent areas instead, which is what would happen in a 'real life' ship battle.

Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: dfinlay on October 19, 2015, 11:40:02 AM
If that didn't kill FTL for you, I can do it in a few sentences. FTL is the best designed game with the worst basic mistake I know. Please don't read this if you want to keep enjoying FTL, because you can't un-see it, and the game is fun until you focus on this issue.

FTL only works because the AI is terrible. How can you kill 100 ships with only one? Only because the AI doesn't prioritize hitting your weapons and shields as you do to it. If FTL was multiplayer, everyone would use the same strategy and you'd have a 50-50 chance of dying. The mechanical problem is with the ability to target specific parts of your enemy's ship with 100% certainty, rather than being able to miss and hit adjacent areas instead, which is what would happen in a 'real life' ship battle.
Meh. That seems like not-an-issue. Metroid or mario (for one genre of oh, so many) is "bad" for the same reason. If they had sophisticated AI and the enemies tried to outmaneuver, corner and use sophisticated tactics on you, they would be nearly impossible, but that's just not what the game is about. Same with FTL. The thing about FTL was the final boss, especially, but much of the game, really, was an equipment check in a game where you have very littke control over what equipment you get.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 19, 2015, 11:44:50 AM
The key difference is that Mario isn't a symmetric game. You're not going up against other Marios, you're going up against monsters with very specific patterns. The reason you can beat them all is that you're Mario and they're not. FTL is supposed to be completely symmetric. You're just a captain going against other captains, who just happen to be braindead. You can chalk some of your victories up to other captains' inexperience, but the AI *never* gets good enough to do what it needs to destroy your ship.

It's the equivalent of a bad AI in a strategy game (which FTL is, after all).
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 19, 2015, 02:02:16 PM
Balance is crazy important in games with procedural builds and permadeath. Some games make it so you feel like you got screwed over by bad item drops all the time (killed FTL for me) and some make it so you sometimes get such good drops that the game becomes trivial (killed Isaac for me). Neither of these are fun. What you want is where every game's drop-set is a similar level of awesome but in different ways. For an example of a game that does this really well, see Brogue.

As for the SHMUPy side of it, I tend to prefer SHMUPs where you have a very limited amount of hits you can take that don't easily recharge (life system with one-hit-kill, ala Touhou, for example) so that you never feel like you can afford to take hits. Of course, in order to do that well, avoiding hits needs to be viable, which generally means a small, visible hit-box and decent mobility. I also like it when my enemies don't have a huge amount of health so I'm not stuck spending ages grinding them down (long bosses are fine like, say in Touhou, but only if their bullet patterns change regularly). Additionally, note that any bosses will probably be fought a bajillion times, so it's really super-duper important they never feel grindy or tedius.

The hitbox size in this game, for the player ship, isnt going to be that of a bullet-hell game, I can tell you that much.  It's a little more comparable to the hitbox of a ship in a normal shmup; which is still small (usually smaller than the sprite for the ship, in almost all cases) but definitely not the "couple of pixels" that a bullet-hell game uses.

Now, there's multiple people, including myself, that are going to be working on enemies and bosses and whatnot, but from what I've been told, mine are, as a rule, going to be the most complicated and shmup-like, which makes sense considering that's kinda my specialty.  That being said, I can at least promise that they'll be very carefully calibrated to allow for my preferred level of complexity (I take alot of inspiration from Cave's games, and from a shmup called Eschatos) while at the same time having plenty of space for the playership with that hitbox to move in.  I can definitely guarantee that since I've had LOTS of experience in perfecting that aspect of pattern design (I dont mean just in TLF).

The hitbox can be made visible, I can tell you that much, that's not really a spoiler of anything, and exactly as you'd expect, the ship is decently mobile.  I'll be paying attention to that aspect though (the ship's base speed) and making any suggestions about it if I see the need, but I think Chris has pretty much gotten it down right at the start here.

As for the feeling of "cant afford to take hits", well, this is an Arcen game.  Alot of that will actually depend, at it's base, on what difficulty level you select.  Just like in TLF (and a bunch of the others) if the difficulty is really high, you'll die VERY fast if you take too many hits, but on low difficulties, you can tank a ton of stuff and not have your face melted.  That's the most likely case, though of course it may change, but you know, that's usually how they do it, since it works well.

As for enemy health and such, that'll be up to each individual doing the designs (which should be interesting, as according to Chris each of us has very different design styles for this sort of thing), but I cant imagine any of them ending up way too high in terms of HP.  Because nobody making OR testing them would enjoy it if it's tedious; this again can be seen in Arcen's other games.  Specifically, the Valley games (since they're action games), things really just dont take that long to die.  Bosses take longer, but never overstay their welcome.  It hits a good spot with that.  This game is likely to end up that way too, I should think.

Now, as for the idea of bosses with multiple "modes" like in Touhou... hmm.  I *might* do a bit of that with any that I may make (again, I cant speak for the others and whatever they design)... not sure yet.  I'll decide on that when it's time to design said boss, and if the idea of multiple modes at all seems to fit into the game.  In THAT case, yes, the boss will have higher health.

What I *dont* want to see happen (and I doubt the others want to see it happen either) is something like the fight with Gurdy in Isaac, who is best described as very tanky, with high HP, yet, particularly in his champion form (where he ONLY summons things, never fires), he can be a very, very, very repetitive fight.  A somewhat repetitive attack pattern isnt a bad thing.  But a repetitive attack pattern AND tons of health is a bad idea.  I'll be trying to avoid that, and I bet everyone else will as well, since, again, that just isnt any fun at all, is it?

So I dont think that'll be a problem.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: mrhanman on October 19, 2015, 03:25:47 PM
I was a casual player of the first Isaac.  After a few hours I managed to beat Mom a couple times, but lost interest soon after.  I was nowhere near what I would call "good" at it.  When I played Rebirth and almost beat Mom on my first run, I decided that the game was too easy and unbalanced if an unskilled, new player like myself could make it that far on his first try.  I may give it another try, if it's as good as everyone here says it is.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 19, 2015, 03:34:28 PM
I was a casual player of the first Isaac.  After a few hours I managed to beat Mom a couple times, but lost interest soon after.  I was nowhere near what I would call "good" at it.  When I played Rebirth and almost beat Mom on my first run, I decided that the game was too easy and unbalanced if an unskilled, new player like myself could make it that far on his first try.  I may give it another try, if it's as good as everyone here says it is.

I'm a big supporter of the first Isaac. Especially now that it has a 'super hard' mode, I think it's really fun and extremely challenging. It had its imbalances making it easy if you know the way, but IMO (which I know Misery disagrees with -- I'll wait for him to fully read my blog entry) instead of addressing most issues, they made Rebirth much easier. Also, I prefer most of the art in the original to the chunky pixels of Rebirth.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Castruccio on October 19, 2015, 04:43:37 PM
Is Afterbirth supposed to remedy any of your misgivings about Rebirth?
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 19, 2015, 05:21:28 PM
Is Afterbirth supposed to remedy any of your misgivings about Rebirth?

I'm not sure, but probably not. Edmund has recognized that he's made overpowered items, but his remedy has been to add more deadly optional levels to the end of the game (The Dark Room). The problem with this approach is that it doesn't address the main issue, which is that the enemies throughout the game are only as strong as they used to be in vanilla Isaac, but the player is now much stronger on average (you can only make statements about the average because of the randomness factor). From what I've heard, the approach in Afterbirth will be to tack on yet another difficult level to the end.

Also, Edmund is really pushing the new 'Greed Mode', which is a completely different game design using the same enemies and items. From what I've seen so far, it doesn't interest me, since it loses much of what made Isaac special, but I'm ready to change my mind once I've experienced it. I fear though, that just as Rebirth suffered from a lack of testing and balancing, Afterbirth will suffer the same fate due to Edmund's newfound preference for Greed Mode.

The more interesting thing to me in Afterbirth is that, after messaging a dev about a bug that prevents modders from adjusting item probabilities, I got an answer saying that the bug will only be fixed when Afterbirth is released. This was around 6 months ago. I'm excited to finally get my Rebirth mod https://www.reddit.com/r/themoddingofisaac/comments/2oabyu/mod_my_rebalancing_of_isaac/ (https://www.reddit.com/r/themoddingofisaac/comments/2oabyu/mod_my_rebalancing_of_isaac/) working the way I originally wanted it to work. The mod brings Rebirth much closer to the way vanilla was (but also fixes some of the issues in vanilla's design).
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Castruccio on October 19, 2015, 05:44:29 PM
Wow, I will definitely try your mod.  I didn't even know there were Rebirth mods.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Pumpkin on October 20, 2015, 04:38:35 AM
Sorry to interrupt.
I would like to return on and develop further the question of mechanism/content discovery.
But first some quotes.

I want to echo one of Bluddy's points in that discovery is extremely important. I'll go a step further and say secrets in general just really make the game.

One of the reasons I like to keep playing Isaac (and Spelunky) is that feeling of maybe I'll see something new!  Isaac occasionally has bosses replaced with other variants. That feeling the first time you accidently discover secret rooms (although it could be argued they're too important a mechanic to hide). Or when you stumble across the glitched out bonus "I am error" room.

Using Spelunky as an example, there is the whole chain of bringing the key to unlock the chest across levels, and the whole chain of items that can result from that.

All those little things can keep you playing because it feels like even after putting in lots of time into the game, you'll discover something new and cool that it feels like most people haven't seen!

Hiding base mechanics isn't particularly fair, but it's fun for the game to feel like there's stuff out there you haven't seen. Or that you might find something new even after a good amount of playtime. Unfortunately this is probably the hardest type of content to add because it's not part of the procedural code (I would assume).

I agree on the "discovery is good" stance. However I think discovery should be more about mechanism discovery rather than content discovery. (I said more, I don't mean "no content".) What I want to say is that I feel that it is utterly important for a roguelike to have its mechanisms to unfold. This mechanism unfolding is what an idle game is (or should be) all about. If you don't know Candy Box, at least read about it on Internet: it's something to know about. And to get back to Starward Rogue, I think that more important than plain content discovery (like the items in Isaac or the biomes in Spelunky), discovering mechanisms and getting better at the game by this knowledge is very important for the game's feeling.

As the player can't build on the knowledge of a static map (Risk of Rain does things a bit differently here; not uninteresting), its skill must be built on the knowledge of something else: content and mechanisms. Shall I talk about Nethack? Shall I mention engraving Elbereth, eating floating eyes or mixing potions? Well, this is a bit extreme, and moreover Nethack contains very few clues about its own mechanisms. I can't find a game right now that has a good mechanisms' unfolding. Oh yeah: Portal. And puzzle games in general. Tidalis does that well too, but I can't tell where is the mechanism and where is the content.

TL;DR: mastering a roguelike/PDL should require the knowledge of its mechanisms.

Discovery of mechanics rather than content is a bit iffy in my opinion. On one hand, it is a very measurable way of improving and it's cool to discover new mechanics. On the otherhand, if it's powerful mechanics that are hidden in a way that's really obtuse, it can lead to feeling less like discovery and more like the mechanics aren't being accurately presented and can lead to "playing by the wiki" syndrome.

The most obvious example I can think of is crafting systems in some games. I've played games with crafting where you make new items by combining raw ingredients (or combinations of ingredients) without actually having a recipe list. You need to combine items and hope it's a correct combo.  This is one of the worst most frustrating systems in games that seems like s growing trend these days. Sure there's the discovery of making a board with nails by combining a branch with nails, but it also just leads to play-by-wiki syndrome.

(...)

I guess I would say when it comes to base mechanics, don't hide too much of it just feels like new players are being gimped or that there aren't enough tutorials, but there should be some room for discovery at the same time.

I consider each recipe as a content, and the whole crafting system as a mechanism. So in my explanation of how I consider mechanisms should be first hidden then progressively presented, it's the whole system/mechanism that should be properly introduced, not each recipe. And I agree, a crafting system without ingame help is like running in the dark: a bad idea.

My point on mechanism discovery can only make sense if the limit between what is a mechanism and what is content is fully understood. A very basic example is the hidden rooms in Isaac: once the player encounter the first hidden room (by accidentally blowing a wall, or by an explosive monster doing it), he discovers this mechanism and can start (making the decision of) trading bombs for chances to find items. With more understanding of this mechanism, he can use fewer bombs by targeting only walls that may lead to hidden rooms.

I think "mechanism" in this genre can be defined by "what gives the player the opportunity to make a choice", and it often involves resource trading/conversion. By correctly hiding mechanisms from a beginner player, the game designer can make the first runs more "simple", less cumbersome, and more harder. This difficulty is naturally reduced when the player discovers mechanisms; this increases the complexity of his vision of the game (the game remains the same), and reveals his choices. This is what I mean by "skill by mechanism knowledge". Of course, there is also the "skill by content knowledge", which is the knowledge of the items in Isaac etc. And there is a need for ingame hints. For instance, I hate the fact that, in Isaac, the list of "items you found at least once" doesn't show a description of the effects of the item (or at least some hints. Heck, it doesn't even give the name of the items!) As an opposite example, the guide in Terraria is great: the game contains its own wiki. I think they could have added a sort of "hunter" NPC that knows about the loots and drop-rates of each creature (maybe linked with the banner system), because looting is a big part of Terraria gameplay (that one may love or hate). See? Looting is a mechanism, and what each creature drops is content.

A last example before I go on.
In Nethack, the player can eat corpses. This is a mechanism, and knowing that can opens choices and increase "skill". But there is good corpses and bad corpses; this is a better knowledge of the mechanism, and increase the skill about the eat/don't-eat choice. Then, there is content knowledge involved, because some corpses have special rules: floating eyes grant telepathy, lichen corpses never rot, elemental creature's corpse give protection against this element, killer bees are poisonous, etc. And this mechanism mix with other mechanisms, like the race choice: orcs are immune to most poisons and can eat corpses that other can"t.

I won't detail further this mechanism/content distinction, and which one should be properly introduced (I dislike using "hidden" here) or ingame-wiki'ed.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 20, 2015, 06:11:46 AM
As far as mechanisms and the idea of discovery goes, I cant really speak much for THIS game.  Not because of things I cant reveal or something like that, but because I"m not really going to be in a position of having to discover anything at all.   It's going to be interesting to see how you guys go about figuring things out, once the game is in your hands. 

Not to mention it's not exactly my realm of design here; my job is just to make things that kill the heck out of yo- er, I mean, provide you with a balanced challenge.

But I can say, that I often think that this mechanic isnt very well handled in alot of Roguelikes.  For example, consider those that simply dont really know about or have access to the wiki for Isaac, for whatever reasons.  Players on the Wii U or 3DS, that maybe arent much for internet browsing, or often dont even have reliable internet access to begin with.  People seem to find the very concept silly these days, but it does still happen.

And Isaac hides ALOT of things from you.  So many.  And for quite a bunch of them, I look at them and I wonder, how the heck is anyone supposed to be able to even come close to figuring that bit out on their own?  I've had this thought in relation to many games in this genre.  Even I often have no choice but to look stuff up, due to the often very cryptic nature of things like this in the roguelike genre.  And honestly, that always just seems kinda bad to me.   I know I'd be frustrated as heck if I was playing one of these, but couldnt get online to look for/at the wiki for the game.

I'm kinda hoping to see THIS game avoid that as much as possible, and give the player as much information as it can.  I mean, alot of people tend to find Arcen's games intimidating and a bit confusing at first as it is... they're always such complicated things, after all!  So my own thoughts on it are that the game might be best if it can avoid that as much as possible.

I'd be real interested to hear Chris's thoughts on this though, if he should have a chance to read any of this. 
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 20, 2015, 10:22:51 AM
You make good points, Pumpkin. Personally, though, I don't see a strong distinction between content and mechanic secrets. I think I have 2 notions about secrets (aka the elements of discovery).

1. The more difficult it is for the player to pick up on a secret naturally, the less effect it should have on the gameplay.

Basically, every time you have a secret, you're creating alternate 'timelines' for the player base: some players will know the secret and their game must be balanced. Other players won't know it, and their game must also be balanced. This can obviously multiply quadratically, which is what makes it so difficult. Note that not all pathways need to have the same balance -- it's ok to make the game a little easier if you know some secret. But the more impact on balance, the more obvious the secret should be.

2. Making use of the secret must mesh with the balance and mechanics of the game.

Number 1 is quite easy to demonstrate on Isaac's design. The secret rooms contribute a fair amount of resources to the game, and Isaac is very much a game about maximizing resources. Before you know about their existence, the game will be a little harder. After accidentally finding them once in a while, you'll eventually pick up on their pattern -- where they tend to spawn. Even if you won't consciously know where they are, you'll get a feel for it. The game will become a little bit easier then.

Isaac also has super secret rooms, which were added in one of the expansions. These rooms spawned in locations that were also had a set pattern, but were almost impossible to pick up on without learning the pattern from a wiki. Without knowing the pattern, you'd either stumble on them by accident, or find them using one of the items that lets you find secret rooms. Given the fact that super-secret rooms are often more valuable than secret rooms, the knowledge of their seeding is secret knowledge that makes a large difference to the balance of the game, but is almost impossible to pick up on without consulting a wiki. Rebirth tried to correct this issue by making their spawn pattern more predictable and easy to learn, which was correct (the alternative would have been to make it completely random, in which case there's no knowledge to learn). Unfortunately, super secret rooms are now so predictable, that they're easier to find than regular secret rooms, which I don't believe was the intent. This is a violation of the second principle, since it goes against the general balance of (at least the first) game.

Another example from Isaac is the Guppy items. Guppy items appear in Isaac in specific chests which are mostly found in the Curse room. The Curse room hurts you when you walk into it. The secret is, if you get 3 Guppy items, you achieve Guppy form, which is extremely powerful. You can fly, and you spawn tiny flies that automatically seek your enemies and for some godforsaken reason do 2x the damage of your regular tears. If you have this knowledge, you know how to achieve easy dominance of the game. But if you don't have this knowledge, you'll avoid the Curse rooms, since they hurt you and often don't give you anything good. Knowledge of this secret fundamentally changes the way you play the game from playing it *wrong* to playing it the *right* way (statistically). Not only that, without knowing this secret, you're unlikely to learn it, since you're not exposed to many Guppy items since you don't see a purpose to go into secret rooms. Serious violations of both principles here.

Here's another one from the Speluky school of bad design. (Spelunky is one of my favorite games of all time, but damn did Derek Yu try to ruin it). In Spelunky, there's a secret that allows you to make much more money on each level. Money is used both for your high score, and for buying items (assuming you haven't angered the shopkeepers, in which case you just kill them and take their loot for free). Normally, you go through each level as fast as possible, trying to gather what you can before the big bad ghost comes and kills you. This is the entire spirit of the game. However, if you're a risk taker, you can stay until the ghost arrives, and if you make the ghost pass over gems (which you deliberately left out), the ghost turns any gem it touch into a diamond, worth much more money. This is the only way to get a high score nowadays since everyone knows the secret at this point.

The problem is that in order to engage in this high risk - high reward behavior, you have to wait out the level until the ghost comes and avoid collecting gems. You basically turn the game into a waiting room, waiting for the timer to expire. This completely kills the flow of the game, and is the reason I never even try to do this, high score be damned. Worse is the fact that Spelunky HD made the original Spelunky's ghost even *slower* just to allow people to do this even more without getting hurt. This is an example of a secret encouraging the exact opposite behavior to what the game generally encourages, and hurting the game hugely in the process. Many suggestions were made to fix this issue. For example, the ghost could become faster throughout the game as it chased you, making 'ghosting' a progressively more risky endeavor. But unfortunately, Spelunky HD was released on the Xbox, where the dev got virtually no feedback, and was only ported to PC a year later, by which time Derek was not interested in changing anything in the core design.

An example of good secrets from Isaac are the effects of each item. It's fun to discover the effects over time and guess what they are rather than just be told directly. This makes the secrets part of the advanced strategy of the game. Where this doesn't work too well is with trinkets, which are passive items you can swap in and out. Once you're supposed to both figure out the effect of items and trinkets together, it becomes too complicated to know if any particular effect happens because of an item you took somewhere along the line or because of a trinket. Before I read the wiki, I couldn't figure out almost any of the trinket effects. It doesn't help that most of them are quite subtle, or only occur rarely.

Finally, an example of a great little secret from Spelunky. Long after its original release, someone found an image in the data files of the end boss looking very purple. Nobody had ever encountered this version of the boss before, so they thought it may be an unused image. At the same time, people had accidentally found that sacrificing a particular item at an altar produces an eggplant, which seemingly had no effect in the game. The idea came up that perhaps the eggplant should interact with the final boss in some way. The problem was that Spelunky has you manage the objects you carry, in the sense that you can only carry one at a time (plus specific items that go on your back). Getting to the end boss requires activating other secrets, which in turn require carrying specific items, precluding the ability to get the eggplant to the end boss. Eventually, some very resourceful gamers found the specific recipe that would allow bringing the eggplant to the final boss. Throwing the eggplant on him caused him to turn into a giant eggplant boss.

This is a great example of a minor secret with very little effect that is nevertheless almost impossible to discover. As such, it passes my first principle of secrets, and trivially passes the second one. This secret could have sat in the game for years and years before being discovered.

Inspired by this secret, Edmund tried a similar idea for the Lost in Rebirth. Finding the Lost required piecing together images from the deaths of many player characters. The whole community would need to work together to find it. Unfortunately, the whole thing got messed up when Steam achievements revealed the existence of the Lost, and data miners easily found the recipe in the data files. I personally find the Lost to be so annoying an experience, that I don't consider it a part of the real design of the game. Afterbirth is supposed to make it somewhat better but I'm still not interested in it.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: dfinlay on October 20, 2015, 07:02:51 PM
As for the feeling of "cant afford to take hits", well, this is an Arcen game.  Alot of that will actually depend, at it's base, on what difficulty level you select.  Just like in TLF (and a bunch of the others) if the difficulty is really high, you'll die VERY fast if you take too many hits, but on low difficulties, you can tank a ton of stuff and not have your face melted.  That's the most likely case, though of course it may change, but you know, that's usually how they do it, since it works well.

To clarify, what I meant when I said "can't afford to take single hits" has very little to do with how many hits you can take from maximum health (if there is such a thing) and everything to do with how easy it is to heal. Take Spelunky. Because there is no maximum health and gaining health is comparatively rare, getting hit is effectively a permanent reduction of health for the rest of the run (and thus it really matters). If Spelunky instead had every enemy drop health (as many similar games do) or over time (really bad idea, but also common), getting hit would only matter until you healed back up. In order to maintain difficulty, health needs to be dropped such that the player now needs to be able to have his/her run end from one mistake or burst of mistakes, and if the mistake wasn't quite bad enough, there are no consequences. Both of these are in my opinion very bad and I would much prefer the game works like Spelunky in this regard.

I also wanted to talk about metaprogression. As I see it, there are two types of metaprogression. The first kind is where you get more power the more runs you play. This can be seen in, for example, Rogue Legacy. It's purpose is to allow players to keep getting further and further even without improving much in skill and to feel like they're earning more and more badassery. The other is where you get more options and/or more mechanics the more you play, but these are not inherently better than what they replace. This type can be seen in TOME(where new classes, races and build options are unlocked) or in TF2 (where new weapons can be unlocked). One of the cooler examples of this was the prerelease version of Desktop Dungeons, which had classes, races and more challenging dungeons unlock (unfortunately they switched to the first style with full release). It allows for a complex game that doesn't overwhelm players with options and keeps the game feeling fresh as the player keeps getting to experience new things. Additionally, this form of metaprogression  forces the player to improve to get further in the game. Some games, such as Isaac have elements of both, where you unlock new options and mechanics, but some are clearly better than the old ones (Isaac with D6 vs Isaac without, for example).

Another axis of choice in setting up metaprogression is how it is gained. There seems to be two main systems: points or achievements (though, again, combinations exist). A point-based system has some currency that can be spent to obtain unlockables (gold in Rogue Legacy or diamonds in Necrodancer, for example) and these can be gained in runs and then spent. Some games allow you to accumulate this over multiple runs and some force you to spend it all or lose it. This form tends to ensure people are making constant progress but not too quickly, to always give people something to plod along at and to encourage grinding. The second is to tie metaprogrssion to accomplishments (Complete any level with the Wizard to unlock the Necromancer. Beat the Valley of Light quest to Unlock the Caves of Darkness. Kill 100 enemies in 10 seconds to unlock the Painbringer, etc). Isaac and TOME are examples of games that do this. This tends to keep people experimenting and having cool goals, but can stagnate progress or frusterate people if they want to try X, but can't manage to pull off the requirement. If going this way, another choice is whether to keep the requirements secret. Doing so preserves mystery while leading to wiki-syndrome and making some people miss out on content they may have enjoyed. Not making it secret leads to a lack of mystery and a checkbox syndrome, but if the goals are built well, gives people cool things and builds to try they might not have otherwise.

My preference for this sort of game is usually for Non-power-increasing metaprogression unlocked by achievements that are publically visible in game. That said, any of these choices can work well and there are good arguments for each of them, so long as they are carefully thought about.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Bluddy on October 21, 2015, 10:32:03 AM
Some great analysis dfinlay!

To clarify, what I meant when I said "can't afford to take single hits" has very little to do with how many hits you can take from maximum health (if there is such a thing) and everything to do with how easy it is to heal. Take Spelunky. Because there is no maximum health and gaining health is comparatively rare, getting hit is effectively a permanent reduction of health for the rest of the run (and thus it really matters). If Spelunky instead had every enemy drop health (as many similar games do) or over time (really bad idea, but also common), getting hit would only matter until you healed back up. In order to maintain difficulty, health needs to be dropped such that the player now needs to be able to have his/her run end from one mistake or burst of mistakes, and if the mistake wasn't quite bad enough, there are no consequences. Both of these are in my opinion very bad and I would much prefer the game works like Spelunky in this regard.

Absolutely. Minimizing healing is generally a good way to make the game challenging from the very beginning. It means that you have to live (and die) with your mistakes instead of just wiping them out. Spelunky does this (as you mention), and so does Necrodancer, and to a certain extend, Binding of Isaac. Vertical Drop Heroes HD is one game that messes this aspect up. There are health potions all over the screen and you also heal fully when you level up, which can happen right after killing critters. The result is that you never feel the cost of bad strategies: you'll just keep having full health, until you suddenly take more hits than you should and die. There's no time to process the feedback of the game, because you're constantly in a heal-get hit-heal loop.

I also wanted to talk about metaprogression. As I see it, there are two types of metaprogression. The first kind is where you get more power the more runs you play. This can be seen in, for example, Rogue Legacy. It's purpose is to allow players to keep getting further and further even without improving much in skill and to feel like they're earning more and more badassery. The other is where you get more options and/or more mechanics the more you play, but these are not inherently better than what they replace. This type can be seen in TOME(where new classes, races and build options are unlocked) or in TF2 (where new weapons can be unlocked). One of the cooler examples of this was the prerelease version of Desktop Dungeons, which had classes, races and more challenging dungeons unlock (unfortunately they switched to the first style with full release). It allows for a complex game that doesn't overwhelm players with options and keeps the game feeling fresh as the player keeps getting to experience new things. Additionally, this form of metaprogression  forces the player to improve to get further in the game. Some games, such as Isaac have elements of both, where you unlock new options and mechanics, but some are clearly better than the old ones (Isaac with D6 vs Isaac without, for example).

Another axis of choice in setting up metaprogression is how it is gained. There seems to be two main systems: points or achievements (though, again, combinations exist). A point-based system has some currency that can be spent to obtain unlockables (gold in Rogue Legacy or diamonds in Necrodancer, for example) and these can be gained in runs and then spent. Some games allow you to accumulate this over multiple runs and some force you to spend it all or lose it. This form tends to ensure people are making constant progress but not too quickly, to always give people something to plod along at and to encourage grinding. The second is to tie metaprogrssion to accomplishments (Complete any level with the Wizard to unlock the Necromancer. Beat the Valley of Light quest to Unlock the Caves of Darkness. Kill 100 enemies in 10 seconds to unlock the Painbringer, etc). Isaac and TOME are examples of games that do this. This tends to keep people experimenting and having cool goals, but can stagnate progress or frusterate people if they want to try X, but can't manage to pull off the requirement. If going this way, another choice is whether to keep the requirements secret. Doing so preserves mystery while leading to wiki-syndrome and making some people miss out on content they may have enjoyed. Not making it secret leads to a lack of mystery and a checkbox syndrome, but if the goals are built well, gives people cool things and builds to try they might not have otherwise.

My preference for this sort of game is usually for Non-power-increasing metaprogression unlocked by achievements that are publically visible in game. That said, any of these choices can work well and there are good arguments for each of them, so long as they are carefully thought about.

Great summary of the options. Personally, I don't like the feeling of metaprogression, even though it hooks me in. It feels empty, like going for Steam Achievements or mobile game unlocks. The focus shifts from the actual gameplay to 'playing enough to get X'. I feel like this is a big mistake committed by Rebirth and the Isaac design in general. It gets people used to unlocking things so often, that when they finish unlocking things, there's no motivation to keep playing. The basic gameplay loop IMO has to be the draw, not the unlocking mechanics. This is why I like Nuclear Throne's unlocks. They're there, but they don't dominate the gameplay. Necrodancer's metagame is also ok, since it gives you new items, but is clearly not the draw of the game.

I actually think that Bionic Dues, inasmuch as it supported rogue-like gameplay (ie. permadeath), was quite revolutionary in the way that it structured an interesting strategic metagame around the runs. I think there's still room for a game that does that really well -- one that allows you to die often, as you do in rogue-lites, but also provides some more strategic metagame than just unlocking stuff. A very forgiving version of Valley2's strategic layer could be the metagame, and the goals (or side-goals) of the main gameplay loop could change based on where you are in the strategic map, for example, or what you need to accomplish.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: crazyroosterman on October 21, 2015, 02:30:37 PM
Some great analysis dfinlay!

I also wanted to talk about metaprogression. As I see it, there are two types of metaprogression. The first kind is where you get more power the more runs you play. This can be seen in, for example, Rogue Legacy. It's purpose is to allow players to keep getting further and further even without improving much in skill and to feel like they're earning more and more badassery. The other is where you get more options and/or more mechanics the more you play, but these are not inherently better than what they replace. This type can be seen in TOME(where new classes, races and build options are unlocked) or in TF2 (where new weapons can be unlocked). One of the cooler examples of this was the prerelease version of Desktop Dungeons, which had classes, races and more challenging dungeons unlock (unfortunately they switched to the first style with full release). It allows for a complex game that doesn't overwhelm players with options and keeps the game feeling fresh as the player keeps getting to experience new things. Additionally, this form of metaprogression  forces the player to improve to get further in the game. Some games, such as Isaac have elements of both, where you unlock new options and mechanics, but some are clearly better than the old ones (Isaac with D6 vs Isaac without, for example).

Another axis of choice in setting up metaprogression is how it is gained. There seems to be two main systems: points or achievements (though, again, combinations exist). A point-based system has some currency that can be spent to obtain unlockables (gold in Rogue Legacy or diamonds in Necrodancer, for example) and these can be gained in runs and then spent. Some games allow you to accumulate this over multiple runs and some force you to spend it all or lose it. This form tends to ensure people are making constant progress but not too quickly, to always give people something to plod along at and to encourage grinding. The second is to tie metaprogrssion to accomplishments (Complete any level with the Wizard to unlock the Necromancer. Beat the Valley of Light quest to Unlock the Caves of Darkness. Kill 100 enemies in 10 seconds to unlock the Painbringer, etc). Isaac and TOME are examples of games that do this. This tends to keep people experimenting and having cool goals, but can stagnate progress or frusterate people if they want to try X, but can't manage to pull off the requirement. If going this way, another choice is whether to keep the requirements secret. Doing so preserves mystery while leading to wiki-syndrome and making some people miss out on content they may have enjoyed. Not making it secret leads to a lack of mystery and a checkbox syndrome, but if the goals are built well, gives people cool things and builds to try they might not have otherwise.

My preference for this sort of game is usually for Non-power-increasing metaprogression unlocked by achievements that are publically visible in game. That said, any of these choices can work well and there are good arguments for each of them, so long as they are carefully thought about.

Great summary of the options. Personally, I don't like the feeling of metaprogression, even though it hooks me in. It feels empty, like going for Steam Achievements or mobile game unlocks. The focus shifts from the actual gameplay to 'playing enough to get X'. I feel like this is a big mistake committed by Rebirth and the Isaac design in general. It gets people used to unlocking things so often, that when they finish unlocking things, there's no motivation to keep playing. The basic gameplay loop IMO has to be the draw, not the unlocking mechanics. This is why I like Nuclear Throne's unlocks. They're there, but they don't dominate the gameplay. Necrodancer's metagame is also ok, since it gives you new items, but is clearly not the draw of the game.

I actually think that Bionic Dues, inasmuch as it supported rogue-like gameplay (ie. permadeath), was quite revolutionary in the way that it structured an interesting strategic metagame around the runs. I think there's still room for a game that does that really well -- one that allows you to die often, as you do in rogue-lites, but also provides some more strategic metagame than just unlocking stuff. A very forgiving version of Valley2's strategic layer could be the metagame, and the goals (or side-goals) of the main gameplay loop could change based on where you are in the strategic map, for example, or what you need to accomplish.

 personally I feel like the second type of metaprogression(I haven't really got an opinion on the first asides from I think its alright) is something of a double edged sword on the one hand you have the excitement of unlocking awesome new things but the risk is that once you've unlocked all the things and have got nothing left (I'm speaking from my own personal experience) it make you feel a bit empty and not really wanting to keep on going of course if yours game core mechanics are engaging that isn't really a thing just my 2 cents really.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Pumpkin on October 22, 2015, 10:12:47 AM
(...) It allows for a complex game that doesn't overwhelm players with options and keeps the game feeling fresh as the player keeps getting to experience new things. Additionally, this form of metaprogression  forces the player to improve to get further in the game.

(...)

My preference for this sort of game is usually for Non-power-increasing metaprogression unlocked by achievements that are publically visible in game. (...)

I fully agree with this. It's directly linked to what I meant about discovery mechanism: "a complex game that doesn't overwhelm players". It's also related to skill, as you said: "[it] forces the player to improve to get further".

(I realize this is exactly why I hate Rogue Legacy: my game/lineage gets better by farming, and my own skill is only related to how fast I'll grind, not how "deep" I'll get in the game.)

I wish Starward Rogue would go for this kind of mechanism(-ish) discovery and "skill up to get deeper".
Misery? What are you allowed to tell us about that?
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on October 22, 2015, 10:26:47 AM
(...) It allows for a complex game that doesn't overwhelm players with options and keeps the game feeling fresh as the player keeps getting to experience new things. Additionally, this form of metaprogression  forces the player to improve to get further in the game.

(...)

My preference for this sort of game is usually for Non-power-increasing metaprogression unlocked by achievements that are publically visible in game. (...)

I fully agree with this. It's directly linked to what I meant about discovery mechanism: "a complex game that doesn't overwhelm players". It's also related to skill, as you said: "[it] forces the player to improve to get further".

(I realize this is exactly why I hate Rogue Legacy: my game/lineage gets better by farming, and my own skill is only related to how fast I'll grind, not how "deep" I'll get in the game.)

I wish Starward Rogue would go for this kind of mechanism(-ish) discovery and "skill up to get deeper".
Misery? What are you allowed to tell us about that?

As far as I know, the game will be going mostly with the "You need actual skill to get further in" sort of thing.  I think Chris has spoken about this a few times here on the forums, particularly in relation to Rogue Legacy, which was a good game, but.... yeah, that bit kinda hurt it, I think.   Along with the grinding, which usually goes hand-in-hand with that idea.  You can probably glean some more info by going back and re-reading some of his earlier posts about the game in general.

I know there's SOMETHING outside of the individual runs, but from what I know, it's not anything like what that game does and doesnt go against the idea of needing skill to continue.  It'd really fit their style, too; even when their games DO have you get stronger between areas/levels/whatever, the enemies continue to power up as well.  Both BD and the Valley games do this, and do it quite nicely.  You dont get forced to go through trivial areas, and you're not forced to grind.  It's worked consistently well with their games, I think.

That's about all I have to say about it... Of course, there's only so much to say about it right now anyway.   Very, very early version of the game right now.  Like, *really* early.   I've never once seen one of these games in such an early state; it's pretty fascinating.  As you'd expect, the devs move rapidly with this one (as always) though so it's progressing nicely, I'm enjoying it so far. It's really looking good.  Aside from the parts where something I do glitches out and I spend the next 20 damn minutes finding a single typo because the whole universe is made of stupid.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Pumpkin on November 12, 2015, 12:39:11 AM
Hey, What's up?

This was a very interesting thread, and it just stopped. And I'm very frustrated, y'know? :D
Yeah, sure, I'll go play TLF and stuff, but...
When?!? When does the damn Arcen's roguelike... thing... game... When does it come out?!?

Hey, I was just kidding; I don't want a date. I just wanted to let you know that I'm still eager to see this game. And wanted to know how are things going. I'm sure you all are super busy. Just don't forget your (awesome 8)) community! ;D

(Maybe this deserves a new thread, but my post feels so pointless that I preferred to not do a new thread with just me being mad. :D)
Anyway, keep it up!
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on November 12, 2015, 03:54:01 AM
Hey, What's up?

This was a very interesting thread, and it just stopped. And I'm very frustrated, y'know? :D
Yeah, sure, I'll go play TLF and stuff, but...
When?!? When does the damn Arcen's roguelike... thing... game... When does it come out?!?

Hey, I was just kidding; I don't want a date. I just wanted to let you know that I'm still eager to see this game. And wanted to know how are things going. I'm sure you all are super busy. Just don't forget your (awesome 8)) community! ;D

(Maybe this deserves a new thread, but my post feels so pointless that I preferred to not do a new thread with just me being mad. :D)
Anyway, keep it up!

Things so far are going just fine, far as I can tell.  Alot of conceptualizing and long talks/emails right now with everyone coming up with different ideas and discussing them.... there's some interesting stuff being thrown around.  Needless to say I cant give specifics here, but.... some of the usual ideas from the genre will be showing up of course, though, some of them are getting some very interesting little twists thrown in.  Which, of course, is to be expected from Arcen, yeah?  Arcen's games have always done this very well and this is looking to be the case here too.

It's hard to say what the gameplay/combat is quite like just yet though.  One thing that is going to be interesting is the enemy variety in the game; I'm not the only one that'll be making the things, and the others will all have drastically different styles from me.   Needless to say my designs are definitely bullet-hell in nature; I'm the only one that can do that design style, so Chris told me to stick to making the crazy stuff.  But right now, where we're at, my enemies/bosses are the only things currently active.  The others are busy with various other important things, and with only my horrible monstrosities roaming around, it's hard to say just what it's quite like overall.  I can say though that it wont ALWAYS be super crazy even with my own bosses, there'll be lowered intensity versions of them (probably) to appear on lower difficulties, which is to be expected with bullet-hell anything.  So they wont ALWAYS be a screaming ball of murder-death.  I cant wait to see what kinds of designs the others come up with though, I'm very curious about that.  But the various other things they've been working on have been very interesting so far. Lots of interesting elements being added at a continuous rate. I'm definitely liking what I'm seeing, and Chris seems pretty pleased with how things are shaping up.   So that's all good.  The engine is much improved already from what it had been before, too.  Takes me like 1/4th the time to create a full new enemy/boss/thing than it did in TLF.  Soooooooo much easier to do. 

I can say that the game controls very well.  Definitely no issues on that front.

Definitely no dates yet for it as far as I know, for either the final release or the beta.  Right now though, my impression is that both are a long way off yet.

But it's already pretty fun even in it's current state!

And alot of the different ideas and thoughts people have had in this thread are being considered when making decisions.  Needless to say, Chris doesnt want the game ending up with any mechanics that are un-fun or anything like that.  So if anyone has any further input on things like this.... by all means, post it here!  I've certainly found it helpful.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Pumpkin on November 12, 2015, 10:49:10 AM
Yay! Thanks a lot for the update!

And alot of the different ideas and thoughts people have had in this thread are being considered when making decisions.  Needless to say, Chris doesnt want the game ending up with any mechanics that are un-fun or anything like that.  So if anyone has any further input on things like this.... by all means, post it here!  I've certainly found it helpful.

While I'm here, I want to share my opinion on "Teleglitch" and why I loved its hardcore permadeath with few (very very few) inter-run progression.

Teleglitch has a tone, an atmosphere that I absolutely love. First, there is no music: only noises. Then, there is large rooms that cannot be seen in one screen, and many of them have no monsters. Then, there is monsters, but ammo are scarce, and so are healing items. And then, there is permadeath.

There is no other game that make me hold my breath like this one. Very often, I find myself in need of air and realize I'm holding my breath for more than one room. So many roguelike/lite/whatever... so many games with some sort of permadeath are not only missing the point, but also not even trying to make it. Teleglitch is the only game with permadeath that reminds me Nethack and the elder Berlin's roguelikes. Don't Starve achieve it too (at least for me), and the Burton-like universe has something to do with it. And these games (Nethack, Teleglitch, Don't Starve) make me realize why I don't truly love Isaac or the like (and why I hate Rogue Legacy, but that's yet another story): in these games, I don't care about my character. It can die and I just think "oh, well, let's try again", or "let's do something else", or worse: blaming RNG.

Red Rogue is also a dark-themed permadeath-game. If like me you crave this kind of anxious-permadeath games, try one of them:
- Teleglitch (survival/action),
- Don't Starve (resource management -- if you don't already know this one, try it!!!),
- Nethack (old-school and RPG),
- Red Rogue (... it looks like a platformer, but something is off. Also, this one is free!)

Note: I don't say roguelike, because barely only the permadeath element is important for what I'm talking about: you can argue Don't Starve isn't a roguelike (and I would rather agree it's not), but it's for sure a permadeath game.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: Misery on November 12, 2015, 12:02:38 PM
Yay! Thanks a lot for the update!

And alot of the different ideas and thoughts people have had in this thread are being considered when making decisions.  Needless to say, Chris doesnt want the game ending up with any mechanics that are un-fun or anything like that.  So if anyone has any further input on things like this.... by all means, post it here!  I've certainly found it helpful.

While I'm here, I want to share my opinion on "Teleglitch" and why I loved its hardcore permadeath with few (very very few) inter-run progression.

Teleglitch has a tone, an atmosphere that I absolutely love. First, there is no music: only noises. Then, there is large rooms that cannot be seen in one screen, and many of them have no monsters. Then, there is monsters, but ammo are scarce, and so are healing items. And then, there is permadeath.

There is no other game that make me hold my breath like this one. Very often, I find myself in need of air and realize I'm holding my breath for more than one room. So many roguelike/lite/whatever... so many games with some sort of permadeath are not only missing the point, but also not even trying to make it. Teleglitch is the only game with permadeath that reminds me Nethack and the elder Berlin's roguelikes. Don't Starve achieve it too (at least for me), and the Burton-like universe has something to do with it. And these games (Nethack, Teleglitch, Don't Starve) make me realize why I don't truly love Isaac or the like (and why I hate Rogue Legacy, but that's yet another story): in these games, I don't care about my character. It can die and I just think "oh, well, let's try again", or "let's do something else", or worse: blaming RNG.

Red Rogue is also a dark-themed permadeath-game. If like me you crave this kind of anxious-permadeath games, try one of them:
- Teleglitch (survival/action),
- Don't Starve (resource management -- if you don't already know this one, try it!!!),
- Nethack (old-school and RPG),
- Red Rogue (... it looks like a platformer, but something is off. Also, this one is free!)

Note: I don't say roguelike, because barely only the permadeath element is important for what I'm talking about: you can argue Don't Starve isn't a roguelike (and I would rather agree it's not), but it's for sure a permadeath game.

Hmm... I cant really speak for the "care about my character" bit.  That aspect of design is a bit beyond me; I only focus on gameplay and nothing else, and I dont think I even NOTICE if a game has that particular aspect or doesnt have it.  I've played Teleglitch, but my usual response to death is "Bah, stupid thing!  Start over...".  Dont Starve I have but havent fully dove into, I'll get to it at some point, Nethack.... well, I'll just say, my opinions differ from the popular norm on THAT one.  That game heavily influences my design style and suggestions I make, but not in the way you might want it to.  Er... probably.    Red Rogue I'm familiar with, though I havent played it in awhile.  Maybe about time I have another go at it.  It is good.  I actually re-downloaded that one very recently, but havent really sat down with it, because it's another one of those games that either doesnt support or just refuses to acknowledge the controller, and setting up control profiles to FORCE it is tedious and annoying, so I havent felt like doing it.  Maybe I'll give it a go later tonight though.
Title: Re: A couple of questions that might help here
Post by: x4000 on November 17, 2015, 12:03:05 PM
Just a heads up that folks might be interesting in a redshirts phase of the alpha, which is around now: https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,18148.0.html