Author Topic: A couple of questions that might help here  (Read 7677 times)

Offline Misery

  • Arcen Volunteer
  • Core Member Mark V
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,109
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #30 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; I always avoid Bob's Brain and sometimes 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 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.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 07:25:24 AM by Misery »

Offline Bluddy

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 434
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #31 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.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 11:19:04 AM by Bluddy »

Offline ElOhTeeBee

  • Jr. Member Mark II
  • **
  • Posts: 69
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #32 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.
Spoiler for Hidden:
And I appreciated how it tied into the plot; I love it when gameplay mechanics are made part of the story.

Offline madcow

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,153
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #33 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.

Offline Misery

  • Arcen Volunteer
  • Core Member Mark V
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,109
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #34 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.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 11:23:18 AM by Misery »

Offline dfinlay

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 41
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #35 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.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 11:33:46 AM by dfinlay »

Offline Bluddy

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 434
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #36 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.

Spoiler for Hidden:
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.


Offline dfinlay

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 41
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #37 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.

Spoiler for Hidden:
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.

Offline Bluddy

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 434
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #38 on: October 19, 2015, 11:44:50 AM »
Spoiler for Hidden:
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).

Offline Misery

  • Arcen Volunteer
  • Core Member Mark V
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,109
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #39 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.

Offline mrhanman

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 764
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #40 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.

Offline Bluddy

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 434
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #41 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.

Offline Castruccio

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 323
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #42 on: October 19, 2015, 04:43:37 PM »
Is Afterbirth supposed to remedy any of your misgivings about Rebirth?

Offline Bluddy

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 434
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #43 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/ 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).

Offline Castruccio

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 323
Re: A couple of questions that might help here
« Reply #44 on: October 19, 2015, 05:44:29 PM »
Wow, I will definitely try your mod.  I didn't even know there were Rebirth mods.