Author Topic: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics  (Read 2800 times)

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,458
Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« on: November 29, 2011, 01:55:29 PM »
I don't know if you'd even consider it, but would a topic on other warp mechanics be useful?  I think the current completely open warp ability, while it makes things very convenient, makes it hard to provide any cross-chunk challenges.  Since you have a forum for brainstorming stuff it might be helpful.  I did notice free ability to warp anywhere at any time isn't in the immutable design goals :) .  And it seems a few people have some thoughts on warping that might make sense to consolidate into a single thread.

This is another brainstorming thread, though honestly it's not one I expect to lead to any central change in the game.  It might lead to some alternative mechanics for certain areas, and I guess never say never, but one of the immutable design goals for the game is to cut down on annoying things like backtracking.

Especially given that public opinion swayed monster spawners into being destructible, actually re-traversing previously visited areas would be incredibly boring because there would often not even be any enemies there.  Storm dash/rush, on the flip side, have helped to mitigate that a lot for surface areas in particular, and the bat form helps for underground areas, but it still would be annoying to have to walk back to some challenge over any significant span of space when you've died, failed, or simply chosen to run away.

THAT said, of course the current warp system makes the game a bit less grounded in reality, and takes away some of the sense of space of the world.  It makes everything closer, and reduces the risk of long expeditions.  I hate that.  But having a compelling moment-to-moment game experience ultimately trumps those other desires for me, hence the warp implementation that we have.  Keith and I (and some players, back before the private alpha even, I think) tossed around a lot of various warping models, and this is the only one that is annoyance-free. 

We even considered a lot of things like not having any warps at all, but rather having some forms of tunnel systems.  I had an elaborate design for a cross-region form of tunnels called the "crawlway," but ultimately we decided that would be too confusing for players and it still involved a couple of screens worth of backtracking at each death or return-from-fleeing, etc.

Maybe there's some model that has only a little bit of annoyance in return for some better thematic flavor, though.  I'm open to the possibility, and certainly if there were the perfect model that would be awesome, but I have to say I'm not terribly hopeful because this one has been flogged to death previously.  But that was before any players had their hands on the game, so who knows, there might be some new stuff sparked here, at least for variants that show up only in certain chunks or groups of chunks, etc.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Hearteater

  • Core Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,334
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2011, 02:37:08 PM »
I think probably the simplest change would be checkpoints.  Right now every chunk is its own checkpoint, and it gets flagged as "checked" the moment you enter it.  Instead what if only some (say 25%) of chunks had a checkpoint in them at all.  And further, what if the checkpoint was an actual immobile object in the chunk you needed to reach.  This would create the ability to place obstacles around said checkpoint objects, and makes the space between checkpoints more important.

And just to clarify, you would be able to warp to any checkpoint you had unlocked from any chunk.  So only the destination needs to have an unlocked checkpoint.  Your current chunk doesn't matter.  This always allows backtracking.  Granted you probably can't quite get to the exact chunk you may want, but you can get within 2-3 chunks of it.

To solve potential issues such as backing out of buildings and such, it may make sense to have an "warp exit" item that simply backs a player out of the current structure to the door they entered through, regardless of whether that doorway had a checkpoint in it.

Offline superking

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,205
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2011, 06:04:18 PM »
I like the diabolo solution of 'Town Portals' - the diabolo world felt huge, yet it was possible to return to towns within seconds- at the cost of a scroll that is very expensive in the early game.  Being able to warp to any sector I want at a single click with no real cost makes the survivor aspect laughable. "I'm a hard put to survivor who can nonetheless teleport anywhere I have already been, instantaniously."

backtracking in the sense exploring something you have explored before does not happen. backtracking in the sense leaving an area you have time consumingly cleaned out would be solved by town portals, or to be fair about 30 seconds of running... in elder scrolls games players have no problem with running for 15 minutes to the next town.

To create a feeling of 'hard put-to survivor', any powerful, useful or conveineint utility must be in some way expensive, or the player gets a feeling more akin to 'futuristic tourist'


Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,458
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2011, 07:14:26 PM »
Okay, bearing the above in mind, what if we just took out warp potions/scrolls entirely, but put in that new "warp exit" spell that lets you escape from buildings.

Then, scattered throughout many (but not all) surface chunks, and many underground chunks, and a few interior chunks from time to time, there would be some sort of Warp Stones that you could use to warp to any other chunk in the region that has a warp stone.

This would necessarily involve some backtracking on the part of players, but not a huge amount if they are planning well.  And it's something that would certainly up the immersion, AND which would not require players to go back to town to restock on warp potions.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Coppermantis

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,209
  • Avenger? I hardly know 'er!
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2011, 07:35:33 PM »
The only times I really need to use warp potions are in caves or maze rooms. I do like the idea of having a warp stone/portal room/whatever put randomly into buildings, but already explored buildings wouldn't have those, but, then again, If you've already explored a building most likely you won't need to return to it. Having most large/rare medium buildings contain a portal that allows you to move to any other portal would work nicely I think. Caves could have portal rooms occasionally as well.

To maintain a remnant of the current mechanic, they'd need to be activated to be used or traveled to. That way you can't warp to places you haven't visited, and it makes sense since they might have been broken during the cataclysm. Maybe even have them require a relatively 'inexpensive' item, like a power stone or maybe even any gemstone to activate. It fits the 'magic' theme and provides some insight into how they might work.
I can already tell this is going to be a roller coaster ride of disappointment.

Offline Hearteater

  • Core Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,334
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2011, 08:13:56 PM »
Okay, bearing the above in mind, what if we just took out warp potions/scrolls entirely, but put in that new "warp exit" spell that lets you escape from buildings.

Then, scattered throughout many (but not all) surface chunks, and many underground chunks, and a few interior chunks from time to time, there would be some sort of Warp Stones that you could use to warp to any other chunk in the region that has a warp stone.

This would necessarily involve some backtracking on the part of players, but not a huge amount if they are planning well.  And it's something that would certainly up the immersion, AND which would not require players to go back to town to restock on warp potions.
I like this.  I might even say warp exit for buildings wouldn't even need to be a spell.  Similar to how the "exit" button works in City of Heroes when you complete a mission.  I say this only because it would basically be a mandatory spell and those feel bad to me.  Mandatory utility spells always seem somewhat kludgy.

I also like the Warp Stones.  You don't specifically mention it, but I would suggest you need to discover a Warp Stone before you can teleport to it from another Warp Stone.  Otherwise Warp Stones are just vents that lead to any other vent.  But if I need to discover a warp stone to travel to it, I actually feel like I'm making progress as I work my way from stone to stone.

Offline zebramatt

  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,574
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2011, 04:13:16 AM »
In General
For me, warping serves four main purposes.
  • Leaving buildings
  • Backtracking to junctions
  • Escaping to restock
  • Returning

And there are two 'types' of warping with distinct restrictions.
  • Warping 'out' - anywhere except live boss rooms
  • Warping 'in' - anywhere you've previously visited

It's probably clear when stated like that why warping currently (a) feels so unrestricted; and consequently (b) becomes such a crutch for players.


Warp Stones
The Warp Stones idea holds appeal because it increases the restrictions from "anywhere" to "rooms with a Warp Stone" - which could be as unrestricted as now (they're seeded everywhere) or hugely restricted (they're seeded hardly anywhere). Thus whether Warp Stones helps to alleviate (a) and (b) above depends entirely on their seeding.

So, where should they be seeded? For me, to continue to use warping in the way I do now but still upping the restrictions, they would need to be spawned (underground and in Towers) at every junction, before every boss room and at every dead end. Above ground things are trickier since any spawn logic I can think of seems pretty arbitrary - but I'll touch on that below.

(I believe this system could work for buildings also but would not be against it only working for Towers - with 'ordinary' buildings using a different mechanic like an Exit Building spell, if it's not too contrived to work.)

All in all it solves (a) but not (b) particularly, as I'll still rely on them to get about.


Warp Stones - Another Approach
What if instead of a Warp Stone being an immobile conduit it was a small floating Stone which could follow you about? You could spawn Ilari (in much the same way Warp Stones might be spawned above) who in turn spawn a Warp Stone companion for you. So long as you have that Stone, you can warp out of anywhere. The Warp Stone could possess similar restrictions to Warp Potions now - preventing you from warping out of a boss room, for example. They'd be single-use items, allowing one warp. Probably your Ilari at your settlements would grant you such a Warp Stone too. 

I like it partly because it reconciles disparity and possible confusion between different sets of logic for inside ordinary buildings, underground & in Towers and above ground outdoors. I like it partly because it's a hybrid between the existing Warp Potion system and the proposed Warp Stone system. And I also like it because it means you could be a lot more stringent with spawning Ilari to grant Warp Stones.

However, although I like this idea, it really doesn't do anything which couldn't be achieved with simply giving the player fewer (i.e. one) Warp Potions and then sticking a few Ilari in the world to top you up. And it's not really addressing the core concerns.


Reinventing the Wheel
It's probably apt at this point to take a step back and ask the question: why is the warp mechanic in Valley different from traditional dungeon crawlers at all? Traditionally you'd have two ways of travelling back and forth - Town Portal scrolls and designated warp points (after bosses usually). Why do things differently?

Now, sure, there's something to be said for simply not being derivative. But is Valley's system actually better? I'd be inclined on the face of it to say that no, it's not better, it's just different. But on closer inspection, there is one way in which this difference  is potentially damaging. Valley's current mechanic is, above all else, convenient.


Convenience Trap
The more I think about the current system, then more it occurs to me that convenience is being favoured above all else. Backtracking = tedious. Therefore, convenience is applied. This, I think, is wrong. It's not something I've thought about very much because, hell, it's convenient so I rely on it. But in fact, it's a bit like a problem where all the vegetation in an ill-tended park is drab and boring to look at, so a tram system is put right through the middle so people don't have to look at it. It circumvents the problem without solving it at all. Now that's not to say on occasion it wouldn't be ideal to be able to traverse the park quickly - but it's still a boring park, and will always be.

That is, unless something is done to redress the balance. Backtracking might well have been tedious - it's always going to be a little tedious - but it's also helpful in reinforcing the sense of being out in the wilderness, far from home. You can't have one without the other!

In Skyward Sword, for example, to get back to Skyloft I have to exit a dungeon, find a warp point to the sky, then manually fly my bird back there. Is it a bit tedious? Sure. But at no point is it so tedious that it breaks the game. In fact, it makes the game. The flying bits are simply amazing for capturing a sense of the scale of the world. Convenience is sidelined to an accompaniment: strategically placed warp points in dungeons allow you a quick exit; similar warp points outside allow frequent access to the sky; warp tunnels in the sky give you a big speed boost to cut down on travel time. But you're still travelling. And to get back to the point you were at in the dungeon, you're still having to backtrack from the entrance to that dungeon. It's just a pleasure to do so!


What to do?
The Warp Stone ideas aren't bad ones, by any means, and fit with the Zelda example I just touched on - so I'm not ruling those out by any means. But I think there also needs to be a fundamental shift in mindset. Yes, I never played the game when you had to backtrack everywhere so I can't attest to how tedious it was. But I suggest that only part of the solution to that tedium should be to add convenient travel systems. There simply must be some inconvenience left behind in order to maintain the scale of the world.

(Another example of this is fast travel systems - like in World of Warcraft or SW: The Old Republic - which actually involve you getting in some vehicle or on some mounted beast and watching the landscape whip by whilst you travel. Or, again from SW:TOR, proper fast travel which you can only use every 30 minutes or whatever. A counterpoint to those would be Xenoblade's fast travel, which allows you to instantly move from one warp point to another across vast distances. The reason that works, I feel, is that the distance between points is often pretty huge; and because you're constantly having to venture between points on foot to hunt down things not right next to a point.)

So, as well as adding inconvenient conveniences, so to speak, the sources of tedium need to be addressed in the world itself. I'm not going to try to do that here - it's a whole other discussion in itself - but I think it does[b/] need to be brought back into the forefront. It's simply too easy right now to ignore the problem because a more convenient option is available.


In conclusion (TL;DR)
I'm advocating:
  • The tedium of backtracking be addressed at its root
  • Warping become (much) less convenient
« Last Edit: November 30, 2011, 04:26:46 AM by zebramatt »

Offline tigersfan

  • Arcen Games Contractor
  • Administrator
  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,599
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2011, 07:12:17 AM »
Personally, I HATE backtracking. While some of the arguments raised about breaking the immersion of the world hold some validity, I still think of the large number of games I've stopped playing because of the amount of manual traveling that had to be done. One of the ones that Zebramatt brought up is World of Warcraft. I understand why they had to have all the manual travel, but one of the reasons I stopped playing was because I got tired of sitting there watching the background go by while not doing anything. I wished more than anything for some sort of warp mechanic. I play a game to play, not to travel.

My point? I guess that if folks feel that the warp mechanic needs changing, I really don't want a change so far in the other direction that we have to spend much time travelling. I kinda like it the way it is now, and I use warp potions liberally.

Offline zebramatt

  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,574
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2011, 07:59:11 AM »
Don't get me wrong: me too. (On all counts - it took way too long to do anything in WOW!)

I just feel rather like we're afraid to let there be any backtracking at all because the world's too tedious to support it.

It's definitely swung too far the other way, right now, is my point.

Offline tigersfan

  • Arcen Games Contractor
  • Administrator
  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,599
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2011, 08:15:14 AM »
It's definitely swung too far the other way, right now, is my point.

Well, I'm not sure I agree. That said, as long as it doesn't move too far towards WoW or worse, Baldurs Gate, I won't scream about a change.

Offline Hearteater

  • Core Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,334
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2011, 10:11:04 AM »
The problem isn't really backtracking, but returning.  If I just defeated a boss or other objective and I'm leaving and never coming back, then forcing me to manually backtrack is largely pointless.  However, if I am backtracking to re-provision and plan on returning, that becomes a problem because it makes all challenges trivial from a resource standpoint.  I cannot run out of resources because I can always leave, fully replace everything I've lost, and return.  I never need to tackle a set of chunks on a single set of resources.  In effect, the only thing that can stop me is a single monster so tough I can't defeat it.  No combination of things can stop me.

This is bad because it really limits the challenges available.  All the difficulty needs to be put into a single thing or players can trivially defeat each piece separately with full resources each time.  You can get around this somewhat by making grouped monsters that respawn each other if any in the group are still alive when you leave a chunk, but you are limited to single-chunk challenges then.  There is no ability to create a tough sequence of obstacles with a culminating boss fight.  Imagine a movie in which the hero breaks through the bad guys hideout and hundreds of guards and finally confronts the main antagonist, but before they fight the hero stops by his home, rests up, visits the hospital to get his wounds checked out, stops by the store to pick up some additional guns and ammo, and drops by his dad's construction company to pick up some explosives.  At this point, who cares how the movie ends?

So I think the goal is, how do we make someone backtracking to leave permanently not very inconvenienced while still being able to present a group of chunks a player needs to tackle in a single run to allow compound challenges.

Offline Martyn van Buren

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Collected Place For Considering Alternative Warp Mechanics
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2011, 09:07:39 PM »
I'm very much with hearteater on this.  Somebody suggested no-warp zones, which sound to me like a pretty easy and appropriate way to address this.