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Brainstorming Thread: Show Me The Clever Players.

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Here's an interesting thing I've been thinking about, and I've not been coming up with huge numbers of ideas on this and so wanted to put this to the players.  In what ways could AVWW better allow players to be clever in the game?


In AI War, I think that a lot of the lasting appeal of that game (for me anyhow) is that it offers a decision space that is really rich.  Unusually so, even for a strategy game.  There's lots of kinds of ships, and ridiculous numbers of ways that you can combine them.  Some players use ships to great effect that others detest, and every so often a player will come up with a really unique and clever strategy (exploit or otherwise) that nobody else has ever thought of.

I think that this is part of the enduring appeal of AI War: whether or not you personally ever do, there's always the feeling that you can come up with some cool strategy that nobody else has ever thought of.  And even when you come up with something that others have already thought up, it's not necessarily something that was obvious to everyone.  There is an element of strategic creativity there, that really lets people of all skill levels feel clever as they come up with a plan and then execute on that plan.

Other Games And Cleverness
I think that, to some extent, Tidalis also rewards cleverness.  However, it's much more traditional in how it does so: all of the puzzles have a solution that we (mainly meaning Lars) thought of, and your task is figuring out the how to solve that puzzle.  Sometimes there are extra solutions that he didn't think of in advance, which is also part of the fun with Tidalis (as with AI War), but in general it's a much more curated experience -- until you get into custom games, which can involve all sorts of odd challenges that other people have never or only infrequently encountered.

When it comes to games like platformers, FPS, schmups, and other action games, however, these are not exactly known for the same phenomenon.  Games like Zelda and its many derivatives do in fact have puzzles, and many of them require the player to be quite clever.  But these are all about as curated as they come, each having a single very specific solution.  It's a different kind of game, and a different kind of cleverness, than I really mean.

Thinking About Player Cleverness In AVWW
Right now, AVWW doesn't have Zelda-style puzzles -- and whether or not it does in the future is irrelevant to what I'm really talking about with this thread.  That's a way to provide players with an interesting challenge, but it's inherently finite and something that has a 1:1 puzzle design-to-solutions ratio.  In other words, we design one puzzle, and you solve one puzzle. 

The sort of player cleverness I'm talking about is the more freeform kind that you see in AI War, or Magicka, or Minecraft.  In AI War you've got this strategic cleverness where you can combine all the myriad of ships in different ways to overcome challenges that would otherwise be insurmountable.  In Magicka you've got that spell combo system that lets you create custom spell combos that lead to effects others might not have thought of.  In Minecraft, obviously the fairly small number of blocks (under 30 I think) are able to be recombined in Lego-style fashion to make this ridiculous number of possible creations.

I'm open to any suggestions, this is a brainstorming thread after all, but what I'm most interested in developing is opportunities for player cleverness in AVWW along the lines of what you can do with AI War or Magicka, not in the creative building-block-style that you see in Minecraft.  After all, you've already got Minecraft and Terraria for that sort of thing, and frankly they do it better than we could.  Aside from things like the room templates that players are already creating for AVWW, as that's obviously really creative and bears really cool results (although the actual creation process takes place outside the game!).

Extra points the closer the proposed ideas tie into the existing mechanics we already have for the game; I'm not saying I will only implement one idea for player cleverness or something, but I am saying that the ones that are quicker for us to integrate are likely to show up faster. :)


Martyn van Buren:
Well, first thoughts --- the first things that come to mind are things like status effects, but I'm sure those are already planned.  One thing that occurs to me is that in AVWW you never get to scout Mk IV world with a raid engine next to your home, as it were, and then go "Holy sh**!" and go back to think about what to do with your Mk I triangle ships and 10,000 starting k --- combat tends to be surmountable with enough jumping and reflexes, and you never really do get a clear view of something totally overwhelming.  That's a feeling I miss a lot, tho I don't really know how to recreate it. 

So I think one thing might be trying to create situations that pose much more intense challenges, with crazy numbers of spawners or multiple bosses or something, but then give you a lot more information about the playing field before you start and potentially some way of adjusting it a little --- maybe laying a few traps and crates while hidden --- to give yourself a (hopefully painfully inadequate) edge.  I think having situations where you get forced into combat without being able to go get the loadout you really want would contribute to that too --- I feel like I only come up with clever things after I experiment and try a few massively dumb things, and I don't tend to take that risk unless I'm forced to.  Perhaps larger no-warp areas --- or whole dungeons you have to restart if you warp in and out --- would help with that?

It's true, one of the things we had thought of a long while back were Boss Buff rooms where you could go to them to destroy them to weaken the boss in some fashion, but otherwise the boss is tougher thanks to having those in place.  That felt a bit artificial the way I'd partly implemented it, though, so I wound up scrapping it since the ideal path was always just to go kill the buffs first and that was therefore just extra steps to get to the same end result.

But in terms of the core of what you're saying, in terms of needing to recreate that sense of an overwhelming challenge that you can chip away at -- that's absolutely something I couldn't agree with more.  That goes hand in hand with having a lot of tools at your disposal to chip away at that challenge in an interesting fashion.  To some extent I wonder if the entire world should be that kind of "boss."  It's kind of like how the AI War galaxies are a giant puzzle of sorts in themselves, right?  That mark IV world is one particularly intense part, but just taken in isolation without the rest of the galaxy I think it would be less interesting.

Martyn van Buren:
Yeah, that's absolutely true --- one of the solutions to the Mk IV world is always "let it reinforce and just live with it," and you're always trying to look at it against a dozen other planets you could be throwing your ships at.

But tactically, I was thinking more about things you could do to change the actual room you have to fight in.  I don't know, having a little portable fort or status effect turrets (maybe ones that target you too) or some lava-in-a-bag.  But for that to work you'd have to at least be able to see the whole room while you're still under invincibility, I think, so you'd have time for a plan.  Does that make any sense at all?

Yeah, that makes a ton of sense -- I'd not thought of anything like that, but it could be an interesting mechanic for sure.  Almost like some... tower offense elements.


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