Author Topic: Ideas for exploration enhancement  (Read 10222 times)

Offline Bluddy

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Ideas for exploration enhancement
« on: April 26, 2012, 11:55:01 AM »
I'd like to address one of the points that I think AVWW doesn't have down yet completely: exploration. The reason I'm doing it here rather than on Mantis is because I'd like maximum feedback and because I think there is SO much potential for ideas on this front.

I've thought long and hard about this topic. I used to be averse to the huge number of areas and rooms AVWW generates. I thought that it could easily generate far fewer meaningful areas rather than so many ones that are uninteresting. Remember that there's an issue with the game where people tend to over-explore after losing track of a goal, and then they get bored. This is something that's been an issue with the game for a while: you have to actively stop yourself from exploring.

I've come around to seeing the advantage of having a huge world with many rooms. As Chris says, it's more realistic: you have to zero in on the good stuff and separate the wheat from the chaff. But I think there are some hindrances from this philosophy really excelling in the game. The major problem as far as I can tell is having the map be auto-explored.

Let me explain. What is fun about exploration? I think the thing that's most fun is the thought: what's waiting for me just around the corner? What cool thing am I going to find now? Also, where can I find some secret goodies? The map really prevents that from happening. It also doesn't make sense -- how can I always see what's in rooms 2 levels away from me? This mechanism isn't intuitive and it doesn't relate to the subject matter of the game.

So how would I like to see exploration of say, a cave? First, I would like the map to be used for what it's usually for: showing you where you are and how to get back to places you've been, and incorporating new information you've learned. This will restore the surprise of "oh crap I just stepped into a boss cave and there are 3 frackin' bosses here!" and the joy of finding a gem vein. It also presents so many other opportunities. But more on that later.

Second, I keep thinking about Chris's notion of exploration in the real world. How would I explore a huge open world? Well, I would try to get to the good stuff. But how do I do that without a magical map? I'd look for clues of course. If I'm looking for a gem vein, a empty gem bag would be a clue that someone came out of that door and had gems at some point. Or I could find a broken gem on the ground. Where did it come from? There's seemingly no entrance around here? Wait a minute -- if I climb all the way up this cave, there's a hole in the wall directly above this dropped gem! That's where it came from! Another good aspect of this is that I'm looking at the main screen to try find my way and clues about where to go -- not just the map all the time.

There's also the potential for hiding entrances behind things, with clues. I've found a gem bag on the ground but I've checked all the entrances and there's nothing there to be found within a couple of chunks. Where's this gem from? Wait it was next to this mushroom... Destroy the mushroom and there's a secret entrance to another cave! This of course should be rare so you're not constantly destroying every item. Also if mushrooms can explode and spray gas etc you have an incentive not to blow up all of them.

I think there's still place for the map to expand and give you some knowledge, but that knowledge could come from maps that you find or are given. So looking for gravestones is a good idea, because someone might have etched a map onto that. Or you might just find a random map on the ground. These things are likely because the caves were inhabited at some point, and the inhabitants needed a way to find their way or to tell others how not to get lost.

Then you get into all the potential things that you could find and that could surprise you once you're not tied to the map telling you everything. You find an old madman running back and forth and shouting crazy things related to what happened to the world. He may have a clue about a gem vein, or a room where another survivor can be found. He can mark it on your map.

This also brings me to another (minor) point, which is the way that 'missions' are such a rigid, defined structure. They break the 4th wall of the game -- especially secret ones. I'd much prefer it if an Ilari stone told you about something to do, and especially if it didn't call it a mission. Or it could just be 'attempt to rescue survivor' by going in through a door. Yes, it's a mission, but we don't have to call it that. Anyway that was a tangent.

What would going through buildings be like? Actually it would be even cooler than going through caves. Remember, buildings are mostly empty, but there were some survivors who tried to protect themselves from the monsters that were unleashed before they died. So they created bunkers out of objects and crates and... traps!. So you're going through the building looking for some signs that something was alive here recently. Some food on the floor would be a clue that you should keep going down this hallway. A trap would be a great sign, because survivors would have set that. As you get closer to a stash, you'd find more traps and barricades. This would have the serendipitous effect of making the path to the stash more and more difficult as you got closer and closer, making things more and more interesting.

Anyway, I think that this method of leaving clues to the whereabouts of things and distributing maps minimally would really restore that sense of exploration that's missing with the map uncovering stuff for you. What do you guys think? And what ideas do you have for exploration (along the lines I sketched here)?

Offline KingIsaacLinksr

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2012, 12:15:32 PM »
So the tl;dr of this is that you want us to replace maps with clues.  Which ultimately...idk if that fits in this rather fast-paced game.  idk, I need to think on it and I'll see what other people say before I chime in again but I'm a bit iffy on the idea you present of clues-over-maps. 

King
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Offline Bluddy

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2012, 12:41:50 PM »
So the tl;dr of this is that you want us to replace maps with clues.  Which ultimately...idk if that fits in this rather fast-paced game.  idk, I need to think on it and I'll see what other people say before I chime in again but I'm a bit iffy on the idea you present of clues-over-maps. 

King

Well, clues and maps that you find or are given. Basically stuff to find in the 'empty' areas that'll let you figure out which way to go. And to restore the surprise that's currently missing. And allow secret passages that aren't just marked on your map.

Offline KingIsaacLinksr

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2012, 12:54:48 PM »
So the tl;dr of this is that you want us to replace maps with clues.  Which ultimately...idk if that fits in this rather fast-paced game.  idk, I need to think on it and I'll see what other people say before I chime in again but I'm a bit iffy on the idea you present of clues-over-maps. 

King

Well, clues and maps that you find or are given. Basically stuff to find in the 'empty' areas that'll let you figure out which way to go. And to restore the surprise that's currently missing. And allow secret passages that aren't just marked on your map.

Technically, we have secret passages that don't show up on the map, being the vent ducts in destroyed rooms.  But I get what your saying.

On the one hand I agree in that exploration with the map showing a couple levels feels a slight bit much.  I would rather it was toned down more, although getting rid of it completely and having map pieces lying around seems like just another thing we have to gather and I think we have plenty of those as-is. 

On the other hand though, I've gone into buildings where I explored to the end of it and I didn't find much at all.  Its maybe 1/15 buildings that happens, but it does and having the look-ahead-scouting feature prevents that from being a problem. It would essentially require us to make all buildings have something good or exploration will get aggravating in the long run. 

King
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Offline Bluddy

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2012, 12:59:33 PM »
Or the approach to this would be similar to what you'd do in real life. Think about exploring 5 huge buildings. You scout the first few levels of a building and if you don't find anything interesting, no signs of life so to speak, move on to the next one. It's just moved it from the map telling you what's there to actually engaging the player actively with things to look for in the main screen. Also, it deals with maps where there's a stash at the very end and you have to dig all the way for it. If there's no clue at all, don't even both exploring it. Then, while you're on your way to finding the thing you found the clue for, you can be surprised by bosses, random encounters, missions etc, so again the map isn't spilling the beans.

Except for when you find a map piece -- that'll always lead to something interesting and may reveal the location of a boss or mission.

Offline Bluddy

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2012, 01:00:52 PM »
It also allows you to come back to a building you left because you thought it was abandoned and suddenly find another clue. "Oh -- so there is something here after all." Now you go looking for it. Pretty cool I think.

Offline Penumbra

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2012, 01:07:04 PM »
Two words: Secret Doors.

Offline KingIsaacLinksr

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2012, 01:08:30 PM »
That's a great idea...in theory.  However, here's the thing, the game already works like this, at least with larger buildings.  You scout a few levels, the map tells you whether or not something is there and you make a decision to move forward or backward.  With your system of finding clues, it just adds work, not fun.  I have yet to play a game where I found pieces of the map and thought "Hey, that's a lot of fun".  Its usually just busy work. 

But I think Penumbra hit upon a good idea, secret doors would encourage more exploration while keeping it fun. 

King
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Offline madcow

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2012, 01:11:59 PM »
I actually like the way exploring works at the moment more or less. Though I would say it would be cool if there were additional mechanics that lead to other goodies. I like the idea of finding maps that point to hidden rooms. Perhaps in addition to the way things currently are, some (but not all) of the stashes could be unmarked, and picking up a map would reveal these hidden stashes. Though really, I wouldn't want to change the minimap mechanic too much. Sure it makes small houses easy, but I can't imagine going through a pyramid without those two levels of depth...

Another thing that would make exploring interesting, is if some of the stash rooms had a chance of having a boss in it instead (or guarding the loot). There you are trying to get a treasure, not expecting much trouble when you get an "oh crap, there's a boss instead!" moment.

Offline KingIsaacLinksr

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2012, 01:15:39 PM »
I actually like the way exploring works at the moment more or less. Though I would say it would be cool if there were additional mechanics that lead to other goodies. I like the idea of finding maps that point to hidden rooms. Perhaps in addition to the way things currently are, some (but not all) of the stashes could be unmarked, and picking up a map would reveal these hidden stashes. Though really, I wouldn't want to change the minimap mechanic too much. Sure it makes small houses easy, but I can't imagine going through a pyramid without those two levels of depth...

Another thing that would make exploring interesting, is if some of the stash rooms had a chance of having a boss in it instead (or guarding the loot). There you are trying to get a treasure, not expecting much trouble when you get an "oh crap, there's a boss instead!" moment.

I actually think it should be some sort of trap rather than a boss.  We don't want to oversaturate the games with bosses but I think if we added some kind of trap on a rare chance to these rooms, that would make it a little more interesting.  Granted, I have no idea what kind of trap. 

King
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Offline Bluddy

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2012, 01:19:05 PM »
So let me list the benefits I can think of:

1. There's reason to pay careful attention to useless rooms. You're really exploring things and objects start to matter. An enemy in the corner of a useless room didn't matter before, but now that he's guarding a gravestone that may have a map, he's important. (Granted if you need to get to an entrance that's guarded by an enemy that also worked in the current system).
2. Surprise is retained. This is huge. With the current system you can't really be surprised.
3. With the current system, you aren't told if there's anything there. You're just told that there's stairs going deeper. With clues, you know there's something worth pursuing.
4. The clues in buildings would mostly be traps. You're be approaching areas of increasing trap danger, because that's where survivors holed themselves up. This in itself is (IMO) a cool mechanic.
5. It allows for many ways of unveiling parts of maps -- things much more varied than just scanning through them. You could have an NPC that's rescued and he gives you a pretty thorough map of a specific building etc. The potential is endless, because you're not using a set mechanism that always scans 2 doors deep. This mechanism IMO removes the joy of exploration. This is why I found assassination missions so invigorating -- you're not told what's where and you have to discover it.
6. It's an explanation that makes sense. Scanning 2 levels deep isn't intuitive and doesn't really make sense.

I wrote this before other things were posted. I'm also ok with other ways of bringing surprise back into the game... Just thought people would like the clues idea.

Offline madcow

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2012, 01:20:04 PM »
Oh, it didn't have to be a boss, traps would be cool too. My idea was basically to add a little more spice beyond what you expect.

Offline x4000

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2012, 01:21:09 PM »
Some grouped responses:

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Regarding the clues and exploration based on that:  While I get what you're after, I don't really agree that it's a fit for the game.

First, given that this is procedurally generated we can't just leave clues in a really obvious fashion around.  What I mean is, the seeding logic would be such that sometimes a clue wouldn't fit, or would behind some giant plant, or whatever else.  As the guy behind the procedural generation, I can tell you that's probably a time-sink of a month or so of coding to get that working right, spread over a 6+ month period.  I just don't see it as being tenable.

Second, I also don't think that looking for clues would be very fun as a player.  You're focused on being stealthy or attacking enemies, and not necessarily scraping every last bit of ground with your eyes.  You're using the maps to navigate, which is pretty much exactly what maps are for.  If the maps weren't there, and you came into a hallways with 11 doors, there's not much you can do other than open them all and then see what happens.  And repeat, all the way through the building.  The reason for the current scouting system is that it actually lets players just go to their direct destination. 

I know that the whole clues thing is supposed to help with that instead, but I was just playing the Gerudo Trial thing in Ocarina of Time where they take away your map and make you find the last keys based on clues such as a popup when you approach the left or right door.  It was... not fun.  The dungeons where you actually have a map were way more fun, and I didn't ever lose a sense of exploration in Zelda simply because I had the map.  And remember that Zelda is a hand-crafted game with something useful in every room, compared to here.

Third, with the clues thing, those would be about impossible to do art-wise.  A bag of gems would look just like any other bag, presumably.  Or a gem would be small and get lost in the scenery, as noted above.  But when you get to more abstract things like "a boss is up ahead," that gets even more challenging.

Ultimately, this is only somewhat a game about exploration in the first place.  It's a lot more about combat, choice, and so on.  Anything that hampers the players' ability to make long-range choices is particularly damaging to the game.  Hiding the maps makes for a lot of negative consequences, I think.

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Regarding alternate scouting mechanics: I'm open to the idea.

Having buildings and exteriors be explored as they are now works because it's simple and new players "get it" instantly and intuitively from what I've seen.  Potentially there's something better, though it's not a high priority for me to search for something like that.  If somebody has a cool idea, I'm certainly open to it, though.

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Regarding missions breaking the fourth wall: not much I can do about that.

The structure of missions is really important for clarity and player choice.  That trumps the fourth wall for me.  It's like how you have Quests that pop up from NPCs in other games, and which clearly break the fourth wall as well.  In those you get even special icons showing in your main game view right above the heads of NPCs with quests, often.  How intrusive!  But we're all used to it.

Changing the missions to be more vague and story-integrated and harder to find would be the antitheses of where I'd want to take this game, honestly.  The clarity of what your options are and what you can do (what you get as well as what the challenge is) are really something that this game revolves around at this point, I feel.  That's where the strategic thinking becomes possible, which makes this not an RPG.

And yep, by breaking the fourth wall on occasion we move further and further from being an RPG -- but that's okay, RPG was never among the things this game was supposed to be.  Strategy game is, and that's where anything that reduces the players' ability to plan or make choices quickly and clearly isn't something I want to do.

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All that said, variety is good.  If there were some ways to have some "untamed wilderness" areas that you could find, which didn't scout the maps for you but worked more like you described in that you can only go through them one at a time, it could be interesting.  Though how exactly such an area might function I don't really know.

It's kind of a complicated matter and it's something that seems low down on the priority list to me at the moment compared to augmenting the existing game.  Your prior suggestions about making background objects more interactive, for instance, is something I really want to do more of since I think it's a bigger bang for the time investment involved.

But having some more pure-exploration-centric areas, missions, or whatever could be very interesting down the line.  And if folks have ideas on ways that the sense of exploration could be improved without cutting down on player agency or clarity, I could be really open to those, too.
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Offline KingIsaacLinksr

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2012, 01:22:12 PM »
Just a hilarious idea would be a giant swinging ball comes and smacks you outside the building and you watch yourself fall to the ground.  Although then you would die....why did I think that was hilarious?  ;)

King
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Offline madcow

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Re: Ideas for exploration enhancement
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2012, 01:34:26 PM »
Just a hilarious idea would be a giant swinging ball comes and smacks you outside the building and you watch yourself fall to the ground.  Although then you would die....why did I think that was hilarious?  ;)

King

Hah, you pick up an upgrade stone and the floor collapses, sending you plummeting to your death.