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 Post subject: Kerkerkruip discussions
PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:03 am 
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In reply to posts here, my take on grenades:

* The fragmentation grenade is one of the better items in the game. Throw it at an enemy with full concentration who is attacking you, and you are almost guaranteed to break his/her/its concentration. (Yes, grenades can be thrown as a reaction.) Throw the grenade when you are fighting a group of enemies, and you'll damage all of them and break their concentration.
* The flash grenade is not useful enough. I'm afraid that if you can throw it into adjacent rooms, it may become too useful, so some kind of balancing measure might be needed.
* The rust grenade is somewhat useful, especially once you have found a good non-iron weapon.
* The smoke grenade is useful if you have any of the smoke-related items (smoky robe, smoky blade), but rather useless otherwise.
* The blessed grenade is awesome against undead.

Looking at this list, I'm not sure that the problems that there are would be solved by the ability to throw grenades into adjacent rooms. The fragmentation grenade and the blessed grenade are already powerful enough. Rust and smoke grenades wouldn't be improved but the ability to throw them into other rooms. (They probably should be improved by adding more content that is sensitive to smoke or rust/rust spores.) Only the flash grenade would be improved by this proposal, but it might be improved too much.

That doesn't mean I'm against the proposal, though it would need to be balanced carefully. One way to balance it would be to not give the ability to the player at all times, but only when she has readied a special weapon, the "grenade launcher".

The flash grenade probably needs some work irrespective of whether we implement grenade throwing or not. What about this: the flash grenade only blinds people temporarily. This makes it a good item for covering your escape, but doesn't cripple you or your enemies for the rest of the game. (This would also balance the flash grenade if we do decide to let people throw it.)


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 9:04 am 
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I will have to try using the frag grenade more as a reaction... and I agree that the flash grenade needs work regardless of what happens.

I really dislike the idea of a grenade launcher. Sneaking around with the cloak, or using your free instant retreat, and then throwing grenades to an adjacent room (or into a portal) just seems like an obvious strategy to me. Perhaps all grenade throwing should be targeted, so that normal use would require you to throw grenades at specific people to get their maximum effect. Throwing from an adjacent room would mean you couldn't target a particular person, reducing their effectiveness, possibly to the extent that you might not cause any damage, while still attracting their attention.

I have also always thought that Metastasio's hat should do more than simply help you retreat... perhaps if my previous idea was implemented, the hat would allow you to throw grenades with maximum effect even to an adjacent room.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:40 pm 
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OK, sounds good, with several dials that can be used to balance things out. I'm interested to see what you come up with!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:57 pm 
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(Apologies for any spelling errors that may crop up -- my glasses broke in half today, so I'm inconveniently located with my nose almost touching the screen.)

For version 6 of Kerkerkruip, I want to improve an element of the game that needs improving: statistics. How often do you even check what your dexterity, perception and willpower are? Never, that's how often, and the only time you'll be conscious of any of them is when you are battling the mind slug and he is getting your willpower dangerously low. There are a few other situations where statistics play a role (attacking in the Hall of Mirrors, ducking under the chain golem's chains, and so on), but it doesn't add up to a compelling part of the game. I have some plans for changing that, which I'd like to share with you. I'm grateful for any comments.

Here is the basic plan:

1. The statistics will vary a little more at character generation.
2. Whenever you absorb a soul, you will be asked which statistic you want to increase. The increases are +n for a level n monster, so you can get a total of 1+1+2+2+3+4=13 points of statistics increases. (Of course, these numbers can be tweaked.) You do not lose statistics increases when souls are removed from your body.
3. Each statistics has one or more noticeable effects. Some possibilities are: (a) willpower gives you a chance to remain concentrated when you are hit; (b) perception sometimes allows you to identify a scroll before reading it, leading to a y/n prompt whether you really want to read it; (c) perception allows you to find more objects in the dungeon; (d) dexterity improves your chances of a critical hit, i.e., rolling 20 on your attack roll. More ideas are of course welcome. All of the underlying checks would be silent, since we don't want to fill the screen with statistics checks; but the difference between 5, 10 or 15 points in a statistic would be very noticeable.
4. All powers -- the special skills you receive from monsters -- will depend on one or more of the statistics. For instance, the pierce ability given by the swarm of daggers might depend on both perception (probability of hitting) and willpower (probability of remaining concentrated). The dominate power will scale directly with willpower. The lash power will allow you to hit first or not depending on your dexterity. Again, these checks would be silent, but differences of several points in a statistic would be noticeable in play. Furthermore, the dependence of each skill on the statistics would be explained in the help menu.
5. More environmental features involve explicit or implicit statistics checks.

This should lead to at least the following:
* Statistics matter. A high willpower character plays differently from a high dexterity character. What is a huge challenge for one may be easy for the other; what may be a great skill or piece of equipment for one may be nearly useless for the other.
* A new dimension of strategic planning is opened. You see that the swarm of daggers is in the dungeon, and you want to pierce Malygris, to break his concentration. This means that from the beginning of the game, you should start putting all your points in dexterity, because you'll need very high dexterity to use that skill against Malygris. Of course, this also means that you should keep the swarm of daggers alive until you are ready to take on Malygris, so that you won't lose its power.

What do you think?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:12 am 
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Re: Plans for making stats more important to gameplay

I'm all for this. I particularly like the implications for longer-term strategic planning.

One thing that does nag at me a bit: the cumulative nature of stat upgrades that you seem to be planning. The Kerkerkruip design has always impressed me by not falling into the typical RPG trap of stat progression: rather than make the player character "interesting" via increasing bonuses*, Kerkerkruip has always required the player to balance positive and negative effects of any tactic or strategy. I feel like cumulative stat upgrades could potentially work against this design. Or not. This is really just a call to think through the consequences. In practice, things may well balance out. For example: I have killed the chain golem and the daggers. Do I now fight the flesh bomb or sneak on by to look for a level 3 creature to tackle? If I fight the flesh bomb and win, I will lose both the pierce and lash powers, but I will at least gain the explode power and another +2 to my willpower.

I'm not sure that I like the idea of all of these checks being completely silent. Surely if my dexterity gives me a bonus or penalty to my to-hit score, I should see that reflected in the summary of the roll? Other checks, such as probability of identifying a scroll, could certainly be silent, but anything that affects the core gameplay (combat) ought to be explicit. (Random further comment on explicit checks: I'd like to see the check for the explode power on death be explicit. If the player doesn't see any "you failed to explode" text at the end of the game, he is left wondering why the power didn't work--is the game buggy?)

Also, if the stats are to be more important during play, it would probably be best if the STATUS command were automatically called at the outset so that the player can see where he stands.

More tactical mechanics?
While I think the addition of stats will make the game more interesting, I would also love to see more options for combat at the tactical level. Right now, the major tactical focus is the concentration mechanic. I would love to see options expanded so that there is a bit more variety in combat moment to moment. I have no particular ideas about what that might look like, but I wanted to register my desire to see more variability here.

Potential contribution
I have almost zero time for this sort of thing right now, but even so I am considering adding an animated title page (a la this) that would display on graphics-capable interpreters. Would that be a welcome contribution?

--Erik

*As the player's stats increase in a typical RPG, the game either gets easier the longer we play it (wouldn't it be more if it got harder?!), or we have to increase the stats of enemies concomitantly, which means that we have no more interesting decisions to make than we had before (e.g., now we have bigger orcs that we fight in the same way as we fought their smaller kin). I feel like Kerkerkruip right now pretty much completely avoids this trap.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:30 pm 
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Erik Temple wrote:
Re: Plans for making stats more important to gameplay

One thing that does nag at me a bit: the cumulative nature of stat upgrades that you seem to be planning. The Kerkerkruip design has always impressed me by not falling into the typical RPG trap of stat progression: rather than make the player character "interesting" via increasing bonuses*, Kerkerkruip has always required the player to balance positive and negative effects of any tactic or strategy. I feel like cumulative stat upgrades could potentially work against this design. Or not.

I see your point. The way I'm thinking about it, there would be two kinds of effects: (1) some challenges will just become easier as your statistics increase; (2) others will scale up with you, since you are fighting tougher monsters.

This is basically the way the game works already. As you become tougher, some of the challenges become simply easier -- for instance, killing the undead that may jump out of the sarcophagus, or the rotting corpse that may come out of the pile of human body parts, or the thieving imp. But other challenges remain roughly equal, namely, killing the next monster -- since the next monster becomes tougher at roughly the same rate as the player. In itself, that give a nice balance of a feeling of progression and not having the game become trivial. But more is needed to make it interesting. The powers mechanics ensures that the player is always tempted to take on monsters that are slightly above her own current strength, because if she doesn't, she won;t be able to rise to the strength needed to take on Malygris.

Statistics would get their interest in another way, namely through the mechanic of having to divide your points over three of them. You'll need to increase each statistic in order to scale your powers and prowess up with the monsters -- for instance, a dexterity-dependent power won't do much against Malygris is you're still at dexterity 4. But you can't increase all of them sufficiently, so you'll either have to accept that your stats are mediocre by the end of the game, or you need to specialise and accept some weaknesses in order to gain other strengths.

Of course, this only works if the stats have an obvious influence on the game, and if they are well-balanced. (I.e., it shouldn't be the case that dexterity is always better than willpower. It should depend on which powers you want to use, which enemies you'll meet in which circumstances, which items you find, and so on.)

Quote:
I'm not sure that I like the idea of all of these checks being completely silent. Surely if my dexterity gives me a bonus or penalty to my to-hit score, I should see that reflected in the summary of the roll? Other checks, such as probability of identifying a scroll, could certainly be silent, but anything that affects the core gameplay (combat) ought to be explicit.

Good points.

Quote:
(Random further comment on explicit checks: I'd like to see the check for the explode power on death be explicit. If the player doesn't see any "you failed to explode" text at the end of the game, he is left wondering why the power didn't work--is the game buggy?)

You should always explode. If you do not, it is a bug. (If you die because of an attack, that is -- you don't explode if you fall from the staircase or kill yourself with a fragmentation grenade.)

Quote:
Also, if the stats are to be more important during play, it would probably be best if the STATUS command were automatically called at the outset so that the player can see where he stands.

Yes, though only if the stats vary much for starting characters.

One final thought: I tried to couple some of the powers to statistics, and found that dexterity, perception and willpower together don't cover enough terrain. This is not surprise, since they weren't invented for this purpose, but it may be a problem now. So I'm thinking of changing them to something else -- maybe body, mind and spirit? That might fight well with the game's soul-based cosmology.

Quote:
More tactical mechanics?
While I think the addition of stats will make the game more interesting, I would also love to see more options for combat at the tactical level. Right now, the major tactical focus is the concentration mechanic. I would love to see options expanded so that there is a bit more variety in combat moment to moment. I have no particular ideas about what that might look like, but I wanted to register my desire to see more variability here.

I'm open to suggestions, of course. :)

Quote:
Potential contribution
I have almost zero time for this sort of thing right now, but even so I am considering adding an animated title page (a la this) that would display on graphics-capable interpreters. Would that be a welcome contribution?

That would be absolutely fantastic. I love it.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:43 pm 
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VictorGijsbers wrote:
Erik Temple wrote:
I feel like cumulative stat upgrades could potentially work against this design. Or not.

I see your point. The way I'm thinking about it, there would be two kinds of effects: (1) some challenges will just become easier as your statistics increase; (2) others will scale up with you, since you are fighting tougher monsters.

That all sounds good. To my mind, increasing stats and distributing points between stats are not interesting mechanisms in themselves; it's the degree to which they are embedded in other systems that provides the potential for interesting choices--and I see a lot of potential in your description. (But re the undead in the sarcophagus and body parts: I've given up on triggering them--I've never gotten any loot from those spots, and I find those battles are the least interesting in the game. Never encountered the thieving imp.)

VictorGijsbers wrote:
Quote:
I'd like to see the check for the explode power on death be explicit. If the player doesn't see any "you failed to explode" text at the end of the game, he is left wondering why the power didn't work--is the game buggy?

You should always explode. If you do not, it is a bug. (If you die because of an attack, that is -- you don't explode if you fall from the staircase or kill yourself with a fragmentation grenade.)

I'm 99% sure that one of my recent deaths was bugged then. I was killed by Fafhrd and didn't explode. (The 1% uncertainty is that, despite looking forward to my first self-immolation for many turns, I am not absolutely certain that I didn't lose power of the bomb before dying.)

Speaking of buggy deaths: dying during a reaction where you've used the lash power results in a weird death message--that you've committed suicide, despite your having been run through by Malygris's loathsome little dagger.

VictorGijsbers wrote:
Quote:
It would probably be best if the STATUS command were automatically called at the outset so that the player can see where he stands.

Yes, though only if the stats vary much for starting characters.

Yes--I was suggesting this as a follow-on to point 1 of your plan for amping the importance of statistics.

VictorGijsbers wrote:
One final thought: I tried to couple some of the powers to statistics, and found that dexterity, perception and willpower together don't cover enough terrain. This is not surprise, since they weren't invented for this purpose, but it may be a problem now. So I'm thinking of changing them to something else -- maybe body, mind and spirit? That might fight well with the game's soul-based cosmology.

That sounds good. I've been kicking around an idea for a somewhat different sort of dungeon crawler that bases its stats on the multipartite Aztec model of the soul:
Spoiler: show
In addition to birth rituals and the fortune of birthday day-signs, Aztecs bodies also contained three forces that controlled an individual’s vigor, vitality and passions. The Aztecs associated each of these forces with a particular organ. ‘Tonalli’ derives from ‘tona’, a word that means “heat” and is associated with the sun, the sun’s warmth, and individual destinies. The tonalli was located in the head, and the Aztecs believed that creator deities placed the tonalli in an individual’s body before birth. This vital force regulated a person’s growth, body temperature and liveliness, and each person’s tonalli differed according to his or her status, age, and experience. Interestingly, tonalli could leave the body through dreams, ritual hallucinogenic experiences, or fright. At death, the tonalli continued to reside in the individual’s earthly remains.

The ‘teyolia’ (from ‘yollotl’, heart) resided in the heart and was the seat of a person’s knowledge and vitality. In contrast to tonalli, teyolia separated from the body at the time of death and continued into the individual’s afterlife. The posthumous destiny of teyolia depended upon the type of death a person suffered. The third vital force, ‘ihiyotl’ (breath) controlled an individual’s emotions, desires and passions. Of the three forces, ihiyotl is the most mysterious. Perhaps its mystery stems from a lack of ethnohistoric descriptions of its significance and functions, but ihiyotl seems to have been visualized as “a luminous gas that had qualities of influencing other beings, in particular attracting them toward the person” (López Austin 234). These three vital forces and their connections with body organs characterize the ways in which Aztec understandings of the body interwove physiological and cosmological concepts.

http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/index.php?one=azt&two=aaa&id=355&typ=reg

...which is even more "soulful", I suppose.

VictorGijsbers wrote:
Quote:
I am considering adding an animated title page (a la this) that would display on graphics-capable interpreters. Would that be a welcome contribution?

That would be absolutely fantastic. I love it.

Great! You wouldn't still have a layered GIMP/Photoshop file for the cover that would allow me to easily isolate the type from the image, would you?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:04 am 
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Victor, I like you recent changes to the mind, body, spirit system.

What if a faculty increase was granted after all deaths? It would provide more of a temptation to fight the level 0 monsters, and if you played well you could get an advantage in the middle of fighting one of the groups by using a bonus in between killing them.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:25 pm 
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Dannii wrote:
What if a faculty increase was granted after all deaths? It would provide more of a temptation to fight the level 0 monsters, and if you played well you could get an advantage in the middle of fighting one of the groups by using a bonus in between killing them.

I can see what is good about it -- it makes fighting a level 0 monster more rewarding -- but there are also two things I don't like about it. First, the current system is easy to understand: kill a level 1 monster, you get a +1 point increase for a faculty of your choice; kill a level 2 monster, you get a +2 increase; and so on. Giving a point increase for level 0 monsters is harder to explain.

Second, and more importantly: this could lead to infinite rewards. I have been planning a "brood mother" monster for some time now, which would continue to spawn level 0 monsters until she is killed -- such a monster would now become a source of infinite faculty increases. In fact, we already have such a monster: the smoke demon, which reappears after it is killed. For a high level player, the optimal strategy would be to kill the smoke demon hundreds of times... neither fun nor balanced.

Perhaps we can work around these problems; but it may be easier to make level 0 monsters more rewarding in some other way.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:36 pm 
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A quick update about faculties (body, mind, spirit): I have now rewritten the Kerkerkruip code so that it uses these rather that dexterity, willpower and perception. The player can increase them after killing a monster. Each of them grants a bonus that is useful in normal combat situations:

* Any defender has a BODY * 2% chance of getting a +3 defence bonus when attacked.
* Anyone who is hit while concentrated has a (MIND * 2 - damage dealt)% chance of remaining concentrated. (This can be increased or decreased by other effects.)
* Anyone has a SPIRIT * 2.5% chance of getting a random initiative bonus every turn.
* The probability of getting the special roll of 20 on an attack or skill roll (normal rolls are 1d7 + 1d4 -1, which gives a number between 1 and 10) is no longer a static 1/56. It is now min(BODY, MIND, SPIRIT)%, where 'min' is the minimum function. (This can be increased or decreased by other effects.)

So body makes us harder to hit, mind allows us to remain concentrated, spirit makes us faster, and a well-balanced set of faculties allows us to roll 20s more often. This last rule is meant to counterbalance the fact that specialising in a single faculty is better where powers are concerned.

Rewriting all the powers in the game in a such a way that they make use of body, mind and spirit is the next step. This may involve redesigning some of the powers from scratch, because not all of them are much fun. (Especially stun, which is perhaps the poorest design choice in the entire game.)


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