Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)


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Dungeon Master

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Post Saturday, 28th August 2021, 11:51

Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

Welcome friends.

As part of the 0.28 cycle I have an experimental branch to overhaul the Hells. Click the link for all the details, here's the quick executive summary:
  • each subbranch has its own branch wide "hell effect" that is always on
  • timed hell effects only do strategic damage, so you don't wait around
  • Hell branch levels 1-6 are half the size of a usual level in each linear dimension (that is a max of 40x35, or 25% the size of a normal level), but only place 1 pair of stairs
  • Trash mobs are removed from the spawn table and replaced with new and meaner monsters

If you want to play it now, online, you can at https://crawl.dcss.io; note that games here won't be tracked in global scoring.

It's still a work in progress (you can see the todo checkboxes, do comment if you're interested in helping with artwork or making vaults) but at this stage all of the mechanical and monster changes are implemented.

Please send in your playtesting feedback. The most helpful comments are based on actual experience and not theory crafting without playing it.

Of course, it takes a hot minute to reach hell, so this thread will probably also have plenty of theory and flavour chatter.

For this message the author ebering has received thanks: 2
nago, petercordia

Blades Runner

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Post Saturday, 28th August 2021, 15:53

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

This is exciting. Thanks ebering! I'll probably give it some play testing and get back to you later.

Dungeon Master

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Post Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 06:32

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

This is now live in trunk!

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Friday, 3rd September 2021, 18:46

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

ebering wrote:This is now live in trunk!

Time for some experimenting!
Spoiler: show
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Blades Runner

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Post Saturday, 4th September 2021, 20:15

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

I have feedback from playing trunk (currently at 11 runes with 3x hell branches left to pass). I hope that this advice won't be taken lightly.

#1: The strategic effects of draining and contamination are not strategic. They cause multiple runs back into Pan or Abyss to repair insanely reduced health, stats, and to get rid of mutations. Because the monsters in hells are significantly tougher, the process becomes a grind: kill some, retreat, grind off effects, kill more, retreat, grind off effects. Eventually you kill off enough monsters that you can get to the boss (I mean just walk directly to it) with enough health and stats to actually even have the fight successfully.

#2: Monsters should respawn in hells, maybe with a decent rate, but not necessarily only super-powerful ones (some middle of the road too). Without the "strategic effects", this would result in the hell branches being one difficult dive to kill the boss that you couldn't grind down by just starting over and over. This would more effectively accomplish what I think the strategic effects are trying to accomplish, but failing to do so and simply resulting in the experience becoming more tedious than it's ever been.

With these two combined changes, I think hells would be fantastic. I think the passive effects are a good idea and work. The increased strength of monsters is also fun.

---
OK a couple more things, I just finished with 15 runes.

Dis felt a lot harder than the other branches overall. This is hard to quantify but it was just such a stronger set of monsters, and it felt like the drains were faster in there but that could have been bad luck. On the other hand - just to get enough mutation potions to counteract the contamination, I wound up doing Zig27 for a pile of 12 mutation potions that solved the issue. There was still a lot of back-and-forth with Zin to get rid of the muts, and rebuilding piety in Pan with TSO before heading back into the hells. So, I was also a lot stronger.. a gnoll with all 27 skill levels and pretty decent gear by the end. I was gimped on gear when doing Dis. I normally start gnolls with Gozag, but I tried Chei this game, and while it was strong-well, I didn't enjoy it much, and it was weaker later. I don't see any way I could have survived doing these hells with Chei, LOL. Mathematically, it's quite a struggle to keep health+mana up, and without them being replenished from tso, good grief. I would consider Zin, but I don't know, maybe another game. I'm not in a big hurry to clear these new hells again. At least, not with the "strategic effects" in play.

In addition to the respawn suggestion, if a hell branch is exited, then it could also get a lot of it's population of monsters reset, like a speed-respawn event. This would stop the branches from getting whittled down better than them getting cleared out but having a spawn rate. Could it be farmed? Sure.. but so can abyss and pan so-what. With a full reset, it would be equally dangerous each time it was entered. It's not exactly where I'd choose to farm also as it's pretty dangerous. I'd say when you first enter, you should get dropped in a random location (not on the upstairs) and if you want out, you have to look for the exit the same as you have to find the downstairs. That would prevent stair-dance farming.
Last edited by svendre on Sunday, 5th September 2021, 14:07, edited 1 time in total.

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petercordia

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Post Sunday, 5th September 2021, 06:29

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

Stat drain seems to be way over the top. I took a trip in Gehenna, and by the time I reached G:7, my dexterity was reduced from 19 to minus 7. WTF.

I also don't understand the point of having only 1 downstair. If it is hidden in some weird corner (which happens), you just circle around getting annoyed and frustrated.
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Crypt Cleanser

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Post Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 14:06

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

It took me until now to get my first character into the new hells, a Draconian Conjurer of Vehumet. Either it's this background, or some tweaks made to the reformed hells in between, but I can't confirm the bad experiences of those writing before me.

https://underhound.eu/crawl/morgue/Majang/morgue-Majang-20210922-205137.txt

I did not experience any contamination - I guess this has been replaced by Abyss-like temporary mutations. This is certainly a good change, because these mutations work themselves out of the system on their own.

I certainly experienced a lot of max-hp drain, but that was almost always up to normal levels before the next drain kicked in. It certainly never got me into dangerously low levels, and I therefore never had to leave the hells because of that. I did have to leave a couple of times when under attack with very little health left, but in the new system, because of the lack of constant respawns, it was easy to get down to the level I left behind.

The new monsters are exciting and dangerous, and I was happy to have two level-9 conjurations at my disposal (particularly chain lightning) plus Maxwell's Capacitive Coupling for really tough monsters such as Iron Golems.

The four strategic hell effects are noticeable - it feels a bit like fighting with one hand tied to your back, or like doing things with Ru, but it did not add an insurmountable challenge.

Vehumet and an amulet of RegenMP helped with recharging times, so I guess that spending more time on getting MP up would have led to a more severe experience. But the way it worked out this time, I think I enjoyed the new hells a lot more than the old ones.

Clearly I had a very strong character for this, that already had all of Pan and a Ziggurat under its belt, but honestly, I wouldn't go down into the hells with a mediocre character before the reform either.
Last edited by Majang on Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 12:01, edited 1 time in total.
Maɟaŋ

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Post Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 22:21

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

The hell effects have been tuned based on feedback. Good to see they're landing closer to the mark now.

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Majang, svendre

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Post Friday, 24th September 2021, 20:28

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

https://crawl.xtahua.com/crawl/morgue/N ... 084127.txt

A 15-rune win with a GrCA before you toned down contam/drain/etc.
10 of the Gr-hs are currently hold by me.
I have 58 hs in total, 449 15-rune-wins and a win% of 67%.

I writing this to stress that usually I know pretty well how not to die and how to get 15 runes no matter what I start with.

This game was absolutely different.
The most terrible and boring grinding experience I've ever endured.
As you can see I ended the game wit str 7 (26), Int 11 (21), Dex 19 (20)
It is pretty difficult to kill anything then.
The more difficult it is to kill anything the more hell effects you get.

Yes, I know that my god was Ignis but my normal turncount for a gargolye is around 50k even without a god.
(I didn't want a TSO-win because TSO of anything can beat extended without stats/slaying. This wouldn't have been a test for trunk)

Here it was >90k.

By 'grinding' I mean this:
- doing ziggs to finally get items with additional slaying/Str/Int/Dex because I knew the game was set to lower them.
- walking endless turns in abyss to regain stats and remove drain.
- doing depth/zot/vault in preparation for Hell. Usually I skip most of it with a gargoyle.

For a caracter with something like 40 Int it doesn't matter that much whether he has -10 to int. Spells are castable but less powerful.
But for someone with 25 Int it means hardly any spells at all.
With 7 str melee is a joke.
At 0 you are paralyzed which means most likely insta-death in these smaller areas which are much more crowded with much stronger/asymmetric monsters.

At several points in the game I was down to stats like above and 85 hp.
Maximum.
Frail 3 and stat drain.

My wife heard me cursing and asked me why I even play this game
This was a very good question.
It was the most stupid experience and the only thing that kept this gargoyle alive ( as I promise each of my characters when I start a game) was that I love(d) the game (it is the only game I play) and wanted to show that I can beat every single bull-shit even with 85 maxhp, str 7 and Int 15 just helped by my pure will to keep my pixelman alive.

40k turns of grinding because I knew what to expect.
I died with another gargoyle before in cocytus unspoiled and bewildered.

What I didn't find: items with a *lot* of stat/slaying bonus.
The whole time I was thinking about other combos I've played before who relied on several options to survive extended.
Stealth ? Invisible ?

You removed a lot of depth of the game and introduced an incredible grinding mechanism.
According to your game philosophy this is the opposite of what you want.
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Crypt Cleanser

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Post Saturday, 25th September 2021, 20:18

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

You enter the Hells with Ignis as your god and complain that it was a bad experience? What exactly is your point?
Maɟaŋ

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Post Saturday, 25th September 2021, 20:41

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

Majang: maybe you missed that Nebukadnezar knows what (s)he is talking about, he played hells lot of times without a god. To get a good estimate of the effects, he showed that:
- it is possible to win with relatively week characters (as (s)he mentioned it would not have been possible with a character of TSO etc.)
- it is increadibly tedious, which is exactly the opposite of the game philosophy.
This is very useful to know, even if the criticism could be a little obsolete, as the effects had been toned down. But even if they are toned down, this unfortunate feature of the hell effects that Nebukadnezar showed remains:
- either the character is strong enough such that the strategic penalties are cleared while in Hells. This outcome is not very interesting.
- or the character is not strong enough, and need to take tours to Abyss etc. to clear up the effects. This sounds horrible.

So I conclude that the strategic effects are not good, not matter what. I get that the developers want to discourage resting in hells, but I would rather try to find some other methods. (Altough toned down effects may be somewhat ok, if not very interesting.)

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Post Saturday, 25th September 2021, 20:49

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

To get some brainstorming about the strategic effects: I do not get the point of "discouraging resting". To the best of my knowledge you can still reset by leaving Hells and grinding down the effects somewhere (like Abyss).

1.) If the intended effect of these strategic penalties to sometimes force (weaker) characters to leave the Hell branch early and grind down the effects elsewhere, I think it would be better to simply remove all such Hell generated strategic effects upon leaving the Hell branch that generated it, sparing the player of grinding in Abyss.
2.) If we want some kind of soft timer for every Hell branch (with the danger that weaker characters may not be able to get the rune), I still think it would be best to remove all Hell generated strategic penalties upon leaving a Hell branch, but adding them back immediately when re-entering the same branch. So they can only be removed inside the Hell branch.

Allow characters to leave the Hell branch and clear the effects in the Abyss or somewhere sounds horrible design to me.
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Crypt Cleanser

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Post Saturday, 25th September 2021, 22:46

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

@Sanka: I don't doubt that Nebbu knows what s/he is doing. But whoever enters the Hells with a weak character and then finds that the place can only be beaten by grindy behaviour gets what they deserve. I think the point of the hells is that it is a place that you don't need or want to enter with just about any character that makes it to Zot. It is an entirely optional place with extra challenges. These challenges lead to a rewarding game experience for a well-prepared character, and they lead to a tedious nightmare or death for not-so-well prepared characters. So, if you are not well prepared, don't go there, or face the consequences without complaining.

No, the new hells are not against the game philosophy. The hells are supposed to be a very different place to all other levels of the game, with mechanics that should deter most characters from entering. That was the case before and after the reform, but for a well-prepared character the new hells now appear to be less tedious than before, but still challenging. If we follow your or Nebbu's reasoning, any change to the Hells would be open to the criticism that they are either not challenging enough, or so challenging that they can only be beaten by tedium, if they can be beaten at all. This is, btw, a correct statement about any change to the game, and as such any criticism based on that idea is not terribly helpful.
Maɟaŋ

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Post Sunday, 26th September 2021, 09:17

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

Majang: Perhaps I explained my position badly, but I think you misunderstood it.

You claim that "If we follow your or Nebbu's reasoning, any change to the Hells would be open to the criticism that they are either not challenging enough, or so challenging that they can only be beaten by tedium, if they can be beaten at all."

But I have tried to show you with my brainstorming ideas that this is not true. See my number 2.) idea above. If the strategic effects can only be cleared up inside the Hell branch then either you are strong enough to beat the branch without too much tedium or you won't beat it at all. Tedious visits to the Abyss won't help.

Nebukadnezar's demnstration showed that it *is* possible to beat the challenge with tedium, and any challenge that can be beaten with tedious tacticts (can only be beaten with such tactics if your character is not strong enough) is against the game philosophy. Perhaps this point is hard to get because many things in DCSS still falls into this category -- so it is hard to see that this is still the philosophy of the game, even if the game (which I like) falls short of the aim.

In short: the challenge should be such that if you fail you die (or at least need to escape permanently leaving the rune/reward behind etc.), not that if you fail you get out and spend 10.000 turns in the Abyss.
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Crypt Cleanser

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Post Sunday, 26th September 2021, 09:29

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

Fair enough - I wouldn't be against your proposed changes. Nebbu would still try to go in there with Fedhas or Ignis and beat everything to death with an unenchanted club, because he can. This is the problem you don't see: people like Nebbu are so good at the game that they can try the most outrageous things and get away with it - at the price of experiencing incredible tedium. But, let's face it, most people don't fall into that category and are quite happy if they survive a hell branch at all, with the strongest character they can field - I certainly fall into that category. I hope that the developers take people like me as their target audience. So far they have, or the game would have fallen into disuse a long time ago.
Maɟaŋ

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Post Sunday, 26th September 2021, 09:38

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

That's fair to request that the target difficulty should be aimed to more average players, which I am one too (I only beat all four hells in 1 game).

But what I try to say that the mechanic is bad independently of the difficulty level: it is just that if the difficulty will be toned down to someone like me, it is more hidden. But the mechanic is still the same:Nebukadnezar perhaps can beat it in one go (without tedium), but if I play badly and get too many bad mutations because I am way slower, I still can get out and clear them up in the Abyss. I do not argue that the Hells should be hard: I think there is no "sweet spot" in how frequent semi-permanent mutations are ok, just that if the frequency is low enough so it does not matter for average players/characters, then we have successfully swept the problem under the rug.

I think that my 2. proposal (strategic penalties can only be cleared up inside the Hell branch that created them, and only present there) would be good, but of course we need a severly toned down version of the penalties, so that in an average run you get a few bad mutations /draining etc. but not too much.
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Crypt Cleanser

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Post Sunday, 26th September 2021, 11:44

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

I don't understand you. Nebukadnezar did not beat the Hells in one go with his Ignis gargoyle, and he complained about a lot of tedium. So the new system is punishing him/her for doing something that shouldn't be done: enter the hells with a character that doesn't belong there. The very fact that this punishment now exists in a case where he previously could go about it without tedium proves that the new system actually works better than before. You can beat the hells without tedium, but some danger (as I did with my strong Draconian), or you go in there with an unprepared character and die. It's only people like Nebbu who don't die, and they experience tedium. Fine by me.
Maɟaŋ

Dungeon Master

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Post Sunday, 26th September 2021, 21:15

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

This seems like a pretty unproductive series of speculative theory crafting posts, since, as Nebu pointed out, their playtests were based on an earlier iteration of the effects, and not the subsequent tuning.

Much more useful would be things like Majang's post-tune play testing report from other players (including Nebu).

Blades Runner

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Post Monday, 27th September 2021, 13:45

Re: Hell Reform (Experimental Playable)

Well, I did experience the original Hells with the full strategic harshness in effect, and won, but it did require some pan grinding to bring stats back up. I also did a Zig to combat the mutations. I'd say, short of an insanely powerful character in the original iteration, there wasn't anything that anyone was going to do (no matter how skilled or prepared) that would result in an outcome that made any sense, as clearing the entire path and simply walking to the final hell boss could be enough to deplete your stats to a nearly unworkable state.

Since the tuning, I've noticed a remarkably better experience. It's still hell, and it's still a bad place, but I took a gargoyle through there without any scumming of pan, abyss or zig and won with 15 runes. The hells were harder than the old ones, but it was doable without grinding. The gargoyle I used wasn't especially overpowered, though I did design it after having experienced some pain fooling around with more difficult builds and it was high on my scale as far as well built for the task (ice gargoyle with vortex and tso at the end).

By the way, in case anyone thinks scumming abyss is a thing, that is pretty silly. Pan scumming, OK, that's a thing.. but if you were trying to work off drained stats, the monsters in abyss would take a lot longer, and the risk of getting bad mutations would probably also be higher, along with way less life/mana if you're with TSO, and TSO in pan is better than whatever in Abyss. Just saying.

I suspect that the strategic effects still won't be loved, primarily because you can't "play better" to avoid them, they just apply themselves randomly and it feels a bit unfair at times. I also suspect that the frustration of high score players is coming from it being harder to speed-run 15 runes by ninja'ing through these areas. I don't know exactly what to say about that.. stealth and ninja moves to win in low turn-count I guess is fun for some people (though it's never been my preferred style), but can be viewed as unbalanced as much as anything else. I'm mostly indifferent to the impact it has on fast-grab styles, but it probably will result in players used to doing that needing to learn and/or practice other builds and styles that use more direct confrontations. In that arena, anyone with the notion of TSO being a weak option just has some learning to do.

FInally, I'd like to comment that Dis still feels substantially harder than the other branches. I've also stumbled into some really bad trap levels. On one of them, I think I tried to use the stairs to escape out and it teleported me, which was confusing. There's a level with tons of of those Tzmitzles (sp?) and the mesmerizing effect, so basically after coming down the stairs, you can't walk away and you're potentially tormented a zillion times. In this case, I used a high powered ignition as the first response, and it still wasn't enough for a demonspawn of Kiku with 30% robust and well over 300hp. I think that trap level could be looked at, as it simply was a bit over the top (refer to comments about Torment in other thread).

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