Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty


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Blades Runner

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 00:04

Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

The Orcish Mines currently feel like three levels of almost entirely effortless genocide followed by one level of reasonable difficulty. This is partly due to most players going for Lair before Orc, but is a problem nevertheless. The only difficulty a player is likely to face in the top three levels is walking into a herd of Priests and either refusing to retreat or being surrounded by orcish popcorn. Otherwise difficulty stems from a couple specific vaults (the one(s) with a bunch of Ogre Magi are a good example) or unique spawns.

I suggest more orc knights, high priests, and the like spawn on Orc 2, 3, and 4. The flavor of hordes of Orcs flooding into you is great and unique, but it does nothing if the entire horde is cut down in a couple battleaxe swings or fireballs. I also really like the knights' crowd buffing mechanic and would like to see more of it, especially through something like a banner or totem - but that's something else entirely.

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 01:08

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

The Lair branches are much more interesting since the 0.14 update. Maybe Orc could also use more diversity.

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 01:16

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Ummm I'd be happy if orc was more interesting, but making it too much harder would be pretty sad for all the guys that go to orc before completing lair (either because orc spawned early and lair late, because of a roadblock in lair, for shops, or whatever else). I'd say around 1 in 4 of my games I complete orc before I complete lair.

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 01:50

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

yeah, it should have guaranteed orc:1 stone giants instead of them just being a possibility

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 04:19

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Orc isn't exactly easy, but it's difficulty is very very spikey, so most of the time it's a joke but then if you catch a bad spawn or a certain vault or all the orc priests happen to smite you at once, then suddenly it's very dangerous. But that doesn't make the popcorn-popping segments any more interesting.

The real problem is the existence of branches intended to be (more or less) parallel at a point in the game where XP gain matters. Branch selection is supposed to be one of the game's interesting decisions, but I have never experienced this. I just choose the easier branch first, a decision transparent enough that people make flowcharts for branch order. And whichever parallel branch a player doesn't do first is inevitably going to be too easy when she does do it. If that weren't true, the branches wouldn't be parallel. So as long as Orc is imagined as an option that a player might do before Lair, yeah, it's going to seem boring and easy when she does it after.

Anyway, if Orc:4 is what people like about Orc, and Orc:1-3 are boring, then it seems like reforming Orc would mean either eliminating Orc:1-3 or making them more like Orc:4.

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 06:14

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

These days I almost always do whichever of Orc or Lair spawns first -- sometimes my choice depends on resists, I'm more likely to do Orc first if I have some MR and/or elemental pips but no rPois -- and yeah, the other one feels easier afterwards. But I agree with a.b. that this is kind of expected and probably not a big deal.

On the other hand, my favorite Orc moments are when a sorcerer or high priest or bunch of ogres spawns on O:1-3. Floors/bubbles that contain almost entirely vanilla orcs are lame. So I'd welcome a boost to variety even if it made Orc a little more challenging more of the time.

I've also wondered why orcs seem to wander into the Elven Halls rather frequently, but you almost never see elves in the Mines. Yet you do see them in the Dungeon and elsewhere. Do they have a private elevator or something? Adding the occasional elf pack or making individual elf mages, etc., more common in Orc would be an easy and thematic way to boost variability.
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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 06:53

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Plain orcs in the Mines are a bit boring in huge numbers, yes. I think it would be quite easy to raise the difficulty of the branch a bit: just increase the proportion of warriors/priests/wizards. If all the plain orcs would be upgraded, it would be way too much, in my opinion. Then it is just a matter of finding the "optimal" distribution. I wouldn't like to see _much_ more top-tier orcs on Orc:1 - 3. That would just make me do more of the Dungeon first, due to the open layout of the Mines.
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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 08:28

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

I do agree that making Orc more interesting for post-Lair characters does make it so Orc isn't usually viable for those who'd otherwise do it before lair, but I have a feeling that not many players do so. all before hits the nail on the head, though - the problem is that branch (and dlvl) selection is not much of a choice. Even if it were, imagine a game where clearing Orc is usually preferable to Lair - we'd just be stuck with Lair having the same problems Orc has, but worse because Lair is ridiculously long.

The real solution is to either embrace linear branch selection (i.e make Orc more difficult) or make the player choose between branches of the same difficulty and then either remove/make more difficult the branch that was ignored. As much as I'd love the latter, I think both would really improve the game.

Sprucery wrote:Plain orcs in the Mines are a bit boring in huge numbers, yes. I think it would be quite easy to raise the difficulty of the branch a bit: just increase the proportion of warriors/priests/wizards. If all the plain orcs would be upgraded, it would be way too much, in my opinion. Then it is just a matter of finding the "optimal" distribution. I wouldn't like to see _much_ more top-tier orcs on Orc:1 - 3. That would just make me do more of the Dungeon first, due to the open layout of the Mines.


Making the player face hordes of wizards and priests (i.e ridiculous amounts of smite and invisible confusion spam) isn't fun.
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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 15:16

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Saint Roka on O4 = D:
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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 18:11

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

It might be good to give orcs in the Mines, or orcs in general, a better chance of having a ranged weapon. If most of the orcs had crossbows to shoot or tomahawks to chuck at the player, instead of the tiny minority that have those things now, the Mines would be tougher for poorly-equipped post-Lair characters, but it wouldn't be anywhere near as no-go for a pre-Lair character as a warlord, stone giant, or sorceror in the early Mines would be. Being able to reliably find a usable launcher and related ammo would also be a tempting draw for a character deciding whether they want an early dip into Orc before looting Lair.

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 18:32

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

The most significant impact orc 1-3 usually has on my character is rapid piety gain for all piety for kills gods.

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 19:58

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Add Orc Demolishers, who have a random launcher and a small supply of exploding ammo for that launcher. That way they wake up the rest of the level and alert them to your position. Also, Ogre Heavers, who take enemies adjacent to themselves and throw them at you to damage you and put the enemy in melee range. Ogre Heavers move towards their allies instead of towards their enemies whenever possible.

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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 20:13

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Another reason to dip into Orc early: There's something sweet but pricey in an early shop. O:1-3 offers ~2,000 gold -- enough to buy a powerful rod, artefact weapons/armour, or empty out a couple potion/scroll shops -- and for most Lair-ready characters it's easy enough to collect that it might as well be sitting all in one pile at the Orc entrance. If the difficulty was boosted a little bit and there was a greater chance for shops to generate in early D, it might offer a fun tradeoff that would tempt people to "go for the gold" early on more often, and actually make them earn it.
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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 21:28

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

jejorda2 wrote:Add Orc Demolishers, who have a random launcher and a small supply of exploding ammo for that launcher. That way they wake up the rest of the level and alert them to your position. Also, Ogre Heavers, who take enemies adjacent to themselves and throw them at you to damage you and put the enemy in melee range. Ogre Heavers move towards their allies instead of towards their enemies whenever possible.


These are possibly the coolest ideas for a creatures I've ever seen on GDD. Please devs, add this now.
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Post Wednesday, 10th September 2014, 22:58

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Exploding ammo and blink allies encircling?

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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 03:05

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

jejorda2 wrote:Add Orc Demolishers, who have a random launcher and a small supply of exploding ammo for that launcher. That way they wake up the rest of the level and alert them to your position. Also, Ogre Heavers, who take enemies adjacent to themselves and throw them at you to damage you and put the enemy in melee range. Ogre Heavers move towards their allies instead of towards their enemies whenever possible.

I wish I was competent enough to code the Heavers.
Should Demolishers just be standard orcs that have a fancy name and explosive ammo, or should they have some kind of stat difference?

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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 12:33

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

I started with the name Orc Detonator, thinking of standard orange orcs with equipment. Then I thought they weren't detonating anything but their own ammo, but they're demolition guys. Thus, Demolisher. But that sounds a good bit beefier. I guess like warriors in both stats and rarity. But since we're trying to up the difficulty, might as well make them knightish. Give them more evasion and less AC, so once you beat one, exploding ammo is a good way to take out the next one if you can brave the noise.
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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 12:58

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

I think it's weird that it is the Orc mines, but there are absolutely no ways for the Orcs to dig. Equip every third Orc with a Wand of Digging with 0-2 charges and reinforce every vault with un-dig-able walls.
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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 16:01

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Dipping orc for guaranteed wand(s) of digging doesn't sound great. Zero to two charges don't matter since you often have a scroll of recharging or two by the time you come across Orc.

I don't think exploding ammo is necessary for noise purposes, and it would interfere with one of the dangers Orc already tries to throw at you: Getting surrounded. The layout of Orc (at least Orc 1 to 3) already is basically designed to throw a bunch of dudes at you, all at one time. Orc 1 to 3 is probably the area of the game in which increasing noise would not matter very much since unless you are invisible everything sees you and shouts and the areas are compact and full of monsters already. Moreover, exploding ammo would kill weak orcs for you which makes maneuvering around the tough enemies easier and may in fact reduce difficulty. Plus if three or four enemies had explosive ammo the animations for it would be *really* annoying since they'd lag game play. A single kobold with exploding darts it is not so bad but if 5 orcs were shooting exploding sling bullets at you it would obnoxiously slow down game play.

Ogre Heavers could work, I suppose, and would be funny the first couple of times you see them, but I'm not sure that would do all that much to make the weak enemies in Orc stronger.

I actually think the difficulty for the mines is ok. It is certainly more dangerous than Lair (which has 8 levels no less). There is less variation in enemies but it is also much shorter. What bothers me isn't lack of variation or difficulty in O but the fact that *so* many weak enemies spawn, even stuff that doesn't fit thematically (why the hell do hobgoblins spawn in Orc?) so I'd just say, at least for orc 2 and 3, remove goblins and hobgoblins entirely and maybe tone down the number of vanilla orcs, while increasing the proportion of wargs (which are surprisingly rare in Orc 1 to 3) and ogres, maybe slight increase in trolls as well. Maybe that would increase difficulty a bit but mainly it would decrease some annoyance. Overall Orc is pretty good now though and I wouldn't want it to stray too much from its "swarm you with enemies" every time you go down stairs approach.

If people are into more radical ideas, here is one: No stairs in orc, only escape hatches—though there will be extra ones and at least 3 guaranteed. (Might have to tone down difficulty of 1 to 3 if you are going do that.)

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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 16:10

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

<crazy idea> We need a new Orc Miner who makes 1-5 tiles behind player become permanent rock walls. It causes problems with retreating. Obviously the monster should drop a wand of disintegration/digging with 1 charge after death</crazy idea>.

Edit. Oops, sorry I didn't realize it is GDD.
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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 16:22

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

and into wrote:I don't think exploding ammo is necessary for noise purposes, and it would interfere with one of the dangers Orc already tries to throw at you: Getting surrounded. The layout of Orc (at least Orc 1 to 3) already is basically designed to throw a bunch of dudes at you, all at one time. Orc 1 to 3 is probably the area of the game in which increasing noise would not matter very much since unless you are invisible everything sees you and shouts and the areas are compact and full of monsters already. Moreover, exploding ammo would kill weak orcs for you which makes maneuvering around the tough enemies easier and may in fact reduce difficulty. Plus if three or four enemies had explosive ammo the animations for it would be *really* annoying since they'd lag game play. A single kobold with exploding darts it is not so bad but if 5 orcs were shooting exploding sling bullets at you it would obnoxiously slow down game play.


Perhaps a compromise might be to add the chance of an Orc orc shouting/screaming at their time of death, or during combat, and not just on initial view.
Alternately, since the Orc mines represent a cave / cavern, extend the range of all sound in Orc to reflect an echoing nature.
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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 19:31

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

I think making the branch you didn't do a little harder would go a longer way then making the one of the "two" beginner branches harder when most people skip over orc for being too hard (when starting out) to begin with.

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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 22:05

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Here's an idea: Have the structure be more like an orcish outpost and increase the mining flavor.

Cut it to 3 floors, since orcs are such common enemies throughout the game anyway, and also to balance the XP gain by having stronger enemies.

O1 has one or two orcish camps lead by a few orc warriors or an orcish knight. This would be a good place for characters to dip in to grab some exp or gold before Lair.
O2: has a few such camps, and some ogres for muscle. There are little vaults with various themes- an orcish temple with orcs lead by a high priest or an orcish barracks filled with warriors training under a knight.
O3: is much like current O4, only with more of an organization to it: Ogre/Troll "front lines" and a warlord, sorcerer, or high priest leading from the back.
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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 22:11

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

There are three places in a three rune-game where the game presents you with two (notionally) similar-difficulty areas. Lair & Orc; Snake/Spider & Shoals/Swamp; and Abyss/Vaults:5.

The latter choices work fairly well, I think, with the arguable exception of Shoals (which people statistically shy away from). Lair and Orc obviously don't, since the latter has a much higher risk/reward ratio than the latter.

Most of the people here have been attempting to solve this problem by eliminating the choice entirely. I'd personally prefer to make Orc-before-Lair more of a viable option, probably by some combination of making it (slightly) easier & making Lair harder. Suggesting new, tougher Orc monsters is completely counterproductive, from that perspective.

Something to chew on, maybe.

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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 22:13

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Orc has enemies that summon tier 3 demons. Orc has enemies that paralyse and shoot bolts of fire and draining. Orc has mass smiters (though that's usually easier to deal with).

I don't think it's possible to make Orc preferable to Lair without gutting it significantly.

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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 22:16

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Sar wrote:Orc has enemies that summon tier 3 demons. Orc has enemies that paralyse and shoot bolts of fire and draining. Orc has mass smiters (though that's usually easier to deal with).

I don't think it's possible to make Orc preferable to Lair without gutting it significantly.

So long as Lair remains a cakewalk, certainly.

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Post Thursday, 11th September 2014, 22:18

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

and into wrote:I don't think exploding ammo is necessary for noise purposes, and it would interfere with one of the dangers Orc already tries to throw at you: Getting surrounded. The layout of Orc (at least Orc 1 to 3) already is basically designed to throw a bunch of dudes at you, all at one time. Orc 1 to 3 is probably the area of the game in which increasing noise would not matter very much since unless you are invisible everything sees you and shouts and the areas are compact and full of monsters already. Moreover, exploding ammo would kill weak orcs for you which makes maneuvering around the tough enemies easier and may in fact reduce difficulty.


I don't think the possibility of fratricide is really all that relevant because by that point in the game vanilla orcs are purely decorative enemies anyway. Even a character who has not yet bothered to train melee can mow them down without issue if a credible starter weapon spawned anywhere in the early game. The only ones that matter are the ones handing particularly notable weapons, and it really should be easy enough just to one-shot those first before they close to melee.

and into wrote:Plus if three or four enemies had explosive ammo the animations for it would be *really* annoying since they'd lag game play. A single kobold with exploding darts it is not so bad but if 5 orcs were shooting exploding sling bullets at you it would obnoxiously slow down game play.


This, on the other hand, is extremely relevant. It isn't worth the lag cost to make sure all the ammo mulches, especially considering ammo availability will almost certainly stop being relevant a little bit farther in the game assuming it hasn't been made irrelevant already.
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Post Friday, 12th September 2014, 01:33

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Sar wrote:Orc has enemies that summon tier 3 demons. Orc has enemies that paralyse and shoot bolts of fire and draining. Orc has mass smiters (though that's usually easier to deal with).

I don't think it's possible to make Orc preferable to Lair without gutting it significantly.


Orc:4 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> lair:8

But I guess one could argue that Orc:1-3 is easier than lair:1-7, with a little luck that is.
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Post Friday, 12th September 2014, 01:40

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Sar wrote:Orc has enemies that summon tier 3 demons. Orc has enemies that paralyse and shoot bolts of fire and draining. Orc has mass smiters (though that's usually easier to deal with).

I don't think it's possible to make Orc preferable to Lair without gutting it significantly.


I'm pretty sure even newer players know better than to do orc before lair. That was one of the first things I learned about crawl.
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Post Friday, 12th September 2014, 01:48

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

From my anecdotal newcomer's perspective, I don't feel there is a practical difference between the difficulties of orc and lair, and I usually take whichever comes first, but if anything, I would count lair as more dangerous, in the end. Orc's compactness makes it easier, in some ways, because you're never too far from stairs. Also, lair has a much wider variety of monsters, especially at the deeper levels, and that can make it a serious challenge. But orc can be surprisingly difficult, too. My last loss was to a pair of ettins camped by the stairs on 4, who both (x2) got their hits on me. A failed blink finished off what little life was miraculously left after the ambush. There's no calling that particular scenario too easy.

That said, even I agree that the branch could use some jazz. What about extending it to lair proportions? That would seem to balance things. Add some phat lewt to go with the shops on Orc:8, or guarantee that such goodies spawn in the inventories. Make the gold mining a serious affair.

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Post Friday, 12th September 2014, 01:56

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

PF, I'm all for reforming Lair, and I'm glad to see you mention it because no devs have for awhile here that I've come across. Like I said above, I believe Lair and Orc come too early in the game to really be viable parallel branches. It would be quite difficult to truly balance them such that significant numbers of players making good decisions went with either one. And even if they were balanced to that extent, it still wouldn't solve the problem that whichever branch is done later will be too easy. Rotating branches obviously do increase variety, I'm not convinced the same is true for parallel branches. If parallel branches make sense anywhere, it's late in the game where experience matters much less, which is why Slime/V:5/Abyss feels much more like a choice than Lair/Orc (and also, if a player finishes any one of those three they don't need to do the other two).

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Post Friday, 12th September 2014, 02:03

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Aule wrote:That said, even I agree that the branch could use some jazz. What about extending it to lair proportions? That would seem to balance things.


The general direction of Crawl development has been downsizing branch length to reduce tedium. Lair used to have over ten floors! But even its current eight feels like a holdover to me. I'm not entirely sure what the justification for its number of floors is, probably something about allowing a player to garner enough XP before the rune branches. Anyway, I'd much rather see Lair shrunk than Orc lengthened.

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Post Friday, 12th September 2014, 14:15

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

Would it be too spoilery to have Orc become harder as the game goes on? So, maybe have message as you go on saying "you feel a rumbling underneath you as the orcs expand their mining operation"

This way, it would be an interesting choice to go for money first or exp first, or even try for orc early on.

The con would be that making orc harder would increase money/exp in the game, but it could be rebalanced such that orc would be easier than currently if you go early, and harder if you go later. Or, even have gold be more scarce if you go later as the increased orcish population spends the coins.
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Post Friday, 12th September 2014, 15:01

Re: Increase Orcish Mines' Difficulty

TeshiAlair wrote:Would it be too spoilery to have Orc become harder as the game goes on? So, maybe have message as you go on saying "you feel a rumbling underneath you as the orcs expand their mining operation"

This way, it would be an interesting choice to go for money first or exp first, or even try for orc early on.

The con would be that making orc harder would increase money/exp in the game, but it could be rebalanced such that orc would be easier than currently if you go early, and harder if you go later. Or, even have gold be more scarce if you go later as the increased orcish population spends the coins.


I like this. Even fewer walls as time goes on, leaving less and less chance for a niche to hide from exposure. Considering Orc / Elf is entirely rune-free, making it have some form of portal-timed difficulty scale could make for an interesting positive change.
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Totally gracious CSDC Season 2 Division 4 Champeen!

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