Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per game


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Post Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 17:30

Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per game

## Problem: Choosing which of the S branches (throughout this proposal meaning Snake, Spider, Shoals, and Swamp) to complete first tends to be fairly uninteresting. Either they are the same difficulty, in which case the decision doesn't matter, or the player chooses the easier of the two. Furthermore, if S branches are of fairly equal difficulty, then the second branch will be too easy by the time the player enters it. Finally, the existence of 2 S branches per game encourages players to put off getting a rune until later, when they've completed both S1:1-4 and S2:1-4.

## Proposed Solution: Only generate one S branch per game. Only require 2 runes for Z, and possibly remove the rune lock on V or move it to U.

## Justification: If the choice of order between two branches isn't interesting, and completing the second branch is almost always easy, why make characters go through a second branch at all?

There are several additional benefits. First, generating only one S branch increases game variability and so replayability. Currently, there is a 50% chance of any given S appearing in a game, this change would reduce that to 25%.

Second, forcing a character to confront an S branch that's threatening to them leads to more interesting decision-making. This might seem counter-intuitive, since the proposal appears to remove a choice from the player. But it just substitutes more for less meaningful choices. Currently, if Shoals or Spider generates for a character who would have trouble handling the threats they pose, they can simply put off facing these branches until they are stronger. This reform forces the player to consider the resources they have available and find a way to survive. Or, if they conclude they really cannot handle the branch, they might choose to enter early a late-game branch like Vaults or Depths. I think this sort of branch order decision, while not perfect, is better than the choice between S's.

## Possible Issues: You could argue that this will make some play-throughs more difficult than others. A game that gets Swamp will be easier than a game that gets Shoals for most characters. To this I say, so what? Crawl is not meant to be uniformly difficult. I think it's more important that this change would make most play-throughs less tedious, and force players to overcome more obstacles before they have solutions to everything.

It's true that some balancing and tweaking of S branches might be necessitated by this change. Spider, for example, tends to be very binary in difficulty, i.e. its either fairly easy or really really hard, as I think crate has pointed out. A fragile character forced to go into Spider with no source of rPois might justifiably feel screwed. But I think the existing situation just serves to mask problems with the S branches that should be addressed anyway.

You could also argue that this will decrease the overall amount of XP and loot a character has at the point where they enter V or U. If that's really a problem, there are ways to address it: grant some XP on getting a rune and/or generate more loot in the rune vaults. But I think it's generally agreed that there is too much XP available in a given game. This change would at least delay that point of oversaturation until later. A character capable of getting a rune is more than likely ready for V:1-4, and should be encouraged to do so rather than farming additional unnecessary XP by completing another S branch. In other words, I don't think this change makes the post-S branch game significantly more difficult.

Finally, I'm unsure what to do about the V rune lock. On the one hand, I think offering the player some kind of option if they find the generated S branch too difficult makes sense. Making an early entry into Vaults and/or Depths possible is one way to address this. On the other hand, removing or displacing the rune lock still allows a player to put off nabbing a rune. If that's an issue, it could be partially addressed by increasing the incentive to complete S:5, by, again, offering some XP or loot with the rune.

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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 17:57

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Nest the second S branch entrance inside the first S branch, like Elf/Crypts/Tomb.
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Post Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 18:11

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

XuaXua wrote:Nest the second S branch entrance inside the first S branch, like Elf/Crypts/Tomb.


I am not sure if it's possible technically but for me it would be fun to have Shoals/Swamp as timed portal on last level of Snake/Spider and vice versa: to have Snake/Spider as timed portal on last level of Shoals/Swamp. This way player still has choice which rune to get first but he/she cannot do Shoals after Vaults 4. Some players even might get 14 runes instead of 15.

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Post Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 18:22

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

The thing with this proposal is that the branches aren't of all equal difficulty for all characters. For instance, a SpEn relying on Invisibility and without rPois has a much harder time in Snake than Shoals. Currently, a character who can't handle one of the branches can clear the other one, get some XP, better gear, et cetera, and come back and clear the next one. Under this proposal, the character would be forced to either do a difficult Lair branch, or do Depths/Elf. This isn't a bad thing per se, because it might force some interresting branch order decisions, but the lower amount of XP available would probably require a slight nerf of the late game.

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Post Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 19:00

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

I'm not sure I'm willing to take as a given that there's too much experience in a 3 rune game of crawl anymore. Back with 8 floor vaults, 27 floor dungeon, etc, there was. But I think recently the exp clock is fairly good, and I've taken to running elf/crypt/slime to get extra experience before zot on slow leveling characters. Maybe I branch out too much, and certain characters (berserkers) will always do well with considerably less experience, but hybrids are certainly not drowning in experience anymore.

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Post Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 22:01

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Either they are the same difficulty, in which case the decision doesn't matter, or the player chooses the easier of the two.

um, yes, that seems to cover everything

how do you propose you make such a decision interesting? you don't just go to difficult places in crawl when you can go to easy ones

i can't realistically support this as long as swamp remains as awful to traverse as it is ... there's a reason that every single one of my crate_crawl games goes into the poison branch (with shoals at least the reason is that shoals is hard)

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Post Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 22:21

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

all before wrote:## Possible Issues: You could argue that this will make some play-throughs more difficult than others. A game that gets Swamp will be easier than a game that gets Shoals for most characters.
This isn't even related to your change, it's exactly the case in current crawl.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 00:31

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

crate wrote:
Either they are the same difficulty, in which case the decision doesn't matter, or the player chooses the easier of the two.

um, yes, that seems to cover everything

how do you propose you make such a decision interesting? you don't just go to difficult places in crawl when you can go to easy ones


I'm not trying to make the branch order decision interesting. I'm saying it isn't interesting, and I don't think it can be made interesting. In fact, I think the game would spur better playing/more meaningful decisions if the choice of S branch order didn't exist.

crate wrote: i can't realistically support this as long as swamp remains as awful to traverse as it is ... there's a reason that every single one of my crate_crawl games goes into the poison branch (with shoals at least the reason is that shoals is hard)


Well, like I said, I think the current situation just serves to mask the problems that exist with the various S branches. And also, what you're saying just affects crate_crawl, a standard game still (basically) requires a player to complete Swamp if it appears.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 01:04

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

I don't see how removing a branch creates more meaningful decisions. Where you would instead in the past go to the second S branch, now you just ... don't. Because it's not there. And the game is otherwise identical.

So what's your real goal here? Reduce xp (by removing one branch)? Force players into shoals earlier (it's the only one that is noticeably different in difficulty)? I don't see it.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 01:13

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Counterproposal: Cut the first three levels of Lair, the first two levels of Orc, the last three levels of Dungeon, and trim all S branches to three levels apiece. Fix the remaining level of Orc so it's a better intro to the last level, rather than the useless clumps of vanilla orcs it usually turns out to be now. No dead levels. Compensate for the missing loot and xp with nothing. Swamp/Snake/Spider/Shoals is plenty threatening when you're forced to go in early, without being able to make thorough preparations.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 01:23

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

all before wrote:
crate wrote:
Either they are the same difficulty, in which case the decision doesn't matter, or the player chooses the easier of the two.

um, yes, that seems to cover everything

how do you propose you make such a decision interesting? you don't just go to difficult places in crawl when you can go to easy ones


I'm not trying to make the branch order decision interesting. I'm saying it isn't interesting, and I don't think it can be made interesting. In fact, I think the game would spur better playing/more meaningful decisions if the choice of S branch order didn't exist.

Why couldn't the threats and rewards be better-differentiated in order to force players to make a strategic decision based on the resources available to their characters? You could start by changing things so that three out of four S-branches don't become significantly easier with rPois (while pretty much ignoring the other resistances, to boot).

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 02:17

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Hey, snake cares about rF and rElec, sort of! Swamp might care about rC, if you care about bog bodies or the possible simulacrum ending. But yeah, you don't really need too many resistances for them, and I think that's a good thing.

Counterproposal: Cut the first three levels of Lair, the first two levels of Orc, the last three levels of Dungeon, and trim all S branches to three levels apiece. Fix the remaining level of Orc so it's a better intro to the last level, rather than the useless clumps of vanilla orcs it usually turns out to be now. No dead levels. Compensate for the missing loot and xp with nothing. Swamp/Snake/Spider/Shoals is plenty threatening when you're forced to go in early, without being able to make thorough preparations.

I still don't think the exp curve is that inflated at this point, but if it is, I suspect you'd only have to cut lair down to 5 levels to make a decent difference. Cutting down everything listed above is going to make hybrids a very endangered archetype.

While this won't fix everything with swamp, why not remove all deep water in swamp and use shallow water for current deep and shallow water tiles? Nothing there requires deep water, and shallow water is easier to transverse. In shoals you could in theory do the same thing, although you'll lose some siren drowning and tides flavor. I'd support doing it to shoals too, but at least doing it to swamp should be a simple, agreeable change. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good, and all that.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 03:42

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

KoboldLord wrote:Counterproposal: Cut the first three levels of Lair, the first two levels of Orc, the last three levels of Dungeon, and trim all S branches to three levels apiece. Fix the remaining level of Orc so it's a better intro to the last level, rather than the useless clumps of vanilla orcs it usually turns out to be now. No dead levels. Compensate for the missing loot and xp with nothing. Swamp/Snake/Spider/Shoals is plenty threatening when you're forced to go in early, without being able to make thorough preparations.


I'd support those reforms too, mostly, although I like late D a lot. But how much XP is available before the S branches doesn't change the basic problem I point out above. If a character is strong enough to complete one of the S branches, then it will be overpowered for the second one.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 03:53

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

crate wrote:I don't see how removing a branch creates more meaningful decisions. Where you would instead in the past go to the second S branch, now you just ... don't. Because it's not there. And the game is otherwise identical.

So what's your real goal here? Reduce xp (by removing one branch)? Force players into shoals earlier (it's the only one that is noticeably different in difficulty)? I don't see it.


The primary goal is to remove the tedium of forcing players to complete a second S branch that they are too strong for. Even if you disagree with my point that removing a branch leads to more interesting decisions, this change would still help achieve this larger aim.

As for how removing the second branch leads to more meaningful decisions: Let's say a game spawns Spider and Swamp. If a player thinks Spider might pose some difficult challenges for their character, they can simply go into the easier branch (Swamp), and come out with enough loot and XP that Spider no longer poses challenges. This is not far from farming XP, what mainstream RPGs do and what crawl tries to avoid. If a game instead only spawned Spider, the player would have to come up with tactical solutions to the challenges the branch poses.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 04:06

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Another option is to make Swamp as difficult as Shoals. It is fine that Spider/Snake will always be done first, we don't do Slime first either (unless Jiyva of course).

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 04:23

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Sandman25 wrote:Another option is to make Swamp as difficult as Shoals. It is fine that Spider/Snake will always be done first, we don't do Slime first either (unless Jiyva of course).


That's fine, too. I guess an unstated assumption behind my proposal is that crawl currently has too many floors, and so I'd prefer a reform that trims this number.
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 07:51

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Imho Crawl has a pretty much the right number of floors right now. But then again, I enjoy playing Crawl. You can always release a hardcore version (Crawl-HC) with only half the levels.

(I still think Depths should be removed and Dungeon should have 27 levels (because 27), but that's just me I guess.)
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 08:28

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

all before wrote:
Sandman25 wrote:Another option is to make Swamp as difficult as Shoals. It is fine that Spider/Snake will always be done first, we don't do Slime first either (unless Jiyva of course).


That's fine, too. I guess an unstated assumption behind my proposal is that crawl currently has too many floors, and so I'd prefer a reform that trims this number.


If the goal is to reduce the number of floors, I'd much rather reduce the length of branches than the number of branches.
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 11:07

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Why exactly was the rune-lock even implemented?
It's basically nothing but an annoyance to the few characters that are strong enough to go straight for vaults, skipping the annoyance that is the S branches (spider webs/deep&shallow water/snakes)
And to other characters, it holds no meaning since they complete an S branch before going to vaults anyways.

Also i don't like this suggestion since it decreases the choices you have to make.
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 11:11

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

KittenInMyCerealz wrote:Why exactly was the rune-lock even implemented?

I believe the rationale was that people wouldn't be able to just do rune branch levels 1 - 4 and then go to Vaults and go for the runes much later when they are easy to get. (Also at first the rune lock was on Depths IIRC.)
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 13:39

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

all before wrote:Proposed Solution: Only generate one S branch per game.
I don't have even have an opinion on this one. Back when the third S-branch got added (Shoals), we came up with branch rotations (always two out of the three), to avoid loot/xp inflation. It didn't occur to us that we could simply restrict to a single S-branch.

KoboldLord wrote:Counterproposal: Cut the first three levels of Lair, the first two levels of Orc, the last three levels of Dungeon, and trim all S branches to three levels apiece. Fix the remaining level of Orc so it's a better intro to the last level, rather than the useless clumps of vanilla orcs it usually turns out to be now. No dead levels. Compensate for the missing loot and xp with nothing. Swamp/Snake/Spider/Shoals is plenty threatening when you're forced to go in early, without being able to make thorough preparations.
I understand the desire to propose radical ideas, but this one is particularly unrealistic: quite some time ago, we have started to cut level (it began with shrinking Hive from four to two floors). This process was intentionally slow. I am not a good judge to decide whether we should do more of this (Hive got removed, Lair, Elf, Vaults, Crypt are all shorter now)... in my experience, the midgame for some combos is now tense, rather than the slog it used to be. Anyway, if more level cutting will happen, it'll come in small pieces.

KittenInMyCerealz wrote:Why exactly was the rune-lock even implemented?
It's basically nothing but an annoyance to the few characters that are strong enough to go straight for vaults, skipping the annoyance that is the S branches (spider webs/deep&shallow water/snakes)
And to other characters, it holds no meaning since they complete an S branch before going to vaults anyways.

Also i don't like this suggestion since it decreases the choices you have to make.
Not sure I should respond to a contribution starting with "it's basically nothing"... The idea is to trigger more decisions. (1) S-branch ends are designed for a particular character power level. Everyone could tackle these branches much later, sort of removing their point. (2) The decisions I talk about are tactical: how to deal with Swamp:5 (say) on a XL 14 character. Very often it may still be trivial, but sometimes it's not, and the runelock is a (very mild) attempt to go into a more choice-y direction.

So I did reply because your last sentence ("since it decreases the choices you have to make") is completely off the mark: removing something often increases choices -- this is a big part of what we've been doing for the last years.

Another, background motivation for me to propose the runelock was this: the whole setup (branches, runes, orb) has always been taken for granted. The runelock tinkers with this a little bit (for a good reason!), and perhaps leads to more thinking about the big picture, too. (Here I am talking about global rule changes -- a cheap example: entering one S-branch cuts off the other S-branch until you have the rune, and then the other S-branch has harder monsters. Etc.)

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 13:59

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Unless 5 is necessary symmetry, the S branches could lose 1 floor each, but also reduce it from 3 to 2 bi-directional stairwells per floor to hinder sneaking/stealth characters a bit in compensation for one less floor. Also, I never understood why Slime was 6 floors, if only for this reason.
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 16:11

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Well dispite slime being 6 floors, it is one of the shorter branches because there is literally no point in exploring it, dive to the bottom, have your boss fight and take off, shortening slime to less levels wouldn't significantly reduce the time or xp for the branch, it would make it slightly less dangerous (originally this was "costly" rather than "dangerous" because of corrosion)
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 16:31

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

dpeg wrote:I understand the desire to propose radical ideas, but this one is particularly unrealistic: quite some time ago, we have started to cut level (it began with shrinking Hive from four to two floors). This process was intentionally slow. I am not a good judge to decide whether we should do more of this (Hive got removed, Lair, Elf, Vaults, Crypt are all shorter now)... in my experience, the midgame for some combos is now tense, rather than the slog it used to be. Anyway, if more level cutting will happen, it'll come in small pieces.


I'm disappointed to hear that. Having played a lot of crawl recently I noticed a qualitative difference between mid-Lair (really fun) and the rest of the game (slog.) If post-Lair was as long as pre-Lair I feel like that would perfect.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 16:35

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Kismet: I think that Depths have added a lot of xp to the game. So perhaps that will be a place to cut from. We can check average xp for floors and branches now, so it's easier than it used to be.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 16:40

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Kismet wrote:
dpeg wrote:I understand the desire to propose radical ideas, but this one is particularly unrealistic: quite some time ago, we have started to cut level (it began with shrinking Hive from four to two floors). This process was intentionally slow. I am not a good judge to decide whether we should do more of this (Hive got removed, Lair, Elf, Vaults, Crypt are all shorter now)... in my experience, the midgame for some combos is now tense, rather than the slog it used to be. Anyway, if more level cutting will happen, it'll come in small pieces.


I'm disappointed to hear that. Having played a lot of crawl recently I noticed a qualitative difference between mid-Lair (really fun) and the rest of the game (slog.) If post-Lair was as long as pre-Lair I feel like that would perfect.


Are you including extended in that?
I find the part of the game where I do the lair runes and on to be the best part of the game, especially considering this is the point of the game where the player actually has some choices. Before that point, the game is pretty linear, do dungeon to lair, do lair, do more dungeon...

I suppose at that early point you have less control over your character, as less loot has been generated, and less XP earned, so characters tend to be more individual at that point in the game. At the same time, you typically have a lot less options, which I find less interesting.

It might help to say what kind of characters people typically play. If you only play MiBes, it's not surprising that you think there's way too much XP and the late game is boring.
If you're playing OpTms you might feel the opposite way.
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 16:51

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Siegurt wrote:Well dispite slime being 6 floors, it is one of the shorter branches because there is literally no point in exploring it, dive to the bottom, have your boss fight and take off, shortening slime to less levels wouldn't significantly reduce the time or xp for the branch


Reading into my post, I note that Slime is probably 6 floors because it is too easy to traverse vertically due to 3 up/down stair pairs.
If that can be reduced to 2 up/down pairs, then Slime can lose a floor because that would create more forced opportunities for exploration.

The same would go for any of the S floors, notably Shoals.
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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 19:10

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

dpeg wrote:]I understand the desire to propose radical ideas, but this one is particularly unrealistic: quite some time ago, we have started to cut level (it began with shrinking Hive from four to two floors). This process was intentionally slow. I am not a good judge to decide whether we should do more of this (Hive got removed, Lair, Elf, Vaults, Crypt are all shorter now)... in my experience, the midgame for some combos is now tense, rather than the slog it used to be. Anyway, if more level cutting will happen, it'll come in small pieces.


I'm certainly not suggesting to cut all those levels all at once. The cuts that have taken place are moving in the right direction, and while I think there's still more to cut I'm entirely comfortable with the careful pace the devteam has been taking with the project.

To clarify, I'm suggesting that cutting more dead levels is preferable to eliminating a major midgame choice. I frequently do choose Shoals first over Snake or Spider, depending on my current character. I also frequently change my mind partway through one of the S branches when I get an unfavorable level generation, usually involving some unique. This set of choices is a much more meaningful set than the OP's alternative, since entering Depths early is comparatively suicidal compared to all four possible S branches.

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 19:54

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

damiac wrote:
Are you including extended in that?


No. Maybe this merits a separate thread. It is really striking to me how the regular game feels like it has two distinct phases.
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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 21:45

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

dpeg wrote:Kismet: I think that Depths have added a lot of xp to the game. So perhaps that will be a place to cut from. We can check average xp for floors and branches now, so it's easier than it used to be.

Instead of cutting exp, you could make more ways to spend it. Off the top of my head: make all wand effects dependent on Evo, make auxiliary attacks' efficiency dependent on UC, make all needle effects dependent on Throwing (more radical: introduce new Blowguns skill), bring back Traps&Doors skill to compensate for the new traps,...
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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Wednesday, 21st January 2015, 21:54

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Sprucery wrote:
dpeg wrote:Kismet: I think that Depths have added a lot of xp to the game. So perhaps that will be a place to cut from. We can check average xp for floors and branches now, so it's easier than it used to be.

Instead of cutting exp, you could make more ways to spend it.


Nice. When Stabbing and Traps were cut, I assumed global XP availability or overall XP cost per Skill point was adjusted to compensate.
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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 01:39

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

KoboldLord wrote:
To clarify, I'm suggesting that cutting more dead levels is preferable to eliminating a major midgame choice. I frequently do choose Shoals first over Snake or Spider, depending on my current character. I also frequently change my mind partway through one of the S branches when I get an unfavorable level generation, usually involving some unique. This set of choices is a much more meaningful set than the OP's alternative, since entering Depths early is comparatively suicidal compared to all four possible S branches.


I really don't see how branch order selection constitutes a "major midgame choice." There is very little consequence to the decision: if I enter a branch and it is too hard, then I exit the branch. Usually which branch is easiest is clear. And if I complete one branch, I still have to play through the other.

Compare this situation with the choice of third rune in current trunk games, which I think is much better. There is some risk involved in choosing V:5 over Slime or Abyss--once I commit, I won't easily be able to back out. It's not always obvious which is the best. And most importantly, once I've completed one of these options, I'm not required to do the others.

Also, as I say above, I'd support other reforms to midgame length. But as dpeg suggests, taking one piece of the puzzle at a time makes sense, and I thought S-branches were a sensible place to begin.

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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 02:49

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

all before wrote:I really don't see how branch order selection constitutes a "major midgame choice." There is very little consequence to the decision: if I enter a branch and it is too hard, then I exit the branch. Usually which branch is easiest is clear. And if I complete one branch, I still have to play through the other.


Your proposed fix changes this to, "If I enter a branch and it is too hard, then I die. Or I switch to Depths and then die there, because even a relatively easy Depths 1 is harder than anything the S roulette branches have to offer." Knowing when to bug out and switch plans is a valid skill for gameplay, even though it is strategic rather than tactical.

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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 03:54

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

all before wrote:
KoboldLord wrote:
To clarify, I'm suggesting that cutting more dead levels is preferable to eliminating a major midgame choice. I frequently do choose Shoals first over Snake or Spider, depending on my current character. I also frequently change my mind partway through one of the S branches when I get an unfavorable level generation, usually involving some unique. This set of choices is a much more meaningful set than the OP's alternative, since entering Depths early is comparatively suicidal compared to all four possible S branches.


I really don't see how branch order selection constitutes a "major midgame choice." There is very little consequence to the decision: if I enter a branch and it is too hard, then I exit the branch. Usually which branch is easiest is clear. And if I complete one branch, I still have to play through the other.

But the reason for this is simple: the reward profiles are the same for all the branches in question. Obviously players will always choose the easiest option from a set if the rewards for the options are equal. Right now they are, because either S-branch gives you a chunk of exp, a generic set of maybe-good items, and a rune. If they were differentiated then players would have to weigh hypothetical better rewards against a branch that might be more difficult for their character.

There is sort of precedent for this in the game already in Orc. I, at least, decide when to do Orc based on what my character needs. If I'm missing rPois and I got Swamp and Spider, I'll usually do it right after Lair or sometimes even during Lair as insurance against the occasional spiny frog/black mamba. Likewise if I'm playing a caster and I'm missing stuff like Haste and Blink or good midgame damage spells beyond what I got in my starter book. On the other hand, if I'm only a little short on MR, I might drop by after the S-branches to try to find something to make myself safer in Vaults. If I have everything I need I'll skip Orc altogether.

Now, Orc is pretty easy, so the "risk" in the risk/reward calculation here is really just the tedium of finishing the branch, and the rewards are still pretty generic. But this doesn't have to be the case for every branch. I think the ideal question for players to face would look something like, "I know Swamp:5 has a good chance of generating [thing], and [thing] will greatly improve my chances of surviving in Spider. But the monsters there are tough, so Swamp:5 has a good chance of killing me. Am I better off trying to clear Swamp:5 or should I bow out for now? Or maybe I should try using stealth/invis to ninja [thing] and get out without fighting anything? Or maybe...?" How you fill in [thing] is the game design question.

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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 04:06

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

KoboldLord wrote:
all before wrote:I really don't see how branch order selection constitutes a "major midgame choice." There is very little consequence to the decision: if I enter a branch and it is too hard, then I exit the branch. Usually which branch is easiest is clear. And if I complete one branch, I still have to play through the other.


Your proposed fix changes this to, "If I enter a branch and it is too hard, then I die. Or I switch to Depths and then die there, because even a relatively easy Depths 1 is harder than anything the S roulette branches have to offer."
Which is why Zot was never changed to require runes to enter, a rune lock was never added to depths or vaults, Hive is still 4 levels, and DCSS has never been made harder in the history of its development, ever.

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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 04:46

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

KoboldLord wrote:Your proposed fix changes this to, "If I enter a branch and it is too hard, then I die. Or I switch to Depths and then die there, because even a relatively easy Depths 1 is harder than anything the S roulette branches have to offer." Knowing when to bug out and switch plans is a valid skill for gameplay, even though it is strategic rather than tactical.


What happens to a player that enters a floor of D that is too difficult? They either try to find a way to deal with those challenges (tactics, consumables) or dive to a greater depth to avoid the particular difficulties posed by the floor. They are not offered an 'alternative D floor' they can clear instead.

I'm suggesting something similar here. If a player is forced to choose between S and E, V, or I guess U. If she really wants out of whatever dangers are posed by S for a while, ok, but she'll have to take on part of a normally later branch instead. I think it's really difficult to make branch order a meaningful decision, but this sort of choice seems better to me than the current situation.

If what is meant by a 'decision' between two branches is really 'a chance for weaker character to build xp and loot if faced with floors or an entire branch that seems too dangerous,' I guess that's fine, but why then make it mandatory for all characters to complete both branches? At least make it a non-runed area where characters can build their strength.

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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 06:32

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Note that it's not actually mandatory to clear both S branches, it's just usually optimal.
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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 08:38

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

I'm surprised people are so keen on lair. I think it's a bit of a boring grind where hydras are the only real threat. Snake and shoals are interesting branches, swamp and spider less so. It just seems that swamp and spider have considerably less interesting/intelligent monsters (although orb spiders are cool). Kind of like lair. Vine stalkers in swamp are okay too.

I second the suggestion of bringing swamp more in line with the difficulty and diversity of monster mechanics in shoals. Spider could be improved by adding something like formicids to play a role something like the nagas in snake.

As far as alternatives to lair branches, one way to go would be to put entrances to the abyss earlier in the dungeon so the option of ninjaing a rune there is marginally more viable. Or removing the rune requirement for vaults.

edit: Also, if you're interested in promoting meaningful decisions, I'd say always spawn shoals and and give the player a choice of one out of two of swamp, snake, and spider. Choose two and spawn them in a combined type vault with pressure plates that force the player to commit to one or the other. If you don't like swamp, then you'd never have to play it.
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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 08:46

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Lair is good because it has the best terrain in crawl by a lot.

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Post Thursday, 22nd January 2015, 10:20

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

i grew to hate swamp/shoals so much (mostly due to how much they lag in webtiles) that i usually will do snake/spider, then d:15, then 1-2 floors of vaults, maybe elf and slime for the second rune.

I wouldn't mind if crawl spawned with only one lair branch and an extra rune in elf
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Post Saturday, 24th January 2015, 10:34

Re: Proposal: Only generate one (non-slime) S branch per gam

Make Lair 5 levels.
Make Lair contain all 5 branches.
Make them all 3 levels deep.
Add more variety to the 3rd levels (elemental theming?) to make them more challenging.
Add monsters to Lair (Formicids with shields, Vine Stalkers masquerading as plants) to make Lair a bit less of a cakewalk for spellcasters. Right now Lair is full of damage spoonges (yaks, hydras) or fast & weak monsters (frogs, rats). It's kinda boring, 'cause you *have* to grind 8 levels of it or you'll be underpowered.
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