Clock Brainstorming Thread


Although the central place for design discussion is ##crawl-dev on freenode, some may find it helpful to discuss requests and suggestions here first.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 04:35

Clock Brainstorming Thread

Food has been removed from trunk with no replacement clock added. Any character without a piety decay god can therefore scum nigh-indefinitely; the only remaining clock is the 200 million turn game ending clock. Needless to say, the gameplay involved in doing that is pretty bad. So ITT let's discuss what some potential replacement clocks would look like, their benefits and drawbacks, etc.

The previous system added time to the clock by pressing E while you had food items in your inventory. This sucks for interface reasons, but the underlying idea, explore to find an item that adds time to the clock, is actually fine. The item should be goldified and not involve player interaction; there is no need to feed the meter. You have to regulate the number of items that spawn pretty closely because you want each game to have about the same amount of time, not only as a whole, but to clear each section. One option is to cut out a step and tie adding time directly to exploration. You could also use xp, but that has scaling problems. XP per monster varies by three orders of magnitude throughout the game, and it's not trivial to normalize that into a clock that makes sense. For any clock that adds time as the game goes on, you need to be careful about how much time the player starts with and how big the 'chunks' are. Bigger chunks make it easier to scum the hard part of the game and then go a little faster later on, and it's harder for less experienced players to budget a large chunk of turns. Clocks that start you with all your time and just run down are not good for an overarching all-game clock.

DCSS used to have a per-floor clock as well (the OOD timer). Clocks that are active over one floor or one branch of the game prevent the player from accumulating a lot of extra time early and then using it to scum later, but given the DCSS difficulty curve I'm not as concerned about that as I am the ability to scum the earlygame. There are some pretty big drawbacks to a single floor clock in a game that permits backtracking, so if you're not going to bite the bullet on linearizing the dungeon then you have to work around those drawbacks somehow. Capping the maximum time you can add onto an all-game clock is a really bad idea for obvious reasons.

The food clock killed you when time ran out. A new clock doesn't have to do that. It could instead apply an increasing penalty (rot, skill drain, dangerous summoned monsters spawning) once time is up, which would make the player either temporarily weaker until the penalty is worked off or permanently weaker. Penalty clocks like this tend to be more intrusive for normal play, assuming they have any teeth at all, and could lead to "death spiral" scenarios where you can't win the game anymore because you're too weak but the game doesn't have the decency to just kill you. On the other hand, not dying instantly from taking too long might be desirable if the clock is intended to affect normal play.

The food clock generally didn't affect normal play very much, aside from the brief stint of chunkless crawl before doubled rations. I believe that dev consensus is to avoid putting much pressure on normal, non-scumming play. A new clock will not be able to address luring unless it reaches speedrun levels of forcing players to go fast; luring is often net-positive for turncount over not luring because you take less damage. Time pressure on normal play could make the game significantly harder, at the expense of making players do annoying things because the game is harder (not autoexploring, carefully planning their shopping trips, trying to minimize damage against trivial monsters). But if you want crawl to be hard, then a more aggressive clock is one way to get there.

So here are some more fleshed out clock options:
Bring back a "foodlike" clock but apply it to all species.
You can flavor the clock and items in such a way that it makes sense to apply to mummies; maybe you need to charge up a fragment of Zot or the dungeon will violently expel you or whatever, I don't write the lore. Has a lot going for it in terms of simplicity and ease of understanding, and to be frank I don't think it's that bad of an option as long as you goldify/automate and regulate the number of items dropped.

Tie the clock directly to exploration.
Pleasingfungus has a design doc for this that increases the clock with exploration and penalizes the player via rot when they take too long, though of course you could use a different penalty or just kill them. This loses something in terms of simplicity and understandability (why does revealing tiles make number bigger?) but has an even better interface than goldified food since you don't even have to pick shit up. You could even tie the clock directly to entering new floors. That might encourage weird diving strats but could probably be made more understandable, and provides very regular chunks of turns throughout the game.

Bring back OOD spawns.
So in order for this to work, the spawns need to be durable summons (so you can't scum them) and they actually need to be dangerous. Ideally it'd be easier to learn about than the old ood timer, too. The old version of OOD spawns managed to prevent scumming early D, and it wouldn't be too hard to extend to other branches. However, you do have to do something about the other problems of per-floor clocks in a game with backtracking.

Merge hellcrawl into master.
If you eliminate backtracking, then a clock that resets on every floor can work just fine. Floors take variable amounts of time to clear, so it's by no means perfect, but it's pretty functional. Hellcrawl's worked by spawning a bunch of very nasty durable summons every ~20 turns after 3000 turns elapsed. I might simplify it these days. Naturally, you could use some other gradual penalty instead and can freely adjust the turn limit to whatever you want it to be. 6000 turns wouldn't pressure normal play on any floor. I 100% don't expect this to happen because the amount of work involved to remove backtracking is very large and it's a more significant change to DCSS than anything that's happened in like 15 versions.

That's the end of my clock post; feel free to post about clocks here.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 05:01

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

About the point about "clock based on exploration". I would suggest that the clock be instead based on XP. This is because XP is a good proxy for the "difficulty" of a floor, while exploration isn't. Elaboration here.

For instance, for more difficult floors, like Vaults:$, one should want the clock to be more lenient.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 05:46

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Exploration might be a better workalike for the just-removed food system though, if one wants something just like that, only streamlined.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 06:09

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

The OP assumes that a clock is needed even absent the desire for general forward pressure on "normal" play. I'm not sure I'm convinced by that, but IMO it's hard to know without knowing what the undesirable behavior is a bit more concretely. (I know waiting for gifts with Xom is part of that, but that can be fixed by changing Xom. I know waiting or yelling on the stairs is another part of it, but I don't see how you're going to get rid of that, as opposed to merely force me to pick more carefully the moments and the extent of my waitscumming, with a clock as loose as seems to be imagined; and I'm unsure a clock is the only way out of that, anyway.)

I would sort of like to see an actual tight clock that exerted forward pressure on normal play. But I'm less sold on "food (or reflavoured food), but it doesn't actually do anything unless you're playing in one of a handful of imagined crazy ways"---if possible, it would be better to address the possibility and optimality of those crazy tactics a bit more directly.

edit: obviously you can fix stair-waitscumming without adding a clock. I should have said: I'm unsure a clock is the best or only acceptable way out.

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bt

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 08:29

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Personally, I don't see the need for a clock in current version of DCSS. Considering the food wasn't really any kind of clock for years and years, it makes sense to remove it, but doesn't make sense to replace it with a different mechanic, unless the goal is to make the game harder of course, and IMO clock is one of the least fun ways to achieve that goal.

As for wait-scumming, which is often brought up as the reason for needing the clock in the first place, in my experience it's not even a good play (never-mind the ever elusive "optimal"). You're better off carefully manually exploring around your stairs instead of shouting into the fog, since with exploration you have less chance to "brick" your downstairs completely by attracting a critical amount of dangerous enemies, thus making stairdancing too risky. I think the potential wait-scumming benefit of clearing some amount of wandering monsters before exploring the level doesn't outweigh the danger of say waking up a unique you would rather not fight at all, in the best case scenario it's a wash.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 08:51

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I actually found having to press ee every once in a while helpful. It gave me a feel for how much time I was spending.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 09:19

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

A while ago, monsters spawning over time were removed from most places in the game. Said monster spawns were a necessary game mechanic for the early dungeon to function properly. A major part of the game collapsed and nothing was ever done to fix it. For several major versions now, the only way I can have fun with the game is to dive past the first few dungeon levels.

And now this seems to be poised to happen again with food. It should be clear from mummy games that DCSS without a clock is in a broken state, one that flagrantly fails to even try to meet its "avoidance of grinding (no scumming)" design goal. How long do we want to leave it in that state while we try to come up with the perfect solution? Frankly, having seen that the mess with monster spawn removal was never addressed, I'd be a lot more at ease if there was some kind of stopgap implemented, even with the knowledge that it would be a "temporary" kludge that would most likely end up being permanent. My suggestion is a gold-like "Food" number that starts at like 500, goes down by 1 every turn, kills you if it reaches 0, and increases by some amount whenever you find a ration on the ground. This is equivalent to the "rations but no chunks" version of food that sadly only existed very briefly, but without the busywork where rations were inventory items.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 13:19

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I've played through some other games with a similar premise: that time will eventually run out and it's curtains for you, GGT4P. I hope these examples are relevant to the issue.

1) Prince of Persia (the old Commodore one, duochrome monitor and all)
This game had a literal clock ticking down, and if you couldn't win in time you would lose. The gameplay relied a lot on trial and error, with platforming and pathing taking up a huge part of learning until you got things done. Not something I would like for Crawl to get into, simply because of how cumbersome the game can be in terms of decisions, backtracking, and the overall complexity involved. Using morgue files from this forum, the actual time for games will vary between under two hours to (cumulative) more than an entire day at 24+. By those numbers alone, it could be difficult to calibrate a literal clock that doesn't become meaningless to speedcrawlers while also not being undue punishment on beginners.

2) Pixel dungeon
Another roguelike, with food as the primary clock and death by starvation. Also played a lot of it (+variants), but this kind of clock could also be a problem due to random generation. I've had starvation fails despite developing the PC enough to be more than capable of taking down any real threat, but just died due to lack of food. Another problem with this mirrors Crawl because a different character choice (namely Warlock or Assassin) had an advantage that others could not match up to - much like distinctions of innate gourmand or hungerless or slow/fast metabolism species. Crawl is the opposite, mostly. A lot of food is generated, and you can buy or acquire more if you need it.

There were other games which affected future gameplay depending on time taken or a "bad" decision, but I feel such examples should not be used as anything other than what not to do in terms of design - the changes and their triggers were opaque and that sums up a lot of other gameplay complaints here. Not having any idea of what makes a decision bad or what amount of time is too long is not the way to go imo.

As for any actual solution: I would try for a clock that reflects player actions, the nature of the dungeon, and ultimately the Orb itself. The game would provide additional "time" with runes taken, with a maximum action count that is ticking down right from the start. Once it reaches 0, bad things (TBD) happen. Maybe a lighter version of the Orb run, which can set expectations?
Pros:
1) It is obvious enough that something will happen once the numbers drop down to zero. The timer is visible from the first turn.
2) Seeing as the world very much ends after enough time, it would make sense from a lore standpoint that taking too long would not necessarily kill the PC, but have them assimilated into the dungeon, corrupted by influence of the Orb. After all, so many different creatures of all creeds are stopping us from winning anyway - tie in the player ghosts, it also works.
3) By placing a maximum action count that is extended by taking runes, it would give players a sense of progression while allowing trial and error gameplay to have an acceptable pace overall. Balancing a sense of accomplishment with actual milestones the game already has - would it have a "natural" feel?

Cons:
1) A strict clock visible from the start could put psychological pressure on new players, depending on the amount. This could be alleviated by using existing player data as a calibration helper. There are palpable action count gaps between experienced players and newbies for the "first rune taken" goal. How badly would the initial pressure affect players new to DCSS or roguelikes?
2) Having a maximum action count could encourage degenerate tactical ideas and such. Would this be more a matter of game combat mechanics? I believe the root problem with moving players along is about pacing - not about getting the most out of every action ever, or even most of the time. As with anything, I could be completely wrong on this.
3) The number drops to 0, bad things are happening, you get another rune. What does this do? Will it erase the negative consequences or just postpone more from happening? How does either possibility affect difficulty?
4) Having a strict clock isn't fun to play with?
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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 20:59

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Food as a clock does have the advantage that it is easy to understand and communicate. I think it can be abstracted though, removing player interaction.

There could be food/sustenance meter in the top right, beneath Noise and Time. This meter fills up as you kill monsters, and decreases slowly over time. Killing monsters is the main activity in Crawl, after all, and the amount of time that it takes to clear an area is usually very roughly related to the number of monsters.

Gaining health by eating chunks for Ghouls has been switched to on-kill in Trunk, this would be following suit. It also follows the change from a few years ago when praying over corpses was switched to on-kill.

While it used to matter which monsters were edible, I think it could be abstracted to almost all monsters, and could allow for amusing and flavorful text in the message log. Perhaps not ghosts or summons. But you kill a Water Elemental? You can drink it. Kill an Ancient Lich? Suck the marrow from its bones. Kill a statue? Make some dang stone soup. That should give extra bonus sustenance. Now Toenail Golems...

For mummies, this could be an energy meter instead of food, with the explanation that they gain life force by killing things. There would have to be some lore justification for Spriggans gaining life-force as well.

There could be a substance cap to discourage most scumming tactics that players contrive.

Perhaps the sustenance meter remains static in Abyss, with the justification that you are in a place where time has no meaning. After all, no turns have passed for the monsters in the Dungeon between when you get Abyssed and when you return. While this doesn't help the Abyss-scumming issue, it keeps it in basically the same place it is now, and at least doesn't add any extra benefit.

Perhaps the sustenance meter remains static in all infinite branches. Food is already a non-factor in extended as-is.

I'm imagining that this system is in place to prevent the worst waiting abuses, rather than as a system to constantly drive players forward. It could potentially be tweaked to do both if desired.

I'm sure that there are plenty of issues with this system, but I thought I'd add to the conversation.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 21:19

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Are the special cases (for Abyss etc) even needed? The food clock didn't have them; you still needed to eat there, you sometimes found rations on the floor, and Abyss had a few monsters that left corpses. And there was no cap on how many rations you could carry.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 22:28

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I think you may very well be right, I may have been trying to solve a problem that didn't exist. It is always nicer when systems don't have extra rules that you have to communicate to players and justify.

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Post Sunday, 12th July 2020, 22:37

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I think a clock fixes two classes of repetitive behaviour.

Class 1:
* the way monsters wander away from stairs after you escape upwards can be removed (and possibly has been already).
* xom scumming

Class 2:
* Resetting every fight multiple times
* Extremely conservative exploration strategies

The difference between these two groups is that I think Class I issues can be easily fixed directly without needing to rely on a food clock. For instance off-level monster wandering can be fixed my making monsters never wander while off-level (this was partly implemented already).

Class 2 issues seem harder to address. If your first hit on a monster is weak, it makes sense to reset the fight and try again. You could afford to do this for every monster if there's no food clock. In fact, There have been attempts at solutions for this (and similar) issues, but none have stuck.

In conclusion, I think DCSS still needs a clock. But many reasons for adding a clock can be fixed directly and requiring the clock to address fewer issues will make its design better.

In particular, the idea spawning zero-xp monsters to attack the player if they are "behind the clock" seems great to me.

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Post Monday, 13th July 2020, 08:09

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

What about increasing the number of runes needed to enter Zot with every 50.000 turns beyond 100.000? That should be an incentive against degenerate game play.
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Post Monday, 13th July 2020, 08:35

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

chequers wrote:Class 2:
* Resetting every fight multiple times
* Extremely conservative exploration strategies

Class 2 issues seem harder to address. If your first hit on a monster is weak, it makes sense to reset the fight and try again. You could afford to do this for every monster if there's no food clock. In fact, There have been attempts at solutions for this (and similar) issues, but none have stuck.


Are those things considered scummy? What is the alternative to not resetting a fight when you get a string of bad rolls? Also if your first hit on a monster is weak it doesn't make sense to reset the fight, since you're in no more danger than at the start of the fight yet, it only (occasionally) makes sense to reset if monster's first hit on you is very strong, which hardly can be called scummy and still carries a certain amount of risk. Additionally, a lot of enemies that you'd like a reset against have mechanisms that make reset difficult, like extra speed, ranged attacks, huge melee damage (which makes just walking away risky), and so require spending resources to reset. Also, I'm fairly certain, food clock as it was never actually prevented either of class 2 types of behaviour.

Thinking a bit more on this, there's already an in-game clock that penalizes long stretches of inactivity - piety decay. Most gods (except Xom and Gozag, I believe) have it, and it already punishes the player for not exploring/killing by taking away top-tier abilities and gifts. Gods who don't have piety decay or those who have too weak decay can be looked at, instead of introducing a separate clock.

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Post Monday, 13th July 2020, 08:47

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

A clock is hard on new players, as it may rush them into taking risks they shouldn't take. New players probably should use degenerate tactics (to some extent) to make it through their first game.

Experienced players have a clock in the scoring system, as it heavily rewards low turn counts. If I want to improve my high score, I will steadily work towards getting my turn count down. I believe that works better against degenerate play of experienced players than any other clock that we may add to the game.
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Post Monday, 13th July 2020, 09:37

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

bt wrote:Are those things considered scummy? What is the alternative to not resetting a fight when you get a string of bad rolls?
It's not scummy to reset some fights. But if you have unlimited time, it would be optimal to reset nearly every fight where you fail to dodge the monster's attacks. (There's no cost to resetting a fight, and it will reduce the chance a wandering enemy notices you mid-fight.)

Thinking a bit more on this, there's already an in-game clock that penalizes long stretches of inactivity - piety decay. Most gods (except Xom and Gozag, I believe) have it, and it already punishes the player for not exploring/killing by taking away top-tier abilities and gifts. Gods who don't have piety decay or those who have too weak decay can be looked at, instead of introducing a separate clock.

IMO, current piety decay is mostly ignorable except for a few gods who have rapid decay (eg Trog) or very slow gain (eg Sif). I would be interested to try DCSS with higher piety decay for all gods. My biggest concern is that the display of piety is so granular (just six levels of display), it's hard to tell if you are gaining or losing piety over the medium term.

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Post Monday, 13th July 2020, 12:10

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

What about Adomlike mutation clock ?

After xxx turn you got some chance to get random bad mutation (rot for undeads).

bt

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Post Monday, 13th July 2020, 14:03

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

chequers wrote:
bt wrote:Are those things considered scummy? What is the alternative to not resetting a fight when you get a string of bad rolls?
It's not scummy to reset some fights. But if you have unlimited time, it would be optimal to reset nearly every fight where you fail to dodge the monster's attacks. (There's no cost to resetting a fight, and it will reduce the chance a wandering enemy notices you mid-fight.)


I disagree that there's no cost to resetting a fight, and I feel I addressed that point in my previous post. Also dragging a shouting enemy all the way back to the stairs hoping to random energy gap-create has no less chance of picking up wandering monsters along the way than staying and fighting in one place, and is definitely not the optimal play in non threatening situations. The only time you actually want to go through the hassle and risk of resetting a fight is when you are likely to die in the next few turns.

For example, lets say you are a HuFi fighting a cane toad (spiny frog), you failed to dodge an attack and is at 80% HP, is it optimal to reset and how would you go about it?

chequers wrote:IMO, current piety decay is mostly ignorable except for a few gods who have rapid decay (eg Trog) or very slow gain (eg Sif). I would be interested to try DCSS with higher piety decay for all gods. My biggest concern is that the display of piety is so granular (just six levels of display), it's hard to tell if you are gaining or losing piety over the medium term.


Piety decay currently is ignorable if you play normally (or rather it doesn't rush you through the game by itself), but it will become a fairly serious cost if people start spending thousands of turns shouting at the stairs. In which case that cost will be weighted against the benefit (if there is any at all) of wait scumming, and I doubt anyone will find it worthwhile. Kinda surprised no one mentioned this one yet, tells me no one's playing in a supposed optimal degenerate way anyway.

I agree that piety display is not ideal right now and IMO should include a number.

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Post Monday, 13th July 2020, 17:42

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Piety decay is only a solution if all characters have a god at all times, and losing all your piety kills you. You would have to start every character with a god, remove god abandonment, and change god switching mechanics a bit.

I am also not convinced that the tradeoff of being able to either use a god ability, or get extra turns on the clock, is a tradeoff that should exist. In fact, I'm quite sure it shouldn't exist, because making the choice to get more turns sounds pretty unfun!

I disagree with the sentiment that the clock needs to be lenient. I think that fighting monsters would be a lot more interesting with a tight clock. The issues with resting and autoexplore and backtracking are solvable. You can make characters snap to full HP/MP after they've been away from combat for X turns. You can make autoexplore into a game mechanic instead of an interface mechanic, make it a bit less controllable, and then you can just say that the clock doesn't tick down during autoexplore.

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Post Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 08:57

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

duvessa wrote:I disagree with the sentiment that the clock needs to be lenient. I think that fighting monsters would be a lot more interesting with a tight clock. The issues with resting and autoexplore and backtracking are solvable. You can make characters snap to full HP/MP after they've been away from combat for X turns. You can make autoexplore into a game mechanic instead of an interface mechanic, make it a bit less controllable, and then you can just say that the clock doesn't tick down during autoexplore.


I can see your point if the goal is to make the game harder than it was before food removal, although new enemies or enemy abilities, adding bosses to branch ends, or special conditions a-la slime walls are all more appealing to me than clock timer. Timer in a game like DCSS, where a run takes several hours, is not a great mechanic IMO, cause your fatal mistake can be made several hours before your actual death, which makes it hard to even correctly identify it.

It seems to me, your autoexplore/backtracking changes would push DCSS towards Slay the Spire/Into the Breach type games, and while I like both of those a lot, I don't think crawl's strengths lie in that area.

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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 00:18

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I'm still not entirely convinced that a clock is needed, given the removal of continuing spawns, and the fact that most scumming behavior is either reliant on edge cases (e.g. endless stair-shouting) or characters who were already able to scum in a food-dependent game (abyss and pan scumming).

That said, if one is needed, it seems like the easiest way to go would just be to duplicate the "end-of-the-world" style of clock that already exists, but for specific milestones, and then just to introduce the occasional flavor message to indicate that there was, in fact, a clock. That is, give players very generous chunks of time to accomplish specific goals, like finding the next rune, such that even a brand new player who regularly backtracks and exclusively autoexplores could meet them. But not large enough that a player could spend 100k turns per floor, or whatever.

A little work with Sequell could probably determine the average turncounts to things like Temple, first rune, second rune, etc., specifically for player populations who probably take the longest (e.g. only won once, or never won, or never got a rune, or whatever). And then those times could be padded even further to allow for a measure of safety, so that the death clock almost never catches people who don't intentionally try to scum.

Relatively simple and straightforward, and has no real game impact (except for the occasional flavor text message) for anyone who doesn't actively intend to scum.

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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 01:12

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Except, I wouldn't want a clock for getting to Temple (since some players rarely go there anyway). Sounds like a reasonable approach otherwise. Though I suspect I'd still prefer effectively a goldified food clock (gives the player a better sense of whether s/he's taking too long).

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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 03:45

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

The food clock in brogue is fun and good. It pays for you to save time where possible, to leap forth into the somewhat-unknown, so that you can do time-consuming tricks later when something's too tough for you. Adventure!

(ITT: a few folks saying food clocks are bad, because they've never seen a good one!)

Without a food clock, DCSS, like nethack, is a game where you should do every tedious trick in the book to eke out marginal improvements.
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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 04:33

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

So are you advocating for a food clock as strict as Brogue's?

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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 11:16

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

andrew wrote:Except, I wouldn't want a clock for getting to Temple (since some players rarely go there anyway).


Just seeing the entrance could qualify as getting to it - or, in case of shaft comedy, being below the depth at which it has been placed.
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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 11:46

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I am not sure it is needed tbh.



new players play at their own pace. Veterans play for score.


If some guy wants to play slow and scummy for fun, is it really something that needs to be punished? Its not like it will reward you in terms of score, and most people would just bore themselves into killing their characters that way
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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 13:01

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I like the idea of rune-clocks. Maybe that could be their only purpose: you are a fast player? Go directly to Zot and enter without runes. Want to level up a bit before Zot? You will need time, and, to get it, you must find the runes (which means that stopping at the penultimate level of a branch will have a cost). The problem with this is that you will know beforehand when you are about to lose, while, with food, you can always hope to meet an edible monster or find some rations on the ground.
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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 17:33

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

The problem with a "strict" rune clock (where getting a rune "resets" your clock to some arbitrary value) is that it encourages you to be "scummy" and "bank" runes right up until you clock runs out.

The problem with a "loose" rune clock (where getting a rune adds a chunk of time to your global clock) is that it encourages you to rush to get "easy" runes so you can then spend lots of turns being "scummy" in hard parts of the game.(I'm not convinced this is an impossible challenge to overcome, but I'm also not sure exactly what "scummy" behavior is left that we want to avoid, nor am I sure if a clock is the best way to address those things.)
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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 22:04

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

shping wrote:Without a food clock, DCSS, like nethack, is a game where you should do every tedious trick in the book to eke out marginal improvements.


Are there monsters that you can infinitely divide and kill to get god gifts and random drops? Are you mathematically guaranteed to get a certain set of items, including some very useful ones, if you sit around and sacrifice at an altar for an infinite amount of time? Are there myriad ways to turn junk items into useful items? Are there rarely-spawning monsters that might provide a crucial resistance? Are there dungeon features that are guaranteed to provide potentially-useful items if sit around them for a few hundred turns? Are there monsters who can raise your HP if you isolate them and do a little dance? Can you use magic to make an item that, when thrown, will kill most monsters in the game? Can you manipulate items in such a way as to summon arbitrary monsters for their drops and resistances? Can you clean out shopkeepers' inventories by shoving an allied monster around enough? Yes, I know some of these were changed in post 3.4.3 versions. However, the impression of NetHack as a game full of tedious tricks comes from 3.4.3, which was "the" version of NetHack for 12+ years.

Point being, all of these "tedious tricks" have already been optimized out of Crawl, mostly for the better. The worst remaining offender is probably the Abyss, but infinite XP provides rapidly diminishing returns by the time you're strong enough to reliably survive it.

shping wrote:(ITT: a few folks saying food clocks are bad, because they've never seen a good one!)


No, plenty of games do it well. But the whole model of "death clock whose time is extended by finding a certain item" is just bad. It does a very poor job of conveying how to the player how fast they're playing, its global nature makes it incredibly difficult to balance, and it forces the player to prioritize finding these otherwise irrelevant items. Games that do clocks well are games that have re-thought the entire notion of a clock, be it by having strategically limited healing (TGGW, DoomRL) or by divorcing it from items and making it more localized (Infra Arcana).

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Post Friday, 17th July 2020, 22:14

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

DoomRL is a great example of a game that is ruined by its lack of a clock; good play in DoomRL means spending most of your time waiting. Just limiting healing and backtracking and whatever is not enough, you need to force the player to keep moving.
ion_frigate wrote:Point being, all of these "tedious tricks" have already been optimized out of Crawl
This thread is filled with examples of such tricks that exist in the game right now. Waiting for monsters to wander towards you (or away from some other location), exploring as safely as possible, patrolling a level repeatedly to ensure you've killed every monster on it...

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Post Saturday, 18th July 2020, 00:31

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

duvessa wrote:This thread is filled with examples of such tricks that exist in the game right now. Waiting for monsters to wander towards you (or away from some other location)

One way that particular issue could be resolved is to not have monsters move until activated by interaction with the player (So you could draw things to you by shouting, but standing around for long periods of time wouldn't accomplish anything particularly)
duvessa wrote:patrolling a level repeatedly to ensure you've killed every monster on it...

This might also be resolved by the above.

A clock might also work, but personally I favor more immediate and direct resolutions; I feel like global long-term resource management means never ending balancing and tends toward uninteresting optimizations in gameplay. However i confess that the list of micro-optimizations which might be possible given no clock might be longer than I expect (It's not something I've ever had a particular interest in trying to exploit, because I prefer to enjoy my leisure time.)
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Post Saturday, 18th July 2020, 14:29

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Pereza0 wrote:If some guy wants to play slow and scummy for fun, is it really something that needs to be punished?

That's certainly the obvious answer, but; as one of the vanilla devs put it, quite reasonably, you don't have to be scummy for scumming to damage the game for you, because if you die and think "I wouldn't have died if I'd done the scummy thing", this does not spark joy.
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Post Monday, 20th July 2020, 16:00

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

How about random monsters spawning?
  • Named "Pandemonium guard"
  • Randomish properties like Panlords, scaled to be appropriate for the floor/your level, but increasing in lethality as more spawn per floor
  • Chance to spawn randomly every turn you spend on a floor (maybe even always in LOS?)
  • Whenever it happens you get a message (something like "The lords of Pandemonium are alerted by your prolonged presence on this floor of the dungeon, and dispatched a guard to investigate.", "The lords of Pandemonium have dispatched another guard to investigate your continued presence on this floor of the dungeon.")
  • Non rewarding to kill (maybe just durably summoned, or given some flavor of their own)
The underlying idea:
  • The clock is self-explanatory, at least from the moment of the first spawn: apart from the announcement, the spawns are all of a special monster type (and would have some description to make it obvious they spawned because you were dilly-dallying)
  • There isn't some "optimal amount of scumming per floor" because they have a chance of spawning right away
  • It can happen to anybody, but (the first few guards per floor) wouldn't be extremely lethal anyway. On the other hand they are additional non-rewarding monsters, which would offset the marginal benefits of scummy behavior.
  • You can still backtrack: those few extra turns on a level won't matter that much, and even if something shows up it's just another monster to handle/avoid
  • No saving up time to scum later, as it ticks per floor and can happen right away
  • No insta-problem for running out of clock, just one more monster to deal with
Obviously they will get some non-scummy people killed by appearing at the worst possible moment, but I say that's comparable to regular monsters walking around the corner.
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Post Monday, 20th July 2020, 16:14

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

damerell wrote:
Pereza0 wrote:If some guy wants to play slow and scummy for fun, is it really something that needs to be punished?

That's certainly the obvious answer, but; as one of the vanilla devs put it, quite reasonably, you don't have to be scummy for scumming to damage the game for you, because if you die and think "I wouldn't have died if I'd done the scummy thing", this does not spark joy.

It's also because of how much time and attention you invest in a character. Dying deletes all of it. So you actually have a strong incentive towards playing in a boring fashion, and you get punished if you don't.
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Post Saturday, 1st August 2020, 07:48

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Shtopit wrote:
damerell wrote:
Pereza0 wrote:If some guy wants to play slow and scummy for fun, is it really something that needs to be punished?

That's certainly the obvious answer, but; as one of the vanilla devs put it, quite reasonably, you don't have to be scummy for scumming to damage the game for you, because if you die and think "I wouldn't have died if I'd done the scummy thing", this does not spark joy.

It's also because of how much time and attention you invest in a character. Dying deletes all of it. So you actually have a strong incentive towards playing in a boring fashion, and you get punished if you don't.


You are punished for playing slowly with a lot of scumming: it will be reflected in your score.
You can be punished by being more bored, not challenging yourself at all. I realize some people don't think it's fun to be challenged, but I wouldn't want them designing the game.
The less often you die, the less impact of the potential "maybe I wouldn't have died if I scummed more" scenario causes, because getting a lower score (and boredom) are the only punishments then.
Clearing all levels, even with an ample amount of waiting resting was never really a big issue of scumming before anyways. The real scumming issue comes from abyss and pandemonium and the offset for doing so is the cost of being mutated and exposing yourself to an unlucky combo that could kill just about anyone no matter what, for a longer period of time (because you found food as you scum--not much changed).
Then there's a cost to sitting around waiting in other terms such as monsters waking up vs. you spotting them for the first time asleep. Slimes wake up and eat items, monsters pick things up and become harder, or you lose the use of a potion because they quaffed it. I'm sure I could think of more.

All this versus the conditional and not guaranteed to be true psychological theory craft that some players might experience regret for not playing more conservatively after they die. Well, those players dying probably should just play more conservatively until they improve their ability to play the game. They'll have greater satisfaction from winning if they've never won the game before for playing as "hard-core" as possible. Once they do that a bunch successfully, it just gets boring to take the absolute safest route in all aspects (if that can even be defined, which I don't think it can 100%).

The real crime of the clock/food was how it unevenly preferred some of the most unbalanced play-styles (an axe brute character vs. a spellcaster). So the removal of it is a net gain in my opinion without making any substantial negative impact otherwise, and probably other positive gains overall.

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Post Saturday, 1st August 2020, 18:16

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Another "clock-like" idea (which is often used in Slay the Spire) is that monsters buff themselves as time goes on. Let me give an example.

In StS, there is a card (Feed) which gives a boost to max HP if you kill the monster using that attack. So, often the optimal play is to stall the fight till you draw the card when the monster is at low health, so you can use Feed to increase your max HP.

The way this issue is somewhat mitigated is that most monsters have some sort of scaling as the fight goes on. They might buff themselves with strength, or put status cards (junk or harmful cards) in your deck. So you can't stall indefinitely: at some point you have to kill the monster.

This solution doesn't always work -- there are some monsters which don't scale, or scale too slowly (because the player can scale as well, so they can outscale the monster). However, it often works. Most of the time, the way Feed is used is the following: you decide to sacrifice your current HP (by stalling the fight and possibly taking more damage), to get a chance to draw Feed at the right time, and thus increase your max HP. This creates an interesting decision instead of just presenting the player with a chore to do.

(There are some other complications, but that would take us too far afield.)

------------------------------------

Translating to Crawl, one could increase the attack of the monsters as time goes on (for instance). One could think of other ways to buff monsters as well.

Monster spawning over time was removed (for unjustified reasons, as I detailed in this thread); that mechanic could be brought back as well. (There are known problems with monster spawns, for sure, but there are also many fixes known for those problems.)
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Post Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 14:18

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

I read the trunk update about the Zot Clock. How does it work?
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Post Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 19:00

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Shtopit wrote:I read the trunk update about the Zot Clock. How does it work?

https://github.com/crawl/crawl/commit/7 ... b4836654d4
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Post Thursday, 6th August 2020, 00:57

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Couldn't this lead to situations where the game was unwinnable despite the character's being alive? Say if one is in Lair but the Dungeon clock is at 14,999; one's trapped then, right?

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Post Thursday, 6th August 2020, 05:53

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

svendre wrote:Slimes wake up and eat items

I think we might be on to something there. Item destruction is known as a bad feature, but that's mostly about the destruction of items already in the player's inventory or stash. OTOH, tined portals work as level-wide quasi-timers with a threat of "if you waste time, you won't die or lose anything, but you'll miss on phat lootz and exp", and timed portals are an universally loved feature.

Can we model a hypothetical unseen-item-destruction timer on that? Possibly reusing some part of established slime/Jiyva lore while converting them into an ever-present dungeon feature?

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Post Thursday, 6th August 2020, 06:11

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Lord Haart wrote:
svendre wrote:Slimes wake up and eat items

I think we might be on to something there. Item destruction is known as a bad feature, but that's mostly about the destruction of items already in the player's inventory or stash. OTOH, tined portals work as level-wide quasi-timers with a threat of "if you waste time, you won't die or lose anything, but you'll miss on phat lootz and exp", and timed portals are an universally loved feature.

Can we model a hypothetical unseen-item-destruction timer on that? Possibly reusing some part of established slime/Jiyva lore while converting them into an ever-present dungeon feature?

I think this already exists in a different form. Monsters wander and they can pick up items that you haven't seen yet. This is the main reason that in my opinion, waiting 1000s of turns near the stairs is a losing strategy.

On the other hand, I expect this "Zot clock" to be a lot of fun in the future, with many-many unexpected deaths due to interactions that we currently can't even imagine. I guess Zot clock related bugs will be with us until 2030 and beyond.
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Post Thursday, 6th August 2020, 20:06

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Magipi wrote:On the other hand, I expect this "Zot clock" to be a lot of fun in the future, with many-many unexpected deaths due to interactions that we currently can't even imagine. I guess Zot clock related bugs will be with us until 2030 and beyond.

I don't think so. Players have to be prepared to bore themselves to death before they ever get close to triggering that clock. So it won't ever happen.
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Post Thursday, 6th August 2020, 22:32

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Or, possibly, think some status (drain? stat loss?) times out when it doesn't. And wait, patiently, several thousand turns for it to do so.

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Post Thursday, 6th August 2020, 22:43

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

andrew wrote:Or, possibly, think some status (drain? stat loss?) times out when it doesn't. And wait, patiently, several thousand turns for it to do so.

The point of any kind of clock is to remove the temptation to engage in safe, but tedious behavior for marginal gains. Tedious behavior for no benefit (or a net deficit) doesn't need to be discouraged, it's self-discouraging.
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Post Friday, 7th August 2020, 01:32

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Sure, this is obviously not optimal play. My point is that I suspect someone will do it anyway (out of confusion about the rules) and get burned.

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Post Friday, 7th August 2020, 07:40

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Majang wrote:
Magipi wrote:On the other hand, I expect this "Zot clock" to be a lot of fun in the future, with many-many unexpected deaths due to interactions that we currently can't even imagine. I guess Zot clock related bugs will be with us until 2030 and beyond.

I don't think so. Players have to be prepared to bore themselves to death before they ever get close to triggering that clock. So it won't ever happen.

No, no I thought about real bugs. Like you are walking around in Depths, turn 35k, and suddenly you die. You report it on Mantis, one week later a dev writes "I could not replicate the bug". And so on, for a decade.

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Post Friday, 7th August 2020, 16:10

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Magipi wrote:
Majang wrote:
Magipi wrote:On the other hand, I expect this "Zot clock" to be a lot of fun in the future, with many-many unexpected deaths due to interactions that we currently can't even imagine. I guess Zot clock related bugs will be with us until 2030 and beyond.

I don't think so. Players have to be prepared to bore themselves to death before they ever get close to triggering that clock. So it won't ever happen.

No, no I thought about real bugs. Like you are walking around in Depths, turn 35k, and suddenly you die. You report it on Mantis, one week later a dev writes "I could not replicate the bug". And so on, for a decade.

This is pretty unlikely, while all software development introduces the possibility of bugs, this one isn't any more likely to unexpectedly kill your character off or be difficult to reproduce than any other change to the game. While this is a significant change to the *rules* of the game, it's not a particularly large change to the *program* and it's fairly straightforward in it's implementation.
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Post Sunday, 23rd August 2020, 17:58

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

after all these years, "because something is tedious" is still not a sufficient deterrent for players to abuse it if it is "optimal"

I'm thrilled about food being gone but I also recognize that something else pressuring players to move needs to take its place if crawl is to remain remotely tightly designed, or else a large quantity of game systems need to be changed. love durable ood summons on a timer for instance.

this idea that score is a punishment in a roguelike is pretty laughable to me - death is the far far bigger punishment than taking a hit to your final score because you were slow for probably 99% of players, if I'm estimating. if you look at the top players of other roguelikes, score is pretty frequently ignored completely- score in roguelikes is typically tied to arbitrary values and variables that have little bearing on the general skill of a player to win them, and crawl isn't an exception to that long-standing trend

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Post Monday, 24th August 2020, 11:23

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

ZipZipskins wrote:"because something is tedious" is still not a sufficient deterrent for players to abuse it if it is "optimal"
It's not just about people abusing tedious behavior. It's also about feeling bad about your last death because it could have been prevented by engaging in tedious behavior.

this idea that score is a punishment in a roguelike is pretty laughable to me
Definitely, especially if it's just some large number.

"Number of runes obtained" feels more meaningful to me. (and they still count for the large number score anyway)

Another idea: maybe put extended branches behind a timeout?
- Right away when you enter the dungeon: timer starts after which vestibule+pandemonium portals close (very relaxed, but enough to prevent "infinite" abyss farming before attempting hell/pan runes)
- When you enter the vestibule: timer starts after which all hell branches close
- When you first enter Pandemonium: timer starts after which the next runed realm will only have an exit(or Abyss) portal, and all entrance portals in the dungeon close. (got a whole streak of empty realms? Tough luck, that's the RNG for you.)

The idea being all players could make it to hell/pandemonium and give one of them them a try, but you really need to rush if you want a chance at all 15 runes.

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Post Monday, 24th August 2020, 16:48

Re: Clock Brainstorming Thread

Of course, this won't affect players who never do extended anyway.

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