The Scaling Problem


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

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 27

Joined: Monday, 23rd May 2011, 02:56

Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 11:51

The Scaling Problem

This is an issue I've been meaning to discuss for some time and given that I'm suffering a bit from insomnia, it seems like a good time to put it on the forums.

'Scaling' describes how the mechanics of the game change as a PC progresses and the numbers get bigger. It is closely related to the difficulty curve of the game and plays a large part in how challenging the decision making of a game is and what the consequences for bad decision making are. Scaling can be dealt with in a variety of ways and in a lot of cases, it's done poorly or lazily. The games where scaling is done well is usually games with few variables and a very controlled, predictable environment. DC:SS is a case where scaling is somewhat broken; the formulas that govern the mechanics of the game more or less fall apart as the numbers inflate to a certain degree. It is very possible to hit a 'critical mass' where decision making becomes considerably less meaningful and the consequences of poor decisions may as well not exist. Before I talk specifically about what problems Crawl has and how to address them, I'd like to talk briefly about the difficulty curve.

Difficulty is usually expressed in a couple ways: The severity of the consequence for making poor decisions, and the difficulty of making a correct decision. Examples of games with relatively smooth difficulty curves include Final Fantasy (Higher Stakes), The Legend of Zelda (Execution) and Devil May Cry (Both). It is worth noting that the 'execution' portion of the difficulty manifestation can present itself in different forms, but because it's not really that important, I'm going to get very abstract and simply call it Execution. Crawl is a game that also exhibits both of these qualities as difficulty rises. Poor decisions that could have cost you a portion of your HP bar can cost you your life later in the game, and the number of 'correct' decisions is reduced as you specialize and the game moves forward...until a point.

That point as mentioned previously is what I will call 'critical mass'. It's the point at which the game is effectively won; the point at which the game is no longer yours to win through clever decision making, but instead, it's yours to lose through poor decision making. It's the point at which even a lot of the end game NPCs are largely non-threatening and you could do victory laps for fun around every NPC that isn't named Cerebov without much of a care. This point exists in pretty much every Roguelike of length I can think of. Even in ADOM, with the right set of gear, you can become a nigh-indestructible god who's real threats you can probably count on one hand. The problem with Crawl it's easy to hit and you can get there relatively quickly.

After you clear the first 3-5 normal rune branches, the game becomes gradually easier, depending on the type of character you are running. A lot of the ending branches can prove to be quite difficult, but as the game goes on, runes become significantly easier to get given a moderately decent set of equipment. Eventually, you get to the point where the only threatening, reliable damage left in the game is torment and hellfire, both of which are impossible or difficult to mitigate and un-dodgeable; it's lazy fixes for the scaling problem and I would like to think that if scaling were to be fixed, both these types of mechanics wouldn't be needed as much to present challenge and they could be meaningful in different contexts. As it is, you can pretty much tab through the 95% of the game and not suffer a scratch if it wasn't for these two mechanics and that is a serious problem.

--

I have become quite tired and am actually going to go to sleep. Some time tomorrow, I'll finish up this post and restructure it for readability. I do want to talk about the bizarre difficulty curve in the game and I'll also talk about specific examples where the game pretty much falls apart (Looking at you level 9 spells), examples where there are inflated numbers, but the mechanics remain interesting for different reasons (OoD) and some methods one could use to possibly fix the issue, allowing for what would hopefully be a significantly more interesting post-end game.

In the mean time, I'm curious as to whether or not the community and developers would entertain the idea that the scaling behind the game is potentially broken and of course, whether they would be willing to discuss it. If so, then hopefully we have some meaningful discussion. If not, then I suppose we can lock this thread and let it be...

For this message the author Kautzman has received thanks: 2
antibody, rebthor

Tomb Titivator

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Joined: Tuesday, 26th April 2011, 17:10

Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 12:25

Re: The Scaling Problem

I think the vast majority, including the devs, agree with you that torment and hellfire are not the most ideal of mechanics of bringing pain to highly advanced characters. Actually, I remember one of the devs saying so in these very forums (correct me if I'm wrong). And I agree with them. So that part of the problem is already well acknowledged. I think what we need, is solutions and ideas how to solve the problem.

Vestibule Violator

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 15:42

Re: The Scaling Problem

minmay wrote:If a "critical mass" point exists then it comes around the time when you find the Lair entrance, long before getting any runes. Hellfire and torment have nothing to do with this, they're nearly nonexistent in 3-rune games and are far from the only threats in extended.

I'd agree with you to a point on this. Around lair and without extended the game gets really easy again except for branch ends which can be anything from easy to moderately tough depending on character build and RNG. I think you'd agree that Zot:5 is challenging too and even people who have sailed through Pan and Hells can sometimes get into trouble there.

Dungeon Master

Posts: 1531

Joined: Saturday, 5th March 2011, 06:29

Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 15:44

Re: The Scaling Problem

I just want to link to something that I found yesterday. I'm sure some may have heard of "Tucker's Kobolds" but let me recap. These are an incredibly old D&D invention, feared by even extremely high level D&D characters. Here's the catch: they're plain, XL1, 1-4HP kobolds - yet with the help of the DM they are able to completely overwhelm parties of high-level players.

Here's a good editorial: http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Tucker%27s_Kobolds
Some more detail: http://rpgcharacters.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/tuckers-kobolds/

Basically, they're extremely good at trapping, and work together highly effectively to harry the player at every step. It's a great example of making a threat relevant and challenging without simply resorting to irresistible damage or extremely powerful single monsters. It's generally quite an interesting read.

I'm not suggesting this as a specific way to increase difficulty (although, I think it could make an awesome late-game portal vault) - really just throwing it out here as an example of how one person approached the problem creatively.
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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 15:49

Re: The Scaling Problem

1d4chan.org lol
"Be aware that a lot of people on this forum, such as mageykun and XuaXua, have a habit of making things up." - minmay a.k.a. duvessa
Did I make a lame complaint? Check for Bingo!
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Shoals Surfer

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 17:26

Re: The Scaling Problem

OK dude, I'll take you up on this.

1) Log in online tiles mode

2) Choose a build that reliably makes it to Lair most of the time

3) Run a 10-game streak

BAM! You've proved how easy and trivial Crawl is!

Then come back with your suggestions on making it harder.
(p.s. this is stupid some dev please make it not stupid) - minmay
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Vestibule Violator

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 17:40

Re: The Scaling Problem

@Kautzman, wait I'm confused. You think final fantasy has good scaling? Dude, I'm sorry. I love many of those games dearly, but I could write a list of examples of scaling problems as long as my arm. Places where difficultly ramps force grinding, places where difficultly increases so slowly you have to do anti-grinding (ie, avoiding encounters or doing things in a certain order to prevent boredom) , post endgame difficulty that's just bosses with absurd health and 1hit KOs, extra material in remakes and ports that breaks scaling (both up and down, depending). It goes on. Honestly, Crawl's leaning on torment is minor in comparison.

I will concede though that the difficulty does level off in Crawl. There's a point where you declare a character established, and barring player error or extreme bad luck, you've made it (I'd agree with minmay that this is usually around the Lair. Nethack it's usually when you first find you GDSA, probably somewhere in the mines. Although with that game's RNG you can 'win' much earlier. Like that time my goblin thief found a silver sabre in the first room).

Then there's the fact that comparing these doesn't work as well. Games with saves can have strange scaling, because death is cheap. In Crawl, it kind of makes sense that the post endgame isn't the hardest part of the game. If it were, you'd never get to do it! The highest odds of death occur when you have the least time invested- where you can *afford* a loss.

@mumra, you're right. The best way to make the game harder isn't to make enemies stronger- it's to make them smarter. The reason we win, despite being constantly outnumbered, is we play smart, and the monsters play much less than optimally (of course, there's a tradeoff. Smarter enemies mean more fun and challenge, to a point. Truly optimal play on the part of the computer would make victory nigh impossible).

Edit:

Sardonica: It's not required one be a master player to discuss weakness in the endgame.
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Barkeep

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 18:29

Re: The Scaling Problem

Scaling is a hard problem -- it's actually hard for me to think of games that do it really well. Half-Life and Portal come to mind, but both of those games essentially have you on rails; they're kind of anti-roguelikes in that sense. Oblivion is a great example of a game where very smart people worked hard to make a game scale well, but made a very unsatisfying gameplay experience.

In Crawl (especially learning to play), I found my big break point was getting my first Rune -- but there was more than one thing at play. First, I'd gotten good enough at the game and had a sense of how monsters and combat tactics work, and how character development goes, that I could keep the character alive long enough. Second, my character had accrued enough experience that it was actually, y'know, powerful, despite my strategic mistakes and questionable tactics.

I think the biggest challenge in balancing Crawl's difficulty curve is keeping the game winnable for most characters, even if they roll badly on the RNG. It's a random game, after all, and there's inherently some selection bias in successful games. Partly, once you make it to Lair, you can become powerful enough to survive the rest of the game, but partly, the characters who survive Lair were already powerful and lucky enough to do that.
I am not a very good player. My mouth is a foul pit of LIES. KNOW THIS.

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mageykun

Lair Larrikin

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Joined: Monday, 23rd May 2011, 02:56

Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 19:59

Re: The Scaling Problem

@minmay: I would agree with you that at Lair, you've become established, but the critical mass I speak of is a point where literally everything you run up against is non-threatening. Even after leaving lair, There are certain things that can likely kill you should you choose to engage or mismanage an engagement. You probably still have glaring holes in your resistances and there are certainly named NPCs that can show up that could give you a hard time. I do agree that completing lair indicates something bigger about the status of your character, but it's not exactly what I'm referring to.

@Sardonica: I took 20th~ in the last tournament (May 2011) I've actively competed in and have 10s of wins and several streaks underneath me. I'm a far cry from the likes of the guys who run win rates of 50%+, but I'm not clueless as to the mechanics of the game.

@mageykun: Not so much that FF has good scaling (and some have lazy scaling [FF8]), but more that Final Fantasy has very controlled scaling* with a few hiccups scattered about. If anything, it illustrates the advantage of linear RPGs. -- Death being cheap is certainly a factor and risk vs reward of doing something like a Zig to completion or 15 runes is something to take into account. I'm certainly not saying the game should be ridiculously hard at that point, so much that you are constantly given opportunities to get yourself killed. Instead, I push for something of substance between your 3rd rune and the 15th rune. Hell honestly does a pretty good job of keeping you on your toes unless you are absolutely decked and I find it to be one of the most interesting branches in 15 rune runs. Tomb obviously provides a special challenge for most characters, but the challenge comes from lazy mechanics (torment, to a lesser extent, smite). At some point, you are just going through the motions when collecting 15 runes and your decisions really cease mattering and I think it's this scenario that should be avoided. Smarter enemies would fix a little bit, but at the end of the day, there are problems with certain conditions like Shield 60+ and other such anomalies that would render even the smartest enemies helpless against the PC given the current formulas.

@njvack: Scaling is certainly a very difficult problem. I think keeping the game winnable for most characters is certainly a thing to consider. The line between 'The game is no longer winnable' and 'the game is no longer a challenge' is quite thin, but I think it's worth at least investigating and fixing some of the numbers such that the early game maybe becomes easier and the late game becomes more difficult.

*In most of the games, if you were to represent the party's health as a static number out of 100 throughout the game, mobs would gradually hit harder as the game progresses. The first boss would hit for 10, the middle bosses might hit for 20 and include some kind of status effect; the later bosses would hit for 40 and maybe have AoE attacks. The same model could be applied to random encounters and it holds up pretty well. This is partially because at any given point, the difference between 'the best armor/weapon you can have at this point' and 'the worst armor/weapon you could realistically have at this point' is usually pretty small. Final Fantasy employs a lot of misdirection to try and bring home the idea of 'character progression', but it's by in large smoke and mirrors because of how controlled the environment is. It makes for what is arguably one of the smoothest difficulty curves in the RPG genre, but it's cheap, it's lazy and in FF's case, it usually doesn't actually matter.

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mageykun, sardonica

Vestibule Violator

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 20:11

Re: The Scaling Problem

minmay wrote:Branch ends are only exceptionally difficult if you do them exceptionally early.

I'm not sure if this was a response to me or not. Note what I actually said was
except for branch ends which can be anything from easy to moderately tough depending on character build and RNG


I think we could look more at Zot:5/Ziggs and to a lesser extent the hells as to how to keep the game difficult. One of the things that makes Z:5 and Ziggs tough is the wide open floor plan along with the tougher enemies. Hells are tough because of the difficulty in resting and the possibility at any point in time that a tough, but manageable situation could turn into a "oh crap" situation. Facing one fiend? Not a problem for most hells capable characters. Suddenly facing two fiends, a tormenter and a skeletal warrior makes that dangerous.

@Kautzman - funny that we should both mention Hells. Although I understand that has been increasingly trivialized by Zin.
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Dungeon Master

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 21:47

Re: The Scaling Problem

Kautzman wrote:'Scaling' describes how the mechanics of the game change as a PC progresses and the numbers get bigger.

Semantics. I wouldn't nitpick, but since it's in the title of the thread and everybody is using this word...

From wiktionary
The measurement of dimensions using a scale
(mathematics) (physics) The expression of the terms of an equation using powers of nondimensional quantities


When talking game design, we usually use "scaling" to describe how an effect depend on a variable. Melee damage is scaled to weapon skill level. But the game difficulty isn't scaled to anything, and certainly not player's XL. Actually, very few things are scaled to player XL.

So it seems you're talking about difficulty progression, which is static and somewhat randomized. As mageykun pointed out, comparing the difficulty progression of a roguelike with permadeath to a mainstream RPG doesn't make much sense.

Also, I totally agree with minmay, adjusting the mid-game difficulty is much more important than the extended endgame. It's what we're focusing on for now.
<+Grunt> You dereference an invalid pointer! Ouch! That really hurt! The game dies...

Lair Larrikin

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 22:11

Re: The Scaling Problem

galehar wrote:
When talking game design, we usually use "scaling" to describe how an effect depend on a variable. Melee damage is scaled to weapon skill level. But the game difficulty isn't scaled to anything, and certainly not player's XL. Actually, very few things are scaled to player XL.

So it seems you're talking about difficulty progression, which is static and somewhat randomized. As mageykun pointed out, comparing the difficulty progression of a roguelike with permadeath to a mainstream RPG doesn't make much sense.

Also, I totally agree with minmay, adjusting the mid-game difficulty is much more important than the extended endgame. It's what we're focusing on for now.


Right now, the discussion is focused on difficulty progression, but what I do want to talk about (when I get home from work), is why I think that is, and that has to do with scaling as it's formally used. I've briefly touched on it, but I think a lot of the problems with the end game exist because the damage of a level 9 spell vs a level 8 spell is significantly higher, usually unavoidable and resistances are largely meaningless. Having a shield stat of 60+ has serious implications on the game and makes almost everything trivial. Damage, as a percentage of health becomes a lot more manageable as the game progresses (not a bad thing in and of itself). There is a non-zero chance, and even a good chance if you complete a Zig or 3, that you can cover resistances almost completely with good gear and nice randarts. Nothing is ever actually threatening and difficulty is simply a symptom of the problem, who's root I believe to be how scaling works in the game.

As far as a the mainstream RPG comparison goes, I want to use that simply to illustrate what a conservative, relatively smooth difficulty curve looks like. Yes, there are significantly fewer variables and putting the player on a track makes it much easier to manage, but I think the idea of a somewhat smooth difficulty curve that probably tapers off at a planned point is what one should shoot for in a game such as DC:SS. As it is, the difficulty curve is all over the place and I think it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to suggest that D:2 or D:3 can be more difficult than Zot:5.

Slime Squisher

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 22:22

Re: The Scaling Problem

One thing to consider is that when you die in the lategame, you have to replay the early and middle game just to get back to it. So if the difficulty curves upward, it means you have even more gameplay custered on the earlygame than there already is. I imagine this is the reason that most roguelikes become relatively less challenging after a certain point (be it lair, class quest, temple of elemental flames, or whatever.)
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Dungeon Master

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Post Friday, 16th March 2012, 22:40

Re: The Scaling Problem

Kautzman wrote:I've briefly touched on it, but I think a lot of the problems with the end game exist because the damage of a level 9 spell vs a level 8 spell is significantly higher, usually unavoidable and resistances are largely meaningless.

Well, they also require a much larger skill investment. Spell levels aren't linear. That said, storms have been nerfed a bit in recent versions, and there's been talk about doing it again.

Kautzman wrote:Nothing is ever actually threatening and difficulty is simply a symptom of the problem, who's root I believe to be how scaling works in the game.

But each formula has a different scale. I don't think we can discuss high level spell balance and shield formula at the same time. They use completely different formulae. There is no such thing as "how scaling works in the game".

Kautzman wrote:I think the idea of a somewhat smooth difficulty curve that probably tapers off at a planned point is what one should shoot for in a game such as DC:SS.

Easier said than done. Also, there's room for improvement, but I don't think we want think too smooth either. Unpredictability, OOD monsters and dangerous uniques are what make crawl what it is. We want a game when you sometimes have to flee to survive, not one where every monster is of appropriate difficulty.
<+Grunt> You dereference an invalid pointer! Ouch! That really hurt! The game dies...
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Shoals Surfer

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Post Saturday, 17th March 2012, 00:00

Re: The Scaling Problem

Sardonica: It's not required one be a master player to discuss weakness in the endgame.


Yah, you're right. But when your premise is
you can become a nigh-indestructible god who's real threats you can probably count on one hand.


Show us, then. Show us all these nigh-indestructible gods.
(p.s. this is stupid some dev please make it not stupid) - minmay

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 27

Joined: Monday, 23rd May 2011, 02:56

Post Saturday, 17th March 2012, 00:36

Re: The Scaling Problem

sardonica wrote:
Show us, then. Show us all these nigh-indestructible gods.


That was specifically directed at ADOM, but if you want a crawl example:

http://crawl.develz.org/morgues/0.8/Kau ... 025024.txt

Temple Termagant

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Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 13:47

Re: The Scaling Problem

IMHO the biggest issue is the abrupt difficulty change between non-branch end levels and branch ends.

More precisely, the fact that non-branch-end levels are too easy beyond the early game.

Snake Sneak

Posts: 129

Joined: Saturday, 27th August 2011, 22:00

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 14:33

Re: The Scaling Problem

First off I'm glad that difficulty in the mid game is being reevaluated a bit, I'd like to see a smoother difficulty increase from branch level 1 -> end of branch. Just be careful not to leave behind everyone except for elven mages and minotaur melee fighters. PLZ.

This char was powerful but far from immortal, and I had to pay attention if I wanted to survive. This character killed all 4 pan lords and I basically suicided him in Zot 5. It was extremely easy to suicide him there -- I just had to not pay attention for a minute.
  Code:

 Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup version 0.10.0-14-ga75c42d character file.

1145661 Night2o1 the Spellbinder (level 27, -36/403 (413) HPs)
             Began as an Ogre Arcane Marksman on Feb 27, 2012.
             Was an Elder of Jiyva.
             Killed from afar by an orb of fire (50 damage)
             ... with a fireball
             
             ... on Level 5 of the Realm of Zot on Mar 7, 2012.
             The game lasted 1day 11:27:35 (222955 turns).

Night2o1 the Spellbinder (OgAM)                Turns: 222955, Time: 1, 11:27:36

HP -36/403 (413) AC 37     Str 11      XL: 27
MP  11/48        EV 10     Int 25 (27) God: Jiyva [****..]
Gold 755         SH  0     Dex 16      Spells: 20 memorised,  8 levels left

Res.Fire  : . . .   See Invis. : .    J - +6 giant spiked club (freeze)
Res.Cold  : + + .   Warding    : . .  f - melded +8 fire dragon armour
Life Prot.: + . .   Conserve   : +    (shield restricted)
Res.Acid. : + . .   Res.Corr.  : +    t - +2 elf wizard hat {MR}
Res.Poison: +       Clarity    : .    B - +2 elf cloak {rCorr, Cons}
Res.Elec. : +       Spirit.Shd : .    (gloves unavailable)
Sust.Abil.: . .     Stasis     : .    (boots unavailable)
Res.Mut.  : +       Ctrl.Telep.: x    y - amulet of resist mutation
Res.Rott. : +       Levitation : .    i - ring of protection from cold
Saprovore : + . .   Ctrl.Flight: .    C - ring of protection from cold

@: statue-form, stone skin, very slightly contaminated, hasted, extremely
resistant to hostile enchantments, quite stealthy
A: unfitting armour, fast metabolism 1, saprovore 1, (tough skin 0), acidic
bite, +3 accuracy, spawn jellies when eating, translucent skin 3
a: End Transformation, Request Jelly, Slimify, Renounce Religion
}: 13/15 runes: serpentine, barnacled, slimy, silver, golden, iron, obsidian,
abyssal, demonic, glowing, magical, fiery, dark


You were on level 5 of the Realm of Zot.
You worshipped Jiyva.
Jiyva was extremely pleased with you.
You were not hungry.

You were a stone statue.

You visited 16 branches of the dungeon, and saw 98 of its levels.
You visited Pandemonium 3 times, and saw 22 of its levels.
You visited the Abyss 1 time.
You visited 1 Labyrinth.
You visited 1 bazaar.
You visited 1 Ziggurat, and saw 11 of its levels.
You visited 2 portal chambers: wizlab, trove.

You collected 12733 gold pieces.
You spent 8330 gold pieces at shops.
You used 3680 gold pieces for miscellaneous purposes.

Inventory:

Hand weapons
 J - a +6,+6 giant spiked club of freezing (weapon)
 Q - the +7,+7 Sceptre of Asmodeus
   (You took it off Asmodeus on level 7 of Gehenna)
Armour
 f - a +8 fire dragon armour (melded)
 j - the +2 cloak of Ennui {rPois MR}
   (You found it on level 8 of the Vaults)   
   
   It protects you from poison.
   It increases your resistance to enchantments.
 t - a +2 elven wizard hat of magic resistance (worn)
 B - a +2 elven cloak of preservation (worn)
Magical devices
 a - a wand of disintegration (4)
 E - a wand of digging (12)
 F - a wand of teleportation (5)
 Y - a wand of teleportation (3)
Comestibles
 s - 5 bread rations
 K - a choko
 V - 6 meat rations
Scrolls
 m - 4 scrolls of teleportation
 v - 2 scrolls of fear
 x - a scroll of remove curse
 H - 6 scrolls of fog
 M - 2 scrolls of blinking
Jewellery
 c - an uncursed ring of protection from fire
 d - an uncursed amulet of stasis
 g - the ring of Shadows {+Inv rN+ EV+4 Acc-4 SInv Stlth++}
   (You found it on level 11 of the Dungeon)   
   
   [ring of invisibility]
   
   It affects your evasion (+4).
   It affects your accuracy (-4).
   It protects you from negative energy.
   It enhances your eyesight.
   It makes you much more stealthy.
 h - an uncursed ring of protection from magic
 i - a ring of protection from cold (right hand)
 k - an uncursed ring of regeneration
 l - the ring of Frira {*TELE +Tele Int+5}
   (You found it on level 3 of the Tomb of the Ancients)   
   
   [ring of teleportation]
   
   It affects your intelligence (+5).
 o - an uncursed ring of wizardry
 q - the amulet "Lesutieg" {Gourm rN+}
   (You found it on level 8 of the Lair of Beasts)   
   
   [amulet of the gourmand]
   
   It protects you from negative energy.
 w - an uncursed ring of teleport control
 y - an amulet of resist mutation (around neck)
 z - an uncursed ring of protection from fire
 C - a ring of protection from cold (left hand)
 I - an uncursed ring of sustain abilities
 N - the ring "Geshurgh" {Hunger- Dam+5 Stlth+}
   (You found it on level 6 of the Pits of Slime)   
   
   [ring of sustenance]
   
   It affects your damage-dealing abilities (+5).
   It makes you more stealthy.
 S - an uncursed ring of life protection
 T - an uncursed amulet of clarity
Potions
 e - a potion of might
 p - 3 potions of curing
 r - 2 potions of invisibility
 A - 2 potions of speed
 G - a potion of magic
 L - a potion of restore abilities
 P - 2 potions of porridge
Magical staves
 n - a staff of enchantment
 X - a staff of wizardry
Miscellaneous
 b - the horn of Geryon


   Skills:
 - Level 26,0 Fighting
 - Level 1,3 Long Blades
 - Level 26,0 Maces & Flails
 - Level 4,4 Slings
 - Level 10,6 Throwing
 - Level 13,2 Armour
 - Level 16,0 Dodging
 - Level 7,3 Stealth
 - Level 9,0 Traps & Doors
 - Level 2,1 Unarmed Combat
 + Level 25,5 Spellcasting
 O Level 27 Hexes
 - Level 13,5 Charms
 - Level 12,4 Translocations
 - Level 12,8 Transmutations
 - Level 2,1 Fire Magic
 - Level 6,0 Ice Magic
 - Level 3,1 Air Magic
 - Level 13,0 Earth Magic
 - Level 5,0 Evocations


You had 8 spell levels left.
You knew the following spells:

 Your Spells              Type           Power        Failure   Level  Hunger
a - Controlled Blink      Tloc           N/A          8%          7    Choko
b - Slow                  Hex            #########    0%          2    None
c - Inner Flame           Fire/Hex       ########.    0%          3    None
d - Enslavement           Hex            #########    0%          4    None
f - Flight                Air/Chrm       #######...   1%          3    None
g - Mass Confusion        Hex            #########.   0%          6    None
h - Metabolic Englaciati  Ice/Hex        ########..   1%          6    None
i - Portal Projectile     Tloc           #######      0%          2    None
j - Haste                 Chrm           #######..    1%          6    None
k - Apportation           Tloc           #######...   0%          1    None
l - Repel Missiles        Air/Chrm       #######...   1%          2    None
m - Silence               Air/Hex        ########..   1%          5    None
n - Swiftness             Air/Chrm       #######...   1%          2    None
o - Blink                 Tloc           N/A          0%          2    None
p - Insulation            Air/Chrm       #######...   1%          4    None
q - Stoneskin             Erth/Trmt      #######...   0%          2    None
r - Fulsome Distillation  Trmt/Necr      N/A          1%          1    None
s - Statue Form           Erth/Trmt      #######...   1%          6    None
t - Regeneration          Chrm/Necr      #######...   1%          3    None
u - Projected Noise       Hex            N/A          0%          2    None




What I'm sayin' is that his defenses really were not very good. They were much worse until the end game hooked me up with a ton of experience and I got Statue Form -- had to work hard/play well to get there though. My ogre's survivability in any non-trash encounter relied strongly on being buffed up and aware.

I think the problem is that defense is becomes too powerful around mid-late, late-mid game, especially on cookie cutter characters, rather than the game becomes too easy. The hells were extremely challenging (and not doable probably) without statue form. I almost died several times in Dis before I attained statue form (and I still didn't kill Dispater until the 3rd try after having statue form).

Perhaps normal sized characters should receive a greater size penalty to evasion, shields should grow in power less quickly, and the most powerful armours (GDA, Crystal, Plate) should be nerfed significantly -- I wore that fire dragon armour most of the game and it seemed to be a decent balance between giving me reasonable survivability for melee and not making me able to blindly tab through the game. Infact, before statue form I absolutely could not blindly tab the vast majority of group encounters in Hell or Pan. (tho having statue form online was essential to killing cerebov and iirc the other unique pan lords as well). Also note that ogres pretty much never get two resistances at two blips at one time, lets alone better, without major sacrifice of their slots (ie both rings have to have resists for that to be possible). This fact kept my hero vulnerable if I wasn't paying attention (though the inventory management becomes a pain in the ass to keep your character adaptable.. gotta carry a bunch of jewelry. Make rings/amulets take 1/2 a slot or something IMO.).

Defense is too strong past mid game, especially on cookie cutter builds.
Last edited by Night2o1 on Monday, 19th March 2012, 16:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Ziggurat Zagger

Posts: 5832

Joined: Thursday, 10th February 2011, 18:30

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 15:28

Re: The Scaling Problem

Eldray wrote:IMHO the biggest issue is the abrupt difficulty change between non-branch end levels and branch ends.


I agree and believe this benefits spoiled players over new players, who do not realize the final level of a branch is horrific in comparison.

My suggestion to this is to place a one-time warning on entering the final level (not unlike entering a level with a labrynth or bazaar, but this covers final floor entrance via shafts), or pre-mark downstairs to final level with warnings and explicitly warn in the event of a shafting.

Add a configuration switch for spoiled players to remove this warning.
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mageykun

Dungeon Master

Posts: 1531

Joined: Saturday, 5th March 2011, 06:29

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 16:00

Re: The Scaling Problem

XuaXua wrote:
Eldray wrote:IMHO the biggest issue is the abrupt difficulty change between non-branch end levels and branch ends.


I agree and believe this benefits spoiled players over new players, who do not realize the final level of a branch is horrific in comparison.

My suggestion to this is to place a one-time warning on entering the final level (not unlike entering a level with a labrynth or bazaar, but this covers final floor entrance via shafts), or pre-mark downstairs to final level with warnings and explicitly warn in the event of a shafting.

Add a configuration switch for spoiled players to remove this warning.


Yep, I remember when I first started getting characters who could actually survive in branches. I learnt pretty quickly how much tougher the branch ends were. But the most worrying thing after that was never quite knowing how deep the various branches were, I used to always look it up on the wiki to make sure. But around this time some of the branch depths got changed (can't remember now, did Orc and Elf have more floors a few versions back?) So there was one particular game where I'd actually cleared a branch end, very nearly dying numerous times of course, the entire time not actually realising it was the branch end. So I think some sort of communication when you reach the branch end would definitely be beneficial.

Edit: I don't see why you need a configuration switch, it's not like it gets in the way, and it could kind of add to the excitement of entering a branch end. And if branch depths are changed again (which I understand is being considered) this will help spoiled and unspoiled alike.
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Vaults Vanquisher

Posts: 451

Joined: Sunday, 11th September 2011, 00:07

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 16:07

Re: The Scaling Problem

Night2o1 wrote:I basically suicided him in Zot 5.

Yes, by melding away your source of rF for no apparent reason, so you could get hit for full orb of fire damage, 1.5x faster than normal.

Night2o1 wrote: I wore that fire dragon armour most of the game and it seemed to be a decent balance between giving me reasonable survivability for melee and not making me able to blindly tab through the game. Infact, before statue form I absolutely could not blindly tab the vast majority of group encounters in Hell or Pan

Blindly tabbing everything should kill players more often, it is waaaay too reliable given the brainless nature of the task.
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Snake Sneak

Posts: 129

Joined: Saturday, 27th August 2011, 22:00

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 16:16

Re: The Scaling Problem

I was probably unclear, I literally suicided him in Zot 5 would be a better way to put it. It wasn't player error.

And the blindly tabbing being bad is the point. Doing so against any creatures at the appropriate depth was very dangerous for this character, all the way up through extended. I don't think it is absurd that I could blindly tab trash mobs like Wight swarms in Dis (what I refer to as trash mobs), though.

Shoals Surfer

Posts: 312

Joined: Thursday, 9th June 2011, 19:12

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 16:50

Re: The Scaling Problem

Speaking on behalf of the poor players out here. Scaling it for the top end players has a possiblity of leaving the bottom end players out in the cold.

I (personally) have no problem with a character being basically unkillable by the time they can get 3-5 runs; IMO you have effectivly won the game at that point. Also, while a good player is basically set by the entrance of lair, my legion of ghosts would like to point out that Crawl still gives you plenty of chances to make mistakes.

Slime Squisher

Posts: 405

Joined: Thursday, 16th June 2011, 18:36

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 20:04

Re: The Scaling Problem

I agree about the difficulty leap of branch-ends being a surprising discontinuity. I think a warning of a similar style to the one you get for labyrinths and portals would be an improvement. Some beefing up of the branch-level-before-branch-end would be cool as well. That would give some needed force-feedback to the player -- because right now you can sometimes stomp all over (say) Swamp:4 with a character that has no hope of clearing Swamp:5.

Vaults:8 does get credit for providing the "big difficulty jump!" warning in an emergent way.
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Shoals Surfer

Posts: 300

Joined: Saturday, 21st May 2011, 08:23

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 20:31

Re: The Scaling Problem

Kautzman: I've been thinking about what you wrote for the last couple days. And I have a question for you and it sounds like a angry or troll question maybe? But its not. I really want to hear and consider your response.

The issue you bring up probably effects less than 1% of games (those who get 3+ runes.) So why should the community invest in fixes?
(p.s. this is stupid some dev please make it not stupid) - minmay

Mines Malingerer

Posts: 42

Joined: Friday, 17th February 2012, 20:13

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 21:01

Re: The Scaling Problem

Because those 1% of games are the ones players will remember playing, and arguably are what makes beating your head against the vicious early game worth it so that you may play them.

And yes, making it halfway through Lair and suddenly being able to afford autopilot mode with few hitches until the (consecutive) branch ends is a bit of a letdown.

Shoals Surfer

Posts: 312

Joined: Thursday, 9th June 2011, 19:12

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 21:22

Re: The Scaling Problem

Infinitum wrote:Because those 1% of games are the ones players will remember playing, and arguably are what makes beating your head against the vicious early game worth it so that you may play them.

And yes, making it halfway through Lair and suddenly being able to afford autopilot mode with few hitches until the (consecutive) branch ends is a bit of a letdown.


My autopilot must be broken then, every time I try it I end up dying...
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Dungeon Master

Posts: 4031

Joined: Thursday, 16th December 2010, 20:37

Location: France

Post Monday, 19th March 2012, 22:08

Re: The Scaling Problem

mumra wrote:But the most worrying thing after that was never quite knowing how deep the various branches were, I used to always look it up on the wiki to make sure.

Try ctrl+o
<+Grunt> You dereference an invalid pointer! Ouch! That really hurt! The game dies...

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