Name dcss:brainstorm:misc: philosophy
Summary One of the main reasons Crawl just keeps getting better with age is because of a well thought out design philosophy. On this page I encourage you to discuss aspects of game design philosophy not explicitly covered already by the in-game document
Further informationYou might want to link to other relevant Wiki pages, SF FRs, or Mantis items - see here for how! You can add as many rows of further information as you need.
Added by vandal
Added on 2009-12-30 05:04
Vandal 2013-07-11 04:51 Four years later I do not stand by much of what I said here. I would delete this page, but I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm trying to hide it. I don't think it really belongs in the wiki, though.

One of the things I'd like to discuss related to game design philosophy is the concept of “easy now, hard later” or the inverse of this when applied to designing species, starting kits, or entire spell schools as has been said to me in the case of Poison magic. I am personally biased against having this aspect of a species (etc…) be recognized as a feature of it, rather than an inherent design flaw. It is my goal by writing this to convince others not to proliferate this error in future changes to Crawl. There are a number of reasons for this: A) It flies in the face of the primary design goal of making the game challenging, with skill making a real difference. It doesn't matter which part of the game a character can trivialize, if their abilities are too strong, challenge is removed, and it isn't as fun to play at that point in the game. The inverse is also true. Ideally, challenge in a game is presented as a smooth curve. As you face more powerful enemies, your own powers (and options) grow proportionately to deal with these new threats. This is incredibly hard to do right, but Crawl has for the most part managed to. Future implementations of “easy now / hard later” or the inverse will only serve to distort this curve for those things affected, and the overall fun of the game will suffer for it. B) It is lazy. There are much better ways to differentiate spell schools and species than by at which point in the game they are the most useful. It doesn't reflect anything meaningful about the subject in question, like racial mutations, aptitudes, or unique spell effects pertaining to specific schools do. Poison magic is a one trick pony, all it does is poison and physical damage with the lone exception of its dual-school spell Mephitic Cloud (?). There is nothing really interesting or unique about it, especially when there is a large variety of physical weapons that can do Poison element damage available from D1 onward. The answer is not to load up the early game with Poison vulnerable enemies and leave only a few in the late game, that does not make Poison magic itself more interesting or fun to play with, it just causes the school to become even less interesting when you spam its late game nuke, Poison Arrow, for the massive non-poison (physical) damage it does. Meanwhile, at some point, someone has forgotten that Poison magic was only supposed to be easy in the beginning, because Poison Arrow also happens to be a top tier nuke of choice for late game. Now the school has a relatively easy early game, an average middle game, and a relatively easy late game compared to more consistent schools. C) If it is intended as a feature of something, such as the Poison spell school, then it affects many builds when a key part of it gets changed, such as Mephitic Cloud (?). Many starting kits featuring (??) will become less appealing when Mephitic Cloud (?) is made a little more sane. If their original appeal (or level of relative strength and viability) is to be maintained, it will now require going into each separate kit and making more adjustments, because a central part of their strategy has been diminished. D) It is not newbie friendly to feature “easy now, hard later” anything. A new player will latch on to something that is easier to play, then become frustrated or feel cheated when they find out a central xp investment of their character up to that point is suddenly far less useful for the rest of the game. Inversely, species and kits that are unnecessarily difficult in the beginning (Old Ogres, Gnomes, etc…) will be avoided by the majority of players because Crawl is hard enough for most people without handicapping yourself further, and there are plenty of alternatives that maintain their viability all game long. E) It is inconsistent. There are plenty of examples of species, classes, schools, and strategies that are always powerful, and no one is suggesting there is something wrong with them. Feeling powerful is fun, even if the Crawl reality is that you're just an few bad die rolls away from biting it. This is a psychological aspect of gaming. Players are playing out dreams of fantasy violence and empowerment, and having this interrupted by running into a foul mouthed (but non-threatening) demon that is immune to all of your primary attacks really kills the momentum and the fun for that player. Fun killers can and should be avoided at all costs. Don't confuse this with suggesting that every starting spellbook should be all you need all game long. By D10 it is fine for their inherent strengths and weaknesses to start really factoring in, because they've explored enough of the dungeon at that point to come up with new tactical options to make up for it, such as gods, randarts, new books, and wands. F) Crawl already offers enough extra challenges in the form of Ziggurats, Pan, Hells, The Abyss, and going for an all-rune game that this is an unnecessary method of introducing more challenge. A much more interesting method is adding more difficult content like the above mentioned to the game. Don't stop adding ridiculously difficult areas until room for all 27 runes is made! At the same time, ideally, all of the final 27 races should have a shot at getting all 27 runes while maintaining their uniqueness. This is not impossible, it just requires creativity and willingness to work hard at it, which I am convinced the Crawl community has in spades.

dpeg 2010-01-02 20:41: If you are interested in people reading and possibly even replying to your ideas, then never again shoot yourself in the back with a silly joke. This time, I edited your text to be readable; next time I won't.
I dunno, I feel wasted far too much time reading this, and if it had the jokes in it, I'd just have skipped it or have read it with a more appropriate frame of mind. It's a nice pamphlet, or a column-like piece, but I think this is user page stuff, if it needed to be in the wiki at all. Moving to graveyard.. — evktalo 2010-03-17 23:00

dpeg's reply:

  • The Philosophy does not mention “easy now, hard later” in any place. I just re-read it to make sure. It's not an explicit design goal, neither major, minor or implicit.
  • So, “easy now, hard later” is not at all a rule. What is true is “easy now, hard later” being much better than “hard now, easy later”.
  • Poison magic is not bad only because there will be more and more rPois monsters later on. There is ignite poison and poisonous cloud, for example.
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graveyard/philosophy.txt · Last modified: 2013-07-11 04:58 by Vandal
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