[Balance] Easing the start a little
issueid=1418 12-11-2012 02:27 AM
Ancient Member
Number of reported issues by Grey: 57
[Balance] Easing the start a little
Teaching game mechanics whilst easing players in

Just so we can spill the debate from Facebook into the forums... Thomas wants to make the game a little easier at the start, so that newer players don't find it impossible and off-putting. Initial suggestion was extra HP and a bit less hunger for the first few levels. Argument ensues about dumbing down the game / end of the world / etc. Even some silly suggestions of making it a separate "newbie mode".

Well, we all know ADOM can be balanced better here and there. We've had our fun removing abuses in the late game, but we should consider making the start more appealing at the same time. But I think just making it plain easier isn't the answer. Players need to be eased in, but they need to be taught the mechanics at the same time. So, I suggest:

- Start them with a potion of healing or a couple of pepper petals or spenseweed (depending on race/class)
- Give them an extra ration (current starting rations are somewhat meagre for some chars)

Simple result of this is player sees they're on low health and decides to do something about it. They see there is a problem and a solution to the problem. They feel clever for using that solution. And after that they might realise "I have no more potions, I should run". They have learned several valuable lessons. Extra HP would have just led to them meleeing the black druid for longer, and getting just as frustrated as they currently do when they die.

This is called a stealth tutorial - you deliberately lay elements in the game for the players to teach themselves how to play. ADOM does a bit of this already with starting gold and a cheap food store, but clearly that's a little too subtle for some. Players accept these sorts of lessons to heart much better than blunt tutorials.

Some other thoughts to ease the beginning game:

- Increase the gap between Hungry and Starving (as has been said elsewhere). Currently you have more time to deal with Sickness than Starvation.
- Maybe reduce food consumption in the wilderness? Especially in forests, where a lot of people starve early on.
- Make stone block traps less insta-killy. Perhaps have them do light damage + stun in a radius of 1 around the trap. Might make them more tactically interesting.
- If a player has decent piety and is close to death from Starving or HP loss have a voice boom in their head "PRAY, LOWLY MORTAL, AND I SHALL EASE THY PAIN!" Maybe stop this message appearing after the char has 100 deaths in their high score list.

Other suggestions to tweak the early game welcome in the comments, especially where they encourage players to learn. Preferably without changing the game much, just minor things to ease people in and get them addicted ;)
Issue Details
Issue Number 1418
Issue Type Feature
Project ADOM (Ancient Domains Of Mystery)
Category All
Status Implemented
Priority 5 - Medium
Suggested Version ADOM 1.2.0 pre 7
Implemented Version ADOM 1.2.0 pre 9
Milestone (none)
Votes for this feature 1
Votes against this feature 5
Assigned Users (none)
Tags (none)




12-11-2012 02:46 AM
Ancient Member
- If a player has decent piety and is close to death from Starving or HP loss have a voice boom in their head "PRAY, LOWLY MORTAL, AND I SHALL EASE THY PAIN!"
"Mortal, press '>' to enter locations."
"Mortal, ye should try kicking that locked door."
"Mortal, this is the infinite dungeon. Thou art supposed to go to the center of the map to complete thy quest."

:P

I stand by a suggestion I made on another issue: incorporating exploration mode as an actual game feature. Let it allow you to refuse death - and nothing else (as opposed to, for example, what NetHack's wizard mode offers). That way, new players aren't frustrated by constant death, at the same time they must still think how to get through dangers to some degree, instead of wishing for top-tier armor, weapons and healing potions, then mindlessly breezing through the game without dealing with the difficulties that show up during real gameplay. Immortality by itself still won't let you enter and clear the ToEF or DFG at level 1 - at least not without refusing death a few thousand times.

PS: funny fact - you get a message like the first one if you attempt to 'u'se a hatchet in a wilderness forest tile.

12-11-2012 03:09 AM
Ancient Member
I like the divine "pray to not die" hint. Hints in general are pretty nice. What about "Have you tried..." kind of stuff after a character dies, dependant on the cause of death? If it was poison, advise them about Jharod or potions of cure poison or First Aid, if it was getting killed by damage, some stuff about PV? If the character died and had at least one cursed item equipped, some warnings about equipping random equipment? Maybe just plain random tips, too? Haven't we compiled lists of early game strategy hints before - that would be a way to put them to use!

I don't like the extra health potions bit, but only because those kinds of items might breed the expectation that ADOM is one of those games in which you can buy those easily and regularly in potion shops, or that monsters drop them frequently. Neither herbs nor healing potions are nowhere near that trivial to obtain or easily available. If players do run out of those early healing potions/herbs, they might start looking for places to get them, won't be able to find any, and get frustrated even more. Unless we're also going to add a potion shop to Terinyo, I'd say it's best to avoid creating false expectations.

(That said - Munxip often randomly sells very rare food items. I don't see a problem with having him sell blessed pepper petals, too...)

12-11-2012 03:10 AM
Ancient Member
anon123: With exploration mode players will just spam through areas till they get bored and quit. Surely you've seen this in a myriad of other games? They must be taught to enjoy and learn from death!

Silfir: That'll lead to people scumming his shop! But one can get potions in the black market sometimes, and from the healer, and they're not that rare overall. But you are right that they are not the traditional method of healing in the early game.

12-11-2012 03:16 AM
Ancient Member
Quote Originally Posted by anon123
I stand by a suggestion I made on another issue: incorporating exploration mode as an actual game feature.
I think this is the smartest approach. The difficulty of the early game and the importance of various factors in it depend so strongly on race, class and playing style.. an exploration mode would help any new player who wants to learn the game, regardless what sort of character he is playing. And you can "savescum" already anyway, if you want to. This would just make it more convenient.

That said, I think the following two measures would make sense, now that the candle birthsign has been nerfed:

- increasing the health regeneration rate of all races a little bit
- increasing the effectiveness of the healing skill a little bit, too

P.S. if there are going to be hints, please please please make it possible to disable them.

12-11-2012 03:22 AM
Ancient Member
Hmm, increasing innate HP regeneration would be a good idea. Healing skill is already fairly effective, but the game is really hard without it.

12-11-2012 03:57 AM
Ancient Member
Hmm... Some ideas:

-Extra food is a good idea. It doesn't have any huge long-term effects and eliminates some early frustration. Probably an extra iron ration or two is sufficient. Maybe a little more for non-monk trolls. Extra healing potion isn't bad idea either.
-Have earlygame quest locations get marked on the map when quest is assigned. Druid/Carpenter caves, puppy cave, and, upon completion of the former two quests, the CoC.
-Remove traps from DL:1 areas.
-Decrease the prices in the black market substantially so that players can actually purchase things there. Perhaps this could be linked to Kranach quest. When Kranach is alive, prices are low (presumably because Kranach is selling all of the goods he steals to the BM); however, when Kranach dies/leaves the area, the BM has to raise prices because their supplier is gone.
-Reduce duration of sickness. 2000+ turns is way too long.
-Reduce potency of early game poisoners--pit vipers in particular come to mind.
-Increase overall effectivenss of First Aid. Especially with spense and Candle getting a bit of a hit, having first aid substantially more effective would not be terrible IMHO.

12-11-2012 06:02 AM
I'm not really convinced there are a bunch of easily-frustrated newbie roguelike players out there. On the other hand the late-game was recently made harder in a number of ways so why not make the early game a little easier?

12-11-2012 06:30 AM
Ancient Member
I think the 100 deaths can be reduced considerably to 10, but I like that one. Put the spenseweed in the tool slot, if you use that option.

I think guide them to Terinyo for the first few deaths(5). Tell them to follow the road and to press '>'.

None of the other suggestions. I rather enjoyed learning things myself. The deaths was kind of inspirational.

12-11-2012 07:21 AM
Ancient Member
Quote Originally Posted by Silfir
I don't like the extra health potions bit, but only because those kinds of items might breed the expectation that ADOM is one of those games in which you can buy those easily and regularly in potion shops (...)
(That said - Munxip often randomly sells very rare food items. I don't see a problem with having him sell blessed pepper petals, too...)
Or you could also add another shop selling them.

I think a way to make the early game significantly easier (and at the same time, teach newbies) would be to add an "adventurer supply" shop to Terinyo, which would sell common cheap adventurer's items: it could stock healing potions, bandages, torches, plain blankets, maybe the odd pick axe too, or a potion of cure poison if we're feeling really generous to newbies. The shop should be unscummable, maybe by not stocking at all, or by multiplying prices when it stocks, because having infinite healing potions would be too easy.

12-11-2012 07:23 AM
Ancient Member
Oh, and you know what would ease the early game too? Making rations lighter.

12-11-2012 07:44 AM
Ancient Member
Quote Originally Posted by Grey
Argument ensues about dumbing down the game / end of the world / etc.
Well, I'm not really sure if making the early game easier while the late game is harder is a Good Thing(tm). In such a long game as ADOM, having a character stomp through the early game and then die in the late game, after hours of real-life dedication to him, is quite frustrating. Personally I prefer a hard, fun early game and a somewhat less hard late game as it was, for that reason. But I admit a somewhat easier early game could be encouraging for newbies.

Even excluding that, the original suggestion of giving more HP or less hunger in the first few level I think is somewhat lame, so I'm not surprised about the arguments. More subtle things like giving healing potions or such are more promising.

12-11-2012 08:27 AM
Ancient Member
Well it's not the early game in general we're talking about, but the ultra early start to the game. The player's first 3 levels essentially. If you're too likely to die then new players will be very put off. What we don't want, in my opinion, is anything that strongly alters the rest of the game balance.

12-11-2012 08:39 AM
Member
Quote Originally Posted by Al-Khwarizmi
In such a long game as ADOM, having a character stomp through the early game and then die in the late game, after hours of real-life dedication to him, is quite frustrating. Personally I prefer a hard, fun early game and a somewhat less hard late game as it was, for that reason.
I agree. Losing a character in the village dungeon results in a rapid reroll, losing a character in ToEF or Scintillating Cave results in taking a break for a few days.

I vote for making rations lighter, I think it's a great idea. Maybe make Munxip's shop have a sale for the first few days as well? Based on my newbie friends' reactions to the game, dying of hunger seems to be more annoying than dying of an exploding door or rabies.

12-11-2012 10:23 AM
Member
Making rations lighter, awesome idea. Especially for PCs that have low strength. Or keep the weights as they are, but change Munxip so that he sells iron rations for some reasonable money (30 gp? 40gp?) and does not sell large rations at all. That should solve early-game problems with food.

My vote also for not easing the early game too much, I would rather die 20 times before reaching Dwarftown rather than once after that.

A bunch of potions of healing in the backpack of PC at start would also be nice. Regular potions of healing.

Quote Originally Posted by JellySlayer
Remove traps from DL:1 areas.
Perhaps remove traps only from the first / all levels of Puppy Cave and Druid/Carpenter Dungeon? These are the first locations new people visit anyway, so it would be nice if they do not die due to undiscovered stone block trap. By the time PC reaches CoC, they should be buff enough to handle traps, especially if they venture through UD. This would also increase the chances of finishing the Puppy quest (I cannot count how many times the poor dog died due to an undiscovered trap).

Quote Originally Posted by JellySlayer
Decrease the prices in the black market
That is a very good idea. Currently, unless there is something really outstanding, I completely ignore the shop in the early game (except identifying) and usually do not come back later. Linking the prices with Kranach quest seems also very reasonable.

Quote Originally Posted by JellySlayer
Reduce potency of early game poisoners
You mentioned pit vipers as an example - well, if you remove traps, pit vipers are not that big problem anymore. Spiders are tough in the early game, but not impossible. What is a problem (I think) are spider-summoning monsters in the early game. If they do not show up in Puppy Cave at all, and in levels 1-3 of Druid/Village Dungeon, that should be just perfect.

Quote Originally Posted by Al-Khwarizmi
the original suggestion of giving more HP or less hunger in the first few level I think is somewhat lame
So is the idea of increasing healing rates, they are good as they are now.

12-11-2012 10:30 AM
Ancient Member
Tying black market prices with Kranach's death is a cool idea - worthy of its own RFE I'd say, JellySlayer. There's already precedent in the game for this with Munxip lowering his prices for people that rescue the carpenter.

12-11-2012 01:54 PM
Senior Member
I think the very first thing to do is to address early instadeaths (like stone block traps for low HP characters), as they're one of the most frustrating things that can happen in the early game, and are virtually unavoidable.

Removing traps from DL:1 could solve it, but I think that's a little over-the-top, removing an entire game feature from early levels. How about if early Danger Levels only have a subset of the traps? Perhaps start with Light traps, Arrow traps, and Corruption traps on DL:1, as these are least likely to result in death. DL:2 could add in regular Pit traps, Water traps, and Alarm traps, while DL:3 could add Spear traps, Teleportation traps, and Acid traps. DL:4 could finally add in Stone Block traps, Pit with Snakes traps, and Fireball traps, as these are the most likely to result in death. All danger levels DL:4 and beyond would be unchanged.

This ensures that the new player is exposed to traps early, but in a way that is more gradual, and less likely to instakill a new player's PC.

Regarding sickness... how about making it so that sickness lasts a different amount of time depending on where it's contracted? Specifically, make the duration proportional to the danger level on which it was contracted. What's the reasoning? Simple: corruption of the virus or bacteria that is causing the illness. So catching a sickness on DL:1 should be much safer, while catching a sickness on down in the depths of the CoC will take much more time to recover from, and has a higher probability of a final fit.

Indeed, if more things are tied to danger levels, like this, it should help to make the early game easier and the late game harder, which is essentially what we want, isn't it?

12-11-2012 01:56 PM
Ancient Member
The traps could be adjusted for damage dealt / effect dependant on danger level. So stone block traps would do less early on, pit viper traps would spawn only 1 or 2 vipers at low levels, etc.

12-11-2012 02:37 PM
Senior Member
Quote Originally Posted by Grey
The traps could be adjusted for damage dealt / effect dependant on danger level. So stone block traps would do less early on, pit viper traps would spawn only 1 or 2 vipers at low levels, etc.
That works, too. But I suspect it would be easier to modify the trap placement algorithm than to modify the behaviour of each trap individually.

I would like to see pit viper traps have more pit vipers at higher DL, though. Perhaps start with DL-1+1d2 for danger levels up to 7, then convert to something stable like 2d3+6 for DL:8 and higher.

12-11-2012 03:07 PM
Ancient Member
Quote Originally Posted by Grey
The traps could be adjusted for damage dealt / effect dependant on danger level. So stone block traps would do less early on, pit viper traps would spawn only 1 or 2 vipers at low levels, etc.
Isn't damage from traps scaled to DL right now? making them less deadly on low Dl would be always wellcome.

12-11-2012 03:37 PM
Senior Member
I love most of these ideas, but I think they should only be active before level 12 or so. Once you get to level 12 you can get to Dwarftown, start the mid game, have a few plot quests available. The hand holding is over. If you had extra healing, or more wiggle room on food, or whatever, get rid of it later.

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