If you think about it... the degree of balance in this game is amazing

Discussion in 'Dungeons of Dredmor General' started by Midnight Tea, Oct 12, 2012.

  1. Midnight Tea

    Midnight Tea Member

    ... It's pretty damn amazing that Dungeons of Dredmor is as balanced as it is. I confess I've almost never seen a game centered around do-it-yourself skill lines retain meaningful player choice. What I mean by that is that in most games with these sort of "skill trees" (in lieu of pre-packaged character classes), there is usually one or two completely and hideously broken skill combinations. They're just that effective. Now I know some of you might cite particularly overpowered DoD builds but there is still pretty much an ocean's depth of difference between DoD and what I'm talking about.

    I'm talking about the situation with games where you can mix and match tons of builds, and the developer inevitably has to balance the game around player effectiveness. Guess what happens? A lose-lose-lose situation. Either you leave the broken synergies alone, you attempt to balance the synergies, or you set up the whole game with the assumption players are using overpowered synergies. It's like a game developer Kobayashi Maru. You either give your players a "win the game free" card, you engage in a battle of balance whack-a-mole (which quickly becomes a resource black hole for the devs), or you basically turn the game into an extremely unintuitive and oversimplified version of class picking. That last case may very well be the worst because you not only defeat the point of having a skill tree system but you actually wind up further away from your original goal of more player choice -- and now on top of everything else your game now has an extra layer of unintuitive to no real benefit.

    Getting back to Dungeons of Dredmor... pardon my language, but holy shit I cannot believe you guys made this work. Granted, DoD does side a bit on letting certain extremely powerful builds have a much easier time with the game than just picking any at random. But that's not necessarily a bad thing since it's enough to make players feel good for their ingenuity, but the performance difference isn't so dramatic that people default to cookie-cutters after their first two or three characters. The first five to ten levels will still challenge you regardless of your build anyway. In other words right from the beginning, the player has a lot of interesting and meaningful choices, but none of those choices significantly alter the experience at first. This does lead to a bit of a syndrome where you basically do the same things at the start of every game, regardless of character, but that's not necessarily always a bad thing. This is where the RNG can shake things up nicely.

    To really put in perspective how well DoD succeeds at having a skill tree system, you have to consider that the game is beatable pretty much regardless of the skills you brought. It's almost like the roguelike equivalent of Maniac Mansion (wow I feel old referencing that). Thanks to certain deliberately overpowered items and tactics, you can pretty much push your way through the last parts of the game regardless of your character. That's a stroke of brilliance, even if it does mean certain character builds (melee-oriented in particular) wind up obselete in favor of these game-ending solutions. It doesn't matter, though -- it still preserved a sense of player choice for the majority of the game, and well past the point most players bore of their characters anyway.

    Amazing job, Gaslamp Games. I just wish more people in game design circles recognize what was accomplished here.
  2. SkyMuffin

    SkyMuffin Member

    This is exactly how I felt about Diablo 3, and to a lesser extent, Torchlight 2.

    It really is amazing that a handful of people managed to balance this game so well. I've played a bajillion hours and I still haven't figured out everything...i don't know how they did it. They must have bent the laws of space-time to fit in enough knowledge.
  3. Essence

    Essence Will Mod for Digglebucks

    I've been lucky enough to stumble upon a series of games like this, all in completely different categories (Tactics Arena Online, then Kingdom Rush, then Elements:the Game, then Dungeons of Dredmor) so maybe I'm spoiled, but I'm coming to consider miracles of ingenuity and balancing like this to pretty much be what defines a "real" game (as opposed to what amounts to an overpriced app). The amazing part to me isn't the phenomenal amount of effort that went into this -- it's that it's not being sold for $45. It seriously could be and it wouldn't be overpriced -- I think I've put more hours into DoD than any other game I've ever played, and I still feel a thrill every time I sit down to ask myself what my new character's skills are going to be (and what I'm going to regret forgetting to build in around floor 8.)
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  4. Huh, I feel like the game is actually most varied in the first floor or two. When you've only leveled one skill (and scaling hasn't really kicked off yet), you find yourself figuring out way to uniquely abuse that particular skill/mechanic until you've begun to round out your build. Once you have a handful of skills you can safely fall back on more generic tactics like 'stack buffs on now' or 'lead hoard to chokepoint, spam special attacks on the more dangerous enemies as they approach' and the exact skills you chose within a given achetype aren't always as important.

    I disagree. If anything, the endgame should be the most balanced and where skill builds come to complete fruition as a reward for the players who have successfully pushed their way there. Getting through purely with OP items and resorting to the same solutions to win the game is going to leave a sour taste in the player's mouth and not exactly encourage them to replay, which is especially important for a roguelike. (DoD only suffers from this in the optional expansion floors, though. D1-10 is awesome.)
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  5. Rakankrad

    Rakankrad Member

    One of the better balanced game I've played recently for sure.

    TL2's balance is pretty decent imo. They manage to balance things out fairly correctly, unlike D3 where they just nerf the abilities to the ground and make them completely useless (sure, release Smoke Screen was OP, but they overnerfed it). As an example, they tweaked Outlander's Glaive Throw, but without overnerfing it. I feel like if GLG had been the ones who made TL2, they would have tweaked it similarly.

    Wow, I never met anyone else who played that.
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  6. Essence

    Essence Will Mod for Digglebucks

    Ha. One of the highlights of my life before modding here was inventing Jezebel the FG and getting her in-game. Also, writing all the Oracle's predictions. :)
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  7. Rakankrad

    Rakankrad Member

    :confused: you're THAT Essence.. I must now bow to you even more than I used to =P
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  8. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    That is because many people who are into game balance and know how to change things are on this forum and are looking for things to do. Ruigi did a lot of cool (and quasi-balanced) mods (alongside other modders); Essence seems to be trying to increase his sleep deficit (Essence! Get some sleep!) and is thus spending a lot of time tinkering with innards of various skills and spells to make things better; Fax (known as "FaxCelestis", for those unaware of it) did a lot of random stuff too, which, while not the most balanced, is still good; Null is hell-bent on making things balanced and relevant whenever he speaks (props for him for that); Bergstrom (known as "r_b_bergstrom") also made some good stuff and really spoke wise when it was necessary; if you want to count a crazy person then there's also me, for I have some random knowledge relating to semi-obscure ways to make things work (even though what I am working on has yet to be released); and generally a lot of other people who try to make things better are there too.

    The point I am trying to make, for all the people who don't know that yet, is that the really capable modders are trying to keep together and make things better instead of trying to overdo each other, and they have the support of the developer team (so the "capable" modders are something like the developers' stronghold there) which is really making the difference.
  9. Midnight Tea

    Midnight Tea Member

    Yeah, good point. Early on you really do kind of have to use more creative solutions with limited skills. It wouldn't surprise me if we eventually begin seeing challenge runs where a person strictly limits how much they level up.

    I'd agree that this is un-ideal, but it is still a solution to the potential problem of having an "unwinnable" build. I think the only real problem is when the zero-sum solution is too easy to invoke. Instead, it should be a card the player should be allowed to play if they're stuck but are skilled enough to have survived to the end.
    I'd argue that one's build flavor can still endure even though you're preparing to cap off the game, even in the expansion floors. It relates, for instance, which Diggle God you'll feel compelled to invoke. Digging Ray and Leylines still define how I play often, well into the later parts of the game.
  10. mining

    mining Member

    ->Semitangent but related to balance:
    Blizzard and balance have an interesting relationship. They tend to release things too high, then balance to ~just right - but it feels weak because of how high that initial high was.

    Game balance is hard - especially for multiplayer games - and especially especially over multiple skill and gear levels.
    On NS4, we tend to release things fairly close to balanced, but over 6 factions there's quite a bit of factional imbalance - which varies based on population; for example AoE CC lock builds are insanely good if we have 40 people in a fight, but pretty much trash when 2v2s are the main combat.

    Similarly, Blizzard needs to balance skills within classes against other classes and against other skills. The fact that there are multiple competing builds shows that they've done an ok job of it.
    <- end tangent

    GLG has done a pretty good job of iteratively balancing Dredmor.
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  11. lujo86

    lujo86 Member

    I actually disagree with the OP in a way which would warrant a textwall to be constructive, and I don't feel like I have enought weight in the community to be taken seriously. The game is a highly addictive skinnerbox, the humor and the refferences hit a certain demografic (several generations of nerds) like a sledgehammer, but it has adressable glaring flaws when macro is taken into account.

    I'm only 90ish hours in, but I've seen let's playes, read several wiki's, and been lurking around the forums more than it's healty, so I can't tell if I'm missing something or I'm completely right. It's a fun game, to be sure, but could be made a whole lot better probably.

    Stuff that allready made it infinitely better so far (by adding non-humor substance to an otherwise very simplistic and generic game): the implemented rooms mod and the named lvl miniboses.

    Stuff which would make it a lot more better and balanced IMO:

    - Making artifacts convertible to XP for all characters, and directly and indirectly focusing on skills as skinnerbox rewards. I could write a book on it.
    - Redistributing the load of mechanics related to Tinkering
    - Making traps viable
    - Giving each floor more identity and exploring the mechanical purposes of Inconsequentia, the Lutefisk god and the various shrines (got plenty of ideas)
    - Making the engdame more random instead of having a fixed boss (fighting dreadmor every 5 levels, giving him random stats every time while Inconsequentia or whatever lets you gather hints about what you can expect and so on and so forth)

    Esentially, the game feels a lot like diablo 1 - once you hack the original files, you discover that the "game" was just combat from a game that was supposed to be much more than that.
  12. Midnight Tea

    Midnight Tea Member

    lujo86, your points are all over the place. You can't make the claim it's a skinner box and have it taken as a given unless you can prove it. A skinner box type game is one which compels you to play it far past the point it's fun. It's usually done to intentionally program or manipulate the player's behavior in some way using scheduled rewards. FarmVille is a skinner box, and a particularly insidious one at that. World of Warcraft (and many subscription MMOs in general) is a skinner box. Unless Nicholas and crew are secretly receiving 10% of the lutefisk you skol, I'm not sure what they'd get out of designing Dungeons of Dredmor like a skinner box even unintentionally. The game is short and any character gains ephemeral. Now if there was like, I dunno, a metagame percentage bar that tracked how many individual games I played, gave me rewards for playing on a daily basis? That sounds more like skinner box mechanics to me. But even that definition is still more informal and subjective than academic. (the academic psychology community is still in disagreement about whether B.F. Skinner's works applies to the act of compulsive play to begin with)

    Now, going through your post blow-by-blow:

    What the heck are you talking about there? Is a non-humor substance somehow different from a humor substance? Are you inferring that content that exists primarily as humor or parody is inherently inferior to non-humorous content? That's nonsense. For instance Solid Snake started out as a parody of Snake Plissken. If you want a more classic example, Don Quixote is a silly parody of many cheesy chivalry romances at the time, particularly Amadis of Gaul. I had no idea the latter even existed until I googled it, while the former is still considered an enduring work of art.

    I confess, I'm not even sure you even know what a skinner box is when you wrote that. They aren't a good thing (link). We've discussed on this forum about the possibility of making that ability more global, if just because archeology has become pretty much a must-have skill line for a lot of people. But I think experience matters more in the earlier levels than later ones anyway.

    Specify please.

    They totally are viable, they just require a bit of cleverness and foresight to use. Traps can do a number on a monster zoo.

    I'd agree with this, actually. Interior Dredmorating is a totally must-have mod for that reason. I do think it's kind of a shame most floors are distinguished mostly by what baddies show up and its texture, I think what you're getting at is that it'd be nicer if the game had more character in this way in the way many roguelikes do, such as Nethack with its Sokoban levels and so on. I'm almost positive that this was something they had to cut from development.

    Not to sound cold, though, ideas by themselves aren't worth much to game developers. Everyone has ideas. What matters is one's willingness to put the effort into making those ideas a reality.

    Yeah, scheduled story boss fights in general might've been interesting now that you mention it. But I'm not sure I'd have important information come from a goddess explicitly called "Inconsequentia". Maybe something like the class quest from Nethack.

    I've pretty much never heard of a game that shipped with all the features the developers originally wanted to have in it. You can often find the remnants of cut features in any game, not just Diablo 1. It's actually considered a bitter but honorable duty for a developer to not let feature creep prevent them from ever releasing their product. This is why press releases are usually so measured and careful -- they don't want to talk too much about something they're excited about only to wind up having to cut it to make deadlines.

    In a perfect world, every good game idea would be worked on by immortal steam knights, immune to the maladies of the common man, with mysterious but infinitely wealthy backers (who may or may not smell of eldritch barbecue). Instead we live in a world where games are made by squishy humans for squishy humans and we're all struggling to keep our internet on.
  13. lujo86

    lujo86 Member

    Ok, I feel really bad about being incoherent and all over the place, but I'll give explaining my viewpoint a try, and answer some of your "blows". I've posted that drunk, and I'm sorry about it, so I'll try to back it up with proper explanations.

    Regarding the skinnerbox thing:

    One of the developers explicitly stated, at a lecture he was giving on using humor in games, that DoD is essentially a skinnerbox. It may be the most charming skinnerbox ever made (for a specific demographic which includes me), but it is very deffinitelly a mindless grindfest with nothing no pretentions to be anything except that but hilariously silly and referential. There's a post on these forums with the link to the lecture, and what can be gleaned from it is that DoD is an unabashed "skinnerbox sugarcoated with humor". I'm a sucker for these things and have plenty of expirience with addictive gameplay and games designed to keep you clicking way past the point where fun loses all meaning and it stops being healthy.

    Regading the "humorous content" and "nonhumorous" content:

    If you take away all the referential stuff and jokes, the game is really, really bland. The game does a great job of exploiting the fact that it's a graphical roguelike, it "wins" incredibly hard on charm alone, but strip away the jokes and the textures and what's underneath it is actually not exactly wowing, original or engaging. The "more rooms" mod introduced features that made different levels stand apart, and the named bosses gave more mini-objectives within each level. I'd like to leave it on the "I say so" level of argumentation at this point and retun to why "I think so" later in the post.

    And I'm not sure you have your former and latter straight, except english is not my primary language so I might be wrong.

    Regarding a global archeology and skinnerboxes:

    I'm well aware skinnerboxes are not a good thing, except DoD IS one. Now, the reason I pick Archaeology in every build and wouldn't dream of not picking it up is not the in game power (game is completable regardless of the build for the most part) but because the skills are what keeps the player clicking. Loot in this game, in many circumstances (having a focused build, having crafting recipies for intended build, allready havign better gear, and so on and so forth), is rather uninterestin in and off itself. So is money past a certain point.

    However, without the ability to convert named gear to XP, most of the challenging stuff, the mini-objectives that there are in the game (Inconcequencia, Lutefisk god, Chests of Evil, Monster Zoo's, etc) becomes pointless. Very few "rewards" let you do, see and combine new abilities and concepts the way skills do - mostly the buff passive stats and help you in the elemental rock/paper/scissors game which, when compared to gettign a new usefull, flavourfull or generally tactics changing skill feels like no reward at all. When you consider that you only have so many equipment slots, and consumables get progressivelly strictly better, items in general mean so little as an actuall reward compared to progressing further on any skill tree - not for the power it provides but for the introduction of a new element into your grind routine (and since these are fun and charming, they ussually help aleviate the tedium).

    So the reason why I feel like some form of "It belongs in a museum" should be global is that most content apart from the charming and fun skill trees is rather boring once the jokes lose their punch, and once you get familiar with the common resists in the mid-high levels. Without the ability to turn a most-of-the-time-useless, but by far the most common type of incentive to keep clicking (items) into a way to get more not-necessarily-powerfull-but-deffintely-fun incentive to keep clicking (XP), the game runs into the "take away the textures and all you got is the same old grind" routine.

    If this takes more patient, clear, argumentative, supported, friendlier, graphier or whatever kind of explanation past this point, I'll be happy to indulge.

    Regarding Tinkering:

    Well, the fact that tinkering covers all of the following: the powerfull clockwork weapons, non-magical ranged weapons, ammo for crossbows, and traps, while at the same time letting you ignore traps as a gameplay hazard (and harvest XP, zorkmids and/or lutefisk off of them), is in the same class line as Archaeology while at the same time allowing for manufacture of artifacts for constant XP gain (and thus turning crafting junk into stuff that leads to new abilities and thus interesting), as well as being integral to using both the clockwork knight and rogue scientist trees, as well as lettin you produce things which destroy destructible walls and push stuff... It's a bit overloaded. Tinkering and Burglary alone are probably enough to complete the game on any difficulty.

    Regardin viability of traps:

    I've been using them quite a bit, except I've never ever crafted one. That's my issue, they require cleverness to use for a mediocre effect, while tossing a easily craftable thrown AoE projectile, or better yet, just spamming tenebrous rift and closing the door reqires almost no thought at all. Again, this isn't a "make traps powerfull" thing, it's "make one of the most common pickups in the dungeon do something except hog my inventory". I'd like to be able to use it, because they are all over the place, craftable and all that, and ATM I mostly use them to harvest XP and lutfisk/sell them unless I decide to challenge myself.

    Having traps viable would allow for more focus on them in the thief skills and archetypes, and I'd love thiefs more if they focused on traps and crossbows rather than hogging every facet of utility excet healing.

    Regarding giving floors identity:

    This actually ties in with both your original post (my entire argument is based on the assumption that you are in fact right about DoD skill tree constelation being a wonder to behold, but I disagree with it being "wow enough" to overlook the flaws) and all of the other things I said. It's obvious that it was cut from development, but the game has evolved so much, developed multiple wiki's and has an awesome modding team, but for all this time, except for the interior redredmorating, the entire "RNG the floors to death" thing has been mostly untouched (maybe it hasn't as much as I make it sound, but it wasn't touched enough). Which becomes an obvious problem the further you go into a dungeon, since microgoals in form of gaining a new cool skill start getting few and far between, and loot loses all meaning.

    Then it becomes obvious that there is very little motivating (or challenging for that matter) you to clear floors the way you did at lower levels (or dip into a lower floor and come back). For some builds this moment comes sooner (tenebrous rift I'm looking at you), for some later, but if the game had more microgoals, or if the engame was more varied, the whole thing could be as awesome as those first 2-3 floors.

    I actually have a nice illustration for this - timing your kills on Sigfried, Bee Arthur, The Baron and the mushroom is actually very important because it can mean a lot in XP lost to overflow. Finding the "big treasure room" on the first level right away and not finding it makes a world of difference in how the level (and the game) playes out. Once you've hit your stride, and the tangible rewards (even if just the feeling of joy upon getting another skill which is often mechanicaly useless past the point where you've completed your build), most of these microgoals dissapear.

    And regarding every game being shipped with less than intended content:

    My comparison to Diablo 1 in particular was actually rather specific - both DoD and Diablo 1 are extremely addictive hack and slashes which look like supremely streamlined and cocentrated efforts at making a "pure" game. The discovery that this was due to budget and or time constraints, and that a game could be even better and still have the kick ass combat always came to me as a bit of a letdown. There is room in Dredmor for so much more (probably impossibe due to coding restrictions, but maybe not), even such a thing as a way to put custom markers on the map so I could note where I need to return for some reason would improve it significantly.

    Willing to elaborate or concretise as needed. Also debate.
  14. mining

    mining Member

    I watched that lecture, and I'm pretty sure Nicholas never said it was a 'skinner box' - but in a way, any game which contains RPG elements is partially a skinner box. But: Here's why I'd refute DoD as being largely a skinner box;

    A) Humor and novelty are a large driving force - this isn't a reward mechanism for pushing a button, it's implemented throughout the entire game.
    B) There's a hell of a lot of logical gameplay and thus brain stimulation that goes on in DoD - it's engaging to have to plan out your moves turns in advance if you get caught in a bad situation. That's engaging, not just compelling.
    C) You die. Often. All of your progress gets wiped out. Often. That's the exact opposite of a skinner box to me - you semi-unavoidably (sure, 20 turns earlier you could've avoided it, but not at 20 HP next to Dredmor) die, regardless of when you press the button.
    Kazeto likes this.
  15. I do disagree with most of lujo86's comments (desire for a varying Dredmor aside), but I feel this needs to be pointed out:

  16. mining

    mining Member

    Cheevos, cheevies, crack. Cheevo whores will always sell out their gametime in exchange for juicy colored sprites on a steam account, lol.

    The plus side is that most of the cheevos for Dredmor are acheivable while actually playing the game, as opposed to "Fall off a building while..."
  17. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    What you are trying to do now, lujo86, is trying to convince us to agree to making Dungeons of Dredmor into a "skinner box" and pretty much just because you feel it is one. Erm, no, it is not one. It is just a normal game, and there is nothing that would force you to play it every few hours to get something that you would not have otherwise gotten, no "your diggles are sad, don't delete your account" button, no anything of the sort.

    So, you will get a reply here not from the viewpoint of an observer, but from the viewpoint of someone who absolutely loathes "skinner box" games (and Facebook as well, I would explode their servers with my mind if I could).

    - The whole "skinner box" thing. No, this game is not one, and will never be one. That you like these sort of games is the reason why you think that any game that is fun to play and takes time has to be a "skinner box". But this game is not one, and it can not be one, because the very definition of such things makes it impossible for the game to be one. Why, you ask? Because the game does not try to interact with you outside of it in any way at all, be it reminders, timers, outside-of-game cooldowns, anything of this sort. The fact that you spend much time playing it is your fault and not a reason to think that a game that can not be a "skinner box" has to be one. Of course, one could argue that there are achievements, but there actually is a reason for this insanity - with almost all Steam games having achievements and with Steam being pretty much a primary distribution method for DoD, people were expecting achievements to work; not all people did, obviously (I couldn't care less, and I bypass Steam when playing DoD because I don't like what it's doing to that game with its stupid cloud), but some cared and these people demanded something to be done when Steam broke achievement detection for some achievements, so GLG developers put their own counters into the game so that the discontent achievement collectors would stop bothering them.

    - The "humorous and non-humorous" thing. I now want to inform you that this game is classified as a "rogue-like" game. Meaning that it is a mere dungeon crawler, most of which don't even have graphics and clever jokes but instead represent everything with ASCII characters and put most of their emphasis on challenge, and when I say "challenge" I mean "you have to re-roll your character every 10 minutes unless you become good quick because they are hard and generally merciless". Dungeons of Dredmor was made to have such ever-present humour and look like that because what it was supposed to do was take the "bland" genre of "rogue-like" dungeon crawlers and present it to the world in a more accessible and user-friendly way.

    - The "more rooms" mod you are referring to? Do you have any idea why it wasn't added to the game in its entirety? I'll tell you - that is because the game developers did not want rooms that required active thinking to be part of the core game, so that the less mentally capable players would not get stuck on some random riddle. That is why you have to download the mod, and only that.

    - Ignoring the fact that you stated that you "know" that DoD is a "skinner box" (which does not make me put my hopes in regard to your knowledge and perceptive abilities high, but I will try not to burst into flames and charge at you), the "make 'It Belongs to the Museum' public" thing. You think that Archaeology as a skill is a must-have one for all players. But you are wrong. I, for one, dislike using that skill; yes, I have nothing against the concept, but I just dislike being urged to rely on the mechanic of eating artefacts for additional experience. I loathe random skill sets in which I am forced to build my character around this feature, and I would be effing pissed (emphasis and word choice deliberate; frequent forum users will likely note that I try not to swear whenever possible, so this should be a measure of how negative my feelings on that issue are) if I got "It Belongs to the Museum" regardless of my build. And if anything, the fact that you feel it ought to be made global is your problem, because all the experience you got with real "skinner box" games made you rely on boosting effects too much. Time isn't a concern in DoD, you aren't forced to rely on that feature from Archaeology, it is just that it is too difficult (or you got too used to it, whichever is true) for you to cope with not having it accessible, but that is for you.

    - The issue of Tinkering. No, Tinkering as a skill is not overpowered. It is true that is is stronger than Smithing and Wandlore, but is is not overpowered (not below average, but not far above it either) and it is really unlikely to be a universal "win it all" button unless you waste at least 4 skill slots trying to build around it, in which case it's strong because it's not just one skill but rather a whole build. But I do agree that if anything gets changed, priority should be put on the other crafting skills outside of Tinkering.

    - The issue of traps not being worth crafting right now. I fully agree with you, that is all. Personally I think that instead of the wide assortment of weird traps the way it is now, players ought to be able to make traps that would be more unique (one trap of a kind instead of a whole series of them) and every one of their traps ought to scale to either roguishness, wizardliness, or warriorness so that every character would be able to use traps, some would just be able to use some traps better than the other.

    - The "floor identity" thing. Quite frankly, I agree with you. I know there would be issues if they tried to implement it straight out of the bat, and I know that many less capable players would not want such a thing to become a part of the game that couldn't be turned off, but being a "challenge seeker" kind of player I would enjoy it if we had a guaranteed boss/epic quest on each floor that we had to do something about.

    - And the last one, I think they just weren't sure if the game would pull players in. Now that they know it had, we have twice as much content as there originally was and there are also mods to think of.
  18. mining

    mining Member


    He has the weak form down pat, so in a more general sense he "knows" DoD is a skinner box.

    The strong form is arguably unattainable here, so looking at the common form, he satisfies 1, and possibly 2, but not 3.
  19. lujo86

    lujo86 Member

    It's 2 AM over here, I'll give all of it a read tommorrow, dig that lecture up, and see if I can fix the communications problem. I sort of think all of my arguments are connected but it's quite possible that I ommited a step or two in the reasoning. Mybe I'll see it clearer tommorrow, because at the time of wiriting it seemed to me that if any of my arguments stand to reason, all of them do. Maybe I'm wrong, but I also feel it's a select few terms and concepts and possibly my tone which is causing knee jerk reactions. Ty for replys, anyway. :)

    What I am sure of, however, is that I don't seem to be able to communicate exactly what I see in the "it belongs in a museum" any why I pick it up. It's not powerleveling I'm looking for, and it's not about making my character more powerfull at all. It's all about the way the game is designed, and about how gaining even completely useless abilities is more of a reward for clicking on pixels while playing the game after a certain point than any drops. I don't CARE about how powerfull my character is at any point, I deliberately make necro characters with no built in healing or easily acessible necro protection, I use traps for the challenge of it... I need to find a way to explain this in terms which don't make people jump to entirely wrong conclusions :(
  20. lujo86

    lujo86 Member

    The video where the skinnerbox nature of Dredmor is explained away in an almost off-hand "in case you haven't figured it out, you probably never seen or herd of a skinnerbox" and how humor is instrumental to sugarcoating this fact, by the lead programer, at 8:20, ty, sorry for my tone, it was a major letdown to me the first time I saw the video, and yes, I do in fact know quite well what I'm talking about.

    It's just that when I see my quoting and taking what is de facto word of god for granted cause such vicious reactions, then I guess I do have reasons to be furstrated at you lot. Then when my archeology comments get interpreted in this light, while completely missing the point, I get even more frustrated. Stop shooting the messenger, and plese hear what I say with the following in mind - I despize skinnerboxes, and all of this is related to moving the game away from being so much of one, because I feel like it can be moved away from it. And since the devs a) made it the way it is and are selling it very well, and b) have moved on to another project, noone but the modding team is probably going to do it.

    Now to make up for the tone and be constructive.

    1) About the skinnerboxes and archaeology, and also related to all the wrong assumptions about my character and gaming habits which seem to be putting you all on the wrong track

    Ok, so concerning the sknnerbox concept, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber, it's important to note a fact which I'm not sure is mentioned there, the infrequent stimulus effect. Or something like that. Essentialy, the regularly supplied stimulus (you do X you get Y) is far less addictive than an ireggular one (you do X - you might get Y). This is the core of why I think of "It belings in a museum" as one of the few "anti-skinnerbox" mechanisms in the game which at the same time keeps any sort of stimulus coming (the other would be completing a build that can waltz through the game, but then the motivating factor of having a challenge is lost to varying degree).

    The game has 4 primary rewards for sucessfull build in mini-objectives (Zoo's, Inconsequentia, Chests of Evil) and simple grind: consumables/ammo, zorkmids/vendor trash, artifacts and XP. Everything but XP can be turned into Zorkmids, and Zorkmids can be turned into anything but XP.


    Unless you run into a specific piece of equipment, the best use for zorkmids is buying up specific ammo and components for further ammo and consumables via vending machines, so stating that they are completely worthless would be a lie, but seeing how consumables and ammo can be used by any character, and are also the most basic way of completing the game regardless of build (so much so that they can make the endgame samey and reduce picking skills to the domain of self imposed challenge), they do very little to build upon what the OP has stated as being the primary atteraction of DoD - the fun, flavourfull and diverse skills. So while usefull in the strict powergaming sense (for lack of a better word), the way they support any build is the opposite of making any build viable, but rather making specific builds irrelevant. Cold hard fact right there, and how much will someone be annoyed at it is to a degree a matter of personal outlook, but not noticing this phenomoenon takes more effort than noticing it after a while.

    In any case, selling loot and vendor trash and buying consumables and ammo works as the most generic way of structuring a story of going from lvl 1 to lvl 10/15. If you've killed Dredmor once by chucking stuff at him, and then once or twice more after optimizing a "stuff chucking" build, the next time you want to try something which doesn't rely on it zorkmids, and thus anything which is functionaly irellevant to your character will be next to useless except to buy more food and drink. And healing and mana regen skills coupled with the omlettes makes even that facet a bit moot.

    Artifacts (Named Gear)

    With the game being essentially room after room of monsters many of which are collor palette swaps of each other with a bit of elemental rock papar scissors thrown in to keep it interesting, once you have an operational build going the mini-goals start to become interesting to break the iinevitable tedium, especially if you're meticulous about clearing floors as I am. However, with the vast ammount of potential bonuses and item types, and limited slots, the vast majority of the rewards for the mini-goals is completely useless to any particular build (even more so with the way weapon skills work, but I see Essence is working on that). They can be turned to zorkmids, but as was stated, zorkmids are nowhere as motivating in an off themselves and only serve the purpose of getting better gear in form of non-combat RNG drops (the shops) where you can excange your unwanted drops for more desireable spawned ones at a certain ratio.

    However, with drops and what you can buy being random, and with random drops like the ones from Chests of Evil being strictly superior in terms of enchantments to whatever can spawn in the shops (concerning offensive gear at least), the whole thing is a lottery where the prizes fit in a limited number of slots and youre always looking for "more deeps" in one whay or another. This is classic gaming skinnerbox territory, inherent to any dungeon crawler, and the inanely simple mechanism behind charming games like Diablo 1 and DoD (with charm coming from different styles). However, once you got "most deeps" for you tier (or floor or build), the possibility of the next room spawning a desirable drop plummets.


    Now, since most of the drops are useless / lose their comparative value as the game goes on, the one solid source of amusement, variety, humor, and more actual changes in the grinding routine than any drops have are the skills which are acquired by getting XP. DoD's massive and awesome skill pool is, as the OP noticed, truly wonderous and a major source of the charm the game posesses - items are mostly straightforward attack damage or protection with jokes tacked on them, skills a lot less so. Grinding for skills is a lot less skinnerboxy for 2 reasons - 1) it's rather less udignifying to click on stuff expecting something actually entertaining and worthwhile will happen, in the form of gaining variety to what you do in a dungeon, increesing the ammount of useable drops, ability to pick up various traps, break walls, craft your own junk and so on and so forth and expand the "role playing" aspect an RPG and 2) you know what you are getting when you lvl up (or rather what you can choose from).

    This is why "It belongs in a museum" is opposite of "skinneboxing it up" - it allows a player to remove the element of randomly and possibly being rewarded (whith decreesing odds) for a more steady but deffinitely rewarding grind which makes use of the one fact DoD has going for it and that is the awesome skills. Awesome in flavoury ways, not power - I'm not even looking for the passive stat increeses that the skills present when I go for transmuting artifacts. What I'm looking for is more bang for my buck in terms of time spent pressing the button - as the XP needed for the next skill increeses, and the average drop value (in terms of usefullness) decreeses, most of the micro-goals lose their value and the rewards for stuff which now takes more time (killing bunches of progressively fatter monsters) yields less satisfaction.

    (will continue later today, this has been a long time coming, and it will include the explanation of how all the stuff you seem to respond to with "I generally agree" ties in and is very firmly linked to all this)