Author Topic: The Loop  (Read 2385 times)

Doomspeaker

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The Loop
« on: March 15, 2014, 12:51:29 PM »
Since the topic sometime came up on chat, why not dedicate a thread the what Coby called "The Loop"?

The loop is what keeps players jump back into the game after a losse/win, encouraging you to play another round right after instead closing the game and doing something else.

This heavily overlaps with replayabilty, so let's take that into account as well.

  • Quick start
If players want to quickly play a round, let them. No grand unskippable entrance cinematcs, because after the 10th time it's just annoying. If players want to speed up things let them.

  • No handholding
For the same reasons as above, hold back on giving any direct advice. "Hey this wall looks cracked" might sound ok the first few times you hear it, but then it just becomes annoying. A intricated detail on the wall is enough. and if you ever want to hint that for people, you can always build rooms that can introduce some mechanics (BoI for example has rooms with explosives that can accidentally reveal a hidden room for example), or have a random NPC hint it. Just don't shove it down players' throats. Since ddrop apparently gets a tutorial section (guess similar to spelunky's optional one), theres no reason to keep bringing up the basics anyway.

  • Function Life-Cylcles
To make sure thing work, it gets tested times and times over again to check if after the xth cycle it still works. Test your parts of the game like this. If it works only once or twice, there's no poin in adding it. Remember, whatever you create, players will see it again, again and again, so better make it repetition proof. A 8 clue Simon Says get old very fast for example.

  • Streamline the mandatory parts
This issue already came up long ago in the form of backtracking. I like backtracking, but I've come accept that it's not needed if a player doesn't care about details. But Don't reward them for being lazy.

  • Reward players going the extra mile
If a player wants to spend some extra effort, reward them for that. If players want to backtrack and search every nook of a level, give them a little extra.

  • Don't turn the game into an elaborted coinflip
The rng should NEVER EVER decide whether or not one looses or wins the game. And no, that will never pass as a good design if players are forced to take the bitter pill. Binding of Isaac suffers from this very much, to a point where you can almost guarantee how a run will end after the 2-3 first levels. In the same vein, don't hand out sure-wins or incredibly good items that are balanced by rarity alone. 

  • Allow a certain level of power to carryover
You mentioned armor that that would break after some time. That's a great example for certain rewards that can carry over is the player does well enough.

  • Rewards should present more options then straight powerups. Beware of snowballing
If a player does well and gets a reward, don't snowball into a mess of "the reward from a previous challenge making a current easier which in turn will make a future challenge easier". Opt to give players rewards that fit the general powerlevel instead.

  • No sudden radical genre shifts
Binding of Isaac's final levels get hit by this hard, when the game changes from a zelda inspired game into a combination of bullet hell and elborated coinflip. Previously learned enemy behaviors or dodging skills are thrown out of the window, because 60% of the attacks will be just plain random. If you ask BoI players about the worst parts as lot will mention the fights against Isaac or ? ? ?, because they are completely out of touch with the rest of the game

  • No uneccesary gimmicks
If it's no really needed in the game or worse , if it gets ignored players or hinders them, cut it out. Does delver's drop need a cooking minigame for example? I doubt it. If you have story rooms etc, make sure to make them worthwhile even for a player that already knows all of the story, so they still get rewarded by exploring, like a newcomer would!

  • One tactic or item to dominate them all. NOT
I once heard the term "reversed turing-test" and I think i fits very well. If you could make a program for you game that can play it flawlessly, there's something wrong with it. To make it simpler, "don't make anything THE BEST". If I could use a Tier 9 Hammer or a Tier 9 Warhammer, both need to be an equally viable choice long term. Everything has strenghts in different situations, but nothing is best at everything. DDrop does dodge that problem a lot thanks to weapon proficiencies already. Same goes for classes.

  • Similar/Familiar but not the same
Players should remember parts of zones and their trademark stuff. The dungeon might be random, but it's theme should not be. Not a real problem for DDrop I think though.


Here are two more personal bits:

  • Don't make unlocks stronger than standard, make them different!
BoI has the problem that 3 of the playable characters are outright useless because they are based around a gimmick (Eve, Maggy and Smason). You spend your whole run with trying to make these characters do what other characters can do from the get-go. To contrast this BoI has D6-Isaac and Cain, both of which are characters that on top of being decent also have the ability to influence the game's RNG itself, making them superior to any other choice. Same for skills. There's no point if ever having a skilltree, or well, even attempting to go deeper instead of exp farming, if there is stuff like pure +10% attack speed, because it's obviously the best choice.

  • Classes are meant to present alternative playstyles, not alternative skins with slight alterations
See the above about BoI on how it's not done. Check NT's characters for a textbook example of how to do it. Each character brings something different to the table, not just so boring offspring of the base character. And keep specialized characters specialized. Let's look at NT's character called Meltling: The guy only has 2 hp, meaning that unlike every other character, he's a one hit wonder, but in return he gains more exp and thus gets bonuses more fast. People that don't want to play such class are free to skip it. It's the same dilema with people hating the sorcerer or gladiator. You get nothing from "standardizing" classes, because all it does is robbing people that want to play a different style the chance to do so, while people that hated said class will only get 2 slightly different classes. A loose-loose.

  • Later level combat increase complexity instead of widening a powergap between players and monsters
This should play along with tiered weapons very nicely in your case.



I'd love to hear other people's opionons on what keeps them "in the loop"!

Vasae

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2014, 06:22:00 PM »
This isn't exactly part of the loop but it helps replayability I feel. Not needing to be constantly at full life or better yet, being able to win even if you've only got one sliver of heart left. We've talked about this in the chat box before in regards to Nuclear Throne being balanced to a point that full health is optimal but you're not screwed if you don't have it. Some items even get better in Nuclear Throne when you don't have optimal health. Another game this is really well done is in Spelunky. Having watched a lot of the highest tier players, they all seem to agree that 1 life is the best to win the game for a vast variety of reasons. The least of which is it makes you play more focused. Isaac is a really bad example of this I feel. I know Edmund has gone on record saying that items that hurt you are his favorite but the game really seems a health/damage race at the end of the day. The less health you have/pick up the less likely you are to win. Sorta kills my desire to play when I know that three bad runs aren't going to get me anywhere, even if I can restart almost instantly.

Doomspeaker

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2014, 04:32:53 AM »
Well said Vas. I'd say that it is indeed very much part of the loop. Despite that flaw BoI works well, because it takes newer players quite a while to realize that they already lost eventhough they are still playing.

The problem seems to stem from the perception of HP as either

  • Type 1: HP as a slightly obscured gear check
serving as a gateblocker for players that don't have the required amount of HP. This works by having certain amounts of damage unavoidable and therefore make a hp stat above said amount mandatory. Great in games where you can guarantee a certain growth of hp, but not in one where hp growth is decided by random.

  • Type 2: As buffer for mistakes
The use of hp to allow players to make a certain amount of mistakes. The amount of damage and enemy dishes out describes the severity of not avoiding said attack. The only catch is that you more or less have to guarantee that each damage can be avoided. If you don't do that it again leads to Type 1.


Both system can utilize hp as resource as well.

It's important the theat hp costs for abilities them with a motto like "power for a price", as opposed to just turning it into ammo. After all, HP usage should reward people that can afford it. Something like using hp instead of mana is rather difficult to balance if you want it done correctly, but it tends to be either useless or broken, depending on how readily available healing is.

Oportunities for healing is a good topic here. It's equally as important as the ability to avoid damage and of why you feel like you can still turn the tides. Spelunky has damsels that are a level constant and allow you to compensate mistakes in later levels by ramping up health earlier.

Nuclear Throne also has a regulation system, and I'm quite fond of that one. It has three ways to make sure players can catch up again: On level ups, you sometimes get the chance to pick health and ammo instead of a bonus. This is a desperation choice, but wonderfully done because you get a chance to continue playing. Knowing when to take it also adds another decision to the game which is always good. Second, if you are low on health, enemies will drop more health than ammo. Sound easy, but you have to make your way to the item which is potentially lethal and you get less ammo. No 3 is quite simple: Enter a new level and you get a chance to find a medikit lying around. As always, you still have to make it to the kit in order to use it.

All these measures make people continue playing. Maybe if you beat the next room you find a can of beans? Maybe you will take even more damage in the process of reaching them.

So in short, better kill the player in a grand battle than slowly bleeding and resource starving them over 2 zones only the have them kiled by a rat then.

DDrop has shields as a health resource and maybe shields as kind of readily renewable resource, so I'm looking forward to how that will play on the long run.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 11:49:32 AM by Doomspeaker »

Doomspeaker

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2014, 12:56:27 PM »
Back with some small excourse about PDL bosses:

  • No unskippable entry phase

Like unskippable sequences this is a no-go.

  • No attack on the player upon entering a room
In general it's best to have the boss wait a few seconds before doing anything upon entering the room. You already tackled this problem for normal enemies so it's not even a deviation from the usual gameplay.

  • Avoid downtimes during fights / give players something to do
You know what's more annoying than trying to defeat a boss ofr the xth time? Stomaching the same boring attack sequence eventhough you know it by heart and can do it blindly. Give players the cahnce to alway attack somthing or do something that helps speeding up the battle.
A boss that becomes invulnerable for 30 seconds while attacking quickly becomes annoying, because it will keep just dragging on. Even just attacking another part of the boss to derail their attack/invulnerabilty helps. Let players be daredevils.
Think of Dark Souls (1) where you can attack an time, with some attacks being more risky than others.

  • Random attack patterns
Please don't do that. Especially when there are attacks that have varying damage / varying in difficulty in dodging. Nobody likes playing coinflip.

  • Each attack needs a purpose
Sometimes 3 attacks with difficult roles are better than 6 that are all very similar. Often the pattern/combination of single attacks can be very effective S.omething like forcing the player into melee range, than smashing them for example. in reverse you could force the player away from the enemy with a smash to make them enter the range of a distance attack. Both times it's the same 2 attacks, but the purpose is different.

  • Status Weaknesses if possible
This is always a plus as it encourages experimentation with weapons and give experience players a bit more to prepare.

  • Allow players to skip combat phases
Let's say a boss has a different phase for each third of its health: So if a player manages to pull off to drain one whole third of the bosses health, don't force them to go through a whole phase. This being a rogulike-elements game you can be sure as hell someone mangages to do exactly that.

  • Bonus Point: Rewards
Opening up the way isn't enough reward to be honest. Better make sure a boss give you additional items etc as reward when beating it. Also consider optional rewards for killing bosses in certain ways.

Quady14

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2014, 02:10:32 PM »
Quote
Even just attacking another part of the boss to derail their attack/invulnerabilty helps.


Really hope something of this ilk gets implemented. Adding different points of vulnerability on a foe makes the battle a lot more layered and strategic, especially if attacking different parts can have different effects on the way the boss behaves, interrupting powerful charge attacks, even something simple like smacking the boss head-on to interrupt a charging AoE attack.

An even better idea is to tie in making some target spots reward the player for their destruction, while simultaneously making the boss more difficult, maybe breaking the shackles of a dangerous but imprisoned Drop guardian makes it more mobile and thus more risky to approach, but upon death (or even mid-fight once you attack its bondings) it drops a special item, perhaps the shackles you freed it from, which might be enchanted with greater defense but slower movement speed. That sort of thing lends extremely well to providing the game with Organic Difficulty and encouraging the player not to always just take the easiest way through every situation.

Just a potential example, but I think it's generally agreed that it immensely adds to the satisfaction and challenge of a fight when you're rewarded for approaching it in different, sometimes more challenging ways. Citing from EpicNameBro's videos, he exemplified this sort of mechanic in this video (I may have linked these before but they're still relevant, valuable information):

RNG: Item Drops
(Relevant discussion goes from 26:58 to 28:09)

Even simple stuff, like cutting the tails of bosses in Dark Souls made some bosses a lot more strategic in that you had to try to bait out the attacks which allowed you to safely approach and attack their tail, and as a reward you would get special weapons, like the Sanctuary Guardian's Guardian Tail or Kalameet's Obsidian Greatsword.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 02:13:59 PM by Quady14 »
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crinaya

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2014, 02:21:09 PM »
I think it'd be nifty if different parts of bosses had different material weaknesses.  We know that material weaknesses are already in the game, but it enables different classes to have different strategies to maximize damage if the boss can have different weak points with different resistances.

Not sure if that can be considered part of "the loop," but I feel that learning new boss strategies and having multiple class replayability helps.

Doomspeaker

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2014, 04:20:35 PM »
@Quady: Yes that hits the nail on the head.
(This idea could even extent to normal combat rooms btw)

The only thing that is important to consider is that players shouldn't break these, for example, shackles too easily on accident. I say this because it alway reminds me of Megaman XZ, where accidentally hitting a Boss ONCE at the wrong spot would screw you over hard. It's a different story if you don't want players to hit certain parts on purpose though.

Good relevant video from ENB. Tails from Dark Souls were great. (Also guess who spend hours trying to cut the Ancient Dragon's tail in DaS2?  :'()

@Cri: That's very much "the loop". This would even encourage players to use offclass weapons just to deal more damage to "safer weakspots". Thanks to a random component of weapons etc each playthorugh would have better choices. Beginners can learn patterns to just do the boss in a somewhat standardized way, while speedrunners might have to rethink their tactics everytime they start a new run.


Ah so many cool ideas today <3!

Quady14

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2014, 07:44:13 PM »
Which Megaman ZX boss do you mean specifically? I haven't played the game in years but I did beat it all the way through and I don't remember much about negative reciprocation for hitting a boss the wrong way. Something in terms of counter-attacks they would set up if you attacked at the wrong time maybe? Memory of the game is a bit fuzzy...
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Doomspeaker

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2014, 01:29:14 AM »
The fist XZ game would give you trophies if you managed to beat a boss without hitting their weakspot even once. Sincd they were designed around the player specifically hitting that spot for extra damage, you could hit it very easy on accident.

Doomspeaker

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Re: The Loop
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2015, 12:19:47 PM »
Time to copy in something from my endless pile of lists regarding gamedesign:

Item effects!

It's a fitting topic since Baker & Vas have taken on equipable items at the PXS stream recently.   :sorcerer:
I'll just pick the more particular ones and leave some notes on those.

Touch Damage
This one stands and falls with the number of enemies that, in return, can damage you on touch as well. If there's only very few monsters that don't deal damage on contact nobody will ever choose to use such ability, because it would just be taking damage to deal damage.

Dodge/Deflect/Block Chances
It's nice to have an effect that can migiate damage even if the palyer messed up, but nobody would take these above something like a guaranteed damage resistance. These effects can be made more attractive by allowing players to stack more of them together and by having somewhat high trigger chances (at least 15-20% for any of them in order to be noticeable).

Life Leech
Imporant questions here are:
Is the effect triggered on every hit or is there only a certain chance to trigger it?
What decides the amoun of health you get? Damage dealt, a percentage of your own health or a set amount?
Different combinations of the above usually lead to very different strategies and player preferences. Just always make sure to tell players what kind of life leech the have to account for.

Stat ups in general
Damage and Attack Speed will always be the most highly valued effects, so try to avoid the mistake of putting them on the same level as speed/health/mana (special in this case) ups.
Health and SP ups (well if that's a thing in ddrop) are always soild options to take.
Speed and other mobility stats usually sound like a good stat, but if the game always ensures that players are fast enough to escape any menace, the stats kind of lose their value. Since Delver's Drop can work with different friction and/or mass etc, that might actually be a great chacne for these stats to shine.

Regen Effects
As with life leech above, there's many ways to do this and just life life leech (again) make sure to tell people what they can expect. As a side note: It's fine to have some effects that allow for infinite health in theory if the players wait long enough (if they can afford to wait long enough that is :P).

Item find
Something that rigs the RNG is always welcome. Just like Avoid/Defect/Block, just make sure chances are high enough in order to make people notice and maybe allow stacking.
Then there's also the question of what exactly you want to increase for players. Better items are always a safe bet, but things like "find more potions" or "find more meat" also is good.


And for the last two points somehting I personally am very fond of:

Power at a cost
Powerful effects that come at the price of crippling players in some other way.My favorite exampe is Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia's Death Ring, which drastically increases your stats at the cost of turning you into a one hitpoint wonder. As long as the net effect of the effect still is positive, these things invaluable because it allows for super specific playstyles.

Rigging the level generation
This effect is a rare one to be found in games. Usually you get stuff like "fied more chamipons" or "shops are more likely to appear". Such effect can encompass anything ranging from more crates in levels , less pits or more puzzles instead of combat rooms. After all it's all a question of how far the level generation can be externally influenced.
Items with this effect are usually rare, but they count amongst the highlights. I'd kill for some of those in DDrop, especially if there was a way to get them early *cought* 100% character completion rewards*cough*.

 

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