Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I rule, you rule, we all rule old-school Hyrule halfway milestone

So, I'm about halfway through this year's 7DRL and these are my thoughts.

I've made amazing progress on my 7DRL. Neat worldgen, unique items to choose from, limited but interesting inventory choices, challenging and interesting enemies, pleasant aesthetics - all good so far.

I've sort of but not explicitly abandoned the allies/followers idea. It turns out that it's not very fun to implement or play. If it was a city simulation or tactics game then it may be interesting, but it doesn't add much to the lone hero vs the world storyline we're all so familiar with. These are common game tropes but I'd say there's three reasons why that works so well: clear playability, clear progress, and clear obstacles.
  • Clear playability. You know what to do. Going down stairs is good. Getting new stuff is good. +5 is better than +3. A Black Dragon is scary, a Newt is not. The conventions and standards from high fantasy, AD&D, previous roguelikes, and numerous hero stories means that you have a general idea of what to do (go down the stairs) how to do it (find [>] and press [>]) and the common supporting ideas ([q]uaff, AC, DEX, [e]at, Potion of Stone Skin, etc).
  • Clear progress. You know how close you are to winning. You're on dungeon level 4 of 20. Or the sewer branch. Or you're at character level 8 and 11 is the highest you've been at before. Or you've got 1000 gold coins. Or you just got the Master Sword. Roguelikes, and possibly games in general, tend to have a clear way of seeing how close you are to the end - by a numeric success vs total (Mario Bros. world number) or success vs failure (chip pile during poker tournament).
  • Clear obstacles. You know how close you are to losing. You are low on hp. Or poisoned and starving. Or paralyzed and surrounded by ants. Whatever the situation is, you can clearly see that you are closer and closer to failing.
This means that in the best games you know what to do, and how close you are to winning, and how close you are to losing. Like knowing that you should be able to handle petrification as you turn to stone on level 18 of 20 while surrounded by demons. So close to winning (level 18/20), but you know you're going to fail (petrified and surrounded), but you know how to play it better next time (resist petrification). Possibly the roguelike ideal.

So, what other game mechanics contribute to showing what to do, how close you are to winning, and how close you are to losing? Do you know of any clear examples that support these ideas? Any that contradict?

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