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what should difficulty level control in rpg/sims ?


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#1 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2308

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 09:57 AM

what should difficulty level control in rpg/sims ?

 

The game in question is Caveman, a rpg/sim with 1p & 3p view:

 

http://www.gamedev.net/blog/1730/entry-2258672-caveman-v30-general-desciption/

 

its a game of survival, exploration, resource gathering, learning skills, crafting, and becoming more powerful.

 

in the original version of the game which did quite well, difficulty level controlled just one thing: rate of healing.

 

since its a simulation,  things like core stats, weapon damage, armor bonuses, hit points, etc don't change.  In the real world, weapons do the same damage no matter who wields them - its the skill with which they are wielded that makes the difference. In the real world, an elephant has the same number of hit points, no matter how powerful their opponent. In the real world, your body doesn't magically become able to absorb more damage as you gain combat experience - a head shot or getting gutshot is still the same thing - whether you're Beattle Bailey or Rambo. in the game, such changes come from skill bonuses by earning experience in skills, but things like hit points don't change. How hard you are to kill is how hard you are to kill. Like The SIMs, you can assign points to your basic stats when you start a new character.  Its what you're able to accomplish with the stats you choose to start with that counts. 

 

All the weapon damage, animal hit points, etc have been carefully balanced to be as realistic as possible.

 

For the moment, difficulty level only affects healing rate. And 100% difficulty level requires something like 6 weeks of game time for a PC with average hit points to heal from almost dead back to full hit points.   That's 6 weeks of resting and healing while having to find food and water and avoid further injury or damage from combat, exposure, illness, falling accidents, etc.

 

Its looking like the default starting difficulty level should be something like 20%. I've been testing at 1% difficulty, and now at 10% difficulty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1989"

rocklandsoftware.net

 

PLAY CAVEMAN NOW!

http://rocklandsoftware.net/beta.php

 

 


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#2 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5056

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 02:04 PM

Difficulty should correspond to frequency of death, if it's a game where you die and respawn.  Another possibility is required percentage completion.  It shouldn't just make the game slower though.


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#3 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2308

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 10:22 AM


Difficulty should correspond to frequency of death, if it's a game where you die and respawn.

 

like your typical rpg, if you die, you reload the last saved game.  and you die a LOT in Caveman! <g>.   due to the random nature of the game's design, just like real life, you can encounter deadly creatures at any appropriate time, whether you're a newbie, or a seasoned veteran with many skills , tools, weapons, armor, medicinal herbs, etc. unlike your typical fps/rpg, all encounters are random encounters, no hard coded spawn points. the only thing close to a spawn point is an occupied shelter of some sort, which is populated with persistent npc's. unlike a shooter, you can have a deadly encounter anywhere, at any time -  nowhere is safe. you can't just stand in one spot knowing no encounters will occur until you move forward and trigger the next spawn point.

 

having difficulty affect just healing rate only has an indirect impact on frequency of death. the frequency of deadly encounters from which you can not escape would not change.  fortunately this rate is rather low.  such encounters may happen once or twice in an evening's play.   And as the player becomes stronger, fewer encounters turn out to be IDNST (instant death - no saving throw).  When you first start out, you'll run from a single cave hyena.  Once you have band members and javelins and bows, you might just try to take on that group of saber tooths, instead of running away.

 

to have difficulty directly affect the frequency of death would probably mean the standard adjustment of "more hp and damage done for me, less for you". so i kill you faster, and you kill me slower.   i can see a need for this, if the player is busy exploring , learning, gathering, and crafting, and keeps getting interrupted by big nasty animals that eat them for breakfast.  

 

then the question becomes, how much easier?   should you be able to kill a woolley mammoth with a single bare handed blow? 

 

with this version of the game, i'm tending to take a "whatever the player wants" approach to such things.  so i'm planning on leaving all the playtest controls, game editors, etc in the game.  so if the player wants to reveal the entire world map, or edit their skills, they can.  sure its "cheating". but if they want to cheat, they only hurt themselves, its not a multiplayer game.

 

perhaps separate difficulty settings for hp, damage done, and healing rate.    

 

the healing rate difficulty level is an integer percentage value, zero or greater. IE 0% to (max value of an int/100)%  what is that? 40 million % or something like that? i'm probably off by a few decimal places.

 

difficulty affecting your hp means you're harder to kill. which would seem to lead to dieing less often.

 

difficulty affecting your damage done means you kill faster, but they can still kill you just as easily. unless you get the drop on them, you'll still probably die in a deadly encounter.

 

difficulty affecting their hp is the same as affecting your damage done.  same idea with their damage done, and your hp.

 

so it looks like there should be a difficulty level adjustment for your hp, to reduce the frequency of death.

 

and the difficulty level for healing rate is required to help "skip past the boring parts", as one must so often do in a true simulator. that's why most simulators have things like autopilots, the ability to plot and follow waypoints, and accelerated time - to help skip past the boring part of getting to the target.  In the case of Caveman, nobody wants to simulate being laid up for 6 weeks while you heal up from almost being trampled to death by a woolley rhino.

 

what about difficulty setting for other things like successfully completing actions, such as gathering, crafting, learning, social interactions, etc?

 

of course, if you get into that, you might instead simply give them more points to assign to their stats during character creation. a higher health stat = more hp. higher charisma = more success at social interactions, higher intelligence = better and faster at learning skills, improved god relations = increased success in gathering, etc. but then everyone is a superman. in a typical fantasy rpg, the player is often considered to be "above average", and thats why they're an adventurer, not a merchant, smith, farmer, drover, innkeeper, or serf.  but in simulations, the player is usually just an average joe. and after all,   the game is Caveman , not Cavesuperman <g>. 

 

 


Another possibility is required percentage completion.

 

Sorry, i don't follow. could you elaborate?


Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1989"

rocklandsoftware.net

 

PLAY CAVEMAN NOW!

http://rocklandsoftware.net/beta.php

 

 


#4 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2242

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 12:15 PM

It's a little difficult to answer due to your focus on realism. It really depends what realism means to you. I'll give a few examples of things that could be used to control difficulty, but may fail your reality test depending:

 

  • Change ratios of different types of animals, e.g. more benign ones, less dangerous ones.
  • Provide more resources, e.g. shelter, things to make tools out of.
  • Have other friendlies (or at least non-hostiles) so there are more opportunities for trade or that someone will help you out in a fight.
  • Make resources available in the context they're needed, e.g. healing herbs near poisonous creatures.
  • Change the season or climate, e.g. temperature, availability of water, etc.


#5 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2198

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 12:15 PM

Maybe difficulty could affect the tools or skills you start out with. Are there maybe other things that you acquire as you progress through the game that you could give to the player early? Can you affect how easy it is to find safe sources of food, water, medicinal herbs, or fuel for fire? Can difficulty come in part from weather patterns?



#6 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2308

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 09:24 PM

 

It's a little difficult to answer due to your focus on realism. It really depends what realism means to you. I'll give a few examples of things that could be used to control difficulty, but may fail your reality test depending:

 

  • Change ratios of different types of animals, e.g. more benign ones, less dangerous ones.
  • Provide more resources, e.g. shelter, things to make tools out of.
  • Have other friendlies (or at least non-hostiles) so there are more opportunities for trade or that someone will help you out in a fight.
  • Make resources available in the context they're needed, e.g. healing herbs near poisonous creatures.
  • Change the season or climate, e.g. temperature, availability of water, etc.

 

 

 

the reality test used up to now has been pretty harsh:

 

if it ain't real, it ain't in there!

 

according to that acid test:

* easier encounters would work against the balance of animal types for any given terrain.

* additional resources would go against things like the realistic frequency distribution of rock shelters and caves (natural shelters) - the mere calculation of which required days of research)

* increased frequency would go against the realistic frequency distribution of humans during paleolithic times (there weren't many of us, but we moved around a lot, so encounters were not infrequent). 

* resources in context where they're needed seems rather scripted and contrived, one thing i absolutely want to say away from in any game i make.

* change the season - now there's one i use already .  i start the game 90 days into the year, so the player starts in spring, and has 6 months to prepare for winter.   then again, the weather engine still isn't quite right (not realistic enough a model i suspect)., so in playtesting i'm getting freezing temperatures, cold exposure  damage, and snow in sandy deserts in april-may! <g>.  don't worry - ill fix it ! <g>.

 

but as you say, if one was to bend reality a bit, those would be excellent candidates for adjustment (well, except maybe the context thing - a matter personal tastes there)

 

considering each as the game now stands:

 

* you are able to flee most encounters while weak, and its only occasionally that you'll get an unwinable encounter that kills you, forcing a re-load of a savegame - despite realistic encounter types and frequencies. after all, if the real thing was too hard, we never would have made it!  <g>. so easier encounters is probably not necessary, except perhaps to filter out those rare "instant death - no saving throw" type encounters. the game already balances encounter strength to player party strength, but what are you supposed to do when a 1st level noob randomly encounters a saber tooth? make it a lost cub? <g> fact is, sometimes, we got eaten! <g>.

 

* resource depletion is modeled, but not something that's too hard to overcome. once again, if the real world weren't sufficiently bountiful, we never would have made it!  <g>.

resource frequency is a concern though, i suspect it may be too low in general for some basics like wood and stone. i think i need to do more research on that issue. just how many trees are there in the world? and how many rocks? how hard should it be to find this stuff? god! the questions i've had to research for this game! <g>

 

* as i said before, caveman encounters are surprisingly somewhat frequent. all non hostile cavemen will instantly attack any nearby threat (or flee if injured), so only the badguys are not on your side. odds are more npcs aren't required. fact is, i usually try to move on when i encounter npc's or animals. once i move far enough away, they are removed from the simulation, and accelerated time runs faster, allowing me to get on with healing, sleeping, crafting, learning skills, gathering resources or whatever i'm trying to accomplish. its only when i want to hunt or trade that i seek out encounters.

 

the major "difficulties" in the game so far only seem relate to:

* long healing times

* low hit points vs tough animals

* finding resources (not much wood in the Great Plains of North America, the Sahara, or the steppes of Asia, for example)

* finding natural shelter (now i understand why rock shelters and caves were occupied for long periods - high demand real estate! <g>).  

All difficulties one actually encountered back then.  

 

As for gameplay:

 

* long healing times for the sake of realism are a definite gameplay breaker.

* The deadly encounters aren't that big a deal, i get the same thing in Skyrim, playing at expert, master, or legendary, then all of a sudden i run into an ancient dragon or a master vampire and it all over before i can even reset the difficulty level.

* resource frequency may be an issue. further playtesting is required to confirm the balance is correct. but this is the 3rd version of the game, and resource frequency hasn't changed much since v1.0, which was well balanced and did quite well. 

* natural shelter is uncommon (as per reality back then), but you have the full gambit of man made shelters to choose from as well.


Edited by Norman Barrows, 11 March 2014 - 10:02 PM.

Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1989"

rocklandsoftware.net

 

PLAY CAVEMAN NOW!

http://rocklandsoftware.net/beta.php

 

 


#7 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2242

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 09:59 PM

Hmm, okay, well here's a few more suggestions for difficulty level which maybe don't directly impact those two points, but honestly I don't know whether it's possible without "cheating":

  • Starting location (general) - either plains vs highlands or in the broader sense a different latitude that has a different climate.
  • Starting location (specific) - either near a good resource or far away from predators. This could be picked after the world is generated.
  • Starting location (contrived) - in a relatively inaccessible area for large predators so the player can get established before venturing out, e.g. surrounded by water or mountains.
  • Timing - megaclimate e.g. ice age, tides, el nino/la nina.
  • Timing - after some natural event or disaster that temporarily depletes predators (is there such a thing?)

If the healing time is too annoying for players, one alternative would be having a two caveman party, and switching control while one is healing? e.g. having to forage for and care for the injured one.



#8 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2308

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 10:25 PM


Maybe difficulty could affect the tools or skills you start out with. Are there maybe other things that you acquire as you progress through the game that you could give to the player early? Can you affect how easy it is to find safe sources of food, water, medicinal herbs, or fuel for fire? Can difficulty come in part from weather patterns?

 

I've been considering offering multiple starting scenarios. right now, you are placed at random in the world with absolutely nothing. possible alternative starting scenarios that affect difficulty might include:

* leaving home - you strike out on your own to make your mark in the world, but get some skills, equipment, a friendly band of cavemen to visit , and some knowledge of the world map to start. 

* sole survivor - your band was wiped out in a raid, you are the sole survivor. you are just of age with just a few skills and minimal equipment you were able to grab before running, but have basic some knowledge of the world map.

* original hard core mode - no skills, no equipment, no friends, no knowledge of the world map, nothing.

 

All the things you mention could be adjusted if needed.

 

But it appears that adjusting some things will have more impact than others.

 

As mentioned in a previous post, the time of year for game start is already set to spring, thereby adjusting the weather to be as easy as possible (once i get the kinks worked out of the weather engine - that has probably been the most difficult section of code in the whole game to get right - and its only 2 screens long!).

 

another consideration is the fact that many of these adjustments can be handled by more basic adjustments such as hit points.  for example, milder weather would make the game easier by reducing damage from exposure and heat stroke. but by the same token, simply adjusting hit points would accomplish the same effect.  the weather does damage, but affects you less, as you have more hit points.

 

odds are many of the things we've discussed in this thread translate back to some basic stat like hit points. resource frequency is the only thing that jumps out as not doing so.


Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1989"

rocklandsoftware.net

 

PLAY CAVEMAN NOW!

http://rocklandsoftware.net/beta.php

 

 


#9 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2308

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 10:47 PM

Hmm, okay, well here's a few more suggestions for difficulty level which maybe don't directly impact those two points, but honestly I don't know whether it's possible without "cheating":

  • Starting location (general) - either plains vs highlands or in the broader sense a different latitude that has a different climate.
  • Starting location (specific) - either near a good resource or far away from predators. This could be picked after the world is generated.
  • Starting location (contrived) - in a relatively inaccessible area for large predators so the player can get established before venturing out, e.g. surrounded by water or mountains.
  • Timing - megaclimate e.g. ice age, tides, el nino/la nina.
  • Timing - after some natural event or disaster that temporarily depletes predators (is there such a thing?)

If the healing time is too annoying for players, one alternative would be having a two caveman party, and switching control while one is healing? e.g. having to forage for and care for the injured one.

 

 

location ties in with the multiple starting scenarios thing - a good variation thereof. 

 

timing and climate - we tended to push out as far as we could, pretty fast - climate permitting. so at any given time we only occupied the more hospitable regions of the planet. choice of starting locale, and therefore climate is a possibility.

 

timing and natural events - sure there were such things. mass extinctions have occurred many times for many reasons. the one most germane to the paleolithic period would probably be the extinction of mega-fauna in various regions worldwide soon after the first appearance of - guess who?  <g>.

 

as for it being a cheat - i'm taking a very laze-fair (sp?) attitude in this version. i plan to leave in the game editors, playtest controls, etc.  so if they want to choose the easy starting scenario, that's their business.

 

heck, i've been playetstng at 1% healing difficulty level, and i feel thoroughly challenged, and am enjoying the heck out of the game, even if i can heal all the way up in a day or two.  


Edited by Norman Barrows, 11 March 2014 - 10:47 PM.

Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1989"

rocklandsoftware.net

 

PLAY CAVEMAN NOW!

http://rocklandsoftware.net/beta.php

 

 





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