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Controlling difficulty in a randomly generated game.


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#21 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 01:15 AM

I used to be an hardcore gamer but I'm fairly casual now. I cannot last more than a few seconds.

I'd say the game requires a very accurate estimation capability. The enemies are large in number since start (so I cannot even tell if they follow a pattern or not) and the size of their bullets are massive compared to player's.

Personally, I haven't noticed any strategic component at all, it's just a matter of converging functions. Each enemy appears to require a few shots to go. Your ship takes a few shots to go. There are more enemies, and their bullets are bigger so there's basically an order of magnitude divergence to overcome. I suppose letting the blast charge is key, this would require some tactics, it might be possible as the player is experienced, but with no chance at understanding the mechanics in 10-second bites, my determination rapidly declined.

 

The language used by the game does not say "it never ends", it says "it ends now".

 

I'm not sure but... do you get damage by hitting the borders of the game area?

How often are you adapting enemy ships?

 

Thanks for your feedback.

 

The alien traits that you've mentioned, such as large blasts and large/armored ships are variable. There are three sizes of ships. The larger the ship, the slower it moves, but it gets more HP in return. Smaller ships move faster, and have less HP. Large alien blasts require more energy, so they will fire them less often.

 

As you and many others have mentioned, the difficulty needs to be toned down. It is my next goal.

 

You are correct about the shield wall. They cause 1 to 2 points of damage to your ship if you hit them; how much depends on your speed. If you can't stand it, choose the Shield Key special.

 

The rate of alien mutation is based on how many ships you destroy in an invasion. If you force the aliens to retreat, they will change a third of their traits. If you destroy less, they will change fewer traits. If you destroy none, or next to none, they won't change at all.

 

Thanks for your time. If you need feedback on a project, please e-mail me: donovan@misterdonovan.com



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#22 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 01:21 AM

 

 

 

The thing is, in a game like that that is fast paced the strategy is to predict and take the ships out almost as soon as they get on the screen, however this is impossible due to your weapon not having enough strength to reach that far or kill even if it does and the enemy moving and firing too fast for you to charge and realign for the next time you'll be able to shot... and even if you could do that, by the time you do that there are 2 or 3 more enemies on the screen firing at you... all while you're expected to pick up drops from the enemy 

 

I will adjust the frequency of new aliens arriving on the scene. Actually, one of the alien special abilities is called "Quick Warp In," which speeds up how quickly they enter orbit. I wonder if you were fighting aliens with that ability.

 

Thanks.



#23 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 01:29 AM


I do like games that present me with a puzzle-like battle that I have to devise a strategic response to.  But in my opinion that belongs in a turn-based game or an RTS where missions can be repeated, it really doesn't belong in a high speed game which has no save points/checkpoints and isn't divided into short segments that can be repeated when failed.  If it was a game structured like Angry Birds or w/e, with numbered missions and the goal for each mission being to configure your ship and then play it such that no aliens can go through, that would be a way more friendly format for me, and maybe for phones as a platform.
 
As far as trading testing, I only do design work and writing; if I'm on a team that's actively doing testing I'm never the one in charge of that, I'm instead one of the ones doing the testing.  So the only thing vaguely like that which I ever need is design critique or proofreading.  But thank you for the offer.

 

Perhaps if I can slow the game down I can achieve something with a turn based feel. As is, if the aliens destroy the player, their load out stays the same. The player then gets a chance to reconfigure his or her ship, or bypass the alien design by nuking them.

 

Please keep me in mind if you need another set of eyes for a project that you're involved in. I am grateful for your effort, and would like to return the favor if possible. My e-mail address is donovan@misterdonovan.com



#24 creatures-of-gaia.com   Members   -  Reputation: 377

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 02:31 AM

Thanks for giving it a shot. Could you answer these questions?

 

Was it boring because it was too easy or hard?

 

Do you like games in this genre? If so, could you tell me their names?

 

Hi again,

 

It's hard to explain. ...I think most players, me included, are rather lazy and have high expectations. I think it is also better to state the raw truth than beautify if. I think the first thing that disturbed me is all the reading ...like most of the players, I skipped it. I think it'd be much better if you introduced additional stuff in small doses as the level progress.

As for the gameplay, I found it a bit dull. That the ship can only move left or right is the first constraint, but ok, I can live with that. But at first, I'd expect the ship to fire better and have more diversity in aliens ...they all came down in the same fashion.

As for the second question, it reminds me of the old days, where I enjoyed games like tyriant and raptor. Actually, I also made a shoot them up prototype a while ago:

http://sss-demo.site11.com/

It's a shmup where everything is randomized: the terrain, the ennemy ships, the weapons you can buy... But after the demo, I dropped it due to a lack of interest, its reception was rather cold and not very promising.

 

Cheers



#25 Durakken   Members   -  Reputation: 532

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 03:18 AM

I intend to reduce the speed of all ships by 25%.

 

I will reduce the amount of times that aliens can fire weapons; this will include the lasers. In the case of lasers, it will reduce their duration as well.

 

I'm confused about your comments concerning the waves and AI. The game starts with one wave. They all share the same traits. The next invasion has two waves, and they all have the same AI. The aliens only mutate when they are taking a beating. The more ships they lose, the more they mutate.

 

I will consider having plain waves at first to allow the player to get used to the game.

 

Your concept for charging the weapon is interesting, but I don't see the difference between waiting for it to charge and building up a charge. It amounts to the same thing, I think, and holding the fire button may be difficult on the iPhone.

 

I would say reduces the speed by 50 to 75% and have it increase over time. That's the soul way Tetris solves the problem you are trying to solve.

 

You say there are waves but I was never able to figure out what is defined as a wave.

Usually the same AI is used in the same wave... and you say that is the case but I encountered AI where supposedly the same wave where some moved to the side side, moved down, moved to other side, repeat and at the same time faced a mob that moved to the side and went straight down from there along with some other wonky movements.

If it's not supposed to do this it may be that I can't figure out what you mean by a wave and/or the speed of spawn caused this or it could be a bug in the AI.

 

I suggest having several stats/weapons/features that a mob can have, but then start with a ship with 1 weapon that is fairly slow. Then apply 1 or 2 mutations at a random interval so it appears as though they are getting smarter and faster... the same could be said of their AI... make it so it is really basic at the beginning, but then as time goes on make it so they can perform several different maneuvers. This supports your storyline, rather than just each wave they have 2 weapons and an AI which is changed to 3 other variables if you manage to get by their speed.

 

Also another thing you might want to do is add weapons and abilities to them that reduce their speed stun them to use. Basically to get better in one area often times you have to sacrifice in another so if a mutation like that occurred from a story perspective it would seem like they came up with some new tech but it has this downside, but the positives are just so good that they can't pass it up.

 

 

The charging of the shot allows the player a better feel for the shot and allows them to get a feel of the mob health needs. If you can take an enemy out with 50% charge why wait for 100%? More importantly how do players feel this difference as this type of thing should become second nature in these games... it's easiest done by having the charge hold rather than release...and likewise it gives the player something to do to keep them concentrated on the screen.

 

I see how the touch controls could be a problem, but i don't think they will for implementing... but then I don't see how the controls you have for the PC will all together work on a tablet without buttons and such which would mean that charging shouldn't be a problem... Just start charge on enter and release charge on exit... I also don't see why when you can have any number of controls you'd go with limiting controls of the d-pad to just left and right. If you made it so you control the ship by placing your finder on the ship and dragging it, you players hand would cause an interesting level of difficult in itself and unless they were laying the tablet down somewhere it would create an in built requirement that the ship stop moving to shoot something and you could just have the various guns/gear on the sides or at the top/bottom.

 

 

 

Also... you might not want, nothing to do with the game but you might want to consider making your email harder to read so bots don't pick it up and spam you >.>


Edited by Durakken, 14 March 2014 - 04:09 AM.


#26 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2734

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 05:18 AM

In demo 17, the player's speed is ridiculously slow.

Inertia adds severe difficulty to any shoot'em up: get rid of it, nobody wants to drift into a bullet because he dodged another.

Variable player speed is just asking for trouble; most players will try to play without adequate speed boosts and will be disgusted.

 

Firepower should be proportional to enemy amount, typically requiring powerups or a constant number and toughness of enemies. Otherwise even the best player cannot shoot down enough enemies to stay afloat.

 

There's no reason to restrict movement to 1 dimension, unless you are doing something similar to Space Invaders (i.e. keeping the player in the appropriate place behind shields) or the ship moves on explicit rails.

Dodging bullets and hitting targets is much more difficult in one dimension; Space Invaders compensates the problem with extremely predictable enemy and bullet movement..

 


Produci, consuma, crepa

#27 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1463

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 09:53 AM


think you may be right about the scanner. I will consider making it a standard tool.

I'm glad to see that you finished the game. I may need to weaken the player's stealth option (another player mentioned the same thing), but I'm not certain. The stealth option hasn't always been the best choice for me.

 

Later i used the stealth option and failed again, so i suppose i had different aliens coming at me;

probably better to test balance after making the scanner standard.

 


The Fetcher, which catches the alien escape pods, works more than once unless it is shot down, or the ship's special slot is damaged.

 

Hmm, i used it several times, every time i could only use it once.

Maybe make it player controlled(fired, not moved) and/or still consider unlimited use for cost of earth's resources ?



#28 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 02:22 AM

In demo 17, the player's speed is ridiculously slow.

Inertia adds severe difficulty to any shoot'em up: get rid of it, nobody wants to drift into a bullet because he dodged another.

Variable player speed is just asking for trouble; most players will try to play without adequate speed boosts and will be disgusted.

 

Firepower should be proportional to enemy amount, typically requiring powerups or a constant number and toughness of enemies. Otherwise even the best player cannot shoot down enough enemies to stay afloat.

 

There's no reason to restrict movement to 1 dimension, unless you are doing something similar to Space Invaders (i.e. keeping the player in the appropriate place behind shields) or the ship moves on explicit rails.

Dodging bullets and hitting targets is much more difficult in one dimension; Space Invaders compensates the problem with extremely predictable enemy and bullet movement..

 

Thanks for trying it, Lorenzo. I appreciate your suggestions, but I'm going to support two of my design decisions.

 

Inertia: Part of my vision for the game is to have some level of realism and a story. I realize that this may be a disastrous failing when it comes to appealing to as many people as possible, but as much as I want to please gamers, I also want to stick to my vision. Some people feel the same way about the shield walls at the edges of the screen.

 

I feel that the nature of the game is to change the design of the ship to overcome problems, and spending points on stabilizers and the Shield Key player special can address these problems if necessary.

 

Dodging Bullets: There is no doubt that dodging can be difficult in It Never Ends, but enemy fire can be predicted if the player is observant. Additionally, unlike Space Invaders, the shields move with the player's ship. Currently, unless the aliens are armed with shield piercing blasts, the player's shield can stop any single blast and eventually recharge.

 

Firepower: Now, I could argue that I'm the best player, and I can shoot down 30 ships in a row frequently, but that doesn't change the fact that most people can't. So, I have to agree with you here. As I've said in other replies, I am cutting all enemy abilities down by at least 25%, and that includes their firepower. Hopefully, this will help.

 

You are definitely not wrong when it comes to your points and I'm very grateful to you for bringing them up, but I think, at some point, a designer has to stick to his/her vision.



#29 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 02:36 AM


Later i used the stealth option and failed again, so i suppose i had different aliens coming at me;
probably better to test balance after making the scanner standard.
 
Hmm, i used it several times, every time i could only use it once.
Maybe make it player controlled(fired, not moved) and/or still consider unlimited use for cost of earth's resources ?

 

I'm pleased to hear that the Stealth Player Special isn't a guaranteed win since that would destroy the main feature of the game (constant redesign/adaptation).

 

Now that I'm reading your reply, I remember that there are actually four reasons why the Fetcher may not work: 1) It was shot, 2) It grabbed a "Commando" alien, 3) The ship's special slot is broken, and 4) It wasn't installed as a result of one of the occasional, random environmental conditions.

 

I am definitely going to consider making the Fetcher player controlled. I'm adding that to my design notes.

 

Thanks.



#30 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 03:42 AM


It's hard to explain. ...I think most players, me included, are rather lazy and have high expectations. I think it is also better to state the raw truth than beautify if. I think the first thing that disturbed me is all the reading ...like most of the players, I skipped it. I think it'd be much better if you introduced additional stuff in small doses as the level progress.
As for the gameplay, I found it a bit dull. That the ship can only move left or right is the first constraint, but ok, I can live with that. But at first, I'd expect the ship to fire better and have more diversity in aliens ...they all came down in the same fashion.
As for the second question, it reminds me of the old days, where I enjoyed games like tyriant and raptor. Actually, I also made a shoot them up prototype a while ago:
http://sss-demo.site11.com/
It's a shmup where everything is randomized: the terrain, the ennemy ships, the weapons you can buy... But after the demo, I dropped it due to a lack of interest, its reception was rather cold and not very promising.
 
Cheers

 

The aliens in It Never Ends change only when you beat them. The more you beat them, the more they randomize. 

 

I am going to break up the text in the future across several screens with graphics. That will come much later though.

 

I played your game. On the 2nd level of difficulty, I think I got to the 5th stage. It definitely kept me engaged for a good 30 minutes or so even though I don't prefer these "bullet storm" games. Our games seem to share a problem with random levels of difficulty.

 

Although I did enjoy it to a degree, it helped me understand that I don't want my game's combat to be that fast, or bullet heavy. Your game is fine for what it is, but I want the player of INE to be able to analyze the aliens. Thank you for sharing it; I can't see why it received a cold reception.



#31 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 11:32 PM

Since most of the feedback that I received from here stated that It Never Ends was too hard, I took steps to make it easier. I simply made as many alien traits as possible 25% less powerful. Unfortunately, I think that the cumulative effect is too great.

 

I realize that my opinion regarding my game's difficulty is meaningless, so I once again need your help. If you have the time, could you try the game again for as long as it interests you? I would like to know the following:

 

Did you encounter a crash when starting? (If you did, try pausing before clicking start.)

Did you play it to the end?

Did you win?

Did you retreat at least once?

Did you use the Nuke special at least once?

What was your score?

 

You can download the newest demo here:

 

http://www.misterdonovan.com/2014/03/24/demo-18-take-it-easy/

 

As always, I am willing to return the favor by providing feedback on your project.

 

Thanks.



#32 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2734

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 09:57 AM

In demo 18, inertia is still annoying, and the pace is glacially slow.

 

In the first few waves, the player has enough firepower to kill all enemies, but the combat takes place as if in slow motion, 10 or 20 times slower than in a normal game; requiring many shots to kill the humblest enemies wastes time without an apparent purpose.

Enemy energy blast are so slow that they can be dodged despite inertia, which is quite the opposite of the right way to balance difficulty.

Increasing firing speed would have an important special benefit in a game about evolving enemies: the player would treat enemy waves as a unit, and compare successive waves with each other, instead of focusing on shooting efficiently each ship without paying attention to waves and enemy behaviour.

There are games where shooting is slow but every hit counts (like Space Invaders) and games where enemies take their time but the player can dispatch them quickly (like Dodonpachi); in your game the enemies are few and boring but they require an extraordinary effort to kill, producing an unpleasant atmosphere of sad ineffectiveness.

 

Requiring the player to press CTRL repeatedly to shoot instead of providing autofire is player-hostile; there's no reason to charge shots or to stop shooting. I suggest eliminating charged shots completely.

 

Bad collision detection and absence of feedback when enemies have been hit is an unpleasant defect; spending several seconds to line up a shot only to have it tunnel through enemies is always disappointing. Any collision detection bugs should have a much higher priority than adjusting difficulty or enemy mutations.

Choosing collision shapes in the player's favor (i.e. every opaque pixel of the enemy against a circle that is slightly larger than the bullet sprite) is the "industry standard".

Overlapping enemies are a related problem (without feedback, how can I tell whether my bullet hit an invisible enemy?) which should be addressed with less random and less ugly enemy movement (for example, you could space enemies evenly on each row of the screen, making late comers slow down to avoid overlap).

 

Reducing shot power with distance is quite bad in your game because without vertical movement the player has no control over shot flight time: in the first part of the level, when all enemies are far up in the first rows, the player is completely ineffective.

Rewarding short flight times would work in a game with normal movement as a way to encourage the player to boldly apprach enemies and shoot them from very close in order to kill them fast.

Example: Raiden III, where weapons with very wide firing patterns do much more damage at point blank range (no shots are wasted) and there are large score bonuses for quick kills. Please play Raiden III to understand why 2D movement would be a good thing.


Produci, consuma, crepa

#33 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2734

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 10:30 AM


Inertia: Part of my vision for the game is to have some level of realism and a story. I realize that this may be a disastrous failing when it comes to appealing to as many people as possible, but as much as I want to please gamers, I also want to stick to my vision. Some people feel the same way about the shield walls at the edges of the screen.

But realism doesn't require damaging fun, ergonomy and practicality.

It could be argued that, realistically, a starfighter with severe handling problem wouldn't even have reached the prototype stage, and no sane air force would allow pilots to fly with inadequate engines. Realistically, if touching screen borders is a problem, simple flight control systems can override improper steering and avoid contacts, leaving the pilot/player to deal with actual obstacles.

None of the criticized features of your game appears to be useful to tell a story about aliens attacking Earth; they are only basic problems.

I feel that the nature of the game is to change the design of the ship to overcome problems, and spending points on stabilizers and the Shield Key player special can address these problems if necessary.

Shooters with well developed ship customization features let the player use the right ship for the job, given knowledge of what's in next level, trading off different qualities.

Instead, you are devoting slightly over half of the current customization choices (Thrusters, Stabilizers, Blaster Recharge, plus Shield Key) to addressing problems that shouldn't exist in the first place; the choice is completely trivial and independent from enemy characteristics.


Produci, consuma, crepa

#34 RalemProductions   Members   -  Reputation: 201

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 11:38 PM

Not too too hard, but you're going to have to scale the difficulty. Casual players are going to find this way too difficult.

You need to set a timer, or create an algorithm that punishes players for success. 






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