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Randomization and crit damage. Is it ok?

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Making a turnbased tactical dungeon-crawler/roguelike.

 

Some people do not like RNG stuff like critical damage. It can be frustrating and also seem less skill is required as you can be helped/killed "by the RNG".

 

Im using a similar setup to XCOM when it comes to crits. You also control a group of PCs and fight against groups of enemies. You can not heal between all combat situations.

 

Typically a average goblin enemy takes 3 hits from your heroes to die, while your heroes take maybe 10 hits to die. There is many special attacks that deal extra damge or do other stuff of course.

 

Any attack/ability inflicts 80-120% base damage. It may crit (right now: 20% chance to crit, which doubles the damage). Unlike games like XCOM, WOW or Diablo, you can not increase crit-chance by items/leveling up. (If each game agent/item has base damage, crit chance, and crit damage modifiers it gets annoying to compare them in my experience).

 

Ideas to limit annoyment of crits:

-dont allow it if it will kill the PC. PCs can only be killed with normal damage (non-crits). Disable this rule on higher difficulty.

 

<<>>

 

What is your thoughts on this? The idea is that crits makes fight more unpredictable and unsafe. If you have 7 hp remaining and the goblin deals 3-5 hp damage you are safe for one turn more, but not if it can crit! But you dont want the player to think the game cheats. Many players complained about missed shots and unfair crits in XCOM as far as I remembered...

Edited by suliman

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Either is fine as long as you balance the game well. Plenty of games have it, plenty of games lack it.

 

If a player is attacked by few foes between turns and it takes many hits to get them to 0 hp, crits don't have a big impact. Being within a crit of death is already a failure case.

 

If a couple bad rolls kill a player, it's a much more important part of the system. That can be fine, some players really like the mechanic of nobody being completely safe in battle, but it's something that has to be executed more carefully. For example, that works better in an x-com type game where attrition in your party is expected.

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Would it be better to build in CRT as a property of a weapon than a property of the game? Basically you can't get CRT ATK unless you have a weapon capable of performing it. And even then, it's completely random or at least every once in a while.

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Yes attrition is present (you heal between dungeons and each dungeon may have many fights).

 

So some weapons deal less base damage but have more crit chance? Some games do this but the logic is sometimes a bit strange. Why do shotguns have more crits than sniper rifles in XCOM for example? I would be the other way around since shotguns spray an area but high precision rifles could score "headshots" etc.

 

In a medieval setting which weapons would have higher crits? Spears more than swords? More than axes?
Im more leaning towards weapon types dealing different dmg depending on enemy/armour type so it might be too much with different crit chances as well.

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Warcraft 3 does this well. It uses seeded values and tries to skew everything towards an average ammount.

 

So if you have a 10% chance to crit, and haven't critted in a while, the game will start increasing your odds behind the scenes. If you crit a lot, you'll start decreasing chances behind the scenes.

 

Funny enough this makes (in custom maps/mods) it extremely worth it getting very low crit chance passives, as you can take note of when you haven't critted in a while, and time your crit as your odds increase.

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How much extra do your crits do?  I think maybe that could be used as a mitigating factor.  Player crits could do double damage, and I don't think the player would complain, but if a player gets one-shotted by a goblin crit, your probably going to hear complaints.

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I like randomness within statistics curves.

 

Dice-based games like D&D do this naturally.  

 

Consider something that rolls 3d6 (three six-sided dice). It forms a curve from 3 to 18.  Your worst odds (1/216) are on the extreme values of 3 and 18, your best odds (27/216) are the central values of 10 and 11.  The same number range can be skewed right with the 4d6 dropping the lowest value, used for rolling certain stats. Less of a curve are two dice, say 2d10 (two ten-sided dice): it is more like two straight lines, 2 to 20. The worst odds (1/100) on the extremes of 2 and 20, best odds (10/100) for rolling an 11.  The game designers carefully designed different items with different curves, sometimes favoring many small dice (e.g. 6d4) for a deep distribution curve strongly favoring the middle, sometimes few dice or a single die like 1d20 for a flat distribution, and sometimes mixing many different dice to get a distribution that works just right for their design.

 

This type of distribution curve works really well in video games.  You want an occasional critical miss or critical fail, but mostly you want values in a central hill.  However, sometimes you may want something that has a very different curve. You may have a special axe that deal enormous damage but has a high probability of failure, so build a curve with a large hump near zero and a small hump at the high value.  Repeat with whatever specific designs you need.

 

The same is true for loot drops.  Generally the stats skew left, you have a higher probability of getting bad stuff than anything else, but sometimes you want to get something amazing.

 

 

 

Statistics tables are generally a designer's close friend.  Even if you need to work with pictures of the curves and then ask the programmers to make the desired curve, understanding distributions is important.

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If you are making a "tactical" game, you might want to be careful with RNG. It's usually not a good thing because it's literally the opposite of what "strategy" gameplay is all about.

Gambling is fun, but not when playing a strategy/tactic game. In this kind of games it feels terrible because a lucky hit will always feel "deserved" while an unlucky one will always feel unfair. You may have 50/50 odds but people will only focus on the negative side of rng, that is just how it works. They won't think "oh I got a lucky shot there, nice", they will think it's just normal, and they will be frustrated when the opposite happens because it will disrupt the strategy they designed and were putting in place.

 

Some rng can be useful : it can be a good thing to make your game non deterministic so you can surprise the player and force him to adapt his strategy constantly, making the game more dynamic and interesting and also faster paced (because you can't effectively predict a lot of moves when rng is involved). The key is to balance it right, so that good strategy can always overcome bad luck and bad strategy can't be saved just by good luck.

 

I would advise you to stay away from "crit type" rng though. Involving rng in a strategy/tactics game can be good, but you need to hide it. Having a crit randomly kill one of your character who, you thought, could still endure 2 shots is a terrible feeling. The enjoyment of strategy is about making the right calls, if you make the right call and then rng decides that your shot misses, it sucks. The best way in my opinion to involve rng is within the AI. Don't use rng on the numbers, or on stuff that is clearly visible, don't advertise it. Use it to determine which pattern your AI will follow this turn, or which target to attack when there are multiple good possibilities. It ends up achieving the same result, your game is unpredictable, but without people realizing that rng is there and without the usual negative feelings associated with that. It also makes your AI look smarter than it probably is.

 

The more rng there is, the less tactical your game is. It's your call to decide where you want your game to be on the strategy<--->gambling spectrum. If you really want your game to appeal to player looking for a strategy/tactical game, don't put rng in for the sake of it or because it's what other games do. You are making a rogue like so there is probably already a lot of rng involved in generating the levels, do you really need to add more ? Rng doesn't just feel bad because of bad luck, it takes control away from the player, makes your victories feel undeserved and your defeats feel bitter. It can really turn off people and even kill games. Look at Darkest Dungeon, it's a great game in many aspects, the art is awesome, some of the mechanics are very original and yet it got some truly terrible reviews from people expecting a strategy game and finding out it's in fact just a RNG fest. Now some people loved the game, it was a hit, but not the people looking for a strategy/tactic experience. Those people didn't enjoy it solely because of the rng.

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It's not quite as simple as strategy/tactics vs. luck. Backgammon and Magic are both very luck oriented games while still demanding skill and strategy. It's a topic of some contention in the wargaming world: Is the ideal a platonic perfect information battle of the wits, or is battle inherently chaotic, and the winner should be the one who can flexibly ride the ebbs and flows of a battle?

 

In some sense, it tends to be a trade-off between depth of reading and breadth of reading. With perfect information, you're trying to think further ahead then your opponent. If there's a convoluted path just on the edge of disaster to checkmate, then that's a win. With randomness, you can't prune out paths in the same way: Your flank might be routed, your feignt might actually break through, your infantry might be delayed and fail to take up position on the hill. So instead of "what's the best move 10 turns from now", it's "what 20 situations might I be in in 3 turns?" If you're in a situation where a bad crit loses you the game, that raises questions of how your strategy got inflexible enough that one roll could decide the outcome.

 

There's obviously an extreme where strategic considerations no longer matter, but there's think there's a surprisingly wide range of randomization usage that can all be considered equally strategic, if strategic in different ways.

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Yes crits and other RNG in Darkest Dungeons was too much, I agree.

 

But I will problably use some crit to keep things harder to FULLY calculate in advance. Add a cup of unpredictability.

Maybe block it from dealing killing blows though as previously suggested...

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Maybe block it from dealing killing blows though as previously suggested...

 

Why?

 

The suggestion of ranges and statistical curves addresses both the luck aspect and the skill aspect.  That is why it has survived from the pre-PC era all the way through to today's modern games.

 

With a stats curve you can see that the weapon does around 240-273 damage. You can see another weapon does around 294-367 damage, and a spell can do 45-73 damage per strike over a 10 second duration.  That is enough information for the numbers-heavy people to do all the tactical planning they want, and enough information for the chaos-loving speed demon to do what they want. It also includes enough random that you can't exactly predict it, while still giving you an opportunity to estimate that a player has two or three strikes remaining before you need to heal or flee.

 

Occasionally people in the design forum take that approach and it seems cowardly to me.  We'll add some random variation, but if it would actually kill the player we'll keep them barely alive....  Nope.  Give the player the information they need and let the character die if they take too much damage. The player knew the risks and the consequences. Don't soften it or dumb it down.

 

Tell them clearly up front, let them decide, then throw the dice and accept the results.

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In the end it's really only a matter of who you are making this game for. Rng will frustrate people looking solely for a strategic experience (the chess players), but it will appeal to people enjoying the feeling of gambling (the slot machine players).

 

How much rng you put in and how it's balanced with skill and strategy will determine where the experience your game provides is on that spectrum. May be it's in the middle like poker, appealing to people enjoying both.

 

You have to be careful though, because it needs to work with the format of your game.

Games that have a significant amount of rng while mostly appealing to the strategy side of things (like poker or ccg) also have a format that allows strategy oriented players to not be overly frustrated by the rng. In poker you don't just play one hand, you play hundreds or thousands of hands, effectively negating any possible bad luck. You are frustrated when you play well and still lose because of rng, but you tell yourself "I lost this time, but I played well and most of the time I will win in this situation". The finality is not a single hand, it's the state of your bankroll on the long run. In your game, it might be different, may be the finality is a single run, then rng is a bad idea because you can't negate the frustration using that type of thinking.

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First of all crits is a shit useless mechanic and developer should understand it.

Some already did, most didnt yet, but they will eventually.

 

If you want to persist with using such a outdated and bad mechanic there are many solutions to smooth it, like for example making crit multiplier very low and chance high, with 30% crit bonus and 30 % crit chance, it deosnt feel at all you died for RNG, if you have 12 hp and you face an enemy that hits for 10 with 30% crit chance you try to avoid getting hit, if you do you know you have high chance of dying.

Still it is a wrong and bad mechanics and you should just avoid crits altogether.

 

Another decent use of crits is using a ratio like in WOW, where ppl have much more hp than a single hit, lets make some number, even with high multiplier like 3x if you hit for 100 (300 crit then) but ppl on average has 5k hp then it doesnt feel much like RNG, you know sometimes you will crit and you know it usually wont matter, ofc there is gonna be some edge case where you have 299 hp against a guy with 5 % crit and that crit will kill you and make you mad.

The advantage of thi approach is that crits mantain their emotional impact since they are huge and "rewarding" compared to the previous.

Edited by dworm

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How are crits messing the interface?

 

Anyway yeah, it is better to avoid crits like it was pox if you prefer, thre are many other stats to use, and ways to spice up the combat.

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Why dismiss a tool outright? Crits are a simple way to introduce multimodal statistical distributions (along with their natural mirror, the "miss"). The primary advantage to doing so is that it creates more discrete outcomes, which are generally easier for humans to reason about, and counteracts a tendency for longer sequences to converge exclusively on the mean. This can assist in tactical planning and also encourages player to introduce narratives (in the negative case, a malevolent RNG, in the positive case the attribution of heroics/cowardice to units). Rolling on the high end of a normal distribution doesn't tend to create the same excitement/anger as jumping to a different damage region.

 

Depending on how this one aspect interacts with the rest of the system, it can have a positive, negative or neutral effect on strategy and on gameplay variation. It's just a tool, it can fit well or poorly, be implemented intelligently or haphazardly. The addition of crits doesn't inherently make a game more strategic, it can move the needle either way.

 

As a game gets longer, the players will all congregate at the mean outcome. One hand of poker is luck, 1,000 are skill. A game involving one attack will be lucky, a game of 1,000 attacks should require skill.

 

An important detail to keep in mind is that people vary a great deal in risk-aversion or risk-seeking behavior. The risk-averse will focus on the times a crit lost them a battle, the risk-seeking will focus on the times it won them a battle. When designing a game you can target one group or another, try to balance it so both are somewhat satisfied, or provide gameplay options to enhance/mitigate risk (e.g. a class that can't crit and is immune to the effect).

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That's a game designer's job, to find fun ways to put features together. One use is to ratchet up tension and then release it. Instead of the player feeling surprised and cheated 1 in 10 times, if you telegraph the feature properly then 9 in 10 times they might instead feel excited/relieved that the crit didn't get them. Using other tricks you can make the sense of impending doom seem greater than it really is, so the player is disproportionately relieved.

 

If you give them the tools to mitigate critical hits, then there's the satisfaction of having planned for an event and weathered the storm. A bad round for the opponent might force you into plan B. If you have a plan B and it brings you back from the precipice to victory, that's satisfying. With predictable combat rounds, you might not have needed a plan B.

 

Overcoming impossible odds is fun. Crits can create situations where you shouldn't win but do anyways. If that was the only way to win it feels cheap, but if a player made obvious mistakes and then won despite them, that's its own flavor of fun. It relieves situations where winning is impossible but the game isn't over yet (and vice versa).

 

Variety is fun. Crits in a wargame let you know somewhere along your front the opponent will have an upper hand and somewhere you'll be hard pressed, but not know where until a particular playthrough.

 

My point is that "good game has feature X" or "bad game has feature X" or "feature X didn't work in this game" is much more a question of how the pieces fit together then a statement that your game must/can't have feature X. As a game designer I think you have to figure out what the impact of a feature is, how it interacts with other ones, and then put it into play if you have a particular role a feature fills.

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That's a game designer's job, to find fun ways to put features together. One use is to ratchet up tension and then release it. Instead of the player feeling surprised and cheated 1 in 10 times, if you telegraph the feature properly then 9 in 10 times they might instead feel excited/relieved that the crit didn't get them. Using other tricks you can make the sense of impending doom seem greater than it really is, so the player is disproportionately relieved.

 

If you give them the tools to mitigate critical hits, then there's the satisfaction of having planned for an event and weathered the storm. A bad round for the opponent might force you into plan B. If you have a plan B and it brings you back from the precipice to victory, that's satisfying. With predictable combat rounds, you might not have needed a plan B.

 

Overcoming impossible odds is fun. Crits can create situations where you shouldn't win but do anyways. If that was the only way to win it feels cheap, but if a player made obvious mistakes and then won despite them, that's its own flavor of fun. It relieves situations where winning is impossible but the game isn't over yet (and vice versa).

 

Variety is fun. Crits in a wargame let you know somewhere along your front the opponent will have an upper hand and somewhere you'll be hard pressed, but not know where until a particular playthrough.

 

My point is that "good game has feature X" or "bad game has feature X" or "feature X didn't work in this game" is much more a question of how the pieces fit together then a statement that your game must/can't have feature X. As a game designer I think you have to figure out what the impact of a feature is, how it interacts with other ones, and then put it into play if you have a particular role a feature fills.

 

This seems a quote from 20 years ago, games evolved, players evolved most of all. Crits are plain, bad, there is no surprise only frustration, sure overcoming odds is fun, but crits are not odd, good developers present odds in form of many enemies, stronger enemies, powerfull abilities, not extreme RNG, thats very bad designing.

 

Also associating variety to crits make me laugh, to have variaties create many races, many abilities, a strong AI that use every trick, not just an autoattacking AI that sometimes make so powerful crits the player either dies or is just forced to play run etc.

 

Sure its a cheap way, in fact crits always existed and only nowadays they are slowly disappearing cause smart developers understood how bad and frustrating and unrewarding they are and found better ways to reward players without punishing for too bad RNG.

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Although Polama made a lot of good points, I tend to agree with dworm on this one. All the things that crits achieve can be done in a much better way that will be more fun, more rewarding and cause less frustration. Most rpgs have crits simply because they didn't want to waste resources on designing a better feature serving the same general purpose. Crits have been in games forever, more often because of tradition or lazy game design than any good reason.

 

Crits are solely associated with luck in the player's mind, and although good luck can be fun sometimes, it's still not rewarding. When you luck your way out of a bad/impossible situation, it feels good, but it doesn't feel rewarding, you feel like you just cheated the game somehow, you feel like you don't really deserve the win. The same way you feel when using an exploit to win. Sure, you "outsmarted" the game, you won, but you also cheated in a way, and you know it, and it lessens the fun and satisfaction of winning.

 

When you experience the other end of it, the bad luck, it's even worse, you feel like the game cheated you. It's extremely frustrating and terrible design in my opinion. I don't think anyone enjoys that feeling, so why have it in your game ? You can mitigate that feeling if you implement it smartly, but why go through that trouble to end up with a feature that is still frustrating even if it's just a little bit ? Why not put your time and effort into designing a feature that will achieve the same thing without causing the frustration of bad luck ?

 

In rpgs, and I think especially in strategy rpgs, rng is a bad thing, it feels out of place, it's breaking immersion, it's causing frustration, it lessens the satisfaction of winning, of overcoming bad odds, of growing with your character. We are talking about critical hits, but it's the same thing regarding rng based loots, if I open a chest and the content is completely determined by rng, it feels wrong. It doesn't feel like I just killed a powerful demon to finally gain access to that chest and its rare loot, it feels like playing the slot machine. I will feel like shit if I don't get the good loot and if I do I will feel like I didn't earn it even though I just killed that powerful demon. If rng decides, then there is no reason behind it, no narrative, no work from the designer. Crits are the same, extremely gamey, they are not immersive at all, not anymore at least, and rpgs are all about immersion.

 

There is no self improvement with rng, you can't get better at having luck and so you don't strive for it. It really goes against everything that makes rpgs what they are. If you end up in a bad situation because of rng, there is nothing you could have done better, nothing you can improve, nothing you can learn, and it feels horrible, it takes control away from the player. It makes the consequences independent from the decisions the player makes and that means that those decisions are not important, that they don't matter. Rng just doesn't work with RPGs, not if it's perceivable by the player. You should only use rng in a way that is invisible to the player.

 

And crits just have too much of a baggage, no matter what you do, you won't be able to change the player's perception that they are the incarnation of luck in games. That is why you should find a better way to add uncertainty to your battlefield. One that people won't perceive as "only luck", one that they can learn about and get better at.

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Wow alot of emotions regarding crits:). You really think games suffer so greatly from it? (most game has similar elements). My take is that randomization of damage shouldnt be to extreme, but like many other systems in games, if they are completely static/predictable that is also not good. (very few examples, like chess, work with no randomization at all)

 

Random elements (including randomized loot) ARE important in roguelikes, especially since the worlds are procedurally generated. Have you played ANY roguelike without randomization? And development resources/time IS ALWAYS limited so its easy to just write "make everything great in your game". But at the cost of what other gameplay elements?

If crits are so terrible and better gameplay elements (to achieve surprise/risk etc) are so easy to implement instead, what are those? Plz give concrete examples.

Edited by suliman

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You can and should have randomization in your game, especially if it's a roguelike, but it shouldn't look like it's random. It shouldn't feel like rolling the dice, that is the main point here I think. That is why crits are bad, because they look and feel like rolling the dice 100%.

 

Most of what I said was regarding rpgs in general, and personally that is why I don't think roguelikes make good rpgs, because they need randomization and it doesn't sit well with the core concepts of rpgs. They can be great games, just not great rpgs.

 

Of course it's up to you to judge what is most important for your game and prioritize things to make the best use of the limited resources you have, we are just having a theoretical discussion here, not factoring more practical stuff. But design is often not what takes the most resources and/or time, and yet it's arguably the most important part so putting some extra effort into it is worth it in my opinion. It can even save you resources down the line. A better system is not necessarily a more resource hungry one, it could be easier and faster to implement a better system than critical hits.

 

If you want concrete examples, we need to know more about your game, the features and the lore. The main weakness of roguelikes, in my opinion, is that although they don't make good rpgs, they still are rpgs, and people are expecting from them a rpg experience to some degree. They want/expect things that are not really possible to do in randomized/generated worlds, things like narrative driven design. The best thing you can do is focus on hiding the rng in your roguelike : try to make everything that needs to be random for gameplay reasons not seem random. It's certainly not an easy task, but it's what will separate a good roguelike from a bad one. If you use random loots, find a way to make it seem like they are not random, like there is a very good and logical reason behind it. That will do wonders to make your procedurally generated levels feel coherent and unique and non repetitive.

 

A very simple example of something that can replace crits from enemies is a special ability. A stronger attack that is basically like a crit, but isn't one, it's just a different, more powerful attack and no luck is involved there (from the player's perspective), the gobelin just chose to use this one sometimes (randomly, but it doesn't feel like rolling the dice, it feels like a smarter AI) instead of his regular attack. Effectively it's the exact same mechanic, it's just presented in a way that makes it feel completely different. In darkest dungeon you can see the perfect example of that : the monsters often have a stronger ability they use randomly, and they can crit, and while it's essentially the exact same thing, it feels totally different to die from a special attack and to die from a crit. I got frustrated every time a crit ruined my plans, but didn't feel the same way at all when it happened because of a special attack.

 

If you can make such a huge difference in perception just by changing the presentation of your mechanic, imagine what you can do actually changing the mechanic itself.

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Wow alot of emotions regarding crits:). You really think games suffer so greatly from it? (most game has similar elements). My take is that randomization of damage shouldnt be to extreme, but like many other systems in games, if they are completely static/predictable that is also not good. (very few examples, like chess, work with no randomization at all)

 

Random elements (including randomized loot) ARE important in roguelikes, especially since the worlds are procedurally generated. Have you played ANY roguelike without randomization? And development resources/time IS ALWAYS limited so its easy to just write "make everything great in your game". But at the cost of what other gameplay elements?

If crits are so terrible and better gameplay elements (to achieve surprise/risk etc) are so easy to implement instead, what are those? Plz give concrete examples.

 

Often in rogueliikes randome elements are just those who piss the player off.

 

If you want an example provide a concrete problem, and lets see if there is a possible solution. You cant just ask for a generic example since crits arent necessarly needed per se.

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