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Why I don't like the Challenge Dungeon

Discussion in 'Release 10 Feedback' started by Baron Drocis Fondorlatos, Sep 26, 2014.

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  1. Poor game design

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    I played the Challenge Dungeon last night for the first time. I spent a few hours grinding away at it. A significant amount of that time was me saying "Why do I have to kill deer? There must be a way around this." :)

    Before I critique the Challenge Dungeon, I want to say a few things first.

    1. I'm not spoiling anything for anyone. If you can't tell by the title, I'm going to talk about "the challenge dungeon". This doesn't require a "spoiler" tag, or anything else. It requires common sense. If you opened this thread and thought "I hope he doesn't talk about the Challenge Dungeon", that's on you.
    2. Only after playing the Challenge Dungeon could you know and understand why the development team made it. It's not a quest, it's not really even much of a challenge for players (although it's very challenging and I have yet to complete it!).

    The Challenge Dungeon is a challenge for the devs. It's designed to test Min/Maxing against their current build of combat. It's smart on their part, very smart.

    They've create a controlled environment where players can't hide on top of furniture or use their buddies to tank (at least, I assume the dungeon doesn't allow groups). It's a place where players MUST min/max the glyph system in order to advance. There's no way around it, the odds are just too stacked against you.

    And that's why I don't like it. For all its genius and ability to provide the developers with good data they can use to further balance the combat system, it assumes that Min/Maxing is an appropriate style of play.

    Now before someone writes, it doesn't matter if it's appropriate or not, people will still do it! Understand that this is a roleplaying game. This is not a power gaming action adventure. That means that when someone wears Plate Armor and uses a two-handed battle axe, the system should not be encouraging them to "swap their deck" in the middle of combat so that when it's convenient they're now wearing leather armor, shooting a bow and throwing magic down on their enemies. Yet, that's what it does.

    As players progress through the Challenge Dungeon, they're attacked by several groups of animals and monsters. First Deer that can't attack players, then other progressively more dangerous monsters. Each attack is performed in a new room that is locked off preventing the player from escape. Upon death, the player must start from the beginning.

    I'm not sure how long this goes on, I have only made it Five rooms deep and regardless of the build I'm using I can't seem to get through that 5th one because the builds I'm using can't do enough damage to the main "boss" while also absorbing enough damage.

    Which is really all combat is about. How much damage can you throw on someone else and how much can you take yourself. It's really very unsophisticated, leads players to create "best builds" and the end result is that all players then need to be some kind of hybrid mage deck swapping idiot in order to "compete" at the highest level.

    Now my guess is that the Challenge Dungeon was created to help identify whatever the "best builds" are in the game, because they're the only ones that are going to make it through that dungeon successfully. But here's my problem with that, as I said above this assumes that the MIN/MAX style of play is appropriate.

    My conclusion is that instead of designing a game to "handle" min/maxing, we should be designing a game to make min/maxing irrelevant. I've written exhaustively about this in other posts, PM's, and even spoken some in a Community Hangout about it. But although I know the developers are listening, I'm not seeing a lot of steps towards improving in this area.

    In closing, here are a number of questions everyone should be asking themselves about combat.

    1. Does combat require Damage and Cool Downs? I would suggest no, combat does not require this. It may be widely expected, but it's not required and the end result of using that model is that MIN/MAXing becomes a horrible reality in your gaming world.
    2. Why can't I block attacks? The combat system needs ACTIVE COUNTER MEASURES that allow players to BLOCK (completely) "damage" that is being thrown at them.
    3. Why is the combat system so heavy on tactics (in the moment) and so light on strategy (planning)? When a player creates a deck, he or she is building a strategy, sure. But what they're really doing is building the SAME strategy as everyone else. MINimize damage taken, MAXimize damage given. There's absolutely nothing else going on in this system.
    4. How does combat impact roleplaying? This is really the most important question to ask. Shroud of the Avatar is a roleplaying game. It's supposed to be about roleplaying, even when you're fighting other players, even when you're grinding mobs, even when you're "just having fun". It doesn't stop being a roleplaying game when that happens.

    But the current tools for roleplayers are very lacking in the combat system. It's very fast and requires a great deal of focus on the bottom of the screen. As mentioned before it requires Min/Maxing to be good at it and lacks any real sophistication outside of hack and slashing your way to ownage. It encourages people to be odd non-traditional assortments of hybrids taking combat to the lowest common denominator.

    So I don't like the Challenge Dungeon. Not because I don't appreciate it for the intelligent tool that it is, but because I don't enjoy the direction it tells me we're going.

    P.S. I plan to write another post specifically about the combat system and various observations I've made about it (while ignoring my disagreement with the overall direction and assuming that this is the direction we're going so why not make it better if we can).
     
  2. Akrondar

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    I love your one sentence summary xD.
     
  3. Jouten

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    I made a similar thread saying that the boss is more of a meat sponge and that bosses need to be designed in a different way and be more challenging besides having them have increased defense/health and stronger attacks (granted they may be doing this intentionally to see who can beat the boss and see how their deck was created to remove any exploits). I'm not as opposed to their combat as I used to be, and the whole idea of prepping yourself is still a cool thought, but it's still river-dancing whack-a-mole where your entire attention is almost focused on your HUD and not your environment or the tells the enemies are supposed to give. Yes we can roll out of the way, but that really doesn't do anything since spells are like homing missiles and anybody who plays melee's only option for fighting is to get to the enemy as fast as they can and pray their decks create enough combos to kill the boss fast enough before they get slaughtered. As roleplaying was concerned, I was running around that final zone hoping to god there was some switch or some kind of environmental object I can grab that would change the battle in my favor, "can I extinguish those torches?! Are they his life source?! Can I make the boss shoot his minions?! No?!? Aw crap I'm on fire for testing that!! Is there a crack in the wall I can break through and find an item to defeat him?!? Why is it that as soon as I walk in I get hazed by his fireballs and ganked on both sides by his minions!! This fight is cheap!!!" I would assume that they're going to add different ways to kill bosses since they emphasized more environmental interaction, but as for now and as the title of this thread hints, this challenge dungeon isn't that sort of fight.
     
  4. Sunswords

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    My first post!

    To the OP, the dungeon goes on VERY far, you basically fight almost every available monster to date. I believe I made it about 15+ rounds (lost count), and got outmatched by Satyr Mages and Archers at the same time. All my strategies were not going to work at this point, because the damage output from the enemies were way too high and I had several bad glyph hands.

    I seriously suspect we're not really meant to win, and I think the mechanics need improvement at this point. It got so ridiculous at one point, when I was in a dark ruined room and I'm instantly surrounded by 5 Elven Mages, 8(?) Elven Archers with fighters to chase me down (I slaughtered them and celebrated with a shot of whiskey).

    If you'd like to know how I made it that far, it was primarily kiting and exploiting (I use the term here liberally) AI behaviour. If you'd like to know my build, it's in the spoiler below:

    Polearms 1/1 , Reach (4), Defensive Positions (5)
    Light Armor - Dodge (1), Swiftness (3)
    Tactics - Offhand Attack (1), Healthy (5)
    Life Magic - Healing Touch (5), Life Power (5)
    Fire Magic - Flame Fist (5), Highly Flammable (5), Fire Proof (5)
    Earth Magic - Stone Fist (1), Attunement with Earth (5), Sympathy of Stone (5)
    Death Magic - Death Touch (5), Death Mastery (5)
    Focus Magic* - Higher Consciousness (3), Eidetic Memory (3), Mindfulness (5), Heightened Awareness (5), Inner Calm (5), Follow Through (2)

    *Only listed the important ones

    You'll have some spare points to pump into either a Shield, or other things. You must lock the Glyphs: Flame Fist, Death Touch and Healing Touch.

    When fighting enemies, always go after the Mages first, followed by archers, then fighters. Attempt to immolate the enemy when they are low on health and about to flee, you can then change target and attack a new enemy while they burn to death.

    When low on focus, swap from cloth armor to heavy armor and kite the map, then swap back to cloth armor and cast your heals. (We shouldn't be allowed to change armor mid combat actually, just pointing this out).

    Your primary attack is the basic auto-strike with the polearm, circle around enemies and they won't be able to catch you, while you strike them. Low on health? Use Death Touch as a first response, very low health - use Healing Touch.

    If you're doing well, use Flame Fist to speed up the battle.

    I do agree that there's min/maxing of stats in the above spoiler, but there was still a little bit of tactical thinking and movement needed about the battleground. I would definitely love to see more damage mitigating factors - be they environmental or skill based, rather than just SWARMING the player as a form of test.
    XX
     
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  5. Poor game design

    Poor game design Avatar

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    Wow 15+!


    No need to be defensive about how you got that far. It's all in the name of testing! Seems to me like you were doing a great job.

    Back to the OP, I think what we're doing here is making a combat system and then trying to balance MIN/MAX. I wish we were doing that in reverse by limiting MIN/MAX because our combat system doesn't allow it to begin with. I've used this analogy to death, but Chess doesn't let people MIN/MAX. All the pieces can take out all the other pieces, each player has a Queen, there are rounds, etc...

    Another game where this is true is Poker. When players MIN/MAX in poker it's called cheating.;)

    Anyway, that's what I wish our combat system was like...a mix of Chess and Poker.
     
  6. Greymarch

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    I don't know if this is exactly about min/maxing to be honest, but even if it is it's still a good thing for Devs to test. Even if they don't plan on balancing things to min/maxed levels it's still useful data to know what fully crunched characters can do.

    That said, since many abilities are still not in the game I don't necessarily think that's what this is all about. Probably more about monster AI and aggro mechanics like the email on the update said.
     
  7. Poor game design

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    I noticed that line (above) too, but I think the dungeon is designed to do more than just analyze situational AI and PVE actions. I think this is also about combat system balance. Again, all great things to think about and a very good way to abstract that data (in this controlled environment). No problems there.

    What I dislike is that the end product doesn't seem to support roleplaying. It seems to support power gaming.
     
  8. Sunswords

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    Apparently I just discovered from some players that the Challenge Dungeon can be done as a group - this would explain the ridiculous swarms of enemies being thrown in each scenario. If this was the intention (grouped players), it would present a different form of test.
     
  9. Poor game design

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    Yeah, I didn't know that either. It makes more sense. It makes me like the Challenge Dungeon more. :)

    But all of my points remain the same from a roleplaying perspective.
     
  10. Apollyon9515

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    I thought it was alright and a "challenge" more of a stress test than anything else. I do agree its not really to fun but it was enjoyable to see how far you could get.

    Plus I heard at the end you get to loot ridable horses!
     
  11. smack

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    I always thought the Challenge Dungeon was designed to be done by multiple players. If a single player is completing it, then it is exactly the reason they want that data as to how it was done. They'd know how you're min/maxing and possibly using AI exploits to complete it. The next dungeon then won't be so easy for single players. Or, they tone it down -- based on all that data -- so that single players will still feel challenged and can complete it but without having to rely on min/maxing or exploits
     
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  12. Poor game design

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    If my game stops crashing, I might try to find a few players to go through this with me and see how far it goes.
     
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  13. StrangerDiamond

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    I am also crashing doing simple tasks, new 64 bit build maybe ?

    ...

    Although all the graphics are nice and all... when I join in it dosen't feel like a roleplaying game, it feels like guildwars with less easy and convenient functions...

    In all my hours of playing only ONE player talked to me... the rest were all looking so busy trying to get geared up then spent their time competing and dueling and being OOC.

    Maybe your gripe is more about the fact this is extreemly commercial way to introduce an alpha... using people to gather stats... that will be alot of powergamers on game launch, I hope the crafting system is deep and ready to intake all that modding...

    Really if I was a dev I'd be alarmed...
     
  14. Greymarch

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    IMO RPing is going to be more of something that gets done when the game launches (or beta opens) as opposed to open pre-Alpha testing weekends. We're supposed to be testing stuff out right now, not just standing around yakking.

    That said I'm sure there's stuff going on; is PAXLair doing any events this release?
     
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  15. Poor game design

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    I wouldn't be alarmed today. But I'd be worried about the future. Combat does not sustain roleplaying in any way. So the moment people enter combat they're essentially removed from combat. I think that's the problem that the devs should be actively working on right now.

    The lack of conversation and people running past you is also a general concern, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that it's early in development, there's low population, and the world is very temporary at the moment. Combat suffers from these things as well, but if we fast forward to launch, there's nothing in the combat system that suggests it will be any better from a roleplaying standpoint.
     
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  16. smack

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    Did you get any farther either solo or in a party? I gotta tweak my build further...I don't think pure mages in light armor are meant to survive the challenge :)
     
  17. Poor game design

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    I started out as a light armor mace and shield guy. Went directly to level 5 with no problem but then couldn't do enough damage to the Lich Mage to win. So I went naked mage and went back to level 5 and couldn't take enough damage to win.

    Pretty frustrating. For me it's a good example of what happens when someone is a Tank Mage (Lich Mage) and can cast fireballs while wearing heavy armor. Sure, I could get platemail and a two-handed axe and play the same game...but eventually it appears that you really need to go in with a group to win.

    The game is crashing now so I no longer have that option. (Also, this is a great example of why this system kills roleplaying. I'm probably the prototypical "Mage" guy and even if I'm as prepared as I can be, I'm not going to make it against a Tank Mage with one heavy damage spell)

    ::sigh::
     
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  18. Nemo Herringwary

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    Whilst I understand the concern about playstyle, I don't think you can really criticize the idea of a challenge dungeon from a fantasy point of view; after all the original Labyrinth of Minos was itself supposed to be a no win scenario disguised as a challenge... and it's spawned quite a few imitators over the years. Who remembers "Deathtrap Dungeon" eh? So if they later on add puzzles and random spike traps and all kinds of extras to the dungeon we have, and most importantly a nice bit of fiction justifying it's existence, I'd welcome it's remaining in game!

    As it currently is though, it's a pretty good way indeed to illustrate weaknesses in combat; I had a go and got to round 5, despite having completely forgotten how to heal myself except via potions. Yes, I know now you press Z to get out of combat mode :p But there's all kinds of funky antics with regards to the AI... the bears can't path find through each other, and the Skeletal Archers can't see you and won't move if you stand directly below the platform they're on. And discovering such problems will lead to us getting far more impressive AI which will work across the entire New Britannia, so hurrah for Challenge Dungeon!
     
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  19. Sunswords

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    @ Baron - I just partied with an axe toting lady a moment ago, it made a HUGE difference to the speed at which we progressed. I was still using my magic build, while she was clearly in heavy armour slashing away. There'll be a niche for everyone to fill, don't be discouraged!
    X
     
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  20. Net

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    I hope that challenge dungeon provides useful data.

    I have learned several things.
    - There is trick for almost every room (though the one with Liches requires 9 players, I am not sure if it could work with less).
    - Some enemies are too powerful against small groups/solo players.
    - Some builds are useless because you can not deal enough damage to kill your enemies before they kill you.
    - Being healer is useless if Liches do more damage then I can heal. 100+ critical damage is really too much. And even resurrect is problematic because it drains my focus faster than I can drink potions...and resurrected players are without focus themselves so they can not heal.

    I agree that cooldowns are annoying and we really need option to block/evade attacks.
     
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