Monday, August 13, 2012

Modern roguelikes: What gives?

We've been on a nice weekend trip and I had some to think. One question that keeps me busy is "What makes a roguelike game a 'modern roguelike game'"?

Since the start of the ADOM crowd funding campaign I've heard the "ADOM's not really a modern roguelike game" quite a few times, but in many cases that was about the detail of the remark. So please help me out: What "modern" features is ADOM really missing?

I can think of the following:

  • A tutorial? This won't change in the foreseeable future but I believe that there are so many great Youtube videos out there created by fans from the community that there isn't really a need for a tutorial. Just watch some videos. ADOM II BTW will get a tutorial now that I have tried the tutorial in DCSS ;-)
  • An enhanced UI? I can understand that, too. Although you will have to note that some features would be obvious enhancements (e.g. being able to search more efficiently for locations, item stacks, etc.) while others are not possible due to inherent design decisions: One example that got quoted was that other rogue likes keep the letters used to refer to items constant. This is okay in a world with a highly limited inventory (cutting the amount of items allowed at 52 as that's the number of letters you can use easily). The design decision for ADOM always was to limit the number of items in the PC inventory only by weight... so that you can have hundreds of items if you are very strong (and don't get illogical situations where your inventory is full just because you have collected 52 different small and light items). So which UI features would be the most "modern"?
  • Better ASCII images? I now have tried both Brogue and DCSS and I must say that - while I really like the way Brogue looks - I'm not 100% convinced. Both games annoy me (personal opinion here!) with the amount of colors and the constant color shifting. I'm also not too hot on the many other characters being used in the game - for me this is the same problem as with icons in software: Once there are too many abstractions they slow me down instead of speeding me up. At least my mind is fighting the far too many symbols. Combined with the far too many shifting colors it just doesn't work for me. Am I the only person feeling like that?
  • Tile support? ADOM can get this if the crowd funding campaign goes through (announcement hopefully following tonight) but it's very hard to do a pretty tile set. And most roguelikes out there - sorry to say that - don't have pretty tile sets. Sorry for saying that but I find most of them "bearable" at best. I understand that a new generation of gamers is more graphically minded and that's why - after having found a way to integrate NotEye - I'm now all in favor of an optional tile set but I fail to see it as a true modernization...
  • More balanced game play? Well, most rogue likes seem to fail in that category, ADOM included.  Many require tons of spoilers, some like DCSS are unbalanced despite all their attempts (dozens of people agreed that they hated being slaughtered by too fast monsters on the early levels), I can't comment on Brogue which appears to be more balanced as there is less need for scumming. But is it just a question of adding more ways to circumvent or disallow scumming or something else? The things you'd feel you need to scum for in ADOM should be "repairable" if that's the right word. But is that the issue?
  • The level design? Here I still see ADOM as one of the best games just by the fact that ADOM has a surface world with many dungeons instead of just one. And ADOM II is extending that concept (although it still has way to go... but hey, we are 0.2.8 ;-) ).
Comments welcome. I still don't quite grasp the "modern roguelike" concept and none of the above is meant to be criticism of other games. Just my thoughts and ramblings and I'd like to evolve from my "roguelike dinosaur state" to a higher form of existence ;-) Especially to add everything considered modern to ADOM II - but maybe it's also possible for ADOM...

Thanks, folks!


  1. Well, certainly, ADOM should never be held to a standard of graphical excellence that could be described as "modern". Do we compare books to movies in terms of their realistic graphics? Of course not. Instead, we view each in their respective light: One is visual art to be admired, the other a work of imagination to be experienced. How else could you transform a page full of meaningless text into a domain of mystery? :)
    As to gameplay features.. I can't say. I could never play other rogue-likes long enough to comment.

  2. I've thought some about this myself, and I wanted to address this more thematically rather than in technical elements. If you ask "what sets ADOM apart from other Roguelikes", I would answer "ADOM is an RPG."

    Now almost all Roguelikes have RPG elements - you often select race, class, have stats, advance in level, etc. But most Roguelikes I know of are puzzle games with RPG elements. Your main goal is to think creatively and solve the procedurally generated puzzle. It can be more environment based (as in Nethack), or inventory based (like the 'Bands), or heavily tactical (like DoomRL, which is absolutely brilliant btw, you should try it), and ADOM certainly possesses those characteristics as well, but at heart it's a Role Playing Game. And it has the trappings of an RPG - i.e, an actual story that profoundly effects gameplay that you interact with and changes depending on the PC's decisions, NPCs, an overworld, etc. At heart, it's about the character you create.

    By this I mean (and I realize not everyone plays ADOM the same way I do), ADOM isn't so much about surviving and solving puzzles and getting the right inventory, as developing and playing a character. I play a Dwarf Paladin very differently than a Dark Elven Ranger, or a Human Barbarian, or a GE Wizard, or a Hurthling Mindcrafter, or... a lot of the reward from the game is playing thematically, and I feel like the alignment system and quests add to this level of immersion - your actions are noticed and impact the way the the game unfolds, and the way NPCs treat you. And so most of the focus is on actually developing this character - from saving puppies to being the Ultimate ChAoS GoD, or various alignment and conduct challenge games, or developing stats and farming herbs and so forth, the main point is the story you tell along the way, rather than the puzzles you solve or the equipment you get. (Though those are there and important too!) And that story is what makes playing for 10 hours and then dying tragically (like I just did last night, D:47 *sigh*) worthwhile - you leave having learned a lot, and with a good story in your mind.

    This certainly makes ADOM feel "old school", (it's reminiscent of the Ultima games for me), in that it's more about immersion than concept. (ToME is the only modern roguelike that I know of that is likewise story-oriented, though I've yet to get more than a few hours in for some reason) ADOM II, from what I've read of your plans for it, will be even better in that aspect.

    1. (Had to split my comment in half)

      As far as UI, I've always really enjoyed ADOM's inventory system (you can see your entire inventory, and equip/unequip items with a single command, instead of 'e'quipping and 'w'eilding and 'p'utting on and so forth), I think in a lot of aspects ADOM is kind of outdated and clunky. I play with Sage, though, which fixes a lot of those problems. I think you could do a lot to simplify the keymapping and update the UI - at least starting with the improvements Sage made. (one complaint is it's impossible to play the windows version full screen)

      I think the ASCII graphics in ADOM are actually really lovely, especially the special levels like the Water Dragon Cave, the Fire Temple, the Scintillating Cave, The Pyramid, the Casino, etc. Then again, I grew up with ASCII games like ZZT and Kingdom of Kroz, and have always loved simple, well designed graphics. (for example, I consider Dragon Wars to be one of the most beautiful games ever made) I think they should remain as designed, with some minor improvements.

      The game should absolutely NOT be balanced. It's a little unfair for new players, but experienced players appreciate the fact that the game is harder or easier depending on how you play. A Grey Elf Wizard can effortlessly breeze through the game whereas a Hurthling Farmer will have a very hard go of it - but as someone who has ascended with a Gnome Merchant, I think the imbalance makes the game very rewarding. You could add an achievement system (another hallmark of modern roguelikes you didn't mention!), but I think most experienced players already have their own achievement system in their head, and are always striving to win with the next class, or in another way... to make all classes roughly the same difficulty would ruin a lot of what's great about ADOM.

      Likewise for scummy elements; while it's certainly possible to, say, use rings of weakness and potions of exchange to make the game absurdly easy to breeze through - it's like save scumming. After you do it once, you realize there's no fun in it, and stop.

      That's rather long winded, but in summary, I wouldn't worry too much about trying to "modernize" ADOM. It's fine the way it is. :) (though more quests, corruptions, artifacts, NPCs, etc would be great!)

    2. I may have had the shorter post, but you got this all in while I was writing mine, John.

      You're absolutely right about the RPG element being the thing. It occurs that then the question to consider is not what modern roguelikes bring, but what modern crpgs bring. About the only thing I can think of immediately is the auto-levelup option, but there's probably more.

  3. The idea that ADOM should adopt "modern roguelike" ideals is a bit odd, like asking all the works of Shakespeare to be re-written as three-panel web comics.

    Dungeons of Dredmor, Spelunky, 100 Rogues, Binding of Isaac, Cardinal Quest, and lots of others are meant to be a different kind of game entirely.

    Much of the charm of modern roguelikes is in easy access and quick playthrough with interesting combat mechanics.

    Much of the charm of ADOM is the massively complex systems in a compelling RPG in which one can immerse themselves for years without beating.

    With NotEye able to cover the optional graphics side of things and the previously acknowledged need for a UI change, there's nothing else that "modern roguelikes" bring to the table that suit ADOM.

  4. Ultimately, I'd have to chalk it up to the interface, though I personally consider myself an odd blend of old and new...

    My favorite interface out of all the roguelikes I've seen yet would be ToME4's, when running in ASCII and all-text:
    Skills are readily accessible through user-assigned hotkeys
    All effects, their durations and what they do are visible
    Health and other resources are clearly indicated (bars!)
    Information in general is nicely organized around the screen.

    Frankly, I'm not sure why, but just loading up ADoM nowadays seems to suck the life out of me. My speculation would be that it's the side-effect of a self-defeating prophecy: Having done early game content too many times, I want to get to the later content, which inspires less cautious play, which means more deaths... All in all, it leads to loading it, getting depressed, and heading off to do something else after a few minutes. Roguelikes with less plot don't have this problem-- after all, there isn't much change in scenery or intermediate objectives to try and get to more quickly.

  5. Meh,

    If you made ADOM now, exactly the same, it would be considered modern.

    It isn't a modern Rougelike because it was made years ago...

    1. I totally agree with this! ADOM was way ahead of its time - I hadn't played it for several years after playing it incessantly for a while, and hesitated to try it again because I thought the UI would be horrendously outdated. (Look at how far Angband has come lately!) But I just HAD to try 1.2.0, it being the first new release in pretty much forever, and to my pleasant surprise the game is still quite playable!

      And that's just the UI... other things make ADOM stand out too, such as the mixture of random and static content (random but themed dungeons in a static overworld makes for a great balance between plot and emergent gameplay), the plethora of stats, skills, and talents (herbalism? metallurgy? and NINE stats, not just six?), the eclectic mix of races and classes (what other roguelike has a Farmer class?), the unique world and atmosphere (evil races have evil paladins? GENIUS!), clever game mechanics (experience gained for killing multiple monsters of the same type is reduced for each kill was NOT introduced by Sil!)...

  6. I've always thought that ADOM's inventory interface was ahead of its time, and it still holds up very well against the latest roguelikes. It's nice that one can equip items without remembering specific wear/wield/etc. keys as in Nethack, and navigating by item types also works very well.

    However, there are some interface quirks that are indeed not "modern" - for example having to choose different arrows individually in order to shoot them is a pain. Some games have a "quiver" so that you can put different arrows there and they all get used for shooting. Things like the unresizable window in the Windows version are also relevant - most old-school fans like myself play either with Sage or Dosbox to avoid that, but I guess what most newcomers see is the Windows version and the unresizable, unmaximizable window is quite annoying and can give the impression of an "ancient" roguelike that has been hastily adapted to Windows without attention to detail.

    Regarding tiles, they are not important for me but I guess for other people they are also a landmark of "modern roguelikes". Optional tiles will be a great advance so that everyone is happy.

    I don't think level design and game balance are related to "modernity". I would personally love to see more anti-scumming mechanics in ADOM because I don't like scumming, but I don't think that would make the game more "modern" - MMORPGS are modern and most are scumfests.

    Regarding the colorfulness of Brogue or DCSS, I actually like it, but I also like the aesthetics of ADOM - I think that's a personal design thing, not related to "modernity" either. I don't see how using some Unicode or extended ASCII could hurt in ADOM II though.

    A tutorial is always nice but obviously it's a lot of work. But you could always do achievements. They are easier to implement, they are one of the "fashions" of modern games, and they adapt perfectly to ADOM (in fact, many people in the forums have been seeking "achievements" in ADOM for years, even if the game doesn't explicitly implement them!)

  7. I'd look at Jeff Lait's awesome 7DRLs for examples of the Roguelike cutting edge.

    - Maps that extend beyond the screen.
    - Non-Euclidean maps (not standard anywhere)
    - UI advancements like realtime animated characters and on-map speech bubbles

    But to be completely honest, I just don't feel like ADOM is new enough to call a modern Roguelike. So many other RLs have come and gone and had features ripped from (or heavily inspired by) ADOM that you're settled higher up in the family tree. You can give Casablanca a new DVD intro menu and special features, but that doesn't mean it's a modern movie.

  8. Depends on the innovations.
    Improved UI, especially for frequently accessed features like ammo and spell management makes sense, possibly as well as some kind of logging to external file(after all the message buffer might hold some tidbit you'd want to look up after a while). It might even be possible to put some of the infrequently used commands(like Wipe Face) into a menu to free up their keybinds.

    Tutorial, would be nice to have at least to increase game accessibility. It certainly shouldn't need to be built in though. Maybe a short tutorial minigame where you just play a stock tutorial character and learn basic functions like movement, combat, spellcasting, special ability use, as well as the function of the various stats.

    ASCII changes...I'm of the opinion that a relatively limited range of symbols actually improve visual comprehension. You might be packing less info into a given screen than the advanced symbols, but at the same time what do you really need to know at a glance?
    That something is a creature, object or terrain. That a creature is different from another creature. That certain creatures share a type, and thus attributes. Beyond that you'd just use the Look function to know more.
    These can be done within the classic ASCII alphabet, with color coding I think. The only angle I might see using more variation is to use special symbols for unique creatures(Orb Guardians, etc), to make them more distinct. for them might be nice, but for roguelikes tiles tend to hide information than to show it, at least to me. Letting users pick their own might be for the best.

    Balance wise, its a tough call. I rather like the present state, though plot related necessities might be well served by having those particular items either accessible in some manner(predefined special quest items[like a certain amulet] buried somewhere difficult to access, so you can either take the challenge or try your luck) or tweaking the RNG to increase their spawn rate when you approach the point where you need something(very very helpful for Thundarr).

    Level design, honestly I've never managed to find a roguelike with a level design more satisfying than ADOM's. Not that I'd turn down more dungeons!

  9. Absolutely every game these days has an achievement system of some sort, that much is true. But that's more of a side effect of them getting released on digital platforms that expect one, and not a selling point.

    The most impenetrable thing about ADOM aren't the graphics, it's the controls. The sheer amount of controls you have to learn just to start fooling around with the actual game is staggering. Watching videos of others playing and explaining along the way does a good job, I presume, of helping players advance past the early game - doing the right things in-game - but they don't really learn the actual controls this way.

    These are very old memories, but I know that when I downloaded ADOM the first time, my mind was blown. I had every bit of motivation to learn to play it you could imagine. The graphics were no problem, but learning the controls - accessing the list of keybindings everytime I wanted to do something as basic as shooting an arrow or talking - was the tedious bit. Once you get past that, ADOM is as perfect and engaging a game as you could imagine, as long as you don't expect to win anytime soon.

    Most modern games are almost desperate not to let a new player "off the hook". They introduce concepts one at a time, terrified that they be overwhelmed and divert their attention to some other game. ADOM is incredibly old-fashioned in that regard.

    On one hand, the game is very hard to learn, on the other hand, you can't really make the control scheme less complex, because ADOM itself IS very complex. You need all those commands at instant availability so you can play fluidly at a higher state of skill. ADOM fans understand this. ADOM fans also want other gamers to become ADOM fans - that's why so many of them recommend a tutorial. Anything to make the learning curve less overwhelming, so their laudations on the replayability, the smartness, the addictiveness, the immersiveness of ADOM isn't punctuated by their pained admission that the game has like 50 buttons and only an alphabetically sorted list to look them up from.

    A decent alternative to a software tutorial might be a well-designed ADOM help sheet - something for players to print out that lists the most relevant commands for certain areas of the game. "Movement", "Using items", "Combat" and so forth.

  10. My thoughts on the issue of ADOM vs modern roguelikes (point by point):

    * A tutorial?
    Yes, good tutorials are great.
    * An enhanced UI?
    This is the big one. Autoexploration, autotravel, search for items and locations and NPCs, automated journals, built-in spoilers (like the list of unidentified items, that was a very nice breakthrough in roguelike game design) - anything that a mindless automaton could do the game shouldn't force the player to do on his own.
    * Better ASCII images?
    For me, ADOM is still very nice looking. Places like ToEF or Water Dragon lair looks gorgeous and make the game a joy to look at. However, I also like Brogue's and DCSS looks and don't have a problem with too many colours/symbols.
    *Tile support?
    I am an ASCII die-hard, but there are many people who profess that the presence of tiles is something that influences their decision to play or not to play a given roguelike, so it must be important. The fact that most roguelike tile sets are not very pretty is unimportant - games in the 80s and 90s didn't have pretty graphics either and yet roguelikes didn't have a substantially bigger share of the market. Even nowadays people play Flash games with weak graphics a lot, so I guess there's a barrier between even crude drawings and abstract symbols that stops some people from fully enjoying a game.
    * More balanced game play? [...] But is it just a question of adding more ways to circumvent or disallow scumming or something else? The things you'd feel you need to scum for in ADOM should be "repairable" if that's the right word. But is that the issue?

    This are two different issues, really. Well, actually, more issues, because "game balance" is a loaded word with many applicable meanings, but they're of not much concern in ADOM. It is a little grating that Wizards are so much better than any other class (at least for me it's grating, I've been into speedrunning the game, even maintained a scoreboard on Polish ADOM forum, had to make two "weight categories", so to speak, that is: wizards and non-wizards), but it doesn't make ADOM a dinosaur. In a single-player game with such a vast scope and amount of possibilities it is not very important to achieve a balance of such things. After all, unlike playing tabletop D&D, your overpowered wizard doesn't come into my game and kill all of my fighter's enemies, leaving me nothing to do but weep at my class choice.

    On the other hand, possibilities of scumming (like herb farming, Infinite Dungeon, leading monsters to altars to make a live sacrifice of them, rerolling characters to get a preferable star sign or starting equipment) are a bigger issue, because they are boring, repeatable, not very dangerous, yet they significantly increase the chance of victory and therefore hard to resist even for players who know that engaging in such activities spoils some of the fun. Now that we've seen roguelike games that stamped out most if not all such possibilities (even big and relatively simulationist ones like DCSS), ADOM's gameplay is a bit behind the times in that regard. Though this is also a game design philosophy issue, after all some games make grinding for stuff their whole point (or the main way of getting ahead). I don't think it would be good for ADOM, though.

    * The level design?
    Level design in ADOM is fine, though it could do with less fixed designs. After 20 times places like the Pyramid are a bit boring when you know where are all the traps, hidden doors and stairs are.

    I think that's mostly it.

  11. I could write a whole blog post about this... let's see if I can keep it brief.

    Of all the traditional ASCII games ADOM is the prettiest in my books - good, clear colour choices and no mess of symbols. I can't see any tile version looking nicer. But where it really falls down is the interface - way too many keyboard commands, little thought given to the player experience. Just trying to look up a key is painful, as you get presented with 20 pages of obscure key commands that no one ever uses. No mouse control is bad, no context menus making learning the game a chore. I got into ADOM as a teenager when I was willing to put time into learning these things - as a busy adult I don't have that luxury any more.

    There are basic questions to ask like, why multiple drop and pickup modes? Why is there a wipe face command for one obscure effect? Make the effect temporary instead. Same for clean ears. Why are there separate class and race ability screens? You have to think about how hard it is to access these obscure commands in regular play. If you're going along exploring a dungeon and then suddenly have to stop and think "Uh, which letter do I press again?" then your immersion is completely ruined.

    Combat logs are another pet peeve of mine when it comes to roguelikes, and ADOM II is especially bad at this. Long boring sentences repeated over and over and you end up missing the important details because you just skip past it all. Have a character flash red when hit and that saves a whole sentence, and means you keep your eyes on the action instead of flicking up to the log every turn.

    But far more important is modern game design, with real thought into making a fun and engaging experience. Many old roguelikes rely on bump to attack and chug a potion now and then. This is simply boring, not giving the player any decisions at all. A good game should be about making interesting decisions. And more choices doesn't mean more decisions. There's no point having 20 weapon skills if they all do the same thing, or 20 swords if one is always better than the rest.

    Brogue is a good example of making weapons different - each weapon type has an area of effect to its attack, making the choice between wielding an axe or a spear truly important. It's not 1d8 vs 1d6+1 damage, it's *way* more interesting.

    ToME4 shows how fighter abilities can be about a lot more than just bump to attack. It has abilities to rush up to enemies, to pin them to the ground, knock them back, pull them towards you, stun them, paralyse them, give you free moves after certain hits, cause extra bleeding and crippling, area of effect attacks, and many more. Relying on just bump to attack or leaning on the left arrow in ToME4 gets you killed. You need to use a range of tactical abilities to survive. And the monsters have all these abilities too, making fights engaging and unpredictable.

    (continued in next comment...)

    1. (...continued from before)

      Modern roguelikes take a serious look at the original Rogue and games since to consider what works well for the genre and what doesn't. Why is there hunger in the game, and what use does it have? I'd argue hunger is just a new player killer in ADOM, and a huge pain in ADOM II. It adds no interesting decisions. Identification can be interesting early game in ADOM, but becomes irrelevant with enough scrolls later on. In many games identification is just terrible, making you more afraid of new items than excited by them.

      Many roguelikes have too much filler, too much junk, with the design approach being "more, more, more" of everything without thinking if the added content is actually good or not. Too much junk waters down the interesting gameplay. The approach of Crawl has been great in the willingness to cut instead of add. One of the reasons I can't get excited about ADOM II is that the design approach seems to be mostly "ADOM with more stuff". There's little thought to how things like the combat will be engaging - it's just the same as before. And I really don't care about the promised building castles or gathering armies - what's the point of any of that in a permadeath game? You could spend hours making a lovely castle and then die in your next dungeon. Think about what works in a roguelike and what doesn't.

      And on that front not needing spoilers is very important in my opinion. ADOM isn't as bad as Nethack on that, but it can still be unfairly nasty at points. Invisible cat lord for instance. Or the banshee. A spoiled player knows how to deal with these 100% of the time, so they stop becoming interesting. A new player will almost certainly die when they first come across them, and that's not very interesting either. A game should be engaging with the player possessing full knowledge of the situation. And preferably not have any insta-death situations - a player should have a chance to react and deal with any hairy mess they end up in.

      Another important thing for any roguelike is quick restarting. Upon dying one should have a "restart" option, and preferably also a "restart same character type" option to quickly get you right back into the game. Character creation should also be fast - the questioned attributes in ADOM and the skills selection in ADOM II are very boring to do the 10th time round, never mind the 1000th time. People will die a lot, so don't force them to repeat stuff.

      For me the biggest part of the "modern roguelike" is thinking about the user experience, from character creation to levelling, basic combat to exploration, display/feedback to controls. Every part needs to be thought of from the perspective of players new and old. Tutorials help to get the new players into the experienced category straight away, which can really help with making the main design focussed on the old, ensuring each playthrough is fresh and interesting. And of course this approach needs to be considered individually for each game - copying features from other games doesn't work, you have to use them as inspiration for original ideas.

      Hm, and that was me being brief. I could go on for hours about this subject :P My big point is being modern doesn't mean graphics, and it doesn't mean dumbing down gameplay. It means thinking and designing and being innovative. ADOM had plenty of that for its time (inventory system for instance is great, and the RPG nature of the game is fantastic) but I don't think we've seen so much from ADOM II yet.

    2. I agree with some of the things you say, but disagree with others. I do like "more, more, more". I love the sheer variety of items and monsters in ADOM.

      The prime example of keeping "junk" at bay would be Brogue. And Brogue is a good game in its own way, but it's not ADOM. You're always using the same items. I prefer being able to find hundreds of different items as in ADOM, even if some are redundant. It also adds immersion. Why have only a "sword" if you can have a longsword, a broadsword, a rapier, a sword of sharpness, a cursed adamantium scimitar of damnation, etc.?

      I actually enjoyed being killed by enemies like the Banshee the first time and learning the hard way, but yes, maybe it's too much for new players (but don't try to be diplomatic: changing that *would* be dumbing down the game - nowadays, most games are dumbed down compared to older games).

      I wouldn't take away hunger as it adds detail and immersion. Maybe it doesn't add that much tactically, but strategy and tactic isn't everything, some game elements don't contribute to that but they do contribute to creating a rich fantasy world. I want my trolls enjoying raw meat and being disappointed at the lack of hurthling in a hurthling cake. I want my dwarfs refusing to eat orc.

      Item identification is immensely fun in the early game, and yes, it adds danger, but this is ADOM, not "My Little Pony: The Adventure!" I have always seen item identification as one of the coolest features of roguelikes, even when I was a newbie and died all the time. In fact one of the things that I dislike most about ToME 4 (and one of the factors that make me get bored with it soon) is the lack of item ID (or rather, there is item ID but you have an unlimited, guaranteed source from the start of the game - I've never even understood this).

      I agree about there being too many hard-to-access commands, and that the game would benefit from more diverse melee actions (ADOM II is already walking in that direction with throw and disarm, but yes, more of that would be even better).

      I think having combat messages isn't bad per se, it makes the game feel like a story which is good. But I agree it's very important to be able to tell the really important messages from the irrelevant ones, for example by color coding.

    3. Lots of items is great if they're distinguishable. I think you can have variety and plentitude. It doesn't have to be a yea or nay thing. Make rapiers seriously different from longswords and broadswords and the whole game is more fun. Quick idea - rapiers ignore 25% PV, longswords cause bleeding on crits, broadswords have a chance to reduce enemy's movement speed. This is just simple stuff - one can get a lot more involved.

      Banshee would be more accessible if she wasn't always in a tiny death trap room. If you saw her coming from a distance and her screams killing monsters within a certain range then there's straight away an ability to respond. Or even just a chance to read her monster description. Don't make a player open a door and immediately die. Same with the cat lord - take away invis and a player can quickly see he's fast and dangerous, and there are hints elsewhere already warning about him.

      Also the banshee is boring for repeat players, she needs something more to make her level interesting. Same for the bunnies. These "puzzle" elements are almost pointless when you know the answer and are already prepared. This is the problem with spoiled content - frustrating for new players, boring for old players. Make everything fun for everyone instead of relying on trick effects.

      Quick fix for the banshee - make deafness only last 10 turns. Challenge is to kill her that quick, or use other tricks to stay out of range whilst killing her. Much more exciting for everyone! Alternative would be to make her scream paralysing, and have her cause a lot more damage + stat drains in melee.

      It's fine to keep hunger for immersion, but something could be done to make it more relevant to gameplay, or on the other hand to make it less of a chore late in the game (amulets of satiation for instance, so you never get hungry and can ignore the whole system at the cost of a slot). Same with id - it's good early game, but needs to be made more relevant later in the game or have an easy bypass. Both of these are already made irrelevant if you scum herbs and scrolls, but that's boring.

      Combat messages are droll and repetitive - if they feel like a story it's a very dull one! Their purpose is to transmit information to the player, and for the repetitive stuff I think there are more efficient ways of doing that. It's bloody awful in the late game when you have to slog through lots of [more] prompts, paying attention just in case something interesting is happening in the middle of the many hits and misses. Important things should still be logged, of course.

    4. I agree with your suggestions for making weapons more diverse, and improve the banshee, hunger and item ID'ing. JellySlayer's suggestion below for food is also interesting, and maybe something similar could be done for ID'ing (not with corruption, but I imagine more powerful items found in deeper dungeon levels being harder to ID - maybe blessed scrolls of ID would identify only one or two of those at a time, and when choosing a standard item they would give a "You now know all the minor items in your inventory" and exclude the powerful ones).

      All these things can definitely be improved, removing them is what I wouldn't like. Perhaps you think the same way, but I interpreted (maybe wrongly) from your post that you would not mind dropping things like hunger or ID entirely and that's what I disagree with.

    5. Thinking out loud a little about what Grey's saying about the Banshee here. I think it basically comes down to looking at the size of the solution space of the puzzle. For the Banshee, the solution space is very small--if you are deaf, you live, otherwise, you die. Compare to a few other puzzles: An early game river. Solution space is somewhat larger--there are multiple ways of crossing, associated problems with each method (drowning, equipment damage, ice bridge breaking, etc.). How you solve it depends a lot on the state of your character, what the river looks like on the level, etc. A guide can give advice, but it can't give a single simple answer. A puzzle with an even bigger solution space is the ToEF. Even players who have gone through the game many times still invest a lot of time and thought and preparation into how to solve the Tower, and no walkthrough or guide is going to be sufficient to prepare you for every contingency. Any time you do a challenge game or whatever, the first question is always: How am I going to do the Tower in this situation?

      The point I'd say here is that basically a Rogue-like game (well, any game, really) benefits from puzzles more of the "crossing the river" type or even the ToEF type (admittedly, you probably can't get away with more than a few per game) simply because Rogue-likes need a very high replay value. Players are going to invariably end up repeating large sections of the game many, many times, so having puzzles with a single, simple solution lose their novelty pretty quickly.

      So how do you move the puzzles from the simplest case to the more complicated case? You could remove the easy solution. What if the Banshee's only killed you if you were adjacent to her, but there was no deafness? Say she's fairly quick, maybe speed 130 or so. What if the Bunny Master level was the size of the Big Room with the staircase in a random location (or only appears once the Master is killed), teleportation disabled? What if D:49 was a cavernous level, with lots of monsters as well as slippery floors?

    6. Al-Khwarizmi: I'm mostly saying one shouldn't be afraid to think about ditching these effects. Don't just blindly copy what has been done before. And I'm especially thinking about ADOM II here, where hunger seems like a purely negative thing in a world exploration setting and it's hard to imagine identification staying relevant for most of the game.

    7. I completely agree with Darren. Early game, mid-game and end-game in ADoM are completely different and have completely different concerns and issues to tackle. (For instance, item identification and resource/weight management are prevalent in early game while completely absent in the second half of the game.) As many of these concerns are introduced with careful timing (such as background corruption and clvl-dependent quests), there would be no shame in dropping them gracefully and similarly well-timed.

    8. A simple solution would be to make hunger not applicable in the overworld. (put in a line about the character hunting/foraging being part of the travel time).

  12. "it's very hard to do a pretty tile set" - They don't necessarily need to be pretty, just *distinguishable*. You shouldn't mistakenly get into a mindset that it simply MUST be some mythical triple-A quality of graphics.
    ADOM is not a competitor to Skyrim, or even Legend of Grimrock or Torchlight. It's a competitor to Crawl, Nethack or OpenTTD, for example. OpenTTD's graphics aren't extremely "pretty" either, but it's still a great game.

  13. Generally... I agree with Grey about the issue of the key commands. Simplify, simplify, simplify. In an ideal world, you would want to be able to do everything you need with a single keystroke, and or at very least without needing to access multiple menus. Mindcraft for example, is really bad about this: To use mindcraft, by default, you have to press Ctrl-X, m, #, #--class power, mindcraft, ability, direction, and there's no way to hotkey mindcraft abilities. It makes mindcrafters quite a pain to play, which is a shame because they're an interesting class with a unique set of abilities. Using pets has a lot of similar problems. A lot of thought would need to go into how to make this work properly. I'm not a game designer, so maybe there's a better way, but my instinct is to make a generalized hotkey system like what you've got for skills and spells. Make it so you can flag the numbers 1-0 with whatever you want--skills, spells, tremendous blows, drink potion of extra healing, use alchemy with two pepper petals, whatever. Have it that these can either be assigned by default in the config file, or changed on the fly as needed. I'd also add in a "repeat last action" button for one stop shopping for situation where you're doing the same thing over and over.

    On the subject of combat logs, I lean towards single button play. Normally, I don't mind the combat log. But when you're surrounded by 8 monsters and there's a spider factory on the level, you have to go through three sets of messages every turn. Play in such situations becomes very clunky. Suppressing message spam to one line per turn would be good if at all possible.

    I actually like the food and identification mechanics in ADOM. Particularly, I think that identification + cursing is one of the areas that allows for great creativity. Both of these mechanics give the player something to think about, and increase the challenge in interesting ways. If anything, I think it's regrettable that these become solved problems so early--that once you get to the Arena or get herbs, food is no longer an issue at all; once you get some scrolls of ID under your belt, then that is no longer a problem. For food, what if the situation was reversed? Make it that as you get to deeper, more corrupted areas, your food begins to decay much more rapidly (and all of it can rot away), or starts itself becoming corrupted and taking on dangerous effects. Scarcity is what makes things valuable, and corruption is such a great mechanic, infusing into more of the game is a bonus IMHO.

  14. ADOM is modern because it competes with (and beats) all other modern roguelikes. ADOM II, ehhhhhh, not so much. (ADOM II might have been "modern" half a decade ago when Java was "hip", now it comes across as really ill-conceived, combining the worst of many worlds.)

    It's worth comparing some other questions: What is modern Chess? What is modern Go? What is modern Hearts? What is modern Conway's Game of Life?

    1. Can you elaborate on the weaknesses of ADOM II? I mean... Java e.g. shouldn't have any discernible effect on the player (and yes, the WebStart ruin will be gone with the next version).

      What do you mean by "the worst of many worlds"?

    2. Worst of many worlds:
      *The slowness and reduced technological kick which one would expect from a Flash game, and the installation hassles and un-portability one would expect from a native build.
      *The gradual development associated with an indie developer (which is fine with me), combined with having to install bloated software from a giant evil corporation (Oracle) (not so fine with me).
      *Furthermore, the popup Window functionality seems out of place, it was done better in the roguelike "Castle of the Winds" from 19-freaking-89. If you're not going to surpass CotW, better to just not do windows at all, and stick to the pure keyboard UI of ADOM 1.

      Sorry the comment comes across so harshly, I absolutely love your games :)

  15. BTW, thanks for the many enlightening comments so far. ADOM (and ADOM II) always have been children of their time and their respective communities. The one thing that really comes from me is the preference for deep roleplaying aspects over chess like strategy games and that's the one single feature (besides the world background) that's not going to change.

    Getting more feedback on playability, accessibility and other things is very important for me and I am extremely grateful for all detailed feedback (not just: look at game XYZ - as in the latter case my personal tastes will determine if I regard something as good or bad). Tickets in the bug database are even better as they force me to tackle the issues in detail ;-)

    There already were several enlightening comments. I agree on making a game as playable as possible although I have some doubts that a game of ADOMs death can get by with trivial keyboard commands. Maybe if you move a lot of these things to mouse control - but as I always preferred to play my RPGs with the keyboard and I regard the mouse as a rather slow and clunky device I'm more interested in the former than the latter. Nonetheless all comments help and get me thinking - so keep it coming.

    Just please be as precise as possible about what you like in other games or dislike about ADOM II. Specifically about ADOM II as ADOM will not be able to catch up with all the modern "innovations", only some of them.

  16. Oh, and regarding interface design and accessibility, here's a blog post I made a few weeks ago about how to design with a non-traditional audience in mind:

    It's all pick and choose stuff, but worth thinking over.

    1. Very interesting ideas. You actually get a very different kind of game in many respects, but interesting nonetheless. I'll continue pondering that stuff for ADOM II. There' still ample time to experiment with such innovations... I currently also like the idea of a beginner game mode that might be different from an advanced game mode (e.g. in beginner mode levels might be smaller, there only might be four-direction-movement, hunger could be turned off, etc.).

  17. Modern roguelikes aren't about extending the game world, but to put through simple concept of rogue with new genres (and thus renew traditional rules). Modern roguelikes are Dungeon of Dredmor, Spelunky, Tower Climb or Red Rogue. In this extend ADOM II is outdated (or "quaint" - it still could be a great traditional roguelike). There was a time, where an idea of a huge "infinite" world was exciting, but nowadays is obvious that is much more important to work out "simple" things in detail. There could be very complex ingame mechanics but UI must be really easy to learn. Modern means close to casual gaming.

    1. Aye, in many aspects ADOM II (as I imagine it will be) reminds me of Daggerfall with it's enormous procedurally (assembled from set blocks, but still) generated 3D dungeons that could take 5 or 6 hours to explore, absolutely HUGE gameworld (roughly the size of Britain), hundreds of quests, towns factions, castles, custom made spells, guildhalls (a thieves guild, assassins, knights, etc.), religions, temples, alignments, etc. You could spend hundreds of hours doing quests and interacting with world politics, or running around at night burgularising houses and crypts, or assassinating people, or playing as a dungeon crawl and exploring what (IMO) were some of the most fascinatingly strange dungeons ever made. You could even (God forbid) follow the main plot!

      Daggerfall was the pinnacle of infinite, expansive gamewords, and don't get me wrong, it's also one of the greatest games ever made and one of my favorites. But it came out in 1996. Since then, even in the TES games, there's be a push towards focus and maximizing the amount of enjoyment one gets from each hour of gameplay. Daggerfall would completely flop if it was released today - people would get lost in the enormity of it after the first dungeon. They don't have the patience to spend the 6 months it takes to really enjoy what a brilliant game it is like I did when I was 15.

      So yeah, ADOM II definitely seems oldschool with it's huge gameworld and epic scope. Daggerfall oldschool. Ultima IV oldschool. Albion and Starflight oldschool. But you can't change that without changing what the game is.

    2. Ok, but then I love being old school and that's my niche :-)

  18. ADOM is ADOM. I think I speak for most of us when I say just keep doing what you're doing. We like it.

    Quite frankly, if ADOM doesn't fit the roguelike bill then I guess I don't like roguelikes as much as I thought I did.

  19. The primary thing that comes to mind when considering the idea of a modern roguelike is the user interface. ADOM has a text-based user interface where everyhing has to fit inside a 80×25 screen. This is fine if one aims for compatibility with DOS and terminals.

    However, modern games run on modern computers which are not limited to a terminal interface, therefore if ADOM wants to be modern, it too needs to break out of the terminal and adopt GUI and mouse support, not necessarily at the expense of terminal compatibility, but possibly as an addition.

    Specifically, I imagine the following:

    1. The game screen should be dedicated to displaying the player environment, and information (messages and stats) should be moved to a separate place. Since you have much more space available on a modern computer display, there is no need to have a 2-line message display which invariably leads to tedium in many battles due to constantly pressing (more).
    1.1. Important messages (X hit/paralyzed you etc.) can be brought into the player's attention by the use of graphical effects (color/flash them or another relevant part of the UI or even flash the entire screen).
    1.2. Stats can also use graphics, such as e.g. bars for hit/spell points, and you can display all of them, including encumbrance, debts etc. The various in-game information screens should become unnecessary.
    1.3. Actual GUI menus should be used instead of using the main game screen to display them textually. This should replace any game screen that displays lists of entries. Not to mention that all game commands should be accessible by menu.

    2. The mouse should be able to be used to manipulate the environment. Specifically:
    2.1. Auto-walking by clicking on a tile.
    2.2. Performing sensible actions by (right/left) clicking on tiles, such as picking things up, using levers etc.
    2.3. Using the cursor instead of the look command, which would become unnecessary. Perhaps by just positioning the cursor over a tile, perhaps by clicking on it. Also, monster memory for visible NPCs/monsters should be accessible this way.

    3. Any possible action (skills, abilities, spells etc.) should be quick-slottable on a set of predetermined keys, and there should also be a "repeat last action" command.

    4. There should be GUI buttons for quickslots and movement keys, among other things. This would make it easier to play on laptops and possibly even tablets.

    5. Last, but not least, the issue of permadeath. I know this is controversial, but hear me out. I realize that permadeath is at the heart of the concept of a roguelike, but it is also a style of playing not everyone enjoys. Specifically, what's not enjoyable about it is that one must spend numerous hours in grinding the early(ish) parts of the game until one learns all the intricacies of the game and is able to win. Yes - grinding - repeating the same stuff over and over again. Not even the random levels are much of a relief. Rather, I am personally the sort of player who likes to work towards a goal and have visible results for my effort. When a character of mine dies, I find that all the effort I put into it is wasted. After all, ADOM is an RPG, not an arcade shooter where the PC is just a sprite that shoots and is always the same.

    I'm not saying there shouldn't be permadeath; there are obviously people who enjoy playing that way and so they should continue. But there are other kinds of people too - those who consider the repetition boring, those who don't like to lose the results of their effort, and those who have limited time in their lives for entertainment and can't afford to put in the hundreds of hours to master the game just to win, but would nonetheless like to play through ADOM and take in all that it has to offer. And ADOM does offer entertainment, I just wish it were more accessible.