Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New video review of ADOM by James Allen

James Allen kindly did a video review of ADOM on his Youtube channel. I'm very happy about him as a non-power-roguelike-gamer taking the time getting into ADOM. I really love various aspects about his video as I learned quite a bit about the problems a game like ADOM poses to new people we might try to attract.

Several of these problems are well-known but others only now really left an impression upon me. So, thanks James, for a having a deeper look at ADOM!
Things I have picked up:
  • It might be good to allow accessing the inventory when you choose talents. (It also might be good to randomly choose talents but that's another story - at least it looks like one of the more tedious parts besides raising skills).
  • The starter dungeon keeps being the same for much too long. James rightfully complains about that being boring and I have to agree. Actually what James didn't know is that after 30 games the starter dungeon becomes randomized. But I have to admit that 30 is a stupidly large number, so I am going to change this to a much smaller number - like 3
  • It would be nice of ADOM to indicate that you currently wielding a two-handed weapon. For some weapons it is obvious but with e.g. a great axe it's not so obvious. So tell the player without forcing him to fiddle around with the game!
  • He also was annoyed by the more prompt. I already take this seriously from the many responses by other Steam people - so there will be a good solution with the very first Steam release. So please give me your thoughts on this issue!
  • He also got bored by tedious jackal battles and jackal summoners. We know this problem and I will introduce a completely new fix for that - hopefully already with the next release.
  • James didn't like the static over world. Well, there is one solution (play ADOM II, although it also has the play area of ADOM as a static area as a nod to the games history - but the rest of the world is completely randomized). The world in ADOM is fixed because ADOM has a strong RPG focus and provides a background story that is tied to various (then often randomized) locations. Randomizing the map for the same story just would make the whole overarching quest more tedious as you basically you would have to find certain fixed locations in constantly changing places. ADOM II improves upon that by delivering a much larger picture. Sadly it's still very much in alpha development and kind of unfinished right now.
  • We need a lot more animations during combat (bubbles with damage and stuff). Internally we already are discussing this and it's high on our to do list. Hopefully we can work out something soon. 
All in all James liked ADOM despite "the somewhat arcane presentation". That comment really made me smile as our most prominent battle since the resurrection probably might have been trying to be more modern but there is still such a long way to go. I'm looking forward to more reviews from new players as these are so incredibly insightful.

So once again, James: Thanks for the review and insights provided. And welcome to the ADOM credits in the manual as I immediately implemented some of your suggestions! How's that for customer feedback :-) ?

P.S.: I now do really wish for more newbie testers of ADOM. Especially ones I can watch while trying to learn the game. That's so incredibly helpful and I'm now somewhat afraid about the very first Steam release as we probably are going to frustrate people unnecessarily ;-) (and I'm only now frustrated because I learned so many new things from that one video which I never noticed before or which I didn't take seriously enough - it's somewhat shameful :-) ). More power to the community and the fresh blood! ;-)


  1. IMO the tutorial cave should be exclusive to the tutorial mode. It's just an unnecessary extra step in a normal game.

    1. IMHO it's a "quick to fun" for new players who don't know everything. They right away can start killing things. And now that the new cave becomes random after but 3 plays it probably makes a lot more sense.

    2. Your comment BTW is one of good examples showing the different needs of "new players" and "expert players" - at least as far as I a concerned. I can understand both sides but bypassing the cave if you don't want it is much more trivial than finding something to explore (see how James wandered around and was looking for some dungeon romping fun ntil he got bored to death by jackals). IMHO ADOM might need some more random caves, not less.

    3. That just inspired me for a new idea for p24 (or whatever the next version will be called ;-) ): I can see distributing like 6 randomized dungeon in areas on the map in order to provide more places with dungeon romping fun. Each such dungeon would have between 3 and 6 levels. The first time you enter the dungeon it's danger level is scaled to your level (e.g. if you enter a 3-level-dungeon while level 6 yourself, the first level will be danger level 6, the second danger level 7 and the third danger level 8; if you enter it at level 34, then first level 34, second 35 and third 36). This will allow for nice side treks and also mitt provide additional experience if you do not want to grind or do too much ID. Additionally the one-map-mine quests not yet implemented from the crowd funding campaign could be randomly distributed among them. Hmmm... I guess I like that :-)

    4. I like the idea a lot, but not the level scaling. Level scaling always tends to mean no real challenge, and that optimal play is unnatural (e.g. in that case, enter the dungeon in the early game to generate it, then go back later).

  2. I think Laukku hit on a good point even thought the cave can be bypassed(though my "OCD" will not allow that :P). I was also wondering if you have ever played with the idea of the "More" thing being bypassed with the arrow keys or Num pad? Although I just learned today that you can Ctrl+K to achieve the same thing.

    I just played through the Tutorial for the first time and found it to be pretty comprehensive. Perhaps there should be something in it when it comes to the part about picking up items that addresses selective and bulk pickup, which I find to be particularly useful.

    All in all loving the new 2d tiles and music. Still nostalgic for the original all ascii game though and glad that you can switch between modes.

    Great job.

    1. I'll consider doing something for the extra pickup commands, thanks for the pointer!

      BTW, here's some discussion of what could be done with -more-:

  3. I've failed several times trying to get into the game. My biggest complaints are: No visual or audio feedback for bumping attacks. Lack of skill visual effects in general. Funny disproportion between characters and the environment. Poor interface and interaction designs. I have extensively played Tome4 & Cataclysm DDA so it's not that I have problems with rogue-likes, ascii, tiled graphics, or traditional rogue-like style controls in general. And I believe ADOM's subpar performance in these areas is a major barrier for new players to get on board. Hopefully there're plans for improvements cause I believe ADOM that is a great game and I really want to really enjoy it one day but at the moment I just can't.

    1. The biggest problem is: We do not get enough feedback about specific improvements. We have some plans for more visual feedback (actually bumping movements, small floating balloons for damage & kills) but most feedback we receive is from expert players that fine-tune the game into very niche directions.

      IMHO we need a lot more feedback from new players and that is why I was so excited watching a new player. It's a lot more refreshing. My problem is that after all those years I'm somewhat blind (to put it carefully) to what new players require. So please send me as many ideas as possible to creator(at) or post them to our issue tracker and I guarantee that we will look into them.

    2. Honestly have you tried Tome 4 at all? I am a newb to roguelikes but that one has really sucked me in with little difficulty, whereas I have bounced off of ADOM several times now (although I intend to keep trying! and maybe I'll make some sort of "noob trying to play ADOM video" like this if it would help you out).

      The biggest problem for me is probably the sheer number of commands, no way to access them outside of memorization (seems like you are fixing this by adding a context menu, though, yay!) and the sheer number of different screens where stuff is spread out.

      Here's some examples:
      Separate "equipped stuff" screen. Separate "all items in inventory" screen. Separate talents screen. Separate abilities screen. Separate pick up vs. bulk pick up vs. drop screens.

      All these are confusing as a new player and remembering which key combo takes a while and takes up space in my brain I'd rather use for planning and tactics. I think Tome 4 does a much better job here because it has less screens and more info on each one, like most modern-ish RPGs. I can see what I have equipped and all my items (organized by tabs) next to each other and compare them with tooltips. I can see all my character stats on one screen (again, with tabs if I care about a different set). I can see everything relevant to a level up on one screen, all with nice big tooltips. In ADOM if I don't know what a skill/ability does (and I don't) I have to go into a separate Help screen which I then have to scroll down to the skill in question (or open a wiki in an external browser which frankly might be easier). It's the same with items. I often forget what the [X, Y] on an item means vs. (A, B) vs {something} and the only way to understand it is to open a Help screen with linear text I have scroll.

      Hope this helps a little bit. Sorry for writing so much.

    3. @Answermancer: Very true, but Tome4 is built on its own engine which is completely redesigned and rewritten from round up over the recent years and optimized for modern UI / interaction paradigms. On the other hand, in my understanding, ADOM is mostly based on a codebase that is over a decade old and the GUI is just a shell (not-eye) on top of it, so how far these UI optimizations can go might be still questionable. Of course I hope for the best, but still.

    4. Oh I totally understand that, but things like the context menus and mockups Thomas posted of new UI make me think that some of it should be possible.

      In fact I emailed him this comment as well and he told me he'd be implementing a unified character screen with tabs (which he just posted a video of on the blog woo!), so I think there's plenty of stuff that can be done even within the limitations that should make the experience much nicers for newbies :)

  4. When James enters the Terinyo shop he mentions that there's only food here which is kinda boring.

    This reminded me of something that really bothered me back in my early ADOM days: lack of a basic equipment store in Terinyo.

    Maybe part of Munxip's store could have also basic weapons or equipment? I'm talking about something really basic. Mundane small shields, daggers, shortswords, maybe a cloak, belt, boots, sandals, know low power very basic stuff.
    Maybe smallest potions of healing, or some basic scrolls?

    RPGs and stores go together very well after all :) And there's such a huge variety of items in ADOM, displaying some up front would be very cool!

    To those concerned about balance: I don't mind if this is very low tech stuff that can be grabbed on ID:1. With maybe one or two items that can be desirable in early game (like...a medium shield? wow!), but with a suitable price tag of a couple hundred gp.

    This could give players an extra goal in early game (gotta grab that sword from the store) and somehow makes the game feel more welcoming. Lack of an item store somehow put me off way back then :)

    Also without the insane prices from Lawl. ADOM store pricing in general is completely another matter ;)

  5. Some thoughts:
    - Add a third line for the message bar. Will help with the majority of cases. Also if a line gets repeated (the tarantula misses) then put a (x2) or similar next to it instead of actually repeating it.
    - When wielding a two-handed weapon grey out the second weapon slot name. Same for rings when gloves are on, body armour with girdle on, etc.
    - Get rid of a lot of the boring talents like weapon specialisation. Make more talents have level requirements (not too high - level 6, 9, etc) so that you're not flooded with too many options at the start.
    - Get rid of jackalweres from the world map. They're okay in dungeons when you can try and kill the were quickly, but on the open wilderness maps they're just tedious.
    - For combat animations check out Dungeonmans! Really cool roguelike that got Greenlit recently.

    One thing I'd recommend some time is showing ADOM to someone who hasn't played it before in person. Lots of informal indie meets allow this. Watch someone try to play it without telling them a thing - see where they grapple with controls etc.

    1. Good tip with Dungeonmans :) We've actually been keeping an eye (har har) on them, as well as quite a few other roguelikes and roguelites. As Thomas already said on the Steam group - making the game look more lively is high on the priorities list.

      Fingers crossed for a general review of talents sometime in the future.

    2. Would it be possible to graphically manipulate the rows? For example, if you have two-handed weapon, could the two rows for left and right hand contents (not the selection letters, though) be replaced by a single row of text between them?

    3. I think the main problem with weapon affinity talents is that they start with A (instead of W, for example) which makes the first page filled with them. I think level requirements would be a great idea!