Other Game Modes (Propose your ideas!)

Discussion in 'Auro: A Monster-Bumping Adventure' started by keithburgun, Apr 29, 2012.

  1. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Our score is specifically not like this huge spammy 146,477,174 kind of videogame score that no one can understand. Yeah, scores will probably range from 50 to 300ish (although I wouldnt be surprised if some players weirdly got 600).

    If we get a lot of ties, we can change the multiplayer scoring to add 1 point per turn or something like that. Or we can just say that ties are a win.

    Seems like to do that well would be pretty intense? How do players communicate?
  2. Disquisitor Sam

    Disquisitor Sam Well-Known Member

    So I recently showed support for Spelunky's daily challenge mode and expressed interest in seeing it added to Auro. I've been thinking about that for a bit now and came to a surprising conclusion:

    I think daily mode as implemented in Spelunky is actually kind of a bad idea.

    And the more I try to fix it, the more broken it appears.

    How did I do this 180 in my opinion? It has mostly to do with Spelunky's design, but it also seems potentially applicable to all single player games in concept. Spelunky (maybe all single-player games?) is largely about risk management. This is embodied in several forms throughout the design, but largely ties to resources. There's a crate behind a wall; if I bomb to get it, it might payoff with more bombs which is always good. It might give ropes, which is maybe good depending on how many ropes you have. It might be a great item, or it might be an item you already have meaning it was a waste. I'm tossing around the idea that lack of knowledge of what's in the box might be functionally closer to output randomness than input randomness, but let's assume it's input for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the risk management game. You have a risky choice, but the payoff is predetermined. You just have to decide whether to buy in or not.

    This manifests itself in other ways, too. You can bomb a wall or rope a cliff to get guaranteed gold. You even get to know exactly how much. Since bombs and ropes can be bought, you can use that knowledge to quantify how much money you came out ahead. But that assessment assumes that you're going to find a shop that carries bombs or ropes on a later board, AND that you won't be in a situation that required that bomb or rope before you find that next shop. It could be that you use your last rope to get 2500 points only to find a situation on the next board that a rope would've gotten you 3000, maybe more. Maybe you even fall into a pit that requires a rope to escape, and your run is just over now. You didn't really have a way of knowing, so you have to draw on your overall experience to know what risks tend to pay off when.

    A really major long-term risk you have to decide on is the secret levels. In each "world" (1 through 4), there's an item that requires some extra effort to get, and they must (mostly) be acquired in sequence. If you miss an item along the way, your attempt at the secret world 5 fails, and each step is progressively riskier. Getting the Eye in world 1 might require some extra ropes and bombs. Getting the Ankh in world 2 requires a $50,000 buy-in (deducted from your score). Or you could steal it which requires killing 12 shopkeepers, arguably the hardest, and certainly the most volatile enemy in the game. Getting the Hedjet in world 3 requires you to sacrifice the extra life that the Ankh granted you, which takes away a powerful safety net. Getting the Scepter in world 4 requires you to fight Anubis, a powerful enemy with homing one-hit-kill projectiles. Subsequently getting the Book of the Dead in the City of Gold requires you to fight Anubis II who will follow you to all subsequent levels until killed. Even the entrance to the secret world 5 requires a lot of extra effort and mucking about on the "last" boss and a fairly risky execution challenge. Doing all this gives you not only access to the City of Gold (as earlier described) but also the secret world 5, which gives you four more levels worth of treasure to try for and another boss with a guaranteed butt load of treasure in his room. It's the riskiest thing in the game, but is extremely well rewarded.

    So far it seems like maybe we're doing pretty good as far as a game goes. You make the best decisions you can with limited information. And when your run is over, you get a place on the leaderboard that gives you feedback for your decisions. Maybe you got to 3-1 with $200,000, and you got within the top 1000 players. Then you look at the top slots: ALL of them are on level 5-4. ALL of them are over a million, sometimes ranging up to two million. Every single one of them shot the works, went for broke, and got the big payoff. Then it hits you:

    If you want to win at Spelunky, you HAVE to do the same.

    You have to take every risk you see. You have to play dangerously at all times. You have to bet the farm on every hand. If you decline a risk that would've paid off, you lost automatically because someone else did take the risk with the exact same information as you (i.e. not much), and it paid off for them. You have to be as greedy as you can be and just hope it all works out, because inevitably the top ranks on the leaderboard are full of completely greedy people to whom playing it safe doesn't even occur. And really it shouldn't. If THEY play it safe, someone else who didn't WILL beat them given a large enough population of players.

    And thus the decision contest breaks down. We've optimized the strategy into an execution puzzle of all risky play. You HAVE to try for the secret levels, even though the Ankh is so safe to keep and Anubis is so dangerous, because without 5-1 through 5-4, you just can't compete. You HAVE to rob and kill every shop keeper you see regardless of how dangerous the setup because you NEED all the bombs they carry to blow up as much of City of Gold as you can (all tiles spawn more money) AND still have enough bombs to collect the column of gems in King Yama's chamber after 5-4. And forget about buying bombs instead because not only does buying deduct from score, but the shop keepers themselves drop yet more gold when killed - it's a deficit you just can't afford.

    And if you HAVE to do all these things, that means everyone IS doing them. And that means there's not much reason to believe that the top slots on the leaderboard are any better at the decision-making game than anyone else is. In fact there is no decision-making game at all anymore; it's been boiled down to very nearly blind luck with a dash of execution.

    So is this intractable? Can we fix it? I've given some thought to how to rank players that doesn't break the decisions so badly. Each single day's leaderboards are obviously the most subjected to the phenomenon I've outlined about. Spelunky also has a top ten average leaderboard, which takes your top ten personal best daily challenge scores and averages them, but this isn't much better since over time your "all risk, all the time" plays will eventually produce a set of ten scores that are hard to touch, not because YOU'RE so good, but because the game's boards aren't always conducive to that play, but sometimes are.

    I've thought about applying a solution similar to SCA archery where your score is the running average of the last five or ten ranked attempts regardless of how good they were. This seems a lot better than either of the two previous - the focus is more on your average run, which means that an "okay" run can still contribute towards raising your score instead of just being "Well, I guess I lost today, too." That said, it still carries some problems. If you're the type to preview the daily challenge on Twitch or something (and if you're ranked in this way, you SHOULD), there's incentive for you to just not play especially difficult or unfriendly configurations in fear of bringing your average down. So maybe we only rank you on your last ten CONSECUTIVE daily challenges where no days were skipped. But that kind of sucks because you're pretty much married to the game and you forfeit your score if you have a busy day and can't play or you just didn't feel like it today.

    It's been hard for me to solve this problem, so I thought I'd pose it here seeing as it seems like such an exciting feature otherwise. Also I know Auro is a different game than Spelunky, but I thought I'd do this write up just to provide insight into potential hang ups and problems should daily challenges be added to Auro.
    vivafringe, Kdansky, alastair and 2 others like this.
  3. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    Great analysis there! I think this is exactly the problem when you combine this kind of "risk management" gameplay with some form of highscore-based determination of win or loss. You know, "risk" doesn't mean something bad inherently, is just means there's variance. Usually "risk management" is used to talk about minimization of risk, meaning minimization of the variance (i.e. you lose the ability to gain a lot OR lose a lot, both sides are gone) or only allowing very specific risk to arise. Now, if you e.g. believe some financial asset will rise in value, then what you could do is actually maximize risk, thereby maximizing the positive outcome (should your predictions come true). That's then speculation.

    In Spelunky, if you're going for the highest score EVER, it's obviously the best strategy to maximize every possible risk there is. Which is in the end actually far less interesting than actually having to manage it (take it in certain cases, minimize it in others).

    I don't know, it just seems to me this whole "high score thing" is not really that useful. It has some other unwanted effects, too (games taking way too long etc.). It's probably always reasonable to give the player a more specific goal. Like the 100 points in Empire (plus the upcoming meta game). In multiplayer situations this is pretty easy to do (just "get the most points IN THIS MATCH"). In single-player games it seems we have yet to figure it out really, but the "ELO-like" meta game with a specific goal to reach each playthrough could be a pretty good bet.
  4. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Yeah, also, Sam, you have to play AURO. It's really unlike roguelikes and spelunky, in that it's not just "there is hidden information / random shit that's coming at me and I make moves hoping for X outcome", unlike spelunky/roguelikes. Those games are like, you immediately solve them, but then are just hoping for good stuff (and that you don't like get lazy/bored and make some dumb mistake). In AURO, there's actually enough of a system where there are frequently tough choices, choices which aren't dependent on "what's around the corner" (although that does exist, too). So anyway I agree with you, and I agree with Nacht's point about "HIGHEST SCOAR EVARRR!" as being just a dumb thing overall.
    alastair likes this.
  5. link6616

    link6616 Well-Known Member

    Or someone has an iphone and an ipad...
  6. Kdansky

    Kdansky Well-Known Member

    Really loved that tear-down by DisquisitorSam. You didn't even mention that one of the must-strategies are Ghosting, which is super boring and very high in reward: If you don't finish the first few levels with around 50k each, you might as well restart the run.

    But I do like the "daily Auro run" as an idea, even if I'm unsure how to properly do it after seeing all the issues with Spelunky.
  7. Kdansky

    Kdansky Well-Known Member

    Since we talked about Spelunky here, let me link this video. The current (new) world record of 3.1 million gold. The run takes seven and a half hours. So yeah, if you make a big mistake in design, your game will break completely. The guy playing does a hell of a job, but it's fucking boring nearly all the time, needs a ton of luck (restart spamming until you get the right items very early).

    Notable things:
    • Plasma cannon allows him to clear entire levels of all blocks, then ghost all gems.
    • He gets to 70 HP because you can farm one kind of enemy.
    • Obviously goes through hell, but also through the space ship (for an extra plasma cannon)

    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
    keithburgun and Nachtfischer like this.
  8. Disquisitor Sam

    Disquisitor Sam Well-Known Member

    Had typed up a response to the Spelunky problem, but I feel like (probably due mostly to me) Spelunky has derailed this thread enough. So I moved my response here. Carry on with Auro, everyone.
  9. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    So I don't forget, Dasick recenetly put a game mode idea, perhaps we could call it CHASE MODE.

    In this mode you're chasing something - maybe Argo, or a yeti or some new character. If that character leaves your screen, you lose. I guess it would take place on a never ending track - perhaps just a donut shape. The objective is to kill this guy, but that's only possible when there are no monsters on screen.
  10. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Candyman: Similar to the basic game, but there are no permanent skills, only candies. The Candyman airdrops them in at a rate of 1-2 every X or so turns, and they take Y number of turns to land and be usable (we see a growing shadow as they are falling, so that it is clear where they will drop; to ensure that Auro can plan ahead, arrows + turn count at the edge of the screen shows where an off-screen candy will drop, if it's within 3-4 hexes of the currently visible zone). Scoring follows similar principals to the basic game.
  11. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Poison Candy Mode:

    Auro starts with 9 Health as usual, but crap - some villain poisoned all the candy! Candy now deals 1 damage as well as doing its normal spell effect. There are a good amount of them everywhere, though. Worse yet, this damned staff is acting up and not giving you any spells!

    Objective: Make it to the end of the level. It's a level that's about 3 times as long as a normal level. Make it to the end, and you win. Fail to make it to the end, and you lose.

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