Totems/Influence system

Discussion in 'Alakaram' started by keithburgun, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    So far the biggest gameplay rule change that I am shooting for going from Auro to Alakaram is the totems/influence system, which will add long arcs to the game. For those who aren't aware, here are the new rules (numbered for discussion purposes):
    • 1. There are 6 totems (spread uniformly in a circle) on a level.
    • 2. Combo meter points are now 0,1,2,3,4 (no 5).
    • 3. When you kill a monster, it creates an influence zone with a radius the size of your current combo. This just means that the tiles get some color effect.
    • 4. The new game objective is: Capture all 6 totems before running out of health (capture via influencing them).
    • 5. Monster difficulty scales throughout the match.
    • 6. Each influence zone decays and disappears after 30 turns. Joining two or more influence zones sets their timer to the average of all involved influence zones' decay timer (maybe plus some).
    • 7. 4-radius "circles" are PERMANENT.
    • 8. The game now also has a minimap that will show the influence zones on the map in green, yellow or red depending on how long they have to decay (or maybe white if they're permanent).

    So far I'm pretty happy about this. What I am now thinking about, and you guys can help me with (although feel free to challenge the above as well, or give any thoughts you have on it), is what else gameplay wise do the influence zones mean?

    I'm thinking something like:

    Imagine if like, half of the monsters were "heavy" or similar - they need some special map resource (like a floe, vortex) to kill. Also imagine that these map resources are permanent on the map. So what you start having are some areas that are like "high kill utility areas".

    My instinct is to say that maybe influence should remove all this stuff. Here's a proposal:

    A1. Ability cooldowns are all increased by roughly 3x
    A2. Power tiles' value is increased by 3x.
    A3. Influence tiles give 1 point of cooldown (and do not deplete, until the influence goes away)
    A4. When a tile gets influence, it removes any vortex, floe, or power tiles on it.

    This way, we could maybe have a situation where you kind of have to balance influence areas with kill-utility areas.

    What do you guys think about all this? Thanks for reading.
    Patrick Lemon and richy like this.
  2. BrickRoadDX

    BrickRoadDX Well-Known Member

    My first thought is that if an influence zone ever decayed for you it would feel terrible, because you're going to have a dog chasing its tail situation where you are already behind the curve and can't catch up (because the totem you influenced second would also decay relatively shortly thereafter).

    The idea overall sounds pretty cool though, although it's difficult for me to visualize all the ramifications without playing on paper or something.

    For clarification, what is the design goal of the totems? To keep the player moving/using the whole map? To enforce a timer? Something to do with influence zones/kill zones?
  3. blakereynolds

    blakereynolds Administrator Staff Member

    I like the idea as well, but to piggyback on what Brick said, not only will the tail-chasing feeling be oppressive, but the "combining influence will average out their decays," that seems noisy and mathy. If there is a decay, when they combine, the decay should either reset completely for the whole new group, or yeah get rid of decaying.

    Second, the new end goal gives me pause a bit because, if the game is about bumping and controlling space, "bumping everything away from you" seems more like an ultiamte expression of the core mechanism than "control all the territory" does. This new goal state may have. "ram"ifications (no pun intended) on the tension curve. I don't know what they might be, but off the top of my head, controlling all the points seems more generic and less clear than "ultimately expressing" the bump. If the signal to the player is, "if I bump the monster" they die and I get points," the goal should be a logical extension of that concept, according to everything I've learned from you :).

    Maybe the controlling all 6 totems can be a second win state? so you can get back door victories in tense situations?"

    One final concern is, this influence thing might be a snowball effect. The better you perform, the easier the late game will be, because the more area you control. What if, like, the area you influence has a really good quality(victory points), but it also ups the stakes and tightens the noose(monsters inside the zone are powered up). Thematically, maybe you're like, unlocking this powerful magic, and the monsters are feeding off of it until the circuit is complete, then it launches them all off the stage.

    Point is, if the areas of influence are only beneficial to you, the end game will always be a cake walk.
  4. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    How do you average permanent with anything?
  5. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    To create large arcs (strategy).

    Some of this has to do with the arrangement of the pillars - if they're far out near the edges I can see that happening. I also think you underestimate how getting new kills will be an easyish way to catch groups up.

    Permanent things don't merge with non permanent.

    I'm not as certain as you are that this will happen, but I definitely agree that if that happens we need to do something about it.

    It's not mathy because the player will not see or deal with numbers on any level. All the player will know is "making new influence revitalizes old influence somewhat". It could also be a random flat value, it doesn't necessarily have to be an average.

    I'm not too concerned about the victory condition thing. I see it, if anything, as more directly connected to bumping/position than the old score was. The score was "whereever you are on the map, if you kill a kill, here are some points". Now there is just a more complicated relationship there that relies on where you are on the map.

    I would want to avoid multiple victory conditions.

    As I described it, they are not only beneficial to you already (they have no power tiles, no vortexes, no floe, etc). But if we need to make them even less beneficial I would be okay with some rule like "they spawn the hardest monsters" or something.
    Weaver likes this.
  6. BrickRoadDX

    BrickRoadDX Well-Known Member

    I think I'd need a diagram of how the totems would be arranged to comment further about tail-chasing.

    Will you know when things are close to finishing decaying?

    As far as the core-mechanism/goal relationship thing, it's possible that I don't understand it, but "bumping so much it falls off the map NEAR A TOTEM", doesn't seem to extend to be an ultimate expression of bumping than "bumping so much it falls of the map". Not trying to poo-poo the idea or anything, it might be really awesome. Core mechanisms and their relationship to goals have always been the part of your theory I've had the most trouble grokking though, so take that with a grain of salt.
    Hopenager likes this.
  7. Nomorebirds

    Nomorebirds Active Member

    I think you're just looking at bumping as simply the core action, not an entire "core mechanism", which is made up of both a core action and a core purpose. So in Auro the core mechanism is "bumping monsters to get points", in Alakaram (with this new goal) the mechanism would be "bumping monsters to create influence zones" (core action is the same as Auro, but the core purpose is different). And a goal that is an ultimate expression of that mechanism would probably look something like "use influence zones to capture certain objectives", in this case the Totems.

    Is that accurate Keith?
  8. blakereynolds

    blakereynolds Administrator Staff Member

    Yeah, but now that I think of it, I think a good way to ultimately express the kind of territory control would be, constrict space in the middle, such that the monsters get pushed farther and farther out towards the edge. A "perfect game" would be influence around the whole board, with only 1 tile left on the very outer circle of the mountain. That would be the theoretical best position for the character to be in, and should thereforce be the hardest to achieve. The monsters would be trying to prevent that.

    We discussed a concept today that, all influence tiles work like floe. This way you can get monsters father to the outer edge of the mountain faster and better, the more influence you have. A counterweight to that would be that, perhaps monsters in the influence field are in their "death throes." they're full of adrenaline so they enter a "Feral" state. Perhaps this "feral" state makes the monster take on different and higher-threat properties.
  9. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Yes - if they're red, it's like, I don't know 8-16 turns left or something.

    Yeah the specifics aren't decided yet. And there may be some randomization of it?


    I'm not necessarily sold on either of these specific ideas, but they are along the right lines. One thing I think we all agree on is there needs to be a strategic double-edge to influence tiles. Making them all floe seems a little too much - I just don't think it would be healthy for the game to have monsters sliding like 20 tiles, probably ever. And I'm sort of skeptical about a "stronger state" for monsters. Visually, groking-wise, I just think it's better maybe to have influence tiles spawn harder monsters.
    Weaver likes this.
  10. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    I can see that influence zones decaying and being topped up is something happening in the game over a larger timescale than tactical bumping, but I can't quite see if it constitutes a strategic arc. (Or even if I know the definition of that term :)) Is it giving rise to decisions about long term and short term benefit of certain actions? Perhaps so - the mechanics of how kills turn into influence sounds quite complicated so I'd have to see more to grok it I think

    Additional idea which might help simplify: Say the combo meter went up with kills as normal, but at the moment of the kill no points were scored and no influence generated. Then the strategic decision you'd have to make would be whether and when to save, or spend, the accumulated value. E.g. take the current meter as points *now* or or use it to, idk, detonate some kind of influence "bomb" where Auro was standing at that moment, with a view to progressing towards eventual totem control. And the goal would be a combination of totem control plus points - e.g. some matches you'd win with 5 held totems + 25 points, others with 3 held totems + 75 points. That kind of thing.

    In any case it seems to me that having simpler and more direct control over where the influence is and when it's topped up would be helpful to make the system comprehensible. I agree with Blake it sounds a bit noisy and mathy even if the mathiness would be largely hidden.
  11. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Just in case it wasn't clear, there are no longer "points" in the game.
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  12. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Ah yes, excellent - thematically meaningless "victory points" are overused!

    It looks like sensible play here might be to try and "lock in" each totem in a zone of permanent influence before moving on to the next. In which case maybe the endgame will entail massive hordes of strong monsters effectively guarding the final totem - that could be really exciting! Can't wait to see how it all develops anyway.
  13. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    It's somewhat implemented!
    blakereynolds likes this.
  14. Jereshroom

    Jereshroom New Member

    One of the things I liked about Auro 2.0 is how as you pushed monsters into the water there would be less and less water, and more land for monsters to walk around in. What if that was the core purpose of the game?
    The totems could all in the surrounding water and/or lakes, and the goal would be to create monster land-bridges to them so you could bump them all into the water. And the bumped totems could become super power-tiles or something.
  15. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    The thing is, that's a kind of flat, linear interaction. But I think it's probably good for a mode of some kind. Also in terms of "creating monster land bridges", I think that's less interesting in practice than it sounds. It sounds cool because you are like "drawing these shapes" sort of, but in practice it just means, I think, either annoying tedium or some kind of "funnel-ish" behavior.
  16. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    The totems could each unlock a different ... something ... when you held them. An ultimate spell maybe, but anyway each different. Perhaps adding interestingness to the decision about which totem to to start with. E.g. if the map generator created a map looking like ability X would be especially useful in the early going, you might prefer to capture that totem first and get hold of ability X.

    (Thought was inspired by @evizaer's "Tension" article - the bit about situationality/asymmetry of conditions).
  17. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Hmm... but since the totems ARE the goal, it feels incorrect to give the player a power-bonus for getting them. If anything, it should like the opposite. Like imagine the 6 totems, and then 6 spots that are the furthest possible from those 6 totems. It makes more sense to give abilities for hitting THOSE spots, because they're the furthest from the totems, you know? Otherwise you just have a snowball effect / positive feedback loop.

    Maybe a better way to get at what you're suggesting is that around each totem a different kind of monster spawns, maybe? Or maybe there's a different kind of terrain around this totem that does a slightly different thing? I do think the totems should be asymmetrical in how they work, on some level, probably.
  18. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Ah of course, you're right about the snowball effect. For some reason I was thinking Alakaram had skilling up throughout the match (in which case little extra boosts to player skills wouldn't be so snowbally, just more of a gentle incentive). Having said that I guess if taking totems upgraded the monsters too....!?

    Anyway yes each totem having its own character in some way was basically what I was thinking, like you said if the monsters around them were different. And then if the "red" totem generally had more ranged monsters say, and the map generator created areas with more and less "lakes", or pillars, then depending on what kind of terrain the red totem was in for a particular match the difficulty of taking and holding it could be different.
  19. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    One way to avoid a snowball is for the totem-capturing bonuses to benefit being near that totem, while the win condition requires moving towards another totem.
    richy likes this.
  20. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Yes I think it would be good to find a way to do it as some kind of buff (vague memories of reading somewhere that in games/gamified situations people respond better to incentives in the form of differing rewards rather than differing penalties, but I may have imagined that)?

    In any case in designs where the ultimate goal is like "do these X similar things" I think there needs to be some significant alteration to the game state at each step, more than just things moving another 1/X further towards the final goal. Otherwise it seems like they're not really mid-length arcs, just kind of fake arcs. I.e. really just subparts of the long arc and not creating any interesting decisions on their timescale.

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