Skippin’ out on “Skip Turn”

Today I thought I’d let everyone in on a small development in Auro‘s design.  It may be useful to anyone designing a roguelike!

Firstly, a little knowledge for those of you who don’t regularly play roguelike games.  In these, there is always a “skip turn” button – basically a button that lets you pass your turn and do nothing.  In roguelikes, one of the first things you learn to do is this:  when you and a monster have exactly one space in between you, you should not spend your turn moving closer to him.  If you do this, he will get the first attack on you.  Therefore, it is always the best course of action to skip your turn, and let him come to you, so that you get the first attack.  There are exceptions to this, most obviously a monster with a ranged attack, but in general, this is always what you should do.  The skip turn button also has a couple other common uses in roguelikes – it sometimes doubles as a “search” button, to find hidden doors and such, and it also doubles as a “rest” button, allowing you to heal health and energy.

Here's an example! As you can see, if it's the player's turn, and he can pass in this situation, he should, so that he can get the first attack.

So, I’ve been hammering out the UI details and such for Auro, and it came time to decide how our skip turn will work.  One obvious answer is to allow the player to click on the avatar (on Auro himself) to skip a turn.  Not bad – nothing wrong with that.  But then I started thinking… could this be an opportunity for something a bit more interesting?

Really, there’s few things less interesting about roguelikes than that “monster is a tile away, so skip turn” no-brainer thing.  And that’s the most common use for the skip turn button – that and regenerating health, which is impossible in Auro anyway.  I got to thinking:  would we maybe just have a more interesting game on  our hands without a skip turn button?  This plays directly into my philosophy that sometimes, removing an element of gameplay can open things up even more than adding one.

I talked to the team about it, and we all seem to be in agreement on this.  The game would, it seems, be more interesting without a skip turn button.  Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to walk into enemies and get attacked.  You can also back up and move in interesting ways – remember, you have six axis of movement on the hex grid.  You can also always choose to use a Skill, which takes up a turn.  Sometimes, you might even want to use a Skill, simply to pass a turn.  Another interesting thing is that the game is really about speed – not real-time speed, but it counts how many turns it takes you to beat a level.  So, if all of this causes you to have to back up a bit once in awhile, I think that that will only make the overall path you take through a level more interesting.

As an added bonus, there’s one less button, one less thing players have to learn.  Also it’s one less kind of mis-click that can happen on the touch screen.

Finally I should mention that this needs to be tested.  It may be that we find, through testing, that we’d be better off having a skip turn button after all.  Sometimes, there’s only one way to find these things out!  I encourage anyone creating their own roguelike to experiment with removing this feature, and see what it does for them.

keithburgun • 10/23/2011

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  1. Darren Grey 10/23/2011 - 5:16 pm Reply

    A very interesting thought… I wonder if players will just get frustrated by it, or if they’ll just abuse one of the common skills to skip a turn whenever they want? It could end up being a bit of a newbie trap, in that experienced players will know to use a skill to pass a turn whilst newer players don’t realise and just charge into the enemy. Still, it’s a very valid point about mis-clicks on a touch screen – you don’t want to accidentally rest a turn when you should be moving, or vice-versa.

  2. Sam 10/26/2011 - 11:59 pm Reply

    How about in that situation, allow the monster to hold back if they’re intelligent, or give the mover initiative, if the entity that they moved against didn’t retreat the last turn, the “opening moves” of the combat happen, giving each entity a free attack.

  3. Mark 11/06/2011 - 5:16 pm Reply

    In a weird way, I think letting the monsters also not make the first move would almost ‘draw attention ‘ to the fact it’s a game, since they seem to know the mechanics too! Of course, if you want to go for some kind of meta-roguelike thing, that’s different, but otherwise, I think ‘forcing’ the player to use the turn is a good move. Monsters that are intelligent enough to ‘skip’ their turn could be made intelligent enough to also do other useful things with their turn, couldn’t they?

    • keithburgun 11/06/2011 - 5:21 pm Reply

      True – and yes, they could, definitely.

  4. o0o 11/28/2011 - 8:07 pm Reply

    In chess, the requirement to make a move when you’d prefer not to is called “zugzwang”, which has been more broadly applied outside of chess.

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