Monday, September 26, 2011

Episode 5: Frozen Depths

Welcome to this week's episode of Roguelike Radio. Episode 5 focuses discussion on Frozen Depths, a cold-themed roguelike by Glowie. Talking this week are Darren Grey, Andrew Doull and Ido Yehieli.

The mp3 of the podcast can be downloaded here, played in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.

Topics covered this week include:
- Food clock systems
- Overarching themes to games
- Terminal interface on modern systems

Join us next week for discussion of Dungeons of Dredmor.


  1. Good show guys. Frozen depths is one of my favorite rl's.

    I was a bit disappointed that you didn't cover the dungeon features more. Such as the alters that you can place items on, the corpses that you can loot for items, the pools with something shiny at the bottom that you can decide to try and retrieve. These are some of my favorite parts of the game.

    I agree that the shopkeepers can be too expensive for such the small amount of gold that the player ever manages to find during the game.

    The blacksmith as well is a cool idea, but requires far more gold and raw materials to make anything really useful than the player can manage to find.

  2. Unless Darren edited things out, I'm pretty sure we mentioned the searchable bodies at least twice...

  3. Possibly more times than that in fact, and other dungeon features were mentioned several times too, such as the blood altars and the sacrifice altars and so on. I guess one reason that we didn't talk in depth about these is that the mechanics behind them aren't always clear, and one frustrating thing I found is that the negative effects often outweighed the benefits (like getting frostbite for a useless cheap item from a pool). Overall it makes these features less fun.

  4. If anyone's interested, the roguelike development channel I mentioned a couple of times is #rgrd at QuakeNet.

  5. Great episode, lots of good points, feedback and discussion.

    Most of the critique was spot on, i.e. something I had noticed as well or something player feedback had told me. For example the comment on swiftness of play, I was going to, even before this episode, address both the excess number of floors and the sometimes tedious hit exchanges with monsters in 1.05. And I definitely need to teach new players better if even quick rest is hard to find.

    You spent some time on food clocks and the freezing mechanic. When I first started designing FD I had noticed how food was a problem only in the early game in ADOM and Nethack, so I designed a mechanic that would be easy early on, but got harder the deeper you descended. No wonder you didn't notice it as the real resource and heat problems start only after the ~30th floor. (By the way, you could've mentioned item durability, but no biggie).

    Your early deaths and the "whine" about high sage/smith prices (the management of gold and spendings is nearly the only hard decision with no way of getting everything, that's staying) lead me to think if the game needs an easier difficulty mode. Perhaps I'm too hardcore, being a fan of ADOM and Nethack. Perhaps the spinelessness of today's casual gamers (I'm looking at you PS3, X360 and Wii) is corrupting the hardest core of roguelikers too. Or maybe the game is too hard/hard to learn. In any case, I'd be interested to hear if an easy mode would be useful or a waste of development time.

    Thank you for taking a look at Frozen Depths, this has helped me with designing 1.05, whenever that's going to happen. Keep up the good work and have a fine day gentlemen!

  6. Great to hear from you Glowie - I was wondering if I should drop you an e-mail in case you didn't know about this podcast (I'm guessing someone else did this instead). I'm sorry we didn't get deeper in the game to give it a more thorough review. We all felt a bit guilty about that.

    Item durability was never an issue for me - I always had backups or found better replacements before eq ran out. I actually got frustrated at times by how slowly cursed items wore away.

    I don't think the game is too hard, but the slow rate of play reduces the incentive to instantly play again. Normally when I die in a roguelike I think "Damn, I can do better next time!" and fire up a new game, but FD didn't compel me to do that unless I died very early on. The biggest thing was combat feeling like a slog, especially as you get deeper, and levelling being a bit slow.

    I reject the idea of corruption over hard game elements! I don't even own a console :P But although I think game difficulty is in general okay, I also am against many of what seem to be unfair items. Most of the "bad" items in ADOM and Nethack can be used for good purposes, and are easy enough to identify anyway. In FD a lot of them are purely bad, and there just to stop you drink-identifying things (and thus making it so that you might as well ignore potions, because they're never worth the gold to id, especially for archers). In some other things, like using shrines or diving into pools, it seems like too often they result in bad effects rather than good, so again it feels unfair and it pushes the player away from using them at all. Personally I think a game should reward experimentation more times than it punishes.

    Anyway, it's great to hear you're working on a 1.05 and I very much look forward to playing it when it's released.

  7. I wouldn't stress too much about the early deaths: they weren't an issue other than the fact we didn't spend nearly enough time playing to get deeper in the dungeon.

    I would like to see the heat/cold mechanic play a bigger part earlier on, if only to allow the player to learn how the mechanic works before they've (over)committed themselves to a particular character.

    As others point out, my problems with the UI are primarily because I've not played other roguelikes that use these conventions. I'd argue that the conventions themselves need looking at, of course :)

  8. Sorry, I must have somehow missed the parts about the dungeon features.

  9. @Darren
    That's good advice and food for thought there. The sluggishness of play is my biggest personal misgiving with the game nowadays. I hadn't thought that much of the negative effects of potions and dungeon features from a non-omniscient player's view point. _I_ know that the chances are rigged towards positive effects, but the player doesn't. For example all potions are drink-identifiable if done in a safe place with full hp. Even the infamous potion of certain death only drops hp to 1. But the more problematic part is dungeon feature negative effects, and I've added an entry to the todo list to lessen/remove negative effects from them; they're supposed to be bonuses not hindrances. And perhaps adding transparency to potions would remove some of the Nethack-esque trial and error. Potion identifying with sages is often a luxury, especially for archers, but archers are designed to be harder early on. Ignoring potions is foolish though, you can always sell some of them and identify the rest.

    Okay, good to know about the difficulty. No worries about not playing ^n hours, it is quite(/too) time consuming currently. Enhancing the theme is an on-going effort and modifying the heat mechanic might improve it. I'll have to consider if the freezing curve is too easy in the beginning. I can't change existing conventions, but at least I could do a better job of teaching them. :)

    Thanks for the comments!

  10. I'll agree on the problem with combat stances. I've found that unless the stance feature is central to the game, you only tend to use 1 stance plus your default. It would have been handy to map an alternate stance a different key.

  11. Re: Running console Roguelikes in Mac OS X.

    The Mac OS X Terminal does support 16 colors. The problem is that it sets the TERM setting to that of a monochrome terminal.

    In your .bashrc add:
    export TERM=xterm-256color

    If 256 color mode isn't supported (you'll get a complaint by any full-screen applications) try:

    export TERM=xterm-16color

    In a typical Linux system (I think this is also the case with Mac OS X, but I don't have an OS X system here to check) the valid TERM settings are in /usr/share/terminfo -- for different xterm settings, check /usr/share/terminfo/x/xterm*

    Incorrect and invalid default TERM settings is my number one complaint with regards to terminal emulators. Really horrible terminal emulators (things written for Gnome) don't let you fix the setting in the terminal emulator settings.

    Seriously, though, if a terminal emulator describes itself as "xterm" it should support Techtronix mode. I would love to see a Roguelike leveraging Techtronix mode. (But preferably nothing more complicated than a 7DRL as it is mostly interesting for the weirdness.)

  12. I'm currently trying for my HTML5/JS roguelike to be more than a "tech demo" :( One day, one day.

  13. It's "lib-tee-cod" not "lib-tee-cee-oh-dee". That's pretty much off-topic but yeah.

    I like listening to these podcasts while working out. :)

  14. So you refer to The Chronicles of Doryen as "tee cod"? Sounds fishy to me :P

  15. This is a post to a very old thread, but it'd be nice if you guys covered what systems you play/run these games on. Roguelikes are nice because they are so often multi-platform.

  16. Another great episode guys, well done.

    Would you mind linking the games that you mentioned when you were discussing resource management? I'm actually working on a game that I want to use this mechanic and I'd like to see what other RLs are out there that focus more on resource management.