Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Episode 14: Resource Management

Welcome to this week's episode of Roguelike Radio. Episode 14 focuses on resource management in roguelikes, including food clocks, items and variations on these. Talking this week are Andrew Doull, Darren Grey 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. Sincere apologies for some audio issues in this episode (which aren't helped much by my cold).

Topics covered this week include:
- Food clocks and their alternatives (including cold, light, corruption, and big scary ghosts)
- Making resources important in play
- How to do a roguelike without enemies
- Traps and diseases in roguelikes
- Many many games, including: Frozen Depths, ADOM, Cardinal Quest, Toby the Trapper, Dungeons of Dredmor, Angband, Unangband, Brogue, CryptRover, Spelunky, Run from the Shadow, Gruesome

Join us next week for discussion of Quickband and some of its bandy cousins.


  1. Ha! I cannot beat Nethack even with spoilers. So...I think in a real time game a ghost like in Spelunky is a pretty good mechanic. As for turn based games there is no reason not to have a turn counter timer. But it would have to go with the theme/story of the game. Run from the Shadow and Frozen Depths do this well. Some sort of flooding mechanic would be neat as well (but you'd need to be climbing the dungeon instead of diving). Beyond that I just hate the food timer. HATE IT. The only game it works for me is in Gauntlet. Other than that it's just annoying instead of fun.

  2. As always a few observations ;)

    Re: Final Fantasy, at least in the first 8 games, using consumables to recover HP and MP during and between battles are fairly common as you can usually buy replacements. Using full recovery items like Elixirs and special effects potions like Hero and Holy Wars were typically saved for boss fights, something that RLs have never been great at replicating. The running joke is that FF players tend to horde "throwing" items, which are consumables that cause high damage single damage hits.

    Re: Sanity as a consumable and non-combat games, Amnesia: The Dark Descent does both of these extremely well. Not to mention making you unable to sleep for hours after playing. The 2nd Penumbra game did a decent job of this, but it was ruined for me early when I failed to grok what I was supposed to do and spent a half hour beaning a monster with a thrown crate in a vain effort to kill it.

    Re: Food (light, cold) clocks in general, As I've mentioned before, any of these can be a motive to continue through the dungeon (food in Rogue or Brogue) or an obstacle to overcome (food in Nethack, light in most 'Bands). The trick is that you need to make it clear which is which to the player and not be a dick by dangling hints that a hard clock might be possible to overcome (Frozen Depths suffers from this, as does some character types in Crawl like the Spriggan).

    Final, I don't think that a putting explicit time pressure (a ticking clock) in an RL works well unless that is the core concept of the game. Santiago's 1kbRL does this well, but I don't know if the idea scales too well beyond the scope of a 7DRL. Personally, I like to see a pure time clock used to adjust the end game.

    Quick example, the PC is sent into the dungeon to stop an ancient evil prophesied to destroy the world. As they dive into the dungeon, they get hints that Alice, High Priest of Bob, is summoning the demon Chuck to destroy the world. If the player plays casually or slowly, the arrive at the bottom of the dungeon to face Chuck and save the world. If they hurry a bit, they arrive after Alice has summoned Chuck, but before she has gained full control over him and a three-way fight breaks out. If the player is even quicker, they arrive before Chuck is summoned and can attack a distracted Alice. Finally, if the player is an expert playing in speedrun mode, they can arrive arrive in time for a secret ending where Bob has manifested and instructing Alice in how to summon Chuck, at which point they can attack both, or kill Alice and take her place, etc.

  3. Lemme push my own roguelikes a bit, Diggr. (here.)

    It has 5 different types of timers, not just food. (6 if you count health as one.)

    It also doesn't have an inventory system. Instead there are 7 equipment slots and just 2 generic slots for non-equipped items.

    Personally, I think food timers are essential. If there's one thing that absolutely ruins a game, it's scumming/grinding, and a food timer is the most elegant and non-intrusive way to stop grinding.

    Although personally, I take an even harder stance, I'm all for intrusive and mean methords for stopping grind.

  4. I'd love to see a thing on different methods of dungeon/terrain/world generation. Though I'm unsure if there's enough material there.

  5. Just to point out, because I think I heard someone say something to imply that the matter is *not* settled...

    Grinding (meaning, no-brainer, low-risk actions that have a reward) definitely is always a bad thing, in any game.

  6. Keith: I disagree. But I see it as another one of those things we'll never agree on, so it's another agree to disagree argument unless you want to rehash things again here.

  7. Whilst I'm anti-grind myself, I think it's foolish to ignore the success of games that include grinding. People enjoy Angband and Nethack and even World of Warcarft, in spite of heavy grind elements. Gamers choose to go out of their way to grind, even for minimal gain. Mindless no-brainer gameplay can hardly be considered a bad thing in any game if it's what gamers choose to play. Ultimately we don't make games to sit on a pedestal as an example of the epitome of game design - they must be played to be games, and they will inevitably include all the flawed things that people illogically love.

  8. In Roguelikes, grinding is one way for a play to adapt when the RNG deals them a poor hand. Nothing is more annoying in a RL than watching your character fall below the power curve due to unlucky equipment drops but still be forced on with your only chance of victory being that you stumble on a gauntlet of awesomeness +5 in the next level or two. In a regular RPG, you would just slow down the pace some, grind a bit, and then continue as before. It usually points to a balance problem, but many RL developers just write it off and assume the player will use human (elven, dwarven) wave tactics to overcome the issue.

  9. Excellent episode, guys. I'm wondering if you can repeat the name / link to the RL you mentioned about planetary exploration w/ no enemies. I don't think it's in the list at the end of the post.

  10. @Ryan - the game they mentioned is the in-development title In Profundis (only caught the name because I am a fan of p&p RPG called De Profundis).

  11. Andrew/Darren: I think it's true for Keith's (uncommon) definition of the word "game" :)

    But that's really the same argument all over again.

  12. Orcs and Elves on the DS encouraged potion use by being simply too hard to fight monsters without using them.

    The game did a very good job of guiding me into the end game as a roid-raging crackhead.

  13. Hi everyone. I just stumbled on this podcast and I really enjoy it. One of the commentators on the show made the remark that an entire show could be devoted to each of the particular mechanics that are characteristic of a roguelike. I'd like to request that you go ahead and do that! It would allow you to get much deeper into each of those topics. I see that the latest episode is "Resource Management." That's great! Now, let's see some entire episodes devoted to "Procedural Content Generation", "Permadeath", and "Turn-based vs. Real-time". I'm really interested in all of those topics and I'd love to hear more in-depth discussion on them.

    I'm currently coding up a little prototype that merges the mechanics of Left4Dead with the tried-and-true roguelike formula. Instead of "player vs dungeon" it will be "player plus AI vs dungeon". Listening to your podcast each week is very good research as I begin to assemble my prototype game!

  14. Flat turn limits in any genre irritate me as a player, because they often come off as an arbitrary restriction out of place from the rest of the strategic considerations, and if you fail to meet them it's hard to nail down exactly where in your play you failed. Much of the time they also feel like a quick hack on the developer's part to ensure something is difficult without actually balancing the combat or whatever properly. If your game has five general resources that aid you in combat and then also food that just kills you if you run out, I am less than impressed with your design skills.

    Fortunately, most roguelikes use food well! I don't mind it being an obstacle to overcome in the early game, because it gives a sense of progress when you to finally get a stack of rations and it serves as something to scourage for and keep the game interesting before you've found enough different equipment or learned enough skills to have significant choices in defeating high level monsters. Most major roguelikes also have it as a much more variable clock depending on your actions - eg. do you risk getting sickness by eating this monster's corpse instead of your ration, is it worth keeping this satiation-sucking ring of regeneration on ...

    An even better clock though would be one that had gradual increases in combat-related punishment rather simply starving at very low food etc. DCSS, as well as food, has the chance of out-of-depth monsters spawning greatly increase over time if you stay in one level too long. ADOM will start slowly mauling you with overpowered anything if you kill too many of the some monster. I'd kind of like to see an exhaustion system that slowly degraded your combat ability or caused sort of interface screws like not noticing a monster approaching, dropping an item but having it still appear in the inventory screen until you randomly notice or try to use it etc. over time. Safe sleeping areas would be rare and usable only once.

    Or I GUESS if you REALLY wanted you could just go down the route of that one DoomRL challenge that literally nukes you if you take too long to reach the stairs. :D

    Sidenote: Hit points can be a gradual resource too! Dwarf Fortress (including adventure mode) has all kinds simulationist wounds, and there's always the abandoned IVAN that goes the sillier route of losing limbs and having to stitch on monster limbs to replace them (and then accidentally polymorphing them into banana flesh or something ... IIRC).