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Great game. Mini-review inside There are 2 replies
Original Message posted by m.tarini on 08/05/2014 at 6:06:16PM
Well well, David Williamson here's a neat, great game.

It seems you polished it a lot, made sure it was neat and sound under all aspects (from balancing to rule-set to interface to look-n-feel), and threw a few good idea at it. Kudos!

One of these ideas is to use really neat pixel art graphics. Just the right resolution. Any coarser, it would have been disturbing. A this size, 10x10 per icon, the pixel art really shines. Plus, great color choices. This games looks so cool you want to play again just for that.

But let's talk details.

Genre. So, a turn based rogue like (a *real* roguelike, I've seen the term quite abused lately -- I mean turn based dungeon crawler with good procedural levels etc), but with a light tone, a stress on simplification; so s dungeon runs can be accomplished in a single go, and forgotten. Nice, but naturally not unheard of, see for example Desktop Dungeon, which is quite different but similarly purposed. However, HackSlashLoot is quite a fresh interpretation of the concept!

Gameplay mechanisms. At first glance, the basic choices are quite shocking. No Xp or levels; no money or shops; no max HP (healing = rising HP!); only a very few stats; no inventory (only worn items); no ammo or mana; no character screen of any sort. Wow, that's some simplification taking place! A few very basic concepts of the genre are being shattered for real! Is it even still a rogue like RPG? Yes, yes it is. Not only it is very playable, extremely enjoyable, and it feels like a good dungeon crawl. The vulnerability/resistance system adds some splice, while keeping it simple. Well executed!

Balance is quite good too. With no xp, levels and stuff, it is all item based. Players have three available styles: the usual melee VS ranged VS magic (which here means ranged ignoring armour). The choice of character class (which is also simplified) and of which object to pick or leave, make the player specialize in one style. Again, it is all well executed.

Look-and-feel Just as the amount of pixels is *just right*, same goes for the amount of text. Procedurally generated items have a procedurally generated description, but the occasional exception keeps it fresh and interesting and the result is quite neat. Every piece of furniture, every item is commented with just a few words, adding depth and immersion (yes: immersion! that's quite a result, given the contect) without boring the player in the slightest.

The same goes for level design. Procedural and designed parts are merged in just the right proportions, contributing to give to each quest its own taste and making the experience really fun.

The interface is another gem on its own. It is minimal, like everything else in this little great game, jet complete and really intuitive to use. Mono-button mouse is sufficient and very usable, keyboard (minimal, naturally!) a nice addition. Yet this does not come at the expense of any game mechanism: items can be stacked in a square, you can drop them, use them, navigate around the dungeon, target enemies, shoot arrows and spell, open doors, read scrolls, cast spells ... everything with just the mouse. It helps that there's no difference between holding an item and using (wielding/wearing/drinking) it. It's another of these apparently excessive but really fitting simplification choices (once again, it seems this game identified a lot of element which can be removed from a rouguelike while keeping the fun!)


Naturally it is not flawless.

- The interface is a little punitive for mis-click. A single slip can make your character run toward that enemy that you wanted to keep at bay, instead of shooting an arrow at it, and can compromise an entire 1h game. I guess you cannot ask too much from a single button interface in a dungeon crawler (heck, traditionally in this genre you have to use like most of your keyboard keys, for a thing or another).

- Another minor shortcoming is that the path-finding algorithm for the player (not for the monsters) is unaware of the magical ability to go past thin wall which you can acquire. But that's minor... bug?

- The balance is quite polished, but with a few (apparent?) shortcomings. The "move twice" enchantment is a deal breaker. It risks being one of these "with it, you win too easy, without it, you can only lose" situation. Maybe it should have been toned down, like making it give the player an extra move per turn... with some probability, not always. Also it seems that you need to be ranged to have a chance to win. With melee, well, you are hit back plus you must struggle your way to get contact, which can be really painful and that is just not compensated enough by stats. I might be wrong here. It seems that with ranged you can deal with each specific situation better than with melee. Maybe, dunno, it would have helped to have some mechanism to at least punish range-oriented player once the enemies manages to reach them (which they rarely achieve anyway).
 
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m.tarini
on 11/05/2014 at 2:57:45AM
Total Posts: 0
I see! Good to know. Well, that clarifies things a bit.

BTW I played some more... (a lot more!) Wow this game is really great.

Let me offer some considerations, on that.

About mis-clicks: it now occurs to me that by far the worst mis-click you can do is to mistakenly hit a friendly character (braking the friendship). That's really unforgiving, and also makes you feel a bit guilty, ah-ah. Suggestion: a click on a friend could have, instead, the painless effect of making a move over its location and pulling the friend back at you location (basically swapping the position of the two). Not only this removes the problem, but also avoids the annoying situation when the friend blocks your path and you have to do an awkward navigation (which is not very fun to do, IMO). I understand that disallowing "friendly fire" may seem like a limitation to the player, but I think that the price of keeping it might be too high.

About regeneration being overpowered: I had this idea, that maybe "to regenerate" should mean "to get hit-points (back) whenever anyone attempts to attack you but misses". Ok, it's not very realistic, even if it is somewhat justifiable (like, the adrenaline discharge triggers the healing, or whatever), but it would work very well game-play wise. Regeneration would still be useful, but interesting to play and impossible to over-exploit. [[Minor note: if this "regeneration" model is adopted, then enemies with this power should probably start using it right away, even before being hit for the first time -- differently from now.]]

About shadeform being overpowered: if I can suggest, a solution might be that any move ending inside a wall is <slow>, meaning that you "lose a turn" after doing it. I think that shadeform in this way would still be useful, but a lot harder to mechanically and boringly exploit . Note: if this was implemented, then penalties at to-hit chance should probably be strongly reduced or removed.


About swift being overpowered: that's really tough. Swift is really easy and boring to exploit mechanically to make sure you are never retaliated by any melee-based enemy. What about making it random: being shift could mean that you have some 50% chance of moving a second time immediately after a move (but never a third time, naturally. The same icon as now could be used to signal that the current move is already the second one in a row).

About magic VS Range VS melee: difficulty levels? I see. You sure know what you are doing, given how good the game design is already, so it feels uneasy for me to suggest to do otherwise... but IMHO this is not the best option. First of all because it reduces the variety of available options given to the player, second because it is cool that you can change style. These things mix not very well with the concept of difficulty levels.

Instead, I would try to keep the three styles different but more balanced. Balancing magic VS ranged could be just a matter of stats (i.e. it's a lot more difficult to rise magic, and magic tends to be more incompatible with armor). This is already done -- maybe it should be done even more.

But, here's the new suggestion: to give more power to Melee, any one of the following four rules could be implemented. The common concept is that once (and if) a melee unit manages to reach the ranged unit, it has the upper hand (this would work both for players and NPCs alike).

"A) shooting / casting spells while in range of a hostile melee unit is a <slow> move, meaning that a turn is lost after doing that".
   or
"B) a melee unit attacking a ranged/magic unit attacks it twice".
   or
"C) a melee unit targeted by an adjacent ranged/magic unit has a chance of blocking -- i.e. negating -- the attack before it even starts, equal maybe to its chance to hit, or maybe half that much (justification: the bow is deflected before shooting or something)"
   or (edit)
"D) a melee unit targeted by an adjacent ranged/magic unit retaliates back immediately with a free attack (and can attack again during his turn, as normal)"

Any of these would make the three modes a lot more balanced.
(I think I like options C or D more)
 
David Williamson
Moderator
on 09/05/2014 at 10:32:03AM
Total Posts: 2
Thanks for the detailed analysis. I'll try to respond to the flaws you mention with my reasoning for them.

> - The interface is a little punitive for mis-click. A single
> slip can make your character run toward that enemy that you
> wanted to keep at bay, instead of shooting an arrow at it, and
> can compromise an entire 1h game. I guess you cannot ask too much
> from a single button interface in a dungeon crawler (heck,
> traditionally in this genre you have to use like most of your
> keyboard keys, for a thing or another).

This is true and even I mis-click from time to time. It is also compounded by the fact that I chose to use half height tiles which confuse many players. I have addressed this in the tablet version of the game by changing to full height tiles.

> - Another minor shortcoming is that the path-finding algorithm
> for the player (not for the monsters) is unaware of the magical
> ability to go past thin wall which you can acquire. But that's
> minor... bug?

This is intentional. Changing one value would make the pathfinding pass through walls when possible, but I feel using Shadeform is a deliberate action so should only be done when the player absolutely intends it. The pathfinding should not assume this.

> - The balance is quite polished, but with a few (apparent?)
> shortcomings. The "move twice" enchantment is a deal
> breaker. It risks being one of these "with it, you win too
> easy, without it, you can only lose" situation. Maybe it
> should have been toned down, like making it give the player an
> extra move per turn... with some probability, not always. Also it
> seems that you need to be ranged to have a chance to win. With
> melee, well, you are hit back plus you must struggle your way to
> get contact, which can be really painful and that is just not
> compensated enough by stats. I might be wrong here. It seems that
> with ranged you can deal with each specific situation better than
> with melee. Maybe, dunno, it would have helped to have some
> mechanism to at least punish range-oriented player once the
> enemies manages to reach them (which they rarely achieve anyway).

I concede that swift is over powered. Believe it or not it was originally even more powerful. There are a few other enchantments that some players feel are over powered too, like regeneration, and shadeform.

The disparity between magic, ranged, and melee attacks is intentional, and acts like the games easy, normal, and hard modes. Magic is the easy mode it has less range penalty and ignores armour. Ranged is the normal mode. Melee is the hard mode as you have no ranged attack at all although melee weapons generally do more damage to compensate a little.