Agility, Area Effects, and Attenuation

The next build will include three new floors and twenty new demons, but it also include some balance changes worthy of discussion. :)

For awhile now, Agility has been regarded as the weaker of the five stats: unlike Strength, Magic, Vitality, and Cunning, there didn’t seem to be much reason to spend many points on it: base accuracy is already rather high, and many attacks don’t use accuracy or evasion anyway. Indeed, enough attacks didn’t use Agility where it was relatively easy to make builds that simply didn’t need it at all.

On a seemingly unrelated point: area effect attacks were proving a bit too dominant in the current mid to late game and needed to be reined in a bit in some way. As it happens, many of these were also attacks that did not use Agility in any way.

Addressing both problems: the new Attenuation mechanic!

Attenuation is an adjustment to the effectiveness of an area-effect based on the distance a given target is from the ‘blast point’. The blast point varies based on the ‘shape’ of the effect (for spheres, it is the center; for lines, it is the first cell in the line, etc.)

To begin with, a character directly at the blast point takes 100% effect; a character at the furthest edge will take only 50% effect. However, this is just the starting point: a character’s evasion (determined largely by Agility, but can be affected by various other abilities and status effects) can increase the reduction even further: it’s no help at the ‘blast point’, but at the furthest edge, 100% of a character’s evasion bonuses will count as additional defense against the damage and status effect accuracy of the attack.

Block and Dodge can also be used to defend against attenuation attacks, entirely nullifying them as they do regular attacks! As with evasion, their effect is 0% at the ‘blast point’, at the furthest edge Block and Dodge have their full chance to trigger.

In addition to updating ability tooltips to indicate when an attack uses this mechanic, the UI has been updated to help illustrate when attenuation is in effect, shown here for the Snowstorm ability with the help of some test goblins:

Attenuation1 Attenuation2

And the result of actually casting that Snowstorm?

Attenuation3

Two lucky goblins managed to Dodge thanks to their Evasion passive (10% Dodge chance vs. all attacks): the rest took damage based on how close to the center point they were. Attenuation usually protects against status effects like Chill, but since Chill never misses unless the target is Ice immune, it didn’t change anything here.

The news is not all bad for area effects, however. To compensate for the reduced total damage, area effect abilities that use attenuation received Power increases in nearly all cases, and SP cost / cooldown reductions in many cases.

Well, that takes care of area effect abilities hopefully. Agility’s effects on attenuation certainly help that stat, but there were still too many abilities that just didn’t use Agility for either accuracy or evasion, so I did a pass on abilities with an eye to trimming the use of the “Cannot Miss” mechanic. There were approximately 60 such abilities before the pass, about 20 of them were changed to either use attenuation, or simply no longer have the “Cannot Miss” mechanic. But, as with attenuation, the news is not all bad: abilities that lost “Cannot Miss” also gained additional Power and/or reduced SP costs.

Most of the abilities that were allowed to keep “Cannot Miss” and not have attenuation are in the Light, Dark, Mind and Body elements. Most of the abilities that lost “Cannot Miss”, or which now use attenuation, are in Impact, Fire, Ice, and Electricity. Why so? Each of the four elements that was largely allowed to keep their “cannot miss” abilities has a quirk that justifies it:

Light and Dark: Often uses conditional targeting and/or cooldowns.
Mind: Damage abilities are usually very low Power.
Body: Body is one of the most commonly encountered Resistances/Immunities.

By comparison, the Impact, Fire, Ice, and Electricity abilities usually only have to worry about SP and enemy resistances in order to work.

With far fewer “Cannot Miss” and un-attenuated area effects in the game, Agility should be much more reliable as a defensive stat, in addition to being more necessary on offense due to fewer elements having easy “Cannot Miss” access.  Hopefully this will prove to at least be a good first step to making Agility a valued part of character builds.

By the way, this won’t be the end of the passes I do for this build: content builds are a great time to make these sort of reviews and changes. :D Stay tuned for details on other changes and reworks. :D

P.S.: Special thanks to gaswafers, who has contributed significantly in design and implementation discussions of these mechanics on the forums.

New Kids On The Block

As promised, let’s take a peek at some of the new demons that’ll be showing up in the next build! These are only half of the new demons being added: I want to keep some as surprises. :) The sprites shown for each are the versions done by Geminimax. :D Thanks Geminimax! :D

Aitvaras
Aitvaras: A demon of Lithuania appearing as a black rooster or a small, black dragon, but in either case with a tail like a shooting star. Similar to some other mythical creatures, they take up residence in the homes of humans and then, in exchange for minor payment (in the case of the Aitvaras, omelettes!), they provide various benefits to the household. The Aitvaras brings wealth to the house of its master… but there are a couple of unusual catches. One is that the wealth it brings is actually being stolen from neighboring homes… the other is that (depending on which version of the myth you ask), the Aitvaras will either eventually steal the soul of its owner, or said owner had to give up their soul to acquire it in the first place. In game, these will be a new Dark ability using demon to provide more access to the new Dark abilities added in the previous build, and will usually be encountered in the mid levels of the Tower.

Ala
Ala: A witch or demon known in Serbian mythology. Ala can take many forms, but one of their most striking is that of a very large-mouthed humanoid. They are no less horrible than this particular form suggests: they control the forces of nature and wield them to destructive effect against the croplands of humans, and will eat children if they get the opportunity. Indeed, some myths even suggest that eclipses are caused by their attempts to devour these celestial bodies! In game, they wield some new Electricity abilities, as well as a life-draining touch. They will take residence in the mid levels of the Tower as well

Baphomet
Baphomet (Unique!): An entity of a rather complicated history, to say the least. Depending on what you believe of its past, it was either worshiped in secret by various groups, such as the Knights Templar, or was a construct invented to discredit and ruin such organizations. More recently, it has been associated with mysticism and Satanism. Its purpose in the Tower is unclear, but those who can reach the upper floors might encounter it either wandering about, or in its Sanctum… If you are forced to fight, beware: it wields a powerful combination of Dark and Fire abilities, including one particular Fire ability unseen before within the Tower.

Civatateo
Civatateo: A vampire of Aztec origin, created when a noble woman dies during childbirth. To the Aztecs, childbirth was considered a form of combat, and thus to die in childbirth was a high honor, equivalent to dying in battle. As a result, though these creatures are child-eating monsters, they are also blessed by their gods, and wield the powers of priestesses. Befitting this unusual nature, they wield an odd but effective combination of Light and Body magic, but only summoners who can reach the heights of the Tower will ever need fear running across them.

Tuofei
Tuofei: A Chinese beast, active during the winter. It appears as an owl with a human face, and only one leg. Its skin can be worn to give protection from the elements. That’s… actually about as far as the information I have goes on these critters, but this is instructive, because myths such as this one (vague and scanty on details) are useful when I need to fill specific gaps: in this case, I needed a new Ice demon that was specifically suited to some new Ice abilities I had designed. :D One like this, with clear connections to winter/ice but without specific details about its powers, was perfect for that role. Tuofei can be encountered in the lower half of the Tower, but closer to the middle than to the bottom.

And finally, as a special bonus, the ability icons for all the new abilities being added in this build. 4 of them are blanked out for… reasons. :D

NewAbilities

I hope to get this build out pretty soon now, but as usual with content builds I got a little overzealous. :) Take care, and good luck in the Tower. :D

Hamster-Style Development

Hamster

When I was a kid, I had a pet hamster that used to run in a very odd fashion. It would dash forward several steps quickly, then stop and wait for a few seconds before dashing several more steps. It’d wait again, dash again, etc.

Funny enough, my approach to game development is somewhat like that too. :P

Demon’s had a couple of big changes recently: the addition of currency and the systems that use it, and the shiny new relic upgrades. Think of those as one of the dashes. :D

Now it’s time for a period of consolidation and polish: look at what’s working with the new systems (and what isn’t), tweak things here, polish things there, add some content over here perhaps. Think of this as one of the waiting periods.

For the next period of development, the focus will be on:

  • Tweaking the balance of the currency systems, mostly in the direction of making things a bit cheaper.
  • Tweaking the balance of relic upgrades too, this will probably be a bit more extreme/varied than the currency tweaks since this system is newer and hasn’t really had a second pass yet.
  • Some new content (whether this will be in the existing 20 floors, or will consist of new floors, or both is undecided)
  • General polish and quality of life improvements (ugh, UI work.)

I’ll have some more details about what’ll be in the first polish phase build soonish, so stay tuned. :)

Moving Right Along

Currency implementation continues on schedule. :) In fact, most of the main system is done, at this point, much of what’s left are things like as negotiation changes related to currency, new player “suggestion” updating, testing, and balancing.

Currency2

The new Transmutations button replaces the old Training button. It provides access to advanced relic functions, which include all of the ones that use currency.

In the first pass of this system, you will find:

Copy Ability: Copies an ability from a demon to another demon, or to the player.

Delete Ability: Permanently deletes an ability from a demon. You don’t get anything for doing this… but, it can serve as a way to “adjust” the behavior of demons, so long as you’re alright with it being a permanent adjustment (or requiring use of Copy Ability to fix :P )

Fuse Demons: Sacrifice one demon to give a modifier to another, just like Silver and Gold Matrices used to do. I say “used to do” because they’ve been removed from the game. Fusing Demons is somewhat expensive, but you will no longer need to rely on the RNG to give you access to one of Demon’s most interesting progression mechanics.

Restore Demon: Revives a previously slain demon, replacing the functionality of Spirit Chimes, which have also been removed from the game. Restoring demons is also very expensive, but provides a method by which you can claw back from what might otherwise be a catastrophic loss of a key ally. In a slight change from before, you can no longer Restore a demon that was used in fusion.

Delete Demon: Nothing much to say here, this simply allows you to delete a demon if you find some reason you wish to do so. Like Delete Ability, you don’t get anything out of this.

We’re closing in on the release point for currency. :) I can’t deny it is likely to prove to have changed things significantly, nor can I deny it is likely to require some tweaking to get the balance right. But, I wish to reiterate that my goal here is to make the game and the choices it asks you to make more interesting *without* making the game easier. :) Cheers!

Currency Progress :D

Have a screenshot, and below it, a brief explanation. :D

CurrencyProgress1

Currency, found throughout the Tower, is in part being used to replace some older under performing or troubled systems. Two such systems are the “training point” system used to transfer abilities between demons and the “ability teaching” system used by the player’s main character to learn abilities from demons.

These systems were good first passes, but time and feedback had exposed some flaws in them: training points tended to accumulate both too slowly and too quickly. :P Players often felt obligated to keep demons around for a significant period of time just to transfer their abilities around, and yet also, well-used demons tended to end up with tons of excess training points that could be used to game the system by teaching an ability to them from a demon with only 1 point, then using their much larger pool to spread it around as desired

The new system of simply buying training directly with currency is much more straightforward. Generally speaking, you have much more control over ability copying now (since it is no longer tied to individual demons’ training point pools)… but counterbalancing that are the facts that currency is a shared resource with other systems, and that training has been priced such that the total number of ability copies available will be less than before. Fewer, but better, ability copies, is the outcome.

You may notice the main character has a training cost listed as well: direct purchase of training has also replaced the “ability teaching” system. :) However, one old rule still applies: while the main character can be taught by demons, they cannot teach demons. This allows starting abilities and abilities learned by defeating heroes to remain semi-restricted and powerful, since they still cannot be immediately copied around to an entire party just because the main character learned them.

More details about these systems, as well as information about the other things currency will be useful for, will be coming soon. :D Cheers!

Putting the Tower on a Diet

One of Demon’s more annoying design bugs for awhile now has been the lack of control I had given myself over how enemy encounters behave in in the game. The most obvious example of this is when you run into to ridiculously large groups of enemies (actually two or more groups that happened to randomly find each other and stick together), but it also manifested in other problems: the extra large… and largely empty… levels I asked the game to create to try and minimize that problem, and the resulting easiness of “chase me” captureables and near impossibility without a Trouble Chime of “kill X other guys” captureables that this not fix caused.

I’ve been quietly working on a real fix to the original problem, and, I think it is almost ready to deploy. :)

The main, immediately visible results should be:
* Much, much smaller tower levels. (If current testing continues to bear out my current parameter choices, tower levels would contain about 75% less playable space and occupy a 60% smaller grid.
* Virtually no more initially double encounters…
* …but there will be more frequent mid-encounter intrusions, particularly during longer battles.
* Enemies are somewhat much less willing to expend resources aiding other enemy groups. This will be most noticeable with healers and buffers: they will rarely use their limited resources on enemies on other groups, preferring to save their efforts for their actual friends.

The main result of these change I’m hoping for, as a whole? A much leaner exploration experience, encounters that are overall fairer while still challenging (you will almost never run into two groups at once anymore, but extra groups joining a long fight in progress will be more common), more challenging “chase me” and (to a lesser extent) “wait” captureables, and fairer “kill X in Y turns” captureables.

Early testing has been going well, if that continues to be the case, this next build might be released very soon indeed. I’ll keep you posted. :)

(Note: I should stress that this, however, is not the remaining part of the captureable review that is still in progress. Further changes are coming on that front, including direct fixes to some of the issues with “kill X in Y turns” captureables. :) )

Upcoming Melee Changes

So, as previously discussed, I’m attempting to nudge melee a bit more towards the center line viability wise. :)

The biggest problem it has had up to this point is it required more investment (in terms of stats: Strength, Vitality, and Agility all being more or less required, with Cunning often riding along too) than most magic/support builds, which were free to focus on as few as a single stat depending on what they had in mind.

At first, I considered addressing this by adjusting how Strength, Agility, and Cunning behave by giving them special bonuses that only applied to physical/melee… but, I instinctively dislike the idea of “unbalancing” something to fix a balance problem. Strength and Magic after all were balanced numerically: both give a 25% damage increase per point per level spent. The problem is that Magic covered a better set of abilities than Strength.

In trying to decide what to do instead, the release of relics was a big help. Once melees had access to more melee-oriented starting packages, things looked much better for them. Even with the stat “problem” still in effect, the new offerings for melee were allowing characters to make good use of those diverse statistic requirements.

That was what helped me settle on the approach I’m taking for the ARRP/Melee Improvement build: rather than try to change the stat problem, make it a non-problem by making sure melee abilities reward the high cost and take advantage of the diverse stat expectations. To that end, I reviewed the existing melee abilities and will be making some tweaks (such as Pounce and Bull Rush no longer using Breath cooldown, but instead using their own Charge cooldown; and “support slash” abilities like Reviving Cut and Guarding Cut being able to heal/buff the user), adding new abilities (such as Bloodthrist, a passive that adds a 25% drain to all physical attacks) , and tweaking the ability sets melee demons in the Tower have both to make them more effective opponents (for example, Ogres will now be getting Oppressor, which boosts defense versus lower HP enemies) and to make sure melee players are getting good access to strong abilities like magic does.

All that said, I expect and want the end result of these changes to be a nudge. I think melee was a fair bit behind before relics, and post relics is only a bit behind. These changes are intended to push it even with the other types of builds and options available. :)

I’ll post again tomorrow with a list of the new abilities being added, for those who are curious and want a sneak peek. :) 

Let’s Talk About Challenge

Hey folks! As promised, a few words about the desired challenge level for Demon, where we’re at now, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

To start with: I want Demon to be a very challenging game, *most* of the time you’re playing it. Not quite all: it’s important to give players some easier stuff now and then, to provide a break mentally, give opportunities to experiment with new strategies in (relative) safety, and to see how much better they’ve become since the days when the now easy encounter wasn’t so easy.

But aside from that, yeah, I want Demon to be challenging, but fair. It can be pretty difficult to objectively define what things like “very challenging” and “fair” mean, but I’m going to try to lay it out here, at least for Demon. (If you’ve read Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup’s documentation, or are well versed on roguelikes in general, some of this may sound familiar to you.)

  • Every death (and here I mean the player *or* even just an allied demon) can be traced back to a reasonable mistake. A mistake is reasonable if the player had access all the necessary information (presented in a clear and concise manner) and tools to avoid the mistake. Note: If the player passed on acquiring offered tools, or expended or lost them due to earlier mistakes, that does not mean they did not access! Mistakes can also be long-term in nature.
  • No death (again, the player themselves or an allied demon) should ever happen without the player or one of his allies having received at least one turn at some point between when the trouble started and when the death occurred. (Note: It is left open whether or not the player will have an opportunity to escape that fate during the turn, it will likely depend heavily on what abilities they have chosen, which demons they have allied with, how they have trained those demons, and what consumables they have conserved. It’s also worth noting I don’t say the turn must be a player turn. I admit I would prefer that, but the only way I can assure it is to make the player immune to any multiple turn loss effects such as Paralysis and Charm.)
  • A global win rate of anything greater than 0% is acceptable if all of the above facts hold true. If I have satisfied myself all of the above is true, I will be okay with where the challenge level is, even if only one person (not counting me) beats it. If it’s still completely unbeatable even when all of the above is true, only then I will consider further modifications.

All that said, if we condense down my overall goals for the desired challenge level to a number for abstraction’s sake, say, 100, the current 4/19 build is around a 105-110. Previous builds going back the last several months were probably more like 70-80. In short, I feel like the current build *is* a bit overly challenging… but not by a lot. There will be some changes, but they will be relatively minor: the current game is pretty close to what I’ve been aiming for in terms of the challenge it provides.

There will be plenty of players, even among those currently playing, who will not enjoy that level of challenge. That’s perfectly okay with me, and I hope it’s okay with them too. I consider taste in games to be no different than taste in any other sense: everyone has their own preferences, and all of them are right. Demon’s target audience is vanishingly small, but this one is for them, even if it’s no more than me and a few hundred or few thousand others.

Now, who’s ready for a nice bowl of beef vindaloo, extra spicy? :)