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? :)

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