Combat Lethality in NEO Scavenger
A few players have recently brought up lethality and permadeath in NEO Scavenger, and how that impacts their fun in the game. NEO Scavenger is a fairly harsh mistress, so it tackles some difficult questions of balance, especially where "game over" is concerned.
Since this is something that affects everyone, I wanted to centralize that discussion here, so folks could read and share thoughts.
One specific question actually comes from a post on Game Dev Gone Rogue, and brings up the question of player choice vs. randomness in determining the player's death.
I think the 'hardcore' gaming thing is hard to balance right; the combat could do with a look.
I was scavenging - hidden, with tracks covered, and attracted a dogman. Combat started with him two spaces away.
I was very well equipped (cleaver) and in very good condition. I'd chosen the Strong and Melee traits. I'd killed a dogman unarmed in the cryo chamber at the start and another one later, with a crowbar - no sweat. I'd recently killed a bandit and got his rifle, and was pushing a trolley full of supplies. I'd just spent 15 minutes of my life organising this trolley and three backpacks.
Because the dogman was so close and it was bad terrain retreat would have been a desperate option, so I parried, then caught him in a trap. I got three good hits in with my cleaver before he was able to strike back once with a 'graze'. He wasn't for running away so I traded blow for blow for three turns, hitting him each time. Third time he hit me, I died of 'cardiac arrest'.
There was no right way to play the situation. Escape was no safer than confrontation (due to the terrain, tripping) and would have seemed too conservative a strategy given past outcomes. The dogman appeared too near for me to swap to my gun and fire, so I was committed to melee combat. I chose my moves well and got lucky rolls, but still died, following an optimal strategy under the best conditions.
I can endure an unlucky setback, but sudden and arbitrary death is an absolute turn-off. I can't face going back to the game, cos it's not a safe investment of time and I don't see how I can learn from the situation and do better next time around. In an ideal game, defeat is always your own fault in some sense.
This is meant in the spirit of constructive criticism; I'm sure the right balance can be achieved but it's not there yet.
First of all, thanks for the detailed info and candor. This type of feedback is very helpful to me, especially since it pins down what feels "off" about the mechanics, specifically.
The "sudden, unexpected game over" described is something I had to tone way down in earlier builds. Combat (and sometimes scavenging accidents) were causing fatal wounds, and it felt like the game was playing Russian roulette each turn.
I agree that's not fun, and I like how it's described as an unsafe investment of time. Even more so, I agree with the philosophy that defeat should always be the player's fault (i.e. usually for taking unnecessary risks).
There are a few tactical choices I might have made differently, but overall, I think G is right that there was a high probability of game over in this encounter, arguably no matter what choices were made.
In practical terms, I think what happened was that the dogman got a high damage roll on G's upper chest. Hit locations have a normalized damage tolerance, and most have corresponding "thresholds" above which bad conditions happen.
The upper chest has a "cardiac arrest" threshold at 0.9, which is to say, the tissue of the heart is completely ruined when the upper chest is 90% destroyed. This is instantly fatal (in NEO Scavenger. In reality, one could probably survive with a destroyed heart for a short time, but NEO Scavenger assumes that time is shorter than the next battle round, or the opponent just takes advantage of the wound). Not all locations have fatal thresholds, but the upper chest, head, and lower chest are some that do.
Certain weapons, the dogman's claw, cleaver, and wrench among them, are capable of dealing that kind of damage in one shot, provided the wielder has the "Melee" skill. The "Strong" skill also amplifies melee damage, so the lethality can actually be a bit higher.
Conversely, damage is randomly determined on a bell curve, with the highest probability somewhere near the middle of the prescribed range. Lack of skill or strength further decrease the upper limit. On average, a dogman (who has strong and melee coupled with lethal claws) should require 2 hits to a single hit location to reach 90% of that location's capacity. One-shots are possible, though, as are weaker hits.
So this just describes the current system. As designed, we end up with some cases of "game over" due to a random roll for damage and location in battle.
Realistic? I think so. Fair? I also think so, though G is right that they were railroaded a bit into a hard fight. Fun? Maybe not so much, and I'd like to talk about some options for increasing the fun. Particularly, ways that won't ruin the fear factor and sense of challenge NEO Scavenger has.
We could always scale down damage vs. hit locations, such that more hits are required to cause fatality. However, I've heard many complaints that battle takes too long right now. This is even after damages were slightly increased from their original specs. Players feel like battles are a bog. If anything, battles should probably be shorter.
Dogmen could be rarer. Or made into something one could avoid or prepare for, rather than encountering them everywhere and often. This is likely going to happen anyway, as they're meant to be a more regional threat.
That said, raiders and the like are still pretty dangerous. And there will always be a "killing blow" in battle. No matter how low damages get, there's always that last, fatal strike that puts a target over the edge. Lower damages give more time to course-correct, but they also diminish the urgency and risk of battle.
I could have the "DM" intervene before player death. One thing a good DM would do in a situation like this is to "fudge" the die roll, using some sort of dramatic outcome to punish, but not kill, the player. I like this approach, and it fits with my goals for the game (i.e. a computer-based, single player equivalent to pen and paper RPGs).
However, leaning on the "DM as a savior" crutch has it's own pitfalls. If we use it too much, the player will start to expect it, and will probably lose the sense of danger. I think fear and danger are two things NEO Scavenger has going for it, so I'd hate to lose that edge.
We could change the way scavenging attracts monsters. Perhaps if there was more of a strategic option to avoid your battle, that would have helped? Especially if it was a non-lethal setback that guaranteed your escape. That way, you could weigh your options before the battle, and decide if it was worth taking the gauranteed hit in exchange for escape, or if you wanted to take your chances in battle.
Or maybe even a middle ground? E.g. you aren't guaranteed escape, but you can take a few injuries or lose items to start at a greater range.
I kinda like that last set of approaches. If that were somehow built into all battles, we could sidestep the issue of feeling cheated when killed in battle. Basically, players are in control of certain battle factors before it starts, but they have to "pre-pay" to get them. If they choose the option to guarantee avoiding battle, it costs something dear, but they're safe. If they choose anything less, the price is accordingly smaller, but the risk of death in battle is higher.
That was the purpose of the scavenging danger bars, but maybe that system is a bit too abstract. Also, that brings the in-battle system of retreat/range control into question. It could be that said system isn't doing its job, and could also fulfill this role better.
I'll have to give this some thought. Adding a new system is a big deal, and it's possible the existing systems are just flawed and in need of updating.
Also, I'm not sure what kinds of options we can give a player that are both fair and realistic, but I'm sure at least a couple could be brainstormed. Losing items and taking injuries are two "prices" we've already mentioned, and escape/longer starting range are two "bonuses."
I won't act on this yet, just because I like to percolate ideas a bit :) And I'd love to hear what you guys think. Overall, though, I think there may be something here.
As always, thanks for the feedback. Discussions like these really help make NEO Scavenger better!
Wow!! That's allot to consider. I'd like to give some feedback on a couple things:
The player that died fighting off Dogman. For me this is game on, I already know that if One gets me locked down in combat the it's over. But I've always thought that's the way it should be.
If you take all the tools at your disposal and make good choices then you are not going to have that problem. At least that's my experience so far.
I also rely heavily on hiding tracks and hiding before I stop for anything so maybe that has something to do with it.
If this dogman came out of nowhere and ruthlessly mauled this guy after all the right choices then I would say yeah tough break man sorry that sucks, but that's Neo Scavenger Baby!! But I think that's unlikely. Probable but unlikely. Cause it kinda sounds like he was in allot of combat and in the same area for a extended time. That's a no no. Plus three back packs and a shopping cart?!! Yeah I would expect everyone to attack me!!
The DM intervention thing to me sounds like in the end your going to be left with the same problems. Maybe not if done right but I can't think of how honestly cause were talking perma death, which is what turned me onto the game.
N e ways just some honest feedback. Take care!!
I wouldn't put too much weight on realism. The important thing in any fiction, whether realistic or wildly fantastical, is buy-in to the internal logic of the fictional world.
You get a boost to buy-in by referencing the rules and features of the familiar real world, but this comes with risks. The logic of the game must remain very consistent and clear. The player shouldn't think that anything plausible in real life ought to be plausible in the game. If we're talking realism, well realistically I wouldn't have been scavenging in the above situation at all. I needed/wanted a multitool for preparing squirrels before setting off east - I couldn't use my cleaver, which irked me slightly at first until I bought into the idea that it's in the 'weapon' category. Then again, the crowbar is both a weapon and a tool so...
Realistically, you can die from one punch. I've heard of freak incidents where someone stepped off a kerb and broke a vertebra (might be one for Snopes). Insta-fail, however unlikely, only belongs in gambling and I hate gambling. I like games. Chess is a pure game, not gambling at all; not even a little bit, if you ignore everything outside the board. Difference between 'taking chances' because you don't know/forsee everything and being subjected to random chance.
RPGs are somewhere in-between and that's alright - IF there's always room for a good player to 'roll with the punches' and recover from a run of bad luck. A good dungeon in D&D usually has a load of weak foes and a few Big Bads. This means that things get gradually harder if your luck is consistently bad or you make consistently bad decisions, and there's time to course-correct if it's the latter. In a good dungeon the odds of getting creamed by pure bad luck are vanishingly small, as you'd have to roll low so many times.
If you don't want to have the player wearing power armour and wading through hundreds of bandits and dogmen, losing gear (and pride) is a good option, so long as there's nearly always room for a good player to build back up again. The emphasis has to be always on 'good player' though, not 'lucky player'.
I think players would be more annoyed by the 'rarer dogmen' solution, as they'd be less psychologically prepared for insta-death when it happens. If you kept them to a region of the map you'd have to a) signpost it really clearly and b) provide some means of boosting the odds against dogmen (friendly catman) so that it's not a redundant impassable region for the entire game.
'Pre-paying' for risky options has potential, because that's what makes gambling acceptable - you put your money down upfront, knowing the risks and rewards.
Me, I think Fallout had the right idea: many games end early when you run into a random radscorpion or deathclaw. Once you've survived for a while though, and invested serious time in the game and in building your character and gear, it's a lot harder to die in random encounters - the emphasis shifts to tackling tough areas of the map and specific challenges and Big Bads.
In Fallout you can save/reload, so I would say that that 'fragile beginning, resilient middle' model is even more vital when you can't save/reload.
Lastly (phew) I was shocked to hear of people complaining that the combat drags on too long. The game was recommended to me partly on the basis of how realistically grim and brutal the fights are; it sounded to me like scenes out of The Road - pitiful half-starved combatants, desperate tactics, clumsy, obligatory executions. This is as it should be, it fits the tone and setting. For me, it added so much to the tension, mood and even to the sense of gravitas. Dishing out horrible deaths as you build in strength... it gives the experience a weird damned ambience.
Anyway, I don't think it should be lighter on combat and heavier on resource management.
Maybe there should be more non-hostile people about? Could be your call whether to attack survivors who don't want to fight you. I also think combatants could surrender and offer you possessions. This is in keeping with the sad, brutal tone - dude gives up his empty plastic water bottle in the hope you'll spare his life. Or the mechanic could be, he drops something tempting and runs - do you let him go while you pick it up, or chase him then come back to that hex for the item afterwards?
All writed out now, hope half of it was useful.
I really like some of G's ideas concerning "Skill vs. Luck." I don't want the luck element to be negated, but some stuff does feel a bit too "out of left field" to me. Stepping out into the sunlight for the first time only to be immediately murdered by a dogman was good for a chuckle the first time, but after a few times (yes, I hid from the one in the cryo facility) it's just frustrating and a bit of a turn off. Dogmen are pretty much NS's Deathclaws, and for my two-cents worth, I think they should be encountered a bit later in the game, maybe with a few warning signs that helpful scavengers put up marking their (known) territory? "Keep Away! Here be Dogmen!" Or somesuch. You run into the first one in the cryo facility to give you a taste of things to come, and then they show up only later when you go wandering into their space. Maybe you can also make markings on your minimap to help you remember where their territorial borders lie?
Anyway, there really isn't much I can add to G's comment (and certainly not as eloquently), but I'm pretty much with him on the whole, "when I die, I want to feel responsible, not gipped." thing. Demon's Souls and Dark Souls are two games from recent memory that pretty much nail this. Yes, you die a whole lot, yes it's frustrating, but it's always your fault and there is always a lesson to learn from the death. "Why did I die?" "What can I do different next time?" If skill is the dominant factor, you can try to tackle the situation differently and maybe conquer it; if luck is the most important factor, then all you can do is try again a hope for better rolls, which doesn't sound very fun.
What if death were used as a learning tool in NS? When you die, you start over brand new, but with things like the minimap filled with your previous incarnation's information? This could be explained away as the new you being another clone or something? Yeah, that's way out there, I know, and I don't want the fear aspect you mentioned to go away, either. Hmm...
Not to bash the game, though; I'm digging it.
Dogmen attacks are a bit too often when you start the game but it was already said before and confirmed recently that they are going to migrate north. So problem solved.
I think this game could be bit more forgiving in first day or so (which will happen soon when dogmen go away) but should be way more danger filled than it is now. Combat is lethal (and should be) and that quickly teaches new players a good thing - to avoid it at all cost. But it's so easy to do so, that after one master a few tricks, game looses most of its challenge.
What I'm talking about: my last playthrough - Hiding, Metabolism (positive), Athletic, Botany. Always using Hiding/Crowbar (+Goggles later) combo and only searching safer places (no crumbling buildings or open fields) of full AP (to run in case of danger). It lasted for 15+ days without a single dangerous encounter. Only enemy I saw was a single looter near city, who run away on first sight of a man wearing both boots :D.
Kaaven, I also got to the point where I seldom struggled with dogmen or any other enemies although I may have been lucky in not being shot at at all.
This isn't necessarily a problem because the enemies that are challenging/insta-death at the start should become less challenging as you progress.
Imagine the game was completed. Maybe you find a laser rifle and some hi-tech body armour, and now dogmen and raiders are totally easy, but now you have to go fight heavily armed mercenaries who are a serious threat to you. Difference is, the mercenaries don't show up randomly because they would be far too powerful for an early or mid-game character. Or maybe they only show up randomly when you're powerful enough to have a chance; don't know how the game would determine that, maybe by hours played or by key events.
As an aside Kaaven, I mastered the game in a different way, much more aggressive, zero hiding - good that that the different strategies are viable.
I get your idea, which is valid, but let me say this. It's all about what do we look, and hope to see at one point, in this game. I don't want this to be another game to be fair and caring about player. Sandbox game like NS, without levels or classes, should not, in my opinion, include the kind of progression you propose.
If there are some hardcore mercenaries out there, driving inside a tank while they clean their power armors, players should still be able to meet them on day one. There can be, for example, a game mechanic that makes them ignore unarmed targets, allowing player to drop all held weapons and walk away alive. But if he decide to take his chances with a cleaver (or is simply too greedy or dumb to let go) or is too big threat to them, they have to rip him to pieces everytime he does that in game. No hand-holding, no leaving harder things for later. It's a hard life out there.
I actually hope, thanks to recent news Dan posted, that there will be at least coupe of enemies that won't be killable at all. Angry spirits/cthulhu offspring/mutant-ninja-assassins that can only be avoided/temporary immobilized with great investment of player thought and resources.
Most things like this might be regional or otherwise limited. Think - bloodthirsty little monsters, living in a sewers of a certain region, ripping apart even best equipped people, but attacking only by night and scared off by the light - scary and challenging because they will kill you even if you're packing machine gun and night-vision goggles, still possible to avoid by some non-combat means (light the campfire and wait them off, use a torch and pray it will last till dawn). But whole tension that monster creates is gone if it shows at the time you gain access to searchlights and laser rifle.
That is how I would like to see the game, mainly because it seems more interesting (if harder) but also because so few games dares to kick players butt these days, especially RPG-likes. Nowadays all have to be balanced, level centered, class appropriate - you know what I'm talking here.
I look to find here this experience from real, pen and paper, RPG when my level 1 DnD players discovered that guy who was after them is a level 15 wizard vampire... Believe me, that was some very creative ways to avoid someone. Much more interesting than source-book suggested fight with 2-4 goblins :D
Hmm I dunno man, I'm not feeling it. Games of skill mean growing in skill and mastering progressively harder challenges, not being insta-killed or having to cower and run all the time. If there was to be a lot of running away, well, how can you make that skilful and interesting? I don't know. It doesn't sound like fun though.
Say you manage to pull this off - is it any more fun or realistic? Is it realistic that you can run away from a dogman? Probably not; they are strong wild predators. In real life my best chance against a dogman would be armed combat. Even hiding would be difficult: wolves have incredible senses, like The Predator.
I think henbayward was right to mention Dark Souls - it's a hard game, not 'fair and caring about the player' like you said, but it's not unfair or random. I think it's a good example.
Learning HOW to play a game is a skill too. Like we said before, we both managed to, as you said, master the game, and in two different ways, which by itself speaks for how good this game is in beta/demo stage. First games were short, character died in a matter of few turns. Now I can go one for days in game without too much trouble, even with dogmen running all over the map, and I call it a skill. And getting here was fun, wasn't it?
What I said and meant earlier, goes down to this: I would like to see NeoScavenger continue to go this way. Looking at the forum, there is a lot of suggestions that could possibly turn it into either NeoDiablo hack'n'slash or NeoFarmer.
When I say I like enemies stronger or possibly unbeatable I don't want ungratifying running from everything. I see it more like in an older game called Thief. Fighting there was hard, two simple guards could best you easily. There were hard to kill monsters (zombies only killed with holy water, which was scarce) or simply invincible ones (ghost of some sorts) but there was always some way to either avoid fights or level the playing field - and that was the skill and whole point of the game. Actually higher level of difficulty was to not kill a single person. It was loads of fun, while that was simple "stealth" game with few options. RPG/adventure game like NeoScavenger, with it already neat and still upgraded crafting system, have tons of potential to play with things like instead of making it easier by introducing some sort of linear progression of difficulty.
As a side note I by all means don't talk about scripted, story related encounters - just the random ones.
Sure, what you say there makes sense and I appreciate that you don't want it to become like those other RPGs and I agree. I do think though that you would need to do a huge amount of writing to make a game interesting in the long term if you take away progression. Fallout has progression and a lot of writing. If you don't progress beyond a squirrel tunic and a handful of bullets in NEO Scavenger then it'll take a lot of work to find other ways of providing a thrill.
The most lazy, unimaginative RPGs I would compare to investment banking with fantasy money, where you invest and gradually accumulate and cackle as you remember how you started out with pennies and now have an empire. Even NEO Scavenger is a little like that because you start out vulnerable and scared and enjoy getting more well armed and secure. This is part of the pleasure of these sorts of games.
(Aaaah! It makes me do the captcha for edits too!!)
Deathclaws worked so long as the player was in the habit of saving early and often - not an option here.
If you can save/reload freely, it's great to throw the extremes of powerful enemies at the player now and then, for at least 3 reasons: you get to experience awe/terror at a powerful enemy; you get to see just how powerful enemies can get; you get to experience euphoria if you actually luck out and kill it.
(Dan, I seem to get this captcha thingy for every single post)
I think fights in game are as dangerous and brutal as they should be. Whole game is. So PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't lower difficulty level (or use "deus ex machina" tricks), that is the shortest way to the modern trend of hand-holding, 3 hour-long, boring, unmemorable games.
A few things to balance game-play are necessary, that's obvious, since this is beta game. I agree that more "control" options should also be given to the player.
So here are some fight-related ideas from the top of my head:
- before combat is initiated, if player have certain skill (like trapping) or used some additional protection (noise trap to secure entry to the building you are looting, maybe) there is an chance to detect danger and dart away immediately (not knowing what that was), going to next hex but having, for example: 90% chance to loose tools used (crowbar, lockpicks), 50% things held in hand, 20% backpack - either escaping death in dogman's claws or making some looter extremely happy
- as I mentioned in some other thread, letting some encounters begin with more distance between combatants, allowing better usage of firearms, greater chance of tactical retreat (aka running away) and some new options like bracing yourself for the enemy charge (old fashion first-strike) or spending some time, while enemy advances, on taking higher/steadier/better protected ground to gain some advantage - all those options for the same reason, to give a player more choice on how/if he wants to take the fight
- surrender should sometimes be an option. Human/intelligent enemies should accept surrender if player didn't hurt/angered them too bad, take most of his useful stuff, eventually beat the crap out of him and leave (after all, fighting is risky to both parties and most of them are not a suicidal psychos) - as you suggested, player loose something but survive. It also creates another choice: go all out and try to kill that raider, risking he won't accept surrender or just try to fend him off, hoping that he show mercy (AI taking in consideration: how lethal weapon do you use, did you hit him, when he fell did you kicked or tried to run, etc.)
- bribe/pay for free passage - similar to above (but an option if evenly matched as opposed to loosing), if you offer something of value to them they should take it and leave, happy for free weapon/food/medicine and no new scars on their backs (enemies should be able to try this as well of course)
- bait/scent cheating thingy - again similar method, this time working against animals/brainless monsters. Throw a piece of meat, bloody clothes, air-freshener/deodorant grenade (:D) behind you and move away while the beast is distracted (and stupid but fun sub-idea, pouring whole bottle of cologne or deodoran on yourself may make you repealing to animals until next day/next rain)
- junk armor (I don't like this idea too much personally) - really clunky, cumbersome, heavy and silly scrap made iron suit or unhealthy, smelly, bug infested, thick raw hide jacket - you all get the picture, it's more of a problem than it's convenience but can save life
- one use only, literary "in your face" utensils - a bit in the future with items as well, but: deodorant or peper-spray can end a fight before it starts, especially against animals. Watch out, some raiders have goggles, masks...
In the nutshell, all there is to do, in my opinion, is to add couple more options/tools for players to secure themselves (that I believe is already planned anyway) and not mess with the system as a whole. In the G's example of the dogman attack, the possibility of having noise-trap used as a proximity alarm would be enough. If someone would choose not to know run from unknown assailant, it's his fault if he end up against big monster. And having such safety systems, there should me an enemy that once you meet of a fair ground, you have <25% chances to survive.
P.S. As a side note, I hate this scavenging danger bar. Should be hidden in game-code or something. How is a player character possibly able to tell if he is attracting attention or not. He don't knows if there's anybody out there. He might blow the bloody shed with dynamite and not attract anybody, because in a 10 mile radius there is not a soul present. This bar makes us believe that every ruin, shed and forest is possibly guarded and eventually makes every second open field dogman infested...
I really like Kaaven's thoughts on surrender. This could be a last chance if the stars align you could get a second chance before perma death. All your stuff is gone and your left wounded with nothing. Your prolly gonna succumb to something but if you get some lucky rolls you might just make it.
I'm thinking in terms of your gonna need your lighter back, and logs, and dirty bandages to get clean, and water to drink, and something to eat. And then you if you do happen on all that before you bleed out you still gotta heal which isn't always guaranteed.
I have no idea if this is possible or how much work it would take, but it seems like a good option. It wouldn't ruin the feel of Neo Scav for me personally.
i think this is a really good idea and to add to it i have this-
-based on the environment you are in you should be able to do certain actions (assuming you where alerted)
for example barring a doorway then taking aim or hiding in a bush then ambushing your attacker
that's just my current shpeil anyways until i think of something else
Here's what I like about the combat and the lethality/permadeath aspect:
The combat, though played out entirely in your head, does manage to pull off that harsh, desperate, and brutal feel of the clashes in "The Road" (the book, anyway; I don't remember much about the movie). I think the length of combat, the descriptions of what's going on, and the fear that if you screw up, then this is it for you are prit-near perfect, and are a true testament to the dev for being able to evoke these feelings without Unreal Engine 4-level graphics. I even feel kind of bad for the pixelated little guys when they try to escape and I chase them down and beat them to death with my monkey wrench ("kind of" being the operative words. They always start the fights...). Being a pretty solid reader, it's hard for me to imagine being able to pull this off with pictures and animations; I can often imagine far worse than what I'm flat-out shown.
Also, the permadeath adds an extra layer of tension that just wouldn't be there if I knew I could just reload or respawn at my last campsite.
Does the interface need a bit of tweaking? Sure, but I honestly can't put my finger on what about it feels off to me, only that something does.
What I don't like about the combat and the lethality/permadeath aspect:
Sometimes, it just feels a bit too random. In real life, if I'm attacked, I don't get to choose where the baddy hits me, but say, if I have the "melee" ability, which represents training in hand-to-hand, I can "read" my enemy's "tells" and so can either have a better shot at dodging, parrying, rolling with it, using his own attack against him to throw him off balance, exploit openings/mistakes, etc... I've been up against guys that I had clear advantages over, where I'm armed, in good health and all that, and he's barefoot, frail, blind, and unarmed and either combat went on longer than maybe it should have, or he got some really, really lucky rolls and put major big-time hurt on me with his brittle little fists.
Kind of going off topic here, but in real life, the more you do something, the better you get at it, whether it's shooting, fighting, sewing, reading, whatever. It almost feels to me that the protagonist is unrealistically static in his development as the game progresses. He is completely reliant on simply finding better equipment, rather than growing, progressing, and getting good with what he has. In NS, if I find a gun, that's it. I will never, ever get better at using that gun, no matter how much I use it; I am just as bad a shot with my 1,000th round as I was with my 1st. The only thing I can do is get a more powerful gun (or any weapon), which shouldn't, in real life, do me any good, because I'm still a crummy shot. If my clothes or equipment start to wear down, I can't make repairs; I can only find new ones.
True, it's a game and not real life, but it does have a high level of realism in how situations and your health/condition are handled. Maybe there can be "success rate" indicators for your different actions. I know, there are no "indicator bars" in real life, but if I'm good with something--skilled at something--in real life, then I know I have a better shot at accomplishing whatever it is I'm attempting. The only way you can represent this "confident feeling" in games (that I know of) is to have some sort of indicator. "I'm no good at picking locks, so I have almost no chance of picking this one" would translate to "3% chance to pick," while "I've picked a few locks; how hard can this one be?" might translate to "33% chance to pick," and the more you are successful at something, the better you become, be it fighting, walking, whatever.
Maybe that's what feels off for me: the setting, the world, the game, are all very open-ended in nature, but the protagonist is not. There are many different ways to handle things, different ways to play the game, but once you pick your perks, that's all the char will ever be; the world seems to evolve and progress around you, but you're still the exact same guy who fell out of a cryo-tank a month ago, except now you have two t-shirts, a backpack and some crackers. The perks let you choose what type of character you want to play (two-fisted brute, sneaky scavenger, ex-military), but you never get better with any of these skills.
The issue with progression, though, is there has to be a limit; NS isn't the type of game where you want to eventually become a roving death-machine. There always has to be a level of risk with everything you do, and in some games, you can progress to the point where nothing is challenging, and this makes the game boring to the point that you either rush just to get the game over with, or lose interest altogether. Again, Dark Souls handles this very well: you become more powerful, but nothing is ever "safe" or easy (there's also zero randomness, beyond item drops), and there is still a feeling of tension even without permadeath. The new XCOM: Enemy Unknown is another good example of a game with a high level of difficulty, a degree of randomness, progression, permadeath, and fairness. The key word is "fair" not "dumbed-down" or "hand-holdy."
Again, I hope I don't come across as bashing this game, it is really fun. :)
If I seems to ramble in this post, it's because I was born a ramblin' man.
One idea: non-hardcore where you can respawn at your last camp butt-nekid and a hardcore mode where it's like it is now. *ducks tomatoes*
...in some games, you can progress to the point where nothing is challenging, and this makes the game boring to the point that you either rush just to get the game over with, or lose interest altogether.
Yeah, endgame ennui. Elder Scrolls games - every one I've played, by the time I get to the big bosses it's boring compared to the first time I tried to take down a city guard. Skyrim's the first one I bothered to finish; fight against the final boss was farcically easy - he was still delivering his evil mastermind speech as his dead body ragdolled and the good guys cheered.
What I think is, resource-manager type players break those games every time, as they are pitched to a general audience who mostly want to enjoy the story, express themselves and have knockabout fun rather than win, dominate, save every penny, find every weapon. NEO Scavenger is more overtly about resource management so can be made with the expectation that players will try every trick in the book to extend their powers.
I do think a game about survival should involve getting better at things over time - after all, learning is what Homo sapiens has instead of claws and fur. People who are good at wilderness survival are like Ray Mears, they are constantly learning about the environment. They're not people who were born with amazing traits that remain static, who find some good tools and weapons.
Maybe, you should have a closer look on average damage/action levels delt during the fight.
Say, my character always tries to escape the fight but is not able to get away during several rounds, and dies ... that's frustrating.
Say, my character is in clear advantage, nearly beats the opponent down, hardly takes a scratch, and then is one-hitted ... that's frustrating, too.
If the two opponents are giving a hard fight, having equal damage levels, or it is going slowly but steadily down for one side, while noone is retreating ... well that's a good fight and ones own fault to die.
If your statistics say, you are killed by an outlier blow, you could do some kind of DMs saving throw. On succeed, the player does not die, but drops apparent dead to the ground, unconcious, for about a day. What ever the opponent wanted, is taken, the rest is nearly sure to be taken by looters and other folks. You're in a bad shape, broken bones, untreated wounds, hungry, thirsty, weary, barely naked, cloths in rags. Your precious nightvision googles: gone, your shopping cart worth a month supply of food: gone, your 3 backpacks: gone. Hell, this bloody dogman even pissed on you while you were comatose and shat into your first aid kit. But you are alife. For now.
I'd say, this is even scarier than dying, because you can't say "next game, next luck", but you have to pity with your fucked up charackter and invest even more time to get him back on track, because now you're starting some kind of new game in pretty bad shape and insecure environment.
Maybe you should even programm some kind of (randomized) cutscene for your character being in limbo between life and death, some kind of near-death experience. And in the end you decide, if you want to give up (permadeath) or if you are mentally strong enough to go on. Maybe you could even spoil some bits of your supernatural background or additional surprising and confusing information in those phases ... or model some kind of psychotic personal hell for the character to go through in order to stay alife. Maybe, you could also turn this pseudo-world into something plot relevant, on which you only get a small glimps each time you nearly die (or are totally on drugs).
Taking out the absoluty of permadeath (at will/choise) can be a real opportunity (and even be rewarding for the player) when being filled by something else.
I've been bumping into a situation a lot which may help in this...
Often you discover you have found stuff, but your looting draws attention to yourself.
So how do you respond? Often you'll go to inventory to find out what you just scored, grab what you like and try to run for it! Or the encounter is against some feeble looter, you'll just scare him away... Either way, you get what you wanted from the loot.
What if you had the option to forget the loot and just run for it? Maybe you won't get COMPLETELY away, just add some extra range to the beginning of the encounter. Problem is, you have to decide, sight unseen, if the loot you dredged up is worth risking an encounter against some unknown force. Maybe you left a rifle for that looter who'll end up chasing you down with it! Maybe that empty corny cola bottle wasn't worth fighting a Dogman for!
I must admit I haven't read up on the responses, since the wall of feedback seems a bit daunting to me. So I'm uncertain as to wether my feedback have already been mentioned, if thats the case then let me atleast be another voice in the choir.
I think dogmen should be a nasty one to tackle in melee combat, lets be frank you're only human and should feel like getting the short end of the stick.
I also think death should be a result of a players actions or inactions. Meaning you get a chance to realise you screwed up, retrace your steps and (hopefully) act smarter the next time.
So in order for the player to take on a statistically superior opponent without use of luck, I think they should have some viable tools to help them out. I'm thinking in Scavenging Preparations, a few 1 use items disposable to aid you.
Here are some of my suggestions:
- A Primitive Alarm System. Something you could craft and then choose to use when scavenging, then if you had a encounter you'd start further away from the enemy, and prehaps even hidden dependant on circumstances.
- Anti Clotting Agent. One use craftable botanical item you can use in combat to make your next successful weapon hit cause greater bleeding damage. The intent is to make outlasting the Dogman a viable strategy, give it a few nicks and dance around it in an attempt to win that way.
- A Scent Masker. Again a sort of botanical and consumable items which would make the player harder to track for a dogman for a certain amount of ingame turns.
And once electronics and mechanics become more present in the game, you could make all sort of devious devices. Such as:
- A High Pitch Radio. Meant to be a campsite enhancement, which will keep dogmen away from the campsite and (prehaps) surrounding tiles.
- Trap Network. A hard to craft item you can lie down in a area (like a campsite item) and it'd be spent opun exiting combat from the tile. Battles fought in the area will then always contain treacherous terrain that hits especially hard, the player would obviously not trigger it as easily. Maybe it'd be better to just refer to this terrain as "Trapped" or "Rigged". This is both a way to secure a campsite, but also to have a sort of safehaven you could lure enemies off to.
Some ideas were mentioned some are fresh. I especially like the concept of preparing tile to use it in combat later. Would be great if player could find old landmines, for example, and with certain skills place them again and lure enemy into a makeshift minefield. It could have a thrill of setting the mine off by yourself while placing it, if you're unlucky.
On a side note: Does anybody here knows for sure if this "high pitch sounds" like the radio Kuranes mentioned or dog whistle really works or is it another made up for movies crap?
Done some research and it seems that, while obvious dogs can hear those sound frequencies, the effect is that of any other sound: it draws their attention. So while useful at dog training, it wouldn't be of much use against dogmen :D - at least that what the Internet told me :D.
Well my idea hinged on the fact that Hz and dB are seperate entities. Its simply a matter of playing the high frequency sound at an uncomfortably loud volume. :)
Permadeath in games is something I'm strongly against; I simply don't have the time to devote hours to progress only to have it wiped out with one bad dice roll. I can't think of a game that did this that I didn't toss aside with "well, I don't want to play another eight hours just to get up to where I was before!". I feel too that a player should be allowed to play how *they* want. Want to be "hardcore"? Don't save your game unless you are quitting. Want to restore because you don't like the outcome of your choice when Hatter offered you a drink that turned out to drug you and they stole your stuff? Fine. That's your choice; if it feels like "cheating" to someone else, they don't have to do the same. My earliest video game experience were with Sierra adventure games, which drummed into me the mantra "save early, save often!" and it's hard to get rid of that mindset that others who perhaps spent their more formative years playing "3 lives, no continues" style games.
That said, the single most intense gaming experience of my whole life was when I bought the first 'Resident Evil' game on PSX and was several hours in when I realized I didn't have a memory card to save on! I had to play the whole game with NO saving and it was one of the few times I've ever been genuinely scared during a video game (first playthrough AND no saves AND no walkthroughs/help/idea what was going to happen!). But I don't think I'd be telling that story if I'd died on the final boss and felt I'd wasted a whole day! Forcing players into that experience (yes you, 'Dead Rising'!) isn't fair or enjoyable, IMO.
As to actual *difficulty* in NEOScavenger, my specific thoughts/wants are:
* A proper save system. Not having permadeath would instantly improve "fun" IMO, and allow you to experiment more. I think the thing to remember is that right now, permadeath isn't *that* bad. It's even kind of fun to see "how long can I survive?" with this restriction. BUT the game is obviously not intended to be just a survival sandbox (even though that's the aspect I - and I suspect a lot of folks - like most); once we get more "main story" to play, few will want to be replaying that over and over. I personally wouldn't mind seeing two "modes" even at some point a "survival" mode that had no main quest/story (and permadeath for those who wanted it) and a "story" mode with the main DMC quests and normal saving.
* Difficulty being tough/harsh is pretty fine, so long as we can save! Even if it was "one save slot, saves overwrite" I'd be happier knowing that if I save *after* a choice and it turns out to be a bad one, tough... but if I get jumped by a Dogman I can at least restore to when I last remembered to save my progress.
* Dogmen are definitely too frequent *or* too tough. I lean heavily towards the former, as I like the idea of them being rather formidable, unless they were intended to be "entry level" enemies (I think something else should fill that roll in their place, personally, and save Dogmen for rarer "oh crap!" encounters, but that's just my feeling).
* Guns should be more lethal. In a setting where ammo is rare and firearms are rarer, I don't mind being one-shotted by a guy with a gun so long as I can do the same to him. I'm currently working on a CYOA (post apocalypse) book where guns are pretty much a "kill one enemy for free"... but bullets are *very* rare indeed, almost like Jokers to play when you need them. Personally, I find the idea of guns and bullets being scary, sought-after "Hand of God" items as a fascinating premise. In NEOScavenger, however, guns don't need to be *that* powerful, but they are already rare enough that taking Ranged as a skill is a bit of a waste IMO. Making guns rare (and unreliable?) but *deadly* when used would be balanced. Besides, I like the idea of feeling genuinely threatened by a bandit with a *gun*!
* Alternatives to combat. Yes, we can hide and sneak, but I mean when actually confronted. I think when it comes to human enemies, this is where the game lacks a bit. If a bandit jumps me with a shotgun, I should be able to just give him what he wants without a fight (that's in *his* best interest too, surely?). Ditto if I threaten some poor Feeble and injured scavenger carrying a tree branch, and I have a hunting rifle leveled at his head: "Your clothes, give them to me!" The "threaten" command is something I especially love in the game, as it really feels believable when I'm loaded up and scaring off pathetic looters with a snarl and a wave of my cleaver! But being able to *talk* to someone - even if just to surrender and lose all my gear - would make "impossible" encounters survivable but still punishing. The ability to encounter non-hostile folks at random would be good too, but that's probably a different discussion.
* Finally, I agree that combat often feels too "long". Given the ability to save/not lose everything in a random fight, I'd be quite happy with combat actually being *more* lethal; many times I've spent turn after turn kicking an obviously defeated foe to death slowly (though I do like the brutal realism of this; outside of the movies, people generally do die hard). Sometimes a fight is exciting, whether a brutal struggle or a desperate attempt to escape, but sometimes it becomes a game of "advance, retreat, fall down, get up" over and over. I don't think the combat engine needs changing if other factors (Dogmen, permadeath, combat alternatives) are considered, but I wanted to give my view on that point since it was raised.
All just my two cents, anyway!
PS Dan, your point about videogame AI vs a "real" GM/DM in a pen and paper game was something I thought of/mentioned in my first post elsewhere, too. Having an actual person running a game to make the call when to fudge a roll that would otherwise destroy the whole adventure (or just the session's fun) is something very hard to match, IMO.
PPS I love Kuranes' suggestions on "leveling the playing field" with traps, gadgets, etc. and being generally prepared rather than blindly going into a "fair fight" (where some beast like a Dogman will usually win); it feels very much in the right tone for NEOScavenger (and there's a reason sane folks don't go hunting tigers "fairly" with a knife!).
I play the MMO Die2Nite, and in that game entering an unknown tile always carries the risk of being surrounded by a horde of zombies, which, much like the Dogmen, are a very powerful foe. When that happens, the player has a few choices-
-They can use precious action points to try to kill the zombies, risking running out of AP in a tile full of zombies
-They can run away and get an injury, permanently crippling their character in exchange for their life,
-They can use rare weapons to kill the zombies
-They can wait for their friends to save them(the best choice-IF you can trust the other citizens in the town)
So reasonable solutions to encountering a Dogman can be
- Using rare rifle and bullets to kill it (check)
- Fighting it with low probability of success(semi-determined by gear but still check)
- Accepting permanent damage to get away- maybe change Desperate Retreat around to almost always letting you escape and almost always seriously injuring you(broken bones, deep cuts) and making you drop whatever's in your hands (making the whole three backpacks and a shopping cart thing less practical)
- Waiting it out- if you are lucky enough to not be in an open field, perhaps you could climb onto the roof of a building and wait there until the Dogman loses interest/is killed by powerful friendly(or unfriendly- saved by a raider who wants your 3 packs and a shopping cart) NPC/decides that the barefoot looter 2 tiles away is easier prey.
This could have a cumulative chance of the Dogman managing to reach you- climbing a skyscraper will keep you safe until you run out of food and water, climbing a tree will give you a few turns.
So we do have many options here that preserve fear and immersion while not boning over the player- this keeps things at "Oh God it's a Dogman!" And not "Dogman? Better quit the game now to save the 5 min of watching it kill me"
I've only just started playing the game but if you parry/dodge and pick your times to strike, you shouldn't really get hit by the dogman at all.
I also strongly dislike the notion that people are trying to suggest this game become like all the other games without permadeath. I'm ok with the notion of there being some mechanic in place to escape your perma death, perhaps using some later game items, but the notion of being able to save before encounters is not what this game is and I very much doubt Dan will agree with you.
What is the point in a survival game when you can survive everything by just repeatedly saving?
I suspect the same point that any other game - having fun, just making sure your character survive is more of a priority.
That being said, I'd rather have a balance allowing one to play 'normally', with enough challenge to warrant fairness and fun than regular saving added. At the same time, I can agree that having some optional, late-game emergency reviving ability would be nifty, if only because being kicked back to square one because of bad luck is enough to turn mood sour at times even if the game is great.
But this isn't any other game. This is a survival game and it requires harsh consequences otherwise it's not really much at all. What survival games exist that are fun and have a save game system that lets you just undo what happened? I'm not aware of any at least.
This game isn't aimed at the mass market of people who like to play easy hand holding games and I very much doubt it ever will be. It is for those reasons that it becomes particularly appealing to the market he is aiming it at. If he takes those mechanics away he will likely be left with no real market to aim at.
Do you play FTL or binding of isaac? They are both games built on the exact same premise and are hugely popular as a result.
Like I said already: fragile beginning, resilient middle - that's the only way to go if you are dead against saves. Otherwise the game is going to be like the Myth of Sisyphus. It's going to be like a Fish Sim where you have to start as an egg and play through 1,000 times to experience being that one in a thousand fish who actually makes it to adulthood and has a chance of reproducing. (pulled that stat out of the air by the way)
The only way dying early over and over and over and over and over again is going to be rewarding enough is if you've got a huge depth, complexity and variety of early-game experiences. To make this possible would require a dedicated team making this their life's masterpiece, I would have thought.
This is true. It is still my opinion though that if you take away that actual danger of dieing by being able to get around it then you have nothing at the start either. I think the main problem is that there probably isn't a lot of end game at the moment and this means that if you get there easily there isn't much gameplay.
Like I said before, I believe the answer is in being able to acquire late game items that allow you to escape deathly situations. I don't believe it is that hard to reach the city and that is where you can start being able to acquire such methods. I rather enjoy that you must first survive getting there and it's a nice twist to the game.
Yeah, I think you should be a vulnerable little tadpole at the start and die several times before managing to get a feel for survival and acquire some sort of security. This will make for a tense, challenging early game with a hope of success.
What follows must be a very different kind of gameplay where the risks of dying are low and the rewards are more about the different paths you can take and the unfolding of the story/world to you. The pressure/challenge must be about figuring out a strategy and getting the resources to take on the late-game challenges.
The late-game challenges must entail a moderate risk of death and end the story in a reasonably satisfying way even if you fail. Otherwise many players won't be able to face starting over with the prospect of being killed by dogmen ten times over then falling at the last hurdle again.
These are valid points and I'm sure others will agree with you. Personally, until I actually start dieing to these dogman I really don't understand what everyones problem with them is. It seems to me like people are just repeatedly trying to attack them and dieing to them. I've only died twice to them and both times were right at the start of the game when I didn't know what to do. Parry/dodge, leg trip = downed/vunerable dogman. Continue to beat on the floor until dead. Job is a gooden.
I gradually came to find them quite easy to kill also. But there's still a lot of random possibility of getting killed - you can be unlucky, take a nasty hit, fail to escape right away, then when you do escape you can randomly meet another enemy before you've recovered. There are no guaranteed successful strategies, like in Noughts & Crosses.
This is countered by the mechanic of having a few bullets late game that can save your butt. It probably needs tweaking but it is there.
My point is that, if there is a guaranteed successful strategy, you have just boycotted the majority of what is in the game and pretty much just turned it into a trivial waste of your time anyway, which seems to be the argument going forward that dying after getting so far through is a waste of people's time.
As you've already said your self, they are easy to kill but sometimes the game just ruins your day basically. There isn't much that can be done about that in this genre without taking away all fear of death or getting into a late game scenario as explained before. So my question is, what really is the problem with the game at the moment other than people literally need to learn how to play the game better if Dogmen are really that bigger deal for them.
I don't like using the phrase "l2p" but it's the majority of what I see here and it is a good thing that that is the case because a challenging game to learn makes actually surviving till the late game so much more rewarding.
Might also point out that I learnt how to successfully win every fight after playing the game about 2 or 3 times. It isn't exactly THAT hard to learn. I'm just playing the game to see the end game now and trying not to die of starvation in my current game. Picked up an infection long ago and for some reason my water consumption is now a bottle a turn despite being cured long ago. Unsure if it is a bug or a game mechanic I've not yet played through. It is resulting in me not being able to leave areas where I can boil water and without a trapping skill I will likely starve. Annoyingly the first time playing the game without trapping or botany haha. Damn!
Might I also add that if you guys haven't played FTL you need to. This is a dead is dead game where the game will literally just throw situations at you that you sometimes can't beat. It is unfair, far more luck based than this game is and is also winning rouge/indie game of the year awards across the board because it is made well.
As I've repeatedly said before, dead is dead works in a lot of games because it targets an audience who are bored of the current style of games and just because some of you might rather have easier paths it doesn't mean there should be them because it will utterly destroy what genre the game is.
Like I said before, if you guys haven't seen FTL you should check it out and you will probably enjoy it.
I also know many people who have only managed to complete FTL a minimal amount of times, some people have only managed it on easy. It really is just that tough to get past the completely random encounters yet people keep playing it regardless.
I think this game *needs* an arching story that incorporates your previous attempts some how. Being able to loot your own corpses is a good start and if further plot side quests can be added that can either carry over through attempts or acknowledge them then that is a start.
about the permanent death thing, it isn't actually permanent in a way that you are saving frequently like i'm doing most of the time.
Ok some were in here someone mentioned guns honestly I always sell mine because one ammo for me is bofu rare, and ALWAYS when I fire I miss even when I snuck up on an enemy. It seems like guns run on the melee chance engine so they miss all the damn time.
Yeah, I do feel that this needs changing a little but I guess when hand guns are brought in as a well and crossbows etc, it won't be such a problem.
The problem comes when you can't find a strap for your gun. I don't mind carrying my rifle round on my back when I only have 1 shot, but having to have it in hand all the time is an absolute pain. This needs addressing.
Furthermore, why is it that I can't put my binoculars round my neck where my necklace is? In fact, can anything go in that slot?
Not currently, though funnily enough I share your sentiments (I beleive I posted on occasion myself that I'd like to see guns, even the cheaper ones to be usable and deadly in many situations once acquired and suggested myself to be able to hang binoculars around the neck).
I'm sure he will get around to it eventually. I definitely think that the combat will get old too quickly without a whole lot more combat options than my cleaver.
On a side note, you wanna know something funny? I dreamed about managing my inventory all last night. It was pretty much a tetris nightmare!
There is no quote function yet, so I will respond to dcfador's post like so:
The "sudden, unexpected game over" described is something I had to tone way down in earlier builds. Combat (and sometimes scavenging accidents) were causing fatal wounds, and it felt like the game was playing Russian roulette each turn.
I agree that's not fun, and I like how it's described as an unsafe investment of time. Even more so, I agree with the philosophy that defeat should always be the player's fault (i.e. usually for taking unnecessary risks).
I am of the Dwarf Fortress school of thought that "Losing Is Fun!" And I think that's part of the success of any survival game, from Minecraft to Don't Starve. Sometimes the player has bad luck, which leads to fun. Sometimes the player sets in motion events which get himself killed, which leads to fun. Personally, I don't think the player always has to be directly responsible for causing "the fun," but I do think the player should be able to use strategy to minimize the potential risk involved (even if there still is very high risk overall). How that actually gets balanced is the really challenging part and I don't presume to comment on that.
But on the subject of "losing and death..." I wanted to mention the classic board-games D & D, in which player failure is actually when the game gets interesting. Say your friend's character dies, Oh! I knew him well!, but now the dynamics of the game change radically, now that the plan has failed, the game is about trying to survive against impossible odds. Player failure is necessary and should be punished (and death is fun). It's funny that in the online version of D & D when you die you become a ghost and can still watch your friends suffer because of your mistakes.
I would say brutal games are good fun, but it should always make sense why you died. Maybe it's just a balancing issue.
While a DF player myself, I need to point out that gameplay in NEO Scavenger is quite different and applying all the ideas which governed experience with DF for many may not be the wisest decision. First thing, "Fun" in DF is usually means to the end and often, even if somewhat random and luck based - it can be prevented or managed with proper gamestyle. At worst, it can usually be survived (stories of a small group of dwarves isolated from the rest of the fortress where the cataclysm happened). In DF "Fun" isn't the moment you see the message your fortress has fallen, it's the events just before it did. Things which usually last longer and through DF's degree of possibilties - may happen in many ways. That's what fun, not the game over message said events lead to.
By comparison, all ways for character to die can be presumed as it's just one character. And while the message that he died of cardiac arrest or something like that may be interesting the first time, it may quickly lose flavor if it'll happen often. NEO Scavenger's fun lies in surviving against challenging but fair obstacles. In DF, losing is also fun the same way that at the end of the day on the beach, a kid may find it fun to mess up the sandcastle he was building. Kinda the same with D&D - some player messes up, loses but the rest of the team still survives and now the fun is in struggling to keep it this way. This is fine but struggling to survive is how NEO Scavenger -begins-. The end, going by the comparison is more like DM telling you all to roll your new characters after all previous are dead, not that much fun. Thus I'd rather completely eliminate losing the game and the character for reasons not stemming from player's actions and plans.
My thoughts exactly. Love the sandcastle analogy! If you've got a large force then losing some portions of force to random bad luck can be tolerable, and it's a test of skill for the player to carry on despite bad luck. But if a single stroke of luck can wipe you out completely, then that's not fun at all. No one can find this fun; people who say it is are just not thinking it through. I won't even concede that this is a matter of opinion or taste; you're just wrong. There's no sport on Earth (think, tennis, football, boxing) where there're crazy random factors that can instantly decide the outcome - if anything there's a lot of effort to eliminate randomness and isolate pure skill and ability as the deciders. Same goes for classic games like chess and go - randomness doesn't even come into it, yet no two games are the same.
If any of these sports or games had the possibility of one side suddenly, randomly losing, they'd be ruined. The fact that NEO Scavenger is player vs computer changes nothing - it's still essentially a contest. In a real survival story, like some pioneer in the old west, there're always chances the survivor will be killed by events he can't control or escape - but that's not 'fun'. The word for that is probably 'tragedy' - he tried his best but Fate still ruled against him. A 'fun' story is more like an action movie - Bruce Willis isn't suddenly killed by a blocked artery while storming the Nakatomi Plaza, cos that would ruin the story; Bruce Willis would get shot three times but manage to just barely struggle on and win through his superior skill and character. That's a 'fun' story - there's a threat and challenge that he can just about meet, and it shows how awesome he is.
Maybe in the Cormac McCarthy version of Die Hard Bruce Willis would die of a blocked artery, then his widow would talk about death and redemption with some pastor, then it would fast forward thirty years and one of the kids of the Nakatomi bombing victims would hunt down Hans Gruber in an old folks' home - he doesn't even remember any of it and it's not even worth taking revenge against him, so the kid goes out to the desert and lives as a hermit.
So even a tragic story can't just abruptly end and go 'LIFE SUCKS, GAME OVER'. Cos we know that already.
With all due respect mate, but you are very wrong. There are a lots of sports in which random situations play big (never main, but still pretty big) role.
Think ski jumps, sailing/yachting or javelin throwing - one minute you are going for the world's record, one sudden gust of strong wind later you are struggling for staying in first ten. Or all sorts of sports that use more complex means (like motor sports/racing, ski sports, sailing, shooting, biking, etc.) that need to consider chance of equipment failure, that happens regardless of any preparations and double checking possible. And no one will stop Paris-Dakar Rally raid because some stray dog/deer jumped in front of one of the teams hood and now their car is broken.
Those kind of things are the integral part of those sports and so is preparing best way possible (and a little better then the opponents) to face them. And mentioned sports like Dakar or those big yachting races are based on the very premise that contestants are competing with whatever environment will throw at them as much as with each other. That is what makes them really interesting in the first place (for those who like that kind of emotions of course, others just don't watch those).
But that was all a bit off-topic anyway. Sorry.
While we talk about lethality in NEO Scavenger, mentioning Dwarf Fortress is not the best example I think. While comparing DF to building a sand castle is great it doesn't really relate that much to NS for me. You don't build anything in here, your efforts don't create anything (as opposed to DF) so there is nothing to watch go down in flames later. Neo Scavenger, same as rouge-like games it is based off, for me is more like game "Snake" that was popular on mobile phones once. How long did managed to survive and how deep you get before dying matters.
And by the way (I'm serious, not hating or stuff), where do you guys encountered those random deaths? Combat is a bit clunky of course (it's a beta after all) and ranged combat is a bit underpowered but I never, during many gameplays, felt like game killed me off at random.
While we talk about lethality in NEO Scavenger, mentioning Dwarf Fortress is not the best example I think. While comparing DF to building a sand castle is great it doesn't really relate that much to NS for me. You don't build anything in here, your efforts don't create anything (as opposed to DF) so there is nothing to watch go down in flames later.
I am quite sure that's what was my point when I was responding to Orbitneo. The gameplay of those two games is quite a bit different and ideas which function well in one, may not work as well in the other.
And by the way (I'm serious, not hating or stuff), where do you guys encountered those random deaths?
Given the thread's name, it's the combat that's mostly regarded and how one dice roll potentially can affect/end the whole battle with discussion of whether/when it's fun and/or fair. While it'd seem somewhat realistic on it's own, it still allows extreme outcomes a bit too often for the likes of many, I gather.
I was referring to the whole Dwarf Fortress used as example here thing, not to your post in specific. Sorry if it sounded otherwise.
With the combat, it's maybe a matter of luck but weird, game changing "dice roll" happened to me only once and then it was me who totally "owned" a dogman, killing it with two blows of a wrench. Guess it might happen that the fate will turn, but in general, I find combat in NS much less dangerous than in most RPGs, including perma-death-involving rouge-likes.
What about chess?
Also, as you say, chance never plays the main role - if a dog runs out into the road during the Paris-Dakar Rally and stops the favourite from winning and then some undeserving driver wins, everyone will feel that chance has spoiled the Paris-Dakar Rally.
I understand that people will see a certain romance in this, but you are way overstating the beneficial role of chance when you say I'm 'very wrong'. A small element of chance spices up some sports for people who like that sort of thing, but that's like what I was saying about D&D - a good dungeon master allows some chance but not enough to wipe out a party who do everything right.
This is all I'm saying here; I'm not saying chance should be eliminated as a factor. I'm saying you shouldn't ever be killed by pure chance. Ever. That sucks. Especially if there's no save and you've put hours into the game. That's just rubbish. Life randomly screws people over enough anyway; they don't need this cosmic constant to carry over into their escapist fun.
By the way, this wee debate here isn't off-topic at all: it's essential to the structure of games and very interesting to boot.
What about chess?
Chess is a game of skill, dice (aka Craps) is a game of chance. RPG's are a mixture of both.
Yeah I know that, but you see my point; why I mention it?
I think part of what makes RPG's exciting is the uncertainty. There is a small chance you could be killed unfairly. Yes, you can take fewer risks, wear better equipment, hide, run away, but chance can still kill you. That's as true for real life as it is for games with a 'random' game-mechanic. It comes down to minimizing risk and using the optimum strategy.
To the Original Post, I merely think Dan could tune the game-mechanics to balance risk.
I've not played the game loads but after a few playthroughs I got to the point where I had good gear, had done the city quest and could consistently handle dogmen (though there's still room for unlucky death). It took several hours' gameplay to get to this stage.
When the game's completed there'll presumably be many, many more quests and much more progression of some form, so you're looking at a game taking days, potentially. So you lose all that if you die. Back to square one. It'd better be for a good reason.
If you die in D&D the DM gives you a new character at the same level as your friends' characters so the party stays balanced. You jump straight back into the action. RPG computer games usually have saves. Again, you jump straight back into the action, so it's easier to laugh off some bad luck and see it as part of a rich random RPG world.
A marathon game where you can lose it all in a dice roll and have to start from square one - it's just not feasible; the market for that will be truly tiny. Some players might appreciate it in principle and enjoy posting Youtube vids showing how they've been on the same game for four years without dying, but they will be outliers; for most people it will be like that intimidating book that looks good on your bookshelf but you never get around to reading. The first time I die after spending days painstakingly progressing, I will be absolutely done with the game, sickened with it - I won't keep going back in the hope I can last longer next time, cos I have other things to do that will pay off after days of effort.
Games are a funny thing though - we know there's no actual 'payoff' really (unless you are a pro who gets adulation and money) but the promise or idea of one needs to be there otherwise the activity seems pointless. Activity needs a purpose to guide and structure it. Unfair mechanics and random death undermine purpose.