This Game is Too F*ckin Hard

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This Game is Too F*ckin Hard

Yo, I Love This Game
And it has a Great Old-Scool Challenge
But The text is hard to read
The game's purpose, direction and interface are Vague and counter-intuitive
and the game is just too hard
Like, the learning curve on this game puts Dwarf Fortress to shame.
AND IT'S COOL THAT IT'S HARD
Honestly, it's Cool.
BUT
There is a Chasm of Difference Between A Game Being Hard By Design
And A Game Being Hard By Lack of Design.

And in All Honesty, Both factors are at play here.

The Game needs Better Interface. Stat.
And I'm not just talking about easier to read text presentation,
Or Clearer Danger and Health Notifications,
Though those are Big Issues
The Game has It's Own World (Which is Worth Getting to Know, that's why we're playing)
BUT THE GAME HAS TO INTRODUCE THE PLAYER TO THE WORLD MORE EFFECTIVELY

Honestly, most of the time I feel I'm playing this game with a a Hangover without my glasses on like "hnng? Whazzat? wha?"
Due to the way the game and the gameworld are presented, the player gets the impression of seeing this new world through an Opaque lens -And, due to the theme, part of that's on purpose, but that purpose needs to be conveyed through the lens of the /Game/ and not the /GamePlay/, you Dig? Alright,
Have A Happy New Year
Magic Box, yo.

The text should be easy to read, actually. Did you try to increase the resolution or to switch "Stretch" and "Filter" on/off?

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

It's not the size of the text; it's the font, the background, the graphic design of the whole layout.
Like, for instance; when in a battle, the action text is at The Very Bottom of the Screen.
And There is little color and no sound differentiation for actions described in the text to indicate effectiveness, severity, import, relevance, etc. It's an issue of design, layout and transmission of information, not font size.

I agree, the combat screen is crap. However, I think it's acceptable for such a low price. The dev already said he would make a better combat interface if he had the time, but he hasn't. The easiest way to improve the combat screen without a major overhaul would be to add sounds, as you suggested.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

I'd go as far as agreeing on the interface needs a well-thought-through restructuring.

I've been playing for a week,
This game involves more chance than skill
It's Fun, but it's not very good

As you go along, it's less chance and more skill. Once you're off your feet and not freezing to death every few minutes, the chance factor disappears.

*Throws IPad and picks up Razer Tablet*

Strong, melee and trapping. Freezing not an issue.

Just try to play more , i survived for a week.
And it's more luck then everything.
If you want a tip , go to Zom zom's area , there are alot of houses and buildings to scavange in this area.

-Ma Signature-

"Crap , I think I just saw a Dogman , with a raider. Hugging each other , creepy."

-Paradise

Hey amagicbox,

You have several points here, and some overlap a bit, so I'll do my best to address them individually.

  • Battle Text - I agree that the stream of battle text isn't ideal. I haven't figured out a better way to do it yet, though. Is there another way to transmit this info that you think might be better?
  • Bad Font - Which font are you referring to, specifically? I ask because there are a couple different fonts, depending on which resolution you play at, and whether "stretch" and "filter" are on or off.
  • Clearer Danger/Health Notifications - Currently, the main danger/health indicators are the colored stat bars on the left of the screen. Are you referring to these? Or do you mean the text describing bleeding/severe pain/barefoot/etc. below player/target in the battle screen?
  • Ineffectiveness in Introducing the Game World - You mention this a couple times, but I'm having trouble pinning-down what you mean. Is this referring to the setting? The mechanics? Can you give me a few examples?
  • Chance Overpowers Skill - There is definitely randomness in NEO Scavenger. However, when watching people play (YouTube, Twitch.tv), there is definitely a point at which their skill seems to overtake random chance. And experienced players definitely have a higher survival rate than inexperienced ones, so skill has at least some impact. Is there a specific case where you felt the game was being arbitrary? E.g. loot results, combat, weather, map layout, etc.

I'll be the first to admit that NEO Scavenger's UI is a weak suit. Finding a way to communicate all the data in the game in a way that still fits 800x450 resolution (suitable for embedding in websites) has been tricky. And as Malacodor points out, I have limited bandwidth for development, so I try not to make changes unless I know it's an improvement, and exactly how I'll achieve it. In the case of UI, there's a lot of effort for very little change.

As a result, a complete overhaul of the UI is pretty much off the table at this late stage. However, I can probably manage to make targeted improvements to the worst offenders, if I see something that looks like a significant improvement.

In other words, I'm open to ideas! The bigger bang-for-buck, the more likely I'll try them. And bonus points if you have a mockup or something visual. It makes it way easier for me to look at specific features, and visualize whether they'd fit in the various screen sizes.

Thanks for the honest feedback!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

OK, I've had some thoughts about this.

Battle UI/text:
For starters, the viewable log history needs to be longer, as it's often the case that multiple things happening in a turn (especially in encounters with more than one creature) can push important information off the log. If things that happen in one turn (e.g. "Bad Mutha has fallen.", "Bad Mutha is unconscious.", "Bad Mutha is in severe pain and having trouble getting it up", etc.) could be strung into one sentence with punctuation and the word "and", that would save a lot of space. IMO spelling out to me that I've just inflicted a concussion on someone who's already unconscious is a bit redundant, and should just be put on the list of that character's status effects at that point, but some people might still like that in the text box. Putting a symbol at line start to indicate message type could help any colour-blind players.

I agree that audio feedback would be extremely useful, if there were unique sounds for player/creature has been hit/missed. Without unique sounds, L/R stereo audio could be used to distinguish PC/NPC sounds. If something like the running-to-another-tile sound effect was recycled at different pitches to indicate someone charging towards you or running away from you, that would be useful (running speed may not be in the range of Doppler-effect relevance, but it's still a helpful audio cue in the absence of animation).
Failing that, the icons indicating what each character did last turn should be a lot larger and more visible. At the moment, the images showing the tile type, yourself and what creature you're up against are a huge waste of space since the former doesn't change and the latter only tells us what a human is wearing and (with some eye-strain) wielding. It should be either swapped with that action icon in size, or merged with it in such a way that it provides visual feedback - e.g. a fallen sprite would be needed for each creature, one each for charging/running, and something like a wall or bush to superimpose on the picture to indicate them taking cover. Of course, that would mean lots more pixel art to do, so simply making the action icons larger and more central would help a lot for now. The terrain & weather info should be shoved off to the left side and shrunk down a lot - we only need to glance at it at the start of an encounter, reading left-to-right, and most of the time it will be ignored after that.
If common actions such as advance/fall-back/run-away/charge/etc. had permanent positions and were greyed out when unavailable, rather than being included in an ever-changing list, that could make it easier to repetitively flee or pursue someone, but then maybe you'd like to punish players for not paying attention and clicking a wrong button, your call ;)

I don't agree that there's any problem with having a text box down the bottom, having played the Fallout games that way and thoroughly enjoying them (they made it even less visible), however the lack of immediate audio/visual feedback compared to those games really handicaps the UX. You might even want to make the text area smaller left-to-right as they did (but not quite that small), as most of the things that get printed there (e.g. "Player is bleeding." "Player ate some blood sausage." "Player has an eye-strain headache.") don't even come close to needing a line-return, and then you would have more area to play with in the UI.

Text font:
I like the font just fine on 800x450, but it looks quite ugly when stretched out to my 1280x800 laptop monitor. 1360x768 goes off the sides natively and has to be squished back in, which somehow doesn't look quite as ugly, but the buttons then shrink to baby-fingertip size while the font is enlarged to pensioner-easy-reading size, making the UI extremely difficult to use at that resolution. I haven't even bothered trying the higher resolutions, but there needs to be something in between those two.

Clearer health notifications?
I think they're fine as-is. Maybe bars could flash/pulsate when in the red, but that might get irritating after a while.

Introducing the Game World:
The Help screen is extremely bare. An introduction to the basics of equipping things to different locations would be very useful, because I died several times before learning by accident how I could sling a strapped weapon over my shoulder, because the glowing clickable area for it was very small and nigh invisible under heavy clothing, and it still took me one death to figure that out after I thought that I could only do it with a double-click. If there was a single-click button to switch between two weapons with straps, like Fallout allowed you to switch between two hands, that would be very helpful. A few lines to explain the crafting recipe mechanic would help a lot as well - that you can figure out recipes by simply combining what ingredients you already have with your skills, and that some things can be reverse-engineered by chucking them up there, but might need a tool for dis-assembly.

Chance:
I think the element of surprise is great, otherwise the game would get boring. However, I don't like being surprised when the PC is thinking of the wrong ammo. Attack-mode-changed penalty needs to die. Kill it with fire and lasers.

Hopefully that "thinking of ammo" issue will be fixed. My encounter with it came in my first playthrough as I mistakenly tried to use the mouse wheel to scroll the combat log; the log didn't move but my weapon selection did. "Oh, ok, but now I can't attack this turn; but my opponent can, stunning and concussing me... aaaaand now I'm dead. Well then, I guess I won't be doing that again." That was not a fun way to learn this integral mechanic.

Even with the weapon selection not showing you options that don't have ammo available, it's too easy for a new player to switch to fists for example and be robbed of their attack that turn. If the system was more lenient, by allowing an attack if you switch back to the weapon you had equipped at the beginning of the turn, the player would come to understand that changing weapons during a fight incurs an attack penalty without denying them the attack if they choose to stick with the original weapon. It also eliminates cheap deaths due to the player not being up to speed on the quirks of the game yet (or indeed experienced players who are prone to flicking the mouse wheel, as I do when I think ^_^ ).

1. The Desktop version of the game is very easy to read when running on auto GUI, on a 1080p Display in a maximized window. making use of adobe's embedded fullscreen scaling like youtube uses might be a solution to the small embedded window issues.

http://help.adobe.com/en_US/ActionScript/3.0_ProgrammingAS3/WS44B1892B-1668-4a80-8431-6BA0F1947766.html

Not experienced with how flash works but that's what i'm referring to I think.

2. Not an issue at high resolutions.

3. Would reccomend not improving the clarity of damage notifications unless you want to improve the clarity of how weapon damage and combat damage is applied. That would be a weird disparity where you know exacly how much something hurts but not exactly how much you can hurt something.

4. I think the lack of introduction could be solved through an encounter like the sleeping bag car. The sleeping bag car seems to occur if you're freezing to death in the first week. Lets say the game checks how you dealt with the dogman in the beginning versus your skills. If you had trapping but didn't get the dogman coat after killing it it should introduce you to trapping mechanics. If you had medic but didn't look for the medicine crate it should introduce you to scavenging with skills. If you had meele/ranged and didn't craft a spear introduce it to using skills in crafting.

5. Chance overpowers skill. Chance does overpower skill. Especially with highly optimized builds. I have had games where I had all augmentations, full riot gear, multiple backpacks, piles of money, all flash drives, multiple locked devices but no laptop to hack them with. I have had games where the first looter I found surrendered to me and he had a 90% backpack and two shoes and a $500 shotgun. That run went straight to ATN with no scavenging.

the only place where skill really overpowers chance is in making your character and deciding where you want to go. If you know the locations of ATN, strange forest, zom zom's and the uses of skills before you take them, thats where skill comes into play. For example I would never take tracking or tough or lockpicking because they are such wastes of perk slots. I would never take feeble because strong is too good. I would never bother with eagle eye because I know surgery exists.

One place where i think luck should be more important is with pills. They should randomize appearance each game. With how it is now medic's ability to identify pills is useless because the pills always have the same bottle and the same name. Add a couple pills like cancer medicine and veterinary euthanasia pills that make you sick or die when taking them and randomize the names and appearences each game. That would make medic more like botany in identifying things where right now it's just filler text.

Speaking of botany, make strawberries a thing. Randomize wether or not strawberries or blueberries are always healthy in a given game but don't give the names to players who dont have botany. For example without botany call them red berries and dark berries. with botany call the healthy one by the name and the potentially hazardous one the color name. (for a given run either red berries + blueberries or strawberries + dark berries) This means that botany is more useful in indentifying plants because one is not always healthy to people without the perk.

The character creation skill should suggest uses for skills. For example if it said eagle eye is available ingame it would be clear that it is a wasted perk choice. If it told you myopia was curable it would obviously be the best trait. If it told you sleeping pills exist that allow sleep but lower alertness the use of insomniac might be more clear.

Well if you have a fighter build you will have a much easier game than a hapless geek. Cuz hapless geek is entirely depend on a locate town for possiblity of clothes and a sleeping bag is eventually found by you through mainly events the other issue I find is that in pervious build starting off with a bunch of enemies in all the towns surround the cyro factand forcing you to run away with only a lab grown as your only clothes in the early part really bad luck

As far as I can say for majicbox luck is heavy dependant if you wanna survive with a hapless geek build.

Speech bubbles saying "ouch" and characters rotated by 90° to indicate that they are fallen would do the trick for me, but I'm afraid it might look stupid to some people.

The sounds I mentioned could be used as follows: The player is highlighted, a weapon swing sound is played, then the NPC is highlighted and either a hit sound and/or scream of pain is played or not. Other sounds could indicate a fallen character or a broken weapon.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

The best i managed so far was 10 days. Then a raider with a shotgun appeared at range 3 and one hitted me.
Im done with this game for now. Its just too damn frustrating.
Maybe not haveing force Ironman mode on would help eh? Have some savepoints around the world where you can save in saveslots and dont have to start over all the time.

Maybe not haveing force Ironman mode on would help eh? Have some savepoints around the world where you can save in saveslots and dont have to start over all the time.

Maybe you're just not cut out for rogue like games. Seriously, people complaining that this game is too hard, I sure hope the dev doesn't listen to them. It's supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be frustrating. It's supposed to contain an element of luck. That's precisely what makes these games great. You take that away and you take away the core of the game, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe you just need to get used to losing. Despite what television and your parents taught you, you can't win all the time. If you want a game to walk you through to the end with no frustration so you can just enjoy the 'experience' then there are plenty of AAA titles out that are willing to accommodate you. Go play them.

It's cool, Varus is definitely not alone in holding that opinion. I think Varus said further down that everybody's got a different fun/frustration inflection point on the scale, which is true.

For me, there's something magical about knowing everything is on the line, and decisions matter. So I'll definitely be trying to structure the game around that feeling. I forget where I said it before, but basically, I won't make a game that I don't enjoy playing. If I make a decision to change something, it's because I agree with it.

In other words, if the game turns out like crap, it'll be because I have crappy taste :) For now, though, permadeath is here to stay, because I think that produces the best challenge/engagement. It still needs balancing and tweaking, but I'll be aiming to make that system work, not changing the system.

The one exception to this is a possible "emergency med-evac" service in the future. It'd be really costly or hard to obtain, but it'd give a second chance to those who could afford the exorbitant cost, though there might be side-effects (e.g. brain damage loses a skill or adds a trait). I haven't worked the details out yet, but it's a way that I might mitigate the frustration for some players.

I don't want it to feel like a save-scum system, though, or else it would sort of kill the whole permadeath feature. Still thinking...

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

i feel a medevac option would be a contrived option in a post-apocalyptic world centered primarily around scavenging. so this may be a bit too, dare i say, easy, not to mention boring. so maybe it should be less about events and more about items which is what the game is about basically right collect necessary items to survive as long as you can. a second chance item would be more appealing but what would make a good one?

well i've seen in certain stories and sometimes in real life, injectable adrenaline can keep a heart beating until necessary medical aid can be administered. so if you want to add a second chance item maybe allow the player to happen upon some adrenaline or be able to buy some. maybe make hospitals a potential scavenge area just make it so they appear less than cities and make scavenge opportunities less profitable or less frequent so you can't spam adrenaline runs. plus it opens opportunities for a potential story point and maybe make it easier on noob characters. this way you can keep permadeath which is an awesomely frustrating and invigorating part of the game, you're right on that but may allow the opportunity to survive an unsurvivable and patently unfair circumstance like with what happened to me and on a character a month in get swarmed but like 30 melonheads. failing that maybe scale the combat down during the beginning so that people aren't eaten by dogmen the second they clear the cryo labs. this happened on my second and third playthroughs and damn near caused me to quit entirely in frustration but i made it a decent way on my 4th play so i got used to the permadeath and began thinking more survivor like.

I should apologise to Varus for the acerbic tone of my post actually. I'm just really disenfranchised with the tendency for many games nowadays to be little more than easy walkthroughs, even on higher difficulty settings, because they want to avoid frustrating the player (read: challenging them.) Glad to hear you plan on sticking to what you want in the game, the punishing unforgiving nature of the world is what kept me playing for six hours straight after I discovered the game on Saturday :)

The 'reprieve' from permadeath sounds like an interesting possibility but I agree with the other poster who said the medi vac sounds a little inconsistent. When I read your post the 'adrenaline' shot thing popped in to my mind too. Maybe if there's only one available. The brain damage thing I think would work great adding a negative trait like myopia or reduction to movement or whatnot. Makes a lot of sense and provides some adequate punishment!

Another possibility might be a slight random chance that when you 'die' someone friendly will stumble across you dying and cart you in a sled to the safety of their compound, until you heal. The good thing about this is that it gives you that kick you get from 'lucky' events that work out in your favour (as long as it's rare and limited to one per game) and it also provides an opportunity for some 'positive' story elements. I've only been playing for a little bit, so maybe I just haven't come across them yet, but most of the story elements seem to be either neutral or negative, so a few positives here and there keeps things uncertain. I also noticed that most of the 'bad' choices (eg: attacking trapped strangers) always seem to have bad consequences. Is this random or pre-determined? Again, maybe it's that I haven't played enough, but they should have positive outcomes sometimes too. Bad people often prosper :) Keeping a balance between 'bad' and 'good' C&C, or having some randomness to consequences, keeps things ambiguous and uncertain and encourages role play and risk taking. But like I say, I haven't progressed very far in the game so maybe this is all in there already.

Anyways, loving the game mate, thanks!

I can see what you both mean by medevac seeming contrived. I definitely don't want the game to seem too "game-y" with such things.

I pictured it being a service one contracted from a corporation in the DMC. It would be an implant that, when vitals failed, simultaneously put the brain "on ice" (cryo fluids) and activated a beacon. If the customer was in good standing, the service would dispatch an ambulance to the beacon, retrieve the remains, and resuscitate under controlled conditions up to hours later.

It'd work as long as the brain was intact, since they'd likely have compatible organs and surgical techniques for patching up everything else. I assumed brain damage would be the biggest risk, and the game could have a chance of randomly deleting one of the red traits, and whatever skill it contained.

I think the tech would be available in a place such as the DMC, and there might even be demand from some of the more wealthy citizens. Particularly, those who see the wasteland as a sort of safari (hinted at in one or two random encounters about "DMC tourists").

Adrenaline is an interesting idea. It fits with the "accessible medical tech" and "useful items" upon which the game focuses. In theory, it sounds like it would be applicable during cases of low blood pressure and cardiac arrest. Vasoconstriction would reduce peripheral blood flow in order to increase blood pressure/flow in vital areas. Atropine may also be a contender here.

However, both seem to have debatable efficacy in practice. Based on what I read, it seems the in-game effect might be to give a slight boost to the blood stat bar (pressure) and delay cardiac arrest (normally 1-turn until death). The effects would last several combat turns, or 1 map travel turn.

As for the C&C good vs. bad outcomes, it sounds like it might be coincidence that you've found more random encounters with bad choice leading to bad outcome. If anything, the complete list of random encounters tends to favor selfishness. However, they may be doled-out in such a way that one has to act bad consistently, suffer some early setbacks, and get rewarded by sticking with it later.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

i agree the effects of adrenaline and atropine are debatable. however i know from personal experience that adrenaline in particular can allow you to run faster and hit harder and that too much can stop your heart. since adrenaline is normally secreted naturally when the body is under stress and also in response to fear it's supposed to give the body a natural edge when combating and/or fleeing from an assailant. too much and your heart becomes tachycardic and eventually causes it to seize. that said, if applied, it allows the player an edge in a bad situation and you can keep people from spamming the option because too much can also lead to death, lets say a reasonable amount of uses within a 24 hour period being 3 maybe 4 times at which point then the character dies from an overstressed heart or maybe not being allowed to use it during consecutive turns and only one per battle or you'll die.

i can get on board with cryo facility implants allowing resuscitation with DMC intervention. but how often would this be allowable? is it a one time deal or would it be a renewable thing in exchange for favors or items, or a pay per use. and if they remove a bad trait would that also remove the corresponding good trait since we would be dealing with a dead person and brain cells die fast good bad and indifferent. if i'm overthinking it please let me know i tend to do that when i'm really interested in something.

also i love the idea for the wealthy "armchair explorer" hiring the main character for exploration missions. it would give the game a great post-apocolyptic Victorian feel.

seriously though i love this game and i'm grateful to you for considering my input. i don't get to see that often elsewhere. and to be completely honest this game is exactly what i want a lot of other "survival" games to be about but ultimately, they are about shooting shit and getting shit shot at you and reaching an objective point, and not full blown resource and status management which is whats really important in an survival situation. plus your pick your poison approach to character traits i thought was genius because you really have to consider how you are going to play and in what way your advantages and weaknesses will affect gameplay.

I don't see why adding a mode with Save points is all that bad, why not have both? One part of the game autosaves, while the other mode is an ironman mode, people will then have to choose between wimpy baby save mode or muscle man hard mode, wouldn't that make everyone happy?

~STAHP..
HAMMA TIME.~

i guess the best way to explain it is, if you have a wimpy baby mode who really would want to play the otherwise equally lengthy and difficult game with a palpable consequence to every decision. this isn't like a Mario platformer or anything where so long a you memorize everything you can beat the game on one life. part of this game's appeal to me is there is no way to beat the game. sure you may complete the story but eventually you will lose permanently and like in real life you don't get a second chance from bandit's rifle or a pissed off soldier or just one too many risky situations. you will die, and because ultimately it was/will be your mistake that did you in then you have to face the consequences

to me it seems a fair trade for a more realistic experience

You could make several invisible checkpoints throughout the game depending on plot progress. Each checkpoint adds an extra-life, and each time the player would actually die in combat he is saved instead, and an extra-life is lost. This could be explained by the opponent thinking the player is already dead or by the player character's strong belief in surviving that particular fight. For the player it would look like they were just lucky.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

well i also had an idea that involved the botany skill that you could find rhododendron honey to fake a death if escape wasn't an option but something like that wouldn't be effective against things like dogmen. and also would require a third party to resuscitate you.

i got the idea from a middle eastern friend of mine whose great-grandfather was a cultivator for a special type of rhododendron that was used to make a sedative/poison that if refined properly could bring a person to a state of near death; so much so that it almost looked like they died for real. but like i said the problem comes from needing a third party to administer the antidote which if the DMC recovery thing is implemented. it could also be used for a poison against men and beasty that you come across, even if its only used to slow them down and not kill them.

plus with the plant species being considered an invasive species and all its spread in the wasteland can be explained by a few plants being mistakenly planted and spreading from there.

sorry i'm spitballing

Medivac just gives another thing to farm for and nothing really worthwhile to the game as far as decisions. Get it is always beneficial type things have no place here unless they are exceedingly rare.

This relates to crafted items as well. Getting a broad spear is always beneficial. Make it reduce dodge rate or something so it's not ALWAYS the best choice early game.

What about making humans accept surrender more, and allowing the player to play dead. With hiding play dead could be more effective, maybe a dogman would eat one of your legs making you crippled for the rest of the game requiring massive bandaging, medical treatment, and massively hindering your movement. Maybe a raider would accept an unconditional surrender 100% of the time but cut off your fingers making it impossible for you to use weapons in the future maybe brand your forehead as a person who surrenders so that future raiders know that you are a spineless weaking making them less likely to surrender or run in the future.

Losing a fight need not be garunteed death, but it should have very dire consequences.

Figths only start at range 3 if you are in a forest or urban hex. Try to always end your turn in open areas.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

@Malacodor, speech bubbles is an interesting idea. I like that it fits into the existing UI with little fuss, and can add time-sensitive feedback. Making it non-comical might be a challenge, but I hadn't thought of that solution. Thanks!

Rotating sprites 90 degrees occurred to me, though I was hesitant (like you) to go that route for quality reasons. However, maybe I should just suck it up and do it, as it at least improves the UI :)

Your suggestion of highlighting each character and playing SFX to indicate action/outcome would be an improvement, too. I've had at least one other person suggest doing a similar thing to the message window (delay between cause and effect messages, so players can follow along, instead of all being printed instantly).

Making the UI pause a bit introduces a complication or two, but it might be worth it anyway. Good suggestions!

@Varus, I'm sorry about the game being frustrating. I know that save slots seems like a good way to solve the problem you ran into, but it would also completely change the nature of the game. It wouldn't be a worse game, necessarily, but I'd have to make a different game with different balancing. I've committed to permadeath, and therefore, to balancing the game for it.

I have one or two ideas for insulating longer-term games from random death, so I'm hoping that helps. It should give players who achieve a certain checkpoint a second chance should something ill befall them.

Apart from that, it sounds like it would be worth my thinking about the random elements of the game a bit more. In your case, you encountered a raider at range 3 with a shotgun and he one-shotted you. Breaking this down, we have several factors that contributed to your demise:

  • The game decided to spawn a creature nearby, one or more turns ago.
  • The creature decided to approach you (you say "appeared," so I assume he came to you).
  • The creature had a powerful weapon (shotgun).
  • The creature had ammo for his weapon.
  • The creature was trained in using this weapon.
  • The creature decided to use this weapon (as opposed to, say, punch).
  • The starting battle range was short.
  • The attack both hit and rolled a higher-range severity on you.

Looking at the above list, most of these are influenced by randomness. And I think most players are ok with the game doing these things individually. They're all pretty standard RPG elements.

The difference between NEO Scavenger and the ideal case (a human game master in a pen and paper session) is that the human GM would recognize the fatal combo, and probably fudge numbers to make it painful, but not fatal. I could try to write code to catch these cases, but I'm pretty sure I'd always miss some.

That said, there are some choices available to you that could help in such a scenario. #2 can be mitigated by playing stealthily. Scavenging noisily will draw nearby creatures to you, but sacrificing some loot can buy safety from intruders. Using hiding and hide tracks can also reduce the chances a nearby creature spots you.

The starting range of the fight can also be controlled to a degree. Open areas tend to begin battle at much larger ranges, giving better chances of avoiding being hit, and escaping.

Finally, taking cover in battle is a powerful defensive tool against ranged weapons. Trying to run might seem like a safer move, but it leaves you exposed to being shot. Being behind cover reduces the hit chance, especially in rough terrain, and the only way to force you out of cover is to get close enough that ranged weapons are risky.

Those tricks should help, but maybe I need to think of some more. Armor is tempting, but also risky, as it could easily become too overpowered. A number of folks have pointed out that the hiding skill needs revisiting, so this could also be a source of relief in such situations (e.g. using hiding as a move in combat could make player unseen).

The point is that I think there are some levers we can pull which won't change the nature of the game. Hopefully, we can find a few that work.

Thanks again for the input, guys!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

This is hardly a string of bad luck. It is bad planning. There is no reason to ever be surprised unless you want to.

When nightfall is coming get to a building or forest tile. Build 4 alarm traps, Hide tracks and hide, don't build a tent or fire, lay down sleeping bag, equip a ranged and melee weapon, and sleep. If you are hurt press rest and heal. If you are not tired or hurt just end turn until daytime.

The only time you can be ambushed is by ending turns during the low light hours near forests or hills or by being unprepared at night time. OR i guess if you have insomnia, are sedated, and don't get woken up by traps. But that's part of picking insomnia.

A string of bad luck is having botany, strong, and a lighter. Be 50% food. Go to a spot with several forest tiles. Begin scavenging. Find water water water poison mushrooms and poison berries for 10 scavenges in a row. Followed by weakness and starvation. In a case like this loot drops should be psuedorandom (not allow exceptionally lucky or unlucky streaks to go on for long) however this is not a common issue.

A series of events that transpire against the player is emergent gameplay. Not bad luck.

Well armor is only overpower by how fast and easily it can be obtain so it could help by reducing the damage in terms of damage modifiers to the shotgun damage like a 10% max deduction of damage. And you can make it into a reciepe that lock up and hidden in some old factory where some raiders are using it as a base. Or have dmc sell it for insanely high price so its only available to really rich players

i setup my night camp in an urban area. this raider woke me up and shot me at point blank.
its just that i couldnt do a damn thing about it. it was the first turn.
i know realism vs game is always difficult but you can see what it does to players?
maybe changeing the code so 1 hit dead arent possible? the game is hard enough as it is.

There's definitely still room for balancing in the game. I'll be the first to admit that it isn't perfect.

That said, my preferred way to deal with balance issues is to give tools to players rather than add safety nets to the mechanics. For example, I probably wouldn't remove the ability to kill in one shot. If I did, then there would be players complaining that the shotgun is too weak when they use it on enemies (indeed, some already do complain about this). And I definitely don't want to add rule handicaps to NPCs and not the player. I think many players appreciate knowing that the NPCs play by the same rules as players do.

What I can do, however, is to make more tools available to the player to avoid getting into situations like what you describe. Better hiding skill uses, for example, or other ways to prepare for a night of sleeping unguarded. In NEO Scavenger, death is often not the result of a mistake you made right now, it's the result of a mistake you made a few turns ago. It's the water you drank without sterilizing, or the mushrooms you ate without identifying. It's the racket you made rummaging through an old house an hour ago that attracted creatures to your area now.

Sleeping is one of the most vulnerable, dangerous times of the game. You have no sight, nor hearing, nor awareness of anything around you. There's nothing you can do to protect yourself while you're sleeping, so maybe I need to focus a bit more on ways to prepare for it in advance.

Despite what I say above, I do want players to feel like their choices are what made the outcome happen, not random chance. It'll be hard to find ways to make both choice and randomness work together, but it's worth a try!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Hey would it be possible to make the cyro room into a no steal zone simple cuz its gets annoying to have the sole main safe place in game where you can store stuff in and only to come back from a slavage run to find over half your food eaten and missing some items

- Make noise traps more effective.
- Add an item that increases camp concealment.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

i know its a problem balancing the game, especially one who wants to be realistic. the thin line between frustration and realism is extremly thin and on different points for some people.
ive been working in the games industry for some time and this issue came up a few times there too.

Here's a tip for surviving the first night and really beyond that as well. Have a combat skill (melee, strong, etc) and have trapping because it gives you the ability to get food whenever, so why would you not take trapping? With this skill combination you can kill the dogman at the start with the melee skill and you can use the trapping skill to skin the dogman to make a dogman cloak, that shit will warm you up instantly and it scares the shit out of your enemies, plus you don't have to wear pants when you have a dogman cloak, listen i'll say that again you will not need pants. what's not to love about that?

About the interface I was thinking that maybe putting some visual feedback like some illustration for when for example you hit a target or try to run away would make the game even more fun aside showing the current situation of the battle.

A simple message to inform the player that Lighter + Rags = Fire, and the simple fact that all of these supposed massive buildings provide next to no shelter? I mean, come on.

Although freezing in the winter is a serious thing for homeless people and those out in the wilderness...theres supposedly tons of buildings, sheds, etc... and freezing still occurs?

Unless it is winter, I am confused as to how hypothermia happens so quickly, especially when given all these abandoned houses which provide like 2% shelter.

I also think the recipes should already be there, once you have the stuff. You already can find out all possible recipes simple by moving EVERYTHING you have over and then finding out what you can make.

Why make the player do this? It would be significantly better if it just gave a text listing of all the possible things you can make (with the stuff you have). Seeing as how the player can do this anyway, it is has nothing to do with difficulty and everything to do with saving us time. The other option of making recipes harder by forcing the player to combine stuff minecraft style (spacing matters) or only have things in the crafting box that work (adding something that isnt a part of the recipe, makes it not show the recipe) is just too difficult for fun. You have to bridge the gap between realism and roleplaying a survivalist, and the player not actually being a survivalist IRL.

Here is an example of proper game design, in relation to the specific example I mentioned.
If the character can figure out Lighter + Rags = Warmth, then the player shouldn't have to.
You cannot say the player should be smarter, because the player is not freezing to death, so it is not obvious (Like it is to the character) to light anything and everything on fire for warmth.

There is no argument against making permadeath optional in a singleplayer game.
It effects absolutely no one negatively.
Don't be irrational. "Make it Optional" != "Get rid of it entirely, for everyone."

Although freezing in the winter is a serious thing for homeless people and those out in the wilderness...theres supposedly tons of buildings, sheds, etc... and freezing still occurs?

If the building is not heated regularly, the temperature inside is the same as outside. Sometimes even lower, as the stone/concrete takes a lot of time to warm up, once it is cold for a long time, and while gusts of warmer wind might make outside temp a bit more comfortable, the insides of the buildings will be still remain cold.

Unless it is winter, I am confused as to how hypothermia happens so quickly

It is autumn, mid-September to be exact.

If the character can figure out Lighter + Rags = Warmth, then the player shouldn't have to.

Quick recipes are only for player convenience. As you said it yourself, player does not need them to perform any crafting - simply put a rag and a lighter together and you have yourself a fire.


<--Mighty (mini)Mod of Doom-->
DeviantArt Gallery of MoD Sprites

I can't say that game is hard, after 2-3 plays its medium and longer you play, more you know it starting to be freaking ease. Its possible to alive very long time with no positive traits and all negative.

Problem is that, that game is hard because you don't know how to play it at start and its pretty ease to die if you act like lunatic.

I can accept with you that some interface and especially crafting need little help to be more user friendly but game itself its not hard.

"Rotating sprites 90 degrees occurred to me, though I was hesitant (like you) to go that route for quality reasons. However, maybe I should just suck it up and do it, as it at least improves the UI :)"

What about a series of 'status' icons that could appear along the bottom edge of the character portrait?

One for prone, unconscious, bleeding, confused etc.

I registered to post this.

In my opinion, I don't think the game is hard enough in the beginning. After 4-5 deaths due to freezing / combat / tripping after 1-2 days, I had a character survive for 30 days and the only reason I killed him was that I could not figure what to do after DMC.

I think the game should be very hard in the beginning, a bit easier in the middle once your character is able to survive, and then hard again at the end (once there is one).

A few suggestions for improving the game:
- Crafting should be repeatable (e.g., I should be able to tell my character to sterilize all his water instead of clicking like 15 times). There could be a MAX button that repeats the recipe the maximum number of times given available reagents
- Crafting should be chainable macro style; Step 1 - start a friction fire. Step 2 - Boil all my water. Step 3 - Make some tannin tea using all my reagents. No reason that the player should have to do each step individually.
- Why do I have to click sleep several times to get my player to sleep?
- Camp selection / sleeping arrangement should be stored and customizable. I.e., I have a sleeping bag, obviously I will use it by default when I go to camp. The game could remember sleeping arrangement from same tile type and reapply by default. Could have options of preparing campsite as well depending on moves left.
- Fighting text description needs to scroll more
- Why is my character picking up poisonous mushroom and berries if he knows they are poisonous (I have botany)? So that I can eat them by misclicking? Unless there is a use to those, my character should discard them automatically.
- Suggest better inventory management. Maybe have squares for each item type that is wearable (a la Baldur's Gate). This way it would be easy to see if we are wearing items in each slot or to switch items out
- Simplify battery usage. I was not able to figure out how to charge my night vision goggles even though I had batteries.
- Overtext over the different status indicators to describe status a bit more (i.e., thirsty makes you fatigue easier).

unrelated Suggestions :

- Not sure what your stance is on this, but I would suggest the ability to acquire skill or to upgrade them. E.g., Someone that fights with a melee weapon will get better over time. Maybe you could have "innate" skills and "acquired" skills that give different bonus. For example, tough is a trait while melee is a skill that can be improved (with use?).

- I will reiterate that the beginning needs to be really hard and ruthless. Once a character gains skills *wink wink* and equipment, the path should be easier. This is when the story line kicks in and difficulty can scale up or down depending on where on the story line you are.

Regarding it, from my humble standpoint (as I am sure many, perhaps including the game's creator may feel differently):

- Crafting should be repeatable (e.g., I should be able to tell my character to sterilize all his water instead of clicking like 15 times). There could be a MAX button that repeats the recipe the maximum number of times given available reagents

Maybe, but then I see all those complaints about people forgetting about/wanting to keep some ingredients for other tasks, with game mercilessly processing them all for whatever it was set to do. So then we'll have suggestions of specifing number of repetitions, or choosing which ingredients are banned from being used and generally a nightmare of UI and code and far much work than it's worth to streamline clicking some recipe a few times (remember about cursor 'modes' that may help with such things).

- Crafting should be chainable macro style; Step 1 - start a friction fire. Step 2 - Boil all my water. Step 3 - Make some tannin tea using all my reagents. No reason that the player should have to do each step individually.

What's above is a reason. With many items being usable in many different ways, without hell of coding, you could create plenty of the issues. Someone (Dan) would have to code for the game to choose which burnable items to use for the fire in what order, for example, so it won't start with what you'd not want to part with (and what if some player wants to burn such, should he be forced to manage a really detailed macro?).

In addition, you have limited moves per turn so either you'd have to click that macro several times or make it automatically keep skipping turns which could lead to death or require more coding on top of that (in what situations should it stop a macro, when to resume, how many turns and moves leave to the player with what frequency?).

In all honesty, while I didn't have much of a look at the code it seems like it would be lot of work for little gain. It's not that much of a problem to boil enough water for several days.

- Why do I have to click sleep several times to get my player to sleep?

Because poor guy you presumably keep enslaved near your computer may have not looked at the screen or didn't get the idea the first time. More seriously, if you mean the character rather than player (yes, I know, my joke was poor), there may be several reasons. Either bug with some clicks not being detected resurfaced or your character actually does sleep, simply a very short time. Make sure it's healthy, doesn't starve or die of thirst, is actually tired and sleepy and without problems with insomnia.

- Camp selection / sleeping arrangement should be stored and customizable. I.e., I have a sleeping bag, obviously I will use it by default when I go to camp. The game could remember sleeping arrangement from same tile type and reapply by default. Could have options of preparing campsite as well depending on moves left.

By default would be wrong given that practically every hex can serve as a camp, so you'd drop your belongings every move. Maybe linking a few items to be transferred to the camp tile by pressing some new button could work. Though again, maybe I am crude masochist, but holding a key and clicking a few times before rest never really bothered me.

- Fighting text description needs to scroll more

Scroll more? You mean faster? Show more of the history?

- Why is my character picking up poisonous mushroom and berries if he knows they are poisonous (I have botany)? So that I can eat them by misclicking? Unless there is a use to those, my character should discard them automatically.

Is he? From what I recall scavenged tiles don't automatically drop every new found item into character's inventory. Including 'nature' locations checked with botany. Items should be dropped onto location's 'inventory' and from there you are free to take only those edibles which wouldn't poison you.

- Suggest better inventory management. Maybe have squares for each item type that is wearable (a la Baldur's Gate). This way it would be easy to see if we are wearing items in each slot or to switch items out

If that wouldn't be much of a work, some simplistic UI showing what item is in what slot could help. But usually it doesn't take much to check and forgetting what one had is also rare.

- Simplify battery usage. I was not able to figure out how to charge my night vision goggles even though I had batteries.

Any suggestions how you'd like it simplified without causing issues? It's far easier to correct a problem if one knows where actually others had one and what did they try to remedy it. What was your first instinctual attempt at charging items?

- Overtext over the different status indicators to describe status a bit more (i.e., thirsty makes you fatigue easier).

You mean something like a tooltip, I assume. Given how many things affect some stats, that'd be plenty of text for some of the them. I'd rather have just general informations in a manual/wiki and trust in player's common sense for the rest, but that's me.

unrelated Suggestions :

- Not sure what your stance is on this, but I would suggest the ability to acquire skill or to upgrade them. E.g., Someone that fights with a melee weapon will get better over time. Maybe you could have "innate" skills and "acquired" skills that give different bonus. For example, tough is a trait while melee is a skill that can be improved (with use?).

We had discussion about progressing skills, more than once. The way the game works right now, it would create plenty of problems while not necessarily improve the gameplay. Or would take a rewrite of big part of the game to actually be fun, which arguably would made the game as it is right now die - possibly to dismay of some. Either way someone would have to go through all the events, combat, crafting and so on and remake it all to befit different levels of skills, then balance it all after deliberation what level of skill should allow what, set limitations to avoid grinding and general exploits.

It'd be a horrible mess and possibly weeks of work on something that very well may not work better than how things are right now. Not to mention that changing big part of core mechanics in last phase of development may not be the wisest move. I like the general 'you're either this or that or you're not'. Simple and works fine so far.

- I will reiterate that the beginning needs to be really hard and ruthless. Once a character gains skills *wink wink* and equipment, the path should be easier. This is when the story line kicks in and difficulty can scale up or down depending on where on the story line you are.

It really depends on players here. We have to strike the balance between making it challenging but also accessible for regular player rather than making him angry and disappointed. The way the game functions right now is kinda that way - it's hard in the beginning (unless you're lucky) and progressively gets easier only because of better equipment and player's actions. I really am not sure if the game should superficially increase in difficulty by the end simply because it's near the end, though - it should all depend on how the player plays, which paths he takes and how prepared for his choices the character is.

Game that's challenging but fair is what I'd like to play, where both bad and good things, from potential benefits and severity of problems are to a great degree direct consequence of player's actions. Ramping or nerfing difficulty for the hell of it doesn't really appeal to me, though balancing of severity of some of aforementioned consequences is important.

While most players didn't complain about difficulty too much, dying in the beginning is nearly a given, the game already has a bit of learning curve and there are also voices asking for easier gameplay already (like in this thread), even if not overly frequently. I'd leave it the way it is, if it'd be up to me. It's balanced, it works.

@Scavenger

Thanks for taking the time to reply. While I understand that the developer(s) has limited resources, I feel that this is not a justification unto itself for leaving in poor functionality/design. Ask yourself this; would you rather play a crappy game now or a more polished game later? I know what I would prefer. Many a studio has chosen and released the former and paid the price for it.

I will address some of your comments and provide additional details/suggestions considering the points you have raised:

-Crafting

If repeating the recipe a maximum number of times based on PC inventory is too complicated to implement, and also considering players wanting to keep some items for the future, perhaps it would be easier to have a way to transfer all of a certain item type to the craft window. For example, taking into account my sterilized water situation: Instead of clicking on each group of droplets, perhaps having a key for transferring all the item type "unkwown/unpurified water" to the crafting window would be helpful. This could even be linked to "Shift" or "Alt". Then I still think that a "MAX" button should be present to repeat the chosen recipe as many times as Items/Time Units permit. This would also clean up the recipe list by removing Purify water x2, x3 ... etc

Alternative/complimentary suggestion:

When opening the crafting window, the items should be reordered so that all the same item types are close together. All the water is grouped together, all the meat, all the ash... etc . Perhaps un-modifiable items could be placed at the end.

-Camping

Fair point about each hex being "campable". I still think that the game should remember the last camping arrangement and automatically re-select the items that the PC has used in the last camp site as long as they are in the PC inventory. If a PC has a sleeping bag, noise traps, pillow ...etc, why have the player click on each item each time the PC has to camp? There is no point except for tediousness. Realism? Can't we all agree that our PC is smart enough to actually use his sleeping bag instead of sleeping on the floor without us babysitting?

-Fighting text

I meant that the text window does not allow enough scrolling to be able to see what happened in the last round. Ideally, it should be able to scroll back to the beginning of the fight, RAM permitting. Minimum 200-300 lines.

-Poison berries and botany

You are correct that foraging does not place the poison berries in the inventory of the PC. However, they are available for the taking/consumption, are not graphically different and nothing stops the PC from eating them by a player misclick. I don't see what reason my PC would gather poisonous berries for( unless crafting a poison is possible) if he knows they are poisonous. Again, why have the player work for a skill the PC has. At the very least, PC having the botany skill should make it so the sprites of poisonous items are colored red or somehow different from non poison. That and have a pop-up asking to confirm eating of poison things before having the PC consume them. E.g., "Eat poison berries?" Yes/No. Can we all agree that a PC having the ability to identify poison things will not willingly eat those poison things? This comes down to the babysitting again.

-Batteries

When I found night vision goggles and batteries (they looked like AA batteries) I tried first to turn on the NVG by right clicking and selecting "turn on". This did not work. Then I dragged the batteries on top of the NVG and that did nothing. Next I tried combining the batteries and NVG goggles in the crafting menu to no avail. I then assumed that I did not have the correct battery type but I never found other types of batteries that seemed like they would fit.

Perhaps a message indicating what type of battery you need when you try to turn it on would help. E.g. "Insufficient charge to turn NVG on, you need AAA batteries". Also, perhaps right-clicking the goggles and selecting "Add batteries/charge" would simplify the process. Dragging and dropping should also work. Selecting the batteries with the transfer cursor type (number 1) should also place batteries in the NVG/other item.

-Skill progression

I feel that once the PC has gotten food, clothes and equipment, the game is essentially "won"/no longer interesting. Perhaps with a developed story this would alleviate the issue. Having skills that progress would leave the player with something to strive for and potentially allow for more fun in the late game.

Hi,

I agree with Guigz on some points.

Since english is not my native language, sorry in advance if I make some writing mistakes.

- Poison berries and botany

If you choose the Botany skill, I agree you could spot easier way if berries are poisoned or not, for example, with a little change of the icon:
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/OfMNUIf.jpg)
A died a lot because I missclicked on poisoned berries. It could be simpler if pointing the cursor to read the caption text wasn't necessary.

- AA Batteries

AAs icon already indicates that there is 2 AA batteries.
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/7v0rQhj.png)
Is the possibility of splitting really needed? For flashlight or water-tester, only pairs of AAs are required.
When I spare 3 pairs of AAs for my flashlight, it takes a lot of time to split, analyse each electricity charge, re-assemble batteries... Since we can't see electricity status of each battery when they are stacked.

The only thing I agree with is that it's not clear why batteries don't work sometimes. Just a message that says "this battery doesn't fit" is all is needed. Even with no skill in electronics trying to fit a smartphone battery into a slot for a cell battery or double a's into a laptop won't physically fit properly so it should illustrate to the player that the character is unable to use that battery in that device.

Alright, as a player who loves rpg and especially these kinds of rpg, I guess it's time to put my 2 cents in.

First of all, like most games I play, upon death, the character loses everything he has on him, and respawns at the nearest spawn zone/town. Though that's because those games allow the players to level up their characters, e.g. levelling up melee/ strength/ range. All those that you see in a normal rpg game.

However, if we consider that this is a post-apocolyptic world, with a single developer handling everything, kudos should be given where kudos is due. If we have to implement levelling of skills, probably this game will hafta go back to drawing board for some time.

Consider death- the next great adventure. Learn from what happened, how you died, and try not to repeat the mistakes again, unless it's due to luck, in which case everyone encounters it.

If you want to learn the game, I would suggest, instead of complaining about dying due to lack of knowledge of game mechanics, either read the wiki/forums for tips.
Or, go for the easy build: Strong, Tough, Melee, Botany and Trapping. With metabolism being the negative trait that gives you one extra boost.
This can be considered the easiest mode in game. The first 3 allows you to survive most encounters, unless they have ranged weapons, which then I suggest you duck behind cover in battle, and pray that they have no bullets, or keep missing.
Botany allows you to scavenge for food and drinks, which more than makes up for the negative trait of Metabolism, which honestly, considering it helps healing, isn't much of a deterrent, especially if you go with Botany.
Trapping, in my opinion, ain't worth much, unless you don't have Botany, then this skill allows you to create squirrel snares, a good source of food. But, for beginners, if you kill the dogman in the cyro facility, go to the Crafting menu, place ‘Trapping’, ‘Dogman Corpse’ and ‘Glass shard’, combining these 3 should give you meat and dogman coat. This coat allows you to withstand all weather conditions (except night of course), and helps increase chances of threatening enemies (i.e. chasing them off).

With these traits and skills, go out and learn the game. If you still die, chalk it up to bad luck, and start again. Once, you have learnt everything about the game, for more fun, I would suggest making a new character with different skills. Each adventure is different, the map changes with each new adventure.

Have fun :)