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Gary Dozer Jun 9, 2016 @ 11:06am
Question to Mr. Podunkian
Dear Mr. Podunkian,

I would be very grateful to you if you could answer my question here. I'm interested in game design and I didn't quite understand the idea behind the S.O.B. mechanics. I hope you could explain me this idea.

As I see it you'd like to limit the time available for a player to explore the level forcing him to make quick decisions, and make him make mistakes.

If it is so, then S.O.B. mechanics is not the best move for this. First of all, as it was already been discussed here, S.O.B. could be killed even by a weak player. Using it's primitive seek algorithm it could be forced to cross the same acid puddle over and over until he dies or by any other of the methods discussed here.

Second, the level of danger from S.O.B. doesn't grow with progression. It is the same NPC with same stats every time. Once player gets experience and loot this danger becomes even less significant. It contradicts the basic principle of progression - the game should become more difficult as you progress through.

Thus, the only thing S.O.B. mechanics is good for is repell new players from the game making very steep learning curve in the beginning and doen't give any positive influence later.

As I see it, S.O.B. should be implemented a bit differently. The time before S.O.B. appears should decrease with each level but should be quite enough for a new player to explore the first level completely. S.O.B. should grow more dangerous with each level. To the point when you should face him as a boss of a cooler at the lowest level. If you will defeat him earlier he should not die but retreat back to the entrance and come back after you on a next level more stronger.

And the main issue if this is one of the most important mechanics in the game it should be transparent for a player. There should be a timer on a hud for a player to see how soon S.O.B. will appear. It will although make a psycological impact on player decisions.

I may be

Thank you in advance,
BR,
Gary
Last edited by Gary Dozer; Jun 9, 2016 @ 11:07am
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Mr. Podunkian  [developer] Jun 9, 2016 @ 4:05pm 
The point of the S.O.B. isn't to force players to make mistakes, it's to force the player to make meaningful (NOT "quick") decisions and to evaluate whether or not it's worth the gamble of taking a side path or not.

As much as it sounds like a slam at my own game, exploring every single room in a Cooler floor is not inherently fun. You aren't making any meaningful choices if you're treating each door like a checkbox to fill, and you'll likely facing same set of similar encounters and room layouts in each of these side areas. That's not fun... that's just busywork.

The S.O.B. Purifier on the other hand, forces the player to make decisions.

It creates an obstacle that slowly closes in on the player, outright discouraging them from making the boring non-choice of "I'm gonna explore everything," which is the equivalent of solving a maze by turning left at every intersection -- you will inevitably and eventually DO find an exit this way, but it's mindless and requires no thought or strategy whatsoever.

One thing that's kind of funny to me, and a little bit ironic is that there's a recurring thing I hear from players who dislike the S.O.B., which is "it's not MY fault I want to explore every nook and cranny of the game and see everything the game has to offer! This is my playstyle and the dev stinks for not letting me do that!" The irony comes from the fact these players end up getting killed on the first two floors, fighting the same four or five types of enemies, running through the same two or three types of rooms and then getting killed. Meanwhile, players who have made ACTUAL choices -- to forego certain locked rooms, or even to enter them, but to turn around once they feel they've gone too deep, end up living longer, reaching lower floors of the Cooler, seeing more content, more enemies, more items, more room layouts, and just generally end up ACTUALLY exploring a lot more than than the guys who want to.

The other reason the S.O.B. Purifier is important is because a Cooler Run is inherently sort of a long ordeal. Even with a full understanding of the game's mechanics, a full Cooler Run, for me, takes about an hour. Now imagine this situation: the S.O.B. doesn't exist in the game. You've spent 30 minutes on floor one, combing through every single room. Then you reach the second floor, and you spend another 30 minutes on that floor. And then you reach floor 3, and you spend another 30 minutes on that floor. And then you reach floor 4 and after about 30 minutes of exploring, you open the wrong door and get blasted in the face with a Sod Off Trap and die. What's happened? You've spent literally 2 hours for absolutely no net gain -- you lose all your items, you've explored less than half of the content in the Cooler, and you're probably feeling really annoyed that your afternoon was a complete wash.

The S.O.B. pushes you through the Coolers because really, it's for your own good. Instead of spending half an hour per floor, you're only spending a few minutes. Now, a full Cooler Run doesn't take half a day-- it takes a few minutes. When you get wasted by a trap, or a tough encounter and your items go bye-bye, you're not set back a significant chunk of your life, you're set back maybe a few minutes. This is a thing people don't really seem to want to accept: spending more time on a floor just sets you up for more heartbreak later on. All of the neat items you might've found on Floor 1 are less rare on Floor 5 anyways, so why not just progress through the Cooler and have fun instead of putting an inordinate amount of effort into getting everything handed to you on Floor 1?

As for the S.O.B. not getting harder, that's totally a non-issue. The S.O.B. doesn't get more difficult to beat, sure, but as it encroaches on your position, it forces you to race through the remaining rooms, which are generally filled with more dangerous enemies and encounters in lower floors.

Trust me, I've spent a year and a half working on this game, and while I'm not saying I can't be wrong about a mechanic in my game, the S.O.B. is one that's been intensely thought through and it's, in my opinion, an absolutely necessary component of the game, and not just a cheap way for me to get deaths in order to artificially extend the playtime.

As for transparency, there's a message on the HUD when the S.O.B. appears. There's also a sound effect that plays when he appears. There's also loud and spooky music that gets closer as the S.O.B. approaches. The S.O.B. also has a bright red light that you can see cast in the direction he's facing, so you can VISUALLY tell he's coming around a corner. He also has to spin up his gatling gun before he fires, giving you a second or so to get out of the way. He also always spawns in the same room (the starting room), moves at the same speed, and acts the same way every single time. Also, there's the tutorial that shows up the first time the guy spawns, and it basically tells you to run far, far away from him. I don't know how much more transparent the guy could be.

I don't want to be telling players to "git gud", because that's absolutely not a constructive thing to say to anyone, but there is something to be said about LEARNING from failures and trying to have some fun figuring out the mechanics of the game and building strategies around them. People in these discussion forums have offered so many different ways of countering the S.O.B., including ones I had not even thought of myself. This is, to me, what's fun about video games -- you're not just brainlessly carrying out tasks, you're being presented with obstacles and tools to deal with them, and then you're feeling like an absolute badass when you navigate yourself around, or even through them.

Anyways, sorry if I didn't address your points specifically (though I tried), I hope this clears up some things about the mechanic, and why just putting a toggle isn't going to fix it.

- Arthur

Last edited by Mr. Podunkian; Jun 9, 2016 @ 4:40pm
Mr. Podunkian is absolutely correct on the S.O.B mechanic, when i first started playing i wanted to search every room and more often than not it just got me trapped in a room with the guy that ended with my death or me just getting out with low health only to die later by a mine or something, exploring an entire floor while sure COULD end up with something neat it's just a better option to get your♥♥♥♥♥to a lower floor and find even better stuff, the S.O.B helps with that by forcing you to move quickly if he gets close. Hell even now when i know how to easily kill him i only do so when i need rifle ammo for my guns since i find him to be a nice way to push myself to go to a lower floor and if i mess up and get trapped by him then well clearly i did something wrong

i also don't see how he could be made more transparent as so many things tell you heres here, or hes getting close or he's around a corner, it's pretty darn clear, if he was any clearer he might aswell be invisible.
Cronnoponno Jun 9, 2016 @ 4:31pm 
Damn, my respect for you has gone up Podun and I completely agree with your thoughts on the S.O.B mechanic.
GregSolidus Jun 9, 2016 @ 5:13pm 
This needs to be pinned.
Gary Dozer Jun 9, 2016 @ 5:26pm 
Thank you very much, Arthur.

Allow me to clarify some things I think are important.

First,

Originally posted by Mr. Podunkian:
The S.O.B. Purifier on the other hand, forces the player to make decisions.
It creates an obstacle that slowly closes in on the player, outright discouraging them from making the boring non-choice of "I'm gonna explore everything," which is the equivalent of solving a maze by turning left at every intersection -- you will inevitably and eventually DO find an exit this way, but it's mindless and requires no thought or strategy whatsoever.
There is little to no guidance which turn should player take. Let's suppose he saw the tip that exit is never behind a red door. But still the only guidance left is a radar which shows dead ends and exit only when you are pretty close to it. So "always turn left" is the only viable strategy a player until he gets some idea about level layout.
I think some bearing mark to the exit on a radar would provide needed guidance. Although it could create some challenge because level layout could be spiral-like and a player should analyze it to make a right decision.
Better yet is to make some alterations to level generator so it would create forks mostly red-blue and in case of blue-blue fork to limit wrong path length.

Second,


Originally posted by Mr. Podunkian:
And then you reach floor 4 and after about 30 minutes of exploring, you open the wrong door and get blasted in the face with a Sod Off Trap and die. What's happened? You've spent literally 2 hours for absolutely no net gain -- you lose all your items, you've explored less than half of the content in the Cooler, and you're probably feeling really annoyed that your afternoon was a complete wash.
I do not agree with you that this even concerns S.O.B. mechanic. Player knows that the more he explores the level the more chances there is that he could die. The same thing is true about opening red doors too. A player knows that he would face stronger enemies but also he will find better loot. It's his choice to take a risk. S.O.B. here provides unnecessary interference because a player doesn't know when S.O.B. will appear (see below).

Third,

Originally posted by Mr. Podunkian:
As for transparency, there's a message on the HUD when the S.O.B. appears. There's also a sound effect that plays when he appears. There's also loud and spooky music that gets closer as the S.O.B. approaches. The S.O.B. also has a bright red light that you can see cast in the direction he's facing, so you can VISUALLY tell he's coming around a corner. He also has to spin up his gatling gun before he fires, giving you a second or so to get out of the way. He also always spawns in the same room (the starting room), moves at the same speed, and acts the same way. Also, there's the tutorial that shows up the first time the guy spawns, and it basically tells you to run far, far away. I don't know how much more transparent the guy could be.

Here you missed my point. When S.O.B. has appeared everything becomes pretty transparent. What is not transparent is how much time a player got until S.O.B. will appear. Having countdown timer on a hud will motivate a player and add some psycological pressure on him. Also it would help a player to make a right decision. Whether he has time to explore the red door or not.

I've noticed that the time a player has until S.O.B. appears actually depends on how big a level is. I'm guessing that you used an algorith that calculates this time based on a length of a path to the exit. Though I'm not sure whether it takes into accout the amount of forks available for a player. I'm trying to analyze the level layouts and timings right now. Right now it seems you've made a lazy choice and sometime a player has an eary fork and very little time. But I'm not quite sure here. Tell me if I'm wrong.

Forth,

Originally posted by Mr. Podunkian:
The S.O.B. pushes you through the Coolers because really, it's for your own good. Instead of spending half an hour per floor, you're only spending a few minutes. Now, a full Cooler Run doesn't take half a day-- it takes a few minutes. When you get wasted by a trap, or a tough encounter and your items go bye-bye, you're not set back a significant chunk of your life, you're set back maybe a few minutes. This is a thing people don't really seem to want to accept: spending more time on a floor just sets you up for more heartbreak later on. All of the neat items you might've found on Floor 1 are less rare on Floor 5 anyways, so why not just progress through the Cooler and have fun instead of putting an inordinate amount of effort into getting everything handed to you on Floor 1?

I do not agree with you here that you've did all you should to encourage players skip to the lower levels. A player will and should leave a cooler in many circumstances. Whether to save his life/loot or just to get better with mutation. But the game doesn't give him any options nor help to skip passed levels. Levels are regenerated and repopulated. He will spend same amount of time just trying to find the exit. Meanwhile he will waste his ammo and health on basic enemies without any benefits. Loot from them is no longer present any interest. But he should loot just to restock his ammo and meds. This creates unnecessary grind which turns away most players.
You have to give a player a hand here. He spen half an hour getting to lowest levels and found a powerful mutation. But he understands that if he will take it it's rinse and repeat all over again. It's pretty obvious that good mutations are not to be left overlooked. It's a KSP of the game to mutate your character. But right now an hour to beat a cooler is too long. It will promote a player to skip all booze just to finish this goddamn cooler and see what's next.

There are several option here. First, to let players skip to a level where they've drank a booze. Second, not to repopulate and/or regenerate levels and give very little time until S.O.B. appears. And third, I think would be most effective, on a second run generate much smaller levels with less forks.

Thanks again for your answers. I'm still trying to play your game, and I see that there are some good ideas and fun is certainly present. I'm thinking about changing my review to a positive. Though I still think that games lacks some things I've mentioned above.

BR,
Gary
Last edited by Gary Dozer; Jun 9, 2016 @ 5:41pm
Gary Dozer Jun 9, 2016 @ 5:46pm 
Just to clarify - I'm not trying to make you implement these changes in the game. It's your game and you decide how it should be. I'm just analyzing game's design and greatly appreciate your answers and feedback. Thank you.
Mr. Podunkian  [developer] Jun 9, 2016 @ 6:37pm 
I'll be the first to admit that the guidance thing is definitely a problem with the game in it's current state and even up until the last month of development, I had every intention of adding some sort of signage to make it really clear to the player that they've strayed off the main path -- it's just I really just ran out of time in the end with having to wrap up the core game content... I know that it's something I'm going to try to come up with a system for in an upcoming update.

Still, it's not as random as you make it sound: there are definitely systems I came up with to make it less easy to get lost -- for instance, off-path doors have a higher chance of being locked when they occur earlier in the floor than later (starting at 75% and gradually lowering down to 25% the closer you get to the exit, since I'm okay with the player getting a little lost as they get closer to the exit). The reason for this being that I didn't want players to take a wrong path early on and continue down it too far, since that requires significant backtracking, which can lead to scariness with the Purifier.

Similarly, when players start finding Tough, Kitted-Out, or Modded-Out variants of enemies, which only occur off the main path, they're supposed to act as deterrents to the player, since they're significantly more difficult (or at least heartier) than their normal variants, which should signal to the player that it's time to turn back and try a different route.

Likewise, unopened doors showing up on the minimap in a bright, easy to read color, combined with the Fog of War effect that masks areas you haven't been should make it *very clear* which routes and rooms you haven't explored, while not outright just telling the player the exact route they need to go. All three of the aforementioned systems (and probably more that I'm not quite remembering off the top of my head) should be naturally directing players towards the exit, but I'm finding a lot of players are just trying to brute force the game, ignoring the signs that I'm giving them (which seems to be a recurring issue, given how many people ignore the signs the Purifiers give you that they're coming) and just mindlessly repeating their deaths.

You also have to realize that getting a little lost is actually part of the fun of the game and it's intended for players to not know exactly where the exit is. There's a reason that more resourceful players, especially those who're paying attention to the rules and mechanics of the game, are generally are able to find their way to the end of a floor in spite of them being huge and mazelike at times.

As for enemies being more difficult and loot being better behind locked doors, yes, that's true, but there's no reason more than one mechanic can't affect a player's decision to explore a locked door/off path area or not. To say that increased enemy difficult should be the ONLY reason for players to consider not exploring off-path areas is kind of excusing the S.O.B. on grounds of redundancy, which it really isn't. The S.O.B. keeps you moving forward. That's its intent, and it does what it's supposed to. It prevents players from making the decision to skip a room and then much, much later thinking "ehhhh, remember that locked room at the beginning of the floor? I wanna take a look at it after all" and then having to backtrack all the way to the beginning and potentially getting lost in the process, since the door markers would, at that point be all gone.

Also, players don't need to know exactly when the S.O.B. is going to appear, just that it does if they spend too much time on a floor. As implemented, the S.O.B. is just an ever looming threat, and that's exactly how I want them to feel. Giving the players access to a countdown timer, by comparison, makes it seem too mechanical and video-gamey and I don't like that.

Finally, you're completely misunderstanding the Booze mechanic. It's not intended as a level-up system specifically, it's an option for players to high-tail it out of the Cooler with the loot they want, again (and I'm sorry I keep repeating this phrase) a "risk/reward" mechanic. Letting people just start off from where they left off from a Booze doesn't make any sense, either from in-universe (why does the player suddenly start from floor 3 instead of floor 1?) nor mechanically (if taking a Booze lets you start off where you left off, what's point in not taking a Booze at all?). Ultimately, if you've found enough items that you think are valuable, and you think taking them home and stashing them is more important than continuing on and potentially losing them, you'll take a Booze. Likewise, if you find a really nice Booze, and you think taking it is more valuable in the long run than finishing the Cooler, you'll do that too. Either way, you'll have to start over, but you'll have advantages in one or two ways (at least versus the alternative where you've died and respawn with a new waster): First, you have a nice stash of starting items for your next run, which should help you get through the first floors of the Cooler faster, and second, you've got a Hangover, which should also give you some nice advantages (unless you chose a debuff Booze, in which case, you were making a calculated decision to do so).

All three of the workarounds you proposed seem to stem from one motivation: that you don't want to waste time on the lower floors of the Cooler. Guess what the S.O.B.'s main purpose is? It's to keep you from wasting time on the Coolers.

At any rate, I'm happy to talk more about the mechanics to you, but I think I've explained everything fairly in-depth here. As far as I'm concerned, the mechanics, as I've described them, all work together to create a fairly cohesive gameplay loop -- trust me, as much as I'm a lover of developing games, I love playing them even more, and in the past year and half, I've spent an unreasonable amount of time playing my own game and interacting with the systems I designed -- none of these systems are implemented based on pure theoretical situations -- they've been designed and tweaked based on how I felt while playing my own game, and seeing how the systems worked together or didn't work together.

Last edited by Mr. Podunkian; Jun 9, 2016 @ 11:02pm
sleepy_worm Jun 9, 2016 @ 6:42pm 
As someone with a poor sense of direction and pretty bad spatial memory, I would appreciate some hand-holdy guidance to the exit. Just a more informative 2D map would help me a lot, but I'm sure there are more immersive options to signpost the main path. As it is, I tend to just wander around and hope to see the green blip on the minimap eventually. Not a complete funkiller, but I feel like my dumb brain is locking me out of some interesting decisions.
Umbrul Jun 9, 2016 @ 7:04pm 
Figured I'd chime in.

@Gary Dozer

To the first point, the red doors can actually be very useful, and do not count as "little to no" guidance. What I mean is that an average floor has several red doors seeded throughout, and can co-exist with the blue (non-red) doors. So, if your choice is between a red door and a blue door, there is a strong guidance. In regards to the fork aspect, wouldn't the game become less exploration centric, linear, and more "gamey" if you always knew where to go? Like, I understand your point. But I think one of the major risk elements is in the uncertainty of your path and those junctions. Without it, I could actually run to the exit, bunny hopping to victory. Even on stages with dangerous enemies, since they would all aggro each other. Removing it would give GREAT convenience, but it would be less interesting.

However, I agree that getting stuck in a bad room/branch is really frustrating. Especially if you cannot even avoid the SOB (imagine rooms with no cover, and trying to get past the SOB). If anything, it would be nice if each branching path ALWAYS generated a room that allowed you to evade the SOB. Or paths past a certain length.

To the second and third points, I feel that the uncertainty and risk provided by the SOB's arrival is still a bonus. At the moment, you have three different styles of gameplay, based around the SOB:
  1. Pre-Spawn: Loot and explore, but at a reasonable speed. The uncertainty presses you forward constantly. The uncertainty makes you hesitate when opening that red door. That, and the fear of being on the wrong path.
  2. SOB has spawned: It is a bit stressful. You are prioritizing blue doors, so that you can reach the exit. If you are behind some red doors, NOW you turn back and finish the level. Unless you plan on fighting the SOB. If you want to kill the SOB or need to get around him, you must seek a room in which you can kill the SOB or evade him. Rooms with cover. If one of those is not in your branch, best of luck :steamsad: As long as there is a single room with cover available, and I am decently far from the spawn, all red doors are fair game. Assuming I feel confident against the potential dangers on the other side.
  3. SOB is dead: This state is only reached if you decide to kill the big guy. Now, you can take your sweet, sweet time. You will probably explore every nook and cranny, and then move on to the exit.

I think that a timer wouldn't add anything, besides increased stress due to it counting down and always being on your screen. Gameplay would otherwise remain the same. You will still need rooms with cover to fight the guy, other enemies to act as a distraction, or some trusty rifle to take him off at range.

A generic warning prior him spawning (15-60 seconds prior) would accomplish the same thing, without the visual noise of a timer.

To the fourth point, future dungeons/coolers spawn better loot and booze earlier on than the initial cooler (I think?). So, instead of trudging to floor 6/10 of the first cooler, you could just get to floor 3 (or earlier, by finding a random bottle) of the other coolers. Also, I REALLY disagree on the thought that progressing through earlier levels takes the same amount of time. There are several upgrades that aid in this particular area.
Mr. Podunkian  [developer] Jun 9, 2016 @ 7:19pm 
That's a pretty good idea about spawning a guaranteed loop on any branch, I'll look into making some more room layouts and adding a tag so that this can somewhat be enforced.
Gary Dozer Jun 9, 2016 @ 10:54pm 
Thank you very much, Arthur. I really apreciate you taking time to answer. It's very valuable to have a discussion about game design with experienced game designer.

BR,
Gary
Eizo Jun 9, 2016 @ 11:30pm 
:closetgamer: PSA: S.O.B. is the faction he is part of, he himself is called a Purifier.
Cronnoponno Jun 10, 2016 @ 12:18am 
Originally posted by Eizo:
:closetgamer: PSA: S.O.B. is the faction he is part of, he himself is called a Purifier.

Yeah this actually confused me because some Rottyman wear S.O.B branded clothes and once I got to the 7th floor everyone was an S.O.B and the scared raider at the beginning told me the S.O.B was on his tail and I thought he was saying the entire floor was filled with purifiers.


By the way, will the purifier attack the other S.O.B's or will they remain neutral towards eachother?
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WASTED > General Discussions > Topic Details
Date Posted: Jun 9, 2016 @ 11:06am
Posts: 13