Author Topic: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?  (Read 263 times)

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Offline namida

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One complaint I've had about my recent packs (LPV, and especially LPO2) from some users is that they're too hard. However, the flipside is that other players have said they're an amazing challenge.

Of course, me being me, I'd like to be able to appeal to both types of players. Now of course, one way to do this is just to have some easy packs and some hard packs. I don't like the idea of making a "there's a level at everyone's difficulty" type pack, because this still means the players that would find some levels too hard, can't actually complete the pack.

An idea I'm experimenting with (and very likely to go with, though still open to discussion) for LPVI is to make more use of talismans to achieve this. If a level is too hard, I add skills / lower save requirements to make it an easier level, then put the original requirements as a talisman challenge. This is contrary to how I've handled talismans in past packs, which have generally been a matter of "after I finish the pack, I look for additional challenges I can make out of levels".

The concern that arises from this being - a lot of players, including some of the players who've given positive feedback to the high difficutly, don't tend to pay much attention to talismans. Mind you, I have limited experience with how people react in new formats here; new formats DOES make the talismans a lot more visible (eg. they're displayed on the preview screen and in the level select menu, not just in a seperate menu no one ever looks at unless they're specifically interested in talismans).

In some cases, this turns the original level into an almost-generic one. Generally, I'm not taking this as far as X-of-everything - in fact, like with LPO2, I'm avoiding X-of-everything levels in favor of relatively easy puzzles (or LPII Cheeky-style levels, where you're given far more skills than you need but also far from X-of-everything, and you might need to think about how to conserve one type of skill by using the plentiful supply of others). However, in other cases the difference can be quite minor - there is one level where the talisman (which does add a significant bit of difficulty) simply requires saving one extra lemming.

What do y'all think about this approach in general? For the players who like the extreme challenge - would you feel okay with the talismans being the way this challenge is delivered? And for the players who like the packs to be a bit easier - are you okay with the talismans being a bit more out-of-reach?
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Offline IchoTolot

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2018, 08:51:48 pm »
What do y'all think about this approach in general? For the players who like the extreme challenge - would you feel okay with the talismans being the way this challenge is delivered? And for the players who like the packs to be a bit easier - are you okay with the talismans being a bit more out-of-reach?

I don't really care about talismans and the challenge for me is to beat the pack. I don't really want to read myself through a large talisman list either and just ignore it. If there is a harder way to beat a level ---> repeat it or make it hard from the getgo.
I beat and judge the levels from the difficulty that is provided to me naturally.

I don't like the idea of making a "there's a level at everyone's difficulty" type pack, because this still means the players that would find some levels too hard, can't actually complete the pack.

This is exactly the right idea in my opinion: "there's a level at everyone's difficulty". I think people are too upset when they get stuck in a pack - getting stuck is natural!
You can skip levels anyway and I think getting stuck for a few months in a pack is totally normal. I took over a year to beat my first custom packs and it made me stronger! I hate giving up and it drives me further - just a day ago after a ton of attempts I finally beat "They Are Billions" on the hardest map on maximum difficulty as a result - it felt amazing. The videos for that will soon appear on my YouTube channel. ;)
Have a lot of easy levels for beginners and slowly crank up the difficulty further and further until after the pack is done with them they are master players.
That's the way of vdeo games for me: Start out easy then get harder and harder until the player has mastered the game. To get to that stage it takes willpower and perseverance and accomplishing things will feel even better.
I also don't see a difficulty in players not completing the whole pack. They did what they could and can always try again and continue. That only a fraction of players will beat the game is natural, just look at steam achievements on beating games.

All in all, I think talismans are usually ignored anyway and the real challenge always lies in solving all of the levels. I want to show difficult things without them getting ignored and that's exactlywhat the higher ranks are there for! :8():

Offline Proxima

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2018, 10:42:02 pm »
I'm the opposite to Icho. When I play a pack with the serious intent to complete it, I don't consider it complete until I've got all talismans. And when I'm building my own levels, if I find an interesting challenge on an easy level, I'm far more likely to include it as a talisman than think "I should save this up and make a repeat level". This is partly because I've already decided on the number of levels, and while the pack will have some repeats, adding a repeat I didn't intend feels like taking up space that could be given to a unique level, even if I haven't designed that level yet. I don't know how far that consideration applies to LPVI.

I'm still on the easy rank in my pack, so, while I have made a level that was too hard for its place and had to be upranked, making a level too difficult for the entire pack is not a problem I've had to think about yet. But I have faced that problem in DROD, which has similar considerations: "challenges" (the equivalent to talismans) are always optional and cannot unlock content, and some players like to get all challenges in a hold while others don't care. Some challenges were designed together with the original building of the room; some arose from alternative solutions found by playtesters; some may be the original intended solutions and the level no longer requirs them. From the player's point of view, the origin of the challenge doesn't matter, it's just an optional harder solution they can go for if they want.

As a rule of thumb, it seems fair, maybe even desirable, that the hardest challenge in the hold is harder than the hardest regular room solution. This fits with what seems to me the most natural way to play a hold: go through it in order, attempt challenges as you come upon them and solve any you can, then after beating the hold, go back and get any remaining challenges. (And the same would apply to NeoLemmix, substituting "talismans".)

In short, I think the suggested approach is a good one.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2018, 10:49:14 pm by Proxima »

Online Strato Incendus

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2018, 12:52:55 am »
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I don't really care about talismans and the challenge for me is to beat the pack. I don't really want to read myself through a large talisman list either and just ignore it. If there is a harder way to beat a level ---> repeat it or make it hard from the getgo.
I beat and judge the levels from the difficulty that is provided to me naturally.

Pretty much sums up my stance on this entire issue, too ;) .

Perhaps people are more willing to try and collect talismans in the New Formats version, considering that the new level preview screen was created to have more space in order to display talisman info. That way, they don't need to look up the talisman list separately, but can access them together with the level right away.

But since I don't really care that much about talismans, and the majority of levels don't have any talismans anyway, I still just believe these new screens make the levels look uglier. :P

If you got a hard solution available, making this intended solution optional feels to me like actively adding in backroute options :) .
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Offline nin10doadict

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2018, 01:52:31 am »
I think this approach could be interesting. I do like to go for talismans sometimes when I reach the dead end point where I can't go any further with the main levels themselves. I think it could also be a good way to avoid that awkward feeling where I find the talisman solution first but can never find the regular one (like in Dodgy 12: Extra Skill Required).
That said, I'm a minimal effort kind of guy when I play games. Most of the time, when it gets too hard, I throw in the towel and never look back.

Offline namida

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2018, 07:37:59 am »
If you got a hard solution available, making this intended solution optional feels to me like actively adding in backroute options :) .

The main difference I see here is, a backroute is unintended and could be of any difficulty. Whereas with this approach, it doesn't mean I turn the level into a generic X-of-everything type. Whether this leaves one solution or several, care will still be taken to ensure the remaining solutions are of acceptable difficulty - just not as hard as the talisman would have been.

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Offline Nepster

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2018, 08:52:01 am »
Personally I don't care about talismans at all.

But whether to use the proposed approach or not probably depends on the level, or rather your intention behind it: The actual level (not the talisman solution!) should reflect your goal with the level, whether it is to require a certain trick or to have an open-ended level. In my opinion, talismans are for additional challenges (mainly expanding on the original solution and asking to improve on it or adding precision to it), and not for hiding original content that could very well be an actual level in the pack. If people say "The talisman was a lot more interesting than the actual level" then you probably have done something wrong. It might be ok, if this was an expert player playing an intro level, but even then the talisman solution should not make for a more interesting level than the actual levels in the last ranks.

Offline ccexplore

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2018, 07:05:05 am »
Many games have an easy mode (some even more than 2 difficulty settings), and some games have bonus items that takes a more difficult solution to collect them all, but the main solution without collecting any bonus items is easier but still relatively interesting.  Heck, even Lemmings 2 have a system of bronze/silver/gold where the minimum bar to pass each level is actually quite low, but getting gold is much more of an achievement.

So while it definitely represents a mind shift for some people, I guess it is a reasonable approach to use the talisman as one way (I guess the only way in the existing implementation anyway) to provide the harder, originally intended level while the normal non-talisman solution is the easy mode.  Though if you do it that way, maybe it's best within that pack not to mix in the other usual talismans that are for "additional challenges beyond the intended hard solution".  You'd still want to warn people about special nature of talismans in your pack, both so no one gets surprised solving all levels without talismans and finding the levels peak at too low a difficulty, and also maybe entice some people who wouldn't otherwise pay attention to talismans to at least try them on this pack, given their special purpose here.

Ultimately I think it's equally valid that a level author design a pack with no easy mode and accept that the level pack is not for everybody, especially if they are able to provide (eg. via forum post or a readme file or something) ahead of time to the player a rough gauge of where the difficulty would peak at, so people at least have an idea whether they could finish the entire pack and if not, how far might they get.  Just as valid that a level author design a pack to provide both easy and hard modes and let the player choose (and change their minds one or more times later as desired) how much or little of a challenge they want to attempt.

Offline 607

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2018, 02:05:31 pm »
It's interesting how there are such varied responses. :)

Offline Simon

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2018, 11:44:01 pm »
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some users is that they're too hard.
make more use of talismans to achieve this.

This is not a solution, for the same reason that daylight savings are bad.

Today, the weak player is unhappy because he can't solve the levels. You want to cheer them up by moving the designed game into the talismans. Tomorrow, the weak player will be unhappy because he can't solve the talismans.



Talismans are repeats.

Two distinct good ideas should get two standalone, distinct-looking levels. This shows respect towards the player.

Between very similar ideas, cut all except the best idea. This is fundamental to game design.

-- Simon

Offline namida

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2018, 12:03:07 am »
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Today, the weak player is unhappy because he can't solve the levels. You want to cheer them up by moving the designed game into the talismans. Tomorrow, the weak player will be unhappy because he can't solve the talismans.

I disagree here. From what I've seen, players are quite happy to accept "solved all levels but couldn't get all talismans", whereas "can't even solve the levels" has lead to outright ragequits in some cases. That's why I thought of this as a potential way that the pack could be suitable to all players.

However, it does seem that more people are against such an approach than for it, so perhaps I need to rethink whether I'm actually going to use such an approach... in which case, it will definitely mean I need to withdraw a few levels from LPVI and save them for a bonus pack or a potential LPO3.
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Offline Proxima

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2018, 12:15:58 am »
Today, the weak player is unhappy because he can't solve the levels. You want to cheer them up by moving the designed game into the talismans. Tomorrow, the weak player will be unhappy because he can't solve the talismans.

Evidence? I've happily played Touhou for years without getting unhappy because I can't 1cc Lunatic. (Perhaps a little frustrated because at my current skill level, I feel I could get a Lunatic clear if I kept at practising a single game. But not unhappy.) Difficulty levels are ubiquitous, across many different game genres. They've remained popular because they work for their intended purpose: giving less skilled players the satisfaction of beating the game, enjoying the story, etc. without taking away the satisfaction of overcoming harder challenges from more skilled players.

You are also being rather disingenuous by talking about "the designed game" when namida's made it clear he's talking about changing a relatively small number of levels.

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Between very similar ideas, cut all except the best idea. This is fundamental to game design.

Repetition is equally fundamental. We build up our skills by starting with the simplest situations, then spotting those situations when they occur as building bricks of more complex patterns.

Another fundamental idea is piquing the player's interest by giving them early glimpses of challenges that are beyond their current skill level but will be accessible to them later, giving them great satisfaction when they come back and complete those challenges.

Offline Simon

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2018, 01:27:58 am »
Evidence?

Evidence that some players get sad when they cannot solve talismans: Can't deliver because most designers put the main idea into the main solution, not into the talisman. I merely expect that evidence will appear once (main ideas are moved to talismans and everybody understands that the main ideas are in the talismans).

Evidence that some players get sad when they can't beat all difficulty levels: This thread. People can't beat all levels; apparently, that's a problem. The levels are already sorted by difficulty. You disagreed with Icho when he suggested that the weaker player stick to easier difficulties.

The Touhou example is not a counterexample to the claim that some get unhappy when they can't beat everything.

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You are also being rather disingenuous by talking about "the designed game" when namida's made it clear he's talking about changing a relatively small number of levels.

Doesn't matter if 1 or 100 levels get their main ideas moved to the talismans. The problem exists for each level individually.

Quote
Quote
Between very similar ideas, cut all except the best idea. This is fundamental to game design.
Repetition is equally fundamental. We build up our skills by starting with the simplest situations, then spotting those situations when they occur as building bricks of more complex patterns.

I agree with this.

With "very similar ideas", I meant entire levels. Not the patterns that appear in the levels.

Cut the talismans that repeat 90 % of the level. Refactor into entirely new levels the talismans that bring a good new core idea.

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giving them early glimpses of challenges that are beyond their current skill level but will be accessible to them later, giving them great satisfaction when they come back and complete those challenges.

This doesn't happen when the experienced players see the pack, independently of whether you have talismans or separate maps.

Do you want weak players to ignore the talismans, then get strong, then solve the talismans? The weak player can look at hard maps, and will certainly do that early, out of pure curiosity. Then, your effect happens anyway, independently of whether you have talismans or separate maps, again.

-- Simon

Offline IchoTolot

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2018, 08:47:05 am »
For me it's a simple concept: The ranks display the difficulty setting.

I doubt every player will play other games expecting to beat everything on hard difficulty. No, most players stick to easy or normal.

So I see it as the following most players stick to the early and mid ranks that represent easy and normal difficulty. They always have the ability to check into the later ranks (hard difficulty) to improve themselves even more and expand their limits.

Already experienced players will most likely rush through easy and normal difficulty only moderately get challenged (most levels won't leave a big mark on them), while the real interesting parts and the core challenge lies in the hard difficulty for them.

Talismans hide away hard difficulty and water down the experience for those players. Like they get reheated food (levels in this case). With my method everyone gets fresh food and everyone is free to try everything and see what tastes best for them.

Offline namida

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Re: What do you think about using talismans to make packs easier?
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2018, 01:42:58 pm »
I don't believe difficulty settings are a fair comparison to Lemmings ranks.

In most games with a difficulty setting, it's one of two cases:

Scenario A - The content is the same, but some factors are tweaked. Perhaps the player has less health (very common). Perhaps the enemies are a bit smarter, or stronger (also fairly common). Maybe there's more enemies (eg. Commander Keen 4-6). If relevant to the genre, maybe the player obtains less items / money. However, the point is, the main content remains the same.

Scenario B - In the case of randomly-generated games, the gameplay area might be larger and/or more complex. Minesweeper would be the obvious example here.

Neither of these is really a direct parallel to ranks in Lemmings; as a new rank contains entirely new (but non-random) levels. A hypothetical pack could indeed treat difficulty in the same way as Scenario A here - perhaps there's three ranks, "Easy", "Medium" and "Hard" (using very creative names for the purpose of giving an example). All three contain the same 20 maps, but perhaps in Easy they're 20-of-everything, save 50%; in Medium they have small but still somewhat lenient skillsets (not unlike those common in late-Tricky / early-Taxing); in Hard they have a very restrictive skillset and usually require you to save every lemming possible.

However, in reality, I don't think there's even one pack so far that works that way. In a typical pack, "Easy" contains 20 levels, "Medium" contains 20 completely different (and somewhat harder) levels, and "Hard" contains yet another 20 different (and harder again) levels. Maybe some of the Medium / Hard levels are repeats of earlier rank levels.

A few repeat-heavy ranks as examples:
- Orig Taxing - 16 repeats, 14 non-repeats
- Orig Mayhem - 16 repeats, 14 non-repeats, counting Just A Minute (Part 2) as a repeat
- LPI Medi - 12 repeats, 18 non-repeats; many of the non-repeats do have repeats in later ranks
- LPI Danger - 17 repeats, 13 non-repeats; two of the non-repeats have repeats (The Deadly Climb and Coalburner)
- LPI Psycho - 23 repeats, 7 non-repeats
- LPO Perplexing - 15 repeats, 15 non-repeats; two of the non-repeats have repeats (Security Bypass and From Endings To Beginnings)
- LPO Mental - 19 repeats, 11 non-repeats

Even in the most extreme case - LPI's Psycho - nearly a quarter of the levels are completely unique to that rank.

Basically, ranks are more a grouping - they generally (though not always) indicate difficulty, but they aren't comparable to an actual difficulty setting.


However, I do get your point about watering down the experience. FWIW, I am giving second thoughts to this idea overall at this point. I simply felt that that particular comparison was a bit off.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 02:01:55 pm by namida »
My released level packs:
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