Thoughts on Simulated Results

Eurgh

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What are your thoughts and feelings when it comes to simulated results?

Example: You have an army and a castle. An event happens where enemies attack. Your army's power is then calculated against the enemy's power and the result ends in either your win or loss.


Example 2: You attempt to learn magic from an ancient scroll. It then runs a calculation of your aptitude with magic vs the difficulty of the spell where you can fail to learn the spell (with added possibility of the scroll disintegrating and being lost forever since paper doesn't exactly keep its integrity over the millennia.)


Do you feel these types of things are unfair to the player or do you think it adds further complexity to the default systems in place I.E. Use a spell book, get a spell.
 

MushroomCake28

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I'm okay with it if there are no irreversible consequences. In example 2, if you made it so the scroll doesn't disintegrate and you can retry later (or it disintegrate but you can find another one) it'd be totally fine with it. I just don't like the idea of missing something relevant to gameplay irreversibly.

The case of example 1 is kinda different, since it resembles story branches, which is totally fine.
 

mauvebutterfly

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Example 2 seems like the kind of thing where most players would just save their game before reading the scroll and reload if they don't learn the spell. It seems like more of a nuisance than a feature people would enjoy.

Even if it was reversible or had a relatively small cost associated with failure, people might not use the system as intended. I remember one developer saying that resurrection spells were bugged in one of his games, and he didn't find out until something like 10 years after release when he finally got a bug report. All of his beta-testers and all the players who ever contacted him on his forums up until that point apparently just reloaded an old save when a party member died since that was more convenient than walking to the healer shop.
 

Finnuval

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I agree with what @MushroomCake28 says.

As for the statement @mauvebutterfly makes, well this might be true but then again we can't always keep the player's shortcuts in mind in my opinion and I disagree that it would be a nuisance as the nuisance would be created by the player trying to circumvent intended consequences...

That's my two cents anyway :)
 

Eurgh

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@mauvebutterfly

I feel that at the end of the day, if someone is going to save scum, they're going to save scum.
If someone is going to save/reload a game as many times as it takes to get the result they want there is nothing I can put in place to stop that.
 

Andar

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1) simulated and even scripted results are extremely common in game development. The reason for this is because it is impossible to create a true AI, so the only way a computer can win on strategy against a human with an even halfway decent brain is by cheating. Or why do you think that the "difficulty" in 4X-games basically gives the computer player extra resources? Ever played "Master Of Orion 2" on impossible and found a titan warship on the computer homeworld on turn 10?

2) That said, to keep the fun in the games the probability of loss needs to be compared to the importance of the win - if the player is stuck when the simulated result is a loss, then the probability should be manipulated in such a way that the player has a reasonable chance of winning.
No one wants to grind a hundred battles to be able to get through the door to the second chapter.


If someone is going to save/reload a game as many times as it takes to get the result they want there is nothing I can put in place to stop that.
There are ways against that.
For example I once programmed a scenario in an XCOM-clone against powerfull aliens where the important armor research was triggered by the number of soldiers lost. Basically "We're loosing too many soldiers, pease start research into protection". If the player had reloaded to ace the fights without losses, the armor research wouldn't trigger - after all if he manages a zero-loss then he doesn't need armor, or ;-)"
 

Eurgh

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@Andar

There are ways against that.
For example I once programmed a scenario in an XCOM-clone against powerfull aliens where the important armor research was triggered by the number of soldiers lost. Basically "We're loosing too many soldiers, pease start research into protection". If the player had reloaded to ace the fights without losses, the armor research wouldn't trigger - after all if he manages a zero-loss then he doesn't need armor, or ;-)"
I'm not entirely sure how that could be worked into the example I gave, plus the entire idea behind it was so warrior type classes can use magic, if they want to invest into it but not be the omni-present God King that can fire a bow, cast swathes of fire, ice and thunder while swinging aloft a grand sword and pushing back the hordes with their almighty shield.

The aptitude could even come in the form of a misc stat that doesn't affect combat stats. Especially since my game has time based events, so a warrior could spend days researching the theories of magic to gain aptitude. I'm also labelling clearly the aptitude needed to learn something, it's more along the lines of

A - Has 7 aptitude

B - Is a 10 aptitude spell

You could learn it but your current knowledge on magic and how it works isn't at the level of easily grasping it. E.G. You could probably brute force your way through learning to solve an algebraic equation IRL. But it would obviously be a hell of a lot easier with prior knowledge of Algebra. Do you get what I mean?


But overall, if people want to save scum, then it's whatever. I don't think baby proofing a mechanic is necessary if the abuse doesn't have game breaking effects
 

Wavelength

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I like having multiple possible outcomes from an action that you take on (such as walking your army up to the castle or reading the ancient scroll). However, I feel it's better to give the player agency in that outcome, rather than simply running probabilities and popping out an outcome (with grand strategy games as a possible exception to this).

Whatever the core gameplay of your game is, maybe you can find a way to work it (or something else) in to the action. For example, a modified "army vs. castle" version of an RPG game's combat system could be used for the event where enemies attack, or a minigame could be used to increase your chances of success when reading any scroll (or any skill-learn item) in the game, with perfect play during the minigame resulting in a 100% success rate to learn the skill.

I don't mind having "Missables" (e.g. the scroll disappears forever if you fail the check and you can't learn the spell from anywhere else) - in fact, I enjoy having the weight of knowing that my actions have lasting consequences. However, I know a lot of completionist-types (who want to get/achieve 100% of the things that the game has to offer) who HATE Missables. Be careful about your audience if you go for that approach.
 

TheoAllen

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By any chance, are u inspired from this? I don't mind the simulated result, in fact, I prefer for them to have a little RNG. As long as I have a chance to control the possibility.
 

mauvebutterfly

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I feel that at the end of the day, if someone is going to save scum, they're going to save scum.
If someone is going to save/reload a game as many times as it takes to get the result they want there is nothing I can put in place to stop that.

I agree with this logic, but if I was in that position I'd take a step back and think about what this actually means from the player's perspective, rather than from the developer's perspective. If players are doing this, it means that something about your game isn't fun for them. Should you just wave that away and ignore it? Maybe the problem isn't that the players are choosing not to play your game the way you intended. Maybe the problem is that the game is unnecessarily frustrating.

There are several possibilities I guess:
1. The player likes the game as it is.
2. The player is annoyed but will just continue.
3. The player is annoyed but will reload.
4. The player is annoyed and stops playing.

I don't know what your personal goals are with the game, or what kind of an audience you are trying to reach, but if you have identified a part of your game that some players will go out of their way to avoid, it might be worth rethinking.

That said, there are definitely reasons to leave in things that will annoy a certain subset of player. I love roguelikes, but I recognise that save file deletion on death is a mechanic that will greatly reduce the audience of the game. For the tiny audience that is in to that sort of thing, though, it's great to have a developer willing to play to a niche.

And of course if it's a personal project you never intend to show to anyone (other than just a few close friends, maybe) everything I've said doesn't apply in your case.
 

Eurgh

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@Wavelength
"army vs. castle" version of an RPG game's combat system could be used for the event where enemies attack
You have the choice to fight it yourself in a TBS fight or just simulate it. With the downsides of both being if you manually fight, you can end up messing up and losing or with simulating it then you might lose through a bit of bad luck.

minigame could be used to increase your chances of success when reading any scroll
I explained in my previous post that it would be labelled what level of aptitude is needed for a 100% chance where the player can spend days researching the theories of magic to raise their aptitude. It's just I never liked the fact that Grug the Barbarian King could master the arcane because he read a book written by a wizard who spend his entire life training in magic, but I don't want to lock the player out of using magic if there's a specific spell they want to use without rolling a mage.


@TheoAllen
By any chance, are u inspired from this? I don't mind the simulated result, in fact, I prefer for them to have a little RNG. As long as I have a chance to control the possibility.
I didn't actually know about that game, but yes that is roughly what i'm going for since the game i'm using those mechanics in is a story driven kingdom management game which has multiple endings depending on what you have done in game such as supporting the peasants so when the kingdom you've been pillaging all game sends a full assault, the peasants lay down their lives to thin the numbers before they reach you, and stuff like that.


@mauvebutterfly
If players are doing this, it means that something about your game isn't fun for them.

I feel like that's the players problem. And I honestly believe that they are just actively looking for a way to justify cheating in a singleplayer game.
If they decide to stop playing because they couldn't learn an ancient powerful magic because their character is a meathead and has never cast a spell in their life then they; once again were looking for a reason to not play.

If they reload the game, that is cheating. But they're just cheating themselves, although I do admit i've done my fair share of "Nah, we're not doing this." moments in games and reloaded but arguably in those cases it was because the game wasn't fun due to janky or unfair mechanics such as in a mod of Mount and Blade it spawned about 5 mounted bandit patrols that could outrun me and all ran as a giant group so what might have been a manageable fight turned into my measly posse of 19 people fighting against about 109 bandits which when you lose a fight, you lose all of your army and they take money and random items from you then run around the map with you for like a month while your allied faction watch they run around with you.

And finally, the RNG aspects of the game are entirely optional and have no hard outcome on the progression of the game such as, nobody is FORCING the player to gamble a rare item it is their prerogative to risk losing something because they want to try and learn a high level wizard spell on their rogue.
Onto the subject of the simulated battles, they are simulated at the digression of the player who has the choice to manually fight or pray to RNGeesus that their 60 power ragtag militia can defend against the military prowess of a 400 power warrior clan that the player has been raiding for luxury items.
 

Tai_MT

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What are your thoughts and feelings when it comes to simulated results?

Example: You have an army and a castle. An event happens where enemies attack. Your army's power is then calculated against the enemy's power and the result ends in either your win or loss.


Interestingly enough... I've played games that have this. As a general rule... I tend to abhor it unless the results are controllable to some degree in the "short term". If the only way to influence these "simulations" is with a lot of time and slow build up... then I'm just not interested all that much. I like a little Agency.

The example I like to cite for this is Samurai Warriors 2 Empires. While I love the game (it's pretty fun and on higher difficulties, control of the battlefield is far more important than any individual battle on it you win... which for me, makes it feel more like war and less like a series of excessive beat-downs and chunky salsa). If you aren't sure what the game is... if you've ever seen "Dynasty Warriors"... it's that... except it's in Japan and takes place around Nobunaga Oda and that period of the unification of Japan. Empires has "TBS" strategy in it as well, where you must take the country you start in and conquer the rest of Japan. You spend turns taking actions, you get so many actions per month/year, and the computer players do the same.

The game itself has two ways to "simulate" battles. Sometimes, from the "world map" you can simply simulate a battle. It takes army size and the strength of your Leaders into consideration and weighs it against the enemy and what they have, then determines a winner. You'll never use this, because it seems largely random.

The second way it "simulates" battles is by any area of the map that is not "loaded in" (basically, anything not around the player and everything you can't see). It will simulate what your armies do, what your generals do, and how well they perform based on "tactic" cards (which are rock, paper scissors, in 3 tiers... a tier two "rock" card beats a tier 1 paper card, but if they're both tier one, the paper card wins... The tactics are speed, defense, and offense.), based on Generals you have with you, based on the "morale" of your army (morale seems to affect how quickly enemy armies and units are dispatched by yours, if their meter is larger by enough, they'll begin steamrolling you), and based on any stats/weapons your units and generals are using. Likewise, some maps have "default" ways they play out with guaranteed wins for specific sides of the conflict, unless you intervene in significant ways (so historical battles are usually guaranteed to end in specific ways, unless you figure out the triggers for ending those fights or for steamrolling the enemy despite its advantages).

Because of that second way of simulating, you could sometimes count on your armies to do their job and the most you'd have to manage is swapping out your "tactics" card (you had to earn the cards on the world map, and then you could only bring so many with you each battle) to gain victory. However, I discovered early on that if you knew what you were doing on the battlefield... relying on this simulation was worthless. I found ways to routinely win battles where I'd have little more than 1000 soldiers against armies in a fortified location with over 50,000 soldiers. The key to doing this was simply to abuse the CRAP out of the Simulation. Namely, balance between being where you need to be... and being places where the simulation can take over. Generals that could curb stomp me were things to avoid... I'd pop the correct tactics and let the simulation handle them (even with inferior troops, if you were cutting off supply lines or kiting leaders away from valuable locations, your soldiers would use the Simulation to defeat generals pretty regularly or take locations on the map without your help).

I got in the habit of fighting every single important battle and abusing how the battles turned out just to make the "Simulation" work in my favor, even when there's no way I should've been routinely winning battles as lopsided as 1000 against 50,000. Granted, some of these battles lasted close to the Time Limits of 30 or 45 minutes... But, it didn't matter to me, so long as I won. The most troops I could lose was 1000, and the most they could lose was 50,000.

Sheer math. The simulation often hurt the chances of the enemy once I figured out how it worked and how it could be easily exploited.

In fact, you'll see these same exploits in almost any kind of "simulation" type game there is. Once a player understands the "rules" of how something is calculated and what they can get away with... it's a pretty easy exploit.

For example, in Cities Skylines... the game itself puts a massive emphasis on having good roads. This is never truly necessary. Once I understood how the game was calculating travel times and distances my population were willing to travel for any one particular thing... It was easy enough to build "blocks" that catered to every need and required very little "road" travel time. I put a huge multi-lane highway straight up through the middle of my city, put a bunch of easily accessible "side streets" that went into fairly perfectly formed "blocks" of zoning... and despite the heavy traffic all the time, and all the complaints... I made money hand over fist. The traffic issues were simply getting into and out of the city. The regular "blocks" of Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Entertainment venues had very little traffic due to the populace not really needing to go very far for anything. I split up my "services" on either side of the highway to prevent them from trying to cross the busy highway and left the game to its own devices.

That's the problem with a "simulation" of that nature. They almost always have an exploit. You either need to count on players finding it and being okay with them using that exploit... Or, you need to spend a ton of time making sure it can't be exploited and works properly.

Example 2:
You attempt to learn magic from an ancient scroll. It then runs a calculation of your aptitude with magic vs the difficulty of the spell where you can fail to learn the spell (with added possibility of the scroll disintegrating and being lost forever since paper doesn't exactly keep its integrity over the millennia.)


Do you feel these types of things are unfair to the player or do you think it adds further complexity to the default systems in place I.E. Use a spell book, get a spell.

With this example, I don't mind it. A little RNG. I've played a lot of Rogue-likes that take this approach. Often if something I know is "difficult" to learn, I'll simply hold onto it until I'm confident I can learn it as a 100% chance. Yep, even if you don't display the "chance". One of my favorites was a game called "ADOM" (Ancient Domains of Mystery). It had tomes where you could read them and learn the spell "Wish". You could fail quite a lot at learning it. To the point that the book turns into ashes without you learning anything (every failed attempt makes a roll on what happens... sometimes the book is fine... sometimes it turns to dust... sometimes you get a random cast of the spell... and... other things). I simply went out of my way to maximize my chances of learning the spell. I held onto it until my Literacy was maxed out. I held onto it until I had enough stat points into Magic to comprehend it properly. I held onto it until I had enough food and privacy to sit down and read the tome for over 24 hours straight without interruption (if you were interrupted, you had to start all over... being hungry could interrupt you. Getting attacked could interrupt you. Your Deity talking to you could interrupt you.).

Though, you're going to have to expect a lot of savescumming with such a system. Something I do to games that aren't Rogue-likes. Oh, I have a 1% chance to pick this lock? Well, let me reload until I nail that 1% chance.

If the player really wants something, they'll reload to get it.

Now, what I did for the "simulated chance" is in my "Thievery" and "Pillaging" systems. Basically, your stats for particular characters determine "how good" of loot you get. With "Thievery", there are 5 loot items. Even if your stats are extremely low, you get something. The player never knows the threshold for what items appear with which stats. With "Pillage", there are 3 loot items. Again, the player never knows the threshold for these items. The player is given a small "buff" roll to their attempt in hopes that it "pushes them over to the next tier", but it's not guaranteed and is based on the difficulty of the chest. There are 5 tiers of difficulty for these chests. The "easiest" will make a random roll from 1-10 points. The "hardest" will make a random roll from 0-2. The player never knows what they rolled. They aren't even aware they're getting this slight bonus. There is no changed dialogue for an indicator of "how good" of items you got from the chest. As far as you know, as the player, this chest always contains exactly 5 Hyper Potions. You may never know that you just barely passed over rolling the Sword of Infinite Destruction.

Which brings me to the other thing I've done with this "simulation" system. Higher numbers aren't always best. Sometimes, the "median" number will hold the best loot. This means that an underpowered player may get a boon, while a super powerful player might get something more in line with keeping them at their current power level.

But, again, they'll never know. There is no "Failure" state. They might deduce that the chests have more than one reward based on the flavor text for its difficulty... They might deduce that there has to be some kind of determining factor for what they get when they 100% succeed on every Thievery or Pillaging check. But, how many rewards? Which is the best one?

If your "Simulation" has no "Fail State" that the player is really aware of, it's a lot more difficult for that player to decide when to "reload" and try again. I mean, they opened this chest and found 6 Elixirs! That's awesome! Surely that was the best prize! But, maybe it wasn't. Maybe there was an "Immune to every Element in the game" accessory in there they could've gotten too. But, they didn't know it was there. They have no way of knowing what was there. A bunch of reloads might even give the same result. Or, only a second option if they "roll" good enough (or bad enough). They likely won't know there were ever more than two rewards for any of these chests.

I think that's the key to doing this sort of simulation. No "Fail" state. The player is simply given something else and never told that they could've gotten something much better.
 

lianderson

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That was an interesting post Tai... but dang was it long O_O

Get back to work on your game dag nabit!
*cracks whip*
 

Eurgh

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(every failed attempt makes a roll on what happens... sometimes the book is fine... sometimes it turns to dust... sometimes you get a random cast of the spell... and... other things)

Interesting, I'll probably use that approach, I was already thinking about using something like this but it was more of a back of the mind thought as opposed to something I was going to definitely put in.


I held onto it until I had enough food and privacy to sit down and read the tome for over 24 hours straight without interruption (if you were interrupted, you had to start all over... being hungry could interrupt you. Getting attacked could interrupt you. Your Deity talking to you could interrupt you.).
That's another interesting one since time plays a big role in the game as spending that day learning a spell could mean the village you promised to protect from bandits was destroyed, or the flash sale in a shop is now over, as well as some events only happening at certain times on certain days, etc.


Basically, your stats for particular characters determine "how good" of loot you get. With "Thievery", there are 5 loot items. Even if your stats are extremely low, you get something. The player never knows the threshold for what items appear with which stats.
It's funny how tunnel visioned I am, as I was thinking about adding the intelligence of the player as a modifier to learning. But it never crossed my mind to do this with ANYTHING else.


Which brings me to the other thing I've done with this "simulation" system. Higher numbers aren't always best. Sometimes, the "median" number will hold the best loot. This means that an underpowered player may get a boon, while a super powerful player might get something more in line with keeping them at their current power level.
Another interesting way to run things that I may steal.



Overall I thank you for your input as it has given me a lot to think about when it comes to balancing the RNG mechanic of games
 

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