ErikPeter Walker
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Entry Thread for UNTITLED CARD-DRIVEN ROGUELIKE - Initial Playtesting
Designed for the 2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest

Untitled card-driven roguelike distills the computer roguelike formula into a card game that can be played in a short time.

Delve ever deeper into the dungeon (or progress ever deeper into the scenario, depending on what theme I come up with), facing more and more difficult challenges. Earn rewards (treasure and xp) for defeating enemies and locate magical artifacts to help you survive. The game ends when you die, or when you win (by defeating the ultimate villain, presumably.)

(Reserved for further game information)

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ErikPeter Walker
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
Since last year's Solitare PNP contest didn't go so well for me (I rushed my entry to submit it at the last minute and, as far as I can tell, only one person played it), I thought I'd get a jump start and ramble about my ideas here.

Right now my design is roughly between "brainstorming" and "playtesting", e.g., I have some ideas but I need to test them out a bit to see if they work at all.

If you're familiar with roguelikes, you know that the overall goal is to defeat the ultimate foe while staving off inevitable demise. Doing so requires a lot of luck (the RNG is a cruel master) and patience (never bite off more than you can chew).

In my game you don't "explore" in the traditional sense. You simply visit a dungeon level, which is a series of challenges--a level 1 challenge is roughly one monster drawn, a level 2 challenge is roughly 2 monsters, and so on.

However you can't discount the "roughly" bit. Instead, each card has a threat value; the dungeon level determines how many threat worth of monsters you draw each turn--keep drawing until you have that much or more. Some cards might have 0 threat, or instruct the player to draw additional cards, generating a variety of challenge levels and occasionally making really difficult encounters that will require plenty of skill and luck to overcome (or potentially try to escape from!)

State of the Game: I have a rough combat/cardplay system sketched out and am about to put together a handful of test cards to see how viable the challenge generation system is.

At this stage I am not 100% sure I will stick with the traditional roguelike theme of "Tolkien fantasy, but with silly stuff". I'd love to recycle my CODE/DICE theme from last year's contest where instead of visiting deeper and deeper dungeon levels, the player is investigating more and more dangerous supernatural uprisings in a futuristic city. Then instead of finding "stairways" to descend deeper, you'd be uncovering "clues" to progress further.

More on that later.

Tell me what you think is essential in a roguelike!
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John "Omega" Williams
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
Random dungeons, random monsters, really random generated loot.

Essentially a good dungeoncrawler. Bemusingly Cardmaster does this allready. Though with a different approach. My unfinished dungeon expansion for Dragon Storm would have likely pushed the game that way. As is it could be a sort of overland roguelike.
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Nate K
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
I don't know about ESSENTIAL in a roguelike game, but I think that it's nice to have variable player powers or character builds that create different strategies and tactics in the game.
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ErikPeter Walker
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
Right now I'm thinking items will be the 'random' progression you receive, versus some class progression which offers choices. I have envisioned ways to draw really random loot-

Every loot card has an item, and roughly half have an enchantment shown along the bottom edge, and when cards are drawn equal to the threat of the level, if multiple 'enchants' are drawn in sequence they stack and apply themselves onto the item shown on the first card. When a non-enchanted card is drawn the chain breaks, creating a new item or simple gold reward.

-but it might be overcomplicated and add a lot of components (cards) to the game. At this time I'm hoping that the number of unique items you acquire will be relatively small, perhaps one per dungeon level aiming for 5 or 10 throughout the game (however long is long enough); But that the items will be unique and game-changing enough that you will have to adapt to best use each combination of those you find. And that the items you find might force you to change your class progression strategy as well (oh, you found this magic fire sword on level one, maybe you will work toward your fire spell that synergizes with it).

Choice is important and if it wasn't one in the morning I might post a longer update about the economy of choice. Maybe next time.

State of the Game: I tested the combat with monsters having a Damage, Armor, and Health value, saving Speed for a later test. It works okay but right now there aren't enough choices in how you battle the monsters--though there is a decent amount of lucky excitement. Speed is possibly more important than Armor, and I might consider making armor a rare ability and make each attack a simple unmodified damage roll.

I need to figure out how kiting and abstract movement work. I envision that you'll be able to shed slow monsters to focus on bringing down one or two at a time, and then gradually be swamped again. But at this point the decisions are pretty straightforward (bring down the deadliest foe first, then the easier ones, then the tough ones.)
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Michael R.
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
Cards can be multi functional. There is no reason why card x can't perform more than 1 job. You can also number each card and use that as a rng.
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Michael R.
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
Also, I think it's useful to remember that not all concepts need to be realistically modelled. Like you say, you don't need a map, just a concept of progression and threat. You could say the same thing about loot, you need a concept of how loot is represented. The important thing is that each game function or element does not necessarily need its own card. If I was you, I would work out all the game functions and spread them across the cards. Not all cards need to do everything but everything needs to be represented. Remember that card backs also have a function, they are not just for pretty pictures.
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Jordan Booth
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
I loved playing the original Rogue on Windows 3.1!

I'm glad you are using equipment. At first I wasn't sure if I should respond because what I feel is essential to a rogue game is surprise, particularly from the loot (you don't know what something will do until you put it on) and from the map (every level layout is randomly generated)

Using both sides of the cards open up a lot of choices for hidden information and map making. You can put the class or type of equipment on the back and details and effect on the front. have map cards with room, tunnel, and rock faces. Perhaps the right mix would allow easy randomization and minimal flips and adjustments to solve discrepancies. Then with that map layer on top of a loot and/or monster layer (maybe the same, loot locked to monster wouldn't be too far-fetched) you can pick up and inaccessible cards and use them again with some 3rd function.

Fate cards in Warrior Knights have 7 different reasons to be drawn.
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Daron Woodson
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
ESSENTIAL in a roguelike?

Difficulty, and - after you inevitably die - the sense that there was probably SOMETHING you could've done to prevent your having lost.

An excess of randomness: two games should never play the same. Maybe you could even have things like monsters and treasures consist of two components each. For example, you draw a FIRE card and a LIZARD card and that equals a FIRE LIZARD monster.

If you draw the FIRE card and the SWORD card, you get a FIRE SWORD treasure...

This will allow for a WIDE variety of creatures and treasure, and really go a long way toward the goal of "never play the same game twice."

You don't need classes, but you DO need to accommodate a variety of strategies and options. Progression should be at least semi-random. If you DO include class and race, maybe you could make the SELECTION of class and race random, or semi-random.

Draw a race card and a class card - that's your race and class. If you don't like it, you can swap out one card or the other, but you're stuck with the result (even if you like it less).
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John "Omega" Williams
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
Dont forget starvation...

And being polymorphed into an ant and crushed by all your gear. (Happened to my security tech who used to play roguelikes alot.)
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ErikPeter Walker
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
I think my game might disappoint the people who are looking for infinite possibility. Crazy Nethack shenanigans aren't going to be viable.

Still, my game might allow you to flee from a rapidly breeding louse colony, fall through a trap door and land in a spiked pit next to a dragon.

One could create a complex cardboard procedural game engine with random layouts and monsters and items, but at some point you leave the realm of board games and are just crunching numbers. I prefer to create complexity using simple, game-changing powers that interact with each other in surprising ways. A daunting task, I'll admit!

I do want every game to be different, and I have considered loot systems that allow items to have magic keywords (fire, speed, etc) but at the card game scale (ideally 54 cards or less) there's only so much you can do. Especially if I combine items and dungeon/monster cards as some have suggested, the more you collect the fewer cards exist to explore. If there's a 'unique item' deck, and every successful game you might see 4-5 of perhaps 20, then there can be a lot of surprising interactions that make each game different based on what you get (and what class you choose).
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Michael R.
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
I think the key thing to bear in mind is that you're trying to create a card game with some of the feeling and narrative structure of a PC game. I agree that overcomplicating it will turn it into a number crunching exercise. Perhaps you need to make the cool and exciting things in the game 'high level', slightly generic objects that can interact with other things in neat ways. The more detailed a design object is the more difficult it is to make it interact successfully with something else, as you introduce too many dependencies which then turns into an unbalanced mess.

If you allow players to bash cool monsters, avoid traps and collect crazy loot that should be a lot of fun.
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James Hutchings
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
How do you distinguish "a card game of a roguelike" from "a dungeon-crawling card game"?

PS Unless you're using text for artwork, and/or simulating a specific roguelike (eg you have a 'tourist' class in imitation of Nethack).
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Joe Mucchiello
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
The real essential part of a rogue-like is that the special abilities your gear gives you have to be special. If I'm invisible, the monsters don't chase me. If I'm floating, I avoid pit traps and can't pick up anything I've dropped. If I'm hallucinating, I'm screwed. If I'm playing a barbarian, there will be nothing to eat because I pulverize everything I kill.

That, and you can walk into a room and there's a grid bug and walk into the next room and it's the rat king's court. Or a dragon court, depending on the level. And if I'm wearing a blessed ring of aggression. I can sit there and watch everyone in the room kill each other and loot the bodies afterward.

(I have Nethack on my Android tablet.)
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ErikPeter Walker
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
apeloverage wrote:
How do you distinguish "a card game of a roguelike" from "a dungeon-crawling card game"?

That's a great question. It'll be important to try and make a distinction as I flesh out the design.

I suppose the strongest themes that I'm shooting for (to distinguish it from a dungeon crawl) are tied to the solitaire aspect. One adventurer (rather than a party) heading deeper and deeper into the dungeon single-mindedly, sometimes emphasizing patience over charging in, and always on the lookout for surprising threats.

And the idea that 're-rolling' a new class will change the way you play, keeping things fresh even beyond the random nature of the encounter draws. E.g. A stealthy character might easily stab most enemies before they get a chance to attack but then be vulnerable to tough (or vigilant) ones. A wizard could more reliably damage a whole stack of enemies.
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Jason
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Re: [WIP] (1PNPC 2013) Untitled card-driven roguelike (Initial Playtesting)
My experience of roguelikes comes mostly from ADOM and Brogue, though I've played many others since ~1997. So while my list is likely biased to the games I've played, here is what I think is important in capturing the spirit of roguelikes:

- A game clock. In many cases food achieves this, though ADOM adds corruption.

- Item identification. Not all is known about an item until it is used, or in some cases used for a certain duration.

- Inventory management. Not everything can be carried and decisions about what to leave behind affect the outcome of the game.

- Situation management. Progressing through the game largely involves decisions about how to approach and resolve a given situation. For example, whether or not to stride into the open toward a pack of enemies and hope they don't notice you picking them off one at a time, or hanging back at a choke point and attempting to lure them to you, or tossing a potion of confusion at the lot before making a further decision.

- A sense of progress in all aspects. Not only do the abilities of the player change, but the features of the dungeon change and the enemy types change as the game goes on.

- The player is mostly defined by the equipment they use. Some roguelikes have class abilities, etc., but the equipment used is the main determinant of how a player will fare in a given situation.

Voxen wrote:
I need to figure out how kiting and abstract movement work.
Regarding movement, it might be best if the player's location is represented in some way by cards that can be played. For example, the default location is "in the open" while cards can be played that help in combat (e.g. "against wall", "in alcove", or "in hallway").

It might be worth trying out a system where the player is in the center of a 3x3 grid, and monster cards are placed in the surrounding squares based on the current location. For example, if "in hallway" is the current location, monsters may be placed only to either side when they appear. However, this may prove too complex.
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