Author Topic: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?  (Read 2154 times)

TheLastZica

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Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« on: February 14, 2016, 12:19:07 PM »
I'm thinking about doing some A&A development in the quest department, and I'm curious what anyone who's still around would want to see in a new quest, or what they might want to see altered in existing ones. Ideally things that do not involve any new graphics/sound, just actual level design content and the scripting that goes with it. I'm not a big fan of overdetailing, either, so I'm not really game for making existing quests "look prettier", I'm much more interested in gameplay concerns. Things that are broken, things that make gameplay smoother and more fun, things that make the game more accessible to first-timers, that sort of thing.

Chances are if I make a new quest it's gonna be heavy on secrets (my idtech1 levels always are,) bonus loot, and devious, difficult optional puzzles. Actually progressing through it will be kept relatively simple and easy, though, as long as you're not too underlevel and use everything you have. My rule of thumb is that you should always be able to finish a quest without resorting to spoilers - but stupidly hard optional secrets are just fine. I'll be trying to keep in mind rogues being able to sneak around and not necessarily wanting to slaughter everything they see - probably more hidden/locked up/placed past a big jump scrolls of experience than typical. And archers needing open spaces and bolts. Coop compatibility is also a big concern of mine, and people interested in playtesting whatever I make in coop would be welcome. Generally speaking, coop is more likely to break things than singleplayer, since you have to make sure multiple players can navigate through, and place enough items that they can all play.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2016, 12:22:05 PM by TheLastZica »

peewee_RotA

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2016, 01:57:07 PM »
I'll happily help with any questions you may have. I've been trying to keep my accumulated knowledge and trial and error results on the wiki
http://wiki.amuletsandarmor.com/index.php?title=Editor

There's a bit more scripting knowledge known than what was captured on the wiki, but most of the time I have to do scripting on a level I don't really have time to update the wiki. I'm busy pulling my hair out because a duplicate linedef or something is screwing with the script hahaha

LysleShields

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2016, 05:56:22 PM »
Check out the recent upload to the .src files for the existing levels.  I don't know if that got put out there yet.  http://www.amuletsandarmor.com/download/LevelSources.zip

LysleShields

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2016, 05:58:46 PM »
I've always wondered what a Tomb of Horrors conversion to A&A might look like.  Not sure if it would work.  But the concept could be the same.  A more or less string of deathly trials that would test most player's patience.

TheLastZica

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2016, 07:22:31 PM »
I'll happily help with any questions you may have. I've been trying to keep my accumulated knowledge and trial and error results on the wiki
http://wiki.amuletsandarmor.com/index.php?title=Editor
Thanks, I don't think I'll have very many on tech issues, though, I've worked with A&A quite a bit over the years already.

Check out the recent upload to the .src files for the existing levels.  I don't know if that got put out there yet.  http://www.amuletsandarmor.com/download/LevelSources.zip
Excellent. Looks like I can edit concerns with the scripts too using that, without relying on decompiles or other reverse-engineering. It seems like there are a lot more source files than I expected, though, are DOR and kin compiled into one of the other binaries? Or obsoleted?

How do you feel about the prospect of tweaks to the existing levels? Think you might role it into 1.05 eventually if I get something good enough together? If I do go that route I'm thinking of making sure it gets a lot of playtesting before rolling it into an actual main release. Kind of make up for the QA that A&A didn't get enough of back in the day.

I've always wondered what a Tomb of Horrors conversion to A&A might look like.  Not sure if it would work.  But the concept could be the same.  A more or less string of deathly trials that would test most player's patience.
Interesting thought, probably something that would work best in coop, too, IMO. And actually the secret level I have in mind might... somewhat... resemble that. But for main content I'm planning on being more sporting.

LysleShields

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2016, 07:30:31 PM »
Many of the special files were made obsolete when we went with a Tool object in the game.  I mean, we even had wall animations in text files and each door was a line item in each .DOR file.  Talk about tedious.  Don't know what i was thinking (okay, it was easy for programmer, terrible for the level designer).  The only real file that got left behind of any worth was the .GEN file for object generators.  Couldn't quite make that one work with the existing editor (but should have just done it with scripting now that I think about it -- OMG!).

Anywho, I have no problem with letting you guys tweak/fix the levels and put it up as v1.05.  I'll even put in more quests.

Lysle

TheLastZica

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2016, 06:18:52 PM »
OK, I've started up my development environment and gotten that working. Now I'm assembling the TODO list...

- Fix the secret in Q3M2 by moving the light
- Make the exit window in Q6M3 taller, possibly replace glass
- Provide a (secret?) way for all classes to resist acid by Q4, probably in Q3? Mage-school classes can't get it any other way but the amulet, so that needs to be in Q3, maybe in the final loot cache? Check for scrolls/potions of acid resist? (Harden Self)
- Add a second key to Q2M2 for the other secret? Or explicitly check that it's pickable, maybe even put a lockpick in the map
- Swap the Amulet of Strength for another, possibly Nourishment or Stealth?, lower lock level on it?
- Possible reexamination of spell scroll and rune locations, especially in quests designed for L4 and below, to make the game more smooth and new-player-friendly
- Possible locations that Archers need more bolts, or where rogues/magicians need alternate methods/more loot, especially XP scrolls/gems in locked areas?
- Maybe addition of new secret areas, especially supersecrets with locks and/or jumping requirements, to better accomodate the above, but I'm hesitant on this; I particularly don't want to change non-secret gameflow much, to keep the feel as similar as possible while improving it; I think I'll probably leave Q3M6's keying issues as-is, for instance, precisely because the reward is a large motherlode of loot; they're user-unfriendly, but not outright broken; a warning before the first level exit with a key might be good, though?
- Are ranged-weapon-hit triggers possible, and if so, should they be used to lock some archer/mage-friendly secrets?
- Items designed to be obtained by pull/blink/fly? Does pull or anything else even work on items?
- Texture improvements, especially on poorly-identified doors that aren't even supposed to be secret (consider exit on Q6M2?)
- Can someone confirm for me that Q7M4 #61 Griffon's Keep has NEVER had a functional music assignment, even in the DOS 1.0? The .I file should probably be adjusted, MUSIC1?
- Spelling and grammar improvements in quest inis
- Texture alignment
- Reexamination of anything that seems unfinished or excessively clunky
- Maybe a few more light sources in places?
- Since the wand of earthsmite is so good, perhaps it should be swapped with another? Though it being in a cleric-oriented area is appropriate...
- Possibly refurbish the dormant secret area in Q3M1
- Examine and refurbish any original levels not in the release
- Add Pyrinium BP and 2nd gauntlet? Maybe a few other unplaced items?
- Extra quest designed to support pvp? "deathmatch maps", possibly with a hub level that exits to all other levels, with other levels exiting back to the hub?
- If anyone can think of anything not yet on the list, especially from other threads, please mention it

If anyone can get word out to fans who may not check the forums often so we can get more input, that'd probably be good. I'd like to do multiple coop runs with various class setups to further get a feel for what's already working and what could use some tweaking. Who wants to do QA playtesting? Do we have a common AA server already up?
While I don't want to test directly on peewee mod myself, I'm open to trying to make sure this plays well on it, especially if it doesn't maintain its own set of tweaked levels. Also, Q8M1 could really use some healing potions and maybe less wolves in the first pack. And it would be good for all files to be consistantly all-uppercase in line with DOS conventions.


Many of the special files were made obsolete when we went with a Tool object in the game.  I mean, we even had wall animations in text files and each door was a line item in each .DOR file.  Talk about tedious.  Don't know what i was thinking (okay, it was easy for programmer, terrible for the level designer).  The only real file that got left behind of any worth was the .GEN file for object generators.  Couldn't quite make that one work with the existing editor (but should have just done it with scripting now that I think about it -- OMG!).

Anywho, I have no problem with letting you guys tweak/fix the levels and put it up as v1.05.  I'll even put in more quests.
I see, good to know. Any comment on the .LIT files and how if at all sector lighting in the .MAP is used? I know about the doors acting as light sinks part, and the in-game lightsources, but most of the light values I see on sectors are multiples of 50...

peewee_RotA

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2016, 08:49:03 PM »
Glad you're keeping the mod in mind.   ;D

BTW, the latest community edition should have the automated light compiling feature. Pwmod has this built in as well. If any changes affect the .LIT files you'll either need to recompile them or deliver a new installer with the latest exe.

- Provide a (secret?) way for all classes to resist acid by Q4, probably in Q3? Mage-school classes can't get it any other way but the amulet, so that needs to be in Q3, maybe in the final loot cache? Check for scrolls/potions of acid resist? (Harden Self)

I definitely disagree with this change. The risk of losing items is one of the few real challenges for a player at medium to high levels. Maybe this would work in quest 5 or 6, but it would be like placing an amulet of poison resistance at the beginning of Quest 1.

LysleShields

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2016, 09:04:37 AM »
.LIT files should no longer be necessary.  They are created at load time.  When the original project was done, we would create them using an outside editor called MEDIT.  I just pulled in that code to create it at load time.  Although one could do all types of crazy customization, it again, was replaced by using light objects on the map (like torches or outside areas).  The logic of the lighting is still a bit mystical.

TheLastZica

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2016, 09:42:19 PM »
Hm, the nature and relative lack of response on this project is a bit... concerning.

But anyways, I've done some tinkering, and have some questions. Lysle, is that a customized version of Doom Builder you made? It looks like the Value field isn't in normal ones. Is the source to that version somewhere? It seems to have a bug in Y alignment too. It seems neither stock DB or Slade can support using flags fields as numbers gracefully, though perhaps they might add it if you asked nicely and stated why it's needed. Since slade is under more active development and also supports other aspects of AA as-is I think, they might be the better to approach.

Are the compiler program source and resources for the .RES files available, particularly the parts covering object and spell data? Haven't noticed them browsing through, and some important game mechanics data seems to exist only there.

I've noticed AA crashes on level transition if a level has less than about 30 sectors, and won't load without 2. I've also noticed a fair number of items and even textures are not as they appear in the editor, and the DB config by default is missing a line needed to support decorate actor parsing. Max vis range without problems appears to be a touch under 4096 units orthogonal - it doesn't seem to care about diagonals. Also, the current editor package has like 2 or 3 copies of itself stuck in there.

And for reference I've known multiple people, myself included, that simply generally don't play Q4/5 without acid protection or extreme ranged DPS. Common practice is just to skip over them and come back at a higher level, because while you may say it's the only challenge at mid/high-level, it's an extremely random one, and one generally one better left neglected until later, as-is, since any given hit may take nothing at all, a bunch of cherries, or a weapon that cost you most of your platinum up to that point, possibly pretty much forcing you to abort anyways because your DPS just dropped unreasonably much. It's quite simply not worth it to bother with those quests as a melee without acid immunity. Once you have enough ranged DPS to obliterate them at a safe distance, or acid immunity... well, it's practically necessary for it to even be worthwhile, there are simply too many all over Q4. And then there's the simple fact that after quest 5, acid simply isn't used to any meaningful degree, so any kind of acid resistance gear is useless for anything BUT revisiting what should otherwise be "previous" quests that are either wasteful money sinks or trivial depending on when and how you do them. Amy wyverns are too rare and slow to land enough hits to matter. In contrast, poison is much more consistent in effect and prolific in counters.

peewee_RotA

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2016, 06:13:47 AM »
And for reference I've known multiple people, myself included, that simply generally don't play Q4/5 without acid protection or extreme ranged DPS. Common practice is just to skip over them and come back at a higher level, because while you may say it's the only challenge at mid/high-level, it's an extremely random one, and one generally one better left neglected until later, as-is, since any given hit may take nothing at all, a bunch of cherries, or a weapon that cost you most of your platinum up to that point, possibly pretty much forcing you to abort anyways because your DPS just dropped unreasonably much. It's quite simply not worth it to bother with those quests as a melee without acid immunity. Once you have enough ranged DPS to obliterate them at a safe distance, or acid immunity... well, it's practically necessary for it to even be worthwhile, there are simply too many all over Q4. And then there's the simple fact that after quest 5, acid simply isn't used to any meaningful degree, so any kind of acid resistance gear is useless for anything BUT revisiting what should otherwise be "previous" quests that are either wasteful money sinks or trivial depending on when and how you do them. Amy wyverns are too rare and slow to land enough hits to matter. In contrast, poison is much more consistent in effect and prolific in counters.

I definitely disagree. It's the best set of quests in the game and the most memorable. The Mzbundifund Let's Play videos, for example, don't agree with your assessment.. even suggesting starting the game from that quest. To the point of leveling up a sailor from level 1 starting on quest 4.

There is an amazing set of loot in the quest, including the final priest rune, as well as an opportunity for gaining XP in the monster generating rooms of maps 3 and 4. The best classes that benefit from the quest are knight, paladin, citizen, and priest... all melee classes.

(BTW, Quest 5 is extremely unfriendly to Melee classes. I imagine the strategy here is to power through, leaving bodies behind until enough lives have been lost to kill everyone)

Also, after quest one there's almost no poison for the rest of the game. There's a trap in Q2, the hydras extremely rarely shoot poison (it's really underpowered), and only a few scattered traps will ever poison you again. The most common cause of poison after Q1 is poisoning yourself through magic. I have never died from poison after level 1 without killing myself with it, and I routinely sell all of my reduce poison potions right after. Also, melee characters lose any risk of poison early on. Constitution is the stat that reduces poison damage on top of the fact that it increases health regen. Revisit Q1 with a level 16 knight. You won't even notice Jugurtha's attacks.

I take issue with one more thing. How annoying losing the items are. The biggest influence into A&A is D&D. Even for the time, there are very little influences taken from popular computer RPG titles. Most of the mechanics and limitations are right out of the book. Coming up against, and then figuring out a way to defeat, rust monsters is part of every player's upbringing. Part of the charm is this risk. See, most RPGs today are hack and slash and nothing else. When a level designer gives you a reason to skip a room it's taken as bad level design. Why, you're a mighty sword swinging adventurer! You deserve to kill every single monster and take its stuff without so much as a thought to how. All strategy = +forward and +attack. Player skill is measured in how well you can bash the 1 and 2 keys to use enough potions to survive the fight. A&A is not that game. It was never that game. And although it didn't do it perfectly, getting players to avoid bad situations is extremely important about the game. You think and prepare before fights. You skip the dangers that you can't handler. You weigh the risks and rewards of every room.

It's pretty clear that the largest feature of the game A&A has gone through a lot of confusion lately. You can play the game however you want. There are very few restrictions. Any class can be played as a range class and vice versa. It's all about how the player chooses to play the game. So your take on the quest are equally as valid as anyone else.. just don't discount the way that other people play.

So, I don't see a problem with a limited resist acid potion or scroll. Q7M1 is pretty much the only place in the game where the resist fire scroll is useful, and nobody really needs an amulet for that. Even then it's not necessary. But putting in an amulet of acid resistance is the same thing as removing the monster. So either remove the wizard or don't include the amulet.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2016, 06:17:09 AM by peewee_RotA »

TheLastZica

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2016, 03:13:26 PM »
I take issue with one more thing. How annoying losing the items are. The biggest influence into A&A is D&D. Even for the time, there are very little influences taken from popular computer RPG titles. Most of the mechanics and limitations are right out of the book. Coming up against, and then figuring out a way to defeat, rust monsters is part of every player's upbringing. Part of the charm is this risk. See, most RPGs today are hack and slash and nothing else. When a level designer gives you a reason to skip a room it's taken as bad level design. Why, you're a mighty sword swinging adventurer! You deserve to kill every single monster and take its stuff without so much as a thought to how. All strategy = +forward and +attack. Player skill is measured in how well you can bash the 1 and 2 keys to use enough potions to survive the fight. A&A is not that game. It was never that game. And although it didn't do it perfectly, getting players to avoid bad situations is extremely important about the game. You think and prepare before fights. You skip the dangers that you can't handler. You weigh the risks and rewards of every room.
Well, you've got more than enough to make multiple posts worth of replies to, but let's start with this. I again disagree here. Where you see influence from D&D, I see influence from several major computer games which predate A&A. Doom, obviously and indisputably for the engine and perhaps more, among them, probably Heretic and Hexen as well, and possibly, though much less likely, Strife. But that's just for starters. That magic system, where do you suppose that came from? Runes used thusly are certainly not D&D. Another game, Arx Fatalis, uses a similar system later on, but it got them from what I strongly suspect is the exact same place A&A got the rune system and more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultima_Underworld:_The_Stygian_Abyss
It's a huge classic and I'm fairly certain more than just the rune system was heavily influenced by it. The UI, for instance, is in large part identical. The food system bears a strong resemblance.
Then we have the colorswapped items of increasing power by material. A&A isn't the first game to do that, and I suspect the system was most influenced by: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elder_Scrolls:_Arena
Both these games are major classics as first-person 3D RPGs go, and I can't imagine how you don't see the potential depth of influence unless you've somehow never played them. Even Daggerfall, which came out not too long before A&A was released, probably had some influence. Other influences are more murky (though a lot of 2D RPGs of the time do some things very similarly to how AA does - in turn making it hard to finger specific ones among the crowd.) Of course, ultimately, only the authors can say exactly what they were influenced by, but really, my impression is strongly that D&D's influence is mostly just through its own influence on the titles above, which then took the concepts and molded them to fit computers better and otherwise innovated on them. And as far as the Rust Monster... correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think they ever had ranged attacks. I see fairly little resemblance between a Rust Monster and a Sorcerer of the Star - that they threaten equipment is about it. Likewise, Paladins of A&A have little in common with classic D&D paladins - no lay on hands, no detect evil, just the basic concept of being a hybrid cleric which has been revised so aggressively by computer RPGs. D&D generally hasn't even had an Archer main class, and the closest thing, Rangers, have a lot to them that A&A seemingly makes no effort to copy. D&D generally did not do regen anywhere near how A&A does, and hp are clearly not rolled anything like D&D hitdice. The coinage system may have come from D&D, but it may very well have done so indirectly, as the 5-coin thing has no basis in D&D that I'm aware of. Could you perhaps cite a specific edition or set of editions of D&D you believe A&A was most influenced by, and the mechanics you believe influenced? This is no gold box game, nor is it anywhere near as close to D&D as classic, fully-D&D-influenced games such as Neverwinter Nights, are. I see far more resemblance between A&A and UUW1+2/TES1+2 than between A&A and any D&D edition or even strongly D&D-based CRPG. Because A&A is fundamentally based on the Doom engine's map format and even seems to have began life as a Doom TC (see: texture naming,) we can guess development started no sooner than around 1994, which places both UUW1+2 as firmly predating it and TES1 coming out early in its development if not before. TES2 only predates the release by about a year, but it does still firmly predate it.

That said, I will certainly agree there's no apparent influence from Diablo, which didn't even come out until about the same time. Diablo is a major source of that hotkeyed potion-guzzling slaughterfest loot pinata gameplay you mentioned, and it's quite a different beastie in general, not even being first-person, and taking CRPGs in an entirely different direction from where the UUWs and early TES games did. There are multiple brands of CRPG, and Diablo is definitely not a good point of comparison here, it's practically a different genre despite being a CRPG. One could say it's far more of an ACRPG-lite. It's no A&A, it's no UUW, and it's no nethack either. Which, honestly, Nethack actually probably has some similarity to elements of A&A you like, though I'm unsure if there's actually any influence there. Nethack is practically its own genre (Roguelike,) as well. One thing is certain: Nethack likes to punish players hard and at relative random if they don't immediately adapt to new information, and many people won't touch it for exactly that reason.

I would take issue with the room-by-room assessment statement relative to Q4, because quite simply, virtually every room is a bad deal if you can't largely nullify the acid by being immune or not taking any hits, because the entire first 2+ maps are chock-full of Sorcerers of the Star in virtually every single room, often in multiples and situations where they are extra hard to avoid. Yes, there's one good but not exactly essential rune there, and it's completely worthless if you're not a Priest caster; you can't even sell it to recoup costs. The armor's largely trash, with the best leather coming before it, the best chain not showing up until 5-6, and the best plate being in 7 with 6 also having a very good set. Weapons, also underwhelming as I recall. And other items... well, this is exactly where that silly amulet of nourishment that's useless by the time you get it is, for example. Even if it were swapped for the strength amulet, I would still consider the loot quality of dubious value compared to the risk losing what you already hopefully have. Exp? The best exp is generally beating on something with a weapon it's immune to. Monster generators are small fry, even compared to just slaughterfest-running quests you can handle quickly. You don't get any extra exp for kills in A&A as I recall, the exp is entirely based on how much damage you're doing. Whacking all the easy enemies in Q1 at rapid pace (especially, if you're already one-shotting them, with a weapon that hits very hard in one hit, such as a longsword or axe) is probably more exp and money from all the stuff you pick up along the way than trying to farm a monster generator later on. This interestingly somewhat balances out against daggers probably giving you less exp due to less roundoff, but making it easier to survive due to action-breaking monsters more.

I'm quite curious what Lysle and anyone else from the original devteam might have to say about influence and intent in A&A. I've always wondered if the script system is influenced by Hexen ACS, because there's a very strong similarity, which helped me reverse-engineer it before source was out.

AntiMatter_16

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2016, 03:56:07 PM »
I think it's super great that someone is willing to give some love to the levels. They're fairly bug free, but a little polish could help a lot in some areas.

The Abandonware version of Amulets and Armor uses the additional skyboxes that are unused in the current "classic" release. Either the classic version uses levels that weren't completely up to date, or the abandonware levels got some love from somebody. Having played through both, I know of very few differences between them. Either way, I think assigning the unused skyboxes to the fixed levels would be a great improvement to atmosphere.

I kinda think that the "dormant secret area in Q3M1" was originally intended to be an alternate exit, one that you had to find in order to move on to the next mission. IIRC (off the top of my head) the exit text says something about a hidden connecting pathway to another barbarian clan that hadn't been used in years. I think there's another level like this in the Elmore Quest as well where you have to find the correct exit, as more than one exists. Though I could be mis-remembering.

I think that there are a number of unused text scrolls that are either unaccessable or not placed in the levels. I think re-integrating this lore by placing them or making them available would be good.

Also, as annoying as the acid is, I'm not inclined to provide immunity to it. It's a huge challenge to the game and speaks to the brutal nature of A&A. It's a hard game at times, which leads to a serious temptation to change that. I wouldn't be opposed to providing some potions or scrolls that would provide some temporary immunity though, so long as they're limited in supply.

LysleShields

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2016, 10:56:58 PM »
Well, you've got more than enough to make multiple posts worth of replies to, but let's start with this.
I've certainly glad to see such an interest in the game even when the fervor is high.  I'll give some history, but I'm sure my memory is hazy in many places and nostalgia and fiction may intermix.  But I do know that everything was done organically and on the whim.  If the idea seemed to work, we shoe horned it in.

I again disagree here. Where you see influence from D&D, I see influence from several major computer games which predate A&A. Doom, obviously and indisputably for the engine and perhaps more, among them, probably Heretic and Hexen as well, and possibly, though much less likely, Strife. But that's just for starters.
The answer comes mostly in the form of the timeline (A&A was started October of 1994, released end of 1996).  Yes, our biggest influence was D&D.  Advanced and 2nd edition D&D to be precise (there was no 3rd edition version then, it came out in 2000).  All of us had been Dungeon Masters in our pass and knew the game inside and out.

That magic system, where do you suppose that came from? Runes used thusly are certainly not D&D. Another game, Arx Fatalis, uses a similar system later on, but it got them from what I strongly suspect is the exact same place A&A got the rune system and more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultima_Underworld:_The_Stygian_Abyss
It's a huge classic and I'm fairly certain more than just the rune system was heavily influenced by it.
We had two sources.  Newly popular at the time was Magic the Gathering.  MtG has 5 casting runes.  Our second sources was ... the keyboard's numpad.  The idea of casting spells using the numpad drew us quickly.  We envisioned players being 'mages of the numpad' casting several spells in rapid succession, so we worked up 9 runes representing different base concepts.  Michael and Janus did that the most, so I'm not sure if they had strong influences or not.  Ultima Underworld was probably on our radar, but I can't say if it was a direct influence or not (it was not for me).

The UI, for instance, is in large part identical. The food system bears a strong resemblance.
Identical?  I will disagree, but for a simple reason -- at 320x200 there were not many different layouts that worked well (and we tried).  And red for health, blue for potions was done a zillion ways usually leading to a potion or orb.  At one point, we even had a bookshelf at the bottom and beating heart.  It worked, but was blah.

Then we have the colorswapped items of increasing power by material. A&A isn't the first game to do that, and I suspect the system was most influenced by: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elder_Scrolls:_Arena
Again, as tricks go, 256 colors and 4 Megs of memory didn't give you many options.  We needed a way to have multiple creatures and the colorization technique was used.  Our first target for colorization was one of our first creatures -- the Gargoyle (aka Biff).  But the colorization was only so so.  We did have good luck colorizing gray items and that made weapon quickly changed.  We then looked at our palette and found we had about 6 or colors.  This lead to us trying to find names for our fancy new color weapon and armors.  Red was easy -- pyranium and did or resisted fire.  Dark/black - Obisian.  Greenish? Mithril? etc.  Of course, we drew on D&D tropes.  Mithril and Adamantine came directly from there -- renaming if we thought there was a copyright issue (or a typo).

Both these games are major classics as first-person 3D RPGs go, and I can't imagine how you don't see the potential depth of influence unless you've somehow never played them. Even Daggerfall, which came out not too long before A&A was released, probably had some influence.
Daggerfall came out before we released but was one of the most buggy releases of all time.  I actually found the game annoying -- all that open space and no direction!  (Yeah, I know, we've come a long way.)  In short, we were too far along to let Daggerfall be an influence.

Other influences are more murky (though a lot of 2D RPGs of the time do some things very similarly to how AA does - in turn making it hard to finger specific ones among the crowd.) Of course, ultimately, only the authors can say exactly what they were influenced by, but really, my impression is strongly that D&D's influence is mostly just through its own influence on the titles above, which then took the concepts and molded them to fit computers better and otherwise innovated on them.
Yep.  I should also point out that the number of games people had access to back then (well the mainstream ones) was much more limited/selective.

And as far as the Rust Monster... correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think they ever had ranged attacks. I see fairly little resemblance between a Rust Monster and a Sorcerer of the Star - that they threaten equipment is about it. Likewise, Paladins of A&A have little in common with classic D&D paladins - no lay on hands, no detect evil, just the basic concept of being a hybrid cleric which has been revised so aggressively by computer RPGs. D&D generally hasn't even had an Archer main class, and the closest thing, Rangers, have a lot to them that A&A seemingly makes no effort to copy. D&D generally did not do regen anywhere near how A&A does, and hp are clearly not rolled anything like D&D hitdice.
Correct, Rust Monsters don't shoot.  Sure.  Right.  But we were making an arcade game more in line with Doom, so we were looking for the more arcady feel.
Acid was Janus' brain child.  I had misgiving about it, but was out voted.  Why?  It felt like something you would encounter in D&D.  It made us laugh (that laugh you get when you're a DM and the player rolls a 1).  We've had years since to refine our game play mechanics and debate the pros and cons of losing items.  But back then, it was arcade.  We were still influenced more by pumping quarters into machines than MMO's were you spend years on a single character.   Everything was temporary.

The coinage system may have come from D&D, but it may very well have done so indirectly, as the 5-coin thing has no basis in D&D that I'm aware of. Could you perhaps cite a specific edition or set of editions of D&D you believe A&A was most influenced by, and the mechanics you believe influenced? This is no gold box game, nor is it anywhere near as close to D&D as classic, fully-D&D-influenced games such as Neverwinter Nights, are.
Advanced/2nd edition D&D.  It had copper, silver, electrum, gold, and platinum.  We just changed the ratios (and nobody liked electrum).  Base 10 makes math easy.

I see far more resemblance between A&A and UUW1+2/TES1+2 than between A&A and any D&D edition or even strongly D&D-based CRPG.
You could say Pool of Radiance and the gold box games had some influence, but only because they were D&D.

Because A&A is fundamentally based on the Doom engine's map format and even seems to have began life as a Doom TC (see: texture naming,) we can guess development started no sooner than around 1994, which places both UUW1+2 as firmly predating it and TES1 coming out early in its development if not before. TES2 only predates the release by about a year, but it does still firmly predate it.
Doom was cool.  I was asked if I could create the same engine without paying the $250,000 that licensing it would cost.  I was able to do that, BUT I we didn't want to make tools when there were already existing tools.  We found DeeP.  It did what we needed and did the subsector calculations already (saving me time from doing it and getting it right).  We, yes, stole the file format and ran with it.  Because the editor was a bit limited, we at first used the same texture names, but replaced it with our own.  I created another tool called MEdit (short of, yes, Map Edit) that did the customizations we needed (some object placement, textures, .LIT generation, etc.).  It was a fairly crappy DOS tool, but worked (yes, we placed all textures without seeing them).

That said, I will certainly agree there's no apparent influence from Diablo, which didn't even come out until about the same time. Diablo is a major source of that hotkeyed potion-guzzling slaughterfest loot pinata gameplay you mentioned, and it's quite a different beastie in general, not even being first-person, and taking CRPGs in an entirely different direction from where the UUWs and early TES games did. There are multiple brands of CRPG, and Diablo is definitely not a good point of comparison here, it's practically a different genre despite being a CRPG. One could say it's far more of an ACRPG-lite. It's no A&A, it's no UUW, and it's no nethack either.
Nope.  Diablo was hinted at (remember seeing pictures in PC Gamer), but it came out after A&A released (right on the heels).  Diablo was a thrill to play, but it worked so differently.  Sidetrack:  I still argue with people that I think Diablo I was a more enjoyable game than Diablo II.  Why?  When you go up in levels in Diablo I, you feel more powerful.  I've gotten so tired of games today where you level and get the next +0.1% on your power over a continuous sliding scale of boring.  I would rather play a game with 10 character levels than 100 and where each level gives you something that feels like a super power.  But games like that only take 20 hours to play, not 2000.  When A&A players talk about reaching level 30, I always think, "Why bother?  The game is done.  All powers (for that class) was yours at level 20."  Anywho, End Sidetrack.

Which, honestly, Nethack actually probably has some similarity to elements of A&A you like, though I'm unsure if there's actually any influence there. Nethack is practically its own genre (Roguelike,) as well. One thing is certain: Nethack likes to punish players hard and at relative random if they don't immediately adapt to new information, and many people won't touch it for exactly that reason.
Yes.  Nethack was a strong influence.  Specifically, the whole identify items come from the Roguelikes.  If we could have figured out how to make scrolls with scrambled text names in a network world, we would have done it.  We liked the mystery of not knowing and experimenting with potions to figure them out.  It is a certain risk/reward.  That's why there was a potion of fire and a potion of poison to hurt you.

I would take issue with the room-by-room assessment statement relative to Q4, because quite simply, virtually every room is a bad deal if you can't largely nullify the acid by being immune or not taking any hits, because the entire first 2+ maps are chock-full of Sorcerers of the Star in virtually every single room, often in multiples and situations where they are extra hard to avoid. Yes, there's one good but not exactly essential rune there, and it's completely worthless if you're not a Priest caster; you can't even sell it to recoup costs. The armor's largely trash, with the best leather coming before it, the best chain not showing up until 5-6, and the best plate being in 7 with 6 also having a very good set. Weapons, also underwhelming as I recall. And other items... well, this is exactly where that silly amulet of nourishment that's useless by the time you get it is, for example. Even if it were swapped for the strength amulet, I would still consider the loot quality of dubious value compared to the risk losing what you already hopefully have.
If I said our simple minds clearly said, "Well, don't get hit (often)," that is generally our answer.  But I'll go back to my original answer.  We thought very little about long time ownership of items.  So you loss that item?  Okay, go get another one!  There were plenty of cool items to play with.

Exp? The best exp is generally beating on something with a weapon it's immune to. Monster generators are small fry, even compared to just slaughterfest-running quests you can handle quickly. You don't get any extra exp for kills in A&A as I recall, the exp is entirely based on how much damage you're doing. Whacking all the easy enemies in Q1 at rapid pace (especially, if you're already one-shotting them, with a weapon that hits very hard in one hit, such as a longsword or axe) is probably more exp and money from all the stuff you pick up along the way than trying to farm a monster generator later on. This interestingly somewhat balances out against daggers probably giving you less exp due to less roundoff, but making it easier to survive due to action-breaking monsters more.
Janus did his best to make the XP based on damage system work.  There were some clear cases where it didn't quite work that we never went back to fix.  The reason we did it this way was we wanted something that worked in multiplayer scenario.  We hated the idea of "he who kills the critter gets the XP" and also hated the "Share equally among X players", so we went with a system where the XP was directly associated to damage.  And, on the surface, it looked like it worked well.  It was what led to weapon speed and few other tweaks.

And as for gold, yeah, basically the same problem.  There were some other weird cases where we were directed to use everything that was built and find a place for all the items (kind of "You better use it!  We paid for it!" reverse logic).  And balancing the game was a constant job of Janus.

I'm quite curious what Lysle and anyone else from the original devteam might have to say about influence and intent in A&A. I've always wondered if the script system is influenced by Hexen ACS, because there's a very strong similarity, which helped me reverse-engineer it before source was out.
Script system was totally my own.  I know it sounds hard to believe it wasn't from Hexen, but when I was in college, for fun, I would write various language parser programs for languages of my own design.  I knew the amount of work to make something like that for A&A, but didn't want to spend the time on it making a full language, so I made the simplest one I could make -- and one that worked in a semi-multitasking way.  I wrote a little compiler (available here:  https://github.com/ExiguusEntertainment/AAScriptCompiler ) that pumped out a very simple byte code.  In our original designs, maps were to be downloaded from the server, so I needed it to be as small as possible.  Honestly, even today, I have not even looked at what Hexen did for their scripting system.  Well, no, I think I scanned over it once and said, "oh, I see the parallels," but didn't look deeper at the byte code.

Does that help?

Oh, and to respond to peewee's comments about "risk/reward, skipping rooms, etc."  Yes, very much so.  Why? Unlike many games today, we wanted a game where only certain areas could be done by certain classes.  And each class could get rewards in different ways.

In some ways, the game went over budget and over time because we were stuck with a problem of how to get all these different classes to be effective on different maps and make each class that a player choose to be effective.  Granted, some classes suffered, so we focused on our favorites.

LysleShields

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Re: Got suggestions for new/revised A&A content?
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2016, 11:21:27 PM »
Hm, the nature and relative lack of response on this project is a bit... concerning.
We all dream of having more energy and fandom.

But anyways, I've done some tinkering, and have some questions. Lysle, is that a customized version of Doom Builder you made? It looks like the Value field isn't in normal ones. Is the source to that version somewhere? It seems to have a bug in Y alignment too. It seems neither stock DB or Slade can support using flags fields as numbers gracefully, though perhaps they might add it if you asked nicely and stated why it's needed. Since slade is under more active development and also supports other aspects of AA as-is I think, they might be the better to approach.
I managed to mess up the Y alignment.  Thought I had put Doom Builder for A&A up on GitHub, but I see now I did not do that.  I can at least make the source code available on the web page.

Are the compiler program source and resources for the .RES files available, particularly the parts covering object and spell data? Haven't noticed them browsing through, and some important game mechanics data seems to exist only there.
Rebuilding .RES file can be done.  Thought I had that on GitHub too.  Gee, where did that go.  It was basically just a DOS directory .bat files that recursively called other .bat files.  We might have the source for all the subcompilers, but I'm sure I can find the .exes.

I've noticed AA crashes on level transition if a level has less than about 30 sectors, and won't load without 2. I've also noticed a fair number of items and even textures are not as they appear in the editor, and the DB config by default is missing a line needed to support decorate actor parsing. Max vis range without problems appears to be a touch under 4096 units orthogonal - it doesn't seem to care about diagonals. Also, the current editor package has like 2 or 3 copies of itself stuck in there.
Sounds like there one of the files is looking for a sector 30 or so.  If it doesn't exist, it crashes.  You recycling .LIT/.GEN/.SND or other files?