Author Topic: AA suggestions for upcoming release  (Read 9401 times)

Xusilak

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AA suggestions for upcoming release
« on: February 12, 2013, 09:05:30 PM »
Hi, I'm Xusilak. I'm a hobbyist game developer with aspirations of being an indie developer someday. A few people around here may or may not recognize me. I find AA to be pretty enjoyable (I've played it quite a few times over the past decade). I think it's awesome that the game developers are showing an interest in this game again; it's surreal to me seeing it come to life again after around 16 years of inactivity. I think with some fixes and feature additions it could be pretty great, so I've decided to put together a list of suggestions I think are notable. I'll probably add more later as I think of it, but for now I'm just going with the obvious usability improvements.

Note: I am in no way trying to imply the design decisions in the game don't work as-is. I'm merely suggesting things I think would make it more accessible to a modern audience.

Practical things:
  • Projectiles should have their collision checks disabled against the firing player, at least for a few seconds. A mage running forward while firing a few death clouds can quite easily kill himself without warning.
  • Wands should have an enforced cooldown (even if it's only half a second long).
  • It'd be nice if all classes had some way of resisting acid eventually.
  • The invulnerability spells (Death Ward, and the actual one) should probably be severely nerfed or removed. They slightly break the game. EDIT: This also includes the Orb of Defense, as there are ways to acquire it permanently, and it is oh-so-very-broken.
  • Various limits extensions, like being able to go above 300 HP and 300 Mana. This would help keep classes balanced at higher levels.
  • The Q1-L4 library level fix should be rolled into all releases.

Wishlist:
  • Central game tracker server and enhanced netplay UI. Something like the old Battle.net (before Starcraft 2), that acts as a hub with chat channels and gamefinders and maybe even a ladder and such. This would vastly increase the accessibility of the game to a general audience.
  • More robust in-game netcode. It has a tendency of getting a little overwhelmed if latencies are high. A modern client/server netplay model based on UDP would provide a much more stable experience. Another option is a proper peer to peer model that doesn't require absolute synchronization.
  • Direct support for mods, especially add-on quests (but also eventually items and classes and spells and so on; of course this would mean you'd need conflict resolution support), such that you could simply drop them into place and have the game recognize them and provide you with a list of add-on quests to play in a more convenient UI (rather than clicking 'next' through each one in a linear list like now).
  • Mouselook and WSAD (or equivalent) support. I realize this would mean a fair bit of work, and a method for selecting runes that flows well would be needed. EDIT: See the control scheme post for details on the proposed quick rune selection menu. Other suggestions for fast mouse-based rune selection like this are welcome. Another key for toggling mouselook on and off would be needed as well, so you can interact with the UI directly. This would, again, greatly increase the accessibility of the game to a general audience, so even though it's a huge pain, I think it's worth it. EDIT: Also, those using mouselook should not benefit from any kind of auto-aiming. Projectiles should simply go where you're pointing.
  • Streamlined UI option - being able to turn off the background to the current UI and all the clickable/unnecessary bits (mana wave, runes, the array of buttons, etc), replacing it with only minimal data readouts (health/mana/food/water levels mostly), and using primarily hotkeys to access the various interface segments would be another good modernization feature. This should, of course, be up to user discretion, since I'm sure some people like the current UI.
  • General engine improvements - port to Windows (possibly also linux/mac via SDL?), OpenGL, support for higher resolutions and other video mode settings, etc. Perhaps some inspiration for this could be drawn from gzdoom?
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 07:17:14 AM by Xusilak »

LysleShields

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2013, 09:59:11 PM »
Hello Xusilak,

I'm glad you are interested in seeing the game improved.  Like you, I see the need for many improvements, so let me take a moment to address your very points.  As you said, feel free to come back for more questions/ideas/answers/etc.

"Note: I am in no way trying to imply the design decisions in the game don't work as-is. I'm merely suggesting things I think would make it more accessible to a modern audience."
No problem.  As a community, I'll have to listen to the repeated problems and comments and make changes as we go forward.

<<<
Projectiles should have their collision checks disabled against the firing player, at least for a few seconds. A mage running forward while firing a few death clouds can quite easily kill himself without warning.
>>>
Strangely, we saw that as a feature and not a bug in the old days.  With great power comes great responsibility -- like making sure you have room to shoot.  We would purposely put the players in smaller hallways and corners to keep their magic options down.  Of course, when people spam a power, they'll get plenty of magic in their face if they are not careful.  But I'll take this into consideration as I know newer players may find this rather annoying.  However, some of the larger area of effect spells truly do add a certain ... excitement ... to knowing when to use them and when not to.  Magic dart, for example, is one of the most useful because of its small splash area but has a trade off on its damage/mana ratio.

<<<
Wands should have an enforced cooldown (even if it's only half a second long).
>>>
But spamming is so much fun!  More seriously, I think the mana cost of wands may need to be higher.  But I see what you mean.  If casting a spell allows you to spam, but a wand does not, it helps differentiate the two powers.   Hmmm....

Many items were expected to be balanced by cost and/or rarity found in the levels.  Wands are supposed to be powerful (second only to Rings and Amulets).

<<<
It'd be nice if all classes had some way of resisting acid eventually.
>>>
Agreed.  But I  there are spells to resist that you can put into effect.  As seen in the Let's Play videos, the fear of losing an equipment piece makes you much more scared than taking damage to your health.  Or are you saying some of the classes do not have acid resistance?

<<<
The invulnerability spells (Death Ward, and the actual one) should probably be severely nerfed or removed. They slightly break the game.
>>>
At the very least, they need a lower time period.  Maybe even cause your mana to drain while it is in effect.

<<<
Various limits extensions, like being able to go above 300 HP and 300 Mana. This would help keep classes balanced at higher levels.
>>>
Higher level characters is really new territory for the game, and honestly, I don't know if it makes sense.  Once you get all the high level powers, the game breaks anyway.

<<<
The Q1-L4 library level fix should be rolled into all releases.
>>>
Agreed.

<<<
Wishlist:
Central game tracker server and enhanced netplay UI. Something like the old Battle.net (before Starcraft 2), that acts as a hub with chat channels and gamefinders and maybe even a ladder and such. This would vastly increase the accessibility of the game to a general audience.
>>>
Agreed. And I'm looking into this.  It'll probably start much smaller and grow as the community grows.  In other words, expect a single chat room and a single list of available games.  Ladders, hmm, can't say that works for me, but keep talking.  Side note: someone else was asking me about setting up an arena -- it might be there that we can put in ladder based scoring.

<<<
More robust in-game netcode. It has a tendency of getting a little overwhelmed if latencies are high. A modern client/server netplay model based on UDP would provide a much more stable experience. Another option is a proper peer to peer model that doesn't require absolute synchronization.
>>>
You certainly have done your homework on that front.  In the day and age when I programmed it, all I had was direct modem connect and local IPX network.  The modem was slow but consistent, the IPX network was super fast and consistent.  Someone later showed me a service called Kali (works similar to Hamachi) and although it worked, it was terrible.  I have network changes slated to look at and I may be able to just fix it by increasing the synchronization depth.  The current model allows the players to get out of sync, but only by so many frames of animation.  Network play actually only runs the creatures and logic at about 10 frames a second and holds only about 5-10 frames in the history buffer.  I can probably increase the resolution and depth a bit without affecting game play.  Of course, net lag will always appear from time to time.

<<<
Direct support for mods, especially add-on quests (but also eventually items and classes and spells and so on; of course this would mean you'd need conflict resolution support), such that you could simply drop them into place and have the game recognize them and provide you with a list of add-on quests to play in a more convenient UI (rather than clicking 'next' through each one in a linear list like now).
>>>
This is on the task list.  In fact, I would like to combine it the community portal (above) so that when you join players for a game, it automatically downloads the same version of the quest automatically (similar to Starcraft 2).  I may ask the community to host the files elsewhere than my own servers to help share the cost of bandwidth.  I have some deeper questions I want to ask the community about this one.

<<<
Mouselook and WSAD (or equivalent) support. I realize this would mean a fair bit of work, and a method for selecting runes that flows well would be needed. Perhaps a gamepad-style radial menu - hold Q and your cursor appears in the middle of the screen, with 8 runes around it and one rune in the center. Move the cursor in the general direction of any of them and release Q, and that rune is selected. Other suggestions for fast mouse-based rune selection like this are welcome. Another key for toggling mouselook on and off would be needed as well, so you can interact with the UI directly. This would, again, greatly increase the accessibility of the game to a general audience, so even though it's a huge pain, I think it's worth it. EDIT: Also, those using mouselook should not benefit from any kind of auto-aiming. Projectiles should simply go where you're pointing.
>>>
Agreed.  I think the controls need to be updated.  I'm thinking a World of Warcraft style of controls (right ALT to look) may be in order or a close variation (such as a 'Q' mode).  I really like the idea of being to look up and down easily -- the current system (INS/DEL/BACKSPACE) buttons were shoehorned into the game.  Obviously drastic changes will cause a domino effect into other systems in the game that may take some thinking.

<<<
Streamlined UI option - being able to turn off the background to the current UI and all the clickable/unnecessary bits (mana wave, runes, the array of buttons, etc), replacing it with only minimal data readouts (health/mana/food/water levels mostly), and using primarily hotkeys to access the various interface segments would be another good modernization feature. This should, of course, be up to user discretion, since I'm sure some people like the current UI.
>>>
We'll probably have to experiment with multiple layouts, but I know what you mean.  The original sizes were used to keep the frame rate up.  Assuming we don't have any problems (even when going to higher resolutions), this should not be a big problem and probably something players can choose from a menu to their taste.

<<<
General engine improvements - port to Windows (possibly also linux/mac via SDL?), OpenGL, support for higher resolutions and other video mode settings, etc. Perhaps some inspiration for this could be drawn from gzdoom?
>>>
Already in the works.  You caught me tonight working on it.


And finally, a quick note.

What I think I'm going to do is create a "Classic" version that will be what the game is now (with the library fix and any major bugs).  This will be the touchstone anyone can return to make sure we have not strayed too far off path.  Making large changes will affect the game in unexpected ways and will cause it to stop being Amulets & Armor and turn it into some other game.  Improving the game is one thing, changing the game is another.  To that end, before making large changes to the game, I've been making notes on what Amulets & Armor *is* and what it is *not*.  I plan to post these revelations at a later time on the wiki as I listen to the community more and I get better idea of how to properly describe what I see now.

Lysle

Xusilak

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2013, 10:26:22 PM »
Strangely, we saw that as a feature and not a bug in the old days.  With great power comes great responsibility -- like making sure you have room to shoot.  We would purposely put the players in smaller hallways and corners to keep their magic options down.  Of course, when people spam a power, they'll get plenty of magic in their face if they are not careful.  But I'll take this into consideration as I know newer players may find this rather annoying.  However, some of the larger area of effect spells truly do add a certain ... excitement ... to knowing when to use them and when not to.  Magic dart, for example, is one of the most useful because of its small splash area but has a trade off on its damage/mana ratio.
Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. It's not the splash damage that's a problem. If you have a high speed and you're running forward as you fire a projectile, you can physically collide with it and make it impact on you, causing massive damage for spells like Death Cloud. I fully agree that hurting yourself with splash damage is a good balancing factor, but I think being able to run into your own projectiles directly on the same frame you fire them is ... counter-intuitive. It is possible to work around it, but I think it's likely to kill a lot of people without them knowing what went wrong as it currently works.

Quote
But spamming is so much fun!  More seriously, I think the mana cost of wands may need to be higher.  But I see what you mean.  If casting a spell allows you to spam, but a wand does not, it helps differentiate the two powers.   Hmmm....

Many items were expected to be balanced by cost and/or rarity found in the levels.  Wands are supposed to be powerful (second only to Rings and Amulets).
Yep, I get that. I just feel like a class that can actually cast a spell should have an advantage with that spell - namely spamming it. With the current situation, the wand is almost always the superior way to cast a spell. With a wand cooldown, both methods would have advantages. Another option is for wands to take more mana for a class that can't natively cast the spell, and reduced mana for a class that can.

Quote
Agreed.  But I  there are spells to resist that you can put into effect.  As seen in the Let's Play videos, the fear of losing an equipment piece makes you much more scared than taking damage to your health.  Or are you saying some of the classes do not have acid resistance?
I could be misremembering, but I believe that leather and chain classes do not have any acid resistance equipment, and only divine magic gets an acid resistance spell, which means a lot of classes like Mage and Warlock cannot resist acid. If I'm wrong about this, then that's fine.

Quote
At the very least, they need a lower time period.  Maybe even cause your mana to drain while it is in effect.
Currently, Death Ward is almost balanced, as it drains your mana when you get hit. The problem is that it doesn't terminate when you hit zero mana. Instead, a mage can simply wait for a tick of mana regen and then recast Death Ward immediately, giving him permanent invulnerability. The other invulnerability spell is even worse, as it doesn't drain your mana at all, if I remember correctly. Also, I pointed out the Orb of Defense in an edit above - that's another factor.

Quote
Higher level characters is really new territory for the game, and honestly, I don't know if it makes sense.  Once you get all the high level powers, the game breaks anyway.
I agree within the context of the current game, but I think it would expand the amount of content that modders could add to it if classes kept scaling. Yeah, it would be difficult to balance, so it may not be worth it, but it seems potentially interesting. Imagine an entire new quest line that takes place after the current quests, designed for high-end characters, with new enemies, items, and spells.

Quote
Agreed. And I'm looking into this.  It'll probably start much smaller and grow as the community grows.  In other words, expect a single chat room and a single list of available games.  Ladders, hmm, can't say that works for me, but keep talking.  Side note: someone else was asking me about setting up an arena -- it might be there that we can put in ladder based scoring.
Sounds good. I just tossed out ladders as a random thought; it's not terribly important. Some sort of competition system can keep people invested in a multiplayer community, though. How that would work is up for debate; whether it would simply measure your accomplishments in the PvE game or measure some kind of new PvP mode.

Quote
You certainly have done your homework on that front.  In the day and age when I programmed it, all I had was direct modem connect and local IPX network.  The modem was slow but consistent, the IPX network was super fast and consistent.  Someone later showed me a service called Kali (works similar to Hamachi) and although it worked, it was terrible.  I have network changes slated to look at and I may be able to just fix it by increasing the synchronization depth.  The current model allows the players to get out of sync, but only by so many frames of animation.  Network play actually only runs the creatures and logic at about 10 frames a second and holds only about 5-10 frames in the history buffer.  I can probably increase the resolution and depth a bit without affecting game play.  Of course, net lag will always appear from time to time.
Okay, I'll keep an eye on how that works out.

Quote
This is on the task list.  In fact, I would like to combine it the community portal (above) so that when you join players for a game, it automatically downloads the same version of the quest automatically (similar to Starcraft 2).  I may ask the community to host the files elsewhere than my own servers to help share the cost of bandwidth.  I have some deeper questions I want to ask the community about this one.
Yep, that's totally understandable. However, a simple file-hosting server like that now isn't too expensive anymore. I'm sure someone would be willing. The important part is having backup options in case one falls through.

Quote
Agreed.  I think the controls need to be updated.  I'm thinking a World of Warcraft style of controls (right ALT to look) may be in order or a close variation (such as a 'Q' mode).  I really like the idea of being to look up and down easily -- the current system (INS/DEL/BACKSPACE) buttons were shoehorned into the game.  Obviously drastic changes will cause a domino effect into other systems in the game that may take some thinking.
Yes, that's very true - the game will be much easier with a modern control scheme, since you'll be more accurate and able to move around more easily. This may require adjusting the difficulty curves. It's something to think about. Though one big point in AA's favor - the AI is actually pretty good for a game of its era. The way projectile-using mobs will persistently run away from you already makes them more challenging than a lot of modern games. ;)
Quote
We'll probably have to experiment with multiple layouts, but I know what you mean.  The original sizes were used to keep the frame rate up.  Assuming we don't have any problems (even when going to higher resolutions), this should not be a big problem and probably something players can choose from a menu to their taste.
Yeah, that sounds fine.

Quote
<<<
General engine improvements - port to Windows (possibly also linux/mac via SDL?), OpenGL, support for higher resolutions and other video mode settings, etc. Perhaps some inspiration for this could be drawn from gzdoom?
>>>
Already in the works.  You caught me tonight working on it.
Cool. Looking forward to it!


Quote
What I think I'm going to do is create a "Classic" version that will be what the game is now (with the library fix and any major bugs).  This will be the touchstone anyone can return to make sure we have not strayed too far off path.  Making large changes will affect the game in unexpected ways and will cause it to stop being Amulets & Armor and turn it into some other game.  Improving the game is one thing, changing the game is another.  To that end, before making large changes to the game, I've been making notes on what Amulets & Armor *is* and what it is *not*.  I plan to post these revelations at a later time on the wiki as I listen to the community more and I get better idea of how to properly describe what I see now.
This sounds like a great idea. I'm sure a large portion of the current fan base loves the game exactly as it is, and it may risk alienating them to force a bunch of 'streamlining' changes on them. This would help put those concerns at ease, I think.

Xusilak

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2013, 11:02:56 PM »
A friend (who currently goes by Cave_Johnson) wanted me to mention that he hangs out on the IRC channel described in http://www.elzee.co.nz/amulets/index.php?topic=6.0. He's the guy responsible for the library level fix, and also developed most of the currently existing modding capability for AA. He's probably the most informed about the engine of any of the fans. He's usually very busy, but I'm sure he'd like to talk to you at some point if you feel like popping in and he's around.

Some of his suggestions:
  • Keep a compatible DOS build around if possible for portability reasons, since DOSBox can run on pretty much any platform. This could also include netplay compatibility with the Windows version (maybe through relying on DOSBox's IPX netplay model; it is open source), though it's not necessary. Mod and level compatibility is the main concern.
  • Text-based data files should come before any core gameplay modifications are made.
  • Coop-friendly spells like Heal Other, Buff Other, etc. Perhaps area effect friendly spells.

LysleShields

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2013, 11:09:05 PM »
Ahh, there is a quote feature, how handy ....  Except it inserts everything, ah well ....

Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. It's not the splash damage that's a problem. If you have a high speed and you're running forward as you fire a projectile, you can physically collide with it and make it impact on you, causing massive damage for spells like Death Cloud. I fully agree that hurting yourself with splash damage is a good balancing factor, but I think being able to run into your own projectiles directly on the same frame you fire them is ... counter-intuitive. It is possible to work around it, but I think it's likely to kill a lot of people without them knowing what went wrong as it currently works.
Okay, yes, I see what you are saying.  In that case, a delay on the missile to take effect may indeed be the best solution.

Quote
But spamming is so much fun!  More seriously, I think the mana cost of wands may need to be higher.  But I see what you mean.  If casting a spell allows you to spam, but a wand does not, it helps differentiate the two powers.   Hmmm....

Many items were expected to be balanced by cost and/or rarity found in the levels.  Wands are supposed to be powerful (second only to Rings and Amulets).
Yep, I get that. I just feel like a class that can actually cast a spell should have an advantage with that spell - namely spamming it. With the current situation, the wand is almost always the superior way to cast a spell. With a wand cooldown, both methods would have advantages. Another option is for wands to take more mana for a class that can't natively cast the spell, and reduced mana for a class that can.
I can see your point.  We'll have to try out some different things.  Maybe even a spam delay that is different based on the different classes (or possibly speed stat).

Agreed.  But there are spells to resist that you can put into effect.  As seen in the Let's Play videos, the fear of losing an equipment piece makes you much more scared than taking damage to your health.  Or are you saying some of the classes do not have acid resistance?
I could be misremembering, but I believe that leather and chain classes do not have any acid resistance equipment, and only divine magic gets an acid resistance spell, which means a lot of classes like Mage and Warlock cannot resist acid. If I'm wrong about this, then that's fine.
Hard one to say.  Could be argued it is a game play balance.  I suspect multiplayer will be more common as well for the game going forward, so it may help to have buff spells the divine can cast on the other players.

Quote
At the very least, they need a lower time period.  Maybe even cause your mana to drain while it is in effect.
Currently, Death Ward is almost balanced, as it drains your mana when you get hit. The problem is that it doesn't terminate when you hit zero mana. Instead, a mage can simply wait for a tick of mana regen and then recast Death Ward immediately, giving him permanent invulnerability. The other invulnerability spell is even worse, as it doesn't drain your mana at all, if I remember correctly. Also, I pointed out the Orb of Defense in an edit above - that's another factor.
Definitely one that will need more tweaking on more than one level.  BTW, the Orb of Defense was NEVER intended to be kept by the players and was just a fun item.  I believe the bugs in multiplayer quests are causing this.

Quote
This is on the task list.  In fact, I would like to combine it the community portal (above) so that when you join players for a game, it automatically downloads the same version of the quest automatically (similar to Starcraft 2).  I may ask the community to host the files elsewhere than my own servers to help share the cost of bandwidth.  I have some deeper questions I want to ask the community about this one.
Yep, that's totally understandable. However, a simple file-hosting server like that now isn't too expensive anymore. I'm sure someone would be willing. The important part is having backup options in case one falls through.
Sure.  Again, we'll see how it goes.  It's one of those good types of problem to have.

Quote
Agreed.  I think the controls need to be updated.  I'm thinking a World of Warcraft style of controls (right ALT to look) may be in order or a close variation (such as a 'Q' mode).  I really like the idea of being to look up and down easily -- the current system (INS/DEL/BACKSPACE) buttons were shoehorned into the game.  Obviously drastic changes will cause a domino effect into other systems in the game that may take some thinking.
Yes, that's very true - the game will be much easier with a modern control scheme, since you'll be more accurate and able to move around more easily. This may require adjusting the difficulty curves. It's something to think about. Though one big point in AA's favor - the AI is actually pretty good for a game of its era. The way projectile-using mobs will persistently run away from you already makes them more challenging than a lot of modern games. ;)
Thanks.  For the time, I was pretty proud how good the AI was.  One of the interesting details in the AI is the creatures will walk to the last place they saw you when they don't know where to walk.  This helps them work around corners (better, not perfect).  I used to show off this feature to other people by going to a door, getting a creature's attention, letting the door close, run away, and then watch how the creature will go up to the door, open it, bounce around a bit (usually it bounced off the door), and then (usually) walk out the doorway looking for you.  By that point, it can see you can continue the chase.  Of course, the creature is usually killed before you get to see all this, but when you get swamped, they generally will close in on you.

Thanks that most of the necessary quoting and comments.

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2013, 11:18:46 PM »
A friend (who currently goes by Cave_Johnson) wanted me to mention that he hangs out on the IRC channel described in http://www.elzee.co.nz/amulets/index.php?topic=6.0. He's the guy responsible for the library level fix, and also developed most of the currently existing modding capability for AA. He's probably the most informed about the engine of any of the fans. He's usually very busy, but I'm sure he'd like to talk to you at some point if you feel like popping in and he's around.
Sure, but my attempts to follow the above link to the irc keeps giving me a "mibbit.sorcery.net: Could not resolve hostname." error.

Some of his suggestions:
  • Keep a compatible DOS build around if possible for portability reasons, since DOSBox can run on pretty much any platform. This could also include netplay compatibility with the Windows version (maybe through relying on DOSBox's IPX netplay model; it is open source), though it's not necessary. Mod and level compatibility is the main concern.
  • Text-based data files should come before any core gameplay modifications are made.
  • Coop-friendly spells like Heal Other, Buff Other, etc. Perhaps area effect friendly spells.
Right.  Even though I'm working on a Windows port currently, it mostly is for the tools.  I've already got Open Watcom (Windows build environment) compiling the code for DOS.  Currently the code will be setup for dual compiling.  Later, that may change.

I know what you are saying about text-based data files.  Ideally it would be good if the community could help with tweaking some of the settings.  I'm not sure how far I want to carry that, but I had a ton of little DOS based tools to do the text to bin conversions on several structures and, well, really that's not needed anymore.

Co-op friendly spells are all cool.  The way I see it, I want to add a toolkit of features that are not just adding to list of things, but adding to more puzzle enabling features of the game.  Additionally, if they aid in arena style combat, I cannot ignore that.  (NOTE: Arenas are a great way to get an idea of class power balance).

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2013, 11:31:07 PM »
BTW, the Orb of Defense was NEVER intended to be kept by the players and was just a fun item.  I believe the bugs in multiplayer quests are causing this.
Yeah, I know. My issue here is that there are already a bunch of Orbs of Defense floating around on player characters because of this bug, and even if the bug were fixed, you can easily edit an Orb of Defense onto your character by just modifying your save file. The only way to stop that is to nerf the Orb of Defense itself. Perhaps make it so it only works on the final level of quest 3? That way, there is no purpose to taking it outside the level.

Quote
Sure, but my attempts to follow the above link to the irc keeps giving me a "mibbit.sorcery.net: Could not resolve hostname." error.
Strange. Try this instead: http://chat.mibbit.com/?server=irc.sorcery.net&channel=%23Amulets-and-Armor

Quote
Additionally, if they aid in arena style combat, I cannot ignore that.  (NOTE: Arenas are a great way to get an idea of class power balance).
Heh, I've had quite a few duels with other people in AA. I determined pretty quickly that my level 40 Mage cannot die to anything.

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2013, 05:11:18 AM »
I wrote up some details on how to help balance out the classes and make them more useful in a group. Being under "gameplay modifications", these should wait until after the data files have been converted to a text format. I figured I might as well voice them now, though. Feedback and suggestions from other users is welcome. This list will likely be updated over time.

Mage spells:
  • Death Ward is way too good. Suggestion: make it terminate when your mana hits zero.
  • Invulnerable is also way too good. Suggestion: It should last for no more than one second. This would make it a good "blocking" ability, but be completely useless for godmoding your way through everything.
  • Perhaps add some area-of-effect buffs like increased mana regeneration and haste (increased attack speed with melee/crossbows and increased movement speed) to give mages more group utility?

Divine spells:
  • A series of new "affect other" and "aura" spells along restoration and protection lines, such as Heal Other, or Shield Other, would give the divine casters more group utility. Particularly fun here are "aura" type abilities; you cast them, and any party members within, say, 20 meters of the caster gain the buff. This combines well with resistance spells, so you could have Acid Resistance Aura: anyone that stays within 20 meters of the caster gains resistance to acid. Auras that regenerate hitpoints slowly or cure poison or other such things would be pretty neat, too. Auras should either cost a ton of mana to cast, or continually drain mana while they're active. This would make them very hard for Paladins to keep up persistently, by design.

Priest:
  • Priests are currently pretty weak compared to Paladins and lack purpose. However, if the Paladin's mana regeneration is reduced and new party-friendly spells like auras are added, this may change. If this isn't enough, perhaps something should be done specifically for Priests.

Knight:
  • Currently, Paladins are better than Knights at pretty much everything but raw melee damage. I think, as part of a focus on group gaming, the Knight should have its melee damage bonus replaced with a damage reduction bonus; Knights would take significantly less damage when being hit than any other class, even given the same armor levels. The melee damage bonus seems inappropriate on a Knight-style character, and the extra damage reduction would help them perform better as the "tank" in a group.
  • With more of a focus on co-op play, I think Knights should fill the role of a group's "tank". Knights could be given a passive ability that makes enemies prefer them as targets to other players, similar to the 'taunt' abilities in MMOs, but passive to keep the focus on arcade/action gameplay. This effect should be much stronger than the Paladin's version of it.

Paladin:
  • Paladins are currently basically immortal. This is because their mana regen, defense, and HP allows them to heal through basically anything. Suggestion: Reduce their mana regen scaling by half. This would force them to conserve mana for heals better, and make it significantly easier to kill them.
  • With more of a focus on co-op play, I think Paladins should fill the role of a group's "tank". Paladins could be given a passive ability that makes enemies prefer them as targets to other players, similar to the 'taunt' abilities in MMOs, but passive to keep the focus on arcade/action gameplay. This effect should be much weaker than the Knight's version of it.

Rogue classes:
  • Currently, stealth classes are not very good. I think all classes should gain the ability to 'walk slowly' (or sneak) with a new keybind, which would reduce how much enemies notice them, still scaling by your stealth stat. Rogue classes would gain a bonus here. Rogues would be basically impossible to see while sneaking unless they're right in front of an enemy; Magicians and Sailors would be easier to notice, but still difficult; Mercenaries would only gain a small bonus. It may be worth adding Citizen to this list, as well.
  • To further help Rogue classes, all classes should gain the ability to perform a 'backstab' when behind an unaware enemy. This should do massive damage, enough to instantly kill normal enemies.

Archer:
  • Boosting the speed of crossbow bolts dramatically while simultaneously giving them a ballistic arc due to gravity should help make Archers both more powerful and more fun to play. It should be noted that having a ballistic arc will mean that auto-aim will need to account for the drop in the projectile's trajectory to hit the target. Otherwise they'll always miss after some distance.
  • The "Accuracy" stat scaling up the damage of bolts should help, too.
  • To further distinguish Archers and make them useful in groups, I suggest making the bolts they fire unable to do damage to players (excepting PvP modes). Mages would have the honor of blowing up their own party by accident; Archers would have the honor of being refined snipers that don't kill their own friends.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 07:22:34 AM by Xusilak »

Xusilak

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2013, 07:13:55 AM »
Okay, I wrote up my ideal control scheme for AA. This is what I'd use if I could have everything I wanted. This is going to be a bit overwhelming, so I apologize in advance.

Modernized, mouselook-centric control scheme:
  • Move forward: W
  • Move backward: S
  • Move left: A
  • Move right: D
  • Toggle mouselook: Q; holding down Q brings up the quick rune selection mouse menu.
  • Use/activate/open door/etc: E
  • Talk: T
  • Sneak: Shift; This replaces the run key entirely. Running is the default. Tapping shift once toggles between sneaking and running. Holding down shift temporarily makes you sneak until you release shift.
  • Jump: Space
  • Use item in hand: Leftclick (in mouselook mode only)
  • Cast spell: Rightclick (in mouselook mode only)
  • Rune selection: Numpad, Q; Holding down Q would bring up the quick rune selection mouse menu. Numpad still enters runes like it always did, for those who want to stop and enter runes.
  • Inventory, equipment, etc: The specifics aren't terribly important, but the various inventory, equipment, stats, etc boxes should have logical hotkeys, like "i" for inventory.
  • Options menu: Escape; Pressing escape brings up a big text menu in the center of the screen with a list of options like many recent games. This includes video settings, audio settings, game settings, the Abort Level command, and an Exit Game command.
  • Pause game: Escape; Pressing escape should pause the game while the menu is up.
  • Map commands: These should probably be handled through clickable mouse cursor controls located on the map, rather than a bunch of hotkeys, like how most games have +/- zoom buttons on their minimaps. This would free up the number keys for other things.
  • Scroll messages: Again, this should have mouse controls, but it doesn't hurt to let page up/down continue to scroll them as well.
  • Time of day: Time of day reporting should be rolled into another menu, like the Escape menu. It's a bit superfluous to give it its own hotkey.
  • Gamme correct: Gamma correction should be moved to the video settings menu.
  • Action bar: Number keys 1 through 0; Activate action bar slot 1 through 0.

When the mouse is in cursor mode, it interacts with the world and the UI like it always did in AA-classic.

Quick rune selection mouse menu definition:
Holding down Q while in mouselook mode will cause your cursor and all 9 of your runes to appear in the middle of the screen. Then you can quickly click each rune for the rune combination you want. Releasing Q will finalize the input and return you to mouselook mode, saving it as your currently loaded spell for use with rightclick. You can still move around while entering a spell, but you can't easily turn because your mouse is in cursor mode. I feel this is a better option than my earlier suggestion for the quick rune menu. Other suggestions for how to quickly enter runes while in mouselook mode are welcome.

Action bar:
This is a relatively advanced feature, but it'd be nice to have an action bar like in many RPGs, where you can place items and spells and such in a slot on it and then press the associated number to instantly activate them. Obvious use is for potions and scrolls, but it'd also be great to be able to save spell combinations to it as well to instantly cast them. This would make things like buff spells far more accessible. For reference, see http://www.wowwiki.com/Action_Bar.

Sneak:
Sneak makes you move slowly, but reduces the chance you'll be detected. Rogue classes get a large bonus here. Refer to the class balance post for more details.

Mousewheel:
Hard to say just what mousewheel should do. It could do a variety of things. I think my favorite option is to cycle through every weapon in your inventory, placing each one in your hand in sequence. However, I realize this may be impractical, so I'm open to other options.

Mouselook mode:
Mouselook mode causes the camera to be controlled like any modern first person game. The mouse's horizontal axis turns the camera left and right, while the mouse's vertical axis turns the camera up and down. While in mouselook mode, projectiles you fire do not auto-aim. They go straight ahead, unless they're homing, in which case they home on the target normally. In cursor mode, projectiles you fire do auto-aim.

Note, this control scheme only makes sense for players that want to use mouselook. You may want to continue to support a classic control scheme and allow the user to easily switch between the two default sets.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 07:35:08 AM by Xusilak »

Xusilak

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2013, 08:33:36 AM »
Oh, and in the interim where you're just starting to add mouselook and such, you just need to add a few new keybinds to the list:
  • Move left (default A)
  • Move right (default D)
  • Toggle mouselook (default Q)
  • Use item in hand while mouselooking (default leftclick)
  • Cast spell while mouselooking (default rightclick)
In addition, it'd be cool if you could switch from "default walk, press 'run' key to run", to "default run, press 'walk' key to walk." Players generally prefer to run at all times, unless they have a reason to move slowly (stealth, not falling off ledges, etc). I would suggest shift as the default "walk" key, which would later be the "sneak" key.

These changes would get a large portion of the benefit of the full keybinds list, but with far less work.

LysleShields

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2013, 11:35:13 AM »
I think what you have mention here is all very good (class adjustments and keys) and generally represents what I'm hearing in the community as a whole and many of the changes I would like to see too.  Adding all of this to my notes.  Thank you for taking the time for the detailed analysis and write up.

Xusilak

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2013, 04:29:31 PM »
Cave_Johnson asked me to post this for him:

Quote from: Cave_Johnson
Proposed Roadmap for Amulets & Armor:

The following features are liable to take large quantities of time and/or introduce substantial new bugs, and should be defered to phase 2, IMO; phase 1 (AKA milestone 1) should be set up to complete within a few months or less, after which effort can immediately move on to phase 2.

* Ports to any new OS
* Significant mod support, including any file format changes
* Significant netplay modifications
* ALL balance modifications (which should wait until after mod support has been improved, possibly even a phase 3)

Features that should be planned for phase 1:

* New keybindings: Move Left, Move Right, Toggle Run, Toggle Mouselook, Mouselook Use Item, Mouselook Cast Spell.
 (Toggle Run should simply invert the effect of the Run key each time it's pressed, and ideally the current state should be saved to config.ini so that if the player was last in run, they'll be in run when they restart the game, too.
 For the keybindings, in config.ini, you can either add them to the end of keys2 = or make a new keys3 = entry; a new run = under [keyboard] would probably be optimal for saving last run state.)
* The tap-toggle function Xusilak suggests for the Sneak/Run button would be nice, but I think an obvious separate Toggle Run would help ensure users know the function is there better. Both is best, and with the run state saved to config.ini, once the user enters run mode it will pretty much function as he suggested.
* Use the HotU version or something equivalent to it (original full master?) as the base, but roll in my Library level fix and if possible the missing CD .MUS music (worst case these can be backconverted from wav from the mp3s, I've done it before.)
* Remove CD check if applicable, along with the huge copy protection file.
* Include the latest DOSBox, preconfigured to run AA well, with batch files to join the main IPX server or start a private one.
* If it's trivial enough, make the guild lobby support at least 32 (or 128, or 256...) simultaneous players chatting; in-game support can remain at 4. This should ideally eventually be done with dynamic allocation so there's no limit but memory, but a quick array size increase should suffice for phase 1.
* Have a core DOSBox IPX server running for everyone to use for netplay.
* If possible, make available at the same time as a separate download as many of the original, relatively unmodified development tools and full source to both the game and tools; item/script-data compilers, their source files, that sort of thing. This can give potential developers a strong feel for what the engine is capable of unmodified, and what would be easy to mod in.

Most likely an AAHELP.BAT should be used, run by the DOSBox config (Just put AAHELP under [autoexec]) and after each other batch file (including AA.BAT) exits. Example:
@ECHO OFF
ECHO  Type AASETUP to configure the game or play a netplay game once connected,
ECHO AASERV to start your own netplay server, AAJOIN to join the master netplay server,
ECHO or AA to play single-player.

And then AAJOIN.BAT can be something like this:
@ECHO OFF
IPXNET DISCONNECT
IPXNET CONNECT <CoreServerIP> 213
IPXNET STATUS
IPXNET PING
AAHELP

Obviously AA.BAT and AASETUP.BAT would run the appropriate commands and then run AAHELP on exit.

 I strongly believe that the above will fix the easiest-to-fix and, within that, most problematic things keeping more people from playing the game. Lack of WASD/mouselook are the most common complaints I've always heard, and packaging everything people need in one finished product will make it a lot faster for them to get started playing; as long as DOSBox is bundled well enough, it should be pretty close to equivalent to a basic windows port in all but things like support of higher res, which is somewhat dubious in a game with graphical assets as low-res as AA anyways. The dev package should help start stirring interest among the people you're going to need to make the increased mod support worthwhile; ease of modding and map distribution is no use if there's no additional content to use it with. It will also give 3rd parties something to start documenting game mechanics in earnest off of, and thus propose better balance fixes based on in time for the first phases with balance changes.

 Ideally the first release should use the HMI sound library still; if you can't release the .lib and .h files needed to make it compilable for 3rd parties, that's probably still an acceptable sacrifice for phase 1 as long as you can release the product .exe. Not changing more than necessary will keep the bugs to a minimum. Dealing with rolling in Allegro's sound support can wait for phase 2 if it's even necessary. Similarly, ideally all the .RES files should be unchanged, unless a singificant bug is found in one; I don't think there are any unless you count the spell listed below.

 Consider making the CD .MUS files an add-on download, so the core one is really small.

 Consider checking the possibility of including working Linux and Mac OS DOSBox versions as well as the Windows one, to allow a single cross-platform release package; hopefully the executable is the only difference among them, and those should be small enough to just bundle in. More users supported out of the box should help grow the community faster, since Linux and Mac users are comparatively short on games they can play anyways.

Less important fixes:
* Add caps on innate health and mana regen at the maximum representable values, so these don't overflow when leveling really high (for high regen classes this can probably happen before level even rolls over.) 32767/800=40.95875 per tick and 32767/400=81.91750 per tick respectively I believe. May need to cap when applying regen bonuses as well if not using 4-byte int by that point, though just changing the calcs to use 4-byte for in-memory would probably be the better option there; but changing the character file format should be avoided until absolutely necessary.
* Add a simple check to the level-up code so it stops leveling-up once already level 255 rather than leveling you up to level 0 in a potentially infinite loop. This will fix the lockup when you go too high, and if you've gained enough XP to reach that, well, there isn't much problem with allowing it (it's possible to reach about level 160 before rollover hits you; 40 or 50 is about as high as you get in sane periods of time.)
* Fix the Arcane version of the Locate Object spell's runes. Probably easier to make the actual runes match the scroll than vice-versa; the 2 middle runes are swapped. If memory serves, the scroll isn't actually placed, so this isn't essential yet.

leilei

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2013, 01:58:37 PM »
For the HMI library, the only substitute I can think of is the open sourced ASS library (Apogee Sound System) found with the ROTT source code. It provides similar functionality to HMI and DMX with sound pitches, multiple drivers (including PC speaker support, and support for Adlib sound effects) and MIDI playback.  It also compiles with Watcom, however that may have the problem for being GPL V2 licensed as i'm not sure what license will be used for the A&A source.   JonoF ported ASS to Windows for his JFDuke3D port, which has a simplified ASS for having no OPL2, GUS and PC speaker support.
The popular choice of a sound system for early DOS Doom ports was Allegro, which I personally don't like that much for its bad midi timbres, strict timing requirements and habitual memory leaks.

And two bug fixes and optimizations in my mind, particularly the wall column drawing functions which seemed a little sluggish in A&A for some reason (zdoom unwinded it in ASM), and the loading bar color cycler not actually color cycling.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 02:07:35 PM by leilei »

LysleShields

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2013, 03:16:25 PM »
Hmm, I'm not seeing much problem with release the HMI sound .lib since HMI appears to be totally gone.  The only links I can find are here http://zdoom.org/wiki/HMI

It would appear HMI went out of business in 2002 and there does not appear to be an owner to the IP.

Based results I'm seeing lately (see http://amuletsandarmordev.wordpress.com/) , I don't think the speed of the wall column drawing functions is much of a factor these days -- even emulated in DOSBox.  NOTE: I wrote the drawing functions in assembly too.

Loading bar, well, I don't know if we ever made it cycle the colors.

Xusilak

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Re: AA suggestions for upcoming release
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2013, 11:45:52 PM »
Hmm, I'm not seeing much problem with release the HMI sound .lib since HMI appears to be totally gone.  The only links I can find are here http://zdoom.org/wiki/HMI

It would appear HMI went out of business in 2002 and there does not appear to be an owner to the IP.
Just be careful. I'd hate to see legal problems complicate this project. If it looks like you can release it, that would be great, though.

Progress so far looks very good. I'm impressed with how quickly you got the rendering engine working in windows. I'm assuming you're using the SDL drawing functions and not OpenGL yet?