Thursday, 7 January 2010

Should monsters surrender?

I'm going to be doing a pre-release of Unangband 0.6.4 this weekend*, and I have a quick game play question for you. Should monsters surrender?

I'm going to be implementing some changes to the monster AI to allow monsters to be bribed, which will allow a 'not allied but not trying to kill you either' state for monsters to be in. They'll hang around suspiciously and follow you, they won't target you with spell attacks or try to injure you with melee, and they'll either betray you or leave after some period of time, as well as periodically asking for more money or gifts.

Now this AI could also be used to allow a monster to surrender to you if you have sufficiently injured it. Unfortunately, this is directly contrary to a lot of the design and game play for a roguelike - you basically want to be able to kill stuff - so I'm interested in whether having monsters surrender could ever be an interesting choice. Do you know of any games where the surrender mechanic does work successfully?

Don't worry if you're a hard core roguelike player. I've just added a birth_evil option which, among other things, will switch the surrender mechanic off completely if I do implement it.


* Brief overview for those wondering what will be in the new version: Persistent levels won't be in until at least 0.6.5, but there's lots of fixes to dungeon generation, rebalancing of mage spell books, and some other interesting stuff I've been able to implement.

21 comments:

Feldar said...

I like this idea. The monster could still give you some loot when it surrenders (some may show you where they've hidden more.) And I don't see any reason why you couldn't be awarded experience for a monster's surrender. The biggest problem I see with it is too many subdued monsters hogging system resources.

wtanksley said...

Omega has monster surrendering. It generally happens when the monster's about to die anyhow, and you get the choice to accept, kill, or ignore it.

I think it's essential to have a good alignment system in place to make this interesting.

mogstorm said...

In theory a monster is a living entity and therefore should be highly interested in its own survival. As mentioned this does create a new system different to super aggressive victory or death style of monster logic.

What gameplay advantages are there to accepting a monsters surrender?

thorgot said...

Bribing and surrendering both sound cool. I can think of a few games (like Oblivion) which allow the player to surrender, but most which have enemies surrendering count that as an enemy death. I can't imagine how it would work in a roguelike. Either you give the player enough reward to make it worthwhile for him not to kill the monster or you don't give him enough and there will be no point to accepting a surrender.

Rebalancing of mage spells sounds ominous, though I do look forward to having more reasons to use early magical light sources and I have the utmost faith in your ability to make things more exciting.

Andrew Doull said...

Feldar: I won't be able to do experience for surrended monsters because I don't have enough flags to mark a monster as having provide an xp reward (lazy, I know, but it will require a lot of fiddling to change).

wtanksley: It's less of an alignment system and more of a hard yes/no option. I don't particularly find the good vs. evil alignment 'choices' offered in most RPGs terribly interesting.

mogstrom: The monster will tell you about it's home (e.g. reveal some of the map), and try to talk it's fellows out of killing you off-hand. Generally though, it'll turn on you when it has the chance.

thorgot: It really only affects the high level books, not the low level ones. I might prevent specialist mages learning from song books, which would result in the requirement to use their own specialist light spells and teleport spells.

mogstorm said...

In relation to wtanksley comments and your response; then the advantage to accepting a surrender is to gain from a different "prize pool" than you would normally gain from killing it i.e. loot?!? I suppose with enough random variations from the surrender prize pool it could be a valid feature...

While Oblivion and its cousin Fallout 3 do indeed feature a surrender option it is only for the player surrendering to NPCs. A player has a vested interest in staying alive, whereas an AI can only be programmed to. In a side note; could the player surrender to monsters?!? Mock-surrender? Is that bribery?

Andrew Doull said...

mogstrom: Accidentally bribing monsters too much will be as close as you get to surrendering...

Gavin said...

I don't see how surrendering will give one different loot to killing. If the monster's carrying a leather shield, he's carrying a leather shield.

The only benefit would be some kind of alignment thing. Perhaps your god frowns on you killing helpless/innocent/non-violent monsters, thus killing a surrendering monster would be bad karma.

mogstorm said...

But a living breathing entity can offer something that a dead one can't; information. Looting a POW is a time honoured tradition, as is information gathering (read; interrogation).

Personally based on the game principle it could work, but would be a lot of work to make something actually worth it.

wtanksley said...

wtanksley: It's less of an alignment system and more of a hard yes/no option. I don't particularly find the good vs. evil alignment 'choices' offered in most RPGs terribly interesting.

It's not a hard yes/no; it's about the tradeoffs. You didn't mention what the tradeoffs were, so we're trying to come up with some.

mogstrom: The monster will tell you about it's home (e.g. reveal some of the map), and try to talk it's fellows out of killing you off-hand. Generally though, it'll turn on you when it has the chance.

This is an immediate reward... That's fine, but doesn't seem to provide much of a difference from killing the monster -- and offers the player the option to accept the surrender after a hard fight, drink a potion, and THEN kill the monster while its HP is down. If you're going to keep the monster around after it surrenders, you've GOT to have a player alignment system so that the player's choices have long-term consequences. (NOT punishments! Being chaotic shouldn't be a punishment!)

-Wm

John Greenberg said...

In Incursion, when a sentient monsters flees after losing too much HP, you can offer it terms. If it accepts, it gives you its equipment and becomes neutral, and if it declines you can kill it with impunity as a Good/Lawful character. To be honest, I find it a tedious mechanic, since my good characters have to be constantly offering terms to preserve their alignment. Therefore, implementing surrender should ideally be divorced from any alignment system.

Felix said...

Hello,

as far as your question goes "Do you know any games" .. I would suggest that you take a look at the roguelike "ADOM" - Ancient Domains of Mystery, which had implemented things that you are looking for.

When you strongly injure a hostile opponent, they may break off engagement and start running away. They get tagged as either Neutral or Slightly Hostile and have a tag "Afraid" to show that they are currently fleeing / surrendered.

You may then heal them by throwing a healing potion or casting a spell on them to get them to like you a bit more. With enough gifting you can get them to be either Neutral ( won't attack you ) or Tame ( will actively follow and help you ).

Granted, they won't ask for reccuring payments, but it might go into the direction of what you are looking for.

Casey Kirkruff said...

It's a good idea, for sure. Games like Persona have allowed you to persuade enemies not to fight you, if I remember correctly. The main issue would be balancing incentives.

There are a couple of philosophies that may come into play in this. You might not reward the player for their mercy. Perhaps there's a loot incentive, or some event that hinges on an earlier merciful act from the player. Then again, XP could be calculated, as in some games, per action, allowing for a less significant loss of xp for acts of mercy. In any of these cases, the implementation of this mechanic will say more about your game world and setting than any amount of exposition.

Patrick said...

Hey. You should look into the game Shin megami Tensei: Nocturn (also known as lucifers call in europe) for the PS2. Most of those features you described are in the game. It is a rpg game, and as you said, when enemies have low health they may ask you to stop attacking, or ask for items. Even other stronger monsters ask "hey give me money and i'll leave you alone". you can also recruit monsters to help you by bribing or persuading them in battle. Some monsters give you gifts after they have been tagging along your team for a while and so on. Really good game though. look into it plz!

droid factorial said...

Since the proposed mechanic would be new, I wouldn't tie surrenders to any alignment system in at first. But it would be nice to keep track of number of intelligent creatures killed, surrenders rejected, surrenders accepted, and surrenders betrayed. This would enable various "pacifist" challenges to be verified and show how useful it is. This kind of data would give a basis for whether it would be worthwhile to tie it into an alignment system or change the consequences.

And would the system of bribes and surrender make the charisma stat less useless? I guess that a high charisma character would get surrendered to earlier and would need to spend less on bribes.

Darren Grey said...

ADOM has been mentioned, though not its proper surrender system - if you chat to a fleeing monster it may ask to surrender, and you can agree for a lawful boost (I don't think there's any penalty for refusing). After that it becomes non-hostile, but usually becomes hostile again after a while. Generally it's considered a fairly pointless feature, since there's no real reward compared to the xp and loot you get from killing the monster.

For the surrender system to have any gameplay impact (quite apart from the consideration of moral choices) it must offer some compelling reason for players to engage in it. Xp and items are the main tools of progression in the game after all - why should the player go out of his way to avoid them? Revealing part of the map is a nice idea, but ultimately only worth getting from minor creatures. Perhaps having the enemy become your ally would be an attractive option, turning on you only if you get to low HP. This would make the topion remain attractive for powerful monsters - a pet dragon is not to be scoffed at after all.

Andrew Doull said...

Darren: Any serious Angband player will take revealing the map over XP any day. XP is a nice to have in many Angband variants - not knowing the map can get you killed.

eydryan said...

I think surrendering is a great gameplay mechanic which isn't implemented in many games where it would be interesting (I'm thinking more of FPS games - GTA, Half Life - but it applies to all).

You could make it so that if you spare enough monsters of a certain... faction, you can make most monsters of that faction ignore you (as if bribed). Because that's what would happen in real life (well, RPG real): you'd let him live, he'd thank you, give you some loot (certainly not all, giving the player a reason to kill them) and then run back to his mates telling them how you totally kicked his ass but were kind enough to spare him, leaving them in awe and amazement at your power and generosity and letting you pass. However, no game mechanic is truly realistic if there's no one to oppose this (think for example a higher level monster opposing your legend and wishing to end it for fear of losing his subjects).

All in all there are a few directions where you can take this, and it sounds pretty interesting.

JohnH said...

I was surprised to see a couple of weeks ago that Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has a form of surrendering. It is possible to be fighting intelligent opponents and the game will say something like "The deep elf fighter gives up." It will then attempt to leave the level, it seems. I don't think there is a reward for this other than a relatively weak monster leaving the board, and it doesn't happen often, but is cool when it does.

D said...

I know this is a little lat, but I like the idea of monsters surrendering. But may I suggest that you implement a system were only humanoid or intelligent creatures can surrender, while others will fight to the death or run?

Andrew Doull said...

D: Monsters will only surrender if they can become afraid, which excludes many creatures, and if they speak the same language as the player...