Friday 24 August 2007

Shooting yourself in the foot

Sometimes someone comes out and complains about features in Unangband, because they're not like the game they currently play. Usually, I take it on the chin, and attempt to accommodate what they suggest. But I recently had a new player complain bitterly (and amusingly) about a recent change to the Unangband code-base. From the change log:

- You can now damage yourself with bolt and (more importantly) ball spells.
Now, I will address a lot of what he/she's suggested. But I'm not going to take this particular 'misfeature' out, even if it loses me fans.

The reasoning behind being able to hit yourself with spells is multi-fold: Firstly, you get another way of testing if you have a particular resistance. Secondly, it makes wands of wonders properly risky, as opposed to just having a couple of effects that are dangerous.

But mostly, its because fireball is not that interesting a spell.

I mean, look at it this way. Bolt spells, you at least have to attempt to ensure that the target is in direct line of fire. Minor fire ball, which is unique to Unangband, is a mix of bolt and ball spells. It explodes at the first target in line of fire. Everything in line of sight spells are interesting because they force you to wade through lots of damage messages and lots of mana, and are (usually) only effective against a particular target type.

But fireball - at least the Angband implementation of it - is dull. Automatically hit anything in line of fire for lots of damage, plus targets adjacent to it. It at least has the redeeming and slightly balancing factor that it destroys stuff on the ground. But the too much junk problem in Angband makes this beneficial rather than problematic the majority of the time.

By making the player get damaged if they are too close to the fireball, there's at least a trade of between position and utility of the spell. There's no more standing at ground zero and fireballing a monster you should be meleeing to death or running away from.

That's why I like it.

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