Saturday, 26 June 2010

Level 40

I was somewhat surprised by a recent post by LostTemplar on

When I played UN it seemed to me that it is too hard in the beginning and way too easy in late game.
This has to be fixed immediately. I can't have players calling Unangband easy...

A big part of the problem, as Mr Templar points out, is that high level Unangband players end up with an obscene amount of hit points. This is a result of making the size stat determine hit dice, which means even a mage can have a large hit dice. I've tried to balance this by having size penalize agility if your size exceeds your strength, but since every item which adds size also adds the same amount of strength, it is easy to ignore this limitation.

If I remove the size = hit dice benefit, there is little incentive to have a high size, and the size bonus feels about right for most of the game. It's only at high levels (and high stats) where the bonuses becomes obscene.

Which leads me to conclude that I should reduce the level cap for Unangband from 50. This way, the per level bonuses for hit points can remain significant as size and constitution increase, while not having to worry so much about the results at the top end.

I'm immediately attracted to the idea of limiting player advancement to level 40. The reason is that almost all mage spells are under level 40, so I won't have to redesign to many spells to fit the lower level limit. In fact, I shouldn't have to design any*, because spell specialists can cast spells 20% higher than their level, so that they can effectively cast up to level 48 spells. Given I have a to do item to add higher levels spells which only specialists can cast, dropping the level limit to 40 is an automatic win for this reason. This should start to address some of Templar's concerns about imbalanced spells as well.

There are two downsides to this approach: tradition, and level advancement as carrot. Tradition means that long time Angband and Unangband players will wonder what is going on when they get to level 40 and no higher - which will mean that I'll get pestered with questions. Level advancement as carrot means that there'll be less short term goals available to higher level players which they can grind towards. I'm unsure whether this is a good or bad thing.

An alternative is to play with the way that hit points advance. I've done this for other stat advancement: in particular the number of spells learned by low intelligence players is capped before they get to maximum level. I could take this approach. It's very much in the spirit of AD&D second edition where you no longer got to roll hit dice after a certain level. Size contributing hit points up only until level 20 would be one such example. This would make extra size add extra hit points, but not too many extra hit points - +20 hit points per increase in size above 18/110. Constitution by way of contrast gives +50 hit points per +1 CON at level 50 for similarly high constitutions.

* Except Fireball III which is level 49.


kikito said...

What about the part that says "too hard at the beginning?" Any early-game help would be very appreciated.

Colin said...

Instead of hit points increasing linearly, it could be modified to increase logarithmically. This might be too big of a change to the game mechanics, though. If designed from the bottom up, I've found logarithmic growth solves a lot of problems often found in leveling systems. It removes the need for level or stat caps, since the diminishing returns implicitly imposes a cap, but still rewards relentless players. It also helps with the "level gap" often complained about in player vs. player games that involve levels. The third biggest plus is that it encourages more balanced character development, since the diminishing returns eliminate minmaxing strategies.

AHorowitz said...

Been thinking about having a go again at Un... been several years.

I'd be hesitant at making some far reaching end-game nerf based on the comments of one person. Glancing at the Ladder, I only see 1 winner posted in all of 2009, and only a handful over the years since I posted one in 2002.

Not sure end-game is as trivial as your sample size of one said. Just a suggestion.

-- Adam

AHorowitz said...

Actually I posted that comment without looking at the recent winning dumps. Seems things have changed quite a bit since my winner. My mage finished with something like 800ish hit points, but recent winners (including two mages) had hit points in the 1900-2500 range. Unless there are far deadlier monsters to compensate for end game hit point inflation (which presents a whole slew of potential OOD monster insta-death problems), I change my stance that something should be done for whatever's caused the hit point bloating from earlier versions to this one. Can't say I really love the level 40 idea--the "carrot" as you put it makes combat inifintely more tolerable while you're accumulating experience.

I'll probably give Un a go with the next release (since I play mages, the invulnerable familiar bug kind of put of me off from trying).