Musings of Maddening Mazes

AuthorTopic: Musings of Maddening Mazes
Shaper
Member # 6292
Profile #0
I think critically and like to contemplate how to improve things. None of what I write here should detract from the fact that I think Jeff has created some fantastic games, wonderful in many ways and I love that this all comes from a local company of three.

I have a question. Do we like mazes? I personally greatly dislike them and find them silly in most cases, yet they seem like a real cliche in these kinds of games which try to come up with puzzles for us. The tower of Zkal really really got on my nerves. No one would build a maze in their tower just to put intruders through some weird challenge to get to the next level. It makes no sense as an actual place. It’s easier to make one heavily-defended passageway or gauntlet, or secret passages or highly-locked way in. I think any place which is habited, even by the dead, should be constructed like people would actually live in it and use it, but appropriately defended or challenging to penetrate...or circumnavigate to sneak in.

A maze may be a classic mind puzzle, but one which I find very tiresome and out of place as actual architecture to walk through. They are something which impedes a sense of progression, instead making me run around randomly and redundantly to haphazardly find my way somewhere rather than have to have the guts or tactical skill to fight or open my way to a next place. I guess I am saying I think there are better challenges or puzzles which are more fun to engage and make more sense in context. Natural caves of “twisty passages all alike” make some sense for complicated passageways. Anything built by hand does not for the most part and feels arbitrarily contrived to me. Even the layout of the Mage Tower with its disconnected long outer ring of passages was irritating and pointless, making me run long distances to get from north to south for no good reason. It was cool the very first time I explored it. After that...arrggghhh.

I think if one is clever, one can still construct levels of whatever in very challenging and gratifying ways without making them highly nonsensical and inefficient. I’d like to see more clever ways to logically construct places of habitation and fortresses rather than weird, extremely roundabout, unlikely ways to get from this place to that place.

I especially enjoy changes in elevation, either ascending or descending...not whole new levels necessarily. Finding your eventual way up or down a cliff is a nice effect and challenge. Lair of the Wyrm really creeped me out with its spiralling descent ever deeper with an increasing sense of threat and foreboding the further one got. Spiral crypt was also similar, except I didn’t like the light-snuffing effect, though it certainly was appropriately scary. But it had to end in Yet Another One o’ Dem Darn Mazes, essentially ruining the creepy cave-like effect up to that point for me.

Losing one’s mana points in the tower of Zkal was bad enough by itself. A different construction of the tower of Zkal might have been that it ran many levels deep, and that once inside, you were locked in until you found and fought your way to the very bottom and successfully defeated Zkal (why does a lich use lasers???), maybe still with the challenge of draining mana, which is certainly a creepy and challenging effect. Some warning in advance would be appropriate...you have some inkling how to prepare for some of these quests and locations. Someone with knowledge or rumors tells you, “Beware the tower of Zkal...the magic in that place is rumored to drain even the most powerful wizards of their magical ability and the evil powers within delve deep into the bowels of the earth! Do not enter lightly or without careful preparation for a long haul requiring great endurance and persistence.” That would soberly creep me out in advance and give me some ideas how I might tackle it, and also how difficult it is going to be.

As the game works, rarely having any idea in advance what kind of challenge I am going to face in advance, I can’t carry all the wands or potions or particularly appropriate weapons with me everywhere I go. I would construct a game so you had some anticipation of how to prepare for many places, or to know if you are strong enough to enter, rather than having to ultimately sort of cheat by going in, eventually seeing what I really need to have to do it, if I can do it yet, leave, stock up and prepare, then go back in and do it right with my “foreknowledge” now. In reality, if you go into a place like the golem factory once unprepared, your party would perish without even chance of escape once inside, and game over. I don’t like saving and reloading all the time because I have no way of knowing what I will be up against and may not be ready yet. Mabye a scrying function for priests to get a feel for a location and gain a prognois...”We are not yet strong enough to take on this evil place!” “We will need more of this or that to succeed here, I think”...etc. One could always choose to ignore the advice anyway...

I’d also like to see more variations on tactics like a great big fight to gain entrance into a cave, a tower, or whatnot, and then have it very sparsely defended with actual fighters once past the initial resistance, but maybe finding, say, numerous individual or groups of mages or traps throughout within or finding ways to access deeper would be the real challenge. And then after a long, relatively uneventful run of the place, looting, exploring, unearthing within, there might be a nasty trap or battle against reinforcements on the way out.

Well, this is another probably much too wordy posting of some thougths, but I think it would be really fun to come up with more variations on the way the game plays to make it less predictable and repetitious, and maybe even a little more sensical at the same time. I really dig some kind of logic and realism, even in the context of complete fantasy, if that makes sense. What do others think about this?

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Posts: 2009 | Registered: Monday, September 12 2005 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #1
You'd be right at home among BoE-ers (and in another two or three years, BoA-ers). I had some of the same feelings about not knowing what an area would require and liking changes in elevation, which has influenced the style of my scenarios, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

[ Monday, September 12, 2005 12:49: Message edited by: Kelandon ]

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Shaper
Member # 6292
Profile #2
By the way, Kel, having read reviews of your Bahssikava scenario, I am gearing up to take it on, but now kind of wish I had a different party construction. I don't really want to redo the four main BoA scenarios to recreate the party I want, but I don't really want to use the Character Editor to fabricate anyone either.

Maybe I can find the right sequence of add-on scenarios to get me ready for Bahssikava with new characters, but there aren't many scenarios to choose from presently and I haven't been too impressed with the choices available at present. Writing a good all around game has got to be a ton of very challenging work. I am very tempted to consider creating something myself, but the time requirements must be very formidable. I will refrain from further turning this inappropriately into a BoA thread. ;)

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A4 ItemsA4 SingletonG4 ItemsG4 ForgingG4 Infiltrator NR Items The Lonely Celt
Posts: 2009 | Registered: Monday, September 12 2005 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #3
You know, I found that most of the time I didn't do much preparation for different areas in the AT (unlike in BoA). My party became so strong so quickly that I didn't need to.

[ Monday, September 12, 2005 14:35: Message edited by: Kelandon ]

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #4
Perhaps you should look at Kel's High Level Party Maker. It does exactly what is sounds like and much more besides!

—Alorael, who can only add that more than five consecutive exclamation marks make you insane. Is deification insanity? You decide.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #5
quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

You'd be right at home among BoE-ers (and in another two or three years, BoA-ers).
I had exactly the same thought. There's a whole community waiting for you that has designed better dungeons and towns for years (Blades of Exile predominantly).

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"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Shaper
Member # 6292
Profile #6
Thanks, I believe you folks are correct, and I'm already delving into plans for a run through some BoA add-ons starting today, if I can successfully recreate a party of something more interesting and challenging than the usual four I have normally used so far. I have another question for you scenario designers I'll drop over there.

Cheers,

Doug

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A4 ItemsA4 SingletonG4 ItemsG4 ForgingG4 Infiltrator NR Items The Lonely Celt
Posts: 2009 | Registered: Monday, September 12 2005 07:00