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Old 15th Aug 2008, 08:40 AM   #1
Inq
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Balancing Issues - What do you propose?

Out of curiosity, in ThieveryUT, which side did you find had the advantage in the game? Were there certain levels that you guys personally considered too unbalanced? If so, why? By knowing all of the problems with particular maps and general gameplay, this thread may prove to become useful when the coders do their bit now and, a long long time down the line, when it comes to the mapping stage the game can be better balanced.

When playing Thievery, I always found that the thieves had the advantage over the guards. They got way too good with those blackjacks, so I reckon that blackjacks should be less effective. I remember it being proposed that blackjacks would only give a guard player a 90 second (I prefered 20+ seconds as it's a long time to get away) "knocked out" penalty (unlike broadhead arrows which do kill). It was also suggested that other guard players should be able to wake them up by walking over them or something, which is also a good idea. Overall in the game, I think the thieves definitely had the advantage, but then in a particular situation the guards seemed to just have an unstoppable tactic.

On certain levels, most which I can't name because it's been a long time since I played it, the guards usually camped by a single doorway to a location that the thieves had to get to, like the chest in the dock level, the two doors in TH-Jail or the lift (elevator) in the underwater level. Where these choke points were in certain maps, I don't think I ever, ever saw the thieves win because the odds of them getting passed all the mines, all the caltrops, the whistlers, all the AIs that were instructed to stand there AND the human players ready to pounce, there was just no chance. This was a mapping issue more than a gameplay issue.

The way I see it, the maps without those choke points were always obscenely favourable to the thieves, especially once they mastered the timing and suitability of invisibility potions, flash bombs and things. The guards were kind of left helpless with aimless wandering as their AI buddies were being KOd out of the game and then the thieves were just ganging up on them. I don't think the thieves should ever be able to one-on-one knock a guard out of the game in hand to hand combat. Normal arrows (of which you don't have many) as the only way to "kill" a guard. Short timed KOs, even for the AIs, would be better. This way on the levels where the guards have no choke points to defend, they wouldn't be hopelessly outmatched.

This would make the game unbalanced in favour of the Guards on the maps with chokepoints though. I think chokepoints should be done away with all together. I know that's up to the discretion of the map maker, but it's something I would actively urge when writing up thievery mapping tutorials or something. Single entryways to unimportant areas where there is a little loot is of course fine, but when it's say a single room with one doorway leading to that must-have jewellery worth 1500 loot in the objective list, the guards will just swamp that one room with everything. Objective, big money items should always be left in rooms with 2 or 3 entryways, I reckon. Attack points into the room with arrows should also be an option.


Does anyone else agree with me on those choke points being too unreasonably tough? The gameplay seems to massively favour the thieves, but some levels are designed to massively favour the guards. Very few levels seemed to have that happy medium.


Which Thievery levels did you find to be the best balanced?

Worst balanced?

Who was the general gameplay more favourable to? Thieves or Guards? What would be a solution?

Last edited by Inq; 15th Aug 2008 at 09:07 AM.
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Old 15th Aug 2008, 10:59 AM   #2
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It would takes me all day to write in english what I know so I will write only the most important things:

1. IMO you can't decide which map is balanced or not because it depends on small things which are very important in entirety f.g. loot spawners and their configuration etc. so the same map can be balanced and unbalanced...

2. Simply the worst balanced maps are those which have objectives hidden in safes etc. because guards can only camp one place with all bots if they know where is the object. IMO some maps would be better if there will be only loot to steal. But of course then guards must guard all map so if the won't do tema work they will say "This map sucks!"

3. IMO AI make this game unbalanced because guards can use them like "an automatic cannon" in important places beside that sometimes AI doing all the job... In this way thieves are forced to killing AIs to reduce guard's lives and make places possible to loot. In general in multiplayer game AI is bullshit!

4. Lack of teamwork and selfish of players makes game unbalanced too. f.g. guard are not calling for help because he want kill thieves as much as it is possible - one guard is easy to kill or ko so he will lose lives of his team. Thief without equipment will suicide (lose lives) instead of trying to distract guards and then other thieves would be able to loot etc.

5. If you would make koing harder then you can remove for the game blackjack as well. Solution?

a) Thieves shouldn't walk so fast with picked up body because they can easily put bodies into fire etc.
b) You already can wake up koed guard by frobbing them but FWU must be enabled on server.
c) There should be an additional setting like "Force wake up after x seconds" so guard wouldn't be able to force wake up just koed guards.
d) Auto wake up is set to 4,5 min. on my server and it works perfect!
e) Aussies should play only on own servers.
f) Guards should be more careful in shadows and start to listen steps.
g) If you are skilled guard then it's much harder to ko you...
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Old 18th Aug 2008, 09:02 AM   #3
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In a very general sense guarding in Thievery is the marginally stronger side, because it is easier to be a strong guard than a strong thief. This is especially true if the games move to 5 or 6 a side, where guards can more effectively stack out a level.

Crackaz kept some stats ages ago (maybe 1.3) showing that guard and thief wins were almost identical in count after the circle-strafing had been fixed.
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Old 21st Aug 2008, 04:42 AM   #4
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Balance is very map dependent. 1 v 1 thieves are more powerful, but guards work better as a team. The more players, the more guard-favoured the game becomes.

Traditionally;

Old Gerome
Breakout (jail map)
Aquatone
Bourgeois
were guard favoured

Grange
Skeltston Head
Korman
Darkened-Enlightenment
were considered quite balanced (depending on numbers)

Theatre
Warehouse
Flats
Stronghold
were considered to be thief balanced

However, people developed strategies that allowed their respective teams to win despite these map imbalances.
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Old 14th Sep 2008, 07:21 AM   #5
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id say one thing. i think grange might be the aboslute best tourney map and best map in generall for thievery since its very balanced. its kinda hard for thieves, at the same time that it could be hard for guards aswell. its excellent imo.
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Old 14th Sep 2008, 07:27 AM   #6
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I don't agree because if valuable loot will spawn in places that are hard to guard then map is very easy for thieves.
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Old 14th Sep 2008, 08:56 AM   #7
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Well, it's that balance that has to be found. Say there is a book that must be taken by thieves. Ifthere is only once way into that room, it is quite impossible for thieves to get it. Even if they somehow manage to get in passed the door traps with the 4 guards all in the room, they still have to get out. In all my time playing, I've never once seen a person succeed with it. These special items need to be both choke points for guards but also give thieves that half decent chance of making it in and out. With about 5 caltrops (is that right?) and mines, even if they manage to leap the traps in the doorway, they usually hit another, are spotted by a whistler and then shot by the AI guards, human guards before they can even get close to the items. With 2 or 3 entrances, thieves can work together to distract the camping choke point guards and make progress.
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Old 14th Sep 2008, 09:11 AM   #8
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kinda true but depends on how big the door entrance is. could be quite cool to place this "book" in a bigger room with a big main entrance and only ONE way in, then 1-2 other ways out where you cannot get in from like, after you snatch the book you gotta like vine up in the ceiling and escape just like DE. only thing is that where you escape, you can also get in on DE. would be cool if you couldnt
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Old 14th Sep 2008, 09:57 AM   #9
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Well vining up and escaping is a good idea. The obvious solution to one way in and two ways out is to have shutters that can only be opened from the inside. Of course, they wouldn't be locked otherwise a thief would have to sit in the room and lockpick.

A two door wide entrance is also a good idea for helping even out these situations. It would make the traps a little more sparse, giving thieves that chance to get in. Good idea
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Old 15th Sep 2008, 01:46 AM   #10
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A word of warning. The Mechanics in NB will be different to TUT. So what is 'guardable' will certainly change. I know Immort has a good grasp of this, but the mappers will have to adjust as well.

For example:
- No AI means that guards will have less map-coverage, but no killing means that map-coverage will stay the same throughout the game.
- No firebolts/supply chest make controlling dark portions of the map harder forcing guards to be more defensive.
- Insert other changes not yet finalised etc. etc.

A Balanced map may force guards to patrol in order to cover enough loot/objectives. Or it may force guards to camp 2-3 less-defensible objectives, or a sole objective in a dark, exposed location. Pretty much there is a realm of possibility in map design, but if the mappers simply go off what was 'balanced in TUT' then chances are it won't be balanced for NB.


Also, imbalanced tactics should be avoided, because otherwise no matter what map it is, the game will reduce to the same thing over and over. When it should be a strategic stealth game at its core.

imo this was often the case in TUT with arrow DM'ing AI, door camping, rushing objectives with speed+invis, objective stacking, fire+speed+mace, Flash+KO, crack+broadhead etc. Often the map has little affect on how you played the game.

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Old 15th Sep 2008, 10:27 AM   #11
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Don't forget that the bots are still optional in NB as are many things in TUT. Therefore balancing in general is unreal unless we get standardised gameplay which in turn means reduced variety and customisability.

As it is NB aims to be a game of time. Or that's the impression I get from it.
Say if Thievery was played with low timer, DM and slow AI removal wouldn't be as detrimental as it now is.
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Old 1st Nov 2008, 02:16 PM   #12
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 Originally Posted by TafferBoy: ( link to post ) 

Traditionally;

Old Gerome
Breakout (jail map)
Aquatone
Bourgeois
were guard favoured
This thread reminds me of Mad Gerbil and RLF.

The above list of maps, though balanced towards the guards, were by far my favorite maps to Thief.

Any old CTG guys remember my runs through Aquatone(and yes, this includes the old, even *more* guard friendly Aqua)? Not to toot my own horn, but even with 5 or 6 guard players with me as the last thief... I'd still win almost every time. TCO should remember that.

I doubt anyone remembers Tatsumaru. He used to run around Bourg like it was his playground... and I mean *old* Bourg. When they added new entry points, it became cake.

Grank and I developed a way to get a key and get into the library of old Gerome in a matter of seconds. It was never sure fire, and it required coordinated teamwork and communication. It was put together for the CTG vs Devs match that never happened.

I don't have any iconic stories of breakout, other than to recall the intensity of it... and yet again, I even mean the older version with smaller exits and so forth.



My point here is this: what created tension, immersion and fun in TUT *was* the lack of perfect balance. The guards were capable of things that were so challenging to overcome, that it took intelligence, skill, and creativity to oppose. Even failed plans were a joy to create and carry out.

The reverse is true as well. I was always bored when guarding the "guard" maps. I wanted to guard Folly, DE, Flats. I wanted to work for my victories and to sweat.

I *want* unbalanced classes and maps. With in reason of course. Bring on the choke points! Bring on the camping! I don't want the mappers to hold my hand through the gaming experience. The only map element I don't want to see is spawn camping, but there are many clever ways to mitigate that.
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Old 1st Nov 2008, 04:57 PM   #13
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Jarvis isn't the point here that CTG did it first and then the Mockers stole our moves?
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Old 1st Nov 2008, 08:00 PM   #14
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Yes.

Yes, that is exactly my point.

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Old 2nd Nov 2008, 12:10 AM   #15
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Maybe, but we made it look good
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Old 2nd Nov 2008, 07:15 AM   #16
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all good for pub play having unbalanced maps

but far better to actually have maps that reward the team that actually plays better
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Old 4th Nov 2008, 04:33 PM   #17
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I suppose that depends on your perspective. If the primary concern is victory, or amounts of victories... well I guess.

My opinion comes from a place of pure enjoyment. I'd rather the focus of the mappers be interesting environments and well fleshed out maps. As opposed to micromanaged balance that makes every map feel exactly the same.

I fear the zealot pursuit of balance. I've seen great mods ruined and doomed to obscurity and sameness in the name of "balance". There have been radical "balance" voices in TUT's history...

*cough* RLF *cough*

...and to Black Cat's credit, those voices were largely ignored. It probably saved TUT to live as long as it did. So forgive me if I play devil's advocate to the intentions of this discussion... but there you have it.




And I guess RLF wasn't all bad. Viva those crazy rodents.
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Old 5th Nov 2008, 05:50 AM   #18
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Map balance and map uniqueness/aesthetics aren't mutually exclusive, you know. I'm just talking about avoiding those impossible choke points where the guards put every AI bot next to a, say, doorway with mines, caltrops, whistlers and hawk-eyed human guards all pointing their fire bolts at the entrance.

No amount of flashbombs, crack arrows or invisible potions are going to get through that lot even if they are the most skilled thievery player.

It's much better to have great looking maps mixed that are also great playing and mostly fair maps. I mean, look how often on Thievery people replayed TH-Bourgeous (whatever it's called) compared to how often people went with TH-Cult.
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Old 13th Nov 2008, 06:29 PM   #19
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Having a balanced game is a hallmark of good game-design and will help retain players in the long run because they will not see themselves as being continuously shafted by imba tactics exploited by more experience players and then decide to quit. Same goes for having to deal with impossibly lop-sided maps where their only chance at victory is if guards get bored.

lol RLF never knew what they were talking about because they had a skewed perspective as guard-only players. Some of us have played the game for a very long time now, in a lot of competitions and were in teams that were successful as both thief and guard. In short we know what we are talking about when we discuss game-balance in a MP stealth fps. Although many forget that NB is a different game and are unable or unwilling to really examine the faults of TUT and think of ways to address them.

Sure TUT had its charm, but really, if it was actually successful people would play it. To talk of 'niche appear' just denies the fact that the game has serious problems and this is from someone who played it solidly for 5 years or so. Call me devil's advocate, but the most successful MP games of all time have superb game-balance, in my book it is very very important.

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Old 14th Nov 2008, 10:32 AM   #20
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To me, the ultimate test of balance is the win/loss record of the two teams, and as was mentioned, the two teams where found to be about even when this was checked.

Overall, TUT general game design was balanced in my mind. Each side had a different skill set, yet neither side would necessarily overpower the other. Some maps favored the other team more then the other, but that to me is a plus. It allows some variety in game play for various skill levels.

That said, there are strategic and tactical decisions that can be made early on in a game by both teams that can essentially end it there and then. A singular mistake by one team member could also make it impossible for their team to win too.

In my mind, TUT has been a successful game. It is a nich a game in that it was based off a niche single player game. The game requires some patience, some time when nothing seems to be actually happening for one team, some thought of strategy, some time learning the game play variations, the maps, etc. Most of the successful FPS versus multi-player games I know of are two relatively similar teams shooting it out with lots of advertising to get people in. For TUT, not many people unfamiliar with the Thief series are even aware of the game, so that limits the potential palyers done quite a bit. And of those that do hear of it, some find TUT's learning curve a turn off. In the end, it is a certain type of gamer that will play the game. It is different, not for everyone, and has not been dominate game because of such. That makes it a niche game, but the fact it did as well as it did at its peak despite that would make it a success in my eyes.

I also do not see any real flaws in the game design- most of the flaws I see are more engine based exploits. For me, Would have like to have seen the BJ amde a little easy to use, requiring more stealth on the thief's part, the sword for the thief made shorter, and less effective on offense, but a stronger defense, and the theifs bow requiring more time to achieve decent damage on guards when pulled. To me those are not flows in the game design, they are personal preferences. Some people like the more adrenaline filled matches- other do not. Some like consistently balanced maps, others like maps with a variety of balance options. If one method is prefered far more in game by the overall player base, that does not mean the having the lesser prefered set-up is a flaw- it just means not as many will enjoy hte game, making it not quite as popular. If shear player numbers are the basis for measure of success, then no, such game will not be a success. As one who preferes the lesser preferred path though, I measure success by how fun I have had with the game, as well as others who take to it.
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Old 14th Nov 2008, 11:35 AM   #21
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I think the problem TUT has that the players always stuck to the old content. Threre were great new maps, like Airship and Mensch, but nobody really plays them because they won't touch new stuff (that even has high quality). Practically I think it's hard to judge if a map is balanced or not. It's more about that every map plays differently and unique. A guard map can be won by thieves if they have a counter-strategy against the guards. And the same goes for guards.

I hope NB will have a better support of newcomers, cause TUT is absolutely hostile to newbs. Newbs just enter, get owned by pros / regulars and then they get blamed for wasting all lives.

Again, I think it would be far more balanced with unlimited lives for thieves .
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Old 15th Nov 2008, 07:28 PM   #22
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People don't play Airship and Mensch for a good reason. Although inventive, they are quite simply terrible maps balance-wise. Whereas Grange, Asylum and Skeltston were always popular on public and in competitions. I'll admit that Gerome was also very popular, but only on public, it was very enjoyable even if it was difficult for thieves to win without DM'ing.

Thebos, let's not say that 'successful games' (wide appeal) are only good because they are simplistic and well-advertsied, thats about as cynical as you can get. You have to look at the games with longevity - Starcraft, Warcraft III, Counter-strike, Natural Selection, are examples of well-balanced games. My point is that a balanced game (with balanced maps), has a far greater chance of being successful. By successful I mean its entertaining to play, so more people play it for a longer period of time.

I'm fine with TUT how it is, it is balanced in its own way, but there is no doubt in my mind it can be improved upon in order to make a better game (i.e. NB). Part of that is having fewer maps that are smaller and finely-balanced. Rather than 16+ maps, most of which are horribly balanced, overly large, buggy as hell and take new players years to learn.

To my mind TUT was complex to a fault. This and other suggestions may be dismissed by some players as 'dumbing it down', but I think that is just being elitist. Just because a game has simple mechanics does not mean it is without depth. Having less 'stuff' (weapons, equipment, maps) in a game sometimes gives the player more freedom because they are not forced into using a particular tactic in order to succeed. (i.e. rushing, dm'ing).
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 07:28 AM   #23
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Hmm, yes might be true too, but also, most older maps have been improved on while Mensch and Airship have never been changed for more balance. (For example, I think moving the body down the whole map is way too much...).

Exactly my thought Gladius. TUT is quite complex but I still like it and it keeps much possibilities to master. The thing is just, that TUT makes much newcomers leaving because it's too difficult for them to learn the game while getting owned all the time. This year, there were approx. 6 newcomers but they all left.

I think the challange will be making a complex game and still newcomer-friendly so the playercount will stay high. I don't know if a 'single player' mode is enough, most newbs won't try it and then get frustated. Maybe NB needs to guide newbs a bit more. Perhaps next to the single player mode some tutorials atleast. Maybe ingame tooltips that support a newcomer in multiplayer?
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 08:18 AM   #24
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There are ingame tool tips.
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 09:13 AM   #25
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I agree with everything Tafferboy said about Nightblade maps. Almost perfect map balance/team balance makes a game. The way the less impressive games do it is by having a map entirely symmetrical and different team mechanics being virtually identical. That can't be done for Thief-like games, but the maps definitely need to be perfectly balanced.

On the subject of new players finding it hard to get into, that's really not something that can be done by the team in the game. Sure, there could be basic tutorial levels, but really they don't help much. The people will already be more than experienced with Unreal Tournament and general FPS games, so they'll get the basic game principles straight away. What they'll struggle with, which is also what I struggled hugely with, was that I couldn't figure out how to do the maps. Before I'd even started on TH-Breakout the masters of the game had already got the jail keys, got through one of those two doors (or died many times in futile attempts) and were making a break for the exit. It was nuts. The same problem was also with old UT's Assault maps, where they blew up that underwater station in four seconds. I hadn't even got out of the water at that point.

There is only one way to tackle that and that is to work with the best players of Nightblade, or the makers of the maps. They then make video tutorials or screenshotted tutorials telling people of the fasted routes, where the vital gear is, like keys and stuff, and how to get to them. Those who really want to get into Nightblade late then can play catchup with those that are just going through the motions. As far as I can see, that is the only solution. The general gameplay of Nightblade won't ever be remarkably simple compared to other, more traditional, FPS games.
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 09:35 AM   #26
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Tooltips are already there? Cool! Maybe I just couldn't remember (was some time ago that I tried the alpha).

I just think gameplay has to be made less frustating than it is in TUT. (for example, newbs wasting lives and things like that).
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 09:51 AM   #27
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I don't really think that is possible, Trapmaster. It's one of those slower learning curve type games. It's not a "pick up and play" game. A lot of the gameplay in Nightblade is just so core to the sneaking genre that it's impossible to remove. There's no way to stop useless people just running around like fools and dying. No way. The only way to do it would be to restrict their lives or something, and that would only make them leave the game.

I think my approach of teaching them the basics of each level through video tutorials, is the way to go. Whenever some less experienced gamer enters joins in on Nightblade and asks "how do u get the harp???" on the game, you simply provide a link to "www.nightbladetutorials.com" or something. Problem solved.

Alternatively, or in addition, the game level maps could be made to be more helpful. This is down to the mapper's discretion though. Some maps on TUT don't even have guide maps at all and some are very vague. Most people would probably prefer to see some more detailed maps and tips in the objectives stating where the useful stuff is most likely to be.

All of these things should help a newbie get comfortable with the game faster, but I think the last thing that should be done is diddle with the core gameplay of the sneak-em-up genre.
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 10:01 AM   #28
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New players won't play because no one is playing online so how they have learn this game?
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 10:11 AM   #29
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No worries Inq, I was not refering about making the game less sneaky or something like that. On the opposite, I want to have it more stealth oriented. Just imagine making it more time-based instead of life-based. Instead of wasting a life you will have to wait some seconds to respawn. This way players that lose a life won't make the thief team lose at all. You know these endless discussions of "You have to dm in some situations because you can't archieve your goal otherwise!".

Ha, I have to say your video idea is just great! I like this one very much. Maybe the mappers can even add this via Kismet or something like this, a special option. (Almost like the assault maps on UT2 have).
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Old 16th Nov 2008, 11:35 AM   #30
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I give a thumbs up to the idea of timer over lives as well. That really does solve the huge problem of the just sitting around for a game to end. A timer is an absolute must.

TUT's most heinous evil is that if some clown loses all the lives quickly and then you die, you then have to sit around for what seems like 15 minutes watching the last thief do nothing until the last 2 minutes of the game when he suddenly rushes in and dies pointlessly trying to get the map from Skeltson Head.

A timer would completely avoid that. The game designers were discussing having a knock out approach, where guards would be knocked out for a certain time limit, like 30 seconds and then sent to a reset point, like the guard's quarters. Perhaps thieves should have a similar, slightly longer penalty with the precious time ticking away. Also a further penalty that your original purchasing loot doesn't return, that way dying doesn't become an aid and remains as being a hinderance, just a less frustrating one.

I think it's a good approach to take. It makes the game more fun friendly and keeps the pace up. I wonder what the other guys will think of this.
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