Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby Alayan » 09 Nov 2019, 17:41

The next release will remain compatible with 1.0, and will not include changes to the powerup set.

But there is no such constraint for 2.0, so we can get both balance changes to existing powerups, and new powerups.

The main balance change I'm thinking about for existing powerups is nerfing the swatter by reducing its total duration and limiting the "rapid squash" that can remove a bubble gum and then squash very quickly. The basket ball and parachutes could probably take further balancing.

But we also need new powerups. There are some niches to fill :
- A speed+defense compound powerup for players in bad positions, that gives less speed than 3 zippers in the hands of a good player, but somewhat more than a single zipper with less crashing chances in the hands of a noob.
- A weak (speed boost ?) powerup to reduce somewhat the frequency of mutual destruction in the middle of the "pack"
- Others ?

Here are general considerations for each powerup idea :
- The suggested powerup should fit the theme of the game and the existing set of powerup.
- Does it complement well existing mechanics ? If it interacts in an interesting (and non random) way with other existing mechanics, it's a nice bonus.
- How does it impact balance ?
- Does it take some skill to use to its fullest extent, or to defend against ?

There has been many suggestions over the years, but until now it has mostly been vague and not focused on actually getting the powerup in the game.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby tempAnon093 » 09 Nov 2019, 23:38

I say this half jokingly, but a h4ck0r item (a pair of sunglasses? a virus? a mechanical keyboard? maybe a '>' glyph) that make you quickly 'glitch' forward along the driveline about 10 metres in an invulnerable state. That would provide temporary defense and limited boost.

possible stylistic reference: Penelope racing in Wreck-It Ralph
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby AgentCrypto » 14 Nov 2019, 10:07

Well you could also use special abilities like in beach buggy racing.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby mirandazellnik » 15 Nov 2019, 01:38

What about some kind of item similar to the bullet in Mario Kart Wii where it takes away control from the player and instead drives them at a high speed for a short distance on the track? It allows people to escape the middle of the pack, and could be balanced to for example bring them 10m ahead of the person in front of them, or some other way of ensuring it's not overpowered
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby tempAnon093 » 15 Nov 2019, 03:32

mirandazellnik {l Wrote}:What about some kind of item similar to the bullet in Mario Kart Wii where it takes away control from the player and instead drives them at a high speed for a short distance on the track? It allows people to escape the middle of the pack, and could be balanced to for example bring them 10m ahead of the person in front of them, or some other way of ensuring it's not overpowered


This has been proposed before, so I would recommend reading https://github.com/supertuxkart/stk-code/issues/3888 to see advantages and issues with the bullet approach. It seems that there is some community support for implementing a very limited version of a bullet-type add-on.

Alayan seems to have a strong dislike of warp-style powerups so I guess my own proposal would be an instant 'no', despite my justificaitons.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby Anon » 10 Jan 2020, 10:56

mirandazellnik {l Wrote}:What about some kind of item similar to the bullet in Mario Kart Wii where it takes away control from the player and instead drives them at a high speed for a short distance on the track? It allows people to escape the middle of the pack, and could be balanced to for example bring them 10m ahead of the person in front of them, or some other way of ensuring it's not overpowered


This could be an opportunity to bring back the rockets and homing rockets from the earlier versions of STK.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby Anon » 10 Jan 2020, 12:12

tempAnon093 {l Wrote}:This has been proposed before, so I would recommend reading https://github.com/supertuxkart/stk-code/issues/3888 to see advantages and issues with the bullet approach. It seems that there is some community support for implementing a very limited version of a bullet-type add-on.

Alayan seems to have a strong dislike of warp-style powerups so I guess my own proposal would be an instant 'no', despite my justificaitons.


If he's really so fixated on keeping "an OP powerup" from letting "newbie-tiers players [...] get feel good feedback [with] zero skill", then he could make it possible to shoot down the bullet bill or something so that it can still be stopped with sufficient skill.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby Anon » 10 Jan 2020, 12:15

....

On another note, the tone of that Github issue response, combined with the core team leaving, combined with some of the other things I've seen here over the past few years, does raise some red flags for me as to the general direction of this project as a whole.

Why is the direction of the game determined by one guy saying "big no-no" while essentially ignoring all the community members who actually raised points and gave suggestions on what could work?

And why is it apparently seen as a bad thing for "newbies to get some feel-good feedback"? Is the goal here to make a fun game that people can enjoy and feel good from— or is it to make a platform for a few people to show off their skills and prove their superiority over the "newbies" with "zero skill"?

Saying "No [X] will happen as long as I'm [in charge]" is basically saying "No amount of consensus and discourse, no matter how many people are involved, is more important than my own personal opinion".

Additionally, I'm not aware of any surveys that have been done on this, but I strongly suspect that the playerbase for STK is not primarily comprised of speedrunners and hardcore gamers— those are more likely playing VDrift or GRID or whatever— and the players here seem to be more along the lines of open-source software enthusiasts and small children who also happen to like playing casual games for fun.

Such a market needs fun gameplay (or "feel-good feedback", as it may be called) and community engagement, but I'm not sure it needs someone so aggressively "taking care of the balance".


To the current developers, I guess:

I apparently haven't been around here for quite as long as you have, nor have I been nearly as active in recent years. But I was here early enough to remember when you first started taking a bigger role in the game's development, so I don't think I'm just talking out of my rear here. And I've occasionally contributed some assets to the game as well before, so I also speak from a perspective of not wanting a project that I've been kind of involved in to end up failing.

STK is, like most FOSS endeavours, a community project. It lives and it will die based off of community engagement.

If you allowed basically the entire core dev team to leave over stylistic differences, then that raises big questions about where your priorities lie. Whatever freedom and control you gained, I hope it was worth losing the people who wrote most of the code and all of the original media tools in the first place.

And if you design the game to cater only to the needs of a very specific type of player while ignoring good-faith comments and input from the community at large (and implicitly insulting their skill, no less), then I can find that frankly more than a little bit forboding for the future of the player base and the community.

Fun should always trump "balance", because that's what a video game like STK is supposed to be to most people, and consensus should generally trump authority, because that's the only way for a large endeavour to succeed as a community project in the long term.

Please do not take this the wrong way. I've contributed assets to STK in the past too, and I do not want to see it stop growing. But the path it was on before was one that had worked for years— and if it's now switched to a new approach and style that involves alienating core developers and stonewalling community discourse, then I'm not sure where it will end up.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby manwhoisonfourms » 10 Jan 2020, 18:43

An add-on section for powerups would be cool! Or as a suggestion for a powerup, a bomb that latches on to other players. Once the bomb is on you, you have 3 seconds to pass it to someone else. After it's been passed 5 times, it makes a massive explosive
And here are a lot of other suggestions
The Old Rockets From Old STK
Self Destruct: Once used, your character blows up and takes 3 seconds to get back on track
Super Zipper: It's a regular zipper, but it is WAAAAY more powerful
Reverser: Everyone who is in front of you, their controls will get reversed
Zapper: Zaps anyone infront of you
Spike Strip: Places a spike strip similar to the one in Need For Speed Hot Pursuit
Mega Potion: Makes the player bigger and have the ability to squish others
Sabatoge: Slows down every kart infront of you for 3 seconds
Grapple: Grapples anyone infront of you. Similar to the grapple hook from Lego racers
Super Penguin: A penguin gets shot out of your car and will bounce off of walls
Ice Pillars: Creates 3 ice pillars around the kart that will launch anyone around you in the air.
Steeler: Steals a random persons item (THEY MUST HAVE AN ITEM FOR THIS TO WORK)
Big Fist: Smacks anyone infront of you
Hammer: A hammer will swing around your kart and hit anyone near you
Lighting shield: It's like bubblegum except anyone who touches you gets SHOCKED!
Mine: Drops a mine and whoever drives over it will get blown up. Does splash damage
That's all I have! I'll edit if I have anymore ideas!
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby tempAnon093 » 11 Jan 2020, 00:58

manwhoisonfourms {l Wrote}:An add-on section for powerups would be cool!

It would be cool, but I'm not sure how well it would work. It certainly wouldn't be effective online (what if I haven't downloaded a powerup and the server has? I already struggle to find 3+ player lobbies where everyone has add-on tracks!). Offline add-ons could work fine, but honestly I think it might be too much effort for devs to focus on right now.

You have some nice suggestions! I notice that a few of them sound like ones that already exist.
* Sabotage vs. Parachute
* Hammer/Mega Potion vs. Swatter
* Grapple vs. Plunger

I think Ice Pillars would be a nice idea, it's not obvious like a Swatter, so it can be used if someone overtakes too closely. It sounds feasible to program and can use the existing kart tumble animation.
Reverser sounds fun, original (as far as I know) and not too hard to implement. It can be mitigated through skilled driving so I think it's perfectly reasonable.
At first I though the bomb powerup was just the bomb on banana peels, but it does actually sound like a good idea (although I would change the time to 5 seconds). A player that gets hit by one would even try to slow down and explode next to the player who gave it to them! ;)

Anon {l Wrote}:If he's really so fixated on keeping "an OP powerup" from letting "newbie-tiers players [...] get feel good feedback [with] zero skill"

Anon {l Wrote}:[other post]

I agree with all of this.

It is worth emphasising that:
1) Newbie-tiers players should be able to easily enjoy the game, and this doesn't have to be at the expense of experienced players. This is how you gain new players.
2) The 'feel good' feedback is not constant or anything, so it's not coddling new players.
STK race mode is not entirely a skill-based mode. Less skilled players should be given advantage, otherwise you get matches where less-skilled players may be alone the whole match, except for the few seconds while they are getting lapped. That is not fun. A game like STK should be fun, at least in race mode.

I think a reasonable compromise is disabling certain powerups in Ranked modes. This means that the more serious racers won't be harassed by basketballs, parachutes and previously-rejected powerups, while less experienced racers are more able to keep up with the action.

I do think there is a potential for bias when:
* one person has the entire say on balance [!]
* that one person is a far more experienced racer than most of the users and implied audience
That is not to say that he hasn't done very useful balancing work; he has. That work is important to the game and made matches more enjoyable. However, I do think more effort need to happen to make sure the game's direction benefits the community and not only sub-communities.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby DoggoOfSpeed » 11 Jan 2020, 20:33

I always hoped for something like a cloud power-up. It could allow you to fly above other players and things like bowling balls. It could be used for shortcuts too, though I guess it would be quite hard to implement in a way that won't break the game's balance... But implemented well, it would add a power-up that is easy to learn, but hard to master.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby QwertyChouskie » 11 Jan 2020, 22:12

I think a good solution might be similar to the solution for the new GUI style (ref https://forum.freegamedev.net/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7974): Let the user pick. There's a pretty good precedent for this: In MK Wii at least, you can select between Strategic, Balanced, and Aggressive.

Implementation should be quite doable, as powerup probabilities are already defined via powerup.xml. Basically, when the track is selected, along with having lap and AI kart number selectors, have a "Item Mode" selector. (This also opens up the ability for some interesting modes, e.g. one similar to MK8's Bob-omb Blast.) On a code level, STK would load a different version of powerup.xml when a different mode is selected, which allows not only changing probabilities, outright enabling/disabling certain powerups in certain modes. E.g. if a more aggressive/unfair catch-up mechanic were added into the game (e.g. something like a Bullet Bill), it could be disabled in modes like Strategic. Also, some weapon's properties are even loaded from powerup.xml, so, going back to the Bullet Bill-like example, it could be disabled in Strategic mode, only get you behind the next kart in Balanced mode, and be more OP in Aggressive mode.

It also solves the online rankings problem, as Ranked servers would just be set to always be in Strategic mode.

It is virtually impossible to have everyone agree on a one-size-fits-all item balance, but by having 2-3 defined modes, we should be able to provide a great experience for anyone, from brand-new players to veteran racers.
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby Andet » 12 Jan 2020, 15:55

I would be a fan of that
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Re: Powerup changes for STK 2.0

Postby tempAnon093 » 15 Jan 2020, 00:47

DoggoOfSpeed {l Wrote}:I always hoped for something like a cloud power-up. It could allow you to fly above other players and things like bowling balls. It could be used for shortcuts too, though I guess it would be quite hard to implement in a way that won't break the game's balance... But implemented well, it would add a power-up that is easy to learn, but hard to master.

I kinda like that idea! It's a purely defensive powerup that avoids powerup attacks and possibly even road hazards on some maps. I do see a potential to abuse shortcuts by flying over barriers...

QwertyChouskie {l Wrote}:I think a good solution might be similar to the solution for the new GUI style (ref https://forum.freegamedev.net/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7974): Let the user pick. There's a pretty good precedent for this: In MK Wii at least, you can select between Strategic, Balanced, and Aggressive. [snip]

I am also a fan of this idea. Having a few predetermined modes would be great (they could even just be a part of Novice, Intermediate, Expert, SuperTux difficulty levels, if there is a need to simplify the user interface).
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