What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Danimal » 16 Jan 2021, 16:28

While making new levels for my flare mod i keep wondering this, what makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?.

Level design? Too little elements and its boring, too many and its visual noise, especially since you are not supposed to be in the same place for long. Small size is harder to create than bigger, too big and it feels empty.

Enemies? A nice variety is good, but actually all of them are the same thing with different aspects(not to mention recicled ones). They are always either fooder, tankers, ranged or magician. You can give them a twist like suicide bombers, static spitter plants or spawners, but even that gets old. And flare has it limitations, so combat is not very dinamic.

Loot, if it changes hero aspect, the better. I myself think this is plenty important, collectable sets or pets catering to completionist. I would even say its half the game's fun. There is a basic crafting system implemented, but i can barely see any benefit between crafting yourself a potion or buying in bulk from a shop. Or farming for weapon/armor materials when it can be just a drop from a mid-boss.

Difficulty, the hardest thing to balance, and it boils down to having enemies that are damage sponges, or can almost one hit you, or fodder with relative danger/annoyance factors. So you need to grind for better loot at an easier map, i guess this is a common thing for arpgs.

Story, if its interesting, the better. But its just there to give a excuse to whack things in the head. So far im going a tiny bit heavy on it.

What are your opinions?
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Julius » 16 Jan 2021, 17:14

Boss fights are a pretty big thing and of course loot like you wrote.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby ffaf » 16 Jan 2021, 18:16

Story, dialogue with NPCs were always important to me, gives you a cogent reason to whack some enemy in the head.
Learning how to deal with different enemies, or with a huge amount of the same enemy (with ranged weapons, maybe magic etc). is another plus.
Levelling up always cool.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby onpon4 » 20 Jan 2021, 00:49

I think what makes an ARPG fun is the same in principle as any other type of game, and it depends on the particular game.

Level design? Too little elements and its boring, too many and its visual noise, especially since you are not supposed to be in the same place for long. Small size is harder to create than bigger, too big and it feels empty.

Yes, and it depends on the game.

I think Freedroid RPG is a good example of what not to do here. That game contains a large number of pointless maze-like passages and a large number of huge rooms stuffed full of crates. The crates, of course, just give you random items which you almost certainly don't need, and they are tedious to break open. The mazes, meanwhile, make gameplay tedious because you end up spending most of the time wandering around trying to find out where you're supposed to go.

The Empyrean Campaign, on the other hand, always makes it clear where you have to go next. Chests are scattered about rather than having them concentrated into giant chest rooms, and they're easy to open (you can just press the space bar when you get closer to them, no need to wait for your character to tediously attempt pathfinding trying to get right next to the damn thing; of course, this aspect is created by the Flare engine itself rather than the game). The key here is to have just enough chests to give the player some incentive to explore a bit, and no more than that. Chests should also contain worthwhile items often enough to make it not seem pointless.

The layout should also reflect this philosophy. It should be just as big and complicated as it needs to be, and no more than that.

Enemies? A nice variety is good, but actually all of them are the same thing with different aspects(not to mention recicled ones). They are always either fooder, tankers, ranged or magician. You can give them a twist like suicide bombers, static spitter plants or spawners, but even that gets old. And flare has it limitations, so combat is not very dinamic.

With this, again, I think the key is to have exactly as much variety to the enemies as is needed to make the game consistently fresh and fun, and no more than that. I think the Empyrean Campaign balances this just about perfectly.

One thing you'll notice about the Empyrean Campaign is that it has a consistent set of enemies that are reused over the course of the game:

* Zombies
* Three goblin types (slow, fast, and long-range)
* Three skeleton types (short-range, long-range, magic)
* Three grave types (fire, ice, spawner)
* Three antlion types (normal, ice, fire)
* Three wyvern types (normal, ice, fire)
* Two minotaur types (normal, spawner)

This means that the environment remains familiar to the player over the course of the game. When you see a zombie, you always have a general sense of what it's going to do because you've fought several zombies before. The same goes for any other enemy type. To keep things from getting stale, the game just modifies these basic types to expand them in intuitive ways, e.g. by changing the kind of ice or fire attack used or by using a short-range spell instead of a spear attack.

The way you group enemies together is also important. Enemies can be placed in such a way that their abilities complement each other. That sort of thing can be used to great effect.

Difficulty, the hardest thing to balance, and it boils down to having enemies that are damage sponges, or can almost one hit you, or fodder with relative danger/annoyance factors. So you need to grind for better loot at an easier map, i guess this is a common thing for arpgs.

This is something I might be in the minority on, but I think all games should have a constant relative difficulty for the most part. What I mean by that is, the game should get more difficult not to challenge the player more, but to keep the challenge to the player constant throughout the game (for a new player, at least).

Since RPGs are generally pretty simple, what this means in their case is that difficulty should mostly be constant (except perhaps for very early game when the player is still figuring out the controls and such). It should be just as hard to fight the first boss as it is to fight the third boss, as you progress through the story normally. Since you regularly level up, this means that the game should technically get harder over time, but the player should feel the same amount of difficulty at every step.

It can be justified to make a special exception for the final level / boss and make it a little harder. It is also justified to have difficult optional challenges (e.g. the Tux dolls in ReTux). But for the core game, I think the challenge to the (new) player should remain constant in general. In the Empyrean Campaign's case, I think it does this well.

Story, if its interesting, the better. But its just there to give a excuse to whack things in the head. So far im going a tiny bit heavy on it.

Story is once again the type of thing where I think you should have exactly as much as needed to make a given game concept work and no more than that. Something like Naev should be pretty story-heavy, but something like the Empyrean Campaign should have only a basic story.

I think the main thing for determining how much story to include should be, what are people playing the game for? If what compels someone to play a game is some sort of story, then story should be a big part. If what compels people to play is action gameplay, then any story elements should be kept out of the way and be used to create an excuse for what you're doing and/or atmosphere only.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Danimal » 21 Jan 2021, 17:49

Well, for one thing i really didnt like Empyrean, it had just a handful of enemies and no story at all. But difficulty and level design was good, it just felt so "empty", the whole campaign was missing its soul.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Julius » 21 Jan 2021, 18:05

Yeah, it kind of left me feeling that way too. And then I played Diablo 1 again and noticed that it really isn't anymore advanced gameplay or story wise. Which left me a bit confused as I love(d) Diablo 1.
Maybe the high quality music and voice-acting did all the difference? Not sure tbh.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby onpon4 » 21 Jan 2021, 18:51

More likely simply because it's what you were exposed to first.

i really didnt like Empyrean, it had just a handful of enemies and no story at all. But difficulty and level design was good, it just felt so "empty", the whole campaign was missing its soul.

I don't think it set out to have a big story or anything, it set out to be something that's simple and fun to play. Given those kinds of goals, a big story would have gotten in the way and it's for the best that the story that exists is just a shallow excuse plot.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Jastiv » 23 Jan 2021, 20:48

I think a couple issues with Empyrean. The first, I hate to say it is is the color palette. I felt it had too much green and grey, and lets be honest, not much else. When I played diablo 1, it had a lot of red, yellow, and in some levels purple, and even a bit of blue here and there. (also, I used to play secret of mana, and one thing that made it more fun was changing the color balance on my old school CRT TV back in the super Nintendo days, so everything was an intermediate color rather than primary or secondary.) The other issue with Empyrean is as you mentioned, a lack of different types of enemies. It defiantly needed some more variety in areas and enemies.
I actually think the Empyrean music is pretty decent and on par with the music in Diablo 1.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Danimal » 24 Jan 2021, 16:03

Yes, the colors from the tilesets are too limited, i guess its the price for consistency. And just a handful of monsters. Its a pity i was doing something else at the time and the know how required is so high, i could have contributed a lot to enemies.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby ffaf » 24 Jan 2021, 17:19

Palette was not bad, I recall snowy plain and orange caves. The outside, green/grey and brown was very believable.
I do not agree with lack of variety with monsters. True there were not many of them, but a single zombie was different than a pack of them, hence different mechanics to win the fight.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Danimal » 25 Jan 2021, 15:52

Thats is just an efficient use of limited resources, of course you have to give different mechanics to the very same zombie so it can be reused without feeling overused; like weaker ones swarming or powerful single ones. Actually in base flare there are 6 or less kinds of enemies.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Technopeasant » 15 Feb 2021, 00:49

My only experience with this genre is Torchlight, and it did seem a bit repetitive. But arguably all video games are repetitive and it just depends on the context and inclinations of the player.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Technopeasant » 15 Feb 2021, 00:56

onpon4 {l Wrote}:This is something I might be in the minority on, but I think all games should have a constant relative difficulty for the most part. What I mean by that is, the game should get more difficult not to challenge the player more, but to keep the challenge to the player constant throughout the game (for a new player, at least).

Since RPGs are generally pretty simple, what this means in their case is that difficulty should mostly be constant (except perhaps for very early game when the player is still figuring out the controls and such). It should be just as hard to fight the first boss as it is to fight the third boss, as you progress through the story normally. Since you regularly level up, this means that the game should technically get harder over time, but the player should feel the same amount of difficulty at every step.

It can be justified to make a special exception for the final level / boss and make it a little harder. It is also justified to have difficult optional challenges (e.g. the Tux dolls in ReTux). But for the core game, I think the challenge to the (new) player should remain constant in general. In the Empyrean Campaign's case, I think it does this well.


I would be inclined to agree, because if you just spike it up each level too much the end result is eventually a large chunk of players will give up in frustration. It should always feel just about manageable, even if scaling up slightly as you get more powerful items or stats. This is the reason that I really do not like mid-game boss fights, especially ones based on learning patterns, because I honestly can not be bothered and would rather just have more standard gameplay.

Another strategy that is kind of interesting is games with inverted difficulty curves as is often stated of the game Blood. It is often held up as one of the most difficult of the old school shooters, but that is only really for the first few levels of a given episode. As you go through and get more powerful weapons, every enemy can be dispatched relatively simply, including the sub-bosses. The end result of this is that it might feel punitive to start with, but once you get there it makes you feel like you accomplished something and then can just enjoy the chaotic fun.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Danimal » 16 Feb 2021, 20:07

I agree with you, but sadly gaming trends dont; i totally hate "Soul-like games" where i got stressed far worse than at my workplace, those games should come with whip, candles and latex suit in the same packet. For gods sake, i play to de-stress myself, people who enjoy those games will say they enjoy the challenge, i think they just hate themselves and their lives... Graphics, ambientation... are awesome, gameplay? total shit, try playing with inmortality cheat so that the weaker chumps wont kill you with 2 hits and you see how empty and boring those games are. Rogue-likes are in the same vein, spend a few hours, plan and min-max like crazy and the game may decide your lv7 mage needs to meet an orc horde in a 3x3 room and you get a permadeath and lose everything.

A challenge is necessary since a way too easy game becomes a chore (death risk should be present, not onmi-present), sometimes that is intended if the game is about chilling and centered about elements like farming or the likes (Portia); funnily you can also tell if a game is good if after cheating and getting god mode or inf. ammo/energy you still get fun out of it.

Personally i think Diablos-alikes are all about loot and monster extermination, slowly at first, growing into an unstoppable killing machine across the game by min-maxing all that tasty loot and skills.
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Re: What makes a Diablo/ARPG clone fun?

Postby Technopeasant » 23 Feb 2021, 05:14

Well, I would not say there should not be hard games for people who want it, but ideally the difficulty should be scalable and walkthroughs and yes even cheat codes should always be an option. As for me, I like being able to master a game's systems in an evening and then just see the different permutations people do with them. This is why I play so many custom campaigns for old shooters that I know like the back of my hand.
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