The Role of Hunger in Roguelikes

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#REDIRECT [[The Role of Hunger]]
"Do you have hunger in your roguelike?"
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"Not yet."
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"Excellent!  I hate that!"
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The dislike of starving to death in roguelikes seems, in my
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experience, to dwarf the dislike of permament death.  And yet
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Roguelike authors continue to rush to implement starvation.  The
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following is a collection of thoughts on hunger, largely derived from
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discussions I have read & roguelikes I have played.  I look forward to
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any expansion people can make.
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Section 1:
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Why is it that hunger is considered a benefit?  Here is a list I have
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gleaned from the wise words of others.  I look forward to more
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entries.
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B1) Hunger as a Resource
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Hunger provides another dimension of resource management.  Like
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Hitpoints, Magic points, and Gold, Satiation is another resource that
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must be managed.  Since many roguelikes are largely about balancing
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resources, removing hunger from the equation would make it easier for
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the player to min/max, and thus less challenging, and less fun.
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Examples:
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- A ring of sustanence uses up a ring slot which the player could use
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for another purpose.
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- Casting spells consumes hunger, thus having a long term (hunger) and
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short term (magic point) cost.
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- Food rations take space/weight in inventory, leading to more careful
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packing and/or stashing.
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B2) Hunger as a Timelimit
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The inexorable tick of the Hungry time bomb provides a sort of urgency
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to the adventure.  You *must* delve deeper searching for food rations.
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You can't just lock yourself in a room for 2000 turns to
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heal/study/etc.
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Many aspects of Roguelikes encourage safe & careful play.  Hunger is
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often listed as a drive for action rather than inaction.
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Examples:
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- Cutting trees in ADOM would be a nearly free action if not for going
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from Full-&gtHungry in a single user-turn.
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- In the early Nethack game, I personally tend to dive quickly if I'm
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running low on food in hopes of getting a yummy corpse.  (Note: This
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is not directly encouraged as some note that one can always use a
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hunger prayer instead)
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B3) Hunger as Realism
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We have to eat in real life, right?  Of course, we have to breathe in
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real life, and few would suggest a "breathe" command be added to
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roguelikes.  (It would make an interesting death message though -
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"forgot to breathe")  Hunger could always be fully abstracted.  It
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could be assumed the adventurer is foraging and eating, much as it is
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assumed the adventurer is sleeping regularly in most roguelikes.
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I don't consider this much of a benefit, and merely leave it here
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completeness.
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Section 2:
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What use is eating?  Why have eating at all in the game?  Another way
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of looking at this, is why would a player want to eat in your
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roguelike?
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U1) Prevent Death
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This is the most commonly implemented use.  And, IMO, is the source of
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most of the aggravation with Hunger in Roguelikes.  No food for long
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enough implies death.
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This use strengthens B1, as any resource which causes death on expiry
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(such as hitpoints) tends to be more carefully managed.  However,
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Magic Points are another carefully managed resource, and usually
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hitting 0 MP doesn't directly result in death.  Thus, to gain B1, one
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must merely ensure being Hungry causes sufficient negative properties
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that one will be encouraged to manage it.
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B2 is more susceptable to the removal of the death penalty.
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Hunger-as-timelimit is well displayed by Ultima III.  In Ultima III,
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your party members each had a Food counter.  Each action decremented
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that counter.  If it hit 0, the character would take damage until
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death.  You had a very good idea about what your time-to-live was by
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the counter.  On the other hand, if Hunger has only non-fatal effects,
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say preventing magic regeneration, there is no sense of time-to-live.
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One could let one's hunger bottom out, spend an arbitrary amount of
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time goofing around, and then have a couple cram rations to resatiate
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oneself.  (Removing the floor on hunger may avoid this, but IMO would
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be an artificial fix)
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U2) Allow Healing
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Often eating is implemented as a form of instant-healing.  A sandwhich
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may give +5HP & +5MP.  One's hunger level is more of a satiation
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level, and it is ironically better to be hungry than full as one can
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then take advantage of food.  This, however, turns food into YAWTH
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(Yet another way to heal), as there are plenty of insta-heal methods
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in the Roguelike genre already.
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This system does not provide B1 nor B2.
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U3) Allow Regeneration
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The natural regeneration of hit points and magic points can be tied to
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the hunger level.  This keeps food as a method-of-healing, but it
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doesn't change an apple into a different looking potion of healing.
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This system only weakly drives B1 and B2.  Regeneration is nice (one
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gets hp/mp while wandering around, rather than having to consume turns
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and items), but can be ignored by uninjured players and high level
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players.  Thus, one may find people only eating before major fights
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and falling to Starving! whilst moving stuff between their caches.
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U4) Allow Special Actions
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Actions, such as SpellCasting, or going Beserk, may be limitted to
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those who are not hungry.  This has a strong B1 component.  The
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strength of B2 depends on how pervasive the requirement is.  (If I can
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research spells while Starving!, the hunger system does not contribute
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to the balancing of the time taking to research spells)
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U5) Gain Intrinsics
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You are what you eat.  This benefit for eating is similar to U2,
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except usually is not just a clone of another existant process.  It
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has serious balance issues, however.  Being able to gain an intrinsic
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means not having to use an item slot to fulfill that intrinsic.  One
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must be careful not to nerf rings of fire resistance (as I personally
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think they have been in Nethack).  There are multiple solutions to
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this:
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1) Balance with it in mind
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2) Have different levels of resistance.  Thus, maximum resistance
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requires the item + the eaten intrinsic
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3) Only grant temporary resistances through eating.
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U6) Add atmosphere
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Being able to bake a cake adds to the sense of the completeness of the
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world.  One should be cautioned that the powergamers will immediately
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clamour for it to be "useful".
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Section 3:
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What are things to keep in mind when implementing hunger?
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I1) Does hunger bottom out?
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Even in U1, this is not easily answered.  Ultima III, for example,
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does bottom out at 0 food, so as soon as you buy more food you stop
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starving.  However, they could have tracked arbitrarily large negative
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food.
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By not letting hunger bottom out, one can strengthen B2.  While one
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may research that spell while Starving!, one can't then just have a
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slice of pizza and be back at 100%, you have to eat yourself out of a
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very deep hole.  I think such a system would have serious
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representational problems.
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I2) Is there a maximum that you can eat?
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In either U2 or U5, I think this is mandatory.  For the other cases,
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it is entirely optional.  Note that removing a maximum cap removes the
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inventory management aspect of food in B1.  The other portions of B1
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remain, of course.
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Note that if one can eat corpses, having no limit lets you stock up
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from a room of kills.  Most extant roguelikes require you to
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kill-when-hungry.
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I3) How does hunger increase?
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This is a whole range of possibilities.  One or more of:
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- Time.  Every game tick, you grow hungrier.
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- Turns.  Every time you do an action, you hunger (possibly relating
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to the strenuousness of the action)
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- Regeneration.  When you regenerate due to U3, you hunger.
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- Special Abilities.  When you use special abilities due to U4, you
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hunger.
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- Intrinsics.  Possession of certain items/intrinsics/whatever which
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are too strong can be balanced with hunger.  Eg, ring of conflict in
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Nethack, being invisible in Nethack, etc.
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I4) Does one explicitly eat?
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In aforementioned Ultima III, one never has to "eat" something - it is
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done automatically.  Eating can quickly become a micro management
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issue.  However, if one wants U6, one had better have explicit eating.
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I5) How is hunger level expressed?
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This comes down to a question of granularity:
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- A numeric value: This strongly reinforces B2.  One sees the ticking
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of the clock in front of one's face.
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- A hunger bar: Simpler to reference, feels less fiction-breaking than
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the numeric value, but still allows one to watch the slow ticking.
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- Hunger Status Line: "Hungry" type status line entries.  Hides the
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time limit aspect of hunger.  Often results in newbies being surprised
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and starving.
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- No Output: Best for systems such as U6 or U2.  Definitely not
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suggested for U1.  This avoids spamming the user with something they
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may not care about.  It will downplay the role of food in your game.
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Ultima Online, for example, used this system (It maybe categorized as
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U6 + theoritical U3, with I1, I2, I3(time only), and I4).
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Section 4:
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Why do people hate hunger?
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H1) It is micro management.
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If no non-newbies should ever starve to death, then the hunger system
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is just requiring the player to periodically perform extra keypresses.
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If the player doesn't find these key presses interesting, it seems
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like meaningless micro management.
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H2) It is a time limit.
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This is less often expressed, but I think lies at the heart.  People
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feel the constant tick of time and know there is only a finite number
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of turns before they must get the next food ration.  This may add
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excitement to some players, but others are turned off.  Roguelike's
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are turn based, after all, so often played by people who want to think
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about their moves.  Knowing a wasted diagonal movement may cause
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starvation will worry many players needlessly.
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H3) Interrupts the Heroic Fantasy
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Worrying about food whilst engaged in an awesome task seems petty.
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This is tied to B3, of course, and both are as relevant to the whole
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discussion.
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Section 5:
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What about POWDER?
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The About section of the POWDER website originally said that "Sorry,
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hunger will be coming eventually - it is required to prevent
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conservative play".  I eventually second guessed myself and changed it
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to the current:
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"I had planned on adding hunger. I'm not too sure any more - corpses
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that would add intrinsics would mess up my current intrinsic balance.
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And hunger is annoying. The reason for it - to prevent people playing
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too conservatively - I don't consider an adequate cause. If people
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want to play too conservatively, it is their loss :>"
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That being said, I have switched again.  Release 032 has added
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rudimentary hunger.  However, my plans are, vaguelly:
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No U1: Hunger will not cause death.  Thus, the ticking time limit of
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H2 will be removed.  Super powerful players leaving the dungeon don't
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need to much around with eating.
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No U2: I think this just makes food a different type of heal potion,
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so dislike it.
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U3: Primary purpose of being fed will be to regenerate.  The
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hyper-conservative player will thus soon stop regenerating while
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hiding behind the magic-locked door, and thus stop being rewarded for
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hyper-conservative play.
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U4: Probably.  I like the idea of balancing long term and short term
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attributes, such as magic points vs hunger.
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U5: I'm very happy with the balance of my worn intrinsics, so am wary
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of granting permament intrinsics.  I'm testing with temporary
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intrinsics in 033.
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I1: Yes.  Otherwise one will end up at a point where one will just
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give up entirely on ever eating again as the hunger debt is too large.
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I2: Yes.  With U5, I think this is pretty important.
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I3: Time, usage, regeneration.
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I4: Yes.  What you eat is rather important - a red dragon corpse is
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not just a large food ration.
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I5: Currently I am using the status indicators.  I do like the idea of
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a hunger bar, especially as I'm working in a graphical environment so
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can do it without cost.
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- Jeff Lait
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(POWDER: http://www.zincland.com/powder)
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</pre>
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[[Category:Articles]][[Category:Gameplay]]
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Latest revision as of 11:16, 17 September 2006

  1. REDIRECT The Role of Hunger
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