Minigame for climbing a tree

 
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:03 pm    Post subject: Minigame for climbing a tree Reply with quote

As part of a quest, I want players to have to climb up a huge tree. The tree has numerous branches which are interlocked with the branches of other trees, so even players who can fly cannot take a short cut - the only way to reach the end of the quest is to climb the tree.

However I'm having serious trouble coming up with ideas for a minigame that could represent such an activity without it turning into a clone of my existing minigames.

The best idea I can come up with so far is to base it on blackjack, using a "climb" command - you can choose to "climb reach" (draw a card, like "hit" in blackjack), "climb up" (like "stand" in blackjack, where you chose not to draw any more cards) and "climb down" (a bit like "surrender"). I've already got an unused blackjack game floating around so this would be a fairly easy solution, and I'm strongly in favour of lazy solutions today.

If your hand goes over 21, or the computer beats your score, you fall off the tree (damage depending on height for those who can't fly) and start again. On a draw you'd remain where you were, while "climb down" would allow you to safely climb down one height level (which is at least better than falling off the tree). If you beat the computer you'd move up one height level, with final victory depending on the height of the tree (probably 3-5 wins required).

Obviously the card game itself could be abstracted away, but the basic concept would be the same. Having said that, I'm not sure how well it would benefit from being too heavily abstracted; one of the nice things IMO is that it ties into existing skills (in this case, your ability to play blackjack).

The drawback of this approach is that it's really rather unpredictable, and that a player could quite easily brute-force their way to victory. I'm not really so concerned about the latter, as this isn't intended to be a major feature, but just a little something to add variety - however I'd rather have the minigame more skill-oriented than luck-oriented.

Anyone got any suggestions for a tree-climbing minigame?
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been thinking about this idea a lot over the past day or so, and it's beginning to grow on me. Blackjack has a very established set of rules and also strategy that allows it to easily be transferred into a minigame of just this variety.

For example, depending on what the dealer's hand is and of course your hand, you might be advised to hit or stay, which could be conveyed by certain messages such as:

Code:


As you pull yourself up to the next branch, you notice a large crack in the branch above your head. (You might want to stay put, there's a good risk of busting if you "hit")

>

As you pull on the next branch above, it breaks free from the tree and tumbles to the ground below.  You heave a sigh of relief that you did not put your full weight on the branch. (The dealer busted and so you stay put, no penalty)

>

As you climb to the next branch, you notice a branch hanging tantalizingly close overhead, within easy reach. (This is a good time to "hit"/"reach")

>

As you stretch your arm out, you realize that the branch was a bit further than you thought, but with a bit more effort you think you could reach it. (You hit, but are still safely within limits to hit again)

>

You finally grasp the branch and haul yourself up to the next level, but as you take footing on the branch, you hear an ominous groan, the branch is about to snap! (You won that last round, but this next round you might want to surrender lest you fall out of the tree)

>

Etc...


Okay, so, kinda lengthy there, but you get the point. Without ever showing numbers you get all the thrill of climbing a tree (any tree or mountain even really, the game could certainly be expanded to all types of climbing). While certainly there is some random luck involved, that's the case with just about every other aspect of a MUD so I don't see a problem there, and while it's true that in some cases a player might "brute force" their way through, any true gambler can tell you that playing by the "rules" that is, the accepted strategy, will help you win in the long run. I should know, I live just outside of Las Vegas and gambling is a bit of a routine. Smile

Anyway, just my thoughts, I'd be glad to hear anyone else's opinion on the matter or any other ideas, I always enjoy a good mini-game. In my project we use Minesweeper as the basis of our mining mini-game and I have found myself playing it for hours, not only because of the skill gains and rewards of mining, but just because I also love minesweeper.

-Vopisk
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jmurph



Joined: 19 Oct 2006
Posts: 21
Location: Texas

PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But this seems to ignore the character's ingame abilities that should affect his ability to climb such as muscular strength, endurance, balance, agility, perception, etc. Why would a weak, overweight character climb more efficiently than a fit, well trained climber with a full rig just because the player is good at blackjack? That doesn't make any sense whatsoever. It's like having combat done via checkers without any accounting for relative skill, weapons, armor, etc. Highly abstracted and not consistent with detail oriented take that an RPG presents.

Of course, if the game is a puzzle game and not an RPG, it would keep the game theme. I guess I also don't see the fun factor- players who want to play blackjack will probably want and expect it at a casino or in an alley, not while tree climbing. And I don't know that players who want to climb trees will appreciate having to go through a round of cards.

How about having the game generate selections in rounds, with different selections having different risks. So you might be able to climb down, rest, grasp at a near branch, a far branch, or leap to a branch. Perception helps you notice if a branch is particularly strong or weak, agility helps with successfully climbing, strength helps you move further per effort, etc. Resting can help recover stamina (being fatigued would increase the likelihood of slipping or falling, which could be disastrous at higher elevation), climbing down exits the minigame (with or without a test for falling depending on how risky the game is to be). Riskier climbs yield faster progress, but at greater risk of failure and fatigue. An out of shape, unskilled climber probably shouldn't try to be Tarzan (heck, even a more experienced climber will likely be happy with slightly slower, but safe progress, unless there is a reason to need speed). On that note, perhaps speed is somewhat useful as you can disturb bugs or birds that will harass you if you don't hurry up and get far enough away from them.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply Jmurph, you shed some light on a couple of good points that I hadn't really thought of. Just what was needed for this.

You specifically make a good point about taking "character skill" into consideration. However, I think this point applies to not only "puzzle games" but also RPG's...

Obviously, in this case, we're talking about something different entirely than Blackjack, which is a fairly static card game, where your options are limited. What kind of "visual" implementation were you thinking of for your suggestion of multiple selections?

-Vopisk
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ide



Joined: 21 Feb 2006
Posts: 105
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For any other mud I would agree with jmurph, but one thing about GW II is that all the PCs are supernatural godlike creatures. So to a certain extent no one is going to have too much trouble climbing a tree. This game also complements the other minigames in GW II, that rely mostly on player skill and luck rather than the character's stats.

I've thought about this question off and on for the past few days too, and the first thing that popped into my head is that in your abstraction you want to account for two parameters -- the number of branches and their diameter. To make it easy you can say that all the branches will have the same diameter at a given elevation. So what you end up with is something like

Code:

Number        Diameter

 1                  6
 3                  4
 7                  3
12                  2


Of course this is where I hit a brick wall with the idea, but my general thought was that you could require players to assemble a pattern of successful 'moves', where they choose combinations of number and diameter, and some moves are successful and some are not...for some reason. Wink
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmurph wrote:
But this seems to ignore the character's ingame abilities that should affect his ability to climb such as muscular strength, endurance, balance, agility, perception, etc. Why would a weak, overweight character climb more efficiently than a fit, well trained climber with a full rig just because the player is good at blackjack? That doesn't make any sense whatsoever.


As Ide pointed out, you don't have weak overweight characters in my game - everyone is capable of climbing trees - and my minigames are specifically designed to rely on player skill rather than character skill anyway.

jmurph wrote:
I guess I also don't see the fun factor- players who want to play blackjack will probably want and expect it at a casino or in an alley, not while tree climbing. And I don't know that players who want to climb trees will appreciate having to go through a round of cards.


Blackjack was just one possibility that came to mind, but it could be anything. The point is to break up the monotony of quests by including various different games and puzzles that rely on player skill. These games don't need to be complex (Blackjack is pretty easy to play, for example), but they help add variety to the quests, so that you don't feel as if you're always doing exactly the same things over and over.

jmurph wrote:
How about having the game generate selections in rounds, with different selections having different risks. So you might be able to climb down, rest, grasp at a near branch, a far branch, or leap to a branch. Perception helps you notice if a branch is particularly strong or weak, agility helps with successfully climbing, strength helps you move further per effort, etc.


Breaking it into rounds might be an interesting option, but I don't want to include character stats - this is specifically intended to be a minigame that could in theory be played standalone. It's a intentional part of my game design that the players have to learn different skills in order to complete certain challenges.

I'm not looking for game mechanics to represent a character's climbing ability (although that could certainly make an interesting topic for another thread). What I'm looking for is a simple standalone game or puzzle that could be abstracted and cosmetically tweaked to represent climbing a tree.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hardly think that a "minigame" for climbing a tree is where you want to nitpick on reality anyway. I suppose (in a non-GW env.), you could take a certain amount of stamina away from the player based upon how well they did during that "round". Say the player got a blackjack (this is different from a 21) and the dealer busted, in that case, maybe they use less "stamina/endurance/action points" to make that move, which could be tied into their "endurance/stamina" skill/ability.

However, to accurately depict the act of climbing a tree one needs each tree to be modeled of branches of varying sizes and shrubbiness, have different properties for different types of bark and then of course, have different weight stress properties for certain types of wood. Then you have to start taking into consideration player strength versus weight, player dexterity versus accoutrement and so on and so forth. I wouldn't know where to even begin making that into a fun, quick, little game that gets added in as an additional feature.

I thoroughly support the blackjack idea, in a manner similar to what I discussed above. If you wanted to represent increasing difficulty as the player moved higher within the said tree, you could always weight the dealer's hand by adding some amount to their starting hand each time (ignoring it of course if the dealer gets a natural blackjack or would otherwise bust with the bonus).

More thoughts,

Vopisk
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've had some more thoughts about this, based on some of the input here, and here's what I've come up with:

A round lasts 30 seconds. In that time you have 2 options:

CLIMB: You draw a card. The mud describes you climbing that number of feet.

SECURE: You secure your position. You can do this as long as you haven't gone bust this turn, but it will prevent you climbing for the rest of the turn. The mud describes you hammering in a piton or tying your rope around a branch.

At the end of the 30 seconds, the mud calculates the dealer's hand and a new round begins. If the dealer wins or draws, nothing happens. If you beat the dealer, you scamper up the tree by an additional 1 foot for each point you won by - but only if you didn't secure at the end of the turn.

If you go bust, you immediately fall. You will fall twice the distance of your last secure point (or perhaps just back to your secure point, as it could be assumed you're able to quickly clamber back up the rope). If you have no secure point, you fall all the way back to the ground, taking damage as appropriate.

You win by climbing the number of feet required for the appropriate challenge.

The system might look like this:

> climb
You push your foot into a gap in the bark, easing yourself another eight feet up the tree.
(hand has a value of 8)

> climb
You reach to your left, using a series of small branches to clamber up another ten feet.
(hand has a value of 18)

> secure
You loop the end of your rope around a branch, and pull it tight.
(hand secured at 18)

...(a few seconds pass as the round comes to an end)
You flex your muscles, feeling ready to continue up the tree.

> climb
You leap to your right, grabbing hold of a branch and pulling yourself up another four feet.
(hand has a value of 4)

> climb
You reach up, pulling yourself hand over hand as you climb another nine feet.
(hand now has a value of 13)

> climb
You leap up, grabbing hold of a branch. The branch snaps beneath your weight!
(drew a 10, going bust)

The above is more geared towards races between players - for games where it's specifically supposed to be a challenge just to get up the tree, losing to the dealer should also knock you off.
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2007 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just in case you're not familiar with "house blackjack", that is, the kind you'd encounter in a casino, I think it blends the two together perfectly.

The tree should always represent the dealer, and as such, there should always be some degree of difficulty whereby, a player can fall down to their secure point (if they bust).

I'd imagine that in such a game, you wouldn't want the house (the tree) to bust, but also, you want difficulty to scale in proportion to the height of the tree. So what you do is assign a static difficulty modifier based on height, so perhaps at section A of the tree at a height between X and Y, the tree automatically starts out with a "9" let's say.

So, you then roll a random roll on the difference between 9 and 21 and determine the overall difficulty of the tree at that height. The player then has to meet or beat that figure in their hand and the game progresses as you detailed.

The players should be able to bust: they reach out their hand too far or their foot slips and they fall down (perhaps on some scale based upon how far they missed/busted by, or to their safe spot if that is higher up the tree than where they would fall to).

So two players would compete more in a foot race of going up the tree as fast as possible and whoever made it to the top would win (much like a blackjack tournament held in a casino where he who has the most chips at the end wins).

The only problem I could see is that each player would face a different difficulty at each "height" or round as it were, whereas in a casino, both players are playing their hand against the dealer at the same time. Perhaps the "tree difficulty" roll is always shared, no matter where at a player is on the tree. So while high up, a tree roll of 1 might mean the player needs a 19 or better to advance, lower down this might mean they only need to get 8 or better.

This might also be good to "handicap" for players who fall or get a string of bad luck, they can make up ground quicker at the lower levels and you can keep the competition close.

The problem I see here developing is which point do you decide to make the tree roll from? Let's say player Bob is at a tree-height difficulty area of 12 and player Tod is at a tree-height difficulty of 6, you can see, that depending on which one you choose, you would be making a large roll in one way or another. I would suggest the higher, and prevent difficulty from ever scaling too high where the roll would be something like one or two points, preventing it from overly handicapping the system.

But I guess that's something that you would have to work out once the design is implemented, in the balancing phase.

Further thoughts based upon your more thoughts,

-Vopisk
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2007 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The tree should always represent the dealer, and as such, there should always be some degree of difficulty whereby, a player can fall down to their secure point (if they bust).


I'd probably be tempted to treat the dealer as something more abstract, representing not just the tree (or cliff face), but also any other elements that might work against the climber (the Fates, or Lady Luck, if you like). I guess weather and lighting could be handled separately (it would be particularly difficult to climb during a thunderstorm at night, for example), but any factors not explicitly supported by the mud could be implicitly represented by the dealer.

Also note that my more recent proposal allows players a guaranteed way to climb without a chance of falling, although they will climb more slowly than those who take risks. Although this wouldn't work so well for situations where climbing the tree is the challenge, I think it can add a fun twist to competitive activities where players are trying to beat each other to the top. If you were to fall simply from the dealer beating you, you would be forced to take many more chances, which would make the game far more luck-based.

Quote:
I'd imagine that in such a game, you wouldn't want the house (the tree) to bust, but also, you want difficulty to scale in proportion to the height of the tree. So what you do is assign a static difficulty modifier based on height, so perhaps at section A of the tree at a height between X and Y, the tree automatically starts out with a "9" let's say.

So, you then roll a random roll on the difference between 9 and 21 and determine the overall difficulty of the tree at that height. The player then has to meet or beat that figure in their hand and the game progresses as you detailed.


Interesting idea, although I'm not sure I'd mind the tree going bust - it would simply mean there was no difficulty involved (i.e., a clear patch of easy climbing). Perhaps you even get to see the dealer's "hand" before you make your own actions, allowing you to see the difficulty involved for the current round?

Here's another variation on my proposal, using some of your new ideas:

Each round of climbing lasts 30 seconds. At the beginning of the round, the dealer draws a hand, representing the difficulty for this round - however this difficulty gets a modifier depending on how far up the tree you've gone (perhaps in the range -5 to +5, although the modifier cannot take the hand over 20). If the dealer goes bust, the difficulty is 0 (although positive modifiers will still apply, so in the hardest leg of the climb the bust difficulty would be 5).

Once the difficulty is established you have three options:

CLIMB UP: You can draw one or more cards.
CLIMB SIDEWAYS: You do not draw any cards this turn (you're looking for a better place to climb).
CLIMB DOWN: You draw one card, and move that number of feet back down.

If you attempt to climb up, and go bust, you fall off the tree. If you fail to exceed the difficulty, you make no further progress up the tree, and must try again next turn against the same difficulty. If you fail the difficulty by more than 5, you are truly stuck, and must climb down the next turn. If you exceed the difficulty, you climb up that number of feet.

You may choose to climb sideways instead of climbing up. You make no progress this turn, but next turn the difficulty will be rerolled. However you cannot climb sideways again until you've successfully climbed up, or climbed down.

Finally, you may choose to climb down. You draw a card a move that number of feet back down the tree, but the difficulty is then rerolled for next turn.

As well as the climb options, you can also secure as described in my previous post.
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jmurph



Joined: 19 Oct 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2007 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I guess I should get more familiar with the genre before I reply next time Embarassed .
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Vopisk



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2007 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
Perhaps you even get to see the dealer's "hand" before you make your own actions, allowing you to see the difficulty involved for the current round?


I like this idea, but in keeping with the entire "blackjack" idea, perhaps you should only be able to see part of the dealer's hand (i.e. keep the hole card "covered"). This allows the players to have some general sense of what they're aiming for, while still leaving some random element of chance that will inspire players to still take risks.

After all, you can never really know if that branch or hand/foothold is going to hold your weight until you actually try it.

With that said, I think that the system is definitely starting to take shape. It seems to me at least, that most of the bases have been covered.

The ability to climb if one wishes without a fear of falling (albeit far slower) is a good one (assuming the player has a rope and/or climbing gear on their person?). Those players going for broke might try and get up the tree as fast as possible, but the old moral of the tortoise and the hare might come into play.

I like your most recent suggestion of having to keep facing the same round until you "beat" that portion of the tree. This to me seems a lot like real climbing, where you might pursue one course only to realize it is an impossible climb and need to move backwards/sideways in order to find a way to advance.

Not many new ideas there I guess, but just some thoughts upon first waking up.

-Vopisk
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Kelson



Joined: 18 May 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
Once the difficulty is established you have three options:

CLIMB UP: You can draw one or more cards.
CLIMB SIDEWAYS: You do not draw any cards this turn (you're looking for a better place to climb).
CLIMB DOWN: You draw one card, and move that number of feet back down.


The optimal strategy for blackjack, with these rules, is for your first card to be an Ace or less than ten, followed by a card that adds to eleven. Below 12, the player can't bust on the next draw. Above 10, the player has the opportunity to hit 21. Thus the player could easily create a bot that basically does the following...

Parse Reply => (You climb 7 feet) => +7
Send Climb Up
Parse Reply => (You climb 6 feet) => +13
Send Climb Down
Parse Reply => (You climb 4 feet) => +9
Send Climb Up
Parse Reply => (You climb 10 feet) => +19
Send Climb Down
Parse Reply => (You climb 8 feet) => +11
Send Climb Up
Parse Reply => (You climb 10 feet) => +21
Wait for next round

All the bot does is aim for precisely 11 before working on a 10. One way to mitigate this approach is placing an ~5 second climb lag on each move; that'd ensure at most 6 moves / turn and require a bit more probabilistic moving strategy (ie, if we have +12 after 5 moves, just climb up - don't go down since we can't take another move).

Interesting idea overall.
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