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Professor Tio
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icon Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+5)  
I'm introducing someone to DROD and they ask me about the difficulty of the series, but not on a 1-10 scale. I've never really been good with gauging difficulty plus I haven't played everything yet, so I dunno if I'm overestimating or underestimating in some spots. Help, I guess?
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Also I realize my wording's a little odd here, when I said "optional" I meant like secrets and such that are necessary for a 100%.

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03-01-2019 at 04:10 PM
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Insoluble
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+3)  
Oh man. This is a super interesting question and one I've thought about a ton. I even ran a contest at one point the sole purpose of which was to try to get an idea of how to rate difficulty. I think the main conclusion I've drawn is that using a numeric ranking scale to rate difficulty is a pretty flawed method, and you're never going to get a satisfying result from it.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The main one is that difficulty isn't a one dimensional thing. There are different kinds of difficulty in DROD holds. Back in the AE days when the first user holds were coming out, a lot of the difficulty was execution based. Difficulty was more a matter of endurance. You had super long horde rooms and the difficulty came more from making small decisions about specific moves over the course of a 1000 move room. These days, a lot more of the difficulty comes from knowledge of the interactions and being able to think through their implications. The difficulty is more in reasoning out the correct overall approach to the room.

I think the community on the whole actually doesn't use KDD as a benchmark for difficulty these days for this very reason. KDD has a kind of difficulty that just ins' very comparable to the kind of difficulty in TSS. There's some overlap sure, but for the most part they don't fit on the same scale.

Te other big problem with trying to put difficulty on a one dimensional numerical scale is that it's very subjective. Because there are different kinds of difficulty and different kinds of players, not everyone is going to rank holds in the same order in terms of difficulty. I may find One hold to be dramatically harder than another where you find it to be much easier.

I think the best solution is to try to use qualitative descriptions for describing difficulty whenever possible. "Yeah, of the main holds, I think the first two (KDD and JtRH) are about equivalent in difficulty. It took me X amount of time to work through them. They start off fairly basic, but there are some very exacting horde rooms later on in both of them that required a lot of time strategically working out the best approach to dispatching all the monsters. The fifth game focuses a lot more on big picture puzzle solving and has some really devious puzzles that ask you to logically apply the tools you have to de-tangle an intricate knot of interactions." I dont't know if that's what the person asking was looking for, but I feel like that's going to be more informative than any numeric answer ever could.

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03-01-2019 at 04:55 PM
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Pearls
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+3)  
We need one of those pentagram plots.

Manipulation.
Linchpin.
Efficiency/Horde Management.
Length.
Something.

Edit.

Now I'm going overboard, thinking about overlapping pentaplots. One for "proportion of the hold is this" with "and how hard that thing is." KDD is lots of horde manipulation, but it's pretty manageable. Low Linchpin. TCB is lots of both, and both fairly harder. Perfection is mostly linchpin, lots of efficiency, some horde, but those horde rooms are brutal.

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[Last edited by Pearls at 03-01-2019 05:30 PM]
03-01-2019 at 05:20 PM
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Insoluble
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+2)  
quote:
Pearls wrote:
We need one of those pentagram plots.

Manipulation.
Linchpin.
Efficiency/Horde Management.
Length.
Something.


I would actually totally get behind something like this. Like, for reals. I've spent a lot of time informally categorizing different kinds of DROD difficulty in my head and have categories pretty similar to the ones you listed. Maybe "Something" = could be "Parsing the room"? That's one I've encountered a lot recently.

Another way to break things down is in terms of granularity. Like, at one end of the spectrum you have diffiuclty of deciding each individual turn (Specific monster manipulation). You can decrease the granularity through horde rooms and "order of operations" rooms where sequences of moves and "chunks" of the room are what you need to figure out to the other end of the spectrum where the difficulty is in figuring out an overarching approach to the whole room.

Any way. I'm going to go try to make one of those pentagram thingys for the official holds now instead of doing the work I was supposed to be doing. THANKS PEARLS!

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03-01-2019 at 05:35 PM
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Pearls
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (0)  
You'd think as a statistician i'd know what they're actually called but NOPE.

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03-01-2019 at 05:40 PM
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Pearls
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+1)  
"Parsing the room" is probably my favorite kind of puzzle.

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03-01-2019 at 05:44 PM
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Professor Tio
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+1)  
quote:
Pearls wrote:
"Parsing the room" is probably my favorite kind of puzzle.

Analysis?

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Random DROD RPG Score-Point Sheet Template I quickly created if you wanna easily keep track of all your individual score-points in a hold! Score-Sheet Template
03-01-2019 at 05:46 PM
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+4)  
I forgot to check with my boss, but I'm sure she would say that this is exactly what I should be spending my time on during work hours. Anyway, I don't 100% agree with all the ratings I gave below, this is more of a proof of concept. I'd have to spend some time revisiting some of these holds as I haven't played some of them in a while.


quote:
Pearls wrote:
"Parsing the room" is probably my favorite kind of puzzle.


You should play TinyTall Tower.

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03-01-2019 at 05:57 PM
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Nuntar
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+2)  
Neat diagrams :thumbsup I mostly agree with your ratings, except that for the official holds in particular there's an additional consideration: they might have different ratings depending on whether you play them in order, and therefore each hold is your first introduction to the elements it contains. For instance, TCB introducing pressure plates, lighting and arrow rotators for the first time would give it a rather higher "parsing" rating :P and KDD would have a higher "manipulation" rating than JtRH, for being the first introduction to goblins.

* * *

About 12 years ago, I wrote an FAQ for Repton 3 that rated all the levels by difficulty on a 1-10 scale. Then when I went on to consider the sequels, to be consistent with my earlier ratings, I had to go up to 12, and eventually 15. And then usermade levels pushed the bounds still further ;) Similarly (going back to the original post), if you're going to rank the peak of TSS's difficulty as 21 out of 25, that doesn't leave much room for rating The Room of Humility, Gigantic Jewel Lost, Tarstuff Horticulture Facility....

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03-01-2019 at 06:16 PM
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Professor Tio
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+3)  
Right, valid point about those holds. I figured I had overshot that...

Also, what about implementing the pentagon chart idea for RPG holds? I think I kinda have an idea for the categories that could go into that:
- Major Gates (such as the Goblin King on Tendry's Tale - 4th Rule. I think it was 4th, right?)
- Resource Management
- Optimizations
- Mini-Puzzles (mimic movement, tarstuff removal, etc.)
- General Curve

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Hold stuff I guess!
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My personal mindset about making holds is to create puzzles that provide a challenge for beginners, but still serve as fun little exercises for veterans.

Random DROD RPG Score-Point Sheet Template I quickly created if you wanna easily keep track of all your individual score-points in a hold! Score-Sheet Template

[Last edited by Professor Tio at 03-01-2019 06:56 PM : Clarifications]
03-01-2019 at 06:54 PM
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Dragon Fogel
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+2)  
Oh man, I've actually had thoughts about dimensions of difficulty before.

What I came up with was, basically:

-Combat (mostly defined as "risk of dying")
-Linchpin (where the difficulty is in figuring out some key step you need to do to beat the room)
-Manipulation (you have to lead a monster around for some reason, and this is a measure of how hard it is to do so)
-Constraint (where there's some limitation on your standard abilities, such as not being allowed to turn or having to work on a turn limit, or just not being able to move to a particular place because it traps an eye)

But I guess that's only four things so you can't do a pentagon with it.
03-01-2019 at 07:05 PM
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Dying Flutchman
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+2)  
It's called a radar chart or spider chart, BTW. Works for any number of dimensions > 2 :)

However, from a data visualization point of view, they are seriously flawed. That's because it's virtually impossible to compare magnitudes encoded in (circle) radii. Our brains can't decide if surface area of the chart or distance from the center is the magnitude of the effect. For the same reason, it does not really work to encode information like population of cities in variously sized circles drawn on the map.

Best to use a good old bar graph for these types of comparisons, or even more basic (and better!) a simple table with scores for each aspect.

[/ data snob modus]

What was the topic of this discussion again? :)

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[Last edited by Dying Flutchman at 03-01-2019 10:59 PM]
03-01-2019 at 10:58 PM
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+1)  

A hold idea I had way back when involved levels based on puzzles of different types, and my categories were:

* Hack and Slash
* Timers
* Manipulation
* Constraints

They also roughly fit a secondary theme. Timers being a subset of constraints is a convincing idea though. Although I'm not sure what I'd replace it with.

03-02-2019 at 02:41 AM
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navithmastero
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+2)  
Very interesting topic for sure!

I'd actually disagree with having horde management as a measure of difficulty. I think it is just a more specific form of execution difficulty. If you look at the ten hardest holds on CNet (these are rated very high brains presumably because they are hard in all aspects of a room), not all of them include horde management rooms. On the other hand, they all include lynchpins, monster manipulation/execution and parsing difficulties to some extent (hence I would also say length isn't a factor in difficulty). I think this is shown as as soon as a hold expects you to do stuff like forcing a single serpent west it is usually considered on the harder end of things and this is manipulation of just a single monster.

Essentially if you were to try and create a ten-brain hold, the rooms *must* contain at least some level of lynchpinnery, monster manipulation and parsing, but doesn't necessarily have to include hordes, and thus hordes aren't a fundamental part of difficulty.

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03-02-2019 at 09:57 AM
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Chaco
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icon Re: Gauging Difficulties without the Brain System (+2)  
I would 100% agree with navithmastero: horde-based holds such as Lone Soldier, Fun Park or The Underground Civilisation have hordes that are so difficult to beat in a straight-up fight that you actually have to revert to puzzle-solving mode and make a holistic plan in order to beat them - whether it be observing extra details about the room, figuring out what areas to prioritize, or taking advantage of monster movement foibles to secure a tactical advantage that makes a strategic advantage even possible.

--

As a brief aside, I should mention that it is possible to sort holds from highest user-rated to lowest user-rated difficulty, but that function is only available on the DROD.net site rather than the Caravel site. It's also not possible to sort by *architect-rated* difficulty at all.

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03-02-2019 at 07:39 PM
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