The Problem with Traps
This section is mostly a background to traps in roguelikes, if you just want to read about the changes I’ve made in TGGW you can skip to the next section.
Traps are a common but lately quite controversial feature of most roguelikes. Traps in roguelikes have been standard for a very long time. The reason they have become controversial is that during this time both players and developers have realized the problems with how they are usually implemented.
In games in which you search for traps (e.g., Nethack, Angband) it becomes a chore to search for them (and searching for them almost all the time is optimal). In games where you cannot search for traps (e.g., DCSS, TGGW), it is still optimal to try to retrace your steps as to avoid stepping on a square you didn’t previously step on since it may contain a trap. This is also tedious, not very fun, and doesn’t involve any clever tactics. In fact, trap reforms are being discussed within the communities of major roguelikes such as DCSS and Angband.
In TGGW, traps have also gone through a series of changes to make them more interesting and less random. For example: you have a chance to avoid their effect (avoid traps) and if a trap is exposed you can pick it up and use it against monsters.
However… the main problem remains: traps discourages exploring and the use of autorun. It makes you think about taking the exact path back as you came from and to avoid taking doors you haven’t opened yet.
That said, I still think traps has a place in TGGW. The risk of getting bad inflictions even without fighting is interesting, and caring about an attribute to lower this chance is also interesting. Removing traps altogether is not something I want to do. Instead…
Make Traps Visible
A few months ago I experimented with making traps fully visible just to see how it would play out. At first it felt a bit weird and pointless, but after a while I realized I liked it very much. Some interesting consequences:
- Room traps. Traps in rooms are very easily avoidable when they are fully visible. However, they are both fun and useful now. It is easy to lure a monster to walk into it. Even if the trap won’t trigger, it will instead be exposed and for you to pick up.
- Corridor and door traps. Corridor and door traps block your way forward (unless you are flying or have an alternative door). You can take an informed decision to try to disarm it (with the risk of triggering it) or leave it alone for now. This decision is much more interesting than randomly walking into a trap. The trap may very well block your way to the stairs making it necessary to eventually try to disarm it. In this way traps still keep some of its threat.
- Container traps. Trapped containers are interesting because they provide you with a trade-off. Is it worth for your character to open this particular container at this point given your current attributes, health etc? Sure, you don’t know what the trap is or what the container contains, but it is more interesting than leaving all containers alone just because you are afraid of traps.
Traps in your field of vision are immediately revealed and will stay visible and remembered, but only if you are in exploring mode. If you enter an area in combat mode, the traps stay hidden. This is to simulate that you don’t have the focus on trying to find traps when you fight. This means that walking around in unknown territory while fighting is still a bad idea and may cause you to step in a hidden trap without a chance to disarm it first.
Won’t this make the game much easier? Well, yes. Visible traps certainly decreases the amount of traps you trigger over all, and luring monsters into visible traps certainly helps. This has been compensated for by increasing the number of traps on doors and good containers (mainly chests).
So isn’t it very illogical that all traps are visible? I mean, the idea of a trap is that it should be hidden so that it triggers on unsuspecting victims! Well.. the unnamed hero that fell underground does not seem to be an ordinary goof. He can already fight with a range of weapons, identify magic potions and scrolls just by spending some time and energy on it. Clearly the stupid monsters are not very good at hiding traps, and our hero is a very perceptive fellow. The traps are meant to be hidden, but as long as the character have some time to investigate, he will quickly notice the poorly hidden traps. There.