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SCS v32 and the difficulty slider


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#1 DavidW

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Posted 21 October 2018 - 04:48 PM

SCS v32 is now feature-complete, and I'm hoping to get it out in the next few weeks. Mostly to fill time while I'm doing install checks, I thought I'd discuss a few of the new features.

One of the big changes in v32 is that it makes really extensive use of the difficulty slider, which I pretty much ignored in earlier versions. This is something I've wanted to do for ages, but couldn't until both ToBEx and the EE allowed the hardcoded features of the slider (extra damage, saving throw modifiers, that sort of thing) to be turned off.

SCS relabels the five difficulty modes as BASIC, IMPROVED, TACTICAL, HARDCORE and INSANE. They have in-game descriptions, but roughly speaking:

- BASIC is roughly equal to the original game's AI, with a few rough corners smoothed off.
- IMPROVED is SCS-lite: most of SCS's intelligence, but a lot of restraint as to what powers and spells get used
- TACTICAL is SCS v30 towards the lower end of its difficulty settings: some but not too much prebuffing, no extra hit points for dragons, etc
- HARDCORE is around what a full install of SCS v30 looks like (and is roughly my own preferred difficulty)
- INSANE is pretty much a full-on no-holds-barred install of SCSv30, including options that I don't really use myself.

Pretty much all the difficulty options that you could choose at install time on v30 are now controlled this way. Because you might want different settings on different components, there's an innate power (I call it a "difficulty widget") granted to your character that lets you override the difficulty slider on a component-by-component basis (so that you might want dragons on INSANE, mages on HARDCORE and mage buffing on IMPROVED, say). If you don't want to use the difficulty widget, you can do this override directly from the console too. (There are also some hidden difficulty settings that you can only access within the difficulty widget - if you want all archmages to get HLAs, for instance, that's difficulty 7.)

There are various reasons for doing this:

(i) it simplifies my install process very substantially, and lets me fine-tune the difficulty options for a creature without having too much install-option bloat.
(ii) it makes decisions about difficulty level less irrevocable for players. I often read accounts of people's experience with SCS where they like some bits but find others too hard work. Now they can tweak this in a matter of monents during play, rather than needing to spend hours reinstalling.
(iii) it makes it easier to support the wide range of difficulty preferences. Case in point: some people like to play SCS with every archmage getting HLAs, and so that's a valid install option in v30, but it's also a brutally difficult option, and it's easy for other players to install it without realising how difficult it is. By gating content like this behind a very high difficulty setting, I think I do a better job of communicating to players what to expect.
(iv) it gives me the option to support players who are intimidated by SCS difficulty but who might still like some of the lighter-touch bits of SCS's AI - smarter calls for help, say, or willingness to use a different range of spells, or to use the Spell Revisions spell system.

#2 AstroBryGuy

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Posted 21 October 2018 - 06:01 PM

Sounds awesome!  :thumbsup:



#3 subtledoctor

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Posted 21 October 2018 - 06:18 PM

Veeeery interesting.  Does this mean the dumb vanilla difficulty options - enemies do 50% more damage, or enemies do 25% less damage, etc. - will be unavailable to players?  I.e. is SCS now going to completely commandeer the difficulty slider?

 

And if the answer to that is yes, does that mean something like the old "Core" difficulty option (or some other one) is now going to be the default set of rules that underlies all five SCS difficulty options?


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#4 DavidW

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Posted 21 October 2018 - 08:46 PM

Veeeery interesting.  Does this mean the dumb vanilla difficulty options - enemies do 50% more damage, or enemies do 25% less damage, etc. - will be unavailable to players?  I.e. is SCS now going to completely commandeer the difficulty slider?

And if the answer to that is yes, does that mean something like the old "Core" difficulty option (or some other one) is now going to be the default set of rules that underlies all five SCS difficulty options?

By default, yes, but you can change the default if you want.

On EE, reactivating the old difficulty system is just a matter of toggling a control. On vanilla, it's an install-time option controlled via stratagems.ini.

#5 Ardanis

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 01:24 AM

Sounds a lot like how difficulty is treated in SoD - very limited spell/item/ability usage on easy, partial prebuffing and more spells on normal, full prebuffing and all spells including Fireballs on core, with some select per-encounter improvements on hard and insane.

 

Also, SoD makes extensive use of difficulty slider to control the number of enemies you encounter, e.g. more grunts on core and an extra mage on insane, and finally allows AI to target AoE damage without hitting its allies. Are these things making their way into v32?


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#6 Bartimaeus

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 01:54 AM

Will there be a way to set your individualized settings without having to use the widget for every new game? I frequently reinstall and restart for various reasons: it'd be nice to not have to use this "widget" every time, even if it's just an externalized ini or something.



#7 Ardanis

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 02:28 AM

If I understand correctly, the "widget" is a dialog file where you can select desired options. Should be simple to find all the variables you need and put them into new "my setup" option you can install/copy over SCS' file.


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#8 shadow85

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 02:41 AM

Is this all good to use with Ascension?

 

I want a real challenge



#9 subtledoctor

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 07:14 AM

The ONLY thing I don't love about this is that it sounds like it adds an unremovable icon to the innate abilities bar, which already has a tendency to fill up with a lot of stuff.  In an ideal world where everyone listens to me ( ;) ) I would prefer this to operate via an item.  That way I can equip it, use the item ability to change difficulty options, and then tuck it safely away* and ignore it until such time as I want to use it again.

 

Maybe a potion? Potion bags are easy to get, right?  Or a belt? 


Faiths & Powers: Spell spheres and kit pack for priests and paladins
Might & Guile: Tweaks and kits for warriors and rogues
Scales of Balance: Game tweaks and rule overhauls
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#10 Bartimaeus

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 07:22 AM

Definitely agree with SD, but I was already going to mod it out myself anyways and didn't think to mention it.

If I understand correctly, the "widget" is a dialog file where you can select desired options. Should be simple to find all the variables you need and put them into new "my setup" option you can install/copy over SCS' file.


Yeah, worst case scenario, I'll just have to look through the dialogue itself and find the variables.

Edited by Bartimaeus, 22 October 2018 - 07:23 AM.


#11 DavidW

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 07:58 AM

The ONLY thing I don't love about this is that it sounds like it adds an unremovable icon to the innate abilities bar, which already has a tendency to fill up with a lot of stuff.

- Click on the icon
- Select "Remove the difficulty control from my Special Abilities."
- Control the difficulty either by 'C:CreateCreature("dw#diffi")' or directly through the difficulty variables.

(I find objects more immersion-breaking than special abilities.)
 
 

Yeah, worst case scenario, I'll just have to look through the dialogue itself and find the variables.


You really think I could be bothered to have coded the dialog manually?

Variables are all in stratagems/lib/difficulty_controls.2da, in basically-human-readable form. The dialog gets autogenerated from that file at install time. At the moment I don't support overriding via .ini but you can probably just put them in your CLUA default.

#12 DavidW

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 08:00 AM

Sounds a lot like how difficulty is treated in SoD - very limited spell/item/ability usage on easy, partial prebuffing and more spells on normal, full prebuffing and all spells including Fireballs on core, with some select per-encounter improvements on hard and insane.

Very much like that.

Also, SoD makes extensive use of difficulty slider to control the number of enemies you encounter, e.g. more grunts on core and an extra mage on insane, and finally allows AI to target AoE damage without hitting its allies. Are these things making their way into v32?

AoE targeting, yes: I do that on any difficulty above Easiest. Enemy numbers, mostly no: I've mostly implemented difficulty sliding in the AI part of SCS, not the tactical-challenge part, and there's not much scope there. But it shows up in a couple of places: most importantly, random spawns are tied to the slider.

#13 Ardanis

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 08:51 AM

 

The ONLY thing I don't love about this is that it sounds like it adds an unremovable icon to the innate abilities bar, which already has a tendency to fill up with a lot of stuff.

- Click on the icon
- Select "Remove the difficulty control from my Special Abilities."
- Control the difficulty either by 'C:CreateCreature("dw#diffi")' or directly through the difficulty variables.

(I find objects more immersion-breaking than special abilities.)

 

You can also bind it to hotkey. This is from Player1's SoD script:

IF
  HotKey(B)
  OR(2)
     INI("QAMODE",1)
     Global("BD_QAMODE","global",1)
THEN
  RESPONSE #100
    ActionOverride(Player1,StartDialogOverride("bddebug",Myself))
END

It does require a script assigned to Player1, though it may or may not be possible to TriggerOverride(Player1,HotKey(X)) from baldur.bcs.


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#14 subtledoctor

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 09:45 AM

Eh, I play on a tablet, so no hotkeys for me.  And no console.  And limited screen real-estate (remember that?), thus my ever-present concern about innate ability cruft. 

 

Being able to remove it after using it sounds fine, though.


Faiths & Powers: Spell spheres and kit pack for priests and paladins
Might & Guile: Tweaks and kits for warriors and rogues
Scales of Balance: Game tweaks and rule overhauls
NPC_EE: More options for NPCs in BGEE, SoD, & BG2EE


#15 Bartimaeus

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 09:52 AM

...I imagine party AI scripts are an absolute requirement on tablet?



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