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Author Topic: Let's Talk About The Hacker  (Read 10957 times)

Chocolate Pi

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Let's Talk About The Hacker
« on: July 02, 2013, 12:26:14 PM »
Hey guys, I'm Chocolate Pi aka Thinkaman.  As of this post, I have the second highest single player Life of Crime score, and the top-rated editor level.  Like all arrogant celebrities, I want to use this dubious authority to preach about an issue that is important to me.

Let's have some Real Talk™ about the Hacker.

CHAPTER 1: Hacker 101, with T-Rex






CHAPTER 2: Objectively Speaking, The Hacker Sucks

Why is the Hacker the worst character in Monaco, for every possible usage of the word worst?  Let us count the ways:

1) Power outlets are aesthetically lame.

The Hacker is supposed to be a wizard with computers, the guy who pulls something out of his pocket that was probably stolen from the NSA.  Sticking crap in power outlets?  That's not a scene from Ocean's Eleven, that's a scene from The Hangover 5.

Every character in Monaco has a cool and sexy power except the Hacker, who gets to lick power outlets instead.

2) Random outlets are frustrating and don't make any sense.

The guy in the back stands up and yells "Video games aren't supposed to be realistic!" Thanks for the insight bro, but that's not the problem we're talking about.

Players like it when game mechanics make sense and consistent within their world, even if they aren't consistent with the real one.  That's why Monaco guards all have short-term memory loss, but don't randomly turn into elephants and start shooting homing railguns at you.

New players I surveyed expressed confusion at the fact that power outlets move, particularly because no other interact-able object behaves in this way.

3) Random outlets make the Hacker the most random character.

In Monaco, loot and NPC spawn points are randomized.  There are pros and cons to this;  I feel the pros definitely outweigh the cons, and the developers seem to agree. What makes it cool is how every character has unique tools that allow them to adapt to different loot and NPC conditions directly.

Except the Hacker.

So okay, the Hacker doesn't specialize in loot or NPCs, and he gets screwed over by the randomness of those things a little more than the other characters; that's not the end of the world.

The issue is that the Hacker also has to deal with a third source of randomness unique to him--one way bigger than loot or NPCs.

The Hacker has to get a really good outlet spawn to be dubiously equal to the other characters.  So... why bother?

4) Having No Hacks And No Outlets Feels Like This:



No other character loses access to their special advantages and becomes situationally useless.  This miserable player experience is confined exclusively to the Hacker.

5) Successfully Getting A Ton Of Hacks Going At Once Is Anticlimactic

Getting 4 or 5 hacks going at once feels super cool--for about 2 seconds.

"Ahaha, I am a modern warlock, a technological demigod!  None shall--OH CRAP, A CIVILIAN IS COMING!  How did they know my one weakness?!?"

All the other characters feel awesome when they excel at their specialy, whether it's a Cleaner taking down a half dozen guys in a a row, or a Mole who dug an epic tunnel.  The Hacker feels like "Uh, now what?"

6) The Hacker Is Statistically The Worst Character On The Leaderboard.  By A Lot.

The only Hacker top-10 score in all of 1-player Locksmith's story is on Hotel, where he is one of the only 4 characters to select.  And he even then only has 1 score.

Across all of 1-player Pickpocket's story, Hacker is part of only 6 top-ten scores.  Most of these are 10th; the only high placing one is my own Pearls Before Swine time. (Where I used him as a disposable lead.)

The Hacker is not used even once in any multiplayer top-10 score, even though multiplayer scores on average use more characters!

The characters should not be balanced purely around speedrun times, but the data is still a valuable indicator of an underlying problem.  I surveyed several inexperienced players after looking at this data, and found universal agreement that the Hacker was "lame", "weak", and "never better than anyone else."  Two players I talked to expressed that they didn't finish the game, because they wanted to play Hacker but he didn't seem good enough!

The Hacker is statistically speaking, total garbage.  As far as high scores go, he is used less than one-eighth as much as the second-least used character. (Cleaner)

INTERMISSION: Happy Puppy Fun Fact Time

This is Toby:



Fun facts about Toby:
  • Toby is only a few months old, but already loves to run!
  • Toby is a picky eater, but will always eat anything with beef.
  • One time, a butterfly landed on Toby's nose, and he sneezed!
  • Toby was part of a six pup litter; all boys, and they all look almost identical!
  • Every time a power outlet spawns next to ladder, an angry lumberjack throws one of Toby's brothers into a meat grinder.

Anyway, back to Monaco.

CHAPTER 3: A Day In The Life Of The Hacker

Alright, so the Hacker is statistically about as useful as Nokia N-Gage.  We get it.

So what?!  We all know that statistics are the pawns of <ENEMY POLITICAL PARTY HERE> and should be fully ignored.  Just because truth, science, and objective reasoning says the Hacker sucks, doesn't mean I can't have fun with him!

Ergo, my quest: I will make a solo Hacker run on the second half of Pickpocket's story.  By doing so, I will prove to all the haters that he is at least passably mediocre!

So I started on Hospital.  The Hacker has a little trouble getting through the first floor, but there's a great place early on for him to showcase his talents:



Oh.  The outlets spawned behind the door, making my character useless.  Oh well, you win some, you lose some, right? 





What in the name of Sam Hill's bowling pants is going on here?

Modern science has yet to invent profanity strong enough to describe the level of absolute bullcrap we are faced with here.  We will be forced to make some up:

Grafnack jit-blowing barcusfart.



Next level.  Wait, where are all the outlets?



Oh, there's one.  Great.  Fantastic.  Super duper.

Oh well, maybe on the next floor there will--



You've got to be kidding me.



GRAFNACK JIT-BLOWING BARCUSFART.



Well fine.  Maybe I didn't want to go through that door anyway.  I'll just go around the other side to the ladder and--





Whatever.  The Hacker's abilities aren't the most useful in the nightclub.  The diamond district, however, is his time to shine--especially in the basement.















Finally!  Maybe my character will actually get to do something before PETA sends in a SWAT team.



Oh, hell no.

Zero useable outlets.  Zero.  At least the ground level can't be any worse.



Wait.  Zero outlets?  At all?  How is this possible?



I stand corrected.

Time for Pearls Before Swine, the Hacker's best level!  As long as he gets outlets in a semi-decent position, he can--







How can there be no outlets on this half of the palace?



...wait, there are no outlets on this half either?  Where the hell--



Oh.  Fantastic.  At least--







GEE IT SURE WOULD BE NICE TO GET PAST THESE LASERS SO I COULD GET TO THE OUTLETS SO I COULD GET PAST THESE LASERS.





Okay, final level for this run:



Cute.  Adorable, even.



Where are my outlets?



NO SERIOUSLY WHERE ARE THEY, AHHHHHH THE DOGS--WHERE'S THAT LUMBERJACK WHEN YOU NEED HIM



Ok.  I'm done.  No more.  I'm just done.

CHAPTER 4: A Day In The Life Of The Mole

Since that was a disaster, I decided to play some Mole runs instead.  The Mole is a vastly superior character to the Hacker, primarily because he doesn't have to deal with--



..........................................



..........................................



..........................................



CHAPTER 5: The Solution

I'd like to propose something super elegant:

Scrap power outlets entirely.  Give the Hacker a pet hack that he always has and never dies.

It solves everything.  It requires no changes to existing levels.  It is built 95% on pre-existing code.  It is easy and quick to prototype and QA.  Make sure it doesn't die with distance, make sure it comes back after EMP/breakers, and we're good to go.

It fits Monaco's existing design patterns like a glove.  Unlike the current Hacker, who sticks out like a sore thumb.

It makes the Hacker sexy.  No more licking power outlets.  It gives him a more clearly defined team role that is always active and never taken away.

It stops the Mole from getting screwed over.  Unlike adding more power outlets, which pees in the Mole's oatmeal and laughs at him.

It makes the Hacker a lot stronger--dangerously stronger even.  But there's no way this will make him better on average than the Pickpocket, so what are we worried about?  He's going to get through handprint doors easily?  Redhead already does that.

It lets the Hacker be a candidate for speedruns.  Instead of being a huge gamble for zero benefit, he will become an interesting option to consider.

It will make the mid-game a little easier for new players, especially those who like to take it slow and have trouble with lasers.  An upgraded Hacker who doesn't have to rush will help a lot of inexperienced players make it through levels like Palace I, which is currently a steep jump in difficulty.

It makes Identity speedrun options vastly less luck-based.  I had to start Identity over 50 times before I could get a starting spawn good enough to start with Cleaner/Hacker.  Identity already has a ton of NPC spawn luck, no need to compound it with something else.

It stops the senseless slaughter of Toby's family by that angry lumberjack.  This is just a win-win all around.

The only remaining question is: What funny and endearing name will his pet hack have? This matters.

CONCLUSION

Monaco rocks, the Hacker sucks, but could be awesome.  Thanks for reading, and happy heisting!

(Unless you are rVII, in which case stay the hell away from my scoreboard times.)
« Last Edit: July 02, 2013, 12:51:30 PM by Chocolate Pi »

Andy Nguyen

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2013, 12:55:18 PM »
This is absolutely hilarious!  Couldn't stop laughing.  Great post CPI!

I really want to see what others think about this.  We definitely want Hackers to feel awesome.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2013, 12:58:17 PM by Andy Nguyen »
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Andy Schatz

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2013, 02:02:31 PM »
This is awesome.  Andy and I talked about the Hacker at length and figured out some changes that should help.

The philosophy of the Hacker: The Hacker is supposed to be the warlock of the team, with an army of disposable pets.  Currently, the Hacker is confusing for new players and too slow for speed runners, so he's only really useful for people who know the game moderately well but don't really try to speed run -- players like myself.  But that leaves out a ton of players, and we'd like to try to improve the experience for both new Hackers and speed runners.  As a part of that, we'd like to try to solve it by emphasizing what makes the Hacker unique rather than making him more like other classes (an army of disposable viruses rather than a single one)  (we talked about the single virus idea and it turns out there's some issues with it, beyond the fact that it makes him quite similar to the pickpocket: virus networks aren't always connected, and so the virus would have to die or teleport when it got too far away from the hacker.)

So, here are the things we talked about as a solution:
*First off, the bug where outlets spawn behind staircases and ladders needs to be fixed.
*Second, I can make it so that the Mole can smash walls with outlets... so that...
*I can literally double the number of outlets in the world.  You will never be without an accessible outlet.  The Hacker will still have to maintain his viruses as a resource, and they will be disposable and time dependent.  But the increased frequency will dull the effect of good/bad luck in their spawn positions.
*And to improve things for the speed runners, I can boost Virus speed by 50% or so.  I think this is one of the biggest reasons he's not useful for speed runners.

Not gonna get to this this week, but maybe next week?

Chocolate Pi

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2013, 03:16:32 PM »
First, how awesome is it to have devs that actively respond to their community, on top of iteratively supporting their game?  You guys rock.

Yeah, the hacker is currently hard to use for new players but too slow for speedrunning.  This applies to Redhead and Gentleman some too, except those two are so incredibly strong that it doesn't matter. (They are so good that they can still show up on the leaderboards in spite of their "slow" mechanics.)

The main issue with Hacker for speedruns has always been the randomness--getting to a new floor and having to restart because the outlet you need is missing sucks.  Fixed bugs and more outlets should largely solve this problem.

There's potential concern for your idiot Mole (probably me) accidentally destroying your outlets (oops), but more outlets addresses that too.

Faster virus speed is really interesting--I actually think it might help new players more than speed runners.  The biggest difference faster virus speed will make is the situation where you have a lot of viruses and they are "tripping over each other" trying to get to the same targets.  It can take a few moments for the viruses to "settle" and get where they need to go, which of course means they are closer to expiring.  All of this effects the new player experience disproportionately.

I've love to play around with faster virus speed and see what the implications are.

Edit - This just happened:


« Last Edit: July 02, 2013, 03:55:45 PM by Chocolate Pi »

Andy Nguyen

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2013, 04:28:25 PM »
Poor Toby's brothers.
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Chocolate Pi

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2013, 09:24:02 PM »
Hey everybody, Andy pushed out some new changes!

BUT DO THEY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?!?








Andy Nguyen

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2013, 12:14:28 AM »
Toby!
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Stexe

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2013, 02:36:12 AM »
Toby!

But... but... Toby was part of a 6 puppy litter and 7 (5 + 2) puppies have been thrown into the meat grinder by the lumberjack... HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Must be some imposter Toby clone!

Either way I am excited. The Hacker definitely felt out of place. Can't wait to get back into the game and try him out.

Glenn_and_Toad

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2013, 08:12:18 AM »
If you want to maintain the 'army of viruses' feel but don't want random outlet/moleblocking problems:

How about:

-Get rid of outlets entirely
-Whenever the hacker hacks a computer, he gets THREE hacks instead of the usual one
-If this turns out to be too strong, make it two hacks instead
-You can further tinker with balance by making the hacker's hacks last a bit longer or travel a bit faster, or go with Chocolate Pi's original idea and give the Hacker a full-time pet hack in addition to the extra hack(s) produced by computers

What this does:
-Instantly solves all the random outlet spawning problems/mole blocking problems
-Lets the Hacker maintain his army of hacks feel
-It makes thematic sense that the hacker should produce more/better hacks from computers. The first time I played Hacker, I thought 'sweet, a computer, I wonder what awesome stuff he can do with one of these!' Then he did...exactly what everyone else does at a computer, but a little faster. Whenever I play Hacker, I never think 'sweet, a computer, now we're in business!' Letting him produce more than one hack at a computer would definitely do this.
-Make maps less luck-based for speedrunners

Cons:
-Undoes all the hard work you spent programming power outlets into the game. Though sometimes you have to cut your losses for a more elegant solution
-Will initially puzzle current players, as they will wonder where all the outlets are. This should go away fairly soon, as everyone uses a computer sometime, and the first time 2/3 hacks pop out of a computer that will be a great WOAH moment and then they will get it.

Thanks for listening and responding to the community, and for making a great game!

Andy Schatz

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2013, 09:40:26 AM »
One of the things we tried to do with the classes is make it so you didn't have to balance every level for each class.  So, for the Hacker, we didn't expect to have computers in every level, so that's why we introduced the outlets!

Give the new buff a try and let us know how it feels!

Chocolate Pi

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2013, 10:00:48 AM »
-Whenever the hacker hacks a computer, he gets THREE hacks instead of the usual one
-If this turns out to be too strong, make it two hacks instead

I actually considered this first when brainstorming solutions.

The issue is, this does nothing to alleviate the feast-or-famine problem that hacker had.  How many situations are there where you NEED exactly 2 hacks, and have access to exactly 1 computer with no obstacles?  What about floors with 0 computers?

Having two (or three or infinity) hacks when the other classes have one isn't that big of a deal.  To add insult to injury, think of all the computers that have NPCs at them--in all those cases, the hacker still gets 0 hacks while the cleaner/gent/redhead get 1.

90% of the hacker's power is contained in the situations where he gets hacks and the other characters don't.

-It makes thematic sense that the hacker should produce more/better hacks from computers. The first time I played Hacker, I thought 'sweet, a computer, I wonder what awesome stuff he can do with one of these!' Then he did...exactly what everyone else does at a computer, but a little faster. Whenever I play Hacker, I never think 'sweet, a computer, now we're in business!' Letting him produce more than one hack at a computer would definitely do this.

This was my concern too.  That said, as unusual as it may seem, I find myself using computers MORE as the Hacker than other characters.  Why?  The opportunity cost of using a computer is much lower, in both time and disguise. (if applicable) This makes otherwise superfluous hacks a decent value proposition.  Also, the extra hack speed significantly upgrades the value of excessive hacks.

-Make maps less luck-based for speedrunners

To be completely honest, if a computer gave the hacker 12 hacks (and that was his only central ability), I am 99% sure he would still be unviable on every level.  It would remove the luck, but also any pretense of a unique value proposition.  What "new path" does that situation open up?

*****

I want to play around with the new Hacker more.  He is still probably the "worst" character in the game and one of the most difficult for new players, but he's definitely a fun, compelling and distinct experience now.  The biggest change to user experience is that the higher virus speed makes a "virus storm" feel powerful instead of pointless.

Amosmyn

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2013, 09:39:33 AM »
The new buff is making the Hacker look pretty devious. :)

Just something I noticed: On some occasions, an outlet will be placed next to a ladder in inaccessible locations on an unbreakable wall. Not sure if this was meant to be fixed or not, so I thought I'd mention it. Poor Toby.
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Andy Nguyen

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2013, 10:38:27 AM »
We hope to fix the bug where outlets spawn in inaccessible places.
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Andy Schatz

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2013, 12:36:05 PM »
i did include a fix for the inaccessible outlets, but I've had a couple of reports of it still happening.  I think its MOSTLY fixed though.

Andy Nguyen

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Re: Let's Talk About The Hacker
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2013, 12:53:59 PM »
The only 2 instances to my knowledge were outlets spawning adjacent to vent entrances, which you could not use because you were inside the vent, and outlets spawning behind staircases, which you would be able to use if the staircase didn't take you up to the next floor.
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