Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Content Bloat

As an open source project with many contributors, we face three pretty straighforward and obvious problems:

  1. Lack of direction. When two people with different tastes have ideas for additions to the game, it’s much easier to include both ideas, than to take a step back, and think about which suits the “direction” or “vision” of the game, then refuse the idea that doesn’t.

  2. Flavor over mechanics: It’s much easier to add new flavor variants of basically the same thing, than it is to extend your game design with new engaging mechanics.

  3. Quantity over balance: It’s much easier to add 1000 things to the game, say “fuck it, you can’t balance this anyway” and call it a day, than to add 10 items to the game and have them properly balanced in a way that each thing provides an interesting alternative, contributing a unique playstyle that is neither superior nor inferior to other playstyles. (This is closely related to 2)

I think it should be obvious to anyone that these biases exist, and that they present a problem. I think we as a community shouldn’t just ignore this issue, because at this rate we may well drift toward something like this impression: “Well, there’s a lot of content created by dozens of people, but it’s still less interesting than this well-designed tight-focused game created by 3 people”. Basically, we may end up facing the same criticisms as large triple A titles developed by soulless game-studios, and I don’t think anyone wants that.

I’d like this thread to be a place for discussion and suggestions about what can be done. Possibly the results could be integrated into the design doc and the merge policy, if the main devs agree.

I agree with this.

Agreed, there’s no point in saying otherwise as it would detract from the final product.

I think the general plan was to slowly move “flavor” items into their own mods, so they could be turned off and on at will.

Yes, actually I’ll remove my conclusion about what can be done about this from the OP, as I realize there’s a lot of different methods. It’s probably better to have suggestions posted here, then the main devs can integrate the things they like into the design doc/merge policy.

I think the general plan was to slowly move "flavor" items into their own mods, so they could be turned off and on at will.

Yeah, in essence we can pretty much move anything that’s not part of the core game into a thematic mod. But should we? Managing too many mods might be a problem, but not having the things in mods will be an even bigger problem for those who want to play a more minimal game.

Well, you only need to choose mods once; it saves those setting afterwards until you change them again. Very little management required.

Better yet, once the ability for mods to overwrite the main game is implemented; you can have simplicity mods.

Personally, I like all the content, but there are people that want a simpler game. I’ve yet to try Classic mode though; maybe that’ll help them in the meantime?

So start suggesting fixes.

There’s a reason the design outline was scripted and put to paper. I believe there’s still a disagreement about whether this should actually be zombie game by the development and project leads on this (such as they are).

You have a complaint about balance. There are several things that perhaps need reviewing and balancing:

  1. Character creation. Cost of points vs. gain. Is it unbalanced? Does it need fixing?
  2. Weapons.
  3. Armor.
  4. Tools.
  5. Adjusting spawn rates and spawn/locations.

Yes, we all know there are minor problems here and there. Certain things are too strong, others too weak. What actually needs to be done is for someone to go through, sort it all out, determine a baseline, then work backwards from there.

Mutations are currently being worked in exactly this methodology and appears mostly finished.

I realize this sounds rather harsh, but complaining about something doesn’t make it get done, and there is work you can do even if you are unable to code.

The devs have stated and restated that they refuse to remove anything we have in now, and that content freezes are also not going to happen (due to it possibly putting people off/not being within the open source ethos), which is compounded by the fact that the developers are willing (and have said they are) to merge anything that isn’t game breaking.

The mod manager is one of the key ways to fix thematic issues, and moving all the thematic things (sci-fi, medieval, and so on) into easily toggle-able mods is a great start, but we’re not going to make any solid progress without some solid direction/leadership, a soft content lock (no items that don’t do something actually different) and a lot less worrying about removing/altering stuff that’s already in.

This isn’t so much about “fixes” in terms of actual changes to the game, as it is about creating a healthy environment where people doing such fixes don’t have to roll a boulder uphill against the steep slope of mediocre content additions.

I personally agree, but there are also people who might feel that item X or item Z are integral and should be in the “main game” so moving content to mods might not please everyone.

I suggest we turn the problem around, and create a “lean and mean” mod which includes a minimalist set of features instead of trimming things out of main-content. To be clear, I am not suggesting implementing a minimalist set of content from scratch, but rather handpicking stuff from the mods that are already out there (given the original modders’ permission).

This will probably be more work, but this way at least the issue of content bloat will no longer recur ever so often in the forums, and people who have no problem with the way things are won’t feel someone is pushing anything down their throats.

If this is to work out, then someone (or a group) will have to volunteer to maintain the mod. Also, some sort of criteria or guideline should be agreed upon (more or less) by the people who support the mod. Following is an example guideline (Just for demonstration):

1- An item (Also refers to mutations, martial art styles …etc) should be sufficiently different from any other item in that group.
2- Technology that is more than one century old should not be included (except as rare to very rare items)
3- Technology that does not feel realistic within the next few decades should not be included (except as rare to very rare items)
4- An item should not be more powerful than all other items in its category in all (or most) respects (e.g. the bow with the longest range should not also have the highest damage and least dispersion)
5- An item which is weaker than most items in its group in many ways is acceptable if it is easy to acquire.

The problem with modding is that even if a ‘lean’ mod was created, it’d be a hell of a lot of work to keep it up to date with the latest stuff and you’d be constantly fighting a wave of new content. More than anything though, it wouldn’t solve any of the root problems, it’d just shift them out of the way a little bit.

I think it needs to be tackled directly, and I think that can only be done with a clear set of ‘areas that need work’ and ‘areas that are full’.
So for instance, we could say that we don’t need any more food, we’ve got loads and everything now is just the addition of people’s favorite brand names but that we need work done on robots.

The ‘needful things’ thread is good, but there needs to be more action to it and a general taking of the reigns. If the devs put out a call to improve a broad area of the game (say, hospitals) then I’m sure they’d get an outpouring of help. This needs to be combined with a lock on flavor items and some serious pruning, but it’s not a difficult thing to do. I’ve known loads of other projects (and games) which have improved immensely just from a few quick directions of what needs working on and what doesn’t.

@Binky: I see your point and I agree that it would be quite a lot of work.

However, if such a mod was created then the discussion about bloat would become much more meaningful as people will have something concrete to base their decisions on, instead of one side praising the merits of a non-existent system and the other denouncing the many downfalls of the same (or maybe different) non-existent system.

Maybe this mod will attract people who don’t see a problem with bloat, and maybe the people who dislike bloat will realize that its not that bad after trying the alternative. If it gains sufficient support and popularity, the core team might become more open to adopting this philosophy and they will have a basic working model to start building on, which will make the paradigm shift easier and more attractive.

We will not have to fight a wave of new content as content will not make it into a mod by default, the mod maintainers will have to put it there by hand. However, since we agree that filtering out all the new stuff could be a lot of headache, I think you can understand why the developers who already have other stuff to worry about might not be as excited about it as people who actually have an interest in seeing such a thing come to light.

I like your idea of a clear set of ‘areas that need work’ and ‘areas that are full’. Why don’t we try to formalize that (at least in terms of content and not mechanisms) and make that a part of the guideline I suggested we come up with for a mod.

I hope I don’t offend anyone by what I’m about to say, but since we’re the ones complaining, I think it’s up to us to take some action to provide some sort of solution and see where it goes from there.

At the very least coming up with guidelines, “areas that need work and areas that are full” and then using that to compose a list of content that would make its way into our trimmed down version would be a step up from talking about the rather general word “bloat”

Personally I’m okay with more stuff being added for quite awhile, real life is full of extraordinary variation and complexities, even more when you consider the story and its robots, energy weapons, teleportation, powered armor, etc.
That said we have 3 kinds of potato chips and I don’t think we need to add the other hundreds of brands out there, and now that we have metalworking and can create a wide variety of weapons, we don’t need every single kind of knife, blade, and polearm.
Once the ‘main game’ has enough variety I think most of the details (Every single kind of gun ever made type thing) should be exported to mods, but I don’t think we’re at the point we’d have to worry about content bloat too much.

Specifically I’m not a big proponent of the idea that ‘gameplay option bloat’ is a horrible thing for a game like Cataclysm.
IMO, not everything has to be a perfectly balanced and uniquely viable option.

As far as my opinion is concerned, we had a sort of balancing in a way of previous, official builds of CataDDA. I’m glad you shockblasted all of us via this elephant-reminescing thread, but I can also recall that you can ask for a failsafe pull on just about any feature on the GitHub. Even if you doubt your decision, I’m sure you can improve on what’s troubling you with a sensible solution or another:


I suspect this is due to a lack of organization within the dev group, whereas you didn’t handle those basic and extended informations about a really, really great number of items all that well. So, having fifteen brands of bacon and thirty-seven kinds of cheese puffs is a database issue (.json, really), altough there’s an omage of repacks in order to improve on quantity. I really don’t think DF-esque jars of spoiled milk add up to the whole “realism” dogma with the game, and certainly not in the forums.

As a dev this is always a topic that I’m kinda split on, due to several reasons:

[ul][li]The real world is full of stuff. Take a look around at the store; I bet you would be hard pressed to find anything that doesn’t have at lest 2-3 different brands all selling approximately the same thing. This is especially visible in guns; there are over 25 variants of the AK-47 alone.[/li]
[li]A large portion of our dev base started by doing JSON things. Rivet, NaturesWitness, me, all of us started with JSON changes as have many others. I know if my first few contributions had just been flat out shot down due to being “mediocre content” I doubt that I would be here today helping the game.[/li]
[li]Most of the devs do this because they enjoy working on the game. Being told what to work on, on the other hand, is often much less fun than working on what you want to. This is why professional computer people get paid. This is something that the bounty system hopes to address, by providing an incentive to work on the tough tasks we can push people to getting them done. Who knows, maybe even have a “next wanted feature” poll, and use that to help distribute money for bounties.[/li][/ul]

On the other hand:

[ul][li]The more “stuff” that’s in the game the harder it is to maintain:[list]
[li]Sense of theme[/li]
[li]“Uniqueness” of items[/li]

Personally here’s what I think we need to do moving forwards:

[ul][li]Find a way to separate descriptions out from the item itself. If we can have items maintain different descriptions, then we could have 20 different t-shirt designs in the game without needing 20 t-shirt JSON file entries.[/li]
[li]Work in some rough whitelist/blacklist mods into the game. This would allow toggling things en-masse, and ideally would only involve the addition of a single extra line when adding something new to the game.[/li]
[li]Establish some baseline numbers for various weapons and document them in the game’s documentation. Then go through and balance all the respective weapons to match those baselines as best as possible. (A big enough task to discourage working on it, and one that only get’s worse as time goes by.)[/li][/ul]

I tend to think that two firearms of the same caliber and type (handgun/SMG, forex) are sufficient for mainline. Melee weapons should differ in stat terms: that’s why I haven’t added a jiann for Kevin to use when practicing Tai Chi in-game. (It’d be functionally equivalent to the broadsword but be enabled for TC.)

Food and such, well, it doesn’t bother me at all.

I have no idea where you got this idea from, moddability is a core attribute we want for the game engine, but the focus is developing DDA as a post-zombie-apocalypse survival game, I haven’t seen as much as a suggestion otherwise.

I’m a bit confused why this is even an issue, we have a whole pile of features that were added to the game to address this specific issue, before complaining about it, just fix it.

We have both the mod system for very coarse adjustments, and a whitelist/blacklist that can be used to remove specific items, or for a very minilist mod, just blacklist everything, then turn around and whitelist just the things you want in the minimal mod.

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Wait, isnt this like the 5th thread we have had dedicated to this?

Ze elephant? I don zee any ze elephants… Ay DEMAND moare ze-elephants!!1!1!1!

Ay, yay, ya,

I’m a bit confused why this is even an issue…[/quote]

It’s about the general direction (or lack of) that the game is going in. Modding and white/blacklisting stuff is great, but it doesn’t seem great if you’re constantly fighting against a wall of mediocre content, vanity stuff and general lack of direction. I know it’s not been suggested that it should be anything other than a post-zombie-apoc game, but it doesn’t seem to have a direct ‘vision’ for the future (although the design doc did help).

More than anything though, I cannot agree with the position that mediocre content should be allowed because otherwise it might turn some people away/not make them help more. Yeah, if they get shot down with ‘lol this is terrible what is this shit’ then that’s not great, but if they can’t take polite criticism then they’re not needed. Allowing people to add junk/mediocre stuff just because we’re too worried to say otherwise is weak.

More than anything though, I cannot agree with the position that mediocre content should be allowed because otherwise it might turn some people away/not make them help more.
I feel it was the other way around, actually. Typical contributing led to atypical; and I favor it. The easy way would've been to ask g00gle how to make the decision instead... and yield a stream of popular/mainline input(s). Recall those forum threads polling for item 'diversity' and just look at the results, just don't hope for a whole lot more.
Yeah, if they get shot down with 'lol this is terrible what is this shit' then that's not great, but if they can't take polite criticism then they're not needed.
This is exactly where .json fails - and I'm sorry if it seems I'm jumping too far off. The way everything's put by now, even a database wouldn't suffice. Due to extended versatility linked with the content and the recurring need to prioritize particular content linked to the same type, only a [i]catalogue[/i] would suffice.
Allowing people to add junk/mediocre stuff just because we're too worried to say otherwise is weak.
Yeah, though you seem to find the "let's allow adding more stuff 'cause it's fun" a bit dissapointing in the process. :) The devs had agreed to step it up with WorldGen and ModManager, better vehicles and city/swarm size, etc etc. You could disagree, but this has in fact left [i]a lot[/i] of blank spaces, like in between an abandoned Cataclysm, and a several year-old complete RL. My question here is -- How do you allow mediocre content in a community-supported project? Is it the white/blackilst keepsake, or the basis is purely upon the discontinuation, coming from the sense that great many good contributors ducked and left?