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    My experience with FTL: nearly every star system offers the same choice. Do the thing or don’t do the thing. If you do the thing, something good happens or something bad happens. You get some new resources, or a crewmember dies, or whatever. Basically a coin flip. In order to win the game, you need to amass a certain amount of good stuff, so can never really opt to not do the thing. In the end, the game reduces to flipping a coin 100 times. Win if you get 65 heads, lose if you get four tails in a row.

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      While I basically agree (FTL could have used a lot more development of its non-combat events), it’s not quite that simple. Some events are inherently riskier than others. “Blue options” can turn high-risk events into low- or no-risk events, and which ones are available to you depend on your choices before and during the game (and on a lot of luck). And whether or not to take events is definitely a choice. Not a very deep choice, but it’s there. If you’re sitting pretty (well-equipped for the sector you’re in), it can make sense to avoid high-risk noncombats entirely (while a marginal ship can roll the dice on the theory that if they don’t win big it’s game over anyway), and a less combat-ready ship might want to avoid tougher combats until they run into the proverbial weapon just floating in space.

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        That is my opinion of FTL as well.

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          Oh, I forgot about the post battle mopup. Go put out the fire by sitting on it. Now go sit in the medbay. Now go fix the other thing. Now go back to your post. Mindless management that just slows things down without adding any challenge.

          Back to the topic of headroom, while you could choose to jump with half your ship on fire, that was basically suicide. And it’s pretty much always possible, if tiresome, to resolve fire. Suggesting another rule: if there has to be one obvious strategy, at least don’t make it boring.

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            There is an excellent talk on your suggested rule by the creator of Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. He frames it as designing for the “Hypothetical Optimal Player” who will do anything that will improve their chance of winning, even though that may utterly destroy the rhythm and fun of the game. This opportunity trickles down to less pathological players, who realize they are constantly deciding between tedium and success.

            FTL’s mop-up is one of the worst examples I’ve seen of it. If you’re fleeing an enemy* or hazard you’ll skip mop-up, otherwise the game’s tone whipsaws as you go from the excitement of winning a battle to clicking through a chore.

            • Which means you’re losing anyways, as linked from my review.
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              Oh, neato, that’s a good talk. The point about in combat vs out of combat and time pressure is all very good.

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            I thought I was alone! These complaints are all why I bounced off it, hard – it’s less popular, but I think Dungeon of the Endless is a much better game.

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              I found Dungeon of the Endless very hard to get into, while FTL not. Do you have any good introduction at hand?

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                There are some strategy guides online, but the subreddit probably has the best.

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                  This game is hard, despite what the difficulty levels are labeled.

                  This was probably the best way to end this post, I had the strange feeling of doing something very wrong.

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          I really think that pre-game choices, and how forgiving the game is once you’ve started playing, are completely different discussions. A wizard and a samurai can have equal chances of winning (on average, for a skilled player of each) without that meaning that the choice is irrelevant. They’ll experience different challenges along the way, demanding different skills from the player, but they could still be balanced (not that they are in Nethack, and not that they need to be either, but they certainly could be, and lots of FPSs and MMOs strive for that sort of thing).

          I suppose Alex’s point is that giving the player the freedom to choose a character that plays to their strengths is an instance of “headroom”, but I still think that he’s gone to an annoying extreme with the “either all the choices play the same, or skill is completely irrelevant, or the game is unbalanced” statement.

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            It is worth looking at some (non-roguelike, typically puzzle-based) zero-headroom games with permadeath to see how they deal with this problem: the standard solution is to remove all hidden knowledge from the game, giving all the information a player needs up-front so that they can work out a solution before making any irreversible decisions.

            Would “Crypt of the Necrodancer” fall into this? There’s almost no hidden knowledge in the game (except enemy types and items you haven’t encountered yet), but on any move, you generally know everything that’s going to happen.

            The interesting aspect of it is that it plays music in the background and you have to move on every beat, forcing you to decide quickly. Enemies have a strict movement pattern every beat and you could even win against the hardest ones with just a knife.