It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

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It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby wilarseny » Sun Mar 29, 2015 10:20 pm

The problem's gotten pretty urgent. In my opinion, it has basically ruined score running for me: all world-record-challenging runs look basically the same. I've heard more and more players in various Twitch chats express something along the lines of "I kinda wish shrine of rhythm would just get removed".

Shriner exacerbated the issue. Instead of merely reducing the necessary RNG to compete for a top spot on the leaderboards, it centralized strategy too far. Guaranteed shopkeep kills and crown of greed? That's a mechanic that makes sense to include in every score run. Speed runs force efficiency because every beat costs valuable time; score runs force efficiency because every beat costs valuable gold. But shrine of rhythm doesn't feel like such a natural central mechanic to score running. It basically doubles up on the things score runs puts pressure on: don't lose the beat, don't move inefficiently.

It's a shame, because rhythm is a really well-designed shrine overall. It adds a unique challenge for a corresponding reward, and is one of only a couple shrines that has at least some value in both speed and score, though obviously one more than the other. And at this point in the release timeline, I'm hesitant to call for removing any content, especially one that changes gameplay arguably more than any other shrine (though No Return is close). But it's a huge discouraging factor to people wanting to do score runs--even if you are good with rhythm, the question of "do I want to go for a score PB today?" really depends on the answer to, "do I feel like playing with shrine of rhythm today?" I would wager this is a big reason why the score leaderboards tend to be much less competitive overall than the speed leaderboards (though certainly, there are others). There are a ton of ways to go fast. There is only one way to get a top score in most categories.

Removing shrine of rhythm would not, of course, mean that there would no longer be an optimal shrine+weapon+ring+etc combination for score running. But I think the other shrines are a lot closer in value than the gap between rhythm and anything else. I also tend to think they are more fun, but obviously that's a matter of taste. Dying with rhythm is often closer to accidental than it is to being a matter of faulty judgment, and mastering rhythm is less an increase in the player's skill at tactical movement than an increase in just not making specific, tiny mistakes.

So I would propose any of these fixes:

1. Just remove it entirely, and guarantee no specific shrines in the shriner. War and space are now the top-tier score shrines - blood shovel needs to be a guaranteed spawn from space to keep it in line with war. Shrine of darkness needs to give three bombs again, and maybe more. Maybe introduce Fluor's shrine of gold idea from back in the day.

2. Nerf the rhythm multiplier to 3.5x, or remove the bonus entirely and reward the player some other way. Maybe also make the rhythm penalty more forgiving: die if attempted input on the eighth beat, but loss of multiplier otherwise does not kill.

3. Remove shrine of rhythm, but to preserve its unique gameplay, create a character that never moves on the eighth beat. This character starts with two spells, tempo up and tempo down, each on a fifteen-kill timer / one heart blood cost. Maybe named Caprice? Could get crazy and say no shovels and dies to missed beat + no war drum in pool, but that's probably too hard.

I don't know which of these would be best. But I think something has to give or score running post-release will be in the same state it is now: two or three guys at the top in almost every category, and not nearly as much competition across the board compared to speedruns.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby djc6986 » Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:06 pm

I would hate for shrine of rhythm to go away completely, but I do kind of agree it kind of sucks that its required for WR score run attempts, since its so off putting for a lot of people.

One idea that popped into my head would be to have it work more like the shrine of pace (and take away the increase to 4x multiplier). So, if you complete a level without missing a beat (and not moving on the missing 8th), then you get rewarded with an item on the next floor. Any missed beats, or movement attempts on the missing 8th, would deal half heart of damage (maybe once per level?)
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby Paratroopa » Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:57 pm

I used to agree with you. I saw the Shrine of Rhythm during daily challenges and score runs and groaned. "Great, now I have to pick between having a chance at a successful run and a fleeting hope at a high score," I thought. Then the guaranteed 1-1 Shriner happened, and I groaned more. Now I always had to deal with it, or feel that I was wasting my time. It was frustrating, because one slip-up at any random time could spell the end of that run, and it felt like I was trying to do the impossible, for no result.

(Shameless bragging incoming for remainder of post)

Then a funny thing happened; I practiced it enough, and eventually what was a fleeting hope became a reality. I've posted three #1 daily challenge scores in the last month where I took a Shrine of Rhythm. Now I love the Shrine of Rhythm. I own the Shrine of Rhythm. I am one with the Shrine of Rhythm.

Then the guaranteed 1-1 Shriner was taken out for daily challenges and I groaned again. "Now I have to pray for the chance to pick between getting a good score and the fleeting hope of a great score," I thought. Ryan Clark is toying with my emotions.

Long story short, I don't think the Shrine of Rhythm should be removed.

You have the power in you, guys! I used to HATE the dang thing. Now I'm great at it - possibly one of the best. It's not that bad - Aria dies to a missed beat too, but she also can't upgrade to anything but a dagger. You get some extra mental arithmetic to do on top of it, but it isn't really as hard as you think once you've given it enough practice. Sounds hard, you say? Well, that's leaderboard chasing for you.

Removing one of the game's most dangerous elements turns score runs (let's keep the discussion to Cadence for now at least - most of the other characters seldom need the extra degree of difficulty, but I digress) into a bit of a bore. For an intermediate player, no - playing the game for 20+ minutes without dying isn't an easy task at all. For an advanced player, though, (aka the only people who the Shrine of Rhythm's existence affects (besides the poor, lonely souls who take the shrine without knowing what it does - suckers!)) it's not that difficult to take each floor relatively safely and wind up getting to the end intact. If I don't take Shrine of Rhythm, there's no real euphoric feeling to getting through a run unscathed - even getting stuck with 1 damage and a ticking gold timer barely poses a really significant threat.

Shrine of Rhythm changes all that. Now you've got something that could kill you at any time. When something can kill you at any time, managing that thing becomes priority #1. (I like to call this the Monk rule.) Not only are you managing that, now everything else that was originally priority #1 (that impending red dragon that's about to be in the same room as you and those black skeletons you're fighting, for instance) has become priority #2, and therefore more difficult to manage. Difficult, yes, but it can be done! It just takes practice and a higher degree of skill, and your reward is a higher spot on the leaderboard.

Without it, score runs become a function of two things:

1) The efficiency of your actions.
2) Luck.

Well, that's not true, because Shrine of Rhythm score runs are also still about those two things, but adding a third important thing that is entirely skill based, which helps diffuse the importance of luck. A whole lot of people can make it through a score run safely without that though, so now we've got just these two things.

The Crown of Greed is an excellent mechanic. Double gold but having it drain constantly means that a good score run requires you to spend more time killing and collecting gold and less time faffing about. That can really add up over time!

...But it's nothing compared to the almighty factor that is luck. Without a high ceiling that prevents most runs from even being completed in the first place, every run now comes down to "did you get a ring of gold? if so, how many bombs did you collect?" You found 15 bombs, you say? Good, but not enough. You probably needed to find the Bomb spell too, really, since each bomb is worth about 90 coins.

I'm really not a fan of resetting runs constantly in this game to search for the one seed that will give me a high score. Shrine of Rhythm doesn't fix this, but it helps.

Shrine of Rhythm isn't an essential mechanic to score-running? Not at all. Aside from the added danger that I already suggested, Shrine of Rhythm changes the game in one other huge, fundamental way - it shortens the time you can be on a floor by 12.5%. You thought efficiency was king of score runs already? Try taking away one eighth of the total actions per floor. Now that I've had to do a lot of floors without Shrine of Rhythm lately, I've become sort of amazed by how easy it is to get to the stairs without having a minor panic attack. When you take Shrine of Rhythm, your route planned through the level must be nearly perfect to get everything done, ESPECIALLY if you're lucky enough to have also found a Shrine of Space on the same run. It really ups the challenge of maximizing your score in a big way. It has everything to do with score running, in my opinion, and it's not an arbitrary effect.

With Shrine of Rhythm, every WR-challenging score run looks the same? I don't understand this - they would look exactly the same without it, just with less danger and 12.5% more time per floor. I can only imagine that you mean every WR-challenging score run looks the same in the sense that Rat is doing all of them. Well, sure - he got good at Shrine of Rhythm, as well as every other technique involved in score running. Getting to the top of the leaderboard shouldn't be easy and I don't understand griping about it. You can do score runs without Shrine of Rhythm, but you won't beat the guy on the leaderboards who can do the score run with a metaphorical hand tied behind his back, and you shouldn't.

If we're going to talk about stuff that makes score runs obnoxious to deal with, how about the ring of gold? The shrine of space? Bombs? The bomb spell? Scroll of gigantism + a decent shovel? Gold weapons that aren't a bloody crossbow? Finding all of this stuff just requires getting lucky, really, so sorry if it seems like I'm feeling a little bit stung by the notion that the one thing that's determined by skill should be removed.

TL;DR - Please, I just finally got good at the Shrine of Rhythm after months of toiling away at it. Don't remove it now. Don't take away my one niche in this game. I'm begging you.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby Paratroopa » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:05 am

That post was long. Sorry, I'm just kind of "that guy at the company who spent a long time honing his craft but now the company is talking about removing that position and he's worried he's going to be out of work soon" right now.

Folding the Shrine of Rhythm into a character might be a compromise I could live with, maybe, so long as it means that character is added to future Condor relays. Then, I will laugh maniacally as I use my incomprehensible SoR swag to uncompromisingly crush the other player under my boot like a tiny little fly be put up against Rat and lose respectably, but soundly.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby ratata_ratata » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:37 am

This is my first time writing on the forums.
If I'm not understanding the topic correctly, I'm sorry.

My suggestion for a Shrine of Rhythm change would be that missing the beat would only cause you to lose your multiplier, but, if you lose the beat while WITHOUT a multiplier, you will die. This change will be able to affect speedruns as

well. (Trapdoors)
This change may seem small, but I think it is a good way of reducing the difficulty of the Shrine of Rhythm while maintaining it's image.

My English isn't good, so I've had to ask Xepheerr to help me write this.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby wilarseny » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:40 am

Long post but a good one, Para - I'll try to take snippets and address them.

Paratroopa wrote:You have the power in you, guys! I used to HATE the dang thing. Now I'm great at it - possibly one of the best. It's not that bad - Aria dies to a missed beat too, but she also can't upgrade to anything but a dagger. You get some extra mental arithmetic to do on top of it, but it isn't really as hard as you think once you've given it enough practice. Sounds hard, you say? Well, that's leaderboard chasing for you.


To be clear, I'm ok at using shrine of rhythm. It's not the added difficulty that bugs me - it's the monotony. I know you've practiced a lot at it and are proud of where you've gotten, but please don't assume that calling for rhythm to be removed = "I'm bad with rhythm so please take it out so I have a chance." I won't put words in peoples' mouths, but a lot of the folks I've heard talking about removing rhythm from the game are either current or former top score runners. No one's whining about the difficulty, but the lack of variety.

If anything, it's too easy at this point. I bet quite a number of people could get above a five-streak or ten-streak if there were "rhythm deathless" leaderboards. You get an extra beat to think and you're not dropping many multipliers in score runs anyway. Rhythm's difficulty was a balancing factor before, but it's much less of a challenge given current levels of player skill.

Paratroopa wrote:Without it, score runs become a function of two things:

1) The efficiency of your actions.
2) Luck.

Well, that's not true, because Shrine of Rhythm score runs are also still about those two things, but adding a third important thing that is entirely skill based, which helps diffuse the importance of luck. A whole lot of people can make it through a score run safely without that though, so now we've got just these two things.
The Crown of Greed is an excellent mechanic. Double gold but having it drain constantly means that a good score run requires you to spend more time killing and collecting gold and less time faffing about. That can really add up over time!
...But it's nothing compared to the almighty factor that is luck. Without a high ceiling that prevents most runs from even being completed in the first place, every run now comes down to "did you get a ring of gold? if so, how many bombs did you collect?" You found 15 bombs, you say? Good, but not enough. You probably needed to find the Bomb spell too, really, since each bomb is worth about 90 coins. I'm really not a fan of resetting runs constantly in this game to search for the one seed that will give me a high score. Shrine of Rhythm doesn't fix this, but it helps.


To be honest, I think this kind of misses the point, but maybe we are talking past each other. Your bomb drop luck and gold/war ring luck and blood shovel luck and order-in-which-the-hidden-shops-spawn luck... those are all important factors regardless of whether rhythm exists or does not exist. It's probably true that, like, if you have a top-50 PB and want a top-20 one, a solid rhythm run without much RNG assistance will get you there. But it won't get you a world record. At this point, pretty much all of those require rhythm + great RNG anyway. Score runs (and speedruns, but in a different way) are just RNG-heavy. That's true whether rhythm exists or not.

Also blood shovel + heal spell >>> bomb spell.

Paratroopa wrote:Shrine of Rhythm isn't an essential mechanic to score-running? Not at all. Aside from the added danger that I already suggested, Shrine of Rhythm changes the game in one other huge, fundamental way - it shortens the time you can be on a floor by 12.5%. You thought efficiency was king of score runs already? Try taking away one eighth of the total actions per floor.


Honestly, this is the only point in favor of keeping rhythm for me. It puts more pressure on song length than usual; if you're going to dig out a shop, better be really efficient and aware of how many beats are available in each song. Mapping becomes more valuable.

Paratroopa wrote:With Shrine of Rhythm, every WR-challenging score run looks the same? I don't understand this - they would look exactly the same without it, just with less danger and 12.5% more time per floor. I can only imagine that you mean every WR-challenging score run looks the same in the sense that Rat is doing all of them. Well, sure - he got good at Shrine of Rhythm, as well as every other technique involved in score running. Getting to the top of the leaderboard shouldn't be easy and I don't understand griping about it. You can do score runs without Shrine of Rhythm, but you won't beat the guy on the leaderboards who can do the score run with a metaphorical hand tied behind his back, and you shouldn't.

If we're going to talk about stuff that makes score runs obnoxious to deal with, how about the ring of gold? The shrine of space? Bombs? The bomb spell? Scroll of gigantism + a decent shovel? Gold weapons that aren't a bloody crossbow?


Again, I think this is really missing the point. If multiple shrines are viable, then you can take war/space/darkness/etc starts and have a viable score run. There is variety in the process of attempting WRs. The fact that it's currently Rat on top of most boards, or Knight before him, or Problems before him, is totally irrelevant - what matters, IMO, is how fun the process of attempting a serious score run is. The more fun that those attempts are, the more people will do them, and the more competition will happens on the score leaderboards. Right now there's pretty much nothing compared to the volatility of the speed boards. No offense to Rat, but right now there's just very few people making serious attempts at beating those scores. Part of that is probably burnout/fatigue and the impending leaderboard reset. My argument is that another big part of that is shrine of rhythm's total imbalance compared to the rest of the shrines.

Ultimately it seems like our disagreement is over whether rhythm is fun enough to be a required mechanic of every viable score run. Like I said, I think it's well-designed, and generally enjoy the pressure it puts on the player mechanically. I just think centralizing an entire half of the leaderboards around a single shrine is super bad. If I want to speedrun, I can take different glass weps, different obsidian weps, some of the titanium, even blood with the right setup - and a heck of a lot more utility items. I realize score will have optimal items in a way that speed currently doesn't--perhaps because we're closer to optimal score play than we are to optimal speed play--but at this point the balance is so far out of whack that every. single. viable score run is rhythm.

Let me put it this way: the CoNDOR score tourney was super fun in large part because we got to see racers attempt optimal strats on a variety of shrines, weapons, rings, etc. We basically can't have another score tournament unless either A) rhythm is removed/nerfed, or B) we ban rhythm. That sucks. It can be fun - every once in a while. Every run? Not so much.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby Paratroopa » Mon Mar 30, 2015 1:34 am

I'm just baffled by the idea that it lacks "variety", mostly. Score runs will never have the kind of variety that speed runs do. You're just as required to take the lone gold weapon you find that run as you are to take shrine of rhythm. Shrine of rhythm isn't especially more valuable than finding a scroll of gigantism before entering an arena. And no item slot in a score run really provides any sort of meaningful choice, there's always a right and wrong answer, not like in a speed run.

But I have no defense for "nobody thinks shrine of rhythm is fun", so okay, remove it.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby Paratroopa » Mon Mar 30, 2015 1:42 am

Also, if the discussion is "the shrine of rhythm is discouraging people from attempting score runs", then I must argue against the blood shovel's inclusion in the game, as well. I haven't attempted a score run in a while, mostly because the game's launch seems to be impending, but the blood shovel is such a discouraging item to take because the effect is similar to taking a glass jaw (if you're not putting yourself at half a heart at all times, you're not using the blood shovel efficiently enough). I'd argue that it's nearly as difficult to use as the shrine of rhythm, and I doubt that a score WR would not involve its use as things stand. And unlike shrine of rhythm, you're not guaranteed to find one.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby batman9502 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:21 am

Just wanted to pop in and say I agree with wilarseny. Shrine of Rhythm is the number one reason I stopped competing for score. And it's not like I didn't REALLY enjoy score runs before; daily challenges during the Necrothon were the height of my Necrodancer fun.

I don't know enough about the current state of score running to provide any useful balance suggestions so I'll keep this short, but I just wanted to add my voice in support of some kind of change/rebalance.
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Re: It's time to talk about shrine of rhythm

Postby wilarseny » Mon Mar 30, 2015 7:05 am

Paratroopa wrote:I'm just baffled by the idea that it lacks "variety", mostly. Score runs will never have the kind of variety that speed runs do. You're just as required to take the lone gold weapon you find that run as you are to take shrine of rhythm. Shrine of rhythm isn't especially more valuable than finding a scroll of gigantism before entering an arena. And no item slot in a score run really provides any sort of meaningful choice, there's always a right and wrong answer, not like in a speed run.


It's definitely true that there's an optimal set. But you won't always get to it. You may want rapier + RoW + blood shovel + gi + boots of pain + whatever else, or whip + RoG + etc -- but you won't always get that perfect set, and even the top runs don't have every single item that's best-in-slot for score. They have either the best, most important ones, or some other combination of slightly-less-good items that, transformed by good play, are competitive enough to beat out most or all of the scores before them. A run with flail + RoC feels really different than one with rapier + floaty boots or something. There is genuine argument over which gold weapon is best (probably not any of them across the board - depends on what else you get), which ring is best (though RoG is taking over for non-rapier), which boots, etc.

But there's just no substitute for rhythm. War stood a chance back in the day but not anymore. You get more than half of an arena-gold's worth of bonus from rhythm just from the boss drops -- it's worth a lot more than purple scroll.

Please don't mischaracterize the argument as "no one thinks shrine of rhythm is fun". The question is whether it is fun enough to be included in every viable score run.

I'm happy to talk other items, but I haven't played a huge amount with blood shovel so I'll leave that to others.
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