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Apr 01 2009 -
Hunting Grounds
n the early years, when Tibia was still small and the variety of monsters, dungeon walls and decorating items low, hunting grounds could be built without putting much in-advance planning into the task. Underground tunnels and spaces were dug and the prevalent monsters were placed inside them. During the last years, though, with the development and growth of Tibia, more time has been spent on planning hunting grounds properly, and on re-evaluating existing hunting grounds regularly. In this article we would like to take you a bit behind the scenes, show you problematic and difficult tasks in designing hunting grounds and explain our hunting ground analysis.

Before a hunting ground is created, many things have to be determined. An important question is: For which level range should the dungeon be? If the dungeon is planned for new players, there cannot be any tricky areas and the challenge needs to raise slowly the deeper you get into the dungeon. Good examples for such hunting grounds can be found on Rookgaard. New players need to test themselves on monsters first, they need a chance to try a single monster, then maybe two of that same monster, maybe one slightly harder monster after that and so on. Also, they need a way to escape, in case they cannot beat it. If a dungeon is designed for higher leveled players, they don't mind a good challenge now and then, however, the dungeon also needs to be economical in order to be attractive to such an experienced adventurer.

Another question that needs to be answered is: Should the dungeon be designed for a specific vocation? If so, this question mainly addresses the monsters that should live in the dungeon, since the difficulty level of a monster depends on your vocation. A good example for such a monster is the demon skeleton. Due to its high damage output in close combat it is a rather challenging and strength-draining enemy for young knights, whereas vocations who can keep their distance will have less problems killing a demon skeleton, even at a lower level.
When deciding on what monsters the dungeon should harbour, it is also important to keep in mind what resistances monsters have and which spells they know, to make sure that the intended difficulty level for a vocation is met and to avoid that monsters end up killing each other or simply die without any player action. If we take a look at the Pits of Inferno, for example, the monsters there need fire resistance in order to be able to survive.
Another topic this question addresses is the architectural structure of the dungeon. If a dungeon is designed for distance fighters, there needs to be enough space for them to stay on the move during a fight.
Dungeons that are built for one vocation only are really rare, though. You can find them on the Isle of Destiny, for instance. In these dungeons also the loot of the monsters was considered to design them for a specific vocation. Young paladins need lots of resources to be able to fight, so monsters in a dungeon that is created solely for them should drop such resources to avoid that a little paladin has to worry too much about his resources.
Even if hardly any dungeons are designed for one vocation only, it still needs to be kept in mind what each vocation will do with the monsters living there. A balance of hunting grounds that are attractive to the different vocations needs to be aimed at.

Another thing that needs to be considered when a dungeon is created is the hunting style that players will use to hunt the prevalent monsters. Using area spells requires spacious halls. Narrow passages have the advantage that monster crowds can be controlled easier, however, narrow passages can also be abused by players to block others.

Other questions that a dungeon designer needs to answer are: Should there be small niches for players to hide in if a fight gets too rough? Should there be a safe spot close by and easy to reach? How far away is the entrance? Can the monsters be lured to any area that they should not be lured to? Are there rope spots, ramps or stairs? How far do players have to be able to pull the monster in order to fight it adequately? Will there be groups hunting in that dungeon, or mainly single players? How will several players and their hunting styles affect each other? And last but not least: What should the dungeon look like? What will the floor and dungeon walls look like and which items can be used to create a desired atmosphere?

When all characteristics of the structure of the dungeon and the monsters are decided, many more decisions need to be made when the chosen monsters move in. Dungeons contain several monster homes that have characteristics of their own. Among other properties, it needs to be defined for each monster home what kind of monster lives in it, how many monsters of this kind will spawn from it, how far away the monsters can get from their home, and the respawn rate of the monsters. The respawn rate is not only determined by the monster home itself, though, but also by other factors, for example, the amount of players online. All the effects that the properties of monster homes will have need to be kept in mind as well when creating a dungeon.

With all these different facts that need to be considered, it is easy to understand that often not all tactics players will develop and difficulties that they will meet can be foreseen. So it is very common on a test server that monsters are tuned and dungeons get reshaped. Sometimes though, difficulties or situations that were not intended by the content team show themselves at a much later point of time. For this reason, we re-evaluate dungeons regularly after players had enough time to test them in all sorts of combinations. For our hunting ground analysis, we use both direct player feedback and data that we collect automatically.

The data that we collect automatically mainly contains the following information: For each server, we have a table that lists the different hunting grounds, the amount of monsters that were killed in each hunting ground, and how many experience points each vocation has generated in that hunting ground and on average on each monster kill. Keep in mind that usually dungeons harbour different kinds of monsters that yield a different amount of experience points. So if a monster that gives less experience points is favoured by knights in one hunting ground, and sorcerers favour a monster that gives more experience points in the same hunting ground, the average experience points gained on each monster kill for sorcerers is higher than the average experience gain on each monster kill for a knight.
That statistical information is already quite useful. The content team can see which dungeons are attractive for which vocation, and which dungeons are not visited a lot. With an internal tool it is even possible to create a map that displays the attractiveness of dungeons:

This portion of the map shows the kill statistics on the surface of Tibia in autumn 2008. For your orientation, the island on the left is Rookgaard. Each floor tile there is represented by a dot. Blue dots indicate that few monsters were killed at that coordinate, and red dots show that many monsters were killed on that very same coordinate. A monster that lives in a narrow passage, for example, does not have as much of a range as a monster that lives out in the open. So of course, the chance that the monster is killed on the same coordinate is much higher in narrow passages. This needs to be kept in mind when interpreting the chart.

Using such a map and the kill statistics, the content team then looks at the top hunting grounds and the flop hunting grounds.
Sometimes, it is possible that a top hunting ground is way over the top. In such a case, it needs to be tuned down a bit. This is a rare situation, though. An example for such a 'way over the top' hunting ground was Okolnir, where mainly sorcerers generated experience points massively by luring frost dragons and killing them with the spell Rage of the Skies. That was something that had not been foreseen when Okolnir was built, and it was not intended that way. This situation was solved by dividing the spacious areas there into several smaller areas.

More often, hunting ground analyses identify dungeons that are not so attractive for players. These dungeons are then looked at closely and compared to other dungeons to find out how they can be improved. Although in some cases the reason for players avoiding a certain dungeon can be rather obvious when taking a close look at it, in many other cases it is very difficult. Reasons for the failure of a dungeon could either be the architectural structure, the monsters, or a completely different reason.
If there is an attractive dungeon that harbours the same type of monsters, but has a different structure, it is pretty safe to say that it is not the monster that is bad. If a dungeon with the same monsters is just as unattractive, the monsters might really be the cause for its unattractiveness. It is possible that the loot is bad, maybe unsalable, or that the monsters there do not yield enough experience points, that hunting there is either uneconomical, or simply too difficult and too risky. There are way over twenty parameters that could be adjusted to change the strength of a monster. For example, all attack and defense spells a monster knows, its resistances, hitpoints, etc. However, it is still possible that it is not even the monsters themselves that are responsible for the unattractiveness of the dungeon. Maybe it is one of the monster home properties, such as a slow respawn time, or simply a long and difficult way to the dungeon.
So there are many possible causes why a dungeon is unattractive and it is hard to determine the perfect solution to make it more attractive by looking at tables with statistics. So here is what we do next: We ask you, our players!

For our next hunting ground analysis, we would like to invite you to give us feedback in the Hunting Ground Analysis thread on the discussion board. Please answer the following questions:
  • What is your favourite hunting ground, and with which vocation/level do you mostly hunt in it?
  • Why is it your favourite place?

  • Where do you usually never hunt?
  • Why is it so unattractive to hunt there?

  • Which monsters in general do you think are great to hunt, and why?
  • Which monsters do you consider bad to hunt, and why? What would you improve?
  • Are there any monsters that are simply too good to be true and should be downgraded?
Good hunting!
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