Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cheating and The Psychology of Gaming

Following on from my previous post about cheaters in online games I think it is worth making a link between cheating and the psychology of gaming achievement.

Performers might be tempted to cheat because they crave the ego boost of achievement but are not prepared to put hard work into getting it.

Masters on the other hand are prepared to slog through the game in order to earn their achievements.

This viewpoint might explain why many adults who really should know better still cheat. If you are a cheater don't expect me to feel sorry for you though just because you have a mixed up psychological alignment!

EDIT: Applying this analayis to the resons given by cheaters in the last post:

I think I started cheating because when you die in CSS you have to wait until the next round to play again. I wanted to keep playing. - PERFORMER
 Think I started cheating because I work for a living and don't have all day to learn to play a PC game just so some 12 yr old hairless scrotum can sling 'l33t' speak insults at me. PERFORMER (or perhaps just misopedic)
i loved how i can cause rage on people who take the gaming too seriously and start throwing killing threats on you etc. hilarious crap SOCIOPATH ???
I started cheating for the sole purpose of cheating: having advantages over other players. I got bored of playing the game the way it was supposed to be played: PERFORMER
I'm just really lazy and I don't feel like waiting to get the newest gear and stuff. I know it takes away the challenge, but to me, that's not really a big deal. e-peen growth is srs bsns. PERFORMER
Meh, I cheat in TF2 because the game is boring.PERFORMER
Pretty conclusive don't you think?


I have been playing a bit of Frontlines Fuel of War (single player ok, multiplayer pretty good) but there is some kind of bug that prevents people who bought the game through STEAM from accessing punkbuster (anti cheat) enabled servers. You can read about the bug here. While we wait for this to get sorted I have been limited to non protected servers. This led me to wonder once again about cheating in online games so I consulted the oracle of Google to find out about more it. I probably wish I hadn't.

Let me state categorically that I do not cheat in multiplayer games. Why do people do it? Its not like a professional sport where cheating can be a shortcut to riches. In games all you are playing for is personal pride and the very fact of cheating surely destroys that pride. 

One of my first guesses was that most of the cheating is done by kids who are too young to accept losing. That hypothesis was blown out of the water when my first google search led me to an aimbot for Frontlines which charges a subscription of €20 per month!!! I doubt if many children are paying that much to avoid the ignominy of defeat.

A bit more googling dug out forums dedicated to cheats and cheaters. I have heard about this subculture before but I expected to find something that read like the worst excesses of 4Chan and Something Awful with every poster using expletive laden leet speak. Apparently this is not the case. MPC for example is a well moderated forum with polite users politely discussing how to cheat in games. In fact the whole thing is a lot better behaved than many official game forums. It would seem that cheaters are nice people.


Apologies for that foul language outburst, I don't normally use expletives but I really don't like cheating and I don't like cheaters. Whatever reasons and whatever excuses they use to justify their cheating they are hurting other gamers and they are damaging the whole experience of gaming.  The fact that they can be polite and friendly in their own cosy forums somehow makes it worse.

A poster to MPC called Ondscan actually calls out the cheaters and asks "Why Cheat?". There is irony and honesty in equal measure in the responses he got:

I think I started cheating because when you die in CSS you have to wait until the next round to play again. I wanted to keep playing.

 Think I started cheating because I work for a living and don't have all day to learn to play a PC game just so some 12 yr old hairless scrotum can sling 'l33t' speak insults at me.

i loved how i can cause rage on people who take the gaming too seriously and start throwing killing threats on you etc. hilarious crap

I started cheating for the sole purpose of cheating: having advantages over other players. I got bored of playing the game the way it was supposed to be played:

I'm just really lazy and I don't feel like waiting to get the newest gear and stuff. I know it takes away the challenge, but to me, that's not really a big deal. e-peen growth is srs bsns.

Meh, I cheat in TF2 because the game is boring.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I have commanded armies and conquered worlds. Remembering "Double Life"

A commenter to RPS reminded me of Playstation's famous "Double Life"  advertisement today. If you have never seen it watch it now. If you have seen it watch it again. Not only do I believe this is the greatest gaming related advertisement of all time but for me it is the clearest most complete expression of why I am a gamer.

For years, I've lived a double life. In the day, I do my job I ride the bus, roll up my sleeves with the hoi polloi. But at night, I live a life of exhilaration, of missed heartbeats and adrenalin. And, if the truth be known, a life of dubious virtue.  I won't deny it I've been engaged in violence, even indulged in it. I've maimed and killed adversaries and not merely in self-defence. I've exhibited disregard for life, limb and property, and savoured every moment.  You may not think it, to look at me, but I have commanded armies and conquered worlds. And though in achieving these things I've set morality aside, I have no regrets. For though I've led a double life, at least I can say: I've lived.

If you are interested in a more complete analysis of the ad read Dejan Petroviks article here.  You can also read the citation written for the ad when it was inducted  into the CLIO hall of fame in 2007 here.

I wonder what ever happened to that little girl who uttered the immortal phrase "and conquered worlds"?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What makes a game sell?

Slashdot is proving to be a very fruitful source of gaming links today. First there was the link to the article about the psychology of achievement in games and now another interesting link to a Gamasutra article about the most important factors in game purchases. 

Most important factors (in order or importance):
1. Genre (makes sense)
2. Whether or not they enjoyed a previous game in the series (Groan. FIFA 2099 here we come) 
3. Price (Hurray!)
4. Word of mouth (one assume this involves all kinds of personal communication including online)
5. Advertising visuals. (You just gottta have explosions in it - period)

Factors having relatively little importance:
Publisher reputation (There are publishers out there who have anything other than a bad reputation?)
Metacritic scores (In my experience aggregated review scores are a reasonable if not perfect indication of quality. Pity to see that gamers pay so little heed when choosing where to spend their cash. The article does admit that word of mouth, which is important, is also related to quality so all hope is not lost )

Psychology of gaming: Are you a Performer or a Master

There is thought provoking article by Doctor Professor on his Pixel Poppers blog about the psychology of achievement in games  (discovered via Slashdot).

Doctor P points out that psychology teaches us that humanity divides into two camps when it comes to challenges. Performers love tackling easy challenges so they can overcome them and prove how great they are. Masters like tackling tough challenges so they can improve their own skill or knowledge. He then links this to gaming achievement and suggests that RPG games appeal to performers while action games appeal to masters. On realising that he himself was a natural performer who was addicted to rpgs he then made a concerted effort to retrain himself as a master because "it is the mastery orientation that is correlated with academic and professional success as well as self esteem and long term happiness".

Doctor P doesn't specifically mention mmorpgs but it is pretty clear that the guaranteed progression of the levelling game is performer heaven. On the other hand the tough challenges of end game often require serious preparation and many failed attempts before they can be overcome - these are more likely to appeal to masters surely.

I enjoy both mmorpgs and action games but I have never mastered either genre. I tend to zone out of mmos when it comes to the repetitive end game and I am generally content to wallow around mid table in multiplayer shooters. This suggests that I am a performer by nature but on the other hand I am generally very diligent at finishing single player games and I love getting stuck into a tough puzzle and worrying with it till I work it out.

I can think of some other Bloggers who have clearly identified their characteristics: Tipa of West Karana may be an avid mmorpger but anyone who spends months and months trying to overcome an obscure neo-pets puzzle is clearly a master. Bill Harris (curse you again Bill for not allowing comments) who has spent months learning to ride a unicycle  is also an obvious master.

Have we any self confessed performers out there?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Frontlines Fuel of War: €2.49 on Steam

A bargain is only a bargain if you wanted the item in the first place but nevertheless €2.49 for game that was only released last year is hard to turn down. I am downloading the game now and will report on my experiences later. By all accounts it is a fairly good shooter with strong multi-player much like the Battlefield series.  It clearly can't hav ebeen much of a commercial success or they wouldn't be selling it at €2.49 but the forums seem to indicate that Steam's give-away price is creating a resurgence of interest in the game. Hopefully this will allow me to indulge in a bit of multi-player action. Mind you those forums posts seem to indicate a fair number of folk are experiencing difficulty getting the game to work - hopefully

My own personal MW2 boycott continues despite a general perception that the boycott was a failure and despite several commenter's being quite negative against the whole idea of the boycott.  Of course a developer is allowed put any feature they like into or out of their game and of course they are also allowed to charge whatever they see fit but to me it is a very simple question of economics. The game as currently offered does not justify its price tag for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Druids by Morgan Llywelyn

Oops - wrong blog, moved to here

Random Rewards Suck ... (until you get a shiny drop.)

Random rewards suck: Zubon describes the downside of random rewards in a blog post describing how he was unlucky on the roll for a desirable piece of loot 15 times out of 16 attempts even though he had a better than 1 in 6 chance. I have been there, I assume we all have and it is entirely soul destroying to hit a losing streak like that. Having some grasp of basic probability only makes it worse when you realise that after 15 losing rolls you have exactly the same 1 in 6 chance of winning the next roll* as you had on your very first roll. Zubon actually left the game for six months after his losing streak. I think that game developers recognise that randomness can be a great demotivator, in games like WoW and LOTRO we have seen a move towards token rewards rather than random drops as a more predictable means of allocating loot.

And yet....

Remember how good it felt when a shiny sword dropped from the very first Orc you slew. That random reward felt great and was a great motivator. The truth is that randomness only sucks when you are losing. Winning an unexpected random reward feels great.

It seems to me that it should be very easy to keep  fun side of getting random rewards while hiding the downside of demoralising losing streaks. The key lies in the word "unexpected". As long as you are not expecting a reward then you neither know nor care when you lose some behind the scenes random number calculation and don't get one.

The guiding principle is that rewards that players expect should not be random.

Examples of expected rewards are:
Anything required to complete a quest.
Anything that acts as a gate to further content (keys, radiance armour etc).
End of instance rewards such as epic armour sets and epic loot.
In fact anything that comes in a set because someone is going to be stuck looking for the last piece.
Anything needed for character progression
Anything needed to gain an achievement or a title

Rewards that players don't expect can be as random as you like.
Examples: Random world drops, random encounters with special mobs

Of course human nature also comes in to play here and as surely as you create a random world drop someone somewhere will decide that they absolutely have to have it and get annoyed when it doesn't appear after they kill ten thousand mobs. To deal with this scenario I would further suggest that any item which is a genuinely random reward should be saleable to other players. No bind on acquire for random rewards.

(* Probability theory soundly asserts that past outcomes do not affect the future outcome of random events but a certain amount of common sense is required in its real world application. If you roll a dice fifty times and it comes up 6 every time it might be prudent to doubt whether or not that dice is truly random)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What game does Borderlands remind you of?

Borderlands is a pretty unusual game and  I have been trying to think of what other game it most reminds me of. The answer, bizarrely, is Far Cry 2.

Both games are first person shooters set in large open worlds with hostile native populations. Driving features strongly in both games. Both games have a quest driven main path but both also offer plenty of side-quests and opportunities to wander off the main path for non-linear exploration. While Far Cry 2 does not have much in the way of character progression the upgrading and maintenance of weapons is a parallel to the constant search for new weapons in Borderlands. Even the much maligned "respawning enemies" feature that everyone hated in Far Cry 2 also features in Borderlands.

I really think Borderlands resembles Far Cry 2 more than it resembles previous role playing shooters System Shock 2 and Deus Ex. Those games had strong story lines and complex role playing elements whereas as Borderlands emphasises its first person shooter side.

The only problem with this comparison is that I hated Far Cry 2 while I love Borderlands. The reasons? Well  one thing that shouldn't be overlooked is that the magic of character progression solves the tedium of infinitely re-spawning mobs. Those level 3 thugs who pop up every time you leave Fyrestone are completely inconsequential at level 18.  When it boils down to it though the really important difference is that the developers of Far Cry 2 went out of their way to make the game realistic, depressingly realistic. The developers of Borderlands eschewed realism in favour of cartoony fun. Far Cy 2 was depressing. Borderlands is fun.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Borderlands: Co-op or No-op

I suppose I should have smelled a rat when the game store assistant did his best to convince me to buy Dragon Age instead of the pc version of Borderlands. I know Dragon Age is good and I will play it eventually but at the moment Borderlands with its heady blend of RPG, Shooter and Co-op is more like what I need.

My hunter character is now level 13 and I am definitely enjoying the single player game: Nice cartoony graphics, simple but enjoyable rpg elements, Fun shooter gameplay (with vehicles). The quests drive the story along nicely although there seems to be some gaps: I didn't find any quests between level 5 and 10 for example.

Multi-player is another story. The PC version's online matchmaking uses Game-spy and it is really bad. Apart from the fact that the listings are unhelpful making it hard to choose a game to join there appears to be a variety of connection problems that prevent me joining a game 9 times out of 10. I tried hosting my own games but nobody ever joined me so  I suspect the connection issues work both ways.

A quick google revealed that my problems are widespread. The two most widely touted solutions involve either port forwarding or signing up to Game-ranger. The problem with port forwarding is that everyone joining a game has to do it which explains why a lot of Borderlands' game lobbies have the word "port" or something similar crammed into the very limited number of characters allowed for naming lobbies. I decided to try the game ranger route instead.

Signing up for a free "Bronze" Game ranger account is painless. I already have Xfire and Steam on this machine and Game Ranger does not seem to interfere with either but just in case I opted to manually start game ranger when required rather than have it start automatically  with Windows. Borderlands is clearly a big hit for Gameranger - at this moment Borderlands accounts for 109 out of 270 game lobbies on the service. As a third party matchmaking service Gameranger doesn't give any in game information about the level of players or the quests they are working on. The description field is long enough to say something like:  "Level 8 to 12, Doing  Bonehead Mission" but many hosters don't bother which makes lobby selection a bit of a gamble. I decided to start my own lobby instead asking for anyone who wanted to join and help with level 11 missions. Once I set up the "room" as it is called Gameranger automatically launched the game and put me into multiplayer mode. I selected my character and started and was soon joined by several other players. Success.

The level of co-operation was pretty much as expected from a PUG group - including a player who only wanted to spar (he lost every time) and a level 36 character who insisted on power levelling me through a mission I wasn't even on. Nevertheless Gameranger does seem to have cracked the connection problems and has a sufficiently large Borderlands following for me to recommend it.

One thing that appears lacking in Gameranger is hotkey to access the Gameranger panel while in a game. Even if I tab out it tells me I cannot go back to Gameranger until I exit the game. That makes surfing between game lobbies a real nuisance so perhaps I am missing something. Gameranger's support information is pretty limited however leading me to suspect that it does exactly what it says it does and nothing more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Internet for rich people

Thanks to Slashdot I have recently become aware of a whole subculture of social networking sites for rich and influential folks.  Apparently most of these work on an invite only basis.

I am a little bit miffed that my invites have not yet been forthcoming. I am after all the creator of a highly influential blog with a proven audience of 7 readers (including myself) and an income in excess of nine digits (in Cambodian Riels).  What are your waiting for?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quote of the day

Apologies to Syp who more usually does this sort of thing but I think Tipa deserves a gong for this one:

Simply put, World of Warcraft is not part of the MMORPG genre.

It is funny how much healthier the mmorpg scene looks if you do remove WOW from the picture. If you include WOW you see one all powerful market leader with a horde of failed wannabes. If you ignore WOW you can see a large variety of different and interesting games some good some bad some paying the bills some not.

But can we ignore WOW? Heaven knows that I and a lot of other former players would like to. I resent its overpowering influence on the market and I have more or less convinced myself that many many World of Warcraft players are not really gamers at all never mind mmorpgers. Me convincing myself doesn't mean its true though. WOW exists. It is big. Whether it really is an mmorpg or not it is kind of hard to ignore

Quick impressions of the Left 4 Dead 2 demo

( based on two single player run throughs and two pick up group multi-player run throughs. )

Graphics seems a little better than Left for dead 1 but ran just as well for me on an aging mid range machine.

The maps feel bigger and less linear but it is hard to draw conclusions based on only two maps in the demo.

The infected look scarier.

The new types of infected add more variety to the game but I suspect there isn't enough in the demo to fully appreciate all their roles.

There is a wider selection of weapons which is good. There isn't such a simplistic distinction between normal weapons and upgraded weapons even though some weapons are definitely more powerful than others. My favourite so far is the AK47. It is very powerful and insanely accurate.

The melee weapons are fun but gimmicky. If you equip a melee weapon you lose your pistols and twin pistols are just better than a melee weapon. Nevertheless I imagine there will be lots of fun to be had with melee only servers and such.

There is a wider range of accessories available including adrenaline and a defibrillator. In our run throughs on normal difficulty we didn't have to use any of these. Perhaps they play a bigger role at higher difficulty settings.

I really like two parts of the demo - a park where you thread your way though hedgerows avoiding or confronting infected as you see fit and also the "alarm" section where you must run a twisting path through a gauntlet of infected to silence a ringing alarm. Sadly the demo peters out after this gauntlet run - it ends on whimper rather than a bang.

Overall impression - good but not spectacularly better than L4D1. I do wonder if the demo does the game full justice. I think a lot of thought went into the new special infected and the new weapons but there isn't enough space in the demo to see them all in their intended roles. The spitter for example spews toxic bile on the ground which is a minor nuisance in the open maps of the demo but could  be deadly in a narrow indoors map.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A (long) question about how Micro-transactions will change our hobby

Arnold Hendrick writes thoughtful information packed articles about the mmorpg business and one of his posts about "Selling Mmos" prompted me to write down a question that has been brewing  in my head. The short version of the question is "What impact will the rise of micro-transactions have on gaming from a customer perspective?" 

I wrote a much longer version of the question in a comment to Arnold so being lazy I will copy the comment here:

Great article Arnold full of interesting information and insights. My knowledge of game development and marketing is very limited but I am a long time game playing customer. I am still trying to work out what impact the apparently unstoppable rise of micro-transactions is going to have on my hobby from a customer’s perspective.

I can see several good things about micro-transactions: They offer a business model that allows smaller companies to compete with the industry giants which increases the choice and variety of games on offer. In theory free to play with micro-transaction offers the customer all the choice. Customers can sample a wide variety of games at little or no cost and once they choose to play a game they can pay as much or as little as they like.

Unfortunately the reality in many cases does not seem to be as customer friendly. My two biggest concerns are i) The impact on game design (games will be designed as grind fests order to maximise item shop revenues rather than customer entertainment) and ii) Micro-transaction systems which are designed to squeeze excessive amounts of money from a small number of addicted customers. I call this “customer abuse”.

You mention four types of item commonly sold in an item shop:
1) Faster advancement, 2) tedium shortcuts, 3) appearance selection and 4) Item access.

To me 1) and 2) are almost always problematical. If a game is fun to play why would people want to pay to skip parts of it? There is a moral hazard here encouraging designers to design grind fests in order to encourage people to spend money to bypass the grind. As these items are usually consumables they are also a prime vehicle for customer abuse. We read about addicted customers spending hundreds of dollars a month in item shops and I imagine a good deal of this goes on pots and other consumables.

I don’t have a problem with 3) even though I think Blizzards $10 for a non combat pet is just bad value.

I have mixed views about 4). I don’t really have a problem with people paying for items but I can see dangers. If getting powerful items is one of the main objectives of the game then allowing people to buy powerful items for cash may be game breaking. One common form of customer abuse is to introduce a gambling system where you buy a box with an unknown item in it. It may be high quality or it may not. I have read of addicted players spending large sums opening such boxes in the hope of gettign a good item.

I am perhaps most surprised that you don’t mention a 5th item shop category: 5) pay for access to content. This is very unproblematic and in my mind provides the best deal for the customer – you buy the parts for the game you want to play. The incentive on developers is to make an interesting compelling game so that customers want to buy more of it.

I have recently broken my own micro-transaction taboo and have started playing Dungeons and Dragons online. I have even bought stuff in the item shop. I am happy enough with Turbines implementation because a lot of the item shop stuff is “pay for content” and I also think that the existence of a monthly subscription option limits the potential for customer abuse.

My question for the future is this: given the apparent inevitability of micro-transactions for everything will this mean a descent into grind-fest games surviving on the revenues from a small number of their most addicted customers or will market forces ensure that only interesting, fun to play games with non abusive item shops survive?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

DDO: Wizard versatility

First dungeon run last night: We encountered a locked door that neither I nor my cleric hireling could open. No problem. Once we had killed all the monsters we headed back to the nearest shrine and after a quick rest I swapped out "Melfs Acid Arrow" for "Knock" a spell which allows me to open locks.

In a second dungeon we were stopped by a door which had a minimum strength requirement to open. Again no problem - another visit to a shrine allowed me to swap in "Bulls Strength" a buff spell which gave me the strength I needed to open the door.

Versatility is the hallmark of a Wizard. Without question Sorcerers are better at casting spells. Both Wizards and Sorcerers can choose from the same list of arcane spells but sorcerers cast faster and they have more spell points which allows them to go on casting longer. Sorcerers cannot however swap spells mid mission. In fact they can only swap spells once every few days and they pay dearly to do so. Wizards can swap their spells freely in any tavern and they can swap after resting at a shrine during a mission. Shrines are on a fairly long cooldown but in an emergency there is the option of leaving the dungeon,  popping into the nearest tavern and legging it back before the dungeon resets.

If you have any one job you want doing a Sorcerer can probably do it better than a Wizard. The Wizard on the other hand brings the advantage of far greater flexibility.  That flexibility is a huge advantage to a solo player. As a wizard I can use spells that help make up for the lack of a rogue or a warrior in my party but a sorcerer would be unwilling to waste a valuable slot on such rarely used spells.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

DDO: Look after the copper and the gold will look after itself. NOT!

Dungeons and Dragons online has possibly the most confusing currency system of any game I have yet played.

In the first instance there are too many types of coins: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Copper. Copper is useless. Even at level 1 everything costs silver or gold and by level 3 I routinely buy things that cost 100's or 1000's of gold.

The next problem is that the multiplier between tiers of coin is only 10 as opposed to the more usual 100. I am sure I will eventually get used to this but even after two weeks playing I still need to remind myself that 50 silver is  equal in value to 5 gold.

The NPCs vendors don't help the situation by routinely ignoring platinum when quoting prices. The ingredients to inscribe a level 2 spell for example are quoted at 420 gold instead of 42 platinum.

Finally and perhaps the most confusing thing of all is that your purse does not automatically convert coins to the largest denomination. For example my purse might contain: 21 Platinum, 194 Gold, 211 Silver and 384 Copper. Can I afford to buy level 2 inscription materials which are quoted at 420 gold? 

Is this some kind of slavish adherence to the AD&D ruleset? I don't know but how hard can it be to implement a simple algorithm to add up the coins in your purse?

By the way the answer is yes. I can afford the inscription materials and I will have 0 platinum, 8 gold, 9 silver and 4 copper left over. 

Not So Free Realms

Thank you to Green Armadillo for highlighting the fact that Free Realms is going to put a barrier in at level 5 beyond which you must be a subscriber to advance. As Green Armadillo himself puts it:
"Free Realms is now all but officially a subscription game with a free trial, rather than a free to play game with an item shop and optional subscription"
I know very little about Free Realms having only played one character up to (coincidentally) level 5 but on the face of it this is a staggering move. For quite some time it has appeared that microtransactions were an unstoppable force which would eventually signal the death of the subscription model. Turbine's recent move of DDO from compulsory to optional subscriptions has reportedly been a big success. Sony are the only company I have heard of moving back towards a compulsory subscription model.

Without more information it is hard to read this. I assume Sony are doing it because they think it will make them more money but is this because they have decided that their non subscription players are costing them more than they are worth? If so this has implications for all Free to Play Games.As one of the commenters to Green Armadillo asks "So F2P does not work then?"

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Torchlight Is not For me

Lets face it, when it boils down to it every computer game is a pointless waste of time. Some games try to hide this fact with engaging story lines and complex game-play. Torchlight on the other hand celebrates its pointlessness and glorifies in it. It is the very incarnation of progress quest with added button pressing and better graphics. Meet monster, press button,  kill monster,  loot better gear, level up, meet tougher monster .... repeat. There are some embellishments involving pets, enchanting and gems but the essence remains unchanged. The game's quests and dungeons may be scripted but they just as easily be procedurally generated from what I have seen of the demo.

I know that a lot of people love this.   Wilhelm2451 and other bloggers whose opinions I respect are full of the game's praises but I still don't get it. I don't care if it follows in the illustrious foosteps of Diablo, Dungeon Siege, Titan Quest and its own direct antecedent Fate. I find the game boring.

There are times when we all can use a bit of mindless button mashing but I think that this market segment is very well covered by free to play flash games. To my mind both Sonny and Monsters Den have more depth than I have seen in Torchlight.

EDIT: On second reading my post above comes across more negatively than is warranted. For balance I should point out that Torchlight is very well made with a very well polished interface.The combat though repetitive is well done and the sounds in particular are very satisfying. The game is actually a lot of fun to play at first. Its just that I find this type of game play gets repetitive. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that it remains compulsive long after it has ceased being entertaining.