Well, I kind of spun my wheels a bit today. There's supposed to be an idea of a plan of a schedule for getting the AC properly set up, so that's as nice as can be, I guess.
I think I might try sketching out some of the stuff I stuck in the summary two days ago.
Now, I read over that, and I think about Nova Drift, Slay the Spire, Solitairica, and Vampire Survivors.
Technically speaking, that post only half applies to Solitairica, because you don't unlock within-a-run upgrades in Solitairica, so it's "just" really grindy. Like, come on, I can clear normal mode with a basic deck pretty much at will, apparently. Just give me the rest of the dang game, please.
Also, the first half of the post doesn't describe Vampire Survivors, since it actually does have fixed maps, so good on it. Second half is super applicable, though.
I'm sort of thinking of this now because my save files for Nova Drift (which I was playing a few months ago) and Solitairica, which I just picked up recently, didn't survive the laptop migration, so I ground things up in Nova Drift, which is a little annoying, and I ground a little in Solitairica, and that's giving me this weird double sensation of "Oh, the flow!" and "Please just let me have all characters, six slots, and all power cards, this is busywork".
Having established that I'm complaining, I'll now think about why these games might be like this. I think the draw of these games lies in part in the combination of "bite-sized play times" with "long-term progression". So, you're not signed up to anything that requires long-term investment or understanding, and you can just knock out a play session, potentially in an afternoon or so, but you're still making progress every time you do.
So, assuming I'm right about this being the reason for stapling together RPG progression and roguelite runs, is there a way to do this that I'd prefer?
Now, "not having the whole game" bothers me from a gameplay perspective, but there's kind of a symbolic issue here: When we upgrade things between runs, what are we playing as? We get some experience points or make some purchases, and somehow this... changes the options available to the brand new iteration of the character in the next run? Like, I'm making persistent progress, but I also have to re-buy all the potions and such that I want each time. Something that occurred to me as a flavoring possibility for these "per-run" upgrades is tactical modifications to the area the run takes place in. Like, you can set up traps and trip-wires or whatever, and when you move on to the next area, you don't get back the stuff that you deployed, because you used it.
Let's see how this idea interacts with the points in the linked post.
First off, I'm assuming that this is presented as a vaguely RPG-ish with very forgiving death mechanics by roguelike standards, in order to maintain the "bitesized run" concept. You have save files, each save file has a series of cleared zones, you advance by clearing a zone, which takes no more than a few hours, and if you die, it punts you back to the beginning of the zone.
"B-but permadeath!" "There's no way for dying to gum up your meta-progression in these games, so something's clearly off-kilter anyway."
Each zone starts with a shop that has a random inventory of tools for helping you clear the zone. Clearing the zone in certain ways can give you bonuses of some kind.
So, you've got a save file, the character is advancing in ways gated by the random shop inventory, I don't have strong thoughts about the zones, but it's a better decision to design a bunch of "levels that work" than to try to work out the principles for good level design from nothing and program them into the game, (if I want proc-gen for levels later, it will help to have examples), and the part about optimization vs crazy runs has me thinking of something else...
Suppose the kinds of items available from the shops were tied to some kind of "chaos meter" like from Mythic, where low chaos made it easier to obtain lower-tier and reliable items, while high chaos made available items "swingier" in various ways. Then, player conduct could influence the chaos meter up and down, to try and tailor the overall experience to match the play style. I don't know if this is a good idea, but it's an idea, to be sure.
Anyway, I'm really tired, so I'm wrapping things up for now.