Great ideas…in theory: Random Dungeons

Well, to start off, this past Saturday was my graduation ceremony. Those of you that have followed my blogs for a while may remember that I graduated last December with a degree in Television, Film, & New Media Production from San Diego State University. The school holds the graduation ceremonies in the Summer.

Since the ceremony itself was this weekend, most of the graduation presents dropped this weekend as well, which is why we have so many

New Games

Purchased with graduation money, mostly, these are the new games I got at retail:

  • Baroque (Wii)
  • Bubble Bobble Plus! (WiiWare)
  • Punch-Out!! (Wii)
  • Tenchu: Shadow Assassins (Wii)
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld Expansion Pack (XBL)
  • Ys Book I & II (VC)

Baroque is a game I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while but could never decide whether I really wanted to drop the money on it. I’ve played it for about an hour and I’m really enjoying it. Its a really difficult game to pin down in terms of what its supposed to be and how to approach it but there aren’t many games like it. Definitely not a game I think deserves the incredibly negative reviews its gotten, but then again, I don’t think Obscure: The Aftermath deserves its bad press, so what do I know? 😛

Punch Out is really one of those no-brainer titles that people will claim has been the only Wii game they’ve bought in a year. Tenchu was one of the Wii’s ‘March Big Three’ along with Deadly Creatures and Mad World. I’ve finished the first mission and I’m really enjoying it.

The Tomb Raider Underworld expansion pack I bought because I much prefer to own my expansions in some sort of retail release whenever possible. Shivering Isles for example and the upcoming Fallout 3 download packs. Although for the latter, I’m not sure if I’ll buy the two retail packs or just go for the Game of the Year edition that includes the fifth DLC pack. I’m also glad GTAIV’s Lost and Damned and the new Ballad of Gay Tony are being bundled on a stand-alone disc. I know the the retail version of the Tomb Raider DLC only gets me download codes, I still havet he box/art to put on my shelf.

Bubble Bobble Plus, I downloaded because I’m a big fan of the original game, which I also have on the Virtual Console. I think Taito did a great job pricing it at only 600 points, $100 more than the original Virtual Console as its cheap enough to get people to consider it over the cheaper original game and cheap enough for people who bought the Virtual Console game to consider buying it in addition to the VC game. Had they priced it at $10, I imagine a lot of people would have just settled/stuck with the old game as opposed to buying the new one.

Ys I bought with my remaining Wii Points. It had come down to Super Metroid, Super-Punch Out, or something else. I jumped into the Turbografx games and stumbled upon this gem and figured it was a good use for my last 800 points. Not that either of my other two options weren’t worth the money.

In addition to those, I’ve got a few games en route from online retailers:

  • Bourne Conspiracy (360)
  • Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (Wii)
  • Silent Hill: Origins (PS2)
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming (360)
  • Siren: Blood Curse – UK Import (PS3)
  • Street Fighter IV Collector’s Edition (360)

Bourne Conspiracy looks like a fun game and I really enjoyed the movies so I figured why not? Guilty Gear and Street Fighter IV are both games I’ve been looking forward to. I actually had Street Fighter IV pre-ordered on Amazon but felt it wise to cancel it in light of my financial situation.

The two Silent Hill games I bought more for completion as I have the rest of the series already. The Siren demo got me interested in the game, but like with other DLC, I’d much rather own a hard copy of it so I figured I’d import the blu-ray release from another region.

Anyways, looking into Baroque got me thinking about something, the title of my blog, actually…

Great ideas…in theory: Random Dungeons

The Idea: A system that randomizes a dungeon, giving the player a new dungeon every time they explore. In theory, this provides a game with nearly infinite replay value since a level will never play the same level twice.

Game Examples:

  • Rogue (PC-1980s)
  • Diablo (PC-1996)
  • Daggerfall (PC-1996)
  • Dark Cloud (PS2-2000)

The Reality:While the idea of a randomly generated dungeon sounds great on the back of a game box: ‘the dungeons are different every time! I’ll never need to buy another game again!’ The reality isn’t really so simple.

While random dungeons do indeed generate a different dungeon everytime, what it generates isn’t exactly what most people think of when they think of a level. Instead of a series of challenges consciously and deliberately designed to challenge and entertain the player, random dungeons are typically a random arrangement parts which often feel lifeless and uninspired.

This is because any level must, first and foremost, work. A player has to get from point A to point B. By hand-designing a level, a level designer can craft a level that is both interesting and functional and then hand it over to level artists to make the level look impressive. A random dungeon pretty much stops at the first step, though since its impossible (as fo now) to design a computer than can artfully craft a level, not only for functionality but for interest and excitement and do it instantly, random dungeons pretty much just work and little else.

Still, for the type of game a random dungeon is typically used for, roguelike dungeon crawlers, deliberate level design can be sacrificed because the main purpose of the game is to kill monsters and gain loot. For other genres such as platformers and action/adventure games where the environment plays a more vital role in gameplay and overall enjoyment, a random dungeon could be disastrous. Not so much that it’d break the game, but it would make play more of a grind than anything at best.

That’s not to say that the monotony of random dungeons is entirely forgiven in dungeon crawlers. Most dungeon crawlers making use ofrandomly generated dungeons have been criticized for the lack of level design. Even Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, a game reportedly 10,000 times the size of its sequel, Morrowind, was criticized for its monotonous, randomly generated terrain.

One has to wonder if its possible to create a random dungeon generator that can create truly memorable levels. I’m fairly sure it is possible. The single most important thing they can do is to be a little more adventurous with the design of individual level components. Typical roguelike games simply focus on very basic walls and floors with little interesting geometry. Granted, much of this is most likely to allow the system many possible combinations of patterns and to allow the system to figure out a whole floor plan quickly.

With computing power growing I don’t think its impossible to create a program that can generate more impressive dungeons. And if time is an issue, maybe it’d be possible to have the system generating and working out the level in the background while the player is involved with the current floor.

Granted, that’s just speculation on my part. Not being a programmer and being unfamiliar with the types of algorithms used to generate a random dungeon, I can’t say any of this with any degree of certainty, but its at least something to think about.

Randomly generated dungeons are attractive to both players and developers. For developers, they can save money on level design teams by having a program generate stages on their own. Perhaps that’s why random dungeon generators aren’t too far removed from where they were 20 years ago, lots of level designers not wanting to lose their jobs 😛 For gamers the advantage is infinite replayability. The game is new every time making repeated trips into the game an attractive offer. Of course, at the moment the downside is that while random dungeons work, they rarely generate anything memorable. For now, they’re mostly used to create a random space for the player to interact in but the level itself never becomes as promiment or as interesting as it can be with a design team crafting each twist, turn, hill, and jump.

Game Observer

As I mentioned in my last blog, I was submitting my ‘Wii in Context’ article to Game Observer where it was published last Thursday here. The version found on the site is somewhat different than the version on my blog (which is, in turn, somewhat different from the original version in Kwonstein’s blog) in that I incorporated some of my responses to the comments (unfortunately, Kwonstein, the article had already gone to print by the time our last exchange trasnpired).

I still haven’t decided what to write for my next article, but I do have a few ideas, I’m just a bit too lazy to really follow through with them at the moment, but they’ll come, later rather than sooner, probably, but they’ll come.

and finally, an LE Review

The Witcher Enhanced Edition

witcher


This one is a little odd in that it may or may not be considered a premium edition so much as a re-release. Still, I think its worth covering since it puts many CE’s to shame. Also, a lot of these bonuses became available to those her purchased the original game for free via download.

  • The Witcher – Enhanced Edition
  • Bonus Disc
  • Making-of Disc
  • Official Soundtrack
  • Music Inspired by the Witcher
  • Game Guide
  • The Witcher Short Story
  • World Map

The Witcher – Enhanced Edition:A new version of the original game with numerous fixes including improvements instability, load times, combat, facial expressions, and weather effects. This new version also includes dialogue re-written and re-recorded, more NPC variety, and new animations.

Bonus Disc: This disc includes two new adventures as well as the Adventure editor for creating your own scenarios.

Making-of Disc: A fairly comprehensive disc including interviews with the creators discussing the plot, production, motion-capture, audio design, localization (the game was released simultaneously in 9 languages, all fully voice acted). Also includes the game’s opening cinema and a music video.

Official Soundtrack: A great fantasy soundtrack. You know how much I love these.

Music Inspired by the Witcher: Basically this is a second soundtrack made up of well…songs inspired by the Witcher. A bunch of different bands, none of which I recognize, and styles ranging from fantasy instrumental, to metal, and everything in between. An interesting cd and something you don’t really see every day.

Game Guide: A 112-page guide to the entire game it seems. Includes maps and sidequest details. I find it a little hard to believe that this tiny guide really covers the entire game after seeing how big the Morrowind and Oblivion guides are. Includes maps and side quests.

The Witcher Short Story: A 40-page short story from Andrzej Sapkowski’s short story collection, ‘The Last Wish’ with illustration; part of the Witcher mythos on which the game is based.

World Map: A large map of the game world.

Wow, is all I can really say. This release really fulfills pretty much everything I’d want from a premium edition. You have the game as well as additional gameplay material, plus two soundtracks, a guide book, in-depth making-of material, and a short story from which the game is based. I really can’t think of any LE that really gives you so much and I haven’t even mentioned the price yet. This edition f the game cost a cool $40 on release. Granted this was released quite some time after the original game so charging full-price for what is essentially a re-release probably wouldn’t have gone over so well with the public. Still, the fact that they threw in quite a few goodies in there and still kept the price so low is amazing. Its a shame we don’t see things like that more often.

The game is still incredibly affordable, with priced in the $20-$30 range on ebay and is well worth the price.

And I think that’s about it for this week. As usual, suggestions for LE Reviews are welcome. Thanks for reading!