Posted by: Xalthorn | September 21, 2007

Dungeon Escape dungeons

Dungeon Content 

One thing that I keep going over and over again is the content for Dungeon Escape.  For example, should the dungeons and their contents be completely random, or should they be hand crafted.

There is a view that with random content, it will overcome the players’ need for new content.  I personally feel that this view is way off the mark and very short sighted.

Dungeon Escape, at its core, is a simple dungeon hack.  You go through the dungeons fighting monster after monster, collecting treasure along the way and when you escape, your character gets better and you go back and do it again.

The big problem with this is that it can get stale too quickly.  Players need a reason to play, to go back through the dungeons, again and again, creating a new hero every 100 dungeons.  If they were simply going back into a random dungeon, no matter how decorative, the process is going to become tedious, it just depends on the player how soon the tedium kicks in.

As a result, I have elected to go for hand crafted dungeons.  Each dungeon that the player goes into will be unique (well, to a certain point) and there will be a reason to go in there.

This serves many purposes:

  • Dungeons can have a proper name, rather than a number or seed
  • Dungeons can have requirements for entry, which could be the completion (to a certain level) of a previous dungeon rather than an item, which in turn allows for mini campaigns to be created
  • Story elements are much easier to implement and work into the dungeon design
  • Dungeons can be mapped and information shared between players
  • Players can compare notes on their experiences in a given dungeon

Although the layout is fixed, the contents of an particular room will be random to a point.  There will be a list of monsters found in the dungeon, and their relative quantities.  The easiest way of thinking about it is that a dungeon has a deck of monsters (oh look, ideal for a board/card game).  The deck can be of any size, as long as it contains enough to cater for the largest number of monsters encountered in a room at once.

A sample deck could be:

  • Ogre x2
  • Orc x4
  • Goblin x10 

The monsters encountered in a given room are ‘drawn’ from this deck until it is is drained and then it is rebuilt and shuffled again.

The reason why the monsters are random and not fixed is that the monsters you encounter in a room depend greatly on how many players are in the room and what level of the dungeon they are on.

Dungeon restrictions

Not all dungeons will be available to the hero at the start of the game.  When a hero wishes to enter a dungeon, they are presented with a list of areas (settings/geographical).  When they select that area, they are then presented with a list of the available dungeons and what the POW range of the monsters is.

If dungeons have a requirement, and the player does not meet that requirement, the dungeon will not be listed. Requirements can include a combination of such things as:

  • Hero is … race
  • Hero is … sex
  • Hero POW greater than …
  • Hero POW lower than …
  • Hero POW equal to …
  • Hero has cleared level … in dungeon …
  • Hero is wearing … clothing
  • and so on…

Basically, the requirement system will allow for any combination of requirements to be made, even if some of the requirements may not be used in practice.

The requirement for a dungeon is actually a series of requirement groups where a number of the requirements in the group have to be met.  I’ll try to demonstrate.

Bunnies Revenge Dungeon Requirements:

  • Must meet 1 of (race-human,race-elf)
  • Must meet 3 of (wearing-bunny ears, wearing-bunny slippers, wearing-bunny club, wearing-bunny cloak, wearing-bunny suit)
  • Must meet 1 of (POW>1)

What this would mean is that the hero must be human or elf, must be wearing at least 3 pieces of the bunny set, and have a POW greater than 1.

Dungeon Setting

The dungeons are not all the same, not just in layout, but in their appearance as well.  This is heavily influenced by the setting of the dungeon.

Most of the initial dungeons will be in the standard world, usually underground areas in an otherwise normal environment.  The look and feel of a dungeon is varied, from rough hewn caverns, to ancient once populated structures with polished marble floors and the like.

There are also dungeon portals that lead to the elemental planes (Earth, Water, etc).  This is where the greatest change in appearance will come in.  For example, a dungeon set in the elemental plane of fire is hardly going to have crystal clear lakes in the middle of it, or icy corridors.

These settings will be another way of adding new content and flavour to the game.  Initially, I am expecting not to have the other planes accessible, leaving that for later addition.  Access to these areas will likely be a player achievement rather than a hero achievement as otherwise, the hero will have to go through an initial unlock process which would restrict the rest of their career.  This is another way that the players can gain real achievements, unlocking content that newer players simply cannot jump into.

Quests

Quests are things that the hero can undertake, usually to unlock certain achievements or gain special treasures.  A hero POW should never be increased by the completion of a quest as it will unbalance the POW gain and quests are for achievements.

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