Alex’s Analysis – Dungeoneering: What’s to Like?

posted by on 13th May 2010, at 12:00pm

Variety. Thousands of games incorporate this. Tetris started with a simple eight by whatever box that you filled up. Now there’s a variation that makes the lines explode depending on the matching colors that touch the line. Mario started with a simple jump-on-dude’s head platformer, and now we are about to have a game that’s supposedly supposed to surpass something that sends the sucker skyrocketing light-years with every jump. Also, if you go to Newgrounds, some crazy programmer spent a year of his life remaking Super Mario Bros for NES with a “choose your character” screen. Megaman and Samus shooting Bowser dead for the win.

Same with Runescape. It starts off with a general MMORPG where the goal is to complete all the quests and get better at your skills. Gets boring after a while. In comes Dungeoneering, and we’re suddenly almost playing a whole new dimension of Runescape. The bars, the herbs, the seeds, the hides… everything is different except for the skills used to craft them and the magics used (bummer …). Ooh!

A bad thing? Take a variety of choice words and stick “no!” at the end. We as humans LOVE variety. Discovery. Challenge. Mystery. Exploration. Achievement. Emotion. All of these things are what turns a mere event and idea into something that not only we can have fun with, but something that we will want to continue to have fun with for a long period of time.

But you can only have so much before it starts to become complicated. Suppose I made a game where the sky was a dark purple, blobs of “liquid” filled the sky, and the ground appears to be a representation of the fourth dimension. Would you have fun with that game if I just threw you in without any explanation as to what’s going on?

Try as you might, I don’t think anybody will have any fun where every step results in a “WTF” spell.

Runescape needed Dungeoneering. It was running out of variety. There’s already desert, jungle, wasteland, ice mountains, lava caves, underground cities, urban, rural, countryside, lake-bend, you name it. What’s more, everything is set. Al Kharid is set in the desert. It cannot move from there. You know Al Kharid as a desert town. Should Jagex decide it would be awesome to throw in another desert town, then it just wouldn’t be interesting, as you’re already used to Al Kharid. Heck with that place you need to quest to get to, let’s just stick with what we’re used to!

Same with changing environments. Should they suddenly sprout palm trees and a volcano in the middle of town, you’d call it Karamja. Then what? Would it be worth going there anymore if Al Kharid had the same banana trees, fruit tree farming patch, and fishing spots as Karamja? I think not. It would lose its uniqueness and no longer be something special that draws a player in well enough to relate to it.

It’s only natural that they can start running out of ideas. Quests will help to immerse the player in what already exists, as well as introduce the worthy to new ones, but there still needs to be that little bit of “new” that will keep their attention.

So, in comes this vast, complex dungeon with one big explanation (someone made it and you gotta explore it) and a room randomizer. Randomization. That’s the epitome of variety. Like a lone tree that grows every type of fruit imaginable. If it just grew apples, you wouldn’t be able to live off that for very long before you get absolutely sick of them.

They can change it around as much as they want, but you as the player are already used to that. After all, that’s what mystery dungeons do. They are allowed change! That works! Desert towns cannot suddenly grow grass and farmyards all around out of nowhere because the sun suddenly shifted position. That doesn’t work!

Lastly, Dungeoneering has a set goal. Get to the bottom of this vast dungeon. This is discovery plus achievement. Not just getting to the goal, but getting the credits needed for items that will further help you with other skills! Just getting those expensive things are worthwhile enough to become achievements, me thinks.

This is what a game is, gentlepeople. This is not what a skill is, this is what a game is. And trust me, I’d rather play a game than work at a skill. If I wanted to work a skill, I would practice my programming skill so I can further improve my chances at a successful career, which would then allow me to play more games.

That’s why I like Dungeoneering. It appeals to me as a general player, it’s fun, it’s interesting, and best of all, it’s a game.

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