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Challenges and Their Relation to Games

Posted September 3rd, 2014 at 9:21 PM by Necrum
Updated September 3rd, 2014 at 10:41 PM by Necrum

I thought I would take a moment to write some things down from an analytical standpoint, regarding Pokemon challenges. To put what I'm going to say in perspective, I'm going to tell you a little story. Some years ago, I can't remember how long, I bought Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360. It's a nice collection that I would recommend to anyone, you can get the games on many platforms. I mainly bought the collection for the Sonic games that were on the disc, but that's not what this story is about. What it is about, is a small game you probably never heard of called Fatal Labyrinth. In Fatal Labyrinth (it's on steam emulated if you want to check it out, along with most of the games from the collection), you start at the bottom of a castle that emerged from the ground outside your town, which is rules by an evil dragon who begins causing all kinds of untold (literally) trouble. As you progress through the castle, moving ever upwards, you face a number of monsters, find potions, collect weapons, level up, all the usual RPG elements you would expect. What wasn't traditional of standard RPGs, was the fact that it had a randomly generated castle, each time you play. None of the potions are labeled, forcing you to be cautious and test them out before you know what they do. Everything about the game is procedurally generated as you play. But the one thing that set it apart from many games I had played at the time, was the fact that if you died, that was it. You were dead. There were no continues, no extra lives, just you against the computer in something similar to an over complicated, randomly created game of chess with RPG rules. This is a game for the Sega Genesis that's almost as old as I am! Doesn't that just seem amazing? Well, it isn't, but I'll get to that later. I became obsessed with the game, and played it several times, dying and restarting, always getting a little better each time I tried. Sometimes luck would be in my favor, and I would beat one or two bosses. But other times, the game would generate a much harder dungeon, and I would be screwed from the start. Eventually, after much trial and error, I defeated the Dragon of the castle, and beat the game! But it left me wondering.

I researched the game, and found that Wikipedia really didn't have a whole lot to say about it, but what it did say, was that the genre was something called Roguelike. This was the start of my obsession with the genre that would challenge me more than any other before (I only just beat The Binding of Isaac today, which has many elements of Roguelike games). What a Rogielike game boils down to is, a game where the world is procedurally generated rather than mapped, all the encounters and items are random (maybe you're starting to see where this is going), and permadeath. Most Roguelikes are also top down turn based RPGs.

If you haven't realized it yet, this is extremely similar to the conditions of a Nuzlocke Challenge. Perma-death, random encounters (the fact that only the first encounter matters replicates this), the only thing missing is the random dungeons (go check out Pokemon Mystery Dungeon if you want a real Pokemon Roguelike -the permadeath). So, what does this mean? I can't say if the creator of the Nuzlocke Challenge had any experience with Roguelikes, but it seems likely that the concepts probably soaked through somehow, perhaps from games like Diablo which are almost Roguelikes.

Now, sure, there's a similarity. But you aren't reading this for me to compare Nuzlockes to Roguelikes, the most exciting thing I have ever thought of in my mind but still doesn't have much value to you. Well, let's look at where Roguelikes came from. The original game, Rogue, was an RPG written over thirty years ago, with many of the same features I have already covered. You progressed through a dungeon, deeper and deeper, until you recovered an artifact, and returned up through the dungeon after that. The game is largely inspired by the pen and paper game, Dungeons & Dragons. This is where we find the point. What is a challenge, but another form of written game? Rules are laid out, and people choose to play it. Challenges are nothing more than additional games to be played along side Pokemon games, or any other video games. This idea has an interesting effect. Many people think that written games are dying, and yet what I see is that they are moving elsewhere. Rather than being a hardcover book with rules, now they're listed on the internet. I think that people will always strive to create games for themselves and others, whether they can program or not. The imagination hasn't died, it's only moved elsewhere.

I don't know if anyone is really going to read this giant block of text with a bunch of comparisons that I found interesting, but I thought it would be nice to put my thoughts on the nature of challenges up, since I do moderate the Challenges Forum. If you have anything to add, or anything you disagree with, feel free to leave a comment below! And if I somehow piqued your interest in either Roguelikes or Challenges, try one of these:


The Random Pokemon Challenge: http://www.pokecommunity.com/showthread.php?t=317485
A decent starting point for anyone who has never played a challenge before.

Brogue: https://sites.google.com/site/broguegame/
I suggest you read the tips in the Readme. This is an updated Roguelike based on the original Rogue. Very fun but hard to master. YOU WILL DIE SEVERAL TIMES! If you want something easier, stick to Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.
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Comments

  1. Old Comment
    jdthebud's Avatar
    You have inspired me to try PMD, which I have never played before. Which one is the best?
    Posted September 3rd, 2014 at 9:35 PM by jdthebud jdthebud is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Necrum's Avatar
    I've never actually played the PMD games myself, but I've heard that the most recent one, Gates to Infinity, is really lack luster. Probably one of the DS ones would be best.
    Posted September 3rd, 2014 at 9:40 PM by Necrum Necrum is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Rewy's Avatar
    I personally love the PMD Explorers of the Sky. Sadly nowadays you can't be rescued from the dungeons anymore if you get stuck and what not, but they're still great fun. And really different on the story line part.
    Posted September 3rd, 2014 at 10:23 PM by Rewy Rewy is offline
  4. Old Comment
    silver-wind's Avatar
    this was very interesting to read
    I'm into game-making too, and let me tell you- while "randomly generated map" sounds amazing, in practice, it really ruins your game. first, the maps won't be esthetic. a computer cannot create a map that's even close to a human-made map. it'll simply look and feel random. it's like the difference between drawing, and spilling paint on a page. maps in games can give an atmosphere. some loactions are linked to the plot, so you need to design them yourself. otherwise, there's no story, no atmosphere, no creativity involved. you can't even place people in the map that advance the plot, cause what if they end up surrounded with rocks, or inside a blocked area? you end up with a simple plot like: go kill the evil dragon. I guess it's a game genre that people do enjoy, but.. it's not the kind of game I'd like to create. if I wanted to randomly throw paint on a page, I'd go be a modern artist. I heard they make millions
    Posted September 4th, 2014 at 12:18 AM by silver-wind silver-wind is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Xaldin's Avatar
    OH WAIT
    PMD Is like that rogue game isn't it?! *mind blown*

    this was an interesting read.

    The power of imagination has made the very challenges on this forum today,and I thank this community for that.
    Posted September 4th, 2014 at 4:03 AM by Xaldin Xaldin is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Griffinbane's Avatar
    I thought the password code for PMD still allows you to rescue other people? It doesn't?
    Posted September 4th, 2014 at 6:39 AM by Griffinbane Griffinbane is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Necrum's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by silver-wind View Comment
    I'm into game-making too, and let me tell you- while "randomly generated map" sounds amazing, in practice, it really ruins your game. first, the maps won't be esthetic. a computer cannot create a map that's even close to a human-made map. it'll simply look and feel random. it's like the difference between drawing, and spilling paint on a page. maps in games can give an atmosphere. some loactions are linked to the plot, so you need to design them yourself. otherwise, there's no story, no atmosphere, no creativity involved. you can't even place people in the map that advance the plot, cause what if they end up surrounded with rocks, or inside a blocked area? you end up with a simple plot like: go kill the evil dragon. I guess it's a game genre that people do enjoy, but.. it's not the kind of game I'd like to create. if I wanted to randomly throw paint on a page, I'd go be a modern artist. I heard they make millions ;)
    While I agree that mappers can give games a certain quality, there are some super high quality random world generators out there. One of the best examples I know would be Minecraft. Every new world feels unique. And if you look at the way Brogue creates it's Dungeon, it actually feels like it has a lot of character. As time goes on Procedurally Generated Content gets better and better. There's even a group out there studying the creation of AI that can actually make games that way. Whole games. I mean small ones, but still. I don't think there will ever be a time where procedural content takes over completely, but I think that it does have its place, and its own level of quality based on who made the game. Torchlight is a good example of where PGC and pre-built content come together. The world is random, but each piece of the dungeon was pre-made and then pieced together. The Binding of Isaac also does this, and it works really well. Games like ADOM, feature a LOT of story elements, regardless of randomly generated dungeons as well. While it's not for everyone, don't discount a person's creativity just because they use a random map generator.
    Posted September 4th, 2014 at 8:58 AM by Necrum Necrum is offline
  8. Old Comment
    Oryx's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by silver-wind View Comment
    this was very interesting to read :)
    I'm into game-making too, and let me tell you- while "randomly generated map" sounds amazing, in practice, it really ruins your game. first, the maps won't be esthetic. a computer cannot create a map that's even close to a human-made map. it'll simply look and feel random. it's like the difference between drawing, and spilling paint on a page. maps in games can give an atmosphere. some loactions are linked to the plot, so you need to design them yourself. otherwise, there's no story, no atmosphere, no creativity involved. you can't even place people in the map that advance the plot, cause what if they end up surrounded with rocks, or inside a blocked area? you end up with a simple plot like: go kill the evil dragon. I guess it's a game genre that people do enjoy, but.. it's not the kind of game I'd like to create. if I wanted to randomly throw paint on a page, I'd go be a modern artist. I heard they make millions ;)
    I'm not sure it's fair to say it "really ruins your game" just because you don't like the kinds of games it creates. You give up dungeons that are designed to create a certain atmosphere every time you go through them for dungeons that are drastically different each time you play, bringing in a different kind of gamer - I don't replay games but I do reply roguelikes because it's never the same game.

    Also to claim randomly generated maps means there's "no creativity" and that it's impossible to put a story in a roguelike is just...wrong. I mean, look at Portal, a non-randomly generated game. The story of the game consists of 95% someone speaking to you over the PA system. If that was a randomly generated game, the only places that would have to be hand-designed would be the "last level" and the final fight. The rest could all be randomly generated and not change the story at all. This ignores the obvious programming ways around the issues you raise - make certain checkpoints with story points, make parts outside the dungeon in the game (Persona 3 for example), design characters with space around them automatically...just because you can't come up with a way to solve a problem doesn't mean people who make games of that genre are using no creativity.

    tl;dr: things aren't bad just because you don't like them dude
    Posted September 4th, 2014 at 9:58 AM by Oryx Oryx is offline
  9. Old Comment
    Necrum's Avatar
    For the record, a Portal Roguelike would be amazing and it needs to happen! Especially since all the resources in Portal are free for people to use in other, non commercial games. You could easily convert the textures into tiles to be used and even have GLaDOS talk to you in the game!
    Posted September 4th, 2014 at 10:02 AM by Necrum Necrum is offline
  10. Old Comment
    Sydian's Avatar
    Aw, I'm so glad you're such a nerd to write this. ;) Most of us challengers are pretty nerdy anyway. None of you reading this better deny it, you know you are!
    Posted September 4th, 2014 at 11:22 AM by Sydian Sydian is offline
 

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