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Default Rampant Games - Lousy Choices and Linear Dungeons

January 18th, 2012, 09:38
Jay Barnson writes about the "evolution" of dungeon design in RPGs from the complex to the strictly linear. Skyrim is the obvious touchstone, with Jay currently playing Bethsoft's latest release:
RPG level design is a funky thing – particularly with good ol’ traditional dungeons. The linear dungeons of Skyrim are awfully convenient, and in all honesty may be a trifle more “realistic” (does that ever matter?) than the sprawling dungeon complexes of many classic games. It’s easy to avoid getting lost in them – the map screen is usually only necessary to see if you missed a corner or closet somewhere where there may be some additional loot.
But they do rub me the wrong way a little. I like my big, sprawling dungeon complexes. And I do like to harp on having choices. However, a choice between a door on the left or a door on the right – or whether you take the left or right branch in a corridor – is a lousy choice. Without some kind of knowledge about the difference between the two (or more) choices, it’s really no choice at all.
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January 18th, 2012, 09:38
Well if you whine about dungeon linearity , let's forget about quests and plot progression then.

I must admit, this "species" of rpg, with open world linearity is the worst thing for me.
Absolutely my last pick of game design.
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January 18th, 2012, 09:51
If you want great dungeon design - you want to play Ultima Underworld or System Shock.

Skyrim dungeons are indeed too systemic - and I will always hold to my opinion that they should be doing 20-30 intricate dungeons instead of 300.

Heck, do 10 dungeons lasting potentially ~20 hours a piece instead.

Or…. Do 10 biggies and 50 smallies.

The thing about Skyrim (as brilliant as I think it is) - is that dungeons aren't placed naturally. They're basically "portals to the inside" and though there are several KINDS of portals - they're clearly not handmade as they all look alike.

If you want your location (or dungeon) to be truly interesting and engaging, you have to design everything about it - including WHY it's there, WHO built it - and how it affects the surrounding area. Make the entire process of locating it and discovering the background a mystery in itself.
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January 18th, 2012, 11:25
that last part is awesome, building atmosphere is so underrated.
But when you see an entire game without a decent story, its kind of a stretch to ask for a good story for a single dungeon, don't you think?

Now I just realised why I liked Diablo 1 so much, it was because of this, the Butcher, King Leoric Lockdanan Lazarus, all powerful stories tied together
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January 18th, 2012, 11:27
Originally Posted by borcanu View Post
that last part is awesome, building atmosphere is so underrated.
But when you see an entire game without a decent story, its kind of a stretch to ask for a good story for a single dungeon, don't you think?

Now I just realised why I liked Diablo 1 so much, it was because of this, the Butcher, King Leoric Lockdanan Lazarus, all powerful stories tied together
An entire game without a decent story?

I'm not sure what you're talking about.

I want a decent story and I want good stories for every dungeon. A stretch to ask for it? So be it.

But I know what I want.
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January 18th, 2012, 11:29
This is called an EVOLUTION of rpgs! Remember sewers in Shadows of Amn? What for spend several hours in one location! What for discover whole underground city, goblins colony, or wizard's secret laboratory where you have to TALK (yugh..) - here, in the mighty Skyrim we are presenting you an ultimate adventure of 20 minutes of slashing - because this is the best… like entire our game ofc!

And now more serious. At least Obsidian while making vaults for NV, tried to make more complex structures
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January 18th, 2012, 16:21
LOL. I don't miss being lost in dark, seemingly endless dungeons of old school rpgs. Don't miss the drip, drip, drip of distant water in the dark. Don't miss wondering just how many more levels there are in this forsaken dungeon. Don't miss wondering which way is up. Back in the day it simply wasn't possible to design a complex outdoor virtual world…

And what about being lost at sea in a small boat or in a large pirate ship? Somebody needs to write about how Skyrim doesn't have boats and oceans…
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January 18th, 2012, 16:44
It's not about missing being lost in a maze but a complex place which is called dungeon not only because it is under surface.
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January 18th, 2012, 16:52
While I worship Skyrim; still playing it every night fora total now over 600 hours, the dungeons could use more depth and variety. There are several dungeons that have a journal or visual cues that explain why a person or group was there, but there is a lot of repetition and almost all of them have one entrance and exit. If they made about 10-15 Blackreach dungeons for an expansion, I'd pay $40. I very much agree with the idea of dungeons that aren't about combat. More dungeons with a Saarthal theme would be great.

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January 18th, 2012, 21:44
I am still playing Skyrim too, and still finding dungeons with unique designs and twists. But most of the building blocks seem to be pretty much the same. There are still some unique finds even after hundreds of hours though. For example, the "Sightless Pit" dungeon. Very different from all the others I've found. I like complex topologies in dungeons. Remember Daggerfall? Loved it!

But, that's not enough. The little stories associated with each dungeon is what makes them interesting. Like Dart, I wish there was more depth there, too.

But frankly, some of the long linear dungeons are rather boring after you've seen the content multiple times elsewhere before.
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January 19th, 2012, 14:13
Another bad part of the hundreds of dungeons in Skyrim is that you can get put off by the routine ones so that it makes you not want to search out new ones. Of the interesting dungeons, I find about 10% of that exploration time is involved with the novel parts of that dungeon and the rest is working through parts that are like the other dungeons. Add in the fact that maybe 20% of the dungeons are interesting, that makes for a high risk/reward for exploration.

I found that I was almost always entering dungeons for reasons other than I was curious about what was inside. I was asking myself, is it worth the high probability of boredom to enter X Redoubt?
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January 19th, 2012, 21:01
Originally Posted by Burress View Post
Another bad part of the hundreds of dungeons in Skyrim is that you can get put off by the routine ones so that it makes you not want to search out new ones.
Exactly. As somebody has pointed out already: there are needles in this haystack but shifting through the hay gets so tiresome that, sooner or later, reward stops being worth the effort.
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January 19th, 2012, 21:11
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
For example, the "Sightless Pit" dungeon. Very different from all the others I've found. I like complex topologies in dungeons. Remember Daggerfall? Loved it!
I just found this one yesterday! I was thinking it was going to be like Kagrenzel, which seemed more like a setup for a possible DLC.

Also just explored one of the Labyrinthian dungeons with the maze for the first time a couple days ago. I still haven't figured out how to enter the main part of Labyrinthian.

Originally Posted by Burress View Post
I was asking myself, is it worth the high probability of boredom to enter X Redoubt?
I think if you are at that point where you are feeling bored with the dungeons, perhaps it's time to take a break from the game. Or try rolling a completely different character.

I've found the gameplay to be so different for archer, dual wield, sword and shield, 2-handed and pure mage builds, that it has been a lot of fun and a fresh experience each time. The game world seems to be designed with level 1 - 50 characters in mind, so once you get up to level 30-40 (which seems to take a few hundred hours if you avoid power leveling), it feels like it's time to retire the character before the combat becomes too easy.

I have also tried to save some major questlines for future playthroughs, so after 400 hours playing, I have only just started the College of Winterhold quests for the first time. I still haven't touched the Dark Brotherhood, Imperial Legion, Forbidden Legends, Mehrunes Razor or the vast majority of the Daedric quests. Hell, I still haven't even visited the town of Dawnstar yet.
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January 19th, 2012, 22:42
LOL! I also have hundreds of hours logged and have only finished the "main" thieves guild, maybe half of the main quest, half of the bard's guild, and just started the Dark Brotherhood. Similarly, one remaining town, the hold in Falkreath, hasn't been found…

I've told myself once I finish the Dark Bros, Bards, and main quest I'll create 2 more characters, one for the Mage guild and another for the Companions, ONLY do those 2 quest lines, and then be done. I am doubting I'll have the fortitude though… I am surprised I have stayed engaged this long…
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January 20th, 2012, 00:59
Originally Posted by CountChocula View Post
I think if you are at that point where you are feeling bored with the dungeons, perhaps it's time to take a break from the game.
This is what I am doing. Once the creation kit/mods/dlc are all out, I will pick it back up.

You are spot on about all the different builds being fun to play. It was really this character build gameplay that kept me coming back for so long (I put in about 120 hours).
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