Monday, September 2, 2013

Random Zelda

I'm a huge Minecraft fan and I have to say that Minecraft became my favorite game over the last two years, removing the Zelda series from its pedestal. One of the main reasons, why I play Zelda is exploration and discovery, I love exploring virtual fantasy worlds, finding hidden treasures and hitting things with my sword. Minecraft offers all that as well, but infinitely. You get randomly generating worlds and you can always go explore more.

With this you get this feeling that you've found something, which noone else has seen before. With Zelda in my childhood it was similar. Of course it was silly to assume that you're the only one, who discovered the hidden grotto at the entrance of the Sacred Forest Meadow, but it was a time, where broadband internet connections in households were an expansive and rare thing (we didn't have one). So, you had only your friends to talk about the game and among them you might have been the great explorer, who found the big secrets in the newest Zelda game. Today, where everyone lives in the internet, there's always someone who figured the entire game out at Day 1.

That's why Minecraft is so exciting. You're playing in YOUR world. With landscapes and caves no one else ever has explored (unless they have the same seed value, which is very unlikely). The problem with Minecraft though is that this games lives from your own goals. Usually you only go explore, because you're looking for certain items or minerals, which you need to do something else in the game.

Minecraft is not a game with clear goals, with a clear ending like Zelda (unless you count the Achievements and "The End", but that's nothing much really). So, what I would like to see is a "Best of Both Worlds", so to say. A Zelda game that randomly gets generated!

The idea would be that each time you play, you get a different world, a different story, different dungeons and maybe even different items. It could follow classical story patterns like "collect eight of something" or "collect three of something, enter parallel world, collect five more" as a giant template. It could use a variety of bad guys (like Ganon, Onox, Veran or Vaati) and pretty ladies in need of rescue (like the Oracles and of course Princess Zelda). The stories would be simple, because randomly generating a complex story might be difficult, so think in terms of the earlier Zelda games.

Because this would be much easier to do with a topdown Zelda, let's focus on a topdown / 2D game for now like A Link Between Worlds. The game would need a vast variety of assets that it can use to generate a Zelda themed world. Graphics and templates for various environments and dungeons. Forests, villages, mountains, lakes, swamps, etc. Dungeons in different styles. But this wouldn't be the first time, a Zelda game does something similar. Four Swords did it already and for a GameBoy Advance game it did an amazing job with that. Its levels get generated from a large pool of templates. It's so many that you can play this game dozens of times and still get to see new areas. And this random Zelda game would be similar, just that instead of single levels it generates the entire game in this style.

You will get a new experience with every playthrough. Of course just changing the enviroments simply isn't enough. It can't be freely generated, the computer is not a creative being who constantly thinks of new worlds, it must use templates. And if you play often enough, the templates will repeat. You can only play so much Minecraft until you notice that while all mountains, caves and mineshafts are always different, they are still the same in a way. Or if you play Four Swords often enough, you will get similar areas than before.

So, there needs to be more than just different worlds and dungeons. They also need to change items and enemies with every playthrough.

They could have a large pool of different items and maybe you only get a fixed number per game. This time you get the bow, in the next game you get a Slingshot or something else. Collectible sidequests should be also swapped. Next to the Pieces of Heart, which randomly get hidden within the world, there is one more sidequest that randomly gets chosen, when the game world is generated. It could be Secret Seashells like in Link's Awakening, Spirit Gems like in Phantom Hourglass, insects to catch like in Skyward Sword or similar. The rings from the Oracle games might also be a nice possibility. Maybe you only get 16 rings in the game, but their possible effects are randomly chose as well.

Similar to items there should be a large pool of different enemies and bosses, which also get chosen at random. Let's say the game offers 30 possible bosses, but each playthrough only has eight of them. The same with normal enemies.

This post is merely scratching the idea and concept of a randomly generated Zelda. There are many more aspects to it, for example puzzle generation patterns. But randomly generated game worlds become more and more popular nowadays. Look at games like Minecraft, Don't Starve or Sir, You're Being Hunted. And a Zelda game in this style would be the next evolution for the series. Even as just a small handheld topdown title, it would be awesome. The replay value would be MASSIVE. It would be like getting a new Zelda game every time you chose to start over. Add in difficulty levels so that Zelda veterans get their nasty challenging Hero's Trial worlds and beginners can enjoy a friendly and relaxing Zelda game.

I must say that random Zelda is the future of Zelda.


K2L said...

What about the risk of the world being generated in an unwinnable way (i.e. a dungeon that puts a pitfall right before a boss door and there's no way to cross it)?

TourianTourist said...

That obviously would be a bug that shouldn't be in the game.

Four Swords didn't have any unwinable dungeons...

Anonymous said...

Quick question. What do you mean by hidden grotto in Sacred Grove? Is there a glitch I don't know about or are you just talking about Twilight's digging under the boulder thingy?

MonkeyWrench said...

What TT tried to say is, in times when you wheren't able to join and used this huge amount of communities and walkthrews, finding a nessecary secret or even solving a "average" puzzle was something very, very special.
Especially when just one or two of your friends played Zelda, too but with less effort. The hidden grotto is just an example. I remember back then, I was the first of my friendhood who managed to solve the Eaglestower in LA. I was as proud as hell! :-D

TourianTourist said...

I'm sorry, I meant the Sacred Forest Meadow in Ocarina of Time. I'll fix that.