There is something special about experiencing a great game for the first time. Fortunately, there is a way to get close to this nostalgic feeling. How can a game randomizer make an old classic feel fresh again?
Many games are based on the idea, that every playthrough is a little different. Minecraft, for example, generates a new world at every game start. This means that we have to explore this unknown world. However, unless we start on an empty island, experienced players will always start the same way. We know what resources we need and how to get them. To collect wood, we start punching the nearest tree. Then we craft our first tools and the rest of the game unfolds in more or less the same way as always. So even with the randomly generated world, the game itself stays the same and offers no new challenges.
Speedrunners play the same game over and over and over again, until they know every pixel by heart. They especially like games that have no random aspects and behave the same way every time. However, this predictability can get boring for everyone, who does not chase after a speed record. This where a game randomizer comes into play.
Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to A Link to the Past Randomizer. If you are bored by playing the original The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, because you know exactly which item you will find in which treasure chest, the randomizer shuffles the contents of all chests and quest rewards. Instead of finding the bow in a dungeon, we may get it as a reward from a side quest. Expect to find the most powerful things very out of place. Since various items in Zelda games act as keys to accessing new places, the randomized item locations also randomize where we can go first.
Randomizers follow an inner logic to make sure, that the game is always beatable. So no item is locked in an unreachable place. However, depending on the item placement this may be easier than in the original game or much harder. For beginners there is a setting that makes sure that we at least get a sword quickly. (Yes, on default settings we might end up beating a Zelda dungeon without a sword.) If we want to go crazy, ALttPR also gives us the option to randomize dungeons up to a point, where every door leads to a random room from a totally different dungeon. Fortunately, fans have created tracking tools to note where we have been and where we can go with our current equipment.
There are randomizers for all kinds of games, including shooters and RPGs. A game genre that lends itself to randomizing is that of Metroidvania style games. One of these games is Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The developers ArtPlay realized the potential of a game randomizer and decided to unfold it. In their recent May update, they added a native randomizer mode to the game.
If you want to develop a story based game with a carefully balanced difficulty curve, but are worried about its replay value, consider adding a randomizer. Instead of just giving the enemies more health points and higher damage, an out of place enemy with random stats can force even the most veteran players to think on their heels. Remember that this is for the people who have played your game multiple times and know the story by heart. So, let us see what else we can do with the world and tools you have created.
What are your favorite experiences with a game randomizer? Share them in the comments below! I look forward to reading them. In the meantime, I open some random chests.
(Photo by David Kovalenko on Unsplash)