Amongst the flickering torchlight, you descend down the hard, slippery staircase. One clumsy foot at a time. The bottoms of your shoes chill with the ancient tile, and every step makes a small click that echoes through the tight walls.
Upon arriving at the bottom, before you stands just what you expected.
A cast iron door, at least two heads taller than you. You reach into your backpack
and retrieve the engraved key that you dug out from the giant rat’s stomach.
Crap, not a match. You insult yourself for not checking the other boxes after you found the key.
Gotta head back up and try the other room.
What is it about a good old fashioned dungeon that gives us heroes such a call to adventure? They’re scary, dark, and dangerous. Maybe it’s the thrill of exploring. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of knowing you solved the lever and switch puzzle to get to the next chamber. Or maybe it’s that addictive feeling of astonishment when you find treasure after treasure throughout your descent. Whatever the reason, there is a special place in any nerd’s heart for the dungeon.
Recently, I’ve been doing some nostalgic research on famous dungeon design from all my old games. Super Mario, Castlevania, Runescape, Zelda, and Dark Souls, just to name a few. I’ve been having a wonderful time, but there’s one game that just stuck out to me:
Pokémon: Mystery Dungeon.
Awwwww yeah, remember this? Anyone who dared to call themselves a Pokémon fan played at least one iteration of this game.
There’s so much to love here, it’s got everything a roguelike could ever want. Loot drops, procedurally generated floors, tons of characters, dialogue, leveling, turn based attacks and movement, boss battles, a home base- there was just so much that this game did right. It was personal, you could make whatever team you wanted with any skill set and play style you could need. It was stressful, but thoughtful, where upon the next press of a button your turn would end, your wing attack would miss, and your opponent would metal claw you to KO. For kids, it was the perfect dungeon raiding roguelike.
I’ve become so fond of dungeons recently. Levers, traps, locked doors, monsters of all shapes, sizes, smells, and sounds, treasure chests, mimics, keys, pitfalls, spikes, poison darts, swinging blade pendulums, the big rock from Indiana Jones, they’re all so horrible and dangerous (but I suppose that’s part of the call to adventure). At the time of writing this, I’m three weeks away from finishing my first year of undergrad school with a Game Design major. I’ve decided to take on a project with a few of my colleagues. Maybe it will go somewhere…or maybe it will sit in my hard drive and gather virtual dust.
Either way, I want to create a game. A dungeon game. One that over emphasizes everything dungeons do right. One that punishes you for messing up, and rewards you for your growing knowledge and keen senses on your surroundings.