Friday, 15 November 2013

Like Rogue

I like the idea of proceduraly-generated content in games. Especially where that's the main focus the game is built around. Every room being completely different and having different monsters and items and such every time. Sounds exciting doesn't it? Each experience a little different from the last? So why are so many people who try to pay homage to those games so bad at it?

What I'm seeing in the games that say they're inspired by "Roguelike" games is unflattering and sloppy. Without fail, games like Spelunky and Binding of Isaac mistake giving the player nothing to work with as "challenge", or "difficulty". It's not challenging in BoI when there are dozens of treasure chests and treasure rooms I could use to upgrade my character to stand a better chance... but the game doesn't give me any keys to unlock them. It's not "difficult" when Spelunky makes it so I need bombs to progress when I don't have any. Or making you find treasure to get money to buy items, and then not putting in any shops, anywhere.

That's not challenge or difficulty. That's being a lazy, cheap-ass game designer.

I only got this far because the game was suddenly very generous with its' powerups early on. Luck should be a factor in a roguelike game, but it sucks the fun out of it when it's all about luck, and nothing I do to improve will have any say in what happens.

The worst of this, oddly enough, isn't from an indie game company. It's from Valve. Left 4 Dead is their experiment in seeing if they can just make a game design itself, because they're far too busy making Half-Life 3 selling more virtual hats. They have a system in place to test how "stressed" the player is, and throwing more enemies and less health items to compensate. And apparently nobody at Valve realized you can't tell a person's stress level without hooking them up to a machine or reading visual cues. So of course it gets it absolutely wrong every time, either throwing thousands of health packs and high-tier weapons at you when you don't need them, and never giving them to you when they might actually be important.

But hey, thank you for putting a Tank, Smoker, Boomer, Jockey, Charger, Spitter and Hunter in front of me, during a horde event, with a Witch blocking the only way to the safe room, when I only have two characters left alive, no health packs left and we're both low on ammo. Who needs enjoyment or excitement when I can be a brand-whore instead?

Aren't randomly-generated circumstances supposed to sometimes be favourable? Once in a while? If it's just an automatic brick wall, You Lose, Game Over every time, what was the point in even releasing the game? Why do these people bother playtesting and creating art assets and sound and music for a game when they clearly don't want you to get past the second level?

If a player can't beat the game because they're not good at it, they just have to keep trying. If a player can't beat your game because you didn't give them anything to work with, you've failed as a game developer. I'm starting to think the people who hate "Roguelike" games the most, or anything even remotely inspired by them are the people making them.



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