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why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
This is a simple topic, without anti-2k3 bigotry or Craze mocking people in the topic or anything: how can a dungeon crawler be made fun?

I love designing dungeon crawl RPG stats and battle skills, providing a player with an arsenal to mow down enemies with. I kind of like making the game itself, too. What I hate is playing dungeon crawlers. I mean, I should like them and I want to like them, but I just can't (Etrian Odyssey aside, but even that for only a single dungeon run each bus ride when I was in high school; once I got a car, I played much less EO).

Please note that this topic is not "how can you make dungeons in RPGs fun." I'm talking specifically about dungeon crawlers like Etrian Odyssey, Wizardry or Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, where you make a party and go kill stuff in order to get the macguffin. Story is usually bare or non-existent; it's about the gameplay. Problem is, the gameplay sucks.

How can dungeon crawlers be made more fun, or possibly more accessible to the non-hardcore nerd crowd?
Feel free to discuss any of my games.
I dunno... this is a pretty weird topic. You devote your life to making fun dungeon crawlers, and apparently you get good feedback on it, so you should know what makes fun dungeon crawlers... and yet you don't like it. It's ok that you don't like it, but are you trying to understand why you don't? I don't get it.

I like dungeon crawlers when they are relaxing experiences, not stressful or complicated, or I'll get tired easily. I mean... I wouldn't like to have to strategize every battle. Also, the thing that makes DC addictive for me is character progression, preferably with nifty character customization... and lots of diversity on items, classes, spells, monsters, whatever. That's it. Just my completely unimportant opinion, since it's been ages since I've enjoyed dungeon crawling.

best dungeon crawler
Two ways dungeon crawling can be fun methinks.

1. Make it action. Games like Diablo 2 or Mass Effect (big parts of Mass Effect at least) dungeon crawls. It's very simple to go around and slay monsters. You click on them and occasionally you have to use a certain skill. They're also progressively harder (Diablo 2 that is. Mass Effect is pretty much the same all the way through) so more skills have to be used. For learning curve.

2. Make it tactics. I'm thinking of party-based games that feature dungeon crawls. Making stuff like in what order you go through the dungeon and the positioning of your battlers matter. I'm thinking of a game like The Temple of Elemental Evil. But also tactical games like, maybe, Fallout Tactics or Silent Storm.

Though to be honest if fights generally are good in some way. (Diablo battles mightn't be good but you're killing things left and right and it's awesome because you're awesome) Dungeon Crawls also work.
member of the bull moose party
I usually hate dungeon crawlers - especially ones with a lot of enemies and random battles because I get lost frequently and I don't want to get penalized for it.
This is a simple topic, without anti-2k3 bigotry or Craze mocking people in the topic or anything: how can a dungeon crawler be made fun?...

By not doing anything Quest 64 or Final Fantasy 13 did.

Oh you want supporting details..?

Make sure you have generally great level design. This means having a few good thematic "traps" (as opposed to none or everything). Practice your architecture, even if you're doing natural maps like caves and forest. And have a little exploration, don't just make an obstacle course from point A to point B, occasionally having a little offshoot with a guarded chest or something.

I remember Golden Sun 2 having epically long and intricate dungeons that would take me forever to get through. You had to explore around and figure out puzzles, it wasn't just a clear cut wander with random battles until you get to the boss.
I don't like most of them because battles are usually the focus over exploration.

Random battles are awful because they interrupt your thought process too much. KC(A) set it up the best I've seen where you could clear out the enemies and concentrate on the puzzles/exploration all in separate chunks very methodically. The only one I didn't like is that place with the ladder/bridges maze and the dragon thing that chases and attacks you over and over. Similar problem to random encounters with that one. You're concentrating trying to figure out the maze, but constantly get interrupted for a pretty uninspiring battle.

I think I just don't like Turn-Based RPG Battles very much
I think I just don't like Turn-Based RPG Battles very much

Neither did I. I always thought that RPGs could somehow be perfected if they got rid of these and became more like other genres.
Metroid = dungeon crawler
Castlevania = dungeon crawler

Supporting details would be nice. You know. So you aren't just saying things.
I was equating things.

Fine. Metroid and Castlevania are both nothing but massive dungeons only one takes place on a world and the other takes place in a castle. Heck Goonies 2 is a dungeon crawler as well. You're in hositle territory with really no alliances, collecting power ups that will get you to the next part of the giant dungeon.
I was equating things.

Fine. Metroid and Castlevania are both nothing but massive dungeons only one takes place on a world and the other takes place in a castle. Heck Goonies 2 is a dungeon crawler as well. You're in hositle territory with really no alliances, collecting power ups that will get you to the next part of the giant dungeon.

Yeah, except they're platformers, not dungeon crawlers.
What is a dungeon crawler then? Is it like Zelda only Zelda is an overworld dungeon crawler?
What is a dungeon crawler then? Is it like Zelda only Zelda is an overworld dungeon crawler?

Dungeon crawlers are a sub-genre of RPGs. Usually entails moving through a dungeon, fighting lots of enemies, collecting treasure and often solving puzzles. I don't know if Zelda specifically qualifies since it's not really an RPG so to speak, but who knows.

Wikipedia has the answer.
an aristocrat of rpgmaker culture
The only game I have ever enjoyed that involved going into a 'dungeon' and overcoming many enemies was Shiren the Wanderer. It is impossible to tell from watching a video because its brilliance dawns on you more and more as you get more experienced with it, but the genius of design of this game is something I can hardly even believe. Unfortunately most dungeon crawlers, and dungeon crawler designers will never approach that level of cerebral prowess. Also has music by Koichi Sugiyama, which is kind of funny because even though they are different genres, Shiren is infinite times the dungeon crawler of all the Dragon Quests combined.

So basically, to make a dungeon crawler interesting the gameplay has to be extremely compelling in an indefinitely self-renewing way. That means the design has to be constructed in such a way that the player is able to tactically combine various elements and mechanics the game provides for him in inventive ways in order to overcome difficult and otherwise impossible obstacles. The focus of the design should be to force the player to continuously think about how to utilize a set of mechanics even over dozens of hours of play, but not to provide any obvious, specific solutions to encounters.

For instance, an ability which allows the player character to swap positions with an enemy may not be anything special on its own, but it allows for a great amount of potential synergy with other abilities he may posses. You're giving the player tools and obstacles but not telling him precisely how to use them because that's up to his imagination and ingenuity. This tends to create a steep learning curve, but that can be accounted for with an appropriate difficulty curve. These principles can and should be applied to any genre of 'dungeon crawler', be it roguelike or turn based RPG or whatever else. There is really no other reliable way to make an extended experience in so limited a scope intriguing throughout.

why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
Thank you for the very in-depth and thoughtful reply, Ciel. I think what you described is something that people who are just "lulz making an RPG" tend to ignore completely - that sort of exciting synergy that makes your actions meaningful and worthwhile beyond Firagagagagaga.

I'll try to reply more to this topic this evening.
This is an example of lack of synergy I think.

Ralph casts thunder on enemy A because it deals the most damage.
Ulrika attacks enemy A because it deals the most damage.
Bennet defends because healer has been made useless for this turn.
Ylva casts fire on enemy A because it deals the most damage.
Lets hope enemy A dies soon.

Now this is an example of synergy if I understand right. Either way, this one is good.

Ralph raises Ulrika's attack.
Bennet raises Ulrika's defence. There is a berserk enemy in the troop. All enemies have predetermined AI to attack the target that attacks them.
Ylva adds fire to Ulrika's physical attack
Ulrika attacks enemy A, that one powerful ice enemy. Since this setup was applied this now results in instantly killing that ice enemy which otherwise would have raised hell on the party using a blizzard spell on its turn.

B sure is a lot more engaging for the players to think over than A.

To make the system better, give the player multiply skills like this and setup enemies with different strengths and weaknesses and the player will be activity doing something in battles and not just picking the same patterns over and over.

If both parties have this type of setup and all of this has balance added to it, players will be active in battle using their brain for strategy.

This is a lot more fun for them than testing how patient they to get through a dungeon crawler where they are spamming the same pattern over and over.

To be able to achieve a setup like that successfully, all the skills for actors, enemies and bosses need careful planning. The developer can not afford to just be throwing skills into the database when creating a dungeon crawler, as players being active in battles will deeply affect the enjoyment of the game.

For the mapping and dungeons themselves, I like how Zelda handles them.

In a well planned and well thought out dungeon like what is done in Zelda games, you usually go through half the dungeon and then get an item which adds a twist to the entire dungeon. This item now unlocks an on-screen ability for the player to go through areas of the dungeon they could not before and they will find themselves back-tracking through it with the ability now opening new secrets.

This will transform the game and stop it being your typical dungeon crawler setup, but I say this can be good because it adds activity in a dungeon. Putting effort into the maps to do this gives the map it's own enjoyable gameplay features and not just something to pile a bunch of battles on and move to the next area quickly.

Activity on dungeons maps probably only work when the encounters are on-screen or random encounters on specific maps. Otherwise you'll end up with the type of dungeon crawler that is too overwhelming with the different strategic activities going on. Basically what YDS especially hates seeing.

Events can do a lot to add activity to a dungeon. Quick basic example. Press the different switches to rise and lower the different spike traps.

Adding story elements into dungeons can create some humour and suspense for the player.

Proper characters with growth and very simple subplots with colourful dialogue placed into the dungeons can be enjoyable. Anything fantasy and crazy can happen there for subplots if the story is not taking itself seriously.

If you raise a mystery question at the start of the dungeon and solve it at the end that same dungeon, the player's mind will be interested in the mystery being revealed to them and probably speculate a little about it. As long as you take time and effort to think up a mystery question and solve it, some players could enjoy that.
I don't really like dungeon crawlers that much either- provided they have save points though, I'm able to try. And a nice amount of character classes and races with good numberz can make it great, but that could be applied to any game. The main aspect of dungeon crawlers that I've enjoyed was the randomization, and the loot. That's all I ever liked, and the only reason I'd play them. Take away the nice loot with RNG determined stat ups, and nice random maps, I won't really want to play. That's why I don't really play dungeon crawlers past Craze games, and Crawl. (You could count SnE, but it's not much of a dungeon crawler as it is hard core game.)
Someone on another forum proposed a massive community project of dungeon crawlers where:

1. You get a plot of 500x500 land randomly generated dungeon.
2. Join it to the next person.
why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
ShortStar, please stop shitting up this topic.

Black magechill: What makes my games specifically go past the anti-dungeon crawler mindset? I know this sounds incredibly egotistical, but I'm curious as to what people truly like about my projects.
The skill sets and character roles are outlined really well. It helps that there are fifteen characters in the crawler ones that I play (Saga Mara Talon, Demon Tower(s)), but the attacks and skill sets are each tailored to do a different type of damage. The buffs and debuffs are a nice touch because you can screw with everyone else's stats to suit how you want the fight to happen, and how long it'll last. In Arian Wild, though in a demo, it was done really well with all the debuff statuses you could tear an opponent apart through brute force or stack buffs and debuffs so high your average attack could do massive damage while you took none, but there was the risk that the enemy could lower your health or do the same thing. It leveled the playing field. When you fought the first boss in Demon Tower (the latest one with a release) you could fight a few turns in and say, "Oh, Stephan has a debuff attack that would slow down those physical attacks, and Ha'naan could sap his MP to stop that sleep spell" and then switch to it, or, lack the sheer number of party members in Arian Wild, just mash F12 and restart the fight (the demo you did for that game was constructed beautifully by the way). that whole huge paragraph is why I like the way Craze does games.
(Chaos is for the same reason except with balls to the wall difficulty and badass enemy design)

I don't like dungeon crawlers because the tiles usually get bland after a while and the lack of a story is sort of irritating. Even if you just slap shit on, I'll still deal with it. No dialog just drives me to no end.
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