209: Infinite Caves, Infinite Stories

Infinite Caves, Infinite Stories

One of the most astonishingly innovative games of the last year is also one of the most unassuming. Anthony Burch sings the praises of Derek Yu's Spelunky.

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I watched the gameplay footage on youtube and got bored after about 23 seconds. Give me dig dug anyday

I DL'd the current version of Spelunky... I have to say, this is an excellent time killer, and pretty damn entertaining. Then again, I'm pretty easily entertained. But still! It's got charm and it's fun. I'd recommend it.

Really nice article, too!

I love Spelunky but I'm not that good at it. 100 tries to get your first win? I wish I could say that, but using the shortcuts may have made some of the later levels harder.

Loved this game, glad it's getting the acclaim it deserves.

The only real gripe I have with the ludic camp trying to ditch all linear moments in a game in favor of a purely emergent system is that in order for a deep, personal experience to occur you have to make the game complex to the point of unplayable.

The average personal player story from Spelunky usually sounds roughly the same to any other one. There are a dozen or so procedural scenarios that constantly change combined with a tight platforming design to make the combination of choices possible manageable. The only emergent game I've ever seen actually produce a surprisingly deep personal story was Dwarf Fortress. The thing is...who the f*** understands how to play that game? I don't mean any offense to the proud gamers who can, but I struggled with it for hours and hear the same from most people.

Linearity may be a shortcut, but the implications of having it or abandoning it go way beyond just giving the player options.

Finally The Escapist picks up on this game. I've been wondering when they would get around to it. Spelunky is absolutely one of the greatest indie games out there right now. I've died in more ways than I can possibly count. One time I threw a princess (or damsel-in-distress) at a plant in order to kill it, found out that it ate humanoid objects, and proceeded to accidentally jump down right into the mouth of another. The game is unforgiving with its permanent death, which I wish more games would have. Imagine the suspense of Half Life 2 if you had to quit every time you saved and one death meant a game restart. It would be far more immersive...and ridiculously difficult.

L.B. Jeffries:
The only emergent game I've ever seen actually produce a surprisingly deep personal story was Dwarf Fortress. The thing is...who the f*** understands how to play that game? I don't mean any offense to the proud gamers who can, but I struggled with it for hours and hear the same from most people.

Dwarf Fortress was one of the hardest games I've ever played, but I love it. I actually have it up in the background right now. One of the most useful tutorials I've ever found are a series of videos on YouTube. I was lost without them.
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=5A3D7682BDD48FC2

I just downloaded Spelunky upon reading this article, have died about 100 times and played it for about 4 or 5 hours. My biggest beef? It's awfully difficult. So far, I've only made it to Level 4 a single time, and died within seconds of the level starting as I was swarmed by vampires. I usually reach Level 2, but rarely Level 3.

For all the article talks about "considered gameplay", I found the game much too fast; my deaths were rarely interesting - they almost always occurred with my overshooting a jump and landing on spikes, or falling too far and using up my last life - pretty typical in the land of platformers. Occasionally I die by hitting "action" instead of "purchase" when I'm in a shop, causing the merchant to kill me on sight. I'd really like to take my time, but putting a 2:30 minute time cap on all levels past Level 1 seems like the designer doesn't want people to plan things out.

Maybe it plays easier on a gamepad than a keyboard.

I tried to download it, but it didn't work. Does anyone hve any advce on how to fix this?

Its a rather good game so far. I'm sorry princess.

Downloading it now, I'll see how it turns out.

EDIT: The game seems pretty cool, I've only played for a little while and already its got that nostalgia factor. So far, so good.

But for some reason the music reminds me of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk. Anyone else see the similarities?

It's been quite fun for me, played it all evening. Got the Level 5 warp up at about 100 deaths and I've made it to level ten once in my 200+ deaths and counting...

Stealing from the shopkeepers is fairly amusing, it reminds me of Link to the Past where you can shoplift the shovel... My only real beef is that the dice sometimes get too close together in the dice game, and if you pick up the same dice twice you'll get shot, either for rolling it or stealing it. You have to be really careful around those shop guys.

Heh, I remember playing this months ago. You really do learn it's nuances via a series of ignominious defeats. But when I eventually survived a set of 5 levels, it was with barely a handful of treasure, since I had learned to be frugal about using expensive and often rare ropes and bombs to secure comparatively small amounts of loot. It's a good game, but I think it's being talked up a mite, here.

Dwarf Fortress is indeed insane. Both in its possibilities and its difficulty. Toady's development plans are equally astounding, and while "better UI design" is in there somewhere, last I checked he was too busy making the caravans into global, permanent, tracked entities rather than generated instances. This is after organising proper skeletal structures, musculature and organs for creatures. Spend a few months with that game and you realise just how ludicrous, and awesome, what's going on there really is.
Plus that 3 minute long acoustic guitar tune is wicked.

Fugue:
It's a good game, but I think it's being talked up a mite, here.

Talked up a little maybe but not artificially. For people who it hit home with I think it hit home hard. It is easily one of my most favourite games of the last year.

Fun to be sure. Why do I enjoy it when it kills me so easily? As podunk said (secret of Evermore reference?) you have to be very careful around the shopkeepers. I tried to steal one of the kissing ladies, I did not get far. Have been a successful thief a few times though.

"Die vandal" "Terrorist". Hilarious, especially when it is all an accident and misunderstanding.

Still would say Mount & Blade is better.

I found Spelunky a bit earlier, and I've got ~500 deaths currently. And I still haven't gotten to level 16+.

It, like roguelikes, uses permanent character death and some pretty unforgiving mechanics to create real suspense over pattern memorization. Unlike roguelikes, it's a real-time platformer.

Ultimately, it's a pretty good game and feels like a fully randomized complex SNES-era platform with a wide variety of plans of attack that is pretty damn hard.

Earthbound:

L.B. Jeffries:
The only emergent game I've ever seen actually produce a surprisingly deep personal story was Dwarf Fortress. The thing is...who the f*** understands how to play that game? I don't mean any offense to the proud gamers who can, but I struggled with it for hours and hear the same from most people.

Dwarf Fortress was one of the hardest games I've ever played, but I love it. I actually have it up in the background right now. One of the most useful tutorials I've ever found are a series of videos on YouTube. I was lost without them.
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=5A3D7682BDD48FC2

Heh. As someone who's played Nethack and other ASCII games, I found the not-purely abstract but not-completely pseudo-ASCII graphics coupled with the large amounts of somewhat intuitive but very complex things to do in that game to be difficult. I nearly put it down in the first few hours, but I stuck with it, and am very glad that I've done so. I toughed it through with the help of the wiki, but there are quite a few tutorials around.

Currently, it's one of the few sandbox games to hold my attention for a long time. Getting a fortress running and self-sufficient isn't hard if you know what you're doing (though it does depend on the fortress site.) There are a lot of insanely deep details details in it (the weather system creating rain shadows and screwing with windmill production, the wonderfully fantastic fluids system one guy used to make a computer with, the dev's attention to geology putting a large number of minerals in appropriate places, randomly generated dwarf personalities, and quite a few other things) that are far from realized. It's a complicated game, and its current interface doesn't do it much credit. The adventurer mode is pathetic.

But it is constantly under development. The developer's very close to the community, responding to bug reports within a few days, releasing interviews, and reading suggestions on improving the game in the forums. He works on it full time, and keeps a log up where he chats about what he's done for the day.

I've become jaded by the likes of Peter Molyneaux promising to incorporate everything into their games. Dwarf Fortress is a bit closer than other games are to simulating a fantasy world at the moment, and it's getting much deeper with every release. If you listen to the interviews, the dev's plans are to craft Dwarf Fortress into a fantasy world simulator on the level of, say, Beastmaster over Lord of the Rings and to interact with it in pretty much whatever way you can think of (as a god, or king, or adventurer, or leader of an outpost-whatever). It's difficult to get more enthusiastic about a game than that. But he's been working on it since 2002, and pretty much full-time since its release. I still doubt he'll achieve the goal completely, but he's been steadily working towards it for all these years. And if you can break it down into enough small independent steps, you can code pretty much anything. A date he extrapolated randomly for the 1.0 release is 2025, and he plans to be working on it for at least that long (and still has plans after 1.0.) I'd suggest keeping at least an ear out for it.

Anyway... yeah. Spelunky. Good game.

BigBoote66:

Maybe it plays easier on a gamepad than a keyboard.

In my experience, you're right. It feels better (though it hasn't helped my score any.)

I just gave this a try, and I have to say it's pretty fun. I've only gotten to the third level in ~20 deaths, but the random levels make death less frustrating. So instead of going through the same levels each time to get to where you were, it's a new adventure each time.

I almost made it to the 4th level, but I accidently stepped into an arrow trap mere feet from the exit. I was even carrying a key which I could've thrown at it.

Spelunky is an awesome game. It's the kind of game that makes you instantly realize what's good game design. It's no wonder that the article was peppered with quotes from people like Johnathan Blow, who have widely famous, mold-breaking indie games, and they're all green with envy. It has found the perfect balance between frantic, easy to pick up gameplay and roguelike relentless replayability.

(BTW, the maiden should survive being thrown into an arrow trap and on a snake. It takes something like a bomb or a rolling stone to kill her. Unless something changed in a later version.)

And dwarf fortress is awesome, but it's tough to get started, and for all the tales of burning dwarf death it really doesn't deliver. I'm on my first fortress, and despite a great famine caused by a planting error, my fortress is still going. I just want everyone to die so I can start anew and explore the ruins with an adventurer.

Had a quick spin on it last night and it is great fun. Tough as hell but I think I'm going to go back to it tonight if I can hook up a controller.

I gave Spelunky a try after hearing it mentioned on Podtoid and after watching Rev Rant: Indie Mercy
http://www.destructoid.com/rev-rant-indie-mercy-136653.phtml
and Rev Rant: Moral Choice
http://www.destructoid.com/rev-rant-moral-choice-133731.phtml

I like playing Spelunky quite a lot even if I can't get very far level wise.

Anthony Burch- "When you add up these three core design components - randomized platforming levels, emergent gameplay and permanent death - the result is far more than the sum of their parts."

Knytt Stories by Nifflas is another great free platforming game that I would recommend to anyone reading these comments.
http://nifflas.ni2.se/index.php?main=02Knytt_Stories⊂=03Download

Part of the reason permanent death works in this game is the randomly generated levels. It's a good workaround that helps keep the tension high without boring the player by making them slog through content they've already seen.

Earthbound:

L.B. Jeffries:
The only emergent game I've ever seen actually produce a surprisingly deep personal story was Dwarf Fortress. The thing is...who the f*** understands how to play that game? I don't mean any offense to the proud gamers who can, but I struggled with it for hours and hear the same from most people.

Dwarf Fortress was one of the hardest games I've ever played, but I love it. I actually have it up in the background right now. One of the most useful tutorials I've ever found are a series of videos on YouTube. I was lost without them.
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=5A3D7682BDD48FC2

I really wish the developer of Dwarf Fortress would invest some time in making his game more user-friendly. I would gladly pay full price for that if he did, whereas I can't get motivated to play the current version even though it is free...

Games just shouldn't require tutorials like that IMO. All it does is require a few hours of boredom before you get to play the game, which is really bad design if you're trying to entertain your players. I mean heck, people don't even like reading textbooks for useful things like Math or English, so how can you expect anyone to want to do that for a game?

Man I just spent the last 3 hours trying to convince my friend to play spelunky through steam chat. And out of nowhere this article plays across my eyes like a golden chalice. Suffice to say he is downloading it now. Great game, probaly the best game I didnt have to pay for.

Yeah, I've downloaded and played this for a few days now and, I must say, it's cute. But very hard, in part because it's a bit too hard to do some things that should be easier - to whit:
- catch hold of a ledge when jumping
- jump and whip simultaneously
- jump on enemies

But the aesthetic is wonderful and the fun that can be had feeding Neanderthals to man eating flowers (and laugh in glee as they try run away!) is second to none.

Fantastic game. Is it hard? Very much so. Believe me, I'm not a masocore gamer, but I have absolutely no problem playing this game over and over (and over and over) again. I never feel pissed that I died and had to start over, because the game's just so goddamned fun! Probably my favorite game of the year.

Has anyone else here gotten to the 'City of Gold' 'secret' level?

the stealing from shopkeepers thing reminds me of legend of zelda: links awakening on gameboy colour, wherein you could steal items from the shopkeeper, but upon your return to the shop he would kill you (my poor childhood memory seems to think that he shot an energy beam at you, but that could be an embellishment on my part) perhaps the similar reaction of the shopkeepers in spelunky is, in fact, an homage?

4fromK:
the stealing from shopkeepers thing reminds me of legend of zelda: links awakening on gameboy colour, wherein you could steal items from the shopkeeper, but upon your return to the shop he would kill you (my poor childhood memory seems to think that he shot an energy beam at you, but that could be an embellishment on my part) perhaps the similar reaction of the shopkeepers in spelunky is, in fact, an homage?

More likely to be a homage to Nethack since Spelunky has a strong rougelike influence. You can also fight with shopkeepers and loot their shops in RPGs like Fallout and Morrowind.

 

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