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Complex vs Simplistic Dungeons


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Poll: Complex vs Simplistic Dungeons

Which style of dungeon do you prefer?

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#1 NewJourneysFire

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Posted 20 October 2019 - 02:10 PM

Over the past 5 years, I've took a preference to complex styled dungeons over simplistic styled dungeons and have tailored my own design to make my dungeons highly complex but with a logical structure as to not confuse the player too much (though this is not entirely easy to avoid, because that's literally the issue with complex dungeons). 

 

However, as time goes by, and looking back at how Nintendo themselves design their dungeons, I don't think complexity is the golden standard here.

 

I've designed dungeons that are inspired by Isle of Rebirth, Forbidden City, and others and have just decided these types of dungeons are the golden standard to dungeon design, but the more I play quests, the more I am noticing that quests with simple dungeons are far more approachable.

 

Bottom line: It would seem that complex dungeons are intimidating to many people.

 

Now before I give anybody the wrong impression, when I say complex, I don't mean flat out stupid nonsense spammed around to appear like complexity or just dungeons that just don't flow. I'm not talking about the type of dungeon that demands stupid levels of backtracking just because "huh huh! I made complex".

 

But what I do mean are often dungeons that do take diverging paths, and often have multiple floors, but still tries bridge itself well, something like a very dense Metroidvania if I can make an honest comparison. 

 

Still though, I feel as I evolve as a game designer, that I'm beginning to learn there are just many things that are considered "gaming taboos" and lots of the time I try to push against these taboos with this stubborn belief they can work if you try hard enough. I'm starting to believe complex dungeons are one of these gaming taboos, which is why people still hate them in a way.

 

I could be wrong, this is why I'd like to ask the community for their own input on this discussion because this for me could be one of those "Ah ha!" moments, but also one of those moments that turned everything I learned about game design over the past 5 years and flipped it upside down. 


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#2 a30502355

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Posted 20 October 2019 - 02:35 PM

Complex dungeon are always a treat. But simple dungeons are more important for the quest, it balances out hard dungeons and give the player a rest per say.

Even quests with huge dungeons throughout like IoR have simple mini-dungeons to let the player focus on stuff like exploration before they tackle the next huge dungeon. 


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#3 Moosh

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Posted 20 October 2019 - 03:11 PM

Nulled because I like both pretty much equally. It's all about implementation really. Complex dungeons can sometimes fall victim to tedium and repetition, but this one questmaker, NJF I believe, told me about this little secret to prevent that...

 

It was...uh... what was the word? Sho...something?

 

Sho...Sho...Shoutokatto? Oh right! Shortcuts!


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#4 klop422

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Posted 20 October 2019 - 04:15 PM

Personally I prefer complex dungeons, but I think it'd be incredibly tiring to do an entire quest of them, unless that's your selling point. Kind of like cake at a birthday party - you gotta have some cocktail sausages and sandwiches and cookies and sweets as well as your birthday cake.


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#5 NewJourneysFire

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Posted 20 October 2019 - 08:12 PM

Nulled because I like both pretty much equally. It's all about implementation really. Complex dungeons can sometimes fall victim to tedium and repetition, but this one questmaker, NJF I believe, told me about this little secret to prevent that...
 
It was...uh... what was the word? Sho...something?
 
Sho...Sho...Shoutokatto? Oh right! Shortcuts!


A wise person named Evan20000 thought me as well to be careful of overuse of such Shoutokatto, otherwise you may indirectly nudge people towards useless areas of the dungeon that will only get players lost and confused. A great example of this is if you have an entrance, area A, Area B, and Area C. You dont want a shortcut from Area C to Area A if you never intend on the player to return to Area A.

#6 Stray Sheep

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Posted 20 October 2019 - 08:37 PM

I gave up playing Isle of Rebirth two time because dungeons are huge and so complex for me, I won't play it more. I like dungeons in In the Lost Kingdom of the Banana Blood God.


Edited by Stray Sheep, 20 October 2019 - 09:49 PM.


#7 NoeL

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 12:48 AM

I nulled, for a variety of reasons:

 

1) A simple dungeon can be better than a dungeon that's TOO complex, and a complex dungeon can be better than a dungeon that's TOO simple. So you can't say one is necessarily better than the other.

2) Simple and complex dungeons serve different purposes: the former to introduce the player to dungeoneering and the latter to test their skills. That's why "good" quests have a difficulty curve, where the complexity ramps up over time.

3) Good design principles are more important than complexity. A simple dungeon that's well designed will be better than a complex dungeon that's not, and vice versa.


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#8 NoeL

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 03:30 AM

And to address your second last paragraph I don't think complex dungeons are necessarily a taboo, it's only when game hasn't prepared the player for the complexity or where the complexity is obtuse or excessive. To elaborate:

Not preparing the player is when the complexity isn't telegraphed, such as throwing the player into a dungeon that's magnitudes of complexity above anything they've done thus far. You need to ease the players into it - give them samples if what you're going to throw at them later so they're better prepared to deal with the challenge.

Obtuse complexity is complexity without a reasonable solution, aka "moon logic". Things need to make sense, and your game needs to guide the player in some way.

Excessive complexity is asking the player to retain an unreasonable amount of information. If your dungeon is ten floors deep and players need to memorise several different pathways or spread the "keys" and "locks" so far apart they'll have forgotten where the lock is by the time they've found the key, you dun goofed. Too much to remember at once, bad design.

Complexity needs to be layered. The same as teaching/learning any skill, you start simple and build on what you understand. You don't teach calculus before arithmetic. You can have incredibly complex dungeons, but you need to layer what you're teaching rather than try to teach everything at once.

A good example is the Lolo games, or any good puzzle game really. If you threw a new player into one of the later puzzles they'd be fucked. Too complex. But if you give that same puzzle to a player whom you've been teaching for the past few hours the complexity becomes manageable and fun to overcome.
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#9 Maloney

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 11:27 AM

Por que no los dos?

 

I've always thought that it was the most fun when games had simple and complex dungeons intermixed. The complex dungeons are the meaty bits where the designers can put their attention into, while the small dungeons mix things up for the player and can fill gaps in playtime or act as transitions between parts of the map.


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#10 Matthew

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 02:15 PM

I like to make the complexity in my recent dungeons come from navigation more than anything, aided by shortcuts as to not feel tedious. Depending on the dungeon, I'll add some central gimmick for an extra layer of complexity. Scale up the floor size and number of floors to your liking, and then you basically have instant-complexity - it's easy dungeon design 101  :slycool:


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#11 Yloh

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 04:22 PM

My favorite dungeons always come with a cool gimmick. It can be a simple or complex dungeon. Did the dungeon give me a memorable experience? To answer the thread question, I find that complex dungeons have higher highs, but also lower lows. In short, I enjoy good complex dungeons more than good simple dungeons. 

 

As a player some of my favorite complex dungeons would be: Dual Fortress (Lost Isle), Prismatic Gate (Isle of Rebirth), and Sinner's Citadel (Link's Quest for the Hookshot 2: Quest).

Some of my favorite simple dungeons would be: Forrest Restaurant (Armageddon Quest), Dragon Temple (Temples of Turmoil), and Face Shrine (Hero's Memories).

 

As a player, a dungeon looses its fun factor when it becomes too overbearing. My definition of overbearing is how often do I get lost not knowing what to do. Getting lost is expected in a complex dungeon, but getting lost way too often ruins a dungeon for me. Oh I just found a key, but I can't remember how to get to the locked door because the path back to the door isn't straight forward. 

 

As a creator, it is easy to accidentally make a dungeon too large with over complex pathways. It is also difficult when other people have created master piece dungeons and having the desire to recreate a master piece of your own. That desire can add blinders to the creators vision hindering the foundations of what makes a good dungeon. 

 

If anybody want me to, I can give specific examples of what I did right and wrong in my quest "Mike's Fun House" when it comes to simple and complex dungeon designs.  


Edited by Yloh, 21 October 2019 - 04:25 PM.

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#12 Stray Sheep

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 05:36 PM

Some of my favorite simple dungeons would be: Forrest Restaurant (Armageddon Quest), Dragon Temple (Temples of Turmoil), and Face Shrine (Hero's Memories).

 

If anybody want me to, I can give specific examples of what I did right and wrong in my quest "Mike's Fun House" when it comes to simple and complex dungeon designs.  

 

I enjoyed your Fun House so much, it's interesting. But is Forrest Restaurant simple? I believe it's very tricky.


Edited by Stray Sheep, 21 October 2019 - 05:39 PM.


#13 Yloh

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 07:31 PM

I enjoyed your Fun House so much, it's interesting. But is Forrest Restaurant simple? I believe it's very tricky.


Forrest Restaurant does have tricky and clever parts, but as a whole, the level is straight forward.

Edited by Yloh, 21 October 2019 - 07:32 PM.


#14 Stray Sheep

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:52 PM

Yloh, I meant I would like to know your thinking about MHF's dungeons, too.


Edited by Stray Sheep, 21 October 2019 - 08:55 PM.


#15 Yloh

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 10:48 AM

If anybody has played "Mike's Fun House" for at least 3/4 of the way through, you get to experience some of very creative gimmicks. Some of these gimmicks were done quite well, while others were not.

 

I believe my best dungeon is "Pandora's Box". What makes it so good? Is it the size? There are a total of about 100 rooms to explore with many branching paths, so this is a pretty large dungeon. It may be large, however, the way it is mapped, it is quite easy to get to almost any room at almost any point. It was done is a way that made the dungeon feel natural instead of artificial. The gimmick of the dungeon is a generic switching from light to dark theme, but done with a twist. The light theme had no enemies, but there were machines and traps everywhere. The dark theme had no machines and traps, but it was over saturated with strong monsters. There were areas that you can only access in the light part of the dungeon and there are other areas that you can only access in the dark part. It is possible to complete this dungeon without figuring out the true gimmick of the level. You can get the level map and fold it into a square. Link is inside a colossal box and he walks on the walls and roof of the dungeon. Looking at this dungeon as a whole: it has branching paths without overwhelming the player, it has a gimmick that is done in a creative way, and the music is awesome (don't underestimate the power of good music). These elements combined are an example of a complex dungeon done right.

 

My other top dungeons are "Dimention Starship" and "Mike's Factory". While I won't go into much detail about these levels, "Dimention Starship" has one of the most creative gimmicks in, dare I say, Zelda Classic history. The main gimmick in "Dimention Starship" is switching the dungeon from overhead to side view gravity. There are areas in the overhead sections that were blocked off by force fields, so you had to switch the level from 3D to 2D to turn off the force fields. Thinking back on the level, if I added more puzzle elements to this level and less platforming gauntlets this world of my number one dungeon. "Mike's Factory" also has a really cool gimmick that requires players to reach the rank of champion. They must first find the bronze challenge mini level, earn the rank of bronze, then find the silver challenge mini level, and continue this all the way to champion rank. After earning the rank of champion, you had the right to challenge the dungeon's boss. "Mike's Factory" is just too large. I put way too many gauntlets and there are filler rooms. It isn't difficult to get from one place the other, but it would of been perfect if it was 1/2 to 3/4 of the size. These levels are an example of a good dungeon that tried to hard to fit a predetermined map shape. This is relevant to the topic because it is easy to try and make things more complex than it really should. These are two dungeons, while still really good, fell short of perfection in my eyes. 

 

"Shifting Ruins" is an example of a really creative gimmick done wrong. To understand the gimmick, you have to look at your map. Every time you walk into a new room, the map shifts. The level has about 78 rooms, but they were laid out poorly. It was not easy to get from one side of the dungeon to the other and I added artificial shortcuts that didn't flow at all. Everybody gets stuck here and it is a pain for me to try and explain how to navigate the level. In fact, I have to look at the editor just to help people out. A level like this would of done well with 30 - 40 rooms total. This is an example of a complex dungeon done wrong.

 

From my experience as a creator, it is easy to try and add artificial complexity by making the dungeon larger.


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