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JTippetts

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I'm a bit cranky right now, so if this post has a bit of an acrid tone to it, that's part of the reason why. The A/C kicked out in the middle of the night last night, and I woke up to the smell of broiling meat as I simmered in my own juices. A/C still isn't working, it's 116 degrees outside, and I've got a case of swamp ass you wouldn't believe. It's like the Vietnamese jungle down there; I expect a short little Asian dude in khaki to jump out and shoot me in the face any minute now.

It bothers me when people do not think about things. It bothers the hell out of me. You see it all the time on the forums, and I get it all the time in my email inbox. People who want pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped solutions, all boxed up in a convenient, easy to read tutorial or (better yet) poured magically into their heads so they do not have to spend the effort to figure it out for themselves. My email is inundated at times with the pulings of such people, at once criticizing my work on the Accidental site and elsewhere, and asking for ready-to-use solutions to their own random level generation problems. My stuff is too simple, they say. Too boring. They want levels like in Diablo. They want levels that are interesting. Blah, blah, blah.

Complexity does not spring from nowhere, but instead is built upon layer after layer of boring simplicity. The pieces are all there, if only they would for-the-love-of-Pete stop and think about it, use the brain that God gave them, instead of endlessly emailing random folks off the internet and begging for solutions.

One common complaint I get is that my Accidental article about labyrinth generation (linked here) is too boring and simple--as if it were ever intended to be otherwise. The title should be a tip off; it states right out that it is merely an introduction. And yet, the email continues to trickle in; can I tell them how to do more interesting levels? Why is it so boring? Where is an article that will teach them how they did the levels in Diablo? And so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Traditional mazes are boring. I will be the very first one to tell you that. Give me a game where I have to wander through standard labyrinths, and I might play for about five minutes before I dump your game into the recycle bin and fire up World of Warcraft. But that wasn't the point of the article, and I suppose it was too much to hope that people might take the basic idea and elaborate upon it to add interest. Allow me to explain myself.

A standard maze, as created in that article, really isn't that interesting as a level in and of itself, but it does embody some interesting information. A maze represents a connected graph, and thus lends itself inherently to a lot of useful applications far beyond just a grid of walled squares. If you stop and think about how you can use that information above and beyond the simple labyrinth representation, you might see how Diablo and others create levels that are interesting. Observe:



A bog-standard maze, such as the algorithm detailed in the Accidental article might generate. Not very interesting.



Use the connectivity information embodied by the maze, and plop down a few randomly blobbed cavern passages, and you get a cave maze like the previous badly Gimped hurried mock-up.



Or, use the same connectivity and place a few pre-generated room pieces into the grid to create some sort of generic dungeon maze.

Of course, it is my position that no level in and of itself is really all that interesting, whatever the layout. Interest comes from the crap you populate the level with, the monsters and traps and treasure; and that, friends and neighbors, is a whole different article altogether.

So please, if you feel inspired to email me begging for a more interesting technique, spare the bandwidth and save my inbox from more garbage; it gets hammered hard enough as it is by ads promising to increase the girth of my johnson, and those ads are more interesting. Thank you, and good day.
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I was going to think of a blisteringly witty comment, but then it occurred to me that thinking is exactly what you don't want me to do, so I decided to post this instead.

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