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wildhalcyon

Favorite Dungeons

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Im trying to do some research on dungeon design, and I was hoping to get some feedback from the community here about their favorite dungeons/levels. It doesn't matter if the everything else about the game sucked, or if it was the only good dungeon in the game. I'm just curious about what people look for in a good level. The game I'm designing is a 3D isometric RPG, it'll have nice boxy-styled terrain to make it feel like a 2D tiled game (I'm working on a level designer now, I think its coming along nicely... except Im no good at doing sprites!) Some of my favorite dungeons in past games are: Final Fantasy IV - Lunar Cavern. This place felt legendary. Everything from the monsters (Behemoths, Gold and Silver Dragons, etc) to the blue crystaline walls. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Just about all the Darkworld Dungeons. They're all superb. Misery Mire might be my favorite. Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - Wind Tribe's Palace. I enjoyed the multi-level inside/outside.

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The water temple on Zelda ocarina of time is one of my favorates, working round the passages leading central hub area and raising lowering the water to unlock more keys/items, gradualy working your way up to the top was a fantastic experience, it kinda felt like being inside a one giant puzzle.

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Probably not what you're looking for, but I liked the Mario 64 levels a lot. They mainly featured levels where you had to climb as high as you could, but if you failed and dropped to a level, you just had to climb back up. Minor setbacks are fun, as long as they're fair. Having to work your way through a dungeon 8 times because of undetectable trap doors isn't.

Oh, and check out the Fallout levels. I especially liked the final booby-trapped vault with the robots. The basic idea, as far as I can tell, is there are a bunch of robot pieces, and when you turn on the defense system, they come back to life. I wouldn't know, because I killed them all beforehand. Making the playeer work their way back through a dungeon, especially back up or down, is a lot of fun, as long as it's not working the same dungeon back and forth hitting switches to open doors on the other side. For example, have a fairly interesting level, and then blow it up. Working back through the ruins of a good level, trying to spot shattered landmarks, with uncovered gold and monsters (goblins, golums, bats?) could be fun.

Also, try checking out Pen-and-Paper RPG Adventures. You don't have to know the rules, just look at the dungeons, read the notes, and take note of interesting design features. They have to be great, because that's all they are, and they tend to be more inventive.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Can you make a player 'feel' the dungeon as though it was a place with a history? As though it doesn't just exist for the player (unless for some reason it has just been created for them.).

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I always like UO's Deciet Dungeon or if anyone remembers the Legend of Kesmai the intial dungeon was fun too. (Although, Never Ever Put A Powerful Mob Which Can't Hit A Player In Any Part Of The Game. Players WILL Abuse it.)

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Going back through a level in a different state is always good. I remember a StarCraft map where you had to sneak through it in one direction to make contact with a trapped ally. Once you got there, the map's enemies all activated, and you had to fight your way back out. Nice.

I also like most of the levels in Second Sight. Logical locations for key cards, believable reasons for locked doors and reasonable security responses to things like diversions and furtive sightings made for a very enjoyable and complex experience. Multiple paths, multiple solutions to puzzles, and fun little tidbits like computers and memos add depth to the world. Great stuff.

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Visuals are nice, but I like traps, switches and light puzzles. They give the dungeon a secondary objective and add a bit of mystery. The best are those that don't require too much backtracking, though. Phantasy Star was great for this, with simple switch and wall triggers that unlocked parts of the level.

Oh, and mood music. That's very important, too!

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Thanks for the feedback everybody! I appreciate all the responses, they've been really helpful. I guess the point I was trying to make is that many games try to go about dungeon design like we were still playing nethack. There's more too it than that, and I like the feeling of a level that's not just a maze or just a "hole in the ground filled with enemies", but (similar to what that Anonymous Poster said) has a sense of place or purpose for the world in general, not just the players who happen to need to go there.

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Although not exactly a RPG, nor a truely great game. But I really enjoyied some of the levels in the first Tomb Raider game.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
What I think the world dungeon stands for is the idea of a set-piece location, which is of special interest due to challenging monster / traps-puzzles and rewards.

A dungeon doesn't have to be underground although most tend to constrain you in some way (a dinosaur filled plateau) because this adds to the psychological edge of the challenge.

A 'dungeon' could be the Mall in Dawn of the Dead films, likewise the mystical forest bit in Final Fantasy 7 which has eerie music, powerful rewards and a sense of mystery.

Ketch.

Ketch

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