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Zaxx

Randomized Side Scrollers

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You know how game maps can be generated randomly? This is done in games like Rogue and Civilization where an overhead perspective is used. I was just wondering this: has this ever been done in side scrollers? Has anyone tried making a side scroller/platformer with random levels in the same way games with overhead maps have? I've occasionally thought about this, and came up with a few points. First of all, you'd want to know how far the player can ever jump. You don't want a platform to be placed so far apart from other platforms to render it inaccessible, unless the player has some way of flying. Another thing is a possible method of building a level: have pre-canned "scenes" with set ways out of them, then tile them together as a simple maze. That method would work best for games that need levels like those in Megaman or Turrican. For a one-way Super Mario type side scroller you could start with a straight ground floor then randomly add platforms and pits, keeping in mind the player's jumping distance so the level won't be impossible. To control difficulty, you could control how closely or how far apart platforms tend to be placed in level generation; the closer they are, the easier the level is. This was kind of a ramble. I just wanted to start a discussion of this idea. How do you think random levels for side scrollers could be made (if at all)?

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Interesting idea that I have not seen explored. Of course, it would help if your sidescroller used tiles. The problem I see with this is creating interesting maps that do not look repetitive or generated because with random map generators you are basing your level creation on a set of rules, which instantly throws true creativity out the door.

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Worms armageddon had a random level generator, its not really side scroller but it s similar it was quite good.

Personally I don't think it would work very well, while the levels might technically be playable, platformers like Super Mario have to be crafted right down to the coin placement to guide the player through the levels, like placing a coin above a pit show that the player has to hop over it, if theres a nothing down there.
where as a trail of coins going down the center shows hop down theres something interesing below.

Thers just so many subtle things that contribute to the flow of a level, generated randomly it just feel wrong and would end up boring or frustrating the player in my opinion.

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Yes, I would agree that it would be more difficult to randomly generate a 2D sidescroller map. In an overhead RTS, from my experience the map is not a crutial part of the gameplay - the AI is. But for a sidescroller, the map plays just as crutial part as the enemies. This tells us something. What if RTS maps were crafted with the same detail as a sidescroller?

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Interesting things you people bring up regarding the creativity of side scroller levels. With random levels in general I've had basically the random dungeons in every roguelike invented in mind, and was just thinking how that could apply to side scrollers. I mean, almost everyone says roguelikes are great, and their randomness is always singled out as why they're great. Random levels does boost a game's replay value.

Side scrollers must be different than roguelikes because there's a lot more interaction with the enviroment in the former. In a roguelike you usually just have to avoid smacking the wall, while in a scroller you have to jump and climb over the terrain. The random dungeons in a roguelike are probably not that significant anyway; it's probably just the general stuff that can happen to you that's significant. Roguelikes might appeal to a different set of people than platformers anyway.
Quote:
What if RTS maps were crafted with the same detail as a sidescroller?

Now that brings up an interesting subject. I suppose the closest rts' have gotten is where in a game like Starcraft you find catches of minerals and other expansion areas as you explore the map.

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Actually I'm considering using random level generation in my 2D sidescroller that incorporates some 3D graphics for looks. Its not a platformer, its essentially Diablo II meets Abuse/Soldat. There will be no pitfalls, instant deaths, or jump puzzles. I loathe them.

The ground and sky are planes just like in NeHe tutorial lesson 32:
http://nehe.gamedev.net/lesson.asp?index=07

If someone can tell me how to "clicky" that, I'll edit the post and "clicky" it.

Most everything else in the world are 2D sprites that are placed on the ground behind the main characters on the Z axis, so they move appropiately with the speed that the viewport is moving and create a true 3D effect. As I said the core game is 2D, so all gameworld beings are 2D animated sprites that are fixed at a constant value on the Z axis.

A level is (currently) a path from one town to a boss, and this means each path (level) is made up of randomized areas. Each area has a ground tile/sprite set, and enemies set. To transition from one area to the next, the grounds must look different and blend into each other. In order to blend the ground tiles from one area to the next, I simply place the different ground tiles side by side (lets say brown dirt and yellow sand), and on top of the line that divides the 2 different tiles place a blender tile with an alpha channel for dirt or the sand, depending on which side should be on top of the other. Using this method, I can seamlessly blend any series of areas, and therefore create random levels.

If you took platforms away from pretty much all 2D run and gun sidescrollers I can currently think of, you would lose a huge chunk of gameplay. This means I have to compensate with an excellent gameplay design that still encorporates a lot of strategy as you run and gun. This is a level design thread, so I won't go into the details of how I've compensated unless anyone is curious.

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My money's all on tiles. Make a few dozen archetypal "configurations" that can occur in the game, and string them together like obstacles in the Excitebike map editor. Don't pretend you don't remember that. You made that one map that was a half-mile of open space and then one of those little 45 degree ramps, so you could see your little guy wrap around and come up out of the bottom of the screen. We all made that one.

The point is, your holes COULD have that little helper coin floating above them, and no gap would be too large, and not platform would be too high, if the tiles were prefabricated and finite.

What kind of side-scroller are we dealing with? Mario? Prince of Persia? Sonic the Hedgehog? Contra?

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interesting, but I don't think randomly generated sidescroller levels would contribute all that much.

Mario is successful in getting to the end of a level because of player skill. the PC in Diablo (and other Rouge type games) is successful because of his/her stats...these are very different gameplay mechanics.

One is dependant on player twitch skills, the other on tweeking stats.

The hardcore fans of 2D sidescrollers like Mario, Contra, and Sonic still replay these games even after beating them time and again...not because of some newly discovered easter egg or previously hidden content...but to exercise thier skills, to run though levels faster, even to complete the game useing only one life, and/or to reach ever higher scores...a completely different, even alien, game playing reason then is often noted in these forums.

In twitch basied games where levels have a huge impact on gameplay; set level design gives players something to judge their playing skills against. They can see when they improve in particular troubleing areas, they have a yard stick to measure thier skills against...Randomizeing levels could actualy work AGAINST such games replay factor.

Random levels work in Rouge like games because player character improvement is stat basied...there is a level of abstraction there where the players skills with a mouse arn't nearly as important as the character stats are for overcoming game obsticals.

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Quote:
Original post by MSW
Mario is successful in getting to the end of a level because of player skill. the PC in Diablo (and other Rouge type games) is successful because of his/her stats...these are very different gameplay mechanics.

One is dependant on player twitch skills, the other on tweeking stats.

The hardcore fans of 2D sidescrollers like Mario, Contra, and Sonic still replay these games even after beating them time and again...not because of some newly discovered easter egg or previously hidden content...but to exercise thier skills, to run though levels faster, even to complete the game useing only one life, and/or to reach ever higher scores...a completely different, even alien, game playing reason then is often noted in these forums.

...

Random levels work in Rouge like games because player character improvement is stat basied...there is a level of abstraction there where the players skills with a mouse arn't nearly as important as the character stats are for overcoming game obsticals.

Good point. This reinforces my musings on how side scrollers and roguelikes probably attract different types of players. I can admit that the dungeons themselves in roguelikes actually get a bit dull after a while. It's really about gaining stats and finding that new ego-item, artifact, and unique monster. You don't really have to pay attention to the dungeon itself that much unless when there are nests and valts (roguelike players will know what those are).

On the other hand, I brought up a possible algorithm of level creation in my first post. It involved piecing together precreated scenes together to make a full level. Since this method involves human input to make the different scenes there could be at least some creativity and originality in a final level while keeping some of its randomness.

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Quote:
Original post by Zaxx
Good point. This reinforces my musings on how side scrollers and roguelikes probably attract different types of players. I can admit that the dungeons themselves in roguelikes actually get a bit dull after a while. It's really about gaining stats and finding that new ego-item, artifact, and unique monster. You don't really have to pay attention to the dungeon itself that much unless when there are nests and valts (roguelike players will know what those are).

On the other hand, I brought up a possible algorithm of level creation in my first post. It involved piecing together precreated scenes together to make a full level. Since this method involves human input to make the different scenes there could be at least some creativity and originality in a final level while keeping some of its randomness.


I'm definetly in that sidescroller camp, rougelikes don't appeal to me in the slightest.

Prolly my favorite game genre is the "Maniac SHMUP"(SHoot-eM-UP). Games like Mars Matrix and Ikaruga...the actual background graphics arn't all that important to these games, but the placement and timeing of enemies is. Most western SHMUPs focus on presumed "realisam" giveing the player lots of weapons and different powerups - which IMHO works against these types of games. Marz Matrix is a nearly perfect example of what I look for in these games. There are no power-ups, no weapons to purchase and/or collect; instead it gives the player full control over a little ship equiped from the begining with all the firepower one needs and a single button to unleash it (by tapping/holding down the fire button a variety a ways allows the player to shoot a variety of weapons)...In this way playing the game is much like playing a guitar in a rock band. The level itself (the placement and timeing of the enemies, the background graphics are non-interactive and are only there for atmoshpere) is like a song, and your ship a musical instrament ment to play along (with enough gameplay flexability allowing the player to meatphoricly "emote" through thier musical instrament)...Yeah, onscreen its just a little spaceship fireing against enemy ships...but the feel of playing once one gets "in the zone" is not unlike being in a band jamming out some music.

Power-ups tends to ruin that IMHO, because it falls back on the "collector" mentality where success isn't so much about player skill, but rather haveing the right power-up at the right time...randomize enemy placement and timeing also works against the intangable flow of such games, it just wouldn't feel right.

However randomized level generation could potentialy work to some extent for certain varieties of sidescrollers...the slightly more stats basied and/or puzzle variety (the RPG nature of Castlevainia, and puzzles of Prince of Persia for example).

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