Dungeons. What are your dungeons like and how do you handle them?

atoms

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My previous thread was sepifically about random enounter rates in dungeons, but that was too general a topic to really comment on, so instead I'm now asking everyone to share what they do with dungeons and what they are like.

Below are just some example of questions you can think about, you don't have to actual answer all/any of these questions, just explain what you do with the dungeons in your game.

Do you have a lot of muti-maps with your dunegons, or keep it simple. Do you put puzzles in some of them, all of them, a few of them? Do you use random encouters or on-screen encouters and what would your encouter rate be like, or how many on-screen encouters do you have?

Do you have mini-bosses in them as well bosses? Perhaps in some you do and others you don't?

Do you have optional dungeons? Shorter ones along with longer ones?

Do you have rare item drops, normal items? How much MP & TP do you end up consuming?

How large a map do you make a dungeon? Are you using XP-style maps, VX/VX Ace-style maps or MV-style maps?

Share what you do in your game. Of course depending on the game style and type would depend on the answers to these questions too, since different type of dungeons suit different type of games. (I.e. If your game is a dungeon crawler, heavily story-based, a bit of both and between the two, full of exploration outside dungeons as well as in, etc)

This is just to give some people ideas on what they think should and should not be done with there own dungeons and why.
 

bgillisp

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Varies. I like to make the early dungeons easy, so the player gets used to the game, then throw the harder dungeons later on. So in my dungeons (per say) are really linear with a couple branches in Chapter 1. In fact, I use Chapter 1 to introduce different mechanics, like the first dungeon you learn how to fight against a very weak monster that you can KO in 2 hits, and they cannot dodge your attack. Then I move up to monsters that can dodge your attacks so you have to learn how to use your spells now. Then, monsters that attack in groups. Then, mixed monsters. And so on. All of this is introduced in the first Chapter of my game.

In general, each Chapter of my game has 3 dungeons, each with a boss at the end. Exceptions do exist, and some of my dungeons have more than one boss, and some chapters have less dungeons.

Though...some of my dungeons are not your typical dungeon. For example one of them is a mall which was deserted 30 or so years ago, and is now monster infested, and the party is there to get access to something in the basement. However, they have to find the keys first, which requires searching the mall. Another is just one big mountain range, which the party is there to get something at the peak and get out. And one is even a 5 floor mage school which the party has to climb to the top to fix something so they can teleport out and continue their journey. None of these most would consider a dungeon in the classical sense of the word.
 

Poryg

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I have one motto. If a dungeon, make it a good one.
I'm the type of guy that likes to explore. So I'd say my standard is at least 5 rooms of 30 by 30. Puzzles and encounters are set depending on the type of terrain.
Wilderness - only natural obstacles and more, but weaker encounters. They aren't of too much relevance and after a while you can just skip them. I'm also not the type to put random treasure chests in the forests, except for the ones that serve as hidden caches.
On the other hand, a lab ruled by a mad scientist contains fewer encounters... But with stronger genetically modified beasts made for only one purpose. Magic forests contains a bunch of fragile monsters, but their powerful in magic and won't be afraid to cast it.
How many encounter steps are too many? I have no idea. I only know that 30 steps are indeed excessive.
 

Milennin

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In my previous game, I pick a theme for my dungeon that makes sense for the location, and then build around that idea. So, for my volcano dungeon, I made it so the player has to climb up, travelling partly through the interior of the volcano (lava and fire as obstacles), and part of it along the surface (cliffs as obstacles).

I don't like puzzles much, but I put in one optional mini-boss in each of my bosses that was accompanied by a small puzzle or on-map challenge before the battle encounter. That way, the player can just leave if they really dislike puzzles or somehow get stuck on it, but if they make it through, they get an extra reward for it. So for the volcano dungeon, there was a fire troll up on a cliff throwing boulders at the player who then had to climb upward while avoiding the boulders getting hurled at them.

For the rest, I like to put in a few pieces of optional lore and some mini events to spice up the experience. For the volcano dungeon, there's a part of the cliff the player walks over the crumbles underneath their feet, and they have to decide on how to progress. There's also the boss monster that taunts the player characters through dialogue several times as they continue to progress. There are also side paths to explore for treasures with some super hidden paths that grant special items as rewards, and multiple paths leading to the same main path for a sense of depth (and optionally replayability).

For regular encounters, I mostly put easy and single encounters early on, and begin to add and mix more as the player progresses through it. That's kind of the template I followed for myself, but of course there could be differences. Like I had 2 boss encounters in the volcano, opposed to the normally 1 for other dungeons.
 
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OmnislashXX

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Well let's see. In my first and only dungeon, which is a forest, I made the character slower, and don't have followers. That will basically be for all dungeons. Monsters are random encounters, with a mixture of some old and new. I introduce status effects. I put an optional boss in it. And a main boss at the end.
 

Tai_MT

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Honestly? I don't include puzzles. After having played a ton of RPGs and dealing with annoying puzzles (if you give me a puzzle, I need a zero encounter rate. I find puzzles to be tedious when interspersed with the usual Dungeon stuff), I don't enjoy them anymore. I don't include them. If a player ever tells me that they wish my game had more puzzles, I'll direct them to some fantastic puzzle games instead.

I tend to design my dungeons with several screens/rooms. Usually, they "interlock" in several ways so that you'll traverse the same room a couple ways and in different locations.

I've also adopted this behavior of involving a "shortcut" in the dungeon that can be accessed immediately if the player wants. During the current game I'm designing, it is accessed with a "Silver Key", which are in really short supply. You can use these Keys to open shortcuts in dungeons, doors to treasure rooms, or special locked chests. There are more locks than there are keys. I let the players decide if they want to "skip the whole dungeon" with these keys and go immediately to the Boss Room.

Beyond that, I don't do much with my dungeons. Lots of enemies per dungeon, lots of different troop compositions. They're endurance tests that are also designed to teach players something new.
 

Aesica

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My goal with dungeons is meant to make them feel at least somewhat unique from one another besides just tilesets. This means various mechanics, such as shifting sands in a desert, "legend of zelda lost woods" type screens in a forest, torch/light source manipulation in a dark cavern, finding keys or switches in a castle, powering up generators to move lifts in a power plant, etc.

There's no random encounters (I seriously [filtered]ing hate random encounters in games, especially when the rate is high) so enemies can be seen wandering around the map, and they will do anything from chase the player, wander around, stand still, or move in some predefined path. This gives me the flexibility to mix in a miniboss or two if I want while making the dungeon seem more alive. For example, there might be mostly wolves, bees, bears, and other such things roaming around in a forest, with a troll that's noticeably tougher than the rest roaming around near a bridge. Whether the player has to fight it or if they're going to be able to slip past it somehow depends on how I decide to build that particular part of the dungeon.
 

Eschaton

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I like to think of a dungeon as a low point in the story. You're venturing into the heart of darkness, it needs to feel like it.

A dungeon itself needs to be structured in a way to give the player the ups and downs of a story. It is an episode of chapter in the grand arc you the developer are telling to the player.

And the emotional ups and downs need to come from more than just scene events and atmosphere. Gameplay needs to be light and easy at the beginning, but progressively become more difficult up to a point when a climax (usually a boss) is reached and overcame, after which it gets easier again. I feel like the usual 3-act structure applies to dungeons.
 

arekpowalan

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I have revisited multiple JRPG and adventure games lately and tried to find some patterns.

- The first few dungeons should not be too complex or too large. The player is only introduced to the game, and they need to have easy ways to navigate the place/getting used to the mechanic. The structures are likely hallways or caverns with a few branch paths, one leads to treasure chest, another lead to the path onward. FF4's Mist Cave; for example, lasts only one map, but for its length, you do get an idea of how random encounters and exploring work.

- "Puzzles" are not necessary pushing blocks and solving soup cans. Sometimes, navigating a dungeon can be stalled by the terrain difficulty you're in. For examples, if you build a forest, the overhead trees may obscure your paths. If you're in an open area, rainstorm may come down and you need to find an alternative path. If you're in a desert, you may need to manage your stamina and your thirst. If you visiting a giant's castle, you may climb above stairs, foods, and other things you don't normally do while avoiding the giant. Riding a motorcycle through a complex internet track in Kingdom Heart 2, climbing a maze mountain in Phantasy Star II, avoiding traps in Resident Evil 7, being forced to play with limited party members in underwater sections in Final Fantasy X, etc; all these different areas, usually marked by different tilesets and gimmicks, can provide unique experiences to the player.

- Puzzle, whether man-made or natural, can be designed to have escalating level of complexity. Similar to the gameplay itself, the player may need to adapt to the difficulty to get smarter and go through the game as required. This is notable in the Mega Man Battle Network games where each area are made with entirely different puzzles. For example, if a dungeon has a warp puzzle, start with simple warps, and start making it harder and more complex as the player get to the end of it.

- Have something happened in each dungeon. The easiest thing to do here is progressing the story. This helps an area becoming memorable in term of story telling. For example, the Mine of Moria immediately makes you think of Belrog and Gandalf the Grey's death. Similarly, you can remember different caves in FF4 because in one place you kill a little girl's mom, and in another you beat a giant antlion for a medicine to save your girlfriend.

- Don't put in a dungeon for the sake of it. Dungeons in FFXII and FFXIII are the most forgettable because you only pass by them and there's nothing that can impress you there aside from unhealthy amounts of running and monster killing.

- Unless you do a Metroidvania style of gameplay, these dungeons are not usually visited twice. Many people hate backtracking especially for side quests. So, if you can, go all out and make them look and feel as impressive as possible.
 
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