Portals as a gameplay mechanism

From RogueBasin
Jump to: navigation, search

The following was posted to rec.games.roguelike.development by myself. I reproduce it here with minor modification. --Harblcat 06:40, 10 February 2009 (CET)



Portals

-or-

"This doesn't make any sense..."

So I came across a really interesting article recently. I detailed the game engine underlying Dungeon Siege, a game that boasted of a seamless environment. This might not seem like quite the feat, but at the time of its release it was quite the buzz.

I've been thinking of the mechanism behind DS's seamless world, a variation on portals, and wondered about ways to apply the same thing to a roguelike.

DS used this technology because they couldn't store large enough chunks of the map in memory at one time. In a roguelike, I believe it's theoretically possible to store several levels of the dungeon at one time, so there is no need for portals to alleviate memory issues.

No, I was thinking of it more along the lines of how it would affect gameplay.

In the real world, one becomes used to the spatial relationships between objects, and we expect that when we turn a corner around a building, we see a different wall; or when walk through a doorway, we end up in a different room. Rooms don't intersect in the real world, and in most games that 'knowledge' carries over. Players even react adversely to situations where things do not conform to standards of reality like this, complaining when instances of clipping or improper z-order arise.

What if a game implemented portals as a mechanism to purposefully go against these standards of reality. It's not a new idea in the general gaming world, with popular games such as Portal bending the player's mind to great effect. But so far as I know, there aren't any roguelikes that use this mechanism.

Before continuing, I would like to clarify. Portals, as I refer to them, are merely boundaries on two different objects--be they regions, rooms, or whatnot--that can be joined seamlessly together.

Take the following rooms:

:Room A
###-##
#.N..#
#.S..|
######

:Room B
#-######
#...N..#
#...S..|
########

The NS is meant to represent orientation, and the -'s and |'s the portals. If I were to join rooms A and B together in all the possible ways, I would get the following combinations:

     ##-#
     #..#
     #..#
     #NS#
###-##..#
#.N..#..#
#.S..|..#
#########

###-##
#.N..########
#.S..|..S...#
######..N...#
     ######-#

########
|..S...#
#..N...#
######-##
   #.N..#
   #.S..|
   ######

  ####
  #..|
  #..#
  #..#
  #SN#
  #..#
  #..#
###-##
#.N..#
#.S..|
######

Note how the orientation of the rooms is not set in stone, demonstrated by room B's decidedly dizzying nature. This is something that I really like. When the rooms are generated from their random numbers, you get many more possibilities than if the orientation of the rooms was static. Do note that you could very well generate a string of rooms, and only have portals in certain areas, perhaps where gameplay demanded:

     #####
     |...#####
######.N.....#
#......S.#...|
#....#####...#
##-###   #####

I will stick to referencing single rooms, as I don't want to spend a hundred hours making room clusters by hand. I hope that is alright.

As I said, when you randomly generate these rooms or clusters of rooms, you 'automatically' get many more possiblities than you had to generate. I consider this to be a side-benefit, though. The real reason I'd love to implement this mechanic is decidedly more on the fringe.

I'm sure some of you have pondered the following by now:

:Room A
#####
#...#
#.###
#.|
###

:Room B
#####
#...#
###.#
  |.#
  ###

What would happen when these two rooms were combined? Surely not the following:

#####
#...#
#####
#.|.#
#####

That's simply silly.

Well, it all depends on where the @ is standing, I suppose:

 ####
  ..#
#.#.#
#.|@#
#####

#####
#..@#
###.#
  |.#
 ####

## ##
#. .#
#.#.#
#.@.#
#####

#####
#@..#
#.###
#.|
####

Well, that seems slightly nonsensical. Less silly than the other possibility, though. Do you suppose that @ is confused? I sure would be, if I didn't know what was going on.

So, you can overlap rooms. It is definitely interesting, but what about another possibility?

:Room A
#####
#...|
#...#
#...|
#####

:Room B
###
|.|
###

:Room C
########
|......|
########

:Room D
#####
|...#
#...#
|...#
#####

If our @ is standing in room A, and the two portals lead to rooms B and C, which then link to room D's portals, like so:

###########
#..@|.|...#
#...### ..#
#...|
#####

#####
#...|
#...########
#..@|......|...#
################

which way would be most efficient?

One final case that I have given thought to:

:Room A
##A##
#...#
B../C
#...#
##D##

Here I'm using the letters A, B, C and D to represent the portals, to try and see how a room linking to itself would work. The / is some random item (perhaps a nice wand of "Make Sense").

If A links to C, and B to D:

 #-#
  .
  .
  /
##-##
#.@.#
|../|@ <--- This is you, unbelievably.
#...#
##-##
  .
  .
 ./.
 #-#
  @ <--- This is you, again. You look nice.

I suppose that this scenario would actually want to draw an infinite map, so there would certainly have to be a cut-off point, before we really hit ad-absurdum.

But still, it is a novel idea. Have I missed out on any more obscure uses for a system such as this?

Another reason I was thinking of this idea, going off on a tangent, is the possibility of implementing a roguelike version of the probably over-mentioned blog posts made by a man named Squidi (http://www.squidi.net/three/entry.php?id=30) about a Communist Zombie MUD. So I wanted a system that would be capable of "bigness" while at the same time being easy on a server. One humongous, persistent world would be rather difficult to serve, even to a text-based client.

Let's have a conversation.

Personal tools