Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Defeating Auto-Run with Interesting Paths

Many roguelike games have an "auto run" feature to reduce the tedium of wandering the hallways of the dungeon.  The way it works is that you hit auto run, and it runs along the fairly-predictable corridors until you run into a monster, a treasure, a door, or an intersection.

You cannot do this in Lone Spelunker.  Nor would you (hopefully) want to, because part of the allure of the game is that you never know what's just around the corner.  You could climb into that crawlspace and find yourself in a massive dome chamber.  Or on the precipice of a yawning chasm.  Or in a tight chimney you can climb.  Or a chamber spilling over with flowstone.  Or or or.

One of the primary design goals of the game is to have interesting paths in the game, to defeat the entire purpose of "auto-run" as a feature.  Sometimes, you will be walking easily left and right.  Sometimes, you'll have to watch your step.  Sometimes, you'll be rappelling or zip lining down into chasms.  Sometimes, you'll be free-climbing up chimneys.  But it will always be fun and interesting navigation.  The opposite of auto-run.

For instance, here's a screenshot showing the path I took on a recent expedition into a cave:

That green line is the path that I took through the cave as I was exploring.  The yellow marks are where I hammered pitons into the walls and dropped nylon rope to rappel down or descend safely.

It reminds me of those old Family Circus cartoons which show the path Billy took around the neighborhood getting into trouble, only in this case, it's a lone spelunker moving through a cave system discovering flowstone formations and other treasure troves underground.

First, I entered the cave in the upper right area, and chose a lefthand passage to follow.  A sloping passage with some flowstone led into a tall chamber with a relatively flat floor which ended in a tunnel leading downwards.  I free-climbed down the wall next to a glimmering formation of curtain stone, and then made my way down another sloping tunnel to a place where there was an intersection.  Taking the western passage first, I came to a small, cozy room with a trove in it.  Leaving there, I took the other passage and found another dead end in a larger chamber.

Backtracking, I ran a rope up the wall to get back to the domed chamber, where I found two crawlspaces - one that led down a steep, tight chimney to a small, circular chamber, and another high up on the cavern wall that led to a twisting crawlspace which eventually emptied out into the roof of another chamber.  Rappelling down into that chamber, I found another chimney leading down from that room...

And so on.  Hopefully, that gives you a feel for what moving around in Lone Spelunker is like.  Travel feels fun and exploratory in this game because it is complex, challenging, and dangerous.  It would be hard to add an auto-run feature to this roguelike, but more to the point, it would be counterproductive.  (Although it would be pretty mesmerizing to watch a bot play the game.)

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