A short post in exciting adventures in dungeon design.
The gate. A gate is a dungeon (Zelda definition of dungeon) element that is used to block player progress until a condition is met. In my game Anodyne (and most zelda-likes), gates unlock in two general sets of conditions – when a certain number of enemies are defeated, or when a certain number of “puzzles” are finished. “Puzzles” is loosely defined – usually buttons being pushed down in some fashion.
A thing I played with was whether or not gates should stay open permanently once a room is “cleared”, or if gates should close when their conditions are not met. One way to see this is if a room has an enemy, and the gate opens after the enemy dies. Now if I come back to the room and the enemy respawns, should the gate stay open? or closed?
My argument for why it should stay open is that it has the possibility of killing the flow of the game if a room needs to be cleared over and over again if the player continues to die in a room ahead of it. An argument against that argument could be that the designer is dumbing down the game by doing this. Gates “staying closed” taken to an extreme is in Zelda I. You see how far you can survive, if you get your ass handed to you, it’s back to square one.
To be honest, I think it entirely depends on your game (surprise, huh?). I haven’t yet found a legitimate use for gates that open when x enemies are killed, then close otherwise – likewise for the puzzle analogue. Maybe my dungeon design just sucks too much and I’m missing something. Or maybe I want to make it too easy for the player and am worried at challenging them.
But ultimately, I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time going back and forth on what to do, and ultimately for Anodyne, the Zelda I-esque element of making the player die over and over again to master a dungeon – that’s not what I’d like to go for. I’d like to keep the player focused on making it through the dungeon, and if they like, being able to also put some of their thinking into how the area they are in relates to the other dungeons and areas as a whole. And if they are dying too much or replaying areas over and over, I’m causing a barrier against that ability to see further than just getting through a few rooms.
Well, okay. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about….back to work, then.
Well, I actually think temporary gates can work well when you tweak the enemies to revive on a player death…you can form mini legs of challenge with optional elements at the end. That can be a good thing, I think, as long as it’s semi-clear to the player that they need not head through there…for a while, at least 🙂