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Teala's Wickedly Cool Blog For The Masses

Just my thoughts on MMO's, roleplaying, game companies, and the people that play these games.

Author: Teala

Old School Dungeon Crawling - When Will It Return?

Posted by Teala Monday April 5 2010 at 12:08PM
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"Oh my god...tell me you just failed to see that trap?"   Said Ternaslee as she proceeded to cast the spell that would bring her companion back to life.   A barrage of shadow arrows rained down the hall they had entered and her companion had caught the brunt of them in his upper torso killing him instantly.    Ternaslee looked toward the thief of their party in dismay.   "I thought you said you were the best?"

"I am...well...kinda, sorta...finding traps is not exactly my strong point...unlocking doors and'll find no better."

"Well you better be on your toes from now on thief because it only gets worse from here."  She replied as she finished casting her spell.   "This dungeon is notorious for traps and such and if we expect to make it through this and get out again with the riches it promises to deliver you cannot be making mistakes."

And so it begins....deeper into the bowels of Dangor' Moor Keep and the Catacombs of the Elders that lie beneath it.   


::sigh::  So what ever happened to good old dungeon crawling?  What became of the thief class?  Are MMORPG's destined to loose the one thing that drove us to gaming to begin with?  Where is the adventure and the sense of danger that once filled our minds with heart pounding excitement as we cautiously made our way from chamber to chamber making sure nothing was left to chance and that we wouldn't fall victim to some well hidden trap - or maybe encounter a puzzle that would gain us entry into that final room that contained the treasures of long dead kings from ages ago?  

In games like World of Warcraft and their ilk the one thing that I have noticed over the years is that certain things we loved about the pen and paper RPG are just not present in your mainstream MMORPG's and that is good old dungeon crawling - with traps, tricks, puzzles and riddles.   They just do not exist on the level we found in our pen and paper adventures.   Plus it relegated the thief class to become more of an assassin rather than a thief.   Sure thief's can unlock "boxes" but is that really what a thief is all about?  That is not the class I remember.   I remember a class that was skilled at finding traps and figuring out puzzles, could hide well in shadows when needed and could perform great feats of acrobatics and climb better than anyone.   Again...::sigh::: 

Many classes are, as the thief, in that they have been bastardized and recreated to fit into the realm of an online game and this in turn has literally taken the over all game design and mechanics of the old pen and paper games and thrown them out the door in order to simplify and make game play faster.  

Yes...look at the so called dungeons and raids in games like WoW and LoTR's and such.  There are not real puzzles to figure out and no real need for a class that has the skill sets of a thief because the games are not designed for such a class as we once knew.   There are no locked doors, there are no traps, there are no puzzles or riddles. most it is all about MOBS and how you pull them to clear a room to move to the next room.    I am not writing this to slam WoW either, though it is one of the games that has taken dungeon crawling and basically (sorry to use this term) "dumbed it down" so people can run a 5 man pug through them in less than 15 minutes.   Gone are the days of challenging a group of players to overcome obstacles and work as a team to achieve a task.   Now it is all about tank/dps/heal and that is about it and in most dungeons just AoE's.   Sad I know, but that is what it has come to.

When will a game come out where a group of players will play classes with given skill sets that will be needed to crawl through the catacombs that lie beneath Dangor' Moor Keep?   When will a game company develop the necessary game mechanics to generate such places randomly so that what we find is not the same as the other group that proceeded us so that we cannot do the easy thing and go to and see how to get through the raid. 

Things these games need to start adding as skills are climbing, hiding, picking up objects and moving them, puzzles, tricks, traps, hidden passages, hidden chambers, and all the things we use to expect to encounter in great dungeon crawls of yesteryear. 

There is a place for dungeons where all you are concerned with is tank/dps/heals and clearing MOBS, but there is also a place in game for some serious dungeon crawling where players need to take their time and figure out what to do next or which direction to go or to make sure they thoroughly check a place over to make sure they are not missing a secret door or something.   I so miss that kind of game play and would love to see it return to mainstream MMORPG's.  

So the question to developers and game designers...old school dungeon crawling - when will it return?

theAsna writes:

Well. There is one thing that happened: "Overcoming obstacle X withing Dungeon Y requires class Z. Forming a group thus lasts ages."

DDO has tried to go the dungeon crawling way, but sadly due to mostly static trap positions, traps are nothing to really fear. This and static enemy groups. After a couple of runs through a dungeons you know all monsters by their "first names" (literally). And ambushes are not surprising after some time. ,)

It seems that game developers don't trust that players can cope with the surprise element. And they are pessimistic about player behaviour, too (no communication -> wipe -> group dissolves -> unhappy players/customers).

Mon Apr 05 2010 3:08PM Report
biofellis writes:

I already tried to dig in.

Indie devs were for the most part uninterested. I suspect unless you do it yourself, it's not going to get done. At least that's my perspective.

Basicly though, it's way more planning & complexity for devs (unneccesary for the market they might say), and... um... 'skill' needed ny players, which 'the lack of' can get in the way of potential cashflow.

Simplified- that's a lot of 'extra' to be adding just so you can 'make less'. Yeah, WoW.

Tue Apr 06 2010 12:36AM Report
Evasia writes:

Ive lately register at small indie developers who wanne try make a mmo more like you describe.

But then the players who are invited into these alpha/betas are also ones who constantly nagging those devs why not make this like in WoW yeh you hear me right exWoW players who also want something different but background is themepark, join in on sandbox old skool and constantly complaining why its not like WoW:(

And for tank/dps/heal dont forget to mention also billion addons so its a easy walk in the park.

I feel with you, i realy wanne have a mmo like you discribe but its just imposible with todays gamers only maybe a small group want such games but find a company make such game well thats even harder.

Its all about money these days not about game anymore.


Tue Apr 06 2010 11:39AM Report
TJKazmark writes:

I don't think it's impossible to make the game you've described, Teala. In fact, I'm right in the boat with you on the need to swing a game or two this way in the MMO field. The biggest obstacle, I think, is to create that randomized factor in your dungeons to make them unique, but also still challenging.

I'm not concerned about the market. I'm not converned about the majority of players. The main thing I'd concern myself with is producing a game that most closely matches the things you think matters. You'll get haters, complainers, and others because it isn't what their used to, but a great many people have that knee-jerk reaction. I know I do.

But in time, if you maintain the focus of your project, I think people will begin to adapt and see why your game is better than the ones before. You can take what I've said seriously, or just as idealistic encouragement. Either way, I'm all for seeing the good old dungeon crawl come back onto the scene. =]

Thu Apr 08 2010 3:05AM Report
VooDoo_Papa writes:

well, someone beat me to it.  Dungeons and Dragons Online is about as close as MMO"s have come to what you explained.

Which is why I still play single player RPG's.  In all of my childhood and adult years, nothing on the mutliplayer sphere has come close to what can be done in a single player rpg. 

I mean, even in pen/paper rpg's its hard to keep people from falling into their hack/slash and bum rush tacticts without a good game master.  In a virtual world, you can forget it (unless its somehow controlled by a gm)

Fri Apr 09 2010 6:49AM Report
Inktomi writes:

I don't know if you've tried Torchlight yet. Its ole' school Dc'ing at its mindless best. Total D2 rip, but good the fun wow-style graphics and dynamically colorful background make up for it. 

Torchlight is not an MMO but if you try the above that and the mentioned DDO it might satisfy your sweet tooth for the dungeon crawl.

Come to think of it, when I played wow many, many moons ago I was hoping to capture some of that feel for exploration. But since it was such a saturated game it came across as a business instead of fun. "Ok, go here, kill that. Don't go there. Kill this. Ok, lets go to boss and then leave", was the systematic approach of most groups. 

It was dungeon crawling, but not the same feel that some of the older games gave us. Have you ever heard of a game called the Dungeons of Daggorath? It was on the Radio Shack Trash-80. That was my first crawl, terrible graphics but fun as hell.

Sat Apr 10 2010 4:58PM Report
Oddbot writes:

The best example I can think of similar to what you're looking for is The Hall of Mirrors dungeon in LOTRO. The whole thing is one big (you guessed it) mirror and light puzzle, and it actually takes some brain power to figure out on your own.

Sun Apr 11 2010 12:20PM Report
indiramourn writes:

I enjoy your posts, Teala.  But it's sad to see how this particular blog has given so many WoW haters an opportunity to vent their spleen.  Some people love WoW, some hate it.  Fine, can we all carry on now?

TJKazmark has the right idea to implement many of your great ideas: No static MOB's, Traps, Puzzles, etc.  If everything is static the dungeons will become boring after 2 or 3 visits.  Once you've done the same dungeon 5 time or so you'll probably find it down-right annoying, and each trap or ambush you encounter will feel about as exciting as stubbing your toe.

Sun Apr 11 2010 7:21PM Report
Disdena writes:

"When will a game company develop the necessary game mechanics to generate such places randomly so that what we find is not the same as the other group that proceeded us so that we cannot do the easy thing and go to and see how to get through the raid."

To be fair, how hard have you tried to play an MMO without looking up the answers? I think it's likely that some current-gen MMOs are actually quite challenging and exciting if you distance yourself from the spoilers. Granted, that means that you'd better bring your own posse to the game with you, because no sane player would tolerate a group member who ranks fun and excitement over optimal gameplay.

What good are puzzles and riddles when the answer is just a /shout away? A treasure chamber or trap isn't exactly "hidden" if it shows up on every walkthrough. There isn't much point in the developers putting in these kind of challenges if they know for a fact that 99% of the players will ask for or look up the answer before they even set foot in the dungeon. And I don't think that randomness is the answer, as that just means the walkthroughs will say "Go up on this ledge, there's a 20% chance there will be a treasure chest." Randomizing everything about the dungeon isn't the answer either because that severely limits the developers' ability to craft an experience for you.

Basically, the answer is to just force yourself not to look things up and be willing to be surprised by it (and most likely die many, many times). If you're unwilling to do that, there's nothing they can put in an MMO that will force it upon you.

Mon Apr 12 2010 12:10AM Report
SUMB44 writes:

Remember the 'Evacuate' spell from EverQuest?  If your party got into trouble in a dungeon that spell, with a long cast time, would teleport the party back to the entrance of the dungeon.  I miss the old days.

Mon Apr 12 2010 4:48PM Report
farfanugon writes:

theres a F2P "fiesta the games a wash but it has some great dungeon  crawls . i lvled a few toon in that one just to run dungeons every now and then

Mon Apr 12 2010 5:24PM Report
Gjorgi writes:

" thing that I have noticed over the years is that certain things we loved about the pen and paper RPG are just not present in your mainstream MMORPG's and that is good old dungeon crawling - with traps, tricks, puzzles and riddles. "

Everquest had some great dungeons for crawling with pick-lockable doors, invisbile pit traps/doors, puzzles and a deep sense of fear/trepidation when exploring the unknown(alot to do with a decent death penalty) but I hav;nt seen any decent ones in years. :(

Mon Apr 12 2010 7:37PM Report
Evasia writes:

Well you play WoW im dissapointed, i myself would never play themeparks like that.

There many good alternatives that have way more depth and true rpg in them then MASS empty no brainer mmo's hehe, specially bad ones like WoW.

Wed Apr 14 2010 2:40AM Report
wowwowking writes:

WoW gold really plays such an important role in World of Warcraft. I will need a lot of wow gold in the every time i will come to, which is my favorite website.:)

Sun Apr 18 2010 12:07AM Report
just1opinion writes:

You know....point and click adventure games have more mystery, intrigue, and suspense than most modern day MMOs. I think part of what has happened is that the RPG has gradually been removed from the MMORPG. Hell...we even just lump everything in together mostly these days and CALL them just "MMOs."

Sun Apr 25 2010 8:44AM Report

Hi like Post mystic and puzzels are good.

I think Funcom will have more mystic and puzzels in the comming MMORPG TSW(q3/q4 2011) if the beta tester dont complayne to mutch ;)

Sat May 01 2010 1:04PM Report
Athcear writes:

I would love to see a return to dungeons feeling like major adventures, rather than gear runs and narrow hallways.  Each time through a dungeon should be different, and the bad guys should be engaging, and yes, PUZZLES!  God I miss pizzles...

Tue Jun 15 2010 5:53PM Report
Telwyn writes:

WoW has the skills and alternatives but they're not used at all now. 

DDO has the skills and you get to use them but with static placement of traps/locks where's the challenge once you've tripped over it once? When I started playing DDO I was overjoyed at having the chance to dungeon crawl with friends. However in reality it's a shallow grind-a-thon to beat all others. I left and never went back.

Not sure what the solution is though, random generation of dungeons?

Fri Jun 25 2010 9:40AM Report
Tyrranosaur writes:

DDO made an effort to integrate the more visceral thematics of paper and pencil dungeon crawling in to its play can search for traps and disarm them, for example.

Until they make an engine that can also pass the Turing Test (i.e. can DM a game like the guy behind the DM Screen can) we're probably not going to see an MMO with that level of diversity in play mechanics, alas....!

Love your blogs, Teala....glad I stumbled on them! It's made a boring work day pass with nary any effort =)

Tue Jun 29 2010 6:11PM Report
jzoeller2010 writes:

I am an indie developer. I am currently working on a dungeon crawl and have plans for an MMO dungeon crawl down the road.




Tue Aug 10 2010 4:19PM Report
Tiller writes:


Fri Aug 13 2010 11:33PM Report writes:
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