The Return of Talking Time

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Old 07-22-2008, 09:44 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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Default Going Down? Let's Play DROD: Journey To Rooted Hold

I waited for a couple of the other Let's Plays to finish up, particularly Kagero, because this is going to be yet another long game that no-one here's played and man we have a lot of Let's Play threads.

So!

Deadly Rooms of Death is a game that's been around in one form or another since 1995, where it came out on the tail end of the shareware scene with programmer art and inventive gameplay that resembles a mashup between Robots and roguelikes. It was also friggin' hard. It didn't do so well. (DROD is, or was, because the site's basically defunct now, the highest-rated puzzle game on Home of the Underdogs, just ahead of Cliff Johnson's legendary The Fool's Errand. Number 3? This game, DROD's sequel.)

Somehow, the author managed to wrangle back the rights from the publishers and open-sourced the game, which drummed up enough support that in 2004 they went for a sequel. I was actually involved with the development of this game, and in my opinion it definitely deserves its high rank there as an underrated classic. A lot of my thoughts on game design come, in part, from DROD, and I'll probably opine on them when I run out of jokes.

So, bitches! Let's Play:



Here's the plot so far: we're Beethro Budkin, and yes everyone has names this silly, and he's a retired smitemaster. Smitemasters are basically medieval exterminators, hired to clean out dungeons so prisoners and be tortured and locked up in peace. His big claim to fame is the clearing of King Dugan's dungeon, a massive 9 level dungeon built because King Dugan is an idiot and let the dungeon architect's association convince him that he needed that many floors. Beethro cleaned out the first 9 floors, and discovered that the stairs kept going down; because he's a professional, he wanted to make sure he got every damn monster in the place.

16 levels later, having, among other things, discovered monsters he'd never even heard of before and massacred a small monster town, he came face to face with the 'owner' of the dungeon, a man named the Neather, who claimed he was a prince who'd disappeared into the dungeon hundreds of years ago and decided to stay down there with all his little roach friends. Beethro killed him. Can't have crazy people running around, after all.

So, Beethro has enough meat to stock a restaurant for years, and so that's what he does - retires from the extermination game, opens up a restaurant, and lets the money roll in. And it does, for a time, but he's no math whiz, and the Amazing Expanding Dungeon, and a door on one level that only opened from the inside, bothered him. He's pretty much out of money when King Dugan sends him an angry letter accusing him of deliberately leaving monster eggs behind so that Beethro could hit him up for a yearly cleaning bill. Beethro decides that discretion is the better part of valour and prepares to crack open that door, via a portable orb that would collapse the door when he got close enough.

The only wrinkle is his nephew, Halph, who Beethro's sister pushed on him because Halph had ideas that going down into dungeons and battling monsters for a crust was a great idea for a career. Beethro decides to kill two birds with one stone - see what's behind that mysterious one-way door, and disabuse Halph of the notion that smitemastery is a glamorous profession, filled with heroism and babes.

We're kicking off here just after Beethro and Halph have snuck into King Dugan's Dungeon via a service entrance. The guards were too busy asking each other what was grosser: smearing your face with dog poop or eating a snail. Who the hell comes up with something like that?





Level One: In Which Beethro Attracts The Attention Of Family Services

And bam, here we are. The guy with the sword is Beethro: he can move in all 8 directions, and rotate 45 degrees, each turn. The small kid near him is Halph, who doesn't want to be here. At this point, his voice actor (we got an actual kid because we're hardcore) hasn't quite settled into his role so he sounds sullen and kind of clunky. He gets better. The yellow orb in the corner is an, uh, orb - you hit it, and it makes the doors (the yellow bars) open and close (and by that, I mean ascend and descend. There are puzzles that rely on you closing a door you're standing on).

Let's go over and hit that orb.



Halph: Okay, Unka Beethro.

Door's open, so let's go hit that orb in the corridor to the sou--



Halph:Uhh...
Beethro:Just stay here, okay?
Halph:Sure, no problem.

He's totally going to stay put this time! This is why you don't have any kids, Beethro. Any more, at least.



See if you can work out how this room works.

If you guessed that each orb opens up the door surrounding another orb, you're right! If you didn't, you worry me!



Let's head south. So far, we don't see anything familiar, or indeed anything resembling a security mechanism that an 8-year old couldn't get past. (If we double back now, we see that indeed Halph has run off somewhere, somehow managing to slip by us even though we were right there.)



Go West! Life is peaceful there!
Go West! In the open air!
Go West! Where the skies are blue!
Go West! This is what we're gonna do!

The orb in the middle opens up one of the side doors. Hitting it again closes the open door and opens the closed one. A subtle hint that orbs can toggle orbs as well as open them. Naturally, there are some orbs that close doors, which is usually used to piss players off, and sometimes to ensure that monsters don't overrun and kill you, an unpleasant scenario.
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Old 07-22-2008, 09:45 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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But what if we want to go south?! It's blocked off! It's a series of rocks placed on the path! We can't get through that! We're going to miss half th--



Oh.


The south path doesn't even go west - it turns south on the next screen and deadends in a cute little cul-de-sac. Surely there's nothing here, right?



Not for someone with a Really Big Sword™!



Okay, Talking Time, this is your job. The cracked walls hide secret rooms, which are sometimes plot and sometimes devious optional puzzles. I'm not going to be looking for them, at least not in the screenshots I post, but you will be. If you find one, tell me the room's coordinates (they're at the top of each screenshot), and I'll go back to that room and see what's inside. This one's a freebie.



We smash our way through the little secret wall maze here to reach the design in the centre.

Beethro: Hey, I wondered where this got to. I was worried that the Dungeon Architect Association's seal wasn't anywhere in King Dugan's. Not like the Architects to not mark their own work! Normally they make it out of walls or trapdoors or something. First time I've seen it laid out like this.

...I've never been happy with those lines. They're very 'as you know'. What they're referencing is a little teaser we did - we asked a few of the people making custom level sets in the editor to include a secret room that had this DAA seal (made out of walls) in the levels they were about to release. There are a lot of fans who make custom level sets, and they get quite competitive and clever. It's pretty awesome.

We hadn't come up with the seal for the first game, in King Dugan's Dungeon, and so sticking it off here in the service entrance was our way of retconning this in. You can forget about it, however. It's totally not going to be surprisingly plot-relevant later.



Aand here we are in the north passage we went past earlier. This puzzle gets us to open the three doors to the north, except the orbs that open them also close off the entrances to the other chambers. This is a tedious puzzle, so let's skip to killing things.



Hurrah! This is the first monster we've seen, the fearsome roach. As in cockroach. I told you Beethro was an exterminator. From the game's bestiary:

The five-foot Dungeon Roach is a common sight in infestations all over the world. It can survive all sorts of adverse conditions - extreme heat and cold, low oxygen, even weak acid. They don't like bright light, although it will survive in bright light if it has to. Although it can stand extreme heat, its carapace is not equipped to withstand explosions, and it can't survive in those areas of the Beneath that are hot enough to burn even the air. Thankfully.

Dungeon roaches feed on whatever they are able to scavenge, their large, sophisticated digestive system doing most of the work. They will tend to aggressively attack any threat, if without tactics any better than 'head straight for it and bite', which on the whole probably shouldn't be called 'tactics'. On the Eighth, they are traditionally used as a source of meat, which, when the internal organs are removed and the meat cooked thoroughly, surprisingly turns out pretty good. Smitemasters often have a clause in their contracts which state they retain ownership of any roaches they slay for this reason - it makes a good supplement to the seasonal smitemastering trade.

Hey, I wrote it, why let it go to waste? The bestiary is mostly flavour text, based on the idea that no-one reads the manual anyway so you might as well go nuts, but I put some minor hints on what each monster does so that it's not a complete waste to time to read.

Dungeon roaches are based on the idea that cockroaches only run away when they see you because you're bigger than them. And so, the dungeon roach is 5 foot long and has a taste for blood. These guys beeline right to you like a Doom monster -- so if you're on the other side of a wall, it's not smart enough to go around.



They also do not respond well to swordpokes.

Let me explain a little about combat. Beethro's sword takes up one square, and (most) monsters won't step into it. Beethro can swing it 45 degrees in one turn, as well as stepping in any direction, which moves his sword the same way. Moving it into the same square as a monster (usually) kills it - every monster has one hit-point. Beethro, however, also has one hit-point - if a monster reaches him, he dies, and we restart from the nearest checkpoint or the edge of the room we came in on. After each turn Beethro takes, the monsters all move, which is key to surviving the multi-directional combat in the later levels.

The reason why Beethro only has one hit-point is simple - normally, Beethro dies because you've approached the room the wrong way and been swarmed by the enemy. Giving him more hit-points wouldn't help in the case of being swarmed by multiple enemies, and would allow players to completely break rooms when they get attacked by one in a really inconvenient place. Instead, the game has an undo key, which only lets you go back one turn, undoing slips of the finger and tactical errors. Strategic errors, though, send you back to a checkpoint.

Anyway, that roach was between us and that orb, so let's crack it open and head north.
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Old 07-22-2008, 09:47 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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This green door here opens when we kill every enemy in the room. There's some flimsy justification for why these clearly gameplay objects are here: the green doors are a poorly-engineered infestation containment system. If they detect an infestation, they close. The only reason people install them (other than the DAA having very persuasive sales-people) is because, hey at least it means there's not more monsters coming through. These people soon learn that monsters can breed.

At this point in the series, it hadn't occurred to anyone that it'd be best if the doors were actually drawn on the floor when they open -- in this version, when you kill all the monsters, they just disappear.



We've finally caught up to Halph. Let's get a leash on that boy.



The holes here in the walls are tunnels - Beethro can step in them and zip to the next tunnel along in the row or column. They're limited in some ways, as we'll see later. Using the tunnels to reach and kill the imprisoned roaches in the bottom middle room (the dark walls are just like cracked walls, except more obvious) opens up the middle corridor.



More new elements! Here we have force arrows, which act like every other arrow in any game ever. You can't go backwards on them, and you have to go forwards. Thing is, so do the monsters, so you can stand on these arrows here and kill all the roaches without ever being in danger.



You can also move laterally along the arrows, so we can walk down the corridor to the south to reach Halph, who promptly does this:



Beethro: Quit screwing around! We gotta go home.
Halph: But I can't zig while I'm zagging. At least not yet.

Son of a bitch. Well, okay, Halph's mother isn't that bad, but still. (Tyler, the VA for Halph, really makes this joke.)

The reason Halph taunts you here is to clue you into the fact that you can walk diagonally across the force arrows. This is a critical skill and something that always confuses people. Personally, I would have swapped the two tasks, have Halph run through and then, later, put the roaches behind the force arrows, because players are still really wary of roaches and giving them this many this early freaks them out. They're probably not going to step on the force arrows and discover that they're perfectly safe there.

Halph: Ha ha! Come and get me!
Beethro: I'll come and get you all right, you little punk.



Of course, that's not nearly as bad as this room, the first real challenge of the game. If we go and attack the horde, we can run into problems:



Here, Beethro can't kill any roach and live. If he steps south, he'll kill the roach to the southeast on him but the roach below that will kill him on his next turn. He can't turn his sword, because the other roach threatening him will attack and kill him. He can't step north, because the roach to the southeast of him will move up to the south of Beethro, on his flank, and the roach below that will move northwest -- because of this second roach, Beethro can't kill the roach on his flank. Death won't be far behind.

Beethro's only option here is to step back, in such a way that the horde beelines into a triangle. If Beethro is only threatened on two adjacent squares, he's essentially safe - he can move his sword between the two, and because roaches won't enter the same square as his sword, they'll go in the square Beethro's about to move his sword into. This is a basic skill, and players get lots of practice at it.

Of course, instead of fighting the horde on its turf we can use the tunnel to cross to the other side:



In this enclosed space, we can engineer a way so Beethro is only threatened on two squares, which makes it pretty much rote to mop up. Many game designers think that more enemies equals harder game, including many people starting out making level sets for DROD, many players, and whoever designed this stupid room, but as we see in DROD that's not necessarily true - once you've made your point, any extra enemies are just a grind, not individually challenging and not that interesting to fight. Once you have roaches coming at you from only two directions, it's basically a matter of hitting the battle key until they're all dead. (The battle key is a key that does the opposite of the last action, so if you turn left, the battle key will turn you right - so when you hold it down, you turn left and right, cutting through the roach horde you've got into a manageable shape.) In DROD, the way to make a hard room is to combine enemies and room elements in ways that challenge players in multiple ways at once. It's the same in other games, too: you get good challenge by testing players in multiple ways at once, combining skills that they've learnt over the course of the game in new configurations. I still remember playing The Lost Levels, which had its fair share of bullshit challenge, but it also had sequences where you had to do things like jump on a koopatroopa to reach a pipe which had a piranha plant in it, and you had to time your jump so that you landed right on the edge. Every skill you had there was a fairly common Mario skill, but combining them made a brand new challenge that felt fair.

There's also a parallel here between how Mario is constantly attacked by cheep cheeps which come from below, where Mario automatically jumps on them, and how roaches in DROD inevitably line up in a queue in front of your sword. There's no challenge if the enemies are attacking you from the direction you're least vulnerable. When the roaches line up like this, for instance, you can just hold down the move key to make a bloody mess of things:



Wheeeeeeeeee!
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Old 07-22-2008, 09:48 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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Now we mop up the roaches in the corner and head north. There's a dude in a box here, who rates our performance:



Well nuts to you then. (You can in fact sit in the alcove where the tunnel is after a little shuffling of the roach horde, or you can forgo it entirely. If you do either, Mr. Snobby tells you that your swordsmanship measures up to his personal standards, and his hobby is to stand in that box and wait for people to come by so he can watch, something which makes no sense whatsoever.)

Sadly, we were a little slow mopping up:



Halph: He just wants to show me something.
Beethro: Hit that orb and open the door, Halph!
Halph: I'll be right back.
Beethro: Stop! You can't trust him!



The wedding's in three weeks.

Well, let's hope there's a way down somewhere. Considering this is supposed to be the bottom of King Dugan's when it was built, and we're nowhere near the door Beethro found when he first came down here, it's a safe bet that those stairs are relatively recent.



This room should have been much, much earlier in the level. Here, the game reminds you that the monsters move after you do, and going in a tunnel counts as a move. We're standing on a checkpoint here, which lets us return to the red X at the moment we stepped on it if and when we die. The roaches at the other ends of the tunnels to the west will kill us as soon as we step through the tunnel, unless we have our sword oriented so we kill them as soon as we step through. In the centre, we finally get to a nasty trap - the orb opens all four doors, and our job is to use the tunnels to try to avoid getting caught in a pincer, which we won't survive.



Or we can kill one roach, hide in its tunnel, spin round and take out the other approaching roaches. That works too.

DROD's pretty flexible about alternate solutions. So long as there are bodies on the floor, the game doesn't care so much about the 'how'. There are some unintended solutions we'll see later where the rooms are unintentionally designed so that you can bypass some of the challenges.



And we're finally out of the service tunnel into King Dugan's Dungeon proper, on the previous game's Level 10. There's been a cave-in at some point, handily blocking off parts of the level we didn't want to recreate. (I like this Super Metroid-esque touch of using old level design to evoke some nostalgia and continuity. I'd love to see a Zelda game that incorporated parts of the old dungeons into its new ones.) Beethro displays his rapier intellect by informing us this used to be a maze. No shit, Sherlock.



One room north, we're here! This was the exit to level 10, except the stairs are blocked off. We get close enough to that yellow door, and we can activate our portable orb and check out the other side!



Here we go.

Beethro: Yeah! Let's see what we got on the other side.
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Old 07-22-2008, 09:49 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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The answer? Corridors.

Wooooooo.

There's a branch here - one room's closed off until we follow the other branch and clear out the room at the end, so let's go do that.



This room is filled with lots of small fights, none nearly as hard as the fights we've already had. Roaches mostly come at us from one direction, and we usually get to engage first.



For instance: here, we can charge down the corridor and leave a bloody trail in our wake.



And we're done! Let's go back to the first branch and check it out...



And at the Smitemaster's Hall on Fridays, the buffet is only $3! Why wouldn't you go?!



And that's level 1. This is the largest level in the game, and it's also the most filled with plot and corridors. Most other levels are much smaller and harder.

Next up, level 2, where we meet two new foes, neither of which will try to claw our face off.
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Old 07-22-2008, 11:25 AM
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Makkara Makkara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merus View Post
Okay, Talking Time, this is your job. The cracked walls hide secret rooms, which are sometimes plot and sometimes devious optional puzzles. I'm not going to be looking for them, at least not in the screenshots I post, but you will be. If you find one, tell me the room's coordinates (they're at the top of each screenshot), and I'll go back to that room and see what's inside. This one's a freebie.

There's one right there, innit? Or is that just the end point of the secret passage you're in?
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Old 07-22-2008, 11:51 AM
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Double Bonus?
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:49 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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What a time to have computer troubles! They appear to be resolved, so let's pick this back up again in earnest.

I have both secret rooms and the first half of the second level done (now that the first level is out of the way, the updates should be shorter and punchier), but I have neglected to do something important:



We need a name for the player file!

I'll put up the next part tomorrow, which should give you plenty of time. If not, I'm afraid I'll have to come to your house and murder you.

Well, maybe just one of you. Or maybe just Brandon. He looks like he wouldn't fight back too bad.
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:59 AM
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Name = Lumpy McBignose.
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Old 07-30-2008, 09:12 AM
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Wartface von Sluglip.

Edit: Monkeybrow O'Chinballs?
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:18 AM
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Burt Earschmaltz.

He looks like a Burt to me.
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:30 AM
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Susan.

or Thrackazog.
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:53 AM
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Treehead Woodfist.
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Old 07-30-2008, 01:08 PM
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Zap Rowsdower.
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Old 07-30-2008, 02:13 PM
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Björn.

Just Björn.
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Old 07-31-2008, 04:13 PM
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Man, I just love this game. Maybe some day I'll even finish it. I've been stuck on level 18 for the past year or so, I think.

I hear another sequel came out a while ago. Is it good?
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Old 07-31-2008, 05:31 PM
Merus Merus is offline
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I'm partial to Treehead Woodfist, so unless someone comes up with something better, we're goin' with that.

Quote:
I hear another sequel came out a while ago. Is it good?
I think it's a lot better than JtRH, personally. It's more even in difficulty and the rooms are more interesting (we'll get to the bomb rooms soon enough.)
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:13 AM
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What is a Let's Play without some playing? Man, what am I doing. I'm screwing it all up.





The next couple of rooms are arranged in a kind of gauntlet fashion, covering all sorts of basic combat moves. I'm going to walk through these couple of rooms a little more indepth than in the last installment. Not a lot of people are familiar with the game and how it works, and I think the danger here is making this too much like a travelogue (Let's Watch Merus Play?). I gloss over the rooms too much and people don't really know how the game plays, it's kind of meh to read. These rooms are pretty short, and it means I don't have to walk all the way through the puzzles later - it's going to be way too tough to crack jokes about them, and the levels don't start getting non-linear until later.



Alright, there's three segments in here. Let's do it.



The first basic combat skill is dealing with a series of enemies like this, in two lines. It's fairly straightforward - each move you make kills the roach right next to your sword, so you can just step up and down like this, or turn your sword clockwise and counterclockwise. The only roach that can reach you is going to get killed before it has a chance to attack, so you're completely safe.



Once they're all dead, we can bash down the crumbly wall at the end and move on to the next chamber, and a checkpoint.



Here, we get to choose how many squares we want to be attacked from. We break down one, we have to get our sword out of the way so a roach can come into range. Not optimal. We break down three, and we run the risk of being flanked. Because we can only kill one roach a turn, we don't get any benefit from being attacked by more enemies. It's best to just go with two - we can kill one roach per turn, and we're perfectly safe.



While we do that, let me quickly go into why we care about efficiency so much. Each room has a global highscore table attached to it, the score being the total amount of turns it takes for you to come in, murder everything, then leave. Getting a top score in a room earns you points for your player account, and the best players are ranked on an overall highscore table. We're just going through the game normally, and for this dungeon the most optimal routes were worked out long ago so there's not much on that front I can add.

Oh, we're done.



Okay, let's move into the next chamber.



Well, this is kind of the same thing as the first one, so let's just skip it.



The last chamber awaits!
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:14 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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Another checkpoint, except this one's really handy, because this chamber is a fairly dangerous trap.



As you can see, if we walk down the middle, we'll be flanked, and we won't be able to swing our sword around in time. The easiest way to do this chamber is to get our sword pointing, say, northwest, then step diagonally around the north wall. We've got just enough time to swing our sword around and catch the roach coming from the south. We're going to do it gangsta style, though, and let them flank us:



That's just how I roll. Here, we've got a roach right next to us. If I rotate to try and hit it, on its turn it'll attack, and I'll die. But that's if I rotate my sword. What I can do instead is backswipe it by stepping southwest.



By stepping like this, I move my sword into the roaches' square, splattering its innards all over the wall. This works even if both roaches flank me on opposite sides - I can backswipe one, and the other roach will follow me.



Anyway, this is the last chamber. We've conquered the room, so let's move on.
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:16 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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The chambers in this room have an additional wrinkle - the corridors are three spaces wide instead of two, which means it's a lot easier to be flanked.



The first chamber here quickly devolves into the same sort of scenario we've seen before - because there's so few roaches, they spread out and settle down into a couple of rows. All we have to do here is stand in the middle and rotate our sword clockwise and counterclockwise to deal with the roaches coming on the sides.



The second chamber is a different story. This is easily the toughest fight so far. The problem here is that, unlike the previous chamber, there's too many roaches for them to settle down into a predictable pattern. There's two ways of going about this: the intended way, which is to run for the corner and use that as cover, or the way I'm going to do it, which is to take them head on. (In later levels, when the hordes get more unmanageable, we're going to have to do this anyway.)



With this many roaches, this wide, eventually you're going to have to retreat. I do a lot of backswiping here to try and deal with the oncoming hordes.



Eventually, the numbers thin out, and I can stand in one place and whittle down the advancing horde until it's all in one line. Once it is, I can simply point my sword south and charge.



In the next chamber, we crack open the orb and have monsters pouring through an awkward gap between the corner and the orb. This is safe enough, because there's two squares roaches can be on, but we have a couple of roaches who get stuck behind the orb. Instead of retreating and letting them come to me, I decide to be proactive, and step across the orb to kill the roach on the other side. This is the same mechanic of backswiping in a different context, here moving through an obstacle without ever touching it. There are quite a few rooms later on that rely on the player being able to do this.



The final chamber is kind of a rehash of a chamber in the previous room: break open a route big enough to allow roaches through efficiently, but small enough that you don't get surrounded. We hit the orb, both sets of roaches get released. If we destroy all the crumbly wall, we'll be quickly surrounded.



It's easiest to break open a passage in the top, so the roaches to the north can stream in, then leave the chamber and kill the roaches that came from the southeast, who'll move up to meet you.

Okay, so that's horde management!
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  #21  
Old 08-01-2008, 08:18 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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Those of you who nodded off can come back now, because now we've got new stuff:



Roach Queens give birth to roaches, and fulfil much the same role as bee queens do. Unlike bees, however, all roaches that are born are considered workers - the roach queen usually carries around most, if not all, of the ingredients required to make roach eggs, and is usually fed by her worker children during quiet, safe moments (and occasionally feeds on her worker children, usually when she is low on a few key roach-baby ingredients). Roach queens can be identified amongst their children by their enlarged abdomen, their glossy, silver wings (although they never fly), and, most tellingly, the fact that usually all the roaches are attacking you and the roach queen isn't. When threatened, the roach queen will attempt to scurry as far away from the threat as possible, occasionally stopping to lay eggs in promising-looking areas (as these are roaches, this is pretty much anywhere), which will hatch into mostly-developed roaches in a matter of seconds. Roach queens lay eggs at a much faster rate when they are running away from a threat in this manner, and rely on their children for defence, so much so that a cluey smitemaster can count precisely how long it will be until the roach queen lays more eggs. Some roach queens are used in the roachmeat industries, but it turns out to be far more cost effective to hire smitemasters to clean out infestations and haul the carcasses back up than to breed roaches in captivity (which is costly, as opposed to clients paying you to take the corpses, and the problems when a roach gets loose are much greater than with other, more docile meats.)

Let's join the fight, already in progress:


As you can see, the roach queen, and it's damn weird to think of a roach as being regal, runs away from Treehead, which means that unlike the regular roaches who conveniently come right to you, Treehead has to chase them down first.

Unfortunately for Treehead, he has to go the long way around to get into this chamber, and as the clock on the side strikes thirty (it ticks every turn), we get a nasty surprise:



Roach queens spawn roach eggs, which pretty soon turn into grownup roaches, which then decide to go and kill you.



This roach queen has just given birth to Delta Force.



Treehead finally cracks the door open, and goes back around the other way to his showdown with the Queen. Here, you can see that getting level with the queen makes it flee again, to the opposite corner.



Checkmate.
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  #22  
Old 08-01-2008, 08:20 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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Now we have five roach queens to deal with - each roach queen will give birth to up to eight roaches every thirty turns, though they won't lay eggs in occupied spaces. Those queens in the corner will gather together and, together, only lay five eggs per cycle. Let's start by -- wait.



That's better. If we leave the room and it's not clear, it resets, which lets us spend a couple of free turns rotating our sword so we don't have to do it while in combat. This is the other reason for worrying about efficiency - when we get more enemies every thirty turns, we want to cut through the existing ones as quickly as possible, and that means not wasting time turning your sword when you can do it in an empty, safe room.



Uno.



We're at the disadvantage here - we have to go around this arrow wall, while roaches will charge through it.



All this talk of queens and checkmate makes me want to set a DROD Problem: Genocide in three moves. If you read the combat guide earlier on, this should be easy. If you don't give a shit, this will be somewhat harder.



Now we've turned the corner, the roaches can't see us, and bunch up in the corner chamber. This is not so great, because we have to go past that chamber to get to the queens.



Ah well. If we keep our sword like this, we can keep moving and take out any roaches that step out in front of us.



There's one roach that stepped out behind me, but we can ignore it - because they're not that smart, Treehead can pop behind a corner and escape. I'll kill it later when I have the advantage.



I sunk your battleship.

Completing this room opens up two more new rooms: one to the north, and one to the east. We have to visit both eventually, but it's up to you which one I do first! How about it, Talking Time?
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  #23  
Old 08-25-2008, 11:04 AM
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PapillonReel PapillonReel is offline
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Is this thread still going? If so, I'd like to vote moving Northward for now.
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  #24  
Old 08-25-2008, 08:01 PM
Merus Merus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PapillonReel View Post
Is this thread still going? If so, I'd like to vote moving Northward for now.
I've been toying with at least getting to the end of the demo, and I guess you've given me the perfect excuse to do so!
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  #25  
Old 05-24-2011, 08:10 PM
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Tablesaw Tablesaw is offline
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Did somebody say north?

Twice South, Once East:


Hi, I'm Tablesaw, and I usually lurk because I often don't have time to follow forums in real time. Still, I've wanted to throw in with some of the awesome Talking Time LPs, so I'm going to try resurrecting an abadoned LP of one of my favorite games. I don't have the same intimate knowledge of the game as Merus, but I have been playing DROD, on and off, for over a decade. I'll do my best to get all the behind-the-scenes details right (secure in the knowledge that Merus will correct anything I get wrong).

So where were we?



Right, our hero, Beethro Budkin Treehead Woodfist. Dungeon Exterminator Extraordinaire, fully licensed member of the Smitemasters' Guild, and part-time fry cook. He returned to the site of his most famous exploit, King Dugan's Dungeon, to find out what was behind a strange door. The answer so far has been . . . more dungeon.



Halph, Treehead's nephew, is his ill-advised companion (sporting a horrifying vision of what Bart Simpson's hair might look like in 3-D). So far, all he's done is shown his ability to appear on the wrong side of doors and not pay any attention to you. So, you know, a typical preteen.

As for monsters, we've dealt with roaches and roach queens. Like the one in this room.



Queens will always try move away from Treehead, so you have to be careful about which direction you drive them. This queen has run into an area blocked by arrows, so while it's possible to run after and kill it, there's no way to get back out.



By waiting here directly beneath the queen, it won't try to move diagonally and will run itself into the little niche that's as convenient as the arrow traps were inconvenient.

The other thing to notice in this screen is the stairs leading down, blocked by a light-blue door. In the same way that the green doors disappear when you clear all the enemies in a room, a blue door disappears when you clear all the required rooms in a level.

So further north, for now.

Once South, Once East:


This room is very similar to the previous one. The moment you hit the orb, the queen will start moving northeast to the arrow trap. This time, you have to use the tunnels to keep the queen in the center.



Once I enter one of the lower tunnels and reappear at the top, the queen will start moving back south. By flipping back and forth, I can keep it in the center long enough to reach one of the orbs that will trap it. Unless . . .



The queen lays roach eggs every thirty turns, even when it's trying to run away from Treehead, and even if it means that the egg will block its escape. And when that egg grows into a roach, the roach will try to move toward Treehead while the queen is running away, trapping them both. We won't even need to hit the orb.

There aren't any other exits to this room, so let's go back one, then go east.

Twice South, Twice East:


Like the last room Merus showed us, Treehead has to go the long way to get the queens while arrows let the roaches attack us. But since each queen only has space to spawn one roach every thirty turns, it's not really difficult. So let's get . . .



Quote:
Halph: Heya, Unk!

Treehead: Halph! You're alive! You're standing right next to a roach queen! You wanna get all chewed up?

She won't hurt me, Unka Treehead.

Back away from the roaches slowly! I'm coming over there as fast as I can.

Just watch . . . The roaches don't come after me! It's because they know I won't hurt them.
Halph's right, all of the roaches (and all of the monsters we'll meet) are peaceful toward Halph, which can be very useful.

TREEHEAD TANGENT!

DROD is explicitly turnbased--things only happen when you make a move. So in the many years when fans were playing the first DROD game, it naturally became a thing to challenge yourself and others to see how few moves it took to complete a room (starting from when you enter and couting until you exit, with all the enemies taken care of). Journey to Rooted Hold made this easier by having an online leaderboard system called CaravelNet (after Caravel Games, which develops DROD). When you beat a room, you can upload a record of your turns (called a demo, since it was originally the way in which the attract-mode demos were saved) and see your ranking immediately. You can also download the demos of the top scorers.

The challenge of trying to lower the number of moves in DROD is called optimization. I'm not someone who cares too much about the process (though I still hold a few #1 records), but it leads to some interesting tactics. Merus mentioned a few of them in talking about efficiency: enter the room with your sword already pointing toward the first monster, for example. You also learn to cut corners on the diagonals, kill monsters more faster, and avoid turning your sword unless you have to. But there are some other unusual tricks as well.



Now, here's the general route I took for this room. Obviously, I cut the corners more closely, and I had to move my sword a bit to kill the roaches and queens. My score was 207 moves. But, when optimising, I was able to clear the room in 39 moves. Can you see how?

TREEHEAD TANGENT TANGENT!

Usually, if a room has no enemies in it, no demo is uploaded to CaravelNet. However, due to a quirk in the way demos are handled, the entrance to each level *does* qualify for the leaderboards (this has been fixed in later versions, but the earlier rooms still stand). So the entrance is a good place to get "tied for 1st place" score, since often all you have to do is find the fastest way out.

In fact, the fastest way out of the Entrance of level 2 (back up in Merus's part of the thread), is to head straight back up the stairs to level 1. When you do, you get this message:



Quote:
"Sometimes, the only way to go forward is to go backwards. Not usually, though." - Tuenan folk saying
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  #26  
Old 05-24-2011, 08:36 PM
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Tablesaw Tablesaw is offline
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Now I bet you're asking yourself, "What's the use of having a bizarro fantasy setting if we can't exploit children in ways that would be considered illegal and immoral in modern society?"

Once South, Twice East


Quote:
It was a dumb idea to bring you along. But since you're down here, you're gonna help me.

I wanna help.

So if I knock on a door, that means you go open it for me.

No problem.
And from here on out, Halph starts helping. If you knock on a door (essentially trying to move onto a yellow gate) Halph will do his best to get to the orb that opens it for you.

Twice East


Quote:
Another thing... I've got lots of different strategies. You couldn't understand them--you'll just have to trust me. Sometimes you gotta be in a certain spot for my strategy to work. When I tap you on the shoulder, you follow me. And then another tap means stay put. Got it?

What was the middle thing you said?
Halph normally stays in the spot where he enters the screen. After he opens a door, he'll try to go back to where he started. You can have him follow you too, if you need to make sure he's in the right spot.



Also, since monsters don't attack Halph, he's a terrific meat shield.

But when Halph's following you (and even when he's just standing around in your way) you need to remember that he can be killed by Treehead's Really Big Sword. Which is why you never touch your nephew with your massive, bloody implement.

Thrice East


In this room, if you Treehead hits that orb, most of the roaches will find their way into the arrow traps, making the room impossible. With Halph's help, you can raise the gates beyond the arrows so they get stuck within killing distance.



Or you can have Halph open the door while you're standing next to it and kill all the roaches like a badass.

Going east again . . .

Quarce East


Now here's a room with a lot of options. I've drawn in notes about which orbs open which doors. The only thing that has to happen in this room is Halph opening the door in the northeast corner, since the orb is behind an arrow trap. Don't worry about Halph being stuck, he always makes it out.

So let's go back west one screen, then try going north.

Once North, Thrice East


What is this, a psychiatrist's office?



Quote:
Receptionist: The Negotiator will see you now.
Oooh, a Negotiator! Will it be Samuel L. Jackson or Kevin Spacey?



Quote:
Negotiator: Treehead Woodfist! Come over to my desk. Let's talk.
Or maybe it's this lady:



The Negotiator is there representing an "Empire" who wants our good friend Treehead to go away and stop bothering them. They're they ones responsible for the unauthorized expansion of King Dugan's Dungeon, and now that he's gone through the mysterious door, he's on their turf.



Quote:
So there's a bunch of you kooks down here? What's this Empire you're talking about?

The Rooted Empire, whose ends are Knowledge, whose means are the perfect machinery of empiric will!
The Negotiator explains that building "holds" is the way the empire stores and discovers knowledge, with lots of references to really old boring people. Interestingly, though, the entire things parallels the study of the P versus NP problem. DROD is itself NP-complete, and so the mechanisms of the monsters can encode many traditional and complex mathematical and logical conundra. For example . . .



Quote:
You act like we're going to sit here for five weeks talking about it.
Oh, fine, Treehead, I'll cut it short.

After Treehead gets bored with me the Negotiator, he tells her he's leaving.



Quote:
I don't think you will. If you leave this chamber now, I promise you, a Slayer will be dispatched.
But Treehead fears no '80s thrash metal! Onward to Third Level!



Oh, right. Forgot about that last door.

Last edited by Tablesaw; 06-21-2011 at 10:44 PM.
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  #27  
Old 05-24-2011, 08:51 PM
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Thrice South, Twice East


Doubling back to go east instead of north from where Merus left off, we get the last mandatory room of Second Level. It's a pretty simple one, but I do want to show off one thing.

Monsters like roaches and queens can't travel through tunnels, and they won't move to tunnel-entrance spaces. But they'll make an exception if they have a chance to chomp on Treehead while he's standing on a tunnel space.



So if you dawdle too long in this level and let a chamber fill up like this, it's impossible to win. Treehead can kill one of the roaches on his way out of the tunnel, but that'll leave an opening for the other one to grab him.



Like so.

But there's plenty of time to clear this room without that happening.



When you clear the last required room of a level, a harp plays and the "Exit Level!" message appears to let you know you can head out. In this shot, you can also see the results of uploading the last room to the CaravelNet leaderboards.

And now that the blue gate is gone, we can head deeper to Third Level.




. . . But before that, let's head back to First Level for Secrets! I'm going to stick with Merus' plan of requiring you to spot the secret rooms before I show them. And I figured I should clean up First Level, both spotted by DANoWAR way back when.



Here's the way to the first room.

Once North, Quarce West


Quote:
Good, I made it back to the old rooms. Guess there was a cave in. Kinda looks like somebody knocked the ceiling down on purpose.

Nah. Who would do that?
For comparison, here's what the same room looks like in King Dugan's Dungeon 2.0:



There are enemies in that room, by the way. We just haven't met them yet in the current game.

The caved-in version isn't a particularly difficult ambush, since there's lots of places to hide.



And here's the spot to get to the other room.

Quince North, Quarce West


And here's a pretty straightforward maze. You could probably solve it yourself, from the screenshot.

But look, there's another exit from that secret room.

Quince North, Quince West


And what's up here?

Sence North, Quince West


It's the deadliest V-neck sweater you've ever seen. Again, not as difficult as it looks. It's essentially a more grandiose version of the tunnel challenge that Merus showed earlier.

And that's three out of three secrets for First Level.

I hope to keep this thread rolling, so if you have questions about the game or the LP, let me know!
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  #28  
Old 05-25-2011, 06:48 AM
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Gerad Gerad is offline
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This game is spectacular, I'm glad to see the LP has been reincarnated.

Is the secret to your 2S2E win entering from the north? I can't see how it can be done that quickly otherwise.

Psssst:
There's a cracked wall on the west side of 2E

Last edited by Gerad; 05-25-2011 at 06:52 AM. Reason: Forgot to ask about 2S2E
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  #29  
Old 05-25-2011, 08:26 AM
Merus Merus is offline
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This is the first time the blue door's come up, and I wanted to talk about it.

It struck me, while playing Link to the Past recently, just how elegant the blue door is in terms of level design. Zelda games usually use keys in order to control the direction players go, but as the series has gone on they've found that keys aren't all that good a tool for doing so. With keys, it's quite difficult to guarantee that players visit every significant room; you can really only have three 'important' branches. You can put the dungeon item behind one, the boss key behind another and the boss door behind a third... but usually what happens is that the branch containing the boss key requires you to have the dungeon item. Most Zelda dungeons, particularly these days where they try and build rooms that require the dungeon item, end up being pretty linear as a result.

What DROD does instead is have a blue door, and when you finish all the puzzles you're allowed to move on. This frees up the game immensely; you can still control the way players move through the levels by using green doors, so you still get that structure (and we'll see that done later), but the levels can branch as many times as they like and it doesn't cause any problems further down the road. The blue door guarantees that players will, eventually, visit every room you want them to, and it doesn't matter how they connect.

The first three levels are pretty linear, but it starts to open up a lot after you get out of the demo.

That was, in hindsight, a problem with the demo.
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  #30  
Old 05-25-2011, 01:21 PM
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Thraeg Thraeg is offline
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This series looks pretty interesting. Are they available for download somewhere, and if so, which game would be the best for a new player to start with?

Looking forward to the continuing adventures of this guy:

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