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What Legend of Zelda Can Teach Us about Dungeon Design

The dungeon: One of the big staples of tabletop RPGs.

While the word conjures up images of a Tolkien-esque band of treasure hunters looting a medieval crypt full of skeletons, the term “dungeon” could just as easily apply to a corporate research lab in Shadowrun or a supervillain’s secret lair in Mutants and Masterminds. Once the context is taken away, a dungeon can be simply defined as:

"A closed-off space made up of interconnected rooms which will be full of enemies to fight, puzzles to solve, treasure to find and, most importantly, some important MacGuffin the party needs to obtain."

But all too often dungeons end up being rather tedious and formulaic affairs. The party shows up, kicks down the door, fights a bunch of little monsters and really big monster at the end, takes the treasure and leaves. While there is nothing wrong with this design and such a design can even be quite fun, it lacks a certain originality and depth that makes a dungeon really stick out in a player’s mind.

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abzdine1948d ago

Everything !
Zelda's level design is the best in class !

claud31948d ago

Zelda is awsome in that way

CouldHaveYelledUiiW1948d ago

I agree-
But of the Zelda's I have played Zelda 1,2, and Skyward Sword had the best dungeons.

Xof1948d ago

I totally disagree on that point. SS had some nice dungeons, but they were too segregated. I'd rate Twilight Princess, Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time and maybe even all three WW-esque games higher. Probably with MM in the top spot.

Anyway, Zelda (unfortunately) didn't seem to teach anyone much about anything, because so many of the series' innovations (as is often the case) were ignored for so very long, not really catching on until several years after release.

We're talking basic stuff, here. Like the health meter, the DUNGEON MAP (jesus ****ing Christ this took too long to catch on) and the quest journal.

Hell, in that last case even the Zelda series itself decided not to learn anything and abandon the concept.