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Something to check out – Video game randomizers

September 23rd, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

So here’s something I got pretty interested in semi-recently. They’re a great way to get back into games you might already love. Part of this for me is watching community-organized tournaments, other part is actually learning these myself. That would be video game randomizers. Take a game, put it into a program, and switch things around. All sorts of things. It gives you a new perspective on how the games are designed and how they can be played.

So yeah, I want to talk about these, specifically the ones I play or have overall good knowledge of. I certainly don’t know all of them, and there’s a lot. Some for modern games, some for classics. But I’m focusing on the classic games that are a bit faster to play through in the first place.

Video game randomizers are fan-made and require ROMs to use them, and I don’t intend on distributing ROMs here and expect anyone who reads this to procure said ROMs legally (which means dumping your own cartridge of the correct version of the game).

So I thought I’d do a quick post about this one thing I like. Let’s go!

Stuff

Here’s a full list of all known randomizers:

https://sites.google.com/site/gamerandomizers/ (it seems to be updated frequently enough)

A common point of randomizers is that it will changes where things are, and this enable for a different play experience, or more specifically a way to play the game that will require you to do things in different orders than you would in the normal game, or do things you normally wouldn’t. Sequence breaking is the core of randomizers. Taking notes tends to be pretty important, especially if the maps are randomized.

When you set up the randomizer, you will essentially generate a ROM file. This ROM file will have a set of flags (what will be randomized) and a “seed” which is a set of characters that will determine what is where in the ROM (so if you want to race with someone, you tell them the flags and the seed, they will generate the same ROM you do). In general randomizers are made in such a way that, despite the randomization, the game will definitely be completable (there may be bugs but they tend to patch those).

My favorite thing is definitely watching races though. Seeing how 2 people who are good at the randomizer will deal with what the seed gives them is really fun. See what choices give them an edge and such. In general it is speedrunners who will be doing races, but people of any skill level can at least play these for the most part. The more you know about each base game the better though.

The Legend of Zelda

https://sites.google.com/site/zeldarandomizer/
(requires the standard US game)

The basic idea of this randomizer is to randomize where all the cave entrances go (so it’s possible that you won’t find the wooden sword where you normally find it in the cave on the first screen, for example), as well as which dungeon has which item. So doing all the dungeons is still required, some items in general are still required (especially the bow and the silver arrows). But that’s just the most basic thing that can be randomized in this game with this randomizer. The core is still very fun because it requires lots of exploration, but you can go a lot further than just messing with the dungeon and cave and item locations. It’s always funny going into a cave that’s already opened but having to pay the door repair charges (or whatever their text is randomized to).

There’s a lot more things you can randomize. Just to list a few… changing the “Take any path you want” cave locations, change where you start on the map instead of the first screen, shuffle what the stores sell and their prices, shuffle what’s under the Armos where the power bracelet usually is, shuffle the swords into the item pool (so some non-sword items might have a heart requirement), shuffle where the dungeon items (map, compass, triforce) are in the dungeons, randomize whether or not Ganon is required to fight before saving Zelda, randomize whether or not you even need to find all the triforce pieces, randomize the shape of the dungeons, randomize colors for several things, shuffle monsters on the overworld or in dungeons, make it possible to have important items be dropable by monsters, randomize HP on enemies and/or bosses, changing the sprites for items, changing Link’s sprite (why would you be Link when you can be TROGDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR), whether there’s gonna be a sword at all (if it’s set to swordless there WILL be a wooden sword at the start of level 9 because you can’t beat Ganon without it), whether the world map and dungeons will be first or second quest versions (or both!)… There’s a LOT of options. You can tailor the experience to what you want. Plus options can be set to either on, off, or random. If set to random, the option has a 50% chance to be randomized when you generate the ROM depending on the seed.

There’s a lot of preset difficulties in the randomizer (plus the ability to do what you want), but the funnest one is Random%. What that does is that it activates almost all the gameplay-influencing flags, but they’re set to random, so when you generate the ROM you don’t know what will be randomized. This is very fun, though I personalize that myself just to be sure I don’t get a swordless seed or blackout (I can’t do those).

It’s a really fun randomizer, though you do need to be a pretty big fan of the original Zelda to get into this one. Speedrun strats do help but they’re not required.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This randomizer can be accessed and used online: http://vt.alttp.run/randomizer
You still need to provide your own legally-obtained Zelda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Triforce version 1.0 ROM. Yes, it requires the japanese ROM (however any important text is still translated to english by the randomizer, or sometimes replaced with bad jokes because why not). The reason for that is that the japanese 1.0 version of LTTP has glitches that other versions don’t have, such as item dashing, super bunny and fake flippers (and probably a bunch of wacky stuff for categories of the speedrun that use “major glitches”).

So what does this randomize? Well there’s 2 randomizers on that page (you can switch between them), but I’m more familiar with the Item Randomizer, so let’s start with that. It’s actually pretty simple. The basic is that treasure chests and free-standing items are randomized. So as you go through the game, items are in different spots than they should be. Got all the pendants? You might not be getting the Master Sword from that pedestal, it’s probably just 20 rupees or a piece of heart really (using the book you can get a hint as to what’s there so you don’t waste your time doing pendant dungeons). If you find the hookshot early that opens a few areas with a lot of treasures. It’s all about knowing where you can go with the items you have available.

This randomizer had lots of past versions, and the latest ones go a bit further than that, with it also randomizing the hearts you get from bosses into the item pool, and randomizing which dungeons have crystals and which dungeons have pendants (which is important because crystals 5 and 6 lead to the Fat Fairy (which has 2 chests in the randomizer, as does the waterfall fairy cave), and the green pendant lets Sahasralah (spelling might be wrong) give you an item. Dungeons will always have a master key, compass and map, as well as all the keys that are in chests (so if you get stuck in a dungeon it’s usually your fault). Another basic feature in the latest version is progressive items. So when you find a sword, it will always be the next sword upgrade in line (Fighter Sword followed by Master Sword followed by Cheeto Sword followed by Butter Sword). That goes for the gloves and shields as well. These are options you can set or not, but it’s what most people use now. I do think the coolest thing is that some dungeons you might not want to slog through might not even be required every time since they might have pendants instead of crystals, and short dungeons might have crystals. It’s also possible ALL dungeons will be required, if an important item like a medallion to open Misery Mire or Turtle Rock are at the Master Sword Pedestal (or other stuff). Oh, and the lantern isn’t required in the escape at the start but it is for the rest, but the game’s logic won’t force you to navigate through dark rooms AFAIK.

So the idea is go save Zelda from Hyrule Castle (your uncle will always give you the Fighter Sword), then go out in the world, find treasures, get all the crystals, and fight Ganon. There’s a few options you have here. There’s this standard mode, there’s a mode where some random chests have triforce pieces and you can beat the game by finding all of those, there’s a mode where it’s a race to pick up the item on the Master Sword pedestal (which can take a while anyways since the pendants and items are randomized). Plus there’s open mode, which removes the Fighter Sword from your uncle and starts the game with Zelda already saved from Hyrule Castle, so Hyrule Castle just becomes an area that has a few extra chests instead of one you do by default. For the speedrunner types there’s also an option for the logic behind where items will go. If you choose no glitches the game will run under the assumption that you won’t do glitches like fake flippers to get whatever the Hobo under the bridge is holding (though you still can and you might sequence-break the logic if you do). You can choose Overworld Glitches in the options so that the logic will make some things accessible with minor glitches, and there’s a Major Glitches option if you’re able to break the game entirely.

The other randomizer is the entrance randomizer. It does randomize the items by default, but its main feature is that, when you go into a house or cave or dungeon, you don’t know where you’ll end up. I don’t know this one enough to comment on it, but I do know the toughest difficulty not only randomize entrances, but also exits. So when you go into something, going straight out might send you elsewhere.

Overall LttP is a great game when randomized. It DOES require good knowledge of the game, at least knowing where all the chests are. I love that it makes some things possibly not required (if the item behind the twin lumberjacks isn’t important, you might be able to skip Agahnim 1, for example). There’s some basic strategies that work well, such as emptying Kakariko before doing anything else. Also Save and Quit a lot for faster movement. A lot of it is knowing which items enable you to get to which chests (for example, the master sword OR the magic cape let you get into the top of Hyrule Castle to fight Agahnim 1… even if you don’t have the moon pearl, there is one item to get on the pyramid, so it might be worthwhile). As for me this is the funnest randomizer, and the one I’m best at by far (though I’m not QUITE at the level of the best speedrunners, I’m not that far either).

Oh and you can make the low-hearts beeping slower, very nice.

Final Fantasy 1

https://github.com/Entroper/FF1Randomizer/releases
(requires the standard US game)

What this randomizes is, at its core, the treasure chests. It has sanity checks so you’ll always be able to get the TNT at a spot before it’s required to use, but otherwise anything can be almost anywhere (there’s exceptions, the Slab won’t ever be in Mirage Tower for example, since you need it to get the Chime to access it). This means that you’re on an epic quest to find the Floater to get the airship, and then you basically have access to most areas in the game at that point so it’s all about routing to find anything else you need.

Other things that can be randomized are enemy stats and abilities, as well as if their normal attacks have a status effect (so Imps with death touch? Totally a possible thing, have fun!). Also stores will have random items at random prices. Spell stores will have random spells at random levels, so Nuke being a level 1 spell is totally possible (and if you remove spell permissions then even red mages can use it, but if you keep spell restrictions then some spells will be restricted to the class changes regardless of levelm or entirely unavailable). You can also randomize the warps in the Castle of Ordeals, and the RNG table which is what determines encounter rates. The randomizer can also incentivize the Ice Cave and Castle of Ordeals, which will guarantee that those dungeons will have something important (there may still be something there normally, this option just forces them).

Then there’s the Scale tab which determines how much range for enemy stats will be randomized (it starts at 100%-100%, with the first number going down as you move the scale and the second number going up… the “maximum” is 20%-500%, so you may get some enemies that are really strong with some that are really easy). Similar for items in shops. Finally there’s an enemy experience+gold reward scaling. There’s a basic percentage (100% is the same as the original, can go up to 500%), plus you can add a set bonus exp per enemy (0, 100, 200, 300, 400 or 500). It does remove some grinding requirement, which is good since in a race you do want to run from battles a lot to go faster.

Another thing that’s important here is the “Conveniences” tab. This has options to let you get the Rod without fighting the vampire, the Canoe without fighting Lich, go into the Castle of Ordeals without the Crown… and other nice things like Speed Hacks to make the game play a bit faster, holding B to run, have the party order not shuffle automatically if they get status effects, letting you buy 10 items at once in the item shop (very useful because having a full supply of heal potions is pretty important in this game).

Finally there’s the Bug Fixes tab, which fixes things that the original devs included in the game but didn’t manage to actually make work properly. It makes the House item restore MP before saving instead of after (this caused some issues when people reloaded their saves just to not have MP recovered), weapons that are supposed to hit weaknesses like Were and Fire actually do now, chance to run is based on Luck and level now (making the luck stat actually useful), most of the spells actually function now (LOCK, LOK2, HEL2, TMPR and SABR didn’t function as intended, or at all, in the original game) and enemy status attacks won’t apply to misses. There’s still a few things that aren’t fixed but might be in later versions of the randomizer.

Overall this one is quite fun, enough can be randomized to really screw with you. It does require decent knowledge of the game, or ff1maps.com. Might be one of the more accessible randomizers, though people who know the game well will have a huge advantage in a race.

Dragon Warrior (AKA Dragon Quest 1)

There’s 2 randomizers on the above site, this is the one that actually functions (requires the standard US game):
https://github.com/mcgrew/dwrandomizer/releases

This game’s basic randomization is the map. So exploration is a bit more complicated. Basically the layout of the map isn’t the same anymore at all (and different in every seed), plus the caves and villages are placed in random spots within it. It also randomizes the treasure chests and possibly the searchable items (the fairy flute spot in Kol, the Erdrick’s Token spot on the overworld (which is randomized BTW, you get the coordinates from the old dude in Cantlin) and the Erdrick’s Armor spot in Haukness… if Erdrick’s Token is found in a chest, which is possible, one of the 3 searchable spots will be empty). And the stores are randomized as well but that’s not really a big aspect (knowing where the silver shield is is the most important thing).

Other randomized options: leveling speed (lowers the required EXP for levels I believe), level up randomization (you get random stat increases, sometimes really crazy amounts of stats can happen, sometimes you can be stuck with almost no HP for 10 levels), spell learning (you’ll get all the spells by level 16 but who knows which you’ll get and when, you can even start with spells), enemy zones on the world map and dungeons, and enemy spells (so slimes might be able to use Dragonlord2’s super strong fire breath, or Axe Knights might put you to sleep before bashing your head in).

Plus this has speed hacks (really fast text in battle) if you want, cool functionality to the Death Necklace (still curses you but you get a boost of attack power at the cost of I think 25% Max HP), and wrap-around menus which makes it a bit faster to select some of the options like Stairs (yes, it’s a JRPG where going up or down stairs wasn’t automatic).

So the basic idea is to be good at exploring the world, find the Token, Staff of Rain (I believe always hidden behind the Silver Harp, which is randomized) and Stones of Sunlight, trade those in for the Rainbow Drop and head to Castle Charlock and fight both forms of the Dragon Lord. With the levels being random, it’s pretty much possible to beat the game anywhere between level 12 and 16, as long as you have Healmore and the best equipment. It all depends on the stats you get, it’s possible that you get stat increases that aren’t high for a while, so above level 16 is always a possibility. In a race it’s important to consider if you should go down to the Dragon Lord (maybe taking a chance) or grind another level or 2 to guarantee victory.

My one complaint here is that people who don’t know a specific speedrunning trick (gold grinding glitch where you can re-open the same chest over and over to get lots of money fast) might have some more difficulty with it because it’s hard to buy a silver shield without grinding, or knowing exactly when it makes sense to go down Charlock to fight Dragon Lord. Plus the dungeons do look very generic, so if you don’t know the maps it’s pretty annoying to navigate. Overall though it is a fun randomizer, but one I much prefer watching races of than playing myself.

Overall

These are just a few randomizers, they happen to be the ones I like/know best (and they’re kinda the more mainstream ones), but there’s other good ones like Zelda 2 and Super Metroid (both of which are interesting but I’m not quite good enough at these games to play them myself… lots of focus on speedrunning strats especially in Super Metroid… also there’s a lot of Super Metroid randomizers, not sure which ones specifically are good), and some that are kinda interesting like Super Mario RPG and Ocarina of Time Beta Quest. I do think the Pokemon ones are pretty fun for a nuzlocke too. I haven’t tried any for modern games but I’m sure some might be cool.

Randomizers are really interesting to me because they breathe new life into these old games.

Check it out!

Links of interest

In addition to the randomizer list at the start of the post, here’s a few twitch channels you should check out. They host tournaments (and sometimes showcases) for randomizers, as well as other things:

https://www.twitch.tv/randomizermania
https://www.twitch.tv/randomizermania2
https://www.twitch.tv/speedgaming
https://www.twitch.tv/speedgaming2

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