An Interview with Veetorp – Legend of Zelda Randomizer (ALTTP)

The Legend of Zelda A Link to the past Randomizer grew big in a short time. Today we will be having one of the developers of the program in for the interview. It is Veetorp, one of the lead programmers of this project. Without his dedication, this would never have become as good as it is today.

From several people I have heard that you are the one behind the randomizer code, who first started working on it. What pushed you to make that randomizer?

I rewrote the randomizer code to what it is today based on code that Dessyregt originally wrote in C#. He had written a Super Metroid Randomizer and adapted the ideas from that into A Link to the Past. It wouldn’t be fair to say I first started working on it, but I certainly made it what it is today. For me personally, I love this game, and I love the logic puzzles of all the ways the game allows you to get different things. I am a programmer by nature, so once I got my teeth into it, I couldn’t stop writing code and making it better.

A programmer by nature is a good thing to be these days, and that definitely made the randomizer into a piece of art already. I have seen many runs of this game and played a few randomizes as well. I can agree this is a great game for this. Yet while making the Randomizer, I am sure you have run into many hardships. Like changing the item location would require a lot of work. What was the hardest thing you have encountered so far in making this? 

We have a great team of guys around the project, really brilliant guys. A lot of the time, if something seems impossible, just talking it out with them or asking help has gone a long way. From a randomizer perspective, one of the hardest things has been working out a fill algorithm that is both fast and achieves the most varied results possible, as well as the logic involved in some of the more “interesting” dungeons. Palace of Darkness has had its logic overhauled countless times, including an eight-hour call between me and ChristosOwen, where we tried to figure out every possible way someone could key-lock in the dungeon.

The game itself was almost originally designed to handle moving around items around. Moving 1 item from a chest on one side of the world to another chest is surprisingly easy, but when you modify some of the more interesting item locations, that becomes harder. Bombos Tablet is an example of this. Karkat had to rewrite large portions of the item draw code to enable randomization of the standing items locations like that.

So the normal items itself were easy to move around. Were all item locations found already by the time you started, or did you have to dig deep into the code to find them all?

A fair amount of them were found or created. Most of the recent deep digging into the code has been for all the extras and added modes we have been working on currently and recently.

One of your recently added modes is Key-sanity. Was it easy to implement that, besides changing what the maps and compass do in the game? I can imagine it harder to make sure the keys and dungeon items stayed in their own dungeon.

For Key-sanity we had to create 58 brand new items to the game. The keys, maps, and compasses were tied to their dungeon. The game only had generic versions of these and based the item you got on where you got it. We also had to completely reimagine our randomizer to understand what it meant to find keys outside their own dungeon.

So it required a lot more work after all. Did this reimagining give you any new insights? Any possibility for new game modes or variations?

Very Much so, we have 2 larger variations we are working on right now. It also made the logic a little easier to maintain, although it is a little more complex.

Anything you can reveal about the two larger variations, or is it all a secret for now?

One involves a more Zelda1-esque key situation, currently named Key-Sanity-b. The other one will be a fun surprise.

Sounds interesting, and a possible new article as well when the surprise has been released. But to the other point, today in the daily race, I noticed that Christmas has arrived to Hyrule. While many online games nowadays do something for this season, what inspired you into doing this?

The whole team has thrown around ideas of special randomizers at different times: April Fools, St. Patricks Day, Valentines Day. It struck me this season to really just push for it. It certainly helped that many of the hackers of AlttP could help out with their specific areas of expertise. Plus, it is always fun to spice up the game, it is what we do.

The ice mechanics in the overworld is annoying, but the fact that you don’t need flippers to access several areas also changed the locations you can visit earlier. Did you account for this while making it?

Annoying? Festive! We had a discussion about having the logic account for iced-over lakes and rivers but decided the time would be spent better making all the features we did. I believe in the future we will adjust the logic when we make adjustments like this. The sequence breaks for not having flippers is mostly harmless.

It was an early decision to keep the Ice Physics only on the overworld. Dungeons would have been way too hard, and there would be countless bugs to solve.

And we are all glad that it stayed in the overworld, well maybe except Moldorm. With this festive edition, there is a poem on the site and at the ending as well. As a poet myself, I am wondering who thought up the poem.

That is our very own walking_eye, one of the newest members to the team. I asked for a short description of the mode without giving him too many details, and that poem arrived. It was like getting a gift myself, so amazing.

I can say he has talent. How long will people be able to enjoy the festive randomizer?

Currently, we are planning to keep it available until the new year.

That will give our readers a chance to try it out on the release of the interview. One subject that we did not touch yet, however, are the custom sprites. From what I know of trying to change sprites of SNES games, this is a hell. How did you overcome this?

Surprisingly, Link’s graphics are all in a single location and not compressed. With a few graphic editing tools out there it is actually relatively easy to swap them out for a different set. We also have a large active group of sprite developers that have been pumping them out like candy.

That is a surprise for a SNES game. And the large group is certainly helpful for that as well. What is your favorite sprite so for in this and why?

I really do like them all, laughably original Link is my favorite. It holds so much childhood nostalgia. I will say to try the updated Santa Link, he got a little spruce up for the season.

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Some of the sprites people can select for the randomizer.

Original Link because of the nostalgia is a good reason. Personally, I prefer to take the Touhou characters. While I will be waiting for more of them to appear, I heard that V28 of the randomizer will appear very soon. What can we expect in that one?

It certainly is getting closer, V28 is adding a feature on the site of a “Daily Game” where is pregenerates 1 game each day of different settings. This way people can play the same game at different times, or try new modes they hadn’t thought of before. We are also updating the link Entrance Randomizer to have some of the new features that Amazing Ampharos has been putting in, like Key-Sanity Entrance Randomizer. There will also be a slew of fixes for the Customizer we put in V27.

That would be very interesting to see. Do you have any tips for new runners of this randomizer? Anything they should begin with?

First I would suggest joining the discord, there are so many great people in the community that are very happy to help out. Then I would certainly suggest playing through the original game, getting a feel for the mechanics is very helpful. This also helps with the general knowledge of Vanilla locations. Then I would suggest watching a few people stream the game, they will give great tips on routing and how to get through certain sticky situations. Don’t get discouraged by your early runs taking over 2 hours, my first rando took me 5 hours. People who sub 1:30 randomizer regularly have played it a lot. And most of all, just have fun playing it.

My first 4 runs ended in unfinished runs, the 4th one sadly due to a crash of my console at Ganon. Crossproduct’s tracker did help me a lot in learning the different item locations and what is required for those. Would you recommend his tracker as well for beginners or do you have a different one in mind?

I would absolutely recommend Crossproduct’s tracker, that guy is both amazing and brilliant. The world map tracker is super valuable to new runners, just knowing where you can go is probably one of the most important things in item randomizer. He is also my roommate for AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick) this year.

That is great. We do plan to cover AGDQ as well, even if none of our team can be there. I did not check the schedule of it yet, but will there be a randomizer at it as well?

You’re in for a treat. Saturday night ChristosOwen and Andy will be doing a race.

Living in Europe, I guess I will miss the best stuff once again. Anyway, we are nearing the end of this interview. Do you have any last words to our readers?

Thank you all for your time, I hope you guys get a chance to try the randomizer and enjoy it as much as I do.


For more information about the randomizer, check our previous article where we cover the basics of it here.

Completely Custom Zelda Game – A Link to the Past Randomizer

After mostly disregarding what happened in the first two games, Link awakens to his uncle leaving his house. He just runs out the door, into the rainy night. Ganon has moved all items around Hyrule. You have to find all the items necessary to beat Ganon. This is your chance to be a hero. This is A Link to the Past Randomizer.

Earlier this year, a small group of programmers managed to make a program to randomize A Link to the Past. In a short time, it grew exceptionally, and the runners of this game, together with the viewers can’t be compared to other speedruns. With the ability to even change the player sprite into something else, and lower or remove the hearth beeping, runners jumped on this game.

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The original game itself is one of the Nintendo classics that a lot of people played in the past. The addition of this randomizer gave a big boost in the replay value and makes the game unique every time you generate a ROM. This is what makes running, or watching the game an interesting experience. Nobody knows what you get when you open that chests. Will it be the gloves, the hammer, or just the single rupee? Even the pendants and crystals are shuffled among themselves, so the first dungeon Eastern Palace in the original game can here be a crystal instead of the green pendant. And if you try entrance shuffle, even the dungeons and caves can be at different locations than you are used to.

Since the items are randomized, there has to be a way to make sure the game is still beatable. Else you can end up with the bow behind an enemy who requires a bow to beat it. This is where logic comes into play. The most commonly used logic is the No Glitches. This logic requires no knowledge about the game and will prevent you from getting stuck anywhere. Of course, this also makes it so that you don’t have to do dark rooms without a torch. As the name says, no glitches are required, but you can use minor glitches still in progress. This is known as a sequence break. Sequence breaks can allow you to skip certain parts or items, but can also sidetrack you. Going into a dark room without a torch is known as doing a sequence break as well. It is never required to do a dark room without a torch. Experienced runners can do this, but if you are just starting out, try to avoid it.

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Pendants are shuffled with crystals.

Because of the logic of a randomizer, you don’t always have to fully clear a pendant dungeon. The pedestal, where you normally get the master sword, can have any item of the item pool. This can also be rupees. With the items randomized, you can get the items required to access the dark world early in the game. Requirements to get into the dark world are the Moon Pearl, and Either Titans Mitts or Gloves and Hammer. Or if you are unlucky, a torch, Master Sword or Cape and a sword so you can beat Agahnim1.

In the randomizer, there are three modes, known as Standard, Open and Swordless. Standard mode is the closest to the original game. You start in Link bed and see your uncle leave the house. As you make your way to the castle and your uncle, you will get the sword. Because the first chests do not need to have a torch, there are several changes made in this. You will be given a free lightcone during the escape only. This makes the game easier for those who are just starting out, as you will have a guaranteed sword. The second mode is Open mode. Here Zelda has been rescued already and you can start at the Sanctuary or Link’s house. You do not get a guaranteed sword, and might be weaponless for a long time.

And then there is Swordless mode. Imagine a sword without swords. For this, you need the alternative weapon known as the hammer. The hammer has a shorter range and a longer delay after using it, making you more vulnerable to enemies. Because Ganon can only be damaged with a sword, and some items only accessed with a sword, there have been made changes so that a hammer can be used instead. And unlike in the other two modes, Silver arrows are available in all difficulties.

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The item you gain is randomized each time you generate a seed.

Besides, the modes are the Variations. These offer new ways to play this game. The Timed Race variation has a timer counting up. There are 20 green clocks that subtract 4 minutes from the timer, 10 blue clocks that subtract 2 minutes of the timer and 10 red clocks that add 2 minutes to the timer. When racing this mode, the one who has the best time wins the game, regardless of who beats Ganon first.

OHKO (One Hit Knock Out) mode makes it so that you can’t take a hit. If you do, you die. It is this variation that altered the logic for some items, as all items should be accessible without having to take damage. There is also a timed OHKO mode, where the OHKO mode starts after the timer reaches 0. Depending on the difficulty, you have more or less time. Here you also can find clocks, which adds time to the timer. Red Clocks, however, sets your timer to 0. This only exists in Expert mode. If you find another clock after the timer reached 0, leave the OHKO mode till the timer reaches 0 again.

Blue Mail Upgrade

A blue mail on the ledge.

Triforce Hunt is a nod to the original Zelda game, where you had to find the triforce pieces. Here, instead of 8, you need to find more pieces, depending on the difficulty. Also, the difficulty decides how many pieces can be found. The only way to win this game is by collecting the required amount triforce pieces, not even beating Ganon beats the game.

Key-Sanity is the newest variation. All dungeon items are shuffled into the item pool as well, this includes all small keys for a dungeon. Keys found on enemies or under pots will stay there like in any other randomizer. In this mode, it is worth collecting maps and compasses. The overworld map no longer shows any dungeon information unless you collect that dungeon’s map. Compasses show how many chests you have checked in a dungeon after collecting it. It is important to know that in this mode, the dungeon music is randomized as well, so you can’t hear if it is a pendant or crystal dungeon by the music.

Item Menu

All crystals have been gained.

If you became interested in try this out, you are recommended to join their discord first. There are a lot of helpful people in the community who will teach you the basics. And most runners use trackers to keep a track of there items. The recommended one for beginners is Crossproduct’s tracker, which you can find on his twitch channel. You can watch several streams, tournaments and play it to get familiar with the game. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t beat a seed the first few times. It is not that easy to beat this game when first starting out, but you will get a feel for the logic, and slowly learn all item locations. Eventually, you will finish a seed, and this can take a long time for the first finished seed. For me myself, I could not finish the first 3 seeds, the 4th seed ended due to a crash. The fifth one I tried gave me a time of 4 hours. Now, if you want to run it, or want to know more, visit their official site: http://vt.alttp.run/randomizer. It has all information you need to get started.

Intoxicating Alchemic Madness – Opus Magnum Review

If you have spent any time on Twitter lately there’s a good chance you’ve come across satisfying gifs of intricate, whirring machines moving glass orbs to and fro, locking them into place before handing them over to rotating grippers, shifting color and transmogrifying them into new elements. It is intoxicating to look at, and, as it turns out to play as well! The name of the game is Opus Magnum, the newest project by Zachtronics, and it’s pretty damn great.

This ingenious puzzle game has an actual story to back it up. You set out as Anataeus Vaya, an alchemical prodigy who lands the job of head alchemist at one of the prestigious houses of the game’s steampunk inspired world. As the head alchemist, you are tasked with creating a variety of compounds, from fuel for the airships to a ‘stamina potion’ so the house’s prince can produce an heir. And later, as the story progresses, explosive phials and rocket propellant.

You create these items through your trusty alchemical transmutation engine, represented as a hexagon-shaped grid on which you place alchemical reagents, various mechanisms and glyphs with which you create fantastical machines. You can drag ‘instructions’ to each mechanisms timeline, making it grab or release a compound, rotating it left or having it ride along a rail until you form the compounds and lock it in place to win the puzzle. Easier said than done as mechanisms and reagents may not touch each other.

Then again, finishing the puzzle is actually not that difficult. It gets interesting when you get to see the metrics afterward. You are shown a graph on which you can see the number of people that finished the puzzle in the scores of cost, cycles, and area. These metrics take no precedence over each other and you can choose whether you want to create an efficient machine with a low amount of cycles, a cheap machine that only uses two grippers or a really small one with a low area cost. Seeing that large spike at 60 cycles while you finished the puzzle in 50 gives a real sense of accomplishment, and if you didn’t do so well you’ll be driven to optimise more or find satisfaction in a different metric. You’ll be refining each puzzle for months to come!

By not having a singular score metric the game allows you to set your own goals. It creates dynamic difficulty and rewards creativity. There are so many ways to solve each puzzle and not being locked in a ‘right way’ to go about it allows for a lot of freedom. Many puzzle games have a set solution, and while it gives off a sense of accomplishment no feeling is better than doing something in a way that is unique to you as a person. Every solution you tinker with creates an on-screen splendor for you to share with friends. These elements are well thought out with players being able to create a gif of their work at the click of a button, multiple save slots per puzzle solution, and the implementation of steam leaderboards.

The story is by and large presented through short conversations between classical looking portraits of the main characters before each puzzle. These exchanges are brief enough to not disrupt the pace of the game, but in-depth enough to provide a good understanding of what’s going on in the story, and cleverly written to boot. The story takes a backseat to the gameplay but still serves as an interesting backdrop to the true star of the game: the brilliant puzzles. It took me about ten hours to get through the five-act campaign. I could have done it a lot faster but I didn’t want to. I could see myself replaying these puzzles endlessly before wanting to move on to the next one.

Zachtronics is well known in the industry for creating logic-based puzzle games such as Infinifactory, SHENZHEN I/O and TIS-100. All of these games revolve around automating various processes and are known for having a high level of complexity, but Opus Magnum manages to be Zachtronic’s most accessible game yet with a surprising amount of depth and flexibility. Highly recommended!

EnomView Score: 9.5 out of 10

Check out the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/558990/Opus_Magnum/

A Ninja-Swinging, Bunny Eating, Squid-Like Game – Ocmo

When I played Ocmo for the first time, I was greeted by an interesting sight. I saw darkness, a yellow substance, and a bunny. The whole premise of this platformer is to get your character to the other side of the level where he can feast on his food, the bunny. I don’t quite know that you are, but whatever it is, it has many appendages and uses them to climb its way through the various levels. The game requires a great amount of skill, concentration, and practice. You need to be able to dedicate time to sit down and play this game. Though I think the skill gap may be too high for this type of game, it is still very fun to learn the mechanics.

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In order to experience the game in the proper way, you need to use your index finger for control. Depending on where and how you tap the screen, your character moves and interacts with the environment in different ways. In order to complete the levels, you need to chain movements together and avoid the yellow goo which will kill you. In some instances, the goo is moving and you need to dodge it, making the level drastically more difficult.

thumb_OCMO_press_06-e8380c1bba5e25937392b36b67a6e166At the end lies a bunny for you to feast on. The way you kill the bunny is very dark, ripping it apart and eating it. That sequence adds to the very dark feeling of the game. The boss fights are different though. They involve you making your way through a level in fast ways to avoid being killed. You need to really know the mechanics in order to beat them. Even though this game takes immense skill, it is still very fun, keeping me playing and engaged for longer than I thought it would.

As I mentioned before, this game is dark. I’d like to think it’s a post-apocalyptic world. It quite possibly is, but there are other ways to think about it. Maybe it’s a metaphor for our hunger, not with food, but with satisfaction. We would do anything to meet our needs no matter how bad the odds. Even if we have to complete challenging tasks, we do it anyway, because we need to be satisfied. With 80 levels and 6 boss fights, you are left with many hours of gameplay, trying to collect three stars in each level. There is so much more potential for this game to add more interesting content for us to enjoy. Ocmo adds new life to the ninja-rope swing style game and does it in a very unique way. You can pick up this game on the App Store for $4.99.

EnomView Score: 7.5 out of 10

Check out the game: http://www.teamocmo.com

Help a Dwarf in His Time of Need! – Ruggnar

Ruggnar feels like an old game. One that you’d find on your emulator and say “Oh, wow! I remember this game,” then sit there for an hour trying to beat it again. Composed of mysterious yet inspiring music, Ruggnar, which I assume is the name of the main character, features a bearded dwarf harboring a candle on his head. His sole objective is to collect golden coins and keys to escape the dungeon. The game has three chapters for story mode and two miscellaneous modes: random dungeons and daily dungeons, both of which require the player to complete Chapter 1 of the story mode to unlock. Join Ruggnar and help light up his path to victory!

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Immediately after launching the game you are presented with a screen letting you know that a controller is recommended for playing this game. Getting my controller ready, I first made sure that I wouldn’t rather be using my mouse and keyboard. The menu screen is navigated using the arrow keys and with enter to select. The menu screen is simple and includes the title of the game, navigational buttons, and Ruggnar, who says “I need some help. Do you want to try?” After selecting play and the first chapter on story mode, I noticed something interesting. The game included its own online leaderboard with users and their times for completing the level. Even the tutorial had a number-one time at 14.112 seconds. I thought to myself “I could probably beat this”, but after 10 frustrating minutes I gave up with a personal best of sixteen seconds. I decided it was time to delve into the actual game.

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The game revolves around your candles, whether that be the one on top of your head or the multiple that you have at the start of each level. Parts of the dungeon that aren’t already lit up by chandeliers, lava or any other light source are darkened, restricting your vision and leaving you in the dark (literally). To light the area up and see what you’re doing you have two options: move to dark spaces and risk getting killed by something you can’t see, or throw your candles and watch as it lights up the area on which it falls. Although you only have a limited amount of candles to start with, you can pick up more around the dungeon. Beware as waterfalls can extinguish the flame on top of your head, requiring you to relight the candle using one of your own. Each dungeon contains traps to kill you. These include swinging axes, spikes, lava and much more. Checkpoints, which are shown as candelabras, are littered throughout the dungeon so you don’t pull your hair out trying to finish a level. I say that because unless you’re extremely patient, you will die many times.

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The main reason will be because of a lack of knowledge on where to go and how to complete the dungeon. When you die, you leave behind a tombstone with a candle on top, creating a handy light source. Another aspect of the game are the items that you can find and pick up around a dungeon. These include a feather, enabling you to jump much higher and run faster and a light which removes all the darkness in a level for a short period of time. The dungeons get more and more complex as you continue, often requiring some time to figure out a level before beating it. The biggest potential for this game is speedruns. I can already see that the developer has this in mind because of the leaderboards. I found myself wanting to speed through each level but failing as I didn’t know the layout of the map. More experienced players can definitely make this game known for its speed run capabilities by showing off their skills as they complete each level at record time.

Capture

The use of candles throughout the game was an interesting mechanic, but one that I didn’t find much use out of. In my experience, running through the level and using trial and error was the quickest way to complete a dungeon. Perhaps it was my lack of patience that made me choose the speedrun method, however I can’t imagine many people using the candles for their actual purpose. They have a small area of effect and take a little too long to throw. Your tombstone provides a better source of light and even acts as a little reminder so know if you need to watch out for anything. Although the music consists of one looped soundtrack, I found it fitting the game perfectly. It was mysterious, yet encouraged you to continue the level to see what you could find. The old-fashioned artwork helped give the game a nostalgic feeling, enticing players who desire games that bring back memories.

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One thing to keep in mind throughout this review is that Ruggnar is still in Alpha. It’s in its early stages but I hope to see some new elements and improvements in the near future. The potential for speed-runs in this game is huge and could be its main attraction drawing players in. Overall the game offers challenging and solid puzzles to complete, a peaceful and mysterious soundtrack all accompanied by the compelling artwork.

Enomview Score: 7 out of 10

Ruggnar Early Access: https://sirill.itch.io/ruggnar

Countdown to Telltale’s Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2 Finale

Three days remain until Minecraft: Story Mode’s season two finale gets released. The extremely popular series by Telltale has become well known in the Minecraft community, attracting YouTubers and streamers alike. The point and click/choose your own path game focuses on a plot which is based on the ever so popular sandbox game, Minecraft. The player completes puzzles, decides where to go, and most importantly, chooses the dialogue between characters. Subsequently, the end-game depends on the path the player chooses to follow, not what the game forces you to. Many other popular games have taken this approach, a more popular one being The Walking Dead.

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Season one of Minecraft story mode comprises of eight episodes, each a little more than an hour long. If playing more than eight hours of story mode doesn’t sound appealing, countless videos of people playing and completing the game are all on YouTube. I recommend getting your popcorn ready and clearing up three hours of your day as you’ll quickly get drawn in. You can buy the game for $25.99 on steam and play the first season for free for a limited time only. You better go quick, as the season finale is supposed to be mind boggling!

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Check out the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/639170/Minecraft_Story_Mode__Season_Two/
Season 1 free demo: http://store.steampowered.com/app/376870/Minecraft_Story_Mode__A_Telltale_Games_Series/