Games like Spelunky and Deep Down embrace the idea of "procedurally generated" levels, and Road Not Taken developer Spry Fox's chief creative officer Daniel Cook explained today what that concept means and how it will work in the upcoming puzzle game with roguelike elements.
In a post on the PlayStation Blog, Cook explained that Road Not Taken players get "a completely new experience every time you venture into the forest" to rescue children. Instead of designing static levels, Spry Fox spends its time "creating interesting objects and enemies, and then carefully defining the probabilities of when and where you will encounter them." Then it's up to the game's "level generation system" to create and balance each level.
The first of the system's five phases concentrates on layout, determining a starting location and adding details like how many rooms are on the map and how difficult it should be. In the second pass, the system adds blocked paths — entryways blocked by boulders and passageways that can only be unlocked with items. In the third phase, the level generation system mixes things up, courtesy of the game's lead programmer.
"Cristian Soulos, our lead programmer, figured out how to keep things interesting," Cook wrote. "He realized that Road Not Taken would be more fun if all the pieces you needed to solve a puzzle weren't just sitting right in front [of] you. So he spread the lock objects for some of the doors into different rooms. This forces you to search and explore the forest if you want to unblock every path and rescue every child. (I always imagine the computer giggling evilly at this step.)"
In the fourth phase, the system adds objects and crafting ingredients. The fifth and final phase adds "challenge objects" that "make your life more difficult by attacking, blocking, and/or confusing you." Based on a targeted difficulty, those could be objects or enemies.
Road Not Taken is headed to PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows PC and tablet and mobile devices at an undisclosed date. To learn more about the game and its developers, be sure to read our coverage of how it was inspired by personal challenges. You can also hear sound clips from Road Not Taken, some of which were recorded from real-world sources, like audio producer Daniel Simmons' children.