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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 08 2019, @06:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the how-did-that-get-there? dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

'Randomizers' Are Breathing New Life Into Old Games

Like a longtime partner or a favorite pair of socks, there's comfort to be found in revisiting a familiar game from your youth. There's a sense of ease knowing what lies inside each treasure chest, which bush an enemy will spring from, or the secret tactic that vanquishes a foe with ease. That calming intimacy makes games like these an easy nostalgic choice when you just want to take a load off.

But what if you want to add some spice back to that familiar experience? After playing a classic game to the point of memorization, how do you recapture the sense of adventure and discovery you experienced the first time you played it? A small but growing community in the retro emulation scene is aiming to answer those questions with a class of mods and hacks called "randomizers."

At their most basic level, randomizer mods shuffle the data in a game's ROM so that each run becomes a new and unpredictable experience. So The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past randomizer could change which items you find in which chests, alter the rewards from dungeon quests, and even replace Link's sprite for one of the numerous fan-created options (the Mega Man X sprite is a personal favorite). And you can go even further than that, changing the exit locations for various in-game doors or even scattering the boss keys for specific dungeons throughout the world (rather than in the dungeons themselves)!

What started as a small niche has now evolved into its own retrogaming genre. The BIG List of Video Game Randomizers website, started back in 2016, now lists hundreds of randomization mods for games from Metroid Prime, Golden Sun, and Earthbound to Faxanadu, Adventure Island, and Doom. The list is still updated weekly with new titles, so if your favorite isn't listed yet, it may be soon.

Different randomizer mods allow for different levels of randomization, but the idea of mixing up locations of items or discovered skills and abilities is rather standard. Some retain the title's intended structure but change the rewards and items you find on your journey. Others completely alter the way the game is played.

[...]Randomizers add near-infinite replayability to tired-old games, with fresh challenges for players to overcome with each playthrough. They test the player's skill and knowledge of the game instead of simply the muscle memory gained from years of experience. By limiting the player's ability to rely on their autopilot memory, the focus turns instead to quick adaptation and problem solving.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Emulation Community Expresses Defiance in Wake of Nintendo's Yuzu Lawsuit 3 comments

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2024/02/emulation-community-expresses-defiance-in-wake-of-nintendos-yuzu-lawsuit/

Nintendo's recent lawsuit against Switch emulator maker Yuzu seems written like it was designed to strike fear into the heart of the entire emulation community. But despite legal arguments that sometimes cut at the very idea of emulation itself, members of the emulation development community I talked to didn't seem very worried about coming under a Yuzu-style legal threat from Nintendo or other console makers. Indeed, those developers told me they've long taken numerous precautions against that very outcome and said they feel they have good reasons to believe they can avoid Yuzu's fate.
[...]
"This lawsuit is not introducing any new element that people in the emulation community have not known of for a long time," said Parsifal, a hobbyist developer who has written emulators for the Apple II, Space Invaders, and the CHIP-8 virtual machine. "Emulation is fine as long as you don't infringe on copyright and trademarks."
[...]
And others feel operating internationally protects them from the worst of the DMCA and other US copyright laws. "I have written an NES emulator and I am working on a Game Boy emulator... anyway I'm not a US citizen and Nintendo can kiss my ass," said emulator developer ZJoyKiller, who didn't provide his specific country of residence.
[...]
Chief among those differences is the fact that Yuzu emulates a Switch console that is still actively selling millions of hardware and software units every year. Most current emulator development focuses on older, discontinued consoles that the developers I talked to seemed convinced were much less liable to draw legal fire.

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  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Sunday December 08 2019, @06:47AM (12 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Sunday December 08 2019, @06:47AM (#929644) Journal

    What will the copyright cartels do?

    --
    La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
    • (Score: 2) by Booga1 on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:12AM

      by Booga1 (6333) on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:12AM (#929645)

      Smart companies will put out their own versions.
      Modern ones will also fill it with pay-to-win loot boxes and trivial DLC packs as well.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:19AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:19AM (#929647)

      The old titles may not be good enough for sales to the general populace, which is why you cannot buy them anywhere, and that, in turn, is why nobody's making any more money off of them.

      But they're still plenty good for lawyerly fleecing a handful of modders and hobbyist enthusiaists for much more than the whole scene's worth of "lost sales" (which is moot anyway, because every single one of them already bought the game back-in-the-day).

      How about a compromise position:
      Proving actual damage (while the right thing, IMNSHO) is not going to happen anytime soon ... so how about proving instead that you were making any kind of income (not profit, that is too tweakable, just income) off of it, before suing for copyright infringement? After all, if you don't have income, there can hardly have been any damages ....

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by Gaaark on Sunday December 08 2019, @12:32PM

        by Gaaark (41) on Sunday December 08 2019, @12:32PM (#929691) Journal

        GOG.com

        --
        --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
      • (Score: 2) by Pino P on Sunday December 08 2019, @03:32PM

        by Pino P (4721) on Sunday December 08 2019, @03:32PM (#929724) Journal

        so how about proving instead that you were making any kind of income (not profit, that is too tweakable, just income) off of it, before suing for copyright infringement? After all, if you don't have income, there can hardly have been any damages ....

        The excuse I've so often read is "We're making income from the sequel, and availability of the original would cannibalize that."

      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday December 09 2019, @04:51PM

        by Freeman (732) on Monday December 09 2019, @04:51PM (#930110) Journal

        Much of what you said was true, before GOG. Look up the origins of Good Old Games, it's essentially an Abandonware site turned legit. GOG is what I dreamed a game store would be like. They even have more/better things that I dreamed of.

        --
        Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09 2019, @11:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09 2019, @11:24PM (#930325)

        Just have it a logarithmic scale for a copyright fee. They get something generous, something like 50 years for free. Then every 10 years after that costs $10^x^(x-1) where x is the number of decades past the original 50 you are. So years 51-60 would be $1.00 (to weed out abandoned or orphaned IP) and years 71-80 would be $1,000,000.00. Even the 50 years is a long time, especially in our modern times, because how much IP from 1970 has a ton of value today, and the stuff that does, would definitely be worth paying a dollar for. And at that 80 years for $1,000,000 is the same as stuff is either mostly forgotten, in which case people should be free to use it, or embedded in our culture, in which case you should pay for that privilege of monopoly.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:24AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:24AM (#929649)

      Well, there are hosted versions and standalone versions. I'd expect some of the hosted ones to get C&Ds, despite their claim that they aren't actually distributing ROMs. They are, technically, making a new copy of the ROM as part of the way it runs and that is sent back to the user. But if it weren't for the lawyers already on retainer they'd probably leave them alone compared to actual ROM websites.

      The standalone ones are on better ground. They don't distribute any ROMs, they aren't emulating firmware, they are purely reverse-engineered, they don't directly violate copyright if they make the changes in-place, and they are moving data in an purely algorithmic manner. Additionally, considering the largest ROM hacking websites are still around under the same not-technically-infringment theory, I'd say they are probably OK. However, a randomizer might be considered to be using an anti-circumvention bypass in its execution, but that would be ROM-specific depending on the anti-circumvention measures used in it that need to be bypassed (e.g. checksums or dual-purpose code).

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by looorg on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:29AM

        by looorg (578) on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:29AM (#929672)

        There has been upgrade kits and ROM-"hacks" available for arcade machines for many decades now. Sometimes they just fixed bugs and sometimes they added completely new things (such as new mazes for Pacman). A fairly common one was "speedup" chips that made the game run faster, as in the game became harder as enemies moved faster and fired faster etc. I guess a "randomizer" would fit in somewhere here.

        It's not that like arcade makers always liked these things either, but they seem to have been in large at least tolerated them. In part probably since they still required the original machines and they in some way extended the life of the machines in the arcades, still they might have preferred if the arcades bought new games but this was still probably an ok second best option.

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by kazzie on Monday December 09 2019, @05:30AM

        by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 09 2019, @05:30AM (#929959)

        Quite.

        In my experience, standalone randomizers require you to provide the ROM, they just shuffle bits around and patch it with random vectors etc.

    • (Score: 2) by martyb on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:08AM

      by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:08AM (#929667) Journal
      You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.
      --
      Wit is intellect, dancing.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:21AM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:21AM (#929670) Journal

      It isn't possible to shut down piracy of games, so it's not possible to shut down mods.

      Mods or total conversions that don't carry the base game's assets should be in legally protected territory, but if lawyers swarm in, there's always torrents. That's why modders should never work under their real names and should plan to distribute their work in a way that is uncensorable.

      You gotta cringe whenever you see Nintendo or EA shutting down some unreleased fan project that made too much noise. Read the room, go underground.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @03:30PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @03:30PM (#929723)

      Just like with emulation, they'll sell their own shittier version and do their best to destroy the people who gave them the idea.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:58AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @07:58AM (#929651)

    Misogyny! SoylentNews!

    ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος, ὡς νήπιος ἐλάλουν, ὡς νήπιος ἐφρόνουν, ὡς νήπιος ἐλογιζόμην· ὅτε δὲ γέγονα ἀνήρ, κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:44AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:44AM (#929673)

      Games are starchy's trigger because his shitposting on SN is his only employment.

    • (Score: 4, Touché) by khallow on Monday December 09 2019, @03:07PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 09 2019, @03:07PM (#930072) Journal

      When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.

      Welp, better luck next time on that.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by FatPhil on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:04AM (2 children)

    by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Sunday December 08 2019, @10:04AM (#929666) Homepage
    1994, that's 25 years ago. https://doomwiki.org/wiki/RanDOOM

    Then again, the different universes in Elite were procedurally generated from different seeds, so effectively the same concept. That was 1984.
    --
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @03:39PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @03:39PM (#929727)

    You could keep playing the same video game over and over... or you could try to experience something completely new and unrelated, maybe something in the real physical world.
    Go ahead and downmod me to -1, I don't care.
    I just find it depressing that so many people these days, esp. programmers, are expected to spend their lives in front of a computer screen for everything -- work and leisure. It seems to have gotten worse over the years, probably because of ubiquitous, high speed internet and smart phones. Young people can't wait to be those battery pods in The Matrix.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @06:26PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @06:26PM (#929775)

      That's assuming a) they don't have any other hobbies and interests; b) actually have money for what you consider worthwhile thing to do.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @11:16PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08 2019, @11:16PM (#929851)

        Parks are Free.
        Helping people is free.
        Library is Free.
        People watching at the Mall is Free.
        Riding a bicycle/scooter/skateboard/ect.. are Free.
        Sitting on the porch drinking beer is Free.
        Spending time with your friends/family is Free.
        Volunteering is Free.
        Non-Profits could use some help.
        Mose things you can do in a bedroom is Free for the first 9 months!

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09 2019, @12:48AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09 2019, @12:48AM (#929875)

          Going to the library to use the computers is free.

        • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Tuesday December 10 2019, @12:44PM

          by acid andy (1683) on Tuesday December 10 2019, @12:44PM (#930534) Homepage Journal

          I agree with your general point somewhat but:

          People watching at the Mall is Free.

          Seriously? Most of us here would find that depressing, certainly if we had to spend a large amount of our lives doing it. Most people just aren't that interesting.

          --
          If a cat has kittens, does a rat have rittens, a bat bittens and a mat mittens?
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