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  Mechanic #124 - Card Metroidvania
Posted: 06/19/11

Rules for building a Metroid-like world out of card-based rooms.

  Card-Based Metroidvania



Fig 124.1 - A House of Cards. Also, a Sewer of Cards.


After writing [#107 - Card Flip Dungeons], I realized that I could take the idea a lot further if I dropped the silly flipping aspects and just focused on the idea of creating a sort of side perspective environment. This entry represents some of my thoughts on creating a board/card game that creates a playable Metroidvania world - including not only world creation, but also the puzzle tree of what special items you find and how it controls how you can explore the world.

  Building A Zone



Fig 124.2 - Four Zones Connected By One Card Links.


The basic world model is that the world is broken up into themed zones, like the garden, the sewer, the castle, etc. Each zone has its own set of cards that make up that zone. So the castle zone will have a location deck that is filled with castle-themed locations. Zones are connected to each other via a single location card, which can be locked by placing a locked door card on top of it. When that door is unlocked, it is removed from the board and that location is now accessible.



Fig 124.3 - A Region Map


Each region has its own rules for how to be built. Some zones are built using multiple distinct regions. For instance, the garden contains a row of cards at the bottom for the garden section, and a two row high set of cards above that filled with sky cards. For this, you would have two locations decks. One for the garden and one for the sky.

Each themed zone has a mat with the size and shape of the zone, as well as the various regions, already placed down. Building a zone the Garden zone is as easy as taking a random card from the two location decks and placing it in an empty spot for each region map.



Fig 124.4 - A Castle, Made Up of Four Regions.


Some zones are slightly more complicated. Instead of using regions to separate two different kinds of environments, the Castle uses the regions to break each level into floors. For each floor, you build a location deck for that floor and only that floor. In the region mat are also instructions about specific types of cards that need to go into specific places. In this example, the stairs and boss room are already decided for you.

To build the location decks for each floor, you grab the required special cards, and then as many basic room cards until you have twice the number non-special slots. So for the third floor, you need to get an up stairs, a down stairs, and four basic room cards. Then you pull out the cards and place them in the region, one at a time. After you have filled the region's blank slots, keep drawing cards until you fill all the speciality slots as well. Any non-special rooms you draw, you can replace an existing non-special room on the board. Once the whole region is filled, shuffle the remaining cards (if any) into the larger castle location deck. Then build the next floor.



Fig 124.5 - A Town.


The town is built horizontally using a location deck made out of store fronts and town locations. The interiors of each store are put off the to side. Once you place a particular store front down, find the appropriate interior and place it directly above it.


Using this approach, you can introduce specialty regions. For instance, you could have a floor that was a Library by limiting which cards you can put into the location deck for that region. You can create logical environments by breaking them down into regions, or make regions optional (if you aren't playing with the flying ability, having the sky over the garden is kind of moot).

The mats are essentially guides for building each zone. They are non-random, but are intended to guide the randomness of the zone being built. Using a different Castle mat (one with seven floors that are three cards wide) will build a different castle. There could be a rules for building your own mats, if you wanted.

  Further Possibilities

I wanted to talk a bit about creating a puzzle tree that ties the card-based world to the Metroidvania-like ability-based progression, but I've run out of time. It was going to involve getting the ability to fly, for example, which allows you to move into sky based areas, and so on, but the idea is not very complete at the moment. Rather than just skimming through the idea of a puzzle tree, here at the end of the article, I'll try to revisit the idea later in more detail.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.