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Metroidvania: Discuss Definition Here

AuthorMessage
Zonrith1
547,765
Zonrith1
Posted on 06 July 17 at 13:44
Hey everyone,

The Genre Team has received permission from site management to add Metroidvania as a new genre to the system. Below is the current draft language. Our thanks to Eurydace for helping us in constructing our initial proposal to the community.

These games are inspired by classic Metroid and Castlevania. These games usually involve navigating an open world or semi-open world using the skills and abilities of the character. A core component of the genre features players earning new abilities and/or items which aid them in combat and allow them to explore previously inaccessible areas. These games can be 2D or 3D and do not need to be platformers.

Much like Roguelite, this is draft language. We're open to changing it. No mandates on our expectations. Propose anything you'd like, and we'll consider it based off the feedback in this thread and our own thoughts.

For those curious, the current policy GT operates under is to try and give Metroidvania games an Action-Adventure + Platformer tag. This policy will go away once Metroidvania is live (clearly the present draft is not mandating all elements of this policy, such as platforming). When I last looked, about 70 games have that present tag combo, though not all of those have it because of being seen as Metroidvania titles. Regardless, we do anticipate a high number of games qualifying for whatever the finalized definition ends up being.

Anyway, that's really all I have to say. Please give your thoughts on the proposed language, and alternative suggestions if you have any. Thanks!
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Eurydace
400,572
Eurydace
Posted on 06 July 17 at 14:25
Here's the list of games I had previously thought fit. I am reconsidering Shantae (I haven't played it):

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Ori and the Blind Forest
Shadow Complex
Axiom Verge
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
Strider
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Teslagrad
Darksiders
Darksiders II
Indivisible
Zelda
Metroid Prime

There are probably more. This is just to gove you guys an idea. Having not played all of these, some are no doubt misidentified.
Awoo
987,388
Awoo
Posted on 06 July 17 at 14:42
Just a small pointer, you probably shouldn't say "classic Castlevania" as that typically refers to the pre-Metroidvania era when the games were linear stage based affairs. Other than that, the definition seems fine to me. It's another one of those genres that are kind of hard to explain without saying "oh it's like that other game", so a perfect definition isn't entirely easy to write.

navigating an open world or semi-open world
Possibly a bit too vague, but I'm not sure how else to word it. Almost every game in the genre uses a (often grid-based) map which is usually a key component to navigating the labyrinthian world, so maybe add something referring to that?
What can change the nature of a man?
MakeMeACoffee
445,848
MakeMeACoffee
Posted on 06 July 17 at 14:44
Awoo said:
Possibly a bit too vague, but I'm not sure how else to word it. Almost every game in the genre uses a (often grid-based) map which is usually a key component to navigating the labyrinthian world, so maybe add something referring to that?
That changes the definition quite a bit. For instance arkham -asylum, -city, -origins (and maybe even blackgate?) wouldn't fit your definition but would fit the original.
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Xpovos
291,245
Xpovos
Posted on 06 July 17 at 14:46
Here's an oddball that sort of fits and totally does not at the same time. Using it might help elucidate the definition boundaries.

SteamWorld Dig
Time not important; only life important.
Eurydace
400,572
Eurydace
Posted on 06 July 17 at 14:50
Xpovos said:
Here's an oddball that sort of fits and totally does not at the same time. Using it might help elucidate the definition boundaries.

SteamWorld Dig
Could you explain more? I haven't played it.

MakeMeACoffee said:
Awoo said:
Possibly a bit too vague, but I'm not sure how else to word it. Almost every game in the genre uses a (often grid-based) map which is usually a key component to navigating the labyrinthian world, so maybe add something referring to that?
That changes the definition quite a bit. For instance arkham -asylum, -city, -origins (and maybe even blackgate?) wouldn't fit your definition but would fit the original.
I agree. While most of the 2D games will have the grid map, 3D games will not and we don't want to burn them. Plus I don't think that's really an element that causes a game to be a metroidvania. Rather, it's simply an element that works well in those games. I think the distinction is important when considering the definition.
MakeMeACoffee
445,848
MakeMeACoffee
Posted on 06 July 17 at 14:55
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

These two would also fit the above definition, broadly similar to SNES zelda etc. Not sure if that is a problem or not.

I think Mirror's Edge Catalyst and Tomb Raider also fit the above definition - which I'm sure will start to make purists feel uneasy.

And to really ruffle some feathers, its not impossible that some of the Tony Hawk games would qualify - although I can't remember exactly how each of the barriers is overcome - it may be through learning a new move.
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Eurydace
400,572
Eurydace
Posted on 06 July 17 at 15:16
MakeMeACoffee said:
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

These two would also fit the above definition, broadly similar to SNES zelda etc. Not sure if that is a problem or not.
I've only played Temple of Osiris but you don't ever gain new abilities. You always have them all. Some levels just ask you to use them in different ways.

I think SNES Zelda meets this definition. I think that's ok. It is what it is.

I think Mirror's Edge Catalyst and Tomb Raider also fit the above definition - which I'm sure will start to make purists feel uneasy.
Haven't played Mirror's Edge. Tomb Raider isn't because the gaining new abilities and backtracking are not central to the game design. Perhaps that should be clearer in the definition? I left it out as that's generally true of all genres (which is why GTA is not an FPS).

And to really ruffle some feathers, its not impossible that some of the Tony Hawk games would qualify - although I can't remember exactly how each of the barriers is overcome - it may be through learning a new move.
No laugh
Xpovos
291,245
Xpovos
Posted on 06 July 17 at 15:32
For me personally, a Metroidvania will always be a 2D game 2.5D maybe, even if using 3D models and rendering. There is nothing inherently in the genre that requires it, but it seems that most games that do go full 3D that might have most of the elements, something like Arkham, are better assigned elsewhere. I don't personally view Arkham as a Metroidvania, though I can see a lot of similarities, of course.

Steamworld Dig's main mechanics are explore a semi-randomized map by digging and trying to gain treasure. Treasure can be spent at the home base on supplies and powerups. The powerups allow you to explore more efficiently and gain access to areas that were previously inaccessible. Some of those hidden areas grant you additional powerups. It also has some platforming elements and is presented in 2D.

For all of that, the gain access to areas to gain new powers to revist old areas doesn't seem to fit well here and I have trouble thinking of it as a true Metroidvania, even though it is a cousin.
Time not important; only life important.
Awoo
987,388
Awoo
Posted on 06 July 17 at 15:40
Eurydace said:
MakeMeACoffee said:
Awoo said:
Possibly a bit too vague, but I'm not sure how else to word it. Almost every game in the genre uses a (often grid-based) map which is usually a key component to navigating the labyrinthian world, so maybe add something referring to that?
That changes the definition quite a bit. For instance arkham -asylum, -city, -origins (and maybe even blackgate?) wouldn't fit your definition but would fit the original.
I agree. While most of the 2D games will have the grid map, 3D games will not and we don't want to burn them. Plus I don't think that's really an element that causes a game to be a metroidvania. Rather, it's simply an element that works well in those games. I think the distinction is important when considering the definition.
I didn't say they all have to have a grid map. However, Metroidvanias all tend to share a common map design philosophy. Interconnected zones, each one usually offering a new play ability, which can then be backtracked to with abilities gained later to access previously inaccessible parts. You'll have a few oddball ones like Dust or Arkham Asylum where the map isn't presented in a very classic fashion, but the whole mentality of "zones" still very much applies. Games like Mirror's Edge Catalyst do feature backtracking of sorts, but completely lack the whole zone thing, which in my experience is a very important part in giving a game that Metroidvania feel. I honestly can't think of any of the top of my head that don't adhere to it. Even extreme outliers like Dark Souls (someone is bound to bring it up) share this design philosophy to an extent.
What can change the nature of a man?
Jblacq
233,006
Jblacq
Posted on 06 July 17 at 17:55
Hmm, sounds like the Lego games would fit under this description. Is that expected?
Xpovos
291,245
Xpovos
Posted on 06 July 17 at 18:34, Edited on 06 July 17 at 18:38 by Xpovos
I've typically pegged LEGO games as "Action-Adventure" + "Platformer," so they have those similarities. The LEGO games also do have the powers required to access secrets often not available until later, but never for story purposes.

The Metroidvania does it as an element required for story completion, and typically in a single protagonist. You can't 1000 GS a LEGO game without going back, but they always give you all the characters and powers you need to beat each level as you go, there's no required backtracking to previous levels for story purposes. Those might be useful distinguishers that could eliminate the LEGO games from the definition.

And again for me, the 3D aspect of the LEGO games inherently means non-Metroidvania. But that is probably too limiting. E.g. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a game that is 3D AND definitely a Metroidvania, even to me. It's obviously even in one of the major games of the genre, giving half of the name. There's not as much backtracking as you might expect there, though, as the game changes a LOT of Castlevania things, including the story.
Time not important; only life important.
BetaSigX20
168,925
BetaSigX20
Posted on 06 July 17 at 18:45
Jblacq said:
Hmm, sounds like the Lego games would fit under this description. Is that expected?
I would think the Lego games would be excluded because, while you do gain new abilities that allow you to open up previously inaccessible areas, you're not backtracking to different areas of one large open world. Instead, you're going back and replaying discrete levels that are completely disconnected from each other.
Jblacq
233,006
Jblacq
Posted on 06 July 17 at 18:53
Good points! That's what I get for trying to contribute while I'm busy at work. facepalm
Piston Toyota
564,614
Piston Toyota
Posted on 06 July 17 at 18:54
Glad to see this genre make it in, it's another of my favourites. Also glad to see the "doesn't have to be a platformer" clause, as I felt that was a weakness of the "Action-Adventure + Platformer" way of handling these games, since it left out things like Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, which have lots of that backtracking to old areas when you get new abilities, but are by no means platformers.

Having the backtracking be required for progression rather than just for extras is an interesting place to draw the line, I can see some benefits to that, but it may exclude some stuff we don't want it to as well. Things like Shantae, for example, have lots of the game design trappings I would expect from a Metroidvania, but the vast majority of the backtracking is for extra collectables, not strictly for progression.
Eurydace
400,572
Eurydace
Posted on 06 July 17 at 19:12
I'm not sure I agree that it strictly needs to be backtracking for story purposes, though it certainly helps. I'd go back to the idea that the backtracking is a core component of what you're clearly expected to do.

Awoo I can definitely see what you're saying about zones. That's a good point. Almost always they'll have them. I guess the question is whether that makes them a Metroidvania or if they have zones because it's sensible.

Finally, I'm not sure Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a Metroidvania. There's like no progression and backtracking. It tried to adhere to classic Castlevania, not SOTN. That said, I think it's sequel, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Achievements, is. And for the record, I don't think this interpretation is particularly rare.
misfit119
692,169
misfit119
Posted on 06 July 17 at 20:25
Backtracking isn't necessary since that's not a universal thing. You might have it in Castlevania and Metroid but in games that are broken up into smaller worlds, like Shantae, you don't have that happening for any real progression. It's due to collectibles more often than not. But if you want the true ending then you have to go back to previous areas and get all of the dark magic collectibles so it's still kind of there.

More importantly, as you play you unlock new abilities that have to be used in pretty creative ways to navigate the world. Beyond the first areas it's never a matter of just running from point A to point B. You've got to use your abilities to get around in any decent amount of time and the enemies are a serious threat requiring either clever navigation around them or using items / upgrades to defeat them.

Lords of Shadows isn't a Metroidvania as I see it. The new abilities are used in a pretty linear fashion, the game is very linear in general and abilities are basically only used to advance in very specific points. It has much more in common with God of War, which is a beat 'em up with some adventure and platformer elements, than any Metroidvania type games. Plus there's the whole fact that the map isn't open to you but requires abilities to explore - you literally have to advance through the narrative stage by stage.

Backtracking to previous stages does exist to give the feeling of a Metroidvania but its a hollow thing done only to pad out the running time as you play through entire stages to grab a life up or something. It's a shallow imitation of the stuff that came before.

Xpovos said:
For all of that, the gain access to areas to gain new powers to revist old areas doesn't seem to fit well here and I have trouble thinking of it as a true Metroidvania, even though it is a cousin.
I would say that it still fits since you do need to get abilities to visit some of these areas to unlock the way to the final area. It's been awhile since I played it but I distinctly remember needing to dig deep to get upgrades, and money to afford stuff, then having to go back to earlier areas to explore places I couldn't get to at first. Like for example you need the double jump to get some places unless you sequence break via dynamite jumps.
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SpiralGamerpro
Posted on 06 July 17 at 22:10
I'm fine with this so long as it doesn't replace the current genres that accurately represent the games. For example, while it would make perfect sense to call Ori and Guacamelee "Metroidvania" games, removing Platformer from either would be largely inaccurate.
The people's champion! Well done for an amazing run, and for croaking with dignity. #TeamSporl4lyf - MalibuStacey85
Eurydace
400,572
Eurydace
Posted on 06 July 17 at 22:51
SpiralGamerpro said:
I'm fine with this so long as it doesn't replace the current genres that accurately represent the games. For example, while it would make perfect sense to call Ori and Guacamelee "Metroidvania" games, removing Platformer from either would be largely inaccurate.
Well yeah it certainly wouldn't. If a game is a platformer, it gets a platformer tag.
Xpovos
291,245
Xpovos
Posted on 06 July 17 at 23:04
I retract anything I said indicating Castlevania: LoS was a Metroidvania. I edited that commentary in with haste and it is ultimately inaccurate.
Time not important; only life important.
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