I was battling hard-mode Thardus in a randomizer last night without the Thermal Visor, Charge beam, or Plasma beam, and as my mind wandered (I had a lot of time), the idea popped into my head to mod Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! so that each area’s Talisman was instead hidden somewhere throughout the level, switching places with either a gem or an Orb. It could be like Talisman hide-and-seek! I died to Thardus (though I should actually be able to beat him in this state now that I’ve gotten my head around the fight), but that little seed of a mod idea grew and grew.
First, I often say that I don’t feel every game can or should be randomized. Spyro: Year of the Dragon, for instance, wouldn’t work like 2 because instead of Talismans and Orbs, every reward is a dragon egg. The original is similar, with rescuing dragons, though completing a course is tracked in and of itself. Only Ripto’s Rage has the diversity of collectibles which make it interesting to me for this article.
(Yes, you could randomize enemies and what portal takes you where, but the broad strokes of the game would stay the same for both 1 and YotD.)
The mod in my head would have several different levels of randomization and options for the total pool. The simplest option (and original idea) would be to switch the Talisman and one other collectible (gem or Orb) in the level. For instance, the Glimmer Talisman would be given as the reward for lighting the outdoor gem lamps, and the player would receive an Orb when they complete the level. Everything else would stay the same. Optionally, the rest of the collectibles could be shuffled as well, which I think would be a fun way to make the old levels a bit more fresh, what with the Treasure being so methodically distributed in each world. The Talisman award interaction acting as a hint for where it has been hidden in the level is a neat little byproduct of this, and is a feature I might include as an on/off toggle in the generator as the pool gets larger and more far-reaching, just to potentially narrow the search.
I feel a true randomizer might actually work, though. If we scatter the Orbs and Talismans across all the worlds and include the Homeworlds, things could become much more interesting. You’d still need the resources to open the roadblocks the game puts before you (all Talismans for the boss room; Treasure for buying things from Moneybags, Orbs to open doors and portals), but they could be at any spot a gem rests or an Orb is awarded. It could even be that, going back to Glimmer, a Talisman needed for the second or third Homeworld is the reward for lighting the indoor gem lamps, which is only doable after Moneybags teaches Spyro how to climb ladders. Working with a generator, though, the option should exist to exclude Treasure from the pool, but I’m not sure I would ever play with that option personally.
If we are going to shuffle in Treasure, particularly across worlds, the in-game trackers will cease to suffice (unless each gem is flagged with which world it came from, which isn’t something I’d ask someone to do). A non-functioning in-game tracker wouldn’t be gamebreaking, but because the trackers in Ripto’s Rage are tied so intrinsically to the locations of the items being tracked, it’s worth discussing. Thinking industriously, they could still function, but it would take some doing. At the most basic level, I’d want the game to tell me when I’d checked all the possible spots in a level, like it does in vanilla. Treasure can be easy to miss, or placed in decidedly obscure spots, and going from world to world would get tedious fast, so knowing in no uncertain terms that I’ve scrubbed a world clean would improve my experience with the game considerably.
Finally, we come to entrance randomization, which I’m not sure would totally work without randomizing items as well. Logic would need to be in full effect, as later worlds require swimming and ladder climbing, which the player unlocks in subsequent Homeworlds. The thought occurs to me that we could shuffle Moneybags’ unlocks as well (in a pool all their own), which could address a need for ladder climbing before collecting all the Talismans needed to leave Summer Forest. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough enemies before Moneybags in Glimmer to activate the Superfly Powerup gate, so that first Moneybags encounter will probably always have to open the bridge (unless we want to lower the Spirit Particle requirement or move an enemy). Regardless, shuffling what portals lead where on top of item placement sounds like an incredibly good time to me.
There are a multitude of quality of life improvements I could see streamlining gameplay, like for instance entering worlds with quests like “Flame all the Statues” (Colossus) or “Shoot all the Lizards” (Glimmer) already activated. Anything that reduces the need to backtrack would be very, very welcome. Options to remove dialogue and cutscenes are a staple for randomizers, though I would want degrees of removal, as some of the dialogue is truly funny, both in writing and performance.
So what are the big problems with this idea from a technical standpoint? I, for better or for worse, am an artist rather than a computer technician of any sort, so my ideation is wholly disconnected from how the coding, etc. actually works. Is the way that the game treats Treasure too different from even the freestanding Orbs, so this just wouldn’t work? How do you think Speedways should be treated? Could this be done to the Reignited version? What about a feature you’d like to see that I haven’t listed? Let me know in the comments below!