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A dungeon crawl is a type of scenario in fantasy role-playing games in which heroes navigate a labyrinth environment (a "dungeon"), battling various monsters, avoiding traps, solving puzzles, and looting any treasure they may find. Video games which predominantly feature dungeon crawl elements are considered to be a genre.
The first computer-based dungeon crawl was pedit5, developed in 1975 by Rusty Rutherford on the PLATO interactive education system based in Urbana, Illinois. Although this game was quickly deleted from the system, several more like it appeared, including dnd and Moria.
Due to their potential for simplicity and the limited expectations most players have for plot and logical consistency in dungeon crawls, they are fairly popular in role-playing video games. The roguelike genre is a common and typical example, with endless procedurally generated dungeon terrain and randomly placed monsters and treasures scattered throughout.
Computer games and series from the 1980s, such as Wizardry, The Bard's Tale, Cosmic Soldier, Might and Magic, Megami Tensei, Phantasy Star, Dungeon Master, Madō Monogatari and Gauntlet, helped set the genre's standards, while the primitive graphics were actually conducive to this style, due to the need for repetitive tiles or similar-looking graphics to create effective mazes.
Variations on the dungeon crawl trope can be found in other genres. In the early 2010s there was a modest resurgence in their popularity, particularly in Japan, largely due to the success of the Etrian Odyssey series by Atlus.
First-person party-based dungeon crawlers
This subgenre consists of RPGs where the player leads a party of adventurers in first-person perspective, typically in a grid-based environment. Examples include the aforementioned Wizardry, Might and Magic and Bard's Tale series; as well as the Etrian Odyssey and Elminage series. Games of this type are also known as "blobbers", since the player moves the entire party around the playing field as a single unit, or "blob".
Most "blobbers" are turn-based, but some games such as the Dungeon Master, Legend of Grimrock and Eye of the Beholder series are played in real-time. Early games in this genre lack an automap feature, forcing players to draw their own maps in order to keep track of their progress. Spatial puzzles are common, and players may have to, for instance, move a stone in one part of the level in order to open a gate in another part of the level.
In massively multiplayer online games, an instance is a special area, typically a dungeon, that generates a new copy of the location for each group, or for certain number of players, that enters the area. Instancing, the general term for the use of this technique, addresses several problems encountered by players in the shared spaces of virtual worlds, but also sacrifices the social element of shared spaces, and the feeling of realistic immersion in that virtual world. They also tend to be a lot smaller and more linear.
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A term used to describe a private portion of a gameworld created just for an individual or group of players.