Spelunky is Nascar

This was originally published on our travelogue but I have back dated it and moved it over here where it fits in more.


Spelunky Logo
Originally uploaded by gerbil.llama.

I’ve been playing Spelunky all day and just wanted to get a few thoughts out of my head.

Most importantly: Spelunky is Nascar racing.

At some point I was trapped in a hotel room and ended up watching the Rednecks Turning Left show. I discovered that cars break down alot in Nascar. There are all sorts of things that can go wrong in Nascar from mechanical difficulties to cars running into eachother. What is interesting is that the percentage chance of something going wrong is proportional to how hard you’re driving your car. So if you take off like a hare you’re car is going to fall apart and you’re going to lose. But if you’re slow like a turtle everyone will pass you and you’ll lose. So Nascar is the game of balancing the two goals of going fast and not breaking down. It’s fundamentaly a calculus problem. Which seems to be amusing to the human brain.

Spelunky is almost exactly the same thing. But in Speluky speed is replaced by collecting gold.

Fascinatingly the goal in spelunky is not to beat a set number of levels. It is to get 100,000 gold to the guy standing at the end of level 4. But you can make multiple trips to fill him up. So if you take him 50,000 the first time you play and 50,000 the 2nd time then you’re done. But you can also play through ten times and take him 10,000 gold each time.

Spelunky is also fucking hard. Making breakdowns inevitable. So the longer you spend in the level the more likely you are to die. But the only way to get more gold is to spend longer in the level.

So you have to do the same kind of calculus Nascar teams do. What is the optimal amount of gold to grab each time through the level? If you try to get all 100,000 in one trip then you may die hundreds of times before you make it. But if you just grab 1,000 you have to play it at least 100 times!

This is a fantastic meta-game that gives each run purpose and meaning as every play you make is seen in the light of this risk/reward calculus.

What would make Spelunky really awesome is if Derek explained to you that this guy who wants 100,000 gold exists instead of making you wander off to the Spelunky Wiki to figure out how the fuck to save your progress.

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