I’ve been playing Spelunky again. I bought it on PC this week just for its ‘Daily Challenge’ mode. Spelunky is a randomly generated platformer, so it can often be difficult to compare scores with friends. The Daily Challenge, meanwhile, gives everyone the same set of generated levels to play, a single chance to play them with, and the aim of getting as much treasure as possible.
This is an absolute masterstroke. Mossmouth have taken the (already excellent) Spelunky and refined it into a diamond of pure gameplay perfection.
Suddenly, the game’s main ‘Adventure’ mode becomes practice for the Daily Challenge. The Daily Challenge teaches you new habits – always take a rock through a door to protect yourself from arrow traps, don’t run everywhere, always check roofs before you move, plan ahead. The one-chance mechanic of the Daily Challenge makes the entire run a lot tenser – you’re always one wrong move away from falling into a spike trap, and that’s it, game over. The Daily Challenge is Spelunky’s Mr. Freeze boss fight – it tests you on everything you’ve learnt through your time with the game. Every passed level feels like a triumph, no matter how good you are. A jetpack is even more of a joy to gain than it is in Adventure, but remember not to let your guard down. Spelunky is a cruel mistress, and never moreso than in the Daily Challenge.
It’s unsurprising, then, that a whole community has sprang up over this beautiful creation. The most prominent is probably The Spelunky Explorer’s Club, where game developers, journalists and streamers share their daily runs. Set up by Spelunky god -and creator of Gunpoint- Tom Francis (who incidentally was the man who introduced the original PC version of Spelunky to me way back), the Explorer’s Club still has daily uploads, three months down the line.
This begs the question: why don’t more games have these modes? Imagine how fantastic, say Bit.Trip Runner 2 would be with an endless mode that challenged you to get as far as you can, changing every day, giving you only a single attempt? Rayman Origins has daily challenges, but you can play them as many times as you like. Halo Reach and CoD: Black Ops had specific daily challenges for the multiplayer modes. But that’s pretty much the size of it for now. Imagine, for example, if Super Mario 3D World had daily challenges. Would you ever need another games? What about daily Mario Kart challenges, in the style of the challenges from Mario Kart DS?
I’m convinced this format would actually work for any game. Whether it’s in the style of Halo and Call of Duty, with specific multiplayer goals that change each day, randomised levels like Rayman Origins or Spelunky, or something else, there’s scope. How about randomised item and object layouts in a Half-Life 2 map? Trackmania seems perfect for this sort of thing, right? Even lightgun games could do it – randomise enemy spawns so the playthroughs aren’t always the same.
DEVELOPERS, HEAR MY PLEA: implement daily challenges into your games. They’ll extend longevity, keep used copies out of Game, and keep people talking about you for months. For the players, we get new content every day that you don’t have to put any effort into making. It’s a win-win.