This article exists primarily as an excuse to mention my new @ChaliceGlyphs Twitter account where I post “glyphs” for Chalice Dungeons in the PlayStation 4 game Bloodborne. But in order to keep this from being a shameless plug I am going to discuss my thoughts on the gameplay design of Chalice Dungeons and what I feel are their pros and cons, and how they affect the overall quality of Bloodborne. If you’re not familiar with Bloodborne or have never played it, don’t worry—hopefully such readers will have no problem following along.
A Brief Introduction to Chalice Dungeons
If you have played Diablo or any roguelike then you’ll be familiar with the concept of Chalice Dungeons (CDs). They are procedurally-generated dungeons peiced together from a collection of pre-built ‘set pieces’, i.e. rooms and connecting pathways, filled with semi-randomized treasure and bosses on each “layer” or floor.
The concept of “glyphs” separates Chalice Dungeons from their kin in dungeon-crawling games. Every time you create a Chalice Dungeon it has a glyph—a password basically—which you can then share with the world at large. Other players can then use that glyph to enter the CD that you created. This ability to share then dungeons you create is the heart of the interesting effects that Chalice Dungeons have on the gameplay of Bloodborne.
How Chalice Dungeons Affect Gameplay
Chalice Dungeons extend the replayability of Bloodborne by providing a near-unlimited source of areas to explore. Since they are built from a preset collection of building-blocks there is an obvious element of repetitiveness, and therein lies one of the major criticisms against the mechanic. Chalice Dungeons extend replayability up to a point, but every player will eventually reach a point where they no longer feel unique enough to hold his or her interest. Still, having said that, they do a lot to keep one playing Bloodborne even after one has completed all of the main game’s content.
The ability to share Chalice Dungeons using glyphs introduces—in my opinion—a very cool twist on the idea of procedurally-generated content. Chalice Dungeons are the only way in Bloodborne that one can obtain certain weapons or powerful upgrade materials. Therefore, when you generate a Chalice Dungeon that has one of those unique weapons, for example, there is the option to make the glyph of that dungeon public so that other players can use it to obtain said weapon as well. This dynamic strengthens the online community surrounding the game because it fosters a mentality of sharing and contributing that you do not find in most other games containing procedurally-generated content. When I create a Chalice Dungeon and discover that it has some valuable treasure, it’s not only a fun find for my own personal gain but also because I can share that with other players.
An arguable fault with this system is that sharing Chalice Dungeons with great loot could be considered a form of exploiting the system, or at the very least cheapening the value of the effort that other players put into earning said loot. I don’t personally buy into this idea and consider a flimsy, weak criticism; but I can understand how some players would adopt that view. It is similar to how I’ve seen gamers outraged over duping items in games like Diablo, obtaining something with little effort and thereby diluting the value of time spent by honorable players who did things The Right Way. I’m a little more sympathetic to that train of thought in Diablo specifically, but not so much with Bloodborne, especially since I don’t consider sharing Chalice Dungeons with great items to be anywhere near on par with practices like item duping.
Sharing Chalice Dungeons in Bloodborne is an interesting gameplay mechanic which, for me at least, has both extended the amount of time I would have otherwise invested in the game and has compelled me to be more involved in the online community of players, sharing and trading glyphs for dungeons, not to mention the fun of co-op play to help people through the more difficult Chalice Dungeons. The procedural-generation itself is nothing revolutionary or even really remarkable. But the social aspect Bloodborne introduces to that idea goes a long way towards making Chalice Dungeons more than boring grind-fests. In the future I will write about ways in which I think From Software could improve on this concept, but for now I’ll end the article here because I feel like going to help some friends play through Chalice Dungeons we’ve created and shared.