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October 14, 2017 2 min read
In The Beginning...
Nintendo’s 1992 masterpiece, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a perfectly paced action adventure game, where our plucky hero, Link, must travel the world of Hyrule acquiring the knowledge and tools necessary to defeat Ganon, the King of Evil, and restore balance to the Light and Dark Worlds. The progression is straightforward, with Link acquiring items at opportune times to advance to the next dungeon, eventually becoming strong enough to defeat the final boss. When a hacked version of A Link to the Past surfaced in the early months of 2016, randomly distributing the items Link needs to complete his quest, it took a classic and gave it new life, creating a game that feels like a new experience every time you play.
This hacked version of the game is the brainchild of David “Dessyreqt” Carroll, who had previously worked on randomized versions of Super Metroid and Final Fantasy VI. These two games, along with ALttP make up Carroll’s three favorite games, on his favorite system, the Super Nintendo. To him “it was just natural that I would go ahead and randomize A Link to the Past after having built Randomizers for the other two.”
While working on his Super Metroid Randomizer, Carroll “stumbled upon a new algorithm for shuffling items” that he realized he could use to easily build a Randomizer for Link to the Past. This was somewhere in the middle of 2014. In these early days, Carroll was a one-man show, working on the Randomizer in secret. One thing he hit on early in his work was that in a normal speedrun of ALttP, there are many locations in the game that players never visit because there are no key items in these areas of the game world. The Randomizer can potentially force players to run to all corners of the map to find items, and Carroll saw this as something that would be appealing to players looking for a new challenge.
Carroll's own challenges that he faced were that he wasn't really a ROM hacker, and admits to still being quite unfamiliar with 65816 (SNES) assembly, so everything he did to randomize items was trial and error. Making use of the ALttP ROM editor, Hyrule Magic, to change items at various locations and using a binary diff tool to help him identify what addresses led to what chests in the game's code, Carroll plugged away at his project. Finding every item location, and determining what items were needed to get to that location was a painstakingly slow process that was certainly the most tedious and error-prone part for Carroll.
Life would get in the way for Carroll as work, family and other projects cut into his time, and bringing the Randomizer to life was put on hold. He was actually surprised that when he was finally able to pick the project back up in 2016, no one had created a randomized ALttP yet.
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