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A chat with Eiko about the Ori and the Blind Forest randomizer

We sat down with EikotheBlue, a member of the Ori randomizer community, to chat about the appeal of randomizers, their contributions, and Ori in general.

Imagine that you’re playing a game. Now imagine that this game has enchanting visuals that make you want to see every inch of its gorgeous world, and a haunting soundtrack that complements the whimsical, yet often bleak world.

You’ve just completed a long platforming sequence and finished a large goal, ending the level. As you’re ready for things to slow down, the music suddenly swells and begins a furious upbeat as all hell breaks loose and the waves begin to rise slowly, forcing you to make perilous jumps, often with barely a sliver of a platform visible.

Higher and higher you climb, and soon you’ve left all platforms and ridges behind, lost in the watery depths, a constant reminder of your possible fate. At this point you are little more than a flicker of light in the darkness, as your only means of escape are the violet hued enemies and their projectiles, and as you rise higher still, your adversaries are soon a distant memory, mere ripples in the sapphire colored water.

Finally, you reach the home stretch and in a flurry of light you shoot out from the ground, the water following a split second after, your reward is the light rain that brings clean water back to the land.

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You can breathe again. For a moment.

If this all sounds terribly familiar, then you may have experienced Ori and the Blind Forest first released in 2015, with a Definitive Edition released in 2016. Ori’s popularity has surged recently, due to a number of things, not the least of which is the long awaited sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, releasing this week.

Ori and the Blind Forest has also seen an increase in popularity recently, with the release of a randomizer, a tool for changing many of the aspects of the original game. While the randomizer community as a whole has been described in the past as a “small, niche community,” it seems to grow larger every day, with a wide variety of randomizers available for many games both new and old.

The randomizer itself features a wealth of options to change the original game, such as mixing up the locations of skill pickups on various maps or requiring the use of dungeon keys to unlock levels fully. There’s even a comprehensive difficulty slider, ranging from classic to master and even a glitched setting, which forces you to be proficient at using a number of glitches to complete the game. There’s also a bingo mode, which randomly generates a bingo card of specific goals that must be met in the game in order to achieve a bingo. Mastering this mode requires an extensive knowledge of the game itself.

The randomizer is also extremely accessible, featuring extensive help for new players including beginner seeds (randomly generated games) and mousing over any button in the randomizer gives an expansive description.

There’s also an Ori Discord, full of very knowledgeable players who talk about all things Ori, including the randomizer. Many of them stream gameplay themselves on twitch, and due to the surge in popularity of all things Ori lately, several recent first playthroughs of the game have garnered quite a number of viewers, one streamer boasting 12k viewers. Earlier this morning, one streamer’s blind playthrough on hard difficulty garnered 10k viewers.

Eiko (known as EikotheBlue on twitch) plays and streams the Ori randomizer extensively. We sat down with Eiko and let them illuminate the forest of questions we had.

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Entertainium: So as we’re sure you know, there are a ton of randomizers out there, but many are for classic games. Ori is a really recent game. What made you want to develop a randomizer for Ori? (Editor’s note: several community members suggested Eiko was a developer of the randomizer)

Eiko: Oh! Ori had a randomizer by the time I joined the community (Ori’s randomizer is how I joined the Ori community). Sigmasin (the original randomizer developer) has said several times he was heavily influenced by the A Link to the Past randomizer, which came out under a year before he first released the first major version of Ori rando; we list the ALTTP rando as one of the two major sources of inspiration in the credits, along with a much simpler system someone built for Ori that just shuffles which skills you get from which tree (Chicken supreme’s “ori remix” system, which I’ve heard was briefly popular but had limited replayability, because there were only so many finishable combinations).

Oh I see. So what drew you to the Ori randomizer?

Eiko: It’s a little bit embarrassing, honestly; it happened while I was between jobs and also social circles. I was spending a lot of my time watching speedruns of games I liked by looking at SpeedRunsLive’s list of live streamers and clicking on games I recognized, and at one point I ran into an Ori Randomizer race. I’d replayed the game casually 3 times at that point, and decided it looked interesting enough to try. I did like 6-8 casual-difficulty seeds on my own (taking several hours each time) and ran into a fugs (randomizer-specific softlocks) that I didn’t know how to deal with, so I joined the Ori Discord to ask for help and everyone there was super nice and friendly and patient and helpful.

The shorter answer, I suppose, is that it added a bunch of replayability and whole new dimensions to a game I’d loved and felt like I fully explored casually (I’ve never been into challenge runs and don’t have the patience/temperament for speedrunning).

It really does seem like a great group of people in that Discord.

Eiko: They (…we?) are very friendly/supportive/kind in a way I have found to be rather rare online and are definitely the biggest reason I’ve invested so much time/effort into building randomizer features and such.

Can we ask what features you’ve added?

Eiko: Sure! I guess the big one is that I built and maintain (with some consulting-help and a few pieces of CSS from others), the entire orirando.com website and all the network features. That includes: the current seed generator front-end (and some major changes to the back-end, though that was originally written and is still best-understood-by sigma), the logic helper and live-updating game map, which shows users what pickups are currently in logic for them that they haven’t already gathered, the netcode systems that allow the randomizer to talk to the website, which are used for the tracking map, the co-op modes, and bingo. The system for building, publishing, and sharing “plandos” (custom-built seeds) the entire bingo system (card generation, auto-tracking, the bingo/co-op integrations, and discovery bingo); the help and FAQs section, which has setup guides, some common pitfalls, a bonus item glossary, and a list of pre-rolled seeds designed to be good for new players (along with some hints) and a tool that people can use to generate key rebinding files without making syntax errors.

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As far as modifications to the randomizer itself, besides the aforementioned changes required to get the randomizer mod to talk to the website for co-op/tracking maps/bingo, I added: the warmth fragments and forcemaps goal modes, and did the implementation work (but not the design) for world tour, a bunch of extra bonus items, including “silly” stuff like skill velocity upgrades and the ability to dash underwater, as well as bonus skills that let you do things like spend energy to run very fast or temporarily turn gravity upside down. (These are disabled by default.) The system that does stats tracking, and the code that displays both the stat results and the randomizer credits over the top of the base game’s credits.

Uh, around the time the 3.0 patch released, I also did some major refactors to the standalone item tracker to make it display more things and run smoothly with the changes we’d made in 3.0. I also ended up being the person to hunt down and fix the softlocks and other rando-only bugs that originally stumped me as a casual player.

…Think that’s everything important? And maybe some less-important stuff too, sorry.

That sounds pretty extensive.

Eiko: Yeah, looking at it all written down feels a bit surreal? it’s been a lot of work and a lot of fun; i didn’t really have any experience in doing full stack web design before this. Especially front-end bits, so it was a lot of learning.  I’m very happy with the results, though; the community is a pleasure to develop for.

We’ve been to the rando page and what jumps out right away and what we love is how accessible everything is.

Eiko: I tried to put a lot of effort into making the randomizer more accessible and easier to get started with for new players. Especially people who weren’t from a speedrunning background, because that was how I got started and I wanted to share that experience of getting into a game’s speedrunning community from the perspective of a casual player who just wanted more ways to enjoy the game. I think the thing I’m most proud of, from that perspective, is the tracking map.

I wanted to build this because I felt like the hardest part of learning how to play the randomizer in a way that’s fun is remembering where all the pickups are and which ones the randomizer expects you be able to reach, and when I joined this was mostly learned by trial, error, and either checking a very user-unfriendly system (2500-line xml file) or asking for help from other people who would either also have to check that system or rely on tribal/accumulated knowledge, which was not always correct.

With this, it’s always possible to check to see what you might be missing or where you need to go, and if you see something lit up on the map that you can’t figure out how to get, it’s much easier to ask the community for help, because the reason you are stuck is a lot more obvious.

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We find it really interesting that the randomizer is so accessible when Ori DE itself isn’t always as accessible as we’d like in game, in terms of learning and using new abilities and figuring out where to go next and such. Did you experience this in your original playthroughs at all, and did it influence you wanting to make the randomizer as accessible as possible?

Eiko: Not particularly, mostly because my original playthrough was pre-DE, in 2015, which was a much more linear experience; without dash and grenade in the game, there isn’t really much stopping you from going clockwise around the skill wheel and following Sein’s prompts from dungeon key to dungeon, in order

Ah, that makes sense.

Eiko: When I played DE, I knew there were two new areas, so I got dash pretty early and came back for grenade much later, but I mostly felt like the game taught me how to play it pretty well (I was better than the average random first-time streamer I watch about saving a lot, using bash effectively, and using stomp to trivialize combat).

I think my focus on accessibility/casual-friendliness in my contributions (both to the code/feature set and to community discussions about how rando changes should be made) was more a result of… a way of grounding myself and my contributions in an area where I felt like I knew what I was talking about?

At the time, almost every randomizer player was also an experienced speedrunner, and so they had a lot of shared experiences/techniques/mindset that I didn’t feel qualified to comment on or contribute to, but I was one of the first (and consistently the most active) direct-from-casual convert.

So I felt like I was better-positioned to suggest changes with them (and, admittedly, myself!) in mind, and prioritizing that perspective was something that stayed with me when thinking about the kinds of features I wanted to build.

Are you excited about Ori and the Will of the Wisps?

Eiko: Yes! I’m taking 2 days off work next week so I can play it on release. I’m expecting the game to be excellent based on everything we’ve seen about it so far; my biggest fear is it won’t be as easy to randomize well as OatBF was/is (…though that hasn’t stopped me from making plans and organizing volunteers to help me get started working on a randomizer for it next weekend).

Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us.

For more Ori goodness, check out the Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition randomizer at orirando.com.

And stay tuned for Entertainium’s continuing coverage of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, releasing this week.

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