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Where I'm @: A Brief Look at the Resurgence of Roguelikes at GamesIndustry

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Where I'm @: A Brief Look at the Resurgence of Roguelikes at GamesIndustry

Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 31 January 2013, 15:16:25

Tags: Ancient Domains of Mystery; Brogue; Dungeons of Dredmor; Dwarf Fortress; Faster Than Light; Roguelike; Tales of Maj'Eyal

GamesIndustry.biz offers an editorial on the "resurgence of roguelikes," referencing such titles as FTL, TOME, Dungeons of Dredmor, Brogue and Dwarf Fortress, as well as the classics like ADOM and Rogue.

"I think at heart they force you to care about your character," [FTL's Justin] Ma offers, when I ask him about the appeal of the genre. "Maybe not the same way one would care about Nathan Drake, but you definitely feel responsible for well-being of the person (or in our case, ship). This makes your successes and failures all the more compelling."

For some, the appeal is more practical. Johsua Day, who works on the traditional but accessible Brogue, sees it as a chance to create a game with a scope well beyond what you might expect from a smaller team.

"These games create compelling experiences without demanding large teams and complex coordination. Roguelikes are constrained by the need to present the player with everything they have to offer at all times - if you really want to improve a roguelike in one particular situation, you're going to end up making it better generally. Non-modal, non-narrative play sounds kind of weird when you first come into it, but as a hairshirt exercise it works brilliantly for keeping the focus on the here and now."

ADOM's Thomas Biskup, who like many roguelike developers, works pretty much alone on his project, agrees that the genre enables more ambitious development, arguing that opting for an ascii interface brings a focus to gameplay over graphics. [...] "It's so much fun not having to worry about pixels and instead being able to focus on the game, content and story that ASCII is a natural for me. Combined with the fact that ASCII graphics do not really seem to lessen the enjoyment of the game in any way compared to commercial graphics-intense games (probably due to the fact that the human mind is the most capable image processor out there and your imagination turns ASCII into whatever imagery you need) there is no real incentive to spend months and years on graphics when you instead can work on the story and content."

"I guess that many people interested in compelling game concepts are getting more and more tired of the shallow and boring commercial games that get put on the shelf by the big commercial companies. I could count at least a dozen fantastic game concepts from C64 times that lack any challenger in modern times...which really is tragic. Game companies usually seem to be so focused on 3D graphics these days that the most basic rules of enjoyable game design get totally ignored. I find it really tragic that modern computing power does not get used a lot more on complex and interesting game worlds instead getting kind of wasted on graphical effects that bore you after a couple of hours. There are so few brilliant exceptions that it really drives me crazy."​

Other questions discussed in the article include the problem of difficulty and "dumbing down," as well as the definition of the genre -- are roguelikes supposed to include a definitive set of role-playing mechanics, or do randomness and permadeath suffice for a game to be considered a roguelike? Or is it yet something else?

"The notion that there's any actually definitive set of mechanics is absurd to me," says [Dredmor's developer David] Baumgart. "The only definitive rules I can see are the broad definitions of the genre: permadeath and nonlinear elements, though even these rules can be bent to varying and interesting ends."

Cassini warns me that I'm likely to " find pain and death by old age," before I find any two people who will agree on a definition but argues that randomisation of maps, items and enemies is key - also going on to exclude something like Dwarf Fortress by suggesting that control should be direct and limited to "'One against all'; or maybe a small party. But it has to have a 'physical' representation of the player in the game; as opposed to RTS and such where the player is immaterial."

Dr Biskup is also keen to avoid being tied down to any particular set of factors, but identifies replayability, permadeath and content over cosmetics. Justin Ma opts for a similar set of permadeath, high difficulty and skill cap, and procedural generation. However, it's perhaps Joshua Day who encapsulates it best for me.

"The unspoken definition looks a little more like this: Roguelikes are games about decision making and risk taking under the influence of hidden information. Exploration, item identification, random combat rolls, even permadeath, all serve that goal. You explore so that more that was once hidden will no longer be, and you take risks to push the frontier back.

"You find unknown items so that you have to deduce information about them and relate that to your position in the dungeon (and even in the absence of item identification, there are still random item drops, which serve the same purpose). Random combat means that you have to plan for the unexpected even when you have good information about your surroundings.

"Permadeath means that the risks you're taking really feel like risks and that you can't keep information that you've gained when you do fail. Exploration and item identification always start back at zero."​

The article also goes on to touch on the question of roguelike communities and their importance. Read it in full here.

There are 22 comments on Where I'm @: A Brief Look at the Resurgence of Roguelikes at GamesIndustry

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