7DRL: we lost the battle, but not the war!

This last week, or the week before depending on when you started, was the “7 Day Roguelike” (#7DRL) competition. I was one of those who started right at the beginning, teaming up with Kevin aka ‘Gaeel’ and Hannes Delbeke, an intern artist at The Game Bakers.

We didn’t finish on time for 7DRL, but I’m hoping we’ll finish in time for April “One Game A Month” (#1GAM) deadline (the 4th at midnight GMT-8)…

News flash!

Before I get into a flame-war about what “Roguelike” games are and aren’t, a quick news bulletin:

  • Last week I started work as a R&D intern at NaturalPad, a little start-up that makes games for rehabilitation. I’m working with C# / Unity3D on their “Hammer and Planks” pirate shoot’em’up as well as toying around with the Microsoft Kinect (again).

  • This weekend I am in Lyon at the “Game Dev Party”, another game jam where the theme is survival. I’m thinking I’ll probably use either Javascript / HTML 5 or Lua / Löve2D… or I might give Python / PyGame a try just for giggles. Hannes should be coming too: wish us luck!

  • Our “Baptême du Jeu” association has a Tumblr blog now, for those of you who don’t have Facebook. We’ve managed to get hold of a nice big place to hold another real-world gathering for the next Ludum Dare (26-29 of April). We should be able to host about 50 jammers: I’ll point you to the sign-up page when we’re ready (probably next week).

  • Despite organising the Ludum Dare in Montpellier at the same time, I will actually be in Paris at the “Computer Human Interaction (CHI) 2013” conference at the end of April, doing yet another game jam! No rest for the wicked…

Phew! Now that we’ve got all the out of the way, on with the show…

Are all “Roguelike”games like Rogue?

Yes indeed, this month the 1GAM theme is “Rogue”, in part because of 7DRL but also because well, why not?

You’re probably wondering what a “Roguelike” is. Rogue was the seminal ASCII-art dungeon-crawler, featuring random dungeon generation and permanent death.

Do all “Roguelike” games have a top-down view and ASCII art?

“Cardinal Quest”, “Dungeons of Dredmor” and many others abandon the ASCII art-style entirely while maintaining the Roguelike genre’s core mechanics, “Red Rogue” opts for a side view and, although the latter titles in the series have incrementally done away with the overbearing tension and punishing difficulty that are its hallmarks, the original “Diablo” was a fine example of a real-time isometric Roguelike game in my opinion. This is a bit of a controversial claim of course, so feel free to flame me.

Are all “Roguelike” games dungeon-crawlers?

Not all Roguelike games are dungeon-crawlers: the same random generation, permadeath and insistence that “losing is fun” can also be found in “Dwarf Fortress”, which is essentially a very punishing city-building game. “FTL: Faster Than Light”, a little game I’ve fallen in love with recently, likewise changes the gameplay and even the settings, from dungeons to outer-space, yet keeps intact the Roguelike “feel”.

Not all dungeon-crawlers are Roguelikes either: it’s controversial to claim that “Diablo” is a Roguelike, so I think we can all agree that “Diablo 3” isn’t.

Well then, what actually is a “Roguelike”?

Interestingly, “Diablo” and “Diablo 3” will, most often, be lumped together under “Action RPG”, despite the absence of any real role-playing in either game. “Extra Credits” said it best, we tend to classify games based on very superficial criteria such as the setting, mechanics and art-style, when we should be classifying them by “feel” or, as they put it, “aesthetics”:

So what are the aesthetics of the “Roguelike” genre? Exploration, first and foremost, and challenge most certainly. There’s also some degree of fantasy and a great deal of self-expression too. The game’s rewards are largely intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) so the fun comes from the moment-to-moment gameplay more than working towards something, otherwise permadeath would be frustrating as hell. All together it’s enjoyable to challenge yourself or each-other to get as far as you can, it’s also fun talk about what you did in these games and what emergent events occurred.


“Dispatch: Rogue Planet”

We talked for a long time about doing a multiplayer turn-based squad-based tactical game set in a Cyberpunk world, so basically “Frozen Synapse” only grid-based and with few extra widgets like hacking and cyborg augmentations (see “Blade Runner” and “Ghost in the Shell”). We eventually decided to put the idea aside, not because it wasn’t “Roguelike” enough for 7DRL but rather because our artist, Hannes, didn’t want to draw things from a top-down or isometric perspective.

The new idea was one Kevin had had one the back-burner for some time, inspired by some fascinating parasitic brain-fungi he’d found out about in a documentary:

So basically you’re sent down onto the rogue planet to find out if it will support life, only to discover that it supports it just a little bit too much: all life has been assimilated by a strange alien fungus and turned into mindless pawns. To survive you’ll need to penetrate into the planet’s core to locate a cure before the contaminant gets the better of you. :D Yay! So basically “Waking Mars” only with more depression. Here’s a screenshot:


Despite being a platform-shooter from a mechanics point-of-view, we want the game to feel like Rogue. It is to be a survival game rather than an action game, and hopefully we’ll have time to add some items and upgrades (though probably not before the beginning of April).

Okay, that’s all for now, time to jam it up in Lyon :) I’ll see you all on the other side for a debriefing…

  • Evropi

    Haha… Unity, Kinect, C# (which uses Mono with Unity). I guess you went off the open source thing eventually right? ;)

    Anyway, on roguelikes, RogueBasin should be your bible on this: http://roguebasin.roguelikedevelopment.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

    ‘Straight-up’ roguelikes like NetHack and ADOM can be split into two categories by the way. Hacklikes (more like Hack) and Band-likes (more like Angband, which is shit). There are articles on this in RogueBasin. I would also suggest reading the ‘Berlin Interpretation’ article on RogueBasin, which captures perfectly the definition of what a roguelike is.

    Beyond that, going into more general game design too (but focused around the genre), I would DEFINITELY recommend listening to the philosophers at Roguelike Radio (www.roguelikeradio.com). I’ve listened to almost every episode. I’d suggest picking one that interests you. They discuss both individual games, often with the creators (these are my favourite podcasts) but also individual elements in roguelikes. Really great podcast, I listen to it when I’m commuting. I’d definitely try to squeeze some space in the day when you can listen to this podcast, it is 5/5.

    Anyway, +1 for making your game a ‘hybrid’ roguelike, that is, not a proper roguelike like ToME is. Just can’t get into those anymore, however great they are. It’s great to see the genre expand in new directions. Good lucky with your game!

    • http://wilbefast.com/ Wilbefast

      I’m being paid to work with Unity, important difference ;) in my spare time I still user Open technology. Indeed, at the “Game Dev Party” jam I refused outright to use Unity, which meant that I had to join another group (who were using Löve 2D) rather than working on my own idea.

      I’ll checkout out roguelikeradio, thanks for the tip :)