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Default True PC Gaming - Defining Roguelike Games

June 20th, 2013, 03:58
True PC Gaming has an interesting new editorial that breaks down the definition of a roguelike. So if your curious give it a look as he gives a few good examples to try out.
In the early to mid 1970s, Dungeons & Dragons was gaining in popularity. It was just a matter of time before someone tried applying that same formula to the fledgling realm of computer games. Stats and tables could be stored and referenced much faster, and random number generators can do a lot more than dice alone. These early adventure games had random loot, monsters, player stats, experience point systems and there were even some with wireframe first person perspectives. It was in 1980 when many of these elements were combined in the right proportions to create a game that would define a genre.

Rogue is a tactical turn based dungeon crawler with RPG elements. You must guide your hero down the Dungeons of Doom to retrieve the Amulet of Yendor. Each level is randomly generated and death is permanent. This gave Rogue an incredible amount of replayability. You start each game without ever knowing what you will encounter, or even if you would make it. This meant an almost infinite amount of gameplay and it all fit on a single floppy disk. Some players began making changes to the weapons, loot tables and probability formulas to create variations of the game. Eventually these changes became entirely new games built from the Rogue code, they were referred to as Roguelikes. Today there are still Roguelikes being made as well as games inspired by the genre. Let's take a closer look at some of the elements of a Roguelike.

One concept that seems to be uniquely Roguelike is Perma-Death. There are functions written into the games where exiting the game automatically saves, and loading a saved game also deletes it. This means that when (not if) you die in a Roguelike you cannot reload or go back to your last checkpoint. The only option is to create a new character and try again. For many who have never played these types of games, this seems to be a major negative of the genre. Video games have a long history where Game Over means insert another quarter, use one of your continues or reload last save. For this reason, Roguelikes have developed a reputation of being punishingly difficult for the player. However, to many fans of the genre this is one of the most important features. You can't get through a level by simple trial and error, you actually have to think very carefully about the actions you wish to take. Every decision made in the game becomes permanent, no do overs. Can your level 27 Dwarf Berserker take on a room of 5 Death Knights? Maybe, but do you really want to take that risk?

Anytime the player dies in a Roguelike it is because of a decision they made. Many newer players will find themselves in a no-win scenario and proclaim that the game has unfairly punished them. Such as having their last torch burn out at a deep level of the dungeon and not being able find their way around, when they inadvertently stumble blindly into a nest of trolls. The more experienced player will plan ahead and take various precautions to avoid finding themselves in this situation, such as bringing spare torches or learning spells of light. Within the genre, players have coined the term YASD which stands for Yet Another Stupid Death. This refers to a time when the player goes against their better judgment and dies as a result. These are the very obvious mistakes, and yet everyone makes them. Recently I was playing Angband and was making my way to the surface world.
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June 20th, 2013, 03:58
I hate perma-death. Yeah, it makes you play careful all right - TOO careful. Anything that's a challenge is simply too much of a risk, so you end up fighting oodles of "safe" battles. It is somewhat fun for me to figure out what battles are and aren't safe but not enough to make up for all the easy battles. (Luckily, it's often not hard to find the save game files and back them up yourself.)

On the other side, quite a few games are going the other way where death has no sting at all. Maybe you get pushed back 20 feet and all the enemies that were hurt regenerate. Oh darn. You can just keep flailing away at a ridiculous battle until you get lucky - making it so even a challenging battle isn't actually challenging at all.
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June 20th, 2013, 05:35
The majority of roguelike games with permadeath will feature some form of mechanic which punishes you for being too cautious and prevents you from just sitting around doing easy fights.

Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
I hate perma-death. Yeah, it makes you play careful all right - TOO careful. Anything that's a challenge is simply too much of a risk, so you end up fighting oodles of "safe" battles. It is somewhat fun for me to figure out what battles are and aren't safe but not enough to make up for all the easy battles. (Luckily, it's often not hard to find the save game files and back them up yourself.)
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June 20th, 2013, 08:25
=Permadeath works for the roguelike genre because it's a defining feature - how far can you get is really what it is about. There is no story to experience, so you are not really missing out if you never get to the end.
I occasionally get hooked on these, but it never lasts long enough to become good enough to finish. I have tried several (including the relatively easy Dungeons of Dredmore) but I haven't beaten a single one yet
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June 20th, 2013, 16:06
I'm with Ghan in most of his reply.
Permadeath is just an defining feature for Roguelikes - like the absence of a proper story as well, imho.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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