True PC Gaming - Defining Roguelike Games
True PC Gaming has an interesting new editorial that breaks down the definition of a roguelie. 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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