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.
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).
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?
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. 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…