Monday 5 January 2009

Trends for Roguelikes in 2009

Here's where I gaze into my crystal Orb, wearing a ring of reflection, and make ten predictions about roguelikes in 2009. You can help, by voting your top trend of 2009 in this week's poll.

10. We'll see more roguelike-likes like Spelunky using procedural generation to extend the game play of a non-roguelike genre. I've championed procedural generation for some time, but unfortunately, like the Sims, we'll not see anyone other than Electronic Arts capitalize on the unique place that Spore occupies. The exception will be procedural narrative techniques, which will continue to be slipped in the back door for a variety of different games, following on from the success of Left4Dead and Far Cry 2 - however the tech won't mature significantly before 2010. Fingers crossed, there'll be a first person shooter released which uses procedural map generation, but I suspect that also won't happen until 2010 at the earliest.

9. There'll be more roguelikes released on Flash and mobile platforms in 2009 than we've seen in previous years combined. Some of these will be ports from existing roguelikes that move across to the mobile platform (Angband and variants will be the most active in this area), others will be newly developed games, particularly developed from game developer communities other than

8. I don't believe we'll see an Angband variant released this year. Work will continue on a number of existing variants, but a fair amount of that will be catching up with the user interface features that Angband is currently developing. I really rather wonder if the Angband variant developer community is dying a little...

7. The depth and complexity of a Dwarf Fortress or Incursion will not be matched by any newly released roguelike this year. Which is a shame, but I don't believe there is any roguelike developer working behind the scenes on their magnum opus capable of delivering this. By implication, JADE will not be released this year.

6. There will however, be a significant release of at least one roguelike built on a roguelike engine developed by someone else. This may be ToME 3, libcotd or another engine. The roguelike engines are getting to the point at which they deliver a compelling use case.

5. A trend that has not been exploited sufficiently, but may catch on this year is roguelikes that allow creation of user generated content which can be then recycled back into the game for other players. Imagine a roguelike where you design a room template, which is then placed in the dungeon mixed in with room templates contributed by other players. If I can make one trend happen by discussing it here, I'd like it to be this one.

4. There were a large number of commercial roguelikes released in 2007, a smaller but high quality list in 2008. 2009 will feature almost no commercial roguelike releases, but will feature one developed outside of Japan - I'm guessing Russia.

3. Diablo III will flatten the roguelike community for about 3 months after release, at which point everyone will start bitching about it and go back to Dwarf Fortress / World of Warcraft.

2. Stuff* will happen with Unangband. Stay tuned.

1. The next version of NetHack will be released.

0. John Harris will get around to writing about your favourite roguelike (again).

* By stuff, I tentatively mean version 1.0.


Nick said...

I would offer you a small wager about number 8, but for the fact that it would be stealing your money. Maybe ;)

John Greenberg said...

In regards to number 5, DCSS already does this. The DCSS dev crew works out of sourceforge, which is especially handy for recommending features and reporting bugs.

What's really great, though, is that feature requests that are good ideas but not pressing get outsourced to patches. The new vampire race in 4.0 came from the outside as a patch. Over thanksgiving I suggested a new class and they devs liked it, so my coding-competent friend whipped up a patch. It's transparent and user friendly development like this that makes DCSS such a delight. To be honest I'm baffled by devs who keep their cards to their chest.

Jotaf said...

6.: Yay for roguelike engines! As a recent RL developer I must say dealing with a proper engine has been the main reason why I stuck around. Please direct newbie devs to one of these engines.

5.: Wouldn't it be awesome if vaults were simple drop-in files that you just dumped in a "vaults" folder and the game used them? Technically it's very easy to scan a folder. Better yet, do the same with creatures. Like with spore, many people would take the opportunity and publish their own! (No, I'm not being naive and believing that the popularity will be anywhere near comparison.) Imagine web pages with monster and vault packs to download.

A simple way to balance custom monsters might be to give each ability/attribute difficulty points (positive or negative). The "base dungeon level" of the monster will be its points divided by 10, for example. A 40-points monster will appear around and after level 4.

Enne Walker said...

Re: 10. A first person shooter with procedural map generation would have to be pretty limited. The pipeline to generate art for a AAA shooter is just too long. The only feasible options are (1) extremely long up front wait times ("please wait half a day while your content is generated"), (2) minimalist graphics (e.g., or (3) use large enough pre-fab and pre-baked art (Trackmania-sized, at least.) I'm not saying it can't be done, just that there will have to be serious compromises.

Re: 7. I don't see that as a problem. Call me selfish, but I'd like to see fewer roguelike devs fall down the lifetime project pit. I may just have my engineering hat on too tightly, but I think this is one of those cases where the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Re: 1. Riiight. (Was this predicted for the same reason as #5?) I'd put a lot more of my money on SporkHack becoming even more the definitive Nethack heir in the continued absence of Nethack releases.

Unknown said...

I hope that you are correct with both predictions 9 & 10. That is because I am nearing completion of my Flash roguelike-like, an RTS which takes place in randomly generated cityscapes.


Andrew Doull said...

Nick: NickWinstheBetBand doesn't count.

John G: I'm not talking about contributing via SVN. I'm talking about contributing via an in-game mechanism. Like LittleBigPlanet.

I'm aware of teh power of open source, and take advantage of it myself.

No one in particular: Chronicles Of Doryen is an obvious potential exception to number 7.

n/a said...

10. The game "Hellgate London" was a FPS with some RPG elements (or was it the opposite ?) and the maps were randomly generated. Actually, it was an arrangement of (as poster Enne Walker said) pre-fab art. The game wasn't a success though, but it was created by former Diablo devs and I remember that Diablo were quite influenced by Rogue back then :)

9. More flash, in-browser, portable roguelikes would be great. Talk about expanding the audience and introducing these great games to the young generations (on game portals like Kongregate or Newgrounds)

3. I don't think Diablo III is going to distract roguelike players. Diablo III seems more "shoot-em up oriented" than its own predecessor (no more health potions, just grab a instant health/mana powerup on monster kill... etc.) and I guess the whole thing will be much less roguelike-like than Diablo/Diablo 2.

Unknown said...

I would like to see more roguelikes focus on tactics, improved magic systems and better resource management. Basically, I would like to see continual influence from crawl into other roguelikes.

Nick said...

No, I didn't mean me - although maybe I shouldn't rule *that* out either.

dbdkmezz said...

Re 1: You mean the Dev Team are still working on Nethack? I'd assumed four years without a release had meant it had died :'(

Nethack 4 or 3.5 would be amazing! (I agree with the author of SporkHack though, once you've been spoiled it is only the early game that is fun, so they've got quite a lot of work to do).

Elliot said...

no way is diablo 3 coming out in 2009 (let alone with at least 3 months left to go in the year)