Monday, 11 May 2009

Confessions of a Roguelike Developer

I've just played Rogue for the first time ever...

(The result: I died of hypothermia trying to fight an ice monster on level 3. Said ice monster, rendered in David Gervais' beautiful pixel art to the left, but not from my game).

The iPhone as a platform has many attractions, the main one of which is the App store. But what playing Rogue on the iPhone has taught me is that the a stylus free touch screen interface may not be ideal for games.

The main lesson I've walked away with after my brief, guilty journey back in gaming history is that its hard to design a user interface when your fingers obscure the display. Whoever developer the port (I've not been able to find any credits on the official site) has done a brilliant job capturing the ability to specify all commands in the game by diving the screen into a 3 by 3 grid and letting you trace commands directly to the screen. A single press on each grid moves you in one of the eight compass directions, and examples of other commands are in the screen shot below:

But at the same time, the whole endeavour still feels clumsy and unintuitive (not helped by Rogue's weird non-diagonal movement in corridors). I need transparent phalanges, damnit!

Note that by virtue of having a stylus, the Nintendo DS is less of an issue - the fact there is already a working *band port is a big plus. So with the reservations I have about the platform - and the licensing issues the writer of the official Rogue port notes - and despite me listing the iPhone port as a possible option in this week's poll - I don't think you'll be seeing an Unangband port on the iPhone any time soon.


Wiley said...

I prefer RogueTouch on the iphone. The finger gesture commands didn't work for me, and RogueTouch ejects them and uses a simple menu instead.

I wish someone would make a similar port of Moria. I can't really get into roguelikes that don't have spells and shops and all the extra goodies.

Alex Phillips said...

I tried Rogue for the first time a couple months ago, and died the same way. :(

Anonymous said...

At the end of 2008 I was trying to port uMoria, but I remember some problems with the license, then moved to Rogue (with its liberal BSD-style license) only to be beat by gandreas.

Inventing a workable Roguelike UI for touch based devices is painful, but in the end it's the licenses that really kill the effort.

The Mad Tinkerer said...

"I've just played Rogue for the first time ever..."

Wow. I, on the other hand, have just started on my first Roguelike (will post about it soon), but I first played Rogue sixteen years ago.

I wonder if there's anyone in Bungie or Valve who've never played Doom?