Tuesday, 17 September 2013


Kornel Kisielewicz, developer of DoomRL recently asked via twitter and the Roguelikes Reddit what people expect from a modern roguelike - and received the usual responses: UI, graphics (and even multiplayer). While an excellent user interface is a necessary but not sufficient reason to call a roguelike modern, I think he is doing a disservice by dismissing my tweeted response out of hand that roguelikes need to be more like Brogue or 868-HACK.

I only have a few minutes to expand on this idea here, but ever since the Binding of Isaac, it is my belief that a modern roguelike should be of limited length, but infinite width. The games should be short - Brogue's maps are at the upper limit of what is acceptable for me any more; but replayable, and the experience should expand through unexpected interactions arising out of a small number of meaningful items, so that no two games play alike. The game cannot have much if any in the way of pre-game character development: characters should instead be defined by the random pickups that they must choose between - both to reduce the length of time playing, and to force the player to experience a greater variety of what the game has to offer.

I don't see this as a subgenre, as Kornel suggests: I see this as the future.


Akhier the Dragon Hearted said...

I think that they are a sub genre in the same way I think Cataclysm is a part of a sub genre. While they are Roguelikes they have something that sets them apart from the traditional roguelike which is of course still popular. I don't have a title besides maybe modern roguelike but my example of cataclysm I put under the sandbox roguelike. It sits there with DF Adventure mode where they don't really have a end goal and fit more into the open world model. It is an interesting time to live in with roguelikes as the old style while still being popular the recent types are multiplying. Whether they have sprung from things like the many 7DRLs or the roguelikelikes that have been appearing more and more frequently the boundary of what is what has been changing at an amazing pace.

SRD said...

So while everyone else is backpedalling on the Berlin interpretation and saying that no, there aren't really any constraints on what roguelikes are allowed to be, you're piling more stringent requirements on top?

Joseph said...

I enjoy the short/wide roguelikes myself. Would I call that the MODERN paradigm, I dunno.

That would be like saying the coffee break sub category has or should eclipse the monster game category.

There is room for massive monster games, ToME is very popular as are several other sprawling games. They aren't for me, necessarily, but I think it would go too far to pigeon hole 'modern' too much.

Joseph said...

As always I am open to being wrong here. I mean, I don't play the monster games anymore. I play the 'modern' types exclusively.

I just don't think I'm in the majority nor do I think my playing tastes are going to become the majority...

Andrew Doull said...

Who said anything about me agreeing with the Berkin interpretation? Think of this as a manifesto.

Anonymous said...

It's almost like you're saying that you see your particular version of the future of RLs because the attention span of your average gamer has gotten shorter and shorter over the years.

This observation may be true. But does it mean a "modern" version of a classic game needs to cater to that? I think that's the difference between your idea and a lot of the responses on that reddit link: they're basically trying to modernize the genre by making it less difficult to play the old classic.

You're trying to modernize it by dumbing it down (correct me if I'm wrong).

Somewhere in the middle lies the answer.


Take care.

Andrew Doull said...

I'm talking about smartening it up, not dumbing it down.

While it may appear there have been significant improvements in UI, graphics, etc. since the early 90s, the real improvements in games that are relevant to roguelikes has been in game design. Nothing in 868-HACK couldn't have been in in 1990 except the score chase table; but no one made it then, because Michael Brough has the benefit of 23 years of game design understanding to learn from.

Joseph said...

Agreed. Dumbing down it is not. The permadeath mechanic is tailor made for shorter sessions with incredible variety. Where beating a game is not about careful attention over time, it's about learning from each failure until you've finally mastered the game.

That is my favorite type of game, truly, but I'm not sure it will eclipse the ToMEs and the ADOMs and what not.

Hey Andrew, any thoughts on making a shorter but wide version of Angband? That could be a major endevour, as I understand it the vanilla game/engine truly embraces the grind.

Joseph said...


Anonymous said...

Smartening it up. Herm.

I just don't see expanding the variables that comprise the gameplay at the expense of how long you've got to put them together as being the redefinition of a classic. Why is your redef the "future" of RLs and not simply a fun sub-genre thereof? I totally understand your reasoning, and how they would result in varied gameplay. I just don't agree that it's the direction RL's should go.

Expand on core features, streamline them for accessibility, modernize the UI for broader appeal and usability. Sure. But what you're proposing seems more like taking blinders and putting them on...for a more limited yet richer experience.

But perhaps we need to wait for your next post? You stated you didn't have time to expand on the idea [yet]?

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Rodneylives said...

Agreed on all points, and well said.