Tuesday 31 December 2013

Page down key

If you're on a PC, it's at the top right of your keyboard.
If you're on OS/X, good luck...

[Edit: My apologies for the lack of vi-key support.]

Monday 30 December 2013


If you really liked 868-HACK but wished it had a bit more blood and sandals, Hoplite (iOS, Android) may be your thing...

(Touch Arcade thread where it appears to be causing people to sacrifice their GotY to the ancient gods)

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Request for Votes: Ascii Dreams Roguelike of the Year 2013

290 roguelikes have qualified this year: this is only a slight increase of 7 roguelikes from last year and begs the question: 'Have we reached peak roguelike?'. More importantly, there's a significant difference in the included roguelikes as I have included all the 7DRL entries this year. I have not done this in previous years, so the figures could hide an actual drop in the total roguelikes released in 2013. However...

How did the games qualify?

The list was taken from the roguelike releases announced on the Rogue Basin news section between December 16th 2012 and December 16th 2013 and the 7DRL rogue likes that were rated by the challenge evaluation process. Unfortunately the list of Actively Developing Roguelikes is no longer maintained, so I instead included roguelikes listed on the last 6 months of  posts on the roguelikes subreddit. This undoubtedly misses more rogue like releases than in previous years. I especially note that the Rogue Basin news section appears to be heavily biased against commercial releases - whereas the roguelikes subreddit is biased towards commercial releases so in summary it probably evens out. However, more eclectic releases will undoubtedly be missing from the list.

If there is a roguelike you want to vote for which is not on the list, please post in the comments and I will include your votes in the final totals.

What about 'x'? Why isn't it on the list?

Make sure you announced your roguelike on Rogue Basin for next year.

What about 'y'? Why is it on the list?

As roguelikes become more popular, the term is used to increasingly describe a broader type of game. This list has expanded to embrace that idea, but mostly to ensure that we don't miss any actual roguelikes. With this many entries, I'd rather be inclusive rather than exclusive, as I cannot possibly play every entry. You are free to not vote for a game if you don't consider it a roguelike.

What's the prize?
Pride. And a sexy logo - if you want one. You can see the winning 2007 logo on the Dwarf Fortress links page. Other winners are free to request them, but haven't done so. Logo designs for this year are welcome.

Having a competition is a dumb idea/offensive/stupid when you can't police the results.

Yep. Doesn't stop it being fun. You can vote for multiple different roguelikes. The idea here is that you will be encouraged to go out and download a roguelike that other people consider interesting, not that there is any kind of real competition element involved.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

An Interview (of me)

I just received an enthusiastic email from someone who clearly loves the blog having just started reading it, but is also wondering where I am at. I thought I'd include my response to his email below:

My output has dropped significantly now I have children. I hope you've also checked out the PCG wiki that I've set up, and have read the chapters of the PCG book Noor Shaker, Julian Togelius, Mark J Nelson et al are putting together.

Conveniently, below is the interview responses to some interview questions that the above authors sent me recently - I hope these answer your questions. Their questions are in bold.

Was there anything you wanted to do in a game you worked on that you could not do because of algorithmic or computational limitations?

My thinking about game design has changed significantly over the years, since writing the original Death of the Level Designer series of articles. One of the key changes - guided a lot by games like Michael Brough’s 868-HACK - is that a game should embrace limitations, rather than attempt to design around them. So rather than creating procedural systems which can model everything ala Dwarf Fortress, there are real advantages in keeping games as limited as possible in order that the significance of individual procedural elements is emphasized, rather than smoothed over by a melange of inputs. My personal limitations are very much around algorithm implementation rather than design: for instance, while I have a good understanding of what a Voronoi diagram looks like and where it could be used, I’m unlikely to ever successfully reimplement anything but a brute force approach for calculating cell membership.

What new design questions has PCG posed for some game you worked on?

I’ve written extensively about this - refer to the writing on my blog post on Unangband’s dungeon generation and algorithmic monster placement for specific discoveries. Since then, UnBrogue includes very little original procedural content: I mostly plug new values into the well written framework that Brian Walker has developed for Brogue’s ‘machine’ rooms. These days I try to steer clear of actually designing procedural systems: my experience is that you can achieve a lot using a very simple set of algorithms, provided you choose your content carefully (see Darius Kazemi’s essay on Spelunky’s level generation for a great example of this).

Which is the most impressive example of procedural content generation you have seen since your own work?

I’d be hard pressed to ignore Miguel Cepero of Voxel Farm, who I’m sure a lot of people you interview will mention. While the above ground system looks great, it was his cave designs that won me over, after being a doubter. What really impresses me though is he’s developing all this while being the father of twins - I’m in the same position and I can never find the time...

What do you think of the fact that roguelikes have become a genre of their own? Is PCG in your opinion an essential part of what a roguelike is?

I’m going to quote Edmund McMillen here, since he made the definitive statement on why you should write a roguelike:

"The roguelike formula is an amazing design plan that isn't used much, mostly because its traditional designs rely on alienatingly complicated user interfaces. Once you crack the roguelike formula, however, it becomes an increasingly beautiful, deep, and everlasting design that allows you to generate a seemingly dynamic experience for players, so that each time they play your game they're getting a totally new adventure." -- http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/182380/Postmortem_McMillen_and_Himsls_The_Binding_of_Isaac.php

PCG is obviously an important part of this process, but it isn’t independent from the other roguelike genre features like permadeath. My hunch is that there are other ‘design plans’ out there that are waiting to be found that will feature PCG - in fact the majority will do, but we don’t necessarily know what they look like, or have the maturity of the medium (of PCG) to be able to discover them.

What's your tips for designing games that use PCG?

Keep your algorithms simple and choose your content carefully.

Do you have any interesting stories about PCG failures?

Not personally, since I’ve taken such a conservative approach to PCG algorithms.

In general, is there anything in a game you think could never be procedurally generated?

The specific quirks of the real world. I’m not saying that PCG can’t create something like the real world: I expect the depth required to make a world ‘completely convincing’ is actually more shallow than most PCG ‘haters’ realize - but ultimately, when it comes to simulation, the fact that we exist at a specific time and place in a continuum of choices and random events is something that PCG can only hold a mirror up to. Hand placed design will always be needed if you want to model history - PCG will overtake hand placed design for ‘fantasy worlds’ in the not too distant future.

[Edit to add: I also think the trend to 'single map games' like DotA 2, and e.g. de_dust2 in Counter Strike may also provide an impediment.]

Why is PCG not used more?

PCG is a language that requires a level of literacy to understand. We’re not effectively teaching this language yet, but we’re not effectively teaching the language of game design in general either. Also, it is often more expensive than hand placed content, because a PCG algorithm which is only 90% complete can not create anything useful, whereas 90% accurate hand placed content is clearly 9/10ths done. It's hard to describe working with PCG this way, but there’s almost a phase change between when a PCG algorithm just creates junk, and when it starts producing beautiful results, and it can be very hard to tune it to reach this state.

What do you see as current directions for PCG that are worth investigating?

There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening on the academic side - getting this to percolate over to game development is going to be the real challenge.