Game-related ramblings.

Tag: Roguelike-like Page 1 of 2

The Name Game: Rebranding The Roguelike

As always, you can click on images to view larger versions.

What’s this? A Name Game post that’s actually serious? Indeed it is, but never fear, the Name Game will return to making fun of silly game names soon enough. Right now, however, the Name Game’s name-related talents are needed for something near and dear to this blog’s heart. I am speaking, of course, of the roguelike.

(If you are unfamiliar with roguelikes, you should read my introduction to the genre, and perhaps a few of the roguelike highlights that have appeared on this blog)

I recently read an interesting article (although the article itself is not recent!) arguing that the term “roguelike” is a rather poor one. It takes a genre of games and describes it entirely by its similarity to an earlier game, which is restrictive and often, to varying degrees, inaccurate. I find I agree with this reasoning, especially in light of the new and popular crop of games which borrow design elements from traditional roguelikes and expand them into new and interesting areas. I’ve used the term roguelike-like here on this blog mostly because I think it’s funny, but the reason it’s funny is it emphasizes the inherent absurdity of the original roguelike term.

Perhaps a new name is needed, then. Well, here at the Name Game, names are literally our game. We’ve got this.

Roguelike Updates: Let It Whip

As always, you can click on images to view larger versions.

It’s been a long time since my last Roguelike Updates post. Actually it’s been a while since I posted anything. I am running behind.

The biggest recent roguelike news (technically roguelike-like news) is that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, a remake/expansion of The Binding of Isaac, has been released. But I haven’t played it yet. I haven’t even bought it yet. That is how behind I am. What I have played, however, is the latest version of Brogue (v.1.7.4), which adds many things, including whips.

Roguelike Updates: New Crawlers and Redder Rogues

Readers who are unfamiliar with rogulikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre, or some of my Roguelike Highlights posts. Also remember that you can click on images to view larger versions.

One of the two updated roguelikes I’ve been playing is somewhat timely: Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup reached v0.14 a mere three weeks ago (and is now on v0.14.1 with some bugfixes). The other is not: Red Rogue (which is actually a roguelike-like) reached v1.0.3 over a year ago (and I even mentioned it an an earlier Roguelike Updates post), but I hadn’t gone back to try it until recently. And then I found myself drawn in once more, playing it far more than I expected and being impressed all over again. I decided it was worth adding to my original post about Red Rogue with my more recent thoughts on the game.

Read on for details on these two, plus a run-down of other updated roguelikes.

Going The Distance In FTL

I’ve written about FTL before, and if you’re unfamiliar with the game you should probably read that post first. Here, I’m assuming readers have at least a passing knowledge of the game.

Back when I first wrote about FTL, over a year ago, I didn’t think I’d stick with it that long. In fact, my exact words were:

Still, I don’t think FTL will keep me hooked as long as some more involved roguelikes (and roguelike-likes), but its simplicity is really where it shines. It’s easy to learn, and offers just enough options to make multiple plays interesting and fun. It may become frustrating to have to unlock each ship, depending on what’s required, but even with just the two I have I can easily see myself jumping in for quick games or extended sessions well into the future.

Turns out my fears about FTL’s staying power were completely unfounded. I’ve gone back to FTL regularly in the last year, in my quest to unlock more ships (and alternate layouts for the ones I already have), and I’ve learned that FTL is actually a lot deeper than it seemed at first. With developers Subset Games announcing a free expansion to be released soon, I decided it was high time to write about why I keep going back.

Spelunky Is Now Out On PC

I’ve been busy (read: not playing games), so I haven’t been posting very often. But this is important. Diligent readers will remember that the original freeware version of Spelunky is my absolute favorite roguelike-like (i.e. games that borrow elements from roguelike design and combine them with other gameplay styles). Creator Derek Yu then went on to make a spiffy HD version that spent some time as an Xbox exclusive. Especially diligent readers may remember that I posted about that release too, and even promised to let you all know when it would come out on PC. Well, now I am keeping that promise. The fancy new version of Spelunky is available on PC right now, from Steam or GOG. In addition to the fancy new graphics pictured above (I totally stole that comparison shot from the Spelunky website, but I don’t think they’ll mind), there are new enemies, items, multiplayer modes, and probably a bunch of other stuff I don’t know about. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but I will, and you should too.

If you’re undecided, the original version is still available for free and will give you a good sense of whether you want to buy the shiny new version. Happy spelunking!

Roguelike-like: Red Rogue

Things are about to get violent.

Readers unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre first.

I first heard about Red Rogue a few years ago, when its author, Aaron Steed, began a development log forum thread on Tigsource. Soon there was a playable build which I had some fun messing around with, but I didn’t stick with it for very long. Flash forward to last week, when out of the blue I saw the news that the game is now complete. So I decided to take another look. And my, it’s a lot more interesting now, enough so that I kept playing it instead of writing this post (apologies for the tardiness) and I imagine I’ll keep playing it for some time.

So what is Red Rogue? It’s a roguelike platformer. If you’re like me, that immediately makes you think of Spelunky, which I’ve written about before (it’s excellent, by the way, and you should definitely go play it). But while Spelunky is a platformer that borrows a bunch of roguelike elements in its design, Red Rogue is more of a roguelike re-imagined as a platformer. While exploring its procedurally-generated levels, you will find, identify and equip weapons and armor, you will walk into enemies to attack them, you will search for traps and secret passages, and you will slowly learn more about the dungeon and the rules that govern it.

Oh, and you’ll die a lot.

Behind The Times: Torchlight

Please note that, like always, you can click on the screenshots for bigger versions.

I originally intended to finish playing Torchlight in time for the release of Torchlight 2. Then I injured my wrist, and since Torchlight is a 2-handed game, I had to take a break and play other things. Now, I’ve gone back and finally finished it.

Before I start, a little history: I’ve written many posts on roguelikes, and several more on roguelike-likes, games that borrow design elements from roguelikes and fuse them into other gameplay styles. But the most famous roguelike-like was Blizzard’s 1996 game Diablo. Diablo took the dungeon-crawl premise of most roguelikes — complete with procedurally generated floors, hordes of enemies to fight, and heaps of randomized loot to find — and fused it with a fast-paced real-time combat system. While Diablo did not feature perma-death like most roguelikes, where dying meant starting the whole game over, it did offer serious consequences for failure: there was no manual save system, with the game instead saving automatically when quitting, so it was never possible to reload an old game to reverse a mistake. Dying meant respawning in town without any of your stuff, and having to make a dangerous run to your corpse to recover it. This kept the tense feel of a roguelike without punishing the player too harshly for not having clicked on an enemy quickly enough. [EDIT: Diablo II did feature an optional “hardcore” mode with permadeath — thanks to jefequeso for pointing this out.]

Diablo was an instant hit, spawning its own genre known as the action role-playing game (abbreviated to action-RPG or ARPG). Today, nearly all role-playing games are called action-RPGs because they tend to feature real-time combat systems that play out similarly to action games, but back in 1996 the term applied exclusively to Diablo clones. And there were many, although none managed to unseat the Diablo series as the leader of the genre. Torchlight is a more recent Diablo clone, and has the distinction of being developed by some of the same people who worked on Diablo and Diablo II. While I enjoyed the Diablo games (mostly having played the second), I was never that interested in their dark, demon-filled world. Torchlight’s colorful locales were much more enticing.

Roguelike-like: FTL

Readers who are unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction on the subject first.

It seems that everyone in the world is playing FTL. It’s one of the first Kickstarter games to be finished (although it was already under development before its Kickstarter campaign), and it’s captured everyone’s imagination. It’s easy to see why: a spaceship management game, which has the player shunting power to different systems and frantically ordering crew-members to put out fires, all while making Faster Than Light (FTL, get it?) jumps to escape the rebel fleet, is something we don’t usually see. The roguelike elements — the randomized encounters and brutal difficulty that force the player to try and try again — seal the deal. Best of all, it can easily be played with one hand, being almost entirely mouse-controlled. The only key needed is the spacebar, for pausing the action to issue orders, and if you’re like me you even go to the trouble of mapping that to a spare button on the mouse [EDIT: I had to use my programmable mouse to do this; the game does not actually allow for remapping controls] for a true one-handed experience (if you’re not like me, it’s OK; reaching over to the spacebar with one hand is still very easy).

Most who have written about FTL focus on the great player-generated stories it facilitates. Here’s one example; here’s another. Since I’ve already done that extensively for my favorite roguelike, I won’t take that approach here. Instead I’m going to talk about FTL’s design, and why I think it works so well.

Roguelike-like: The Binding of Isaac

I’d heard quite a lot about The Binding of Isaac, but hadn’t had a chance to try it until recently. It’s a sort of mash-up of the dungeons from The Legend of Zelda with the independent moving and shooting controls of Robotron or Smash TV, spiced up with a lot of roguelike elements including procedurally generated levels and permadeath. And it’s made by Edmund McMillen, one half of Team Meat, the developers responsible for the rather excellent (and super-hard) platformer Super Meat Boy. So far, it sounds great to me.

The Binding of Isaac is also inspired by the biblical story of the same name, in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. And this isn’t a vague inspiration; the opening animation of the game explicitly shows Issac’s mother (referred to as “Mom”) receiving commands from God to first imprison and then kill her son Isaac. Terrified, Isaac finds a trapdoor to the basement and flees through it, landing in a bizarre dungeon populated by monstrously deformed enemies that one presumes to be Isaac’s former siblings. It’s all quite gruesome, in fact. Isaac begins by attacking enemies with his tears, but they can be upgraded to… other bodily fluids, and the enemies present a sort of grotesque menagerie of biological horrors.

Many players will be turned off by the, shall we say, “unorthodox” religious references, or the disgusting imagery, or both. I admit that the latter diminished my interest somewhat. But it turns out that The Binding of Isaac is a surprisingly deep and polished game, and while its themes may be offensive to some, they’re not just there for shock value.

Roguelike-like: Decker

There are some who consider Decker to be a true roguelike, but I found it played so differently to traditional roguelikes that I hesitate to call it one, exactly. But it certainly draws inspiration from roguelikes, and the end result is quite interesting.

You see, Decker is a game about hacking. Not hacking and slashing, as most roguelikes are, but hacking as in breaking into computer systems and stealing files. Drawing heavy inspiration from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, it casts the player as the titular Decker, a 22nd century hacker who is contracted to cruise through the virtual reality of the Matrix and steal valuable data. It lets you lead a dangerous but alluring life of corporate espionage and high-tech gadgetry. Well, eventually. In the beginning you are living in poverty, have a bare-bones cyberdeck (read: futuristic computer used for hacking purposes), and can only get a job breaking into the local Radioshack computer system to reset someone’s sick days, or something. A smart Decker doesn’t ask for the details. As you gain cash and a reputation, however, more meaty jobs start to appear, and you can upgrade your hardware and software to tackle some higher-security systems. This is the first and most obvious way that Decker differs from traditional roguelikes: rather than exploring a single dungeon or world, the player will tackle many different procedurally-generated computer systems, connected by an overarching time management game that lets one divide time between writing new programs, resting to recover from injury (yes, you can be physically injured when you’re jacked into cyberspace), or completing contracts in order to make rent at the end of the month.

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