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What makes a roguelike fun?

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What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby CommanderData » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:41 pm

Well, its been a few days so it's about time for some new ramblings from me! :lol:

As I have been mired up in "day-job" work for a bit, I've had some time while driving across a few states to contemplate the direction that my new game is headed, and what I can do about the fun-factor.

I don't want this to become simply "Rogue Touch" with great graphics and animated attacks. And yet as I spend new money weekly on artwork I worry that it might end up becoming exactly that (or at least seen as that). Not that I am going to throw this all away and strip it back down to cardboard cutouts again... but a new look is only part of the package.

People have different ideas of fun, and a lot of people have certain things that they hated about Rogue Touch. It may be good to start on some of the things that have been identified as "not fun". Here are some comments from people over the last year:
1) Searching for secret doors is NOT fun.
2) Starving to death is NOT fun.
3) Traps are NOT fun.
4) Similar dungeon layouts are NOT fun.
5) Semi-permanent status modifiers are NOT fun... Rattlesnakes, Aquators, etc.
6) Permadeath is NOT fun.

I can try to address these a bit in turn...
1) Searching. If things were much easier to find, like 80-100% chance of finding the door on your first search, would it be more fun? Honestly I don't think so, it is still a hassle to walk along walls, pressing the search button every other step in hopes of finding a way forward. Maybe if progress could be slowed in other ways? A locked door and a key or lever elsewhere in the level? Maybe progress does not need to be slowed at all. Let the player dive quickly if they want, and die if not properly equipped.

2) Starving. There needs to be a certain constraint in place to prevent you sitting in a quiet corner and resting back to full health after every fight. Food serves the purpose of driving you forward. Must hunt for food to survive! I agree the random fainting can get really aggravating though. What is required is a reason to keep moving that makes you want to go forward, but is not so damned annoying when you accidentally run low on food due to random chance.

3) Traps. Randomly placed traps may make sense as a way to hamper an adventurer's progress in your dungeon, but I can see how they can be annoying too. Maybe the biggest complaint of all is, "why don't the monsters fall for them too?"... In Rogue Touch, they do not because the original Rogue was designed that way, and I wanted to stay true to that as much as I could. What if there was a more obvious risk-reward with traps? Say that all your treasure was found in chests, and the majority of these chests have traps armed on them? You want the loot, you need to take a chance. What if traps were found in the dungeon, but they were not so random? Maybe more obvious traps like a flamethrower in a wall that blasts anything trying to walk by (you can see the flame in the rock, giving it away) and you need to find the lever to disarm it, or otherwise avoid it. What if you could SET TRAPS yourself, and have monsters trigger them?

4) Dungeon Layouts. Ok, so Rogue never had amazing dungeon design. They were always unique, but the pattern is similar every time. A 3x3 grid of areas, all or some of them containing rooms (or mazes deeper in the game), interconnected by hallways. Each wall of a room only has one door. I nailed the layout generation in Rogue Touch to match. Ok, so that is probably the easiest to fix from my point of view in this new game. I have a handful of different tilesets, so you are not always looking at the same background. Better still, have different layout rules based on these areas. Some of them may have simple grid layouts, others may be more oddly carved out of rock... caves for example.

5) Status modifiers. Getting bit by a Rattlesnake for the 5th time, or rusting your armor down to -5 with an Aquator or rust trap does suck. But without these types of "gotchas" to make them unique every monster becomes a generic sack of hit points with teeth. Maybe a compromise, where most status modifiers are temporary and wear off on their own so you don't have to pray the random generator will give you that "Potion of Restore Strength"... Say you lose EVEN MORE strength from a rattlesnake bite, but you get better roughly 100 turns later? Or maybe you get tangled in a large spider web which hampers you movements (agility) and reduces your effective "armor class" because you can't dodge as well. After a number of turns the webbing is broken down and your agility returns to normal. Of course there would be new types of trouble to get into, but most of them would wear off on their own given enough time.

6) Permadeath. This is probably the thing that pisses off the most people who are not familiar with roguelikes. It is a very necessary component of the game though, and cannot be eliminated. There is the possibility of finding or purchasing a one-shot use item that brings you back to life, maybe with reduced stats. There is also another idea I am working on, based on Shiren the Wanderer gameplay- the ability to carry over an item or items into the next game. Shiren has the storehouse and storehouse jar method (as well as couriers that will run an item back to storage for you). I'm thinking something a bit different, but it would likely take some of the sting out of starting over for people new to the genre.


OK, so these are some major topics and some possible solutions to make things more "fun" to some, while retaining the roguelike aspects and appeal that make things more "fun" to us hardcore types. Your opinions on these topics are welcome! :ugeek:

Does anyone care to share their thoughts on what would make a roguelike more fun? It can be any wild idea you have, since we are not constrained to Rogue, Nethack, and the likes. Please share with me and the group, and if I can make it fit, I will! :mrgreen:
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby JustinFic » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:42 pm

Hi, first time poster, big fan of Roguelikes and Rogue Touch. Saw you ask for comments on Twitter and wanted to chime in :)

CommanderData wrote:1) Searching for secret doors is NOT fun.


Instead of searching being a one-time action that reveals secret doors, perhaps have it be a mode that can be toggled on/off. When on, every step taken automatically searches around the player. (It could even have a radius, so secrets are discovered with 50% chance 1 step away, 25% chance 2 steps away, and so on.) There would be a penalty for having search mode on. For instance, monsters could have 2 moves per player move, or your armor class is reduced greatly (since you're spending your time searching nooks and crannies and not keeping your guard up.)

CommanderData wrote:2) Starving to death is NOT fun.


You could have health regeneration only be active if the player is fed. If the player becomes hungry, the rate of HP regen is halved. If starving, 25%. When food bottoms out completely, HP regen is at zero. So a starving player doesn't die immediately, but dies gradually as his/her HP slowly stops regenerating.

CommanderData wrote:3) Traps are NOT fun.


Being able to set traps yourself and lure monsters into them is a great idea, and would add an element of strategy in that you would play a little Daleks-type game to get the monsters into your trap, giving you an advantage.

Against hostile traps, having more chances to detect/disarm traps I think would be sufficient. Search Mode could reveal traps. In addition, revealed traps that you walk over in search mode could be disarmed (with a small chance of setting it off, of course.) Disarmed traps could even be given to the player as an item (along with a little XP), so they can set it back up as a friendly trap.

CommanderData wrote:4) Similar dungeon layouts are NOT fun.


Different algorithms for different tilesets is a good idea and would add a lot. For instance forests wouldn't use the room-hallway-room algo, but instead have much more open areas dotted with trees. Within each tileset, having a few different room types would add a lot too. So on top of the different algorithm, a cave might have a room type that is a vast underground lake. Each tileset could have certain types of enemies as well (crypt levels could be very undead-heavy, while forests have mainly wild animals.)

CommanderData wrote:5) Semi-permanent status modifiers are NOT fun... Rattlesnakes, Aquators, etc.


Having them wear off after a long time like you said would solve that, and allow you to make the penalties a little nastier. Also consider to have the effects not stack. For instance an Aquator hit damages your armor and it reduces its AC by 3 for 100 turns, but getting hit again won't cause it to be reduced a second time until the first one wears off.

CommanderData wrote:6) Permadeath is NOT fun.


Being able to hand down a few items as heirlooms to subsequent characters would be cool. Permadeath is kind of the pull of Roguelikes, but you can use it to give the next character a bit of a boost so you don't feel like you have to start completely over when you die. Perhaps items the player feels can be spared can be put into the storage, and new players can choose a number of items from that storage when they begin. (Haven't played Shiren, so my bad if that's exactly how it works!)

This could also add an element to the end-game when players know they're in danger of dying, as they could search out the storage locations and try to get some important items into it before they croak. Kind of like making sure you set up a living will so the state doesn't take all your possessions when you die!

Anyway, those are just some thoughts from a fellow designer and roguelike fan. Feel free to use/reject as you see fit!
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby kennfusion » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:20 pm

Hi CD!

As you have seen me post in the past, I have been primarily an Angband and Zangband player over the years, so keep that in mind when I comment on this post.

Searching, Food, Status Effects, Limited Inventory and Encumbrance rules all work toward the same purpose....making choices.

If I spend too much time searching, my food runs out, or I have to carry a lot of food which means I carry more weight and possibly different types of food found in the dungeon, taking up limited inventory spaces that might be needed for protective items to help me prevent perm status effects or potions that might heal perm status effects, all taking more weight and more inventory space.

Zangband had I think 25 status effects, all with some item based status protection counter. Often you had 3 or 4 different types of food on you. You could stack scrolls of sustenance, but they were vulnerable to fire aoe attacks. And so on.

Artifacts were put in to balance this. But then you still had to decide on say a Helm of +2 damage/free action/prot from fire or the Helm of +2 damage/searching/prot from cold. It depended on what was on all of your other gear.

If your new game is much more focused on time management, like a rogue-like, than you don't need all of those. But if it is more like a Band or Shiren, then it is much more about inventory management.
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby ejfarraro » Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:05 pm

My perspective is someone who played and enjoyed Rogue Touch, but generally does not like Rogue games. I prefer loot-centric games like Diablo and WoW.

1) Searching for secret doors is NOT fun.
Agreed, this was one my complaints. Exploring is one thing, spamming search button and I trace the walls is not. I don't think it's a great fit for a Rogue game but just to throw it out there, Monster's Den, a Flash game, had a pretty interesting system http://www.kongregate.com/games/garin/m ... k-of-dread It has a series of interconnecting rooms, and you just tap the one you want to go to. If there is a monster there, you must fight it. Another idea would be that so long as there were monsters in the room, rooms would be hidden as they are now. However, once you are 'out of combat', the doors appear for some reason.

2) Starving to death is NOT fun.
It's not, but at least in the versions of RT I played, this was never a major issue for me. Some players may prefer a timer of sorts, which achieves the same effect but perhaps doesn't feel so 'unfair'. You'd be able to collect 'sand of time' instead of hourglasses to extend your time, or maybe reaching a new floor adds to the timer.

3) Traps are NOT fun.
I don't remember these very well in RT.

4) Similar dungeon layouts are NOT fun.
No comment, not really a major issue for me.

5) Semi-permanent status modifiers are NOT fun... Rattlesnakes, Aquators, etc.
The problem I had with status modifiers is that due to the randomness of Rogue, it is very likely that certain status modifiers would basically ruin your run, and there was no way to recover. I'm all about trade-offs, so it would be nice if there were an easier way to reliably remove these effects but at a cost of something else. Maybe you could pray at shrines to remove effects, but it would cost money or health (I think Fargoal had something like this). In most games, status effects are an annoyance, but avoidable if you stock the right potions. In Rogue, an Aquator is like getting cancer. It won't kill you on the spot but you've often ruined your run by then.

6) Permadeath is NOT fun.
I feel like it's an essential part of a Rogue like, but it's also something that prevents new players from getting into it. I think you mentioned that in your new project, players would be able to carry some equipment through death, so I think that would be a big win in my mind.
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby iCarbon » Sun Feb 14, 2010 2:17 am

I might make a suggestion for searching -- what if you could just choose to search a room -- your character starts moving quickly around searching for whatever you want; if a creature wanders into the character's awareness, the search stops instantly, but in the meantime, a 5 second animation where you search and find or don't find things in all walls in a room would be a simplifying thing that might make people happier.

of course, I don't mind the searching in RT. but that might be an alternative.
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby JonathanCR » Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:56 am

What is it that makes any game of this rough kind fun? One major thing, I think:

*Having real choices that make sense and which reward/penalise you according to what you choose.*

The development of the PC in a standard RPG is the classic example. When you go up a level, you must choose which stats to improve, and perhaps which skills to acquire if there is a skill tree or similar. Your choices will determine, to some extent, the way the game plays out after that: if all your points have gone into intelligence and spell-casting, then you must accept that you won't be able to use the Sword of Bloody Decapitation that you find in a chest, and that the mind-draining megalich will harm you disproportionately. But that is OK, because these are consequences of your own choices.

Conversely, what isn't fun is when bad things happen to you *that aren't a consequence of your own choices*. Random-placed invisible traps are the classic example of this, because if you happen to walk into one it's utterly not your own fault. Usually this is a minor annoyance, but if it kills you or weakens you in the middle of a critical battle - well, that isn't fun except to the most iron of ironmen.

A good game is one that presents the player with a set of logical rules - perhaps explicit, perhaps not - and lets the player make the choices she wants within the system that those rules describe, and then shows the player the consequences of these choices. When something bad happens while playing a good game, the player will blame herself for making a stupid choice, not the game for unfairly pulling out a random catastrophe.

So I think the way to approach the game features mentioned is in this way. Are these fair things that open up new choices for the player and reward or penalise her accordingly? If so, good. If not, can they be changed to match this ideal?

A secondary criterion is what we might call the grinding problem: sometimes it is clear what choices are the right ones, but the behaviour they entail isn't fun. I think it is less easy to determine what sort of things are fun, though.

1) Searching. If things were much easier to find, like 80-100% chance of finding the door on your first search, would it be more fun? Honestly I don't think so, it is still a hassle to walk along walls, pressing the search button every other step in hopes of finding a way forward. Maybe if progress could be slowed in other ways? A locked door and a key or lever elsewhere in the level? Maybe progress does not need to be slowed at all. Let the player dive quickly if they want, and die if not properly equipped.


Right, searching is a pain. This is problematic from the point of view of both of the issues I identified, the problem of choices and the problem of grinding. In Rogue you have to search or you can't progress, because the stairs to the next level are frequently in a part of the dungeon that's behind a secret door. Often you find yourself in a room with no apparent exits and are forced to search to get anywhere at all. Moreover, searching is dull and awkward (alternating key presses in a way that is not only tedious but often becomes so mechanical that when you do find a door, and something nasty leaps out of it, your character responds by continuing to search for a few turns until you realise what's going on).

I think a possible solution to this would be to make only non-vital areas of the dungeon hidden behind secret doors. So, for example, a secret door might lead to a small room with some treasure in it. But a secret door would never cut off the route out of the level. That way, a player can choose to search for secret doors or not, as she sees fit. Choosing to search will yield rewards in the form of extra treasure or whatever, and choosing not to search will result in finding fewer of these things (but making faster progress), but the point is that the choice is really down to the player and is not imposed by the level design.

2) Starving. There needs to be a certain constraint in place to prevent you sitting in a quiet corner and resting back to full health after every fight. Food serves the purpose of driving you forward. Must hunt for food to survive! I agree the random fainting can get really aggravating though. What is required is a reason to keep moving that makes you want to go forward, but is not so damned annoying when you accidentally run low on food due to random chance.


I was going to say that the traditional answer of health potions is a good alternative - don't have automatic regeneration, but force the player to use a resource to heal after a battle. Then she has to choose whether to heal or not; there's no obvious answer of sitting in a corner regenerating, but you also avoid killing people through starvation. But then I saw:

You could have health regeneration only be active if the player is fed. If the player becomes hungry, the rate of HP regen is halved. If starving, 25%. When food bottoms out completely, HP regen is at zero. So a starving player doesn't die immediately, but dies gradually as his/her HP slowly stops regenerating.


I think this is a genius idea. Being well fed is important, but if you run out of food, it just means you have to be careful with HP (and perhaps resort to the health potions system) and you don't have the annoying fainting.

3) Traps. Randomly placed traps may make sense as a way to hamper an adventurer's progress in your dungeon, but I can see how they can be annoying too. Maybe the biggest complaint of all is, "why don't the monsters fall for them too?"... In Rogue Touch, they do not because the original Rogue was designed that way, and I wanted to stay true to that as much as I could. What if there was a more obvious risk-reward with traps? Say that all your treasure was found in chests, and the majority of these chests have traps armed on them? You want the loot, you need to take a chance. What if traps were found in the dungeon, but they were not so random? Maybe more obvious traps like a flamethrower in a wall that blasts anything trying to walk by (you can see the flame in the rock, giving it away) and you need to find the lever to disarm it, or otherwise avoid it. What if you could SET TRAPS yourself, and have monsters trigger them?


Traps are quite horrible really. I think confining traps to items (not just chests - you can also, of course, have poisonous potions, cursed weapons, etc.) is a good solution. The player always has the choice of whether to open or use the item; if there's a nasty trap, well, she chose to take that risk. On the other hand, confining traps to chests is still a bit unfair if all loot is in chests. That effectively forces the player to look in chests at least some of the time. I'd have loot both in and out of chests; that way the cautious player still gets some, but has the option of opening chests when she feels brave, tough, or needy.

The idea of setting traps suggests another option, which is to make all traps character-set. I mean set by both the PC and the monsters. In Rogue, traps are utterly random. A trap of any kind might be anywhere. But what if, instead, a trap is there because a certain monster has set it? For example, a goblin lair might have a simple spike trap set up outside it. Or a spider might have placed a deadly web trap of some kind. The monsters could be programmed to move around setting traps, or perhaps the level generator would automatically place appropriate traps near appropriate monsters. This isn't an ideal solution, since traps are still sprung in a way that doesn't reflect the choice of the player. However, they would seem less arbitrary. The trap is really part of the monster's attack rather than an independent, unfair dungeon element. Moreover, the player will know to watch out for traps if she knows the monster is nearby. Best of all, there might be clues to the presence of a monster of a particular type. E.g. bones might indicate some savage predator, daubs on the wall might indicate a goblin lair, etc. The seasoned adventurer will know to expect traps of a certain kind. In fact hints that a particular kind of monster is nearby would also remove the randomness of entering a room and finding God knows what in there, which can also feel unfair. The player can choose to go that way or not, alerted by the clues.

5) Status modifiers. Getting bit by a Rattlesnake for the 5th time, or rusting your armor down to -5 with an Aquator or rust trap does suck. But without these types of "gotchas" to make them unique every monster becomes a generic sack of hit points with teeth. Maybe a compromise, where most status modifiers are temporary and wear off on their own so you don't have to pray the random generator will give you that "Potion of Restore Strength"... Say you lose EVEN MORE strength from a rattlesnake bite, but you get better roughly 100 turns later? Or maybe you get tangled in a large spider web which hampers you movements (agility) and reduces your effective "armor class" because you can't dodge as well. After a number of turns the webbing is broken down and your agility returns to normal. Of course there would be new types of trouble to get into, but most of them would wear off on their own given enough time.


Yes, I think making these things temporary is really the way to go. Otherwise, as you say, it's just a matter of hoping that the random loot generator will favour you, and this is poor game design because, again, it's not about the choices of the player.

As a general principle, I really do think that having difficulty settings can solve a lot of these problems, or at least alleviate them, in a simple way that also gives the player more choice. For example, if you keep a classic Rogue trap system, you can just make them optional. Perhaps there could be a number of difficulty settings, each one adding an extra "feature" such as traps, stat reduction, hunger, etc. One possibility is to include these features in all of the difficulty settings, but with different levels of severity (e.g. only a few traps in Easy, lots in Hard). But I don't think that is ideal, because the aim here is to give the choice to the player. If traps (say) are still present in Easy, but there are only a few of them, it will still happen that a player will get killed unexpectedly by one when playing Easy - it just won't happen so often. When it does happen, it will be even more annoying. This is supposed to be Easy! I think that removing them entirely from the easier settings and adding them entirely in the harder ones is better. This is because then it really is up to the player whether they are included at all. At Easy, the player won't encounter them at all. No problem. At Hard, the player will encounter them, and may get annoyingly killed by them, but will still know that it was her choice to play with traps enabled. And so on for all the other features too.

This is quite apart from the fact that having difficulty levels of this kind obviously extends the game's playability by encouraging those who have beaten it on the Easy settings to try again on Hard.
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby Nighthawk » Wed Feb 17, 2010 12:47 am

JonathanCR wrote:As a general principle, I really do think that having difficulty settings can solve a lot of these problems, or at least alleviate them, in a simple way that also gives the player more choice. For example, if you keep a classic Rogue trap system, you can just make them optional. Perhaps there could be a number of difficulty settings, each one adding an extra "feature" such as traps, stat reduction, hunger, etc. One possibility is to include these features in all of the difficulty settings, but with different levels of severity (e.g. only a few traps in Easy, lots in Hard). But I don't think that is ideal, because the aim here is to give the choice to the player. If traps (say) are still present in Easy, but there are only a few of them, it will still happen that a player will get killed unexpectedly by one when playing Easy - it just won't happen so often. When it does happen, it will be even more annoying. This is supposed to be Easy! I think that removing them entirely from the easier settings and adding them entirely in the harder ones is better. This is because then it really is up to the player whether they are included at all. At Easy, the player won't encounter them at all. No problem. At Hard, the player will encounter them, and may get annoyingly killed by them, but will still know that it was her choice to play with traps enabled. And so on for all the other features too.

This is quite apart from the fact that having difficulty levels of this kind obviously extends the game's playability by encouraging those who have beaten it on the Easy settings to try again on Hard.


Extending this line of thinking even further, many Rogue-likes not only have some kind of ultimate item to quest for, but a scoring system of some kind by which to measure just how epic your run really was. Make each of the "annoying" things (traps, permadeath, hunger/starvation, cursed items, etc.) a check-box + slider: do you want the feature or not, and how much. Then create a multiplier mechanism that scales the player's final score to how difficult the run was. Have presets for Easy, Medium, Hard, Classic (just like the original Rogue, or as close a possible to it), etc. Scoring should of course favor runs that actually complete the objective (safely retrieving the quest item).

A poor metaphor, but think about the "sport" of diving. I'm attempting a blah-blah-blah dive that has a difficulty of X, and how well did I do. Differentiation should be made for comparing "dives" that were successful and those that were not.
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby CommanderData » Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:48 pm

Wow, this is why I love you guys ( purely in a developer-gamer relationship of course, otherwise it'd be all weird :D )

This is turning into a great topic on what can be done to stand apart from the roguelike crowd, pleasing new gamers and veterans alike. I plan on reviewing and responding if necessary to each of these comments. Already I can see there's enough meat here that I need to rethink things and make a few more alterations to the design of the new game.

More details coming soon! :mrgreen:
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby johndramey » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:30 am

Well figured I'd pop in here and try to put my 2 cents in. Honestly if you want to know what makes a rogue like fun for me, it's going to be a long post. I'll try to keep it sort of organized and coherent, but please forgive me if I come across as bumble brained. It's 10:30 at night and I woke up at 7am this morning (Ugh I can remember a time when that didn't seem so bad).

Roguelikes to me are really pretty much the best, most pure form of RPG gaming out there (well, short of actually playing D&D). Really pretty much every decision you make in a roguelike is an important one, from something as simple as testing out a potion to descending the stairs. They are also games that can be played at any pace, and really at any level. And lastly, they are really pretty much "clean slates" in terms of characterization. That's why Rogue Touch, even after buying close to $300 in other apps, is still my most played app.

The importance of decisions that you put into your character are a thousand times larger than just choosing what skill you want to spend your points in (ala Diablo 1/2). The simple action of trying on a new set of armor can have very serious consequences for your character. Some people are really open to the risks that this opens for your character and are willing to take chances. Some people are not. Do you want to risk your character for this new set of plate mail that you just found on the floor on dungeon level 19? If you are like me you'll say no and stick with your +4 banded mail. Sure the plate may be better, but then again it could be cursed. Same goes for everything from weapons to scrolls. I tend to play a very conservative game. I don't start testing out scrolls until I've found a replacement weapon and suit of armor that I want to stick with. If below dungeon level 15 or so I tend not to try out anything new. I don't want to risk my equipment (curses), IDs (scrolls of amnesia), Strength (Potions of poison), or character when I'm at that level. Sure I'm probably missing out on a whole host of good things, but I'm also probably missing out on a butt load of bad things. Something as simple as how daring you are with your character changes how you play a roguelike.

Another thing that effects how you play a roguelike is the turn system. I really honestly love the option that you have with a roguelike. With any roguelike out there you can play it for 1 minute of 10 hours at a stretch. Since they are turn based games that are based on a pretty simple objective (e.g. return with an amulet) you can put down your character for a month and come back to it if you need to. As I get older I find myself becoming a much more "casual" gamer. I don't have the time to sit down for hours at a time and play an in depth game. Roguelikes offer the same kind of immersion and gameplay that games like Mass Effect 2, Elder Scrolls Oblivion, or Baldur's Gate offer but without the downsides. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but give me a second to explain. I can personally attach with my character as much, if not more, in roguelikes as in those "big budget" games. I'm not a hard core purist, I actually like tilesets and modern takes on the roguelike genre, but the barebones gameplay is the huge draw for me in roguelikes. This brings me to my last point, which is.....

Characters, characters, characters. Roguelikes combine all the awesome "beat my high score"ness of arcade games with the immersion of an RPG. Can I take "Bill Blinton" deeper than I took "Adolfin Hitter"? When you start a new character in a roguelike you are getting a clean slate that is yours to design. Unlike other RPGs with their new fangled skill trees, attributes, quests, and feats, a roguelike is just you and your PC. You're not interacting with NPCs (well some roguelikes have them but they are usually very minimal), you're not following a "build" for the perfect character, you are only surviving. You can have items that you prefer to use, but who knows if you will get them. You are forced to use the things that you are able to scrounge from the RNG. If I had the option I would love to have all my characters decked out with a set off rustproof armor (whether by ring or scroll) by around dungeon level 9. I would also love to have a nice weapon. Hell, toss me a vorpalize weapon scroll while you are at it. Will I get these things? Probably not. Honestly I probably get one of these things a game most of the time. It doesn't really effect the survivability of my character. After all the time I've played roguelikes I still usually only get to dungeon level 15. The deepest I manage with any regularity is like level 20. This is pretty much regardless of the items I get. And honestly the tension really cranks up when you are frantically running away from aquators and throwing daggers at them. Desperately trying to keep them away from your -2 scale mail. Basically my point is you are really forced to play a roguelike different each time you play it. There is no ability to have a list of "builds" that most players will use, the RNG simply won't allow it.

Now that I finished my dissertation on roguelikes I'll move on to giving you some feedback on your points.


CommanderData wrote:1) Searching for secret doors is NOT fun.

While it might not be fun, it's really not that important. I think I've only ever had to search for the exit stairs once every five or six games. It doesn't come around all that often, but when it does it can be a bitch. Especially when you are running low on food rations/mushrooms. I think secret doors should be in roguelikes, but not in the volume they currently are. I'm no engineer, but I'd imagine the amount of work that would go into creating a truly secret door would be staggering. Secret doors should really be quite difficult to find, but the pay off should be much higher.

In Rogue Touch (which is Rogue) for instance there seems to be 2-5 secret doors per floor. If there is someway to implement a more rewarding system into the RNG it would be nice to see the number drop to 1 secret door ever 2-5 floors. Have that secret door be in a non-obvious place, and have it lead to a treasure room. You could even make the secret treasure rooms deadly. I mean what makes better sense then having your best loot secreted away into a small alcove that is well hidden and filled with dangerous traps/magical creatures? I'm no developer so I don't know the feasibility of this system. I don't know if there is some way to program the RNG to place secret doors into a random place and have them lead to an area that is not "on the grid" so to speak.

CommanderData wrote:2) Starving to death is NOT fun.

Again, maybe I'm in the minority, but it's not a huge deal. Rogue is a lot more forgiving than Nethack when it comes to food. You don't gotta worry about rotten food, poisonous food, or your rations going bad. Also if you run out of food you can still move around and hope to find something. Nethack just kills you. Food is a really great way to keep you on the move while making it seem like the game is letting you explore. If you played Rogue and instead of having food there was a limit on the amount of moves you could make per floor would it be the same game? For me it wouldn't be.

If you wanted to explore different options you could do something like have enemies not respawn. In most roguelikes enemies will respawn randomly and come try to kill you. If you wanted to let the PC not deal with food then just chop the respawn. If you don't have anything to fight then you are going to be forced to move down. You could also give the player a food ration per dungeon level. I don't know how you could implement it, but if the player got a ration on each dungeon level then (s)he would never really have to worry about the PC starving. Maybe just have a hard coded ration appear on each floor of the dungeon randomly? Or create a game taking the idea of "The Running Man" (for those of you that saw the bad movie or read the awesome story by Stephen King) and have the PC be playing through a game show dungeon. Something where the PC is being provided with food on each level of the dungeon by the show but only get a meal per floor. Actually that would be kind of a fun game premise, maybe I'll try to think of a story for it later.

CommanderData wrote:3) Traps are NOT fun.

Shit yeah they aren't, but again they are pretty important to the game. Sure the player can't really do anything to avoid them, but that is true of a lot of things. The traps are never truly life threatening. They are just annoying in the extreme. To bring back the aquators from my dissertation, when you are running around the deeper levels and hit a rust trap with your sparkly +3 plate mail it really sucks. It doesn't kill you, but it does make you flinch. And if you go along with my previous idea for lowering the number of secret doors you are going to want to keep the traps in to make the treasure rooms deadly.

You could also go the other way. I like your idea of moving the traps from random spaces onto loot squares. Have a set percentage (like maybe 10%?) of loot be trapped. This way traps are triggered completely on the PC's choices.

CommanderData wrote:4) Similar dungeon layouts are NOT fun.

It's not a huge deal. If you are running with the idea that you are descending into the deep to retrieve some amulet/gem/piece of our lord Jesus Christ then you are going to be running through the caves. I guess you could vary the tileset a little bit and make things look a little more foreboding the deeper you get, but that would be purely for flavor. Maybe for my "The Running Man" roguelike that I'll somehow make even though I have no ability to create/design/program anything on the computer I'll need lots of different tilesets for different themed floors on the giant 100 floor building o' death you are trying to get out of so you can win your freedom from the megacorporations....

CommanderData wrote:5) Semi-permanent status modifiers are NOT fun... Rattlesnakes, Aquators, etc.

When I first started playing roguelikes I hated these things. Honestly, I still hate them. But these things are the things that cause you to play the game a different way every time. Why would anyone ever use leather armor if there were no Aquators? Why would we run away from low hp snakes that are usually killable in 1-2 hits? I have to agree with what Commander Data said here. Without having enemies that can really mess you up every enemy will just be the same thing with a different skin. The roguelike genre doesn't have a lot of room for crazy spells or things like that, so enemies tend to be differentiated by the statuses they inflict on the PC.

If you want to try to move away from this then you'll need to find a new way to differentiate your enemies. Maybe move in the direction of having every entity in the game world have a speed category? For simplicities sake we can say slow, normal, and quick for the sake of an example. A slow creature get's 1.5 moves per 1 move of a normal creature per .75 of a move for quick creatures? Obviously you'd want to toss in a lot more categories for your monsters. If you have a couple different speed categories on top of size categories (small creatures are harder to hit than big ones) and some other things it might be enough to take away semi-permanent effects.

CommanderData wrote:6) Permadeath is NOT fun.

Sorry, but this needs to be in a roguelike. If there is no permadeath then there is no roguelike. You can roll with something like Shinren. The warehouse system seems like a cool system the more I read about it. You have to choose whether or not you want to use your awesome +2/+2 war hammer to further your current character or leave it for a later playthrough. But each PC should be expendable in my opinion.

Holy god that's a lot of words. I'm sorry for any strokes I cause.
johndramey
 
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Re: What makes a roguelike fun?

Postby Rynon » Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:47 am

Well, I'm short on time, so just a quick reply for now -- I'll likely be back later for more.

Some quick ideas:
1) Past Characters could help new characters -- have characters able to select a few (1-3) bequeathable items, so that if they die, they can be used by the next character. Or, alternatively, have gold stored in a magic transport bag, that goes to their 'relative' on the surface when they die, and new characters can shop a store with the proceeds before embarking on a quest

2) Food/time alternative - have a big baddie come to the floor if the character has spent too much time (i.e x amount of steps), to prompt him to move or die.

3) Chance at some new items - identify scrolls are not nearly as frequent enough given the amount of gear one gets, but possibly cant ID/must risk pain/suffering to try. Add in an 'identify all' scroll (that is already recognized by the character), that will identify everything in the pack (but would be a rare item). Or, make the character proficient at identifying a certain type of loot (scrolls, potions, wands, armor, weapons, rings), so that they would know what the item of their proficiency is (proficiency could either be selectable or random). Alternatively, still make it a (mostly) take your chance by testing it out, but with a twist - a potentially extreme (i.e really good or bad effect) is identifiable. I.e. A cursed set of armor or a +2 set of armor would both give the character a slight shock when picked up, identifying it as possibly being good or bad. Player could then decide if they want to take the chance (shock for weapons/rings/armor, particular smell for potions, certain colour ink on scrolls, type of wood (or finish) on wands)
Rynon
 
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