372nd played so far
Here’s to a game that’s probably named and referenced by a group of people several orders of magnitude larger than have actually played it. As we discussed with Nethack, roguelikes are an old genre, combining randomly generated dungeons with often simple graphics but complicated game systems.
Although the old games are mostly limited to corners of the internet and were for some time forgotten by most players, although the legacy lived on in many games – the Diablo series being roguelikes made to look fancier with more modern enhancements, but using some basic systems.
Oddly enough, the genre, in a way, has made a comeback recently. Dungeons of Dredmor was released to moderate success a few years ago – being quite notable on Steam – and the recentish Kickstarter campaign for FTL has led to it becoming one of the biggest indie hits recently.
Still, all of that started with Rogue (and to a lesser extend predecessors like DUNGEON). How did it?
It’s quite obvious why a game like this was created and, back in the day, became this prominent. Dungeons and Dragons – and the many later RPGs, although D&D would still have been the most promiment – was popular, especially amongst the crowds who’d be playing games on university mainframes.
The idea of having the dungeons you go into refereed for you, randomly generated so the game is different each time with its own surprises, is very enticing, and hunting for treasure and killing monsters seems like something people would try to add early on. In that sense, there’s a clear line from Adventure, earlier similar wish fulfilment (although there based on spelunking) living in another world and trying to survive in there.
The way the game plays shows the two different tracks early games took. We’ve looked a lot at the arcade side of things, coin guzzling action-based games like Pong and Asteroids. On the other hand, there are the games developed, often, on university mainframes, where death is still a threat, but play is slower and often more focused on puzzle focused and longer consideration. Aside from the earlier mentioned Adventure, we also have Eamon and MUD as earlier examples of this.
Rogue, then, is probably less complicated than its legacy suggests to modern players. Having played some ‘classic’ roguelike successors like Nethack and Angband, Rogue is simpler in many places. There are less monsters – only 26, one per letter of the alphabet, instead of multiple per letter – less treasure and simpler dungeons. It’s still more complicated than many RPGs, with food systems, complicated armour and weapon setups and many more systems available… it just doesn’t have the insanity some later roguelikes offer (even when the monsters can be a bit silly, such as emus and kestrels).
For a genre that thrives of complexity, this is a good thing for us more casual players. The game feels easier to get into and with some knowledge of the genre, it’s easy to dive in and get a few levels down. Not far enough to win – that’d take far more practice – but enough to feel like we’re making good progress. already.
It’s interesting, and more important, addictive, as each game adds a bit to your knowledge and makes you a bit better at dungeon diving. It’s absolutely enjoyable.
Due to its age it is less engaging than Nethack on the grounds that it is, as we said before, a lot simpler. Then again there is the whole food thing that can really screw you over… which can really up the difficulty if you are unlucky. From my (limited) experience I would say that Nethack would be a better port of call than Rogue. Sorry Rogue.