Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

Other projects (specifically the Game Design Essentials series over at Gamasutra) have taken up a bit of time lately so this one's a week late, and kinda light besides. You may find it interesting, though.

We're going to start taking a look at some of the results from the 7DRL programming challenge, which asks participants to create a roguelike game in seven days or less. Many interesting games have come out of the challenge, such as personal favorite ChessRogue. This one's particularly interesting because it hews quite close to the pattern laid out by Rogue, as well it should, as it's made by one of Rogue's original creators, Glenn Wichman.

The Seven Day Quest is a roguelike implemented entirely in browser-side Javascript, a fairly interesting idea in itself. It thus runs on any system that can run Firefox (or Internet Explorer), and can take advantage of the browser's extensive UI support.

Most roguelike games require that the player memorize a dozen keypresses or more, but here the inventory is always shown, and objects are used or dropped by way of drop-down menus. The only commands the player needs to know are movement/combat (by the number pad), picking things up (comma or numpad 0) and stair travel (< and >). It's enough to make me wish more people would write Javascript roguelikes.


As for the game, there's a little more going on here than a Rogue remake. Unlike Rogue the player can go back and forth between dungeon levels from the start, and there are seven dungeons tackle.

Further, while Rogue had an implicit time limit with the player's need to keep exploring to find food to keep from starving, Seven Day Quest makes the timer explicit. The player is charged to find one amulet from each dungeon and return it to the surface within a day of game time apiece.


There are lots of bugs left in the code, which is to be expected from a game which was made in seven days. Leaving a dungeon level and returning causes not just the rooms to be generated in the same places, but items to be regenerated as well, which harms scarcity. This is balanced out by the overall timer, although there is an item that grants extra time that could possibly be farmed this way. Also, line-of-sight doesn't seem to respect room walls very well, although the game does limit the range at which players can see.

Sometimes it seems like the monsters are being generated too rapidly, but that results in increased experience. Sometimes it seems that there's too much treasure on each level, but the game's strict inventory limit mitigates that. A debug balance feature has been left in the code that allows the player to make various aspects of the game more or less prevalent, so if the player's tastes run towards more fighting, more fighting is available. Needless to say, this can also be used to cheat.


More annoyingly, while the game mixes in bad items with the good items to keep players on their toes and make it dangerous to just try everything, the game doesn't automatically name them based on their observed functions. Many of the items in the game seem to have purposely vague functions ("What the heck is 'You feel like you could dance like Catherine Zeta-Jones' supposed to mean?!") so this could be a design choice, but tellingly the game doesn't allow the player to name them himself either.

It's true this can be overcome by taking notes, but it still feels odd when the Call function dates all the way back to Rogue anyway. There are no Identify scrolls anywhere, and a perusal of the game's source code reveals that there are disappointingly few item types to be found overall.

Of course the game was written in seven days, and allowances must be made for that. And it is very nice that, unlike many of the more popular 7DRL projects, item discovery is still an important part of the game. Most people who write these fixate upon the turn-based, tactical movement and combat as the main focus, so it's nice to see one that tries to inject some of Rogue's old mystery into play.

Seven Day Quest
Created by Glenn "capmango" Wichman