Our Properties: Gamasutra GameCareerGuide IndieGames GameSetWatch GDC IGF Game Developer Magazine GAO

Recent Comments

  • retro jordan shoes: In Dec 12, this year the most popular color of the very most well-known Jordan shoe is likely to make a new triumphant come back read more
  • jyidmvejlbr: Y4cn7D qwjjofserdnf, [url=http://rgskiwsqettp.com/]rgskiwsqettp[/url], [link=http://mkxlnmionwfp.com/]mkxlnmionwfp[/link], http://fbxylphuqhal.com/ read more
  • anonymous: "At some point we are going to all need some rest," Carli Lloyd said. "It's been pretty much three, four years of just going straight." read more
  • air jordan shoes: In November twenty three, the new year the most used color ways of the very popular Nike jordan boot will make a new triumphant go read more
  • Man action Clearance UGGs: I found this is an useful and funny script, so I think it is very helpful and knowledgeable. Thank you for the efforts you have read more

About GameSetWatch

GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

Read More

Column: At Play

COLUMN: @Play: Objects of Collection

December 3, 2008 4:00 PM |

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

I've said this about first-person shooters before, but in the interest of fairness, I admit it's completely appropriate to say it of roguelikes too: from one quite valid point-of-view, they're all the same game.

Of course when you look at the games up close this assertion falls apart. This perspective completely discounts Crawl's razor-sharp play balance, ADOM's surprising expanse, Angband's epic struggle against the odds, and Nethack's amazingly complex, interlocking gameplay features. But the core of what makes roguelike games was invented back in Rogue, and a big part of that is the item system practically all the games share.

Many of these items are randomly scrambled when a game begins. If the player saves his game (thus ending his session) and loads it back in later (which erases the save), items will retain their identities. Purple potions will still do whatever they did before the save. But if a new game is started, it will have re-randomized items, and if the player dies, all the item identities figured out are completely lost.

Here is an overview of the primary item categories, with an eye towards a closer examination of each in the future. (Afterwards, we'll have a brief recap of the winners of the 2008 devnull Nethack tournament.)

COLUMN: @Play: Ten Years of the devnull Nethack Tournament, Part 2

November 3, 2008 4:00 PM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a monthly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre. Following a profile of the devnull Nethack competition, here's an interview with the competition organizers.]

November 1 marks the beginning of the tenth-annual devnull Nethack tournament. A couple of days ago we provided an overview and took a look at the trophy structure. I asked a few questions of the co-creator and primary maintainer of the tournament. Here are his answers. Thanks to the Bandy brothers for taking time away from the tournament preparations to give us the story!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Robin Bandy, I'm 37 years old and married; my wife has played NetHack, but is not exactly excited about how much of my time the Tournament takes each year though she's been extremely patient about it. I grew up on a ranch in southwest Colorado, but I've lived in the hills in east Oakland, California, since '97.

Though my college degrees are in anthropology and history, I've been a professional geek since '94 and have been freelance since '97; most of my work these days is as a consultant running the server farm that runs 1up.com, gamevideos.com and mycheats.com for Ziff Davis Media.

My other main interest after my wife and my geekery is making hard apple cider (and a variety of other fruit wines as well as a small amount of beer); we're fortunate to live in a part of Oakland that was an orchard 100 years ago, so most of our neighborhood has semi-wild apple trees which are great for ciders. Cider bottling time is usually about halfway through the Tournament, which tends to liven things up a bit. ;-)

His brother, who runs another tournament server and has been involved with the running since the beginning, adds:

My name is Matt Bandy. I am Robin's older brother. I have a PhD in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and am an archaeologist who works in Peru, Bolivia, and the United States. I live in Boulder, Colorado. I had the idea for the tournament many years ago and co-wrote the code (with Robin) for the first few years. Robin has since taken the over maintanance and development of the tournament and it really is his baby and it has been for at least five years now.

COLUMN: @Play: Ten Years Of The devnull Nethack Tournament, Part 1

October 31, 2008 4:00 PM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a monthly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre. This time, he presents a Halloween special in honor of devnull's Nethack tournament, which begins at midnight!]

The most impressive thing about devnull's Nethack tournament is its longevity. This is the tenth consecutive year it's been run. It's old enough that it's spanned multiple Nethack versions. It's been said that it could be the oldest-running computer gaming tournament in existence. It's a difficult claim to prove, but it may will be true.

logoDespite the great obstacles to making roguelikes work as multiplayer games they have long had a substantial online presence, and a big part of this is the relative ease in setting up terminal-based, ASCII games for playing over the internet via telnet, SSH, or some other form of remote console.

COLUMN: @Play - 'Much About Monstania'

October 21, 2008 8:00 AM |

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

It's incorrect to think that the Mystery Dungeon games are the first exposure to Japan of roguelike gameplay. It wouldn't have made sense for Compile Heart to release Rogue Hearts Dungeon (a remake and expansion of Rogue itself) in Japan if (a few) people hadn't been familiar with the original game. The Mystery Dungeon games do appear to be Japan's primary exposure to the genre, however, and have been a surprising influence.

Besides the many many games ChunSoft's made in the series, one occasionally finds other games that seek to duplicate its successes (and failures, too). The Izuna games are an example of this. And while it's hard to be sure, it's possible that the Super Famicom game Monstania is another. This is a look at that game, or more accurately a look at the English version, produced by famed translation group Aeon Genesis.

monstania1.pngMonstania is an anime-inspired, character-centered soft of game, along the lines of Grandia but a bit less developed. The story is nothing to really write home about, but no matter. We're interested solely on its essentially-roguelike tactical gameplay, so I won't waste another word on it.

They discarded just about everything random about Rogue other than to-hit rolls. It's all painfully static: areas are designed instead of random, all monster encounters are set, there is no exploration, there's no money or shops, and there's very little loot-finding within an area. The characters don't even earn experience points. Instead, they just gain a level at the end of every area.

COLUMN: @Play: Phenomedom, Da Dee, Da-Dee-Dee

October 2, 2008 4:00 PM |

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

A month ago I was roaming the Dealer's Room aisles at Dragon*Con, the foremost convention for those who can't make it to PAX. At that particular moment, I was looking at the wares of the dice guys: some store who rents one side of an entire aisle side and fills it with all, yes all, kinds of dice. d100s, studded like golf balls, alignment and class choosers, corridor determinants with different dungeon hallways on each of 12 sides, and others still. They even made customs with a special dice burning machine.

For someone with an greater-than-usual interest in randomness and how it relates to gaming, it was awesome. But right across the hallway was something better. I nearly missed it, and probably would have if it hadn't been for the eyes of fellow 'Con-goer Matt Chew, who said aloud while I gawked at the dice: "Huh, roguelike?"

In these situations, I tend to keep my expectations low. I can hold forth on a dozen topics that no one will ever expect me to hold-forth-upon anywhere other than the internet. And Dragon*Con, despite being one of the largest fan conventions in the United States, has a relative dearth of game-related booths due to being scheduled for the same weekend as PAX. So hearing someone bring up roguelikes unprompted is a unique experience for me, and it took a few seconds before I turned around to see what it was.


It was the booth of Nathan Jerpe beneath a banner reading "Roguelike Fiction," selling deluxe packages of his game Legerdemain. He had a table with a laptop set up demonstrating the game, with its output directed at a projector to show it off. And despite the fact that the game, written in Java emulating a console, is available for free from the game's website, he was selling packages containing a CD, a map and a hintbook for $20 a pop. The packages were contained within Ziploc bags in such a way that brought fond memories to this player who barely remembers the days when the first commercial CRPGs were sold in similar plastic bags containing cassette tapes and xerox'd instructions.

COLUMN: @Play: Eye of the Vulture

August 28, 2008 8:00 AM |

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

Here's a look at a roguelike game that some of you might not quite be familiar with. The graphics are very well-done, at least.

It's got an isometric view, fairly detailed character and monster art, and decorated room walls and floors. Looked at with unfocused eyes, it even begins to resemble Diablo. So what game might this be?


Of course, it's Nethack.

COLUMN: @Play: Modeling Motion on a Dungeon Grid

August 4, 2008 12:00 AM |

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

Here's a bit of hopefully-useful insight into a topic that every roguelike designer has to cover eventually: how to simulate variable rates of movement on the game's essentially integral, Cartesian grid.

One of the most distinctive aspects of a roguelike game is time-equivalency of actions. Moving a step, picking up an item, dropping an item, hitting an opponent, drinking a potion, reading a scroll, wielding a weapon, putting on or removing armor or a ring, and zapping with a wand: all of these things take the same amount of time, that is to say, one turn.

This is a subtly powerful concept. If the player swings at an adjacent monster, it uses up the player's turn so the enemy can get a hit in. If he's adjacent to an armor-degrader, taking off his armor to protect it still takes a turn in which the monster can get a swing in first. If he's wielding a weapon ill-suited to a foe, like a bow when fighting an adjacent monster, it'll take him a turn to change it, again giving the monster a free opportunity to hit.

And significantly, so long as a player and monster are the same speed and adjacent to each other, the monster is impossible to shake. The player must use some special item or ability to get away, because no matter what direction he steps, the monster will be able to match it. Since the player can't get away, once a same-speed monster gets adjacent melee combat will, barring special effects on either side, always be tit-for-tat, attack-trading affairs. The player can run in order to pass time, hopefully regenerating hit points, but that gives other monsters the chance to join in pursuit.

All the actions that change the player's state consume a turn. There are a few commands, particularly Inventory, that never take up a move. It should be noted that this is not realistic. A real person rummaging through his pack for a particular item will probably spend more time unslinging it, setting it down, opening the flap, and getting out the needed item, than it would take him to walk across one space's worth of dungeon floor. Giving him this action for free is a concession to playability. If there were a game penalty for looking to see what you're carrying, then it would be advantageous to keep notes on paper of your inventory instead of relying on the command, and a game that pedantic would probably scare away even the most devoted of @-signs.

But concerning those actions that consume time, there are two major types of speed systems for handling them in roguelike games: player-centered, and world-centered.

COLUMN: @Play: Brought to You Today by the Letter....

July 18, 2008 8:00 AM |

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

Usually, when I talk about roguelike games here, it's in the context of being a kind of old-school Dungeons & Dragons simulator. This is an awesome thing all to itself, for reasons covered previously. Yet there are other attributes of the games that differ from D&D, or indeed any other RPG, either pen-and-paper or computer.

One of the most entertaining of these, if one has followed the evolution of the genre far enough, turns out to be a direct result of one of roguelike gaming's major limitations. While some have moved on to using simple graphics to represent the dungeon and its inhabitants, most roguelikes still at least have the option of using ASCII characters to represent the playing field. And the method of representation is one of the aspects of the genre that ties it back to Rogue: line-drawing characters for walls, an at-sign for the player, and letters for the monsters.

Letters for the monsters. Oh, the troubles that spring from this simple idea.

First problem: there are only 26 letters.

One of the many tiny, sparkling shards of awesomeness embedded in Rogue's thick hide is how it turns the limitation on monsters into a theme. The first level of rogue has a handful of monsters: Bats, Jackals, Snakes, Hobgoblins and Kobolds. Every level after the first introduces one new monster until Dragons enter the game on level 22. I submit that it is no coincidence that the Amulet of Yendor appears on level 26.

But Rogue, for its coolnesses, is still a fairly short and simple game. Most games these days want to offer more opponents than just 26. And so the great bestiary proliferation began.

Now those games that offer more than 26 monsters have to come up with some way to represent the new monsters. There are three ways this is done. The oldest, going back to the lost roguelikes, is to treat uppercase and lowercase monsters as different species. Nearly all of them do this now, but it still limits the opponent types to 52. The second was is to use different colors to distinguish between monsters, and this is also pretty common. A DOS-style terminal is capable of displaying 16 different colors, although one of them is black. 15 * 52 is 780 beasties, which sounds like a lot, although for other reasons we'll get to shortly still isn't enough.

geoduckampersands.pngThe final idea was to allow a few symbols in there to add a few more creatures to the mix. Nethack uses @ symbols to represent humans and ampersands (&) for demons, along with a few others. In that game colons are lizards, semi-colons are sea monsters, and apostrophes are golems. We are not quite sure what system was used for assigning these; the secretive Devteam hasn't said anything about it, although there is certainly a chance that there is some pattern at work. Fiendishly, both Nethack and Angband use the same symbols as game terrain to represent hidden monsters. Nethack ghosts are represented in-game by spaces, and Angband trappers use the same character as the floor. Angband mimics use the same characters as object types lying on the floor.

COLUMN: @ Play: 'Izuna, Legend of the Roguelike Ninja'

July 1, 2008 4:00 PM |

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

That first generation of games in a new genre tends to not look too critically at the source material. Depending on how charitable one's feeling, this could be considered to be either because of a cynical exploitation of that material or a genuine enthusiasm for it. The "lost" roguelikes mentioned last time were like this.

The second generation is made by people further removed from the seed concept. Sometimes they may not even know of the idea's source, or they might view it in a less enthusiastic light. People start trying to fix what are perceived to be problems in the game. Sometimes these are actual problems, and sometimes the apparent flaws are a result of an incomplete understanding of the design. Often it's both at once; the designers fix things that are only problems from their point of view.

When the third generation comes around the same thing happens, then again, and again. Minor things are misunderstood to be essential to the design, and important things are forgotten. Eventually the genre solidifies around the aspects that are copied the most, and the Platonic ideal becomes something iconic that may, or may not, have a great deal to do with the original.

When the cycle crosses a cultural divide, there often occurs a much greater disconnect between the original ideas and their mutations. When Yuuji Horii created Dragon Quest, he was directly inspired by Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, which he discovered on a trip to the U.S. Later on there was Final Fantasy, which bears unmistakable marks of Dragon Quest's influence but less of Wizardry.

The cycle can also be seen when Chunsoft created the first two Mystery Dungeon games, Torneko and Shiren, both games that crib from Rogue, but not, directly, Dungeons & Dragons. Then other games were inspired by Mystery Dungeon while being ignorant of Rogue, each taking the core ideas and pulling them in a different direction.

Now, there are two main types of JCRPGs that draw from Mystery Dungeon. The more-common is the generic random dungeon game, the influence can be seen in full games (like Time Stalkers and Persona 3) and as a special area or mode in more traditional games (two that come to mind are in Lufia: Rise of the Sinistrals and Parasite Eve). The other, rarer category is a game that is more recognizably roguelike, but produced by people who have never heard of Rogue itself. This is what brings us around to Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja.

COLUMN: @ Play: Super-Rogue, Banished to the Deeper Regions

June 20, 2008 8:00 AM |

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

Rogue was certainly not the first CRPG. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord probably made it out months ahead. Before then, there were interesting, relatively unknown Dungeons & Dragons-inspired games for the PLATO computer network, and which might get looked at themselves here, eventually. But Rogue's take on the basic concept adapted some aspects of Dungeons & Dragons that usually got ignored by the others. As D&D evolved, in fact, that game itself abandoned the very ideals that Rogue took to heart: discovery, player improvisation, and the amassing of tremendous piles of loot

Rogue was not a niche game at this time. It was one of the most-played games in campus timeshare computer labs, a genuine phenomenon among its audience. Rogue keeps a score list because it was designed to be played in this kind of environment, with lots of people shooting for a spot on the board; later roguelikes lost that sense of competition and community, but kept the score lists anyway. These days, unless the game is played on a public internet server like alt.org, roguelike score lists tend to fill up with the same player. Back in Rogue's heyday however, competition for the top spots could be fierce.

Soon after Rogue's original release, a number of similar games began to make the rounds of these computer labs. They were the original roguelikes, games that took inspiration from Rogue itself more than even Dungeons & Dragons. Some of these games incorporated Rogue's name in its own: XRogue, Ultra Rogue, Advanced Rogue, Super-Rogue.