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So many roguelikes!

Dear gaming community,

First, I would like to thank all of you for the abundant supply of roguelike games you have provided me over the last couple of years. They have been a fun diversion from more time-consuming traditional games that require many hours to complete.

The freedom that roguelike games have provided me has been liberating. With my occasional, small windows of play time, it's been nice to simply drop in to a game, do my best, get obliterated (or occasionally make it to the end...) and boogie to work. Roguelikes have filled a void in my worky-worky no-play-time life and I am grateful!

But alas, I find myself missing thoughtfully-constructed (as in not procedurally-generated) single-player experiences. I know the replay value of traditional games is not as great as procedurally-generated roguelikes. I've accepted that. My play time is too brief to play through games multiple times any way.

Honestly, roguelikes are starting to feel incomplete. Like all the mechanics of a great game are there, but rather than create a cohesive narrative experience, the devs just programmed a jumbler to save themselves the trouble.

Listen, gaming community: I'm not saying stop making roguelike games. I'm just suggesting maybe a shift back to traditional games might a welcome change. Maybe a game in which a traditional single-player experience is supplemented by a roguelike mode. That way we get a traditional epic experience with the roguelike replay!

Hooray!

Anyway, I hope I don't sound ungrateful. Dungeon of the Endless had me sweating and cheering and yelling for dozens of hours. Binding of Isaac, Hammerwatch, Princess.Loot.Pixel.Again and many (like, many many) others have been a great time. But the charm is starting to wear off

Is it just me? Does anyone else feel this way?

Feel free to comment.

Your pal,

The Ghetto Gamer

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roguelike
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Steven Long

Steve is an IndieWatch O.G. He has long supplied marketing information for the aspiring developer. More recently he has been creating content for retrogaming enthusiasts on his YouTube channel. Find him on Twitter @Longie_long and at Patreon.

11 Comments

  1. I found this article by typing in “are there too many roguelikes?” into Google after noticing every second game on the Switch advertises itself as a roguelike lately. It is the laziest genre on the planet and is void of any real artistic direction or creativity. They’re cheap to produce because they thrive on an endless goal through randomly generated levels resulting in very limited novelty.

    I disagree with you when you say they have more replay value than a traditional game – starting again and again because you died isn’t the same as ‘replaying the game’ once you’ve burnt out on a roguelike and seen every boss (Tollowmere only has 3..) you’ll likely never go back to it.
    Guarantee you’ll go back to Mario, Zelda, GTA, etc

    1. You’re right. On all points.

      And what really ticks me off about it is, I don’t think would take that much more effort to actually design levels, than it would to write programming to randomly generate them. Maybe I’m wrong, though. I’m not a programmer.

  2. I must admit, I’m a roguelike addict.
    I will spend hours eagerly bashing my poor ASCII representations into mush, disintegrating them, falling into pits of lava, whatever RNG has fated my little avatar to leave me with before restarting.

    But your post raises an excellent point about story. Roguelikes have, thanks to their current popularity boom, streamlined their gameplay elements into something more akin to an arcade game than a more traditional RPG, and I think that it weakens the genre as a whole.

    Rose-tinted glasses with that lovely designer label of “Nostalgia” notwithstanding Nethack had a story, and pieces of the world could be examined and learned through play. ADOM, while significantly younger, shows the same. More recently Caves of Qud is going in a similar direction, which leaves at least myself to believe that one could create two distinct subgenres: the Arcade Roguelike and the Role-Playing-Roguelike.

    A good in-depth roguelike is a balancing act of worldbuilding and randomization. I do hope the move towards rogue-lites doesn’t kill the depths that roguelike devs typically seem to aim for.

    1. Wow! What a thoughtful comment. I agree that there is a reason roguelikes have become such a big deal. They are fun and addictive, but lack depth. Hopefully future games will take a lesson and preserve some of the best parts of roguelike gaming.

    2. I agree wholeheartedly with your response. I was looking for a way to express my opinions as a huge roguelike fan but was falling short. You wrote it much more evenly-minded than I would have.

      DCSS, ADOM, ToME these are extremely rich roguelikes that have tons of worldbuilding and story. They are as close to perfection as you will get between roguelikes and storytelling.

      Alas what roguelikes are meaning in the mainstream lens for a dev is a short list: make 10-20 enemies 20-30 weapons 10-20 spells 5 bosses and you have a roguelike game, story elements optional.

      Those are not true roguelikes when in my mind the genre is defined by games that have been in development for decades at this point.

  3. While it’s true that story plays less of a role in most roguelikes, none of the games you list are actual roguelikes. They are “roguelites” that only draw on a small portion of roguelike qualities in their design.

    For a true roguelike that also provides an engaging narrative, try something like Cogmind.

  4. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with my game. I love rogue-like mechanics (random generation, high difficulty, death meaning something) but I’ve found most rogues lacking in story. Rogues come from a time of gaming where hard drives didn’t really exist, so saving wasn’t a thing. The best thing IMHO is to merge a traditional RPG with a Rogue. Have some death penalty, but don’t wipe everything out. Maybe lose all your gear but keep your level and character. That way the character can continue their story. It’s not an easy thing to do 🙂

    Shameless Plug incoming: steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=708905584

    1. Thanks for the validation. When I saw I had a comment on this article, I assumed it would be some hate. Did not expect someone to agree with me.

      Regarding your shameless plug, don’t worry. Your game is a valid part of the discussion and I think it looks pretty good. I’ll be watching your progress.

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