Rogue: The Procedurally Generated CRPG

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Matt Barton's picture

Ah, yes, it's time to start thinking about the Rogue chapter of Vintage Gaming. Of course, I covered this game briefly in D&D, but want to develop a different sort of idea of the game for this project. We've already covered Diablo in another chapter, so I don't think there'll be a great need to dwell on that relationship. Instead, I think it'd be fun to talk about the development of the game and the very healthy "roguelike" developments all over the place. Of course, I will also want to explain why this game is so much fun to play TODAY, because we all know there are thousands of Rogue fans out there who insist on the original character set graphics. Might also be fun to mention Dwarf Fortress if I can find a good way to tie it in. Obviously a part of the appeal is the casual nature of the game and the infinite replayability. I also like how it boils everything down to the essence of dungeon crawling and gives you so many options.

I got criticized by some folks in my Rogue article for FSM because they didn't think I adequately covered the genre. Apparently, there were some big roguelike projects that I missed, so I'm hoping you guys can help me improve my coverage this time. Wikipedia has this list, but I can't possibly talk about all those (and I bet that list isn't even exhaustive). I guess what I'm wondering is which of these are really important. Of course I know about ones like LARN and NETHACK, but haven't spent much time with ANGBAND and MORIA. Which of these are worth looking at in detail?

I know many of you have already read the coverage of this game in D&D, so what else do you think is worth talking about here? Are there any topics or issues you think I should mention? One obvious issue is the open source/free software nature of it; that's quite a bit different than most of the games we talk about, and could be a good opportunity to raise issues of copyrights and copy protection. What do you think?

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adamantyr
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DF

I think Dwarf Fortress deserves it's own chapter, for sure. It HAS a Rogue-like play system, but it's almost a side-bar.

As for Rogues and roguelikes, I'd be surprised if you could manage to satisfy everyone. :) There's too many rogue-likes to cover, so it's probably best to group them into areas, like commercial product, original piece of work, highly evolved version, made pre-Internet, etc.

Bill Loguidice
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Dwarf Fortress
adamantyr wrote:

I think Dwarf Fortress deserves it's own chapter, for sure. It HAS a Rogue-like play system, but it's almost a side-bar.

It's not part of the list, though I'm a big fan of the achievement. The 35+ game chapters we have are on games that were both great AND influential. They may or may not have been commercial successes, but they do need to have been significant in some way, and had to certainly influence the designs of future games. It's difficult for a non-commercial product to fit all that criteria, though I certainly wouldn't be opposed to one doing. Perhaps Dwarf Fortress will someday reach the "influence the designs of future games" part, but I somehow doubt it. It's kind of one of those games that's a monument in and of itself so to speak.



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Bill Loguidice
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Point of the chapter

Really my main concern with the chapter Matt would be more to describe how it influenced electronic RPGs in a profound way, moreso than providing an exhaustive list, though certainly key mentions are, um, key. None of our chapters have exhaustive lists, but they all do try to hit the important or notable, with a few fun or oddball ones thrown in.



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Lists
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Really my main concern with the chapter Matt would be more to describe how it influenced electronic RPGs in a profound way, moreso than providing an exhaustive list, though certainly key mentions are, um, key. None of our chapters have exhaustive lists, but they all do try to hit the important or notable, with a few fun or oddball ones thrown in.

Yes, I think you raise a fine point there, Bill. One of the main criticisms I've seen of D&D is that it's too exhaustive, mentioning too many games at the expense of the story. With VG, I'm trying to pull back from that, acknowledging that there are dozens of other sequels and knockoffs, etc., but not bothering to mention all of them. Looking back, I think D&D would have been stronger if I'd just stuck to the really important games, perhaps saving the "cataloging" for appendices or footnotes. Then again, I'm sure people would have hated on me for that, too, claiming I did shoddy research since I didn't mention X, Y, Z. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea at some future point to do another CRPG book, but really focus on telling the story from the developers' viewpoints, though of course it's notoriously difficult to get interviews. I also thought about just picking different topics for each chapter and using the games to illustrate the points; say, a chapter on party vs. single character CRPGs.

Anyway, one thing that's nice about VG is that we're more focused and have a specific audience in mind. What I try to do is think about Armchair Arcade folks and what they seem to enjoy talking and reading about, though I also try to throw in stuff for general readers who may not have played these games before.

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Rowdy Rob
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Dungeons and Desktops criticisms
Matt Barton wrote:

Yes, I think you raise a fine point there, Bill. One of the main criticisms I've seen of D&D is that it's too exhaustive, mentioning too many games at the expense of the story. With VG, I'm trying to pull back from that, acknowledging that there are dozens of other sequels and knockoffs, etc., but not bothering to mention all of them. Looking back, I think D&D would have been stronger if I'd just stuck to the really important games, perhaps saving the "cataloging" for appendices or footnotes. Then again, I'm sure people would have hated on me for that, too, claiming I did shoddy research since I didn't mention X, Y, Z.

While some of the "minor" criticisms of "Dungeons & Desktops" I've read on Amazon are valid (pictures are too dark, occasional grammatical errors), the criticisms I read sort of scared me after I ordered the book. I half expected to get a pile of photocopied leaflets, written by a CRPG-obsessed five-year-old, stapled together! Imagine my surprise when I received a REAL book!

As for the "too exhaustive" criticism, I do not agree. I haven't finished the book yet (it's not the kind of book you can "speed-read" through), but from what I've read so far, the heck with the critics, I was glad you included all the games you did; it made me want to go out there and play all these lost, historical games! Despite what some of the critics said, I found that "D&D" was not merely a bunch of game reviews, but that each game was carefully reviewed within the context of how it placed within the historical timeline. That was very cool! It was also the point of the book... what were these critics expecting?

How are you supposed to write a book on the history of CRPG's if you skip over the many important games in this genre? Too many games? Give me a break! After all, there's more than 30 years of CRPG's to cover with so many "historical" accomplishments; of course there's going to be a lot of games! I am convinced, though, that you're some troll locked in a dungeon whose sole purpose in life is to play every CRPG ever made exhaustively. :-)

I would have liked to see more comments or interviews with the authors of these games, but I understand how difficult it is to track these people down, much less get them to agree to say anything about the games. You've more than made up for that in your analysis of the games' "historicity" in your book.

I suppose you can't please everyone, but the few criticisms I read on Amazon were over-the-top, in my opinion. Do you have a lot of enemies or something? To be honest, I was never a hardcore CRPG'er, but the book makes me realize how much I missed out on. I'll finish the book this weekend (hopefully.... I've got too many "real life" things going on simultaneously), and post a "countering" review on Amazon. Yes, it will be positive. You are clearly the preeminent authority of CRPG's!

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yakumo9275
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Wikipedia has not liked much

Wikipedia has not liked much of our roguelike articles, you know that whole, if its not published on antique paper with quail egg ink and fountain pen its not a substantiated claim etc bulldust. that 'list' has a lof of garbage on it. feel free to drop in on roguetemple.com or rec.games.roguelike.misc/development...

whats important in the genre? in a nutshell.

rogue, hack, nethack, larn, moria were genre defining
then you have the big ones like angband(s), adom, crawl.

you could make a case for omega but it too easily fell by the wayside rather than stood up to be counted.

in a nutshell I'd ignore anything that didnt come from the PC to start with.

the moria/angband thing, well its like hack to nethack. moria came first but angband is the final polish.

-- Stu --

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steve (not verified)
Reviews

>>While some of the "minor" criticisms of "Dungeons & Desktops" I've read on Amazon are valid (pictures are too dark, occasional grammatical errors), the criticisms I read sort of scared me after I ordered the book. I half expected to get >>a pile of photocopied leaflets, written by a CRPG-obsessed five-year-old, stapled together! Imagine my surprise when I received a REAL book!

On Reviews:

Here is what I have noticed about reviews and comments for very detailed histories and articles (mostly about video and computer games):

1. Most people who enjoy your work *will not* comment on it. Some will, but not many.
2. Some comments are helpful corrections on facts. These are always useful and welcome.
3. However, most people who do make negative comments do so for a very small subset of reasons:

A. They hold some "inside information" that there is no possible way you could have known (i.e. their uncle invented the Intellivision controller). They blast your work because you did not include that detail, even though there is almost no chance you could have unearthed it otherwise. Oh, and i almost forgot, when you contact them and tell them you would like to interview them because they obviously have an intersting story to tell, they disappear.
B. They have a particular minority bias that they want people to know about, and they use your work and their platform for it. Sometimes this has nothing to do with your work at all.
C. They are closet writers themselves but are not able to produce anything worth while. Instead, they like to "tear down" anyone who takes a shot or is lucky enough to get published.
D. They consider themslves and their peers as "subject matter experts" on something and can't believe that there could possibly be someone out of their realm of influence who could know something they don't know or would have the audacity to try to get something published without their input.
E. They don't like research. Many people feel that research is a waste of time. They would rather just spout off the top of their head. Seeing something that is well researched and detailed scares them because it means if they had to do the same thing they might have to actually do some "work"!

By the way, I have not read ""Dungeons & Desktops" yet (I have read the excepts on GamaSutra and they are GREAT!) because I have asked for it for Xmas this year. I plan a full week of reading about Classic RPGs while drunk on sugar cookies and salted cashews.

By the way, if you think comments from video game fans are bad, you should check out the comments for articles on DZone for programming articles. Humorless, thought-policed worse than wikipedia, and biased towards certain technologies beyond belief...

Matt Barton
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Thanks for your comments,

Thanks for your comments, Steve and Rob. I agree very much with what you're saying. I've noticed that in my class evaluations vs rate my professor. The class evaluations, which everyone has to do, are almost always mostly positive, with only the occasional ingrate who really sounds off. If you check rate my prof, though, you'll find much more of the negatives, since people who really hate something are more likely to seek out a way to do damage than people who like or even love it. I've heard the same is true for those referral/comment type services; the people who fill out comment cards in restaurants want to complain, not praise.

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