Matt Chat 45: Rogue

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Matt Barton's picture

Here's the latest episode, this time on Rogue.

Lots of good comments coming in already suggesting great roguelikes. You should also check out our earlier article/bonus chapter The History of Rogue: Have @ You, You Deadly Zs. I point you specifically to the comments on that article, many of which come from the original developers! Amazing stuff.



The_Mighty_Thor (not verified)
Cheering FeedBack and Matt Chat Proposal

Hey Matt,

I recently stumbled upon your regular performances in coverage of video game classix old and new, having re-installed the Planescape: Torment evergreen only a few weeks before and having been searching for websites devoted to this uncut gem.

Well, let me put it frankly: U had earned my sympathy from the moment I saw the C64 intro to your vids, and seeing the person of yours, as well as your great collection of stuff in the background, I knew I was (virtually) sitting across from a kindred spirit :)

I am 30 years old, and have been a video gamer (alongside pen & paper RPGs in my latter life) since about 1983, when my brother and me got our ATARI VCS 2600 as an x-mas present... sure to rekindle memories in you as well. After this, for the next 25 years, we grew through EVERYTHING there was: The ATARIs, the COMMODOREs, the SEGAs, the NINTENDOs, the x86s, the Pentiums, the Playstations, the Portables ... well, you get the idea :)

Nowadays, me and me 2 bros are retro junkies par excellence, if u can put it like this, and the two young ones even have become game developers themselves ... if ya gots the spare time, check out and for the pro`s business and leisure company (the latter mostly doing remakes of titles from the glory days, u just HAVE TO check out the Turrican remake called HURRICAN), as well as for the soon-to-be-pro`s newly founded flash game business company :)

Well, much talk now, my original intent had been to comment on your great work, I really appreciate the Matt Chat videos, and I am grateful that, despite the recess and decadent decline in this superficial, fast paced age, especially concerning things like art, music, games, creativity, culture, depth, truth, integrity and long haired dudes, there still -and ever will- exist some special ppl the likes of which could be the twin brothers of yours truly and his mates :D

Keep up the good work, Matt, and since I haven´t overlooked it (for not having watched ALL episodes of Matt Chat yet), how about taking into account one of the truly greatest, grandest and most epic CRPGs ever made - alongside all the others you HAVE already reviewed- ... Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon !

Looking forward to more Matt Chat, and Best Regards from across the pond !

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006

Hi, Thor! Nice links. I have a friend who's currently trying to get a job doing some games programming. He thinks his best route is to go back to school for a computer science degree (he's already got a BA and an MA in English), but I've been trying to persuade him just to get some teach-yourself books and get some certifications. Since you're involved in some of the professional stuff, what advice would you give him? Does an aspiring games programmer or writer really need the computer science background, or is it better just to go to some kind of technical institute or get some certifications? I'd think (and I could be dead wrong, I realize) you'd at least want some C++ in your training.

The_Mighty_Thor (not verified)
A Reply and Sum Advice :)

Hey Matt,

well, maybe it´s not THAT easy to answer, as what goes for one type of character does not automatically have to apply to another, but in general, I think YOU are the one who´s got the right kind of idea ... especially in a trade like development of computer and video games, it´s like with love: you can´t study anything or apply a fast set of rules to assure success, or even worse, guarantee a lifetime of a set stage.

Now, I´ve been interviewing my brother in the last two days for a bit of information and advice for your friend (not that I wouldn´t know anything about my younger´s path of career, mind you, but some details are best when accounted first hand :)

My brother Jörg (29), who is the second of three (with me being the firstborn) actually started out programming about 15-odd years ago, when we both were spotty, long haired teenagers with metal shirts (well, the long hair and the metal shirts remain even today, but at least, the pimples are gone), and started out to feed our COMMODORE 64s we owned with basic and assembler code we initially learned from the books that came with this legendary computers, and then just experiment based on those reads, creating a bunch of crappy games like everyone did in those days.

There had been a point, then, when the world around us had evolved a bit, and my brother decided to go for the PC, and with it, Borland and Turbo Pascal that came alongside. MY career as an active programmer died in those days with the C64, but he continued on, steadily.

Well, he teamed up with some other guys that had the same background and tender experiences then as he did, and some day, they released their first ... ummm, "professional" game which was called "BZK - Halfway to Hell", and was basically a game like this ---> (don´t know how this kind of junk game is called in trade language) which took place at the school we both visited, where u had to shoot the whole bunch of teachers to win.

Well, after this he continued on and on (all by his own, mind you, and with a relentless energy which yours truly rather spent PLAYING games than making them), in the meantime also painting graphics, composing sounds and pieces of music, and generally getting absorbed deeper and deeper by the computerized world of tomorrow.

At the age of about 20 years, he finally stood at the brink to be the exact copy of your friend. Which way to go ? What direction to choose ? Of course, at some point, our parents started to butt in, too, going like "how do you wanna earn money", "do you really have a tangible future prospect" etc. etc., so he actually started to GO TO SCHOOL for a CS degree ... and folded it after several months, feeling that this was just getting him nowhere. So, a few months later, he started to work for a local computer enterprise as, you guessed it, an app programmer (hello Chris Kennedy :P), using his spare time to ever hone his skills in the art of coding, painting and composing.

Then, some day, his big, fat, once-in-a-lifetime chance loomed on the horizon: He had discovered a (nearly) local, independent developer of small games, tarred with the same brush as, let´s say the TONY AND FRIENDS promotional Kellogg´s game, and they were actually recruiting !

He spent some 3 or 4 years with them, coding the following titles which, alongside those he coded in his freelance period, which happened after his time at Spielkind (which was the name of the small company), u can see on his personal portfolio website here --->

Having mentioned his work as a freelance coder, as well as the times before that, he finally teamed up with some of the countless dudes he became acquainted with in the last eight or so years, and founded, well, Rough Sea Games, after zillions upon zillions of hours and lines of code, thousands of games played, hundreds of dudes met, umpteen books and guides read, as well as endless fairs visited and 15 years spent, with ups, downs, and everything in between.

T´was nearly your kind of "Self-Made-Man" career, when in days of yore he himself looked up to paragons like John Romero, John Carmack, Chris Roberts, Richard Gariott etc., and, after 15 years, having evolved HIMSELF into the one looked up to by others who follow in the footsteps, like for example some teenage dudes sending in stuff like musical compositions from his games they covered on their electric guitar and stuff every other day.

I think by now your friend should´ve gotten the idea to pick up his virtual armor, weapons and spell ... umm, C++ Book rather, and just go for it. By no means do I say he will have immediate success or even a chance warranted to ever "be somebody", but if he is really serious about getting into the industry, he should start right here using his leisure time learning a bit of the business, and not killing himself listening to endless theoretical advice at school from teachers who themselves possibly have absolutely no idea about the postmodern art and beauty of computer games.

I hope I could answer some of the questions that might have arisen, for further information feel free to contact my bro via the e-Mail addresses found on the sites mentioned in my first post (he stated in an explicit way that u should feel free to do this :).

I, personally, have subscribed to your youTube account, and look forward to further digs into the highly classical soil that are (and ever will be) computer role playing games ... and don´t forget about EoB II ;)

Finally, let me do a bit of promotion: In case u are equally nuts about the classic, old DooM game as me and my brothers are (and I could well imagine u are), have a look at ... it´s a free online client for the best video game there ever was, with a community of about 25.000 ppl at the point of this writing, and ever growing. Join for free, and either revisit classic DooM maps (i.e. DooM and DooM II) with up to 16 players in Deathmatch, Coop or Capture the Flag games, or play on one of countless servers with fan made WADs, some of them exceeding the quality of the original material BY FAR !

In case u should sign up, be sure to drop me a line so we can meet up on Phobos, Deimos or the nearest UAC Spaceport :)

Cheerz from Germany,


Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Joined: 08/31/2008
Catch Up

Hey Matt -

Wow. I get busy for a few days and miss a slew of a new content on AA. I hope to catch up on everything here.

First off, lemme give a shout out to Thor. I originally started college hoping to dive into adventure games and work for Sierra On-Line. I started programming in QBasic and grew through C++, a little tiny bit of PASCAL (which I haven't mentioned in years), and eventually gained a slew of languages in college when I got my computer science degree. I wasn't as gung-ho about creating games when I graduated as I was when I entered as I mostly found myself enjoying the creativity behind the games moreso than the programming. It was more about crunching numbers to make great graphics, and I just couldn't bring myself to dedicate 80 hours a week to coding. Nevertheless, I entered the world of business app programming, and gaming remains a hobby.

Matt - Rogue looks awesome! How funny that I would use the word "looks" (as if I was referring to graphics) to tell you it is awesome. It is about the gameplay. You already know this from my previous comments here on AA. I think I would have a blast playing this game, and I certainly have no problem playing older games I have missed simply due to inferior graphics or sound (or NO graphics or NO sound for that matter). I am really sorry I missed out on this one (and the birth & early times of the genre).

I am really digging Matt Chat. The production, your comfort with the camera, and your ability to simply make a point really help keep the show elevated to a high level. I look forward to it on Fridays. Keep up the good work.

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
Graphics added onto Rogue's gameplay?

Great episode, Matt.

Your parting comments about "gameplay FIRST" intrigued me, especially pertaining to Rogue and it's brethren/spawn. While "gameplay first, then audio/visuals" makes general sense, I wonder if the appeal of the "Rogue" genre is their LACK of audio/visuals!

I wonder if piling slick audio-visuals to the "Rogue/Nethack" experience actually IMPEDES on the fundamental appeal of Rogue? Some of the variants actually have much slicker graphics, yet are generally less popular than the basic "Nethack" that seems to persist to this day. For example, "Falcon's Eye" had a graphical 3/4 perspective, yet remains one of the more obscure variants of Nethack. Personally, I disliked the barren graphics of the original (and even updated 16-bit) Rogues, yet found the 3/4 perspective of "Falcon's Eye" off-putting.

In order to test my theory, I put to you the example of the SLICKEST variant of Rogue, audio-visually, that I have come across (unless you count "Diablo" as a Rogue variant). This variant is called SECRET OF ULTIMATE LEGENDARY FANTASY UNLEASHED, or "SoulFu" for short, as it is popularly called.

"SoulFu" is freeware, and is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. The game's definitely worth checking out, so here's the link to the homepage:

(There are screenshots and cool gameplay videos on the homepage, but I couldn't figure out how to embed "Google Video" format here, so you'll have to go there to see them).

"SoulFu" has most (if not all) of the base gameplay elements of Rogue/Nethack, but adds a modern, slick, full-3D cel-shaded polygon graphics interface to the game. The game is smooth, inviting, and attractive, and would look right at home on the Nintendo Wii, especially with the "anime" graphics style. By going real-time 3D, though, it turns the Rogue-style combat to an almost arcadish slash-fest, not unlike Diablo.

The game lacks a "save game" feature, which KILLS it as a long-term addiction classic in my book, and is a serious omission. But otherwise, I like it!

But does this make "Rogue" more accessible, or does it kill the appeal of "Rogue" by adding "slickness" to it? Maybe the primitiven interfaces of the old-school "Rogue-alikes" are their primary appeal!

(P.S. I downloaded "Dwarf Fortress," which is probably the most hardcore variant of "Rogue" I've come across, and found it impenetrable. The primitive ASCII graphics made the game even more impenetrable. And this game is, by most accounts, an astounding accomplishment, gameplay wise.)

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
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