Roguelikes Tasting

So I’m doing some research into Roguelikes for reasons that shall remain secret for now. I have been looking at some examples to get a general taste for the myriad of flavors there are. One could say that I did a Wine Tasting with Rogulikes. Here are my notes.

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup

Unaccessible depths.

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is apparently a branch of a pretty old Roguelike. It’s quite apparent. The game is incredibly deep with lots of commands and abilities at your disposal. Apparently, the interesting thing about the “Stone Soup” branch is it’s focus on interface and on the graphic Tileset. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work for me which is actually something I encounter very often in Roguelikes. Some of it is simply for technical reasons. I use a Mac notebook keyboard with a German layout. In Germany, the keys Z and Y are switched. Most of the punctuation signs are in different places on the keyboard. Some keys just don’t exist, such as the keypad. Mac keyboards don’t even have the NUM Lock functionality. Using the Keyboard only gets me so far. Stone Soup has a lot of GUI workarounds but they don’t really work that smoothly. Every now and then, it’s still required to press a key. Using a mouse and and that many different keys doesn’t really work. Especially since some of the key commands need to be UPPERCASE. WTF?! The final straw is that the game frequently gives hard modal prompts. So if you accidentally walk in to an already discovered trap, you MUST answer yes or no to proceed.

I lost patience even during the tutorial. But then I still had to figure out how to even close the game! I gave it a second try at some point. I just started an actual game. It worked much better. But soon the levels started to feel huge and tedious. I was done after the 3rd floor or so

Things I liked: Resource management! Killing dudes and cutting their corpses down for emergency rations. Then getting food poisoning. Then trying to cure food poisoning with random potions. Good deal of inventory tinkering with curses and scrolls.

Things I didn’t like: Clunky interface. Lots of unnecessary hurdles break the fluidity of interaction. Help functions too cumbersome to use. Huge, sprawling levels with somewhat uninspired patterns (parallel corridors – yuck!). Repetitive combat – until you suddenly die.



The old days that never existed.

DoomRL is what actually started this investigation. Apparently a so-called Coffebreak Roguelike based on the game Doom. Derek Yu recently contributed a graphic tileset to it. Rare instance of a Roguelike actually using sounds. Turned of the music immediately – broke the mood. But the SFX are great. I think many game designers underestimate the role of SFX in the creation of Juicyness/Effectance/Kinaesthetics.

I don’t know about the Coffebreak but this clearly worked for me. There are solid mouse controls and just a few key commands to speed things up. Everything looks and feels much more polished than Stone Soup. But of course, there is much less options than in Stone Soup.

Things I liked: Interface works. SFX help making it feel juicy. Levels have a good size even if they don’t have the best randomizer in the world. Multiple difficulty levels ensure a wide appeal. It’s a game to cuddle up with on the couch.

Things I didn’t like: Runs out of ideas fast. Combat is polished but begins to feel repetitive. Eventually you just clear floor by floor by shooting at things. Not much inventory tinkering. Not much resource management. But perhaps I just haven’t seen enough.



Compatible with the MU-TH-UR 6000 system.

The guy, who made DoomRL made also AliensRL. So it’s actually quite similar. This one doesn’t have the tileset or even mouse control. But it has SFX and still feels good. Proof that DoomRL doesnt work just due to Doom nostalgia. And that mouse control isn’t even necessary for polished controls.



Inspiring environments. But otherwise, a rather short excursion for me.

After Stone Soup, I knew I wouldn’t get warm with Incursion. I just started it once to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. It goes deeeeeep. I left even before I even died for the first time.

BUT, there is one cool thing I really LOVED. The individual rooms have a lot of flavor. There is a Textadventure-esque description as you enter each room. And it’s not just arbitrary. It actually reflects the design of the room. If the description says that there are vines hanging from the ceiling, you can actually SEE the vines in their ASCII glory.

Things I liked: The richness of the environment. The above descriptions. The level generator seems to be really solid too! I read that the levels are even spatially consistent (stairs in a level above overlap with the stairs with the level below).

Things I didn’t like: Super cumbersome system. Together with the keyboard issues, it’s utterly unplayable for me.



Bringing back the “Art” into “ASCII Art”.

I save the best for the end. Brogue caught me off-guard. It looks like yet another RL but it’s a Goldilocks solution for me.

It uses ASCII art but in a beautifully detailed way. Water surfaces glitter. There is tall grass that blocks off your view. You can trample over it. Some enemies give of puffs of poisonous gas that slowly expands in a room. There are even hints of lighting. The level generation is really nice. Just the first levels already have lakes, chasms, hanging bridges. It makes the world very interesting, completely transcending the ASCII technology.

Another interesting thing is that it’s very streamlined and polished. There is no character generation, not even a name. There are full, working mouse controls along side with simple keyboard commands. Both work well. There are meaningful description of items, but not too much noise. No arbitrary lists of numbers and stats. Just the things you need.

And finally, there are actually few, but meaningful enemies. It’s not just an endless hack and slash through hordes of palette-swapped variations controlled by the same, mindless AI. The enemies actually have character. It’s starts simple with rats and jackals. But soon, you encounter monkeys that steal items from you and then run away, the fore-mentioned exploding gas bags, wizard goblins that keep their distance while summoning magic swords and jelly creatures that multiply when you hit them. Sometimes, you can even rescue creatures that have been imprisoned and they become your buddies and fight along your side.

It’s a really nice game that creates a rich and complex world in a very approachable and streamlined kind of way. Very unlike what you see in most Roguelikes.

Things I liked: Smooth interface. Simple stats, little combat. Varied enemy behavior. Varied and dynamic environment. No SFX but still feels alive due to subtle visual and interactive details. Oh an one more thing: each level fits on a screen without scrolling. Somehow, that feels incredibly reassuring. It grounds the world and limits the size of each level.

Things I didn’t like: It’s a matter of taste but I would prefer a little more resource management and inventory tinkering. SFX would be nice too.



An combat-free approach worth exploring further.

And finally something completely different. Fatherhood is a Roguelike without combat. You must stop a flood from advancing by moving rocks. At the same time, you need to take care of your 3 children. Haven’t played that much so I can’t comment yet. But from what I saw, the idea was intriguing enough.

Speaking of which: I’m still looking for some other Roguelikes that have dynamic environments. I’m especially looking for ones that focus on interaction with the environment and less on combat. Any suggestions?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

12 responses to “Roguelikes Tasting”

  1. DoubleW

    You’ve covered Brogue, which doesn’t leave many other interesting and streamlined roguelikes. The majority of them have the same problem that you had with Stone Soup’s cumbersome interface. You might just have to suffer through it a little bit to find the interesting bits.

    Cataclysm, for example, has a post-apocolyptic environment and asynchronous multiplayer – changes to the game world are saved to a server and other players can come across them even if they can’t meet you personally. However, equipping a weapon requires pressing three different keys.

    The 7 Day Roguelike contest/event thing will be wrapping up later this week, and that might produce some interesting stuff. Hang in there, I guess.

  2. sirleto

    you could try out the german ratking games unity game – it feels somewhat incomplete, somewhat very cool, somewhat very different:

  3. sirleto

    depending on how precisely you take roguelike for “roguelike”, you may also like ftl – they claim themselves to be a roguelike – but are missing many core-features

  4. Middlemoor

    Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is widely recognized as the best roguelike ever made. The fact that you use a german keyboard, on a mac and then complain about interface issues simply ruins your credibility. The mouse interface is entirely optional, but since you are trying to play it on a system with hardware that doesn’t support it, I’m not surprised you chose to use it.

    It has an advanced travel system, an interesting class system, religious system, huge variety of items, magic and locations. The fact that you played three levels and then made a sweeping judgement of it is rather laughable. Anyone who knows Crawl knows that the third level is merely the beginning of your adventure. I suggest you go back and play it with a proper PC and a normal keyboard.

    Oh and it has a detailed in-game help system. Blame yourself, not the game.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Thank you for your comment, Middlemoor. I’m guessing you are a person quite familiar with Roguelikes.

      I will have to disagree with you, though. It is not my fault that I use a German keyboard. It may surprise you to learn that all computers in Germany are issued with German keyboard. That’s a good thing. We Germans kinda need them to write in German. It could be worse. I could be living in France.

      A well designed interface takes this into account. This is also usually the reason why it’s a good practice to avoid over-reliance on hotkeys. It has the nice side-effect of not putting too much burden on the user.

      What I was getting at in the article is that Stone Soup is an old Roguelike and you can clearly tell. Yes, it’s incredibly deep with thousands of systems and features. It cleary has acquired a lot of those system slowly over time. I’m sure one can get a lot out of the game if one takes the time to learn it.

      However, sheer depth is not synonymous with well designed or even desirable. In this case, the interface has not grown to accommodate all those features or even modern hardware and contemporary interface design sensibility. Many of the other Roguelikes I mentioned in the article avoid this problem.

      Finally, your arguments seem to boil down to arguments of authority.

      I’m sure there are a lot of people, who enjoy Stone Soup. But that doesn’t mean that they are right and Stone Soup is the best GAEM EVA!!1!! It doesn’t mean that there is nothing wrong with Stone Soup either. I, for one, dislike Stone Soup for the above reasons. I’m looking for something else in Roguelikes.

  5. Middlemoor

    Okay, so it’s your “fault” per-se that you have a German keyboard, but it’s also not Crawl’s fault. Crawl is primarily designed for the English speaking world, hence the default to an English keyboard. You can’t expect all-language functionality from a rogue-like, but having said that translations do exist. Crawl does have a well-designed interface and does take that into account – in an indirect way. You can change your key-bindings within the game. There is a command to do this. Also, the tile version gives you plenty of mouse options. I don’t know if you are that familiar with rogue-likes, but they are basically -defined- by a reliance on hot-keys. If you’re looking for something that’s basically mouse-only, Diablo is more appropriate.

    Stone Soup is not actually that old. Crawl is old. Stone Soup is actually being updated on a fairly regular basis. It’s an off-shoot of the original Linley’s Dungeon Crawl. It’s been much updated and added to in recent months/years. It’s also been heavily simplified (ie. made user-friendly) from the original Crawl. The built in travel command (’o’ key) and mouse functionality was previously non-existent without additional patches.

    In the case of rogue-likes, depth -is- another defining factor of good design. You mentioned you didn’t like Incursion as well – that is also considered one of the best rogue-likes. You really need to take the time to learn how to play these games in order to appreciate them. Maybe you need to find workarounds for your keyboard as well, or switch to using an English one. You are always going to find yourself limited in that sense because these games are rarely modified for foreign language hardware from the outset. That said, most of them do include key-binding options. Generally, the more simple a rogue-like the less longevity it has and the less it challenges the player. To be honest, I’m not sure why you’re reviewing rogue-likes if you’re not attracted to the complexity. As mentioned before, you should probably check out Diablo, or Torchlight (which is a great game IMO).

    The only reconciliation I can make from your statements is that you prefer the simpler rogue-likes because they have less keys. I truly doubt that any of the other rogue-likes you reviewed (and i’ve played most of them) have innovative input systems and interfaces other than an inherent simplicity that requires less exploration and might appeal to more casual players. That may well be your preference, but I don’t think it deserves to be a reason for detraction upon well-regarded complex rogue-likes.

    In all honesty, the two rogue-likes you detracted the most (Stone Soup and Incursion) are regarded as some of the best rogue-likes “EVA!!1!!”. Your reviews just fly in the face of the facts as seen in the rogue-like community. You may be entitled to your opinion that you’re looking for something else in a rogue-like, but then if you are, you probably shouldn’t be reviewing rogue-likes on the basis you do. This list should be more of an opinion piece, but as it stands I think some of your criticisms are shortsighted and unwarranted.

    1. Krystian Majewski

      but it’s also not Crawl’s fault.

      Of course it is! By any interface design standard, it’s just one of many shortcomings of the game’s interface. Others I mentioned were hard modal prompts.

      they are basically -defined- by a reliance on hot-keys

      A keyboard interface is not necessary a feature of a Roguelike game. Not according to the Berlin Interpretation. They may not be uncommon. But I’m not criticizing the fact that Stone Soup uses a keyboard interface at all. I’m criticizing the execution.

      In the case of rogue-likes, depth -is- another defining factor of good design.

      That doesn’t mean that you can just keep piling up systems on top of each other to get an increasingly better game. At some point the complexity begins cannibalizing accessibility and playability. Looking at Stone Soup and especially at Incursion, that’s pretty much what happened. I do respect the effort and some results are interesting. Some players are willing to invest that kind of effort. I’m not one of those people. And the kind of consensus among the Roguelike community you seem to imply simply doesn’t exist. There has been a very interesting discussion about this in context of the 7 Day Roguelike competition recently on Roguelike Radio. The general trend is toward generating complexity through simple and accessible systems. Something the newer games I mentioned certainly share.

      you probably shouldn’t be reviewing rogue-likes on the basis you do.

      Are you mad? On what other basis should I write about roguelikes. This is my private blog and it’s not even a “review”. These are some brief notes I made from a superficial “tasting” of a few roguelikes. Why on earth do you think you are entitled to tell me what I may or may not write? You haven’t really thought this through, did you?

  6. Middlemoor

    [quote]Of course it is! By any interface design standard, it’s just one of many shortcomings of the game’s interface. Others I mentioned were hard modal prompts.[/quote]

    It’s not a shortcoming of the game’s interface. The game wasn’t designed for a German keyboard. Since you are in a massive minority, it can hardly be counted as a flaw on behalf of the designers. Besides, as mentioned, the game features a key-binding command. You can change the keys if you must. Stone Soup actually has a really well laid out, intuitive and well-documented (including in-game) keyboard interface as well as a well-implemented mouse interface. A high majority of commands can be executed with the mouse and there’s even a graphical UI in the tile-version for you to interact with your character/skills/items, etc. Seeing as you only made it to the third level, I’m not meaning to be too harsh on you but it seems like you haven’t really spent enough time on the game to have the keys figured out. Either way, you’re using a keyboard that 195 other countries don’t necessarily use…on a Mac. I am not trying to be biased or mislead you when I say that Stone Soup has one of the simplest to use keyboard-interfaces. Compared to say, Incursion (which took me a lot longer to get used to), it’s really a breeze.

    [quote]A keyboard interface is not necessary a feature of a Roguelike game. Not according to the Berlin Interpretation. They may not be uncommon. But I’m not criticizing the fact that Stone Soup uses a keyboard interface at all. I’m criticizing the execution.[/quote]

    I don’t know much about the Berlin Interpretation, but of course a keyboard interface is not -necessary- for a game to be considered a rogue-like. Dungeon Seige and Diablo are rogue-likes. Torchlight is a rogue-like. While it may not be completely necessary, it is hardly unusual. It is more than uncommon, it is extremely common. You didn’t include any of the modern graphical rogue-likes in your reviews, so I’m assuming you were focusing on some of the more classic titles. When I say that rogue-likes are basically -defined- by keyboard interfaces, it’s not far from the truth. It’s not a necessary factor, but 99% of them work that way and it’s an inherent factor in many’s design. A lot of rogue-like players prefer the precise keyboard commands of these types of rogue-likes, over more fluid, almost-solely mouse-based action-RPG variants like Diablo.

    [quote]That doesn’t mean that you can just keep piling up systems on top of each other to get an increasingly better game. At some point the complexity begins cannibalizing accessibility and playability. [/quote]

    Well, I find that conclusion unfair. Especially about Stone Soup. The complexity is pretty elegant. The game never becomes unfathomably confusing, in my opinion. I would define it as “rich”, as opposed to “piled up”. Everything has a purpose and is in the game for a reason. It’s not just a case of random complexity being thrown at you from all angles. While accessibility might be an issue for some, I don’t think that is a discredit to the game. These games were never made to be appealing to everybody. Not everyone wants to plan their moves tile by tile, being in control of a wide variety of actions. However, just because that doesn’t appeal to you – doesn’t mean the game is at fault.

    [quote]Looking at Stone Soup and especially at Incursion, that’s pretty much what happened.[/quote]

    Incursion is designed to be specifically complicated. It’s an implementation of D&D’s D20 system. The idea is that people can get the complexity of the pen & paper RPG in the form of a videogame. Again, that’s not a fault of the game. There is no way to really change the fact that it’s complicated, other than to distort the whole nature of the game. It’s not going to appeal to everybody, but it’s not fair to say it’s piling on complexity just for the sake of it. These games have a niche appeal, they’re not even TRYING to please everybody.

    [quote]I do respect the effort and some results are interesting. Some players are willing to invest that kind of effort. I’m not one of those people. And the kind of consensus among the Roguelike community you seem to imply simply doesn’t exist.[/quote]

    Sure it does. The roguelike community loves Dungeon Crawl and is really excited about Incursion, especially when the full version is released. These games are designed for players who are bored of the simpler rogue-likes or the random, wacky nature of Nethack.

    [quote]There has been a very interesting discussion about this in context of the 7 Day Roguelike competition recently on Roguelike Radio. The general trend is toward generating complexity through simple and accessible systems. Something the newer games I mentioned certainly share.[/quote]

    Still, it would be unfair to say that Stone Soup is overly complex. The whole fun of the game is the large amount of input you get in your character, his actions, the items and the world around you. Your entire complaint about it is pretty much based on having a German keyboard, on a mac (not using the key-binding options), and not being bothered to play the game beyond the third level (which incidentally you can reach in minutes.)

  7. Middlemoor

    Well, looks like I don’t know how to do quotes on here. Perhaps the reply system is overly complicated, having too many layers of complexity piled on top of one another? Either way, I missed one.

    [quote]Are you mad? On what other basis should I write about roguelikes. This is my private blog and it’s not even a “review”. These are some brief notes I made from a superficial “tasting” of a few roguelikes. Why on earth do you think you are entitled to tell me what I may or may not write? You haven’t really thought this through, did you?[/quote]

    Well, you can always disable comments but I still felt inclined to reply. I have thought through what I’ve said but your reviews aren’t very well thought through, or investigated. Even a “tasting” doesn’t deserve some of the comments you made. The problem with the way you’re writing is that you’re stating a lot of things as fact which are really just your briefly formed opinions. You’ve said things like the games are downright clunky, unnecessary, cumbersome, repetitive. Those are some pretty heavy claims to be made based on a “tasting.” My point is that you should make it clearer that you’re expressing your personal opinion based on your experiences, but you’ve actually written it as though you have definitive facts about the games you’ve briefly experienced.

  8. Middlemoor

    Crawl also states it’s design philosophy:

    “In a nutshell: This game aims to be a tactical fantasy-themed dungeon
    crawl. We strive for strategy being a concern, too, and for exquisite
    gameplay and interface. However, don’t expect plots or quests.

    You may ponder about the wisdom of certain design decisions of Crawl.
    This section tries to explain some of them. It could also be of interest
    if you are used to other roguelikes and want a bit of background on the
    differences. Prime mainstays of Crawl development are the following,
    most of which are explained in more detail below. Note that many of
    these date back to Linley’s first versions.

    Major design goals:
    * challenging and random gameplay, with skill making a real difference
    * meaningful decisions (no no-brainers)
    * avoidance of grinding (no scumming)
    * gameplay supporting painless interface and newbie support

    Minor design goals:
    * clarity (playability without need for spoilers)
    * internal consistency
    * replayability (using branches, species, playing styles and gods)
    * proper use of out of depth monsters

    The notions of balance, or being imbalanced, are extremely vague. Here
    is our definition: Crawl is designed to be a challenging game, and is
    also renowned for its randomness. However, this does not mean that wins
    are an arbitrary matter of luck: Skill of the players will have the
    largest impact. So, yes, there may be situations where you are doomed -
    no action could have saved your life. But then, from the midgame on,
    most deaths are not of this type: By this stage, almost all casualties
    can be traced back to actual mistakes; if not tactical ones, then of a
    strategical type, like wrong skilling (too broad or too narrow), unwise
    use of resources (too conservative or too liberal), or wrong decisions
    about branch/god/gear.

    The possibility of unavoidable deaths is a larger topic in computer
    games: Ideally, a game like this would be really challenging and have
    both random layout and random course of action; yet still be winnable
    with perfect play. This goal seems out of reach. Thus, computer games
    can be soft in the sense that optimal play ensures a win. Apart from
    puzzles, though, this means that the game is solved from the outset;
    this is where the lack of a human game-master is obvious.
    Alternatively, they can be hard in the sense that unavoidable deaths
    can occur. We feel that the latter choice provides much more fun in
    the long run.

    Crawl has a huge number of handmade vaults/maps to tweak the randomness.
    While the placement, and often parts of the contents, of such vaults are
    random as well, they provide several advantages: vaults offer challenges
    that are very hard to get via just random monster and layout generation;
    they may centre on some theme, providing additional immersion; finally,
    they will often contain some loot, forcing players to decide between
    safety and greed.

    (The next topic can also be filed under balance; see Replayability for
    what balance does not mean to us.)

    Crusade against no-brainers
    A very important point in Crawl is steering away from no-brainers.
    Speaking about games in general, wherever there’s a no-brainer, that
    means the development team put a lot of effort into providing a “choice”
    that’s really not an interesting choice at all. And that’s a horrible
    lost opportunity for fun. Examples for this are the resistances: there
    are very few permanent sources, most involve a choice (like rings or
    specific armour) or are only semi-permanent (like mutations). Another
    example is the absence of clear-cut best items, which comes from the
    fact that most artefacts are randomly generated. Furthermore, even
    non-random artefacts cannot be wished for, as scrolls of acquirement
    produce random items in general. Likewise, there are no sure-fire means
    of life saving (the closest equivalents are controlled blinks, and good
    religious standings for some deities).

    Another basic design principle is avoidance of grinding (also known as
    scumming). These are activities that have low risk, take a lot of time,
    and bring some reward. This is bad for a game’s design because it
    encourages players to bore themselves. Even worse, it may be optimal to
    do so. We try to avoid this!

    This explains why shops don’t buy: otherwise players would hoover the
    dungeon for items to sell. Another instance: there’s no infinite
    commodity available: food, monster and item generation is generally not
    enough to support infinite play. Not messing with lighting also falls
    into this category: there might be a benefit to mood when players have
    to carry candles/torches, but we don’t see any gameplay benefit as yet.
    The deep tactical gameplay Crawl aims for necessitates permanent dungeon
    levels. Many a time characters have to choose between descending or
    battling. While caution is a virtue in Crawl, as it is in many other
    roguelikes, there are strong forces driving characters deeper.

    The interface is radically designed to make gameplay easy – this sounds
    trivial, but we mean it. All tedious, but necessary, chores should be
    automated. Examples are long-distance travel, exploration and taking
    notes. Also, we try to cater for different preferences: both ASCII and
    tiles are supported; as are vi-keys and numpad. Documentation is plenty,
    context-specific and always available in-game. Finally, we ease getting
    started via tutorials.

    Things ought to work in an intuitive way. Crawl definitely is winnable
    without spoiler access. Concerning important but hidden details (i.e.
    facts subject to spoilers) our policy is this: The joy of discovering
    something spoily is nice, once. (And disappears before it can start if
    you feel you need to read spoilers – a legitimate feeling.) The joy of
    dealing with ever-changing, unexpected and challenging strategic and
    tactical situations that arise out of transparent rules, on the other
    hand, is nice again and again. That said, we believe that qualitative
    feedback is often better than precise numbers.

    In concrete terms, we either spell out a gameplay mechanic explicitly
    (either in the manual, or by in-game feedback) or leave it to min-maxers
    if we feel that the naive approach is good enough.

    While there is no plot to speak of, the game should still be set in
    a consistent Crawl universe. For example, names of artefacts should fit
    the mood, vaults should be sensibly placed and monsters should somehow
    fit as well. Essentially, this is about player immersion. As such, it’s
    good to have in mind, but consistency is always secondary to gameplay.
    A typical example is player vs. monster behaviour: while we try to make
    these identical (or similar), there are good reasons for keeping them
    distinct in certain cases.

    This is actually quite important, but in some sense just a corollary
    to the major design goals. Besides these, there are several other
    points helping to make playing Crawl fun over and over again:

    Diversity: whenever there are choices to the player, be that choice of
    species, god, weapon or spell, the various options should be genuinely
    different. It is no good to provide dozens of weapons with different
    names (and perhaps even numbers) if, in the end, they all play the

    Many different species: This is partly due to the skills and aptitude
    system. Similarly important are the built-in starting bonuses/handicaps
    of species; these often have great impact on play. To us, balance does
    not mean that all combinations of background and species play equally
    well! Some are much more challenging than others, and this is fine with
    us. Each species has at least some backgrounds playing rather well,

    Dungeon layout: Even veteran players will find the Tomb or the Hells
    exciting (which are construed such that life endangering situations can
    always pop up). These and other branches may or may not fit a given
    character’s buildup. By the way, we strongly believe that games are
    pointless if you can reach the invincible state.

    Religion: This addresses new players, as getting to the Temple and
    choosing a god becomes the first major task of most games. But religion
    is also a point in favour of replayability for experienced players,
    since the choice of god can matter as much as species does.

    Playing styles: Related to, but encompassing, species, background, god
    are fundamentally different playing styles like melee oriented fighter,
    stabber, etc. Deciding on whether (and when!) to make a transition of
    style can make or break games.

    Out of the depths
    From time to time a discussion about Crawl’s unfair OOD (out of depth)
    monsters turns up, like a dragon on the second dungeon level. These are
    not bugs! Actually, they are part of the randomness design goal. In
    this case, they also serve as additional motivation: in many situations,
    the OOD monster can be survived somehow, and the mental bond with the
    character will then surely grow. OOD monsters also help to keep players
    on their toes by making shallow, or cleared, levels still not trivial.
    In a similar vein, early trips to the Abyss are not deficits: there’s
    more than one way out, and successfully escaping is exciting for anyone.”

    And a search on the web reveals that Crawl (particular Stone Soup) is revered as having one of the best designs and most accessible interfaces (in the graphical tile version) of all the rogue-likes, in particularly the complicated ones.

  9. daniel

    what i forgot to mention when you posted this in march: i love desktop dungeons. its a very interesting take on rogue likes. yann van der cruyssen told me about it, he likes it a lot, too. he also loves the good old star wars mini game: yoga desktop adventures. i think i remember correctly that you, kryst, loved that one back then, too? or was it jens?

  10. On Roguelikes | Castles in the Air

    [...] Roguelike tasting Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… [...]


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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