Monday, June 18, 2012

Episode 39: IRDC 2012 Retrospective

Welcome to Roguelike Radio episode 39, where we have a retrospective on the International Roguelike Development Conference 2012, held in London a few weeks ago. Talking this ep are Darren Grey, Aaron Steed, Paul Jeffries and Daniel Slaney.

You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes. My apologies straight away for the heavy breathing throughout - my mic gain was way too high and I have a horrible cold :(

Topics discussed in this lengthy episode include:
- The presentations from the conference (find the slides here, I'll get videos of them up when I can)
- Developing for mobile
- Similarities between architecture and gaming
- More intelligent procedural design
- Hawk the Slayer! (an inspiration for any roguelike dev)
- Darren's Single Hit Point Model
- The Roguelike Showcase and the variety of what everyone is working on (from gardening to the Planet Arg)
- Games as Art, including pretension, procedural musical islands and human-faced deer

Tune in next week for discussion of Score Systems.


  1. Here's the graph grammar dungeon generation paper I mentioned

    I'm going to add a vortex monster after seeing that Planet Arg video :)

    I apologise for saying 'that guy who was touting his sprites' that was rude. Here's Thomas Whetnall's awesome sprites

  2. 4% female players? Seems a bit high...:-)

    Man you know what you are talking about when you talk about the size of the US. Also our transportation system is mostly car based, so that's something to consider. For example if you were in San Fran it's very hard to get a car in there unless you know the area. Most Americans are not all that train/bus savvy. So if you can't park within a couple hundred yards that's a major issue. But I guess most would have to fly in...anyway just something to think on.

  3. Seems to be some Darth Vader-ing in this episode. :-)

    1. Yeah, sorry about that :/ I wish one of the other speakers had warned me!

  4. As far as the 4 way movement 'controversy'...there isn't one. There will always be games designed with either scheme. If we lack anything it's NOT variety.

    If the controversy is about what needs to happen moving forward and reaching a bigger market, why don't we just look at the games that have made inroads there. Namely Cardinal and DoD. We'll see what comes. The developers will end up settling it through their actions.

    Speaking of which I'm still pumped for that hex game Darren keeps speaking of. Rogue Rage?

  5. I'd like to provide some illumination in regards to the automatic rerolling of characters in NetHack. What these players were likely trying to do is go for a minimum-turn speed run. In NetHack the random equipment you start with can be extremely good. A Wizard in particular starts with potentially fantastic gear, including 2 random rings, a random wand and a random spellbook. The best strategy for doing a minimum-turn speed run is to re-roll until you get a ring of polymorph control and a wand of polymorph. This lets you immediately polymorph into any monster in the game, allowing you to dive all the way down into the dungeon without any fighting.

    1. Really? That's pretty cool actually. I know it can be abused but still. Now I want to try it!

    2. Actually, Nethack never generates starting characters with both a ring of polymorph control and a source of polymorph. At least according to the spoilers I'm looking at

  6. I'm excited to hear you guys talking about getting more ambitious with PCG. I got excited about this idea last year and started working on a game engine to build dungeon levels based on arbitrary planar graphs. It's starting to shape up into something I think will be usable for some pretty neat content work.

    If anyone's curious to see, I've got a fair amount of detail and screenshots on the dev blog:

    I hadn't seen the graph grammar paper; I'll definitely be giving that a read.

  7. Here's some shots of the graph based roguelike I showed at IRDC and is mentioned on the podcast,sfoHv,Gp8Mp,W62Jg

  8. The talk about piracy being most rampant in China and Russia is an interesting subject. Gabe Newell discussed this a while back and made the suggestion that the pirates might be localizing the game better than the developer (if the developer localizes at all). Speaking strictly english myself, I would imagine playing a roguelike in Russian to be rather difficult.

    Heres the video of Gabe:

  9. The URL in Darren's link doesn't seem to actually go to my presentation. If anybody's interested my 'slides' are here:

    Perhaps next time I'll stop trying to be a smartarse and just use powerpoint like everybdy else.

    It's a shame that my internet connection kept cutting out during the recording (if it seems like I've disappeared in some parts of the podcast it's sometimes because I have). I missed the opportunity for some gratuitous self-promotion during the discussion about ranged mechanics, since AS.T.Ro ( emphasises ranged combat and addresses some of the issues we talked about.

    In particular the point about firing unrealistically quickly: in AS.T.Ro each character can move up to (typically) four spaces per 'turn' - this effectively reduces the rate of fire and consequently makes combat a bit more tactical and dynamic since the cost of repositioning is much less. I also balance ranged and melee but not by making their damage equivalent - ranged weapons are much more deadly, but characters attacked in melee can't then shoot or use any other item, giving melee a distinct role in tying up dangerous opponents. Your mileage may vary, of course.

  10. Just noticed that Sun Crusher!!! was mentioned by Simon Donnelly regarding dynamically changing maps. I laughed a bit and water came out my nose. Great.

    I think the dynamic map would have been better had I slid the planets around instead of jumping them around. Same goes with the rest of the objects really.

    Anyway, thanks for the mention!

  11. Regarding the amount of female roguelike players, I think we have to take into account that DCSS is the last big old-style (like Angband, NetHack, or ADOM) roguelike.

    The gender ratio is probably quite different with the newer roguelikes that are played on consoles or smartphones. But we don't have much data about them.

  12. Joseph: SUN CRUSHER and Star Relic ( ) are the only two games I've played that have that orbital mechanic in a turn-based system, and imho it deserves wider use :)

    I forgot to mention it during the talk because it was so long since I played it, but Unstoppable's approach to dynamic maps was quite excellent - similar to KleinRL's wandering diggers, but more highly structured (the constructor bots aimed for specific configurations).

  13. Now, that was a long episode...

    Procedural content vs random content: I think Darren is wrong here. The word "procedural" means generated by an algorithm, and in roguelikes, "random" is much more important than "procedural". Hydra Slayer has a boss level which looks like the Mandelbrot set, and it looks always the same. That is procedural, but not random. We usually don't want this in roguelikes. I would call Darren's dream "smart random" or something like that.

    Spiderlikeness of this graph-based dungeon: I think it looks like a spider web only because possible locations are shown as dots, and possible movements as edges. It is possible to have a more traditional look there (each dungeon point belongs to the vertex which is closest to it, and we draw edges on the boundaries). HyperRogue displayed a similar graph in its early stages and it also looked very spiderweb like.

    Farming: maybe the showcased game was novel, but it is also very nice to farm herbs in ADOM...

    Smartphone roguelikes: I found it annoying that the finger obscured the way I was going in HyperRogue, and implemented an experimental "reverse movement" option where you push your character from behind. But it seems less intuitive... and seemingly easier to go in a wrong direction.

  14. Does anyone have a link to Sun Crusher please? I'm not finding anything on Google.


      That's the forum topic. IDK if the links are still good.

    2. If you wanted I could send it too you...I don't think it's really that interesting (I wrote it). I tried a few things I hadn't seen before, which was definitely the goal.

      Send me a PM on rogue temple if you have problems.

      NOTE: The plant circling idea came from the old Buck Rogers board game. Which was awesome.

    3. Don't worry Joseph, I found it quite cool and different myself. It got quite low scores in the 7DRL evaluation, but I think they underestimated it (mostly due to very low roguelikeness). If somebody is interested in a puzzle game with orbiting planets, then they should give it a try.

  15. I wrote a blog post about your Junethack part in this episode. Putting it all in this comment form would probably have overflown it. :)

    Strange as it may sound, start scumming in NetHack is not always as bad, crazy, or pathetic as it may look like at the first glance.

  16. I don't think that whether it generates enough keys is the main difference between Binding of Isaac and Brogue.

    One of the big things about Binding of Isaac's system, at least for me, is that you can't return to levels. So if you can't open a locked door right now, you can never come back and unlock it.

    In contrast, Brogue might generate a room locked by a burnable barrier, and then place a potion of incineration somewhere accessible on the level. If I drink that potion too early, I might not be able to open the door right now. But there will probably be another source of fire somewhere later in the dungeon, and at that point I'll have the option of going back for it.

    So, if Binding of Isaac let you return to previous levels (and maybe gave you a bit of a hint about which doors were likely to contain which types of content), it would be a lot different. Even *without* the game guaranteeing that there were enough keys for a perfect player to open every door.


    One of my undergraduate CS professors (Stephen Rudich at Carnegie Mellon) told us that he used to aim his exams to have a median of about 60, but now he aims them to have a median of about 80. He thinks that he got the same grade curve at a 60 that he does at an 80, maybe a bit more spread out, but with the same people on top and the same ability for him to assign letter grades. But at a 60, students with low grades blamed him, and at an 80, they blame themselves.

    Hopefully this anecdote is somehow relevant to your difficulty discussion.

  17. I've never been a very competitive player in most games, but I have definitely seen people going to great extremes in games where there is a heavy competitive element. I notice this a lot in MMORPGs. I typically stick to PvM, where you can get by with suboptimal gear and stats... but in PvP, people have _the perfect_ gear, and have calculated various things out... they have a strategy, and have maximized that strategy in every conceivable way within the rules of the game.

    so I'm not at all surprised to see people behaving similarly in a roguelike competition. I think calling people who use bots to auto-roll characters "pathetic" is, besides inaccurate, blinding yourself to the truth: in a competitive environment, people WILL take advantage of every aspect of the game that can be taken advantage to, and while I think most people won't cheat, they'll definitely do gray-area things if they can be defended as being not-strictly-against-the-rules. we see this in sports as well.

    give people a competition, and competitors will fight in every way possible to win. you have to design your competition to account for this, and know that no matter how much you thought things out, players will find something you missed, and take advantage of it. and then you'll have to sit around and think about how to adjust things for the next competition, and that's just how things go.

    it's not people being pathetic: it's people wanting to win.

    1. Agreed. If the tactic is dirty it needs to be outlawed or people will use it. And rightly so. In the original Star Craft I rush with Zerglings in the first few minutes in EVERY GAME. If you aren't ready, you lose.

      Also, in the old Street Fighter series, I would block throw all the time.

      Both of these tactics are successful, cheap and infuriating. Your tears are my smiles.

  18. Quick note: Tom managed to somehow miss the free version of Voyage to Farland in his "Ascendances" slide, which is odd since I assume the screenshots came from the free version. Here's the fixed slide

  19. Would just like to make a comment about Crawl's autoexplore.

    While there is validity to your viewpoint that the auto-x is to patch a problem, I think the complete disregard of DCSS as "too big, too few enemies" shows a blindspot to differences in roguelikes. If we all wanted to play the same game there would only be one type of gameplay per genre. Crawl may not be as exciting in an "exploration roguelike" way but it's not meant to be an exploration roguelike, it's a tactical roguelike etc etc.

  20. Ah, forgot the last bit: You then go on to say that one way to reduce the dredge of backtracking is creating circular dungeons or ones with many ways through: Which is exactly what Crawl is great at. You may be able to autoexplore through your first go through on a level, but then there is always more than one way to go back through the many paths and helps with backtracking.