Thursday, April 25, 2013

Episode 70: Introducing People to Roguelikes

This is episode 70 of Roguelike Radio, where we talk about Introducing People to Roguelikes. Speaking this episode are Ido Yehieli, Darren Grey, Eben Howard and Aaron Steed.

You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.

Topics discussed in this episode include:
 - /r/roguelikes, where many come to seek advice on which roguelike to play
 - Aaron's Ending, which flumuxes non-roguelikers with its turn-based bump-to-attack mechanics
 - Loose mechanics that allow experimentation being more approachable
 - Dwarf Fortress as the most popular "my first roguelike", in spite of the usual thoughts of roguelikes needing to be streamlined with simple controls to be accessible
 - Introducing people to streamlined and accessible coffeebreak games vs complex traditional games with more depth
 - Catering recommendations to the individuals and what they enjoy
 - How tight, focused games can be less accessible than big, messy games
 - Showing people games in the right environment
 - The importance of theme, story and visual style to grab people from the start, such as in FTL and Dungeons of Dredmor
 - "There's no poop in Zelda" - Aaron
 - A long but entrancing aside about Eternal Knights, a roguelike arcade gambling machine with real money rewards that Eben played in Japan - is this heaven or hell?
 - Lack of social elements in most roguelikes, which can often help get friends together
 - Genre fusion games attracting people from those other genres
 - Being available to answer questions and chat about the game
 - The desire to chat about procedurally generated experiences with friends
 - Go out and convert people to roguelikes! Go! Enslave them!!

Roguelikes that can be good to introduce people to:
 - Ending - see how much it confuses you with its outlandish "attack" ability!
 - Cardinal Quest, Zaga-33, Vicious Orcs for streamlined controls and mechanics
 - Dwarf Fortress for outright complexity and sim-style gameplay
 - FTL, Sword of the Stars: The Pit - sci-fi theme
 - DoomRL - it's Doom, muthafucka!
 - Shiren the Wanderer - can appeal to JRPG fans and keeps people hooked on depth with ongoing story
 - Mystery Dungeon series - very accessible for all ages
 - The Wizard's Lair -  A new indie roguelike being developed in the Mystery Dungeon style
 - ADOM and ToME4 for overworld and story - especially ToME4's Old RPG tileset mod
 - POWDER for quick plays and the joys of randomness
 - DCSS and Brogue for balanced and complex games
 - Desktop Dungeons - puzzley gameplay
 - Bonfire - JRPG style roguelike still in development
 - Shoot First, The Binding of Isaac, Teleglitch - action-y roguelikes
 - Mobile games: 100 Rogues, Legends of Yore, Sword of Fargoal, Dungeon Ho, Brogue on iOS

Join us next time for potentially some coverage of Sword of the Stars: The Pit. (Yes, I know we said that last week...)


  1. Gotta say the graphics will draw 'em in, but after awhile it seems people start to prefer the ascii. I know I started needing tiles, but in my last 7DRL I went ascii just by default even though I could have just as easily cut and pasted star trek graphics.

    1. Yes, those graphics do toll the development time too, and how you can approach the implementation... specially when going full 3D with live animations to worry about as well. That's kind of why I came to the roguelike genre, and was so eager to make my own thing within this genre. Ascii graphics are accepted, and you can focus on gameplay... of course, projects don't always end up as initially planned :-P

    2. Very interesting what was said for how you set the stage of expectations btw. We found that in Han Yolo too, where it just felt strange animating the walk cycle for a single tile, then mix to idle animation before walking to the next tile again... so we ended up spending a lot of time just dealing with making that experience more smooth, and feel more "real-time'ish". What you get then, too, is that you have to wait while the animations play out, which is idle play time compared to how most ascii and tile-based roguelikes handle it, where the move from tile to tile is more or less immediate.

    3. I think it's highly dependent on the type of game. Many of the Mystery Dungeons, which take their strength from their visually-oriented "main" franchises, would utterly fail in ASCII. But I can't imagine ADoM in tiles...

  2. wait...a gambling arcade multiplayer roguelike? My god.

  3. Dude. The problem with DiabloIII isn't that it is hard to die, it's that it's way too freakin' easy to die. So it forces you to the real money AH in order to advance. The chances of finding the gear you need to advance are nearly zero, but you might find something someone else needs, so you sell that on the AH.

    Blizzard takes cuts of all of it. I might be fine with them monetizing the game this way, but I also paid full AAA price for a game that cannot be beaten without spending even more money on the AH. It's just so fraudulent.

    I'd much rather play a game with monetization up front instead of playing dozens of hours only to be stopped butt cold unless I pay to win.

  4. Thanks for YAGP! It's been quite interesting trying to introduce my friends to roguelikes too... I think they got so fed up with me constantly talking about them, that they finally tried it just to shut me up!

    I'm sure that I'm not alone in the focus of trying to make a roguelike that feels more modern in it's approach and feel. What I mean, that it feels more directly familiar to a player coming from MMOs or RPGs. Of course, so far I've failed both in making that transition AND making a roguelike,so... :-P

    1. I think ToME4 actually has that feel; the extensive use of cooldowns reminds me of Diablo and Diablo-like games (e.g. Torchlight), and the "earning" of extra lives reminds me of Mario. I'm not a huge fan of it graphically, but I'm sure it appeals to some folks.

  5. Wow, I've played a couple roguelikes but Mercury is impenetrable to me. Probably doesn't help that its not updating anymore though. Looks nice though.

    Brogue was the first game to get me in, it simplifies a lot of systems, and it's visual appeal also relates to its gameplay (light/dark, water/lava, fire, breaking walls, confusion, billows of gas. All of that would have been hard to portray in black & white, but of course its also done very gorgeously. It communicates a lot visually which is great

    I also like that you get the view cones which help you determine where to go next, whereas many roguelikes with a view circle [or square] make it mostly impossible for you to know which direction to head in and thus end up taking longer to figure out.

  6. Thanks for the glowing review of the iPad version of Brogue! I made sure to add it to the store description along side Cult of Mac.

  7. Please guys, enable Zune Podcasts. I know it's a pain, but some of us are stuck with a crappy WP7 and need to manually download, add and sync each episode. Help :)

  8. Would it be possible to have an episode for Android RL's?

    1. They'd have to make some decent ones first. Android RL's still seem to insist on having a large viewing area, and make it hard to touch individual tiles. Which is a pain, as touch to move is easily the best way of moving, they just need to ratchet up the zoom. (And not reset it every level, I'm looking at you Pixel Dungeon)

  9. Just got time to sit down and listen to this episode.
    All I have to say is powder. Powder is a solid "my first roguelike".

    It'll get you in, its not too complex, but hard enough that it'll occasionally steamroll seasoned rogues.

  10. I don't get why the "bumping into monster" mechanics should be so bad.

    You always have to learn how the controls work for different games. Mario dies when bumping into a goomba but not when jumping on its head. Pac-Man dies when bumping into a ghost or not when he's eaten a pill.

    You can blame the developer if the controls aren't introduced properly and the player is left in the dark. But I don't see how having one of the most often used actions observing Fitts' Law is a bad thing.

  11. Very nice episode. I got into games by way of Dungeons of Dredmor, then Dungeon Crawl and finally Angband broke down the "ASCII barrier" for me

  12. I'm not typical in that I discovered Rogue on my university's computers back around 1980ish or so, and that's pretty much how I converted friends a few years later, once the game had been ported to the PC.

    I'd imagine that Dredmor would be a good game to convert/pervert/subvert new players, because of the humor and graphical nature, and ease of jumping in without knowing much of anything. Some people won't even try a game if it doesn't have a GUI of some kind.

    One non-graphical example of what I'd imagine would be a good first rogue-like might be Brogue, because of the UI and pared-down set of commands.

    Note that I'm talking about the more AVERAGE gamer. There's always going to be some people looking for a lot of complexity and obscure options and an obscure command structure. I think those kinds of people, today, should be considered throwbacks, kind of like someone being born with a tail or someone who refuses to own a cell phone or a television(I have friends like that) -- they exist if you look for them, and they are a natural fit. But you can't grow a big audience for rogue-likes on those people alone.

    1. BTW, I forgot my original reason for posting lol. I see that you haven't had a new update in a while, and was wondering if something's happened, if you are continuing with this or not. I don't listen to all of your podcasts, but I was looking forward to your discussion of SotS: The Pit.

    2. From what I can see our time tables' haven't been great this month: mine terribly so. This is not helped by the fact that we recorded an episode 71, and are now recording another episode 71...

  13. POWDER was my entry-level roguelike. I have yet to find another one which plays that well with just 8 keys (I played on the Nintendo DS).

    I hope you guys manage to arrange your time tables soon, this podcast is very enjoyable. Thanks for making it.

  14. Double Fine is making a roguelike inspired strategy game:
    Subject for a future episode?