A Brief History and Characterization of Roguelike Games
Rogue is a computer game. It was created in the dark ages [1970s?] and was initially bundled with UNIX as a "test" application. It was such a popular "test" that enterprising UNIX admins and users distributed it, expanded it, imitated it, and ported it to their home computers. Rogue's original concept was unique and rich enough so that decades later it has an entire genre of computer games named after it, Roguelike Games, and it seems like that label is here to stay. When's the last time you heard "Wolfenstein-like" or even "DOOM-like" used to refer to first person shooters?
Roguelike Games are traditionally freeware, ASCII interfaced, turn based, single player, dungeon crawling RPGs. Of course, there are occasional deviations from this characterization: many recent Roguelike games include tile-based graphics and mouse control; others have added multiplayer and/or real-time action; and a few take place not [only] in dungeons but in wilderness and towns. However, if Roguelike games violate one characteristic, they usually adhere closely enough to the other characteristics to be considered part of the group. [I know the logic here was pretty circular but bear with me!]
...to help you get the most fun out of the genre!
I do this by providing reviews of different features and instances of Roguelike Games. Reviews include introductory and associated information, personal evaluations, suggestions on how to get the most (fun, always fun) out of Roguelike games, and invitations to further discussion.
The Topics pages review different aspects of the genre. They also sometimes delve into specific game features and hints such as Shoplifting in NetHack. The idea here is to deal with lots of different topics but only when I feel like it and am prepared to say something intelligently.
The Games pages review the individual games. Right now there are so many games, variants, and versions popping up and disappearing that it's hard to know what all's out there and what you'll be thankful for downloading.
One thing I don't want to do is provide a ton of links and downloadable files. Roguelike games get updated so frequently and get handed off to so many people (and web sites) that it is very difficult to keep current. However, I would like to provide new or curious Roguelike gamers an easy wasy of getting acquainted with the different games in the genre; for that reason, I've created a direct download page.
There's also a discussion list (Enscriptions) that we can use for talking about whatever's on our minds. It gives everyone an opportunity to swap reviews, pointers, news, hints, and email addresses.
By the way, my reviews are meant to be entertaining first, inspiring second, and educational third.
Should you trust me???
Having a web site doesn't make you an authority.
I'm not a Roguelike Game expert, not even close! I've seen some of those posts on the roguelike newsgroups about ascending and winning and all sorts of stuff you'd have to be awesome to even see. In my more than a decade of playing Roguelikes, I've never won NetHack or Angband or even gotten past the first couple of dungeons in ADOM. When it comes to high scores, I pretty much suck compared to a lot of the guys out there!
But (and this is a big but), Roguelike games are so replayable that I don't mind never getting to the end of one. Yes, it is neat to see new features when you get deeper and deeper into the game, but to be honest, I progress so slowly (and it doesn't bother me one bit!) that new patches often provide features more quickly than I discover them! So I am always satisfied. The key to fun in these games is in the complex interactions of features anyway, and there will always been new combinations of those.
Also, because I play for the moment (for fun) and not for high scores or knowledge or prestige (all of which have something to do with the future), I don't cheat or use Borgs or play hour upon hour a day, every day. I also don't play in competitions, and have generally stayed away from the multiplayer Roguelike scene.
I play Roguelikes in a bit of a cycle. Every couple of months or so, I'll download a handful of the latest games and variants and then go on a Roguelike binge. After a couple weeks of heavy Roguelike romping, I might see a new set of patches for the game I'm playing, or I might get a really cool commercial game which I paid for so I figure I might as well play... And then I drift away from Roguelikes for a while. After I finish my commercial game or after the flood of patches slows down enough to imply stability, I start my Roguelike cycle all over again.
This web site is geared towards people who are like me (naturally); that is, people who want to have fun and don't mind progressing but aren't so totally focused on winning that they cheat or get so frustrated when a character dies that they quit playing.
It might be that most Roguelike newbies are expecting to actually finish the game, like you finish Unreal or Civilization or Betrayal at Krondor. But, to me, with Roguelikes, winning and finishing a game is not the point. Heck, I never win! And I always have tons of fun, enough fun to force Roguelikes on friends and make my own Roguelike web pages.
That I have fun after losing and restarting over and over and over really says a lot for the replayability of Roguelike games. Imagine playing DOOM for 11 or 12 years and never getting to the end of it. I'd think I would get totally sick of DOOM after a month or two. Just picture yourself playing the first ten or so levels over and over and over again...
My recommendation is that if you're a newbie you should purge from your mind all thoughts of ever finishing a Roguelike game (let alone in a week, month, or even decade!). You need to get used to the idea that the game is designed to be eternally replayable. If you can push past your first couple dozen character deaths, you'll soon find yourself enjoying all parts of the gaming process, including a character's birth, life, and death.
Also, purge from your mind any thoughts of Save/Restore death avoidance and all other forms of cheating. The sort of "gaming" that we use to get the the end of games in other genres (action, strategy, adventure, other RPGs) is agains the philosophy of Roguelikes. Characters are meant to die. That is why Roguelikes have bones files, tombstones, memorial plaques, high score lists, and a ton of "Yet Another Stupid Death" posts on the newsgroups. If you cheat death, you're not experiencing the full game.
Anyway, that's my mindset. I'll expand on many of these points in future Topics.