“roguelike” does not mean the same thing in 2020 as it did in 1993.
January 27, 2020 7:47 AM   Subscribe

The “Roguelike” War Is Over by jeremiah This blog post is an open letter (against my better judgment) to the roguelike community and specifically to the r/roguelikes subreddit. And on this subreddit, a war rages constantly. A war of words.

Here’s how it typically goes:
Step 1: A fan of roguelite games (e.g. Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, Darkest Dungeon, Slay the Spire) wants to discuss these games with the community.
Step 2: Since “roguelike” is the word they use and have always used to describe the above types of games, they search that term and stumble upon r/roguelikes. On this subreddit however “roguelike” strictly means a turn-based, grid-based dungeon crawler (e.g. NetHack, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Caves of Qud) and nothing else.
Step 3: This poor soul, not having the first fucking clue about the decade long debate over the word roguelike, innocently shares their love for “roguelikes” and asks for recommendations.
Step 4: A battalion of grognards rushes to defend the honor of the word “roguelike”. “THOSE ARE NOT ROGUELIKES!” they exclaim in unison. “ACTION ROGUELIKE IS AN OXYMORON” they say smugly. A round of congratulatory high fives are had.
Step 5: A flamewar erupts. Every confused comment from the OP makes things worse and they are downvoted into oblivion (true story: I was once downvoted for simply asking for a link in one of these discussions). They are screamed at, called names, told to leave, and they usually do.

Rinse. Repeat.
“The obvious problem with discussions about roguelike vs roguelite is that they’re UTTERLY BORING. There’s nothing new to say but we’ve been treading the same ground for literally years. It’s beyond beating a dead horse. It’s beating a zombie horse. Can we just… stop? None of that matters. What matters is that “roguelike” does not mean the same thing in 2020 as it did in 1993. Full stop. [...] We might do well to remember that the word roguelike is an accident of history, as are all words. In that spirit, I present to you: r/rogueish, a welcoming place to discuss roguelikes or roguelites or roguelikelikes or whatever the hell you call them.”
posted by Fizz (111 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
As someone who has accidentally ventured into one of these "wars of pedantry", I agree wholeheartedly with everything jeremiah is saying, none of it fucking matters. Just play the games you like. Also, I fully embrace this new classification: rogueish and will be using it going forward as a form of protest and gentle mockery.
posted by Fizz at 7:50 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


If people want graphics in their games, can't they come up with a new name?
posted by octothorpe at 7:53 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


"rogueish," also a personal mantra.
posted by zerolives at 7:54 AM on January 27


That sounds great to me as well because, well, who cares and I hate when niche groups are full of hate and vitrol when they could be welcoming and cool (looking at you wet shaving, mechanical keyboards, fountain pens, and woodworking) when folks appear either as neophytes or lost babes-in-the-woods sort of thing.

Side note: I was trying to recommend a mostly forgotten rougish game to someone the other day: post apocalyptic, deep on the logistics, turn based (I think), ANSII graphics-ish, single player, body part specific wounds/medical treatment, exploring surroundings / traveling as part of the gameplay, and maybe some other stuff.... punishingly difficult if I recall correctly as well, steep learning curve at least. Anyone? Think Sheltered meets DwarfFortress solo mode meets Rogue meets Wastelands 2 mayyybe?
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:56 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I take great glee in pointing out that Nethack does not meet the criteria of the Berlin definition.
posted by suetanvil at 7:57 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


@RolandOfEld

Is it Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead?
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:58 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


Which is also has one of the most unwelcoming, graybeard-dominated communities around, by the way.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:59 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Genre titles are only useful for loosely grouping different things. You get cultists who take genre titles to be prescriptive, as if the genre itself was the driving force behind the art being made. It's goddamn ridiculous and debates like in the OP only serve to show that the genre titles themselves are flawed and become inadequate.

"Immersive Sim" is another contentious genre title, this time because some people just refuse to consider it at all. Games that fall comfortably under that umbrella have these groups of people who take offense at the very idea of a new genre title, it seems. Some bend over backwards to discard the nuance of the games, the core points of them, and just dismissively lump them in as "FPS" or one of the other 5 or 6 established genres that Immersive Sims include as small parts of it's gestalt.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:00 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


FakeFreyja: Maybe, pretty close. Thanks! As long as it has wounds that are area specific and treatment/lack thereof impacts the player in specific ways that's likely it. Can't say I'm surprised about the community aspect....
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:02 AM on January 27


If people want graphics in their games, can't they come up with a new name?

So, maybe I'm misunderstanding you, missing sarcasm, or being overly pedantic (possibly all three even...) but I don't understand what a no-graphics game would look like on an electronic device. I mean, maybe some aural games or something story-text based but even ASCII art is 'graphics' to me. Can you explain?
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:05 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


The idea that the definition only started to shift in 2008 is somehow the thing making me feel oldest about this as I read through it, because that's both way too recent and twelve fucking years ago. The debate on terminology definitely goes back farther but I think he's probably right that that's when it really exploded a bit more out of the niche hardcore RL community itself into more general debate and usage as indie programmers started really successfully embracing roguelike elements in other design contexts with more frequency and visibility and player uptake.

I definitely spent a bit of time in grognard land on this in and around college, probably mostly in USENET contexts like rec.games.roguelike.nethack, but/therefore I'm fully onboard with folks letting go and letting the language and design ideas change. I think roguelikelike and roguelite were and are useful shadings when discussing this stuff in specific contexts where the purpose is clarity instead of being a tedious gatekeeper, and I think "roguelike elements" captures the heart of the diaspora of core RL design features into broader game design territory, but, y'know, if it's got some procedural randomness that's about the bar folks are gonna clear with "roguelike" today and that's okay. Some of my favorite games in the last several years are roguelikes that Aren't Really Roguelikes and I am not gonna lose any sleep over it because they're really good games and as much as anything I'm glad this weird niche of game design that I'm personally fond of has found this second life in a broader design legacy.
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


I'm thinking about using NetHacklike, on the basis that anyone who is committed to the original meaning of Roguelike knows what NetHack is.

My favourite story is the Jupiter Hell dev showed someone his game and they said, "Oh, it's a roguelike except it's turn based." So some people have formed a definition that would actually exclude Rogue itself.
posted by RobotHero at 8:12 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


I have no idea what specifically these games etc. are but boy, does this seem like a basic phenomena in human psychology. There are so many fields of endeavor that seemed to be dominated by an insecure ethos of hostility and put down.
posted by Pembquist at 8:13 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


I do not care in the slightest, but it does seem like there should be a term someone can search for if they are looking for games that fit the old definition of roguelike. I mean, just because someone is a dick on reddit doesn't mean a thing should have its descriptor appropriated forever to spite them.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:16 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


I'm looking for a casual Metroidvania roguelite Soulslike 4X battle royale management otome brawler sim MMO.
posted by Foosnark at 8:17 AM on January 27 [22 favorites]


anyone know where i can find some gravis ultrasoundlike jams
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:18 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


a casual Metroidvania roguelite Soulslike 4X battle royale management otome brawler sim MMO.

Oh you mean Don't Starve but only where you beat up/kill your co-op partner after you build a base together and then try to avoid their real life rage and revenge. Why didn't you say so?
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:21 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


I've been playing roguelikes since pretty close to when the term was coined (mid-'90s), and the flip-out about the evolution of the term has always seemed to me to be more about gatekeeping than actually giving a shit about taxonomy. Even within traditional roguelikes, there's a lot of variation and the unifying characteristics are not much more solid than calling something an RPG or an adventure game.

Not a fan of 'roguelite' because I see it as an attempt to mark some games as being for filthy casuals, not "real" gamers.
posted by tocts at 8:24 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


"Roguelike" isn't quite "procedurally generated", but it's darn close.

Is an open world procedural sandbox with a plot like Terraria a Roguelike? Minecraft?

They're extremely close cousins if not. I suspect it comes down to the options available to a player at any time.
posted by bonehead at 8:25 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Glenn R. Wichman, one of the authors of the original Rogue, wrote A Brief History of Rogue in 1997. It's cool to read, but this paragraph stood out when I first saw it:
Just like watching those old, black & white, silent movies can teach us about how Cinema got to where it is today, looking at old games like Adventure and Rogue can help us understand how computer gaming evolved. Rogue is generally credited with being the first "graphical" adventure game, and it probably was at least one of the first (Wizardry could probably also make the claim). And its graphics have since been far surpassed by everything from Myst to Doom. But I think Rogue's biggest contribution, and one that still stands out to this day, is that the computer itself generated the adventure in Rogue. Every time you played, you got a new adventure. That's really what made it so popular for all those years in the early eighties.
(Emphasis mine.) Straight from the horse's mouth: Rogue's defining attribute is that every time you play, you get a new adventure. That's good enough for me to happily call any such game "like Rogue." Where it's important to make a distinction, the term "traditional roguelike" is commonly used.
posted by skymt at 8:26 AM on January 27 [15 favorites]


I do not care in the slightest, but it does seem like there should be a term someone can search for if they are looking for games that fit the old definition of roguelike. I mean, just because someone is a dick on reddit doesn't mean a thing should have its descriptor appropriated forever to spite them.

The genre title had already adapted naturally as language just does when people use it, reddit and spite have nothing to do with it. If a more specific genre title is needed, sort one out, and start using it. This isn't mean girls, IRL you really can make "fetch" happen. Just keep using it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:27 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


> I'm looking for a casual Metroidvania roguelite Soulslike 4X battle royale management otome brawler sim MMO.

May I recommend Battle Kings Champion Fight Ultimate 3, available now on the App Store. It’s the one with the icon of the beefy guy shouting over your left shoulder.

(it’s a tile-matching game)
posted by gelfin at 8:34 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


Nethack and, say, Invisible Inc., are both games that could be called roguelike, but they're fairly different experiences, and even more different would be a procedurally-generated FPS. I'd like to have language that distinguishes them (I've enjoyed both), but not if everyone's going to lose their heads over it. Taxonomies are useful for helping people find information quickly and easily, but they're not, as Plato said, "carving Nature at its joints."
posted by praemunire at 8:40 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


>If people want graphics in their games, can't they come up with a new name?

So, maybe I'm misunderstanding you, missing sarcasm, or being overly pedantic (possibly all three even...) but I don't understand what a no-graphics game would look like on an electronic device. I mean, maybe some aural games or something story-text based but even ASCII art is 'graphics' to me. Can you explain?


I think Octothorpe was joking. Games with graphics would be called "video games."
posted by justkevin at 8:41 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Pretty much the only common thread I can count on someone meaning by roguelike is it has procedurally generated maps. Maybe there is permadeath. It's a kind of interesting demonstration that people will roughly guess the definition of genres from the examples they've seen.

One I encountered was someone asking, "Most roguelikes lock the doors of the room until you defeat all the enemies. Are there any examples of roguelikes that don't do this?" So it sounds like all the roguelikes they've played have been Binding of Isaac-likes.
posted by RobotHero at 8:41 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


The Roguelike Wars have always seemed strange to me because it’s an attempt to proof a genre label against not just fundamental transformation but even technological change. Imagine if there was a vocal community that insists nothing that uses true 3D environments, mouselook or polygonal enemies can be a true FPS, because that’s not what Wolfenstein 3D or Doom had. Or to insist until you’re blue in the face that Tekken isn’t in the same genre as Street Fighter II, and how dare you insinuate otherwise you filthy casual.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:42 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


Games with graphics would be called "video games."

Somewhere, Infocom sheds a single tear.
posted by praemunire at 8:46 AM on January 27 [17 favorites]


If people want graphics in their games, can't they come up with a new name?

The Roguelike Wars have always seemed strange to me because it’s an attempt to proof a genre label against not just fundamental transformation but even technological change.

Graphics (yes that means non-ASCII for those confused) haven't been widely considered a dealbreaker for the RL category in years. But unsurprisingly there's a whole range of opinion about the rest. Personally I'd say:

- procedurally generated (is the reason for the expansion of the genre definition mostly that people don't want to have to say this whole phrase??)

- permadeath (maybe some clever exceptions there)

- turn-based (really the one point where I take issue with the conflation of some of the recent RL-inspired games; you wouldn't call a non-realtime game a "shooter")

RPG-character-advancement/dungeon-crawl-elements a plus but I mean whatever there I have no problem with a game that breaks with these traditions in an innovative way. I do feel like RL-inspired action games have to be considered their own thing, though.
posted by atoxyl at 8:51 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


I would add two criteria that might significantly narrow the field: First, character death must be permanent. No mulligans. Secondly, it must be open source to encourage future variants and innovations. Style, feel and appearance aren't everything...
posted by jim in austin at 8:53 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


No matter what you think about the term "roguelike", I think we can all agree that their collective communities are just about the most annoying and pedantic on earth. I also think that people would be more open to a hardline definition of the genre if the communities weren't so petty and aggravating.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:54 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


So, maybe I'm misunderstanding you, missing sarcasm, or being overly pedantic (possibly all three even...) but I don't understand what a no-graphics game would look like on an electronic device. I mean, maybe some aural games or something story-text based but even ASCII art is 'graphics' to me. Can you explain?


OK, non-ascii graphics.
posted by octothorpe at 8:54 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


What about an ascii FPS?
posted by Television Name at 9:01 AM on January 27


At least we settled on "roguelite" and not "roguelikelike".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:09 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


If it's not turn-based, it's a melt and not a grilled cheese.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 9:14 AM on January 27 [18 favorites]


Three hours from now, chaos erupts as a newbie goes to r/rogueish to ask about the saucy glances Jane Austen's heroes give to her heroines, and the cycle begins again.
posted by mittens at 9:22 AM on January 27 [11 favorites]


Ok, you roguelike me, but do you roguelikelike me?

My spicy take is that all but the very broadest genre names are ultimately dead ends because it encourages an approach to game design that involves just throwing mechanics in because "well, genre-darling X had it" rather than because a given mechanic has any kind of relevance to the themes or setting of the game being designed. Does anybody really think that Satoru Okada sat down in 1986 and was like, "Ok, what other game can I copy down to the minutest detail but with like slightly different set-dressing and maybe one mechanic that's different?" If so, we wouldn't have metroidvanias at all, let alone arguments of whether "metroidvania" is a useful term. (I know the above piece is about "roguelike", but it's the exact same debate.)

Genres are straight-jackets, man.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:24 AM on January 27 [9 favorites]


Wait, is this the same as that turn based makeup game? Rouge?

But we're talking about Mystery Dungeon style games, right? Wow, I loved Chocobo Mystery Dungeon. The whole turn based movement thing was very innovative.

And Rogue Legacy is definitely in the "rogue" genre. Has to be, it's in the name! I wish the castle didn't keep changing, though. I had to keep throwing out my maps!

Lastly, stealth games with ninjas: I know it's not D&D, but ninja are kinda rogue-like, right?

Spies are a modern rogue class, and I keep reading that Rogue was an RPG, so espionage RPGs like Alpha Protocol by definition have to be rogue-likes.
posted by Anonymous Function at 9:28 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I also think that people would be more open to a hardline definition of the genre if the communities weren't so petty and aggravating.

I don't think that's how it works at all. Semantic shifts are not collective punishments for poor behaviour.
posted by RobotHero at 9:30 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


It's only a roguelike in France. Everywhere else, it's sparkling turn-based non-ASCII gaming.
posted by XtinaS at 9:30 AM on January 27 [16 favorites]


I do feel like RL-inspired action games have to be considered their own thing, though.

Though I suppose "action roguelike" has a decent ring to it.

roguelikelike

I liked this better actually (slightly clever, doesn't have the condescending tone of "roguelite") but I can't say I'm surprised it didn't catch on.

Since the genre name itself is a qualitative comparison to a benchmark game, maybe we should just formalize this and classify games by Levenshtein distance to Rogue.
posted by atoxyl at 9:32 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


This is like a microcosm of the "are superhero movies art" argument. As the letter writer notes, games like Spelunky and Binding of Isaac are orders of magnitude more popular than traditional roguelikes and most internet spaces do not make this distinction. But the author is still unhappy because niche subreddit /r/roguelikes cares about the difference. So it's not enough that roguelite games are "at least 50 times more popular based on active player counts and sales data of respective games", it's unacceptable that anyone refuse to call them roguelikes because they've spent years using that word to mean something else.

Is /r/roguelikes mean and unwelcoming to people who make an honest mistake. That's too bad, we should all try to be nicer. Are they wrong to care and to create a space to discuss their niche hobby? I don't think so.
posted by jomato at 9:37 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Is /r/roguelikes mean and unwelcoming to people who make an honest mistake.

But it's not a mistake? Language doesn't work that way.

In the same way "rock music" stopped meaning "precisely the kind of rock music made in the 1950s" and came to mean something evolved from that (requiring an increasing set of qualifiers to pin down the specific time frame / style being discussed), "roguelike" stopped meaning "a game I would recognize as being almost the same as rogue or nethack" barely a handful of years after the term was coined.
posted by tocts at 9:44 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


splitters!
posted by gauche at 9:44 AM on January 27 [9 favorites]


"Man, I loved the latest Assassin's Creed game. Can anyone recommend some other good RPGs?"
posted by straight at 9:47 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Dungeon is the best roguelike because it's:
  • procedural (spends 60 whole seconds generating the map);
  • character based (PETSCII);
  • permadeath;
  • open source (because changing the cassette and typing SAVE"DUNJON" got you a new copy), and
  • older than Rogue.
It also runs on an 8K PET.
posted by scruss at 9:48 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


But it's not a mistake? Language doesn't work that way.

I agree with you about how language works, but it's arguably still a mistake if it violates the posted community rules.

Like, I get that the ship has sailed on "begs the question" and that using it to mean "raises the question" is commonly accepted. But if you walk into a math department and people keep telling you you're using it wrong, would you write a letter to complain? "Math departments should stop using 'begs the question' in the traditional sense!"
posted by jomato at 9:50 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


"Man, I loved the latest Assassin's Creed game. Can anyone recommend some other good RPGs?"

Have you tried Tomb Raider or Hitman?
posted by skymt at 9:51 AM on January 27


it's arguably still a mistake if it violates the posted community rules

/r/roguelike's written rules explicitly permit discussion of genre-adjacent (roguelite/roguelikelike/rogueish) games, but the community itself are still a bunch of small minded dicks about it.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:03 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


They also have a "Be nice" rule, so I guess it's the community members who are jerks about the definition that are breaking the rules.
posted by jomato at 10:08 AM on January 27


From the article: It should be plainly evident that language evolves. Even our most common words have changed meanings

Normally I'd let it go, but since it speaks to the article's linguistic point... for the audience this article is aimed at, "evolves" is not a term I'd use to describe language's inherent changeability. Yes, the term has the sense of "develop" but the modern connotation strongly implies evolution in the biological sense. That, combined with the common folk belief that some languages are better or more expressive than others, leads people to think that language changes with respect to fitness for communication, which is not the case.

Language changes because the world is full of new things and situations, but also because what we think of as "a language" is actually an epiphenomenon of what exists in the minds of every individual speaker of a language (to whatever extent they understand it - from absolute native fluency to only knowing a handful of words or phrases). And those languages (idiolects) are all subtly different, and despite the strength of literacy and education, they retain more power to effect language change simply by being different than any top-down agent of influence.

This nitpick about the term "evolve" I think helps to underline the article's point - the meanings of words have an element of contemporaneity that you can't really counter with a dictionary or even a large body of past attested uses, and what's more, you can't truly ignore it. The question of whether it's appropriate to raise that issue with a particular community (like the subreddit) is a little different, but that community should be cognizant of the linguistic forces they're setting themselves against - gamers still skew young and aren't really that concerned about gaming history.

It's a very good piece!
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:08 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Sigh. Things like this remind me that this country was founded on the principle of "freedom of religion"...by people kicked out of England for being waaayy too zealous, pedantic, dogmatic, unyielding, and xenophobic to a degree that's just straight up corrosive to society in general. Just..yick.
Anyway...I definitely prefer the newer definition (turn-based? Really? Boring. That's what board games are for.). Would metroidvania be a different kind of game altogether? There seems to be a lot of overlap between the two these days...not that I mind. Procedural generation has been a wonderful tool for developers these days, particularly for lower-budget indie games and also VR games. (VR is in kind of an interesting place right now...like, Sony wants it to be a success, so they're throwing a bunch of $ at devs, but the user base is smaller, so they're not throwing all the money at them. Think 'A' games vs 'AAA' games). Elements like random layouts, (sem-)permadeath, random weapons, random events, etc give you a lot more bang for your buck as far as (re)playability goes. I used to play a lot more 'open world' games, but I find I'm liking these more...especially ones that give me random weapons/tools. Like, fallout...there's probably like 80% of the weapons I've never used, or used once and was like "nah"...but games like Dead Cells where suddenly all I have is like an ice whip or something and suddenly I'm doing a lot more problem solving and it becomes a different experience every playthrough. (Plus, a lot more exploring, because yes I want to find more cool weapons/tools)
Getting back to taxonomy, though, I would say that I tend to describe these games as 'roguelike metroidvania' or 'roguelike fps' or whatever. The genre has really spread to encompass a lot of territory.
OK...so now, these are my current favorites (and they cover a lot of sub-genres so I hope you find one you want to try :)
NON-VR:
Dead Cells. Definitely a must have for the metroidvania fan...awesome creepy 16-bit style graphics and the enemies are weird and very diverse. The levels are all really different and have different mechanics. A lot of replayability due to increased difficulty levels and a lot of fun speedrunning modes and such.
Enter the Gungeon. Rogelike+Zelda dungeons+Robotron controls+bullet hell+adorable 16-bit dancing bullets...with guns. (+ridiculous weapons+weird-ass NPCs+terrible puns like Meduzi, the Gorgun+rocking soundtrack+etc) A++
Diablo3? Would Diablo count as a roguelike? It does have (mostly) procedural generation, but not a lot of other elements like permadeath. (I'm not a huge fan of unforgiving permadeath. Like "one hit you're dead" isn't appealing to me...some element of refillable health is a must have for me) Anyway it's a good (if old) game even if it's completely off-topic here.
VR (PSVR)
No Man's Sky. Best. VR. Game. Ever. It's so cool. It's so weird. It's so BIG. Being in it really makes a difference. I guess it's as much a roguelike as minecraft, but the degree to which everything is procedurally generated (even the descriptions of plants and animals) is astounding. It's the reason I broke down and got the psvr...definitely worth it. There's been enough ink spilled on this game so I won't go on too much, but it's really amazing how much effort they've put into continued support for this title and how much they've added since release (they just added music synthesizer machines ffs) and I think they definitely should get major credit for the (seldom repeated) fact that they lost all their servers (misfiring fire sprinklers) like 3 months before release and had to redo the game basically from scratch...and then endure a year of abuse from gamebros. That's dedication.
Finally (back to serious roguelikes (or roguelikelikes)
The Persistence. (Didn't get the best reviews or much notice, but I love it) Roguelike. Dead Space. In VR. (Jump scares in VR are terrifying!) Good stealth action, limited ammo, big levels that change when you die. All the creepy creaking noises and open vents of Dead Space...did I mention it's a lot like Dead Space? ;) (picked up a used copy at gamestop for like 10$)
Battlezone. This one surprised me with how much I like it. Based on the 80s vector-graphic version (which is iincluded n the bonus menu) it's a tank-battle game on a procedural RISK-like map, and the individual 'zones' are randomly populated (though they do have specific goals, capture-the flag, destoy the base, etc). It sounds really basic, but everything is just really well done. The tank movement is really fluid, but with a strong sense of weight and power. The graphics are simple but bad-ass, very 80's geometric...like TRON. Everything explodes in huge showers of triangles and while there's not much in the way of textures, the neon lighting and haze effects give it a very stylized polish. The weapons are randomly stocked at the checkpoints and the enemy progression mechanic makes it really challenging...def one of my VR favorites.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:13 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I've never been a huge gamer, but most of my gaming has been within the Rogue family and, uh, I kind of disagree with the article. Not that pedantry and gatekeeping sucks (I agree with that bit), but I think that "roguelike" has a useful meaning and that plenty of other (great) games aren't roguelike for good and valid reasons, even if they take some ideas from roguelike games.

I think (and I'm well aware that you don't care, so don't bother pointing it out) that the essence of roguelike is

* Perma-death
* Procedurally generated levels/dungeons/places/thingies
* Turn based
* Item discovery (or whatever you call it when you pick up a sword and have to discover if it's cursed)
* Graphically minimalist (ascii or tile based)

Some of these are less important than others and tweaking these can provide interesting games that are still recognizably "roguelike". Turn based movement, OTOH, I consider to be absolutely essential to the spirit of roguelike games (perma-death and graphically minimalist are a very close second. Change that and you have something else (which might be great, but won't have the rogue "feel").
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:16 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


I do feel like RL-inspired action games have to be considered their own thing, though.

I think that feels like the biggest qualitative departure in design types, yeah, but. But! I've also as I've sat with that over time come to feel like there's spectra of differences there that play into how far a departure any non-turn-based game actually feels to me in spirit from traditional roguelike sensibilities.

Like: Binding of Isaac is pretty unambiguous action. Outright into Bullet Hell territory during the late game bits. Until you clear a room (or make a tactical exit in one of a dozen tricky ways), and then: you get a pause. There's space to stop and think and weigh possibilities at your leisure, to revisit cleared rooms, shuffle items around, make a hard choice about which of two gear setups to use, balance pressing your luck vs. taking a safer route, etc. These are all stop-and-think situations, and they're not time-gated (outside of specific stunty high-speed run stuff anyway). A room is a turn.

FTL is real-time with pause. If you play like me you spend most of your time paused, queuing up orders or trying to decide which figurative or literal fire to put out. Unpausing for however long you choose to is a turn.

For me the core appeal of the turn-based nature of traditional roguelikes was that it removed the need to operate under time pressure from a game where I had to make decisions. Literal turn-by-turn, discrete fixed time-slice implementations of that are the obvious fit for and meaning of "turn-based", but I've come to realize that for me the literal interpretation of turn-based is overspecifying the actual quality that is meaningful to me in these games. As much as anything, a look at the history of traditional RL design reveals a lot of annoying or frustrating design downsides that emerge from the rigidity of turns; you're trading a way a lot of possibilities by hewing to that restriction.
posted by cortex at 10:21 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


To put it another way: the vast majority of turns you take in a traditional roguelike are dull wastes of time. It's the interesting bits that happen when every turn does matter that make that design aspect shine. The rest of it is more an accident of history for games designed to run on wildly underpowered systems over text terminals.

For modern games to do better than traditional roguelikes have on that front—on that relative density of meaningful moments to dull wasted ones—involves either or both of (a) making individual discrete turns more interesting and (b) changing the meaning of "turn". Action roguelikes in particular do the latter; tight puzzle constructions like Into The Breach do the former by restricting the playing field to an incredibly dense set of choices. Spelunky does some of both. Different designers have taken different tacks on both of these and I think that is part of why there has been such a wonderful blossoming of games in the last decade or so that put some of these traditional roguelike elements to use in a way that the traditional roguelike methodology itself would never have really allowed.

The big thing under all this is that it's just a really fuckin' great time to like games designed by people who like roguelikes, whatever the fuck any of those particular games is.
posted by cortex at 10:28 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


At least we settled on "roguelite" and not "roguelikelike".

I choose to believe that an ambiguously unhyphenated "roguelite" is pronounced so that it rhymes with "soggy feet." Also it's only a True Roguelike® if its developer inscribes the binary with "Elbereth."
posted by Mayor West at 10:36 AM on January 27


To put it another way: the vast majority of turns you take in a traditional roguelike are dull wastes of time.

Traditional RLs have evolved other ways to address this, though, like autoexplore.

(I don't completely agree with your comments on this but I think they are thoughtful about it. I do think "real time with unlimited pause" occupies a niche that is not quite the same but close in spirit.)
posted by atoxyl at 10:37 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I've gradually whittled all fan subreddits out of my feed, because (with very few exceptions) they all evolve toward an orthodoxy zealously protected by a cabal--not necessarily the mods--who ruthlessly downvote heretics.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:57 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


@RolandOfEld were you thinking of Neo Scavenger?
posted by WedgedPiano at 11:02 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


bonehead: "Roguelike" isn't quite "procedurally generated", but it's darn close.

Some people think that. Other people think it means "permadeath".

It's not that the meaning is changing. It's being lost.

sexyrobot: Anyway...I definitely prefer the newer definition (turn-based? Really? Boring. That's what board games are for.)

If you don't like roguelikes, then don't play them. But.. Why do you want to call games you do like "roguelikes"?

Would metroidvania be a different kind of game altogether?

Yes, "metroidvania" is a pretty well-established term. You can add procedural generation and/or permadeath to a metroidvania game and it's still a metroidvania. Making it turn-based though, it would no longer be a metroidvania.

Like how adding real-time action to a roguelike makes it not a roguelike anymore. Turn-based versus real-time is a really fundamental difference in gameplay. It's like how chess and football are different. Just because they both involve strategy and two opposing sides doesn't mean that football is a "chesslike".
posted by swr at 11:08 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


As someone who played the original Rogue in the 80s, get off my lawn.
posted by Slothrup at 11:21 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Yes, "metroidvania" is a pretty well-established term. You can add procedural generation and/or permadeath to a metroidvania game and it's still a metroidvania. Making it turn-based though, it would no longer be a metroidvania.

To be fair there's a lot of synergy between roguelike and metroidvania elements. Both are exploration-oriented, and as a result some elements of procedural generation fit nicely into the metroidvania format. Both traditionally involve inhabiting and improving the abilities of a single character. I already said personally I'm also a believer that real-time vs. turn-based is a fundamental distinction but other than that there's a lot of overlap in appeal.
posted by atoxyl at 11:26 AM on January 27


Really I think the core of roguelikes is the one-two punch of:

- when you die you start over

- when you start over, it's different

In traditional RLs this is also made more "fair" by the fact that you have as long as you need to make a move. In some older games it's still not really fair but in something like DCSS a strong character background is seldom actually ever unwinnable - the skill ceiling is just very high. Balancing this sort of thing in action games is a little tricky without falling into ultra-hard platformer territory or otherwise just making an easy game (which is not usually what old-school RL players are looking for). Spelunky still stands out to me as a good example of "getting it" even as a side-scroller.
posted by atoxyl at 11:37 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


@RolandOfEld were you thinking of Neo Scavenger?

THATS IT!
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:44 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


And I just snagged it DRM free at gog for a fifth of what the Steam price was ($3.74), cheers!
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:51 AM on January 27


It's like how chess and football are different. Just because they both involve strategy and two opposing sides doesn't mean that football is a "chesslike".

Chessboxing, however . . .
posted by Copronymus at 11:59 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


NEO Scavenger sure is a time. No other game has put such loving thought into the mechanics of using a sled or a shopping cart to lug your post-apocalyptic junk around.

I beat Children of Morta last week and was kind of let down by it, overall. The story was good though.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:01 PM on January 27


I feel like "rougelikelike" would scan better with an extra syllable: rougelike-alike

It's Never Lurgi: I've never been a huge gamer, but most of my gaming has been within the Rogue family and, uh, I kind of disagree with the article. Not that pedantry and gatekeeping sucks (I agree with that bit), but I think that "roguelike" has a useful meaning and that plenty of other (great) games aren't roguelike for good and valid reasons, even if they take some ideas from roguelike games.

The article isn't arguing that the traditional definition of roguelike isn't useful, but rather that the definition has already changed in the broader culture, and the traditional roguelike community is not large enough to change it back. Given that it proposes a constructive way forward: "roguelike" includes the action games that have mainstream popularity, "traditional roguelike" is the restricted subset.

You can disagree with the premise that the meaning has already shifted, but without arguing on that basis discussion of the definition of roguelike and whether it's useful to restrict it does not engage with the actual argument here. It's just repeating the pattern the article has identified.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:08 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


The Roguelike Wars have always seemed strange to me because it’s an attempt to proof a genre label against not just fundamental transformation but even technological change.

Honestly I sort of feel this way about 2D vs 3D platformers, but there was always an obvious terminology to use there.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:10 PM on January 27


Isn't "what is a Roguelike?" one of the traditional internet holy wars? Like, vax/unix, emacs/vi, roguelike/not roguelike? There seems to be a lot of overlap between the kind of people who are militantly pedantic and the kind of people who beat nethack (and that is awesome). My attitude is "roguelike" just means "like Rogue", and there are no necessary conditions. Any definition that excludes something like Unexplored (which ticks every box except turn based and ascii) strikes me as wrong, and yet I've seen people say Unexplored isn't Roguelike.

(Unexplored is awesome, btw. It's not turn based, but it somehow captures the feel of turn based. I often find myself using the same tactics that I would use in a traditional roguelike...)
posted by surlyben at 12:14 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


...Other people think it means "permadeath".

It's not that the meaning is changing. It's being lost.


Even Minecraft has a Hardcore mode in the-deletes-your-save-forever sense.

I would not call Minecraft a roguelike though, not in the game play experience. It has no overriding push towards a goal. In Rogue or Angband or Nethack, you have only one goal: grab the magic thingumy and escape. At that point the game ends, and you get a score/history/ascension record. In MC, you just have a sandbox to explore. Even "killing" the dragon isn't the end of the game. The world just keeps going.

That sense of cumulative, scored purpose is an essential, defining feature, and why Diablo is more like a game of rogue than Minecraft is.
posted by bonehead at 12:21 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


But clearly, "roguish" is reserved for Han Solo.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:30 PM on January 27


You can disagree with the premise that the meaning has already shifted, but without arguing on that basis discussion of the definition of roguelike and whether it's useful to restrict it does not engage with the actual argument here. It's just repeating the pattern the article has identified.

If I have an issue with the article it's mostly that framing the argument in terms of "you diehards have already lost" seems psychologically exactly backwards to persuade people - I mean, that's what the diehards are afraid of - and thus a little troll-y. The arguments about encouraging player crossover are more convincing - even though I have my own opinions about this I certainly don't like people being assholes about it to curious newcomers.

But also I think there's an issue that "traditional roguelike" doesn't actually have a universally agreed-upon definition either. There's no way you can really declare the dispute over because there are several disputes.
posted by atoxyl at 12:35 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I don't really care about the genre definition answers, but I always enjoy the bickering about it (when it's friendly, anyway) because it leads to more games I might like to play.
posted by asperity at 12:59 PM on January 27 [8 favorites]


I have a vague recollection of asking what "rogue-like" meant on a mefi post many a year ago and the replies I got were... less than helpful.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:03 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


As a side issue to the meaning of Roguelike having grown with time, it's totally obvious to anyone who bothers to read a few posts and the sidebars what exactly what the scope of r/roguelikes is. I 100% believe it is okay to be dismissive (but kind) to people who parachute into a subreddit and make a posts based on what they think the community is about without putting in some effort to figure out what the community is actually about.
posted by 3j0hn at 1:03 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


I guess it's kinda like how every hat you don't like is called a fedora now, even if fedora used to be a very specific kind of hat, its now just "hat that hipster dude I don't like wears".
posted by some loser at 1:17 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


and thus Neko Atsume is my favorite roguelike
posted by some loser at 1:19 PM on January 27 [12 favorites]


Imagine if there was a vocal community that insists nothing that uses true 3D environments, mouselook or polygonal enemies can be a true FPS, because that’s not what Wolfenstein 3D or Doom had.

I don't think that's a fair analogy. A better one (IMHO!) would be if you woke up one day and the best first person shooter (by popular vote) was Sid Meier's Civilization. You're informed that it is first-person because a person is playing it and a shooter because guns become available at a certain level of technological development. And nobody plays Quake anymore, so what does it matter anyway?

You might reasonably WTF at that. But surely nobody would call Civilization an FPS, so this is a totally contrived argument, right? Why would anyone call Civilization an FPS?

Well, why the heck do people call games "roguelike" when they have jack shit to do with Rogue?

How the fuck did "roguelike" become a brand?
posted by swr at 1:34 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


you wouldn't call a non-realtime game a "shooter"

Wait isn't 'turn-based shooter' a thing? I could swear games like X-Com and maybe also Fallout are referred to as such -- any turn based game where the primary mechanic/weapon is gunfire.
posted by axiom at 1:56 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


It's a matter of discussing what's at the core of "Roguelike."

Turn-based? Plenty of genres are turn-based. RPGs, tactics games, board games.

Permadeath? That's just hardcore mode. It's kind of also the default for many games of that era. Maybe you had "extra lives," but after 3 deaths, it was back to level 1.

Procedurally generated? Well, that's the defining characteristic, isn't it? The thing that made Rogue really stand out.

That's why people use it as a modifier: "20XX is a roguelike Megaman," for example.

If you use it as a genre unto itself, I'll assume all three, but if you use a modifier, like "roguelike Metroidvania," I'll assume procedural generation and permadeath (maybe with unlocks, like Dead Cells).

Yeah, that means Rogue itself is a Roguelike RPG, but find another 2-syllable word to mean "procedurally generated content with semi- to fully-permanent death" and people will stop using "roguelike."
posted by explosion at 1:58 PM on January 27 [6 favorites]


Wait isn't 'turn-based shooter' a thing?

IIRC, this is the entire conceit behind Superhot. It's an FPS where time only moves when you do.
posted by explosion at 2:00 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Well, why the heck do people call games "roguelike" when they have jack shit to do with Rogue?

There's a smuggled assumption here, though, which is precisely where people disagree with your take: I think these games in fact have a lot to do with Rogue. Much like I can see how the original Wolf3d shares many elements that are common with what we'd still today call a FPS while differing wildly in other ways, I can see ways that modern roguelikes build on the core parts of what made Rogue engaging even if they differ wildly in implementation.

Categorization is always a thorny problem (see: any music genre discussion ever). Weird made up scenarios like "someone will start calling SMAC a FPS" neither help nor really shed light on anything, because they're, well, totally artificial and on their face ridiculous.
posted by tocts at 2:05 PM on January 27 [6 favorites]


Well, why the heck do people call games "roguelike" when they have jack shit to do with Rogue?

I don't think it's quite true that there's no relation, though. Spelunky is pretty straightforwardly the answer to "what if Rogue was a platformer?" This was kind of an out-of-the-box game idea at the time but it turned out very nicely and certainly appealed to me as someone who likes both genres. On the other hand the original Diablo could also have been framed as "what if Rogue was real-time?" and yet it sort of became its own category instead. I think the thing now is - when you start to have second-generation RLL games that are inspired by games that are inspired by games that are inspired by Rogue, what do you call those? A lot of the more interesting ones are genre hybrids on multiple levels so maybe this isn't meant to be an easy question to answer.

Wait isn't 'turn-based shooter' a thing? I could swear games like X-Com and maybe also Fallout are referred to as such -- any turn based game where the primary mechanic/weapon is gunfire.

Can't say I've heard that - those are squad tactics games. In general a "shooter" is a game in which the player is responsible for a single character's participation in gunfights. Actually the closest thing to a true turn-based shooter might be DoomRL!
posted by atoxyl at 2:05 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


and once again a metafilter thread has been consumed by itself
posted by blue t-shirt at 2:07 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


RolandOfEld it sounds like Rimworld was not the game you were thinking of but I think it's possibly a game you might enjoy.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 2:07 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


A procedurally generated Oroboros
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:10 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Fallout 1 and 2 by Interplay were absolutely turn-based shooters. The Jagged Alliance games were essentially the same thing but with a small unit. UFO: Enemy Unknown aka X-Com 1, kind of defined the genre.

The Black Isle Games, starting with Fallout 3 were much closer to FPS real-time shooters. We will not be discussing Fallout: Tactics.
posted by bonehead at 2:11 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


to be fair I was introduced to Dwarf Fortress, which only had fortress mode at the time (16 years ago?) as MY First Rogue-like and I assumed it referred to the visual design and UI: the ANSI terminal emulation BBS door type of "graphical" interface, so I'm not even a true roguelike person in the end i guess. Now DF fortress mode and adventure mode (which is much closer to a nethack experience) are different enough to be two different types of game in my opinion so.. yeah it's complicated I guess.
posted by some loser at 2:17 PM on January 27


MetaFilter threads are roguelikes:
✅ Each one is unique
✅ Turn based
✅ Graphically minimalist
✅ Perma-death (if you get banned you can't come back)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:18 PM on January 27 [30 favorites]


The only video games I've ever had any interest in are in the Rogue/Hack/NetHack lineage. I respect the *band games, but don't play them. I personally find the roguelike-likes/roguelikes to be the Blues Hammers of the genre. I try not to be an asshole about it, however, and you can call them whatever you like.
posted by talking leaf at 2:21 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I don't know why this is even still a genre anymore. Everybody knows that rogue[like|lite]s reached their zenith in 1991 with Toejam and Earl. Everything since then has just been a funkless disappointment.
posted by Television Name at 2:57 PM on January 27 [6 favorites]


IIRC, this is the entire conceit behind Superhot. It's an FPS where time only moves when you do.

It moves very slowly on its own. Very, very slowly. If that matters, not trying to be pedantic. Sometimes you're like this close to a bullet coming at you and become aware that you may have done a boo-boo.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:06 PM on January 27


On the other hand the original Diablo could also have been framed as "what if Rogue was real-time?"

You mean, "what if Larn was real-time and had nice graphics and took itself much too seriously?"
posted by suetanvil at 3:26 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


tocts: There's a smuggled assumption here, though, which is precisely where people disagree with your take: I think these games in fact have a lot to do with Rogue. Much like I can see how the original Wolf3d shares many elements that are common with what we'd still today call a FPS while differing wildly in other ways, I can see ways that modern roguelikes build on the core parts of what made Rogue engaging even if they differ wildly in implementation.

Yes, there are a lot of things in common, but that doesn't mean the differences are any less important.

We can discuss, abstractly, the ways in which games influence other games, how permadeath affects perception of risk, how procedural generation influences content, etc.

But let's not forget the subjective experience of actually playing the game. That's a really big deal!

Turn based and real time are completely different experiences. When you add elements like permadeath and procedural generation to the mix (both allegedly "roguelike"), it doesn't make it more similar, it make it more different!

With real-time games you must react quickly. If you are too slow you will die, and with permadeath, have to start over. And with procedural generation, you'll have to explore the world over again too, with all the risk that entails. Much is lost in failure, so you really must react quickly.

With turn-based games, you must react carefully. If you are too quick you will die, and with permadeath, have to start over. And with procedural generation, you'll have to explore the world over again too, with all the risk that entails. Much is lost in failure, so you really must react carefully.

Most of the words I've used above are the same, but the subjective experience is so completely different that it's even hard to describe just how different they are.

I think the problem with this debate is that most people lack experience of turn-based games. In a discussion about "roguelikes". :(

explosion: IIRC, this is the entire conceit behind Superhot. It's an FPS where time only moves when you do.

Ages ago I tried imagining a first-person roguelike, and came up with that very idea, but am not a game designer so never brought it in to being. I bought Superhot as soon as it came out to see what they had come up with.

On preview, as OnTheLastCastle noted, it does move slowly when you don't move. I was disappointed by this. It does matter because you can't stop, evaluate your situation, go make a sandwich while contemplating your options, then come back and make your best effort. The fact that time, despite the advertising, does move when you don't is clearly an intentional design decision to create a sense of urgency. This is in contrast to traditional roguelikes, where any sense of urgency is false. (Which is not to say that there is no sense of urgency, only that it is not imposed by the game, but is nonetheless part of the interaction between the game and the player.)
posted by swr at 3:33 PM on January 27 [5 favorites]


Oh you mean Don't Starve but only where you beat up/kill your co-op partner after you build a base together and then try to avoid their real life rage and revenge. Why didn't you say so?

Oh, so basically Mario Party.
posted by Quackles at 3:48 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Fallout 1 and 2 by Interplay were absolutely turn-based shooters.

This is a very spicy take, and I'm totally here for it. You can't even make a meaningful objection concerning melee builds, since FPSes all the way back to Wolf3D had melee options. Fallout depends very heavily on shooting as a verb. It's not the only one, but it's the primary one. The first thing you loot in the game is a pistol, after all.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:15 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I think the problem with this debate is that most people lack experience of turn-based games.

I think this kind of assumption is not particularly useful. Myself, I have been playing turn-based games for decades, including thousands of hours of turn-based roguelikes. I've ascended with a half dozen nethack classes (some multiple times). I've also written turn-based ascii-only games.

I have zero problem with a real-time game that's not using ascii graphics being called a roguelike.

Fundamentally, I don't believe there's a long, inclusive list of must-haves to qualify as such. I think there's one or two must-haves (honestly the only two I feel strongly about are "randomized content" and "has a distinct goal/ending") and then a bunch of "may contribute to it coming off to me as a roguelike, but absence of this doesn't rule it out".
posted by tocts at 4:35 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I have zero problem with a real-time game that's not using ascii graphics being called a roguelike.

Fair enough, but at some point the term is diluted beyond meaning.

My first big shock was encountering a game on Steam that was advertised as a "roguelite". Okay, "lite" so I expected some differences...

It was a bullet-hell shooter.
posted by swr at 4:59 PM on January 27


I think the turn based essentialism likely needs to go. There's a reason many genres started as turn based and a reason why the current iterations have gone down both paths (RPGs, 4xs, etc). I can see how some would not want to let go of that plank, but it doesn't read as necessary when you look at the genre longitudinally with other genres that have also branched at that fork.
posted by avalonian at 5:27 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised nobody's brought up the term "procedural death labyrinth", or PDL, a term devised to capture the essence of what is meant by "roguelikelike" without leaning on the name of a now-distant ancestor. Random generation, permadeath, and exploration. Spelunky, FTL, and their ilk all qualify and get to emphasize their familial similarity without a pointless debate over whether they adequately resemble a turn-based ascii dungeon crawl. I guess it hasn't really caught on?

also a roguelikelike is a creature that stealthily ambushes people and eats their shield
posted by NMcCoy at 5:42 PM on January 27 [9 favorites]


I have been playing video games for 30 years and I still don't know wt everyloving f "roguelike" means these days.

It and its sub-words (rogue-lite etc.) are slapped on such a massive chunk of games to the point it's no longer a label with meaning. Genre/label tweaking and diluting is a pet peeve of mine. Just invent a new word! I don't want to have to re-learn what genres mean every 5 years. This stuff's supposed to make my life easier, not more complicated.
posted by Feminazgul at 6:45 PM on January 27 [6 favorites]


Fair enough, but at some point the term is diluted beyond meaning.

At an extreme? Maybe. However, it's rare of a creative work to fit squarely into one box. Music can have influences from more than one genre, and maybe even end up in a specific sub-genre. Glam rock may be a specific sub-genre, but if someone described such an act as rock music it would still provide useful information (albeit information that could be more specific).

So, to your specific example of a bullet hell game: there's nothing to prevent a bullet hell game from also being a roguelike. Take a game like Nuclear Throne, which is a top-down shooter/bullet hell roguelike (though they use the phrase "roguelike-like, probably to avoid the usual people spamming negative reviews because their precious term was "mis-used"). Calling it a roguelike tells me important things about it. I should expect randomly generated levels to traverse. These will likely be in service of a singular goal that I might require a number of attempts to reach. I can probably expect some combination of classes, permadeath, leveling up or advancement via equipment, etc.

Now, does that tell me everything about it? No, and the rest of the description "top-down shooter roguelike" fills in a lot of gaps. But, nothing about it being realtime or involving shooting means it can't be a roguelike, nor that calling it a roguelike dilutes the word to the point of not having meaning.
posted by tocts at 6:48 PM on January 27 [5 favorites]


Confucius tells us, "If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things," and computer programmers tell us "naming things" is one of the three Two Hard Problems of Computer Science.

And I can't tell fuck-all about a game from "rogue-lite" or this proposed redefinition of "roguelike". Like, probably it's kinda indie? Maybe some procedural generation, maybe some permadeath?

Super Mario Bros. 1 on the NES is a roguelike. It contains modified (3 lives) permadeath mechanics and minimal procedural (but not random) level generation on 4-4 and 8-4.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:39 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Turn-based shooters are artillery games like Scorched Earth, Worms, etc.

FWIW there is a new version of NH out, though it's bugfixes. There's a 3.7.0 up on on git in testing, though it seems to be a code cleanup release.
posted by fleacircus at 2:29 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Just go on steam and start labeling every violent shooter as "indie visual novel" and the circle will be complete.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:02 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


If I wanted to go with the FPS example, maybe flight combat. You are moving and shooting, but now your movement is flying, not like those old FPSs where you were stuck on the ground. Or maybe rail shooters, they're first-person and you're shooting, they just streamlined that whole "position management" that nobody liked anyway.

There is a genuine FPS discussion over "cover-based shooters" which can feel like you're playing a distinctly different genre from something where you run faster and dont' spend a bunch of time crouched behind waist-high walls.
posted by RobotHero at 8:22 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


1. The Plato version of Moria, is probably not roguelike, despite the permadeath and the wireframe because it isn't procedurally generated. However some people might put it in that genre.
2. Slay the Spire is a fantastic game and should be played by everyone. It's super deep, procedurally generated with permadeath and is a blast to play.
posted by Thrakburzug at 1:40 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Hello! Most of what I would add has been covered already (and at some point in the last 15 years I've used many of the arguments already stated above).

I would only add that there has never been an "official" definition of "roguelike," it's always been an ad hoc term used by people speaking with others who would obviously know what they meant. The only objection I would have to the greater use of the term is the fact that we still need some way to refer to the classic roguelikes--and hey, "classic roguelikes" works well. I personally will continue to use "roguelike" and "roguelite," but I'm not going to be prescriptivist about it.
posted by JHarris at 9:55 PM on January 28 [7 favorites]


This is a very spicy take, and I'm totally here for it. You can't even make a meaningful objection concerning melee builds, since FPSes all the way back to Wolf3D had melee options. Fallout depends very heavily on shooting as a verb. It's not the only one, but it's the primary one. The first thing you loot in the game is a pistol, after all.

OTOH roll up a melee character and you won't need to loot a single gun (there's a bug that let's you melee attack once per action point) and it's more fun than trying to play a traditional Doom-like with a chainsaw or what have you.

Having so many different games inspired by the vocabulary of Rogue that the original descriptor doesn't cover all of them/has to expand (take your pick) is an excellent problem to have in any case.

I wonder if something like GPD Win would be a viable option for roguelikes.
posted by ersatz at 2:13 PM on January 30


Obviously what is needed is a podcast about these games and controversies called

The Joe Rogueish Experience.
posted by rhizome at 11:47 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Another Jupiter Hell example:
Terrible mix of two concepts: Rogue-like & Turn by turn Why? just why? The mix is awful and boring. Poor vision turned into a game.
posted by RobotHero at 2:11 PM on February 10


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