Game Design Deep Dive
eBook - ePub

Game Design Deep Dive


Joshua Bycer

  1. 106 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (adapté aux mobiles)
  4. Disponible sur iOS et Android
eBook - ePub

Game Design Deep Dive


Joshua Bycer

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À propos de ce livre

Game Design Deep Dive: Roguelikes examines the history and rise of the often-confusing roguelike genre. Despite being more than 30 years old, the roguelike genre remains a mystery to a lot of consumers and developers. Procedural generation, or having the game generate content, has been a cornerstone and point of complexity since its inception. The 2010s saw an explosion of new designs and examples, along with a debate about what a roguelike is. The genre found its way back to mainstream audiences with the award-winning Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. Since then, roguelikes have revolutionized the way we see and design games. Author and game design critic Joshua Bycer explains the differences between the various roguelike designs and give a detailed blueprint showing what makes the best ones work.

  • The first of its kind talking about the roguelike genre

  • Examines the design and methodology of roguelike games and the different variations

  • A high-level discussion and breakdown of procedural and random content generation

Joshua Bycer is a game design critic with more than seven years of experience critically analyzing game design and the industry itself. In that time, through Game-Wisdom, he has interviewed hundreds of game developers and members of the industry about what it means to design video games. He is also a public speaker and presenter at schools and libraries on game design and game development.

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CRC Press



Even though my first love of videogames is of action-based games, roguelikes have become a close second. While I played a few of them when I was younger, it was not until the 2010s that I embraced the genre, and I have been playing every variety of them since.
For this deep dive, we are going to explore the history and design of the genre and its many nuances. Despite the flood of titles from indie developers, it is an extremely hard genre to do properly.
When I was first exposed to roguelikes, I remember writing on my original blog in 2008 about how the term replayability was going to become an important aspect of game development. Since then, I have been proven right, with the mainstream growth of roguelike design and building games around live-service design. However, many developers do not understand the amount of work and complexity that is required to create a game that keeps the consumer coming back for more. Live-service design could easily fill its own book in terms of practices and philosophies from around the industry.
In the last decade, the concept of a roguelike has changed dramatically, and the genre in its many forms has become a popular option for indie developers. There are misconceptions about roguelike design that we are going to tackle in this book that are often issues we see from first attempts by developers. But perhaps the hardest goal of this book is to finally give a definitive answer to this question: “what is a roguelike?” and how the definition for the genre has changed over the past 30 years.
We are also going to bring up three different games that were featured in my first book 20 Essential Games to Study (Taylor & Francis, 2019), and there is a reason for that. Each game, in a way, not only changed game design forever but left lasting marks on the industry that other developers would soon emulate and grow from. Also, each game was completely different from the others in the roguelike elements their designs explored.
I was not originally going to write my third book on roguelikes but on horror; however, in 2019, the signs were there with so many roguelike and roguelike-inspired games being released that it felt like this was the right time. Confusion over the designs and definitions of the genre still exists, and as with platforming, there is a wide line between good and bad takes.
The parallels between roguelikes and platforming do not stop there. There are so many roguelikes on the market today that just making a good one is not enough to stand out, just like platformers. And with that, let us start where roguelikes began.


The Birth of the Rogue

2.1 Early Rogues
2.2 What Is a Roguelike Like?

2.1 Early Rogues

Whenever we talk about the origins of genres and designs, we should remember that the game industry is notoriously bad at keeping exact dates and designating games as “the first” of their genre. With the rise of videogames and computer games in the 1970s, developers were beginning to create new experiences. Early role-playing games (RPGs) were text-based: Using only text and no art to tell a story (Figure 2.1).
ASCII code from Nethack set up to represent a dungeon.
Figure 2.1
Early roguelikes like Nethack would set the foundation of roguelike design to this very day.
In 1974, the very first edition of Dungeons and Dragons by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, a pen-and-paper tabletop RPG, was released and would begin fans’ long-lasting love of fantasy settings. The reason why these titles were important was that they helped to inspire what would become the game that set the standard for roguelike gameplay: Rogue.
Rogue was originally developed by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman and technically released in 1980. The reason for “technically” is because the first version of the game was never sold but distributed among fans for free. Rogue embodied all the aspects that would become standard for roguelikes that we will talk about in the next section.
Sadly, despite being the game that would become synonymous with the genre, Rogue never became a commercial success. A commercial version worked on by Toy was released in 1984 which did not perform well in the market. The main reasons were because the free version of Rogue was still available and because the game went on to inspire several notable titles that were also free. Two of the most popular roguelikes at the time were Hack, made by Jay Fenalson and released in 1982 (and then expanded by Andries Brouwer in 1984), and Moira by Robert Koeneke in 1983.
Hack was an original roguelike where the objective was to find the amulet of Yendor hidden at the bottom of a dungeon. The game generated the floors at startup, and they remain consistent for the length of the play.
Hack was eventually re-released in the form of Nethack in 1987 by a group of people collectively known as the Nethack Dev Team, featuring more content, challenges, and things to do. Nethack is considered by fans to be one of the best roguelikes ever made and is still being worked on and updated after over 30 years of development and can be found for free online.
Moira was a roguelike built around the Lord of the Rings setting and featured larger levels than Hack at the time and was centered on reaching the Balrog and defeating it. Unlike Hack, Moira generates new levels during play whenever the player moves to a new floor. Moira is now open source and available under the name Umoira.
Even though the term roguelike would not get coined until around the early 1990s, these classic games would form the basis of what the roguelike genre means to its fans.

2.2 What Is a Roguelike Like?

We will be coming back to this question throughout this book, as it has taken on new meaning with the growth of the roguelike genre. Let us go over the basic definition and elements that stayed true for more than 20 years. In the next chapter, we will start looking at these points more closely.
The roguelikes of the 1980s shared common elements and designs. Each title was built on RPG systems where in-game characters would find new gear and grow more powerful over the course of playing. Players would always start these games by building a character. Typically, these games had multiple races or classes that would determine starting attributes and abilities. All gameplay occurred in a turn-based system – where the game only moves forward after the player inputs a command (Figure 2.2).
The combat screen of Final Fantasy 1, with the four heroes on the right and a group of three enemies on the left.
Figure 2.2
Role playing and strategy games popularized turn-based strategy design.
What separated roguelikes from other games was the use of random and procedurally generated content.
When people think about a videogame, they view them as a linear experience that is played through once and then finished. The roguelike genre was the first to generate content each time someone played the game. This included the environments, enemy and item placements, and much more.
Because there was no set design of roguelikes, early developers needed to do something different to represent the game on screen. Instead of creating art assets, roguelike developers used the programming language ASCII. Everything in the game was assigned a symbol used in ASCII, which turned into a low-cost method for designing a game without requiring extensive art. One of the more famous examples would be the hit game Dwarf Fortress by Tarn and Zach Adams of Bay 12 Games, first released in 2006, which also makes use of generating content.
To add a greater sense of challenge for the player, roguelikes featured a concept known as permadeath. When the player’s character dies in a roguelike, their character and save file are deleted, which requires them to restart the game completely. Instead of letting the player manually save their game, roguelikes would save after every action, preventing the player from undoing a mistake or bad event. We will discuss the use and popularity of permadeath more in the next chapter.
Depending on the game, some roguelikes would allow a sense of carryover or persistence across runs. When the character died, future playthroughs could have the remains and items of a previously killed character.
Despite the advanced design of roguelikes, it would take a growth of the term and gameplay, and about 30 years in the market, before the mainstream began to fully appreciate it. With that sa...

Table des matiĂšres

  1. Cover
  2. Half-Title
  3. Title
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication
  6. Contents
  7. Preface
  8. Acknowledgments
  9. Author
  10. 1 Introduction
  11. 2 The Birth of the Rogue
  12. 3 Basic Roguelike Design
  13. 4 Off-Brand Roguelikes
  14. 5 Generating Content
  15. 6 Advanced Roguelike Design
  16. 7 The Roguelike Rises
  17. 8 AAA Roguelikes
  18. 9 The Roguelike Confusion
  19. 10 Expert Roguelike Design
  20. Conclusion
  21. Glossary
  22. Index
Normes de citation pour Game Design Deep Dive

APA 6 Citation

Bycer, J. (2021). Game Design Deep Dive (1st ed.). CRC Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2021)

Chicago Citation

Bycer, Joshua. (2021) 2021. Game Design Deep Dive. 1st ed. CRC Press.

Harvard Citation

Bycer, J. (2021) Game Design Deep Dive. 1st edn. CRC Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Bycer, Joshua. Game Design Deep Dive. 1st ed. CRC Press, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.