Now that I've completely alienated the Roguelike community with a post about Uru, I thought it would be a great time to talk about Roguelikes. After all, they're not reading me any more, so it's clear sailing! ;)
When I was young, I loved Roguelikes and their surprisingly close sister: the MUD. But as I got older, I stopped liking them. Why?
This is actually a very complicated topic, because I still like RPGs. In fact, I like RPGs that are very close to Roguelikes in their UI and rules. Which means there is something outside of UI and rules that matters.
The only thing I can think of is the "narrative", for lack of a better word.
The dialog, the plot events, the way characters join and leave your party. The progression through these things.
I don't want to call it a "narrative", because I don't actually think that I care that it's a narrative. I think that - and this is going to be fuzzy - I think that it's about externality.
In a Roguelike, what you get is what you get. Although each play-through is different, the overall experience is fundamentally the same. I don't mean the UI, I mean the way you feel as you play it.
However, an RPG's content is usually more carefully arrayed.
This is the part that I think some Roguelike fans are going to misunderstand.
There is a... kind of theme to any given RPG. There are people sitting behind it and building cool shit. Someone says, "oh, and if the bad guy saves him now, it'll be cooler when he has to fight him later." Someone says, "to make it feel like a tropical island, let's make all the villagers very relaxed." Someone says "this would be a great time to kick his mage out of the party and let him sweat for a bit."
Now, each time you replay the RPG, it's the same. But that's why most people don't replay RPGs much. Instead, a new RPG is made and they buy it.
This isn't a group of consumerists addled by ads and woefully unaware of Angband. It's a group of people who want a deeper, fundamentally more coherent experience than continually replaying a Roguelike provides. And the only way to get that is to consume a work of art. To EAT it until it provides NO FURTHER SUSTENANCE. It's about exploring someone's brain, not simply a stack of rules.
In theory, it may be that you can simulate this and create infinite deeper, more coherent experiences with a single piece of software. In the same way that, in theory, it may be possible to travel to Alpha Centauri.
Now, if they're still reading, some of the Roguelike audience might be feeling wroth right now. A lot of them probably think that what I want is stupid or pointless, in which case we're talking pots and kettles.
On the other hand, it may be that they think such a thing can be generated.
Far be it from me to dissuade anyone who wants to try. Hell, if you succeed, I'll sign right up.
But... more realistically, other approaches are more plausible. Other approaches such as the one I discussed earlier and caught flak for.
That approach is attempting to get around this difficulty. It is not made out of ignorance. It is made out of a full understanding that this has never even been remotely near something vaguely resembling success, even though literally hundreds of people try.
So... I hope that was clear. I don't like Roguelikes because I'm a zombie.
I must eat brains.
How about you?