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Rogue-Lite Games FAQ
What are Roguelike and Roguelite Games?
Roguelike games, sometimes used interchangeably with terms like roguelike or rogue-lite, have become a genre of their own in recent times. The term comes from the name of an ASCII game from 1980, which helped pioneer a form of game where players would enter a procedurally generated dungeon and explore it for loot.
A lot of games that use elements from the original game, such as procedurally generated maps, randomized loot, turn-based controls, grid-based player movement, perma-death (the character dying and being lost forever, no respawns), and dungeon crawling, can be thought of as roguelikes. Though initially a fantasy game, roguelikes can be set in diverse locations and worlds, including post-apocalypse, sci-fi space exploration, and more. This isn’t a recent development: several roguelikes in the 1980s abandoned the high fantasy setting. One was set in a modern city with a quest to find a bottle of vodka.
There’s no true definition of the genre, but expect to explore a procedurally generated world to uncover its secrets, unlocking randomized loot, sudden death resetting a current playthrough. Character interaction with the world should be consistent but complex, enabling unique victories or deaths. Oh yeah, players die. A lot.
A lot of modern roguelikes still remain 2D but with vastly upgraded graphics. ASCII graphics were actually text sprites that were used to represent a creature, wall, or anything else in the game world. The player could be represented as ‘@’ instead of an animated character. Every step they took would advance the whole game world one step, too. Progress of the entire world was tied to the player’s every step.
Not having to hold back in terms of graphics or physics has meant a lot of roguelikes are now platform games, or top-down dungeon crawlers, that move and react in real time. The exploration aspect has become much more frantic and lively.
Procedural generation allows for complex world creation and loot generation without every element having to be hand-crafted. Because of this, roguelikes tend to be produced by independent developers. Small groups, or even single developers, can use procedural generation to create an infinite variety of levels with surprising designs. Escaping a level will come with unexpected twists caused by the procedural generation. Some deaths might feel unfair because they threw a rock that knocked out an enemy who fell past a trap that sprung and somehow killed them, but they can always be understood with a firm grasp of a game’s rules. That’s part of what makes roguelikes so compelling: discovering how the world works, how the levels, systems, and loot combine, makes players feel like an adventurer in their own right. Modern roguelikes can also share world generation as a daily run, in which every player is presented with the same level and compete to be the furthest explorer, the fastest winner, or highest scorer.
Deck-building games, where players collect or reveal a series of cards that give their team powers, rely on turn-based action instigated by the players. That, and randomized encounters, cards, and level layout, make them roguelikes.
Tweaks to the formula allow for progression to happen despite character deaths, with additional characters being a relation of the one who died, or perhaps keeping some of the inventory from a previous attempt.
Roguelike elements can be applied across a number of genres. Players could be in a spaceship trying to get as far away from an aggressive pursuer, dealing with randomized pirate attacks and ship degradation. They could be a small party of emotionally disturbed prisoners on a trip across a horrific landscape, and having to deal with attacks and the party’s morale. Heck, they could even be an intern battling through the procedurally generated remnants of failed tech start-ups,
Roguelikes can really be anything.