What Are Roguelike and Roguelite Video Games?

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What Are Roguelike and Roguelite Video Games?

You may have noticed the rising popularity of the roguelike video game genre. Roguelikes, like many other genres, may be difficult to describe, particularly when combined with a variety of different gameplay types. This is why there are subcategories like “roguelite.”

We’ll go over the major characteristics of roguelike games and how they vary from their roguelite counterparts.

What Are Roguelikes?

The term “roguelike” is derived from the game Rogue, which was launched on different early computers beginning around 1980. Rogue is a turn-based dungeon crawler game in which you must battle your way through dungeon levels, collecting stuff and fighting opponents along the way.

Rogue represents everything, including adversaries and rooms, using simplistic ASCII visuals. This was a simple approach to portray a gaming environment on the time’s text-only terminals. Furthermore, the game uses randomized generation, which makes each playtime new and prevents players from remembering the game’s structure.

Rogue had these and other special design decisions, which established a pattern for subsequent games it inspired, owing in part to the technology restrictions of the period. These games are known as roguelikes.

What Defines a Roguelike?

The International Roguelike Development Conference was held in Berlin in 2008. There, developers and players collaborated to define a suitable description for roguelikes. This set of rules is now known as the Berlin Interpretation, and although it isn’t perfect, it’s a decent starting point for determining how roguelike a game is.

According to the Berlin Interpretation, the following are the most essential aspects of roguelikes:

  • Random environment generation: Roguelikes have distinct area layouts with randomized enemy and object placements each time you play. To prevent unwinnable scenarios, this is normally done through procedural generation rather than absolute randomization.
  • Permanent death: When you die, you lose all progress and must restart from the beginning. You don’t save your progress between runs.
  • Turn-based movement on a grid: Roguelikes lack a real-time component; time normally advances when you take a step or do another action. This permits you to take your time and plan your actions ahead of time. Roguelikes also use a grid of tiles rather than unrestricted mobility.
  • Non-modal gameplay: All actions in roguelikes take occur on the same screen. There are no dedicated displays for fights, cutscenes, or anything else.
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  • Complexity with few resources: The game must provide for several solutions to issues, such as allowing you to break down a door without a key. Roguelikes also force you to use limited things intelligently, like as healing potions, so you can’t live indefinitely with cheap techniques.
  • A concentration on monster annihilation: Roguelikes, which borrow from the early definition of “hack and slash” games, emphasize combat with opponents as a crucial component. There are no peaceful alternatives.
  • An focus on exploration and discovery: For example, the properties of some magical objects may alter between runs, necessitating the player figuring out what a “twisted potion” accomplishes each time.

The Berlin Interpretation also contains certain minor conditions, such as the user managing just one character, creatures following the same rules as the player, utilizing ASCII characters for the game’s aesthetics, and showing numbers to visualize player data.

A game does not require all of these elements to be a roguelike, and just having a handful does not make it a roguelike. However, in a world where the term “roguelike” is being used to an expanding number of games, it is useful to have some standards to compare them to.

According to the conference, canon roguelike games include ADOM, Angband, Linley’s Dungeon Crawl, NetHack, and Rogue.

The Rise of Roguelike-Likes

If you’ve played any current roguelike games, they most certainly did not meet any or all of the criteria listed above. Several developers released products with roguelike-inspired gameplay but did not correspond to all of the rules during the growth of independent games in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Spelunky, which was launched in 2008, was one of the first popular instances. Spelunky included several roguelike elements, such as permanent death, discovery, and procedural creation, into a 2D platformer. In the years thereafter, The Binding of Isaac and FTL have found comparable popularity by blending roguelike features with action-adventure and real-time strategic gameplay.

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Despite containing many of the important elements, none of these games are real roguelikes since they lack turn-based gameplay with grid mobility. As a consequence, games in this manner began to be referred to as “roguelike-like” or “roguelite,” indicating that they featured most roguelike aspects but employed a gameplay style other than a turn-based dungeon-crawler.

While some people use the terms roguelike-like and roguelite interchangeably, there are minor differences between them. Despite not being dungeon crawlers, roguelike-like games lack any lasting advancement between plays. Roguelites, on the other hand, let you concentrate on macro-level objectives by carrying over certain stuff and progressing after each try.

Understanding Roguelites

Hades, which was published to critical acclaim in 2020, is an excellent example of a roguelite. The game centres on attempting to escape the underworld as Hades’ son.

The sequence of the chambers, your prizes for clearing each level, and the Olympian gods’ power-ups are all random in each try. When you die, you lose all of your power-ups and money and must restart from the beginning.

A few forms of collectable materials, however, survive death. You utilize them to get access to permanent enhancements and improve your chances of success. This implies that, in addition to improving your technical proficiency with each try, you’re also training to grow stronger.

Related: What Is RNG? A Lesson for Gamers

After each death, the game adds dialogues and plot beats to the game’s centre, making the formula more interesting to beginners. Hades barely fits a handful of the Berlin Interpretation’s characteristics, but it’s a fantastic game that makes roguelike features more approachable and entertaining.

Prior to Hades, several roguelite games introduced roguelike-style gameplay to a variety of genres. Slay the Spire, a roguelite deck-building game, and Crypt of the Necrodancer, a roguelike with rhythm components, are two examples.

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Roguelike Definitions Are Fuzzy

As we’ve seen, identifying a roguelike, or even a game inspired by one, may be difficult.

In common use, these phrases have gotten muddled. Most people don’t think of roguelikes as turn-based dungeon crawlers like the original Rogue. They’re most likely talking to a game with randomized stages and permanent death, such as Spelunky. Similarly, although we’ve defined the terms roguelike-like and roguelite, they often refer to the same sorts of games in practice.

Some individuals disagree with the Berlin Interpretation of roguelikes, claiming that it’s absurd to require all “genuine” roguelikes to have ASCII visuals when we don’t hold other genres to such outdated standards. This is somewhat true; when Doom was launched in 1993, games in similar manner were dubbed “Doom clones” for a while. We now refer to this genre as first-person shooters, and we don’t expect all of them to play precisely like Doom.

If you’re interested in a roguelike game, you should investigate how it employs roguelike characteristics. It might push significantly toward becoming a “real” roguelike, or it could just take a few features and put a fresh spin on them.

Roguelikes: Punishing but Exciting

You now have a better understanding of the historical backdrop for roguelike games and how roguelite games have progressed the criteria they establish. Roguelike and roguelite games are popular because of their intricate mechanics, gameplay that changes with each run, and feeling of progress.

If losing progress every time seems undesirable, consider a more forgiving roguelite to ease into the genre. Remember that other types of RPGs, such as turn-based combat, share certain roguelike characteristics.

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