The roguelike is a sub-genre of role-playing video games, characterized by randomization for replayability, permanent death, and turn-based movement. Most roguelikes feature ASCII graphics, with newer ones increasingly offering tile-based graphics. Games are typically dungeon crawls, with many monsters, items, and environmental features. Computer roguelikes usually employ the majority of the keyboard to facilitate interaction with items and the environment. The name of the genre comes from the 1980 game Rogue.
Some features of Rogue existed in earlier games, notably: Adventure (1975), Dungeon (1975), Telengard (1976), and several written for the PLATO system, such as the multi-user games dnd (1975) and Moria (1975). Both dnd and Moria utilized limited graphics. Moria offered a primitive first-person, three-dimensional view, while dnd presented a top-down map view similar to Rogue.
These games present a plain view. Traditionally, an "@" sign represents the player character. Letters of the alphabet represent other characters (usually opposing monsters). Rogue itself only made use of capital letters, but present-day roguelikes vary capitalization to supply additional visual cues. A dog, for example, may be represented by the letter "d", and a dragon by a "D". Coloration may signal further distinction between creatures. For example, a Red Dragon might be represented by a red "<tt, each of differing abilities significant to player strategy. Additional dungeon features are represented by other ASCII (or ANSI) symbols. A traditional sampling follows.
------ - Wall |
|....| ############ # Unlit hallway
|....| # # . Lit area
|.$ Some quantity of gold
|....| # ---+ A door
------ # |.....| | Wall
# |.!...| ! A magic potion
# |..@ The adventurer
---- # |.....|
|..| #######D A red dragon
|<.+### # |.....| < Stairs to a higher level
---- # # |.?...| ? A magic scroll
Graphical adaptations are available for most early roguelikes, and it is not uncommon for new development projects to adopt a graphical user interface.
Players issue game commands with at most a few keystrokes, rather than with sentences interpreted by a parser or by means of a pointing device such as a mouse. For example, in NetHack one would press "r" to read a scroll, "d" to drop an item, and "q" to quaff (drink) a potion.
The gameplay elements characterizing the roguelike genre were explicitly defined at the International Roguelike Development Conference 2008. Some of the "high value factors" used in this definition include:
Roguelike games long remained the domain of computer geeks. However, according to 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish, action role-playing games such as Blizzard's hugely successful Diablo can be considered types of roguelikes, due to their similar premise: players slash their way (in real time) through increasingly difficult monsters and attain treasure while traversing deeper into randomly-generated dungeons to complete quests. Salon.com's Wagner James Au attested that, when he visited their offices, "Blizzard's designers readily acknowledged their debt to Nethack and other Roguelikes". Moreover, the permanent death feature of the roguelike is retained in Diablo 2s hardcore mode, as well as Runic Games' Torchlight.
Still, the first mainstream success of proper roguelike games (turn-based, randomly generated dungeon crawlers with no save feature) was in Japan where the genre is now widely popular. The success is due primarily to the Mystery Dungeon series by Chunsoft. The series began as a Super Famicom game called Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon (lit tran. The Great Adventure of Torneko: Dungeon of Mystery), which is a spin-off of the Dragon Quest series. The finely tuned game balance as well as the use of easily recognized 2D animated monsters from a well-known franchise drawn by Akira Toriyama, who is the creator of various hit manga and anime such as Dragon Ball series led to the game becoming a sleeper hit in 1993 selling in excess of 800,000 copies. The game was also voted as the 78th best game of all time in the Japanese Famitsu magazine.
Subsequently, Chunsoft has built Mysteries dungeon series on well drawn animated characters and monsters http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/mystery-shiren/index.html from easily recognized and well established franchises http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/mystery-shiren/index.html. Chunsoft managed to flatten the steep learning curve of roguelike games by introducing multiple dungeon with progressive difficulty, hence delaying the introduction of more punishing aspects of gameplay to later advanced stages (or only after completing the main plot). In some series, the permanent death feature applies to the hard mode only and this has been controversial among fans of older series who prefer more challenging (and some argue more addictive) gameplay. Due to lower requirement for hardware specs, smaller data size requirement and the casual nature of gameplay, not to mention its infinite replayability, the series has been particularly successful as games for hand-held consoles and, more recently, mobile phones.
This format resulted in four successful sub-series: the Torneko series based on Dragon Quest, the Chocobo (series) based on Final Fantasy, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series based on Pokémon, and the Shiren the Wanderer series, which is the only one based on original characters (plus two failed series based on the Gundam and Tower of Druaga franchises). These series has become "the staple of the Japanese game market"http://ds.ign.com/articles/821/821916p1.html. The first Chocobo game, which had a less punishing save system for a much younger target audience, sold 1.165.798 copies http://www.japan-gamecharts.com/ps1.php and the first Pokémon games, Blue and Red Rescue Team, sold 3.08 million together, popularizing the core gameplay of rougulikes to a global audience. http://wii.ign.com/articles/807/807852p1.html
The no-save feature of the Torneko and Shiren series, which is the main premise of roguelike games, was described as "the worst flaw in any RPG is the lack of a decent save system" by Worthplaying.com and "[going] against the very foundation of what an RPG should be" by Gaming Age. Eurogamer argued that "its sadistic, repetitive nature ....that's precisely what's appealing about it. The stakes are far higher, making the rewards much sweeter." The latest Mystery Dungeon series to be marketed to the West for console is Shiren the Wonderer 3 for Wii console which features 3D rendered characters. In West, it is marketed simply as "Shiren the Wanderer", reflecting the lack of recognition of previous series in the West. The game has three difficulty modes, Easy mode where half of inventory and all the attained levels are saved upon defeat, Normal mode where you lose all the inventory but retain the levels you've gained, and Hard mode which features permanent death (rather than dying, the character are brought back to the entrance of dungeon, lose all the inventories and revert to level 1).