021:  Roguelike and Roguelike Hybrid Games

Our heroes successfully escape the asteroid field but find themselves on the precipice of a new challenge… the Roguelike-Like star system!

Games Discussed in this episode:

  • 02:32 Rogue
  • 04:57 King’s Quest
  • 10:50 Hades
  • 12:07 Binding of Isaac
  • 14:04 Faster Than Light
  • 19:36 Crypt of the Necrodancer
  • 19:48 Tomb of Horrors
  • 20:19 BIT.TRIP RUNNER
  • 22:41 Cadence of Hyrule
  • 24:29 Cuphead
  • 27:53 Mass Effect
  • 29:29 Moonlighter

Introductory Guy  

Welcome to design thinking games, a gaming and User Experience podcast card-carrying UXers Tim Broadwater and Michael Schofield examined the player experience of board games, pen and paper role-playing games, live-action games and video games. Play through the backlog on your podcatcher of choice. And on the web at designthinkinggames.com.

Tim Broadwater  

We are talking about the history behind a certain sub-genre of game, roguelike games. I know that I’ve played a handful of them before that we’ve talked about. Have you played any of these games, or are you familiar with the genre?

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, I’m familiar with the genre a little bit. So roguelikes are not my cup of tea. The Binding of Issac is famous, but I’ve never played it. So the ones that I’ve played are like, I think the biggest one the biggest, the most famous roguelike that I’ve played through, is this is an older game that came out I think the 2010s Potentially earlier, but I think that early 2010 is called Faster Than Light or FTL. But I play a lot of games that are, I don’t know, how we would phrase it roguelike-like, there are certain things like around like permadeath, and reorientation, and things like that, that are core parts of roguelike. And I’ve played a lot of games like that.

Tim Broadwater  

That’s one of the things that I think is interesting. The definitions for roguelike games are kind of all over the place. We are throwing back 42 years, like looking at the 1980s. Right. And, you know, the term “roguelike, to my understanding of it, was kind of a, a term that’s taken from a type of game. And some of the games at that time are like hack Moria, Angband, and Rogue. And so the term rogue, or roguelike, specifically comes from the 1980 games.  

Michael Schofield  

That’s pretty early.

Tim Broadwater  

And the game itself was called Rogue, and it came out by epics. I’m not sure. Are you familiar with a game?

Michael Schofield  

I’m not all of this stuff came out. Before me, Tim. Like before I even existed.

Tim Broadwater  

 That’s right. How old are you?

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, I’m 36. I’m 1985. 

Tim Broadwater  

I’m 77, so.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, so I started playing in the early 90s when I think those good video game memories started taking root. So you know, many of these early games definitely influenced )television or Atari). So I well, I had I, I had an Atari but my first real you know, hundreds of hours gaming system was, you know, the original Nintendo. And then from that, I went to Genesis, I think. And so my history kind of like, kind of like falls under those pipelines. But I had an early PC. And there’s some category where games like Diablo are roguelike or roguelike-like, right. And so I feel that like my, my deepest experience in this style of the genre, although I’ve played several, is more in experiencing the games that are inspired from it, like the second generation or third generation of games that came out of this kind of like the original design in the early to mid-80s.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so there’s a whole it’s interesting. Yeah. So so, let me describe it for you a little bit. There are a lot of PC games. And I think we’ve been talking about this on Twitter a little bit. Because if you think of your kind of story-based text games, right, like King’s Quest or Space Quest or games that are kind of from Ken and Roberta Williams, which you know, are kind of text games, and you would, they worked on computers, and you could type in like open chest, hit enter and, and open stuff. And then you could type in, look around, and it’ll kind of give you some description. So that’s even like 19. That’s the mid-80s. Right? So like, kind of when you’re born. And if you kind of roll back a little bit before that, Rogue is one of the first computer games, like I said, for Commodore 64, or kind of Atari. And to describe what it looks like, it is literally a screen made up of ASCII characters. So like, you know, via Yeah, American Standard Code for Information Interchange. So it’s, it’s kind of like the ASCII art, or ASCII if I’m saying that correctly. And so the map that you are exploring, like, in the dungeon, literally is made up of hashtags, hyphens and ampersands, and symbols. And so you at the bottom, some text tells you your level, How much gold do you have your hit points, you know, experienced things like that. But you literally are just moving around, and as you’re moving around, the environment made from hyphens and different character symbols is being generated. So procedurally generated or, and that’s kind of Rogue. And it also came out on the Tandy, I believe, so, but it is a 1980 game. And the term roguelike comes from that game itself, rogue 1980 epics. But to your point, like when you say roguelike-like games, there are when people talk about, you know, roguelike, I think there are general characteristics, but it’s really vague, right. Permadeath, like you mentioned, is one of them, but randomly generated levels, or creatures or maps, right. And so, I think, I also think that kind of resource management is a piece of it, as well. So I really think my mind goes more so and I think this is probably what it is to most people is that you go to randomly generated maps and monsters, and the restart or permadeath is something as well. And you kind of have to proceed with caution because you have to start over, you know, if you die here or fail.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, cuz I guess like, for me, like I, you know, the biggest takeaway of like, the roguelike-like, aspect is the permadeath. This is something I feel like, the idea that you have a character who can accrue resources. There’s a deep resources management aspect to it, but when you die, it’s gone, and all of your stuff is gone. And there are certain, you know, certain cool ways where you might be able to go and get it back. However, that sense of mortality, like, and, and kind of, like, finite, is not right.

Tim Broadwater  

No, I know what you mean,

Michael Schofield  

you don’t, you know, saving, you’re saving your games and, you know, game over these kinds of like things that, you know, as games are getting increasingly more forgiving. Because as, as we kind of explore, you know, what, you know, the many different toggles and switches of the capital P capital E, the player experience, you know, some people don’t want the sense of, like Mortal anxiety to be a part of their game. But that’s the biggest takeaway from me. And I think if I think about it, the games that I have played are probably randomly generated. I know, there’s like a fine line of debates. You know, purists will say, like, the random generation is the roguelike part. Maybe more the, you know, like, but there’s a there’s kind of like, a scale.

Tim Broadwater  

I would agree. People say, Oh, it’s a regular game, or that’s a roguelike game or a roguelike. And then, when you have mashups of multiple genres, I’m not a fan of regular game roguelike games. I’ve played just a handful of them. However, it becomes really exciting when that genre is matched up with other genres.

Tim Broadwater  

I know that we’ve recently talked a lot about Hades. Hades was nominated for a lot of awards. It is a roguelike. Meaning that so basically, you are the son of Hades. And you kind of find out that your dad slept with Persephone. But Persephone is no longer in Hades anymore. And so you’re trying to escape Hades. Or hell, to find your mom and just find out what’s going on. And every time you die, it doesn’t matter if you are in Tartarus, or in Elysium, or like, whatever part you’re trying to get out, you know, of the underworld. You have to start over. However, I think one of the things that we see a lot in modern, like roguelike games, is that you can buy things or advance outside of the run, quote, unquote, the rotten meaning that the one attempt you get.

Michael Schofield  

And so that’s interesting that sorry, a quick interjection. So that’s, that’s a modern roguelike thing. Right, that’s like, or is that a convention that goes way back?

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so. So with Binding of Isaac, which is actually actually a very sad story. You know, if you’ve played the game, you’re kind of thrown into, you have to kind of attack to get away from your abusive mother, and you’re thrown into the basement, and you’re trying to escape the basement, and you’re just to do that, you’d have to kind of go through different levels of the basement to escape every time you restart, you restart, right? However, you can unlock or purchase things outside of the run with games like Hades. So you’re at some point, let’s say, with Hades, you know, you can buy permanent things, or you can find things that are permanent, and then that will help you with the run. But essentially, every time you start to run, you’re like, got no cash, you’ve got a set amount of life, and you and that’s it. But you can, over time, kind of grinding or just doing runs, you can accrue things, or you’ll run into like stores and buy stuff. And you can also increase your health, unlock new weapons, and unlock abilities that you can kind of like you have like objects or artifacts that you can before you set out on a quote-unquote, run, you can equip that will help you in some way. And so there are ways to kind of, you know, I think maybe what you’re saying is like modern roguelike games, there are ways that it makes it a little bit easier. But it’s still the roguelike to where permadeath or reset. And every map, every level, every monster, everything’s kind of procedurally generated or randomly generated. So what is the game you’re talking about?

Michael Schofield  

The one that I’ve like, played through all the, like, all the way through that I spent quite a long time in. I just had to look it up because I thought it was like the 2010s, and I was right. It was 2012 2013. There’s basically this kind of like science fiction ship-based combat game called The FTL, faster than light. And the idea, I mean, the conceit is is is basically that you are, you are the ship, and you know, you have like a small crew, and your goal is to I think like reconnect with like the Federation, which has several jumps, but or waypoints like away from where you are. And that basically, like as you navigate through space, you burn fuel, burn things like beacons, and encounter hostile forces. And you have to navigate your way through successful completion of the objectives, of course, gives you more resources with its to do things how you assemble your crew, you know, it’s, it is whatever the number of the route you must take to really kind of join the Federation is random. And the opponents that you encounter along the way are random, and there’s no restart, right, so like if your ship is defeated or destroyed or you run out of resources, and you drift into the emptiness of space.

Tim Broadwater  

So every track is completely random and different. Yeah.

Michael Schofield  

And as I think about it, that resource management may be more than the permadeath for FTL because I didn’t really like account. Like, I don’t identify with an individual and like this particular game, like it is the ship, right? My goal is like I am, I contain multitudes, but like, what I really like about this kind of style of game, which I think does appeal to those who like resource management, and I do is, is that now what sucks is that you can have like, you can start with a couple of like, unfortunately, lucky or unlucky, like, jumps early in the game. And you’re, you’re pretty fucked, unless you’re incredibly clever, and can, like overcome kind of like the big constraints or the foes that you encounter. But yeah, so it’s just this kind of like, nice little like FTL game, and there is we’re sorry, space combat spacefaring game, and appeals to my science fiction, my enjoyment of science fiction, and it has like a concise narrative. So that you can you the story you tell as your own as you go, which might be another factor of like, well, roguelike means right, because I guess the with the idea of like, random map generation, there’s only so much controlled narrative that the game designer can infuse the game with. And so this kind of dovetails maybe a little bit with like our last episode in which we’re talking about journaling, RPGs, and things of that sort where the story emerges from the play as opposed to you experiencing a story.

Tim Broadwater  

So talking about like, how roguelike has different meanings to different people. But the style has things that are like reset or permadeath. And then procedurally are randomly generated, and then resource management. I think what we see a lot of is what excites me is like that genre when it’s attached or combined with another genre. And so, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the game Crypt of the NecroDancer Have you?

Michael Schofield  

That sounds like an old-school d&d module. Looking it up now.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, it does sound like what is the tomb of horrors, the very first guy. Yeah, dungeon dragons kind of thing. I mean, it definitely has that feel like, oh, yeah, Crypt of the NecroDancer. Wow. So essentially, do you like a lot of rhythm games?

Michael Schofield  

I do. Yeah. Yep.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so there’s like Bit Trip Runner and bit beat runner. And you know, and then there’s Guitar Hero and a lot of other things to where it’s a rhythm-based kind of game 100% But uh, they’re so they basically combined Crypt of the NecroDancer combines a roguelike, kind of procedurally generated dungeons and monsters with a rhythm game. And so essentially, I would highly recommend it like, it’s super cheap, and it’s an indie game. And, but you can only move or like, you not only move, but you want to move and on the beat. And so it becomes very strategic to where you are going like left, and then as your monster comes up, you have to dodge them, and you have to attack them on the beat. And even as you like, dig through the tunnels or uncovered chests, or unlock different things, you literally are doing it through rhythm. There are parts where the music speed and tempo increase to where you have to move faster. Or maybe you get hit by a monster, and it slows you down. But the longer you stay on beat, you know, the more of a damaging kind of buff you get. Oh, that’s cool. Kind of. Yeah, and it has a lot of really cool mechanics, and I think there’s even I think there are spin-off games of it. But what I like about it is like when you go down to the tomb, and you, let’s say you fail if you come back and you did have some gold, and you did have some diamonds or stuff. There is like a town that you can buy like a better shield in or a better weapon or more health or what Ever. And so then when you go on your next kind of run or dungeon crawl, it actually, like I’m saying with Hades like, you can kind of give yourself buffs and equipment and stuff outside of the roguelike procedurally generated dungeon, which increases your chance of being successful as well as you know, enjoying kind of your the gameplay a little bit more.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, that sounds like a blast.

Tim Broadwater  

And I believe that Crypt of NecroDancer has partnered with Nintendo at some point and Zelda. And they actually came out with Cadence of Hyrule. And so Cadence of Hyrule is literally like a Zelda game. But it is the same mechanics where you can only move and attack and fight bosses in rhythm and move around. Same kind of time tempo, increase, decrease, whatever and the character from Crypt of the NecroDancer teams up with Link and Zelda. And so, like, I actually think her name is Cadence. I apologize for that. Yeah, her name is Cadence. And I think she, which is kind of interesting for the rhythm fair, but she Cadence joins Link and Zelda in the Cadence of Hyrule. So it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s super fun, and it’s also kind of challenging.

Michael Schofield  

What makes it like so, so? So how does like the roguelike part? Like, really like complement the rhythm-based part? Um, generally like, like, as long as you enjoy the loop? That is, the aspect of the repeatable gameplay, right?

Tim Broadwater  

100% Yeah, 100% I think there’s this old. Then, the thing that I think with roguelike games that are the appeal is, you know, when I am playing a Mario game, or a Zelda game, or whatever game, I know that when I get to this point, in the 3d map, a guy is hiding behind his crate, or if I do three jumps, and that extended jump on the side-scrolling game, I know the monsters that are on the screen, so you can kind of to some degree, memorize it. And that’s kind of the appeal in the difficulty of Cuphead. Right? Because Cuphead is, is just like it’s you have to play it perfect. And its memorization Cupheads appeal is that you can memorize, and you just have to get it perfect. It’s a perfect run, right? That is completely off the table with a roguelike game because, in a game like Crypt of the NecroDancer, every level is different, every map is different, and every monster that populates is different. Now you can think like, oh, when I encounter this type of snake, I have to block the attack, or when I encountered this, you know, kind of skeleton night, I have to go around him and attack from the back. You can think about how to deal with specific enemies, right? And you can think about like, Okay, I encountered this type of wall I can dig through it, or this is like something that requires a bomb, but everything is random. And so the skill is not in the memorization of the board and the jumping so like when you see like the people who believe beat Super Mario Brothers three and like under two minutes because they can just remember epically run because they memorize it. Yeah, I think the appeal of roguelike games is that it is random. Yeah. And so it really comes down to like, well what is what are you testing? Are you testing memorization, or can you deal with problems on the fly that are generated for you and every run or loop or whatever you want to call it, you know, challenges you, and you may not you may suck really bad and not even get past the second level or maybe you may be one time you do so great you get to you can beat the game you know or get through all the levels or the boss fights so I think that’s the uphill but with crypto NecroDancer like the fact that it’s put to music it makes it just make you do it quicker and makes you do it on a beat and makes it a little bit more enjoyable.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, I feel like there’s something like really appealing to like the potential of like, like aggressive Guitar Hero and like fighting enemies and like I love the idea I might see if I can find this on Steam because I love the idea. I love the idea of attacking rhythm. There are games like Assassin’s Creed which are, you know, without music, rhythm-based combat or something like that, but something like this seems just incredibly fun and nostalgic.

Tim Broadwater  

As listeners who’ve, you know, tuned in to the last season of the podcast know you challenged me last year because Mass Effect Legendary Edition came out 3 Epic Games, very sci-fi narrative-based amazing games, and you kind of given me gave me the season to complete it all three, which I did. And then

Michael Schofield  

in hindsight, it almost doesn’t seem fair because, like, potentially, I gave you a 100-hour assignment. Oh, man, like, many games to punish even on the story mode. It’s like I was so like, when you’re like, oh, man, I did it. I was like, Oh, shit, really? Like, I also didn’t expect it.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, but I also put it in story mode for easy combat. And so like, every boss encounter was just like, Okay, this is like, and I do that with a lot of games. That’s not the game has to be rare for me not to do something like that. But like Horizon Zero Dawn or Forbidden West, I put those uneasy because it’s like, Man, I’m just here to have fun. I’m not really looking to have grueling combat. But having said that, there is a phenomenal, phenomenal roguelike hybrid game that I love I just got exposed to in the last couple of years. And I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. And that’s the one that I want to slap you with a gauntlet across the face for you to try. And the game is called Moonlighter. Have you ever heard of Moonlighter?

Michael Schofield  

Moonlighter’s, an action RPG? No, I’ve never heard of this.

Tim Broadwater  

Okay, so my plug, which will not spoil anything for you. But by the end of this season, and probably not, it won’t pick the whole season. But by the end of the season, that is the game that I want you to beat. I think the player experience is phenomenal on it. It’s a roguelike. But to give you a hint, that doesn’t like spoil anything. You are, by day, a person who runs a shop and like a run downtown. Yeah. And at night, you go into dungeons, like Legend of Zelda 1 style, and harvest parts have monsters and treasures and equipment and artifacts and whatever. And then you put that in your shop to sell. Oh, that’s crazy. And so it has this whole economics principle to it, combined with a roguelike. But then also, there’s a third piece that I would say to which is kind of a community or social development piece to it. So as you are in this abandoned town, and you’ve been kind of given this, you’ve inherited this rundown store. You are the crazy shopkeeper who goes into the dungeons to fight monsters and get treasure so you can sell things in town. How you sell things depends on the laws of economics like supply and demand, what people need and what people are looking for. And there are certain things that you can charge crazy prices for, but if you actually sell too much of the same project, the product you are going to run your own price down. But the other side of that twofold is the socioeconomics piece and social good piece, which is you’re slowly revitalizing this town with your shop and your business by reinvesting into the town. And what you find out through the dungeons and through the games to find out what is going on will blow your mind. 

Michael Schofield  

is there like a real there’s like a store like an encapsulating story to this?

Tim Broadwater  

Oh yeah, there is a whole thing like what you find out, so I don’t want to ruin anything. But there’s definitely a story about you and your shop, and you’ve inherited it, and you know you’re in a town that has like me near caves or mines that have like monsters and treasures and so people adventurers do try to go into this mind to like, find its treasures and survive. I, but you are doing that as a shopkeeper to sell to make a profit. But then you’re also using that money to reinvest into your town to grow your town. It is amazing, it is so fulfilling, and it is fun. And it is a not punishing roguelike game because two things one, there are things that you can do outside of the game that help you. So every time you kind of delve into the dungeons, so to speak, you can kind of put on a better weapon or a better armor, or you can better equip yourself, right? But then the fact that there’s a whole eCommerce like, or commerce, not eCommerce, but a commerce side of it in the game where you’re selling and pricing and supply and demand, but then you’re also revitalizing the town. That is what really made me enjoy it, like a very phenomenal game. I highly suggest it. If you’ve never played Moonlighter, please do so. And that is the challenge that I give you bike for this season two of Design Thinking Games beat Moonlighter, and we’ll talk about it.

Michael Schofield  

Like, let me let’s make a prediction here. So I just bought it. And I’m downloading it now. I already got the extended edition, which was only like, like, $4 more. And when I look at Moonlighter, I feel a sense of dread. 

Tim Broadwater  

Oh, no, no. I know Dead by Daylight. I know. Cuphead. I know. Dark Souls. And I am not like brutal punishing for brutal punishing sake, if there’s no chance of progress. I will say that this game, Moonlighter is not difficult. You can definitely beat it. It’s super fun. And there are so many different parts of the game that are enjoyable. 

Michael Schofield  

This is definitely a genre that I don’t play a lot of. And so what I’m going to try to do is like in subsequent episodes, maybe we’ll have the Moonlighter moment. And I can get Moonlighter update. Yeah, like we’re like, where I am and how it’s and how it’s going. I’m really excited to like experience this a little bit more because, like I said, my experience with roguelike is really more like in the games that stress the permadeath, like, you know, that’s what they’re really like paying attention to.

Tim Broadwater  

If I can do all three Mass Effects, dude, you can do moonlight, you can do it. And I think I highly suspect that it will tickle the product designer in you. Yeah, it’ll harken back to some old-school gaming, and it’s really beautifully — like a fan of pixel art. It’s a beautifully rendered pixel art, so I will be surprised if you just rage quit it so so I am comfortable in what you know we’ve talked about in previous episodes and seasons about what totally you are against in gaming, and I think you will be fine with us.

Michael Schofield  

All right, well, I think that is our cue, so next episode, should you all choose to join us? Please do we talk about something and see how my adventure with Moonlighter is going? Will I be howling? Perhaps. Oh my God. Because I think he gave us your cup of tea, please consider supporting us on Patreon at patreon.com/designthinkinggames, where you can get episodes like this a whole week early without ads. Of course, if you like our ad reads, We put a lot of work into making good ad reads. Just be sure you subscribe on your podcatcher of choice, Spotify, Apple, Google Play, Overcast your cup of tea, but wherever it is, be sure you star heart or favorite as you can and if you could be so kind as to leave us a nice review that will help shine the algorithm favorably upon us. We release frequently. We are on social media sometimes. And recently, we’ve been like posting a little bit to tick-tock here I am just a delightful, delightful old shopkeeper, Daddy Daddy behind the desk with wooden floors a little patina of dust. I’ve just turned the closed sign. As the last customer walked out, it went ding ding ding as the store closed. What the fuck is happening here on Design Thinking Games? I’m not sure. And then I gaze out thankfully at the passers-by in town, grateful to be here but then the clouds part And what is it that I see a full moon.

Introductory Guy  

Thank you for listening to the Design Thinking Games podcast, you only have so much time, and it means a lot you shared it with us to connect with your hosts, Michael or Tim. Visit Design Thinking games on tick-tock twitch and Twitter. DMs are open. You can also check out design thinking games.com where you can request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!