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A history of roguelike games (arstechnica.com)
180 points by aww_dang on March 21, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 94 comments

I looooove Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. There was a five-year period or so where it was about the only game I played. (Things got worse when I discovered that there are two-week tournaments that are essentially a war on productivity... How many times and in how many different ways can you beat the game in a two-week period? Your team is depending on you! Down with sleep!)

Their design philosophy is fantastic: https://github.com/crawl/crawl/blob/master/crawl-ref/docs/cr...

The core concept is that all choices should be /meaningful/. 'No-brainers' are ruthlessly pruned away, or given interesting side effects that could be situationally useful or terrible. And also, avoid anything that looks like grinding. These people speak my language...

A surprising amount of my enjoyment of DCSS comes from seeing it as a dialogue with NetHack -- for the first few months I played, I kept thinking 'ohh, yes, that mechanic is obviously a rejection of the baroque [intrinsics|identification metagame|whatever else] mechanic'.

I like DCSS, but I’ve found the recent releases are making it less fun by removing mechanics I liked. E.g. removing inventory weight limits, food types and nerfing abilities that modify the dungeon.

When they got rid of chokos they got rid of me.

Inventory weight limits add grind due to having to manually shuttle items around instead

Also there is just nothing fun about inventory management IMHO.

In Skyrim I always did a player.modav carryweight 10000 and things became SO much more fun.

I always enjoyed optimizing my items for the next branch in DCSS, plus worrying about dropping dangerous weapons, lest an enemy pick it up and use it on me. (Which has also been removed)

ah crap that sounds like fun actually because that would in fact happen.

The game should have options that let you toggle things like that

Is there an iOS version I can play on the go, or a cloud-based terminal version a la https://alt.org/nethack/ for nethack?

I've been playing Hack/Nethack since 1982-ish. My friend got it for his IBM PC, and we were both addicted. The only reason why I kept asking for a computer for my parents was so that I could play Hack. I was the one who figured out that the Amulet of Yendor was underneath a boulder on level 26. My friend, however, one-upped me. At some point, his version of Hack was corrupted, so every time he read a scroll of identify, the game would crash. So he had to go through the entire game without reading a scroll or using rings. He was able to make it through the entire game and finish it, which I admit is an impressive feat.

I've been playing Nethack since, although I haven't played it in the last few years because of work and kids. There was a time in Nethack where it wasn't as complicated, but once they added all the deeper features, I've never completed the game and ascended. The game is now so deep and so complicated that I couldn't solve it without reading the cheats, and even following those, and even saving my games and redoing them, I've never gotten to the point where I could ascend. I'm really good at surviving the lower levels and stealing from shops, but I've never been able to figure out how to ascend. At some point, I should reattempt this now that I'm locked down for 2 months.

It can certainly be completed without spoilers, but it requires a bit of trial and error. I managed to ascend after 2-3 months of intense play...and a lot of dying. I think part of the joy of playing nethack is discovering how things work, so highly recommend not to read any spoilers. The best way to learn the mechanics is to install the game locally and play in explore mode. The game offers a lot of alternate ways to do stuff (because of conducts), but if you don't care about conducts characters tend to become a bit too powerful towards the end game. It's all a matter of surviving the early game, where you don't have resistances, skills etc. and where most people give up.

Playing without spoilers would be very challenging indeed. And you're right about the early game - there's a breakpoint where you've got enough food, hit points, AC, damage-dealing capability, and miscellaneous tricks (if you know how to use them) where the only think that's going to kill you is YASDing yourself. And then the game transforms into prepping (and prepping, and prepping some more) for the ascension run while staying alert enough that you don't YASD yourself because you forgot something or panicked. (You never have to panic in Nethack.)

You can learn a lot from watching other people play on nethack.alt.org -- sometimes realizing important stuff that you didn't know before.

I was in a similar boat but finally mustered the commitment to mount a serious ascension attempt that spanned a couple of months part time (playing iNethack on the phone helped). It was SO enjoyable despite being killed by the High Priest of Moloch on level 45.

My daughters (21 & 23) have inherited this addiction though the prefer the isometric Vultures’s Eye.

First encountered Nethack in 1988. Only ever ascended once in the early days. It’s definitely gotten harder over the years. But maybe that’s just my attention to detail deteriorating.

If you’re looking for a fresh roguelike rabbit hole, check out Cogmind. It’s PC only but takes RL in an interesting new direction. (Not affiliated with it other than begin somewhat addicted.)

The development blog https://www.gridsagegames.com/blog/ is a fascinating look into the design of the game that goes back years.

It works fairly well via wine on Mac and Linux.

I know permadeath is a core mechanic of roguelikes, but I absolutely hate it. It's an artificial time waster.

Imagine trying to learn a piano piece, but instead of being able to practice the hard parts over and over until you've mastered them, you always have to restart from the very beginning at the first mistake.

Net result: you get extremely good at the beginning, to the point that it's boring, and you always get whooped by the hard part because you barely ever get to practice it (you have to sink an hour doing easy stuff just to get 5 seconds practicing the hard stuff)

While this is very true of roguelikes it is not absent from other genres as well.

In MMOs it is common to deal with boss mechanics of increasing difficulty with a reset should the party wipe. Some MMO developers try to curb this somewhat by having the difficulty climax around the middle rather than the end.

Technical games often have this as well, with games like DDR and Guitar Hero having some sets of songs that have lengthy intros only to suddenly get hit with the difficult segment later. Think Freebird.

Nothing wrong with disliking the mechanic, though. It's a common-enough dislike that it's spawned the rogue-lite genre where you still need to go through "the slog" but you accrue things from all of your previous (mis)adventures over time such that the early bits often go by faster (or can be muted/ignored).

> Technical games often have this as well, with games like DDR and Guitar Hero

Excellent example. Though I think in later versions of guitar hero they added a "practice mode" where you could practice the difficult segments in isolation

Indeed they do now! I do wish some of the MMO encounters I deal with had these practice modes so we could practice the difficult parts of encounters without needing to do multi-minute preludes every wipe.

All video games are an artificial time waster. You either get roguelikes or you don't. You clearly don't.

Let's take your analogy and flip it around:

Imagine trying to play a game, but instead of a logical progression with consequences, you can just pick it up from whatever point you like. If you die, it doesn't matter. You can just completely skip over that part and head to the next. In fact you can begin the game at the final boss if you want.

Net result: you get extremely good at nothing to the point that it's boring because you never have to practice or repeat a single thing.

I get roguelikes, but as my life has gotten more time constrained, I've grown less tolerant of shenanigans like permadeath that artificially prevent me from practicing and mastering the parts of the game I'm weakest at, instead making me sink most of my time into the parts of the game I've already mastered.

I'm not saying get rid of permadeath, I'm saying make it optional like Hollow Knight, IWtbTG, or any numerous other games where time constrained people can use save points to master the game mechanics more quickly, and kids with infinite time can play permadeath mode to their heart's content.

All video games are an artificial time waster.

I couldn't disagree more. It depends on the video game, but a lot of them really get the brain working hard. And it's simply impossible for most people to be purely "productive" all the time. Video games are a great way to break from the grind but keep the brain engaged in something more challenging than, for example, watching TV.

You either get roguelikes or you don't. You clearly don't.

Once again, I couldn't disagree more. I've played Rogue-likes for more decades than I care to remember, and I "save file scum" to avoid perma-death. Sure, some individuals might "cheat" and jump to the "conclusion" of the game quickly, but that's their problem.

I don't care to repeat the same beginning of a game over and over (and over and over). It's just repetitive and annoying.

Personally, I like permadeath. It makes the game more thrilling. I understand your view, and that's why I added extra lives as an option for my players.

I like permadeath too, but only after I've already mastered the game. Like golden strawberries in Celeste or Steel mode in Hollow Knight.

>Net result: you get extremely good at the beginning, to the point that it's boring, and you always get whooped by the hard part because you barely ever get to practice

That's what I used to think, and I agree, some not so good roguelikes feel like that no matter how far you get, more of a roguelite, but I find rogue legacy is bad for that, but the good ones i've enjoyed tend to be rich in mechanics that you slowly master with each failure.

The point of roguelikes isn't the same as most action/adventure/rpg whatever games. It isn't about memorizing and mastering the levels, but about memorizing and mastering the mechanics of the game itself.

Sure there'll be some cheapshots, out of balance levels, and just plain lousy runs, but the more you play, the more you learn hoe to be good and you get further or play better on successive runs.

I do agree though, I like the idea of some kind of permanent progression between runs, I think that would solve some of the permadeath pointlessness feeling, i've seen some games do it alright, but none have really been that great. The consequences for failure still tend to be too high and it ends up making it feel like even more of a grind...rogue legacy comes to mind again...

Personally, i've been thinking of some kind of hybrid between lufia 2's ancient cave dungeons with an item system like diablo's would make for an interesting change up.

Have certain rare chests that contain maybe items and maybe spells or something that last permanently between runs if you make it to a certain level or something, so while you'd be repeating from the beginning, you'd be starting a little more well equipped as you progress.

Angband has a cheat death option, I usually play with it on. Of course I try very hard not to die, but I enjoy the game more if I don't have to start again if I make a mistake. There are so many parts to the game, permanent death is only one and I'm happy enough playing without it.

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has an interesting approach to this in that (for many character builds) the start of the game is equally dangerous as any other part. It also has boss fights scattered throughout so you can never just drift through; you are always worried that around the next corner there will be a regal teleporting giant frog, or a feline wizard with nine lives, or a brother-and-sister duo where the death of one sibling provokes a grief-induced rampage in the other.

The flipside is the instant save points like in a NES emulator where because you can restore the stakes are so low. If it's a game where you can avoid death by careful enough play, then it can be fun to have real stakes (time and boredom) at work. Like betting a lot of money in poker.

Ragnarok deserves more than one paragraph. Among many of it's great features was the one I personally loved most: sometimes you could meet a ghost of your past self, complete with all your inventory. Sometimes I even made this my strategy, dying as lots of scribes (weakest class at start, who carried a highly prized and rare item, a quill), then starting as blacksmith, which was easiest to survive in early stages. Quill was essential to win: you could always switch class to scribe after some level to write scrolls, but finding a quill was extremely hard.

I’ve been playing iNethack on my phone (Uses 3.4.3). I ran into a ghost of myself last night. I was in a 1 square dead end tunnel with no digging tools and out of food. I thought I was going to starve to death before it finally moved. Really starting to have fun with it, but can barely make it 12 levels down :).

So back at University a friend of mine had NetHack (3.0) and a lot of us played in it. I had a game where I simultaneously had the incredible luck to have my dog get polymorphed into a Xorn and then the bad luck to leave a bones file.

Quite a lot of people got wiped out by a pet Xorn.

Did your old xorn end up as part of their bones files, too?

I feel like I've seen this online at some point, where there were lots of ghosts because they were all getting killed by the same thing and then accumulating in new bones files.

Yeah, it was on a level where it was simultaneously quite deep but not deep enough that you stood a chance when it came through the walls (you didn’t exactly get much warning you were on a bones level).

But yes, quite a few people have experienced this by now.

NetHack also has this, but most of the ghost's inventory will be cursed. :-)

Each year Roguebasin hosts the 7DRL challenge where people look to create a finished roguelike in seven days. I participated this year and found it a pretty thoughtful meditation on the genre.


There's a lot of gems in here, and in older 7DRL entries as well.

The nature of the format means that games (the ones that are actually finished) are focused, often highlighting one or two novel gameplay mechanics and/or mood/design elements. Anything more than that and the designer can't finish in 7 days. This also means that entries from 10 years ago is just as playable (IF you can get them to run) as the entries from this year.

Cogmind (mentioned elsewhere on this thread) started as a 7drl.

Each year they have judges grade each entry, so you can look at archives like http://www.roguetemple.com/7drl/2010/ to find the highest-rated ones and focus your search there, if you like.

Roguelike Radio usually has a show about the 7drl results, e.g. http://www.roguelikeradio.com/2018/05/episode-145-7drls-2018... .

This is not that great of an article, IMO. A prominent developer of one of the roguelikes mentioned says:

> you can immediately see that this article was stitched together by throwing some wikipedia articles together if it references the Berlin interpretation

> it's also hilarious if the guild of disgruntled adventurers is referenced as fun addition :)

> I'm not sure if I should feel insulted [by the article's description of my roguelike]

I mostly agree with these. I also feel a bit slighted by one of the descriptions. I'm also not sure quite what to make of the fact that they don't mention the two most prominent recent roguelikes: caves of qud, and cogmind.

I enjoyed urogue (ultra-rogue I think) as shipped with SCO Xenix. I had previous experience with nethack, but urogue was frankly easier.

I think it's this: https://github.com/RoguelikeRestorationProject/urogue1.03

The roguelike game mechanic is fantastic, but it really needs to break out of the fantasy theme in a big way.

Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead (https://cataclysmdda.org/) is ab open source post-apocalyptic near future scifi roguelike. The best way to play it is with a launcher:

Windows GUI launcher - https://github.com/remyroy/CDDA-Game-Launcher/releases

Linux/Docker CLI launcher - https://github.com/houseabsolute/catalauncher/releases

The Linux one is mine and could in theory work on macOS too. Patches are welcome.

Surprisingly I found the best way to play was on the phone. First spend some time on PC to get familiar with mechanics and interface, then switch to mobile. Some things are horrible, like on-screen keyboard frequently obscuring more than half of screen, and some hard to read text. Some things are easier, like swipe to move and a toolbar with recent key shortcuts.

The thing that makes it worthwhile is that it is so easy to jump in and out of the game. You play few moves while waiting in line, then put it in your pocket. Play for half an hour while watching TV. Your player gets into impossible situation, just put the game away and resume later with fresh ideas. The game is so deep you can get a feeling of living a parallel life. You pause your life to play game, then you pause game to continue your life. Can be a surreal experience. It is so much more complex and satisfying than your average mobile game.

The complete vehicle customization possibilities were what drew me to it, but it's incredibly full of great stuff over-all.

I've also found the developers very friendly and welcoming to new contributors.

Cataclysm: DDA does a great job at being a semi-realistic 21th century zombie apocalypse. Vehicles, guns, prepping, martial arts, ridiculous amounts of crafting; it has it all. It's best in genre, IMO.

Cogmind was mentioned elsewhere; robots, guns and commercial-level polish.

(Personally, I'm working on a gun-oriented RL in my spare time, but it's going pretty slow ATM.)

Teleglitch is an awesome scifi/survival horror roguelike. The graphics are quite interesting, too. Be warned it's masochistically difficult.

Duskers is another scifi roguelike with a pretty cool premise: you command a bunch of remote drones while they explore randomly-generated derelict ships, possibly infestated with aliens and/or rogue robots. Your drones are generally helpless against hostiles, so the key strategy is to avoid rooms with enemies (or find creative ways to destroy them without a direct confrontation). Very, very cool.

Seconding Teleglitch. I couldn't stand permadeath though - it wasted too much of my time. I made back ups of the temporary save file after every level so I could choose for myself how far to go back when I died.

I personally enjoyed the game an order of magnitude more. Sure, I lost some of the raw fear that grips you when you are deep into a good run and an unexpected squid appears, but I have a wife and kids and very limited time, and beating the game without saves would've taken an eternity.

In general I like playing games without permadeath until I'm really good at them. Then I enable permadeath as an added challenge.

That's perfectly fine. I remember back in the old X-COM days (DOS game!) I reloaded liberally whenever one of my favorite soldiers died. Was it cheating? Maybe. But it was my game and my way to enjoy it!

As mentioned else where in the comments, Caves of Qud is a fantastic post-apocalyptic roguelike.

FTL did this, but once you figure out the mechanics, game becomes way to easy.

You might be the first I've seen that describes FTL as too easy.

But as someone who's done just about everything in that game I see where you're coming from.

Yeah, FTL has several different ways to build a killer-ship that can destroy any opposition in seconds, including final boss mothership, so if you survive first few jumps, you're basically guaranteed to win. And that is a bit boring.

In the end I have gravitated towards my personal favorite style of play, building a vicious boarding squad comprised of mantis or those rock dudes, that still required a constant danger of losing some crewmembers, but yielded more scrap in return after victory.

FTL is punishing to me, and people who've won it describe it as hugely chance-based, i.e. that though there are some prevalent strategies, chance is likely to ruin them (and not just in the first few jumps).

For the sake of curiosity, can you describe those surefire ways to win?

Well, It's been a while since I played it last time (Steam says, summer 2016), so I might mess up some details like weapon names.

The core principle is to be able to adapt to whatever the have is sending your way. For every ship/layout variant, there are several paths which you can exploit. Some ships are more heavily skewed towards certain strategies (like if you have a 4-person teleport pad, you DEFINITELY should employ a heavy boarding strategies), but you always have some options.

There 2 main aspects to FTL warfare: you should kill your enemy and you should keep yourself safe.

To kill enemies, there are 3 reliable ways that I've found: lasers, drones and boarding.

With starting cruiser, you already have Burst Laser II that does 3 shots, and it's arguably the best starting gun. What you need to win the game is to have 2-4 shots more than enemy shield level, to drop down their shields and then do damage to systems. The heaviest shield level is 4, so if you are capable to deliver an 8-volley barrage, you can reduce the final boss ship quite fast. If you do NOT have firepower to drop enemy shields, missiles/bombs really help, since they can bypass shields and damage the critical systems. So, for starting ship, all you have to do is to luck your way for some more firepower. You can also augment it with teleporting, if you happen to find a couple of mantis crew members. If you find some good beam weapon, you can use this instead after shields drop, targeting most dangerous systems (I always tried to disable cloaking / mind controlling structures first, but that depends.Sometimes you need to disable their drone control first, if they have some nasty repair drones or attacking drone)

Drones is another surefire way to kill the enemy. Augment a couple of Mark II offensive drones with ion weapons, and most enemy ships will be disabled 5 seconds after combat starts.

Third reliable way to win is boarding/teleporting. Just find a couple of mantis crew members (though rock guys are no slouch either), and drop them to the enemy to kill off their crew, just be ready to bring them back or do some micromanagement running away from enemy if your teleporter is disabled. And of course be sure to destroy their medlab facility, so wounded enemy won't be healed. This way requires the player to be most alert, cause you can lose your crew rather easily, but it's the most rewarding, cause you often get the ship intact, giving you the most scrap bonuses. Curiously, the last boss battle is split into 3 phases, and if you manage to kill all enemy crew on the first approach (rather hard, you need to disable their level3 healing facility), then all other phases are really easy: you just teleport your killer crew and disable their piloting, shields, and other systems really fast. You can also easily disable their isolated crew who run their offensive beam weaponry, and disabling those really helps.

That was about killing enemies. Now, about keeping yourself safe. One, evade chance really helps, so try to have your evade ratio as high as possible, with best possible pilot. Second, try to bring your shields to a lever where expected opposition can't drop it with one volley, this progressively needs a raise towards the later stages. Third, CLOAKING helps, if you have it. Time it for the heaviest volleys/missile barrage, like those launched by the final ship. Four, defensive drones rule! With Mark II defensive drone, you can practically not worry about incoming missiles. Though it's a bit expensive to maintain, unless you have a drone retraction arm (or how it's called, it allows a drone parts reuse, or something).

That's basically it. I never figured out good ways to fight with missiles, but I'm sure there is a strategy that works for them too. Hope that helps. :)

All in all, after figuring it all out, I don't remember losing a game ever if I managed to get past sector 1.

P.S. Bonus: if you ever run into a droneship that can't get past your shields, there is a gamey tactics to level up all your crew with zero risk: just reduce your offensive attacks so you hit their shields, and wait till your pilot, shields, drive and weapon operators level up after evading shots. Then rotate them in their stations, and continue. This can be achieved even on sector 1 easily, and having high level crew REALLY helps. Leveling up combat ability is not that easy, unfortunately, but doable, too.

Thanks, I'll try it. Though it seems to me it's still chance dependent. If you don't get the crew/encounter/weapons you need, you're screwed. And this is what often happens...

Another game by the same devs worth looking at is "Into The Breach". Really great rogue like that's akin to SRPG's but distilled. Often times battles end up being more crisis management and you have decide what you're willing to loose to win the stage.

Into the Breach also gets rid of the real-time aspects of FTL, it's purely turn-based.

Each turn you get to see what the vek (enemy aliens) are about to do, and it's up to you to disrupt their moves so they don't destroy buildings etc.

Each vek move plays an ascending tone one after the other, and even though they're not loud and the notes aren't discordant or anything, it gets really stressful when there are a lot of them.

I love this game.

an important aspect of rogues is the interaction with the world, using a fantasy background allows to take a lot of shortcuts in world building, imagine you join the game the first time and you have to select a role, you kinda know what to expect from an elf range or a dwarf thief, but if the world is original content, say like rogue trader, most of the initial choices are arbitrary and disorienting on the first few games and can impact negatively on the perception of the game system

better or worse, item identification (i.e. deliberate information hiding) has been a core feature of roguelikes

As luck would have it, I've spent much of the afternoon working on my orc rogue in nethack 3.7.0 via ssh on hardfought.org. Being elderly and self-sequestered from the plague has its rewards...

While more of a twin stick shooter, Enter The Gungeon deserved being mentioned here. I've spent the last 4 months with that game and it's still fun. I has a huge number of weapons, actives, passives, synergies which can be combined in crazy ways (some break the game deliberatly). Almost no run plays like the other.

I think ETG is technically a "roguelite", but yes, it's a wonderful entry. Binding of Isaac is another, but it's so dark and disturbing that it puts many people off - which is a bit of a shame, because mechanically, it's spectacular. Dead Cells, Nuclear Throne, Crypt of the Necrodancer (and its sister game, Cadence of Hyrule), Risk of Rain, and Wizard of Legend are some of my recent similar favorites, too.

Slay the Spire is often also called a roguelike, and if it gets its teeth into you, watch out. Steam says I have 350 hours logged in it and I still enjoy the heck out of it.

Nuclear Throne is outstanding and really deserves more recognition.

Re: Binding of Isaac, it's not so much that it's dark and disturbing. There's plenty of that in ascii roguelikes of you know where to look. My issues with BoI:

- I could plainly tell how hard it was trying to be edgy

- the graphics were an eyesore

- the gameplay just wasn't fun for me

> Out of the two-dozen-or-so NetHack variants, the most notable are probably SLASH'EM/SLASH'EM Extended and UnNetHack

Congratulations Amy, slex has been noted by Ars Technica now :D

#evilhack is one of the newest variants and has me hooked right now. You can find it on the hardfought server. It’s harder though and better for anyone who’s already managed to win the vanilla version of nethack (which only took me about 12 years lol)

if you're homebound and enjoy exploring game systems, you could do worse than diving into a few rl's

So I am a gamer for sure, spent tons of time playing all the dark souls, bloodborne, sekiro over the past 4 or 5 years. After souls i was left wanting, a void in my game life so to speak. Monster Hunter World captured my attention for a good while. Then i found roguelikes and specifically Darkest Dungeon.

I had seen people playing on twitch, it looked cool. Turn based, RPG, permadeath, difficult. All up my alley. Jumped into it and got my butt whooped for a while but then it clicked. And BOOM i was off, many months later and hundreds of hours later i was done with Darkest Dungeon.

Since then, Slay the Spire baby. Wow that game owns hard. about 300 hours here. It's a deck-building (card game) turn based rogue-like. Recommend it to all!

Calling it a deck builder is misleading and I think puts off people who might otherwise enjoy it.

Sure, the abilities are card-shaped and there are drawing mechanics, but it doesn't really play like a deck-builder at all.

I think the main differentiator for me, and where I thin Slay the Spire sets it apart from normal deck builders, is that the enemies you're fighting aren't playing by the same rules. The enemies don't have cards, or decks or similar abilities.

Because of this, the enemies can be really thematic and varied and have interesting mechanics and don't need to be balanced around playing by the same rules as the player.

As a consequence it doesn't feel like a deck builder to me, the abilities just happen to be card-shaped.

Add in the relics which are one of the more important parts of the run, and really the skills involved aren't at all like other deck building games.

But yes, huge recommendation from me too, definitely the best rogue-lite game in years. (~450 hours played for me, and probably twice that watching it on twich).

The enemy intents is an amazing feature and definitely turns it from a card game into a puzzle game. Every turn is a puzzle to solve, it's great.

I played it for about 5 hours and I just don't have any motivation to keep going. The trickle of new cards is super slow and I don't really feel like much depends on my skill at all. But I also have friends who rave about it, so maybe it's an acquired taste thing.

It's a very challenging game that exercises different muscles than other games, especially if you've never played a deckbuilder before. One of the hardest things to get used to is the fact that skipping a card reward is often the best play. The key insight is that every card taken decreases the probability of drawing all of the other cards in your deck.

Another tricky aspect to the game is that any given card may be great in one deck and terrible in another, to the point where taking it makes your deck worse. Strong players (such as jorbs, whom you can find on twitch) tend to lean very heavily on the card remove feature in order to get rid of bad cards.

There is definitely a luck component to the game but skilled players are pushing that boundary every day. Winning streaks on ascension 20 (the hardest difficulty level) are possible and always growing.

I'm nearing 500 hours on StS and I still have so much to learn. Approaching it as a deckbuilder can definitely be a noob-trap - anyone who has played MTG or similar is very tempted to build into archetypes instead of understanding that you have to deal with the problems at hand with the solutions you are given, because you can't force the game to give you what you want. Taking a "will be good later" pick is nearly always a problem, often because it reduces your chances of reaching "later".

Funnily enough a really thin deck can also be a problem. If you have 15 cards and Nemesis adds 5 burns, you're in trouble without a way to handle that. Instead of thin or fat, the best way to think of it IMO is consistency (draw and exhaust help this).

I really like how each Act tests different strengths and exposes different weaknesses. A20 is tough but rewarding.

I completely agree with this, although as new advice "thin your deck" is good advice because new players don't remove strikes nearly enough, and the "too thin" problems only really hurt when you're doing act 4 and on higher ascensions.

On lower ascensions you get far fewer status cards added, and if you're a new player you probably don't have act 4 unlocked.

Yes definitely. "Remove cards" and "you don't need to take a card every time" are both good early tips.

There's definitely a lot of depth that you have to unlock over time. I sometimes watch Jorbs on YouTube as background noise and he'll often think over a single turn for 15 minutes or more. I don't have that patience.

Indeed the first couple hours seem a bit tedious. I will say that the Ascension difficulty mechanic makes the game quite challenging at higher levels but scales quite well. And skill is definitely required to be successful in upper levels.

If you’re in the mood for some more punishing difficulty that’s still fast paced, definitely give Spelunky HD a try! It’s a classic for a reason.

I finally started playing it recently and am hooked. I’m still working on the zero gold run achievement —- it’s so frustrating making it to the caves and stepping on gold buried behind the snow foreground :( I’m determined to finish it before the lockdown is over, though.

Slay the Spire is fantastic. The day they release their Android port is the day my productivity hits an all time low.

This post has so much love for roguelikes, what a joy!

I Carbonized [1] Angband to make it playable on OS X. Then I Cocoaized it a few years later. What a rarefied game, that you can play it for years!

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_(API)

Funny I'm trying to make a rogue-like game with my son these last days. Anyone has experienced using the C library `notcurses`, or some demo project ? (the library seems to be made to on purpose break curses API compatibility for the sake of sanity)

I don't know how keen you are on using C, but there's an excellent open Roguelike library for Python, with a whole community round it. The subreddit is pretty active..


thanks for the link I didn't know about this project. However here it's specifically a project to learn C :) but your link is still full a useful information (notably their dungeon generation algorithm )

I haven't looked into roguelike game dev in a long time, but libtcod [0] used to be the gold standard, especially among 7DRLs because it gives you so much to start with so you get to focus on what makes your game interesting.

[0] https://github.com/libtcod/libtcod

Notcurses is ok, not great.

Tickit[1] is much nicer, and comes with what is possibly the only good way of reading modifier characters from a terminal (seriously).

Alternately, if you're ok with not running in a terminal, check out bearlibterminal[2].

1: http://www.leonerd.org.uk/code/libtickit/

2: http://foo.wyrd.name/en:bearlibterminal

Enjoyed the article very much, but missed Caves of Qud.

Yeah, I haven’t played it myself but it’s unquestionably a significant entry in the genre.

Shout out to Lincoln-Sudbury RHS where Hack began...and JOVE! Can't imagine that fantastic experiment happening again; PDP-11 running Unix given to a cohort of teenagers to maintain. Thanks Brian!

For a modern pixel roguelike, check out OneBit Adventure on mobile

Also the Open Source Pixel Dungeon and its many mods.

Happy to see Omega in the list. I enjoyed so many hours playing that in college! Too bad the version I had was buggy and impossible to win.

No mention of NetHack?

Nethack definitely has a place in the history of roguelikes, but for people reading this HN thread, please don't play it as your first roguelike.

It was not only my first roguelike but also the first C codebase that I ever played around in. I was blown away in the 90s installing Linux as a teenager and it coming with GCC built in. I owe the dev team for getting me really interested in computers as more than a consumer of games.

But, it's creaky and idiosyncratic and has a lot of sharp edges that people who have been playing it for decades are quick to forgive, but if you're coming to the genre from, well, anything else, you're going to get put off, hard.

Try Ctrl-F? It does mention NetHack quite a bit.

Or try Page 2..,

No, mention of NetHack.

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