In a Time of Roguelike Chimpanzees I was a Monkey

Ok, so a theme munged from an old Beck song has absolutely nothing to do with roguelikes. Really though, this month seems to be all about new releases of roguelikes, lots of ’em, and you’re a loser, baby, who should kill himself if you aren’t just a little bit excited about it. Yep, that’s my tie-in.

Hope you have some time to waste and are also nerdy enough to like this sort of thing. If not, go play some Mass Effect or something. Go on, git.

Yo, bring it on down.

Here’s a quick list of the big names updating this month:

  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup 0.6
  • DoomRL 0.9.9.1
  • Transcendence 1.0

Also recently, a rash of newcomers, mostly one-off concept gamesĀ  made in the heat of friendly competition:

  • Tigsource’s Assemblee Competition
  • 7DRL (7 day roguelike competition)

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Looks like Spelunky hit 1.0… and the big time

Snapshot from Spelunky website.
Click to download Spelunky!

I was just writing about Spelunky for my blog, wondering when it would hit 1.0, when BAM, front page of IndieGames:

Spelunky Coming to XBLA in 2010

No foolin’. And it’s got a real website, too:

http://www.spelunkyworld.com/original.html

Though it came out shortly before year’s end, I’ve pretty much thought of this action roguelike as my personal Game of the Year ’09. It’s not immediately obvious, especially if you’re one to quit games the split second they get difficult (and this is one unforgiving game), but the acrobatic stunts and the unexpected interactions of simple mechanics really add up to a charming and deeply fun game.

It kind of irks me that, like Cave Story, Spelunky will be getting the special treatment (better graphics, some unspecified extras) for its console debut, but fortunately, Derek Yu is a man with his feet on the ground, and the Windows version will continue to be free. XBLA exposure isn’t exactly a bad thing, and it’ll put a few dollars in his pocket. Good for him, I say. Plus, the interest may well spawn new variations on the action roguelike.

(Personally, I don’t own and have no interest in owning an XBox, but if the improved version of this game hit the Nintendo DS I’d be all over it.)

Seriously, if you haven’t tried out this little gem, do so, immediately.

Game of the Moment: DoomRL

I guess I’m on a roguelike tear this week, because I can’t rip myself from DoomRL today.

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Like Doom, it’s good, dumb fun… but not that dumb. The plot is still pencil thin, the demons are mostly the same as in the original. There is quite a bit of killing, and only slightly less dying.

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However, unlike the groundbreaking 3-D shooter, DoomRL is rendered completely in text. Like any good roguelike, this means randomly generated levels, lots of weapon drops, and buckets of blood.

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Probably the best thing about DoomRL, what makes it compelling at all, is its departure from the roguelike trend of growing complication. In ADOM, you have dozens of race and class combinations, an overmap, quests, a whole world to keep you busy. Dwarf Fortress is so complicated that it’s arguably not even a roguelike. In Nethack, you have ascension kits to build, endless spoilers to search, and enemies that you can cut into little pieces and store in tin cans for later consumption.

You don’t eat anything in DoomRL, unless you count the consumption of lightning and the defecation of thunder shortly thereafter. See a demon, kill a demon. Run. Do more of the thing you just did a few seconds ago.

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In DoomRL, you run, you gun. All upgrades you make to your character have either to do with how you shoot, or how you run. (Okay, there are a few that have something to do with health.) There are two classes in DoomRL: Marine and demon, and you’re never a demon. Unless you pick up a berserk pack.

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To most persons interested in roguelikes, DoomRL is old news. The latest build is about a year old. Hell, even I’ve known about it for at least a year.

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DoomRL is simple enough for a beginner roguelike – let’s say streamlined instead – but its randomly generated levels, upgradeable weapons, bonus levels, and an overall novel approach (this roguelike has sound!) make it worth playing for those of us who walked away from other roguelikes out of a fear of lifetime commitment.

Download DoomRL.

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A Brief Introduction to Decker, Part 3: Radio Shack Attack

Part 1 of this series introduces Decker and how it relates to the roguelike game genre.

Part 2 considers the part of the game the supports the action: character development, examining the cyberdeck, and obtaining or building new hardware and software.

In this post, we’ll carry out a typical cyberhit against a future version of Radio Shack, and snatch a little bit of something for ourselves in the process. First, however, let’s review our mission.

The Mission

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We’ll rejoin our fledgling hacker at the hub. Click on “View Contracts” to review the mission.

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When we’re looking for a mission, this shows a list of available missions. If we accept a mission (which we have), it shows the details for the current mission. Our contract states that all we have to do is break into the Radio Shack computer system, and disable the alarm systems. We’re probably facilitating a robbery or corporate espionage. Contracts can have more complex requirements, such as not setting off alarms, or even completely trashing a system. For now, we’ll be satisfied with something this simple, and the lousy payment of 105 credits.

Note that the deadline is in one day. If we disconnect for any reason, that’s a day’s work done. Reconnecting can only be done on the following day, so we better be done by the deadline, or our reputation will suffer.

Well, what are we waiting for, let’s indirectly hurt some people!

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A Brief Introduction to Decker, Part 2 (cyberpunk hacking roguelike)

In my previous post, I introduced the graphical roguelike Decker, and how to obtain it and soften the harsh graphics a bit. Here, we’ll get into Decker’s actual gameplay.

Next to the graphics, the toughest part about getting into Decker is figuring out how to make a living as a hacker in the cyberpunk world of the future. Fortunately, the game itself has a decent helpfile, though you’ll be using the search function quite a bit at first. As this introduction continues, we’ll familiarize ourselves with the interface, and go on a quick mission. Then, you’ll be on your own! Continue reading

A Brief Introduction to Decker, Part 1 (a cyberpunk hacking roguelike)

I’ve played a few roguelikes on and off (mostly off) for the past ten years or so, starting with the venerable Nethack. I would play Nethack for a week at a time, building new characters, delving deeper within the Mazes of Menace, until I hit a kind of ‘research wall.’ I always became disillusioned by the need to access information outside the game and build arbitrary ‘ascension kits’ to succeed at a reasonable pace, instead of simply discovering winning strategies over time.

I think I’ve put Nethack down for good, but that doesn’t mean I have to go on without the more compelling features of a good roguelike. Luckily, there are quite a few rogue-inspired games around that cater more to casual play, and Decker is one of them. Taking place in a William Gibson-like cyberpunk world, you ‘punch deck’ to travel through cyberspace and commit cybercrime, all in the name of cyberprofit. Like many roguelikes, Decker has a bit of a learning curve, though it isn’t as complex as many of them. It is, however, worth more than an initial screenshot might indicate.

It's not the prettiest thing around, but having graphics at all already separates Decker from other roguelikes.
Here, we're breaking into Chevron's mainframe to shut down some security alarms, and steal some valuable files for our own purposes.

What’s a Roguelike?

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The current standard in dungeon hacking, Nethack. The graphics are rendered using ASCII characters.

I’ll put it briefly: if you don’t know what a roguelike is, check the Wikipedia definition for the most thorough description. Roguelikes are turn-based RPG games that usually share the following traits:

  • They’re often concerned mainly with combat, killing enemies, gathering experience points and items, upgrading your warrior, and moving on toward your ultimate goal, usually a McGuffin of some sort.
  • They’re difficult, often coupled with ‘permenant death,’ such that once you die, you cannot restore from a previous save.
  • The combat is usually turn-based, in that you can ponder your strategy as long as you like before striking.
  • The graphics are usually very simplistic, consisting of ASCII characters or simple glyphs representing items and enemies,
  • The ‘dungeons’ are randomly generated, resulting in a new play experience each time.

Though not a roguelike itself, classic action clicker Diablo borrowed a lot of the above traits to become one of the most popular PC games of all time. It’s kind of a real-time roguelike, though some of the nerdier roguelike players look upon its relative simplicity with a certain disdain.

Many roguelikes take place in fantasy dungeons, with rocky cave walls, magical attacks, and fantastic creatures. In Decker, you hack computer systems instead of dungeons, and launch software attacks instead of magic. Your enemies are varieties of ICE, or Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics, in place of orcs and goblins.

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Nerding Out: Watching Tron, Playing Decker (a cyberpunk hacking roguelike)

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Acting like it’s a rainy day in 1986. Watching a young and smug Jeff Bridges in Disney’s Tron, and playing Decker, a roguelike game based roughly on an old tabletop RPG called Shadowrun. In Decker, you play a William Gibson-style hacker, taking illicit contracts to hack into corporate systems and steal data, fight intrusion countermeasures, and cause general havoc. More fun than it looks, and it looks terrible.

Spelunky updates again, .99.5

The tireless Derek Yu offers another minor release, includes some bugfixes and play improvement. Perhaps not that worthy of an entire post, but this game is really, really good. (Explore a system of caves! Die in hilarious ways!)

Placeholder site.

Direct download.

Eegra also fumbles his way through a profanity-laced half-description of Spelunky on his latest podcast. Bless him, though, his depiction of a bemonacled octopod is ten tons of wonderful:

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Free Game: Spelunky Updates to .99

Previously mentioned Spelunky has updated to version .99. Improvements include bugfixes, a new secret or two, and my personal favorites, some interface enhancements. Joypads work properly now, a 4x resolution muliplier for higher resolutions to retain crisp pixelly graphics, and adjustable sound. I no longer have to change resolution, run Joy2Key, and drop my sound down to 1% to play.

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Do yourself a favor, and download this wonderful game right now. If you can, don’t read too much about it, since general gushings about this game will often spoil a few little surprises about it that would be much more fun to discover on your own. Also, once you get tired of the looping built-in music, I recommend you tune it down to nothing and play some good stuff from the OCRemix project. (There are worse places to start than here.)