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Rogue is a computer game created in the late 70s when there was no Windows and dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was so huge, expansive and impressive by the standards of the time that it could only be made to run on Unix servers. People at various colleges connected directly to the server LAN style so they could destroy their chances of ever graduating while maintaining their precious virginity.
Rogue is still in development in the form of Nethack. Nethack has been in active development for over 30 years and has the world record for the longest development time for a video game. It's almost identical to Rogue except for having more ways to die and various minor changes like the symbols used for the walls being different. Rogue also is the single game that more games steal from than anything else known to man.
You play as a hero trying to get through a dungeon seeking a precious artifact. The exact reason you are on this quest varies from the Valkyrie charged by the gods to protect the world by destroying an evil sceptre to a Tourist who has really, really shitty choice in vacation spots there for the lulz. This is easier said than done as you have crap for starting equipment and the way in is full of boobytraps and monsters. Once the artifact is found you must make your way back out without dying. The way out is full of pissed off evil creatures angry that you ganked their stuff on top of harder versions of all the things that almost killed you on the way in.
Every step costs you food. If you run out of food you start to starve. Starvation lowers your health points making you die faster. There are also diseases, traps, monsters mimicking helpful items, and curses that can make you die faster. Everything is randomized except for the town that exists on a single level in the entire game. If your luck is bad you can starve with good equipment or have tons of food and die because you were armed with a rock and couldn't find anything else. Dead-end maps are also a possibility. By the way if you die you are dead: this game has permadeath! Don't worry, you were probably totally screwed anyway...
And what about the items you do find? The items are intentionally vague in description. Is that bottle of clear liquid health-granting water or deadly acid? Let's find out! There are literally thousands of items and typically every item has at least one "bad" lookalike. If you do bother with abilities to tell what items are what your combat skills will stuffer so you die more. Even if you do have identification skills you still have to use deduction and screw around with your inventory to try to figure out what is what. Even food can kill you if you didn't notice it was spoiled. Monsters can also pretend to be food.
Don't want to go alone? Tired of dying by being gang-raped low level monsters? Some classes come with kitten or puppy companions! These little guys are tougher than most early monsters and will grow stronger over time as long as you don't let them get killed. By the way, your cat or dog can kill and eat you if you forget to feed it. That's right: Rogue is the game in which even the "helpful" NPC companions can kill you.
What happens when you die? You are told exactly what was in your inventory, how much money you had, if you were close to leveling up, and other personal statistics from your last round of play. When you die Nethack adds insult to injury by creating a humiliating tombstone that other players can find later in their own games at the site of your death, ensuring that future generations of obese neckbearded unix enthusiasts will always know of how you died an impoverished coward, penniless and huddled in hysterical tearful prayer as the owlbear descended upon you.
There are no usable maps or cheats in this game. There is nothing to save you except for your skills. Git Gud. You cannot call yourself a true geek if you haven't played it. Only the truest of geeks ever win.
Games Ripping off Rogue
Rogue's basic game design elements are very easy to define.
- Randomized maps with few (if any) static areas.
- RPG-style level up mechanics
- Random loot drops. Later versions also have crafting.
- Large open world to explore
- Multiple character classes. Later versions have skill trees and racial abilities
- Punishing difficulty level with Permadeath
- Near encyclopedic knowledge of game item abilities and properties required for success.
Some games are honest that they are just Rogue knockoffs so they call themselves "Roguelike". The Binding of Isiaac, Spelunky, and literally hundreds of other games are among these brave yet honest few. There are also games like Diablo II, Angband, Diablo III, and Ragnarok that clearly are roguelikes as they have all the hallmarks of being a Roguelike, but don't call them that as you'll hurt someone's feelings. :(
And the rest? They just pretend they didn't steal from rogue. They defend themselves with flimsy arguments like "There's better graphics and online gameplay!" so they can pretend they aren't stealing from Rogue. It's clear to anyone who has played Rogue, however, that they really are just stealing from Rogue.
This variation has randomized maps, random loot, and that's it. you just Grind and grind and grind and grind. Maybe you're supposed to get some artifact out of the dungeon and escape alive. There's some character classes involved just so players can pretend they are unique and special. Sounding familiar yet?
Totally Unique RPGs
These open-world RPGs have you select a class then go out in the world to die and die and die. You need to know all about all of the items and enemies and tricks and tactics in order to not die too much. Also don't forget to craft things. Sounding familiar?
OMG so Difficult!
These games are, let's say it together: Really FUCKING hard! Like so hard that nothing else is this hard! There's even Permadeath options if you want them. Oh, and it's technically an RPG-type game with random loot drops and possibly randomized monsters/maps and... yeah.... seeing a trend yet?
- Guide to Nethack
- Dudley's Dungeon: a Rogue/Nethack Comic
- Clone of Rogue
- Guide to Rogue
- Wikipedia entry
is part of a series on Web 1.0
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