TL:DR and Where to Play the Original Rogue Online
Rogue is the game that defined the genre named after it, and it is the root from which the entire library of roguelikes and roguelites grows. Though many creative classics have not aged well, and it can be difficult to enjoy genre forerunners (for instance, try to get an EDM fan to listen to electronic music from the 50’s), Rogue remains a highly relevant and playable game to this day. It’s difficulty, (lack of) plot, setting, identification system, and survival elements influence multiple genres even now, including survival horror, RPGs, and, of course, roguelikes. You can play Rogue online, in-browser, at myabandonware.com.
Description of the Game
Rogue is a top-down, hack-n-slash dungeon crawling RPG. The goal of the game is to dive into the depths of the Dungeon of Doom, retrieve the mystical Amulet of Yendor, and return safely to the surface. Simple in concept, Rogue and the genre it inspired are widely recognized as very difficult and complex games.
Rogue was one of the first games to use a graphical representation of dungeon levels instead of traditional text descriptions, and its famous for its use of ASCII graphics. Items, the character, and monsters are represented by symbols instead of sprites, and dungeon rooms and hallways are represented by lines. ASCII graphics aren’t considerably approachable, but their simplicity allows the player to imagine the world, making ASCII more immersive and stimulating than even the best modern graphics.
Though there isn’t much plot, Rogue manages to stay immersive through its complicated systems and (at the time) unique mechanics. In some ways, Rogue benefits from its thin plot the same way it benefits from ASCII graphics – in short, the game doesn’t stumble over its own writing or graphical quality.
Procedural Generation – A Roguelike Tradition
Rogue boasts an early iteration of procedural generation, which generates a new dungeon each game. No two playthroughs are the same, and so success is dependent on a player’s knowledge of the mechanics and enemies. Strategy and skill are are required to win, as memorization of the locations of enemies and items is impossible. Procedural generation is a backbone of modern roguelikes and is now, in fact, one defining feature of the genre. Nearly all roguelike games (perhaps all, by strict definition) lean on procedural generation for replayability, variety, and emergent gameplay. Procedural generation utilizes equations instead of saved information to generate levels, monster spawns, and item locations, so file sizes for procedural games are much smaller than pre-written games of similar scope.
Rogue introduced and/or utilized many of the mechanics familiar to players of related genres. Perhaps more than any other feature, complex, semi-random mechanics are a defining characteristic of the entire roguelike genre. Some of these mechanics include:
The player must consume food every fixed number of turns, or else starve to death. This mechanic keeps players moving and prevents camping and over-leveling as an easy means to beat the game. Items are also limited and must be identified and managed carefully.
Items start unidentified, which affects potion and scroll management especially. Item identities are randomized each playthrough, meaning that a red healing potion one game could be a red poison potion the next. The same is true of scrolls. Identification remains a core components of many modern roguelikes, most notably Nethack.
Dungeon and Dragons Influence
Rogue and its descendants utilize calculations and systems from Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs. For example, damage, dodging, skill success, and resistance across the genre are based on dice rolls instead of flat, point-based calculation, which adds interest to combat.
Rogue and many roguelikes utilize an agreed-upon fantasy world including elves, goblins, trolls, mages and elementalists, magical items, cursed and blessed items, and much more. They share this point in common with tabletop RPGs like DnD.
Who Should Play the Original Rogue?
If you’ve gotten this far in the article, then the answer is “probably you.” Fans of classic roguelikes like Nethack, Moria, Angband, Omega, and similar should certainly give the game a shot – they will feel right at home. Players that enjoy challenging gameplay, game history, and procedural generation would also benefit from at least a quick look, as well as fans of modern roguelikes, survival games, rpgs, and challenging genres. Rogue is playable in browser (see link in the introduction TL;DR) as well as by download.