From something I call February’s newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

Hi, I’m the Into the Black guy. I ask why people want achievements and shiny things to reward exploration in games. It’s all BALONEY. Rewards kill the JOY. They invite DISAPPOINTMENT. I will keep on using CAPITAL LETTERS to distract you from my hypocrisy.

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

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20 thoughts on “Discussion: Hypocrisy

  1. “I repeatedly turned to the Store Locator to find stores we hadn’t visited before. Stop your sniggering.”

    Oh my god. You’re like my colleague who wants to visit all the Wetherspoons. 🙂

    “Biblical Rain Zone”

    That’s a Sonic level, right?

    “Torrential rain rarely makes for a memorable walk”

    It absolutely does! Indeed, it evidently did! Look at that picture of you all sad and wet. That was the minor (rain)fall before major lift.

    Hai and I often visit Padley Gorge in Grindleford in the Peaks. The reason? Aside from having a lovely forested walk that opens out into a beautiful meadow and stream (admittedly spoilt by other people, dogs and children — this can be solved with torrential rain), there’s an amazing cafe where you can get a pint of tea and some proper comfort food to book end your walk. We need to find more of these combos, minus the people.

  2. Oh my God, Gregg, I meant to delete the “rarely makes for a memorable walk” because, you know, OF COURSE IT’S MEMORABLE BECAUSE IT WAS HORRIBLE. I think I had two such lines and I deleted one… yet left in the other?

    But, yeah, there’s something grand about putting your feet up after hours of trekking across the slopes or through the woods. Like you’ve truly earned this beer or tea or coffee, instead of simply driving into town. The journey transforms it into the best beverage in the world.

  3. I’m glad you didn’t delete it. Gregg is right AND it doesn’t even have to be horrible! It also seems to be something everyone has done at least once.

    In 2005 I visited Scotland with a friend, the plan was to walk and see as much as possible in two weeks. The day after we arrived in Fort William we wanted to reach the top of Ben Nevis (definitely a goal, no off topic here), but since the weather was awful we thought it was wiser to spend the day along the Great Glen. We walked 25 miles under torrential rain along Caledonian Canal, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich up to Invergarry. Even though we were well equipped, when we reached the hostel the receptionist was shocked to find out that even our money was wet! So, it definitely can be fun, both if you’re 20 and if you look back and think “I was a fool when I was 20”.

  4. I have many stories with the rain, some sad, others happy. I love to walk just to think and find new places, some times I walk where there is “cafés” or other places that I can stop a minute and drink a cup of coffe. Indeed I like so much of coffe, that I even have a Barista course, I never worked as Barista, but I know how to make a great coffe! (@_@)

    I can’t elaborate too much right now, but as you put “collectibles” or “task” or “objectives” are kind of “stimulus” that make the “player” keep going, as the stimulus becomes the goal by itself?

    For video games, more than the act of gaming, like chess or sports, but the media of “video games”, I think that the “stimulus” is central to understand it’s potential. Another point it’s how this “concept” changes our persona, having a great role to model our believes, attitudes, etc. And since these products are produced by the culture (a certain culture of certain peoples in certain places) themselves, the consumer is reflected by these products, being influenced and influencing. Considering that video games are very attached to the market in it’s essence, it’s hard to separate from it’s capitalistic quality, tending to be nothing more than a “economic product”, with economic interests and economic class as principal consumer and creative producer. The consequence is a product made from an decadent culture, alienated from reality and so absent of meaning. Of course our first conclusion is to see that the “perfect” product of this process, are the games from mainstream, i.e games that are design to promote stimulus, where “violence” is the a stimulus by excellence, is the STIMULUS. But there is a catch, we are seduced to make a false dichotomy: STIMULUS X REASON, where stimulus is not related to any intelligence, thinking, etc. And more, we are not doing “violent acts”, we are playing with the “idea” of violence, therefore is inevitable that these games are formed and forming ideologies, i.e our many notions of the world. This absent of meaning is probably one of the motives we as adult lost interest very fast in many games, because they are in a certain way, irrelevant to our lives.

    To conclude, I think would be interesting to review the concept of video game, there is “video game” and there is a interactive media based on (“direct”) stimulus, one a product of a certain culture and history (since is related to the industry of entertainment, is probably more a “subproduct”) another is a concept of technology.

    There is some psychology theories (old ones) that are founded on that relation: stimulus, objective, but so concerned in being physiological, that becomes “scientificism” and human being not so different from dogs…

  5. I think I am with your daughter on this one – I feel very strongly about the pie shop at the end of a decently long and hot (this time of year) bike ride. I am all about the pies.

  6. I live in Los Angeles, that town that. in the immortal words of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “is a great big freeway.” The reason that it’s a great big freeway is that you have to drive (in bumper to bumper traffic) to get ANYWHERE, including a place to take a decent walk, unless your idea of a decent walk is to stroll down an endless grid of sidewalks past ranch homes, bungalows and faux Spanish-style strip malls. Now that we’ve moved a little further out of the city proper, we have a few local parks at our disposal and there’s a reasonable amount of scenic nature in them, but to get to the really beautiful walks you still have to get on those damned freeways and DRIVE to them.

    All of which is to say that I don’t recommend LA as a place for a decent walk, unless you want to see that tacky Hollywood sign and wander through faux scenery at Disneyland. Though pretty soon they’ll be opening Star Wars Land, where you’ll be able take a beautiful walk through lovely Tatooine. accompanied by several thousand tourists eating Bantha Burgers and buying plush Wookiees. Honestly, the best scenery in Los Angeles is on movie screens and you can see it without even leaving the comfort of your home town.

    Speaking of Starbucks, when we visited the UK two years ago, we were amazed that you have far more coffee shops than we do and they make much better macchiatos than our local Starbucks does. And here I thought you guys only drank tea and ate crumpets (whatever the hell a crumpet is).

  7. Fede

    I wanted to delete the lines about “not being memorable” because it was obviously memorable – I was quoting the story 🙂 I had no intention of removing the story!

    However, this isn’t an important memory –
    useful for this article, I suppose – and would have happily done something else less wet at the time! Walking 25 miles through rain, though, that’s a special achievement, really 🙂


    I’m assuming that readers are familiar with Into the Black. It suggests that rewarding exploration with something tangible is in danger of invoking the “overjustification effect” where a reward undermines personal enjoyment. So I wanted to turn this around and use real world examples to review this hypothesis. Personal game experience seems to track with the my theory – once I have collectibles/similar that I tend to chase those to the detriment of the genuine exploration.


    Tsk tsk shilling for corporations again. How much did they pay you? £5? £6? How can you put a price on trust? 😉

    Do you bike for the pie? Or do you refuse to bike without the pie? Which is it? Which is chicken, which is egg?

    PS you made me hungry goddammit


    We’ve had our fair share of exploring city centres (there are tons of interesting office blocks in Tokyo, all with shops at their base and sometimes roof). I haven’t been to LA (went to SF once) so it sounds like there isn’t too much going on there. But Disney Sea is one of my favourite places on Earth. The sheer attention to detail and dedication to theme – I’ve never been anywhere like it. There was a big Twitter thread on it a few months back (not mine!) and it was nice to see someone else list everything that was just amazing about Disney Sea.

    That’s an amusing anecdote on Starbucks, but I refuse to be dragged into a crumpet discussion again.

  8. I will happily ride for no pies, although I do try to make sure my riding routes are pie-adjacent when I can.

    Slightly more on point to your newsletter (not that being on point is a #lifegoal for me):

    In recent times I have been inspired by Into the Black to change the way I approached the horse riding simulator RDR2. The first game I rinsed, not quite getting to 100% but still working to complete challenges and generally letting the meta-game dictate what I did and how I did it. I do remember some sense of satisfaction, but the shooting and such was not so good that I remember really enjoying the experience.

    This game I am letting the story push me along when it felt right, and when I felt that Arthur would just take off into the hills to get away from all the awful people in his life (his own self included) I would put on my woolly coat and ride into the snow and hunt to eat and just look at the amazing scenery and find weird little things in abandoned huts and it was perfect.

    So I would say that ignoring the meta rewards has greatly increased the rewards I’m getting from the game’s amazing sense of place and time.

  9. This is probably a banal observation but I find it hard to explore without a bit of structure, even if the exploring is the point. Back in the discussion of Full Bore I was saying, in response to the critique that the gems don’t do anything and your response “Yes, why play the puzzles in a puzzle game?”, that you could do something with hard-to-reach spots and let the player go figure out how to get to hard-to-reach spaces, but the gems give the player goals, and let them know which goals are attainable, and generally give them structure.

    In a puzzle game that’s particularly important because it lets you know that that particular impossible-looking spot must in fact be possible to reach. Which I think is part of what I find alienating about score-attack games like Six Match and, well, lots of things. It’s all about setting yourself goals (a number of points, uncovering a certain unlock, whatever) and then dying. The game won’t tell you what it’s reasonable to achieve.–Come to think of it, this may be another place where 2048 had more mass appeal than Threes. The ultimate goal of 2048 is right there in the title, it can take you years to find out that Threes has an ending at all.

    Even games about non-difficult exploration usually provide you with signposts. Even if Knytt is about going around and seeing the world, it points you to the spaceship parts to get you moving. Dear Esther may be all about the journey but it’s decidedly a journey to a place you can see at the beginning. The two games I can think of about exploring that don’t give you goals are Proteus and Bernband, and even Proteus gives you a lot of distant landmarks to get to and animals to chase. (And didn’t Key talk about how he had to add the swirling lights around the time circle to let people know it was there?) Even Cube & Star: An Arbitrary Love, which to a fault is about plopping the player down and saying “Here’s a bunch of arbitrary stuff you can explore, it doesn’t matter what you do,” has achievements up the wazoo.

    (While typing this comment I coincidentally put on an album from 1987 whose first track is called “Open World.” Hmm.)

    Another game I’ve been experimenting a bit is called Lone Spelunker, which is about cave exploration and which may eventually send you to procedurally generated caves where it’s all about freeform exploration–but the beginner’s cave I tried decidedly had an achievement for “reach this spot and take a selfie here” that let me know when I’d accomplished something there. It calls itself a roguelike but I’d say that a noncombat/nonPC side-view exploring game isn’t even a roguelike even if it does have ASCII graphics, procgen (when you decide to try it), and permadeath. OH LOOK A TRANSITION TO RESUME THE ROGUELIKE DISCUSSION FROM THE LAST THREAD.

  10. kfix

    “Not being on point is a #lifegoal for me” – I’d like to introduce you to Matt.

    Nice to hear you’re getting more out of the great outdoors after giving up on the collectibles. I need to go back to GTA:SA with my new Into the Black shades and just enjoy exploring. I was constantly chasing collectibles and things to do – and was then sore that the game had lots of areas without sufficient reasons to visit. You can see that I got myself in a little pickle, here.

    I tend to have little self-imposed goals these days – get to a peak, break into a car park. I tend to wander around buildings for an ingress. And so on.


    I knew someone would bring this up at some point. It’s a form of this: don’t we need “targets” in an exploration game that make us explore? If it’s a flat desert, who is going to bother? You must at least suspect that something is out there? I might dislike the fakery of collectibles but you’ve got to have SOMETHING, surely?

    Good exploration games are usually rich enough to offer structure if you need it. I remember the original Timeframe game, and you could see many interesting locations to explore and would chase those in the limited time you had before the world ended. Adding the collectibles turned it into “getting the collectibles done” and irritated me no end.

    Big exploration games need much stronger structure because, inevitably, they are padded out with null landscapes. What I mean are spaces which are barren, copy-paste or procedurally-generated. They add to the “on a journey” expereince but not of interest in themselves. Think, the massive landscape of FUEL or the island of Miasmata. While just pottering about can be cathartic, if you LOOKING FOR THINGS, wandering is not going to be good enough.

    Contrast with the tight spaces that Orihaus used to make – you could barely swing a cat for smacking into some weird abstract architecture.

    The problem with Proteus’ portal is that the circle is the one mechanic of the game. You need to enter it to visit another season. If you do not realise it is there, you miss 75% of Proteus. It’s a mechanic in a game that eschews mechanics and, looking back, I feel like it was quite dangerous. There are other playful mechanics in there, of course: the tower that teleports, the pagan totems summoning a spirit at night. But the circle feels less like play and more like a Game Switch. My gut, today, would be to do away with the circle and find an approach that was less gamey, no hunting the hotspot.

    (I didn’t like Cube & Star. To me, it felt like lots of mechanics without any purpose. I couldn’t find any value in it. I didn’t feel playful, but like a game in search of a design.)

    Apologies for not responding to your roguelike ESSAY yet. We seem to be going through a comment renaissance after a period in which I thought the comment section was dying. I’m finding it difficult to stay on top of them. I may be reaching that point where I just have to start letting go and just doing my best. (I never thought I’d get here, because comments have been slowly squeezed out by social media. But the 2018/19 has seen a significant bump in Electron Dance readership.)

  11. Yes Joel, that’s very insightful! I agree about Cube & Star, or not quite that I find no value in it, but it’s pretending it’s saying “Here’s all this stuff, play with it,” but it’s more like “Here’s some things, you figure out something to do with it.” Like you ordered a meal and got a pile of ingredients. I was trying to think of big exploration games that don’t have tons of structure and of course I thought of Knytt Underground where there’s a lot of pleasure in going through the relatively empty parts with the designs and the backgrounds and the little eyeball kicks with no gameplay significance (like the creature that pops up out of the ground to shoot a tiny harmless projectile at you.) But it has a very strong structure, at the beginning of the open part it puts a whole bunch of major objectives on the map, and if you’re like me you try to head to the nearest thinking that that’ll be a nice little subgoal before it opens up, but you find that’s the one you have to do last, and then you head elsewhere and it’s NOTHING BUT SUBQUESTS, and if you get to one of the other marked major objectives you’ll find you need to do a bunch of collecting to unlock it. And somewhere in there you realize that the goal is the exploration and pottering about and all the challenges you do on the way, but the structure has given you a giant shove to do various directed things before then.

    In some ways the big thing of exploration that I imagine is a bit like Starseed Pilgrim as droqen expressed his vision–there’s all this stuff to do, you might be doing it for its own sake, and there’s a bunch of exploring you might do before you realize what the goal of the game is. But it’s no coincidence that that isn’t literal exploration.

    Blah blah now the ostensibly on-topic stuff is out of the way ROGUELIKES. OK, so I’m thinking of this Raigan Burns thread that has some nice classifications–Roguelikes vs. Spelunkylikes vs. Broughlikes as well as Roguelites.* And this excellent Tanya X. Short piece about why the term “rogue-like” is bad–except, as she says, for games which are really really like Rogue–and oh, gosh, it’s dinnertime, better just post those links and go.

    (Aside sometimes Burns says “rougelites” but I trust that’s a typo.)

  12. Thanks for linking those! Unfortunately in the Twitter thread I almost immediately got lost among the split hairs and the jargon (and I’m someone who even pays attention to this most nookish of gaming nooks.)

    The issue with Rogue’s legacy (as opposed to Rogue Legacy) is that, as Tanya notes, it 1) established a genre that never got out of its ‘X-clone’ naming convention and 2) was later raided by developers looking to borrow spice with which to flavour games of all kinds of other genres (as per the notorious ‘RPG elements’).

    We never tried to lump all the ‘… with RPG elements’ shooters and brawlers and space sims and 4X games into a single subgenre because that would be madness, but for some reason that’s exactly what we did with roguelites. Perhaps it has something to do with us never getting around to giving roguelikes a proper name. If they were called, I dunno, Death Dungeon games, it would be less likely that people would be trying to call FTL a Death Dungeon game and more likely a ‘Spaceship management game with Death Dungeon elements’?

    Although Jesus, you have to be a special kind of something to see that as an improvement. This is probably why roguelike has stuck around. Every attempt at an improvement is the opposite.

    Still, would describing Spelunky as a platformer with roguelike elements be more useful or precise than calling it a roguelike or a roguelite? I feel like I’m asking a question straight out of 2011. The discussion has moved far beyond this point but also seems like this was the first hurdle it never bothered to clear.

    To try and answer Ragain Burns’s top-level question: I *think* Necrodancer qualifies here. Certainly when I was playing it I was struck by the thought that ‘huh, this is actually, as in, like ACTUALLY a roguelike’, only it also isn’t. It ticks off all the key criteria on the Berlin interpretation, except for identification, and it isn’t turn based in the way they mean it.

    Only it IS still turn based, and in a way that completely transforms the experience. There’s something about music and movement and rhythm that, when in full flow, gives the game a sort of automotive, meditative quality. Roguelikes in general are steady, abstract, intellectual pursuits. There’s an echo in the halls, in your footsteps. Necrodancer brings intimacy, and with it comes the transcendence of the arcade, of the dancefloor.

  13. I had a related nitpick with Short’s thing about “platformer” vs. “Mario-like”–I think “platformer” is probably lots harder to understand if you don’t know what it means than “Mario-like” would be! Even if you’re not a gamer, there’s a decent chance you’ve seen a bit of Mario, and could process “Mario-like” to mean “a game where you jump on things, like Mario.” “Platformer” is like… well, what does that mean? If the games were called “jumpers” that would maybe be more accessible.

    That’s just a mega nitpick though, because she basically made the same point with “doom clones” vs. “first-person shooters,” and anyway the “decent chance you’ve seen a bit of Mario” thing decidedly does not apply to Rogue. I’m a pretty big roguelike fan and I’ve never seen Rogue.

    But the issue is partly that roguelikes aren’t just one thing that can be summed up! Like, “platformer” is one mechanic. “First-person shooter” is two mechanics. “RPG elements” is, well, a ton of mechanics, but also so vague that it can apply to lots of things. I guess it usually means upgrading stats and/or equipment? And “death dungeon” is basically a name we already have–Rogue, and all the other paradigmatic roguelikes, are dungeon crawls. But that’s just one mechanic and doesn’t precisely get at what a lot of people mean by roguelikes!

    Tanya Short’s article is really congenial to me as a Wittgensteinian who thinks most classifications are about clusters of overlapping similarities rather than capturing an essence.

    Like, Raigan Burns talks about being “faithful to the roguelike ethos” and complains that roguelites fail to understand what’s so cool about roguelikes and Spelunky–by which he means permadeath meaning permadeath, starting from scratch. In the thread that was originally linked in the thread that’s linked here (ha ha I had forgotten I had issued such a big wall of text already) he says something like that the true roguelikes are the same the first time you play them and the first time you beat them. Which is one cool thing! But it’s not the only cool thing. You mentioned the Berlin Interpretation, Short talks about lots of elements, and a lot of the things that are advertised as roguelikes or roguelikelikes or whatever don’t necessarily have the thing that scratches my roguelike itch even if they have true permadeath.

    Basically: One of the big things for roguelikes for me is unpredictable situations. What Tanya Short calls “improvisation” I guess. And one thing the classic classic roguelikes do to ensure that is that they don’t have discrete combats. It’s not just “see jelly, fight jelly,” but “you encountered the jelly in the middle of an open space which is totally different from fighting it on a bridge, and if some vampire bats pop up in the middle of the fight that completely changes the complexion of it as well, and god forbid an acid mound shows up while you’re fighting anything else.” A massive oversimplification would be, if you’ve never had to run into a corridor to make sure a mob comes at you one at a time instead of overwhelming you, it’s not a roguelike.

    Here’s an example from Brogue: There’s a monster called an explosive bloat which explodes when it attacks or when you kill it, and explosions do immense damage in a wide range. There’s also an effect called discord which means that everything will fight the thing that has it, and the thing that has it will fight everything. Once I saw an explosive bloat sleeping among a bunch of other fairly annoying monsters far away…. and I had a staff of discord. So I cast discord on the bloat, I think tossed a dart in to wake something up, and walked away. This is something that worked only because you can combine lots of different monsters, and also because there was no separation between the exploration phase and the combat phase.

    Lots of games with roguelike elements that people talk about don’t have this at all. The Binding of Isaac (which I bounced off) as far as I can tell doesn’t have this; you walk into a room and either it has a fight, which will be a certain combination of enemies in a certain terrain, or it doesn’t. How the fights fit together in the world map isn’t particularly important, and you never wind up having to deal with pieces of one mob while you’re fighting another mob.

    FTL (which I love) doesn’t have this at all. Jump to a star, either fight a ship or don’t, at a given time you’re fighting exactly one ship. In fact it seems to me that procgen and permadeath are just about the only roguelike elements FTL has. FTL reminds me more of a party-based cRPG like Monster’s Den; the map is randomized but doesn’t affect combat, and combat is about coordinating and combining your attacks against discrete mobs, and gathering new stuff that lets you level up and change your attacks. (The party members are your different ship systems.) Maybe I’m doing it wrong but I don’t find a lot of explosive bloat moments, though my elder child did discover a trick where there’s a certain enemy ship design whose oxygen is cut off from the rest of the system so you can destroy it and wait for the crew to suffocate.

    That’s not a criticism! There’s nothing wrong with that kind of game and the procgen does add a lot, by forcing you to improvise based on what you find and who you’re fighting! But, as Short says, it doesn’t seem like lumping it in with roguelikes is helping a whole lot.

    Things to be discussed: Diego Cathalifaud’s microbroughlikes (he got one down to 3 x 3! and it even has that retreating into a corridor to fight a mob thing that I talked about!), Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Vertical Drop Heroes, 10000000/You Must Build a Boat, Luftrausers, also that Brogue game where I got the amulet, fell down a trap to level 27, did not have any effective magical means of dealing damage, didn’t encounter any dragons, wandered around the level for a ridiculous amount of time trying to find the upstairs, blew all my means of negation on revenants and also a dar priestess/golem mob which turned out not to be guarding the upstair, finally found a secret door by exhaustive searching and behind the door was the upstair, guarded by three dragons. You get kind of insulting message in the high score list for dying when you have the amulet.

  14. ROGUELIKES, continued:

    Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime I think shows how you can use procgen content in a way that isn’t very roguelikey. I’ve seen it described as roguelikelike, and it does have the multiple-mob thing, but I don’t really feel as though there’s a lot of unpredictable system interaction. Fighting a tank that bounces stuff and two of those little flamethrowing things feels like, well, fighting a tank that bounces stuff and two of those little flamethrowing things at once. It’s not like there’s any alchemy that takes place between the different elements, the way that having discord transformed the fight against the explosive bloat and the other monsters.

    What the procgen does here is to make exploration a serious thing. The maps are almost entirely dark at the beginning of the level and you have to explore to find the Space Friends that you’re trying to rescue (you can also find map powerups). Death sends you back to the beginning of the level, not the game. So having randomized levels means you actually have to do the exploring. It doesn’t make much sense to have death wipe out all your progress, because the variation in playthroughs isn’t radically different–one version of level 2 of Cetus is much the same bowl of oatmeal as another version of level 2 of Cetus, and you mostly get to choose your ship upgrades instead of having to settle for whatever you run across as in FTL. But it makes sense to have death reset the level, because your task is to explore the level and find stuff.

    (There is some upgrade stuff–as you play you unlock different ship designs–but not the sort of thing Raigan is complaining about.)

    Then there’s Luftrausers, which I don’t think anyone calls a roguelike, even though it has random generation and permadeath, and multimobs, and in fact a much different flavor that comes from the interaction of different enemies–fighting two battleships at once is much different from fighting a battleship while an ace is harrying you. It does have progressive unlocks of different plane systems and another gradual difficulty rollout that I don’t really understand, in that it takes a little while for the game to start throwing blimps at you. But also, it’s part of an arcade tradition, which also has permadeath and randomization, and it doesn’t have any within-game upgrades. And maybe another big thing is that it doesn’t have terrain features. Fighting different mobs can be different, but whatever you’re doing is happening on a strip of sky between clouds and sea. But the word “roguelike” is thrown around so casually for procgen + permadeath games that I sometimes wonder why Luftrausers doesn’t get it.

  15. When was the Great Wave of Roguelike Popular Consciousness? 2013, with the Spelunky remake? 2012, with FTL? 2011 perhaps, with Dungeons of Dredmore? The original flash release of Luftrauser slipped in ahead of all of these (Dredmore by nary a month), but not of course before classic Spelunky which was years ahead. So it’s possible that the pigeonhole just didn’t exist in the popular imagination for it to fall into, and the idea of it being just stuck, despite the more popular remake emerging 2014 when the craze was in full swing? I dunno.

    Alternatively the sight of horizontally-scrolling plane warfare might carry indelible associations of the arcade which just don’t gel conceptually with rogues, Death Dungeons and ascii art? Oh wait you mentioned that.

    Or maybe it’s a false assumption and people do in fact consider Luftrausers a roguelike (it carries the tag on Steam but only if you go looking for it)

    Man, Lovers was ALMOST the couch-coop Space Alert videogame that I dreamed of, but it turned out that was actually Overcooked instead (say, is Overcooked a rogueli *is shot; dies*) . It just needed a little bit more juggling and chaos, players needed to play a little bit more musical chairs around the stations. I definitely agree about the lack of alchemy. There’s plenty of constituent elements, but everything proceeds broadly the same regardless of what appears and if something does surprise you you’re more likely to just take damage than switch up your plans in a dramatic way. I had no idea it was procedurally generated!

  16. The GWoRPC has to be from 2011-2 at the latest; 2011 has not only Dredmore but The Binding of Isaac, which is critical to my story as The Game Everyone Was Saying Was A Roguelike But How Can It Be A Roguelike When It Completely Separates Exploration And Combat. It also looks like the Kongregate Flash version of Probability 0 was from late 2012. I also feel like Desktop Dungeons was an early harbinger of the GWoRPC and the free version was released in 2010 I think. Also I would say that Luftrauser probably really hit the public consciousness not when it was released but when that “The sky is my Distiny” game cloned it! Not to mention that more popular remake. So, I say, it’s not the lack of the pigeonhole that’s happening here.

    Also the remake was released while Nuclear Throne was in Early Access, which is by the same developers and which everyone thinks is a roguelike, so I think if people really thought Luftrausers was a roguelike they’d have noticed then? Dunno.

    I don’t really need any more chaos in Lovers, mostly because I play with my kids and when we all tried together (which is awkward anyway as we’re doing three controls on one keyboard, and I think this was while the arrow keys were broken) the younger kid just got overwhelmed on the warp engine fight and buried their head in the chair, which was awkward since I was on shields and older kid was trying to keep the engine out of harm’s way and that left us with no weapons. Though then we skipped to the Ursa Major fight and younger kid managed to almost completely devastate it with a well-timed Yamato cannon shot right to the face. I should mention that I usually stick strictly to the shields and older kid does everything else and calls me a noob. Anyway I panic enough.

    OK, Diego Cathalifaud! Brough mentioned that he’d got things down to 3×3, which is true–I don’t do mobile much so the only things of his I’ve been able to play are the 7DRL versions of Marsh Adventure (3×3) and Power Grounds (10×10). Marsh Adventure is the one I mentioned where you can do the corridor thing–from a corner you can freeze an enemy in a side square so while that is going on the other enemies have to stream into the other side square where you can fight them one at a time. The thing is, though it has a lot of interesting potential interactions, it’s a bit too easy–I feel like I’d be more challenged by it if you couldn’t just switch back and forth to spamming the attacks that freeze enemies, and you had to rely on your items more, or items gave you a significantly different build. Like, maybe if you started with items and you had to acquire spells as you went on, and the spells could be different…. which is I guess a bit like Power Grounds, where you go around collecting things that turn the floor to squares where you can cast spells if you’re standing on them. (And you have no offensive abilities other than that.)

    These are both good games but one thing that makes them Broughlikes rather than roguelikes is that they’re all about precise square-by-square maneuvering. Unserious proposal: the difference between a Broughlike and a roguelike is that in roguelikes you can move diagonally. That is, often in Broughlikes (anyway, these two and Zaga) the issue is getting the drop on the enemy, or what in chess is called “the opposition”–if you’re cattycorner to an enemy then you have to move where it can hit you first, and if you’re an even number of squares away orthogonally then you can’t avoid this. (If the enemy also moves one square orthogonally–which not all enemies in Power Grounds and Zaga do.) This gets to zugzwang which Droqen likes to talk about–you’d like to be able to pass a turn but you can’t.

    Anyway! Very roguelike influenced, as Brough said about my lucking into a victory the third time I played Zaga-33 my past experience in Roguelikes helped (of course I haven’t hardly played since then), but lots and lots of important differences too. But as Tanya Short was maybe saying, aren’t the differences among the games the point?

  17. Thought: Is Starseed Pilgrim a roguelite? Procedurally generated playing field (insofar as in the main daytime worlds it matters a lot where the black blots are), play heavily influenced by the order in which you draw your powers, persistent environmental effects in one ways and also repeated run-by-run accumulation of resources, quasi-permadeath that loses you resources in your run accumulation but not the overall world progress, and also the mystery of the overall ruleset gradually discovered which I’m pretty damn proud of not having really spoiled much in this paragraph, and anyway that mystery is a big part of one roguelike tradition or maybe it’s only nethack (and Cinco Paus, I guess, but I haven’t played it!)

    Answer: No Starseed Pilgrim is not a roguelite. Calm down you maniacs.

    I’ve been putting a lot of time again into a platform roguelite, Vertical Drop Heroes HD–older child and I play it co-op and we reset our progress–which is making me think of why Raigan Burns says roguelites miss what makes roguelikes great. How exactly is it missing the point to gradually build up resources across runs instead of starting over from scratch each time? One thing is this can lead to grind–but true roguelikes aren’t necessarily immune from grind (pudding farming, anyone?) And it’s interesting to go back to the earlier stages of VDHHD where there’s a big emphasis on grabbing gold and gems so you can afford level-ups and unlocks–resource-gathering is a different kind of feel than just going for the victory.

    But it’s not like I don’t feel his point, too. One thing is that there’s the fake-accomplishment feel–you’re getting farther in the game because you’ve spent more time playing the game and this lets you upgrade your initial stats, not just because of actual improvement in skill. (Though now we can reach the final boss sometimes, and I think this is at a much lower level than before–so there’s some skill.) Another thing that’s lost, or hard to obtain, is having to adapt your character build to the things you pick up on that run. If you have one long meta-run you’re not going to have multiple development paths like that. VDHHD does encourage some experimentation by giving you a selection of randomized weapon/power/other power/two traits but that’s just character creation and you can reroll enough that you’re not forced out of your comfort zone.

    Being able to level up does sort of tune the difficulty, but that might easily be seen as a disadvantage, especially because you can’t tune the difficulty back up when you git gud. The thing that makes this work for VDHHD for me is that it’s a pretty casual game–goofy, not deadly hardcore in its strategizing or reflex action, a lot of button-pounding. Something similar maybe to 10000000/You Must Build A Boat–Gregg B in the Tabletop Christmas thread called 10000000 out as a game that, while fun, is about putting in time and leveling up as much as improving skill. And 10000000 absolutely has the “level up to match the increased stats of the monsters you’re fighting and you’re in the same space on the treadmill” thing.

    But Match-3 games are the sort of thing you do over and over in short runs anyway, so it’s not bad that you’re working on reskins of the same basic loop. The classic Match-3s are the same loop without the reskin anyway. Also Richard Goodness back in the How Alphabear Became Unberable thread talked about how they work you to a specific goal and then end instead of asking you to play forever, which helped a lot. (YMBAB also did more of a job of changing things up in various ways.)

  18. I appreciate these thoughts. Fake accomplishment in games generally makes me feel slimy. Truly great games have this thing where you when you stop playing you feel stimulated, refreshed. Compulsive games make you feel tired and gross. Since we last talked on this thread I’ve sunk 40 or so hours into Diablo 3. I consider Diablo 3 a more or less worthless game. How to reconcile those statements? 40 *hours*? *40*?

    Well the answer is that the game has tendrils, and when the tendrils get you you stay got for a while. I’m beginning to strongly resent any game with an identifiable loop. We need to cut this word out of the discourse, because designers are reading and it’s making them think we want loops and explicitly pursue loops. Break free of the loops!

    (I know you essentially can’t remove loops from game design. But I think historically they were unnoticed, intuited.. today we have loop design front and centre; loops that are too refined, too constricting, too engineered.. it makes me claustrophobic. Truly great game worlds convince the player that said worlds extend beyond the map, beyond the invisible chest-high walls. I believe that the same also applies to the loop. It’s not so much about liberation as disguise. And that holy grail – making play feel ‘meaningful’. )

    In happier news, I just started playing Into the Breach last night. And, ok, yeah, 100% loop. But I’m liking it a lot so far. It’s the little things that make it feel meaningful. Civilians exclaiming relief and delight when you save their buildings. You want to triumphantly spare a skyscraper by punching out that Kaiju or tanking that laser with your mech, because 1) it’s the right thing to do 2) the reaction makes you feel like the hero in a cheesy sci fi B movie AND 3) there’s a bunch of explicit carrotsticks for preserving civilian structures built into the ruleset.

    Marrying what the player naturally wants to do – contextualising or motivating the play goals – with what you reward them for is crucial to the disguising the ugly, naked engagement loop.

  19. Matt – I’m actually storing up all your roguelite comments in a massive vault. The day I open that vault is the day the sky turns to fire.

    CA – Gah, Into the Breach. Another one I want to play.

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