Posted by: Ben | December 29, 2009

Man vs Genre: Rogue

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The Facts

Written by Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman (which is a fantastic name for an RPG developer) and Ken Arnold for Unix systems in 1980.  So influential they named a genre after it: Roguelikes, widely regarded as being inaccessible and ultrahardcore.  They delete your save file when you die, for example.  This is version 5.4.4, released in 1986 and last updated in 2007.  It’s available from the Roguelike Restoration Project at http://rogue.rogueforge.net .

The Cover

Although it was installed on college campuses worldwide as part of a Unix distribution, Rogue did eventually receive a commercial release.  The Epyx version shows a successful adventurer stealing an amulet, while glowing eyes watch from the darkness.  The Mastertronic version depicts a burly warrior with more than a passing resemblance to Dolph Lundgren who a wields a bloodstained sword, behind whom stands a manacled woman in a bikini.

The Lore:

You have just finished your years as a student at the local fighter’s guild. After much practice and sweat you have finally completed your training and are ready to embark upon a perilous adventure. As a test of your skills, the local guildmasters have sent you into the Dungeons of Doom. Your task is to return with the Amulet of Yendor. Your reward for the completion of this task will be a full membership in the local guild. In addition, you are allowed to keep all the loot you bring back from the dungeons.

It seems like the Unix-loving academics of the early Eighties have somewhat overestimated the difficulties of becoming a fighter.  The instruction manual is presented like an academic paper, complete with an abstract.

Character Building

My name is Keema Korma II and I am an @ sign with 12 hit points, 16 strength and 4 armour.

The Game

I start off in a smallish room with a snake and a stairwell.  Taking inventory, I discover I have the exact possessions described in the documentation.  I decide to explore the level before heading straight to the stairwell.  I head away from the snake and towards the door.  Ominously, the snake takes a step towards me.

As I get through the door, there’s a fog of war effect and I can no longer see the snake’s position.  It’s only when I arrive at the end of the corridor and into the next room I realise it’s followed me!  Time to fight.  Soon the snake has already taken half my hit points, while I have yet to scratch it.  Time to run.  So I’m legging it down a corridor, with the snake keeping very rapid pace one square behind me, which means that if I meet another monster I’ll be cornered. I turn and strike it dead.

In the next room I encounter a kobold.  I fear that might be tougher than a snake.

No wait, it’s a kestrel, which might possibly be annoying to fight, but as long as I don’t let it near my eyes it shouldn’t be able to do any serious… aiee! Cut down in my prime on Level 1, by a kestrel.  How embarrassing.

Total play time: 5 minutes

Verdict: Got seriously addicted, spent the rest of the evening playing it.  Felt kind of empty.

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