Game Design-Some Thoughts on Roguelike Games

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This article mainly focuses on the design of Roguelike games, starting from the following two points:

  • What kind of games can be called Roguelike games?
  • What is a good Roguelike game like?

What kind of game can be called a Roguelike game?

Starting from the Berlin interpretation in 2008, many Roguelike developers and enthusiasts have jointly formulated and stipulated that Roguelike games need to have the following important elements:

  • Randomly generate a map:Use process to generate maps to increase replayability.
  • Permanent death:The character will die permanently, and the archive cannot be used to recover the character from a permanently dead state.
  • Grid map:With a turn-based, gridded map, players can have enough time to think about each step of the decision.
  • Non-patterned state:The actions that the player can take do not change according to the state of the game.
  • Non-linear process:The route is non-linear, and players can use different means to achieve the same game goal.
  • Resource management:With resource management gameplay, players must rationally allocate their resource consumption to maximize the possibility of survival.
  • Core battle:Focus on monster fighting, the player has no peace option to skip the battle.
  • Encourage exploration:Encourage players to explore the map to obtain various items randomly distributed on the map.

Common Roguelike (including Roguelite) games are:

  • The Binding of Isaac: Roguelike of the Dungeon
  • Dead cells: Roguelike in the style of Galactic Castlevania
  • Kill the Spire: Cards build Roguelike
  • Vitality Knight: Pixel Dungeon Roguelike
Binding of Isaac

Dead cell

Killing the Spire

Vigor knight

But with the passage of time, today’s games have long been unable to meet the above conditions. Most of them do not have gridded maps, and they are no longer turn-based. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to continue to use extremely detailed game content to define this game category. In my opinion, today’s Roguelike games mainly satisfy the following three contents:

  • Random content
  • Permanent death
  • Resource management

What is a good Roguelike game like?

According to the three three contents mentioned before, it can be concluded that a good Roguelike game needs the following characteristics:

1. Random content: rich and balanced decision-making pool

  • Rich equipment and gain matching: Provide a variety of equipment and gains with different gameplay and effects.
  • Effective equipment and gain collocation: There must be a certain synergy between equipment and gain, that is, 1+1>2.
  • All of the player’s decision-making gains must be closely linked to the current game state, and the player is encouraged to accept the local optimal solution.

2. Permanent death: provide certain measures to restore death in a single cycle

  • S/L mechanism
  • Additional item combinations

3. Resource management: deep growth portfolio

  • Intra-office growth: Emphasize the single game experience, pay attention to the current local optimal solution, and avoid the long-term global optimal solution.
  • Outside growth: Dominate the player’s long-term decision-making and extend the game’s playability.

Permanent death

The permanent death mechanism means that the player needs to challenge from scratch every round, which means that the efforts made in the previous round have been exhausted to a certain extent, and the player still needs to replay the roughly same game flow. During this period, for the player, the complete abandonment of previous work will increase their psychological burden to a certain extent, and the S/L mechanism can help the player to avoid the punishment of permanent death to a certain extent; in addition, the game can also pass Additional game items, such as the relics and potions in the Slaughter Spire, help players increase their overall strength, thereby reducing the probability of death, and focusing on the game itself.

Random content

Roguelike games give players the most direct feeling that isUncertainty-Including the random map and a series of other randomly generated content (equipment, gain, etc.) in the game. From a narrative point of view, the player’s game experience in each round is unique and non-retrospective. When the player clears or dies, he will not only lose the effort of that period of game time, but also the memory of that period of time. Therefore, under the permanent death mechanism, the process generation system and the non-linear experience it brings have a certain two-sidedness for the player, which can avoid the high repetition of content and bring a unique game experience, but this kind of experience is impossible. Repeated and documented.

The “decision pool” of a game is the sum of the actions that players can perform at the moment that will have a profound impact on the game. According to the view of “meaningful choice”,All decision-making benefits must be closely linked to the current state of the game. The introduction of random elements to create a nonlinear experience has two important goals:

  • Let players face more abundant situations when making decisions
  • Encourage players to accept local optimal solutions

Random content makes it extremely difficult for players to choose to achieve global optimality. They must accept the fact that “non-optimal” choices are everywhere, pay attention to the current local optimal solution, reduce the player’s motivation to pursue long-term global optimal solutions, and shift their energy to “Continue the game” on this matter.

However, for inexperienced players, in a highly random game, it is difficult to always distinguish the pros and cons of the decision-making in the game and the current game situation. Therefore, when the high penalty for the death of a character arrives, players may tend to attribute it to “I failed because this game didn’t teach me”, or even “I failed because of bad luck”, instead of “There were a few decisions before.” If you do something wrong, you will fail.” Such a decision-making system, even if the player fails and wants to start all over again and learn how to master such a game, he will be unable to start because of the lack of relevant clues.

Resource management

At the level of resource management, Roguelike is more used in the “outside” game development part.Resource management enables players to prepare for the battle and the outcome of the battleGet quantified, Leading long-term decision-making, easy for players to learn from it. Although there is interference from random factors, the more resources the player has, the greater the help they can get; when the player fails and accepts the penalty of file deletion, the reason for the failure can be analyzed from the perspective of resources, so that the next time Reconfigure resource allocation when it comes. For the in-depth resource management gameplay, one situation that needs to be avoided is that the global optimal solution can be easily approximated and reached through numerical iteration; and in Roguelike, the randomly generated game content happens to be hidden and hidden to a certain extent. Limiting the global optimal solution helps to achieve the purpose of prolonging the replayability of the game. However, it should be noted that, for example, the blood-sucking equipment in the Battle Soul Inscription, due to its effect, after appearing during the game, the player still has a higher selection priority than other equipment, and it is not to a certain extent. Balanced,


In addition to the three points mentioned above, the following characteristics can also help the playability of Roguelike games:

  • Teaching-style level design: staged actual combat teaching, effectively helping players verify their current strength
  • Repetitive experience cost reduction: Effectively enhance the early-stage differences of the game and reduce the early-stage repetitive experience cost
  • Game content introduction pictorial: Collecting pictorials allows players to view the acquired content and clearly clarify its effects

In general, an excellent Roguelike game requires players to have sufficient motivation to challenge randomly generated content. There are various situations in the game waiting for the player, and the decisions they make have synergistic benefits and certain risks. By combining long-term resource management, players have a sense of growth and can withstand the loss caused by permanent death.

However, the cost-effectiveness of the Roguelike game that cannot be avoided in the later stage of the game will gradually decrease. The game’s playability can be improved by the following methods:

  • Added indirect PVP gameplay, combined with Roguelike growth mechanism, allowing players to compete for growth speed and effects
  • Random props have appropriate negative feedback, so that the combination of props also has a certain degree of gaming

In addition, Roguelike games still have some unavoidable problems:

Limited game difficulty:Roguelike’s highly random levels, monsters and rewards test players’ luck and understanding of the game mechanics, and it is difficult to have other methods of increasing difficulty; the latter will be quickly figured out by the player, leading to a highly difficult turn-based roguelike When squeezing values, it often becomes a pure face-seeing game. The face-seeing game combined with a high death penalty will bring ineffective repetitive labor and a bad experience.

Weak game plot:The non-linear game structure makes it impossible to effectively create conditions for the narrative, and the player cannot have a close emotional connection with the game character. For example, in , the story can only be triggered after the player has reached certain conditions and cleared the level. What the player can find in the game is more similar to the setting of the story clue, which cannot effectively create a sense of substitution.

Insufficiency of the combination of gameplay and narrative ability:The game’s gameplay and narrative fusion ability largely determines the difference between the game and the competition from a commercial point of view. Roguelike games often pay more attention to the polishing of their core gameplay, but once they are unsuccessful, it will be difficult to compete This is why the experience of many Roguelike games has not changed much.



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