Developer: Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman, Ken Arnold
Engine: Curses library
Released: 1980
Genre: Role-playing game, Roguelikes
Modes: Single player
Perspective: {$perspective}
Platforms: Widely ported
Download: The Roguelike Restoration Project
PCG Types: runtime-random-level-generation

Rogue is a single player game that is the progenitor of all roguelikes. It is also one of the earliest examples of procedural content generation in games, although Beneath Apple Manor was developed in a similar time period. What cannot be understated is the massive influence that Rogue had on subsequent games. It inspired Jay Fenlason to create Hack, which formed the basis of NetHack as well as Moria which lead to Angband and from there commercial releases such as Diablo and, it could be argued, World of Warcraft. John Harris argues in his column @ Play that the gameplay-wise Rogue has not been exceeded due to the combination of design decisions such as permadeath, the identify system and a difficulty curve and food timer that forces the player to keep moving ever forward while trying to avoid monsters at deeper depths that are more powerful than the player can safely confront.

Use of Procedural Content Generation Methods

Rogue is generally credited with being the first "graphical" adventure game, and it probably was at least one of the first (Wizardry could probably also make the claim). And its graphics have since been far surpassed by everything from Myst to Doom. But I think Rogue's biggest contribution, and one that still stands out to this day, is that the computer itself generated the adventure in Rogue. Every time you played, you got a new adventure. That's really what made it so popular for all those years in the early eighties.

Glenn Wichman

The Rogue dungeon generation algorithm generates a random new level every time the player descends a set of stairs - described in detail by Mark Damon Hughes in Game Design: Article 07: Roguelike Dungeon Generation. This concept of entering a new level which is generated afresh is followed by the majority of roguelikes although some, such as NetHack have fixed level layouts on some levels and levels which persist from visit to visit. As a consequence, there is effectively an infinite amount of resources that the player can access, simply by generating a new level.

To balance this, Rogue uses a food based timer. As the player moves, they consume a minimum amount of an internal food counter, which can only be replenished by finding and eating food scattered through the dungeon levels. A level is not guaranteed to have food, which means that the player balances the risk of exploring a level against the threat of starving to death.

Rogue also features permadeath. Permadeath is possible because the random generation of levels means it is highly unlikely that the player will encounter the same level twice. Consequently, although dying restarts the game at the first level as opposed to restoring from a save game check point, the skills that the player learns from game to game are mostly reusable, without having to experience a repetition of in game content. One exception is information that the player has learned about various objects encountered in the game. The Rogue random item system scrambles the identity of various items such as potions, scrolls, rings and wands from game to game. The only way to determine the effect of an item is to try to determine its effects from using it - that is, an identify-system - and use these clues to determine if the item is one that has been encountered in a previous game, or something completely new. Not only that, but the effects of many items are not especially clear, and without the use of spoilers or FAQs - not uncommon during the 1980s - it is possible to miss the most useful way to use an item.

Finally, while the player does advance in strength during the course of the game, mostly from acquiring useful equipment from the dungeon - gold is only used to determine the player's score - the difficulty level of monsters they encounter scales up much more quickly. So it is possible through learning and exploiting items in the game and tactics such as hack and back, the risk of death increases significantly later in the game, encouraging the player to avoid confrontation unless unavoidable.

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