So I finally had the chance to give the “History of Rogue Games” on Gamasutra a good look. It was an interesting read.

One thing that stands out is how popular Rogue-likes are, even though the audience may be “niche”. In this era of ever-more-dazzling visuals and sophisticated interfaces, there are still those who prefer ASCII graphics and simple gameplay in a straightforward dungeon crawl.

One reason for that, brought out in the piece, is that the games are playable on almost any computer, however old. No one needs a super horse-powered rig to play a Rogue. Hey, I knew that myself ;)

And I suppose there are always those who just want plain old hack-and-slash, as in the days of Wizardry and Bard’s Tale. Before Ultima and Might & Magic brought us the great outdoors, towns with people, and all those “little side jobs” to do.

Code could be a lot tighter, too, as the dungeons are always created on the fly in a Rogue-like. However, I can’t agree that “starting over wasn’t so tedious”. My experience with ZAngbandTK got to be very tedious, with many start-overs. And the idea of beginning again after losing a high-level character isn’t my idea of fun, which is why I finally decided to cheat in ZTK. But there are people who enjoy that sort of experience.

We think of Rogue-likes as freeware, although the article details attempts to commercialize them. In 1983, Epyx brought out Rogue, which was based on the original game, with various tweaks for different systems. It failed miserably.

There was also Telengard, from Avalon Hill, which had come out a year earlier (1982), and had a better visual presentation. The article doesn’t mention how well that one did. I played Telengard, way back then, but recall just about nothing of it.

I suspect that, as all the “big name” computers back then, except the TRS-80, had graphics, gamers wanted products that showed off the visuals, however primitive they may seem today.

Shucks, even Aklabeth had 3D dungeons, wireframe though they were. Ditto Wizardry, although they were in a tiny window, where Aklabeth had full-screen.

What astonished me, however, is that no mention is made of the game I wrote about in The First Rogue?, namely Beneath Apple Manor, which was commercially published in 1978. That would pre-date by two years the Rogue created by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman and distributed in 1980 with BSD Unix.

Regardless, the Rogue-like community, and Rogue-likes games, are still going strong today. Even with the split between those who are adding graphics and those who still use the “pure ASCII”, there is plenty for devotees to choose from. Some things are just so retro, they never go away.

The History of Rogue on gamasutra