Game Design Analysis: Roguelikes and roguelites

This week we’ll be talking about roguelike and roguelite games. What’s the difference between these two genres? Why are we seeing so many of them being made? And why exactly to they seem so addicting? We’ll look into it here now.

First let’s talk about the difference between the two genres. Like the Metroidvania genre, roguelikes and roguelites take their names from a retro game of the same name “Rogue” which was released in 1980 on Unix based systems and Atari. The coding for the game is now open-source and has since been ported to macOS, PC, and Linux operating systems. The general idea of Rogue was that it was a turn based dungeon crawler that implemented perma-death and a fully procedurally generated game. Since then, the formula has seen some renewal and some building upon. A couple years later, two games called Hack and Moria reused this system becoming the first in a long line of roguelikes. Some time later as home gaming consoles became more popular, dev studios decided that permadeath made for too difficult of a game and decided to make some adjustments to the formula to appeal to a larger audience. This is how we came to have roguelites which incorporate elements of the game Rogue, with some major adjustments such as a change in primary genre from turn based to things such as hack n’ slash or platforming or by making the game incrementally easier by allowing you to unlock more equipment and abilities between playthroughs. So to summarize, roguelikes stick more truly to the original Rogue game as turn-based, permadeath, procedurally generated games. Roguelites keep hold of some elements such as procedural generation and premadeath, but also include incremental upgrades between playthroughs and/or a change in the primary genre from turn-based to something else.

An image of Rogue from the wiki site

Nowadays it’s rare to see a true roguelike game as most devs have found roguelite’s to be more successful and allow for much more creative freedom. But now let’s talk about what makes them so popular. Well if you’ve ever played an incremental idle game before you might know the answer to this one. Progress in itself is addicting. When you put time and/or effort into something, any minor bit of progress is very exciting. We feel this in the case of most games, but because that progress is constant the feeling can oversaturate a bit. With roguelite games you get just enough of a break between moments of progress that when you eventually do get farther or hit a new milestone it can be an incredibly exciting experience. However, it’s not a perfect formula, as there is a delicate balancing act in making sure the player doesn’t receive too much progress too easily and also that they don’t go too long without making any progress and getting bored. That’s why you can see a wide variety of roguelite games, but some may not be quite as fun or interesting as others are.

Hopefully this sheds some light on the nature of roguelikes and roguelites. If you want a few suggestions for getting into modern day roguelites, I’d recommend Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy which I actually have a review article for that you can follow the link below to get to! Or you can follow the other links to buy the products off of Humble Bundle where a portion of your payment supports me and another portion of it goes to charity!

Click to check out my article on Rogue Legacy
Click to buy Rogue Legacy
Click to buy The Binding of Isaac

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