I love playing Roguelikes. I love playing Roguelites. There is a difference between the two but a lot of times people debate and it just leads to nothing. Sometimes games are labelled as “roguelikes” but they’re actually “rogue-lites”. Sometimes people label games as “rogue-lites” based on one factor and one alone… and that’s kind of wrong, in my opinion. In the end, it doesn’t make a difference, really. As long as you enjoy them, it doesn’t matter what other people call them, right?
Well,… it would be boring if I were to just leave it at that, as I personally think that there is a difference between rogue-lites and roguelikes.
Faster Than Light would be a roguelike for me. Pawnbarian? Roguelike! The Binding of Isaac? Roguelite! Hades? Roguelite!
Now, the original game (can be found all over the internet but also on steam) that defined the genre of “Rogue-likes” was, as the name suggests, the 1980 game “Rogue”! It was an ASCII based game that featured turn-based combat, procedural generation and permadeath. While it was hard and challenging, it was also rather strategic and allowed you to step back, think about your next move, and then go on. All games that are like “Rogue” are rogue-likes, duh. Games that are like Roguelikes but aren’t exactly Roguelikes would be Roguelike-likes or Roguelites! Games that aren’t grid-based or that aren’t turn-based, for instance, would fall into that category. There are some people in the gaming community that define roguelikes and rogue-lites just by the amount of permanent character progression in the game, which I personally feel is wrong. I think that that’s a feature that shouldn’t define a genre. Whether or not a game features permanent character progression doesn’t matter for me when I tag a game as a rogue-lite or a roguelike in one of my reviews.
So, Pawnbarian, for instance, features grid-based, turn-based combat that allows you to be rather strategic about the way you play. Slay The Spire may not be grid-based but it still is a rogue-like for me since the combat feels rather strategic to me. Meanwhile, Hades is more of a rogue-lite in my opinion as it adds a lot more to the original rogue-formula than just action and character progression. It adds dialogues, a story, permanent resources, cosmetics, and even fishing into the game. It’s a rogue-lite in my opinion.
Technically speaking my favourite Pokémon games are roguelikes: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a great series that features dungeon-crawling with turn-and-grid-based combat as well as resource-management. I’m not sure if other people would agree with me here, but in my opinion, that’s quite a lot like Rogue… or quite rogue-like!
But hey, opinions change and I’d love to hear more about your opinions on the matter so that I could educate myself. As far as I know, there is also the Berlin Interpretation that defines eight high-value factors and six low-value factors. Among the high-value factors, there’s procedural or random dungeon generation, permadeath, turn-based gameplay, non-modal gameplay, a degree of complexity, resource management for survival, hack and slash -ish based gameplay, and exploration. Having more of these features or fewer of them doesn’t exclude or include a game. It just makes a game “more roguelike” or “less roguelike”.
While I agree with a lot of these features, I’m not entirely sure what to do with the Berlin Interpretation. I guess, you could grade games in those aspects and then compare them to other games to decide whether or not the game is a roguelike or not… but generally speaking, I doubt that I’d ever use that interpretation/definition.
Instead, I tend to go with the strategy aspect vs. other approach definition. Most of the time, I go with how I feel about a game and I’m sure I misclassified some of my reviews… but generally speaking, I don’t think that Diablo or Minecraft are roguelikes and I do think that Isaac is a rogue-lite. My blog, my rules!
Hope you enjoyed this post! I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for ages now and am glad, I got to make it. Going more in-def with some of this stuff would have been boring, so I tried to keep it light… or should I say… lite? :^)
Do you care about that stuff? If so, what definition do you use? What’s important for you? Let me know!
This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.
I agree with you. Roguelike are strategic while roguelites are tactical.
It so happens that its much easier to be strategic when combat is turn based rather than action.
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Exactly! Nicely summed up! Can I borrow your talent with words?:)
Alright, ranting time! I’m a huge nerd when it comes to classifying/categorising stuff, and here’s my opinion: Creating genres that are tied to (massively popular) other games is bad. Rogue-Likes, Soulsbourns, Metroidvanias…trying to label your game as “like that other game” only has disadvantages. You might think that it’s helpful, sparking interest in people who already enjoyed the “original” game. However, that seldomly works.
Basically, you have two options: 1) Stick closely to what made the OG work or 2) Bend the rules a little bit and put in your own stuff. Both options have obvious problems: 1) If you religiously stick to the script, then there’s no real reason to choose the new game over the original. Even worse, a ton of games end up simply copying the mechanics, without understanding what made the OG work in its own context. No matter what you do, you will almost always end up with an inferior game…
2) So you’ve chosen to mix it up a bit? Maybe your rogue-like isn’t grid-based any longer, and you’ve softened up the permadeath-rule a bit. Maybe you’ve added some platforming elements to your game, or it’s not turn-based? Where does it end? When is your rogue-like no longer a rogue-like? As you mentioned, nowadays the definition is more of a personal matter than a clearly defined set of rules, but I can guarantee you that hardcore fans of the OG (which you, as a dev, wanted to appeal to in the first place, remember?) will complain about the changes rather sooner than later. And those who don’t care haven’t been intrigued by the “rogue-like” label in the first place…
Obviously, the definition first came from the players, not the developers, but nowadays these terms are very much treated as fully-fledged genres by everybody. Why would any dev think it’s a good idea to advertise a game with “Hey, we tried to copy X game”? Of course, taking inspiration is necessary, and even encouraged, but let your game speak for itself! Can you imagine that in other media? “Lord of the Ring-Likes” or “Mozarthovens”? That’s ridiculous!
Genres are about taking a common theme, topic, mechanic, or style, and creating an experience around that. Horror-Movies, Shooter-Games, HipHop-Music. Naturally, everything is influenced by what came before it, but actively trying to emulate something, INCLUDING its flaws, strikes me as…well, as a bit dumb.
Think of it from the perspective of someone who does not know video games. “This is a shooting game” – “Ah, so you shoot stuff!” – “This is a horror game” – “Okay, so I’m going to be scared…” – “This is an adventure game” – “A bit tricky, but I’d imagine I’ll go on a journey of some sort?” –
“And this is a roguelike” – “So…like a rogue. I’m a criminal, got it!” – “What are you, stupid? No, of course not! It’s a procedurally generated, turn- and grid-based dungeon-crawler with perma-death! What else could it be?” – “…” – “…” – “I’m going to beat your ass…”
Sorry, I got a bit derailed there. My main point is: If you’re going to let yourself be limited by some arbitrary definitions (and the missteps of old games), you’ll end up with an inferior result. Taking inspiration is fine, but when you (as a dev) think you have to include a mechanic or leave something else out, just because the OG had or did not have it, you need to slap yourself in the face! Make *your* game, stick to the very basic definitions of genres and let the players figure out if and which games it is similar to…
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CONTEXT: Thomas aka Quietschisto and I are “friends” or “frenemies” if you wanna use any of those terms and we love each other in a good way. So, everything we say is meant “with love and peace”.
I get your point, Thomas, but I feel like the “old genres” don’t always help out. If you don’t get what a term means, then you google it. This isn’t the day and age of having to go to the village elder to ask what a term means. If a term doesn’t fit into a specific genre, it defines a new genre. That’s just how it goes. If we’d take all the ARPGs, JRPGs and MMORPGs out there and would just define them all as “RPGs” people – by your example – would think that it’s a game where you shoot people with a rocket launcher. Doesn’t make sense really, right? But if they already know what a roleplaying game is, they’d be confused as to why a JRPG is suddenly the same as an ARPG. Some Roguelikes have RPG-mechanics in them but they aren’t RPGs. Catch my drift?
Roguelikes basically have their own fanbase and a lot of people like games that are like Rogue, despite them not liking Rogue. Of course, you’re gonna upset the hardcore-rogue-fanbase but who cares about those boomers anyway, right? Like, you don’t make games to appeal to hardcore fans of old games, usually. You make games to make games. You may have a goal in mind or a target audience but generally speaking, roguelikes are a genre that Grammarly doesn’t even underline for me. Roguelikes are a genre of games with permadeath, procedural generation and some sort of strategic elements to them, like turn-based movement and combat. Meanwhile, there are games that are like roguelikes but not that much like Rogue – these have more tactical elements to them and focus more on decision-making, more fluid combat or maybe some other more abstract features.
And it’s fine to agree to disagree here, Thomas, but I loved hearing your opinion even if it isn’t the same as mine. I’m sure you hate the Roguevania term as well. :)
Boomer? You’re, like, two years younger than me! xD Ah, well, time for some more angry old-man noises:
1: Yes, I agree, games have evolved and only using the most basic genre-definitions does no longer cut it. That’s why subgenres have evolved. But that point of my argument was meant more as a joke :-) I won’t go into any further detail here regarding my personal opinions toward genre definitions, as this is a whole other can of worms and would “explode the frame” (hehe, lil’ joke here). If you are interested in those opinions, when I started my blog, I began writing a series about it. While it clearly shows that I was just starting out back then, I still stand by most of my opinions there. As always, we can discuss this anytime, anywhere.
2: “you make games to make games”. 100 %, yes! As long as this is what you (as a dev) do, I have nothing against calling your game a roguelike, roguelite, roguevania, feet-simulation, or anything else. That is not what I so eloquently described as “a bit dumb”. However, if you start to feel that you *need* to adhere to some arbitrary limitations that would harm your game, just because some boomer (your words^^) said “yeah, I’m gonna call that the definition”, *that’s* the dumb thing.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like many devs fall into that trap. Let’s say a made-up dev has a great idea for a video game, and it features a lot of the classic elements of a metroidvania (exploration-based; a connected world; ability-upgrades). Let’s say the game is all about keeping momentum (not literally, but from a “game-feeling” point of view). However, the “basic rules” of the metroidvania genre dictate that some areas need to be cut off unless you have the right upgrade. So, he makes players hit a brick wall. All the momentum is lost. The game is objectively worse for it (in this specific made-up example, at least), and only because he forced himself to check all boxes in the definition.
Like I said in my original response: Make your game the best you can and let the players figure out the definition afterwards. Look at nature: What if we found some type of spider that doesn’t lay eggs but births their offspring? It is up to the scientist to re-define the term “spiders”, invent a new “category” of spiders, or do whatever a spider-scientist does. You said it yourself: “If a term doesn’t fit into a specific genre, it defines a new genre”. Either that, or the definitions needs to be broadened/reworked.
I don’t think that developers are the only ones to blame here: Players, as well, need to stop clinging to those aforementioned arbitrary rules! So what if the game does not have ASCII graphics? If the game is objectively better for it, then they should celebrate the change and add it to the definition. As an example: I think Pokemon Stadium is a cool game. From a gameplay-perspective, it’s a rail-shooter. However, you don’t shoot the Pokemon with a gun, but make snap”shots” with your camera. So what should we do? Should we say “Nope, there’s no gun, so it’s no shooter and the game can go fuck itself”? Or should we say “Hey, that’s a cool idea! I never thought a shooter could do/be that. Hm, I guess we need to add ‘cameras’ to the possibilities of the shooter formula…”?
This might seem as it would go against what I said about genres, but it doesn’t. When I said “stick to the basic definitions of genres”, I did not mean to say “only old genres are good”, but I meant that when creating your game, you should not beat yourself up over needlessly complex definitions, but stick to the general meaning of the word genre (as in “a bunch of stuff grouped together by topic, theme, style, etc”).
What I DID say was that if a dev wanted to coin a new genre, basically calling it “Game X copy” maybe isn’t a smart move. I also think that the definitions of roguelikes and most other of these types of genres are too complex and abstract. There is no “super”genre (as opposed to a “sub”genre) they would fit into. For example: Horror, Comedy, and Romance all have something in common – the mood, if you so will. You can compare them, mix and match them (although one will always be the dominant genre, like a Shooter with RPG-elements), and combine them with other “super”genres (ie, a comedic puzzle game)
Where does a roguelike fit in? Can you compare roguelikes to platformers? No because there is no mechanical definition for roguelike. Can you compare them to Stealth Games? No because there is no challenge-bound definition for roguelike. Since not even the definition of the term roguelike itself is clear any longer (is it the Berlin Interpretation? Is it only part of it?) we can’t even agree on which games are part of that genre. Instead, we (not we, as Dan and Thomas but we, as players) squabble about if they should be called roguelikes or -lites and can’t even agree on the definitions of what should only be one thing, really.
Phew, that got pretty heated again :-) Not bad for an old-timer like me, eh? So, what would I have us do?
I’d propose agreeing on a very broad definition of the term roguelike (for example what you said: perma-death and procedural generation) and not using it as a genre of its own, but more like a prefix. For example: Spelunky is a roguelike platforming game. Binding of Isaac is a roguelike Shoot-em-Up. Doom is a “blank” (as in: not a roguelike or anything, just no prefix) shooter (if you really wanted to, you could use the first-person prefix, I guess…)
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CONTEXT: Thomas aka Quietschisto and I are “friends” or “frenemies” if you wanna use any of those terms and we love each other in a good way. So, everything we say is meant “with love and peace”.
I know I know, I’m just kidding. :D Zoomer. Fine? Fine!
1: I know that it was a joke (at least I understood parts of it as a joke), which is why I went for the “ok boomer” response, initially. :D We gotta talk more about it on a podcast someday :P Once I figure that stuff out eventually :D
2: Agree, being forced to do things that you don’t want to do is dumb. :)
Uh…. 3 (or still 2?… you know that other paragraph there!): Uh, yes, I think I get what you mean… but in that case, the developer could have just gone with the definition but still kept the momentum. In Guacamelee, for instance, the game is quite linear but a lot of secrets and secret areas are locked behind things that you can’t reach without upgrades you get later on. You can fight against enemies without any issues and unlock upgrades and progress through the game while keeping your momentum. When you find out about an upgrade that allows you to deal with yellow bricks, however, you may remember those yellow bricks in the past levels that were a bit random… so you backtrack and discover the secret there. No moment lost. You still followed the path you wanted to follow. You just backtrack later and you’re rewarded with the hell level, for instance, that is actually DLC content. :)
Paragraph 4: Uh, yeah, definitions sometimes need to be reworked. Take “Mohrkopf”, for instance. That sweet chocolate thingy filled with… cream?… idk… that stuff… that thing got renamed to “Schaumkuss” because “Mohr” is offensive in German. Bad example, I know, but sometimes you have to re-define terms, names, genres, etc. The goal of my post was to take common terms and definitions and explain how I fell about them on top of informing about the Berlin Interpretation that I don’t like… and then coming to a conclusion about why I call Ring of Pain a Roguelike and not a Roguelite, for instance. Just a personal thing. Obviously, if you go for Dead Cells, for instance… a Roguelite game that has Metroidvania mechanics… then you may come to the conclusion that this could be a genre on its own and the developers ended up calling it a Roguevania! Sounds cool, I like it. I like the idea of Roguevanias but not everyone has to agree with them. :)
Uh, Paragraph 5?: I think you mean Pokémon Snap and not Pokémon Stadium. Anyways, it’s a rail-shooter where you shoot photos. (In German: Es ist in Gleis-Shooter, in dem du Fotos schießt.) – Also, Bioshock allows you to shoot photos, too. Just saying. :P
Uh, I feel like genres are defined by players and developers make games that fit into specific genres. Genres are there to make it easier for players to find games that are in specific genres that they like, resulting in them finding more games to play. Steam adds Genres and Tags to games. “Villain Protagonist” is not a genre, it’s a tag… but Steam has it there in the Genre-List to make it easier for people to find the game. (That’s what today’s post is gonna be about btw) – So, tags and genres are there for people to find cool games easier. I use them quite a lot. I like roguelikes, I like Pixel Art, I like great soundtracks…. I like evil protagonists…. Oh, what’s this? Skul: The Hero Slayer? Sounds like a cool game! (Review soon! SPOILER: It’s a cool game.)
Disagree, I don’t think there’s genres that work for everything or as you call them “super-genres”. Within Shooter games (is that a super-genre?), there are Loot Shooters, Shooter-RPGs, Battle Royale Shooters, FPS, Third-Person Shooters, etc. and these sub-genres are there so that people that like playing Borderlands can find other games that are similar to Borderlands. “Oh, you like getting cool weapons/loot in shooters? Try out destiny!” – “Oh, you like playing Lord of the Flies but with guns and lots of people? Try Battle Royale games… with guns…”
Sure, there are settings/topics/moods in games that can be summed up or labelled as tags so that people can find sad or happy games or romantic ones, etc. but in the end uh… there’s no point really discussing this right now. I doubt it’s worth it to write a comment on this. I’ll just write a post on it sometime soon.
Uh, idk, now you’re being weird. Platformers is a genre. Roguelikes/lites are a genre. Stealth Games are a genre. Why do you want to stick one into the other? I mean… Mammals are animals. Reptiles are animals. Fishes are animals. Do you want to stick some crocodiles into squirrels? Doesn’t make sense! If you’re looking for a Roguelite-Stealth-Game, try out Deadbolt by Hopoo Games! Great Game! Review Soon!
Didn’t get heated, you were just being weird, you boomer. :P :D
I don’t know. I use my definitions because this is my blog and I wanted to make this post and you wrote a whole post (is that a guest post?) under my blog… what is wrong with you, Thomas? :P Have a nice day.
Haha, I know I fucked up those numbers. Also, yes, everything here is just friendly banter. I’m enjoying this wayyy too much to be angry or anything. Alright, on to the comment:
We agree on 1) and 2), good. That’s half the battle. Also, I’m up for a podcast, if you ever figure it out^^
3) I purposefully used a completely made-up example as not to get counter-arguments about stuff that works. Alas, that didn’t work out :-) Of course, when devs make it work, then it’s all fine and dandy. That was not the point. The point was, when it does not work, devs should not feel the need to stick to some arbitrary rules, but find a way to own it and make it work. Sadly, that does not always seem to be the case. This was more or less an example for point 2), rather than a separate point, anyway.
4) I wasn’t trying to insinuate that your personal definitions of “roguelike” and “roguelite” were wrong. Instead, I was trying to convey that the two terms are pretty ill-defined to begin with. The fact that “personal opinion” has even a place in what should be an objective, general definition shows that something is not quite right. I agree with your statement that some games that technically are roguelikes can sometimes feel more like roguelites and vice versa.
Still 4) If we’re hellbent on keeping roguelikes a genre of its own, then I think we should broaden it, instead of excluding roguelites. Obviously, the rules of roguelikes are no longer suited to encompass all of the games in the genre. But instead of saying “okay, a roguelike does not necessarily be a dungeon crawler” (which is what we should have said), we started with “nah, that’s no roguelike. That’s a roguelite at best”. As I have stated, I’m unsure if roguelikes should even be a genre of their own, but I’m convinced that roguelites should just fall under the same definition.
5) Yes, Pokemon Snap. Other than that, the example of re-defining a genre is still good, I think. Oh, and yes, Bioshock let’s you shoot photos, but that alone would not make it a shooter (apart from the fact that BioShock is a Shooter to begin with). If we want to draw a comparison here: Far Cry 3 has racing missions. Still, it is a Shooter, and not a Racing game. Just because you *can* do something does not define the game’s genre. A game’s genre is defined by the element(s) you simply cannot take away. Example: Borderlands. take away the leveling and loot system (RPG mechanics), and you still have a Shooter. But take away the guns, what do you have? Nothing at all. Therefore, Borderlands is a Shooter (with heavy RPG-elements). It is not a “real” RPG, though.
6) (we are at your paragraph “Uh, I feel genres are defined by players…”) You are right, but I don’t think devs should try to make games that fit those player-made descriptions. Devs should make the most awesome game they can think of, regardless if it fits into those rules or not. The players have to adapt their definitions to those new breed of games. That’s how it worked in the old days (I’m going to get called a boomer again, aren’t I?^^), and how we got classic, genre-defying (and subsequently -defining) games we still hold dear today. I know I said this already multiple times, but it is pretty much my main point.
Still 6) I agree, tags and genres are completely different things. Genres are for grouping together games (or other media) by their defining elements (as I said before). Tags, on the other hand, are a collection of traits that might be interesting (or a turn-off) for some people. Those tags are often only loosely defined and can mean a lot of things. Even if they can share names with genres, I think we must keep them apart at all costs. To stick to the “Racing” example: The genre “Racing” means that the main purpose of the game is to…well, race (in what manner is not specified here). A “Racing” tag does not mean that it is a Racing Game (genre-wise), but can mean that there is a racing mission, or that you have an online mode dedicated to racing, or something entirely different. Come to think of it, racing was probably a bad example, as it is pretty hard to do other than the genre-typical racing stuff…still, I think you catch my…drift (see what I did there?)
7) There’s not a set of genres that are supergenres. I meant it like if a genre contains subgenres, then it is the supergenre to these subgenres. For example: Fantasy is a subgenre in the supergenre of “Setting-based genres”. Fantasy is also the supergenre for stuff like “Hight Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy” etc. Kind of like “Überbegriff” in German.
Still 7) So what I was trying to say: Roguelikes do not fit in anywhere. They have no defined setting, mechanic, mood, or anything. They kind of are defined by some challenges (perma-death), but there is no distinction made between any other set of genres. Roguelikes have no supergenres and no subgenres. They cannot really have those, because they are poorly defined (as I’ve said multiple times, I know, but that is my other main point)
8) I don’t want to stick one thing into another. I try to save this urge for…other occasions :-) But I like the genres:animal comparison because it is a bit inaccurate. Genres are not animals. Games are animals. Genres are mammals, fish, birds, insects etc. This point was an addition to my point 7, really. It just shows that they do not fit in anywhere. Animals, like games, are classified by their defining elements (fish lay eggs, have gills, etc). With roguelikes, people are throwing together a bunch of criteria that have nothing to do with each other. It would be like grouping together all animals that are “brown, lay eggs, and can sneeze” (it’s a crass example, but I believe it holds up).
All in all, I still think roguelikes and the likes should not be seen as a genre, but rather as tags or prefixes or something like that, because they are pretty far away from the definition of any other genre out there. It is fine that you use your own definitions (it’s even necessary), but that’s the point. You HAVE to use your own definition, and you have to explain them beforehand. You wouldn’t need to with any other genre. You wouldn’t say “Today I’ll talk about Stealth games. Since it is unsure what that means, here’s what I believe Stealth Games mean”
Admittedly, there are other genres with unclear definitions (looking at you, RPGs and Adventures…), but I’d say that stems more the fact that games nowadays have evolved to be pretty complex and people haven’t stopped to think about the defining factors of those games (if you’re interested, I was able to find a good and clear definition for RPGs, at least).
Finally, ad guest post: To be honest, I thought about not commenting or only commenting some bare-bones thoughts, and then publish some kind of response-post on my own site, but I figured if I’m going to make a point and/or start a discussion, I might as well do it right :-) But you know me, my comments always are basically posts of their own (but without pictures and editing^^). I’ll never be sorry for blowing up anyone’s comment section, though! xD
However, discussing things in that magnitude would be infinitely easier and better in person, and I’d be happy if that would be a reality sometime after Corona :-)
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I hate video game genres. Like…actually.
Due to the complexity of defining roguelikes and the pedantic nature categorizing and differentiating between roguelike and roguelite I gave up on trying to label a game as either years ago. The term roguelite isn’t even widely accepted outside of an inner circle of super nerds, which means in terms of genres it isn’t useful to actually make a distinction between the two.
Sidebar: Pokémon MD has a lot more in common with Rogue than every other game you’ve listed in your article. PMD is a Pokémon skinned Mystery Dungeon game, which was originally a Japanese take on Rogue that aimed to simplify the game while introducing the Japanese market to the popular Western PC game. The more you know. :p
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I mean, may have poorly phrased it but I meant that Pokémon MD is more of a Roguelike than Isaac or the other games I mentioned there. Isaac is a roguelite in my opinion. As Asmiroth said, Roguelites are more tactical while Roguelikes are more strategic – at least in my eyes and in his eyes. :P
But I get where you are coming from. Is a game considered Horror or rather a thriller? Is a game survival-ish enough to be considered a Survival game? Genres are a fickle pickle but I feel like I have to give context to why I’m labelling them like that in my reviews. Just something I do. :)
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