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Roguelike arcade?


Recently I took part in (and won) the 16th Blender game making challenge. This is a week long game jam for the blender game engine. It's always a good time to make quick prototype games and see what an idea might look like if it was brought to completion.

For the contest I made a super bomberman style game, but with some roguelike elements. You can play it at GameJolt.


You can see right away the level generation, made using a BSP tree algorithm. There's also grid based movement, and permanent death (you only get one life).

The AI was super simple to set up, and the whole game was so easy to program compared to a more "simulation" type RPG.

The theme of the competition was stealth, so in the game you should try to get past guards who have a limited field of vision, and an limited attention span. This makes stealth as a game plan a real possibility. They will follow you if they see you, but if they lose you they go back to patrolling. This made me think of stealth in RPGs, and made me think that no RPG I've every played ever had a satisfying stealth section. D&D pen and paper conversions are terrible for it. You sneak slowly towards the lone enemy and bam! They see you and kill you. Reload and try again... same result. It's all based on RNG, so basically luck. Don't even bother unless it's been scripted in to the storyline.

I'm hiding.

In a game like CRAZYBOMBNINJA the enemies are mostly dumb. They wander pretty much aimlessly, and it's pretty easy to take out a lone guard. The challenge comes when you've got a dozen or so enemies combing the area for you, or if you encounter one of the smarter and more persistent guards who sometimes roam the levels. Ducking and diving, running in to empty rooms, hiding behind boxes, shadowing the guard's movement as they walk around an obstacle. You feel rather like a ninja. :)

The question is, how could this be made to work in a more general RPG setting?


One problem is turn based movement. While the guard is taking their turn, they've got a good chance of seeing you and you can't do anything to evade them or duck back in to cover. All you can do is end your turn behind some boxes and trust to luck again.

Another problem is suspension of disbelief. In an arcade game we can accept that an enemy will go back to aimlessly patrolling when you disappear for a couple of seconds. But in an RPG, an alert guard stays alert. If an RPG NPC behaved as stupidly as an arcade game character it would make the game feel daft.

Related to that is the fact that in an RPG, failure in a stealth attempt means almost certain death for your rogue. This is a real problem in a game with permadeath. Why play a stealth character at all in that case?

Some ideas...

So what can we do? Today I was thinking of this and considered that stealth needs to be more of an active behavior. Instead of hiding from a guard, maybe our rogue needs to target him and do something to him. Think of a ninja throwing a stone to distract a guard or a thief hanging his coat on a stick to tempt a guardian in to leaving his post.

How the experts do it!

My concept is that the character with stealth skills can target an NPC and "spoof" them. This is an active feat, with a single target. If the attempt is successful, the guard can be made to move to a nearby point, or look in another direction, or even to miss a turn completely. In this way our character has a chance of getting in close for a backstabbing attack, pickpocketing a ring of keys from the guard's belt, or just bypassing them completely. We don't need to go through a slow walk animation of trying to sneak past only to be betrayed by RNG. There's no need to wait for the guard to randomly turn to face another direction. The character simply trades some mana, or activates one of their daily feat uses. If the attempt didn't work they can try again, or they can find another way of dealing with the guard. Perhaps poison darts from a dark doorway or just ask the barbarian to do it.

This gives us a nice set of feats that we can hand out to our rogue characters, from making it so distant enemies can't see me, to hiding in plain sight from a targeted enemy or spoofing an enemy agent in to walking in to a man trap. They can also have counter feats. See hidden enemies, find traps, avoid spoofing. A rouge vs rogue encounter could be quite fun.

For high level characters they could even use a smoke bomb to disappear and teleport to safety.

Arcade Roguelike?

The other thing this little game made me think about was the idea of making a more arcade style roguelike. With it's grid based, turn based gameplay and simple top down view, rogue already has some arcadeness going on. Instead of trying to make rogue more like a modern RPG with free movement, simulation style gameplay, longer turns etc... would it be interesting to explore making rogue more arcade like? I already added some code to CRAZYBOMBNINJA to make turn based movement possible (the enemies move on;y when you do, or if you press a wait key) and developing the inventory and gameplay to be more roguelike wouldn't be much of a problem.

I have to say, I'm tempted. Whenever I make these short games, with their simple gameplay and fast and loose code I feel like "Why do I keep trying to make a simulation?" Is it only me who want this 1990s era game with detailed inventory, realistic AI, slow turn based gameplay..? These days people seem to prefer the simplicity of a phone game. Not the complexity of an old CD ROM game.

How about a cat based Arcade RPG?


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