Roguelike Definition

Roguetemple presents you a small and comprehensive list of several factors for evaluating the roguelikeness of a game; those may help you get an idea of what a roguelike is,

High Value Factors

Random Environment Generation

The game world and its contents are mostly procedurally generated with each game.

Permafailure (including Permadeath)

You must pay for your mistakes and choices, sometimes at the cost of life. Restoring games is discouraged and only provided to allow continuing split games.

Turn Based Interaction

All entities in the game world are queued in an endless loop and get their independant discrete turn to act.

Single command set

You can access all game commands from any place into the game. There are no artificial restrictions on what actions are available in a given game situation


Your game is not directly enrouted into a linear progression. You get to choose what you want to do, how and when

Middle Value Factors

Discovery mechanics

You must research or find out the nature and usages of the items into the world.

Single player

You control a lone character

Lots of content

There are lots of monsters, items, locations.

Complex non-trivial world and object interactions

Items have non-trivial usages, you can do some things which may not be obvious for the item nature.

Low Value Factors

High ramped difficulty

The game gets hard very quick and you are very unlikely to win until you have acquired enough experience.

Monsters are players

The nature of the monsters is similar to the player, they can have equipment, player-like stats, artificial intelligence and are subject to the same world rules.

Character-based display

The player interacts with the world via a user interface based on character symbols that represent UI artifacts and entities into the world.

Hack and Slash

Gameplay involves around killing things and acquiring treasure

10 thoughts on “Roguelike Definition

  1. Dwarf fortress is a roguelike, or so it’s been referred to round these parts.

    In dwarf fortress, you don’t control a lone character, and gameplay is not hack and slash.

    The rest still fit, though.

    Time for a revision!


  2. “In dwarf fortress, you donโ€™t control a lone character, and gameplay is not hack and slash.”
    Try DF’s adventure mode–it’s exactly that.


  3. I agree,

    DF is not a RL for me,
    Yes, one part of the game is a RL… but not all the game…

    I consider the game as a mix.
    RL / dwarf management ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Yep… what I mean is roguelikes are a mix; you are unlikely to find a game which complies with all of these factors, (unless it is Rogue or an extended version of it). Dwarf Fortress (in fortress mode) has a pretty high roguelikeness value, that is as far as we can go to determine if it is or not a roguelike.

    My suggestion goes for something like 3 points for high valued factors, 2 and 1 for middle and low. Thus DF would get some respectable 19/27 roguelike points, GearHead gets 22/27, and so on (Aquaria gets 7/27, for instance ๐Ÿ™‚ )


  5. Reguarding “Single command set”, I’m not so sure about this one. On one side, a troll-barbarian can *try* to do anything a gnome wizard can do, from a command perspective. On the other, I really don’t see the problem with removing the command for a barbarian to try and cast spells. Dragons breath fire, but do all players need a command to try and breath fire? I understand that a lot of RL’s have an open command set (and a lot of commands that don’t do jack), but I don’t think it’s on the high value list.

    I mean, “techniques” in slash’em break this rule. Specialized commands aren’t any more evil then specialized features, and specialized features are pretty much the basis for having variety in character creation.


  6. Maybe it is not clear enough… what I mean with ‘single command set’ is you can (try to) use any of your available actions at any moment; for example if you are in town you can cast fireball into the noble, innocent town major, your offensive actions are not restricted to the ‘battles’, all the game happens in the same ‘reality’ as per world rules; it doesnt matter if you have to go through a filtered menu, as long as the filter is not applied based on whatever situation you are in (with exception of your character skills or advancement). Other kind of games have different command sets depending on whether or not you are in combat, in a friendly town, in the overworld or an hostile area, or boarding a vehicle, or in a special minigame mode. You can’t cast Ultima over the people in Narshe you know.

    I’m open to discussion ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. I’m not so sure about that a high amount of content is in the medium, but certainly in the high; a good Roguelike has always followed the idea of many items and features, which when combined with the fourth part of that middle-list, you have a very interesting game with items and features used to the interest of the player and makes them more willing to play.

    Also, I would say that permafailure is not always important, considering you want to feel some sense of accomplishment instead of consistent death all the time.


  8. Ah, I understand now. However, I think that specific feature, murdering nobles in town, falls more under “Freedom” then “Single Command Set”. I still say it deserves to be bumped down to middle or low value.

    Perma-death is defiantly a high value.

    (also, your comment box thinks it’s about 4 characters wider then it actually is. hmmm, I am using an old version of IE…)


  9. I think that this is a good way to determine RL-ity. The usenet discussions on the subject usually boils down to each participant sporting his own set of rules of what is required, when in reality what defines the rougelikeity of a game is the of features, as you present here, which induvidually might be omitted without unrogueliking the game.


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