Friday, 27 July 2018

Roguelike definition – what are we missing?

There is some debate about “the definition” of a roguelike. Some argue that a roguelike must meet a list of essential features, but even those features are different depending on who you ask. What I think we are missing is the feel of the genre. It’s easier to feel than you would think. When we see a platformer or a RPG we can feel it from couple of generic features. Platformers have platforms you jump on and role-playing games have a RPG system with character classes, stats etc.

I feel that the essential feature of a roguelike is a top-down tile map of the game world with turn-based tactical gameplay. The gameplay should also have some role-playing features, but to increase the feel it better have a complex role-playing system similar to Dungeons & Dragons system. When we look at a roguelike as subset of role-playing game it’s easier to get the proper feel about it. The difference between a regular RPG and roguelike is randomly generated game world and permadeath, although it’s possible for a RPG to have some random features and permadeath. In similar manner some roguelikes can have static locations and various ways to restore the character after death. Even the classical roguelike Nethack has ‘bones’ for giving back some items from a previous character.

ASCII graphics makes the game feel more like an old school roguelike, but it’s not a decisive feature. The reason roguelikes had ASCII graphics was mainly a technical limitation and in broad sense ASCII tiles are “graphics”, too. They are just a way to represent something. Some roguelikes implement both ASCII and tile modes which work interchangeably and make no difference to the gameplay itself.

It’s quite easy to feel when the game is not a roguelike. It may look like one, but it’s often missing the complexity and size of so called major roguelike. These games have their own genre title as roguelites, but in some cases it can be argued if they are simply adventure and/or (action) role-playing games with some roguelike features. Games like Spelunky are sometimes thought as roguelikes, but for me Spelunky feels a lot like platformer game, it just has randomly generated levels. Random generation is not a feature only for roguelikes, it can be used in all genres. What makes it a feature of a roguelike is the proper context.

The problem of a flexible interpretation has been a saturation of the genre with games that in fact are not roguelikes. Some developers use the genre name in marketing, because it’s easier to get visibility for your game when you have a clear genre for it. When even developers think their game is a roguelike the genre has regressed from major roguelikes as standard to something else. It’s “acceptable” to define your game as roguelike when you have one or more features of a roguelike taken out of context.

Let’s be honest. We can all feel when the game is a roguelike. It’s all that matters, for both developers and players.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Nethack 3.6.1 thoughts

I think this release was slightly underwhelming. They fixed couple of things and it took two years. On the other hand it's understandable when you look at the mess which is Nethack's source code. It's not easy to maintain I would guess. Even so I was expecting more gameplay changes, new stuff etc. but it looks like they "freeze" this version branch and the next one will have more changes so people who want to continue play 3.6.x can do that. There are people who believe some specific version to be the only real Nethack.

The way player character's name is highlighted when your HP is not full is a nice feature, it's something you'll notice right away. Other thing I noticed is that $ keyboard command doesn't work when picking up items, but I did comment out "Finnish keyboard" section in defaults.nh, maybe I should try to comment it again to see if it works. In Finnish keyboard $ is typed as AltGr + 4 and some other keyboard commands are also different. Also, the .exe was acting strange way when I started it the first time, it hanged for like five minutes and then Windows 10 smartscreen catched it, but I ran it anyway. It may be just the smartscreen, it's warning about everything.

Even I'm whining I actually like Nethack. It's really the only roguelike game I'm playing even I'm not a good Nethack player. I know what happens in the game later, I've seen gameplay videos and tried in wizard mode, but I probably like the beginning before Quest more than anything else. It's the way things start to go, sometimes you get very lucky and sometimes you get hardships. The first time I tried this version I managed to blow up my pet with a gas spore, and then turned into a werewolf. I also learned something new: when you kick a pile of gold it scatters around. I had to try that to pick up only gold, because $ key doesn't work.

One of the reasons why roguelikes are nice games is that you don't have to win. At least it's what I think about the genre. Those people who want to win will push it through by learning strategies you need to win this game, but I think when you don't learn them it can be just as fun.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

GIMP 2.10.0 review

The first impression is positive (using Win10 version). It's faster than before and seems to use only small amount of cpu resources which is really great feature for a paint program. In comparison when you run something like that awful Windows 3D Paint it's way much demanding for the processor. Gimp is quite large software with 8000+ files so it's surprising how snappy and fast it feels.

It's designed mainly for image manipulation, but I think it's missing an opportunity to be more than that. I would not use it for serious art design only for the reason it has a context menu in right mouse button. And you can't configure it to anything else. For painting it would make much more sense to have a secondary color, eraser or something like that in the right button.

It also could have a "tiled" grid to show tile areas (when drawing tile graphics) with regular grid you could configure to pixel size. It does have a small preview for image, but that preview could be configured to show a small area in repeated mode to preview tile seams. Those are perfectly possible features to have, but I just know they will never do it. Another obvious but missing feature is any kind of shapes including a line (which is hidden in form of shift+pen).

Strangely Gimp does have a new brush engine which is quite nice so it's weird that they support painting that way. Also, another strange thing is that you can't put color editing on tabs, but there is a palette for selecting colors. When you need a new color you have to edit it on a pop-up window each color at a time. All this makes the software feel like it doesn't know what to do. Is it only a image editor or is it also a paint program?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Planning a new PC

My current Windows PC tower has served eight years and it's an affordable Acer. Not bad at all, but looks like it's getting into the end of its natural lifespan. I've tried to clean it, but it's running quite hot and the HD is going to fail some day, because Windows 10 is rotating it all the time.

Most towers these days are quite bad, for example all these small form cases. You just know they are going to fail keeping everything cold enough and it's harder to add parts or replace them etc. They still make regular size towers, but prices have gone up quite a bit. I guess one reason is that thing with video cards and maybe memory chips, too.

My plan is a quad core i5 with internal video chip, and then get video card later if it's needed. HP or Lenovo, they both make towers in that price range (~800 €). I think Acer is soon releasing a new range of towers, at least there seems to be a new model in their homepage, which doesn't even look that ugly. I could wait, it's possible that Acer is going to be 100 euros cheaper than other brands.

I hate technology. It's weird, I know. I do like programming and game design, but everything tech related makes me just sad and depressed. In case of PCs you pay shit ton of money and there is always something. It's like gambling when you get a new PC. Is it going to be fine? Does it have some annoying feature or part you have to change?

There would be more options if it wasn't this gaming bullshit. I can't stand how ugly those gaming computers look even if they had good options for the price. Everything is angular so you can't even put anything on top of the tower. Maybe I will change this blog to a lifestyle blog, me complaining about everything tech related.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Teemu on Github?

Lately I've been again working on Teemu 1.3 which seems to be another neverending project. I have thought about putting it on Github, but it would be for no good reason at this point, since while the project can be compiled there is no gameplay yet. You can walk around and do stuff, but everything is a work in progress.

I'm not sure if this needs to be asked even, I could just put it there. I'm sure no one even cares if it's unfinished or not. However it could be somewhat interesting at least for myself to track changes I make in this kind of project which is way larger than The Prowler. Teemu is starting to reach a role-playing game with its RPG system stub placed in the code.

So I guess I might put it in Github after cleaning up the mess with namespace names (I made several namespaces finnish which was not that good idea after all). It obviously will ruin surprises I've been planning for the game, but again like no one cares. People wouldn't even notice it's there.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Follow The Prowler on Github

The procedural style project I've been talking about is The Prowler (project name). I decided to put it on Github:

Although it feels like I entered a rabbit's hole when introducing myself to Git. The process is automated in Visual Studio, but one thing I've not managed to figure out is how to remove .sln and .vcxproj files from the repository. When I look it seems I wrote vxproj to .gitignore, so there is one error. But .sln is in it and VS still wants to include it in the repository. There doesn't seem to be possibility to remove project files from VS project (which does sound a bit weird) same way as you would 'exclude' a file from the project (not in the project, but still exists as a file).

I guess it's ok to include project files for those who use Visual Studio, but if I study git for 34 years it could be possible to learn how to remove those files. It sure feels that nothing comes easy when talking about git, an open source... thing.

Now I begin to understand why open source developers never get anything done. They are just wondering all the time how to do something simple and trying to figure out the exact proper sequence of commands to use.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Modules with procedures

Experiences so far from a procedural C++ game project have been somewhat interesting. It's divided into modules which at the moment are Datatype, File, Function (for generic functions), Gui and the main module. Most of the code is in the Gui as you would expect. What I have learned is that procedural code seems to be "shorter" than writing classes, but it looks strangely messy. Maybe it's just that I don't quite know how to write clean looking procedural code.

Another interesting part is the Datatype class where I made a decision to use inheritance which may sound weird in this context. I'm using as much inheritance as I can, for example Rectangle class inherits from both Point and Size classes. And I have a feeling this is how I should have done this in the first place in my other projects as well. Using inheritance in this kind of limited context is easy and doesn't seem to have any problems this far. I had to name generic "Set" functions for Point to "Locate" and for Size "Resize" which is I guess better way to describe them. Using inheritance avoids repeating type of data and code for datatypes.

The graphics engine which is less than 300 lines of code in Gui can already display everything it needs: background tiles and letters with different colors. The next step could be the division of screen to three areas: gameview, message window and stats window.