The Roguelike wiki last edited by MuttersomeTaxicab on 07/17/14 01:02PM View full history


The genre's main characteristics have traditionally been defined by the game that gave it its name - Rogue. However as the games it inspired grew in complexity and ambition, an exact definition became increasingly hard to peg down.

The Berlin Interpretation

The 2008 International Roguelike Development Conference produced a definition of the roguelike genre called the "Berlin Interpretation". It put forth the games ADOM, Angband, Dungeon Crawl, Nethack, and Rogue as the canon of the genre, and listed a set of criteria to be used to determine to which degree a game fit within Roguelike genre.

Note that not all roguelikes necessarily adhere to all the following factors. Even the canonical roguelikes ADOM and Angband are not completely non-modal, for example.

High value factors

  • Random environment generation - The game world itself is randomly generated, but also items and their description/appearance are randomized for each playthrough.
  • Permadeath - You only have one life, and when you die you restart with all progress lost.
  • Turn-based - The game does not advance in real time, and instead only reacts once the player has taken an action.
  • Grid-based - The game world is divided into a uniform grid, where the player and all enemies and items occupy a single tile regardless of actual size.
  • Non-modal - The game has only one gameplay mode, where every possible player action is always available.
  • Complexity - In spite of having only one mode, the game provides multiple approaches to dealing with its challenges, usually through a complex system of interactions between items and/or enemies.
  • Resource management - The player has limited resources, and needs to use what he finds effectively.
  • Hack'n'slash - Killing numerous enemies is the dominant part of the gameplay. Enemies have few concerns beyond killing the player.
  • Exploration and discovery - The world is unknown and has to be explored to discover its contents. The nature of items and equipment is similarly unknown, and has to be discovered through use or identification skills/powers.

Low value factors

  • Single player character - The game is centered on and experienced through a single player character, and ends with that character's death.
  • Monsters are similar to players - The player and his enemies follow the same rules.
  • Tactical challenge - Learning the appropriate tactics is important, and generally neccessary before any significant progress can be made.
  • ASCII display - Roguelikes started out with only using ASCII characters to display their worlds, and it remains a staple of the genre.
  • Dungeons - Dungeons, with distinct rooms and connecting corridors, divided into separate levels.
  • Numbers - The raw numbers the game uses to describe the character current condition and abilities are exposed to the player.


The roguelike genre has influenced a number of games that some commentators have referred to as "roguelike-likes," which combine some elements of roguelikes with other styles of gameplay. Diablo and its descendants were inspired in part by roguelikes and share many of their characteristics, with the main difference being that Diablo is real time instead of turn-based. A number of well-known independent titles such as The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky and FTL have integrated roguelike elements like permadeath, randomized environments, and management of limited resources. Since the rise of more modern re-imaginings of roguelike elements, the term has frequently come under fire as being generically and rhetorically unclear and of little value to new players of the genre. As such, a few attempts have been made to coin a more descriptive (and therefore more utile) term that should replace "roguelike." Foremost among them is Procedural Death Labyrinth, as suggested by game developer Lars Doucet.

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