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Official Development State classification

  • Major Roguelikes: Tested by time and found worthy, these are the representatives of the roguelike genre.
  • Stable games: Playable games in their current state, these roguelikes merely lack a few thousand rabid fans to become the next generation of representatives.
  • Beta Projects: Released for public consumption, but not yet considered a complete game. The public is warned that they might want to await a more final release.
  • Alpha Projects: Released by their developers as a proof of work, although not yet playable.
  • Talkie Talkie Projects: Projects that have been discussed, but for which no actual code or executable has been seen.

Roguelike engines

There also exist roguelike engines, which are not really games, but rather a way to build new games easily. See the RogueLike Engines page.

Evolutionary Branch Classification

These are the two main evolutionary branches taken from Rogue. Of course, many roguelikes belong to neither branch, especially the newer ones which take ideas from other gaming genres such as simulation and strategy. (Rogue itself, for example, can't be meaningfully ascribed to one branch or the other)

  • Hacklike. These are games that owe inspiration primarily from the Hack line of games. NetHack is the most advanced in this genre. ADOM and Crawl may also be considered Hacklikes.
  • Band. These are games which owe inspiration from the Moria line of games. Properly, this would only refer to Angband and its variants (see Angband Variants), but one can extend it to other games with similar playstyle. Diablo is considered a Band by those who consider it a roguelike.

Another way to look at this is to build a tree of roguelike evolution. One problem with this approach is how to draw the lines. In some cases, it may be clear that one roguelike derives from another. NetHack continued with the source code of Hack, so a connection seems clear. Othertimes it is more difficult. Where does ADOM fit? It is a Hacklike, but doesn't share any code from any other roguelikes. Similarly, Avanor is based on the gameplay of ADOM, but again shares no code.

              Rogue
    ____________|_____________
   |     |      |             |
 Moria  Larn  Omega         Hack
   |            |             |
Angband         |          Nethack
                |   __________|__________
                |  |    |        |       |
                ADOM  Zap'm  Slash'em  Crawl


Schematic family tree of popular roguelike games, showing inheritance by playstyle.

What I think we should do is create a series of differentiators for Roguelikes. We can then have a standard nomenclature for describing Roguelikes and then can determine what taxonomic groups of roguelikes we should create.

List of Differentiators:

  • Plot vs No Plot. A plot based Roguelike has a non trivial plot. Note that quests, "kill the bad guy at the bottom", etc, do not constitute a non-trivial plot. Plot based roguelikes would be ADOM and Gearhead
  • Persistent Dungeons. Persistent dungeons imply many differences to gameplay. They often mean you have a finite number of resources available. On the other hand, they mean you have unlimitted storage capacity. They also mean there may be little alternative to facing a bad encounter. Pacing thus differs radically, and this becomes a significant differentiator. ADOM, despite the infinite dungeon, would be in the Persistent Dungeon camp. Bands are almost uniformly non-persistent dungeons.
  • Equipment Upgrade Path. How likely are you to finalize a piece of equipment early in your game? Bands tend to have a deep upgrade cycle, where a large part of the game is chosing when and how to upgrade. Hacklikes tend to have a trivial equipment upgrade, where the difficulty part may be acquiring the equipment rather than deciding whether to use it.
  • Inventory Size. A relatively wide spectrum is present here. Bands often have fixed inventory slots that make this an important part of the game. However, NetHack also has limited inventory - 52 slots or so, until one acquires a bag. Even with a bag, items in the bag are not in ready reach. ADOM, by contrast, allows one to cart along pages of inventory provided one has the Strength of Atlas spell.
  • Dungeon Size. Do dungeon levels fit on one screen? Most Bands make levels that do not fit on a screen. Hacklikes tend to fit on one screen. Note that Crawl is an exception to this. There are important gameplay differences when one can see the entire dungeon at the same time. Consider the effect on Detect Monster like spells. (While ADOM resizes to fit the screen, note that it will always fit the screen!)
  • Wilderness. Is there a wilderness area outside of the dungeon? ZAngband and ADOM are examples of this.
  • Town with Supplies. Are there surface towns that carry needed adventuring supplies?

We can thus create the following adhoc categories:

  • Hacklike - Persistent Dungeons, Little Equipment Upgrade Path, Large Inventory Size, Single Screen Dungeon Size, No Town With Supplies
  • Band - Non-Persistent Dungeons, Equipment Upgrade Path, Limitted Inventory Size, Multi Screen Dungeons, Town with Supplies.
  • AdomLike - Hacklike + Plot + Wilderness
  • ZAngbandLike - Band + Wilderness
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