Poll

Is it a roguelike?

Yes, as well as a puzzle
3 (25%)
Yes, and it's not a puzzle
0 (0%)
No, it's a puzzle
2 (16.7%)
No, but it's not a puzzle either
1 (8.3%)
No, it's a puzzle, but if I didn't know it was deterministic I'd say it was a roguelike
4 (33.3%)
No, and it's not a puzzle either, but if I didn't know it was deterministic I'd say it was a roguelike
0 (0%)
I don't know at all
2 (16.7%)

Total Members Voted: 12

Author Topic: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!  (Read 2774 times)

Quendus

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No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« on: April 15, 2012, 07:04:15 PM »
There was a brief discussion in the IRC channel yesterday about the necessity of procedural content in roguelikes. As a result I set myself the challenge to write the best deterministic roguelike without PCG that I possibly could in 7 hours, based on the code for my 7DRL. 7 hours was way too short, so I made it a 24HRL instead. The result is

MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!

It can be downloaded at https://github.com/downloads/essarrdee/mutantaliens/mutantaristocrats.zip
(Windows exe + *nix source, uses curses).

It's rather difficult, but it can be won on all four settings (thanks, Derrick). The objective is to kill the Alien Emperor, in order to have the legal authority to tell the rest of the Aliens to go away. Since there is *no* use of any random function (there are some pseudorandom functions dependent on game variables), the same sequence of moves will always result in the same outcome.

This is quite a difficult game, so like most roguelikes you will need the knowledge that you can get from your history of deaths. Since the level is invariant, it's possible to draw a map of your characters' discoveries (or look at the level files, which I wouldn't consider cheating).

Anyway, roguelike or not I hope you find it enjoyable!

(I'd be interested to know whether you think it's a roguelike or not)


If you'd rather play something with procedural content and stochastic dynamics, then you'd probably better play Mutant Aliens! instead (http://roguebasin.com/index.php/Mutant_Aliens!)

Edit: It turns out the win message doesn't display, although the game does stop and expect a Q keypress. I can fix this if you feel cheated by the lack of congratulation.

kraflab

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2012, 08:19:39 PM »
I think it is certainly fine as a game, but it is definitely not a roguelike.  It's not the lack of pcg.  It's the determinism, which makes the game merely a puzzle.  Of course, I am not sure how you can avoid making a puzzle if you have no pcg.  It's the reaction to unforeseen events (loot, enemies, locations) that really differentiates the two in my mind.

Quendus

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2012, 09:22:14 PM »
Without saying which side of the discussion I was on or giving away too much about the game, there are a couple of caveats to your argument:
While it is deterministic, there are a lot of values which are "known" but presented to the player qualitatively, hidden values, and a lot of chaotic decisions (particularly in the AI) which are sensitive to small changes in the player's actions. So, at every stage in the game there will be unforseen events, unless the decisions you take are very similar (preferably identical) to what you did in a previous game.

What would your reaction have been if I didn't mention the determinism at all in the OP?

kraflab

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2012, 10:44:22 PM »
I would say that hiding the puzzle from the player doesn't necessarily make it not a puzzle.  As you say, if you do things identically you get the exact same game.  What I mean by unforeseen is that one game I walk into a room and there are ten orcs, the next I walk in and there is a treasure chest.  Whereas if it is deterministic I would walk in on the orcs in the first game, then avoid that spot in the second game (or maybe return when I am more prepared).

Perhaps in the limit that a person only plays the game for one life, it is a roguelike, but assuming they return for more lives, they have a priori knowledge that moves the game towards the puzzle genre.  Eventually, given enough time, the player will learn a winning path, and there is nothing roguelike-ish in a game that i can put in a set sequence of key presses to win every time.  The thing with a normal roguelike is that, while you can take a snapshot of any individual game you played and see that it is deteministic (assuming the rng will always spit the same sequence from the same seed), you only see that exact snapshot with one life.

In terms of learning the puzzle, I think it is not necessarily cut and dry whether or not you are playing a roguelike.  It brings up the question of whether or not the genre of a game can change depending on who is playing it.  Is a puzzle that I don't have the information necessary to solve still a puzzle?

Thinking in a different way, if the ai is as chaotic as you say, then i might argue that the game does have some sort of pseudi-pcg.  I would definitely say that, when you don't have a good understanding of a chaotic system, it is effectively random from your perspective.  The player is in some sense the "random seed" if they cannot accurately predict the ai response to their actions.  It is in this sense that I might call the game a roguelike.  After all, true-pcg isn't necessarily a must.  But I think this is one of those cases where to some the game may be a puzzle, while to others it is a roguelike.

Quendus

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2012, 01:15:58 AM »
I'd agree with most of that. I think it's difficult to make any meaningful statements about whether it's a puzzle unless we have a definition of puzzle (Like, does a puzzle have to have the information necessary to solve it immediately available?)

requerent

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2012, 09:16:57 AM »
I voted yes and yes.

It's a roguelike because the outcome of arbitrary actions is too intangible to determine. Even if you repeat the same map, Fog of War makes it impossible to recognize the outcome of an action. In this way, there is a general set of rules that you discover and apply to any given situation; however, it isn't possible to determine whether or not the applied skillset is actually the solution to either a sub-problem or the complete problem.

It's a puzzle because you can solve it methodically. Is solitaire a puzzle game? I would say it is even though it's not always solvable and the board state is randomly generated. There's no reason why the inverse can't be a roguelike. A genre designation describes the experience that a player has when they play the game.

If a player plays it a second time they should immediately realize that it is deterministic, at which point they can begin thinking about the game as a puzzle. However, the solution to the puzzle is NOT going to be a memorable set of key-sequences, but a methodology. The refinement of a player's problem-solving method and the near-infinite possible solutions as well as the inability to determine the outcome of minor actions makes it a game that requires the same skillset as one would implement for any other roguelike.

The player can't have expectations that some set of actions will lead to a solution just because a particular set of actions is a solution to a subset of the problem. A solution to a subset can be a failure of the entire game, as it would be in Sudoku. However, the rules of this particular game suggest pretty clearly that progress in the game is more immediately discernable relative to the information available. In other words, we know when we're progressing despite the fact that we also know the unforeseen outcome of our actions is deterministic.



This makes it very much both a roguelike AND a puzzle game.

Quendus

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2012, 06:54:56 PM »
I think requerent hit the nail on the head there...
For the record, Derrick Creamer officially reigns over the French, British, Russian, and Byzantine empires. Congratulations!

requerent

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2012, 07:54:06 PM »
I actually think I would take back the bit about it being both. It's about as much a puzzle game as DOOM is. Just because the levels are predetermined AND the game is deterministic doesn't make it a puzzler. It can be 'solved' via strategy and repetition like DOOM can, but that isn't really enough to call it a puzzle.

dscreamer

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2012, 01:52:27 AM »
I agree with the view that it can be considered (and mistaken for) a roguelike on the first playthrough, and becomes something else on later playthroughs. My vote was for 'no, puzzle, but i'd call it RL at first'; however, I don't have a strong personal definition of 'puzzle'.

..but whatever else it may be, it's fun.

Quendus

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Re: No PCG (!?) Deterministic 24HRL: MUTANT ARISTOCRATS!
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2012, 03:20:38 AM »
Taking things to their logical conclusion, I automated the player's task of remembering what moves got them to a specific position. The result is effectively animated savefiles. With a short sleep in fgetch() it could even make videos.

Uploaded to mediafire because github's flash upload interface is behaving very badly.

http://www.mediafire.com/?k6hpqyntqggy8aa