Author Topic: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives  (Read 83102 times)

akeley

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #75 on: October 25, 2013, 01:10:43 PM »
Okay, some more musings on...
(oh Lawd. It grew :) But "only" two mousewheel scrolls down so that`s okay, right guys? Guys...?)

Grinding in non-roguelikes
I will use Final Fantasy 12 as a little example here. It is a game that I`d rank as good/pretty good  - so not a personal favourite but a solid representative (I`m also not a die hard FF fanboy, in fact  I used to strongly dislike it in my pre-Japanase days). For those unfamiliar with the series, it`s a jRPG of the "epic" kind, where setting & protagonists, and sometimes battle-systems vary from title to title but some design elements remain the same.

My usual game flow would go like this: watch a cutscene leading to a location, usually big town/village that will serve as a hub with shops and quest givers. I`d then  explore for a bit, marvel at the architecture, see what items/spells are available in shops, talk to some characters, acquire quests. Pretty standard for any RPG, be it "w" or "j" variety. Then it`s time to set off into the wilderness/dungeon.

Combat happens in real time, but it`s pausable with total control over your actions, plus customizable to the extent which nearly makes it a TB system (which is always my preferred one). You can also "program" your two companions by means of a very in-depth Gambit system - sadly it`s never 100% reliable so I don`t use it, instead controlling them manually too.

And so I start exploring the area - and inevitably - battling monsters. Normally, and I assume in the eyes of gameists out there, you`d only do it on your way to some specific "target" - be it a quest location, maybe map exit or some such. But...I don`t. I take a detour...go around that hill twice...chase some monster into other direction...hell, you know what, these wolves yield some medals so I`m gonna  backtrack to the entry and back again and BANG!CRASH!WALLOP! -  crikey! it`s the inevitable arrival of the Grind Police, wipin` my HHDs, stompin` on me disks and strapping me into a Clockwork O-like contraption, where I have to play Rogue for next 6 weeks.

Okay, so this was a lame dramatisation. But the point that I was - very unclearly, sure - trying to make is that grinding is only a chore when it is. As in, taken completely out of context, used by OCD players, or employed in a bad videogame. But FF 12 isn`t one. While (some of) the plot and (some of) the  characters aren`t that good (my subjective opinion) other things are. Gfx and environs are stunning. Sfx pretty decent. Plenty of irrelevant-but-fun activities. Engine and overall design extremely smooth and pleasant to use.   Battling? Quite brilliant - expanding here, it`s seldom (think bosses and mid level baddies)  a "real" challenge, tougher monsters need their weaknesses decoded in rock/paper fashion and then dispatched, but it`s never the less fun. All these elements combine <- very important - and so I don`t mind wandering around an area for some extra time, battling, sightseeing, just enjoying the ambience really. Eventually I will get bored - find most of the chests, see the views, monsters will get too easy - and then it`s time to move onto the next area.

In the process, I quite probably battled lots of monstas thus grinding my stats above some, perhaps necessary-to-progress, level. Hell, I might have even done it on purpose, thinking it won`t hurt to be even stronger and show these critters who`s boss.  Wooo! Bad Henry! But...really?

Compared to other, more strategic systems out there - not even those in  RLs, that`s below- it is of course sort of "inferior", at least for someone like me who grew up on true TB strategy (my other net nick is lasersquad). But, it works and has addictive, compelling elements. Which is why millions play it. And if some of us want to expand this addictive "grinding" elements, because we enjoy the entire game itself, why not? J-folk know this, and so there indeed are grinding mechanisms built in some jRPGs, but rather cleverly, and never as a necessity to progress. For example Blue Dragon on 360 is one  game in which I actually went the whole 9 and really, really went overboard with grinding. After you finish the main plot and meet certain conditions, you get to battle super-monstas, untouchable without maxing out certain skills. For this there are two  areas in the game with special critters who yield huge XP bonuses. Fast forwarding the whole process. I can feel some of you tremble with derision at this concept ;P but honestly, it`s fun. I didn`t do it because of some evil spell emanated from the game box and possessed me or because it was only my 2nd videogame ever. Nope, I did it because I liked the entire game a lot and it was fun playing it.

FF 12 is just an example. About  earlier point that "jRPGs are grindfests", well, there`s gazillion-and-one systems these games use. Their commercial devs are insanely more inventive than their Western counterparts (plus consumers much more receptive) and if you actually explore the genre with an open mind, you`d see for yourself. I know this because I was also J-allergic back in the day (die hard wRPG nut) who thought it`s all bawwing whimsy with "cute" characters. Oh boy...was I wrong. Funnily enough, it was a decline of turn based Western RPGs that convinced me to dip a toe, and I never regretted it. So, there`s plenty of choice for those who like simple but addictive grinding, but also those who prefer their strategy logical and hard-as-nails (Press Turn system from Megaten games shining the brightest - basically a mini-chess in Phantasie`s row vs row convention) and also wild mixtures of both.

But, it`s not the entire point yet ...Unfortunately - for those allergic to so called "walls of text" (funny, back in the day there were plenty of these in things called "books' ;) there`s more:

Grinding in roguelikes
Yes, I`m just a newcomer to this strange new world of RLs. So, perhaps my knowledge of the genre is limited. But I learn fast, and some of the concepts are also shared throughout other ones, hence more opinionated drivel (ahem ;)

This is why I didn`t separate this and the above non-RL rant into two. Reason being, it`s rather obvious we`re talking two different beasts here. I largely agree that RL rely on other principles than majority of overground games. Perhaps even "better" principles, gameplay wise (and generalising-wise). Long story - but  been thinking about it a lot recently and if someone hypothetically put me in a "desert island, RL or non-RL for the rest of your days" situation I`d go with RL. I think. It will of course seem a laughable no-brainer to most of the grognards here, but please remember my background.

Back on point, I don`t think grinding mechanisms/systems - deliberate ones as described in my above FF example - should have place in the RL world. But I think small doses and experiments should be allowed, as long as they don`t break the game too. Also, there`s so many RL`s coming out that if one or two tried that, what`s the harm? Variety is the sp ...ugh, I hate this quote. Angband seems to be black sheep disliked for that reason (correct me if I`m wrong, only played it a little bit).

Conversely, the main problem with the "overground" games is that majority stick to the "easier" formula. It`s not a bad thing in itself, but the more complex and difficult systems have been eroded because of the almighty $$$, at least mostly in the West. In my ideal world there would be place for more relaxing, non-hardcore games - perhaps even more dominant, since more people go for this style - but also very substantial sector of RL-mechanics-infused AAA titles. Well, one can dream. But it doesn`t mean I `m gonna condemn all the "easy" games out of hand - nope, some are very good and sometimes I just don`t want to play a "hard", taxing game. I want me bubblegum. Also, I`m only using the "easy" term as a mental shortcut - some titles have strategy and tactics on-par with the RL ones - it`s just they`re more "local". As in, a battle in an old SSI Goldbox title could be as taxing mentally as any strategizing in Crawl, but because of the design nature - it`s a sprawling RPG epic that requires saving to maintain its various subsystems - it`s just an element, not the whole thing. But losing this battle is no less disappointing than dying in an RL.

I could go on, but it`d be just another brick in the text wall, and, shock horror, there`s still the...

Narrative/Story
I will agree with one point: I also think that majority (entirety?) of videogame writing is substandard when compared to other media. I grew up in a world where books were only media available and was lucky to consume the likes of Le Guin and Gene Wolfe very early and after this it`s hard to be kind to other, ahem, attempts. And yeah, we live in an era dominated in ruthless publishing deals - authors plan their books in volumes ahead, to maximize profits, also will latch onto anything that seems to be popular, like witches or vampires...brr, terrible hacks. This is manufacture, not a creative process. But I wouldn`t go as far as comparing it to mythology - sorry Vanguard, it seems like apples and grapes to me. Mythology was a religious thing and for these people it was reality, not a fantasy. It`s easy to extol its virtues from contemporary viewpoint, but it`s a bit unfair.

Thinking of it now, seems  there was only one game ever that I`d mark as narratively equal to my book/film heroes - Thief: The Dark Project (taking on board all the genre`s limitations of course).

But - "substandard" doesn`t mean "all bad". In fact there`s plenty of examples that are solid enough for me considered "okay". As in a potboiler perhaps, or a Hollywood flick. Sometimes - similarly to above argument about "easy" game systems - I just like some lower-brow entertainment. For example I`m playing 1st Uncharted at the moment, and it`s nothing but an Eighties adventure movie, perhaps sub-Indy with main character being a bit of a w****r, but hell, who cares. The game is beautiful, cover-based shooting surprisingly solid and the plot maybe ridiculous - but hey! did I mention it`s an Eighties adventure movie?

First Mass Effect was pretty good plot wise, kinda sub-Alistair Reynolds, which is good enough for me in a videogame, since it`s a medium in which plot is only one of the elements. And so on...didn`t like the DX:HR mechanics but what I saw of the writing was quite all right, same goes for, dunno, new GTA (one interesting thing is that it`s a masterclass in blending cutscenes/conversations with the gameplay itself, thus validating the "story" much more).

But okay, these are more actioney games...meanwhile in wRPGs, where narratives should be more daring, the tedium rules supreme, yes. We`re trapped in the endless cycle of dwarves in forests and Elvish Mines (or...something) while sword/staff wielders save princesses from dragons. Few games breaks this mold, sadly. jRPGs have their own tropes but they quite often go in wild & wonderful directions - like Mother, Contact, or SMT: Digital Devil Saga.

Ultimately though I`m a strange one - I don`t care much for stories in games, but  I still require at least an outline. Even if it`s just one sentence ;) The rest I can fill myself...
« Last Edit: October 25, 2013, 01:16:05 PM by akeley »

Gr3yling

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #76 on: October 25, 2013, 02:59:48 PM »
Pretty much anything.  Greek and Norse mythology seem to be the most popular, and they're winners for sure, but you can find cool stuff anywhere.  It's all so wildly original while modern fantasy is the same exact thing again and again.

One of the cool things about myths is that people really believed them.  They're not stories about a made up fake world.  They're about the world we live in, seen in the crazy way the human mind perceives reality.  They're based on real things people experienced and believed.

How about this, what is a book on mythology that you would recommend?  The last I attempted to read was Bulfinch's Mythology, which was apparently written in the mid 19th century, so maybe that why it seemed a bit dry.  Like I said, I am open to learning more about mythology.

Incidentally, another book on mythology that I recently read was Occidental Mythology by joseph Campbell.  I liked it more, but I still feel like it was kind of hard to relate to.  So, something written in a fairly plain style by someone who shares the enthusiasm of Vanguard would be nice.

Zirael, if you tell me what this D&D based game you are talking about is, I will check it out.

EDIT: BTW, I just wanted to say that I did read your two mousewheel post, Akeley.  I am still digesting it, though.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2013, 03:06:03 PM by Gr3yling »

Zireael

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #77 on: October 25, 2013, 04:07:53 PM »
Quote
Zirael, if you tell me what this D&D based game you are talking about is, I will check it out.

Sure. Check out Veins of the Earth :) (silly me for forgetting to include the name)

Quendus

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #78 on: October 25, 2013, 04:08:45 PM »
Back on point, I don`t think grinding mechanisms/systems - deliberate ones as described in my above FF example - should have place in the RL world. But I think small doses and experiments should be allowed, as long as they don`t break the game too. Also, there`s so many RL`s coming out that if one or two tried that, what`s the harm? Variety is the sp ...ugh, I hate this quote. Angband seems to be black sheep disliked for that reason (correct me if I`m wrong, only played it a little bit).

Angband takes a lot of flak for this, mostly from people who don't know how to play it. From a quick look at the mechanics and the numbers (100 non-persistent dungeon levels providing infinite enemies and treasure, 50 character levels, maximising stats requires dozens of stat potions), it looks like grinding is most reliable solution to the game. Look up the things you need in order to be "safe" at level N on the (outdated) newbie guide, and scum level N-1 until you have those things.

That would work fine, except that the longer you spend on a given level, the more likely you are to find an out-of-depth monster you can't handle, get lazy, or get overconfident, and die. Grinding might be an obvious strategy to people who have played other (non-permadeath) games where grinding is effective, but in Angband it's not a great strategy for a human with a finite attention span.

Taking a closer look at the game's mechanics (treasure quality improves very quickly with depth, monster/stair/item detection magic is cheap or free, multiple down stairs spawn per level) suggests an alternative strategy - dive quickly to bypass the shallow, low-reward levels, using detection magic to nullify the high risk that accompanies deeper levels. The resulting high rewards make it faster to find the items required for survival, and killing deep monsters early at a low character level makes levelling a lot faster.

There are no barriers to progress before level 99, and the equipment to overcome Sauron and Morgoth doesn't take long to show up on the bottom floors.

The result is a game with very little connection to its reputation. The development team has been careful when rebalancing to keep both playstyles viable, since there are people who enjoy fully exploring levels. Diving also lends itself to an alternative way of scoring games - turn count.

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #79 on: October 25, 2013, 06:50:21 PM »

And in some ways I understand that response, and in some ways I don't.  I hear what you are saying, but it seems like there is a deep, almost visceral dislike of the kind of ideas that I mentioned in roguelike game players.  I feel like if the elements I mentioned are skippable (even ADOM's story based character creation is entirely optional), people still react to them in a way that is very negative.  And it seems like if such elements are not mandatory, the response should be neutral or better.

Because nothing is really totally ignorable or skippable, and most roguelikes tend toward rule based designs over story games, so it's annoying to be taken out of the essential game to skip some unnecessary bit of lore or whatever.

Lets look at a specific example: do you think that ADOM has "too much narrative" going on?  It does have the type of character creation stories that I mentioned, it has a limited source of in game lore (fortune cookies), and it has very limited dialogue choices.  Do you wish those things had not been implemented?

I never got into ADOM enough to have an opinion. I hear ToME is similar.

Basically, if you don't like games with (optional) narrative, that's fine, but I've been hearing that for a while and hearing it again doesn't help me very much.  I realize you don't want to add more story elements to roguelikes, but if it had to be there, how would you do it?

If I just really needed to have lore and flavor text integrated into a traditional roguelike design, there could be tablets to find and what not. Something truly ignorable, something easy to see on the ground I could just walk past. I'd be okay with quick quotes during loading screens as well.

You also mention (somewhat dismissively?) how adding more narrative in the ways I have mentioned amounts to just "hiding" text files in the game.   I don't find that to be a very constructive criticism, honestly.  Would you rather the player have to go online to look up this information?

Actually that sounds like a cool idea. Have the story be written as a story, and the game be written as a rule based game. Very cool. You could link to the story in the start screen.

Incidentally, I haven't read the Silmarillion, but it seems pretty intimidating.

It is.



Also I have to admit that I did not write my previous post with an eye toward helping drum up ideas on how to do this. Even though I don't enjoy this part of gaming I can still see how it has been done well in some instances. I will think on this while I go about my day and see if I can drum up any ideas beyond ignorable flavor tablets laying on the ground, loading quotes and just writing a story and linking it on your game's opening screen.

BTW there's a great character too use for tablets, it's this little pentagon thing. It's a control character, but it is common in ascii sheets.

Kevin Granade

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #80 on: October 25, 2013, 09:11:30 PM »
A little tweak to the power diving concept that I think would be interesting is to build some narrative around it.  In general outline on lvl X, you gain special knowledge that on lvl X + Y there is a challenge and a reward that may be of interest to you.  Perhaps this just provides foreknowledge and direction to your usual power dive, perhaps it requires special action to reach (e.g. with a forking dungeon), perhaps it pushes you out of your depth, either way, you now have a specific goal rather than the more generic "find item from laundry list of requirements".  If procedurally generated, you might not be interested in taking on every quest that comes by, but of course the game can just throw enough of them at you such that you'll run across some that are of interest.  In the case of an Angband-like, just the information might be all that's needed, such as the location of a particular group of monsters or vault.

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #81 on: October 26, 2013, 02:54:12 AM »
@Gr3yling

I thought about it while walking, I could see a game with lots of lore embedded bring pretty fun and integrated.

You could have the overall quest be to find all the Tablets of Judea or some such. You find them in various places, kill or get past bosses to get them, etc...Your level builder could place a tablet on a level and then place monsters appropriate for the defense. So a stealth character could work to sneak and steal, a brawler could bust on in and a wizard could use distraction, etc...

The tablets could have the lore written on them if you tap the 'read' command or click read tablet or whatever.

The key for me here is that it is all ignorable not skippable, I don't have to actively 'skip' anything, I actually have to press something to see the lore, not press something to skip the lore.

I really like the above idea, actually.

Gr3yling

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #82 on: October 26, 2013, 03:00:14 AM »
@Gr3yling

I thought about it while walking, I could see a game with lots of lore embedded bring pretty fun and integrated.

You could have the overall quest be to find all the Tablets of Judea or some such. You find them in various places, kill or get past bosses to get them, etc...Your level builder could place a tablet on a level and then place monsters appropriate for the defense. So a stealth character could work to sneak and steal, a brawler could bust on in and a wizard could use distraction, etc...

The tablets could have the lore written on them if you tap the 'read' command or click read tablet or whatever.

The key for me here is that it is all ignorable not skippable, I don't have to actively 'skip' anything, I actually have to press something to see the lore, not press something to skip the lore.

I really like the above idea, actually.

That's a cool idea.  Thank you for taking the time to give this line of thinking a chance.

I've actually thought about a roguelike game where the premise was to find and unite pieces of an incomplete religious document that was integral to the way that people saw the world.  As they were found, the creator god who was originally seen as being benevolent would seem progressively...Less so. 

At any rate, I completely agree with you, this sort of content should genuinely be skip-able.  As you pointed out, you should have to go out of your way to get to the "wall of text" so to speak, not have it forced on you. 

Gr3yling

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #83 on: October 26, 2013, 03:08:52 AM »
This leads me back to another (admittedly off topic) question that I have about seeding dungeon levels with enemies and items. 

There are two basic relationships that I see as potentially existing between these two categories of entities.  Enemies and items could be generated independently of each other, so that you might find very powerful items completely unguarded, or you might find very powerful enemies that were not protecting any reward.  Or, you could set it up so that whenever an enemy of above average difficulty was spawned, an appropriately rare item was generated.  Or vice versa.  Which do you think would be better?

I guess the basic question here is this: if the player takes an appropriately large risk, should the existence of a reward be deterministic, or probability based?

By the way, I realize you are advocating the former with your Tablets of Judea system, but I am asking whether you think that sort of system should be applied more generally.

Again, I do appreciate your input.

EDIT: Oh, Zirael, I did look at Veins of the Earth.  It's very cool, and I'm going to keep following it.  Thanks for showing it to me.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2013, 03:10:40 AM by Gr3yling »

guest509

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #84 on: October 26, 2013, 05:48:45 AM »
Well I could see designs using both being pretty cool. Plenty of great games do not have treasure guards all the time, or any of the time really.

Doing such a thing would be a great way to add wild cards to your design, to keep each play through fresh. So have the base be the 'shuffle' but then throw in the wild cards to keep it fresh.

We were talking in another thread about throwing in 'events' or 'random rare events' in your game, so that every game is actually different not just randomized. The difference between solitaire and, say, dominion or poker. Solitaire is shuffled, randomized, but it's the same experience each time. Dominion and poker change from game to game.

I really like the term 'wild cards' for this concept. Unless there's another term of art...throwing your player curve balls, frequently, is a strength of procedural generation.

AgingMinotaur

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #85 on: October 27, 2013, 09:55:10 AM »
Gr3yling: I feel you with regards to stories/lore in RLs. There are games like Crawl and Brogue, objectively speaking very good games (and I've spent my fair share of time Crawl-ing), but the lack of story turns me off slightly. On the other hand, I keep coming back to ADOM and immensely enjoy the feeling of an actual world/story going on, even if the prose and plot would be just laughable in any other medium (Khelevaster's monologue epitomizes this). Incidentally, you really should try Caves of Qud. Heavily inspired by ADOM, except the setting is actually quite original, and the prose isn't half bad. For kicks, hack down the zealot in starting village Joppa and read his book of religious doctrines (sells at a decent price, too). TOME also does lore in the form of paper scraps lying about and such, although I never got the same kick out of that as I did from ADOM and CoQ.

Re: reading real world mythology, akeley mentioned it's not really comparable to novels, for instance. While that's a valid point, there were a bunch of works that were written precisely as art, and I'd be hard pressed to mention a literary work that outclasses Ovid's Metamorphoses, for instance. I suspect you'd find Ovid or Homer a bit stale (although they class among my personal favorites, like evvah biatches). Still, you might give Gilgamesh a try – short, sweet, and very ancient – or, for a different beast, and if you enjoy a faerie tale style, The Thousand and One Nights, although that's not mythology per se. Campbell et al., that's all pretty theoretical, right? There are also a ton of books that simply retell the myths. Many are aimed at kids and young adults, but can be quite entertaining, nonetheless.

I'd like to discuss more how to put story in a RL. I'll be brief for now. I think a RL story/setting should ideally have randomized parts. Doing that right has proved damned difficult, even though it *should* not be too hard, in theory ;) Also, I'd like to (see more people) experiment with bundling the story in with actual gameplay. The ecology of a certain animal can be described through a quest/area where you get to see the animal in question eat, nest, and reproduce. NPCs could theoretically be choreographed, for example to fly into fits of rage if certain conditions are met, throwing stuff around and shouting nasty words. Or if the evil overlord employs slave labor in the mines, don't just use that info as a backdrop. Allow for situations like a slave revolt, that the player may influence. That's one part "show, don't tell" and one part unimodality being the order of the day for RLs.

I'll just leave it at that for now. Very interesting discussion, though.

As always,
Minotauros
This matir, as laborintus, Dedalus hous, hath many halkes and hurnes ... wyndynges and wrynkelynges.

Zireael

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #86 on: October 27, 2013, 07:50:03 PM »
Yeah, some sort of story is something I am also thinking about for my roguelike.

The mechanics have to be ironed out, however, before I attempt something as nerve-wracking as attempting to randomly generate some plot...

Vanguard

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #87 on: October 28, 2013, 01:32:27 AM »
Well, "A Theory of Fun in Game Design" by Raph Koster is always a worthwhile read

I don't have this book, but I know that the author's site has some good stuff.

How about this, what is a book on mythology that you would recommend?  The last I attempted to read was Bulfinch's Mythology, which was apparently written in the mid 19th century, so maybe that why it seemed a bit dry.

I have that book, and I thought it was fine.  I just skip the parts where they talk about how the myths affected literature.  Better Myths is the most not-dry source I know of, but that might be going too far in the other direction.

Minotaur sounds pretty educated on the subject, maybe get some recommendations from him?

Quendus

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #88 on: October 28, 2013, 01:38:15 AM »
Minotaur sounds pretty educated on the subject, maybe get some recommendations from him?
Minotaur has some stories to tell, all right. http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=29

Vanguard

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Re: Roguelike Gameflow - Alternatives
« Reply #89 on: October 28, 2013, 03:11:31 AM »
Early Gunnerkrigg's art looks so weird.