Author Topic: Theming For Roguelikes  (Read 10657 times)

CaptainKraft

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Theming For Roguelikes
« on: March 27, 2014, 02:05:36 PM »
I haven't finished a roguelike yet, but the plan is to start off small and write one in the near future. I have some ideas for what I want to do and right now I'm thinking about the theme.

My question for everyone is this: "Should the theme of the game guide mechanic design or should the mechanics guide the theme of the game?"

The reason I ask is because I'm trying to decide whether I should pick a theme and go with it, making it fit the mechanics of the game as I go along or start with a theme and make the game so that the mechanics make sense for the theme.

At the moment, I'm leaning towards a cyberpunk/hacking theme and I think it could work out with the ideas I have for mechanics. Of course, things always change during development so I'm curious what your thoughts are on theme vs mechanics.

Thanks.
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Aukustus

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2014, 02:12:20 PM »
Theme should guide the mechanics since some general mechanics do not fit all themes. Theme gives a general idea about the mechanics and also what to program.

mushroom patch

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2014, 06:42:23 PM »
Whether a game is good or not, particularly roguelike games that have little in the way of plots or other non-mechanical elements, is determined by its mechanics: Is the gameplay deep, diverse, interesting, etc.? Does the game have replay value? These are questions whose answers derive mostly from mechanics.

If you feel your selection of theme conflicts with your ideas about mechanics, you should be flexible about theme rather than compromise mechanics.

On the other hand, theme is easy and mechanics are hard. It could be that you want somewhat canned mechanics derived from other games because you either don't want to do the work of devising original or well-considered mechanics or you just don't have any ideas about them you think are worth trying. In this case, theme is a time tested way of presenting well-worn mechanics in a new or at least different light.

In other words, it depends on whether you have good ideas about mechanics and the ambition to see them through to implementation.

Endorya

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2014, 09:29:07 PM »
Themes and mechanics can and will conflict with each other. I think you should start with mechanics so your ideas won't be already conditioned by the theme. What kind of features you want the game to have? Design the cool stuff first and then see what themes can be compatible with it. Start by writing down everything you envision the game to possess as well as what kind of experience you may seek to share with other players (if applicable).
« Last Edit: March 27, 2014, 09:53:11 PM by Endorya »
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Krice

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2014, 09:57:56 PM »
Themes and mechanics can and will conflict with each other.

Only if they don't belong in the same game. If there are mechanics that fit in some theme it's already starting to look like a theme itself. Strong themes can limit the mechanics, but I think it's the idea.

mushroom patch

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2014, 10:39:16 PM »
Also worth noting is that while mechanics are bound by rules of logic, playability, etc., theme isn't really. Like, you want a game with guns plus this weird thing that grabs objects and holds or throws them with totally bizarre physics allowing you to do weird trick jumps, fly, and so forth? No problem, look at Half-Life. It's very easy to devise a game setting where your weird ideas about game mechanics make at least some sense.

CaptainKraft

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2014, 12:43:17 AM »
There are some very good points here, but it seems like the major assumption is that the theme is secondary and easy to accomplish. There are games out there where the theme, story, narrative, etc. are the major focus and they are great games because of it. It doesn't seem very common in roguelikes to do this, but it might produce some interesting new games.

Another thing that I like about choosing one or the other before designing the game is that it puts a set of constraints on your design. If you decide to go with a theme and make sure the mechanics make sense, this could bring about some ideas you would have never considered if you started with mechanics. Of course, this goes both ways. You might never have come up with story elements if you didn't start with mechanics first.
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Endorya

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2014, 09:06:25 AM »
Themes and mechanics can and will conflict with each other.

Only if they don't belong in the same game. If there are mechanics that fit in some theme it's already starting to look like a theme itself. Strong themes can limit the mechanics, but I think it's the idea.

Agreed but what I meant is that, regardless of what theme or the mechanics you choose you will always be castrating any of them in one way or another. The author needs simply to be aware of both and decide what is more important to him. Flagging mechanics as priority adds better chances of producing something new with unique features.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2014, 09:24:04 AM by Endorya »
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Endorya

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2014, 09:18:12 AM »
There are some very good points here, but it seems like the major assumption is that the theme is secondary and easy to accomplish. There are games out there where the theme, story, narrative, etc. are the major focus and they are great games because of it. It doesn't seem very common in roguelikes to do this, but it might produce some interesting new games.
Quote from: CaptainKraft
Should the theme of the game guide mechanic design or should the mechanics guide the theme of the game?

The current project I'm developing has actually the theme dictating the mechanics because I already knew in my mind what the mechanics would be. The minute I decided to go with high fantasy, that alone destroyed some aspects I thought that would go very nice with a sci-fi theme. So I asked myself: "what is more important to me"? For me was the game's mood and plot around the high fantasy world setting. But if there was a certain feature that I really wished to have in the game and that was incompatible with my current theme, I would have changed the theme itself. So, just ask yourself - what is more important for you and let that guide your project's development. If the game's story or theme is more important for you then make it your priority.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2014, 09:28:05 AM by Endorya »
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reaver

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2014, 09:39:30 AM »
Select a theme that will keep you interested in the long run.
Select the mechanics that will keep you interested in the long run.
Both are equally important if you plan to invest a lot of effort on the project.
The 'glue' for any mechanics to any theme is imagination, so if you are motivated I think you'll find a way.

Endorya

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2014, 09:45:52 AM »
Select a theme that will keep you interested in the long run.
Select the mechanics that will keep you interested in the long run.
Both are equally important if you plan to invest a lot of effort on the project.
The 'glue' for any mechanics to any theme is imagination, so if you are motivated I think you'll find a way.

That's another important thing. Imagination can really do wonders; speaking from my own experience.
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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2014, 12:01:07 PM »
Theme! Keeps you interested, ties everything together. Going mechanics first and then slapping on a theme later can make the game feel abstract, which I guess is okay but it might not be what you want.

You can do both as well, switch it up halfway through. My 7DRL started off as a leprechaun game in my head, ended up a princess game.

CaptainKraft

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2014, 02:26:07 PM »
Thanks for all the insight. It is an interesting balance to try to hit. Also, I think there are examples of both ways that work for games.
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Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

LazyCat

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2014, 12:12:25 AM »
There is moving mechanics, close attack, ranged attack and inventory mechanics. Whichever you change it will still apply to any theme.

You could add new actions, like jumping or crawling, and they would again fit in any theme, just like first person shooter mechanics can be made with elfs, commandos or aliens all the same. I can't think of any mechanics/action that would be specific to only one particular theme. If you are not shooting bullets you are shooting arrows or magic bolts, mechanics is the same.

I don't see the problem actually exist. But since almost all the roguelikes use basically the same mechanics, if you can think of something better it should definitively be more valuable than anything else. A theme is a matter of mood, gameplay, controls and user interface is what makes games better or worse.


Endorya

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Re: Theming For Roguelikes
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2014, 11:25:54 AM »
There is moving mechanics, close attack, ranged attack and inventory mechanics. Whichever you change it will still apply to any theme.

You could add new actions, like jumping or crawling, and they would again fit in any theme, just like first person shooter mechanics can be made with elfs, commandos or aliens all the same. I can't think of any mechanics/action that would be specific to only one particular theme. If you are not shooting bullets you are shooting arrows or magic bolts, mechanics is the same.

I don't see the problem actually exist. But since almost all the roguelikes use basically the same mechanics, if you can think of something better it should definitively be more valuable than anything else. A theme is a matter of mood, gameplay, controls and user interface is what makes games better or worse.

You know what? You are absolutely right and I've just changed my mind about this whole subject. The mechanics issue just comes into play with the type of game, like strategy vs shooter vs puzzle, etc. and not with the theme itself. Any theme can in fact have any kind of mechanics regardless of the game type. Of course that medieval themes tend to be more close combat than sci-fi themes but that doesn't mean that there are particular mechanics for each type of theme. Sure a scif-fi tank theme roguelike could offer the ability of controlling a tank crew but the same could be done with a medieval fantasy theme by replacing a tank with a ship.

I discarded some features on my current project which initially I thought to be theme related but that now I see that those features were simply belonging to different genre of game, i. e. strategy vs roguelike. Yeah, I was battling mechanics from two different types of games. It really amazes me how I failed to see this. Oh well, I guess that sometimes we fail to see the obvious...

Really LazyCat, thanks for your post.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 11:39:46 AM by Endorya »
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