Tuesday 1 June 2010

Making a roguelike, Part 1

I read a great thread on Reddit the other day, asking what exercises an amateur programmer can do to get better at whatever language they're trying to learn. There were some great suggestions (notably Coding Kata, but that's another blog post entirely), but interestingly the highest voted one was "make a rougelike". If you're not familiar with what a roguelike is, check this explanation out before continuing... these games are as geeky as they come, but are some of my favourite games ever (look Mum, no graphics!)

My inital reaction to the suggestion was dismissive, given that roguelike games are usually so mind-bogglingly complicated most players (myself included) haven't even gotten close to the end of one despite years of play. However, I thought some more about it and realised that it's actually a brilliant idea. Think about it for a second, the features of an average roguelike are:

- Mimimal graphics, or no graphics at all (mine will use graphical tiles)
- Randomly generated levels
- Randomly generated monsters/items etc
- Stats, lots of stats.

The structure of a roguelike lends itself perfectly to an OOP project; creating lots and lots of small elements to form a huge, randomly-generated game. So, I'm having a crack at it. I must say at this point that I am using this purely as a learning exercise: I don't intend to try and produce a finished game, nor do I intend to write any stories or any of that crap (leave it to the professionals, I say). What I do want to do is get my head around all of the ideas and concepts that make up a great rougelike, and try and build them.

Who knows, if it works well enough then I might throw it out to someone else to populate it with characters and stuff, but at the moment I'm looking at it purely from a 'technical challenge' standpoint.

The big thing I'm finding interesting right now is getting randomly generated levels working, which is the first thing I've got stuck into. I'm going to put together a proper detailed post about each element I build, as well as how the whole project is taking shape.

For now, here's some of the stuff I've been checking out:
- Brilliant and detailed tile tutorial, slightly outdated (AS2) but super useful
- Tilesets archive from some of the more popular roguelikes
- Nethack, my favourite roguelike ever. It's for research, honest.

Basically, this project is about learning some new stuff (and it's working already!), in the most fun and geeky way possible. Much more later! :D

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