Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Further Classification: Roguelites?

And once again, we come to my examination of game genres and classification. This time, I have a brief opinion on the term "roguelite".

Roguelite is a weird term. It seems to be taking "roguelike" meaning "like the game Rogue" but then appending "lite" onto it, like "lite butter", meaning "barely even butter". I don't really get the point in doing this, however.

See, the issue I have with this term is that it doesn't explain much about the game. In fact, it does the opposite - it makes the game's classification harder to understand. A game being "like rogue, but barely" doesn't describe a game at all. Rogue was very unique, yes. But that doesn't mean that any single feature from it is unique.

I've seen "roguelite" used to describe dungeon crawlers. The Binding of Isaac is often labelled as a "roguelite" because it contains dungeon crawling and procedural generation. However the former, when coupled with item usage and visual style, is much more reminiscent of Zelda. Hence why I personally have classified it as a Zeldalike. The procedural generation certainly does add replayability, but I don't think that's a unique feature of roguelikes.

Perhaps this is the issue. Procedural generation is only really overt in roguelikes. Each time you play, things are different, and that is a very obvious feature. But is it really fair to label procedural generation as a more important feature than gameplay? And the nature of the procedural generation matters a ton too.

For example, FTL uses a lot of procedural generation, for sector layouts and encounters. Sometimes people label it as a "roguelite", but I've often seen others quickly correct them. And that's very fair. It's much more accurately a strategy game, a mixture of squad-based and simulation. There's no gameplay features reminiscent of Rogue, but it certainly uses procedural generation. This still isn't enough to label it 'roguelite' though.

Random generation is actually extremely common. Ever boot up a random map on Sid Meier's Civillization V or Age of Empires II? Those use random generation. The difference between "random" and "procedural" generation is in when the generation occurs. Procedural generation creates things as they are needed. So Civ V and AoE II are just using random generation. FTL uses a bit of both. It randomly generates each map, but it procedurally generates each encounter.

Speaking of procedural generation, X-Com makes each site procedurally. The original, at least. The new version seems to have several maps which vary slightly from encounter to encounter, but it's not nearly as varied as the original. X-Com is very well-understood as a squad-based tactical strategy game. I don't think anyone would call it a roguelike, let alone a rogue'lite'. However it definitely shares the same sort of similarities that FTL does.

So why do some people confuse FTL with roguelikes, and yet don't confuse X-Com? Largely it's context of when it was made. Roguelikes are popular right now, and people are almost adopting them as a normal genre. So a lot of things are getting shooed into the genre.

It's rather like how people confused Portal for an FPS when shooting wasn't even the central gameplay method.

Whatever happened to Action-RPGs? Or simply acknowledging procedural generation as a technique, instead of a gameplay element? After all, it doesn't need to be. But, perhaps this gets back to the issue of mechanics vs. elements: Just cause it's a big feature of the game doesn't mean it's a core concept.

And that's why I think roguelites don't exist. Because every roguelite is better described as something else.

No comments:

Post a Comment