Club of Rogue
November 22, 2016 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Roguelike Celebration 2016 schedule and links to all talks. I missed this, but there was a Roguelike con of sorts back in September in San Francisco. There are a bunch of interesting talks about everything Roguelike. E.g. Procedural generation, Markov Chain text generators etc. Even somewhat recluse developers Bay 12 of Dwarf Fortress fame gave a talk about the inspirations for their hilarious patch note simulator. The recordings can be found on Youtube and Internet Archive
posted by Megustalations (20 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

Well dang. I did not search deep enough into the depths of MeFi and link searches came up empty.

I was mainly interested in seeing Tarn and Zach speak, but the rest of the talks is well worth it as well.
posted by Megustalations at 1:12 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

That Projects post didn't get nearly enough attention, so it's good that you posted this. (And congrats on your first FPP!)
posted by naju at 1:56 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of the pleasures of getting older is seeing the weird things you loved when you were young getting the critical attention you always thought they deserved. I guess we are the establishment now, in our own small way.
posted by pharm at 2:14 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by leotrotsky at 4:01 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm impressed that they managed to get Glenn Wichman, Michael Toy and Ken Arnold (the guys who wrote Rogue almost 40 years ago!) to do a panel.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:01 AM on November 22, 2016

I only got to about half of the talks, then I was killed and had to start over.
posted by dannyboybell at 4:56 AM on November 22, 2016 [27 favorites]

Yeah but then you got to go to a set of completely new talks
posted by valrus at 6:19 AM on November 22, 2016 [12 favorites]

Ooh ooh I was there, check out Kate Compton's talk, it was my favorite. (For some reason YouTube won't let me post a version that doesn't start in the middle, sorry!)
posted by thesmallmachine at 8:37 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was there (but am not particularly fond of my own talk -- I did have a point, I swear). The one with the creators of Rogue is the BEST and should not be missed. I'm so so happy that I was able to see it in person.

I'm currently in the middle of a couple of drawn-out text-based email interviews with a couple of the people there, that will probably make it on @Play eventually.
posted by JHarris at 10:20 AM on November 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh, crap. JHarris, I had no idea you continued writing @Play after GSW shut down. Looks like I have about five years of catching up to do.
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 1:38 PM on November 22, 2016

Not that much catching up I'm afraid, it's only been going for about a year og that, and I've been very slow the year, partly because of getting the @Play book collection going (game show announcer voice "on and Amazon now!"), partly because of working on things that never seem to see the light of day (like, at the moment, my WIP gameplay experiment Casino Dungeon), partly because I'm actually engaged in those two interviews mentioned above, but mostly because GENERAL HOPELESSNESS.
posted by JHarris at 7:12 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I liked your talk quite a bit, fwiw. There were a lot of compelling ideas there. The knowledge vs. logic vs. wit stuff made things click for me in particular; I'd never thought explicitly about that unconscious intuition / wit part of gaming until you discussed it, and I've since realized it's kind of my holy grail.
posted by naju at 12:11 AM on November 23, 2016

And dang, I didn't know about the @play book but it's 815 pages of JHarris going deep on roguelikes and that sounds like a must buy to me.
posted by naju at 12:14 AM on November 23, 2016

The knowledge/logic/wit thing I explain in more detail in the @Play blog post I made about the talk, which fills in the blanks and presents all the slides (including those I didn't get to in the presentation).

That thing, knowledge-logic-wit, I had been struggling to put into acceptable words since the GameSetWatch days. A ton more could be said about each aspect of it. The Casino Dungeon game I'm trying to work on is kind of a test of the idea, to see if I can harness play intuition in a way where players can make use of it without explicitly making it into received "FAQ knowledge." To do that, I'm trying to develop sorta random systems, complex in their basis so as to make casual player discovery tricky, but also biased in a way where it's exploitable to a degree without understanding how it all fits together. (The game experiment is written in Python so anyone can load up the scripts and read them, but that's kind of overlooking the purpose of the experiment.)
posted by JHarris at 2:10 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you'll forgive me, to go into a bit of detail I didn't get to in my talk....

The arcade game Bubble Bobble is a key example of the kind of thing I'm going for. Bobble Bobble is an action game composed of 100 single-screen levels. To casual players it's full of randomness, in that every level contains one power up item, chosen from a wide assortment available in the game. At first glance, the item that appears in each level seems random, but it's actually nearly entirely deterministic.

Internally, you see, the game tracks dozens of counters. Nearly every kind of player-caused event is counted. Every step one of your dinos takes, every time you jump, every time you blow a bubble, every time you pop a bubble. Enemies killed, times jumped off of bubbles, fruit eaten, times each special bubble's been popped, times wrapped around the screen, and many many more.

Each of these counters is tied to one of the many bonus items in the game. At the start of a level, the game checks all the counters, and if one's reached a target value (it varies according to the game difficulty and other aspects of how the players are doing) the game will reset the counter to 0 and that item will appear in that round. If more than one counter reaches its target, only one will be reset and still only one item will appear, leaving the other counters to cash in at the start of a later round.

The implications of this: a player who tends to play a certain way (lots of jumping, lots of shooting, lots of running) will sort of tilt the game towards making those items appear. Particularly, the four most useful generally items, the basic powerups (the three different candies that power up your bubbles in different ways and the running shoes) are the lowest priority items, but the easiest to trigger. The other items are a lot more situational, not all of them being triggerable every level, but have higher priority.

A lot of Bubble Bobble's most powerful items make short work of a round, or even of multiple rounds (the Parasol), but their counters will only increase on levels where their elements are available. The counter for triggering Parasols is for popping water bubbles, which are only on some boards. So in practice, you can only find Parasols on the rounds immediately after, or soon after, water bubble boards.

This gives the "randomness" in Bubble Bobble what I call texture. You see, abundant true randomness is not that interesting from a gameplay perspective! It's like turning your old analog TV to a channel that's not there. It gives a kind of impression of being smooth and indistinguishable, like creamy peanut butter. It means the Law Of Averages holds sway, and the player can mostly assume the mean. If you have fewer random events, but with more import, then each event matters a lot more, and the player can't assume. However in this case each result is still equally likely, and a player that recognizes that will know that he can't rely on any result. So, the player is totally at the mercy of the dice. By using an obscure, yet influence-able mechanism to generate gameplay events lets the player influence the game, meaning wit can be applied. Even if he doesn't directly know how he's doing it, he'll still, after many plays, perceive patterns, or at least tendencies, in the game. And since different players play differently, each player will notice the influence differently, and that is difficult to wrote one-size-fits-all FAQs about.

Aside: BTW, one interesting thing about Bubble Bobble is that these counters are not reset when a game ends! If you start a new game soon after one ends, you might be surprised by finding powerful items on the first boards....

(Source: A document written by MAME driver dev Chris Moore, preserved on The Bubble Bobble Info Pages, an amazing resource, one of those grand old Web 1.0 sites, chock full of essential information without a Wordpress template to be found! That's what the internet should be, boy howdy!)
posted by JHarris at 2:39 AM on November 23, 2016 [14 favorites]

Thanks for posting this - a few friends and I organized this, and we had a wonderful time meeting everyone there! I had many favorite talks including the Rogue panel and learning from JHarris (who challenged roguelikes to be better), and also Servers and NAO with Drew Streib - his experience with running Nethack in the cloud. I work on cloud stuff at my job, so that was fascinating to me. Eventbrite made this thing possible by hosting it, which was really nice of them.

There are also a few photos on Instagram and on Twitter: we made custom shirts for speakers, pins and socks, a challenge coin for speakers, tourist cosplay (I'm on the right), decorations, more decorations. An attendee won a signed box copy of Rogue. People wore on-theme shirts.

We set up a a low-traffic mailing list that we'll post to if we eventually run another event or figure out a way to sell the leftover pins/socks/etc., in case anyone here would be interested in those things. :)
posted by dreamyshade at 8:54 AM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just one more talk link - I also really appreciated Nick Montfort bringing the history of ASCII art and concrete poetry. He's a professor who has written entire books about related topics, including Twisty Little Passages about interactive fiction.
posted by dreamyshade at 9:01 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ooh - ADOM was a favourite of mine for a very long time; I had no idea it was available on Steam (and I'm not sure that I like the change away from ASCII 'graphics'... but hey)

Also, there doesn't seem to be a mention here or in the Celebration schedule, but there's a pretty awesome looking Roguelike on Kickstarter: Jupiter Hell (I'm a backer but otherwise have no connections) which looks like a cross between Doom, Alien Breed, Rogue, and more.
The devs mentioned in one of their recent updates that they'd be at the 2016 'International Roguelike Development Conference' and I thought to myself "huh, fancy that - I didn't know such a thing existed"... and now there's this other one in SF too. There's more rogue in the world than I ever imagined.
posted by Chunder at 11:21 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went to the 2015 IRDC US! It was great, and some of the same people were at both it and Roguelike Celebration this year.

I'd love to go to these things every year, but the plain fact is I'd never have been able to make it to Celebration without the assistance of the event maintainers. They're good folks!
posted by JHarris at 2:53 PM on November 23, 2016

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