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A fairly well recognised genre in Japan especially after the advent of handheld and smartphone gaming, it has, until recently, remained a fairly obscure genre in the Western mainstream market. Most Western roguelikes are made on a non-commercial basis and only feature ASCII graphics, with newer games increasingly offering tile-based graphics. Games are typically dungeon crawls, with many monsters, items, and environmental features. Computer roguelikes usually employ the majority of the keyboard to facilitate interaction with items and the environment. The name of the genre comes from the 1980 game Rogue.
Some features of Rogue existed in earlier games, notably: Adventure (1975), Dungeon (1975), DND/Telengard (1976), Beneath Apple Manor (1978), and several written for the PLATO system, such as the multi-user games dnd (1975) and Moria (1975). DND, dnd, Beneath Apple Manor, and Moria all used limited graphics. Moria offered a primitive first-person, three-dimensional view, while DND and dnd presented a top-down map view similar to Rogue. Dungeon had not only a top-down map view, but line of sight code and a textual display, and Beneath Apple Manor had the former two features as well.
These games present a plain view. Traditionally, an "@" sign represents the player character. Letters of the alphabet represent other characters (usually opposing monsters). Some versions of Rogue only made use of capital letters, but present-day roguelikes vary capitalization to supply additional visual cues. A dog, for example, may be represented by the letter "d", and a dragon by a "D". Coloration may signal further distinction between creatures. For example, a Red Dragon might be represented by a red "D" and a Blue Dragon by a blue "D", each of differing abilities significant to player strategy. Additional dungeon features are represented by other ASCII (or ANSI) symbols. A traditional sampling follows.
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Graphical adaptations are available for most early roguelikes, and it is not uncommon for new development projects to adopt a graphical user interface.
Players issue game commands with at most a few keystrokes, rather than with sentences interpreted by a parser or by means of a pointing device such as a mouse. For example, in NetHack one would press "r" to read a scroll, "d" to drop an item, and "q" to quaff (drink) a potion.
The gameplay elements characterizing the roguelike genre were explicitly defined at the International Roguelike Development Conference 2008, named the so-called "Berlin Interpretation". Some of the "high value factors" used in this definition include:
- Roguelike games randomly generate dungeon levels, though they may include static levels as well. Generated layouts typically incorporate rooms connected by corridors, some of which may be preset to a degree (e.g., monster lairs or treasuries). Open areas or natural features, like rivers, may also occur.
- The identity of magical items varies across games. Newly-discovered objects only offer a vague physical description that is randomized between games, with purposes and capabilities left unstated. For example, a "bubbly" potion might heal wounds one game, then poison the player character in the next. Items are often subject to alteration, acquiring specific traits, such as a curse, or direct player modification.
- The combat system is turn-based instead of real-time. Gameplay is usually step-based, where player actions are performed serially and take a variable measure of in-game time to complete. Game processes (e.g., monster movement and interaction, progressive effects such as poisoning or starvation) advance based on the passage of time dictated by these actions.
- Most are single-player games. On multi-user systems, scoreboards are often shared between players. Some roguelikes allow traces of former player characters to appear in later game sessions in the form of ghosts or grave markings. Some games such as NetHack even have the player's former characters reappear as enemies within the dungeon. Multi-player derivatives such as TomeNET, MAngband, and Crossfire do exist and are playable online.
- Roguelikes traditionally implement permadeath. Once a character dies, the player must begin a new game. A "save game" feature will only provide suspension of gameplay and not a limitlessly recoverable state; the stored session is deleted upon resumption or character death. Players can circumvent this by backing up stored game data ("save scumming"), an act that is usually considered cheating.
Roguelike games long remained the domain of obscurity. However, more recently, one or more concepts found in the Berlin Interpretation of roguelike games have been significant parts of other genres, drawing new attention to the roguelike approach. According to 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish, action role-playing games such as Blizzard's hugely successful Diablo can be considered types of roguelikes, due to their similar premise: players slash their way (in real time) through increasingly difficult monsters and obtain treasure while traversing deeper into randomly-generated dungeons to complete quests. Salon.com's Wagner James Au attested that, when he visited their offices, "Blizzard's designers readily acknowledged their debt to Nethack and other Roguelikes". Moreover, the permanent death feature of the roguelike is retained in both Diablo 2 and Diablo 3's hardcore modes, as well as Runic Games' Torchlight and Torchlight 2.
Still, the first mainstream success of proper roguelike games was in Japan where the genre is now widely popular. The success is due primarily to the Mystery Dungeon series by Chunsoft. The series began as a Super Famicom game called Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon (lit tran. The Great Adventure of Torneko: Dungeon of Mystery), which is a spin-off of the Dragon Quest series. The finely tuned game balance as well as the use of easily recognized 2D animated monsters from a well-known franchise drawn by Akira Toriyama, who is the creator of various hit manga and anime such as Dragon Ball series led to the game becoming a sleeper hit in 1993 selling in excess of 800,000 copies. The game was also voted as the 78th best game of all time in the Japanese Famitsu magazine.
Subsequently, Chunsoft has built the Mysterious Dungeon series on well drawn, animated characters and monsters  from easily recognized and well established franchises. Chunsoft managed to flatten the steep learning curve of roguelike games by introducing multiple dungeons with progressive difficulties, hence delaying the introduction of more punishing aspects of gameplay to later stages (or only after completion of the main plot). In some series, the permanent death feature applied only to the hard mode and has been controversial amongst fans of the older games who prefer more challenging (and some argue more addictive) gameplay. Due to the lower requirement for hardware specs, smaller data size requirement and the casual nature of gameplay, not to mention infinite replayability, the series has been particularly successful as games for hand-held consoles and, more recently, mobile phones.
This format resulted in four successful sub-series: the Torneko series based on Dragon Quest, the Chocobo (series) based on Final Fantasy, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series based on Pokémon, and the Shiren the Wanderer series, which is the only one based on original characters (plus two failed series based on the Gundam and Tower of Druaga franchises). These series have become "the staple of the Japanese game market". The first Chocobo game, which had a less punishing save system for a much younger target audience, sold 1.165.798 copies  and the first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, Blue and Red Rescue Team, sold 3.08 million together, popularizing the core gameplay of roguelikes to a global audience.
The no-save feature of the Torneko and Shiren series, which is one of the main features of roguelike games, was described as "the worst flaw in any RPG is the lack of a decent save system" by Worthplaying.com and "[going] against the very foundation of what an RPG should be" by Gaming Age. Eurogamer argued that "its sadistic, repetitive nature ....that's precisely what's appealing about it. The stakes are far higher, making the rewards much sweeter." The latest Mystery Dungeon series to be marketed to the West for console is Shiren the Wanderer 3 for Wii console which features 3D rendered characters. In the West, it is marketed simply as "Shiren the Wanderer", reflecting the lack of recognition of previous series in the West. The game has three difficulty modes, Easy mode where half of inventory and all the attained levels are saved upon defeat, Normal mode where you lose all the inventory but retain the levels you've gained, and Hard mode which features permanent death (rather than dying, characters are brought back to the entrance of dungeon, lose all their inventory and revert to level 1).
The genre has also received attention from Independent developers with the release of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space by Digital Eel in 2002, its sequel, Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space in 2005, and more recently, Dungeons of Dredmor by Gaslamp Games in 2011. Alec Meer of Rock, Paper, Shotgun mused in his review that its success might attract more developers to pursue the genre, commenting that "I’ve got a sneaking, and very pleased, suspicion that we’re in for a lot of roguelikes over the coming months. Perhaps they’ll be 2011’s indie comeback special, in the way leftfield platformers such as Braid and Super Meat Boy have been in recent years. For whatever is due to follow, it’s going to find the bar left pretty damned high by Dredmor."
In September 2012 Subset Games released FTL: Faster Than Light a space simulation that has been likened to roguelike games, though the creators note that the game primarily uses roguelike elements to drive the game's larger narrative. The game was successfully funded by a Kickstarter campaign 7 months earlier. The game received largely positive reviews, holding average scores of 8/10 on Gamerankings and Metacritic. Leif Johnson of IGN stated in his review that FTL "demonstrates that the Roguelike genre still has plenty to offer almost 30 years after its first appearance"
- Parish, Jeremy. "The Essential 50 Part 12 -- Rogue". 1UP. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
- "Fun with PLATO". Armchairarcade.com. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- Berlin Interpretation (definition of a "Roguelike") from RogueBasin, a Roguelike development wiki
- Hatfield, Tom (2013-01-29). "Rise Of The Roguelikes: A Genre Evolves". Gamespy. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- "classic.1up.com's Essential 50: Part 12. Rogue". 1UP.com. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
- Parish, J (2004-02-11). "Nightmare of Druaga: Fushigino Dungeon (PS2)". 1UP.com. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- "The best game ever - Linux". Salon.com. 2000-01-27. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
- "Permanece vigente Akira Toriyama gracias a 'Dragon Ball'" from Milenio.com
- ドラクエＶＳファイナルファンタジー 売り上げ対決 from www9.plala.or.jp
- "Japan Votes on All Time Top 100 - Edge Magazine". Next-gen.biz. 2006-03-03. Retrieved 2011-06-24.
- "RPGFan Reviews - Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer". Rpgfan.com. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- Nix (2007-09-20). "Shiren Wanders Into America - Nintendo DS News at IGN". Ds.ign.com. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- "Sony PS1 Japanese Ranking". Japan-gamecharts.com. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- Casamassina, Matt (2007-07-25). "Nintendo Sales Update - Wii News at IGN". Wii.ign.com. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- "NDS Review - 'Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer'".
- "Torneko- The Last Hope".
- "DS Roundup".
- "Three things to get you excited about Shiren 3".
- Meer, Alec (2011-07-19). "Wot I Think: Dungeons of Dredmor". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
- "FTL: Faster than Light - FAQ". Subset Games. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- Johnson, Leif (2012-09-19). "Faster Than Light Review". IGN. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (May 2013)|
- Matt Barton (May 5, 2009). "The History of Rogue: Have @ You, You Deadly Zs". Gamasutra.
- Roguelike Roundup at Kuro5hin
- Introduction to Roguelike Games
- 7 Day Roguelikes
- Roguelikes at the Open Directory Project
- rec.games.roguelike Usenet hierarchy at Google Groups
- @Play - A column about roguelikes and their various aspects by John Harris at GameSetWatch.
- Roguebasin - The Roguelike information wiki