Mechanic #053 - Alphabit Rogue|
A roguelike for beginners, where the alphabet is the deciding factor in combat.
If you didn't know Roguelike:
#.r...# . .
#.....# . ###-###########
####### . #.............#
####### . #.............#
#..q..|... . #.......c.....#
#.....# . . #.............#
####### ...... ###############
I have a natural affinity to Roguelikes. They are tactical rpgs with an inclination towards procedurally generated content. In fact, it SHOULD be my favorite genre. And yet it isn't. Partly this is because the procedural aspects tend to be minimal and poorly done, but mostly it is because Roguelike are inherently obtuse.
Let me put that a different way. When you are going through your ASCII map and come across a 'c', what is it? Is it a cocker-spaniel? A crook? A carrot? A car? Even if you know that it means a 'cow', you don't know how dangerous it is. Despite the simplistic interface, Roguelikes seem to rely on trial and error, with more than a hint of memorization.
This concept is an attempt to work with the ASCII interface to give you information you need to know up front, such that whether something is good or bad, strong or weak, monster or item becomes obvious.
Basically, there is no abstraction (or very little of it). Instead of 'A' standing for Alligator, an 'A' just stands for 'A'. There are 26 combat levels in the game, A - Z, and 26 monsters in the game, A - Z. See where I'm going yet? Each monster is a specific level, so an A-level monster is weaker than a B-level monster and so on.
For instance, say you are level M. If you meet a 'C', you know that it is considerably weaker than you are. If you meet an 'N', it is slightly tougher than you. A 'Z' is very difficult and will result in guaranteed death. Just looking at the letter will give you perfect information as to the relative strength of the enemy.
Items are simply represented with a '?'. You've got to stand over them to see what they are. Other features of the map, like staircases and doors, can use non-alphanumeric symbols as well, like '>' or '+'.
We've got both lowercase and uppercase letters, so let's create some sort of gameplay mechanic for that as well. One possibility is that lowercase creatures are vanilla template creatures (nothing special about them), but uppercase represents elite creatures that are slightly stronger and yield better loot. Or perhaps lowercase letters could be items to be picked up - the upper/lower division helping to make that obvious and clear.
In that second case, I think we can do something interesting with that. For instance, rather than traditional equipment and inventory, you simply pick up lowercase letters. Each letter can be equipped (though only up to five or six at a time). Each letter represents the quality of the item (like monsters, 'a' is weak, 'z' is very strong). Each item has a randomly chosen ability (or two). For instance, one may increase your dodge while another will heal you X hp every step. The color of the item is a clue to what it does (red is damage, yellow, heal, blue defense, etc).
Each equipped item will die after a certain number of steps. This is determined by the strength of the object. For instance, an 'm' item could be weaker and last a while, or strong and last just a short bit. The level of the object is used sort of like: strength + duration = level (or something like that). There are bonuses for equipping certain combinations of letters. Like equipping letters sequentially in the alphabet, equipping only vowels, or letters that spell out words (equip 'strength' for some fun).
I mentioned that items have colors. Perhaps something similar could be done for monsters. Like items, monsters have colors that indicate their particular breed. For instance, a red 'A' may be strong with low defense while a blue 'A' is weak with a strong defense. Another possibility is that the color of the monster indicates its mood (ie green is friendly, yellow is cautious, red aggressive, gray sleeping, etc). Either one is fine with me.
The Other Interface Issue|
The other problem with Roguelikes is that they tend to have strange commands. For instance, does 'i' mean inventory or imbibe? Or do you drink by 'q'uaffing a potion? Do you use the arrow keys, number pad, or ijkl keys? It seems like each one I try does it differently and just performing simple things like entering a building is sometimes problematic. Again, Roguelikes seem to thrive on memorization, and their interfaces are no different.
Just quickly, I want to offer a different solution (this is not specific to the alphabet stuff above, but a general 'easy' roguelike interface). A 9-key block for moving (8 directions and a rest in the middle - like the keypad or uiojklm,.). Simply bumping an object will perform the default action. Bumping an NPC will attack it, if it is aggressive. If friendly, it will initiate conversation. Spacebar will perform an action on whatever you are standing on (pick up an item, go down the stairs) and if you are standing on an empty square, will open up your inventory screen.
Inventory screen is simply a list of objects, highlight them and push spacebar will produce a context sensitive list of actions (drop, read, eat, drink, examine, equip, unequip, etc). Objects and skills can be loaded into a quick bar-like thing where the number keys (1-0) will perform a default action on the thing in the slot. If it requires a direction, you'll also have to hit a direction. For instance, want to use a sword to attack guy to your left? Type '1'+LEFT. Whatever skill or item is in slot 1 is your default attack.
There. World's easiest interface for Roguelikes. Just nine direction keys, the spacebar, and the quickslots. For the alphabet stuff above, you don't even need the quickslots.