Rogue (1980)

Exploring the Cavern of Cuties

With as much time as game designers and critics think and write about the specifics of game interactions, it's often useful to step back and look at the basics. Let’s ask a simple question: why are there so many video games dealing with social interaction and relationships, and so few that explore violence and action-oriented gameplay?
- Gregory Weir, Why So Few Violent Games?

This question is critical to understanding the value, despite otherwise negative attitudes, of Rogue, a roleplaying game from the early 1980s. Rogue is usually noted at best as a historical anomaly, one of the first games that visualized a sense of space but with otherwise uncompelling mechanics; at worst, it has been called a "murder simulator" and "training for psychopaths".

Rather than try to adapt the existing dialogue and interpersonal mechanics of text-driven fantasy adventure games to their new interface for spatial navigation, the creators decided to add in a variety of weaponry and offer exclusively utilitarian fashion. In addition to the usual romantic options, the game allows you to hit monsters with swords. This puzzling choice might be related to its authorship - it was designed by college students studying computer science rather than out of the more usual fields like sociology or psychology.

Rogue was poorly received at the time of release. Historians decried the mixture of weapons and armor from disparate periods. Experts in weaponry were frustrated by its limited tactics. Drawing Room magazine, a contemporary publication for gaming hobbyists, said in its column "The Role of Computers",

The sweeping cinematic fight scenes found around the table in games like Counts and Courtship are totally absent. The difference between the precision of a duel, the chaos of a bar-room brawl, or the stealthy preparation for an assassination - all lost to a mush best described as "bumping and grinding" that would have been better served to provide more variety to the game's interpersonal interactions.

Nonetheles, I think it provides an interesting view into the world Weir hypothesizes - one in which games work with conflict as often as cooperation, physics as much as politics.

The games controls are available by entering ?, then * for a list of commands. In addition to expected ones like flirt, gift, and Embrace, the game supports wield, zap, and other violent verbs. If esc doesn't work to cancel a command, try ctrl+g; this appears to be another artifact of 1980s code.

Download Rogue (1980) for
Linux - Windows - Mac OS X - Source

Please note that this source code is from 1981 and written in pre-standardized C. Only minor effort has been undertaken to make it compile on modern computers, mostly related to 64 bit cleanliness. It may crash, and it certainly will have security problems if installed, as used to be traditional, with setuid/setgid on a multi-user system.

If you're confused, don't worry! Everything above this line is a half-truth at best. This was a game designed for ♥♡♥ THE PULSE POUNDING HEART STOPPING DATING SIM JAM ♥♡♥ in 2013. I've written some more about what it "really" is and why I made it.