The History of Rogue: Have @ You, You Deadly Zs
May 5, 2009 Page 3 of 4
Unfortunately for Epyx and the Rogue team, the commercial versions of the game failed miserably. Wichman blames rampant piracy, but it's likelier that the humble character-set graphics in most versions turned off gamers who were accustomed to advanced sprite-based graphics.
Also, 1983 saw the release of Origin's Ultima III (see book Chapter 23), a game that many considered to be the best role-playing game ever designed for a computer. Its colorful graphics and smooth interface must have made Rogue seem primitive by comparison.
Meanwhile, Daniel Lawrence's Telengard, published by Avalon Hill in 1982 for most computer platforms, offered more-diverse graphics and a similar scheme for procedurally generating the dungeons.
Even Epyx had published a graphical "roguelike" a year earlier: Jeff McCord's Sword of Fargoal for the Commodore 64 and VIC-20. In short, gamers had plenty of CRPGs (computer role playing games) to choose from, including some that offered Rogue-like gameplay, but with more advanced audiovisuals.
However, the real problem seemed to be the "open source" origins of the game. Although it's likely an exaggeration to think of mainframe software programmers as early free software or open source advocates, they did tend to have a much more liberal outlook on sharing and altering each other's code.
Such was certainly the case with Rogue, which had long been available for free in countless public domain versions.
Epyx's Rogue running on an Apple Macintosh SE.
Furthermore, the code had been repeatedly "forked," or taken over by separate development teams and taken in new directions. This growing collection of CRPGs based more or less on Rogue became known as "roguelikes," many of which are still in active development even today.
By the time Epyx got around to publishing the commercial version of Rogue, gamers had several free versions to choose from. The 1986 ports for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga were even considered embarrassing by some, as critics could point out that more advanced roguelikes such as Hack and Larn were freely available, whereas the commercial Rogue was a typical full-priced game.
Although Rogue wasn't a commercial success, it has still had a considerable impact on the industry, including in its implementation of traditional fantasy conventions. Further, many credit its procedurally generated dungeons as the inspiration for Blizzard's Diablo (see book Chapter 4, "Diablo (1996): The Rogue Goes to Hell").
But we can also find its influence in Japanese imports such as Square's Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (1999) for the Sony PlayStation and Square Enix's Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon (2008) for Nintendo Wii. However, the sectors where it seems to have the strongest influence is the UNIX and later Linux communities, where Rogue and its derivatives remain a staple of the gaming scene.
Screenshot from Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon.
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