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Feature: How  Auro  Seeks To Simplify The Roguelike

Feature: How Auro Seeks To Simplify The Roguelike

September 20, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

September 20, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Design

In a new Gamasutra feature, game designer Keith Burgun discusses how most roguelike titles, including his ill-received iOS game 100 Rogues, have become bogged down by unnecessary complexity, and how his upcoming title Auro seeks to fix this problem.

Since computer games are not limited by real world restraints on equipment and space, many developers feel the desire to throw as much stuff as possible in to them. But Burgun argues that this "more is more" philosophy can actually damage a game's core appeal.

"When adding 'more' to a game you decrease the likelihood of being able to balance the game," he writes. "If the game is not balanced, then a dominant strategy emerges -- that one weapon or unit or move that everyone uses over and over. Now where did your complexity go? All of that effort designing, creating and implementing those features was wasted. Your game now effectively contains only a few usable items."

Many modern developers also have an unfortunate tendency to lose focus, Burgun writes, throwing in extra mechanics that have nothing to do with the "fundamental, essential experience" the game should be trying to get across. The idea of conveying that experience should come first, Burgun says, and any mechanic added to the game must be in its service.

But one of the biggest problems with modern game design, according to Burgen, is a temporal inefficiency caused by the plethora of no-brainer decisions that take up the vast majority of gameplay time in many titles.

He gives the example of Dungeon Crawl's "auto-explore" option, which automates the tedious process of traversing the game's huge labyrinths, but still takes precious time to complete. "If you ever have a gameplay mechanic that's such a no brainer that it can be automated, it should be cut," Burgun argues.

While Burgun admits his 100 Rogues was guilty of all of these problems, he's working to fix them with the upcoming Auro, which he spent a year designing before even starting on the actual development.

The full feature explains how Auro eliminates the grinding and number-crunching cruft that characterizes most roguelikes and focuses on the important strategic and positioning decisions that actually make the genre interesting.

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