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Deconstructing roguelikes: what makes them addicting?

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Roguelikes have an interesting effect on me: i can't stop playing them! I'm not sure why, but it seems that the combination of procedural content and loot makes the final product quite pleasant, even without decent graphics, animation or sound. What do you think that makes roguelikes "tick" for you? Do you prefer games with "continue" options, or pure and simple permadeath, without progress track?

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For me, roguelikes have a good mix of novelty (new stuff to see on additional playthroughs), low time investment requirement per play session, and incentives to try new things without much risk.

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I can't find a citation, but I read once that two key factors when comparing the addictiveness of various forms of gambling are:

 

1. Size of stake (higher stake = more addictive)

2. Speed of turnaround (quicker result = more addictive)

 

Roguelikes seem to tick those two boxes more than most other forms of games, because of their relatively high stakes and fast turnaround. I think it's also why Counter-Strike is like crack-cocaine for so many people.

 

(not that I'm implying that these games are like gambling, I'm just saying the psychology of addiction in games and in gambling probably follows similar rules)

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To me the best rouge games you can jump into quickly and have a short play through but each death helps you get a little better.   There might be artifacts you can find that carry over across all future games, or points which you can spend to upgrade your characters, or unlock new classes.

 

So speed of play, and even death provides some progress.

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Roguelikes have an interesting effect on me: i can't stop playing them! I'm not sure why, but it seems that the combination of procedural content and loot makes the final product quite pleasant, even without decent graphics, animation or sound. What do you think that makes roguelikes "tick" for you? Do you prefer games with "continue" options, or pure and simple permadeath, without progress track?

which roguelikes you talkin about?

 

i loved adom (especially the beginning of the game, midgame after pyramid quest now made me tired)..

 

i liked the complexity, imagination.. also weapons, magic, skills

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I've never found roguelikes to be addictive - the only one I played a lot, Azure Dreams, had decent graphics, animations, and sound, as well as some appealing story linked to dating-sim content and city-improvement sim content in the home base where you lived between dungeon runs.

 

I do think roguelikes have a gambling-like appeal.  Specifically they remind me of stackers and coin pushers, games that have multiple decisions that build on past decisions.

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Looking honestly at my own rogue-like addiction phases, I'd say the gambling comparison is only partly accurate. The randomized nature of the dungeon is a lot like the toss of the dice, it's true. However, for me the big thing about rogue-likes is how they are akin to untying a complex knot or untangling a ball of yarn, something I do for my wife during quiet moments at home. Each game is like that knot, where you have to pick at it and poke at it, to find the way the knot unravels. Sometimes you pull the wrong thread and make the knot worse. Sometimes you find just the right steps and the threads fall neatly into place. Sometimes the knot just sort of falls apart in your hands, and other times it just pulls tighter and more snarled the more you tease it until finally you hurl it across the room in anger. But each new knot is a whole new experience, unlike in its details to any other knot that came before.

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