Roguelike Celebration

2021 Speakers

All Together Now: Creating Multiplicative Power in Hades
I'll talk briefly about the design behind Hades' focus on creating upgrades and powers that build upon and interact with each other while also doing a technical dive into the engine and the various benefits and drawbacks of the programming techniques we used to achieve that in Hades.
Alice is a long-time game developer that got her start playing shmups and roguelikes ever since she was a kid! She's done some more artistic and experimental work in the past but is currently and happily making games at Supergiant.

Sports, Splorts, and Statistics: Why Data Accessibility Matters in Blaseball and Beyond
Roguelikes are well-known for their ability to generate infinitely complex histories, but how do you make such a detailed—and often ephemeral—historical record an accessible resource for storytelling? We discuss our experience as fan-archivists and tool-builders for the absurdist online baseball simulator, Blaseball, and how going beyond the raw event log to increase data accessibility, automate insights, and encourage “creative” statistical interpretations helps make storytellers out of everyone in the community by sharing not just data, but meaning.
Allie and Joe are Council Members of the Society of Internet Blaseball Research, a group dedicated to archiving and deriving data from the game Blaseball so that they, and the rest of the community, can do math and programming crimes.

Who’s the Boss (And How and Why)?
The history and execution of the concept of bosses in roguelike games. We’ll start with a general historic overview and run through the evolution of the boss concept (from the Balrog of Moria to the Beast of Isaac and beyond), and then break down some specific case studies of how Bosses are designed and used in roguelike games. We’ll finish off by putting on our critic’s lens and present our recommendations for how bosses can be designed for maximizing both player fun and narrative impact.
En Rogue is the seriocomic duo of Ally Brinken and Michelle Webb: writers, podcasters, and amateur game designers with a passion for the roguelike genre. With an eye to entertain and educate we look at the history, influences, and design behind the games we love.

Why Noita Became a Roguelite (and Why I Liked That a Lot)
I think it's relatively rare(?) for a game to start as not a roguelike/-lite and later become one, so I feel that Noita's case is an interesting look at the arguments that led into that. Also I think some smaller points about what kind of fun design roguelikes often appreciate can resonate well with the audience.
Arvi is a Finnish game developer. A lifelong desire to create led him first to drawing and painting and later to game design. One of his greatest interests as a game developer is to create experiences that surprise or otherwise evoke emotion in the audience, be it through a relatable structures or unusual design. Preferring to make things quickly and not dwell on details, game jams have become a very important part of his identity as a game developer.

Automating D&D Combat Prep with Roguelike Principles
I'm an associate game designer at Improbable Canada - designing systems driven, open world content! While in university I dabbled in AI-driven content generation and wrote papers on cognitive load and learning in games. Most importantly however, I am addicted to D&D and I became a forever DM by my own volition! When you combine all of the above you get someone who likes to constantly experiment with designs in the tabletop and digital space and validate them by forcing players to fill out forms. That's me!

Dynamic Relationships and Traits in Empire of Sin
Brenda Romero is a BAFTA award-winning game director, entrepreneur, artist and Fulbright award recipient and is presently game director and creator of the Empire of Sin franchise. As a game director, she has worked on 50 games and contributed to many seminal titles, including the Wizardry and Jagged Alliance series and titles in the Ghost Recon, Dungeons & Dragons and Def Jam franchises. Away from the machine, her analog series of six games, The Mechanic is the Message, has drawn national and international acclaim, particularly Train and Siochán Leat, a game about her family’s history, which is presently housed in the National Museum of Play. In addition to a BAFTA and a Fulbright, Romero is the recipient of multiple lifetime achievement awards, a Grace Hopper Award, a GDC Ambassador Award, and many of the games she has contributed to have won numerous awards. Romero is CEO and co-founder of Romero Games based in Galway, Ireland.

Off The Rails - Lessons Learned from Monster Train Development

Monster Train is a strategic roguelike deck building game with a twist. The game is Shiny Shoe’s first card game and largest roguelike-style game by far. While the game has enjoyed a lot of success, we made many mistakes along the way!

This talk is about the architecture of Monster Train and what we would do differently if we were starting again. While engineers will get the most out of this talk, designers with an interest in how a game is structured will also enjoy it. And while we used Unity to develop the game, the concepts discussed will apply to any engine.

Brian Cronin is a game engineer and designer from Portland OR who has been making games professionally for 16 years. He has a passion for game architecture and systems-based game design. He worked as an engineer and designer on Monster Train which was released in 2020.

Building Juicy Minimal Roguelikes In the Browser
In this talk I'll show you how to get started building roguelikes in the browser. I'll demonstrate some benefits of using the browser as your game's runtime, like CSS animations, fonts, live object inspection in the developer console, and fast dev iteration. I'll share battle-tested advice from my experience building Asterogue, Smallest Quest, and Roguelike Browser Boilerplate. This talk will also feature doodles, so many doodles.
independent computer programmer

The Cost of Magic

The cost of casting a spell: one of the most impactful design decisions in your roguelike.

What mechanics will lead to interesting gameplay? Mana costs? Spells per level? Charges per spell?

I will discuss the various popular systems, categorize them along various axis including but not limited to fungibility and replacability, and share some fun design anecdotes from various early RW prototypes.

Hi! I'm Dylan White, the programmer and designer behind Rift Wizard.

Community-Driven Roguelike Development

Shattered Pixel Dungeon is a fork of the mobile roguelike Pixel Dungeon, which came into existence thanks to the Pixel Dungeon community. The community has helped guide development direction and drive the game's success. The end result is an approachable but fully-featured roguelike that fits in your pocket!

In this talk I'll cover some of the techniques and lessons I've learned while developing ShatteredPD. This includes using the Pixel Dungeon community to gain an initial audience, involving player feedback/analytics in the game's iterative update model, leveraging the community to monetize without harming gameplay (despite the mobile ecosystem!), and following community demand to help guide the game's long-term direction.

Evan is a solo game developer working on his first game for seven years and counting! Shattered Pixel Dungeon started life as a rebalance fork of Pixel Dungeon, but has steadily grown into its own full-fledged game and the starting point of Evan's career.

Chronicles of Stampadia and other postcards from an alternate world
In the board game world Fallout is a nice roguelite with randomized narrative, SuperHOT had procedurally generated levels and missions way before its sequel and a game like Diablo fits a 100 pages book. There are a lot of fantastic ideas and implementations in that world that are worth seeing - as a developer and as a player. I'd like to talk about some of the ones I've got the inspiration to create Chronicles of Stampadia (, a print-and-play roguelike. And maybe suggest some other interesting board games with randomized exploration.
Since 1980, I have never stopped playing: Transformers, Lego, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Sega Master System, PlayStation, and then a whole bunch of consoles you can fit a disk in. One day, I tripped to another world, where there are no boundaries between games and toys, where everything is indie, where AAA games are roguelike. Sometimes I bring back some souvenir from that board game world: one of them is Chronicle of Stampadia - but there is a lot more out there.

Cyclic Plot Generation in a Mixed-Initiative Narrative Instrument
I am developing 'druid game', a narrative instrument which explores the 'clinamen' of plot between mages, priests, and cultists all fighting to control a dangerous and ultimately unknowable world, hurting each other badly in the process. Rather than taking the perspective of any one player in this game, I ask that the querent read through and with the narrative instrument, which proposes a dramatic plot and a sequence of scenes (one of many possible) through which it is articulated. I will argue that this approach maximizes the value of the system to creative player retellings while minimizing content burden on the narrative designer (also me for now).
I create and study 'software instruments', including roguelikes and other interfaces to virtual life-worlds. My game design work is inspired by pen-and-paper storygames, and by my professional work with scientific models as an interactive visualization developer and mathematician. I am doing research toward a PhD in Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz.

Before you fix a leak ask if it's a fountain (a paean for bugs and edge cases)
Among the many ways digital worlds speak to us is through their bugs. As twitter accounts like The Strange Log and Dwarf Fortress Bugs show, we care about bugs in tenderer terms than how we define them — as interruptions in a misunderstood "pure" experience. This is an exploratory talk with a few goals: to build a framework for understanding the aesthetics at work here, to reflect on my own creative practice as a maker of buggy games, and, finally, to celebrate bugs and edge cases, and ask other devs to embrace them as the idiosyncratic feature of our medium.
Jason Grinblat is co-founder, research artist, and creative lead at Freehold Games, the indie studio behind Caves of Qud and Sproggiwood. He's interested in the intersection of authorship and generativity, and he’ll find any excuse to put generated histories, hidden monasteries, and sentient plants in his games. He’s based out of Berkeley, CA.

Juice Your Turns

This talk is about "juice" and game feel within traditional roguelikes. Juice is all about adding polish, feedback, tiny details, and love to a game.

The talk will include a survey of the best examples of juicy roguelikes in the wild, break down some very easy to use techniques for adding juice, and talk about my journey from ignoring to embracing such techniques. As is tradition in this kind of talk, we will step through a demo of taking a static roguelike and adding polish to it until the end result feels like a completely different game.

Jeremiah is a developer of many small roguelikes such as Golden Krone Hotel, Dumuzid, and DEAD FACE.

The Lost Roguelikes
After Rogue became popular in the early days of the genre, a number of other games became popular in university computer rooms, games like Super Rogue, URogue and Advanced Rogue (sense a theme?) The talk would talk about and demonstrate these games live, thanks to the efforts of the Roguelike Preservation Society (which is itself now in need of preserving). Depending on time I might also demonstrate and talk about Larn, once a "major roguelike" that has fallen into obscurity these days, a game that takes a very different approach to roguelike concepts.
John Harris wrote (and, once in a while, still writes) the column @Play on roguelikes, which sometimes people tell me opened their eyes to roguelikes. He also has written an ever-increasing number of books on various gaming topics, from roguelikes to romhacks. He made couple of issues of a fanzine called Extended Play. And once in a while he even makes games himself.

Video Game Quest Theory for Improved Procedural Content Generation

I will present my work on general video game quest theory. Specifically, I want to have an in depth discussion of my proposed definition of a quest, as well as a new paradigm for classifying quests which can replace the old side/main quest model.

I believe this is relevant to the rogue-like community and in particular those who are interested in procedural quest generation because my quest definition is the first technical definition of a quest in academic literature. A technical definition like mine better supports technical applications of quests, and adoption of the definition in the PCG community could foster better collaboration within the community. The new paradigm that I would like to introduce allows for more flexibility in characterizing the constraints of the quest and purpose of the quest within the design space. I believe those interested in procedural quest generation can leverage this paradigm to better specify the kinds of generation they are aiming for. This is useful because it can help set the expectations of the system more appropriately, rather than a system producing main or side quests that do not fully meet the expectations of the user due to the baggage that the main/side quest terminology carries.

Additionally, this work is already being used in my company at improbable to better design quests and understand the design space we are working in, and has already proved useful in the practical development of our game.

I am a PhD student in computer science at the University of Alberta and I also work part time as a narrative and quest designer at the Improbable Edmonton Studio. I do research primarily around quests, both to further general video game quest theory and to help understand how quests impact the player experience.

Possibility of Rogue Elements

i will discuss several typical Rogue spell/combat effects like bump-to-attack, Teleport, Polymorph, Poison. sketch out some of the possibility space that different games can explore from these basic ideas, and the considerations of how they interact with other design elements, drawing some examples from my own games.

e.g. consider 868-HACK's .POLY: a very cheap polymorph spell that affects all enemies on the level. this would be a huge and overly unpredictable effect if there was wide variance in enemy strength, but with only 4 enemy types of roughly equal power it's legit.

the goal is to inspire people to stretch genre tropes in a unique way to fit their own game. to see tropes as a flexible empowering toolbox and not a constraint.

strange wild creature / eclectic game developer / actual wizard

For the Squishies ⚡ Making Roguelikes Accessible to (Younger) Children and their Parents

This is a lightning talk.

The "year" of March 2020 has made parents experts in finding any source of reliable entertainment that doesn't drive themselves batty, yet keeps the kids engaged and learning something.

Roguelikes are an excellent solution to these problems with a few accessibility nods that make the games better for all players.

Parents have run up against a host of software largely made for an older player base.

This talk presents a few parenting-simulations you can conduct while playing your game to judge its suitability for parents. A few examples of failures and low-cost fixes are shown.

Before your cringe breaks make you hit the abort button, I'm *not* talking about theme/blood/and other items which are far more noticeable to you.

This is about issues like small hands vs big controllers, difficulties seeing and reading text, load screen post-confirm buttons, the realities of children and embarrassing information, and pause buttons that work for parents.

Addressing these issues can also broaden your game's audience to folks with issues with visual acuity, dyslexia, color vision deficiency, and more.

Michael Langford is a iOS developer making accessible medical and other software for children and adults. He's an avid fan of Roguelikes, board games and both types of RPGs.

One Quest To Rule Them All: Quest Design in Non-Games Media
A deep dive exploration of non-games media and how to apply lessons learned while making nonlinear, even procedural games. What is the quest design of Lord of the Rings, and how do we apply the storytelling of Tolkien (and similar) to a roguelike, without breaking from the procedural format? What types of quests should we offer our players, and how do we structure those quests to enable variable play styles without massive scope creep?
I'm Nathan Savant, a Narrative and Game Designer. I believe that actions speak louder than words, and that storytelling in games is better when it's done through the gameplay, rather than video or text. I study other media to understand how stories have worked historically, in an attempt to bring games up to the level of novels or film.

Things I've Learnt from Maintaining Angband
I'll give a personal view of what it's been like doing Angband and variant development, especially being actual Angband maintainer. I'm likely to include things like why I got into it in the first place, how Angband has progressed over the years, and what people expect from Angband and its maintainers. I want to leave plenty of time for Q&A.
I'm the current maintainer of Angband, and have been involved in Angband and variant development since 2005. I'm Australian, and a mathematician by trade.

The Tombs of Atuan: The Original Roguelike?

In this talk I will discuss the similarities between Ursula Le Guin's book The Tombs of Atuan (the second book in the Earthsea series) and traditional dungeon based roguelikes. The book takes place in an environment that is extremely similar to the dungeons of doom (including a hunger clock!).

I'll use pieces of the text to illustrate these similarities, and potentially do some digging into the source material of original rogue development to see if there is in fact a direct line of inspiration from the book to the original game.

I'm a long time roguelike fan. I attended IRDC US in 2015 and 2016, and I worked on Roguelike Celebration for many years as a labor of love. I'm also the maker of!

Exhbition: Attempting Brogue on a Dance Mat
I'm going to hack together a many-button foot-operated controller with a Makey Makey and take a run at Brogue. I don't expect get very far.
Qristy is a weird-game designer, a lead volunteer with Portland Indie Game Squad, and an organizer with Roguelike Celebration.

Roguelikes, Immersive Sims, and the Church of the Simulation
Lead Level Designer at Arkane Studios, helped create Mooncrash and has worked on immersive sims for over a decade.

You May Already Be a Roguelike

How to build Roguelike elements into a game that wasn't originally created to be a Roguelike.

Some topics:

  • Motivations for incorporating Roguelike elements
  • Necessary building blocks
  • Procedural setups, challenges, and rewards
  • Where to break the mold
Principal designer on Legends of Runeterra, lead for Lab of Legends, our Roguelike deckbuilder mode. 10 year ccg design veteran (formerly a designer on Magic: The Gathering). Owner of the world's roundest tuxedo cat.

Tooling for Roguelikes and Procgen
A high-level overview of the notion of creating specialized tools for both procgen and roguelike development. Focus on non-code solutions such as visual editors, why that canbe valuable in both gamedev and especially elements of roguelike development, even for solo devs.
Spencer (they/them) is a senior game engineer at Monomi Park, and a roguelike tinkerer and enthusiast.

Procedural Phonology: Generating Name Generators

A high-level overview of procedural phonology generation, or how you can use phonology (the study of linguistic sound systems) to generate not only random names, but random naming languages (i.e., name generators), such that their outputs sound similar to each other and distinct from the outputs of other generated languages - much as each real-world language has its own unique character.

I'm a mixed race DIY game designer and programmer from Canada. My comfort zone is (J)RPGs and turn-based combat, but I have longstanding casual interests in geography (or at least cool maps) and phonology (or at least cool names) that have motivated and in turn been motivated by my experiments in procedural map and terrain generation.

Towards a New Understanding of Procedural Super Attacks

Fireballs. Super attacks. Fatalities. Summons. Limit breaks.

Whatever you want to call them, some videogame attacks are more complex than a simple punch or kick. And some games have ridiculous amounts of super attacks, each carefully choreographed, using sounds, music, particles, animations, and anything else the game engine can possibly display. We know that all this content was created by loads of hard-working developers working insane hours.

So can't we procedurally generate them?

Thom Robertson is a programmer, a videogame designer, and a creative whirlwind. He spent 11 years working in the videogame industry, before becoming an indie, and making games in many different genres. In 2010, his muse called him to make a multiplayer coop spaceship game, called "Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator". It was instantly popular, and gained a loyal and responsive fanbase. Thom has continued to update and extend Artemis, and is currently working on Artemis Cosmos, a complete ground-up re-write.

Building an Economic Flesh Simulation Will Make You Disassociate from Reality

I'm making a game called Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, about buying and selling the fleshy meat parts of sentient beings in a strange and evolving universe. This required making an intergalactic stock market. Which required defining the value of a given organ. Which required defining a list of organs. Which required defining what is and is not an organ in the first place, and so on, in an endless line.

The process broke our team. Not in terms of crunch, or mental health, but in the realization that so many of the systems and definitions used in every aspect of our reality are *invented*. False. Arbitrary decisions from someone else we'd never meet.

In this lightning talk, we're going to show the necessary and powerful existential hell of unravelling your game's systems to discover the implicit ethical considerations beneath. A seemingly simple or absurdist game can reveal the arbitrary nonsensicality of the systems we live within every day--and cause one to demand better systems in the process.

Existential crisis: the dev talk.

Radicalization via viscera.

Viva la revolorgan.

Xalavier Nelson Jr. is a BAFTA-nominated studio head, narrative director, and writer, with dozens of titles under his belt including An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs, Reigns: Beyond, Hypnospace Outlaw, Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, and El Paso Elsewhere. He also makes strides in a burgeoning storytelling career outside of games, including writing the cult hit comic Sherlock Holmes Hunts the Moth Man.

Pokemon Glitch - Story of A Roguelike With No Author
In this lightning talk, Younès will tell you about the unique experience of making and playing a Pokemon game that has been randomly corrupted. They will guide you through the world of "Pokemon Glitch" by giving you a tour of its never-seen-before creatures, its haunted places, its unique game mechanics and emerging story-telling. Come discover a roguelike that nobody has played before and, even more bizarre, a roguelike that nobody designed.
Younès has been a game developer for the past 9 years, and recently started to dual-class as a game researcher. They specialize in making strange ludic experiments and pitching new game ideas like a conspiracy theorist. Their work has been exposed in the French libraries and embassies. Younès' nindo is to make games that can surprise both you and them!

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