Best Places to Work graphic

Making the games industry a better place to work

Find out more
Best Places to Work graphic

Don't call it permadeath - Rogue dev

Glenn Wichman says we need a new way to talk about "consequence persistence" in games

The term "roguelike" has been applied with reckless abandon to a multitude of games in recent years, but one of the creators of Rogue, the ASCII-based dungeon crawler that gave the genre its name, may be more upset with the way people describe one of its more familiar conceits.

As reported by Kotaku, Glenn Wichman spoke at the Roguelike Celebration in San Francisco last weekend and expressed his concerns with the way people associate "permadeath" so closely with roguelikes.

"We need a different name from 'permadeath,'" Wichman said. "When people talk about permadeath, they talk about us three being mean. 'Oh, they wanted to make it extra hard, so they threw in permadeath.' [But] permadeath is [just] an example of 'consequence persistence.' Do I read this scroll, do I drink this potion? I don't know. It might be good. It might be bad. If I can save the game and then drink the potion and-oh, it's bad-then I restore the game and I don't drink the potion. That entire game mechanic just completely goes away. So that was a whole reason why, once you have taken an action and a consequence has happened, there's no way to undo it. Permadeath is not the right name for that, so that's my homework to all of you: come up with a better name."

Michael Toy, who created Rogue along with Wichman and Ken Arnold, agreed.

"We were trying to make it more immersive by making things matter, but not to make it more painful," Toy said. "It was really meant to make it more fun: 'This thing matters, so I'm going to think about this.'"

Wichman echoed the point, noting that the benefits players can receive from items within the game are "just as permanent" as negative effects.

Best Places to Work graphic

Making the games industry a better place to work

Find out more
Best Places to Work graphic

More stories

Sir Clive Sinclair dies at 81

Inventor of ZX Spectrum, Sinclair C5 electric vehicle, and Sinclair Executive pocket calculator dies after a long illness

By Brendan Sinclair

Latest comments (3)

Eyal Teler Programmer 4 years ago
I don't see the problem with 'permadeath'. Players who want it see it as a positive thing, players who don't see it as negative. The name itself is descriptive, it doesn't carry negative connotations, IMO.

The examples, on the other hand, are problematic. If a scroll or a potion can kill you, that's bad design. You can't prepare well for that. On the other hand if you have low hit points, and you know that a strong enemy might kill you, then you can prepare for that by trying to avoid such enemies, look for health potions, or prepare well in advance by managing your healing (and / or other aspects) better. That adds to the game.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 years ago
Most games with persistent consequences are described as "Ironman" these days, aren't they?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
"Permadeath", "Rogue-lite" (you either are or are not LIKE Rogue; there's no "Lite" unless you're drinking that brand of beer while playing), "Metroidvania", and "Walking Simulator" all need to be retired, while using "Strategic" and "Tactical" in games that require none of the two to play also need a rethink. Don't get me started on "Open World" games that aren't as open as they seem once you pick up a controller...
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.