Official development blog

Roguelike Celebration 2018, the Experience

Another Roguelike Celebration! The biggest roguelike gathering of the year just keeps getting bigger :D

I had to miss last year due to my concussion, but it was great to finally meet up with everyone again. Back in 2016 I showed up just a few days before Roguecel and still wasn’t sleeping well when the time came around, and although the sheer excitement of being with all these roguelike developers and players was enough to keep me going through an entire day, I knew it’d be even better if I could participate fully refreshed. So this time I made a vacation of it, arriving in the US a couple weeks early to visit family near San Francisco, too.


I knew I was headed in the right direction as soon as I saw the sign at the airport.

Like 2017, this Roguecel was on a two-day schedule, which is just awesome. The feedback from 2016 was pretty much unanimous in that a single day was simply not enough, especially since that also forced the talks to be split into two tracks, meaning you’d always be watching one talk at the expense of another, which sucked. (After this year I’m hearing multiple calls of “two days is just not enough!” xD)

Pre-event Gathering

On Friday night (10/5) we had a pre-event meet-up at ThirstyBear Brewery. It was announced relatively late so there were only about 25 people or so, though this was probably for the better since the place was already packed and we had no reserved space. Instead we gradually assimilated tables as they were emptied, and in the meantime had to guess who among those entering the bar were actually here for roguelikes. This was not hard to guess ;)

I met up with lead organizer Noah, who said about 230 tickets were sold this year!? o_O \o/ roguelikes!

I spent most of the evening catching up with old friends Santiago and Thomas. All three of us hail from separate countries, but talk online and got to hang out in 2016.


RogueBasin and Ananias creator Santiago, myself, and ADOM developer Thomas Biskup.

Santiago admitted he didn’t have a single slide prepared for his talk the next day (in the morning scheduled for right after mine). Quite the opposite of my approach, but surprisingly it turned out fine as you’ll see.

In the Beginning

Saturday marked the official start of the event, and the next morning I arrived early to help out a bit with setup. Roguecel 2018 was held at the GitHub offices in San Francisco, same as last year though different from 2016 so I hadn’t been here before.


Front doors to GitHub in SF.

GitHub is such an amazing space for hosting events, and we got to use it for free. Wow.


Open area near the entrance.






Speaking area.






View from stage.

As usual the decorations included various posters, letters, @ signs, and message log texts, so part of setting up was to hang these things around the area to make it a little less GitHubby and a little more roguelikey.

As a sponsor, Thomas had some Ultimate ADOM posters printed up, so he, Britta (another organizer) and I hung those around.


Ultimate ADOM posters.



The Altar has been a guaranteed fixture of the event each year.



Exactly what I want to see at the emergency exit.


Even before 9am people were scanning their tickets at the door and picking up their Roguelike Celebration memorabilia.


Let the rogueliking begin!

Every year there are @ socks for everyone to replenish their supply. And a new t-shirt design.


Roguecel t-shirt and socks. (Apparently only 2016 had a separate t-shirt design for speakers, one that is still one of my favorite shirts, and I brought and wore it on Sunday.)

But there was a great collection of other stuff, too…


RC2018 swag!

Everyone got one of those awesome ASCII/@ tote bags, inside which is a notebook, marker (magic, of course), and pamphlets containing Ultimate ADOM mini-stories. Top-center there is a little roguelike map lapel pin! As a speaker I also got some nice chocolate and a custom thank you card with a hand-written message on it, signed by all the organizers <3


All three meals were catered both days, except for dinner on Sunday. It was a healthy, tasty variety of options, so I was happy to see that (in addition being mostly stuff I wasn’t allergic to :D).


Saturday breakfast begins.



People just starting to filter into the cafeteria. It was funny to see the high proportion of black clothing throughout the weekend, as many were wearing roguelike-related t-shirts.



More and more people.



There were eventually enough people that in looking back at my earliest pictures I’m surprised to see a number of them I didn’t even realize were there until much later!

After breakfast it was time for talks, so most everyone gradually moved over to the speaking area. There are technically linked monitors everywhere so it’s easy to see the talk from other sitting/standing areas, too (even, uh, the restrooms xD).


Audience getting ready for the first talk of this year’s Roguelike Celebration.

The talks started a little late due to GitHub technical issues, and the first two ended up not being streamed, but at least they were recorded.

I was actually the opening talk! This is great because I could get it out my mind rather than worrying about it any longer. It also turns out that because my talk touched on a lot of different subtopics, a fair number of other speakers referred back to my presentation, which was kinda cool.


Opening remarks by lead organizer Noah. (At this point I’d already set up my laptop and presentation so it’s ready to go, which is why it’s on all screens.)

How to Make a Roguelike

My own talk went pretty well. Back in 2016 at the first Roguelike Celebration when I gave the From Hobbyist to Full-time Roguelike Developer talk, I was quite nervous because 1) that was the first time I’d done any kind of speaking about anything since high school in the 90s and 2) I hadn’t even practiced what I was going to say, just put together a bunch of slides and notes (this is bad when you’re as easily nervous speaking before an audience as I am).

But this time I came prepared. Perhaps a little too prepared? I started my outline a few weeks in advance, on September 13th, and worked on the outline and content off and on up until the day before the Celebration. I finished with just enough time to practice it a couple times, and was happy that my (intentional) overestimates of how long each section would take ended up totaling an actual final time of about 26 minutes or so. At the time I guessed I’d spent maybe 40 hours on it, but on checking my time records now, apparently I spent freaking 59 hours preparing this talk xD

Well, it was worth it! This is something I’ve always wanted to put together, a comprehensive primer on how to make a roguelike, something that could hopefully be inspiring while including both general and specific advice. So this year’s Roguelike Celebration seemed like the perfect opportunity to force myself to do that after having put it off for so long.

The full talk is here:

In addition to the video presentation, I’ve made the slides publicly available here and will also be posting a full text version, perhaps with some edits and additions, here on the blog soon. Update 181024: Posted!

Santiago took some photos for me from the audience.


How to Make a Roguelike!



Core mechanic!

Morning Talks

Right after me was Santiago, and his talk was great, surprisingly so considering he hadn’t done any slides until that morning (though he did admit the stress wasn’t worth it and he will try not to do that again in the future…).


Santiago Zapata talking about the origins and early history of roguelikes. Also helping immortalize Thomas’ amusing presentation from the ADOM Kickstarter campaign.



Andrew Aversa (Tangledeep creator) talking about roguelike difficulty.



Bob Nystrom talking about Entity Component Systems. Bob’s book Game Programming Patterns is pretty popular among game developers, and he’s worked on his own roguelike as well.


Then it was time for lunch…


The lunch line was quite long, but no problem since there was plenty of good conversation to be had in line anyway. I mean, pretty everyone’s there due to a shared interest in the genre, yeah? :)



Post-food mingling.



Still mingling.

The weekend wasn’t packed with lots of back-to-back talks, either. In addition to meal times, there were additional breaks for mingling or whatever.


Thomas and Santiago hanging out.



Jason (Caves of Qud) and Amit (Red Blob Games) talking about Amit’s new real-time terrain modification methods, and plans for sharing a new A* heuristic, among other things.

Afternoon Talks

In the afternoon we came back to a great talk from Jim. Really all the Roguecel talks were great.


Jim Shepard (Dungeonmans creator) talking about good storytelling in roguelikes, funny as ever.



Jongwoo Kim (designer at Kitfox) talking about subjective simulation design.



Alexei Pepers giving everyone a guided tour of fun stuff in the NetHack source code.

Then came the final presentation of the day, in which Thomas shared the first public demonstration of Ultimate ADOM, the new game the ADOM team has been working on for about nine months now.


Thomas begins the Ultimate ADOM demo, live in game.



Clearing a room with a spell in order to move along to another area for a different demo.

Although they’re focusing on the graphical version of course, the ASCII version actually also looks pretty neat. There’s also grafting of enemy parts in order to gain their abilities, which certainly sounds a lot like Cogmind :P, though Thomas does say he’s been taking inspiration from my work so yay ;)

Party and Arcade

Thomas also sponsored the Saturday evening party, so no complaints there!


After dinner the bar opened. GitHub has a bar right in its cafeteria…

In addition to the bar, a bunch of computers were set up for playing roguelikes and retro games. Among them, there were original VT320 and VT420 terminals from which to log into the Living Computer Museum and basically play Rogue and Hack as they were originally played. These naturally got a lot of attention :)


Logging in to play Rogue at the Roguelike Celebration 2018 Arcade.



Rogue on the VT320 (left) and Hack on the VT420 (right).



Playing Rogue on a VT320 @ Roguecel!



The machines had lines (or more like groups) for a while :P



One of the other arcade areas.

Some devs also just hung around with their own devices showing stuff.


Santiago demonstrating the current state of Ananias, and its UI layout on different devices.



The party was winding down when I left around 10pm.

Sunday Talks

Tarn Adams kicked off the second day of talks.


Tarn talking about how villains and their various behaviors can help naturally drive a story in DF adventure mode.



Tarn did his slides in Paint, and despite the small number of slides he kept building on the content of each such that they tended to get quite messy. It was fun :D

Then came Brian Walker, who had sadly missed the first day because he had a vacation which was set before the Roguecel dates were even determined this year. So we didn’t get to hang out the day before, but at least he got in late that night and could still make Sunday.


Brian talking about procedural level design in Brogue. This is my favorite pic from everything I shot during the Celebration, with Brian in his plaid shirt melding into the very map he’s explaining :P

For the latter portion of his presentation, Brian also shared info about his current project, a time-moves-only-when-you-do platformer roguelite that draws on the same map generation principles found in Brogue.


The new project looks quite cool, and apparently it’s quite far along. Basically it’s a new playground for interesting map generation techniques, which is why he got into doing Brogue in the first place.

More Breaks

Of course there were more breaks to enjoy on Day 2 as well.


Tyriq Plummer demoing his simultaneous turn-based 2018 7DRL for us.



Santiago and Travis wanted to test out the Rogue machine but the VT320 wasn’t logged in at the time.

More Talks


Danny Day talks about the advantages and disadvantages of event listeners in Desktop Dungeons.

Then Thomas came up for a second talk (well technically yesterday’s was a demo), this one about how they’re using ECS in Ultimate ADOM. So it was a lot more technical and source-heavy, with plenty of examples. I also got a shout out at the beginning, which was great :D


Thomas talking about the style of ECS they’re using in Ultimate ADOM.



Jonathan Lessard talks about the Chess/Rogue hybrid he created with Pippin Barr. Lots of interesting design discussion regarding how to mix the two, and what did and did not work.



Leif Bloomquist talking about his multiplayer roguelite built for the C64.



Max Kreminski talking about “gardening as a mode of play.”



Colin Liotta talking about the roguelike puzzle game he designed for the 2017 MIT Mystery Hunt.

Last was the lightning talks series, where different speakers would come up for just five minutes or so and share some topic of interest.


Alexei was up on stage again, this time talking about visualizing the aggregate results of procedural generators.



Kawa talking about death as part of the roguelike experience.



Eben Howard talking about his Java roguelike library SquidLib.



Ignacio Bergkamp talking about his neat idea for a new approach to character death in roguelikes: On death allow the player to enter a free-form blurb of text to describe how they lost.



Kate Compton talking about “Chancery,” her conversational bot framework.



Thom Robertson talking about his procedural whale-seeking game.

After another break, Caves of Qud devs Jason Grinblat and Brian Bucklew narrated a “choose your own playthrough” run of Caves of Qud, controlled by Nick DeCapua.


Nick, Jason, Brian, and the audience playing Caves of Qud.


Those two days sure went by fast. I took one last shot before heading out of the building.


#roguelikecel logo still up at GitHub as we’re leaving.

For the final dinner there were maybe several dozen who’d stuck around, so we all walked a block up the road to the 21st Amendment Brewery.


On our way to 21st Amendment.

Fortunately there was still a fair amount of outdoor seating left, and we gradually took over additional tables until they were all ours, though a portion of the group walked further up the road to another restaurant to eat real quick before coming back later.


Arriving at 21st Amendment.



Hanging out before dinner at 21st Amendment.

And there we sat until closing time!


Good times filled with conversations about roguelikes and of course plenty of other procedurally generated topics.

Such a great weekend, very much worth flying around the world for… I’m already looking forward to seeing everyone again next year!

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  1. Jamsus
    Posted October 12, 2018 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Beatiful blog post, beatiful event, beatiful people. Beatiful beatiful.

    • Kyzrati
      Posted October 13, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Thanks! And yep, just like the roguelike community at large it really is a great group of people <3

  2. Ângelo
    Posted October 13, 2018 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    It looks like it was very interesting and a lot of fun.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Kyzrati
      Posted October 13, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Definitely a fun time! Inspiring, too. I highly recommend that anyone with an opportunity to go should do so. So glad Noah started this thing a couple years ago…

  3. Posted October 13, 2018 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Awesome post! it was great meeting you again, hope we can hang out a bit more next year :)

    • Kyzrati
      Posted October 13, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Hey Slashie! I imagine next year will happen, and that I’ll probably be there, and you’ll probably be there, and it’ll once again be just as great :D

  4. darkgnostc
    Posted October 13, 2018 at 3:09 am | Permalink


    • Kyzrati
      Posted October 13, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Hi darkgnostic, fantastic indeed, and too bad it’s so far away that we can’t get many participants from Europe.

      Thomas did say he was hoping for a version of this next year in Germany, but didn’t want to organize it himself and is hoping Noah will handle that :P. Noah does like to travel, so who knows… Sadly I doubt I’d be able to go to that one for the same reason I never made it to an IRDC all those years, even further away and more expensive for me than San Francisco!

  5. ncc
    Posted October 14, 2018 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I love everything about this. I hope I’m able to visit #roguelikecel one day!

    • Kyzrati
      Posted October 15, 2018 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      And hopefully it continues well into the future so that more people can join us! Though I imagine this is likely since it keeps getting bigger each year :D

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