Innovating on a Genre

Cogmind includes a number of new features never before seen in the genre, while still remaining very much a traditional roguelike. The goal is to create a truly modern roguelike within a set of very limiting constraints.

As Cogmind pushes the genre forward, many of the development techniques and reasonings have been shared over the years on the dev blog and /r/roguelikedev community, but for those who haven't been following as long, the relevant info may not be easy to discover, so I've collected a list of some of the more prominent innovations here.


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ASCII Roguelike Firsts

Cogmind is the first traditional ASCII roguelike to feature...

  • A drag-drop interface for inventory management.

    All commands are accessible to both pure keyboard and mouse users, and for the latter nothing is more intuitive than drag-and-drop.

  • Automatic labeling of objects as they enter view (adjustable, like much of the UI behavior).

    Cogmind's map provides a large variety of automated labeling features, more of which you can read about here (and see them in action).

  • A heavily animated GUI.

    Every part of the interface is animated, from the HUD to temporary interactive windows, supporting the feeling that the player is the Cogmind.

  • Over 1,000 sound effects, far more than any other roguelike, and almost every other indie game, in fact. Some the sound design can be heard in the alpha trailer. It's an important part of the experience, something I've talked about before in my audio dev series. Roguelikes have a lot to gain by augmenting such an imaginative experience with proper sound design.

  • Ambient sounds sourced from environment objects. (Development visualization of sound propagation:)

    Objects emit sounds that change in volume based on the type of sound and distance from the listener, and destroying/deactivating/disabling the source will stop the sound. More info here.

  • Smart automated inventory management.

    Due to the attrition mechanics Cogmind often involves a lot of inventory management, and while this requires that the player frequently weigh tradeoffs on their own, the extra burden of obvious choices is removed by a smart system capable of automatically determining optimal choices where appropriate, further streamlining play.

  • Nearly 1,000 procedural particle effects created to a terminal-based style.

    Read about the early pre-alpha design phase here, from 2014.

  • Over 100 hand-crafted bitmap fonts available in various typefaces and sizes..

  • A complete animated in-game manual, with easy access via topical browsing.

    Reading the manual isn't required to start because there are tutorial messages that introduce the important mechanics, and context help on demand elsewhere, but for intermediate players it's useful to have convenient access to the manual. Also stylish :) (The manual is still imported from a text file which can alternatively be used.)

Uncommon Features

Other features rarely seen among traditional roguelikes...

  • Ridiculous amount of high-quality ASCII art.

    Every item in the game has its own art created from the CP437 character set. See a large gallery here, and a description of the process here.

  • A living ecosystem that goes on with or without you.

    Not nearly everyone is out to get you. Every inhabitant has their own goals and tasks, carried out in groups or individually, and are led by a global AI. Well, there are also some separate factions out there which don't obey that AI :D. (More explanation and examples here.)

  • Terminal grid-based zooming by using larger bitmap fonts to span multiple cells, technology applicable to the map and/or text.

    Implementation details and more can be found here, including links to numerous supporting QoL features.


This page is intended mainly as a collection of roguelike UI features quickly and easily demonstrable through images, though doesn't really tell you much about gameplay. To me gameplay is the most imporant part of a roguelike, so naturally it's been given a lot of attention throughout development, but this page won't tell you much in that regard.

There are many blog articles discussing gameplay topics, and I've also written a lot of topical posts here, though perhaps the quickest and easiest way to get an idea of innovation regarding gameplay is to check out some Steam reviews. For example this in-depth player review covers a number of points pretty well.