5 votes

Why Spelunky is the most important game of the decade

13 comments

  1. [3]
    undu
    Link
    Very low quality writing, unfortunately. It doesn't even explain what parts of its design make it so pivotal. The article never mentions the genre in question: roguelike

    Very low quality writing, unfortunately. It doesn't even explain what parts of its design make it so pivotal.

    This refined Spelunky revived an underappreciated genre

    The article never mentions the genre in question: roguelike

    21 votes
    1. [2]
      heady
      Link Parent
      Nor why a roguelike resurgence is "more important" than other break out genres from this decade like mobas and battle royales, or the ascension of esports in the west.

      Nor why a roguelike resurgence is "more important" than other break out genres from this decade like mobas and battle royales, or the ascension of esports in the west.

      16 votes
      1. man_of_molybdenum
        Link Parent
        Yeah, it's unfortunate. I think there is a lot to be said on how Spelunky innovated roguelikes and procedural games. I hope that we can still get some good discussion about it and 'the most...

        Yeah, it's unfortunate. I think there is a lot to be said on how Spelunky innovated roguelikes and procedural games. I hope that we can still get some good discussion about it and 'the most influential of the decade' in the comments at least.

        In my opinion Dark Souls, Minecraft, and Spelunky were the three most influential games of the decade. Spelunky help reinvigorate the roguelike genre, Minecraft spawned tons of survival and building mechanics-- even in games that weren't in those genres, and Dark Souls arguably spawned a new genre.

        Speaking specifically about Spelunky, the game's rooms(or tiles, whatever), are so well designed that you could almost forget they were arranged fresh on each run, instead of being a prefabbed layout. They're so well constructed that I still am not tired of the game years and years later, which is not something I can say about most games I've played.

        10 votes
  2. [7]
    hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    Let's have a little fun. I've only read the comments here so far, as well as the title of the article. So, I'm going to write the first part of my comment before I read the article, then I'll...

    Let's have a little fun. I've only read the comments here so far, as well as the title of the article. So, I'm going to write the first part of my comment before I read the article, then I'll write the second part after I read the article.


    First, I really don't think that "Spelunky is the most important game of the decade". Begrudgingly, I'll admit that games like Fortnite, and similarly uh... "monetized" games, have been much, much more influential on the video game industry and more importantly, society, in the past decade and are therefore probably more important than Spelunky.

    (Oh, and I almost forgot, Hollow Knight exists too.)

    Okay, I'm pretty adamant (for now) that Spelunky is not "the most important game of the decade", but let's make this take even hotter:

    Spelunky isn't the most important roguelike of the decade either, because Spelunky is not a roguelike at all.

    Yeah, that's right, Spelunky is a rougelite.

    Why is Spelunky not a roguelike? Because there are (as far as I know) only four things that make Spelunky even just a roguelite:

    • Random environment generation
    • Permadeath
    • Resource management
    • Exploration and discovery

    That's it. Spelunky is real time, it isn't tile based, and it certainly lacks any sort of "roguelike aesthetic". Therefore, it isn't a roguelike. It's a roguelite, 2D platformer.

    Now, you might be thinking that I'm just being a gatekeeping asshole, what with my death grip on the Berlin Interpretation, but I actually have my reasons for being this way, so let me explain.

    Roguelikes, I mean true, honest to god roguelikes like Cogmind, Nethack, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Tales of Maj’Eyal, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, and others, aren't necessarily a "dying breed", because the catalog of true roguelike games is only growing, but it's still certainly a niche area of the industry and is very much in danger of being overshadowed and bastardized by games like Spelunky, which take a very old, very pure, very specific interpretation of a term and genre and move very far away from it.

    I honestly, genuinely believe that it would be better for the preservation of the niche, actual roguelike genre if we didn't give in to the "marketing speak" that likes to pretend everything with permadeath is automatically a roguelike.

    Finally, I'm certainly not alone in taking such a hard stance on what qualifies as a roguelike versus a roguelite. Most of the communities surrounding roguelikes have similar "purist" definitions as me. Unfortunately, the powers of marketing make it more trendy (and perhaps more profitable) to appropriate the term "roguelike", ignoring the rich history and tenants of a very real, very alive niche in games. The negligence with which others have abused the term "roguelike" and their treatment of the genre in the past has honestly felt disrespectful at times, and I'm not even an author of an actual roguelike.


    Well, after reading the article, I'll admit that the author made some okay arguments for why Spelunky is one of the most important games of the decade, and it certainly inspired a bunch of other games (FTL: Faster Than Light, Rogue Legacy, The Binding of Isaac), though none of them are roguelikes either.

    7 votes
    1. [6]
      vivaria
      Link Parent
      This is a wild tangent, but your comment reminds me of tea purists who jump in to clarify that herbal tea isn't actually tea, but tisane. Iunno, I like the descriptivist perspective rather than...

      This is a wild tangent, but your comment reminds me of tea purists who jump in to clarify that herbal tea isn't actually tea, but tisane.

      Iunno, I like the descriptivist perspective rather than the perscriptivist perspective. I'd say roguelites are roguelikes and tisane is tea just because those are the common usages.

      I think the information you've shared is still valuable though, just as info on straight loose leaf teas is valuable.

      9 votes
      1. [2]
        anahata
        Link Parent
        I think the difference matters if you grew up with actual roguelikes and now there's this new thing that's really not the same but resembles it a bit. I grew up with several of the roguelikes...

        I think the difference matters if you grew up with actual roguelikes and now there's this new thing that's really not the same but resembles it a bit. I grew up with several of the roguelikes hungariantoast listed (or their predecessors), and a few they didn't mention. The modern roguelite is not at all like them. Most of only share the characteristics of permadeath and procedural generation, which is nothing like the games I grew up with. They're not like rogue, the 1980 game which inspired onetwo genres. There are practical differences in the experience and the presentation which set them aside as very different in my mind. It's not just prescriptivist, for me (and probably for hungariantoast, as well). We have that basis for comparison, and so roguelites are different in ways that matter. Death in something like Nethack (or Angband, my personal favorite) has more gravity than death in Spelunky or (especially) Rogue Legacy, because there's no metaprogression; you don't unlock classes or the like in Nethack or Angband when you die. You die. That's it. Game over. Start from the beginning, keep nothing from before (Nethack, and Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, even punish you for dying by making you face your previous characters, sometimes in a stronger form than when you died). This is a fundamental, and marked, difference from roguelites.

        The same is true for me for tea. I'm not a purist, but I can tell you that there is a practical difference between a tea and a tisane. Tisanes don't have c. sinensis leaves, which means that you aren't at risk of tannin accumulation if you leave a tisane steeping for 30 minutes, whereas you are for a tea. If you've ever left tea (actual tea) steeping for too long, tasted it, and found it to be very bitter, that's tannin accumulation. You don't have that with tisanes. The difference actually matters, and I've had that experience of bitterness ruin a good cup of tea for me. It's not just prescriptivist for me; it describes my reality and is thus descriptivist.

        4 votes
        1. hungariantoast
          Link Parent
          Just to build off your comment a bit, I want to talk about Hollow Knight, specifically its feature where the player has to fight a ghost of their character when they die. In Hollow Knight, when...

          Just to build off your comment a bit, I want to talk about Hollow Knight, specifically its feature where the player has to fight a ghost of their character when they die.

          In Hollow Knight, when you die, you lose all of your money. Your character's funds are important. The currency is how you buy items and upgrades, some of which are necessary to access some of the game's areas through their obvious routes.

          So, when you die and lose all of your money, it's a pretty big setback, because now you have to grind to get the money back and acquiring a sufficient amount of money to spend is relevant to your progression through the game.

          Except, there is one way to quickly get all of your money back: go find the ghost of your last character and defeat it.

          Now, this isn't particularly difficult in Hollow Knight, but it is an interesting feature that I'd argue Team Cherry borrowed from roguelikes, where the concept has existed for a very long time.

          Now, let's take Hollow Knight, which is very much a 2D platforming Metroidvania, and pretend that, when you die, you have to start the game over from the very beginning. Let's also pretend Hollow Knight's levels are randomly generated.

          Despite what a lot of developers would have you believe, Hollow Knight has not just suddenly become a roguelike. It is still very much a 2D platforming Metroidvania.

          And that's basically what's happening with the roguelike genre right now. Developers are creating games that are extremely different from classic roguelikes, that very much fit into their own, other genres, and they're marketing them as roguelikes.

          2 votes
      2. [3]
        hungariantoast
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Choosing the descriptivist perspective is fair. I mean, I'm (usually) pretty passive when people discuss games I consider roguelites as "roguelikes". In a lot of ways (especially outside dedicated...

        Choosing the descriptivist perspective is fair. I mean, I'm (usually) pretty passive when people discuss games I consider roguelites as "roguelikes". In a lot of ways (especially outside dedicated roguelike communities), I tolerate the evolution of the genre's definition. That being said, I'd like to explain a little more about why I take the stance that I do:

        Another reason I take such a hard, purist line on what is and isn't a roguelike is because the online communities dedicated to traditional roguelikes have, in recent years (thanks to the boom of indie games) been swamped by fans of countless games that are very much detached from the tradition and history of traditional roguelikes, yet appropriate the "roguelike" label for various reasons.

        So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that, I'm not being a snob for the sake of being a snob. I'm being a snob because the online communities dedicated to traditional roguelikes have been negatively affected by this evolution of the genre into a meaningless blend of "anything goes" definitions.

        Like, any platformer or anything remotely involving dungeon crawling that might have a permadeath mode has a decent chance of being labeled a "roguelike", and that causes problems when the representation of a community shifts away from the traditional roguelikes to these "roguelike-likes" or "roguelites".

        It's sort of like an Eternal September situation, in a way.

        Aside from the effect on online communities, the other big reason I'm against the dilution of the definition of the roguelike genre is because I believe that diluting the definition leads to the term "roguelike" being less... meaningful.

        Like I said, if pretty much any platformer, roleplaying, or sandbox game with some form of permadeath can be labeled a "roguelike" these days, then does the term actually still have any real meaning?

        I'd rather see "roguelike" remain a strong definition for a very specific set of games, rather than become some generic label that developers slap on their platformers to signify that it has permadeath.

        Needless to say, this is something I feel pretty strong about, but I hope I've better explained why I feel this way.

        Also, coincidentally, there was a wonderful image shared on the /r/roguelikes subreddit recently that I think illustrates very well what's going on with the "roguelike" definition.

        For what it's worth, the only games from that image I consider to actually be roguelikes are Nethack (of course), Elona, Catalysm[1], and Dwarf Fortress (and only because it has its adventure mode, otherwise it'd just be a construction and management simulation game, in my book).


        1. Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead is a bit controversial. It has a permadeath feature, random generation, is tile based with both ASCII and graphical tiles, and features just about all the other mechanics of a traditional roguelike. However, its gameplay primarily takes place on an open, freely roamable "overworld" map, not levels of dungeons. There are dungeon-like buildings, bases, and other areas that the player can enter that are also randomly generated though. Personally, I'd consider it a "rogueplaying game", if that term actually existed, and I didn't just invent it.

        Also, herbal tea isn't actually tea, but tisane? That's insane!

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          anahata
          Link Parent
          How do you feel about Zangband's overworld exploration littered with dungeons in the style of other *band games like Angband? I don't think the openworld nature of CDDA or Zangbnad constitute a...

          Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead is a bit controversial. It has a permadeath feature, random generation, is tile based with both ASCII and graphical tiles, and features just about all the other mechanics of a traditional roguelike. However, its gameplay primarily takes place on an open, freely roamable "overworld" map, not levels of dungeons. There are dungeon-like buildings, bases, and other areas that the player can enter that are also randomly generated though. Personally, I'd consider it a "rogueplaying game", if that term actually existed, and I didn't just invent it.

          How do you feel about Zangband's overworld exploration littered with dungeons in the style of other *band games like Angband? I don't think the openworld nature of CDDA or Zangbnad constitute a violation of the Berlin interpretation; they both have dungeon-like areas to explore, and I don't see anything there that says "thou shalt only explore thy dungeon". If we took it that strictly, Angband would be eliminated because of the town level.

          2 votes
          1. hungariantoast
            Link Parent
            I think the thing that makes C:DDA controversial (which I don't give a hoot about, I consider it a roguelike), is that the things that are sort of like dungeons in C:DDA have absolutely no primary...

            I think the thing that makes C:DDA controversial (which I don't give a hoot about, I consider it a roguelike), is that the things that are sort of like dungeons in C:DDA have absolutely no primary role in the game. The labs, nests, sewers, etc. are very much optional and not really emphasized in the gameplay, except for specific starting scenarios.

            The same sort of criticism could actually be (and has been) levied against Dwarf Fortress as well, since it doesn't really have any sort of important, dungeon-like features either. Dwarf Fortress is also extremely, extremely alpha though.

            To be honest, C:DDA and Dwarf Fortress' adventure mode are, to me, more like sandbox roleplaying games (or "rogueplaying games", if you will) than honest to god roguelikes, but I'm not that much of a purist and am fine considering and calling them roguelikes.


            In fact, if I'm being honest, I find the roleplaying/survival-centric gameplay of C:DDA and DF's adventure mode to be funner than traditional roguelike dungeon diving. If I ever create my own large "roguelike" game, it's probably going to end up more as a roguelite roleplaying game with some randomly generated elements interspersed across its content, rather than being a true roguelike.

            1 vote
  3. [3]
    mrbig
    Link
    Really? I like the game, but I prefer the Binding of Isaac.

    Really? I like the game, but I prefer the Binding of Isaac.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      anahata
      Link Parent
      That's what makes these lists subjective. You prefer Isaac, whereas I can't stand it because its themes remind me of my traumatic childhood / early adulthood, the mechanics don't appeal to me, and...

      That's what makes these lists subjective. You prefer Isaac, whereas I can't stand it because its themes remind me of my traumatic childhood / early adulthood, the mechanics don't appeal to me, and the gameplay is not interesting. You can't say "best game of the decade" without tons of other people saying that they have a different game and here's why and so on.

      2 votes
      1. mrbig
        Link Parent
        I don't think neither of those games should be even considered for "game of the decade", TBH. I think this is just a cool, "indy", offbeat thing to say on a game website.

        I don't think neither of those games should be even considered for "game of the decade", TBH. I think this is just a cool, "indy", offbeat thing to say on a game website.

        8 votes