Berlin Interpretation

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"The Berlin Interpretation" refers to a specific definition agreed at a specific time and place. Please do not edit this article in a manner that changes the meaning behind the content.

This is not meant to discourage discussion of the interpretation or the definition of roguelikes, but to preserve this particular definition.

Developers discuss their interpretations of what a roguelike is, leading to the Berlin Interpretation
Developers discuss their interpretations of what a roguelike is, leading to the Berlin Interpretation

A popular interpretation of "What a Roguelike is" that was created at the International Roguelike Development Conference 2008. The interpretation is the product of a discussion between all who attended (including Ido Yehieli, Radomir Dopieralski and Jeff Lait). The 13 "roguelikeness factors" definition posted by Slash at Temple of the Roguelike at the moment as a "roguelike definition" (currently hosted here) was used as the starting point for the discussions.

The Berlin Interpretation was posted by Jeff Lait in on September 16, 2008 (

Original text

This definition of "Roguelike" was created at the International
Roguelike Development Conference 2008 and is the product of a
discussion between all who attended. The definition at was used as the
starting point for the discussions. Most factors are newly phrased,
new factors have been added, some factors have been removed.

==General Principles== 

"Roguelike" refers to a genre, not merely "like-Rogue". The genre is
represented by its canon. The canon for Roguelikes is ADOM, Angband,
Crawl, Nethack, and Rogue.

This list can be used to determine how roguelike a game is. Missing
some points does not mean the game is not a roguelike. Likewise,
possessing some points does not mean the game is a roguelike. 

The purpose of the definition is for the roguelike community to better
understand what the community is studying. It is not to place
constraints on developers or games.

==High value factors== 

====Random environment generation====

The game world is randomly generated in a way that increases
replayability. Appearance and placement of items is random.
Appearance of monsters is fixed, their placement is random.
Fixed content (plots or puzzles or vaults) removes randomness.


You are not expected to win the game with your first character. You
start over from the first level when you die. (It is possible to save
games but the savefile is deleted upon loading.) The random
environment makes this enjoyable rather than punishing.


Each command corresponds to a single action/movement. The game is not
sensitive to time, you can take your time to choose your action.  


The world is represented by a uniform grid of tiles. Monsters (and
the player) take up one tile, regardless of size.


Movement, battle and other actions take place in the same mode. Every
action should be available at any point of the game. Violations to
this are ADOM's overworld or Angand's and Crawl's shops.


The game has enough complexity to allow several solutions to common
goals. This is obtained by providing enough item/monster and item/item
interactions and is strongly connected to having just one mode.

====Resource management====

You have to manage your limited resources (e.g. food, healing potions)
and find uses for the resources you receive.


Even though there can be much more to the game, killing lots of
monsters is a very important part of a roguelike. The game is player-
vs-world: there are no monster/monster relations (like enmities, or

====Exploration and discovery====

The game requires careful exploration of the dungeon levels and
discovery of the usage of unidentified items. This has to be done anew
every time the player starts a new game.

==Low value factors==

====Single player character====

The player controls a single character. The game is player-centric,
the world is viewed through that one character and that character's
death is the end of the game.

====Monsters are similar to players====

Rules that apply to the player apply to monsters as well. They have
inventories, equipment, use items, cast spells etc.

====Tactical challenge====

You have to learn about the tactics before you can make any
significant progress. This process repeats itself, i.e. early game
knowledge is not enough to beat the late game. (Due to random
environments and permanent death, roguelikes are challenging to new

The game's focus is on providing tactical challenges (as opposed to
strategically working on the big picture, or solving puzzles).

====ASCII display====

The traditional display for roguelikes is to represent the tiled world
by ASCII characters.


Roguelikes contain dungeons, such as levels composed of rooms and


The numbers used to describe the character (hit points, attributes
etc.) are deliberately shown.


In his article "Screw the Berlin Interpretation!" (Archive) Darren Grey accuses the Berlin Interpretation of being inaccurate, outdated, and unrepresentative of a vibrant and open genre. In particular, he ridicules features such as ASCII and Dungeons as being irrelevant to a genre that traditionally prioritizes gameplay mechanics over aesthetics or setting. He criticizes the common use of the Berlin Interpretation as the go-to roguelike definition.

August 26, 2022, Ido reported that he believed the place where the Berlin interpretation was discussed had been bought by a real estate developer, who razed it and built a luxury hotel there instead.

In the wider gaming community the term roguelike or "with roguelike elements" is more popularly used to describe any game combining permadeath with procedural content. (See the articles in GiantBomb and Penny Arcade).