Data Entry is the hard part of Roguelike design. So what if the user had to enter all the data?
The result is Seven Day Band: an Angband variant that, through playing, you write.
On the face of it, this is a terrible idea - entering reams of text before you can play would form an insurmountable barrier. Instead, the game engine is built to have stats be "undecided", letting the game flow smoothly until a new decision is necessary. Decision points are slowly unlocked, leading the player through the process of building a game while letting them play with what has already been built.
The result has been critically acclaimed by the roguelike community, and scored top honours in the 7drl review: http://www.roguetemple.com/7drl/2015/
The initial idea was to use a learning algorithm to deduce all of the game rules. Each attack would ask: â€œDid this hit?â€ As answers came in, probability function would be fit. Without priors, however, the training set would be huge.
I then noted I was trying to please a designer, who cares about systems, not a player, who is equally interested in trappings. I decided on a simple prior: a highly generic roguelike system. The particulars, however, would remain with the user.
An interesting message about balance arose during design: precise numbers are irrelevant. How hard a weapon hits is provided as descriptive text, not as numbers or formulas. The texts do not even correspond to fixed numbers, but are fuzzed, so the same answer does not give the same statistic.
The resulting game gives a chance to further democratize bespoke games. Everyone has their own favorite story or characters they want to inject into a game. I love the idea that people can build games that reflect their own personal views rather than being forced to listen to the dictation of the author. Usually building your unique flavoured Roguelike would first involve deleting all the non-canon elements; but in this case you merely have to start writing.
I also see this as a lesson in game design. Players can experience balance decisions and gain insight into the iterative process of game design. The manner a session of Seven Day Band evolves not very different from the process an actual roguelike goes through. One starts with an @ on a map and slowly layers content.
One player concern is that the generated game would lack excitement as they knew all the monsters... They need not worry; roguelikes are a genre of games where the author can still be surprised.
Jeff Lait is a lone wolf developer who springs to action every year for a seven day sprint.