Sunday, March 18, 2018

A CRPG Glossary

I wasn't able to get anything else written over the last couple of days, so it's time to reveal my long-in-progress CRPG Glossary, just now published as a "page." Regular browser users will see it as an option on the side-bar in the upper right. Mobile users will see it the drop-down box at the top of each entry, just under the header (it it set to "Blog" by default).

Because commenting on a page interrupts the "Recent Comments" feed, you can use this entry for comments on additional terms that should appear in the glossary. I seeded it with a couple dozen entries to start, but it's far from complete.

There are plenty of other places to get "real" definitions for these terms, so some of the entries will--in the manner of Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary--unapologetically reflect my particular perspective.

97 comments:

  1. This is a cool endeavor, and I don't like starting it with a critical comment, but... why copy embarrassing RPGCodex slang like "blobber"? You've rarely used the word yourself, and it tells almost nothing meaningful about a game; The Bard's Tale and Dungeon Master could both be called such despite not playing anything alike. It's just one of a number of derisive terms popular only on that forum, along with appending major game focuses with a derogatory term for homosexuals (something I hope will not also be co-opted for your glossary).

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    1. As an oldfag and blobberer I resent your derogatory remarks.

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    2. Actual term however is "a dungeon crawler" becaase most games were set in dungeon due to technical limitations at the time.

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    3. No, "blobber" means that the game is step based and that the party moves as an entity.

      "Dungeon Crawler" is a more general term, covering anything from Diablo to Icewind Dale.

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    4. I disagree strongly on that, to me a dungeon crawler is always a dungeon master -clone, never anything else.

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    5. I think Blobbers are used for first person dungeon crawler games, where you have multiple characters but they move as a single unit, like Wizardry and Dungeon Master, it only applies to games with a first person perspective though, as I've never seen the term used in top down games

      Dungeon Crawler it's a really broad term, Wizardry, Nethack and Diablo are dungeon crawler games and yet they are nothing alike, as exploring a dungeon, killing monsters, gaining exp and getting better items are things present in almost every RPG, maybe it's because they focus on a single dungeon instead of a larger quest?

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    6. Oops, looks like my definition of blobber is the same used in the glossary (damn, blogger really needs an edit button for comments)

      I still think that we need a more specific definition for dungeon crawlers, and it would make a nice addition to the glossary

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    7. "Dungeon Crawler" should indeed appear.

      I'm surprised at the negative reaction to "Blobber," as I thought it had pretty solidly entered the RPG fan's lexicon by now. I've used it several times, so it makes sense to keep it in the glossary.

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    8. In Japanese genres, "dungeon RPG" means what "blobber" means here. The "Dungeon Crawler" tag on Steam, meanwhile, contains far more examples of things which are not blobbers/dungeon RPGs than things which are.

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    9. I think 'blobber' has attained some popularity, it is a reasonable name for game in the Dungeon Master genre. (I would not use it for turn-based games such as Might and Magic, even though formally they could be considered similar. I think the pure turn-based games are by their nature more abstract, so the blobbiness of the party needn't be pointed out.)

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    10. Yeah, funny how we get different perceptions. For me "blobber" is specifically about moving the entire party at one in tiles, so both Dungeon Master and Might & Magic (the tile-based ones) would qualify. However, to me, like Petri above, a Dungeon Crawler is specifically a DM-clone and M&M would not be a dungeon crawler. In my view, a dungeon crawler is a game in which exploration of a dungeon is a self-sufficient objective: mapping, puzzles, traps, monsters - the dungeon itself is the quest, not the "story", which is often secondary. In more "role-playing" games such as M&M, you get a world to explore, characters to meet, stories, quests, and dungeon exploring is a secondary subset of all that.

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    11. I think blobber definitely has its place in dictionary mainly because it is used on RPGCodex, one of (the?) largest cRPG-oriented online communities there is, even if also largest hive of scum and villainy it is.

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    12. I personally really dislike the term "blobber," because it sounds perjorative, and these kinds of games hold a place very near my left ventricle.

      But, if people insist on using it, it should be in the dictionary. Perhaps we should "teach the controversy."

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    13. Throwing my own opinion in the mix, blobber definitely gives me the impression that the game uses an active system for enemy movement where Dungeom Master style side-stepping is encouraged.

      Dungeon Crawler is a super-set of that where exploring a single dungeon is the purpose of the game. So, Wizardry would count, but Might & Magic would not. Strangely, Diablo is one in my book, but Diablo II is edging out of that definition even though it does little more than string together multiple dungeons.

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    14. Oh, and I've never frequented RPGCodex, can't recall where I first heard the term blobber (could very well be from Chet's reviews), but the term doesn't dredge up any negative connotation for me. Although it sounds a bit weird.

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    15. FWIW I had never heard of the term 'blobber' before finding it in this blog, despite heavily playing Bard's Tale and EOB and similar games. It was even hard to find on google since the term 'blobber' has more common meanings outside of RPGs.

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    16. Pretty sure general usage for "blobber" includes turn-based games, though I'm not particularly subscribing for an orthodoxy on how it's used. It's more than I think a whiff of orthodoxy for such a goofy name rubs me the wrong way.

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    17. RPG Codex regular here! We use the term "blobber" to refer to every game where you control a party of characters in first person view, so your party moves like a "blob" of 4 to 8 people always sharing the same tile or spot on the map.

      Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder are real time blobbers. Wizardry and Might and Magic are classic turn based blobbers. Wizardry 8 and the later Might and Magics are turn based blobbers with free-form 3D movement. The Gold Box games and some others (like Albion) aren't blobbers, but use a blobber movement system in some parts of the game, while switching to a tactical combat screen during an encounter.

      Essentially, the term refers to any game where you primarily play in the first person perspective while controlling a party of 2 or more characters. Yet the movement controls make you move that entire party as if they were a single character.

      Delete
  2. Suggestion for an entry: "level cap".

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  3. Didn't quite get the difference between "backstory" and "framing story". I also disagree with the "sandbox" definition - it seems a bit too minecraft-informed, while the actual term is much older. As I understand it, a sandbox is basically a game that drops you into the gameworld and lets you do whatever without much direction or (main) quest urgency. So, for example, Darklands is a sandbox RPG, even though most of its encounters and interactions are done through text menus.

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    1. I'll try to research the history of "sandbox" one of these days, but I think it's useful to make a distinction between it and "open world." To me, a "sandbox" game is one with mechanics complex enough that not even the developers could foresee how some players might use them or how various elements might interact. I think the game also has to allow for interesting or amusing environmental or item interactions, and not just combat. Might and Magic VI is "open world" but not "sandbox." A game that allows you to literally fill the king's bedroom with fish is a "sandbox."

      "Backstory" brings us up to the beginning of the game and is then continued within the game. "Framing story" appears before and after the game but is not referenced within the game and then could be swapped with a different "frame."

      If you gave a player the Questron manual and started him playing Ultima IV, none of it would make any sense. But any number of games' backstories could appear before Dungeon Master without creating any conflicts with the in-game material.

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    2. I think the part where our definitions agree is that a sanbox emphasizes simulation and emergent narratives over scripted story. What I wanted to point out is that emergent narratives can be done through text events, like in Darklands or Daggerfall, and not necessarily through physics and NPC scheduling.

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    3. God, imagine what the king's bedroom smells like.

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    4. God: Jesus! It smells like #$&%!

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  4. No time to look in detail through the glossary just now, but at first glance, it looks like a great addition to your work!

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  5. I'd say you are a touch harsh with your definition of "walkthrough" and should add "or want to see what you missed".

    Other terms that have come up in your blogging that may or may not be significant enough to warrant an entry:

    Auto-map
    Alchemy
    Crafting
    Mana
    Lore
    Clone (e.g. Ultima Clone)
    Foozle
    Maguffin
    Scorpia
    Exploit
    Railroad (opposite of Sandbox)
    Infinite Cabbage Theory (was that what you called it?)
    Ankh
    Retcon
    Something to do with Abstraction (e.g. the wire frames of Wizardry) versus Realism (e.g. why do only 30 people live in the capital city of Skyrim)


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    1. I appreciate the suggestions. I'll pick away at them from time to time between games.

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    2. There! Just took care of "automap."

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    3. Chet, I don't know if you've played them, but if you ever get the opportunity to, you should try the Etrian Odyssey series. They're Japanese RPGs in the Wizardry mold -- first-person tile-based party-based dungeon crawls. The game lacks an automap, but it has a built-in mapping tool that you can use to draw your own maps in-game.

      I like them despite the manual mapping, which I find as dull and pointless as if the game made me roll my own dice to resolve combat. But you would probably like them a lot more.

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    4. Wow, Chet, with an attitude like that I'm surprised you let yourself play computer RPGs at all. Shouldn't you be playing D&D modules solo so you can do all of the tedious paperwork yourself? You can draw all your own maps in between rolling your own dice and generating your own loot. Letting the computer handle mind-numbing minutiae is for lesser minds than yours apparently, after all.

      In all seriousness though, great work.

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  6. Here's the first incidence of the term "iconographic".

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    1. THANK YOU. Not linking "Nuke" was just me being lazy, but I couldn't find "iconographic" for the life of me.

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  7. And here's the post coining the term "NUKE".

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  8. About save-scumming.
    Personally I associate it with saving before leveling up or opening a chest, in order to reload until you get max HP or as good loot as possible.

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    1. I'll broaden the term a bit, because I agree that it should cover such situations. But the origins of the term are within roguelikes, where saving AT ALL is "scumming."

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    2. Permanent saving, yes. But save-on-quit (and delete-on-load) is common enough.

      Delete
    3. In my experience with angband over the past 20 years or so (ugh), I found that "scumming" got applied to any behavior that might be perceived to increase player success but was tedious, repetitive, or boring. Save scumming got mentioned most often. However, there was also level scumming (going up and down the stairs waiting for a "good feeling"), and I heard a few times "worm scumming" for what got called more often "monster farming". Killing reproducing weak monsters to tediously gain experience points.

      Not that this changes anything, but perhaps some color is a bit interesting?

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Interesting reading. I always thought being completionist means to accomplish as many quests as possible.

    I also checked AShultz on Gamefaq, Jesus this guy pretty much lives in CRPG of the 80s and early 90s. I only know DSimpson (whom I think you will counsel in the near future) because I play a lot of post-95 CRPGs, but Shultz sems to cover way more games.

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    1. I don't see any conflict between your definition of "completionist" and mine.

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    2. I don't think the explanation for "completionist" was very good. You don't go to a glossary for some witty word play, but for the opposite of that.

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    3. Types of completionist vary, admittedly. I consider myself one and my general goal is to see as much of the game as I can on one playthrough, because I am generally not open to playing through a long RPG multiple times, but
      I am interested in getting high stats and overcoming hard challenges with them, and also not interested in skipping stuff for role-playing reasons if it means I will never ever see it because I am only going to play once.

      There's other completionists who will enjoy games that want you to beat them seven times in order to see all of the endings, though.

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    4. I think the Addict objects to the inanity of making an "ism" out of this approach more than the approach itself.

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    5. Given the reference to Ambrose Bierce, that might be exactly why Our Host created the glossary this way. Personally I like my snark set to near-maximum.

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  11. Menu town
    Razor walls
    Worm tunnels
    proving the adage that every game, no matter how dumb, is someone's favorite. I suppose concept this needs a term.

    Agree that blobber should be struck from the lexicon. I had never heard it before and it seems not a particularly useful word.

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    1. Mysterious StrangerMarch 19, 2018 at 2:19 AM

      What about "ugly pet RPG" for those cases that every rpg, no matter how dumb, is someone's favorite?

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    2. How about "OLBIM"?
      Only
      Loved
      By
      Its
      Mother
      From the saying, "a face that only his mother could love". XD

      Delete
  12. Looks good. Maybe add "avatar" as well? It ties into "gclm" which I'd call a chibi avatar.

    From wikipedia:
    In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user's alter ego or character. An icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, Internet forum, etc. It may take either a three-dimensional form,[1] as in games or virtual worlds, or a two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and other online communities.[2][3] Avatar images have also been referred to as "picons" (personal icons)[4] in the past, though the usage of this term is uncommon now. It can also refer to a text construct found on early systems such as MUDs.[5] The term "avatar" can also refer to the personality connected with the screen name, or handle, of an Internet user.[6] Common avatars may be Internet memes.

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  13. Does "dead man walking/walking dead" deserve an entry?

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  14. "Walking dead"
    "mana"
    "dialogue trees" versus "keywords"?

    I disagree with the objections to 'blobber' above, though for me it's not just about "party acts as one blob" although I know that's part of it, but also discrete movement in squares, as opposed to free-form stepping and rotation. Unless that's something else? Just last week I was trying Arena and Daggerfall for the first time, and after hours of getting hung up on every wall, corner, door frame, large box, open door, pedestal, over-large stair step, tree, shrub, and other object larger than about 5 pixels, I moaned to myself, "I miss blobbers." Because with them you can either go or not no, and there's no "back up, try a less oblique angle, turn a bit, fiddle forward and back, oh, maybe if I crouch now I'll get out from behind this box and now if I jump I'll get over the next one and oh, look, I've fallen through the ceiling and am now floating in the blackness at the bottom of the dungeon." There is a huge difference between free-form movement and strictly controlled movement, and sometimes it's useful to be able to talk about it.

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    1. Ah, wait, I see "tile" in there now. I guess that hits on most of what I meant.

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    2. I actually vote that we keep blobber if only because it does get some use on the internet. As someone who neither frequents the Codex or plays that many tile-based RPGs, I've definitely seen it a few times on various PC gaming sites. What's the point of a glossary but to serve as a resource for that sort of situation?

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  15. You should put an entry for "class" or "job".

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  16. Thank you all above and below for the suggestions. I'll visit this entry and pick away at the list as time allows.

    Just to be clear: the glossary is DE-scriptive of the way I use terms on my own blog, not necessarily PRE-scriptive of the way I think others should use them. There are times I like to be more general or specific with a term than you find on other sites.

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  17. Quite candidly, if your CRPG glossary gives us your definitions of the words you're using in your blog then good on ya' mate.

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  18. I was unfamiliar with the term "buffing" before reading it on this blog, so I suggest adding it to the glossary.

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  19. By the way, what you call the 'combat waltz' in blobbers is generally called 'pillar-dancing' in roguelikes.

    (There is an actual dancing roguelike called Crypt of the Necrodancer, in which you must move to the beat. Oddly enough, this probably reduces the formal combat waltz!)

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    1. I first encountered the "combat waltz" as the "beholder two-step"--a term I must've read in Computer Gaming World, back in the day.

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    2. Yeah, though I remembered it as the "Purple Worm Two-step." I thought it was from a Scorpia review, but I haven't done anything to verify either of those claims, just haphazardly reaching into my failing memory.

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    3. I think I was a bit incorrect above - combat waltzing and pillar-dancing are distinct. Combat waltzing typically happens when you have 4-way movement, which means you can dodge an enemy infinitely in an open area. If time operates in certain ways, you can dodge while occasionally hitting them.

      Most roguelikes use 8-way movement, and with this - or hex movement - you do need a pillar. Again, if time allows, you can get an occasional free hit - or in some cases you regenerate faster than the monster and can occasionally trade hits and eventually win. (If nothing else arrives.)

      Still, the concepts have much in common...

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  20. The concept you've defined as "Afternoon RPG" is also known as a "Coffee Break" game elsewhere on the internet. Your term is more accurate, but it might be worth including the alternate name as an aside.

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    1. In other words you're suggesting he add synonyms to the list?

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    2. I suppose if I ever use it or anyone else ever uses it in the comments, I may include it, but for now the cutoff is that the term actually has to appear somewhere in my blog.

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    3. I'm not entirely sure I haven't used the term here at some points, which is why I mentioned it.

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    4. A coffee break is 10-15 minutes. A game like King's Bounty needs a couple of hours to finish, or an afternoon.

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    5. I would agree that "coffee break" suggests a game session that lasts less than 30 minutes. I have heard it mostly in roguelike circles to reference short-form games. Maybe it will come up if we get to more modern roguelikes, but I suspect not before.

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  21. Buffing is not just "a pre-combat ritual." In many games it can (or even must) be done during battle.

    Also, your entries for PC and Permadeath need a blank line between them.

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    1. I guess I should point out that buffing can sometimes be used for non-combat purposes as well. Like raising your might to pull a sword from a stone in a Might and Magic game.

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    2. Fallout has Mentats, for instance.

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    3. Or buffing before creating potions in Elder Scrolls (where it applies).

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    4. @Tristan: Briefly, I believed you meant that Fallout has drug-huffing calculated with their skin stained blue. (Or does fallout actually have those?)

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    5. I don't know if I'd consider a single potion (or potion-substitute, like mentats) "buffing." To me, it has the connotation of multiple stacked effects to guard against a variety of unknown possibilities. That's how I typically use it, anyway.

      Delete
    6. A single potion/spell/chem is a "buff", but it costs so little time and resources that applying it reasonable to argue that it doesn't really count as "buffing". By the same token, you wouldn't call "the wizard casts BLIND while the fighters charge in on the ogre" a "debuffing" round even though a debuff was applied.

      Much like you might consider getting from point A to point B in a game with random encounters to be a a "grind", but it isn't "grinding" unless you're going back and forth specifically to fight more monsters.

      Of course, that might just be an argument to justify my crippling Buffout addiction in Fallout games. Stupid wasteland junk having weight.

      Delete
  22. I somewhat disagree with the juxtaposition of "framing story" as not being referenced within the game itself and Dungeon Master. I agree that Dungeon Master doesn't have that much to do with the story presented, and I would consider it a framing story in my understanding of the term, but the conclusion of Dungeon Master more or less requires the player to have digested the story and make decisions based on it. The player becomes involved in the story and the game references it.

    But that's just my personal nitpick. It's not really important either way.

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    1. To some degree, it's a scale, of course. There are some games where the frame is more extractable without influencing the game than others. I agree that the very end of DM draws from the story--although even here, it's done without explicit text and you could easily write dozens of other stories that explain why the party has to cage, rather than kill, Lord Chaos.

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    2. Yep. I would say it's a framing story. I just don't agree that framing story means the game doesn't reference it, and specifically feel that game DOES reference it, which makes the entry jarring. Maybe a "story referenced by the game barely or not at all."

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  23. I particularly like "worm tunnels" and "razor walls". I guess this shows I should read more often.

    Have you ever encountered a game that pretended to be worm tunnels but dispenses with the system 2% of the time? I wish I remembered the title, but it was madness.

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    1. Legend of Grimrock did that. Normal maps were the worm tunnel model, but secret doors were razor thin (and looked like a normal wall of course), the engine effectively supporting both.

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    2. But at lesat Grimrock provided the option to just map for you, which lessens the awfulness of this kind of inconsistency to some degree. I'm not a fan, though. One of the points of grid-based dungeons is that you can reason about them which becomes part of the game.

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    3. Wasn't MM2 a bit like that in a way? I recall the towns had walls that seemed like full squares, but you could use secret doors to get inside them.

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    4. Might and Magic 2 used "razor walls". Any space that took up an entire square was a very obvious place for a secret room.

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    5. All doors (and not just secret doors) in Grimrock were consistently places in-between the tiles. So in practice it didn't really have razor-thin walls anywhere, only doors that looked like walls. Where it does deviate from the worm tunnels model is by allowing diagonally adjacent tiles.

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    6. I could have sworn it was Spirit of Adventure that mixed the two approaches for a tiny percentage of its maps, but I just searched my entries for that game, and I can't find where I mentioned it.

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  24. Min-Maxing originally referred more to the character stats themselves than gameplay goals and particularly to the process of moving stat points for a specific character out of "useless" stats and in to useful ones so you had the Fighter with 18 str and 3 charisma because there was no really a penalty without actual role-playing incentives to up charisma. Particularly in party based RPG's you'd have parties with one guy with 18 charisma to do your talking and everyone else would use it as a dump-stat creating a very effective combat/adventure party full of "unrealistically" imbalanced people.

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    1. I think Chester's just describing how he uses it. Did you play with the ability to move points around in this era? My B/X friends all played 3d6 down the line and that's it, while my AD&D friends all used method 7 or whatever from unearthed arcana with its crazy system of roll 8 and keep the best three rolls. Talk about munchkins!

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  25. I thought "NUKE" meant to use the most damaging (generally explosive) magic spells in the game, such as the (yes) NUKE spell in Final Fantasy. In D&D'esque games that would probably be Delayed Blast Fireball. I've never heard the term used for what tvtropes calls a "demonic spider".

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    Replies
    1. That's maybe an alternate definition, but I don't think it would be an acronym in that case. The usage I put in the glossary is one I made up.

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  26. There's a typo in the roguelite definition (difficultly). Also, I don't think that difficulty should be used to distinguish between -likes and -lites, some -lites can be fiendishly difficult. For me the main difference is that a -lite is too different from the original Rogue to be considered its successor, even if it retains some of the features like permadeath or procedural generation.

    Just nitpicking.

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    1. This isn't my term, but a quick Google search and review of the top few pages suggests that difficulty (particularly the lack of permadeath) is the key distinction between roguelikes and roguelites. That's how I'll be using the term.

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    2. I think it's used both ways.

      I feel like there are a lot of games trying to take the word to describe their game because they think it's a popular term. Roguelite is easily used because it lacks a clear definition, so I think more and more games have self-descrbed using the term. I am one of those awful people who tells game makers that their games are not roguelikes when the play has basically zero inspiration from rogue.

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    3. To me, roguelites are games with roguelike elements which aren't really classic roguelike RPGs anymore. For example, FTL is considered to be a roguelite since it uses the element of randomness but you manage a spaceship and its crew instead of playing a character with a typical stat-based RPG system. Same with platformers or first person shooters that use roguelike elements but aren't RPGs anymore. They're called roguelites. The term applies to games which take one significant feature of Rogue (randomized levels) but are technically a different genre (not classic RPGs).

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    4. The term seems to be a recent invention, and I agree with Jarl, it's more a marketing term. Rogue Dungeon was the first game I heard described like that. I probably wasn't hanging out in the right forums, but I don't remember anyone calling Diablo a roguelite/like at the time, even with Diablo II's hardcore (permadeath) mode.

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  27. Well, from amount of comments stating that "this is incorrect" or "that is misleading" this should be renamed to "A CRPGAddict's Glossary". Or even "CRPGAddict's DE-scriptive Glossary" :P

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    Replies
    1. I think it would be clearer and let more people appreciate the humor, if nothing else.

      Delete
  28. There's another that should be in, I think.

    Text-based RPGs - MUDs, interactive fiction or visual novels with RPG elements, gamebook (a la Lone Wolf) adaptations would all fall into this category.

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