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Rogue (1985)

This is the Epyx edition of Rogue (1985), which is the first commercial port of a game that had been, in various forms, freely distributed previously. It’s so massively influential, there is a sub-genre — roguelikes — named after it. Its a dungeon-crawler distinguished by key features. First, every time you enter the dungeon complex, which is illustrated on screen symbolically, through ASCII floor plans, the layout, encounters and treasures are all procedurally generated, meaning every exploration is unique. Second, character death is permanent, heightening the stakes of every decision (you can’t even easily savescum, as loading a save also erases it).

Funny thing: I’ve never played Rogue! There was a time when I was an avid player of NetHack, a version of Hack (1982), which is a clear mimic of Rogue, but I never played the originator. I have, however, long been fascinated by this cover, which features neon wireframes similar to many other Epyx box art. I find this to be a Tron-like distillation of the computer game scene of the period, and this pleases me.

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