Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

A-Rogue (1987): Robert Jung’s Slim, Cram, Thank You Ma’am

A-Rogue was published in the May, 1987 issue of Antic Magazine.  Also called “Atari Rogue,” the game is not quite a port of the original mainframe Rogue ASCII-graphic adventure, but more of an adaption.  It is interesting to see how the author simplified the game in order to make it work in BASIC on an 8-bit machine.  (A more serious attempt to implement Rogue on a home computer would have to wait until the original authors could put together commercial versions for the IBM PC, Mac, Atari ST, and Amiga.)

Atari Rogue uses an altered character set to make the graphics.  You can see the typical layout of a level below.  For some reason it took the 6502 processor nearly a minute to randomly generate such a map!  The mazes fit in a 24×12 grid and the player was represented by the standard Atari cursor instead of the usual ‘@’ symbol.  Unlike the mainframe version, you cannot return to previously visited levels, but can only go further down.  The screen is updated by positioning the cursor and programmatically entering deletes and spaces/text, which occasionally makes for semi-animated visual effects.  That technique was not overly exploited, however.

Monsters do not wander in this version and do not remain to block your path if you successfully [w]ithdraw from them.  There are no hidden passages to search for and the items are randomly scattered about more like a random event than as an actual placed object.  There is no “Experience Point” counter on your display, so its not clear that you gain anything by defeating monsters.  On the contrary, your Endurance score (i.e., Hit Points) seems to go up each time you [d]escend to a new level regardles of how many monsters you kill.

Potions are a mixed bag: they can either teleport you randomly, summon a monster, heal you, feed you, or raise your Endurance score.  Perhaps the most insidious one is the one that rots your food supply.  You might think to eat a meal before trying a random potion, but that’s not an option: once you find one, you have to drink it or it completely disappears.  The same thing goes for weapons and armor: if you find a new item, you have to take it or its gone forever.

The simplifications of the game eliminate many of the tactical and strategic options that made the original Rogue so addictive.  In this version, you’re mainly left with choosing when to attack, when to withdraw, when to experiment with weird potions (if you find them), and when to use your limited number of spells.

So far, I tend to die with many resources left at my disposal.  Also, I’m way too reckless in battle and I’m not sure that the risk is even worth it.  I have no idea how far down the dungeon goes, so I’m not sure how close I’ve ever come to completing the game.  I wonder exactly how the experience system works and also what the actual weapon and armor statistics are, but I hesitate to examine the code because much of the charm of the game comes from the slight “fog of war” that ignorance of such things entails.

To run the game, I used the Atari800Win Plus emulator and the files from the Antic Archive.  Be sure to enable the “H” drive from the Settings screen if you try this yourself.  Also, the lines of code referencing the “D” drive should be changed as well once you RUN “H:AROGUE.BAS”.  (It is cool to have an Atari with that much disk space!!)  The code seems to work fine, though I did get an “ERROR 141” cursor our of range error from line 190 one time….

In conclusion, the game is a cute abstraction of Dungeons and Dragons.  The fact that tunnels and rooms are essentially the same (and also that that objects and monsters are not persisted on the map) eliminates a lot of the point of the randomly generated layout.  While the author did achieve some semblance of Rogue-ishness, one wonders how memory and computing power could have been marshalled to give greater depth and a larger array of tactical options to the game.

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