Roguelove: Cogmind Takes Rogue To Space

It’s weird to think now that Rogue was one of those special treats I would get to play on my grandparents’ 386. Rogue, Prince of Persia and Alley Cat. All fantastic. Now, with Cogmind [official site], I’m getting flashbacks to those days, but everything is green and there are guns. Cogmind looks similar to the original Rogue – a Roguelike, you might say – but it’s got a bunch of tricks up its sleeve, such as a Captain Forever-style system for re-building yourself with the parts dropped by destroyed enemies.

It’s just launched a public alpha, which you can purchase if you like the look of the trailer below.

Cogmind looks to be Rogue in space. With guns and a branching storyline. And a great Matrix-esque green sheen which, nope, still hasn’t got old. Or is it just that late 90s cyberpunk is cool again?

There’s something beautiful about ASCII being used to draw a game, no longer out of necessity, but out of a style preference. I wonder if this is a niche style that will only appeal to those who spent too much of their childhood searching every pixel of wall to discover a secret door to a treasure room, but there’s an alternative mode which uses a tileset instead, if you’re put off by letters.

Developer Josh Ge says that while there’s still much he wants to add to the game, this alpha build is polished enough that it could easily be a release candidate. Buy the game now and you’ll get access to all future updates as and when they’re released.

From this site

54 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Kyzrati says:

    The $30 price is intended for early access fans who want all the rewards and to join our community and influence the expansion of the game through discussion.

    However, the final price will likely be about $20, which can be had right now for those who buy the second tier gift package with a couple friends!

    • Pointy says:

      I still feel that this financial model is the wrong way around.

      Surely, you should get a discount for helping to develop the game rather than having to pay for the privilege?

      Personally, I will never accept this trend and hopefully, others will agree and discourage this type of behaviour.

      • Premium User Badge

        Kyzrati says:

        The model was aimed at my core fans who’ve followed me for years (and played my previous free games), not meant to be a big public deal. I only advertised it to the core audience, but as the reception has been quite good it kind of exploded.

        The budget for this game is deceptively huge, and I’ve been investing my own money in it for the past several years. I’m happy and grateful to have such nice supporters who want to see it get bigger and better–if costs can be recovered (not a certainty due to the huge budget) the money will be put towards hiring an awesome professional composer for the entire OST.

      • Aninhumer says:

        The special privilege you get for patronising a project is that the game you’re interested in is more likely to actually get made. You might not be willing to participate without other incentives, but I don’t see why you should have a problem with people who do? Even from a selfish perspective, the more people who agree with this model, the more games get made.

      • Duke of Chutney says:

        i prefer this price model. It discourages people from buying an incomplete product unless they really really want to buy in to development.

        Based on the trailer, i’m hyped for this, but prefer a lower cost complete project. The matrix aesthetic rocks.

        • Premium User Badge

          Kyzrati says:

          Thank you for the support. Not everyone understands it, but then the players we do have now are really into it and happy with their purchase, so it’s a win-win-win situation. Greater revenue to support development, early players are happy to be in on it, and even the players who don’t get in on it can get a better final game as a result of the previous two! I’m glad Cogmind is getting the support that it is, because it certainly bodes well for the game’s future!

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Yeah, no, can’t see a lot of people joining your crusade here. Anyway, I prefer this way of pricing and for what it’s worth, if I had the cash I’d have bought in already. Probably will down the line. Why? Because I want to help out a game I want to see finished and a dev who’s attitude and imagination I respect. If that weren’t the case, nobody would be forcing me to buy it now, I could still get it cheaper later.

        • Pointy says:

          This is no crusade, everyone to their own.

          Paying more for an unfinished game goes against my better judgement.

          I’ve done a couple of games already, but when I release my first game for sale, I’ll be charging early backers less, not more, and maybe include a donate button if people want to support me directly. This is not a personal attack on this game or developer, just the ‘early-access-pays-more’ model. Minecraft comes to mind. Obviously that did exceptionally well and the rest of can’t really expect that level of success but he began with a solid concept and asked for small amounts from early backers, only increasing the price as the game developed further. As developers perhaps we can afford to be a bit humble when asking people to support us. We’ll never get paid for all the long hours we put into our games, but that’s the price we pay for our creations.

  2. fredshonorio says:

    Would this be a good first roguelike? I’m tempted but I don’t know the genre.

    • Dessard says:

      Relatively, yes; the mechanics and interface both – especially in mouse/tiles mode – make it much more accessible than most. However, it’s still pretty roguelikey in difficulty, and if you don’t think losing is Fun, it’ll be pretty frustrating (well, it is anyway at times).

    • LimEJET says:

      I’d recommend Brogue as your first. It’s fairly simplistic, sticks pretty close to the original, but has a few interesting mechanics of its own.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        Seconded! Brogue is a lovely little game. I’d love to suggest going straight to Nethack or Rogue though tbh, if you actually want to give the genre a try and can put aside a couple hours to get into it then it’s a very pure (and unique) experience.

        It’s always nice to try a new genre by starting where everyone else did.

    • ribby says:

      I’d recommend Cataclysm DDA

      Just cos it’s cool

      • ender1200 says:

        CDDA Is really cool game, but it’s not a beginner’s rogulike.

        • ribby says:

          This is true… It was kinda the first one I got into though

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            You’ve got ASCII balls is all I can say. Cata’s amazing fun, but I’d never recommend it to a total beginner… Of course, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind learning from a whole ton of hilarious deaths (i.e. someone who would like roguelikes) then Cata definitely provides…

    • catharsis says:

      I think Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup would also be a really good first roguelike to cut your teeth on. I grew up playing Moria/Angband and Nethack and still play them occasionally, but DCSS would probably be easier to swallow. If you like the genre, eventually play some Nethack. It’s really fun.

    • Anathem says:

      Brogue would absolutely be a great first roguelike. Let me add that it’s completely free.

      link to sites.google.com

    • Yglorba says:

      As others have mentioned, brogue is a good first choice.

      Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup might be a good pick, too.

    • malkav11 says:

      I don’t really know how good it is as an introduction to a genre that mostly goes down other design paths, but DoomRL is a fantastic, free roguelike that’s very intuitive, especially if you’ve ever played Doom, while having an astounding amount of depth to it if you delve into it.

    • Xan says:

      I’d suggest trying Dungeons of Dredmor. Quite accessible and roguelike enough. Also, just brilliant in its own way!

  3. Artist says:

    Texturepack or bust! This is 2015, not 1984, ffs!

    • Dessard says:

      • Dessard says:

        That is, there is one. I guess it flagged the link to a picture of it as spam.

    • Premium User Badge

      Kyzrati says:

      Cogmind defaults to using our amazing tileset by Kacper Wozniak. You can see it from about half way through the trailer, or in the first gif on the website. So ASCII is there for the purists, but we also have awesome pixel robots.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      I know that this is a debate that will continue to the end of time, but ASCII graphics aren’t *just* an aesthetic, they also enable a very specific style of immersion, you’ll often hear it referred to as being like a book. In that by using representation, rather than avatar, your imagination takes hold in a very different way.

      Playing roguelikes and games like DF with a tileset is a fundamentally different experience.

      I think if you’re the kind of person that enjoys reading, then you’ll appreciate what ASCII brings to the table – if you’d rather just watch the movie then a tileset is probably the better choice. I want to stress this isn’t some elitist thing, there are smart movies and dumb books, it’s just about how you enjoy consuming stories.

      • Nasarius says:

        I love novels and have little interest in film as a medium, but I still play Dwarf Fortress with a graphics pack. Memorizing which letter corresponds to what object really isn’t analogous to reading at all; a crude 16×16 symbol works just as well for triggering imagination, without being a complete mystery on your first encounter.

        Anyway, the reason developers do it is the same reason many avoid full voiceovers. It’s a lot cheaper and more flexible, especially when you’re rapidly developing a game. If you can plug in graphics later, great.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          Of course this wasn’t the intent of the style, it was a necessity – but that doesn’t change the fact that both provide different experiences.

        • poetfoxpaul says:

          “Memorizing which letter corresponds to what object really isn’t analogous to reading at all; a crude 16×16 symbol works just as well for triggering imagination, without being a complete mystery on your first encounter.”

          While you might think this to be true, it isn’t. Or, rather, the former isn’t true and the latter assertion is subjective. Consider what the actual act of reading is. A letter is nothing more than a symbol, and when chained together as a ‘word’ you are able to give meaning to that meta-symbol.

          I agree that in Dwarf Fortress and other ASCII-equipped games, “reading a book” is an appropriate description for the player’s interpretation of individual characters and fully-fledged creatures. To me, when I notice a certain letter moving towards my fortress gates I am usually able to discern what it is without examining it via the ‘k’ menu. Much like your ability to interpret “record player” as a physical object used by humans with the sole purpose of translating pressed plastic discs into audible molecular waves, after many years of playing I am able to scan a 1080p screen full of 20×20 pixel 16-color palette letters and interpret a beautiful autumn forest crossed by a teal brook, spanned by a bridge of oak wood upon which my ranger is hauling his latest catch, the corpse of a Giant Leopard. Oddly enough, the elves had recently brought a breeding pair of Giant Leopards, apparently a species endemic to both the local region and wherever the elves called home. Using the leopard’s skin, one of my dwarfs managed to craft an artifact Leather Shield (after entering a rare Strange Mood), bestowing a particularly appropriate title I can’t be bothered to remember. The shield was taken by one of military dwarfs, who never got to use it because of his immediate death when I ordered him to attack the invading army with absolutely no armor. That was particularly long-winded but the game sort of demands it.

          Much like I would suggest a young child focus on reading and writing, I would also suggest any remotely interested gamer invest time learning Dwarf Fortress. Other games come and go, but few indeed boast of the same monolithic ubiquitousness.

      • Premium User Badge

        Kyzrati says:

        To the end of time, for sure :). For the record, Cogmind was designed for years to be the ultimate *ASCII* experience, and it is far more immersive that way. (Many of our players are using it.)

        That said, we did need tiles for the more casual crowd.

        During development while engaging the community in discussions of ASCII vs. tiles, I liked to use the “book vs. movie” analogy myself :). I was originally debating whether to add tiles at all, but leaving both options on the table when possible seems like the most sensible route to reach that broader audience, even though Cogmind does more than any other roguelike to make the native ASCII accessible.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          I’m always surprised to hear people (and you’re not unique in this) suggest that tilesets are better for beginners. I mean, maybe they are, but everyone that played rogue and nethack back in the day managed just fine without a tileset – I’ve never found ASCII to be particularly opaque or difficult to understand, in fact with DF I really dislike the character tilesets, little hard to decipher blobs of colour and detail, somehow easier for people to identify than a bold, unique character. You need to learn the relationships either way, I often think that ASCII is clearer. Naturally the artist plays a big part there!

          Maybe I’m just weird :p

          • Premium User Badge

            Kyzrati says:

            I think it’s purely from a statistical point of view. There are without question simply fewer gamers who can stomach ASCII.

            When I’ve “interviewed” this other crowd, they cite the fact that they have significant trouble dissociating letters and numerals from their linguistic meaning, which is the first (implied) step towards freely reassociating them with something else. I don’t have that issue, but I certainly understand where they’re coming from. I’ve written an article on my blog here, which touches upon some of these concepts (if I remember correctly–I know I’ve discussed them many times with others).

            Last year I posited the chance that Cogmind might use ASCII as the default, since it was built that way, and roguelike players from *both* camps (tiles/ASCII) disagreed with this route, claiming that many who don’t “get” ASCII would be immediately turned off, while anyone into ASCII would likely know/learn easily that they can just change the option.

            About the accessibility of ASCII, I do believe Cogmind makes it more accessible than any other traditional roguelike before it. As one example you can see this optional feature.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          I can’t reply to your other reply due to nesting limits, but thanks for the response, looking forward to reading your post!

          Also looking forward to trying the game, looks like something I’d enjoy! Best of luck with it.

          • Premium User Badge

            Kyzrati says:

            Yep, thanks! And looking forward to having you when you can play!

            And now… sleep. I’ve had 4 hours in the past 48 hours -_-

      • ribby says:

        I would always play DF with a graphics pack, but other roguelikes with ASCII

    • Kerbal_Rocketry says:

      The problem with tilesets is so often they look like a water colour of mud that’s been flushed down a toilet and dredged back out of the thames. Mainly a problem in games like Dwarf Fort though, very few tilesets allow you to tell rock types apart at a glance and creatures are almost always a mash of brown.

      Cogmind seems to of avoided this with nice simplistic art, but i think i’ll be playing in ASCII as it’s much easier on the eye.

      • Nasarius says:

        Many, many people would completely disagree. I have zero trouble with Phoebus for DF.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        My thoughts exactly, and so puzzled to ever see anyone dispute this. There’s a reason we use simple symbols to form language over small unnecessarily detailed and similar sprites… Clarity. Not all games could benefit from this of course, and once you reach the point where you can convey an object through more than a 16×16 pixel symbol then ASCII becomes redundant. But those DF tilesets, I don’t know how anyone stands them (character/animal sprites, especially).

        Each to their own, of course! I’m always happy to see others playing these relatively niche games, it’s fun that we even get a choice over how they look!

        • kalzekdor says:

          I prefer something like Geoduck’s Nethack tiles (link to cook.web.eschelon.com). They’re tiles, but still based on the ASCII symbology of Nethack. For example you have your Gnome, plain old G, your Gnome Wizard, G with a wizard hat, your Gnome King, G with a crown, and etc. It uses the base character as in Nethack to provide instant recognition of the general class or type of Monster/Item, but instead of differentiation through various color shades, easily discernible characteristics.

          Plus it just looks right, a blend of old and new.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        Sounds like the problem is not the concept of tilesets, but bad tilesets. A good, simple, iconic tileset ought to be just as easy to distinguish as ASCII, without the additional hurdle of trying to remember whether “B” means “bed” or “beholder” (multiplied by the number of characters used).

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      The fact that cogmind HAS a tileset and the argument over ascii vs tiles aside, all I can think reading this comment is how upset I am that your username was taken by somebody with that attitude.

  4. Kabukiman74 says:

    But it is 1984. Just ask your local orwellian NSA representative…;)

  5. Ergates_Antius says:

    Well – for a first roguelike I’d probably recomend something free: Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup for instance.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Dammit, that was meant to be a response to fredshonorio.

    • zxc says:

      Yeah, DCSS (Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup) is a fantastic roguelike – my favourite game of all in fact. Have a read of link to reddit.com to learn why it’s so loved. I am also really looking forward to playing Cogmind.

  6. OpT1mUs says:

    Looks fantastic!

    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      I agree. It does look interesting, sort of like a roguelike-teleglitch.

      Think I’ll wait for reviews before taking the plunge though.

  7. kikito says:

    If any of you guys are into game development, I recommend giving a look at Cogmind’s devblog:

    link to gridsagegames.com

    I have been following it since some time ago, and it’s full with good stuff. My personal favorite is the map generation series.

  8. ExitDose says:

    Thirty dollars is too steep for me. I hope it all comes together.

  9. Baggypants says:

    Looks like a cool re-interpretation of scrap

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Man, Scrap was awesome. I might just have spent more time playing it than the author did writing it. Well, probably not, but you know.

      BTW, I don’t think anyone’s mentioned yet that Cogmind was also originally a Seven-Day RogueLike, and the (very) early free version is still available here. It’s good fun, and a good chance to see if the bare bones of the concept appeal to you.

  10. GeorgeTheJournalist says:

    I’m so sad this actually has to be clearly stated these days.

    Cogmind looks nice, I will definitely try it once it’s out of alpha. I’m just not good with unfinished games.

    • GeorgeTheJournalist says:

      Holy… I didn’t think I suck at xhtml so much :D Let me try again, please.

      Buy the game now and you’ll get access to all future updates as and when they’re released.

      I’m so sad this actually has to be clearly stated these days.

      Cogmind looks nice, I will definitely try it once it’s out of alpha. I’m just not good with unfinished games.

  11. Serenegoose says:

    A brief sadness, as I realise this isn’t another cogwatch article so soon.