happyponyland.net / IRDC 2013

Like last year, I made a video of my trip. Last years video was shaky and grainy, this one also has some spooky halos after an accident with the camera (it wasn't as waterproof as stated).

On June 7th - June 10th 2013, I went to the International Roguelike Developers Conference in Poznań, Poland. This years event was hosted by Radomir Dopieralski and spanned roughly two and a half days. I counted over 20 unique participants of at least 8 different nationalities (and a corresponding assortment of accents).

IRDC 2013 Group Photo

From the left: Ulf Åström (me), Leszek Jakubowski (Makdaam), Andreas Dorn, Tom Ford (flend), Johanna Ploog (jpeg), Ido Yehieli (tametick), Irinka, Piotr Sikora (ZasVid), Radomir Dopieralski (TheSheep), Riad Djemili, Johannes Kristmann, Patric Müller (bhaak), Michał Walczak (magikmw), Jeff Lait.

Partial group picture, a lot of people had already left or were missing for other reasons. Not included here are Filip Dreger, Pekka Salmela, Olli Sikstus, Kornel Kisielewicz, Darren Grey, Sos Sosowski and a whole bunch of other people I didn't catch the names of (sorry!).

(Sidenote: Someone pointed out I always seem to stand slightly apart from the others. This is because I'm operating the camera timer and try not to crash into people when I come running back. We can do a group hug next time.)

Hotel IKAR in Poznań I arrived the day before the conference. Met up with some of the people at the venue, then headed to check in at the hotel. Went sightseeing and had lunch with Jeff (cucumber soup - genuinely polish!). Later some more people had arrived at the venue. There were introductions and an initial discussion about the nature of roguelikes (they are unfair) and how to play them using screen readers.

There were a couple of talks. Among the most interesting was Jeff Lait on procedural puzzle generation and tile blending in his recent Malachite Dreams, heavily influenced by the early Ultima series and almost completely lacking combat. Tom Ford discussed similar ideas about nested puzzles and how to ensure quest triggers end up on the right side of chokepoints. It's an interesting topic and it's hard to get it right, which is probably why few games do it.

Sidewalk Darren Grey showed what he called a "producedural music engine". I'm somewhat schooled in traditional music theory and can't quite accept his idea that you can "fake it" simply by playing random notes. Still an interesting experiment, even if the result sounds terrible. The big letdown, however, is that the audio is only a byproduct of the gameplay and doesn't really affect the mechanics in any way.

Johanna Ploog spoke of her work on MurderRL, Patric Müller about the NetHack tournament and UnNetHack (not being a player myself I can't really tell what the changes were, but it's interesting that development is still taking place in the NetHack camp).

Piotr Sikora gave a talk with some heavy game theory about distributing content so more of it is available from the beginning. Radomir Dopieralski had lost his voice, but still gave a presentation by using text-to-speech software and drawing on the whiteboard. His idea was that instead of making the player guess what the developer wants them to do, the game should present a simple but suboptimal solution and encourage the player to circumvent it.

Ido Yehieli talked about the latest development of Cardinal Quest II. Andreas Dorn wanted to show some of his homemade code management tools, but we had trouble with missing DLLs and couldn't get them to work.

The TCE devteam came to show their game The Curious Expedition. While most agreed it was not very roguelike, it still seems promising and has strong similarities with Seven Cities of Gold, one of my favourite games from long ago. Sos Sosowski showed some of his games, including the utterly bizarre Super Office Stress (I once saw this sold for $99.99).

HOTEL IKAR screenshot

On Sunday evening there was a Roguelike Radio session but I did not take part. I think it's a fine community effort to keep it going since many seem to be interested, but it's just not my thing. Instead I made a terrible game where you play as HOTEL IKAR and crush pedestrians (source, .exe).

I also demoed a couple of my other games; BASMENT DWELLERS and SLAKT.

Overall, there has been a shift in the roguelike community. A decade ago discussions were mostly focused on implementation details (programming languages, data structures, etc). Today the tools are easily available and we can instead focus on how to design mechanics and interfaces to make games that people actually want to play.

Munchkin scores

Sunday night concluded with a 7-player Munchkin session that dragged on late into the night. "Put us out of our misery", Tom pleaded as the clock was approaching 1 AM. Johanna won.


On Monday morning I had a couple of hours before my flight home, so I went to the Cytadela, a former military installation turned park and soldier cemetery. Since I was leaving the same day I didn't have time to explore it fully, but if I ever return to Poznan I will plan to spend half a day there. As far as I could tell, the Cytadela was devoid of grafitti (which Poznań otherwise seemed covered in). Maybe out of respect for the monuments there, but more likely due to rigorous cleaning.

This ought to make you hot, if you're into this kind of stuff (it's a T-55, unless I'm wrong, in which case you don't need to correct me, since I don't really care).

"Is this the anal doctor?", I asked Michał. He gave me a strange look. "No, it's a laboratory..."