Rogue - Exploring the Dungeons of Doom (1980)

[An ASCII screen shot of rogue] [Rogue Keyboard commands]

The game which started it all.

A student at University of Berkeley, called Ken Arnold, had designed a library of C functions which allowed programs to do cursor addressing, which means that the programs could put a character at a specific location on the computer screen. It was not "real" graphics, but you could use letters, numbers and other symbols to simulate pictures. The library was called curses .

Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman, two students in University of Santa Cruz, California, experimented with curses library. They both had enjoyed playing Adventure which was the first text adventure game. After making some simple games with curses, they began to write a graphical adventure game. Michael Toy did most of the programming and Glenn contributed ideas to the project and coined the name "Rogue".

One of their main goals to create a game they could enjoy playing by themselves. Most existing adventure-type games had predesigned plot and world which remained exactly the same every time you played it. Michael and Glenn decided to make Rogue more random. Rogue build the dungeon using the pseudo-random number generator, so the game was different every time you played it, making it possible that even the creators of the game could be surprised by it.

The game was far from being finished, but already playable, when Michael Toy moved to U.C. Berkeley. There he met Ken Arnold took over Rogue development completely, leaving Glenn Wichman behind.

The purpose of Rogue was to descend into the Dungeons of Doom, defeat monsters and find treasure and come back with the amulet of Yendor. Dungeons of Doom are a randomly generated maze of rooms or corridors connecting them. Each level of dungeon has a staircase leading to a lower dungeon level. The dungeon has traps, secret doors, treasure and of course monsters, which will attack the player character on sight. In the beginning of the game the character is equipped with some food, elf-crafted armor, enchanted (magical) mace, a bow and arrows. The player can get new equipment finding it from dungeon floor or by defeating monsters. Some monsters drop treasure when they are killed. The game featured various kinds of magical equipment, most of them are useful in some way, but some of them are harmful (e.g. cursed). They player can find out if an item is enchanted or cursed and useful or harmful by trying it (which can be dangerous) or using an identify spell.

University of Berkeley was the home of of a particularly popular version of UNIX called BSD (= Berkeley Standard Distribution). The BSD UNIX distribution 4.2 in 1980 included a binary version of Rogue. Suddenly Rogue was available on university computers all over the world. At that time there was no other freely available game like it. Over the next three years, Rogue became the most popular game on college campuses.

Later on Michael Toy and Jon Lane started a company called A.I.Design. One of their first projects was to port Rogue from UNIX to the IBM PC. Marketing and packaging of the game was later sold to Epyx. Rogue was also ported to other machines such as Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, ZX Spectrum. The source code of original Rogue was never released, but you can find several Rogue clones along with source code for them.

In 1984 Michael Maudlin, Guy Jacobson, Andrew Appel and Leonard Hamey published a paper about Rog-o-matic. Rog-o-matic is a computer program which playes the game of Rogue. It it uses an expert system architecture capable of learning. In a comparison with 15 best Rogue-players of Carnegie Mellon University Rog-o-matic was able to play as well as the human experts.
Usenet newsgroup for the Rogue game
Links to several Rogue versions
A version of Rogue that works under the KDE desktop environment
Edwin's Dungeons of Doom - Lots of information about Rogue
Read the history of Rogue written by Glenn Wichman.

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Petri Kuittinen <>
Last modified: Tue Jun 12 19:13:51 EET DST 2001