ADOM is my favorite roguelike game. It's one of the few roguelikes that has an overworld, and for some reason that makes it especially pleasing to me. I'd had my hankering to play a roguelike rekindled by this article, but Angband doesn't have that overworld and for some reason that kills it for me.
Playing a roguelike requires participation on the part of the gamer. You have to have an imagination. There is very little difference, game-mechanics-wise, between a Giant Bat and an Orc Scorcher. The only difference is in the text. So if your brain ain't providing the images for you, you're going to want to play the game with graphics and sound. Who cares that there's however many different kinds of monsters in a roguelike if they all look like a single ascii character on the screen? Those with the imaginations.
Reading fiction requires a similar investment.
I just cancelled my World of Warcraft account today. There was a little exit poll and I asked myself, why is it that I'm not willing to play WoW but I'm willing to play ADOM? Well, I probably put in four-six hours at ADOM today, and I got to play eleven different characters including troll paladins, elvish necromancers, and halfling bards. I explored dozens of dungeon levels and killed dozens of different kinds of monsters; I raised undead followers and soothed rabid animals with my music; I cooked and ate orc flesh (the meal made me ill and later killed me); I prayed to my deity and received supplication; I fought with two weapons, no weapons, magic weapons, big heavy clubs, arrows, spells. I was executed for shoplifting. I blew myself up with an alchemical experiment. I was killed by an invisible Ogre Magi. I died of starvation in the wilderness. (Hunger and food, normally a gameplay element I find completely tedious, is somehow tolerable in this game, a ticking time bomb of suspense.) Some of my characters were killed at first level, most of them made it to around five, my record was eight. I'm guessing I made about forty levels in total. All in the space of four to six hours.
And it occurred to me that not even Diablo II or Neverwinter Nights packs this much experiential density (there's my kneejerk pretentious designer vocab again...shall we call it 'stuff'?) into an hour of play. Neverwinter Nights comes close, but it is bounded by something that doesn't hold back ADOM: because the animations are realistic, and that means the walk cycles are realistic, and that means travel times are realistic. What can take a second in ADOM can end up taking half a minute in NWN, and even though they pack their dungeons and cities as densely as possible, they simply can't compete on that score.
Can a modern day videogame find ways to match a roguelike in content density? Discuss.