DoomRL is a game that married the aesthetic and presentation of id’s classic FPS (you know, Doom) with the hardcore permadeath sensibilities that roguelikes are known for. That is to say, Doom where you start over when you die and every time you play it’s different. And now the developers are making a spiritual successor called Jupiter Hell.
Polish developer ChaosForge’s project is a modern genre take on Doom, designed with today’s technology and ease of use in mind, with a slightly tweaked setting. Currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign, the project has made $43,000 of its $75,000 goal as of writing.
But why make a new Doom-style roguelike? It’s thanks to games like Spelunky, FTL, and XCOM revitalizing that particular kind of harrowing design over the past several years. The accessibility for the genre has never been higher — and it’s one that hits on play at a conceptual level. To find out more about what makes roguelikes — and Jupiter Hell specifically — a game for modern players, I spoke with ChaosForge head Kornel Kisielewicz via email.
“Roguelikes hit at one of the hearts of what games really are,” says Kisielewicz, who has been working on Jupiter Hell with a small team over the past four years. “Some other game types capture storytelling or exploration or social interactions, but roguelikes focus heavily on the core element of intelligent interactivity — this is what lies at the heart of chess and poker and many board games, and in digital form, roguelikes exemplify tactical decision making.”
Aside from permadeath, where a player must start over from the beginning of the game if they die, the systems that typically define roguelikes are procedural generation of environments, grid-based maps, and, in the most traditional models, turn-based gameplay. Kisielewicz says the first two are very important to maintaining historical authenticity while making players take up a tactician’s mantle.
“Procedural generation means things are a constant surprise, and permadeath means your choices really matter,” Kisielewicz says. “The combination forces your brain into this intense area of operation where you get into the games rules and mechanics much more deeply than you would with any other game.”
Interestingly, there’s an element of dynamism in Jupiter Hell’s animation — it adapts to the speed players feel most comfortable with, updating the design’s turn-based methodology to something more palatable for players unfamiliar with roguelikes. In general, Kisielewicz says keeping the core genre tenet of unpredictability intact is vital.
“Procedural environments must strive to be as good as hand-designed content,” he says. Crucially, that goes for the story elements as well, and the team is planning on implementing a branching system of quest that react to what players do, so that the game’s full story can’t be seen in the course of a single playthrough.
From the footage seen in ChaosForge’s pitch video, Jupiter Hell bears more than a passing resemblance to the dark Alien-esque sci-fi horror of Doom 3, though with the project not expected to be finished until next November, that could change.
“Some of the concept art we’re working on is more Dead Space in style, and we’ll have influence from the likes of Aliens too,” he says. “There’s even a touch of Babylon 5 in there, how it blended serious sci-fi and legendary storytelling.”
Though it’s clear there’s still a lot of work left to do — the Kickstarter footage is alpha — what ChaosForge has shown of Jupiter Hell thus far looks promising. Kisielewicz doesn’t want fans to think of this as a version of Doom; the game will have its own identity, but the goal here is the familiarity of slaying monsters.
“This is a setting you can jump right into and immediately feel comfortable,” Kisielewicz says. “There’s no orientation necessary before you pick up a chainsaw and start tearing into demons.”