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Early roguelikes were developed to be played on text-based user interfaces, commonly UNIX-based computer mainframes and terminals used at colleges and universities before transitioning to personal computers.Games used a mix of ASCII or ANSI characters to represent elements of the dungeon levels, creatures, and items on the level.The score is displayed in a ranked scoreboard to compare the player's performance on successive runs.Because of the expansion of numerous variations on the roguelike theme, the gameplay elements characterizing the roguelike genre were explicitly defined at the International Roguelike Development Conference 2008 held in Berlin, Germany; these factors encompass what is known as the "Berlin Interpretation".Though the roguelikes Beneath Apple Manor and Sword of Fargoal predate it, the 1980 game Rogue is considered the forerunner and the namesake of the genre, with derivative games mirroring Rogues character- or sprite-based graphics.These games were popularized among college students and computer programmers of the 1980s and 1990s, leading to a large number of variants but adhering to these common gameplay elements, often titled the "Berlin Interpretation".
Most roguelikes are based on a high fantasy narrative, reflecting their influence from tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.The player generally has to explore the dungeon to reveal its contents, similar to a fog of war.Many roguelikes include visibility elements, such as a torch to provide illumination to see monsters in nearby squares, or line of sight to limit which monsters are visible from the player's position.Defeating monsters earns the character experience points, and after earning enough points, the character will gain an experience level, improving their hit points, magic capability, and other attributes. The character dies if they lose all their hit points.
As most roguelikes feature the concept of permadeath, this represents the end of the game, and the player will need to restart the game with a newly made character.
On multi-user systems, leaderboards are often shared between players.