Roguelikes aren’t done with ASCII art yet

ASCII and the roguelike genre are practically inseparable. ASCII was there at the birth of the genre, bringing Rogue (1980) itself to life—and it’s stayed, with today’s most ambitious roguelikes such as Dwarf Fortress (2006), Ultima Ratio Regum (2012), and Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead (2013) crafting sprawling worlds and adventures from ASCII’s collection of characters. It’s understandable why ASCII persists even as the roguelike expands into myriad subgenres and aesthetics. The simple abstractions of your @ hero, potions, enemies, items, and so on, as letters and symbols allows for vast potential without having to visually display such complexities. Instead, flavor text,…


The professor who discovered 80-year-old pixel art

If not for ASCII art, we wouldn’t have ASCII games like Candy box and Dwarf Fortress. And that would be terrible. So the way I look at it, we are greatly indebted to “ARTYPING,” which was invented in the early 20th century and done on typewriters. Some early examples of this forgotten art-form recently turned up on the blog of Lori Emerson, an English professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.  Along with a portrait of Shirley Temple composed of X’s and semicolons, she also posted some endearingly hokey old-timey excerpts from the book she found it in: ARTYPING (1939), written…


Candy Box clones demonstrate ASCII is ready for a comeback

Candy Box was a wonderful joke. It had a small but influential portion of the Internet wondering how a game that uses keyboard symbols for graphics could be playable, much less awesome. Candy Box 2’s punchline was self-referential: how could a game that was a joke justify a sequel? It, too, was inexplicably awesome. The thing was these games were good inspite of their feigned badness. Thus begun ASCII art’s improbable comeback.  Since then we’ve seen more than a few copycats, and The Gold Factory is the latest. Not much is known about who created it other than he or…