617 games and counting

RogueRis: Trials of Dungeonfall

By elneil Published on Nov 30th, 2017

A mixture of two genres – a Roguelike and a Tetris-style game – based on a prototype I made with a friend (@ollie_read) in 8 hours during a "Crafts and Gin" Game Jam back in 2012.


• 10 levels
• Procedural generation
• Musicality!
• Old-school gameplay
• But actually winnable though

Arrow keys to move/rotate/drop blocks, X + arrows to move rogue and fight monsters.

Full instructions can be found in game. I hope you enjoy it.


This version of the game took a long time to make – more than 40 coding sessions during evenings/weekends of July-November 2017. I had the core game fully working within a few sessions, and the rest has literally been set dressing and "polish" (it still looks like programmer art!). Presentation is quite pompous in places, e.g. a full menu system; this is simply because I wanted to make the game as "finished" as possible (I teach game dev so I want to set a good example).

In order to fit the standard 10x20 grid (plus 4 invisible rows for spawning blocks) on the screen, I had to use 6x6 pixel sprites for each cell rather than the easier option of a map of 8x8 pixel cells. Making clear pixel art in 6x6 tiles is hard, but I’m quite happy with the monster designs and animations – I think they have personality.

This was my first Pico-8 / Lua game so wasn’t sure how restrictive the CPU or token/char count would be in practice. I was worried it would struggle with drawing so many sprites but seems okay? (stat() was showing about 10% CPU at worst). Token budget was more than enough too, but I only realised this once I had carefully implemented most of the critical content – so in general the code is unnecessarily dense. I was disappointed at first that it would easily fit into the restrictions, but then I noticed that I’d gone well over the limit for the compressed .p8.png format, which added a nice little challenge towards the end. Had two runs at crunching - the first involved me hard-coding a load of values and adding short function references, but this meant that I would have to retest the entire game thoroughly to check I hadn't broken anything, so instead I rolled back and just minimised the comments :)

A warning for beginners: Tetris clones might seem like an ideal "basic" project to work on, but I found there are lots of unforeseeable logic problems/exceptions, and quite a few subtle UX tricks that you have to do to make the game "feel" right (some I've done, some I haven't). So beware, I guess.

I’ve got it so the music is in sync with the GFX, but I have had to implement procedural music in order to do this. Originally I had a song that I played at a set tempo and synced up with the monsters "dancing", but if the Pico-8 loses focus (e.g. to desktop) the audio continues to play while the GFX freezes, so the music goes out of sync. Also noticed that pausing and unpausing the game seemed to cause the Pico-8 to throw the sync out by 2 ticks. In the end I created separate instruments as SFX and made my own "song" by triggering them on certain ticks. It’s no accident that the game follows a 12-bar blues pattern; finally my GCSE music lessons paid off.

With so much RNG it was hard to balance, especially while preserving the luck-factor of a roguelike. This meant that I had to complete several runs each time I changed something, to allow for fluctuations in RNG. The longer I've worked on it, the more I've lost all objective sense of how difficult it is, but it is definitely winnable. I hope you guys enjoy it anyway; do let me know how you get on.