Essay: the “one hour roguelite”

It’s been a while since I published something so I wanted to condense a small story about a game design principle I came up with recently.

Some games are excellent at concentrating 1 hour game session into interesting experience, such as Into The Breach and Slay The Spire.

These video games have an average session length of one hour. It’s a game you can play at night after a day of work. It’s a game you can launch on your midday pause. It’s a game you can launch a sunday afternoon while the kids nap.

The median gameplay length is much more: around 5 to 10. And developers make this accordingly: there’s always new stuff to learn after your 1 hour game session.

In Into The Breach, there are a dozen mecha crew to unlock and discover. Finishing the game is pretty easy. But every crew is super interesting, super different. Every crew bring new mechanics you dreamt of, because the base game design is super flexible.

It’s not about finishing the game anymore: it’s about discovering new mechanics. That’s the most addictive part of Into The Breach!

Slay The Spire started a bit classical : the two first characters are very similar iterations. At first, they provided very similar cards and builds, but just enough difference to make it fun.

The genius of Slay The Spire happened during development, when they improved the game and released their third character.

This time, the mechanics were 100% changed. It wasn’t that much about card and more about stacking items (orbs) on your character. It gives a new feeling about the game and transcends a bit the basis of the simple card game.

During the developement of Legend of Keepers, we realized one thing: 1–2 hour was enough. A lot of players are waiting for more, but we realized it’s the sweet spot.

Making the runs more lengthy puts a risk on making it more boring, and getting away for the consistent and dense game experience we’re trying to provide.

This is also about marketing : making one hour game session helps to reach new audiences. Those new moms & dads who can’t spend 1000s hours on World of Warcraft want something more digest!

who has time for all of this?

Thus, the one-hour-roguelites share a common conception:

  • It’s not really about winning
  • Diversity of gameplay through builds drive fun
  • 1 hour session allows you to get plenty of pleasure
  • Your first game is very rarely the last

A fun gameplay through replayability and discovery

Thank you for reading this!

I’m trying to build Neurodeck, my next game which is a psychological deckbuilder roguelite, around those principles.



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Game Dev Marketer. I share processes, techniques & tricks to do game marketing. Portfolio: