David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

One-Week Dungeons by David L. Craddock

Eleven game designers. Eight grand ideas. Seven days to will them into reality.

Every year, programmers around the world compete in the 7-day roguelike challenge, or 7DRL, a weeklong game jam where participants endeavor to design and program a roguelike role-playing game. Their obstacles: day jobs, family responsibilities, sleep deprivation, and visionary concepts too big for 168 hours to contain.

Told over a series of daily journal logs, One-Week Dungeons: Diaries of a Seven-Day Roguelike Challenge chronicles the journeys of eleven 7DRL participants as they race to build their dream games before the clock expires.


This book was born of a whim. Once upon a time I aspired to be a programmer, until I discovered I liked writing stories more than I liked writing code. I was curious about game jams—making a game under a strict time limit, from a few hours to a few days—and sought out some amateur coders to follow as they aspired to make a game in one week while jugging work, family, and other real-life stuff. -David L. Craddock, curator, StoryBundle



  • "An entertaining, race-against-time narrative."

    – Kobo Review
  • "A fast-paced look into seven-day roguelikes, something so niche most people wouldn't have heard about, but the book is well written and shows how important it is to get your thoughts down so you can sort out your ideas."

    – Goodreads Review



Day Zero: Bold Ambitions

Darren Grey

Game: Mosaic

Date: Friday, March 8th

Darren Grey is a prominent figure in the roguelike community. He is the co-founder—along with ASCII Dreams blogger Andrew Doull—and a co-host of Roguelike Radio, a semi-regular podcast on anything and everything roguish, and a pro of both the genre and the 7DRL challenge. Despite his bonafides, he is affable, articulate, and shares a common bond with many of his online pals: he died in Hack. A lot. "You go through, and you die, and you play again, and you die, and you play again, and you die. That repetitive play—there was a compelling feeling to it, going all the way back to the start. I didn't get very far in Hack. I was never very good at it. After that, I found ADOM, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The detail, the atmosphere—for ASCII, it was quite pretty. That really pulled me in."

Grey was content to spend several years exploring Thomas Biskup's wonderland. After finishing ADOM several times, he went online in search of similar games. The trail led him to the 7DRL. "The first roguelike I made, Gruesome, was finished a few days before my first 7DRL challenge," Grey recalls. "I knew that if I made the game, I would have the knowledge I needed to participate. As it happens, I failed the first time I did the challenge. But from the earliest stage of me developing roguelikes, I had my eye on the challenge."

For Grey, the experience of writing code during the 7DRL is as important as the games he invents. "Now, normally, I have a very busy life, and I don't get nearly as much time to sit down and code as I'd like—partly because one does tend to procrastinate. So it's nice to have this concentrated period of time to say, 'I must make a roguelike this week. I have no choice. I will sit down and I will do it, and the rest of my life can go to hell because this is what the week is for.'"

When I ask Grey to choose a favorite from the 7DRL games he has submitted over the years, he has an answer at the ready. "Broken Bottle was my attempt to do what you may call 'games as art.'2 I had a lot of ideas in the back of my head about it, and those came out during the week. It was a game about an alcoholic in a post-apocalyptic world. You start off as a happy, content drunk. As you explore, you have choices about whether to continue drinking or not. Those [choices] affect your gameplay in various ways."

Written during the 2011 7DRL, Broken Bottle was unique for more than its twist on conventional roguelike mechanics. Grey set out to tell a story, a feat not many roguelike authors attempt due to the procedural generation inherent in the genre. "I really enjoyed doing those pieces of writings. People reacted very positively. It's the first roguelike that's ever shown all the description in the game in first-person: 'I missed the bandit' and 'The rat hit me.' Writing is another passion of mine, so this game was a chance to explore both passions: a story with bits of text merged with the gameplay."

He received high marks for his efforts: fourth place in the challenge and an in-depth analysis led by Jeff Lait, a staple of the roguelike and 7DRL societies and an idol of Grey's. Even so, Grey did not let the commendations go to his head. The journey of 7DRL, not the destination, was the ultimate reward. "In such a short span of time, you experience such a whirlwind of emotions. There's nothing else like it. It's my favorite week of the year."

Although Grey expresses enthusiasm for the approaching 2013 7DRL, his week outside of game development is full. He is in the middle of a critical project at work and will have to work several late nights during the challenge—something with which Grey has some experience. During his first 7DRL, he juggled two full-time jobs and a relationship. "Definitely exhausted, but satisfied," Grey responds when I ask how he felt at the end of that week. "I don't know of any comparable feeling." He pauses; then, in a testament to his passion for the challenge, adds, "Well, I suppose a comparable feeling might be doing something physically exerting, and then feeling immensely satisfied at the end of it. No specifics, mind," he finished with a laugh.

Grey is raising the bar for 2013. With his next game, Mosaic, he aims to take another crack at games-as-art design. Though he intends to start from scratch in terms of writing code, he has a clear vision for how he wants Mosaic to play out. Controlling an "@" avatar, players will move across maps consisting of blank tiles. Every time they pass over a tile, its color will change. "If you keep going over them in certain patterns, you'll build wall tiles. If you manage to make an enclosure of wall tiles—four sides that make up a square, three sides that make up a triangle, something like that—they'll fill in automatically with a range of mosaic tiles."

Enemies—represented by capital letters—appear in each level and roam the map, smashing through tiles and disrupting the player's designs. Mosaic will eschew traditional bump-based combat. The only way to defeat enemies is to pen them inside colored squares.

To maximize coding time, he'll be coding Mosaic using the T-engine, a construct design written in the Lua language and pre-loaded with routines written specifically for roguelike games. "Reuse everything you can get your hands on," Grey suggests. "It [7DRL challenge] is about making a game, not building an engine. Things like FOV [field of view] code should absolutely be reused. Find a good, existing dungeon generator. It's about finding the right pieces to put together so you've got something unique at the end."

Bastien Gorissen

Game: BattleRL

Date: Saturday, March 9th

Bastien Gorissen has played relatively few roguelikes, but he fell head over heels for the genre quickly. After playing hours of Dwarf Fortress, he decided to try his hand at contributing to his new favorite type of game. "I wanted to take part [in the 7DRL challenge] last year, but didn't have the time. I think I need deadlines to get a roguelike done. I have played around with the idea for I don't know how many years, but I know that if I [set a deadline] of 'when it's done,' I'll get lost in creating levels. I'll spend forever on them and never go beyond that. So I like the idea of saying to myself, 'I have one week. I must finish something. I must do everything and have a playable game.'"

Gorissen's game idea has been bouncing around his head since he saw Battle Royale, a Japanese film based on the novel of the same name, and sharing themes with U.S. author Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. In Battle Royale, teens battle to the death on an abandoned island. At set intervals, sections of the island are partitioned off, herding the survivors closer together for maximum bloodshed.

Fifty teenagers square off in Battle Royale. For his game, titled BattleRL, Gorissen wants to trim the number of rivals down to twenty. Like the film that inspired it, BattleRL will unfold on an island that contains ruined buildings and secret caches of weapons. Aggression will go a long way in determining the player's odds of survival against the computer-controlled opponents. "There are a couple of other rules. The world will shrink; you'll lose access to parts of the world as time goes on, and you only have a certain amount of time to kill everyone else or let them kill each other. That's the basic idea. We'll see how much I can fit within the week [time limit]."

Interested in how a first-timer might approach roguelike systems that veterans consider old hat, I ask Gorissen how he plans to tackle map generation, the beating heart of most roguelikes. "It will be a single-level game, so I'll just generate some kind of island because that's the easiest thing to do. As for the size, I think it will depend on the combat and the A.I. I will see what's interesting for gameplay. If the island is too big, you'll never find anyone, and that's not interesting. But if it's too small, the game will end in 10 minutes. So we'll need to see what's good."

Before we sign off, I ask what tomorrow has in store. "I think I'll start with simple level generation. That will be the first thing I'll do, but I have no idea yet how I'll do that," he admits. Gorissen does not sound nervous, explaining that he downloaded a library of roguelike-centric routines called libtcod to get him up to speed.7

Just in case hurdles like map generation prove harder to jump than he thinks, Gorissen wants to finish a few days early so he has plenty of time to tinker. "I hope to get one item done per day. Tomorrow will probably only be world generation, but I want to move fairly quickly so I can have one or two days at the end just for balancing and polishing; no adding new features."