What’s Different About AURO?

It’s a valid question:  what’s really different about AURO?  At first glance, it may appear to be just another Roguelike.  It has been compared to something like Zaga-33, or Desktop Dungeons.  In fact, AURO is not like any of these, and is an earnestly new game in dozens of ways.  I get asked a lot, so for my own convenience I’ve decided to put what makes AURO special here in one place.

AURO is a game where you combine your abilities to creatively build situations which are favorable to you and unfavorable to the monsters.  This gets progressively harder to do as the game goes because of a larger variety and quantity of monsters.  There may be flames about, slippery ice floes, exploding bomb bats, air currents, and bouncy slimes that will launch you into the water, which the map is surrounded by.  Push other monsters off and snake your way to the exit as quick as you can, getting points for both combos and speed.

AURO is free of vestigial D&D/RPG/Roguelike noise – there’s no “map exploration”, which often is a “false choice” in games that it exists.

AURO has no complicated system of stats – There’s no strength or constitution ratings, or rising hit-points or damage as the game goes on.  In fact, AURO doesn’t get stronger at all as the game goes on, but the levels do get harder.  This means that the player must simply play at a higher level to excel.  Without these complicated stat systems, the game is much easier to learn and at the same time, less noisy.  The player is able to focus on the real decisions rather than wondering whether adding .5% damage reduction is worth losing 3 Dexterity points.

In AURO, your attacks don’t deal damage, and almost all monsters have just one hit point – Instead of being a game that’s about “dealing damage”, it’s mostly a game about positioning.  Your attacks knock actors back, and one of the primary ways of killing monsters is knocking them off the edge of the stage and into the water.  Some abilities, particularly fire abilities do cause damage, but at a significant risk to yourself.

AURO is very, very concerned with not wasting any of your time – animations will play out independently of gameplay, so you don’t have to “wait for them to finish” before you continue playing.  The text prompt at the top of the screen which gives you useful information also happens asynchronously from gameplay;  you never have to wait for it.  Levels are small and tight, and overall the game is pretty instantaneous about getting you into making difficult, interesting decisions.

AURO is free of LOOT! – There’s no +6 Sword of Grognak in this game.  In fact, there is no equipment or items system at all.  There’s one type of item – a “scroll” – but it merely is a one-time-use ability, much like those that you learn.

AURO is all about a small amount of super-deep and interactive content, rather than a huge amount of uninteresting content – most games advertise things like “500 spells!” on the backs of their boxes.  However, not only is a system with 500 spells impossible to balance, but it means that each spell will have very little identity.  In AURO, we have 9 spells (plus a few scrolls), and about 12 monsters.  These have been designed, implemented and redesigned over and over over the course of nearly two years, to the point where they are extremely refined.  While there’s a small amount of content, you’ll find that it emerges into way, way more.

AURO has no “spoilers” – All of the information about what monsters or abilities do are all readily available in the game.  There are no surprises about how things function, but there are surprises about how these elements may combine together into some sort of emergent surprise.

AURO isn’t about any kind of meta-game “collection” – There’s no skulltulas, jinjos or jubileejoos to collect which unlock some thing which makes the game easier.  Why would you want the game to get easier once you’ve played it a lot more, instead of harder?  This makes no sense.  Further, this is exhaustible, and…

AURO is designed to be played forever – because AURO is score-based, there is no reason why you can’t continue to master the system for many, many years.  So, it’s more like Tetris or a multiplayer game than it is like a “play once and throw it in the garbage” videogame.


There are other things, of course, such as the fact that it is SUPER cross-platform (iOS, Android, Ouya, Windows, Linux, OSX, and more), or the fact that it has an original, thematic soundtrack or high-quality animated pixel art.  I probably forgot about a few other things, too.  If you haven’t seen our gameplay video, make sure to check it out to get a good glimpse into what playing AURO might be like.

keithburgun • 08/14/2012

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  1. Darren Grey 08/14/2012 - 2:54 pm Reply

    As excited as I am about Auro I was disappointed by this post. It lists what Auro is *not* more than what it is. You shouldn’t define your game so much by what it lacks. This can be important from a design perspective but it doesn’t help people get excited by the game’s unique features. You didn’t mention the score system, the unique monsters, the interesting player abilities, and many other things.

    • keithburgun 08/14/2012 - 2:59 pm Reply

      Thanks Darren, I’ll try to tweak the post a bit. It’s much EASIER to list what it isn’t than what it is.

    • Blake 08/14/2012 - 6:45 pm Reply

      To be fair, this post addresses what’s “different” about Auro, not what’s “great” about Auro. In order to point out the difference, Keith had to provide contrast between the status Quo and games that seem similar but aren’t.

  2. FFSamurai05 08/14/2012 - 4:18 pm Reply

    Then again is it fair to call this a roguelike though? From what you describe it seems to have a lot more in common with a board game like Chess or The Duke than it does with that genre.

    • keithburgun 08/14/2012 - 9:23 pm Reply

      I agree with you. I don’t think AURO is a roguelike much more than Tetris is one.

  3. Kepa 08/14/2012 - 5:06 pm Reply

    Don’t almost all these points apply to Zaga-33, tho?

    Like the third point basically just boils down to determinism in combat. The big difference is that Zaga-33 does have one large spoiler, and figuring things out may involve observation rather than text. How does it differ?

    • Padi 08/14/2012 - 7:37 pm Reply

      I agree that it is probably the most fair comparison yet available, at least until Zynga’s Wizardprinceville comes out (ba-dum-tsh). I am quite curious what Michael Brough would come up with if he ever decided to “flesh out” Zaga to the same extent as Auro; if I’m not mistaken the score ceiling on Zaga is basically Level + Remaining Items, which maxes out at something like 28? I know that’s not right but close, and regardless the greatest proportion of the score comes simply from not dying rather than exceptionally skillful play- to me this suggests that Zaga is much more a “proof of concept” than something designed with longevity in mind, so that would be a key difference. The fact that you have to identify the items in Zaga through use also seems kind of like an odd vestige of roguelike design to me, though perhaps he was married to the idea of players trying to deduce yet unidentified item effects by what they’ve already picked up for some reason? All that said, IMHO Zaga absolutely proved its concept so I would certainly be stoked to play Auro even if I did consider it simply Zaga Deluxe, and likewise I would be proud of such a creation were I its designer!

    • keithburgun 08/14/2012 - 9:24 pm Reply

      Yep! Zaga-33 is probably the closest relative to AURO. The big difference is that in AURO, the decisions are far more ambiguous. You have a lot more room for virtuosity in AURO, whereas Zaga can sometimes almost feel like a puzzle.

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