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AJAX NETHACK
June 18, 2009 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Did you know there's an AJAX implementation of nethack? It seems to be pretty full-featured -- not a rouge-like light, supporting every option that the normal version does, right down to tiles. For traditionalists, there's also the internet nethack server known as NAO, where you can mingle with and watch other players struggle through the Dungeons of Doom and lose time in a stunning amount of trivia and statistics. To extend your chances of success you might also want to visit wikihack, which will certainly spoil your experience, detailing the tiniest details and tactics of the game.
posted by boo_radley (86 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neat! Wish it would generate random characters.
posted by swift at 6:30 PM on June 18, 2009


Wow, that's impressive. Do kids these days play Nethack?
posted by Nelson at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2009


It's amazing that I am so used to using hjkl to control NetHack that I can't easily switch over to the arrow keys instead.
posted by grouse at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I almost got fired cause I developed a serious nethack habit two months ago. Just Say No to nethack.alt.org
posted by heathkit at 6:40 PM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


YESNESS
posted by grobstein at 6:49 PM on June 18, 2009


Ho. Lee. Shit.
posted by cortex at 7:04 PM on June 18, 2009


It's running a little slow. Is that our fault, or is it always with the "Loading"...
posted by mr_roboto at 7:08 PM on June 18, 2009


I'm getting fired soon.
posted by procrastination at 7:12 PM on June 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


If it's running slow, try visiting the site in Chrome -- since it's heavily javascript dependent, the browser will make a huge difference.

procrastination: "I'm getting fired soon."

Eponysterical.
posted by boo_radley at 7:14 PM on June 18, 2009


Man, I was just wishing for this like a month ago. Was tempted to try implementing it myself (no time, though, sadly.)
posted by blenderfish at 7:17 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


rouge-like :)
posted by Mister_A at 7:26 PM on June 18, 2009


Mister_A: "rouge-like :)"

Crap, I can't believe I did that.
posted by boo_radley at 7:30 PM on June 18, 2009


Wake me when there's a new nethack version. I've beaten 3.4.3 three times, and I'd love nothing more than the usual evil twists of a new release. I don't even know if there are people working on it, but I can dream. Oh, and wait until this damn paper is done, 'K?
posted by Ella Fynoe at 7:30 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, I did not know that. Thank you very muchly for informing me!
posted by Artw at 7:41 PM on June 18, 2009


Mister_A: "rouge-like :)"

Crap, I can't believe I did that.


If it makes you feel better, Boo, the Bad Religion song "Sinister Rouge" is misspelled "Rogue" on the version I downloaded from eMusic.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:41 PM on June 18, 2009


Orsum!
posted by ignignokt at 7:51 PM on June 18, 2009


Ella Fynoe: "Wake me when there's a new nethack version. I've beaten 3.4.3 three times, and I'd love nothing more than the usual evil twists of a new release."

Have you tried slash'em? It's quite a bit harder than nethack. You have? I bet you haven't beaten IVAN, one of the most difficult roguelikes around.

"Oh, and wait until this damn paper is done, 'K?"

Never.
posted by boo_radley at 8:02 PM on June 18, 2009


Even after not having played in something like a decade, I got sucked right back in.
posted by glider at 8:23 PM on June 18, 2009


"...wake up, wake UP! Oh my god, honey, you were shaking and yelling and you woke up me up. Are you ok? What were you dreaming about?"

"A purple ampersand"

"..."
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 8:25 PM on June 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


Full featured? Why don't the n and g keys work???
posted by aubilenon at 8:26 PM on June 18, 2009


you might also want to visit wikihack, which will certainly spoil your experience,

I apologize for not being able to guess that dropping items on altars reveals their beatitude.

spoiler alert
posted by LogicalDash at 8:36 PM on June 18, 2009


've beaten 3.4.3 three times, and I'd love nothing more than the usual evil twists of a new release.

Dude. Call me when you've won as a vegan illiterate atheist tourist who made no wishes.
posted by eriko at 8:54 PM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I was just looking at the 'best behaved ascensions' list at NAO... How the hell does one beat the game going foodless? Just pray every time you get too hungry, or is there another trick to it?
posted by kaibutsu at 9:12 PM on June 18, 2009


I'd really like a screen saver that fetches TTYREC files and runs through them.
posted by gc at 9:14 PM on June 18, 2009


Also worth checking out is the Top Timewasters board... The leader weighs in at 255 DAYS playing nethack. Assuming 8hrs/day of sleep (ie, not playing nethack), that would make 340 people-days of playing nethack (and doing nothing else). I suppose I can think of worse ways to spend a year, though...
posted by kaibutsu at 9:19 PM on June 18, 2009


Foodless strategy.
posted by jedicus at 9:21 PM on June 18, 2009


The fun part is that doing it merely foodless is so easy and old-hat that the real badasses do it foodless and, and, and, like eriko's link, or with a foodless atheist polyselfless (only took that guy 259 tries to get that one right). Or you could, say, beat the game without ever killing anybody.
posted by cortex at 9:21 PM on June 18, 2009


kaibutsu: "The leader weighs in at 255 DAYS playing nethack."

DeathOnAStick was a leading contender for the timewaster king some time ago. A tragic story.
posted by boo_radley at 9:25 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Server seems overloaded.
so I just played the copy I have installed on my home machine
posted by hattifattener at 9:27 PM on June 18, 2009


Did you know there's an AJAX implementation of nethack?

No, no I did not YOU SADISTIC, HEARTLESS BASTARD.

*puts on the ring of conflict on the astral plane, kicks pet, dies so hard he also dies in several other silly ascensions including some that belong to other players*
posted by loquacious at 9:33 PM on June 18, 2009


Do kids these days play Nethack?

I know two college students who play — me and the person who lives in the computer lab who has this telltale black box on his screen all the time. I told him that I play too, and we immediately had one of those size-measuring conversations about which of us had ascended more times. Me.

See also: Dudley's dungeon (a webcomic), Nethack fanfic, and Roguelike Magazine.
posted by dreamyshade at 10:00 PM on June 18, 2009


Do kids these days play Nethack?

Man, you don't play Nethack. You live it.

Wake me when there's a new nethack version.

There's already been like 3 or 4 releases this decade. That's about as much as you can ask for. The next release probably won't be out until like 2011, I'd guess. The DevTeam is wise and works in mysterious ways, mortals should not question them.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:22 PM on June 18, 2009


NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Damn you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:18 PM on June 18, 2009


Ella Fynoe: "13Wake me when there's a new nethack version. I've beaten 3.4.3 three times, and I'd love nothing more than the usual evil twists of a new release. I don't even know if there are people working on it, but I can dream."

There are two fairly recent variants you should be aware of.

Sporkhack (project begun about two years ago) and UnNethack (begin a couple of weeks ago) are both versions of Nethack that aim at reining in some of the greater abuses of the game, keeping the game challenging for experienced players while not making it substantially difficult for newcomers. UnNethack, particularly, adds in many of the most popular additional-level patches, and has Cthulhu guarding the Amulet of Yendor.

Sporkhack has a public server available on NAO, and UnNethack's getting one soon I hear.

Oh, and wait until this damn paper is done, 'K?

In a sense, you're not really playing Nethack (a.k.a. Gradewrecker) unless you're doing it compulsively while you should be doing some more important thing. It's a grand, tragic tradition in campus computer labs.

DecemberBoy: "32There's already been like 3 or 4 releases this decade. That's about as much as you can ask for. The next release probably won't be out until like 2011, I'd guess. The DevTeam is wise and works in mysterious ways, mortals should not question them."

On the other hand, there is some reason here for concern. This is the longest there's ever been a gap between releases. The infamous one after the relese of 3.1.3, which solidified what one might consider to be the modern game, was only about three years. It's still known the Dev Team is updating their bug tracking lists, and some of the bugs are marked as "fixed in next version."

eriko: "22've beaten 3.4.3 three times, and I'd love nothing more than the usual evil twists of a new release.

Dude. Call me when you've won as a vegan illiterate atheist tourist who made no wishes.
"

My favorites are Foodless Athiest and Pacifist. (On preview, curse you cortex.)

I'll report back with my opinions on Nethax when I get a chance to sink into it. Somehow I doubt this is really a full AJAX reimplementation, for Nethack has a notoriously complicated source code and hundreds of special cases. For example, did you know that bats in Gehennom travel at double speed? Or that there's a special message if you polymorph into a metalvore and eat a trident? Or if a pet pit fiend falls into a pit trap? No one has yet successfully translated the game accurately into C++, let alone an entirely different language.
posted by JHarris at 11:40 PM on June 18, 2009


did you know that bats in Gehennom travel at double speed? Or that there's a special message if you polymorph into a metalvore and eat a trident? Or if a pet pit fiend falls into a pit trap?

Oh, my favorite: if a rust monster falls into a spiked pit, when you get him out of there the metal has rusted away and it's just a regular pit.

TDTTOE
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 11:52 PM on June 18, 2009


Somehow I doubt this is really a full AJAX reimplementation, for Nethack has a notoriously complicated source code and hundreds of special cases.

My idea, if I were to do it, would be to implement some kind of a CPU emulator in JS, which just runs the 'real' game, compiled for that target CPU.
posted by blenderfish at 12:18 AM on June 19, 2009


NOTES on the playing of Rodney, Neutral Male Human Wizard:
1. A page load after every move?
2. The colon key, to determine what you're standing on, does not appear to work. Things are identified when pointing at them though, which could actually be considered an improvement.
3. The @ key works to toggle autopickup, thank Thoth. Spellcasting works, at least for Force Bolt.
4. The pick-up key has been moved from comma to apostrophe. Bad.
5. The multipurpose status window at the bottom of the screen is partly off-screen in Firefox 3.5 pre1, and there appears to be no way to get it back on. This looks like it may make the game unplayable, since it means I can't see some of my inventory and the traditional inventory key ('i') doesn't work. It also makes it difficult to pick up bottom-most items from the ground, which damn near made it impossible for Rodney to collect simple food rations. Major negative.
6. Playing Nethack with a constantly-reloading Google Ad frame is severely annoying. I wonder if Google knows they're doing this? Isn't this against TOS? The ads don't seem to change between reloads. Developing slow, inexorable urge to "Paly Ben 10 Game Online." This means a single game could generate thousands of ad views. The true purpose of this game begins to come into focus....
7. The history file (Shift-v) prints the entire Nethack history in a modal dialog, with the OK button way off-screen. Hm... if it includes the History then that means this might be a direct port. If so, where is the source code? Nethack is open source, fool!
8. Shift-d, for dropping multiple objects at once, doesn't seem to be implemented.
9. It's annoying that keypresses don't buffer, like in telnet play.
10. Feature confirmed: dropping items on altars identifies their blessed/cursed status.
11. Eating while standing on a corpse does not prompt to eat the corpse. This may mean you have to pick something up to eat it, a significant flaw; do you know how difficult it is to pick up a dragon corpse?
12. The period key does not pass a turn and I see no workarounds. This is really bad; waiting is often the only good move to make. (Edit: 5 on the number pad seems to fill this role.)
13. Level 2. Found and put on a leather armor. Discovered that the Shift-(w)ear item listing doesn't restrict to just armor, unlike Nethack.
14. Level 3. Game saving doesn't work. MAJOR FLAW. Options doesn't work.
15. Ate a tin of rotten gecko. Confusion>Stunning>Paralysis>Vomiting cycle seems to work. Apparently there's no way to get a list of prior messages (Ctrl-P instead brings up the browser Print dialog.)
16. Dipped down into level 4 and found a normal dungeon level. Must have missed the Mines, going back up to search level 3 more.
17. Stopping for now, leaving browser window open because I can't save, will try to resume later.

So far, every minor game rule that could potentially have missed doesn't seem to have, but simultaneously there are some grievous UI flaws. What does this suggest to me? What we may have here is actually a Nethack game process with an AJAX interface; not a bad thing (when the interface is debugged), but not what was advertised? I'll have to look into it more; I really don't have any solid proof for my suspicion yet.
posted by JHarris at 12:43 AM on June 19, 2009


What's the secret to this game? Every few years I develop and rid myself of an addiction to Nethack, but when I play, I'll run into some random monster who comes out of nowhere and kills me with one hit. What are strategies for "winning"?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:16 AM on June 19, 2009


On a similar note, does anyone have any tips on how to get into this game in the first place? I desperately WANT to like it, and it's definitely the kind of thing I could get lost itn, but for some reason I just haven't been able to when trying. Much like dwarf fortress. I suppose it's for the best because I know how much it would eat up my time (so, of course, now that I'm deciding to go back to school I'll suddenly get into them I'm sure).

It seems like so much fun and I've enjoyed thing that seem just as impenetrable but for some reason I've always failed when I tried to sit down and figure this game out.
posted by Stunt at 2:02 AM on June 19, 2009


Somehow I doubt this is really a full AJAX reimplementation, for Nethack has a notoriously complicated source code and hundreds of special cases.

AJAX doesn't mean the whole thing is implemented in Javascript, right? I assume the client-side JS code is just a front-end, and there are wheezy VMs running actual Nethack on the server and asynchronously updating the front-end.
posted by grobstein at 2:05 AM on June 19, 2009


What's the secret to this game? Every few years I develop and rid myself of an addiction to Nethack, but when I play, I'll run into some random monster who comes out of nowhere and kills me with one hit. What are strategies for "winning"?

Luck. That's pretty much it. Some people have ways they like to play each game, for instance I like to wait to leave the first three levels until my character's level is twice the dungeon level, I like to go into the Gnomish Mines as soon as I find the entrance, etc., but these are really just preferences. The only way to win is to be lucky. You should read the spoilers to learn how everything works, but even complete knowledge of every line of the code won't allow you to win every time or even most of the time.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:17 AM on June 19, 2009


Also, Nethack isn't a game that you can win often. I've been playing for at least 10 years and I've only ascended once. Most people that play it have never ascended. You have to play a lot to ascend multiple times.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:25 AM on June 19, 2009


Thanks much for all the info on variants. I think. I'm turning off the internet thingy now.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 3:32 AM on June 19, 2009


What are strategies for "winning"?

It's really a Zen-thing. If you play to win in the conventional video game way, you won't get into it. You need to just have fun enjoying the ride, but along the way you do learn little things about survival that will eventually add up.

I was really addicted to ADOM for a while and won a few times. Never got close to winning in Nethack, I must admit.
posted by bardic at 3:50 AM on June 19, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: "38What's the secret to this game? Every few years I develop and rid myself of an addiction to Nethack, but when I play, I'll run into some random monster who comes out of nowhere and kills me with one hit. What are strategies for "winning"?"

I wrote a column on that very topic about a month ago. It's not entirely complete, but it should give you a good sense what you've been doing wrong.
posted by JHarris at 3:56 AM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Skippy sank in lava, Corwin turned to slime,
They could both see what was coming but they couldn't pray in time.
Pinky fought a soldier ant that crawled out of his backpack
They were all in love with dyin', they were doing it in NetHack.
Bertha swung Mjollnir like a Valkyrie in the rain
Then she lost her mind in Sokoban; a flayer ate her brain.
They were all in love with dyin', usin' every keyboard function,
As they tried to find the Amulet, somewhere in the dungeon.

I don't mind the text sometimes, the images it shows.
Running from the Ds and Ls, and killing all the Os.
Faded prints and subtle hints and fortune cookie lies.
You never ID all your stuff, until your @ sign dies.

Some will die in hot pursuit, fleeing from a shop,
Some will eat a rubber hose, wielded by a Kop.
Some will stand there paralyzed,
Some will go down punchin'
As they try to find the Amulet, somewhere in the dungeon.

I don't mind the text sometimes, the images it shows.
Running from the Ds and Ls, and killing all the Os.
Faded prints and subtle hints and fortune cookie lies.
You never ID all your stuff, until your @ sign dies.

Arthur tamed a jabberwock but died when it went feral.
Zack wielded a cockatrice, he fell down in a stairwell.
Theseus was butchered when he misspelled 'Elbereth,'
Carmen ate Medusa, yet another stupid death.
Chauncey fought the Oracle, he knew that it was chancey,
Cause you ASCII stupid question and you'll get a stupid ANSI.
They were all in love with dyin', they were perilously plungin'
As they tried to find the Amulet, somewhere in the dungeon.

I don't mind the text sometimes, the images it shows.
Running from the Ds and Ls, and killing all the Os.
Faded prints and subtle hints and fortune cookie lies.
You never ID all your stuff, until your @ sign dies.
posted by The Whelk at 5:06 AM on June 19, 2009 [21 favorites]


...and UnNethack (begin a couple of weeks ago)

Just checked this out, and I'm sold, because now Death talks IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Har!
posted by Ella Fynoe at 5:28 AM on June 19, 2009


I wrote a column on that very topic about a month ago.

Coincidentally, I saw that column and developed a new addiction to nethack as a consequence. Like Blazecock, I'd had no idea that there was discussion about the strategies, and that by getting to 'know' the game via discussions with other players and reading the Wiki, it was possible to improve.

Not that I've improved much, but I have managed to get past Minetown now, whereas before that I could never make it past the first level of the Gnomish Mines.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:36 AM on June 19, 2009


I can't be doing with that old school ascii version any more though. I played that for years, and now it's the tiled version all the way.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:37 AM on June 19, 2009


...even complete knowledge of every line of the code won't allow you to win every time or even most of the time.... Nethack isn't a game that you can win often

Not true.
posted by fleacircus at 5:54 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow... I never knew that the @Play author was a MeFite. Thanks for all your columns, JHarris. I've loved every one of them.

I've played nethack on and off for about 8 years now and have ascended once. After I managed that (about 4 years into my nethack experience) my interest in the game seriously declined. I do come back to it occasionally, but not nearly with the same fervor.

Oh, and for those of you who think that the only thing to ascending in nethack is luck, I give you Adeon (scroll down to the bottom) and his predecessor ekiM (again, scroll toward the bottom). 29 and 25 consecutive ascensions, respectively.
posted by Inkoate at 6:04 AM on June 19, 2009


Somehow I doubt this is really a full AJAX reimplementation, for Nethack has a notoriously complicated source code and hundreds of special cases.

The whole point of AJAX is that it's communicating with the server every time you make a move. All they had to implement in javascript was the user interface.
posted by ook at 6:13 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


for those of you who think that the only thing to ascending in nethack is luck

Given that almost every time I have died in a good game it has been because of YASD, I can't really think that it's luck.
posted by grouse at 7:05 AM on June 19, 2009


My favorites are Foodless Athiest and Pacifist. (On preview, curse you cortex.)

Goddam right I read your column.

For those interested in Nethackery but intimidated by the breadth and depth of the game, I have lately been enjoying the hell out of a DS game called Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer (another hat tip to JHarris).

It's a small, fast, super-tight roguelike that uses graphics and a significantly reductive control scheme to make the RL gameplay work naturally on a video game console (it was original a Super Famicom game, this recent English-language release is a port), but it retains a bunch of the wonderful complexity and per-playthrough mystery of classic roguelikes.

So it's not easy, per se (I still haven't quite made it out alive, though I've gotten close) but it's a lot easier to get into than e.g. Nethack since the inventory of the world is much smaller, and it includes a nice slice of metagame stuff that makes the dying-horribly-and-repeatedly aspect less painful and more meaningful seeming than a typical RL gravestone. I'd heartily recommend giving it a shot if you have a DS, are curious about roguelikes, but are having a hard time getting past the initial learning curve on Nethack.
posted by cortex at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2009


Thanks cortex, heh.

Recently announced, the Wii game Shiren the Wanderer III is coming to the U.S. via Atlus, which will hopefully make up for those lame Izuna games.

ook, hmm. I suppose that is a sensible way to do it, although I don't know, is it possible to write a telnet client in AJAX and just use that? alt.org already provides one written in Java.

By the way guys, I am convinced that playing Nethack via a public server like alt.org is the One True Way, even if it means doing without graphics. You get to play on a public score list, you get other player names as ghosts and corpses on graveyard levels, and you get bones levels left by other players, some of them you may never meet. You can even send messages to players in-game, and they'll be delivered by a personal Mail Daemon!

Finally, I'm surprised no one's mentioned Dungeon Crawl yet. It may be the best-designed roguelike going currently. It doesn't have as many jokes and clever tricks as Nethack but it's specifically designed not to require them. It's rather nice.
posted by JHarris at 8:33 AM on June 19, 2009


This reminds me -- I've got a game I haven't returned to sitting on this computer. I'd pick it back up, but I'm farther than I've ever been and don't want to ruin it. :I
posted by flatluigi at 8:36 AM on June 19, 2009


kaibutsu: "23I was just looking at the 'best behaved ascensions' list at NAO... How the hell does one beat the game going foodless? Just pray every time you get too hungry, or is there another trick to it?"

Foodless is one of the more difficult conducts. The ring of slow digestion reduces hunger drastically in Nethack, far more than its ancestor item in Rogue. It cuts food consumption down to 1/20 normal! Prayer is a major resource for most attempts, too; if you pray when you're weak from hunger or worse, your feed-level will be set to just below satiated. Combined, these two things offer a big benefit. If you're not casting many spells (which consume some food if you're not a wizard) and not wearing other rings or other food drains, it's possible to get through all of Gehennom (where prayer doesn't work) from the food charge provided by one prayer, if done right before. If you don't make it through on one prayer's worth of feeding, you could level teleport out to the castle when Weak, pray there, get fed, then level-port back. The other big problem with this is Famine, but so long as you're careful with him (shoot him with a wand of death) you should be okay. You might not even have to face him at all.

Much harder than foodless is Foodless Athiest, which removes prayer from consideration. Then one must rely on the two remaining non-eating sources of food. One is that, when you polymorph, sometimes you polymorph into a different character of your race and role -- though not necessarily sex. ("You feel like a new man/woman!") When this happens, your stomach contents are set to a reasonable middle-way fullness level.

But at least one player has managed to play a Polyselfless Foodless Athiest. That was done entirely based off the fact that potions of fruit juice, when drunk, provide a little nutrition, but don't count as food to the game. Building up a supply of such potions through various means (cancelling, unicorn horn use, potion polymorph), he used a ring of slow digestion and those potions to get through the whole game.

Other games sometimes inspire fanaticism, but not usually to this degree.
posted by JHarris at 9:04 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been going through Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup for a bit now, loving it. Hard as hell tho - many has been the time that I'd get randomly obliterated by some beast far above my capabilities just from entering the wrong room. I have to admit, I've been scumming my way through the rougher levels just to SEE what the hell is down that far. It's not like cheating... really... right? ::hangs head in shame::
posted by FatherDagon at 9:05 AM on June 19, 2009


Ooh. I'd love to play a roguelike on the (relatively) big screen in the comfort of my living room.

Looks like Shiren uses the same engine as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, which I've been playing, so I'm pretty confident Shiren Wii will be good stuff.

BTW, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is another fun, light-feeling roguelike for the DS, if you don't mind Pokemans.
posted by ignignokt at 9:11 AM on June 19, 2009


I descended a few times, then a few times with challenges. Then I tried ADOM and it seems much harder than Nethack... Nethack is actually very easy once you get the hang of it, especially without challenges. What you have to do is play a lot very quickly and carelessly, dying a lot and wait for a good combination of finds and wishes, e.g. if you find 2 wishes in dwarf village and a few good items and armour. Now, if you're playing and trying your best not to die in every game, it's much harder to ascend because you'll waste a lot of time on unlucky games.
posted by rainy at 9:49 AM on June 19, 2009


ignignokt: "59Looks like Shiren uses the same engine as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, which I've been playing, so I'm pretty confident Shiren Wii will be good stuff.

BTW, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is another fun, light-feeling roguelike for the DS, if you don't mind Pokemans.
"

It's not the pokemans, it's that the game is dreadfully boring. Roguelike gameplay depends as much on building your character up from scratch each time as the turn-based tactical combat. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, by letting characters raise in level across many dungeon plays, loses that. Shiren the Wanderer (the SNES and DS versions at least) remember it, and because of it they're among the best games in the series.

By the way, the SNES and DS Shiren games are not identical. Far from it. Some of the DS game's monsters have been significantly toned down, and a lesser variety of items can be found in the main dungeon. The DS version isn't a bad game, and it does some things better, but the SNES version is just a lot more exciting to play.
posted by JHarris at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2009


The risk of being wiped out is exciting, but for something to play a few minutes at a time while waiting for the bus, I find being able to reload after death a better experience.
posted by ignignokt at 11:00 AM on June 19, 2009


That's actually one of the things I like about Shiren—death (or, in theory, success) comes much quicker, so there's less pain involved in death that comes from casual short stints of play.

Although I've got a plated Mastersword+1 and a Hide Shield+5 right now in an early game and am feeling a little bit of twitchiness about that, I have to admit.
posted by cortex at 11:10 AM on June 19, 2009


Ha, ha! I am safe from being sucked back into Nethack!

because I just re-installed Civ
posted by Zed at 11:20 AM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


One thing about PMD is that the material acquisitional thrill is not as great, now that I think about it. There are cool items that I'm excited to get, and getting Charmander to learn Flamethrower is going to be great, but you know, none of these things are swords.
posted by ignignokt at 11:22 AM on June 19, 2009


Although I've got a plated Mastersword+1 and a Hide Shield+5 right now in an early game and am feeling a little bit of twitchiness about that, I have to admit.

Rogue-likes are about Buddhism. Attachment is futile and leads to suffering.
posted by grobstein at 11:42 AM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


(There is a dude who gives you a +30orso Master sword as a one-off(?) gift, in the post-game. I game back to the game after a long hiatus, took the gift, and promptly died.)
posted by grobstein at 11:44 AM on June 19, 2009


Great, now I have to start playing Shiren again.
posted by blenderfish at 11:56 AM on June 19, 2009


Rogue-likes are about Buddhism. Attachment is futile and leads to suffering.

But but but I have a Storehouse Jar sitting in the Canyon warehouse and I bet I can pump the sword through a couple times that way and get it up to healthy double digits I bet and then I won't EVER HAVE TO COPE WITH LOSS AGAIN I'M SURE OF IT
posted by cortex at 12:00 PM on June 19, 2009


Shiren DS's biggest flaw comes after the game has been finished. The game contains two brutally-tough extra dungeons, we're talking dungeons with monsters so strong that the player really has no chance at them unless he's built up, not his level, but his items.

How is this done? Well, the first time through Shiren's main dungeon, the game's pretty challenging. But when a dungeon is completed, the player keeps all the stuff he had on-hand at the end, and the stuff is identified too. This means he can take very useful things with him on later runs, including the likely-boosted weapon he had on that run. So, later runs tend to be much easier.

If you run through the game many times, you items can become boosted even more. It can be taken as a hint of the designer's intentions for the player here in that three items, if enchanted to max level (+99) and then taken to a blacksmith, upgrade into a more powerful form that starts out, again, at +0, and can be boosted all over again.

Further, there is an item in the game that lets you combine special abilities from weapons into one item. Once you're in the post-game enchant fest, you can store special items carried with you at the end of a successful run in the warehouse at the starting town. Eventually you can have a weapon with every special weapon ability attached, and a shield with every special shield ability.

These abilities can remove even what few sources of danger the game has left. One of the most hazardous monsters in the game is the Skull Wraith, which has wand blasts that do some extremely upsetting things to Shiren, like paralyze him for several turns, slow him down, seal his abilities, or turn him into a rice ball (which can't use items). One unlucky blast from a Skull Wraith can lead to an unfortunate chain of events that can end your game before you receive another turn. For the prospective item building player, the floor late in Table Mountain that's a wide-open area filled with them is very worrying... unless you have the shield effect that causes wand blasts to do a small amount of set damage instead of special effects.

These things are interesting in a way, but it's still grinding. Roguelikes exist to show us that grinding doesn't have to be the way, it is not true that role-playing games are about doing repetitious things many times in order to boost arbitrary numbers high enough that you can go do the next set of suspiciously-similar repetitious things. Shiren's after-game, however, introduces its own set of new repetitious thing for the player to waste time performing.

(Of course, you could just forget all that and jump into the Final Puzzle, to which none of this applies.)
posted by JHarris at 12:22 PM on June 19, 2009


(And cortex, it is possible to lose even highly advanced, +99, all-enchanted items. Take my word for it. dammitalltohell)
posted by JHarris at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2009


NO I AM CERTAIN THAT IF I JUST TRY HARD ENOUGH AND LOVE HARD ENOUGH SHIREN WILL NEVER EVER DIE AGAIN
posted by cortex at 12:34 PM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


*breaks down sobbing*
posted by cortex at 12:34 PM on June 19, 2009


JHarris, will you metafilter-marry me?

I need someone to fund my unpaid leave to win Nethack.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:45 PM on June 19, 2009


You're right about the post-game grind in Shiren, JHarris, but I just wanted to emphasize that Shiren has a variety of post-game challenges, some of which reward (and so require) grinding, and some of which don't. The cooking dungeon, the trap dungeon, and the final puzzle are all grind-free. So if you want to do everything in the post-game, you must grind. But if you just want to do something (crushingly hard), you needn't.
posted by grobstein at 12:54 PM on June 19, 2009


Ah, the Final Puzzle dungeon. ♥

Take everything seen previously in the game. Add in all the monsters that were removed from the transition from the SNES version. Add in all the removed items too. Add in a bunch more of both. Put 'em all in a 99-level dungeon with no guaranteed levels. Nothing is allowed to come in with the player: no helpers, no items, no levels. They start with a Big Riceball and nothing else. Oh, and the scrolls and herbs are now randomized Rogue/Hack/Nethack-style.

I've beaten it on both the SNES and DS versions, and it requires a completely different strategy between them. Both are tests of the player's ability to break the game. In the SNES version, after winning the player is invited to take a picture of the screen and send it to Chun Soft. On the DS, it grants the special "Borg Mamul" helper, but if you're already good enough to beat Final Puzzle it's kind of too-little-too-late.

It is only in the last levels of the DS version of the Final Puzzle dungeon that the worst enemy in the game shows up, the Fear Radish. The Radishes were tough foes in the SNES game, weird ghost vegetable monsters who threw bad-status herbs at the player from across long distances. They were so hard that they were relegated to bonus-dungeon-only monsters in Shiren DS. One throws poison herbs that also slow the player, another throws confusion herbs, and another sleep herbs. But in the DS version, at the very end of Final Puzzle there's a fourth type that throws Kigny, that is to say, berserker herbs. If one hits you, you can just sit back and watch Shiren autoplay himself for 50 game turns! Of course, the A.I. never deigns to rest to regain hit points, or to use items, or avoid monsters, or head to the exit. Fear Radishes can even throw them from far away.

If any of you get to the last floors of Final Puzzle, don't mess around. Find those stairs and use them! If you are granted the good fortune to see a Fear Radish before it has a chance to throw an herb at you (it's not restricted to straight lines when throwing even), use whatever means you have to neutralize it in one turn. And particularly troublesome, "Kigny" is one of the few status ailments with no defenses. There is no anti-Kigny armband. It's not a tough monster otherwise, but with Arc Dragons roaming around those same floors, being unable to use healing when you need to for 50 floors will probably be fatal.

On losing that +99 item, what was really infuriating about it was that it wasn't a death (although I've lost them that way too). There's a certain type of monster that's wearing a suit of armor, and when it attacks you it can knock a piece of equipment out of your hand and send it flying backwards. Ordinarily this is just annoying, as you can then walk back, pick it up and re-equip it. But it turns out that the flying-backwards routine is handled just as if the item were thrown in that direction. Meaning, if it strikes another monster, the item, whatever it is, is destroyed. Did piddling damage to it, too!

Blazecock Pileon: "74JHarris, will you metafilter-marry me?

I don't know. How do I know you just don't want my +7 Greyswandir?
posted by JHarris at 3:40 PM on June 19, 2009


my +7 Greyswandir?

I love discovering new euphemisms.
posted by The Whelk at 3:49 PM on June 19, 2009


How do I know you just don't want my +7 Greyswandir?

How do I know it's really a +7?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2009


It's real and it's spectacular.
posted by The Whelk at 4:51 PM on June 19, 2009


You know because it's about to vibrate and explode.
posted by fleacircus at 6:07 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just logged in to say Grayswandir.
posted by fnerg at 7:33 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also to say that this is making me want to get back to work on the Android port of Nethack that I have brewing. It compiles now, though make install still has some glitches. Once that gets worked out, I have to get it sending the right messages to Dalvik, and do the UI.
posted by fnerg at 7:35 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


fnerg: "Also to say that this is making me want to get back to work on the Android port of Nethack that I have brewing."

If you do such a thing, and you've done it in line with the official compilation methods, you might want to bring it to the Dev Team to see about getting it approved as the official Android port. (Although that might be more work than you're looking for, since then you'd probably be the maintainer of the port.)
posted by JHarris at 10:19 PM on June 19, 2009


N hjkl; DP
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 2:23 AM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Android port of Nethack that I have brewing

My recent G1 purchase will be justified as soon as you can complete such a thing. Bravo for the work already done on it, fnerg.
posted by Askiba at 6:19 AM on June 20, 2009


Also to say that this is making me want to get back to work on the Android port of Nethack that I have brewing. It compiles now, though make install still has some glitches. Once that gets worked out, I have to get it sending the right messages to Dalvik, and do the UI.

*blinks*

I always figured this would be the least of one's worries in a game that once instilled in me an instinctive distrust of regexp's and my own email address.

I knew it was time to walk away the day I read a negation as a magic lamp, Mjolnir, and a bear trap all in a row
posted by Mayor West at 7:39 AM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


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