But wait...your medallion begins to glow!
September 24, 2014 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Nethack's Dev Team have confirmed that code circulating under various next-version numbers (3.4.4, 3.5, 3.5.0) was a leaked development build.

A list of changes (via Reddit). At least one public server is still running what's been dubbed "Leakhack".

Nethack, which is 27 years old, is famed for long lapses between new releases, but the current 11-years-and-counting gap since the release of 3.4.3 is the longest yet. Many fans had concluded that development had quietly ended.

Even in absence of a new release, the fan community keeps the Candelabrum aflame with numerous variants, twice-a-year tournaments, and enthusiastic infographics.

(The leak numbers are 3.4.4, 3.5, and 3.5.0--not to be confused with Nethack 4, a variant based on the full-release 3.4.3 code.)
posted by kagredon (89 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
well, shit. And me hoping to finish my dissertation one of these days.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:52 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


May the Dev Team forgive me for my lack of faith. I thought that they'd forsaken us forever.
posted by octothorpe at 7:02 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


plural of "Nazgul" is "Nazgul" not "Nazguls"
posted by shothotbot at 7:04 PM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh no. Does anyone have a means to erase this knowledge from my brain? Some sort of.. creature, perhaps?
posted by nat at 7:05 PM on September 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


It's really heartening that they're still working on it, but browsing the changelog this looks like it's entirely bugfixes. I mean, fuck yeah bugfixes, but I was really hoping for some actual content or, more importantly, rebalancing. Is there something major that I've missed buried in that changelog?
posted by 256 at 7:07 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh no. Does anyone have a means to erase this knowledge from my brain? Some sort of.. creature, perhaps?
posted by nat at 7:05 PM on September 24 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


all I've got is this scroll reading DUAM XNAHT. Would that help?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:07 PM on September 24, 2014 [12 favorites]


That changelog is intense. Also good on dev team for taking this in stride and not taking it out on the user base. Dev team thinks of everyone.
posted by griphus at 7:08 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


  • don't place randomly-placed aquatic monsters in lava on special levels
My mind boggles at the thought of all the eels and sharks over the years that must have been summoned into being only to immediately fry in hot lava, leaving no trace of their brief existence.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:11 PM on September 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


the Amulet can be offered to Moloch

Okay, I want to know more about that.
posted by 256 at 7:12 PM on September 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


It is worth noting that there is a variant out there that has cheekily called itself Nethack 4, which is unrelated to this.

I have considered doing a rundown of Nethack variants, which has become a big topic lately, but the marketplace has decided that I'm better off spending my time delivering pizzas NOTBITTER.
posted by JHarris at 7:24 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fromthe changelog:

"cloned and revived monsters become worth fewer points than ordinary ones"

I hope this is finally fix for the long-standing bug that had made scores of MAXINT-1 possible.
posted by JHarris at 7:32 PM on September 24, 2014


Never say "It moves only reluctantly"

It is a sad, sad day in nethack land.
posted by homotopy at 7:34 PM on September 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


"rats aren't capable of vomiting"

I dunno about that.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:40 PM on September 24, 2014


The bug list on the site has long distinguished between bugs fixed in the next minor and major versions. All of the stuff in this changelist are things that could be considered minor at best, meaning they may still have another big release planned.
posted by JHarris at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


As for offering the Amulet to Moloch, presumably it's just the player doing what the High Priest on the bottommost level was about to do. Considering that would negate the endgame, I can't say it would count as a win.
posted by JHarris at 7:53 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's really heartening that they're still working on it, but browsing the changelog this looks like it's entirely bugfixes.

Most of the stuff under "General New Features" is genuinely new content -- #tipping containers, taking away the most common (for me) method of getting rid of iron balls... It's not adding a new class, but there's definitely new things going on.
posted by Etrigan at 8:45 PM on September 24, 2014


Well those might be considered "new features," but not new content, which is what I was talking about.

Nethack as it stands is largely as the game was in 3.1, released many years ago now. Everything since has been incremental. Yes, those features include a revised spellcasting system, the addition of the Sokoban branch, weapon skills, separating role from race, replacing the Elf role with Ranger, adding Monks, adding a handful of new items and monsters, and putting in a few alternate maps for established special levels.

But compare 3.1 to its previous version 3.0, or 3.0 to the version before it. The game changed greatly between those versions, and not all the changes they brought to 3.1, I'd say, are for the better. I've always been kind of annoyed that the Wizard of Yendor, who has personality, was made second-fiddle to that damn High Priest of Moloch. I mean the HP you just fight once, but the Wizard is going to bother you for most of the rest of the game! His name matches that of the macguffin you're going after. He's the villain you should be working against, not some upstart robe-wearer who wasn't even in the code before 3.1.
posted by JHarris at 9:02 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Are there new things here or have I just barely made it past the Wizard and Knight quests?
posted by vapidave at 9:51 PM on September 24, 2014


omg
posted by fleacircus at 11:42 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Nethack 4" links to this thread

Oops!

"rats aren't capable of vomiting"

I dunno about that.


The Dev Team Teaches Us Biology

(also, JHarris, if Patreon or some similar crowdfunding platform would help you resurrect @Play, I'd totally kick in what I could and I don't think I'm the only one in this thread)

My favorite changelog entry might be busy pet won't miss out upon ascension, because d'awww.
posted by kagredon at 12:02 AM on September 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


I can't decide if this is catastrophic or wonderful.
posted by weston at 12:04 AM on September 25, 2014


Hmm...
   Choose which spell to cast

   Name                 Level Category     Fail Retention
   a - drain life         2   attack       100%  76%-100%
New mechanic in "retention."
posted by weston at 12:56 AM on September 25, 2014


Retention, in one form or another, was always there; casting spells and time both take their toll on spell memory, and eventually you'll have to read a spellbook again. Most players get around this by keeping a stash somewhere safe that they can return to, and warding it against monster encroachment with suitable runes.
posted by JHarris at 1:15 AM on September 25, 2014


I don't know what I'm more surprised by, the fact that ratbehavior.org is a real website, or that the subdirectory "vomit.htm" contains about ten pages of genuinely useful scientific information on the digestive system of rodents, complete with references.

This is making me strongly nostalgic for the internet of my childhood. I miss geocities sometimes.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 1:23 AM on September 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm really hoping this is a baseline version without any major change merging done.

Back when I was messing with gehennom changes I got the impression they were taking major change ideas more seriously, but maybe that was just my desperate dream that Pat Rankin would send me a golden ticket in the mail and invite me on board the dev team.
posted by fleacircus at 2:48 AM on September 25, 2014


I have to wonder at this point what keeps the Dev Team doing it. I mean, NetHack (I usually type the name without the internal capital) has been going since 1987. The team has been going for 26 years. DOS was king when NetHack got started. I remember reading a document distributed with the game talking about the bizarre practices required to get the game to compile within 640K of memory.

Here's a Usenet thread from 2005, about getting real mode Nethack to compile and run.
This file was distributed at one point with the game, and under FAQs it says:

You asked:
I try to start up NetHack on my 8088 machine, but all I get back is the dos prompt.

Our installation expert replies:
It's like this, NetHack has become so large, and contains so many feature laden adventures that it requires more processor power than your machine can muster. Rather than cripple the game for the rest of us, we chose to support only those machines upon which the game was playable.
[...]

That is hilarious seeing as how official binaries of the current version of Nethack are supplied for Amiga -- not recent mutations, the originals -- and Atari ST. The latter is maintained by Christian "marvin" Bressler, the same guy who had the storied epic win streak at alt.org. You do know of alt.org, don't you? If you like the game you should be playing it there.

Further bits about how old the game is... that document implies the PC port is maintained by Paul Winner, who according to the file is reachable by email and Compuserve. Nethack 1.3d arrived on the scene when the NES was still king, and 3.1.0 when fighting games ruled arcades -- oh, and arcades still existed then.

Way back in 1994, founding Dev Team member Izchak Miller passed away. They named the lighting store shopkeeper in Minetown after him. But about twice as much time has now elapsed from his death to the current day as did between then and the release of the original Hack. I'm surprised (pleasantly, but still, surprised) that more DevTeam members haven't moved on to the Astral Plane by now. I'm glad that we're getting another version from them, and I'm even optimistic enough to hope it won't be the last one.
posted by JHarris at 4:13 AM on September 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


That is hilarious seeing as how official binaries of the current version of Nethack are supplied for Amiga -- not recent mutations, the originals -- and Atari ST.

VMS too:
unix,vms: allow digits after first character in name at "Who are you?" prompt
vms: the DLB configuration could fail to build if a file without a dot in its name happened to match a logical name
posted by octothorpe at 5:27 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


My mind boggles at the thought of all the eels and sharks over the years that must have been summoned into being only to immediately fry in hot lava, leaving no trace of their brief existence.

Oh no, not again.
posted by saturday_morning at 7:22 AM on September 25, 2014 [12 favorites]



the Amulet can be offered to Moloch

Okay, I want to know more about that.


I'm wondering if that is the unaligned altar in the first level of hell (right under castle) or at the bottom level after candle/bell/book ..
posted by k5.user at 7:33 AM on September 25, 2014


By sheer coincidence, I came to this post right after being killed by an invisible nalfeshnee. Knew I should have used that wand of digging to escape.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:42 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if that is the unaligned altar in the first level of hell (right under castle) or at the bottom level after candle/bell/book ..

Maybe the one in Orcus-Town, too?
posted by weston at 8:55 AM on September 25, 2014


I've never even come close to ascending, and I'm guessing this won't change that.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:38 AM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've never even come close to ascending, and I'm guessing this won't change that.

The closest I've ever come was dying on the Astral Plane once. You could probably hear my "NOOOOOOO!!!" in a mile radius.
posted by octothorpe at 10:04 AM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


"rats aren't capable of vomiting"

I dunno about that.

The Dev Team Teaches Us Biology


Well, I stand corrected. That'll teach me to doubt The Dev Team!
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:33 AM on September 25, 2014


DOS was king when NetHack got started. I remember reading a document distributed with the game talking about the bizarre practices required to get the game to compile within 640K of memory.

I believe that NetHack and its predecessors were developed primarily with expensive, capable Unix machines in mind. That's ultimately the reason for the bizarre compilation practices, the wacky multiple (real mode, 386 mode etc.) DOS versions, and the sometimes fiddly, fragile setup on DOS machines. The game was intended for systems with loads of flat address space, not DOS's small, strange memory model.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:35 AM on September 25, 2014


I've ascended precisely once in NetHack, and haven't honestly played all that much since then. I think I've made a couple attempts at a pacifist ascension, but gave up pretty early. For some odd reason it lost a lot of its luster for me since ascending.
posted by Inkoate at 11:44 AM on September 25, 2014


After getting a Valkyrie through sokoban and the mines, here's a few more little observations:

* The bottom of the mines was the maze. I had an amulet of ESP, so I was checking for intelligent monsters, and was surprised not to see any vampires. I won't entirely spoil the surprise here, but I'll say there was one. Two, actually.

* Message I don't think I've seen before: "As you read the scroll, it disappears. Nothing interesting happens."

* Either chance was unkind, or floating eyes don't drop corpses as much -- I'd killed about a dozen of them before I finally saw a corpse (good thing I had that amulet of ESP).

* #twoweapon seems more difficult.

* "You can hear again" messages on waking up from eating bad food or after recovering from a magic trap.
posted by weston at 12:47 PM on September 25, 2014


Spoilers:

The Amulet can only be offered at a high altar. There are four of those in the game. Three are on the Astral Plane. But there is an unaligned one in the temple in the bottommost dungeon level, "Moloch's Sanctum," where you get the Amulet from. For consistency's sake, I'd think you could only offer the Amulet to Moloch there.
posted by JHarris at 1:19 PM on September 25, 2014


(I usually type the name without the internal capital)

Me too, until pissily corrected on r.g.r.n enough times.

Either chance was unkind, or floating eyes don't drop corpses as much -- I'd killed about a dozen of them before I finally saw a corpse (good thing I had that amulet of ESP).

The corpse drop code has been changed to combat monster farming, but I think this was just chance being unkind.
posted by fleacircus at 2:34 PM on September 25, 2014


Well, I also tend to hyphenate "Xbox." Somewhere along the line I picked up an aversion to sylistic capitalization. But really, I just got used to entering it without a capital 'H.'

I was reading the deferred features list over at the Nethack Wiki (not the Nethack Wikia), and one of them is thought to be deafness. Which I can imagine making polymorph more challenging to deal with, considering the number of weird low-level monsters in the game that don't have ears.
posted by JHarris at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2014


It does look like deafness is in the leaked source, but I'm not seeing any checks for deaf monsters if you poly into them. Of course there are already times when the player makes sounds that wake up monsters, and there aren't checks there either. Apparently all monsters can sense vibrations even if they don't have ears.

Sense of smell has been added too--though it seems to only come up when a shapeshifter changes shape out of sight. Like if one changes to a rothe you'll get, "You smell a bovine smell," or "Something stinks" for a green slime. And there is monster anosmia! The ones you suspect: eyes, jellies, blobs, etc.
posted by fleacircus at 3:29 PM on September 25, 2014


I've followed Nethack (sorry, NetHack) since the mid 90s, and have read literal reams of spoilers (I printed out the WCST spoilers once), so there's not a huge amount about the game that I haven't at least heard of. But every once in a while....

I was just reading the Wiki, and it turns out there's a monster attribute that gives it extra chances of being hit by spear or javelin skill. The attribute is called being kebabable.
posted by JHarris at 3:51 PM on September 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Man I beat nethack once but I really don't get how anyone can still stand to play it again and again when we have Dungeon Crawl (Stone Soup) - which I *have* won I think sixteen times so far - and Brogue and ToME (if that's more your style) and Sil and... A lot of things in nethack are kind of an anti-example of fun game design (not to mention outdated interface design and I don't mean the ASCII I mean compared to modern roguelikes with autoexplore and fast travel and item search and applying some sense of context in acting on commands) to me at this point.
posted by atoxyl at 6:04 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


BTW since I have encountered people who respond to the above like "what? there are new roguelikes?" - I know JHarris is not one of them but somebody might be - a bit of a guide:

Brogue - one of the best designed RLs I've ever seen, kind of a spiritual successor to the original Rogue with a whole bunch of fancier stuff thrown in. Makes (psuedo) ASCII graphics beautiful - because they're actually shaded graphical tiles allowing colored lighting and such. More like 2-3 hours than the traditional 8+ but no less difficult. Strips down monsters, items, and character development in a very elegant way - nothing is superfluous and lots of real choices. If you like the interactive environments and emergent behaviors of nethack you'll like this one - it's got poison gas traps, burning vegetation, burning bridges, exploding swamp gas, swimming, jumping into chasms, and randomly generated puzzle chambers that reward you with items.

DCSS (Crawl) - Meant to follow a pretty good set of stated principles like "don't reward grinding," "minimize need for spoilers," and "meaningful decisions." Partly as a consequence, way less wacky than nethack - minigames like lighting, traps are removed, even item ID is nearly vestigial, no instadeaths without warning, it's really focused on you and the monsters - so YMMV but I hate all that stuff so I love this. Introduced lots of nice interface features like autoexplore and autotravel and CTRL-F to search for things on the floor - to which you can then initiate autotravel. This one is really about basic combat tactics and developing your character around the randomized resources the game gives you. Nice graphical version but console is available too. Particularly good difficulty balance for a newcomer IMO because it seems hard at first but is actually quite fair (some people can win quite reliably) while still always presenting danger if you do screw up.

ToME - The nicest looking, more diablo-influenced (still turn-based) with massive skill trees, everything is an activated ability with a cooldown, a power-gamer's wet dream. Not my absolute favorite (I find the early game sort of dull) but if you're into obsessing over character builds this will probably be your favorite game ever. Unlocks are stupid but not hard to get around.

Sil - a descendant of Angband with more direct basis in Tolkein lore. Smaller dungeon, (at least somewhat) less grindy, interesting character system, smart monsters, damned hard.

All of these have in general better difficulty curves than than nethack (does not mean easier, means the last third of the game is not a nearly-invulnerable-unless-you-get-unlucky slog) and nicer interfaces. Of course there are many more but these are the ones I've played the most.
posted by atoxyl at 6:39 PM on September 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, I disagree. Context sensitivity can be spoiling, autoexplore can make the dungeon seem disjointed and anyway isn't as compelling a feature in Nethack's smaller levels. Nethack does have a fast travel feature, derived from Rogue's.

I like Crawl, but find it's much less flavorful than Nethack. Brogue is very nice, yes, but I find ToME isn't to my liking. I'm looking into Sil, will have to see, but Nethack's greater emphasis on the non-combat aspects of dungeon exploration, and its large number of homages to classic D&D, are still entertaining for me now.

Brogue, though, there's some nice ideas there. Mind, I haven't played it that much lately, but then I've not played much of any of these games lately. It's not been a good time in my life recently, games have receded in importance to me.
posted by JHarris at 6:40 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


My problem with brogue and DCSS is that while they have better system design, I don't feel like fun shit really happens in them. Every time I've tried to get into them I get bored pretty quick, which actually makes it hard for me to stick around and appreciate their design.

Auto-explore seem a little silly to me. It doesn't make me think, "This is a great feature all roguelikes should have!", it makes me think DCSS's levels are too big and boring.

I like NetHack's sense of humor and weirdness and strange situations and I didn't get much of a feel of anything from brogue or DCSS. It's kind of like comparing a MUD to a text adventure. They look similar, but the goals are different. One way I've tried to describe it in the past is that in NetHack it's possible that you can start the game with, in the same room, a weapon you will carry to the end of the game. The design space for combat is not deep, and that's okay.
posted by fleacircus at 7:03 PM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


well different strokes for different folks but my case against nethack is easy to articulate:

- I think hidden anything, lighting, the whole item ID minigame, sokoban et al. are super tedious and unfun, especially on replay. In fact there are many tedious things (polypiling!) one is encouraged to do to gain an advantage, and I don't buy the excuse that they are optional. As the DCSS philosophy goes, if we assume the goal is to win, and optimizing the chance to win requires something stupid and grindy, then good play and fun play are incompatible, which is bad design.

- It relies on remembering a whole bunch of stuff that most people will never have the patience to figure out without spoilers in order to avoid total bullshit deaths

- The whole gehenna section is really dull, not to mention the vibrating square thing being a small but telling example of what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-these-people game design. There are too many "if you have this you're good to go against X" items and enemy difficulty is not balanced against endgame character strength as far as actual combat goes. The only good part of the endgame is the ascension itself.

- as far as the interface goes nethack doesn't especially need autoexplore but it very much needs "find this item/altar I left ten levels up is and initiate autotravel immediately."

Certainly it depends entirely on what you like about roguelikes. Nethack does have strong points like the variety of uses to which one can put certain items. In general I am 100% a gameplay over flavor person and I like that DCSS believes that too.
posted by atoxyl at 8:10 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


In fact there are many tedious things (polypiling!) one is encouraged to do to gain an advantage, and I don't buy the excuse that they are optional.

I don't know what you're talking about besides polypiling, but as an example, I don't think it lends itself to your case. Unless you're playing wishless, most games are probably going to give you everything you need for an ascension run by the time you're done raiding the castle, and it is totally possible to get into the castle without being particularly grindy. In fact, I just ran a valkyrie right up to the castle with nothing people usually call grindy (farming, polypiling, obsessive collecting), and would have gotten her to everything inside, too, if I hadn't lost my patience.

On the other hand, the charge that Gehennom is grindy is *very* well-founded. I'm extra disappointed I just blew my chance to see what they've done here. Sporkhack was uneven but it had a pretty great solution to this by making them mine-like levels with moving lava incursions -- great conceptual atmosphere, extra danger from being out in the open and from the lava, less tedious finding your way about. It'd essentially fix my only big complaint with the game.

Two more notes on possible new things:

* Squeaky boards seem to have pitches now: "A board beneath you squeaks a D flat loudly."

* I used a wand of light to illuminate a room that had a gremlin in it and got a "The gremlin cries out in pain!" message. I *think* I'd seen that with cameras before, but I don't think I'd seen a wand of light have any kind of effect on creatures. Not sure if this is really new or just something I hadn't observed.
posted by weston at 9:05 PM on September 25, 2014


In general I am 100% a gameplay over flavor person and I like that DCSS believes that too.

That's pretty cool, you should go play it.
posted by fleacircus at 9:47 PM on September 25, 2014


I don't know what you're talking about besides polypiling, but as an example, I don't think it lends itself to your case. Unless you're playing wishless, most games are probably going to give you everything you need for an ascension run by the time you're done raiding the castle, and it is totally possible to get into the castle without being particularly grindy.

I think there's also a difference in gameplay style here. I've ascended... five or six times, if I remember correctly. There's a point in every game where you tip from "just having fun, screwing around" to "this is an ascension run". The interesting thing is that it's different for different people. If I got to the castle, I expect to ascend. Which means that yes, I'm going to spend a bit of time making sure spells are in order, skills are up to date, that I have a complete kit, and so on. At that point I've usually invested something on the order of 10-16 hours, so I don't want to have wasted that time.

Someone else might have reached the castle in 2-4 hours and not necessarily care all that much if they bite it there or thereafter. For them (you?), grindy aspects aren't needed. For my style, if I don't have everything in the kit just right, I will, at the very least, be super nervous for a while, and more likely will spend some time exploring around (Did I find Ft. Ludios? Have I ID'd everything in every shop? Did I flee a monster?) for those one or two missing things.

I fully acknowledge, though, that my drive to win might interfere with my enjoyment of the game.
posted by aureliobuendia at 10:05 PM on September 25, 2014


> But wait...your medallion begins to glow!
If this is some sort of nerd trap, I'm totally taking the bait.
Amulet, please!
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:46 PM on September 25, 2014


I don't know what you're talking about besides polypiling, but as an example, I don't think it lends itself to your case. Unless you're playing wishless, most games are probably going to give you everything you need for an ascension run by the time you're done raiding the castle, and it is totally possible to get into the castle without being particularly grindy. In fact, I just ran a valkyrie right up to the castle with nothing people usually call grindy (farming, polypiling, obsessive collecting), and would have gotten her to everything inside, too, if I hadn't lost my patience.

You misunderstand. That is the argument I am referring to, that such things are optional. The DCSS argument is that if something contributes to your chance of winning the game, it is *optimal* to do it if you want to maximize your chance of victory, and *optimal* play should not be at odds with fun play. Unless you are arguing that such things have *no* advantage the point stands.
posted by atoxyl at 11:29 PM on September 25, 2014


And I mentioned a ton of things that aren't traditional "grinding" per se that I find tedious in shall we say a similar spirit - of course this a matter of personal preference but my position is a popular one with a certain faction i.e. the people who like Brogue and Crawl. Without a doubt it's worth doing Sokoban, and there are what, two versions of each level? Hidden doors I've yet to hear a good non-flavor justification for - it's fun to spend extra time searching every suspicious part of the level why? Item ID in NetHack is certainly vital - this one I can understand why some people enjoy as a puzzle but personally I find the interface and spoiler considerations of price ID and the various tricks for particular items to be a total pain.

Now one could argue DCSS has a fair amount of filler combat with non-threatening enemies and in fact I am sympathetic to the faction that thinks it could be cut down, maybe even to half length, and perhaps be a more replayable game. You know what's a game that takes that idea and runs with it? Brogue.

That's pretty cool, you should go play it.

Not talking shit about you as a person - I'm just suggesting that people who buy any of my complaints about nethack (which again I know for a fact are not unusual) should try one of several new games which they may not be aware of.
posted by atoxyl at 11:38 PM on September 25, 2014


Apologies if my language is too severe I had a long day and was kind of relishing the chance to go off about something unimportant, which believe me I know this is. It's obviously just fine with me if you like NetHack, which is a classic and inimitable game that I can't go back to having discovered that it has descendants which distill the aspects I actually like. As I hope you can see from my RL overview comment my intention was to win over people who might share my preferences (hi valrus I know nothing about you as a person but I've seen you playing DCSS online!) not to fight with people who don't. So with this triple comment I'll chill unless other people are enjoying debating the particulars or want to talk about any of the games I've mentioned.
posted by atoxyl at 11:58 PM on September 25, 2014


A previous post for further learning for those who are interested [YASD loves company]. Hackem Muche - one of the best Metafilter posts ever.
posted by vapidave at 12:07 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


That is the argument I am referring to, that such things are optional. The DCSS argument is that if something contributes to your chance of winning the game, it is *optimal* to do it if you want to maximize your chance of victory, and *optimal* play should not be at odds with fun play. Unless you are arguing that such things have *no* advantage the point stands.

On a general level it sounds like you're arguing that a game which features goals achievable by multiple strategies is broken because some players feel compelled to optimize by pursuing all of strategies simultaneously and thus get bogged down trying to maximize when the game only asks them to satisfice.

More specifically: polypiling itself doesn't really contribute to winning the game. It's one tactic for achieving a subgoal -- getting essential inventory -- that does contribute, but if you've already got the full suite of stuff (probably in the course of a typical crawl + a wand of wishing), it doesn't make a lot of sense to claim that the game demands you polypile in order to further optimize an already satisfactory inventory.

It's totally OK if such players don't *like* games like this, but that doesn't sound to me like the game design is an objective problem.
posted by weston at 1:04 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


... but that doesn't sound to me like the game design is an objective problem.

I agree with that. It depends, I suppose, on what you want from the game. What is "fun". Some people like the sort of random DCSS adventure, some like the elements of nethack.

Play the one you like.
posted by vapidave at 3:03 AM on September 26, 2014


On a general level it sounds like you're arguing that a game which features goals achievable by multiple strategies is broken because some players feel compelled to optimize by pursuing all of strategies simultaneously and thus get bogged down trying to maximize when the game only asks them to satisfice.

My argument has nothing to do with the number of strategies available or how many might be pursued at once or whether they are only worth pursuing in a certain percentage of games. My argument is based on the idea that some strategies are inherently unfun. I'll come back to that later but if you grant the premise for now then ideally there should be no situations in which a player feels compelled or even incentivized to pursue one of these strategies. Polypiling is not the best example of a strategic element I dislike in NetHack, because there are others that are more essential - what I think I did not make clear initially was that I chose it because it is optional, because it is an example of this principle, because it is something that would be removed from DCSS despite being optional.

Of course what is fun is entirely subjective, which is why a lot of games tend to let players decide for themselves. But a given player with specific likes and dislikes, trying to win a brutal permadeath game in which marginal advantages matter, at some point is going to sigh and say "damn I hate this part but it's probably worth it." For this reason I think a game that follows stated principles of what it *will not* include can actually be a better game for people who agree with those principles than the inclusive design would be. For DCSS, "tedious" elements are repetitive, mindless, low risk, reliable reward, ancillary to the primary focus of the game. Which is why drinking tons of random mutation potions (which can really hurt you) is okay but polypiling (which is expressly performed on items you don't need) would not be - gambling yes, grinding no. A good illustration of the thought process and the degree to which this is a central principle of design - I could talk about others but this is the one we're arguing about - is that in the most recent stable release monsters can no longer pick up equipment from the floor. Thus there is no longer significant value in gathering any dangerous-looking weapons and moving them to a safe place, which if taken to its logical extent would be *quite* time-consuming. This as you might guess was somewhat controversial (a few things like this have been lately) because there *are* tradeoffs but in general between the devs and a significant core of veteran players there's a strong shared sense of what the game is about which is very much aligned with my own preferences. That they are *only* my own preferences should be implicit in everything I've written here since "I really don't get how..."

Heh okay have I explained thoroughly enough?
posted by atoxyl at 3:32 AM on September 26, 2014


For the record, atoxyl, I'm pretty sure that anyone who understands the jargon you're using has already heard of other roguelikes.
posted by Etrigan at 3:45 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well I've actually introduced an extreme NetHack veteran to DCSS which was specifically on my mind and I suspect there are plenty of people out there who played NetHack more casually in the day when it was king of rogue mountain but haven't really followed the genre or even thought about it being a genre. I'm also not quite sure which jargon you mean that wasn't NetHack-specific or generic RPG jargon.
posted by atoxyl at 4:01 AM on September 26, 2014


Apologies if my language is too severe I had a long day and was kind of relishing the chance to go off about something unimportant, which believe me I know this is.

As someone who spent years writing a somewhat well-received column on roguelike games, I don't think it is unimportant. I personally tend to argue about it because there are few things I've seen boneheaded developers get so apparently willfully wrong as roguelike game design. Which is not actually to say that you're wrong, but more like, game design is not a solved problem -- there are multiple ways to design good games.

As I hope you can see from my RL overview comment my intention was to win over people who might share my preferences

There is actually no shortage of these people. I've spent a few episodes of Roguelike Radio (not many, I'm not a frequent participant) talking with co-hosts who are completely in accord with your thinking. And they have good points, and I've agreed with them fairly often. But they tend to be difficult to convince that they might not have a completely accurate view of game design.

The drive to reduce reliance on non-obvious knowledge is admirable in some ways, but misguided in others. Because learning non-obvious knowledge about how to play is what non-action gaming is, whether that knowledge be how to handle a cockatrice or the best tactical way to go about attacking a group of fire breathers. The process of discovering for one's self, say, the proper way to utilize a scroll of scare monster, is fun. Nethack isn't designed that players must be spoiled to win; there are mechanisms in-game to learn everything you need to know, and experimentation can reveal many things you don't need but will help. The problem is, the game has a wealth of these things, hundreds of them, and you're not going to win on your first game, or even your first hundred. Nethack is intended to be a game you play for months before you know enough to complete it. It isn't meant to be an ordinary game, it's intended to be a Mt. Everest.

Replying to this:
In general I am 100% a gameplay over flavor person and I like that DCSS believes that too.

Some people are certain of this, but it isn't as true as they think. The theme of the game, the narrative fiction around the game, does matter. Lots of supposedly-interesting games that sell millions of copies have thought that's just about all that matters, which is a huge mistake. But theme does matter, it's what makes the gameplay relateable. Relating to the play is part of role-playing, that oft-mentioned yet little-considered aspect of computer gaming.

My argument is based on the idea that some strategies are inherently unfun.

Less is inherently unfun than you think. The term is often used as a way to argue against grind, which is something I hate fervently.

But fun is in the eye of the beholder. A lot of players will wade out in the JRPG wilderness and grind themselves up a heapin' mess o' XP, and tell themselves that's fun, and who am I to disagree with them? If they think they're having fun, then they are. I would argue that they could be having more fun, but fun is brittle, easy to break. Anyway, Nethack in general contains less grinding than you'd think. You could engage in grinding to get some advantages, but other than a good artifact from your god, it isn't really that useful except when purposely trying to break the game, and some of the ways in which that's possible are specifically addressed in the leaked patch.

Heh okay have I explained thoroughly enough?

To me at least, you need not have explained in the first place, as I've been familiar with the whole argument for years.

One thing a lot of people fail to recognize about Nethack is that, in addition to everything else, it's not just a game. It's kind of intended, it seems obvious to me, as a kind of preservation, a single-player recreation of a certain kind of old-school D&D adventure. Many items, monsters and other aspects of Nethack are direct references to 1E AD&D. You could "fix" the game by reducing that aspect of it, but it wouldn't be Nethack anymore.
posted by JHarris at 4:02 AM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not at all saying I have game design solved for everybody. But I know very well what I like and again *I used to play NetHack* (started with Angband actually). Then I found games that kept the parts I like and lost the parts I don't. So all I was trying to do was say "hey if you like the basic idea of NetHack but not [all this stuff] some great things have happened in the last five years."

I don't have a problem with some non-obvious knowledge but I do not think it is reasonable to expect players to learn what there is to learn in NetHack (or remember it) by playing. I'll leave this one at that.

Less is inherently unfun than you think.

I acknowledge over and over that there's actually no such thing as inherently unfun for everybody - obviously it's subjective. What I said is for the sake of argument assume that certain things are inherently unfun - then it follows players should never be doing them in your game. So if a set of players and designers *find the same things inherently unfun* they want to make/play a game in which they *never* do those things. Which is the first part of a counterargument to the idea that "fun is in the eye of the beholder" implies that more options will satisfy everybody.

But fun is in the eye of the beholder. A lot of players will wade out in the JRPG wilderness and grind themselves up a heapin' mess o' XP, and tell themselves that's fun, and who am I to disagree with them? If they think they're having fun, then they are. I would argue that they could be having more fun, but fun is brittle, easy to break. Anyway, Nethack in general contains less grinding than you'd think. You could engage in grinding to get some advantages, but other than a good artifact from your god, it isn't really that useful except when purposely trying to break the game, and some of the ways in which that's possible are specifically addressed in the leaked patch.

The second part of that counterargument being that as long as they even occasionally support player objectives simply including options in a game like this has a non-neutral effect on which options players may feel compelled to take. So when we're talking about an option some players strongly dislike I think it's better for a designer to take a strong position on whether to include it at all, and cater either to the players who like it or the players who hate it. This position is explicitly held by the DCSS devs, which is why I like them!

I wouldn't say NetHack contains a lot of "pure" grind, but I already listed some elements I consider time-consuming and obnoxious, which ultimately is the same *effect* grind has.

Some people are certain of this, but it isn't as true as they think. The theme of the game, the narrative fiction around the game, does matter. Lots of supposedly-interesting games that sell millions of copies have thought that's just about all that matters, which is a huge mistake. But theme does matter, it's what makes the gameplay relateable. Relating to the play is part of role-playing, that oft-mentioned yet little-considered aspect of computer gaming.

I have little problem enjoying a roguelike as more like solitaire chess more than AD&D or an adventure game. Flavor is great though, I just consider it a rule that better flavor should *never* trump better gameplay.
posted by atoxyl at 9:33 AM on September 26, 2014


What I said is for the sake of argument assume that certain things are inherently unfun - then it follows players should never be doing them in your game.

Actually, you asserted some things were inherently unfun. Things in Nethack.

Note, again, that I don't disagree with you in principle, just to extent. I hate grind. But I really don't think Nethack has a lot of it.

Selling things to shops? The joke is that, in Nethack, gold is nearly worthless.

Sacrificing to the gods? In my early days of playing I starved more than one character by going overboard with that.

Polypiling? You can do it, but you hit diminishing returns quickly, without careful preparation you'll lose a lot of items to golem creation, item polymorph only turns items into items of the same class (armor to armor, potion to potion), and you can't get the big prizes, sources of wishes, that way.

Nurse dancing? It falls into the category that players are probably better off just going ahead and ascending than bother too much fooling around naked with nurses.

Pudding farming? That's an exploit, and one that it looks like the Dev Team is resolving.

Players can do all these things, but if they're newbies they're going to get themselves killed in the process, if they're experienced they'll know better than to take it to extremes, and if they're multi-ascension experts, well, then they're probably doing something crazy, like playing an extinctionist, or engaging in other stupid ascension tricks, finding their own fun in a game world that supports a lot of unusual kinds of play.

Crawl is great for what it is, but it isn't Nethack, and I find that they scratch different gameplay itches.

I have little problem enjoying a roguelike as more like solitaire chess more than AD&D or an adventure game. Flavor is great though, I just consider it a rule that better flavor should *never* trump better gameplay.

Roguelikes are adventure games though, or at least the original examples of the type are. One might argue the meaning has drifted a bit, but still, Rogue is a D&D-style adventure game. Fortunately, I think some games are now taking design lessons from roguelikes without necessarily demanding that they themselves be called roguelike. Maybe we need a new name for that kind of thing.
posted by JHarris at 2:03 AM on September 27, 2014


Flavor is great though, I just consider it a rule that better flavor should *never* trump better gameplay.

I've played nethack on and off for, I guess, well over a decade now, and I've never even come close to winning. I don't really care about winning. I like playing nethack because it's a beautiful, and usually pretty precise, articulation of the devteam's vision, and it's got a wonderful amount of depth. (For that matter, reading the source is almost as fun as playing it). That's what DCSS -- which I also like, although not nearly as much as nethack -- lacks, and more streamlined gameplay isn't going to make up for that. Dwarf Fortress is the only other game I can think of that compares to nethack in this regard (although there it's less the "preservation" that JHarris is talking about and more "prophetic fever dream"). Brogue looks interesting, though -- thanks for bringing it to my attention!
posted by junco at 12:56 PM on September 27, 2014


Fortunately, I think some games are now taking design lessons from roguelikes without necessarily demanding that they themselves be called roguelike. Maybe we need a new name for that kind of thing.

Roguelikelike?
posted by asperity at 2:30 PM on September 27, 2014


Sounds too much like a Zelda reference.
posted by JHarris at 6:45 PM on September 27, 2014


It falls into the category that players are probably better off just going ahead and ascending than bother too much fooling around naked with nurses.

To be fair, if I had opportunities to fool around naked with nurses, I wouldn't play so much Nethack.
posted by kagredon at 9:03 PM on September 27, 2014


"One thing a lot of people fail to recognize about Nethack is that, in addition to everything else, it's not just a game. It's kind of intended, it seems obvious to me, as a kind of preservation, a single-player recreation of a certain kind of old-school D&D adventure."

Something I've noticed reading accounts of ascencions, which I've read a bunch of, is that there is a noticable divide in the approach. One group is usually clinical [Marvin is probaby the best example] and the other group uses a sort of character approach and will describe their character as "happy" or "scared", they describe their character in emotional terms. The former seems to win more frequently, the latter less but being in the middle between seems to result in less ascensions.

The malleability is what makes nethack great.

"It falls into the category that players are probably better off just going ahead and ascending..."

/oD---------->JHarris
posted by vapidave at 11:37 PM on September 27, 2014


I'm out of my league in this conversation - I played briefly in '91 or something and found it very very hard.

But it makes me so very happy to see this conversation occurring in 2014. I honestly can imagine a very slightly different variant of this conversation occurring (in the blue) in 2024.

Carry on.
posted by el io at 12:02 AM on September 28, 2014


Heh, sorry vapiddave. I meant it more like, going ahead and making physical progress towards ascending. Going deeper, exploring new territory, directly progressing towards the invocation items and getting the Amulet.

I had a thought a little while ago. One of the complaints, and it's one that I agree with, about the game is that, while the early game demands a variety of approached depending on role, the late game tends to be about smacking things until they die, whether you're a barbarian, archeologist, wizard, tourist or healer. I think I've figured out a major part of the reason for that. It's that, unlike D&D, all the characters advance in their to-hit rate at the same speed, which is the same as that of the classic D&D Fighter: +1 to hit per level.

If non-combat-wombats had less than a bucketfull of to-hit, it'd force them towards using alternative means of killing monsters. It'd make some classes much more difficult unless special care were taken to balance though. Maybe different to-hit tracks for melee and missile weapons, so Rangers could uniquely excel with missile weapons.
posted by JHarris at 3:12 AM on September 28, 2014


That was me joking [poorly] JHarris,. But from what I've read the late game in nethack is a bit of a clobber-or-cast-fest and Gehennom is a slog.

Rewarding gain while simultaneously increasing complexity seems the problem that confronts game designers who are interested in the experience [though not those BigCo's, their purview is money]. Nethack isn't alone here and nor does increasing complexity always appeal of course, sometimes you just want to kill a Lich.

I dunno, it's an interesting time though.
posted by vapidave at 3:48 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know vd, it's all good. I try to keep the perspective of the beginning 'hacker in mind, because I've been good at Nethack for a long time that I think I kind of refer to it in dismissive terms, but that's only because I've paid my not-inconsiderable dues.

When I hear people talk about how Nethack has too much to learn, I can't help but think a part of their complaints are, unconsciously, that they can't steamroll over this game. There is no shortcut, if you're going to do well at Nethack you have to learn it. It helps that a lot of what's there to learn is entertaining, interesting, even educational. Nethack was actually part of my introduction to Discworld.
posted by JHarris at 4:09 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize this conversation was still going on! It's kinda funny that this is one of the more heated discussions I've had here. I hope nobody is taking it personally - the actual game design discussion I'm certainly not, I just feel that people have persistently misread me.

Note, again, that I don't disagree with you in principle, just to extent. I hate grind. But I really don't think Nethack has a lot of it.

Your list is pretty mostly the standard things that NetHack players consider grindy and somewhat optional. I've already given a number of examples of other things which may or may not exactly fit the traditional template of "grind" but which I certainly consider to be irritating and time-consuming activity with clear benefits (a couple are pretty essential actually) nonetheless - if they don't come to mind perhaps you, as a NetHack enthusiast, take it for granted that a roguelike would include such things or that people would enjoy them? The various things one does to ID items, Sokoban, hidden anything, anything with lighting, the vibrating square, anything about pets, many aspects of item/inventory management and protection (exacerbated by interface concerns) and yeah, I do count sacrificing at altars to some extent. And I already spent many, many words on why being optional is not a defense, unless the tedious behavior is also clearly without upside.

NetHack is not the grindiest game of all time or like old-school vanilla Angband, which adheres much more closely to the most traditional concepts of grind. I'm sure some NetHack defenders would even say that the combat focus feels more like grind to them (though along the lines of some of your NH defenses a good player will *not* grind for XP) but again I just know what *I* don't like.

When I hear people talk about how Nethack has too much to learn, I can't help but think a part of their complaints are, unconsciously, that they can't steamroll over this game

Oh come on. Nobody "steamrolls" DCSS or Brogue when they start and in fact they're arguably harder than NetHack for experienced players because their developers learned from NetHack's difficulty curve issues. The difference is when you die in these newer games it always feels "fair," like you've violated some basic principle of good play, rather than forgotten some special case or not realized that some particular aspect of reality (or fantasy "reality") is simulated in unexpectedly lethal detail. And the better you get the more fair it seems.

Now when I started trying to ascend NetHack in earnest I was *not* caught by many of these things. because I had the spoilers open the whole time to prevent such an occurrence. Who wants to play a game like that? It seems to me the best argument you could make is that the truly stupid deaths are less common than I suggest, but why have them at all? If you want to have the crazy level of detail, why not have a message "closing this drawbridge *will kill you!* Do you really want to y/n?" I guess the other argument is that it's some intentional exercise in frustration being fun. Well, not for me it ain't!

If there's any response to all this that I will buy it's that I am hammering on the worst qualities of NetHack without addressing its strong points. That's fair, there are a lot of parts that are fun, and it is an adventure in a way that other roguelikes aren't. There's a reason that, even though I tend to think of (my preferred variety of) Roguelikes as being more like puzzle games I thought it was worth playing through NetHack. I guess I just feel when you get down to it that being this whole crazy adventure game filled with weird one-offs is cool if you haven't done it before (and that includes a certain number of failed attempts) but is rather at odds with true replay value, especially after you've seen the whole thing. DCSS and Brogue aren't the same sort of multidimensional experience on the first playthrough but they're much more, like, finely honed games that I want to pick up again and again.

Actually, you asserted some things were inherently unfun. Things in Nethack.

Actually I said "assume some things are inherently unfun (I'll come back to that) then it follows that you absolutely don't want them in a game" Then in the next paragraph I came back to it and said "of course fun is actually totally subjective but per above, anybody who shares my subjective idea of what's inherently unfun blah blah blah I already wrote all this stuff more than once." I will freely admit that was a confusing construction, which is why I clarified it, which is why I am a bit frustrated that you are quoting from my clarification to take another shot at the thing I am right there in the quote explaining that I didn't mean.
posted by atoxyl at 3:42 AM on September 29, 2014


if they don't come to mind perhaps you, as a NetHack enthusiast, take it for granted that a roguelike would include such things or that people would enjoy them?

I'm an enthuiast of many kinds of games, roguelikes is just what I'm slightly kind of known for. I don't think I have any illusions about Nethack's design; I've certainly talked it down enough, most notably on the Roguelike Radio episode on it. Instead, I think I have a pretty good idea of how its systems fit together, which is not easy to explain to people succinctly.

The various things one does to ID items, Sokoban, hidden anything, anything with lighting, the vibrating square, anything about pets, many aspects of item/inventory management and protection (exacerbated by interface concerns) and yeah, I do count sacrificing at altars to some extent.

* The ID game is a big part of Nethack. In fact, I find that it's the most interesting aspect of the game, which probably dates back to how big a part of Rogue it is.

* Sokoban, well, it's not the best part of the game. It's a relative recent addition, though, in terms of version history.

* But what chu got against lighting?

* Vibrating square: If you get that far, you're about to start a bona fide ascension run. Put yourself in the place of a player there for the first time -- you've been playing this game for months, maybe years. You may be heavily spoiled, but on the other hand you might not. At this point you hands are positively shaking. Now you're on a level with no downstairs, and digging down just makes a pit. This is the bottom of the dungeon, or so it seems. Is there anything interesting here? Well, there's this one square that vibrates. It might take a long time to find it; my first time I stepped on nearly every space of that level. But then, ah-ha, there it is. Whether it is a good thing or not, well, make your own decision, but it is strongly evocative, of a desperate search for something whispered on strange websites and cryptic Oracle clues. There aren't many games that provide that kind of experience.

* Item and inventory management, well, what can I say? Nethack is a descendent of Rogue, a more direct descendant than most games, and nearly all of Rogues keys do the same thing in Nethack. You might find it obtuse, but remember, these were games that were first played in Unix computer labs, where most players were already programmers. Unix coding means mucking around with text files, and that means using either Emacs or vi. If you've ever used vi, then many of Rogue's commands will seem very familiar. In short, it's a control scheme well-suited to its original audience.

* You'll have to clarify what you mean about "protection." You mean the Racket? That's pretty heavy strategy, you don't have to do it to play, it's an optimal strategy made up by people heavily into the game. My first ascension, I didn't know anything about that.

And I already spent many, many words on why being optional is not a defense, unless the tedious behavior is also clearly without upside.

You did, but you didn't establish well enough that it was tedious. There is one major part of Nethack that's tedious, and that's the mazes of Gehennom, but it's almost never what those people who claim Nethack is tedious point to. You can't just assert something as being true to an audience not willing to grant it, that's not how arguing works. You should argue with an eye for convincing people, not just stating what you think is right.

Oh come on. Nobody "steamrolls" DCSS or Brogue when they start and in fact they're arguably harder than NetHack for experienced players because their developers learned from NetHack's difficulty curve issues.

Well to be honest, I'm wasn't thinking of Crawl or Brogue when I said it, but the complaints of a couple of people I've communicated with, who aren't actually roguelike enthusiasts, and are actually pretty sharp generally, but were put off by Nethack because it has a substantial amount to learn. You'd be forgiven for not seeing that, heh.

The difference is when you die in these newer games it always feels "fair," like you've violated some basic principle of good play, rather than forgotten some special case or not realized that some particular aspect of reality (or fantasy "reality") is simulated in unexpectedly lethal detail.

I don't buy this, I've certainly had a fair proportion of YASDs playing Crawl that didn't feel "fair." Run into an Ogre in the upper dungeon and unless you already know a good strategy, you're going to die. Wield a weapon of distortion and get banished to the Abyss for the first time, and you're probably going to die. There's lots of stuff like that. Then there's Oklobs. Crystal Statues. You can't always run away, and if you can, it can mean starving. The people who can win at Crawl consistently seem, to me, to be the kinds of people who have learned the game, much the same way an experienced 'hacker has learned Nethack. If you bring up the fact that you might be able to look up the monster in an in-game encyclopedia and find out its difficult bits without actually having to die to them as a defense, well: 1. that's a lot of looking up, and 2. Nethack has an in-game encyclopedia, too.

Now when I started trying to ascend NetHack in earnest I was *not* caught by many of these things. because I had the spoilers open the whole time to prevent such an occurrence. Who wants to play a game like that

No one does! But I submit that you were too afraid of dying. Listen, an individual game of Nethack is not something you invest heavily in. You just play it to have fun, and generally don't worry about winning. Until, one day, you discover this weird place with Medusa in it, and by that point you start thinking holy shit, maybe I have a chance. THEN you go to the spoilers; by that time, you've played enough that the knowledge will have what I've heard termed a scaffold, in your mind, to be hung from, and remembering relevant spoilers will be much easier. If you can't bring yourself play it that way, then in all likelihood Nethack is not for you. That isn't a knock against you; maybe you're just not in a place in your life where you're ready for, or interested in, that kind of game. That doesn't mean some other people won't enjoy it.

It seems to me the best argument you could make is that the truly stupid deaths are less common than I suggest, but why have them at all?

Because they're fun. Remember the Dwarf Fortress mantra: Losing is fun! When you die a crazy death, that's a story interested players can tell their friends. "I was playing this game the other day, and while I didn't actually die, I did go to heaven prematurely, somehow!" It is the ending that makes an adventure.

As for the "assume some things are inherently unfun" thing, let's just chalk that to misunderstanding, although it seems like a silly thing to posit. Why should we assume that?
posted by JHarris at 6:03 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think in most roguelikes lighting adds a minor flavor while being a minor gameplay nuisance and I already told you where I fall on things like that. I actually think you could design an interesting game around it - I think this has been done with some non-RL horror games actually - but I think a lot of extant games include it just because it's tradition.

Vibrating square goes back to the one shot crazy adventure versus elegant game design thing I described earlier.

Interface issues isn't about the key scheme at all - as far as vi goes I play with vi-keys actually. I just recall some irritation with time spent managing inventory/bags/item enchantment/items not getting destroyed (what I meant by protection) and fetching stuff I left wherever. Modern roguelikes tend to reduce this by either imposing harder limits and forcing decisons on what you can keep or adding automation and search features to make this all easier. And in Crawl's case item destruction was just removed - to compensate item generation rates were turned down and some kinds of item damage were replaced by more severe but temporary measures and others might be in the future.

At this point (well, a long time ago) it's obvious we won't agree on everything. But a couple more points:

I don't buy this, I've certainly had a fair proportion of YASDs playing Crawl that didn't feel "fair." Run into an Ogre in the upper dungeon and unless you already know a good strategy, you're going to die. Wield a weapon of distortion and get banished to the Abyss for the first time, and you're probably going to die. There's lots of stuff like that. Then there's Oklobs. Crystal Statues.

Distortion is probably the worst example remaining in Crawl and a lot of people want something changed! The issue is a little more about monsters with distortion weapons insta-banishing you because distortion weapons are actually good for many characters (and you get a warning before unwield) although I would rather they auto-ID in all cases. Crystal statues - if you're thinking of them as "never fight unless you have the one trick" - disintegration - the trick is actually no more. Both Oklobs and statues, as it stands, add an automatic exclusion zone as soon as you've stepped in range once and will show as very dangerous (assuming they still are) by color coding on the monster status display. The information you're given is that these entities are dangerous but immobile and you are prevented from accidentally entering their POV again. You pretty much have to decide you're going to take a risk and berserk or something and charge them - I don't think I've ever died to either. If you think everything in NetHack is this fair we are not going to ever be on the same page about this issue. Ogres, too, are as fair as a game like this gets. There are *many* effective strategies - Ogres are kind of there to teach you that when you see a red name monster you need to deploy *some* strategy - and due to their slow attack significant opportunities for escape. I am not proposing that players not be allowed to die by fighting something that's too high level for them. There will always be a learning curve for things like that but I think Crawl (which does have a *few* nasty special cases, like Nikola) is pretty good about providing warning and always trying to do better. And the skills used to fight (or not fight) an ogre are exactly the skills one uses to play the rest of Crawl. This is what I mean when I say the deaths feel fair. "Guess I wasn't strong enough to fight that monster indicated as dangerous/shouldn't have let it close distance/should have used my blowgun/should have used berserk." Not "well shit I didn't see that coming." You may be inclined to disagree, but NetHack feels to me much more like a set of disjointed special cases.

As for the "assume some things are inherently unfun" thing, let's just chalk that to misunderstanding, although it seems like a silly thing to posit. Why should we assume that?

It pretty clearly turned out to be a poor choice of wording! The point I was trying to make when I invoked that was against inclusionism. I was suggesting an extreme hypothetical case (in which it's obvious you don't even consider including the bad element in your game) and then saying well of course there's no such thing that everybody thinks is bad, but many people have a few they personally dislike with that intensity and we're trying to make the best possible game for people who know they don't ever want XYZ and stating that upfront etc. etc. not worth further elaboration.
posted by atoxyl at 10:48 AM on September 29, 2014


Just got a ranger a few levels down into Gehennom, and if that's enough to be indicative, it looks like I'm disappointed in my hope that they'd have done something about the grind there. No Spork-like caverns. :(
posted by weston at 12:38 PM on September 29, 2014


I think in most roguelikes lighting adds a minor flavor while being a minor gameplay nuisance and I already told you where I fall on things like that.

Are you really going to plant your flag on the lighting mountain? When places are dark, you start a light. If it's a magic lamp, it'll never burn out! If you want to justify it from a game design perspective: it's a way of limiting information of what monsters are nearby. That is an interesting situation, especially since there are dangerous monsters you don't want to melee. But there are ways around it: telepathy is the big one. And darkness can even be an advantage, since many monsters have problems with it too, and it means you won't see Medusa from a distance. You can use it to close with monsters with powerful missile attacks, like black dragons, without getting zapped. I see is nothing wrong with lighting as a game design element. Anyway, it was like that in Rogue, and Nethack remains loyal to its predecessor.

Vibrating square goes back to the one shot crazy adventure versus elegant game design thing I described earlier.

You haven't sufficiently established that point. What do you have against the vibrating square?

I just recall some irritation with time spent managing inventory/bags/item enchantment/items not getting destroyed (what I meant by protection) and fetching stuff I left wherever.

Again, Nethack seems to feel a responsibility to be like D&D, and in classic Dungeons & Dragons, if you put a bag of holding in another bag of holding, that's what happens. And it's another setback a player can be afflicted with that's not out-of-the-blue, it's caused by his own actions. It does mean you have to be more careful with putting bag (and wands) in bags. In its goal of making players careful about survival around monsters and magic items in a fundamentally Gygaxian universe, it works.

Distortion is probably the worst example remaining in Crawl and a lot of people want something changed!

But it's still in there, and from when I last played it in earnest which is years ago now! Whatever pressure there is to remove it, it hasn't been great enough to do it. Meanwhile, the Crawl developers have done such controversial things like removing Mountain (that is to say, traditional) Dwarves, a beloved fantasy archetype. Evidently on the scale of game-breaking priorities, throwing Gimli in the bin is more important than limiting everyone's least-favorite screw weapon!

The issue is a little more about monsters with distortion weapons insta-banishing you because distortion weapons are actually good for many characters (and you get a warning before unwield)

Hup there! Does that warning inform you of all the possible consequences of unwielding it? Does it tell you what the odds of unwielding the weapon causing a bad effect are? Does it make you confirm that you understand the consequences by typing YES in all-caps twice? Ask your doctor if distortion weapons are right for you.

One of the things I don't like about Crawl is, by trying to make the game fair, in removing ways for the player to be harmed out of the blue unexpectedly, they're actually making failure more of a judgement on the player. "You didn't win? You bad player! SHAME ON YOU, who will take care of CoCKMoNSTR's family now??" Where if you die in Nethack, eh, tough luck old bean, try again? It's a subtle way of raising the stakes, and really, I don't need that kind of pressure from my entertainments.

Crystal statues - if you're thinking of them as "never fight unless you have the one trick" - disintegration - the trick is actually no more. Both Oklobs and statues, as it stands, add an automatic exclusion zone as soon as you've stepped in range once and will show as very dangerous (assuming they still are) by color coding on the monster status display.

It sounds like you're using some fancy-schmancy "auto-explore" feature that you'd have to know something about Crawl to utilize.

The information you're given is that these entities are dangerous but immobile and you are prevented from accidentally entering their POV again.

But what about the first time?? HMMM?

You pretty much have to decide you're going to take a risk and berserk or something and charge them

But how risky is that? You can't know what the odds are without detailed knowledge of the game! How is the player supposed to know if it's a good idea to get through an Oklob field without knowledge of how likely its missile attacks are to hit? He might take two steps in, realize the attacks are more damaging than indicated by the first step, and have to retreat, but now he's too far in to escape that way! OH NO, Crawl has misled him!

There is no way to make a game completely transparent to the player, so he fully understands the implications of all his actions, without becoming trivial. To make stuff like Ogres and Oklobs completely fair to someone encountering them for the first time, you'd have to remove them from Crawl, and no one wants that. Why not just identify items from the start, and instead of using line-of-sight, just show him the whole dungeon from the start. Or why even have random dungeons at all, just the same hallways every time, with the same monsters.

That's going too far, I'm obviously being ludicrous. My point is, you can take that approach too far, Crawl's ability to be fair is not an absolute, its approach isn't as absolute as you think, and once you realize that, the question becomes, how far should it be taken? I answer, it could probably stand to be a bit more Hacky, not overthinking every design choice so much, and just being free to be fun.

Ogres, too, are as fair as a game like this gets. There are *many* effective strategies - Ogres are kind of there to teach you that when you see a red name monster you need to deploy *some* strategy - and due to their slow attack significant opportunities for escape.

The fact that the player has to learn something sounds dangerously Hackish.

It pretty clearly turned out to be a poor choice of wording!

If poor choices of wording were clear, they wouldn't be poor. HMMMM.

But really, it's good. I'm being a bit silly here and in the above examples. I feel I should reiterate, I like Crawl. But I also like Nethack, indeed I like it more. Maybe that's because I've been familiar with it for years. But it seems to me that Nethack actually has less to learn and process than Crawl does. When you get to the Ecumenical Temple, the game tells you all the consequences of joining up with all the different gods and the penalties for leaving, but really, there it's just being its own spoiler, it's at least as much information to process as Nethack, only it's presented there in the game instead of on a spoiler site or a wiki. It's all stuff you have to learn to play, it's all unfair to a player who doesn't know what's happening.

Nethack takes it further than Crawl does, but that's actually not a bad thing. When I was a starting hacker, and I discovered that Knights could jump with Alt-J, in a manner exactly like the knights in chess, I made a silly little joyous excited noise. I've never made that noise when playing Crawl. Its design seems dedicated to stamping that noise out. That little burst of giddy fun upon learning about something cool, that's a big part of what I play games for, and I want to see more games provide those moments, not less.

Yeah weston, it looks like the version leaked was just a standard incremental Nethack minor version release. If there is a new major version in the works (the bug list promises some bugs are fixed in it), we know little about it.
posted by JHarris at 2:56 PM on September 29, 2014


this is how old nethack is: I just got "They say that you should name your dog Spuds to have a cool pet" as a fortune cookie message.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:59 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Are you really going to plant your flag on the lighting mountain?

Not really I mean we could argue about the degree of significance in NetHack all day. If it's important for light to be a limited resource why have a magic lamp at all? Mainly I think inheriting things from Rogue without thinking about it is *one of the problems I'm talking about* and is more or less why I bring this one up. Like I said I think you could design a game with well-developed lighting mechanics but (actually this may have more to do with having grown up playing Angband) elements included just because Rogue had them tend to end up being vestigial. This happens with hunger too - it can be deployed as in Brogue as a very tight clock to force the player not to dawdle but in Crawl as it stands it's usually meaningless but hangs on by a thread because of its use as a spellcasting resource.

You haven't sufficiently established that point. What do you have against the vibrating square?,

What I have against it is that it's a small but annoying thing to have to do, especially more than once, which I think is symptomatic and symbolic of parts of NH design which I do not like. Your defense is that it has dramatic value to a player first encountering the endgame. I agree! I posited earlier that NetHack is meant to be a strange and elaborate adventure (inspired by DnD like you said, and other adventure games) with replay value coming from discovering new things and muddling your way through. On the other hand Crawl is focused on core tactical and strategic elements, aiming for a certain elegance and explicitly to remove things that don't stand up the third or fortieth time you encounter them. Replay value comes more from developing more generally applicable skills - how to assess situations and respond to them, how to build a character with a random selection of resources and available gods - and watching yourself not only get closer to three runes, closer to fifteen, but more reliable in winning more challenging character types more often. There's still a lot to learn but it feels a little more like a strategy/puzzle game. It seems you prefer the former and I the latter. To me this second approach feels more "fair" and present more replay value - those special quirks of NetHack that seem cool when you first discover them tend not to remain fun when you've seen them before, IMO. Naturally you are free to disagree. I actually think the length of Crawl ultimately puts a damper on replay value after multiple wins - one reason Brogue is probably better than either - but NetHack is at least as bad in this regard.

ADOM in some ways is a more extreme version of the NetHack philosophy. It's atmospheric for sure but that's not quite what I'm after, personally. As you might guess I very much dislike plot and preset quests in roguelikes because I do not think they are compatible with permadeath as they do not remain so interesting after a dozen goes. To me the best approach I've seen for non-random content is to have a large number of small vaults or puzzles and mix them in throughout the game so they don't get stale. Both DCSS and Brogue do this.

But it's still in there, and from when I last played it in earnest which is years ago now! Whatever pressure there is to remove it, it hasn't been great enough to do it. Meanwhile, the Crawl developers have done such controversial things like removing Mountain (that is to say, traditional) Dwarves, a beloved fantasy archetype. Evidently on the scale of game-breaking priorities, throwing Gimli in the bin is more important than limiting everyone's least-favorite screw weapon!

The gameplay relevance of MD is more than covered by Minotaurs and Hill Orcs, so the only reason people cared was flavor. Hahahaha screw flavor. Sorry, I'm kidding but I don't care about MD and I kind of admire the dedication to streamlining, like I said. I honestly don't know why distortion is still around. I think there's some tension between people who want to keep ID relevant and people who think it's an increasingly minor aspect that might as well go away. Or I guess some want to preserve the interesting situation of being stuck with a (potentially powerful!) weapon you didn't plan on. Given the direction they've gone lately and the average player's stubborn refusal to stick it out with distortion - Crawl promises interesting *decisions* not interesting *things that sometimes happen without warning* - I would predict some changes here.

There is no way to make a game completely transparent to the player, so he fully understands the implications of all his actions, without becoming trivial. To make stuff like Ogres and Oklobs completely fair to someone encountering them for the first time, you'd have to remove them from Crawl, and no one wants that. Why not just identify items from the start, and instead of using line-of-sight, just show him the whole dungeon from the start. Or why even have random dungeons at all, just the same hallways every time, with the same monsters.,

You almost admit as much, but you are being disingenuous. I said specifically it's fine for a player to die many times in learning the game. Permadeath and randomized content I think are essential to roguelikes and in fact as I already said I believe in maximizing the level of randomness. ID *has* been cut down severely in Crawl due to being one of those things inherited from Rogue that has meant less and less over time, whereas map/LOS stuff, which is important to the tactical design, will never be. My point, what I mean by "fairness" is that *I think* the skills you learn in one situation in Crawl tend to apply to other situations, and a general understanding of the mechanics and good playstyle will go far in allowing you to handle situations before they are life threatening. Whereas NetHack has too many unpredictable special cases for my taste. Actually if there's a reason to remove oklobs and statues it's that players very quickly learn from encountering one stationary monster that *all* of them are harmless if you back out of their sight immediately. So they are best - and at this point primarily - deployed as part of a vault where you may choose to take them on for a reward.

As far as stuff like gods go I'm again not against complexity or a learning curve. I just think gods add strategic depth, tactical depth and replay value, whereas knowing that Medusa requires a blindfold or reflection is rote memory. I don't think any RL is perfect when it comes to things like this but I think many have learned valuable lessons from NetHack's flaws.

One of the things I don't like about Crawl is, by trying to make the game fair, in removing ways for the player to be harmed out of the blue unexpectedly, they're actually making failure more of a judgement on the player. "You didn't win? You bad player! SHAME ON YOU, who will take care of CoCKMoNSTR's family now??" Where if you die in Nethack, eh, tough luck old bean, try again? It's a subtle way of raising the stakes, and really, I don't need that kind of pressure from my entertainments.

I think it really comes down to this. I would much rather see every death as a specific mistake - that's what "fair" *is* to me. Well that and the adventure/flavor stuff. It's just two different ideas of what a roguelike should be.
posted by atoxyl at 5:20 PM on September 29, 2014


So here's the reason why the debate is moot: the playing field is not remotely level, just because NetHack wins by dint of its status as a historical document. It contains within it layer upon layer of mildly nerdy to paralyzingly nerdy injokes over the decades, and, moreover, stands as a record of How Things Were Done Back in the Days, down to having the same controls as vi and down to being completely impossible without access to comprehensive lists of spoilers, much like the old text adventure games.1

Crawl or whatever doesn't have that, or at least won't for another 20 years or so.

1: if anyone claims to have figured out what to do at the vibrating square without spoilers, that person is a total liar. Likewise anyone who says they've beaten Hitchhiker's Guide without spoilers.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:54 PM on September 29, 2014


Not really I mean we could argue about the degree of significance in NetHack all day. If it's important for light to be a limited resource why have a magic lamp at all?

1. Tradeoff. A magic lamp, utilized properly, is a 80%+ chance of a wish, but none of the things you can wish for can provide you with an infinite light source as good. (Technically now you can wish for Sunsword, but it doesn't provide as good lighting.)
2. Lighting isn't a hard part of the design, it's more a soft part, one of a variety of things in Nethack that are there to provide for interesting situations.

So it's not required, but variety in play situation is part of what makes these games interesting. Plus, it's also a part of D&D. See my previous comments about Nethack's role as a D&D simulator.

BTW, have you played Rogue? If you want a really tightly-designed roguelike without extraneous elements, you should play that. Additionally it's not long, as one of the things I think we both agree on is that both Nethack and Crawl are too long. Brogue in particular was inspired by it.

What I have against it is that it's a small but annoying thing to have to do, especially more than once, which I think is symptomatic and symbolic of parts of NH design which I do not like.

Then why complain about it? Something I've had to learn myself about game design is that, while it's mostly choices you make, there is also a role for ritual in there, little things you have to do that lend a sense of ceremony. Well, is my opinion.

There's still a lot to learn but it feels a little more like a strategy/puzzle game. It seems you prefer the former and I the latter.

Who knows? If you made a better argument maybe you could convince me.

The gameplay relevance of MD is more than covered by Minotaurs and Hill Orcs, so the only reason people cared was flavor. Hahahaha screw flavor.

You say that now, but wait until they add cans of Axe Body Spray as a useable item next release.

You almost admit as much, but you are being disingenuous.

Was it my saying I was being obviously ludicrous that gave it away? I was trying to show you through example. Ah well, never mind.

I said specifically it's fine for a player to die many times in learning the game.

Yeah I'm not really one to talk, but still... we're both making epic logjam posts in this thread, and you can't really act offended that someone didn't notice you SPECIFICALLY SAID something when it's a sentence in the middle of a long paragraph somewhere in a huge comment somewhere five pages up. Metafilter isn't the best forum for that kind of thing. I'm only doing it because the thread has cooled off somewhat, so I don't feel like I'm interrupting other people. Even so, since we're mostly talking to each other, it would probably be best to take this to MeMail.

You Can't Tip A Buick, the vibrating square puzzle is explained in a major Oracle consultation, as are most of the most obscure Nethack aspects. Here is the text (this thread isn't a game situation, so this is a SPOILER):

It is said that thou mayst gain entry to Moloch's sanctuary, if thou darest, from a place where the ground vibrateth in the deepest depths of Gehennom. Thou needs must have the aid of three magical items. The pure sound of a silver bell shall announce thee. The terrible runes, read from Moloch's book, shall cause the earth to tremble mightily. The light of an enchanted candelabrum shall show thee the way.

Pretty clear, although of course where you get those items is left as an exercise for the adventurer.
posted by JHarris at 6:10 PM on September 29, 2014


If it's important for light to be a limited resource why have a magic lamp at all?

You mentioned interesting decisions in your post. The magic lamp presents one -- pick literally any other object the game has to offer through the wish mechanic, or keep what is likely enough to be your only chance to not have to worry about light management.

And I find this choice has become *more* interesting as I've become better at the game. When I was a weaker player, as soon as I found one, there was almost always no question, I wanted the wish out of the thing -- the wish was going to give me the life raft of *DSM or an artifact that was (possibly) going to keep me alive through the crawl to the castle. Light management seemed like a relatively minor issue (and in many ways is).

The stronger I got as a player, though, the more interesting the choice became. Sure, *DSM or an artifact of choice or whatever the RNG has refused to give you (like a bag of holding or reflection) can be deeply valuable, but I'd learned other strategies for adapting to the early game without the wish, and meanwhile, I'd absorbed the subtlety of the various ways light can be an advantage and a convenience.

So what's happened for me is that this choice is never automatic anymore, it's almost always situational and has to do what do I want more *this game*. I am always balancing the present utility of a constant light source (plus its future utility in wandering many unlit mazes) vs the obstacles I'm encountering as I go along. Sometimes I'll hit a challenge I don't know how else to address and wish up something that will work as part of a solution. Sometimes the game will hand me other ways I can leverage into tactical solutions without spending the wish.
posted by weston at 7:00 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm only doing it because the thread has cooled off somewhat, so I don't feel like I'm interrupting other people. Even so, since we're mostly talking to each other, it would probably be best to take this to MeMail.

There's not a lot going on here - I was *hoping* others would want to talk about it - but if you want to continue and think it should be moved to mail I guess I'm down and will follow you there after this one last text dump.

Once again I just want to say I hope you have found this conversation at least somewhat edifying because I have certainly gained some perspective on NetHack.

Who knows? If you made a better argument maybe you could convince me.

You sure? I understand that you have also argued that NetHack does better than I think on my own terms but it really looks to me like we have some fundamentally different preferences. I'm surprised you're not going to bite on the adventure/RPG vs. strategy/RPG distinction but many of *your* arguments seem clear enough to me - you appreciate in NetHack the sense of adventure, the variety, the whimsy and the references going deep into gaming/internet history. I appreciate many of those things enough that I was dead set for a long time on playing though it - which I have - but I don't have a lot of desire to see it all again. I prefer the leaner, meaner (well, more focused) designs of the current generation of roguelikes, especially on repeat playthroughs, where - it seems natural to my mind - novelty wanes and the strength or weakness of underlying mechanics shines through. Now, you *have* convinced me that some of NetHack's underlying mechanics are stronger than I knew...

I like the original Rogue a lot though I think Brogue takes a lot of what's good about it and makes it even better. Brogue vs. DCSS is an interesting question because intellectually I think Brogue is a more elegant design but it contains certain things I happen to experience as more irritating than fun - like losing your items when you swim or certain monsters that are a real pain if you are unlucky enough not to have a special solution. DCSS development tends to agree with me more about these issues - like fast enemies that keep their distance being problematic - so it's the one I come back to the most. So I do also understand just finding certain things more comfortable.

Was it my saying I was being obviously ludicrous that gave it away? I was trying to show you through example. Ah well, never mind.

It seems a little late in the game to be reducing things to absurdity. I swear I'm *trying* to read everything you've written :). My point was never that players shouldn't die - it's about keeping to a minimum (while preserving certain challenges for more experienced players) how often they die and go "what really?" I suppose it's subjective (and losing being fun in general you're free to think this way of losing is more fun than I do) but I actually think it's slightly absurd to assert that DCSS is anywhere near on a level with NetHack in this respect. And of the examples that *could* be cited as support the only really applicable one I think you used was distortion...

I'm going to throw you an argument here, which is that the aspects of Crawl which are actually most "spoilery" (and simpler in NetHack) are be things like the relative value of equipment and skill choices. Design around these things occupies kind of a weird position because it is a stated goal that players should not be required or encouraged to think about optimizing their character mathematically. And indeed with experience you will get general sense of what you need when. But these decisions undoubtedly can be quite confusing for a newcomer. On the other hand getting them exactly right is not nearly as important as basic survival tactics, which I continue to believe can be learned by intuition and are broadly applicable.

And yeah you all are right about the magic lamp - I forgot about the multiple uses.
posted by atoxyl at 8:20 PM on September 29, 2014


There's not a lot going on here - I was *hoping* others would want to talk about it - but if you want to continue and think it should be moved to mail I guess I'm down and will follow you there after this one last text dump.

The thing is, even among this crowd, for the most part the inner details of Nethack is kinda inside baseball. We have a number of multi-ascenders here, I gather, but this territory's kind of been covered before.

I'm afraid that, to be honest, I didn't really learn much new from your comments, but that's mostly because I researched (read: "read a lot of web pages about") a lot of this stuff back when I wrote @Play. And I have played a fair bit of Crawl too. I think it's good, and there are definitely some good people making it. But I don't think it refutes Nethack, or anything like that. It's a game that's fun for different reasons.

And I think that's the limit of what I'm going to say about Crawl here, it being a Nethack thread and all.
posted by JHarris at 5:00 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure, it's hypothetically possible that someone extraordinarily diligent at some point in history paid for every single major oracle consult, checked out every single square at the bottom level of Gehennom, realized that that Oracle consult (probably read hours and hours of gameplay time previously) refers to this odd vibrating square, etc. etc.

But I have never met that person, I've never seen a post from that person in r.g.r.n, and I suspect for every hypothetical instance of that person there's a few thousand people who ascended the regular way — by looking it up on the Internet, or (in the early days) by asking one of the other undergrads in the campus computer lab about it.

And that social aspect of NetHack isn't a flaw, exactly; instead, it's a piece of procedurally defined living history, encouraging you to solve puzzles the same way that your hacker forebears did; by asking around and by looking stuff up.

Who's David, anyway, and why's it his treasure zoo?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:09 PM on September 30, 2014


Once you know about the major consultations, it's not a stretch for someone to go through and read them all. I have read a couple of posts about spoilerless people. One took eight years. Another managed it in several months of concerted play, which I think made heavy use of the Oracle across many games. I can't find either post at the moment though, and I might have imagined the second one.

It is a game, though, that begs players to develop a community to talk about it. A lot of my interest in the game over the years was sustained due to the fact that I have some real-world friends who also play it, and telling each other stories of one character or other are some of the best time I've had with them, I'm practically gleeful when someone tells me their Nethack story.

According to this Talk page on the Nethack Wiki, David's Treasure Zoo dates back to Hack, where players logged in with user name David always got zoos.
posted by JHarris at 4:41 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


According to this Talk page on the Nethack Wiki, David's Treasure Zoo dates back to Hack, where players logged in with user name David always got zoos.

I clicked through hoping this would be something that no one's really sure about the original reason for, and I was not disappointed.
posted by kagredon at 5:48 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Guess i need to do my research cause I had never played or heard of NetHack ... get to it girl
posted by pchanner at 5:59 PM on October 10, 2014


Oooh... This is the game that some have called Gradewrecker. Play, enjoy, but... Carefully.
posted by JHarris at 8:32 PM on October 10, 2014


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