307th played so far
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: The NetHack Dev Team
I am writing this post slightly out of order, as this time I really want to make notes while we play the game.
I’ve played Nethack before several times (it being one of the games whose source code got me started on coding, even if I never did much useful stuff with it). This means that going back to the game is an exercise in remembering – I’ve got to do this, look out for that, test here, be careful there.
Nethack is an opensource RPG, a roguelike (that is, derived from Rogue, a game we’ll be playing later). This means large, randomly generated dungeons, usually with ASCII art, and a general rule of going deeper and seeing where you end up before you worry about your mission.
Peter has not played the game ever before, however, and only saw me play it for a bit as prep for this post. Now that he actually is playing, he’s actually quite into it. He’s saying he’s not loving it (I turned out to really like it, oh ye of little faith), but he’s interested enough to give me a running commentary and wonder about what to do. Jeroen makes it sound like I narrate my own life…
Nethack is an interesting game for that, really. Not designed as much as organically grown, the options and possibilities are huge, with interactions that you’d normally dismiss as too complex and unnecessary and features that you may not even use while playing the game. It’s a game where standard gear usually includes a blindfold (for telepathy and beating Medusa) and where you have a use for carrying an expensive camera around with you.
The story is simple – get an amulet from deep down a dungeon (following a few diversions) and then ascend to the heavens to sacrifice it to your deity. The levels are mostly randomly generated, but with a couple of pre-designed levels (some of which are story-related or otherwise notable).
Considering how punishing the game can be – one wrong item used or bit of food eaten, or one bit of pushing forward too much, and you’re dead – it’s amazing what a bit of help and a lot of persistence can do. Peter’s first game made it to level 3 before ending through death (the game’s fully iron man – no save games, you can pause and save to take a break, but not save and continue), which is actually a pretty big accomplishment.
As tough as the game is, the size and openness of it, together with its randomness, also appeals. There’s a lot to pick up on and go through, without immediately being overwhelming – the learning curve somehow actually works to an extent, giving you time and a chance to get used to the game while you do your exploration. While it takes a long time before you master the game so you can finish it (and it really is a skill you need to develop), the initial learning curve isn’t that steep, and actually makes that first part fun.
The interesting thing about this game really is the randomness that it brings. As mentioned I got to Level 3 which I wasn’t aware was an accomplishment for a first game… but apparently it is which says a lot about the game and means I am actually looking forward to playing Rogue.