As if I didn’t have enough things to do, what with the ongoing writing project (the 1000 words/day project has languished after our last cold, but it’s still going… just not as quickly as I’d like), renewed cooking interests, the ever-recording PVR, books, etc, etc, but for some reason, in a fit of boredom while trying to figure out how to fill my hours at work, I made a huge mistake: I started playing Nethack.
For the uninitiated, Nethack is a 20-year-old game, still in active development, which traces it’s origins back to Rogue, a classic game for the Unix environment. It’s best described as a dungeon hack-and-slash, and has been cited as a direct influence for a number of modern games, including Diablo. The general idea is that you pick a class, race, gender, and possibly alignment, and then start fighting your way though the dungeon, in search of the fabled Amulet of Yendor, which exists somewhere beneath level 20. Once you get it, you must then make your way back up and out of the dungeon.
Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but it does have a few things going for it:
- Randomly generated maps
- ASCII graphics
- An incredible depth and breadth of play
- A good sense of humour
Like the original rogue, every game of Nethack is different. While there are various areas to be discovered (the Gnome Mines, the Sokoban levels, and so forth), the levels themselves are randomly generated every time. Thus, it’s impossible to “finish” Nethack, in a real sense, as you can always come back and try again with an entirely new dungeon to explore. This does mean there’s an element of luck to one’s success in the game, but I think that’s mitigated, to a great extent, but the richness of gameplay available.
Secondly, Nethack is played using plain ol’ ASCII graphics. The walls are dashes and pipes, the doors plus and minus signs, the various items are punctuation marks, and the enemies are letters. Of course, if you like a little flash with your hack-and-slash, you can make use of colours, or even IBM high-ASCII graphics characters! But the purists will tell you that straight-up, B&W ASCII is the only way to go (personally, I like the flash). But why is this a plus, you ask? Because I can ssh to frodo and play from work! cough
Then we have the sheer complexity of the game. Nethack sports an immense number of weapons, armour, items, scrolls, potions, rings, amulets, and random junk, such as pick axes, lanterns, whistles, blindfolds… the list goes on and on. If that weren’t enough, there are a vast number of actions a character can perform, including dipping, throwing, kicking, reading, sitting, praying, eating, casting spells, and many more besides. And what’s truly amazing is that the developers seem to have thought of every possible combination of actions and items, so you can dip your sword in potions, wield rings as weapons, and stick gems in your sling-shot. In addition, your character typically starts off with a pet, which can be tamed and trained, and you can also tame other animals in the game (I was observing one game on nethack.alt.org (a free, public Nethack server) in which the person had tamed a giant of some description). These animals will fight for you, steal for you, and are generally quite useful. Then, to that, add the myriad actions and effects that can happen to your character, and the number of scenarios possible becomes truly bewildering. Get bit by a wererat? Turn into one yourself, randomly transforming into a rat (at least you get a pet rat as a consolation prize). Eat the corpse of a floating eye? Gain… oh, well, I won’t spoil that.
So, yeah… the game is remarkably rich.
Lastly, the game is just plain funny in many ways. As an example, if you eat slime mold, the game will tell you how delicious that slime mold was! Mmmm… and then there’s the grave stones you come across with amusing epitaphs on them, and the odd bit of writing on the floors. Heck, you’ll even occasionally come across your own ghosts from previous deaths (you even get the chance to loot your old corpse).
Unfortunately, the game is also legendary in it’s difficulty. I have yet to make it past level 7 (or was that 6) of the dungeon, and I often die in rather annoying ways (such as getting paralyzed by a floating eye, and then bitten to death by wererats). Oh, and when you die, you’re dead. No save points, no lives. That’s for losers who can’t handle a challenge. Sure, you can save your progress and pick up your game later (some may back up the save files, but this practice, known as “savescumming”, is rather frowned upon), but if you die, that’s it, game over. And yet, despite this, I keep coming back… the damn game is just addictive, somehow.
Which would be why I regret breaking out the Nethack. I just can’t stop playing it. “Maybe next time I’ll make it to level 8,” I tell myself. “Maybe I’ll be an Archaeologist next time! Or a human instead of a gnome. Or maybe I’ll spend some time in the Gnome Mines before going down the main dungeon. Or.. or… or…” It’s like frickin’ crack. I just wonder if I’ll ever be able to get this monkey off my back (or, at least tame him so he’ll steal stuff from shops and fight my enemies for me).
It’s 12:53am on Saturday night. I just finished watching an episode of Stargate and decided to pop open the laptop to quickly check email. And I seriously considered playing another frickin’ game of Nethack…
Why did I install you, StumbleUpon? WHY???
Okay, so a little background, StumbleUpon is this browser extension that adds a toolbar to your browser. If you hit “Stumble”, it’ll search for websites it thinks you might like. Then you rate them. It has categories, so you can select particular subject matter, and you can even post comments and read what other people have to say.
Well, as you can imagine, this is an immense time waster. I mean, it’s really bad. It’s like the Del.icio.us front page, except less work. And the stuff I’ve found? Well, here’s a few gems:
- Taylor Hall Planet Perplex
- Kid Creatures
- The above lead me to: The Monster Engine
- Gummi Bear Sculptures
- T-Shirt Stencil Tutorial
- Crazy Bathroom. StumbleUpon actually found a blog entry on this subject, and some co-workers tracked it down on Snopes.
And those are just the things I thought were really cool. I just wish I hadn’t found yet another way to procrastinate at work.
I just came across this. It has photos and virtual tours of various Asian temples and other buildings. Very very neat.
Wow. So Lenore returned from Regina yesterday morning at around 5:00 am and opted to go straight into work, and so I decided to go in early, so we could bail out from work around 2:00 pm. That evening we then proceeded to rent a few movies, two of which were 1-day’s, so we had to watch them right away.
Well, the first movie was “Dreamer”. Think Seabiscuit, but with a little girl instead. Or, put another way, a chick flick with a horse. But, hey, it wasn’t “She’s the Man”, so I can’t really complain. And it had Kris Kristofferson … and, really, how can you go wrong with Kris Kristofferson?
The second movie was “Domino”. Now, I don’t know if it was because it was late and I was tired (we started the movie at 10:00, and I’d been up for 16 hours by that point), but “Domino” must be one of the worst attempts at a stylized action movie I’ve seen in quite some time. Plot? Atrocious… so confusing, I don’t think the writers knew what was going on. The “style”? Horribly distracting. In retrospect, the reason I found the movie so confusing may have been from the epileptic seizures the visuals were triggering. Frankly, I think the only purpose of this movie was to show how awesomely badass Keira Knightley could be. The problem is, she was really not that awesome at all… in fact, she was pretty terrible.
But, in the end, I think the real question is this: why didn’t I just stop watching this movie?!? I just kept watching and watching, even though the movie went from scene to scene delving deeper and deeper into realms of suck rarely visited, let alone depicted in film. I could have made it all stop, but I didn’t. I let myself down. And for that, I apologize to me.
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