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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nethack: A Microcosm of Reality

A quick view at the date of my last post says that I've been neglecting my posting duties.  I blame a small app that's been sucking up every last bit of free time from me.  Normally, I'd call that app "The Stute," and I've been very busy with that.  Instead, the culprit is far simpler: Nethack.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Nethack is a "rougealike": the game is played entirely in text-mode (although there is a version with tiles available), the dungeons are generated randomly on each playthrough, and the game is ridiculously difficult.

Its the last bit that leads me to how Nethack is a microcosm of the modern world.  When you begin, just about everything hates you.  Your only friend is a loyal pet, and if you're not careful, they can turn on you, or worse, die on you.  In the early game, just like a child, you are vulnerable.  A single misstep to the "DYWYPI" (Do you want your possessions identified?) screen.

Something about Nethack strikes me, not only because of the difficulty, but the way in which things can work together.  If a fireball happens to hit a potion, it will boil.  If a rolling boulder trap hits a shopkeeper, the shopkeeper will perish, and any valuables will be squished in the process.  Everything just "clicks."

Like in the real world, when everything works together, its a sight to behold.  That nice big meal means you can travel farther without having to scrounge for food, both in-game and out.  If you're lucky (and skillful enough) to charm an enemy, they can quickly become a friend.

So, Nethack.  For a game that uses glyphs, its more realistic than anything on the market today.

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