Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Greatest Computer Game of All Time

Maybe people don't believe it at first sight, but below is a screen capture of the greatest video game ever made, a game I have been playing for around 15 years-- Nethack.

Fundamentally, the game is a dungeon crawl. You have to take your level 1 character down through the many levels of the Dungeons of Doom, find the Amulet of Yendor, and escape with it. The game itself has been under development for 30+ years-- the source code to game is freely available, leading to a variety of people contributing to the game throughout the years.
Most people are turned off my the ASCII graphics and the UNIX vi direction controls, but if you download the PC version (as opposed to telnetting to, there is a nice graphical overlay and you can use your keyboard's arrow keys to control your character.
In this screenshot, I have just cleared the fifth level of the Dungeons, the first level of the Gnomish Mines. I let the game select my character class at random, so I'm playing a Tourist, one of the hardest character classes. In the middle of the level, I ran into some Hill Orcs. They always come in groups, and are pretty tough at low levels, so I was worried. To make matters much, much worse, one of them had a wand of Create Monster, and zapped it empty before I could get to him. Even worse, the Orcs and all their various creations were ALL between me and both the up and down stairs. However, I was pretty handy with my +2 darts, and had about 30 of them, and I had a drum. I started beating my drum, and scared off the Orcs and all the non-undead creatures they had summoned. My pet dog Hastur and I finished off the undead, although he was of limited use due to his tendancy to stop at every non-rotten corpse and eat it! Using a couple of Healing potions I had, and the drum and my Expensive Camera to cause fear in the all the creatures, I managed to attack the creatures piecemeal and defeat them. Whew! It really is one heck of a great game.

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