I recently saw a post from someone who (after 7 years) had finally ascended in NetHack. Ascending in NetHack effectively means beating the game and if you think 7 years is entirely too long to play a game you haven’t beaten; then you haven’t ever played NetHack. I have posted about NetHack previously and suffice to say that I haven’t (in my 6 year of playing) ever come even CLOSE to finishing the game. So to keep all of you from ever ruining your perfectly sane existence I am going to list a number of reasons why NetHack is both THE game by which all other RPGs will be judged and why you should NEVER start playing it!
- –NetHack is the most expansive game ever created. This is partially a product of design. Like Legos, the game is almost stupidly simple, but the byproduct of such simplicity is infinite expandability. Which brings us to the second cause of NetHack’s depth… It has been in constant development for over 20 YEARS! Rogue (the game NetHack was based on) was created in 1980. The origins of NetHack actually pre-date the personal computer!
- –Developers * Time * Design = The DevTeam Think of Everything! (TDTTOE.) This is not a joke. You honestly have to play the game to really “get” how connected each piece of the game is. My favorite example of this comes from GameSpy when NetHack was inducted into their video game hall of fame: Eat a floating eye corpse and you’ll get ESP, which will allow you to see enemies anywhere on the map, but only while blinded. To take advantage of it, you may want to drink a potion of blindness, or preferably, find and wear a blindfold. Of course, while blindfolded, even with ESP you won’t be able to see inanimate objects on the floor — when you find piles of items, your character will have to “feel” for them. Oh, and you won’t be able to read scrolls. Whoops! In that pile of items you just felt is a cockatrice corpse — fortunately you were wearing gloves, otherwise you would’ve been turned to stone just by touching it. But now, blind and protected, you can pick up the cockatrice corpse and use it to attack monsters — now your enemies will turn to stone when you strike them! Unfortunately, their inventory turns to stone as well. Hey, no problem — you’ve got a pick-axe, so you can chisel open their statues to yield a pile of rocks and any of their old possessions. Sadly, thanks to the blindfold, you can’t see a nearby pit and tumble inside. Too bad you were holding the cockatrice corpse — it landed on top of you and turned you to stone. Yet Another Stupid Death, and another reason to cry out in anguish because they think of everything!
- –You get one life in NetHack. ONE! That is it. You can suspend the game but not save it. The closest thing to continuity between games is that you often come across your ghost from previous games (in fact your grave will often have your old loot in it… cursed, TDTTOE.)
- –The game doesn’t care. In fact is probably works directly against you. For example, you simply don’t know how an object will effect a situation until you use it (or until you find some side effect that you can test to discover it.) All objects (potions, scrolls, spell books, etc.) are named differently EVERY GAME. And so until you figure out what a “pinkish gold” potion is THIS TIME, you don’t know what it will do. Then, even if you know what an object is, that doesn’t mean you know if it is cursed or blessed. The game not caring also means that things like alters (or specialized equipment) are not necessarily likely to be the same alignment as you. Hell, the moon phase even effects the game… the REAL MOON PHASE! Oh, and did I mention that the levels are auto-generated and so are NEVER the same.
- –Games go on for DAYS but death always seems to happen suddenly. So just as you really start to get your hopes up, you loose 3 days worth of work in an instant because you get bit by a ware-rat, turn into a rat, and get killed by a group of fire ants that wouldn’t have given you any trouble 10 seconds ago.
- –You have to do everything intentionally! Don’t (I repeat don’t) just go running into a group of enemies and start swinging. Because the game it turn based you REALLY need to consider as many possibilities of what will happen when you do something. You certainly cannot think of everything that could happen but you will live longer if you at least try. Heck, you cannot even leave old/cursed/useless crap laying around because and enemy is likely to pick something up and attack you with it. And if you haven’t played before you probably can count on dying the first 6 times just trying to figure out how you will keep from starving to death.
- –The only friend you have the entire game is your dog… and even god will not help you if you get him killed.
So 7 years isn’t to long to finish a game that was basically designed to be an exercise it masochism. I will be lucky if I am able to ascend sometime in the NEXT 7 years. For those who are not detered may I recommend the Absolute Beginners Guide to NetHack.