Thursday, February 17, 2022

Angband: Setback

 
I try to clear out giant fleas before they take over the level.
       
Angband's primary strength, at least for the first major section, is a constant feedback loop of character development and inventory improvement. You're almost always on the cusp of a new level or being able to afford or identify a new item. It's fun for a while, then gets extraordinarily repetitive, and then comes back around and is fun for a while again. I say that still having only experienced 17 of the game's 100 levels. For all I know, there's a second-level pattern to the experience that I've yet to discover.
   
I don't know why any developer would make a game, let alone a permadeath game, this long. Moria was already insane at 50 levels (and it must be remembered, Moria's and Angband's levels are at least four times as large as Rogue's and NetHack's), and the author of Moria was a confessed sadist who deliberately "patched" the game every time someone won. What then to make of Cutler and Astrand? We often hear tales of bright university students who flunked out because they couldn't stop playing video games, but this is perhaps the first game I've encountered that would have absolutely demanded it. Without full-time attention, I suspect you couldn't win it in four years.
    
My Angband efforts have hit several snags since I last blogged about it in December, the first being that I accidentally overwrote the file in which I was keeping notes on my experiences. (I know--backups, versioning, cloud, blah blah blah.) The others are more substantive: I suffered my first character death, and then a second character death wiped away several hours of valuable progress.
      
My current, or at least recent, equipment loadout.
     
Since I began playing, I made a habit of backing up the save file every time I went back to town. I didn't have to use it until last week, when I was on Level 13 and I encountered "Golfimbul, the Hill Orc Chief." He pounded the hell out of my hit points. My general strategy had been to cast "Portal" to get away from enemies when they knocked my hit points too low, so I did that here, but it only took me about three spaces away from him. He closed the distance and finished me off with one blow. I should have tried it sooner, and I should have had a "Phase Door" backup scroll. 
   
I reloaded and dealt with him, earning myself a "Law Dragon Scale Mail" when he died.
 
On Level 17, I encountered a patch of "icky blue things." These bastards are capable of inflicting poison, confusion, and blindness, and they multiply like hell. You can just stay ahead of their reproduction if you're not blind and confused. It took me hours to clear them, and during the process, I went from character Level 17 to Level 22. 
   
It was important for me not to leave the level because I'd gotten a "good feeling" when I arrived, and I wanted to find the artifact. This was my undoing. Late in the level, I encountered "Boldor, King of the Yeeks" and some minion of his, the type of which I lost with my lost notes. Together, they killed me, and I lost all the levels and progress I'd made since Level 14.
      
Boldor was my doom.
     
I had a lot of other stuff to say in that lost notepad, but now I can only think of a few things based on my screenshots and current status:
    
  • I'm not sure what happened, but I lost a lot of maximum mana. My mana maxed at around 18 when I was back on Level 13, but nowadays it's maxing at 8. This means that I don't have enough to cast even one of the new spells I'm learning. I don't know how that happened; I didn't suffer any attribute drains.
  • At some point, I found a Longsword of Slay Evil, with which I replaced my primary weapon. Despite its name, I don't notice that it's killing monsters faster than my old magical longsword.
  • In an ironic echo of WarWizard, I sometimes can't sell items because the shopkeeper "has not the room in [his] store to keep it."
      
Then expand.
     
  • Other named enemies have included Nar, the Dwarf; Wormtongue, Agent of Saruman; and Orfax, son of Boldor. Orfax was pretty annoying. The game had him dance around me, urinate on my leg, moon me, and do all other sorts of ridiculous nonsense.
     
I return the gesture to this entire game.
          
And that short entry is my report from 10 more hours with this unending slog of a roguelike. Maybe I'll have another update in March.
    
Time so far: 20 hours
     

69 comments:

  1. The game has an encumbrance mechanism where if you're wearing too heavy armor compared to your strength it reduces your max mana.

    You also, especially as a Paladin, need to curate an escape kit. I'm ROT13'ing this out of excessive caution, since it contains only things that were in a FAQ that I definitely had access to along with the game back in the day and were not marked spoilers (there was also a spoiler FAQ). Univat n fgnss bs gryrcbegngvba vf rfcrpvnyyl vzcbegnag fvapr lbh pna hfr vg juvyr oyvaq, pbashfrq rgp. V qba'g erzrzore vs va guvf irefvba bs Natonaq, cbgvbaf bs pher frevbhf jbhaqf be bayl pher pevgvpny jbhaqf pher pbashfvba, ohg gur urny cbgvbaf pna pher rssrpgf.

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    1. This is a key spoiler, essential to long-term survival. Highly recommend reading it if you want to save yourself lots of reloading.

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  2. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 17, 2022 at 9:11 PM

    Seems like a rough patch with a few questionable games all hitting at once. Your readers support whatever decision you make - but that includes if you skip questionable games like this one for more palatable fare.

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  3. What does it mean that items often have two numbers after them, e.g. Iron Helm (5,-1)?

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    1. For armor, the first is the base bonus to armor for the item type, and the second is the modification due to magic or acid damage. For weapons, the first (which will always be signed) is the bonus or penalty to hit, the second to damage.

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    2. Completely unrelated, Korath, but are you playing some ancient card game electronically by chance?

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    3. I haven't read it in a while so I might have the name wrong, but is this a John Dies at the End reference?

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  4. I'm starting to get a funny feeling that we won't be seeing all those Angband variations... ;p
    Having never played very far in any Angband version I'm suddenly feeling less guilty about leaving it. Very few games can sustain the kind of length this seems to have and even fewer are roguelikes. I shutter to think about trying to play this completely legit...

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    1. Hopefully we won't. Seems like a waste of everyone's time to play a multitude of versions of the same roguelikes?

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    2. Maybe I put that too harshly, but it is something I've been curious about.

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    3. I don't know about the various versions of vanilla Angband, but the variants with an overworld, multiple dungeons, quests (of course all much more recent than the base game being played here) are my absolute favorite family of roguelikes. Very recognizably descended from this, but so much more varied in every way.

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    4. Eh, I dunno, the dungeon is a bit big but at least in modern versions of Angband, I've found it way quicker to make progress in Angband as compared to the other major old-school roguelikes. Despite its shorter length, Nethack has a much, much steeper learning curve and ADOM is similarly big but also harder and has a lot of hidden systems you'll need many long play-throughs to begin understanding. As a result, I've won Angband completely legitimately like 7 or 8 times and had a lot of fun doing it, whereas I've can't say I can consistently even get to the midgame in any other roguelike (nor do I find the learning process sufficiently fun to motivate me to get better).

      Re variants, yeah, I don't think it's worth anyone's while to force Chet to play additional ones, and there aren't significant ones coming up anytime soon -- ToME/Troubles of Middle Earth and Sil are the two that are influential and/or different enough to maybe be worth dipping into. First Age Angband is probably my favorite, though, for maintaining the Angband gameplay while incorporating a more diverse world and leaning more fully into the Tolkein angle.

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    5. Heh, just what Chet desires: "leaning more fully into the Tolkien angle."

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    6. I dunno, I thought Chet had said he was sick of Tolkien references in games, and that he found his prose hard to get through, but I seem to recall him liking the worldbuilding of the Interplay LOTR games? While the prose question is neither here nor there, Angband definitely runs afoul of the "superficial Tolkien references" trap, but some of the variants lean into the source material in ways that aren't just about slapping his names on tired CRPG tropes.

      Sil in particular is a real breath of fresh air in how it builds a magic system that feels very faithful to Tolkien (it's all built around songs, and morale and light/darkness are the most important elements it can influence) and entirely different from any other CRPG magic system I've ever played. It's also much shorter than Angband (only 20 dungeon levels) but I find it harder -- if you like Angband it's definitely worth checking out just to see how it changes things, and if you do like Tolkien I think it's by far the best video-game adaptation there is.

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  5. If an issue is lack of space, buy a cheap item like that dagger in the screenshot, and bam, you've got space. Also, periodically stores refresh and change their inventory. Getting thrown out for too much haggling will force a reset.

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  6. If it took you 20 hours to get to dungeon level 17, you are playing this game way too slow. This is not Nethack where you can carefully consider every move. When I play Angband and when I've seen others play it, the frequency of key presses is almost as if typing text. The skill is to be able to play fast and still not die. That means risk mitigation and learning to notice dangerous situations in advance, knowing when to slow down.

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    1. As someone who has been playing *bands for many years without being very good or successful at them, I partially agree. I certainly play them (more modern versions, of course) much faster than Chet is (for now), but I know at least the basics of what items to be on the lookout for, what items to safely ignore, what enemy types to avoid etc. To get to that point, of course you'll take things more slowly in the beginning. From reading these entries, the progress does seem exceptionally slow, but maybe v.2.4 is just that much more deadly.

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    2. v2.4 is not *that* much more deadly. Chet is being extremely overcautious—which, of course, leads both to the game feeling like it is very long and boring, *and* significantly reducing (or at least diluting) the reward one gets from advancing to new levels, finding new cool stuff, and defeating tougher monsters.

      I can, however, hardly blame him, given that he doesn't want to devote several years of his game-playing time to getting good at Angband specifically. It is definitely a game that feels more fun to play once you have a really good *feel* for what's safe, what's risky, and what's too dangerous to do, but I doubt there's a way to communicate or teach that beyond just losing a dozen or so characters at increasing depths.

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    3. 'Chet is being extremely overcautious'

      I didn't get that impression when he described how his character died at level 22. On the other hand, I know next to nothing about Angband, except its steep learning curve which has been mentioned by others.

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    4. I dunno, I've found Angband's learning curve much gentler than the average roguelike -- of course that may be damning with faint praise, but if you can learn how to play NetHack, you can definitely figure out Angband's tricks pretty quickly.

      Anyway what's odd here is that Chet is playing both extremely overcautiously and very recklessly at the same time. On the former, it looks like he's going through levels slowly and exhaustively, but on the latter, he's also running around trying to kill all the uniques he comes across without adequate ways of avoiding or escaping fights (he's just using town portal, it sounds like, which has a multi-turn countdown -- he should have dozens of scrolls of town portal and at least one staff of teleportation by this point, some of which should be buyable in town).

      The inventory/gear game is definitely one of the fun parts of Angband, but the other is skating the risk/reward dynamic: having a go at uniques, cracking open vaults with out-of-depth monsters and seeing what you can make off with. As he's currently playing, though, it doesn't seem like Chet is getting much of that and it's all risk, low reward -- go figure that's not very enjoyable! I haven't played this version of Angband so I'm not sure how easy it'd be to shift to a more typical playstyle, but I hope for his sake and ours that he manages it.

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    5. Chet's playstyle is fairly typical for a new player, in my experience. You do need either some level of game knowledge, or a willingness to simply dive quickly and potentially splatter several characters in a row to challenges out of your league. I would tend to agree that having a source of teleportation and a willingness to simply abandon dangerous levels goes a long way. Other than the Phial, which Chet already has, few of the early-game artifacts are worth risking death for.

      Even though this game is quite long, I think it's a game poorly suited to making character backups to save your progress in, compared to most roguelikes. A lot of the game knowledge that lets you play fast is along the lines of "okay, I can dive down to level x, but I'd better not go past that until I have certain equipment or spells...", stuff that's most easily gained by just going down fast until you hit a wall.

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    6. So what people are saying seems to be: Even of the most experienced RPGamers in the world cant intuit how to play Angband such that its fun.

      if the fun is locked behind research on message boards, I think that’s evidence of poor design.

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    7. I think this is true to a certain degree - Angband, like the rest of the mainline roguelikes and early text adventures, I think came from a context where the assumption was that lots of people would be playing it and comparing notes. At the same time, it’s a much more beer-and-pretzels affair than something like NetHack, where if you don’t look at spoilers you need to create a spreadsheet to track which monsters’ corpses you must never eat, and which you have to eat, and populate it through dozens of trial-and-error permadeaths.

      The play style thing here is more confusing to me, first because the diving approach folks describe isn’t in my experience at all necessary to have fun (I didn’t do it when I was new to the game, and I still don’t do it after having won a bunch of times) but also because the feeling that the game is too slow feels like it should be largely self-correcting - like, if you play a recent Assassin’s Creed game by systematically working from one side of the giant map to the other, you might find it boring, since you’ll spend a lot of time wandering through semi empty areas, and occasionally hard, because you might run across an out of level location or enemy associated with a quest you haven’t picked up yet. And sure, if you go on the message boards you’ll see that folks mostly don’t play that way, but that’s hardly arcane lore. There’s plenty of dungeon in Angband, and it even tells you when there’s not much interesting on a level so you should just take the first stairs down you find!

      (This early version I think eventually punish that common-sense approach due to how the monster and item spawning are tuned, which I definitely agree is a flaw - but that isn’t the issue Chet’s running into)

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    8. Chet is certainly not one of the most experienced RPGamers in the world. He is a good reviewer but a rather average player (as is the usual case with people who expertly review many things but never become experts themselves). And yes, Angband is one of the easiest rogue-likes to get into (winning it is another matter).

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    9. I posit that it's possible for one to be experienced without necessarily being good, and I would also argue that Chet is _very_ experienced in a way that few people are since he has played something like at least 500 CRPGs, many of them to completion. I can't imagine many people rivaling that.

      Having said that, there surely must exist people who have put in more hours in total into CRPGs than Chet has, especially if we include MMORPGs. I myself have wasted an embarassing number of hours on dreck such as Diablo III.

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    10. Reader, I too think you might be confused about the meaning of the word ‘experienced’. Chet has finished a broader swathe of -1993 RPGs than probably anyone alive. It doesn’t mean he’s some sort of god gamer, but it does mean he is very practiced at approaching RPGs and recognising their conventions.

      Calling Chet a ‘rather average player’ is just silly.

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  7. I honestly don't know why anyone would make/play a roguelike meant to last more than a couple of hours, outside of pure sadism/masochism. This just seems like purgatory.

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    1. Because it meant something.

      Back in the day, nethack wasn't just a game, it was the game. It was included with Unix! It was a part of hacker culture, as degraded as that is now. Today, nethack is just one of the ancient roguelikes, outdated and lame, hardly worth playing. But back then, it was something special. Kind of like rewatching old Seinfeld episodes. Have you done that recently? They're old hat and unfunny, but when that show was on it was the best TV had to offer.

      I played nethack on and off for a long time. I'd play for a while, stop for 6-12 months, pick it up again, quit, etc. It took me ten years before I ascended for the first time. And that was with spoilers. Of course, I didn't have Youtube speedrunners to refer to, so I did it my way. And you better bet it really meant something when I #offered the Amulet of Yendor on the altar that corresponded with my alignment. It was a feather in my cap that I still proudly wear today.

      But now, yeah, old and busted. "Gamers" (which are a thing now) react poorly to games that don't reward with constant progress. Getting a real game over feels frustrating, and why play a game if it's just going to give you a bad feeling? I totally get it. Seinfeld is unfunny.

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    2. Both of you should probably take a look at Dwarf Fortress. It's a game still in development and it's even more "masochistic" than roguelikes. Its official motto is "Losing Is Fun"!

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    3. Dwarf Fortress is planning a steam release, believe it or not.

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    4. Dwarf Fortress is neat. I tend to think of that more as the world's most complicated city builder than a traditional roguelike.

      Old Man Harland needs to go yell at someone else's cloud because I'm not reading all that 'gatdang kids today' crap.

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    5. That's a personal attack. You didn't actually address any arguments or refute anything that was said.

      Dwarf Fortress has far more in common with Minecraft than nethack. It's the codepage 437 graphics that throw people off.

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    6. I'm really not sure why you take it as a personal attack if I suggest you take a look at Dwarf Fortress. And I mention that game because it's "masochistic", not because it's a roguelike.

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    7. Yeah, and I believe DF actually has a roguelike adventure mode, too.

      (FWIW I thought the “personal attack” thing was a reply to the Anon poster’s “old man Harland” bit, which did seem out of line to me).

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    8. I assumed in the first paragraph he was talking about the "Old Man Harland" comment from Anonymous. Technically, yes, an ad hominem response, but I also think it's a bit apt. I find Harland to generally have fantastic insight, presented in the most difficult possible way to engage with. I can relate.

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    9. I think there's something here. People who grew up playing computer games in the 80s (like myself) have a different perspective than gamers now. I'm reminded of the college prof who tried to teach Ultima to his class and they complained that the game was unplayable.

      https://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2010/09/unplayable.html

      Also, I gave my 10yo nephew a copy of Hades for Christmas. He enjoyed the game at first, but said it got boring after he beat Hades once and he couldn't stomach the endless dying and repetition. I think he would have stopped playing Nethack and Angband much earlier.

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    10. I think some of it is due to changing interface conventions. I've repeatedly hammered on iPhone buttons in anger until I found out you had to swipe them (why would you swipe a button???). Likewise, interfaces of my parent's generation would probably be cumbersome for me, timeless interfaces like elevator buttons aside.

      On the other hand, there are still lots of people that invest insane amounts of time into a single game (Mincraft, Eve Online etc. come to my mind). And not every 80s gamer spent hundreds of hours playing games like Nethack.

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    11. Given the dramatic success of Roguelites these days, I think maybe there's less of a difference than you might think based on a couple anecdotes. Less patience for things like poorly designed UI or parsers, probably.

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    12. To be fair, Dwarf Fortress also has a UI that's extremely incomprehensible.

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  8. "I don't know why any developer would make a game, let alone a permadeath game, this long."

    Some don't think it's long enough! ZangbandTK added an overland and multiple dungeons, and a quest system whereby every few levels you had to clear out a bunch of hard monsters to progress deeper!

    I agree with Anonymous about long roguelikes. Rogue is brutally unfair, but a run is only two hours. If it's much bigger than Rogue I think it's better to make an RPG-like with some alternative to permadeath. For most players anyway - some clearly do like the permadeath.

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    1. I'm going to emphasize that yes, a lot of its fans don't think standard Angband is long or large enough -- it's a significant reason why there are so many Angband variants.

      This happens in the fandom of any game that's already very time-consuming -- grand strategy games like Sid Meier's Civilization or Crusader Kings; Dwarf Fortress; and some MMORPGs also have fandoms like this.

      The original Sid Meier's Civilization is the only of those Chester has passed on his timeline, and both isn't an RPG and was released too long ago, so Angband is the first case Chester would have run into.

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  9. When I read accounts of winning Angband, people seem to do 'dives', usually using Scrolls of Deep Descent. They get themselves into challenging situations and then escape with Scrolls of Return. I think XP and treasure rewards are greater when you are under-leveled. I tend to play cautiously like Chet is currently, and it's quite a grind. It seems like 'dives' speed up the pace of the game quite a bit. (This all assumes these things are part of this version. I've only played later versions.)

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    1. Diving in Angband is like drinking from early fountains in Nethack in search of wishes; it can certainly shorten the interval between wins, but only if you're at least up to the "can win with an early-game windfall" skill threshold.

      What hasn't changed from old versions is that if you don't have poison resistance, one breath from an undamaged AMHD is pretty much guaranteed to be an instant kill unless you're a warrior.

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    2. Yeah, diving has its risks as well as its rewards -- and it's definitely not necessary. I think I didn't really do much diving until I'd won the game 3-4 times? Now I can win pretty consistently, but I still usually only read like one Deep Descent scroll per game -- I'm a slow, cautious player, but it still probably only takes like 20 hours to get to Morgoth this way (I think it probably took me more like 40 hours to get my first win?)

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    3. I don't think that scroll even exists in frog-knows.

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    4. Yeah if Scrolls of Deep Dives exist in this version, I haven't seen them.

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    5. They don't exist in frog-knows.

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    6. It looks like Deep Descent was added in Angband v3.1 (2009) – it's there in 3.1.1 and not there in 3.0.0 (2002).

      It might have been somewhere in 3.0.1 through 3.0.9 but I don't feel like downloading them all :)

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  10. 'Late in the level, I encountered "Boldor, King of the Yeeks" and some minion of his, the type of which I lost with my lost notes.'

    Without context, this sounds utterly retarded, but I love the blog (among else) for producing sentences like this.

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  11. Roguelikes are different, so you have to play them differently.

    You don't need to explore the whole level
    You don't need to kill all the enemies
    You don't have to find all items in a level

    You only have to survive, that's it.

    The best way to advance quickly is going deep quickly, but have a plan on when to run. You always need an exit strategy, survival is key.

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    1. How true this is varies a lot between roguelikes, and how effectively you can execute that strategy relies a lot on experience (or spoilers). I believe Chet has logged most of his roguelike time on NetHack so far, and rapid diving is much less advisable in that game than it is in Angband. And he's playing unspoiled.

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    2. Probably the biggest problem with the version Chester is playing is that you can permanently miss artifacts. What then happens is clear to see: players are tempted to stay on a level far longer than is reasonable, in more than one sense of that phrase.

      That hasn't been true in general play since the Third Age of Angband (Ben Harrison era), which was 25+ years ago.

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  12. I agree that *bands in general are too long, although this is mostly disregarded by expert players who dive deep quickly for extra rewards, picking out vulnerable monsters and avoiding tough ones.

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    1. Our host isn't an "expert player". He's playing the game from the beginning, according to how he thinks it should be played. Crazy, I know.

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    2. I am trying to be more aggressive now that winning without dying isn't on the table.

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    3. The natural tendency of people new to Angband is to play ultra-conservatively. This doesn't happen in any of Nethack (any version), DCSS (any version), or ADOM (the exception in this case is the Angband-like location, especially in older versions), which all tend to kill you outright rather than encourage endless farming.

      To save you time, the strategy I'd recommend is the following (ROT-13):

      1. Trg nf znal fbheprf bs phevat naq gryrcbegngvba nf lbh pna. Pher Pevgvpny cbgvbaf ner gur phevat glcr lbh jnag gb fgbpxcvyr, va cerggl zhpu nal fgnaqneq irefvba bs Natonaq. Gur Cbegny fcryy lbh unir vf bar fbhepr bs gryrcbegngvba, ohg vg vf arire nqrdhngr sbe n cnynqva; gur fgnaqneq frpbaq fbhepr vf nal ribxnoyr fbhepr (fgnss bs gryrcbegngvba vf gur zbfg pbzzba).
      2. Gur bayl yriry srryvat gung ernyyl znggref sbe zvffvat creznarag negvsnpgf vf gur "fcrpvny" bar. Vs lbh trg n"tbbq" srryvat, gung'f bsgra avpr ohg srry serr gb fxngr vs nalguvat qnatrebhf be boabkvbhf fubjf hc.
      3. Bgurejvfr V'q qb n pbagebyyrq qrfprag gb yriryf guvegl-gjb naq -guerr (fvkgrra uhaqerq-fbzrguvat qrcgu, va srrg). Va guvf fcrpvsvp irefvba, gung'f gur orfg pbzcebzvfr orgjrra orfg erjneqf naq yrnfg qnatre.

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  13. This is why I never won a roguelike, and probably never will.

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  14. I had the pleasure of working with one of Angband's creators, Alex Cutler, for the first 10 years of my career. He was the resident Unix expert and his skills and depth of knowledge was awe inspiring for a newbie like me.

    I worked with him for years before I found out he wrote Angband but then got to ask him a bit about it.

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    1. What a treat. Angband was a huge influence for me in shaping my gaming preferences--I really love games with complex systems under the hood, particularly just well designed items, creatures, spells, etc. Angband blew me away with the sheer quantity (and quality) of *what was left still to find.* Always a new unique around the corner, or an undiscovered artifact that, upon wielding, could radically shift the power differential between you and your opposition.

      Great stuff.

      Once you get the hang of it (that is, really learn the bestiary through trial and error and get good at optimizing your kit) winning started to feel inevitable to me, barring a lapse in a certain kind of focus that the game required.

      If anyone reading wants a much *shorter* version of that kind of intense focus, I'd suggest giving Rogue's Tale a shot. It's incredibly brutal but strangely rewarding as you inch your way to understanding it. It also turns a lot of roguelike preceptions on their head.

      At the moment, I'd rate it as the most challenging roguelike I've played. It also has some very nice hidden systems that continuously surprise you as you make your slow progress through the game and stacks of failed characters. :)

      --Adam

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    2. JR, you ended your story before the interesting part. What did you learn from him?

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    3. Feels like you should let him know about this blog and encourage him to drop in.

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    4. Heh, he didn't really have much to say about it to be honest, although did suggest (perhaps in jest) that of the two creators, he did most of the programming.

      I don't think it was honestly something he spent a lot of time thinking about as he'd moved on to writing other things (not as nearly as interesting as an RPG though!).

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  15. At some point, I found a Longsword of Slay Evil, with which I replaced my primary weapon. Despite its name, I don't notice that it's killing monsters faster than my old magical longsword.

    Slay evil should give a double bonus against *evil* enemies. Not all enemies are evil in the game (although most are). Also base characteristics matter, it could be that your old sword is simply better.

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  16. For whatever it's worth (play however it's fun for you), saving and restoring in roguelikes that prohibit it is called "save scumming" and is viewed as undermining the game (you don't learn necessary strategies and any accomplishments aren't as impressive).

    Many view it as cheating (yourself, since it's a single player game, but still cheating).

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    1. I don't expect every commenter to read my entire blog history before commenting, but still, the idea that someone thinks this needs to be explained to me is a bit baffling.

      For the record, because of the "save scumming" taboo, I won both Rogue and NetHack version 3 honestly. But I'm trying to play every RPG here, and I don't have time to spend years feeding thousands of characters into the grinder of every sadistic roguelike that comes along. I do my best to avoid death for as long as possible, then resort to "save scumming" just so I can experience what the rest of the game has to offer. I agree it's not as impressive to win in that manner, but I also think that it's sadistic to apply permadeath to a game that's going to take 100 hours to win even without scumming.

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    2. Eh. I save-scummed the hell out of Umoria when I was a teenager in the early 90s. I also did the same thing to PC-Hack so I could experiment with stuff like the wand of wishing. I didn't personally care how if faraway community of people I was never going to meet viewed me as a cheater.

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  17. I remember beating this in a few weeks back in the school, without outside help. As soon as I figured out the level messages and stair scumming, I ended up with Bladeturner on my paladin. It was smooth sailing from there.

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  18. I do wonder if the nature of roguelikes might mean a special 'roguelike rule' for their inclusion in the blog, both in the interests of time and acknowledging some of their key differences from a 'standard' CRPG.

    The rule might be something about experiencing the roguelike 'comprehensively' instead of completing it. Enough for a solid understanding of the game and it's mechanics, far enough to get a good GIMLET, but without going as far as finishing. Or getting to a comprehensive understanding, and then modding/cheating to finish.

    This isn't JUST because they can be incredibly long and punishingly difficult, not JUST because of the time element. I'm thinking this way for a few reasons.

    Most roguelikes, particularly the ones that we are encountering chronologically, aren't commercial games, competing in the same marketplace as something like Dark Sun or Ultima or the Gold Box games. They are developed in various versions of open source or community led design, (which I think is a good thing) but it means that the design is being implemented without consideration of it's viability or commercial appeal.

    The designers of Dark Sun want you to finish. They may get the balancing wrong, but the hope is that you'll experience as much as the game has to offer.

    I'm playing Baldur's Gate 1 Enhanced Edition right now, and the major sub-quests added to the main one are very difficult! But there is a way through them, and you can save constantly. The challenge is present without the repetition.

    The gestalt designers of most roguelikes don't have that goal; you're not expected to find every item or meet every monster in a playthrough.

    (Not to mention the capacity for designers to fork the code and create a different version because they want something different... more difficulty, more weirdness, a tighter thematic focus, etc.)

    Even the permadeath angle: a commercial CRPG doesn't intend for you to start over again and again every time a character or party member dies. Whereas finishing a roguelike presupposes an enormous cemetery of previous characters, first to learn the game, and then at the mercy of the procedural generation that will skewer even the best intentions.

    None of this are knocks against roguelikes: I myself am a big fan of the genre, and what I've described above are connected to the virtue they hold for it's fans... challenge and variety.

    But they are a fundamentally different beast from the majority of games that Chester has and will play.

    Put another way, this seems equivalent to a book review blog working it's way through all the entries in a novelistic genre, but occasionally coming across a 10,000 page tome created through an 'exquisite corpse' method within very specific subgenre. And it is only read by a niche audience. It is an interesting artifact, it plays by many similar rules as the novels, but also does things so very differently that skimming it seems allowable.

    I know Chester has made the point that he's not excusing games in his GIMLET because of where they are in the development of the genre, and I think that's a fine position. But roguelikes, as a sub-genre, are coming at their design and intention from such a different direction that it feels worth recognizing, or at least considering, a modified rubric for them here.

    This, to me, would allow for Chester to satisfy the spirit of the overall intention of the blog, while also allowing him to not remain stuck in something that may have lost his enjoyment.

    Maybe the 'roguelike rule' would mean any game that fits the (often contentious) roguelike definitions: permadeath, procedural generation, turn-based, etc. Edge cases allowing judgment calls, of course. 'Game XYZ fits the rule but is known to be finishable quickly.'

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    1. P.S. The scope of these roguelikes does make me wonder if there's value in a similar style blog that ONLY focuses on roguelikes. I know Dwarf Fortress has had bloggers and youtubers develop stories based on their game experiences. There would certainly be enough hours spent in gameplay to generate lots of posts!

      Not suggesting Chester start that blog! But I'd love to read it if it existed. Or maybe a project for a few years from now...

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