Saturday, December 4, 2021

Game 439: Angband [2.4] (1993)

 
           
Angband [2.4]
United States
Independently developed and offered as freeware
First public release 1993 for Unix and DOS
Date Started: 3 November 2021
    
The story of Angband goes back to Moria (1983), one of the earliest post-Rogue roguelikes. It was written on a VMS system by Robert Alan Koeneke after he became addicted to, then lost access to, Rogue. (Primary information about the history of Moria comes from Koeneke's 1996 recollections on a Usenet group, now archived by Google.) He designed the game to be not only difficult but essentially unbeatable, continually patching it with new horrors every time someone managed to eke out a win. Koeneke released the source code in 1995, and various authors got to work porting it (and modifying it) for different systems, including the DOS version I played. The UNIX port by James E. Wilson became known as UMoria.
   
University of Warwick students Alex Cutler and Andy Astrand took the UMoria codebase and, starting in 1990, began working on what would become Angband. (Here I switch primarily to the history of the game at RogueBasin.) They added items, monsters, and other features; streamlined the code; and significantly expanded the Tolkien references. When Cutler and Astrand departed the university, they passed management of the files on to Geoff Hill and Sean Marsh. The first public release came in 1993, with the enigmatic version number of "2.4.Frog-knows." (I am compelled to note a 1992 children's book called Frog Knows Best and a 1967 Bewitched episode titled "Nobody but a Frog Knows How to Live.") Charles Teague created a DOS port the same year, and here we are. The story continues beyond 1993, of course, but we'll cover that in later editions.
   
The predecessor only had Moria and the balrog. This game has "Grip, Farmer Maggot's dog."
      
In character creation, Angband is almost identical to Moria. You choose a race from human, half-elf, elf, hobbit, gnome, dwarf, half-orc, half-troll, Dunadan, and high elf options. From Moria, "halfling" has been replaced with "hobbit," and Dunadan [sic? Maybe? I don't know.] and high elf options are new. You choose sex and then class. Class options are warrior, mage, priest rogue, ranger, and paladin with various race restrictions (e.g., half-trolls can only be warriors or priests; hobbits can only be warriors, mages, or rogues). Attributes are the standard Dungeons & Dragons set: strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, and charisma.
    
The game offers a couple of interesting options for attribute rolling, in addition to the customary method of simply rolling 3-18 (plus or minus racial modifiers) and being happy with what you get, you can instead specify a minimum number that you'll accept for each attribute, and the game will keep rolling until it finds that character. You can do an errand, have lunch, or go to bed in the meantime. At default CPU speeds, it rolls about 22 potential characters per second, or about 1,300 per minute. 
     
If you decide to roll the character yourself, you can reject as many sets of attributes as you want until you get a selection that pleases you. But it saves the most recent set that you rejected, so if you commit common error of rejecting a perfect character because you fell into a rhythm, you can retrieve him. This game is a "first" in offering both options.
   
Like Moria, Angband also offers a series of derived abilities, their levels set by a combination of race, class, and attribute: fighting, stealth, perception, bows, disarming, searching, saving throws, magic devices, and infravision distance. You also get a set of statistics over which you have no control: age, height, weight, social class, to hit, to damage, and armor class. A few lines are plucked from a database to serve as a "character background," but you only see this if you don't choose the automatic rolling option.
      
A completed character.
    
Gameplay begins on a town level, again as in Moria (but not Rogue and the NetHack line). The character begins with a few items suitable to his class; my Dunadan paladin had a broadsword, 5 rations of food, a Holy Book of Prayers, a Scroll of Protection from Evil, and 5 wooden torches. Characters can visit a weapon shop, an armorer, a temple, a general store, a magic shop, an alchemist, and the character's own home, the last one appearing for the first time in Angband. You can store excess items here. Although the dungeon consists of hundreds of levels, the character returns to town frequently via Scrolls of Recall. The stores all have plenty of items worth saving for.
        
I certainly don't need item i); it's winter in Maine!
          
As with Moria, random annoying NPCs wander the town: aimless merchants; singing, happy drunks; sneaky rogues; street urchins; blubbering idiots. They pick your pocket, beg you for money, start fights, and otherwise encourage you to just kill them, for which there seems to be no reward or penalty. Angband does not offer any other means of productively interacting with them.
          
In town. A merchant attacks me for no reason.
        
When you're ready, you take the stairs down into the dungeons. Where Rogue kept each level to a single screen, Moria's and Angband's levels sprawl across multiple screens. More important, the Moria/Angband line has no level permanence. Every time you leave a level and return, it is redrawn and re-stocked with monsters and equipment. Thus, you are under no pressure to clear a level nor to move downward before you're ready. You can generate an infinite number of Level 1s and grind to your heart's content. For these reasons, finding secret doors takes on a lesser importance.
      
Like any roguelike, Angband uses most of the letter keys for its commands, with different commands for capital letters (e.g., d)rop an item vs. D)isarm a chest). A few changes have been made since the version of Moria I played:
     
  • Angband introduces magic rods in addition to wands. Where Moria had you a)im and fire a wand, Angband has you a)ctivate a rod and separately z)ap a wand. Moria hadn't used z at all.
  • Angband allows movement with a cluster of keys that makes little sense to me . . .
 
y k u
h    l
b j n
 
  • . . . although I suspect it will be mere minutes before some commenters reply that "that's just the old 'XK keys' cluster so popular on Unix systems. Everyone who was anyone back in the day knew how to use 'XK keys.'" [Ed. I should have noted that it also allows movement with the numberpad and arrows. That's what I've been using, although you need to use the letters in conjunction with CTRL for tunneling.]
  • To free up those keys, Moria's b)rowse a book becomes P)eruse a book, which forces Moria's P)rint Map to become just M)ap. u)se a Staff changes to Z)ap a Staff. l)ook changes to x)amine surroundings, which forces x)change weapon to become X)change weapon. j)am a Door with a Spike changes to S)pike a door, requiring S)earch Mode to move to the pound key (#). Angband even freed up capitalized versions of those letters: Moria's L)ocation becomes W)here, and B)ash becomes f)orce/Bash, requiring f)ire/Throw an Item to become t)hrow an Item. This further requires t)ake off an Item to move to the capital version, which in turn requires T)unnel to move to CTRL-direction.
      
M)ap shows a smaller-scale version of the dungeon level.
      
  • Angband adds g)et an Item (instead of just automatically picking it up when you walk over it), A)ctivate an Artifact, G)ain New Magic Spells (to go with a more complex magic system), and Inscribe an Object ({).
  • Perhaps most notable, in addition to attacking adjacent monsters by specifying a direction, Angband allows you to hit the * key to bring up a targeting cursor. This allows you to target any enemy in range with a missile weapon, wand, rod, or staff, rather than just those in the same column, row, or diagonal. This feature was apparently introduced in a UMoria variant called Morgul.
   
As with most roguelikes, your combat tactics on the first few levels are limited to bashing monsters with your melee weapon or throwing things at them. As you gain levels and equipment, your options start to grow. I found Moria and Angband far more forgiving on these early levels than Rogue or NetHack. Your hit point total is generous, and it regenerates quickly once combat is over. Enemies die in one or two hits. Poison wears off fast.
         
Angband's magic system is more advanced than Moria's, with multiple spells across multiple books, and   a skill level with each.
        
The game has to be a little bit easier, though, because it's insanely long. A winning game of Rogue takes no more than a few hours. A winning game of NetHack takes perhaps 12 at the most. But each of those games has you find the Amulet of Yendor after 30 or 40 small levels. To kill Morgoth--the goal of Angband--you have to go below Level 100, and the levels here are much larger. (I have a note that in this version Morgoth appears at Level 150 or above, but I can't trace it back to a source, so I don't know if it's true.) That's a long time to keep a character alive without making a mistake. 
  
It also creates a unique challenge for me. When I approach a new roguelike, I typically try to win it honestly--that is, adhering to permadeath--for about half a dozen characters. Then, if it seems like it's going to take hundreds of hours to win it that way, I'll reluctantly allow myself to backup my character every level or two. For Angband, though, those initial half dozen characters could easily last 20 hours. Thus, I think I'm going to start backing up my character right from the start, and just try really hard not to use the backups.
    
Finding a random scroll.
   
Beyond that, there's not much you haven't seen in many other roguelikes. There still is no hint of a real story. Every level serves up battles with an increasingly difficult selection of monsters drawn from Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons, and other sources. You find potions of assorted colors, scrolls with various nonsense phrases, and rings and wands of various materials. The colors, phrases, and materials are randomized for each new game, and you have to learn them through a slow process of testing them (which can be dangerous) or using Scrolls of Identification.
    
There were no problems on Level 1. I killed grey molds, kobolds, fruit bats, white worm masses, rock lizards, jackals, and large white snakes, and made it to character Level 2. I found a crimson potion (which turned out to be a Potion of Heroism), a chartreuse potion (Salt Water), a clear potion (Water), a Scroll of Protection from Evil, and a brass lantern. I left a lot of stuff on the floor, principally skeletons of dead monsters, broken weapons, and shards of pottery.
     
White worm masses can multiply.
      
When I had finished Level 1 the first time, I went down to Level 2, but it soon became clear that a successful player probably needs to make multiple loops through Level 1 (or, more precisely, different incarnations of Level 1 generated by going up or down and back again). I nearly suffered two deaths. The first was at the jaws of Grip, "Farmer Maggot's dog." The second from a terrifying creature whose name I forgot to write down, but it had the ability to teleport itself to me and me to it. Only the presence of a nearby staircase saved me from both creatures. Thus, I spent most of my time this session on repeated iterations of Level 1, occasionally ducking down to Level 2 for brief forays. My primary goal in the early game was to make enough money to afford better stuff--including Scrolls of Recall and some armor--back in the town.
     
My inventory towards the end of this session.
     
A few other notes on miscellaneous encounters and gameplay elements.
      
  • A lot of enemies in this game are described in terms of color: metallic green centipedes, white icky things, giant black ants, and so forth. I don't know if the colors mean anything. I haven't met any black icky things or giant white ants.
       
Are there large red snakes later?
        
  • Where Rogue had imps, Angband has "rogues" who frequently show up long enough to pick your pocket and then disappear in a puff of smoke.
  • There are no corpses to eat in this series of games.
  • The game makes a distinction between worn-and-carried items and the rest of your inventory. You use different keys to call different lists. I was startled at first when worn items stopped appearing in the inventory. I thought I had lost them.
  • You can equip both a primary weapon and secondary weapon and exchange them with a single key. I did that accidentally at one point and didn't realize I had been fighting enemies with a torch for a while.
  • You need a light source to see at all. Even with it, however, there are dark patches of the dungeon.
  • With the right tool, you can tunnel through walls by holding CTRL while specifying a direction. Sometimes money is embedded in walls.
      
Tunneling south to reach that money.
     
  • I don't quite understand the spell system. Every time I level up, I can apparently (G)ain ability in spells, which I guess the game selects at random from among the spellbooks I'm carrying. There are multiple potential spellbooks for each profession.
  • You can sell items at shops in town. I have to keep reminding myself that used items have value and I shouldn't just discard them.
  • However, stores won't buy items that aren't any use. I couldn't sell a Wand of Hasten Monster, for instance.
     
That's about all I can cover for the opening hours. I hope the game offers enough interesting content to sustain a series of entries as I try to make it down to Level 100 or 150 or whatever is necessary. 
    
Time so far: 3 hours
   

119 comments:

  1. It's very nice to hear from you again, Chester. Independently of the videogames I hope that December will be a better month for you.

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    1. Thanks, Vauban. It's good to be working on the blog again.

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    2. Exactly this, good to see a post again and hopefully future months provide fewer bumps in the road.

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    3. Same from me, i am glad that you're back!

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    4. Very glad here too... hope all is on the improving spectrum.

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    5. Same, welcome back Chet! I've missed your regular helpings of CRPG history.

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  2. That seems like a good moment to comment after 7 years of reading. I wish you a relaxing december. Good to be able to read your blog again.

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  3. I've collected over the years, for some reason that escapes me, many roguelikes from corners of the internet. Rogue, Moria, uMoria, BRogue, ADOM, Angband, zAngband, Dungeon Crawl, Sil, Slashem, TOME2, nethack and unnethack, all loaded into a Win3.1 instance running on Dosbox, but every time I try to actually sit and play some of these, it becomes rapidly clear these sort of games just aren't for me.
    I appreciate these posts where someone actually lays out what Moria did differently from Rogue and now what Angband did differently from Moria, so I can experience them vicariously anyway even if I'll never get too far myself.

    Sounds like it's largely a more refined, polished version of the more refined, polished version of Moria, then? Wheras zAngband is a more refined, polished version of Angband with Zelazny instead of Tolkien as the major influence, and TOME was the more refined, polished version of ZAngband with the Tolkien added back in force.

    One can almost think of modern rogue-derived games like Diablo as some sort of unbroken family tree going all the way back, one game an expanded version of the previous one until they barely resemble each other.

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    1. poschengband is my favorite angband variant. it has a big overland area and dungeons. I also really like cataclysm dda. its a zombie survival roguelike. Chester will never get to it. It was not started until 2010 or so.

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    2. ToME is hardly refined and polished. It's crammed full of wacky classes and races which border on munchkinish. I mean the old ToME 2.x and 3.x, not the later spinoff Tales of Maj'Eyal which has nothing to do with Middle Earth at all.

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    3. I'm definitely going to need some advice about which additional versions and variants of Angband belong on the master list.

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    4. I think a lot of that is going to be a judgement call. Angband itself has been evolving in fits and starts all along (and fairly smoothly for the past few years, though it'll be a long time before you have to worry about *that*...); back when I was still poking at Angband variants regularly (late '90s through mid '00s), there were roughly half a dozen to a dozen major variants and more smaller ones, each of which also had their own different public versions to pay attention to.

      Just off the top of my head, there were:
      - ZAngband, pulling heavily from the works of Roger Zelazny
      - SAngband, with a full skill-tree system
      - PernAngband, which IIRC descended from Z, and added a bunch of content from Anne McCaffrey's Pern series
      - Its direct descendant Troubles of Middle-Earth, which scrubbed off the serial numbers after McCaffrey got litigious (again) and added some other stuff like an overworld
      - FAngband, which focused more heavily on the First Age of Middle-Earth
      - Hengband, which another commenter mentioned, with a Japanese influence
      - SilAngband(?), which I know little about beyond the name
      - MAngband, which was supposed to have multiplayer features

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    5. Yeah, there are a ton of variants (other recent ones include Steamband -- steampunk -- and PosChengband -- kitchen sink) so you'll need some kind of policy -- and this is just an early version of an issue you'll start running into with mods and total conversions of commercial games, too.

      I've played a fair number of variants in the mid teens (which is when I did most of my Angband time), and to me at least it's hard to make a case for including too many of them on the list. Many are incomplete, unbalanced, and don't change much of the base Angband gameplay, and even those that are more refined (like FA Angband, which is different from FAngband -- roguelikes!) probably don't add that much to Chet's historical survey.

      The exceptions that I can think of are 1) ToME (Troubles of Middle Earth), since it might be interesting to dip into that as prologue to the eventually-freestanding ToME (Tales of Maj'Eyal), and 2) Sil, which changes the core Angband gameplay in fundamental ways and is a really cleverly-designed game that's probably the best Tolkein adaptation there is. Of course, they both came out in 2012 so that's probably academic!

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    6. ZAngband v2.* is the most obvious variant choice, since it was prominent back in the day, and more modern variants often descend from it itself in some fashion. People should probably play v2.6.2; there's a v2.7.3 but that's an unstable branch.

      I don't recommend the fork based on the PC v1.* branch of Angband Chester is currently playing -- ZAngband v1.* is insane (even by Z standards), doesn't have the influence v2.* did, and most people never knew it existed even at the time and even in the Angband community.

      I don't know if I can recommend playing either Angband-- or Nethack--, but they're important historic milestones in variant development. Very roughly, Angband-- is to ZAngband as Nethack-- is to SLASH'EM.

      ToME and Sil are the only other Angband variants that I think have to be on the list, but they both deviate significantly from standard Angband.

      It actually gets simpler for many older commercial games newer than 1993 that have significant mods Chester is likely to play. Might and Magic VI, for instance, has one major fan patch and two major mods. I'm not sure if I like either mod, but the more recent merge mod is very much a work in progress, and the older Chaos Conspiracy is kind of analogous to Swords of Xeen, no way I'd call it a polished product in the way more modern mods are.

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    7. Steamband is an interesting one. Apart from guns, much of the stuff is essentially a reskin, but there's something interesting about basing your game on 19th-century fiction (Lewis Carrol, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jules Verne among others) instead of the typical faux-midieval setting.

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    8. I expected this to be an issue and I'm interested to see how it's resolved. Variants of Angband are basically mods upon mods and there is usually not much to see. A few new monsters, a few new classes, rebalancing, unbalancing, etc. But there are some that are definitely significant. It could be argued that Angband itself is just a variant of Moria. There are even other variants of Moria which may have been missed. BOSS is (perhaps the only) one. In my opinion it is significantly different from Moria itself, but it is also fairly obscure and did not end up contributing much to games down the line. Most variants you will hear of are a mess of half-baked modifications to other variants. They sometimes turn into their own thing or just remain as forgettable alterations to outdated versions of Angband, which is still developed today. Here is a fairly comprehensive list, and it probably even misses some:

      https://tangaria.com/variants/

      Since a lot changes over the years, early versions of popular variants may also not be significantly distinct from what they are based on. The version you play would make a big difference. How different is Angband from early Zangband? How different is Zangband from PernAngband? PernAngband from TOME? I wouldn't know and I wonder who really would. Maybe some obsessive fan of the sub-genre.

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  4. So this is the game I've played by far the most of any other game; I played a lot of ZAngband as well and even was on the development team for a while.

    I managed to win twice; with a Dwarf Priest and a Gnome Mage.

    In later days I was mostly playing ironman games, where there are no up staircases. I managed to get some ironman mages to mid-30s and around the 2000' area but I could never quite make it past -- the best one I had died with -1 HP and almost made it.

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  5. TOME was originally PernAngband, Pern being based on the works of Anne McCaffrey. Copyright hammer came down, then it became TOME, and TOME had it own variants/mods, whatever.

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    1. Indeed; the lineage went Angband > ZAngband > PernAngband > ToME (Troubles of Middle Earth) > ToME (Tales of Maj'Eyal).

      Though it has the same abbreviation, and is a direct descendant, the current TOME is essentially a completely different game. It no longer looks like Angband, having an extensive set of default tiles rather than ASCII graphics, and has a moderately story-based campaign set in the world of Maj'Eyal. It also uses an almost Diablo-like system of ego and random artifact equipment, which adds somewhat to replayability.

      It's also *incredibly* swingy; where in Angband, so long as you've been progressing downward at a reasonable pace, you can *usually* know what to expect (with the occasional exception *cough*drolems*cough*), in ToME, if you're walking along and not paying attention, you can get one- or two-shot by an "elite" enemy that just came into your field of view.

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    2. Maj'Eyal is really it's own game and no longer descended from any variant except for some vague inspirations here and there. It just has the same abbreviation. Probably to advertise it as the original TOME was so popular.

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  6. I'll dive on that grenade -- hjkl are left-down-up-right in the vi family of modal editors (allowing you to move the cursor in "normal mode" without your fingers leaving the home row, then press i or another key to enter "insert mode" and actually write text), and roguelikes added yubn for diagonal movement.

    Dunadan is presumably a corruption of DĂșnedain, the descendants of Numenor in the Tolkien books. Aragorn is one.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. DĂșnadan is the singular of DĂșnedain. This is what I get for reading Tolkien as much as I have. But they still missed the accent mark, though that could've been for character set reasons, depending on the platform.

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    3. Modern Angband does support Unicode, but that wasn't a reasonable expectation in 1993 for a game that crosses platforms.

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  7. I assume that Dunadan is a reference to Tolkien's Dunedain, who were the human descendants of the Numenoreans.

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    1. It's the singular form of the word. A Dunadan, the Dunedain.

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    2. Yes, Bilbo often calls Aragorn "Dunadan" in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo asks about it, and Bilbo explains that it means "man of the west", and that Aragorn is not just a Dunadan, but *the* Dunadan, the heir to the throne of Gondor and Arnor.

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  8. Space Hulk from 1993 is on the upcoming list. I remember from playing it back then as just a squad control 1st person shooter, based on the strategy board game. You can swap out the marine's equipment between missions, but I don't remember carry-over of statistics or advancement ala X-Com. Does it have any RPG elements?

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    1. Nope. It did utilize the Disney Sound Source for voice, but no dog elements

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    2. God damn autocorrect. No rpg elements

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    3. I haven't gotten very far in it myself, but I can't imagine it has any. Both enemies and the PCs are very fragile. Not really sure how you could increase stats in that scenario. I wonder how that managed to sneak in and something like Pathways into Darkness didn't. I mean, I guess I know, some place mentions Space Hulk as a RPG and Pathways into Darkness's RPG elements are usually tucked away in the description.

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    4. Pathways is not an RPG, but it's easily the most RPG-like nonRPG I can think of in video games.
      Addict's opinion would be interesting, I think.

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    5. Space Hulk has squad level experience, which improves combat odds. But no visible attributes. You could make a case for it technically qualifying. But I wouldn't.

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    6. The original Space Hulk board game, upon which the computer game is based, had "3D Roleplay" emblazoned on the box, but that's just "creative marketing" on Games Workshop's part and it's not in any way an rpg. ;)

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    7. It was some less-reliable Amiga database that called it an RPG. If I can BRIEF it and move on, that's good news.

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    8. You don't even need to brief it. It's all the RPG of Outrun.

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    9. I don't think Outrun would match a single of the blogs three criteria for an RPG. Space Hulk would match at least one, two to three if you are very generous. I'd also say it's more of an RPG than another game on the 1993 master list, Syndicate.

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    10. Or Shadowcaster... IIRC, the only character advancement is about collecting new forms

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    11. I hope a BRIEF will provide an opportunity for Chet to share his thoughts about Games Workshop's products in general which I assume some of us will agree that are quite influential in rpg games

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    12. Influential, sure, but also bloody expensive...

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  9. > . . . although I suspect it will be mere minutes before some commenters reply that "that's just the old 'XK keys' cluster so popular on Unix systems. Everyone who was anyone back in the day knew how to use 'XK keys.'"

    You're close! h-j-k-l in that orientation are the navigation keys in the Unix text editor "vi". y-u-b-n are novel to Angband, as far as I know.

    At the time I started playing Angband I'd never used vi before, so I had no idea why the navigation worked that way. By the time I started using vi I'd stopped playing Angband :D

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    1. Nethack also uses y-u-b-n for diagonals alongside h-j-k-l for cardinal directions; this is likely where Angband pulled it from.

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    2. It's generally hidden behind an option called Laptop Mode or No Numpad Mode or something like that in more recent versions of Nethack, at least on the builds I've played.

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    3. Ack! Not only is there an explanation, it's the SAME explanation! When will I finally stop hearing about "vi keys"?

      I put an edit in the entry above because I failed to make clear that yes, the game also allows movement by numberpad and arrows, and of course that's what I'm using. I think you need the letters for tunneling, though.

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    4. You will probably stop hearing about vi keys when you stop playing roguelikes. A lot of those early machines didn't have cursor keys, so they had to choose something to move around.

      vi repurposed the home keys for this purpose, which has always struck me as annoying, and I've never learned them. Many old programs where you needed to navigate the cursor, however, ended up supporting vi-style navigation, including most of the roguelikes.

      It was such a tradition that it honestly wouldn't shock me if new roguelikes like Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup still supported those old controls.

      IMO, it's a terrible idea that's been inflicted on two generations of computer users.

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    5. Laptops, both then and now, often don't have a full numeric keypad. And you can't just use a set of 4 arrow keys, because roguelikes usually have diagonal movement.

      So yes, DCSS trunk still supports the vi keys.

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    6. Even Brogue, which started development in 2009 and which is mostly playable with the mouse, supports vi keys. I never ever use them.

      (Brogue is worth checking out as a streamlined and shorter roguelike that maintains the strength of the roguelikes... though it'll be a while before it pops up on Chester's calendar!)

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    7. @Malor Personally, I love the vi keys, and they aren't a "terrible idea." They allow me to navigate vim, and play roguelikes with minimal hand movement, which is just. So. WONDERFUL.

      It might not seem like much, but then you go and try to play ADOM (which doesn't support vi keys by default), and after five minutes of your left hand roaming all over the keyboard because your right is permanently stuck way over in numpad-no-mans-land, and you start to appreciate the beauty of homerow navigation in keyboard-heavy interfaces.

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    8. I can't say I've ever had an inclination to use vi keys, but I am generally a fan of giving people the option of using semi-standardized control schemes, even if it makes for an arguably worse experience.

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    9. I thought the same about the Vi keys until I started playing rogues on a laptop without a keypad. They're super easy to get used to if you commit just like ten minutes to playing with them. The only problem is that your fingers are on a non standard portion of the home row, so using all the OTHER commands are tricky since when you hit them by touch your hands aren't in the normal spot (so I hit down stairs instead of up stairs, etc).

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    10. I can definitely see them as useful if you don't have a numpad, but personally proper touch typing is something I bounced off hard in school and never bothered trying to learn since, so any system that assumes you know how to do that is going to be of limited usefulness to me.

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    11. I think Anonymous had it right; I much prefer using vi keys to numpad in roguelikes, because with that setup, hands need to rarely move across the keyboard. When using numpad for movement, I need to move my hand to press, say, i. It does not really take much longer to learn than say wasd for movement.

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  10. Did i miss it in the post? What race/class are you running? I suck at angband and its variants. I always die doing something stupid. I just get into a zone and then i get careful and poof dead before i notice i was in trouble.

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    1. Check the second and third screenshots: Dunadan Paladin.

      Also, below the third screenshot:
      "The character begins with a few items suitable to his class; my Dunadan paladin had a broadsword, 5 rations of food, a Holy Book of Prayers, a Scroll of Protection from Evil, and 5 wooden torches."

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    2. Dunadan is probably underpowered in the v1.31 Chester is playing; this predates the "maximize mode" introduced in v1.4 and v2.7.*.

      One of the maintainers is known to have heavily favored Dunadan, which might be why it was underpowered.

      Delete
  11. Angband was my first roguelike, and I more or less grew up on 2.4 Frog-knows. I logged a ridiculous number of hours on this in my youth (though it was many years before I ever had a winner).

    Some notes about your early explorations:
    - The rogues that steal stuff from you aren't a random and malicious event; they're actual monsters, and when they disappear in a puff of smoke, that's just a form of teleport. They'll still be somewhere else on the level, and I *think* if you kill them, you can get back what they stole, but I'm not 100% sure (that may not have come in until later versions).
    - The movement keys you list are the "roguelike commands"; you can change your preferences to use the alternative command set, which may be more familiar (for instance, using the numeric keypad for movement). Roguelike commands are a godsend for laptop users.
    - The different colors of some kinds of enemies *are* meaningful; each one is a unique enemy type, not randomly rerolled per character like the scroll names and the potion colors. For some, they're largely just denoting enemies of slightly different strengths (like the centipedes); for others, they give you information about what dangers to watch out for (eg, terra jbez znffrf jvyy pbeebqr lbhe rdhvczrag).
    - You do indeed (G)ain a random spell from among the spells at or below your level in the spellbooks you are carrying. If you want a specific spell, and you're carrying other books with unlearned spells, it's best to drop those books, (G)ain, and pick them back up.
    - Qnex nernf bs gur qhatrba pna or creznaragyl yvg jvgu yvtug fcryyf. N yvtug fcryy pnfg va n qnexrarq ebbz jvyy yvtug gur jubyr ebbz, ab znggre ubj ovt vg vf.
    - Va zl rkcrevrapr, Zbetbgu vf eryvnoyl sbhaq bapr lbh trg cnfg qhatrba yriry 100.
    - Ubjrire, va beqre gb trg cnfg qhatrba yriry 99, lbh unir gb qrsrng Fnheba—bapr lbh qrsrng uvz, ur yvgrenyyl qebcf n fgnvepnfr. Fhofrdhragyl, fgnvef jvyy trarengr serryl sebz 99 gb 100 (naq lbh pna Erpnyy onpx naq sbegu jvgu ab ceboyrz).

    A couple of other notes:

    I don't recall if this was the case in previous roguelikes, but Angband has a fairly large stable of *predefined* artifact weapons & armor. If you find a particular named sword or helm, it will do the same thing in every playthrough (and you can have the game dump a spoiler file if you want to learn their abilities; otherwise I *think* 2.4 Frog-knows has very little in-game data on the artifacts).

    There are a few different difficulty spikes in the game. (This is from memory; some of the details are going to be fuzzy.)
    -- Nebhaq n gubhfnaq srrg, lbh fgneg gb zrrg ynetr tebhcf bs bepf, juvpu pna pnhfr lbh ceboyrzf vs haqreyriryrq. Gurer ner nyfb n pbhcyr bs bepvfu havdhr zbafgref gung pna pnhfr lbh gebhoyr va guvf nern.
    -- Nebhaq svsgrra uhaqerq srrg lbh fgneg gb erthyneyl rapbhagre rarzvrf gung qenva lbhe yvsr.
    -- Nebhaq gjragl-svir uhaqerq srrg lbh fgneg gb erthyneyl rapbhagre napvrag qentbaf.
    -- Nebhaq guvegl-svir uhaqerq srrg lbh fgneg gb erthyneyl rapbhagre Evatjenvguf (ohg gurer ner bayl 9, naq gurl'er havdhr, fb bapr lbh'ir xvyyrq gurz gurl fubhyqa'g pbzr onpx).
    - Additionally, orgjrra nobhg 1200 naq 1800 srrg, cbgvbaf gung creznaragyl vapernfr n fvatyr fgng fgneg gb or sbhaq naq erznva zbfg pbzzba.

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    1. Yes, 2.4 Frog-knows had so little in-game data on the artifacts that I wrote a spoiler file for all the artifacts that eventually became the definitive source of information on the artifacts (this was pre-Wiki era). Glad to see this one come up and look forward to seeing how far Chester gets. I think Angband is from an era where patience was much greater and it will be interesting to see how that plays in 2021.

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    2. The documentation for v2.4.frog-knows and PC v1.* does describe many artifacts, in section 8.3. As it suggests, it's incomplete by design.

      You can figure out item powers in-game even in versions this old; I don't think it's really a limitation. Good luck figuring out basic game mechanics in most other games of the era!

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    3. Thanks for all the tips, Delvin. I'll probably unscramble the ROT-13 after another session or two.

      Delete
  12. Great to see you back, and I hope Irene is on the mend (I'm trying to manage a broken big toe myself, and know firsthand how challenging even a minor injury like that can be)!

    "But it saves the most recent set that you rejected, so if you commit common error of rejecting a perfect character because you fell into a rhythm, you can retrieve him. This game is a "first" in offering both options." Oh, how many 'perfect' Baldur's Gate characters have I lost thanks to a rhythm! lol

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  13. I remember my biggest problem with Angband was the sheer grindiness not in the "I need to hang out and gain levels sense", but after a certain point each level feeling like it had a certain sameness. (Then you sort of droop and lose paying attention and because it's a roguelike you die.)

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  14. Welcome back, Chester, it's good to be reading you again. I hope everything is working out well :)

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  15. Angband is infamous for the brutal amount of grinding it requires, which is why i haven't ever played it - roguelikes work better when they are relatively short, (in my opinion at least).

    If I fuck up and die playing nethack of dcss i laugh at myself then start a new game. If i die after playing some game for 40+ h i would probably just savescum, but savescumming removes all the charm of a roguelike.

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    1. That's true for the older versions, where you can miss artifacts, or which have a much higher chance of instant death.

      Power-diving is much safer in more recent versions of Angband. ("More recent" meaning possibly still double-digit years old now.) It's still safer to grind, but you no longer need to.

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  16. Welcome back, Chester!

    Oh, to see my name in lights on the CRPG Addict blog! It's a dream come true.... I'm the Justin Anderson credited for the TC++ color code on the title screen. I was a senior at VA Tech at the time and obviously had nothing better to do with my time, so I added color to Angband (which had been strictly black and white up 'til then).

    I'm guessing the version you're using doesn't actually use any of my code, which I initially submitted as a patch that would only work when compiled with Borland's Turbo C++ compiler (I was just learning C and there were some compiler specific extensions that made the job much easier for me). Sometime later, someone did a proper job and added platform-independent color using standard ANSI, but were kind enough to leave my credit on the title screen for at least several versions (all known as 2.4.frog-knows to maximize confusion...). While not using the code per se, I believe they kept the vast majority of the choices I made regarding which color corresponded to what (PC text mode restricted you to 8 colors in low and high intensity).

    I didn't know anyone else working on Angband, I was just a fan and saw a slight improvement I could make to a game I loved.

    I really sympathise with your dilemma regarding permadeath and the reality of finishing the game in a reasonable time for the blog. I'd actually recommend trying out a bunch of characters and playing fairly recklessly just to get a feeling for the differences. My first win was with a Dwarf Priest, but the different classes really do play very differently, so finding one you're comfortable with before starting to back up characters might be worth your time.

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    1. It's always cool to hear from those who were involved in the development of the games! Thanks for posting!

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    2. I remember those libraries! Used them in both TPascal (my school and university at the time used Pascal for their teaching language) and then TC++. I never got very far with developing my own game, but I became friends with most of the computer lab staff because of my coding there.

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    3. Justin, thanks both for your suggestions and for your contributions to the game.

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    4. Heh, my contributions to the game were pretty minor, but thanks!

      If I may elaborate a bit on my recommendation to try different classes, I'd definitely recommend trying at least a Dunadan Warrior, Gnome Mage and Dwarf Priest (I've never really messed around with Rogues).

      Warriors are truly amazing powerhouses, but their lack of magic makes them more dependent on items than anyone else. For this reason, I believe they are significantly harder/need more caution than the other classes.

      Mages have an array of elemental magic that can make a huge difference in combat effectiveness, but you really have to pay attention to resistances and such.

      Which actually reminds me of something that I think is a new thing that Angband brings to the RPG table. You noted that you can target individual monsters (default * key), but when you do so you can optionally get more information about them. This includes elemental resistances, which you only find out about when you try them. For instance, try a fire bolt against a white dragon and target them again -- you can see that they are resistant to fire. Very importantly, this info will survive your particular character, so your next effort will know this just by targeting them (and more to the point, you don't have to memorize everything/look it up).

      Priests (my favorite) get a hammer. And that hammer is called "Orb of Draining." As you know, when all you have is Orb of Draining, every monster looks like a nail. Orb of Draining does non-elemental damage, so you don't need to worry about which spell to use against red dragons or white dragons.

      Obviously, Rangers (warrior/mages) and Paladins (warrior/priests) get some of the benefits of spell-casting with better combat abilities, but honestly, even by the early part of the middle game, everyone is damn good at fighting, so the spells really make a difference. My biggest complaint about Paladins vs. Priests is that a Priest can basically Orb all day, while a Paladin will run out of MP relatively soon. Of course, the Paladin with no MP is much more survivable than the Priest in the same situation, but he or she will be in that situation much more often.

      Anyway, as I suggested, playing a few classes relatively aggressively just to get the feel of what permadeath is like in this game before starting to back up a character you like (in order to win in a relatively reasonable timeframe) will, I think, give you a much better feel for what the game was like back in the day.

      I do look forward to you finding gur Nexrafgbar (ROT13) for the first time!

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  17. I've always favoured the Rogue/Nethack variants over the Moria/Angband variants due to the food-clock in the former. I die stupidly in both types of games, but (to mirror the comments of Jason Dyer and Broken25 above), in the former it's often a teachable moment, whereas the latter make me think I should have just grinded more.
    There's definitely a difference in motivation too when I was a uni student competing against fellow nerds in a basement computer lab at 1am in the morning, versus a middle aged man playing by myself :-)

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  18. Huh, I remember playing this as a kid. I doubt I got very far in the game.

    I fine tuned my own version from the source, I think I edited the hunger system and the monster AI somehow. Pretty sure it was based on 2.8.x. Lost in time, unfortunately.

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  19. Paladins learn divine spells. Both paladins and priests have no say what spells they 'g'ain, it is totally random. Wizards and rogues can pick their spells.

    Does this version have the options menu? (=)
    It's possible to set things before starting a new game, like no item selling so the game will drop more gold in exchange.

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    1. It does have the options menu, yes. I rather prefer the defaults, though.

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    2. "No item selling" isn't one in this version.

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    3. PC v1.31 does give paladins and priests some say in which spells they learn.

      Chester's title screenshot actually says is the version where that change happened (it's the first line under "News").

      Delete
  20. Welcome back!

    I see Space Hulk (1993) in the upcoming list. It may look a bit like DM-like game, but it is a first-person real-time tactical game. An interesting concept, but definitely not an RPG. Feel free to ditch it after checking it.

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  21. The trouble with *band games is that I not only don't know what features are added in later versions of Angband, I don't quite know which features are in which derivative game! There's so very many forkoffs that trying to hit even the major versions would be folly, but a pretty high percentage of the spinoffs have enough mechanical or setting originality that they'd be better fits than a lot of the commercial games that have made the blog.

    I kind of prefer this approach to that of Nethack, where you're more likely to get additions pulled into the core game instead of a variant. More focused.

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    1. One of the things that fostered the fork-happy culture around Angband is that you don't need to be able to program to start modding the game. You can go quite a long way just by editing the item, monster, and vault files.

      The other thing is that the Angband source code was (and still is) a lot easier to navigate and understand than the Nethack source code, partly because the Nethack source code was (a) still written in K&R C instead of ANSI C until the release of version 3.6 in the 2010s and (b) peppered with build-time-optional features, weird hacky constructs to support antediluvian steam-driven System III Unices with 1st edition K&R C compilers, and all sorts of complex and idiosyncratic interactions between items.

      (A scroll can have up to six different behaviours based on bless/curse status and whether you are Confused at the time of reading. The "colour" assigned to a potion actually matters, because potions that are "milky" may – checked at time of opening – actually be bottled ghosts, and potions that are "smoky" may – again checked at time of opening – actually be bottled djinn.)

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    2. "You can go quite a long way just by editing the item, monster, and vault files"

      While this is technically true, there are no variants that limit themselves to these changes. A lot of game options are not in there. So, programming in C has always been the requirement to make a proper variant.

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    3. Pretty sure at least one of the variants started as a database edit before growing into a change to the game itself.

      I forget which, because it's been a long time since I paid much attention to Angband.

      Delete
  22. Welcome back. I have good memories of textual early-days games like this.

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  23. Among the angband variants, some expand a bit the RPG side of the game, while staying true to their roguelike roots. ToME (Troubles of Middle Earth) stands as an interesting choice, would Chester be willing to experiment a bit with the -band legacy. A world map, several quests, a little bit more attention to the plot (with an ... interesting mismatch of first and third age Middle Earth influences) and a more in-depth character evolution system.

    Moreover, the variant maintener, Dark God, went on to produce a proper game of his own, ToME 4 (Tales of Maj'Eyal), dropping the Middle Earth theme, changing the gameplay to a cooldown based one, streamlining several things (no more hunger system, nor item identification), while expanding on ideas, including loads of unlockable classes and races, giving the game excellent replay value. As one of the most played modern roguelikes to this day, playing the link between it and vanilla Angband would have some meaning I think.

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  24. Huge Angband fan--played this in college and was determine to get a wizard winner "legit." I think my first win came after a year of on and off playing (along with other games, books, school, etc.). Once I had the confidence from that win, many other wins followed. I had a personal goal to win every Angband variant as a mage type and kept that up for years.

    Probably my favorite Angband variant of all time was Hengband--apparently Angband became quite popular in Japan, and Hengband was an attempt to not only beef it up with tons more unique creatures, and overworld, more artifacts, items, and spells, but add even more challenge to the game by adding a bit of variability in the turn count of monsters (sometimes they get seemingly random double or even triple moves), as well as "closing" various winning strategies of traditional Angband with a smarter monster summoning AI, monsters avoiding the "pillar dance" easy-win strategy (if you have speed over a monster, you can just circle around a pillar, hit and move, hit and move, etc. and always be safe), and many other things. I was extremely proud not only of finally getting a win in that one, but several of them in all the bizarre additional classes it offered.

    I think ounce for ounce, the lure of Angband for me was the sheer amount of gameplay/content it offered compared to basically every other game out there. There was just so much to discover, getting the wins (at least the initial ones) required such a learning curve, I was seriously drawn to the challenge for years. And all done through just letters and numbers. No triple A game could compare in terms of sheer content. The big allure of Diablo for me was how, based on Angband, it finally brought a nice graphic veneer to such addictive and detailed gameplay. But even so, it still paled in complexity to all the alphanumeric goodness that this game brought to the table.

    Apparently Hengband is still getting the occasional development additions. Might have to dust off the old Angband hat and give it a go. :)

    -- Adam

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  25. I never played Angband, but I did play one of the many, many variants. Never really got far since it seemed to me too big to be a bite-sized RPG and too small to be a proper RPG.
    One thing I found interesting, years later, was the rumors that ADOM took some code from this game, which is why it never went open-source. Not too sure of the validity of it myself, since the two games always felt very different.

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    1. Back in the day, the official explanation for why ADOM never went open source was because the creator already received as many questions about the game as he wanted to deal with. If people were out there making ADOM variants (which he would have no involvement or interest in), he'd get asked about THOSE as well, and he didn't want the hassle.

      Of course, neither of us can read Thomas Biskup's mind, but I find the above somewhat more plausible than the idea that he borrowed code from Angband (especially as ADOM bears no more resemblance to Angband than it does every other roguelike).

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    2. It's worth noting that someone on rec.games.roguelike.adom was being a complete jerkwad to Thomas about the whole "when are you opening the source" question.

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    3. Those rumors sound a lot like a non-programmer talking about programming. "Oh yes he, like, cut and pasted a piece of this code and put it in his OWN program!"

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    4. Biskup was adamant about not releasing the source code for ADOM on the grounds "this is MY project, not yours", and a lot of people were furious because it was in the peak of the "Closed source is an abomination! The source code wants to be free!" era where open source software was very close to an outright cult. Hardly surprising that people would try to come up with a sinister reason why he really didn't want to distribute it, because any REAL programmer would know that all code must be distributed the second it is written.

      A similar situation was going on more recently with Toady One's Dwarf Fortress, but anybody who played that knew full well he didn't copy code from anywhere, and most of the people wanting it open-sourced was because they desperately wanted to fix it.

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    5. Part of the advantage of ADOM being closed source (which is why I assume is part of why he did it) is that in the early days there were new discoveries made all the time. New "discoveries" made by reading the source code aren't quite as exciting.

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    6. Funnily, almost all independent games ARE closed-source, with the exception of roguelikes. It wouldn't have been weird, even then, for a game in any other genre to be closed-source.

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  26. Most people don't get this right, because it's very confusing: this isn't actually 2.4.frog-knows, which is Unix-only. It's actually PC v1.31. The DOS, Mac, and Unix versions were separate until Ben Harrison unified the three in v2.7.0. v1.31 differs substantially from the actual v2.4.frog-knows -- Chester has targeting, for instance.

    Almost everyone actually plays one of the PC port versions. (v1.31 is more stable than v1.4, maybe that's why Chester is playing that.)

    Chester is also playing a version that doesn't have the significantly higher chance of instant death by paralysis introduced around v2.7.4 and finally fixed in v3.1.2. (Like the Nethack Yeenoghu instant-death bug, this wasn't fixed for years despite the code being open-source.)

    Angband is still being developed; v4.2 has major changes not seen since the v2.7.* days.

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    1. I suppose there might be a philosophical discussion to be had as to whether a game "isn't actually" what it proclaims to be on the title screen and in its documentation.

      Delete
    2. Your title screenshot says v1.31.

      If we go just by the top of title screen, we'd otherwise need some way to distinguish between the multiple different kinds of v2.4.frog-knows.

      How you define this is going to vary by game, anyway, especially in retrogaming. (If you play the original Zork, for instance, the behavior of the game depends on both release and interpreter, so you have to specify both.)

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    3. The title screenshot has both "2.4.frog-knows" and "PC version 1.31". Talk about confusing ! So then, who knows ? Ah, but of course, frog knows ! :D

      Delete
    4. v2.4.frog-knows is from September 1992. (Or at least that's what everything in rephial.org's source code archive is dated.)

      All of DOS v1.0 to v1.31 were released in 1993.

      v1.0 and v1.1 are both very similar to v2.4.frog-knows and essentially the same in gameplay.

      v1.2 and v1.3 both have significant gameplay changes: v1.2 introduced the precursor to the modern monster health bar and the auto-roller, and v1.3 introduced targeting.

      v1.4 was released in 1994 as the DOS version was slowing down and development of the Unix-only v2.5 series was taking off.

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    5. I don't remember why I grabbed this particular version. It might have been the only one I could find, or perhaps I was trying to do what I did with NetHack, which was to play the last version released in each "group."

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    6. rephial.org has all the DOS-specific releases from v1.0 to v1.4.

      v1.31 is more stable than v1.4, and it was also actualy released in 1993.

      But if you actually want to play the last version in a branch, you either want v2.4.frog-knows (which v1.1 is close enough to -- I don't think you want to go to the trouble of getting the actual v2.4.frog-knows to compile), or v1.4.

      However, Angband has a history of the very last version of a maintainer being a "sorry, no longer have time for this" release. Charles Teague's PC v1.4, Charles Swiger's v2.6.2, Ben Harrison's v2.8.3, and Robert Ruehlmann's v3.0.6 all fit this pattern.

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  27. I played Angband since 1997 and even wrote my own variant, which however was not successful enough and the source code has all but disappeared from the net.

    More than twenty years after, the game strikes me as a mindless monster grind to get better equipment to grind more monsters et cetera. Compared to Nethack or even ADOM, it is very long and tedious, and the huge maps are empty and boring, especially in early levels. While some variants tried to introduce smaller levels and more environmental variety, vanilla has been sticking to this philosophy for decades.

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  28. Current Angband player sez:
    1. The most recent angband variant, Sil, is radically different. And rigorously elegant.
    2. Angband is a game of economics. It is worth keeping in mind that one resource is time (or game moves) and diving, is therefore a reasonable strategy. Been a long time since I played 2.4, but "many hours to reach level 20" sounds like you are doing something wrong. Angband up to DL 40 is fundamentally easy. (After that, monsters get fast and dangerous.)

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    1. ...By what metric do you call Sil the "most recent variant"? I recall it being around quite a while ago...

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    2. Time as a resource? Unless you are playing for a speedrun, this is hardly true. Once you can afford scrolls of satisfy hunger, you can never die of starvation, unlike in Nethack.

      Delete
  29. BTW: the usual wrong thing in old angband is to stick with the default heavy weapon. Buy a light weapon for more blows and damage. Also, make sure to use ranged weapons. They are cheap and powerful.

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    1. Ranged weapons aren't as powerful in old OLD Angband versions, which is what Chester is playing.

      v1.31 does have targeting, which helps its power significantly.

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    2. I remember a heavily enchanted whip was my weapon of choice, due to all the extra attacks it got due to its light weight. The plus did all the damage while the 1d4 was just a small bonus. Don't know if frog-knows implements weapon speeds, but I suppose it would be worth it to find out.

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    3. At least in modern Angband, that's a solid early-game strategy -- there are some good artifact daggers that do elemental damage that can be real workhorses -- though since it's relatively easy to reach the number-of-blows cap with heavy weapons once you start getting stat-increasing potions, those weapons very much lose viability as you go. Curious whether earlier versions were different!

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  30. Popped up in my Google discover feed and I had to click. Great to see you back! I don't blame you for the backups. ToME 4 on steam has some nifty system where you earn resurrections. I really like that since that is also a long game. Good luck!

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  31. I didn't see mention of buying a shovel, so I'll add that digging is unbearably slow unless you use a digging item. Aside from picking up random loot, it's also good for creating bottlenecks and escape routes.

    Also, I believe there's an option to change the keybindings to something sane. It's called Rogue-style keys or something.

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    1. I bought a pick towards the end of the first session as I was (as you point out) having no luck tunneling without one.

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  32. Glad to see you honour our agreement regarding 'Lands of Lore - Throne of Chaos', sigh ;)

    Excuse the sarcasm, good to have you back...

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    1. I suppose I do owe you an apology about that. When I asked you to nominate a game, it was back when I wasn't finished with 1992 and thought I was going to allow myself to move forward. As you know, I ultimately decided that I couldn't do that. I suppose when I finally reached 1993 organically, I should have prioritized the games that had been nominated, including Lands of Lore, instead of just pulling them at random. I'll make it the next 1993 game on the "upcoming" list.

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  33. I played a lot of both Nethack and Angrand, and they had opposite difficulty curves. The interesting part of Nethack is the first 10-20 dungeon levels up to Castle or so, and completing your class quest. Once you got your ascension kit ready you had more or less won the game already, but you still have 2/3 of the game to still go through. Once you're kitted out, every death is a stupid death, because the enemies can't kill you anymore outside of obscure interactions.

    Angband was easier in the beginning than Nethack, but the game gets more difficult and stays that way the end. There's less obscure stuff that can kill you, but the basic combat stays challenging, and the enemies get more difficult to kill, not less as you progress. I beat Nethack about 10 times with various conducts, but only ever managed to beat Angband once, and I had to use a really cheesy way to beat Morgoth.

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    1. Yeah, this is pretty much my experience -- I've played a bunch of Angband (won with every main class, still working my way through the new 4.X ones) though only a small amount of Nethack, but part of that is because every time I've tried Nethack, the learning curve felt like a vertical wall, where you're expected to know which corpses you can't eat and which you absolutely have to, how Elbereth works, etc. -- and without the ability to beaver away and make slow progress death by death, it's felt like the main way to improve is to play with spoilers open, except that takes most of the fun out of it.

      Angband definitely has some unexplained stuff, but at least in its modern incarnation the list seems much, much smaller, and learn-by-doing is much easier and more fun -- the sunk costs are definitely reasonably high given the longer play-time of Angband, but after losing one mid-game character to each of (rot13)cynfzn-ubhaq fgha, pbashfvba-ybpx, cbvfba oerngu, orvat qbhoyr-ghearq ol uvtu-fcrrq rarzvrf, naq fhzzba punvaf you realize you need to take that stuff seriously -- and the tools to do so aren't too obscure.

      I will say that IME the last twenty or thirty levels of Angband do get pretty easy again, depending on class, and even Morgoth isn't too bad once you figure out his tricks (qba'g trg rnegudhnxrq vagb n jnyy!). By that point you have lots of tools to escape fights or shift the odds in your favor, so mostly deaths are due to inattention or getting greedy or sloppy.

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    2. That's a good analysis, Anonymous. It aligns with my experience with Moria and what I sense about Angband so far.

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  34. Chet, with all the Roguelikes you've played over the years, are there any that stick out particularly as being better than the others? Or do they all offer essentially the same thing, with various tweaks to them? I do enjoy playing Roguelikes occasionally and it seems like you've played a ton so I was wondering what your view on all the various incarnations of them was.

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    1. He enjoyed Ragnarok and Omega a lot as they contain more traditional rpg elements.

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    2. They're really only the same in the areas of graphics and permadeath. Otherwise, they feel like very different games. I like the relative brevity of Rogue and the various long-term strategies you can pursue in Nethack. As Tristan says, Ragnarok does a particularly good job fusing roguelike gameplay with a traditional RPG story and quest. Omega does the same with an open game world and multiple potential endings.

      I have to say, so far Moria and Angband are my least favorite. They're a bit too big and lack a lot of strategy and item interaction of NetHack.

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