A Stay At Nintendo’s Original Headquarters

The site. Image from beforemario.

When I say original headquarters it’s really original: the building they started out of in the late 1800s as a maker of playing cards! I like to mix up the content here and include some history when I can amidst all the gaming geekery. The building has been restored and is now a fairly small and cozy hotel! The stay is recorded on the blog beforemario, with many many photographs.

Nintendo has still been a playing card company for quite a while longer than it’s been a video game company, and while there are some artifacts contributed by the founding Yamauchi family recognizing their game products, mostly it’s a pretty chill hotel, haunted no doubt by friendly and playful ghosts. And they serve food! Have a look.

An early product of Nintendo was a set of playing cards with a Napoleon theme. beforemario wrote about those too!

The Digital Antiquarian on Rogue and Successors

[EDIT: link fixed, thanks to the Grogpod Roguelike Podcast for pointing it out!]

I’ve been thinking about doing more @Play lately, but in the meantime, please read this mostly nice, lengthy article from The Digital Antiquarian on Rogue and its legacy. I say mostly because there are a few minor points I disagree with. Maybe I’ve played too much of it, but experienced players tend to view vanilla Nethack as maybe a bit too easy. There’s a ton to learn, but once you’ve internalized it all, you come to realize that most situations have counters, and it comes down to knowing what they are, and not pushing your luck too far. Ah! I’ve not said much on Nethack for years now! I should get back to doing that….

A screen of Amiga Rogue, from the linked article

The Digital Antiquarian: Going Rogue

Chris Trotter’s History of Atari

The Atari brand has been in so many hands, and been used for so many things (including, most recently, NFTs and hotels) that making sense of it all is maddening. Christ Trotter on the atomicpoet Pleroma instance made a fairly lengthy series of posts laying it all out that, to my eyes, is accurate. He may actually know more about their history than I do, although pride makes me loathe to admit it!

The whole thread is useful, but here’s the first post on it, presented as screenshot because WordPress doesn’t yet support embedding that kind of thing directly. I don’t know why it’s so blurry, that seems to be WordPress again.

Chris Trotter’s Capsule History of Atari (atomicpoet.org, a Pleroma instance)

@Play: The Angband Family Tree

@Play‘ is a frequently-appearing column which discusses the history, present, and future of the roguelike dungeon exploring genre.

It’s finally time. Time to reveal the maelstrom of roguelike games which has, as its center, the game of Angband.

You might be interested in our other recent columns on Angband: Re-introduction, Getting Started, and Version History.

Here is a chart of the 100-plus variants of Angband (homepage) that we know of. RogueBasin and the variants table at Tangaria were both major sources for this. You might have to right-click it and download to view it without blurring. Here’s a direct download of the PNG.

The degree to which these games have been changed from the original varies tremendously, from slightly hacks to repurposings to entire other games. In ToME, Angband was used as a base that would be completely rewritten, twice, and turned into something completely separate. Many of these games could have whole articles written about them. I’ve written at least one so far, on Zangband.

Looking through the chart, one can find two great jumping-off points from Angband’s source tree. One is PC Angband 1.3.1, largely because of being the original base of Zangband, and the other is Angband 2.8.3, which was the site of legendary maintainer Ben Harrison’s great cleanup of the code, which made it much easier to create variants than it had been.

Looking at the list, one might get the impression that this list also serves as a timeline, but that would be in error. Some variants would be updated over time, bringing in features from later in Angband’s development, and this chart doesn’t reflect that, and sometimes a game wouldn’t branch off from the newest version of the code. Please keep this in mind when looking through it.

A few interesting finds from the list:

Steamband is a complete reskinning in a kind of Jules Verne pulp steampunk style. It is what we might call a literary game, taking direct inspiration from a particular corpus of stories in the same way as Call of Cthulhu or Gygax era Dungeons & Dragons. In it, you start in a town in the center of the Earth, and try to ascend to the surface. It has some interesting ideas around the theme, but I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly because of its “race” system, which is easy to perceive as actually racist. I think its intent was to present the racial attitudes of the fiction works from which it was derived, which were really terrible, but it comes across, not to mince words, as gross these days.

There are two My Little Pony variants, based off of the “G4” version of the franchise that became meme popular for about 45 minutes of web time. Ponyband, a.k.a. My Little Angband: Dungeons Are Magic, derives from the popular 2.8.3 branch; Anquestria got its basis from the later 3.2.0.

ToME, a fairly popular variant, has the distinction of not only having a living homepage, but is also available on Steam and GoG. It has a free version, but other features are available to paying players. It’s a game that’s changed a great deal over time, starting out as Tales of Middle Earth. Now, little of its Tolkien basis remains, and its name has been retconned into “Tales of Maj’Eyal,” because you gotta have an apostrophe. Its page vaguely gives it an air of being an MMORPG, but I think it’s still a strictly single-player game. It is a game that, judging from comments, there is a great deal to get stuck into, but to my eyes it has a lost the simplicity of its origin, and it’s not an easy game to pick up. It is still under development though, and that is beyond laudatory for a game of its age and lineage.

Ironband is a challenge variant, intended to make the original game even harder. An “ironman” mode, preventing the player from going upstairs, forcing them to descend ever deeper, is part of the base game now. Ironband dates back to 2012, which may be before this mode was added, although I cannot date its inclusion conclusively right now. But whether is or not, by devoting itself to this mode of play, it is free to be completely redesigned around it. So, Ironband has streamlines the game in its service, removing races and classes, and giving the player all of their options at once. After the start of the game, there are no shops at all; everything the player gains after that point must come from the dungeon floor. Because all characters can use all things, there’s much fewer completely useless items. The “stat gain floor” phenomenon, where you have to grind on certain floors to get necessary potions to improve your attributes or risk almost certain death, has also been alleviated. Because dungeon progress is one way, it refreshes the skill points that your abilities require upon entering a new level, which is an interesting play decision: if you run out of SP, you can get them back by advancing a floor, but at the cost of increasing the game’s difficulty, possibly earlier than you’d want.

Digital Antiquarian on 3D Graphics History

That excellent blog The Digital Antiquarian has three posts so far in a history of 3D graphics, starting from the likes of Doom and Quake and so far going as far as 3DFX.

Part 1: Three Dimensions In Software (Or, Quake And Its Discontents):

Quake (All images from The Digital Antiquarian)

“By the middle years of the decade, with the limitations of working with canned video clips becoming all too plain, interactive movies were beginning to look like a severe case of the emperor’s new clothes. The games industry therefore shifted its hopeful gaze to another approach, one that would prove a much more lasting transformation in the way games were made. This 3D Revolution did have one point of similarity with the mooted and then abandoned meeting of Silicon Valley and Hollywood: it too was driven by algorithms, implemented first in software and then in hardware.

It was different, however, in that the entire industry looked to one man to lead it into its algorithmic 3D future. That man’s name was John Carmack.”

Part 2: Three Dimensions In Hardware:

Pro Graphics 1024

“Born in Salt Lake City in 1924, (Dave) Evans was a physicist by training and an electrical engineer by inclination, who found his way to the highest rungs of computing research by way of the aviation industry. By the early 1960s, he was at the University of California, Berkeley, where he did important work in the field of time-sharing, taking the first step toward the democratization of computing by making it possible for multiple people to use one of the ultra-expensive big computers of the day at the same time, each of them accessing it through a separate dumb terminal. During this same period, Evans befriended one Ivan Sutherland, who deserves perhaps more than any other person the title of Father of Computer Graphics as we know them today.”

Part 3: Software Meets Hardware:

The custom version of Quake made for Vérité

“Among these, of course, was the tardy 3Dfx. The first Voodoo cards appeared late, seemingly hopelessly so: well into the fall of 1996. Nor did they have the prestige and distribution muscle of a partner like Creative Labs behind them: the first two Voodoo boards rather came from smaller firms by the names of Diamond and Orchid. They sold for $300, putting them well up at the pricey end of the market —  and, unlike all of the competition’s cards, these required you to have another, 2D-graphics card in your computer as well. For all of these reasons, they seemed easy enough to dismiss as overpriced white elephants at first blush. But that impression lasted only until you got a look at them in action. The Voodoo cards came complete with a list of features that none of the competition could come close to matching in the aggregate: bilinear filtering, trilinear MIP-mapping, alpha blending, fog effects, accelerated light sources. If you don’t know what those terms mean, rest assured that they made games look better and play faster than anything else on the market. This was amply demonstrated by those first Voodoo boards’ pack-in title, an otherwise rather undistinguished, typical-of-its-time shooter called Hellbender. In its new incarnation, it suddenly looked stunning.”

Jeremy Parish’s Segaiden Reaches the Master System Era

I worry that he’ll never finish his many Youtube game history projects, but Jeremy Parish has hit an important milestore as Segaiden, his Sega-specific series, reaches the beginning of the Master System era! In addition to the console itself three games are covered this time, including the pack-in that’s so packed-in that it’s included on the system’s circuit board itself.

There’s no shortage of game history videos out there, but Jeremy’s work is among the best, tieing the other collection of relentlessly-complete game cataloging projects, Dr. Sparkle’s Chrontendo, Chronsega and Chronturbo. I find that neither Jeremy nor Sparkle’s projects replace the other, but instead look at their subjects from different angles. Jeremy Parish has more of a view of context, both from other games and history, while the various Chrons look directly at each game’s play.

But importantly, neither of them succumb to the many excesses of Youtube gaming culture: they aren’t hyperedited, they aren’t overloaded with sound effects and swishy graphics, neither of them feel like they’re aimed at 14-year-olds, and no video in any of their series looks like it’s trying to complete with Tiktok. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing–well, let me clarify your thinking for you. It’s a good thing. It’s a very good thing.

Segaiden #30: Master System, Snail Maze, and Hang On & Safari Hunt (Youtube, 19 minutes)

Atari Games Email Archive

Posted to Metafilter by Going to Maine, it’s definitely the kind of thing of interest to me and probably our readers. A link is a link, no matter where it came from. This site is an archive of messages made by Jed Margolin from the Atari Games corporate email server, from July 11, 1983 to when he left the company on September 15, 1992.

Particularly, read the last message from this post on the end of the U.S. arcade boom, of which this is an excerpt:

Atari Email Archive

Note: we saw the Nintendo Direct with the trailer for the (newer) Super Mario Bros. movie, but there’s not really to comment on? Maybe we’ll talk about it later, when we’ve learned more.

@Play: Angband Version History

@Play‘ is a frequently-appearing column which discusses the history, present, and future of the roguelike dungeon exploring genre.

Back in the GameSetWatch era, I focused more on a general kind of audience for @Play. No, really! I notice that I’ve gotten a fair bit more detailed so far in the Set Side B era. That’s especially the case this time, which is a dive into the history of Angband. But there’s a purpose to this: after knowing where Angband’s been, it’ll help us when, next time, we finally look at its huge number of variants. That should be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to it. I hope it’ll make up for all the time I had to spend building this one.

Angband has a long and somewhat convoluted history. There aren’t many open source games with its longevity. It’s managed to keep going by changing ownership somewhat regularly, with each maintainer adding their own stamp to its play.

The Release section of the current Angband homepage rephial.org goes into exacting detail over what was introduced when, but it’s a lot to sift through, and in terms of volume most changes are just bugfixes.

I have gone through all the pages and tried to render down the essence of each change, and what effect it had upon Angband. In this article, we follow along with the various changes that have been made since its origin, and in the end try to note the best version to play, for people interested (or not) in its various aspects.

Our previous articles on Angband are this general introduction, and this description of its features and early going.

AnteAngband

Some of this will be familiar to people who have been reading @Play on Angband so far, so I’ll keep it brief. MORIA was created by Robert Koeneke in 1983, and may be the first true “roguelike” that wasn’t Rogue itself.

Moria was written in Pascal, a fine language that, sadly, isn’t nearly as popular as C. UMORIA (5/3/1987) is a reimplementation of Moria in C. It was updated until July 7, 1994, with one last gasp on 10/13/2008 by a different developer.

ANGBAND was based on UMoria 5.2.1, and is where our story really begins.

Other variants of Moria include Morgul (1993), PC Moria (unknown years), and VMS Moria (1983-1985).

Early History

It’s hard to see this zoomed out, but this is a timeline of the development of some prominent roguelikes from Moria to current Angband (4.2.4). Some positions are fudged a little where I have no precise date.
Full resolution version

Angband 1.0 (1990): The first version of Angband was derived from UMoria by Alex Cutler and Andy Astrand. My indications are that Angband was largely a bigger version of Moria back then: 100 levels instead of 50, beat up Sauron and Morgoth at the end instead of a balrog. This version probably doesn’t survive, and doesn’t seem to have been widely distributed outside the University of Warwick.

What The Frog?

Angband 2.4.frogknows (April 11, 1993): This version was called (right on its title screen) “2.4.frogknows,” was produced by Steve Marsh and Geoff Hill after Angband’s creators graduated, and was the first version with a wide release. This version put a definite stamp on the game, and founded aspects of what many consider iconic about Angband. Amazingly, binary and source versions of frogknows are available from the current-day Angband Home Site.

How does it differ from UMoria?

  • Added more Tolkien, D&D and Rolemaster monsters
  • More object types, including rods, which don’t have limited charges, but instead have a timeout between uses
  • More races
  • Special dungeon rooms
  • Monsters can be generated in groups
  • Monsters have more spells and abilities
  • Special monsters based on defeated players (“ghosts”) can appear in the dungeon and attack you
  • Treasure pits, a predecessor of vaults, appear. These are large rooms with lots of treasure but also out-of-depth monsters
  • Artifacts and level feelings are added
While this title screen identifies it as 2.4.frogknows, this is PC version 1.0.

frogknows got ported to classic Macintosh, Atari ST, and Amiga. The CRPG Addict played this version of Angband and reported on the experience on his blog.

It helps, when giving dates, to give some idea of what else was going on in the world at the time. In the same year as frogknows, Bill Clinton was inaugurated as U.S. President, and child sexual abuse allegations were made against Michael Jackson. It was the 16-bit era in console video gaming. Secret of Mana came out for the SNES. Arcades saw the release of Mortal Kombat II and Super Street Fighter II. Among roguelikes, the NetHack DevTeam would release 3.1.0, the beginning of modern NetHack, but they hadn’t yet gotten to the venerable 3.1.3 version.

If you’re only used to 4.2.4, there are some specific things to be aware of. Mages are much more fragile starting out in older versions, with very slow spell point regeneration, while warriors can be played in a much more direct, hacky-smacky style. It you get stuck on a dungeon level, there’s probably a secret door you didn’t find; use the ‘s’ key in corridors and along walls to search for them. You must remember to wield torches to use them, you don’t start with anything equipped. Artifacts and ego items look just like normal items until identified. You don’t find stacks of useful potions and scrolls at once, but have to find across them one at a time.

PC Angband

Seemingly on the same day as the release of frogknows, Charles Teague (who helped with frogknows) released PC Angband 1.0.

PC Angband went on its own for awhile. In the year 1993: April 20: 1.1; May 20: 1.2. August 18: 1.3; August 28: 1.3.1; it switched hands to Charges Teague. Then, March 7 1994: 1.4; and then, by Phil Yellott, on February 18 1995: 1.4.1b. After that, the line seems to have been merged back into mainline Angband.

Most versions of Angband before 2.8.0 are lost, and those that survive are usually only available in source form, but 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 of the the PC Angband line survive and are playable in DOSbox. 1.0 and 1.1 also survive, but their closeness to frogknows means that the Angband site links them from its page.

PC Angband 1.2 (5/20/1993): Players could look at monsters to determine how wounded they are, and a stat autoroller was added.

PC Angband 1.3, 1.3.1 (8/28/1993): Targeting was added, allowing players to launch missiles and magic in arbitrary directions, not just in the orthogonal and diagonal ones. (You still can’t do this in NetHack, since it would materially affect other aspects of the game.) And players could gain more than one level at a time.

1.3.1 is an auspicious release, as the base of Angband’s first variants. One of these is Angband–, which seems to be lost, but would serve as the foundation of ZAngband, a mega-variant that itself saw a lot of iteration. It would inspire CthAngband, ToME, and Hengband, all variants that continue to see a lot of interest even now. Hengband is a Japanese variant with several notable children itself, and ToME has been rewritten several times, and now is basically its own separate, full-fledged game. You can even get it on Steam. We’ll talk more about variants, a huge topic, next time.

While the Angband site mentions a later version originating the “Monster Memory” feature, there was some form of recall of abilities, even extending between games as far back as Angband 1.0, as shown here.

Mainline Angband, 2.X

Angband 2.5.0 (12/8/1993): Charles Swiger took over as maintainer. Versions from this to 2.5.9 were released with many technical and miscellaneous changes that I won’t bore you with. Targeting was ported into mainline Angband with 2.5.6.

2.5.8 is the only of these versions that is available on the Angband home site, and even that only in the form of source code.

PC Angband 1.4 (3/7/1994): The last version of PC Angband, and Charles Teague’s last contribution to the game. Many of its changes were merged with the core game. It added a new speed system, and other miscellaneous adjustments.

Angband 2.6.0 (9/4/1994): More miscellaneous changes over three versions, and the end of Charles Swiger’s tenure. 2.6.1 and 2.6.2 are available as source code.

The Macintosh port of 2.6.1 marked a notable addition to the roster of people who have worked on Angband….

Angband 2.7.0 (1/14/1995): Ah! With this version, Angband legend Ben Harrison began his work. The current Angband homesite calls it the beginning of the Second Age of Angband.

Ben Harrison cleaned up the code greatly, almost rewriting it, and fixed lots of bugs, resulting in the 2.8 line being the foundation for many variants. A lot of Angband’s reputation for spawning variants is due to this version, both directly and by its successors. Ben Harrison also founded a notable Angband Home Page on the World Wide Web, that survives today. (The successor to it, thangorodrim.net, has not been so lucky.) And, Ben Harrison invented the Angband Borg, in which one’s computer plays Angband itself, learning about the game as it goes.

2.7.2 added the Scroll of *Identify* to the game, which offers complete information on an artifact’s properties. (Angband loves emphasizing words with asterisks.)

2.7.4 is notable because it’s one of the few versions of Angband from back then that’s still available in compiled form, and downloadable from the Angband site. Its Windows version doesn’t work well for me, producing a garbled display on Windows 10. The DOS version appears to be salvaged from someone’s playfield; it has a valid save file for a character named Whopper, a Human Paladin, who is in the middle of exploring the dungeon, and carries the artifact “Sting.”

2.7.5 rewrote dungeon generation. 2.7.6 added a health bar for monsters. And 2.7.7. removed player ghosts “temporarily,” but they have yet to return even today. This is the version that rephial.org says added Angband’s famed monster memory, a set of spoilers that the game creates and maintains as you play, collecting all the information that your characters have learned on their adventures. However, some form of this extends back as far as PC Angband 1.0.

2.8.0 (10/12/1996): 2.8.1 expanded dungeon spaces so more than one item can fit in a space. Up until then, any dungeon space could only hold one object on the ground. This sometimes caused enemies to leave less treasure than they would otherwise have if they were being fought in a corridor, since there simply wouldn’t be enough room for it all. (The Mystery Dungeon games abide by this restriction, where it adds some unexpected wrinkles to its gameplay.) It also made it so any player race can try to play as any class, although some are probably not good ideas with the stats the game assigns to them.

The 2.8 series on Windows contains rudimentary graphics, but several of its releases don’t like to work on current Windows.

2.8.2 removed the prompt for the number of items to drop, sell, or destroy at once. Instead, players could specify a count before the command, similar to Rogue and NetHack’s repeat systems. After vocal outcry from some players, 2.8.3 added it right back again.

Angband 2.8.3 for Windows, with font graphics enabled

2.8.3 was Harrison’s last official version, although he’d release a version of a prospective 2.8.5 for testing. This version seems to be the first version with support for Allegro tile-based graphics on Windows, but it’s not enabled in the supplied binary. It contains the font-based graphics of the other 2.8 versions, but they have to be enabled in ANGBAND.INI, by setting the variable Graphics therein to 1. Although the tiles are tiny and hard to make out, it’s recommended to play this way, as the terminal graphics are messed up on current Windows. You can somewhat get around this by use the Look command (‘l’) to identify characters in sight. This version does not have compiled DOS binaries on the Angband home site. This (the garbled terminal graphics and Graphics=1 in ANGBAND.INI) is also true of several of its successors.

2.9.0 (4/11/2000): A new Angband for the year 2000. Robert Ruhlman took over the reins of Angband with this version and created the thangorodrim.net website (Wayback link). 2.9 added birth options (see the previous article for more on those), one of them being a way to enforce the “ironman” playstyle, where characters are disallowed from ever using upstairs. Other birth options remove shops or artifacts from the game, or else replace the built-in set of artifacts with randomly-generated replacements. Font graphics can be enabled in ANGBAND.INI on Windows, but are on by default on DOS.

Angband 2.9.0 for Windows, with graphics enabled.
Angband 2.9.0 for DOS, check out the marble border

Angband 3.X

3.0.0 (3/30/2002): A notable change with this version was the addition of Lua scripting to the game. You might think that sounds like it’d be a great idea, after all lots of other games have used Lua, but it actually didn’t see much use, and would be removed from the code with 3.0.8.

It’s minor from a play standpoint, but 3.0.2 removed the term “Genocide” from the game, in order to disassociate a mere computer pastime from real-life horrors. The effect was renamed to Banishment, although this meant that the pre-existing Priest spell Banishment had to itself be renamed to Banish Evil to avoid nominal confusion.

3.0.4 marked two significant changes. With this version junk items, which were included as dungeon flavor but served no real game purpose, were no longer generated in the dungeon. And this was the version to, finally, remove haggling over prices to buy or sell from shops, which I have to say, after experiencing Moria, is probably my own personal favorite change. (Up until this point, the game had already been shortening haggling a lot.)

Robert Ruhlmann stopped maintaining Angband with 3.0.6 (6/8/2005). It’s also the last version supplied with DOS support.

The last DOS Angband: 3.0.6

3.0.8p1 (prerelease, 6/24/2007): Anna Sidwell takes the fiery spikéd torch from Robert Ruhlmann, and removes Lua support. This is the first version to have item “squelching,” allowing the player to set the game to automatically ignore items they aren’t interested in. Mouse support is added, and the code cleaned up again.

3.1.0 (beta, 1/24/2009): This version marked fairly large changes to gameplay. Monsters here ceased to drop so many items, potions began tending to appear in stacks, and healing became proportional to wounds taken. (I’m not quite sure what that means.) A “bad” class of items from previous versions, that reduce a stat and provide no upside, was replaced with alternate items that lower one stat but raise another. Gold generation was toned down in the later dungeon, and traps start out only generating relative safe types, with the worse ones saved for getting progressively deeper in the dungeon.

Angband 3.1.0, TTY mode

Graphics here, by default, are TTY-based, but can be switch to tiled graphics from the Options menu fairly easily. If the window is too small for you (easily possible), the size of the screen can be adjusted in steps from the Window menu.

Angband 3.1.0, Adam Bolt’s tiles, in bigtile mode
Note: from here, Angband comes with multiple tilesets, so how the game looks depends on the tiles selected. If you have the time/energy/artistic skill you could make your own.

3.1.1 (beta, 7/29/2009): Another auspicious moment for the game of Angband. For many years Angband had suffered, after being worked on for so long and by so many hands, of not having a clear line of copyright for all its code, which prevented it from going full GPL. While everyone generally agreed that the game should have fully open source and no one was really against it, the community’s inability to contact everyone who contributed to the source code meant they couldn’t fully relicense it. With this version, the last of these rights issues was finally cleared up, and Angband became available under a dual license, both GPL and its own Angband source license.

3.1.2v2 is credited to the Angband Development Team, I think signalling them taking over from Anna Sidwell.

3.2.0 (12/24/2010): Armor Class, the game statistic indicating how protected a character is from harm, was changed to make heavy armor more worth it relative to their weight. The speed system was changed again. Element resistances was extended to cover carried items. With this version, all artifacts became immediately recognizable: items with names are instantly known, although your character still won’t know what their abilities are until discovered in play. Until that point, you would eventually get a good feeling about a specific item if it was an unrecognized artifact that had been carried for awhile.

Starting in this version, I notice, you can resize the window to get more of a view of the world.

Angband 3.2.0, David Gervais’s tiles, with the window expanded a bit

3.3.0 (7/31/2011): Dungeon generation got another long-overdue overhaul. New cavern and labyrinth special level types were introduced. Level feelings, a part of the game going back to frogknows, were redesigned, separating the danger level of a level from the treasures on it. Resistances were revamped. This version made the spiking of doors, in order to slow down pursuing monsters, a feature that had long been in the game and derived from tactics in classic D&D, more effective.

Angband 3.3.0, nomad’s tiles

3.4.0 (9/14/2012): Development pace slowed for a bit here. Various changes over the years had resulted in Angband becoming easier, and this version attempt to restore some of its classic difficulty.

3.5.1 proudly identifies itself as a variant of Moria

3.5.0 (12/24/2013): Changed the game a fair bit. Charisma, often the dump stat in D&D-derived games, was removed entirely. Item generation was rebalanced, ego items redistributed by level, and shops by default no longer buy items from the player; you can instead donate an item to a shop to be identified or recharged. Money in dungeons was made more plentiful to compensate. (Shops will buy items again, and less money will be generated, if enabled with a birth option.) Random monster generation was toned down, and continuing the trend towards removing bad items, Scrolls of Curse Armor and Curse Weapon were removed. And with this version, door spiking was removed entirely, along with jammed doors and bashing them down. I guess people didn’t like it as much as it was thought they would.

Angband 3.5.1, with multiple windows

By this point Angband on Windows had come to default to offering the multi-headed display. (One of the Ben Harrison released versions also turned it on by default, I forget which one.) It also offers current-day Angband’s choices for tile size. At a glance, it looks a lot like the 4.0 series.

Modern Angband (4.X)

4.0.0 (6/29/2015): Nick McConnell takes over maintaining Angband. A new rewriting of the code begins, with the intent of not making game changes until it is finished.

4.1.0 (6/25/2017): Big changes are made to the game after extensive forum discussion. I described many of these aspects in more detail last time. Active searching (with the ‘s’ key) is removed entirely after 24 years; stepping next to a secret door now always reveals it immediately. Identification of equipment properties and curses takes on its current rune-based form, and classic roguelike “sticky” curses are removed entirely. All potions, scrolls, and mushrooms are immediately identified on first use, and wands, staves, and rods usually identify when used, unless they only work by affecting monsters and none are present when tried. Conversely however, Scrolls of Identify and *Identify* are now gone, replaced with Scrolls of Identify Rune. More level generation types are added, including a “Moria level” in homage to the original game. Status ailments that could be inflicted by monsters were made more interesting.

4.1.1 added a birth option to make dungeon levels persistent, not being regenerated when left and returned to. It’s still in as an experimental feature today.

4.2.0 (8/17/2019): As of this writing, it’s the current major release of Angband. (The newest minor version. 4.2.4, was released 2/22/2022.) This version revamped the magic system, adding two more types to make for four major varieties, and added druids and necromancers that specialize in them. The number of spellbooks was reduced so players don’t have to lug as many around. Shapechanging is added for players and monsters. Many new mechanics are added to the game with this version.

Angband 4.2.4 (main window only)

What Flavor Of Doom Is Right For You?

Some of these versions of Angband are still available to download, so you can play the one that’s in the most accord with your personal preferences. Over the years, some features have been toned down or removed entirely, and others introduced and given prominence. Generally speaking, later versions of Angband are easier than earlier ones, and also put more of the focus on combat than dungeon exploration, but this not a universal trend.

  • If you want an experience as close to Moria, and Rogue, as possible, you’ll want to seek out 2.4.frogknows. You’ll get an authentic, but sometimes annoying, game.
  • 2.7.5 removed player ghosts. It also added, or at least improved, the monster memory. Memory is a great help, over many games, towards recognizing which monsters are the most dangerous and why. (The full history of the monster ability recall function will probably have to wait for another time.) 2.7.6 is the first version after this point that survives.
  • For graphics, 2.7.6 and successive versions have tile graphics if you change Graphics=0 to Graphics=1 in ANGBAND.INI, which will also ungarble the console on modern Windows. For Windows tile graphics, version 2.8.3 is likely the earliest version with Allegro support, but you’ll have to build it yourself.
  • 2.9.0 added birth options, letting you customize the game more to your liking.
  • 3.0.0 added Lua scripting, which might be interesting to modders.
  • 3.0.2 added item squelching, helping streamline the exploration of the dungeon.
  • 3.0.4 is when haggling with shopkeepers, a long-standing feature going back to Moria, was finally removed.
  • 3.0.8 removed the problematic “genocide” terminology, and Lua scripting.
  • 3.1.1 is when Angband’s rights issues were worked out.
  • With 3.2.0, artifacts became known on sight, greatly reducing the possibility of missing out on something great, and dungeon generation was overhauled.
  • Like the idea of spiking doors to delay pursuers? That was in the game from all the way back in frogknows, but was made more effective in 3.3.0.
  • Hate that idea? It was excised from the play entirely in 3.5.0.
  • 3.5.0 is also when shopkeepers stopped buying items from players without enabling that as a birth option.
  • Hate tapping the ‘s’ key to find doors? That was removed in 4.1.0. Up until then, if you didn’t have a magic aid to searching, you could get stuck in parts of the dungeon where all the doors out were hidden. With this version, stepping next to a hidden door is enough to reveal it.
  • Hate cursed items that make it hard to stop using them? Like the rune-based ID system? Both aspects also changed in 4.1.0. That’s also when identification was changed: identify scrolls were removed, but it became less dangerous to ID things from use, and dungeon generation was overhauled again.
  • If you like magic other than just Arcane and Divine, you’ll have to play the most recent line, and thus probably should go with the current version, 4.2.4. If you have no other preferences you should also go with this version to get the latest features and play niceties.

Well that was certainly a long and dry description, but it’s definitely shorter than what I had to read through to get it here. I think it’s still interesting for a look back at a twenty-nine year old game that has been through many different hands. After all that, while it’s changed a lot, Angband still feels a lot like it did in 1993: it’s a tactics-heavy dungeon exploration and combat game, with a lot of area to explore, but with occasional heart-stopping moments of terror.

Next time will be the end of our Angband discussion for now, where we embark on the long-promised exploration into the world of its variants. Angband variants are based on different versions throughout its long history, so having this version key to refer to will be very useful. See you then!

EDIT: Explained frogknows a bit better. Made a few other clarifications. This was a hard article to write.

Sources:
http://www.roguebasin.com/index.php/Angband_version_history
https://rephial.org/release
Use of the various versions available from rephial.

Video: The Sad End of Phil Katz

We mostly try to stick with games here, but just about everyone in the Windows ecosystem uses ZIP archive files. They’ve long become a de facto standard, with tools for working with them in Windows supplied by Microsoft as early as the Windows 95 Powertoys Plus! Pack. Nowadays, support for them is built right into Windows Explorer, and you can even open them like folders, which felt like some kind of magic when that feature debuted.

The ZIP format was once one of several competing compression and archiving formats, with others being LHA/LZH, ARC, ARJ, CAB, and of course on the Unix/Linux side of things Tar, Gzip and GZ. Other than the Unix types, those others are mostly dead now. There are some relative newcomers, RAR and 7Z, but most people just stick with ZIP without even caring to know of the format’s origins.

ZIP was the format produced by the shareware PKZip compression tools, named for its co-creator Phil Katz. Katz created it in response to a lawsuit from the company behind the (now obscure) SEA format. Rather than fight it, he and Gary Conway designed their own format and made tools to work with it. Then as now, the world loves an underdog, and many people flocked to the format. In 1989 they released the format to the public domain.

Phil Katz’s later life was ruined by alcoholism, which the above video from the Dave’s Garage YouTube channel is about. A sad end to someone who popularized a piece of technology that still sees use millions of times a day.

ZIP is so ubiquitous now that lots of people use it without even realizing. DOCX, ODF, EPUB, and JAR are all secret ZIP files under the hood.

Katz’s company PKWare remains to this day, although they’re now focused on data security, and as you can see from their website they now look exactly like the kind of faceless monolith that all tech companies eventually mutate into. They still steward the format, and in that tonedeaf way of corporations, now hold a forbidding number of patents, and claim, “The free license grant offered in prior APPNOTE publications has been discontinued.” Presumably people just use the last public domain version, since once something is in the public domain, it’s there forever, thank frog.

(EDIT: xot on Twitter mentions that Windows ZIP support first appeared in the Win95 Plus! Pack, correction made above.)

The Dark History of Zip Files (YouTube, Dave’s Garage)

Video: The History of Compile Shooters

AAH COMPILE SHOOTERS ARE SO AWESUM SQUEEEE

My favorite shooter of all time is Zanac on the NES/Famicom, with The Guardian Legend following not far behind. I have a softspot for the Gradius series, but Zanac is really something special. I think you can get a sense for how someone feels about shooters as a genre in general by what they think about Zanac, its powerup system, its adaptive difficulty, and above all its blistering speed. Zanac presents a lot of Compile’s greatest strengths as a maker of shooters unalloyed. It’s a great shame that its Playstation-only sequel ZANACxZANAC was never brought to the US.

It was just a couple of minutes into Shmup Junkie’s video that I realized that he gets it. He knows these are amazing games, hugely foundational and inspirational. Without Zanac the whole history of shooters would have gone in a different direction. Plenty of arcade shooters, especially the Raiden series, are obviously iterations on ideas first found in Zanac.

(BTW, my favorite shooters? Besides Compile shooters and the Gradius series in general, I also like Twinbee and 1943. I generally don’t like the modern ilk of bullet hell games, which seem to me to be more about responding to patterns than dynamically-arising situations. This is all just me, of course, but it is me, that means something I reckon.)