The November Nethack Tournament!

The replacement for the old dev/null tournament, the November Nethack Tournament is on! Get yer armor and weapons, read your spellbooks and start testing those items! Maybe you’ll find a Wand of Wishing on the first floor? Probably not, but there’s all kinds of crazy D&D-ish adventures to be had this month, so get ‘hacking!

The November Nethack Tournament (tnnt.org)

Roguelike Celebration Talks Start Tomorrow!

Ah, it crept up on me, so let me remind everyone that Roguelike Celebration begins today, although until tomorrow it just means they’re opening their social space for awhile. Nicole Carpenter at Polygon wrote a short piece about this year’s conference.

There is an admittance fee, but if you can’t afford it you can also get a free pass! Please consider paying them if you are able though, they do a lot of work every year in putting it together.

Here is the official schedule (linked), below is it presented just as a list of talks, with ✨sparkle emojis✨ around the things that personally enthuse me. ✨Just because!✨

Times given are US Pacific/Eastern. If you think the short times between starts are indicative of short talks, most of them aren’t that short, they have two tracks going on beside each other:

SATURDAY

9:30 AM/12:30 PM: Arron A. Reed, Klingons, Hobbits, and the Oregon Trail: Procedural Generation in ✨the First Decade of Text Games

10:00 AM/ 1 PM: Nic Tringali, ✨Abstract Space Exploration✨ in The Banished Vault

10:30 AM/ 1:30 PM: Linas Gabrielaitis, Fictions of Infinity in ✨Geological Finitudes

10:45 AM/1:45 PM: Ludipe, Exploring ✨Pacifist✨ Roguelikes

11:30 AM/2:30 PM: Florence Smith Nicholls, Another Stupid Date: ✨Love Island as a Roguelike

11:45 AM/2:45 PM Kes, Hunting the Asphynx: Roguelikes, ✨Provenance✨, and You

Noon/3 PM: Mike Cook, Generating Procedures: ✨Rule and System Generation✨ for Roguelikes

1:30 PM/4:30 PM: Scott Burger, The ✨Data Science✨ of Roguelikes

2 PM/5 PM: Nat Alison, In Defense of ✨Hand-Crafted Sudoku

3 PM/6 PM: Eric Billingsley, Scoped-down design: ✨Making a Tiny Roguelike

3:30 PM/6:30 PM: Elliot Trinidad, Touching Grass & Taking Names: Tuning the ✨Blaseball✨ Name Generator

4:30 PM/7:30 PM: Paul Hembree, Audible Geometry: Coordinate Systems as a Resource for ✨Music Generation

5 PM/8 PM: Jurie Horneman, Why ✨Dynamic Content Selection✨ Is Hard

SUNDAY

9:30 AM/12:30 PM: Mark Johnson, ✨Generating Riddles✨ for a Generated World

10 AM/1 PM: Jesse Collet & Keni, Fireside Chat About the Development of ✨NetHack

10:30 AM/1:30 PM: ✨Leigh Alexander✨, ✨McMansions of Hell✨: Roguelikes and Reality TV

1 PM/4 PM: Ray, Remixing the Layer Cake: Facilitating ✨Fan Reinterpretation✨ Through ✨Caves of Qud✨’s Modular Data Files

1:15 PM/4:15 PM: Crashtroid, Preventing Ear Fatigue with ✨Roguelike Music

1:30 PM/4:30 PM: Everest Pipkin, The Fortunate Isles: Fragment Worlds, Walled Gardens, and ✨the Games That Are Played There

2 PM/5 PM: ✨Jeff Olson✨, ✨Alphaman✨: Developing and Releasing a Post-Apocalyptic Roguelike Game in the ✨DOS Days✨ When Computers Were Slow, Memory Was Scarce, and No One Had Ever Heard of Object-Oriented Code

3 PM/6 PM: Dustin Freeman, ✨Live Action Roguelike

3:30 PM/6:30 PM: Jonathan Lessard, A ✨Simulation✨ with a View

3:45 PM/6:45 PM: Tom Francis, Generating ✨Boring Levels✨ for Fresh Experiences in Heat Signature

4 PM/7 PM: Patrick Kemp, Design Tooling at ✨Spry Fox

5 PM/8 PM: Stav Hinenzon, A Messy Approach to ✨Dynamic Narrative✨ in Sunshine Shuffle

5:15 PM/8:15 PM: Josh Galecki, ✨Procedurally Generating Puzzles

5:30 PM/8:30 PM: Jasper Cole, ✨Backpack Hero✨ – Player Upgrades and Progression

6 PM/9 PM: Brianna McHorse & Chris Foster, Fusing AI with Game Design: Let the ✨Chaos✨ In

The Worst Possible Day to Play Nethack

As we’re reminded by abadidea on Mastodon, that day is today, October 13, 2023.

Nethack uses the system time-of-day clock to affect the game in modest ways. It figures out the phase of the moon, and if it’s a full moon the player’s “base luck,” the number at which it starts and tends to trend towards, is +1. Luck affects the game in many minor ways, most notably affecting the to-hit chances of striking monsters. Full moons also affect werecreatures and the chances to tame dogs, but those effects are highly situational.

Playing on a new moon has one effect, but it’s a big one. If you’re fighting a cockatrice and you hear its hissing, and are not carrying a lizard corpse, then you always begin turning to stone, instead of there only being a one-in-ten chance. This is what is called a “delayed instadeath”: you don’t die immediately, but if you don’t take immediate action it’ll happen in the next few turns. That’s the next few turns from the game’s perspective: various events may conspire to prevent you from getting that action at all. (The Nethack Wiki’s page on petrification is instructive.)

If you do get the turn, one of the things you can do is eat a lizard corpse, or that of another acidic monster. (Eating dead monsters raw is something you just end up doing often in Nethack.) If those aren’t at hand, what usually works is prayer, provided that you haven’t prayed too recently, your patron god is not angry with you and you’re not in Gehennom. Ordinarily, if you haven’t been playing badly, your god isn’t mad at you. If you’re in Gehennom you’re in the late game anyway, and probably have had ample opportunity to obtain one of the several ways of halting impending calcification.

Prayer is nearly a universal panacea, if it’s available. But there is one other thing that can block prayer: if your luck is negative. Even if it’s by just one point, prayer will never work.

That’s where the only other date effect in Nethack comes into play: on Friday the 13th, your luck defaults to -1, the opposite of the full moon effect. So, unless you’ve increased your luck by one of a number of means, prayer will never work on Friday the 13th. And today is both a new moon night and Friday the 13th. Other uses for prayer won’t work either: if you’re weak from hunger? Too bad. Low on hit points? Sorry. Punished with a ball and chain? Not going to work. Wearing cursed levitation boots? LOL.

Days that both have a new moon and are a Friday the 13th are rare. The last one was in July of 2018, before that November of 2015, and the one before that was in 1999. So, um, if you’ve been thinking about trying out this weird old roguelike game you’ve heard about, you might want to wait a bit. Until tomorrow, anyway.

7DRL 2023: Blunt Quaternion

It’s a silly NetHack-themed game about exploring a dungeon, presented through a bunch of characters sitting around passing a blunt between them. It’s not really that hard, but there is a bit of strategy to it.

You and your pet sit around a campfire with other characters from that dungeon level and talk about things. Your character and your pet can say things like, they want to be less or more aggressive on the next level, or they want to invoke Elbereth, or they want to use an item; other characters may say things like telling you where fewer or more fights will be, or where treasure is. Or they may have nothing of importance to say.

Every time a character says something, they must pass the blunt, which when it’s depleted signals it’s time to go to the next level. (C’mon, you know all the characters in this dungeon have to be potheads.) All of the fighting and stuff happens in simulation between conversations. Your character or their pet may be wounded (observe their hit points when their conversation turn comes up), or even die at this phase. It’s possible for your pet to die but your character go on to win. It’s also possible for your character die and your pet go on to win the game, which is not something that can occur in NetHack.

It’s a very simple game, and as stated, not really that difficult. But it’s fun, and might give a chuckle to NetHack fanatics. It’s free and completely playable in browser!

Blunt Quaternion (itch.io, $0)

News 6/29/22: Steam Stolar Fall Gay Bob Hacking

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

K. Holt at Engadget says Valve has doubled production of Steam Decks, meaning those on the waiting list will have less waiting to do.

Bernie Stolar
Image from VentureBeat

At VentureBeat’s subsite GamesBeat, Dean Takahashi sadly reports that Bernie Stolar, former President at Sega of America, has passed away at the age of 75. Alana Hauges of NintendoLife notes that his early career was in co-op, before joining Atari and working on their Lynx portable system. Later at Sony, Stolar helped shepherd the Playstation and franchises such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, before leaving to help Sega launch the Dreamcast.

After going free-to-play, the player base of popular battle royale hit Fall Guys‘ has ballooned to 20 million! But Eric Van Allen at Destructoid tells us that there is some tension among long-time players over changes to its currency model. At GameRant, Rory Young has more, including an observation made by one of the players: under the new system, a player who loses five matches in the first round ends up making more than a player who wins a match after five rounds!

Space Bob vs The Replicons

Graham Smith at Rock Paper Shotgun tells tales of the 2018 indie game Space Bob vs The Replicons (Steam), described as like a 2D No Man’s Sky, but didn’t do well on its initial release. Its creator had a heart attack a week after it hit Steam, then left the games industry. But he’s back, and has announced a big update. Its developer is Intravenous Software, and they’re on Twitter!

Sharang Biswas at Eurogamer posts an essay for Pride month about fanfiction and mods made by the gay community. (Note: slightly NSFW image)

Jeremy Winslow at Kotaku tells us that Blizzard has announced that, when Overwatch 2 releases, it will replace the original game, making it unavailable to play! Progress will carry over, but 6V6 matches will be sunset in favor of the new version’s 5V5 teams.

Finally, we have received word that venerable roguelike NetHack has been inducted into the Museum of Modern Art, as part of its Never Alone exhibit! We’ve seen it mentioned on PC Gamer, Reddit, and Slashdot — remember them? DevTeam member Jean-Christophe Collet muses on the distinction on LinkedIn.

Nethackathon 2022

April 15th through the 17th, a group of 24 streamers will be playing classic roguelike NetHack for 48 straight hours on Twitch! Their site is at nethackathon.org, and they’re on Twitter. Last year’s marathon can be found archived on YouTube.

They did a similar stream last year in the month of September, but this year they’ve moved it to April in order to space themselves better around the two major NetHack tournaments in June and November.

What is that? You don’t know anything about NetHack? Oh boy, I get to explain it again-it’s a venerable roguelike game that’s been in existence for 34 years! The first version of NetHack is older than the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It began during the presidency of Ronald Reagan! While there have been lulls in its development, and at least one major member of its dev team, Izchak Miller, passed away years ago, it’s still going, and it’s still being worked on. It’s notable for its high difficulty, the large amount of information a player must assimilate to be successful, and for its high degree of fairness (although sometimes it doesn’t seem fair)

NetHack comes across as like a solo adventure in an old school first-edition AD&D megadungeon. It’s full of monsters with weird properties, you have to figure out what your items do, and every game is randomly generated.