Nethack

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Nethack is a computer game. It is an evolution of an earlier game called Hack which was itself an evolution of the much more famous Rogue. Nethack was developed "over the 'Net", hence the name. Nethack is played using a text-only graphics (in a manner similar to ASCII art). You take the part of a dungeon-delving hero in search of the Amulet of Yendor. Your quest is played through at least 40 randomly created levels, each containing many monsters, items, magical artifacts, and more. Your character is initially accompanied by a pet cat or dog (which you can name). This game is unparalleled in scope: hundreds of scrolls, wands, potions, rings, weapons, armor, food, lockpicks, and monsters always have an interested interaction if anyone had thought one up. Some interactions (and bugs) were rare and occasionally amusing.

"You fall into a spiked pit. The spikes were poisoned! I'm afraid the poison was deadly... You die."

The following is a sample from a typical game session, to show what the "graphics" look like:

                    -----
                    |+..|      ----------
                    |....######..........######### -----
                  ##....|      |..<.....|         #-..)|
                  # |...|      |.?......|         #|...|
         -----  ### --|--######.........+#        #+...|
         |....| # #############-.--------#      ###---.-
         |.?...##                        #      # #
         |....|                          #    ### #
         -----                         #####  #   #
                     -+-------------    #--.--#   #
                     |..@...........### #|....# ###
                     |..........d..|  # #....|  #
                     |........$.....#####|...|  #
                     ---------------    #+.$.|
                                         -----

@ - you, d - your dog, $ - money, < - staircase, etc.

Bugs, funny messages, stories, experiences, and ideas for the next version are discussed on the Usenet group, rec.games.roguelike.nethack. Part of what makes this such a good game is that it is constantly being improved and changed, with new versions coming out whenever the DevTeam, a group of unpaid programmers, feels like it.

Apart from the original text mode, there are interfaces that replace the characters with small images, for example, instead of "?", a picture of a tiny scroll is shown. Another variant, Falcon's Eye, offers an isometric view of the dungeon map.

There was a commercial version called Dungeon Hack with a first-person view, but it left out many of the little features that make Nethack worthwhile even after years of playing (and it usually takes years and years of playing to win).

This is an open-source game, so anybody can fool around with the insides and make up new variants. Some of the major ones are SLASH (Super Lots of Added Stuff Hack) and Angband, a more J. R. R. Tolkien-centered version.

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