Posted by: shatteredblog | January 6, 2013

Nethack Diaries: The Adventures of Tom (III), Digger

Had the idea to write about the adventures I’ve been having in NetHack when I can find time for a few hundred turns on my breaks at work, and I hope you enjoy reading about it. I found a port the other day that works very well on an Android phone with no physical keyboard, which lead me to want to write about this. Has been too long since I’ve posted anything here. The port is called NetHack and is by GURR, available for free in the play store or at this link. Never played NetHack before? Well, I’m going to be explaining things as I go to try to make things make sense and maybe even get you wanting to try for yourself. Before we begin though, a disclaimer… I’m no expert at NetHack (do they exist?) and have never ascended a character, so expect more stupid deaths than long grinding runs through the dungeon without eating.


I left this screencap full size so we can talk about the features of the game and how this port works. Up at the top you have the stat and status bar, which lists important attributes about your character and follows you everywhere. My latest character is a human male archaeologist, of neutral alignment named Tom. The stats portion of the bar shows my statistics and my alignment and Digger, which is the title for a level 1 archaeologist. Going to call him Tom (III) because he is the third archaeologist named Tom I’ve played thus far… don’t ask what happened to the first two. The status portion of the bar shows my current dungeon level, money, health and power with totals, armor class, experience level and total and the current turn. When you are affected by a status (hungry, stunned, confused etc) a label shows up in this portion of the bar as well. All of this is important to keep an eye on as the game goes, with the most important of course being your health. The port labels your character with a box that gives indication of health as a color as well, which is a nice touch. Directly below this is the message area, where you see game messages. I’ve just started so the welcome message is displayed.

Down at the bottom (above the phone’s softkeys) is what the port calls the command panel. It is a sliding bar that has most used commands listed, which you can configure based on your playstyle. I haven’t felt the urge to reconfigure mine yet, but it may happen eventually. The first few of these are arguably the most important; the […] opens the soft keyboard for you to use, the [#] opens a list of the extended commands to pick from and the [20s] and [.] make you search and wait respectively. The rest of these are the other game commands with a [?] at the end that opens a list with the help files for you to look at. Movement can be done either tapping the screen in the direction you want to move (somewhat inaccurate for me) or from the soft keyboard using the letter keys.

In the center is the game screen showing the map of the current dungeon level. The port includes several tile sets as well as the ascii mode i have it set to, if you prefer one then go ahead and use one… I’m a purist. The map can be panned by sliding your finger around, and can be resized by pinching. In NetHack, you see what your character can see, and cannot what they cannot. The map of the level is extended as you uncover it, and can be forgotten due to game effects. Walls, items and objects you have seen but can no longer see are displayed in the locations you remember them, but don’t be surprised if a monster picks up that weapon left on the floor or a dwarf breaks a few walls while you’re away. In a lit room like the one I’ve begun in you can see the entire room, but some rooms and entire levels are dark and require a light source or just plain fumbling in the dark to move around. In the absence of telepathy or sense monsters you only are shown monsters that you can see on the screen.

That’s an introduction to the series, next time my little Digger will move from his starting point and begin the long crawl through the dungeon toward his nearly certain demise. What fun! Hope you come back and join me.


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