His name is Leety

This is all pretty much the way I've always envisaged it.

(Note: actual game does not feature Finnish power metal soundtrack.)

Leety didn't even make it to Dwarftown though, the dork.

I finished ADOM exactly once, and only the lame close-the-gate ending. I pretty much suck at NetHack, too, but I did kill the Balrog at least once on my Amiga.

I have, thus far, resisted the urge to play Dwarf Fortress. It's the sort of game that we'd all be playing today, if nobody had ever invented bitmapped graphics.

Dwarf Fortress has a roguelike mode, but also a separate, I don't know, sort of super-MULE-ish base management kind of mode at which I blinked for few minutes in complete incomprehension.

Also, if you tell Dwarf Fortress to create a new world, I'm reasonably sure that it really does create a new world, in a parallel universe or something. A quarter of an hour of non-stop grinding on a modern PC. To create a map for an ASCII game.

(Large map image.)

One of the steps the game goes through during that quarter hour is called "Sorting Historical Figures".

I kid you not.

So, unlike other text mode games, if you run Dwarf Fortress on some old 386 or other and don't stick with the default world, you'll probably be dead of old age before the game starts.

It's all a bit Derek Smart-ish - like one of those ultra-games invented by teenagers. Except Dwarf Fortress appears to (a) actually work and (b) actually be quite fun to play, once you've addressed its Chrysler-Building-like learning curve.

I mean, just look at the feature list. It's got wrestling, the interface for which is somewhat reminiscent of Twister.

There is, of course, certainly room for more realism - or, shall we say, just "less silliness" - in the sword and sorcery genre. This really doesn't look half bad (except for the grammatical confusion that suggests the kobold's arm just mangled your sword, instead of vice versa). Likewise this bit of entirely realistic wrestling with a 20 foot tall adversary.

Oh, and blood. Blood's neat.

If you're not crazy about a combat mode that remembers the length and dirtiness of your fingernails, of course, then this may not be the game for you.

The Dwarf Fortress coders are not the first people to have thought about realism, and it's very easy for such meditations to produce a shuddering opaque mess of a system that's neither fun nor fast enough for any normal human to play.

Example. Pretty much everyone who's played any action adventure game has wondered, many many times, why weedy monsters who have any brain at all still try to attack an obviously spectacularly superior Player Character.

Why don't they run away?

Well, let's assume you have indeed made a game where a kobold who sees Schlong the Barbarian will wet himself and run for his life.

Where does that kobold - and everything else running away - go?

Either they go somewhere, or they disappear.

If they disappear, what happens to what they're carrying? Players expect treasure, which is why bugs and worms and puddings carry it (remember that Penny Arcade strip with the spidery thing carrying the ring? I do, but since they wisely deleted all of their metadata when they carefully and at great expense made their site work much less well, I can't find it). In your "realistic" game, monsters will of course really be carrying their treasure, not just turn into treasure when they die. They should have real items in a real inventory and even be able to use such items as they can figure out.

So... do they drop everything they own when they panic? Won't that result in well-travelled areas of the dungeon crusting up with junk?

Or does stuff disappear when the monster does? What if some of that stuff is something important that the player dropped to make inventory space, and will now never find again? What if it's something important that the player hasn't even found yet?

If, in contrast, you make the weedy monsters go somewhere, then they're all going to find a dead end and pile up. Now you've got to deal with them all anyway if you want to get your Seldom-Used But Rather Important Knuckleduster Of Lich Slaying back, and you're likely to find a lot of heaving piles of low level monsters blocking places where you want to go. This is likely to attract more player complaints than just having the little buggers attack madly in the first place.

You can't blame a game designer who's faced with knotty problems like this for just making something that glories in its silliness.

5 Responses to “His name is Leety”

  1. Laco Says:

    That PA strip is here, found with Pennypacker, a somewhat-useful Greasemonkey script for tagging PA strips.

  2. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Thank you, and thank you!

  3. corinoco Says:

    Wow! I used to play Nethack v3 at uni - on Sun Sparc 3s! It was so much more interesting than the 'Computer Rendering' subject I was doing. I have yet to Ascend, even with more modern versions. It now lives on my PDA for the times when City Rail suddenly forgets the Main Northern Line.

    OK, Oblivion is wonderful eye-candy (and at long last I have a machine that lets me push those sliders EAST!) but sometimes I long to dip swords in any available water hoping to get Excalibur, or die by falling down stairs while over-encumbered and land on the cockatrice corpse you were using as a weapon by wearing blessed gloves... (done that!)

  4. Garett Smith Says:

    I remember scripting and playing MajorMUD on a MajorBBS in Perth. People were well addicted, those who were disillusioned with their real lives got to strut around as Herculean warriors and kill lower level players at their whim. MUD then became their lives. I prophesised at the time that one day soon there would be Doom like graphics for a MUD and it would take over the world. I was disappointed, 13 years later people are still going to work and although there is WOW my Gibsonian reality hasn't been realised. :(

  5. mstromb Says:

    Well, if you DO want a Finnish power metal soundtrack for your game of ADOM, you can always go straight to the source of such things.

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