Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
NetHack is a roguelike computer game. It is an evolution of an earlier game called Hack which was itself an evolution of Rogue. The name NetHack stems from the fact that its development was originally (and continues to be) coordinated through the Internet; it is not a network/multiplayer game.
Nethack is one of the oldest games still being actively developed, with new features and bug fixes regularly being added by a loose group of volunteer developers, commonly called the DevTeam. The current version of NetHack is 3.4.3, released on December 8, 2003.
You take the part of a dungeon-delving hero in search of the Amulet of Yendor. The quest is played through over 50 randomly created levels, each containing many monsters, items, magical artifacts, and much, much more.
Before playing the game, you are invited to select a race, class, and alignment for your character, or allow the game to create a random character for you. There are traditional character roles such as knight, wizard, and rogue, but there are also unusual ones, including archeologist, tourist, and caveman. Your character's class and alignment dictate what god you serve in the game; if you keep your god happy you can receive aid and gifts.
After constructing your character, your task is introduced:
- After the Creation, the cruel god Moloch rebelled against the authority of Marduk the Creator. Moloch stole from Marduk the most powerful of all the artifacts of the gods, the Amulet of Yendor, and he hid it in the dark cavities of Gehennom, the Under World, where he now lurks, and bides his time.
Your character is initially accompanied by a pet animal, typically a kitten or little dog, although Knights begin with a pony. You can name your pet, and you can tame more pets along the way - domestic animals can be tamed by feeding them, and other monsters can sometimes be tamed by magic. Pets are very useful, not only for assisting you in combat, but also for detecting cursed items and stealing from shops.
This game is unparalleled in scope: hundreds of unique items, situations, monsters, and personages provide opportunities for interaction with the gameworld. Some interactions (and bugs) are rare and occasionally amusing. For example:
"You fall into a pit! You land on a set of sharp iron spikes!--more-- The spikes were poisoned! The poison was deadly...--more--
Do you want your possessions identified?"
(This is referred to as YAAD or Yet Another Annoying Death.)
The prompt "Do you want your possessions identified?", abbreviated as DYWYPI, is given at the end of any game, allowing you to learn any unknown properties of the items you had found.
It is often said that "the DevTeam thinks of everything" - whatever you can think of for your character to do, they will probably have thought of a plausible response.
For example, attempting to dip a potion into itself would produce:
That is a potion bottle, not a Klein bottle!
Or, being burdened while going down the stairs would produce:
You fall down the stairs.
To win the game, a player would ascend and become a demigod or a demigoddess. This is achieved by sacrificing the Amulet of Yendor to a player's deity after surviving some of the hardest levels in the game.
The following is a sample from a typical game session with what would be considered "improved graphics" with extended ASCII symbols:
- @ - you
- d - your dog
- $ - money
- ` - boulder or statue
- < - staircase up
- ? - scroll
- _ - altar
- + - closed door
- ( - tool (lamp, pick-axe, bag, etc.)
Below the map is the status line. First there is your name and professional ranking that is based on your experience. St stands for strength, Dx for dexterity, Co for constitution, In for intelligence, Wi for wisdom, Ch for charisma and Chaotic is your alignment. The next line shows the dungeon level you're on (increasing when you go deeper), money, hit points, magical power, armor class, experience and elapsed time (number of turns). Your hunger status, ranging from Satiated down to Fainting, would be shown next but it's currently normal and thus not displayed.
Apart from the original text mode, there are interfaces that replace text mode screen representations with images called tiles. For example, instead of the symbol "?", a picture of a scroll is shown.
Notable (non-player) characters
- The Wizard of Yendor, also known as Rodney (which is "Yendor" spelled backwards).
- King Croesus, lord of Fort Ludios.
- The Oracle of Delphi (with references to the Internet Oracle).
- Vlad the Impaler, a figure based on Vlad III Dracula and the Dracula story.
- The Gorgon Medusa, also from Greek mythology.
- Various demons, like Asmodeus, Demogorgon, Baalzebub, Dispater, and Orcus. The demons that appear in Nethack originate from the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons.
- The Shopkeeper Izchak. This character is named after one of the founding members of the DevTeam, Izchak Miller, who died in 1994. Among NetHack players, killing Izchak is considered extremely poor etiquette.
- The cockatrice: a typical example of a complex NetHack monster. Its touch can turn you to stone, so attacking it with your bare hands is not recommended. If you kill one and it leaves a corpse, you could wield it as a weapon, and turn other monsters to stone—but you'd better be wearing gloves. Furthermore, if your character is female, and you are polymorphed into a cockatrice, you can lay cockatrice eggs—which have several interesting applications. Again, "the DevTeam thinks of everything." One of the most commonly cited (and most amusing) stupid ways to die is to wield a cockatrice corpse while burdened, then fall down a staircase and land on one's own cockatrice corpse.
- The floating eye: a monster without any active form of attack, this is one of the most dangerous creatures to the inexperienced or incautious NetHacker. If you attack (run into) a floating eye when not blind and not capable of reflecting its gaze, there is a very high chance of it immobilizing you for many turns, leaving you open to attacks from other creatures that roam the Dungeons of Doom. The most embarrassing player deaths (such as being killed by a newt) are often the result of an encounter with a floating eye.
- The soldier ant: even though this creature has no unusual abilities, it often comes as a surprise for the unprepared hacker. These critters move in herds, are very fast, hard to hit and hit hard themselves. On the alt.org public NetHack server, they are the most common cause of death for players.
- The nymph: taking its origin in Greek mythology, these creatures are females of astounding charm. They manage to entice men and women alike into helplessness, stealing the belongings of an adventurer who has fallen into their hands, and leaving him bait for the more deadly creatures of the Dungeons, or, in the worst case, to die at the hands of their own equipment wielded by the nymph.
- The mind flayer: this creature (and its more powerful relative, the master mind flayer) is very dangerous in close combat, as it can extract and eat parts of its opponent's brain. Not only does this cause a loss of intelligence, but it can also cause its victim to forget information such as the layout of previously explored areas or the nature of any items it is carrying. As another example of "the DevTeam thinks of everything," a mind flayer is at a significant disadvantage when fighting mindless creatures such as zombies.
Other versions & interfaces
There was a commercial version called Dungeon Hack with a first-person view, but it left out many of the little features that makes NetHack worthwhile even after years of playing (and it usually takes years and years of playing to win).
Many experienced NetHack players prefer the original text mode interface, as they feel the graphical alternatives deter attention from playability and the use of one's imagination.
NetHack is an open source game, so anyone can edit the source code and thus create new variants. As of June 2002, the only variant which is under active development is Slash'EM (Super Lots of Added Stuff Hack - Extended Magic).
Nethack-el is an Emacs major mode for playing nethack.
- NetHack Official Site
- Yet Another NetHack Site
- NetHack.de Sascha's and Raph's NetHack Site
- noeGNUd - 3D NetHack
- Falcon's Eye - Isometric NetHack
- Annual NetHack Tournament
- The NetHack Index
- Hearse, a utility to share bones files
- A Bibliography of NetHack's Database
- The Annotated NetHack File
Several public servers have been set up to allow people to telnet to a host and begin playing NetHack:
- alt.org Public NetHack Server, home of the 2 billion point ascension; character deaths, ascensions, etc. are broadcast on the #nethack channel on Freenode by an IRC bot.
- Fishpool Creations NetHack Server, who are also broadcasting deaths and ascensions (their bot, Izchak, being the inspiration for the Rodney bot of alt.org) on #nethack on IRCnet.
- Ars Technica NetHack Server
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