Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Hi. I'd love to try NetHack but the game seems incredibly complex. Is this true? does it have a huge learning curve?

If you want to play without external help like a guide or a spoiler, it is almost impossible to get anywhere because the game only gives you little hint of what is happening at a given time.

Using "spoiler file" or wiki, will give you a rough overview of the creature's strength and ability, weapon effectiveness, etc. This is helpful but is not enough to win.

To win you must understand deeply (grok) all the different mechanisms of the game (hunger, prayer, sacrifice, alchemy, intrisics, etc) and then have a strategy.

This guide allowed me to ascend : https://alt.org/nethack/mirror/homepage.mac.com/mhjohnson/ma...

This is counter intuitive but the early game is much harder, once you have found the right items, identified important scrolls and potions (about finishing gnome mine & sokoban) the game becomes much easier. And if you are well prepared everything beyond the Valley of Death is kinda boring and "easy". For a first ascension, it is probably wiser to chose an easy class (valkyrie, barbarian, knight, wizard).

Key strategy for the early game are : using your pet to identify cursed items, to not level up too quickly because the generated monster will become too tough, when in a desperate spot engraving "Elbereth" with your fingers might save you a few times[0], praying at the right time, etc

A full game with a successful ascension is about 20-30 hours. However you probably need 50-100 hours of failed attempt to learn the rope first. And it can be frustrating at times because even if you know the game better, it will take some times to make a breakthrough and survive the early levels.

Lastly if you really want to learn fast, play on a public server, and when you are in a very tough spot, you can (at least you could) ask people on #Nethack on Freenode for advice.

In the end, the game is very satisfying, because even if there is a big element of luck, once you know the game well, this is your skill as a player that will determine if you live or die, and this is really rewarding.

Aha! I was wondering about your "20-30" hours number, then I found this[1]: "Know firstly that Moria is a much longer game than NetHack. This is a consequence of the vastness of Moria's dungeon. It may take weeks and months to play an Moria character from the beginning to the triumph over the Balrog (or to a late but permanent death)."

I played quite a few hours of Moria (never killing the Balrog, but I never really was that motivated to "win" - I generally enjoyed finding new items, and discovering/learning "all" the spells. This in the older versions that included fun things like "Genocide"). I've also played a bit of the various Angbands, but I keep feeling that the stuff they add/change tend to make for an inferior game.

I really thought NH and Moria were more similar -- I think now that my initial dislike for NH was based on this misconception (NH is indeed a poor Moria, but it might be a great game if not viewed as a "version" of Moria).

[1] http://nethack.wikia.com/wiki/Moria#Gameplay

At high levels you're less likely to die in the simple course of wandering around the dungeon, but there are a number of challenges only encountered at high levels that have little margin for error, and can be swiftly deadly to even a well-prepared character if the player doesn't know exactly how to respond.

I agree. I tend to genocide Lich and mind-flayers so there is nothing too bad left if you have enough HP, AC and blessed potion of full healing. But the riders can be scary if you don't know how to deal with them.

I played it extensively like a decade ago. Never ascended though, it's just too difficult.

My experience after discovering the game was one of being overwhelmed. Every single keyboard button has multiple functions, there's so much stuff happening and you're just stumbling around in a world whose rules you don't understand. (Like real life.)

After some time, I've dived into the spoilers file and gave it an extensive read. I realized that it would have taken years of playing figuring all this game mechanics out. And that even when spoiled, the game remains a lot of fun. (Again, like real life.)

What remains are fond memories and the realization that I'll probably never finish it in my lifetime. And I'm ok with that.

So yes, it's complex and complicated, but rewarding.

You mistyped "Again, like real life.", its supposed to be an emacs analogy. Then again emacs is life, so transitively...

NetHack is complicated, but not complex. It has a lot of individual moving parts, but they generally act as you expect them to once you get the overall notion of the game.

There are also spoilers all over the place on the internet, namely on the Nethack wiki, that'll answer any question (literally, any question) about the game that you have.

The idea of permadeath games such as Nethack is that you play a game and die, lose everything you had with you and start all over again from scratch, time and time again.

But every time you play and die, you'll learn something. The learning curve is the game.

But the game doesn't explain anything. It doesn't even tell what commands can be used. I played like 10 games until I found out you can actually put on items, and that was by accidentally stumping upon the command on the internet. It would be nice if they at least listed what commands can be used, otherwise it is a guessing game, especially since some commands are more than 1 symbol.

If you press the `?' key it brings up a menu of help options, including

    Select one item:
      a - Long description of the game and commands.
      b - List of game commands.
      c - Concise history of NetHack.
      d - Info on a character in the game display.
      e - Info on what a given key does.
      f - List of game options.
      g - Longer explanation of game options.
      h - List of extended commands.
      i - The NetHack license.
Obviously, then, you need to know to press `?'. People who are accustomed to using interactive software in the terminal can probably guess at that, but it's worth noting that the third line of the manpage reads

To get started you really only need to know two commands. The command ? will give you a list of the available commands (as well as other information) and the command / will identify the things you see on the screen.

For software that runs in the terminal on a unix system, putting such instructions in the manpage is the appropriate thing to do. I don't know how they do it on Windows, it's quite possible it's more obscure there, which would be a shame, because more people on Windows are uncomfortable with TUIs.

> I don't know how they do it on Windows, it's quite possible it's more obscure there, which would be a shame, because more people on Windows are uncomfortable with TUIs.

The GUI version has menus that feature the same content that you get with '?' in the terminal version. For the console verson on Windows, you'll have to read the manual.

When I started with NetHack in the 80s on the Amiga, I wouldn't have had any chance of playing it if the Amiga version didn't feature menus with all the available commands showing also the keys.

Yes, and yes.

It's probably a bit easier to learn than Dwarf Fortress, but not by much.

It is an absolutely rewarding game once you make it past the first entry point, though.

Wow, easier than DF? I was interested in trying it until I read this. I suppose it has an advantage over DF in that it is actually winnable.

Yes, but it's a lot of fun.

Personally I found it to become a lot more fun once I started using spoilers, as there were so many things I would never have found out. The only slight negative is that I have since become obsessive about trying to identify things by all available methods, that costs time and is a bit boring. But that's my own choice.

And I'm a completely hack and slash player -- I've ascended 15 Valkyries I think (and some Barbarians), but I'm utterly useless as a weaker class that needs to be played with caution. I did manage a few wizards that got lucky early on, they become all-powerful later.

Winning the game requires a combination of research, caution, and instinct built up over time, all of which serve to simply avoid death. It's not nearly as much a matter of getting up enough armor or dealing enough damage as it is a matter of learning and avoiding the many instadeaths in the game, and taking advantage of the small edges that can help you survive when you're in peril.

I knew a guy who quit drinking for a week so that he could ascend. So there's that, too: don't play drunk.

POWDER is very a accessible way into the genre if you want to learn some of the skills you need for NetHack, such as item identification. It gives you that same feeling that the author really has thought of how every verb in the game can be used with every item in combination with any part of the game.


I used to play it with the source code in the other virtual console.

So that'd be a yes. 301 gold pieces to the priest, not 300.

It's pretty easy to get started but you'll keep discovering new things for a long time.

You can control the curve by choosing how much to self-discover/look up online. Many of the secrets will take a good while to discover by yourself.

The trouble is that it is easy but the "one more try" aspect is more powerful than anything I've seen in any other game.

Make sure you play it with a good terminal character set but don't go for graphics that would spoil it.

This game is the definition of "gameplay is more important than graphics"

I just jumped in. Learn basic commands. Use ? (the help command) a lot, and learn new concepts as you need them. You'll die a lot, but so long as you have fun, it's time will spent.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact