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Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup (github.com/crawl)
98 points by nodivbyzero on Dec 7, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments

If you like rougelikes like NetHack, you should love Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. Decently hard, but what I like about it instead of NetHack is that doesn't require the level of rote memorization that NetHack requires. (Or Wiki hand-holding.) The game does a good job of killing you, and making you feel that, "yep… I did not play my hand right there." whereas NetHack will kill you for looking at it funny. (Usually in DCSS, I find that I should have retreated much sooner than I did.) The game will generally warn you outright if you try to do something considerably dangerous. (Aside from, notably, running headlong into combat when you shouldn't. But, for example, it will warn you if you try to eat a mutagenic corpse, or wield something that will royally peeve your deity.)

The artwork is beautiful, and I'm especially fond of the dungeon generator: it's a mix of random layouts and human design, and the result feels a lot more natural and interesting. On some levels, large parts of the level will be random, but a human designed piece might get integrated into it (randomly).

You can play online, too: https://crawl.develz.org/ (and I prefer this myself, as you can also spectate other players, and chat w/ them. Occasionally, I learn a thing or two.)

The point of the game is to get the Orb of Zot and get out, much like NetHack. Somewhat unlike NetHack, you need 3 runes to get the orb, but there are 15 in the game, making all of them considerably optional, and it's much more difficult to get all. The game has a few challenges beyond that, as well.

(I've only escaped w/ the Orb once, as a Gargoyle Fighter.)

Note that you can play online either via webtiles or via ssh for the text-based mode.

I love how the game helps avoid tedium and memorization. For instance, you can find items via Ctrl-F (including on other floors, such as in your stash on a safe level), safely wander around unexplored parts of the level via 'o', or do long-distance travel to other branches of the dungeon.

The developers make a conscious effort to avoid any gameplay elements that would make players who do tedious actions better than players not willing to do tedious actions. For instance, you can't sell items, so you don't need to lug around piles of items you don't need to sell them. Certain buffing spells became so valuable to have constantly enabled that you'd benefit from re-casting them every time they ran out, so the developers rebalanced those spells so they could stay enabled all the time without a time limit, and you only have to re-cast them when the effect gets "used" by helping you. You don't need to keep separate notes about where you left items; the game has a search function (including by item property, such as finding items that grant fire resistance). You don't need to make notes about where you've avoided a dangerous monster to avoid walking into its line of sight again; you can make those notes in-game and the 'o' exploration function will avoid those areas.

Spectate mode is fantastic. Watching someone play now: http://crawl.berotato.org:8080/#watch-Scypho

  Scypho: brb spectators its dinner time
  Scypho: also i am mad fucked
  Scypho: so i need to think

Nice, I knew you could play Nethack in a browser, but not DCSS! Might have to dungeon-dive a bit! Do you know which version I should play? (is "trunk" generally safe? Is there a test suite in the code?)

Any tips for noobs?

No test suite, but trunk is usually quite playable, especially since the devs are considerate enough that a specific player's savegame won't update to a new version of trunk if that new version breaks save compatibility. But do be prepared to deal with any goofy/unbalanced/unpolished features that the devs might be trying out. :)

Tips for noobs: press "?" for in-game help (especially useful are the list of keyboard shortcuts and the searchable in-game database of monsters/items/etc.), join ##crawl on irc.freenode.net, inspect every enemy that you're seeing for the first time, press "o" judiciously, and always be willing and capable of running from a fight!

Unlike many other games, DCSS has an explicitly articulated design manifesto explaining the ethos of what is fun and why. It's _amazing_ and you should read it: https://github.com/crawl/crawl/blob/master/crawl-ref/docs/cr...

I've pulled a few highlights:

> Speaking about games in general, wherever there's a no-brainer, that means the development team put a lot of effort into providing a "choice" that's really not an interesting choice at all. And that's a horrible lost opportunity for fun.

> Another basic design principle is avoidance of grinding (also known as scumming). These are activities that have low risk, take a lot of time, and bring some reward. This is bad for a game's design because it encourages players to bore themselves.

> The interface is radically designed to make gameplay easy - this sounds trivial, but we mean it. All tedious, but necessary, chores should be automated. Examples are long-distance travel, exploration and taking notes.

> the joy of discovering something spoily is nice, once. (And disappears before it can start if you feel you need to read spoilers - a legitimate feeling.) The joy of dealing with ever-changing, unexpected and challenging strategic and tactical situations that arise out of transparent rules, on the other hand, is nice again and again.

crawl dev here! I'm generally pretty dumbstruck by the rest of the team. They're as good or better than professional groups I've worked with. A handful of super devs really drive the project along and we've had a fairly long history to develop over. My own involvement is 7 years, while I think there are others who have been hacking on it since 2005. For a lot of the time dpeg has been our de facto tastemaker/PM.

i've been impressed with how well the crawl dev team has maintained the velocity and consistent vision over the many years (5+) that i've followed the project. thank you, and well done! is dpeg the author of that section of the docs?

dpeg is probably the original author of the manifesto. Some of it is undoubtedly formed by accretion. He is also one of the originators of the contentious [Berlin Interpretation](http://www.roguebasin.com/index.php?title=Berlin_Interpretat...) of roguelikes.

Some travelers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travelers. Then the travelers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers answer that they are making "stone soup", which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with a few carrots to help them out, so that gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travelers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, the stone (being inedible) is removed from the pot, and a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all. Although the travelers have thus tricked the villagers into sharing their food with them, they have successfully transformed it into a tasty and nutritious meal which they share with the donors.

I've been playing Nethack and other roguelikes for well over 20 years. Nethack has to be the one game out of all the games that I've played that I played the longest. As you can probably tell, I love Nethack.

DCSS is the game that has made me more or less abandon Nethack to play it instead. It improves on Nethack in so many ways: from the super useful auto-explore, to the beautiful and innovative use of colors, lots and lots of really bizzare and unique gods, beautiful and interesting thematic levels, a Lua scripting interface, and much, much more. I'm seriously impressed with how much the DCSS developers have achieved, and how quickly they've achieved it.

It's also telling that Nethack has traditionally had a glacial development cycle, while DCSS development is super active. There are tons of new features, races, levels, and gods in nearly every release, and new releases come out all the time.

That said, there are still other things that Nethack does best. The crazy number of things that you can do with items and bodies in Nethack seems deeper than DCSS, as are some of the relationships with one's god in Nethack, and the use of pets (such as training them to steal from shops). Someone told me that a DCSS deverloper motto is "when it doubt, don't do it like Nethack", which is a pity, because they could learn from Nethack and take some of the things it does best and improve on them, instead of stubbornly refusing to be like Nethack. That said, none of this is going to stop me from playing DCSS, which is now by far my favorite rougelike of all.

I strongly recommend anyone who has even the remotest interest in rogulikes give DCSS a try, if you've somehow missed the boat and haven't already.

Also, playing in ASCII is the one true way to play. ;) You can ssh or telnet in to a server to play, if you want to play online (or watch others play).[1] Or you can download and compile the game itself to play locally on your own machine.[2]

Finally, if you ever need help, check out ##crawl on freenode.[3]

[1] - https://crawl.develz.org/wordpress/howto

[2] - https://crawl.develz.org/wordpress/

[3] - https://freenode.net/

I've seen a lot of these threads and without fail the comparison between DCSS and NetHack comes up. I can't remember the last time somebody said they loved NetHack in one of these threads, so kudos to you!

Personally, I am one of the rare birds that loves NetHack and just can't stand DCSS. NetHack feels far closer to a proper role-playing game with an actual dungeon master who will listen to your crazy ideas and give you back a result that actually makes sense. DCSS, on the other hand, feels more like an arcade beat-em-up style game to me. I guess it doesn't help that my favourite combo (fulsome distillation and evaporate) was removed from the game a few years ago.

Beyond that, I find DCSS really dry. Most of the time you're just mashing the auto-explore key and then bumping into a few enemies or repeatedly casting your best spell at them. For the style of game it is (beat-em-up Roguelike with zero role-playing) I'd much rather play TOME[0], a game that has far more intricate and involved character classes.

[0] http://te4.org/

> [...] Someone told me that a DCSS deverloper motto is "when it doubt, don't do it like Nethack", which is a pity, because they could learn from Nethack and take some of the things it does best and improve on them, instead of stubbornly refusing to be like Nethack. [...]

Many of the DCSS devs are former NetHack players, at least one is a former NetHack fork developer, so they know NetHack well.

Don't think that they dismiss features just because NetHack shares them. The quote says "when in doubt" so it's just one aspect that gets taken into consideration when adding or changing the game.

Although if you read the design document of DCSS, you'll see that they won't include some of the crazy things you mentioned because it goes against their vision of the game in the first place (I disagree with the god relationship though, for some classes it's much more involved in DCSS than NetHack).

I've never played DCSS, but after a few nethack ascensions I've found its "chores" (getting the wand, etc) interfere with actually enjoying the parts of the genre I like most: resource management in an unknown world. I suspect DCSS will be a similar experience.

For those that feel similarly, I heartily recommend giving brogue[0] a try. It's beautiful, balances many strategies without giving dominance to any (dwarven valkyrie, anyone?) and drops the "schlepping" associated with nethack and related titles.

[0]: https://sites.google.com/site/broguegame/

If you've never tried DCSS, I think you should try it. I think it also mitigates a number of the same things you complained about. The game's built-in manual has a whole section about its game philosophy you're likely to find appealing, especially if you were frustrated with Nethack for those reasons:

Anyway, you should try it!

Interesting! Glad to hear that they're explicit design goals.

Looks like all the graphics are missing, it is just showing a bunch of weird computer type symbols, dashes and what not. Still needs a lot of work /s

That's cos it's the ASCII version :).


Doh! Was wondering what the /s meant ><

meh. Given how I've never found a good keyboard on Android (as in, I consistantly screw up on all of them), RLs like this are unplayable.

But in general, RLs are ill-suited to mobile play, due to the keyboard interface. There are only a few RLs that I've seen buck this, and thus work properly on mobile.

The first is Pixel Dungeon (which should surprise nobody)

The second is Hoplite (although that's defining Rogulike a bit broadly). It has a very limited set of player actions, but also an interesting twist: enemy movements are completely deterministic, so the game bares more resemblance to a puzzle game than anything else.

A great roguelike on android is Pixel Dungeon https://f-droid.org/app/com.watabou.pixeldungeon

I'm the maintainer of that port, glad you like it :)

Thanks for pointing this out! Never would've thought to check for DCSS for my phone... How up-to-date is this kept, do you know?

I basically try and update the game whenever a new stable version is released. I don't typically monitor the website myself though - usually someone will email me asking when I'll update it, and even then I'll need to find time to do the update.

Interesting. It consistently crashes for me after the character selection screen on Android. (e.g., I hit "q - Gargoyle", "a - Fighter", "c - flail", and crash.)

No issues for me, playing & updating versions for _years_

  $ brew cask install Caskroom/cask/dungeon-crawl-stone-soup-console
If you were wondering!

DCSS is the only roguelike that I've been able to sink lots of hours into.

As someone who came second in a DCSS tournament back in the day, let me tell U that this game rocks if U enjoy tactical gameplay. It can brutally punish U until U learn sufficient caution and U tune your situational awareness and resource management.

Have fun!

I might be speaking for myself, here, but I really value clear and precise communication.

Saving yourself a single keystroke (shift-U vs. y-o-u) has much greater costs than you might realize in terms of how people perceive you, trust you, and are willing to engage with you.

I'm not trying to be prescriptive – I don't think using U vs. you is a moral issue, or makes you good or bad or smart or dumb or anything like that. But people react to things like that, even if it's not fair that they do so.

I thought it was some sort of pun that I didn't get.

Yeah, as an old Nethack player my thought was "Does DCSS use 'U' instead of '@'?" but no, it doesn't and a quick look at the source code (mon-data.h) doesn't show any monsters using 'U' as the display character.

> Saving yourself a single keystroke (shift-U vs. y-o-u) has much greater costs than you might realize in terms of how people perceive you, trust you, and are willing to engage with you.

This is true. However, it has no costs in terms of whether your message will be understood as you intended it, or whether the audience will even have any doubt as to what you meant. Thus, I find your lead comment, "I really value clear and precise communication", interesting. What about the U symbol do you feel is unclear or imprecise?

On a different note, I generally see people use "u" rather than "U". U is harder to type, but it does bring out a certain parallelism with "I".

It is flagrant and a distraction. Just like someone who writes messages like this in all lower case without capitalization. It breaks the norm so much that it constantly draws my attention to the choice of writing style rather than the message itself.

As I was reading the original comment, and before seeing any of the comments about the style, I found myself highly distracted by the "U". Wondering why someone wrote that way, what the purpose was, and so on.

Because of the fact that it significantly distracts from the message, I think these abnormal styles are insulting to the reader and so are not something I would recommend or condone in contexts where normal writing is convention.

(On IRC or in instant messages/Slack, the style is different and it's OK. But you can see what the style is on HN by reading comments on this page.)

> However, it has no costs in terms of whether your message will be understood as you intended it, or whether the audience will even have any doubt as to what you meant.

I'd be interested to know how well people with dyslexia or with English as a second language cope with it.

It poses no problems for English-as-a-second-language people, if my experience with Chinese students going to the US and immediately developing the style is any indication.

Think about it for a minute, and you'll see that (1) it's an extremely common word, so anyone with any experience with it at all is likely to have quite a lot of experience with it, and (2) there are no other candidates for what "u" could mean. It might pose problems for foreigners living abroad whose only method of determining what a word means is looking it up in a dictionary; it poses no problems for anyone talking to the person using it (even pretty difficult things can be understood if the other person is there to help you), or just living in an english-speaking country.

This was nominally a question for me, but I think Pyxl101 has it: the fact that it's far outside the norms makes it unclear whether I as the reader am correctly understanding what's going on. Since the author seems to just mean "you", creating the spectre of other meanings/intentions muddies the waters.

Given the way that Crawl is scored, you don't come in second in a Crawl tournament by wasting keystrokes. :P

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