Tag Archives: game

net-o-grama: An ancient idea, done very well

Even if a program doesn’t do anything terribly new, it’s still possible to win points with me just for doing it well.

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And there’s a best-case scenario: net-o-grama.

Because let’s face it: Anagram games are not new. They’ve been around for centuries. Ordinarily there’s a pen and paper involved, and you might sit down with a newspaper and work some of them out. I’ve even seen pocket-sized paperback books of anagram games in supermarket checkout lines, so it’s nothing innovative to come up with a computer program that does the same.

But just because something isn’t new, doesn’t mean it can’t be done well. net-o-grama is a perfect example of that, and you can probably see why.

Excellent color (for the most part avoiding that red-blue shift we talked about), giant-size letters, easy keystrokes, speedy scoring and dictionary checks, multiplayer and network support with a server interface managing the entire process, custom dictionaries and adjustable time settings, plenty of documentation and help getting started … I could keep going, but there’s already enough here to satisfy any anagramaniac.

To be fair, I’ll give you a couple of negative points. First, I do get that same flicker effect whenever the screen is updated. I’m not sure why that happens, but this is not the only title I see it in. Luckily net-o-grama doesn’t rely heavily on animation, so the only times I see the flicker are when I type a letter or a character is redrawn. So just sitting and reading the board probably won’t trigger a seizure.

net-o-grama can handle custom dictionaries, and I would strongly recommend using one or sculpting one of your own. Even just in the game you see above, the root word was “aloofly,” which is rather esoteric. But to complicate things, the default dictionary knew neither “oaf” nor “foal,” both of which should have been viable answers. That can be frustrating.

I didn’t try full-blown network support beyond ssh from one machine into another, so if there are some networking intricacies, I leave them to you to solve.

Games can be micro-managed through the server, which should be running in a separate terminal so you can see the game dynamics. From there you can boot players, restart games, add more time and even force the end of a game.

As a client, your keys are primarily the letters, the Enter key and a few arrows for editing. Esc and CTRL+C both drop you out of the game without interfering with other players or disrupting the server. In any case, the bundled documentation had plenty of instructions and key lists for both server and client.

net-o-grama never gave me an error message or refused a connection for mysterious reasons; the only issue I had was when I started two servers at once and somehow drove one of them into a zombie status, and it had to be forcibly killed. But I forgive that because I was using the product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. πŸ˜‰

It surprises me that this game is neither in AUR nor Debian, since it seems like a simple, straightforward slam-dunk for either distro. Perhaps licensing issues are in the way, or perhaps it’s just not well-known at this point.

Regardless, I’m willing to give net-o-grama my heartiest stamp of approval: ⭐ YJNOE! πŸ˜‰

tzar: A work forever in progress

The title screen for tzar says plainly that it’s alpha software, and as we all know (or should know), that means it’s not quite ironed out yet.

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“tzar” is an acronym for “that zombie apocalypse roguelike,” which tells you in one quick motion what exactly you’re getting into. I don’t know if the author planned for tzar to compete with things like zombies! or Cataclysm or even curses-of-the-undead; it could be that the choice of the zombie survival genre is a convenient theme. It shouldn’t really matter.

Like a lot of tzar, character “creation” has its ups and downs. The point system is unusual, since you can allocate points to your ability scores, or use the same reserve to purchase equipment. Higher ability scores will require more of your points, and of course better equipment costs more too.

That’s a new way of approaching things and I like it; what I don’t like are the key commands used to control that interface. Left and right selection is done with the greater-than and less-than keys (not the comma and period), and increases and decreases are done with the plus and minus. On my keyboard, that’s a lot of jockeying the shift key, which makes it more than a little clumsy. Left-right-up-down would probably have worked just as well, and been a little more intuitive to boot.

There’s also no real guidance on what the ability scores reflect, if we’re working with the traditional three-to-18 scale, or if a crossbow is more effective than a Magnum, even if they cost the same. Should I be looking to buy armor? Because there’s only one kind available, but two kinds of boots. Am I otherwise barefoot?

Once in the game, tzar again has some upsides and downsides. The interface and controls are the standard HJKL arrangement, with the “w” key for wield and wear, “i” for inventory, “f” to fire a missile weapon, and a few other keypresses here and there.

Run into a monster to attack it, or as I hinted, press “f” to fire at it. I’ve only used the crossbow among missile weapons, but it seems to have an unlimited range. Or it might just be that my dexterity is so good that I can’t miss. πŸ˜€

tzar also includes combat between monsters, which I think is a great addition. There’s no reason why an owlbear and a grey ooze would share a particular room; I’ve seen it in other roguelikes and it always amuses me that odd-couple-ish creatures would prefer to attack me instead of each other. Are vampires and quokkas so compatible that I can find them in the same room? Either way, the fact that tzar lets two creatures establish dominance while I wait for a winner … well, that’s a step forward for me.

Some downsides: Screen messages tend to get a little sketchy, since only the top line is available at 80×24, and if you get mobbed you’ll likely miss out on some combat reports. I also ran into a lot of segfaults, most seeming to happen when I moved west with the “h” key. Although that might just be chance.

There are also some curiosities with regard to documentation. The opening screen says to check the MANUAL file for instructions, the MANUAL file has nothing in it but a link to a manual.htm file on Sourceforge, and that page 404’s. If you want the proper address, it’s here.

tzar is mostly configured through a .tzarrc file, and this is one of the things I like best about tzar. You have (more or less) complete control over keystrokes, characters used to display walls and so forth, and the ability to turn on the color. It’s worth investigating if you want to pursue tzar further.

I like tzar for its flexibility, for a bit of innovation in character creation and for monsters that don’t play well together. But dislike it for lacking some guidance on basic rules and for segfaulting quite a lot.

Then again, like I said at the start, it is admittedly alpha software. The saddest part though, is that with timestamps of 2009 on most files, I doubt it will ever reach beta. 😦

tic-tac*: Tic tac turmoil

According to Jack, I have been unfair. Jack wrote about a two weeks ago pointing out my inclusion of trivial ditties like color-invaders.sh, but passing over a tic-tac-toe game because it didn’t have enough mojo.

Jack wasn’t serious or angry, and we both got a good laugh over it. But he does have a point: It’s hard to justify including something like a script that paints colored glyphs on the screen, but pass over a working game. So in the interest of fairness, here are four tic-tac-toe games, all by different authors and all dating back at least a decade — some of them two decades.

As a word of warning, all of these games will fall into a category I mentally refer to as “weak sauce.” They all work and I can’t deny that, but they don’t carry enough oomph to stand on their own. Perhaps as a quartet, they can win a little credibility. And since they all have the same name, I’ve included the tarball name and the author, for clarity’s sake.

tic-tac-0.1.tar.gz: Daniel Haque

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Probably the most fundamental incursion into the dangerous world of competitive tic-tac-toe, this uses a scrolling board update and single-character graphics against a board drawn with pipe symbols. Moves are given in coordinates. Compiles with just gcc tic-tac-toe.c -o tic-tac-toe, although I imagine professional players add in a few more perilous flags. πŸ˜‰

tictac-1.0.tgz: Jay McCarthy

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The stakes are raised. A full-screen application with a svelte board and x-y coordinates entered separately. Apparently written in pascal originally, but with a precompiled binary. Needs better error trapping, since it’s possible to confound this by entering something other than a number. This kind of wildness makes me uncomfortable. 😐

tictac2-0.6.tgz: Ian Singh

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Here be dragons. Cell selection is with the arrow keys, and enter places your marker. Declare your opponent from the command line, with the option to play against yourself. Needs termcap to compile, and you’ll need to edit both screen.c and main.c to change #include <ncurses/ncurses.h> to just #include </ncurses.h> … and after that, make alone will do the trick. 😦

tictac4-1.0.tar.gz: Niklas Olmes

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Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. A 4×4 game board with onscreen help and a healthy color profile, plus alternate win combinations. Coordinates are sequentially numbered cells. Paranoia strikes deep. And yet … apparently only a two-player game, and tends to get jammed up when entering cell numbers. Will build with just make, but comes with a precompiled version too. 😯


That’s all I have in the category for now. Perhaps this collection will be of interest to someone, even if I rank it rather low on the totem pole. And remember, if you want a real challenge in this genre, take a look at ox3d again. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. … 😈

chroma: Every color, every direction

I do enjoy looking over games more than, for example, networking tools. Sometimes console tools are intended for discrete applications and discrete audiences, and if I lack the experience needed to make them work, it can be a little frustrating.

Games, on the other hand, are much more egalitarian. With very few exceptions, most games are quite forgiving to newcomers. The next incarnation of this site will probably only focus on text-based games. 😐 And to narrow the niche even further, it will be games that only include color. πŸ˜•

chroma will definitely be on that imaginary future site.

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To bathe in the wonderful color goodness, I took those screenshots with a 1600×1200 framebuffer and the sun12x22 terminal font. Characters so big, they have their own gravitational fields. 😯

Explaining chroma takes no real effort: Imagine Boulder Dash, with the added complication of “traps” sliding in any of four directions. Releasing a trap may squish you, but may also pen you in, effectively ending the game.

In chroma you have a second avatar who may (or may not) be able to contribute to your adventure or perhaps even free a trapped cohort. Collect enough stars and you can exit the level, and face the next puzzle.

chroma gets high marks — very high marks, in fact — from me, not just for the lovely colors, but for a lot of features that generally don’t appear in console games. Step-by-step replays are a wonderful addition to a game that essentially requires you to hunt down a sequence of movement to exit a puzzle.

And there are 21 levels to conquer, some of which can supposedly be mastered without the need for your alter ego, but some that apparently will require careful interaction to complete. Who’s to say which is which?

chroma will also nest itself neatly in an 80×24 terminal with no loss of function, and has gobs of on-screen help to get you started. The title screen is clean and clever, the entire game is menu-driven with only a few controls to learn, and nothing complex or eccentric in the game play. The characters used as game symbols are obvious and consistent.

Add to that a level editor, and the purported compatibility with some other game level files. That’s clever.

I see no provisions for network play, and truth be told, the game is very linear, since it presents the same puzzles in sequence every time you start. Then again, a randomized puzzle might prove unsolvable, which would be a downer. And you have the option to skip ahead to later levels.

I’m quite happy to give chroma a gold star, not just for lovely use of color, but for handling the entire game experience — from the opening title screen to the level editor to step-by-step replays — with an extraordinary finesse. Well done: ⭐ Enjoy! πŸ˜‰

P.S.: Arch version is in AUR and installs with an SDL rendition as well. But you don’t need to know that, now do you? πŸ˜‰

okiworld: Host-to-host turn-based text strategy

After the relative simplicity of yesterday’s snake pit, it will be nice to try something with a little more depth than just a line curling around a screen. This is okiworld.

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okiworld is a long-lost perl game that requires a connection between two systems, and pans out much like play-by-mail strategy games of a very long time ago. I say “long-lost” because the home page appears to be inaccessible. archive.org comes to the rescue again.

The rules and mechanics of okiworld are described in the readme.txt file that accompanies the script, and as you can see above, it seems to work fine in spite of being over 10 years old.

In short, you have a cash reserve and on a round-to-round basis, decide on nation-building or nation-conquering actions. Banks are probably a good idea at the start, as are barracks, since the former creates cash for you, and the latter improves your combat viability.

The winner is declared at the end of the game scope, or when one side or another folds. A “power” rating is an indicator of your nation’s strength and also determines the winner in games that close early.

From a technical standpoint, okiworld is not intimidating; perl okiworld.pl worked fine on my Arch machine, and its networking capability does not seem to have eroded with time.

There doesn’t seem to be a provision for a single player, or for that matter, more than two players. So you’ll need a friend for this. I didn’t actually try the game out over a live connection, so it may be that it needs a little coaxing. The loopback arrangement over 127.0.0.1:3200 is what you see in the image above.

On the whole, okiworld impresses me as a clean, straightforward and functional network strategy game. It leaves some things to be desired in the way of graphics, and some parts of it are vastly oversimplified. And the time scale seems odd, in that one “move” is sometimes an entire 10-year event, while others are broken into single year actions.

And if I must be honest, okiworld can’t really hold a candle to something like empire, so while it might be a lightweight option, you’d do better to spend the time learning how to play the bigger of the two games.

It is worth an hour or two of your time though. Or should I say, an hour or two of your time and your friend’s time. πŸ˜‰

housenka.sh and others: Snakes on the brain

With such a huge influx of games last week, I had to take the drastic step of bundling some of them around a central themes. That was the case with the *angbands on Saturday, and I’m afraid it’s the case again today.

In Saturday’s situation, it seemed dangerous to lump them all together because there was the very real possibility that one of them was a truly innovative piece of text-based gaming genius. The original angband was, and I could always be wrong about one of its spinoffs.

This time though, it’s Snake knockoffs, and at the risk of sounding harsh, I don’t think packaging these seven games into one post is going to put any of us at a disadvantage. The genre has been done and re-done so many times since 1976 that I can only hope one day it devolves into programming obscurity.

In other words, if you’re an aspiring game programmer, do us all a favor and don’t create another Snake clone. πŸ‘Ώ

Let’s keep this short and simple, in the fashion of the 2048 clones we saw a year ago.

cNibbles:

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Pros: Nice startup screen and attract mode. Will center itself against a large terminal. Has speed settings, as “levels.” Can replay a game, and replay the top-scoring game. Cons: Only plays at 80×24, regardless of your screen dimensions.

Overall: Probably the nicest game in the standard Snake vein, mostly because the replay option is unique among what I’ve seen. The proper start screen and attract mode make this more-or-less a complete package.

gnake:

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Pros: Options for time-based snake length, multiple apples (targets), ‘bot snakes and screen dimensions. Has nifty “wallpaper” for unused area on screen. Speed settings could serve as “difficulty levels.” Tracks snake length and length of game. Cons: No attract mode or startup screen. Home page is gone, but accessible from archive.org.

Overall: A good version, mostly for its flexibility. The wallpaper is a nice effect. The only one I recall with the option for ‘bots, which is an interesting twist. Thanks again to archive.org for keeping this one around.

housenka.sh:

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Pros: Nicest start screen. Written in bash. Cons: Flicker effect from screen redraws made this unplayable.

Overall: Unfortunately I couldn’t get very far with housenka.sh because of the flickering screen animation. I’m not sure why that happens and I don’t think it is intentional, but it made the game unplayable. Excellent startup screen though. πŸ˜‰

maggot:

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Pros: Decent use of color, and adheres to a very simple philosophy. An “info” screen (think: like a “version” flag), which is unusual. Has a “play again” option. Cons: Flickering effect again, although not as bad as housenka.sh. Random start point means you may crash into a wall within seconds of startup. Seems set at 80×24 but pause button skews the display. No obvious speed or level controls. A collision causes the game board to disappear, which can be frustrating.

Overall: This has more of a feel of a “programming experiment” than an actual game, and I’m willing to forgive its shortcomings on those grounds. It might need a lot of work before it has the completeness of cNibbles or the panache of gnake. (To build: Enter the src/ directory, then cmake . followed by make.)

msnake:

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Pros: Simple ASCII graphics. Will scale to any screen dimensions. Adds obstacles and wall exits for wraparound effects. Pop-up menus and pause messages. Speed controls. Cons: Starts way too fast, which can sometimes lead to early collisions. No color.

Overall: Has a healthy number of innovations and as a result, kept my interest longer than most of the others. It’s a shame it doesn’t have color, and the starting speed should be set lower. Well done overall, though.

snake-ncurses:

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Pros: Technically will scale to your screen size, although the game board does not. Complete top-to-bottom and side-to-side wraparound. Good speed and color. Has difficulty “levels.” Cons: Wraparound effect detracts from the challenge of the game. Requires 122×36 screen. Requires you specify a level at startup.

Overall: Enjoyable, particularly for its speed (which is quite quick, even at the “easy” level). But oddly enough, removing the walls from the game makes it a lot less fun than you would think. The mandatory screen size is essentially 80×24-and-a-half, but it’s still awkward.

terminibbles:

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Pros: Title screen is nice. Very simple display and action. Double-wide characters in color, which may look better balanced in your font. (Also looks like “eyes” on the snake.) Difficulty settings. Has “sound,” sort of. Tracks high scores. Level progression, and the option to build your own. Centers the display, regardless of your screen size. Cons: Seems to only play at 80×24. Game end is a smash-to-black, and no attract mode.

Overall: Not much to complain about with this one. Custom levels and “progressive” modes are uncommon among this lot. The “eyes” effect may be more entertaining for younger players, and while a terminal bell isn’t really a “sound,” it’s more than most of the others have. Well done.


Snake games are only one step above minesweeper games in my book, and so if I sound somewhat unenthusiastic about these titles, I’ll apologize. There is no reason why the Snake game can’t thrill you as the be-all, end-all of gaming genres, and it’s certainly not my place to arbitrarily disparage an entire swath of games.

Still … with so much more that’s possible, isn’t this just a little … passe? 😦

mediocrity: A worthy foray into the genre

I don’t recall ever playing a “tower defense” game before about 10 years ago, and that tells my uneducated mind that it might be one of the newest subgenres at this point in time.

So while mediocrity, a/k/a Towers of Mediocrity, isn’t the greatest example of a tower defense game, it has the right elements and works as well as can be expected.

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If you’ve played tower defense games in any graphical arena, it will take a little adjustment to work with mediocrity. You start with just enough cash to place one tower, but you’re limited to locations along the vertical edges of the map. Enemies with varying strengths enter at the top left and parade through the maze until they exit at the bottom right.

Your tower will only fire inward, in a straight horizontal line, and at preset intervals (in other words, not as enemies draw near). That means you would do well to place a tower in a spot that catches the onslaught as they move counter to your tower’s fire.

Otherwise, they won’t catch the force of it, and enemies that survive yank money from your reserves. So remember that it’s possible to drop a tower in a spot that isn’t strategically wise, or is even pointless. And it could be the end of the game for you.

If you survive the first round or so, you’ll be in a financial position to upgrade towers, which may or may not be appealing to you. Tower upgrades improve firepower at the cost of fire rate, meaning you may hit harder and kill stronger enemies with one punch, but you hit less often. Sometimes just another basic tower is cheaper and wiser.

If you’re smart about tower placement and conservative with your cash, you won’t find it difficult to master mediocrity in the space of about two or three rounds. Defeating enough enemies advances you to a new map, but also takes away all the cash you’ve earned.

mediocrity has enough color to satisfy me, and I can find no fault in the actual game mechanics. The opening screens will explain the scenario and some basic rules, and once you are comfortable with the tower placement sequence, it’s an easy game to learn and master.

mediocrity has sound (it plays back a scratchy portion of The Toreador Song from Carmen in a loop) so I’m willing to give points for that. But there are no options to run silent — in fact, there are no options at all. 😐

In a wider perspective though, it doesn’t compare to a lot of the triple-A titles that are available as browser games or smartphone applications — part of which is the limitation of the media, and part of which is just the way the game is made.

I have no doubt a proper and enjoyable tower defense game could be made for an 80×24 text environment, and I daresay it would probably be quite enjoyable. mediocrity is a good stab at the genre and the only one I know of for the console … but doesn’t really shine. :\

hack-of-life: Conway would be proud

After slapping together six or eight angband derivatives yesterday, I feel inclined to hold up a “roguelike” title as an example of something innovative that can be done with the trope. If that’s what you’re expecting today, I can deliver: Here’s hack-of-life.

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say that hack-of-life is the only title in the universe that splices the roguelike interface on to the classic Conway’s Game of Life. If that sounds bizarre, it is at first.

But when I say it’s the “roguelike interface,” what I’m really talking about is the eight-directional approach, with keys dedicated to other specific functions. So no, you won’t be fighting to preserve your cellular growth with a vorpal sword you won off a wayward gnoll, but there is some rogue-ish-ness to it.

In short, your goal here is to dominate the board in the generations that remain in the game. You drop a “seed” with the greater-than key, and trigger its growth with a space. You harvest a seed from a mature cell with the comma.

And this where the rules of ‘Life kick in, since a single seed growing alone will die out, but clusters will propagate and expand. If you know the classic patterns and self-propagating arrangements of ‘Life, you’ll have a jump start at hack-of-life.

But things get wonky when an opponent’s colonies interfere with the growth of your own. ‘Life’s rules on expansion must be followed, but the addition of a few more game-specific rules complicates things in a delightful way.

For example, it’s possible to absorb “enemy” cells by surrounding them with your own, and vice versa. Which means it’s not enough just to drop a 2×2 rock of cells and hold that portion of the board ad infinitum, because a sizable wave of your opponent’s cells will not only wash over your nugget, but will absorb it with their own color. How very devious. 😈

From a strictly mechanical standpoint, hack-of-life has plenty of the requisites I look for in good console programs, let alone good games. It’s got color, can adjust to oddball terminal sizes, it’s menu-driven, and has some onboard assistance. The config menu allows you to adjust almost any aspect of hack-of-life, which is a fun thing to play with.

But it can also “save” games, has a “stasis” mode which seems to work like a pause button, a “view” mode, which allows you to peruse game boards that are too big for your console, plus some networking and chat provisions. And it seems prepared to handle up to six players at a time, which is rather remarkable for a console title.

Again, maybe it’s not fair to lump this into the “roguelike” category since there’s not a lot here — aside from the general controls and use of the atpersand as your designator — that hearken back to the rogue genre.

But all the same, this is a clever way to present the ‘Life standby as a tactical conquest game, and not just a lesson in cellular growth. I am comfortable giving this a gold star for innovation, ease-of-use and completeness, with an explicit suggestion that you try it once or twice: ⭐ Enjoy! πŸ˜€

P.S., not in AUR or Debian. πŸ˜‰

*angbands: Band of brothers

I don’t feel obligated to try every roguelike that exists; not only would that be nigh-on impossible, but personally I lack the interest level to sustain that sort of project.

On the other hand, I do try to skim through titles to make sure I’m not missing something truly revolutionary. In the interest of brevity I only point out the ones that are really really good — like adom or angband — or adopt thematic changes that are truly unique — like encircled or scrap.

As a way of keeping track of what I’ve already seen (because more and more I have to search this site to try and remember what I’ve looked at) I have a list of angband variants that I’ll drop here.

Appearing on this list doesn’t mean it was a bad experience. It may be that there are some very strong titles here, and it might disappoint you to see one of your favorites — or your own project. This is just a list that either didn’t build for me, didn’t work for me or didn’t speak to me, and the notes I make are to jog my own memory in the future. Take my opinion for what it’s worth — mostly nothing. πŸ˜‰

    dajangband

    dajangband

  • dajangband: As I understand it, a close rendition to the original angband, but with slight variations on races, classes, monsters and so forth. This might be a pleasant option for you if you prefer the original rendition, but want a little more spice … or perhaps you played the original too much. … πŸ˜•
  • eyangband: The AUR version would build for me, but reported data file errors on startup. As a result I never saw much beyond the title screen. I looked at the home page for a precompiled binary, but I don’t recall finding one. Versions for Windows and other operating systems.
  • fayangband

    fayangband

  • fayangband: A descendant of eyangband. The AUR version reported the same data file errors as its ancestor, but a precompiled version from the home page ran fine. Includes some changes to ascending and descending levels, and some changes to the boss and scoring.
  • halls of mist: A derivative, in turn, of fayangband, I believe. This has some recent (2013-ish) updates, but was difficult for me to organize in a way that didn’t result in errors on startup. The title screens and so forth are readable and work as they probably should, but I never got into the actual game.
  • hellband: As I understand it, hellband is a roguelike that uses Dante’s Inferno as a backstory. Has some relationship to zangband, if I remember right, but the family tree of roguelikes tends to be rather gnarled. In AUR, compiled but spat out “fatal errors” regardless of what machine I ran it on.
  • mangband: A multiplayer rendition of angband, you can play it solo or offline by starting a local server and connecting with mangclient. All the online servers I saw showed no players, which might mean they were offline, or might just mean no one was playing early on a Tuesday morning. I could not get this to run without Xorg, which was disappointing. The home page shows updates as recently as 2013, so I don’t think it has disappeared from the scene.
  • sil

    sil

  • sil: I liked sil a lot more than some of these others, but I still don’t think it’s sufficiently revolutionary to make me sit up and take notice. sil recasts the content to an earlier age in Tolkein mythos, and unless you’re familiar with content from The Silmarillion, it might not make a lot of sense. sil does add a few other points that are interesting, or scales abilities and talents differently from most angband-ish titles. Still, I don’t think it’s quite innovative enough to warrant its own post.
  • xangband: I have no more information than the name or what is listed here; the host appears to be “unreachable,” and I don’t see source code elsewhere.
  • zangband

    zangband

    zangband: Roger Zelazny’s worlds of Amber are the backdrop for zangband. If you don’t know the book series or don’t care for the milieu, this probably won’t win you over as a game. This compiled and ran out of AUR, but froze during the autoroller step of character creation, no matter what stat weightings I gave it. In Debian too.

Those were just the few that were available to me through the Debian repositories or the extended listings in AUR. There are probably ten times as many out there in the wild, but it will take a mightier warrior than I to hunt them all down and take stock.

As a side note, this illustrates to me the simultaneous beauty of the open source model, and the simultaneous weak spot of the open source model. It does mean anyone with enough gumption and know-how can take apart a successful title like angband, give it a good spin and rerelease it as possibly something new and improved.

On the other hand … it means anyone with a smidgen of gumption and know-how can take apart a successful title like angband, give it a weak spin and rerelease it as nothing particularly new or improved. Coming soon to a computer near you: kmangband! K.Mandla’s revision of the infamous angband roguelike … but now featuring tint control!

Let that be a lesson to you. πŸ˜‰

encircled: Wow, just wow. …

That’s a “wow” in an amazed and impressed sense, not necessarily an enthusiastic or excited one. This time it was encircled that elicited that reaction.

2015-03-06-6m47421-encircled

I suppose it’s fair to call encircled a roguelike, although it definitely has put a new spin on the genre … and that’s a very good thing.

encircled simplifies a lot of things — “combat,” as it were, is automatic, with an attack taking place at the end of each movement. There’s no “inventory” to speak of, although you’re holding two “weapons” at any given moment, and you can swap them for others on the floor around you. Movement is either through free spaces or blocked by “walls.” “Monsters” and “bosses” wander through the level, and will try their best to end you.

I put quotation marks around all those things not as some sort of code, but because those terms have connotations for people who play roguelike games, and encircled is … a little different.

Biggest example: Your “weapons” are only effective if they match the pattern of the cells surrounding you. If a square doesn’t match your weapon, then … well, you are likely to be eaten by a grue. 😐

You can rotate and adjust the pattern your “weapon” matches, meaning you’ll have to consciously take the “terrain” and “weapon” into consideration as you approach “monsters.” You’ll need to swap out “weapons” for loose ones if you expect to proceed through “dungeon” levels, and you don’t have the “hit points” to survive for very long.

Now add to that some range factors, which may allow you to damage “monsters” at a visible distance, or even to damage “monsters” anywhere on the map that happen to be in a matching pattern. Plus “weapon” effectiveness, and “monster” strength, your aforementioned ability to flip and rotate “weapon” patterns, and so forth and so on. …

If you’re a little overwhelmed at this point, I was too. Just the sheer range of combinations is a little intimidating, and makes starting out very challenging. I blindly charged into the first game and walked away totally bewildered, which was my fault.

encircled does a fantastic job with help and instructions though, with a full slide show of basic instructions as well as a tutorial level for pure beginners. I’d strongly recommend you try that out before wandering through the first “dungeon.” And there are keystrokes that will highlight where your “weapons” are effective or not.

I can find no huge faults with encircled — you have the option of several different keysets, so laptop players are covered. It’s an engrossing and challenging game, and even if the learning curve is a little steep, it will pay off soon enough. There’s lots of color, even if the map can be a little dense to read at times.

And to be honest, I think this was one of those times we could have departed from the conventional terms for “monsters,” “weapons,” and so forth. This is sufficiently innovative to adopt its own vocabulary. πŸ™‚

All the same, I can honestly say this is not a game for everyone … and this time by “everyone” I mean me. It’s definitely unconventional, and definitely a departure from the standard roguelike adventure — heck, it’s even a departure from most of the mainstream games I know about.

I would recommend trying it once or twice, and seeing if it intrigues you. Take your time and learn it right though, so you don’t walk away thinking, “Wow, just wow. …”