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Nethack for OS/2 v3.2.2- by Colin L. Hildinger


This month I'm taking a little time to revisit a classic game. I first played Rogue and PC Hack in 1987 and since then I have seen the game progress and evolve into one of the most addicting, complex, and difficult games available for any computer system. Contrary to what its name may lead you to believe, Nethack is a single player, turn based dungeon adventure game. It draws from the entire fantasy role playing (FRP) genre and creates a game that, while it appears to be simple at first, is actually much more complex than graphical hack and slash games like Blizzard's Diablo.

Nethack v3.2.2 is the result of years of evolution. The original game Hack was based on Rogue, which was also a character based FRP adventure. The game Hack was ported to MS-DOS as PC Hack, and after many changes in PC Hack, it was ported back to Unix as Nethack. Nethack was a collaborative effort of programmers connected via the Internet, hence the name. The most recent version, 3.2.2, consists of additions made to the game by the Nethack Development Team and by programmers who created their own variations of Nethack 3.1.3 (NH+ and NH-- are two of the main variations. Both are available for OS/2 from hobbes.).

Graphics Lovers Leave Now

The graphics for Nethack won't excite you. In fact, the game is completely character based (there is actually a more graphical version out now for X11 and DOS, and the X11 version has been ported to OS/2 using XFree86, but I haven't yet had time to install XFree86 and play it), so it may immediately turn some people off. This is their loss though, as Nethack is the kind of game that will keep you up playing until the wee hours of the night.

The Game

As I said, the game is extremely complex. Many actions that are possible in the game, whether useful or not, are things that you wouldn't normally think of doing. Because of this, there are sites across the Internet with "spoilers" (much of the contents of these sites was gained by analyzing the actual Nethack source code). While I used to be of the opinion that such things were cheating, I've learned that the game has gotten so complex that to have any real hope of winning, you will need to read through at least some of these hints. I would at least recommend that you print out a copy of the help file and keep it handy, as there are quite a few commands to learn. If you have any questions about the workings of the game, the people to ask are on the Nethack newsgroup. Even with all this help, you will probably see the death screen (GIF, 9.2k) often. Of course, that's part of what keeps you coming back for more.

You start the game by selecting a type of character (GIF, 7.1k). Each type of character has certain benefits and certain handicaps. For instance, barbarians are a good type of character for beginners. They are strong and tough and let you succeed by playing the game in a hack and slash style. Tourists, on the other hand, are what are commonly referred to as wimps. (The best strategy when playing a tourist is to run whenever you see a monster.) There are, of course, several other types of characters, such as elves, knights, and wizards.

After selecting your character type, you and your trusty pet (a cat or dog) begin your descent into the dungeon. Your pet will follow you around and generally help you out. They can even be trained to do things like shoplift from stores in the dungeon (GIF, 7.5k). You just have to reward them (they like tripe rations) when they do something you like.

Your character has all the normal attributes such as strength, charisma, intelligence and dexterity. Some attributes, such as strength, can improve through time if you do the right activities (GIF, 6.8k). Of course, strength can also be enhanced by Popeye's favorite means, a good can of spinach. Others, such as intelligence, can't be changed except through magic (if you're dumb, you're dumb). As you gain experience by killing monsters, you will become a more formidable fighter, but the monsters will get tougher at a rate at least equal to your own improvement.

Every Great Adventure Has a Quest

Your main quest is to find the Amulet of Yendor, hidden somewhere in the labyrinths below. Or course, no one knows for sure where it is or how deep the dungeons go. That is for you to find out. You might even find fake amulets which can fool you into thinking you've won the game, but you should know that it's not going to be that easy. Along the way you might pick up secondary quests, or you might go down a staircase which leads you down a dead end path. After descending through several levels you may find that you have to climb back up and find the second staircase on a level which you've already passed through.


Hack is one of my all-time favorite games, and this newest incarnation serves only to improve it. I wish I'd had time to look at the graphical version ported using XFree86, but maybe I'll save that for another day, or maybe an industrious programmer will port it all the way to a native OS/2 binary. The only thing to remember is that Nethack is the collaborative effort of literally hundreds of people and must always remain freeware. I hope someone out there will continue to improve Nethack for OS/2, as it is a true classic.
 * Nethack for OS/2 v3.2.2
Nethack Development Team
download from Hobbes (ZIP, 866k)
Registration: Free
Colin Hildinger is an Aerospace Engineering senior at Oklahoma State University and has been using OS/2 for the last 3 years. In addition to being the Games Editor for OS/2 e-Zine!, he maintains The Ultimate OS/2 Gaming Page and the AWE32 and OS/2 Page in his "spare" time.

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